August 30, 2013

Series on Stillbirth

I've had moments in my life where it seemed as if God made his voice just a little bit louder (or my heart just a little bit quieter) and I knew without a doubt he'd put something in my heart to do. I love it when it happens because when the doubts assail and the letdowns and failures follow, my heart is resolved to stay the course. Though I often have to remind myself that this is something the Lord has given me to do.

Oftentimes when failures or setbacks come, we question ourselves. Surely the Lord didn't ask me to do this? Surely I was mistaken. Surely if this was his will it would be easier than it is. Surely the Lord would not put in my heart something to do knowing that difficulties and failures await? Surely.

There are so many verses that speak to this that it's hard to choose just one but the story that immediately came to mind as I thought about this was when Paul was determined to return to Jerusalem. This is what he says:

"And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me" (Acts 20:22-23).

My ESV commentary tells me what constrained means - it's the Greek word deo and it "indicates that the Holy Spirit was giving Paul an exceptionally strong sense of compulsion that he had to go quickly and directly to Jerusalem, even though he knew that imprisonment and afflictions awaited him there" (ESV Bible, p. 2129).

Again, there are countless stories in the Bible that testify to the fact that often when God calls a person, it's accompanied with hardship and setbacks and afflictions and even failures. And it requires great steadfastness of heart, endurance, perseverance, humility, and immovability.

"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1st Corinthians 15:58).

This week it happened again. The Lord made his voice clear. He has given me something to do. I'm both excited and extremely hesitant. Hesitant because while I strive to walk in transparency, certain things are sacred. But I trust him. And I trust him to do with my words and story what only he can do.

So, beginning next week I am going to start a Series on Stillbirth.

I haven't nailed down all the details but every post in the series will be related to carrying a child who has been given little chance for life and/or walking the path of stillbirth. I hope that others find the space and safety to share their own story, particularly if it relates to that week's post. I've found that I've been greatly encouraged by others' stories, like Angie Smith's and Molly Piper's, and if the Lord should encourage just one person through my story, then it will be worth the pain that comes with baring my heart and soul and treading on sacred ground.

Thanks for walking this journey with me. Let's see what the Lord does.



August 22, 2013

Where I Am Today With Grace's Loss

I remember hearing and reading of stillbirths long before I knew that would be my path too. I remember the thoughts. That's awful/horrific/unimaginable. How do people survive that? Lord forbid I ever experience anything like that. Probably the same ones you had when you heard my story.

But then there I was. About to face my own awful/horrific/unimaginable stillbirth experience. I remember lying in the hospital bed just a few short hours from pushing my stillborn daughter into the world and I said aloud to my family, I feel like I'm walking towards a cliff about to throw myself over and I'm going to break every bone in my body and the pain is going to be excruciating. But I didn't have a choice. It was birth my stillborn daughter or....nothing. There was no less painful Option B.

How do people do that? I was learning how. You do it because you don't have a choice not to. You don't get to pick another option. People who lose their child aren't brave or strong. You do all the hard things because you have to. You do it whether you're brave or fearful, strong or weak.

But after I said that my sister-in-law softly said, But I'm pretty sure there are going to be people at the bottom to catch you. 

And she was right. It did still feel like I'd just jumped a cliff and broken every bone in my body. And the pain was still excruciating. But I didn't fall to my death. I fell into the arms of people who carried me in love and prayer.

I find that I talk less often about Grace and where I'm at with her. Partly because I've never been one to wear my emotions or my heart on my sleeve and partly because I have this underlying fear that people think I should be over this, moving on. I dared bring this up to my Bible study several weeks ago and was quite taken aback at their vehement protests.

Sometimes the pain and tears take me by surprise. And sometimes the happiness does too. People ask how I'm doing and it's the most difficult question to answer. Oh you mean right now? Good, thank you. Oh you mean this morning as I was washing the dishes and was overcome with tears and heartache all over again? Not so good, thank you. 

I'm walking with one of my sweetest friends through a miscarriage journey and today she said to me, I know it's not like your loss... But I stopped her because here's where half the pain is. Deferred hope. Deferred joy. You saw the positive test, unbelievable joy overcame you, and then 2 weeks (or 30 weeks) later everything you hoped for that brought you so much joy was gone, and there was no getting it back.

And the Bible tells us that makes a heart sick. Heartsick. What a perfectly fitting word.

I'm so sorry for all the pain in this world. I'm so sorry that any of us have to go through this. I whispered to Grace over and over as I held her in my arms and the tears dripped down, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I was so sorry that she had to have a broken heart. I was so sorry that she had to experience heart failure. I asked Matt time and time again, Are you sure she didn't experience any pain? Are you sure it didn't hurt her to have heart failure? 

And yet, as a Christian, I'm so thankful that this isn't the end of the story. I would literally drown in despair if I really thought the only future my daughter had was underneath the ground. I couldn't even watch them lower her casket, much less believe that was her permanent resting place. Thank the Lord of heaven and earth that she lives in a paradise unimaginable with Love inexpressible. Thank the Lord who created everything seen and unseen that she went from the womb of her mama who loved her more than life to the arms of her Father who loves her so much He gave his life.

I long for Eternity more than I ever thought possible. I often lay in bed at night and ask the Lord to please return quickly. I look so forward to the day when I hold her again. But next time her eyes will be open and her beautiful body will be full of life. And we will never be apart again. Because one of the most difficult parts of our story was leaving the hospital without her. How do you birth your child that you've carried for nearly eight months and then give her to a stranger and leave without her, knowing you will never again see her in this life? You're not supposed to do that. And one day we never will again.

Thank you Lord that when our hope is deferred, you restore it. Lord, restore us. 

August 12, 2013

When God Speaks in the Middle of a Montana Fair

I went to bed with a blog post on my mind last night and now I can't remember it. I hate when that happens.

We've been enjoying our summer. The fair came to town last week and that was pretty exciting for us. Doesn't take much. Couple carnies, sketch fair food, subsequent stomach issues, rides that are at least 27 years old, and you've got yourself the time of your life.

Love that Jami. 

Guys, the llamas. The llamas. I don't even know where to start with them. Let's just say they made my entire fair experience.

About to ride some ponies.

Asher was so funny on this ride. He really thought he was driving it, he was so serious the entire time.

I loved watching the boys ride the rides and see the animals. So much wonder and awe at their age. I had a complete heart experience at one point. In fact, I stood at the railing watching Micah in his convertible car but my heart was a different place completely. I love that God's not limited to reverent places. When he speaks, you listen. Even when you're standing in the scorching sun with Rihanna blaring in the background, surrounded by a slew of overly carny-carnies. 

I was watching Micah ride the car ride. It was right after I had to remove Asher from a ride because he was completely afraid and hysterical. I could tell it made Micah a little unsure of the next ride. I watched him make the first lap, looking around, uncertain and a little afraid.

I called out to him, Hi Micah! Hey buddy, look at you riding the ride! That's awesome, you're such a big boy! His eyes moved from person to person, looking for the sound of my voice. He finally found my face and caught my eye and his face literally transformed from uncertainty and fear to complete happiness and joy. 

And that's when I had my moment. My son had just shown me an amazing picture of God's truth. 

This verse immediately sprang to mind.

Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. - Psalm 34:5

(Quick way to remember that verse: 3, 4, 5. Psalm 34:5.)

When I'm fearful and uncertain, my eyes skip from person to person, object to object, looking for assurance, rest, and security. I crave affirmation and rescue. But when my eyes skim the distractions, discontent until I turn my eyes toward the face of Jesus, I am transformed. My eyes meet his and my heart registers a safe place. A place where I belong, am known, loved, sheltered in the shadow of his wings. Where the substance of his truth and life overshadow my fears and worries. 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. - 2nd Corinthians 3:18

Turn your eyes upon, Jesus, my friend. Find there the rest your soul craves. Know him and be known by him, so that in the middle of the storm as your eyes alight from one insufficient substitute to another, you can find his gaze and be transformed. 

August 06, 2013

The Bible Study That Became a Lifeline

(I'm linked up with Kelly's Korner blog today where it's all about women's groups and connecting with each other.)

A year and a half ago I walked out of a Bible study, trying desperately to be less of a distraction than I'd already been for the previous fifteen minutes. My carefully planned Thursday morning routine that had worked for the previous five months suddenly wasn't working.

I had a nearly-six month old that was no longer content to sit and stare at his mama while she soaked in time in the Word with other women. I was younger than every other woman in my group by a decade or more. I could tell they were trying to be sympathetic to my son's outbursts but you can only smile politely so many times while trying to hear the teacher on the screen.

So I walked out, found the leader of this inter-denominational, multi-group study, and asked her to tell me about the young mom's group. The one I told myself I wouldn't be interested in because I didn't do mom's groups.

Thankfully God saw what I couldn't and spared me from much foolishness. Just as I was asking her about it another girl walked by and she said, Oh, this is one of the leaders of that group! She can give you all the information you need!

That girl was Sarah. A girl that nearly two years later would walk closely with me through the terrifying diagnosis of our girl's congenital heart defect and subsequently her passing in my belly at 30 weeks. A girl that came to the hospital at a moment's notice to document the life and passing of our girl. A girl that would rally countless others to love our family so lavishly in our darkest times that it still blows my mind.

This is Sarah and I at Baby Grace's funeral.

Meeting Sarah was just the beginning. It was my introduction to this young mom's Bible study that has become a lifeline for me. A place where we come cloaked in authenticity, not masks. A safe place for sharing our best and our worst. A place where we can ask for prayer in our Facebook group and a dozen friends respond back that they're praying, asking how they can help.

These are the girls at the fundraiser they put together on behalf of Baby Grace.

We celebrate with each other. We cry with each other. We encourage. We exhort. We speak life and truth and grace. We choose to show up week after week, convinced that together is better than alone.

But it didn't happen overnight. I didn't have these friends and connection after the first week. Or even the first session. It took showing up every week. It took saying yes to that first play date invitation. And the next one. It took willingness to open up and be vulnerable, to admit I don't actually have it all together. And week after week, month after month, something happened. Relationship happened. Closeness happened.

At our Christmas party last year.

And it happens still. Week after week. Study after study.

So if you're that mom who feels more unknown than known, who wonders if you're the only one who struggles with her kids or her life, who wishes for that safe place to be honest and transparent, who wants to grow in knowledge and love of God and his Word, we'd love to have you.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 
Hebrews 10:24-25