Friday, November 30, 2012

Etched On My Heart

There are pivotal moments in your life that change you in an instant, and in that moment you are forever changed.  For me, those moments are:
  • the moment I committed my life to my Lord and Savior 
  • the moment I said "I do"
  • the moment I became a mom 
  • my baby's last breath 
If I were to meet you on the street for the first time, my second "moment" would be obvious by the ring on my finger and most likely the man who's arm I am hanging on.  I pray my first "moment" would be evident to you by the end of our conversation.  But, you see, my last two moments would go unnoticed.  You would leave our conversation not knowing a HUGE part of who I am.
My struggle with how to handle being changed (socially and emotionally) by Thatcher can be read in a much more eloquent post entitled "What's a Mommy To Do?"  If I figure out how to link that post to this one, I will insert it here What's a mommy to do.  If I don't figure it out, you can go find it yourself... sorry, I do not possess the gift of tech savviness.
Thatcher has changed me for forever and I have struggled since day 1 without him with how to show that he has altered my life.  The morning after Thatcher took his last breath, after I posted "What's a Mommy To Do?"  I looked up at my husband and family who were scattered all over the floor in our bedroom (side note: they weren't supposed to be there.  Eric and I set up our bedroom to be our "safe place" for us to retreat to when we felt overwhelmed and wanted to get away from people but my family would just follow me. It would start with someone popping his/her head in to check on me then they would trickle in one by one ... they never seem to follow the rules!  Don't tell them, but I don't mind, I have some really precious memories from those days with them littered on our bedroom floor.)  I looked up and said "I am getting a tattoo. I am absolutely getting a tattoo"  It may seem silly to you, but I needed a permanent, physical change to mirror the change in my heart.  And what is more is more permanent than a tattoo?  Eric smiled through tears and agreed that he had been thinking the same thing ...  and one by one my family members agreed that they needed a tattoo as well :) Although, my dad's said tattoo got smaller as the days passed from "THATCHER CALEB" to "LION" to "GRR" then he settled on getting a dot of courage.
Two weeks passed and Eric and I were out at dinner for my birthday when we landed on the discussion how God used Thatcher to change our lives.  We asked you all how he changed yours but Eric and I had yet to put into words how exactly Thatcher changed us.  I thought for a minute then began to explain that from the day I saw THE 2 pink lines God began to urge me to trust Him.  With a miscarriage the month before, God emphasized my faith did not belong in HCG or progesterone numbers, or even ultrasounds but in Him.  God and God alone was going to take care of this baby growing inside of me.  My need to trust in Him alone was magnified when we found out that Thatcher had major brain issues and even more when we were in the hospital.   God also used Thatcher to teach me how to have courage through Him.  Taking a stand against doctors and nurses, having to find my own voice and know what/who to listen to was hard, especially so when you are a people pleaser like myself.  Looking back there were confrontations I had to have, challenges we had to face, endless nights in the Ronald McDonald House, unspeakable things I would not have been able to face had they not been for my son.  God used Thatcher to take my heart captive and show me how to Trust and take Courage in Him.  As I said these things aloud to Eric, I realized these attributes God used Thatcher to teach me were also my sweet baby boy's Initials: Thatcher Caleb, Trust Courage, T C.  I knew without a doubt that was what I wanted as my tattoo.  A physical, and permanent reminder of how God forever changed my life and who He used.  So, last Monday, my sister, brother, Eric and myself put our words into action and got our tattoos!

 Here's my tattoo... 
just replace the unmade bed with a beautiful professional background

All 4 tattoos! 
Top left: Eric's, it says "trust and take courage" in Hebrew. 
Top Right: mine
Bottom left: Robin's 
Bottom Right: Nate's, it's a face of a lion with the words "Thatcher, Caleb, Trust, Courage" hidden in it

The sweet people who came out to be apart/support us! (minus Eric who was getting his tattoo during the picture, and Robin who was taking it)

 Here's a better picture of Eric's

So, if we happen to run into each other at the gas station or grocery store and you see a little ink peaking out above my shoe, just pretend you didn't read this blog post and feel free to ask me about it.  Because I would LOVE to share with you about the amazing little baby that changed my life! 

~ Whit

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thankfully, We Trudge Along ... trudge along, trudge along

It's kind of funny that our blog title isn't "Eric, Whitney plus one on the way"  or "Life with Thatcher" or something like that.  I mean, there are plenty of blogs out there that are specifically titled about growing families even those with disabled children, which is exactly what I thought ours would become.  For some reason, when we decided it'd be easier to share our family information with all of you via blogform I pictured us hiking, on a journey, knowing from that moment on our lives as "The Paul's" would never be the same.  Of course, I didn't think at the time we'd be continuing our journey without Thatcher, just that our lives would be different than the little family fantasies we once dreamt about.  One of the many random things I thought of after Thatcher left us was "well, at least we don't have to continue the blog."  A thought that brought both sadness and relief.  Relief because neither Eric nor I attribute ourselves to be writers and it takes HOURS to pick through a single post before we feel it makes sense enough to actually share it with you (not kidding, we have numerous posts that are just sitting around on phones, computers, even saved in blogger but we never posted because after reading them, we were like "wait, what?!?! that doesn't even make sense").  Sadness because a) it means we no longer have Thatcher updates to share with you b)I've enjoyed the sense of community I've gotten from knowing people are walking alongside of us.  As soon as I had that thought, a little voice responded "Why should you be finished sharing?  Your blog is titled "The Paul Family Journey".  Is your journey over?"  Since, we find ourselves still trucking along, I guess our journey isn't over therefore we will continue to share via the blog from time to time (I say time to time, because before Thatcher came along we actually had another blog and we posted a total of 8 times over 2 years. So, I'm not going to say something like "we'll post every week" because that's just a lie). 

Anyways, one of my wonderful pastors, Kyle Dunn, ( he was my college pastor, but I continue to listen to his sermons via podcasts and videos... I'm apparently liking 'via' today... so he's still "my" pastor, plus Thatcher liked listening to his sermons in the hospital, so he'll always be special to me now!)  asked Eric and I to write a little something to be included in a sermon he was sharing regarding death.  If you want to see/hear his actual sermon, you can find it here:  (it's part 5)  He asked us to write something so it forced me to sit down and sort through my thoughts and emotions.  As much as I didn't want to, I'm glad he asked because it brought some clarity of mind.  Since, it's November and everyone is on this "thankful thought a day" kick, I thought I might share with you all some of what was shared with him.
Sooo, here you go

What I’ve learned so far along this unexpected road our family is on is how important it is to be thankful in all situations.  During Thatcher’s life and especially afterwards what I have struggled most with is a sense of betrayal.  It was such an unexpected emotion but came (still does come, and I imagine it will for a very long time) in huge waves.   As awful as it is to have to admit, I felt betrayed by God, partially because I felt I did what was asked of me.  I felt the Lord urging us to pray and cover our little baby growing in my tummy so that’s what we did, around the clock.  When we found out Thatcher had significant brain damage, and they didn’t expect him to make it through delivery, we didn’t cower in fear, we prayed.  After he was born, and the doctors said he couldn’t hear, understand, or breathe without help, we didn’t crumble, we prayed and many of you joined us.  After God pulled us out of the mire so many times with Thatcher, why would He just take him one summer Friday night?  We did what we felt God urging us to do, so then why take our child?  I felt betrayed every time I looked at friends’ pictures on facebook, of their little families, knowing God has promised me a family yet both of my babies are not on this earth.  I felt betrayed thinking we had been through enough after losing our first baby to a miscarriage and with Thatcher, so sick with seizures, wasn’t it our turn to experience healing?  What is easy to see when the explanations are written, but what was so hard to make myself believe is that my feelings of “betrayal” hold no ground.  I have forced myself to declare this over and over but only recently do I feel like I truly believe it.  An acquaintance from Baylor lost her brother-in-law suddenly, who left behind 2 kids, and my 2nd cousin and his wife awoke to find their 4 month old baby had passed away to SIDS a few weeks ago.  Tragedy happens everywhere, all the time, why did I feel it shouldn’t happen to me?  God never promised I wouldn’t go through the fire, but lucky for us He did promise He wouldn’t leave us no matter what we are going through.  God is not human, therefore does not think as we do, which I am so thankful for!  He does not have silly and fickle emotions that I struggle with every day.  My Lord is constant, He is good, He is sovereign; these are the promises I have had to declare on a daily basis.  There are some days where I don’t want to believe them, but I know those are just my emotions getting in the way. I know these things to be true, I believe them not just in my heart, but with my life!  I know His word is true.  I am the one who sways and tumbles, not Him, and therefore I have to believe what He tells me, not what I’m telling myself.  His word tells me to be thankful at ALL times, and I have found thankfulness is the best weapon I have against the feeling of betrayal.  When I feel myself begin to slip into self-pity and feel betrayed for this road we are on, I pull myself out of my thoughts and begin to list what I am thankful for (sometimes out loud, or written, or just in my head).  At first it was only: “the time we got to love on Thatcher” and I had to repeat it over and over.  Slowly I have been able to add things to the list, even things I wouldn’t imagine I would ever admit to being thankful for, such as, the way He used Thatcher’s life to bring others to Him.  As hard as it is to admit, I know had Thatcher not had so many issues, and not struggled so much with life on this side of Heaven, there would not have been as many people on their knees petitioning the Lord on our behalf, so many others finding God again because of the strength of our sweet, baby boy and his life’s testimony.  It has taken awhile, and trust me there are many days I take it back, but I am thankful God used Thatcher to bring people all over the world closer to Him.  I am thankful that even though I now struggle with feelings of betrayal, self-pity, anxiety and doubt on a daily basis, my heavenly father is patient and quietly urges me to bring these things to Him.   These feelings that I wake up with that could easily throw me into a downward spiral, when I bring them to my Lord and Savior, He casts them out and instead covers me in His peace, and for that I am incredibly thankful.  I am most thankful that I know without a doubt my baby boy is exactly where He wants to be, will never know what pain is ever again, and one day I will get to join him again!!  God showed me through His word that thankfulness would essentially be “my lifeline” during this part of our journey.  Thankfulness has allowed me to cling to Him, to His Word and therefore it has allowed me to hope in a time when I am scared to death.  See, there is nothing scarier than waking up, realizing your life is completely turned upside down but you are left to deal with the pieces.  Yes, losing our sweet baby boy was the most terrifying thing we have ever gone through, and every experience since Thatcher left us has been and will continue to be bittersweet because he’s not here with us.  Life is a daily struggle, but thankfulness has allowed us to pick up the pieces of daily life.  So when you go though a fire, as everyone will, whether it be health related, monetary related, or something else, find something to be thankful for.   Trust that God is constant and He will reveal things and people to be thankful for to help get you through each day.

PS, I cranked this post out in about 30 minutes and I'm a little rusty with blogging so I apologize if it's full of grammatical and syntactical errors.