Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world."

           How can I be an awesome friend in the face of tragedy? 

*Disclaimer* --This is definitely an art and not a science, so don't take everything I say to be fool-proof.

In relation to my previous blog about miscarriage, a close writer-friend of mine, Katy, and I decided to collaborate on a blog that would help people know how to come alongside a friend who is grieving, especially as it relates to miscarriage. Miscarriage is such a "taboo" issue, rarely discussed and often misunderstood. Miscarraige seems to be hard for people who have never experienced it to imagine the child who died in the womb as a real child.  It's usually difficult even for the "baby daddy" to "get it." In my experience and also for some friends, husbands just don't always feel the pain and loss to the same magnitude as their wife who went through the physical miscarriage. This can cause the grieving mother to feel especially isolated and like no one understands.

            Furthermore, even close friends or family members who have miscarriages are difficult and nerve-wracking to approach because the grieving person is usually extra-sensitive. And by extra, I mean ridiculously, sometimes sensitive beyond understanding. Almost as if nothing said could be the right thing. (ummm, yes. I have been guilty of this!) 

            So in light of this tough topic, we wanted to share our experience with you about what helped us move through our grief. To read Katy's story with miscarriage, check out: her blog.

           Here we 8 things to help you come beside your friend in this time of deep grief:

1. Accept it, Embrace it.

In an effort to help most likely, people have said lots of things to me such as:

"You're SO young, you will have kids someday." 
"You are such a great person, you deserve to have kids so I'm sure you will."
"You will eventually have kids, I'm sure it's just not the right time..."

The problem with those phrases is that they don't focus on the grief of THIS miscarriage and the tragedy it feels like. Depending on your friend and how they are grieving, they may not want to look FORWARD just yet. They may still be missing their baby and want you to meet them in that grief now.

People are so quick to want to pull you out of your grief! Although your tendency may be to make your friend laugh and talk about other things like the promising future (which usually at this moment doesn't feel so promising), your friend may be in a place where she needs you to enter into her grief and not offer advice moving forward.

It's always best to ask her if she wants to talk about the's real to her. It happened. And she needs to talk about it.

2. Bring food, bring flowers, bring Starbucks: just know that you aren't going to fix it.

Personally delivering food or flowers expresses that you aren't afraid to be around your grieving friend or acknowledge the loss of their baby as a real death.
After our first miscarriage, three people delivered beautiful blooming flowers and plants, and it reminded me that life is all around us, and it will eventually bloom.

After our second and third miscarriages, only one friend brought over flowers and a note. This made this friendship stand out as especially real and comforting.

I felt especially alone after losing multiple babies to miscarriage, and it seemed like less people cared each time. Even with something as simple as not receiving flowers or notes. When my dad asked what he could do, I asked him to send flowers. I didn't want to have to ask. But it still helped. It gave me something to look at and remember what I was dealing with. It's not something that if ignored, will simply disappear.

3. Be there. Go out or stay in, but be available.

This point piggybacks on the previous two. Your friend might want to talk about medical things. She may want to recount the whole story to you. This is a huge piece of the healing process.

*Listen to her. Don't be afraid to enter into the pain with your friend.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15

4. Say something, say anything....just not anything.

Ask Ask Ask questions. She will tell you if she wants to talk about something else, but most people don't want to talk about the hard stuff and let you cry. This is so vital.

Say "I'm sorry."  If you don't understand, just say, "I can't even imagine how hard this must be, but I'm here to listen and I'm so sorry."

It's really meaningful when friends and acquaintances even simply bring it up. It's a death- a loss that she needs acknowledged.

Now saying something, doesn't mean that it's okay to say just anything.  As aforementioned, it's hard to hear people about the kids you will probably have some day. When the FUTURE is all people want to talk about, it's frustrating. Your friend my not be ready to move forward yet.

Avoid saying things like:
"It will happen, you have plenty of time to have kids." (Overly optimistic...this very well may not happen, and we just aren't promised tomorrow.)

or "That's why you shouldn't tell people until you're further along." (She probably already regrets this decision. It's in the past and will make her feel regret when she doesn't need more stress.)

If your friend is a believer, focus on the Lord and not other people or quick fixes. She doesn't want to hear about wives tales or what you or your friend tried/did to get or stay pregnant. (unless maybe you have walked where she is walking.)
2 Corinthians 4:18, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
5. No offense (don't be easily offended)

Your friend may not be willing to talk about it. She may not hold back anything, and it may get weird. She may be rude about other preggos or people with babies.

Don't take offense at what she says. As a sister in Christ, you may want to just ask if you can pray over her if you are sensing a huge and hurtful amount of hostility, but she may just not know how to deal with her raging emotions. Be there. Have your defenses down.

6. Encourage with truth and promises of scripture. (HUGE!) 

Scripture is full of promises. We received a card in the mail from some friends who are so biblically rooted. It was full of scripture that PIERCED my heart like the Bible usually does, and I just read it and wept. 

These are some of my favorites:

 "Let your UNFAILING LOVE surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone." Psalm 33:22

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

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” – Phil 4:19

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Psalm 46:1-3, 7
‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Psalm 16:8
Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never allow the [consistently] righteous to be moved (made to slip, fall, or fail). Psalm 55:22 (Amplified)
He only is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be moved. Psalm 62:6 
Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. 1 Peter 5:7 (Amplified)
The Lord is good, a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows (recognizes, has knowledge of, and understands) those who take refuge and trust in Him. Nahum 1:7 (Amplified) 
7. Pray for. Pray over.

She needs prayer warriors in her life. Be one.

James 5:16, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and PRAY for each other that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Romans 12:12 (one of my favorites) "Be Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

8. Endure, Encourage, and Never give up.

Don't give up on her. The healing journey is long and daunting at times. It is to her, and it may be extremely hard for you to weather with her. Keep praying. Keep asking. Keep encouraging. Keep loving.

Blessings to you as you strive to serve and love your friends with the agape love of Christ.. And THANK YOU to all of my wonderful friends who have listened more than they probably cared to, and cared enough to make a difference. I am so thankful for you! I truly believe that I would not be where I am today without each of you. (corny, corny, corny. But true.) 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Courage, Dear heart- Part II

So continuing on from the first paragraph of the last post, I will continue to tell the story of our miscarriage and how it is shaping us.

It felt like time had stopped...

I was physically alone. I had told Kevin not to worry about coming with me to the ultrasound. I remember telling him that morning, "I'm sure it will be great! I just want to make sure." 

I was emotionally and medically feeling alone. I knew that only 1% of women who conceive have 3+ miscarriages in a row. Now I was in that dreaded 1%.

As awful as this sounds, God had a plan. He orchestrated the ultrasound to happen the way it did for a reason. It was probably the lowest point in my life when she told me, "Honey, it looks like the baby doesn't have a heartbeat anymore." But this ultrasound technician knew and loved the Lord and God allowed her to bless me even in that dark hour. She was more gentle and loving than any medical professional I had ever encountered. (This was at a free clinic I volunteer at, because my Dr's office didn't think it was necessary for me to come in for an early ultrasound since I had already had a healthy ultrasound 3 weeks earlier.) She said, "You can feel however you want to feel right now. Don't feel like you have to sugarcoat how you are feeling for me." She hugged me. She allowed me some alone time to call Kevin but also took as much time as I wanted to just sit with me and let me mourn before driving home. She would have driven me home, but I wanted to be alone. She told me the story of her sister who had battled infertility for 10 years and then had a healthy baby. She shared this glimpse of hope with me, knowing that we both love and serve the God of miracles. 

Matthew 19:26 "Jesus looked at them (I imagine this to be a look of intensity) and said 'With man this is impossible, but with GOD ALL things are possible.'"

I didn't even have to tell Kevin exactly what happened. He just knew. I called him, and asked for him to meet me at home. What totally shocked me about that day, was that I had a sense of calm. I literally felt like God had his hand on me and was holding me up. I felt like I had the strength of someone outside of myself. The reason I mention this is because I was so fearful all throughout this third pregnancy. I wrestled hard with God in those two months. I wanted to trade my fear for his peace, but fear raged in my mind. I say this because I want you to understand how real the fear was not only of losing another baby, but also because I was afraid of what it might do to my faith. I didn't know if I would be able to understand why a loving God could choose to answer our prayer for a healthy baby with a "no." I was afraid of a crisis of faith, and I was afraid of what my identity would look like when or if God didn't provide a solid place to stand.

Even and especially in these fears, I see now and trust that God knew. He knew another one of our babies would come to be with him so soon. He knew that we couldn't hold ourselves up alone. He knew Kevin and I couldn't hold each other up. He knew how fragile and scared and shocked we would be when we got the news each and every time (but especially the third time). And he really knew that in that brokenness and hurt, he would draw so very near. I wish you could understand what I'm saying, and maybe you can because you have been there. Like I said before, please share your story of how God cradled you close. God deserves ALL THE GLORY when he does amazing miracles like this.

My heart's desire is to convey to the world that God is there. He knows. In this the hurt...He will give you strength. If you trust Him as your Lord and trust in the power of the cross of Christ and the fact that SIN is defeated, you will receive power from on high. 

Acts 1:8 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the Earth."

Kevin and I feel his Holy Spirit with us in a way we have never felt before. Looking back on those first few days, and really the whole last month that we have been processing everything, I feel like God has literally opened the floodgates and drenched us in his love. In that love that provides a feeling of closeness to the divine...a real supernatural strength. Strength to face the insensitive comments. Strength to get out of bed each day. And strength to make it through the dark nights, filled with memories of laying in dark ultrasound rooms. He has given us strength to mourn and grieve with joyful hope for the future. He is DAILY giving us the ability to rise and look ahead to the hope of heaven.

I hope all of this "uppity, motivational crap" doesn't sound corny and cliche. And trust me...I have many moments and times that I don't "FEEL" awesome about what happened, or the fact that I won't get to hold our babies until my life on earth ends. I have times that my heart screams out to God, "Why me?!" "Why do babies die?" "WHY do you let your children suffer so much?!" I'm no saint. I complain. I cry for the wrong reasons. But those times are growing to be fewer. I feel like I'm starting to "see" more than I could.  (Mary Beth Chapman's book Choosing to See has been an incredible healing tool God has used in my life.) 

It's like I was living in an innocent "easy-to-have-faith" life before we started trying to start a family. I was naive to deep, personal suffering (besides the divorce of my parents...which is no small thing...but having a baby stripped away from you is an intimate, personal pain that I never wish upon anyone.) I wanted to believe that life with Jesus is a life without pain and suffering. It was easier for me to believe and proclaim that life for Christians is "all good" when you pray and have faith. I don't know that I would have said I believed this, but I was truly a stranger to suffering. I had no way of connecting with Christians who felt depressed or angry with God. But I just want to say through my tears right now to you who have felt that way or do feel like God doesn't understand or hear your prayers in're wrong. He cries with you. He mourns with you. He hears you.

Hebrews 4:15-16 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need"

This scripture promises that he has felt everything we have felt. He has felt angry. He has been temped to succumb to depression and fear. Jesus was such an outcast! I am so comforted when I start to feel lonely and misunderstood by thinking about JESUS being mistreated and misunderstood to the point of crucifixion. Jesus knows. God knows how you feel. He sculpted your body in your mother's womb. He knows your inmost thoughts, and has since before you even took your first breath. And this scripture promises that we receive mercy and grace when we go to the throne of God asking for it, especially in our time of need.

I feel like my soul has been nurtured and protected...and is even starting to be replenished. I don't understand it, really. I'm almost confused at the converse reaction I feel to what I thought would happen in my life and in my faith. I thought another death would make me doubt his love, his power, and his goodness. All I can say is that I feel him near. In my deepest weakness, he has been my deepest strength.

I'll get into more specifics of how we have seen God wrap his arms of love around us and pull us into his hesed, "lovingkindness," over the next couple posts. But I do want to THANK you all for your outpouring of love and prayer. We have felt more loved and uplifted than ever before, and we have experienced the kind of community that brings healing through many of you. God knew we would need you, and he brought you into our lives for such a time as this. For that, I can't even express my gratefulness in words.

And for those of you who are afraid of bad things happening or who are going through trials, I echo what my sweet friend said to me and what I think God is saying to us, "Courage, dear heart." 
God knows.
Do not fear. 
Don't let your faith rest only in a God who gives you good days. 
He will show up in your weakness; He knows how to provide when you need him most. 
It is such an indescribable gift when He gives you more of his presence.

I want for you to swim in the ocean of love that he has for you. It's exhilarating. Not always easy or fun, but it's good. We serve a good God.

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Courage, Dear Heart" -Part 1

A dear friend sent me a text that read, "Aslan said to Lucy in the storm, 'Courage, dear heart...' I love you and am praying for you, Liv." I started weeping. 
It was about a month ago that I laid down on yet another ultrasound table with great fear and anticipation. What should have been a healthy 9-week baby was found to be significantly smaller than expected. It's hard to express in words how it felt to receive this news. Yet. Again. It felt like time stopped...

Three times in the last year we have gotten the best news of our lives in the form of a pee stick, "Pregnant." And three times we have gotten the dreaded news that our baby has gone to be with Jesus, seemingly all too soon.

Needless to say, it has been a roller coaster of a year. I hardly know how to begin expressing what God is doing in Kevin and me, but I know that He is doing something profound, and that something needs to be shared. Not for your or my sake, but for the sake of sharing God's story. I have been deeply challenged to believe over the last few months especially, that my messy story is not my own to be held onto and locked away, or shared only when my trust-instincts confirm that I'm not about to be hurt. 

My human tendency is, big surprise, SELFISH. I want to hold my pain close and rarely share it. To move scarcely forward and to tuck the precious memory of these pregnancies into the secret depths of my soul. Only to be felt by me...lonely and despairing me. My tendency is to resist comfort, whether from others OR from the Holy Spirit. I am inclined to think that life is cruel and that comfort and peace are so far away that I may not ever feel them in the same way again. 

But praise God! In this pain and heartbreak, He is giving Kevin and me the most profound measures of his comfort and peace. Before the desperation of this past year, I don't think I had a deep yearning to feel the peace or comfort of God. I don't remember praying for peace or comfort because I saw no significant void in my life. It's not that I had no need for God, but the ugly self-righteousness blocked my view of the cross and its magnitude. So it is now in this crippling weakness that I feel our heavenly Father picking me up spiritually, emotionally, and physically and pouring His Spirit and strength into my dry and weary bones.  

So in response to that gift of strength in the storm, and in response to His cradling love in brokenness, I would like to crawl up into the lap of our savior and let Him continue to strengthen me as I share my story with you in order that God's story may be understood more clearly and more glory be given to his name. 

Over the next few blog posts, I will attempt to share what God has been doing in my heart, my life, my friendships, and our marriage as we walk through (and hopefully out of) this dark valley. 

Just know this:
-I very much still believe God is faithful, loving, and sovereign.

-I may say some things that you disagree with. I am aware that I am not an expert in medicine or theology. I know I don't have all the answers. But please be sensitive in your comments. My heart is soft and vulnerable. 

-I am sharing this NOT for attention or for pity, but to share the part of His story that He has entrusted to us through our lives and our suffering. We don't think our story is in any way better or more meaningful than anyone else's. I just feel compelled to share what the grace of God has provided in my life over the last year, I would love to hear your story too.

- I love you for reading this, and I am (more than ever) so grateful for your prayers, friendship, and love.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Discipline of Retainers

Okay, confession time. I hate wearing my retainer. As cute as a glow-in-the-dark, sparkly piece of plastic with a metal wire attached is, I RARELY wear it. I think this is because my hubby will think I am totally un-cute and look like I'm 12. (and I do, even though he denies it.) And when I wear it, I don't want to pray out loud because I sound like I have a huge lisp. haha. The alternative is to put it in after praying, but usually when Amen is muttered, it's only about .4 seconds until I am completely out. 

HOWEVER, as tacky as it sounds, I feel so good in the morning when I get to take my retainer out! I feel like my smile is more straight and I can feel confident that I'm doing the right thing for my pearly whites! Oh, the discipline of retainer wearing. 

Have you noticed that your retainer is super tight when you try to put it back in after weeks of not wearing it? And that when you wake up your teeth are sore? But when you've been wearing your retainer consistently, you hardly even notice that anything is on your teeth...and maybe you can't even sleep without it! It becomes habitual. You put the retainer in each night without second thought, and your teeth look their best.

Call me crazy, but I have been thinking about how being consistent in our faith is a lot like this retainer routine. When we are getting up early or blocking out time to read the word, digest it, and pray through things going on in our lives, it begins to happen naturally. It goes deeper. It's something to look forward to. In times of life that I've been consistent, I felt like there was a sweet communion between God and me. I felt like he was eagerly awaiting our times together, and I was too. And these times with God, especially over periods of time, yield beautiful results. Okay, so I know it's a super corny comparison. I don't long for my retainer and it doesn't long for me...but stay with me here. 

I say all this because having been a Christian my whole adult life, the most common frustration I have experienced is a lack of finding time for or a lack of desire to spend time with God. So, I just think about it a lot. When are the times that I am most engaged in a relationship with God? Definitely in trials, but also times of routine and habit

When I start skipping out on wearing the nasty slobbery retainer,  I definitely don't notice a difference in my smile right away. In fact, it takes awhile for me to notice that my I-teeth are getting a little vampirish again. But eventually, it happens. The teeth move. And even though I know what would change this, I'm just complacent and lack the discipline to get back into a healthy routine. It makes me wish I never got out of the habit in the first place. (Confession #2: what usually causes me to "fall out of the habit" is me losing my retainer. I lose things vigorously. Big. Small. Important. Expensive. Etc.) But nonetheless, I get out of the habit and I need to suck it up and get back IN the habit.  

And so it goes with personal Jesus-time. It may not be immediately apparent in my heart and life that I am getting up early to eat some life-bread and pour my heavy heart out to God. My soul won't necessarily be leaping for joy all day or each day I have a "good morning devo". But I know that over time, I will see the results of that in the way that I 
and live.

 Time spend with God overflows into every single aspect of life. It's not something that we can manufacture. It's not something we can fake. People can see through fake-Jesus people. And when we are digesting media crap or gossip from friends all the time, the results will be more of the same. When we daily input "good, noble, right, true, lovely, admirable" thoughts and ideas, we will begin to progressively think and act in alignment with those things.

Anyway, I just think about my retainer a lot because I feel guilty when I  look over at it glowing in the dark most nights and still decide not to put it in. It's funny because it literally only takes me 5 seconds to reach over to my bedside table and put it in, but sometimes I'm too vain (for my husband to see me in it..haha) or inconvenienced by doing so, and then I get all whiney when two months later I start to get a weird smile. :$. 

Spending time with God=same thing

It may be seriously inconvenient to get up and do it, or to carve out a decent chunk of time for our Creator and God. And the heart results may not be super obvious for awhile. But I think they're seriously more valuable. And I (think that I) love the major brokenness and pain I'm going through right now so I have no choice but to cuddle up to, wrestle with, and soak in Jesus's love more than ever before. I don't love trekking through the deep, rocky valley of the shadow of death, but God DOES draw near to the brokenhearted. (and as they say, this will be another post for another day).

SO thankfully, I am enjoying my God-time more than my retainer-time these days. But I should do that too. ;oD 

PS. For those of you who don't have retainers at all...well, 1) lucky freakin' you and 2) I hope you treasure your hassle-free flossing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sucking at Blogging

I think a lot of people struggle with the worry that they suck at blogging. They are discouraged daily by the 0-2 responses in the "comments" section. This leads to more infrequent entries, and eventually just giving up. I have fallen subject to this suck-blog-syndrome, and I've decided that I'm not going to set any more goals. BUT, I'm also not going to care whether people comment or not. I'm going to use my blog as a journal, and people can come or go as they like. If no one comes and goes, I don't even care. Writing is a muscle and mine needs to be exercised.

I'm going to stop caring that the formatting sucks and I can't quite figure out how to get a picture and the font format changed for my title. Maybe I'll figure it out, and maybe I won't. But I'm done caring what other people think. A blog should be for the blogger. And I need to write. No apologies :)

In a perfect world, a blog would be a marketplace of sharing information. It definitely increases in productivity and excitement on visitors and the author's part as traffic increases, just like any mall or market in real life would. But I found the most adorable resale boutique shop in Davenport yesterday,, and I was the only one there. That didn't decrease how awesome it was, and even if it's never a bustling store, I will continue to go back. SO, that reminded me that all I can offer is my best...and my most authentic self...and at least I know God cares how I feel. He likes to see me share my heart and bare my heart, and by His grace this will result in bringing him glory that he so deserves.

I have heard recently (wellll...I started hearing this over a year ago) that blogging was out and twitter was in. Let's be honest though, 140 characters?! Can we really share our heart or explain ourselves in 140 letters? I don't think blogging or article writing will ever be obsolete. People long for more. That's why books are still being written and bought by the millions everyday. So me and my not-so-smart-phone will keep on blogging and twitter will get the occasional update or link. I'm old school, yes. Do I want to be?  Yes. So here's to another chance in the blog-o-sphere. Cheers!

Other old school things I like (besides writing/visiting blogs):
-Homemade pie crust
-home videos on VHS
-engagements where he gets down on one knee
-tanning in the real sun
-bicycles (even if I have no biking skills...and can usually run further than I can bike)
-Girl scout lemon creme cookies (that they have discontinued...much to my dismay)
-The radio. Especially radio dramas like Adventures in Odyssey
-Peanut Butter and Jelly and Grilled Cheese sandwiches