Tuesday, February 25, 2014

…and so it begins...

Funny how places and smells can take you back in time like nothing else…

...also funny how in times of high stress, you go back to your old comfort foods of chipotle, peanut m&m's, and dr pepper…yea…something about teaching old dogs new tricks…so much for turning over a new leaf with my eating habits (said as I polish off the m&m's while swigging from my 2nd ddp of the day). Sigh.

As we were approaching Zane's surgery date at the U, my anxiety about the stinkin' recovery time increased exponentially. The only thing I can imagine is me physically restraining little man…by brute strength, narcotics, heavy bribery, and any other means necessary. The key word there is "ME"…the one family member he's not particularly fond of…awesome.

My next move will either seem morbid…or genius…depending on your take on the situation. If'n you'd look forward to such a period of bonding with the little dude, then you'll lean toward morbid…oh, and you're dead to me…move on. If you're thinking, "Holy nightmare, Batman," we're kindred spirits and you can read further.

Last week, I inquired about getting big Z's manhood surgery (that's all I'm gonna say so you just fill in the blanks) at the same time. I thought this would make sense because he'd already be "under"…plus it might help with the whole "no running/jumping" thing…ya feel me?!? This is what we'll call the "Ah-Ha!" moment. 

Shockingly, even though we'd never seen the urologist (add that to the specialist list), they worked it out to do the combo surgery! More bang for your buck right there…or Providence, as I like to call it.

Zane and I came up to the U yesterday for a myriad of pre-op appointments. Zane missed his nap. He turned into a terrorist. I asked if they could give sedation early…or just do the manhood surgery early…throw me a bone, docs. Nothing.

How did I cope, you ask?!? I took myself…oh, and Zane…to Red Lobster. I ate mounds of biscuits, chugged barrels of iced tea, and inhaled amazingness in the form of cajun chicken linguine alfredo…you heard me. Don't judge. Then we went to get some fro-yo! Just keepin' it real, people…keepin' it real.

The only redeeming factor in that nastiness of a day was that when bedtime finally came, the spaz crashed, and crashed hard. After texting my husband about 30 times yesterday on the edge of a breakdown, relief was sweet. Yesterday, Nannie drove into town to help with the bigs…Aunt Steph drove to the U to help with Z and all-things hospital…and this morning, Daddy and most of the bigs arrived at the hotel to spend some time with the patient before the big moment. 

God surely picks us up and carries us through when we can't put one more foot in front of the other…especially when you're still dealing with an injury and you find taking the simplest step too painful at times (literally and figuratively).  

The bigs continue to struggle with the heartache of being back in this place, and for a reason such as this. Saying goodbye to Zane as they took him away today was exponentially harder than it should have been…and even harder than it was when we said goodbye to Zoe in the same place. We are in this together…as we cross the 3 hour mark of this waiting game. The surgery was set to take 2-3 hours so we are anticipating to get an update soon. We are so thankful for your continued prayers for Zane and for the rest of our family. 

May the God of all grace, wisdom, peace, and comfort be with us all.

Anybody wondering what's been going on with Little Man?!?

It's been quite a long time since I've given any updates on Zane's health…so yea…here goes…

We saw the first slew of docs for Zane right in the middle of all of Zoe's heavy-duty procedures back in March-May of 2013 so his issues naturally took a back seat. I won't rehash all the specifics, but you can be sure he will see almost every specialist at the University of Iowa by the time he graduates high school. The days when we believed he would have simple ear reconstruction have long passed. Some issues will be dealt with promptly, while others will be ignored until Zane's head is full-grown…primarily to avoid having to repeat surgeries as he grows.

The jaw (he doesn't have a right maxilla) will likely be last…around 18 years old. The ear reconstruction will be done when he is 7-8 yrs old…basically the time when the ears are full-grown. (Did you know that?!? Guess that's why little boys tend to look like they have dumbo ears…they have to grow into their grown-up ears!) By waiting, they'll be able to match the new right ear to his left one. Won't that be a crazy day?!? A Baha hearing aid (implanted on the bone behind the new ear) will be in the future as well…probably around age 8 or 9. He has no hearing in that right ear through regular head phones, but he can hear perfectly when they tested him with the bone device. Basically he doesn't have "surround sound" and may struggle with background noise, but the left ear is awesome. He'll be receiving speech and hearing assistance from a local agency. 

SO…the only remaining issue is what we've always called the "side cleft." Apparently it's not really a cleft, but you know what I mean. (This is the spot that the neuro doc thought might have been caused by amniotic bands because it looks more like a "pull on the skin" as opposed to a cleft.) It's the thing that makes him have such a giant smile…I'm actually gonna miss that, but it will help the little dude with his speech and eating. 

When we first met the docs for Zane last March, the collective agreement was that we'd wait 6 months to do this first surgery…simply to allow for bonding time. His doctor is very sensitive to that. We set a September date.

As fall approached, I had a nice, long phone conversation with the surgeon…talking about Zoe and how the family was doing in the aftermath, what the surgery would entail, and what this would all mean for Zane. We were sailing along until we moved to the recovery portion of the procedure. Listen closely, friends.

Dr. K said, "The recovery time will be about 3 weeks. During that time, there needs to be no running, no jumping, no yelling, no sudden movements, no chewing, etc." 

To say I "lol'd" would be the understatement of the year. HA! I was cracking up as I said, "Are you going to sedate him?!?" She said, "Of course he'll be sedated for the surgery!" And I'm all…"No, I'm talking about for the 3 weeks!!! Because I can tell you right now, that's the ONLY way that's gonna happen!"

So in my infinite wisdom, I elected to postpone said procedure until Zane could understand better and hopefully comply. Yea. We're only kidding ourselves that that day will ever come…but still…we moved the big day to the end of May.

As time passed, I began to think about Zane and what makes him tick. The primary thing that matters to him is doing whatever the bigs are doing (that's the older kiddos, for those of you playing catch up)…and what will they be doing in May…playing outside…constantly…running, jumping, screaming…you get the idea. So since that seemed like cruel and unusual punishment, we moved the big day yet again…this time, to a date when nobody wants to be outside at all, let alone playing out there for hours.

And here we are.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

SCC…Part 3

Read her book, he said…you'll really enjoy it, he said. SCC, I thought we were friends.

Just wanted to share one last notable thing that came from our time with Steven Curtis Chapman…

At one point in our conversation, we began to talk about the good intentions of people that don't always comfort, including all the books on grief that we should be reading…thanks but no thanks…at least not yet.

Towards the end of our time together, he kinda chuckled and said something to this effect, "I know this is laughable considering everything we've already talked about, but you really should get Mary Beth's (Chapman momma) book. I feel like you are two peas in a pod, and it might be helpful to see how she processed through all this." We laughed at the irony of his suggestion, but I tucked it away for later consideration.

As much as SCC suggested that MB and I were equally transparent, I decided that I should follow through on reading her book. SO…I used an old gift certificate that I'd been sitting on for 2 years (what are the chances?) and ordered Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman. All I can say is this…Eva seems like a vault of secrets and emotions compared to this sister from another mister. Wow. I was in awe of her honesty in all areas of life, not just with the death of Maria.

There are so many similarities between the Chapman's Maria and our sweet Zoe, but the most remarkable one for me is that Maria died on May 21st. The last time we heard Zoe's sweet giggle and saw her beautiful smile? May 21st. Just let that sink in.

A chilling excerpt from the book…

"They took us to a small room beyond the ER. The doctors who had worked on Maria were there, along with several nurses. They told us that while they had done everything they could, Maria had, in fact, passed away…Steven cried, 'God, breathe life into Maria! You can bring her back to life! Please bring her back to life!' He knew God could do that if He chose to. I knew that too. But something inside me also knew that God had healed Maria in a way we didn't want…Somehow in that unthinkable moment it became clear to Steven and me that we were standing at the very door of heaven, placing our little girl carefully in the arms of Jesus, desperately trusting that she would be safe there until we could come and join her."

Yea…and then this…a note written to Steven…

"Take my hand…that's really it! All we can do is to grab hands, hold tight, and start taking steps! It feels like we are walking into hurricane-force winds, but maybe, just maybe if we hold tight to each other, and then tie ourselves to the Creator of the hurricane in the first place, we will survive the storm that we are surely in! I'm only prepared to say survive…not yet able to see the calm sunshine and beauty that comes after such devastation, but I'm willing to hold on, which in the end is the true meaning of faith and trust. Thanks for helping me and not expecting me to be OK too soon. I'm scared, very scared. I'm holding tight. It's all I know to do."

…and then when Maria's birthday rolled around…

"I'm sad. I'm really, really, catastrophically sad. I'm not sure when it will be better. I guess I will get through this but not ever will I get over it! So I will journey on, knowing that this isn't my home, and that when I reach my journey's end, I will be with Maria longer than I will have been without her."

Just get the book already before I sit here and quote the whole thing. 

Like I said…sister from another mister…or just a kindred spirit who has had her heart handed to her on a silver platter, and she's trying to allow the Healer to put her back together one piece at a time. Sounds familiar. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

SCC…Part 2

So then there was that time we hung out with SCC for a couple hours…whatever.


Like most 80's church kids, I grew up listening to Steven Curtis Chapman…but I, admittedly, lost track of him in the heavy digital age when all the latest worship music was at my finger tips. Then I married a non-musical person…God's sense of warped humor…so SCC completely fell off my radar. 

Until I got the phone call saying that good ol' SCC was coming to Harmony (where we typically do not hold concerts), and we would be spending a little bit of one-on-one time with him. Excuse me, what?!? They also dropped the formidable bomb that Laura Story would be performing with Chapman. Many of you will remember that her song, Blessings, has been especially meaningful to our family as we included that thought-provoking song on the memorial video for Zoe's funeral. Holy smokes, Batman.

It's a long story about how this all came to be, but suffice it to say, we were moved. After we explained to our 2000's kids who SCC even was…apologies to the big cheese…everyone in the family began to look forward to November 21st. In full disclosure, I struggled with my response every time someone asked me if I was excited to meet him. Sure, it would be a special time, but I knew the thing that was drawing us together was the loss of both of our baby girls. Call me crazy, but that did not leave me throwing down some cartwheels. Yea...I was right.

As I prepared for our time together, I covered up my own skunk line (if you don't understand that, you're dead to me), I made myself throw up over and over so I wouldn't feel the need to spew all over SCC (figuratively, of course), and I cleared our schedules for all the family and friends coming into town…there were 24 of us!

After much ado, we headed to the church to have our face-to-face. I'm sure you'd be intrigued to get the 411 on what happened next, but it felt…and still feels…very personal, so I'll just highlight a couple thoughts. It didn't take long before the guys acknowledged that SCC's wife, Mary Beth, and I were separated at birth and probably should be kept separated. That much transparency and honesty in one room might just result in unspeakable chaos…best to be safe. We talked about church and shared tears and memories of our baby girls…all in all, a very sweet time. There were no ah-ha moments where we said, "Well, we feel so much better now that we've talked to Steven Curtis Chapman!" No big windfall of spiritual wisdom about dealing with grief…just more grief shared with someone who gets it. 

I will tell you the biggest realization of the afternoon…no matter how much time passes, this will stink for all time. Steve's tears, although tempered by time, were fresh…even though it's been 5 years since their sweet Maria passed away. I don't know when I've ever cried so hard…for both the Carr and the Chapman families…and all the other families out there that have come to live through this torture. So much pain…so many years to endure. It's nice to know someone understands and that you're not alone in your suffering, but you'd never wish this pain on anyone, for any reason…so it's only mildly helpful. 

Pretty sure I reapplied the barn paint (thanks, dad) 3 times that day, trying not to look like I needed to be admitted…which I clearly felt would improve things anyway. 

I also had some sweet moments of one-on-one time with Laura Story, sharing OUR story…and the part she unknowingly played in it. We talked about our mutual friends, the Ford's, who'd moved down to Georgia and found themselves sharing a Sunday school class with the singer/worship leader. For a minute there…as we shared some Darryl stories…everything felt normal. (Thanks big D!) 

Then it was time for the VIP Q&A and the arrival of our entourage. It was very special sharing this memory with so many family members and friends…I'm forever grateful that they made the 4 hour trip for this special night. There were a couple moments that I'll never forget. First of all, our longtime family friend, Jeff Anderson, reminded SCC about him praying with a friend of Jeff's at a concert many years before and how meaningful it has continued to be for his friend…and now here he was, ministering to yet another good friend…and thanked him for it. It was very poignant. Secondly, we met an amazing momma and daddy who'd also had to say goodbye to their sweet baby Vinny, only 18 months old, I believe. One moment, he was a healthy baby boy…the next, he didn't wake up. And there they were, proclaiming God's faithfulness in the midst of the excruciating pain in which they fought to catch a breath. I hugged her neck at the break and tried to encourage her out of the depths of our shared sorrow. Heavy stuff, peeps.

The actual concert was fantastic with Jason Gray rounding out the lineup. I was a sobbing mess but all for good reason. I thought I'd pass out or puke a couple times…like when SCC sang, Beauty Will Rise, and Laura sang, Blessings…but other than that, we just enjoyed rocking out on the FRONT row for several hours. (In case you're wondering…yes, it was loud…yes, we are way too old for that now…but whatcha gonna do?!?) 

We felt, on more than one occasion that night, that they were singing straight to our hearts…really hoping the other 1000+ people got something out of the concert too! Christ was definitely a big deal…that's what I remember most.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

SCC…Part 1

I feel like my pastor-husband here as I say we are going to take a break from our regularly-scheduled program for a new mini-series. Does this mean he’s been getting his ideas from me all along?!? You didn’t hear that from my lips! The only difference is that my series don’t last over 2 years…ahem…moving on…

Out of the blue last summer, I received a message from a former choir member, Brad Meeder and his wife, Connie. It was such a pleasant and sweet surprise. In short, he asked if I had the Steven Curtis Chapman cd, Beauty Will Rise, that he’d recorded following the death of his 5 yr old daughter, Maria. When I replied that I’d never even heard it, he answered, “It’s on its way to you right now.”

I cannot even begin to tell you the blessing…and sometimes, torture…this cd has been to me. I can’t even. So since I only seem to have incomplete sentences to share, I thought it would be best to let the lyrics speak for themselves. It’s like I’m talking anyway (what with the obvious SCC mind-reading that occurred)…so it’s kinda the same. For sake of time and space, let’s go with the top 3…although I seriously could have suggested all 12 songs. It's that good…and that meaningful in my time of grief. I've included both the links to the songs (simply click on the song title) and the lyrics for you to read. Prepare yourself.

I Will Trust You
I don't even wanna breathe right now
All I wanna do is close my eyes
But I don't wanna open them again
Until I'm standing on the other side
I don't even wanna be right now
I don't wanna think another thought
And I don't wanna feel this pain I feel
And right now, pain is all I've got
It feels like it's all I've got, but I know it's not
No, I know You're all I've got
And I will trust You, I'll trust You
Trust You, God, I will
Even when I don't understand, even then I will say again
You are my God, and I will trust You

God, I'm longing for the day to come
When this cloudy glass I'm looking through
Is shattered in a million pieces
And finally I can just see You
God, You know I believe it's true
I know I will see You
But until the day I do
I will trust You, trust You
Trust You, God, I will
Even when I don't understand
Even then I will say again
You are my God, and I'll trust You
And with every breath I take
And for every day that breaks
I will trust You
I will trust You
And when nothing is making sense
Even then I will say again
God, I trust You
I will trust You
I know Your heart is good
I know Your love is strong
And I know Your plans for me
Are much better than my own

So I will trust You, trust You
I trust You, God, I do
Even when I can't see the end
And I will trust You
I will trust You, I will
Even when I don't understand
Even then I will say again
I will trust You, I will trust You, I will
I know Your heart is good,
Your love is strong,
Your plans for me are better than my own
Yeah, Your heart is good
Your love is strong
Your plans for me are better than my own
And I trust You
You are my God
And I will trust You

It was the day the world went wrong
I screamed til my voice was gone
And watched through the tears as everything came crashing down
Slowly panic turns to pain
As we awake to what remains
and sift through the ashes that are left behind
But buried deep beneath
All our broken dreams
we have this hope:
Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning...
in the morning, beauty will rise

So take another breath for now,
and let the tears come washing down,
and if you can't believe I will believe for you.
Cuz I have seen the signs of spring!
Just watch and see:
Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes... beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning...
in the morning...

I can hear it in the distance
and it's not too far away.
It's the music and the laughter
of a wedding and a feast.
I can almost feel the hand of God reaching for my face
to wipe the tears away, and say,
"It's time to make everything new. Make it all new"
This is our hope.
This is the promise.
This is our hope.
This is the promise.
That it would take our breath away
to see the beauty that's been made
out of the ashes…

Our God is in Control

This is not how it should be
This is not how it could be
This is how it is
And our God is in control
This is not how it will be
When we finally will see
We'll see with our own eyes
He was always in control
And we'll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
And we will finally really understand what it means
So we'll sing holy, holy, holy is our God
While we're waiting for that day

This is not where we planned to be
When we started this journey
But this is where we are
And our God is in control
Though this first taste is bitter
There will be sweetness forever
When we finally taste and see
That our God is in control...


 I cried gut-wrenching, torrents of tears the first time I listened to this cd. Chris asked me why I’d do that to myself. All I could say was, and is, “It’s healing my heart.” Maybe that’s because someone else is speaking my language of grief, through the lens of trying to honor God while in the midst of incredible sorrow. Maybe it’s because music always has had the ability to reach straight into my gut. 

Regardless of the reason, if you are living through the weight of the incredible pain of burying your child right now, or know someone who is, get this cd right now and let the healing begin.

I Choose Death

Maybe I decided it’s time to shake things up…maybe I wanted to see if any of you are still reading these ramblings…maybe you’re like me and need to be shocked out of complacency every now and again. Regardless of the reason, I want to share with you some thoughts I’ve been marinating on for quite some time now. In order to do so, please allow me to direct your attention to an old blog post, appropriately titled, “I Choose Life.”


I’ve continued to feel wounded, to some degree, over the last 8 months that God didn’t honor my wishes that night as I penned those groanings from my heart as we waited to hear from Zoe’s surgeons. As I’ve said many times in the past, we were completely shocked that God chose this ultimate healing instead of just fixing her heart and giving her back to us. 

I KNOW certain Scriptural promises to be true, but I’ve yet to FEEL the truth of those promises. Like when God promises…

to be near to the broken-hearted…
that His plans are to prosper me with a future and a hope, rather than to harm me…
to never leave me or forsake me…
that I will find Him when I seek Him with all my heart…

Honestly, I’ve found comfort in clinging to these promises even when I don’t FEEL like they’re true. Gotta start somewhere.

SO in the first month after Zoe died, while in the heaviest throws of our grief, the hubs asked me a simple question…

“Would you do it all over again?”

What's with all these questions he keeps asking me?!? I looked at him like he had 7 heads as I simultaneously threw up in my mouth. Was he smoking something? How could I possibly answer that? I couldn’t even bring myself to get out of bed in the morning most days. But put myself through all this torture knowingly and willingly?!? Well, that just seemed a special kind of insanity. But as I started simmering on that, (marinating…simmering…it’s always about food with me) my only answer could be,

“How could I not?”

Because when the smoke clears, and all is said and done, to answer “NO” would mean…

to never have known our precious little girl…
to never have held her tightly, brushed her hair, dressed her in her tiny little clothes…
to never have taught her to sing, Jesus Loves Me and never have heard her singing it all by herself…
to never have fought so fiercely to save a life…
to never have trusted so fully that the Sovereign One had it under control…
to never have been her Mommy…

Sure…if we could choose to not suffer so greatly, anybody in their right mind (hmmm…maybe that’s the problem here) would RUN from this level of pain…BUT no one who looked into the eyes of this sweet baby could turn a blind eye to her need of a family.

So since there wasn’t a 3rd option…you'd better take a seat.

I choose death.

I choose the death of someone we loved so deeply in such a short time over the peace and comfort of not knowing this grief.

I choose death because before this sadness, we had an amazing 3 months of loving our sweet baby.

I choose death in our care because without it, Zoe would’ve died in an orphanage, longing for a family.

I choose death and pain because to avoid it would’ve been a result of our disobedience and apathy.

I choose death because to escape that would mean a pint-size emptiness in my heart that would feel like the weight of the world.

I choose death because that means we had LIFE to lose.

God be with me as I’m realizing that, in this season of our lives, both Zoe’s death and ultimate life are one and the same.

I believe. Lord help my unbelief.

I choose death.