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Monday, December 23, 2013

Angel Daddy- Unapologetically Proud

Gabe and I talk about Angel Daddy.  Regularly.  I have purposely not shown him pictures of Angel Daddy with the name (but of course, he has seen pictures, and also has had it associated with "Angel Daddy", which is fine as well). I want him to know and understand him on his own; his own association of this (which is blossoming beautifully), shows me what I need to know.  He KNOWS who Angel Daddy is, even without me constantly trying to pair the association.  He KNOWS how important Angel Daddy is. HE KNOWS. And ultimately, that matters to me, to us, to our family.

I know that the concept of Angel Daddy is very uncomfortable to many.  I have been told it several times by very well meaning individuals, several that are the closest to me. I know that they are telling me their thoughts, their concerns, with the best of intentions. And I appreciate it from those closest to me.  However, I can tell you, wholeheartedly and unabashedly, that they are wrong.

I had thought about parenthood before Matt died, and then desperately thought about it after he died. I had been wanting a baby, and could not wait until it was "our time" to have our family. I had been wondering what it would be like- to be a mother- and I had been wondering what it would be like- to never have that chance. I wanted this so incredibly badly that I could not even manage my own thoughts. I could not control that Matt was gone, but I had control over the chance of becoming a mommy, and the circumstances surrounding it (or, so I thought). I thought I was going to just do it all by myself. I thought I was going to become pregnant by myself and go through pregnancy by myself and be in labor by myself and just do it all by myself. And I could have, and I would have. When I approached my doctor about this, he told me that I was young, and that I would find someone.  I cannot even tell you the hurt, the pain, the sorrow and the grief that this brought me. I did not want someone else. I did not want another man's baby. I only wanted the baby that I could call Matt's and mine.  That's what I wanted; that's what WE wanted.  And, unfortunately for my doctor, I let him have it.  Grief, pain, hurt, intellect- it all came out to him. Grief included- I was an intelligent woman who can make decisions for myself in my best interest.  And now, they include a child. And now, I am still an intelligent woman who can and will make decisions for us in our best interest. I will not always have the answers; situations have and will come up that I am not sure how to handle.  But you can be damn sure that when I make a decision, it will be the right one for our family.

What I am trying to say is that even the most well-meaning and even well-educated individuals have never been in my position. They have never been in a place where the pain of losing a spouse paired with the loss and grief of not having a child and a family with that person is too much to bear. They will (hopefully) never know this pain, this sorrow and this grief. Some may experience this loss and this secondary grief as well, and they may very well not make the same choices as me, and that is absolutely fine- trust that an individual in this situation can make decisions like this. (I know I sure thank those that trusted me and my decision!!)  But, even with the same loss, they have never experienced this loss through my eyes and in my life, just as I have never experienced their loss through their eyes and in their life. Because of this fact, anyone and everyone other than me is not an expert on my life. This decision I have made, this terminology I have used, this is special to our life. This is special to our circumstances, and this is incredibly special to my heart. I stand by this choice, and will, for forever.

Angel Daddy is in our lives daily. Angel Daddy is important to our well-being. Angel Daddy is the reason that we have our own little family.  Angel Daddy is the reason that I love and we love like we do- that we know that whatever we have we could lose at any second, so we want to not only hold on, but hold on tightly, to the wonderful people in our lives. Angel Daddy is the way that neither Gabe nor I feel isolated in this world. The term Angel Daddy came to me almost immediately when I decided that I wanted this child that had come to me- no- when I accepted the gift of this child that had been given to me.  Like many thoughts, feelings, ideas that I have, I feel they came from God and Matt- they are a piece of him living through me. And I will never second-guess this.

The other night, we were at a friend's house for dinner and a birthday party. It was a special night, and we are so incredibly thankful that we were and are included in this family's thoughts and gatherings.  These are very special people who we met before Matt died. In fact, I had met many of them before I had met Matt.  They love us, and we love them. Some of them I told about Gabriel during my call-sessions to my closest friends as I was on my way to pick him up. They stand by me, support me and love me, and now they stand by us, support us, and love us.  And they accept us.

While there, Gabe, again, brought up the concept of "daddy".  He has done this a few times before. This was the first time he had done it in a slightly more public setting.  The first time he did it, we were the house of some other friends.  He called my friend "Daddy".  He sees my friend as part of a happy family with a Mommy, Daddy and two kids. He sees the kids call their daddy "Daddy". He hears the kids' mom say "go ask Daddy".  When he called my friend "Daddy", it melted my heart, and also about ripped it out.  I was so happy to see him identify this man as a "daddy", as someone that he felt comfortable enough with to give hugs when we leave, to go outside with when (his own) Mommy stays inside with this man's wife, having "Mommy" conversations, and he feels comfortable enough to play games with him. This man is the only man that I have left my child with for an extended period of time that is not family. I also knew that this meant it was time, that my son is ready to have a man in his life like this. This family supported me; they helped me find the humor and irony in the situation. They also love us and accept us.

When at my friend's house this weekend for the party, when Gabe did this more publicly, I was comforted to know that, I think, only one person noticed it.  Luckily, this was someone that I feel very comfortable with. Someone that Matt knew and was friends with, and someone that I truly feel will not and did not judge me for this happening.  Gabe wanted to go outside where all the men were; he was looking for "Daddy", just as he had seen the other kids run in and out all night doing. He knew there were daddies out there. He just wondered which one was his. And he was truly excited about it. His excitement made me realize how much he wants this- to open this "present"- and how I am letting him down right now.

When he did this, I was embarrassed.  I was awkward and didn't know what to say.  I was NOT embarrassed at the actions of my child.  I was embarrassed at the fact that I do not yet know how to handle this; I hadn't made a decision.  I do not yet understand how to best approach this with my child, my wonderful, honest, caring, loving child, nor did I know what my reaction should be in front of others.  I was also petrified of what their reactions might be towards us, which, I suppose, is the reason for writing this. I need to prepare for the reactions. And, I am not just preparing myself.

When I chose the terminology "Angel Daddy" for Matt, it was not to constantly remind everyone, including Gabriel, that Matt is dead.  Of course, this is true- he is indeed dead; he is indeed gone from us for the rest of our lives, and there is absolutely nothing that I can do nor that anyone else can do that will bring him back. I did not do this to confuse my child. I did not do this to make him not fit in with the other kids.  I did not do this to make him feel alone, different, isolated. I did this out of Love.

I chose the term "Angel Daddy" so that Gabe could differentiate and understand our situation.  I did not want Gabe to ever believe that we are biologically his- THAT would confuse him: I want him to be PROUD of the fact that he was sent to me through a miraculous event and divine intervention. I want him to understand his story- our story. I want him to know that he fits perfectly with me, with our family, and with our friends, and that he is loved, so, so loved.  I wanted him to know that, no matter what, he has a Mommy who loves him very much, and a man that wanted nothing more than to be a Daddy to him, and to share him with his Mommy.  Because of circumstances beyond our control, this did not happen as it was planned, but regardless, it did happen. I did this because I want him to feel loved, special, part of something important. I want him to know that Angel Daddy is something that he can be proud of, and also that Angel Daddy and Mommy are always very proud of him. I wanted him to believe in the powers of God, in the reality of miracles, and in the Love that we give and receive daily.

I also chose the term Angel Daddy so that I could leave it open for a time when someone special came in to our lives.  I wanted him to have the freedom to have a daddy, if he so chooses- this will absolutely only be Gabe's decision if he wants to open his heart to someone and call him Daddy. What my child is telling me now is that he does want a daddy.  What a special person this will be.

That night, we came home and we talked about Angel Daddy.  He knows that Angel Daddy loves him. He knows that Angel Daddy is important in our lives. He knows that Angel Daddy is in Heaven with Jesus and God, and that he watches us and loves us from far away.  Gabe knows that Mommy loves him and he knows that Mommy misses Angel Daddy every day. He also knows that even though Mommy misses Angel Daddy, I still enjoy life, and I still work, plan, enjoy, have fun and am loving and kind to those around us.   Gabe knows that he is very, very special to my life. He knows that someday he will have someone to call Daddy.  Gabe knows Angel Daddy's name is Matthew Gabriel Wagstaff (and quickly says "I'm GabwielWagftaff too!").

What I have given to my son, then, is the best of both worlds.  I know this makes people uncomfortable, but that is not my choice- that is other people's choice. And from the beginning, I have said that I need absolutely nothing but love and support and positivity in this area of my life- of our life. And I absolutely mean that. I have a sweet, well-adjusted, intelligent, funny, loving, caring, adorable and courageous child. And I have a child to whom I have given the best of both worlds.  I have a child that knows that he is loved wherever he goes, and I have a child that also knows that it is okay to love and move forward in life, even if those we love are no longer with us physically. I have a child that will believe in miracles, and will believe in giving love and kindness to others.  What more could any parent ask for?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

God's Grace is Sufficient for Me.

Many of you know about my "Couch Nights".  I used to have them during deployment, and many spouses of deployed soldiers do this, but I still carry on this "tradition". I do it when I am lonely, mostly, when I am too tired or exhausted to get up and carry myself to my bedroom to fall in to sleep's caress.  When I am too lonely to feel the large bed without my husband in it.

I used to turn my DVR to play all of the "Through the Wormhole" episodes. I love Morgan Freeman.  I love his calming, soothing voice, his voice of reassurance and comfort.  Even when he talks about some tragedy, it is still so calming.  In Bruce Almighty, I was so excited to see Morgan Freeman playing God, because that voice is how I hear my God.  Calming, soothing, reassuring and comforting.

One night, I was up late, trying to laugh at SNL (which, well....doesn't happen too much anymore).  After SNL came this show "Your Move with Andy Stanley".  This show caught my attention. It made me think and understand things in ways I haven't yet. It made me.....connect.

I have since DVR'd episodes of Andy Stanley, and have watched them on my couch nights.  I generally find myself watching an entire series in one night, even if I have seen them before.  I find something new each time. 

Many of you know my story of my salvation, of my recognition of God's comfort and grace and redemption, and it was found in the tragedy of losing my husband.  Before I met Matt, I was agnostic. I just didn't know. I just didn't see how, if there was a saving, loving God, he would let all the bad in our world happen. He would let babies die, cancer sweep across wonderful people, bad people continue on.  How does this happen?

Matt was very secure in his Christianity, and he had no doubts who his Savior was.  He knew where he was going "someday".  We didn't go to Church, but sometimes, now, I wonder if that was more me than just his decision.  I wonder if my discomfort with this was something that he was just waiting to fade away.  I do blame myself for that sometimes, and wish that I had it together so that maybe we could have shared in this together.  I see families and couples at church now, and I am so happy for them, but filled with guilt and loneliness that I am there alone.  That my other half, my husband, is not there with me to share and learn, and then talk about it afterwards and apply it to our lives together, as husband and wife, and as a family.

Someone very close who has suffered this loss with me, once asked me how and why people find God in loss and tragedy.  While I was coming closer to my acceptance of God and Jesus during our marriage, I still wasn't there completely yet. I still had my doubts.  But after losing Matt, after receiving his "remains" (I shudder at the word) in Dover in the dignified transfer, I found Him. I felt Him. I felt the Holy Spirit and the protection and comfort in my desperation, in my sorrow, in my grief, in my resistance.  I found Him.  I haven't always done my best to seek Him out since then. I have had complete strife with Him, I have had arguments, bargaining, and literally cuss-out battles with Him.  But, through all of this, through all of my desperation, my sorrow, my grief, my resistance, my arguments, my bargaining and my screams, I have learned: He still loves me.  He still comforts me.  He still protects me.

This weekend, or month, really, I have had more "couch nights".  Several in a row.  Right now, the Your Move series is talking about Love, Sex and Relationships (interesting stuff- check it out).  I kept watching though, through more series.  I haven't had a lot of time to catch up on everything, but had break week this last week from school so watched. And listened, and maybe even transformed a little.

I came across this series on a particular night when I was feeling lonely, desperate, looking for answers, looking for guidance, looking for- any sign that God was there.  The series is called "Why God?"

Andy Stanley talks about when God is Inattentive, Uncooperative and Late.  How appropriate, right?  Well, he starts out by asking the audience, and even those at home, raise their hand if they felt that God had ever been described by these terms. I raised my hand, scoffing in a sense- "uh, yeah, obviously".  He showed that every person in the audience had felt this way.  "You thought it was just you!"

My apologies now for lack of verses in here. They are in the series videos, though. I recommend you check out this series, especially if you ever feel that Your God is letting you down (and even, or especially, if you aren't Christian):

Since many of you know my experience and my struggles, especially through this blog, you may be able to relate to the timeline I discuss. Let me tell you a little about my experiences, and how they relate to the stories told:

How many times did I pray? Did I truly pray for Matt to come home, safely, to me, to his family, to his friends? For our life to be able to be what it was supposed to be?  How many times, as a new-ish Christian-ish person, did I pray?  And how many times did I feel that He didn't even know I was there? That He didn't even know me?  And this was before Matt died.

When Matt died, I found God, I found the Holy Spirit, I found comfort, and I KNEW this is what it was, but boy did I think, for a while, that this might have been a one-time short spell.  I still thought that since God ignored me then, He didn't answer my prayer then, He was just trying to make up for it now.  Sort of like when you have a friend, they go through a hard time and you miss all of the signs, all of the times they have tried to reach out to you, and then the stuff hits the fan and you feel guilty, so then you want to be involved, to help, to make it up to them.

In the series, Andy talks about the story of John the Baptist's time in prison. John the Baptist thought that Jesus had forgotten about him, he couldn't understand why he was suffering, and why his cousin, whom he had devoted so much time, energy, commitment to, would leave him just sitting there, as if he didn't even know who he was. John even asked if Jesus was the savior that he had been telling people about- questioning that Jesus was who he said he was. Jesus then told John's messengers to go back and tell them what they had seen and heard, since John's view, perception, pain, was only as big as his prison cell- he didn't realize what was going on outside himself.

I can relate to this now, looking back. While I was going through my pain of losing my husband and, essentially, my life as I had wanted it to be, and writing it down in my blog and sharing it, I can see how this applies to me. So many times, my words had helped someone else. So many times, my words, my pain, my weakness, had shown someone else something that they could realize in regards to their own decisions, their own situations, and their own lives. Getting those emails, messages, conversations- that also helped me pull through. In a way, it helped me realize, even when I hurt the very most and was screaming at an ungiving God, that God was using my weakness to help others. I am very appreciative of that. This has glorified God, it has helped others see more clearly in their situations, and has helped them, hopefully, seek out God. Sometimes this has happened without me even mentioning His name.

How many times have I prayed? While Matt was deployed. After he passed. After I got better at praying, how many conversations have I had that have said "I will do this if you just do that?" And God, while, I know He was listening, just told me "No".  I can tell you- I do not like to hear those two little letters said together to form a sentence.  No. 

Matt died 3 days shy of 7 months after he deployed. He was to come home in only 3 more weeks for his R&R, and our honeymoon. While we didn't want to have children until we had our ideal one year together as husband and wife and he could actually be home with me during our forming miracle, it was something that we wanted. We wanted to have a piece of each other, we wanted to be a family and have a family and share our family with our family and friends. I prayed and prayed and prayed that I was pregnant, starting from, oh, about 12 hours after I found out Matt died. Please, please, please, please, PLEASE let me be pregnant. Let me have this piece of him. I want to share this with our family, our friends. This is all I have left of a piece of him- his flesh and his eyes, and his nose, and his hair, and his, and his, and his....PLEASE GOD! Let me have this piece of him. "No." Then, ten months came and left since I had seen him. It's not a possibility. Eleven months had come and gone. Even God won't do this for me. I will not have this piece of him anymore. He is dead. God, please let him live. "No." God, please let me be pregnant. "No."

This most certainly applies directly to me. Absolutely, positively, directly to me, and to my son, Gabriel. I asked and asked and asked to have Matt's son, or daughter, as long as it was a piece of Matt. I asked and asked and asked that God bring Matt home, with this being some crazy mistake, mix up, secret mission, whatever- I would forgive all. So many times. God was uncooperative. I did not get to have his child. He did not come home. But, God showed His glory, his miracle when, 10 months after Matt's death, almost to the day, I took custody of my five week old little baby boy, my little Angel baby, my little Miracle, God's big show of His Glory. He was uncooperative in the moment so that He could show me, and many, many others, His Glory through my weakness, my strife, my loss, my pain, my sorrow, and my desperation. This little boy, my little Angel, my miracle, has made God's being uncooperative to me in my moment of need absolutely worth it. And not only did I already find God, and the Holy Spirit through Matt's death, but through Gabriel's presence, I sought Him. I found a church while home in Illinois and accepted that Jesus had died for my sins, and I was worthy of this gift, and sought guidance to find a church when I came back to my home in Tennessee. I am now a member of a church that provides me hope and healing, even, and maybe even especially, when I don't think I need it.


Was God late with my son? Was he? Now that I know how his glory showed through with this, I cannot say that he was. When I was originally thinking about this blog, I was going to use the "late" as a way to discuss my son coming to me. I had not yet seen the uncooperative segment of the series. But now, as I write this, I realize that Late is going to be a message of a different order.

Andy talks about Jesus being late to heal Lazarus, and how he showed up after Lazarus being dead for four days, despite his sisters sending a message that Lazarus was ill. Mary and Martha (Lazarus' sisters) were angry at Jesus, and felt betrayed by Him, because had Jesus come earlier, He could have saved their brother. He could have healed Lazarus, and Lazarus wouldn't have died. Jesus told them that Lazarus would live again. Mary and Martha believed that he would, as they knew about the Resurrection and living in eternity with God. Jesus wanted to show them, and everyone around them, that through Him, and through God, and belief in them, anything could happen. Again, Jesus was giving the Glory to God for his works and his abilities. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, out of the tomb. Those watching were so astonished, Jesus had to tell them to take off the grave clothes from Lazarus.

Andy started this conversation, I should mention, that God is not inattentive, not uncooperative, and that " never.....Late". So powerful.

The best way that I can relate this back, at this time, to my situation, is that maybe God was late getting to the aircraft, maybe he was late saving those on board, and that he just wasn't on time. I remember the first time I read the story of Lazarus about 1.5 years after Matt died, I just kept thinking and hoping that this meant he was going to bring Matt home. My home. Not God's home, my home. But now I know differently. Now I know that God has a purpose, and that I do not know it. But, I feel in my heart, now, even though I have been told millions of times, that I will know the purpose someday, that I will understand it all someday.

Maybe the late part is that if God had saved Matt, and the others, then our children would have fathers. Our children would not be "fatherless", we would not have the burdens of raising our children without a male figure, would would not have the burdens of doing every. single. thing. alone. Maybe that is what I am to find in this? But, that gives me hope that, because God is never late, I won't always be alone. We won't always be alone.

It still hurts. It still stings to know that Matt is dead. It always will be difficult to know this and to live with this pain. But, with what I have learned, especially from this series, is that, truly, God is never late. All I can think here is that God does have more in store for me. More in store for Gabriel and I. I don't know what it is. But, I can have faith that no matter the pain that I am going through, He is not late in delivering what it is that I need, that Gabriel needs, and even that you need. Through the chaos, there is a reason, and it is truly all in His time. I cannot tell you how many times my pastor has said this- again and again. I guess I am pretty stubborn and I need to hear it that umpteenth time for it to sink in.

I hope that this might bring hope to many in despair. I hope that this might bring clarity to situations that are out of our control. I hope that this might allow others to have a little more faith when it is small, dwindling, or hanging by a string. My faith has been tested in ways that I have never thought possible, that I have never thought a loving God would put me through. But, now I can see why. He has a reason, and it is so that the word can get out about Him, people can seek Him, and people can be saved by Him. The reason is so that he can be glorified, even in failure, weakness, trouble and despair. Through weakness, God's glory can be shown. God's grace has shown me so much, and will continue to do so. As Andy says, "In my weakness, He is Strong."

Even if one person can relate to this message, then my pain has value.

God's Grace is Sufficient for Me.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Has it really been a year since I posted?  Oh my. 

So many times this last year I have thought I need to write that. I need to write again. I need to get that down, I need to get it OUT.  But, obviously, so many times I have failed, gotten distracted, gotten lazy, pushed it down.

But more than anything, I just didn't have words.

Here we are.  2013.  And all I can think about is pictures.

Pictures rule my world. Two of my best friends are photographers. Pictures capture our moments, they capture stages, they capture emotion, love, beauty, ugliness, faith, healing, strength, weakness, color, texture.  Everything.

And all I can think about is pictures.

When Matt died, I searched and searched through every picture I had. I desperately wanted more and more- any I could get my hands on, and was and am still very appreciative of all that were and are shared. I ordered them for myself, for our family, for our friends, and obsessed over them.  It was all I had. Why didn't I take more? Why didn't I have my camera on in every waking moment? Why didn't I get the CHANCE to have the camera in his face for our R&R like I had teased him that I would?  Oh yeah.  Because God needed him more than I did.

When I was frantically ordering pictures, in the back of my mind, I scaled down. I drastically scaled down. I didn't order all that I wanted. I didn't order all that I needed.  Even then, I knew what their fate had to be.  I have ordered some since then, but no matter what, pictures do not replace him; they do not replicate him. They do not bring him back.  Pictures can catch everything. Everything in two dimensions. They can portray whatever they like. But they cannot capture and replace or continue on what is lost.  The feelings, the love, the smell, the breath, the forever that was supposed to be there but is now gone.

This past week, pictures have been weighing heavily on my mind.  Maybe its just because I had our three year anniversary, which is the third one without him.  Maybe it is because I am desperately seeking normalcy still. I am stuck between New and Normal.  Nothing is new, yet nothing is yet normal.

The most difficult thing about pictures on my mind: at some point, I am expected to get rid of them. To put them away. To hide them, maybe?

Here is my dilemma.  When it comes to pictures, parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, friends, and even strangers can keep them.  It is okay.  No one asks them or assumes they will get rid of them. Put them away. Hide them, maybe. Widows are expected to get rid of them. To put them away. To hide them, maybe.

Please know that I am not AT ALL upset that others get to keep them.  Slightly envious, maybe, but not upset at this.  Thank goodness they get to keep them. Thank goodness I get to see them when I visit, when I go here or there. Thank goodness this is okay. And thank goodness I am allowed that opportunity.

But for me, someday, it won't be.  Some day, someone will see it as awkward. Some day, someone will find it uncomfortable. Some day, someone will tell me to get rid of them. To put them away. To hide them, maybe.  Some day, I will no longer be able to be stubborn, I will no longer be able to argue and win my need versus theirs. Some day, I will get rid of them. I will put them away. I will hide them, maybe.

And it breaks my heart.

I don't understand why I cannot have this season of my life, albeit short-much shorter than I would have planned it to be- as a piece of my life moving forward.  I don't understand why I am expected to get rid of them. To put them away. To hide them, maybe.

This is the argument.  How would you like it if someone had pictures of their ex all over the house? You would want them to get rid of them. To put them away. To hide them, maybe.  Yes. I would. But this is so different. This is so, so, so different.  Nothing offends me more (now that the whole baby thing is out of the way) than someone comparing a break up, divorce, nasty argument, to the loss of my husband.  They are NOT the same. In no way, in no shape, in no world are these the same or comparable. At all. Period.   My reaction in the past has been to simply ignore this. But in this situation, when it comes to my pictures, our pictures, his pictures, I cannot ignore, and I will not agree.

Another argument: It will be uncomfortable at some point to have pictures of me and another man in the house. While this is a more feasible and acceptable argument, I still call "Crap".  If there is a person that I am comfortable enough with to allow in my home, don't you think that they would know this back story? I am open enough about it that anyone that asks or questions knows this back story. If I ever find myself in this dilemma, I am sure that it will be in a relationship that is strong, and more than likely, will have equal pictures.  If this makes one uncomfortable, then I guess that the relationship is not strong. Or they don't need to be in my home.

My pictures make me happy. My pictures make me smile. My pictures make me love. My pictures remind me. My pictures remind me that I was onced loved. My pictures give me hope that I can be loved again.  Don't make me get rid of them. Don't make me put them away. Don't make me hide them, maybe.