Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's been a long week!

Yesterday afternoon, Shaun and I headed to the SCS gym to shoot around for a bit. We were meeting a few of the guys Shaun coaches there, and we were running late (surprise!). As we hurried across the valley, we hit every...and I mean EVERY red light. There are probably a dozen stoplights between our house and school and every single one of them was red. I was...well...disgruntled. We were almost there when I looked at the clock in the car and mumbled under my breath, "This is so's the story of our life."

Shaun looked over at me and said plainly, "But we're okay."

'Of course he'd say that,' I thought. But as quickly as that cynical thought crossed my mind and I all but rolled my eyes, I caught myself.

There have been so many times lately when I have needed my husband to be point out the reassure me that this is not the end of the road for us. I'm so thankful for him.

"Yeah, I guess we are okay, huh?" I replied.

We're okay.

My doctor said to me this past week, "You can't wait to start your family until you have children. You start if before that with just the two of you. You have to take care of each other and invest in your family now."

So, while our family looks nothing like I thought it would, it's still our family. We've made it through so much in the past year. We've still got each other. God still has a plan for us. We're okay.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My friend Julie sent me this song a couple of weeks ago.

It comes from a verse in Hosea 6:1,3:

"Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds...Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come like the spring rains that water the earth."

You'll Come (Hillsong)
I have decided, I have resolved
To wait upon You, Lord
My Rock and Redeemer shall not be moved
I'll wait upon You, Lord
As surely as the sun will rise
You'll come to us
As certain as the dawn appears
You'll come, let Your glory fall
As You respond to us
Spirit rain, flood into
Our thirsty hearts again
You'll come
Chains be broken
Lives be healed
Eyes be opened
Christ revealed
Shaun reminded me of this verse this morning:

"When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze."
Isaiah 43:2b

I'm hanging on to that promise and I know He's with me, but the searing hot coals under my bare feet hurt intensely right now. Just as I bring my foot up and it starts to cool, I'm forced to step down again. I don't have the audacity to even guess what God's up to...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Please pray for us today. The grief is fresh and overwhelming.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My heart is so heavy today.

I was standing over the kitchen sink this afternoon doing the dishes, and I was rattled by a memory of the day we arrived home from the hospital.

May 18th. I was exhausted and in a fog. The hospital staff had sent us home with a box full of momentos of our time with Zachary. I opened the box and pulled out the outfit they had dressed him in while we held him and loved on him in the hours after his birth. As I pulled it out, I noticed a blood stain around the neck. I went to the laundry room to grab some stain remover and detergent and stood weakly at the kitchen sink while I scrubbed that stain out. Shaun, noticing how pale my tear-stained face was, asked me to go sit down and promised to finish scrubbing the stain out himself. I slumped to the floor and cried, "I have to clean his outfit. It's the only laundry I'm ever going to get to do for him."

That's how I feel slumped on the floor is where I I'm missing out on so much. The weight of living without my son is too much...too heavy. It's agonizing. I'm angry. I don't get it. The stack of clean baby towels in the linen closet mocks me. What I would give just to search for a tiny pair of socks that matched in a load of laundry! What I would give to bring Zachary back, even for a second!

Yet, as I wrestle, I am overwhelmed by the love of God. The more my heart aches, the more comfort I know. In that tension, there is growth and the knowledge that this hurt is not forever. Jeremiah 31:3-4 says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness. Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt." As welcoming as the kitchen floor looks, I'll cling to God's love and His promise to rebuild.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

For the past week I have struggled with fear and anxiety. Like I've mentioned before, these feelings have only plagued me for the past eight months, and I hate it. I don't feel like myself, and I find it odd because, really, things are going okay. We're hanging in there financially, successfully working through stuff in our marriage, when grief floods me, it's a little less 'punch-you-in-the-gut', and I've truly never been more fulfilled or happy in my work. Nevertheless, I feel extremely anxious, and trying to suffocate these feelings isn't going to get me my conversation with God went a little something like this today:

Me: "God, my mind is spinning and if I started to list off the reasons why I'm anxious, we'd be here all afternoon."

God: (silence)

Me: "I could really use some help getting to the bottom of these feelings. And I could also use some peace right now, too."

God: (silence)

Me: "Okay, fine. I'll go open my Bible to Isaiah seems to be the book of choice lately."

So, Isaiah 41 has been the chapter of the day. It's interesting...since I was probably 12 years old, I've had the same Bible engraved in silver letters with my maiden name (except now it says "Courtn_y Marie Ra__in" because some of the letters have worn off), and whenever God has shown me a powerful verse in a crucial time in my life, I've written down the date in the margin. In the margin next to Isaiah 41 are quite a few dates listed...the week I started high school, the week my uncle died, the day I started working at Children's Hospital, etc. Here's what God promises in Isaiah 41:9-10, 18:

"You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, 'You are my servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.' Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you...I will open rivers on the bare heights and springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land fountains of water." (NASB)

I'm hanging on to that tonight. And, reading those words and seeing those dates in the margin reminds me of God's faithfulness. My heart is at peace.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

8 Months


I miss you so much!

I miss getting to know your personality and what makes you you. I miss baby food mis-haps and hearing your laugh. I miss showing you off to friends and family, packing a diaper bag everywhere I go, and bringing you to the gym for basketball games.

And, even though you'd be pretty squirmy by now, I desperately miss holding you close to me.

As your dad and I continue to move on in life, please know that the distance created by time does not distance you from my heart.

I love you, baby boy!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oops! I forgot to post a picture of the Zachary's Christmas ornament! Here is it:

Friday, January 8, 2010

I stink with directions. I get lost driving to places I've been a thousand times. I know almost no street names, few landmarks, and I'm pretty sure a GPS couldn't even help.

The same is true in my spiritual life. I have a terrible sense of direction on my own...much like the Israelites.

In Exodus, the Israelites, after leaving bondage in Egypt, start making their way to a land God has promised them. The journey is...well...terrible. They trek through the wilderness...the desert... for decades (yes, decades), but God is with them. He makes it abundantly obvious to the Israelites that He is more than capable to provide for them...that He is worthy of their trust. God performs miracle after miracle, and still the Israelites disobey, believing that their way is better...easier...more efficient. Sound familiar?

Now, I've begged God to lead me out of my personal 'wilderness' (which is nothing compared to the wilderness that the Israelites wandered around in, by the way). And, time and time again He has said, 'Wait. I'm with you, I will lead you, and I have more to teach you here.'

So, today I'm reading in Exodus 33, where the Israelites have disobeyed God once again and Moses is asking God for His presence and guidance as they continue on their tumultuous journey...and I come across this verse (15): Moses says to God, "If Your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here."

In other words, 'God, if You're not going to go with us, let us stay here, wandering around in the wilderness because our Deliverer is of far greater value to us than the deliverance'

What?! My heart started pounding faster as I thought of the implications of this verse...

How many of us can say that - 'God, Your presence is better than escaping the personal wilderness I find myself in'?

I'm just grappling with this this morning. Do I love God because of Who He is or because of what He can do for me? Is the Deliverer of greater value to me than the deliverance? Am I so anxious to get out of the desert that I'm missing an opportunity to know God better and fall more in love with Him?

I hate even admitting that these questions are circulating my mind today, but it's true.

In the depths of my heart I want to know the Comforter more than the comfort...the Healer more than the healing...the Provider more than the provision. But I get so anxious in the wilderness that I look for the fastest, easiest way out sometimes...I try to take matters into my own hands only to find that I really do stink with directions!

Patience. Obedience. Submission. Relationship. That's what God is asking of my once again today. I wish I weren't so prideful. Lord, please keep teaching me.

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16

" Him who led His people through the desert,
His love endures forever." Psalm 136:16

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How to share the exciting news that you're expecting with a friend who has just lost her baby 101:

Oh, I'm not expecting...I'm writing this from the other side - the recipient of that news over and over and over and over. :-) Great news? Absolutely. Difficult to hear after your baby has died? Absolutely. I've been blessed with considerate people around me, so the only reason I'm writing this is because I have many friends who are struggling with life after pregnancy loss or infertility without such considerate of whom was wading through the muck of it just last night after hearing the exciting announcement from two more of her close friends who are pregnant.

So, if you've just taken a pregnancy test and it's positive, and you're thrilled to share the news with your friends and family (which you totally should be), take a moment to think about those mamas in your life who might have a hard time expressing their excitement at the news because of personal life circumstances.

First, try to give your grieving friend a quiet heads-up. It was really helpful to me after Zachary died if my friends told me privately, through email or in conversation that they were pregnant. Now, that doesn't mean that as soon as your grieving friend has a moment alone she won't burst into tears, but it stings a little less than a grand announcement in a meeting or at church or in front of a large group of friends.

Second, don't be offended if your grieving friend doesn't jump up and down and offer to go to Babies'R'Us with you tomorrow. Is the response selfish and fueled by jealously? I'm sure it is, in part, but the root of the response is grief. And, even though we really are happy for you and it is great news, it still really hurts to hear. It brings up a whole new dimension of our loss in a way.

And, lastly, after you announce to your friend that you're pregnant, try (really hard) to think of topics of discussion besides your pregnancy. Your world now is the developing life inside you. Our world is still attempting to navigate through life without our baby. So, it's really helpful to have a conversation with a friend who is pregnant about...oh...the weather, marriage, cell biology, anything, really.

While this post has been specifically about being sensitive to those who have lost a baby, I've been challenged to look at other areas of life in which I could be more considerate, too. I've caught myself many times in the past month or so complaining about my husband in front of a friend who would love to share life with a spouse...grumbling about my job or finances in front of someone who is unemployed and worse off than we are...the list could go on and on. So, I'm trying harder to think before I speak and truly "rejoice with those who rejoice" and "mourn with those who mourn." (Rom. 12:15)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I keep coming back to Isaiah 42 this week, and God continues to challenge me to put my faith in His promises and His power to redeem. I experience incredible freedom when I surrender myself to Him, and I am filled with hope as I watch God use Zachary's story to impact lives.

Isaiah 42:5-7,9 say:

"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
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
free captives from prison
and to
release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness...

See, the former things have taken place,
new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I just finished cleaning up the kitchen after having the team I get to lead worship with every Sunday at the Kent Campus over for a potluck. We discussed what's going well and what could be better, what the vision for our team in 2010 should be, etc., but the general consensus - we care a lot about each other and love to do ministry together every week...even at 7am when we arrive to set up a high school to run a church service...quite a task!

I can't begin to describe what an incredible community of growth and healing God has provided in this team of people. Just one more way that His grace is sufficient as I continue to learn how to live without Zachary.

Oh, and by the way, I can't believe this is a job! :-)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Through trials, God bids us to choose:
Do we believe, or do we not?
Will we be bold enough to love,
daring enough to serve,
humble enough to submit,
and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations?
Can we surrender our concern
in things that don't matter
so that we might devote our remaining days
to things that do?"

- Tony Snow

As our last church service ended this morning, out of the corner of my eye I saw a man walk up to the platform where I was sitting at the piano. I glanced to my right, and it took me a second to figure out who he was. But, as soon as I placed him in my mind, a huge smile crept across my face. "Ken!" I said as I jumped down from the stage.

Last March, a young woman at our church - a wife and a mom and an all-around incredible follower of Christ - was diagnosed with cancer, and after a brief battle, she went home to be with the Lord. I didn't know Christina well, but towards the end of her life, she asked that me and my friend Heidi sing at her memorial service. And that service was awesome! Not at all because I had a part in it...I could barely choke out lyrics with that lump in my throat as I watched the faces of her husband and young son. It was awesome because this woman lived to the hilt! The way in which Christina lived her last weeks of life was no different than how she lived every day before she was diagnosed. I was 7 months pregnant at the time, and I remember leaving that service amazed by how she lived, but also so distraught for her husband and son. I wondered how people even functioned after leaving a memorial service for someone they loved.

In June, just weeks after planning a memorial service for my son, guess who came to mind? Christina. So, I got out a notecard and a pen, and I wrote a simple note to Ken, Christina's husband. I told him how impressed I was by his beautiful wife. I told him that he was a great dad. And I told him that we have so much to look forward to because we both have incredible treasures awaiting us in heaven.

I prayed for Ken often, but I never heard from him after that...

Until today.

After giving me a big hug, he told me that he appreciated my much so that he's opened it and re-read it many times in the past six months.

And my brief interaction with Ken brought to mind all the people who have gone out of their way since our son died to let us know that they care...that they remember our heartache...that they miss Zachary, too. I have re-read many of the heartfelt cards that people have sent us.

I didn't send that card to Ken so that I would receive a "thank-you" or an accolade. But his response was a good reminder to me that when someone you know is hurting, do something about it. Pray for them and look for practical ways to be helpful. Offer to bring them a meal or groceries. And remember that saying something, even if it's that you don't know what to say, is better than saying nothing at all. I know there's at least one person coming to your mind right now, so go grab a notecard and a pen and get a card in the mail tomorrow.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


I love that word.

I loved celebrating the New Year this week…I really feel like it’s an accomplishment for some reason. Maybe I’m just ready for 2009 to be over and 2010 to begin.

It was so funny…I was sitting in my living room on New Year’s Eve with great friends watching the fireworks go off of the top of the Space Needle, and I just wanted to jump up and down! Partly because I LOVE fireworks, but mostly because I felt a fresh hope creep up inside of me for what’s to come this year. I’m praying and trusting the Lord for big things – in our marriage, in our employment, in our family, in our ministry. But, most of all, I know that God’s making me new to better reflect Who He is.

As I let go and surrender to His work, not only do I feel greater peace day to day, I can also trust Him for our future. Good or bad, I’m not alone and His purposes for me are greater than I can comprehend.

And, as we move into a new year, I keep finding little ways to avoid leaving Zachary behind. Sometimes those things seem like a miserable substitute for having him here, but it’s nice to incorporate the memory of our son into our lives…at least until we see him again.

May you be blessed with a newness of life as we begin this year, trusting the Lord for whatever it holds.