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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Boston {day 249}

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Today tragedy struck again as Boston Marathon runners prepared to cross the finish line and spectators cheered on their loved ones. Once again innocent people were hurt and killed at the hands of hatred and anger. I am sad and angry.
I must admit, in the midst of tragedy and hatred and hurt, my first thoughts are usually along the lines of this: “Lord, come quickly. This world is too much for me.”
But as I was challenged and reminded by my friend Ian today, we are not called to run from messiness. We are called to run towards it, to help the hurting and broken and messy. We are called to be Jesus’s hands and feet, and while Jesus’s heart is grieved by the despicable acts of today, Jesus willingly went into the brokenness. And we are called to do the same.
In the middle of the pictures of chaos and pain, there are also pictures, acts of kindness and words that remind us that all is not lost. Video of the explosions show huge crowds of people (very understandably) running away from the blasts. But they also reveal brave runners, staff and spectators running towards the blasts, with less regard for their own well being than those injured. Several thousand people posted contact information on a google doc offering rides, food, bedrooms and encouragement for runners and families needing shelter. There are reports that, after crossing the finish line, some runners continued running to a nearby hospital to donate blood.
Lord, both literally and figuratively, give me (and us, the Church) the courage and compassion to run towards the hurt and the messiness, to be Your hands and feet to the suffering. Though it is clear that this is not where we were created to be, that this broken world is far less than what God created us for, help me to remember that I am here at this time for a reason. Please make me like them, Running towards the messy and broken. Thank you for the helpers today, who remind us that there are reasons to hope.

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like an old friend {day 247}

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I woke up this morning to news that Brennan Manning, a beloved author and speaker, had passed away. Enjoy resting in the arms of Jesus, faithful servant.
I read my favorite of his books, The Ragamuffin Gospel, in college. I loved it. I had read a lot of books about theology, faith and “Christian living.” Some of them have very solid theology and challenged me to be more like Jesus. Some of them left me feeling like crap, that I could never measure up to the standards set for a Christian woman. And some of them, well some of them that have theology that is beyond questionable and left me feeling angry and sad. But this book, this book left me feeling known.
It’s kind of funny because Mr. Manning and I are not very similar: we are not at the same place in our lives, we don’t have overlapping social circles or life experience, and our struggles with faith and faithfulness (to Jesus) look pretty different on the outside. But still, every time I read this book I feel like he somehow managed to write from my innermost self- the feelings and hurts and doubts that I couldn’t even articulate myself yet.
It’s the first book I read that made me feel like the mess I often feel like I am is not only acceptable, but even desirable to Jesus. Mr. Manning writes of the magnificent monotony of God’s love, of His one and only relentless stance towards us: He love us. What a beautiful gospel that is. The magnificent monotony of His love. Let that sink in for a moment. Unchanging. Unflinching. Continuous. Even monotonous in it’s predictability and constance.
This book actually changed me. I think part of what makes feeling known such a blessing is that it frees you to continue to become even more who you were meant to be. It gives you the freedom and grace to change your mind and your heart.
I could quote Brennan and this book for days; there are that many things that I love about it, that challenge or encourage me, that shout to my spirit “you are not alone in this!”
I suggest you read this book for yourself, and bend your own pages, stuff it full of papers that matter, make your own diet coke stains. Love it well and let it nourish your spirit.

Today I am grateful for old books that feel like old friends when you pick them up and for precious Brennan who is celebrating with Jesus.

Who is an author or speaker that has changed your thoughts on life or faith?


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bright spot {day 221}

Today was tough. Woke up to news of a college classmate’s passing. I did not know him especially well, but I do know that he was kind and generous and young. He was just so young. We also got bad news about Drew’s grandma tonight. A couple of weeks ago she was diagnosed with lymphoma and started chemo. After some big complications last week, they found out today that it has also spread to her brain. Today just feels so heavy. And I HATE cancer.

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So today I am grateful for these fresh flowers-a needed bright spot in a cold, snowy, dreary, heavy day. Sometimes all you need to make it though a really crappy day is the reminder that this darkness and heaviness is not all there is. Spring will come. Thank you, Jesus.


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beginning & end {day 216}

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I’m grateful that my day started with this cuteness. He was hiding under the bed, knowing that I won’t leave without saying goodbye.

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I’m also grateful for pretty sunsets and the promise of spring.

bonus addition: too sweet not to share. family snuggles on the couch…

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darkness {day 214}

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I am grateful for a sweet friend who listened to the Lord’s leading and sent me this. A beautiful reminder of why I’m doing this…honk to find joy. honk, honk.

I’m also grateful for a fresh start for a family member that I love. She has had a very hard life and desperately needs a new start. She’s been given that opportunity, but it’s going to be a lot of hard work. If you think of her, please pray for strength and courage for her, and that God would make His plan very clear to her.

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I am also grateful for a snuggly family to come home to. I think Moj may be the most emotionally intelligent animal I know. I love that he snuggles us, that he’s learned to hug us, and that he hides under the bed so we can’t leave. Precious.