How To Give Thanks After Losing a Baby

Photo via Creative Commons

Photo via Creative Commons

It was the day before Thanksgiving, three years ago when I sat on a padded bench in the exam room and prayed the doctor would send me to labor and delivery.

I remember the doctor’s compassionate eyes. She wore fake lashes but her kindness was real. In the end she admitted me more for sympathy than my shaky medical grounds.

Only days prior, my husband and I had sat in the same office, giddy over a routine ultrasound. We grew suspicious when the ultrasound tech left abruptly. I should have seen the grief written across the tech’s face.

We were dumbstruck when the doctor delivered the news. I carried in me a lifeless baby.

Something had gone wrong with umbilical cord, she said. My baby hadn’t received the nutrients to support its growing frame.

Just as my son had stopped living and lay still in my womb, the shock knocked my world off its axis and I, too, laid still in disbelief.

The doctor scheduled an induction, but because of Thanksgiving, it wouldn’t happen for two weeks.

Fourteen days of limbo proved too long to wait. My pregnancy had ended, but it wasn’t quite over. My protruding belly served as a constant reminder of grief.

The tiny baby seemed heavier every day, like someone had piled rocks in my womb.

Perhaps the baby’s stillness was the worst part. I hated that he didn’t move. I waited for him to move. I prayed he would move, but the flutters I once felt had disappeared.

His birth certificate says stillborn, but I prefer the older euphemism, born sleeping.

Luke was born sleeping on a foggy Thanksgiving Day in 2011. And I was thankful.

Thankful I didn’t have to endure contractions for two weeks.

Thankful I could begin to mourn him. Thankful I could begin to heal.

Today, I’m so glad I held Luke in my arms. I didn’t want to a first; it was too painful. But I knew I might regret it if I didn’t at least tell him hello and goodbye.

His skin was grayish pink. At only 24 weeks, the blanket swallowed him.

His footprints and photos are buried in a box in my closet. I don’t know if I will ever open it, but I’m thankful it’s there.

The week my son was born I prayed God would show me one hundred ways He would work this tragedy for my good.

Later I upped the ante and prayed for one thousand ways. One hundred felt too easy a request for an infinite God, and the list I made in my head sped closer to the 100 mark every hour.

Today I wish I would have written the list down on paper. Ways God worked to redeem my ache and emptiness flooded me.

I counted and counted until I lost track.

When Sammy was born 10 months later, I knew the list would reach 1,000 even if I didn’t count every smile, coo and kiss. God answered my prayer.

Luke’s dying gave way to Sammy’s living, and I will forever be grateful.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV).

When Self-Hate Threatens Another Beat Down

Photo by Rachel Cramer via Creative Commons

Photo by Rachel Cramer via Creative Commons

 

I had a holy moment today. Not quite a take-off-your-shoes-you’re-on-holy-ground moment, but almost.

You’ve probably had your own God-epiphanies.

The word revelation comes to mind because my heart instantly understood what my head has always known.

God loves me.

I did what I always do in these God-thick moments, and I cried.

I realized how void my life is of His Love. I saw how often I run from this love because I don’t feel worthy.

I test and measure myself and always come up short. Jesus never measures me this way.

He is love. He is forgiveness. Redemption. Peace.

So, why do I struggle sometimes—and I mean truly wrestle with condemnation, fear and all-hands-on-deck self-hate? Not to mention my daily tug-o-war with anxiety.

My history of legalism, no doubt, has contributed. And without God’s love in the center of our lives, won’t we always teeter on the edge of legalism?

When love doesn’t motivate us, how can we experience a relationship with Christ that doesn’t end in an authoritarian relationship based in fear?

I’ve also had many run-ins with those who speak in God’s name but don’t espouse His very nature of love.

Church has taught me to be wary of loving myself, to care little for myself.

I’m learning there’s a difference in loving yourself and making an idol of self.

God’s teaching me how to love myself because He first loved me. If I can take a peek through His eyes, I won’t swim in self-defeat. I won’t even stick in my toe if I can daily catch a glimpse of this all-satisfying love.

We like to believe we’re carving out time for God when we pray or read our Bibles.

But isn’t it really time to position ourselves before the God of love because somehow a holy transaction takes place and this God-type love rubs off on us?

When we experience God’s love at our core, we love ourselves. Self-hate and God’s love can’t coincide. We love ourselves as a byproduct of God’s love working in us.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39 ESV).

Will you posture yourself to receive His love today? In a nanosecond, He can reveal His love to you and buoy you out of a swamp of condemnation and fear.

Will you let Him?

 

Photo Credit

The Dark Side of Idealism

Photo by David Woo via Creative Commons

Photo by David Woo via Creative Commons

I came undone there on the floor of the downstairs bathroom, all sobs and chest heaving for air.

“Did someone die?” my husband asks through the crack in the door.

No death except the quiet passing away of my idealism. Those cruel visions of my better self melted right there on the tile floor.

It was the kind of weeping that had been building up for months, maybe even years, and it erupted like Mt. St. Helen.

“You’re scaring the kids,” he says about 15 minutes later.

“Just keep them upstairs,” I muster. “I’ll be up to put them to bed in a minute.”

One minute turned into another 15 as I realized I couldn’t hold back the tears, nor should I.

I wept for my inability to be a better mother, a more accomplished writer, a better equipped tutor or more caring friend.

I wept for my lack.

Like Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse I surrendered my idealism. I waved my white flag to God right there beside the toilet.

Some days our biggest enemy doesn’t prowl around like a roaring lion, it stares at us in the mirror.

It’s in the giving up of our goals and plans and our self-imposed deadlines that we can embrace God’s plans for us.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

When we receive His grace each day, we take in His power, His perplexing strength to overcome our weaknesses.

I know these God paradoxes well.

It’s in the bending down to serve when we are lifted high.

It’s the open, empty hands God fills.

When we are weak, we’re really strong because His strength is made perfect in OUR weakness.

But these upside-down kingdom principles are only beautiful to a mind that’s been renewed. To all else, God’s ways are nonsensical, utter foolishness.

Despite knowing God’s grace is sufficient for me, I often try to perfect myself.

I want to be strong and flawless. I tire of being that earthen vessel the glory of God shines through. How about you? Do you long for God remove your weaknesses?

Asking for help is not my strong suit, but I’m learning to ask for help from people—and God.

But I’m relearning how to surrender each hour, each moment to God. And it’s in this place where our lives intersect with the abundant life Christ died to give us.

Giving up is the first step to abiding with Christ. Walking in the Spirit happens when we trade our comfortable pace to keep step with His Spirit.

Matthew Henry’s words I read earlier this week keep coming back, reminding me to keep seeking the Living Water.

“Sometimes He keeps the cistern empty; that He may bring us to Himself, the Fountain.”

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When Envy Distorts Your View of Yourself and Others

Photo via Creative Commons.

Photo via Creative Commons.

I’ve never been the jealous type.

If you buy a new house, I won’t covet your hardwood floors. I’m thrilled for you if you own a stunning wardrobe.

It might be hard to believe, but I’m happy to see your vacation photos. Sure I wish you would have taken me, (I AM human) but I love to see God bless people.

Maybe I thought I was impervious to jealousy. I was wrong.

Five months ago when I started this blog, I went on a blog subscription frenzy. I thought I would learn from the best in Christian publishing.

The jealousy started almost as fast as my inbox flooded with polished prose.

I soaked up every word. These writers had turned blogging into an art form.

But instead of rejoicing with my fellow wordsmiths, my heart took an ugly turn. I could only see how my words lacked the poetic ring of Ann Voskamp’s writing.

Would my words ever inspire like Mary DeMuth’s or encourage like Holley Gerth’s? Could my posts challenge the way Jennifer Dukes Lee’s do or bring as many laughs as Annie Downs?

And why can’t I seem to narrow my focus into one resounding theme like the way Crystal Stine hangs her entire blog around the word community?

By opening up the door of comparison, I allowed envy to walk in and strangle my joy. All of a sudden my blog posts weren’t witty enough, punchy or deep enough. I could only see my lack.

I coveted their books, too. As I elevated these writers, I forgot they were normal people, like you or me.

Maybe that’s the dangerous side of jealousy. It doesn’t only steal happiness, but it blinds us to our own blessings and causes us to see a distorted world—a world where our gifts never seem like enough.

Jealousy and competition mar our view of Christ’s body. Falling prey to envy prohibits us from fully functioning where God has placed us.

Whether you’re a writer or not, God’s gifted you with your experiences, personality and vantage point to create the depth and timbre of your voice.

Whether you write, speak or sit on a pew, your voice matters.

Photo Via Creative Commons.

Photo Via Creative Commons.

I remember the day God asked me to pray a blessing over one of these bloggers, to pray an increase over their lives and ministry. He asked me to pray what I ached for.

When I balked, I saw the green-eyed monster. But the second I obeyed, God began to change my heart.

I began to see how each author’s message was so often born from a mess. I saw how God likes to use the wounded to write healing words and how books sometimes come only after years of cross carrying.

I see a community of writers to whom God has given talent, each with a different voice, each with a different message. What a lovely thing to behold.

And I’m excited to take a seat among them. Today as I write this my heart sings Mary’s ancient words.

“‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled’” (Luke 1:38 NIV).

In the end this writing life is about serving. “Platform” building is only another opportunity to bow down and wash some feet.

Book photo credit

Book/vase photo credit

When Work Doesn’t Feel Like Worship

Photo by Mark Spearman, via Creative Commons.

Photo by Mark Spearman, via Creative Commons.

Mom kept the gritty green soap by the sink for dad to scrub the grease out of the creases of his hands. Tractor grime and machine oil made a home in his fingernails.

As a child, I would watch his pocket knife scrape the black from underneath his nails. They never stayed clean for long. Roads needed grading, cattle were hungry, and fences never mended themselves.

Those dirty, work-worn hands held me and tucked me in at night.

While some men punched out blue collar jobs with disdain, my father arrested each day with joy.

I still glimpse that joy in him today. As he drives a bailer through wind-swept, Oklahoma fields, he brags about his view from the cabin, as if to say, can you believe I get to do this all day long?

Interrupt him and you’ll hear the same maxim, “We’re burning daylight.”

Although dad’s no armchair theologian, he understands as well as Adam the outcome of man’s fall: dusty earth and sweat on his brow. But dad has never seen work as a curse.

Dad’s habits teach a message of faithfulness in the way he wakes up every day to welcome work as a reward.

dad1

Photo by David Brossard via Creative Commons

Photo by David Brossard via Creative Commons

dadphoto

As a child, dad didn’t believe in church, and I wasn’t sure if he believed in God. If he prayed, it was while he chopped wood or sowed fields by the last light of day.

He hasn’t memorized much Scripture but can preach about how an open heart can find joy in the mundane, and how a sharp mind can find interest in almost anything. And he can talk for days about agriculture if you let him.

His life speaks about finding purpose in labor, how to toil well without trading peace for grumbling.

Isn’t there always room to gripe about our lot in life?

But dad’s learned the expense of complaining isn’t worth the return. A paycheck-to-paycheck life teaches thankfulness in a way that having more than you need never will.

I can’t recall a day his hands haven’t found something to do. Maybe that’s just life on a farm.

Or maybe it’s because he doesn’t see work as a burden. He chooses to see work as life-giving instead of soul-draining.

Today my father’s fingernails still attract dirt from every direction. He often jokes that he gets to play in the dirt with his favorite toy, a mini bulldozer. As he clears pastures and levels earth to make ponds and houses, you would never know he’s working.

He tells me he’s made his peace with the One who never stops working on our behalf.

I think work can lead us all to worship if we’ll let it.

 

This post is a part of The High Calling’s community link-up. Anyone can share stories. Check it out here.

 

Brossard Photo Credit

Spearman Photo Credit