The Other Side of Sadness

There you are, sitting on a side of sadness where….

 the air is sucked out of your lungs;

your mind is forced to enter a dark place;

sorrows are whispered;

another day is wished for;

results seem to not come;

regrets are mulled over;

anger is justified;

what could have been is fantasized about;

your spirit is bored down;

pleadings go unanswered;

miracles do not seem to happen;

loneliness and despair sit side by side;

things don’t make sense;

our bodies break down;

and, you are compelled to let go; even though it is the life-changing, heart-breaking, and most pain-inducing moment of your life.

Are you sitting there, my friend?  I have been there myself.  Many others have too. Sometimes, we choose this side through our actions or lack there of.  Most of the time though, we are swept away from the other side of sadness we once lived in. Like a stranger in a foreign land, we enter into a place where we do not find comfort, and wish to leave.  This side of sadness may feel as though it will last forever.

I want you to know that there is another side of sadness, though.  It is one where….

hope dwells;

the resilience of the human spirit is witnessed over again;

beauty comes out of messes;

love is not silent;

laughter resonates;

stars are wished upon;

new life is born;

miracles are witnessed;

wind is felt;

purpose is found;

friendships are formed;

faith is grounded;

prayers are answered;

restoration happens;

and, meaning leads you to the peace that once evaded you.

The hard part of life is that we often find ourselves sitting on one side of sadness or the other.  We have not been promised a life of glorious moments, painless relationships, or perfect condition.  No….life seems, at times, to be just the opposite.

I have found, though, that memories I will choose to walk through life with are not the ones that caused strife, or physical pain.  The memories I want to hold dear towards the end of my life, whenever that will be, are moments where my senses felt alive, my mind was stirred, and my heart was over-flowing.  Yes, these are the moments that exist on the other side of sadness.

There is another side of sadness, another side of pain, and another side of having no control over some of the tragedies in our lives.  The human spirit is capable of capturing grace and joy in the darkest times; even when life is depleting.

The other side of sadness is one where love collides with life.  It is one that cannot be taken away.  It is where memories remain.  It is the side that doesn’t deteriorate or go silent, even when circumstances seem to be challenging it.  

The other side of sadness awaits for you.  It has reserved a spot with your name on it.  It will be waiting for you when you are ready.  I hope to find you on the other side of sadness soon.

 ….Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:5

Days like Today

Tonight I had the incredible blessing of watching my 4-year-old daughter perform in a Christmas dance recital.  I helped her get ready by putting on her glittery leotard and pulling her hair back in bun.  I smiled as she gingerly walked onto the big stage, and giggled as she twirled in her fluffy white tutu.  As the evening went on and I watched the children dance, my mind escaped off to that place of sadness for the mom’s and dad’s of the little princes and princess’s who were not tucked into their beds tonight.  The shooting tragedy in Connecticut today has invaded my thoughts, and it was hard to get the families whose lives were abruptly interrupted off of my mind.

Christmas presents will be left unopened, family pictures will not happen, visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house will be filled with tremendous heartache, and parents will forever feel the silent emptiness of loss.  Gingerbread houses will go unmade, Christmas stockings will mournfully hang by chimneys, Santa will not be visited, and the sounds of laughter will not ring out on Christmas morning.  It is absolutely heart-wrenching to think of the precious lives lost today.  These children were just going about their day handing in homework, counting down the days until Santa visits, and telling their teachers their big plans for the weekend when darkness entered their lives.

The sad truth is that violence against children occurs year round and all over this world on a daily basis.  We discard them as if they don’t matter.  We ignore them as if they are not important.  We use and abuse them as if their little hearts and bodies will just “get over it”.  Scripture speaks of children being a reward, and yet, we take our time with them for granted.  I absolutely believe that we will not escape the Lord’s passionate and protective love for His children.

It is days like today that I hugged my Kindergartner and ballerina a little tighter.  It is days like today that I repeated the words “I Love You” to them often.  It is days like today that I am reminded that our children are not ours.  We are gifted with them for a while.  Some stay longer than others, but ultimately, they are the Lord’s children.

It is days like today that I long for His return.

Messages of Tears

“There is a sacredness in tears.  They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.”                              -Washington Irving

Gosh, I love this quote.  I L.O.V.E. it.  Each time my eyes skim over it and I soak it in, it  causes me to stop whatever I am doing.  I think about the tears shed worldwide on a daily basis.  I think about the tears that have been poured out of the deepest sorrow and joy throughout generations upon generations of humans.

I think about myself curling up in a fetal position sobbing from every pore of my being while mourning the loss of not being able to have a biological child.  I truly mourned this.  Those tears held within them my secrets, my grief, and my pain.  Those tears shed were not in vain.  I earned each one.  I deserved to let go of each one.  Those tears were for the girl I once was, and the mother I thought I would never be.

I also think about the tears of joy that have navigated their way down the landscape of my face. They too spoke volumes of resilience, thankfulness, and complete understanding.  Those tears released the power of love held within.  They too held their place of importance in the history of my life.  They too were for the little girl I once was, and the mother I was discovering myself to be.

I remember hearing the “sniffles” behind me at our adoption hearings.  I quickly looked around and saw family, friends, and even some child welfare professionals with tears rolling down their cheeks.  Each tear was a message of hope and hard work.  Each one represented the efforts made to keep my children safe, to help their birth parents, and to give them the permanent family they deserved.  The Judge stopped the court proceedings during my son’s adoption and gave me a moment to gather my tears back up.  He told me that he had seen many tears of sadness throughout his court room experience, and it was good to see tears of joy.

On a vastly more important level…the most important of all, I think about the tears that flowed down the faces of those who witnessed the crucifixion and death of Christ.  I think about those who must have had tears of awe-filled joy at realizing His resurrection.  The message of unspeakable love, unselfish love, and saving love that those tears gave is still heard and felt today.  At times, I am caught off guard during worship at church.  I find myself singing a song, staring at the Cross, and wiping away the droplets that resemble the overwhelming magnitude of my Savior’s grace and love for me.

I think I love this quote so much because it reminds me of the purpose and the purity behind each tear that falls from our eyes.  The voice held within our tears speaks so much more compared to the words that may or may not leave our mouths.  There is a sacredness there, and it should never be underestimated.

Don’t hold your tears hostage.  Don’t stifle their meaning.  Your tears may be speaking for you.  Allow them to.  Your tears may be speaking to you.  Listen to them.

Embracing the Noise

joyful noises

Recently in the community I live in, there has been several tragic situations that have led to the deaths of children.  One toddler passed away following a valiant fight against cancer.  His family’s faith and their bold witness of it is extremely humbling.  Yesterday, two mothers buried their children at the same time.  All three siblings, their father, and a family friend died in a plane crash just minutes away from the local airport.  Just this weekend, I learned of a former classmate whose 18-year-old son passed away suddenly.

My heart feels so much sadness for these mothers.  I cannot imagine the despair they are going through.  I have known the pain and the notable silence of a life without children that my barrenness once caused.  But now that I am a mother, I cannot even wrap my head around going from sitting in a home that used to be filled with the chatter of a teenager engaging in an energetic conversation, a television in the background blasting a video game, or the imaginative sound effects children make when they play, to sitting in that same home that is now silent.  I cannot fathom what it must feel like to walk into a home that once housed children with great dreams, loving embraces, and inquisitive yearnings about life, that now houses empty spaces, thick tears, precious (yet painful) memories, wounded hearts, and sorrowful aches.

Sometimes I long for just one moment of complete silence in the home or the car.  Sometimes I wished my little ones could dial down the volume a bit; or at least, maybe not like the sound of their own voices quite as much as they do.  These recent tragedies in my community have helped me to keep it all in perspective though.

I will take the squeals, the laughter, the “I’m gonna tell mommy”, the fights, the cries, and the constant chatter.  I will take the background noise of a television that is too loud, or the bang of a drum from a little boy who thinks he is rock star.  I will take the non-stop questions of soon-to-be 4-year-old who still thinks it is never too early to get out of bed in the morning, or implores for her questions to be answered.

Actually, I am not just gonna take it.  I am going to embrace it.  I am going to remember the gift of noise.  I am going to be grateful for my Heavenly Father who has given it all to me.

I am going to embrace the noise.

Life in a Fish Bowl

Here is a brief part from my memoir I have stored away on my computer.  I am getting closer to making a decision about trying to publish it, but in the meantime, I am finding that parts of it inspire me to write blog posts that are not necessarily even related to my story at all.  This section is part of chapter two where I talk about the medical aspect of what occurred, as well as, my stay in the hospital.

There was an aquarium on the pediatric unit at the hospital that housed a Newt.  When I was able to, I visited Newton (not sure if this really was his name or if I called him that on my own) just about every day.  Our eyes would make contact, and I would stare at him in his fish bowl world wondering what he was thinking.  I wished I could have jumped in the tank with him and swam around to escape.  I too had people staring at me probably wondering what I was thinking or if I really understood what had happened.  My hospital room had become my own fish bowl.

Although this is from a section of my story about the time in the hospital, I cannot help but think that we are all living in “fish bowls”.  We tend to watch each others’ actions and form opinions based on how others are swimming around.  When sad times make their way into life, we sometimes stand by and watch the reactions of people.  Often, their reactions affect our responses.

What if instead of just standing there on the outside of the “tank”, we would all make a more committed effort to jump in and swim around a bit with those who are going through a difficult time?  I wonder how many people could be eternally impacted if Christians would walk alongside people we differ from, or people who are grieving, or lonely, or homeless, or orphaned, or guilty, or addicted, or whatever else makes us think we are on one side while they are on the other.

I know it is cliché to say “what would Jesus do?”….but seriously, “What would Jesus do?”  His life, as written in Scripture, depicts a Savior who walked with people most of us would stray from.  His love is for everyone….everyone.  We are all living life in a fish bowl.  We watch others, and more importantly, others are watching us.  I think it is time that Christians (including myself) stop wading in the shallow end of the pool with only those we are like, and jump in head first with those we are least like.  After all…”What Would Jesus Do?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34

Mother’s Resilience

During Mother’s Day weekend, one might expect me to write about my adoption experience and the incredible love I have for my kiddos. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on my own mother. Mom is quiet, doesn’t seek attention; yet, strong. She is stronger than she gives herself credit for being. She is also faithful and fiercely loyal. It was not until I became a momma that I realized her resiliency, courage, and unselfishness.

To say I was blessed growing up is an understatement. My childhood home was often filled with the smell of sugary sweetness from mom’s baked goodies. It was fairly common to have homemade French toast waiting for me when I woke up. I did not just have a mother; she was a “mommy”. Often, she would be waiting after school to walk me home, after having made a sweet surprise that would greet me when I got there. Fresh brownies, hand-made ice cream sandwiches, and sugar cookies drizzled with icing that spelled out my name were all part of the wonderment of my mom’s love through her baking. I would collapse onto the soft couch with a morsel of something delicious, feeling the love and comfort of home. It does a child good to feel as though she is the center of someone’s universe.

My mom, though reserved, was also very much liked by the kids in the neighborhood and dance studio. Girls would stay the night with me and thoroughly enjoy the vast array of mom’s meals and desserts. I just assumed every mother was like my mom. Although on a tight budget, I never went without anything. She often bought second hand clothes for herself, so I would have the best. My hair was always fixed, clothes clean and ironed if needed, and shoes matching… Mom took pride in taking care of my needs.

Life was pretty normal for us until my illness at the age of eleven. Now, I’m not talking just a little sick. I’m talking going from running in the countryside while visiting my uncle at his farm to facing certain death. A week passed by and all my mom or the doctors knew was that I was dying from massive infection. Exploratory surgery had to be completed to try and figure out what in the world was going on with me. They suspected cancer, but were not certain.

During the surgery, mom escaped off to a room and sat by herself for about three to four hours pondering the thought of losing me to cancer. She tried to prepare herself for the grim news. “How can it be?”, mom must have thought. It was so out of the blue. With the exception of the previous surgeries (appendectomy and adhesion’s), I had been healthy, active, adventurous, and full of life. How do parents truly prepare themselves for hearing the worst possible news about their child?

Once the surgery was over, mom was told devastating news. The doctors had to remove my uterus, Fallopian tubes, and right ovary. It was not cancer though. They had not figured out what type of bacteria it was or how I got it, but if left in, I would have died. Not long after she was told, she and my dad went off to a room by themselves and let out a wail. I wonder what this sounded like. It must have been one of those guttural sounds that come from deep pain…not just the ones you can hear, but ones you can feel. Yes, I was alive, but the impact of what had occurred was life-long.

Sometimes I close my eyes and picture mom and dad huddled in a sterile white hospital waiting room. They must have been holding on tightly to each other. I wonder if they were shaking out of anger, fear, or exhaustion…perhaps all of them out the same time. My seemingly normal life had just come to a screeching halt. It would never be the same. But, neither would theirs. Their daughter’s tragedy; their own parenting experience forever indented with sadness.

Three and half weeks passed by while I was in the hospital fighting the infection. Mom was there all of the time. She put on a brave face, smiled at me through her pain, and held my hand during those long days in the hospital. Her daughter went from being vibrant and energetic to lying in the hospital bed with one foot in this world and the other in Heaven. Yet, she never let me see her scared.

Mom was also grieving as she knew what the surgery meant for the rest of my life. It was more than just a brief illness that I would hopefully recover from. She grieved for the fact that something very special was taken away from me. People would try to tell her things or come up with “reasons”, but she was still trying to figure what the purpose of it all was. Yet, she knew it was important for my life to go on and for me have a sense of normalcy. This must have been difficult for her. She carried this burden by herself so that I could get back to being a pre-teen girl. I was not aware of the full gravity of the situation, but she was.

Mom fought to regain life for me. She made sure I went right back to doing the things I loved; dancing, socializing with friends, etc. However, the surgery did not just affect my life. Through my tragedy, she had to bear witness to and experience the impact of infertility. She too had just been dealt a huge blow. She would never have a biological grandchild. This must have saddened her. Yet, there she was strong, silent, and smiling.

Mom might say that I am the one who was the most resilient during that fateful time in my life. I definitely had the fight in me to survive. Yet, she’s the one who had to navigate raising a daughter who was unlike any other girls. She had to walk through life parenting a daughter who would never experience the joy of announcing a pregnancy, the surprise of finding out the gender, and the moment of seeing her child be born. My mom would also never hear the delightful words of “You’re going to be a grandma”. She would never be able to await anxiously to find out the gender. And, she would never have the opportunity to sit in a waiting room for hours before gazing upon her grandchild for the first time.

But, mom is also the one who modeled how to face the darkness with courage, how to look to the future, and how to seize control back from something that was totally out of control. She’s the one who held in her fears so that I would not absorb them. She’s the one who told me “if you want to achieve something, put your heart into it”. She’s the one who went right back to being the mommy who made home made goodies that brought great comfort and sacrificed her wants so that I would have the very best. She’s the one who never allowed herself to be victimized by this; thus, teaching me to not be a victim of my circumstance. And, she’s the one who didn’t run away from her faith in God.

So, mom, thank you for being resilient. Thank you for modeling to me that when life deals you a blow, you just get up, dust off, and walk strong. Thank you for showing and telling me that I was the most important thing in your world. Thank for you giving me security when the floor fell out from under me. I know your grandma experience started out different from others, so thank you for standing by and supporting me while we were foster parents, and for the love you give my children.

See mom? The Lord does work all things for good for those who believe in Him. My story didn’t end with infertility. Oh, it may have altered it. It may have brought doubts, anger, and tears. But, my story is now filled with love, hope, grace, faith, and your sweet grandchildren.

Happy Mother’s Day. I love you…Caroline