Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grief, Surprise, and Joy

Today I've been surprised and a bit blindsided by grief. We're approaching what would have been Jenson's due date--Dec. 8. It seems I've been avoiding thinking about him, writing about him, journaling about anything at all for weeks now. I decided today that what I've been avoiding is really the guilt I feel about losing him. I know in my head that it's not my fault, that it was just something that happened and I didn't cause his death. But I wish . . . I wish I'd taken vitamins right away, that I hadn't been so angry and upset when we learned we were expecting him, that I'd wanted him from the very first day, that I had loved him and fought for him sooner. I, of course, am convinced that none of that had any bearing on what happened, but I can't help but feel some regret.

My hope is that those feelings will encourage me to envelop the new life growing in me now. We are expecting a baby in July, and this baby came as an absolute surprise. Only God knew this was going to happen--it wasn't planned, prayed for, I didn't even know if I wanted another child after losing Jenson. I'd pretty much decided I didn't.

A few weeks ago on a Wednesday, I was headed to the doctor to see what was going on in my mouth--it was a virus that made my tongue raw and my gums sensitive. On the way there, I got really honest and personal and just asked the Lord what was next for our family--if He wanted us to have more children and if so, when and how--biological or by adoption. I just wanted Him to tell me so I could have it all squared away in my mind and heart. I assumed He would remain silent on the matter, instead preferring that I find out when the time was right. He whispered, "I knit you together in your mother's womb." And for whatever reason, I assumed He meant that we were done with kids. That would take a little getting used to, but that was fine. At the doctor's office, I gave her a list of various and unrelated symptoms I'd been having and she suggested we just draw some blood to see what was going on. The tech told me it would be a couple days before the results were back.

Later that night, I went to the youth group's service. They were talking about unconditional surrender, leaving your nets like the disciples did and following Jesus. It was such a good sermon, I had to take notes--I found a receipt and wrote on the back. "Maybe God wants to interrupt your life to call you to something greater." Surrender was later defined--relinquish possession or control of to another by demand or compulsion, to give up in favor of another, to give up or abandon, to give over or resign (self) to do something. "The call is to abandon yourself to whatever Jesus wants."  I considered this an invitation to surrender the whole subject of family--present and future--to whatever the Lord had for us. I prayed that the Lord would just take complete control of the situation and I would accept whatever that meant. During the closing prayer, the verse I'd heard earlier in the day was repeated. That night, I read a blog about a man whose son had been born and died the same day and the wonder of how God had knit his body in his mother's womb so perfectly and how his body had served it's purpose for the time it was needed. That comforted me in my loss--how I'd seen his little tiny body and it also had served its purpose while he needed it. Three times that day, I'd heard the same verse repeated. I went to bed comforted and more relaxed.

The next morning as I was preparing for a friend to come over, my doctor called. "All the tests came out negative except there was one--it said you're pregnant." WHAT?!? So the question I'd asked the day before had been answered three times in one day but I just couldn't understand at the time. I knew right then that God had been telling me I was pregnant. It was the exact thing He'd said when I was waiting to know if I was pregnant with Ben. Perhaps I should have known what God meant, but I just couldn't fathom it on Wednesday.

Jason and I have been in shock since learning of this pregnancy. We keep thinking about how crazy it is with three kids and how much moreso it will be with four. But I'm beginning to realize that God has it all worked out already. He is in the details with this child, just as He has been with the others. All I need to do is trust Him to supply our needs, to work out details we just can't figure out yet, and rest in Him. Since He gave us this child, He will give us all we need (and likely other things we want) to care for this child. I'm an over-planner in some cases, so it's hard to be still and let things happen; however, I know without a doubt that God is supremely faithful and so good. He will take care of everything.

So I'm considering it pure joy, my sisters (and brothers), as you read this--that losing Jenson has taught me so much about God and His goodness and faithfulness; that God has a plan for our family that now includes a fourth child; that God will provide all our needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus; that we will be OK. Please pray for us over this next year--that God would help me to grieve in a healthy way and would relieve my feelings of guilt; that God would show us His provision for the needs we now have with the new baby coming; that we would trust Him all the more to raise our children in His ways. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Let the Healing Begin

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were enjoying a very rare weekend away from home, all by ourselves. It was glorious! I knew it would also be a good time to work through some of the issues I was having with my grief. In the afternoon, I dropped Jason off at our hotel to watch his favorite football team on TV while I ran a couple errands. I sat outside one store, writing what was going to be my next blog entry. It flowed out so quickly and from a place of great honesty. It took several grocery-list pages and was really just what I wanted to say.

After that weekend, I realized that with all the shuffling of suitcases, sacks, bags, etc., I wasn't sure where that pad of paper had ended up. I looked in several places but assumed I'd find it later. I still haven't, over 4 weeks later. I'm sad about it because it was part of my heart and soul on paper. But I've realized since then that perhaps God allowed me to write it and lose it because He was helping purge me of some of the bitterness and resentment I'd been holding.

It's been a very long, very difficult five and a half months so far. I still cry too often. I'm so sensitive to others' pregnancies, their new beautiful babies, but also just broken with others at their losses. God has allowed me into the hearts of other women whose hearts are just as broken as mine over losing a sweet child before meeting them. It's definitely an experience I never wanted or expected and it's not one I enjoy. I'm grateful that God has given me this commonality with women I otherwise would never understand. I find it amazing that it's this second loss that has hit me the hardest and worked God's Word and His grace so deeply into me. My first loss was quickly softened with the expectation of my oldest child; this loss has been allowed to sit untouched by new life, making it more potent,
sharper, deeper.

I've been studying Genesis in BSF ( this year. Our first lesson was on Genesis 1 talking a lot about how God separates light from darkness and how His light separates us from spiritual darkness. One of the questions that week was basically--what things of darkness do I need God to separate from my life? The first thing I thought of was my depression surrounding the loss of our baby Jenson in April. I know it's only been five months, but then again, it's been five months and I'd love to have God's perspective on this event in my life. I know He has great plans for me and I want to find those plans and live them out. That is very hard to do when I'm focusing on the child I don't have, the loss, the hurt, pain, guilt, the desire to join my sweet boy in heaven. God doesn't owe me an explanation for my loss. I read this from a blogger's journey through Job: “God doesn't give explanations, He gives promises.” I firmly believe that. After several years of being angry at Him following my first loss, He told me in His tender way--
I am God. I don't owe you an explanation.
You can't possibly know everything I know.
And if I explained it to you, would that change anything or help you in any way?

So what I want to do now is let the real healing begin. I want to remember that my sweet baby boy is in heaven--a real place with a real God who loves both my children in heaven and on earth and me. Through Genesis, I see that God is the creator of all things, but also the creator of me, of my heavenly children, of my husband and kids, of everyone I know and all I see (and all I don't!). The God who hung the stars in the sky and gave them purpose also has made my life the way it is for HIS purpose. Perhaps I will never know why I've lost these 2 precious lives; the important part is that in the process of grieving them, I don't lose sight of God or His purpose for my life.
One thing you, my friends and readers, can do for me is pray. Ask the Lord to help me process my grief in a way that glorifies Him, allows me to feel the way I do with all the anger and hurt and sadness without blaming God (because in Job 1:22 it says "in all this (his great losses) Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."). Pray that friends would come at just the right time to ask how I'm doing and that I would be able to honestly tell them. It may seem counter-intuitive, but grieving people need to be asked, on occasion, "How are you doing?" Ask when you have some time and when you are truly interested in the answer. Ask with great compassion and a tender heart who is willing to share some of the burden--it's so heavy to bear and grieving people need help bearing it. Thank you so much.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Divergent paths

Two roads diverged . . .

Lately it feels like my life has two roads--one is the road with a (surprise!) fourth child and all that entails; the other is a road with three children, but with the fourth one mysteriously and suddenly absent.

Sometimes I lie in bed at night pondering each road. I should be halfway through my pregnancy now, wearing maternity clothes, putting on weight and changing shape, visiting my OB monthly, and we should have had the ultrasound to tell us if it's a boy or girl. I should be rearranging the house, painting a bedroom, planning the next few months and asking for help with Ben when the baby comes. I should be buying newborn and size 1 diapers, sorting through Ben's clothes (or asking my friends for girls' clothes), mulling over names and their meanings.

But the road took a sharp turn on April 16 when my baby began his own journey--a new life in heaven with God. The road we'd been on came to a T--the kind of stop where you have to choose which way you'll take next.

Yesterday, the girls were watching the Veggie Tales movie, "It's a Meaningful Life," which is based on the old classic, "It's a Wonderful Life." In it, a train engineer takes the main character, Stewart, to a place where the tracks diverge. He is able to see the differences between what his life is like now and what it would have been like if he'd just caught the football at the final game in high school. On this alternate route, he doesn't marry his high school sweetheart and she's still single. His twins have never been born because he didn't get married. The girl he and his wife adopted is still in the orphanage. The boys from the current football team don't have a mentor and are acting in unkind ways. Stewart realizes through the alternate look at his life that the one event that he thought would have made his life so much better actually would have made life worse for him and for so many others. His life now is full of love from his wife, twins, and adopted daughter. He's a mentor to those boys on the football team. He may be a regular guy, but he's so blessed.

God reminded me through the movie that He has perfect plans for each of us--including me. His plans are so much bigger than I realize, are farther-reaching than I will ever know. And His plans, His route is what is best for me and for others in my life. 

After our miscarriage, God showed me how He had been preparing me for that moment through Bible studies in which I got to know Him and His character better, and through a previous miscarriage experience. Afterwards, He was able to teach me so much about Himself and His sovereignty. He used this awful event in my life to mature and grow me in my faith in incredible ways. It is possible that hurting me in this way made me more open to the lessons He was ready to teach me.

I'm so thankful for the brief time I had with my baby. I wish desperately, at times, that he were here with me, growing in my body. But since I know where he is--in heaven with God as his Father and in a body that will never know pain or sin or suffering--I would never wish my baby away from that life. I am joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer (Rom. 12:12). And all this because I know God has great plans for me (Jer. 29:11). The paths may have diverged, but the path I'm on now has taken me straight to God's heart so I can know Him better. There's no better path for me--or for you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The first thing I will do in heaven

For many years, I was just sure of the first thing I would do when I got to heaven: I'd find Eve and deck her, right on the kisser! She is certainly to blame for the pains of childbirth (and the recovery) as well as being the second in a long line of sinners. Yes, her hubby was responsible for not leading her, but she was the first gullible female in the world. (Did you know that if you spell "Eve" backwards, it says "Sin"?  Haha!)

Anyway, since I've been reflecting on heaven so much these past couple of months, I know now that is exactly the opposite of what I will likely do when I reach heaven.  I reflected on all I know about heaven, about God, about worship, about the glory and majesty and holiness that will be all-encompassing when I meet Jesus face to face. I now believe that I will not look for my heaven-born children, my grandparents, my friends who have gone on before me, . . . but I will be so busy worshiping and kissing the feet of Jesus, I won't be able to see a single thing else, at least not for the first thousand years or so.

I read this in Isaiah 6:1-7
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:  “Holy, holy , holy is the Lord Almighty;  the whole earth is full of his glory.”  4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Can you see His train filling the room, hear the glorious song the seraphs sing, feel the majesty of the moment, and then feel the sting of sin in your heart?  When we come into contact with holiness, we immediately realize the depth of our sinfulness and as believers, we want to do something about it. We know we desperately need cleansing, forgiveness. And God is so gracious to grant our request. He touches our lips with hot coals, cleanses us from all unrighteousness (I Jn 1:9), seals us with the Holy Spirit.  Oh, thank You, Lord, for allowing me to focus on what is the best thing about heaven--You! I'm so grateful my babies are there with You and I will be so thrilled to meet them for the first time; but You are the true, the single reason to want to go to heaven. You are the main event. You desire to be WITH us (Emmanuel), and we will then be WITH You when we arrive in heaven. The coolest part, in my mind, is that we will see You face to face and know you fully as we are fully known.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Consider it pure joy, my sisters!

In April of 2012, just 3 days after losing our baby Jenson at 6 weeks gestation, the Lord led me to read what I'd been studying in Bible Study Fellowship--James 1:2-4, which says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

I knew that this trial was going to be incredibly difficult to endure, but God encouraged me that it wasn't for nothing--He was using it already to make me more like Him. I just had to be thankful that He was going to use it to mold me and change me, even though the circumstances were so hard to deal with. I hope you receive encouragement from these words. The Lord doesn't allow hurts into our lives to crush us or to hurt us, but to make us more receptive to Him and to make us more like Him.

Romans 8:28-29 says, " And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."

In Bible study this past year, our teacher mentioned those verses and read them together, causing me to conclude that God works all things together . . . to conform us into the image of His Son Jesus, which is for our good. The goal of suffering is to become more like Jesus. And consider how much Jesus suffered--being born a human while giving up all the privileges of almighty God, having no place to lay his head (no possessions to speak of), being spoken of falsely by the leaders of Judaism (God's chosen people), being beaten, spat upon, mocked, a crown of thorns placed on His head, His hands and feet nailed to a tree for all to see his battered and broken body die. And all the while, His heart broke to know that though He was choosing to carry the sins of us all on that horrible cross, there would be many who would ultimately reject Him and His love and would choose to spend eternity separated from Him in hell.

I have lost two children to miscarriage--ten years apart to the month. Experience tells me that being angry with God for years does nothing to grow your relationship with Him, nor does it ease the pain. Only by growing close to Him and by allowing Him to heal me do I begin to feel peace, comfort, even joy! I know without a doubt that my children are ecstatically playing in heaven, cared for each moment by their heavenly Father. It thrills me to know I will meet them one day. Yes, it hurts quite a bit now to not have them with me here, but I take great comfort in the fact that they will never have to deal with sin--which means no broken hearts, no bad decisions, no broken bones . . . so much more. And when I compare my trials to Jesus' trials, I see mine are "light and momentary," as Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:16-18. (Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.)

So even though it hurts terribly, consider it pure joy, my sisters, that God has counted you worthy of suffering so that He might work His ways in you to make you mature and complete.