fostering a grateful spirit

"If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams, and you will always look lovely." -Roald Dahl


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{worn}

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I am going to start this post out with two disclaimers:
1. What I need to write about tonight is a pretty difficult topic and deals with some very personal things going on in my life. If you don’t want to know about the deep and difficult things we’re dealing with, that’s totally fine (truly, I understand), but then this blog post is not for you.
2. There are many people that we love dearly that we have not shared this news with. PLEASE, if you are someone important to us that is finding out this news from this post, please be gracious and know that we love you and desire to share our lives with you. You are not, by any means, in the minority by not knowing what’s been going on. I was not planning on blogging about this, as it is difficult and deeply personal, but have, for various reasons, felt like I am supposed to. Even though I am writing about this news, it is still extremely difficult for us to actually say out loud, and besides the initial discussion with Drew, I’ve only actually said this news out loud once. I am sorry that you’re finding out this way, but its the best we can do right now, so please love us anyway.

A few weeks ago Drew and I found out that I had a miscarriage. I didn’t even know for sure that I was pregnant until I had miscarried, and though, in theory, that should make this easier, it doesn’t actually do much to ease the pain. I have been feeling very sad, angry, lonely and ashamed.
I was not planning on blogging about this. I actually have told very few people. I think, besides it being an extremely painful topic, the other reason that I haven’t talked about it much is because I felt ashamed–partly because of my tendency to determine my own value in my identity as a woman, and partly because no one talks about miscarriages. The statistics on miscarriages are widely varied, but (on the conservative side) 10-30% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage (and that is not counting fertilized eggs that implant incorrectly and are never viable, which skyrockets the percentage to 50-75%). If any other single thing was taking the lives of 10-30% of our children, there is no chance that people would be so quiet about it. Why are we not talking about this? If I had lost my baby at any point after birth, my grief, hurt, and anger would all be completely understandable. Why then, when a woman loses her unborn baby, does she feel alone and ashamed? It isn’t right, and that is why I’m writing this difficult (to write, and probably to read) post.

My body feels weird. Empty. Like something is missing. I feel it pretty close to all the time. I can’t get away from my own body, as much as I’d like to. So I have spent a good portion of the last few weeks dealing with feelings of anxiety, grief, anger, frustration and fear. Though I know logically that at only 4 weeks and 3 days old, there is nothing I could have done to save our sweet baby. I know that it wasn’t something I ate or drank or medicine I took. Apart from heavy drug or alcohol abuse, there is pretty much nothing you could possibly do that would cause you to lose a pregnancy that early. I’ve read tons of articles. I know it is not my fault. It would have happened no matter what I had done or not done. But I still feel responsible. I still wish, with every fiber of my being, that I could have known that I was pregnant so I could have done everything imaginable under the sun to keep that sweet baby safe. I know it wouldn’t have worked, but I still wish. On top of all of that, I also feel like a failure as a woman, wife and mom. Our bodies were created to nourish and protect our babies, and for whatever reason, mine did not. As I said, I know that there is nothing I could have done, but it is still a very real daily struggle to convince myself that I am not worth any less because my baby did not survive.

I am scared that I will not be able to carry a baby to term, although 80% of women who experience an early (in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy) miscarriage go on to have completely healthy babies. I am afraid that this will keep happening, and that even if I have a healthy pregnancy, I will be so terrified that the baby will not live that I won’t be able to enjoy the miracle and beauty of pregnancy. I am worried that though, as my mom said, I was “born to be a mom” I will never get to have that experience. It’s discouraging and frustrating and sad. What if this is just the beginning of a very hard journey that still ends with me not having the kids I’ve always wanted and prayed for? The what-ifs are enough to make even the most sane person crazy.

I am also just so sad. A few days after we found out I was having a particularly rough day and started sobbing while cutting potatoes. I was alone in the kitchen, cutting potatoes, sobbing. I felt (and sort of still feel) like a crazy person. How in the world could I possibly miss someone that I didn’t even know existed until she* was gone? It doesn’t make sense. But I do. I miss our sweet baby every single day. I am heartbroken that I will forever be a mother to a baby that I will never get to hold in my arms (on this side of Heaven). I had a baby growing inside of me- our sweet baby– and now my arms and my body are empty. It feels absolutely cruel.

And God, God and I are not in the best of places. Because I have been through difficult times before, in this situation I haven’t even really asked “why?” I am not, by any means, okay with what has happened, but I will not know the answers in this life (and even if I did, there is no answer that could be good enough for this mama who just wants to hold her baby). In all honesty, even if God Himself told me the reason that our sweet baby couldn’t keep living, it likely wouldn’t feel like a good enough reason for me. I am human and my mind cannot comprehend all that He knows and sees. I want what seems good from my perspective, and from down here, a growing, healthy baby seems pretty damn good. All that said, I know and believe that God is good. Even in my worst moments, there is something in me (the Holy Spirit, I believe) that absolutely refuses to stop knowing and believing that truth. When I am the most sad and lonely and angry, I still can’t help but believe that, somehow, God is still good. He is still in control, and He still loves me dearly. He knew and created my sweet baby, He knit her together in my womb, and about the only shred of comfort I’ve been able to find is the knowledge that I know the One who is holding our sweet baby, although we desperately wish it were us holding her. Some days I cling tightly to Him, to the Word, to the promise of life with Him and our baby. Some days I feel too hurt and angry, and I keep Him at a distance. I don’t want Him to go away, but I also don’t really want Him to come near. Thankfully, He is a gracious and loving God, who knows my heart and understands my pain, so He patiently waits until I’m ready to let Him get close again.

This is a process- a very painful one- and we are certainly still in the midst of it. I don’t have amazing insight or answers that will fix everything (or anything). But I couldn’t let this chance pass to tell you, if you stand where I do now, you are not alone. Certainly I believe that God is with you, but also the number of women who have been where you are is staggering. It doesn’t take away the sting, and it shouldn’t. “It happens to a lot of other women” is not meant as a platitude like “well, you’re not even close to the only one.” It is meant as a comfort that you are not alone. You don’t have to walk through this alone.

If your husband (or significant other) is anything like my sweet husband, he will try really, really hard to comfort you and to understand and to do whatever he can to make things better. He will tell you over and over that it’s not your fault, that it is okay you’re crying a river into your potatoes, that he’s not going anywhere. But his experience and grief will still be vastly different than yours, and that’s normal and okay. But please don’t believe that no one knows how you feel. Your experience is unique to you, your significant other and your sweet little loved one, but I promise you that you are not alone in the grief you’re experiencing. It is a tragic loss whether it is your first pregnancy that ends in a miscarriage, or you have had several, or you have several healthy children before you lose your baby. It is unbelievably painful and horrific whether your sweet baby is 4 weeks and the news of the pregnancy hadn’t sunk in yet, 10 weeks and only you and your significant other knew, or 16 weeks and you’d told everyone under the sun because things were going so well. I’m so sorry for your loss, and there is nothing I (or anyone else can say) that will make it right. It isn’t right, it’s tragic. But please don’t believe the lie that you don’t have the right to grieve or that your feelings aren’t valid just because your baby was not yet born. I wish it hurt less because of that, I really do. But it doesn’t because that sweet baby was part of you, and now that part is gone.

To close this very long post, I wanted to share with you just a few of the things that have made me feel understood, given me a moment of comfort, or even a moment of hope. Every person’s process is different, but I share some of mine in hopes that it may help someone, someday, with theirs. Thanks so much for bearing with me through this post, and thank you for letting me share such an important and personal part of my story.

ImageI found this on Pinterest (and cried) but love the Truth and grace of this quote. My sweet baby, who I love and miss, opened her eyes and saw the face of Jesus. The first, and only experience, she will have is perfect fellowship with her Creator. I long for her, I wish I could hold her, but I am thankful that she will never have to experience the painful parts of life or the sting of the effects of living in a fallen world. Jesus, hold her close for me please.

This song has been meaningful to me in my grief. I especially like this line: “I want to know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life and all that’s dead inside can be reborn.”

This song is older, but helps me put words to some of my feelings, and also reminds me that, though this pain is unimaginable, I am still being held by my Creator as well. Sometimes I think “peace that passes all understanding” looks like God supplying you with just enough (peace, energy, encouragement, faith, hope) to get through a day you never wanted to have to live through.

I also found the following quote “How terrible it is to love something that death can touch,” which I have drawn up with our sweet baby’s details and framed in our room. This was therapeutic for me (I think it was the first thing I did that made me feel like I was actually doing something) and was the thing that really helped make the loss real for Drew.

*I find myself referring to our sweet baby as “her.” Clearly at such a young age, we have no confirmation of the gender of our baby, but we believe that our sweet baby would have been a girl and it’s simpler to just refer to her as such, instead of a constant “her (or him)” every time she is mentioned.

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nearness {day 132}

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today I’m simply grateful for a God who promises to be near to the broken-hearted and to bind up their wounds.

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also grateful for all the times we are reminded that He is love, that those who spew hatred in His name are not from Him, and that in our darkest moments when we feel the least worthy, He loves us still.


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was God there? {day 131}

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As I continue to process and reflect on both the Sandy Hook tragedy and the season of Advent, I’ve found myself deeply disturbed by the responses I’ve seen and heard from friends, influential Christians and even political leaders. It’s something along the lines of this: “We remove God from the schools, and then are surprised when disaster strikes. He wasn’t there because we wouldn’t let him be.”

My heart has been wrestling with statements like this since I first saw them. Something about it feels deeply wrong to me. I came across two blogs today on the topic (here and here if you want to hear from people wiser than myself) that helped me wrestle with and put words to how I’m feeling.

First, I think it’s incredibly unkind to insinuate that God was not with those children and adults that were killed. Imagine being the parent of one of those children, and then listening to everyone claim that God wasn’t with them because the government “doesn’t allow” prayer in schools. It’d be a horrific feeling. As if it’s not already hard enough to know that they couldn’t be with their children in the scariest and final moments of their life, now we’re saying that God wasn’t there either, simply because WE say He can’t be?
In addition to being unkind, I think this line of thinking is dangerous. Do we really think that God is so small, so passive, that the government can govern Him out of a building or a country? Do we really think WE are that powerful? God, who sent His son as a Jew into a Roman ruled country, the same God who watched as Jesus was hung on a cross so that we could be with Him, that God, who has shown up uninvited and even where He was not wanted, that God would not have abandoned those children, who were and are unspeakably precious to Him. He was in that building, filled with grief for the anger and hatred that would change SO many lives. He was holding those sweet, precious children, comforting them. He was with each of those brave teachers and staff members who tried to stop the gunman and protect their kids. He was there. He never left them.

It’s hard to believe right now. I know. I know it hurts. It raises all kinds of really hard questions.

Did God make this happen? (active will)
I would steadfastly say no. No, God is love, God is good, God cannot cause evil. A God that would cause this would not be good.

Okay, so then why did God let this happen? (passive will)
If God is all-powerful (and not regulated by our laws), then He could have stopped the gunman, right? If God is good, He would want to stop the gunman, wouldn’t He?

In all honesty, this has been a struggle for me my entire adult life. God’s active will vs. God’s passive will. I don’t, and certainly won’t pretend to, have all of the answers. I absolutely do not believe that God causes bad things to happen. It is against His character. I do believe that God is all powerful and could stop things from happening, but if He did, He’d be taking away our free will. If God, who loves us enough to send His own Son on our behalf, took away our free will, that wouldn’t be very loving at all. We have all done things solely out of obligation. God doesn’t want us to love or obey out of obligation because (I think) that diminishes the relationship. I love my husband very much, so I am faithful and committed to our relationship. If I were only faithful because of a law, or because I were afraid of repercussions, it would undermine the relationship part of our marriage. So it goes with God. If He forced us to do only His will, what would those actions or that obedience mean? Nothing. Instead, out of His great love for us, He gave us the ability to choose things other than Him. Even when what we choose is horrific, and SO much less than the best He has for us. Even when what we choose breaks His heart because of the suffering it causes us, or others.

I don’t have all the answers, not even close. I don’t understand it all, and I know my thoughts are incomplete answers, at best. But I would challenge you to consider what your claims about God say about Him. I know the hearts of some of the people who have posted these things. I know that they have good intentions and love God and His people. I even sort of get where they are coming from. I get it. We, as a nation, try to separate God out of our laws and actions. We try to take God off the money, out of the pledge, ect. But just because we try does not make us successful. God will be wherever He wants to be. Because He’s God. And He can be. He can be everywhere at once. He was with those precious, sweet children because He loves them more than we can imagine, and because He would have never, ever wanted them to be in pain or to feel alone.

God is good, friends, and He is madly in love with you. He created you, after all. He is with you in your darkest moments, whether you’ve asked Him there or not, because He loves you and never leaves His people. He is with you when you’re full of joy, because God is a God of joy, and all joy is from Him.

As I reflect on this Advent season I am challenged to remember, over and over and over, that darkness can never shut out light. The Advent candles serve as a reminder that the Light is coming, that even in the darkest moments when the darkness is overwhelming, when it feels like that’s all there is, the Savior is coming to be with His precious people. In ancient times when His people were exiled and alone, wandering in the desert, He gave them His precious Son to set them free, to show them that they are not actually ever alone. And today He is with us still. He gives us the Holy Spirit that reminds us gently, even when our minds and hearts can’t understand, that He is always with us, even when the darkness is all we can see.

So, sweet friends, be encouraged this Advent and Christmas season. Christ came, is here and will come again. He is with you, whether you know it or not, when you can’t feel Him, when hope feels impossible. I’m so grateful for the Holy Spirit, which makes my soul believe when my heart and mind absolutely cannot.


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transparency {day 129}

today I read some news about connecticut tragedy. I’ve taken a couple of days off from reading because, to be perfectly honest, it was too hard on me. my heart was too heavy. I felt selfish today when I realized that was why. there are people…tons and tons of people, who cannot go a minute without thinking about it. there are families, parents, siblings, teachers, friends, husbands, children, all who think about it all the time because their world came crashing in around them on Friday. So I’m sorry if it’s selfish that I took a break from the news for a couple of days. I was still prayerful and concerned for those who are suffering, I just could not read another news story.
Today I woke up and read the news, and there were three amazingly real and truthful and amazing things I saw.
The first is a video of robbie parker, who lost his 6 year old daughter, Emilie in the shooting. only about 24 hours after he found out that his beautiful young daughter had been killed in the tragic school shooting, he spoke to the press about his daughter. He described her as bright and compassionate child who drew pictures for people who needed cheering and was a best friend to her two younger sisters, who she was teaching to read. His words were heart-felt, heart-wrenching, and beautiful. He expressed their deep, deep sadness, their sympathy for the other families who lost people, and for the shooter’s family. 24 hours after a gunman shot his 6 year old, he said that he’s not mad, and that he won’t harbor hatred for her killer because that’s not who Emilie was and that’s not what God calls us to. It’s difficult to believe that anyone could possibly be that good, that loving, that forgiving, but I’m thankful for his words among outcries of anger and hatred. What a challenge to all of us. what could anyone ever do to me that’s worse than what was done to him? there is nothing. if he can forgive, even if it’s a long process for him of wavering between anger and forgiveness, how can we not forgive those who wrong us?
The second article I read was about George Hochsprung, husband of the slain principal from Sandy Hook. He says that when he heard that his wife put herself in danger to try to stop the gunman, he was angry. Everyone around the country, even the world, is hailing her as a hero-she reportedly charged the gunman, trying to stop him-and her husband was angry that she never gets to come home and other people do. I cried while reading this article, partially because his honesty is so raw and hard to take, and partially because I think that would be me. If my sweet hubs died (heaven forbid) saving someone else’s life, I would be grateful for the life that was saved, but I think that on my hard days I’d just be angry that he could have stayed safe and he chose not to. I’m not super proud of that, but I am grateful for this man who had the guts to admit to a very difficult emotion. He did say that things changed on Sunday when he met two teachers who his wife had told to take cover while she confronted the gunman. He said “I’m not angry anymore. I’m not angry. I’m just very sad.” My heart breaks for this man, and for the many parents, friends, others that he represents, who are left to try to pick up the pieces of a life that just doesn’t quite fit right anymore. I’m so sorry, Mr. Hochsprung. Thank you for your honesty. My heart aches.
The last thing I read this morning that made this so real for me was in a piece about the victims. Each of the kids are described as bright and beautiful. I know this is true. Kids have this amazing way of lighting up the world around them with their generous spirits. According to family, so did Vicki Soto, who reportedly hid her students in cabinets and told the gunman they were in the gym before she was killed. She literally gave her life for the students she loved. There is no greater love. The article I read this morning said that her dog wandered around her house all night Saturday looking for her. I cried when I read this, knowing that Mojo would be so confused and sad if one of us didn’t ever come home.
Then I walked downstairs and saw this:
moj stole my shoe

our sweet dog, Mojo, normally sleeps in our bedroom. Last night he was muddy and we were too tired to clean him off, so he slept on his bed downstairs. When I came down this morning he had found one of my shoes, taken it to his bed, and was cuddling it. Normally I’d be pretty upset about the teeth marks in my shoe, but today I choose to be grateful for them. They are a reminder of how loved I am and how blessed I am to have my sweet little family.
I am also grateful for the challenge to be completely transparent, both when I’m angry and hurt, and when God somehow gives me the strength to forgive, to love, to hope. Those emotions-all of them- are a gift to the people around us. Sometimes someone who is struggling needs to hear that it’s okay to be angry, to be hurt, to not understand. And sometimes people need to be reminded that there is always hope, always room for love, that God can work a miracle in your heart if you let Him. I know that there have been times I have needed both of those messages. The Advent season is the perfect reminder of this, right? It is a time dedicated to remembering a people who were desperately waiting, begging for a Savior, exiled and alone. But God, who loves us, did not leave them there, instead He came , in lowly human form, to be with and give hope to his people.
Thank you, courageous men, for being brave enough to share your hearts with a world that grieves with you.
And don’t forget, reader, you are so, so loved.

“O Come, Thou Day Spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here. Dispel the stormy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadow put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, o Israel.”


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still reeling {day 126}

I still don’t have the right words. Are there right words?
As this blogger so honestly puts it “I need someone to say it, too, just once, just once out loud:  What in the actual fuck has happened here?” Is it just me, or do you, too, feel, that there is just no other word that actually comes close to describing the depth of the despair that you feel when you read the news, see the photos, read the names of those lives that were stolen FAR too soon? It can’t only be me, right?
And you know what? I think it’s okay. I might even venture to say it’s good, as Christians, to feel like that. How could something so horrendous not shake us to the very core of our beings? I believe, even, that God understands when we cry out in pain, anguish, or anger “What in the actual fuck has happened here?” because I believe that God’s heart is wrenched by this, too. We, who have limited vision of what could have been, what we were created for, feel so deeply within ourselves that this is absolutely, horrifically wrong. This cannot possibly be what we were meant for. You see it in the photos of those grieving on the news, hear it in the hearts of friends and family as they express their disgust…a deep disturbance and longing to be reminded that this is not what we were created for. And God, who knew every hair on those beautiful children’s heads, who watched each of the brave women who sacrificed their lives to save students grow into who He created them to be, who knows how good life should have been because He created paradise for us, that God understands my four-letter-words and isn’t phased by them, because His grief and anger is far deeper than mine. The God of love, Emmanuel-God with us, sees how deeply we grieve, holds each of those parents as they collapse in exhaustion and anguish, knows what could have been and His heart is deeply grieved too.
So, feel those feelings however you need to- cry, scream, talk, whatever you have to do in order to attempt to begin to process this tragic and horrific reminder that we live in a broken, fallen, dark world. Try to begin to work through the loss of innocence we all feel so deeply, the fear you might feel the next time you drop your kids off at school and the deep sigh of relief you feel every day when they walk through the front door, the anger you feel at God, at the shooter, at the world. It’s okay. Grieve. It’s important. Essential, even. And remember, grief looks and feels different for every person. Do yourself and those you love a favor, and honor their grief by not judging them if it looks very different from your own. Begin to process, feel the feelings (even if you don’t want to), and then, DO SOMETHING. pray. pray some more. send a letter of encouragement. hug your kids tighter. give a little extra grace to a stranger. blog. sing. make the world a little better somehow.
and please try not to allow yourself to hold on to hate. don’t hate because hate grieves the heart of God.  please love  more. I know it hurts. but love is the closest we can get to seeing God in this broken, dark world, and I don’t know about you but I NEED glimpses of God. I need beautiful to remind me that things like this are not all there are.

Today, for me, in my process of grieving, these are the thoughts that are constantly running through my head:
It can’t be true. No one can possibly be that angry. They were little kids.
“What in the actual fuck has happened here?”
Lord, please come quickly. I can’t handle much more of this.
Jesus, I need you to be Emmanuel-God with us. Be close.

How are you beginning to process through this?

my heart is still so heavy today, but I am grateful for a God who knows my heart, and understands the hurt behind my four-letter-words when it’s the only way I can find to express myself. I’m also thankful to know that He is near to the brokenhearted and His love, which never fails, will give peace that truly passes understanding, even if that just looks like making it through an absolutely impossible day.