Author Archives: carrieokie

Good Memories of Bad Coffee

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It was the day after the day she died. Not a restful night as I writhed in deadly pain. The physical withdrawing from the steady stream of nursing hormones that were fading in their steadfastness. . . The desperate cries of shock and disbelief. Looking for a baby that was not there. Listening and sometimes hearing her and mostly knowing my super natural mommy hearing senses were wasted. My arms ached with the heaviest emptiness I’ve ever felt.

There was nothing good going on here. Obviously. We were trying to survive the next breath while hoping we would stop breathing all together. To live was pain, to die bliss. I was like a wounded animal trying to gently escape a trap while on display. I was centering in thinking of how to declare Gods goodness in this but in my real heart and mind, there was no goodness to be found in this fractured abyss. This cruel crushing crevice of earth deserted by the heaven I once thought I knew. But would now know intimately by my own blood bond. My own precious legacy of eternal life.

But on that morning, no good to be felt.

But there were people who were brave and kind enough to check on this animal I had become. To open the shades of her cage and bring her coffee. The coffee tasted foreign to me and it had nothing to do with the grief. People who had no idea how to make my coffee were trying to make me coffee to bless me. And it was gross. And it wasn’t what I wanted.

I called out before the next cup,” could you please get Chris to make my coffee?” No, you’re not doing it wrong but He knows exactly how to make it. I need his coffee right now.

And that was that. Now on the other side of things ordained unknown to me, a man who felt powerless found a great deal of strength and comfort in being able to do this sacred service for me. How kind of God in the rejection of coffee to lift the head of wounded warrior of a man.

Ask me then if there will be any warm memories and laughter of this time? The answer is not only no but HELL no. And for you to suggest such would be offensive. Joy in this sorrow? You must not see what I see and know what I know.

Fast forward 3 years and a bit. Same house. Same coffee maker. But a new coffee recipe evolving in routine.

In an unexpected turn of events, I have started using protein powder and a frother to cream up my coffee while boosting my nutrients. My husband is not yet skilled in this ritual but still wants to bring me coffee. He looks at the canister of protein powder and says, ” I feel like I don’t even know how to make you coffee anymore.”

“Every cup you make me is perfect”, I reply.

And then a funny memory bubbles up in my spirit. With a huge smile on my face and giggle in my voice, I say. . .

” hey don’t you remember when Ellis died and people tried to make my coffee and I was like ‘go find Chris and have him make my coffee”

That was so. . .

Funny. . .

Such a . . .

Good memory.

And it was . And there are more. Memories of painful times that now bring me joy.

A funeral dress shopping trip with my dear friends that was pure misery at the time is a sweet memory of the steel magnolia sort now.

Chef Alli in my kitchen. Feeding my soul and making funeral planning feel like a planned brunch in my honor.

My mother dressing me for a sacred event like she had all the other important days of my life.

Inside jokes from a graveside service that felt unreal and made me fantasize about things that could happen in a comedy.

Food and family and friends and tearful embraces

and food and laughter and pep talks

and food and wonderful gifts

and strange gifts

and food.

And good people making bad coffee because they love you

And love being defined by the only cup of coffee you can drink.

It’s good, it turns out.

It turns out good.

Gratitude is a funny thing. Tempered with time and faith, it creates good memories of bad circumstances. What an everyday miracle that was and I am so. . .

Grateful for it all.

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The 5 Biggest Surprises to Having a Rainbow Baby. . .

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1. The Amount of Healing I Received

When they placed Samuel on my chest, a healing sense of warmth and light seemed to inhabit my entire body. It was new. My fifth baby but a completely new physical sensation and experience. A tsunami of gratitude and peace swept my soul. There was a significant filling of holes that lingered in the parts of my spirit that were still broken. I cannot even adequately describe it. It was overwhelming and powerful. It was unbelievable and yet completely worthy of all the faith and belief I have in it. A taste of the relief of the finish line sprinkled with the sweetest of new beginnings.

2. The Lack of Healing I Received

The mystique and promise of the rainbow baby is intoxicating. The amount of joy and anticipation – – is a hefty dose of what a grieving families long for. And part of me thought that maybe, just maybe. . . A rainbow this beautiful and great would erase the remaining signs of the great storm. The rainbow baby brought healing but lacked the magical erasing of pain. It still hurt just as bad that she is not here. It still brought me to my knees. The wanting is still a heavy weight. The longing is still ever present.

The gaps are still wide enough that only the Savior can bridge them.  The Rainbow brought many things: Joy, Light, Warmth, Love, along with Beautiful Colors that were vibrant and new. 

But it took nothing away.  Pain, temptation to step towards a lack of reconciliation, fear, and memories were just as powerful as they ever were. 

3.  The Pictures Had to Go. 

I had never been sad to see pictures of the loveliness that was Ellis Grace.  They had been steadfast in their ability to bring me Joy.  I’m proud of them.  I’m grateful for them and I delight in them.  But when I brought Samuel home from the hospital, they had to go into temporary hiding.  They were harsh reminders that I didn’t have any more control over the health and life of this baby than I had of the baby that now resides in heaven.  When I looked at them, I felt fear and pressure.  I felt memories than were more powerful than present moments.  And it was not good for me to look upon them.  The enemy tried to make me feel guilty for retiring them.  But I KNEW what I needed to battle from a place of strength. To make sure that I was wholeheartedly caring for Samuel from a place of joy and not fear.  I needed to focus on the live baby without a constant reminder that a baby died in our home.  In my care. This shocked me.  I never expected to tearfully ask my mom to put them away. But I did, and that was right.  For a time, they were a hindrance and if I’m gonna run well – – I’ve got to throw off every hindrance.

4. The Baby Monitor Battle

I went through five months of trauma therapy.  A great portion of that was preparing my body and mind to once again have a sweet baby – – a sleeping baby in my home.  We asked God what He wanted me to feel and believe about Sam’s life and we also addressed baby monitors.  The options in sophisticated and technologically advanced monitors are endless. Surely one of the fancy ones would make me feel better.  But God and I decided that I would have to trust and follow Him rather than the Apps, etc. . . 

So I chose a basic video monitor for when I wasn’t with him.  I chose not to employ the use of wearable continuous monitors.  I felt peaceful and strong in that plan.  But when I walked on the road of reality with a sleeping baby who did not comply with “safe sleeping” practices – – well, it wasn’t that simple.  I was filled with fear and guilt and doubt.  And I began to waiver that perhaps a monitor would reassure me that all was well.  I borrowed an Owlet monitor from a dear friend.  The first night I used it, I slept so very well.  I felt peace.  I needed more of that. What a relief.

But the next night and every night after that, I couldn’t get it to work properly. And I proceeded to lose my good mind.  I was as desperate for that monitor as a drug addict is for the next hit.  That monitor would calm and comfort me.  I quickly realized that I had made an idol of a very false God out of a baby monitor ( you can  make an idol out of anything!). And I was mad. 

Mad that God wouldn’t give me this magic 8 ball of an idol as an actual god in my life.  Mad that I was even in this situation to have become dependent on such an object.  Mad that I was afraid.  Mad that my husband didn’t know or understand the magnitude of my fear.  And the whole thing surprised me because I thought I had settled this matter.

But the truth is this:  I backed out of an agreement I made with God.

 And there would be some pain involved in getting reconciled again.

5. The Lingering Fear

Every single time I see and approach my sleeping baby – – my spirit prepares itself for that baby to be dead.  It doesn’ t matter where the baby is sleeping: the crib, the swing, the car seat, in my husband’s arms, on the floor. . .

All places carry the same likelihood deep inside me that devastation could be just a second away. This is my brain being faithful to care for me and remind me where danger was.  And this is the one remaining difficulty that serves to remind me of how far I’ve come.  Just as it is always there, it is always flooded with the same measure of relief as I  felt in fear. 

FEAR. Remind myself the truth. Check for signs of life. Flood of RELIEF. Thank God.  Repeat. 

This still surprises me.  I keep thinking ” If you have enough reassuring experiences, then you’ll remain reassured.” But reassurance and trauma are not evenly matched I’ve found. 

The one thing that did not surprise me is this: 

He is exactly what we needed.  The most precious and tender of blessings. A sign of the covenant of love and deliverance that reaches to a thousand generations.  He is a living sign of the perfection of God. 

Oh, I’ve seen some marvelous rainbows in my time. . . but Samuel Ransom Holliday,

Your shine with a light that surpasses them all.

 

If you were three today. . .

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If you were three today. . .

I would have plotted and planned and bought and baked. . .

If you were three today. . .

I would have woke you up with singing and kisses and tickles. . .

If you were three today. . .

Your brothers would have filled your room with pink balloons while you slept and your biggest brother would have walked you through the wonder of that. . .

If you were three today. . .

We would have picked out your birthday outfit with shoes that sparkles like your eyes and warm leggings and mixed prints. I’m thinking we would have a hard time choosing your Valentines outfit and then realize you could wear both- – one on your birthday. . .

If you were three today. . .

I can’t say I’d know what you want , as you were never meant to want for anything. But whatever you’d want, you’d have. In Spades.

If you were three today. . .

Your cake would be a multi- step project. Nana and I would be architects of the sweetest sort. . .

If you were three today. . .

I’d wink at you in worship and maybe bring you up for closing song. . .

If you were three today. . .

I’d take pictures of you with all of your boys and they’d each have a flower for you, my dear

If you were three today. . .

Your daddy would be soft today with a little extra twinkle in his eye just like he was on the day you were born. . .

If you were three today. . .

And at night time – I’d tuck you in and run my fingers through your hair and read you the Ellis Grace book . I’d tell you the story of when you were born. . . The day of Gods Greatest Kindness and I’d tell you what wonderful things three would bring you. . . We’d talk about miss Kay and backpacks and summer splashes . . .

If you were three today. . .

And I would go to bed thanking God for you, my most delightful gift, as I did every night I held you close. . .

If you were three today. . .

Come to think of it, I’m sure I would have made you your very own pink sparkly drumsticks

If you were three today. . .

But today you are timeless, living in a kingdom far away. . .

And so I’ll wait and keep the secret. . .

“Here is the secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the secret that is keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart ( I carry it in my heart)”

(e.e. Cummings)

Happy Birthday Princess Grace ,

I’m right behind you. Still running my race.

How a Failed Intervention Worked for Us

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A year ago we staged an intervention in one last attempt to pluck my dad from the evil grips of Addiction. We hired a professional interventionist to help guide our loving efforts- -someone who understood the mind of an addict in ways we don’t. We made a plan, secured childcare, enlisted prayer warriors, bought brand new clothes to go in a duffel bag that would hopefully go to a treatment facility. We spent a lot of money on medication he already had so that there would be no reason to delay in getting help. We wrestled over what our personal boundaries would be. And committed to following through with them- hoping we would never have to.

I knew that God was releasing me from any entanglement in the darkness of the multiple addictions. My boundaries reflected that call on my life. No physical or emotional relationship beyond letters or texts. No more visits with papa. No more awkward dinners wondering what’s going on. No more going to Sheriffs department to try to facilitate treatment or assist with safety measures. No more earthly Father to speak of.

We did the intervention because God whispered in my ear this was the most loving way out of the nightmare I found myself in. We did the intervention because when you realize someone you love is in grave danger- – you risk it all. We did it because we believe in the holy power of hard conversations. We did it because my mother will never leave my father behind without trying to help him find his way. We did it because we believed that deep down – – that sweet daddy that picked me up, taught me to drive, gave me away, and advised me faithfully was STILL IN THERE.

And I did it because I needed to be free through LOVE and not out of fear. It was the one stone unturned and we’re not the kind of family that misses one.

I want to tell you that after we poured out our hearts to my Dad that LOVE and a desire to get clean flooded over him- – that we all held hands and gritted our teeth as we walked into a treatment facility United. That this facility was the healing place with the family therapy that repaired gaping wounds. But that’s not what happened.

No, not at all.

The intervention was short and sweet . My dad didn’t wrestle at all with the choice between his family and his addictions. I’d like to tell you that the thought of not seeing me or my children tore him up and that he held me and said, ” I’ll do whatever it takes to keep you in my life.”

But I wasn’t chosen on that day. . . I wasn’t too great a loss to bear. My unborn child and I left on that cold Friday afternoon to a sacred weekend of mourning. I had to be willing to endure a great loss for my Dad to experience the depth of loss needed to hear God more clearly. That failed intervention hadn’t failed nearly as dreadfully as it seemed. But victory was delivered in the holding of each loving boundary that seemed to harsh to bear. Victory was delivered ,not when I had enough,

But when my loved one decided that He Had Enough. . . And He and God were the only ones who could really fix it, heal it, clean it out, and carry on. . .

I learned:

That loving people is good but sometimes loving yourself is the best way to love others well

That the people who are continuously inflicting pain are in continuous pain themselves. I don’t have to understand it but I do have to acknowledge it and have compassion in my heart for that fact.

That the prodigal son in the Bible is more about the prodigals brother than the son himself. I am Both.

That healing is possible but God uses a different formula to deliver it often times ( my dad started recovery in an intensive outpatient program in Colorado with continued work remotely – – NOT the in-patient treatment facility I was convinced was the ONLY answer)

That God works faster than you can imagine. He heals much faster than we destroy when we LET HIM WORK

That when God makes someone NEW,

He takes the old away. They deserve the same courtesy from us.

One month after I mourned the loss of my father, He came walking down the road – – ready to take his place at the feasting table. . .

He was there at the birth of my son and I believe he will continue to be victorious in Christ and a blessing to his family for the entirety of His life. . .

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

2 Corinthians 5:17

The Pain in the Parking Lot

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Yesterday I sat in my car in a pre-school parking lot and I watched people walk their daughters in to school.  One little girl was a tiny bit chilly and she shivered and rubbed her arms up and down.

Would I have thought to bring a sweater for Ellis Grace?  Or would I have given her the tough line I often give her brothers. . . it’ll warm up later and she’ll be glad to not have a jacket. . .

Where is my daughter?  This simply shouldn’t be.  I should be adjusting a backpack, tying girlie laces, and giving one more set of hugs and kisses. . .                                                                                                                                                               Would we hold hands until she got to her classroom? Or would she want to be independent and walk alongside me?

In truth, she would be 2 ½.   She would not be in preschool yet.  She would not go to this particular preschool. And it would not be possible most days for me to walk her there if she did go.

But as I watch these other mothers.  The ones who get to keep their girls.  The ones who surround me on this cool morning.  I don’t understand why I don’t get to do any of it.

Their joy shines a big ol’ magnifying glass on my longing.

I feel forsaken and left behind.

I feel punished.

Where is my daughter?  Why do they get to share these moments with theirs?

That’s simply not true, I tell myself.  You are loved and chosen and perfectly planned for.  You’re not missing out on anything. . .

But it’s hard to believe that as I sit where I sit and see what I see.

And it’s so very clear that I am.

I’m angry at you God, I tell Him sharply.   I’m hurting every single day and you know it. . . as the tears roll down my face.

I’m not telling Him anything that He does not know.  He knows every hurt. He’s as much a part of my heart as the hurt that lives there.

All parents would do just about anything to keep their children out of harm’s way. . . to rescue them. . . .to save them. Look at the lengths He went to just to save me.

That’s true and I know it’s true. And if it’s true.

And It is.

And if I know it. . .

And I do.

Then this  is very, very necessary.  Can’t be avoided. Not in my best interests.  As sure as every earthly Father I know would throw himself in front of a car to protect their daughter, my God is more protective of me.

So I do not understand.  Like a baby screaming from the pain of a shot designed to keep them healthy,  I writhe, and cry, and ache.   I am a child of God. It’s true.  But I am not God.  There are certain vaults that won’t be open to me.  Certain types of prescribed pain that I am to endure. . . for my strength, good, endurance, and purpose.

Can’t see it this morning through my blurred vision.  Can’t feel it because the pain dominates all the strength, endurance, and purpose I’ve been given.

Everything has changed. And nothing has changed at all. He must have His reasons for doing, causing, and allowing all that He does.

And I certainly have my reasons for trusting Him.  . .

I turn back slow and place my head on His chest in the secret place that exists between He and I when there is no space between us at all.  The roaring lion is only breathing softly as his mane catches my tears and they roll down His beautiful golden hair.  As my tears hit the ground, they turn into feathers that look like crystals.  And He blows them away as kisses that will return to me later. Soon they’ll grace my path as a knowing remembrance of our love.  And I’ll need to be sure and keep looking for each one. . . For ever feeling of forsakenness, a feather of some sort is promised to me.

The pain is real but so are the promises.  I release my desire to understand for now. I release my bitterness toward the moms who have no way of understanding their privilege.   And I embrace what I know. What will always save me. Find me. Right me. Anchor me. Hold me. And then I lace ‘em up and keep running.   We’re gonna be doing this for a long time, I fear.

But I don’t need to think about that right now. I just need to run until I need the next break or see the next feather. . .

He is faithful. And I. . .

I am reconciled again.

A Letter to My Son on Victory Day

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Dear Samuel,

I pray that this is the first of many letters that I get to write to you. I hope there are Birthday letters, a baptism letter, college letters, and special letters on special days that I don’t even know about yet.

The truth is I have been writing letters to another baby these past two years. . . A baby named Ellis Grace who you will join one day in heaven. She is your sister and will always be regarded as Gods Greatest Kindness to our family. You will grow to love her memory and her place in our family as much as your brothers who got to hold her here on earth.

My letters to her I liken to sending a message in a bottle – – the exercise is full of love and mystery but the delivery is unknown and possibly never happens. It is a heart exercise to an unknown address with no guaranteed delivery.

And that , my boy, is where a significant difference lies. For you are all about deliverance. Ellis was my promise but you are the deliverance of those promises we continue to stand on today. And you will always be regarded as Gods Greatest Remembrance of Our Family. He remembered our hurt. He kept holding our hearts. He never forgot we were in the palm of His Hand. . . And it is with that Kindness, Faithfulness, and Assurance that He will now place you in the palm of our hands.

Your name, Samuel , means God has heard. God has heard our cries, has seen our need, and has gone before us in His perfect ways carrying out a His perfect plans. . . It is a perfect plan from a perfect Father that has brought you to our family.

And your middle name, Ransom, means rescue or deliverance. . . A price paid for freedom. . . God has heard our cry for deliverance and He has answered with your name.

Samuel Ransom Holliday, you make us sure of what we cannot see,

Grateful for what we did not ask for . . .

And blessed beyond our hearts deepest dreams. God started sending me feathers as soon as your ordained days began. The feathers are love notes indicating you are covered by His mighty wings- that we are all cradled by His mighty hands. . . Both here on earth and the parts of us that live forever in heaven. You are a new Mercy and new beginning that I am very grateful for. You will not have the youngest mom but rather, the most grateful.

We cannot wait to let the Great Author God start our new chapter with you, little one. For you we have prayed, and God has granted us the desires of our heart.

Come and take your place among the royal princes disguised as Dirty Farmers. Among the great man disguised as a fun daddy who will hold his breath until you have taken your very first one. . .

And when you hear me singing you can know that not only are you home where you belong. . . But so are we.

We Love You,

Mommy, Daddy, Jackson, Gage, Grayson

And from her heavenly perch- – Ellis Grace

Victory in Motion: the strength of submission in the eyes of our men

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Last year I posted before and after pictures of myself. I even made them into a collage to highlight the greatness of God’s power in my life. Now these weren’t those full-body-practically-in-my-underwear-beach body-style pictures inviting you to scrutinize a body that God made perfectly. But you can still see in the first picture I am 40 pounds heavier with the weight of the world on my shoulders , my eyes are swollen from releasing love that ran down my face continually. I’m not just heavy but heavy burdened. I’m weak and disoriented and foggy. I’m everything a woman doesn’t want to see and likely everything a man doesn’t want to see in a woman.

The second picture is so much kinder. I’m back at the size I was when he met and married me. Just enough make up on to look naturally beautiful and glowing. And an inviting smile on my face and that same hot pink workout tank top just looks more attractive minus the 40 pounds.

So I asked him later in the day “hey honey what did you think of my before and after pictures ? how did I look ?” Now even though we live in a feminist world, it remains a world that objectifies women. I get sucked into this culture like everybody else. So I guess I expected my husband to use a word like “hot ” or “skinny” or maybe even a “smoking”. Which I might add would be fine by me. I want him to want me. I strongly desired to be the object of his desire. But if I was expecting that, I was about to be disappointed.

Because He said I think you look victorious. That’s what my hubby sees when he looks at me: strength, perseverance, endurance, discipline, bold beauty characterized by victory in Christ. He sees me as a conqueror.

Big deal. So what? Why do you think this is blog worthy? Well the reason is is a big deal to me is because we live in a traditional Christian covenant marriage. I consistently respect him even when I disagree with him. And it doesn’t happen very often, but if we find ourselves at odds – – he has the final say. And when that happens , I continue to respect him. I yield to him. I lift him up. I intentionally keep him in a position of power and leadership in my life. I submit to his authority in all things. So from a worldly perspective, it strikes me kind of funny that when he looks at me he only sees strength and power, Victor and conquer. I’m not a doormat that he doesn’t take time to notice. And I’m not just a beautiful thing that is constantly bowing down to him either. He has seen me not get my way and still lovingly go along with his way. He knows it isn’t easy to trust so deeply in someone else. So He has a deep respect for the fact that I do this and that I do it on a daily basis.

We are one team, he and I. When I stand victorious, he shares in the bounty of a real victory. My successes they bless him, my victories they proclaim his greatness.

This wouldn’t of been the case a few years ago. It was more important for me to be right and victorious. It was more important for me to knock him down a few pegs then to stand on the mountaintop right beside him.

I wonder what His answer would have been if He looked at the same picture during that season. I fear he might have said, “You look really good” or “you look great.” He may have even paused a long time wondering what he should say. What the ” right” answer was. . . He would have tried to answer my way and it would have greatly lessened my value in the process.

Because who He uniquely is adds value to me. It Makes my reflection shine brighter. And it deepens his view of me which deepens my view of myself. I would totally missed that if I stayed in the land of standing on my own. I would make myself an object of defiance. Suck myself into a movement of madness. Moving in the exact opposite direction of where my real security lies. I love it that I serve a God who makes sure that I stand up for myself when I bow down to him. That’s a victorious motion.