Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: "An Empty Cradle, A Full Heart"

An Empty Cradle, A Full Heart from Loyola Press is a book that is small on size and huge on impact.  The subtitle is "Reflections for mothers and fathers aftter miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death."  It's a collection of brief (one-paragraph) expressions of different stages of grieving the loss of a child, alternating with Scriptures that address that topic. 

Here is one example from the chapter "Reflections for fathers":

I held her perfect little body.  Tiny toes and fingers and wispy dark hair.  It's hard to believe that just a few hours ago she was alive inside my wife.  Something happened - I'm still not exactly sure what - and she died just before she was born.  How could that precious little body be so lifeless?

Holding her wasn't like I expected it to be, but I'm glad that at least I got to tell her that Daddy loves her.
And on the facing page:
"...you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you."  Isaiah 43:5
The reflections are heart-wrenchingly honest cries, sharing everything from keeping busy so it doesn't hurt so much, to reflecting on an empty crib, to feeling imprisoned by grief, to the suprise of feeling slivers of joy break through when you think you will never smile again.  This book doesn't preach or teach.  There is no commentary to explain the Scriptures or the reflections.  It just sits in your hands and offers the thoughts of other moms and dads to give you comfort, let you know that you're not alone, and to give you a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.   Reading it made me cry and smile at the same time, and was strangely comforting in both.  It's a book I'm keeping around to give as a gift to others who have to deal with this awful sorrow.  I strongly recommend it, especially if you have a more poetic nature.  It will speak to your heart and to your soul.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My One Word

We are now two weeks into the new year. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? If you are like me, you make them and by now (two weeks in) are rethinking them or kicking yourself for already breaking them. Or if you have felt clobbered by life (as I did in 2009), maybe you pushed the whole resolution thing aside in favor of just surviving.

Some friends online told me about a New Year’s idea that I love – it’s called “My One Word”, and the idea is that instead of making a bunch of resolutions or promises that are hard to keep up with, you choose one word that represents what you sense God is working on in you, or what He is doing in your life, and you focus on that one word or idea for the year.

Just thinking about it is helping me do some positive soul searching. In retrospect, my word for 2009 would have been “Survive.” I survived multiple surgeries, the loss of two children, two cancer scares, and more stress than I have ever been under. My word for 2010 would have been “Strength” as I focused on regaining my strength physically and emotionally. Looking ahead at 2011, I keep getting drawn to the word “Submit.” Not a word we think about real positively in our culture, is it? We think of submitting as giving in and giving up. But the Greek word for it, hupotasso, actually is a military term that means “to arrange in order under” someone. The idea is not mindless obedience, but yielding out of respect for the one over you, and this is what I sense God is doing in me this year.
  • I want to submit to God’s plan for my life, whatever it is, day by day.
  • I want to submit my choices to the Word of God.
  • I want to submit my character to the Holy Spirit’s molding power.
  • I want to submit my needs to others’, beginning at home with my husband, and extending that to other relationships, too, with my family, my co-workers, and my friends.
As you look at this next year, what is your one word? Where else can you go with it? If you’ve lost a baby recently, maybe what comes to mind first is remembering your child in heaven. As you think on that, what else can you remember? God’s promises? Who you are in Christ? There are some great ideas on the website www.myoneword.org. I encourage you to think on this and ask God to show you how He wants to move in your life this year, how he wants you to steward your story. I am praying for you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New year, new hope, new beginnings

In the last thirty minutes, the year 2010 has faded into history and 2011I  has taken the stage.  I was reflecting earlier on where I was this time two years ago (several months before Naomi's death began our journey into the worold of pregnancy loss) and one year ago (rejoicing in a negative biopsy report and remembering our second loss, Kyria).  Last year, I couldn't wait to leave 2009 behind and all of the hurt and grief it represented.  The year 2010 seemed to hold such promise - surely it couldn't be worse than the year we had just finished!  Have you ever felt that way?

Now I find myself feeling the same way about 2011.  A new year, full of hope and possibilities.  But also full of memories, and I am caught in the middle - between wanting to move forward into the future God has for me and my family, and not wanting to forget my babies in heaven, who are permanently in the past.  The new memories I make in 2011 will not include them, except as we bring the memory of their brief lives into what we do.

I've also been reminded that my hope can't be in the freshness of a year with less than an hour under its belt.  There is nothing magical about the clock striking 12 or opening a new calendar.  I am the same person, with the same life, the same grief, the same wishes...and the same Savior.  Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I am heading into a time of year that triggers a lot of memories as we approach the second anniversary of Naomi's death, and my hope this year is that as I walk through those memories, I will be clinging tightly to my Savior's nail-scarred hand and allowing Him to comfort me. 

Especially for those of you who can't wait to leave 2010 behind, my prayer for you is the same.  The first year after a loss is hard as it is full of anniversaries and the "first ____ without" (you fill in the blank).  May God tenderly hold you as you walk those steps and lead you into His light and hope.