Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Proof of Blessing

We couldn't ask for anything more.
Thank You, Jesus, for You, and for Your ability and willingness to give Life.
Your humble and grateful servants,
The Alberda's

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Wait is Over!

We are the proud parents of a beautiful, healthy daughter!

Cora Dean Alberda
6 pounds, 14 ounces
19 inches long

Perfect in every way...

Stay tuned for pictures tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers and support!!!

Jason, Susan, Dana, Eliza and Cora

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Countdown Continues

Hello Friends and Family,
I thought I would update one more time before it's time for us to jet off to the hospital and turn this family of four into a family of five. I have a cesarean section scheduled for Monday morning, and so unless something crazy should happen before then, Sweet Baby A. will be making his or her appearance in less then 48 hours! (Dana was breech, hence the need for subsequent c-sections. A stinker from the beginning, that one!)

I continue to be a bag of mixed emotions with the arrival of this baby. Of course, joy and gratefulness to God reign supreme when I really sit back and evaluate how I am feeling, but also thrown in there is apprehension and anxiety over mothering three little ones (especially during the surgery recovery period), fear that I will do such a bad job of helping Dana and Eliza adjust to their new sibling that I will scar them for life, and, most of all, a heavy, suffocating sorrow whenever I remember that I will not be able to introduce this child to my father.

I have been praying that God would give me a glimpse of my Dad on Monday somehow, in some way, and also that He would allow my Dad to look down upon the latest addition to his family and then give me the peace that he has seen him or her. Is this a strange request? I don't even know. I just know that I need to feel my Dad there that day, I need to be confident that he has seen us, and I need to be assured that he is showering me and this child with his love. I figure this isn't too much for the Creator of the Universe to handle, right? :)

I was hoping to ask a few prayer requests of all of you, if you'd be willing. Nothing too crazy, but it would bring so much comfort knowing that we are being supported and lifted up to the King during these next few days.

1. Pray for a smooth surgery which results in a healthy baby!
2. Pray that Dana and Eliza will do well during the days I am in the hospital and they are staying with family. Pray that they do not feel confused about what's happening (especially Eliza), that they feel secure and loved, and that this baby is a source of joy for them, too.
3. Pray for no thunderstorms! Dana is almost as scared of them as her Momma, and I don't want to burden my Mom or sister with having to share their bed with a frightened, squirmy four year old.
4. Pray that the difficulty of not being able to share these moments with my Dad will not weigh too heavily on my heart or the hearts of my family, as his absence will surely be felt by all of us.
5. Pray for an easy recovery, and energy and patience for Jason as he plays Mr. Mom for the next couple of weeks.

Thank you for being friends I can turn to and rely on. I feel better already knowing that all of us are in your thoughts and prayers.

I will be sure to update at some point on Monday, letting you know how everything went, and introducing you to the newest member of the Alberda clan.

Peace and love to you all,

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day excited for what the future holds, and excited to meet this baby with whom you have chosen to bless us. I love knowing that you know him or her intimately already, and decided long ago that he or she would be the perfect addition to our family.

You are the God of Life, and I thank you for entrusting this little life into our hands. Make our hands capable, Lord. Make them loving, make them dependable, make them nurturing, make them gentle, and make them open to giving this child back to You.

Help me to not get overwhelmed with the everyday doubts and fears that threaten to plague me when I think of these next few weeks, but instead trust that you have ordained every one of these days since before time began, and You are Lord over every moment of them. Raise my eyes to search for You when my human frailties begin to get the better of me, and steady me in Your mighty hands. You are a God who is in control, and I am ever-grateful for this.

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of this child, of Your child. We are humbled by Your decision to bring him or her into our lives, and pledge to honor Your trust in us by daily placing this blessing back in Your arms.

In Your Name I pray,

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Four Months Later

Dear Dad,
It was four months ago today that you breathed your last breath here on earth and went on to your home in heaven. I think of you often there, wondering what you're doing, wondering if you see me, contemplating what your new life must be like.

I know you are with Jesus, I know you are happy, and I know you are pain-free. It is these things alone which make your leaving possible to bear.

It is so hard down here without you, though. I keep waiting for the day to come where every Wednesday I won't wake up counting how many weeks it's been since you passed away. I have become accustomed to the pictures of you I have around my house, but when I come across one I haven't seen in awhile the tears and longing are instantaneous, the pain still crippling. My grief has changed in that it is not a constant, minute-by-minute battle, but it still strikes every day, and the intensity of it is the same as it has always been.

I miss you, Dad. I miss your smile, I miss your voice, I miss you telling me you love me, I miss hearing you say my name, I miss watching you with your grandchildren, I miss talking about the weather with you, I miss you asking me about my job, I miss your fatherly concern over every aspect of my life.

No one else can give that to me. No one can love me like you loved me. No one else will ever have the same vested interest in my life that you did. You were my father, my counselor, my cornerstone, my friend, my invincible, powerful, strong and mighty Dad. My rock.

People keep telling all of us kids and Mom that a day will come when it won't hurt so bad. That there will be a time when we can look at pictures of you and feel happiness instead of hurt. That life will go on, and your memory will still be alive, it just won't be so painful to remember you.

I can't even fathom what that will feel like, or when that will ever be. Today, Dad, I still miss you more than ever. Even more than I did on the day you died. With life continuing on without you it feels more wrong than it did before. I expect to see you, or hear you again. So much time has passed that it seems only right that you should be walking through my door, as if you were just on an extended vacation.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to accept the finality of your loss in my life. I feel like I'll always be on the lookout for you, just waiting for you to turn up again. Eliza thought she saw you in Walgreen's the other day, and I did too. I heard her say, "Papa! Papa! Papa!", while pointing to a man who had your same build, your same gait, and was wearing clothes similar to what you would wear. Before reality came crashing down on me I thought to myself, "He's come back!", and before I could stop it from happening, hope and joy filled every ounce of my being, and for a millisecond I was about to make a mad dash into your arms.

Needless to say, you weren't in Walgreen's that day.

I don't know if you can read any of these words I write to you. That is another thing I've had to adjust to since you've been gone. For almost a year and a half I was able to write all about you and write for you, knowing that you were on the other end reading every word I wrote down. You were always so gracious and complimentary. You would remark to me about how well I knew you, how perceptive I was when it came to you, how you couldn't hide any of your feelings from me.

That's what I miss most of all, Dad. The closeness we had come to share. I relied on it more than I knew. Your approval meant so much to me. I just wanted to be a daughter you respected, and admired, and were proud to call your own...

Four months has passed, and it could just as easily be four days, or four years. I have come to realize that grief has no timetable, no calendar, no set amount of days before it runs it's course. You are just as much on my heart now as you were in March, and I don't foresee that changing anytime soon.

You were so wonderful, Dad. I would give anything for just one more day with you here. But a good friend said to me this week, "If he was given the chance to come back here, he wouldn't. He would just say, 'Bring my family to me someday.' "

And so I'm on my way back to you. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or in the next few years, but I will see you again. Until then, my beloved, treasured father, you are never far from my heart.

All my love forever,

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day envious that you are with my Dad. Please tell him we love him and miss him. Tell him his legacy of loving You still lives on through all of us who knew him.
Please give him a hug, and tell him it's from me. Tell him that there will be plenty more where that came from someday.
You've got a good man up there with You, Lord. Thanks for letting us have him for a little while. What a gift You gave to us all...
In your Name I pray,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hanging In There

It feels as if a long time has passed since I've written anything here, when in fact it has only been about a week. In the past, I would still usually write "drafts" in the meantime that may or may not ever get posted, but lately I haven't even been doing that. Alot of factors have gone into my lack of writing. First, with trying to get everything ready for the new baby my free time has dwindled down to almost nothing, and what few moments are left I find I am too tired to get motivated to do much besides lose myself in a good book or simply just try to go to sleep.

Secondly, I generally write during my girl's rest time in the afternoon, but now that Eliza has moved into Dana's bedroom, Dana gets to have her hour of down time in the family room, which doesn't lead to alot of peace and quiet for me! I've gotten used to her little munchkin voice as "background music" during this precious hour that I used to be able to call my own, but the constant barrage of questions, comments, and requests she sends my way doesn't lend itself to any serious soul-searching.

And third, to be honest, I have almost welcomed the excuse to not sit down and sort out what I am feeling. This site has become very much a form of therapy for me, a way to vent my thoughts and ideas, and in the last couple of weeks it seems much easier to go through my days in an oblivious state of numbness without having to confront any of those unfavorable emotions that are trying to creep their way to the surface and find their way out.

I can sense those rough and tough feelings hovering around me, and there's so many of them that I have made a conscious choice to simply not deal with them. There are many things in my life which bring me joy, and to focus on them has been a much easier and gentler path for me to follow lately. However, I am always aware of the ever-present grief that circles my heart, my throat, and my tearducts, just waiting for the first chance for release. I can sense the anger that has become this grief's constant companion, lying in wait for the opportunity to pounce on the nearest unsuspecting victim. An almost paralyzing anxiety grabs hold of me when I realize that I am going to be adding another child to this family in just over two weeks, and a feeling of helplessness overcomes me, telling me that there is no way I can be a good mother to three children, when I already feel as if I am making enough mistakes with just two. And I can feel the onslaught of "Mom-guilt" already settling into my heart of hearts when I look at my two daughters and ponder how they are going to adjust to this new disruption to their lives. I realize that alot of their reaction depends on me, and the urge to just give up and give in to the thoughts that I will soon be in way over my head threatens to settle in.

And then, the one thing that has been plaguing me the most... the guilt that has found me over and over again recently when I take stock of my relationship with Christ and realize that I have almost completely, and quite willingly, let His influence in my life go by the wayside.

It is this, more than anything else, that has finally brought me in front of this keyboard today. I miss Him. I miss the closeness I shared with Him. I miss the desire I once had (not that long ago) to devote every minute of every day to becoming a better disciple of His. I miss His inspiration, His affirmation, His confirmation, His presence everywhere I turned.

And what makes it worse is that it's me that left Him. And it's me that continues to leave Him every day. It's a terrible feeling, and the hardest part is that I feel as if I can't even help myself from doing it. Every night it's the same scenario. I sit down to do my devotions, open my Bible hoping against hope to be inspired by just the right words, become overwhelmed with the process of finding said passage, flip through page after page, book after book, lose hope, dishearteningly close my Bible, fold my hands to pray, become awash with longing for Him and guilt for having been rejecting Him, succumb to my weariness and sadness, unfold my hands, lay down, and try to ignore feeling like the failure that I must surely have become in His sight.

A couple nights ago, as I was "book-hopping" in my Bible, trying to focus on any verse that might bring me out of these devotional doldrums, my pages fell open to 2 Timothy 2:13. The words struck me, and brought about a sense of comfort and calm that has alluded me for a long, long time. The verse is this:

"If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself."

I needed to hear this. I needed to be reminded that during the days, weeks, or even months where I just don't have it in me to be on fire for Him that not only will He not leave me, but He cannot leave me. He is a part of me, and I am a part of Him, and nothing can or will ever change this. Not my exhaustion, not my pain, not my constant putting on hold of my time with Him, nothing. I have spent so much of my time lately concentrating on all the ways in which I have let Him down, and thinking about how fed up with me He must be that I completely discounted His never-ending love for me, and His desire for me to share as much of myself with Him as I am able. He will take whatever I will offer Him. He knows how empty I feel right now, He knows that the only things that seem to spark any reaction out of me are those things I'm trying to ignore, He knows that at the end of the day I just want to escape into dreamland out of sheer exhaustion, and He has promised to stick with me, and wait for me, and care for me in any way that I will let Him.

What an awesome, awesome guy, who deserves so much more from me.

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day so, so sorry. I'm having a rough time right now with everything that has happened in the past, and the things that will be happening in the near future. And to top it all off I find myself pushing away the only person that will absolve me of these things... You.

You see me, Lord. You know I am scared, I am anxious, I am tired, I am sad, and I am overwhelmed. I also have decided to go this road alone, shutting You out of my life, convincing myself that I have fallen so far from You that it is my job and my job only to pull myself up again.

Thank You, for reminding me that I never fall so far as to fall out of Your grasp. You are near to me now, I can feel You. Help me to trust You again, and forgive me for allowing myself to lose that trust to begin with. I thought it would be easier to do this by myself. I was wrong.

I need You now, Lord, to help me prepare for what's ahead of me and to deal with what has happened in my past. Only You help me keep things in perspective, only You have the ability to transform my anxiousness into peace, my anger into understanding, my guilt into the knowledge that I am forgiven, and my longing for You back into a relationship with You.

I don't know how long it's going to take for me to get back to where I was, but I know that You are here with me, and you also are already there ahead of me, ready to help me in any way possible, encouraging me, loving me, and willing to take any part of me that I am able to give.

Thank You for your promises, Lord, my promise to You is that I will keep trying...

I love You, Lord. That is the one thing that has never, and will never change. Thank You for reciprocating that love with absolutely no strings attached. You are a good friend, You are my good friend. I need that right now, even if I have been doing a not-so-good job of showing it. I am so grateful for your inability and your unwillingness to ever leave me. I rely on this, and I will rely on You.

In Your Name I pray,

Friday, July 3, 2009

Papa's Place

Yesterday Jason found the list of people and phone numbers which we had taken to the hospital with us the day Dana was born.

My Dad's work number was the very first one on the list.

Seeing this instantly brought me back to the moment I had called him. I can still hear those first few words as if they were just spoken yesterday.

Me: "Hi, Papa!"

Him: (Soft laugh) "You're kidding me!", in a voice filled with joy and disbelief.

(He was taken a bit by surprise, as he had just been at our house the night before helping us hang pictures and finish up the final touches on the nursery.)

Not twenty minutes after those words were exchanged our Dana was being held in his arms.

How am I going to have another baby without him here to love and cherish the end result?

When Eliza was born I don't remember the exact conversation we had when I called him to let him know he had a brand new granddaughter. What I do remember is the multiple visits both she and I received over the course of the next three days in our hospital room. He would be at the hospital frequently those days, visiting people from our church, and every time he was in the building he would drop by for a few quick words and a snuggle from the newest addition to his family.

Looking back I remember how happy I would be to see him, how overwhelmed with love for both him and Eliza I would be as I watched him cradle her, as I watched him watch her with all the awe and tenderness his eyes could muster, and as I watched her experience for the first time a love she would never encounter from anyone else... the love of her Papa.

I don't know how I'm going to do it. How I'm going to be able to not focus on the huge void that hospital room will hold without him in it. How I'm going to be able to look at my new baby and not picture him or her being held in the arms of their Papa without the grief of reality crippling me.

I can't even think about it now without tears burning their way down my cheeks.

This sadness and sense of loss is almost unbearable. If it's this bad now, I am terrified of how hard it will be when the moment finally arrives that our new baby is here, the excitement of the first few minutes has worn off, visitors start arriving, and he does not.

I almost feel I should apologize now to anyone who comes to see me and finds themselves having to bear witness to seemingly random bouts of crying. I'll probably just blame it on hormones, but more than likely it will be because it will have just hit me, again, that our new baby is Papa-less.

The only thing that ever brings me a slight modicum of comfort when I start feeling this way is that we were lucky enough to be able to share the gender of this baby and his or her name with my Dad before he passed away. We had our ultrasound technician seal the contents in an envelope (no, we didn't even peek!), and brought them to the Hospice House with a letter introducing him to his newest grandson or granddaughter. It was so important to us that he be able to visualize what his family would look like upon this baby's arrival, and I love knowing that they shared something together, something special, the only thing they would ever be able to have here on earth between the two of them.

It brings me peace, envisioning him up in heaven, talking to Jesus about this child by name.

If you would be willing, I ask you to pray for me in the weeks leading up to this baby's birth. I find myself grieving everyday for the both of us, and sometimes it is hard to even make it through the sorrow to my next thought. Please pray for strength for me, and comfort, and God's presence to surround me. Please pray that I don't become overwhelmed with my Dad's loss in my life and the life this child, but that I can concentrate on keeping his legacy alive in the ways in which we raise him or her. And please just pray that the hole I can so clearly see waiting for me that day will be filled with peace, and the knowledge that my father is still with me, alive in memory and thought. Pray that I remember that his love will never be erased nor diminished by death, but carried on until we all see him again, and until the day that this baby will meet his or her Papa for the first time and experience the warmth of being held in his arms.

How my heart soars when I think about being a witness to that first embrace...

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day searching for the strength to make it through what will surely be a difficult time. The joy of having this baby far outweighs any sadness which I feel, but there are still very deep feelings of sorrow and loss when I think of our child entering into this world without my father's love being there to welcome him or her. He was such an integral part of those first few moments of both our other children's lives, and it's impossible to imagine him not taking his place as the adoring, newborn-cuddling Papa that Dana and Eliza got the chance to enjoy.

Please, Lord, be with me in those moments when I am overwhelmed by his absence. When all I want is for him to walk into my room, take my baby from my arms, and gaze upon him or her with his own special grandfatherly affection and devotion. Stay near to me in those times when I am alone with this child, and I find myself longing for nothing more than just a few minutes for them to share, so that he might have the opportunity to imprint himself on his or her life and heart.

I am unequipped, Lord, to relay to this child the kind of man their Papa was, and I become overcome with sadness when I think about the fact that I even have to try to.

I miss him, Lord. Everyday, all day, I miss him. But just because I am missing him help me not to think that this child will be missing out on his love. Because he was filled with Your love, and I need to remind myself that Your love is plentiful, and unconditional, and it is here. And it is in that hospital room. And it is waiting to envelope and surround our baby just as my father's would be.

Be close to me now, and stay close to me when You know I will be needing to feel You near.

I thank You for the life of this child, and for the special place it already holds in Your heart.

In Your Name I pray,