Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014: Expecting Rainbows

a year ago, this was me.

looking at this picture is incredibly difficult and gives me a very weird feeling. to be honest, i can't really look at it. i barely recognize this person and the hope and expectation bursting out of her.

2013 was not the year it was supposed to be. in fact, it was the worse one ever. i lost my heart, my innocence, my son.

but 2013 was also miraculous and beautiful, as it brought a love i had never yet experienced. this year we welcomed our son into the world and my heart was stretched wider than i thought possible. 2013 will always be the epitome of bittersweet.

one thing i've learned this year about love is that it's impossible to sincerely love without complete and utter vulnerability. 

love requires an openness, an acceptance that whomever you love might be lost. might break your heart. might hurt you.

love takes a broken heart and has the guts to hold it out and say, i'm willing to have it break again and again for another opportunity at love. love doesn't hold back.

so i continue to hope, even though it's risky. i continue to believe that there are good things ahead, even if there is only more heartache. because love is worth it and i would regret it the rest of my life if i gave up.

it would be so much easier, and safer, to recoil and shut off my heart to the world, afraid of the pain that's possible when my heart is free. my instincts say to mercilessly defend the tiny shards of heart left. protect yourself. don't be naive.

but i will fight these lies and boldly say, with trepidation and shaky knees, even without knowledge of what may come, 2014 is going to be a good one.  because i expect brilliant, awe-inspiring rainbows this year... i see them on the horizon.

bring on 2014.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, 
I am making everything new! 

[revelation 21. 4-6]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Dream Themes: Weeping and Worship

the last few months i've been having some weird and wacky dreams. sometimes vivid, sometimes scary, sometimes non-sensical. but there are two very consistent, running themes in almost all of my dreams. weeping and worship.

i've never been one to pick apart my dreams, analyzing every little detail to gain some divine meaning, but i get the feeling that certain emotions that i'm not able to fully express in my real life somehow are seeping into my sub-conscience while i'm asleep.

last night was the perfect example. in my dream, i wept in the arms of a stranger, for what seemed like hours. sobbing and wailing with grief for the loss of noah.

then, at another point in the dream i sang boldly, and with quite some volume and passion, a worship song that just spilled out of my spirit while i was driving alone in my car. (it wasn't a song i knew or recognized, i was just making up my own little ditty for the Lord.)

weeping and worship. these are two expressions i believe that my soul longs to "get out of my system," they just aren't given the space to do so in my day-to-day existence.

i cry, yes. most of the time deep tears and almost always in the privacy of my own bedroom. but i'm realizing how much more despair is really down there, and i'm spending a lot of energy just bottling it up. for the depth of pain i feel, i could probably sob for years and years. my soul is willing, but my flesh is so weak.

and then there's worship. this act of love to Jesus has always been very near and dear to me. it's a part of who i am. and as i sort of described in this post, i'm standing on some pretty shaky faith-ground right now and my relationship with God is going through some, how do i say, "refining changes."

it's a comfort to me, however, that even when my body and mind don't have the strength to reach out to Jesus in such an intimate way as worship, that my inner being, my core, my spirit, is still worshipping.

"my soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."
-psalm 84:2-

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Only Prayer I'm Able To Pray Right Now

this last sunday john and i returned to church after about a five month hiatus - probably the longest stretch of time in my entire life without attending a worship service.

we pretty much went straight back to church right after noah died and we were either standing there like robot zombies or weeping uncontrollably. it's hard to explain, but church felt incredibly vulnerable. during the worship music i would get pretty emotional (it's always been a very personal experience for me), and i felt uncomfortable because i could tell i was making other people uncomfortable.

also, john and i were/are carrying some intense anger, at God especially, and we just felt fake and like we were just going through the motions of "church." and i hate that. i want my faith, and its profession, to be authentic and real.

and there were definitely times i felt guilt about not going to church. not because i was ever one of those people who went to church out of obligation or because i "should" like a good girl, i felt guilt because i believed, and still strongly believe, in worshiping God in all circumstances, not just when life is going well. no matter what, i desire to have a heart that seeks after God when i'm broken and disappointed, just as much as when i'm filled with gratitude and joy.

i was chatting with a friend about my feeling like a hypocrite a couple months ago, and i said something like, "how can i go from, not only believing, but preaching the importance and necessity of praising God through all things, and then when my world is rocked, i can't even attend church or speak to God directly, let alone praise Him."

and you know what she said? "you are praising God, every day, by getting up in the morning and continuing to take your next breath, by pursuing Him with your questions, by holding on to hope."

i'm standing on some pretty shaky faith-ground right now. it's very scary and foreign to me. my God, and faith in Him, has always been like a solid rock. my life's total constant. i love worship, and absolutely everything (and One) about it. i love church. i miss this huge part of my life.

i feel like i'm not me anymore.

prayer has been a tough one for me lately, too. again, prayer has always been to me, very personal, because my relationship with my Lord is very personal. and just like in almost every other relationship where i feel hurt, i have been giving God the silent treatment. there was nothing i felt i had the strength enough to ask or petition for. (how am i supposed to go before God and say, "bless this food to my body" or "protect us from evil" when my most heartfelt, deepest desire and prayer, the physical healing of my son, wasn't fulfilled?)

however, i believe prayer isn't all about asking God for things, or just getting what we want, and i'm realizing more and more how that's not the purpose of prayer, at its core. (i've "known" that all my life, but it's now settling in to my foundation of beliefs.)

so, this sunday. john and i back at church. i was nervous. (i knew i was going to be very emotional and people might stare awkwardly.) i was curious. (had we given ourselves enough time or am i still going to be too much of a zombie and have another out of body experience while "participating" in worship?)

but thank goodness, john remembered that this particular sunday was worship through music. something our church does two times a year, where the entire service is music, with some scripture and encouragements along the way. it was a perfect ease back into a once familiar environment. and how emotional could i get to "o little town of bethlehem"?

but about halfway through the service, my heart found it's first prayer in six months through this song...

O Living Word, please come dwell in us
Lord wipe away these tears
O ancient Son so long foretold
We're desperate souls, draw near

Our Shepherd King, please come and dwell with us
To fields of grace, lead on

And we will stand,
Securely in the strength of the Lord
Every heart will surely come and adore
The Great I Am

We need You now
Break our chains by Your glory and power
Make us captive to the holy desire
Come to us, O Lord
Come to us, O Lord

Prince of Peace, Emmanuel
Lord draw us close unto Thyself
King of Kings, God's chosen One
We need You now, to Thee we run***

"come to us, o Lord" - these five words are the only prayer i'm able to pray right now.

and isn't this the heart of christmas? Jesus coming. i understand its meaning this year in a way i never, ever truly grasped. we have a God who came to be with us. Emmanuel, God with us.

he joined us on earth. he suffered along side us.

and i'm desperate for this God who is near, because there is no way i can get through this hell on my own.

praise God for a God who didn't stay distant, protected from pain and brokenness. praise God for a God who loves us too much to ditch us in our weakness. 

praise God i don't have to do life on my own, in my own strength.

so come, Lord Jesus, with your powerful peace and presence. i need You.

***song by young oceans 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Stories from #13DaysOfRainbows

wow. wow. wow.
we have been SO blown away by all the kindness that is being done in noah's name for 13 Days Of Rainbows. thank you to all of you who are participating.
it's day 4 and i thought it would be fun to share some of what's been happening. it's inspiring, encouraging and makes my heart just want to burst with joy. so much love is being spread around and what a great honor to have baby noah somehow a part of that. my mama pride is pretty much at it's peak.
here are some stories!! enjoy.
"To honor Baby Noah, who went home too soon to his Heavenly Father, I looked for something special I could do for someone during a very cold motorcyle event yesterday. I walked around a local mall parking lot with thousands of people - most of whom were pretty bundled up. All I had with me was a package of hand-warmers and a little card with Noah's name on it. Then I saw a family of 5, with one little person on Daddy's shoulders and the Mama holding another little one's hand. I started to walk away, but something tugged at me and told me that THIS family should be the lucky recipient of my hand warmers. Not a big gift, of course. The Mama was thrilled and the Daddy gave me God's blessing. I could get used to doing this. I hope Noah is smiling."
"We donated Christmas gifts today at church, for kiddos who would go without."
"4 Starbucks cards + 4 random people + 4 days + 1 baby boy remembered and honored = #13DaysOfRainbows"
"Planning to drop this off for our sweetheart pastor today."

"Went to a friend's house today to give her toys and clothes we don't need anymore."

"So this morning...Rainbows for Noah card in hand I head into my Starbucks excited to bless someone on this cold morning with a cup of coffee and start the day thinking about our precious Noah when I realize as I get out of the car, my debit card is not in my pocket. I reached back in my the car for my purse, it isn't there either. I am so disappointed because of course, I have no cash on me. As I reach to shut the door, there I see on the ground a $10 bill. I could hardly contain my tears. Talk about a God wink...or better yet, a Noah wink! Not only did someone get a nice hot cup of coffee this morning but so did I!"
"Challah for our sweet neighbor Judy."
"Pumpkin bread for the ladies in the church nursery."
"For tonight's random act of kindness to celebrate the 13 days of Noah's life, we paid for 3 cars to go through Christmas in the Park and left a card for each family."
"Shhh! #13DaysOfRainbows for Baby Noah.'
"Helped my crazy neighbor push her car out of the snow so she could get to her garage."
"Gave away a bus pass to someone who was going to pay cash for his ride. But then, the pass didn't work for that particular line. Bummer. Even though it was kind of a 'fail', the man was grateful and able to use the pass another time."
"Brought a little food basket to a family who's sweet boy has been in the hospital."
"Yummy treats for two families with new babies. Hot soup and warm cookies to fight this cold front. Celebrating Noah Butler has already blessed our family beyond words."
"Left $10 to pay for the next person or two at Starbucks!"
"Handing out donuts and coffee to workers at the lumber yard!"
"My favorite 'magic medicine' for a sweet 5 year old girl with chapped lips :)"
"Had the privilege of blessing a young family with their own precious baby boy at lunch today. Love you blessed Noah!"
"Made a donation to a local halfway house and brought dinner for sweet friends."
"I think I've been rainbowed." (A single mother's home was decorated for Christmas!)
i'm sure there are many, many more acts of kindness honoring noah, but we just haven't heard about them because they are being done sneaky-secret-like. and guess what? that's totally cool. I love it. each act is beautiful and loving, no matter who knows.
i'm in awe of how many people are being blessed and loved on, through YOU - all because a little boy named noah lived.
thank you, from the absolute depths of my heart.
looking forward to the next 10 days.
My soul glorifies the Lord
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
      for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
                              -Mary, the mother of Christ


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

13 Days of Rainbows

my sister emailed me this morning with the most thoughtful idea to remember and honor noah this holiday season.

13 Days of Rainbows. (you know, kind of like 12 days of christmas...)

for 13 days this month, beginning tomorrow on noah's half birthday, we'll spread love and joy with acts of kindness in noah's name.

please join us. december 5 - december 18.
commemorating six months after noah's 13 days of life.

do one kind deed anytime during those 13 days, or something everyday. totally up to you! follow your heart.

*bake cookies for firemen *buy a stranger coffee *take a care package to a family at a children's hospital *bring soup to a neighbor *give a christmas gift to a child in need *give up your seat on the bus .... do whatever you wish to honor noah, whatever feels right for you.

click here to print or download a cute little card that you can use to pass out with your kind action (made by my ever-talented sister).

and if you feel comfortable, let's flood Instagram and Facebook with pictures of good being done across the world in noah's name by using #13DaysOfRainbows to encourage and inspire us all.

on my very first blog post a few months ago i spoke about how even in this awful and tragic time, i have to believe that God is working this situation for good. it is our deep desire that noah's life and legacy somehow brings love and grace to as many people on this earth as possible. and we believe 13 Days of Rainbows is a beautiful and perfect way to demonstrate that legacy of noah's, through showing kindness to others.

thank you. thank you. thank you.
...for loving our boy and honoring his life with us.

looking forward to seeing all your kindness-spreading!
and please feel free to share this opportunity with others!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 Recap

well, we survived the thanksgiving holiday. and it really wasn't all that bad - not nearly as difficult as i thought it was going to be. the dreading and build up was definitely worse than the actual day.

the hubs and i had a very low-key, quiet morning. walked the dog. cleaned. made buffalo chicken bites for apple cup the next day. we pretty much pretended it wasn't thanksgiving, just a nice day off from work.

we knew we had an open invitation to my parent's house, so we made a last minute decision and decided to go over there. we played cards. we ate chili, cornbread and pumpkin pie. we spoke fondly of noah. we guessed flavors of jelly bellies. there was laughter and joy. (mostly from the antics of our older, more "serious" dog, samson, and my parent's new, playful puppy, oscar. their dynamics were a little crazy and made for a lovely distraction.)

it wasn't a typical thanksgiving, or the one i had hoped to have this year, but it was sweet and sacred in only the way a very ordinary day can be. and sometimes ordinary is the most beautiful.

last thursday i was reminded how thankful i am for family. for their flexibility and willingness to deal with our "maybe" responses. for their ability to welcome us graciously at the last minute. for their continued selflessness. for understanding.

i'm sure it's not easy, convenient or anywhere near what they'd really like to do on a holiday. but they've adapted. made tweaks to traditions. given us space, yet were never too far away. and in all of it, showed us deep and overwhelming love.

sometimes i feel like a real debbie downer. and especially now, around the holidays, i'm highly sensitive to the reality that my acute depression could potentially ruin the fun and excitement that others are feeling during this special season...and i hate that. so for the family and friends who are riding our emotional roller coasters along with us, dealing with our flaky, "we'll see how we feel" plans, and genuinely embracing two grieving parents when it would be easier to just "be happy" and ignore us -

you are making our holidays, and our lives, a little brighter.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Noah's Pics: Edition Four

13 days wasn't nearly enough time with this one.

sometimes it feels like the cruelest tease. we were cheated out of a lifetime getting to know who this little boy would grow to be and the type of man he'd become.

we'll never get to hear what his laugh sounds like. we won't know what his first word would have been. we won't ever meet the person he decided to spend the rest of his life with.

noah was an angel boy the moment he was born. and this picture captures the essence of his sweet and peaceful nature. so content.

i wish i could be a lot more like him.

there was a lot we didn't get and it's easy to focus on what we don't have, especially when what we don't have is the one who completed our world. that's quite the void.

but today i choose to be thankful for what we do have.

we have a son. and for that, and the world of love he brought, i am grateful.

i'm not going to lie though, i'm dreading tomorrow. the day of thanks. because it's really, really hard to be thankful right now when we are missing so much. and a day focused around family, when you are missing one third of yours, doesn't feel right in any way, shape or form.

on this grief journey some days are tougher than others, and today is one of the tough ones. i'm feeling a little sorry for myself and just want to curl up under a down comforter and watch some seinfeld.

but that's okay. oftentimes thankfulness is sweetest when found in the midst of bitter heartbreak.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Our Little World Changer

(last friday it crossed my mind to write this post, but it didn't happen. so it's happening today, four days later. whatever.)

50 years ago last friday, on november 22, two great men died. and as i scrolled through my facebook status updates that day, this one caught my eye. it was posted by one of my most beloved professors from whitworth university.

C.S. Lewis, a brilliant professor and Christian apologist, is more popular and influential today than he was when he died. JFK, a political icon, becomes more obscure with each passing year. 

gives one pause to think about enduring legacy.

enduring legacy.

i immediately thought of my noah.

what if noah's 13 days living and breathing was only the beginning of what his lasting life will be?

what if on june 18th, 2063 noah hudson butler will be remembered with fondness and respect? what if someone even posts a facebook status about him, 50 years from now?

what if God can use a little baby, no longer physically on earth, to spread His love and goodness to the ends of the earth?

this unassuming facebook status gave me great hope. it reminded me that death cannot put a stop to the growing impact of noah's life. or any life for that matter. mine. yours.

each one of us will leave a legacy that outlives us. because life is too big to be contained by death.

so i look forward to seeing how this little world changer makes a mark on eternity.

live on, my boy.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jesus Loves Us

a friend of mine posted on facebook that he and his new wife got a free hotel room upgrade on their wedding night and then added #jesuslovesus.

i was genuinely happy for them and thought that was super fun, but i couldn't help but be a little bothered by the hashtag. Jesus loves us. 

not because i don't think Jesus loves them, i wouldn't doubt for a second that he does, it just made me question what that had to do with getting an awesome hotel room upgrade.

and then i immediately felt that feeling that has come so often the last few months. the sneaky, devilish lie.

does Jesus not love john and i as much?

because if blessings come to those Jesus loves, and them exclusively, then how do we explain when horrible things happen?

does Jesus play favorites?

i think there is a false belief in the christian world that God rewards those he favors and punishes those he disapproves of. 

this has to stop. it's soul damaging. it's un-biblical. (read about abraham, moses, mary, david, the samaritan woman, JESUS for examples of men and women who were deeply cherished and loved by God, yet who's lives were far from painless.)

don't get me wrong, there's definitely something to be said about reaping what you sow. the natural consequences of bad behavior will, more often than not, play themselves out. ie. if you smoke cigarettes, you're running the risk of getting lung cancer. or if you are continually selfish and think only of yourself, there's a chance that could majorly come back to bite you in the butt.

but to somehow believe that the homeless man on the bus, who everyone wants to avoid because he smells a little funny and makes weird noises, isn't loved by jesus as much as the person who drives a bmw, lives in a million dollar home and seems to have everything in life come so easily - is flat out bullsh*t.

let's not delude ourselves. no one is better than anyone else. we're all human.

now, john and i are not perfect. we sometimes harbor un-forgiveness. we have a hard time trusting. we could be even more sacrificial in our giving. we don't always use our words in edifying ways. but we are wholehearted, Jesus followers. we seek justice, love mercy and desire to honor God with our lives.

there is nothing, nothing, we did to deserve losing our son. nothing.

this is a mantra i have to repeat over and over again. because sometimes i believe the lie that God is punishing us or doesn't love us as much as someone else living a seemingly perfect life. and believing that disgusting lie is so incredibly painful and rips through to your core.

i don't know much, but what i know for sure is,

my God is a God of grace,

my God does not dole out tragedy according to good/bad behavior,

Jesus Loves Us. All Of Us.

whether we get a sweet hotel upgrade or our firstborn son dies, whether we are a heroin addict or volunteer at a food bank, whether we have a loving family or our family abandoned us, whether we lead large crowds in worship or don't attend church at all, whether we've never had one single bad thing happen in our entire lives or if every day is a tragedy.

He Loves Us. 
no conditions. no limits.

the end.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dear Family and Friends

whenever i start thinking about what we are going to do for the holidays i get really overwhelmed. there are so many unknowns. anticipating what we are going to feel like or need on any given day is already difficult, then throw in a major holiday surrounded by family, gift giving, giddy children, party planning, house decorating, expectations, wish list making... it's too much.

speaking of a christmas wish list, what do i want this year? just noah. everything else feels meaningless and void.

this is going to be a very different holiday season than any other john and i have ever had. a little less jolly. a little less sweet.

and then i find myself worried about what others are going to think. will family be hurt if we aren't able to host house guests or a big meal? will people think we are overreacting and should just suck it up and be happy? "it's the most wonderful time of the year!"

last week at our support group meeting "the holidays" were a major topic of conversation. one woman made john and i exchange smiles when she said, "we had personal success when we bought one pumpkin for halloween and put it on the doorstep. it's not even carved, but it's there."

we totally hear you.

i have no idea where all my energy is going, but there's a black hole in grief that seems to suck every last bit of motivation, creativity and life-love completely out of my body and spirit. sounds a little dramatic, but whatever. it's true.

anyway, at support group while we were chatting about the holidays, inevitably family relations were a common thread. how do you communicate to family and friends what you're going through and shed some light on what you need? so they passed out this letter. and i'm thankful i have this forum to share it.

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you for not expecting too much from us this holiday season.

The absence of Noah when the "whole family" gathers seems to accentuate our incomplete family. It is difficult to cope with the "spirit" of the holidays on the radio, TV, in the stores, and even at church. We will need the patience and understanding of our family and friends to help us through the holidays as best we can.

Our family traditions may be too painful for us to continue this year. We may want to change the way we spend Thanksgiving or Christmas. Please understand this and maybe sometime in the future we will have these traditions again. Whatever our thoughts are for coping with the day, please take our feelings into consideration when you make your plans. 

Please allow us to talk about Noah, if we feel a need. Perhaps the single most helpful thing you can do for us is to include Noah in the holidays. We want to hear his name, to have you recall fond memories of his life, to know that you, too, are feeling his absence and remembering him with love.

As we work through our grief, we will need your patience and support, especially during these holiday times and the special days throughout the year.

Thank you for not expecting too much from us this holiday season.


may i say that just today i was given a bit of hope about the holidays. after feeling very anxious about it all, my TSIL (twin sister in law) texted me and asked if john and i would like to join them in creating a new christmas tradition. like maybe putting together care packages for nicu families at seattle children's. or bake cookies for the nurses there. something we can continue to do with kiddos in the years to come. it's like she read this letter before i even posted it.

her idea was like a breath of fresh air.
sweet. thoughtful. proactive.

i am so grateful for the creativity and thoughtfulness of others, especially at a time when my mind is absolute mush. because i really want so badly to do special things, to honor noah, to make the holiday more about jesus and giving than receiving material crap, but i just have no clue how or any energy to make it happen.

thanks for continuing to remind me there will be bright spots of light this season. even in the darkness of grief.

oh great light of the world
come to impart
the light of your grace
to fill up my heart
-bebo norman-

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Could Have Been

well, it's officially "the holidays." the time of year that is the most difficult for parents who have lost a child, or so i've heard. i have yet to experience its entirety for myself, but i already believe it's true.

today noah was supposed to be dressed up as a giraffe, cowboy, or something else equally adorable. we could have had him in a boat costume with stuffed animals surrounding him in the boat. noah's ark. how cute is that?!

i don't believe there is a more heart wrenching emotion than wishing for "what could have been." 

we've all experienced it. 

what would have happened if i committed to that relationship, instead of letting fear dictate my decisions? she could have been the one.

if we didn't experience x, y or z, could our marriage have survived?

what if he never got on that airplane?

what would my life be like if i had gone to that other college?

life is complicated sometimes, isn't it? messy, gritty, with endless possibilities. that's life. beautifully murky.

obviously, my "what could have beens" with noah are much, much more than costumes on halloween. i could live without those. what's almost unbearable to live without, however, is him. 

because i know with all my heart he would have been the most gentle, kind, loving and funny little boy in the world. and grown up to be a respected, giving, faithful man who would be admired and cherished by everyone who knew him.

this is what could have been.

halloween, and every holiday after, is just a stark reminder. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Love That Remains

"just because you don't feel devastating pain every minute of the day, and are able to somewhat function, does not mean you love noah any less."

words from our counselor this morning. words i needed to hear.

hundreds of times a day, i fight off thoughts of noah. not because i don't love him. not because i don't care about him. but because if i allow myself to really "go there," to let my brain absorb the violent truth that noah isn't here, my soul wouldn't be able to withstand the weight of that constant sorrow. so i push those thoughts aside. so i can cope. so i can survive the day.

then i feel guilt. heavy guilt.

i should visit noah's place more often.

do we have too many pictures of noah up in our house?

should we have more pictures of noah around the house?

something must be wrong with me when someone else starts crying talking about noah, and i don't join them.

i should light noah's remembrance candle more often.

i don't talk about him enough.

i talk about him too much.

guilt is a nag. and it's constant and exhausting. guilt is a total b-word.

why do i equate the value of my love for noah by my grief-stricken responses, actions and feelings?

can't i just trust that i love noah with a deep, unconditional, never-ending, world shaking, vulnerable love that has absolutely nothing to do with my coping strategies?

i love noah. 

and of course there is pain. we have experienced a tragic, unexpected loss. but if you peel back the layers of pain, love is almost always there at the root.

i feel pain because i love.

and though i don't always know how to best navigate this hell without him, and don't always have tangible ways to show and proclaim my love for him, somehow this love survives within my spirit, whether it's accompanied by pain or not. and, i believe, this love is only going to get stronger and stronger each day. less marked by pain, and more by pride and gratitude.

because i'm not created for pain. i was created for love. i was created, as was noah, out of Love. that's what will remain. not pain. love.


saudade is a portuguese word that has no direct translation in our language. as wikipedia puts it, saudade "describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or deeply melancholic longing for something or someone that one loves. moreover, it often carries with it a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return."
another way to think of saudade is "the love that remains."

(saudade quote given as a gift from a dear friend.)


Monday, October 21, 2013

Pastor Peterson

my dentist's name is dr. peterson, but you may as well call him pastor peterson.

this morning i had an appointment for a cleaning. the last time i went in i was pregnant with noah. i was a little nervous to go in today, because i knew they would be expecting to see pictures of a healthy 4 month old. and i was right. i walked in to a chorus of "congratulations." when i told them the sad news, of course they were so very gracious, but none more than the dentist himself.

he sat down with me, listened to the whole story and prayed for me, right then and there, with his hand on my shoulder.

i think he may have picked the wrong profession. he was a better pastor than some people i know who have "reverend" in front of their name.

what a beautiful reminder that no matter your career, degree, education, or skills, we are all capable of taking a moment out of our day to shock someone with love.

love came when i least expected it today, and i can just feel God's delight.

his beloved son tenderly comforting his hurting daughter. what grace.

that's the kingdom of God right there.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Selfish Season

there's a fine line between "doing what you need to do" and just being plain 'ol selfish. and i'm riding it.

example. someone asked me the other day if i wanted to see pictures of her newborn granddaughter. 

um, not really.

i would be all too thrilled to ooh and ahh over precious babes...had i never experienced a lossbut i have. i lost my newborn baby. so seeing pictures of babies noah's age are incredibly difficult for me right now. maybe one of the hardest things. so i pretty much avoid looking at all costs. it's just so painful. 

so what do i do in this situation? say, "no, thank you" and sound like the rudest person on the planet, but at least not deal with unbearable heart pain the rest of the day. (literally, it feels like a 300 pound weight crushing my chest.)

or suck it up, tell myself, "it's not all about you, mccayla" and just take one minute to let someone show off their joy, even if it causes me more pain.

i find myself in this tug of war often. 

because all the grief counselors and books i read say to basically do, or don't do, whatever i need to right now. 

take care of yourself

if you don't really feel like doing something, then don't do it. (the exceptions to this "rule" however, are eating well, getting some exercise and keeping it legal.)

but there comes a point where all that just feels gross, because it's straight up selfish.

canceling a fro-yo date with students because i don't want to leave the house.

not returning a call from a friend for months because i flat out forgot.

unexpectedly leaving early from a gathering of friends because my energy is drained at a lightning's pace.

calling in sick to work only because i'm heartsick and don't want to go.

putting my needs before others. it doesn't feel right, but is happening a lot these last few months. because this is what we call a "selfish season." (it sounds more fun than it is. it's actually makes me feel like an awful person a majority of the time.)

it's a season of vulnerability, of heightened sensitivity. 

i have a crushed and broken heart that's going through complete reconstruction. i have to be selfish to survive.

however, seasons don't last forever. thank God spring always follows winter. so little by little i believe, i hope, this selfish season will pass and i'll be able to one day put my needs aside for others and not have to think of myself so much.

to go back to being an innate people pleaser.

or maybe i'll actually learn a little something from grief and follow my heart a bit more. to do what's best for my spirit, instead of caring so much about what other people think.

maybe i will come out the other side of grief a stronger, more confident woman. a woman who can say, "no, thank you" more often.

maybe i'll also simultaneously transition into a woman who, despite the circumstances, loves deeply. a woman who is capable of making sacrifices for others no matter what the costs are. 

we'll see how it all shakes out. 

here's what i do know for sure - spring is coming.

new life. a season for God to show off his wild creativity.

i'm desperately looking forward to that sweet season for myself and everyone experiencing this desolate winter without noah. 

and we'll all be better for it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I Remember

it's october 15 - pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.

a day that i didn't even really know existed until now. shame on me. 

i apologize for all the days in my past that i have allowed this day to pass without a second thought for little lives lost. 

now my eyes are opened. i see the suffering. we weep together.

people from all around the world are lighting a candle today in remembrance of all those little lives lost too early through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. 

and i join them. my remembrance candle is lit.

for Asher.

for Bennett.

for Henry.

for Johnny.

for Joel.

for Elliott.

for Hudson.

for the Paddock babies.

for Joshua.

for Joey.

for Jacob.

for Briggs.

for Dominique.

for baby R.

for Samuel.

for baby K.

for Shannon.

for AJ.

for Noah.

for Layla.

for Eliza.

for Eden.

for baby B.

for Rachel.

for David.

for Jasmijn.

for Colton.

for Fletcher.

for Isaiah.

for Jannik.

for baby Chee.

for Phoebe.

for Ronan.

for Edoardo.

for baby N.

for baby F.

for Bailey.

for Christopher.

for Alexander.

for baby Hoffman.

for baby Marrs.

for Noah Hudson Butler.

for all those too young to have a name.

for all those not listed, you are in my heart.

each of your sweet lives, though way too short, mattered. you have eternal value in this world. 

you are loved. 

you will never be forgotten.

you shine brightly, today and forever.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Noah's Pics: Edition Three

i haven't shared a noah pic in awhile. i apologize. it's definitely not because i don't want to! i think i'm just hesitant to post them because we don't have that many and i don't ever want to run out of pictures to share. every single one is like a precious treasure. our link to moments we can never get back. so sometimes i hoard them.

i wish we took a million more. but we thought we had a lifetime with him.

the picture for today has so much i want you to see, that i made it as large as possible.

some of the many reasons why i love this picture:

* noah is in it. he's so handsome.

* noah is surrounded by all his best buddies. 

* there's monkey the mickey mouse right in front keeping a close eye on noah at all times. monkey has long been in the family and a close friend of auntie annie and auntie becky. he's been a lot of places in the world, but of all the travels he's been on, sitting with noah 24/7 was his most memorable. (apparently i speak for stuffed animals now.)

* then there's mickey the monkey, in the far back, guarding noah, always keeping him safe. he was the one who went with noah into surgery. and we thought we had lost mickey the monkey forever. but our social worker at seattle children's hospital tracked him down and sent him back to us. we were very grateful to see him again.

* then, of course, there's noah bear...  noah's go-to cuddle buddy. lucky bear. 

* noah's very best buddy in the whole world is in this picture - his daddy. and oh, how i love him.

* you get a good view of noah's dark, soft hair. by the way, he had lots of hair everywhere, just like his daddy. he had some crazy sideburns too... they went from his head, to his ear, to his eyebrow, without a break. i have a picture and will post that one some day.

* i can guarantee that noah's daddy was saying something like, "we are so proud of you, son. you're such a fighter, but don't worry about anything right now, just get some good rest. we love you very much." always encouraging, always there to care for noah in whatever way he could, always loving, always advocating, always hoping. he's such an amazing daddy.

this picture represents a lot to me when i look at it. of course, there's my sweet noah, who always captivates my attention with whatever picture he's in. but also, when i look at this picture, i'm reminded of all the thousands of people who love noah and are invested in his life. and that makes this mama so very grateful.

so, may i take a moment to say, thank you. thank you for loving our boy. maybe you weren't able to spend 24/7 in noah's bed like monkey the mickey, mickey the monkey and noah bear, but, like them, you constantly surrounded noah with sweet care and powerful protection. and you continue to do so. and that honors us deeply. more than you will ever know.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Do You Have Kids?

well, we were finally asked the dreaded question. (you're bound to find at least one curious person at your ten year college reunion.)

so, do you have any kids?

awkward silence. 

nervous glances shared with the husband as we tried to non-verbally communicate with each other...how shall we answer that? how much detail does this near-stranger need to know?   are we ready to break open this tender topic?

then, i spoke.

"yes. we have a baby boy who is in heaven."

deep breath. and you know what? with those words came a deep sense of relief and pride. 

we have a son. 

four months ago tonight our perfect angel entered the world.

happy birthday, sweet one. mama and daddy are so very proud of you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Paper Pregnant

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." (ecclesiastes 3:11)

last year october 4th was a thursday. i remember because i took a pregnancy test and got a + that day. it was such a good day. i wanted to scream our news from the rooftops. everyone who i ran into that day, whether i knew them or not, i wanted them to know, "I'M PREGNANT!!" but just john and i knew. it was our little secret. but not for too long. i'm incapable of keeping secrets. i'm not superman.

which leads me to a "secret" i just can't keep anymore.  i was going to wait until this october 4th to share our latest big announcement, because wouldn't that be cute and special, but then i was like, screw it - i can't wait that long. and what's so bad about october 2nd anyway? it's a fine day.

so, here it goes. john and i are PAPER PREGNANT!!!

and your loving response is probably, "yay!!! that's great news! but what the H does it mean?"

i'll tell you.

john and i are going to adopt a baby!!! noah is going to be a big brother. and as far as our social worker is concerned, we are "expecting."

this is obviously very exciting for us, but, as you can imagine, it was also a difficult decision. not because we don't have the desire to adopt, we most definitely do, but because everything that happens in our life, from here on out, is plan B. noah was our plan A. there's no getting around that, and it's hard to swallow sometimes.

but even plan Bs can be pretty beautiful. Jesus was plan B. 

and even though we didn't plan it this way and it wasn't the original design, we believe our story is still being written, and there's goodness yet to come. we just have to look at our life through the lens of a "new normal."

and our road to pursue adoption was not a simple, snap decision. it's something we always felt like would be a part of our family story. for one, i'm adopted. and i've been crazy-blessed because of the adoption plan my birth mother made 32 years ago. i know, without a shadow of a doubt, i'm in the family i was meant to be in. and i'm grateful everyday for it.

we believe adoption can be the most remarkable gift, for everyone who is blessed to be touched by it.

another reason adoption holds so much hope for us, and i'm not sure i've shared this before on the blog, but there's a chance that the condition that took noah's life (ACD) is genetic, meaning there's a small possibility it could happen again. (lord, have mercy.) so for the past four months we have not only been grieving the loss of our sweet, perfect baby boy, but the loss of potential future sons and daughters. and that is absolutely heartbreaking.

but we refuse to be shackled by fear.

we don't know what our future holds, but pretty much the only thing we do know is that we are meant to be parents again, no matter what road leads us there. so we're not giving up.

and we pray, with everything we have, that our rainbow baby will arrive very, very soon.

In some circles, babies born to families after the loss of a child are referred to as "Rainbow Babies." The idea is that the baby is like a rainbow after a storm. "Rainbow Babies" is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn't mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.
                                                                      ---  Definition Source

Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy Meal Hope

john and i spoke with a counselor for the first time a couple weeks ago and she was so gentle, gracious and loving. she validated our pain. even though i hesitated to go (because what could she possibly say to make me feel better?)... i was so glad we did.

while we were there, somehow the topic of friends and family came up, and particularly their reactions and responses to grief - our grief, as well as their own. and she said something that i hadn't thought of before. she said one of the reasons that people sometimes draw away from someone else's tragedy is because it is a stark reminder that tragedy is, not only possible, but could happen to them.

if it happened to the butlers, it could happen to me.

we are every parent's worst nightmare.

so they hide. they escape. they don't let themselves think about it.

it reminds me of when noah was in the hospital and one of our friends posted a link on facebook to our story and encouraged others to read it and pray for noah. and one of their friends, who i didn't know, commented on their post saying something like, "oh my God that is terrifying. my daughter is about to have her first baby, so i can't read that right now."

like our situation was a contagious disease that could be caught or something.

but thankfully i had friends and family who, in the face of fear and terror, stepped into the sh*t with us.... unlike that idiotic lady who could just look the other way and continue on with her blissful, pain free life.

and one of those people who's doing the hard journey with us is my college bestie.

during the most hellish time in my life, this was a friend who is there...every step of the way. she sent me flowers when i went into labor. she was one of the first people to meet noah on his first day of life. she brought her laptop to the starbucks in seattle children's hospital and camped out there all afternoon, just in case we needed her or wanted to vent. she would drop whatever she was doing to drive to wherever we were to pray with us when we were in despair. she was on our doorstep, along with another bestie, the day after noah passed away. they even helped coordinate details for noah's memorial when our brains couldn't even function. she was one of our lifesavers.

and she did all of this while pregnant. pregnant.

she told me later that someone asked her, "how can you experience all of that horror firsthand? be so close to something so awful? that could literally happen to you. isn't that too scary to witness?" and you know what this rockstar of a girl said, "i just pretty much forgot i was pregnant." she put her own self aside...that's what she did. she's one of the most selfless people i know.

her precious baby girl was born a few days ago and for months i wasn't sure if i'd be able to go to the hospital to visit. i wanted to. i wanted to more than anything. but i was scared. it was the exact same hospital noah was born in. the one i spent four nights imprisoned in, separated from my boy, because of my dangerously high blood pressure. the place where i experienced my greatest joy and my darkest nightmare.

i was afraid if i went back i would have a nervous breakdown. that i would cry. that i would make a fool of myself.

that i would miss noah even more, and my broken heart would break beyond repair. 

but because she showed up for us and put her fears aside, she inspired me to do the same. so i went. (but not before i had a minor freak out in the hall and almost didn't go through the hospital door.)

it was very difficult to step into that room.

but like almost everything in life, it wasn't as bad as i thought. my friend was gracious. (of course she was.) her baby was gorgeous. (of course she was.)

and i saw a glimmer of hope. (of course i did.)

hope in the form of a mcdonald's happy meal. 

this beaut is what caught my eye when i sat down in my friend's hospital room, as i held her day-old baby. 

and with a million awful memories flooding my mind, that little unassuming, leftover meal snuck in a happy one.

i love the wizard of oz and i love rainbows.

a reminder that dreams really do come true. and they aren't all nightmares.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Siblings for Noah

this is a subject i've avoided talking about since starting this blog, but has been constantly on my mind and remains incredibly close to my heart. or moreover, it IS my heart...

(hashtag) siblings for noah.

because i was never a mother before noah, i never knew my capacity to love. but being noah's mommy has taken my heart to a dimension i had no idea existed. i specifically remember a moment when noah first got admitted to the NICU, when he was covered in tubes and masks, under a hot light, and i literally felt like it was me lying there on the table. i even said to one of the nurses, "please take good care of him, that little boy is my heart." and she gently nodded, as if she knew exactly what i meant.

and i'm terrified, terrified, that i wouldn't be able to love another baby as much as i love him. i just don't see how it's possible, because i love him so much.

i would imagine anyone who is preparing to have a second child (or third or fourth or the duggar's twentieth) has a similar fear. is there room in my heart for more?

but then i also have the added baggage that my firstborn is no longer with us and so would i constantly be comparing our next child with my fantasy of who noah "could have been"? or, worse, and i'm ashamed to say this, but would i, deep down, unconsciously wish they were noah? 

because, my God, he was perfect.

i've talked with my husband, at length, about my fear and he, in only a way he can, helps me lift my eyes and find hope. 

he's told me numerous times that i will love and cherish our future children even more because of noah.

and i want to believe that. 

the only thing i really know is that i had no idea what my capacity was to love that 7 pound, 5 ounce bundle of cuteness, and it's out of this world, so i trust i have no idea the love i'm still capable of.

noah will always, always have a very special place in our hearts and family. he will always be our firstborn. his life will forever be an integral part of ours. the void of him not being with us will never go away. he can never, ever, EVER be replaced. he was noah hudson butler and there will never be another.

but there will be others. our greatest pride. our deepest joy.

our rainbows after the storm. 

stay tuned. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sorrow is the Sea

"The world looks different now. The pinks have become purple, the yellows brown.

Sometimes I think that happiness is over for me. I look at photos of the past and immediately comes the thought: that's when we were still happy. But I can still laugh, so I guess that isn't quite it. Perhaps what's over is happiness as the fundamental tone of my existence. Now sorrow is that.

Sorrow is no longer the islands but the sea."

Nicholas Wolterstorff 
"Lament for a Son"

Friday, September 20, 2013

Heaven, the Not Yet

before there was noah, heaven was nothing more than a passing thought to me. sure, i believed there was one and it was probably a nice place and all, but i didn't really care that much. it didn't matter what it was like, or where, or if it even existed, because i'd be dead. so oh, well.

but heaven becomes a hell of a lot more important when your baby, your heart, is there. 

heaven HAS to be, not only real, but nothing short of perfect, because my most cherished, most sacred little being is spending eternity there. and i HAVE to believe, in order for me to take my next breath, he is somewhere better than i can imagine.

a lot of people have a lot of things to say about what this heaven place is and what noah could potentially be doing while he's "there".

"noah is probably up there fishing with his grandpa.

"i can see grandma holding him in her rocking chair."

"he's gotta be playing with all the other little kids."

"i'm sure he misses you as much as you miss him."

"he's an angel watching over you."

and though those images bring me some sort of comfort, and they're all well intentioned and hold pieces of truth, i believe there's got to be more to "heaven" than just a fun place in the sky. 

it's beyond our understanding.

the most beautiful way i've heard heaven described was by a dear friend of mine from high school. she expresses in words what my soul knows but can't seem to explain.

"I want to believe that heaven means no waiting. What would the point be? If heaven is life and love and purpose perfected, then there is no further need for waiting. So when Noah went ahead of us here on earth, for him, he arrived Home and was greeted by you and John and all who have ever and will ever love him for a truly joyous celebration in every way."

like the airport scene at the end of love actually.

there's nothing more beautiful than reunions. and a heavenly reunion, at that. 

it just makes me weep. 

however, i DO NOT believe noah is waiting around for us, missing us, just killing time being an angel and playing in heavenly meadows until we die too. 

he's in another dimension. a dimension without time, without a calendar counting down the days. 

before noah, i thought of heaven as the "Great There." it's somewhere apart from everything we see now, on earth. separate. or whatever it is, it's not here.

but heaven is so much more than the not here, it's the not yet.

noah is already existing in the fulfillment of how it all is supposed to be. (did i just blow your mind? i know. mine's been blowing up ever since june 18, 2013.)

we, here on earth, have just not caught up with him yet.

but here's what my brain can handle right now - noah is with Jesus. and Jesus is gentle and good. so my boy is okay. he's more than okay.

and i guess that's all this mama needs to know right now. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Making No Sense of Nonsense

how is it that we give God credit and thanks for our blessings, but when circumstances or events turn tragic, we deny His involvement?

one of my best friends in the world is about to have a baby. and we say, "Praise God. thank you for this miracle of life. great job, God." rightly so, i guess.

but when a couple of insane idiots go on a shooting rampage in Washington DC, we defend God and say, "that's evil in the world. God had nothing to do with that. He's good. and since that was very, very bad - there's no way He was involved."

it seems just a little whack. am i right? 

can i safely believe that everything good that comes in life is from God? james 1:17 says so and it's easy to believe.

or does one egg just happen to meet up with one sperm to create a life. nothing Devine, just science doing its thing. 

that makes complete sense to me too.

so what events are God-appointed and which ones aren't? how are we to know?

let's get to the point of it all. did God have a hand in noah dying? or was it just a freak DNA accident? 

i guess i'm just wanting to know how much of this is God's fault, so i can adequately blame Him for what He was responsible for. but i'm, clearly, having a hard time reconciling it all.

my worldview is straight up getting turned on it's head. 

i'm clumsily trying to find the walls in a completely pitch-black room. it's virtually impossible. kind of like making sense of God's ways.

so i surrender. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How Are You?

how's it going? how're you doing? how are you?

all questions we ask each other, not to necessarily know the answer, but more like a way to say hello. 

i realized yesterday that in the last three months i have yet to respond to any of those types of questions without the simple answer of "ok." 

this is strange for me. usually my response was something like, "pretty good!", "can't complain!", or maybe even an "Awesome!" every now and then. 

but then my world was turned upside down.

i found pretty early on after noah died that responding to how i am doing with anything better than just "ok" would be a lie. sure, there are elements of good in my life. my husband. our home and health. my family and friends. 


but overall, life is kind of a little awful right now. 

a friend of mine said that she would imagine that the world just wasn't a beautiful place to me anymore. and it's true. i've got a dark cloud hovering over, and tainting, my otherwise once positive outlook on life.

i wonder when, or if, life will ever be "good" again. 

i have hope it will. i have to believe this dark cloud can't stay too horribly long. 

unfortunately, that doesn't mean the devastation of losing noah will ever go away, that's impossible.

so, although i'm not sure how life can ever be good again without noah here...

there's got to be a way, somehow, for pain and redemption to coexist. and i'm determined to try and find it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sorry Bob Marley, but Every Little Thing is NOT Gonna Be Alright

a couple nights ago while john and i were just sitting in the living room watching tv, all of a sudden i realized that at that exact moment, three months to the day, my water broke. and i could barely remember how i felt and what that moment was like, because it just made my heart ache like crazy. 

but i'm sure it was something like hope, excitement and unbridled expectancy. feelings very foreign to me today.

it's really difficult for me to think about anything BN, before noah. i can't look at pictures of myself pregnant or see any sort of baby gear without feeling deep sadness, almost like a haunting. i mourn, not only the loss of precious noah, i mourn the loss of me.

because i was a completely different person BN. carefree, for the most part. positive. i saw the world as a place where goodness pretty much reigned. God of course worked all things for good and always knows what He's doing, i never questioned it.

so not only am i grieving the devastating, world-rocking loss of noah, i'm grieving that i'll never be pregnant without fear. because having a blissful, worry-free pregnancy, for me, is past.

i'm grieving that i'll never be able to go to a wedding and just think of all the joy and adventures that lie ahead for the beaming couple. instead, my mind will automatically go to what tragedies lie ahead. because "every little thing is not gonna be alright." and screw you, bob marley, for saying so. you lie.

and this isn't me. i'm not a negative person. i hate thinking of so much negativity. it's disgusting. but it's real.

here's what it comes down to... i mourn the loss of my naivety. my worldview has been turned upside down. i know, all too well, that awful, tragic, unexpected events can happen to anyone, at anytime. and it's not like i didn't realize or know that BN. i wasn't completely stupid. i had my share of sorrow. i lost my dad to cancer at 8 years old and i've witnessed poverty and injustice in the world, firsthand. i've always experienced life not being perfect. but the difference is, now horror is so much more real. i can't ignore it or pretend it's not there. because the absolutely unthinkable happened to me, my long-awaited, most beloved baby boy died. and in a world where that can happen, anything can happen. because this world is messed up.

and, on this side of eternity, death is permanent. every other "bad" time in my life, like not getting a job i wanted or waiting for what seemed like forever to be married, was just a season. it passed. all i had to do was "get through it" and then life would be better.

but not now. the moment noah got sick and died was the moment my life was thrust on a completely different path. i can never go back to the life i once had. i have a new life now. a new reality. john and i lost a baby. that's our new normal. it's never going to be "fixed" or be changed. there's nothing we can do.

and i hate that. i fight it. i wish it were different. i wish i could go back to life the way it was BN. but then i guess that would mean no noah. and i could never wish for that.