Saturday, August 29, 2009

I can’t believe that fall is almost here! I love September! It has always been my favorite month. I love the warm colors of the leaves before they fall…the cool, but sunny mornings…the BBQ’s with friends. I love cheering from the bleachers at my sisters’ volleyball games. I enjoy getting cozy in our home and settling down for a sort of ‘falling-asleep’ for a few months, because I know that not so far off is a magnificent ‘waking-up’ in the spring. What is gone by November will be made new again in May– hope springs fresh! I think I enjoy September so much each year because of that mounting anticipation…the pervasive concept that there’s so much to look forward to!

I know that God is slowly re-awakening my heart. The fog is beginning to lift. I’ve been pleading for God’s strength and working really hard lately to get off the hamster wheel of emotion that my feet have felt tied to for the past three and a half months. It’s okay that I’m sad…what has happened is extremely sad…this is supposed to break my heart. But I’m finally making some headway getting rid of the feelings of guilt and failure that have plagued my mind. Intellectually, I know that Zachary’s death was in no way my fault, but when I am at my weakest, usually in the middle of the night, Satan whispers, ‘You could have done something…you should have known better…you’re half a woman…you’re just a waste of space now.’ Even typing those words makes me feel physically ill because I know that they are despicable lies.

I hate Satan. I hate the destruction and devastation with which he tries to consume life. I hate that he’s just licking his chops every time I give room in my mind for those lies to circulate, every time that our loss causes division between Shaun and I instead of binding us tighter together, every time I let bitterness take root in my heart. And I really hate that the devil ramps up his act when he knows that God is hard at work and ruling victorious in our lives. I’ve never been so aware of the very real spiritual battle that rages over each of our souls, and I praise God that He is more powerful! I look forward to the day when the battle is over…when death will wave it’s white flag...when Satan’s lies will be silenced once and for all. But until then, I will fight, knowing that God is my victory…He has called me, not a contender, but a conqueror…and made available to me the same power that raised Christ from the dead!

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Ephesians 6:10-17

Phew. I can breathe a sigh of relief. My soul belongs to the King of Kings. And He is making me new… the anticipation is building …the excitement for spring is just bubbling up in the depths of my soul. And as it does, I will enjoy the changing leaves, a slower routine of life, and time with people I love.

Please pray for protection over my mind…that I would not give Satan a foothold in my thoughts. Thank you.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I throw that word, “hope” around a lot. “I hope I get the job”…”I hope I lose a pound or two this week”… Shaun has heard me say many times over the past couple of weeks, “I’m so afraid to get my hopes up.”

But what does “hope” really mean and what is it supposed to look like?

I’ve said over and over walking through the loss of our baby boy that, as horrific as it has been, I have gained an eternal perspective on life. Life on this earth is not as good as it gets! This life will end, and the reality is, we will spend all of eternity either rejoicing in the presence of God or forever separated from Him in absolute devastation. I know where I’m headed after this life is over. There will be no tears, no pain, no guilt…just utter freedom and joy! I will be with God, and my family will one day be complete! That’s hope!

But, how do I live out that hope the rest of my days here on earth? Well, Catherine Marshall, a great Christian author, talked about the difference between resignation and acceptance. Resignation gives up and settles down. Acceptance opens it’s hand up to what a loving Father sends. “Acceptance never slams the door on hope.” I have learned in a brutal way that life is God’s to give and God’s to take away. So is my health, our finances, our jobs, etc. So, if I acknowledge that I am in no way entitled to those things, I can accept what God gives, both good and bad, and be thankful. I guess, in a way, understanding God’s Sovereignty and grace gives me hope. I know He’s got it all under control, even when terrible things happen. His ways are better than mine. God’s eyes can see further than my own. I can trust Him with my life.

I can thank God in advance for what He has in store for us while we’re still here. Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” And Psalm 34:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I believe with all my heart that God has awesome plans for us. They may not look exactly like I picture them in my mind, but that’s only because His methods and His timing are even better. I can have expectant hope for tomorrow because of the unimaginable gifts God has for us.

Hope. Not only for a couple pounds shed or employment, but for blessings beyond what I can comprehend, for deliverance and healing and peace. And for the joy of heaven someday! Irrepressible, unrestrained, anchored hope.

"Strive to be one of the few who walk this earth
with the ever present realization
- every morning, noon, and night -
that the unknown that people call heaven
is directly behind those things that are visible."

-George Matheson

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lessons from Hiking

I’ve never been one to over-spiritualize the details of life…actually, it’s one of my pet peeves, to be honest. If I were not a Christian, and someone told me that God had ordained their parking spot at the grocery store, I would seriously be weirded out and probably question, not only their faith, but also their sanity. However, that being said, God showed me one small detail after another while we hiked at Mount Rainier this weekend (and I promise my faith is in no way a crutch, and I’m fairly sane).

Here are just a few of the lessons God poignantly spoke to me:

1. I can bring life out of death.

Actually, that’s what God’s best at! If He can take an old, dead tree stump and cause new growth to come from it, He can certainly do the same in my life – in our marriage, in our family, in my broken heart. God brings beauty from ashes. He can redeem any situation in our lives if we willingly give it over to Him. I can trust Him to bring life out of our situation.

2. You grow strongest in the valleys of life.

As we hiked along the river, I noticed over and over that the trees that grew lowest in the valley and closest to the water had the deepest roots and flourished. They were even a different color than the trees that grew further up the hillside because they were so healthy. So, as much as I hate being in this valley, God is deepening and strengthening my roots – my trust in Him, my marriage, my resilience. It hurts, but I still praise Him for His life-changing work in my life.

3. I’m making you who I know you can be.

The stones in the river that were most smooth and polished were that way only because the river had pounded over them again and again. It reminded me of this song by Nichole Nordeman:

Rolling River God, little stones are smooth
Only once the water passes through
So, I am a stone, rough and grainy still
Trying to reconcile this river’s chill

But when I close my eyes, and feel You rushing by
I know that time brings change, and change takes time
And when the sunset comes, my prayer would be this one
That You might pick me up and notice that I am
Just a little smoother in Your hand

Sometimes raging wild, sometimes swollen high
But never have I know this river dry
The deepest part of You is where I long to stay
And feel the sharpest edges wash away.

Friday, August 21, 2009

'Thankful Rocks'

I feel like we’re really starting to turn a corner...kind of like Pocahontas coming around the riverbend in her canoe.  (Actually, that was really not one of my favorite Disney movies, and I started singing, ‘Just Around the Riverbend’ in my best Disney voice the other day in the car, and Shaun was like ‘no, no – make it stop!’  So, maybe that’s a bad example…)  In all honesty, though, we’ve said ‘goodbye’ to so many things we had planned on and dreamt of, and I’d love to think that we’re right on the cusp of saying ‘hello’ to some exciting new things…like maybe God’s going to start working on writing a new chapter (or maybe He already has been, and I just haven’t been able to read it yet).  And, just like a story, it’s building on what’s already been written.  It’s not a new book...we aren’t starting over…and, frankly, I don’t want to.  I guess I don’t have a choice, but I’m really okay with where we’re at and cautiously optimistic about what God has for us just a few more steps down this road.  (This ‘cautiously optimistic’ thing is new territory for me, though.  I’ve always been the kind of person to throw myself into ‘hopeful-land’ with very little reservation.  It feels kind of restricting.)

When people have asked me recently how we’re doing, the answer is usually just a truthful ‘okay,’ but I tell them that God’s still good through every season of life, and those words are not empty.  I’ve discovered that when life falls apart, our response is based on a foundational belief that God is good and His purposes are motivated by an awesome love.  If I don’t believe that God is good, especially when bad things happen, I will become a bitter person, angry with God and inhibiting to His work.

So, Shaun and I have started our ‘Thankful Rocks’ this week.  It sounds (and looks) kind of funny, but we’ve decided that every time God chooses to bless us, or we’re struck with a specific way that God has shown his goodness in our lives, we’ll write it down with a Sharpee on a rock and put it in the ‘Thankful Vase.’  I’ll have to post a picture, but it serves as a great visual reminder that we’re so blessed.  It all goes back to Phil. 4:8…what am I going to dwell on?...what will occupy the majority of my thoughts?.  So far, our rocks say ‘Home’, ‘Marriage’ and ‘Food.’  (That last one was Shaun’s contribution.)  J

 We’re off to go camping this weekend with our friends!  If the weather holds up, maybe ‘Camping’ will be our next ‘Thankful Rock’! 

 Again, we really are so grateful for the prayers of those of you who love us and recognize that this road is long.  I can’t say it enough…Thank you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What does grief look like at 3 months?

1. I am a complete scatterbrain. Someone will say something to me, and I won’t even know they’re talking to me, much less listen. I have gone to the grocery store and realized when I got home and looked in the mirror that I only have eyeliner on one eye. I have left my friend waiting on my front porch for hours because I lost track of my time and my schedule. I ask the same questions over and over. What am I doing about it? Writing my schedule down and mapping my days out. And laughing it off when I have one leg shaved and one eye with eyeliner on.

2. I should have bought stock in Loreal concealer months ago. Every day is different, yet strangely the same…and every day is soaked with tears. I cry at the most inconvenient times…walking past the baby apparel at Kohls, where I spent many hours that last week I was pregnant waiting for my precious baby to arrive…in the office where I work because someone assumes I’m pregnant and congratulates me because my belly still sticks out, and I don’t have the emotional energy to correct them… What am I doing about it? I’m allowing myself the time and space to cry it out. But I don’t cry for Zachary…I know exactly where he is, and I know that he is safe and loved and experiencing the thrill of heaven. I only cry for myself…because I miss him so much…I miss being his mommy. But I also know that I will see him and hold him again…this separation is not forever. Shaun and I are reading “Facing Your Giants” by Max Lucado every night before bed. A couple of nights ago, we read the chapter on grief…I choked my way through the whole thing. In it, Lucado writes, “..we know how long we weep, and the time seems so truncated. Egyptians dress in black for six months. Some Muslims wear mourning clothes for a year. Orthodox Jews offer prayers for a deceased parent every day for eleven months. Just fifty years ago rural Americans wore black armbands for a period of several weeks. And today? Am I the only one who senses that we hurry our hurts? Grief takes time. Give yourself some…Face your grief with tears, time, and – one more – face your grief with truth. Paul urged the Thessalonians to grieve, but he didn’t want the Christians to ‘carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word.’ (1 Thess. 4:13).” The tears have slowed down. But they still come, and that’s okay. I will just keep using stain treatment on all of my pillowcases. (At least it’s only one-eyes-worth of eyeliner running onto my pillowcase some days!)

3. I would rather be a hermit. I get overwhelmed with crowded places and large groups of people. On one hand, I love to talk about Zachary…I want so desperately to share his life since he will never have the chance to do that here on earth. But on the other hand, it’s exhausting to relive his death over and over again. Sometimes I just feel like it might be safer to stay in my living room with my books. What am I doing about it? Planning trips, learning how to knit, taking swimming lessons, exercising every day. I’m also talking about where I’m at…with God (even though He already knows), with Shaun, with family, with close friends, with an awesome counselor. And I’m seeing growth and healing, even though it seems slow.

4. I want to be emotionally uninvolved. Love seems like a huge risk these days...sometimes I would just rather live in self-preservation mode. What am I doing about it? Choosing to daily beg God to fill me up with His love, and then loving others with the love that God faithfully pours on me. I told God a couple of months ago that, if He wanted to bring people into my life who were in pain, but especially sharing the same pain that we’re going through, I’d be willing to do whatever I could to be a comfort to them. He has brought many people into my life since then who are facing loss, and as challenging as it is, I have chosen to risk my heart many times as I enter into their grief. I also make sure that I give hugs, tell the people I love just that…I say the words, ‘I love you’ more than I ever have…I notice the little things and appreciate them. And, most importantly, I’m choosing to trust God and worship Him through it all. I fail often, but that is my heart’s desire…that He would be pleased in my praise, even through tears and resistance.

My friend, Angie, sent this song to me earlier this week. The words are so powerful, and they have become my prayer day after day.

The Desert Song

This is my prayer in the desert
And all that's within me feels dry
This is my prayer in the hunger in me
My God is a God who provides

And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames

I will bring praise, I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain
I will rejoice, I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

And this is my prayer in the battle
And triumph is still on it's way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I'll stand

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I'm filled to be empited again
The seed I've recieved I will sow

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vacation was good! The first week we spent at Blue Lake in Eastern Washington, where my family has vacationed every summer since I was little. Our time was full of inner-tubing behind my parents’ boat, fishing, campfires, reading, floating on floaties in the lake, and much laughter. Then we flew out to Chicago, where we attended the most fantastic wedding and reception I’ve ever been to – thanks for such a great party, Jessica (well, Uncle John and Aunt Kathy, really)! We also had a wonderful time visiting with family, and even spent a day at Six Flags!

It really was great…but I think I expected it to be an escape…an escape from the heartache. I realized quickly that it’s not possible…this burden/responsibility is heavy and thoroughly exhausting to carry. There is no escape and little reprieve these days. I feel very weighed-down. And right now, life is full of what I’ve heard termed as ‘secondary losses.’ Every time I see a baby boy or a toddler, I wonder what Zachary would have looked like, if he would have liked trains or sports, if he would have carried a blanket around or a stuffed animal, how big he would have been…it’s the loss of a big dream. Last week I didn’t even know how to answer people when they asked me if Shaun and I have children yet.

I keep praying Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting,” and asking the Lord to show me areas in my life that He wants to transform. But, I ask and then, secretly, I hope that He doesn’t have anything too big to show me. Change hurts…it’s usually requires sacrifice…and surrender.

And lately, God has been showing me another big area of my heart that needs to be remodeled. He’s teaching me what contentment needs to look like in my life right now. Coming home from vacation is always difficult, but coming home to an empty baby room and no jobs, among other disappointments, was so draining and unsettling.

At one point after we got home, I just cried to Shaun that all I want right now is some stability…something I can bank on…something to be excited about. I had just read Psalm 40, where David says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.” I kept thinking, ‘When is it going to be my turn for God to pull me up and give me a firm place to stand?’ As I cried on my husband’s shoulder, God gently whispered, ‘Have you ever thought that maybe I already have? That stability has nothing to do with employment or your plans? That contentment in no way depends on life’s circumstances? That having your feet planted on a rock has to do with being in the safety of My arms and having your heart aligned with My will?’

That’s hard to hear…and much harder to choose to live out. But even when life comes crashing down around me, Who God is does not change. And if I’m going to pray Psalm 139 and I really want God be pleased in my life, I sign myself up for this process, painful as it may be.

So I will praise God, with everything I’ve got, for His limitless provision…for the certainty of His love…for molding and shaping my heart to better mirror His Son’s…for placing me securely on the rock of His truth. I will choose to be content, even though life is full of disappointments and heartache right now, because I know that God doesn’t change and that He has brought me to this place for a reason. And I will praise Him for what He’s already done and wait patiently for Him to continue His work.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

1 Peter 1:3-8