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.