When Gratitude Opens Our Eyes

16 Nov

It’s been 18 years ago today.

That day that we were able to meet our daughter, Victoria Rose, even though her soul had already been carried to heaven.

The truth is I don’t think about her every day. Not even every week. On the other hand there are times when the grief feels almost fresh and I surprise myself by breaking down crying at unexpected moments. Like when my son got married and my daughter-in-law’s mom helped her into her wedding dress and I realized I’d never get to do that with my daughter. Or that November when I recognized that she would have been getting her driver’s license. Or years ago when I would wander through the little girl dress section at the local department store around Easter and pick out the dress I would have put her in.

The thing about stillbirth is you don’t have a lot of memories. The ones you have are precious- feeling the baby move inside you, seeing the baby on the ultrasound, picking out all the things, the anticipation. Instead of being left with lots of memories and missing those things attached to the memories, you are left with “what if.”

What if she had lived? What would our life have been like with three boys and then a girl? What would she have been like?

This is what I think: She would have had long blonde hair. I think she would have been a princess but not in the pink and frilly dress type. No, she had three older brothers who weren’t really into babying anyone. So I think she would have been the princess superhero. She would have fought evil along side of those superheroes growing up. She would have tried to keep those three in line and I’d like to think that she might have succeeded a bit. She would have been strong- you have to with three older brothers. I’d like to think that she would have been compassionate and loving and adventurous. It would have been fun watching her blossom into whatever God made her to be.

This year it seems harder. That date. Nov. 16. Perhaps it is because we would have been about done with the growing up years. She would have been thinking about prom and graduation and college and dreaming of her life out in the world. We would have been getting ready to launch her praying with everything we had that she was ready. Today there is a bit more sadness as I realize that the little girl I mourn would not be so little anymore but would have been a young woman.

In Sojourn, a community women’s Bible study I lead, we’ve been talking about gratitude. Today the topic is “Gratitude Opens Our Eyes.” I believe that with all my heart. It opens our eyes to see God. I’ve experienced it over and over again.

Today let me count the gifts. Let me name the gifts with a heart full of gratitude for all Victoria’s life brought me:

  1. I learned how to have compassion at a deeper level especially for those experiencing loss.
  2. I was able to hold my daughter.
  3. God’s peace was so evident in the room that day.
  4. God’s peace followed us in the days after- literally feeling Him hold me at night as I wept.
  5. I have a daughter.
  6. Her life inspired others to turn to God. There are many stories surrounding that.
  7. Unfolding her little ear that was folded over.
  8. Her tiny perfect fingernails. Her tiny perfect fingers.
  9. I am filled with love when I think of her. . . not bitterness.
  10. Kind nurses and doctors that day.
  11. Two ornaments that hang on my Christmas tree made by women who understood loss.
  12. Her tiny perfect mouth.
  13. Those who cried with us, held us, brought us food, sent us cards. Who were present with us.
  14. The picture of my boys at church praying for us with their heads on each others shoulders while we were at the hospital. So glad someone took it and gave it to me. Precious.
  15. The reminder that I’m a sojourner here on earth. This isn’t forever.

As it happens over and over- that as I’ve listed these grateful things, a miracle occurs.

My eyes are opened to see God. In the midst He was there, He is here.

 

Life is a gift. Even if it only lasts a moment.

A Few Things About Gratitude

14 Nov

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Gratitude slows us down.

We have to pause to think. To appreciate. To name the very thing we are so grateful for.

Gratitude gives us perspective.

Tired of the same clothing? Or thankful we have something to wear.

Embarrassed at the rattle trap vehicle? Or thankful that we have transportation.

Gratitude changes our heart.

It takes the focus off ourselves and onto God.

Research has shown that we receive 3000 messages a day telling us that we aren’t happy, we don’t have enough or we aren’t enough. That’s a reason to make sure we are incorporating practices of gratitude into our lives to counteract these messages. Here is a place to start.

Some gratitude practices:

  1. Write a letter to someone expressing gratitude. Maybe an old neighbor, a teacher, a friend- someone you haven’t seen in awhile. Let them know the difference they made.
  2. Keep a gratitude journal. Each day write five things you are thankful for.
  3. Sit quietly. Express gratitude for each sound you hear.
  4. Read Psalm 138. Let the words soak down deep.
  5. With a group of friends or around the Thanksgiving table with family, take turns answering these questions:

Name three of God’s gifts in this room.

Name someone who made a difference in your life.

Name something that made you laugh today.

What was your favorite part of today?

What two words would you use to describe the person on your right?

 

What are you grateful for today?

It’s Wedding Day

30 Jul

It was Christmas Eve. We had a surprise gift that year- a little guy coming 9 weeks early while we were out of town visiting family. I had a picture of him taped beside my bed while he fought for his life in NICU. I remember being scared to death. Would he make it? Would he have a future? Would I lose him?

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This 3 1/2 pound premie is now a  Children’s Pastor. He is funny and talented and energetic and thoughtful. He has brought us so much joy the last 22 years. I never imagined that day in the hospital bed that it would all turn out this way. But it did.  And today is his wedding day.

His fiance has been hanging around our home for almost five years now. They met in math class in high school- that first day he couldn’t take his eyes off her. So he pursued her like I’ve never seen anyone pursue someone. He was relentless. Somewhere along the way they fell in love.

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And our family fell in love with her.

Last September he drove her up to Duluth, Minnesota and along the North Shore stopping at Shovel Point. He led her out on a path overlooking Lake Superior, got down on one knee, and asked. She said yes. Some kind stranger recognized what was happening and quickly recorded the moment.

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Today they make it official but truthfully she has been a Goscha in our hearts for a long time.

It’s Wedding Day. The groom has left the house with his best men brothers and his groomsman cousin. My husband is upstairs- I can hear him moving around. And I’m sitting in a puddle of tears.

I’m overwhelmed with it all, I guess. How God has worked in our son’s life both physically and spiritually. I’m feeling like the most blessed mama in the world. I’m so full of gratitude for life and grace and love. I’m sad that our time with Zach in our home is closing but excited for the adventure he is beginning. I’m excited to welcome another daughter-in-law who has stolen our hearts. Sometimes it just feels like so much.

Today I will celebrate with incredible gratitude every single gift that God has given our family. It’s time to dry the tears. It’s time to move onto the next part of this great adventure of life and motherhood. It’s time to enter into this holy and sacred day with a full heart. engage city

Later today they will vow to serve God together. I’m not sure it gets any better than this.

 

Update: So this happened.

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Photo credit: Kallie Elizabeth Photography
Venue: Stillwater Historic Courthouse
Second shot with Jessica Stoe Photography