Dying Grace

Not along after our Warner was born and then went to be with the Lord, John posted this to Facebook:

“My pastor always says God only gives dying grace on dying days, that is so true. We mourn but not as those with no hope. Today I met my son, today my son met Jesus. All in all a good day.”

Those words still give me chills. Every word he typed was incredibly raw in the moments following Warner’s death. I think those words bring such an emotion out of me because they couldn’t be truer. The Lord really did walk so close the days leading up in preparing our hearts and through Warner’s death and afterwards.

This past weekend we’ve been working on one of the adoption papers that I have intentionally put off as long as I could. The medical and special needs form declaring what needs we are comfortable to adopt. It’s a very strange situation to be presented with a checklist knowing that each box represents children waiting for families. No child was given a checklist of the needs they wanted to inherit or to decide to become an orphan. So, to be on the other end and make decisions that seem so unfair is a very draining process.

I spent a lot of the weekend heavy with the weight of a few conditions that we felt we could check “yes” on but trying to make sure that was the correct decision. We decided to table it for now and pray for the right leading. We are still praying, discussing, and researching. And, that’s when the Lord has really begun to work on my own heart and remind me of that dying grace.

Our pastor this weekend shared from Philippians 3 and went on to close out his sermon talking about this idea of dying grace. How grace is transformative and the Lord makes grace what it needs to be when it needs to be it. And, not a moment before. He’s there in the trenches and doesn’t abandon us when we need Him. When we share His sufferings, we get to know the power of His resurrection.

“that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” -Philippians‬ ‭3:10-11‬

We are still praying and trusting that the Lord already knows our child’s needs. And, no matter how simple or complex, that same dying grace that held us together during Warner’s life will hold us together as we navigate a treatment plan for our child. It really is quite an amazing grace

{If you would like to financially support our adoption, you can do so here: paypal.me/jenlynnphillips}

{If you would like to follow our adoption journey on Facebook, you can do so here: Facebook.com/PhillipsIndiaAdoption}

Warner’s Birthday Funnies

You know when something is super sad and you find yourself laughing? The harder you try to stop, the more you laugh. Guys, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that I’m always finding something deep to share. Or something completely ridiculous. My life tends to oscillate between those two extremes. Therefore, if something is going to be super sad, it’s likely that some super funny things are going to happen, too.

For example, Warner’s funeral? Terribly sad, right? Yes, completely right. But, God gave us some humor, too. We bought two baskets of flowers for the girls to leave with their brother. They were very kidsy and brightly colored. What we didn’t realize was that they were also full of water. And, because I’m all “We need to make special moments out of this difficult time”, we gave one of the flower baskets to Ella. Approximately 4.5 seconds into holding her flowers, she realized it was full of water. So, every few minutes you heard a big pouring of water from Ella’s flower basket. Because, cmon?! A basket full of water to pour everywhere?? That’s a toddlers dream. I had to keep from belly laughing each time I heard the pouring of water during such a serious time.

That leads to Warner’s second birthday hilarity. So, we got our crap together and I managed to get all three kids out the door to an indoor play place in town. I’m feeling pretty much like Supermom because John had been out of town since the day before (first time since Jed was born). So, I had been all kinds of awesome that morning. I even put everyone in special outfits for Warner’s birthday (lots of Warner blue as we call it and Jed in Star Wars). We swoop into the play place parking lot and I’m ready.

I grab Jed first. I wrap him onto me. Again, feeling like SuperMom. Yeah, that’s right. I just took this long piece of fabric and knew exactly what to do with it. Baby boy is snug and ready to rock. BOOM. Pride always comes before a fall, guys. Learn from me, mmmkay?

Next, I get the girls out and we meander into the overpriced play place that basically has the same toys we already have at home. But, whatever, it’s a special day. So, let’s play with the germ infested toys rather than the ones we have at home. The girls scamper off and are owning place. (Side note: Ella is the sweetest kid ever at these places. Charlotte likes to tell everyone else what to do. Precious.)

All right, this place is bumpin’ because it’s Spring Break. Every stay at home mom in Northwest Arkansas was all “I know exactly where to take my kids to run amuck for a few hours”. Therefore, most of the seats were taken. But, God smiled down on me and saved the only glider rocker just for me. I slip into it and think about how awesome I am. I text John to tell him about all of my awesome. He agrees, because he’s smart.

Then, it happens.

Humph, what’s that warmth? Is Jed peeing in his diaper and I just feel the heat because he’s pressed up to me in the wrap? OH MY GOSH, IT IS WARM AND WET!!!!

I immediately start panicking texting John because WHAT ELSE AM I GOING TO DO?!

Jed could care less that he urinated all between the two of us. He was like a small animal. Peed, settled right on into it and immediately fell asleep. The girls are whizzing (see what I did there?) by and loving their most special time with all of the toys we already have at home. We had been there less than 5 minutes. I can’t drag the girls out because they’ll melt down (can you blame them? Only 5 minutes in germy paradise??). But, I left the other baby carrier and his car seat in the car. While I have a change of clothes for him readily available, I don’t have anything for my soiled shirt.

I decide to assess the outside of the wrap. It appears that I totally did own my wrap job and the pee has been contained between us and the seat of the wrap. I make the executive decision to live with the pee. No one else can tell and who cares? What’s some pee between mother and son?

Time goes on and I honestly forgot about the pee. Gross, but true. I also lost the glider rocker. I had to get up and tell Charlotte to stop doing something. As soon as I vacated it, a woman pounced. Bless her. I admire her gumption.

After I settled onto a wooden bench that I had been excommunicated to, I overhear the chair stealer on the phone. Something about “Did you see her post on Facebook??” And, her conversation ended with a “I’ll let you get back to your newspaper,” at which point, I wondered into what year I had been transported. But, enough about the chair stealer, whom I secretly admire.

Jed wakes up and starts to get hungry. I forgot my nursing cover. So, I decide to just lower him in the wrap and I’ll feed him that way. I’ll be covered to my comfort and he can stay secure to me in case I have a chance to run and steal the glider back. I start to untie the wrap to lower him…

THE PEE.

Guys, we’re talking I could wring the wrap out and a puddle of pee would hit that ground. I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first time to see a puddle of pee on the ground, but maybe the first time from a Mom that walked around in it for over an hour. I start to spazz. My eyes start darting around as though the toys I already own at home can give me a clue on what to do next. Nada.

At this point, Jed’s cries start to gain intensity…along with the looks of all the Mom’s from the state of Arkansas.

Bahhhh.

Okay, we’ve just gotta get to the car. This is when I drop any sense of SuperMom I have left. I go scrambling around to the two ends of this place to gather my big kids. I grab them and say

“We need to go now. Do you want a cookie? Or a cupcake?? We’ll get cupcakes. Come on!”

I didn’t even try anything before start to bribery. I just immediately went to code red of junk food in hopes that they would follow me without any complaints. It worked. They both traipsed after me like they owned me. They did.

We leave and I shove everyone in the car quickly. I check the damage. Me and Jed’s shirts are soaked. The wrap is full pee. I scavenge around the car to see if I have anything I can change into. Maybe having a messy car will finally pay off. Nope. But, if I could fashion a shirt out of a week old dirty diaper or an empty Chipotle cup, I’d be in business.

I get Jed cleaned up, changed, and fed. He’s now living the dream. I, on the other hand, have made a promise of junk food to the big kids. So, I take them to lunch. In my half dried pee shirt.

Best part? It was totally dry by the time we ended up at home and I spent most of the afternoon in the shirt until I remembered it was covered in pee. Is short term memory loss a thing?? Am I the girl from 50 First Dates when it comes to baby pee?

This is only half of the funny from Warner’s second birthday. I’m so grateful for a God that gives us joy even in the sorrow! We’re such a circus and I love it!

Warner’s Second Birthday

I’m a planner. Not a super great one. But, a planner. I see all of the things on my calendar and will think about them a lot ahead of time. Probably too much. Along with being someone that feels all of the feelings, I think all of the thoughts.
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Therefore, when something like Warner’s birthday is coming up, by the time the day has hit, I’ve already felt all of the things and thought all of the things. I talked about it a little bit here, but I think we’ve realized that the month of March will probably always be a minor disaster for me. We even joked that next year we should create a “Sad About Warner” budget for the month of March. Because, apparently, I give up on cooking dinner which leads to a lot of take-out. And, I also wander Target more frequently and hope that a new pair of sunglasses will make me less sad.
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But, with all of the pre-gaming I find myself doing before his birthday, I have been amazed at God’s grace these last two years. Both years, his birthday has been beautiful. And, peaceful. And, joyful. It can only be by the prayers of His people (which we are so grateful for!) and His lavishing of grace. I am SO grateful.
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The day before and the day after his birthday were hard. But, on the day of, me and the kids did a lot of celebrating. John was out of town until late that evening. So, we saved the cake and balloons until he was home. But, all of the celebrating included a shopping trip to pick the right toys for his resting place in Georgia (a friend put his new toys and flowers down for us! And, added a Happy Birthday balloon), a ring that John bought for me that has Warner’s birthstone, lots of pizza and ice cream (W’s favorites while in my belly), fun at an indoor play place, lunch at a new restaurant, a picnic by his tree at home, the happy birthday song with cupcakes and releasing balloons to make it all the way to Heaven to Warner.
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There were lots of sweet memories. Including some pretty hilarious ones which I’ll cover in much more detail soon. But, our family is so thankful for all of the prayers, kind words, and support! You’ve allowed our son to have weight in this world. And, for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Palm Sunday’s New Meaning

“The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”” -John 12:12-19

Two years ago, Palm Sunday was on March 24th. That’s the day we welcomed our first son into the world. I have never been more awestruck at Easter than I have been these last two years. Loss seems to bring that out.

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus came in on a donkey.

Lowly.

Humble.

A servant.

Willingly headed to his death.

Jesus may have come quietly on that first Palm Sunday. The disciples may not have been able to understand it all until later. But, on that Palm Sunday two years ago? He came anything but quietly. He came in power and authority. He came as the giver of life. He came as the One that ushers His people from a broken world into a perfect eternity.

That first Palm Sunday, He rode into Jerusalem. A much different scene than my Palm Sunday two years ago. He made a tiny hospital room in Fayetteville, Georgia, become holy ground. There were no palm branches waving. No strength to cry “Hosanna!” But, there wasn’t a person in that room that didn’t sense the magnitude of Jesus Himself that day.

In the days and weeks leading up to Warner’s birth, we prayed. We prayed a lot. We searched every day for even more Scripture to pray over the life God had put under care. I still have my list of Scriptures we claimed and every once in a while, I’ll look through them. But, one of the things that we often prayed was for the angel of death to pass over my womb just like he did for the Israelites as they placed lamb’s blood on their door frames during the tenth plague {Exodus 11-13}. We prayed that the blood of the true lamb, Jesus Christ, would cover over my womb and protect against the angel of death. When we prayed these things, we had no idea how God would weave it all together in the end.

Warner was born on Palm Sunday, March 24, 2013. He was born on the holiday that marks Jesus’ triumphal entry. The holiday that begins Jesus’ walk to the cross. The cross that gives me hope that I will see my son again. The day after Warner’s birth, Monday, March 25, 2013, began the celebration of Passover. That idea we prayed so many times over my womb, over his life, all melded together in the 45 minutes he lived. Death did pass over. One being that we had 45 minutes with him. That, in and of itself is a miracle. Two being that because of the first passover, years ago, the coming of Jesus was mirrored. And, Palm Sunday would happen. Then, Good Friday. Then, Easter. Then, a mother and a father with a shattered heart in a hospital as they say goodbye to their first son. But, they get the chance to live with the hope that it isn’t goodbye forever.

I don’t ever see a Palm Sunday passing again where I don’t reflect on Warner’s birth. Or Jesus’ triumphal entry into our family’s lives on March 24, 2013. Or how I can ignore the meaning of Passover like I did so many years before. There is a God that marks our lives in substantial ways, as long as we’re willing to see. Just like the disciples on that first Palm Sunday, it may take us a little bit to understand it. But, when we do, we can’t help but to wave those palm branches high

Dear Jennifer From Two Years Ago

Dear The Jennifer On the Eve of Warner’s Birth,

You always used to say that your biggest fear was one of your kids dying. One time you heard of a story of a baby that lived for 2 hours and died in their Mom’s arms. That story made you feel all the feelings and you thought “I could never ever do that”.

Right now, you have no idea that you’re going to meet your first son tomorrow. You’ve had contractions on and off for weeks now but they’ve always gone away. You’re exhausted from all of the blood loss and the low iron and the fact that your body isn’t even sure what it should be doing anymore. Every night you go to sleep claiming Scripture because you’re scared.

And, it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for being scared. Who wouldn’t be scared? You’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to do when the fear or the thoughts pop up. You go to His feet and open His Word. All of those verses that you didn’t even know existed about safety, security and protection? They’re preparing that hospital room to become holy ground tomorrow. You keep praying and memorizing those verses. God will bring them out in the right moments tomorrow.

Right now, you don’t think you could handle what you’re about to do tomorrow. That’s okay. You can’t handle it in this moment because God isn’t calling you to it right now. Don’t stress about the “what ifs”. It’s cheesy, but when God calls you to it, He’ll walk you through it. Today, He’s asking you to do exactly what you’re doing. Tomorrow will be a different path to walk, but He’s already preparing you. You just don’t know it yet.

Up to this point, for the last 12 years, you’ve dealt with panic attacks and intense anxiety that have waved in and out of your life. There’s been a whole lot of fear. And, while I wish I could tell you that will be a thing of the past, it hasn’t yet. But, that little boy you’re going to hold tomorrow, he’ll show you that if you can survive this, you can survive anything with Jesus. You’ll even say that to the nurses that surround you speechless while they watch you say goodbye. You won’t realize why they think it’s so profound until later. God will show lots of stuff He’s done in that little life later on down the road.

When you arrive at the hospital tomorrow morning, you’ll know what’s going to happen that afternoon. You’re not giving up. But, you’ll look at the bulletins on the wall and notice the L&D rooms everywhere. You’ll remember what it was like to meet your girls in those rooms. And, how this walk is a very different one. You’ll look around you and know that your life is about to change forever. But, here’s what’s hard for you to believe the night before this walk, you won’t be scared. You’ll be hurting, on many levels, but you won’t be scared. Instead that walk will be a sacred one. Almost as though Jesus is physically holding you up. Each step down that hall is one that’s ordained.

You’ll get settled into that Labor and Delivery room. You’ll remember the details of that room for a long time to come. The doctor will come in and examine you. Don’t worry, God has gone before you. Guess who’s on call? The same doctor that delivered the girls. You’re in good hands. And, that nurse? Her husband is a pastor just down the street. She’s got your back. And, guess what? They’re going to fight. They’re going to join in the fight for Warner’s life. They will give you more hope and faith in your situation than any other medical team would. God has placed them there. Because, He’s good. Don’t forget that. Especially today.

A lot of the day will be a blur and that’s okay. You’ll try all of the medicines and the tricks. Things will get a little scary at one point. They’ll stand over your bed as the fever still goes up and they won’t be sure what to do next. They’ve tried everything they can try and it won’t come down. At this point, you and your husbands prayers will start to turn towards your life. Listen to me: THAT IS OKAY. You’ve prayed over Warner for hours and days and weeks on end. It’s okay to turn the tables for five minutes and ask God to spare you for those little girls at home. You’re not giving up on Warner. You’re fighting for him and your girls.

There will come a point tomorrow when everyone realizes that baby is coming despite our efforts. You’ll learn that his heartbeat is still strong. This is when you’ll panic. Again, that’s okay. You think you can’t deliver a baby that’s alive only to watch him die. That’s a natural reaction. But, let me tell you, God will not be taken by surprise like you. He knows what He’s doing. He created that life and He has ordained every single second that heart beats outside of your womb. You will look back on those 45 minutes as being one of the most holy times in your life. Don’t fear it. Welcome it.

Today you don’t realize that tomorrow you’ll have to make decisions. Do you bury or cremate? The nurse will kindly tell you to start thinking about those options just a few minutes before he’s born. You’ll feel like you’re in a daze at the thought. It’s never crossed your mind before because you never saw yourself ending up here. You’ll be you and think you have to make the decision immediately. Girl, calm down. You’ve got time. The answer will come and it’ll bring peace.

Despite being in full blown, painful labor, you’ll walk it with grace. It’ll be the most graceful of all of your children’s births. God can be funny like that. He’s in the business of taking the ugly and making it beautiful. You’ll hand the day to Him and you’ll be right to do so. I promise that beauty will rise.

You’ll ask the nurse when she thinks he might here, she’ll answer she’s unsure. Fear will threaten to creep in at the thought of being all alone when he’s born. Squash the fear immediately. God has it all figured out. Warner will make his debut with two nurses present. Then, the room will fill quickly. Moments before he is born, you will scream the name of Jesus and ask Him to come. Do that. Do that a million times. He comes and He comes in power. Those verses you’ll start reciting? It’ll fill the room with the Truth. You can never go wrong with speaking out the Bible.

For the first time of the day, as Warner is born, you’ll cry and scream that it isn’t fair. Your eyes will be closed because you’re scared to look into the face of death. Again, it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for that. Why? Because it isn’t fair. At all. And, you were never created to see death. This was not God’s design. You’ll sense the enemy prowling in a way you never have before. But, get ready, because warring Angels will battle on your behalf. God will protect that time with your son.

Don’t feel bad about having John hold him first. He’s your husband and Warner’s Daddy. He’ll be strong for the both of you in that moment. Let him. You’ll both treasure it later. I know, it’s hard to believe you could treasure any of it, but you will.

God will give you a peace and you’ll see your son for the first time. Nurses will be checking his vitals. And, then you’ll work up the nerve to hold him. It’s hard to believe now that you could fall in love that quickly, but you will. You’ll do all you can to show him the world around you in those 45 minutes. You’ll tell him about Jesus. About how much you love him. About how hard you tried for him. Daddy will show him out the window, giving him a glimpse of the outside world. You’ll later realize that was the only glimpse he’ll ever get.

And, here’s the thing, your Mama heart will ache later that you didn’t hold him long enough or didn’t tell him enough. That’s a lie. You did what you could and God was gracious to give you 45 minutes. That’s right. The night before you wouldn’t think of that as gracious but as terrible. But, it will be a gift. A gracious gift from a gracious God. You’ll always wish you had more time, but that’s just because death was never a part of His plan for creation. The day will come when He redeems all of that, but, for tomorrow, cherish the time you do get with that little boy.

You’ve loved that little boy well. And, you’ll love him well tomorrow. Tomorrow will change your life forever. You would think that it’ll change your life for the worse, but it won’t. Warner’s life will make you more like Jesus. His life will shift yours. And, that’s a good thing from a good God. People will try to look at you tomorrow and question how you could think God is still good. But, you know better than that.

I wish I could tell you that two years later, you wouldn’t hurt as much. But, the intensity will be just as strong, if not stronger in some ways. Again, don’t worry about what’s to come. Just walk what God’s asking you to walk today. And, for now that means going to sleep like every other night and asking God to have His hand on your womb. Take it from me, He’s listening and answers in a might way

My Journal Excerpt

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With Warner’s two year birthday approaching, I decided to pull out my old journal that I wrote in the days and weeks after his death. I’ve decided to share an excerpt from one of the entries because I remember that evening so well. Here it is:

June 26, 2013

About 20 minutes before the sun set, I came to the grave. I just needed to be here. I needed to be as close as I could get. I cried the whole way here and then just sat with him. I read the verses we prayed over him while pregnant. Then, I turned to the Psalms. I started at 26 since it’s the date and read through 29. I cried the hardest at 27. I read them all out loud.

27 :4 {“One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple”} about did me in. As I sit broken at Warner’s grave, he is gazing upon the beauty of the Lord. One day, I will gaze upon it with him. It’s a day I long for with great anticipation.

As much as I miss him today, I know the Lord is holding me together. I played “Here’s My Heart” by David Crowder on my phone. It felt like old times with him in my belly and playing the song on my phone. I wish I could have just one more day with him. But, the truth is, I know that wouldn’t be enough. I’m looking forward to eternity.

It’s now completely dark and I’m in the car by his grave listening to the songs I worshipped to before and after his birth. It’s hard to leave. I know he’s in heaven, but this side of eternity, his grave is the closest thing I have to him.

Hold him for me tonight my precious Jesus! And, help me to love my girls well.

Jesus is faithful. He was faithful on Warner’s birthday. He was faithful the almost two years ago that tears stained my cheeks while I sat in a graveyard and penned my journal. He is faithful today. He can be trusted, my friends. That burden you carry today, He can carry it. I think that so many of us carry wounds that we’ve allowed the enemy to twist and make us believe that God inflicted them upon us. Dear friend, we serve a God that loves and meets you where you are. Not a God that arbitrarily strikes you and afflicts you. We’ve lost track of the real source of the pain and I can assure you that the real source of healing comes from the Lord. The moment we stop blaming God for an affliction He never created, is the moment we can invite Him in to carry the hurt for us, which is His desire. I refuse to blame Him for Warner’s death because death was never a part of His plan. And, I’ve been all the better for it. He has been able to care for my aching heart because I haven’t placed blame where blame wasn’t due. And, I am grateful for the hope to Heaven, to know that this isn’t the end of Warner’s story. It’s almost two years later and I still long for our reunion. Thank you, Jesus, it’s coming one day!

Month of March

I kind of hate this month. This is my second time to live through this month since Warner is no longer here. I thought it would be easier this year. It’s not.

Every. single. day. since March 24, 2013, I’ve hurt that he’s not here. I don’t foresee any season of time where that won’t be the case. He’s a part of our family and he’s not here anymore.

I never really understood the heartbreak of grief before. But, it really is a heart wrenching reality to be separated from your love by death. I’ve always said there’s an obvious void in our family and it will always exist. I feel that to be even stronger since Jed’s arrival.

I thought this March would be easier since more time has passed and since Warner has a little brother to fill our empty time. But, I was wrong. Lately, I’ve just been staring at Jed as he’s already changed so much and wondered what Warner would’ve looked like at 3 months. When Jed was first born I never had the “I wonder about Warner” thoughts because we got the chance to live life with him as a baby, even if it was only 45 minutes. But, as time progresses with our first baby since Warner’s death, I can’t help aching that I didn’t get to see these milestones with him.

It hurts. And, it’s hard. And, there’s TimeHop. Which, is full of sorrow and joy all wrapped up into one little app. So sweet to remember those last days with Warner and sitting at the Lord’s feet in a way I had never done before. But, so sorrowful to now know those were the last days when I didn’t know it at the time.

Lord, You will redeem even this…

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