Mar 22

Investing

A few weeks ago, we had a conversation, in my ladies’ Bible study, that has really been weighing heavily on me.  The conversation had to do with parents, in another country.  Someone we knew had been serving there and had been shocked to find that, when told their children were likely going to die, many parents simply walked away.  Another acquaintance, someone who works with difficult family situations here, told her that it’s the only way some people know how to cope.  She conveyed the message with conviction, having been taught this over and over in her social work training, but without personal understanding.  Because of what she sees every day, she was not shocked, but was still deeply saddened by these parents’ reactions to their children’s diagnoses.  As the conversation was going on around me, I felt compelled to speak up.  I had a different point of view.

Listening to the conversation, I had been taken back to some things that I hadn’t thought about in a while.  I was overwhelmed, again, with the suddenness of remembering what has been forgotten – or at least pushed aside.  Sometimes, we work so hard to get past something that we forget it was ever there.  It’s not, necessarily, that we mean to forget.  It’s more that, sometimes, looking ahead is just more important that looking back.  And, sometimes, when we work extra hard to get around something, we get so much out of the “detour” that we forget it wasn’t the main route to begin with.  So, when we’re suddenly reminded of that giant pothole we were going around, we’re surprised to see it there.  Which was kind of what happened to me.

Before I go any further, I should probably explain something else.  In a lot of the ministries that I have been involved with, over the years, one of the ideas that has come up a lot is the concept of “investing.”  Most people think of investing as a financial concept.  It is.  But in ministry, it’s often used to refer to relationships, especially the ones that require a lot of commitment.

Think of it this way: when a person is looking to invest money, there are a lot of options.  Maybe they want to put something into the stock market.  This is somewhat risky.  They may want to invest a moderate amount, hoping to earn a little more along the way.  However, there’s no way to know how this will work out.  The stocks they invest in may crash next week, next month, or next year.  If they ride it out, they may be able to break even.  With a little luck, they may even come out ahead.  But it may take years.  Commodities, on the other hand, may be a little more stable.  Gold and silver may fluctuate in value, but they won’t cease to exist, like that start-up company might.  Then again, maybe you want to invest in art.  You purchase a mixed collection of works that you appreciate.  Maybe you find a small work by one of the masters (if you have more money than you know what to do with!).  You buy it at auction, add it to your collection, and enjoy it every day for the rest of your life.  Now that is an investment!

In ministry, relationships with other people are sometimes approached this way.  Every relationship requires you to invest something of yourself.  You know what I’m talking about.  That friend who calls you every day, to talk for five minutes about coffee?  That’s an investment of your time.  If you weren’t willing to give that five minutes a day, you wouldn’t have that friend.  Or what about the text message you send, three times a week, to check in with your co-worker who moved to another city?  That’s another investment.  How much you invest in a relationship directly correlates to how much that relationship is worth to you.  Those five minute daily calls?  If she wanted ten, you’d be out.  You get the idea.  Relationships are investments.

Some relationships are costly, but we deem them worth the commitment.  Family relationships, for example, often demand a great deal of investment, but we put in whatever we have to because, well, it’s family.  Marriage, too, requires us to put a lot in.  A good marriage takes work.  But a good marriage is worth whatever it requires of us, because it’s the kind of relationship that just doesn’t come along every day.  In ministry, we strive to invest in everyone, especially the people that most write off as “not worth the investment.”

That brings me back to why I felt I had to speak up that day.  While I was listening to the other ladies talk, expressing their shock and sadness that these parents could just walk away from their dying children, I was thinking a little differently.  I remembered.  I remembered how tempting it was to hold my daughter at arm’s length.  I remembered how hard we had to try to keep from building walls, to protect ourselves from what we knew was coming.  I remembered talking to my husband about how we needed to be intentional about “investing” in her, choosing to pour ourselves into a relationship that we knew could not last.  I remembered.  And I could understand, in that moment, how those parents could walk away.

I shared, then, with all those beautiful women, what was on my heart.  I told them about having to consciously choose to love my daughter, without allowing myself to focus on “tomorrow.” I told them about how hard it is to “invest” in someone that you know won’t be here in a year.  Someone that you know is leaving, soon, and forever.  Our only strength was in believing that we will see our Zoë again someday.  Without that hope, I told them, I can understand why someone would walk away.

I spoke what was on my heart, I cried a little, and then I stopped.  Later, the woman who had explained the parents’ behavior as “a coping mechanism” thanked me.  She said that, while she’d been taught the concept for years, she’d never really understood it, but that my words had given her some insight.  I was glad the Lord was able to use what I had said.

Anyway, it’s been weeks since the conversation, but I still can’t stop thinking about it.  I keep coming back to idea of investing, particularly in our children.  As parents, we assume that our children will require commitment, on our part.  We commit to bringing them up.  In many cases, we even do so before our churches, committing to bring them up in a way that honors the Lord.  We assume the commitment will consist of time, energy, emotion, finances, support, and many other facets of our resources.  We assume the investment will be long-term.  We assume the outcome will be favorable.

A financial investor always hopes to come out ahead.  Investors may even assume that they will.  But it would be downright foolish for an investor to assume that every single one of his investments was going to do well, long-term, with only minor bumps in the market.

So why do we, as parents?  We are devastated to learn that our investments, in any of our children, fall short of the projected results?  Why do we think we should have the right to back out of our investments?  Less than 18-20 years?  Forget it!  Not worth my investment.  Less than favorable outcome?  Forget it!  Not worth my investment.  What do you mean my son’s going to grow up and stop talking to me?  I’m not interested in that!  Why is it that we have no problem taking risks on financial investments, based solely on good business, but we don’t think we should have to take risks on our personal investments in human beings?  I don’t know how many women have told me that they wouldn’t carry a baby to term, if they knew that the baby wasn’t going to live to his or her first birthday.  Why do we think children should come with guarantees, when we invest in a market that doesn’t?

I’m not really sure I have the answers to these questions.  I used to assume the same projections that every other parent does.  But then I grew to understand how a parent could walk away.  It still breaks my heart, because I believe every human being is worth the investment, but I understand.  Mostly I’ve just been wondering about the investments we make in our kids.  They really aren’t any more stable or predictable than any other investment.  But, then: if that Picasso you bought at auction turns out to be a forgery, does that mean you suddenly stop enjoying the artwork, or is it still worth the investment, if only to you?  And, for those of us who understand the investment, here’s a challenge that’s been on my heart: how burdened are we for those who are so poor in spirit that they cannot afford it?

Feb 08

A Different Kind of Loss

So…it’s been a while. For those of you who have been concerned about me, I appreciate it. Mostly, I’ve been doing okay. God and I have just been working out some issues. He’s good, but I don’t always understand what He’s doing. Anyway, He’s been laying on my heart, for a while, to post something, so I’ve finally made the time. I apologize, for those of you who follow.

In the time since I last posted, God has been working in my life in some very unexpected ways. He’s been teaching me some things, showing me some things about myself, and helping me make some changes that have been long needed. I haven’t really changed, but my outlook about some things has. I read a book, over the summer, by Phil Vischer, founder of Big Idea Productions (the original creator of VeggieTales). One of the things he really emphasized was that sometimes God takes things out of our hands so that we can remember that He is always enough. I needed that.

I’m not going to try to fill you in on everything that’s happened since my last post, because it’s just been too long. But there are a couple of things, in particular, that I’ve been wanting to share. I’m going to start there. In the future, we’ll see how the Lord leads. For today, this is what I’ve got.

One of the things that has been happening, in my absence, has to do with my son. It’s been, at times, very stressful, for my husband and I. During one of the times of conflict, last summer, the Lord used the situation to open my eyes to a babyloss mom issue that I didn’t know I had. You know…you go about your life, thinking “I’m SO glad that, of all the issues that I have, THAT isn’t one of them!” Then, of course, God gently starts nudging and you realize that, “Oh…yeah…I guess that IS something I struggle with…my bad…”

I’ve read so many blogs and online posts and articles and books and (you get the idea here) about babyloss moms who become obsessive about letting their other children out of their sight, afraid of what might happen to them. It’s so easy, when you’ve lost a child, to imagine losing another. It can happen so quickly. It can be so unpredictable. It’s easy to be afraid. Some of us struggle more than others, obviously. Just like any other personal issue, it affects everyone differently. There are some babyloss moms who never have a struggle with that fear. And, of course, there are a lot of moms who’ve never lost a child that have the same fear. We all want to protect our children and hold on to them for as long as we can. Learning to let go comes in different forms for all of us, as moms.

At any rate, all those times that I’ve been reading these women’s hearts, I’ve been moved with compassion for them, but grateful that I don’t share that particular struggle. Until God gently pointed out to me that I do. As I mentioned before, the same struggle doesn’t always wear the same mask. My fear surprised me, because it didn’t look like I expected it to. As it turns out, I’m afraid of losing my children in a different way. My fear isn’t about what will happen physically. I’m afraid of losing my children in a very different way.

There are times when I don’t know what to do with my son. I love him deeply. And that is where my fear begins. I value the relationship I have with my children. I appreciate that I have influence in their lives, if only by sheer virtue of the fact that I am their mother and spend a great deal of time with them. I greatly value the opportunities I have to invest in them, even if I don’t always take full advantage of them. And I understand that, as they get older, these opportunities will become less frequent, and my influence will lessen (as they become better able to make their own decisions). These are things that, as a parent, I look forward to seeing. I want my children to grow up to be individuals: competent, responsible morally and financially, and capable of making good decisions (with godly counsel, of course). I want them to be able to contribute to society, without needing me to hold their hand for the rest of their lives.

I value their hearts, however. I DO fear losing my children. I fear that I will make some horrible parenting decision and lose their hearts. I fear that I will anger my son and lose his respect. I fear that he will rebel and seek out friends – other influences – with the goal of provoking me (and my husband), resulting in stronger influences that point him in another direction. I am terrified that I will lose the opportunity to influence him – and his brother – for the Lord.

Looking at the subject from a strictly intellectual standpoint, I know the fear is just as unfounded and irrational. A single bad parenting decision, if handled with care, is not going to turn my son’s heart against me forever. Every child rebels, to some degree; it does not mean the end of the parent-child relationship. I know this. I know that making him angry is not going to ruin everything that we have spent years working to develop. I also know that I would not be the first parent to lose the heart of their child. If it happens, I know the Lord can bring them back. I know that prayer is much more powerful than fear. And I know, above all else, that God is Sovereign.

Fear isn’t rational, though. That’s what makes it a struggle. It’s one of the things that the Enemy uses to distract us. If we’re too busy obsessing over what MIGHT happen, we can’t focus on what NEEDS to happen, or on what IS happening. We get so upset over things that we have no control over that we miss the blessings that God is giving. We miss the small victories of today because we’re worried about failing tomorrow. God encourages us to plan ahead, but we need to balance it with gratitude and joy, based in faith and trust in Him. Planning for tomorrow shouldn’t come at the expense of walking with Him today.

I’m always surprised when God shows me something I didn’t know. I’m not sure why; I know I’m far from done learning. But it surprises me more when it’s something about myself. I’ve been learning a lot of those things, this year, and I’m trying to learn how to balance them. One step of that is learning how to let go of fear and grab onto faith. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Battles of the mind are often the hardest ones to win. But God already has the victory. I just have to learn how to claim what He’s already given me. And I’m learning.

I know my thoughts aren’t very well organized tonight. I apologize. I hope that this is an encouragement to someone, though. God’s been doing a lot to encourage me and I wanted to pass it along. He’s always good. In a fallen world, though, I know I need a reminder, sometimes.

Apr 23

Leaving Them Behind

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In recent weeks, I had an experience that I wanted to share. No, it’s not this picture. This picture was actually taken last year, around Memorial Day. But I wanted you to be able to see the pinwheel, as it’s relevant. Besides, this particular photo seemed like a fitting illustration for the experience. But I’ll get there.

A few days ago, I had an appointment. I have them fairly often, like most people. As a stay-at-home, homeschool mom, my appointments usually mean a little schedule juggling. Since I can’t work around the kids’ school schedule, I have to figure that part out. I used to try to work around Hubby’s schedule, but that doesn’t usually help me anymore, so I have to go other routes. In some ways, it’s like being a stay-at-home mom with kids who aren’t old enough to go to school. Anyway, I had an appointment.

Since I couldn’t take the boys with me, on this particular day, I had taken them and dropped them off at a family member’s house. I left them there, knowing they were in good hands, without a second thought. I knew they’d be fine, slapped a kiss on them, and walked out the door. They weren’t any sorrier to see me go than I was to leave. They’re boys, and that’s life. Whatever.

(I’d like to interject at this point: I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, the kind of mother who dumps her children on others with no thought. However, that being said, I am a stay-at-home homeschool mom. I do not feel guilty about spending an afternoon, or even a weekend, alone, or with my husband, while they are in someone else’s care. As a babyloss parent, I understand the struggle to balance the need for their security, but I still enjoy some occasional “sanity breaks”. They are boys, after all!)

After I dropped them off, I decided to stop by the cemetery. I was nearby. My husband and I had been planning to stop a few days before and had ended up skipping the visit. I don’t go often; there is no joy there for me, only sadness. However, it is important to me that others know she is still important, so we try to keep decorations on her gravesite all the time. I had gotten a new pinwheel to put up; that was why we had been planning to stop. Since I had some extra time, I decided it would be a good chance to take down the old pinwheel (the one in the picture) and put up the new one.

I pulled in to the cemetery and drove back toward the section where our daughter is buried. Thanks to the giant pinwheels, her place is easy to find, even if it weren’t permanently burned into my mind. I pulled up last year’s pinwheel, faded and worn, and replaced it with a fresh new one. I “visited” for a minute. I always struggle with that part; I’m never sure what is “the right thing” to say or do. (By the way, I don’t think there is one.) Then I walked back to my car.

As I was walking away from that spot, headed toward my car, I was hit by the irony of the situation. A few minutes before, I had left my boys, something I don’t do terribly often, without a second thought. Now here I was, leaving my daughter, who I haven’t seen in over 3 years, and it’s still hard. I think it will always be hard. Still, it struck me that it was easier to leave those I’m with all the time than to leave the one I can never have with me. And she wasn’t even there!

It made me think back to when she was born. Leaving her at the NICU was hard. There was uncertainty, but I really believed that it was where she needed to be. And her brothers needed me, too. Still, it was hard. I wanted to be with her. In many ways, though, it was harder to leave the cemetery, on the day she was buried. I know she really wasn’t there. But, at that point, that little shell was all that I had left of her. And to walk away, knowing that even that part of her would never be mine again, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There’s just something about it…it feels, somehow, like I’m abandoning her, every time I walk away. I know there’s no truth to it. It just feels wrong.

Anyway, I drove away, that day, thinking about how warped things are. I have two sons that I want to see grow up and leave my home. They are my responsibility, and yet I can leave them in someone else’s care, knowing they are in good hands, and go about my day. But I struggle to leave my daughter, who is no longer my responsibility. And she’s in better care than anyone I leave my sons with!

Why is it that we so desperately want what we cannot have, while taking for granted the things we have in our hands? I know there’s something of human nature in it. I know that, to some degree, it’s to our benefit – the relationship we were meant to have with God is beyond our grasp, yet we cannot help desiring it. Still…

I don’t really have any particular conclusion, for this particular post. It’s just been on my heart to share the experience with you. I pray that God uses it. I don’t know what He’s wanting to say through it; I just know He wants me to share. I hope that it’s a blessing and an encouragement to you; it’s something that’s been on my heart a lot.

Apr 23

He Lives!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”  – Isaiah 53:4

For Easter, this year, our pastor preached a series from Isaiah 53, where the prophet foretells, more than 700 years in advance, details of the crucifixion. In addition to the striking physical specifics, the passage details the spiritual and emotional ramifications of the events that happened that afternoon.  It is, at the very least, an amazing passage, worth reading for the details of the prophecy.

A few weeks ago, as I was doing the study that I like to read through during the season of Lent, I came across this verse. I haven’t read through the study in several years, mostly because life has just been busy, and Lent hasn’t been a top priority. This year, though, our boys are old enough to begin to understand some of the reasons to observe, so we decided to teach them about the season. Since I was focusing on it, I remembered to dig out the book. (Yes, that’s my confession: the last several years, I haven’t had the forethought to dig the book out at the beginning of the Lenten season.)

At any rate, as I was saying, I was reading through the study, and came across a reference to this verse. It’s a verse that I know well, part of a passage I have been familiar with for many years. I can quote most of the passage by heart. But that verse, this time, was like a slap across the face. “Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…”

I won’t lie; I’ve been struggling, over the last few months. There have been a lot of things going on, but the long and short of it is that I’ve been struggling. So, when I read that verse, it hit a little too close to home. I was feeling my griefs and sorrows quite sharply. In fact, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by them. And there was more than a little anger blending in. It was getting pretty heavy. I was being weighed down. And I was sinking.

“Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…” I responded in anger, when I read those words. I was sinking and here was someone saying that the weight that was pushing me down had already been taken away! How dare they!

One of the things I’ve learned, over a lifetime of learning to walk by faith, that never ceases to amaze me, is that God always wants us to be real. In the Old Testament, He never rebukes the children of Israel (or anyone else, for that matter) for being angry with Him. He chastises those who offer sacrifices without sincerity, and those whose worship doesn’t include the heart, but never those who are honest with Him. And the thing is, He doesn’t have anything to hide. If we’re angry, the best thing to do is to just be honest with Him, and He’ll help us work it out. Scripture tells us to “Be angry and sin not”, so we know that it’s not wrong to have the feelings He built into us.

I get angry at God fairly often. Obviously, my life hasn’t been a series of beautiful picnics and walks in the park. It hasn’t been a living nightmare, or anything, but there have been a lot of painful experiences – just like everyone else’s lives. Anyway, I find that, when I get angry with Him, I can resist, but only for so long. The silent treatment doesn’t affect Him much (it just affects me), and it doesn’t solve anything. So, eventually, I always end up “talking” it out with Him. I find that my life tends to be smoother if I do it sooner, rather than later, but I don’t always go that route.

Anyway, when I read Isaiah’s words, I took it to God. I was angry, but it was between Him and me. I wanted to know: If He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, why was I grieving so intensely? Why were my sorrows, this heavy weight that was burying me, still so heavy? If someone has already taken them, how could I still feel them so much? I know that God doesn’t lie, and He’s never wrong, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like the way it is. And, sometimes, I just don’t understand.

So, He explains things to me, in a way that my heart understands. That night, when I was accusing Him of leaving me with what He was supposed to have taken, His still, small voice spoke loud and clear. And I was left with nothing to say. I was struck with one thought: how can anyone take what I haven’t let go of?

A lot of people say that Christianity is simple, but not easy. In Job 42:5, after actually speaking with God, Job says: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” In John 3, Jesus spent hours talking with Nicodemus about spiritual birth. There is a very subtle difference between knowledge and understanding, but it makes all the difference. Knowing that Jesus has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” is not the same as understanding that I don’t have to. It’s not just about letting go, either. Just letting go implies that something is gone. My griefs and sorrows aren’t gone. I just don’t have to carry them. Someone else has them.

As many times as I have read Isaiah’s prophecy, foretelling the striking, specific details of Christ’s crucifixion, I have never taken as much comfort as this year. It is an amazing and overwhelming thing that Christ has taken my sins and my punishment on Himself – indeed, it is the very thing that my salvation is founded on. There have been times, in my life, when my sins have weighed heavily on me. But I have never felt a weight lifted like I felt this year. He took so much more than just my sin – that alone would be overwhelming; He took every consequence of my fallenness – all of my sin, my death, my corruptible body, my grief, my sorrow, my separation, my inability, my weakness, everything. And all of it died with Him. All I have to do is let it go. Someone else has it.

And then, as if all of that weren’t enough, He took it somewhere else, He left it, and He came back! When Christ died for us, it was simple: a substitution. But it was so much more than that. It was a preview. My body, my self, my life is not perfect. But it will be. It will be! And I can have confidence in that, because He gave me proof: He rose from the dead! He lives! And it will be!

Dec 09

I’m excited!

So….

First of all, by way of an update: I had a ministry meeting on Thursday. It went really well. We have an idea of where we’re going now! Hooray! We have a little bit of a timeline, too. We’re looking to make a presentation in mid-January. If that goes well and we get approval, we’ll have another in mid- to late February. If all goes well (please pray!) everything will be official by spring of next year. Exciting…and scary…and…a really good exercise in trusting God to work out the details the way that He wants!

I have been contacted twice, in the last two weeks, by people asking prayer for families who have been walking through loss. I started keeping track of where some of our resources have been going and I was surprised. I’ve been the one doing all of the distribution, but I just didn’t pay enough attention to realize how far we’re spread out, already. That’s exciting! Also, it’s very humbling. God has allowed me to be involved in what He’s doing, and that’s no small thing.

I also wanted to let you know, in case anyone is interested, that I found some merchandise I’m excited about. I’ve been aware of   www.cafepress.com    for some time, but I was doing a little shopping around, this week, and realized something I didn’t know before.  Cafepress sells Trisomy-18 awareness merchandise! They also have merchandise with T-21 (Down syndrome) and T-13 awareness messages (some of them are super cool!). They sell t-shirts, bracelets, coffee mugs, coasters, key chains, and all kinds of other things. They have onesies (bodysuits) that say “Compatible with Life”. I LOVE IT!!!!!! Even if your family is dealing with other issues, they have all kinds of awareness merchandise. I’ll post a picture of my bracelet, when it comes in. I can’t wait!

Dec 04

My Heroes…

I know I’ve already posted today, but the Lord has been laying this on my heart for a while now, so…

I just want to take the opportunity to thank all of the babyloss mamas who love Jesus and want to serve Him by helping and encouraging others. It’s not an easy thing to humbly allow God to use you by inviting others into your pain, or by quietly entering into theirs. When you do not understand what He is doing, it is extremely difficult to open your heart for others to see – and judge. I am honored and extremely humbled to be joining this community of women, leaning on the strength of the Everlasting arms and constantly renewed mercies of our gracious God. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for the testimony of each and every one of you. Thank you for allowing Him to use your pain. He never wastes it. Someday we will see, even if we cannot understand here. You are my heroes and I pray that I, too, can be such an instrument of His glory. You have blessed me!

Dec 03

Thanksgiving!

It’s been an interesting few days around our house. Let me start by saying that Thanksgiving has been hard, for the last few years. In 2009, we miscarried at the beginning of November. In 2010, we had Zoe, but she was no longer with us at Thanksgiving. That was a really difficult blow for me, because my greatest desire was for her to spend Christmas with us. I was angry, that Thanksgiving. And the next one…

At any rate, what I’m trying to get at is that this Thanksgiving was different. In February, my brother’s second daughter was born. In a lot of ways, she’s my rainbow. I don’t think I really understood how important that was. Until I realized that, for the first time, I’m looking forward to Christmas. If you’ve been where I am, you’ll understand when I say: that’s hard, in its own way. Overall, though, it’s an amazing thing. I didn’t think I would ever be excited about Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong; I love Christmas! It’s my favorite holiday. I know that it isn’t about presents or decorations or music or any of those other things. I get that it’s about celebrating the greatest gift that mankind has ever received: the Lord Jesus Christ! Even when I can’t get excited about it, I’m still excited about it. 🙂 I mean, hello!: it’s Christmas! But it’s been different, the last few years. I haven’t been able to get into the “Christmas spirit”. And the idea that it’s all centered around the birth of a child… Well, let’s just say it’s been rough. It’s different this year, though. Praise God!

This was the first Thanksgiving, in recent history, that I didn’t have to make a choice to be thankful. Gratitude is always a choice, but I didn’t have to think about it this year. That was an amazing gift. I was absolutely reveling in it. I even did the shopping thing, the one that only crazy people do. And I enjoyed it! (And yes, for those of you who are wondering, I am almost done.)

On Friday evening, as I was sitting with my family, I got a text message from a friend. One of her dear friends, she had just learned, had spent Thanksgiving day in still birth. Talk about a deflation! My joy didn’t disappear (praise God! that’s huge!), but my excitement sure vanished. I was exhausted, after shopping all day, but instantly focused in a way I have seldom been.

It’s been over three days, and I still cannot stop thinking about the family. Their holiday will never be the same. Kelly Gerken (from SGM) calls it “the sacred place where heaven and earth meet” and talks about entering in, with families, to the place where they meet Jesus. I pray that this is the experience that this family had. I have prayed, many times, in these days, for the needs they’re experiencing right now. And my heart is so heavy for them. I pray that the Lord will use the package we shipped out to minister to the needs that only He can see. I would ask your prayers for them, as well, please. They need all the support they can get, right now. They have five other small children, as well, who need grace and understanding. My children have been a blessing, while I have grieved, but my grieving has not left them unharmed. They need our prayers!

Please continue to pray, too, for the ministry. The Lord is moving. I cannot see, at this point, exactly where and how, but I can see things popping up and I know that He is in them. Please pray that, as things begin to happen and move, we make decisions that honor and glorify Him, not just further our own agendas. The greatest desire of my heart is to glorify Him by serving others, not to get our name on the map. I would much rather have people know the ministry than my name. And if they’re only going to call on one name, His is the best one.

I have so much more on my heart, but I’m out of time, for now. Please pray with us.

By His grace and for His glory!

Nov 12

That Day…

It’s here. That day. Today is the one day of the year that I truly dread. It would be so much easier to just sleep through the entire day, as if it could simply be skipped over, somehow, or “missed.” Everyone else knows it as ‘Veteran’s Day.’ To me, it will always be ‘That Day.’ In about one hour (around 11:15 pm), I will be sitting here, knowing that this is the same couch I was sitting on, the same place, at the same time, on the same day…

If you’re a BabyLoss parent, you know what I’m talking about. Today is ‘That Day.’ At around 11:15 pm, we will mark the three year anniversary of our child’s death. Three years since I sat on my couch, surrounded by family, while my baby girl died in my arms, at only 7 1/2 weeks old. Three years since they came and took her lifeless body, strapped into an infant carrier, to prepare for burial. Three years since the worst day of my life.

Most of the time, I try to focus on the positive things. After watching her struggle, for two days, just to breathe, holding her tiny body upright, to relieve the pressure on her lungs, it was a genuine relief to know that her battle was over. And being able to tell our young sons that their sister is all better now…if you haven’t been there, nothing I can say will be a sufficient explanation. She is so much happier than I am, I know, and I genuinely believe that I will be with her again. I know she is in the only place where she can receive more love than she did here. And He’s taking much better care of her than I ever could. There is so much to be thankful for…

Still…

It’s a common thread, through all of the research that I have done, that it’s impossible to understand, unless you have been through it yourself. I’m not going to try explaining anything, tonight. I can’t do it effectively and I’m not really up to trying, right now. If you know, I am so, so sorry – in a way that only you can understand. If you don’t, I’m not sorry – I’m not sorry that you don’t know, I’m not sorry that I can’t effectively express this, and I’m not sorry that you cannot understand. I would not wish this on anyone. I pray fervently for empathy, but I regret any sympathetic knowledge on this subject. In spite of my own pain, tonight, if you understand, my heart hurts for you.

Most of the time, I try to stay focused on the positive. When I am faced with ‘That Day,’ however, I just try to survive. There are days when I am sad, because I will never throw a princess birthday party. There are times when the little, hand-knit sweater, with its intricate patterns and tiny sleeves – the one that would be perfect for wearing with a little church dress and the tights with the ruffles on the butt – is more than I can take. There are moments when I see my boys playing with their cousin – a little girl born in the same year – and it’s all I can do not to have a total break-down right there. Most times, I can fight the tears until the moment passes. Except on ‘That Day.’ On ‘That Day’ there is no such thing as a moment passing. I might be able to fight the tears, but I know I’m just buying time; they’ll be back. It’s just a matter of holding off the inevitable.

When I became a wife, it marked the beginning of a new string of ‘days’ for me. Without consciously making a list, I started a list of all the days, through the calendar’s passing, that I will always be aware of. I know which day my husband proposed to me. Obviously, there is our wedding day. The list grew to include the day we learned we were expecting, the day our first child was born, our next positive pregnancy test, and the birth of our second son. I even added the day we closed on our first home. While I had no guarantees, my expectations included all of those days. The next two were not expected – the days I miscarried. We added some more blessing days – the day we had another positive test and the day we learned we were having a girl – and then a whole string of painful days: the day we learned she may not be healthy, the day we received a diagnosis, the day it was confirmed…’That Day.’ When I became a mom, I never imagined my list of “mom days” would include ‘That Day.’

I don’t, for even one second, ever regret the events that led up to what happened three years ago. I constantly thank God for my children, especially my Zoe-girl. But I know that, for as long as I live, there will be a day, every year, when my mood turns dark and the positive is obscured. I will relive that awful night, sleeping in the chair, trying to determine why she wasn’t able to breathe; I will relive the following two days, huddled on my couch, propping her fragile body upright; I will relive the uncertainty of knowing that my husband, working onsite in another state, might not make it home in time; I will relive the unbearable night that she left us… For 364 days out of every year, I will refer to November 11 as her ‘Forever Day’, the day that she flew to a world beyond time. But there will be one day, that same day, that it will be something else. For one day, every year, November 11 will simply be ‘That Day.’ And it is the only day I do not want to be part of.

Happy Forever Day, my sweet Zoe-girl. Mommy loves you so much!

Nov 10

Philippians 4:7

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  – Philippians 4:7 (KJV)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”                                                                           – 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. [….] …so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”            – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 17b-18 (KJV)

“But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”    – 2 Samuel 12:23 (KJV)

“O death, where is thy sting? O grace, where is thy victory?”     – 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

My prayer, as I share these words, tonight, is that you will be encouraged and that He, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be glorified. Let it be so.

November is a very hard month for us. We look forward to Thanksgiving, grateful for all the wonderful blessings of the Lord in our lives. There is a lot more to November, though, in our home. As we celebrate our blessings and thank God for His lovingkindness, we keenly feel the pain of our fallenness. You may realize that Zoe left this world in November. On the 11th, it will be 3 years since she went home. You probably are not aware that it was also in November that we lost one of her tiny siblings, who we will never meet this side of eternity. Or that it is also the month that one of her tiny cousins, also unmet here, left this world. While we are focusing on our blessings and our merciful Father, it is hard not to be distracted by our losses.

I am writing this post because I am struggling tonight. I should be sleeping. It is well past midnight and I have church in the morning. But I find myself feeling overwhelmed, unable to sleep, and in need of some catharsis. So, here I am, tacking up my thoughts, praying that they are clear enough to bring Him glory and mean something to you.

The verses that I chose, as I began my post, are verses that I have needed immeasurably, during these last five years. The “peace of God that passeth all understanding”, mentioned in the first, is what “kept my heart and mind” during our times of miscarriage, uncertainty, and loss. I knew in my heart, from the very beginning, that He was working in our circumstance, and He provided me with everything I needed. On the days when I felt like I was losing my mind, He even reminded me that He “has not given us a spirit of fear, but…of a sound mind.” Crazy isn’t part of the bargain – even when it seems like it.

When we walked through our darkest days and seasons, the Lord used passages like 1 Thessalonians 4 to comfort me, reminding me “that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope…comfort one another with these words.” My hope in Him has been, many times, my greatest strength. David understood this when he said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

The last verse that I’ve shared is a bit different than the others. It’s been a great help and comfort to me, as have the rest, but it’s a little bit of a struggle, too. I fully understand, doctrinally speaking, that Christ has conquered death and the grave, taking away all power and victory from these once-powerful enemies. There is much solace there. At the same time, though, we still live in a world where they run rampant, allowed to commit atrocities that seem senseless to me. I know that it is temporary, but I am still in a place where the temporal is very real. I rejoice that my foes are conquered. But those closest to me have heard me say, at times, that, while the grave has no victory, death still retains a sting. As long as I remain separated from loved ones, there will be pain and longing. That is what I struggle with.

As a human being, there will always be spiritual struggles. Until my flesh is raised immortal and incorruptible, there will be aches and pains. I sincerely hope and pray that I am growing and changing, allowing things beyond my control to be used for the glory of the Lord. I would be lying, though, if I said that I understand. Or that I “rejoice evermore”. As grateful as I am for all of the Lord’s blessings, I am most looking forward to eternal – to having a life that is unable to be touched by the pain and longing of separation. Until then, I don’t know that I will ever be able to say that death has lost its sting. By the grace of the One who has the power to take it, though, I will live in the hope that it will. Someday. Some day.