Pink

We found out that our new baby is a little girl a couple of weeks ago. I thought for sure that she was a boy, and that Littleman was going to have a little brother. I was convinced that she was a boy because having a girl frightens me to my core. The only experience that I’ve had carrying a girl ended with her passing away before she was born, and while I was pregnant with her, God’s mercy kept me from being able to imagine having her in our home. I was 27 weeks pregnant when she passed away, and I hadn’t bought her anything. I didn’t have her nursery planned, I hadn’t read any parenting books. Looking back, I see God’s hand in my mental block: because I couldn’t imagine her at home, her loss was easier to carry. Because my home wasn’t filled with items just for her, coming home with only two people instead of three didn’t have as many physical reminders of what we’d lost. The pain from her loss was still acute, but my depression and anxiety wasn’t as severe as I know it could have been if my very active mind had drempt more dreams for her life.

I didn’t purchase much for Littleman either, but that was because when we found out we were having a boy, friends and family showered us with more clothes and toys that I had imagine possible. One sweet friends in particular brought of boxes and boxes of little boy clothes that I had immense amounts of fun sorting through before he came. I picked out a little zip up sleeper that was my favorite: light heather grey with little blue space ships, flying saucers, and shooting stars printed on it. I hung that sleeper up and looked at it every day, as an act of hope. I purposefully left evidence that he was coming so that every day, I would actively hope that he would come. And if he didn’t come home, I knew that God would still be good, just like when we lost Cora.

For this little girl, it’s been harder to look at girl clothes. For more then three years, clothing for little girls has brought a tightness to my throat and tears to my eyes. But this week, I bought her a little pink dinosaur zip up sleeper to hang on the wall. Every day, I will look at that sleeper and pray for her. I will pray that God’s will will be done and that her life with honor Him. I will pray that Husbandman and I will parent her in such a way, whether or not she comes home, that God would be glorified.

pink-onesie

May you take small steps of faith, even if that step is to buy a terrifying pink sleeper and to lay it out as a reminder that God’s goodness does not depend on whether or not your heart is broken. He is trust worthy.

PS. Anyone have any girl clothes they’d like to hand down, a crib, dresser, or cloth diapers (we’re considering them)? I’m all about those hand-me-downs 🙂

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Fear/Hope

Fear used to be the thing that lived under my bed when I was a small child and threatened to grab my foot if I let it dangle over the edge of the bed too long. It would rear its head sometimes, but when I turned the lights on, found someone that I loved to be near to, and fear would retreat.

After losing my daughter last year, fear has taken on a new form. I hear bad news, from markets taking a downturn to illness spreading, and my heart begins to race. My mind whirls with “what if”s that steal my peace and my hope. And I worry that someone else that I love will be taken from me. I worry for all of those who will lose a loved one to senseless violence, illness, or accident. I worry that everything will fall apart again, and that this time, everything will be too broken for me too pick up the pieces and keep going.

Losing Cora was a trauma. It took me a a long time to recognize that. And I carry scars from that trauma, physical and mental. We’re working on the mental scars, and have been going to a therapist. (An aside: If you’re struggling, go see a professional. There is not shame in going to therapy.)

There are so many people suffering trauma now. It feels like the world is ripping itself apart. Fifty people were murdered and countless more injured last weekend.

And the truth is, I am not strong enough for this. We are not strong enough for this. I am not strong enough to pick up the pieces and keep going. But the basis of the faith that has come to mean more to me since Cora died is that God loved us all so much that He was willing to give up His only Son so that we could be saved from punishment for our sins by accepting Him. The point is not that I am supposed to be strong enough to keep going. The point is that I’m to turn to Him when I’m hurt, confused, and falling apart.

It is impossible to hope on my own after loss. To hope that God would allow me to get pregnant again and carry a baby who lives; to hope that it would be soon. To trust that although bad things happen as a result of sin, that God is still good. Hope is an easy task when you have not experienced loss or disappointment. When you know loss and disappointment, hope is an act of faith. Hope is a hard choice that becomes an act of worship and surrender to God, because you know the pain that loss can bring and know that God may choose to tell you “no”. Hope is believing that God is good  and will sustain you even when you are disappointed and hurt. Hope is trusting that God will hold you together when everything goes wrong.

Hope is knowing that even if everyone that I love is lost, even if I never carry a child who lives, even if my home remains empty of children or another sort of calamity visits my life, God is still good. I still choose to love Him because He first loved me. I deserve nothing, and yet Christ loves me.

God is still good. Even when it feels like the world is burning down around us, God is still good. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

If you follow Christ, live your life in the light of hope in Christ, not hope is material things or family members. Even in light of the murder that was committed just this past weekend, hope audaciously. Pray without ceasing. And then go do something. Show your love to another who is hurting. Weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. May we all take our fear and pain to the foot of the cross, and then act as Christ would have acted. May we glorify God’s name by living our lives and choosing daily to trust in Him.

If you do not follow Christ, my words won’t make much sense. If God is good, why do people die? If God is good, why do people spew hate in His name? If God is good, why did my unborn child die or why did a man murder fifty people over the weekend? I cannot sum up the whole of my faith in a blog post. I would encourage you to read scripture. To examine the life of Christ and to see what He said about Himself and how He loved and lived, and how He died to pay the price for our sins. I also encourage you to ask questions. God does not require that we become perfect before we seek Him. He came to seek and save those who are hurting and those who are sick.

And when we see pain and sickness, suffering and death, and people who claim faith who wield it like a club with which to beat others, know that Christians are not perfect and that some who claim faith in God are misled. We are a poor reflection of the Christ that we serve. I pray that you would seek Him with your whole heart, because He is waiting for you to find Him.

Don’t want to talk

These past few weeks have been dark for me.

Since losing Cora, I have had many hard days. I have learned that sometimes grief pops out of nowhere and hits you over the head with heartache that you were just starting to feel like you had come to grips with. I have learned that sometimes I feel guilty for being happy, and I have daily wrestled with the quiet that is still in my home. No tiny person to keep me up at night; no toys and supplies betraying a little human who has taken residence.

And life has gone on. I still get up and go to work every day. I’m teaching again, and I’m planning and hoping. But these past few weeks, I have struggled. I have felt hopeful and hopeless, alone and surrounded. Life as I think that it should be doesn’t exist.

And I become bitter. I compare myself to those around me whose situations I envy and I want to give up. I try to figure out God’s will with my human reason, and I feel even more bitter and upset. I focus on myself.

And I cry, and I hide. And I tell God that I don’t feel like praying right now. I don’t feel like studying my Bible. Being obedient to God and pursuing Him isn’t like shaking a magic eight ball and being told “Yes! Definitely” when I present God with the desires of my heart. He gives me more of Himself, but not exactly what I want Him to give me. And I feel such guilt for telling God that I don’t want to talk to Him.

But, that is prayer in itself, isn’t it? God is not so small as to not be able to handle my emotions. He isn’t surprised when my worn out heart looks at Him and says “I can’t do this for another day. Take it away from me.” As a dear friend listened to me whine last night, she reminded me of another person who asked for His circumstances to be changed if God willed it. The night before Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He went to God, His Father, and said:

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

He knew what needed to happen. He understood. He knew that on Good Friday, He would be put to death and that in that death, He would pay for my sins and yours so that we could be untied with God upon accepting Christ’s gift.

And I, a frail human, have no idea what will be required of me tomorrow or if today’s cup will pass from me.

But I know that Christ willingly subjected Himself to death and suffering for me. He suffered. He knows my suffering. And I know that on the third day, He rose again.

Easter is coming. Redemption is at hand.

2016-02-08 08.15.10

I Need Thee Every Hour

Another song that I listened to on repeat in the days following her loss was “I Need Thee Every Hour”. This song, penned by Annie S. Hawks and Robert Lowry, is a plea for God to be near. When my mind was so muddle by grief and pain, I could hardly come up with my own words to pray to ask God to be near. This song is a plea for the Lord to draw near; an expression of total dependence on God. When I had no words to express myself, I hid in this song. I cried as I listened to it over and over again.

I Need Thee Every Hour

1 I need thee every hour,
most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like thine
can peace afford.

Refrain:
I need thee, O I need thee,
every hour I need thee.
O bless me now, my Savior;
I come to thee.

I need thee every hour;
stay thou near by;
temptations lose their power
when thou art nigh. [Refrain]

I need thee every hour,
in joy or pain;
come quickly and abide,
or life is vain. [Refrain]

I need thee every hour;
teach me thy will;
and thy rich promises
in me fulfill. [Refrain]

I need thee every hour,
Most Holy One;
O make me thine indeed,
thou Blessed Son! [Refrain]

I am thankful that God is near when we need Him most, even when we don’t have the words to express our needs. I am thankful that we have music available to us when words fail to express our deep need for God, even in suffering. I am thankful that when I lived my life trying to just make it through the next ten minutes, that someone else had written such apt words and music with which I could worship. 

Throughout the month of October, I’m writing a series titled “Hopeful Grief” with a fabulous group of writers, doing the Write31Days challenge. To catch up, or see new posts, click here. Interested in last year’s Write31Days posts? Click here. Know someone that this series may touch? Share as you see fit. 

You can also sign up to receive notifications when I post something new, using the link to the right. If you’d like, you can sign up for extras too, such as exclusive newsletters and personal updates, by using the “Click Here” button to the right. Want even more? Connect with me on social media. 

It is Well

One of the things that has helped carry me through this loss is music. Music has always been a very special part of my life. When I’m scared, I sing. When I can’t sleep, I pray and praise God for who He is, often through going through songs that I’ve loved in my heart and in my head. When I’m scared of the days to come, I find great solace in music. I believe that God designs each of us to worship in a certain way. Some worship through painting or writing, and some through singing. I have been singing since I was a little girl, and hope that I never have to stop. I find the mingling of voices in a church choir to worship God a small glimpse into what I think Heaven will be like when we’re in God’s presence. There is something beautiful about singing with those that we love, each lending our own unique voices to a piece written by someone else and sung by many others in their native tongue in times of pain and in times of joy.  

“It is Well with my Soul” was written by Horatio Spafford. Spafford was a successful businessman in Chicago, and had a great deal of real estate holdings. After the loss of his son and the loss of his property holdings in the Great Chicago Fire, Spafford scheduled a European trip for his family to help them recover. He was delayed in his journey, and sent his wife and daughters ahead. He received news shortly thereafter that all of his daughters drowned on the journey, and that his wife alone survived. He wrote this powerful, hopeful song as his ship sailed over the very place where his daughters died.

(http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Music/hymns-the-songs-and-the-stories/it-is-well-with-my-soul-the-song-and-the-story.html)

This song speaks to my heart. Spafford lost everything, and at the very site where his children drowned, he praised God. He praised God as he reminded his soul of God’s goodness.

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Refrain

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Refrain

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Refrain

And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Refrain

As I live daily without my own daughter, I am thankful for the reminder to my soul that all is well, because of who God is. I am thankful for the reminder that no matter the trial, God is with me. It truly is well with my soul. 

Throughout the month of October, I’m writing a series titled “Hopeful Grief” with a fabulous group of writers, doing the Write31Days challenge. To catch up, or see new posts, click here. Interested in last year’s Write31Days posts? Click here. Know someone that this series may touch? Share as you see fit. 

You can also sign up to receive notifications when I post something new, using the link to the right. If you’d like, you can sign up for extras too, such as exclusive newsletters and personal updates, by using the “Click Here” button to the right. Want even more? Connect with me on social media. 

A Story of Stillbirth- One Less than Planned

It took about ten hours from her delivery for me to be able to feel how sore my backside was. I’m convinced that I fractured my tailbone, because I still can’t sit on certain surfaces for too long, and it’s almost been nine weeks. While we rested, we ate, we talked, we cried. We laughed too, when we found out that epidurals take your ability to control certain bodily functions. We spoke with staff about what we would do with her body after all of the testing was done. We talked about how I was supposed to care for my body as I recovered from delivery. Husbandman’s boss told him about a local funeral home that did arrangements at no cost to families that lost children, and we worked on getting in touch with them. We made more decisions, about what tests to do or not do to try and figure out what caused Cora to die. I made all of these decisions in a haze, half unbelieving that this had happened. Sometimes, it still doesn’t feel real. Sometimes, it all still feels like a bad dream from which I will wake up and find that my little girl is still in my womb, safe. Instead, I know that she’s not with me, but that she’s safe with the Lord.

My doctors said that I would be allowed to go home that day if I felt up to it, but because I was so numb from the epidural, we decided to stay until the next day so that I could gain control of my faculties a bit more before being without nurses and doctors. Mercifully, we stayed in the room in which she was delivered, instead of being sent to the “Mother and Babies” part of the hospital for recovery. We heard one baby cry the entire time we were in the hospital, and we all cried. We didn’t cry because we begrudged that baby it’s life or that mother her child, but because we knew that we would never hear Cora cry.

That night, another nurse let me sleep as much as I could. I feel like I’m still catching up on sleep. When we woke up the next morning, we heard a decent amount of screaming from at least two other rooms, and assumed that a couple of other patients were having rough deliveries. My nurse that day was the same as the day before, and when things quieted down, we spent a decent amount of time figuring out how I was supposed to be taken care of, physically and mentally. When you lose a baby, you’re at even higher risk than normal for anxiety issues or post-partum depression. Husbandman was given a prescription for an anti-anxiety medicine that he still is keeping in his wallet in case I start to have anxiety issues. I’m still being watched for postpartum depression, which can show up six months after delivering a baby. My doctors said that I wasn’t allowed to think about going back to work until after I’d been seen for a two-week follow up appointment, and that it could take “a while” for us to get test results back. Spoiler: “a while”, it turns out, is up to three months. We’re still waiting.

When we finally left, we loaded our bag and paperwork onto a pushcart, and me into a wheelchair. They pushed me to where Husbandman was picking up the car, and helped load the two of us, only the two of us, into the car. My nurse, the same one that I had the day of Cora’s birth, hugged me goodbye.

As we drove home, we cried. We never ever thought that we would go home from the hospital after enduring labor and delivery with just the two of us. We went home with one less than expected. I didn’t get to think, “why are they letting me take the baby home? I’m not ready.” All I could do was cry and feel the emptiness that had taken up such a large part of our lives in such a short amount of time.

God offered us redemption. As we drove home, even before we got to the interstate, the funeral director called us to tell us that he was on his way to pick up Cora’s body from the hospital. I felt so much relief to know that even though we didn’t get to bring her home with us, her body would not be left in the hospital alone. Her body would be in our small town with us one last time.

Throughout the month of October, I’m writing a series titled “Hopeful Grief” with a fabulous group of writers, doing the Write31Days challenge. To catch up, or see new posts, click here. Interested in last year’s Write31Days posts? Click here. 

You can also sign up to receive notifications when I post something new, using the link to the right. If you’d like, you can sign up for extras too, such as exclusive newsletters and personal updates, by using the “Click Here” button to the right. Want even more? Connect with me on social media. 

Hopeful Grief

hopeful grief series header

If I were a tree, and the years of my life were measured by rings, this year’s ring would be dark and jagged, betraying a fire in my life that has left an undeniable scar. I don’t yet have all the words to describe the pain and sorrow that has beaten me like waves on a small pebble, throwing me to the left and right. I may never have accurate words, but what I have, I choose to share. 

Even as a pebble is thrown around by waves, it is smoothed. The rough edges are removed, and the pebble becomes a treasure for a small child combing the beach. When a tree goes through a fire, unhealthy growth is burnt off, and the tree is able to put its strength into growing up instead of maintaining useless growth. The dark ring gets covered by new growth, and eventually becomes a point of beauty and interest in the tree’s history. 

On August 5th, my heart was broken and will never be the same. Husbandman and I found out that our baby, Cora Lorraine, had died in my womb before she got a chance to take a breath on her own. I was seven months pregnant.

This month, I am joining a host of fabulous writers who are writing every day in the month of October. (To see my posts from last year, click here.) As we approach what was supposed to be her due date, I will share her story, process my grief “out loud” with you, and offer encouragement that there is hope, even through the loss of a child. Although it is my prayer that you, my precious reader, never have to know the feeling of stillness in a full womb, you may experience this pain through your own loss or the loss of a loved one. According to the American Pregnancy Association, anywhere between 10% and 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. One in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth. I am no expert in dealing with grief, and I am not far removed from my grief. But, I am committed to sharing this pain with you, in hopes that my baby girl’s life will continue to honor God. My prayer is that your heart would be moved to worship God because of her life, and that you would be encouraged to speak about your own loss or fear of loss if you feel so moved. My prayer is also that those who surround a family going through loss would feel the freedom to support them, and would recognize that grief for a loss of life at any stage is just as true and as real as grief for a person who walked the earth on their own.

Come back to this post every day this month for a link to a new post. You can also sign up to receive notifications when I post something new, using the link to the right. If you’d like, you can sign up for extras too, newsletters and personal updates exclusively for those who sign up, by using the “Click Here” button to the right. You can also connect with me on social media, using the buttons to the right.

Day 1- A (brief) Introduction to a Birth Story

Day 2- A Story of Stillbirth-Too Soon

Day 3- A Story of Stillbirth-Induction

Day 4- A Story of Stillbirth-Rest

Day 5- A Story of Stillbirth-Birth

Day 6-  A Story of Stillbirth- Hello/Goodbye

Day 7- A Story of Stillbirth- One Less than Planned

Day 8- In Praise of Nurses

Day 9- A Story of Stillbirth- Home

Day 10- A Story of Stillbirth- Hope

Day 11- It is Well

Day 12- I Need Thee Every Hour

Day 13- When My Feet Fail

Day 14- Deep Love

Day 15- Pregnancy Loss

Day 16- Torn Asunder

Day 17- Why worship?

Day 18- I am 1 in 4

Day 19- Share Your Joy

Day 20- Watch Your Words

Day 21- Say Her Name

Day 22- Cry

Day 23- Tired 

Day 24- Offer 

Day 25- Pray

Day 26- Don’t be Afraid

Day 27- Move

Day 28- Emotions Lie

Day 29- He is 1 in 4

May you be encouraged in your own grief. May we all see God as good, even when we are in pain. May we praise God all the days of life, because one day in His presence is better than thousands elsewhere.

Why?

The past couple of weeks have found me looking over my shoulder at God and asking “are You still good?” Over and over again, I have questioned Him. I have looked at Him and said “this really happened. My baby is gone and I won’t be giving birth in November. I won’t have a tiny to take care of this winter. My only birth experience was met with silence when my baby was delivered. I wake up every morning and she’s still gone. Are You still good? Are you still the same God that I knew before she died? Why did you take her from me so soon?” I see and talk to my friends whose lives keep going, who have children and whose babies are healthy and alive, and I ask God “are You still good to me? Are you still in control? Are you still a loving God? Are you a maniacal God who pulls strings and plays heartless chess with my life, or are you the God whose Son ate with sinners and welcomed children? Why did You allow this to happen?” And I’ve not hidden these questions. I’ve asked them out loud. I’ve asked them of God, and some that I love know what I’ve been asking. And they’ve been gracious enough to remind me that God is big enough for questions like that.

Husbandman and I have been going to a study meeting at a local church called Griefshare, a group focused on Bible study and support in the wake of loss. And this past week, most of the scripture in the study focused on the Psalms and Job. For those of you who aren’t so familiar with him, Job was a man who had it all and was right in eyes of God. He didn’t have a secret sin or hidden life. He didn’t “deserve” punishment. And Satan came to God and asked for permission to test him. And God said yes. Job lost everything. His home, health, livestock, and his children. And Job spends the majority of the book in the Bible working through what’s happened. Asking “why”.

I’ve always loved the end of Job. God spends so much time telling Job who He is, what He’s done. But in our Griefshare meeting this week, we talked about what God didn’t tell Job. He didn’t tell Job why everything that had happened to him was happening. Job asked “why”, and God didn’t tell Him. God chose to answer Job with a description of who He is. With a display of His power. With knowledge of who He is. But not with why He allowed any of the things that happened to happen.

Why

As we’ve lived our lives after losing Cora, I have spent a lot of brain power thinking about what happened. Trying to figure out what caused her to die. I may not ever find out. But, I thought we’d know what we could by now. It’s been seven weeks since I delivered her, and we still have no idea what happened or if we’ll be able to find out. It seems like I’ve been waiting for test results my entire life. And it seems like I’m in the cruelest holding pattern for a planner that ever was. I don’t know what caused this to happen, much less why, and I can’t plan. I don’t know what the doctors will say. I don’t know whether or not, when and if we’re ever ready, we’ll be able to try to have a baby again. Couple that with the fact that we’ve just suffered such a big loss, and I feel like my brain and heart are going to explode at the same time every day.

And I question God. And He meets me with Himself, not with the answers I want. And I ask Him, again and again, “are You good?” And His response is, “I’m here.” And I have to chose to trust Him. Every day, I have to make that choice. It’s harder than it was before. It’s harder than before my baby girl died. Because I know what pain is. And then I am gently reminded that God’s only son died, too. And that He knew that His son’s death was the only way that I could be redeemed, and that He chose to let it happen. God knows the pain of losing His only child.

So today, I chose to trust that God is still good, because I am redeemed. Because He chose to save me. And tomorrow, I’ll have to make that choice again. And the day after tomorrow, and all the days after that.

So, as I squirm, He is still here. He is still God. And I am not.

May we remember that God is good even when we suffer unimaginable loss, and may we be set free in Him. May we resist the urge to put forth a perfect image, denying the fact that God is molding us with pain just as much as with joy.

August

This month has been the longest month of my life, and it’s not over yet. Twice last week I thought it was already September, and panicked because I was sure that we had forgotten to pay our mortgage (due on the first of the month). I’m just now at the point where I’m almost comfortable leaving the house to go to the store or a movie with Husband-Man, so I haven’t had the time markers of work, church, or lunch breaks.

Days have passed with me not bothering to figure out what number the calendar gives them, and for that fuzzy concept of time, I’m thankful. I have spent the majority of this month purposefully not looking towards tomorrow. When we got the news that Cora had died, time stood still. As we’ve gone through the process of mentally trying to grasp the fact that our little girl is gone, we have measured time in prayers, focusing on making it through only the next five or ten minutes. We have spent a month that began with us planning for her arrival and picking out nursery colors driving to the hospital and doctor’s offices, enduring countless tests, delivering her, hearing the silence when her body entered the world, meeting with the funeral director, coming home to a house that we bought with her in mind, but most of all, clinging to the promise that God is still good. God is good, even when I cannot understand what He is doing. God is good, because we had her for seven months, and the first face that she saw was His. God is good, because of who He is.

I am thankful for you helping remind us of His goodness, through your prayers, checking in on a us, feeding us, and keeping up with us in general. I’m learning every day how to trust God for enough strength to make it through today. As we continue to learn how to be in the “normal” world after we have been so changed by this experience, we appreciate your continued prayers, and your continued reading. I’m still writing, even if I can’t share everything that I’ve written. My hope is that through writing, I can encourage you to continue to seek God in whatever circumstances you find yourself. My hope is that through writing, my Cora’s short life can honor Him.

❤