Valentine’s Day

I read some things this week here and there online about Valentine’s Day. Some people think it’s overrated. We should love each other every day of the year, right?

If that’s the only day of the year you show love to your spouse, your family, then it reeks of phoniness to profess your love with words flowers and cards and a fancy night out. But if you all express your love in many ways all year long, I don’t think there is anything wrong with celebrating a little. I look at it the same way as birthdays and Christmas- those are times we often go to a little extra bother to make things special. If we did those special things every day, they wouldn’t be special anymore, now would they?

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That being said, I think it’s an awesome idea to randomly have special days interspersed throughout the year. Why can’t a husband bring his wife flowers in April or August when there is nothing special going on? It’s always fun to give or get a special note or card any time of the year. And why not use your china and have a candlelight supper sometime when there isn’t a special occasion?

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But sometimes life gets crazy and you put off that random special night… and suddenly it’s Valentine’s Day or someone’s birthday. Sometimes it’s the reminder you need to finally add a few special touches to the day.

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(Kierra wanted to use this packing paper I salvaged for them to make a V Day mural of sorts. I was so tickled by the tic-tac-toe games!)

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Last year I did a little decorating and we had a fancy little supper here at home. Kierra was so enthralled that she decided Valentine’s was her favorite time of the year- at least until her birthday and then Christmas rolled around! She had been looking forward to Valentine’s Day for quite awhile.

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That’s what’s so fun about having kids- their enthusiasm for the small things is (sometimes!) contagious. Without two little girls who love pretty things, I would be inclined to keep things simpler.

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And really, we did keep it simple- and cheap, at least on my part. For pretty much the cost of a strawberry cake mix and frosting and some chocolate chips, we had the makings of a special evening that thrilled the girls and made us happy, too.

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(the girls picked out the cake mix, the toppings, the heart-shaped pan)
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Cake. Candles. Hearts. Romantic instrumental music on Pandora. Homemade Sparkling Grape Juice. Goblets and China. What more could anyone want, really?

Well, besides a crazy family, that is!

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And seriously, the flowers Kendall bought for us didn’t hurt, either. I was secretly hoping for flowers- not in a “if you love me, you’ll buy me flowers” way, but in a “it’s been awhile and I’d like some again” kind of way. And he delivered- the roses are for me, the carnations for the girls.

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Gifts aren’t my love language, so I am never offended if Kendall doesn’t go all out- in fact, there are times that I have begged him not to get me anything, including flowers. I would rather he save money on gifts and bring home supper now and then when I just.can’t.do.it.any.more. But that makes these flowers all the more special!

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day to you all, and may you feel loved and blessed every single day of the year!

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Happy Birthday, Lauren

It’s been four years. Four short, very long years. It’s hard to imagine having a 4 year old running around here. I wonder what color her hair would be. It could be any color, really. If we could have a redhead, we could have a child with any other color from very blonde to almost black. I wonder if she’d have as many curls as her sisters do. Would her eyes be brown or green or blue? Would she be outgoing or a little shy? Would she be talkative or quiet? Would she have boundless energy, or would she rather look at books and play with dolls? Would’ve she gotten the stubborn gene or the fiery temper gene, or would she have escaped both?

We won’t ever know the answers to these questions, at least not until we get to heaven. I imagine her with medium brown hair, brown eyes, a little more petite than her sisters. She probably would have lots of energy judging by all the crazy acrobats she performed before she was born. I can’t even guess what her personality would have been like.

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When our Lauren was stillborn at 37 weeks for no apparent reason, it was the most devastating thing I have ever experienced, and it’s not like I was a stranger to grief. There’s something about losing a child, a part of yourself, that is just seems so wrong. There were so many times I thought I would never be happy again. There were days when the pain wasn’t so sharp, and I’d think that I was finally healing. And then there would be days at a time when the grief was overwhelming, and I wondered if it would ever stop hurting so much.

A very wise friend who had lost a child herself told me that it never really gets easier. But gradually there will be more and more good days, and the times that the pain is so crushing will get further and further apart. She was totally right, although at the time I wasn’t so sure. I have thought of what she said often, and 4 years later, I can say that I have found that to be true. Life has gone on, filled with all kinds of challenges and busyness and another little girl, who has healed our hearts in many ways.

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But we still miss her. Very early this morning, I dreamed that a tiny dark-haired, brand new baby was placed in my arms. I wanted her so badly, but I only held her for an instant and my dream moved on. Somehow, I don’t think it was a coincidence that I had that dream on Lauren’s birthday. My heart was so heavy this morning, even though I wasn’t really consciously thinking of Lauren. The heart remembers, even when the mind doesn’t.

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And Kierra misses her sister so much. It surprises me, really. She wasn’t even two at the time, but I realized how much she remembered 8 or 9 months later when I took her along to the doctor for my first visit with Emily. Apparently that triggered a flood of emotions and memories, and since she was much more articulate at that time, we realized how much she understood and how much she really loved and missed her baby sister.

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And she still does. She wishes to have Lauren to play with. She begs to go to heaven so she can see her. She hope that Lauren is still little when we get to heaven, because she doesn’t want the baby she remembers to be all grown up (I don’t either, to be honest, and I have no idea how that all works in heaven). Kierra probably cries more over missing Lauren than I do these days. It’s not often, but now and then it really hits her. She often draws pictures for or about Lauren. It’s really sweet and touching to me.

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So yes, it’s been 4 years and somewhere along the line, I think we accepted what we could not change, even though I can’t say when it happened. It’s easier to be happy that she is experiencing heaven’s glory and it’s easier to be comforted by the fact that she gets to be with Jesus than it was when the grief was too great to see past.

We know what it’s like to be carried. I am sure that everyone has heard of the poem “Footprints in the Sand.” There were times there is no other explanation for how we got through some of those times than that we were carried by the Lord. I am pretty sure there were times when I was like my two-year-old when I have to carry her somewhere she doesn’t want to go. She kicks and screams and protests, but sometimes I have to carry her anyhow, for her own well-being.

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It was also because of this that I have become a believer in the power of intercessory prayer. Kendall and I both experienced it at different times. He was having a hard time going on and moving past Lauren’s death a number of months afterward. Finally he told some men what he was going through, and asked for them to pray for him. He says that was the turning point for him.

When I was pregnant with Emily, I naturally had a lot of fear. We had no idea why Lauren died, and therefore no idea if it was likely to happen again. Most of the time, I managed could manage my conscious mind, but I couldn’t control my sub-conscious. I was having bad dreams almost every night about losing my unborn child in some way, and then I would wake up scared and traumatized, unable to go back to sleep. After I asked some ladies to pray for me, I never had those dreams again.

We will never be the same for our little girl’s very short life. We have learned so much. One of the big ways that it changed both Kendall and me is that we realize (not perfectly, but more than we did before) what matters and what does not. And it’s given us a deeper longing for heaven, because there is a little girl there that we never got to spend enough time with that we can’t wait to see.

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Happy Birthday, Lauren! It’s like your birthday every day… only better!