Monday August 11, 2008

"I remain 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

I have discovered something new about myself in the last month.  I love hiking!!  Totally, utterly, love hiking!  It is in the midst of the woods, or standing on a mountain or next to a waterfall that I feel the closest to God . . . and to my Madeline.  Since she is now totally in the presence of the Lord, when I feel closest to Him I also feel closest to her.  And so I have now bought a "Hikes through Washington with Children" book and have been dragging my kids all around the area.  As long as I have trail mix for the end, they will follow me anywhere!  One of my greatest achievements of late has been climbing Mt. Dickerman with my high school girls Bible study.  I must say, I was incredibly proud of myself of them too, but they are young and I am . . . well, not)!  It took us 7 hours, but we did it!

The summer continues to ebb and flow.  It has been odd.  A few years ago I started a "parks list" for my friends and I for the summertime.  It was a good excuse to get us mom's together, let the kids play, and no one's house gets trashed.  This year was no exception for the list and so I threw one together in June.  It's good to go and see some friends and watch the kids play . . . oh but it is so hard.  My heart aches at every outing.  Most of the time I am able to play it out and make good, but every now and then the tears just come and my loss feels so overwhelmingly huge.  There's all the kids out playing and having fun - all but one and it hurts so bad that it had to be mine (not that I would ever wish this on anyone else's either).  I hate being known as that woman "who's little girl just died".  I can feel it all around me and for that reason I tend to avoid crowds these days.  I hate being the "token griever".  I hate being introduced to new people and not knowing how to answer the question of "how many children do you have?"  Funny how that during all of Dave and I's years of infertility (6 years for those of you who don't know) I dreaded that question then too.  And then there are still the really awkward situations of people who I know know that I just lost a child, but don't say anything to me.  I can't tell you how much I truly appreciate the people that say, "tell me about Madeline".  It may be the opening to floodgates but how I appreciate that open door to speak of the one my heart is aching for.  Instead I am usually left arguing with myself about forgiving those that unintentionally hurt me and extending them grace.  Stink.  It's interesting to me how hard some of the simplest things are for me these days.  Things that used to be "no brainer's" I just can't seem to get back into the groove of, like grocery shopping, cooking, or even just trying to be a friend - it all just seems so incredibly hard.  I long for the day that I feel like myself again.

Dave's parents will be coming on Wednesday and we are all looking forward to seeing Gi and Pawpaw for a while.  It will be so nice to have them here and the kids are truly excited.  Everyday they wake up asking me, "Now how many days till they come?"  Then in Sept. we will be going to Connecticut to visit my sisters and their families.  It is so good to have these things to look forward to - I really need them.  Dave and I have been trying to do a lot of work on the house this summer.  As always, it's just good for us to stay busy and so we are.  We been painting, pressure washing, digging, etc. etc.  It feels good to see things that we've had on back burners for waaaaay too long get done.  So even if I can't seem to get around to cooking, I can paint a wall or dig a trench.  Go figure.  Thank God for teriyaki to-go!

Monday September 1, 2008

Happy Labor Day!

Well it's just freezing here in Washington. I think summer got up and left about 2 weeks ago. I believe I can speak for all Washingtonians when I say we feel we were really cheated out of summer this year. A friend of mine who's a farmer said that all their crops are totally behind because of our lack of heat and sun (I began feeling better about my own garden's lack of appeal when she said that). I actually feel better about it being an atypical summer because in my heart it should be. So I won't complain too much. There's nothing worse than an absolutely gorgeous wonderful warm sunny day, and you're sad. It just seems wrong. So good of God to oblige me in my season.

We have been meaning to update this so we could bring everyone up to speed, but it's been hard to figure out what to say and how to say it. I think I'll just put it out there and if it's not eloquent, well, then it's just not:

About a year ago Dave and I applied for life insurance. At that time I failed the blood test because of elevated liver enzymes. I was supposed to go back and get it checked out but that was about 2 weeks before we left with Maddie for her surgery and it was really at the very back of my priorities list. Well, fast forward a year and I finally went in to check it out about 2 months ago. Since that time I've started going to a GI specialist and then about 3 weeks ago had a liver biopsy. We got the results back last week. It was both good and bad news. The bad being that I have an autoimmune disease called Primary Billiary Cirrhosis. It is a disease of the liver in which the small bile ducts eventually quit working. Because it is considered an autoimmune disease it has some other little side effects and complications (things like hypothyroidism and Reynaud's - both of which I have). The good news is that it is in the early stages and the hope is that with going on a bile replacement we will postpone the inevitable liver transplant for a long time. So there you go, no more wine with dinner and I will continue to have white fingers. I was telling a friend a few days ago that really I'm ok with it. It's a bummer, but once you watch your child die the rest of this stuff just doesn't matter. My Bible study gals know that my life verse these days is, "to live is Christ to die is gain" - and I truly mean that. If it weren't for my family I would really be hoping that it were more advanced. However, I love them all so dearly and I love this thing called life no matter how whacked out it can be sometimes. So that is the scoop. Only time will tell what this ole body of mine will do in the coming days and years (as it is for all of us). May it be used for God's glory alone.

Thursday September 25, 2008

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; you works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thought, God!" Psalm 139:14-16

Well it is now 5 a.m. I have been awake since 3 a.m. thanks to a certain phone call from the east coast (well, that and I forgot my Benadryl last night). Drat. It's amazing what hearing Dave's cell phone ring in the middle of the night still does to my heart. It jumps right through my chest and I can forget about sleep from that point on. I am so grateful that we no longer have to fear the middle of the night calls - but that's only when I'm wide awake and functioning clearly. If I'm dead asleep and in a fog my mind instantly jumps to "what's wrong?" and I'm transported back to all those panics so many months ago. Thank you Lord that those days are over and that you knew each and every day of Madeline's life before it ever came to be. I am so grateful that she is free from pain and suffering and I believe that it was in God's great mercy that He allowed her to come Home early - great was her reward. I am so grateful that it is not over and that a day WILL COME when we will be together once again!

I have done a lot of thinking lately and have occasionally questioned, "Lord, what if I'm wrong? What if everything we believe is a sham?". Over and over I come back to the same thing. Even if in the end it all shakes out totally different than what we have believed, we are out nothing. Our beliefs in a sovereign loving God will have walked us through this life in peace, and we will have lived with an eternal hope that has carried us through our darkest days. I can be ok with that. "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13

I must say that we have seen so much of God's goodness already this year amidst missing our Madeline. We have never traveled quite like we've done since January and it has been so good for us all. Good for bringing us all back together again. Good for taking our thoughts off of our loss. Good for making new memories that we can treasure with Sam and Anna. Yes, it has been an amazing summer. We had Gi and Pawpaw for 10 days in August and went back up to Leavenworth with them. Very fun. After they left we all took off and spent a week in Rhode Island with my sisters, their families and my parents. What an awesome time that was with all of us together in one house on the Misquamicut Beach. Every morning that Anna woke-up she hit the beach in her pj's to begin digging holes in the sand. I even got some sun, which is basically unheard of for me (oh yes, and my sister Becky kindly turned me from a blonde to a brunette for the first time in my life! I call it my autumn hair).

We are now home once again and the home schooling has begun. The other week I had to take the kids to meet with their school district counselor and to turn in our registration papers. Remember that bunny we got a few months ago named Rex (as in Tyrannosaurus Rex)? Well, we like to let Rex in the house to play (he's somewhat litter box trained). Rex, I found out likes to eat paper (as well as phone cords and book bindings). Rex found my basket of home school paperwork and began to nibble. Can you picture the face of our advisor when I handed over our registration forms (1/3 of which had been devoured by a certain rodent) with the excuse, "Ummmm, I'm sorry, but the rabbit ate our schoolwork". Yeah, Rex is now banned to Anna's room. Ahhh, the joys of a home schooling family!

Picture catch up time . . .

Leavenworth (without the snow)!

Sam's Karate Expo at the Fair

Beautiful Crescent Lake

Nana & Poppa's Gang

Nana fed the birds EVERYTHING in the cupboard!!

I never knew you could swim on the New England coast.
Rhode Island turns out to be the Ocean State - Go figure!

Sunday October 12, 2008

Last Wednesday was Sammy's 6th birthday.  So hard to believe.  He's no longer my toddler, or my preschooler.  He's now my official kindergarten big boy.  Sigh.  In honor of such a momentous occasion Nana and Poppa presented him (and Anna, for her birthday is on the 26th) with their very own puppy.  The day has finally come.  We are now dog owners.  Sigh.  (I've always been a cat person myself).  The kids, of course, are delighted and truly beside themselves.  Anna has wasted no time "dressing up" the dog with all the outfits Nana provided to go along with this new little Shih Tzu  Her name is Ginger and she is 8 weeks old.  Yes, she's cute by all accounts and she is sleeping peacefully in my lap as I type this.  Happy Birthday Sam!


Sunday November 2, 2008

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
2 Cor. 12:9

Some days, especially these cool fall days, my strength is gone. It is on days like these that I am surely just clinging to Gods' hand, God's sovereignty. Sovereign-a king or other supreme ruler, having supreme rank, power or authority, preeminent, indisputable. Don't you just love the definition? He is in control of our lives and nothing touches us that has not already been filtered through His fingertips. If it has been allowed to touch us, it will be used to mold and refine us into more of His image. Yes, it is this truth that I rest my head upon. But I must confess, autumn is a tough season for us. So many bittersweet memories. We have made it a point this year to do things that we've never done before, creating new memories. Beginning new traditions. I believe it helps, but it is still hard. Maddie loved going for walks through the fallen leaves. She loved the sound of the leaves as we kicked them along. We took many a stroller ride last year outside to kick leaves. I long for the day we can do that again.

My other baby girl turned eight last week! Wow, I can hardly believe it. Dave didn't help matters by pointing out that she was halfway to driving. NO, say it isn't so?! I often joke that Anna is eight going on 30 - at least she thinks so. She is very much our "type A" oldest child. I believe if we allowed it she would stage a family take over. Thankfully it is balanced with a goofy "sanguine" side - ever the jokester. Can she really be eight? We had a nice combined party with some friends on their farm in their barn (along with about 35 of their closest friends!). It was quite the shindig! But we were celebrating 4 birthday's at one time . . . Wow there were a lot of kids! It was great. There were sack races, bobbing for apples and even a scavenger hunt. It was quite the harvest festival. Hopefully that's the last birthday party for a while (like maybe till she really is 16)!

We are excited to say that we will be able to go to Louisville for Thanksgiving this year! We are all truly excited and will be leaving for Kentucky on the 19th. It is our hope that we will be able to pull together a little "open house" while we are there so that we can get together (and even meet for the first time) so many of you that have been such faithful prayer warriors over the last year and a half. It would be good to be able to say "thank you". So that is our hope, and we will keep you all posted.

In other news, Sam started taking karate a few years ago and has been progressing through the stages and belt levels.  Last week he earned his orange belt!  We are so proud of him.  At this rate I probably have only a couple of more years to rough house with him before he starts to really inflict pain on dear old dad!

Friday November 21, 2008

We made it home to Louisville at last!!!
No matter how hard we try, we’ll never be able to visit everyone we want to, so we’re having an open house for anyone we happen to miss.

Sunday, November 30th 6:00-8:00 PM

Dave & Brenda Berry’s
11204 Sewell Dr
Louisville, KY 40291

December 24, 2008 Wednesday (Christmas Eve)

Hello. Yes, we are still alive up here. Shockingly enough to most, I haven't really known what to say. I know so many people have asked us how we are doing through the holidays and the answer is such a mixed bag. We are numb, grateful, sad, blessed . . .  It's hard to summarize but I will certainly try.

Thanksgiving was very nice and we spent it with an intimate gathering of about 35 of Dave's closest kin. It really was wonderful to be with everyone again. It had been about a year and a half since we'd been back, so it was ABOUT TIME! I know the timing of our open house was a bit awkward with it being Thanksgiving weekend (especially for our friends who hosted it right after doing a fundraiser for their niece in the same day!! Thank you Dave and Brenda!), but it was a nice gathering. We were SO GRATEFUL to finally meet some of you who have prayed us through the journey. It is hard to believe that a year ago Thanksgiving we were making plans to bring little Miss Madeline home. We still have the sign hanging in our kitchen "Welcome home Maddie."  I have yet the heart to take it down. I found it so ironic that we were welcoming her home - just to a different one.  I'm sure I'll erase it sometime, just not yet - it helps me to remember where my true home is.

So we got home safely and then began to bust out Christmas preparations . . . Oh my! Presents to buy (I really appreciated Ronald McDonald House doing that for me last year!!), cookies to bake, cards to make, etc. etc. It has truly been a whirlwind around here! And let's not forget to include a daily dose of school into the mix and you have sheer chaos since December 3rd, but I'm ok with that. These days busy is good. The more busy the less time to stop and think and it's the thinking that gets me sad. So busy, busy, busy!! However, a dose of "sad" seems to be able to squeeze itself into almost every situation and so we allow it to roll over us, dry off, and then keep moving forward.

I celebrated my 40th birthday this month. Dave and I were able to have a really great date over in Seattle at a very fun restaurant called Teattro Zinzani's. It's like a "burlesque-Cirque du Soliel-dinner-theater" and it was FABULOUS! Forty isn't too bad. I now look at it as one day closer to Madeline and so I'm good with that. Before we went we stopped by the hospital to deliver a bunch of Christmas decorations to the ICU. It was sooooo great! Our church had come together at the last blood drive and we did a "Decoration Drive" as well so that the families in the ICU could have their own. Maree told us that right before we came one of the families had just been asking her if the hospital did any decorating (the answer to that is a resounding and very sad, NO). So when we got there she brought the aunt out to come and pick out a tree and the works for their room. I was delighted that we were able to do that. We had a massive cart of everything Christmas! My favorites had to be the light-up snowflakes that hang in the windows - they were wonderful!! Thank you Cornerstone Church - you blessed them, you blessed us! Truly!

Decoration Drive Bounty!

And so now it is Christmas Eve . . .

We have been blanketed in snow for almost a week. Haven't really gotten all the shopping done that I would like (but really, what woman ever truly does?!), but I'm good with that. What is this Christmas all about anyhow? Thankfully to us it is about God coming to earth as a little child, growing into a man, dying on a cross, defeating death, and all so that we can spend eternity with Him . . . May we ever keep our perspective clear. Merry Christmas you all!

We love you Madeline - we're one day closer!

January 9 , 2008 Wednesday

Hey everyone, it's blood drive time again!!

So just in-case this Saturday, when the rain is pouring down your windows and you can't think of a thing to do, we have an answer for your boredom! Come to the blood drive (Wee! Yippee! Hooray!). They have FREE cookies there (and this is how we con our children into coming and waiting for us).

It is this Saturday, January 10th from 10-4 at Cornerstone Church. You can call them to make an appointment or take your chances and just swing in. Their phone number is 360-697-3777.

Friday January 16, 2009 - One Year

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9

I have given much thought over this past year to that above verse. Much thought to comparing "God's economy" to mine. It can be so easy to look at Maddie's life and blame God, shake a finger, and say, "how can I worship a God who would allow such pain and suffering?" Yes, I have given it much thought indeed. And then I read "The Shack", and if I came away from it with nothing else, I came away with a greater appreciation for "God's economy". The too-short life of Madeline Lester affected and impacted more people than the lives of some who seem to go on and on. Through her spunk and her spirit she pointed people Heavenward - what a gift. And even better, through her testimony we know that some will simply be in Heaven now because of the Lord using her to reach their hearts. I never cease to marvel at how she did what she did. And so instead of having to continue on with a life of pain and suffering, she was allowed to come Home. Wow. The decision was made for us, and we were grateful to not have to make that call ourselves. Her time was over, it was time to come on Home. I guess another way of looking at it is that today is Maddie's first birthday in Heaven. Happy birthday little one.

It has been a hard year. We won't try to pretend otherwise, how could we? There have been many tears, and I'm sure there will continue to be. But it has also been a good year. We have had the blessing of spending the whole year with Anna and Sam and really enjoying them (though there are moments....). We have been able to travel quite a bit and have had some wonderful adventures and memories. We've been blessed to really get to know what wonderful neighbors we have! We've seen our church stand behind us to try to help ease the pain in so many ways from blood drives to toy drives to honor Madeline's memory. We've had friends who continue to walk beside us through all the grief and sorrow - even when we're not really being "fun". And most of all, we have learned that God is faithful when He says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". It is good.

Some of the things I have learned most this year is to keep praising God in the good and in the bad - it helps keep my perspective straight (I had one friend make us tons of worship CDs so I can just keep the praise coming all the time!). I have learned how helpful it is to pour myself into other people, especially 2 dear friends that are quite ill, it really helps take my eyes off myself (though one of them always tries to argue with me on this, we've just decided we're both good for each other!). I have learned to not let any roots of bitterness take hold in my heart, they are so toxic and need to be purged immediately (and unfortunately, I seem to be prone to it - go figure). I have learned that Dave is just the most wonderful man I ever could have married and I'm so grateful to have been allowed to walk this year by his side. Ah yes, it has been a year of learning. I think I needed it.

Thank you to all for all the kind words and notes. Your prayers have carried us over the hard places and we are eternally grateful.