Choose Life Part 1

This is my daughter, Mila Rose. We were told at our 18 week and 5 day ultrasound that something was wrong with her heart. After an in-depth fetal echo the diagnosis was confirmed. Our baby girl had hypo-plastic left heart syndrome. She only had half of her heart.

Would her heart keep beating? Would she pass before birth? Would she die right after birth? Would she live to see her first birthday? Did I do this? Can we fix her heart? Those are the questions that flooded my head.

I never once asked if my baby was really a baby, she was. I never once asked if I was a mother, I was. We met with a specialist and after yet another confirmation of HLHS he gave us the option to terminate the pregnancy, he said it was ok to choose abortion. Not once, not even for a second did I consider it. Why? Because my baby was already a baby. Her heart may not have been whole but it was beating. I could feel her kicks. She was alive inside of me at 18 weeks 5 days.

Was it extremely painful to hear this news? YES. Was it extremely hard to accept the fact that I would grieve not having a baby with a whole heart? YES. Was my world suddenly dark and terrifying? YES. Did I cry out in utter helplessness? YES.

Did I consider aborting my baby? NO. God made Mila Rose exactly the way He wanted to. Choosing to continue the pregnancy was the only option for me because my baby was already in existence. She did not need to be outside of me to be considered alive. Would the road ahead be painful? YES. But I believe in a God who is in the details. He uses our pain and brings beauty from ashes. I am a better person because of Mila Rose.

Mila Rose was born on September 10, 2015 at 38 weeks and 1 day. She was beautiful. From the outside she looked perfect. She required two open heart surgeries to repair her heart. In the end we lost her to a sudden and massive brain bleed. In the end, her heart never failed. We got to spend 4 1/2 months with this precious child of God. Not once did I regret our decision to continue with our pregnancy. Not once did I regret the pain and heartache we all faced in choosing life. #chooselife #icantbesilent #beautyfromashes #missingmilarose #hlhs #heartwarrior

Two Years: Inhale, Exhale

February 12th, 2016.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

February 12th, two years ago, we dressed Mila in her most beautiful outfit. It was a delicate pink color and had a big beautiful rose on it. This outfit hung on the crib long before Mila was even born. It was going to be her going home outfit.  Although, in my prayers it was going to be our home, not her heavenly home.

I combed her silky dark hair and ever so gently placed a white flower bow in her curls. Part of me wanted to scoop her up but there was also something in me that knew it wouldn’t bring the same comfort it used to.

At the church we setup the picture boards, blankets, outfits and her favorite hair accessories.   We chose a delicate white basket for her to be placed in.  Pastor Rob and Pastor Steven led a beautiful celebration of life service. Annie sang Mila’s song and we celebrated our baby’s 4.5 months of life and rejoiced that Mila was with our heavenly Father in paradise. We shared Boston memories and then we welcomed our family and friends to meet our precious baby and say their goodbyes all in the same moments.

After everyone had their time with Mila, Matt and I joined the funeral home director as he wheeled Mila out to the car. Matt and I gave her one last kiss and spoke our final words over her. This was it. Finality. We closed the car door and in that moment began life without our Mila Rose.

February 12th, 2018.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

I listen to the steady breathing of our newborn baby boy as he sleeps. Nolan Matthew entered the world on November 16th, 2017 at 2:29pm weighing 7lb11oz. I had my third natural birth and Dr. Lipscomb who cared for me so well during Mila’s pregnancy delivered Nolan. Our baby is heart healthy and looks just like his sisters. He is perfect in every way and we are smitten. Thank you to everyone who prayed for him before he was even a twinkle in my eye.

This birth experience this time was different. The labor felt more intense and the pain more significant. My husband would argue this was the easiest labor thus far but I think a part of me was reliving my labor with Mila and the pain that came with each contraction was a physical reminder that she was no longer with us.

We spent the first few days in the hospital bonding as a family. It was my one wish that we not have visitors.  The first few days with Nolan felt sacred.  I needed to breath in his newborn smell and feel the steady rhythm of his heart.  I needed quiet and I needed space to both rejoice and grieve. I needed it to be just our family.  I have no regrets about our time in the hospital.

Brenna’s first visit was less than an hour after Nolan was born. He was born at 2:29pm and school let out at 3pm. It was perfect. She got to hold him and kiss him. Seeing the two of them together was witnessing answered prayers. I know Mila was looking down from heaven and smiling. I cherish those first hospital days of holding and snuggling our son.

After a short hospital stay, we were ready to go home. As I stood watching my family walk ahead of me down the hospital corridor, I realized how many times I had been in this scene but under very different circumstances.  I saw this same picture when they left Boston- only they were walking away from me, leaving with bags packed to get on a plane and fly hundreds of miles back home. We weren’t leaving as a family. Daddy wasn’t carrying a baby in a car seat. I remember Brenna would walk with suitcase in hand, turn around for one last “I love you, mama!” and smile as she walked away. But this time, I joined my family. I didn’t have to make the lonely walk back up to the CICU on 8S.  This time we took a baby with us and this time we didn’t have to say “see you later”. It amazes me how the same picture can entirely change meaning over time. Two years separate extreme pain and intense joy.

We arrived home and started our new chapter. I want to be transparent, the birth of a rainbow baby brings joy you didn’t know was possible, but it also stirs up pain in places you didn’t know existed. The what-ifs and what could-have-beens resurface. The longing for all of our children to be together will never go away. I have found myself seeing Mila in Nolan’s face. I have also wished Mila was here to dote on her baby brother as Brenna is doing. There is a tangible void felt in our family as a result of Mila’s absence.

The first few weeks of Nolan’s life I battled with strong emotions of anxiety, sadness, and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. My fuse was very short. I assumed this was all normal but after these feelings didn’t lift my best friend encouraged me to contact my OB.  I talked with my midwife and after discussing my symptoms with her I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I never had it with my previous pregnancies but as soon as I started the recommended medication (progesterone and eventually an anti-anxiety medication), I felt a weight lifted. I no longer wanted to remain isolated. I woke up with joy instead of anxiety.. Honestly, I did everything I could to avoid medication, but for now it’s helping me be a better wife and mom which to me is worth it.

I love, love, love the newborn phase and treasure each and every little thing.  I have a newfound perspective that makes the ordinary feel like a gift.  Holding my baby freely, giving him baths, letting him sleep on me, even changing his diapers. These are all things I now treasure. Nolan is a champion nurser and is covered in delicious baby rolls. His smile lights up a room and his giggle melts hearts. Once again I am in awe that God picked me to be this child’s mama.

On Sunday, February 4th we had the privilege of dedicating Nolan in front of our church family. I looked at Matt in the car on the way and exclaimed how happy I was. It was one of the few times since Mila’s passing that I have felt complete joy. Pastor Rob dedicated Mila to the Lord’s care nearly two years prior, almost to the day.  It was a dream come true to stand alongside Pastor Rob and hear him dedicate Nolan as well as our family and to have him include Mila in his dedication speech:


Pastor Rob, “It was about two years ago this last week that we lost Mila Rose. Today is a special day in this family’s life because looking over the banister of heaven I do believe based on Hebrews Chapter 12, it tells us we are being cheered on by those who have already made their heavenward journey. I believe she can be a part of this today as she looks at the beautiful thing God is doing. She understands fully, she sees the Lord fully and she rejoices in Nolan coming to the alter of the Lord today, so on this special day for us as a church family we not only share in the sorrow but in the rejoicing of the dedication of a child.”

Pastor Rob prayed Nolan would live out his name, “Noble Gift from God”. I was so proud in that moment standing next to Matt and Brenna, holding Nolan and feeling Mila’s presence with us. To God be the glory!

It’s also fitting that not only was Nolan dedicated nearly two years to the day that Mila was but our church decided to feature my story this month. Matt encouraged me for months to write my whole story and submit it.  I finally did it.  I’ve shared bits and pieces throughout my blogs but this is my story in its entirety, dating back to when I was an orphan in Colombia.

Please visit to read my story, ” Little Miracle, A Story of Big Faith”.

From saying goodbye to Mila to saying hello to Nolan… two years have carried us from sorrow to joy. Two years have led us to another chapter of the Lord’s plan for our family. I am grateful. I am hopeful. I am proud. Proud to know Mila’s name is spoken freely and often. Proud to have three beautiful children and a husband who provides for us and loves us. Proud to have a God who writes the best stories despite the difficult chapters.

I wake up each day thankful for the blessings God has poured upon us.  While grief is a never ending process, there is more space now for peace and laughter. and acceptance. The hard days still come, often out of nowhere. But I’m finding there are the sweetest Mila reminders if I just stop to look. Much to my surprise I still meet people to this day that prayed for us. People that recognize me, not as Lisa, but as Mila’s mom. I love those days. I’m encouraged when friends send cards on her heaven day and say her name. I am encouraged when our church chooses to print my story during Heart Month and Mila’s Heaven Month.  It’s in these gestures that I’m reminded that we are still held.

Life is messy. Life is hard. Life is unpredictable. Life is beautiful. If anything I’ve ever written has helped, encouraged or just touched you, please let me know. I’d love to connect with you.

Photos: Party of 5 and a brand new Nolan Matthew

With Love,

Mila’s Mom

The Mountain Top and The Valley Below

Why, God, Why?
This question has been on repeat in my mind lately. I’ve learned by now to never question the Lord’s ways. His ways are higher than mine. But as I sit on my patio listening to the birds sing their goodnight songs and the medley of crickets in the field chirp as if part of a grand chorus I am reminded that the answer to my question won’t ever come this side of heaven.

I’ll never know why God wrote the chapter where Mila comes to earth as a beautiful baby and then He ends the chapter abruptly by taking her back to be with Him. 4 months, is that really all we get? I wanted so much more.
But oh, I often praise God for taking her because it assures me that she is pain free and in glory. Isn’t that where we all long to be? On the really hard days don’t we all long for something more? A place filled with peace and joy and perfection? I have come to realize I am homesick for heaven. This is not my home. This is temporary. Mila is already home. She is with our Savior. That is something to celebrate despite my broken heart wishing she was still with us.
It’s amazing what can happen in 4.5 months. Mila’s 4.5 months on earth transformed my entire life. Her 4.5 months were powerful. I’ll never forget those 4.5 months. I treasure those 4.5 months.
This past week I’ve been having flashbacks. Flashbacks to good moments: the time I walked into room 29 to find her in clothes for the first time and in a big girl crib. She looked so very tiny. Flashbacks to the first time Joanna from music therapy came and sang songs over her. My heart melted into a puddle on the floor.
I’ve also had flashbacks of the hard moments: the time we almost lost her on October 22nd. We watched through the conference room window as our tiny baby lay white as a ghost surrounded by machines, seeing a pacing doctor who didn’t know what was wrong. Flashbacks to the moment she desaturated and I watched as an emergency intubation took place. I remember the nurse standing by my bed telling me it would be ok. I remember the night I heard pounding on my sleep room door. I feared the worst. I kept asking “Is she ok? Is she still with us?” That time they just needed my consent to insert a chest tube. That time she would be ok.
In general though, my memory is a complete mess. I often forget my keys in the door. I go to the store and come home with everything but what I needed. I think I started the dryer only to have my husband tell me the clothes are still wet. But somehow, I can recall nearly every moment of Mila’s 4.5 months. Even though some of those moments are very hard I would rather remember everything than forget it all.
4.5 months. It’s truly a milestone period for us. As I type this I have to share the news that I am now 4.5 months pregnant. We recently learned we are expecting a healthy baby boy. We are grateful and so in love with this new little life. Every time I feel him move I thank God for the privilege of carrying another child. I love him already, so much.
I have to be honest. I asked God for a little girl. I prayed His will be done but if He wanted my input I was on team pink. Truthfully, I wanted to use Mila’s things. I wanted to see another little girl in the same headbands and bows. I wanted another sister for Brenna. I wanted to use one of our favorite girl names. Another girl made sense to me.
A fellow bereaved mom recently shared with me that when she was pregnant after loss she desperately wanted a girl as well (she has a daughter in heaven). But what someone said to her really hit home, “You don’t want another girl, you want Lauren back.”
I swallowed hard after she shared that with me. Of course I would have loved a little girl but that wasn’t really what I wanted, I wanted our Mila back.
As we started the anatomy scan this past week I told the ultrasound tech we wanted her to write down the gender so we could find out the next day as a family on Matt’s birthday. She reminded us that babies aren’t always predictable in their movements but she would do her best to keep us from finding out. Well this baby moved around a lot and both Matt and I were pretty certain we already knew. Mid scan we changed our mind and had to find out that very moment. The tech smiled and confirmed our suspicions, “It’s a boy!”
We were all excited. The scan showed a healthy baby. I breathed a sigh of relief and left the appointment feeling thankful and hopeful. I spent the rest of the morning calling family and friends to share the news.
Everyone was thrilled. Many people told me they had been praying for the scan and just as many said they thought it would be a boy! I was still trying to wrap my head around this- a boy. We’re having a boy.
Even before the scan I talked to God about the possibility of it being a boy. I asked God for contentment whatever the gender. He answered. I feel proud to be having a boy. I am excited for a baby brother and to learn all things rough and tough and well, oh boy, I have a lot to learn.
So why have the last three days since the scan felt like some of my hardest yet? Because I miss Mila. I miss her with my whole heart. It’s hard to answer people’s well wishes with a squeal of delight over how excited I am. It’s not because I’m not excited, I am. I prayed for this baby. I can’t wait to meet this baby and hold this baby and look deep into his eyes. I can’t wait to love this baby with my whole heart. But right now something has been stirred up in me. Grief.
Grief has surfaced stronger than it has in awhile. The past 4.5 months have felt ok, even good most days. But seeing a wiggling baby on the monitor and in the same moment reliving moments of my pregnancy with Mila have made me sad. I’m excited but I’m also very sad. Sad that Mila isn’t here celebrating with us. Sad that it feels like forever until we will see her again. Sad that our family won’t be complete this side of heaven. It’s all very bitter-sweet.
I share this because I want people to understand why it’s hard for me to socialize sometimes. Why a grieving mother can be fine one day and want to curl up and hide the next. Why some days we can’t put on a smile because inside we want to cry a river. Why some days we can laugh and joke and others we are mad and irritated.
I admit I’m weak. I’m ok with that. If I could choose joy every single moment I would. That would certainly make life easier. But I can’t. God’s truth is that I am loved no matter what. His grace is sufficient for me, sins and all, feelings and all. Good days and bad days, He loves me.
I love having a God I can run to when I feel utterly alone and misunderstood. My God knows the depths of my pain and sees the peaks of my joy. He loves me in the valley and on the mountain top. What a comfort that is. When the world around me crumbles, He is the solid rock I stand on. There is no bad day bad enough to make my Savior run from me. It’s quite the opposite, my Savior runs to me and carries me when I can’t do the work of choosing joy.
I won’t get the answer to why God wrote our story the way He did but I will continue to praise Him. He knows exactly what we need and I am grateful He picked this baby boy for us.
Mila is still very much alive and she is mentioned daily in our home. She may not be here physically but her presence is most definitely with us. We love you to heaven and back times infinity, Mila Rose.
I pray I can somehow balance the bitter with the sweet and enjoy all the good that I know is in store. I want to choose joy and pray God gives me the strength to do so. But on the days I can’t, I’ll be content knowing He loves me and will never leave me.

~Mila’s Mom

One Year, One Month, One Day.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.” -John 16:20
Recently my husband and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary (it isn’t really until June) by taking a trip to San Francisco. In addition to spending a few days attending his annual work conference we enjoyed vineyard tours, delicious food and a tour of Alcatraz. It was a great trip. We haven’t spent that much uninterrupted time together in years, maybe even since before our oldest was born. I’m thankful we had time away to be together. It was good to explore a new city with my husband and escape reality for a little bit.

As with any vacation, re-entry into the regular routine has felt tough. I have felt emotionally drained. The plane ride home was especially hard. I looked out the plane window at the night sky and at the twinkling city lights below. From above everything below looked so perfect. Flying between the clouds made me feel close to Mila but at the same time it made her feel so very, very far away. I couldn’t hold back the tears so I let them stream down my cheeks. It’s incredible to me how strong the urge to hold her still is. Oh, the joy it would bring to have someone hand Mila to me again. Someday, Mila, someday.

Coming home has always been such a comfort in the past. I remember the joy that came with opening my front door after time away, tossing myself onto our bed and feeling so safe. This overwhelming feeling of peace would rush over me. But now coming home is filled with the reminder that I have to choose joy, choose to be intentional, choose to keep fighting the good fight- every single minute of every single day. I never imaged I would have to consciously put so much effort into being joyful- it used to come so naturally. These are the parts of grief that are the hardest- knowing you have to choose something over and over again because it doesn’t come on its own anymore.

As of today I have survived one year, one month and one day without Mila. Nothing about this time has been easy. I’ve had days where I felt abandoned, forgotten and hopeless. I started relying on medication to help ease the anxiety. I’ve wondered if I fit in anymore. I’ve questioned my purpose in life. I’ve relived the pain of those final hours with Mila and I’ve asked God why she had to go so soon. I’ve read and re-read the autopsy report looking for something to give us more answers. I’ve held her photo and cried telling her I wish there was more I could have done for her to keep her here longer. These are the kind of moments that have filled the time in between snuggling Brenna, laughing with my husband, being carried by friends and family, praising God during worship at church and seeing a rose and thanking God for the beauty He created when He created Mila. My story is a tapestry of beauty and pain woven together every minute of every day.

This new life, after losing Mila life, is hard to get used to. The more time passes the more I think I should be closer to being all better… but I know there will never be an end-goal of being all better. That’s not the way this life works- not for anyone and especially not for me. Tragedy will come for us all, it’s just a matter of time.  The difference comes when we choose who to find our hope in. Man will disappoint us but God never will. That is why I will continue to walk this journey of grief walking as closely as I can to my Creator and Savior.

I have a canvas print of Mila in our bedroom. It’s one I won’t publicly share but it’s an image that brings me more peace than I can put into words.  The photo was taken just after Mila passed. She has a little lamb snuggled up to her cheek. She looks so incredibly peaceful. Every detail of her dolly face is perfect. She had the best hair day as she entered heaven, by the way. I adore how you can tell her hair was silky soft and how her hair curls up on the sides. I look at that photo and I see pure peace and beauty. I’m grateful to have this peaceful memory of her. Many parents don’t get to have a peaceful earthly ending so I don’t take for granted the gift that this image is.

God has used our grief this past year to bring comfort to others and to share of His love. Mila’s life continues to impact others. Please don’t hesitate to send us names of families who might need encouragement or support as they walk through their own CHD journey. We love helping others and sharing whatever we can to make their walk easier.

I’m excited to share that I have been accepted into the Capturing Hopes Photography program.  This is a national volunteer photography program that provides photography services to families with children in the NICU. I will start photographing NICU  families at our local hospital in the next few months.  I can’t wait to love on those babies and to bring encouragement to their families. I’m grateful for this opportunity!

I want to publicly thank everyone who has supported us this past year, month and day. We wouldn’t be where we are without you. Our family has been so well loved. Please keep saying Mila’s name. It doesn’t make me sad, it brings me joy. It reminds me that her life made a difference and continues to. It means so much to a grieving parent, no matter how much time has passed, to hear their child’s name.

Mila, Mila, Mila,

You are loved, deeply missed and always remembered. Sending hugs and kisses up to heaven. Mama, Papa and Big Sister are better because of you.  xoxo

The Dark Place and Restoration. 

This past weekend I had the privilege of joining 29 other brave moms who no longer carry their children in their arms but whose love for them is eternal. We all share the common thread of grief. Jessica Lindberg of the Ethan M Lindberg Foundation hosted the retreat which was held at the Abbey Resort in Fontana Wisconsin. Her son Ethan’s life and memory have spurred so much good, it’s beyond comprehension. This retreat is just one way that Ethan and his mom Jessica have helped to bring about positive change. I am forever grateful for Jessica’s heart, her story and especially for her son Ethan, without whom none of this healing could have occurred. Ethan’s story continues in the healing of each person present at the Restoring a Mother’s Heart Retreat.
I believe many of us came to the retreat as women who felt hopeless, angry, sad, anxious and fearful of not being able to ever find joy again. We wondered if all the brokenness could ever be restored. We questioned if life would ever feel full again. Some feared they would lose their connection with their child if they moved beyond the sadness. Others were uncertain of where their children are now, are they happy? Tom Zuba, author of “Permission to Mourn, A New Way to Do Grief” and a speaker at the retreat has said goodbye to his 18 month old daughter, 43 year old wife and 13 year old son. I was so thankful for the experience and perspective he provided for us at the retreat. Grief does not have to mean we live and stay in the darkness. Every person present at the retreat has lived through The Dark Place. Many felt like we were still in The Dark Place. But oh how just a few days and truths can change everything!
The weekend was filled with deep, sacred conversations in a safe and sacred space.To know that we could openly share without judgement and with complete and total understanding was such a gift. Tom Zuba asked difficult but necessary life questions about our understanding of God, heaven and our choice to choose the path of peace or the path of pain. Lexi Berhndt, author and creator of the On Coming Alive project, shared her personal story of pain and suffering and finally redemption through the life and memory of her sweet son, Charlie. Sara Ruble helped us to understand we can still have relationships with our children even though they are not physically present with us. Bridgett reminded us to care for our own bodies and to find moments of stillness and peace. Jessica Lindberg asked us to accept the invitation to keep moving forward and to keep sharing our children’s stories.
I am amazed at the power of a weekend. I left my home eager to learn and grow. I was grateful for the chance to attend but also filled with doubts, fears and worry that I would come home as the same broken, lonely, sad, angry and hopeless person I left as. Through the teaching, conversation and community of this weekend I can say I came home hopeful, grateful and filled with joy. I had the opportunity to not only share Mila’s story but to hear about 29 other amazing stories. Our stories have power. They have the power to change us and others.
Mila’s life was beyond beautiful. It taught me I had strength beyond what I felt I was capable of. But her death broke me. I was shattered into a million pieces. It left me questioning everything. My heart ached to understand. My heart longed to be whole again. I wanted to find purpose in the pain. Hearing the testimonies over this weekend left me feeling validated, understood and hopeful. If you are walking in The Dark Place, let me encourage you. You are not alone. All 30 of us women were united in so many hard feelings and experiences and now after the retreat we are united in hope. 
Miracles. We have all prayed for a miracle. Save her. Save him. Let me keep them. 
An excerpt from Tom Zuba’s book, Permission to Mourn, A New Way to Do Grief talks about miracles:
Author Marianne Williamson defines a miracle as

 “a shift in perception.” 
That simple.

That profound.
I have grown to love this definition of a miracle.
This definition of a miracle gives meaning to my prayer.
Not to change the perfect mind of God

but rather to change me

my perception…”- Tom Zuba
My perception has been changed! That is part of my miracle. I learned this weekend about the importance of using my grief to teach me and to change my perception. I must feel my feelings, I must visit The Dark Place again so I can sort what truth is and so I can discover what my next step is. What will I do with this pain, my story, Mila’s story? My hope is I will encourage and walk alongside others. Whatever we are walking through, we cannot do it alone. We were not designed to do it alone. I now have 29 other beautiful souls to journey with. I don’t feel isolated, alone or like I am losing it! I feel valued. I feel loved.
Mila’s life forever shifted my perception. I consider that a gift. We all agree we would not wish our situations on anyone, but to know the pain and grief that comes with saying goodbye to a child also comes the life shattering moments that change us, in many ways for the better. We all have a new lens with which to view the world. It’s a lens that places people and relationships and stories at the top and lets the non important things of this world fall away. I have never been so grateful for this new lens. One that makes beauty out of ashes.
Thank you to Jessica, Tom, Sarah, Lexi, Bridgett and everyone present at the retreat. You have changed my life. You have given me eyes to see and ears to hear. My faith has been strengthened. I believe God is a God of details. He brought each person to this retreat specifically. To learn, to grow, to share, to grieve together. Now we can step out in confidence knowing that our stories matter. We can have the courage and strength to share our stories and to honor our children by acknowledging and working through The Dark Place but also in knowing that we do not have to remain there, we can enter into joy and accept the invitation to continue with our next steps! 
We all received gift bags thanks to generous donors. One of mine was a beautiful bracelet that read “Smile, Breath and Go Slowly.” I think that’s just what I’ll do. 

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share more of my story with you. 
Much love, 


Happy 1st Birthday, Mila Rose! 

Happy 1st Birthday in heaven to our darling Mila Rose. You will forever be one of our greatest gifts. We celebrate you today and every day!  
Sending birthday kisses to heaven with full knowledge that you are being held and loved and treasured. We can’t wait to see you again! We love you!!! This photo was taken right before I got to hold you for the first time! 
“Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born.” 

Nancy Tillman, On the Night You Were Born

God’s Fixit Shop 

I gave Brenna a few choices for her nap time reading today. She selected a book titled Mr. Bell’s Fixit Shop by Ronne Peltzman from our Little Golden Book collection. It was the first time I had read it to her. 
As I started reading I felt God’s presence. It sounds silly, to have such a spiritual moment while reading a children’s book, but an excitement grew as I read these pages because I knew God had something for me in them. 

I have been wanting to write in honor of Mila’s 6 months in heaven but I had no idea how or where to start. God gave me just what I needed. 

I read aloud to Brenna:

“One afternoon, as Jill was helping Mr. Bell polish the front window, she asked, “What’s a broken heart?” 

“Well,” said Mr. Bell, “when you feel so sad that you think you’ll never be happy again, that’s when you know your heart is broken.” 

“Gee, ” said Jill, “I hope I never have a broken heart. 

It really is that simple. No one wants a broken heart. It sounds awful! But some of us don’t have a choice. In fact, none of us do. I believe and know that all of us at one point or another will suffer from a broken heart. A place of utter brokenness and sadness so deep we don’t know if joy will ever come again. A shattering of a once whole heart will leave us looking at a million shards. 
How do we go about fixing a broken heart? If only God had a Fixit shop! A storehouse of goodies just waiting to be used in unique ways to mend each and every broken heart. 

No two would be repaired the same way. Each heart would be broken in different places. The pieces wouldn’t go back exactly the same as they once were, that would be impossible. God would have to combine new pieces with the old to make the repair just right. 
Yes! We could simply take our broken hearts to God’s Fixit shop and leave them with Him for a little bit. He would work, tirelessly and without ever giving up hope that a repair could indeed be done, and then He would present our new hearts to us. 

They would begin to beat again and happiness would return. They would look and feel very different. But in so many ways our repaired heart would be so much better than our former whole heart. The imperfections would serve as a reminder of how far our little hearts had come. 

But there is a catch, our newly repaired hearts would have to go back to God’s Fixit Shop frequently, because you see, one cannot simply make one repair and call a heart fixed. A broken heart requires many, many visits to God’s Fixit shop. 

While it sounds like a made up fairly tale world, that God would really have a Fixit shop, the truth is He does. It exists. The Bible mentions the word heart an upwards of 830 times, depending on which version you’re reading, and God is very much in the business of repairing hearts.

I know because I have held my broken, shattered, hurting, hopeless, helpless heart and have had absolutely no clue how to go about repairing it. But once I handed it over to God, He began the work that I alone could never have done. He knew exactly what and who my heart needed. He knew how to fit the pieces back together, not perfectly, but in a way that would allow my heart to beat again, to feel joy again. 

I felt a lot like Jill for most of my life, “Gee, I hope I never have a broken heart.” I would hear of friends whose lives had been flipped upside down by an accident, a chronic illness, a death, a betrayal, an abandonment, a divorce, a job loss, and so on. But I had a hard time putting myself fully in their shoes. I cried and I prayed for them. I did my best to support them. But never having had a truly broken heart before, I didn’t know what was required to repair one. 

I still can’t tell you what is required to repair anyone else’s heart but I am beginning to know what is helping to repair mine.

First and foremost I have spent the last six months asking God to “Help me.” I have uttered those words silently and out loud every single day for six months now. “Help me, Lord.” I have asked Him for direction and have entrusted my life to Him daily. 

God does not disappoint. God answers. He has helped me. He has found unique tools in his arsenal to help me escape the darkness one moment at a time. 

Support: God has given me the gift of support to help repair my heart. Even in the final hours of Mila’s life, we were surrounded with support. We could not have asked for a better or more loving team.

 I will never forget the words Matt said to me as he packed his bags for Boston to say goodbye to Mila. “She did good, Love. Real good. I’m so proud of her. And you. Very proud papa/husband here. Give her a kiss for me. God is still working on this plan; He’s still on the throne.” No matter how many times I read and re-read those words, the tears fill my eyes. Those words spoke to my very core and brought the comfort I needed. 

Days after we returned home from Boston we had an army of people supporting us. We had meals and people to help orchestrate Mila’s Celebration of Life service. Matt planned a beautiful service to honor our baby with little help from me because I had almost nothing to give at that point. Our home was clean and there were vases of roses in every room in the house. Even a photo of us with Dr Baird and Mila the day she went to heaven was placed on the table. No detail was overlooked. It was all such a physical representation of the body of Christ coming together. 
Our church family has been incredible. Matt encouraged us to return to church immediately. We attended service on Sunday, just 5 days after Mila’s passing. I may have sobbed through the entire day but darn it, I made it through. I was hugged and held and loved. 

Exercise: In physical form, God has given me the unexpected gift of exercise to help repair my heart. Just a few weeks after returning home a new friend encouraged me to join the gym. I didn’t realize it would be baptism by fire but within a week I was taking spin, plyo and barre classes, none of which say beginner on them, by the way. 

I remember the first few spin classes I took I was somewhere between passing out, throwing up and wanting to curl up in a fetal position and cry. However, the pain I felt on the bike reminded me of the battle our sweet baby fought for four and a half months straight. I would feel like giving up on the workout but then I would picture Mila at the finish line. I would remember how good God was and is to have given us that time with her. 

A few months in and I began to not only feel stronger physically but emotionally as well. I would and still pray while I workout. I talk to God and I remember our beautiful Mila.

My workouts are so much more than burning calories, they are healing me. They are an outlet for the anger, sadness, hopelessness and fear. My instructor and now friend Becky has had a bigger impact on me than she knows. The way she teaches her classes inspires me and teaches me that I’m capable of more than I think I am. Her classes have become a part of my healing and even though they cause me physical pain, they actually help to heal my real pain. 

Writing: God has given me an outlet to write. I remember writing ages ago in school. I have always loved to write but when we found out about Mila’s heart I felt I had to write again. It was the only place I felt safe to share everything that was going on in my heart. Writing is therapeutic. I feel a huge weight lifted after a good writing session. I pray through every post. Again I say, “Help me, Lord.” Help me to share what you want me to share and to work through whatever you would have me work through. Bring people to You. 

Counseling: counseling is not new to me. I have seen a counselor in nearly every state we have lived in. I learned early on that seeking wise counsel is not a sign of weakness but rather a tool to help us mature in areas we may not know we need help in. Matt and I have benefited greatly from counseling in the past and in our current season it has been very helpful. 

I see a counselor myself almost weekly and it has allowed me to open up about a lot of things that I wouldn’t otherwise share. There is a safety found in the counseling office. I have a lot of growth areas and a lot of mountains still to climb. Grief exacerbates existing issues and I am not without my problems, grief aside. God has used counseling to strengthen me and to challenge me to walk according to His ways. It has also reminded me of how dependent I must be on Him and His will for my life. 

Six months ago today a light went out. We said goodbye to Mila and our world was forever changed. I said goodbye to so many dreams and hopes and the life I knew before. I entered into a state of shock and complete emptiness. I lost so much that day. But now six months out I see how much I have gained. Mila’s entire story is a blessing. It is one that is not finished and won’t be even when we meet again in eternity. Mila has taught me more about God’s goodness and faithfulness than anything else in my life. I continue to hear about the impact Mila has made on so many lives. I couldn’t be prouder of our baby. It is one of my greatest blessings to be called her mama. 

Paying it Forward: my experience has allowed me to support other heart families. It has allowed me to open myself up to love on other moms who are where we once were. I can’t say enough how life giving it is to help others navigate this kind of journey knowing full well that their story is as unique as Mila’s. I love it when God brings people into my life who need support. 

Six months out and I can begin to see a tiny light again. Just this morning I commented to Matt how beautiful the morning sunlight was. It ran brilliantly across our freshly mowed grass (thank you dear husband) and it landed right on our wild flowers. The ones where the butterflies land. The butterflies that remind me of our beautiful and tiny Mila. It was a beautiful picture of God’s goodness and it made me smile. 

Today I still walk around with my broken heart, the one I have entrusted to God’s care. The heart that will probably require a lifetime of repairs and the heart that will always have imperfections and scars. But those scars are beautiful and this heart is beating again. 

Despite the heart shaped Mila hole that will forever be a part of my heart, happiness comes more frequently these days. I am grateful. Grateful for the sunshine and the hope of heaven and the gifts we receive here on this earth. 

We are not promised a heart that will never be broken but we do have a God who will provide support and healing, all you have to do is allow Him to help. Simply say, “Help me, Lord.” He alone can mend your broken heart. 
As I closed the storybook today I prayed this blessing over Brenna. I pray it over my family too: 

“May the Lord bless you
 and keep you;

May He make his face shine upon you
 and be gracious to you;

May He turn his face toward you
    and give you peace all the days of your life.” Num 6:24-26

Thank you, Lord, for helping me. Thank you, Lord, for daily repairing my heart. 

Happy six months in heaven sweet, precious, beautiful baby. You live in our hearts and in our lives. We talk about you every single day. You are not forgotten. You are a gift to our family and in many ways your life has made us all so much stronger. 

We love you and miss you. The pain is far from gone but knowing you are with God in heaven brings so much comfort. Brenna tells me you send her kisses, I have no doubt that is true. Sending all our love and kisses up to heaven!!! 

💗 Mama 

Purple and Black 

We heard the text to My Many Colored Days by Dr Seuss read at the Remembrance Service we attended in Boston on May 16th. Oddly, this children’s story book put so much of how I feel into one concise script. The text is as follows: 

“Some days are yellow.

Some are blue.

On different days I’m different too.

You’d be surprised how many ways

I change on Different Colored Days.

On Bright Red Days how good it feels

to be a horse and kick my heels!

On other days I’m other things.

On Bright Blue Days I flap my wings.

Some days, of course, feel sort of Brown.

Then I feel slow and low, low down.

Then comes a Yellow Day and Wheeee

I am a busy, buzzy bee.

Gray Day….Everything is gray. I watch. But nothing moves today.

Then all of a sudden I’m a circus seal! On my Orange Days that’s how I feel.

Green Days. Deep deep in the sea. Cool and quiet fish. That’s me.

On Purple Days I’m sad. I groan. I drag my tail. I walk alone.

But when my days are Happy Pink it’s great to jump and just not think.

Then come my Black Days. MAD. And loud. I howl. I growl at every cloud.

Then comes a Mixed-Up Day. And WHAM! I don’t know who or what I am!

But it all turns out all right, you see. And I go back to being…me.”

My birthday was on Sunday. I woke up to Brenna’s sweet voice saying, “Good morning, mama, Happy Birthday!” For some reason the realization of it being my birthday triggered a rush of deep sadness to come over me. I cried alligator tears and Brenna asked what was wrong. I told her I missed Mila and she kissed me saying “It be ok mama, Mee-dah lives in our hearts.” Brenna is such a treasure to me.  

Sunday, May 22nd started a new year for me. Part of me felt relief and hope that this year would be good and full of healing and eventually joy, but mostly I felt sad. An all encompassing sadness. 

33 was my year with Mila. My 33 brought Mila into this world. My 33 fought harder than I ever have before. My 33 knew endless joy. My 33 knew the deepest pain I have ever had to live through. My 33 was a hard but wonderful year and that morning it felt as if my Mila chapter had partially closed. I reminded myself that Mila’s story will never have an end and for that I am grateful.  

But these days, these many colored days, they are really tough to navigate. I feel like my days are not one solid color either. My days and even hours shift from color to color to color. It is exhausting. 

If you have ever seen the movie, Inside Out, a movie about emotions, I liken my life to one where I have currently lost Joy. She is gone. I can’t find her but Sadness is always nearby and Anger is never too far behind. I want to find Joy. At times I think I can see her, she is within reach. But most days Joy is somewhere far, far away. True Joy can’t be found without sadness and often other emotions too. We would never know the fullness of Joy if all we knew was Joy. 

I really do pray 34 surprises me with some fun twists and turns and blessings in this story I call my life. I pray for endurance and wisdom and for God to carry me until I find Joy again. Missing Mila is painful. 

I am my hardest critic. Most days I feel like I have totally failed in most areas of life but I know that is not truth. To those that love me day to day, pray for me and continue to encourage me, thank you! I know I am a daughter of the King and am so loved and cherished but sometimes I need reminding of that truth. I will cling to my faith and will trust that 34 will be a good year filled with more red and pink days and a lot less purple and black days. 

“But it all turns out all right, you see. And I go back to being…me.”

Mother’s Day 2016 

One I get to hold, the other is in heaven’s care. 
One is tickles and stories and snuggles at night. 
The other is memories and I miss you’s and remembering the fight. 
But oh, how to know such deep searing love and to be redirected to always look up above. 
Today my heart is full you see, in knowing He chose me, to be called their mama for eternity. 
I love you, Brenna Rose. 

I love you, Mila Rose. 

More than you will ever, ever know. 
Mother’s Day 2016