“Growing As I Wait”

Honestly, while I have always known/been told that grief comes in waves I didn’t realize just how difficult the healing process would continue to be. A process only intensified by our infertility journey with aching arms still empty, desperately longing to hold a little one of our own.  Living in the tension of the unknowns about whether or not we will have another little life who looks like us, having Ben’s eyes, or my nose, or his wavy blonde hair. And while we look forward to the day God expands our little family again, hopefully through both adoption and biological, our life will always hold some really hard grief triggers. 

When we got pregnant with Verity my heart instantly became attached and transformed into being a “mama’s heart”. I know this isn’t necessarily the journey for everyone, for some it doesn’t seem real until the baby is actually placed in his or her arms and for others it takes time even after that to become connected to their child. For me though, I became a mama the day the pregnancy test said “pregnant”. Since the day we found out her heart was no longer beating, there has been a large piece of me missing. It isn’t just a Verity-sized hole in my heart, it is the calling of being a mother still unfulfilled. While I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is still good and that He gave me the absolute perfect husband to walk through this journey with, something opened up in my heart the day we found out we were pregnant that has had to go back to trying to lie dormant. Trying, and most days failing. There is so much in Hannah’s story from 1 Samuel 1 that resonates with my heart. The longing, the bitter tears, the feeling of not getting to fulfill her purpose/calling. As much as her husband, Elkanah, wanted to be worth “more than ten sons” to Hannah, still she went to the temple in distress and prayed and begged God for a child. She begged to not be “forgotten”. She bartered, promising to give her son to the Lord all the days of his life. That feeling of being “forgotten” or “passed over” has played on repeat in my heart more times than I can count and is often an indicator of a “hard day”. There are good days, hard days, and days that feel impossible. 

On the “good days” I can get out of bed without immediately feeling as though the weight of each of the 7×10(to the 27th power…aka: seven billion billion billion) atoms in my body are impossible (not just improbable, IMPOSSIBLE) to lift. On the “good days” I can get on social media and see past the grief triggers of baby announcements, pregnant bellies, exhausted newborn parents sharing #real talk about the difficulties that come with raising tiny humans. On the “good days” I can simply celebrate with others, drop off a much earned 5th cup of coffee for my mama friends, and snuggle all the littles who call me “Auntie” without sorrow. 

Those are the “good days”. 

On the “hard days” I am a fraction of who I once was. I can’t seem to remember who I once was, who I am now, or who I want to be. I am full of doubts and “why me!?!”. I am reading the words of those who have gone before me and desperately trying not to close myself off to the rest of the world for fear the grief triggers will be too much to even accomplish one small thing, like getting out of bed. On the “hard days” doing the dishes OR walking the dog OR grading a few papers is a victory. On those days I manage to deny most of the lies telling me I am a failure as a wife, a failure as a mom, a failure as a daughter, sister, friend, human being…most, but not all. 

Those are the “hard days”.  

On the “impossible days” I am curled up in the fetal position, the irony not lost on me. On the “impossible days” I am lost, drowning in the weight of the infinite worlds created in my head of how life was supposed to be. Reading books and telling bedtime stories with our daughter.  Learning how to navigate bedtime schedules and finding the best babysitters for when family wasn’t available (as a teacher, I’ve never been too worried about this one because I have had the privilege of teaching some amazing humans!). A house full of noise and the patter of little feet as siblings chase each other around. Oh the worlds my mind creates. They are beautiful and captivating and haunting. Most of my “impossible days” don’t come from comparing myself to others, they come from comparing myself to the many different versions of my life dreamed up since I was a child. Versions I haven’t truly grieved the loss of, even though they will never happen. Versions that seem silly and insignificant when I type them out but oh so real and weighty in my head. 

But not all days are “impossible”. Not all days are “hard”. 

In this season, while there are still more “hard” and “impossible” days than I would like to have, I am learning to be thankful. Thankful for the “good” days. Thankful for a husband who is patient and kind and meets me exactly where I am. Thankful for the time and space to process through my feelings. Thankful for distance learning and jobs coming along right as we need them. Thankful for a home church who still sees one another via Zoom or socially distanced. Thankful for friends and family who love me and try so hard to understand. I am thankful for friendship hats, “Auntie Allie” dates, and pushing play on tv shows at the same time even though we are watching from our own homes. I am thankful for words of encouragement from those close to me and those who have never even heard my story. 

I started this post on July 23rd and only made it so far as the “impossible days”. There was no hope in my writing, only a blank page for me to get out my feelings of sadness and anger and sheer exhaustion from the number of grief triggers I still navigate each day. And so I held onto it, I left it sitting in my Google Drive waiting for a “good day” so that “impossible days” would not be the end. Yesterday I read two different things from people who do not know me nor do they have my same story or experiences, but still they managed to reach into my heart in a profound way. The first was in Fields of Joy by Ruth Chou Simons. Her book combines beautiful artwork with Scripture and a small sentence or two of inspiration, specifically geared towards joy. While multiple pages resounded, I was particularly struck by what she had to say on Proverbs 17:22. That specific verse says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Oh how my spirit has felt crushed as of late. To the point that normally a verse like that would simply become white noise, something that I know is playing but isn’t truly being heard. Yet because I am currently teaching a college course on child development and developmentally appropriate learning, and just wrapped a unit on neurodevelopment and the power of the brain, instead of tuning out, my heart tuned in. Simons’ says, “What we dwell on in our hearts and minds carries consequences in our bodies. The best healing your body can have will always begin with a heart glad in Him.” God has not failed me simply because my dreams do not look the way I thought they would. He has not abandoned me, nor is He punishing me. This world is broken. If you didn’t think it was before, is there any doubt left in your mind with a global pandemic and wildfires raging? Because of reading Ruth Chou Simons words I felt strong enough to get on Istagram and seek out some of the trusted voices I follow on there to continue to do the hard work of turning my “hard day” into a “good one”. The first post to pop up was Morgan Harper Nichols as she voiced her struggle in finding something “positive” to share with the world. Her words sank deep into my heart as I felt the gravity of her vulnerability and transparency. I am not alone in struggling to find the “positives”. I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed and that I don’t have the right words to say and as I scrolled through her artwork I was captivated by one piece in particular. It is a beautiful piece, simple, elegant, and only has four small words, “Growing as I wait”.  

I know now that grief will continue to come in waves, washing over me and pulling me down with the intense weight of the seven billion billion billion atoms in my body. 

I also know that I am “growing as I wait”. 

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My Little Gardens

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Everyone’s journey is different. No two people are the same. No combination of events the same. And while that is true, there are also many ways we can relate, sympathize, even empathize with one another. We are not alone. My life experiences may not be the same as yours but with some of you reading this, maybe you can relate. Relate to loss. To waiting. To longing. To the frustrations that come with the answer “no” or “not yet”.

When I first decided to start a blog I was hesitant. To be completely honest, I still am. I wanted to give a place where people felt a little less alone, although I’m sure a large part of that was me needing to remember that I am not alone. I am not alone in loss or grief. I am not alone waiting or longing. This specific post has taken many shapes and forms over the last few weeks as I have stewed over the significance of today, March 4th, and of what I am feeling and how I might want to convey that. It has gone from being a post about learning how to communicate through sadness and grief to how to respond in kindness when people say stupid things (because, let’s be honest, we all say stupid things sometimes) to seasons of waiting to not wanting anyone to feel alone and somehow morphed into this: the lessons I learn from my little gardens. At some point you will probably see another post about the things mentioned above but for today, for some reason, I have decided to process by writing down my thoughts on the plants I have that hold meaning and significance to me and by the end of the post who knows, maybe it will have morphed again. I am not sure why this is what is in my heart today but my prayer is that, by revealing another glimpse into my life and the way I am processing today, you might feel a little less alone and be encouraged to find little garden lessons of your own.

I am going with my dump truck method (mostly because I am learning I over-think things too much if I don’t. Perfect example: the many different visions for this post that have almost made it an impossibility to publish). I will probably jump around here a bit and likely give you more information than you really want or need. If you choose not to read any farther, I won’t hold it against you, this post got crazy long. If you do choose to read more I want to thank you for walking with me as I process.

Today I want to share with you my little gardens that have come out of loss. I want to share with you the way plants have helped me grow and remind me of beautiful life lessons that can be learned as long as I choose not to allow my circumstances to consume me.

I am reminded by a little bamboo that a “no” can sometimes actually be a “not yet” and to never let the “no” make me bitter.

I am reminded by Grandma Anita’s strawberries (seen in the image above) to continue to fight and grow, even in difficult circumstances.

And I am reminded by a backyard oasis of immense love and rest and peace and grace.


~ My Little Bamboo ~

A few years ago when we took our first negative pregnancy test I experienced the struggle with the answer “no”. It was in the first few months of trying and we had known it wouldn’t be easy for us to get pregnant so I thought I had guarded my heart well, rationally anticipating a negative. I took the test in the morning, saw the negative and went off to school, telling myself it was like any other day. I made it through the day, putting it as far from my mind as possible so I could be present for my students. What I didn’t realize was just how deeply my heart hurt at the answer “no”. (Anybody else have a hard time with the word “no”?) My sweet husband, on the other hand, knew that while it may take a while for me to process emotions, eventually the sadness would seep in. Before even receiving a text from me about needing to bail on our plans with friends for that night because I just couldn’t “people” anymore that day, he went out to Trader Joe’s and purchased my favorite cheese, crackers, a bottle of wine, chocolate coconut covered almonds, and a small, beautiful bamboo shoot. That bamboo shoot was the start of my little garden of growth. He brought home the grocery bag, full of reminders things he had chosen with care, and I was overwhelmed by the love he has for me. In a day that started with the answer “no”, my husband turned it into a “not yet”. He took something that to me, felt so harsh and final, and reminded me that it was simply “not yet”. He filled it with hope, hope of growth and life in the future, and I was reminded not to let my heart become bitter just because it was not the answer I had wanted.

I still have the bamboo shoot (it’s one of the few things I have managed to keep alive. Yes, I have even killed succulents) and each time I see it I am reminded of the love my husband has for me. I am reminded to have hope, hope of life and of joy, and to never allow bitterness to consume me. I am reminded of how far we have come and how far we still have to go. I am reminded that I have grown and am continuing to grow, molded and shaped by life experiences, and that “no” can sometimes be seen instead as a “not yet”.


Grandma Anita’s Strawberries ~ 

Two years ago today, March 4th, the world lost a beautiful woman, Grandma Anita. The family did not see it coming. The loss was shocking and felt by the family and throughout the small church community she had been so greatly a part of. After losing my grandmother my senior year of high school, my friend’s grandmother adopted me. Anytime Grandma Anita saw me she greeted me with a smile and a, “Hey, grandfriend,” always asking me how I was doing. She was a woman full of life and vigor, who loved her family and invested in those around her. As her family got ready to sell her house, I was asked if there was anything I might want from the garden she cultivated with such love and care. She was well known for her beautiful garden! I brought home with me strawberry plants, now lovingly referred to as “Grandma Anita’s Strawberries”, and planted them along the barrier wall in our new backyard.

That first fall in our new home included quite the wind storm, knocking down three panels of our fence and crushing a section of strawberry plants. After being transplanted I wasn’t sure the plants would survive and my heart ached. Not only did I want to have a little reminder of Grandma Anita for myself but I also wanted my friends to be able to come over in the summers and eat strawberries from the same plants their grandmother had loved and tended to. The fence was fixed, Spring came, and low and behold, not only did Grandma Anita’s strawberries survive, they have actually grown and spread farther along the barrier wall! Those beautiful plants have grown and shaped our new house, providing us with delicious strawberries for the past two years. From those strawberries I have learned what it is to fight and grow, even in circumstances that seem impossible. Those plants were uprooted, replanted, and then crushed and still they survived. Not only did they survive, they became stronger, growing and spreading and producing delicious fruit. Each time I look out at those strawberries I am reminded not to let my circumstances overwhelm me, but instead I choose to fight and to grow.


~ My Backyard Oasis ~ 

And now, I finally get to the reason today has been on my heart for the last few weeks. I finally get around to telling you why I need to process today through writing. Now I get to the part I have wanted to avoid, but still cleared my schedule this weekend knowing I may need space to process and grieve.

One year ago today, March 4th, 2017, after negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test and seeing the answer “no” what felt like a million times, I finally saw those two, beautiful pink lines.

We were pregnant! We were finally pregnant! It somehow seemed so fitting that on the anniversary of losing Grandma Anita, the day would feel a little bit redeemed with so much hope and joy. And so I rejoiced! I had chosen to fight and grow. I had chosen not to allow myself to become bitter but to instead hope and finally my “not yet” had turned into a “yes”!

One year ago today I finally started to allow myself to dream and imagine our future with the little life that was finally growing inside me. The little life that had been so hoped for and prayed for. I started to plan out the nursery and what color schemes I might like. I would finally get to celebrate Mother’s Day and experience all of the joys of pregnancy! By now, if you have read any of my earlier posts, you know how this story ends. I experienced 22 beautiful weeks with our little girl. Weeks full of joy and hope and immeasurable love before we had to say goodbye. And now, as I look back on March 4th, 2017, I long for that moment of utter elation, not yet tainted by sorrow and loss.

If we are able to get pregnant again it will not be the same as before. We will look at those two beautiful lines and be excited, yes, but it will also be different than before. We cannot go back to the moment of pure and utter joy but that does not mean we can’t choose day-by-day, moment-by-moment, second-by-second if we must, to have faith and hope over fear. My prayer is that when that day comes, if that day comes, we will choose to continue to cherish each moment and not be consumed by the endless possibilities of what could go wrong.

Back to my little backyard oasis. The week we said goodbye to Verity Grace my parents came over on a mission, what mission they wouldn’t say. We were told to stay inside and let them work, they would fetch us when they were ready. Ben was working from home that week, I was on summer break, so he went back to working upstairs and I popped in the copy of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (extended edition) that my parents had brought with them. That’s right, when I am sad or sick I like to watch Lord of the Rings and the second one happens to be my favorite. I’m weird. I know.

Hours went by before we were finally allowed to go into our backyard to see what they had done. Our little backyard had been transformed into our own, personal oasis. My parents had graciously dedicated their day to transforming our backyard into a space where we could rest and find peace and comfort. In the empty space along the back of the house they had planted three blueberry bushes and two Russian Sage plants and even had a small potted mint plant to be added to iced tea or coffee. They used the tall shepherd’s hooks from Ben and my wedding to create a little square around our back patio and hung a strand of large outdoor lights from it. And, last but not least, they set up two comfortable reclining lawn chairs so that we could sit back there, in the peacefulness they had created just for us, and enjoy out little oasis.

My parents knew we would need a place where we could remember just how much we are loved and cherished. A place full of life and the promise of a better tomorrow. A place full of peace and rest and grace. A place of beauty amidst the struggles and hardships of life. They blessed us with a place where every time I enjoy the fruit grown by those blueberry plants I can think of my daughter and the immense love surrounding her little life.


My little gardens have taught me much. They have taught me that it is okay to feel sorrow and pain and sadness but to not become bitter at the answer “no” or “not yet”. They have taught me to continue to fight and grow, even when I feel overwhelmed by the fences that come crashing down on me. They have taught me to make time for rest, for peace and for grace. And they have reminded me of the immensity of love.

Today, March 4th, 2018, is also the day one of my friends is marrying her best friend in beautiful, sunny San Diego. As I sit here processing, I am receiving pictures from her stunning wedding and I am reminded of the many emotions of numbers and of dates. Todays date in history has held many, many emotions from the sadness of death, to the joy of new life, to the beauty and excitement of a marriage just begun. And I remember words spoken by Graham Cooke, “There are no good days or bad days, only days of grace. The grace to enjoy or the grace to endure.”

Today my prayer is that your day would be full of grace and that you would be able to find life lessons in your own little gardens.

 

 

The Why Behind the Name

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Why “These Eternal Verities”? What does it even mean? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “verity” as:

  1. The quality or state of being true or real
  2. Something (such as a statement) that is true; especially: a fundamental and inevitably true value ~ Such eternal verities as honor, love, and patriotism
  3. The quality or state of being truthful or honest

Back in 2013 I read a book titled Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Up until that point I am ashamed to say I had no idea what the word meant. I knew veritas meant “truth” or “truthfulness” so I assumed it was something along those lines but I was prompted to actually take the time to look the word up. If you simply Google the word, what pops up is “a true principal or belief, especially one of fundamental importance”. I immediately loved it! I loved the word and what it meant. I loved it enough that when my husband and I got married I threw it out there as a possible name for a daughter someday. Granted, at that point we were still just talking about the possibility of children but we both liked the name enough to start creating our very own list of baby names. Quite a few names came and went from the list but one name remained the same “Verity”.

My purpose with this blog is to fill it with little truths, truths that I have learned or am learning as I walk (sometimes crawl) through this life. I believe in a Creator who made the Heavens and the Earth. I believe in a God who is great, greater than hardships faced and greater than my sins and failures. I believe in eternity and that it is only because of God’s amazing grace I will get to spend eternity with Him. It is with that eternal perspective that I desire to live my life. And so the name of this blog was born, with the help of my mother and sister, “These Eternal Verities”. These eternal, fundamental principals, truths, beliefs. That is what I want my blog to reflect. Things that are fundamentally important as we walk through this journey of life. Granted, with that being said, I’m sure not every post will be some great words of wisdom or things that are profound or even that relevant to anyone but myself, but I process through words.

I have a tendency to edit, re-edit, and edit again and then never post. (This post alone has been stared at for quite a while now and a small part of me keeps saying, “Don’t bother posting. It isn’t perfect yet. It won’t ever be perfect. You’re going to offend people.”) I am a champion at overthinking and over-processing. Most of the time I don’t feel that my words are relevant to anyone other than me, but lately I have had people come alongside me, encouraging me to put my words onto some medium where others can read and so this blog was born (because let’s be honest, a book is far too daunting and scary). It has taken me months to get to this point and honestly, if even only one person (likely my Mom or my Baby Sibling, I told them they could take turns if I got too boring) reads my words and feels encouraged, or somehow less isolated, then I have done what I set out to do. And so I have begun to dump (yes, I am definitely picturing a giant dump truck right now) my thoughts out into my computer and am placing them in your line of sight, flawed though they may be. I am choosing to ignore those small voices (even though I probably should re-read and edit this post…see, there I go again) and simply dump and post. This isn’t a book. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I am not perfect. So, if you have made it this far into what started out as the “why” behind the name of the blog and morphed into a “why” for the blog itself, thank you. Thank you for your patience and the grace you have shown me. Thank you for caring about the “why” behind this blog.