Tuesday, July 29, 2008

a silent heartache

I can remember praying in high school, and then later on after I was married, that God would spare me pain revolving around miscarriage and infant death. I was specific on what I wanted: healthy pregnancies and healthy children. There was certainly nothing wrong with the asking, but in this particular area of my life, God chose to say "no." Instead, He gave me experiences that span the gamut of the child bearing strata--miscarriage, a healthy baby and pregnancy, infant death, and adoption.

As I was thinking about that, I realized that throughout the 95 posts I've written since starting this blog nearly a year ago, I've not really touched on the part of my story that involved miscarriage. It is my strong belief that miscarriage is often a silent sorrow. Something that isn't talked about much, but that is devastating to the one going through it. It's unbelievably common, but the frequency of the occurrence does nothing to lesson the pain when it actually happens to you. This is how it happened for me.

Nathan and I were married three years before our minds started turning toward the possibility of a baby. Our dachshund, Chum, had done a fine job of filling the child void up that time, but suddenly, he wasn't enough. We were thrilled when we found just a few short months later that we were pregnant. It's crazy how fast the wheels of your mind start turning when you begin to contemplate your first child. My mind was going ninety to nothing, and I was excited about all of it. We wanted our friends and family to know immediately, so I wrote funny poems for our parents, and we made a big announcement to our friends. I was a school teacher at the time, so after a few weeks I also let my middle school student in on what would be coming in the not so distant future. I wanted everyone who cared about us to share in the excitement over this new stage of our life, and never being one for caution, the thought of waiting to tell people never really crossed my mind.

It was before any of the initial excitement had worn away that I was hit with devastating news of the miscarriage. What was it like? It hurt. Everything about it hurt terribly. All of my dreams for what was to be were now empty and dead. What was worse, I had to tell everyone the new news, and it was a whole lot harder to spread around than the first. I couldn't get through any of it without crying, and the pain was very real. Even though we didn't even know if that little baby was a boy or a girl, we were connected! I thought about it constantly, and I felt that every day that ticked by was one day longer that I shouldn't have had to wait to be a mom. Bitterness was licking at my heals, and if not for God's grace, I would have fallen deep into that pit. Of course looking back, God's presence is so evident, but at the time, even though I trusted Him, I was hurt that He had allowed me to go through the excitement only to have it all taken away such a short time later.

Over time God did heal that wound, and He has since given us Marianna, Poppy, and Adrienne. But even though the wound is healed, I can remember the heartache that came with that miscarriage. I know that there are untold numbers of people who have also experienced this same loss, yet I believe many feel misunderstood or ignored. Not to say that people are callous when they hear that someone has had a miscarriage, but the loss is simply not given much weight. That is a broad generalization, and it is not even something I came across much in my own experience, but the more I have heard, the more I feel like people need to understand that the pain is real and legitimate. It is something that requires grieving just as any other loss, and it is not something that someone "snaps" back from in a weeks time. I wanted to share this because while it's not everyday that you come across someone who has lost a child, you are probably acquainted with more people than you think who have gone through the pain of of miscarriage. If you haven't faced it personally or walked beside a close friend or family member who has gone through it, you probably will sometime in the future.

Who knows God's purpose for miscarriage, but what I do know is that He uses us, whether we have personally been through that or not, to reach out and be His physical arms to the people who are going through pain.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Like her daddy

I have to admit that before we had kids, I hoped that any girls we had would look like their daddy. It wasn't long before Marianna came along and that wish began to become a reality in her tiny features. She definitely has characteristics from us both, but in my mind, she is her daddy all over.

But what has really blown my mind is the number of people (many of whom didn't know we adopted) have commented on how much Adrienne looks like Nathan. I smile and have to agree. We never expected that, but what a neat thing to be the case!

It wasn't until this morning that I saw the beautiful picture that the resemblance represents. Just as Adrienne looks like her adopted daddy, so God wants us to look like Jesus. The longer we are His children, the more we should become mirrors of Him! I've known for a long time that my spiritual adoption should have the lovely end-result of looking like my father, but how beautiful to see that represented through Adrienne.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

the brown shirt club

While we were in Atlanta, our matching brown shirts generated a lot of attention in the mass of 19,000 women we found ourselves a part of. Wherever we went people came up to us, sometimes with tears in their eyes, to express their love, sympathy, or prayers. I had one sweet lady come up to me and ask where she could buy one of our shirts, and I had to tell her these were it, all special ordered with no extras. I felt kind of like we were in a club--one that was painfully exclusive, with a membership qualifier no one would willingly pay.

As I walked around in Atlanta I had conflicting emotions "duking" it out inside me. Part of me felt more understood, more of a sense of belonging than I have in a long, long time. But part of me still felt isolated, immersed in a sea of women out of whom only a very, very few who would ever be able to say, "I've walked that path too. I know what it's like."

I think being alone is one of the most excruciating places to be emotionally. July 25 of last year, the day I received the news my baby was not going to live, was saturated with an intense sense of loneliness. It was as if in a matter of seconds, I had suddenly become different. Now I was in a place of quasi-isolation, surrounded by those who loved me, yet unable to share a common link. That's why it was one of God's greatest gifts to me to connect me, one by one, with other people who were walking this path right there with me. I will never fully understand what that connection meant to me, how it helped me to cope with the pain and heal in the aftermath.

Yet even as I was thinking about this idea of a grieving mother's club, it dawned on me that just about everyone is in a club of some sort--one that makes them feel separate, alone in their hurt, and unable to be understood by the vast majority of people around them. It could be cancer, addiction, abuse, illness, depression, obesity, divorce, or any number of other types of pain, but regardless of what it is, it is there, threatening to tear you down, and making you feel isolated from the people who are right there beside you. However you have become a member of your particular club, once you are there, you are unable to withdraw membership. Even if you are able to break free from the painful hold it has over you, you will never go back to that place you were before you entered into it. The scar will always remain.

I think there are a lot of people out there walking around with the stigma of their club ingrained in their heads like an unwanted tattoo. It is so far removed from the place they wish they were that they don't want to have anything to do with the others who are in the same boat with them. I understand that. I understand not wanting to have to talk to others who have lost babies because it is so far from the reality I wanted in my life. I understand not wanting to expose the most vulnerable part of your hurt. But I also understand the healing that comes with connecting with others who can relate better than anyone else with the hurt that is a reality in your life. I read something the other day that nailed it on the head. It is from I Peter 5:9-10. It says, "Resist the devil, being steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you."

What a beautiful encouragement! When the devil tries to tear you down using your particular club as a weapon against you, this verse tells us to remember that there are others who can relate! Don't let Satan feed you a lie that you are alone, deserted, without anyone who understands or cares. And then the verse goes on to say that God can use your suffering, no matter what it stems from, to perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you!! What a promise! Any pain we go through, any club we unwillingly become a part of, God can use in our lives. He can bring something good from the pain. This is a promise I have witnessed in my own life. It is one that I know is true. I never wanted to be a member of the brown shirt club, but look where it has brought me. It is part of who I am, and it is something I pray God will continue to use as long as I live.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Beyond the Margins

Sometimes I go days or even weeks without stopping to take a good, long look at the big picture. I spend most of my time immersed in the daily stuff that comes with the territory of being a mom, wife, daughter, friend, or employee—none of which is bad in and of itself, but all of which can become dangerous when I lose sight of perspective. What I mean is this: when you get up eye-level close to the details of life, even tiny things appear huge, resulting in a distorted perception of what this life is all about. That’s where I have trouble.

It takes a good jolting sometimes to snap me out of the place of marginality where I find myself residing so often—the place where the life I am living falls so absurdly short of the hugeness that God wants for me. It’s a place that I fall into without even realizing it. It is subtle, deceptive in its normalcy, and without any obvious markers to point to the fact that something is wrong. And that is precisely what makes this place so dangerous.

The eye-opener that I recently received came in the form of a passionate message from Kay Arthur. She spoke of the complacency Christians have fallen into, detailing how we have let the world go on around us, unburdened for its state, apathetic to the eternal consequences, and ineffectual in making a difference. She related our current culture to the nation of Israel in the days leading up to the takeover by foreign nations. The books of Isaiah and Jeremiah detail a people who have become hardened, forgetting the God who brought them out of slavery and delivered them from so many enemies. As the words rolled off her tongue, I saw myself in what she was describing. I’m not going around doing a lot of bad, but by failing to keep my eyes focused on the big picture, I end up living life on the sidelines of God’s plan, missing the essence of what my purpose is. Yes, I am called to be a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, and an employee, but even more than that, I’m called to be a follower of Jesus. All the little things of life have to be tempered by the awareness of God’s over arching purpose—bringing people to know Him!

Maybe what I realized more than anything else as Mrs. Arthur spoke is this: it takes a conscious, daily effort to stay focused on the big picture. It’s never going to happen by default! That’s just not the way I’m wired. I have to ask God to give me His insight and His perspective on a daily basis. It is only when I purposely, determinedly set out to look at life with my “big picture” glasses on that it’s going to happen. But once it does, then suddenly there is a deeper meaning to all the little things that inevitably come with my life. I’m not just raising two little girls to be well-mannered, productive members of society, I am pouring myself into these girls to help them grow into women who love God with their whole hearts. I’m not just running errands at Target, I’m taking advantage of every opportunity God gives me to love the people I run into on a daily basis. I’m not just taking a walk through the neighborhood, I am praying for my neighbors, finding out about their lives when I see them in the yard. I’m not saying this is how I live. I’m saying this is how I want to live. I want to get out of the margins and start living in the big space that God intended.

Matthew 28:19-20
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.