Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I don't understand, but I will follow.

This story came to me at church tonight. I couldn't help but wonder what happened to the shepherds. What did they expect? How did they respond to this news? What did it feel like to wait so long? It is my poor attempt to ponder these questions and align them with some of my own lessons from this past year.

He stood on the edge of the hill unsure if he should stay or go. They said the man was going to be here today, and he wanted to know if he was right. He wanted to see him up close. The wind was picking up and the skies were darkening, his bones hurt. A lifetime of watching sheep had left him with twisted and aching joints.  Slowly he began the final leg of the climb. The crowd was large and raucous, screaming insults and making jokes. Beyond their heads, he could make out the bottom of the trees and the feet of those who hung on them.

Pausing to catch his breath, he noticed a small group gathered under one of the trees. Unlike the rest of the crowd, they were not participating in the morbid celebration. They were grieving. Tears streamed down their faces as they held one another and cried. A woman leaned against a man who looked to be her son, and though three decades had passed, he recognized her. If she was here, then what he had heard must be true. The man on the tree above her must be her son.  He would stay and wait for tree to do it's gruesome job.

Shifting through the crowd, he was finally able to see the three men fully. Naked and bloody, they hung spread out on the tree. Nails had been driven into their hands and feet, but the one in the middle also wore a crown. A fellow bystander explained it was made of thorns and complemented the "King of the Jews" sign above his head. "Does he call himself that?" asked the man. The bystander shrugged unsure. "I saw him enter the city like a king," he said "and he certainly has been parading around as if he was." Nodding, the old man turned his gaze back to the dying man.

His face was swollen and bruised, clearly the guards had enjoyed beating him, and even if it wasn't there was no way he would recognize a man he had last seen as a baby. A gasping noise came from what must have been the dying man's mouth. He was speaking to the young man and woman below him. Then it must be. He must be the man, the baby who was born with such promise and was now dying on a tree like a common criminal.

Now that he knew, the old shepherd turned and began to make his way down the hill. He was foolish to have come, foolish to have held on to the old dream. Decades ago, he had been a shepherd. Twelve years old and sold to master to pay his families debt, he worked non stop living with the sheep and two other slaves. That night, they settled on a hill outside of Bethlehem.   While one of them kept watch, he and another slept. Then there was a bright light rousing him, a chorus of angels singing to him and fearsome angel telling them to go and find the baby. They did. Leaving their flock they ran through the streets searching until they found him. He was in an old run down manager, surrounded by animals and cradled in his exhausted mother's arms. They worshiped the baby. Declared him the Messiah and sang praise and blessing on him and his family.

Then it was back to the sheep, but everything felt better, brighter, blessed. He had seen the Messiah, God in flesh. He, a lowly slave, a shepherd had been permitted to worship at the feet of God. For days, he waited for the change. He expected armies of angels to come and defeat the Romans. Perhaps it would be like Jericho and walls would fall, or an angel with a flaming sword would come and smite the Romans and return Israel to the Jews.

Other shepherds did not understand what the three of them had seen. They mocked them and soon he stopped talking about it. No walls fell, no angels with flaming swords came, nothing important happened at all. Years passed and he married. His wife gave birth to a son, but he was killed by Herod's men. Herod had heard that a baby who would grow up to be the king of the Jews had been born, and he wasn't taking any chances. The shepherd's wife never recovered. She sat wept day and night. There were no more children. No other miracles. She wasted away and died. It was then that he realized what a fool he had been.

A few years ago, rumors had begun. There was a man from Nazareth who was preaching strange things. People flocked to see him perform miracles and listen to him explain the kingdom of God. The shepherd wondered if perhaps the miracle was just delayed. The age would be right. Perhaps the end of this Roman rule was at hand.

He heard that they arrested the Nazarene and sentenced him to death.  Though he was too old, he decided to go and see for himself. If he recognized the mother and the Romans killed her son, then he would know that the miracle wasn't coming. That the angel had lied and he had been foolish.

Half-way down the hill, the sky went black and the earth began to quake. Falling to the ground, the old man heard angels. They weren't singing, they were weeping. The baby, whose feet he had kissed, must have perished, the miracle he had hoped for was gone.

He lay there waiting for the light to return. Other people stumbled about and the crowd had gone silent. Another hand touched his and he turned his head. There stood the angel he had seen so long ago. "The miracle has come, do not lose hope." and with that the angel was gone. Tears came as the old shepherd struggled to understand. Rome was still in power, the baby was dead, how could the miracle have come? It was impossible to believe.

Rising from the ground he clutched his staff and stiffly continued his walk down the hill. Could he believe in this kind of miracle? He was not a wise man. He was an old shepherd. Everyone knew God would never speak to him. Wasn't that what they had said decades ago? "Why would angels come to lowly shepherd and not the high priest? You are less than then nothing, God would never choose you to worship at his feet." Over time, he had believed them, but now. Now the angel had come twice.  It was the same one, he was sure. Was it possible that God would speak to him? He was now an old shepherd, too twisted and bent to stay with the sheep. He slept in a shack on the edge of town. He had no family, no friends. He would certainly die alone, Why would God speak to him?

What if God had spoken to him? What if an old lonely shepherd had garnered the attention of the Almighty? What if he was aware of something others weren't? What if the miracle was something he didn't understand? "God", he cried out, "I am an old shepherd who is worth nothing, but twice you have sent and angel to speak to me. I waited for you to save me. I waited for a miracle and nothing came. My son was murdered and my wife died. I have nothing. I am nothing. No one will believe me.  I have fought to not believe this for a long time, but I have no energy left. I don't know why you sent the angel to me, and I don't understand this miracle, but I will choose to believe and, like the day I ran through the streets of Bethlehem, I will choose to follow. "

Arriving home, the old man went about his life. He foraged for food, cared for lambs to ill to move and continued to pray "I don't understand, but I will choose to follow."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I am a failure

I fail at most things I try, or at least I believe I will fail at most things I try so I try not to try things. Failure is not something I cope well with, and yet I frequently feel as if I am in the midst of it. Theater training is good for these situations. If you fail on stage,  you have to keep going. No matter what you must push on. I am good at keeping on. I am not good at reflecting or changing or facing stuff.

This feeling of failure has been closing in around me for the past two weeks. Its gnarly hands are pulling me down into a mire of despair and self loathing. It is common for me to feel anxiety around the holidays. Too many strange and lonely Christmases and too much lack of normal can make it difficult to discern what a "family" does on Christmas. I tend to push, and plan and overload. Christmas must be perfect. I must make up for all the years it was just my Mom and I, or, actually worse, when my Dad was there and we all felt uncomfortable and awkward.

2014 feels a bit worse. My failures are larger and more prominent. My body has failed me, my iron count is low and I magically didn't conceive a child as soon as I was cleared to start trying.  I failed to grow and deliver a healthy child, which is sort of my main biological purpose, so that sucks. I didn't give my husband a second son, or my son a little brother. I couldn't prevent my unborn son from developing a horrible disease that took his skull and his brain. I failed to protect him.

I have failed my Mom. She has had to care for me more than I have cared for her in the last six months. She is always there, and I have been a bit drifty. A bit lost and not the adult dependable daughter  I should be. I am a moody wife. I have good days and bad days. I don't always support my husband as I should. I fail to be kind and am instead spouting anger. Instead of be loving, I can be nitpicky and shrewish. Not at all the wife I picture myself being.

I fail my son. I am not always present. Sometimes I want to run and hide. His major tantrums freak me out.  I think I can be too hard sometimes, but other times I feel too soft. I don't read enough to him. I should do more projects with him. His diet is spotty and mainly consists of applesauce, yogurt and granola bars. I don't know how to get him to eat other food. I don't always give him the one on one time he deserves. I let him cry himself to sleep, and instead of finding a way to stay home with him I leave him at daycare for 40 hours a week.

I am not the teacher I once was. I don't lead like I did. My desire to go out there and do it isn't the same. Papers take longer to grade. For time, I assign paragraphs instead of essays. I am not pushing to be in front and leading. My desire to be on top of it all has faded. Now I just want to figure it out.

I could go on. Finances, figure, hair, possible early skin cancer on my nose. I am not a model of anything. I am barely holding it together. Often, I am not holding it together at all. I am simply staying afloat. I fail all the time, and I hate myself for it. It sucks.

This is the mantra that has been running through my head the past few weeks. There was a point when I thought about how I must have deserved to lose my baby. It must have been God punishing for choices in my past. He must want to punish me. He must see what a failure I am. How could he not? He knows the parts of me I hide. My ugliest truths.

During the past two weeks, I have been doing a devotional series that focuses on the genealogy of Jesus. Those who worked together to make God into flesh. Normally I ignore these charts, but as I learned the stories of the names listed I began to understand that we are all failures.

Jesus came from the tribe of Judah. Judah was the brother who came up with the idea to sell his brother Joseph to the Ismaelites. He willingly sold his brother into slavery. After this, he married a pagan woman and two of three sons died.  He sent his sons widow back home and didn't honor his duties towards her. He willingly slept with a prostitute who turned out to be his forgotten daughter in law. It is from this interaction that line of Jesus begins. Not a very auspicious beginning. There is a whole lot failure in there.

Rahab is included in the line as well. Another prostitute, she saved the Israelite spies in the city of Jericho. As a reward for her faith,  her family is saved and she eventually married an Israelite. Their son was Boaz who marries Ruth. They had Obed, who had Jesse, who had David the second King of Israel. David was a "man of God", but he was also an adulterer and a murderer. I can see some tinge of failure in his story.

God uses failure. Failure highlights His glory. There were other choices, men and women who weren't failing at such an epic level, but by using people who failed God's love is able to shine brighter. Jesus didn't come from a line of perfection. He came from a line of failure that was made perfect by His sacrifice. His lack of failure redeemed all of our failures.

This is a deep concept, and I have a hard time with it. It is much easier to believe that God keeps count and is ready to dish out retribution. Believing that there is certain amount of failure allowed before God is done with you is a very human impulse. We want to equate God to our small perspectives. That is how we feel about failure, so why wouldn't He?

My son fails. He has bad days and makes poor choices. He tries to kick the ball and misses, or can't remember what number comes after 18. He gets time outs and has to apologize to those he hurt. Everyday he fails, and everyday I forget the failures from the day before and never stop loving him. When he fails, I don't remind of him of all the other failures, but instead tell him to keep trying. We sing the Daniel Tiger song, "keep trying you'll get be-et-ter". I am rooting for him to overcome his failures, and I want him to know that my love surpasses all of it.

If I am capable of offering my son this kind of love, then why am I limiting God's ability to love me to a greater extent? God is love. All He wants to do is love me. No matter how many times I fail and fall. No matter how often I have to turn to Him and pray for a fresh start. No matter the number of times I just can't get it together. No matter what, His love for me stays constant. When He looks at me, he doesn't see my failure. He sees my perfect self made whole through the blood of Christ.

I need to stop counting my failures. This is really a lack of faith. Who am I to say that my failure and sin is too big for Christ to take away? Who am I to limit the love of God who sent His son to serve as a sacrifice for me? Who am I assume that I know God's plan? If I was God, I would let me rot. I wouldn't pick me for anything useful. Luckily, that isn't my job. My job is to "keep trying you'll get be-et-er". Right now that is a daily goal. Please pray for me and let me know how I can pray for you.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Moments of Loss

Tonight, I cried in front of our tree. My Father in Law makes special ornaments with your name in gold letters. Receiving one is a sign that you are family. Last summer he presented us with Theodore's ornament. It was first on the tree tonight, and I cried in Justin's arms after placing it.

It hurt, but it also made him real. When  you never hold your child and lose them, it can be hard to see them as real. I am thankful to my Father in Law for this precious gift of bring my son close. Even though Teddy is gone, he still choose to be his Grandpa. This blessed Justin and I with the ability to include both our sons in the holiday. We don't often get to act like we have two sons.

Tonight, I sat by the Christmas tree and mourned my baby. I am crying now.  This is what loss is like now, it comes in small moments. God is doing big things in these moments. He is showing me how much He loves me, and reminding me that I am called to love.  The best way to honor my son is by choosing love.

I believe that we will be called to lovingly parent more children. I know that God has moved mountains to allow love and healing fill our extended family. I continue to have faith that God's love is all I need. Tonight I cried, but in that moment I was comforted. I am not alone, and no matter how large my greif is, God's love is bigger.

Whatever your moments are about, His love is bigger. He can do great things in when we are not able to do them ourselves. I don't know what the plan is, but I can't wait to see it

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pondering Mary's Pain

I have been thinking about Mary a lot the past few days. First I am obsessed with this song

Secondly, I am participating in a Road to Christmas bible study and have spent my mornings pondering her calling. Today's commentary pointed out that Mary was most likely 14 or 15 when she became pregnant with Jesus. She was the age of my students.

My idiotic, naive, think they are mature, controlled by hormones, just figuring stuff out students. Now I recognize that culturally she was raised to be married at 14. That life expectancy was lower, and there was no concept of a "teen". However, to be a virgin who is carrying the Messiah at 14 or 15 is a tall order.

She was a child and she would have had to face questions from everyone. The bible never tells us how her parents react. Did they scream and yell? Tell her she was crazy? Accuse her of being something she wasn't? Was she threatened?

Her community would have whispered about her. According to Jewish law, she could have been stoned. Imagine how it felt to go and get water from the well, or attempt to say hello to people you had grown up. Did she lose friends?

Finally, she had to go to Joseph, her betrothed, and tell him what happened. We know that he doubted her, but felt sorry for her. He was older than her, though there is debate about how much older, and he discovered her pregnancy after she had been away visiting her cousin Elisabeth. He wanted to find a way to end the betrothal, but not get her stoned. Mary must have sensed this, or maybe he told her. How terrifying.

If he broke of the engagement, no other man would marry her. She would be alone. Did she lay in bed and cry? Wondering why God had asked this of her? Did she feel weak and lost? Did she question her own sanity?

God intercedes and sends an angel to assure Joseph of the validity of Mary's story. They marry and soon head off to Bethlehem. We hear little to nothing of their marriage after the birth of Christ. We know there were other children, and that Mary kept her knowledge of Christ's status as the Messiah to herself. When Jesus is crucified, Joseph is already gone, and Jesus must ask his disciple John to care for his mother.

She must have been alone a lot. How do you make close friends when you are raising the savior? How do you discuss your fears with others? When she cuddled toddler Jesus, did she fear what would happen? Or, in the rush of parenting so many  young children, did she mildly forget only to be astoundingly reminded when he disappeared on trip to the temple?

Finally, as she stood at the foot of the cross and watched her son in agony, did she see the newborn she fed? Or the toddler who laughed and ran to her? Did she imagine her young son bringing her flowers? Or recall how big his feet were at that awkward stage? How did she stand there? I have been overwhelmed by the loss of a son not yet in my arms, how did she survive the agony of watching her firstborn slowly be tortured to death?

For the rest of us, her story is a story of joy. We see the beginning and the end, and celebrate it. However, I can't help but think that living it was  hard. She didn't know he would rise again. She didn't know he was dying to save the whole world. She didn't know that by dying he was paying a debt that she owed.

She must have cried out to God the Father multiple times. She must have raged, begged, and sobbed. She must have asked why God picked her. She must have felt betrayed. She must have wondered what the point of her suffering the scorn of the virgin birth was. She must have felt like she had died too.

I don't know what Mary's discussions with God were, or how He assured her of His love.  Her pain blessed all of us. Her suffering helped our redemption. The loss of her son, her baby, saved the world.  A regular girl, in a small town, young and of no importance, was chosen for an impossible task. Because she was willing, because she had faith, because she believed, the world was saved.

I hope to have a teeny bit of that kind of faith.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Here we are

Nothing says anxiety like being awake at 1 in the morning. Here I am. I don't even know why. Well, I have some ideas. On my mantle there is a heart shaped reminder of my little man, and tonight I am a  sad that he isn't here for the holidays.

It is strange how grief comes and goes. I am healing. The pounding pain of heartache has faded. I am at a point where the possibility of other children is something I can consider. I can feel happy for those who are expecting. I am part of the world again.

Unless, well, unless I am doing my job and the travesties of selfish parents who throw away their children are before me. Unless, I am worrying about children who will forever be effected by a parent who is not safe for them to be with. Unless, I am confronted with the sad truth that some people are not sane enough to have children. Then I struggle.

One, I am a child of someone who made all of these choices. I know what abandonment feels like.  Little me cried out wondering why her Daddy wasn't there. I am aware of what it means to have a selfish parent whose reality is warped and concept of the truth is every changing. Even now, at 36, there are moments when I wish my Dad was a healthy normal man who could be here.  Part of you never figures it out.

Two, I firmly believe that every child deserves love, safety and support. Yes, my Dad wasn't there, but my Mom was. My Grandparents were. I was unaware of so much, because they chose to shelter me. My basic needs were met. I was allowed to be a child. Every kid deserves that.

I am wrestling with God about this. Why He allows this to happen? Why does He allow a society that values the lives a vapid celebrities over the lives  of its children? How can he claim to be about love and let these things happen?

I am not a perfect mother.  I lose my temper. My frustrations show. I turn on the TV more than I should, and am not always "present". Oh, but I love my little boy. His very presence brings me joy. Even when I am my wits end and he is crying it out in his room, I am thankful for  him. I pray for him, I cook for him, I clean for him, I work to provide for him, most of our decisions are hinged on what is best for him.

Even with Teddy, our one directive to doctors was to do what was best for him. What would keep him from pain, and give him a death of dignity and peace was always the correct path to choose. So, why? Why do others get to be parents and I lost my child? Why are others allowed to hurt their children? How can this be a good plan?

Here we are. I have a choice. Be bitter and keep questioning, or give praise and keep praying. As I say to my 8th graders, fair is not equal and what you need is not the same as what they need. Parenting is hard. You can't give your child everything they want. Harry would eat popcorn all day and night. Yet, I know that will end badly for him. I know he needs a balanced diet to grow and be ready for the future. I don't like seeing him cry, but if I give him all he wants he will be unprepared for life.

God is doing the same thing to me. Shaping and preparing me for what is ahead. He isn't giving me what I want when I want it, and I am crying. I am the two year old. Faith is trusting that He knows that I will move past this stage.  I don't want to remain a spiritual toddler. I want to grow in His love and His peace.

This means I have to acknowledge my pain and frustration and express the desires of my heart, but it also means that if those desires are never fulfilled, I will be content and grateful. That I will let go of my desires and begin to seek God's desire for me. Clearly, He has put children on my heart. How can I show love to the unloved? How can help those who feel abandoned? How can I ensure that my home and classroom are centers of generosity, compassion, and peace?

You see, I am still wrestling. However, I recognize that God's decisions are about what is best for me. Everything He does in my life is about that. It isn't about what I think is best, or how I don't understand His plan. It is about obedience. It is about listening. It is about stillness. It is about growing up.

"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." I am still working on seeking Him first. Putting Him before everything else. Being willing to move forward and listen, follow and obey. This is hard. Pray for me. I will pray for you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why happiness scares me

On Saturday I had a moment where I felt truly content and happy. It was a sunny day, we went to the park, had a lovely dinner and I felt good. It was a type of happiness  that I hadn't felt since Teddy died. As soon as I felt it, I begin  to panic.  If I felt this happy, then something awful was waiting.

The last time I felt that good, was a sunny spring day. I had coffee with my Mom, planned the nursery, and Justin and I headed to the doctor. As we waited for the doctor, we planned out how to announce what the gender of our baby was. How we would paint Harrison's hands and have him hold them up to the camera. We discussed a summer that would be spent creating a nursery and how we would manage raising two boys. The world felt perfect, and then it fell apart.

I don't trust happiness anymore. That is what I learned on Saturday. Happiness leads to fear.  I actually wondered how I would be punished for feeling happy. What bad thing would happen? My counselor and I have chatted about this before. How it is normal, and a form or PTSD. How it will ease over time. How my anxiety disorder amplifies it, and how it will eventually ease.

This fear eats at me. It gnaws at my ability to sleep, and adds to my list of faults. I am scared of life. Anxious about the future. Drugs help, sleep helps, talking helps, prayer helps, but it doesn't go away. Sometimes, I think this must mean my faith is too small. My belief too weak, my heart to hard. How can I claim to have faith in God and be so scared? If I believe that God has a plan, why do I fear moments when I feel content in that plan? Why I am so weak and my faith so small?

I am human. I am weak. I am scared. I am anxious, and overwhelmed. Life hasn't been smooth and easy. Happiness is scary. Bad things happen, but that doesn't mean I don't have faith. I have faith that I won't always feel this way.  I have faith that God will help. I have support, and I will find a way to trust in happiness again.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

You are still loved and you can come home.

I never grasped the importance of the parable of the Prodigal Son, until I was the prodigal. I drifted far from God's love, and I believed that I couldn't find my way back. I was positive that I had made too many choices, committed too many sins, drifted too far from God's grasp. This type of thinking is a poison that is used to keep us in captivity. It keeps us trapped and far from happiness and peace and it isn't true.

Where are you right now? What lie do you believe that is keeping from starting on the path of healing? As we age, our choices can begin to weigh down us.  Feeling the sting of disappointments, the realization that you aren't where you thought you would be, that you aren't the parent or spouse you thought you would be, your continued failures are nails in the coffin. You are stuck here. There is no hope. You must see through the choice you  made.

I know someone who got married quite young. This person entered into their marriage with a deep commitment to their spouse and God. They believed in marriage. After awhile, it became clear that their spouse had anger issues and could be emotionally abusive. Mood swings and deceit were countered with overwhelming acts of love and new declarations of change.  My friend didn't really let the outside world see what was happening. Then one night, they came to my door and told me they didn't know what to do. They couldn't imagine having children with a person who was so broken, but they also felt that divorce wasn't an option. As a couple they had been to counseling, but nothing had changed. Recently they had found out that their spouse had cheated on them. This person felt that if they got divorced, they were breaking away from God's plan. That the act of divorce would shame them and their family. That neither God nor their family could forgive them.

I would love to say that I gave them great advice, but I was too young to even begin to understand the ramifications of this persons pain. I just let them cry. Six months later, they poured their heart out to their parents, who assured them of their love, invited them to come home, and helped them begin divorce proceedings. That person is now happily married to a loving spouse.

I don't tell this story to condone divorce, but to show that God's love is bigger than his laws. No, he doesn't want us to get divorced, but neither does he want us to stay in dangerous and unhealthy situations. My friend could have stayed married to their abuser. They could have had children and exposed them to the abuse. Who knows what the situation would have escalated to? Thank God, they trusted their parents enough to confess. Thank God, their parents showed them how God's love works.

"For I am convinced that neither life, nor death, neither angels or demons, neither present or future, or any power in heaven or earth can separate us from God's love" Romans 8:9. Paul was a murderer, so was David, Peter denied Christ three times, Moses, who had performed countless miracles, struck the rock, and they were all used for the glory of God. There is no place too far, no sin too great, no time too long to keep us from His love. Don't believe the lie. God takes you right now, right as you are. He will challenge you to change. He will push you to be better, but your struggle to do so will not determine His love for you. That was demonstrated on the cross.

Who are the people that are there for you no matter what? Who are the people that want to be there, but you have pushed away in anger and fear? They are in your life to help you. They are God's way of reminding you of His love. You are loved, and you can go home. You are not alone.  At this moment, God is opening doors and provided you an escape. If you need to leave a current living situation, if you have to confess and addiction, if you have to let go of anger and resentment, if you have to go back to those you hurt and ask for forgiveness, if it is bigger and you need to leave your spouse or remove yourself from something else, step out in faith and do it. I don't know how it will work out, but it will .

I pray that you find your way out of  your stuck place. That you realize you don't have to measure up to a love freely given. That  you know who to turn to support you. That your family and friends can surround you and lift you up. That you realize that your worth isn't measured by the choices you made,  but by the gifts He gives. You are loved. Reach out, and come home.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Birthday

Dear Teddy,
          Today was supposed to be the day that we finally held you. We should be in the hospital straining to bring you into this world. Family and friends should be excitedly waiting for news of your birth. Before the day is done, your Dad and I should be able to hold you in our arms. That wasn't God's plan.

Today I sit in quiet, devoting the morning to you. Tonight our house will be filled with crazy toddlers and snuggly babies ready to Trick or Treat, and I will love every moment of it, but there will also be moments when I miss you. When I imagine you and Sadie and Wyatt sharing the friendship your brothers have and cry a bit. However, I don't want your life to be about me crying. Your short 18 weeks mean more than that. Birthdays are about celebrations and counting your blessings. Today of all days, I want to pause and tell you how you have made me a better Mom, Wife, Daughter, Sister and Friend. I want to Thank You for all you have brought to my life, and to thank God for the precious time we had together.

You have taught me to slow down. Before your death, I subscribed to the cult of busy.  I thought that being busy meant I was important, or doing my job. Now I know that it is a form of selfishness. If I am too busy to love and appreciate my family and friends, to see my students as humans, to spend time with my Heavenly Father, then I am not really engaging in life. I am avoiding it. Your illness and death made me stop. All of time stopped and I had to learn that busy isn't what I want to be. Loving, giving,  and living is who I want to be.

You have taught me to depend on God for all of my needs. I thought that I was in control, but I wasn't.  Life can change in a moment, but God is constant. His love never changes. He is always with us.

You have taught me that it is ok to vulnerable. I hated looking weak. I would hold thing in and not share what I was really feeling. You gave me the gift of vulnerability. The inability to even express what I was feeling meant that I was utterly dependent on those I love. They embraced me, buoyed me, uplifted me, overwhelmed me with their love. I now know that love and friendship are bigger, deeper things than I can comprehend, and am so thankful to be able engage in them.

You have shown me sides of your father I was unaware of. In our 13 years, I never know the capacity for love, grief, compassion, and giving he had. You have brought these out in him. He is a different person as well. Our marriage has changed. Our bond is deeper. You will always be our baby. You will be with us forever. When we both say goodbye to this world, the three of us will be buried together. It seems morbid, but you have deepened our love in ways we never could have.

You have made me appreciate all of your brother's moments. Harrison would have loved playing with you. He loves babies, and you would have been his baby. He is such a silly, lovable, compassionate, whirlwind of a boy. You have made me more present with him. You have taught me to pour more love onto him. You gave me the clarity to stop being torn between my professional life and my desire to  mother. You have given your brother a better mother. Someday, I will try to find a way to explain to him.

You have shown me that all things are possible through God who strengthens us. When we found out you were sick, I didn't think I would make it. I wanted to curl up and die with you. As I lay in bed crying, you kept kicking and kicking, reminding me that you were God's child before mine. I sit here today because of the gift of perfect grace and perfect love.  Without God, I wouldn't have gotten out of bed, and that would have been a horrid way to honor your life. With God, I am daily learning and pushing to share love, struggling to give forgiveness, working on offering grace and humbly accepting that the purpose of my life is to share God's love. That is a much better way to honor your life.

I will always miss you, will always long for you, will always want to hold you, but know that I am so thankful for you. The blessing of being your mother is worth all of it and more. The gifts  you have brought into my life have blessed me 1,000 times over. Someday we will be reunited and together we will turn to praise the Giver of All Life,  until then know that I love you, I miss you and I am so utterly thankful for you.

Love Mom.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A note to my husband

Dear Justin,
Today is International Infant Loss Day. My counselor has called to ensure I am fine, and the women who I speak to in my support group have shared their stories. My grief is validated and recognized, but  yours has been marginalized or put aside for me.

 A majority of people easily identify my loss and my pain. My physical appearance changed. My pain was obvious. The amount of resources and reminders of love I receive are huge. Four months later, people still stop to ask how I am.

I don't see the same support given to you. I know you will say that I need it. That you want me to have help and support, and that you didn't experience Teddy's death in the same way. Society tells me that Dads heal faster and are impacted less, but I know that isn't true.

I know that in the midst of of trying to be there for me, your heart was shattered. I know that you dreamed of holding our little man and had already committed a large part of your heart to him. I know that you still speak to him. That you miss him. That your grief is as large as mine.

You have bravely shouldered the burden of your own grief, and allowed me to fall apart. You have held my hand while I learn to put myself back together again. When the world was too much, you shielded me from it, but when it was time, you encouraged me to start living again.

Together we found a way to arrange cremation and choose an urn. Holding hands, we brought him  home. For the rest of our lives, he will be our baby. When we are old and gray, and I break down over a half century old loss, you will understand and hold me. Together we are figuring out this new life, this new reality. Together we will manage the questions of more children, improved health and healing.

The loss of our son has changed everything about our lives, including my love for you. I had no idea that I could love you more. That you could make me this proud. That you could love me this much. Seven years ago we swore to love one another "for better or worse", and we had no idea what "worse" meant.

Today is International Infant Loss, and we are one in four parents who lost their child. We grieve together, we heal together, we hope together. I wish that you never had to feel this, that your heart was never broken, that you never had to grieve. I know that I couldn't have come this far without you, and I rest in the knowledge that whatever may come we can face it together.

I Love You,

Juli Ann

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sometimes it is really hard

Sometimes it is really hard to power through. My iron was down so low  that I had to drink an infusion on Tuesday. This means that I constantly feel like taking a nap, or sleeping all day, or just staying in bed for the rest of my life. Exhaustion is a hard battle, and knowing that your exhaustion is a lingering side effect of losing your baby is harder. Taking a step backwards in your body's healing the same month that said baby was due feels impossible.

It is as if my body knows that we should be preparing for a baby to arrive on Halloween, and is doing its best to act like it is as tired as someone who is  nine months pregnant. Overall, this was a rough week. I wanted to give up, I wanted to be upset and mad, I wanted to wallow in my own sorrow, but God challenged me to be more loving. To increase my giving, to reach out to more students, to pray for those I am struggling to forgive, to offer grace to those hurt me, to bring love into each moment of my day.

When I am exhausted, I do not feel like being loving. I feel like being crabby. I feel like shutting down. I feel like I don't want to do what I am being called to do, but God is showing me that the only way to spiritually mature and do what He is calling me to do is to lean on Him. I am tired, but if I am willing He will give me the energy I need. If I say "yes God", He will rejuvenate and revive me. If I say, I can't do it without you, then He says "I wouldn't want you too".

Here in the month of October, the time I have dreaded since June. The due date that never was and the son who isn't coming grief and bitterness could overwhelm my heart and soul, but God is calling me to love. He is telling me to reach out my husband daily, to send messages of hope, to take an extra minute with that student and encourage that coworker. He is telling me to create an environment of hope for my students, and to tell my Mama how much I am thankful for her. He is taking a time that could be dark and selfish and showing me that the only way to heal is through love.

"Beloved, lets us love one another, for love is of God and anyone who loveth is born of God and knoweth God, he that loveth not, knoweth not God for God is love" 1 John 4:7 God is love. God is my only path to healing and He is love. It is a love that I as a human and incapable of on my own. My physical exhaustion alone would make me too cranky to want to love anyone.

Love and heal. Feeling bitter and tired? Find someone to pour love on. Angry and exhausted? Seek out a person to uplift. Confused and sad? Take a moment to pray for someone you know is struggling. Feeling alone and grieved? Connect with your husband and son. Practicing love is keeping me from shrinking into a bitter shrewish person. It isn't easy. In fact it is impossible. I can only do it through Christ who strengthens me, and whose love is greater than I can fathom. Please pray for me to continue to turn to love and reject bitterness. Pray for strength and healing. Pray for peace and contentment. Pray that those who interact with me will see Christ's love. Pray that I will continue to grow and learn. Please pray. I will pray for you too.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pray for Me, and I'll Pray for You

Being a Mama is hard work. We are all in unique situations that call upon everything we have to guide our children through life. We need our husbands, partners, and families with us, but there is no support like fellow Mama support. I have been blessed to be able help found a Moms group, and the women in it have been my life line. I am not sure that I would have survived the first month of Teddy's death if they hadn't of come over and sat by a smoky fire with me. We barely discussed his death, but they were there and that was enough. Too many Mamas feel alone and overwhelmed, and they don't have to. God has a special place in his heart for Mamas.  He is here to love us, support us, and uplift us. While I know this to be true, sometimes I just need to know someone else gets it.  Therefore I am asking all of you, my other Mamas, to pray for me and I will pray for you. I believe we can change not only our and our children's lives, but large groups of people praying has the power to change the world. Here is my prayer for all of you:

Dear Mama who is staying at home and putting her whole being into to her children. I pray that you have the patience and strength to get through the day. That the poop covered crying times are balanced out by the silly dancing laughing times. That God blesses your sacrifice and your children understand what you are doing for them. I pray that you are able to carve out time to replenish and renew and reconnect with your husband.

Dear Mama whose baby just flew the  nest, I pray that you have the faith and strength to fully trust God with the life of your child. I pray that as they discover themselves, you will discover more and more reasons to be proud. That new opportunities and joys will follow you into this new chapter and you will be blessed with the realization that all of those hard days shaped this amazing young man or woman you have now let go of.   That you and your husband rediscover how fun just two can be, and that you find joy in your new freedom.

Dear Mama with a young infant. I pray that you know this won't last forever. The sleepless nights, colicky days, and frustrating feedings will pass. You will find yourself again. I pray you know that it is normal to feel scared and mourn the pre-Mom you, and that you will find your footing and your joy and love for this precious gift will only grow. That you will know that you are good enough, and that your husband will be by your side changing and growing with you.

Dear Mama who works, I pray that you find the strength to manage the pressure of two full time jobs.  That you will learn to lean on your support system when it becomes too much, and feel pride at the fact that you are helping to support your family. I pray that you find peace in the hard choices and avoid the trap of trying to please everyone. That God will bless your hard work and sacrifice and your children will blossom and grow in their daycare. That you and your husband can prioritize together time and you have the energy to find fun in each day.

Dear Mama who is raising her kids alone, You are my hero. As a child of a single mother, I know your days are long, money is tight, and stress is high. I pray that you can lean on Jesus, that your family will be wrapped in love and support and that you will know that you have the strength to go on. That  with you and God, your babies will be fine, and that you will reap the rewards of this hard time. I pray for comfort for your pain, and that you feel peace for your future. You don't have to hang on so hard, let go, God has got your back.

Dear Mama who is raising her grandkids,  I pray that God provides guidance and healing as you maneuver the complicated situation that is your relationship with your child and your grandchildren.  I pray that God opens every ones eyes to the truth, and leads the powers that be to the best plan for those children. That you will be able to find peace in God's plan, and know that he will give you the physical, mental, and emotional strength to parent when you weren't expecting to. I pray for healing in  your family and for you to know that your very presence is demonstrating God's love in your grandchildren's lives.

Dear Mama who is still parenting her adult children, I pray that you know how thankful we are for you, and how much we still need you. That your wisdom and presence are often more important now than it was before. That you know that you gave us the tools to be successful, and the wisdom to ask for help. That  you find joy in your grandchildren and peace in your children's lives.

Dear Mama whose babies are in heaven. I pray that you find comfort in God's arms. That you find a way to move on with your day and keep breathing. That you and your husband turn towards one another for healing, and that bitterness and anger are banished from your heart. That you find peace in the pain, and are able to understand that every day is new day with different emotions. Most of all I pray that you are able to look forward to the day that you and your child are reunited in the halls of heaven.

Dear Mama who has children in her heart but hasn't been able to have them. I pray that God reaches out to comfort you, and that your are able to submit to his plan. That you and your husband are able to honestly discuss  your options and prayerfully choose the path that is best for you. That when your arms ache and your heart break that God provides a comforter to help you through this terrible journey, and that if it is God's plan for you to have a child that it all comes together in his time.

I pray for all the Mamas, that they have strength, patience, hope, perseverance, joy, love and faith. This isn't an easy job, but a little prayer can make all the difference. I will keep praying for you, please keep praying for me!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Life is random and unfair; Life is pandemonium

Someone I love dearly told me that they were having a rough time today. "I don't get why you didn't get to have your baby and other people, who won't or can't care for their children properly, do." It was hard for this person, because they love us. Faced with the reality not all children have a safe home, and not all parents are mentally or emotionally able to care for their children, it does seem very unfair that our baby died. I have played this game before, and the results are always bitterness and misery.

The plain and simple truth is isn't fair. My heart breaks every time I hear stories of abuse or neglect. I don't understand why it happens, or why  we aren't the parents of more than one child. I cry, but I hold on to God's promise. "And we know in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28. This verse doesn't say "in the easy or fair things" it says "in all things."

In ALL the horrible, painful, dirty, ugly, mind blowing, heart breaking, grief giving, pain inducing, anger creating, I am broken things, God is working towards our good.  We can't see it. At times it can feel the opposite. "God, I just started to feel better and now this." I don't understand how it will all work for my good. I can't see the big picture. I am not entitled to that knowledge.

Teaching middle school means dealing with the concept of "fair" a lot. It is an age where "fair" means something, and students are attempting to put order to the grown up world.  Daily I find myself saying "same doesn't equal fair" and "my job is to help everyone learn in their way. Their way may not be your way." Students don't see the big picture. They don't know that their classmate witnessed the death of their Grandmother and needs to be excused from the work they missed, or that this other student reads at a second grade level and is mortified. Each child has individual  needs and stories and I can't treat them the same. I have to push the TAG kid to exceed while praising another student for persevering to a Nearly Meets.

When this happens, I feel the same amount of pride. When students persevere and keep working and learning, I know that they are working towards a bright future. For some that may mean the Ivy League and for others it may mean that they are able to overcome the developmental or emotional issues they are carrying and live a happy life. It is my job to challenge each of them to grow towards their personal best.

I believe this is how God looks at us. He knows our hearts. He knows  how I long for my child, and how my heart will never quite heal. He hears me crying and is pushing me to persevere towards his plan. Fair doesn't equal the same. I may never have more children, and other children will be hurt. I may never know why this is, and I don't need to. What I need to know is that all things, no matter what they are, work together for the good of those who love him. It is not easy. This is hard, but by the grace of God I will find a way to keep repeating it, embracing it, and believing it. His plan, not mine. His glory, not mine. His life, not mine.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


We aren't entitled to happiness. God doesn't owe us that. I am not entitled to a happy family life, a good job and all I planned for myself. There are no promises. The Bible doesn't say "what you want will be yours". However, I tend to think this way. I tend to look at God as a genie. If I do this, then you owe me this.

What a foolish and selfish person I am. This attitude has led to countless hours of heartache. Feeling entitled has enabled me to feel jealous, bitter, depressed and angry. It has allowed me to pour hours of my time into uplifting myself and focusing on me. Entitlement is all about me. What I deserve and how I will be happy.

Embracing entitlement enforces the idea that my husband "owes" me, because of all I did for him. It makes it ok for me to check out on my son. I don't have to take the time to check on my friend because I am too tired and "deserve" alone time. I am an ugly person when I go down this road.

I am called to be a servant.  Galatians 5:13 says that we are called to love one another through service. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to show his love. Jesus never embraced entitlement. He could have, but instead he became humble. As I have struggled with my grief, I have felt God pushing this idea of entitlement to the forefront.

I am working on changing my perspective. On be thankful for what have, willing to serve anyone who comes across my path, and understanding that I am entitled to nothing. God owes me nothing, but I owe Him everything. I am slowly moving into a new head space. He is holding me accountable, and helping me notice and rid myself of this poisonous idea.

I have been put on this earth to serve, and when I embrace the idea that my life isn't about me, but about what I can do for God's glory, my sense of entitlement vanishes. I love my job and my family, but I need to be aware that I am called to serve God even if all of those things disappear. That is terrifying, but it also requires me to learn to be fully dependent on God and his plan. It is rough, but I am slowly getting there.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


The weight of my grief has been pressing down on me this week. It is pushing in, boxing me up, and demanding attention. After the whirlwind of transitioning back to work, I am settling back into an all too familiar routine. I am doing a job I know and love, in a classroom I have occupied for five years, in a building I have been in for eight. It is almost as if nothing happened. Life is speeding up and moving on, and I am not quite prepared for it.

It is easy to slip back into routine. To go about my business and manage my life, until something causes the grief to come crashing in. A students autobiographical sketch about being born on Halloween, my due date, or a parent questioning how my baby is, meaning Harry, Daniel Tiger becoming a big brother and Harrison asking to play with babies. In these moments, I am drowning. Desperately trying to get my head above water and keep going.

It is strange, because for me there are constant reminders of the fact that my son is gone, but when I am with other people it feels as if it never happened. I feel like I am supposed to have moved on, or be getting better or be someone who isn't still reeling. Several people have asked, or implied, if another baby is coming soon. I know they are just trying to give us hope, but another baby won't be Teddy. Another baby won't replace him, and the thought of being pregnant again and the fear and anxiety of what could happen is too much to take at the moment. I know we will want other children in the future, but my heart isn't there yet.

My heart still hurts, and my anxiety is still there, so today I had a heart to heart with God on the drive home. I asked Him to be my strength, for Him to be my peace and for Him to be my faith. I am doing a study of Esther, and the constant theme has been that God's plan is hard to see, but it is working towards your good. As October nears, and I compare what am I doing to what I should be doing, I find myself constantly reaching out to God and asking him to remind me that He is there. That even if I don't understand his plan, it is working towards my good, and to carry me for awhile.

God knows that grief has ups and downs. He knows my heart. He put me in this place with the solid routine, so I would have a safe place to heal. Every day I go to work with people who care about me. Family and friends check in on me. This is a safety net that God has provided me, but only He can offer me true comfort. I don't understand why this happened, and I am faced with the reality that my son died before he had the chance to live, but I know that I am surrounded by the ultimate Comforter and He feels all of my pain. Time and prayer will make my grief manageable, but I don't think the missing what might of been will ever leave me.  I will keep praying, keep believing, and keep working towards the goal.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


The high desert of California has a particular smell. It is most obvious on hot summer nights. The tang of juniper, the strange smell of hot dirt, the sweet smell of flowers. On those nights, you can sit outside and feel the heat of the day come off the ground. In the cool of the night it is comforting. I spent many of my childhood nights like this. Sitting on my grandparent's back patio, drinking tea and singing songs, or listening to the adults chatter until sleep overwhelmed me. I would sit on my Grandma's lap and she would rub my back. There the world felt somewhat perfect and safe. Nothing could harm us, no bad could befall us, we were safe and wrapped in love.

I have never really gotten over the loss of my grandparents. They were so monumental in our lives that their absence can often sting. So much of who I am, what is important to me and how I view the world was shaped by them. When blessings come my way, or I think about how lucky I was to escape harm, my first thought is that it is a result of their constant prayers. I miss them both, but the summer I have longed for my Grandmother.

She would know what to say or not to say. She would hold me, love me, feed me, and comfort me. I wouldn't have to be a grown up. She wouldn't expect me to be. I long to be back on that patio safe and secure. I couldn't stop thinking about this as I headed back to work. After a cocoon of safety all summer. I stood in a place were I last was pregnant.  I have struggled to find me again. Who I am as a teacher and colleague and how I take what I have learned this summer into my job, or to gracefully accept condolences. I don't feel like me at school. I haven't quite come back. I don't really know who I am there.

I should be planning my maternity leave. I should be huge and miserable in the heat. I should be discussing insurance and disability. I should be normal, but I am not. Or at least my normal isn't the same as it was. My anxiety is a bit higher, my anemia more present, my day more planned, my ambition lessened, my longing to work with kids larger, my future less planned. Someday it will make sense. Someday it will hurt less. I have faith in that.

However, I could use a long chat with my Grandma. I could sit on that patio and drink tea and listen to her laugh. I need her. I know that she is in heaven rooting for me. Praying for me. Cheering me on, and holding my son. If she were here, then feeling safe would be easy.

I know that this is adulthood. I rest in the knowledge that the God who gave my Grandmother such faith walks with me. I believe that as long as I am willing to follow God's path it will work out, but sometimes you get scared. Sometimes you are tired of being an adult. Sometimes you just want to go back to your safe place and rest. This will be a good year, and healing will continue. I will continue to pray for strength to have faith, because my faith is the legacy my grandparents left behind and the greatest gift they gave me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

You Aren't Stuck

If two months ago you had told me that I would be able to laugh and live again, I wouldn't have believed you. I was sure that I would be stuck in my grief. I felt myself drowning in the lightening sand of sorrow. I was being pulled down and I wanted to stay there. I saw no way out.  Today I finish the final devotion of a miscarriage series I started that terrible night two months ago. It ends with a call to rejoice, but also to pour out what God has shown me. To let others know what I have found to be true.

The truth is, you aren't stuck. No matter how hard the circumstance, no matter how uncertain the future, no matter how terrifying the now is. You won't be here for ever. The prophet Jeremiah was placed in a well to die. Jeremiah 38 describes how he "sunk deeper into the mud". We have no idea how long he was actually in there. Some biblical scholars believe he wrote the book of Lamentations while in that well. What we do know, is he eventually lifted out. He didn't pull himself out. He was lifted. He had to wait for that to happen.

Can you imagine what that well was like? No food or water, sinking in mud, darkness, hopelessness, fear and rodents. Imagine being stuck there for any extended period of time. Jeremiah was God's prophet. He had the hard job of telling the Israelite that Jerusalem's days were numbered. Following God's command put him in that well, and I am sure that he did not know why God allowed that to happen to him.

Two months ago I was lowered into a well of grief, anger, sorrow, and hopelessness. I could feel myself sinking into the mud. In a well, you can only look up. You can only look to God to lift you out. I am not completely out. The ropes are still lifting me, and I don't know how long it will take to get to the top. However, I know that I will see the sun again. I know that God will bring me out of this well in his time, and that all of this will be somehow be for His glory.

What is your well? What makes you feel stuck? Instead of focusing on the walls around you, focus on the One who can lift you out. You will not be in the well forever. Look up and pray to be lifted out. Believe in Jeremiah 29:11-14 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

This blog is named for verse 11, but verses 12-14 have been my bedrock for the past two months. I love the phrase "I will listen to you" and "I will be found by you". They reassure me that I am not alone, and am truly being lifted out and up. 
I pray that you can embrace that you aren't stuck. I pray that whatever it is work, family, physical or mental ailments, you are able to overcome them. Reach out and ask for help. Not just from God, but those who love you. I would be nowhere without the love of those who uplift me. 

Even from the dank, dark bottom of a well, we have the hope of Christ to lift us and free us. How lucky are we?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Loneliness of Grief

It is easy to feel alone in grief. At first the pain is so overwhelming that you don't want to interact with people. Then the interaction begins to feel exhausting. The easiest thing to do would be to lock yourself away and just hurt.  It feels so simple to stew in the pain, the unfairness, the sheer suckiness of the whole situation.

This was my first instinct. My first desire. I didn't want to see people. I wanted to stay numb and sad. I wanted to wrap myself around my pain and not let go of it. I knew that no one could understand or know what to say or help. I was convinced that if I let go of my grief, then I would be letting go of Teddy. I would be forgetting him. If I found a way to be happy and live my life, then I was betraying him somehow. By being sad, I was somehow honoring his memory and keeping him close.

My instinct was natural. It happens to all of us in terrible situations. It is part of human nature. Lucky for me, I don't have to simply rely on my human understanding of my son's death. From the moment we were told that he wouldn't make it, God found ways to bombard me with reminders of His love. He used family, friends, co-workers, doctors, nurses, and whomever else He found.

I wasn't able to close myself off because I was overwhelmed with love. I was covered in it. Uplifted and comforted by it. No matter what my instincts were, my heart was drawn to the love I received. Instead of a cocoon of pain, I was given a resting place of love. I didn't want it, didn't ask for it, but it was freely given and thankfully received.

I still felt lonely, but never alone. I still felt sad, but never without hope. I still felt angry, but never bitter. I still felt scared, but never without hands to hold. This resting place of love carried me through the first six weeks of my grieving process.

Six weeks is about the same amount of time it takes to figure out how to care for your newborn. As a new Mom, six weeks feels like a day. In that short time period, you have integrated your child into your life and have slowly figured out to be a parent. I have thought about this a lot in the past couple days. Six weeks post Harry vs. six weeks post Teddy.

Both of my sons have changed me. Both of my sons have taught me lessons about life. Both of my sons have blessed me. Both of my sons have shown me that love is a bigger and deeper concept than I can ever grasp. Both of my sons have shown me the wonder and awesomeness of God.

Six weeks post Teddy, I feel like I have my feet back under me. I can laugh and live and still hold him in my heart. I don't have to be grieving to hold him.Crying is still ok, but the constant pain is subsiding.  I didn't come to this place on my own. On my own, I would be a bitter sorry mess of a woman. I came here through an incomprehensible love.  While I was wallowing in my selfish thoughts, God was finding a way to save me from myself. Romans 5:8 says "But God demonstrates His love for us in this; While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." I didn't ask for this. I didn't even know I needed it, but it was given freely and abundantly and I am thankful.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pain at the Cross.

The night before we lost Teddy, I spent a long time praying. I cried out for a miracle, I cried out for comfort, I just cried. I was terrified of what the dawn would bring. I could not imagine life on the other side. In my nightmare, the loss of my baby led to a bitter and selfish woman who pushed everyone away. I was afraid for my sanity, my marriage and my ability to parent Harrison. I knew that I was too weak for any of it. On my own I was guaranteed to fail, so I cried out and God heard my prayer.

From the moment I cried out to him my terror stopped. There was plenty of sorrow and pain, but I knew that God was with me. Psalm 16:10 says "You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead." I was carried through the worst day of my life, because God the Father had to turn away and watch his own child die on the Cross.

The night before that terrible day, Jesus also spent a long time praying. He cried out for miracle, for comfort and he cried. Though He was surrounded by those who loved Him, there was no one to comfort him. No one to carry him. In order for me to be comforted, He had to face his worst day alone. In order for me to feel safe, He had to be unsafe. In order for me to find peace, He had to face the world without the love of His Father.

In the worst moments, where my heart breaks and I can't breathe, I am not alone. Christ faced the ultimate pain, so that my pain may less. I did not want my child to die. I hate that it happened. However, I find comfort in the fact that God knows what it is to lose a child. I find peace in the fact that Christ's pain made it possible for my child to endure no pain. I find hope in the fact that I was so loved that God willingly gave His one and only Son that I may not have to experience the loss of my child alone and broken, but can look forward to the day when we meet again at the foot of the Cross.

Everyone has a great burden. Illness, money stress, job stress, life stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness,  the list of pain is seems never ending. It is hard to let go of a burden. Pain is a safe and easy home to live in. There the expectations are clear. Once  you begin to leave pain behind and trust in the never ending love that Christ offers things are no longer in your control. Placing your future in God's hands is scary. It is difficult, and it takes constant prayer and submission.

The fact is, He wants your burdens. He sacrificed His one and only Son for the right to carry your burdens. He lost his child to gain our burdens of pain. What an incomprehensible act of love! What an amazing gift! Don't throw it away. Don't hold onto to pain and bitterness and ignore this glorious gift of grace. Honor the fact that a Father lost a Son. Turn to the Cross, and give up the burden. I will be standing here with you, just as weak, just as broken, just as amazed and just as loved.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bringing Teddy Home

Yesterday, we brought Teddy home. After a month of waiting, we were finally able to bring him to his home. It was not in the way we dreamed it would be before June 9th, but it was a relief to have him with us. His urn is small handcrafted tiger wood heart. A gentleman in Salem crafts these beautiful pieces by hand, and I loved when I saw it. It seemed appropriate to for our son to rest in a handcrafted locally sourced art piece. It is a beautiful piece of art.

Holding it yesterday, I realized that this was the first time I had gotten to hold my son. I held it tight in my hands and whispered "I Love You" over and over again. I know that Teddy's earthly remains are all that are in that heart, and that his soul is happily residing with his Maker, but their is now something in our house that is his. He is no longer an abstract idea hidden away. We don't have to wonder what is happening to his body, and hope that is being cared for. He now has place in our home.

This may all seem morbid, and I wouldn't have understood it before it happened, but it brings a high level peace to have him here. I still cried, am crying. However, he is with us. We know where he is, and a huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders. For the first time, I feel like we can begin to move forward.

For the rest of our lives, that small heart will be with us. Reminding us that love is not easy and nothing in life is guaranteed, but that love, faith and hope can bring us through the roughest of storms. I now know a new level of love.  We read Corinthians 13 at our wedding, but it has become more clear in the past month. Especially this part: " Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things Love never ends."

In the past month, we have learned to love in a new way. We have learned how to do the above, but we have also been on the receiving end of great love from our friends and family. Love is this hope of light in the darkness of sorrow. I cannot always demonstrate it, but I can always feel it wrapped around me. Protecting me. Love that was proven at the Cross and given freely.  I need it every day.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Moments of Choice

There is a moment in each day where I have to stop myself from thinking about what it would be like to still be pregnant. About how he would be moving, or how I would be decorating the nursery, or getting to the point where Harrison could see and understand what was happening.

There is a moment, or moments, in each day when I want to sink into myself and not come back.

There are moments in each day when I feel desperately alone.

There are moments in each day when I am terrified of what the future holds.

There are moments in each day where I am afraid to interact with others, or feel so painfully aware of how awkward I am.

There are moments in each day where I am jealous of anyone who is pregnant or has a newborn.

There are moments in each day where I feel like a failure.

There are moments in each day where I count down how close I am to going back to the "real" world of work.

There are moments in each day when I am desperate to go back to June 8th and know what it is to feel normal again.

It is a month later and these moments still come. Every single day. I now know that I won't drown, but I am still treading water and haven't yet started to swim to the shore.

Each of these moments is a choice. I can embrace my bitterness and resentment, or cry out to God for help.

When I embrace the bitterness and resentment, my world shrinks. I focus solely on me. I shut myself off from Justin and Harrison. I revel in my anger. I count all the reasons I have been wronged. "Why me?" is my ongoing mantra. Shrunken, selfish and sad. I wallow in my grief.

When I cry out to God for help, my world expands. I am immediately calmed. God uses those around me to soothe me. Justin comes along to comfort me, or Harrison makes me laugh. I count my blessings to ward off bitterness. I feel hopeful. Comforted and cared for I find peace in the refuge of God's love.

These are not daily choices. They are hourly, or minute, based choices. I am not always strong. I do not always make the right choice. However, I find myself choosing peace more often. I find that scriptures that were memorized in Awanas or in school come back to soothe me.

Grief is like an ocean. There are moments of simple waves, and full blown storms. Treading water I am impacted by all these changes. Bitterness pulls me under and threatens to drown me, but the my Savior can calm the storm and give me strength.

I am learning to reach for His life preserver more often.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Run, Run, Run

Today I ran. I didn't run fast, and I didn't run far. I just ran. I ran to move. I ran to get back in shape. I ran to feel like I controlled something again. I ran.

Today we went to mortuary to arrange to have Teddy cremated. I have never been in a mortuary before. I have never answered questions about cremation before. I never picked out an urn before. What type of urn? Has his body been released? Don't worry, we will take good care of him. We are so sorry. If there is more than can fit in the urn, we will provide them to you. We won't throw them away. I like the names you have chosen for your children. I felt within and without of my body. Terrified, devastated and relieved to finally control where he will be and what will happen to him. I know Teddy is happy in heaven, but it was torture to take care of his earthly body. I never thought I would be doing this for my child.

We have been on a journey towards and into parenthood for 4 years. For 4 years we have dealt with infertility, and adoption, fostering, the miracle known as Harrison, the second miracle known as Theodore, Ancephaly and his death. For 4 years, my body has been discussed, analyzed, medicated, the home of a growing child, the food for a child, more medications, more hormones, once again the home for a growing child, forced to bring that child into the world too early, the maker of unwanted milk and once again on medications. For 4 years this has not been my body. It has been a thing. Sometimes I have hated it. Other times I have loved it. I have never once felt in control of it.

I control nothing. The future is not set, and there are many unanswered questions in my life. Whether there will be more children? Whether there won't be? What our normal is now? How we move on? What my job will be? How I can prioritize my family and let go of work stress? How I will ever feel 100% percent happy again? I control nothing.

In some ways that is good. I don't need to control everything. I need to learn to let go and have faith that God will take care of tomorrow. I need to not live in fear, but in hope. I need Jesus to take control, because I don't have what it takes. I don't have the strength to get through this.  I am exhausted. I feel old. I feel like I don't fit in my skin. I am a bit lost.

Because of this, I ran. For a half an hour, I was in control. My body was mine again. It was hot. I thought I couldn't do it, but I ran. I ran until I was numb. Past when the app said to stop and I was feeling sick, I still ran. When I was done, I took a cold shower and cried in locker room. I didn't cry at the mortuary. I needed to run to stop feeling numb. I am running towards healing. I am running towards a new normal. I am running the race set before me looking unto the author and finisher of my faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is not set down at the right hand of God.

I am enduring my own cross and running helps. Ultimately I am running to be able to run a 5k around Teddy's due date. We decided it was best way for us to honor him. Some people have asked to run with us. When we pick a race, we would be happy to share that day with you. Until then, I will keep running.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

No Words

Life is beginning to return to a state of normalcy. I am slowing reaching back out to people, the days don't center around grief, we are learning how to be again. Miscarriage is a subject that a lot of people find difficult to discuss. As I re-engage in life, I have struggled with how to share my story, or what to talk about. I am blessed to have people who let me be awkward and recognize my struggles, but it is still hard. Grief comes in waves and you can't always control your reactions.

I had to walk out of a store that had a robot nursery display. That was how I planned to decorate Teddy's nursery, and I found myself sitting in my mini-van sobbing in the middle of downtown. There was an emotional moment after watching my husband play with a friend's baby, and when Harrison spent a whole afternoon pointing out babies. As hard as all of this is, I am fortunate to have a lot of support.  Through this blog, I have heard from women who lost children and never told anyone, or those they did tell didn't know how to help them. I can't imagine how lonely and devastating that must be.

It is difficult to discuss miscarriage because it feels so personal. I have experienced the death of my grandparents, and it was painful but they lived full rich lives. How do you mourn someone who didn't get a chance to live? How do you express your deep sadness at the loss of the dreams you had for your child? At the same time, it is terrifying to explain the deeply personal decisions that surround our loss.

The complete loss of brain function, the imminent miscarriage, the  added risk of anemia, the potential for our unborn son to be in immense  pain, all of these factors swirled around what we found to be the most difficult parenting decision of our lives. We cried in the ultrasound rooms, doctor offices, the car and pre-surgery suite. Justin cried his way back to the waiting room, and I sobbed so hard I had to be calmed before I could have anesthesia.  It is easy to share here, in this mildly anonymous environment, but it is so hard to share face to face.

I am thankful for those who have reached out and shared their story of infant loss. Knowing you aren't alone helps. Each day has it ups and downs. I am in a season of loss and change, and it is taking a lot faith to keep breathing in and breathing out. I am awkward and uncomfortable, but God has surrounded us with such patient and loving support that I have found a way to share my story. I pray that all the other mothers who suffer the same loss receive the same grace from those around them.

Thank you friends and family for your continued love and support. Thank  you for your prayers, your meals, your ears, and your presence. Thank you for recognizing Teddy as a person and mourning with us. Thank you for all you have done. You are true blessings.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Up until now, I have lived a pretty protected life. Bad things haven't really haven't to us, but now something unthinkable has happened and it is difficult to not be afraid of everything.  I have an anxiety disorder after Harry I had postpartum anxiety, but that is nothing like what I have felt in the last few weeks.

For the first time in my life, I am afraid of people. I am afraid to leave my house. The first day I was alone, I tried to go to the grocery store and had a panic attack. Yesterday, I saw a former colleague at Applebee's. We were hired together, she left just this past year and I found it impossible to have a conversation with her. I was sweating. It was clear that she didn't know about our miscarriage, and I was terrified for her to ask about future babies.  I have nightmares. I find my closest friends and families to be scary. I want to be normal, but am struggling to find a way out.

So, how do you solve a problem like crippling anxiety? How do you get back to a rational place? The place where your son's fever isn't a sign of imminent catastrophe, or you can have a conversation without feeling like time has slowed and stopped. First, you tell your spouse, then you go to the doctor. This is an instance where prescriptions have helped.  I can now leave my house, and I am not overly terrified of seeing people. I still have moments. I still feel overwhelmed. It is still a struggle to see a pregnant stranger or run across a newborn, but the edge is gone. Sanity is ensured. The wild eyed fear has calmed down.

How do I rationalize crippling anxiety with faith that God will take care of me? I don't. I recognize that anxiety is a lack of faith. Fear is a lack of faith. God offers peace that passes all understanding, he doesn't offer paralyzing anxiety and yet here I am. I am a weak human. I am not perfect. I am striving to be faithful. I am striving to have hope, but I am not always successful. That is ok.  All of this is an opportunity for God to do great things in me. Great things take time. "For it is God who works within in you to will and act in order to fulfill his good purpose" Phillipians 2:13

I have a lot of fear. I have a lot of anxiety. I need medication and counseling to deal with it, but that does not mean my faith is weak or God is not here for me. It means I am human, and I am having trouble faithfully embracing God's plan. I can only see the pebble, but God is crafting the mountain.  I am going to give myself some grace to be broken and take the time to allow God to heal me. Fear is temporary and it will not win. Faith is process of growth and time, and by faithfully allowing God to guide me to his plan I will find peace.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Learning to Breathe Again

A week ago, I was in a hospital knowing that my son was about to be stillborn and the world felt as if it was crashing down around us. Today, we decided to find a way to say goodbye. We were given time to say goodbye at the hospital, but we wanted to find a way that we controlled. The most frustrating part of all of this is how little we controlled. We couldn't stop our son's birth defect, we didn't control how much time we spent in ultrasounds, or when he would be born, the hospital staff was compassionate, but we didn't have any control over what happened there. I still remember the man who kept making jokes as we walked into pre-op. He had no idea why we were there, but every joke felt like a knife.

Today, with clearance from the doctor, we set off to Drift Creek Falls. For me, water is holy. River, ocean, or waterfall and I feel connected to God and the world in a way I don't anywhere else. The falls were beautiful, but I was struck by a small flower growing on the side of the falls. There, on the sheer face of the cliff, in a small crag grew a beautiful purple bell flower. It bloomed out of rock. There were no other flowers or plants around it. Its sheer survival was a miracle. Against all odds, this seed found a home in an inhospitable place. It fought to survive, and now blooms next to the monstrous force of the waterfall. I took it as a sign to keep hoping. If that flower can bloom there, God will help me find a way to bloom again too. 

When all of this started, we thought we would have a memorial, but we realized we weren't ready to share our chance of saying goodbye with others. Being in presence of a such glorious beauty, marveling at the wonder of Creator who can let a flower bloom from a cliff and manage a powerful and raging ocean, we were able to find the words we needed to say goodbye. We will still mourn, we are still working through, but today we got to say goodbye in our own way. I am thankful for that. I am thankful for my husband, who hiked down and back with me. I am thankful for a body that can heal and move. I am thankful to live in a place were awesome beauty is less than an hour away. I am thankful that I am slowly losing that numbness and learning how to breathe again. 

Breathing is hard and life still feels overwhelming, but I am holding onto the image of that flower, and following it's plan:"Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are."  I will continue to have faith and hope that God has us in his hands. No matter how sheer the cliff, no matter how powerful the roaring waterfall, we will find a way to bloom and grow. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Milk, Anger and Rejoicing

My milk came in Saturday night. Let me say that again, my milk came in Saturday night. It felt like a cruel joke. When Harrison was first born, I had to work for hours to literally create a drop of milk and I was engorged Saturday night. With no baby and some intense rage, I approached this situation with irrational stomping, uncontrollable crying, and general insanity. In the moment that I thought I was starting to get a handle on everything, I was reminded that I have a handle on nothing. Nothing. I am in charge of nothing. Though my body thinks it is going through all the steps of post delivery, I have nothing. There is no baby. My body figured out how to make milk and there is no baby. 

Following this glorious Saturday night came Sunday, or Father's Day. An entire day dedicated to celebrating fatherhood. My husband is an amazing father, but Sunday was too early for that. The urge to curl up and  hide was large in the Lindemann household. However, we decided to go out to eat. I am not sure why, maybe just to pretend like we were  normal? Maybe to avoid being the "sad" people? Maybe because if we don't make ourselves leave we will never leave? Dinner was awkward. I have forgotten how to have a normal conversation. The world kept moving while ours stopped. We came home and cried. 

This crying was a bit different, less mournful and more life sucks and I am angry. This could be because life does suck and I am angry. But wait, what about that last post about faith and God's plan? What was that about? How can life suck? You found peace in Christ! The truth is, I did find peace, and I continue to find peace, but faith is choice and it isn't always easy. Anger is easy. Rage is easy. Bitterness and jealousy are easy. Faith is hard. It is the hardest thing  I have ever done. Faith is choosing to turn to God and say "I am angry and bitter, and why did you make my milk come in?" Faith is stopping the rant in your head and breathing. Faith is reaching out to your partner and realizing their pain is just as deep. Faith is stopping to list the things you are thankful for when you are struggling to find something to be thankful for. 

I have been angry from the moment I realized there was no "miracle" coming my way. From the moment I saw that my son had no brain, a part of me has been very angry. Why would God do this? The day that I sat by the river and raged at God, I truly raged at him. I yelled and cried out loud, and in the midst of the yelling and crying a song came into my head. "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice." Why? Why was this stupid song in my head? This was not a time for rejoicing, it still isn't a time. I don't want to rejoice. However, the song came again and again and again. It kept coming until I was sitting by the edge of river signing this song again and again. 

It made me feel better. Why? Why would I feel better? Romans 5:3-4 says " Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,". 
Rejoicing brings hope. I need hope. We need hope. Hope that this is going to get easier. Hope that our son's death wasn't an inconsequential thing. Hope that God's plan will prove to be the best. It is hard to have faith without hope, so therefore I find a way to rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always, means always. I sing the song and suddenly I find something to actually be thankful for. Even it is just that someone brought me delicious white chocolate chunk cream cheese brownies. 

Saturday night my milk came in, and it felt like a cruel joke. I cried, I got angry, I was generally insane, and then I sat down and sang "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice." I was once again the crazy lady. Last night, as I lay in bed and felt terrified about our slow return to "normal" life, and felt waves of anxiety at thought of two friends who love me dearly coming to stay with me-I didn't want them to think I was the "sad" friend, and I recognize the stupidity-I sang this song. I sang it until I fell asleep, and I felt hope. I will take all the hope I can get right now.