Reflections on Hope

Hope does not put us to shame.

Mothering Sunday

Today is Mothering Sunday in the UK.

This year is a little bitter sweet.

Jeff and the kids let me sleep in, brought me breakfast in bed. It was a very relaxed morning as both kids were a bit hacky and snotty and church didn’t seem like a great idea.

For me it was a quiet day. I wasn’t able to really revel in a day all about me.

Part of me felt like I didn’t really deserve it. After all, I had failed one of my children catastrophically.

Now before everyone jumps on the there-was-nothing-you-could-have-done bandwagon, let me make clear that this was a part of me. A small part. And not a very sane one. The part of me that does not have a very good grip on reality.

I am fully aware that having a miscarriage is not a reflection on my ability as a mother.

But there is that voice. Inside. Sitting in the dark. Weeping alone. Screaming that this cannot be real. A nightmare. It has to be. Because I cannot face my heart being torn open. Cannot face being in this company. Women of sorrow. Acquainted with grief. Cannot be real.

But I do know that there is nothing to be gained by listening to that voice. This is real. I am no one special that I should be spared from grief. And while there are times that it feels as though these wounds on my heart will never heal, I am aware of them being less raw. Even now. And I know that my Comforter heals the broken hearted and binds their wounds.

Last night my Mum was telling me about a tv series that we haven’t gotten over here yet called Awake. About a man who seems to be living two parallel lives, fully aware of both, one in which his wife was killed in an accident and the other in which it was his son. I thought both of those options sounded pretty terrible. This morning gave me a little insight into why we are so attracted to this whole multi-verse/parallel universe idea (and I am married to a physicist, I can scoff at this all I want). It lets us feel like somewhere out there we are living a life without these great losses. Somewhere out there, I could be rocking my 6 week old son to sleep, Willow could be enjoying life as a big sister, Asher could be dreaming of having someone to play dinosaurs with soon, Emily and I could be hatching plans for Lily and Jonah to one day fall in love. Life could be idyllic. It makes us feel like in some life we are happier, we are whole. And conversely, somewhere it has all gone horribly wrong and our life is in utter shambles and at least we aren’t living in that universe.

But, no matter what the experimental maths say, I’m afraid I don’t believe it. I believe it is appointed once for man to die. I also believe that my son is with his Creator, even now. And that every day is a day closer.

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Lamentations and hidden praise

I am back, delving into hope, looking for God’s mercies. It has been a long time away, I have been very sick. Not life-threateningly ill but certainly more sick than I have been in a very long time. Oh, and Willow was sick, too. And Asher wasn’t. Which meant he was getting really bored of the endless stream of Mickey Mouse clubhouse. Did I mention Jeff was gone for most of it? Yeah, it was not a fun time. I am still recovering.

I have a lot on my mind in regards to some recent events, but it’s not coherent enough to put down just yet so for now I want to talk about Lamentations. The third chapter to be specific. The idea was too look at the contrasting grief and hope in this chapter, but I found it very hard to relate to. I have mentioned before that I don’t get the whole ‘God did this to me’ thing. And much of this chapter is listing the woes that God and others have brought upon the author. Considering how he feels about the source of his sorrow, I find it awe-inspiring that he can with equal conviction proclaim the unfailing love of the Lord, whose mercies are new every morning. “Great is Thy faithfulness.” I knew the story behind the hymn, but never made the connection to the Scripture that brought the writer such comfort. Perhaps I would feel the unfairness of it all, the heavy hand of God, if I had, like that man, lost everything of value in my life. But I hope that I would understand to an even greater extent that God is my portion, my hope is in Him.

Last week, there was a prayer request from an online friend for a family that had just lost their son, inexplicably, in his sleep. He was to turn 4 in a matter of weeks. His birthday was just a few days after Asher’s. I waited. For the deep sadness, the flood of tears, the raw savage pain to grip my heart. None of it came. I prayed for this family. But I could not wrap my head around that kind of loss. Perhaps I should be thankful that my heart would not go there.

One of the things that has been on my heart these past weeks, as I watched my son be so patient and easy going, as I tried to keep my fevered daughter comfortable, held her as she wretched until nothing was left, was that I don’t ever want these two precious children to ever feel like they weren’t enough for me. Jeff and I have been trying to get pregnant the last three months or so and nothing yet. I felt myself going back to the days before Asher, to the year and a half of being consumed with waiting, testing, disappointment. I don’t know if I will have any more children. I want more, I believe that God has given me that desire but I have no idea how it will be fulfilled.

We were watching Nanny McPhee tonight and I was thinking that 7 looked like a pretty good idea. Not that my body could handle that.

But what if this is it?

What if the children that we have are all that God has planned for us?

Do I rail against Him and cry ‘Why!’?

Why did You only give me two miracles?
no, not only two

I don’t want my children to ever feel like they weren’t enough for me.

So we will keep trying, but I am being purposeful about enjoying my children to the fullest, not allowing disappointment to take hold, treating them as if they are my only’s. Reminding them every day that God gave them to me and they are the most wonderful gift. I could not have imagined being so blessed.

And I will continue to remember my other gift, my third miracle, my son Jonah. My precious child, that God entrusted to me for however short a time. The one who, through great pain and loss, taught me about God’s grace on a whole new level.

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He guards my heart

Our pastor and his wife where really wonderful with us in the weeks after.  Our church is large, several hundred large, and with these times being what they are there has been a tightening of the belts and a spreading of the workload.  And I can safely say they were busy before all that.  Even so, they made the time to come to our home and pray with us as well as checking in with us regularly.

Little did I know that that Sunday evenings’ sermon was to be given by the pastor’s wife and it was on Jonah.  Part of what she spoke about was the presence of God and asked to use our situation as an example.

I was touched to say the least.  I also couldn’t listen to the sermon for several weeks.

What she spoke about was that sense of being in the presence of God, not just the often vague concept of Him being with us but being in a place and feeling the weight of Him.

Coming into our home and speaking with us about all that had happened was a standout moment for her of feeling His presence.

It was as I spoke of my encompassing gratitude for the small mercies that surrounded me amidst the nightmare that was holding my son in the palm of one hand.  But I got to hold him.

Jeff was away.  But I was not alone.  My friend’s daughter magically fell asleep an hour before she usually does which allowed her to be with me.  It hadn’t occurred to me to ask anyone to come.

As I was laying in bed that first night after having had to wake up Jeff in China to tell him, I began to pray and the only words that would come out were “Thank you”.  Obviously not for the loss but for His provision in the loss.

Had I gone to the hospital, they would have hidden my son away from me.  And I would have let them.

Small as he was, he could have been lost down the pipes as that’s where I was when he came.  I only knew what I felt, it was the hardest thing I have ever done to reach down and rescue him.  I couldn’t see past the blood and the tears.  But I am forever thankful for the courage to look and that he was kept safe for me.

I lay there thinking I should be angry, screaming, railing, but all I was was thankful.  I knew this was not something God had done to me.  This, as with all others, was a product of a fallen world, a decaying system, a good and wonderful creation eroded by sin and time.  All I could be was thankful that my God was alive, there with me, holding me, holding him.

I have a hard time when speaking to people who are bitter with God, how can a loving God allow…(fill in the blanks).  I honestly don’t understand.  This world is fallen, it is full of sin.  If he didn’t allow this, then he could allow nothing.

I have an easier time understanding the cry of, “why didn’t He heal?”  It feels like what Jesus prayed in the garden, Please God, but if your answer is no then I will trust.  I know God could have healed whatever was wrong with me or whatever was wrong with Jonah.  But the only way that I know that is because He has healed me.

Not of everything, I still need contacts (despite many fervent prayers to the contrary), I was in a wheelchair for my entire 3rd trimester with Willow due to hip pain.  But here’s the thing.  I have been pregnant.  Three times.  Only one of those times needed medical assistance.  One of those times was completely by accident.  I was told at 21 that I would never have children.

I know first hand that God heals.  And I know first hand that He doesn’t heal everything.  But I also know our nature, as humans.  If faith were easy we’d still find a way to screw it up.

In Hebrews it talks about the people of Israel in the wilderness becoming bitter towards God and hardening their hearts.  These were a people that had seen God do amazing and wonderful things on their behalf.  Not once but over and over again.  At one point, God even made it so that no woman in the Israel camp would be barren or have miscarriages.  I thought that sounded pretty good on both counts.

But still they found a way to be bitter.  They lost their gratitude.  It would have been very easy to lose my gratitude.  ie, why did you let me get pregnant if it was going to end like this. But I have always been keenly aware that my ability to have children is not mine, my body was broken.  But God made it whole in ways I did not dare ask for.  And for that I will always be grateful.

When we first found out we were pregnant with Willow, we thought about keeping it to ourselves for a bit, as many do for just this reason, but we couldn’t.  We wanted to shout it from the rooftops.  We wanted everyone to know what God had done.  As we put it that first night in our baby journal, no matter what happened from then on, the miracle was that I was pregnant.

I’m trying to think of how to wrap this up.  Day three has a verse at the beginning that is Paul telling the Phillipians how not to worry, how to have peace.  “Pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.”  I’m good at the thankful part.  I’m even good at the praying about everything part.  Where I struggle is telling Him what I need.

This is where I struggle.  It’s easy to think you are not hardening your heart if you focus on the thankful part.  But what if you don’t ask Him for the desires of your heart because you don’t want to risk being disillusioned if it doesn’t happen.  I have stopped praying that my kids will sleep through the night if I’m too exhausted to see straight because that is a sure fire way to have them wake up 5 more times each.  5 different times each.

I can pray for a lot of things.  Except the things that I really want.

So yes, I rock the attitude of gratitude.  But I have also hidden part of my heart away.  The part that has hardened.  The part that I don’t want to acknowledge.  The part that I want to talk into submission.  Small as it may be, it is where the hurt lies.

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The Treasure of Tears

When we moved to Chicago, we were checking out this little Vineyard church.  No one looked askance at my blue mohawk, everyone made us feel welcome.  I even got a word for someone at the church, something that had not happened to me in a long time.  I remember this word even now.  It was for the woman sitting across the aisle, one row up, absolutely, blissfully, lost in the worship.

Yet it was a word about tears.  I had this vision of her, on her knees, sobbing, her heart breaking, and  Christ in front of her with cupped hands, catching every tear that fell, but as they fell they were jewels of every kind, He didn’t miss one.

It was a beautiful message, that God cherished her and treasured all the tears she had been shedding.  I gave it the Pastor at first because no one there knew me from Adam.  As it turned out, she had received 3 almost identical words that week.  Perhaps God was trying to tell her something.

What I didn’t know at the time, is that has a biblical reference.

You keep track of all my sorrows.You have collected all my tears in your bottle.You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

In the beginning, I had a lot of people telling me it was okay to be sad, to let myself grieve.  But as time went on, I started to hide the tears, to put on a smile and tell people I was ok.  I didn’t want them to pat me on the back, say ‘there, there’, and walk away thinking to themselves that I should get over it already.

Let me first say that I am surrounded by wonderful, caring, loving-hearted women and I honestly don’t think they would actually think that, it’s a lie that wiggles its way into our heads and hearts and keeps us from reaching out to those that want nothing more than to walk beside us.

Let me secondly say that I didn’t want them thinking that because I didn’t want them to be right. I didn’t want to get over it.  I didn’t want it to stop hurting.  I wanted my son back, and anything less than that made me want to scream and bang the walls until someone gave in and told me it was all just a big mistake.  I didn’t want to forget the love I had for this tiny child.

I’ve kind of forgotten where I was going with this.

I think I want to say this: our tears are precious to God. And not just to God. We often think of God as a parent, we would all find our children’s heart-break heart-breaking to us as well, but are we not often the same with our very dear friends?  I have friends right now going through such hard times, a wife and mother rallying around her broken husband, a woman grieving her own loss and fighting herself, a family weighed down by a lengthy illness, a mother of three watching her youngest fight for her life when they thought it was just the flu.  My heart breaks for them. I weep for them.  Another mum who has just told me of her own lost child.  God is near to the brokenhearted, not just in an ethereal way. He sends His other children, His hands, His feet, His body, to comfort, to hold, to help you stand when you can no longer bear your own weight.

So please, don’t hide your tears, don’t put on your smile, when I see you next, tell me of the tears you shed.  They are precious to me because you are precious to me and because My Father has given me His heart to love and His hands to hold, because, as I was reminded today, He doesn’t just want to give me strength, He wants to be my strength.

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David’s comfort

So today turned out to be harder. Yesterday was surreal. I had this kind of, overlay going on in my head of what the day would have been. I found it strangely comforting.

The drawback of course being that when I woke up, in my own bed, having had a full night’s sleep, with no new baby smell tucked in beside me, it was almost unbearable.

Today all the anticipation is over, the waiting, over. The feeling that I’m somehow missing something, the feeling of being…empty. Over

Now begins the rest of my life.

Without him.

It was interesting, when we first lost Jonah, both Jeff and I found ourselves missing a little boy. We went to the beach with the kids a few weeks later and I could picture this little dark-haired boy running after Asher, laughing at him and Jeff trying to fly their kite, snuggling in with Willow and I reading a book. I would see him jumping on the trampoline, playing in the Wendy house, always a little boy. Even though I was almost constantly, physically aware of the fact that I wasn’t pregnant.

What I miss now is the baby. The smell, the warmth, the shrivelled little hands and feet, the shaking little cries that accompany nappy changes. I would give just about anything for the sleepless nights and constant feedings.

So we begin with Day One.

The passage for today was Psalm 119, to read and notice what brought David comfort. I found it fascinating, over and over again, David extols the magnificent properties of God’s laws.

Joyful are those who obey his laws
and search for him with all their hearts.

I have rejoiced in your laws
as much as in riches.

I weep with sorrow;
encourage me by your word.

I cling to your laws.
LORD, don’t let me be put to shame!

(Psalm 119:2, 14, 28, 31 NLT)

It goes on and on like that for 176 verses. First of all, it makes me want to study exactly what it was that David had on hand to read, what was it that was such a comfort to him. Normally when we think of comforting someone, especially from Scripture, we think of all the verses on God’s love and provision. Not David, he wanted it all, decrees, laws, provision, love. He found everything about God’s Word comforting.

To a certain extent I was already on this path.

Our church has a vision this year to read through the Bible in a year corporately. Not all coming together and reading, but all of us, in our own time and place following the same reading plan for the year. Jeff and I have really been enjoying this. I mean some days you’re just reading an entire chapter on genealogy, and then you jump to Matthew and back to Psalms and then maybe 3 whole verses of Proverbs, but my day no longer feels complete without it.

I miss it.

It is comforting to me.

It doesn’t matter if there is anything in that days verses that speaks to me, just sitting for 20 minutes, letting the Word of God flow over me is comfort.

So my reflection on Hope for today? It can be found in every corner of God’s Word. It is His voice, speaking to me in the dark, through the pain, amidst the commotions of the day. And His voice is always just what I need.

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The day that never came

Today should have been the day I met my son, Jonah.

Instead, I met him almost 6 months ago. Today is my day that has not, and never will, come.

I don’t want to hide from it, I don’t want to hide it away, I want to acknowledge it, remember it, share it, and never forget it.

I also don’t want to wallow.

I want to remember the grace and mercy that God surrounded me with in those first few days of having to deal with the loss and still be mum to my two amazing kids while my husband was in China on business. I want to remember how thankful I was for my sisters in Christ who surrounded me and the children in that time, who walked beside me and held me up when I could no longer stand.

I want to remember what my son felt like, his tiny frame in my hand , so fragile but so perfect, never meant to face the world outside the protection of my womb.

I could not face any of this without clinging to my comforter, my protector, my God. I cannot comprehend experiencing the depth of this loss without knowing that my son is even now with his Heavenly Father and every day is one day closer to meeting him, and not just one day farther from him.

But I am not always in this place of gratefulness, I am often simply struck with grief, like a blow from out of the dark. And so I have determined to spend this year seeking hope. Keeping it ever before me, not letting the darkness swallow me whole, clinging to the words of my Father:

Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

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