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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.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mud Between Your Toes

My sweetest Zion,
     I know you would've been mischievous and rowdy like any little boy should be. I wish I could have seen that and snickered a time or two. I think of how you would've been like your daddy, always getting into something. I love imagining you playing in the mud and digging up disgusting insects as little trophies. Watching you play in the rain would've been nice to see. To me, that's one of the most carefree thoughts that come to mind. You don't care if you get soaked, you get cold, or if you even get a little mud between your toes. I can see your cute little flat feet come running now and you covered with mud from head to toe. Yeah... that's what little boys do. Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, right?  I would love to have gotten any small dead snake or even a little rock that you found that was surely pirates' gold. Oh baby boy........daydreaming will just have to pacify me for now. While I wait to hold you again I will watch you grow in my heart as I see others' little boys run and play into the years. I love you all the way to heaven!!


Monday, March 9, 2015

Beyond the Lid

Missing Zion : Day 9
Little Zion,
      You were sleeping so beautifully the day you were born and placed in my arms. No boy has ever seemed so precious as you were when I first laid my tear filled eyes on you. I will never forget looking at your perfection and waiting for you to open your eyes, never did. I wanted to see your shiny newborn eyes stare at me while you nursed and look into those same bright eyes throughout the years as you grew into a man. I had a person ask me soon after you were born, " What color were his eyes?" I was so crushed when they asked. That was something that I so desperately wanted to know! I felt that I needed that detail to daydream and imagine you!! However, I have watched you run to me in my dreams a countless number of times since then. Your daddy and I seem to think that you probably had green eyes. Which, along with my flat feet, would've been one thing that you definitely got from me. You are so handsome, regardless the color of your beautiful eyes. You are perfect and one day I will see your eyes opened bright and full of love. On that day neither of us will need an introduction because we have a bond that cannot be seen by the human eye.  Our hearts are inseparable with a love that could never be severed, even by death.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Looking Just Like Daddy

Missing Zion:Day 7
Baby Boy,
  I still have your clothes that I never had a chance to dress you in. I miss that dearly. I could already imagine you wearing them the day they were hung in your closet. I catch myself going into your little sister's room (originally yours) and I stare at them often. I can almost see your muscular little frame filling them out months too early, and you looking just like your daddy in each one. He would've loved having you as his little shadow. A little Sams man child. I would've had you boys looking so dapper in matching outfits all the time! I always go in the little boys clothing department daydreaming. I was just recently in Babies R Us and I cried a little thinking of you. They had the cutest outfits for Easter and I wished that I could've seen you in one......just once. I do that to myself all the time and it usually leaves me with a bittersweet (more sweet than bitter) feeling. I know you are dressed in the finest garments heaven could offer and that makes me smile. I love you so very much my little Zion Jeremiah and no one will ever take your place in my heart.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Momma's Boy

Missing Zion: Day 5

Dear baby boy,
     I miss having a little boy in this household of girls. We outnumber your daddy in a big way and our house is missing that little boy's touch. I daydream of a how stinkin' cute you would be about now. You would have your dark wavy hair and olive skin, a boy after your momma's heart. Your favorite outfit probably would've been Fruit of the Looms and cowboy boots, just like your daddy (Hehe, had to make a funny)! Sometimes I watch mommies and their little boys and I cry inside. Some don't realize the blessing that they have, while others soak up each moment of having a momma's boy. I desperately miss watching you grow. My dreams were crushed when I knew my first and only son was gone.  Boys do something to a momma's heart, just as girls do their fathers. One blessing is knowing that I will  never have to watch your heart be broken by some silly girl. I was your first and last kiss this side of heaven!!! I love you more than my feeble words could ever say. You will always and forever be a true momma's boy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chiseled In Stone

Missing Zion: Day 3 

         Zion Jeremiah Sams..... March 28, 2011 is chiseled in stone that overlays your little body in a graveyard nearby.  Going there never brings much comfort. Most of the time I leave reminded that my baby boy lived..... and then died.  Hearing your name is what I miss so much, my little Zion. I knew you were a boy the moment I saw those two pink lines. Zion has always been your name. We named you before ever getting pregnant with your big sister Ellie. I remember saying "Zion Jeremiah" when you were born. I knew in that moment that I would forever feel this way. Heartbroken, yet so blessed by a baby boy in my heart. It's saddening that a name so special can only be talked about by those who dare to do so. I wish that others weren't so scared to talk about you and that they could say your name without feeling that it would open my wounds of grief any deeper. No...that's not true. It's just the opposite! It's healing balm to this mother's heart! I am just as proud of you as I am your sisters! That's another reason why it's only natural for me to include you in my life every single day.  I know you will never be able to draw me the best mommy pictures ever, win some great award or notable achievement earth side, nor grow to make me a grandmother. However, you have made me beam with abundant joy in knowing that I have a son that has changed so many lives forever. Your name is more than just chiseled on stone for the world to be reminded that you lived, but your name is chiseled on my heart to remind me that true love will never die.

Love ,

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Smile Unseen

Missing Zion : Day 2

Dear baby boy,
     I miss your smile. I know you must've smiled tons of times while I carried you because you were so perfect and cozy next to my heart that loved you so much. Not to mention, that you made me so blissful as well. The joy surely had to be beaming from the inside out. The saddest part is that I never got to see you smile. Not once. That thought hurts a lot sometimes. I wish I could've seen you grin just once so that I could take that snapshot captive in my memories. I know that in reality you never stopped smiling from earth, right into heaven. Maybe the Lord never allowed me to see you smile because he knew that daydreaming of that thought would get me through some of my roughest days.  When I get to heaven, seeing you and Selah is second in line to seeing my Jesus. I can't wait to see you smile at me for the first time as I hear you call out my name.... "Mommy!" Then, I'll never have to daydream ever again.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Lips of Crimson

Well's coming up on another year without my little buddy. Zion Jeremiah would've been 4 at the end of this month and it still seems like he was just born. Every year I have without him seems like a milestone missed , yet a milestone met in grief. I wanted to make a daily blog post journaling things I miss about him or my thoughts on where I am at in this journey in my life. Openly talking about the losses of both him and Selah has aided in my healing so much. That's why I have chosen to share my thoughts freely and blog daily during the month of his birth.
Day :1  My dear baby boy,
One thing I miss most about you is your beautiful crimson red lips. They were so sweet to kiss when I first held you in my arms and called you by your name. Most parents go on for years describing each thing about their child that is so beautiful and distinct from all others, but I miss what I was blessed with in the brief hours that I had with you. While looking at you it was hard to believe that your lips were not painted on because they were absolutely perfect. Someone even asked why they put lipstick on you!! Nope.... not my boy!! You were just that perfect! I felt  proud when I was told by so many that saw you on your birthday, that you were the most beautiful boy they had every seen. You are baby boy! You are the most beautiful baby boy EVER!  The baby boy with the prettiest lips of crimson that I can't wait to kiss again!


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