Lilypie Angel and Memorial tickers

Lilypie Angel and Memorial tickers

Our big girl!

Our big girl!
Growing so fast!

Kylie 1 day old

Kylie 1 day old
Curling up

Bryleigh Addison

Bryleigh Addison
Our youngest miracle


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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pride and Joy

God never ceases to amaze me. Really. His love and blessings and mercy just flow over me daily, and I am so grateful for the grace I have found in the love of Jesus. Today, I am just bursting with pride... so much over the past year has been so positive, and it has given me such a happy perspective on life, regardless of the bad things that have happened.

I know I have said numerous times before that God answered my prayers when Kylie was sick; I asked her to be healed, and He gave her the ultimate healing. And with her healing, came the breaking of my heart, but each day, God helps to mend the wounds that still lay gaping and to fix the scars that are still stretching. Her life gave me something that I don't think I would have had in the same way if we had not lost her. I feel that Kylie was put here on earth to place within me a servant's heart. She taught me how important it is to give back, and so I hope that I am honoring her life by doing just that. We help the March of Dimes. We minister to families in their grief. We run a support group for families no matter where they are in the grief process. We run the October 15 Memorial Ceremony here in Huntsville for families who have lost. We are trying to get Kylie's fund up and going. We are doing so much, like making NICU memory boxes and donating special items in her memory. All of this, because of her. And this morning, I received an email from someone I had never met who came across my blog in a search for an angel picture, and my life was touched that someone I had never met, someone I have never crossed paths with, found me and was touched by our story. So God is using our sweet Kylie to reach out to others, to impact others, and I am so grateful that I am able to be in this position to help others and be there for others.

In a different story, Bryleigh is growing like a weed! She is crawling now (she officially crawled on October 21), has 6 teeth, and will be completely on whole milk only after tomorrow. She is saying bye bye and waving, saying ma-ma, da-da, and bah-bah (bottle i believe). She is even giving kisses. She gets excited and giggles when she sees me, and she is learning to eat with a spoon. She is completely off baby food and is trying to pull up to stand. One minute, she was my tiny baby cuddling in my arms, and the next, she is all grown up and doesn't need me as much!

And finally, Jaycee got her very first school report card today. I am so, so proud to be her Mommy. I am so thankful God chose to keep her in our home and in our lives. Without her, I don't know what I'd do. This kid met or exceeded standards in all but one category that she only meets some standards in, and that is in rhyming sounds. I should have seen it coming when I asked her last night what rhymes with mat, and she is like... cat... POGO STICK! Lol. Last night she also started a conversation that went like this:
J: Mom, I love Miss a-Jessca and Micah and the whole family.
Me: Well, that's good. I do, too.
J: When is Micah going to have a baby sister?
Me: Um... well, I guess he isn't.
J: But I have a baby sister and Micah needs a baby sister. Soon I'm going to have a baby brother.
Me: Says who?!?!
J: Me
Me: Where will the baby come from? Because I am NOT pregnant.
J: It will grow in your belly. There's a brother in there now.
Me: No! There is no brother. And plus, we can't just pick what we want. We get whatever God gives us.
J: I'm going to ask God for a baby brother. Can I talk to God about a baby brother?
Me: You can talk to God as much as you want to. You just ask right away.
J: Well, we need to get another bed and put in Bryleigh's room so our brother will have a place to sleep.
Me: No, because there isn't a brother!
J: Well there will be, and I will take good care of him. I will even let him color. No, I won't, because he will bite. I am ready for a brother.
Me: :/

And so folks, I have three beautiful girls. Three unique girls. Three girls who know how to make my heart swell with pride and my face light up with smiles. Am I a lucky mom or what? These three are definitely MY pride and joy. =)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Fall down seven times, stand up eight."

"Fall down seven times, stand up eight." - Japanese Proverb

I have been thinking about this statement all day. It is in the front of our novel, Touching Spirit Bear, that we started reading in class today. I wrote in on the board in red, and asked my students to write it down and then respond to it, to tell me what it meant to them in their own words. This was part of their pre-reading, but I have found that this quote has been reverberating in my mind all day long. This evening when catching up on Facebook posts, a friend had this as her status, and told me she had seen it on Twitter.

To me, this quote means that you never, ever, EVER give up. No matter how many times you get knocked down, you HAVE to get back up. Kind of like falling off of a horse... you have to get back on immediately or you never will. If you give up once, there won't be another chance. No matter how many times you fail, you keep trying. Giving up isn't an option.

And so, this quote stood out to me and made me want to write about some things, but first, I thought it would be fitting to post some verses that are related...

Romans 5:3-4 NIV Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope

James 1:3 NIV because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Revelation 2:3 NIV You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow.- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. - Thomas A. Edison

Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent. - Marilyn vos Savant

Every wall is a door. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. - Nelson Mandela

In my life, I have learned that no matter how hard you try, how hard you work, and how much you do, there will be someone there to tear you down, or to try to tear you down. The devil works in so many ways and sneaks his way in and about your lives, trying to destroy the good that God has brought us. No matter what, the devil HOPES that we don't get up that eighth time. He hopes that we treat the wall as a wall, that we never get back up when we fall down, that we don't persevere through hardships and trials in God's name. He hopes that he doesn't have to deal with us growing stronger. He wants us to give up and fail. 

Well, I'm here to say that I am absolutely NOT a quitter. I keep going. I keep trying, and I keep finding a way to make it work. I fight for what I believe in, and I stand up for what is right. I do what I feel is right each day, and I am working really hard on making good decisions and not judging someone else for theirs. The hardest part of anything for me is not taking things so personally, because I tend to internalize and take things so much to heart, even when the intent was not to hurt me or go against me. 

I have worked so hard to get to where I am in life, and I am truly proud of myself for all that I have accomplished. I couldn't be here without the support of the best family in the world and the most amazing friends a girl could have. But most of the time, I don't like to talk about ME. I like to talk about what I'm DOING, because it draws attention to the projects we have going on to support others and help others. My life isn't about me, and what I want. My life's purpose is to give to others, to do for others, and to provide things for others that they wouldn't otherwise be able to get. I want to teach, to reach out, to minister, to guide, and to support others in various situations. That is who I am. I am not selfish. I am not greedy. I am not unkind. 

The hardships that we have endured over the past three years seem small to so many people, but they really do take a toll on a person. No one should have to bury their child, but we had to three years ago. Because of that, my grandparents were in a car accident that caused my granny to need surgery. Unbeknownst to us, anesthesia speeds up the process of dementia/Alzheimer's (we didn't even know she had it), and since then, her health has rapidly deteriorated, causing her to have to move to a nursing home for care. Because of THAT, my granddaddy's health declined rapidly as well, and for a whole year, he was in and out of the hospital, sick, and no hope of a diagnosis, until this June when he was diagnosed with blastic plasmacytoid dendritic neoplasm, and now, we have to come to the grim reality that he will not be with us this time next year. 

Somethign that I learned from Granddaddy many years ago is that you always take pride in what you do and you work hard to keep a high level of effort and success in your projects. My granddaddy's pride, though sometimes frustrating, is one of his greatest traits. Though it sometimes came across the wrong way to me, he always lived what he told me and I never had to look at him and think "why does he say one thing and do another?" He has pride in his appearance, in his construction company, in his sons, in his wife, and most importantly, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He takes pride in showing us off, in bragging on us and our accomplishments... so much pride that when he talks to us or about us, his eyes sparkle with excitement and youth, something that we don't see very often anymore. He's tired. But, he hasn't given up yet, because it is not in the nature of a Marine of the United States of America to just "give up." 

In honor of my Granddaddy, who taught me so much about living life and being a good person, I have decided that giving up is no longer an option. If he can fight through life and be stubborn (yes, stubborn. It's the number one trait of a person with the last name of Lanford. I have plenty of it myself!) and prideful, and still turn out okay from it all... well, there are some lessons to be learned from it. 

So to everyone who keeps knocking me down with your hurtful words, to everyone who knocks me down because you mock me, talk about me, and laugh at me behind my back... to everyone who tries to hurt me intentionally, to everyone who is jealous of me for some unknown (and ridiculous?) reason, to everyone who tries to lash out at me or my family members because you don't understand us or what we are going through... to everyone who tries to pass false words about me and my missions for parents who have lost... to everyone who wants to drag me down so you can feel better about yourself... 

I won't give up. I refuse. I'm stronger than that. I will keep getting back up. I will keep fighting back. I will keep being ME, and I will no longer apologize for the traits that make me who I am, even if you don't like me. 

I love my children. I love my husband. I love my family, my friends, my job, my life. I love volunteering for the March of Dimes. I love supporting the NICU at Huntsville Hospital. I love being an advocate and resource for parents who have lost a child. I love being able to share our story with others to impact them in positive ways. I love that I have the opportunity to help others every day. 

So, keep on trying to bring me down. Keep trying to make me give up. You are only motivating me to keep trying harder. You are only going to encourage me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if the journey is slow and difficult. 

I. Will. NOT. give. up. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kylie's 3 year angelversary

To my dearest Kylie Brielle,

It is so hard to believe that it has been three years since you passed. Three years since you took your last breath on Earth. Three years since I held you in my arms. Three years since my heart broke beyond all repair. Three years since I told you goodbye, even though I didn't want to.

Sweet angel, so many things have happened and changed in the course of three years. Though my grief is different now than it was 3 years ago, it still hurts so much to know that I have to wait a lifetime to see you again. It is something that I will carry with me forever, and something that will never be forgotten.

Two years ago, if someone had told me I'd be where I am right now, I probably wouldn't have believed them. At one point, I thought my pain was so deep, so raw, so consuming, that I couldn't see past the grief to see what would come out of it. All I knew was that it wasn't fair, that life without you was miserable, that I would give anything to go back and try again. I knew that I hated my life without you, and that I was angry at God for taking you away from me.

Last year, I was a hormonal emotional wreck because I was 35 weeks pregnant with your little sister. I was mourning your loss while preparing for the birth of a new life. It was a very difficult and conflicting emotional time, but one thing remained: the pain was deep, consuming, and aching. However, it was a little bit easier to get through the day. It was a little bit easier to breathe and remember you without feeling like my heart would rip out of my chest.

This year, my body, my heart, and my soul aches without you here. My heart is comforted, though, as well as my soul, because this year, I have a peace in my faith that has helped guide me through this past year of pain. It hurts just as bad today as it did then. It aches just as much as it did one year ago, two years ago. The piece of my heart that left when you died is still missing. That part of me that died with you will never come back. But this year, sweet girl, I have learned so much about you, about me, and about God. This year, I have a renewed faith and a renewed outlook. It doesn't change how much I love you and how much I miss you. I still think I'd do just about anything to have you back. I still wish life was different, that I could kiss your nose any time I wish, that I could reach out and hold you in my arms all night long. But, reality sets in, and I remember that isn't going to happen for a very, very long time.

Your life has inspired me and has changed me. You are the reason I want to help other parents. You are the reason I want to make sure that no one else has to find help when they lose a baby. You are the reason I want to do all kinds of things in your honor and memory. You are the reason I keep putting one foot in front of the other. You are the reason we have Bryleigh. You are the reason we are the Ambassador family for the March of Dimes this year. You are the reason we cherish each second we have as a family. You are the reason we love deeply, speak kindly, and share constantly.

Your LEGACY is love and hope. You are pure and innocent, and you showed such strength and courage in your brief two weeks on earth. You inspire me to be better every day, and you inspire me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if it seems impossible or too difficult. You have left footprints on my heart, and they will be there for eternity, even when I am long gone from this world. My hope is that your legacy continues to inspire others, to give them hope, and to offer comfort and guidance in the most difficult days a parent could face. Your life lives on through us, and I hope that we have made you proud with all that we have done and will continue to do in the future.

Today, Kylie, I am so honored and so blessed to be your mommy. I am thankful for the peace that comes in knowing you are in the arms of Jesus, and that one day, I will join you and then can raise you as I always dreamed. One day, I will get to rock you to sleep every night, and I can kiss your precious nose all day long. One day, I will be able to look in your gorgeous eyes like I did three years ago, and you will just melt my heart with your sweetness. One day, we will be a family again, all of us, and we can do the things that families do as we walk the streets of gold in eternity.

Until then, I must find some peace and comfort in telling your story, sharing your life with others. I must find hope in talking with other parents who have been chosen to join this group that we didn't sign up for. I must find inspiration and strength from you, from your life, and from your legacy. I must keep going, because I am not just a mommy of an angel, but I am a mommy to three beautiful, unique, precious girls.

Thank you for being my daughter and for showing me a love that I never knew existed. Thank you for watching over us all and for protecting us. Thank you for guiding me and inspiring me with every day that passes. There isn't a moment that goes by that you are not on my mind. Every day, I miss you. Every second, I love you. My love for you stretches far beyond any physical limitation. You will always be in my heart, and no one can tear apart the bond of mother and child, even across a distance like Heaven and Earth.

Happy 3rd angelversary, Kylie Brielle Keith. I hope that you are celebrating in the biggest of ways in Heaven. Please, sweet angel, be with me tomorrow, as well as your daddy, your Grammy and Paw Paw, your sisters, Aunt Ashley, Uncle Jon, Nick, and all our friends and family as we mourn your passing and try to get through the day. You are a very special little girl who is loved and missed by many, many people.

I love you to Heaven and back, and I miss you just as much.

With my most sincere love,

Your Mommy