Saturday, November 28, 2009

Feeling oh-so-very's kind of like trying to jump up as high as you can with your ankles chained to the ground. The moment I make a conscious decision to dwell on the positive and trust the Lord, Satan makes a novel effort to beat me down. My faith is weak, my resolve is weaker. Back to counseling I go...(gladly)! :-)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving was good. I didn't get to pull my baby boy up to the table in his high chair, but there was peace and a steadfast trust in God's faithfulness. Thanks for praying.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today is a simple act of obedience. Moving...doing what I know God's called me to do and trusting that joy will follow because right now all I feel is brokenness and the weight of our loss. I feel inadequate. I feel like a failure. I perceive a crushing absence of God's blessing.

But about four hours...I'm going to sing. I'm going to worship the Creator and Sustainer of life with everything I've got in a room full of people who are there to do the same. Even thought I don't feel like it. Even though I'd rather lie down in the pit for a while longer. Even though it feels like I don't have a ton to be thankful for tonight at our "Thanksgiving Eve" service. I don't have the answers I want. My heart aches. All I want to do is sit at the dining table tomorrow with my son and a sense of peace.

But I know that God is God. And I know that Satan wants me to stay in the pit...I know he'd be throwing a party if I didn't stand on that stage and worship tonight. So I will dig deep for all the courage I've got and choose be obedient and trust God to meet me there.

Psalm 86:

"Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am devoted to You...Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to You all day long. Bring joy to Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul...Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever. For great is Your love toward me; You have delivered me from the depths of the grave...Give me a sign of Your goodness."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Get Out of That Pit

I've been struggling, seriously struggling with some big questions lately. Theological concepts…I can barely grasp the questions, so the answers have seemed far beyond my reach.

-God, why did You do this? I know You saw everything that happened the day Zachary died…I know You never turned Your head…I know, without a doubt that You had the power to stop it from happening, so why didn’t You?

-God, I’m tired and weary. I’ve tried to be faithful to You. I’ve handed my pain to You and allowed You to use it to teach me, to grow me, and to benefit others. But I feel stranded in this pit. Why have You left me here?

-Lord, I’m seriously starting to questions whether or not You’re listening when I pray. I keep coming to You, but I’m not really seeing any answers. Actually, I’m not even sure what to pray. I feel kind of like a pawn in Your game of chess. I’ve realized that You’re going to do what You purpose to do…I’m not going to change that. In praying, am I really going to move the hand of the Almighty God? Or am I wasting my breath?

So, last night, I sat down on the couch with an adult beverage (shhh!) and Beth Moore’s book, “Get Out of That Pit.” Kind of ironic, huh? Just the picture in my mind makes me chuckle. :-)

I didn’t really think I’d get that much out of it…I was feeling pretty low, but I figured some quiet reading wouldn’t hurt.

You see, the scab that’s formed over my deep wound has been ripped off on a very regular basis over the past six months. When I step back and look at life, I can see measurable growth and healing, but, honestly, this hurts! Still. And it’s hard to trust that God really is healing me because of that pain. I’ve tried to cover my own wound…unsuccessfully. Actually my bandaids really stink.

But, as I read chapter one, and then into chapter two, it was as if God graciously covered that open wound with a piece of gauze and some Neosporin. He made me just comfortable enough to get my attention, and I started to give Him the space to heal me again. I took off my crummy, self-made bandaids.

And, as angry as I am, as much as I feel like God has turned a deaf ear to me some days, and for every time I wonder what life would be like if Zachary was here and I didn’t have to walk through this, I know that, as Beth Moore says, “I’m a neater person healed than I would have been just plain well.”

Oh, that’s hard to swallow.

As backwards as if sounds, God is using this gaping hole in my heart make me more complete. And, as I keep choosing to stand up and take hold of the hand that reaches down into the pit to pull me out, God is making me whole.

“Life is hard. Most of us have reasons to lie down on life and never get up…Most of us can rationalize staying angry, bitter, or fearful and insecure for the rest of our lives. Most of us can talk others into not blaming us for being in our pit. We think we want people to lie down next to us, feel what we feel, and give us permission to stay there. But, if they do, they help talk us into making ourselves at home in the early grave Satan dug for us. They agree to our living death.

Christ got down next to us in the grave, stayed the better part of three days, and then got up…so we’d have permission to get up too. And start living life…

…If God allowed you to be thrown into a pit, you weren’t picked on; you were picked out. God entrusted that suffering to you because He has faith in you. Live up to it. All the way up.” (Beth Moore, Get Out of That Pit)

Okay, Lord. I’m getting up…please pull me out once again. I’ll be patient…I’ll choose to trust You. I’ll grapple with those questions in faith that You are good and You hear my cries for deliverance. My bandaids are off. Please heal me and make me whole.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Oh, the holidays.

Everyone says that the holidays are difficult after you lose someone you love. That made sense after my grandma died…there were so many memories, so many traditions…and it was difficult, especially the first year after she died.

But when people started telling me a couple of weeks ago that the holidays this year would be tough for us, I found it kind of strange…I thought to myself, ‘well, everyday is difficult, but Thanksgiving and Christmas will probably just seem like any other day in terms of our loss.’ We have no memories with Zachary around the holidays. I have no idea what it would be like to open presents with my baby dressed in his jammies on Christmas morning, so I have no idea what I’m missing.

But, as this week begins, I’m really sad, and celebration feels forced. And, while I have no memories of what was with Zachary because he was with us for such a short time, I’m realizing that everyone was right…the next month is going to be tough. I’ve spent a lot of time praying and thinking through my emotions in the past couple of days, and I’m realizing that, with all of the emphasis on family during the holiday season, my sadness stems from the feeling that my family is incomplete. It feels kind of like someone amputated an appendage. It’s so weird.

But, maybe a rambunctious celebration isn’t necessary. Maybe I can just reflect on God’s faithfulness and worship Him, thankful for what was and what is now, even if it feels incomplete. Because someday…someday…it will be complete…better than complete.

" keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." 2 Peter 3:13

Monday, November 16, 2009

6 Months

6 months.

6 months since I felt the movement of my baby boy inside my belly.

6 months since I drove my car with a carseat in the back and a bag packed for the hospital.

6 months since I hurried around, trying to make sure that everything at home was prepared for the arrival of our child.

6 months since the moment I know Zachary went to be with the Lord.

6 months since I laid in that wretched hospital bed, wondering what had happened and how I would go on.

6 months of walking into a nursery with clean crib sheets and a death certificate.

6 months since I had to tell my parents that their dreams of being grandparents wouldn’t come true.

6 months of unbelievable sadness, tears, and grief.

And, 6 months that God’s sustaining grace and faithfulness have carried us. For every moment that I wished my heart had just stopped beating when Zachary’s did, God has given me greater reason to get up in the morning and live. He has surrounded us with family, friends and strangers who have overwhelmed us with love. Thank you, Lord, and happy half-birthday to my sweet baby. Someday in heaven we’ll make up for all the parties we will have missed on earth.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."

1 Corinthians 1:3-5

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We just returned last night from Portland, where we hung out with my family for a few days and looked at a couple of colleges with my little sister, who is a senior in high school.

It's so nice to get away! I've realized that if I don't have a change of scenery at least once a month, I start to feel like a crazy person...really. One of the best pieces of advice that anyone offered me after Zachary died was to plan one activity a month for the first year following our loss. I've been blessed to go on some pretty great get-aways, and having something to look forward to each month is extremely beneficial.

So, if you've recently experienced a loss, or know someone who has, pass those words of wisdom along.

I also wanted to recommend a few books that have been exceptionally helpful to me over the past six months. Many of those books were thoughtful gifts from people who wanted to help us or had gone through similar loss. Here are a few:

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser - by far, the best book I've read on loss. It's an honest, raw account of Jerry Sittser's tragic loss of his mother, wife and daughter when their family van was struck by a drunk driver. If you know anyone who has lost a loved one, please recommend this book, or better yet, give it to them as a gift.

Empty Arms by Pam Vredevelt - practical advice after suffering a pregnancy loss...everything from physical healing to trying to get pregnant again after miscarriage or stillbirth.

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart by Deborah L. Davis - another practical book including planning a funeral, caring for the huband/father, etc.

Safe In the Arms of God by John MacArthur - walks through the theological reasons why you can rest assured that your baby is in heaven with God.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A couple of days ago my mom lent me Steven Curtis Chapman's new CD, Beauty Will Rise. It's the first album he's written after the tragic death of his young daughter a year and a half ago.

As we approach the six month mark of Zachary's home-going, my heart has just been aching. I actually had to take my lunch break at work the other day in my car so I could just cry it out because I couldn't function. And, as I sat in my car, hoping no one I knew would walk by, I listened to the CD, and I was deeply moved by his honest lyrics and willingness to proclaim God's faithfulness through incredible heartache. I sat there with big tears in my eyes thinking, "I guess I'm not that crazy after all...someone else feels this way, too." And, more importantly, it served to anchor my heart in the hope of God's promises and left me with a deep longing for heaven as home. I think everyone should go buy the CD or download it on iTunes, but here are the lyrics to just one of the songs that really hit me:


Right now all I can taste are bitter tears
Right now all I can see are clouds of sorrow
From the other side of all this pain
Is that you I hear?
Laughing loud and calling out to me?

Saying, 'See, it's everything you said
that it would be
And even better than you would believe
And I'm counting down the days
until you're here with me
And finally, you'll see'

Right now all I can say is, 'Lord how long?'
Before You come and take away this aching?
This night of weeping seems to have no end
But when the morning light breaks through
We'll open up our eyes and we will see

It's everything He said that it would be
And even better than we would believe
And He's counting down the days 'til He says,
'Come with Me' and finally, we'll see

Monday, November 9, 2009

…”heaven is the weight of [him] in my arms…”

– Steven Curtis Chapman (Heaven Is The Face)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This afternoon, I watched my little sister, Amanda's high school volleyball team lose their chance to play in the state tournament. I know it's only volleyball, but I was bummed...and not nearly as bummed as Mands was. It's her senior year, after all. And, after the match was finally over, and the team had debriefed, the gym started to clear out. And, there was Amanda, sitting cross-legged on the far end of the gym floor, her eyes red and shoulders slumped.

I would have done anything at that moment to make it better...give her team one more chance...say something to make it all go away...but I couldn't. So, I just walked across the gym floor, plopped myself down next to her, put my arm around her shoulders and said 'sorry.'

And, at that moment, a lightbulb turned on in my head. I had an immediate understanding of how the people who love us have felt for the past six months.

Thank you. When you haven't had the words, and no way to make anything better for us, you have plopped yourselves down next to us, cross-legged on the hard floor, arms around our shoulders, and loved us through the sorrow. Thank you so, so much.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I've spent the afternoon reading through the first few chapters of Matthew…one account after another of Jesus performing miracles…doing the impossible…restoring health…hope…life. And I know the instances recorded in Scripture are true.

The Centurion comes before Jesus on behalf of his servant who is lying in agonizing pain at his home and says, “…just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” And, Jesus heals the servant according to the Centurion’s faith. Just like that.

A little while later, Jesus is out on a fishing vessel with His disciples when a storm begins to toss their boat, threatening to capsize it. The disciples start to freak out and wake Jesus, who’s trying to sleep, up from His nap. He says to them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” And He calms the wind and the waves with one word. One word.

He purifies the skin of the leper when the man says, "Lord, if You're willing, You can make me clean."

Jesus drives out demons.

He commands a paralyzed man to simply get up and walk.

He instantly cures a woman who has bled for 12 years because she reaches out and touches the hem of his robe.

He raises a young girl from the dead. From the dead!

And, as He’s walking down the road, two blind men stop Jesus in hopes of having their sight restored. Jesus turns to them and says, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

The blind men both say, “Yes,” and Jesus reaches out to touch their eyes, immediately restoring their sight.

…“Do you believe that I can do this?” …

I read that, and I think to myself, ‘Well, of course Jesus can do that…He’s healed thousands of people and stilled the sea with one word…and He already knows the answer of the blind men to His question. Why even ask?’

I think that Jesus wanted to hear their expression of faith.

God asks me the same question with the same intent.

…”Do you believe that I can do this?”…

I don’t know, Lord, my heart’s pretty broken. Seriously broken. I’m not sure if You can really make me whole again.

…”Do you believe that I can do this?”

Well, Shaun’s been out of work for quite a while. Our financial situation isn’t pretty. I don’t know if you’ve searched the local listings recently, but there aren’t a whole lot of jobs open.

…”Do you believe that I can do this?”…

Doctors have always told me that it would be difficult for me to get pregnant. The first one was a miracle. I’m not so sure.

Jesus recognizes our faith. He responds when we come to Him with the realization that “fixing” our problems is not something that any of us is capable of in our own strength. Jesus refuses to heal without faith. Plain and simple. If I’m going to come to Him with requests for healing, provision, blessings, fulfillment of my heart’s desires, I better come with a little bit of faith, huh?

…”Do you believe that I can do this?”…

Maybe a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is all He’s looking for.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The whirlwind in my mind has slowed down a bit today.

I went from working two days a week to six days a week overnight with starting the job at church and picking up extra days at the clinic. I’m thankful…I love what I’m doing, and the hours are essential as we feel the financial squeeze of life…but I’m tired.

It’s ironic: The empty, quiet space that I so despised a month ago seems like it might not be so bad right now. And, the past few weeks of seemingly endless hours at work have convinced me that those “boring” and difficult days and weeks at home after Zachary died were extremely important. Right now, I feel agitated and hazy. Life is easily blown out of perspective when I’m tired and don’t have that quiet time to think through my feelings. I’m recognizing that I need to carve out time to be alone and quiet in order to function well.

But, today has been just that. It was my one day this week that I had no commitments or work. I caught up on sleep and had quiet time this morning. Then I met an old friend for coffee, which was really wonderful. We got caught up, and she asked questions about how I’m really doing these days. Thanks, Bethany!

And then I headed out to the cemetery with my mom. I hadn’t been there in a few months, and my mom had never seen the engraved stone where Zachary was buried. It might sound funny, but I like to be at the cemetery…as difficult as it is, there’s just a reality and finality to our loss when I’m there. I feel detached a lot of the time. Sometimes I can even look at a picture of my adorable boy, and it feels like it’s just a picture of a baby, not my child.

But, today it feels real. Today I can be quiet. Today I can think.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

One Step Back?

I just don't get it. I don’t understand how this emptiness has fallen on our house and refuses to relent its suffocating cover. Tonight, I just can’t believe that this is what our lives look like now. What happened? I feel disoriented, like I just got punched or something.

I’ve been tormented all week by a snapshot in my mind of handing my Zachary’s perfect, but lifeless body over to the nurse after saying my last goodbye on the day he was born. I had to hand my son over to a stranger, knowing that I would never get to hold him again. I had to give the baby I had dreamt of holding for 9 months away to someone I didn’t even know! I so vividly remember every fiber of my being wanting to scream out in protest.

And, as haunting as that memory is, I know that that’s exactly what God is asking of me again tonight. He just keeps whispering, “Give Zachary to Me once again. He was never really yours in the first place. Place him in My arms and let Me soothe your empty, aching arms.”

Oh, if only it were that easy.

I read this verse this morning during worship at church. I know without a doubt that these words are true…I just wish they would sink in a little bit deeper right now:

“But now, this is what the Lord says – He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3

Lord, please meet me right here tonight. Fill the emptiness. Gently pry my tightly-closed fists open. I want to release Zachary to you once again. I want to feel alive again. Walk me through this, Lord. May the morning bring new life, a breath of fresh air, sweet memories, and the necessary surrender of my life to You. Amen.