8.19.2017

What do these stones mean?


http://proverbs31.org/

This is the blog post I never wanted to write. 
But there is a passage in Psalms 107:2 that says, "Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story..." 
And this is now forever interwoven in my story.  

Tuesday I went in for a 14 week appointment for my fourth baby. I have done so many of these appointments over the years, I knew the routine well. I chatted with the nurses and my doctor. And then she got out the fetal doppler to hear the heartbeat I had already heard and seen twice. She searched for awhile, and said she didn't want me to be overly concerned, as I had an inverted uterus and it may be difficult to find. So she decided to get the portable ultrasound machine. In that space between, I prayed, "Lord, please," but also somewhere deep, I knew to pray the more difficult prayer, "Lord, prepare." 
More cold jelly. More probing. And there on the screen was my baby. 

But there was no heartbeat. 

My own was beating heavy and thick, fast and chaotic. She was saying something about ordering an ultrasound...better machines...couldn't completely confirm... 

As I dressed I called Brent, the tears choking out. 

The waiting room was full of other expectant mothers and I couldn't make eye contact with them because I was trying to not completely fall apart. I wanted to protect them and their hope that they would get to hear the racing, microphoned beat behind the door I just left. 

It was late and I would have to come back the following day for the ultrasound to confirm. I nodded my head in half-hearted understanding and fumbled my way to the door. I immediately texted my friend who works at a pregnancy clinic and asked if she would, if I could possibly ask this big hard thing of her. She responded immediately that she would meet me there in five minutes. 

I drove a few miles, Brent praying on the phone, and within ten minutes I was on another table, staring at another black screen. It filled with a picture of my baby. And my friend, who knows the sting of loss as well, so gently and so graciously confirmed that there was no heartbeat. She printed me pictures, saying I would want them. She asked if I was ready before turning off the screen. And then she held me and cried with me. As I dressed she found her co-worker the only other soul in the empty clinic, and we huddled in a lamp-lit room and she prayed for me. 

She said the name of Jesus, and as my tears dropped on the black and white pictures in my trembling hands my heartbeat finally stopped its chaos. Jesus. There's just something about that name. 

 The next day I had a few hours to pray, and grieve, and journal, and read Truth. I opened my notebook to the very last page and the first line I wrote was, God, I want to start in the back of this notebook and write forward and watch you redeem this. I want to write from sorrow to joy. From ashes to beauty. I know you'll make a way through these waters. 

And I kept writing. And praying. And reading. My tears blotted the page, but before I had even reached page two I had written You are good four times. And on page two I started listing great joys and sweet blessings I have already seen in this pit of despair. Page two! I remember reading 1 Thessalonians 5:18 as a naive middle schooler, marking it up neatly with neon gel pens. Yes! Rejoice in ALL circumstances! But then I became an adult, and the world just seemed more busted and broken and when I would come across that verse I wondered what that would be like when walking through the valley. But there I was, page two, rejoicing in God providing me my friend at the clinic. Rejoicing in timing that I had first questioned, because bringing Blythe to Kindergarten the following morning ended up being the joy-in-the-morning we needed in the midst of our sorrow. I rejoiced in the three children I get to love here on this earth. I rejoiced in an aunt who, knowing the sting of this kind of loss, called me and gently spoke truth into my hurting heart the night we received the news. I rejoiced in all the people who were surrounding us, carrying us, praying over us, bringing us Oreos; rejoiced in the reminder that relational investments never return void. I thought of the line in "No Longer Slaves" that says, "I am surrounded by songs of deliverance," as others reached out.

"Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" [James 1:24]. I am rejoicing through tears but with unclenched fists and the prayer that this perseverance will finish its work. 

I continued writing:
God, you welcomed this baby already. Please help me say goodbye now. I am claiming the truth that you are near the brokenhearted. Because my heart is breaking. As you help me deliver this child, I pray that you would also deliver me through this. I know you never promised me a life without pain or loss, and I have not questioned why I am here. I just thank you for being here too. 
Thank you for never leaving me. You are the God of the big picture, and just as you were faithful then, you will be faithful now. 

Oh Jesus, thank you for the Word. For your Spirit inside me at this time. Hebrews 6:19 says, "We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the sanctuary behind the curtain where our forerunner Jesus was on our behalf." Spirit, I hold the hope of your presence now AND the hope of heaven then.  

My sails feel so torn right now, the wind knocked out of me... but in the midst of that, I feel you anchoring me. The sea billows are finding solace and this strange peace that I don't understand is you. Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say it is well with my soul


When I blogged a letter to this precious baby, I wrote: "I had learned at the end of myself was this great chasm that I didn't have to leap over on my own, but that God would carry me through in beautiful, sometimes tear-filled, but always grace-filled ways. A space where I had to face my inability with God's ability every single day. And as I thought about a fourth, as I thought about you, I knew that God would meet me at the chasm again." 

And He has. I didn't think the chasm would be here. I didn't think the chasm would be so deep. But I know I don't have to leap over this on my own. He is carrying me through in grace-filled ways. 

In that same letter I wrote about the Sara Groves song that says, "I'm strangely ready for what comes next. It's hard to describe because it makes no sense, but I am strangely ready." 
I don't know if I am ready. No one thinks about delivering a lifeless baby at 14 weeks when they see that pink line. But I know that God is ready because I know He is already there in that moment. He hems me in behind and before. I know His presence will be evident, and I pray that somehow there is joy in even that moment. Joy knowing this sweet one will never know the busted ways of this world. Joy knowing Jesus was the first one this child saw. 

God does some of his best work among the lowly. Among the brokenhearted. Because in His story, the other side of death is always, always resurrection. 
And just like a song I am currently listening to says, "He is here in the healing that hasn't happened yet."  We are promised in Psalm 34:18 that "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." He is. So present. So near. So very, very here. And I know He is resurrecting. He is taking hold of my fragile idols and shattering them and reminding me to be satisfied, soul-deep, in Him. There is no rock like our God. [1 Samuel 2:2]

My grief, my loss, is not proof that God is absent.  "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him" [Job 13:15].

In 1 John 5, John writes, "We accept human testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his son...and this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." 

And in this story of mine I see the hand of God, and I pray that others look beyond my testimony and to the testimony of Him. Because it never fails. I know not everyone can or wants to publicly talk about their miscarriage; everyone's process is so different in this. Some don't want to talk and they need others to believe for them and pray the words they cannot pray.But I think it was a severe mercy that we had already announced this pregnancy: because He knew part of my healing would come through writing, and through pointing to His greater story in this. It's easy for me to zoom in right now on this little slice of the story. But my story is in Him. And it started with In the beginning and its theme is faithfulness. My testimony is His testimony and His testimony is redemption. His testimony is beauty from ashes. His testimony is life from death. 

Most people know the story of God parting the Red Sea. But the story I keep coming back to is in Joshua 3 & 4. Same Israelites. And God stops the flow of the Jordan River so they can cross to the other side. AND THEN, He tells them to select stones "from the middle of the Jordan" and build an altar. And Joshua told them, "In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord." 

And I keep thinking of that altar made from rocks from the BOTTOM of the Jordan River that never should have seen the light of day except through His sovereign hand of deliverance. So I am taking these rocks and trying to build an altar to remember how God met me, even here. Even now. Even in this. 

 Thank you for your prayers for Brent and for me and for our girls. For our families who also had already pictured new little feet pattering around at Christmases in the future. There will be remnants of this lost life everywhere-- when I put away the "Belly Book" I never got to finish; when the maternity pants I ordered the day before my appointment show up; when the due date comes and goes; when Nan has a birthday and is not a big sister. This has changed every single thing. And yet it has also changed nothing. And there is still a journey in all of that ahead for me. For us. This healing will be a process, and I may need to write more about it. I may not. But thank you for granting me space to do this. My prayer is that He uses this space and this story for His glory; that He will redeem this brokenness in our lives, but that the redemption can extend beyond what we could imagine. 

Someday others will say, "What do these stones mean?" and I will get to recount the story of a faithful, healing, and redeeming God. 

I've never tried videos on here, but these songs are speaking a lot of my truths right now. If they don't work just you tube Ellie Holcomb's "Red Sea Road" and "Find You Here."



8.15.2017

The Sea



Tomorrow I send my firstborn daughter off to school. Kindergarten. And I am feeling it so deep in my gut. Here's the funny thing: I wasn't going to be this parent. I wasn't going to be the mom, holding her daughter's blanket in the middle of the day just to smell her sweet scent and remember the baby in her. I wasn't going to be the mom who wept when she dropped her child off in the tiled classroom decorated with owls and primary colors. I wasn't going to be the mom. Because... eye roll... come on, it is JUST KINDERGARTEN, right?

But I am not only THE MOM, I am here to let you know it is not "just kindergarten." It is everything and it is nothing. It is normal and it is so not normal. A big start and a huge end. It is learning new things and trusting in the investment of old learning. An embracing and a letting go.

The other night I went to peek at the girls before I crawled in bed myself-- a dangerous game of Russian Roulette [PLEASE DON'T WAKE UP WHEN THE FLOOR CREAKS!]. And there she was, my huge five year old, naked [of course] and cuddling her dolls and sleeping on her lunch bag. She looked so tall. Her hair I never thought would grow was so long. And yet when I zeroed in on her face I saw her-- my baby. Six pounds of fresh skin and body, a new soul I barely knew. Her blanket smelled like new, not like her.


One of my favorite poems is "On Turning Ten", by Billy Collins. In it he says he's "all the ages he's ever been." And as I stare at her, breathe her in, she is indeed the breathtaking newborn, the toddling one year old, the exploring two year old, the silly three year old, and the inquisitive four year old. And of course, the reality is she is also the beautiful, joyful, bursting to learn five year old before me, on the precipice of Kindergarten. She is all the ages. And I am sending all of them into that school building tomorrow.

I have never been awesome with change. I'm actually quite terrible with it. I will probably die with the same haircut I have now for this very reason. And yet, here we go: change.

I am 31. [I know! I am as shocked as you are!] And I have lived enough life to at least realize that change does not equal bad anymore than good equals staying the same. Actually, if I've learned anything it's that quite often Jesus calls us to change so that we can step out of the boat and experience far more good and abundance that we could experience inside of it. We won't know we can walk on water until we leave our comfort zones and try. 

But this change isn't solely about me [though, oh Lordy, will I grow too!]. It is about sending that little girl, in whose face I still see all the ages she's ever been, into a world that I know is quite busted and broken. I've had the immense pleasure and joy of getting to be home with her for five years, and hear this: I am my very own personal brand of bustedness. Don't we know. But I also knew she was mainly safe, what was being input, and that Jesus' name was on the tips of our tongues throughout our days. I got to be there when she failed. I got to be there when she experienced something spectacularly new and awesome. And now I have to send her out of the boat.


The other day she was singing one of her current favorites in the backseat: "You split the sea so I could walk right through it! My fears are drowned in perfect love! I'm no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God."  And I fought back the tears that have come more easily to my eyes these days. And I remembered: Jesus is not just in our home. He is there. And Blythe is His child. And He will split the sea so she can walk right through it, even if I might prefer she never have to face the sea to begin with.

I know this next season of change will grow into our normal. But for now, please give me a minute because trust me, it is not just kindergarten. 

8.01.2017

for my fourth



June 24, 2017

I'm sitting here sipping coffee with the windows open at the end of June. The air is cool, humidity free. A Colorado day that we are having here in northwest Missouri. This is a rare day, and so are you, a fourth child.

A couple of weeks ago I found out you were growing inside of me, a little person forming in my womb. I had a suspicion and the faded pink line confirmed and my eyes grew wide with many emotions: surprise, fear, excitement. Surprise, as we had finally said yes to a fourth in our hearts but hadn't with our feet just yet. Fear, as the number four seemed big and beyond me, and I knew others opinions may not be in our favor. And excitement, as I thought about welcoming another life into our midst.

After we had Becks, I wasn't sure I would have more. Two girls seemed so complete to me. And then we prayed, and along came Nan. And we had always said two or four, but once we had three we realized just how big that number was. Odd or even, a family of five had become our jam. Nan's pregnancy was really hard on my body. Your dad had contracted zi.ka in the middle of the pregnancy which meant some unknowns and extra ultrasounds, which fortunately resulted in nothing unusual. My pelvis had separated towards the end and it took a long time to heal and be able to walk, stand, and step normally.  Plus the transition to three kids, which was just a lot in so many big ways. I couldn't really think about a fourth for awhile. It's not even that I didn't want to think about a fourth; I didn't have the capacity to even go there. 

But slowly, like a spring garden bursting forth in the heat of the summer sun, my heart began to open to the possibility bit by bit. I had learned with Nan that God could stretch me and grow me far beyond myself. I had learned that at the end of myself was this great chasm that I didn't have to leap over on my own, but that God would carry me through in beautiful, sometimes tear-filled, but always grace-filled ways. It was a space I would have never found with only two children; a space so bursting forth with goodness and rawness and realness. It was a space where I had to embrace my inability with God's ability every single day. And as I thought about a fourth child, as I thought about you, I knew that God would meet me at that chasm again.


But just because I knew that, it didn't make me want to again. Not yet. I thought of the pain I would endure again. The possibility of my pelvis literally ripping at the seams again. I thought of less time with each of my children. I thought of more days in the infant phase. I thought of another year I would have to spend nursing. I thought of longer years until I could return to teaching. I thought of less people being willing to help out [four kids is pushing the limits of what people want to step into]. I thought of my body going through the trauma of growing another human, and delivering him/her into the world. I thought of limits on what we could do as a family.

 So I started to pray. And once I prayed I heard God clearly say, "You're not making this decision. I gave you Brent. Let him lead you." Woah. Little one, you will learn early that it is hard, hard work for me to sit back and be led sometimes.  I thought of that little word that packs a punch: submit. And while I was praying about the possibility of you and praying through my fears and excuses, God called to mind a little radio interview I had heard this past year.  I only caught a portion of it before your sisters requested "their songs",  but I remember clearly it was a husband and wife, and she said something like this: In life there are very few times I'm going to have to totally submit to a decision my husband makes, because usually we are on the same page. And making a decision with him, that I fully support, isn't submission, even though I wish it were. And in our 40 years of marriage, there have been very few times that we haven't been able to reach a decision together; where submission to trust his decision is required of me. But submission is only submission when it isn't a decision I would have necessarily arrived at on my own. That is paraphrased, but that little snippet really spoke to me, and God brought it back to my mind like a sledgehammer when I really started praying about the possibility of you.

It was a beautiful spring evening and we were out for a walk. We had parked the strollers and were letting your sisters crawl around on some steps and rocks, and I said to your dad, "I'm going to trust you to lead me in this. I trust you to seek God and make this decision for our family." And your dad took that seriously. He prayed and read scripture and prayed some more. And when he said he knew I was supposed to get pregnant, and if I couldn't get pregnant then that meant we were to adopt a fourth, I trusted him, even though my knees were knocking at every turn.

We went on a little family vacation with your dad's side of the family in late May, and I didn't know it yet but I was pregnant with you. On our drive I listened to a new song by Sara Groves called "Strangely Ready." She sings:
I'm strangely ready for what comes next
I'm strangely ready
It's hard to describe cause it makes no sense.
I'm strangely ready for what comes next.

Count it faith, I got up.
Nothing left for me yet but a longing with trust.
Was it faith? I don't know.
You just lifted and led me and I had to go.
Now I'm strangely ready.

A vision in the sky
A fire in the night
You said you'll do your part if I'll do mine
Now I'm strangely ready

 As I listened to those words I asked God that, if He were to give us another child, that I would be strangely ready. And while there is so much unknown out here on the edge, He just lifted and led me and I had to go.

I have to think of those first, quiet dream-like hospital days. Adrenaline still pumping through me, the magic dust yet to settle. A nursery staff and nurses bringing me iced water around the clock. You as a brand new bundle of fresh, soft skin. I think of getting to do that again-- hard, hard labor-work followed by that moment that is ethereal when it is as if God Himself has handed you to me.

But the reality of heading home after that? The transition back to our house and day-to-day living?  There have been times already where I nearly crumble under the weight of what that may bring. I know a lot of people, after three kids, say, "Oh, what's one more?!" But my sister said, "Well, it's one more." It will be a lot more. More diapers, more sleep lost, more pediatrician appointments, more fears, more food to cook, more schedules to manage, more carseats in the van, more school programs,  more disciplining, more, more, more. But it will also be more hugs, more laughter, more pudgy toddler hands, more first big moments, more "push me higher, mommy!", more innocent prayers around the kitchen table, more siblings to care for one another in old age, more smore sticks around a campfire, more Johnson & Johnson cheek kissing after bath time, more books read in my lap, more praying that you will know Jesus early and deeply. More, more, more.

 God said He will do His part if I do mine. And I am strangely ready for what comes next. I am strangely ready for you, my fourth child.

Love,
Your mom