Joy Comes in the Mourning

Joy Comes in the Mourning

This is a topic that I have visited in brief in previous posts. However, I was, again, burdened by the truths held in God’s word about God’s grace in times of suffering. The Bible talks about joy in suffering in James 1. These words held so much pain for me, when I was in the early stages of grief and postpartum psychosis. People did not know what to say to me or how to engage. Most stood at a distance, others attempted to comfort with words and scripture, but sometimes that hurt as well. I began to notice a pattern in the responses I was getting from individuals regarding suffering for the Christian. People wanted me to pray for healing, for deliverance from my current circumstances. I was told by so many individuals that they were praying for healing me. The longer I was sick, the longer my brother was in the grave, the longer I watched the impact my suffering had on friends and family, the more God revealed some of the misconceptions we have about suffering. That perhaps scripture could be directed more deeply, leading to greater revelation about my present sufferings and future glory. 

James 1: 2-4 “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, lacking in nothing.”

I love the word consider in this verse. It is so quick to overlook as unimportant to the deeper meaning and substance to this passage. In a season of suffering, it became profound to me. 

Consider (v) – to think careful;; about something, typically before making a decision, to think about and be drawn toward a course of action.

The word consider give us a breath. It gives us time. When tragedy comes at us in what can feel like wave after wave of suffering, it is so wonderful to know the importance of considering. This word gives us the space we need to take in what is happening, to weigh it against our previous experiences with God, and to have time to align our hearts with that of God. In the considering, we are given the time and space to question, ask, cry out, lament because we are not expected to step immediately into the joy. We need to have the freedom as flesh and bone humans to feel all the pain and all of the hardship of our present suffering. The bible tells us not to rush, to consider, to lean into the prospect of joy. So we can pray for those that are in current circumstances of suffering to give space to the word consider. We can take a breath and take in the present circumstances. What grace!

Then, it continues to ask us to take joy. But I want to skip over these words for a moment and turn to what comes after. The following statement gives context to the former. Take joy BECAUSE it produces perseverance. Stop and reflect on that for a moment. It does not say take in joy in your present suffering because you accept the pain and celebrate it. The joy comes from perseverance. We can find the joy, not in the present circumstance but in the outcome. God knows that pain and sorrow of worldly grief. He knows that our hearts are attached to certain people and circumstances in this world. We do not have to pretend like the pain isn’t real. We don’t have to lean into a blind trust of just being happy. We can rejoice in a future where this tragic circumstance will lead to a deepening of our faith and renewing ability to push forward in the future. It is a joy in the redemptive power of our God to take the broken, ugly circumstances of a fallen world and use them for kingdom glory.

Joy (n) – a feeling of great pleasure, happiness

The dictionary definition of joy falls into a category that sets us up for confusion and frustration in times of trial. I prefer to look at the synonyms as well as the Greek and Hebrew for the word joy. 

synonyms – jubilation, exultation, exhilaration 

These are words that make more sense to me. I can still rejoice, even when I am hurting. I can still exalt God, even when my world wounds are terminal. I can still experience jubilation, outside of a fractured heart. The word study on the deeper translation of the word joy is chairo, to rejoice or be glad. The derivative is a cognate of cairo “leaning towards” and saris “to delight in or be conscious of God’s grace” Here is where I see the truth behind these words in James. The author wasn’t implying that we should see the present sufferings of this world, look past them, and pretend like we aren’t affected. He wasn’t suggesting that we watch our precious child be buried and stand there saying we feel happy. Joy is found in the looking not at our present circumstances, but to a future hope. I can lean into my love for my savior because I am aware of God’s grace to me, even during the pain. My future is secure, my hope is eternal, and my present suffering will not be wasted. From that place, a heart can feel the joy of the Holy Spirit in the midst of grief.

So, how long are we allowed to feel sad, how quickly should a Christian let go of this pain and move onto to the happiness and pleasure of their future? James tells us, “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” Let it finish. Pray for your family and friends to allow the pain and suffering to go on as long as is necessary to complete the grow and maturity it was designed for. As those watching someone suffer, I have heard this from family and friends, it becomes wearying to watch someone suffering for extended periods of time. The church is often good at showing up with meals, and prayer, and visiting in the first few weeks and months of someone’s trials. When, however, the end isn’t in sight, we tend to move on. We are not sure what to do with longsuffering. We become impatient. However, God doesn’t promise quick and fast solutions to receive this growth and maturity. He says, “Let it finish.” We have to be patient with God and with those walking through the valley. We need not rush them the restored happiness, getting back to work or church, or life as it was before. Honestly, their life may never go back to how it was before. They may be so changed by their experience that their life has to start over a new and be transformed. It would make sense that this would take time, and we should draw near to these people for the whole journey. If we don’t, we may short circuit God’s complete plan. We may short circuit the outcome and hinder the whole of gift. 

There is temptation to resist the experience of suffering but enduring allows us to practice a surrender to the Lord’s will, patience in his longevity of the trial, and trust instead of worry about the future.

Finally, we can take hope that our present suffering will be overturned into a future glory.

Romans 8: 18-31

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

More Than Conquerors

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Our present trials are not the creator of faith. They are the refining fire of what has been there all along. The beauty of our heavenly father is that he allows these trials to expose the weaknesses in our faith so that they can be dealt with. He responds in patience when we are wrestling and promises that these present sufferings are for future glory. Our hope is the in the future, our joy is in the future. Pray and ask God to take the time to expose weaknesses, to redeem these weakness by creating a deep perseverance and growth in faith, trust and allow him to take as long as needed to complete the refining, and surrender to his work for your good and his future glory. Be real with him and vulnerable knowing that God sees you, he knows you, he is not afraid of your doubts, and he can make all things new. Lean into him during times of suffering, and rejoice in the midst of suffering because of the gift of God’s grace.

#BLESSED

#BLESSED

Just Google the phrase and millions of hits will appear. Anything from people getting into college, playing another season in the NFL, getting to binge watch their favorite TV shows, etc. It was so hard for me to read the tagline #BLESSED, when  I was walking through my season of grief, mental health issues, suicidality, and job loss. I was scrambling to grab onto something. People kept praying for me to be healed, for a cure for what ailed me. All of the while, it never sat right in my heart. I knew that there was a discord between what I was experiencing and what those around me told me was God’s plan for my life. I was told over and over that God wasn’t making these things happen to me, that his will was that I be delivered from them. It caused me to start searching God’s word. I was trying to make sense of what I was experiencing and compare that to what the world told me my life should look like. I knew in my heart that God was with me in my illness, that he was in control. I didn’t need to ask where God was in my suffering because his word and my experience would lead me to it.

Blessed is an adjective or a noun described in the dictionary as….

blessed – adj. made holy, consecrated

n. those that live with God in heaven

If I simply to stop there. The #BLESSED tagline would be disproven. What modern culture was telling me was blessed was indeed falling very short. It was cheapening the idea of God’s blessing. Next, I looked to the Bible. I was drawn to the Beatitudes.

Beatitudes – Matthew 5:3-12

He (Jesus) said

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This for sure didn’t align with what the world was telling me but it was closer to what I was experiencing. I was being told from the lips of Jesus that my season of suffering was a season of blessing. However, it still didn’t feel like that was what was happening to me. 

So, how could my ideal of blessing be so off base with what scripture was telling me? I found out that the Greek word that is translated into meaning blessed is makarioi. It means to be fully satisfied. At that moment, it was like the scales were lifted from my eyes. Blessing is anything that draws me into deeper satisfaction with my Savior. Gifting is, instead, what we are seeking. #BLESSED is a representation of a people that are in love with the gifts instead of the Giver. The Beatitudes, as well as hundreds of other scriptures that reference blessing, make sense in light of the Greek translation for blessing. It eliminates the question of “Where is God in my suffering?” I have never experienced the close drawing in of myself to God like I did in my darkest days. I never felt his presence more strongly than when I was at the end of what I knew I could handle on my own. The pain and torment brought me to a place of brokenness where I could see clearly that I could do nothing in my own strength. It was God all along. He was responsible for my waking and my lying down, for my coming and my going. He woke me up everyday and held me together. He gave me the strength to take one more breath, to survive one more day. He wasn’t punishing me. He was saving me. He was stripping away to strongholds in my heart and my mind and turning them into a surrendered life. He was leading me to place of being fully satisfied in him, because I had nothing else. That is why what the world considers the outcasts, God considers the true blessed. They are the ones that truly see. They are the ones that are drawn near to him and transformed. When we stop living our lives for the gifts, instead of the Giver, we can reach a new closeness in our relationship to him. That is where true hope is found. God has not abandoned any one of us. He is near, waiting for us to cling to him instead of what he can give us. If all of your #BLESSINGS were taken away, would you be able to hold your hands to the sky and say, “I am blessed.” Would the cry of your heart be for worldly blessing to return or for spiritual blessing to abound? He is with you in your pain. He sees your struggled. He has called you blessed.

Praise From the Pit

1 August 2016

“I am so grateful for the Jennifer Rothschild bible study. Her words, in “Missing Pieces,” have brought me so much hope and healing. The lesson today brought up not being thankful FOR something but being thankful IN something. Not just enduring something BUT thriving in it.

That is the meaningful transition that I have been on the cusp of. I am so grateful for her words that remind me I am on track. I am learning to praise him, not inspire of Hunter’s death, actually IN Hunter’s death and the aftermath. 

This has been such a challenging journey. The trip home allowed my mother to love on me, which she did flawlessly. My father told me over and over again how important I was to him. This was coupled with feeling like I was a burden and disrupting the order that had developed in my home between my parents, my sister-in-law, and her daughter. I didn’t see the misunderstanding on confusion surrounding my illness to change how family saw me. It did, though. I am grateful that I don’t just experience the good things anymore, but I experience the hard things. That I get to see both sides of people. They are getting to see both sides of me.”

Exposing people to my illness continued to be challenging. When you are mentally ill and grieving, your world seems to hit pause. Honestly, thinking back to those two years, if I hadn’t journaled, I wouldn’t remember any of this. My memories are garbled, faded, and misconstrued. I, honestly, barely remember my youngest first two years. I had snapshots, bits and pieces. It was all a blur of pain and emotion. However, at some point, I began to come up out of the darkness, the pit seemed less and less deep. I began to see the light of day. When I looked back at where I had been, the light began to pierce these places too. I began to see the good and the bad. The more I looked back, and as I got healthier, the more good I could see. I was not so alone. At the time, it seemed like the worst things that could be happening to me. There was no good, no light. When people tried shining light into my pain, I recoiled. I didn’t want to hear their Bible verses, or words on encouragement. They seemed so shallow, and like they were coming out of the mouths of people that couldn’t possibly understand. Those moments, those positive moments, did stick somewhere in the darkness. The truths were ignored at the time, but they made an impression. When I began to see light again, it was if a veil began to lift. I stopped seeing myself as a victim. I started to see the positive that could come from my illness. They ways that it could be used to glorify the Lord. I began to hope. And a little hope could change a life.

Cut Down

July 30, 2016

“I just finished week 2 of Jennifer Rothschild’s “Missing Pieces” bible study. I just love resting in the word. Trusting more and leaning on him to give me my daily manna. Not just this, but I need to be content with the manna for the day, not seeking the next thing. 

This is a major trend of mine. “The Next Thing,” not the humble heart of contentedness and trust in God. I do feel God slowing me down, so I can step into a place of healing and growth. God has not abandoned me. He knows my hurt and my weakness. This is no surprise.”

August, 1, 2016

“I am so grateful for the bible study I am doing. It has brought so much hope and healing. The lesson today brought up not being thankful FOR something but being thankful IN something. Not just enduring it but thriving in it. 

That is the meaningful transition I have been on the cusp of. I am so grateful for her words that remind me that I am on track. I am learning to praise him, not in spite of Hunter’s death but actually praising him IN Hunter’s death and  the aftermath. 

This has been such a challenging journey. My trip home allowed my mom to love on me, which she did flawlessly. My father told me over and over how important I was to him….

There was a lot of pain that I documented during this time related to the terrible things my brother’s wife did and said to me after Hunter died and while I was sick. To respect her, I am not going to post the details, but my entry glazes over this and I want you to know what it is referencing…..

My family’s parenting of my sister in law and her daughter left me feeling like a big mean step sister. I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t expecting to feel like I was invading and ruining her perfect life. I didn’t expect my family to misunderstand my suffering, suicide attempts, and hospital stay with anything but compassion. But I am grateful to have gone through that and to see both sides of people. 

My northern family understands my loss of Hunter but don’t see how sick I was, when I attempted suicide. In the south, they saw my sickness but didn’t realize the amount of loss I experienced.”

Contendedness was so hard during my season of suffering. When life is falling apart, you long for something to be stable, to be good. When it feels like multiple areas are falling apart. It becomes too overwhelming. I strove to stabilize my faith, my husband’s job, my accumulation of more. It just wasn’t within my grasp. The harder I fought, the deeper the lows became. It would not be until I began to surrender my expectations and loosen my grip on how I thought my life should go that peace began to invade my life again. Time in the word and restoration of my faith was the crux of this. When I began to see the good in my suffering, that God was good in the seemingly bad times as well as the good, life began to fall back into place. I had to stop being thankful FOR things and start to be thankful IN things. 

Seeing family was hard in the beginning. My sister in law and her daughter lived with my parents. Going home seemed strange. It didn’t feel like my house anymore. It felt like someone had stepped in and taken my spot. However, my parents were very good at sharing their love for me and being more intentional. My relationship with my sister in law became very harmful. She ended up becoming a horrible trigger. When  I would go home, it was as if she was competing for attention with my parents. I had never experienced this before. My brother and I didn’t compete. We wanted the best for each other in everything. At first the relationship was cordial, even friendly. As I became sick, the attacks began. She began to mock my illness and my suffering. She would say things like, “You didn’t really try to commit suicide, because if you wanted to die you would have cut yourself differently.” It was crippling. All I wanted to do was go home to a safe place, and it didn’t feel safe anymore. 

I, however, wanted her to change. To stop behaving in a way that would trigger me. I felt powerless against her attacks and blows. In the end, this was not what helped lead to my healing. It was typical to my personality, I wanted difficult things to stop or I wanted to run away. I didn’t have fight in me. It wasn’t until I began to work on myself and see her brokenness that the claws of this trigger would loosen their grip. I had to see who I was in Christ and step into my true identity. I had to stop allowing others brokenness to define me. I had to see my parents relationship with my and remember my brother’s relationship with me separate from my relationship with her. I want to encourage you, if you have someone in your life that tears you down and seems to cripple you. That is not your identity. You are not trapped or defined by that person. You can be free. You can stop running and find the strength within. Ask God to show you who you are in him. Recite these truths to yourself and hide them in your heart. Then, walk in this freedom.

My Puzzle Piece

May 19, 2016

“Another time in the Ingles parking lot with a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato. Today is Maddox’s Creek Stomp field trip.  I am so grateful I feel well enough to go today. Praise be to God! I hope and pray that this continues and that Latuda continues to work well. I am so thankful for the time to spend with the Lord. Time for healing that my husband and family has been a part of. I am worried about Judah. He has been fussy compared to usual. Two days ago he vomited three times. He fusses with his formula but drinks lots of pedialyte. It leads me to think he may be intolerant. I want him to feel well again and I am praying for healing. 

I am grateful, today, for life and the love of my Savior.”

May 23, 2016

“Dear Hunter,

I miss you more than I have missed anything in my whole life. I feel like I fell asleep and woke up to half of my body missing. It is traumatizing, hard to understand, painful. I am loosing you. I can’t feel you. It is like the movie, Back to the Future. I feel like Marty McFly looking at the picture of his siblings in childhood and they are slowly fading away. You feel just beyond reach. My love for you is just as big as ever. 

I love you everyday, every moment. Everything reminds me of you. I am scared of the future without you. I wish you were here so we could grow old together. I love you so deeply, in a way I see others don’t understand. I am torn between being grateful for that love and aching from the pain of that love. I hate that getting to see you again means never being a part of this world again. The trade is not right. I am still needed here. But, so are you. What do you think about what is happening? Do you agree with the trial over medical malpractice? How can we gain from your loss? I wish I could understand God’s plan the way you do now. I wish I could embrace you one last time. I know I will recover but not seeing you one last time will haunt me until the end of my days. 

I wear you now. You travel with me. I have to be your now. I represent you to our family. We are like two puzzle pieces. I cant be you but my edges match you. You are seen because I am marked with your form.”

Getting better and improving on my medication was a breath of fresh air. It gave me hope that there was a future for me. Transitioning away from breastfeeding to formula was hard. It was emotionally hard on me and physically hard on Judah. My kids all have significant dairy intolerance. I felt robbed. I felt angry. It was another way the doctor’s and medical staffs mistakes took from me. In their mind it was a singular mistake. They couldn’t see the ripple. The way their mistakes spread like a toxin, hurting everything in its path. It would take forever to come to grips with my grief and anger. I knew I had to forgive the people that contributed to his death, but I was not yet there. I will say the anger gained me nothing. Forgiveness would be freedom, freedom to move forward and heal. That still, however, felt like a betrayal of Hunter. I owed him that anger, as irrational as it sounds because he wasn’t here to be angry for what was taken from him. I was trapped by my pain, I would have to let it go.

The abyss inside my soul was still there. I wasn’t carrying his memory. I was consumed with it. My life drastically changed. I felt like I took on a  new roll with his death. I was, now, an only child. All of my parents hopes, dreams, and fears fell on me. I longed for another sibling to confide in. People often forget about the sibling. Everyone was consumed with my parents grief and my sister-in-laws grief. People note it, address it. Rarely do people think about the siblings. They sit on the side, in the shadows. Broken, never the same. They take on the weight of their lost siblings identity. It is such a pressure. Their grief hurts their parents. So, they feel the burden of needing to act like everything is okay. They feel the need to put on a brave face, when they are breaking inside. The stress and pressure to be all things to all people to fill in the void left by their sibling is suffocating. 

I am glad I chose to feel my pain. So many push their pain aside. They try to move forward because others think that they should. They feel pressure to be okay or to grieve the right way. I grieved terribly. It was all consuming and life taking but it was my way. I didn’t act how I believed I should, but I felt every aching moment. I am not glad for all that I went through but I am glad I grieved my best way. I can look back at the journey and see the fingerprints of God, sitting with in my pain all along the way.

Memorial Day

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Memorial Day

What is today?

Is it friends, burgers, beer

Is it an extra day off work

Is it flags, songs, tv specials

Is it clothes, decor, or facebook posts

Is it red, white, and blue

Is it eagles and airplanes

Is it parades and celebration

Should it be taken for granted

No

Today is tireless fighting into the night

Today is bombs and sniper fire

Today is bunkers muddy and cold

Today is fear that today may be your last

Today is loss, grief, pain

 

Today is a father, brother, sister, mom, wife gone too soon

Today is arms filled with a folded flag instead of the one you love

Today is taps and gun salutes

Today is the celebration of the ultimate sacrifice

Today is freedom

Today is a gift, even if its cost is unknown to most

Today is for freedom but it wasn’t free

Today is Memorial Day, a day to be honored and respected

Thank a veteran today. Go to the cemetery with flowers to lay on graves of service men and women. Call your marine, soldier, airman, and shipman. If nothing else, remember the sacrifice of those that were taken to soon. Be grateful for your freedom that wasn’t free. Sleep well tonight knowing all sacrificed, but some sacrificed all.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.