Friday, September 30, 2011

Tea Parties and Giggles...

This picture is of my sweet Olivia and her Winnie the Pooh having her first 'tea party.' Since then, tea parties have been a staple activity at the Evans' Household.

My little girl has two friends over this afternoon. They are having a tea party with tiny little teacups (thanks to my mother-in-law) and cookies on tiny little plates. Three dog stuffies are the honoured guests. As they pour their 'tea' (chocolate milk) they start making 'toasts.' It is taking everything in me to keep from laughing as they toast "TO GIRLS!!!!" & "TO CHOCOLATE BARS!" As they eat their cookies they say "bon appetite" in sing-song voices. They are giving names to one another such as Twila and using polite manners, and calling one another sweetie. Oh my stars...good this be any cuter?

Although I do miss the baby stage, days like today help. Days that remind me of the joy that still awaits. Days that remind my heart that even though I don't have a baby to rock to sleep, I have beautiful children to hold. As September comes to a close and we enter the Fall weather, a shift takes place in my heart as well. I tend to remember Grace as a baby, but in reality she would be 3 1/2 already. Where does the time go? Three years ago we were at Canuck Place recovering from the scare of almost losing her on the 11th. The Fall is marked as a season of great despair coupled with great hope and joy that she rebounded! The Fall also reminds me that winter is also on its way, and the winter season brings with it reminders of Gracie's decline and eventual passing. As I think back to the last 2 years + I can see the enormous strides I have made on my grief journey.

In those early days of grief, I couldn't fathom making it 1 day without Gracie, let alone 2 years!!! Yet, here I am, a breathing and living example of how God gives strength to the weary and comfort to those who mourn. I have down days, I still cry and I still remember the ardent pain of loss. Yet somehow one day turned to two, and one year has turned over into another. I wish I could tell myself back then what I have learned during this painful process. Here is what I would say...

You hurt and it's ok to hurt - never feel the need to rush through the pain. You feel like the world has ended, even though you know it moves on. Your aching heart will always ache, but the ache becomes bearable somehow. Your beat-up soul will find peace. Your endless questions will dissipate. Time won't heal all wounds, but what you do with that time will help you survive, and eventually thrive once again. Your tired body will learn how to rest again. Your personality traits will return. People may ignorantly say hurtful things about your grief journey, but you have learned how quickly life passes so you will extend forgiveness and grace. Your husband sticks by you through it all and though you grieve differently he is a man of courage, devotion and love. He rises to meet the road of grief and pain and will hold your hand, allowing you the freedom to grieve in your own way. Your children know they are loved, and they want to talk about Grace. They want to light candles when they miss her, and they love looking at pictures and videos of her. They also walk through the grief process with such confidence, knowing it's ok to be sad and happy at the same time. Your family continues to be a pillar of support and strength. They will remember with you and will allow you moments of sadness in times of joy. You will return to things outside the home. You will do things you never would have if Grace hadn't entered your life. You will find the balance of moving forward while still remembering. Your faith in God remains strong as you continually lean on Him for daily bread. It's unbelievably hard in these early days of pain and anguish, but one day you will see joy again. So cry when you need to, laugh when you can. Know that even though all you see is darkness and strife, hold on, trust the Potter. I promise you, that one day your heart will find peace and even joy again. The Potter will beautifully mend your heart ever so gradually, allowing for sparks of happiness to return to your soul through the healing sounds of your family, friends and children...perhaps even through tea parties and giggles.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Identity Crisis...Check.

You meet someone for the first time, you shake hands and exchange pleasant smiles. You introduce yourself by your first name (I have to do this more than once because of the uniqueness of my name - I make a funny joke about all the ways to mis-pronounce my name and have a hearty little chuckle) all in hopes to avoid the following questions. These questions send panic through my mind in how to best answer.

What are these difficult questions? Well, they may seem like simple straight-forward questions, but they prick at the core of my heart's grief. The questions are simply - What do you do for a living? How many kids to you have?

Now flash-back a few years ago, and the answers were simple. I would cheerfully say 'Oh I am a teacher, I love teaching music, but am currently taking a bit of time off to be at home with the kids'. The conversation would continue on without a moment's break. Yet, fast-forward to present day and such innocent questions can at times, feel fully loaded to a grieving parent.

Why is it so difficult? Well, I think the main reason is that I am going through a bit of an identity crisis. With both my kids at school, and not teaching at the moment, I feel a little at a loss as to what I 'do for a living'? I am also unsure of how to answer the question of how many kids I have because I always want to include Grace, yet at the supermarket with 20 people in line do I really want to explain? Not to mention the awkwardness that comes over people as they are left unsure of how to respond. And so all this adds up to a sort of identity crisis. We all go through these times of questioning of 'who am I'? and 'What is my purpose and calling in this life'?

During my time with precious Gracie, my identity became solely wrapped in the care of my family, and because the needs were so great I basically fell out of all other roles. After Gracie passed away, I was left feeling much the same as I am feeling now. Who am I? What do I do now? The people (outside of family) that I saw the most were Grace's health care professionals, they became my close circle of friends. Those doctors and nurses knew and loved Gracie and knew all the ins and outs of our lives without a long story of explanation. Yet, when Gracie died, those relationships ended as well leaving a huge hole in my heart.

My amazing grief counsellor helped me through that identity quest the first time, and so I am recalling her words of wisdom again this morning. She explained that our shape is constantly changing, and that who I was before Grace, is not who I was after Grace, nor who I would be 2 years down the road of grief. I connected this thought as clay in the hands of the Potter. So today, I feel the Potter re-shaping yet again and it hurts. As he kneads out the bubbles of old titles such as 'Mom to a baby/preschooler' and 'Music Teacher' etc. my spirit is left a bit tender and my heart aches for the days when Gracie was with us. Yet I know, without a doubt, that He is preparing me for the next shape, and this kneading must be done in order for me to become what He sees fit. So even though I question my calling, I don't question the Potter.

Are you in a place of an identity shift? Are you in between jobs, relationships, stresses, or even grief? Are you longing to go back to your old shape only to find out that all that is left are broken shards and pieces? If that is you today, I encourage you to hold on. Although the process is painful, your new shape will be a thing of beauty. It's like going in for a massage for a sore muscle. You know the kneading is gonna hurt, but you also know that in a few days the pain of the massage will be worth it to have the deeper pain of the muscle knot relieved. I am taking my own advice, I will brace myself and hang on through the hurt and trust the Potter. After-all, He sees the benefit, even when all I see is the brokenness.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Re-posting - Ready...Set...Let GO!

I am feeling very much the same this Sept. as I did back in April...if you are feeling the tug of holding on tight while your kids are ready to let go...this one is for YOU!


Today I will walk into our neighborhood school, with my sweet little boy in hand and attend 'Ready, Set, Learn.' This program is geared for 4 year olds who will be entering Kindergarten in the Fall. It gives the children (and parents) a look at the school, introduce them to teachers and staff, as well as enjoy fun little engaging activities.

I can't believe my boy will be going to Kindergarten in just a few short months. I have been trying all day to suppress the well of emotion that is brewing within. There is something difficult in allowing your children to grow up. I know it sounds ridiculous, it sounded ridiculous as I typed it, but that is how I am feeling. Time seems to be my enemy. Days fly by at a super warp speed, leaving me dazed at times to truly see how quickly my children are in fact growing. They are growing not only in physicality, but emotionally, socially, mentally, and spiritually. I get so wrapped up in the calendar that I lose sight of these precious moments of growth. I am so busy folding laundry and wiping down counters that I am guilty of missing opportunities to just get down on the floor and play Polly Pockets or Toy Story. One day I will be folding laundry and wishing I had the choice of a clean house or a tiny hand to hold. So why, even when I have already learned this lesson, do I find myself back here? Why is this balance of keeping a clean house (cause let's face it I do not want to end up on TLC's Hoarders) and also making time with my kids a priority so difficult? As these life markers appear - first day of K, riding a bike with no training wheels, play dates without me, etc. I need to see them as a positive tool, a way to re-focus on what is truly important.

I think for me, these milestone's remind me that although it is a first for Isaiah it is also a last for me as a mother. It pricks my heart to the core as it reminds me that I will never walk into an elementary school holding Gracie's hand. It is again, bittersweet. So sweet because I am excited for Isaiah and all the new things he will learn and experience, yet also bitter as I am reminded of how short life experiences were for my sweet pea.

So here I am, feeling much the same as my son I am sure; nervous, excited, sad, and happy all rolled into one. I know our heavenly Father is cheering us on. He is saying ready, set... LET GO! It is not easy letting go of what you know as familiar and comfortable. Standing on the edge of the unknown is the apex of such anxiety. Those few short moments before you let go and free-fall into His plan and care is when the enemy takes his greatest jabs. So as I stand on the edge of this last stage of preschool years, I take a deep breath, say a prayer and cheer on my son (and myself) to get ready, get set...and let go!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

It's so ON!

Unsettled is how I feel this foggy morning on the first of September. How can the summer be over when it feels like it just started? Next week my precious children will be at school for 6 hours of the day, Monday to Friday. Jeepers. When you are in the mix of constant baby diapers, laundry, feeding schedules, etc. you cry out for time alone because the pace is ridiculous. Then, when your children no longer need you for each and every moment of the day we cry out for more time with them, what a crazy paradox. I know it's is normal, and all part of growing pains, but I had no idea that I would be the one doing the growing!

It's hard to put into words the feeling of devoting your entire being into the lives of your children. We are hard-wired as parents to care for them. This whole 'sending your kids off to school' thing is stretching me, and I don't like it! It is stretching my faith and trust muscle yet again, and let me tell you it is starting to lose it's strength. I can tell my spiritual muscles are getting 'flabby' by the worry in my heart.

So today, it's is SO on. Faith and Trust muscle training is ON! I also seem to be losing on the actual work out front as my motivation for running has fallen to the way side since our summer *'framily'*(see below for definition of 'framily')vacation. However, I digress, today I am choosing to start with my faith and trust strength training and will leave the running schedule for a different day (haha)!

So where to start you might ask? Here are a few starting techniques! Prayer. Start with small repetitions of prayer. Prayer while doing chores is a good place to start. Praying while folding laundry, washing dishes, cutting vegetables, etc. is a great way to start. Prayer while driving is a good idea as well, just make sure to keep your eyes open ;) Another idea...sticky notes! When things get really bad, I personally like to stick sticky notes of scriptures in random places. During my journey of Grace I had sticky notes everywhere around the house to constantly steer me back to scriptures. I needed the constant reminder of His truth, especially when the giants of fear were overwhelming. I of course love to write, so journal writing is a great place for me to spend time in the Word and write my way to healing! Music - another great avenue listening &/0r singing to worship songs can help you turn your focus to back to God! Or perhaps you are an artist? Spending time in the creative arts while meditating on scripture or in prayer will also strengthen your faith muscle.

The key is to start small, and be consistent. Who knows, maybe all this motivation will get me back on that treadmill too!

Matthew 6:33-34 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

*'Framily' - my definition - is when you have family so close that you would choose them as friends, &/or friends so dear to your heart you consider family.