Friday, December 31


somebody please remind me to never take a three week trip again. especially not at christmas time. especially not when my daughter just died.

i'm sitting at the schmidt's house, watching the snow melt from the roof and listening to the guys debate over whether or not true love exists, and if we as humans can truly love another since only perfect love is in Christ.

i've started about three different posts on this trip, and haven't finished them. i feel pretty lost, pretty done, and VERY ready to go home. home to my life, to where i am a wife and a 27 year old woman, where my daughter fits into the context of my surroundings. where i have a daughter...

so this is a nothing post. but i am still alive up here. just so you all know.

Friday, December 24

to: gwendolyn hope, from: mommy

Merry Christmas, my love.

It's Christmas eve, and I'm the last one up, as usual. I've always liked to stay up late, watching the christmas tree lights twinkle and reveling in the magic of the season. And here I sit, reflecting on Christmas and aching to hold you. You've been with our Jesus for sixty-six days now. (Although I have a theory that God keeps the spirit of babies in heaven before birth... completely unfounded, but it's a better option than what's out there.) I hope that they celebrate Christmas in Heaven... I know that every "day" in Heaven is a glorious celebration of our Almighty God, but I also like to think that there are still special moments of remembrance, especially of Jesus' birth, death and ressurrection.

I've missed you so terribly this holiday, gwendolyn. You're in every thought of mine already, but not having you here --- when i had such hopes for your first Christmas --- is literally heart-breaking. I gave your daddy his birthday gift tonight... the scrapbook I made of your life here with us.

To be honest with you gwenny, i'm already dreading next year's Christmas. I see the year of 2011 as a long line of holidays, marked with your absence. Next year's Christmas already seems empty, with you a  year older in Heaven and your earthly friends a year older here. Maybe i'll become a kwanzaa celebrator... it doesn't have anything inherently based around love, mothers, fathers, or family.

I feel as if what is "mother" in me is slipping away, the further away i get from you. I'm regressing to being just Erin, which is not near as joyful or fulfilling as being your mom. I am your mom. You are my daughter. I have a daughter. I will keep saying that to myself over and over, to remember that it's true, and you and i know each other deeply.

Look at me, writing you a merry christmas note and getting sidetracked on myself... i'm sorry love. It must be silly to pray for those in heaven, since you are in the fullness of joy. but i earnestly pray for you, my gwendolyn hope, that you are profoundly at rest within Love, full of joy and peace.

I cannot wait to see you again. I enjoy you, every moment. I love you, beyond what you'll ever know. I am so glad you are my daughter. Merry Christmas, my beautiful sweetheart.

Thursday, December 23

hope mommies

it's thursday, two days until christmas. christmas is kindof relative, since we're going to celebrate tomorrow, and then on ... some day next week with blair's family. but it's hard to believe that the end of the year is here.

the fingers of my left hand are extremely stiff... i've been working on a project for christmas that requires detailed cutting with an exacto knife, and my hand is cramped. so typing is a challenge right now.

tonight blair and i are going to a Stars game with the chapman kiddos and their significant other, and autumn and justin. i've never been to a hockey game, so this could be interesting...

my parents gave Gwendolyn a stocking. and i'm really thankful... i know that when  i get around to it, i'll make stockings for our family and give her one as well. i miss writing her name. i feel cheated out of signing it 1,000 times.

her name was never one we considered seriously, actually. i had briefly thrown around gwendolyn or genevieve, but we discarded them for some reason. we agonized over names... especially boys. we didn't really think gwen would be a girl, and were so wonderfully surprised by her gender.

i think we named her at some point on monday while in the hospital, amidst the morphine. perhaps it was tuesday? but we both decided that she wasn't our other name options for girls. we wanted something that meant "blessing" or "miracle", because having her revived to life was a miracle. and at first we thought her middle name would be "joy", but it's taken in our family (leila joy), and it just didn't settle in our souls. "how about 'hope'? 'Blessed Hope.' " i suggested. and Gwendolyn Hope Cushman was announced.

and Hope has become our theme. never before have i so tangibly grasped the concept of hoping in Christ, and hoping for heaven. Gwen's service was beautiful, and pastor chris preached on 6 hopes that we now have, but they all boil down to one: the hope attained by the work of Christ's blood over our sins. I only have peace because of Christ. I will only be in heaven because of Christ. and Gwen also, is ONLY in heaven because of Christ. she and i share the same hope, the hope of glory, Christ in us.

Last night Sarah Erwin and i were chatting for a while on facebook, and the topic of our new title came up ("angel mommies", a phrase given to women who have lost their babies in one way or another to death.) we both agreed that we disliked all the titles that are out there that label us - "babylost" is depressing, as if our children are somehow missing. and "angel mommies" suggests that our children are now angels, which i most emphatically disagree with. and even "heaven mommies" isn't quite right, since i didn't mother heaven. so we decided to make up our own title that we'd agree with. and we discussed how the only reason why we'll get to see our children is because of what Christ accomplished on the cross for our sins, opening the gates of heaven to usher us in. and that is our hope. and tada! "Hope Mommies" is our new theme. and our babies are "Hope Babies", born out of hope, prayed for in hope, taken to Christ in hope.

(how many times did i write the word hope in this blog??? ) i will stop. and brave a trip to Northpark mal l before the Stars game.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-13

Sunday, December 19

the red line

in 2006, three days after graduating college, i packed all my belongings (mostly clothes) and headed to chicago, all because the Lord told me to go. and what i experienced there is a different story, written in a different blog, but pieces of it come back to me frequently. it was a sweet time of learning to love the Lord beyond anything and anyone.

A few months in to my time in chicago, faith and danielle came to visit me. i remember us running through downtown chicago in the pouring rain, then sitting on the Metra train for 3 hours in the a/c, and f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g, missing our concert and being bailed out by a stranger. i remember all of us huddled on my full size futon, sleeping sideways with our feet hanging off because i didn't own any other furniture in my apartment. and i remember our goodbye, how the girls were on the opposite side of the L tracks, waiting for their train, all three of us crying. and i think it was faith that said, "this is so dumb," because we were 20 feet away from each other and crying, but separated.

i've felt that way a lot, recently. in the last few days i've felt that i'm on opposite side of the tracks, able to see my friends, hear their words, cry with them... but still separated. what a lonely road, this grief.

we're in denton for christmas. my mom graduated on friday... i am so proud of her! she has spent the last eight years completing her undergrad and master's degrees, all the while being a wife, full time employee, mom, and busy grandmother. now she's done, and i hope she'll be able to relax a bit before she and dad figure out their next big adventure.

i feel a little lost here. i'm out of my routine, so i'm not sure what to do with myself. i'm also attempting to keep a step ahead of a cold/ear infection, but i think it's a losing battle. i feel like grief is present but healing is on hold... but that's probably not true. part of healing is catching up with the rest of the world, right? i mean, my living room couch isn't the only place i'll experience the touch of God... right?

tonight we went with autumn and justin to a community group called the Upper Room in dallas. and i wasn't very present... there was a family with 6 children in front of us. 4 were adopted. one was a baby girl, just a few weeks old. i was watching the girls most of the time. one of the girls, a cute little asian 4 or 5 year old, was standing on the chair behind her mom during the worship. and she was singing along and mimicking the adults around her, raising her hands and swaying. and i cried, wishing i would see gwen mimic us, and knowing that one day i'll get to worship with her. and the baby was asleep in her older sister's arms. as i watched, she woke up and opened her eyes, waving her arms and focusing her gaze on her sister. and i cried, wishing with all my might that i could've seen gwen open her eyes, move her hands... anything with life.

so tomorrow is monday. we're going to the Hydrant to work for a few hours, then tour a camp. maybe tomorrow i'll be a bit more myself. but for now i just feel stuck on the opposite side of the tracks.

Tuesday, December 14

"oh yeah..." moments

i have lots of those now. the moments when you think, "oh yeah... i think i forgot to turn off my hair straightener... oh yeah, retail orders... oh yeah, i haven't written so-and-so back and i guess its been like a week... how did that happen? ... oh yeah, etc." 

i've always been slightly forgetful, but it's worse. blair can tell me something and in that moment i'm totally tracking with him, but then the next day he'll bring it up again and i have no idea what he's talking about. 

and i'm slightly amazed at how fast days go by. i'll have the "oh yeah..." moment and i realize it's been many days since the phone call i meant to return, or the thank you letters that i need to write, or emails/facebook i need to respond to. huh.

i'm just not fully present, anywhere.

it's tuesday morning. and already it's halfway through december,  my mom graduates on friday, matt and dad are having birthdays this weekend, my baby brother's 14th anniversary/birthday (what DO you call that day??) is this week as well, and gwendolyn would be 2 months this friday. and then it's christmas, flying to wisconsin, driving all over wisconsin for a wedding, flying to dallas, driving home. geez. i'm exhausted just writing it out.

i really wish i had more/better pictures of gwenny. i didn't think at the time, "oh this is the last thing i'll have of her. i should get really nice photos..." i just still hoped that i would have life with her, and i could take a gazillion photos every day. 

i miss her today. i miss her every day, but today the pain is acute. every thing i do has sadness wrapped up with it. i've been working on christmas gifts; i won't ever buy her a christmas gift. or birthday gift. or a what-the-heck, i-just-love-you gift.  i'm drinking coffee this morning; i won't have the moment when she's young and wants to try coffee because mommy drinks it, screwing up her little face in distaste. or the moment when she's a teenager and wants a frappucino from starbucks because it feels cool, or when she's a young woman and we go out for coffee to talk about her life and her heart. i won't make scrambled eggs for her or rub her back when she's sick, or show her how to crochet and knit and embroider things. 

so for all of you who have kids, can you just enjoy the heck out of them today??? because i can't enjoy mine. and i know it's valid when you get irritated at your child, but honestly... it is very difficult to walk through walmart and hear a frazzled mom lashing out at her children about things she will NOT buy, or hear complaints about lack of sleep, lack of understanding about what the child is communicating, etc. 

i would LOVE to have a reason to be irritated. one of these days i'm going to pop and start yelling at the women yelling at their kids, "You HAVE your KIDS! Stop yelling at them! Isn't that more important?! Who cares if they're irritating you!? or you can't sleep!? or they can't sleep!? they're with you, aren't they??? you don't have to wonder what she would be like at 5 years old, or 12, or 18. You'll get to experience it. so just deal with the unpleasantness and enjoy the fact that your child is alive, and loves you."

okay... didn't plan on venting. sorry.

and disclaimer: for my sweet friends who have children, please know that i  really love you and am not trying to induce guilt for when you are at your wits end. it's still valid. and i know i'd have the same moments if gwen were alive. i guess my prayer is that you'll be able to quickly move through the frustration and give thanks that you are even being frustrated. (and i'll still want to hear about your life and difficulties, even if it's hard for me okay?)

coffee? check. 
crying? check. 
quiet time? getting to it now...

Sunday, December 12


I'm a visual learner. If someone is giving me directions, I need clear landmarks, and I mentally map out the left and right turns. Just giving me the list of where to turn and when does not help me naturally - i like to see the little map and visualize the turns. Whatever i'm instructed to do, I have to mentally visualize myself doing it, anticipate all the avenues and repercussions of each step or decision, then go about the task. This is the only thing that works in my favor and enables me to be somewhat creative (i am not naturally - i just copy.) I can picture the purse i want to sew, then "un-sew" it in my head and piece it back together in reality.

anyways. long explanation. the point is that i'm also a visual learner in my relationship with God. I see my life with Him in pictures, and can only fully express how i'm feeling or what i'm thinking once i envision myself inside of a story.

This past wednesday the fictional "me" was screaming, throwing things, smashing mirrors, etc. (I think the fictional me keeps me from actually doing most of these things in real life.) I've been seeing her stumble her way through a long dark valley, overcome by the shade of grief. And yesterday, she was done. She just sat down in the cold darkness and cried.

So that's what I did too. I'm done.

I had an incredibly challenging week, due to 'normal' activities. I worked, went to a movie, a christmas party, grocery shopping, and spent a day with the Walkabout students. All this normality is suffocating. I can only handle trying to be brave for so long before i crumble, which is what i did at the river walk in San Antonio. and again in the office bathroom. and again in a parking lot. and again at the YO hotel during the christmas party.

So yesterday, I gave up. It was kind of like an emotional and social hangover... I was foggy, unresponsive, and thoroughly done with everything. My poor husband. He's so incredibly sweet, and I am not a very good wife right now.

My hangover is wearing off. The Spirit and my conscience won't allow me to simply give up and die, or emotionally check out for the rest of my life. So I get up, and start walking again. Still with no light, no explanation, no foreseeable change coming up.

You know what's amazing too, about God? He gets so excited about praising Himself, I think. The Spirit seems to exclaim, "YES!! Good job! Right choice!!" when i choose to get over myself and be swallowed up in grace. And then He infuses me with the ability to trust and go on walking.

This morning I read Psalm 6, and it led me on a treasure hunt:

I am worn out from sobbing,
All night I flood my bed with weeping,
drenching it with my tears.
My vision is blurred by grief;
my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.

My vision is blurred by grief. Surely it will not always be so? "Surely..."

"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life." Psalm 23:6

What does it mean by "follow", I wonder? As in, it will trail after me, but never be with me? So i pull out my trusty Strong's Concordance, and am blessed by the Lord - this word "follow" means to pursue, to chase, to overtake. 

I'm not normally a fan of The Message, but i like the word picture it paints for Psalm 23:6: "Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life." 

Strong's also says that the word for "mercy" in verse 6 means "strength", "steadfastness", and "love". To render a translation without those three meanings would lose it's richness, and either be solely a sentiment without a backbone (love) or cold and legalistic (strength).

So I am being chased by the steadfastness, strength, and love of God, even in this valley. His love is not an empty sentiment, all fuzzy with no depth and no hold over real life circumstances. And His strength and steadfastness are not calculating penny pinchers with no compassion. I am pursued - consistently, steadily, and mightily being overwhelmed by the tenderness of Yahweh.

even here. even now. even 8 weeks later.

Tuesday, December 7

i've never cried so hard because of an animated movie

until i saw Tangled today. super cute, you should see it. one of the best animated films of this genre, for sure. and i'm glad i saw it and will buy it when it comes out, but fair warning - there are a few incredibly tender, (and for me, raw) scenes in it. the happy ending is so... heart wrenching for anyone who has known the pain of separation from their child. i cannot wait to run to gwen some day.

so thanks Tangled, for causing me to weep in the parking lot of Chinatown restaurant.

plodding on

it's tuesday morning, and i'm slow to start the day. i have my coffee with me, and that's about the only peaceful thing i see... my house is once again, wrecked.

this new normal is starting to sink in, i think. which scares me, of course. i would almost rather the agony of those first few days and weeks than the dull ache and clouds. but life goes on.

our weekend was full - christmas shopping, meeting with the midwives, dinner with friends in kerrville, our  elder meeting on sunday morning, church, lunch with friends, more errands (we bought an iphone) and almost picked up hitch hikers, but we weren't going very far in the direction they needed. (a disappointment; i've always wanted to pick up hitch hikers.)

yesterday was a monday, highlighted by crying with valerie, a bible study with the walkabout girls and anne, and meeting with sydney.

i've been trying to get the thanksgiving photos to download, but they're being problematic. so i haven't forgotten dad!

not much to say here, really. i'm just plugging along, one foot in front of the other. it seems to be that God's word to me is, "Wait." wait for what? wait for how long? and will whatever it is that i'm waiting for be as good or better than what i had wanted and still want? no answer, just "Wait." and if His waiting was the kind that hides under the covers, counting down the days until that Day and becoming untidy and unkempt... well i think i could do that kind of waiting quite easily.

But God's "wait" is never like that. He wants me to keep living, to keep engaging, to love and serve my shattered heart out. I think... I think that He wants to show me that He will come through. He will be faithful. He will enable me to stand upon the heights, to laugh over my enemies. He will enable me to run and not grow tired, to walk and not faint. He will do these things, as i wait.

Friday, December 3

breakfast blend and the expositor's commentary

"Hope despairs and yet despair hopes," is how Martin Luther summed up Psalm 13. 

I awoke with this question before the Lord, "How long will i have sorrow in my heart?" Not quite remembering it's biblical address, I went searching through my ESV, and found Psalm 13.

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? 
How long will You hide Your face from me? 
How long must I take counsel in my soul 
and have sorrow in my heart all the day? 
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; 
light up my eyes, lest I  sleep the sleep of death, 
lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," 
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. 

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, 
because He has dealt bountifully with me.

This sums me up perfectly. How long shall I wear this heavy spirit as a garment? How long will I wake up every day, missing Gwen? How long will it take until I am whole, and quietly resting in Your presence with joy? How long will it take before life seems like life again? How long will it take until I can have children again? Light up my eyes, Lord, lest I despair unceasingly and lose hope, and lose myself in depression. Look upon me and answer, O God. I don't want the devil to delight in this, to rejoice over me and say that Death has won. You are greater! Do not allow me to put You to shame by being shaken. "I know whom I have believed," and i trust in You. You will not fail me, or allow Your name to be dishonored. Because I hope in YOU, not in my circumstances or in potential future blessings You may give me, I will rejoice and sing. 

I have many thoughts bouncing around in my brain, but I can't figure out how to organize them neatly, so i will just write them out in no particular sequence:

Random thought #1:
I think that all too often, well meaning Christians give Satan more power than the Lord has allowed him. I've never been one to say that "the devil is tempting/discouraging me," because I usually think that the majority of the time, it's my own sinful nature and desires that do those things (James 1:14). But I do believe that Satan wields death ("The last enemy to be destroyed is death." I Cor. 15:26). But I don't believe Satan can harm believers without God's allowance (Job 1:6, Luke 22:31). I KNOW that God allowed and determined the day of Gwen's death. So i will not say that satan had victory.

And now that you know my foundational beliefs, I will say that I have recognized Satan, Death, and Disbelief as my enemies during this time. And I can pray along with the Psalmist, "Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life;" 

I earnestly desire for God to have an ABOUNDING, undoubtable victory in my and Blair's faith and life. I desire that satan and his minions be put to shame, and disappointed altogether as they wished for us to lose heart, to doubt God's goodness to us, and to abandon the faith. (Praise be to God that He always wins!)

 Random thought #2:
I have more hope than I think people think I have. I just feel the freedom to fully mourn and lament. The Expositor's Commentary says this of Psalm 13:5: 

"Though he has experienced deep despair, the psalmist does not give up. His feet did not slip. He held on to the promise of God's covenant love. He is not overwhelmed by his troubles, but in his depression he says, 'But I trust.' The emphatic 'But I' is a surprising response from the heart of a depressed person. Because life may be so bitter for some, it is only by God's grace that the heart of faith may groan, 'But I.'  "

Random thought #3:
I've felt guilty for being consumed by the loss of Gwendolyn. "Surely I should be giving thanks... I still have a husband who loves me, family, my health, friends, my home and job... I should probably feel a little more grateful. And i'm saved from an eternity in hell." And I've felt guilty for not being as enamored with salvation as I think I should be. 

And I truly am grateful, and in some of my most disheartened moments I've had sweet times of prayer, choosing to list my blessings and thanking Him for them. 

The Expositor's had something to say of this too, speaking of the word "salvation" in verse 5: "The effect of God's love for which the psalmist longs is the experience of salvation. 'Salvation' signifies the whole well-being of God's child. He needs the assurance that God cares, as well as the experience of victory over enemy and adverse circumstances. He also needs the healing in his thoughts of anguish and self-pity. God's 'salvation' takes care of all his needs. He will rejoice in the Lord when God shows his fatherly care. The verb gamal ('deal bountifully with') is fraught with meaning. Yahweh bestows his benefits, not in small measure, but in fullness, so as to give his children the experience of complete and free deliverance." 

And so I will now pray, with freedom from guilt, of God's complete deliverance for us. 

I guess that's all my thoughts for now... that was kindof long.  

Thursday, December 2


it's been an interesting week. monday and tuesday were almost normal feeling... which feels wrong. on monday i cleaned and had help cleaning, salvaged a vintage couch that i'm going to gut, and made something for dinner. on tuesday i went to bible study, ran errands, bought groceries, and had the chisms over for dinner. on wednesday i went to the staff meeting, and called the insurance agency about medical bills. it was then that i was knocked out of my feelings of normality by a simple question from an unassuming customer service agent: "how's the baby doing?"

and i was thankful, actually. thankful to start crying and break down in the office. thankful for the reminder that i'm still not okay, because i was beginning to worry that i was, and that i was moving on.

and today i'm just sad, unprompted by anything other than the fact that my daughter is dead.

and the Spirit just whispered to me, "she's on the other side, Erin! she's alive, and waiting. and you will see her. a horizon is nothing save the limit of your sight. take heart, dear one! take heart."

a GCM song has been ruminating in my soul:

wait for the Lord
be strong, and let your heart take courage
yes, wait for the Lord.

I would have despaired unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!