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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Room 542: Selah's Room

Room 542........  a hospital room I went to on the dreary day of November 17th, 2011. I didn't go that day as a birth doula, but as laboring mother. 542 became Selah's room. It wasn't the room I had hoped we'd have for her. It wasn't decorated with pink and adorned with a girly theme made for a princess. It wasn't warm and inviting. It wasn't the room where we sat and dreamed for her so many times before. It wasn't a room with a closet full of adorable dresses and bows waiting for her to wear. No..... Room 542 became a room where what dreams I had left after losing Zion, seemed as if they died too. It was a room so cold, so unnatural, and so uninviting to me. 542 laid silent with only a hospital blanket waiting to wrap my baby's lifeless, sleeping body in after she was born.  The last time I held her preciousness in my arms was in that room, making it a bittersweet place for me. I felt so much sorrow mingled with joy. I was given the gift of my Selah,  another life that has impacted mine more than I have yet to fully experience.

I left Room 542 with an empty womb and empty arms that night after I gave birth to Selah.  "Fetal Demise" was written on my charts once again and I was literally empty.  I was too weak to even hold my head up as I walked the dreaded path. I could feel all the nurses pitying me as I wailed when I went by. I sobbed all the way to the car and thought to myself  "I will never come back to this place ever again!!  My heart can't take it! " However, Sunday that plan changed. I was faced with walking down that very hallway I said I would never journey down again. My client/dear friend was in labor and she needed her doula!  I knew this time putting on my doula gloves would be different though. I hadn't been back to that hospital for a birth since losing Selah. I had no desire to. I was scared to.   As I passed by the nurses' desk and  my heart began to run away. I saw the doctor that delivered Zion & was there after Selah. He was looking down and was filling out paper work, thank God. Things seemed as if they began to move in slow motion. Then, the enemy(satan) began to tell me to turn around......RETREAT...and that I couldn't do this. I  knew there was a good chance that my client would be in one of the rooms where Zion and Selah was born, given there aren't many labor/delivery rooms in the hospital. When I was told which room to go to I had an immediate lump in my throat. Room 542. The enemy kept negating my ability to cope and I promise, it would've been so easy to agree.  When I finally made it to the door I just stood there for a moment to gather myself. I said with my inner voice " My little Selah's room...." I took a deep breath and asked the Lord to give me strength to face what was beyond the door.

When I stepped in I saw smiling faces. It was obvious that the parents-to-be were anxious to meet their baby girl. I greeted them and with each step I took. I remembered taking those same steps before. I pushed back memories and tears as I slowly took time to remove my jacket and turn to face the laboring mommy. In an instant her exhausted smile reminded of why I was there and put every thing into perspective. I was there to serve her and her family during one of the most intimate times of their lives. I was there to empower and encourage.  It was a time to rejoice in the life given. My emotions shifted and I was filled with so much indescribable peace. I was sure that the  Lord had orchestrated that moment to strengthen my heart!!  I was lifted in my weakness. Joy overwhelmed me and I felt equipped to do was I was there to do.....put my love and energy into other precious lives.

God was glorified as pain, hope, and love brought forth a beautiful baby girl named Claudia. I was blessed to witness that miracle. Not only was it a miracle of birth, but it was also the miracle of a major victory in my life. I stood back and watched as the parents were overwhelmed with gratefulness that their baby girl was alive and well. God allowed me to see that! He put me in that place for such a time. He ordained that I see life illuminated in Selah's Room instead of death. He knew that I would praise Him for the painful journey it took to get to experience Him and all His glory. Little Claudia's birth proves that God gives beauty for ashes and that life is more than precious. I was reminded that where there are the darkest of valleys, there are always mountaintops waiting!!! I stood on one of those mountaintops Sunday in Room 542, Selah's room!  (now Claudia's room too!)
To God alone be the glory!!

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength Isa. 40:29
 Little Claudia

Monday, April 20, 2015

Collard Greens, Hairy Legs and Hog Raisin': A Tribute to My Sweet Granny

It's been one year since we laid my little granny's feeble body to rest. She was so tired and so ready to go home to be at peace forevermore. Her memory and love is still present in her family today because of the great woman she was on this earth. I wrote this blog post to document some of the great memories she etched in our hearts.

Jeremy Sams was left blushing the first time he was blessed to meet the matriarch of my oh-so southern family. Her wittiness and that strong southern accent entertained him from her first greeting. She said, "Hello, nice to meetcha." (slight pause for her observation of my new man) "You'd make a good hog raiser! " Jeremy blushed a little while he asked her how in the world that could be. She said with surety, "Because.... you've got hairy legs!" We all chuckled, but no doubt.... she was serious!!  Though we were amused, we left that day trusting that all GOOD hog raisers' first qualification is HAIRY LEGS!! She was well accustomed with the farm life, being a native of  the rich lands of  South Carolina. That was the way of living most of her days and hard work was the only way she knew to survive.

My granny, Arlene D. Todd, was born on July 20th in the year of 1927. It was a hot day that the Lord picked for such a sweet soul to be born. He gave her the most beautiful brown eyes and smile that changed the world around her. She grew to be the most compassionate and wisest woman I've ever known. She was made of steel!!! My grandpa , Woodrow Todd, who was a preacher boy, won her heart and married her at a young age. Her first child was born when she was only 17, however, her love for children had only just begun! She went on to have 8 beautiful living children, and even other precious babies that were meant for heaven. She was never scared to give birth, and even  home birthed and still lived to tell it......imagine that! LOL! Her and my grandpa were so compassionate that they took in other people's children as well, and nurtured them as their own.  She was a wet nurse for mother's in the community that couldn't feed their own babies, all while feeding her own. So now you know that I really didn't fall far from the tree!!!

My granny taught me so much that she had learned throughout her 87 years of life. She lived with us in my teenage years and there was one thing that I learned !!! No haint better mess with her and her babies!!! She grew up calling ghosts, haints. She always tickled me so much with her haint stories,  that I still tell them today!  Everybody knows when one came around she would sick Jesus on em' ! I would hear her anywhere throughout the house rebuking them and singing hymns to them like "Nothing but the Blood and Amazing Grace". I'm telling you.... that made me feel safe and definitely worked on my soul! I thought.... if her and Jesus were keeping the evil spirits at bay then I surely had nothing to fret! She always told us , "Don't you ever run from em' ! Start claiming the name of Jesus and they are the ones that have to run!" I wasn't a believer then, but my sweet granny was, and she planted seeds in my heart with her stedfast faith. That is what remains in my memories about her.  She was a part of everything that I am today! She taught me about how to be a hard worker no matter the task, how to cook, how to be a homemaker, how babies make the world a happier place, how God can give you a grateful and happy heart without material wealth, how to rejoice in sorrow, how to forgive way more than you "feel" like, how having compassion is a necessity, and that true love never dies!

She was the Paula Deen of our family! No one can make turkey dressing or biscuits like her. Her favorite food ever was Collard Greens, the caviar of our family's southern menu (hence why they are in capital letters)! She taught me how to, in her words,"Look em greens."  Which meant to clean and wash them 4 times over and make sure there were no worm holes. One of my favorite things she would do was show me measurements by the joint lines on her fingers and from the length of her wrist to her elbow. Jeremy Sams still benefits daily because of the things she taught me in the kitchen. Hehe!

Although my granny was a very happy soul, she was well acquainted with hardships and sorrow. She was an overcomer! You see.... my grandfather died in his early 40's, when my mother, the baby,  was only 5. This left my granny with 8 children to raise on her own and a lifetime of missing him immensely.  Years later she remarried to an alcoholic who was abusive to her and her family. She was left a widow once again when he was found murdered in a side ditch near their home.   She was a cat with more than 9 lives! She lived with only one kidney most of her life and had several medical conditions that placed her on death's bed many times! More than both my hands can count! She worked until her legs would literally no longer hold her feeble body up and never asked for handouts. I could go on and on, but the point is, she never let her sorrows cloud her view of  Jesus and what a treasure he was to her in her darkest hours. This still inspires me today!

I can still hear her say " Hello Darlin!" or "There's my baby!"  when I came to see her. Those big, beautiful brown eyes of hers still shine from the faces of my children today, and I see her. She has left such a legacy for our family to cherish and be proud of!! I am thankful for my heritage and the fact that a part of her lives on through me daily.  The last few years of her life I videoed some of our conversations together and I would like to share one of  them with you today.

“Everyone is born and they die, but it's the memories they leave behind that define them and let them live on in others.” -Judy Fennell 

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
― Shannon Alder   

Friday, March 27, 2015

We Slept Under the Stars

    The last couple weeks of March 2011 were so beautiful. Spring was in the air and thoughts of a new baby were dancing in my head. Zion was due March 26th and  I couldn't wait to meet him. I spent those last couple of weeks preparing my mind, body, and soul to birth peacefully. Some of my most memorable moments were when we slept under the stars.  Jeremy would drag our mattress out onto the back deck and we would gaze at the moon, snuggle up close, and wish on the stars together. That year, it was an amazing and spiritual experience. It was the time of the Super Moon( the closest to Earth in 18yrs.)
    My wise little granny always said the moon controlled so many things in life, including the female body.  Just ask any labor and delivery nurse or midwife. The full moon brings forth lots of babies, however, that night no Baby Sams was born.

     I remember the feeling of being so restful that night. I knew that I was being kept by the keeper of the stars.  I felt in my heart that my wish for a little boy would come true. I wished that he would have a head full of dark wavy hair. I wished that God would give me strength to birth peacefully and quietly.  I wished that God would use his life and make it glorify him. Well....God did grant those wishes and so many more that night. But greater than that, he caused my eyes to look farther than the moon and stars, and look unto the sovereign Creator who spoke them into existence. Just like His children, He knows every star by name and not one falls without Him knowing. I am thankful that experiences like this in my life remind me that He is ever faithful and mindful of His children.

  "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained.  What is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" Psalms 8:3-4



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I May Lose Everything

I have had those days in my life where I have felt like it was the lowest place I could ever be. I felt hopeless, lost, weak, fearful, and broken. When my son died, I even said those words no one wants to hear another say..... " I just want to die!" I felt dead inside and so depressed that I couldn't see past living without my child. Satan attacks us in our weakest moments and I was a helpless, weakened sheep he sought to devour. I do remember the times when I was in my darkest hours I would always think the worst. I would imagine myself being so depressed that I would lose everything. When you're filled with fear you scramble with random thoughts of the absolute worse case scenario. Then the Lord would come in, sit with me, and fill me with His faith. It's nothing I had on my own. My thoughts would shift from " I may lose everything" to "Even if I lose everything....Lord I still have You!"

     He was the only One who truly comforted my broken heart and gave me strength to press on. I could look at the sweet countenance of my daughter and yet the emptiness was behind my smile. My husband could hold my hand and tell me everything was going to be all right, yet my heart would still tremble inside me. It was only God who could steady my heart.

In this life I may lose it all but I know that in the Lord, I have all I need. If I get sick with some horrible disease and I am given a death sentence, I will spend my last breath telling of His goodness. If I must lay another loved one's body in the clay, I know that death is not final and that there's heaven to gain. If I lose my home and all my material goods, I know that I will still have every need supplied in Him. If one day my husband chooses to stray and abandon our love, or my children waiver from the faith, I can trust in His sovereign hand to guide me and reign over all the chaos.

Heaven awaits me after my last breath is gifted and my final care is laid down. Until then I will boast in the holiness of God. His power combats the fiercest of  battles and His love conquers all. He breaks chains that hold me captive and He gives me liberty in Him. He is the lifter of my head. He is the one thing that I can never lose! Today I will rest knowing that every need is supplied!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Force To Be Reckoned With

I am missing a boy. I am missing things I never knew, things that never were. I am missing what never was to meant be. How is that possible? I am not sure , but it's here. It abides within me....the longing for what was, for what never was, and for what one day will be. I am forever changed and I can never be the same. It's a gift called motherhood. A journey that opens up doors of love, learning, blessings, and trials that are like no other. A mother's love is something that is engraved on my heart by our Lord, the One who creates and sovereignly reigns.  I'll carry it with me until I meet Him one day. It is not categorized by my children who live or who have died. It can't be severed. I protect it and guard it , just like a mama bird would do. I can be apart from my children for a few moments or a lifetime, yet this love still remains. A mother's love is a force to be reckoned with! A love so big, so vast, that you know it was placed there by the One who hung the stars.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bury Your Grief Too

 There is not ever a day that goes by that I don't think of  Zion and Selah. They are my children, my babies. Zion was my only son. I can't erase someone so precious to me out of my heart and mind.  I've been told by others that moving on would be healthier. That they will be glad when I quit talking about my dead babies. That I need psychological help because I talk too much about my dead children. FACT: I will never stop talking about them.....ever. I have come to the point in my life that I am ok with people not being ok with my expressions about Zion or Selah. Although I do use discretion, as with any other topic. I don't just stand in the grocery line and yell " I have a son and a daughter.... and they died!"

I know it's hard for anyone to think of the tiny life of a child being snuffed out. It reminds us all of life's frailty. It's a fact though.  We all die. I try to have mercy on those who have never lost someone so close to them, or they have, and  just feel uncomfortable with the subject. "Not everyone grieves the same." I hear this statement often, but it is usually directed toward me (the expressive griever), suggesting for me to tone it down. I am expected to have buried my grief with my children. No, let's apply that statement across the board. Not everyone does grieve the same. I am one who feels a true sense of healing by talking about my children in heaven. It's really all I have to carry them on. I don't have the privilege of watching them grow and learn.

I'll admit that when other people post pictures of their little boys growing, it stings. It's bittersweet. It's not easy to look at and not remember that I have a son, but he died. I adapt though. I find so much more joy than sorrow when I see those pictures of other little boys, alive and well.  It's because I am looking for joy. I think to myself of the blessing it is for them to hold and watch their son grow. If looking at and hearing of someone's loss does anything, it should make you look closer at your blessings. You hold them daily. You watch them grow. Having buried two children helps me to ultimately cherish the two I have here with me.

Without going on with a long essay, I will never stop thinking, stop loving, or expressing myself about my children. All 4 of them. True love never dies! Thanks to all of my friends and family who have been on this journey with me with open ears and loving arms.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

4 Candles


Dear little Zion,
  It's hard to believe, but in just a couple of weeks it will be your birthday again. This will be the 4th one we've spent missing you, and you've spent in heaven. We'll do like always and have a birthday party celebrating your life. Guests will have our annual Zion's tradition, consisting of everything I craved while carrying you. Mexican food and citrus are definites on the menu. I'll watch as children laugh and play , while the adults reminisce and talk of daily life. The neighbors nearby will see us gather round in the yard to send colorful balloons high. They'll have love filled messages written on them and our love for you will carry them all the way to heaven. Lastly, we'll have a birthday cake with 4 candles to celebrate the years of your new life in Jesus, and another year closer to holding you again. I watch as Ellie blows your candles out for you every time and I cry. It's the most bittersweet moment of the whole celebration. I sure wish I could have seen your sweet face filled with excitement as you blew out your own candles and wished your little heart out. It would've been a sight to see you open presents and squeal at each new gift. No presents are given at this party for you but I smile knowing that His presence is the best gift a little boy could ever wish for.  I love you all the way to heaven, baby boy.


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