Today's prompt for Carly Marie Dudley's Capture Your Grief Day 27 is "Family is Forever".
However, today, Thursday, October 27th, 2016 was originally set to be Haven's due date and I thought instead to dedicate today's post on how I decided to spend her due date ...
She was to be born this day. Her daddy, my sister, and mom at my bedside witnessing the pushing of her into this world (which they thankfully got to do, but just 3 months earlier). A super full and packed family lounge/ visitor's lobby of excited and eager loved ones visiting and wanting to meet our baby. Me probably being discharged 2 or 3 days after giving birth and finally being able to bring our precious, little one home. Her dad so excited to place her inside the carseat and then to finally stare into the rearview mirror in disbelief at our miracle, our child before turning on the car engine to finally head on home.
Oh, how sweet and painful it is to dream and imagine what would have been and how this day would have unfolded ...
God had other plans.
Instead, over the past month and days leading up to this due date, I've been so anxious, so fearful, depressed, and dreading of this day to come. It finally came.
I woke up this morning with the most baggiest eyes, a heavy spirit, and a weary heart. I said a quick prayer, got up, and walked into Haven's room right next door. And began to do what I normally I do -- open her windows and slide her curtains to let the usual beautiful, natural light that comes into her room to come in. However today was different. I looked out and the sky was grey, cloudy, and moody. It was as if the heavens knew what today was too. I thought to myself, "Haven's sad with me as she longs to be with me as much as I long for her too.." I snapped a photo of the Modern Burlap - Ecclesiastes 3:11 - swaddle blanket that my sister had purchased while we were still in the hospital to wrap our babe with once she arrived. The blanket ended up arriving a few days after we had been discharged and back home and instead, she hung it in Haven's room as a reminder and banner of faith and hope. I shared it on my Instagram account while trying to find the "perfect" and/ or "right " words to caption my photo but came up with nothing. Nothing profound came to my mind. So I kept it short. I kept it honest. Raw and real.
As I stared around her room, my mind and imagination began to run wild. I talked to her memory box for a bit (yes, I do this) and told it how much I miss and ache for Haven. I sat on her ottoman to relax and take in some deep breaths, as my sister knocked and came into our rooms. She greeted me with a warm hug, a few words, and then some silence followed as she then took her turn inside Haven's room and shared a few moments inside and with her memory box on the wall, too.
A few days ago, my sister requested with her job to let her have a half day today, as she knew what the 27th meant for me. Thankfully, her boss agreed and granted her request. My heart was bursting when she shared the news with me, as I knew this day would be a lighter and easier one to endure having someone at my side since Paul had to work. I knew this was Jesus sending me someone to cry and be vulnerable with today. And am so thankful to have spent a day like this one with her.
I got ready quickly, put on some comfy, workout clothing, grabbed my light pink tote of all the essentials I need when I do my visits to Havey (ie. blankets, garden clippers, scissors, Seventh Generation's granite + marble cleaner, brushes, and watering can), and headed out the door. We drove to East LA to visit my sister's first and only patient for the day (my sister is a registered nurse and currently, her line of work is home health nursing and doing patient visits at their homes at the same time being a full-time student back in school obtaining her Master's degree + planning for her wedding part II) -- she does all this, makes time for me and is going through her own grieving journey as well all while never failing to just be present with and for Paul and I. She is my hero and quite the superwoman.
After her patient visit, we drove to Downtown LA's flower district to purchase Haven's new and fresh florals for the week. Thankfully, it wasn't a struggle finding street parking today (Havey and Jesus were on our side, PTL). Before venturing into The Southern California Flower Market we popped into Poppy + Rose LA for some breakfast and coffee. It was delicious and exactly what we were craving. We then made our way into my personal version of Disneyland -- a vast ocean of florals, colors, scents, and textures. I purchased some blush Hyacinths, white Gladiolus, ivory carnations, blush spray roses, and a mixed variation of eucalyptus - micro, silver dollar, and willow. We took a walk into a couple of plant and pot shops and I walked out with a new rubber plant (ficus elastica), a white pot and saucer for it, and named her Serah. My new plant babe shed a bit of light on the heaviness of today.
After basking in a few more rounds around the market, we parted ways and started making our way back towards home and the cemetery. We also grabbed iced tea and refreshers at a nearby Starbucks. We arrived and we started to get into our ritual. As I prepped, organized, and arranged my space to arrange the flowers, my sister laid the blanket out, placed water in Haven's flower vase, got comfortable, and put on a Worship playlist.
As I was arranging, my sister and I would intermittently cry, laugh, and also be in silence together. We played, "Blessing" by Laura Story a few times on repeat as we both felt overwhelmed and impacted by the song and its' truthful lyrics. *If you've never heard or listened to this song before, please search it, stop whatever it is that you're doing for 3-4 minutes, close your eyes and just take in and absorb this beautiful, beautiful song. I. Cry. Every. Single. Time. After putting her flowers together, I watered her grass area, my sister scrubbed her headstone, talked together about how her delivery today would have been, what would have happened (both painful and and joyful talking about it out loud with someone) and lastly, we just sat and stayed still. The sky and weather remained consistent and unchanged from when I woke up this morning all the way to our visit to Haven. We then said our, "I love you's," "I miss you's," "Wish you were here," and our "See you laters" to our Havey baby and went our separate ways.
We arrived back at home and began to get ready for Zoe Church LA's first ever, #HERnight. I quickly made two additional floral arrangements from the left overs of Haven's arrangement before getting ready -- one for my sister's room and one for her nursery.
Tonight's church event was special for my sister and I. We were so excited and eager to attend ever since we first saw Pastor Julia Veach share it on her Instagram account. Long story short, during my hospitalization, one of my nursing school instructors and mentors until this day gave me a gift. The gift enclosed Sees Candies dark chocolates and a book called, "Unreasonable Hope" by Chad Veach. The book shares the story and journey of their daughter, Georgia's rare brain disorder - Lissencephaly and how as a family with an army from all over the world have been touched by her life, her story and the continuous prayer for her healing and hope despite her diagnosis. I immediately knew that it was the working of the Holy Spirit that prompted my instructor to purchase this book for me in my current situation of being on bedrest and fighting to keep my own baby inside my stomach, safe and protected. Their family's unwavering hope and story had given me a hope for my own during my stay. Once, Haven was born and had passed away, I was discharged and back home. Spiritually and mentally, I was floating and unmotivated for a couple of weeks -- weeks filled with trying to fight off the Enemy, questioning, resentment, and blame towards myself and what I believed was my "weak and failure" of a body. I knew I had to shake this. I knew I had to fight this off. And I knew I needed help. A help from a source, the source, greater and above myself and my own flesh -- Jesus.
I remembered "Unreasonable Hope", put the book back into my hands, and re-read the front and back covers. I re-read that Chad Veach was a pastor at a church in Los Angeles, (the city I was born, raised, and still live in) -- Zoe ('abundant life') Church Los Angeles. I then visited the church's website, read their blog, found them on Instagram, and then something had begun to spark inside.
// a new church? // a new community? // a reason to find hope, light, and love through this darkness, slump, heartache, and trauma I am currently going through? // a new reason? // a new home? //
After weeks of going back and forth in my mind on whether or not to get outside my comfort zone and listen to the prompting inside my heart -- Paul, my cousin, Anne and I attended our first ever Zoe service this past August, a few weeks after Haven had passed away. I said Yes yet again to Jesus and to making him my Lord and Savior. I left changed, encouraged, and blown away by the power, love, friendship, and community that was so evident and clear in this place. Since then, my sister, Paul and I have attended their weekly Sunday services at the El Rey theatre on Wilshire. My brother and two brother in loves have also taken the time to attend a service at this church as well. My sister, Meg and I instantly knew how we were going to celebrate the end of Haven's "due date" when Pastor Julia shared that she'd be holding an event to honor and celebrate all of the "HERS" on this same day.
I knew that there were a million other ways I could have spent today. And when I learned of this event, I knew immediately this was it, this was my answer. After getting ready, my sister and I headed for HNYPT Studios in Downtown LA. At 7:20ish we walked into a beautiful room and became a part of a really beautiful event, Zoe Church LA's first "HER" night. All things pink invited all of us women (daughters sisters, mothers, grandmothers, friends, etc.) inside -- balloons, a paper flower wall decor, bracelets, a string light back drop, fueling us with coffee, a candy and cotton candy stations, and a "Her" photo booth.
We worshipped, danced, shouted, sang praise to Him with, "Falling into You", "Glory to Glory", and "What a Beautiful Name". We drank coffee, met some new friends, received beautiful Truth and Word from Pastor Julia, listened to advice of some of the amazing women + mothers of the Zoe community, laughed at several references to Beyonce, cried together, prayed for the Hers on our left, the Hers on our right, and held each other as we all cling to the beautiful ten truths that Pastor Julia shared with us.
We ended the service with one last and fast worship song while tossing balloons to each other into the air, dancing, and filled with a renewed hope and fire in our hearts. We were given skincare products as giveaways from Jeffrey James at the door, and ended with a stop at the 'Her' photo booth. My sister and I met and hugged Pastor Julia for the first time as well while waiting in line. She truly is beautiful inside and out and has a heart of gold.
As if my sister and I didn't already feel enough love, encouragement, support, and inspiration -- we walked our way back to her car still and safely at the BOA parking lot we parked it at. We had some trouble finding parking and didn't want to be late for the service. We found this empty bank lot and decided to place our trust and confidence in leaving the car there. Praise hands seriously, as it was safe and sound, two hours later -- only the power of God, my friends. He definitely wanted us to receive his message tonight, not be late to service, and also provided safety for our car on top of that. God is great, funny, and humorous like that.
Although there will always be an aching and pain in my heart for not being able to physically have my Haven Faith here with me. And that there will also be quite some time until we reunite with her again, I am so thankful and my heart so full for the impact, the courage, and the love she left behind with me.
I left tonight encouraged, inspired, supported, excited, and eager for what still lies ahead of me until it is my turn to go Home.
The best is yet to come, my friends.
This I believe. This I will choose. This I will cling and hold on so tightly too.
The Enemy could have easily robbed me from joy and peace today as this was the day that my daughter, Haven was due to be born. Anxiously over the past few weeks, I've fervently prayed over my heart and mind -- not just for today but for all the days and years to come without her. I woke this morning and decided to choose freedom over fear, love + light over darkness and hate, and to praise Him instead of pleading. My day was restful, peaceful, and exactly what my heart needed on a day like this one. I was worried for what today/ tonight could have been spent like and turned out to be. But once again, the Lord remains good. He remains true. He remains faithful. He has taken care of it all. He is already there.
Today, I chose to joyfully spend Haven's due date.