I am a 30 something year old mom of five precious boys and two sweet girls. Five of our children are here with us and two are in the arms of Jesus. Our sweet baby girl Hope was diagnosed with Dystrophic Epdermolysis Bullosa and our youngest son came to us through adoption, our youngest daughter through foster care, and I've recently been diagnosed with malignant melanoma the Lord has shown us just how Faithful He is. We will continue to Journey and follow Him where ever He leads. We feel very blessed that God chose us to be the parents of each of our kids, and we look forward to what He has in store for us in foster care!
Okay, I will be honest, I wanted to sit down this morning and write this inspiring and thoughtful post about thankfulness and when I sat down I just could not make my fingers type. It has been a rough week at the Bolte house. Ben was sick, Hope was really sick (which gave us a HUGE scare Tuesday) and this morning Howard got sick. This is the violently vomiting kind of sick and it is no fun. It has pretty much sucked the life out of me literally. The extra laundry the up all night with sick little ones, and the constant bleaching of EVERYTHING in hopes of trying to prevent the sickness from spreading has gotten the best of me.
On Monday, I got the bug, not the one my family has been battling, but the one where you know you will be soon decorating your home for Christmas and you want to begin cleaning and rearranging everything in site. I was feeling the need for change and so I decided to start with our bedroom. It was going well and I had a plan. Ben was helping, Hope was cheering us on from the sidelines and I moved my bed. Under the bed, among the dust and lost slippers, I found a plastic bag, a bag I had all but forgotten existed to be honest. It was a white bag with the hospital logo written on it. The kind they give you to put your belongings in when you check in.
I didn't think much of it and I opened it abruptly and then, promptly fell back onto the bed the wind sucked right out of me. I have no idea how I had forgotten to pack this bag in Asher's memory box, but I did. This bag was filled with the blankets he was wrapped in, the clothes he wore, the stuffed puppy we took his picture with and clothes with tags that he never had the opportunity to wear. I remember bringing that bag home. I remember vividly sitting in that wheelchair being wheeled out of that hospital, face swollen and tear stained clutching that bag for dear life. Most moms come out of the hospital holding a baby, and this bag was all I had left of the memories I had with Asher.
When I brought it home I now do remember shoving it under the bed because I just could not deal with it. Those items were as personal as it got. They were stained with amniotic fluid and that white gooey stuff babies are born covered in. As gross as it sounds, I wanted ONLY my linens to touch him so I could keep them. I literally thought I might suffocate in my grief in that moment. Ben quickly recognized the blankets because they are in all of our photos and asked if they were Asher's. I told him they were and he could see I was teary. I quickly pulled the drawstring on the bag and took it to the basement to pack away with the rest of his things. Ben followed and promptly hugged me and told me he missed Asher too.
That is how this grief thing works. Life can be going along almost normal and then WHAM you are thrown backward so violently that you head spins. That moment stayed with me most of this week. I tried hard to get caught up in the Thanksgiving fun and yet found myself sad and longing for what I will never have this side of Heaven.
Tonight I sat down again to write a Thanksgiving post and looked at my Thanksgiving posts past for inspiration. Two years ago, almost exactly, I started this blog. I was just handed a certain unfavorable diagnosis for Asher and was coming to terms with carrying a boy I would never get to raise. My fourth boy, second to go to Heaven before me. My heart still longs for that boy, and yet I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to love and cherish him. He has changed me profoundly.
One year ago I wrote about my struggles with Thankfulness, because though I had a thankful heart I could not bring myself to be thankful for Isaac or Asher's deaths.
This year I sit here feeling guilty that I even had a tough time writing about my thankful heart. It has been a hard day. Nothing has turned out as planned and instead of sitting at my Grandma's and playing Uno with a belly full of Turkey and Pumpkin Pie, I sit at my kitchen table, while my boys are at my grandma's playing Uno, my husband is sick in bed, and my sweet girl is sleeping in my lap and though I am drained and weary, I am thankful.
Lord, I am thankful. I have a husband who loves me despite my deep flaws, two healthy little boys who think I am the prettiest Queen they know, and a baby girl who was expected to live a life much different than the one she lives. My life has been full of indescribable pain, and intense joy. We have loved and we have lost. But we have loved. And we love. And we have three beautiful children on this earth and two who wait for us in Heaven.
The Lord knew that through it all I would need Howard to be my pillar of strength, my best friend and the best daddy a kid could ask for. He knew I would need Luke's snuggles and sweetness. He knew I would need Ben to make me laugh and never take life too seriously, and He knew I would need Hope, to remind me that with Him ALL things are possible (well, and lets face it girls, this house was brimming with testosterone).
So, though I still cannot say that I am thankful for the deaths of my sons, I can say that I am SO thankful for all the Lord has done to bring me through. I am thankful for this blog that has provided me with a place to share my boys and their story, I am thankful for the many friends I have gained along the way, I am thankful for the mother and wife he is making me and I pray that I remain open to the changes he is making. I am thankful Lord, so thankful.
On November 15th 2007, already knowing the heartache of losing a child, and being all too familiar with the way an ultrasound can change your life forever in ways you never imagined, we walked into a dark ultrasound room. Expecting our fourth child, the air was filled with joy, yet laced with fear. We laughed nervously and joked, all the while choking back tears and fright. We found out we were expecting our fourth boy and minutes later we were told we would likely not have the chance to raise him. His brain was lagging in growth.
The days that followed were filled with confusion and desperation. We prayed and prayed for our sweet boy, who we lovingly nicknamed "Happy" to be born healthy. I wasn't sure I could handle the loss of another child. I was not ready for the "options" that followed his diagnosis the following week. The only thing we were sure of was that this baby, our Happy, was a perfect gift from the Lord and we would trust the Lord with Happy's life. We dedicated our son to the Lord, knowing that though what was to come would likely be painful, his grace would be enough.
The diagnoses proved to be correct. We loved on our Asher for 35 beautiful moments that I will never forget.
Fast Forward 2 Years...
This morning, November 15th, 2009, aware of the significance this day held two years ago, I dressed our FIFTH gift from God in her Sunday best and stood on a stage in front of our church family and dedicated our Hope to the Lord, acknowledging the perfect gift she is. I cannot even wrap my mind around the emotions that filled me today. As pastor Bill placed his hand on Hope's head and said, "Lord, we are so thankful for Hope,..." Tears stung my face as I thought of the dual meaning of what he had just said. I stood there on that stage holding on to Hope, in that same worship center where I have so many times in the past few years held on to hope.
This is not a story of redemption or restoration. I do not believe the death of my sons will be redeemed or restored this side of Heaven, and I am learning to be okay with that, redemption and restoration will come. Hope's life does not make up for the loss of her brothers' lives and our hope does not lie in Hope. This my friends is a story of God's all sufficient grace. He gives and he takes away.
And as I stood in the back of the worship center this morning praising the God who gave me five amazing children, and took two of them away, I sang the words
"Your grace is enough for me God I see your grace is enough I'm covered in your love Your grace is enough for me For me"
I could not help but be amazed by the truth in those words. In the past several years there have been times that I was so deep in a pit that I never thought I would see the light of day again and times on the mountain tops that I just want to shout with joy to all creation. He has been there through it all. He provides grace enough for each day, never more never less, just enough for the day so that you wake up the next day needing Him just as much as you did the day before.
I am a HUGE fan of David Crowder Band (understatement of the year) and lately the song I OVERPLAY is "How He Loves Us". It is almost like I daily need to hear those words to remind myself that even on the hardest of days, God is there, He holds each of my tears in the palm of His mighty hand and He loves us with a passion we cannot even fathom. He never deserts us, even when we feel like he has, and his grace is always there and always sufficient.
I have no idea what you are going through as you read this tonight, maybe you are in the pit of despair, or maybe you are on a joyful mountaintop, either way, I can assure you God is there, his grace is sufficient, and He will not let go.
I always find it surprising when I get to a place where I feel almost comfortable in my grief. In a place where tears don't sting my face daily and I don't choke back emotion when I speak of Isaac or Asher, I often find myself in a place where I can speak freely of our life story and do so with joy and then suddenly from nowhere I get thrown back again.
Tonight is one of those nights. Somehow each time we get family photos done, though I love them and though we have found great creative ways to include Isaac and Asher, it is just not the same. I stare at my beautiful family and praise God for the beautiful children He has blessed me with yet, my heart bleeds all over again for those who are with Him in Heaven. It becomes more evident that our family will never be complete this side of Heaven. The emptiness in my soul aches to hold them one last time and my heart wonders why they had to go.
I am thankful for all the Lord has done in my life, and yet some days it is still tough to breathe or even get out of bed. But I will do it, one day at a time, moment by moment and through the pain, I will choose joy, but for tonight, it hurts.
(So, I do know that Photos would be the grammatically correct word in the title, yet that was my feeble attempt at alliteration :))
A couple weeks ago we met my friend Amanda at the park and played in the leaves while she snapped some photos of us. Amanda is starting her own photography business and asked if we would be interested in letting her "practice" on us.
I am always up for capturing memories of our family on film. I am not a huge fan of taking the kids to a studio as I typically want to rip my hair out and am drenched in sweat by the time we are done. I have found it helpful to find photographers who just kind of follow the kids and let them be them. Thankfully I never had to search much as my awesome friend Ginger introduced us to this kind of photography and she is a creative genius. My house is pretty much wallpapered with her work.
Anyway, the day was gorgeous and the kids had a blast (with the exception of Hope, who was just being a diva). Amanda was super great with the kids and since she asked to "practice" on us I wasn't sure what to expect so we just went with the flow. I have to say I was elated with the shots she got of my brood. Howard was into it for once because it really was a perfect day, and he had all kinds of ideas for shots. If this is her "practicing" I am pretty sure she is gonna be a success!
I have often heard about the moment a family knows they are complete. I have had friends explain that they just knew they were done adding to their family and were able to easily make the decision to stop having children. I sometimes worry that I may never get to that point. Erika wrote of having the same feelings and I am now wondering if more people than I realize struggle with this. Maybe it isn't always neat and tidy and tied up with a bow.
I have had five babies in under six years. I LOVE being pregnant and I LOVE having babies in the house. I never really get that "done" feeling. In fact I often find my five months postpartum self coveting the newborns of others while I snuggle my five month old sweetie. I adore the stage Hope is at now and wouldn't change it for a thing, but man I miss that newborn-ness. It is a sickness. :) I love everything about pregnancy and motherhood. I am addicted. :)
Given all we have been through and the lack of answers paired with the fact that my uterus was seconds from rupture when Hope was born, I know my body is likely done having babies. I look on the faces of my three children and count my blessings. They are healthy, and I do not take lightly the fact that we were bracing ourselves for a much different life with Hope and yet the Lord has shown us what only He can do. We have lost but man we sure do love. This house is just bursting with love and gratitude.
I have written before about the nagging feeling that I often have that someone is missing. The one where you in a panic twirl around to survey the back seat of the car knowing someone is not in their right place, where I see three full carseats and then I remember that there are two someones missing and this side of Heaven, that is how it will always be.
I sometimes wonder if I will ever feel like our family is complete this side of Heaven. I worry that this void I feel will always make me yearn for another baby, knowing that no new baby could ever take the place of the ones who have gone to Heaven before us.
I have recently been trying to clean out our basement so that we can use it as a playroom and have been really struggling with getting rid of things. They are just that, things, and I know that. Yet letting go of the bassinet seems so final. We have a basement bursting at the seams with baby things and outgrown clothes that I just have not had the courage to let go of. I love having babies how could I possibly be done? Yet I know that I want to be here for my kids and a pregnancy at least anytime in the next few years could put my health at risk due to my thinned uterus and that is a risk I am not willing to take. I have been blessed with the responsibility of being the mommy to FIVE gorgeous kids and I am thankful.
I have begun the hard work of letting go, knowing that if someday the Lord decides we should grow our family through adoption we would be ecstatic and we will obey and with that we know we will then be able to provide all of the things needed for any additional children. For now, our baby things could be of better use to someone who needs them. Each day I go down and choose a few more things to take to the Women's Care Center or sell on Craigslist and as painful as it is it is also addictive. (I am pretty sure my husband fears I will list everything not nailed down on Craigslist at this point) We have begun the hard work of letting go of the things, realizing that we will never let go of the memories or the hope we have been given.
I can only pray that the Lord will either lead us on a path where having more children makes sense or that he will take this nagging feeling from my heart and make me feel more whole this side of Heaven. Continuing to have more children won't fill the void that Isaac and Asher left and I am thinking I need to find a way to just come to terms with that. I am blessed. I have three beautiful healthy children this side of Heaven and two waiting for me on the other side. I am thankful for all the Lord has given me, and I feel so guilty that I still struggle with all of this. Sometimes it feels like my head and my heart are at war and I just wish they would get on the same page. :)
So tell me, how did you know your family was complete? Did you struggle with letting go of the baby stuff? If you have lost a child, do you struggle with similar feelings?
I cannot believe it myself, but Hope is FIVE months old today! Here is a little about Hope at 5 months:
She weighs just under 13 lbs She is still exclusively breastfed but we are thinking of starting food soon! Her favorite toy is her little stuffed Tigger from Ben :) She loves to be held pretty much ALL the time She is wearing 3-6 month clothes She has each of us wrapped around her little finger She LOVE LOVE LOVES to stick out her tongue! She sings and babbles all the time She is growing to dislike the swing but is becoming more fond of car rides! She loves to be outside. She has had NO more issues with her EB. She amazes us daily. She is a great source of joy and gratitude in our family.
Go ahead and mention my child, The one that died, you know. Don't worry about hurting me further. The depth of my pain doesn't show. Don't worry about making me cry. I'm already crying inside. Help me to heal by releasing The tears that I try to hide. I'm hurt when you just keep silent, Pretending she didn't exist. I'd rather you mention my child, Knowing that she has been missed. You asked me how I was doing. I say "pretty good" or "fine". But healing is something ongoing I feel it will take a lifetime. ~ Elizabeth Dent ~
"When I Lay My Isaac Down" - Carol Kent "The One Year Book of Hope" - Nancy Guthrie "Holding on to Hope" - Nancy Guthrie "Empty Cradle Broken Heart" - Deborah Davis "Waiting With Gabriel" - Amy Kuebelbeck "Streams in the Desert" - LB Cowman "It Takes a Parent" - Betsy Hart "I'll Hold You in Heaven" - Jack Hayford "Crazy Love" Francis Chan "Radical" David Platt