The Walls Came Tumbling Down

John 11:25 – “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

I was pregnant with my fourth baby, Johnathan Judah. I was on heparin injections, weekly ultrasound appointments, and progesterone. The baby grew well and, besides precipitous labor, it was a smooth pregnancy. I had decided to take a year off to have my fourth child, as of November 1st. This was something my work had approved. Resting was helping reduce the preterm labor symptoms. I was progressing well. I was laying on the couch resting at 36 weeks, when I got a call from my sister-in law. Hunter was in critical condition at the hospital.

Rewind a couple of days, my brother had gone into the hospital two days prior for an elective tonsillectomy. I had warned him that this was a bad idea. All surgery has risks, there is no such thing as a minor surgery. He had assured me that the tonsil stones he had warranted the surgery. He was willing to accept this risk and write me off as an overprotective sister. I would hold onto the warning for the rest of my life, wishing he had listened. The surgery did not go well. They stopped taking out his adenoids because there was too much bleeding. Why you take out adenoids, when tonsils are the source of the problem, I will never understand. He had been in serious pain after surgery and they were keeping him for twenty four hours to observe him. I had called that day and he had written a note, “I <3 U.” That would be the last communication I would ever have with my brother. His voice was too strained to speak and the next day, he was too out of it to call. We would, later, find out why.

My sister-in law was hysterical. I immediately went into triage mode. This was going to be fine, Hunter was going to be fine. He was fine just the day before, and was supposed to have left the hospital. They would have transferred him to another hospital, if his symptoms were really severe. He had just texted me earlier that day, they were odd texts, but responses none the less. I would later find out he was texting me “I can’t text and drive, it is not worth a life,” because he was almost completely incapacitated. But for now, that was unacceptable, he was okay. He had to be okay.

I got a call from my dad forty five minutes later. “He’s dead,” was all he said. I became hysterical, screaming “No,” over and over again. Then, “This is not real life, this is not my life.” My dad has no recollection of that phone call. I was in shock, he was in shock. After that, I called my doctor to get medication to help me sleep. I was sure I wasn’t going to survive this. Brian wanted me to go to Montgomery that night, but I wasn’t ready. I would regret not seeing Hunter in the hospital that night, not being there amongst his friends. I regret not seeing him for every minute that I could. My mom sent me an image of him lying dead in the bed. This image was traumatizing and would haunt me for awhile. It would be one of the first components of PTSD that would consume me for months.

That night, we still had to assemble my daughters bike for her birthday, the next day. My sweet father-in law came over to help. As they assembled, I walked outside. I am not typically a hyper spiritual person. I don’t believe in the paranormal or ghosts. But something wrapped its arms around me that night. I don’t know if it was an angel, the holy spirit, or my brother. I will say it felt like him. It felt like one of his warm bear hugs, and to this day it brings me comfort to reflect on those moments, after he died. I wasn’t alone.

The next morning, we threw a quick birthday celebration for my four year old daughter and flew out the door. That was the last time I would be home for over nine days. It would take us nine days to view him, autopsy him, fly him home and bury his body. It would take almost a year for us to find out what really happened that night.

We drove to Birmingham, Alabama to meet up with my Uncle, Aunt, Cousin, and my parents. Seeing my parents was one of the most difficult parts. That first time you all make eye contact, and the unspoken loss hangs in the air like thick fog. It took my breath away. I almost collapsed into their arms and cried. My dad wanted to see my brother’s body as soon as possible. So, we went to the morgue. My brother was Air Force. So, his body was set up for autopsy, before we even were able to request it. His body was being transferred from the local coroner, who we later found out was on his first day as coroner. Hunter would have been his first autopsy. Instead, he was being transferred to the University of Alabama Birmingham for autopsy by an actual M.D. The Air Force like F.B.I. (I will call them the FBI from here on out, to make it easier to explain) was in charge of Hunter’s case and was opening a criminal investigation.

We arrived at the funeral home to view my brother’s body. Nothing could have prepared me for that. My parents were in there as they removed the body bag, but I was didn’t see him until he was fully exposed. This was the best he would look until his interment. He just looked like my handsome, strong brother but asleep. I found it concerning that his shirt was not ripped open, he didn’t have any bruising from CPR type movement. He looked like he was sleeping, but he was cold to the touch. That wasn’t the most alarming part.

I didn’t know exactly what happens to a body after death. I now know the bodily fluids start to seep out. He was surrounded by a puddle of yellow liquid mixed with blood. This image would prevent me from eating steak for awhile. I developed a PTSD effect from seeing liquid blood on a plate and would fall into anxiety attacks in restaurants. As well, he had blood and vomit draining from his mouth. It was my brother but a broken shell of him. I collapsed under the weight and pain of him being gone. I fell down on the table and sat on the floor. I cried so hard, I couldn’t even breathe. I talked to my brother in my mind and asked him to help me get back up.

I couldn’t explain it, if I tried, but something said, “Look up.” Now, my brother was a joker. He loved to make people laugh and would definitely be cracking a joke, had he been in the room. I opened my eyes, and screamed. There, inches from me, was another dead person. No bag, just laying there. This person was old and, as my sister-in law joked through her pain, ready to go. I jumped back and everyone rushed to make sure I was okay. I told them what I saw, and we all looked down. We laughed so hard. We said Hunter had to have been there too. He would have been tickled to death to make us laugh though our pain. We could feel his presence. We were grateful to the Lord for his grace in helping us laugh in our agony. It gave us the strength to leave the morgue that night, and for me to get up off that floor.

Hannah’s Hope

2 Samuel 1: 10-11 “ She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life”

After this miscarriage the days were dark. I grieved deeply and mourned the pain of loss. I couldn’t believe God was asking me to walk such a path. It seemed unfair, but I endured. In the months following, a cloud came over me. Still not depression, just a deep sadness. I had a vision one day of my children running through our house being followed by a crawling baby boy. It was so real, I felt I could almost reach out and touch it. However, I dared not put my hope in something so abstract. There was still a comfort there, feeling that this would come to pass. I began reading the book Hannah’s Hope. It is an excellent book for those struggling with fertility issues. I follows the story of Hannah, from 2 Samuel. Her was a journey of bareness and pain. She cried out to God for deliverance from the agony in the form of a baby. It seemed it would never come.

However, the Lord saw her in her affliction and gave her Samuel. She dedicated him  to the Lord and God created a beautiful story for him. I highly suggest reading both the book and the scripture. This story was salve to my soul. My heart knew there was another baby out there for me. I was desperate to meet this child but couldn’t imagine going through another miscarriage. The Lord was faithful, and I conceived a baby boy, we would name Samuel. I was on heparin injections, progesterone, and weekly ultrasounds but he grew healthy and strong. His labor and delivery were not as swift as the first. These labor pains were slow and steady, leading to a beautiful and peaceful delivery. Holding him was pure joy and he was so content to snuggle up under my neck. He stayed there for months, it seemed. He is still an amazing snuggler today. Samuel was the child that showed me God’s love for his children in the midst of pain and suffering. He saw my longing heart and gave me a swift answer. This time would prepare me for a future trial I was yet to see. A trial that would tear at my heart and cause me to question all that I thought I knew.

In the meantime, Samuel grew and my heart longed for a fourth child. One day, at my practice a little girl came in with her guardians. I looked at her and she at me, and I felt an undeniable bond. I ran outside, after the appointment, and called my husband and mother. I had met our fourth child. I knew it in those moments with her. The Lord gave me the confidence to ask her guardian whether or not she needed permanent placement. It seemed that she would and they were open to my husband and I. They did an interview with us with our pastor. We had dinner together. We were starting to become friends. It felt as all was moving in the direction of adoption. We had even decided that we would adopt her older siblings, if they still needed placement. We didn’t want to divide a family. We looked at the Nissan NVP van, my husband even test drove one. We began talking as though this was our future, to welcome these three children into our home. Just like that, it began to be ripped away. The birth mother was finally starting to get her act together. Our journey had started nearly a year before. She had shown no interest in attending her court appointed visits, court dates, holidays, etc. Then, on what seemed like a whim, she stepped back in. The guardians were now two years in and content to keep her as long as there was a chance she could still go back to her birth mom. We, finally, told the guardian family that we would give her a home at any point in the future that it might be necessary, but we had to move forward. With that, we surrendered her back to the Lord. To this day, she still hasn’t been fully placed one way or the other. The pain of that loss still hurts. I am not sure what the Lord’s plan was in involving us in that specific arrangement, but I trust it crosses into eternity and one day I will see clearly.

The earthly reality is that between all of our biological children were we asked to surrender another child to the Lord. It is painful, still, to think about. We have two little ones up in heaven. Without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t have the four children we have now. But sometimes, I can’t help but think how different our lives would be had they survived. It will be a tender place in my soul until I leave this world. I know, though, that my God was with me and was orchestrating my story to glorify him in the end. After that we got another Rainbow. This was our Judah. He would come both with joy and unspeakable pain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You are Enough – Giveaway

2 Samuel 22: 17-20 “He sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters; He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me.”

To the woman late for work because she overslept;

to the woman whose husband left for another woman;

to the woman who feels unloveable;

to the woman who gained weight and is a shadow of her former self;

to the woman passed up for another promotion given to a man;

to the woman whose partner yells and verbally degrades her;

to the woman exhausted by the weight of the world;

to the woman with cancer ravaging her body;

to the woman in the margin unseen and unknown

You have value. You are brave. You are strong. The days are long but they will get better. There is a light in the darkness.

To the mom weary from wiping noses and changing diapers;

to the mom wandering through piles of toys and no strength to clean them up one more time;

to the mom whose kids yell and are disrespectful;

to the mom with fear of making a new mistake each passing day;

to the mom who feels unseen in her yoga pants;

to the mom who sacrificed her dreams for those of her family;

to the mom who feels that her efforts are worthless;

You are treasured. You are worthy. You are valuable. You are strong.

 

To the mom who is waiting for a + sign on her pregnancy test;

to the mom yearning to hold her biological child;

to the mom yearning to hold her adoptive child;

to the mom yet not a mom and yet longing to be with every piece of her;

to the mom holding the body of her still born baby;

to the mom burying her beloved child;

You are held. You have purpose today. You are a survivor. Persevere.

 

To woman who’s depressed, anxious, fearful;

to the woman who is afraid to go outside;

to the woman trapped in her own mind;

to the one making plans for suicide thinking everyone will be better of without you;

to the woman who wants today to be the last day she picks up a bottle or syringe;

to the woman who has is working the streets or the stage;

to the woman who had lost everything and feels all hope is lost;

Christ sees you. He hears your prayers.

 

To the woman who questions the faith she once had;

to the woman who questions the God she has always known;

to the woman whose life experience tells her there is no God;

to the woman whose father was so brutal the concept of a loving Father God seems like a fallacy;

to the woman who can’t walk into the church after all the pain experienced inside its walls;

to the woman hurt by woman she trusted;

to the woman rejected time and time again;

to the woman longing to fit in and be accepted

He knows you and longs to be known by you. You are resilient. You matter. Your life has purpose. You are lovable. You are valuable. You are worthy of respect. You have strength inside of you, that you never could have imagined. The Lord’s love is not waiting behind a right decision, his deliverance is not dependent of right choices, his presence is not being withheld. It is here. It is in today. You are worthy of this love because of Christ’s sacrifice. Step into the light and love of Christ today. He is not waiting on you, he is here. He is ready to take your burden. Let him hold and restore your soul. Let him give you the Living Water you long for.

Share this with a woman who needs to hear that she has value today. Send it to one who needs encouragement. Make the phone call to the family member or friend you may have marginalized. Make sure these women see you as the hands and feet of Jesus in their suffering. You just may change a life.

 

Giveaway! I would like to give one reader a $10 Starbucks gift card. To enter, go to Facebook, LIKE and SHARE this post. Then, comment on this link or FACEBOOK and let me know.

Happy Friday!

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Dark Days

Deuteronomy 31:8 – “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

The days that followed the birth of our baby boy were a challenge. He stopped feeding and cried constantly. After four weeks of struggling, we changed my diet to eliminate dairy. Maddox improved almost immediately. I started to feel alone and sad during those days. Brian was still gone a lot, the apartment was dark, and we were away from family. I never thought to call it depression, it was more of a baby blues. I thought it was normal, as Maddox was a difficult baby in the beginning. I assumed it was sleep deprivation or thyroid related. I was diagnosed with Hasshimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune hypothyroidism, during pregnancy.  I would later discover, it was likely my first brush with postpartum depression. As the months past, I got out of the apartment more. Maddox and I would go on a run or meet up with friends, whenever possible. The darkness began to lift. I started babysitting for a friend to make extra income and the seasons passed.

Soon, I was preparing to go back to school. After the first three months of the semester, we moved back to Brian’s family and moved in with them. Right before we arrived, I found out I was expecting another baby. Brian and I were excited and the baby would be born around the end of my schooling. However, just a few days after getting a positive pregnancy test, the tests began getting lighter. Then, I was crying out for Brian again, only this time in a different distress. I was loosing my baby. A baby I had already come to know as Issac. I knew in my heart from the day we found out that something was not right. I could feel it in my bones. The weeks that followed were hard. Luckily, the miscarriage wasn’t painful but I hung on the edge of lost hopes and dreams. I watched other mom’s conceive and felt an ache inside. A longing to be a mother again and the desire to meet the baby that had gone on to be with the Lord.

We decided from then on out, we would not prevent ourselves from getting pregnant again, until we were done having children. I continued to have irregular periods and it made any sort of planning difficult. Despite our family’s concerns, we were pregnant again within three months. This time, I was finishing school and enjoying learning to be a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. After going to the pediatrician with Maddox, I had learned  what a help and comfort they can be. I wanted to do that for other mothers, so I changed my major again. This pregnancy went rather smoothly until about seven months, when I started having precipitous labor. We thought I wouldn’t make it to my induction date, but that little nugget stayed snug. This labor was swift as the first. Once I was in active labor, it was about three hours until delivery. We held our breath as they pulled the baby out.

I was never expected to have a girl. My husband’s family hadn’t had a girl baby in over fifty years. We thought it was impossible but out she came. She was all hair. She had this beautiful head of thick black hair and beautiful tan skin. She was 7 lbs. 6 oz. of beautiful. We were so grateful, even if her older brother wasn’t sure at first. I stayed at home with her for the first few weeks. Caroline had the same problems as Maddox, but we caught them early, this time. So, we got her on medication, and I adjusted my diet. This time, we had just moved into our own home. I think I was so caught up in the joy, that I have no real memory of sadness with Caroline. Besides not being able to put her down, she was a happy baby.

Another twelve months passed. I went back to work and still no baby. One day, I felt a twinge and I knew. This time, I bled the entire five days before my positive pregnancy test. In hindsight, I am not even sure why I took one. But there we were, expecting again. The bleeding and spotting continued and we had regular appointments with the Ob/Gyn. The embryo developed into a fetus and the bleeding stopped. We were happy and hopefully in the clear. Until one afternoon at Walmart, I felt a huge gush and ran to the bathroom with toddlers in tow. It was what I feared, blood. I scooped the kids up and ran out the door. My husband picked me up and we drove to the Ob. The ultrasound looked good and baby’s heart was beating nicely. We headed home to wait the weekend. The bleeding never stopped and by Sunday I was passing large blood clots. Again, I had a name. This precious one would be named Micah and we would learn the baby was gone the following morning. This time was different. I had seen this baby growing twice a week for five weeks. I was ten weeks along now. I begged the doctor not to do a DNC. I couldn’t imagine my baby being ripped from my insides that way. I wanted to be in my own environment.

I tried to go to work the next day, to keep my mind distracted but it was no use. The contractions came, and I could barely stand up. I rushed home and laid there for the next  week. The pain and bleeding was greater than I anticipated. Each contraction and clot was a reminder what was happening. My heart was breaking a little more day by day. I was praying for the bleeding to stop in time to prevent me having a DNC. As well, I was searching the toilet for a glimpse of my baby, I couldn’t imagine flushing but in the end I had to. The weeks and months that followed were terrible. I was so broken hearted at the loss of a second pregnancy and the prayers I had prayed for Maddox haunted me. I knew the Lord wasn’t punishing me, but I felt so guilty.

We did some testing and found out I had low progesterone. As well,  I had an autoimmune clotting disorder called Antiphospholipid Syndrome. For all future pregnancies, I would have to be on heparin injections, but there was hope. Then, the sunshine came out and a rainbow formed.

Skittles and Bacon

Psalm 139:13 – “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”

We had moved to Nashville three months prior, and I had started school when we went to pick up my third month of birth control. The pharmacist refused to give me the medication. Apparently, my prescription had expired two weeks before. Had I pick up all three months of medication in August, we would have been covered. However, we couldn’t afford that on our tight budget and had waited. No big deal, we decided. Our insurance was to kick in the next month, and I would go to the Ob/Gyn then. I was told, at the age of sixteen, that I would have great difficulty conceiving a child. I didn’t go through puberty until almost college and I had horribly irregular cycles. So, what was a few weeks without birth control? A few weeks turned into months. School was busy, and I had put off going to the Ob/Gyn. I was in a maternity nursing course, after Christmas. I called it, “1,000 and 1 things that could go wrong with your baby.”

We were sitting in class discussing symptoms of pregnancy. Missing a period. That couldn’t happen to me, because I never got them. Ovulation pain. Was that what that tinge was the other day? Sore breasts. That sounded oddly familiar. Implantation pain. Does that feel like being stabbed in your lower abdomen? Surely, I was imagining things. I decided I was having a case of medical school hypochondriasis and swept it under the rug. A few days later, Brian was headed to the grocery store. I had a weird craving for bacon and sour skittles. As Brian walked out the door he joked, “I’ll be sure to pick up some pregnancy tests. Sounds like pregnancy cravings.” I laughed, but part of me knew.

He came home, we had an enjoyable evening together, and he reminded me to take one of the pregnancy tests before bed. Now, let me just clarify, from personal experience. Never, I repeat, never get the cheap pregnancy tests. Spring for the pregnant/not pregnant version. Leave no doubt. I went into the bathroom, peed on a stick. As quickly as the dye could spread there was a + sign. I screamed for Brian! He picked up the test and the package insert. “It’s a test error,” he said. “That first line is too dark and you can barely see the second line.” Some of you already realize what this meant. Super Duper PREGNANT! We were naive little kids. So, Brian made me drink about a gallon of water and we sat there twiddling our thumbs until I could urinate again. It was now midnight, and we were in a cold sweat. I went in alone the second time. Same result. When Brian found me the second time, I was rocking back and forth saying, “No, no, no, no.” Brian was remarkably calm. He kept reassuring me that we had this under control and we would be fine. I said, “Fine. I know how this baby comes out and it is most certainly not fine!” I called my parents in tears telling them that there worst nightmare had come true.

They reassured me that this was an unexpected blessing and would be fine. I was a 22 year old newly wed, in graduate school with two years left, and a husband who was the sole bread winner. This was most certainly not going to be okay. I don’t think I thought of God once during this time. I was scared and all I could think of was how I was going to handle it. The next day, I took a trusty pregnant/not pregnant test on the way to class. It took seconds, PREGNANT. So, the test was not in error. I went to Target and got the cutest little onesie, how scary could a human that could fit in this really be? I got a “We’re Expecting” card, the pregnancy test, the onesie, and put them in a cute little rubber ducky bag. I headed home to wait for Brian.

When he arrived, I gave him the bag and started recording. He, in a gruff voice, asked me to turn the camera off. Now was his turn to panic. He opened the bag and I thought he was going to have an anxiety attack. Where was the man who said we would be fine? I decided not to mention that I would have to drop out of school for a year and stay home. The school would only give me ten days off to have the baby.

I wish I could say, after that, our terror turned to joy. I wish I could say that I fully lay it in the Lord’s hands. That just wasn’t the case. I have so much shame admitting this, and I have never told anyone, but I prayed after that. I prayed for a miscarriage. I didn’t just pray for one once, but daily, for weeks. It is one of the greatest shames of my life. Over time, I grew to love the baby. I felt him growing and kicking inside of me. After maternity nursing was over, my fear that he wouldn’t be healthy vanished. We had a happy, healthy nine months.

We moved to a new apartment across the parking lot with an extra bedroom and waited for this bundle to be born. I had finished up my first year of graduate school and waited home alone for the next two months, trying to get this little guy to make his appearance. It was lonely during that time. There wasn’t much to do, I had few friends. Our apartment was dark most of the day, and Brian was gone 13 hours a day.  I was a week overdue when I woke in the night  with cramping. I had lost my mucus plug the week before and thought it might be time. I got up and cleaned the apartment quietly, so Brian would keep sleeping. It was three a.m. By five a.m. Brian had woken up. I had taken a shower and gotten dressed. Our bags had been packed for weeks, we were ready to go.I told Brian to go on to work. By six a.m. I knew it was time. I was curling my hair when I fell down on my hands and knees. I was rocking back and forth to ease the pain. This was when I decided that a natural childbirth was not for me. Needless to say, I would be changing my specialty.

All of my contractions were in my back. We waddled to the car stopping twice on the way for contractions. I couldn’t sit down, so I was on my hands and knees holding the headrest of the car. We sped off through rush hour traffic. I swore that, if we got to the hospital and I was 2 cm dilated, I was going to kill someone. We made it. What relief. I had a contraction and then walked into admitting. I started yelling through my contraction. Once the desk receptionist found out it was my first baby, she told me to stop yelling because I was scaring the moms checking in for c-sections. I started crying, luckily a nurse walking by saw me and decided I needed to go straight to triage. She tried to get me to sit in a wheel chair but it was no use. By the time I go changed into a gown and examined, they were throwing the sides of the bed up and rushing me to labor and delivery. I was 8.5 cm with a bulging bag of waters. There was no time for pain meds, which I protested strongly. Brian and my birth photographer heard me screaming down the hallway and followed the bellows. By the time we got to the delivery room I was nine centimeters and by the grace of God my Ob let me have an epidural. I felt the need to push during my epidural, I now know I was ready to deliver, but first time mom’s. The epidural was amazing, and I was able to let my husband get breakfast. They came and checked me, asking me if I needed to push. I said I hadn’t felt anything. All of the sudden the room was scrambling. He was crowning. We called Brian to come back. After some rapid heart decals, me needing oxygen and an episiotomy, we had a healthy baby boy. The first time I saw him, I was in love. There was no greater gift, and I was so thankful to the Lord for not answering my prayers.

One Flesh

Mark 10:8 – “and the two will become one flesh. ‘So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”

August 9, 2008. We were hoping for 08/08/08. However, my mom assured me that no one appreciates going to a wedding on a Friday, so we gave away the perfect wedding date and settled for 08/09/08. It was a beautiful day. We decided to have a local destination wedding. It was at the Lodge at Blue Ridge Summit. There was a hotel on site. So, the whole bridal party and most out of town guests came throughout the day on Friday. There was a typical rehearsal dinner and a huge celebration. There were massages for the girls and skeet shooting for the boys. A cold front and storm came through that evening. So, the hot summer day we anticipated turned into a 75 degree day with a slight breeze. Our August wedding day could not have been more perfect, if we had hand picked it. We were married overlooking the mountains underneath a canopy of flowers. We were both over joyed and scared, to be honest.

Both of us knew the gravity of what was being asked of us. If we had known what those vows would have meant, maybe one of us would have bowed out. That is beauty of the celebration wedding day. It is full of joy, hope, and anticipation. But it is, also, a covenant with the Lord. I agreed to love, honor, and obey. He agreed to serve, protect, and love me as Christ loved his church. As we ran out under a blanket of sparks to our get away car, full of anticipation of our first night together, if we had only known. If we had only known that the day where my loving husband put me in a full headlock and smeared cake in my face would pave the way for miscarriage, pornography addiction, my fierce independence, loss of an adoption, death of my only sibling, and postpartum followed by lingering depression, would our vows have been different? Would we have said them so boldly? We lived them out, but it has been hard. We have walked through many storms. As we came back from our honeymoon, the journey had just begun.

We had moved into our apartment shortly before the honeymoon. It was a cute little apartment in a fairly safe complex in Nashville. We were four hours from Brian’s parents and eight from mine. We were out in the world on our own and excited by the prospects. I started in the Midwifery portion on the Nurse Practitioner program at Vanderbilt. It was a two year program, where I would take my undergraduate degree and transform from a BSN equivalent into a Master’s degree. Things were starting off smoothly. We didn’t have much money, Brian was our only source of income and he was working diligently as a landscaper. A few weeks in, I got pornography spam on my Mac. I didn’t know a lot about apple products, but I knew they weren’t prone to spam. So, I confronted Brian. He lied and told me he didn’t know how that had ended up in the history. I was heartbroken, but I so wanted it to be true that I ignored it. I called my tech savvy brother and asked how this could accidentally end up in my history. He assured me that Brian was lying, but I trusted Brian.

We had talked about his struggles with pornography before marriage. It had started at a friends house when he was a preteen. He, then, looked it up on the family computer. His parents put blockers in place but it just became a game to get around them. Soon, it was an unstoppable force. It transferred into him sleeping with girls in college. This confession left me hurt but sure I would marry him. I had been the Pharisee my whole life and tried to follow God’s rules to earn my salvation and prove to God that I was worthy. So, I deemed that I was worthy of an abstinent partner. However, when Brian confessed his past and his pain, I felt compassion and love. I knew I wanted to be with him anyway. People had warned me to not marry him. They said they had seen pornography wreck too many marriages. We would end up seeing this too. Not only the toll it took on our early marriage but as we counseled other couples walking similar paths.

So, here I was. Newly married and naive. I truly believed that once we were married and sleeping together, it would be enough for Brian. I think he even bought that lie, as well. The enemy, however, is so crafty. He lurks in the bushes, waiting to attack at a moments weakness. We started spiraling for awhile. I lost my trust of Brian. I was humiliated. I felt like it was my fault, that I wasn’t enough for him. He was kind and compassionate, but it left a painful void. This void would linger. This trust, broken, hurt our intimacy, which only made things worse. It would take time, and the holy spirit to heal my husband and these wounds. But that is our story. The Lord redeemed. The Lord healed. My husband was humble and got help, God pulled him out of the pit and restored him to a place of righteousness. This is not because of Brian earning it, it is because our Savior died for him and reconciled him. This work is ongoing, Brian can’t let his guard down for a minute. But we are united to fight for our marriage and purity. When I stopped standing against Brian and waiting for him to fix his own broken places, deliverance began. It has been a long painful process but I want to assure you that healing can come. Your marriage can be restored. You can survive this. There is beauty in the ashes.

Then I asked Brian to go to the grocery store and get bacon and skittles.

All Because Two People Fell in Love

Song of Solomon 1:2 – “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine;”

So, we sat in that airport and Brian gave me a card. The card was from my mother and read, “If you are reading this, you are engaged and in Paris!” I closed the card casually. Brian asked what it said, and I didn’t lie. However, I already suspected we were going to get engaged. A weekend trip to Paris didn’t sound like something you do for fun. I decided to suspend reality and pretend I still was oblivious. We hopped on a plane that night and flew across the ocean. We arrived the next afternoon.

We went straight to our hotel and confused the gentlemen checking us in. We had arranged to stay in separate rooms, something that gave me anxiety the whole trip. Brian was such a gentleman. However, this was not very European and the concierge almost refused to give us the separate rooms. We got ready in the room and headed out to Notre Dame.  It was absolutely spectacular, until I had to rush to the restroom and got sick as a dog. Suspecting what was coming, I pushed through and we continued to the Eiffel Tower. When the gentlemen looked in Brian’s bag, he winked at Brian. I assumed that this meant he had seen a ring. Engaged at the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset.

Perfection! It took forever to get to the top and it was night, when we arrived. The City of Lights earned its name. It was gorgeous. It was packed inside, so we went outside. As soon as the door opened the wind grabbed it and slammed it open. It was so windy we would have nearly blown off. So, we went back inside. All of the sudden Brian says, “Are you ready to go?” I was flipping out inside. A million things flashed through my mind. Most of all returning home with everyone ready to see my ring and I am empty handed. Luckily, someone right behind us was getting engaged at that moment. I said, “Babe, look at that cute couple getting engaged, hoping that it would remind him to propose.” “He replied, “That is so cool,” and began his descent.

It was late, and because I was sick, I didn’t think about eating all day. Brian, probably nervous, hadn’t either. We headed to get a crepe and some hot chocolate from a small cart. Then, we walked over to the palace across the street from the tower. Every hour the Tower lights up, on the hour. We waited patiently and got to see the spectacular display. Afterward, Brian walked me down the stairs and explained that he didn’t want to propose at the tower, with all of those people present. He wanted something more private. He read me a passage from his Bible, told me how much he loved me, and lots of other things I can not remember at this point. He pulled out his grandmother’s diamond in the setting we had chosen together. It was an absolute treasure, and I was and am so honored to have it.

That night we went back to the hotel and slept. We woke up the next morning and decided to spend the day at Versailles. We ate a quick breakfast at a cafe and then took the train to the palace. It was so gigantic and elegant. An architectural feat.  We toured the buildings, ate lunch at a cafe, toured the gardens, and I got so sick again. We were asking where the bathroom was to an orange juice vendor. We were lost in translation. Other people were around and could understand what I was saying, despite also speaking different languages. We were all yelling, “Bathroom!” at the gentleman. He finally got the message, and we were on our way. I finally felt better, and that ended up being the end of my illness.

We traveled back to the center of the city. We quickly toured an open area of the Louvre until it was closing time. Then, we saw the Arc de Triomphe. It didn’t look to far away and who wouldn’t love to see the entire Champs Elysees? Oh what a mistake we made. I think we walked for hours. We stopped at a restaurant and at some shops. We finally arrived at the Arc and it was as spectacular as I had imagined. We hoped on the train and went back to the hotel. The next day, we traveled back home and slept the whole way. It was just the beginning of our adventures.

Today’s the Day

Psalm 23:4 – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”

Today is the day I pause from the story line. Today is the day this gets real. Today is the day I try to let you in. Today is the day I reveal and expose myself. Today is the day I am real. Today is the day I struggle with my depression.

It has been building for weeks. There were triggers, there always are. For me it is usual conversations revolving around finances. Finances are my security. Finances were tight in my house, as a child. As I grew, my dad became more successful, and I wanted for nothing. I grew up and went on to college. I, then, went to graduate school to become a Nurse Practitioner. I was set. My husband and I would both work, and we would be financially stable. Therefore, myself and my kids would want for nothing. That was until I lost my job. There it was, me reliant on my husband and those around me for financial security. This is something that I am terrible at, relying on others for help. I am a fiercely independent on contrasting individual. I am self-reliant and don’t even fully depend on the Lord in a sold out kind of way. Enter, financial insecurity.

Loosing my job put a financial strain on our family, add in needing round the clock babysitters, psychiatry appointments, and psychologist appointments, and things were a challenge. My parents were and are super helpful about relieving most of this strain, but I still need to rely on the Lord and my husband. As this is such a trigger, I prayed for the Lord to take it away. That way, I never had to experience the difficulty of surrender and self-sacrifice but could continue as I was, holding on to self-sufficiency. As I got better, I didn’t need as much help. I saw hope on the horizon, hope that we would be back to a place where we could save and prepare for the future. Then, my world began to come unraveled again.

Two or three weeks ago my family came to town, I had already been struggling with some depressive type symptoms. I  can feel episodes starting to come on. I become fatigued, I don’t want to exercise, I want to lay down all day, little things that wouldn’t normally stress me do, I stop wanting to eat foods that are good for me if I want to eat at all. The last one is always a sure sign. Fast forward to Easter, throwing in a larger Easter party than I expected and some financial conversations and I was blowing my top off. I yelled at my parents like a teenager, I went back to bed. However, I had to come back out, because I was having suicidal thoughts. This is such an easy statement to hear and to read, but the reality is much more severe. Imagine if the smallest trigger made you want to pick up a razor blade and start slicing your body to pieces, and not just think it but fantasize about it. That’s still considered non-suicidal. Then, throw in visions of seeing yourself laying in a bathtub with your wrists cut open and slowly closing your eyes as you bleed out, or picking up a hand gun and blowing your brains out. It is terrifying to think you could do something like this to yourself, but you know in there is a part of you that wants to. Please don’t think this is anyway selfish. People have told me this more times than I can count.

Imagine that you are trapped in your own mind. Your own mind is trying to kill you. It isn’t just a perceived threat, you have flirted with it enough to know you could actually do it. I call it suicide practice, testing the waters. Knowing that, if you really needed it, there is a way out. Then, the practice isn’t enough. You start to think of it as a way to not just give you an out, but give everyone else you love a way out. That is when I really tip over the edge. That is the thought that can lead you to carry out your suicide. You see the pain in the faces of your parents, your kids, your husband, you aunt, your uncle, and friends every time you relapse. Sometimes they start saying things and behaving in ways that show you they are tired. Their resolve is wearing off. They are ready for you to be healed, and you know you are not. They want a break, you know you can not give it to them. You are the source of pain everyone’s pain. Not just yours, everyone’s pain. If you died, you would be with the Lord. That is the thought that leads to suicide completion. The world would be better off without you. Those you love would be free of you, you would be free, and it happens in an instant. It wouldn’t happen tomorrow, or next week, but this thought for a few seconds is all it takes.

So, that is where I go. I sink into that place, full of shame. Knowing that others don’t see me as a burden, that they are enduring this with me. That is what will save me. The love and acceptance of my family, friends, etc. For me, this will only ever come from God. He is the only one who signed up with me for this journey. He is the one who sees and understands my pain. He is the one who walks with me through it every day and never gets tired. He is the only one who wants me to stay on Earth and struggle with him. He alone is my solace. He alone is my Savior. He alone never fails. Anything and anyone else is weak and fleeting. This is what he wants to teach me. To rely on him and him alone. To go through this pain to reach a place of peace and healing that can only come from him. In all my suffering Jesus is better, make my heart believe.

So, that is where I am. I am falling apart, my husband and family are struggling to go through another relapse with me, we are preparing for another long stretch to healing. The only one that can sustain us and heal us is Jesus. If we look to ourselves or other humans to fill in the pit of despair, it will never happen. Eventually, we will give up. I encourage you, if you are the one struggling today, or the loved one of someone struggling, reach out to the Lord. Be honest with those around you, about what this struggle looks like. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to share about this. So, this community and their loved ones remain in the dark and on the sidelines. If you know these people, grab their hand and pull them towards the light today. You may just save their lives.