Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mourning Miscarriage

I've cried a lot in the past two days. Controlled crying. Not the really hard kind. The kind you do when you aren't in an acute stage of grief, but you reach inside and pull it out on purpose when you are alone and the kids are sleeping. A song plays that you cherished during that sad time, and you let the words and music fill your heart until the tears spill down your cheeks. The kind of crying that is quiet and short and gives a sense of relief afterwards. 

A sweet friend just lost her baby at 9 weeks. The past three years have brought with them so many friends experiencing this loss. So many. Too many. 

I grieve with her. I grieve for her and her family. It makes me think about my own experience. It makes me think about all the others. What can I do? What do we do for each other during times like this? I didn't really want people around me much. I appreciated the words from afar in the beginning, when it was so hard. Later was when hugs were ok; and even then hugs were draining because they brought tears and increased emotion. So I am trying to honor that part, thinking that she probably feels the same as I did. 

I haven't done enough in the past. I'm not even sure how to do enough now.

"I am praying for you."
Important words and actions, but I didn't follow up as I should. 

"Whatever you need, let me know." 
I meant it, but it's just such a shallow offering. It's hard to take someone up on that.

After a month goes by and then two, it seems like we are all just supposed to go back to normal. 

Don't let anyone tell you--even yourself--that you shouldn't still be sad. If someone hurts your feelings and you don't feel understood, just remember that not everyone is supposed to understand. Be happy for them that they don't. And even those who should may just grieve differently than you. If they don't seem to be hurting for as long, it's because they are not you. 

Even people who have miscarried have said insensitive things to me. It doesn't matter. They didn't mean it. If they did, that is another issue, but I bet 99% of people don't mean to be inconsiderate. Let's give them some grace and return to grief instead of resorting to anger.

Does it often seem like it would be weird to bring up the topic again after a few months, and say, "How are you really doing with that now"? A lot of times the weirdness even comes from the woman at the end of that question. She feels like she should not be suffering anymore like she was.

"Oh fine, I guess. It was hard, but I'm feeling better now." 

There's just a heaviness in the air that screams that's not enough.

I just wish there was more. I want more. Maybe not discussion all the time, but a hug, a card, something. I don't know. Things I have not done for my friends, but I wish I had. Just something more intimate. That's it. Intimacy. Connection.

I read an article recently that keeps coming back to me. How abortion has changed the discussion of miscarriage. It seems like we are just supposed to get over it. 

But I'm still not over it. 

I felt a great amount of healing when Jack was born. I would have had my babies in February, and he was born in June. He would not be here if they had survived. That is a bittersweet thought that is hard to wrap my mind around. I feel a little strange saying that he is my 4th child, so usually I just don't. But why? He is. 

Even discussions with others who have miscarried can often become a game of minimizing. I know I do it.

"Oh, yes I have miscarried, but mine was really early. So it wasn't as hard as so-and-so who lost a baby further along."

"Oh, I had to have a D&C, so it wasn't as hard as so-and-so who had to go through the physical pain of a natural miscarriage." 

Who wins the "least hard" miscarriage story? It's like we think we might hurt someone's feelings who seems to have a more difficult story. Maybe her story is harder, but that doesn't minimize yours. We have all lost here. Let's stop acting like we didn't. There was life, and then there wasn't. That is significant.

Fellow moms of sweet children lost: I love you. I am sad for you. Even years later. The grief changes, but it's still there. Just different. Friends, when you have a moment of quiet, I want you to listen to the words of this song by Selah. And be ok crying a little if you are a crier, like me. It's never been too long for you to give that notable loss a moment of attention. And it makes us all just a little bit closer to look back and feel, especially the next time we hear that a new mother has joined our ranks. We connect with her in our souls, because we remember.

There were photographs I wanted to take

Things I wanted to show you
Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes
Who could love you like this?
People say that I am brave but I'm not
Truth is I'm barely hanging on
But there's a greater story
Written long before me
Because He loves you like this

So I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years
I will carry you
All my life
I will praise the One Who's chosen me
To carry you

Such a short time
Such a long road
All this madness

But I know
That the silence
Has brought me to His voice
And He says

I've shown her photographs of time beginning
Walked her through the parted seas
Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes
Who could love her like this?

I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years
I will carry you
All your life
I will praise the One Who's chosen Me

To carry you

--I WIll Carry You--

Here is the link in case you are unable to view this video on your device.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jack at 12 months

Jack had his 1-year check up today. He's my brave little man, and he barely even cried when he got his shots and his finger pricked. Cora had a low enough hemoglobin that we had to treat it a little. Jack's was 11.0, so nothing needed. 

He is tall - 32.4 inches, which is the 99th percentile. He weighed in at 21lbs, 5oz (44th%). He army crawls really fast, and has figured out how to crawl on his knees but sometimes just reverts back to the army crawl since he is so good at it. He pulls himself up to standing but doesn't walk along anything yet. He is the most easy-going little guy, but he does get mad at Cora now when she is unkind and/or takes things from him. 

He says, Mama, Dada, hi, uh-oh, and just started saying ball. He waves hi and still loves to smile at anyone and everyone. And he is into EVERY-thing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday Jack! - 1 Year in Pictures

a few days old

1 month - started smiling at 7 weeks

2 months

3 months

4 months

5 months

6 months

7 months - started army crawling

8 months - started sitting up

9 months - first tooth

10 months - went from crawling to sitting by himself, says mama and dada

11 months - pulled himself to standing for the first time

1 year - crazy, into everything, and such a joy

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Death, Saturday and Insanity: Easter Musings

After reading a friend's Instagram post this morning, I find my thoughts continually coming back to what it must have been like to be the disciples and Jesus' followers on this Saturday after His death but before the resurrection. I am so very glad that I live in a time when the Holy Spirit is present to give us discernment and wisdom, and we have the Word of God, with the entire story of redemption, to read and study and understand. 

What was it like when they didn't fully comprehend why Jesus had come and what it all meant? How dark that day must have been! 

Yes, the disciples had heard Him pretty much explain exactly what was going to happen about how He was would have to lay down His life and that He would rise again, blah, blah, blah, but they had no idea what that really meant or entailed. Even after the resurrection, they didn't quite get the purpose for all of it. It's easy to look back on the disciples and feel like they were really dense, but I'm positive that any one of us in their shoes would not have acted differently.

But on that Saturday, what were they thinking? Their Messiah died!! And not only that but He died a horrible, humiliating death only reserved for the worst of criminals. When He was arrested, all the disciples ran away in fear of being associated with Him. Peter denied that he even knew who Jesus was. Not once, but three times.

Death is death. It is so final. It is the end that everyone experiences. In our minds, it is the normal progression of life, even when it's surprising or happens when we think it shouldn't. It still is that way things are. It's the natural way and something we understand to be true.

He was dead! They had seen a few people raised from the dead at Jesus' hand (who, by the way, still died again eventually), but now that Jesus was dead, that amazingness would seem to be pretty much over. 
And how often even now, do we, as believers in Christ, see God do something in our lives or someone else's but then really struggle with having faith the next time the same situation comes up? Anyone? Raising my hand right now. 

That day would have been awful. Horrible. Second worst day ever.

But then the next day. Oh, the next day. 

The disciples believed that Jesus was their Messiah, but He was also God. I'm not sure they comprehended that quite yet. No one rises from the dead. That proved it. God.

I think about how nutso we all must sound to those who do not know the story of Jesus or just don't believe it. We are all like, "yay for Resurrection Sunday!" And non-Christians are like, "ok you crazies." Haha! We totally sound crazy. Jesus sounded crazy. If He wasn't God, then all that stuff He said definitely should have gotten Him sent straight to the loony bin in a straight jacket. Can you imagine if someone today got up and said, "all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me (Matt 28:18)"? We would all run away screaming for help.

But those of you running, just for fun, do a google search of John chapter 18 and read through chapter 20 (search in the ESV-that's a readable version without any thees and thous). Super interesting story that made for a really intense, sad movie. 

What if it actually happened?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Christianity and Alcohol: 5 Reasons Why I Quit Drinking

I've been drunk. Lots of times. I've made horrible decisions while under the influence, and I've also had enlightening conversations about theology and God. I have been a Bible believer in Christ throughout it all, although my commitment to knowing my Lord personally and following His Word has varied during the course of my drinking days.

I don't drink anymore. Honestly, I stopped mainly because I wanted to get pregnant, then I was pregnant, then I was breastfeeding, then I was pregnant again, and the cycle continued. I only recently stopped having any alcohol at all. I have been on all sides of the alcohol argument that goes on in Christian circles. I grew up believing that alcohol itself was sinful and didn't have my first drink until I was 21.

So anything I say here is not meant as a condemnation. Pot. Kettle. In fact this pot is blacker than your kettle, I'm sure.

There are people who I know and love dearly who do choose to partake in alcohol consumption, and while I do not respect them any less, this fact has caused me to reflect on my stance on the matter to a higher degree that I otherwise would. It has taken me a while to write this post and decide to (gasp!) actually click that taunting orange publish button. I love so many dear ones who could potentially be offended by these words, although that is not my intention in any way. But so many of my thoughts of late keep bringing me back to the topic. I have spent a lot of time mulling over why I feel the prick of conscience that I do in relation to drinking when my loved ones perhaps do not. I just want to pose questions that I have asked myself and am still contemplating the answers to. 

So, Church. Christ-lovers. Dearest friends of mine seeking to know Him on this life journey....
Why the choice to drink alcohol [said with sincere curiosity]?

Oh, I hear you. One or two drinks is not a sin. The Bible only mentions drunkenness. Eh. Debatable. True technically, but there are many passages that talk about peeps getting into trouble because of drinking without specifically mentioning where the subject was on the drunkenness scale.

Ok though. Let's assume that one or two is totally fine, which is probably more where I would tend to agree with. But how many people do you know who really only EVER have one or two at a time? Maybe you can name a couple names of the multiple dear folk you know who imbibe. I, honestly, can't think of anyone. And I also know beloved fellow believers who just choose to ignore the admonitions regarding drunkenness completely (me! me! me! until very recently) and partake in a similar manner as the rest of the world. Sorry, ya'll, but if you claim to be a Bible-follower I'm not sure that there is good argument you can put up for justifying that.

So what is your definition of drunk? Feeling a little "tipsy"? Being totally plastered? Slurring your words? Blacking out? Hmmm... I have done all of those things, and, putting aside the legal limits, I would have to say that the beginning of "being drunk" is when you no longer act like you would completely sober. Such as, I-now-feel-empowered-to-talk-about-my-feelings-when-I-wouldn't-before or I-suddenly-feel-the-need-to-be-more-affectionate-than-I-would-before or my-voice-is-suddenly-slightly-louder-and-I-feel-smarter-than-I-did-before or perhaps I am just much more chatty in general. You get the picture. Also "legally drunk" happens way sooner than you think it does, and that is even a worldly standard, Loved Ones.

And I don't know about you but that feeling, that sense of empowerment, is truly the only reason to really drink in the first place. I mean, c'mon, if I wasn't looking for a certain sensation, I would just have water and save myself the calories. Anyone else feelin' me?

Ok, so let's say that you really do just drink one glass of wine with dinner because you like the taste, and none of the above applies to you. But guess what? It does to me and a huge number of other people who could either be: (a.) Christians who aren't as mature in their faith and may be confused by your decisions or (b.) non-Christians who are watching you. And there are verses about causing others to stumble (1 Cor 10:31-33).

So let me tell you the reasons that I chose to quit drinking (and I really do miss it sometimes).

1. My children
Once again about the causing others to stumble thing (Matt 18:6-9). I have no idea what areas of sin my kids are going to have true, deep struggles with. I was reading a blog the other day that said no one ever chooses to become an alcoholic. I'm sure no teenager ever looked at their socially-drinking parents' wine rack and thought, "gee, I am going to sneak one of those bottles tomorrow, and that first sweet taste is going to be the beginning of a life-long love affair where I alienate everyone I have ever known, choose my liquid idol above all else, and die of liver failure at age 53." No one ever plans for that. But it happens. I don't ever want to be a stumbling block to my children. I'm sure I will cause them to question my choices and their own convictions in many other ways of which I will be unaware at the time. I would rather not add to that list by possibly causing stumbling that was obvious to me. 

2. My past decisions
I have made some doozies while under the influence. Never again, thank you. Enough said. If you haven't gone there, good for you. Don't.

3. I see the control that alcohol has 
If I have one glass of wine with dinner and start to feel that wonderful relaxation feeling, I find myself thinking about how I really want another glass. Every. Single. Time. If I choose to give in, after each subsequent glass, that "need" just keeps compounding, and I just keep wanting more (not that I always would, but I sure would kinda want to). Not everyone struggles with this, but I certainly do. Ephesians 5:18 says, "Do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess [ain't that the truth]; but be filled with the Spirit." And you know what? I really want to be filled with the Spirit. Can I really hear Him and worship Him and praise Him if I am under the influence of something else?

I have thought a lot lately, too, about what it means to feel the Presence of the Lord. Beth Moore provides a good description; "when the Spirit of Christ in me responds to the Spirit of God around me, I sense His Presence." Obviously it's not like I live in a constant state of sensing His Presence in this way, but I believe that I can't recognize it if I am under the influence of a mind-altering substance (the priests of the tabernacle were not allowed to have any wine or fermented drink when they went into the Tent of Meeting [Lev 10:8-10] - I assume for a similar reason). From my experience, when I can hear God and see His Presence in my life in really meaningful ways, it always means that I have been deliberating choosing to obey His Word and cultivate my relationship with Him. And there is nothing in life better than to know the Presence of my God. To be rich in relationship with Him is only perfected by constantly evaluating junk in my life that is preventing me from experiencing the fullness of that intimacy. And for me, alcohol was junk that got trashed, because I want intimacy more.

4. My testimony
I was at a bar once and got to talking with someone who found out I was a Christian. "So you're a Christian who smokes (I used to do that too) and drinks?" Asked with incredulity. I still remember the slight look of disdain. Obviously that is an extreme case. One that you could pass off if you don't go to bars and don't smoke and don't drink in excess. But are you really portraying a strong testimony with the defensive "what?!-the-Bible-doesn't-say-anything-about-having-one-or-two-drinks-so-I-can" argument? Light and salt, People. In John 17:13-21, Jesus, in a prayer specifically for believers (v20), calls us to be separate. We are to be sanctified by the truth and be in the world but not of the world. Beth Moore again (I'm doing a study by her) states, " about purity - purity maintained in an impure world... What do you deliberately avoid for the sake of purity?" My own conclusion from my conscience (that I have fought with for years) and my continued Bible study tell me that I need to deliberately avoid alcohol. Matt 10:16 says, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." 

5. The Bible warns about drinking in excess - and I have a problem with wanting to drink in excess (Prov 20:1; Prov 23:20, 29-35). Bottom line. This was one that I really chose to ignore for a long time. I just didn't want to give up the fun that I had when I had drinks with awesome people. Really is nothing else to say about that one.

If you google, "can/should Christians drink," a bizillion things come up - many thoughts from theologians and folks who are much more articulate than I. I have people I am close to on every part of the spectrum as far as thoughts about this topic. It's definitely a hot one. I grew up with a more legalistic view of it, which I don't think is the way to be. But legalism also goes both ways. As a Christian, I can either be legalistic by saying that alcohol is a sin and pointing the finger at others who don't hold that view, or I can be legalistic by getting super offended at all those "alcohol-is-a-sin" sayers and talking about how they are nothing but a bunch of zealots. As believers in Christ, we need to choose to focus on the Gospel and the Love that unites us rather than always picking apart each other over everything that we differ on. 

So why write a post about it? 

Because if there is anything I've learned in my life, it's that if I am struggling with something, there are others struggling with the exact same thing. Those experiences that are "common to man" (1 Cor 10:13). Obviously this post is from my experience only (except for the Scripture part), but if you are struggling with your stance on alcohol as a believer in Christ, I hope you are more clear after reading this. The fact that your conscience is being pricked at all is probably one of the biggest red flags that maybe something needs to change. 

Open your Bible. Study. Don't take my word for it.

UPDATE 5/16/16: I have learned so many things since writing this blog post. When I wrote this, I was coming from a place of frustration, not understanding why those close to me did not have the conviction in this area that I did. I had a life-altering conversation with a lovely, godly friend who I respect very much. I learned through real experience, not just "church talk," that I am not responsible for convicting others and not everyone has the same convictions as I do. It was very freeing. I had become enslaved to alcohol, but not in the traditional way. Instead of thinking about drinking all the time, I was thinking about how everyone else shouldn't be drinking all the time. Here I thought I was all free from this stronghold, but I really had just becoming captive to it in a different way. 

I studied more in Scripture about alcohol and learned that there are actually many instances where wine is mentioned in a positive light. Looking at the whole picture, I have concluded that there is a definite line, and each person must be listening to the Holy Spirit for guidance as to where that line is. I actually still agree with pretty much everything I said above, especially for myself, but I know that much of it comes from a subjective place based on my experience and failings. If you see me have a glass of wine with dinner, it's because I have confidently found that line in my own life by studying God's Word daily and surrendering my thoughts and questions about it to Him. The one big thing that has changed from my original post is I no longer feel the need to continue with another and another. I pray God will always convict me to abstain if the issue at all is a stumbling block for someone else. I thank the Lord for His grace and patience as He taught me and continues to reveal truths about this difficult and culturally complicated subject matter. Only His truth is relevant. 

Open your Bible. Study. Don't take my word for it.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

Jack - 6 Months

This is a month late, but here are some 6-month pictures of Jack Attack. He is the smiliest baby in the whole world, and he loves everyone. He loves to be on his tummy and "fly."

All ready for our move to Minnesota

At our church in Monterey