Victories, Losses, and Next Week #GideonBlue

Its needless to say that I am, not at all, a morning person.  I am a spoiled rotten Mommy who sleeps until 8 most days (mostly because my husband is amazing and partly because he is afraid of me before that hour).  But next week?  On Tuesday…I need to see the sunrise.  I need to be awake at 7:46, the time Gideon was born.  I feel the need to honor Gideon’s only 90 minutes with tears, and at the very least, my awakeness!  So here’s to setting my alarm clock for 5:30 am.  Is that even when the sunrises?  Remind me to Google that.

These days are surely interesting ones.  With one foot in joy at the news of a completely healthy baby boy growing inside my belly and the other still firmly planted in grief, missing and loving my one true Gideon that can never be replaced.  Yes these days are complicated ones, but then God is constantly teaching me through them.  Always teaching.

This morning I had to accept the fact that I am pretty sure Gideon’s tree, gifted to us by our precious friends, is sitting dead in my front yard.  I have been denying it for awhile.  I kept waiting for the first signs of life to show on its limbs, “Come on…just give me one bud…just one leaf!  The tree can’t die too!  I can’t take the tree dying too!”  But alas, spring has sprung and nothing.  Just dead tree limbs reminding me of how awful I am at gardening and how real and close death remains.

I frantically call my Dad to ask him to help me get a new one, I text the friends who gifted us the tree and confess that we’ve killed it, and then I cry…cry because how emotionally attached I was to the idea that at least the tree will remind us of his life.  Then comes the whisper, the gentle sweet whisper of my God who always shows up when I need Him to…”Maria, you must hold loosely to it all.  All of it.”  All of it?

What about my kids?  What about my husband?  What about my house?  What about our comfort?  What about our never can be replaced ever in the whole entire span of a lifetime hand and footprints of Gideon?  What about the also never can ever be replaced platter that has Gideon’s feet along with my other three kids?  What about our security?  What about our health?  What about, what about what about what about…

All of it, hold loosely to it.  Hold firmly only to one thing…ME.  The rest will then be okay too.”

Fact is, I’m pretty sure I convinced myself that Gideon’s last traces of being were represented in that tree.  I think I needed to lose it for reality to jolt me into place…Gideon’s last traces of being can never die.  He is in me.  He is in my children.  He is forever in the hearts of all those whose lives he touched, and no lack of watering can ever take that away.  Not only that, sweet Gideon goes where we go.  Its like my daughter said, “Every time I see a beautiful sky it makes me think of Gideon.  Like he is right here with us.”  To God’s provision, whether it be in skies, or friends, or miracles or mail…to that I will firmly hold.

And then comes God’s provision in all of the above…through my miracle mail today from a friend.  Like I said, today was an emotional day.  Its funny to me how God notices what I need before I even realize I need it.  After driving around to carpools and pickups for what seemed like hours, I went to grab the mail.  Out came a mysterious package from a name I did not recognize, what I thought was a medical bill, and another random seemingly junk mail item.

Seriously, no really...I stared at this thing for 40 minutes before opening it.  I wanted to soak up its blueness, its mystery, and its perfect timedness.  Lovely in every way.

Seriously, no really…I stared at this thing for 40 minutes before opening it. I wanted to soak up its blueness, its mystery, and its perfect timedness. Lovely in every way.

I stared at the package for, what was probably, an awkwardly long amount of time.  Again with my crazy brain, I think I really believe God sends me mail.  I open it up.  Its a beautiful GideonBlue wrapped package with a note, “Dear Maria, Hi!  I follow your blog and have been praying for you for the last year…My heart feels with you since I’m a believer, Mom of four, and lover of babies.  I know this anniversary of Gideon is HARD.  I’ve sent along a little something from the store I work at for baby Samuel’s arrival.”

Sweet Jane, words cannot express how perfectly needed and timely your gift of encouragement and love arrived.  So perfect!  And in fact, little Samuel’s first precious gift.  The first sign in our home that a baby is actually coming, that it just might be happening.  Jane, you are simply the bestest!

Jane at http://learningjane.blogspot.com you are an angel sent from God.  Your gift is perfect and has helped this Momma heal just a little bit more.

Jane at See Jane Learn you are an angel sent from God. Your gift is perfect and has helped this Momma heal just a little bit more.  P.S.  I hope you don’t mind me plastering it all over my blog, I felt it deserved ample plastering.  You can find gifts like these at her children’s gift boutique – Charlie Barnes Kids

The other two pieces of mail?  Well the “medical bill” was actually a small check from the doctor reimbursing us for an over payment (say what??? that happens?) and the “junk mail” was a rewards card from Dave’s work from a job well done.  Now God is just showing off.  I love when God sends mail.

In this life, in my life, there holds a series of victories and a series of losses.  None really outweighs the other and many of them seem equally as important.  Some lay me out and threaten despair and hopelessness.  Others perk me up and give me small things to get me through the next moment or day.  Through all of it is my Maker, weaving His perfect story through both the heartache and the rejoicing and its because He is fully trustworthy that even the losses will not remain.

Next Tuesday, March 31st is Gideon’s birthday.  Have I mentioned that I cannot wait??  Okay, yes, I think I have mentioned it plenty.  And don’t forget to #GideonBlue your Gideon Blue wearing!  Yes Nana, you can email me the picture too to mariafurlough@gmail.com.

In the awesome name of Jesus, who loves you and me enough to die and live again…may both your losses and victories be divinely woven because you’ve gripped tightly most fervently onto Him.

 

My Death Perspective

I remember counting down the days to Gideon’s arrival like it was yesterday.  I remember constantly going back and forth, “Was it a count down to bringing in a life or a count down to saying goodbye to one?”  It was both…but where was my countdown?  Where was my focus?

Even today I have a countdown still, and big on my calendar it says “Gideon’s Birthday.”  March 31st, his birthday, his last day, his only day.  I’ll never forget a story from a friend that never really made much sense to me until these days.  As one mom held her dying newborn baby, her friend having lost her own child at 3 whispered, “Oh sweet Mommy…I wish you had more time…”  The mom holding her baby looked up at her friend, in shock and said, “More time?  But doesn’t that make it all the more painful?”  “Oh,” the other woman said, “I couldn’t be more thankful for every waking moment I had with my child.  I’ll savor each day forever.”

Shoot!  Leave it to me to want to show you my calendar (cause I love it that much), only to realize the day after Gideon's birthday embarrassingly holds my visit to court. Blast.  Well before you probably didn't even notice and I'm sure you did now,  But that's life right?  Don't we all forget to register our vehicles for 6 months after they are expired???

Shoot! Leave it to me to want to show you my calendar (cause I love it that much), only to realize the day after Gideon’s birthday embarrassingly holds my visit to court. Blast. Well before you probably didn’t even notice and I’m sure you did now, But that’s life right? Don’t we all forget to register our vehicles for 7 months after they are expired???

My husband and I often debated, if God offered us more time with Gideon would we have taken it.  My answer was always resoundingly yes and since then my death perspective has never been the same.  I used to spend a lot of my minutes fearing death.  Fearing loss, fearing sickness, fearing the ultimate pain of losing a child.  I would run away from sad stories and stand virtually unable to handle stories about death.  I would run, afraid and weary.  And afraid and weary I lived, wondering when the hammer would fall, when tragedy would strike.  Oh the minutes I wasted.

I often think of that Mom and what she said about the days she had with her three year old and I want to live in those days too.  I want to capture all the happy and healthy days.  I want to soak them in and seep them up and not waste a single second of them on worry.  Our minutes of life are the only ones we get to count, for in life eternal there is no quantifying.

Gideon had 90 minutes, so far I’ve had 17,154,587…but in the end when its all over, that number will all be a wash and forever will simply be forever.  I have 5 children, 1 husband and I have no idea how many minutes they will have, but my heart focus will be on their lives not waiting on death and because my God is my God I can rest assured that Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

I cannot tell you the joy that fills my heart.  It is such a freeing and precious way to live.  I think for me it is even more magnifying because there is a distinct before and after.  B.G. and A.G. (if you will) Before Gideon and After Gideon.  I excitedly put his birthday up on that calendar.  I bought a star cake pan just for him and we have a whole day of family festivities planned.  Already I filled with excitement about YOUR GIDEON BLUE…so many people are planning outfits and I simply cannot wait.  (don’t forget to #GideonBlue your picture or email it to me @ mariafurlough@gmail.com  I want to see them all!!)  It is such a gift to live this way, such a constant pathway of peace.

Yes, its true, the tears will always come in their time and when death does knock on our door again I will be none the happy person to open it.  Yet the joy remains still and in this moment, we will keep death in perspective.

Samuel 22 weeks verse

My sweet three year old son Aaron said to me the other day, “Mommy, is Gideon the same as Samuel?”  Surely being 6 months pregnant with a baby boy has got to be confusing for him and I loved that he asked me.  “Aaron,” I said, “Both Gideon and Samuel are your little baby brothers, but no they are not the same.  Gideon was born last year and he got to be with us for a short time before he when to Heaven to live with Jesus.  Samuel has not been born yet, you will get to meet him soon.”  Two little baby boy lives, closely linked in time, family, and age…but thank you God that each so uniquely special and different and each will be savored during each moment on this earth, with humble excitement towards the limitless minutes in the next.  And thank you God that those minutes are without limit.

Never Forgetting…

It’s not easy, sometimes, to bring myself back to those days.  The days, last year, when everything (though hard) was crystal clear.  Even now, 6 months pregnant with Baby Samuel, I look back and wonder “How on earth did I do that?”  Every time I step foot into public the questions come by the drolls “When are you due?” “What are you having?” “What number is this for you?”  Each question brings me back to last year, remembering how hard I tried to bite my lip, answer the questions, and then utterly lose it in the car.  Yes its true, God gave me strength endurance during those days that even for me now is hard to believe.

I am so thankful I kept track.  I am so thankful I wrote things down.  On the days that I doubt, on the days I wonder if its all really going to be okay…I go back and read the supernatural presence God provided to me and my family during those days.  I look back to remind myself whats really important in this life and to press on, encouraged, at how mighty God truly is.

Below, I reflect back on those days reading first hand what it was like.  But its amazing how perfectly God has been tying in these days to those days.  This past Sunday the worship team, of course, played “Oceans” by Hillsong and earlier this week my husband found this video that most perfectly articulates times like these (make sure to watch until the part when John Piper speaks, its the best part in my opinion):

 

 

I Never Want to Forget (Posted March 18th 2014):

Two weeks.  I literally cannot believe it.  I never thought I would be here.  I never thought these days would come, yet here I am awaiting the days to say hello and goodbye to my sweet fourth child.

If you would have told me in November that come March 18th I would still be pregnant with Gideon I think I would have vomited in disbelief and fear.  Every bit of me wanted to shortcut this pain and I never thought I could make it this far.  Now, as these days of carrying Gideon are drawing to an end, I cannot imagine life any different.  My sweet unborn baby has been used by God to show me so many things and he has given me so many gifts.  Its these that I pray I never lose sight of.

I never want to forget Gideon’s precious kicks and how gradually, over time, I went from dreading them to savoring them.  After the diagnosis Gideon’s kicks reminded me of loss and death, little reminders of what I was not going to have.  But now I savor every one of those kicks and I am thankful that God used these past months to change my perspective.  The pain of losing Gideon now feels trumped by the joy he has brought to me and my family.  How amazingly God has used his little life, and the shortness of it, to bring gifts to so many.  His kicks remind me of that.

Gideon took a picture with his little friend (nicknamed "Lil Chef") who is due in August.

Gideon took a picture with his little friend (nicknamed “Lil Chef”) who is due in August.

I never want to forget how to focus, each day, on what is truly important.  During this season of pain and sadness I kind of forgot what it feels like to worry, fear, or stress out about the mundane.  None of it mattered anymore.  How could it?  All the things that I used to lose sleep over, get impatient about, or frustrated over no longer seemed of any importance.  My life became narrowly focused on crying out each moment for God’s strength and appreciating my husband and children.  Even seemingly big things like finances, job interviews, and hitting the house with our car (yes it was me, I am unashamed) got immediately shoved into their places…in the grand scheme of things is it really that important?  Not now anyway and I pray not ever again.  Gideon showed me, without a shadow of a doubt, what is truly important during the minutes we’ve been given on this earth.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. " Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. ” Romans 8:28

I never want to forget how to cling to God’s promises for dear life.  So many mornings, when I felt like I couldn’t go on, I would open God’s word and just pray for something, anything to help me take one more step forward.  God’s word came alive and became real.  Time and time again His promises were the only thing I had left and they never let me down.  This time also proved to me that His promises are real and true.  Will He come through like the Bible says He will?  Is it true that He is a stronghold in times of trouble?  Is it true that He will never leave me or forsake me?  Can He really work all for the good for those who love Him?  Can you God?  Will you?  Yes.  Yes!  and Yes.

 

“Why do I put myself in jeopardy
    and take my life in my hands?
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
    I will surely defend my ways to his face.
Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance,
    for no godless person would dare come before him!”

Job 13:14-16

He’s Everywhere

March 1st hit me hard.  I think I woke up with tears in my eyes that morning, and sometimes there is just no sugar coating.  I dug around my heart a little to find out if there were any layers to my tears.  Any underlying, deeper reasons for my crying…I couldn’t find not a one.  I simply miss my boy.  Its just pain from loss, and its not “okay” in the fact that its “okay” to lose a baby but it is okay because pain and tears are usually what come when sad things happen in life.  That’s just it.  Simply put, this month I am just really missing my Gideon.

Sunday at church of course they played In Christ Alone, which I posted about last year here in A Miracle 2:00am Phone Call, but basically there is a line in the song that gets me every time…

From life’s first cry to final death.

All encapsulated one sentence should not be able to sum up a person’s life, but for Gideon and babies like him the line of this song is all that at the same time.  One moment that brings your child in and the next moment that brings him out, and so March began with the stark reminder that yes, it hurts to lose someone you love.  

But my goodness, this God of ours, He’s is gracious and He knew I was going to need Him this month (not that I don’t always need Him but in all honesty my neediness level does ebb and flow) and He showed up many times throughout the course of that day and I know He is going to continue to do so.

Later that night Dave and I headed to a concert, one of our favorite artists Chris Tomlin.  In the middle of the concert, Chris did a question and answer with the audience.  Comical questions came and went and it was, if nothing else, entertaining to listen to his stories.  Then came the question, the question that nearly knocked me off my chair.  Chris Tomlin reads, “Chris, this time two years ago we lost our newborn baby.  At the funeral we played your song Sovereign… would you play it for us now?”  These are the lights that filled the stadium…

IMG_2593

#GideonBlue

 

Though the tears flowed heavy and the chest sobs beat, I was thankful so thankful for a God who gifts us with sweet moments.  Moments to remember that He knows our hurt.  Moments to remember my son.  Moments to sit and hurt, because sitting and hurting brings just a tiny bit of healing.  Moments to realize how unalone I am, and how so many of us suffer through our days in hurt. Moments to remember how intimately God knows me.  Moments to thank God that Gideon might not be here, but he is far from being dead.

There is no sugar coating going on here.  My seven year old daughter said it best, “When I think of Gideon I feel a little bit of happy and a little bit of sad.”  And so that is what our days look like right now, we waiver from skipping through Party City to re-blingafy Gideon’s gravesite to fighting over who gets to sleep with Gideon Bear (Mommy included).

Aaron, my youngest, skipped through the cemetery saying "Yay this is where we let go all those balloons!"  Never did I ever imagine that a graveyard could be a joyfitul place to go, but for us it is.  I mostly love the pinwheel that sits in Gideons marker.  Is

Aaron, my youngest, skipped through the cemetery saying “Yay this is where we let go all those balloons!” Never did I ever imagine that a graveyard could be a joyful place to go, but for us it is. I mostly love the pinwheel that sits in Gideon’s marker. Is it weird that I literally feel him with me every time it spins?  And I swear to you it will blow even when there is not a stitch of wind in the air.  Also, in case you are wondering, it was Dr. Seuss week at school and my oldest son was the Grinch.  Yes, I took him to the dentist like that too.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,”  Ecclesiastes 3:1&4    And can I get an “Amen” to going through these seasons all in one day??  Amen to that.  Bring on the dancing and the crying, all at the same time.

As I was speaking to a group of girls talking about life the other day, some had hit tragedy and loss in the past years of their lives and asked me pointed and bold questions.  The fun ones like “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” or “How can I trust God if He didn’t answer my prayers?”  In the past, I used to attempt to answer these types of questions and wrap them up with pretty pink bows.  Because surely there is always a way to wrap everything up in good right?  Wrong.  And as I sat there, heaviness in the room pounding, I had no eloquent answers or offerings.  No pretty pink bows this time, only tear soaked blue ones.  What I do know, what I can offer, is that through the sadness God sends us new songs when we need them.  The pain and the tears of this life come, and if you know someone who is hurting I pray that you run to them.  Not away from them but toward them, not offering pink bows or wisdom just love, hugs, and friendship.

If its you, if you are the one in the hurt and in the pain, I would love the chance to hear your story and just be a listening ear.  You can reach me at mariafurlough@gmail.com.  Also, I pray this prayer and sing this song for you:

This month we are celebrating the life of Gideon in many ways and we would love for you to join us.  All of the details can be found here: As Gideon’s Birthday Approaches

As Gideon’s Birthday Approaches…

I can hardly contain myself.  I am both out of my skin sad and out of my skin excited that Gideon’s birthday is approaching.  Its a constant marriage of joy and sorrow that words can hardly express.  But is real and its there, the tears are flowing heavier and more often but this proud Momma’s heart cannot wait to celebrate the life of her baby son.

As this time of year approaches I find myself going back to last year.  In my mind reflecting over and over on what these days were like.  What I was thinking and feeling, and the heaviness that came with knowing what was to come.  Gideon was coming.  Gideon was going to die.  What would it be like?  How would I handle it?  How would I make it through?  Would I die from pain?  Would my family ever be the same?  All these questions and wonderings that came…and now…now I can reflect back.  Reflect back with partial (never full) sanity and say with confidence, “God is good, and so was my sweet son Gideon.”

I have plans.  I hope you will come alongside of us in them, but they are mostly there to give this grieving family something productive to do with our feelings.  Something to do with our missing and our longing.  Something to act on when you want to be planning a first birthday party, but instead will be letting go of balloons at a gravesite.  We are good, God has brought us through. But still this time is complicated and messy and so we are praying for God’s full hand of movement and grace to be upon this month of March.

Here are our “plans:”

1.  My husband and my daughter have deemed March “A month to touch the lives of others the way Gideon touched ours.”  Complete with a day by day calendar of who we want to love on and pray for, we are spending March being so thankful for the people God has placed in our lives.

2.  March will be a month for me to reflect back.  I want to go back and re-post some of my writings before Gideon came.  Each Tuesday in March will hold a different one.  Too many times it felt like someone else was writing them and there is so much weight in the words of a desperate woman, which I was.  Desperate and on my hands and knees daily, I want some of that to refresh our souls this year too.

3.  I am finally going to do something with video of Gideon’s moments here on earth.  The video camera has sat in a locked box for 11 months.  I haven’t known what to do with it or when.  This month, I want to watch it, remember it, and share it.

4.  YAY the one I am most excited for!!  March 31st will be Gideon Blue day!  No matter where you are or what you will be doing, will you join us in wearing Gideon Blue??  I would love to compile the pictures as a memorial to Gideon, but more than that, a memorial to what he taught us through his short but powerful life.  If you are on Facebook or Instagram you can post your picture with #GideonBlue or you can email them to me at mariafurlough@gmail.com and I will post them on my blog.  I can’t wait, I can’t wait!  If you would join us in celebrating Gideon this way it would mean the world to us and I will put some refreshers up as we move closer to.

See that little blue star on Gideon's hat?  Say hello to the "original" Gideon Blue.  Since then it has become our family color, our physical reminder of all things Gideon.  When worn it brings peace, perspective, strength, and joy.  It brings a colorful reminder that God's goodness and love can penetrate to the deepest and darkest of places.

See that little blue star on Gideon’s hat? Say hello to the “original” Gideon Blue. Since then it has become our family color, our physical reminder of all things Gideon. When worn it brings peace, perspective, strength, and joy. It brings a colorful reminder that God’s goodness and love can penetrate to the deepest and darkest of places.

Since Gideon was born Gideon Blue has pleasantly followed us every where we go.  From my daughter's school uniform to my son's and nephew's basketball team (coached by their Daddies)...Gideon blue goes where we go.  Its funny, before Gideon I would have considered myself a "pink" girl, but now no other color holds my heart more.

Since Gideon was born Gideon Blue has pleasantly followed us every where we go. From my daughter’s school uniform to my son’s and nephew’s basketball team (coached by their Daddies)…Gideon blue goes where we go. Its funny, before Gideon I would have considered myself a “pink” girl, but now no other color holds my heart more.

5.  As a family we will be dining on a Gideon Blue star cake as well as sending up balloon gifts to our beloved baby.  True confession?  I didn’t per say lie to my kids, but I did choose to pretend that the balloons do make it all the way up to heaven.  We debated and chatted and I want to just blissfully naively pretend that maybe, just maybe, they do get that far.  Afterall, how many fallen balloons do you seeing laying around the ground??? ;)

Yes, it is both good and hard.  All of this comes with a certain level of irony.  How do you celebrate the tragedy of a life cut so short?  How is there celebration at all when baby does not have the chance to live?  Its true.  These questions and truths are some of the hardest of this life.  I find solace and thankfulness that Gideon’s birthday comes a midst Lent.  A time when we prepare and get ready to both mourn the death and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, while at the same time expectantly waiting for the Sunday when He rises again!  A vivid reminder that there is life in death when we believe.  That God makes beautiful things from the ashes of this lifetime.  I can let the ashes bury me, or I can wait, eyes wide open for Sunday.  

For this month, I will weep and I will laugh.  I will mourn and I will celebrate.  I will both linger and let go.  I will reflect in both sadness and gladness.  Will you come with me?