The crib is empty but the manger isn’t

When you go through a loss many people ask if they can do anything.  When people ask this I often am thinking in my head, “If only you can bring back my baby”.  There just is nothing to actually do to make it better.  The greatest gift is always the people who just “show up”.  They remember you a week later and text you a special verse.  They sit with you and ask questions about your loss or how you are doing.  They reach deep into the bottom of their purse to find you a Kleenex and you realize there are tears in their eyes too.  One of my favorite cards over these last weeks was from a dear friend here.  One of the things she said was, “I don’t know what to say…the whole thing sucks beyond belief”.  Yep, that about sums it up.  A pastor even told me he was a little ticked about it all.  It gave me permission to go through those feelings too and to move past them.  You can’t fight a rip current…you have to swim through it…let it take you down stream before it releases you.  Grief is like a rip current.  It grabs you when you least expect it and takes all control away.

One thing people say when you go through loss is “God is in control” or “At least you know your baby is with the Lord”.  I know all these things are true and I know people are just grasping for ways to soothe my soul.  But frankly, they don’t help when you’re in the middle of the rip current.  The best of things to do is to just be present…jump in and float down stream with me.  All the truth’s from the God’s word are received much better after you have sat with me on the floor and grieved a little.

Bill and I have grown a lot in our ability to love each other through these times.  We just know what the other needs.  Bill has learned that I need to verbalize my frustrations about the Lord but that after a bit, he can remind me of the things I already know.  It was a powerful thought to think about Christ on that cross…..or in the manger for that matter.  God gave up HIS ONLY SON.  He sent him away from the glory of heaven to be born of a woman.  After being pregnant, you just feel for poor Mary riding on that donkey as she Is about to give birth.

Jesus, GODS ONLY SON, spent his first night in a feeding trough.   God, the Father knew he was sending HIS ONLY SON TO DIE and still he did it.

God knows grief.

A million moments, come running through my head in a fresh way thinking about Jesus growing up on this earth so far from his Father.  And then there’s his death.  God knows what it’s like to lose a child…but he offered him willingly.

For the redemption of mankind, God watched his ONLY SON be accused, betrayed, rejected, beaten and die on a cross.

God knows loss.

He didn’t stop it…he watched as the sin of the world lay on Christ’s shoulders and God the Father turned his back ON HIS ONE AND ONLY.

God knows what it’s like to lose a child.

We don’t know if he was separated from Christ for a moment or for the full three days but we do know it had to be agony.

God knows grief, sadness, loss and his only Son knows it too.

This same God lives within me.  He sees the empty crib in the special room in our home.  He sees the empty void in our hearts and yet he “shows up” and reminds me…the crib is empty but the manger isn’t.

On Miscarriage

Miscarriage is a sort of silent pain.  Many women go through it and never speak of it.  But it is the loss of a child.  That sort of loss just stays with you forever.  It needs to be talked about in order to find healing.  But when I went through my loss I often felt like it was a subject that there was little information about.  I would search to find other women’s stories only to be left empty and wondering how mine compared.  This is not for the squeamish but this is my story.

My first loss was pretty devastating.  We didn’t want to admit it was happening but in the end the reality hit us like a brick.  I had a complete miscarriage in our home and it was graphic, emotional and one of the hardest things my husband and I have ever been through.

I thought the pain was over at 11 pm and I took a sleeping aid and went to bed.  At 2 am I woke to the worst pain I’ve ever experienced.  I didn’t know at the time that I was in a sort of labor.  I recently talked with a lady who had nine miscarriages (I know, right?).  She said the ones at twelve weeks were always physically the hardest.

I was twelve weeks pregnant when I delivered our child in our bathroom on June 8th, 2013.    My husband ran to get a jar and we cringed as we put our baby in it.  We couldn’t look but we saw enough.  Through the tears we took the shell of our child to the ER to confirm that I didn’t need a D&C.  As I lay there, exhausted, I asked Bill to put a towel over the jar so we didn’t have to keep looking at it.

The doctor came in and confirmed it was a healthy fetus but for some reason my body could not carry it.  There were no answers, no reasons, and no explanations.  I wanted to know why and there was just nothing to explain it.

For years I had put my identity in the hopeful role of being a wife and mother.  We dreamed of home schooling and raising children in the Lord.  We kept waiting for life to turn out the way we had hoped.

But the grief set in hard as we went home.  I’ve never experienced grief like that.  I couldn’t function.  I felt alone in a community I was relatively new to.  We didn’t really have a church group we felt close with or friends our age.  Everything sent me into tears.  Worst of all was the sight of pregnant mothers or tiny babies.  I remember watching the water go down the sink while doing the dishes and just being stuck there, like I was losing time.  The water reminded me of the toilet that dreadful night.  I don’t know how long I stood there but I had many moments like that.  Death is always graphic.  If you are there when someone passes, you know the intensity and loss of any grief.  They are memories etched in our minds forever.

We experienced the loss of a child but also the loss of the future ideal we had in our hearts for a family.  This was not the happy ending I was searching for.  For the rest of my life when people speak of the grief over losing a loved one I will always be near tears thinking of my unborn children alive in the arms of Christ but far away from my own.

We wanted a child and the life of a family so badly.  I felt hopeless.  I couldn’t speak of it without tears.  But the Lord would use my pain to bring me to a place of new identity in him.  My role was to be a daughter of the King and to know his love for me in much deeper ways.

Suffering Well…

Bill was making me laugh when the OB Doctor came in to confirm the devastating news that we had lost our second pregnancy. I look back now at that moment and am grateful in so many new ways for my husband who is like a rock for me when the world is swirling in confusion and pain. The fact that we could be laughing, enjoying each other, in the midst of a tragedy is a testament to our Savior. Of course, the Dr. probably thought we were a little off.

We made it to seventeen weeks this time. It was again filled with complications, discomfort and so much anxiety. But when God is growing a life inside, you tend to lean toward being hopeful. It was such a gift to be pregnant again. We found out at the end of March and found out there was no heart beat on June 16. It was one year and one week to the day of our first loss.

The following is a journal of mine from the day after we found out.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Cor. 4)

I woke this morning with this verse on my heart. I feel pressed but not crushed, perplexed but not despair. I can’t imagine going through this without the hope of Christ in my heart. Yesterday was an okay day. I was surprised that I didn’t cry much. After a bike ride in the afternoon I came home to find Bill in the basement with his Bible. We held hands and tried to talk but it was too hard to get words out. I opened the hymn book and started playing some favorites on the horn. I could never have sang but was able to get through, “It is Well with my Soul” and some other favorites.  The echo of these sweet anthems sounded through our basement and was like salve on our wounds. We were both numb. We prayed a lot together and went out to dinner. Bill had a margarita and wanted to come home and veg out. I didn’t want to be home with my thoughts, after six weeks of bed rest. So I decided to go see a movie. think we both needed some time to grieve differently.

On the way home from the movie, I got a text that my brother had called my Mom and that she was heartbroken. I don’t know why, but this sent me over the edge. The flood gates opened and the only place to pull over was in a cemetery. “How fitting,” I thought. I pulled in and saw that no one was around. I got out of the car and fell to the earth. The sound of my own sobs scared me a little. My cries were mixed with conversations with God.

“Lord, why? What do you want from my life? I thought this was your plan? Why has it been so hard? This isn’t fair. Do you see me here?”

I think I will always remember those raw moments with the Lord.
I looked into the blue setting sky as I lay on the ground.

God was there.
I ripped the green grass from beneath me.

God was there.
I let my tears fall to the dirt and pleaded with the Lord to show me the way.

God was there.

I felt so close to him, I just knew he could hear me. I knew he was listening and had a plan that was somehow better, even if I couldn’t imagine it.

Tomorrow is my D&C surgery. That makes today a hard day. I just want to sleep but I can’t turn off my brain. We will need to put away all the baby stuff. We had just started letting ourselves buy things and dream about the nursery and the changes in our home.
Today I feel like a walking casket. There is life within me but it is no longer alive. Waiting for surgery to remove my child is agony. I want it done but I don’t want to say good bye to my pregnant belly and to all the hopes for the future. I’m caught in between here and there. I long to jump past this place, to skip over it but it is only survived by going through it…the deep waters of grief with my God.

Since this writing I have felt incredibly surprised by the daily faith and strength God has given us. I can’t really explain it but there is healing, there is purpose, and there is redemption. God is teaching us to suffer well and we can feel the growth within us, and maybe that is what it’s all about. We can sense our God so, so near. We are doing well in the hands of the Savior.
We are suffering, but we are suffering well.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.         -Romans 5:3