Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  All of my favorite parts - family, good food, and a focus on God - without the commercialism that has infected Christmas and even Easter.  One of the only God-honoring holidays that we still call by name on our school calendar ("Thanksgiving Break"). 

Now, though, Thanksgiving is bittersweet.  Last year, Thanksgiving came just a week after my D&C where Kyria's tiny body was removed from mine.  We gather with family, but it is with the keen sense that we are missing three little someones who left this earth far too soon.  This year, I'm starkly aware of my flat stomach that is not seven months pregnant as it would be if Jordan had lived.  That we don't have a one-year-old or a six-month-old, as we would if Naomi or Kyria had survived.

Sometimes, people want to help me feel better, more thankful.  When they do, they often begin with "at least..."  "At least you have your daughter...at least you're healthy this year...at least you know you can get pregnant..."  Yes, I'm thankful for those things, but they don't remove the hurt in my heart for my children in heaven.  Nor should they.  The human heart is capable of great extremes - fear and excitement, hurt and peace, sadness and joy.  Gratitude and sorrow.  Missing my children doesn't mean I don't love the family that I have.  Rather, it's a testimony to that love that is so precious that I wanted to express it to our children.

But there's another love that I need to focus on this Thanksgiving - God's eternal love.  The greatest blessing in my life is knowing God as my Father because of Jesus' death and resurrection.  Because of that, I know there is much more to life than the here and now.  Because of that, I know that my "good-bye" to my children is temporary.  Because of that, I know that "our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor. 4:17, NIV).  Not "at least", but "the most!"  As hard as the empty chairs are around my table, how much sadder it must make our heavenly Father to have empty places in the Book of Life, where names could be written if only people would trust in Jesus. 

And so - my challenge to me and to you - when we think about our missing children this Thanksgiving, let's also think about God's "missing" children and consider how we can share the good news of eternal life in Jesus with others, and so help fill God's house with family from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Even though

One of the emotions I struggled with the most after we lost Naomi was fear.  The unthinkable had happened.  I had lost my baby.  Not only that, but God had allowed it.  Who would I lose next?  I was fearful for my husband, my parents, and especially my one-year-old daughter.  I cringed when she went down a slide, when she played on the swings, when she climbed on a chair.  I went into her room at night to make sure she was still breathing.  I was hypervigilant, reasoning that if I wasn't, I could lose her, too.  I couldn't trust God to keep my loved ones safe.  After all, He had let me down.  Either He wasn't watching or didn't care...so I would do His job for him.

One weekend during this period of time, my husband was preparing his sermon on Psalm 46, and God used the words to touch my heart:

God is our refuge and strength
A very present help in trouble
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea
Though its waters roar and foam
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride....
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. (v. 1-3, 7; NASB)

Could I learn how to do that again?  Could I trust God to be my stronghold?  I tried putting my situation into the verse - I will not fear, even though I lost my baby; even though I almost died myself; even though I was still recovering from abdominal surgery, even though....  Wow, that was hard.  How could I not fear in light of all that God allowed to happen to me?  Some stronghold!

Then I read the end of the Psalm. 

He makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth."
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. (v. 9-11, NASB)

Someday, God will make the wars end.  He will bring peace to the earth.  He will put an end to suffering and miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy and stillbirth and early infant death.  Not yet, but someday.  But in the now, he is with us.  He is our stronghold in a world where everything can go wrong.  He is our refuge and strength in the even though when our circumstances mock our belief in a strong and loving God.

It has taken me a long time to walk in the truth of what that Psalm teaches, and there are some days where my grief is too close and I can't see the big picture.  But I am learning the even though of following God, and, ever-so-gradually, how to cease striving and know - and trust - that He is God.

Monday, November 8, 2010

When you lose a baby....

When someone loses a baby, it's common for people around them to minimize the loss, at least in their minds, by comparing it to a later loss.  At least it was early in the pregnancy...at least it wasn't a late loss...it would be so much harder if it was such-and-such an age.

What people don't always realize is that when we lose a baby, no matter what age in the womb, we lose a unique person, and we lose the child, the teenager, the adult that person would have been.

I lost Jordan in May at four weeks' gestation.  "Barely pregnant" people might say.  But when I lost Jordan...
  • I lost the full-term baby I would have delivered next February.
  • I lost a toddler who will never need me to kiss a scraped knee.
  • I lost a five-year-old who will never start kindergarten.
  • I lost a teen-ager who will never make me cringe by learning to drive my car.
  • I lost a high school graduate whom I won't help pack for college.
  • I lost a young adult whom I will never plan a wedding for.
  • I lost a lifetime of memories that will never be made. 
Hence, my sadness.  The loss of a precious individual, a unique mix of my husband and me,whom I will not know this side of heaven.  If you, too, have had a very early loss like mine, know that you are allowed to grieve, that it is normal to grieve.  You many sometimes wonder if it was a dream, if you really were pregnant.  You were, and your baby lives on in the presence of a holy, loving God.  But it's normal and human and motherly to wish your baby were still with you now, and to shed many precious tears for the life that would have been.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Remembering Kyria Hope

This week marked the one-year anniversary of learning that our third baby's heart had stopped beating.  Our miracle baby, the one we conceived six months after the worst heartbreak of our lives.  The one who restored our hope in the possibility of more children.  We had seen her heartbeat twice on ultrasounds - and supposedly seeing a heartbeat means the risk of miscarriage drops.  But risk means nothing when it is your baby's heart that has stopped beating.  And the realization that our children in heaven (two at that point) outnumbered our children on earth was heartbreaking for me.
I was eight weeks along at the ultrasound where we learned our sweet Kyria had gone to heaven.  We had seen her heartbeat a week before, but she measured six and a half weeks at that point.  She measured one day more on the day of our appointment.  So we figured she died sometime during my seventh week of pregnancy.

When you have an early loss, it's hard to know what days to remember later.  Is it the day your baby died?  The day you learned about your baby's death?  The day you actually miscarried? Or the day you had a medical procedure that emptied your womb? And how do you talk about a baby whose gender is unknown?  Maybe all of these unknowns are why there's so much ambiguity connected with early pregnancy losses.  We are missing so many of those things that are normally a comfort when we lose someone special -- pictures, memories, a body, even something as basic as the pronouns we need to refer to our children.

We chose to give our baby a girl's name, Kyria Hope, and I think I remember her pretty much the entire month of October (when she probably died) and November (when we said good-bye).  If she had lived, she would have been born around our eighth anniversary and would now be nearly five months old.  The "if only" of another, phantom world.  Instead, we are living this reality, and we remember her with both tears and smiles, and look forward to being reunited with her someday in heaven.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Do you dare to believe?

There's a song I've heard a lot on our Christian radio station lately -- "Before the Morning" by Ben Glover and Josh Wilson.  One of the lines is, "Do you dare, do you dare to believe, that you still have a reason to sing?"  Do I?  Do I dare to believe that God is good and worthy of praise, even when my heart breaks?  Even when my plans don't turn out the way I want?  What is my reason to sing?  Is it only my happiness, or is it because I serve an amazing Savior?  I pray that my answer will always be that God deserves praise, period.  Our worship may be mingled with tears, but someday even those will be wiped away.