Friday, July 31, 2015

Are You Really Happy or Just Really Comfortable?

I am participating in a blog hop with a few other ladies. After reading my post, click on Lori's link at the bottom, and then follow the circle back here.  


was scrolling through Pinterest the other day and found a pin that just said, "Are you really happy or just really comfortable?"  It's so simple, but so profound.  

I am a hardcore ISTJ, and social situations can make me uncomfortable unless I'm with people I'm really close to.  If it's not risky, I feel safe, and therefore, I feel happy.  But have I been happy or just comfortable?  I fret about being out of my comfort zone, which just means I'm more concerned about my own comfort than what someone else might need.  I feel like my inhibitions about these things are lower now that I know how deeply people can hurt.    

Guess what?  It's not about me.  I'm not here to be served.  None of us are.  If anyone deserves it, it's Christ, but Matthew 20:28 tells us...

For even the son of man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Think about how Christ gained followers.  He served them.  He spent time with them.  He talked to them.  He listened.  He healed.  He fed.  He met their physical and spiritual needs.  He could have gone around hollering about being God in the flesh.  He could have tried to impress everyone by performing miracles just to prove that he had the power.  He could have bragged about what an awesome place heaven is and how selfless he was for coming down to pitiful little earth to save everyone, but he didn't do any of those things.  After Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew says, "When Jesus had finished, the crowds were amazed at his teaching because he taught as one who has authority, and not as the teachers of the law" (Matt. 7:28-29).  Know what he did next?  He healed a leper.  He didn't take a break and let his adoring fans fawn over him.  He served.

A man asked Jesus which commandment was most important.  He replied...

The most important one is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.  Mark 12:29-31

The two greatest commandments are to love God and love people.  In Galatians 6:2 Paul tells us to "bear one another's burdens," and John tells us to "not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18).  If you are already involved in supporting a cause, that's great!  If you aren't, I hope this post can get you started in the right direction. The point is that we just need to help one another. By doing so, we're fulfilling the two greatest commandments: to love God and love people. 

There are a lot of people who need.  They need things, food, people, healing, and belonging.  God calls us to obedience, and that's what we are responsible for.  We're not responsible for what the homeless guy uses the $5 for, but if God is leading you to roll down your window and fork it over, you are responsible for that.

The greatest joy I have received since Sam's passing is being able to help other families whose children are in the CHSU or have also gone to heaven.  I know how much these people need the help.  It's like we all live in this world where we know bad things can happen, but those people who have actually experienced the bad stuff live in a separate world.
My guess is people don't know where to start. If you've been on earth long, you know there are a lot of people who need some help.  Maybe you don't know which cause to support.  Consider this: what does Jesus care most about?  People.  We won't find the good by trying to get rid of the bad. We'll do it by helping people.  So, what can we do?  

Are you only looking for big things?  Start by just doing something.  Get uncomfortable.  Do something out of your comfort zone.  Courage is contagious.  Find a cause or find a bunch of little ones.  Some people are called to pray and encourage, some are called to give their time, and some are called to give money.  Just help people.  I would venture to guess most people get involved in some type of cause because they themselves or someone they are close to have been through something.  Cures for illnesses, veterans and military personnel and their families, the homeless and impoverished, education, orphans, widows, single parents, and environmental issues are only the tip of the charitable cause iceberg.

If you want to pray and encourage...

Consider speaking with someone who is connected with an organization, church, or other charitable group to find out what their needs are.  For example, the CHSU is always in need of socks and mittens for babies.  They were recently looking for someone who could sew some mittens.  That's such a specific thing to be praying for!  

Maybe you have no idea what is needed or who to talk to--the Lord already knows, he doesn't need us to tell him what to do, so just spend time praying for the cause (Romans 8:26-27). 

Look up scripture to support their needs and share it with those involved.  Call, text, email, or send a card to someone to let them know you're thinking about them. 

If you want to give your time...

Consider speaking with someone who is connected with the charitable cause to find out what their needs are.  There are always lots of little things that need to be done to get something big done. 

If you want to give money and/or gifts...

Again, consider speaking with someone who is connected with the charitable cause to find out what their needs are.

The way to many people's hearts is through their stomach.  Make them a meal, pick one up somewhere, or give them a gift card.  Providing a meal to anyone is a great way to ease their burden.

Many people include in obituaries an organization or two to donate to in honor of their loved one.  These people really actually would prefer your money go toward helping someone.

Kiva is a really cool and unique organization that connects people through loaning money (i.e. your donation, but it's not really a donation because you'll be paid back) in an effort to alleviate poverty.  I learned about Kiva during a Jen Hatmaker bible study.  You (the lender) choose a borrower from their profile, make the loan (i.e. donate money that will be repaid), get repaid, and redonate.  In February, I paid $25 toward the total loan to a dairy farmer in Kenya.  How cool is the internet? 

There are some really convenient ways to donate money to charitable organizations by doing things you're already going to be doing, like shopping, playing games online, dining out, and using search engines:
  • Goodsearch is a search engine that donates a penny to a chosen cause each time you search the web through their site. 
  • Goodshop and Amazon Smile allow consumers to choose a charitable organization, and then a portion of eligible purchases is donated to the cause of choice.
  • Free Rice is a website where you can play a trivia game, and ten grains of rice are donated for every correct answer.  I shared this site with my students when I was teaching, and they loved it. 
Do some research...

First of all, I urge you to find real people who need what you are planning to donate.  Goodwill is great, but if you can find real people who need those clothes, home goods, furniture, etc., isn't that even better?  (Don't not donate to Goodwill.  I donate to Goodwill, but if you can find a living, breathing human that needs what you've got, start there.)

If you aren't giving directly to someone, please spend a little time online researching the organization you plan to donate your encouragement, time, and/or money to.  Make sure you choose an organization that will responsibly use your resources.  If you want to give money to an organization to help fund research for an illness, make sure you choose the organization that is committed to researching that specific illness.  For example, the Children's Heart Foundation is the leading organization solely committed to CHD research.  Donating to the CHF is a better choice for funding CHD research than another heart disease organization.

Where is God calling you to serve?  What would be out of your comfort zone but would greatly impact someone who needs it?

***Leave a comment with a charitable cause you are involved with, what you do to help, an organization you are part of, etc.  Maybe this will help spark an interest for others.*** 

Click here to see what Lori has to say.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Year of Journaling Through Grief: 52 Prompts for Bereaved Parents

I have never been a huge fan of writing.  I have a degree in English, and I took many, many (many) writing-intensive classes, but I chose my major because I love reading, not writing.  I love reading and analyzing literature.  That's the side of English I enjoy teaching most also.  Writing and teaching writing is boring to me.  I started this blog as a way to communicate with our friends and family after we received Sam's diagnosis.  It has turned into something much more than that for me.  Writing has become a way for me to process through my grief.

A few weeks after Sam passed away, I started journaling in a private online diary on Penzu. In the beginning, I mostly wrote about what had happened during the day or how I was feeling that day.  After a few weeks, I felt like I needed some prompting to write.  I scoured Google and Pinterest for journal prompts for bereaved parents and journal prompts for grief, but I couldn't find what I was looking for all in one place.  I sought the help of other moms in online support groups that I am a part of and compiled the following prompts.  I know everyone is different and everyone's loss is different--I tried to write the prompts so they would be relevant to everyone.  I'm hoping that other bereaved parents will find this list helpful.

52 Journal Prompts for Bereaved Parents:
1. What would you like other people to know or do after someone loses a child?

2. Describe a time you told someone (who didn't already know) about your loss.

3. What has been confusing during your grief?

4. What has been surprising during your grief?

5. What have you been thankful for during your grief?

6. How did you choose your child's name?

7. What do you now find difficult to do that you didn't before you lost your child?

8. If I could tell my child something, I would tell him/her...

9. Some well-meaning but hurtful things people have said or done are...

10. Losing a child is a series of little losses.  Some of these little losses are...

11. Try writing your child's story in 100 words or fewer.

12. What quote or scripture has been meaningful or comforting?  Why?

13. Write a bucket list.

14. Plan something to do to honor your child on one of their milestones or birthday.

15. Write a letter to your child.

16. Write an acrostic poem using your child's name.

17. Make a list of goals for yourself that you hope to accomplish by a year from now or what you would like to be different in a year.

18. Create a word cloud, print it and paste it in your paper journal or embed it in your online journal.  I had my students create word clouds using Wordle and Tagxedo.  They're really cool and fun to play around with.

19. What have you learned about yourself through the loss of your child?

20.  How do you feel different than you did before you lost your child?

21. Have your priorities changed since you lost your child?

22.  Pick a common well-meaning platitude (God doesn't give us more than we can handle, Your child is in a better place, God gives special children to special parents, God needed another angel, Time heals all wounds, , etc.) someone has said to you.  Do you believe that is true?  Why/why not?

23.  What do you do when you feel like you're the only one grieving?

24. Has your faith changed?

25. What are the ways of grieving you feel society expects of you because you are a man or woman?  Do you break these "rules" of grieving?

26. Which ways of grieving seem to bring you and your partner closer?  Further apart?

27. What is one of your favorite memories from your child's life, even if he/she only lived in the womb?

28. What would you like your friends and family to do to honor and remember your child?

29. Is there anything that happens or anything you do that makes you feel most connected to your child?

30. What song has been meaningful or comforting?  Why?

31. Write a list of words that describe your child.

32. If you could keep only one memory of your child what would it be?

33. When you're having a particularly hard day, week, etc., what do you wish others would understand?

34. What are some questions people have asked that you appreciated them asking?

35. How have your relationships changed since you lost your child?

36. Do you have any new fears or worries since you lost your child?

37. How has your response to grief been different than those closest to you?

38. What emotion has been most overwhelming through your grief?

39. What unanswered questions, if any, do you have about your child's passing?

40. What things are you still able to find joy in?

41. "Grief ambushes" are times when you experience a flood of emotion at an unexpected time.  Describe some of the grief ambushes you have experienced.

42. Do you think your grief will ever end?  Why/why not?

43. Although the bible shares specific details about heaven, our human understanding about heaven is pretty limited.  What do you wish you knew about heaven?

44. Identify your own ideas about how you as a man or woman are supposed to "handle" your grief.  Are you following these ideas?

45. No one can imagine what it's like to lose a child until they have actually experienced it.  Has anything about your grief journey been different than you imagined it would be?

46. Are you doing anything unhealthy in response to grief or are you tempted to?

47. If death is a natural process of life, why do you think so many people act uncomfortable talking about it and the various aspects of grief?

48. Identify the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs you have right now.

49. Has anyone said anything that made you feel they were trying to rush you through your grief?

50. How can you use your grief journey to help others?

51. Is anger about the loss of your child good or bad?

52. How has grief impacted you physically?

Other things to write about:
  • Write about your day.  What happened?  How did you feel today?  What was good?  What was hard?
  • You can write in stream of consciousness.  Don't worry about punctuation, capitalization, or grammar rules (that hurt a little to write).  Whatever you're thinking, however fast you can write or type, just write it down: I have a million things to do, but I don't feel motivated to do any of them.  It's too hot here.  It needs to rain soon.  I want to go to the pool.  I need a haircut.  What are we going to have for dinner?  I think we have some leftovers...This works well for the days when you are irritated/annoyed/aggravated/frustrated, and you don't want to yell at anyone, but you also don't really want to talk through anything with anyone either.
  • Write out your child's story.  I wrote out Sam's story {here}.
  • Some people out there might be gifted with the ability to write songs or poetry.  I am not one of them.
  • Consider writing three words that describe your feelings at the beginning and end of each entry.  This can help you decompress some feelings and can act like a time capsule--you can read back over your entries later and see how your emotions change over time.
Mediums to use:
  • Good ol' pen and paper.  You can buy a pretty journal or find a plain one and decorate it.
  • Start a blog!  Wordpress and Blogger are very user-friendly, basic blogging platforms, and they have apps so you can blog anywhere.  There are tons of online tutorials on youtube and within each program.
  • A private online diary.  I use Penzu; Evernote and Journalate are some other options for free, private journaling.  You can also start a blog and adjust the privacy settings so it's not publicly published.
Alternatives to journaling:
  • You could start an art journal and paint, draw, or create some other form of art to process through your grief.
  • Gather pictures you have of your child and narrate what was happening when the picture was taken.

***If you feel up to it, choose one of the prompts and respond in the comments.***
If you have any journaling prompts to add, include those in the comments as well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sam's Birthday Project: Books and Blankets

Sam would be ten months old today. 

Only two months until his birthday. On September 22, we want to celebrate his life, and although I would much rather be picking a cute theme and ordering party invitations, we do want to honor him. While he was in the CHSU for ten weeks, we were blessed by many different people and organizations who supplied the hospital with blankets, socks, books, and toys for the heart babies.  Because of their generosity, we were able to make Sam more comfortable and make his room feel more like home.  So!  We would like to do this for other families by collecting and donating blankets and children's books to the CHSU. We need the help of our friends and family in order to make it happen!

For most of Sam's time in the CHSU, he wasn't able to wear clothes because of all the lines, but he was always swaddled or covered by a blanket.  He loved being swaddled with a thinner receiving blanket until he was almost four months old.  
Both of these blankets were gifts from my dear friend and fellow heart mom, Lauren.
This adorable blanket was made by one of Stephen's family members.
Sam's nurse made his bed using these Christmas blankets while he was in the O.R. during his open heart surgery.  Such a simple gesture was a bright spot in a very dark day.

The nurses made Sam's bed with a fitted sheet and a blanket on top of that for him to lay on, and then covered or swaddled him with another blanket.  I enjoyed having cute blankets to make his bed. 

I have loved reading to all three of our kids, and I have special memories of reading books to Sam before and during his hospital stay.

Blankets can be new or gently used.  I will wash all the blankets before we package them up.  Books can be new or gently used, but please no marks, tears, or other damage.  We will deliver the packages to the CHSU close to Sam's birthday.  If you would like to participate with us, you can get items directly to us in any of the following ways:
  • You can purchase in-store and mail items to us.
  • Purchase online from Amazon, Target, Babies R Us, etc. and ship to us.
  • If you are in the Tyler area, we can meet you to pick up your donations.
  • If you're not in the Tyler area, you can drop off items with someone in our families, and we'll get it from them.
  • You can donate money toward our project, and we'll do the shopping.
Hayden's Heart is a foundation that raises CHD awareness and helps heart families with medical expenses in honor of another heart baby, Hayden. They have teamed up with Aden + Anais to create the {Hayden's Heart swaddle blanket}.  All proceeds from the purchase of these sweet blankets go toward raising CHD awareness and supporting heart families--buying one of these blankets is a two birds with one stone kind of deal!

If you need our mailing address, email me at or Stephen at (there's no 'n').

Also, would you please be praying for us over the next two months? Pray for this birthday project as we gather and prepare the books and blankets, the families who will receive them, and for us as we prepare for Sam's birthday without him.  Each holiday and would-be milestone we have passed without Sam has been difficult, but I know his birthday will be the hardest.  Working on this project and giving back to other heart families will be a source of joy for us.  Thank you in advance to everyone who will support Sam's birthday project! 

***If you would like to, snap a picture of your people hunting for, purchasing, gathering, mailing, etc. books and blankets and email them to us or post to social media with #samsbirthdayproject. We would love to see our people in action!***

Friday, July 10, 2015

Broken Together and Friends Who Are Family

I am participating in a blog hop with a few other ladies. After reading my post, click on Lori's link at the bottom, and then follow the circle back here. 


We eat together a lot.  A LOT.

God has always used music to minister to me. Time and time again I'll do that thing where I will hear a song twelve times, and on that thirteenth time, I'll finally really hear it. This happened a couple days ago with the song "Broken Together" by Casting Crowns. You can listen to it {here}.

If you listen to the whole song, it's obvious it's about a couple who is struggling and at the point where they want to give up. Thankfully, Stephen and I aren't there, and I pray we never will be. 

The chorus, though, is when my ears pricked. 

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I'll bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we'll last forever is broken together

I have had a very very comfortable life. Growing up, my family knew love (and we still do), I was good at school, I never went without, I married a handsome dude, and we had beautiful children. I had a comfortable life until last May when we got {Sam's diagnosis}. Now I look back and laugh about issues I dealt with and periods of depression I had in my past. 

Stephen's life hasn't been comfortable. I'm not going to share any details because it's his story, not mine. I really struggled with empathy and patience about some things we have dealt with in our marriage because I just couldn't understand. And then we had Sam. And then we lost Sam.  Losing Sam has really helped me reprioritize and focus on what's important.  Some dude cuts me off in traffic?  No big deal.  The cashier at Walmart takes eleventy billion hours to check me out?  No big deal.  The girls ask to paint and make a mess?  Yes!  The girls ask to go to the park?  Yes! 

We will never be complete without Jesus and we won't be made whole until eternity.  I have never felt that more than now, now that I have one foot on earth and one in heaven.  Everything I do, every picture I take, every day is incomplete because our family is incomplete.  We live in a broken, lost, and incomplete world, and I find myself saying, "Come quickly, Jesus," more and more often.  It's in God's plan that our family will be incomplete until eternity.

When listening to "Broken Together," I also thought about my group of friends who are more like family than friends.

Two years ago the girls at my MOPS table just clicked.  I have never had friends like them before.  We can talk about deep hurts, we can be serious, and we can just be stupid.  We have experienced a lot of great things together, but we have also gone through the death of a marriage, the illness and death of a child, disappointments with our husbands' jobs, and a bunch of other hard stuff together.  They visited us in the hospital and stayed up with me overnight as we were losing Sam. One of the girls is about to move away, and I don't know if my heart can take it.  It was no mistake that the six of us were assigned to the same table that year.  I wouldn't have made it through Sam's hospital stay and I certainly wouldn't be doing as well as I am now without their love and support.

If I'm going to be broken, I am so thankful that I can be broken together with my people.     


Lori has some great people to do life with, too. Click {hereto read about her Village People. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Day 143 and The Little Lasts

Today is the 143rd day since Sam passed away.  Why is that number significant?  Well, let me tell you. He was with us for 143 days, which means tomorrow he will be gone longer than he was here.

In a few online support groups I'm a part of, other moms talked about the day their child was gone longer than they were here, and I thought it was a strange milestone. I feel like the last 143 days have gone by so much faster than those we had with Sam.  I feel a new wave of sadness as I realize that time marches on. 

But we're 143 days closer to spending eternity with Sam. We are 143 days closer to experiencing all the things in heaven that are so much better than the things we have started realizing we're going to miss out on.  Don't get me wrong. Hear me when I say I know that Sam isn't missing out on anything here, but we are!

Stephen and I have gotten to the point in our grief that we're realizing things we never expected.  For example, Harper started potty training in April. When I bought the last box of diapers, I had a moment where I thought, "Yay it's the last box of diapers."  Then I realized, "It's the last box I'll ever buy for my own children."

The same kind of thing happened yesterday when I was updating a few things in the girls' bedroom.  How cute is their room?!

I got the arrow marquee sign from Hobby Lobby. Two AA batteries and a switch on the side. Go getcha one.

We finally got a bed for Harper this week. Emory and Harper have been sharing a twin-sized bed since February. Bless. 

Anyway, yesterday I put away the changing pad that was still on top of the dresser, and then it made me sad that I don't need a place to change diapers anymore. These little last things that I didn't even consider would be things that would make me stop and sit down for a good cry.

Our people have been amazing. The hands and feet of Jesus, truly. Earlier on in our grief, I worried about the point when people wouldn't mention Sam's name or ask us how we're doing.  Apparently this happens to other people. People I have known forever and people I don't even know continue to support and love us. No one knows what to say. Nothing anyone can say will bring Sam back, but hugs, prayers, asking questions, and speaking his name show us that you love us and honor Sam. Thank you. We have the best people, I'm sure of it.