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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Just for Us

Tomorrow is June 1st. It's Ann Catherine and Melissa's birthday. It's also the anniversary of Melissa's death.

No day on the calendar carries the weight that June 1st carries for our family. So much joy, sadness, hope, comfort, tears and love are wrapped up in that one day.

Let me tell you how amazing God is.

We went to church today and I knew it would be a tough service for me. I had such a heavy heart.

We began to worship and as the first few chords of the song began to play, I had to smile.

We were singing "Everlasting God." It is one of my favorite songs and it always makes me think of Melissa. The chorus says:

You are the everlasting God, the everlasting God
You do not faint, you won't grow weary
You're the defender of the weak
You comfort us in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles.

I locked my arm through Chris', held on tight and sang as tears streamed down both of our cheeks.

I have shared before that I always think of Melissa when we sing the part that says, "You're the defender of the weak." I think of how sick and how weak she was when she was born and how God just wrapped her in his arms and held her and loved her while she was in that NICU.

You comfort us in need.

Man, could I write a book based on just that phrase. God comforted our family when we were too hurt and heartsick to even speak. He loved us and loves us still today, four years later when the pain still hurts so bad and we miss her so much.

You lift us up on wings like eagles.

That's exactly what he did for us. In the days after Melissa died, it was an effort to even put one foot in front of the other. I remember wondering if I would ever smile again. And on those days, he just lifted me up and carried me. And he still does today.

As if that wasn't enough, we finished that song and started another one.

As it began to play, I thought, You have got to be kidding me.

It was "Mighty to Save" - the other song that means so much to our me. The song speaks to me in such an incredible way. The chorus says:

Saviour, he can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save
Forever, Author of Salvation
He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave.

Saviour, he can move the mountains.

And he did. He moved them when he gave Ann Catherine, who only weighed one pound, 15 ounces, the strength to come off that ventilator after only three days. He moved the mountains in her life from the moment she was born and allowed this little miracle to continue to live and grow strong. She is alive today because of him.

He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave.

And because of that, I can have hope on June 1st. Because Jesus conquered the grave, I can have the assurance that Melissa is with him. Man, imagine the birthday party she's having tomorrow! And Chris and I have the assurance that we can be with her again one day. Thank you, God.

I stood there in church feeling like Chris and I were the only two people there. I felt as if those two songs were chosen especially for us.

What an awesome God. The God of the universe, the God who created the Earth and sky, clouds and sun cares so much enough about two people in Huntsville, Alabama, that he allowed us to sing the two songs that give me the most comfort on the day before June 1st.

Isn't that amazing? What a mighty God we serve. He loves us so much. I am so grateful.

But it doesn't end there.

This afternoon we had baptism at our church and Chris and I attended to support some of our friends whose children were being baptized. One of those boys wore his Swim for Melissa t-shirt. I thought it was so neat that he had it on, but I only thought he was wearing it to the baptism. I didn't realize he would be wearing it during the baptism.

So when it was Peyton's turn to be baptized, he comes out in his Swim for Melissa t-shirt. The camera zooms in and on the big screen you see our preacher, Peyton and the words "Swim for Melissa." There was my daughter's name - my daughter's name. I will never see Melissa baptized on Earth. But God allowed me to watch my friend's son's baptism wearing a shirt with her name on it. I cannot put into words how powerful that was for me and Chris. We both had tears just streaming down our cheeks. It was, without a doubt, the greatest gift He could have given me today. I am completely amazed at how much He loves us.

Please pray for our family as we head into tomorrow. Pray for God's comfort for us, pray that we can give Ann Catherine the perfect day that she deserves, pray that we'll have time to spend with Melissa and grieve and celebrate her beautiful life, pray that it won't be a sad day, but that God would wrap us in his love and peace.

As he already has.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Treat for my Girly Girl

I had the absolute best morning.

I took Ann Catherine to Spoiled Rockin' Kidz for a manicure and pedicure!

Here's a little background: AC's birthday is Monday. Her gift from me and Chris (and her grandparents) was her big girl swing set. We gave it to her in April so she could start enjoying it. But even though we gave her that, I still wanted to get her something small for her birthday.

The other day we were driving home from Brusters and I noticed Spoiled Rockin' Kidz. (To read a review in Who's Who Magazine in Huntsville, click here.) I had heard about it, so I popped into the salon to get a menu of services. Those of you who know me know what a girly girl I am. For Mother's Day, my birthday, Christmas, my anniversary - whatever - all Chris has to do is get me a gift card to Terrame and I'm as happy as a clam! Going there is truly one of my few guilty pleasures. AC is such a girly girl too, and every time I get a manicure/pedicure, she always says, "Mommy, when I get older can I go with you?" Well, she isn't old enough for Terrame, but this place was just perfect for her! It's a salon and spa that is just for kids.

She was so excited!! She didn't move a muscle while they did her pedicure and her manicure. It was such a perfect gift for her and such a fun mommy/daughter outing!

Soaking her feet

Getting her pedicure

Now it's time for the manicure!

Sitting still like such a big kid

Choosing a bracelet is part of the manicure. AC had such a hard time choosing!

She found the perfect one!

Waiting for her nails to dry. This was, by far, the hardest part!

I had the best time with my daughter today! As much as I have loved the baby stages, I have also looked so forward to the day when I could do things like this with my girls. What a perfect day!

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Fun Reward

My kids are so much better than me.

I, without question, picked the worst week ever for them to take swim lessons. Over the last four days we had - maybe - ten minutes total sunshine during their lessons. The pool water was frigid, as in take your breath away cold. One day it even rained while AC was in the pool.

But, lips blue and trembling, they perservered.

What little troopers.

So today I promised them I would take them to Big Spring Park for a picnic and to feed the ducks after swim lessons.

I swear the forecast all week said today would be sunny.

Not so much.

It was downright chilly at points. But a promise is a promise.

So we took our McDonalds to the park, scarfed it down and fed the ducks (my camera died before we fed the ducks so I have no pictures from that). The kids had so much fun!

It was my little reward for putting them through the ringer this week. Here's hoping for a little more sunshine next week!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Swim Lessons!

The girls had their first day of swim lessons today and they did so good! They were both completely unafraid, which was not at all surprising where Lily Baker is concerned, but a bit surprising for AC. She is usually very cautious, but once she got in the pool today she was just fine! AC was so excited about going that she woke up at 5:45 a.m. (yes you read that correctly!) and started asking at 6 a.m. if she could put on her bathing suit!

I don't have many pictures to post because I didn't ask their teacher for permission to post her picture (and most of the pictures contain her). But I do have a few to share.

They both went underwater multiple times which was fun to watch! They can't wait for tomorrow!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Little Gardener

We planted flowers yesterday. I haven't done so in two years. Having two children under the age of two, I had neither the time nor the energy to keep my flower beds pretty. I figured now that my girls are older, it will be more manageable (we'll see!).

Lily Baker absolutely loved planting flowers. She was so into it, watering flowers, putting soil around them, helping me pick out spots for them in the flower beds. She really loved getting her hands dirty!

Ann Catherine, on the other hand, helped for a few minutes and then was so over it. Instead, she turned flips in the front yard and danced around.

My kids could not be more different!

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Summer 'Dos!

The girls got haircuts this morning and since it's summertime, they got "real" haircuts - not just little trims.

We started growing out their bangs about six months ago and it has been a nightmare. AC's are almost to where she can tuck them behind her ears, but LB still has a ways to go. Thank goodness I can pull them back with bows and barettes because it drives me crazy when their bangs are in their eyes! We didn't cut any off of their bangs - just the back.

My girls LOVE going to see Ms. Jackie (or as Lily calls her "my Jackie") and getting their hair cut. Seriously, they get so excited when I tell them it's haircut day. My friend, Jackie, has been cutting Chris' hair since he moved to Huntsville and I started going to her shortly after. She's a pretty amazing person who had breast cancer last year and beat it. Jackie and I both firmly believe that God allows you to go through certain trials so you can one day reach out to others who are going through the same trial. Jackie has certainly done that when it comes to breast cancer and I am so proud of her!

Jackie cut at least two inches off AC's hair! Ann Catherine is such a girly girl - she loves sitting in the chair and getting her hair cut. Jackie even bought this special penguin cape just for them. :)

Lily Baker got her first haircut when she turned one. She has quite the head of hair!! She was born with more hair than most grown men have :) Jackie cut about an inch off of her hair.

And now for the best part - the suckers that Ms. Jackie gives them when they are through! I hadn't put LB's bow back in so her bangs are all in her eyes, but trust me, the haircuts were adorable!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How Sweet is This?!

After breakfast this morning, AC and LB went back to Lily's room and crawled into her bed to play. I snapped these cute pictures. Aren't they sweet?!

I seriously don't know how Lily rolls over at night with all of the stuffed animals in her bed!

On a side note, I need some advice! I love to take videos of my kids and send to family members, but I don't want to clog their in-boxes with all of these videos. Do any of you use any video-sharing sites to share your videos with family members? If so, please comment below and tell me which ones you like (and if they are easy to use!!). Also, are there any where you can keep the videos private? I know youtube is easy to use, but I'm not crazy about putting my videos out there for everyone to see. I would love any advice! Thanks!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chick-fil-A is NOT your Babysitter!

OK - I rarely do this on my blog, but I am about to rant!

Do you know what drives me absolutely insane??

Mothers who treat the Chick-fil-A playground as if it's social hour, and sit and gab with their friends instead of watching their kids who are acting like holy terrors on the playground!

When my kid can't go down the slide because your kid is standing in the middle of it and blocking it, then I have a problem.

And don't get me started on the little girl who was absolutely whaling on kids left and right (not mine, luckily!) and making them cry. I don't know about you but when I hear children cry on the playground, I (a) check to see if it's my kid who's crying and (b) check to see if my kid caused the crying. So while other kids are crying their eyes out, this mother sits at her table talking to her friends, oblivious to the fact that her child is hurting other children.

Was she deaf or just didn't care?

I choose the latter.

Look, don't get me wrong. I love hanging out and talking to my friends while my kids are playing. But, I also keep an eye out on my kids. It's what mothers do.

My husband popped by for about two minutes to say hello to us and while witnessing all of this said, "Why do you even bring them here?"

The truth is I take them there because my kids love the food and it's a good playground. But after watching how some of these mothers act, I began to wonder 'why do I even bother coming here?' Lily couldn't even enjoy herself because of all of the way-too-big kids playing on the little kid slide who thought it was funny to keep her from going up the slide.

But, then again, my kids shouldn't be punished because you can't bother to keep an eye on your kids. So I have an idea.

If you are going to sit outside and talk to your friends and completely ignore your kids while they wreak havoc, do this. Invite your friends over and do it in your own backyard and let my kids play in peace.

There I said it. And boy do I feel better!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Can I Use this at Toys R Us?

My husband leaves his change all over the house. Eventually, he'll roll it up and deposit it at the bank. Sometimes he'll put his spare change in cups until they fill up.

Today I was doing something in the study and AC was with me. She saw one of his cups full of change and said, "Mommy, can I put this in my piggy bank?"

"Sure," I answered. "Your daddy wouldn't mind."

So she takes this full cup into her room and starts putting the change in her piggy bank. After a while, she says, "Mommy, will you help me?" I walked in and saw that she only had about ten coins left.

I started putting them in her bank and noticed something.

It was Canadian money.

Probably left over from our last trip to visit his family.

So now AC has a piggy bank partly full of Canadian coins. I guess she won't be using it to buy gum or toys anytime soon. Lucky for us the exchange rate is pretty equal right now. I'm just hoping it's that way when we decide to empty her piggy bank :)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

That's What Godparents Are For!

My girls have the best godparents, who also happen to be our best friends. AC's godparents are my best friend from college, Olivia and her husband, Joe. LB's are our great friends Steve and Laura - or LaLa as my girls call her.

Tuesday night I had a meeting at church and Chris was stuck at work. I called Laura to see if I could drop my girls off to play with her kids. As always, her response was, "Sure, bring them on!" (Don't you just LOVE friends like that??!!)

AC and LB love going there and playing with Josh and Jordan. After my meeting, I went to pick them up and the next thing I know we're bringing home this!

Jordan had outgrown it and, of course, my girls were more than happy to get it. It's so big I don't have room in the playroom yet, so for now it's smack in the middle of my dining room :)

The other night I was cooking dinner and I could hear them giggling. When I walked into the dining room, I saw this.

There were playing princess and "sleeping." I joined in the fun (I was Aurora!) and Snow White, Cinderella (or Cinderelly as Lily calls her) and I played in our castle. (Did you know that Cinderelly knows all of the words to the "Wonder Pets" song? Neither did I. Oh, the things you learn with kids!)

I just love having girls :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another Year Over

School year, that is.

My girls had their end-of-the-year parties at daycare today. Lily's was a pajama party - which was HUGE for me because lately we are having a big tug of war in the mornings because Lily doesn't want to get dressed. She could not have been happier about wearing her pj's to school and neither could I!

This is Lily with her teacher Meggin. (Her other teacher Leigh Ann wasn't in the room when I dropped off, and when I came back the batteries in my camera went dead.)

She LOVES Meggin and Leigh-Leigh and has been with both of them on and off for two years. She had such a good year with them!

I got to have lunch with Ann Catherine. It was so much fun, and I'm telling you, her eyes were gleaming when I walked in and sat down next to her. She was so excited her mommy was there, and so was I!

AC's class had a luau - complete with grass skirts, leis and the limbo. First, we had a pizza party...

then I got to watch AC do the limbo!

Afterwards, Ms. Kris gave the kids their scrapbook. This is always my favorite part because I love seeing how my kids grew during the year. (Lily's was absolutely amazing - when she started in the fall she had all this baby fat and now she looks like a little girl!).

Here's AC with Ms. Kris...

Ms. Kris has been AC's teacher for two years. She had her in the two-year-old class and then moved up with the kids to the three-year-old room. AC loves, loves her and she has taught her so much from letters to potty training! She has been such a positive, solid influence in Ann Catherine's life and we love her!!

Here's AC with Ms. Tammy...

What a great year my kids had and now we are ready for a little break. Summer here we come!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Look at Her

It's funny how God works.

I had just recently posted how great my Mother's Day was. I told you that while I missed Melissa, I wasn't depressed. I felt like it was a huge breakthrough for me.

Tucked away in my closet, I have a special keepsake box that contains all of Melissa's belongings. It has her hospital blanket and hat, the dress and hat she wore when the staff took her pictures after she died, her brush and comb, her hospital bracelet and her handprints and footprints. It also contains the pictures the staff took of her. They are the only pictures I have of her. My complications began at 5:30 a.m. the morning of June 1st. I was immediately rushed to the OR for a c-section. After she was born at 6:18 a.m., Melissa was immediately rushed to the Neonatal ICU. She died just two and a half hours later. In all of the suddenness and intense pain, it never occurred to us to grab a camera. It never crossed our minds.

This past Mother's Day, I didn't look at her pictures. The day was just going so good that I didn't want to have that gut-wrenching cry. I hope you understand. It doesn't mean I didn't want to see that precious face, but everything that day had been so perfect and quite honestly, I just didn't want to cry.

This afternoon while my kids slept, I was reading something online about a woman who had lost a child. All of a sudden, God told me, "Go look at her."

No. Not now. I'm having a really good day. I just can't go there.

Go look at her, I heard again.

I debated. I knew the gut-wrenching cry that lied ahead. Was I prepared for that?

Go look at her.

So I got up and went to my closet. I got out her box. First I pulled out her pictures.

I began to cry. Then I began to sob. Then I began that guttural cry that only a mother who has lost a child can understand.

I cried that she was gone. I cried for how much I missed her. I cried that I couldn't just run down the hall and hold her.

I cried that I won't see her start kindergarten. I cried that I will never walk into the playroom and see her giggling and playing with Ann Catherine and Lily. I cried that I will never see her blow out the candles on her birthday cake. I cried that I won't see her grow up. I cried that I won't see her get married.

Then, I saw her things. I picked up that little hat and gown. In the pictures, they look so big on her. In my hands, they are absolutely tiny. I held onto them and then looked at the pictures. She was wearing this. I held it to my nose and inhaled to take in the scent of what had been on her tiny little body.

I held the blanket. Then I buried my head in it and cried some more. I took that tiny little hat they put on her when she was first born and I just tucked my hands inside it.

I smelled it and it still smelled like the NICU. Four years later, and I haven't washed those items. And I never will.

Then I started talking to her. I told her how sorry I was that I couldn't do more. I told her that her Daddy and I loved her more than anything in this world. I told her that I will miss her with all of my heart until I see her again. I told her that I was so sorry that she couldn't be here with us.

Then I held that little hat to my face and I prayed out loud. I told God that I just wished I could have ten minutes with her again so I could tell her all of those things in person. Then I told him that I don't know how Heaven works, but I asked him if he would please, please make sure that Melissa knows that she has a Mommy down here who loves her with all of her heart and who did everything she could to give her a chance to live.

I cried some more, then fearing that Ann Catherine might wake up and see me on the floor bawling, I began to put her things away. I saw the Bama bear that my niece and nephew, Ally and Will, brought to her at the hospital when she was born. Ann Catherine has the same one. And I saw the gown I was wearing the morning my daughters were born. I have kept all of these things as a reminder of this little girl who changed my life for the better.

Melissa's death is a constant reminder to me to be a better mother. It's a reminder that when Ann Catherine has a meltdown because "my dress doesn't twirl" or Lily gets upset because she wanted milk instead of orange juice, it's no big deal. They are here. And I am so grateful to have them.

As painful as it was, I'm glad I had this cry. I think it's part of my never ending journey to heal. Soon after your child dies, you cry every minute of every day. But as time goes on, you don't cry as much. That means when you do cry, it is physically and emotionally exhausting.

About 15 minutes after this happened, AC woke up and came running into my room. She crawled on my bed, put her arms around me, snuggled up to me and said, "I sure do love you, Mommy."

Thank you God.

Does she have any idea how badly I needed that?

For as long as I live, I will have a hole in my heart and I will never be completely healed until I see Melissa again. Some days I forget how big that hole is.

Today I was reminded.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Macaroni Noodle Necklace

Saying that the best gifts are the ones your children make with their own two hands is like saying the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening.

It is absolutely indisputable.

I got the greatest Mother's Day gift ever from Ann Catherine - a macaroni noodle necklace.

She made this for me at daycare. She put the noodles on the string and painted them blue. I'm telling you, if Chris had walked in with big ole fat diamond earrings I would not have loved them more than this necklace (although please don't let that discourage you from buying me any if you are reading this, honey!).

She was so proud of herself. I bet she asked me ten times, "Mommy, do you like it? I made it for you!" I told her it was my favorite present because she made it with her own little hands.

Lily made me these handprints (with a little help from her teachers :) I will cherish this until the day I die. Lily calls it her "paw print" - I kid you not. Think she watches too much Blue's Clues?!

The funniest part of my Mother's Day happened Sunday morning. Chris got up with the girls and I just laid in bed resting. He went into AC's room and got them to help him get my gifts together. The monitor was on and I could hear everything they said. He told them that they got me a Bible (I actually picked it out and bought it because I knew the exact one I wanted and then told him to let the girls give it to me) and Lily said, "Ooooh, a Bible!" You would have thought Chris had told her they were giving me a year's supply of juice and mac and cheese - which in Lily's world is the ultimate gift. It was so cute. Then they brought my presents into my bedroom and gave them to me.

Chris also got me a Terrame gift card, although I told him not to get me anything but the Bible. I can't wait to use it!! Saturday night he took me to Dolce at Bridge Street for dinner (which is fabulous by the way!!) and then we walked down to Ann Taylor Loft where I burned a whole in a gift card I had been holding onto.

When we got home from church on Sunday morning, I wanted to get a picture made with my girls. Why is that such a nightmare?! At first, Lily was cooperating, but Ann Catherine wasn't looking at the camera. By the time AC started looking, Lily was done. Do you think I'll ever get a picture of both of my girls looking at the camera at the same time?? Me either.

I love this crazy one!

I have shared before on my blog how painful and sad Mother's Day can be for me. Don't get me wrong - I love Mother's Day and I am eternally grateful that God has allowed me to be a mother. But as much as I love it, it's also been a hard day for me in the past. I have to tell you, this was by far the best Mother's Day I have ever had. It's hard to explain, but I just had such a peace. I felt Melissa's presence so deeply all day long, but it didn't make me sad. Yes, I missed her and yes, I wanted her here, but it didn't make me feel depressed. At church, I felt so happy during worship, not sad as I have in the past. I know that so many of my friends have been praying for me, and I could definitely feel it.

As I went to bed that night, I began feeling guilty. I know it sounds strange, but I felt guilty that I hadn't felt depressed that day. I have thought about that over the past couple of days and I have realized that Melissa wouldn't want Mother's Day to be sad for me. She would want it to be happy and she would want me to feel her love on such a special day. I certainly did feel her and I am so grateful for that. And as we talked about her that day, I told Ann Catherine that I was pretty sure Melissa was celebrating Mother's Day in Heaven and having a wonderful time. I hope it was a beautiful day for her.

I know it was for me.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

But What About Me?

Because my daughters are just 17 months apart, they "share" a lot of the same friends. That means they both get invited to the same parties.

Just this year, Ann Catherine starting getting invited to parties without Lily. Lily didn't know the difference so it didn't matter. But, Lily has never been invited to a party without Ann Catherine.

Until now.

When I told Ann Catherine earlier in the week that Lily was going to a friend's birthday party, AC said, "But what about me?"

I explained that she wasn't invited, just as Lily wasn't invited to the party that Ann Catherine went to on Wednesday.

Didn't matter.

Ann Catherine knows there's a party with cake, games and toys and she's not part of it.

"But what about me?" she has asked at least a thousand times this week. "You're not invited," I would answer, and remind her of the parties she attended that Lily wasn't invited to.

"But I want to go!" was always her answer.

Chris had to come up with some pretty cool daddy/daughter fun today, I can promise you that.

As for Lily, she looked like such a big girl going to her party today!

But something interesting happened when we got there. Lily grabbed onto my leg and wouldn't go play with her friends (these were all friends that she knows from daycare, mind you). I couldn't figure it out. AC is usually my shy one when we are around others, not Lily. Lily is gregarious, fun-loving, the life of the party.

Then, I figured it out. AC wasn't there. Lily doesn't know life without Ann Catherine. They go everywhere together. And AC is somewhat of a crutch for her. If Ann Catherine is around, she has confidence and just jumps into a situation. Without her, not so much.

It was interesting seeing this other side of my daughter. Eventually, she warmed up and played, but she never really wanted me out of her sight. If Ann Catherine had been there, I'm pretty sure it would have been different.

I always say Ann Catherine needed Lily so badly when she was born, but I realized something today.

Lily needs her, too.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Praise Him Anyway!

This morning was absolutely terrible at our home.

Ann Catherine has been begging me to let her wear a dress to daycare. I usually say no, because they play outside and I don't want it all dirty. However, she has a cute little dress that isn't so dressy, so I decided to let her wear it. She was ecstatic.

The next thing I know she comes running into my room, arms flailing and screaming, "It doesn't twirl!!"

She was mad because when she spun around, the dress didn't spin with her.

Seriously. A meltdown of epic proportions because her dress didn't spin.

Fine, I say. Wear something else. It really wasn't worth all of the hassle for me.

But for whatever reason it just set her off. AC wakes up so happy in the mornings, so it's really out of character for her to be so grumpy. But boy was she. I finally made her sit in a corner because her attitude was so bad.

At least Lily was in a good mood, right?

Not so fast.

It came time to put Lily's clothes on and she starts screaming, "NO MOMMY! I WEAR MY MINNIE MOUSE JAMMIES!"

Okay - I pick my battles as a mom. But Lily had a doctor's appointment (just a follow-up) and I was not about to let her wear her pajamas. I'm not that cool of a mom.

So she wrestles and cries the whole time I'm changing her. I'm telling you, it was miserable. By the time we got in the car, both of my girls had puffy red eyes and were doing what I call "snubbing." You know, when they have cried so hard they are still trying to catch their breath five minutes after they stop.

So I put them in their car seats, turn on their Wiggles DVD and then crank up my new praise CD. I'm telling you, I needed some divine intervention. So I am driving down the road just singing at the top of my lungs (I'm sure I looked like a complete idiot to other drivers, but I didn't care).

Next thing I know, "You Never Let Go" comes on. Those of you who have read my blog for a while know that my kids love this song. If not, click here to read.

Ann Catherine says "Mommy, turn this down!" and I'm thinking she means my music. I'm about to let her know that Mommy has put up with screaming and crying all morning and if my music is too loud she's just going to have to get over it. As I turned down my music to say some variation of that, she said, "No, Mommy. Turn down my DVD. It's 'You Never Let Go!'" and Lily shouts out, "It's my song!"

So I turned down their DVD and looked in my rear view mirror and she and Lily were just belting it out. I couldn't help but laugh. An incredibly crappy morning was turned around thanks to this song. By the time we got to our destination, they could not have been happier. I know that praise music improves my own attitude, but I never thought how it can also affect our kids. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Legacy, Not Longevity

When I talk of my daughter, Melissa, I often say, "It's about legacy, not longevity."

What I mean is that you can live 80 years and still not make an impact. Your life is not measured by the number of years you spent on this Earth. It's measured by the mark you left behind on those who loved you, and on those who never even knew you.

I thought of that tonight as Chris and I entered First Baptist Church of Fayetteville, Tennessee, for Caleb Gill's visitation.

We arrived at 4:10 p.m. - ten minutes after visitation began. As we walked into the church, we realized that we had come through an entrance that took us to the front of the line. So we began to walk to the back of the line.

We kept walking. And walking. And walking.

And walking.

It was unbelievable. At just ten minutes past the hour, the line was already wrapping around the inside of the church.

What a testament to the life of this 7-year-old boy.

Add Chris and I to the list of people who had never met Caleb. We knew Debbie through the NICU and began following her Caring Bridge page soon after Caleb was diagnosed with cancer.

As a reader of Caleb's CB page, we were given this glimpse into their lives. I cried when the news was bad and cheered when days were good. I ached for Debbie as she recently faced the reality that this cancer would claim the life of her precious son. I literally felt sick when I heard the news that Caleb was gone.

As we stood in line, there were televisions along the way playing videos of Caleb's life. The video started with pictures of Caleb as a baby and followed him through his seven years. The photos of him before he was diagnosed with cancer showed a vibrant, beautiful little boy with blond hair. It was set to the song "How Great is our God."

The very first photo showed Caleb's father holding him. The message wasn't lost on me. Debbie's husband passed away a few years ago. I looked at that picture of him holding his son and thought about how they were together again.

From there, the song changed to "Jesus Messiah" and showed pictures of Caleb after he was diagnosed with cancer. There were pictures from their Make-A-Wish trip to Florida, pictures of him with his doctors and nurses and pictures from family get togethers.

As I watched the video with tears in my eyes, I thought how once again Debbie had chosen to glorify God, even through Caleb's death. She put those photos to Christian songs. This woman has lost more in a lifetime than most of us could ever comprehend. She has lost her husband and her child. Still, she chooses to praise God.

I told her tonight that her family had so deeply touched ours. We were so touched by her strong faith in the face of so much adversity. There is no question that God has used Debbie to bring glory to Him. And through his short life, Caleb left a lasting on mark on people who had never even known him.

It's about legacy, not longevity.

On the way home, I just wanted to get home and hug my kids. Things like this make you realize that life is so fragile. We should thank God for each and every moment we have with our children, our husbands and our families. Those moments are truly gifts.

Please continue to pray for Debbie. The funeral is tomorrow, and while it will be a celebration of Caleb's life, it will still be hard for Debbie and her family. She has spent the last nine months taking care of Caleb and is feeling a bit lost right now, not to mention completely heartbroken. Please keep her in your prayers.

(If you are new to my blog, and want to learn more about Caleb, click here.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Caleb is in Heaven

Chris walked into our bedroom at 6:15 this morning and said, "Amy, Caleb Gill passed away last night." I immediately popped up and said, "No!"

Many of you have prayed for Caleb. For those of you who don't know, Caleb was diagnosed with brain cancer last August. His mother, Debbie, is a NICU nurse at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. Caleb is now with his dad who passed away a few years ago. Debbie posted on her Caring Bridge site that Caleb passed away peacefully during the night.

While I am grateful that Caleb is now healed and no longer in pain, my heart just breaks for Debbie and her family. On her Caring Bridge site, she posted this morning, "My heart is absolutely broken in two or maybe into a million little tiny fragments, but I know that Caleb is where he wanted to be more than anything in the world."

Please, please lift up Debbie and her family during this time. It is completely unnatural to bury your child. There is nothing in this world that prepares a mother to say goodbye.

Debbie's faith during this entire ordeal has been extraordinary. There is no doubt that God used Caleb's illness to bring glory to him. Debbie's faith and actions just amazed me each time I read her posts.

Please pray for them during this time. And if you want to read more about Caleb's journey, click here. You will be blessed.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dinnertime Prayer

Tonight at dinner, Ann Catherine wanted to say the blessing. She said,

"Dear Jesus, thank you for the plants, flowers and trees. Thank you for Melissa, and that we will see her again. Amen."

I just stared at Chris and said, "Did she just say that?" He answered, "Yes," but didn't make a big deal because we didn't want Ann Catherine thinking she had said something wrong.

Wow. It's hard to even say what I was thinking. It lifts my heart to know that Ann Catherine thinks of Melissa, even at times when we aren't talking about her. It's amazing to me that she said 'that we will see her again.' I tell her that all the time, but for her to say it just lifted my heart. I just wanted to grab her, hug her tight, and thank her. As soon as she said, "Amen," she picked up her fork and started eating, oblivious to the fact that her precious little ten second prayer had meant to much to me and her daddy.

As always, thank you God for these moments. And thank you that my three-year-old daughter can find the words to express how we all feel.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Reaching Out to a Child

First of all, thanks to those of you who left such kind and uplifting comments on my last post. It was one of the hardest articles I have ever written. Those of you who have walked down this path understand and we can learn so much from each other. Thanks for your prayers during what's always a difficult time of year for me. You'll never know how much I appreciate them.

I just returned from the most amazing conference. It was sponsored by the company that designs and writes the curriculum we use in our Children's Ministry at church. It was the most rejuvenating three days. We worshipped, we sang, we prayed. We attended seminars to make us better leaders in our Children's Ministry and another seminar that gave us great tips on parenting our own children at home (and who doesn't need those?!).

My highlight of the week came not from a session or a time of worship (although all of those things were amazing) but from a booth I visited along with a friend. It belonged to Compassion International. Some of you are probably familiar with it. It's a Christian organization that (I'm quoting from the website) "exists as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults." To learn more about this incredible organization, click here.

Shortly after Melissa died, my friend, Tracy, decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International in memory of Melissa. Chris and I were so deeply touched. To think that a child in a poor country would receive the help they need because of my daughter's life was overwhelming to me. Ever since then I have always thought, "I want to do that someday."

My friend Brooke and I decided to visit the booth and check it out. Brooke has two little girls and one on the way so she chose a little boy who lives in Brazil. He's adorable.

I wanted a little girl. I thought Ann Catherine and Lily would identify so well with a little girl and a huge part of wanting to sponsor a child was to teach my two daughters (who have everything they will ever need) that there is a world out there full of people who are hurting and it's our responsibility as Christians to reach out to them.

I looked and looked but just wasn't sure who to choose. Then I thought about all of the shows I see on tv of children who are starving in Africa. So I asked one of the women working the booth if she could help me find a little girl who lives in an AIDS-affected area of Africa. She found an adorable little girl who lives in Tanzania. (I don't want to disclose her name for privacy reasons.)

This precious little girl lives with her grandmother. I'm not sure where her parents are, but based on where she lives, they probably have died from AIDS. I knew immediately that she was the one.

For only $32 a month, she will receive food, medicine, Bibles and any other supplies she needs. We will also exchange letters with her. As I was reading information about her, it said this 5-year-old likes to play hide and seek, play with dolls and play house. Those are exactly the things my daughters like to do. That's when I realized, this precious little girl - who sleeps on a hard floor every night and wears hand me downs that we would never dream of putting on our children - is just like my own daughters. She loves doing the same things they love doing. She is a living, breathing human being. She only needs a chance.

We are sponsoring this little girl in memory of Melissa. I am so excited about it, and in a way, I also think this is part of my never-ending healing process. For some reason, I just felt like I needed to do this - not just for this little girl, but for me too. We couldn't save Melissa's life, but through her memory, we can try to make life better for another little girl who so desperately needs it.

I'm pretty sure she would approve.