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.

Advertisements

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

Trust

It is no small task to trust, although we usually take it for granted. You trust the chair that you’re sitting in right now. You trust the foundation of the building that you’re in or the dirt under your feet to not give way.

That trust is easy when it’s never been tested. If you sit on a chair and the chair collapses, the next time you go to sit down, you’re going to sit differently. Your heart will speed up a little as you go to sit. Your legs will be ready to catch you if you fall. You’re on high alert for a while, because something unexpected happened. Every time you go to sit down, you wonder if what you’re relying on will do what you expect it to do.

As a Christian, I believe that God has a plan for my life. I believe that He loves us so much that He uses everything in this world to draw us towards Him. I believe that He “works all things together for the good of those that love Him.” (Romans 8:28) My definition of “good” is warped, though. I see “good” through the lens of a consumer: a nice home, a family, a good job, security. But that isn’t the “good” that the Bible talks about. God wants to draw people to Himself; to make us into His image. When Christ came to the earth, He wasn’t given the best body, a rich family, or a stable political environment. He was born to a blue collar father and a teenage mother, wasn’t much to look at (Isaiah 53:2), and he was born into a tumultuous political environment that He and His family had to flee from because His political leadership wanted to kill him (Matthew 2).

Christ chose to endure all of this even though He knew the kind of pain and poverty that He would have to endure. Why? Because He loved us and loves us still and wants to see everyone turn to Him to be saved. When I became a Christian, I committed to that goal, too. I committed to adopt that goal as my own (Matthew 28:16-20). I accept the greatest gift ever given: being reconciled to God through Christ’s sacrifice by admitting that I am a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins.

A lot of people think that becoming a Christian means that things become easier. That in an instant your problems are gone and that you’re free from sin. I’m forgiven of my sin, but I struggle with it every day. My problems didn’t go away, but I don’t have to go through them alone anymore. I don’t have the same goals as God automatically and I struggle with wanting material things instead of pursuing the goals of my faith.

And when something bad happens, I struggle with trust. When Cora died, it was like the floor fell out from under my feet. The Bible says that “children are a gift from the Lord” (Psalm 127), so why was my gift taken from me?

And the truth of the matter is that I don’t know why. I can’t tell anyone that Cora died so that one specific person would come to faith. I can’t tell you that she died so that other people’s faith would grow. I don’t know why she died, and I’m not supposed to know why.

That’s where real trust comes into play. It’s not the trust of sitting in a chair, either. Chairs are made by people, and people fail. This trust is that God is good even when He lets me walk through fire. This trust is that God still works together all things for the good of those that love Him, even when what He allows to happen hurts.

You see, that verse in Romans 8 that I quoted before isn’t talking about having super powers because of our faith. In context, it’s talking about suffering.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It was one thing to trust God when I hadn’t known suffering. But I have suffered and I still suffer today. And I can tell you that I have to choose to trust God every day and He hasn’t let me down once. So, as you walk through your day, remember that God is good, but that His goodness doesn’t hinge on you getting your way. His goodness is the truth that we cling to when the floor falls out from under us, and His faithfulness is the very thing that sustains us when we suffer.

Emotions Lie

Hi, internets. I’m here. I’m alive. I’ve been hiding. I’m way late in my 31 day series, but sometimes, we have to set our to-do lists aside and deal with ourselves in private.

My due date was November 4th. Many of the babies who were due around Cora’s due date have been born, and my heart has been struggling with the Lord.

New waves of grief have swept over me daily as I’ve been shown images of fat, healthy babies born in the last few days; as I’ve heard the names that have been given to them that speak life over the years that we pray that the Lord grants us with them. I’m so thankful for the healthy babies that the Lord has given those that I love. I’m so grateful that He’s granted their mothers health and safety through their delivery.

But I wrestle with myself. I wrestle with God as I fight my emotions that don’t tell the truth. My emotions tell me that I’ve been cheated of the physical discomfort of late pregnancy. My emotions tell me that I’ve been cheated of a happy, expectant stay in the hospital waiting for a live baby to be born instead of wishing that I’ll wake up from a nightmare and still be pregnant. My emotions tell me that anxiety is normal, and that because the worst case scenario has happened, it will always happen. My emotions tell me that I’ve been cheated of joy around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My emotions don’t tell me the truth. They tell me that God can’t be good because my heart is still in pieces inside me as the weather turns cool. They tell me that God can’t be good because we don’t know what happened or if I should try to become pregnant again. They tell me that pain is bad so God cannot be good because He has allowed me to experience immense pain.

These things are not true, and that has to be my inner dialogue. God is good. God has not abandoned me, nor does He when my emotions boil over. God’s nature has not changed. He knows my pain, and feels it with me. When Lazarss died, even though Jesus knew that He would raise him from the dead, Jesus wept. He mourned him.

As you help those that you love through loss, help them recognize when their emotions are not true; when they should resist them. Encourage them to take their emotions to the foot of the cross every day, praying continually and reminding themselves of God’s goodness daily.

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. 

Move

Another thing that has helped me immensely has been taking the time to focus on my health after losing Cora. Physically, delivering her and dealing with the grief of losing her left me in pain. I needed to spend time resting because I was so exhausted. My time of rest was needed, and I still need to take breaks.

But the time came that I needed to move. I needed to exercise to take care of myself. So I started slowly. (Sometimes I did too much because it was so nice to not sit down.) And I decided to try and exercise. I wanted to be outside as much as I could, so I started a Couch to 5k program. I thought that the shin splint issues that have plagued me since I was a teenager would take me out of the program after a few weeks, but the plan (and app) would help me get started.

So I started. And I really enjoyed it. And it got me outside three times a week. And I’ve kept going, and hit a milestone yesterday. I ran for twenty minutes straight. I have never been able to run that long. I was so proud of myself.

Having an exercise goal has been so good for me. I’ve been physically taking care of myself, I’ve been focusing on a positive goal, and God reminds me that He gives me strength for each day. And exercise makes me feel better.

When a loved one goes through a loss, when the time is right, encourage them to physically take care of themselves through exercising. It’s so easy to get swallowed up in grief and to decide to not care for your physical body, even though God commands us to do that. Exercise is good for their hearts, too. When my emotions are in turmoil, moving helps calm my emotions. It helps me turn my focus from my sadness to God.

So when you go visit someone who’s gone through a loss, ask them if they want to go for a walk. It might help them clear their head a little bit.

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. 

Don’t be Afraid

I’ve found in the past three months that when you lose a baby, people are scared to talk to you about it. They feel like if they bring up your loss that they will break your heart all over again. I feel almost like the elephant in the room, because everyone knows what happens but everyone is scared to broach the subject. I won’t explode if someone bring up miscarriage, stillbirth, or pregnancy around me. I can guarantee that I’ve probably already thought about it that day. I may cry, but that’s part of the grieving process. (Crying isn’t that bad. Crying is actually good for me. It helps me process my grief.)  

I think that this is half the reason that pregnancy and infant loss is obscure in our culture. We don’t ever talk about it, so when someone wants to bring it up, they don’t know how. They don’t know if it’s okay. That’s one of the reasons that I’ve spoken so much about loss in this past month, because if I speak, it might free someone else to speak about their own experience or questions.

But I want to encourage you. If you have a question for me, for instance if you’ve gone through loss and want to know if we’ve felt similar things or if you know someone who is going through a loss now and you want to see what I would have appreciated in that situation, ask me. I appreciate your sensitivity to my grieving process and for my feelings, but it’s okay to ask if you have a question. If you ask a nosey question (where you’re just trying to get all up in my business and we’re not that close), I will most likely tell you that I’m not comfortable talking about your question. But you won’t hurt my feelings. I’m a naturally nosey person myself, so I’m totally okay with you asking and I’m totally okay telling you “no” if that’s what’s needed.

If you love someone who is going through a loss, ask them questions. Don’t be scared to talk about loss around them, as long as you’re careful to be sensitive to who they are and what you know of them. If they ask you to not bring something up, honor their request. But don’t make them feel like the elephant in the room. That only makes them feel alone in their grief.

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. 

Pray

One of the most powerful things that you can do for someone who has experienced loss is to pray for them and let them know that you’re praying for them. It seems simple, but so often it’s forgotten.

This may feel too simple, but really, it is so pivotal.

James 5:16b-18

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

So, if the loss is of a child or of an adult, remember to pray for those who are left behind. And let the person you love know that you’re praying for them.

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. 

Offer

When someone that you love has experienced a loss, offer to help. And when I say “help”, I mean ask them if they need anything at all. And if it’s possible, do what that person asks, even if they ask you to not come to see them right away.

Right after I got home from the hospital after we lost Cora and Momma went home, my siblings came down to see me. My sister asked if I need anything, and I asked her to buy me a betta fish. Sound strange? Maybe it was. But it was what I needed at the time. My old betta fish had died right before Cora died, and I was so sad to not even have a tiny little fish to take care of after I had given birth. So my sister bought me a fish, and we named him f-Swimee. And I’m picky about my fish, and I only trusted her to pick out the perfect fish.

While I sat upstairs with my sister, my brothers helped Husbandman fix a broken bed support in the basement. He needed people to be with him, and I needed time alone.

After I’d been home for a while and Husbandman had gone back to work, my friends from work would drop food off every day for over a week, and people would spend a few minutes sitting with me and talking to me if I needed it. They really helped keep me from going crazy from being alone with my thoughts too long while I was home alone.

So, when someone that you love loses someone, listen to what they tell you when you ask them what they need. If they can’t figure out what they need, offer something specific, like food or doing laundry. Ask if they need someone to clean their house or if they need you to take them out to get their nails done. Ask if they need to be alone or if they don’t need to be alone. And if they need to be alone for the time being, send them a card or flowers or a sweet gift and then ask them if they’re ready for company next week.

And hear them. And do your best to care for them. ❤

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. 

Tired. Like a half-done lunch meat sandwich

Tired

I’m so tired. Husbandman is exhausted, too. It doesn’t help that he started a master’s degree less than a month after Cora died. It doesn’t help that we’ve started attending a new Bible study, are both back at work full time, are working our butts off to get out of debt (Dave Ramsey style), or that I’ve gotten a dream opportunity to teach a class for undergraduate students to help them build their professional skills before they graduate.

All of these things are good, excellent even, but let’s be real. How you feel emotionally has physical manifestations. Case in point: I’ve been having trouble waking up this week. As in, my eyes are majorly glued shut when 6:30 AM rolls around because all of the stress that I’ve been carrying around has been keeping me up at night. So, Husbandman has been making my lunch, which is very sweet of him. (He also works five minutes from the house instead of twenty-five, so he leaves later than I do.)

Today, I opened the container that housed my “sandwich”:

Tired. Like a half-done lunch meat sandwich

Tired. Like half-done lunch meat sandwich tired.

The poor man had forgotten the top piece of bread.

After I laughed out loud, I texted Husbandman the following: “I think we need more sleep.”

When someone that you love who is mourning is tired, encourage them to rest. Encourage them to put Facebook up at night and close eyes. Encourage them to take quiet time when their lives get hectic. Ask them to do things with you that involve rest. Don’t be offended if they tell you that they’re “too tired” to do something with you, because this grief thing is physically difficult.

May we encourage one another to rest in Christ and cease our striving whether we’re tired because of grief or another cause.

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. 

Cry

The last three months, I have cried more than I thought possible. This is no mean feat. Psalm 56:8 says “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”, I really feel like God has buckets for me.

When we found out that Cora had died, I cried so much that my head hurt until we went to the hospital for an induction and I got hooked up to an IV. I’m pretty sure that that feeling is what being hung over feels like. (I’ve never been hung over. But my eyes felt sandy, my head throbbed, lights hurt, and my stomach felt twisted up.)

I cried a lot when we got home from the hospital, and the tears have come a little slower every day. I no longer choke every time I have to tell someone that Cora died. I no long cry every time I see the car seat my sister bought her.

I cried this week when I drove past Penn Station, because I craved their french fries even when I was going through morning sickness. I cried when I realized that I’m just two weeks from her due date.

When someone that you love loses someone, or when you lose someone, let crying happen if it needs to. Don’t feel bad if I cry when I’m talking to you. Don’t feel bad if you case a crying fit. Also, don’t feel bad if you don’t have a whole lot of tears. Do what feels natural to you as you work through your grief.

(And if you’re supporting someone who has gone through a loss, it’s okay if you cry, too. Don’t emotionally vomit on them, but cry with them if you have that sort of relationship with them.)

What do you think about tears in mourning? Are you a crying? Are you not a cryer?

Let me know.

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.