it is well

Stevenson, WA

I wake up every morning with a deep ache. My heart feels heavy, my stomach often ill-set, yet it is well with my soul. I go about my days wanting someone I can’t have; missing what could be and what was. Each week that passes I wonder, will I ever get used to living without him? Will I ever lay down my head and go to sleep feeling satisfied though I cannot kiss his cheek or tuck him into bed? No need to visit his room in the middle of the night and make sure he’s still breathing, because he has already drawn his last breath. With every sunrise my heart breaks over and over and over again, yet even in my brokenness it is well with my soul.

Stevenson, WA

Every year that comes and goes just puts more space between us, allowing others to assume time is healing the wounds, when in actuality I wish he wasn’t such a distant memory. The further removed I am from his death, the more final and empty it seems. I will live the rest of my life navigating through the stages of grief as they repeat at random and without predictability – plunging me in and out of depression and then back into denial – but this is just me forever loving him with the same growing intensity as I do my living sons. When his 5th birthday passes uncelebrated, and there’s no discussion about where he will go to school, no teaching him how to ride a bike without training-wheels…. I will feel every missed milestone like a knife to the chest but it will STILL be well with my soul. I have no idea what eternity looks like – whether or not I will get to raise him and experience the things I long for with all my being – but even without knowing what’s to come, I trust that it will be better than my simple mind could ever fabricate and therefore, it is well with my soul.

Stevenson, WA

I now have tangible proof that there was illegal practice involved with my son’s mistreatment, along with many warnings that I should not speak such things unless I want to be taken for all I’m worth, but somehow it is unexplainably well with my soul. I could place blame on the negligent individuals for their actions, letting anger and bitterness boil up inside like a smoldering mountain, but instead it is well with my soul.

Stevenson, WA

Though sometimes it seems easier to go the way of hatred, I have found that forgiveness let’s me live more free. The emotional stress tends to be physically taxing, but letting my burdens lay at the feet of Jesus instead of dragging them behind me like a deadweight… well this allows my mind and body to find retrieve. Understanding that I can do all things though Christ, yet NOTHING without Him is a dependency that even my wildest-of-hearts gladly yields to. Like discovering a thought-to-be-mirage is in fact a REAL spring of water in the desert, I continue to soak up refreshing nourishment in the most dry places, and I’m reminded that it is miraculously well with my soul.

Stevenson, WA

And to the naysayers that would challenge my choice of beliefs, you must know that even if all these things my faith-eyes see turn out to be nothing more that a fantastical idea that got me through the worst of my travels, the peace that goes beyond my comprehension would still make it worth it all — so, IT IS indeed WELL with my soul.

Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” after the death of his 2-year-old son, and the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. The Spaffords later had three more children, then on February 11, 1880, their son, Horatio Goertner died (the age of four) of scarlet fever. I plan on getting the words “it is well” tattooed on my arm soon, as it speaks to me in so many ways. If you’d like to buy this it is well tee (or any of the cute items from @ShopHelloGrace), she has kindly setup the code: MCR15 as a special discount for my readers! Love you ALL and thanks for stopping in ❤

XOXO,

 – Brittney

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend
A song in the night, oh my soul!”

It is well, it is well, with my soul”

by Horatio Spafford


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My Favorite Reason To Never Give Up

 

@shopjumpingjack tee

Today I’m sharing the story of a newly found IG friend, Sarah. She is the owner of @shopjumpingjack, home of the “you are my favorite reason to never give up” tee. I fell absolutely in LOVE with Jumping Jack when I came across a pic of this signature shirt on my feed, because even though losing Cruz can sometimes put me on the brink of giving up all-together, he’s also the very thing that keeps going –– I HAD TO HAVE this shirt! Sarah lost her sweet Jack to SMA (the #1 genetic killer of infants and young children) when he was just over 6 months old, yet she managed to launch her own business-with-a-cause right in the midst of it. 1 in 40 people unknowingly carry the gene responsible for SMA, however there’s currently no treatment and no cure. SMA hinders the ability to walk, stand, eat, swallow and breathe… meanwhile parents can do nothing to stop it but be there to comfort them until the deterioration takes its final toll. I know how much I would appreciate someone sharing Cruz’s story and raising awareness about OTC deficiency, so I do NOT hesitate at the chance to do the same for someone else. Here is Sarah’s story:

@shopjumpingjack

Meet Sarah

Meet Sarah

I have always loved crafting; creativity is a part of me. When my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our first, we were beyond overjoyed. I immediately began creating his custom nursery full of handmade items. We dreamed of the beautiful future with our baby boy. The day I held him in my arms for the first time, was the best day of my life. We named him Jack.

After his birth, we started to notice Jack could not move his muscles like he should. He never held his head up, or moved his legs. After a week stay in the hospital, Jack was diagnosed with the #1 genetic killer of children under 2, Spinal Muscular Atrophy or SMA. We were told he had the most severe type and had just 6 months to live. Six months. Our world fell apart. We were going to lose the person we loved most.

Jack required multiple machines to stay comfortable, he needed to be fed through a feeding tube, and was on oxygen. Since he was unable to lift or use most toys made for babies his age, I decided to make him a small tag blanket that had crinkle material inside for him to explore. He loved it! From that moment, I continued to create more tag blankets and crinkle toys. I opened my Etsy shop a month after Jack’s diagnosis, and named it Jumping Jack in his honor. Crafting was very therapeutic to me during the horrible rollercoaster we were on. Jack took his last breath in my arms when he was just 6 ½ months old. We made unforgettable memories each day. We are so lucky to have had this beautiful boy a part of our lives, but would have given anything to watch him grow up. He is truly the strongest person I know.

Today, Jumping Jack has evolved into much more. We were blessed with a healthy baby girl and she has brought so much joy into our lives. She also inspired new products in the shop – headbands, bows and apparel! I love that Jumping Jack will always be a part of him and I. I love that each item I make brings joy to other little ones. I love that Jack’s story can inspire others to live each day to the very fullest. Jack is my #favoritereasontonevergiveup.

Baby Jack

Meet Jack

WOW. Isn’t she so inspiring!? I feel the weight of her story so heavily, and my eyes well up with tears as I look into Jack’s big, round eyes and think about the fact that he’s now gone. I find Sarah to be quite the amazing mama, and such a beautiful example of someone who is turning grief into greatness (which is a whole other blog post I am publishing soon)! It’s hard enough just to get out of bed sometimes and face the day knowing a huge part of you is missing, yet she runs her own company and raises awareness in Jack’s honor. (I love her tagline so much that I want to get it blown up on a huge print for the boys’ playroom!) She sums up the struggle of my grief-process into one, short/sweet sentence: I have a valid reason to give up – because a huge part of me is now dead – yet it’s BECAUSE of his death that I ultimately refuse to stop trying. He fought so hard… the least I can do is keep fighting for him.

Here are some pics of me and the boys wearing some of our favorite items from Sarah’s shop, plus a few others I have on my must-buy list! $5 from every “You Are My Favorite Reason To Never Give Up”  tee purchase is donated to the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation. Plus, enter special code: CRUZLOVESJACK20 at checkout to receive 20% off anything in her shop, as a thank-you to my readers for supporting SMA research! I love it when I buy something and know that a portion of my money is going towards a good cause! Don’t YOU!? 

"You Are My Favorite Reason To Never Give Up" Tee

The “You Are My Favorite Reason To Never Give Up” Tee

@shopjumpingjack tee

Matching Toddler Tees (booties from @sheshemarieboutique)

 ^ TWO of my precious-precious REASONS to NEVER GIVE UP ❤ ^

my favorite reason to never give up

@shopjumpingjack tee

@shopjumpingjack tee

@shopjumpingjack tee

 

She has lots more cute stuff in her shop that I’ve been ogling…

Checkout these other FAB items from @ShopJumpingJack!

  Etsy Shop: www.jumpingjackjack.etsy.com

Instagram: @shopjumpingjack

Email: shopjumpingjack@gmail.com

If you would like more information about SMA please visit www.thegsf.org, or watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osPYUVGB_aw 

#CuretheCycle2015

Thanks for reading! Remember to use code: CRUZLOVESJACK20 for 20% off!

(offer valid 11/20 – 11/23)

❤ together we can cure SMA ❤

@shopjumpingjack tee

California, here we come! 


Well, here I was all excited to tell you guys, “WE’RE ON OUR WAY TO CALIFORNIA!”, but I guess a lot of you thought we’d already left for Palo Alto because of the pics I posted from the going-away party last week lol! I think our send-off was thrown for us early because of schedule conflicts, but it’s made for some funny faces and awkward questions from people when they’ve run into me at Target and such, haha! But I still wanted to post this anticlimactic announcement because I’m looong overdue for a blog update (sometimes IG captions just don’t cut it), and what better time to answer some of your whos/whats/whens/wheres/whys than this 10+ hour drive! It will give me a distraction from my swollen feet, sore joints, muscle cramps, heartburn, baby kicking my bladder… you know… that end-of-pregnancy-glory! Let’s just hope I don’t get carsick from typing 🙂

                            

                                >> Q & A Time << 

WHAT!? You’re moving to Cali!? No! I’m headed to Palo Alto so that I can deliver Valor at Stanford University.

WHY am I delivering at Stanford? There’s a 50% chance that Valor is missing a vital enzyme called OTC (for short), like his late brother, Cruz. OTC deficiency is a liver disorder that runs in our family requiring immediate attention and an eventual liver transplant in order for affected boys to survive. Oregon, our hometown, does not offer infant liver transplants.

WHY leave a month before his due date? 
This was a request made by Stanford. They like all their out-of-town patients to arrive at about 36-37 weeks gestation to meet their new OB and any specialists involved (in my case the metabolic team, dietitians and geneticists), develop a strategic delivery plan, take you on a tour of the NICU, and to start a series of stress tests, fetal monitoring and regular checkups (mine start on the 6th)! This is also to lessen the risk of going into early labor while still in Oregon, which in my case could be detrimental if Valor ends up needing a liver transplant. That scenario would result in a $120K emergency life flight – believe me – been there, done that.


I’ve heard of OTCD being detected through amniocentesis… WHY haven’t you tried to pre-diagnose him this way?  
About 80% of OTC mutations are detectable through amino, but the specific OTC mutation that runs in our family is buried too deep within the genetic code to be read. At this point in time, science lacks the technological capabilities required to examine one’s entire DNA pattern.

WHAT are his chances of survival if he has OTCD? 75%


WHY have I mentioned 2 different due dates? 
Valor’s actual due date is July 27th, but the doctors do not want me to go into natural/spontaneous labor because there are certain geneticists, dietitians, and metabolic specialists who have to be present during my entire labor. Childbirth is one of the most dangerous times of an OTCD carrier’s life (that’s me), and Valor will need to be tested within moments of delivery as a potential OTCD affected neonate. If my ammonia levels begin to rise and proper procedures are not followed to bring those ammonia levels down, I as a mother am at risk for becoming non-responsive, suffering stroke-like damage to the brain, and possible death. They are not highly concerned about any of these issues with me in particular because – other than some low blood pressure issues, low oxygen levels, and fever – my past 2 deliveries have been relatively normal and asymptomatic. To avoid all of this scariness from happening, they are trying to control the date that he arrives, and that date is tentatively scheduled for July 20th. However, if I start having contractions before then, my induction might get moved to an even earlier date.


WHAT kind of induction? C-Section or… ?  
Still don’t know yet.


Will you know right away if he’s sick? 
No. Cruz did not show signs until he was 3 days old. There are a series of tests that have to be done, and some of those tests can start out normal and then begin to look abnormal the longer he is out of my womb – AKA – separated from my nutrient system and my body’s OTC supply.


HOW long will you get to be with him before he’s taken to the NICU? 
There will be no skin-to-skin other than the few moments while they’re cutting the umbilical cord. I’m pretty sure I will cry uncontrollably at this moment. I told my husband he’s not allowed to leave his side until they finish all my tests/blood draws and let me go visit him. This could be up to 5 hours:(


WHY can’t you nurse him? Nursing is SO crucial! 
I know that nursing is one of the most important things for a newborn, and it makes me REALLY sad that I can’t, but breast milk contains about 10X the protein an OTC deficient boy can handle. OTC is required to break down protein, so if he’s sick and I nurse him, this would essentially poison his system with ammonia and send him straight into a coma – just like Cruz.


WHEN do you get to come home if he’s healthy? 
Probably about a month from today. We will be there for precautionary reasons from July 1 until his induction date, but we’ve been told to allow up to 10 days in the NICU before an official diagnosis can be made. That puts us somewhere around August 1st… the day I HOPE and PRAY to be buckling him into his infant car seat and making the 10 hour drive home 🙂


WHEN will you get to come home if he’s not healthy? 
If he is proven to be missing his OTC enzyme like Cruz, he will begin his journey towards transplant. He has to grow/gain weight on a protein-free diet until he reaches the minimum transplant requirement of 11lbs (5 Kilos), and then once on the transplant list he has to wait for a matching donor type to arrive. Cruz actually had the most common blood type… let’s hope he and Valor at least have that in common! Sometimes donors arrive in 3 days, other times not for 3 months… And sadly, they don’t let parents be live donors except for in extreme emergency situations, due to the risk of complication. After surgery he’s kept to make sure his body doesn’t reject the new organ for several days, then he goes on to in-patient/out-patient treatment. The longest we could be gone is approx. 6 months, but hopefully it would be shorter than that because there’s an out-patient program at Oregon Health & Science University, the hospital in Portland only 20 minutes away from home.


WHERE will we be staying? 
We’ve had quite the array of housing issues… let me tell you! At first we thought we’d be able to find a place for cheap using Jared’s parents’ Marriott timeshare, but because of the busy time of year and how close we need to be to the hospital (within 20 mins) there was no availability. We’ve also been looking on our Airbnb and HomeAway apps, but nothing is even remotely in our price range! We’re on a waiting list for a one-bedroom apartment using the Stanford housing program, but so far we have yet to hear from our social worker who said she’d call when a room opened up. This would be the ideal situation, since they match Ronald McDonald prices at only $10/night! And we can’t stay at the Ronald McDonald until after he’s born because they don’t like to take prenatal patients, especially ones who don’t have a definitive diagnosis. Let’s pray that diagnosis never comes! All that to say, Stanford called us a few days ago and found us a hotel in a neighboring city that’s $110/night – much more than $10 lol – but it’s a good deal in comparison to the other hotels we’ve looked into. It’s an Extended Stay so we can be there for the whole month (July 1 – August 1) without having to change rooms numerous times… which makes me happy because I want Ezekiel to feel as comfortable/settled-in as possible by the time I go into labor. (The word “Stanford” makes him really upset and nervous, and he says he will NOT go there, so we’re just calling this a “vacation where Valor is going to come out of Mommy’s tummy!”) It’s still possible that while we’re at the Extended Stay we could get a phone call about one of those apartments becoming available, and in that case we will move over there in a heartbeat! It’s much closer, cheaper, has its own washer/dryer for laundry, PLUS it has a separate bedroom, living room and full kitchen! Much more accommodating than a studio hotel room. PLEASE, JESUS!


WHO’S coming with me?  
Jared’s driving me down, but he’s flying home after a couple of days so he can still work and run the evening services for The Bridge (our church). Z will stay with me the whole time, which is why my mom is also coming down. She will keep me company until Jared returns for the delivery, and she can also babysit for me while I go to my numerous appointments! Did I mention my little sis is in the back seat too!? Her and my mom are sort of a package-deal since Lexi is only 9 (yes, we’re full siblings, 20 years apart), plus she’s built-in fun for Ezekiel!

How am I doing? Am I excited or anxious? I will miss ALL my friends and family tremendously, and I definitely teared up giving people goodbye-hugs over the last few days. I can keep my composure when believing and hoping it’s just for a short while… but there’s a huge part of me that’s secretly scared of what lies ahead. When I try to imagine being in labor, I see myself having a panic attack that I can’t recover from, and needing an emergency C-section because I lack the strength and mental capability to push through. The only thing that gets a mom through the hellacious experience of labor is focusing on the reward that awaits on the other side…… I can’t figure out what to focus on this time:(   I’m sure God has some mysterious plan up His sleeve, as He always does… I just hope whatever happens will somehow bring redemption to my broken places, and shed some light on why Cruz’s story unfolded the way it did.

On a superficial note, pray we find a local POOL! The Extended Stay doesn’t have one, and I’m trying to figure out how to keep Z from total boredom while cooped up with all of us in a studio for a month in this hot weather! 😂

Thanks for reading! Can’t wait to check-in to our home-away-from-home!

Remodel Therapy

Well guys, I’ve been working my butt off since coming back from Stanford, but my brain’s been on a major mental strike. “Don’t make me think, don’t make me think!” I’m maxed out. Emotionally spent. Writing’s been like… trying to draw water from an empty well – or –  maybe there are more words currently flowing than ever before but something is blocking them from forming on the page? I hope one day it’ll finally come spilling out in beautiful, glorious cohesion and not like a giant spew of vomit!

I’d like to start by thanking all of YOU for standing by as my husband and I continue to weather through the most difficult season of our lives. We’ve been absolutely blown away by this newfound, ever-growing support system of Instagrammers and bloggers! Our hearts still feel freshly wounded, the medical bills keep coming, and the bad news seems to just PILE on….. but your words, prayers, gifts, financial blessings ($23K+), and relationships, have carried us through; You have truly been His Hands and Feet.

I wondered if letting a whole year pass with just  o n e   single entry on this blog was going to plummet my readership, but I came back and discovered the exact opposite. I can’t believe how much activity this site has had, and I feel so, soooo honored (and flattered) that you’re still coming back to see what I have to say! (Oh the irony that NOW is when I’d experience Writer’s Block!) Starting on January 30th, the day Cruz died, My Colonial ReMODel had over 3,000 hits in just a few hours, and not a day has passed since that there hasn’t been people visiting from all over the world – 91 countries to be exact. I want to take the time to acknowledge my top ten, most-faithful foreign countries and say, “Hello, from little ol’ me in Portland!”  

U.S., of course, you’re at the tippy-top, my fellow ‘Mericans!

1. Canada – Hey! I have family and friends from BC… thanks for reading.

2.  Australia – G’day;) I have to thank IG for all 1,300+ of you!

3.  UK – Hello!

4. Switzerland – Hallo!

5. Germany – Hallo!

6. Sweden – Halla!

7. Mexico – Hola!

8.  Italy – Ciao!

9. Brazil – Ola!

10. France – Bonjour!

Interacting with ALL of you on Instagram is one of my favorite things to do in a day, and I try my best to keep up and respond to your comments/posts/tags (although I know I’ve also missed a ton, and for that I apologize). I’ve connected with many moms like myself, having buried one or more children, and I’ve even come across parents with surviving OTC deficient children. I’ve been in contact with bloggers and interior designers who I may have never networked with had it not been for this unfortunate situation. My small little social circle has expanded and exploded in a matter of months, and suddenly the world seems so much bigger (and my tragic loss doesn’t seem so unusual… most certainly not as unfair).

The occasional, unexpected run-ins have been the most fun, although it makes me think twice before running errands without any makeup on! It always starts with an awkward stare… at the mall, restaurants, (most surprising was at Skamania Lodge in Washington)! I can tell you’re trying to figure out why you recognize me, and then the question, “Are you Cruz’s mom?” usually follows. I am SO happy to answer yes, then within minutes we’re crying together, discussing how much he changed our whole perspective on parenting/raising kids; not taking them for granted, cherishing ALL the moments, having extended grace and patience… all because of my little fighter guy. + + +These interactions remind me that, though Cruz’s life on this earth was short, his purpose still lives on. + + +

I’m looking forward this new season (as strange as it may be)! I certainly never imagined being here. I’m so thankful I have something like My Colonial ReMODel to immerse myself in during my darkest moments.  I need big, in-my-face projects to distract me from my reality sometimes…. is that bad? I’ve never been someone to go with the grain, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve resorted to “remodel therapy” when the conventional thing in my situation would be grief counseling. There’s something to be said though, for everyone, about working with your hands. It’s SO THERAPEUTIC! On the days that I turn to TV or lying around thinking, “I just need a break”,  I only end up feeling depressed, exhausted, and anxious. Blue-collaring, as I call it, relieves stress, gives the mind something simple to focus on, and leaves you feeling accomplished at the end of the day.

I should probably tell you that, for a while there I was wrestling with this whole “remodel blogger” concept… feeling internal conflict over whether I should be wasting my time with things so materialistic and lacking all seriousness. I didn’t want to bag the blog all together, but what if I had lost my passion and vision for it? So…….. I finally have people reading and I’m just gonna walk away??? (Sidenote: Right after you lose someone you SWEAR you’ll never take interest in anything carnal EVER again, and you’re frustrated with those who still do. Then you eventually realize that if life is ALL serious ALL the time, it’s too hard, too stressful, too mundane; lacking joy, fun, excitement, variety, and flavor. You’re not really living. For some reason or another, you NEED the meaningless things to lighten the weight laying heavy on your heart.) While going back and forth with myself, I stumbled across this image in my phone, a screenshot I’d taken of my morning devotions while still in early months of pregnancy with Cruz:

months of pregnancy with Cruz

I know this verse is more metaphorical than literal, but it’s funny how Scripture can take on new meanings and interpretations depending on where we’re at in life, and it’s as though I had taken note of this KNOWING I’d need to read it again at a later time. As pastors, Jared and I have dedicated our lives to “rebuilding” ;  spiritually parenting the fatherless/motherless youth in our ministry… helping recovering users… intervening in hurting marriages… and as fulfilling as our job can be, we can also get discouraged when we put so much work into a non-tangible problem or situation and see it continue to fall apart. So, having a physical job to get our hands dirty with, i.e. My Colonial ReMODel, is exactly what we need to bring balance to our lives. It’s drastically different from what we do for a living, yet so cohesive because it all revolves around this concept of rebuilding – not building from the ground up – but REbuilding that which is broken. I’m so thankful for this verse, because without it I think I’d still be contemplating where to go from here.

As promised, I added a tab to my ^menu^ called #iheartcruz. This is a link to my new, personal blog, LOVE HURTS || LOVE HEALS. You can casually follow from here, or go and subscribe to be notified when I post – either way – it will now be the only place where I’ll make entries about Cruz, future family planning, adoption, test results, etc. For my sake and for yours, I did this because I needed to start compartmentalizing and keeping my messy life separate from the remodel. {{“Don’t mix business with pleasure” …or in my case… NOT-pleasure.}}  I’ve also redesigned a few pages, given you direct access to my NEW shop @B_ART_STUDIOS, and soon you’ll even see video tours coming to My Colonial ReMODel! (Yes, all the vlogging requests finally got to me, and I finally got over the nerves of talking in front of the camera… sorta…) Also, I’m collaborating with my sister-in-love (who happens to be an uh-mazing interior designer!) to build a “Dream with B” page… full of future 3D virtual designs for each room! This way you can grasp my vision room-by-room, and see the end goal behind all the little projects we have going on ’round here!

I’m super excited about what’s to come… Jared and I are just days out from starting on some MAJOR projects – the biggest projects we’ve done since the initial demolition! We’ve been saving for a while now, and thanks to some of YOU, the medical-money-pit hasn’t impacted our remodel reserves. The only sad news is, we found out we have to redo ALL the plumbing, which is gonna run about $6K and destroy our beautifully finished walls 😦 This will eat into our kitchen budget as well, so we have to wait for Spring to start on that now. BOO-HOO! But (there is a but), our contractor came out on Thursday to go over plans for our master on-suite and the downstairs bath, so we should be “breaking ground” (so to speak) on these projects by next week! EEEEEK!

Once again, WELCOME to all you newcomers, thank you EVERYONE for your friendship and LOVE – let’s do this thang.

 

XO,

– B

 

 

 

Death of a Thursday

but first, a little throwback to an unfinished entry titled, “Thankful Thursday”

=======================================================================

Thankful Thursday 

(Drafted November 16, 2013 (3 days before Cruz was born)

I know, I know… November is the cliché month to give thanks and recognize those things we often take for granted… but it’s in the midst of need that we’re suddenly aware of how much (or how little) support we have. From family to friends, I am blessed with SO many quality people in my life who truly-madly-deeply care about me. I haven’t always felt this way. I’ve gone through seasons of my life where I desperately needed what I have now, but felt like I had nowhere to turn. It’s comforting to know that the next time I experience trial, I won’t have to bear it alone.

So, how does a person adequately express their thankfulness towards someone when the generosity itself has left them at a loss for words??? I’m not quite acquainted with this sort of speechlessness , so I guess I’ll just jump off! –

Thanks to my sisters and some of my dearest friends, I had the BEST baby shower a girl could ask for! Not only was I pampered by ALL who came spoiling me with diapers, wipes, and gifts GALORE, I left feeling undeservingly blessed to have finally………..

(End of Draft) 11/16/13

=======================================================================

Death of a Thursday

……. And here I am, in the midst of another trial. Wow. If I only knew, blissfully driving home that night with a car-full of baby stuff, that I wasn’t going to need ANY of it. Now looking back at the past valleys I’ve walked through, I can see how every journey has taken me oh-so-slightly deeper into pain’s crevasse; each one just toughening me up a bit, bracing me for the day I’d eventually step in sinking sand. Sitting here, suffocating at the bottom of the pit, it’s frightening to recognize that this fractured ground could give way again, and I might find myself disoriented by an even greater fall.

For the past few years, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a book on love. I have the title, the cover design, a general outline… but one thing was missing. Without running on with divulging details, I will just say, Cruz’s death finished the book. I had always wondered if losing someone is losing someone, is losing someone… and in fact, for me, it IS one-and-the-same. Whether losing someone to death, rejection, betrayal, unfaithfulness, what-have-you, the emotional-transcending-physical heartache feels the same, just at totally different dimensions.

I think we as humans were designed to be resilient; able to bounce back from major impacts by evolving and learning to move/live on with whatever our individual struggles may be. But – because of this ability to cope, we often gain a delusion of independence and underestimate our inherent need to be reliant.

There’s nothing quite like a humbling wound to the soul that sends us desperately seeking help from someone/something/somewhere beyond ourselves. We’re wired for relationship, we crave community, we live for love. But even (after trying psychological and physical solutions to aid the pain, or simply allowing enough time to pass) if I’ve truly had an encounter with my Creator, I find that I lean into Him jusssst long enough to regain my strength and wits about me, then I leave the nest regardless of whether my wings are still broken. Just because something’s no longer raw, doesn’t mean it’s cured; just because you’ve learned to ignore bloodiness, doesn’t mean you’ve stopped the bleeding and yet, well, you’d think I’d learn.

When answering the trite Christian-question, “how are you doing spiritually?”, I would honestly say I felt close to God……… but what does “close” really mean??? Any religious, disciplined person can read their Bible, pray, make all the “right” decisions, and still be absorbed and governed by their own feelings and selfish nature. There’s no other relationship in my life that would survive such narcissistic behavior, so I suppose that answers my question of closeness.

I feel like my priorities were so out of whack before this whole thing that I’m not quite sure how I ever justified it in my head. I was due for a wakeup call, I suppose. If I’ve somehow painted an image of a harlot or hypocrite in your mind, that’s not at all what I’m saying, I just mean I may have had other gods in my life, such as my children, home, and earthly treasures; I guess this is me pleading guilty of idolatry. I don’t think I brought this situation upon myself, nor do I believe that God is a God of vengeance, but sometimes bad things happen to good people, and I think our response to these “bad things” is what sheds light into the deepest places of one’s heart.

It’s hard to feel happy these days… but then that begs the question… was my previously-so-called happiness rising from a foundation of joy? Or, was my happiness subjective, suspended between ever-changing, unsecured circumstances? As children it’s pounded into our brains at Sunday School that “ I’VE GOT JOY, JOY, JOY, JOY, DOWN IN MY HEART – TO STAYYY!”, but we’re not taught how to practically live that song even if/when we grow up and find out that after generations of a hereditary disorder laying dormant, YOU are the one who was born with the defect that will someday kill your son.

If I’m honest, I’ve been dealing with thoughts and temptations so foreign to me there might as well be some stranger whispering terrible-nothings in my ear, in a language I hardly understand… and if I listen… the things that used to be black and white start to warp and meld into shades of gray, and the foundational belief system of my faith is called into question. Perhaps this is how Eve found herself allured by the snake? It’s easy to judge when she APPEARED to have everything she could ever want already, but let’s just say she too, had a nagging void within her rendering her vulnerable and susceptible to deception. If she could be convinced that God didn’t have her best interest at heart, I think that’s all it takes for anyone to begin questioning the difference between good and evil.

It’s disillusioning when your personal absolutes suddenly seem subjective. God is good. Evil is bad. But then many have implied that perhaps Cruz was chosen to be some modern-day sacrificial lamb that would lead many to Christ… as much as I try to see that as good, I CAN’T. The God I thought I knew provided Abraham with a lamb so that Isaac didn’t have to die. Where was my Shepherd as I watched Cruz drowning in his own fluids for his last what-seemed-endless hours, struggling for  e v e r y   s i n g l e    b r e a t h. “HE’S ONLY A BABY! JESUS, PLEASE!” My cries seemed to have fallen on deaf ears and for that whole night I felt…………… abandoned.

Multiple doctors were in his room, but one of them was standing over me as I fell to the floor having loss all color, my left arm numb, chest cavity so heavy I felt like death itself was clenching my lungs; I was dying on the inside AND out. I had heard multiple “adult code-blues” blaring over the intercom during my stay at the children’s hospital and I was sure, I was next. As my heart began to palpitate, my body violently shaking, it was as though I was preparing for the birth of something only I assure you, labor pains don’t even compare. Everything began to fade out, both sight and sound, but there was ONE thing that gave me the strength to hold onto my fading consciousness. His name, Ezekiel. “YOU CANNOT LEAVE HIM, BRITTNEY, GET IT TOGETHER! HE NEEDS YOU JUST AS MUCH AS CRUZ HAS NEEDED YOU!” Then I’d think about little Cruz (who was just handed off to his father by the mother who had always been near – never afraid, always holding his hands and cheering him on)… WHAT IF HE’S SCARED!? WHERE AM I IN HIS GREATEST TIME OF NEED!? GET UP AND GO OVER THERE! I had heard about females in the animal kingdom dying after the loss of their young, and part of me was afraid that if I held him again, as much as I ached to, my heart would go into cardiac arrest. || Even as I try to recount these all-too-fresh moments, the frightening, familiar, paralyzing pain is gripping hold, convulsive cries are making it hard to type, and tears are flooding my eyes, streaming down my chest. || I knew this was the last hour because it was getting harder and harder for me to function, and it was requiring so much medication to keep him comfortable that he would soon overdose. It took every ounce of my existence to lift myself from the disgusting blood-spattered floor, like going for that 100th and final push-up when muscles tremble and joints give out… but I willed myself to crawl over and sit at my husband’s feet. The closer I drew to Cruz, the closer I felt to death. I reached out, determined to make myself known to my suffering babe, touched his swollen hand and spoke as many words as I could mutter. I think I knew he was waiting for me; I knew the sooner he sensed my presence, Cruz would feel like he could stop fighting… and sure enough… moments after my voice touched his ears, I looked up at the monitor just in time to see his last two heartbeats before the flatline_________________________

 

Still filled with some bit of hope or perhaps denial, my adrenaline raged and I had a burst of strength pulse through my body, throwing myself overtop of him. I screamed his name loudly against his cheek, his body jolted, and my heart leaped, only to look up at the doctor to be informed this was “just a COMMON reflex”.  T.O.D. 7:44am, THURSDAY. I proceeded to vomit everything in my stomach until there was nothing left. I stood to my feet, took a deep breath, felt an unexplainable burden lift itself from my shoulders, then the words, “Well done, daughter” penetrated my spirit. Suddenly, this feeling of abandonment was replaced with nearness, and I felt as though my Father was standing next to me, smiling, with an empathy that only He knew. I did it. A piece of me was gone, and I was certainly not the Brittney I was even the day before, but I survived the impossible. I looked over at the body that once contained the soul of my precious, precious son, it was already so shockingly pale-green, but somehow I could separate the fact that he was no longer there, and my life-long fear of death was replaced with a calming peace beyond my understanding. As I watched them remove all of his needles and wires (for the first time in 2.5 months), some sort of freedom came over me, and I felt the same liberation I used to feel as I’d pass the baton at the end of an excruciating relay. He was out of my hands. We had fought the good fight. Now it was time to REST. This is when the Psalm 23 image of Cruz and Jesus walking hand-in-hand painted itself over my bleeding heart, and I felt healing, refreshment, cleansing – renewal. Cruz was alive!

Though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, Cruz wasn't afraid, because Jesus heard his cries and comforted him; led him to green pastures, still waters, prepared a feast in the presence of his enemies (for his starving little tummy), and now Cruz will live in the house of the Lord FOREVER.

Though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, Cruz wasn’t afraid, because Jesus heard his cries and comforted him; led him to green pastures, still waters, prepared a feast in the presence of his enemies (for his starving little tummy), and now he lives in the house of the Lord, FOREVER.

I don’t know what I think about God or the God I thought I knew… I struggle with feeling mad at Him but my love for Him has SOMEHOW increased. Did God plan such a tragedy? Isn’t He good ALL the time? Full of mercy, love, and grace? It comes down to the ongoing theological debate between predetermination vs. free will. Where I stand on this subject is neutral. To think it was premeditated and orchestrated ruins my belief that God answers prayer – without prayer I have no faith, without faith I lose hope… along with my ability to trust in anything. But to think God’s first design was for Cruz to live and that His plan got derailed by man’s sin-nature and the foolish mistakes/mistreatment in Portland, (although it takes the fault off God), it suggests that evil prevailed. So now God is the lesser of two powers at war??? I believe God could’ve intervened at any point and released Cruz of the ailments that bound him, but He didn’t. Why? It’s not like there wasn’t enough of us praying for him! I could entertain unknowns and what-ifs that’d eventually drive me straight to the psych ward, but correct treatment or not, thousands of prayers or none, this all started because he was formed with a failing liver, and that’s the part I struggle with. God intricately and purposefully formed him within my womb. He knew his every part. (Psalm 139:13)

I’ll admit I’m getting nervous as time goes on. My genetic screening was supposed to take 3-5 months (I think I’m down to 0-2) and although part of me is anxious to hear and get on with my life, part of me doesn’t want to know. Right now I can still have hope that the worst is over, and I don’t want ANYTHING to take away this hope. Now that the shock is beginning to wear off, the permanence of death is setting in. Cruz is gone. His cute little body I used to gaze upon is now rotting beneath the ground. His precious fingers that gripped mine so tight are now lifeless and cold. I COULD NEVER DO THIS AGAIN! I could never watch another one of my babies die… BUT, if I never try for another, how will I ever move on?! What will keep me from obsessing over what happened? I can’t get stuck here.

This goes without saying, but I’m obviously at a turning point in my life… we all get a few of those. Am I going to let circumstances destroy me or build me? Am I going to get bitter or better? Am I going to drown in self-pity or let the waves of grief spur my creativity? Am I going to thank God for His goodness and mercy regardless of my pending DNA results, or will I be overcome with anger and resentment if things don’t go the way I’d hoped? What if this isn’t an isolated one-time tragedy because the very fabric of my being is flawed!? This IS what will break me or make me; This has the potential and potency to imprison me or propel me down a road less-traveled.

I could easily live the rest of my life blaming God and overlooking all my many blessings because I feel shortchanged – but then I’d be just like Eve – forsaking all the other fruitFUL trees in my garden because I’m captivated with the one that I don’t understand; infatuated with the one I think I want/need most, the one God obviously set apart… and convinced that I know what-would-have-been best, distrusting that God could possibly have a better plan. I was blessed and chosen to be Cruz’s mother for the short time he was here, that IS good. I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to meet Baby Cruz for anything.

The brutality and finality of death remains unmatched. If I didn’t believe in something eternal, the Brittney we all know would surely disappear, buried alive in this insurmountable heartache; but I’m a firm believer that this life isn’t all there is. Cruz is alive, happy, healthy, stronger than ever and better off than he would’ve been on this hell-of-an-earth… he’s just not with his mama. And that’s actually ok with me, somehow. I know that I know that I know, I WILL hold Cruz again someday, and that someday-moment is what gets me through my every waking hour.

 

Moving on from here:

I PLAN to get back into blogging, I just need to get past the new-found superficiality of it all. It seems so pointless to talk about design and decor, but then again, I have never been so thankful for My Colonial Remodel as I am now. Having the ability to lose myself in projects has been a healthy distraction as I go through the motions of mourning, plus, 10 months of pregnancy hormones preparing me for the busy life of “taking care of baby” have left me with all this extra energy that I need to spend somewhere! Someone once asked me if I was going to seek grief counseling, and as of now, working with my hands has been my preferred therapy. I hope everyone else can move on with me, obviously never forgetting Cruz, but helping me pick up where I left off here.

Thanks for all your love, support, prayers, endless gifts and happy-mail… every day is delivery day here at My Colonial ReMODel! I am surrounded with the best of the best and I love you ALL dearly!

 

TRULY MADLY DEEPLY,

– B

 

 

 

Battle of the Sexes

It was an epic event here at the Strickland household Monday night…
A night full of lighthearted competition and WAY too much grueling anticipation! Annnnnd although the results of the climactic gender reveal were not necessarily what Mom (me) had originally hoped for, I’m already beyond the irrational pregnancy emotions and looking forward to a life of raising BROTHERS!

Before showing you these photos, I want to preface: When I decide to do something, I have this uncontrollable need to overdo it – so even though it was just a small party made of primarily my family, I still went ALL out – DON’T judge! This is the big “coming out” year for GRPs (gender reveal parties), so if you’re thinking about having a GRP, here are some fun ideas for ya!

 

Invite
(I designed this cute little graphic to attach to my evite)

Entryway
(create an immediate vibe!)

My wall is painted in a flat black, so I decided to go ahead and use it as my score board! The chalk and empty frame turned out to be the perfect touch!

I hung these tissue poofs, each of which only took $1 and 15 minutes to make!
Notice the score at this point in the game – girl’s are WAY out front!

Make em’ choose a side!

This “table” of name tags is actually the box of balloons to be opened at the end of the evening… I’m all about multi-purposing!

I wore a BOY pin, Dad wore GIRL…. just so we were on opposite teams! (Typical!)

Dessert Table
I chose 7pm so I could get away with a simple cake n’ coffee bar.
Instead of the expected blue n’ pink, I went with a black and white theme (surprise, surprise!)

I took the leaf of my table out and rearranged the dining room to allow a throughway.
Of course then we had to raise the chandelier so it wasn’t hanging down in the middle of traffic

These giant letters were at Joann’s Fabric for $4.99 ea, plus I used my coupons and saved 40%!
I turned these into chalkboards as well

HER-shey’s Candies

hers -HE-y’s Candies

Betting Pool
For those who felt confident in their vote! (Winner takes all!)

Angel Food Cake vs. Devil’s Food Cake!

The Ying and the Yang

The pics from the ultrasound earlier that day hung on the wall opposite the dessert table… minus the gender photos obviously!

We played an intense game of BATTLE OF THE SEXES! Seemed appropriate for the evening!
Please ignore the messy entertainment center… it’s a “work in progress”!

Immediately following the board game we headed out to the front yard for the BIG MOMENT! No one knew what it was going to be… not even Jared and I… despite my dad’s ongoing post-reveal joke, “You mean, not even YOU guys knew what it was!?!?” “Dad, STOP!” (Funny and aggrivating all at the same time!)

Final score: 12 girl votes, 9 boy… well, 10 including Ezekiel’s scribble!

Final Bets: 9 bets in the girl’s jar… only 3 for boy!

Total Cash Winnings: $36! (Congrats, Daniel & Liza Unger!)

Jeopardy music…

Jeopardy music…

Jeopardy music…

Jeopardy music…

Jeopardy music…

…and the gender is: BOY!  (Wait, I already told you that)

I had the Party Spot tape this foil balloon to the inside of the box for keepers;
the rest of the balloons flew up into the sky for ALL to see!

~ Announcing the Name ~
Jesse
Cruz, after his grandfather & great grandfather! He will go by Cruz.
(Jesse is Hebrew for Gift, Cruz is Latin for The Cross, so his name essentially means, the Gift of the Cross!)

You’re traditionally suppose to have an outfit ready for both genders,
but I decided to save a little money and personalize some Onsies I already had.
I plan on dressing little Cruz in this for his newborn photo shoot!

Now my entry seems so plain without all the fun writing on the wall!

 I’m tempted to keep using my entry wall as a chalkboard to jot welcoming messages for all who walk through this door! What do you think?

Happy “Hump” Day!

 

For more fun GRP ideas, visit this great party blog!!!
Happy Hump Day!

-B

M.I.A.

I bet you’re all thinking, “doesn’t she realize that ‘Wednesday Weekly’ more than implies posting every week… on a Wednesday?” It’s been 3 weeks since my last entry and although I am not excusing my absence, I do have a very good reason for it!  (Or should I say very small reason???)

We're Pregnant!

We’re Pregnant!

I have been sooooooooo sick with this pregnancy, MUCH sicker than I was with my first, which in some ways has me thinking it’s got to be a different gender; but then I realize if I were to buy into that theory I’d be believing in nothing more than a hokey wives’ tale. Either way, boy or girl, I’ve been referring to the little lime-sized miracle as “high maintenance” since the day I first suspected its existence! This baby wants to make it clear to Mama and everyone else living with me that he/she is here!

Why did I keep this wonderful news hidden for so long, you ask? I wanted to be sure everything was safe and sound before announcing it to the public, but I was unable to get a doctor’s appointment scheduled before ten weeks. I thought it would be easy to hide, but the last couple weeks I’ve had to wear very loose clothing to cover my obvious pooch! The ultrasound above revealed that I was a little further along than originally predicted so they moved my due date to November 23 – just two days after Turkey Day! Looks like I won’t be traditionally stuffing my face this year since I’ll have a baby filling any room there once was in my belly! (Who knows, maybe Thanksgiving Day will be the day this little rascal decides to enter the world!?)

At 12 weeks, my little bambino is said to be the size of a lime

At 12 weeks, my little bambino is said to be the size of a lime 🙂

Baby Bump

Baby Bump

Reporting as MIA certainly has nothing to do with a lack of inspiration or shortage of ongoing projects by any means -in fact- it’s been quite the opposite! My mind is like an endless feed of new and ambitious ideas right now…  for remodeling, blogging, DIYing… but with creativity at a high and energy at an all-time low… the results have been less than satisfactory!

Here’s a list of open projects that’ve yet to be blogged about:

Dining Room [slow progress]

Ezekiel’s Nursery [major progress]

Upstairs Bathroom Floors [trials, tragedies, progress]

Upstairs Guest Room [progress]

Front Door [frustration]

Entry Way [progress, indecision]

Family Room [improvement, excitement]

Living Room [frustration, imperfection]

Office [improvement]

Exterior Curb Appeal [major progress]

Laundry Room [improvement]

Let’s go ahead and talk about the exciting addition to the family room real quick before I sign off… it’s just too good to pass up!

Remember the big decision we had to make between purchasing a new mattress for the master and buying a sofa for the family room??? Well, now that we have our cousin (Alyssa) and brother (Austin) living with us, it became rather awkward to watch them sit on the bare subfloor every night upon returning from a hard day’s work (and this prego laday wasn’t giving up her chair for nothin!) So we ordered the Pauline sofa from Z-Gallerie while it was on sale in March, and when it finally arrived last week it was nothing short of perfection and beyond worth the wait! We are so satisfied with this purchase! Although it may look too pretty to sit on, we actually chose this sofa for its luxurious comfort and its easy-to-clean gray microfiber fabric, making it extremely functional for a high-traffic family room!

Every time I look at it I have to pinch myself – IT’S REALLY MINE?!

Z-Gallerie Pauline SofaWe had to rearrange the room a bit to accommodate its oversized build, so now the black leather chairs sit opposite the couch, facing the window (you can see their arms at the corners of ^this^ photo).

Breaking it in! (I SWEAR he's wearing a diaper!)

Breaking it in! (I SWEAR he’s wearing a diaper!

Z Gallerie Sofa

Even looks pretty when things aren't tidy :)

Thanks for being patient with me while I finish out the last few days of my first trimester! I’m hoping by Saturday my nausea and fatigue will magically disappear as I enter week 13… although by the way I’m feeling at this very moment… FAT CHANCE! This post was almost up today around 4pm, but between the internet unexpectedly shutting off and dealing with an extra cranky toddler, things got away from me yet again!

So long till next time… goodnight Friends!

-B