A Time for Everything

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I've tried to stand in the same spot at the corner of our driveway every so often to get a picture of Kristen's tree from roughly the same vantage point.  Each season of the past year has brought drastic changes to that little oak.  When it was planted early last September, it was green and beautiful.  With the gift card in hand (given by some dear friends), the four of us drove to our local nursery and walked up and down each row of Shumard Oak trees.  We carefully inspected each one, making sure that we found the "right" one for us...for Kristen.  A couple of weeks later, the nursery called and said they would be by to plant it.  We had marked out just the right spot in the front yard, easily visible from both the sidelight next to the front door and from our bedroom window (the only windows on the front of the house).

Will was at work the morning the nursery workers showed up to plant the tree.  Not wanting him to miss it, I recorded the planting on our video camera.  I had to laugh a little as I played it back later.  One of the workers just couldn't keep from looking directly at the camera...time and time and time again!  He had no idea why I was capturing the planting of a tree on video.  Who knows what he thought!  I didn't feel the need to share that day, so I recorded and the girls watched with anticipation as the tree settled into its new home on Meadowlark Lane.

Emily wanted Kristen's tree to have just the right marker.  She and I searched on the internet and found a company that makes stainless steel tree markers.  We were able to add a laser etched photo to the small marker that reads, "In Memory of Kristen."  That little marker has weathered well.  It gleams in the sunlight and makes me think of Emily as much as it reminds me of Kristen.

Last fall, we watched all the other trees in the neighborhood change to lovely fall colors.  Kristen's tree, however, complete with lots of tiny little acorns, stayed green clear through most of October.  At the end of that month, its leaves had changed to the most beautiful deep red color.  I loved how it looked and decided that it had been worth the wait.

As Thanksgiving approached, the sweet little tree in our front yard lost all of its leaves.  Even bare (except for the little acorns that continued to hang on), it was beautiful to me.  Each leafless branch held the promise of new life.

Ice crystals decorated the tree in the winter, accentuating every bend, every tiny twig.  One cold, sunny winter morning I looked out the sidelight window to see tiny ice crystals that seemed to completely fill the air.  I told Emily that it looked like it was "glittering" outside!  She commented that maybe God sent those few seconds to me to bring a smile to my face.  It was breathtaking.

Just as we waited so long to see the beautiful red leaves in the fall, our little tree seemed to be one of the very last in the neighborhood to leaf out in the spring.  By mid-April, we finally saw tiny new leaves beginning to pop out all over the tree.  They were velvety red in the center.  The sight of them lightened our hearts.

By early May, the beautiful green leaves had filled in, and the tree was as lovely as ever.  A ring of pink geraniums decorated the base of the tree just in time for Kristen's birthday.  Even through the heat of the summer, the tree (and the geraniums) have thrived.

I expect in another month or so the leaves will begin their colorful change.

Looking back at the photos of Kristen's tree over the seasons of last year brought to mind the words of Ecclesiastes 3:
There is a time for everything,
       and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
       a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
       a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
       a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
       a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
       a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
       a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
       a time for war and a time for peace.
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Even when we don't understand, even when we don't like it, God has everything timed perfectly. There truly is a time for everything.


The dark before the morning

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You know that feeling when your foot goes to sleep?  It tingles and doesn't work quite right until you get the blood circulating to it again.

That's a little like I feel right now, really like I've felt for a while.  Maybe my heart is just a little numb.  The days now are not so full of tears and sorrow.  Of course I still miss Kristen and my mom so very much, but I don't feel overcome with the sadness that I once did.  I think of them both every day, but I don't always feel those emotions in such a physical way.

I guess I'm still waiting to feel the joy.  God promised me that I would have it again, and I believe Him.

Psalm 30:5
...his favor lasts a lifetime;
       weeping may remain for a night,
       but rejoicing comes in the morning.

I've joined an online Bible study for moms who have experienced the loss of a baby.  I know how important it is to stay in God's Word.  I also know how hard it can be to do that when you feel such a numbness in your heart.  We "meet" each Sunday evening online using a web conferencing tool.  It's really pretty cool.  With either a phone or a headset (or speakers and a mic), we can come together and actually have real conversations.  I pray for these moms whose hearts are hurting.  After hearing each one of them introduce themselves and share about their loss(es) at our first meeting last Sunday, I was overcome again with such sadness.  But together, I know we'll find healing through this study of God's Word.

Will and I also received confirmation for a spot at the next Respite Retreat near Nashville in February.  I've written before about how my husband and I are grieving so very differently.  I believe that this retreat will help us to further understand those differences and to be encouraged as we learn ways to strengthen our marriage and our family.  I pray that it truly is a respite for us, and I am thankful for the ministry of David and Nancy Guthrie.

The Josh Wilson song, "Before the Morning" puts to music the words that describe so well where I am right now.  If you haven't heard it before (or even if you have), please listen closely.  It just might encourage you, too.

Josh Wilson - Before the Morning
video

It's sure been a long "night," but I have hope for that "morning."


It took my breath away

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My oldest daughter turned 12 just two weeks ago.  She opted for a day of family activities this year, which was nice (though I discovered that I'm much worse at miniature golf than I remembered!).  Daughter #2 turned 10 last Thursday, and as I was looking through some baby pictures of hers the night before, I caught sight of a couple of photos...


While I've always thought that Kristen resembled Grace, I had to admit that seeing these two photos together took my breath away for just a moment.

I've had plenty of moments over the past year when I've felt like I couldn't breathe.  The first morning home without our littlest one, our middle daughter, Grace, woke up and ran to the living room nearly shrieking, "Where's Kristen?  I can't find Kristen!"  She had received a Build-a-Bear bunny from the hospital before we left that awful day.  Emily had received a bear.  I remember as we pulled out of the hospital parking lot, the girls were discussing names for their stuffed animals.  Emily quickly picked "Elaine," which was the middle name we had chosen for Kristen...it had been Will's Grandma Blondie's middle name as well.  Grace decided on "Kristen" for her bunny.  She was searching for her bunny that next morning at home, but it took me a few minutes to realize that.  That was definitely a wind-knocked-out-of-me moment.

After trying so hard to smile and celebrate Emily's 11th birthday with a small family party last year, my dad broke the news to me that my mom had died the day before.  I was standing in the entryway.  I remember reaching for the door knob and leaning back against the front door because I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me again.

Though the physical feeling of not being able to breathe for a moment is pretty much the same, experiencing something that takes your breath away and feeling like you've had the wind knocked out of you are really quite different.  It's not in the delivery...both situations are often unexpected.  It must be in the perspective.

I've written this before, and I only repeat it because I believe so strongly that it's true.  Distance from this situation will change my perspective.  Right now, if I let myself, I can be right back in those moments of August 2009, feeling the heart-wrenching pain of my losses.  It hurts.  It physically hurts to do that.  And it may not be next week or next month or even next year, but I know there will come a day when I will be able to remember Kristen and the miracle that she was and have to catch my breath, but not because I feel like I've been punched in the stomach.  Remembering the beautiful gift that God gave me will simply take my breath away for a moment, much like happened when I saw my husband on our wedding day, waiting for me at the end of the aisle...and when I laid eyes on each of my three daughters after they were born...and when I really stop to think about how much God loves me.

Knowing the awesomeness of Him, the very one who gave me life, takes my breath away, too.