Baby Braden Petska

Monday, March 17, 2014

Looking Back While Moving Forward

Again, the paragraphs are separated by obnoxious dashes :) It’s amazing how you seem to live your life day in and day out: for me, it’s juggling an almost 5 year old & 1 year old, running my MK business, taking care of the household, and trying to be a strong, loving, patient, giving, caring (sometimes grumpy) wife, sister, daughter, friend.....etc. It's amazing as "time marches on," how the grieving period changes. Many of you are probably familiar with this as I blogged A LOT about where I was, how I was feeling, how different each day, month & now year(s) feels. Life.becomes.different. For the longest time, I retreated & hid behind my grief. I felt it was easier to be left alone & be alone than it was to embrace the world again. I preferred quiet & lacked trust in my emotions, so retreating was the best option. This retreating period, as necessary as it was/is, made it ever so difficult to be in the presence of others without feeling vulnerable & almost naked like my wound was open & exposed. The reason I share this is b/c as I mentioned in the first sentence, life goes on in a sense when you've had time to get used to someone/something not being in your presence & then when "that" day comes back around, it's as if it all just happened...again...for the first time. Everything returns, even the retreating period - wanting the quiet, to be alone, etc. Last night as we went to bed Rich took me in his arms & I just sobbed. As the tears flowed, I saw this very fast reel of pictures flooding my memory. It took my breath away as I relived the final moments we spent with Braden, the tragedy of it all as it unfolded in my mind, and the heaviness of taking that first step of life without him. That heavy emptiness returned as I recall a mother who would awake before anyone else did, take in the scent of the cinnamon flavored coffee, sit at the kitchen table, see the sky turn pink & the morning begin to peek through the blinds. She would then sit at the computer & wait...for messages, write for comfort & do anything to escape the life before her. Numb, empty, lifeless as she tried to cling to any strand of hope that was left... -------------------------------- Despite the level of sadness that comes this time of year, we are still moving forward. Annika just turned one - she is just starting to walk and is into EVERYTHING. Our little sweat pea who knows how to get her own way & LOVES her big brother. It's fun to watch them laugh & play together, despite the 3-4 year age gap. When Rich & Owen are wrestling, Annika thinks it's fun to come over & get in on the action as she pokes his face & hits him on the head. Owen is very protective of his sister but will yell at her when she's a bit over the top with her crying/whining. Owen is still the proud owner of facial expressions & funny phrases. He is in his last few months of pre-school & we just had his kindergarten screening...sniffle. It was fun to see Rich trying to teach Owen how to skip up & down our hallway the other night (one of the tasks he didn't quite score well on). Owen has asked a few times if Braden is able to "come down" and play with him. He knows that Braden is in heaven with Jesus but he's reluctant to call him his "brother" yet. I wonder what his little mind is really thinking. Owen's pre-school teacher has noted that Owen seeks out the child who is crying & asks if he/she is okay & tries to tend to their needs. This makes my heart smile as I remember Pastor Cliff making his one & only prophesy - where Owen will be one who cares on a deeper level for others b/c of what he experienced in the womb the moment when B left this earth. Rich is still teaching U.S. History & took on coaching bball again this year but at a different high school (one that's closer to home). As for me, I still love being a Sales Director with Mary Kay for many reasons, but one being where this journey has brought me with my faith & the connections I've made with so many amazing women. I have had many "divine" being a chance encounter with a gal who is in the midst of writing her own book - she has an agent & all! She has recently invited me to a "writer's group" where we will be meeting once a month. Just when I think, I'm not "good enough" or "strong enough" or "talented enough" to take on this book challenge, God says otherwise. These moments remind me AGAIN....that it's HIS plan, not mine! --------------------------------- Heart of Gold News: Mark your calendars for August 9th, our Annual Heart of Gold Charity Golf Outing. This will be our 8th Annual. After last year, Rich & I have been discussing how much longer we will do the golf outing. As of right now, we are toying with the idea of halting after year 10. We will still give our scholarships & gift bags until we can (a.k.a..when the money runs We often get generous donations throughout the year that will continue to assist us with our mission. Thank you to those who continue to support us, our charity, and its mission. We have some very special neighborhood girls who often hold a toy sale & lemonade stand to raise money for our charity; the JJHS Student Council raised money for our charity during Valentine's Day this February. AND....this year Bill & Cindy Ewert are donating a dollar for ever point that Bill's 6th grade girl's basketball team scores. The girls were so excited to take on this challenge. They even have a Braden bear that they've take on as their mascot & "lucky charm." I am meeting with the girls on Thursday to receive the money they raised (they wanted to keep it a surprise, but Bill mentioned it exceeded his expectations). These kinds of lessons...about life, generosity, selflessness, and giving prove how great our God is as he is moving & working through the lives of so many people. ---------------------------------- A few last thoughts...I was asked to speak at a church this past fall & I will share with you my message below. I was also asked to speak to a class at Carthage (my Alma-mater) this past fall. I did this with my dear friend Cara who too lost a child (just a little over a year ago). We were both asked to speak to the class about our experiences of loss & grief. It was as if I was looking at my life 4 years ago, seeing myself through Cara's words, thoughts & actions. I saw in that sharing experience just how far I had come. She was then looking at me, a person I too once thought I never wanted to be...b/c once that pain dulls, what does that mean...about me...about my grief..about the love I had/have for my child. It was definitely an amazing & healing moment for both of us. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope & a future. maybe you have found this scripture helpful when facing a difficult situation in life maybe you have clung onto it for hope & a promise that everything will be okay or maybe it once provided comfort & hope but now leads to questions after you or someone you know has lost the battle they fought so hard to win…..--------- In 2006 it had been a year since my husband and I had been married; we were pregnant with our first son; pregnancy was fantastic; life was great!!!--------- Braden Gregory was born on August 17th that summer. 2 days later we found out that he was born with a very rare & serious heart defect where the left side of his heart was underdeveloped. That moment, that day you dream of taking your child home for the first time had been yanked away & instead been replaced with fear, questions, & medical jargon we had to learn & understand.------ For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope & a future. …..God…you are Good! Braden underwent 2 open heart surgeries by the time he was 4 months old & was released to live a “normal” life. He was growing and thriving before our very own eyes. We were able to finally enjoy all of the fun, new parenting moments & see our medical marvel grow into this funny, walking, talking toddler who loved to sing Johnny Cash & count in Spanish (thanks to Dora)…..God you are good. -------- Fast forward to March of 2009 & Braden is now 2.5. Our medical miracle, our hero, our son suffers a fatal heart arrhythmia & passes away unexpectedly. Dear God….this was not our plan, you were supposed to guide & protect him, give him hope & a future. Where is his future now? Where is our future? Where were you God….where are you now?----- For a year and a half after Braden’s death, I questioned God, his provision….I questioned my faith in prayer, what is heaven? Where is my son? Is someone taking care of him like I did here on earth? Why do bad things happen to good people? Was I not a good enough Christian? Had I not prayed hard enough? Had I not been grateful enough of the gifts that were given to me? I had SO many questions & so little answers. For a year and a half, I did everything & tried SO hard…..on my own….without God….to fix my broken self. The harder I tried, I felt like the farther I fell….from him…and lower & lower into a place I wish to never be again.------ So my journey back began with a career opportunity….one that puts God first. I had no idea how or if I was going to succeed, I just knew this divine moment was not on accident & that I had to see what God was up to.------- Through this opportunity I was able to connect with other women who too were wanting to build their faith – some had none & some had little. In this process I discovered that “Although I didn’t receive my miracle that night, maybe I could be the miracle.” That one sentence defined a moment in my life almost like that flame of hope had been relit. Maybe I do have purpose….maybe I’m supposed to use the this misery inside of me to minister to others…..------- For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope & a future. It’s been a long of road of getting to a point in my faith where I completely trust in the Lord, that I can hand Him my worries, my fears, my circumstances….to believe fully that these plans are not our plans, they’re His plans and even though we may not like them….even when we’re kicking & screaming in resistance to His plan…..we have to somehow, somewhere dig deep to trust in the Lord with all our heart & lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).-------- Having audacious faith doesn’t mean we will live a crisis free life but having audacious faith does allow us to see the blessings amidst the crisis.