Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Thoughts (Part I)

It's been a rough couple of weeks.
All of those ugly, negative emotions came boiling to the surface and I often found myself crying out to God to get me through it. All the "could have been's" and "if only's" and "I wish's" are so difficult to work through.
Envy is ugly - bitterness is destructive - fear is paralyzing. I'm fighting them with all my might... because I know Who gave me this to work through. But - oh - it has been so hard!
I miss Autumn so much... the other night I found myself thinking of her little nose while touching mine and wondering what she would look like and sound like and feel like now... all the hopes and dreams of the last year... from the pregnancy test and the ultrasounds to her movements and preparing the nursery.... nothing remains of her except pictures.
The grief isn't lifting... it's changing and maturing.
The finality of her death is becoming real. The family pictures, for me, will always be missing someone. This was our first Christmas without our firstborn... and that has just been so much harder than I even imagined it would be. I am so thankful that the Lord is patient with the griefs and struggles that I daily bring before Him. I know He has - and will continue to - grow me through this as a person.
When I was shopping for Kurt's gift last week I saw one of the ladies from my prenatal classes - of course - with her baby. She looked so tired and irritated... and I thought how sad it was that she will probably never completely know the gift she has in just pushing her tiny baby through a mall full of Christmas shoppers.
There is no superiority in that statement. I'm sure I would have been the same had Autumn lived... overtired and frustrated to pack up a baby in freezing temperatures to go to an overcrowded mall. I would have had no clue that not all babies live, and that there are grieving people around who hungrily watch for a glimpse of babies and then go home and cry for the one they lost. Joni Mitchell had it right: you don't know what you got 'til it's gone... I certainly didn't. I assumed so much.
I was happy for her - but it was also a bit of an emotional trauma to see her and her little one. I half wanted her to remember me so that I could share that I, too, did became a mommy - and the other half wanted her to just keep walking so that I wouldn't have to pass on the news yet again that "No... our baby died". She didn't notice me, and I was thankful to just keep walking and get home to the strong and comforting arms of my husband.
Kurt gave me a card on the 25th that said something along the lines of, "My prayer is that we will look back on the Christmas of 2007 as one of the best Christmas' ever because of where God took us because of the events that preceded it."
Amen, sweetie.
You are the greatest gift God has ever given me and He had used you mightily in my life to get me through this season. I really do - despite everything I am struggling with - believe that the Lord does have good in store for us. I don't know what it will look like, or when it will take place, or even what it will be... but I do trust Him.
Thanks for checking the blog everyone - and for those who are still praying for us. We still need it

PS:Yay Shiela (visitor number 10,000)! :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

'Tis the Season...

Christmas means: The 5th annual nursing (former students) Christmas party! :) It's actually pretty amazing how in the first year, Kurt was the only 'husband' - now there are 7 of them (well, Steven counts because he'll be a husband in September...)
Even though not everyone could make it (and we missed you guys lots) it was a pretty fun evening of of catching up, laughing lots and a unusually low-key gift exchange (hardly any stealing). Here are some shots of the evening.

"The Guys" (at least the ones that were present): Jeremy, Steven, Derek, Brendan, and Kurt.

Jeremy with the indoor/outdoor thermometer that he bought for the gift exchange... but really wanted to keep. Good man that he is, though, he let Kurt keep it. :)

Our gracious hostess, Crystal.

Kimberly, Camille and Steven.

Ruth and Derek showing us what 6 months of married bliss looks like. ;-D

Yours truly with a little Christmas cheer - it was yummy, Crystal! :)

Jeremy, Micheline, Roz and Anna during the gift exchange.

Derek, I included this picture because you said I took too many of them. Ha, ha, ha! ;-D

The guys escaped to the back to play poker to let us have girl-type visit time.

Every year, it seems, I take a picture of Brendan where he is implying that I should take my camera and leave - 'or else'. :)
(With Derek and Crystal.)

Me and my sweetie! :)

See? This is last-year's picture... I don't tell tales! :)

Ruth and me.

Brendan, Anna and Rozalind.

It was fun, everyone... thanks - especially the girls - for the visits and hugs. Love you all and Merry Christmas! :)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ode to the Spa


I spent a morning at the spa.
For the first time in my life I felt like Paris Hilton... um....
... except for her nutty personality... okay... and all the nutty men she dates... and all that nutty DUI stuff...
So I am completely reversing that horrible parallel and saying that I feel like a nameless and yet super-rich blue blood from New York. Why New York? Because of Gossip Girl! :)

ANY-way: the point is that I was pam-pered with a capital 'P'.
What privilege!
What luxury!

What have I been missing all my life?

I knew I was destined for more of this kind of stuff as soon as the Dead-Sea wrap was applied...

(On a brief rabbit trail: who invented that, anyway? Was some girl just strolling around on the shore of that big, salty sea in Israel and exclaimed, "Wunderbar! I should package the mud at the bottom of this lake and send it all over the world for people to rub on their bodies. I'll tell them it's full of minerals and antitoxins and they'll pay me big bucks to turn themselves into mud babies."
Good luck getting the bank to approve that venture...)

But I digress...
She scrubbed me (with genuine dead-sea salt, no less!), mudded me and then wrapped me up like a sandwich in saran-wrap, a sheet and a thermal (shiny on one side) blanket.
I'm not joking. Like a sandwich.
Then she said, "You'll be like this for a half-hour", turned down the lights, put on soft music and left. The only complication was the itch in my left knee which I was able to ignore because of my active combat with the slight feeling of claustrophobia. It was like, "It's okay... I'm camping... just camping... and I'm just in a really, really snug sleeping bag..." My nose also started running somewhere during that half-hour... but since I had the room all to my muddy-bodied little self, I felt quite liberated to sniff to my heart's desire.

After that was done, she gave me a robe (a dark brown one because of the very muddy Dead Sea mud - clever, no?) and took me to the Hydrotherapy tub. Not a jacuzzi tub... this thing didn't have jets... but gave a super-massage by some other mysterious means.
I actually found myself siting in there giggling like a 3 year old because I was sitting in a gigantic bathtub with huge mounds of bubbles drinking Spa water and knowing I wasn't going to have to clean the muddy tub afterwards.
And the little yellow rubber-ducky sitting by the faucet was pretty funny, too.
It was like being amazed at the fanciest restaurant ever, and then they tell you the special is macaroni and cheese.
I asked myself, "Is it for ambiance (elegance paired with humility, for example), or a cure for boredom when those 15 minutes stretch on too long?"
I quietly sang Ernie's famous ode to the quacking saffron friend: "Rubber-Ducky, you're the one... (ba-bah-ba-bah-da!)... you make bathtime lots of fun... (bah-be-bah-be-bah-dooo!)..."

After that was done, I re-robed (but not with the Dead Sea-muddy one) and went back to my room for my half-hour relaxation massage.
That part was worth the entire morning.
Previously, the only massages I've had are from family - except for after Autumn was born I was so sore before the funeral that I went for therapy a couple of times... but those weren't exactly the most relaxing circumstances.
My analysis of this experience?
Really. That's all I can say - so I'll just say it again for good measure.

The funniest part (even funnier than Rubber Ducky) was when she brought in the stuff for my hand and foot paraffin wax. She took my left foot and stuck it in this big plastic bag filled with hot wax and I was thinking to myself, "!"
She must have clued in at my sudden head-raise and the look of "What the heck are you doing down there?" (which I would never actually say because I'm trying to look like I'm Mrs Uber-relaxed sophisticate) and she said, "Have you ever had a paraffin wax before?"
Uh... nope. And why are you putting hot ziplock baggies on my extremities?
So she explained about how it's good for joints, and feels great in the winter... etc. And by that time, the initial, "I think the bottom of my feet have been seared off" sensation had cooled and it started to feel pretty wonderful.

After that I got a 'mini' manicure (choosing mother-of-pearl polish in honor of the snow or something like that) and Kurt came to pick me up. When I got in the truck I had a severe case of the giddies and informed him that I am totally ruined because I loved the whole thing.
Simple, country-girl Kendall no longer exists because crazy muddy Kendall took over in the Hydrotherapy tub.
Poor soon-to-be-broke man...
... but at least he won't have trouble thinking of gifts for me in the future! ;)

Now I should finish this tale with the disclaimer that I didn't buy this experience for myself. I got the gift certificate from my parents last year for Christmas and it expires tomorrow. I didn't intentionally take it to the last minute, but with the pregnancy and nausea and swelling, and difficulty laying on my tummy it just got pushed back until "later". I figured I'd leave the baby with Kurt for a morning and do it in the fall. Well, the fall obviously didn't progress as I had pictured - so when I found the gift certificate in my bedside table last month I thought I should get out and take advantage of it.

Disclaimer done!
Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.
I am reduced to such inarticulateness when lavished with non-essential vanity treatments. Case in point: I used the world 'inarticulateness'. Groan.

If you are a person of the male-sort, and you are having trouble thinking of something for your significant wife-type person... this would be a pretty good idea. Trust me.

That's what I'm telling Kurt, anyway. (chuckle)

And, if you live in the same city as us, click here and see where I went. (And before you cry out at the prices - trust me when I tell you that they are actually pretty reasonable compared to other day-spas.)

So that was my day-spa adventure. Can't wait for the next one! ;-D

Wow. :)

One (or two) More of Oscar

What a handsome face!

He's just so...
... so kissable
, isn't he?

think, "Nope."
But Kurt does! He kisses that rubber schnoz all the time. I feel a tad insecure - maybe my nose is too small... LOL! :-D
For your viewing pleasure I will attach a tiny photo of what the mighty guard dog looked like when we first brought him home:
Awwww... what a little butterball! :)

Goodnight, everyone... and thanks for your responses to the slide show... it means a lot. :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wake Up, Kurt!

We went to the farm today to pick up Oscar after our road trip.
Kurt was pretty pooped after all the driving - so I encouraged him to take a nap before driving back to the city. When it was time to wake him up, I thought it would be cute to send Oscar in to do the job. Instead of his designated task, he decided to make himself comfortable. :)
Then I had to wake up both of them!
Who is taller?!?! :)
Posted by Picasa

Autumn's Slide Show

Couldn't sleep tonight - and thought I'd finish up what I've been wanting to get done since October.
The song doesn't exactly "fit" with the subject - but it has been a huge comfort to me with the reminders that God is sovereign and nothing is out of His control.
Hope my "heart on a sleeve" encourages you... it was kinda rough to make, but I think I'm pleased with the effort.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Two Months

Two months ago today...

I awoke with a smile when Kurt told me how much he was looking forward to meeting our baby and being a daddy.
I had spent a night dreaming of our little one to come.
I thought, "This could be the day my life changes forever."
... and it did.

The thoughtful anticipation gave way to puzzlement when she wasn't moving... and then the cautious concern became initial denial as we couldn't find her heartbeat... and then paralyzing shock became mind-numbing grief as I realized the doctor was serious.

"I'm sorry there's no fetal heartbeat."

How did 6 little words make hope not only vanish - but completely replace it with anguish? I don't use that word lightly either. It was the single worst moment of my entire life. I feel physically ill when I think of it for too long. I hope and pray that I never have to go through something like that ever again.
And yet how can I deny the impact that our little girl's death has had on so many?
God has used her to reveal Himself as more powerful than I ever could have understood had she not died. He has held us up, and based on what I'm hearing from others, is revealing Himself in a new way to so many. It's humbling, to say the least.
God is not a 'concept of spirituality'. Jesus is not an ideal - a 'good man'. The bible isn't just a moral book. These things I always knew intellectually... but now I know with my heart.

He brought me here.

And because of who I know Him to be, I can rest. He is not inexperienced in taking seemingly hopeless situations and making them glorious. Look at the cross if you doubt this assertion. :)
Could I have anticipated that December 19th would see me blogging about this? Two months plus a day ago, my vision of the future consisted of writing about her 8 week smiles and sounds... my sleepless nights and how she and the dog were relating to each other. (chuckle) This subject was absolutely incomprehensible. In some ways, that is still the case.
But, in spite of myself, God has allowed me to love Him more than I ever would have known because of October 19th, 2007.
So today - on the two-month anniversary of Autumn's death I want to publicly acknowledge Him - and offer Him a prayer of thanksgiving and joy because of Who He is.
Gentle in heart and lowly in Spirit... through Jesus I am safe in this whirlwind of grief and anxiety and anger. It won't take me away because He is very, very strong and holding me very, very tightly.
I hope you can trust Him in whatever circumstances you find yourself in today.
God bless, everyone...

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Scoop

It's hard to categorize the heart-atmosphere (so to speak) for me of the past week. This cold has taken it's sweet time to leave me alone, and that, plus the road trips has been exhausting. It is so wonderful to spend time with Kurt and not be alone, but the living out of a suitcase is hard. Especially when it is a race to get the laundry done in time to leave again in a couple of days. :)

In so many ways, I have been dreading this season since the 19th of October... and to realize that it is here and so vastly different from what it was 'supposed' to have been is hard. Attitude is everything... and I have - admittedly - not been very immersed in the Word or prayer lately. "No time" feels like such an excuse... but the mode of the last week was "Go, go, go!" The old struggles with anger and disappointment and "why me?" came back with a vengeance.

Tears were pretty steady - and my eyes often felt like cotton balls. Yes - an unpleasant description - but accurate nonetheless. (chuckle) Seeing baby clothes in Extra Foods... focusing on a dog with a gimpy leg versus the preferred daughter... seeing my in-laws and thinking, "Grampa should be holding Autumn right now."... coming home to a very empty and quiet house - again... fearing that perhaps she was and will be our only child... remembering how we were so close...

This past weekend was "Melfort Christmas" due to that being the only time we could coordinate all schedules and be together this month. I went downstairs at one point to get my glasses and ended up staying down there for 45 minutes at one point having a good-long cry. God providentially arranged Kurt to come down for something, and he was able to hold me and we cried together over our first Christmas without our first-born child.

It's just so sad... and I am dismayed at how often that turns to self-pity in my case. At times it feels like I am barely keeping my own head above water with my own grief - let alone trying to minister to others. BUT (and there is always a 'but') the truth is that instead of asking "Why me?" I should ask, "Why not me?" God gave this to us, and His character is all-wise and all-good... completely just all the time. If it wasn't the best thing, it wouldn't have happened. Faith is a heart that sees light when the eyes see only darkness...

But the Lord uses many things to bring me back to Himself... what a blessing to trust that this is only one of the things He has planned for me to persevere through - and He has given me many gifts in spite of myself. Like our family...
My husband who loves me.
My mother who understands me as a woman probably better than anyone, and comes alongside me with a heart that yearns to help - and by weeping with me she does just that.
My dad who hurts for Kurt not getting to have his own "pooh" and hopes and prays for more children for us.

Kurt and Dad at the hospital... what comforts hugs can be in the midst of tears!

My mother-in-law who was thrilled with her "grandma" mug... her giving and kind spirit are such a blessing to us.
My father-in-law whose eyes still fill with tears anytime we talk of his beautiful little granddaughter - I know he thinks of her often.
Thank you to all of you - and our brothers and sisters-in-law... God uses you so wonderfully to encourage us!

Anyway, your prayers are appreciated again this week - as we're heading out again tomorrow for a short trip to deliver Christmas gifts to customers. After this, we're home until Christmas day/week and then we have some down time until the new year... praise God. :)

God bless everyone... and I don't plan to take another week off - at least not intentionally. :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Post Coming Soon!

Just wanted to say that I've been super-busy, but I haven't forgotten my second career as a blogger. :)
I promise to put an update up soon-ish... like tomorrow, I think. Stay tuned - and thanks to all the people checking even though I haven't written a thing. :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Email Me! (if you want to...)

I've had a couple of people comment lately that they would love to send me emails, but there is no link.
Problem solved. ;)
If you look at my profile, there is now an "Email Me" link which allows you to do just that. :)
Thanks Katie and Wendy! :) Both of your messages touched us and made us smile... praising God for the family he has put us into! :)
Random picture of the day:NEPS girls - November 2006! Been thinking of all of you lately - missing you bunches... can't wait to the 21st! Can you believe Judy and Terry have been married over a year now... zoiks! This picture feels like it was taken sooo long ago! :)
I love it because it makes me look tall-ish... considering I'm standing on a 1-foot riser... laugh if you want - I never get to stand in the back for group pictures. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Greetings from the Sickling

The last time I had a cold this bad was waaay back in April at our friend's (Jeremy and Crystal) wedding. Last time I couldn't take drugs... this time I'd do the Tylenol intravenously if it were possible. Just 'cause I can. ;)
I actually thought I had tonsillitis last night the pain in my throat was so strong... and when the coughing started at 6 am, I knew I wouldn't be going to church this morning - lest germs be passed on in place of greetings. Hopefully Kurt doesn't do my 'passing on' for me... he doesn't show signs of getting sick yet - but you never know...
Monday (last week) I thought I was coming down with something - but it seemed to ease up by Tuesday - but Wednesday afternoon, something bad was happening. So here I sit on Sunday morning, plugged and with a sore throat, puffing out little coughs... but thankfully on the upswing - I hope!
It has also been a few hard days emotionally... sometimes the reality of our baby being gone is so far away - and on others it is close. These have been "close" days for so many reasons, but the Lord is faithful to hold me near. There is such relief in telling Him my heart - knowing nothing is hidden from Him anyway is so liberating! Thanks for your prayers, everyone.
Will post soon... I hope... lots of that emotion in this post, isn't there? :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

From the Home of Maple Leaf...

Well, we made it to Brandon!

We would have left S'toon around 10 am yesterday, but Kurt's boss phoned and said that we should wait because road conditions weren't that great. So that was okay - because we were able to stay a little more relaxed as packing, etc. progressed. We ended up leaving home around 2:30 yesterday and got here by 8:30... so around 6 hours of driving. Not bad, I thought! The last time we came this way was to pick up Oscar waaaay back in February - and although this time it was snowy - that time it was dangerous cold. It seemed longer last time, too.

The roads were really good - except the further we got into Manitoba the bigger the drifts got on the left side of the road... no worries because we were on the Trans-Canada... and wonderful double-lane highway.

They got a LOT more snow here than we did at home! When we got here we went to Safeway to pick up some fruit and stuff for the hotel room (the only time we EVER go to Safeway is when we're on a road-trip... chuckle) and the parking lot had loads of that crunchy, squeaky cold snow - with the super-polished ice underneath from people trying to accelerate.... it made for some interesting driving. Kurt loves his 4x4. ;)

After we got back to the hotel, we decided to go to the restaurant next door to have a late supper. Kurt thought we should go out the "back" way of the hotel... which wouldn't have been a problem if there hadn't been a blizzard - but the plow left a huge pile of snow outside the door so that it would only open about a foot... and then after we got through that (there are advantages to not being pregnant anymore...) we had to leap over a 3 food bank to get to the road.

Yes - leap.

This morning it is, according to the weather office, -25 with a -33 windchill. Ick. For the Americans that is -12 and -18 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Now that everyone has an appropriate appreciation for how cold it is - double ick! ;)

The hotel room is pretty cool. They actually have a computer in here. A computer-computer... with a monitor, keyboard, mouse and tower... I was delighted... and am obviously putting them all to good use. :)

The plan is to work on Autumn's album while I'm here. Tomorrow I'll probably go to the show (we have to check out in the morning anyway) but today I'm going to spread out my stuff and get right to it. Kurt has been really wonderful about letting me pick up the supplies I need for the album. I was bracing myself for a cry of financial agony (or at least a wince) when I told him what I spent at Michaels the other day. Instead he just smiled at me, squeezed my hand and said, "I'm glad you can do this for her, honey." What an amazing, generous, wonderful man I've married... and I'm understating. :)

I've been thinking about the album a lot: How to place things... what to journal... which pictures to use and when... In relation to that - I think so often of her. Working on the album, and looking at the pictures is bringing a fresh wave of longing for her... each day has new struggles.

For example: it feels like "everyone else" (first sign of irrational thought is over-generalization... chuckle) is getting to prepare for their baby's first Christmas... pictures, outfits, baby's reaction to lights/decorations... I saw a "Baby's First Christmas" sleeper in Wal Mart and it brought tears to my eyes! Not that I would take that away from them, or expect them to not share it - it just hurts as we are coming to yet another holiday/event that I pictured sharing with Autumn.

The fact is that I would love to be blogging about how my six-week old baby girl is reacting to our dog, car rides, her grandparents... and I've been struggling with even looking forward to the season - let alone celebrating it. Sometimes it feels like the sadness goes right to my toes... it is so deep. The deep deep tears have been so healing the last few days - and I actually feel better after a few soul-wrenching cries... it is amazing that tears can do so much good. :)

Third Day sings a song about grief and suffering. "There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary and love for the broken heart... grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing - He'll meet you wherever you are - cry out to Jesus..."

Grief has been categorized by those who study human character into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance... all of which make sense and seem to be pretty common among those of the 'human persuasion'.

Depression is a struggle, and denial can be easy. But the anger and bargaining are tempered by the fact that I know whose hands this has come from. Truthfully, for me to be angry is to say to God, "You have done wrongly!" And while that emotion does come, I praise Him for the grace to recognize it and repent. I am the creature, and He is the creator... and I have been given so much. He has sent His own Son to die for me in spite of the fact that I never gave Him a thought! As soon as the seed thoughts formulate, I try to tell myself truth with counter-thoughts...

There is sin in this world, and sin causes death. Even the fact that my sweet baby girl died is a result of living in this world because everyone dies. No one is immune. But here is my hope: the sting of death - ultimate separation from a holy and loving God - is taken away in Christ. Embraced - or unrepentant - anger (for me) is 1) unsatisfying and damaging, 2) insisting that I - not God - know best and 3) a sin - but praise God! - one that He died for.

I have experienced nearly all of those so-called stages through out the last 6 weeks: I am sad - I struggle with accepting the loss on a purely intellectual basis - I get depressed. I would love God to guarantee me happiness for the rest of my life. And I do, occasionally, feel anger... but all these things lead me to cry out to Jesus!

And without fail, He says to my heart through His word: "Come to me, Kendall, when you are weary and heavily burdened - I will give you rest for your soul. I am gentle and humble, and I understand loss and hurt and separation. Someday you will see things fully... and even as you cling to me in pain and confusion now - I promise you will embrace me for joy when the full picture is revealed."

That humbles anger. It lightens depression, it allows for no bargaining - and creates that "soul rest" and acceptance - not because I'll just "get through" but because I know He'll walk through this with me.

So while I tremble because of my circumstances, and the continuing grief, I know I will not be ruled by it. The hands that have broken will bind. He will stand with me until the end. What a Savior! How could I get through this without Him? He gives joy to my heavy heart, and doesn't penalize me for my struggles and doubts... So unbelievable and yet so true!

I pray that He would reveal Himself to you today. He is near to those who are looking for Him. Trust me on that one (chuckle). :)

Thanks for reading - and stay warm!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Quick Update

What's been happening - in point form! :)

1) I started Autumn's scrapbook... more emotionally taxing than I thought it would be - have had a few really intense (yet therapeutic) cries.

2) We saw Martian Child. Didn't cry - Kurt almost did because the guy's dog died. This was only hard because his wife died first... overall not a bad movie.

3) My sister-in-law, Jessica, took me for a manicure. It was fun. :) Hers was better than mine for 3 reasons: she has longer nails, she wasn't in a rush to leave and watch Martian Child, and the girl who did her nails wasn't rushing either... mine blitzed through mine and didn't do the best job... aye carumba! But we'll for sure do it again, Jess - thanks again! :) Love you lots!

4) It's a blizzard across the entire country! Kurt's been doing a lot of shoveling...

5) Manitoba Hog Days - here we come!
... so Cody will be doing lots of shoveling. ;)

Hopefully I can blog a little bit from the hotel. If we get there - thanks to la nina (can't put the little squiggles over the 'n') and the universal blizzard. (I like snow, actually... just gets a little stressful to travel in, though.)

Farewell for the moment...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Who is Going to Be Visitor Number 8000?

... some one from Lakewood Washington... almost the second I wrote that question!
Yay! Thanks to all the readers - and pray-ers... we're still so in need!
the Manzs'