Living through Loss

It’s inevitable. Life always includes death. We cannot have one without the other. It was never intended to be that way, yet it has been since the very beginning. We can thank sin for that one (and if you’re looking for someone to blame, we can just throw Eve and Adam under the bus. Though, to be fair, any one of us would have succumbed to the lies of the enemy as well).

 

Sin entered God’s perfect world and it has been full of death and mourning ever since.

 

Luckily for us, that’s not the end of the story. It’s not even the biggest part of the story. Oh no! It’s God’s love for us and His desire to restore and redeem what was so rudely stolen. Life. Abundant life. Life to the very full. Life brimming with joy and love and deep connection with God and people.

 

If you have suffered loss of any kind, and I know that you have, I am deeply sorry for your pain and your heartache and that overwhelming sadness that has you crying yourself to sleep most nights. I understand it. I’ve lived it.

 

That hurt you feel, it’s raw, it’s deep and it actually feels like it might just rip you apart. It’s an ache in your very core, a heavy burden of loss and brokenheartedness that you have to carry with you day in and day out.

 

You wonder how you will even survive it because the pain is incredible. Overwhelming.

 

I know that pain too. In my 6 years of marriage, I have experienced the loss of 3 precious babies. It’s a hurt that never actually goes away. While the pain eventually does feel less intense, and there does come a day that the burden is bearable, the losses we experience in life will be with us forever.

 

God has blessed me with 4 healthy children that I get to love and parent and raise. I am so grateful for these 4 little lives. But you know what, I still mourn the loss of each one of those little ones that I will never get to hold.

 

When I hear one of their names, or the date of their lost little lives or the date that they should have been in my arms, or I hear of another’s experience with losing a baby, I feel that bitter sting that reminds me of what I should have in my life. The hurt...it will never go away.

 

But that’s not to say that God cannot use it.

 

When I experienced my first miscarriage I allowed Satan to use it for his glory instead of turning to God and allowing Him to work in my turmoil. You see, God cares deeply about our lives; the things we experience, our joys and accomplishments, and especially our hurts and deepest heartbreaks. He cares.

 

But I allowed Satan to tell me lies and I actually believed those lies.

 

The lie that God had taken that baby away from me. The lie that God didn’t care about me or that baby. The lie that God wasn’t right there with a broken heart too.

 

I remember crying out to God, telling Him that He could have saved my baby, yet He chose not to. I was angry with Him for being so heartless. After all, this was life and He was supposed to be the Lifegiver. Why did He put that baby in my womb if He was just going to take it away a few months later?!

 

I was brutal with God. I was angry and I let Him know how much He hurt me.

 

It was the same story with the second baby we lost. It was my third pregnancy. It was so hard to fathom that we had lost another baby. I was convinced my body was just not made to hold life well. Yes, it was kind of easy for me to get pregnant. But it wasn’t easy to keep a baby growing healthy in my womb. I blamed God instead of running to Him and clinging to Him.

 

With our third loss, though, my understanding of God had changed. And while that pain was real and intense and in some moments I could barely even breath through the breaking of my heart, I had a new perspective.

 

God did care. A good friend of mine opened up my eyes to the Truth of who God is. She told me, as she was experiencing her own heartache and loss, that God mourns with us. That He never intended for us to experience any of this. That His heart breaks too when death occurs because He wanted something far better for us. Sin came in and utterly destroyed so many things; our relationship with God, our understanding of who God is, a life full of life.

 

And sin has not stopped wreaking havoc in this world. Sin is running rampant, taking it’s toll on our hearts, killing our joy, destroying the good things that God intended for us. But let’s remember that that is not how it ends. Oh no!

 

God is bigger and better than the enemy. Day by day, in big ways and in little ones, God is bringing redemption and healing.

 

His love for people, for you specifically, is so deep and so wide that He longs to heal your hurts, to have a relationship with you, to wrap His loving arms around you and whisper His true love for you.

 

Satan is the father of lies. His very nature is evil and he is bent on destroying you in any way possible. He’s good at what he does. He has a way of sneaking in and cleverly sticking little lies and half truths in our thoughts, and then he sits back and watches as we run wild, severing our relationship with the One who loves so deeply.

 

Here are some truths to battle those lies that Satan has snuck in:

 

Lie number 1: God doesn’t care.

The Truth: God absolutely does care. And he cares more than you can even imagine. He cares deeply and desperately for every single aspect of your life.

 

1 Peter 5:7 says to “cast all your anxiety on God because he cares for you”.

 

Psalm 139 is one of my most favorite Psalms. It clearly depicts that God knows us, understands us and loves us.

“You have looked through me and have known me. You know when I sit down and when I get up. You understand my thoughts from far away. You look over my path and my lying down. You know all my ways very well”.

 

Lie number 2: God did this to you.

The Truth: God allows pain and suffering in our lives because we have free will. And because we have free will, we have the choice to NOT choose Him and to choose sin instead. If there was no free will, then there would be no true love.

God wanted us so desperately. I don’t know why, I can’t fathom that at all. But He loved us before He ever created us and His desire is to have a relationship with His people. With you. But what He didn’t want was to create people that didn’t have a choice in the matter. Because that wouldn’t be real love.

So He gave us a choice knowing full well that we might not choose Him.

God did not do this to you. Yes, He allowed it to happen. Nothing happens without Him knowing. But doing it to you and allowing it to happen are not the same at all.

Sin has brought death and disaster and it completely destroys.

 

Lie number 3: Nothing good can come of this.

Romans 8:28 declares that “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

 

God didn’t do this to you, He is mourning along with you. BUT He can use this to bring about good. We cannot even fathom the ways that God works. When we lost our 3rd baby, I was completely devastated. I had no idea that anything good could come from losing an innocent child. And to be honest, I didn’t want God to use it for good at first. I was mourning and I was in pain and I was angry.

But ever so gently God began to change my heart. That’s when my prayers changed and I asked God to bring redemption to this loss. He did that in two distinct ways. The first was being able to share my story with others who have experienced loss. God was glorified in this because I was able to share of His great redeeming love and how deeply He cares about every aspect of our lives.

The second way was allowing us to get pregnant again (this baby being due on the exact date we lost our precious girl) and having a very healthy baby boy a year later.

 

God can and does use our pain and sorrow to bring about His good.

 

Lie number 4: Nobody understands what I’m going through

We really have no idea what most people suffer through. A lot of the time, people hold on to their pain and don’t allow others in. But the truth is that many people have experienced loss in some way. There are

God allowed me to share my pain and my story. I’m not glad that I have lost 3 babies, but there is something powerful about being able to empathize with another person going through the exact same thing. I can truthfully say that I understand what someone is going through and I can listen to their pain and their story and I can cry with them because I have experienced it too. And there is something so incredible and so comforting in knowing that someone has walked this road before you and has come out on the other side.

And let’s not forget that Jesus himself experienced pain and loss. He also suffered. The Message says it this way “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

He experienced the loss of his cousin, John (the Baptist). He mourned when Lazarus died. He was not set apart from us in such a way that He didn’t experience the things we experience. He was fully human. He knows our pain, he shares in it, he grieves with us.

 

When you are suffering, reach out to someone. Open up and be vulnerable. Allow another person in, let them share in your grief. It is easier to live through loss when we have someone by our side that we can lean on, cry with, and express our deepest hurts.

The enemy is very real and what he wants is for you to believe these lies and not seek God and not seek out other people. Don’t allow him to increase your pain and suffering. Instead, allow God to work in you and through you.

Living through loss is hard. So hard


 I will never downplay it. I’m so sorry for what you are going through. If you are reading this and suffering through a painful loss, know that I am sincerely praying for you. Please let me know how I can pray specifically.

Also, here are a few resources that might be helpful:

Posted on March 4, 2017 and filed under life.

A Season of Blessing

I sat on the couch watching the three Littles play with blocks on the living room floor. It was one of those moments where everything seemed to be perfect; no fighting, no crying or whining, simply playing together while I sat and drank my morning coffee.


I began to think about other areas of my life that just seemed to fall right into place, almost as if it were orchestrated by some unseen hand. I smiled at how amazing God is and how He graciously led us to this place, this season of blessing.


Not long ago everything seemed to be in utter chaos, life seemed ridiculously challenging, and there were hardships around every bend. Looking back, I wonder how we made it through. Obviously, I know how. It was God's faithfulness.


But we had been through a difficult season, to be sure. We had setbacks (or what we thought were setbacks at the time) as we trained and prepared and raised support to be missionaries overseas. We struggled in France financially, personally and spiritually. We came back home feeling defeated, lost, broken and overwhelmed. We had our third baby who had a dificult start to life, and we felt scared as she spent her first few days in the NICU. We felt uncertain about what the future held, and didn't know if we should continue to pursue overseas missions or just give up and stay put in Indiana for the time being. We were in a real pit.


Over the next several months, we saw God moving in our lives and lining things up. Actually, God had been doing this all along, but we just weren't in a place to see His hand moving in our lives, on our behalf. We moved to Texas to begin working with a local church and starting a refugee ministry. But things still felt uncertain. How long would we be here for? What would our supporters think of us staying Stateside for the time being. Would Phil have to get another job to support us financially? We were also far from home and didn't know many people. Moving with 3 young kids to a new place is just not easy.


And then we found out we were pregnant again. We had settled on having four kids, so we were elated to be pregnant again. Why not just get them all outta the way?! But 11 weeks in and we lost our precious baby. It was heart wrenching, horrible and a total mess. I was a mess. 
But it was through this pregnancy loss that we really saw God's hand moving in our lives, and soon this amazing season of blessing was upon us.


Instead of being bitter and angry with God at the loss of our little baby, like I had with my previous two miscarriages, I instead turned to God and prayed desperately that He would use this for His glory and that He would somehow redeem this loss. I didn't know what that would look like at the time, but I trusted that God would take care of everything. And take care of me.


You see, through our time in the pit I truly learned to trust in God. For everything. Financially we were struggling each month. But no longer did we stress and try to come up with crazy ideas to get more money. We simply prayed and believed that God would take care of us. And He did. Every. Single. Time. Our faith grew abundantly during that time because we clearly saw how God was working on our behalf. And so I knew that God would take care of this too.


This season of blessing has truly humbled me, and I thank God daily for what He has given so graciously. We certainly don't deserve it. Nothing we did or didn't do prompted God to give abundantly at this time in our lives.

But I look back on the past several years, what we went through, what we endured and how we sought God through it all (even though we were confused and had our doubts all along the way), and I feel very blessed that He brought us out on the other side- humbled by His love, grateful for His generosity, thankful for what we did go through so we would have this new perspective.


A few months after we lost our baby, we found out that we were pregnant again. The crazy thing? This little guy is due on the exact day we lost our little girl. Coincidence? Absolutely not. Redemption. God answered my prayer in such an amazing and personal and caring way.


Phillip was also offered a job at our church; Associate Missions Pastor. I cannot tell you the amount of blessing this job has provided for us. Stability in finances and knowing we will stay in one place for a while, amazing friends that we actually can get to know because we won't be moving any time soon, an awesome preschool for our kids, the chance to go on a vacation for the first time ever, health insurance, the peace of mind of seeing a midwife group that I absolutely LOVE, and a place to call home.


Speaking of home, we are actually at a place in our lives to buy a house. This is crazy and absolutely wonderful because we really never imagined this would happen. At least not this soon. But knowing that we can settle down and do ministry and raise our children in a place that we love is so exciting. Such a blessing!


We are constantly realizing new blessings that the Lord is providing for us. We are definitely in a season of blessing right now.


We also find ourselves in that weird place where we realize it's not going to last forever. God allows different seasons in our lives for reasons. Sometimes we never know the reason. Sometimes He graciously reveals it to us. But one thing is certain, we go through seasons to help us grow and mature in our faith. We go through seasons to share in the pain and suffering of others, and to rejoice and be glad with them in their blessings.


If you find yourself in a season of blessing right now:

  • Thank God! He has graciously provided this time for you. 
  • Look outward. During this season, look around and see how you can use these blessings to bless others. God does not want us to be selfish with our resources, our abilities or even our personal stories. He created us to be in community and to share what we have with others; whatever that may be.
  • If you just came out of a difficult season (or a pit, as I like to call it), remember how difficult it truly was and thank God that He carried you through it. Continue to remember what it was like so that you don't grow prideful about where you are now. It was God, it was all God.
  • Learn and grow from each season. Seasons of blessing can teach us to be humble and full of grace. They can teach us to be thankful in all things, especially if we just came out of a time that was hard or painful. They can teach us that God truly does care and He cares deeply and personally.
  • Realize it won't last forever. Chances are, you will go through another difficult time in your life. Continue to thank God for where you are now, but also pray that when you do go through the pit you will hold steadfast in your faith and in your pursuit of Him.

If you find yourself in a pit right now:

  • Thank God! It may seem impossible or counter-intuitive, but thank God for where you are. He can use all things for his Glory, and you really have no idea what will come out of this. I never expected the amazing story of redemption after losing our baby. I never realized how God could use my story of suffering and pain to encourage and bring hope and healing to other women. God can and does use all things.
  • Realize that it won't last forever. Of course, there's no way to know how long it will last. For us, the past two years we found ourselves in that difficult pit. It's not to say that we didn't also experience God's blessing during that time. We certainly did. But overall, it was a pit we were in and it lasted a long time. But it didn't last forever.
  • It's okay to ask for help. Pits are scary, and dangerous. We can turn inward and become very self absorbed. This is definitely a tendency when in a difficult season, but it's important to stay focused on God. When we start to pity ourselves and our lives, we lose focus on God and the important things in life. Everybody goes through these difficult times. Everybody. If you find yourself struggling to get through without feeling completely lost and hopeless, it's okay to ask for help. Sometimes we can't pray for ourselves when we are feeling like that, and it's important to rely on the prayers of others. Plus, you never know how God can use what you are going through to help someone else. So share your heart, share your struggles, share your pain with someone you trust.
  • Learn and grow from each season. Difficult seasons can truly make or break us. Preferably, they will be times where you frantically cling to God and use all of your energy and abilities to hold tightly to Him. Because He is the only one that can truly save you. Difficult seasons have amazing potential to grow your faith and trust in the One who cares so deeply.
  • Pray. Pray for very specific things. God is so big and cares so deeply about you. What is it you need from Him? Ask Him! After losing our baby, I desperately needed to know that God cared about me. I struggled with believing that. It just didn't seem like He did. So I prayed specifically for that. And I prayed that God would redeem our loss. And the way that He redeemed that loss was in a very personal and specific way. It showed me so clearly that He DOES care. I mean, honestly, think about how intricate the human body is and how truly difficult it is to get pregnant. Not only that, how improbable it is to ovulate and conceive at such a time that I would be due on the exact day I miscarried. It's insane, people! God is crazy in what He can and does accomplish on our behalf. He loves us so deeply. He cares about the things we care about. So just pray. Even if you don't feel like it. Even if you're upset with God. Just pray.

Whatever season of life you find yourself in; a blessing, a pit, or somewhere in between, my prayer for you is that you will thank God for where you are and pray that He continues to reveal Himself to you. I pray that your heart is open to what He is teaching you during this season, and I pray that you always cling to God and daily strive to grow your relationship with Him.


Please let me know where you find yourself these days, and how I can be praying with you.

 

Posted on August 8, 2016 and filed under life.

I finally get it

Mom,

I can't imagine what your life was like with 2 babies when you were just a baby yourself. I have young kids now and I'm in my 30's, and I feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. I can't imagine what your life was like living far away from family and not having a community. I live far away from family now, but I have a supportive community.

You share stories with me about when we were younger, and although you have never complained about how hard life really was for you, I know. I know it was exhausting, I know it was scary at times, and I know you were lonely.

Your life wasn't easy, but we never once knew that. You showed strength and determination, but most of all you showed love. We always knew you loved us. There was never a doubt. It was clear that you put us first in your life. You protected us and sheltered us when you needed to, you stood up for us, you safeguarded us against the harshness of life. You stayed with us and for us. You stayed to protect us. In all of those ways, I know that you loved us unconditionally.

My heart goes out to you. As a mother myself, I finally get it. I understand all that you did for us. And I'm filled with love for you. I mean, I've always loved you. You're my mom and you're an amazing mom. But it wasn't until I became a mom myself and truly saw the sacrifices you made for us that I understood your love.

I finally get it. I understand your love for me and my brothers now. I truly get why you stayed up late "helping" us with our class projects, why you let me come home from school when I was "sick and throwing up" knowing I just didn't want to be at school, why you made us tomato soup and let us drink it out of sippy cups just because we wanted to, why you couldn't leave me at home when you saw me crying through my bedroom window. I get it now.

I finally get it. I understand that you DO love me more. There's no question, there's no doubt. You're my mom. You will always love me more. I get it now. I will still always respond to your "I love you" texts with "I love you more" because that's what I've always done. But I'll probably add a winky face because I get it now.

A mother is strength. She is the embodiment of what it means to love unconditionally, to carry her family through all of life's ups and downs, to hold it all together. A mother's love is eternal, it is extreme, it is powerful. A mother endures babies that wake up through the night, a toddler's nightmares, messy hands and faces, marker on the walls and floors, dirty diapers and endless piles of laundry, tantrums and all day whininess, a disaster of a house because once you clean the kids destroy it all again in seconds. A mother endures these things, but she also embraces it. Life with kids might be messy, exhausting, constantly draining, but a mom knows that it won't last forever. The babies start sleeping through the night, the kids start cleaning up after themselves, those dirty diapers are no more because your kids are potty trained, and soon each and every little body will grow up and move out.

A mom knows this, and so she embraces those hectic and difficult days. Not every time, and not every moment. Because we all know that it can be relentlessly overwhelming some days. But that's motherhood. The good with the bad, the loveable and cuddly with the rowdy and chaotic, the sweet little kisses with the gnashing of teeth, the tender and quiet moments with the screaming at the top of your lungs. Motherhood.

I just want you to know that I finally get it, mom. I get what it's like to be a mom, to feel all of those emotions, to love with every fiber of my being. I finally understand your love for me. At times, I want to apologize for never getting it  before, for not showing you the appreciation you so rightly deserve, for not loving you like you love me. But I know that's silly because no one can really understand until they experience it themselves.

Please know that I appreciate you. I am grateful for all that you did in my life, how you raised me, what you taught me. I'm thankful for the moments you thought you might go insane, but were able to hold yourself together for our benefit. I'm thankful for how you took care of us when we were whiny and overtired, when we complained about every little thing, when we had ungrateful attitudes for the meals you prepared for us and the things you bought for us. Thank you for the nights you stayed up to hold us and rock us when we didn't feel good, for spending endless hours kissings our boo-boos, buying us new clothes each school year, teaching us to tie our shoes and ride our bikes, helping us with our homework and taking us to all of our practices and games. And thank you for the most important thing you could have done; teaching us about God and instilling a greater purpose in our little hearts.

Thank you for loving me enough to let me pursue the plans God has for me, for gracefully allowing me to move away and take your grand babies with. Thank you for cultivating my passion for writing and always encouraging me to pursue that. Thank you for speaking hope into my life when things were really difficult, for crying with me when life was so painful, for tenderly caring for me with the loss of life and enthusiastically sharing the joys of new life.

Your role in our lives may have seemed like just the thing that moms do. But it was more than that, as it should be. And I, for one, finally get it and I am so thankful that you were there through all of that.
I am thankful that I finally get it.

Thank you for being my mom. I love you (more ;-) )

Posted on May 6, 2016 and filed under life.

Pillow Prayers

I must admit that I don’t often have quiet prayer/devotional time during the day. Since my kids are up around 6:30 am, I find it difficult to get up before them. With an active 2 year old and 9 month it is nearly impossible to have a quiet moment when they are awake. Nap times…well, I try as best as I can to get them to nap at the same time. But honestly, it’s touch and go most days. When they actually do nap at the same time, I will admit that I often choose to clean up from the whirlwind of the morning’s activities.

I used to feel so guilty about not taking quiet time during the day, or about not giving God my first moments of the morning or the downtime I had during the day. I would get so frustrated as I would attempt to get a few moments of reading or praying in, only to have one of the kids wake up early from a nap, or my husband need me to do something, or whatever other hundred things would distract me from my spiritual duties.

And then the other night, as I laid in bed and poured out my heart to God, I realized that just because I don’t get up before dawn, or spend all of my quiet day time moments praying, it doesn’t meant that I don’t give of my time to God. What I realized in that moment is that I do what I would call “pillow prayers”. As I lay my head on my pillow, exhausted from the relentlessness of the day, I give God the rawest version of myself. I may be exhausted, yes, but I’m also brutally honest in those moments. Maybe because I’m so exhausted.


These pillow prayers are my honest cries and pleas. I share with God my daily hurdles, my frustrations, the aggravations I felt, the moments when I wanted to lose all control. I share with Him my daily joys, the pleasures I get from raising two babies and being a wife to an amazing man. I share with Him my struggles of wanting to go to the mission field, but also desperately not wanting to go, of being excited, but also uncertain. My pillow is usually saturated with tears (and yes, maybe a little snot too. You know how it is!), but like I said, it’s raw emotion.

And it’s in these moments that I feel God’s presence. It’s often a sort of peace. A peace that usually just lulls me to sleep. I remember when I was younger being warned about not praying in bed because you will probably fall asleep. But honestly, why wouldn’t you want to fall asleep talking to God? To me it’s one of the best ways to fall asleep. I’m certain that I often conk out mid thought. But I doubt that God really cares.

So, if like me, you find yourself feeling guilty over not having time during the hectic days to sit and read and pray, give yourself some grace. God does. Of course, we do need to make the effort. That’s not what I’m saying. But sometimes, at night, when the lights are off and you’re completely and utterly exhausted, it’s the best time to pour your heart out to our Creator.

I'm sure that as the kids get older, and the the chaos of raising two little people starts to mold into a more stable and predictable routine, my ability to have quiet time with God during the day will begin to develop and evolve. I'm not saying that it's not important to be disciplined and you shouldn't make those moments a priority. I absolutely think that you should. What I am saying is that there will be seasons in your life when it's so challenging and almost implausible to do that at the same time every day. And that's okay. I believe that God understands. And I believe that He cares more about you simply communicating with Him, and not necessarily that you stick to a rigid schedule. So if you find a time and place that allows you to give yourself completely to God, even if it happens to be in the middle of the night, when you wake up to feed your hungry infant, by all means do that!

Posted on June 10, 2014 and filed under prayer.