Matthew's Pictures

April 21, 2009

Working Through Grief

Saturday was Matthew's official due date. It was also our "Family Day" with my company, though I am not yet back to work. Every year the company pays for all permanent employees and their families or a guest to go to the selected theme park for that year. This year was Universal Studios: Islands of Adventure. Josh wasn't able to attend since he was working, but I did invite a friend and her daughter. We had such a blast, and it was a good distraction for the significance of the day. (It also enabled me to make up for the Sea World trip we didn't go on last week!)

Since Matthew died, I have found it so helpful for my healing to spread God's word and talk about what He has done in our lives recently. I had the opportunity to speak a little more in depth to my friend about how amazing my relationship with God is, on our way to Orlando. I really see His plan shaping me into a more loving, caring person everyday. My husband has also noticed, and thanks me for the changes I have made. I tell him, "Don't thank me, thank God." And he does.

When it comes to working through my grief, I don't really have a plan. I seem to be keeping myself as busy as possible with work around the house, runnihg errands, and not leaving much time for myself. I am realizing that I need to change that. I found a Bible study book called "Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy" which is for mothers who lose a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death. I contacted my church to let them know who I am (it's a huge church), tell them Matthew's story, and to see if there is a Bible study that could be started using this reference. They got back with me and said there is already a group using that book! I met with the group leader yesterday to dicuss some ideas I have and talk about the group. Unfortunately next week is the last meeting until the book is finished, but I will be attending anyways.

To throw a little more onto my already full plate (which is what I'm trying to avoid...) I made the quick decision at Abbie's ballet class last night to attend a GriefShare group at church an hour later. It was the second week of the class. I think there are 13 weeks total. When I first saw it in the church bulletin, I thought it would be a great idea. Then I started wondering if it would even help, because I figured I would be the only one who lost a baby. But I felt that God was really telling me to go, so I went. It was a good sized class, maybe 15 people. We saw a video which showed other people who had lost a loved one, and the different effects it had on them. Those in the group also shared their experiences.I was amazed at how much I had in common with those who lost their parent, spouse, uncle, etc. I was sitting there nodding my head, agreeing and relating to what these other people had gone through. I was the only one who had lost a baby, but it was okay. I understand that there is a grief process, and no matter who someone loses, those steps still have to be taken. I will definitely be taking the class every week because I know I am in need of a step-by-step program. I feel like I am subconsciously avoiding my grief by filling up my plate. Sitting in the group last night put it right in my face. My son died. He's not coming back, and it really hurts. Within 30 seconds of sitting in the chair and watching the video, tears were already coming out. That was the point that I realized that I needed that class and those people. And God knew it. He put it on my mind, and He was right. His plan works.

April 16, 2009

Psalm 139

Above is Matthew's name in the sand. How beautifully done. Here is the link- To Write Their Names in the Sand. Thank you all for such a wonderful service!

I was reading Psalm 139 today and it really tugged at my heart. I love how our Maker knows everything about us. He is with us wherever we are.
He was there during all of the doctors appointments, bladder taps, when I would curl up on the couch and cry, He was watching. God knew how he was going to use Matthew, before we even knew there was a Matthew. When my feelings of guilt ever rise up within me, I know I can always turn to this passage and feel relief. His masterpiece, our Matthew, our Gift from God, already had his life planned out. And what a meaningful, loving life it was. I love you and miss you my baby Matthew!

Psalm 139

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.

April 14, 2009

Abbie's Pre K Graduation

The time is coming soon! She had her graduation pictures taken and I wanted to share the proof. I can't believe she's almost 6 years old!


As much as I wish I had some pictures to post from Sea World, I do not. Plans fell through due to lack of sleep. We were supposed to wake up at 4 am, and leave at 5 to make it there by 6. Josh and I didn't get to bed until midnight. We decided it wouldn't be the best idea to spend a day at the park on only 4 hours of sleep. Poor Abbie would have been feeling it as well, because she didn't fall asleep until some time after 10:30! She was tossing and turning in her bed trying to fall asleep, but kept waking up thinking she heard the Easter Bunny!

We ended up going to church at 8:30 (no sunrise this year!)and eating breakfast at Dennys afterwards. We went and visited Matthew which was Abbie and Josh's first time back there (Raleigh was zonked out in the car). The cemetary was quite packed. There was even a guy camped out with his lawn chair! Not really my style, but I am pretty new to this cemetary thing. Abbie enjoyed decorating Matthew's spot and wanted it to be the prettiest one there.

So after we left Matthew, we went to a new park, right on the river. The kids got to play on the playground, and we also went down on the dock and watched the sailboats on the water. It was a beautiful day. The rest of the day we spent at home and I took a much needed nap.

I was thankful that Raleigh didn't even remember that we were supposed to go to SeaWorld. Abbie asked about it at Dennys and we told her why we didn't go. She pitched a short fit, but I knew that the Easter Bunny was a much bigger deal to her than SeaWorld. Phew.

I think the holidays will especially be difficult when thinking of Matthew. I wondered what kind of cute Easter onesie I would have put on him, and I know I would have taken a hundred pictures of his first Easter! Oh how I wish I could hold him just one more time! To run my fingers through his soft hair, hold his little fingers, kiss his tiny toes.

April 11, 2009

Pics from our Fun-Filled Easter Day!

Here are some pictures from our day today. I took the kids to an easter egg hunt this morning where they got to do crafts, visit with the Easter Bunny (Raleigh would have no part in that one!) and hold some baby chicks. Lots of excitement! I took them down to the river as well.

Then we went to another egg-stravaganza with pony rides and games. That one really wore me out, especially being out in the heat. Tomorrow's plan is to go to Sea World in Orlando for sunrise service. We will be in the Bayside Stadium by 6 Am. It's only an hour away, but we will still have to leave by 5 am. Yikes! It's hosted by a local Christian radio station, and will have band Big Daddy Weave, and guest speaker Blair from the Facts of Life. (Anyone remember her? I think it was before my time.)We are anticipating getting tickets to go to the park afterwards, but I am hoping it won't be too busy! I will be sure to post some pics after I recover from the trip!

I am really looking forward to being outside to watch God's beautiful sunrise as we praise Him for sacrificing His Son! He has done wonderful things in our lives and He loves us with such an amazing, everlasting love! We praise you and lift up your name, Lord!!!!

The Culprit!

Here's our nasty critter. We finally caught 'em, just hope there's not more!

April 10, 2009

How to Catch a Coon

Ok, so this is a bit different than my regular posts, but I must share.

For more than a month now, we have had some very unwelcomed visitors going through our trash cans. I am only assuming they are raccoons, because almost every day (with the exception of trash pick up days) I go outside to find the cans knocked over, trash bags in shreds, and food and garbage all over the place. It doesn't sound like the work of an opposum, but you never know.

So my dad gave us a trap to borrow and catch the culprit. I put it out two nights ago with a bowl of grape jelly in the back. Nothing. We have two indoor/outdoor cats and I think I may have given them a little too much credit when I decided they were too smart to go in. It's jelly; do they ever jump on the table when I'm making peanut butter and jelly? Nope. Meatloaf? Of course.

I came back yesterday afternoon when I finished running some errands. Low and behold, who is meowing up a storm? None other than Little Kitty. Yes, that is her name. Sort of. Her real name is Roxy, but she only gets called that maybe once a year. Can you guess the other cats name? You got it- Big Kitty...aka Friend. Yes, we are a creative bunch.

Anyways, I had some extra beef left over from dinner last night and decided to give the coons a treat they couldn't resist. Abbie comes in my room at 5:30 this morning and wakes me up.

Abbie: "Mommy, I heared a noise outside my window!"
Me: "Do you think we caught something?"
Abbie: "Yeah, let's go out and look!"

Out we go into the cold, trying to determine what is in the trap. One of the trash cans is knocked over, that's a good sign. It's too dark to see what is in the trap, because the light from the front porch won't reach that far. Still about 15 feet away, we start inching forward. Not because I am afraid of what's in the cage- I know it can't hurt me when I'm out here- but because I'm afraid of the dark. (Yes, it's true. Yes, I'm a little ashamed. I keep our bathroom light on with the door cracked so there is light in the bedroom. Maybe I just need a night light.)

We hear some sort of rustling noise, but not from the cage. It's coming from the other side of my car, which we are standing right in front of. Suddenly, something comes out running like lightning from the other side of my car with a heavy panting sound. And it was big. I tell Abbie. "RUN!!!" We dash inside, our hearts pounding heavily.

I had absolutely no idea what it was, but it scared the socks off me. All I saw was the outline of the creature. When I think panting, I think dog. But it seemed heavier than a dog's panting, and only one time in the last 3 years living in our house have I seen a dog running losing near our house. It will probably remain a mystery, because I hope to never go outside, without my hubby, in the wee morning hours again. As far as the creature in the cage, it was Big Kitty. He was left in there until it was nice and sunny, about 7 AM. I'm sure he enjoyed that beef though!

We will try again tonight, with BOTH cats inside. If Abbie wakes me again, she will just have to wait! I will welcome any coon catching experts comments out there!

April 8, 2009


Milestone- a significant event or stage in the life, progress, development, or the like of a person, nation, etc.

Abbie will be graduating from PreK next month and will also be performing in her first dance recital.
Raleigh will be entering PreK in August and we will begin to look into sports options, most likely T-ball.

The host of the radio station I listen to was talking the other day about how her brother's birthday was the next day. She had neglected to send him a card, and, knowing she couldn't get one across the country in one day, was asking the listeners for ideas on what to send him. She said it would have been easier had it been her sister's birthday because she could have ordered flowers and had them there on time. Being for her brother, it was a different case.

Her situation struck a pain in my heart. It made me sad. It's one of those moments where I'm doing something completely normal, then a new thought about Matthew comes into mind. This thought was that Abbie and Raleigh would never have their Matthew to send birthday cards to. To watch at his graduation or cheer for at his baseball games.

Because I was the one who carried Matthew for 34 weeks and dealt with more physical and emotional pain, I was very focused on my own healing and the present time. I didn't yet understand what his loss meant to others, even my own family, through now and into the future. I had barely scratched the surface of the pain and wonders that Abbie, Raleigh and Josh would endure.

It makes me think back to what goes through their little minds when mommy and daddy say there will be a new baby in the family. Do they dream of singing him a lullaby, rocking him to sleep, pushing him in the stroller, or just looking at him in amazement with his tiny toes and fingers?

Were their dreams crushed when we told them Matthew would not be coming home with us from the hospital after he is born? Or did new ones begin with thoughts of their own special angel watching them from above?

Today marks one month since Matthew was born and died. Another milestone, and today I am okay. A friend came over and visited with me, and for that I am thankful.
I also went to the Old Time Pottery store this morning looking for an area rug. Instead I found statue of a little boy kneeling in prayer in a garden. Next to him is a scroll with wings at the top of it. The scroll says "Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:4" How perfect. I feel good that I have something to bring to his empty grave.

One last note- we made the Resurection eggs a few days ago that were recommended. The kids had the greatest time scavenging for the items to fill the eggs with, and putting the items and scripture inside. We sat down to go over the story, and Raleigh lost interest after egg #2. Abbie, however, was very into it. She listened intently and loved opening her eggs and giving me the scripture. Sometimes I'll ask them to tell me the story of Easter, and they do really well explaining it. Even Raleigh understands the basics of the story which is wonderful.

April 6, 2009

My Love for God

I have been studying the Bible and spending a lot of time speaking to the Lord since being home after Matthew. I can't even express in words the depth of how much my relationship with God has changed. Just amazing. In turn, our home life has improved and become more structured and loving and focused on God! I was missing out on so much!

Are you growing in your love for God? I want to share a bit on our love for God that I have read about. After reading this, it was very pleasing to know that I could honestly say "yes" to every point. My personal thoughts and experiences are included. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did learning about it.

John 21:15-17

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?"
"Yes, Lord," Peter said,"you know I love you."
"Then feed my lambs," Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
"Yes, Lord, " Peter said, "You know I love you."
"Then take care of my sheep,"Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, "Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Then feed my sheep."

Peter knew that he had let Jesus down when he denied him three times before the Crucifixion. But Peter also knew that Jesus had forgiven him. Jesus tested Peter by asking him "Do you love me?" three times.
In the original language of this text, Peter's response to Jesus' questions has great significance. When Jesus posed the questions, he had basically asked, "Peter, do you love me with a sacrificial, committed love?" But Peter responded with a different word for love. Peter essentially said, "Lord, I like you. I love you as a friend."
Atleast Peter was honest. He told Jesus the truth about his committment. Interestingly enough, Jesus still enlisted Peter in his service, to care for his sheep. Jesus wanted Peter to affirm his devotion before giving him direction for ministry. As this story implies, we must love God before we can serve him faithfully.

Here are five ways to tell if you really love God:

1. You will long for personal Communion with Him.
"As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God." Psalm 42:1
When you really love God, you will delight in praise and worshipping him because your heart will overflow with love for God. This love will cause you to look forward to spending time with Him and his people.

I usually spend atleast an hour a day in reading. Josh and I just started two different studies. One focuses on couples, and the other focuses on raising your children to love God. So good so far! After the kids go to sleep in their beds (yay, finally!) we have that time to ourselves to communicate and do devotionals.

2. You will love the things He loves.
We know what God loves by what He has declared in the Bible. So if you love God, you will love His Word!

And I do! I remember not long ago when reading the Bible would have been more like a chore. I saved it for church only. Now I have to have my daily dose, and often have a hard time puttng it down. Like one of those great novels I used to read and finish in five days. I just don't want to put it down! Now that I understand God's love better, it has more meaning.

3. You will hate what He hates.
As the Lord's nature becomes your nature, his likes and dislikes will become your likes and dislikes. His outlook becomes your outlook. We know from his Word that he hates sin. If we love him, then we should also hate sin.

So true. My personal example. I have always been the type of person that takes a while to forgive someone. I can stay mad and you may never know why (my poor hubby). I have learned how important is to forgive, just as Jesus told God to forgive those who crucified him.

4. You will long for His return.
Jesus described himself as a bridegroom(Mark 2:19). His bride is the church- the body of believers (Ephesians 5:23-29). When Jesus returns, he will be united with his bride. Therefore, if you love the Lord, you will long for his return as a bride longs for her bridegroom.

I know I am going to Heaven! I suppose if I didn't know, I may not look forward to His return so much. Heaven will be more than we can imagine and I look forward to what that amazing life will be like!

5. You will keep His commandments.
Jesus says, "If you love me, obey my commandments" (John 14:15) Though it is impossible for any of us who loves God to go on an endless course of sin, we will still occassionally fall into individual sins. But if we love God, we will repent of those sins and seek his forgiveness, and his lifestyle will conform to the truths we find in His Word.

Giving our son, Matthew, life when the doctors pushed us to take it away! The Lord created our son for a reason, and we wanted obey His plan. We would have had it no other way.

April 2, 2009

Need Easter Ideas

I am looking for some ideas if any of you have anything to contribute.

First idea needed: Looking for a creative way of teaching the kids about the meaning of Easter. I checked out a book from the library with some beautiful pictures, but there are a lot of words and I'm not sure they will be able to sit still and take it all in.

Second idea needed: We will be going back to visit Matthew for Easter and I would like to bring him something. I'm looking for a craft that the kids can do with some assistance, Easter related. Like a cross or an angel. It needs to be pretty weather resistant.

I'll do some searching online also, but I thought you readers may have something you have done that has worked well.


Visiting Matthew

Yesterday, I went and visited with Matthew for the first time since he died. I had been wanting to for over a week but kept putting it off, maybe waiting for the right time. I wanted to go without the kids for the first time, not knowing what I would be feeling upon being back at the cemetary. I can imagine Raleigh throwing a fit because he wants to see the big "hole" that Matthew is in.

His grave is in a newer section of the cemetary, actually the Veteran section. My grandfather, who is still alive, is a vet. He and my grandmother have spaces in there for when they pass. My aunt (g-pa's daughter) died of leukemia several years ago, and they had her moved next to their spaces. We are glad that he is in with family and the arrangements worked out very well for the situation.

Tears started streaming down my face as I drove to the back. I don't recall ever visiting anyone's grave in my life and hoped to be the only one there. I pulled off to the side where Matthew is and noticed a tent with chairs not far from where I was at. There was a table in the front where a casket would soon be placed. At each end of the table silently and still, stood two soldiers. I thought about how sad they must be feeling to have to bury one of their own. I hoped in my mind that whoever he was, got to lead a loving and fulfilling life knowing Christ.

I walked over to Matthew, noticing the small patch of grass that covered him. There was also a new sign. It was small and plastic, marking who he is until we order a bronze setting.

Matthew A. Harden

Such a short life. I wondered if anyone else had noticed him. I had hoped so. The flowers we left after the ceremony were gone. It had been a few weeks, so I'm sure they were very dried out by now and the grounds workers cleaned them up for us.

I knelt down next to the fresh sod and spoke to the Lord, thanking him once again for my precious son. My tears were falling to the ground as I wept silently. I'm sure Matthew saw every one of them from above and could feel the love. I felt a bit rushed, not wanting to be in the way if the funeral precession were to come my way. I looked back and noticed that the soldiers had moved from their place by the table, on to the roadside behind me. They were standing there ever so still in position, out of respect for me and my son. I got up and brushed the dirt off my knees, and just thought about my Matthew for a few minutes, wishing I had brought him something cheery. As I walked back to the car, the soldiers walked back to their position at the ends of the table. I didn't know those gentlemen, but I was very proud of them, and I'm sure their fellow soldier would have been as well. My time was my son was very important, and their actions showed that they understood that.