Thursday, August 21, 2014

School Days

"I will never leave you, or forsake you."  Hebrews 13:5

This morning my oldest began his first day of fifth grade.  His last year of elementary school. It was a bittersweet morning for a mama caught between the fascination of watching a young man emerge and yet fumbling for a pause button on the calendar.  All hugs, goodbyes, and "I love you's" were made at home, a safe distance from the school parking lot.  Funny how time changes things.  Not funny at how quickly time passes.

Watching him walk away brought back memories of those first school days, now five years in the distance. Thought I'd share an article I wrote back then...back when a little five year old began his first day of school.

"I will never leave you."  We rehearsed that verse in full preparation for kindergarten which would begin the next day.  We used our fingers and filled in our names when we reached our thumbs as we pointed to ourselves, "Jesus will never leave Camden."  I comforted and reassured as best as any Mommy would.  With smiles on our faces and butterflies in our tummies, we were ready for the big day. Then the big day arrived and the butterflies churned rather than fluttered and the cheerful eyes filled with tears.  I managed to hold back my tears until I reached the car.  But then I let them flow in full empathy for my little guy who needed me at the time.

At times I have experienced those feelings that my kindergartner was dealing with during those early days of big school...overwhelmed by a new phase of life, isolated though surrounded by others, and fearful of the future....grieving for the way life used to be.

I began my life in church in my mom's belly as she sat on the church piano bench every Sunday and played the hymns.  I accepted Jesus as my Savior in my kindergarten class at the Christian school I attended.  He's just always been there.  I've never doubted that.  Time and again, I've stated that through it all, God is still good and gracious.  But during life's darkness, He sometimes feels worlds away.

And yet, though my feelings have at times disagreed, my heart knows that He's never been so close...holding me closely, catching my tears, and healing my heart...taking my hands to His Word to find Scriptures which remind me "I will never leave you, Denise."  What a faithful Father He is.

Meanwhile, this flawed, but ever-loving Mother may be seen making another lap by the school just to feel a bit closer to a special little guy.  I've only done this once, okay twice.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Songs of Healing

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”   Zephaniah 3:17

My boys’ bedroom floor became my altar in the months following Kelsey’s death.  There, among the scattered Legos and army men, I bent my knees and begged for the Lord to come near.  Nothing sacred about the place, only the convenience of the Ipod with speakers.  I suppose moving it to another location would have taken too much time and effort.  It was precious time…anytime I found myself alone in the house, I would steal away for some moments alone with the music and my God who felt so far away.  But it was there, as I listened and wept and poured my soul on the carpet, that I knew He had not left me.  The songs became my prayers; the ones I composed on my own consisted of two words: “Help me.”  Expressions and praises that my own heart could not form came through the music.  Scriptures, that I hadn’t the strength to read, came alive with an accompaniment of the piano and violin.  A meager offering on my part met by abundant mercy on His.

I’ve written with the expectation of telling Kelsey’s story.  It seems that in doing so, I’ve discovered much of mine.  Perhaps that is because the short time I carried her changed my life.  Her earthly body was oh, so tiny, but her impact on my heart is enormous.  I’m thankful that the Maker of the Universe created her life and handed me the privilege of being her mommy.

As believers, we spend a bulk of our parenthood introducing our children to and teaching them about Jesus.  “Who made you?” we ask. “God loves you,” we remind.  We hold their hands and lead them to Sunday School in hopes they will hide His Word in their hearts.  What an honor it will be one day to take my daughter’s hand as she leads me to the feet of Jesus.  

I conclude with a list of songs and Scriptures that have accompanied me on this journey of grief.  God bless!

”Perfect Peace” by Laura Story

“Send Me a Rainbow” by Laura Story

“I Will Carry You” by Selah

“Unredeemed” by Selah

“Small Enough” by Nichole Nordeman

“Every Season” by Nichole Nordeman

“Held” by Natalie Grant

“Another Time, Another Place” by Sandi Patty and Larnelle Harris

“Yours” by Steven Curtis Chapman

“Beauty Will Rise”  (The Album) by Steven Curtis Chapman

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Psalm 46:10

“But now, this is what the Lord says--He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel:  ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.’”        
 Isaiah 43: 1-3

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“I am still confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27: 13-14

Thank you for reading.  My prayer is that all who hear the story of Kelsey Wynn will know and experience the love and the hope and healing of my Lord Jesus Christ. 

*This post is part of the series, "Kelsey's Story."  The series begins with the post titled, "Marge."  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Rainbow

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy."  Psalms 126:5

“Mommy, what store did you buy me from?”

“Mommy didn’t buy you from a store.  God made you.”

“But you took the pieces to God and He built me.”

“That’s right baby.  He built you.”

I sat in astonishment at the words my three year old had just uttered. How he came up with this idea, these words, I don’t know.  But what I do know is that somehow God had taken the pieces of me…pieces of brokenness, grief, fear, guilt, isolation, and tiny crumbles of hope.  He put in me a healing heart with an added glimmer of hope….another beating heart.

It was exactly one year and one month after Kelsey’s death that I discovered that once again, another life was growing inside mine.  

On the day we found out he was a boy, I wept.  I sat in the passenger seat driving home from the doctor’s office with my very best posture and allowed the tears to fall.   Periodically, I rubbed my swollen belly and whispered my apologies for the tears and reassured him that I loved him more than anyone ever could.  I didn’t cry because he was a boy.  I cried because I missed my little girl.  I cried because I was scared another girl would have been seen by some as a replacement.   I cried because if she had lived, would he have been formed? And I cried because I loved him and couldn’t bear the thought of another goodbye.

At some point in this journey, I became sick of the tears.  Yet, on November 16, 2010, I laid on the operating room table and whispered a prayer begging for more: “Please let him cry.“  A medical assistant heard me and leaned over and quietly assured me, “He’s going to cry.”  

And moments later, my ten pound, five ounce rainbow baby entered the world.  The tears flowed again, although this time in relief and joy, as I heard his cries.  For several minutes, the only sentence my lips could form was, “Thank You, God.”  I yelled it, I whispered it, I cried it, “Thank You, God.”

*This post is part of the series, "Kelsey's Story."  The series begins with the post titled, "Marge."  Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”   Galatians 6:2

Our family acknowledges the blessings others offered on our journey.

Someone loaded praise songs onto my ipod.

Someone scraped the gunk from our microwave. 

Someone organized her funeral with dignity.

Someone built a box to store some memories.

Someone bought groceries.

Someone wrote a song for the memorial service.

Someone brought my boys new crayons and coloring books.

Someone asked her grandmother to sew a bonnet for Kelsey.

Someone returned the flowery crib sheets and quilt to the store.

Someone hugged me, looked me in the eye, and assured me it was okay that I didn’t know how to pray.  

Other mommies who knew the sting journeyed with me.

People prayed.

People cooked meals.

People sent cards.

People gave donations.

People said her name.

People cried.

People grieved.

And now, people are reading her story.

Some good friends gave us a pink dogwood tree as a memorial.  What a thoughtful, touching gift.  As the weather began to warm, we gathered the strength to go into the backyard to plant it.  My husband dug the hole and I watched, contemplating holes and dirt and burial.  The wind whipped through the boys’ hair as they ran in circles around us.  All the while I had a mental battle as to whether at that moment I was the strongest or weakest I had ever been.  I wanted to believe that I was strong because I had survived, but the weakness in me felt as if I could be carried away by the wind in an instant.

We observed the tree as it grew and began to bud.  It was in full view from my laundry room window. Daily as I washed and folded, I watched its progress.  Life.  And then, after about five months, it slowly began to die.  It withered and dried until it stood merely as a stick.  No more green leaves.  No more promise of the pink blossoms in the springtime.  No more life.

The stick remained for a while.  We just couldn’t bear to take it from the ground.  And then we saw it. How in the world?  Where did it come from?  A pink flower bloomed beside the tree.  A beautiful pink petunia, eventually joined by others, grew and offered hope.  

Hope in the midst of heartache.

Life in spite of death.

*This post is part of the series, "Kelsey's Story."  The series begins with the post titled, "Marge."  Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 24, 2014


"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:7

February 13, 2009: the day I checked into the hospital to deliver my baby who would be born still.  It was one of the worst days of my life, but it was also one of the dearest.  I got to hold her in my arms. What a sweet and lovely and pretty girl she was and surely would have grown to be.  We rocked her and sang to her…gestures for a longing mommy and daddy rather than for the life that was already complete. We longed to return to the joy, the hope, the expectation of her life with us.  And saying goodbye left me feeling torn between heaven and earth.  

It also left me with an enormous feeling of isolation and shame.  Though others didn’t abandon me, I felt alone.  Though I had loved her with my all, I felt ashamed.  Mothers are to bring forth life, not death.  I took some time off work, avoided stepping foot into church, and darted in and out of daily errands as quickly as possible.  When walking through the doors of a public place, I felt as if a neon sign clicked on over my head announcing to the world:  “Her baby died.”  I desperately wanted to hide for a really long time.

However, when you have two small boys and your yard is covered with several inches of newly fallen snow, hiding isn’t an option.  Several weeks after Kelsey’s death, a whiteness covered the darkness with a blanket of snow.  The boys begged to go out.  The task of pulling and tugging on hats, coats, mittens, and boots drained every bit of my energy.  But we made it outside.  They played.  I walked.  And I listened to the quiet, the hush that envelops creation after a snowfall.  And I heard over and over in my head, “Cleanse me and I will be whiter than snow.”  The whisper directly contrasted the irrational guilt and shame screaming in my head.  Standing in the open and cold, my heart quieted for a moment and the cleansing and healing slowly began. 

*This post is part of the series, "Kelsey's Story."  The series begins with the post titled, "Marge."  Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Ache

"...O my Strength, come quickly to help me."  Psalm 22:19

My face actually hurt.  All of the talking, smiling, and laughing confirming my good news had taken a toll on my cheek muscles.  The early afternoon’s ultrasound started the workout….I was having a girl.  I spent the remainder of the day spreading my news to anyone who would listen.

Over the next month or so, we dreamed and imagined.  We bought pink.  


I gathered some crayons, a coloring book, a bowl of crackers, and my two year old and headed out for a routine doctor’s visit.  I was almost twenty four weeks along and by this point, I pretty much knew the drill.  Check weight, blood pressure, baby’s heartbeat, and make the next appointment.  All boxes were checked until we reached the heartbeat one.  Hmmm, couldn’t find it with the Doppler, let’s take a look on the ultrasound.  It sounded reasonable to me until the doctor collected my purse and toddler bag for me.  Something struck me by his gesture.  

His next sentence was one that I have replayed in my mind thousands of times.  For months, it entered my mind as soon as my head hit the pillow.  I’ve wished it away with all my strength.  It changed my life. 

 “This isn’t good.”  No heartbeat.

And in that moment, the real workout began.  “No!  But she’s my girl!  I already love her,”  I begged as if my pleas could alter the results.  Mentally, emotionally, I fought with all my might, kicking away the idea that my baby could have died.  

My doctor attempted to calm me and finally did when he motioned in the direction of my two year old. There he sat, high up on a barstool, head down, feet swinging back and forth.  He knew.  Not the details, but the hurt.  I suppose it’s what caused him the next day to sweetly rub my belly and say, “I kiss the baby.”  I suppose it’s what led him to pull down the hallway door and shower curtain while I was in the hospital. Unexplainable hurt.  It’s what led my five year old to sob in wonder when his daddy told him he wouldn’t meet his little sister.  Our family was shattered.

Physically, my body was spent.  A tear-streaked face, sleepless nights, and the pain of a c-section challenged me.  Having already been through two c-sections, I knew the best therapy was walking.  I sat.  No diapers to change, no cries to be calmed.  I sat.  And hurt.  

My arms literally ached.  

Eventually, the physical pain eased, but the ultimate throbbing remained. I spent months envious of each day’s first thirty seconds….the time before I remembered.  The time before I lifted it all again and hauled it with me.  Some mornings I packed it routinely-- the hurt, the sadness, the shame, the longing.  Other days I could hardly lift it all, not having the strength to lug it one more moment.  The love, the memory, the grief for a one pound baby was the heaviest weight I ever had to bear.

*This post is part of the series, "Kelsey's Story."  The series begins with the post titled, "Marge."  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Be Still and Know

"In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."  
                                                                                      Job 12:10

Fear and comfort oozed into my life simultaneously.  They don’t seem to belong together, but are complimentary companions.  The fear arrived abruptly, interrupting an ideal Saturday night complete with my husband, a movie, and a bowl of ice cream.  It came in the form of a pain that took away my breath. Only eight weeks into my pregnancy, I understood all about typical growing pains; but I also had the memory of two prior miscarriages. And so with thirty seconds of discomfort, the seed of fear began to grow into hours of worry.

Within moments, the soothing balm of His Word impressed upon my heart, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Between the verse, prayer, and a night of rest, I felt soothed.  Replaying my doubts on the drive to church the next morning began the cycle again. However, as we rounded a corner, another application of the ointment stared at me from a church’s marquee:  “Be still and know that I am God.”

My body and my actions were quite capable of following this command to be still, to not worry.  My mind was another story.  Yet, when the fear presented itself, so did that verse reminding me that God was in control.  I heard it on the radio, in Bible studies, and read it in my morning devotions.  It became my theme for the pregnancy.

At some point, it seemed that my fears concerning something ominous happening to Kelsey before birth seemed to ease, only to be transferred to the thought of her childhood, her life.  I wanted to protect her from harm. How would that be possible in a world filled with so many hazards?  We would show her the love of Jesus.  We would pray that she would love Him, know Him, and look to Him in all things.

Though not in the manner I wanted, that’s what happened.  She knows Him completely and everyday walks basking in the love of Jesus.  So perhaps the verse wasn’t for me after all.  It’s her life story.

*This post is part of the series, "Kelsey's Story."  The series begins with the post titled, "Marge."  Thanks for reading.