Tag Archives: Grief

Choosing Joy

Choosing Joy

January 15, 2016

Selecting a word or theme for the year – that’s never been my thing. In the past I haven’t felt the urge or conviction to be tied to any one thing for 365 days.

Until now. Like a 2×4 over the head, I felt compelled to focus on one big idea as 2016 rolled around. And not just on any word or concept, it was clear that JOY was needed in my heart and mind.

2015 proved a difficult time for my family, and while I’d love to say that choosing joy means that this coming year is going to be all roses and smooth sailing, with happiness just shooting out of every area of my life, that’s not what joy is about. In fact, joy has nothing to do with what’s going on around me.

In my friend Elisa Morgan’s book Naked Fruit, she writes, “joy is something deep that celebrates God’s character despite the circumstances.” She goes on, “joy is the ability to hold up because we know we are being held up … a confidence in God no matter what happens.”

Joy relies on a God bigger than my circumstances.

And while I’d love to have a year of ease and happiness (boy, would I), that’s not what I am focusing on while I pursue joy.

In Nehemiah 8:10, Nehemiah tells the people to stop grieving, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” While the Lord understands our grief and this passage should not be taken to mean never grieve (see Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). This is a great reminder that our grief should not keep us from the joy that comes from Christ and in that joy we find strength to face any circumstance.

Joy is an assurance in the Lord that sustains us through whatever life brings.

In other words, we are called to have joy in any circumstance and it’s through that joy that comes only from the Lord that we’ll find the strength to face the challenge.

Joy hasn’t been my natural response lately but in 2016 I’m choosing joy. I’m choosing to focus on the God of this universe who holds me close through the journey. Won’t you join me?

Do you choose a word or theme to focus each year on? If so, what are you focusing on in 2016?

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Daring to Trust God in the Midst of Heartache

January 7, 2016

“If I just knew the end result, then I could trust, God.” I would pray in a whisper. And then laugh disparagingly at myself. Knowing requires little trust. Trust and faith happen in the face of uncertainty.

For 15 months my husband and I had tried for another baby. At first we assumed it would happen quickly. Even with our losses, we had never had any issues getting pregnant. Staying pregnant had always been the problem.

Now, it seemed, this would be hard too.

I kept thinking, if I just knew, then I could move on. If I knew that we were never to have another biological child, then I could grieve and move forward. If I were to find out that we’d have another child but not until a certain time (preferably given the knowledge of the exact month and day we’d find out, because planning) then I could relax and live fully in the now without worrying about the future.

But where is the trust in that?

Then it happened. Two little lines on the pregnancy test, “I don’t believe it,” I cried as I called a friend. “Can this be true?” And it was true.

Early pregnancy symptoms kicked in, but I didn’t care. I felt awful, but I was finally pregnant and so full of joy. “Thank you, God.” I prayed, not taking a minute of it for granted. This is probably my last pregnancy, I’d tell myself and I wouldn’t allow myself to be consumed by worry or complaint.

Then the best news of all: TWINS! God’s grace and favor felt abundant. Perhaps this is why I needed to wait for another baby, I reasoned as I googled double strollers and non-minivans that could hold three car seats. But the good news was couched in some concern. The babies were smaller than they should have been and the doctor was uncertain of what that meant. As I left the appointment, anxiety overwhelmed me, but my husband and I quickly concluded this was just another area we needed to trust God, and provided another means for Him to show His glory and power. I began to plan our Christmas announcement.

A week later – in early December – we were devastated to learn that both babies had been lost. As we prepared to celebrate the coming of the Christ-child, I felt numb and void.

I had trusted God to make things go my way. But that wasn’t how it went. Could I still trust? In the midst of this shattering heartache and new uncertainty, I didn’t know.

TRUST AND FAITH HAPPEN IN THE FACE OF UNCERTAINTY, NOT IN THE KNOWING1.

This is where my sticky friends came to my aid. I didn’t want to talk – I didn’t even want to see anyone. But cards starting pouring in with words like “I don’t understand but I’m sorry” and included gift cards for coffee and treats. And I realized that even in the midst of my hurt, God heard my cries and provided comfort. I began to want to trust. I prayed for God to fill my lack of trust with faith that only He could provide, and I looked up verses on trust.

Two verses especially stuck out to me:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:4

Notice that both begin with “Trust in the Lord.” Perhaps He’s trying to say something? Even in the middle of my pain, I’m choosing to trust. Not because I have any idea of what’s next. And not because trusting is easy, because it isn’t. Rather, I’m choosing to trust because I know that I know that I know, that God is good and His love for me (and you) endures forever. Even when we can’t see what’s coming next, He has a plan, and we are just called to trust in the Lord.

After all, trust and faith happen in the face of uncertainty.

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Choosing to be brave in a scary world

December 6, 2015

“Careful, be careful,” I hear her tell her imaginary friend through the bedroom door. And I wince. Those words are exactly the opposite of the brave spirit I want to instill in her.

Before Reagan was born I determined I wanted to raise her to be brave and adventurous with a curiosity to see and learn without fear. I wanted to give her the opportunity to try things, to succeed and to fail. And within reason, the space to get hurt. Rather than telling her to be careful I would be more descriptive in helping her learn to be wise and observant to what’s around her, or so I planned. Now I find myself telling her to be careful regularly – when she jumps off the ottoman or carries her stool in to the kitchen. “Be careful, Reagan,” as she scales her changing table.

Read the rest on the Middle Places blog.

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Trusting God in the Waiting Room

November 2, 2015

You know the scene: the uncomfortable chairs, room full of strangers, a squirmy toddler or two, waiting.

Waiting for your name to be called, for things to get started. Maybe it’s just an annual exam or the exciting first ultrasound of your pregnancy, maybe it’s a worrisome mole or a follow-up with a potentially life-altering diagnosis, or maybe it’s an emergency. You’ve probably experienced more than one of these scenarios in your lifetime. I know I have.

Read the rest on the Middle Places blog.

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When Life Feels like a Wrestling Match

September 30, 2015

“Did you win?” one of the guys from my small group asked me after church on Sunday.

“Did I win?” I replied racking my brain trying to remember what I had competed in. I may talk a big game, but there really isn’t that much competition going on in my life.

“It’s what I always ask people; did you win this week?” he repeated.

“No,” I replied honestly. “I think this last week beat me. But this coming week will be mine!”

Read the rest on the Middle Places blog.

 

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A Change of Focus

August 28, 2015

I had high expectations for this summer. Those hopes haven’t been met and my summer has been all the better for it.

I’ve been pretty open about my husband and I’s struggle with fertility. We’ve been trying for another baby for many months now and have been diagnosed with “unexplained infertility,” which means just that. We have no idea why we aren’t getting pregnant…

Read the rest on the Middle Places blog.

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To Risk Losing It All, Again

July 14, 2015

As the doctor walked into the ultrasound room, I knew something was wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. “The baby looks great,” she solemnly shared. “But you’re dilated to 4cm.” My heart stopped. She said other words that I couldn’t fully process: bulging membranes, emergency surgery, hospital now. She left the room so I could get dressed…

Read the rest on the Middle Places blog.

Welcome to my mess

Welcome to My Mess

December 11, 2014

Some things are too personal to share publically. Too deep, too vulnerable, too hurtful. But if no one shares, then others facing the same hurts – in the same mess – can often feel alone and isolated, as if no one else has ever gone through what they are going through.

That’s how I’m feeling today. Welcome to my mess.

My husband and I have been trying for some months to have another baby. We planned to stay home for the holidays this year because we assumed I’d be pregnant (I’m a high-risk pregnancy so I am not allowed to travel after the first trimester) and yet, here I sit in mid-December with yet another reminder that I am not pregnant. And my heart aches.

At first the teasing of “time for another,” and “Reagan needs a little brother or sister” amused me. “Maybe someday,” I’d joke back. But now, through no fault of my sweet friends, the comments hurt, and my confidence wavers. Self-doubt creeps in. Maybe something is wrong with me. Maybe I’m not a very good mom and wouldn’t be able to handle two kiddos. After all we’ve been through, maybe I should just be content with having one happy and healthy child.

And yet the truth is, my heart longs for more. More children, more special moments, more “firsts.” I long to feel a baby move inside me again, to smell the wonderful fragrance of a newly born infant, to watch my daughter interact with and love a younger sibling.

And whether rational or not, it feels like my dream is out of reach. It’s not happening today and there is no guarantee it will happen tomorrow. And life must go on.

Even in the midst of my sorrow, there is joy in this season. As I watch my daughter experience Christmas with her toddler-like wonder, my heart swells. As I cheer for my newly-engaged friends, I am reminded of all of that with which God has blessed me. As I congratulate the new mamas-to-be in my sphere of influence, my focus takes aim on truth. A truth that doesn’t deny my own hurts and disappointments, but rather takes the feelings and turns them into something deeper and stronger than they ever could have been without the struggles. Transforming them into the very type of deep love that is at the heart of Christmas. And I am reminded of the great love God has showered on each of us through the gift of his tiny son on Christmas Day; even knowing that some thirty-three years later mankind would nail that babe-turned-man to a cross to die for our sins.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

So although I grieve, I am also hopeful. Hopeful that someday – through some means – God will grow my tiny family. But even more strongly, I am hopeful that during this season God’s family will grow, and that more of those I love, and those I hope to one day know and love, will come to understand what a gift that little baby-born-in-a-manger was to each of us and how He can bring hope to our private tears and deepest hurts.

And just in case you’re wondering, there’s no follow-up to this story {yet}. No “and since writing this…” This is where I’m at today – right now – where I uncomfortable sit while God works on my head and my heart. Welcome to my mess.

3.13.12

March 13, 2014

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Today is my son’s second birthday.

From the moment that plus sign appeared on the pregnancy test, J and I planned and dreamed and waited. Waited for the first ultrasound with the beating heart. Waited to feel that first flutter of movement. We watched and we waited and we prayed for our firstborn.

With a thatch of dark brown hair on his tiny head from me and J’s muscular calves he was beautiful. But life had already left his body when I held him in my arms at 20 weeks gestation. I was just meeting him – just finding out that he was a he – and already I had to say goodbye.

“You’ll have more…” they said. They were right. Although many are not so fortunate.

“You are blessed,” they say. It’s true. We just celebrated Reagan’s first birthday and I love being her mom more than words can say. She brings joy to my life and is the beat of my heart.

“You’ll get over it.” Never. You never get over losing a child. You continue on {hopefully} and the pain lessens. You don’t think about your child quite so often. Then a song comes on the radio, a breeze blows through a wind chime or a smell catches your attention and the memories come flooding back. And with them, tears. Tears on the solitary drive to work or in the quiet hours of darkness. And guilt that you had forgotten even a little bit.

Others move on and it feels like they have forgotten. Maybe they have. Or maybe they just don’t know what to say or if it would hurt more to bring it up.

Bring it up.

You can never hurt me by thinking of my child. You can never wound me with your love for my son. Your concern, your thoughts, are like a balm to my broken spirit.

Since this journey began I have met many moms like me. Moms without babes to be held in their arms, but mothers the same. If that describes you, know that you are not alone.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

This post is in honor of Samuel Evan Oliver. Mommy can’t wait to hug and kiss you in Heaven!

Special thanks to all who have walked alongside me on this journey, both family and friends. And thanks to Wendy, Eva, Stephanie and my many friends in my Incompetent Cervix support group for sharing their own stories of pain and encouraging me when I wasn’t sure how to move forward.

Hope After Loss

February 20, 2014

Sitting on the exam table for the ultrasound, J and I could see our precious babe: heart pounding, hands waving and legs kicking – a perfect little miracle. At 20 weeks we were hopeful that maybe this impromptu ultrasound would result in a gender reveal. But as the tech continued to move the wand she paused and asked us to wait while she called for the doctor. A person I had never met before – but who has since become precious to me – walked in. Dr. Abarca, one of six doctors in my OB/GYN practice, looked at the ultrasound and in silent agreement dismissed the tech from the room.

She calmly and compassionately explained that I was dilated to 4cm. She then put me in a wheelchair and pushed me across the parking lot to the hospital where they would attempt to keep me pregnant. However, as soon as they got me settled, my water broke.

Twelve hours later, Samuel Evan was born. Stillborn.

Samuel

I went home later that day to a quiet house and an empty womb. I would stare into the bathroom mirror with a hand on my abdomen and wish/beg/cry to feel my baby’s – my Samuel’s – movements. In the beginning I thought I would never be “normal” again. How could life go back to the way it had been before such a loss?

But hours turned into days and days to weeks, and slowly the pain numbed and I didn’t cry as much. Local friends brought meals, my Bible study girls, my co-workers and even my doctor’s office sent flowers, Facebook “friends” I didn’t know well or hadn’t seen in years sent cards. I felt so loved in the midst of my deep pain. {Check out my post on the Hello, Darling blog for ways to love on a hurting mom.}

You never “recover” from losing a child, but life does return to a new semblance of normal. God has graciously blessed us with another child {my sweet baby girl Reagan} who takes up much of my waking hours. But little things remind me of Samuel – a song on the radio, a holiday {we found out we were expecting him the day after Thanksgiving two years ago}, even fast food {which I craved during his pregnancy}. Although I can only hold one of my babies in my arms, my heart is full of love for each of my children.

*This article originally appeared in The Fridge Door, a weekly e-newsletter from MOPS International.