My Best Girl

[Note: I started this post/letter several months ago and finished it a few weeks ago. But, I never wanted to officially “finish” it and post it because it felt too much like a goodbye and I didn’t want to say goodbye … it just hurt too much. But, cancer eventually did win and our beautiful Harper Jane girl passed away last Friday. I had to let it all settle and spend time in my sadness … but I also wanted to make sure I let the world know what a truly good soul our girl was. And so, this is for her. It’s not goodbye. It’s just … thank you for the wonderful memories and I’ll miss you until I see your happy face again … ]

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I’ve written countless letters and articles for my children over the years. Each birthday and even times in between. They grow and change so fast … my heart often gets lost … it simply can’t keep up. Something will catch me off guard, and I’ll be blown away that time has passed and we are here – whole seasons of motherhood already over …

Pen to paper has always been my way. As long as I can remember, I put my feelings on paper. Opened my heart and let it pour out onto the pages before me. During those times, I’d work through things, I’d discover myself, I’d learn to let go and grow. When hurt or broken hearted, I’d write letters. Letters never meant to be sent. Just so I could get it all out of my head, out of my heart …

IMG_4801I realized today, that I don’t write her letters. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because she’s so steady. N & A, they grow and change and I struggle to accept it. But, Harper. She’s my northern star. Tried and true and sure. Never changing. Always reliable. My constant.

Today, I watched her walking slowly around the yard. I watched her move quietly, differently. She did not bring me a ball. She did not ask to play. She moved with caution, stopping often, until she found a spot to lay, lifting her face to the sky and closing her eyes. Enjoying the breeze. The sunlight made her hair glisten. Our golden girl. When she was a pup, we’d laugh when she’d stop and lift her head up into the wind, tossing her hair and savoring the moment. “Farrah Fawcett” we’d call her and giggle. She’s our beautiful girl. Bright and light. I’ve never met a more pure being. God’s gift to us. We realized early on how special she was. She is so good. The most wonderful soul I have ever known.

IMG_4800I’ve always pictured her with us. I never allowed myself to picture a time without her. “She’ll be the first doggie to make it to 50”, we’d joke in a hopeful, half-serious way. I imagined her to be an old lady doggie, her face even whiter than it is now. She should  have had many more good, playful years left. She should. But, she doesn’t. She has been a fighter and for the most part – this 10 month battle with Lymphoma has been up and down, but she’s done okay. She’s had more good days. Now, though, it’s all shifted. No more chemo. No more appointments. We wait and let the cancer do what it does.

IMG_1665My heart hurts as I watch her. I grieve her absence already. She is our daughter. Our friend. Our most loyal companion. She sits with R while he works in his office. She rides with me as I take the kids to and from school. She loves our long walks and she’s the happiest in the water. She is Harper Jane. She is LOVE and understanding and unwavering faithfulness.

And, oh, how I want to freeze time and remember her just as she is — But. No. Actually, not here … we’ll rewind a bit and remember her just how she always was BEFORE cancer started stealing pieces of her from us a little at a time …

My snapshot-in-time for my golden baby …

“Oh, dear sweet, Harper Jane — You, my love, are my best girl. I tell you every single day … because it’s true, but also because it’s what you want to hear. It’s what I’ve always said and it’s something we share … just the two of us. We touch our foreheads together gently … you only do this with me (though everyone knows you are a true daddy’s girl). I’ve always felt that you knew and loved it just as much as I did. It was our quiet way to connect in the middle of the crazy, and I’d simply say, “You’re my best girl.” You always leaned in for a hug. You loved those words. You loved hearing it. And, it was true. There is no better than you.

You always loved to sleep on the foot of our bed (spread eagle, with your belly in the air) … though at night you’d prefer your own bed and jump down if we were loving on you too much. You were never a snuggle bug. You needed plenty of personal space. But, sometimes, you’d look at us and we’d know – you wanted a story. You are the smartest. Seriously. It’s eerie at times. We’d just KNOW what you wanted to hear. You can speak so loudly in your silence. So, we’d tell you the story of how you came to be ours. How we picked you out of a picture of 5 or so golden pups. We’d tell how I had already chosen you and when I showed Daddy the photo, he pointed at the same little puppy. You! We’d tell how, later, we’d show Gram that same photo and she’s say, “I think any of them are cute except that one…her eyes are too far apart.” That “one” was you and we still laugh about that 9 years later.

IMG_3345You are a chewer of sticks. You love them. You eat them. I never understood how. You love toys. You play with your Daddy all the time, because he’s more playful, more rough-and-tumble and willing to chase you all around the house. The two of you have plenty of your own games and I love hearing you outside, playing with your tennis balls (the orange ones or the larger squeaky ones are your favorite). But, every evening after dinner, without fail, while I was standing at the sink washing dishes and cleaning up, you’d bring a squeaky toy to me and push it into my legs over and over … “Play with me. Play with me. Play with me.” And, I’d stop and chase you. You love, love presents too. You unwrap them all by yourself, all excited and bouncing around. You love a good bone and always wait while we unpack the groceries to see if there is one in the bag for you. You love ice cream and puppuccinos and really … most any “people food.” You want scrambled eggs for breakfast on the weekend, just like the rest of us.

IMG_4802You love, love, love your walks with us. Especially when you are off-leash (which is most of the time) and free to run ahead. You run a little ways and then you stop to check on us. You make sure we’re still there. You’d never leave us behind. We wave you on and laugh at the way you run. You are a happy runner, but not exactly a graceful or super fast one. Your back leg kicks out to the side and we’ve smiled and giggled about it countless times. You’re more of a herd dog than a retriever. We’ve always thought so. For one thing, you’re kinda lousy at retrieving. You run (or swim) for your ball or a stick, but you rarely bring it back. You herd really well … circling around us … making sure your family sticks close together. What an honor. To be part of your herd.

IMG_1675Swimming is by far your favorite thing in life. The lake is your happy place. If you could do anything, that’s what you’d pick. And, you have your favorite spots. On any given walk, you’ll head in the direction of the lake as quickly as possible. You’ll stop and point. Showing us where you want to go. It fills you up and leaves you content and happy. Happy enough to nap for the rest of the day after a good swim. I’ll always picture you there … swimming in the lake. Or, riding beside me in the car with your head happily out the window … IMG_2282

You have filled our lives with so much love and joy and laughter. You’ve imprinted on our hearts in the most beautiful way. We will love you and miss you as long as we live. Until the day we meet again and you come running, wagging your whole body with joy to see us, crying your sweet “welcome home” cry and jumping straight into your daddies arms…”

 

In memory of Harper Jane Blair ~ 5/13/09 – 6/8/18

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Harper Jane ~ a.k.a Harpie, Harper Lou, Harper Lee, Harper Barker, Harpie Barkie, Harper Barkerson, Harperson Barkerson, Barker Jane, Harper Bear, Harper Bear Blair, Janie Bane, Harper Janer Bane, Doodlebug, Wolfie, Louie, Lou Lou Girl, Golden Girl, Harperson Happy Butt, Happy Day Harper Dog and many more silly names that we’ve lovingly called you over the years.

(Photo Credit for the 1st and last photo and the one of Ryan and I with Harper goes to Shannon Haynie Photography.)

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A House is a House is a Home

I meant to post this on the one year anniversary of us moving into our new house. But, that was December 20th. And, we all know how that story goes. It’s a magical and wonderful and exhausting time of the year. I love the Christmas season. I do. But, it can be A LOT. And, so, I love a fresh New Year too. But, that fresh, first week into the new year brought a two hour school delay for my littles, followed by a two hour early release, followed by two snow days, followed by a nasty sinus infection, followed by more snow days. So, yeah, that all sounds about right … And, here we are … on a random day toward the end of January that holds no significance. But. That’s okay. Because that’s usually just exactly when you catch yourself flooded for some strange reason, by memories, that slam into you like a heavy weight. If you’re like me, they leave you teary and uncertain about how on earth time slipped away so quickly … just before you really had the chance to be as fully present as you meant to be …
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When we moved out of our first home, I needed to give it a proper goodbye. My way. Now, if you know me really well OR if you’ve ever been an ex-boyfriend of mine (which none of you have … Bless) then you already know … a “proper goodbye” means a good old-fashioned letter. I’m probably the only one snickering over this. Okkaay. Moving on …
My Proper Goodbye —
It’s hard, sometimes, to say goodbye to a house. Especially one that grew close to your heart in ways you never knew a house could …
This little house – it felt so big to us when we first moved in. We were fresh out of an apartment in Nashville. Married only 7 months. Just the two of us. So excited and proud of ourselves. Whole entire rooms sat empty for months (years). I can hardly imagine it now. But, we didn’t come with a lot of stuff. It hadn’t accumulated at that point. And, we certainly didn’t have the money to actually buy new furniture. But, I don’t remember that even being a thing. We were just so happy that we bought our first house! We made it feel like home. Though, I, for real life, cannot, no matter how hard I try, figure out what on earth we did with our time. Can’t. Remember.
A year-ish or so later, we brought a Harper Jane puppy home. And, a year-ish or so after that, we brought our baby boy N home. And, three years after that, our sweet girl A. And, the stuff accumulated rapidly. The space shrunk in the same way that our hearts grew … all full … in the best ways.
The carpet in the nursery has my footprints embedded in it from hours upon hours of pacing with a sleepless baby N. I’d bop and sway him around that room in agony – desperate for him to sleep. Now that matted carpet just reminds me of my precious baby. Desperate nights led to sweet memories.
A few years later, I’d tuck a sleepy A in that very same crib, in that very same room and wish that she actually would LET me rock her …  just for a little while.
The back yard – where puppy Harper kept tearing up Ryan’s newly planted grass. I still laugh when I picture her pulling up a corner of a specific square of sod and making him chase her to get it back! Where I (at 7 months pregnant), broke my toe kicking a ball for Harper. Where our babies played for hours and hours and hours. Baby pools, water tables, sand boxes, bubbles, s’mores. Where we created our own little haven. A refuge. A place that was all ours. Where N and I watched clouds and had picnics. Where 2 year old N road his red tricycle round and round the patio for hours on end and pushed his plastic lawnmower around the yard. Where Ryan and I would sit by the fire pit and talk and dream and plan and hope and pray. Where, whenever things were getting hard – when we started to feel like zombie ships passing babies back and forth in the wee hours of the night – we would meet and share and reconnect.
Where 3 year old N climbed and jumped over our 6 foot fence leaving his momma (who thought he’d been kidnapped, naturally, because what 3 year old does that) a panicked mess. Where 2 year old A spent hours sliding, “tumble-saulting”, dancing and playing “mommy” in her play house. My heart actually aches picturing those babes, covered in chalk, running around in their underwear in that lovely yard where we watched the seasons change…
The dining room – where Ryan and I learned how to have a date night IN … especially on Valentines and certain anniversaries when we didn’t want to pay for a sitter … or leave our babies. Where we blew out countless candles, held kids birthday parties, celebrated holidays, and “Friends-givings”.
The Kitchen – oh that kitchen! There’s a reason that people love their kitchens and spend hours designing and decorating them in their minds. It’s because it’s true what they say – the kitchen IS the heart of the home. In our kitchen, in that house … it was where the first spoonfuls of baby food were lovingly, exhaustingly prepared and airplaned in to little mouths. Where first bites of first birthday cakes were tasted. Where the best dance parties took place. Where real life happened.  The breakfast, lunch and dinner … the cleaning up after the breakfast, lunch and dinner. The witching hour … when the crying felt like it would never stop … always in time for dinner. Those weren’t my best “dinner years”. Oh, but they were the years when N and I discovered our love for baking  cookies together. We let A in on it too, after a while . And, they were the years when all the crafts happened. Where N would say, “let’s do a project, Mommy” and so we would … create, draw, make, build.
The Living Room – If we “lived” in the kitchen, then we lounged in the living room. Where N and I watched all the episodes of Curious George there ever were. And, Rio and Despicable Me on repeat. Where Ryan scratched up the ceiling the year he went all Griswold and brought in a tree too big for our yard … “It’s not going in our yard, Russ…” All the lovely Christmases.
Where we built lots of Legos and lots of blanket forts. Where we’d snuggle and nap and rest.
The hallways and bedroom floors in that home were for drying off and lotioning up babies after bath. They were for jammie time and singing nursery rhymes … and running wild …right before getting ones jammies on, naturally.
The kid’s bedrooms – where all the bedtime routines took place. Where the books were read. The stories were told, the songs were sung, the prayers were prayed, the butterfly/Eskimo kisses were passed out. Where we snuggle-buggled and talked about all the things … especially about how we’d love each other to the moon.
Even the landing on stairs of that house has its own special memories. That’s where all the best “fun joes” happened. If you don’t what at “fun joe” is, ask N. He’s the inventor and the only one who truly understands just what a “fun joe” is. Hint: it involves ALL (and I mean ALL) the stuffed animals. “Fun joes” were also allowed in the master closet with flashlights for extra fun-joe-fun. Though, I must admit, while pregnant with A, those “fun joes” became “naptime” for a tired momma. Sleep when you can – new mommas – and where you can.
The landing was also for Christmas morning. All the “first” Christmas mornings – right there in that house.
The Garage – Where N learned to love building with his daddy and painting with me. And, where A learned to love to run out and dance in the rain.
That house meant a lot to me. We became a family there. We grew and prayed and learned and struggled and trusted and hoped and prayed more. We grew stronger in our relationships with our Lord. We taught our children that same love and faith.
Now, it’s been well over a year since we packed up and moved out. We said our goodbyes. It was sad. But, it was a good sad. And, now, if I drive by, I’m okay. All those memories. They were ours to bring with us. Maybe the house kept some of it’s own (I like to think that it did), but we packed ours and brought them along with us. They were never meant to be left behind.
With that house and with our new house, I had a big faith that our prayers were heard and answered. I know they were. We prayed our way through that whole selling, moving and building process. We prayed through each step, holding hands and doing it together. And, so, when it was time to walk away from that sweet, special first home of ours – we did so with a confidence that the Lord had us. He HAD us. He has us.
We were moving forward with His blessing.
We were ready for our new house. Our new HOME.  We knew we’d fill it with beautiful memories as well … and oh, how we are! They aren’t the same. They won’t be. They can’t be. These new walls won’t echo with the cries and giggles of our babies, but they’ll hold the laughter of our children as they grow. I am full of hope and happiness moving forward … We’ll keep holding hands and praying our way …

Praying My Way to Kindergarten

A few days ago, Raleigh Moms Blog posted an article that I wrote about kindergarten and all of my big feelings about that fact that it’s time. Time for N to start kindergarten. (Read “Kindergarten. It’s Time” here.) I talked from the heart about all of it … about how hard it is to let go and watch them grow, about the little crack in my heart and about giving myself the grace and peace to move forward and embrace this new chapter. But, there is more. There is more to this story. More about moving toward acceptance. More about “all the feels” about kindergarten. More about my big, full, raw, vulnerable heart. More about preparing my heart. There is more.

My boy is so innocent. And, if your baby is headed to kindergarten, I bet you feel the same way. They are innocent. Honestly, if your baby is headed to college you might even feel the same way!! My sweet guy – his heart is so pure and full of all the right things. I love it. I love him. I love his sincerity and faith in goodness. This world can be so scary, yet, right now…he has no idea. He is aware that there is evil out there, but it’s mostly a vague awareness. And, I yearn to keep it that way. We all have an innate, fierce desire to protect our babies, right? There is a “momma bear” in each one of us. The “momma bear” in me is feeling a little threatened lately. Change is coming and I know there is nothing that I can do to stop it. I fear the unknown. I fear the mean spirits … and the mean kids. I fear the things that he will learn about people and about the “ways of the world.” I fear the loss of his innocence. I fear not being able to always protect him. I fear watching him step away from me and out into the world. I fear the change that will happen to our relationship. I fear losing him. I’m having trouble accepting it. I’m having trouble letting go. It’s all out of my control and as a momma, that’s the scariest part. Giving up the control, right?

So…give it to God.

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It’s funny how a little thing like seeing the word “kindergarten” on a postcard could completely derail my thought process. How easily I forgot that I’d already been praying and preparing for this very thing. This. Very. Thing. How easily I forgot to trust. How easily I sank into the fear.

Once I let my emotions settle. Once I was able to spend some quiet time alone with my thoughts. Once I had prayed. It all felt … still. Quiet. Focused. It may not be easy. Watching our babies grow will likely never be easy. But, my husband and I are not the only ones that love our children. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” Their great creator, our Father in Heaven, loves them so much more than we can even imagine. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” I cannot forget this. They are His. He loves them. I’m not doing any of this alone. So, I’ll pray. I’ll pray and pray some more. I’ll pray my way to kindergarten. My prayer is that our Lord leads us into the school years with a full armor. My prayer is that He goes before us and paves the way. My prayer is that He’s already in our schools, working on our teacher’s hearts so that they may be exactly what N needs (and what your babies need) them to be. Let the school be full of light and goodness. Keep the evil away. Let that school be so full of love and Jesus that you can’t help but notice!

Friends, I don’t know where your hearts are, but I do know that you aren’t alone. Our fears do not have to weigh us down. Our burdens are not ours to carry. Send them up. Lay them down. We were never meant to go at it alone. We were never meant to fear. You can let it go and walk forward with faith and confidence that, while you are not “in control”, our God is. We can feel all the feelings and still march forward. We can do this scary thing called kindergarten. And, we can do lots of much, much scarier things too. But, we certainly don’t have to do it alone. We can do it together. We can pray our way through it. Imagine what a difference we could make! Praying our way…

 

Learning to Trust – A Testimony

Am I asking all the wrong questions? Lately, I think – yes – I am. I have been. Maybe?

You see, a little while ago, almost a year now,  I (we) … without uttering any actual words because they seemed so cliche somehow and they don’t feel like the right fit … but, I suppose, for lack of a better phrase, we re-dedicated our lives to The Lord. We are trying. One day at a time. To break free. To learn as much as we can and grow as much as we can. To live IN Christ. To walk by faith. To trust. To experience his fullness. To surrender. At this point in my life, I’m ready. It feels different now. I grew up in church. I grew up loving The Lord. Then … I dunno. I drifted. I guess, I drifted slowly, yet steadily, away from God. I took my eyes off of him and looked toward the world. I even wanted to be part of it, to experience it. I was young. I thought it would be living. I spent years and years there, just drifting along. I thought it was okay, and, in a lot of ways, I was okay. I thought it wasn’t a big deal. I thought I was fine. I thought I still had a “relationship” with God. He remained in my heart. I knew he was still there, watching out for me. Yet, somewhere along the way, I got lost. I kept putting Him off … waiting for another day. A better time. When I’m not so busy. When I don’t need to sleep in on Sundays. When R and I are ready. When the baby is a little older. Excuses. Excuses. My whole life was worldly and not of God. I realize it. I always realized it. I just ignored it … to be honest. Which is, exactly what I’m being – honest. Raw. Honest. Vulnerable. Truthful. Me.

You see, I am not a person who generally sees things as black and white. I just don’t. I see gray. I see hundreds of shades of gray. I even tend to live in the gray. I can usually (usually, not always) empathize and sympathize and understand why some people may do the things that they do. It seems to me, that so many Christians that I know and have known in the past are so easily convicted. They seem to see things as “wrong” vs. “right.” I’ve always struggled with this because it’s not always how I’ve been and I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why it seemed so easy for them. I didn’t, and still don’t, always see “wrong” and “right” as defined spaces or things. And, so, for much of my life I held myself separate from other Christians. I was afraid to be part of a church. Afraid of hypocrisy or judgement. I was afraid to feel convicted (I understand that now, but I couldn’t then.) I was afraid of … something. But, I was wrong. I was wrong. I was focused on the wrong thing. I was missing the point entirely. The point was HIM.

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Luckily, His loving grace is so good. He waited for me to let Him back it. Now, I want It in a way I never truly did when I was younger. I realize that my hesitation is unimportant. That the wrong vs. right isn’t really what matters. The “rules” don’t matter. It’s my heart that matters. The Lord will take care of all of the rest. He will show me the way. He will show me my own ‘right’ way. He will convict me, change me, challenge me and inspire me. Now. Now, the desire to truly know my Lord is there. I understand clearly that I’m not in control. That my life is His. Yet, I stumble daily. I struggle with true trust and true surrender.

We’ve been tested lately. I don’t know what else to think … what else to call it, but a test…
October. November. December. Things have happened. Things still happen. Financially, things happen. As homeowners and car owners, things happen. Money is tight. We are unsure. The same questions keep forming. Why? Why can’t it be easier? Why can’t the money come more freely? Why does this keep happening? What are You trying to teach us?
I am trying to throw off my worldly desires … To cry. To yell. To question. To fall apart. To CONTROL it. I don’t get to control any of it. It’s not mine to control. Where is my trust? What questions should I be asking? What lessons should we be learning? Are we not understanding? Are we not getting it?

The truth is, right now I don’t know. I’m not here to tell you that I have the answers. I’m here to tell you that I don’t. I don’t have the answers. Maybe you don’t either. Maybe you are trying too. Let’s keep trying. We don’t need answers all of the time. We need God’s Word. We need trust. Let’s trust. And, until that trust comes more naturally, let’s keep trying to trust. My heart knows that there is a lesson to learn. Probably many, many lessons. Read/Pray/Trust/Obey. Xoxo

Photo Credit: photo from (In)Courage, a lovely online community that’s “Insta-awesome“)