Friday, October 30, 2015

Never Forget

October is Infant Loss Awareness/Remembrance month.  As I have pondered the "remembrance" part, it has bothered me, because losing a child is something you never really forget.  You don't have to try to remember it.  It is something you have on your heart and mind regularly.  As I was thinking about it recently, it struck me that the "remembrance" part of infant loss is remembering we are not alone in our losses.  As October has progressed, I have noticed many, many posts on Facebook regarding stories of those who have lost a baby.  I know for a fact, as I have experienced it myself, when you lose a baby you feel alone.  You feel as though the floor has fallen out from under you.  You feel as though you are the only one things like this happen to.  That is a lie.  You are not alone.  It actually happens more often that we could even imagine.  Through Facebook this month, I have seen several of my friends share that they are one in four women who have suffered infant loss through either miscarriage, still birth or infant loss.  It reminded me that I am one of four women who has suffered through infant loss through the still birth of my daughter, Charlotte.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around the 1/4 women thing.  Wow!!! That's a lot.  It means it happens quite frequently actually.

I truly believe one of the biggest lies that Satan tells us in relation to any struggle we are facing is that we are all alone and are the only one going through this particular situation or struggle.  But, as you can see from the numbers above, if you have lost a baby to miscarriage, still birth or infant loss, you are far from alone.  It is very likely the woman sitting two seats down from you has suffered through it as well.

As I see stories about someone losing a baby, my initial instinct is to scroll past and ignore it, but strangely I am drawn to their stories.  I think I am drawn because I can relate.  Although my story may not be the same as other stories of infant loss, I do know that gut wrenching, horrid feeling that begins to overtake you the minute you find out you've lost your precious baby.  I know what it feels like to have life inside my body one minute and the next minute to feel her lifeless body inside me.  I know the feeling that you have when you realize you have to go through the painful and trying experience of labor and delivery only to not receive the prize at the end.  I know what it feels like to plan a funeral service for your baby when you would rather be planning her first birthday party.  I know the feeling of arms longing to hold your dear baby so closely, but your arms are empty.  I know the feeling of milk coming in and no baby to nourish with it.  So friends, please, don't believe the lie that you are alone in your loss.  Many, many have been there and understand.  So, for me the "remembrance" part of infant loss is remembering I am not alone and neither are you.

My daughter would have turned three this coming February.  Although, my heart doesn't hurt as much as it used to.  I still go through times when my heart aches for her.  Just the other day, I was driving by a cemetery on the way to church (for the record we probably drive by the same cemetery at least 6-8 times a week), but on this day, my heart got caught up in my throat and tears stung in my eyes.  I thought to myself; parents aren't supposed to bury their children or much less their babies.  The pain is real.  Even as I sit here almost three years later and write, tears still stream down my face.  It still hurts.   I still long to have her here with the rest of her brothers and sisters as part of our family.  

As I've been trying to decide what I want to say in regard to infant loss, I want to remind you that although, the pain of losing a baby never goes away, there is hope after infant loss and that hope is found in Jesus Christ.  I knew the very minute we knew we had lost our daughter, that in and of myself, I had nothing to help me through this heartbreaking loss.  I had nowhere else to turn, but to God.  God never desired us to live our lives on our own and only have ourselves to rely on for strength and comfort.  He created us to depend on him.  He desires us to come to him and to rely on his strength and comfort.   

Friend, as I close, I want to remind you that you are not alone in your loss.  Many, many others have walked through the devastating loss of their precious baby.  You are not alone because your Creator, your baby's Creator, is right there waiting for you to turn to him, longing for you to turn to him.  He desires to give you hope when your situation seems hopeless.  He desires to give you a hope and a future as you come to him.  When you seek him with all of your heart, he will be found (Jeremiah 29:11-13).  What a beautiful promise.

I would like to leave you with this promise from Isaiah 61:1-3.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant those who mourn in Zion -
to the them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.  

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Goodness of the Lord

I'm finding myself really disliking and dreading the month of February.  As I look towards February 2015,  it is filled with celebration and sorrow for us...for me.  Three of our daughters were born in February and one of them also died in February (on one of the other girl's birthday none the less).  So really the question is how do you manage both celebrating and mourning?  And is it even possible?

I'm recognizing that much of my dread is from wondering how I will respond leading up to the day when we lost our daughter.  It's a fear of "how much will this day wreck me?"  The thing is, most days I can easily tuck the hurt way down deep and cover my feelings and pain just by doing life.  I easily get wrapped up in the day to day and don't think or dwell on the hurt deep within my soul and heart.  Then February comes around and I can't hide it anymore.  I can't pretend I didn't lose my daughter.  I can't pretend these past two years haven't been the hardest two years of my life and in my marriage.  Everything comes bubbling up to the surface and pours from me.  It hurts.

Losing my daughter, Charlotte, has changed me in many ways.  It has changed me in many good ways and for that I am thankful.  My eyes have been opened to and I have been able to sympathize more with the hurting, with those dealing with loss and difficult trials.  My trust in God has also grown as I have seen His goodness, known His presence and seen His faithfulness in my life these past two years.  I've come to know and love my Savior even more.

I also feel like losing Charlotte has changed me in a different way.  It is really hard for me to put into words.  I feel as though I don't really know myself anymore.  Losing her changed who I am.  I'm still trying to get to know and understand the new me.  The person this most effects is my husband.  As I'm trying to get me figured out and as situations or disagreements come up in our marriage, it is easier for me to pass the blame to him than it is to take responsibility for my part. I tend to forget grace in my marriage.

Is it even possible that losing our daughter changed my husband too?  Have I ever considered that?   I know that he still hurts from losing her and it pains him greatly to see me hurting.  We are two very different and unique people trying to walk this road after a huge trauma.  We are both healing and recovering from our loss in very different ways.  We are still learning how to walk this road together with grace.  Just the other morning he told me, "we are in this together."  When I think or feel like I am doing this alone, I am grateful for his comment and support, reminding me that I am not alone; reminding me that he loves me and desires to walk through the pain and healing with me.

Psalm 27:13 was on our Christmas card this year.  This is also the verse we used as we dedicated Elijah to the Lord last year.  It says...
"I believe I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living."
Although we can't fully understand the Lord's plan for us in losing Charlotte, we have seen this verse true in our family this past year, even though we continue to mourn our loss.  We celebrated the arrival of Elijah and have thoroughly enjoyed our first year with him as a part of our family.  We continue to be in awe watching each of our children grown and mature and seeing their hearts turned towards the Lord.  We are humbled to used by the Lord in ministry in our local church.

Psalm 27:13 is also a promise that I cling to.  I don't believe that the verse only pertains to the past year,  but I believe it is true for our future as well.  "I believe I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord..."  Good is who God is.  His very character is good.  His goodness doesn't change because my circumstances change.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purposes." Romans 8:28

Even though I can't comprehend or understand why we would lose our daughter.  I trust in the fact that the Lord had a plan/ has a plan in it and that he is working in it for my good.  This means that throughout these past two years of sorrow, pain and challenge, he is working.  It doesn't mean that it will always be easy, but it does mean that he will be with us and that he will help us.
"It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed."  Deuteronomy 31:8
Now this is a promise I can cling to.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Living in Freedom

A few weeks ago, a situation came up with a couple of my kids where I had a child being a tattle tale on another child.  As I heard the accusing child try to convict the other child to get them in trouble, I kept hearing the one being accused continue to plea his innocence.  I don't always go after a child being tattled on, but this time, something struck me that I needed to deal with this one.

The whole situation revolved around my 6 year old little boy and the fact that he wouldn't let another kid his age sit with him on the bus.  I took him into the other room so we could be alone and so we could talk about what had happened.  I could tell that he was upset by what was going on.  I sat him down and began asking questions, trying to get his side of the story and what really happened.  He just sat there for the longest time visibly shaken and with tears about to fall from his eyes.  I continued to ask him questions as to why he was so upset.  "Are you upset because your sister told on you?" Followed by a shake of the head, no.  "Why are you upset?"  Silence.  "Are you upset because you think you are in trouble?"  Again, head shake, no.  This continued for quite a few minutes.  Finally, I asked him if he was sad because he wasn't kind to his friend on the bus.  The tears began to flow and he shook his head, yes.  This child is our sensitive, tender-hearted child, and it breaks his heart when he is wronged against and also when he hurts or wrongs someone else.

His sin broke his heart and physically shook him.  I'm sure the guilt had been eating through him as I questioned him a hundred times.  My heart was breaking for my little tender-hearted boy.  We continued discussing what he did and how he was unkind and then I talked to him about how everyone sins and is unkind sometimes.  I explained to him that Jesus died for all the bad things we do and that if we confess our sins to him, he forgives us and makes us clean again.  He makes us whiter than snow.  We took some time praying together and I led him in asking forgiveness for his sin.  When we finished, I could sense that his burden was lifted, that he was freed from the bondage of his sin.  He was smiling and laughing.  He was free.

As I reflect on that situation with my son, I was struck with conviction in my own life.  How often do I let my sin bog me down?  How often do I live in the guilt or condemnation of my own sin?  Or, how often do I pretend that I am good enough and I don't have sin in my life?  If I just ignore it, it will go away, right?  Wrong!

I am involved in a women's Bible study in our church right now and we are going through the book of 1 John.  I believe it is really hard to read the book of 1 John and not be convicted by our sin.   I really don't think it was an accident that this situation came up.  It very possibly could have been that God wanted to use this situation more for me than for him.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  1 John 1:8-10
The truth is we all sin (Romans 3:23).  We all fail, make mistakes and fall so short of God's glory. The good news is that God loves us so much that he sent his son to pay the price, a price we rightly deserve, for our sins.  The good news is that,  "if we confess our sins he is faithful to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).  This is something we could never do on our own.  We can never be good enough or try hard enough to rid ourselves of our sins, but Jesus is and Jesus DID!

The question is am I quick see conviction of my sin in my life and am I quick to confess and repent of it?

If we walk around trying to ignore our sin or living in guilt and condemnation of our sin, we are not walking in the freedom God designed us to live in.  This is why Jesus died and rose again.  He died for us because he loved us and has a better plan for our lives.  His plan is FREEDOM!

Monday, September 22, 2014

You Are Beautiful

Today my daughter, son and I went for a walk to enjoy this gorgeous day.  As my daughter was riding her bike, she quickly stopped and I wondered what she was doing.  She then got off her bike and ran over and pick a perfectly, bright yellow dandelion.  As we continued on, she kept admiring her dandelion.  Then she asked me about sunflowers and if they had black in the middle.  I think she was trying to figure out if the flower she picked was a sunflower.  I told her sunflowers do have black middle, but what she was holding was a dandelion.  I then casually mentioned that it was actually a weed.  All at once she  looked up at me with wide, questioning eyes as if to say, "Are you kidding me?  This beautiful yellow thing in my hand is most certainly a flower and not a weed.  Just look at it, mom!"

We continued talking about how pretty it was.  I actually changed my mind as well and saw the weed through her little eyes.  It was most certainly a flower.

This whole time my mind was turning.

I wondered about how many times I get so caught up in viewing myself as a weed;  my flaws, my mess, a failure as a parent, in my marriage, in my relationship with the Lord and others.  Do we all, sometimes, think that the way we view ourselves is how God views us?  Do we fall into the lie that we are a failure to him?  Do we wonder if he thinks, "man, that girl is a mess. I really wish she would get her act together."?  Do we believe he sees us as a weed?

Well, through my daughters eyes today, I was reminded that is not the truth.  She saw the beauty, just as God sees the beauty in us.  He created us.  He sent His Son to die for us.  He sees us pure and righteous because of the death and resurrection of his Son.

This reminds me of Zephaniah 3:17, "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

He rejoices over you, dear sister.  He sings over you.  Don't forget you are his flower.  You are not a weed.  So take those feelings of inadequacy and failure and lay them aside.  Fix your eyes on the truth. You are loved and adored by the Most High God!  


Monday, March 24, 2014

Steps Toward Healing

It seems so many around me lately are dealing with loss...death of someone close to them.  I've been thinking recently about losing Charlotte and what has helped me in my journey towards healing.  I would also like to note that I am not there yet.   I am still learning to grieve and mourn, and I am still healing from such a huge loss.  After getting all of my thoughts down, I have realized these steps could be useful for any trial.

1.  Write - I would write especially in those very early days after losing Charlotte.  It seems as though each morning I would wake up sad, lonely and weary.  I would cry, Steve would hold me and pray. Then I would pull myself out of bed and into the chair in my bedroom.  There I would sit for the next hour or so and write in my journal.  Writing helped me to process all that was going on in our world and in my mind.  It helped me to process my feelings, my longings, my pain.  I would write in different ways.  I wrote letters to Charlotte.  I wrote out my fears, my hurt.  I would write out scripture that encouraged me.  I would write out prayers.  Some of my early journaling later became some of my blog, but not all of it.

2.  Worship - Sometimes I felt as if I couldn't pray and I didn't know what to pray for myself.  I would instead listen to worship music.  Music really ministered to my heart.  I remember being amazed at how many songs met me right where I was at and how others (those who wrote the songs) had, too, been where I was at dealing with hurts and trials.  As I played worship music, I would sing, pray and cry, sometimes sob.  Worshipping God takes my eyes off of myself and my pain and it put my eyes on my God who is  sovereign and so worthy of anything I can give to him and more.  Through worship I am reminded who I am, who God is and that this life is so temporal.  God is not just about the here and now on this earth.  He is about eternity.  Worship makes me yearn for heaven where there will be no more death, no more tears, no more sadness, no more pain and where I will once again meet my daughter face to face.

3.  Immerse myself in the promises of God -  I have to admit that sometimes in the early days, it was hard for me to go to the Word of God.  I am so thankful for the friends who would text me scripture and send me notes with promises of who God is.  As I memorized some of those promises, I clung to the truth in God's word and that in turn increased my faith as I felt God's presence in my life so fully.

4.  Let others serve me -  This one was difficult.  I am fairly independent, and hate to be a bother to someone.  But, as soon as we found out we lost Charlotte, the requests to "help in anyway" came pouring in.  The truth is most people cared for us and just wanted to do something.  In being with friends going through trials and being on the flip side, I totally understand the feeling of helplessness and wanting to lessen your friend's pain, to do anything to help.  Although, most of the time we didn't know what we really needed.  One of the best things we did was to say yes when someone offered to help in a specific way.  Yes, to when someone offered to bring us a meal.  Yes, when a friend offered to do our laundry.  This dear friend did our laundry, a less desirable task in my opinion, for six weeks, six weeks!  Let me tell you, though, not having to worry about keeping the kids in clean clothes during those early weeks was such a blessing.

We also realized that we needed to ask for help when we knew a specific need.  The day we found out we lost Charlotte at the doctors, we left Steve's car at the doctors office so neither of us had to drive home alone.  All that afternoon we were trying to figure out how we would get Steve's car back home.  Later that evening, friends came over after they heard of our loss.  Steve mentioned his car and our friend offered to go with Steve's dad to get it.  Such a blessing.  A couple days later as we were making arrangements for Charlotte's funeral, I was going through the kids clothes to make sure they all had something to wear for the funeral.  I realized the boys shirts needed to be ironed.  In the first place, I really don't like ironing and it stressed me out to think I would have to fit that in somewhere into my already cramped schedule.  I threw a note out on Facebook and within a couple minutes I had a couple offers.  Such a relief!  As it turns our, the friend that did our ironing doesn't even iron herself, much like me, but she just wanted to help serve us in any way.

As I've stated in other posts, we were so blessed by the servanthood of our friends and church.  I am so thankful I didn't let my own pride stop me from saying yes to their offers to help.  Their help freed me to take the time to mourn and to be there for my kids and family.

5.  Exercise - Around five weeks after losing Charlotte, I began running again.  Since it was still cold out and I'm a fair weather runner ;) I began running on the treadmill.  Before losing Charlotte when I ran I would listen to podcasts and sermons as I ran.  After, though, I made a worship playlist of songs that touched my heart.  When I ran, I turned on my music and off I went.  Not only did running help me feel I was doing something good for me and my body, but it became great times of worship for me as well.  When I exert myself in exercise and as I come to the end of myself physically,  I am able to more clearly see who God is and my deep dependence on Him.  Just a tip though, raising hands or closing eyes in worship while running on a treadmill is not a good idea, although, I never actually fell, I almost did a few times :)

Around the time I started running again, my sister and I decided to train for and do our first mini triathlon.  Setting this goal before me gave me something to work for, something that not only did my body good, but would give me a sense of accomplishment once I did it.

These are just some of the things that have helped me on the long road of mourning and healing.  I am almost certain I have forgotten some things too.  I do know that each person is different and what works for one may not work for another.  I am curious though, and others may be as well, if you have experienced loss in any way, what helped you?  Please feel free to leave a comment below and share with everyone.

Friday, March 14, 2014

One Year of Loss

A few weeks back marked a year since our Charlotte went to be with the Lord.  Steve and I were just talking the other day about how sometimes it seems like it was only last week and other times it feels like it never happened.  I wish I had something profound to say about living with grief, about some huge things I learned over the past year.  I don't.  I think grief is one of those things that we won't ever be able to fully put our heads around and explain in a pattern.  Grief is unpredictable.  One minute you are fine and the next it hits you like you just got run over by a semi and you don't know which way is up.

The week leading up to her death anniversary was really rough.  It seemed we had challenges all around.  In my mind, I knew Saturday, February 8 was coming quickly.  I was worried about how I would respond with the one year anniversary of our loss.  That made me super sensitive (like I wasn't  already sensitive after having a baby 6 weeks earlier :) and on edge.  To make matters a bit more difficult, February 8 is also Leah's birthday.  I was worried about making her day special, especially since her birthday last year was so dark.  I, also, was worried about how I could manage celebration along with grief and mourning.

When I woke up that morning, I was like, here we go.  I took time that morning to sit down and write for a bit.  I am so thankful for being able to write.   Writing has proved to be healing in so many ways this past year (but that is a whole other post).

As I showered that morning, it all hit me and I broke down.  I felt loss, anger, guilt.  So many emotions at one time.  I wanted to mourn, but I also wanted to make the day special for Leah and I felt I didn't know how to do both.  I can now look back and see that the Lord met me in those moments and He gave me strength to face the day.  Once again, I am blown away by his grace, something I so don't deserve and something I could never do on my own.

Steve and I had already made plans to visit the cemetery with the kids and take pink roses.  The kids haven't been there since her funeral last year and Steve and I have only been once.  We finally had her headstone installed in October and we hadn't even seen it yet.  It was snowing and it was so beautiful out.  We were thankful for the cemetery we chose.  It is in the country, backed up to the woods and oh, so beautiful.   We had to tromp through the snow to get to her grave.  All I can say is that it was beautiful.  I had no tears (I got those out earlier).  It was just a special time with the kids.

Then we got on with the rest of our day.  Leah was so gracious.  I truly believe she enjoyed her special day to the fullest.

I am so thankful for God's graciousness that day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Baby Elijah

I know I haven't written as much in the last few months.  The end of December proved to be a bit more stressful, with the end of my pregnancy.  In that time, we joyously welcomed little Elijah to our family.  A joy he is.  

Elijah William 
December 30, 2013 
6 pounds 7 ounces
18 inches long

At my 36 week appointment, my doctor said the baby looked good and recommend we go ahead and schedule induction for the next week (37 weeks), since we lost Charlotte in the 37th week of pregnancy.  We wanted to get Elijah out while we knew everything was okay with him.  

Once we arrived at the hospital, it took a while, actually quite a while in my opinion, for my body to get into labor.  We spent most of that day in the hospital chilling and waiting anxiously to meet our son.  Eventually around six or seven that evening things started to progress.  I did get an epidural (my 9th, ugh!), but I have to say this was my worst one ever.  I couldn't feel my left leg at all, but could feel everything else.  I started feeling quite a bit of pain and I told Steve that he should call my doctor who was at home.  He didn't and we just told my nurse.  She eventually came in the with resident doctor and examined me about an hour later.  As she checked me, I could tell she was thinking.  I was thinking, "shoot, nothing has changed and yet I'm in all this pain."  Then she calmly said, "she's a 9, if not complete."  I was like, "What?"  I told them to call my doctor because I usually only have to push 2-3 times until the baby comes out.  I was afraid he wouldn't make it on time.  He made it, thankfully, and Elijah was born a couple minutes later.  

We are so thankful for God and his graciousness and goodness towards us.  He has once again blessed us beyond all measure.