Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Feelin' The Love

Well, there goes another nap.  Whenever words start stringing themselves together in my head, napping is impossible and writing is required.  It's happened again today.

I am feeling so thankful today.  One of the beautiful things about sadness and heartbreak is that often those around us rise up feel and the sadness and heartbreak right alongside, lending their support and strength when sometimes you just don't have any left.  This, of course, is also true in celebrations of joy and gladness, but somehow it's easier to rally the troops for those.  People know what to do when a friend has a baby or gets married.  But the friends that are with you when you're in the midst of a trial are friends who are to be valued and honored.

As most of you probably know or have observed, I tend to keep my fingers in a lot of pots.  I like to stay busy and I like to exercise my gifts and to serve.  Caleb made me laugh yesterday when he realized that I had helped coordinate the church BBQ from Sunday.  He said "it seems like everything time something special happens, you're the one coordinating it!"  My response to him was "Well, when God gives you a special gift in an area, it's important to serve other people by using the gift."   And I believe that to be true.  And so, when God calls me to serve, I serve.  Sometimes it wears me out.  Sometimes I wonder why I give so much.

I remember back to when I had Caleb.  We had only been married about a year and in the area about 18 months.  We were part of an amazing small group in Annandale (and had recently moved to Sterling), but outside of that, we weren't very connected to anyone or anything.  When Caleb was born, we received two meals; one from our small group and one from a random neighbor that Philip helped out with a project right around that time and that was their way of thanking us.  I was very grateful for those two meals, as well as the help of my mom and other family who were in town some around the time he was born, but as any new mom will tell you, two meals doesn't get you very far when hubby goes back to work and the rubber hits the road.  I remember the first week I was home alone with Caleb.  I remember thinking Thursday night "If tomorrow weren't Friday, I think I might just give up and die right now."  Having an infant is tough and receiving the support of meals is an incredible blessing!  And not just for when babies are born.  For this reason, I have brought more meals than I could possibly count to friends and people I'd never met over the years.  Because I know how much it means.

Flash forward to now, seven and a half years later.  We couldn't be in a more different place.  We are surrounded layers deep by friends, old and new, people who love us and people who care, many of whom we know because of our many areas of service.  Last week when we got the news, we received an outpouring of notes on Facebook and on email from people expressing their concern and prayers.  And I appreciated every single one of them. Thank you.  But I have to really give a shout out to those who went beyond that, to the people who said "I am bringing you a meal, which day do you want it?", "I am coming to take your boys for a few hours so you can be alone" and the ones that "made" Philip and I go out on a date on Friday.  To the ones who picked up the phone and called and let me cry in their ear just so I could hear them say "I am here if you need anything."  The friend that stopped to hug me in church and started crying for me and who looked at me and said "None of us wanted this for you!  I wish I could take all the pain off you and put it on me."  The one who put her day on hold and came to stay with the boys all the way from Lucketts on Monday because I'd had a painful night.  The friend who called today and said "I want to know if there is anything I can do to serve you during this time."  And everyone else who said "I am here for you.  Tell me what you need and I'll do it." 

This is the body of Christ in action.  These are acts of kindness that people never forget.  That I will never forget.  And this is what motivates me to keep on serving and giving...because you never know when that one (sometimes simple) thing you do or word you say will be the one thing that gives someone the strength to carry on or fills them with the hope of knowing that someone really cares.

We are Jesus with skin on.  And for some, we, YOU, are the only Jesus they will ever see.  One act of kindness can change a life.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Could That Be Me?

Ever noticed how sometimes God gives us a warning of what's coming so that it's not quite so much of a shock?  This has happened to me more times than I can count and it happened again with this last miscarriage.  Last week I was reading a blog written by a woman who was angry at God.  She was at place of disappointment and confusion and was just mad.  She said kind of laid out an ultimatum of "You better show up God, or I am out of here."  As I read this last week I thought, "Could I ever get to that place?  Could that be me?"  I literally thought about how I would respond if I were to lose this baby.  How would I feel?  Could I be that angry at God that I would consider walking away from Him?  My answer within myself was "No, I don't think so," but honestly, I wasn't totally sure.  And then it happened.  And my first response was anger.  I am not sure who or what I was angry at.  I think it was more the situation, the fact that this had happened.  AGAIN.  But, then if you start tracing roots...that would ultimately lead back to the sovereignty of God, so I guess if I was angry at the circumstance, by default, I was angry at God.

That night I actually opened up to Philip and just laid it out there.  Poor guy, sometimes he's the last to know how I am feeling.  But this time, I told him all the gory details.  Cried, bawled and sobbed it all out, and woke up ok the next morning.  And then some time on Friday, God brought to mind the song "Bring the Rain" by Mercy Me.  This was a song that had spoken deeply to me sometime around the time of the second miscarriage/when I was pregnant with Andrew.   The lyrics are amazing and so meaningful to anyone who has been through tough trials:

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You
Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

It was the bolded line "But if that's what it takes to praise You" that really struck me on Friday.  And here's why.  God has chosen to promise us a daughter.  I don't know why.  I longed for a daughter for many years, but I can honestly say that He has taken that longing from me and made me content with the boys that I have.  But for some reason, He has made it clear to me that there is a daughter for us.  And in November of last year, He gave me a special name for her.  It's a name that has incredibly personal and deep meaning for me and what I've been through the last through years, and it was, in itself, a promise of healing and redemption.  He has given this daughter of ours an incredible back story, and she's not even here yet.  

Because of this back story and because of the ways He has been at work in my life, I know that when she arrives in my arms, HE will be GLORIFIED.  When I remembered those lyrics on Friday, what hit me was this: He was going to be glorified through the birth of this baby, this daughter, in amazing ways.  SO, if He chose to not allow this child to be born to us at this time, it could only be because He will receive MORE glory from her not being born than if she were.  I do not understand how this is possible.  I do not understand how this will play out.   But I do believe that His glorification is why I am living my life on this earth and if losing this baby will bring Him glory, then so be it.

Does it make this easy?  No.  Does this mean I won't have moments where I dissolve into a puddle of tears?  No.  Will I mourn this child every December as the due date passes and there is no birthday cake with a growing number of candles to blow out.  YES.  But, I do also know that the pain will diminish with time.   And I will choose to believe that when it's time to try again that God will give me the strength to face it.  And I will choose to believe that even if I lose that baby too, it's still for His glory.

A few months ago I was reading Job and read this passage chapter 1:20-21, right after everything Job had and owned had been destroyed:
"At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
   “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
   and naked I will depart.[c]
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
   may the name of the LORD be praised.”

I hope that one day I be at the place Job was.  He was neck deep in grief, but his first response was to fall to the ground in worship.  My first response this time was anger.  May He continue to work in my heart so that I choose to worship...first.

Mourning the 80 Percent

I have lost four of my last five pregnancies (Andrew being the 5th).  That's 80%.  I know that I had two healthy pregnancies (and boys!) before that, but mentally those don't factor in for me.  Those came from a time of blissful ignorance; a time when I didn't personally understand all that could go wrong and all the heartache that could result from the attempt to bring a child into the world.  I am so thankful, however, for the blessing of those two, as their presence in our family certainly does much to ease the pain of missing children.  I won't say it eases the pain of loss though, because that is the same no matter how many living children one has. 

Andrew continues to be a ray of light in our family.  What would we do without that boy? :)

This one hits hard.  This one leaves me saying "can I really try again?"  It's not as simple as "being pregnant."  I know many women are blessed with easy pregnancies with minimal issues.  I am not one of them.  Mine could certainly be a lot worse, but they are bad enough that's it really tough to muster up the mental stamina to want to willingly subject myself to it again.  This pregnancy I had specifically prayed that I would not need to take anti-nausea medication (which you may recall I was still taking the day Andrew was born).  I have used for it all six previous pregnancies and just didn't want to this time.  And I didn't.  And I was amazed (and slightly concerned) when at 9 weeks the 24 hour nausea I'd been experiencing for three weeks suddenly lifted.  Now, I know why.  In this case I actually had a cessation of nausea symptoms as a result of the lost pregnancy.  So while the nausea wasn't nearly as bad this time, the physical exhaustion was awful.  I felt like many days I could accomplish nothing other than some school with the boys and feeding them lunch.  Forget dishes, forget laundry, forget running errands or making dinner.  Or taking a shower.  Just took too much energy.  And of course on top of this I still continued to struggle with my gallbladder/digestional issues.  Although, I am so thankful that they were not worse as a result of being pregnant.

So, I am just not sure I can handle another first trimester.  I've had seven of them.  This was the only pregnancy that ended before the second trimester began.   When I lost the two babies and then had Andrew, I felt like I was pregnant for two years, as that's how long it was from the beginning of the first pregnancy until Andrew was born.  And it was basically three first trimesters in a row.  That was rough.

Apparently the miscarriage that I experienced this time is the "normal" flukey kind of miscarriages that most people experience.  I just had the misfortune of not finding out until 10.5 weeks, despite the fact that there probably had been no baby since 6-8 weeks.  I didn't have an appointment for so long for a variety of reasons, but my midwife and I have decided that if I do get pregnant again, I should just come in weekly starting around six weeks.  So, I guess it's better that it was this kind of miscarriage and not the inexplicable kind that I have experienced three times before.

This post is getting too long to talk about how I am processing through this, so I guess I will have to come back to that.   For now, thanks for your prayers.


Friday, May 6, 2011

"I Don't Know How You Do It All"

"I don't know how you do it all."  If I had a dollar for every time someone has said those words to me, well, I'd at least be able to buy a nice pair of shoes. :)  But seriously, I get that a lot.  I guess I am involved in a lot: homeschooling, small group, MOPS, cakes, singing at church, etc.  I don't know.  Most of the time it doesn't feel overwhelming to me.  The first thing I always say to people when they remark to me about this is that it's God's provision of grace for me that enables me to do so much.  And that is 100% true.  Primarily I have children who entertain themselves and require very little intervention from me during the day (after school, of course).  Except for lunch.  Ahhh....lunch.  If I could just skip from 11:00-1:00 every day and have everyone magically fed, I'd be a happy woman!!  But anyway, today it occurred to me that there is another reason why I am able to do everything that I do.  It's because I say "no" to a lot of other things.  None of my children have ever attended pre-school, none are involved with any kind of sport, none take lessons or other kinds of classes outside of the home, and we rarely do playdates or other trips out of the house during the day.  All of these things can be "good" things, but they are things that if I said yes to them, it would inhibit my ability to be involved in other areas.  And for our family right now, this is the choice we have made.

Now, you might look at that list and say, "aren't your kids the ones suffering as a result though?"  Well, you could ask them, but I think they are perfectly happy.  We do go out and do fun things, we just don't do it every week.  They have lots of fun adventures with Dad on the weekend, which gives all the "boys" important time together.  When they are older, we will probably pursue the idea of sports or classes of other kinds, but for now, we are homebodies.  And in the meantime, I have three boys who love to play together, who use their imaginations for hours every day creating "Thomas stories" in the basement, coloring and drawing cards and pictures, riding their bikes, building with Legos, reading books, listening to books on CD, running around in the yard, learning to garden, being helpers in the kitchen and around the house and all kinds of other things that happy, growing boys love to do.  With plenty of time with Mom just being here if they need me and of course lots of time together reading and learning nearly every day.   By homeschooling, we have given them the gift of time to just be kids, and in return their gift to me is the time to serve in some special God-given ministries for this season of my life.  It won't always be this way, but I am thankful that it is right now. :)

Compassion Workshop

Several of you asked me for more information about this class, so I will share a bit more about it.

How do you know you have anger problem?  Here is a list of some common symptoms:
- getting angry in traffic
- not being able to take criticism
- blaming others rather than taking responsibility
- feeling irritable and grouchy a lot
- lashing out in a physical or verbal manner
- feeling frequently frustrated or angry with your children
- feeling out of control

The basis for the class is really coming to understand that when we react in anger to something, it is due to a deep inner hurt that (usually) has nothing to do with the situation we are reacting to.  In the class, we learn how to show compassion on ourselves and acknowledge the hurt, then reaffirm our intrinsic value (which is not impacted by whatever the situation is).  It is this applying of compassion and value to self that will help us show compassion and lovable to the other person in the situation.  Afterall, perhaps they are also just reacting to a deep hurt?

Through the class we learn Biblical truths about anger.  Is it really ever our "right" to become angry? 

We talked about how to stay calm in traffic.

We learned about teaching our children to be compassionate and how to avoid power struggles.

We learned about harnessing our minds and changing our behavior by changing what we think.  This is called "self-talk" and it is tremendously powerful.

We learned relaxation techniques for dealing with stress and anxiety.

We talked a lot about forgiveness, bitterness and resentment.

This class is a lot of work, but it is SOOOOO worth the time and the effort!  I strongly encourage you to take it if there is anything inside you prompting "maybe I should do that..."  YES!  You should!  It will change your life and your relationships by changing the way you think and giving you tools to take control of your anger.

You can register for the summer session being offered at McLean Bible's Loudoun campus starting May 16th here.