Oct. 5 2013
I wanted to let all my readers know that I have been away from the computer and to let you know why I haven’t been able to write recently. Our daughter lost her baby suddenly in utero. I can’t even describe what all of this has been like. It is heartbreaking for all of us, but God is good and we can see the work of His hands throughout this whole traumatic experience. I have so much to share and plan to do so when we have finished what we need to do with our family and I have had some time to process.
In the mean time, we truly value your prayers over our family and the grieving process ahead of us. God is faithful.
Oct. 15, 2013
Writing in the Raw
Home is a wonderful place. It’s familiar, it holds memories and anchors us during times of turmoil. I often find comfort in looking around at little things that I bought or received from someone special or at a yard sale. But there are times when even those normal comforts are not a comfort. That is how it is for me today.
The last two weeks have been wild, amazing, difficult and miraculous. And now I find myself finally back in my “comfort zone” feeling raw and numb. I keep hoping for normal, real feelings to surface, but the only ones that do are tears and heaviness. I know in my heart that God is faithful and has a plan of redemption in this grief, but being here, at the beginning of it all, feels very daunting. I somehow have to begin to navigate our new “normal”. But today I am floundering.
I want others to know that there is hope in grief and that God does sustain those who are mourning. His presence was SO evident through all of this, but there is also a long, slow journey, the process of grieving, and it doesn’t fit into neat packages. I like neat packages. I like order. This feels really messy. Because it is. No one can tell you what this is going to look like for you, only encourage you to trust in our unfailing God and not lose hope.
I talked to my daughter for long time today. She was feeling the same way. There was comfort for both of us in that. We talked about a lot of things, but the bottom line was that we have to ask ourselves the hard questions again. You know those ones you think you have already have answered? What do I believe about God? Who He is and is He good? And what does that look like in THIS particular grief? And when those answers are once again evident, we have an even more solid foundation on which to depend upon. Because God never changes. His truths stay solid in every situation. We know that in our heads, but we come to KNOW it in our hearts through pain, suffering and trials.
One dear friend said, “I really believe this is a beautiful gift, wrapped up in a really ugly package.” I think she is right. And it’s going to take time to unwrap this package.
Oct. 30, 2013
A Few Clear Thoughts in the Fog
Before Isaac was born, I had SO much that I wanted to write about. Now I can’t even remember what those things were. I haven’t had any specific subject matter laid heavily on my heart to share with you over the last couple of weeks. It’s not that I’m crying all the time, or grieving constantly. It sneaks up on me. Or at least the emotional aspect of it does. Often it’s when I’m talking to Brittney, getting a hug from a friend, or during worship at church. Something is different and I am not sure what. I go about my daily tasks, but there is something that I carry with me. Something that, I think (hope and trust) God is using to change me. I just have no idea what that really is, or what it looks like. It’s not that I really KNEW Isaac, I just know he was and is my grandson. I held him, kissed him, snuggled him and then said goodbye. That’s all the more I will know about him while I am living on this earth. After we got back home, I tried to frontload my path of grieving with some boundaries to work within. You see, I have never lost anyone like that before. I also needed to have something to share with our children and give our daughter when she would call to talk. I pulled out a book by Beth Moore on praying the Word of God. I went to the chapter that spoke about losing a loved one. What I remember most about what I read is that the Devil does not fight fair. He is not going to wait until we are done grieving before he tries to destroy us somehow. And, even though warring with the Enemy is the last thing I want to be thinking about right now, it is wise to pray a hedge of protection around our grieving. Pray that the Enemy of our souls will not be able to get a foothold and that we will grieve in a healthy way. Truth be told, I’m not really sure what that looks like either. The only thing I can think of is not to let myself dwell on anything that is not true about God and this experience. To engage in, and be truly thankful for, the blessings He has generously poured out on us: the sunset, a hot cup of coffee, good fellowship, clean floors, the seasons. This morning I was reading in Matthew 6 where Jesus says, “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I realized that much of the time, I struggle with trying to find comfort in things that are not eternal. That can be a lot of things. Not necessarily bad things, in and of themselves. But when they consume more of my affections than my affection for Jesus, they become areas of sin. God loves us too much to let us be content in such a place. He longs for us to enjoy the peace that the gospel affords and for us to be focused on who He is. When I am doing this, my hands and heart are open to whatever He has for me that day. When I am not, I find my fists clenched, resisting Him because I am not fully trusting Him or believing what is true about Him…that He is good, tender-hearted, compassionate and truly looking out for our best interests…eternal interests. Sometimes that means He lets us experience pain and suffering, but He never lets us do it alone. And because Jesus came and offered Himself as a substitution for our sins, we have full access into the very presence of God. It is our benefit at His expense. Oh, how I wish I were better at resting in that. I’ve always been better at doing than “being”. Maybe this is one of the changes God wants to bring about through Isaac. And, yes, even as I say his name and remember that Isaac means “laughter”…I can see myself becoming more free. And who doesn’t laugh when they are free??!!
“Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” John 8:36
Nov. 3, 2013
The Gift of Isaac, The Gift of Thanks(Part 1)
I have spent the last several days trying to walk out what I talked about in my last blog. Attempting to replace faithless thoughts with true and thankful ones and then taking the time to MEDITATE on them. For someone like me, who loves productivity and feeling “on top of my game”, SLOWING my heart down like this so often feels like gears grinding….hard. I’ve often felt somewhere in the depths of my being, that this area of my life would need some serious sanctification at some point. Not that productivity isn’t a good thing, but, like I talked about in my last blog, it can quickly become an idol of the heart…a place where I am storing up treasures on earth, instead of for eternity. Productivity can be a blessing from God. He talks a lot in Proverbs about being diligent. Maybe it’s being preoccupied with productivity? When I am preoccupied, I am not present. I am not fully engaged in THIS moment. And, truth be told, this moment is the only moment that I have…for sure. I think God has been working a little bit at a time to bring me to this point. A place where I hear His still, small voice beckoning me to let Him purify my heart in this area. Along with that voice, is my present circumstance, also ordained by God: grieving our loss of Isaac and all that goes with it. With a heart that is raw and feeling SO much while walking this journey of grief, I seem to have a hyper-sensitivity to what is stressful, untrue, pointless, and not eternal. But also to what is everlasting, worthwhile and of great value. The result is heaviness when my heart is not where it should be and unmistakable peace when it’s where it should be. That being said, I wanted to share with you some of the many things I have been pondering. I have intentionally chosen to do this because, often, people will share how God’s presence was with them during times like these, but never share the specifics. I think it’s so important to have the picture more clearly described so that when you go through trials, your heart will be tuned into what God might be doing. Your story will be different than mine, but God will show Himself equally faithful. Without denying the pain we have felt and continue to feel, I have also been thanking God for so much: We lost our grandson. BUT God made His presence known in so many ways. Right after it was confirmed that Isaac had been placed in the arms of Jesus, someone’s phone started playing a worship song. I couldn’t get it to turn off, so I grabbed it and took it to the waiting room. God was comforting us…these are the words:
All who are thirsty All who are weak Come to the fountain Dip your heart in the stream of life Let the pain and the sorrow Be washed away In the waves of his mercy As deep cries out to deep (we sing)
Come Lord Jesus come
What could I do, but say, “Yes. Come Lord Jesus, come.” And welcome Him fully onto the floor of that hospital.
The first time I saw Britt after we knew Isaac was gone, she didn’t look at me…she just kept staring at Jacob. It was as it should be. She was hurting deeply and Jacob was her stability. God bringing her comfort in humanity…drawing her and Jacob together. I left the room. I was thinking about God’s grace and how I could feel it, but was desperately wondering if our daughter could. When I went in to her a second time, she looked at me and she smiled and said, “It’s ok, Mom.” I asked her if she could feel His grace. And she said, yes. Yes, she could. At that point, all I could think of was how deeply grateful I was. III John 1:4 says, “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth”. I can honestly say that, in that moment for me as mom, grandma, and mother-in-law, that truth overshadowed everything else. That wasn’t something I would have ever guessed would be part of that picture.
I want to keep my posts at a readable length, so I have decided to break this particular one into parts. I have no idea how many there will be, but I pray that each one will give you something eternal to meditate on and continue to see clearly that God is undeniably good.
I know you have seen many of these pictures, but this one of Isaac’s precious face, is one of my favorites. I think he is the cutest baby boy on the planet. Just saying.
Nov. 21, 2013
The Gift of Isaac, The Gift of Thanks(Part 2)
As losing Isaac gets further behind us, I am finding it a little easier to accept that this is now a very real part of our family story. I still don’t know what God wants to do with it, but I do know that He will redeem it. I also know that God doesn’t waste anything and especially the most deeply painful experiences in life. He always seems to use those the most.
I am excited that my husband and I get to meet up with Jacob and Brittney on Saturday at a cabin to spend the weekend together…just the four of us. It will be so good to hug their necks again! I was talking to Brittney the other day and found myself thankful at how well she is doing. There is no denial of what happened or the pain that she feels along the way, but it seems as though maybe she isn’t hurting quite as deeply or as often. It sneaks up on her, in sometimes inconvenient circumstances, but she is able to handle it well and deal with the emotions later when she is alone. Truthfully, I’m not sure I could do that, but she is different than me and so much stronger in many ways. It blesses me to see God giving her what she needs to walk through this and that when she is at the end of herself, she leans whole-heartedly on Him. Isn’t that the way it should be? Everyday. For all of us? We need Him every moment. Grieving just seems to make that picture so much clearer and it is a blessing to be reminded of that.
I also think that because so many have shared their grief, Jacob and Brittney have not had to bear all of it on their own. I think that’s why God said to “…mourn with those who mourn.” He knew it would make our burdens of grief so much lighter. It makes me want to be sure that I offer to do that for others who are mourning.
Another thing that stands out in my mind is when Jacob told me that God had been faithful to answer he and Britt’s daily prayer for their son: that he would come to know Jesus as his Lord at an early age. It’s not the way any of us would have chosen, but a sure answer indeed.
I wanted to share more God moments with you as we walked through this journey. In my last entry, we were still at the hospital. As we waited to take the next steps in getting Brittney’s labor started, I was told that it could take quite awhile until delivery. My heart was so heavy for Brittney. By now it was evening. I knew if I didn’t get some sleep, I would be no help to relieve those who were going to stay with her through the night as she started labor. I cannot tell you how heavy I felt. I would have to leave our daughter. As a parent, you love and care for your child and then slowly let them go over the teen years, little by little. And then letting go more when they marry. But this was truly a new level of relinquishing. I simply had to trust God with her.
I drove home, crying much of the way. I texted several friends and family to pray for Brittney’s labor. My dear friend that I was staying with offered me tea and toast, a warm hug and a listening ear. She was mostly quiet and just sat with me. That was what I needed and it was all either of us could do. I slept restlessly that night praying off and on, but woke up feeling just as burdened and not sure how I would get through the next hours nor how Brittney would do over that time. But within the hour, I got word from Britt’s doula that she was going into transition and that I should get to the hospital! I can’t tell you what a relief that was! God was intervening, caring for our daughter in ways no one else could. It didn’t matter that I was there. It mattered that God was there.
When I got to the hospital, Brittney was definitely in that place of total concentration as she handled the contractions with such resolve. Her husband, Jacob, was an amazing coach. He was so in tune with Brittney. He was a rock for her. He wouldn’t let himself cry in front of her and spent almost every moment at her side. It was such a blessing to see the two of them working together in one spirit. It is something that only God can create in a marriage. They were two weeks shy of their first anniversary.
I always imagined that when a baby is born sleeping that there is no joy in the room. That everyone is somber. I am not sure what others have experienced. For us, there was an amazing amount of joy with some sadness mixed in. It was such a gift to be able to hold Isaac and look him over from head to toe. To see whose hands and feet he had. Whose ears and nose. Isaac was fearfully and wonderfully knit together by God Himself and that alone was a blessing to behold.
We spent the next few hours enjoying Isaac. We took LOTS of pictures which we are so grateful to have! We laughed a lot. We cried a little. We made memories that we will all cherish forever.
I will write more in a later post. I want to leave you on this note of joy. With God, joy can always be found because HE is our joy. And this joy can overshadow even the deepest grief. God is just that good.
Dec. 3, 2013
The Gift of Isaac, The Gift of Thanks(Part 3)
I wanted to thank you all for your readership. It really blesses me to know that our trials have resulted in encouragement for others. It has helped me heal to have you to share with. Brittney told me that it has played a major role in healing for her as well, to read these entries. I am so thankful for that. I would love for you to share our story, my blog with others. There are many ways to build readership, but what I am looking for is building community and fellowship amongst kindred spirits. If you know anyone who might be blessed by the words of any of these blog entries or the heart behind them, please encourage them to “follow” by sending them the link or sharing it on Facebook. If you “like” my Facebook page), you will get the posts that I put up daily to encourage moms…the good, the bad and the crazy. 🙂 And here is the continuing story…
My husband and I got to spend the weekend before last with Brittney and Jacob. It was the first time we had seen them since 2 days after burying Isaac. We talked a lot. We laughed a lot. It was good to spend time together remembering Isaac, but also enjoying the present…together. It was also a blessing for my heart to physically see just how well they are really doing. Britt and I have talked many times about the grace God has given all of us through this. The little ways that He prepared us, without us knowing, and the many ways that He has made His presence known throughout the crisis of those moments and this grieving time. If I could encourage anyone, bearing all of this mind, I would say continue to seek Him, in good times and difficult ones. Ask God to lay a good foundation in your heart, so that you can have the eyes to see Him when life gets hard. Because it will get hard.
I ended the last post telling about our time right after Isaac was born. Our other married daughter, Jenna, had been there for this whole experience as well. She was more fearless than I had ever seen her. She courageously took as many pictures as possible and quietly stood by her sister even though it was probably one of the hardest things she has ever had to do.
My husband, our other son in law, Sam, and our 4 oldest sons spent most of the day driving (we live six hours away from Jacob and Brittney) to be there to hold Isaac. They arrived a few hours after Isaac was born. As they all stepped off the elevator and walked toward me, I felt such a sense of relief. It was like my army of men had arrived. I just remember this strong sense of reinforcement from them that I had never felt before. Maybe it was being away from all of them for awhile and gaining perspective that helped me see the importance of my job as a mom to our boys. We are raising men. I know that , but it’s easy to lose the reality of it in the day to day. To see them from more of an outsider’s view made me thankful for the investment we have made into them and the work that God has done in each of their lives so far. It encouraged me to “keep my hand to the plow” and not give up even though some days I grow weary of parenting.
My husband had prepped our boys on the trip. He encouraged them to hold Isaac and talk about the “normal” things…his nose, his ears, his hair, etc. They were brave and upbeat and gave their sister great joy to see them enjoying Isaac. We took more pictures. We laughed. It was like a short family reunion that got to include our new member of the family. I will never forget it. We all said goodbye to Jacob, Britt and Isaac. It was time for them to be alone together as their own little family. They spent the rest of the day and night with Isaac, as well as half of the next day. A dear friend, who had lost her baby in childbirth 6 months earlier, came to visit and encouraged them to take their time with Isaac and not be in a hurry. And they did just that. They took many more pictures, watched movies together, snuggled together and relished in being a family for that short time.
The next couple of days were spent off and on with Jacob, Britt and our family. There is such comfort in just being together, sharing the griefs and the joys. After that, my husband, our oldest 4 boys, and Sam and Jenna headed back home. I stayed to help Britt in whatever way I could in the days before we buried Isaac. I kept our two youngest with me. Brittney loves her siblings and having those younger ones around seemed to be a great comfort. In the next and final post, I will share about the week leading up to Isaac’s burial. I hope that you will take the time to ponder your own relationship with God. What do you really believe about Him? Because it is those beliefs that determine how you will glorify Him in a crisis.
Jan. 8, 2014
The Gift of Isaac, The Gift of Thanks(Part 4)
I realized that I have been avoiding writing this last entry about the Gift of Isaac. It just felt too final. Maybe if I didn’t finish the story, I could keep him alive in my heart just a little bit longer. I know that God is good and He had Isaac’s days carefully numbered from the beginning, but my heart says it wasn’t nearly long enough.
As I think back to the short time we held him and loved on him, I realize how impossible it is to get enough of him in those few moments we had. Part of your heart is in shock and another part is so fully alive to the moment and you spend those brief minutes doing everything you can to take in fully this beautiful gift. To try and remember every detail about his little body, how he smelled and how it felt to hold him. And awhile later, it just isn’t enough.
I am thankful that we have LOTS of pictures. It helps, but it still hurts. A lot. Every holiday and often on Sundays when we are worshipping, I feel God and I am reminded of Isaac. Because God’s presence was so fully with us while we walked through all of this, there is a part of my heart that continues to relate God’s presence to remembering Isaac. It also reminds me of how very brief life is, how eternal our God is. It makes me more thankful for heaven when every tear will be gone and there will be no more sorrow, no more sin, no more loss. In the meantime, I believe we can experience more of God if we don’t try to numb our pain. If we press into it clinging tightly to One who never leaves us nor forsakes us. And when we have let ourselves go there, we become more fully alive…alive to Him, alive to those around us. If we are willing to do this, there becomes less of us and we make more space for God to fill us. We bring more of Him to this broken, hurting world.
I last left our family parting ways temporarily. Until the graveside later that week. The next morning was Monday and we planned to go choose the cemetary plot for Isaac. Just four days before, we were anticipating Isaac’s impending arrival and now we were choosing his final resting place. I woke up that morning irritated beyond measure. I wan’t mad an anyone in particular. It reminded of the movie, Steel Magnolias, when Shelby, the young woman, died and her mother was at the graveside with her closest friends. At one point she began to come unglued and yelled, “I just want to hit someone!”. That was me. I wanted to do normal mom stuff…stop arguments, make dinner, clean a toilet…I did NOT want to help my daughter choose a cemetary plot!! I texted several people to pray for me. God was gracious and I ended up with a little extra time by myself. I was able to go to a dear friend’s house for a short time and she served me lunch, listened to me rant and rave, prayed with me, hugged me and sent me on my way. I was ready.
When we arrived at the cemetary, Brittney was very quiet. I could not even imagine how this felt for her. It was not something any mom would ever choose for her daughter to have to go through. But there we were. We walked around looking for the perfect spot and very quickly decided on one. I don’t know how to explain it, but all of us who were there were drawn to the same place. It was off in a quiet corner with a beautiful view and, as strange as it may sound, the sun seemed to keep shining on it.
After that, Jacob and his dad headed out to take care of the paperwork involved, while Brittney and I headed to the store to buy some needed supplies for her to start pumping her milk that was quicky coming in. She had decided that she would pump for someone else’s baby. It just seemed right to give that gift to someone else. It was also a way for her feel like she was not wasting something that Isaac had brought to her by his arrival. In some small way, it gave more meaning to his life.
As she and I drove through the cemetary on our way out, she began to unravel. She bent over with her head to her knees and sobbed and sobbed. She said the things she needed to say…how it wasn’t supposed to be this way. You can’t comfort that depth of grief with words. I didn’t even try. I rubbed her back and waited for this wave of grief to pass and prayed for wisdom. When she was ready, I prayed over her. She seemed much better after that and we moved on.
Intead of trying to have a graveside service sooner, we decided later was better. It gave all of us some time to process. Seems like a good idea when death happens suddenly. At one point we had to decide what to do with Isaac’s body in the meantime. I talked with Jacob about calling a funeral home and his response was not what I expected. He had decided that no funeral home would be involved and that Isaac would stay at the hospital. Jacob would be the one to go get him at the end of the week. I wasn’t sure if he realized what he was doing, but he said with finality, “I’m Isaac’s dad. It’s my responsibility. If I don’t do this, I’ll regret it.” Suddenly, I had the utmost respect for this decision that he had made. He had chosen the harder road.
As I thought about it, I realized how far our culture has removed themselves from death. In the old days, the family handled the deceased loved one. There is healing in processing the reality of death. When I told a friend that I was dreading the graveside service, he described it as a dark passageway that’s necessary to walk through in order to heal and move forward. He was right.
Much of the week I spent with Brittney and Jacob along with our two youngest children. I think it was healing for Britt to have her younger siblings there. Fall is Britt’s favorite time of year, so we tried to do the things that she loves…bake cookies, go to the pumpkin patch, carve pumpkins, etc. The pumpkin patch was bittersweet. She had planned to take Isaac there and get pictures of him. She went anyway and took pictures of her niece, which I think was helpful in that healing process.
I spent one day running around town looking for fall cookie cutters and in the process, God gave me some ideas for the graveside service. I bought a bunch of white daisies for all those attending to throw into Isaac’s grave and made arrangements for Britt and Jacob to have their own…she wanted sunflowers. I think because they look so cheerful and happy. In spite of our deep grief, we did laugh alot along the way that week. Deep in our hearts, we were preparing in some way for Friday morning’s graveside service.
Brittney could not handle the thought of a memorial service or too many people at the graveside. She was hurting so much, but she and Jacob are very private people. I tried to honor that and was the “front man” who told some dear ones that they couldn’t be there. That was very hard, but I had to protect Brittney’s heart…without question, that was most important.
Friday morning arrived. It was a beautiful sunny day. Jacob had asked his dad and my husband to go to the hospital to get Isaac. They placed the tiny casket in the car and drove off. My husband was very nervous about doing this. He wasn’t sure what to expect and just prayed a lot along the way. It ended up being a very beautiful and special time with Jacob and the “grandpas”. God was present and filled them with the grace and mercy they needed. It was such a comforting and beautiful thought…knowing that only the people that loved Isaac were the ones who carefully placed him in his casket and carried him to his final resting place.
Brittney and I put pictures and little special rememberances together to drop off at the home of some friends, where the reception would be. We got a little coffee and met up with the guys to drive to the cemetary. As we drove up to the plot, there was a crowd of friends and family waiting for us. I could feel Brittney’s nervousness. She had told me earlier that she didn’t know how she was supposed to act. I told her there were no rules. There were no expectations and there would be no judgment. She just needed to do whatever she needed to do. It was her baby and her grief.
I will never forget the grandpas (my husband and Jacob’s dad) carrying the tiny little casket from the car to the grave and the faces of those around me: our other children, friends, family. The depth of sadness in their expressions was unforgettable, but at the same time, we were sharing the grief. No ONE person had to bear it all. I am so thankful for all those who walked this journey with us and it made me eternally grateful for the Body of Christ. We have no idea how much we really need each other.
It was such a gift to have Jacob’s dad, who is a pastor, able to lead the graveside service. I know that wasn’t easy for him, but we are glad he was willing to do it. I’m not sure if Isaac knows how VERY loved he was by SO many very wonderful people. I hope he does.
At the end of the service, we handed daisies to everyone. They each took time to drop their flower into Isaac’s grave. I chose white flowers because they seemed to represent purity. And little Isaac seemed untouched by the world’s sinful stain.
(The two children kneeling are Jacob’s little brother and sister. Right behind his sister is our youngest, Silas.)
After the graveside, everyone left except for Jacob and Britt. My husband and I waited near the car to give them time to linger. To look across the way and see our daughter and her husband with their arms around each other grieving over the casket of our first grandchild was something that I will never, ever forget. It’s not something I would choose. Ever. Our lives will never be the same. But I still firmly believe that God WILL redeem it. I have seen some glimpses of this already. I am praying to see much, much more. I don’t believe that our God wastes anything…especially a death as precious as a little one.
And so we walk forward. In. Faith. We know that God can relate to our grief. He lost a Son also. Yes, He knew Jesus would rise again. We know Isaac lives on in glory and we will see him again. But I also believe God feels our pain and longs to comfort us and bring beauty for ashes. He is a Redeemer and He IS good.
Jan. 15, 2014
Lessons From Isaac
After finishing the series on Isaac, there were some things that are heavy on my heart to share with you. These things are not new things, but because of Isaac, they have been emphasized in my heart. These same things came into clear focus when we went through Silas’ (our youngest) life threatening beginning (you can read about his story at http://simplenourishinghome.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/celebrating-silas/) I can’t help but think God has a reminder here for all of us.
First of all, as I shared all the ways that God was faithful and made His presence known, I had this nagging feeling to keep reminding all of you that He will be every bit as faithful to you as He has been to us. When you find yourself in life changing situations, He WILL make his presence known to you as well. None of our journeys will look the same, but the same God is with us in all of them. He never changes. He is ever faithful. My purpose in sharing the specifics of OUR journey was just to help you have eyes to see where He is working in YOUR journey.
Part of being able to see God working has to do with what seeds you sow BETWEEN those times. In other words, are you seeking Him and pressing into Him when you are NOT experiencing difficulties? This is a time to sow seeds that will often bear fruit during a crisis. Sometimes our relationship/quiet time with God gets a little stale and feels mundane. It happens. It’s part of being human, it’s part of living in a sin-stained world. I think the important thing is not to let that go on for TOO long. Do things to challenge that status quo, ask God to help you out of the rut and keep seeking Him. (You can read more about ideas on quiet times at http://simplenourishinghome.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/heart-to-heart-ideas-on-how-to-get-quiet-times-with-god/)
The second thing I NEED to say is this: WE REALLY DO NEED EACH OTHER. I can’t tell you how thankful I was for all the people in our life who were there for us during the loss of Isaac. We felt overwhelming loved and cared for. That’s the kind of stuff that gets you through these times. God uses those people to minister to you…to be His eyes, ears, hands, feet, and voice. It’s like having God there with skin on to hug you, pray with you, feed you, comfort you. And whatever conflict we had in the past (if any) becomes completely insignificant.
I’m going to be blunt here: You get those kinds of relationships in your life be BEING the kind of friend to others that you would want them to be to you. In other words, don’t spend your energy quarreling or being hurt over petty things and focusing on “non-essentials”. Be prayerful in your friendships. Don’t confront without asking God for wisdom first. Many things just work themselves out.
Friendships also experience seasons. You will likely only have a handful (at most) of lifelong friendships that continue to be maintained. Most friendships are “seasonal”, meaning they were perfect…for THAT particular season in our lives. That is not a BAD thing. It doesn’t mean we part ways mad at each other. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) It just means that friendship served God’s purpose for it in THAT season. Sometimes those friendships are re-ignited. Almost all the friends I have had over the years are still my friends and when we face challenging, life altering times, they come to our side. We do the same for them. We just may not talk to them all that often, but when we do it is like a breath of fresh air.
When there is conflict, be very prayerful about your confrontations because words are very powerful. You can’t take them back. We need to be responsible for our part, but it’s important not to try and force the other person to change. You have to be able to be yourself (within reason). You need to feel “safe” with them and they with you.
Let’s be honest here, sometimes friendships become draining. It’s really important be sure that your friendships aren’t sucking the life out of you. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t willing to sacrifice for that other person or search your own heart and admit when you are wrong, but you have to pray for wisdom to know when to take a break or when to walk away for the sake of “guarding your heart”. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” It’s what we live our life out of. Friendships are very important, but as a wife and mom, our families are our priority.
My point in all of this is that life is short and unnecessary conflict does not honor God and is a waste of time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere. It’s again about being a good steward of what God has given us and being willing to let go when He leads. Let HIM be Lord of your relationships.
Apr. 18, 2014
Lessons On Grief and Missing Isaac
It’s been half a year since we lost Isaac. After a few months, the intensity of grieving began to let up a little. As we moved into the New Year, I felt hopeful. A fresh start. I love the way God does that.
But lately, my heart has been aching for this little man. I miss holding him. A few hours with him just doesn’t feel like nearly enough. I wish I would have taken more pictures of just him and me. I wonder, though, if there isn’t always SOMETHING we wish might have been different when we lose someone we love? I think it’s part of the pain of loss and of grieving.
The other aspect of my part in all of this is walking alongside Brittney. There have been so many times that I had nothing to legitimately give to comfort her other than prayers whispered in my heart while she cried and verbally processed this thing called grief. That’s not easy when you are used to being able to comfort your child for so many years. There is something very different about this type of grief. Usually, when we lose a loved one, other people knew that person and we can talk with them about the uniqueness of that person and share memories. But when a baby dies in utero, the mommy is the one who bears a very large part of the grief. SHE carried that child in her body, SHE bonded with that baby’s movements and habits, SHE goes home with her breasts full of milk and empty arms, SHE is, by far, the closest person to that child. The rest of the family and friends will grieve, but they they are still “outsiders” in relationship to that particular experience.* This can also make it difficult to know how to comfort these sweet mamas. Here are a few things I have learned:
*Don’t feel like you have to have answers. Don’t say things like, “God knows what’s best”. Just hug her, tell her you are sorry, tell her you have no words. PRAY A LOT for her whenever she comes to mind.
*Ask to see pictures of the baby and ask about the baby’s name and why that name is special to them? How much he/she weighed, how long he/she was. If you get to see pictures, talk about all the sweet things about her little one, you know, the things every new mother wants to hear…”look at all that hair!” “He looks like his daddy” “She’s beautiful!” .
*If you have a chance, ask if you can come hold the baby. It can take a lot of courage, but whisper a prayer, trust God and GO! Mommies love to see other people enjoy their baby (just like any new mommy) and in this situation, it is very short lived for them, so seize the moment if you can.
*Remember the Mother’s Day/Father’s Day after or give a gift in memory of baby for Christmas.. Remember to celebrate or acknowledge baby’s birthdays.
*Don’t assume that when she gets pregnant again, the hurt is healed. As we are finding out, pregnancy after a loss is an emotional roller coaster for the mommy. She needs extra encouragement and prayers during this time as well.
I’ve watched, with a broken heart at times, the pain and loss that Britt has endured. I have seen her hurt deeply, but I have also watched God ultimately be her greatest comfort. I have watched her basic beliefs about who God is, be put through the fire and stay solid through this fiery storm. It is no small tribulation, but it also refines like nothing else could. God doesn’t waste anything. And the more painful the trial, the more amazing His work. He also seems to make His presence SO clearly known in the darkest places.
Britt has SO much that has been so clearly revealed over these months and she told me the other day that she feels like she might be ready to share those things. I am praying she finds the words and I will share them with you when she passes them on to me.
In February, Jacob and Britt told us that they were expecting again! I about jumped through the roof! I was SO excited, so hopeful and have felt so peaceful about this pregnancy and this baby. I didn’t expect that. I thought I would be more riddled with fear. I wonder if, as the due date approaches, there will much more inner turmoil, but maybe not? God has been faithful to give us trust and hopeful expectancy with this new little one. And guess what? He gave this baby the exact same due date that Isaac had. I couldn’t help but be reminded of His whisperings since the day we lost Isaac, “I am a REDEEMER”, “I will REDEEM this”.
I was recently listening to a song that reduced me to tears right then and there. It reminded me of the tearing down that happens when we go through trials and particularly the loss of a loved one. There is the tearing down, but it is followed by the “building back” that God does. The new “building” is not the same as the old one. If we choose to trust, it’s better…God redeeming. Listen HERE:
We’ve been crumbled, we’ve been crushed City walls have turned to dust Broken hands and blistered feet We walk for miles to find relief
When the thief takes, when our hopes cave You build us back You build us back
When the earth shakes, when the world breaks You build us back You build us back
We are scared, we are poor All our safety nets are torn We’ve been humbled to our knees From these ruins, we believe
When the thief takes, when our hopes cave You build us back You build us back
When the earth shakes, when the world breaks You build us back You build us back
Redeemer, redeem us Restorer, restore us Oh build us back Though the mountains be shaken, the hills be removed Your unfailing love remains After all that’s been taken, Your promise, still sacred You build us back with precious stones
When the thief takes, when our hopes cave You build us back You build us back
When the earth shakes, when the world breaks You build us back You build us back
My heart is healing. Britt and Jacob’s hearts are healing. Our family’s hearts are healing too. I am seeing some of the ways our lives are forever changed by that precious little boy’s presence and absence. When our kids pray for this new baby, they say things like, “Please help this baby to be healthy and strong and come out screaming.” They pray for a good labor and delivery…not words they have used before. They seem to have a keen sense of the value of life and are familiar with grief. If you would have asked if I wanted our children to learn the things they have, I would have said yes. I wouldn’t have chosen this road, but I know we can trust this good God who is lovingly sovereign over all.
*(Although it’s different, the husbands have their own unique grief and that should be acknowledged as well.)
May 21, 2014
Faith Builder Babies
Here are some words from Brittney, our oldest daughter. Pregnant with her second baby, after losing her first unexpectedly just before birth. she shares wise words at a tender age. As a mom to this young wife and mama, I am amazed at her faithfulness. I’m pretty sure she has already surpassed me. She bore this with grace and strength, unlike her mom, who pretty much felt like freaking out.
I have been wanting to add another blog to this page for awhile but this month has been a packed one! And in some ways a huge stretch of faith for us.
On May 8th we went in for baby’s 20 week ultrasound-while I couldn’t wait to find out the gender-mostly I just wanted to know that baby was healthy and fine. Everything went great and we found out that we are going to be having another little boy this September!!
After our 20 week ultrasound a few days went by and I hadn’t heard anything from my doctor so I assumed that ”no news is good news” and that the ultrasound was normal.
Then, on the following Tuesday morning I received a call from the ”fetal specialists” at a local hospital, saying that my OB wanted me to make an appointment with them…that was definitely a curve-ball for me!! After talking to my doctor later that afternoon she explained that they may have seen something on the left side of his heart during the previous ultrasound and she wanted to follow up with a more thorough second ultrasound, which was scheduled for..the next Tuesday. ”This is going to one very looooong week….”
Literally. It felt as if life was on hold (as well as even breathing normally) until we could find out what exactly was going on with this little guy. The last week has been an intense spiritual battle to trust God, to trust His plan for this unique little man and really to just trust that it will be good. And it produced some wonderful gems that I would love to share here with you, especially if you may find yourself in the same place of having to really, deeply, trust God with your pregnancy right now.
As a follower of Christ, pregnancy after loss causes such a stretching of faith. (Instead of ”Rainbow Babies” as the term for a baby born after loss, I would like to now dub these children as ”Faith Builder Babies”-because, as a good friend said, ” ‘Rainbow Babies’ sounds too easy!!” )
The thing that can be the most difficult to grapple with is that, you know and recognize that God has a plan. Nothing happens outside of His plan. And yes, He is good. So very good. He brought us through loss with grace and even joy!
But. You also know, and have experienced, that His plan for our ultimate good sometimes includes very hard things. Rarely does this life actually go the way we would ”write” it. And that is the most difficult reality to grapple with. His best can also be some of the hardest things we will ever have to walk through.
But He promised us that He has plans to give us a hope and a future.
It’s not focusing on the outcome, or why is this happening, or what will happen. It’s focusing on the Who. Who is behind this? What is His consistent character?
Looking for His presence in this situation, not His absence.
”Lord how do I have faith in You for tomorrow? ”
”Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
In other words, Faith is being sure of Who we hope in and certain of Him Who we do not see.
”…For a man who already has something doesn’t need to hope and trust that he will get it. But if we must keep trusting God for something that hasn’t happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently.” Romans 8:24,25 TLB
Throughout the week it was as if God continually whispered ”That ultrasound is just going to tell you what you already know: that this little boy is perfectly made by Me.”
With that whisper comes a peace. But also the question in my head ”Umm yes…but what does ”perfectly” entail? Exactly?”
Goodness, I still have a long way to go with this faith thing…thankfully God is patient.
During the weekend I just felt heavy. I hung on to His words of encouragement, but there was still such an intense inner struggle to be willing to acknowledge that my baby does not ”belong” to me. I have no ”right” to my children. They belong to God ultimately. Every day with this little boy is a gift not a ”right”.
Monday rolled around and as I was trying to fight off any fear about the next morning’s appointment, the Psalms kept coming to mind.
”Why are you downcast O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:11 ESV
(I don’t know about you, but there is something about reading a verse that sticks like that in different translations. Maybe the Bible just becomes so familiar that sometimes I need to read a ”Living” or ”Amplified” version of it.)
The TLB phrases it this way ”…Don’t be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise Him for all that He will do. He is my help! He is my God!”
The AMP puts it like this: ”Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him…”(Italics mine)
Tuesday morning finally came and as we checked in and waited to go back for the ultrasound God was saying ”Expect good things.” And no, it was not like reading a fortune cookie-I knew what He was saying. He was asking me to give Him the ”benefit of the doubt”. To assume that He would be merciful and loving in this plan.
As we watched the ultrasound I found myself straining to see if everything looked okay. Then I stopped and was reminded, once again, that this child is already ”perfect” no matter what. God’s peace was saying-”stop striving to know and just sit and admire and enjoy My grand and perfect design.”
I felt a calm-like the kind you feel while sitting at the beach or by a lakeside and all I could do then (even though I still didn’t know what the outcome would be) was to whisper back ”Thank You God” He was a beautiful baby to look at. A perfectly formed creation of God. No matter what.
Again as we waited for the doctor to tell us the results I tried to remember, ”Expect good things.” I felt prompted to just keep turning over the ultrasound photos. To be perfectly honest, for a second, I was a little afraid to ”let” myself fall in love with this face on the 3-D imagery- a part of me was scared to do that, in case something was wrong. But God continued to whisper ”Expect good things…” So I did. And during that hour of waiting to hear the results, that little man had taken up even more residence in my heart. As a mom, I could feel my heart expand even more in the place set aside to love this baby boy.
When we did get the results, they were great-baby was perfectly healthy and his heart was developing well. They even told us that he was quite the ”photogenic” little fellow!! I think I may have asked her to repeat that baby was perfectly healthy a few different times-just so it would sink in!
That day we did receive the ”desired outcome” ( many thanks to all of you who were holding us up in prayer and encouragement) But what a gift to know that even when we may not receive that desired outcome, God has given us grace, strength and even joy to praise and glorify. And that is what makes our gratitude in both the ”wonderful” and the ”wonderfully difficult” even more beautiful. He is faithful to see us through any storm.