May 27, 2013

Why Didn't God Heal Grace? (Part 1)

Why didn't God heal Grace?



I'm diving into deep theological waters today and I don't have my floaties on. I hope you'll put your swim trunks on and dive in with me. I'm going to start with my synopsis first and work out from there.

Synopsis: I don't know.

Ok, let's start there.

Actually, that's not totally true. We both do know and don't know.

We do know that if it was God's good plan to heal Grace, he would've. End of story.

Did we follow Biblical instruction for asking in faith for healing? Yes, absolutely we did.

According to the instructions in James 5, we were anointed with oil by the elders of our church and asked in faith for Grace's healing. Did people fast, asking and believing for Grace's healing? Yes. We absolutely prayed and believed and trusted that God was able. We prayed unceasingly. Many others prayed unceasingly.

Even the morning she passed, when I hadn't felt her movement and couldn't get her to move and I felt in my heart of hearts that she was gone, I laid in bed pleading with the Lord to do what only he could do. I didn't ask in hopeless desperation. I asked knowing that he is the only one able to raise from the dead and if it was his good will to do so, he would. And so I asked, not knowing the answer to the question at that moment.

Grace was not not healed because we lacked faith. And to believe that is to have an inaccurate understanding of Scripture concerning healing and suffering.

I love this quote from Nancy Guthrie, who lost both a son and daughter before their first birthday.

"Often, I see the body of Christ put so much into pursuing God for healing. With great boldness and passion and persistence, we cry out to God, begging for physical healing. And in these prayers, there is often a tiny P.S. added at the end where we say, 'If it be your will.'
But shouldn't we switch that around?
Shouldn't we cry out to God with boldness and passion and persistence in a prayer that says, 'God, would you please accomplish your will? Would you give me a willing heart to embrace your plan and your purpose? Would you mold me into a vessel that you can use to accomplish what you have in mind?' And then, perhaps, we could add a tiny P.S. that says, 'If that includes healing, we will be grateful.'
Isn't real faith revealed more through pursuing God and what he wants than through pursuing what we want?"

I read that a couple nights ago and it encapsulated what I desire to be true of us during this time (and always). We do not lose heart that Grace wasn't healed. We are not bitter that the end looked different than what we hoped and prayed for. We are not in despair. We are not hopeless.

Why?

Because there is a God that we believe and trust who sees an end that we simply cannot see in this life. I've heard this phrase over and over again and I know it to be true: God is always working for our good and his glory.

And those things are not mutually exclusive.

It is God's character, who he is, that brings me comfort. I know he is incapable of being unloving and unkind. It's simply not possible. Do I want Grace in my belly and ultimately in my arms? More than I can possibly express. Have I wished for someone else's story? More than you'll know. Do I hurt and grieve? All the time.

But do I trust in a sovereign God who sees the end from the beginning, who stands outside of time, who works all things after the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11), who causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28), who is unfailingly loving, who is unfathomable in might and splendor, who caused the morning stars to sing together for joy (Job 38:7) and told the seas where their limits are, who set the planets in rotation, who put the spots on the ladybug, who says he is with me always (Matthew 28:20), who is near to the broken-hearted and comforts the afflicted, who gives grace to the humble, who daily bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19), and who is the beginning and the middle and the end (Revelation 22:13)?

Yes. I trust that God.

Visiting Grace on her one-month birthday - May 26th, 2013.



I love the huge lilac bush that sits next to her spot.


My close friend left this surprise for us. She made that rock with Grace's name! I love it.




Part 2 to come.

May 24, 2013

Baby Grace Memorial Video

I've mentioned before that Matt and the boys and I did not attend Baby Grace's fundraiser on behalf of our family because we were still in the deep waters of grief. (Were?) But several people mentioned to us after about the slideshow they showed and how moving it was. I knew that Sarah was going to have a slideshow but I had no idea what that meant. 

When I got the video several days later and sat down to watch it, I cried and cried and cried. I had no idea the work she had done for it! She had taken pictures and quotes from my blog (and pictures that she took of our family and of Grace - she's an incredible photographer on top of being All Other Things Amazing) and pieced them together to tell Grace's story. 

It's so beautiful

So I just recently got the DVD from a friend and used my limited internet skills to upload it to youtube. I'm sorry the picture quality isn't what it is on the DVD but......limited internet skills. My technical brain capacity is only thismuch. And then I need a nap. And an ice cream cone.

But I hope it blesses you as much as it does me every single time I watch it. Which is usually accompanied with lots and lots of tears. 

Thank you, Sarah

By the way, this is Sarah. This is the end of Grace's service and I was hanging on by a very tiny rapidly fraying thread. The people there with us that day were lifelines for us. This picture breaks my heart.


So here it is, Baby Grace's Memorial Video.


Song: I Will Carry You by Selah

May 21, 2013

Grief, Anger, and Rainbows

Nobody ever told me grief could look so much like anger.

I had to change the header on my blog. I was getting tired of yelling, Stop being so freaking HAPPY! in my mind every time I looked at it.

See?

I've cried every day for weeks now. Even before Grace passed I was crying everyday, the weight of her condition crushing on my heart. Except a few days ago I realized at the end of the day I hadn't cried. And then that made me want to cry.

I think people who interact with me in real life would be surprised to read this because outwardly I appear like I'm coping pretty well. But it's the private moments when I fall apart and I wonder if I will ever feel "normal" again, whatever normal used to be.

I guess the days when I could not associate everything back to Grace.

Today is Tuesday. I should be 33 weeks and 5 days. 

July 4th. I dread that day. I should have a little girl dressed in red, white, and blue. 

You lost your brother-in-law April 27th, two days after we lost Grace. 

That little girl's middle name is Grace and she walks holding her Daddy's hand. Grace would've too. 

Elvis' birthday is January 8th. We found out about Grace's condition January 18th. 

April Fool's Day we were in Seattle. We got the news of her heart failure April 2nd. 

They're going to the zoo? I was pregnant with Grace at the zoo. I waddled around all day long. 

That park. We were there the day before Grace passed. Somehow I knew it was close. I cried all day long.

Grief is angering. It's angering because there's no way around it but straight through it. It's not like other situations, like a difficult relationship (and believe me I have those too), where you can walk away for awhile. Clear your head, gain some perspective.

I can't walk away from me. It's my heart that's the holding place for all this pain and loss.

I was telling a friend recently though that I feel like I have a deeper understanding of the spiritual world because I literally feel people's prayers for me. What's happening in the spiritual I'm experiencing tangibly in this world. I actually feel comfort and grace and peace.

The other night (the night of The Rainbow - I'll explain in a minute) I was driving home and I had this overwhelming feeling of being loved. Which, for perfectionist personalities like mine, is pretty amazing. Oftentimes I feel like if I'm not getting it exactly "right" all the time, then everything about me is wrong.

(Can anybody else relate? Tell me I'm not the only one.)

But as I drove home by myself I was awash with such a feeling of being loved, it took me completely aback. I soaked it in, thinking, I AM loved. That's amazing. I'm loved.

See?

Your prayers are taking root and bearing fruit in my (our) life.

So thank you.

Now, about The Rainbow. (Actually, it was a full double rainbow. Even more amazing.)

I was driving to meet Matt a couple nights ago and suddenly this rainbow appeared and shot out a trillion watts of brilliance, literally causing me to veer my car off the road, jump out and try in my finite mind to take it in. At one point I was walking around trying to find the best view to capture it with my phone and I was talking out loud the entire time, Lord, you're AMAZING. I can't BELIEVE it. You're amazing, absolutely amazing. Oh my gosh, this is UNREAL.

And so on and so forth. But it totally exploded my brain for Eternity because I actually wanted it to stop. It was so beautiful and so brilliant that I couldn't take it any more. The literal testimony of Creation to the Creator was too much, my finite brain couldn't hold it all in. So when the clouds moved and the sun was hidden and it disappeared, I was actually relieved.

Isn't that interesting? No wonder people fell on their faces when they encountered God in the Bible. We're simply unable to be unaffected in the presence of such holiness and splendor. And no wonder John, the writer of Revelation, used the word like so many times. There's just no accurately describing such beauty and brilliance.

So here it is - The Rainbow. In unfiltered splendor.


The heavens declare the glory of God, 
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Psalm 19:1

May 17, 2013

Navigating Our New World

We moved into our new place last Saturday and haven't had internet so I've been having serious Writer's Withdrawal. I have at least three different posts I want to write but we will only have internet for 12 more hours and then not again until next week. (Long story.) So I'll write what I can with the little time I have.

First, to the sweet girl who sent this...


Thank you. I absolutely love it and I especially love that it plays Amazing Grace. That was so thoughtful and kind.

Also. Safety first.


Because our plans changed so drastically for the future after Grace passed (we were no longer relocating to Seattle for her care), we had very little time to find a rental in town as our closing date on our house was just three weeks away. We had absolutely no luck finding a suitable option that met the needs of our family, our future, and my cat of almost twelve years. So last week we said yet another goodbye.

Saying goodbye to Cyrus.



Oh Cyrus. We've walked many a journey together. Break-ups. Heartache. Roommates. Changes. Moves. Marriage. Children. Loss.

But to be quite honest, compared to losing Grace, the pain of giving him up doesn't even register. My entire heart is wrapped up in Grace and navigating the pain of losing her.

I stopped by Dr. Hardy's (our pediatric cardiologist) office yesterday to drop off a card. We were able to visit for about a half hour but prior to that, as I waited for him in the same chair that I often sat in as we waited for our weekly appointments, I nearly had an anxiety attack. I was completely bowled over with the memories of the deep anxiety each appointment held and the feelings of devastation that often followed, particularly towards the end. I really thought I was going to have to leave immediately.

Experiences like that are astonishing to me because I've never been one to have strong attachments to places or things. I've also never worn my heart on my sleeve and am not often prone to emotional outbursts, so when I see the different ways grief usurps my natural order, it's unsettling.

It seems loss has a way of unearthing every deep fear you've ever had.

(But more on that next time.)

And now, one last picture. My mom called me the day before Mother's Day and asked if I could meet her at Grace's resting place. Honestly, I was terrified. I hadn't been there since the day of her service and I knew it would unleash a torrent of emotions.

But we walked up to find this.


I knelt and wept.

It was beautiful. And perhaps one of the most touching and meaningful things anyone has ever done for me.

I was right, it did unleash a torrent of emotions but it also brought a healing balm to my heart that I hadn't expected. It's hard to describe but I felt a closeness to Grace that I'd desperately lacked since the moment we handed her to a stranger and watched her taken away. I know she's not really there. I know she's in Paradise with the Creator and King of all the universe. But it was still healing. And I can't wait to visit again.

Thank you, mama.

May 09, 2013

The Fundraiser

You remember that verse I was trying to remember? Last night I laid in bed and tested myself again.

But this time it was different - I could recall it.

I don't often memorize Scripture through rote memorization. I usually memorize through reading it on the page (seeing it in my mind's eye - word placement and structure) and then using it (saying it back or to someone). So that's what I did. The word placement wasn't quite right as I said it, so in my mind's eye I rearranged it until it fit...and it finally did!

(That was really driving me crazy.)

But it was timely because I'm beginning to feel the fog lift. I'm reintegrating back into "normal" life (our new normal at least) and it doesn't feel as fearful as it did.

I still feel the pain deeply. And triggers are often unexpected, which means I usually have no time to prepare for the physical pain I literally feel in my heart and stomach at missing her. But daily I feel strength returning in small measures.

In the beginning my sorrow was so fresh and deep that I needed to step back and hunker down with those closest to me. Real life people. Flesh and blood people. I cut out everything superficial. Facebook. Hulu. Instagram. Blogs. Social events. In my raw pain, everything else felt shallow and undeserving.

(Undeserving may be a strange word to use but I can only describe it as those things didn't feel worthy to me of the pain I was experiencing.)

But now I'm slowly reintegrating. Taking it one day at a time. And learning that I cannot take for granted that all is well.

But oh the grace. Beautiful amazing grace.

Some time back I had mentioned that some friends (and one girl that I didn't then know but I now know and am so happy that I now know) wanted to do a fundraiser for us since at that time our plans were to relocate to Seattle indefinitely for Grace's surgeries and care. About a day or two after Grace passed, Sarah (my friend and one of the coordinators) came to see us. She hated to have to talk about it but she said if we were willing, everyone still wanted to do the fundraiser.

Matt and I were very conflicted and said we'd let her know by the end of the night. Eventually we agreed because they had put so much hard work into it and we hated to let them down or have it be wasted, and because we knew if the roles were reversed, we would absolutely still want to do it for our friends.

Guys. Guys. 

We had no clue the outpouring of love and support we would get. No clue! That night and this week we have been floored time and time again at the stories of people's giving and generosity. We didn't go, as our grief still felt so raw and overwhelming, but nonetheless the outpouring! The burden-bearing!







We absolutely could not in a thousand years adequately express how humbled, thankful, and forever touched we are by the hundreds of you that gave and loved us so lavishly.

Thank you.

Thank you more than we could ever fully say. And I'll repeat what I've prayed since that night - Lord, please return it back on their heads. Please bless them in return beyond what we could think to ask for.

Amen and amen.

(Several people have told me they're having trouble commenting. That should hopefully be fixed now. I love reading your comments and respond back when I can so hopefully this fixes the problem...)

May 06, 2013

There is Grief and There is Joy

I have had some dark days of grieving. Truly, grief is powerful and severe.

You know that scene at the end of Braveheart when William Wallace is strapped down to the table and is being disemboweled? I've always watched that scene and thought, No, you cannot survive that type of pain. You simply cannot do it. 

I recall certain memories from the day of Grace's birth and I think, No, a person simply cannot survive that. You cannot hold your beautiful, perfect 5lb daughter in your arms who has already gone to be with the Lord and survive. You cannot hand your child to a stranger, watch her taken from your sight, knowing you will never see her again in this life and survive. You simply cannot.

But we do. Day after day we do.

By the grace of Christ. The all-sufficient grace of Christ.

And because for the believer in Christ, ours is a story of redemption. This life is not it. One day everything will be as it should. No more heart defects. No more death and separation. No more tears. Never any suffering ever again.

He has given us the promise and hope of Eternity. We will see her again. We will hold her again. And she will be restored and healed, with a perfect heart.

Author Angie Smith, who has also lost a child, writes about this journey, It's a sacred dance of grief and joy.

Yes it is.

Yesterday we knew we needed to get away as a family. It was a beautiful day so we headed for a hike and a picnic in a canyon not too far from our home. Just the four of us.







And after having experienced a dark day of suffocating grief the day before, it was life-giving to have moments of pure joy and the beauty of Creation.

We watched the boys with rolled up pants and bare feet wade in a stream, throwing rocks and sticks. The sun beat down on my face, the sky blue for as far as the eye could see.




Pure joy.

But with wavering voice, barely able to speak the words, I ask Matt, Will I always feel this way? Even in the midst of a happy moment, will there always be this gaping hole?

I miss her. I always miss her. I always feel like something's missing.

There is grief and there is joy.

And there is Christ. There is always Christ.

May 03, 2013

How to Help Your Grieving Friend

I think one of the hardest things for a friend or family member of a grieving friend is simply knowing what to say or do (or not say or not do). Ours is not a culture that is comfortable with death and especially with talking about it.

I finished a book awhile back that talked a lot about Jewish custom and culture and one of the customs they mentioned is the practice of sitting shiva. Shiva is simply the Hebrew word for seven. It's the practice of friends and family members of mourning with the ones who have lost a beloved family member. For seven days there is a solemn gathering at their home. People may come and go but everyone observes this period of mourning with proper behavior and observance.

When I read it, I loved the idea of it. I loved that they so openly and unashamedly grieved and acknowledged their loss with befitting behavior and true compassion (which, in Greek, means to suffer with).

We have been so blessed to be surrounded by amazing friends and family during this time. The outpouring of love and support and prayers just blows our minds. I responded to a friend's comment on yesterday's post that in some sort of supernatural way I believe you guys are helping us bear some of this burden.

Someone suggested however that I should post the following as a helpful resource for those who are afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing. Molly Piper (daughter-in-law of John Piper) and her husband lost their daughter at 39 weeks and 4 days. Her writings have been tremendously helpful for me and she is the one who compiled the following to help others help their grieving friend. And I hope this extends far beyond us. I know we all know grieving people and I hope it helps you as much as it helped (helps) me.

I will say right away that for us it's ok to talk about our Grace with us. We want to talk about her and remember her. It will probably make me cry but that's ok. Crying is good. I promise not to use your shirt to blow my nose. I'll use your sweater instead.

Thank you for loving us so well.

How to Help Your Grieving Friend by Molly Piper

Part 1, How to Help Your Grieving Friend

Part 2, Just Know That She's Exhausted

Part 3, She's a Scatterbrain

Part 4, There is No Timetable

Part 5, She May Explode (But Probably Not)

Part 6, She Can't Grieve on Command

Part 7, Ask Her Specific Questions

Part 8, Avoid the Flippant Comfort of Hallmark Answers

Part 9, Always on My Mind

Part 10, 10 Tips for Bringing Meals to a Grieving Friend

I have to say, I almost didn't post this one because our friends have been absolutely amazing in bringing us meals and we haven't cared one tiny bit if any of the meals followed this guideline. We've just been so thankful to have one less major thing to think about a day and that people have loved us so lavishly in this way.

Part 11, Cleaning Her House is Next to Godliness

I have to say with this one too, we've been very cared for. We were selling our house in anticipation of one) moving into town, and then two) moving into town to be nearer to the hospital for her care after her birth, and then three) learning that we would be relocating to Seattle indefinitely because her cardiologist was very certain she would need a heart transplant. Obviously, we have a different ending to our story than we had planned. But that means we're still closing on our house in two weeks. Our friends and family have totally come to our aid. Bringing us boxes. Setting up a time to come clean after we're moved. Offering their basement. Helping us look for an interim place.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

May 02, 2013

Observations on Grief

This depth of grief is a foreign land to me. Sometimes I feel like a Third Person observing myself from the outside in in this strange new world I'm living in.

These are some observations I've made in this land of grief.

By nature I've always had a very sanguine, outgoing personality. I've always enjoyed getting to know people and being around people but now, even being around more than just a few people completely overwhelms me. I often find myself escaping to our bedroom.

I've sat in the car more these five days than any other time. The thought of going into a store or to a meeting has been simply too much. Matt has been so amazing. He's so lovingly and un-complainingly shielded me in every possible way. My husband who hates to shop has been the most faithful shopper anyone has ever seen these past few days.

Loud noises and voices are REALLY LOUD. And overwhelming.

In fact, all of my senses are on high alert. We haven't had cable or even a TV in years or I probably would've thrown it away. I downloaded an audio Bible app to my phone and that's about the most I can tolerate right now, besides (very select) music and sermons here and there.

This next one I'm not sure how to describe. I'll tell a story about it instead. Tuesday we were on our way to Baby Grace's funeral (I hate even typing that) and we were sitting at a red light. The tears were pouring down my face as I could hardly comprehend this unfathomable thing we were doing. There was a man standing on the concrete in between lanes with a sign asking for work or something. And suddenly I was so sorry for him. I was so sorry that he had to do that and live that life. He looked over and we locked eyes for several long moments and I just wished he could know how sorry I was for him, that my heart ached for him.

I don't know what it is. My heart just aches in the deepest parts that people have to suffer so much. I've recently been introduced to this blog and this post shattered me in pieces. I lie awake and night and pray for Allistaire and her mom. I go about my day and think of Allistaire and the impossible, ridiculous grief her parents are experiencing and I can hardly stand it. 

The smallest things suddenly seem so significant. We took the car through the car wash yesterday and I spent most of the time turned around in my seat turning my head from one beautiful son to another taking in their delight. I could hardly take in the fullness of their wonder at such a small thing. A car wash! How did I never know it sparked such wonder? 

We've lived in this city nearly six years but the last couple of days as we've driven from place to place, nothing seems quite right. It's familiar but in a deja vu sort of way. 

I find that I can't recall simple things. I can't remember a verse that I've known for years. There's one in particular that's driving me crazy. I even "test" myself with it to see if now I can finally remember it or even part of it. (I know I can look it up but that would defeat the purpose.) This isn't to say I've completely lost my memory but simple things I recalled with ease before aren't so simple anymore.

So we take it one day at a time. Day after day I ask the Lord to please carry us close, to wrap us tightly in him. To give us grace upon grace for today. To love each other well. To love others well. For wisdom and discernment to know what our boys needs are to meet them. For comfort only he can give. That he would not waste one tiny part of Grace's story. And for so much more.

And we remember our girl. We talk about her all through the day. And I cry for her. And just when I think I've hit a smooth stretch it hits me afresh and I cry again. And I whisper through my tears to Matt, I feel like something's missing. And he tells me so gently, It's because there is, my love. And there always will be. We'll always miss her. And then I cry again because grief is maddening.

Knowing Christ does not remove the pain. As someone else said, It keeps us from despair. There is One who has infinite knowledge through whom all things exist and have their being. And I trust Him. I lean into Him. I let Him do in me what I cannot do alone.

Our dear friend read this at Grace's service and I read it again this morning.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

My help comes from the Lord.