I realized this week that summer vacation is swiftly coming to an end. Our kids begin school before Labor Day (DON'T get me started on that) so i felt the need to pack in all kinds of summer goodness into 3 weeks.
You see, i spent a fair amount of the summer grieving our 5th baby, our unexpected pregnancy loss. I had resolved early in the summer break to try my best to balance grief and life with my 4 kids. And so we have outings. A couple weeks ago it was Krispy Kreme and Toys R Us (fairly harmless) and Tuesday we went to the Public Museum in good ol' downtown G-rap.
About 5 minutes in I realized that they would be my tour guide, and not the reverse. I had planned on taking a rather organized (as much as I am capable) stroll through the exhibits reading to them the detailed explanations and teaching them the history of our city and state. They had other intentions.
They zig zagged through the Old streets, and ran back out to the doll exhibit so the girls could have a tea party. They said that the furniture exhibit was "boring" but found great delight in the interactive Amway exhibit. It almost made me want to buy and sell Amway prods. :)
After a few free rides on the carousel, we crossed the Grand River and much to my kids delight they sipped on sodas from a local eatery. It was a beautifully hot day and I enjoyed watching them explore more than just our backyard and basement. Makes me a little sad that I didn't start these outings sooner than August.
I know, what is a Byron Day? much less multiple days of Byron?
Well, let me explain. Our dear friends live waaayy over in Byron Center. For many a year they have told us about about the parade, the fireworks, the fun. This year they invited us to join them.
After a well deserved teasing about having never introduced our children to the joys of the hometown parade we sat curbside and eagerly accepted all the candy, political propaganda and business plugs that were given us.
After lunch (which is no easy feat with 8 kids) and naps for some we meandered downtown to the park so the kids could experience all the bouncy fun 6 tickets would allow.
No, the fun does not stop there. Back home to the Dykstras for burgers and conversation while the kids ripsticked, track balled, and just had fun running in and out of the house.
The night ended with a spectacular fireworks show enjoyed by all but Juliet and Joy as evidenced by this photo--
Look closely at the girls trying to hide from the fireworks.
Joy was afraid she might get one in her eye!
Thank you Dykstras for inviting us and putting up with us all day long. I would say we are now your permanent Byron Days companions.
Major summer event that I almost forgot to mention!
The kids have been asking for a dog for years. In 1997 Dan and I adopted a dog from Golden Retriever Rescue named Buddy. Actually his name was Josh, and we quickly renamed him. He was our first baby so to speak. We bought him treats, took him on play dates and spent a lot of time training him to be obedient. He was a great dog. He was big and shed so much but we looked past that. When he died in 2003 it was very sad. I'll never forget Dan's voice cracking through the tears on the other side of the phone.
Introducing Buddy to our baby Chase
Fast forward 13 years later. We had been promising Chase that when he turned 10, we would acquire another family dog. Circumstances are so different than in 1997. Now we have 4 kids. At the time Chase turned 10, I was pregnant. I didn't relish the thought of potty training a dog and a 2 year old when I was 8 months pregnant. And my tolerance for dog hair and large dog had declined significantly since our home began to fill with children and the certain messes they do make. What to do? Chase's last plea for a pet included the unconfirmed claim that "EVERYONE in my class has a dog except me!"
Life changed, plans changed and through a bunch of circumstances that worked out really nicely, we now have Zoe. A 5 year old Maltese/Shih tzu mix. She is small, doesn't shed and can be quite defiant ( you tell her to come here... she looks at you and runs the other way!) But she is lazy and is potty trained so most of the time that makes up for her disobedience.
It has been 15 weeks and 5 days. I realize no one would know this but me, but today it feels right to do some remembering.
I remember when the my doctor told me "the baby measured at 15 weeks 5 days." At the time I was 17 weeks and 4 days into my what had turned into a pregnancy loss. Today I have been without her as long as she was with me.
How in the world did I carry this baby for 2 weeks and not know she had passed away? What kind of mother was I? The early days following April's delivery I writhed in pain at the thought. Looking back, there were perhaps mild indications that the baby was not developing.
I remember how I was waiting and waiting to feel the first obvious sign of movement.
I remember thinking how I would enjoy traveling to and from Florida on Spring Break
feeling the baby flutter as all I had to do was sit on my butt in the van.
I remember laying in bed every night of Spring Break,
convincing myself that I had felt some type of movement. I did not.
I remember noticing that my maternity swimsuit had fit exactly as it had
when I tried it on 2 weeks prior.
I remember wondering about all these things
but not being overly worried or despaired.
I remember driving the 5-8am stretch of our road trip home. I was feeling extremely grateful for the week we had just had. I glanced over at Dan asleep holding a restless Juliet. I peered in the rearview mirror and saw the big 3 sprawled across the van trying to find comfortable sleep. I was hearing songs one after the other on an Indiana Christian radio station. The songs were not praise songs. They were songs of honest pain and surrendering our will. "hmm...sad songs" I thought to myself. One song in particular brought back a slew of thoughts. Specifically about a little baby named Hannah. What I heard on the radio that early morning was the song played at Hannah's funeral. I thought and remembered what her parents were claiming when they played the song with these lyrics:
It's all about you, Jesus.
And all this is for you,
for Your glory and Your fame.
It's not about me,
as if You should do things my way.
You alone are God and I surrender
to Your ways.
Not for the first time I thought to myself, would I be able to honestly speak those words if I had lost a baby?
All of these moments, and thoughts I've just shared when compiled together are, to me an obvious display of God protecting and yet preparing me.
Perhaps it seems like naivety or denial. Perhaps it seems like I am grasping at some kind of neat explanation for the reality of what has happened. Perhaps I am over thinking. Yes, it is a bit of all those things.
But remembering such as this keeps her alive . Identifying and testifying to God's provision through it all is part of April's legacy.
Okay, this post is getting disorganized. I also realize this blog has taken quite a serious and perhaps less entertaining turn in the past 3 months. Nevertheless, putting my thoughts down on virtual paper has been a major part of my moving forward. To you reading this-- thank you so much for stopping by. It is a desire of my heart that through telling my story , April's short life will have meaning far beyond what I can express.
Dan's sister Betsy and Nick were wed the following weekend in a ceremony and reception here on the Hill. A beautiful day it was as we witnessed them pledge themselves to God and each other. Each of the little nieces and nephews had a special role in the wedding.
It was pure joy to see Chase and Madison read the scripture during the ceremony.
Witnessing loved ones commit themselves to God and each other and celebrating under a big tent on the Hill = a piece of joy.
Payne Lake Vacay 2010
Nothing says summer quite like time at the lake. The little green cottage has been apart of my life since before I was born. :)
This year our week came following all of the wedding excitement.
Washing up in the lake with Grandpa Hopkins
every moment about that week =pieces of joy.
This is not to say that the entire month was painless. I have watched the bellies swell of pregnant friends. Even now sleep often eludes me and my thoughts force me to recount every moment of April's existence. I still find myself staring out windows or at the heavens and cry, thinking about what should have, could have been, and Lord-- what will be? ? ?
Joy is returning because God is guiding me to see through the grief. He has given me a very perceptive heart and lays upon me a sense of knowing when joy is present. I am so thankful for that. It started out as a matter of will to see the good that remained after April's death and delivery, now it comes more naturally. Adding together these pieces leads me to the realization that He is working. For me, restored joy isn't one major event or incident. It is an ongoing metamorphosis of my heart and mind.
When I last left this blog I wanted to take a hiatus of sorts. Well, I did my best. I may have popped up a time or two on the social networking scene. ;-)
July was a month filled with moments to celebrate and pieces of joy. It feels good to say that. I began the summer 2010 with words and feelings of lament. At that time, what summer meant to me was just a countdown to a hopeless and no longer needed due date. I remember thinking at one point "just get it over with, already!" Negativity and cynicism was etching its way into my attitude. I was sure this summer was going to be a complete and total bust.
I've prayed, I pray for restored joy. In the beginning I kind of thought that one day I would wake up and joy in my life would triumphantly return, and in one fell swoop sadness would be wiped away. God hears and He delivers in ways only He can. Looking back on my short journey so far I see that evidences of joy returning. It came in the form of choices I've made, facing things that hurt, and above all God's workings.
As is my style, I tell my story through snapshots. Here is what hiatus was all about...
IKEA/Allegan Antique Fair
Hop in the diesel and ride where the wind takes us. In this case to IKEA and Allegan.
These ladies Jamie, Nat, & Cara have been so loving and supportive. They've walked with me every step of this road. They have listened to my story countless times, cried with me, prayed with me. This summer we have experienced quite a bit of fun together too as evidenced by the goodies found at Allegan antiques market.
These friends= pieces of joy
A few months back when we initially created and cultivated this garden I was excited. Excited only for it to bloom again next spring. I wanted to plant it and forget it until April 2011. In my mind a year from April's death would mean a full year of healing. Surely I would be in a better place next spring and summer.
As the weeks went by and I could see things begin to bloom and blossom I was pleased and sometimes tormented. The flowers were beautiful, but I wasn't supposed to be growing a memorial garden, I was supposed to be growing my baby. Even so, April's garden is a piece of joy.
Summer is the season for weddings and we had 2 wedding weekends in a row! The first was a friends out in Spring Lake area. It was so nice to get out as adults. To eat, drink and be merry. A welcome change from crying, hurting, and questioning.
A quick jaunt to Pronto Pups between the wedding and reception!
A great night with my parents and siblings= a piece of joy.