Here We Are

I never know how to start a post when it’s been a while. I really don’t know how to start a post when it’s been a loooong while, but oh well, here we are.

Last time I wrote, River had just been born. I will spare you the excruciatingly long details of my excruciatingly long labor, and just tell you the important parts: I did it!!! Thanks to the grace of God, an incredible doctor, nursing staff, and doula (heeeey Briana!!!), and a lot of personal determination – I had a successful VBAC and out popped the monstrosity of a child named River Righteousness Murdock. A few days after giving birth, I wrote out every single part of my labor and delivery, and I am so glad I did. I may never read it again, but just in case, it’s cool to know I have it.

Today, River is seven months old and so much fun. His life has brought so much joy, and so many giggles. <side note, I just spent 20 minutes trying to upload a photo of him but I’m having trouble… so that will have to wait until next time!>

With Branch, parenting is so different :: holding love and loss, curating his memory, doing our best to ensure he is not forgotten and his name is spoken regularly. With River, I don’t have to express love and grief at the same time. I get to snuggle him every day, I get to watch him grow instead of imagining what he would look like, and I get to be the person who knows and sees his little personality developing every day. I am oh so grateful for the precious boys God has given me.

A few months before giving birth, I somehow convinced my mother-in-law to train for a half marathon with me. She has never done one, and anytime I had asked in the past she was *very* un-interested. Maybe I was less intimidating this time, maybe she was sick of me asking, or maybe she realized spending every Saturday morning with me would actually be pretty darn fun… whatever it was, she said YES and we signed up for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon, taking place May 8th. We have been training since the end of July, and we are SO ready. I am excited for her to experience the thrill of a big race, and excited for us to finish this thing together.  It is honestly a huge accomplishment for both of us – this is her first time doing this type of distance, and my first race since having River. Also, we are going to wear matching tutu’s, so there’s that.

That’s it for today, but I will leave you with this little tidbit :: I drink iced Americano’s now. Black.

That’s right. No cream. No sugar. Just espresso, water, and ice. I think this is what people refer to as “growing up.”

Talk to you soon, my little raccoons!

On Suffering

 

There has been a lot on my facebook feed in the past few months about suffering, about death with dignity, about loss, about illness, about all sorts of things that are big and scary. This week in particular there have been stories about Kara Tippetts. Have you read anything by or about her? It’s incredible.  Her story touches me in an extra tender zone this week, as our dear friends are fighting a very similar battle with terminal cancer.

Ann Voskamp wrote a blog post in light of Kara’s passing that is profoundly good. Truly. It’s like God’s Spirit is speaking through every word.  She talks about suffering, about the art of dying well, and, ultimately — about how walking through suffering and death is our opportunity to live well.

I love this.

It challenges and encourages every part of my soul. That suffering is, at the core, good. That God graciously allows us to live and die well, should we so choose. That eternity will be here in the blink of an eye, though it will seem long and drawn out for those waiting on Earth. Powerful, painful, encouraging, tender.  Please read it.

May I willingly step into suffering deeper today, knowing God is there, and may He give me glimmers of what living well here on Earth looks like.

Much love,

Kristin

 

Job 36:15 “But those who suffer He delivers in their suffering; He speaks to them in their affliction.”

*side note from me — notice it does not say He delivers FROM their suffering…  His goodness happens IN the suffering. so powerful and convicting!*

Lately :: March 2015

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I spent the morning at Disneyland with my sister Kimberly a couple of  weeks ago, which was super fun. I don’t get too many Disneyland trips in anymore, now that I am working full time, but spending a Saturday morning there was a blast. We had corn dogs, ice cream, and rode a couple of rides. The ideal day at the park, if you ask me.

 

Glenn and I finalized and officially ordered Branch’s headstone. You may recall us working on his headstone and thinking we were in the final stages months ago. It is honestly surprising how difficult that entire process was. I never would have guessed it would have taken us over a year to order it, but it did.  I am glad to have the ordering finished, but am also grateful we took our time. I am sure it will be hard to see it in the ground once it is there, but I think it will also be nice in some ways — his name will be seen by all who walk by, and that is special in a way. I hope the gravestone will be a way that his legacy continues.

 

I feel like I do three things: work, walk, sleep. Maybe four things: I cook, too. My soul is in this strange spot, where grief is taking up less space, but is still taking up a good deal of my energy.  I imagine this is a frustrating place when you are a friend of mine, or an acquaintance even. I sense a desire from some for me to return to my former self:  the pre-grief Kristin they were used to.  Honestly, I get it.  I would probably feel the same way if I were them.

 

I try to show myself grace, to be gentle, to hold myself to no one’s expectations. It is hard, though. It is hard to disappoint friends. It is hard when relationships change. It is hard to be the only one in the room who has lost a child.

 

I went to a women’s event with some friends the other night. It was an enjoyable event and I was with safe people, and am so glad I was able to attend. As the evening began, we were all sitting in a circle, and the leader asked us to introduce ourselves by saying our name and how many children we have.  This was a first for me, but I think I handled it ok. It was a small enough group that I didn’t feel the need to hide, but my heart was palpitating as it got closer to my turn. I said my name, and said that I have no living children but my son Branch passed away a little over a year ago.  It was received well, as far as I could tell.

 

There is a new pair of jeans in my closet, and I am mildly obsessed with them.  My favorite jeans (before these ones) were the Madewell high-riser skinny. This latest pair are the AG legging jean. They might as well be sweatpants, they are so comfortable and awesome. And yet, somehow they are significantly more flattering than sweats. I love them!

 

That seems like enough of an update for today! Maybe I will write again in a few days, but I guess we’ll just have to see. 🙂

Much love,

~Kristin

 

Isaiah 66:12-13

For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

 

Dreams for 2015

The first week of January, as we were still celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, I created a little space for myself to do something I hadn’t done in a year :: I gave myself space to dream.

At the beginning of last year, 2014,  I remember feeling like hope, and any chance of happiness, died when Branch died. I felt as if all life were lost, and not just for a season, but forever. It seemed the only form of mercy would be God returning and ending my pain. For a full twelve months, maybe more, dreaming became something sweet, innocent, well-meaning friends did, or suggested I do. Dreams, for me, were impossible. In my inmost being, sometimes they still are.

At the beginning of this year, 2015, I found myself ready, waiting, wanting to dream again, even if just a little.  And so, on January 4th, I sat on the leather chair in our living room, I used my colorful pens, I let the dreams flow — big and small. Here is what I came up with.

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Have a healthy baby. Write on my blog every week. Re-design my blog. Run 3 miles in 30 minutes. Travel to Europe. Eat at The French Laundry.

Dreams are different than goals. Dreams don’t need check-lists or priorities. Dreams don’t even need to happen. They are simply dreams. A picture of what the future could be, without any hidden agenda or judgement.  Dreams.

May God’s grace be sufficient for you today, whether you are able to dream or if the dreaming will just have to wait. You and I are so very loved.

~Kristin

Romans 8:32  “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

December 14th, 2014

I wrote this last week, on December 14th (hence the title), and read it at an annual event The Elizabeth Hospice puts together called Light Up A Life. We were so honored to have been asked to speak at Light Up A Life, and to share a little bit more about Branch. I could sing The Elizabeth Hospice’s praises for hours on end … truly. I can not imagine better people exist in the world than the people who work with The Elizabeth Hospice. 

I decided to post this piece today, Christmas Eve, because it sums up how we feel this week, too. Christmas is a tender time. All holidays are, really, but Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, which makes it particularly bittersweet now. I have had to work hard at reminding myself of God’s love for me, of how He sees me, that He knows me, and how He welcomes my sorrow with open arms.  

I hope you enjoy this little writing. Merry Christmas, friends. xoxo

 

I feel sad.

I have felt sad every day in 2014.

Every night — every single night — as the lights turn out, I turn to Glenn and tell him how much I miss our baby. Every night — every single night — he squeezes me tight and tells me that he knows.  Because he misses our boy every day, too.

As many of you know, Branch died on December 10th, 2013. Just over a year ago.  Now that his first birthday and the first anniversary of his death are over, part of me feels victorious. We did it.  We are alive. We got out of bed, at least for a few moments, every day for the past 365 days. We still laugh a lot. Even now.

Today, though, most of me feels sad.

2014 has been really hard.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could tell you that now, a year later, things are just hunky-dory and we are totally fine, we don’t have a care in the world, and we never have trouble relating to anyone and yes, even though I buried my son, I am definitely making every meal at home and working out constantly.

The truth is that, a year after death, I find comfort in the Jack in the Box drive-through.  I go on walks, and sometimes I run. I feel lonely all the time. I am just barely beginning to breathe again.

And I guess, in some ways, that is comforting.  Because we ARE doing it. We ARE breathing again. We are taking it slow. We are welcoming the pain, the loneliness, the sorrow, and the joy.

We grieve because we love. And my love for Branch, which is the one thing that is so sacred it is impossible to describe, will never die.

May you feel that kind of love today.

 

One Year

Today would have been Branch’s first birthday.

It IS his first birthday still, but we don’t get to celebrate with him in the flesh. Obviously.

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I have watched a few one year olds grow over this past year. They are all so funny, so spunky, so silly, so full of life. I think a one year old would be pretty fun.

If Branch were still here, I probably would have spent less money on myself, but a lot more money on him. I would be up to my elbows in diapers and drool. I would be thinking it was a real tragedy how little sleep I was getting. I would be wondering if we were out-growing our little home. I would be frustrated that the baby weight hadn’t just “fallen off”. I would watch him grow every day and be fascinated by his little face discovering things for the first time.

When I think about this past year, it is almost a blur. Some of it went by quickly, especially the last few months. Some of it went by painfully slow. It was so painful, actually, that it is almost hard to remember just how bad it was. As we enter into this season and are now only 7 days away from the anniversary of Branch’s death, some of the fog is lifting and we are starting to remember a few details from the early weeks. Many of the details are happy, others are just really sad.

Life and death, so close together.

December 3rd, 2013, the day Branch Lionheart Murdock was born, is the day that made me a Mom. What a wonderful joy it was to meet him face to face. His cheeks were soft, his legs were long, and he snuggled like nobody’s business. I am so grateful for him. Even in the pain. What a treasured life he is.

Happy Birthday, baby Branch. I can’t wait to see you again. I hope me and your Daddy do a good job celebrating and remembering you today. We love you to the moon and back.

My prayer for today is that Branch is honored, that his life is validated, and that Glenn and I can show ourselves kindness and grace as we step out into the world in all of our woundedness. May God’s face shine on us, and on you, this December 3rd.

Revelation 21:3-5

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘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.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

All my love, and a special dose of love to those of you who have buried your babies, too. We see you.

~Kristin

Tenderness

The word “tender” has been circling my thoughts, heart, inner spaces.

Tender like meat after it has been beaten. Tender like a soft touch. Tender like wounded skin that is healing.

 

This week we celebrated, and mourned, nine months since our little love was born and died. I do not think I am more tender, actually I know for certain I am not, but I am aware of the little spaces that are so fresh — just beginning to heal.

I am aware of the pang of loss that accompanies joy when I see brand new baby boys.

I am aware of the loneliness of grief.

I am aware of other’s uncomfortableness with my sorrow, my loss, my son and his story. This one is very tender.

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“Tender” has three definitions.

1. very loving and gentle, showing affection and love

2. easy to chew or bite, not tough

3. painful when touched

 

In my tenderness, may God guide my broken heart, as I surrender to Him.

Psalm 9:10
“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

 

~Kristin

 

 

 

 

September Twenty-Fourteen

Hello, September.

I have seen you lurking in the distance for a while, and yet you still managed to sneak up on me.

It is hard to not remember your sister, September Twenty-Thirteen, when I see your name. A lot has changed in a year, hasn’t it?

You probably already know this, but tomorrow I start my new job. I have a little bit of nervousness, but mostly excitement, when I think about joining the workforce again. In the past I would become quite nervous, anxious, eager, and afraid when starting a new job. I hated the change, the uncertainty, the not knowing if people liked me or not. Now, I don’t really have any of those feelings. I am going back to a company I know, but more than that, I think job stress is somehow less significant to me now. As a dear friend put it “You have literally lived through hell. Nothing could be worse than what you have already gone through. With that perspective, a new job just isn’t a big deal anymore.”  It was validating, and in a strange way, comforting to hear her say that.

And so, I am looking forward to my job. I am welcoming the change. I am welcoming anxiety and sadness and fear and joy and anything else that comes my way, knowing it is a-ok, even at work. There is nothing wrong with excusing yourself for five minutes to sob hysterically in the bushes. I’m just hoping there are some bushes nearby…

September, you know you symbolize change in many ways. Summer is over, autumn is just around the corner. I remember fall in a different way this year. My therapist friend Laura says our bodies hold on to memories in unique ways — sometimes remembering particularly difficult seasons even when we are not consciously thinking of them. I wonder how my body will respond to fall this year.

Tonight I am going to make Chinese chicken salad and ice cream cookie sandwiches.  It’s a holiday, it’s the day before I go back to work, and more importantly, it’s still Glenn’s birthday weekend. Ice cream cookie sandwiches are always a great way to celebrate, wouldn’t you agree?

I hope you are good to us, September Twenty-Fourteen.  We are a fragile bunch.  Resilient, but still fragile.

Psalm 23:6 NKJV
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

~Kristin

Summer Breeze

I took this picture a few minutes ago. I was sitting in the large, beat-up leather chair in our living room that belonged to an elderly woman up until about a month ago when Glenn drove to Poway to buy it, along with the matching ottoman, for $100. My legs were draped over one of the chair’s large arms, facing the open window. The summer sun had warmed up our living room, making it muggy enough to feel like I had walked through a light dew, but not so hot that beads of sweat were actually running down my face.

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I was, and still am, sipping Gerolsteiner sparkling mineral water. The sparkles in Gerolsteiner are tiny, firm, almost potent, if sparkles can be potent. They remind me of the season of life where I was introduced to Gerolsteiner – nannying a little boy who was adopted from Russia, with the sweetest, kindest German mother, and an elderly American father. I was a senior in college and they chose me as their nanny because I spoke German. They took me with them on their family vacation to Bermuda. That was a good season.

I noticed the tan on my legs. More than noticed — I admired it, actually. That tan is the result of many hours of walking, running, and hiking around the county. I noticed a slightly slimmer outline to my legs and admired that, too, again the product of many hours of walking, running, and hiking around the county.

My mind went from my legs to this month, July, and the uncertainty it holds. My parents in town. Financial changes. Job interviews. Seven months of life without Branch.

God, take me, hold me, guide me when I do not have the strength to go on.

I took another sip of Gerolsteiner, and the ocean breeze rushed through the window, over my legs, and all around the room. It was refreshing, peaceful, kind, cool. I thought of God. Isn’t that just like Him, to provide a breeze when He knows it will feel be the most refreshing. I thought of church. Of how I cry, at least a little, every week. And wouldn’t you know what brings more tears than anything isn’t sorrow or loss or death — it’s the tugs on my wounded heart.  It’s the kind little nudges that tell me God is who He says He is, even in my brokenness. He is kind. He is good. He is gracious. He provides. His promises are true. He sees me. He sees Glenn. He sees Branch.

I got two letters today. One was handed to me by my sister, Kimberly, #3. Beautiful penmanship spoke Angela Miller’s sweet words of comfort: “So breathe, mama, keep breathing. Believe mama, keep believing. Fight mama, keep fighting, for this truth to uproot the lies in your heart – you didn’t fail. Not even a little.” I cried when I read it, and cried again when I wrote it down here.

The other letter came a few days ago from my friend Laura, to be opened today, containing much kindness. She shared Nahum 1:7.

“The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”

May July bring refreshment, peace, kindness, and a cool break from the heat. Because a break from the heat of a broken heart sounds oh so refreshing to my soul.

Seven months.

~Kristin

Empty

Today, Branch would have been six months old.

In honor of his half-birthday, I will post this piece I wrote yesterday for my writing class. Hope you enjoy.

~Kristin

 

EMPTY

I am in a writing class, and yet I cannot seem to write.

 

I stare at the blank sheet. Nothing. Emtpy. It reminds me of my arms: where he should be, but instead they are empty. Nothing.

 

I have been more sorrowful in recent weeks. More emotional. More fearful of the future. More hesitant to celebrate, and needing more time to mourn. I suppose this is part of it all. Life, loss, story.

 

I do not want this to be my story. I’m done. Hasn’t this gone on long enough? The pain that floods every ounce of my being, missing him and wanting nothing if I can not hold him again, this time forever.

 

Sometimes I lie in bed and I am angry.  Angry that my little boy is in the ground. Angry that life goes on all around me. Angry at the Devil for finding satisfaction in my torment.

 

I’ve had enough.

 

I am reading a book that talks about how the only way to truly know Jesus and be close to His heart is to experience sorrow and allow Him to meet us there. I agree with this book, but it’s still hard.

 

I met with Linsey the other day. I always love meeting with her. She speaks kindness and truth, and she listens to me.  In our meeting, Linsey talked about the ‘wrestle’ I am experiencing. There are so many things I know, I believe, I experience about God and His character, and yet I cannot seem to figure out how Branch’s death fits in.  I am wrestling.  Linsey says it is the wrestling that keeps my heart alive. I loved that picture :: of my wounded heart fighting for its life every day.

 

I’m doing it.

 

Tomorrow will be six months since Branch was born. Half a year. In some ways so little time, in some ways so long. It’s unbelievable, really.  I think it always will be.

 

We went to his grave this morning. The grass is growing and it looks slightly less “freshly dug” than it did before.  There were jacaranda flowers that had fallen from the surrounding trees, and I took one and pressed it into his book of letters.  We saw three or four hummingbirds. We saw the groundskeeper begin to dig a new little grave for another baby.

 

Just like that, I find myself here again, staring at the blank part of the page.  There are no more words I can add.  This part will stay empty.