Changing Seasons…and Hearts

Thursday morning, we woke up to several inches of snow. This kind of thing doesn’t happen too often in Georgia, so I went camera crazy.

I left my husband PORCH PARTYING by himself while I took pictures.

If you’re from the snow country, never mind, but if you’re from the deep South, you might enjoy the miracle we witnessed.

You can barely see the walkway to our house.

Our driveway was completely covered.

Icicles clung to the bird feeder.

Tree limbs crystalized.

As a child, I didn’t think too much about seasons changing. Maybe that comes with age and experiencing the seasons of life.

What about the season of raising teenagers? We thought that season would last forever.

And the season of grief. We’ve buried a child, my father, our grandparents, others we love.

The season of sickness. Waiting on doctors to call. Test results. Biopsies.

I’ve been smothered by depression, so far down I didn’t think I’d rise again.

When you’re going through a difficult season, you’re convinced life will always be this way.

But what about the snow? Such a remarkable difference from last week. And spring has never failed to come.

Not too many weeks from now our driveway will look like this.

Buds will burst through.

Pretty soon, it’ll be time to put out ferns.

One day, all our bare spots will be filled in, and the things we don’t understand will be made clear. Click to tweet

If you’re going through a difficult season right now, I’d love to pray for you. Maybe I’ve been there too.

Love,

Julie

The Hardest Battle ~ Mamas and Fear

In memory of our son who would’ve been 24 this Sunday, I’m sharing my first published article. I believe the deeper our sorrow, the more precious our joy. The doctor had been matter-of-fact after my ultrasound, but a certain sentence she said replayed in my mind. “Your baby’s head is so low, I can’t get accurate head measurements, but everything looks fine.” I was 32 weeks pregnant, and my due date was May 28, 1989.

By the time I got into my car, a mighty battle with fear began.

I tried to reassure myself that everything was fine, but since I’d worked for a pediatric group, I was familiar with a term that raced through my thoughts–anencephaly.

“Anencephaly: a birth defect with the absence of some or most of the brain. Chance of occurrence 1 in 1,000.”

My suspicion was too terrifying to share with my doctors or even my husband. I spent hours secretly searching through medical books. Everything I read fueled the battle going on inside me.

Decorating the nursery happened in slow motion. Friends asked why I hadn’t fixed up the room sooner. I pretended to be busy with my daughters, Jamie, 8, and Katie, 6. Finally, as my due date approached, the girls chose a border with geese, hearts, and teddy bears. Rick insisted this would be our boy, so we painted the furniture red and the walls bright yellow.

There. A happy, wonderful nursery. Surely a healthy baby will grow up here.

But my mind continued to battle.

Twelve days past my due date, contractions began and we entered the hospital. Within an hour, and after four ultrasounds, I knew I was living my nightmare. During the third ultrasound, I gravely commented, “You’re trying to find the top of the baby’s head. You’re thinking anencephaly.”

I’d finally spoken the words  that terrified me.

One of the doctors said I was right. They were 90 percent sure our baby had anencephaly.

The labor room squeezed in on me, like I was locked in a horror movie and couldn’t find the exit.

Rick held my hand. “It’ll be OK.”

“You don’t understand. The baby will live hours…at the most.” We stared through a picture window at the pouring rain.

Will I always hate rain?

The doctors communicated through a secret language, moving only their eyes.

God, why won’t anyone smile at me? I want to start over again. Come back later. This can’t be real.

The sounds of the baby’s heart tones seemed to thump…

No hope. No hope. You were right all along.

But deep within me, wedged below the fear, a tiny speck of faith struggled to emerge.

Gently and quietly, bits of Scripture came to me like a life-preserver in rushing water.

When I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. Psalms 56:3

Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5

I acknowledged the hope and decided: God, I trust You–no matter what.

Within a few minutes, my trembling stopped. I felt as if I were floating on a raft in the middle of a warm, still lake.

My God shall meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

But worry jabbed at me. “What about the girls? How will they understand?” I said to Rick.

“I’ll tell them.”

The delivery was long and difficult. Our son, Robert Clifford Garmon, was born at 3:20 a.m. on June 9, 1989. He lived 25 minutes.

There were no triumphant, “It’s a boy!” shouts.

Total silence.

Each person played his or her part in a pantomime. I wanted to scream, “Somebody, please say something. Stop looking away!”

I didn’t cry until we were in the recovery room.

I asked to see Robbie. He’d been wrapped in a blue blanket and had on a little white cap. He face was bruised from delivery but perfect. He weighed just over six pounds. He came and left so quickly.

Hello, Robbie. Goodbye, Robbie.

Rick hurried home to take apart the nursery and make funeral plans. The doctors released me nine hours after Robbie’s birth.

We left the hospital and drove to Mother’s to pick up the girls. Rick had explained to them about their brother and told me they were fine, but I pictured their sad faces–felt their disappointment.

When we drove up, they ran down Mother’s driveway smiling, holding boxes of Nerds candy. Katie’s pigtails bounced as she said, “If Robbie’d lived, we’d have bought him some Nerds, but he’s in heaven.”

Jamie added, “Grady’s probably holding him right now.” (Grady, my father, had died five years earlier.)

Genuine smiles.

Acceptance in the face of tragedy.

Children’s broken bones heal faster than adults. Maybe their hearts do too.

My heart took a little longer to heal.

Some days I felt strong, but grief is tricky. It sneaks up from behind and throws unexpected punches.

The soft color of baby blue felt like a quick jab to the jaw. Seeing newborn babies, especially boys, could knock me down for a while.

A week before Robbie was born, my grandmother Goge gently offered me some advice. Here words seemed like an extra puzzle piece. I tried turning them to every angle, but they didn’t fit. I hadn’t asked for her help. Now her words slid easily into my heart.

“Julie,” she said softly. “The hardest battles aren’t fought on the battlefield, but in a mother’s heart.”

Epilogue:

Two years later, we drove to a different hospital. There was no rain in sight that hot, steamy August day.

Pretty soon, loud crying announced the arrival of another son–Richard Thomas Garmon. Watching Rick hold Thomas–his perfectly formed head inside my husband’s hands, a prayer of gratitude rose .

Thank You, God. You were there the whole time–even when it didn’t make sense. You never left my side.

 

** Please forgive the length of this blog post.

** “The Hardest Battle” was published by Homelife magazine out of LIFEWAY, January, 2002.

Love and prayers,

Julie

Strange Weather…When the Seasons (of Life) Seem out of Sync

Saturday morning, my husband and I had the strangest porch party. January felt like April. “Reminds me of that Glenn Frey song, ‘Strange Weather,'” I said. “How’s it go?”

“Something about dark clouds in the sky and wanting to cry,” Rick said.

 

 The warm air hung damp and heavy without the first hint of spring. Dead-looking tree limbs reached toward a gray sky. “From inside the house, you’d think it was wintertime,” I said. “But out here, it feels like spring. Like the seasons are out of sync.”

“Clyde sure is hanging close to us,” Rick said.

 “He’s sniffing the air like he senses a storm brewing.”

 

People came to my heart that we’d been praying for–some going through difficult seasons of life.

A couple dealing with infertility.

Friends with health issues…one starting chemo combined with radiation. Auto-immune illnesses. Depression.

Someone watching a loved one relapse into addiction.

Another, attending her great-grandchild’s funeral.

Sitting there in the odd January/April weather, I wanted some sort of sign (even something small) that God was still in control.

“Come here, buddy,” Rick said to Clyde. “Everything’s okay. Even if a storm comes, we’re not gonna leave you.”

My heart melted at his kindness. And at how Clyde seemed to listen so intently. Like he totally trusted his master.

I’m here, God seemed to say. Trust Me. Everything’s going to be okay. I won’t leave you.  I’m still God.

I reached for my coffee and started rocking, trusting, and praising again–like we do at porch parties.

Be encouraged, my friends. God’s with us. He loves us. No matter how strange the weather or seasons of life.

Love,

Julie

 

 

Part Two On Aging, Motherhood, and Marriage

Last week, I reposted parts of my friend Robin’s blog. Almost three years ago, Robin asked my mother how she felt about aging. Mother talks about that and a few more things below:

Thoughts on my feelings…

I’ve come to believe that our thoughts create our emotions. We only have eight seconds to refuse a thought. This has taken me a lifetime to even start to learn. I guard my thoughts like a mother lion guards her cubs. I’m allergic to fearful or worrying thoughts. They are not permitted to trespass in my mind. This discipline helps me every day.

Worry is a waste of time. I never thought I’d be free of worry and fear. They were constant companions. Not anymore. I give God praise for all He’s allowed to come into my life that’s allowed me to relinquish those two bothersome tag-alongs. Worry and fear. It’s never too late.

Thoughts on my grown children…

I’ve learned we can’t force a grown child to choose life. I don’t believe this is ever learned quickly or easily. Pain after pain after pain brought my solution.

I can’t do this, I told myself one day. I thought God smiled and said, Of course not, child. You were never supposed to.

Grown children make their own choices. Sometimes all we can do is stop trying to fix them and pray hard.

Thoughts on friends…

I have friends of all ages now. From teenagers to seniors much older than I am. Age isn’t a consideration at this time in my life!

I’ve learned not to say everything I think.

Sometimes I see a need that deserves to be met and there’s no one around but me. I meet it and my joy is explosive. People all around us need compassion (not pity). Some need a little money. Some need to laugh. And some need a Savior.

Thoughts on love…

When my husband of 25 years died of brain cancer in 1983, I knew my life was over. I couldn’t imagine going on. My greatest battle with fear ensued. God won that battle for me. It was moment by moment agony though. I was 46 when Jerry died and after a year or so, I began to talk to God about being a wife again.

I like being the other half of someone. After four years, He brought a Guideposts reader into my life and we fell in love through letters and phone calls.  In a four-month delicious courtship (in which we never met until becoming engaged) my life began over. I was so in love I couldn’t eat or sleep or concentrate. Gene Acuff and I have been married for 25 years this August. Sigh!

Gene made me feel like Cinderella–and still does occasionally! Life is good…welcome every day, every year, with an open heart.

(Here’s Mother story in Guideposts about their marriage.)

It’s Julie again. Lots of good stuff here. Thoughts?

Love,

Julie