Was this the big oops?

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Baby Esther, alive and well.

God is so smart in giving us nine months to prepare for a new baby. Not just physically grow and develop, but to emotionally prepare, grow, stretch, and process. Some days I cannot believe we’ve actually made it past the half way mark of this pregnancy, and other days it feels like we have been on this journey forever. I am now five months pregnant with our sixth child, our daughter Esther. She is active most every morning when I wake up and after I eat sugary foods so I am using that as my excuse to indulge in my sweet tooth. I love feeling her kick and move around. I love feeling the life that grows inside of me.

I know all of my children are alive and well, including Nathan, Timothy, and Evelyn. They are alive in Heaven and I will get to see them again someday. But for now, my heart still grieves the time I would have liked to have with them here. Sometimes I even imagine the chaos we would have with six children in our home and smile as I shudder at the thought. I miss them. I miss the time I would have had to hold them, raise them, hug and kiss them and even discipline their wild personalities. Today, as so many in our nation remember those who have fallen in battle on Memorial Day, I am grateful I do not have a loss such as that to grieve. But I find myself, instead, reflecting on the loss of time I dreamt of with my littles.

This past weekend, Brett and I had the privilege of officiating a wedding for some dear friends. After the ceremony, we took Elle and Johnny and headed to the reception. During the dinner the four of us were seated next to two other couples we didn’t know. Regular conversation ensued and the starter questions began. One of the women mentioned she noticed the age gap in our children: Elle and Johnny being close in age, and me pregnant again six years later, then asked if this baby “was the big oops? You know, like we have a plan and God laughs sort of thing.” My logic totally understood the question, the context (she had just shared that they are expecting baby number two and are absolutely done after he comes) and the innocence of her asking. However, my heart wanted to scream. No, this child was not an oops. This child has been dreamt of, desired, fought for, prayed for, and waited for. I have been through hell and back in our journey of child bearing. This child is a gift from God and one I cherish. Every moment I get with Esther is a blessing, no matter if it is short or long. (Don’t anyone panic. I did not lose it on the poor unsuspecting woman, I simply smiled, said no, and let Brett take the conversation from there).

When I speak to people who have not lost a child, they often admit miscarriage leaves them confused and heartbroken for the person who is hurting, but they don’t know how to support them well. Obviously, I cannot speak for others, but I do love sharing my process to help validate those who have experienced loss, and to help encourage those who have a loved one they want to support. I have found that once you have had a child taken from your life, your arms, your womb or your heart, you truly treasure every moment God gives you with your children. You know it can be gone in an instant and never see it again as a burden or curse. Don’t hear me wrong though- pregnancy, birth, and parenting are HARD! I will be the first to admit that, and in saying I don’t take it for granted I am not denying the hardship that comes with bearing and raising children. But what I am saying is it is worth it. Every moment of sleep deprivation, every day that ends in frustration and exhaustion, every tear shed has a payback that comes in hugs, kisses, and relationship that is worth it all. Even the short time of horribly hard pregnancy I had with Nathan, Timothy, and Evelyn was worth it. Each of those pregnancies were unique and special in their own ways. I treasure the memories I had with each one.

Nathan’s pregnancy was my easiest and I like to think he would have been my easy child. Timothy’s pregnancy was filled with unique cravings and wild dreams. He would have been my fireball. While pregnant with Evelyn, I didn’t want a single ounce of sugar and craved pickles and vinegar all day long. She would have been my unique little lady who ran to the beat of her own drum. Many don’t know this, but in His mercy, God has given me dreams of each of my children. I have met them, seen them, spoken with some and experienced all of them. If you have lost a child, I encourage you to ask God to show them to you in your dreams too. After all, they are alive and well and waiting to greet you in Heaven some day.

Back to the clouded remark of whether this pregnancy was an oops, I am not angry with this woman for her question. It was totally understandable. Shoot, I used to make similar remarks before I experienced what I have. But what I wanted to highlight was that I was shocked how quickly my heart reacted to the comment and I realized that I had a new invitation to walk through another wave of grief I didn’t see coming. It would be easy to write it off and invalidate my heart by saying it was harmless and I shouldn’t be upset, or even shove down my emotions and deny them because emotions can be exhausting. Instead, I have found allowing myself to cry when needed is key. I let the emotion physically manifest and come out, rather than trying to hold it in. This is a big deal as I have never liked crying, especially when I can see logically its “silly” or unnecessary. But crying is cathartic. Even just one tear. As I allow my heart to feel what it needs to feel, Jesus tenderly validates the hurt then begins to comfort me and fill me back up with His joy as I reflect on all that I am grateful for. I have a choice in these moments. I can deny my heart and allow the hurts to build up and create in me a heart of stone, or I can take a moment to walk through it with Jesus and come out more healed on the other side. Some may see this as whining or getting stuck on the past. However, I am seeing that the more I do not deny pain, the more I can also receive joy and see how truly blessed I am:

I am grateful for the short time I got with each of my Heavenly babies. I am grateful to get to raise Elle, Johnny, and Esther this side of Heaven. I am grateful for a husband who is not afraid to walk through the fire with me as we sort through our journey. I am thankful for a Savior who isn’t afraid of my emotions or grief but delights in processing through it all with me. I am thankful for community, family, and friends who love us well and stand by our side. I am thankful for all that God has entrusted us with and I look forward to an amazing, intentional, blessed, and surprising future!

Hope Deferred

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Receiving prayer for our daughter Esther and this pregnancy by friends at our home.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13.12

Hope deferred. This is the state Brett and I have found ourselves in quite often the past year. Many days, we could come up for a breathe and felt we weren’t trapped by its grip. Others, we could feel it consuming our hope and making our hearts sick. Our journey of life and loss the past year has come with enormous waves of emotions. I am sure many of you have read my posts and heard them through your own filters and experience but the most honest truth is that it’s been a journey of uncertainty in myself while being completely certain of the goodness of God. I have a history of being someone who is run more by my logic than my emotion. I spent my younger years mocking people who were (in my opinion) overly emotional. As I have grown and matured a bit, I have come to realize my heart deserves a voice and while I don’t need to allow my emotions to drive me, I certainly need to validate and experience them. Walking through the past year of conceiving three times and miscarrying twice has brought a wealth of emotions I am ofter overwhelmed by and even frustrated with. Often in my grief, I find myself full of faith and hope knowing Jesus is still on the throne and I have nothing to fear. Other days, I am annoyed with the fact that my emotions are bouncing all over the place and I cannot seem to get my brain to slow down. Then there are days my hope seems lost, and although I know the sun will set and rise again tomorrow, I realize my hope is deferred and my heart feels sick.

I write about these deeply personal things to bring it into the light and encourage those who are facing trials that they are not alone, or a defect. The truth is that I can love and trust Jesus with all my heart while feeling absolutely hope deferred, weary, and even lost. Those feelings are not who I am, what I believe, or what defines me. They are simply that: feelings. Something I feel that I can choose to partner with or choose to experience and surrender to Jesus. The enemy of our souls wants to condemn us and make us fear that our feelings define our lack of faith or that they define us as “less than” what we hope to be. But this simply isn’t truth. Our emotions are not what define us nor are they the enemy. Our emotions are something God created when He created us in His image. With that in mind, surely, they must be important.

The dictionary defines hope as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best”. Deferred is defined as “postponed or delayed”. So how do we handle life appropriately as a Christian when crisis hits?  When the thing we so hoped for is postponed or delayed, when our hearts are broken and the pain of life, or death, is consuming? I think we are called to face it, process it, and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. In chapter 11 of the book of John, sisters Mary and Martha hoped for their sick brother Lazarus to be healed by their friend Jesus. Because of their history with Him, they certainly believed that what they wanted (their brother to live) could happen and that the events could turn out for the best if Jesus would show up in time. They sent for Him and hoped. Sadly, their brother Lazarus died and Jesus did not arrive in time. What Martha and Mary hoped for was postponed, delayed, and now maybe even felt impossible. When Jesus did show up, days later, they made some choices we can learn from and model. As Jesus approached Martha and Mary’s home, the sisters did not avoid Him, stonewall Him or even pretend nothing bad had happened. Instead, they rushed to Him and boldly approached Him with their feelings. Martha said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” I hear Martha saying two things here: first, she is upset that He didn’t do what she had hoped for the way she had expected it. Second, she is resubmitting her hope to Him and in Him, declaring her trust in Jesus. Next, Mary came running to Jesus. She was much more public with her emotions and approached Him weeping as she said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Verse 33 says “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,” then He wept with her! He didn’t scold her for being emotional in front of the community and showing a lack of faith. He didn’t shame her for displaying her disappointment publicly. Instead, He synced with her and wept with her, meeting her sorrow and disappointment with compassion, all the while fully knowing He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. This would have been an ideal moment to put her in her place in front of the onlookers, point out her faults to save face. But He didn’t. He stopped, he met her with compassion and love, and spent time with her in her grief before moving on to resurrect her brother (spoiler alert). How often do we think Jesus would never meet us with patience and compassion because the people around us don’t know how to do it, or we don’t know how to?

When I lost Timothy last year, I laid in bed one day crying and asking Jesus for help. In my mind’s eye, I could see Him laying in my bed in front of me weeping with me. For months, this is what He would show me every time I was crying out for Him. It got really old after a while and I got frustrated because I wanted Him to FIX my situation, not cry over it. When I threatened to stop crying with Him, he gently showed me it was what my heart really needed. We had been given many words about Timothy’s life being about redemption. Timothy dying in my womb didn’t feel redeeming but as I wept with Jesus over and over, He showed me that He was redeeming the time I never got to mourn the loss of our first son, Nathan, and so many other hurts and disappointments from the past that I didn’t know how to face. The thing is, we can run from our hurts and pain, but it doesn’t make them disappear. If we choose to avoid these hoping time will “fix” us, we end up with a heart of stone and cannot show compassion or love to others in their grief, loss, and pain. Time does not heal all wounds, the love of Christ and those around us does.

When something we have hoped for, prayed for, longed for is delayed and seemingly never going to happen, the temptation may be to give up, hide, stonewall or deny the desire of our hearts. I know for me, I used to believe if I didn’t hope for something to start with then I couldn’t be disappointed if it didn’t happen. (I can testify that did not work well for me but did make me a cold stoney hearted person who didn’t know how to dream.) Instead, what we can do is run full force into the arms of Jesus with our pain, our emotions, our disappointments and weep with Him. We can fix our eyes on Him and declare our faith that He can do all things. We can proclaim that He can work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8.28) until we actually see it happen. This is not to deny our feelings but instead to give power to Christ and His good plans for us. Our feelings are not meant to run our lives but they are important and meant to be experienced, validated, and processed.

I would love to say that at this point Brett and I are all good, we have no more difficult emotions and are not in a place of hope deferred. But that would only be part of the truth. We are doing really well, but we are also challenged from time to time with doubt and fear. Temptation to lose hope for our dreams for this child raises its ugly head here and there. In fact, I had a horrible dream a couple weeks ago that the baby had passed away and I woke up sobbing. Even this week, I had more physical complications that indicated miscarriage and we had do go in for our fifth ultrasound (everything is fine, again). However, I now have an established and deep relationship to take those fear filled, hope deferred emotions to. I can surrender it to the Someone Who can take it from me and for me. The enemy may come to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus came to give me (and you) LIFE and LIFE ABUNDANT. So I will process with Him, I will talk it out with Him, and I will continue to trust Him. This is not always easy, or fast moving, but it is worth it. Because I have processed our journey and my emotions with Jesus, I am now being freed up to truly celebrate our sixth child, our daughter Esther (and that feeling is really great)! My heart may have felt sick many times the past year, but I am trusting, declaring and believing that my dream fulfilled will be a tree of life. If I have learned anything through this, its that if we cannot truly grieve, we cannot fully release our hearts to celebrate either. And I am ready to celebrate!

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Our daughter Esther ALIVE at 18 weeks! Check out that beautiful heartbeat.