March 18, 2015

I have Jesus, Part 2 (the days after we lost Grace)

This is Part 2 of my last post. I didn't mean to leave you hanging but I have such limited time during nap time to write and I also didn't want it to get too long. :)

Click here if you haven't read Part 1 yet.

In the days after we lost Grace I completely withdrew from almost everyone and everything. Social media. Friends. Face-to-face interactions. Grocery stores. Everything. I was terrified of people. Terrified of having to converse with people, of having to supply something they needed, whether it be comfort, encouraging words, anything. I had nothing to give.

I was both in awe of my sons, that they were living and mine, and terrified of them needing anything from me. I did zero parenting in those first days and weeks.

Family was really the only people coming over for the most part and I could only handle so much and then I would literally abruptly stand up and walk out in the middle of conversation and escape to our room where I would curl up on our bed and start the process of crying and surviving all over again.

(You may be wondering why I'm sharing such a behind-the-scenes look into grief. One, because I have a point, and two, I can only share this now. I could have never shared this before, it was still too raw and painful. It still is painful but less so; I feel more removed from that blistering first season of grief.)

This was just a few weeks after we lost her and my smile never reached my eyes in those days. It was hard to find joy.

But if there's one thing I had in those days, it was Jesus. And this is so difficult to explain because I can't handle it sounding so churchy but there's no other way to say it. I heard a Focus on the Family broadcast recently and the guest was explaining how difficult it is to explain God's kindness and nearness when you're walking through such painful times, that it's like describing a color nobody else has ever seen, and that completely resonated with me.

Because here's the thing. While I did cry and lament to Matt every single day, he alone wouldn't have ever been enough to bear my grief. Nobody saw the full extent of my grief. I knew almost immediately that nobody would be strong enough to bear it except Jesus. Even the best comforter, best husband, best mom, best friend, is not good enough or strong enough to alone hold you up.

Day after day I locked myself in our office and opened my Bible, desperate to meet with Jesus. I journaled constantly, unable to really speak my pain but able to write it. I was desperate to be anchored in truth. I needed to remind myself daily that I had his hope as an anchor for my soul. That my story and pain had eternal weight and that he was the same God he'd always been, he had never changed.

There is something powerful about meeting with God in the secret, something so precious, so intrinsically valuable. It grieves my heart when I hear people describe having to spend time with God, having to get it done, get it checked off. He's so rich and so wise and so full of depth and mystery, there's no end to discovering him!

When you have Jesus, when you really have him, when you walk with him in the secret, anchored in his Word day after day, it solves about a million other things at once. Not to mean that it solves you of your sinful nature and the battle between the flesh and the spirit, just this morning I yelled at my son in our rush and my frustration and had to repent to him, but it solves so many of our counterfeit life-finding attempts.

There's this woman I know and I really, really (really) look up to her. She's godly, she's wise, she is who she is without pretense (my favorite type), she speaks truth and doesn't put on a churchy face. I just really, really like her. And recently I found myself wanting to impress her. I wanted to "drop" a comment about what I'd been learning in my devotional times and I wanted her to think it sounded wise. (Right?? What the?)

And while I regularly have to repent of doing something out of pride or with impure motives, this time I was able to remind myself: I don't have to do that. I have Jesus. Our meeting time is a treasure and so rich and something to be prized in my heart, not diminished by trying to prove myself. 

On another occasion recently I was introduced to a new friend. She's beautiful and confident and in my younger, immature days I would have been tempted to find something disagreeable about her so I felt better about being less pretty than her. (Seriously, the thoughts.) But I was able to remind myself that I have Jesus. I have my place in him, the Creator of so much beauty and wisdom and light and goodness, and I need never have to compete or prove or fault-find. And it frees me up to rejoice in others' beauty and gifts and abilities, especially if I don't possess them. I can speak face to face and rejoice in my heart for them, be intentional to speak encouraging words to them.

Because I have Jesus.

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, when life is great and when it feels like a crapshoot, when others receive and I didn't, when I receive and others didn't, when I'm understood or not, when people assume and they're wrong, or maybe they're right, at the end of the day, I have Jesus.

And he's just so much better than every other counterfeit treasure. He can withstand the storms of grief. He can withstand the insecure heart. He can withstand the fears that form into anger. And only he can withstand them. Not even the best person in the whole world (and believe me, I know some quality ones) can bear up under the weight of our hearts and minds and souls and all that they bring to life.

"Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him." 
Psalm 34:8

Taste. See for yourself. He is good. And he is a refuge.

And if you need proof that Matt is one of those quality ones, these pictures from last night are it. Let me preface them by giving you some context.

The boys: Mom, can we help you paint?

Me: No.

The boys: Dad, can we help you paint?

Matt: Sure thing, I need some help right here. Great job, guys!

Hashtag he's definitely the better parent.

And one more for good measure.

March 16, 2015

I Have Jesus (the days leading up to the day we lost Grace)

Wow, it's been awhile. I haven't had a huge desire to write, though I do have about half a dozen posts half-written in my head. This is one though that compels me to put pen to paper. Sometimes I have the strongest compulsion to write a post and not to would be disobedient. So here we are.

I've traveled quite extensively out of the country and though I don't fear flying and I don't fear traveling alone, I hate flying alone. (Is that possible?)

I hate it for how lonely it is. The layovers, the flights themselves (especially the long international ones), the arrivals, the people-watching. It all exacerbates this feeling of being truly alone amidst so many people.

One time in particular in college I was on my way to visit my friend in France for Thanksgiving break. Being Thanksgiving it was the height of travel time for approximately 5 billion people.

Same trip but we went on an overnight to Geneva, Switzerland. 

Annecy, France. If you want to live in a magical place, this is it.
You know I visited one of these chocolate stores everyday. 

Oh yes I did.

The French Alps. Unbelievably beautiful.

Taking the train to Switzerland. This was actually a very sad time in my life as my college boyfriend and I had just broken up. I think this picture showed a glimpse behind the scenes of my normally extroverted self.

Sonia, my friend I was visiting, lived just down the road from where I'm standing here. NBD.

I had a layover in Minneapolis (the former airline employee in me ((<- I worked for two major airlines for 5 years)) desperately wanted to write MSP) and while waiting for my flight I suddenly had this intensely strong feeling of stark, raving loneliness come over me. It was so sudden and so strong it felt like it physically cloaked me.

And almost immediately following that feeling I had this equally strong thought: I'm not alone. I have Jesus. I'm never alone.

I had to share that first because that phrase, I have Jesus, came to me so strongly again yesterday as I reflected on those first days and weeks of losing Grace that I knew I needed to write about it.

I haven't talked about her much recently and part of it is because it's hidden down deep in my heart, only between the Lord and I. I think about her constantly but different than before. Before I thought about her in her loss. Now I think about her in what we're losing. (It's hard work conveying such deeply-held feelings into words so I'm not sure if this is making complete sense.) Before, it was her physical loss. We held and loved her for hours. My body physically lost her. She went from the safety of my belly to complete and utter emptiness with no evidence that I had carried her. I ached for her constantly.

Now, I think about what we're losing today. She would be almost two years old and I don't know if you've had the privilege of being around an almost-two year old recently but they're about the cutest thing you've ever seen. They're unsteady on their feet and speak incoherently but just coherently enough that your heart can't stretch wide enough to capture its sweetness. And if she was anything like our boys, she would be roly-poly with thighs that looked like they were strangling her diaper, and she would have a very deep attachment to Matt and I.

So I think less about the sudden loss of then and more about what we're missing now and it's just too painful to casually speak about, so most of the time I avoid the conversation.

But I want to talk about her today because I think Jesus wants someone to hear this.

One of the extremely difficult things about receiving a poor diagnosis and prognosis while pregnant is that you have lots and lots of time to imagine your worst fear becoming true. Many pregnant women fear losing their baby but I not only had that fear but a high probability of it happening. In fact, in that final week before we went in for that last ultrasound at 30 weeks I had, up to that point, never been so undone in my entire life. I felt like I was losing my mind to fear and subsequently, anger.

The day before that last ultrasound I was so completely undone with pain and the fear of impending loss that I literally packed my sons up and drove to another town 45 minutes away because I felt like I had to escape my life. I really did. It makes me well up even now thinking about how desperate I was. I sat on a swing at a park with my sons and I couldn't stop the tears that flowed constantly that entire day because while I was in another town and was able to respond to the questioning passers-by with a soft, It's a girl, I hadn't escaped my reality at all. The fear and pain and anger followed me and cloaked me in the same way that feeling of loneliness had so many years previous in that airport.

I was angry with God, why He didn't heal. Why he had prepared my heart to lose her. It would be such a small thing for him. Please, God, hear us, heal her!

That evening, back in our home after a severe time of wrestling and tears and anger I finally, truly, yielded her life and my desires to God. It was a profound moment for me (and a story in itself) and a turning point in my faith. I chose to love him and trust him more than I wanted the deepest desire of my heart, the physical healing of my only daughter. I felt her kick one final time that night and the next morning when I woke up, I knew in my heart. She was gone.

Baby Grace in my belly.

Big brother love.

The pain I had felt the day before was nothing compared to what was coming.

But I had Jesus.

Part 2 to come.