Busy Bags

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I made some busy bags today, thanks to too many hours browsing Pinterest!

This is a matching colors bag. I also have word cards for Celia to match with the clothespins.

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Jacob can’t quite figure out how to open the clothespins.

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This is a matching numbers bag for Celia and Jacob.

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And here is a lowercase matching to uppercase bag for Celia.

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Hopefully these will keep Jacob entertained for at least 5 minutes while we do school!

Passing through the waters

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I’ve been reading Little Pilgrim’s Progress to the children. Today we reached the end of Christian’s journey and the description of dying  was so meaningful to me. John Bunyan compares the process of death to crossing a river, an analogy he drew from Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.” Here are some excerpts from the book, describing Christian and Hopeful’s last stage of the pilgrimage.

Come, Christian, ” he [Hopeful] said, “this is our very last trouble, and it will soon be over. Let us go together, and I am sure the King will take care of us.”

So the little pilgrims went slowly down the bank and stepped into the water.

Little Christian clasped his hands together as he felt the cold waters of the Dark River rushing around his body. Hopeful kept close to him and tried to hold him up, but the little pilgrim soon lost his footing and cried out, “I am sinking! The water is all going over me!”

“No, it is only rough,” said Hopeful. “Do not be so frightened. I can feel the ground at the bottom of the river, and it is quite firm. We shall cross  safely, and then we shall have no more trouble.”

“Perhaps you will cross,” whispered Christian faintly, “but I am sure I cannot. I shall never see the King, and I did so wish to live with Him always!”

“You will live with Him. Look up, Christian, and don’t think about the water. We can see everything quite clearly now. The City is full of light, and the Shining Ones are waiting for us at the gates.”

Presently little Christian opened his eyes, and as the light from the Celestial City fell upon his face he cried out suddenly, “Oh, I can see it all now! It shines like the sun, and I heard the voice of the Prince.  He said, ‘I will be with you in the waters.’ “

“Then I am sure we need not be frightened,” said Hopeful.  “Take hold of my hand again. The Prince will never break His promise.” 

So Little Christian’s courage came back to him, and he did not faint or tremble anymore. Hand in hand the little pilgrims made their way across the Dark River, and after a time its bed seemed to grow firmer, and its waters were less rough. Then they saw that the two Shining Ones who had brought them down to the river were waiting to receive them. In a few moments the dreadful passage was over. Gentle hands drew them out of the water, and they stood safely upon the shore. 

The whole time I was reading aloud, I had to stop and take deep breaths to keep myself from crying. All I could think of was Cora. She recently passed from life to death. But, then I became thankful. Thankful that she never knew the fear of dying. The pain of dying. That for her, passing through the waters was pleasant because her whole life was spent in waters. She passed from warm waters into the Living Water.

Tomorrow is one month since her birth. If for those who are dying it is like passing through the waters, then for their loved ones it is like passing through fire.  I love this quote by Alana Sheeran, “What grief does is it puts us squarely in the middle of a fire, and it burns away everything that is not essential to our lives.” I guess that is why reading silly novels and listening to the radio hold no interest for me. I often wonder what was the last thing Cora heard before her heart stopped beating. Was it a senseless pop music song? My raised voice at the kids? The weather report on TV? Or me singing hymns to Jacob at bedtime?

I am being refined by fire.

1 Peter 1:7 “…so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Only a few weeks

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I tackled the nook today.

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It may not look drastically different to you, but it did take me about two hours to do. And it led to me organizing several book shelves and I found about two boxes worth of books to donate!

As the day went on, I was feeling more and more depressed and finding myself on the verge of tears. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Then, I realized, I felt no accomplish at having finished a task. Normally I love organizing and checking things off a to do list. But this task left me depleted. And it’s because this was supposed to be Cora’s space. And I was supposed to be decorating it for her.  Everytime I look at that area, it’s just a reminder of what could have been.

I am also feeling frustrated with my body. I feel like I’m not returning back to normal fast enough. When I look at the calendar, I’m reminded that it’s only been 3 weeks since the birth, but emotionally, it feels like many months. Most days I’m feeling well and happy, but today isn’t one of those days.

Here’s a few pictures from a happy day earlier in the week.

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Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas!

This morning we surprised the kids with Christmas in July. I made our traditional Christmas morning breakfast, sausage balls and monkey bread, and prepared myself a pot of  non-decaf, gingerbread flavored coffee!

The kids waiting to open presents.

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Oh the fun!

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Everyone but Jacob got a new game to go with their device. Jacob received books,which I was originally planning on as one of the baby’s Christmas presents.

And so in honor of  Christmas, Charlotte lost her other front tooth, which means she can now sing “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!”

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Transformations

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Things have changed around here. We updated the boys’ room. We got rid of the green walls and Peter Rabbit nursery theme in exchange for a shark theme.

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Yesterday we tackled the school room. This is what happens when Mommy checks out for a few weeks.

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This picture doesn’t really show how extremely messy it was. And the girls had spilled a bottle of glitter on the floor too. After several hours and several trash cans full later, we found the floor!

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I finally hung the last of Andrew’s school projects (the last 3 flags on the wall.) Now maybe I can start preparing for our new school year. We start the first full week of August.

This is the nook area in my bedroom that I was going to transform into a nursery.

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I’m not sure what to do with it now. It does need organizing.

Life is basically back to normal. My crying is now done alone (which is more my personality anyway) unless I’m praying with Jacob. When I cry/pray with Jacob, my thoughts are not so much on Cora, but on how much I love the child I’m holding and how much I can’t stand the thought of losing him.  It’s irrational fears about God’s plans for our lives. And superstitious thoughts about how deaths come in threes. I need to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5.)

I still feel directionless, though. Usually I spend my summers catching up on fun reading. But reading novels holds no interest for me. The only book besides the Bible I’m reading  is “Streams in the Desert,” a devotional written by a missionary woman after she cared for her husband for 6 years while he died. It’s full of little nuggets about faith, suffering, and perseverance.

Believing Him; if storm-clouds gather darkly ’round,

And even if the heavens seem brass, without a sound?

He hears each prayer and even notes the sparrow’s fall.

 

And praising Him; when sorrow, grief, and pain are near,

And even when we lose the thing that seems most dear?

Our loss is gain. Praise Him; in Him we have our All.

 

Our hand in His; e’en though the path seems long and drear

We scarcely see a step ahead, and almost fear?

He guides aright. He has it thus to keep us near.

 

And satisfied; when every path is blocked and bare,

And worldly things are gone and dead which were so fair?

Believe and rest and trust in Him, He comes to stay.

The House of Mourning

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What a depressing title! I don’t mean to sound like that.  Ecclesiastes 7:1-2, “A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man and the living takes it to heart.”

So many of you have gone to the house of mourning with us. Even a simple “I’m sorry” has meant a lot. It’s an acknowledgement of Cora’s life and of our grief. Grieving can be lonely but shared grief is more bearable.

Roller Chenal Funeral Home has been such a blessing. They have helped us walk through this process and honor her little life. They suggested we put a few mementos in her casket and have the kids consider putting something in there too. We  asked the girls if they would like to draw  a picture to put with Cora or was there some small toy they thought she might like.

Each girl drew a picture of her holding Cora. And chose a few small trinkets.

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Andrew had a harder time deciding what to put in there. He finally chose to cut up part of his blanket and wrap it around a stuffed bear and a rainbow loom creation.

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I decided that Cora needed a night-night (a burp cloth turned into a security blanket)  to take with her. The sound of that sentence seems silly to me. I know she’s not in the grave. But I couldn’t bear the thought that one of my babies wouldn’t have a night-night for comfort while I’m not with her. So I searched through all my baby girl nursery things and found  one that I had made for Charlotte and that Celia had used as well. I thought it was very fitting and I like to think of her resting her sweet head on it.

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Celia has been the most open about her grief. She’s repeatedly said “I’m thinking about the newborn baby that died.”  The other night she said that she wanted to think about her forever but knew that she couldn’t. A few questions from me and I realized that she was afraid of forgetting Cora.

I was worried about Charlotte. She’s usually the super sensitive one, but she seemed so matter of fact about Cora and her death. Almost flippant about it. She even said that she wasn’t sad.  I understood a little bit, because a mother being pregnant is pretty abstract to children. But, I was still concerned because her attitude went against her character. Experiencing the funeral seemed to help. A few minutes before we left the grave site, she stood there at the edge of the dirt and started crying.

The funeral helped me too. I feel more at peace this week. Less weepy. And I love looking at Cora’s things from the hospital and the book and special papers from the funeral home. But now that I’m not as numb, I am getting short-tempered with the kids. Their why questions really bug me. As in, Why do I need to do___________?

Andrew has had the most questions about everything. Practical questions, like what did she look like, can we open the casket up, etc. He said he was sad but hadn’t cried about it. I told him it was good to let the tears out because it helps your heart feel better. On the way home from the funeral, he said he had taken a rock from the cemetery. I didn’t think much about it. And then I walked in his room a few nights later and found this on his nightstand.

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It was the rock from the grave site and he had written Cora on it. It’s the sweetest memorial.

I knew that Jacob was affected by all of this. Each night, I always rock him and sing hymns in his darkened room. I haven’t been able to make it through the process without crying. He always says, “Mommy sad?” and his little face will frown. And he’s seen me cry during the days. Everytime I take my glasses off, he asks if I’m sad. But I  was surprised at how much he was absorbing it all. Saturday night as I dried him off for bath, I started humming “Have Faith in God.” Immediately he started frowning and made sad, whimpering sounds, and  hugged me.  He recognized the song  from the funeral! I asked if he wanted me to stop singing and he said yes.

Ecclesiastes 7:3, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy.”  I wouldn’t say my heart is happy, but my heart is comforted with the hope of heaven. But that assurance doesn’t lessen the sadness. I miss Cora and all the promises and dreams she represents. I know she’s safe in Jesus’ arms, but my arms ache for her.

Have Faith in God

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What do you do when God tells you to do something, you obey, and you get hurt deeply because of it? For you see, Cora’s story started long before 5 months ago. About 18 months ago, during a Bible study of Genesis, I felt God’s prompting to trust Him with our family size. This was a big step for me. I could name a dozen reasons why four was enough. But, God left me with an incomplete feeling and a call to do His will. After all, when doing the will of God, we can expect the provision of God, I learned.

So, last summer, we became pregnant. And a few weeks later, we learned that baby didn’t survive. That was hard. But shortly after that, our Bible study of Matthew began and right away, I learned that we need to give our expectations to God. I did not expect a miscarriage. And, Mary welcomed God’s plan, despite her personal pain. God healed my heart and slowly I began to feel excited again about the prospect of another baby.

Have faith in God when your pathway is lonely,

He sees and knows all the way you have trod;

Never alone are the least of His children,

Have faith in God, have faith in God.

Cora’s pregnancy was much different from the last. I was so sick. Such a good sign of the baby’s health! And her heartbeat always remained strong and high. At my 16 week appointment, her heart rate was 155! The loss of Cora is a much deeper pain. I didn’t know the last baby. I know Cora. I’ve held her. I’ve seen her face. I watched Joey hold and pace with her.  We  counted her fingers and toes. We took pictures.

At first, I wasn’t angry with God. I just felt hurt. Why would God hurt me like this, after I’ve obeyed? And I felt so sad. So sad all the time.  But, I felt angry when we found a baby bunny in our backyard. Why should this baby live when mine didn’t? But my mind argued with my heart. Of course my baby lives! Jesus saved her and she’s with Him. I was really angry that God didn’t spare me pain.

Have faith in God in your pain and your sorrow,

His heart is touched with your grief and despair;

Cast all your cares and your burdens upon Him,

And leave them there, oh, leave them there.

But I didn’t stay angry. I can’t be angry. There are too many Bible stories of the faithful who’ve suffered. And I’ve felt God with me. I’ve felt the power of prayer. How else could I have made it through yesterday?

I was carried through the funeral. God’s spirit calmed me. It was all surreal. Hard to comprehend.

I took a picture of all my children.

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And I almost broke down. I wish the girls could have held her, whole and perfect as she is now! Why?! my heart kept crying.

I focused on the flowers. We chose a heart because of her name’s meaning.

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And what girl doesn’t love roses and ribbons?

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God spoke to me through the service. Our music minister sang Have Faith in God, at my request. More than comfort or peace, I need faith. I know because of God’s grace to me, He prompted Jerry to write a fifth verse. God really knows and cares what I’m feeling!

Have faith in God when you don’t understand Him.

His heart is kind and He has a master plan;

Always be sure that He’s watching His children,

And He’s holding Cora’s tiny hand.

If there’s purpose to pain, it helps us cope. I felt my early pregnancy sickness was a good sign. I made it through those months, knowing the purpose of all day nausea was a healthy baby.  But this, this pain, seems senseless. Cruel, even. But I loved what our pastor Jonathan said during the funeral.  He said that 1 day is like a 1,000 days to the Lord (1 Peter 3:8.) So Cora’s life was 120 days, which gave the Lord about 120,000 years to do his work. Cora’s days may be complete, but God is still using her life! My suffering won’t be in vain, although it seems so now. I need more faith!

The hardest part of the morning was at the burial site. I had each child place a rose on her casket.

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And when the first shovelful of dirt was put on top, I thought I would break. I wanted to lay down and wrap my arms around her coffin and rock her one last time. I’m not ready to let her go! I miss her so much! I realized while standing there, that the incomplete feeling planted in my heart long ago, will never be fulfilled. No matter what the future holds, my family will never be complete on this earth.

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We left our heart with her.

As I sat down to write this morning, I was looking through my Bible study notes from the last two years. God knew what would happen and He did warn me. “Yielding your rights to God will result in loss and gain,”  I read. I have lost much! As I told a nurse at the hospital, we know what we’re missing. I long to breathe in that sweet baby scent and kiss those soft feet. But, as I wait on the gain, I need to

Have faith in God when your prayers are unanswered,

Your earnest plea He will never forget;

Wait on the Lord, trust His Word and be patient,

Have faith in God, He’ll answer yet.

Have faith in God,  He’s on His throne;

Have faith in God, He watches o’er His own;

He cannot fail, He must prevail;

Have faith in God, have faith in God.