Sunday, December 27, 2009

We had a great Christmas. Not at all what we had pictured a year ago, but our time with each other and with family was sweet. Now, if only I could sleep for about 3 days straight to catch up!

God continues to stretch my faith, all the while reminding me so evidently that He is faithful. He always has been, always will be. He is Emmanuel, God with us, even in our darkness.

For Christmas, my little sister gave me a wall hanging with Isaiah 42:16 on it:

I will guide you.

I will turn darkness into light before you

and make the rough places smooth.”

I have been challenged over the past couple of days as that verse circulates my mind to believe that…really believe it. And to trust God for the seemingly impossible. He keeps reminding me that nothing is too big for Him. He continues to bring “darkness into light” and “make the rough places smooth.” Thank You, Lord!

I just ordered a glass basketball ornament with Zachary’s name written across the front…I’ll post a picture when it arrives.

We’re off to our final (Hallelujah!) Christmas celebration. :-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

By the way, I'm so thankful we serve a God Who is not limited to Christmas lights and carols...a God Who chose to give us His Son as a baby in a manger so He could empathize with us fully in our struggles. And, I'm so thankful that the manger was only the beginning of the story - that it just points us to the cross where death was conquered and the power of new life is offered!

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." Ephesians 1:18-21

Last night Shaun and I stayed up thinking of a special way to remember our boy this Christmas. We thought of all of the dreams we had for Zachary, and one that stood out in both of our minds was the dream of watching him play basketball someday. Being raised by basketball coaches, both Shaun and I grew up as total gym rats, and now we share a love for the game. Shaun tells me often that he mourns not carrying Zachary around while he's coaching a practice...or when he looks up in the bleachers during a basketball game and sees me sitting alone, without our son.

So, tomorrow my goal is to find an basketball ornament...just a little way of incorporating our baby into our lives this Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I believe that you can only experience joy to the depth to which you have experienced pain. In some odd way, they go together. And this past week, I have experienced more peace and contentment, and even joy than I have in a long, long time.

For weeks…months…I have been trying to live in the na├»ve innocence I used to enjoy…a false idea that bad things only happened to other people…that all women deliver healthy babies at 9 months…that for some reason, I was exempt. I have been finding myself so frustrated by the tension of what I know is reality…that I am in no way exempt from the tragedies of life…and that longing for life to be how it was.

But this week has been a bit of a gentle shove from the Lord. It’s as if He’s saying, “Your life is different now, so live differently.”

And this week I have finally had the energy and emotional wherewithal to invest…really invest in others. I’ve had multiple opportunities to use my loss to help those struggling through this thing called grief, some of whom are just a few steps behind me on this journey, and some of whom I will never even meet.

Right now I have the privilege through a friend who works as an RN at the hospital where we delivered to help strengthen those things that were done with excellence and improve those things that could make the process for a grieving mother just a little bit more bearable.

God gave me this awesome word picture of my tears watering the desert ground for those walking just a few steps behind me in their loss.

You can only experience joy to the depth to which you experience pain. And if you choose to try to stifle the pain in life, you will find yourself trapped in a very small, limited cage of emotion. Sure, you can avoid your pain to a certain extent, but it limits your joy…life becomes so mundane.

I have a friend who says, “You can grieve good and you can grieve bad.” I know that I have “grieved good” because that joy…that joy that used to characterize my life before loss…that joy that I’ve so missed…is finally starting to bubble up in my heart on an ongoing basis once again. It doesn’t mean I don’t have bad moments…and days, but what a breath of fresh air!

My goal this week is to think of something small to honor Zachary this Christmas…something that would be meaningful to Shaun and I…

PS – Thanks for praying us through another “17th”.

PPS – Spring is coming!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

7 Months

My Zachary Boy,

How has it been so long since we've had you with us? You would be seven months old such a fun stage in life. It's hard to think about all that your dad and I are missing without you here. But I can say with confidence that you are not missing anything...heaven has provided you with a fullness of life we cannot even begin to imagine. However, not a day, and rarely a moment goes by that I do not think about you and miss you terribly.

I bet Christmas in heaven is awesome! Thousands of angels singing the "Hallelujah" chorus would certainly beat Brenda White's rendition of "Christmas In The Northwest" that seems to play on every radio station right now. :-) I can't wait to celebrate together someday.

Your dad and I miss you and love you so much. Your short life continues to change, not only our lives, but the lives of so many other people, some of whom we have never even met. We love you, son, and we're so proud to be your mom and dad. What a precious gift you are to us!


Monday, December 14, 2009

In the past two weeks I have been so saddened by the brokenness of our world.

I've never seen so many men and women begging on street corners.

Violence so rampant that even police officers are being senselessly gunned down.

Unemployment or underemployment affecting one family after another.

And tragedy seemingly surrounding us on every side.

And yet there is hope.

"But in my mind's eye I can see a place
Where Your glory fills every empty space
All the cancer is gone, every mouth is fed
And there's no one left in the orphan's bed
Every lonely heart finds their one true love
And there's no more goodbye
And no more not enough
And there's...
no more enemy."

(Steven Curtis Chapman, Heaven Is The Face)

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:1-5

Friday, December 11, 2009

I've noticed a few changes in my ability to function since Zachary died...they have been quite puzzling to me, especially in the past month. I kind of shrugged it all off at first because I was in "survival mode." But, now, it's been almost seven months since we said goodbye to our boy, and I'm still struggling with things I've never struggled with before.

First of all, I've always been a "people person," but lately, I get really anxious in a group of more than...oh...four people, even if I know everyone really well. Sometimes, I walk through a door into a crowded room and scope out a quiet corner (or even the bathroom) where I can escape if needed.

Second, I'm always expecting the phone to ring with bad's like I'm just waiting for the next tragic thing to happen. Now, I've never been the most optimistic person (my parents could attest to that...okay, and Shaun, too), but I've always been excited about the future. Now I'm a chronic worrier...ugh.

And, third, I become irate over the most ridiculous things...the car in front of me that drives too slow, a piece of dirty laundry on the bathroom floor...really, anything these days! I've never been so agitated in my life.

So, what's a grieving mama to do? Well, they (counselors, doctors, etc) tell me that it's good, ol' PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Super. Probably right, but that makes me feel like...a nut case.

But, I had my "issues" explained to me in a much softer light this past week...a light that made me feel a bit less like a crazy person (or, at least it wasn't an abbreviated medical term).

Life is now about strengthening those areas in which I have been changed for the better through loss and working through those areas that are dysfunctional because of it. How simple sounding is that?! I feel like that's do-able.

So, as we go into the season of one Christmas party after another, with plenty of crowds and stressors, that's what I'm determining to do - to set myself up for success by recognizing when I need to be alone and quiet and setting boundaries. Strengthen the good, work through the not-so-good.

If you're feeling a bit dysfunctional in the stage of life you're in, look at your situation honestly and make that your goal. And, be're certainly not the only crazy person in town! :-)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Growing up in the church, I've read the Bible cover to cover and have an incredible memory bank of Scripture, something for which I am so, very thankful. But, in the past six months as I've really leaned in to the Lord, Scripture has taken on an entirely fresh relevance and verses I've read literally hundreds, maybe thousands of times have come to life, in a sense. This week it was this simple verse:

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12

It's no coincidence that these phrases are paired the way that they are...and each of these commands is no simple task.

"Joyful in hope"...not necessarily happy about the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but I can always be joyful in the hope I have through Christ.

"Patient in affliction"...this is so hard. It's that waiting...wandering around (seemingly aimlessly) in the desert while we wait for God's deliverance, direction, provision. Patience...when we can't even see beyond our affliction. Because our God is the Deliverer and we are never stranded or alone.

"Faithful in prayer"...even when we don't see answers, or at least the answers we want...because prayer is more about communing with God and aligning our hearts with His will than getting what we want.

Dwelling on these truths tonight...

Friday, December 4, 2009

The morning we left the hospital without Zachary, I made a decision. I could either run…away from the pain…away from the reality and finality of our loss. Or, I could turn directly into the darkness behind me and grieve. Just the word “grief” makes my heart sink and twists my stomach in a knot, but I knew that that darkness would follow me every day until I faced it. So, I chose to stare directly into that darkness and walk into it with the full knowledge that it would be the most pitch-black, can’t-see-two-feet-in-front-of-you darkness I would have ever faced.

But in that darkness, disoriented and blind, God met me. It was nothing extravagant. No light beaming down from heaven to illuminate the way ahead of me. Oh, how I wish!

He just whispered…

He gently whispered, “Hey, I’ve missed you.”

God has been present with me in the darkness. Even if I haven’t been okay with being here, He’s been okay with me…more than okay. Prior to Zachary’s death, I hadn’t walked away or ignored Him. I wasn’t living in sin, or anything close to it. But, I can’t honestly say God had my full attention or affection either.

I’m beginning to believe that one of the reasons that God allows us to go through hardships is simply for the togetherness of it. I think God misses us sometimes. But we’re not in the darkness due to God’s selfishness. It’s for our benefit. I know, often times it seems just the opposite. Heaven knows it’s been a kicking-and-screaming battle for me most days. But here we are, God and I…together…more together than we’ve ever been.

Loss has been brutal, but God is gentle with me.

I have a vivid picture in my mind of a toe-headed blonde, ten-year-old girl crying in my dad’s arms, his hand softly brushing my hair out of my tear-drenched eyes after falling on all fours while playing outside in the cul-de-sac. It didn’t matter how loud or long I sobbed…I was safe. I was loved. There was nowhere in the world I would have rather cried it out until my knees and my hands stopped stinging.

Unfortunately, my dad can’t take care of this one. I know he would do anything to make this pain go away and bring back my son, his grandson. But this time it’s a bit more than skinned-up knees. This injury requires the arms of the God of the universe….talk about safe!

If you’re hurting today, confused and bewildered by the darkness you find yourself in, trust that in the darkness, there is purpose. Trust that God has missed you, and rest in His strong embrace as He gently calms and heals you. God has promised that one day He will wipe every tear from the eyes of those who know and believe in Him, but in the meantime, He’s with are safe…you are loved.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I've always had a fascination with the changing of seasons. I think I’ve probably mentioned it before…there’s just something about the trees that intrigues me, and early fall is my favorite.

But right now, in the good ol’ Pacific Northwest, the trees are bare. The leaves have fallen, and what’s left is the stark contrast of brown branches against a grey sky. Zachary’s cherry blossom tree is looking a little bit…hmm…sad. And it’s cold, too! For the past couple of mornings, a thick white frost has coated the lawn. My gardens have seen better days. My backyard looks a little bit bleak.

But I know something that the chill in the air and the empty trees and the frost on the ground don’t tell me…spring is coming. Spring is coming.

I know, it's a little early to be talking about spring. But, soon those branches will be covered in new, green buds. My flowers will be in full bloom again. The sky will be blue, and the sun will come out. The breeze will be warm. The patio chairs will come out of the shed.

The death in my backyard will be replaced by new life.

But, the timing of the coming of spring in Seattle is…well…variable. This past May, it was 75 degrees for Memorial Day weekend. But, most years, we don’t enjoy the sunshine until well into June...or later.

No matter when, though, spring will come. And, when everything around me indicates otherwise, I can have faith that new life…new direction…new passion…new energy…new growth…is coming. In God’s timing and in His way. Spring wouldn't be so exciting if the winter wasn't so dark and cold.

As agitated and anxious as I’ve been in the past few weeks, I’m resting today in that anticipation and in the hands of the One who makes all things new.

"This is what God the LORD says—
he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:

'I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people'..." Isaiah 42:5-6