How to Grieve Well with Your Infertile Friend…

Eight years ago, our first full attempt at IVF failed.  Four precious, much loved, immensely prayed for embabies created.  Two of them delicately transferred into my uterus three days later.  Neither of them implanted, however, leaving us not pregnant for the 4 millionth month in a row.

We tried again.  Starting in June of that year.  And that attempt gave us six more embabies and one sweet, sassy, stubborn little girl.

The truth?  I still grieve the loss of those ten babies.  And I have come to accept I always will.

This week is Resolve’s National Infertility Awareness Week.  Statistically, one in eight couples struggles with infertility.  To break that down in real life terms, someone in your small group, sitting next to you in the conference room, at the table across from you at dinner, and down the street in your neighborhood has faced or is facing or will face difficulty in growing their family.

You know someone infertile.

One of the most important things you need to know about infertility is this:  There is a whole lot of grieving going on.

Let me walk you through what that grief looks like.  And specifically, the grief after a failed IVF.

Let’s start at the point where the embryos have been transferred and we are, “pregnant until proven otherwise.”  When we are at our most hopeful. The days simultaneously a dream come true and a living nightmare.

First, know we google every symptom.  All. Of. Them.  And with all those extra hormones we are injecting into our bodies, there are SO MANY.

We try NOT to plan how we’ll announce our pregnancy to our friends but we give in to the excitement and do it anyway.

We rub our bellies and talk to those embabies all day long.

We pray for “sticky feet,” for implantation, hoping our embryos successfully find their way to the uterine wall and snuggle in for the next nine months.

Every hour of every day for nine to eleven days.

And then, when the pregnancy test is negative, we are utterly lost.

We question every movement.  Every action or inaction we took those days after transfer.

Did we rest enough?

Stay on our feet too long?

Did we eat the wrong foods?

Stay off our feet too long?

Did we get too hot?

Too cold?

Even though, we’ve read the research.  We know the truth.  There is nothing we could have done to make a pregnancy more or less likely.  It is completely out of our control.

Still.  We do all that.  Because this is what grief looks like.

And, we likely do it in lonely silence.

Do you have a friend walking through the silence and loneliness of infertility?  Do you struggle with knowing how to offer comfort when their latest attempt fails?  When they are not pregnant again?

As someone who walked this road, let me offer some guidance.

1. Be present.  Listen, we realize you don’t know what to say or what not to say or how to act or how not to act.  We do.  Honestly.

Truthfully?  We don’t know any of that either.  Every attempt is different.  Nothing is ever the same twice.  And that includes the grieving process.

But it hurts far worse when you pull away.

A dear friend, a super fertile friend at that, said to me, “I have no idea what to say but I can listen.”  And y’all?  That moment?  That offer?  Everything.  It was everything to me.

Hold our hand.  Watch really bad movies together.  Send a text message and say, “I hate this” or “Thinking of you” or “I’m coming over.”  Offer to listen. There is, simply, no replacement for your presence.

Be there.

2.  Ask questions.  Was this a medical procedure?  Weren’t the embryos “implanted?”  Why not?  What the heck is an ICSI?  What’s a beta?

We get it.

All of this feels a lot like an out-patient thing.  A thing that didn’t work.  With shots and anaesthesia and scrubs and sterile rooms, it most definitely feels like it should be a procedure.

We know.

And we know because it stands in stark contrast to how most of the world makes a baby.  Candlelight.  Marvin Gaye.  Maybe on a vacation somewhere tropical and lovely.

None of that is involved with how babies are made for us.  We’ve had to grieve that already.

But IVF, the process, the procedures, the terminology, it belongs to us.  It as much a part of our life as water.  Ask us.  Let us walk you through it.

Our last attempt, we were the only transfer that day.  Even in my valium induced bliss, without glasses or contacts, I remember seeing all the doctors and nurses lined up watching us and smiling as we walked into the transfer room.  It was like we were coming out of the tunnel onto the football field and they were our cheerleaders and marching band and maybe even a mascot. Cheering, dancing, playing our fight song!  It was glorious. That, that moment of exclusivity, when all of the squad was focused on us?  That made the moment intimate and sacred for us.  It felt victorious.

Believe me, an infertile can fully explain to you how this process is so delicate and precious and cherished.  How those sterile rooms feel a bit like holy ground.  How we have learned so much of the absolute miracle of life.  (Seriously.  It’s a miracle pregnancy happens AT ALL)

We only need someone to ask us.

Be that someone.  Ask questions.

3.  Feed us.  Okay, I recognize this is entirely Southern and maybe smacks of Baptist potlucks but, y’all, we need food.

Just like anyone grieving the loss of a loved one, we are deep in the middle of being almost entirely unable to function.  But, because we lost embryos and were never pregnant, we’re not sure we’ve earned the right to grieve.  Almost as if our loss is not worth understanding.  We feel like there is no grace nor empathy surrounding us.

Offer to bring over a meal and give your friend some much-needed validation that this grief they feel, it’s real and true and you see them.  Tell them, yes, you have every right to grieve this.

Just like you would see any other grieving friend.

A word of warning, though.  Plenty of infertiles will attempt to just carry on.  Why bother to try?   They dive HARD back into real life and burying their feelings.

But you can’t bury a feeling and expect it to die.

Instead, it thrives.  That feeling grows and grows, turning into bitterness and anger.

Don’t let your friend bury a living thing.

They need you to be persistent and loving and patient here.  Because, really, even if they can’t admit it, they need to be cared for.  Be that care.

Someday, they might even open up and let their feelings show.  Lots of honest gets shared over a table of food.

Be at that table.  Feed them.

4.  Calendar it.  I promise you,  your friend knows what would have been her due date.  Really, y’all.  She absolutely does.

Pay attention to the details.  You know the day of the negative pregnancy test or you know the day of the retrieval or the day of the transfer.  A quick google search can give you a due date with that information.

And y’all, honestly, if you asked her, she would probably tell you.

Then you grab that little hand-held computer you stare at five millions times a day and put that date on your calendar.

Just do it.

Nine months from now, she will be hurting.  Your friend will be anticipating it and dreading it.  Be intentional about walking through those days with her.

Calendar it.

Holding my children on this earth in no way takes the place of missing my children in heaven.  My ten embabies made me a mother before Miss Sassafras entered the world.

And I will always feel their loss.

But nothing, nothing, compares to the grief I suffered in the days and weeks and months immediately following our loss during IVF.

Go now, friend.  Reach out.  Be present.  Ask questions.  Feed her.  Walk beside your infertile friends.  They need you to grieve well with them.

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Gratitude Friday…

Several weeks ago, after my regular bible study meeting, my leader asked me to consider becoming a leader myself.

And the eye roll and grabbing of my pearls thing happened.  If I’d had a hankie in my purse, I would have fanned myself with it.

I am so Southern.

Bible study this year has been a delight.  I’ve never done a study on a New Testament book.  Much less one of the four gospels.  But, I think, if you’re gonna start with one, it should totally be John.  Heavens, he just loved Jesus.

I mean.

After I let go of my pearls, I agreed to pray about it.

A week or so later, the director of our bible study called me.  I was expecting the call.  Otherwise, I would have ignored it completely.  She caught me as I was pulling into the trail for a run.

After a brief introduction, she said, “Well, what I’m really in need of are children’s leaders.”

And I stopped her right there.

“Oh, friend.  You’ll think I’m a horrible person when I tell you this but I don’t like children.  Like.  At all.”

Thankfully, she laughed.  And like my leader, she asked me to pray about it.

Although, I didn’t need to.

I knew as soon as the words came out of her mouth God wanted me to say yes.

In case you’re wondering how I felt about that, well…

I headed out on my run and did my best to turn God off.  I was listening to a podcast (Hello, S-Town peeps!) and basically ignoring God’s phone call.

Nope.  Dismiss.

Instead, I was doing a bunch of this…

“I’m absolutely not doing this.  Why would You ask me to do this?  You know me.  Kids are not my thing.  Infertiles are my thing.  Can’t I just have a bible study group of infertiles?  They are my people.  Children are other people’s people.”

God loves me.  Really.

Later that day, I was alone again.  And I knew I had to answer God’s call and listen.  I’d gotten my rant out of my system.  Mostly.  So this time, I took a deep breath, answered the call, and said, “Okay.  Do you really want me to do this?”

And He said, “Yes.  I want you to say yes.”

 

Fine.  FINE.

Listen, it’s not that I hate children.  I have two, for goodness sakes.  It’s just that…

….well…

….I can understand why some animals eat their young.

That’s all I’m saying.

I love my kids.  LOVE THEM.  But I am not and have never been a “kid person.”

As my kids get older, I realize this more and more.  Those years from birth to wiping their own bottoms?  NOT IT.   I am anxiously awaiting the day they can fix their own breakfast in the mornings so perhaps the adults could sleep in on a Saturday.

I mean, is 7:30 am too much ask for?

When I met with our director, I told her all of that.  I’m not interested in pretending here.  I respect her and the bible study and any relationships I have built or will build to be straightforward.

This week, I went to my first leaders’ meeting and I felt a whole lot like a fish out of water.  But I am all in.

Several things going on in this Ask from God and My Obedience.

First.  God asked.

Here’s the real truth:  I’m glad God asked me to DO again.

Since the year of the pruning and then Him asking me to lay down my writing last spring, it’s kinda been a while since He invited me to DO something.

Give up something?  A lot of things?  Yes.

Invited me to pick up something?  No.

I am finding myself incredibly grateful He asked.  Sure, it’s not what I would have picked but that’s okay.  He asked.  That’s enough.

Second, we never enter the uncomfortable alone.

The new leaders are paired up with experienced (how about my avoidance of the word “old” there?)  leaders.  Mine is lovely.  And it took us about three minutes to admit neither of us likes kids.

She said, “I have one child.  One purpose.”

It always amazes me how God calls us to the exact spot we would least like to be.  And once you get there, He’s already prepared those around you.

Sigh.

Sometimes, okay, almost always, I forget that.  God’s already prepared for you to do the good work He’s called you to and that includes the people around you.  He’s not sending you somewhere blind.  Or maybe He does but He gives you a support system to help you see.  Both to see Him and to see His hand in this weird uncomfortable bit.

Three, He met a need for provision in the asking.

For weeks, I have been dodging making a decision about my son’s preschool for next year.  We have so enjoyed where he is now but it’s just one class for ages 2 to 5.  He’s learned some but nothing like what he needs to know before starting kindergarten.  We need him in a more traditional classroom.

But it’s super expensive.

And our property taxes went up (over a hundred dollars) a month for next year.

We had talked ourselves silly over the decision.  My husband finally said, just pick a place and let’s do it.

Then this leader thing came up.

My son can attend with me, in his own class, two days a week.  One day, for the leader’s meeting, he’ll play and hang out.  The second day, though, he’ll be in a structured class and learn his own bible story, hymns and play time around the story.

In God’s asking and in my obedience, we found a spot for my son.  Three days a week in a preschool and two days a week in bible study.

We save money and he still has activities to do every day.

Now I can see why I was never fully ready to commit to a preschool.  Once I got the call to serve, the exact class we needed was open and ready for him.

I am grateful for all of it.  Being asked to DO again, my hand-selected mentor, the provision for both our financial needs and my son’s academic needs.  All of it.

Thank you, Lord.

What are you grateful for this week?  Has God invited you to anything lately?  Asked you to give something?

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Hey Church, It’s Monday…

The grand total of our family Easter Eggs hunts, this year, equals six.  My son takes the prize with four, while my daughter only managed two.

In case you’re wondering, she is not at all happy about that.

Behind all those eggs hunts sit mommas and daddies and grandparents and teachers stuffing candy and stickers and tattoos and tiny plastic toys into said eggs.  This momma stuffed her children’s eggs with quarters, nickels and dimes.  Plus one special egg holding a single dollar bill.

And also, leftover Halloween candy.  Because the alternative is that stuff gets thrown out October 30th.

Shhhh.  Don’t tell my children.

I sat on my couch after Sunday Easter Lunch scrolling through various social media accounts liking all the smiling, gussied-up faces of my friends, family and several folks I haven’t seen in twenty years.

Social media is at it’s finest on holidays.

(Or it’s worst.  Depending on your view.)

I adore the pictures of families and videos of kids running into each other during their church’s egg hunt and fur babies wearing bunny costumes and more smocked dresses and jon-jons than the number of Peeps thrown into the trash.

But I also thought about today.

Monday.

When those smiling faces will head back to work and school and activities.  The pretty dresses and freshly starched shirts piled in hampers with the rest of the weekend’s dirty laundry.  And the honey glazed ham straight out of the oven turns into cold sandwiches in brown bags.

Really.  Monday is kind of a letdown.

But.

Should it be?

Good Friday social media is as sad as Easter Sunday social media is glad.  Good Friday says the sun stopped shining, the rocks and mountains shock and the veil of the temple was torn in two.  Friday is dark but, oh, y’all, Sunday’s coming!

Right?  Don’t we all reply, Hold on!  Sunday’s coming!

And Sunday does come.  Every year.  Along with permission to wear white again.  And Grandma’s deviled eggs.  And baskets full of so many toys, it seems the Easter Bunny is gunnin’ for Santa’s job.

Cel-le-brate!  Jesus!  Celebrate!

(Please say you sang that.)

Then Monday comes with its too-early alarms and broken plastic eggs you stepped on when you got out bed and emails with tasks you didn’t want to do on Friday, much less now, and the good intentions you had standing in Sunday services are busted all up before you’ve even brushed your teeth.

Sunday came.

And went.

We heard the pastor say on Sunday, Jesus’ resurrection changes everything.

But on Monday, we heard our boss ask for that report a full week ahead of schedule and we’re nowhere close to being done.

On Sunday, we read that our past and our shame and our guilt died with Christ and we are a new creation in Him.

But on Monday, we still hear the whispers of that stupid, bad decision, awful day, embarrassing moment we can’t forget, can’t move past and nothing feels new.  It feels so the same.

On Sunday, we felt the freedom of It is finished and no longer needing to strive and work and struggle to be anything or anyone other than the person we are right in that moment because the victory is complete in Jesus.

But on Monday, we find out we didn’t get the promotion and our kid didn’t pass his test and the cancer has returned and we feel unsee and not enough and exhausted from the fight.

And our Monday feels…

Like Saturday.

The in-between day when there are no answers and only questions.  When life is lost and grief cripples.  When we feel stuck and covered in regret.

Saturday is silent and stoic and stunned and still.

And almost every year, or so it feels, our Sunday comes with its victory and freedom only to see it stolen by Monday with it’s brokenness and battles.

But the truth, friend?  The same victory and freedom available on Sunday is still available on Monday.  The same power that rose Jesus from the grave on Sunday continues to be ours when our feet hit the floor on Monday.

The ham may be cold and the Peeps may be stale and our pictures may be less frilly but y’all, Monday holds the same Joy, the same Redemption, the same Grace as Sunday ever did.

Monday is the same as Sunday.

That’s the good news, y’all.

Because of one Sunday every Monday ever holds the Sunday Finished.

What if we chose to LIVE as Sunday people on Monday mornings?  Or Wednesday nights?  Or Friday date nights?

What if we asked our risen Savior to fill us up to overflowing with His Sunday victory on our Monday commute?

What if we reminded ourselves we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness because He hung on that cross every.single.time the enemy whispers in our ear?

What if we refused to allow our Monday’s to be like all the other Mondays and started living a Sunday life every day?

What if?

We would change the world.

Your world.

You would change your world.

I’m ready to change my world.

Are you?

Today, let’s eat our cold ham sandwiches and do a load of weekend-kind-of-dirty laundry and tell the lies of condemnation and shame that It is finished.  It’s done.  There’s no work left to do.  So, listen here, Brokenness and Guilt and My Past, I’m gonna eat this sandwich and be glad.  I’m gonna fold these clothes and be joyful.  I’m gonna tell you about my Jesus and Sunday and His Victory and tell Monday, I am grateful.

Sunday has come, y’all.

And that’s enough to cover anything the rest of the week can throw our way.

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Gratitude: It Is Finished…

Several years ago, after we had welcomed our miracle daughter into our family, God graciously revealed a treasured part of His heart to me.  It was Christmas and I was, admittedly, overwhelmed with emotion.  Our first Christmas with a child.  Our child.  A beautiful, much-prayed-for, miracle daughter.  I wrapped one present for her, wrote her name on the tag and put it under the tree.  Crying through the entire thing.

Invitro is a cold, medical, scary process.  Before we began, I read a couple of books, and too many articles to count, on the ethics of infertility treatments.  Especially the freezing or discarding of embryos.  Among Christian authors, there was little debate.  An embryo is a life.  And as a life, it should be given every opportunity to grow and thrive and live.  Embryos were not to be thrown away and treated as trash but should be preserved and transferred.

We believed that as well.

Thus, we began the process of shots and egg retrievals.   Our embryologist manually injecting one sperm into one egg, then waiting for those two parts to begin dividing and growing into one human, and we knew.  We agreed.  We believed, any embryo we created, as long as it survived, we would give it a chance at life.

Obviously, we started out thinking this would be easy.  We would retrieve the average 10 eggs and have embryos available for freezing.

Simple.

But.  What if?

What.  If.

What if we got pregnant with twins?  What if we got pregnant with triplets?  What if we still had embryos frozen?  What if we had more kids than we planned, could handle, could afford?  What if?

So we started praying.  Praying God would only allow the exact number, the ordained number of embryos He had planned for us before He placed a single star in the sky, only those embryos would survive the seven-day long process to freezing.

Simple.

Only, not.

In my foolishness, I thought that would be the easiest way to get around the whole, “What if” thing.  Because if we didn’t have any embryos to freeze, then we wouldn’t have to worry about having six children.  We’d have the two we’d always dreamed about and be done with it.

Only.

I faced a hard truth in that decision.  In those prayers for my embryos to die.

In the weeks following our second, and first full attempt, at IVF, I became incredibly aware of embryos being a life.  All the reading and informing and researching I had done in preparation for the process did nothing to alleviate a pain I never anticipated.

Those prayers of asking for a simple, clear, direct decision offered me the opportunity to mourn a life that only grew to three or four cells before dying.

Three cells.  Four cells.  Viewed only through a microscope and magnified thousands and thousands of times.

And yet, in my heart, those four cells?  Life-alternatingly enormous.

God creates mothers at the moment He creates life.  Our embryologist took sperm and egg and with a syringe, he forced them together.  He physically fertilised an egg and a sperm.

But he, Glenn, our embryologist, did not create life.

Only when God breathed life into that fertilised egg did it begin to divide and grow.

And at that very moment, God breathed that embryo’s life into being, He whispered my new name.

Momma.

I had no idea that would happen.  But after our IVF attempt failed, I knew.

I was a mother.

And those four embryos created for that attempt?  My children.

It is an odd feeling to be a mother with no children.

Two growing, living human being embryos were placed into my uterus.  Infertiles refer to that period, the time between transfer and the blood test for pregnancy, as, “Pregnant until proven otherwise.”   But we were never pregnant.  We were otherwise.

And yet, I was a mother.  Their mother.

Even now, eight years later, I miss them.  Not every day.  And certainly, my children here with me have provided healing from the grief.  But every now and then, I have an “infertility sensitive” day.  A day when I grieve, in oh so small ways, comparatively, the loss of my ten children.  The ten embryos God breathed life into but I never held on earth.

Those prayers?  Prayers I thought were saving us?  From what exactly?  Too many children?  From making decisions about life and death?  From having too many blessings?  Foolishness.  Blindness.  Stupidity.

And I felt the weight of those prayers, the guilt and longing and grieving, so freshly for months and months and months.

Until that Christmas, the first Christmas we were celebrating with our daughter.

I remember meditating on Mary and her heart.

“But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” ~ Luke 2:19

I still cling to those words.  Mothers, well, we keep a whole lot of things for pondering.  Sometimes because there are no words to adequately express our ponderings and sometimes because our ponderings don’t need to be said.  Or written.  Some things are too precious to share.

But that Christmas, as I was thinking about all the things I was now pondering as a mother, I began seeing Mary, in that stable, sneezing in the hay (because obviously, she would have been allergic, just like me), holding her son and being blissfully unaware of how his life would end.

We have the gift of perspective and time and a historical account of Jesus’ life.  We know that baby in a manager will die a horrific death on a cross.  We know He does not become an earthly king, sitting on a throne.  We joyfully celebrate His birth anticipating His sacrificial death.

Mary, though.  She pondered only the events of His birth.  His ten little fingers.  His ten little toes.  His weight in her arms.  His brand new, still-smelling-of-heaven life.

But God the Father knew.

He allowed, ordained, sent His son to this earth.  And He knew, as Mary pondered His beginnings, the Father was pondering His son’s end.

I thought about the length of time our embryos lived here on earth.  Five days.  Six days.  Maybe seven for some.

How long were those years of Jesus’ life on earth to His Father in heaven?  Five seconds?  Six minutes?  Maybe seven hours?

We allowed embryos to be created and had foolishly prayed for their death to save us from making a decision.  From being a mother to too many children.  From being faced with our very real inadequacies.

God chose to send His only Son to earth, to His death, to save us from our own deaths.  To make a way to Him.  To open the doors of His kingdom and become an adopted child of His very own family.

We prayed for death.

God chose death.

The pain I felt when those embryos, my children, did not survive?  The grief was dark and rocked my soul.  I became physically sick and spiritual broken.

The pain God felt when His son, His only child, died?  The earth went dark.  The ground shock.  God created a physical change in our world and a spiritual change in our eternity.

God taught me.  He knew the pain of losing a child.  He created a baby.  Jesus as a human baby.  Knowing, fully and completely, those ten fingers and ten toes would one day be nailed to a cross.  To save humanity from an eternity separated from Him.

We had wanted just two.  God wanted every single one of us.

This Easter, I pray, when we look at Jesus on the cross, when we see the darkness fall across the earth, when we read of the veil being torn, of the earthquakes, of the realization of the crowds watching as they say, “Surely, this was the Son of God,” we will allow our lives to embrace the joy and love and relief of those moments.  He gave His Son and welcomed millions more as their Father.

I pray, we release the shame and guilt and grief over our mistakes, over our losses, over our stupid, stupid choices.  And instead, we let Jesus be Jesus.  We let God be God.  And we let the blood Jesus shed, the blood God the Father knew had to be offered even as Mary marvelled at those ten fingers and ten toes, we let ourselves be a Child of God.

Even though God showed me so much of His heart on that Christmas six years ago, this Easter, the Easter my daughter turns seven, this is the Day I say, It is finished.  I will rejoice in my Father, in His sacrifice, in His loving embrace and let Him wash away my burden He nailed to the cross thousands of years ago.

It is time.

It is finished.

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The Eight Days I Called the Mental Ward At All Hours…

At this point, I cannot even remember how I found out.  The years since have grown grey.

But, I know I knew.  Pretty quickly.

My friend, after stopping herself mid-suicide attempt, voluntarily checked into a psychiatric hospital.

The ward kept only one phone line for patients.  Hours were spent calling the line, hearing the busy signal, waiting five minutes and calling again.  Only to repeat the process.

But I called all day long.

The goal, to talk with her at least once a day.  Sometimes, the goal was accomplished.  Sometimes, not.

The events leading up to the stalled suicide attempt were things of which great novels are made.  Family shattered.  Trust demolished.  Realities turned falsehoods.

My friend.  My amazing, brave, challenging friend.  Her.  She almost lost it all.

And me, I could do almost nothing to help.

Other than call the one, solitary land line shared among an entire floor of mental patients.

In a few weeks, She and I have made plans to get together.  The first such meeting in five years.

Seeing Her on the calendar, I feel the memories of those eight days, all those years ago, swirling around me.  They pester me like a swarm of knats.

I remember feeling incredibly helpless.  My immediate family suffers from heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and a general addictive personality to things such as food, running, romance novels and cigarettes.  But zero mental illness.

This new thing?  This unexpected fear?  This indescribable worry?  A person I deeply loved, respected, needed checking into a pysch ward?

Foreign.

Meanwhile, she thrived.  Daily therapy.  New medication.  Personal, real connections with others who understood her battles.

I heard it in her voice.

With every day, she grew stronger.

What I can say now, what I could not see then, God prepared me.  In ways only He can, my Father dropped me little and large pieces of manna to feed my soul as I stood witness to Her life-altering transformation.

In ways only He can, my Father dropped me both little and large pieces of manna to feed my soul as I stood witness to Her life-altering transformation.

In my own battle against postpartum depression.  In my marriage, as we watched our union almost slip through our fingers.  In my medicated brain, feeling the numbness and evenness of the drugs.  In my withdrawals and electric-like zaps as I tapered off the numb I could no longer stand.

Only God gracious allows a brief season of suffering so we can empathise as the Her’s in our life suffer far greater than we ever did.

Infertility and miracle babies and redeemed callings.  Those are the story of my life.

Postpartum depression, marriages held together only by stubborness and sworn vows, navigating life through bottles of pills.  Those are not my story.

They were part of Her story.

Because God lovingly gave them to me, just for a season, so I could stand in the hallway, stand in the pain, stand in the fear, with Her.

Because He gave, I could call that phone line seventy times a day burying my fear of never hearing her answer it again.  Because He gave, we could call out the numbness of mood-controlling drugs together and fight against it.  Because He gave, we could be open about the hardness and rawness of a broken marriage and the grief of lost dreams.  Because He gave, I could face Her new reality, Her new strength, Her new life.

Her.  She is no longer the Her I once knew.  That Her disappeared during those eight days.  I witnessed it.  Even from a four-hour distance and through only a single phone line.  And in the weeks and months that followed, I continued to watch her grow and change and become both truly herself and a complete stranger.

Because He gave, I did not walk beside my friend for those eight days completely unprepared.  The truth, God provided and prepared and we walk across parted sea to the other side with a new life and a new Her.

We share a past, a connection, a battle, a victory.  And we share it only because God gives us exactly what we need at the exact right time to face the exact challenges this broken world plans for us.

Today, I anxiously await our scheduled meeting I see on my calendar.  Excited to spend some time getting to know the healed and whole and changed Her she has grown to be.

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Gratitude Friday: Spring Break Edition…

Ahem.

Welcome to the end of Spring Break.

Basically, we have spent all the money and had all the fun and done all the projects ever possible in one week.

We started the week with my first trip to a hair salon of any type in almost three years.  That took three hours because I go to cosmetology schools where the stylists are students and still learning.  I like to go since it’s cheaper and, well, I feel like I’m assisting in the learning process.  You’re welcome, Students.

After hair, I drove to the outlet malls to buy a new pair of running shoes.  My last pair had approximately 350-400 miles on them but my knee was starting to hurt.  Thus new shoes.  And they’re turquoise.  As all good and perfect things should be.

When I got back in my car, after walking through the pouring rain, the 15-year-old car refused to start.

And that rolls us into Sunday when we had to have the car towed to the house so my husband (who is a genius) could fix it.  Which he did.  Praise the Lord.

Monday was a McDonald’s lunch play date with friends.  And don’t even come at me with your super judgy judgment.  God is bigger than a couple of Happy Meals.  We’re fine.

Tuesday, library and park.  Wednesday, one of those huge entertainment places with bowling, video games and hotdogs.  Thursday, thrift stores and consignment shops up north.  And today, a picnic at the park with friends.

We will wrap up Spring Break with a surprise trip to see Disney on Ice this Sunday after church.

Of course, had we known the car would break down and we’d have to both tow it and fix it, we likely wouldn’t have spent the cash on an ice show.  But C’est la vie.  It’s only money.

In and around that, I’ve been working my way through some assignments for a writing group I joined.  We started with personality testing.  I already knew I was an INFJ.  Only about 1% of the overall population are that type but all writers are.  Well, okay, maybe not all but a lot.

This week, I also discovered I’m a “Questioner.”  To which my genius husband replied, Duh.

He’s an “Obliger” and that was a surprise to me.  Until I read the description and then I was more, “Oh, for sure.”

We took a spiritual gifts test, too.  My gift is “discernment.”  Yet another moment when my husband called it.  He literally told me my gift before I could tell him the results.  (It’s possible I’ve taken the test before and I’ve forgotten.)  Regardless, the results were not all that shocking.

Although, I have been processing through how much those two traits go together.  I wasn’t much of a questioner as an employee UNLESS I sensed the tasks were basically busy work  or would ultimately have no real purpose and THEN, it was hard to get motivated.  My “full of crap” meter is pretty sensitive.

As a SAHM, this Questioner thing rears its ugly head when my kids ask for something.  My natural, gut reaction is to say NO immediately.  Not necessarily because that No makes sense as much as it is because they asked a question AT ALL.  I recognized that about myself a few months ago and started working on it then and can happily report, I’m now able to stop and think before STILL saying No.  Largely because my kids ask for crazy things, like a new toy every week, in which case, No is the appropriate response to that. But for things like, “Can we paint today?”  I should answer Yes more than No.

(Although mess makes my eye twitch so saying Yes to painting means MESS and so I really should be receiving some sort of parenting award for allowing painting to happen AT ALL in my house.)

(Should we discuss my overuse of the “AT ALL” or leave it be?)

But I’ve also been thinking about how my questioning is hindering me in my writing.  This writing community I joined is amazing.  So. Much. Good.  And they aren’t even shy about calling us out and holding our scared little feet to the fire.  Lots of writers, myself the President of this society, say, “I just want to write.”  But the group leaders counter that with a sweet, “Yeah, that’s a lie.”  And it is.  Because I want to write but what I really want is for people to read the words and find hope in them.

So.

If I want people to read the words I write, then I might actually have to SHARE those words.

The group talks a great deal about that.  About reaching people and getting my words to someone other than my husband and friends.  (Although, y’all rock.) (Fist bump)

And so I’ve realized, as the leaders are attempting to help us reach the goal of people actually reading our words, my Questioner personality gets all, “Nah.  You are so not the boss of me.”

Which is true.

And not.

Because really, if Jesus intended for me to write in a journal for my entire life and never share what He’s taught me, He sure did mess up on giving me this desire to do exactly the opposite.  And since we know He doesn’t make mistakes, well, then, I’m gonna have to hit this Questioner thing squarely in the mouth.

Two personality tests remain.  Strengths Finder and Enneagram.  I’ve heard of the Enneagram test before.  Like on every podcast involving Jamie Golden or Annie F. Downs.  Since it was homework for this group, I did bite the bullet and buy the whole book.  Should be interesting.  I like learning about this kind of stuff.  I have done this a whole stinking lot about my daughter.  Just trying to figure out how God put her together.  But it’s been a while since I attempted any personal reflection on myself.

Thank you, Lord, for the chance to learn more about how You created me.  May it be used for Your glory and Your kingdom.

How is God showing you more about yourself these day?

And if you take one of the tests, let me know what you get!

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Gratitude Friday…

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Welcome to the week of meltdowns.

Sweet mercy.

Yesterday, it was my son over his legos.  He couldn’t make them do exactly what he was thinking.

“I have a picture in my brain but I can’t make my hands to it.”

He came into this world creating a gigantic mess out of everything.

A tinkerer.

At 18 months old, he could dead climb the kitchen cabinets.  I came out from a shower one day to find him standing in the middle of the kitchen table.  He wasn’t doing anything.  Just standing.  Taking in the view, I guess.

I stopped showering when he was awake.

As a toddler, his favorite toys were the spatulas and spoons from the kitchen drawers.  They were large and they were “tools.”  Later, I rescued him from potato peelers, food processors, and blenders.

No, we have not been to the ER yet but thanks for asking.

Thanks to his innate curiosity about tools and utensils, he can easily become frustrated when he can’t immediately figure out how something works.  Most of the time, his legos offer hours of fun and imagination.  I call him, “My Lego Builder,” and he thinks that is the coolest title ever.

But yesterday, the pieces and the vision in his brain didn’t play well together.

Likewise, this morning, my daughter selected an outfit a little outside of the norm for her.

She struggles with sensory issues.  Neck, ankles, legs, chest.  Basically, anywhere a seam might hit.  These have become fewer and fewer over the years.  She and I have worked hard, together, to make sure her clothes are comfortable and easy to wear.

But every now and again.

Sigh.

This morning was one of those now and agains.  Today, leggings.  Occasionally, she’ll tell me she has a “vision” for her outfit.  Sometimes, she intentionally focuses to make that vision wearable.  Even if the clothes aren’t her normal thing.  Other times, like today, she simply lays the clothes out the night before and expects to just slip into them the next morning.

Only she can’t.

All her bells and whistles and nerve endings go bonkers.

Now, hear my heart when I say, I have been known to lose my ever-loving mind in these situations.  I can easily get frustrated with my children’s frustrations.  Clearly, that helps approximately zero of us so I spend a good bit of mental energy and prayer time seeking more self-control and patience.

And, in these latest meltdowns, I shocked myself by having an abundance of both.

Thank you, Jesus.

With my son, I sat down on the floor with him and told him stories about…well…him.

“You know what, Little Man?  You have always loved figuring out how things work.”

Laughing, “I have?”

“Yes!  God made you just that way.  And I love that you have a picture in your brain of what you want to create!  That’s awesome!  But sometimes, we have to try and try and try over and over again to make the picture in our brain become a real thing in our hands.”

Now, he’s studying my face and hanging on every word.

“And you know what?  You’ve got all of your life to create those pictures in your brain into real things in your hand!  God gave you that ‘tinkerer’ talent!  And He loves watching you use it!”

Miraculously, that worked.  He’d heard words of life about how he was fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving Creator.

No longer frustrated, he was excited to start building again.  He dove right back in and started creating.

This morning, when I found my daughter face down on the bed, bawling, I bent down and got face to face with her.  I apologized.  I am genuinely sorry she has to go through anything like this.

And then I told her what every woman knows.

“Sometimes, clothes just don’t feel good.  Sensory issues or not, some days, clothes feel…off.  Sweet Girl, do you know some mornings I go through two or three outfits before I find one I’m comfortable in?”

Wiping tears and whispering, “Really?”

“So really, girl.  It’s universal.  All women go through it.  Different reasons but, yes, we all get the joy of feeling like our clothes are wearing us instead of us wearing them.”

And, that worked.  I made it normal for her.  I admitted my own struggles and made it okay.  All those fits and tears and frustrations are uniquely hers but, really, women, we’ve all been there.

Now, you’d think after all that, two meltdowns and two miraculous resolutions, I would be grateful for the patience, self-control and the word God gave me.

And I am.  Absolutely.

But what I need you to hear is what God whispered.

“Don’t give up.  Keep going.”

A holy echo.

As I think through the recent posts on showing up and callouses and even my grandmother’s story, each one is an encouragement to KEEP GOING.  Don’t let yourself be swept away by the lies of not being enough or unworthy.  Stay the course.  Run your race.  And don’t look around at the other runners.

Take the same advice for my son.  That vision, the picture in your brain, God gave you?  Keep working to make that vision something you can tangibly hold in your hand.  Nothing happens overnight or even the first time you try something.  But it’s worth it.

And then take the advice for my daughter.  Everyone struggles.  We all have to try on lots of outfits, lots of ways of doing something, until we find the way that works.  We find the way we can recreate God’s vision.  Sometimes, we try on one way and it doesn’t work.  So we throw that way off and try a new one.  But we keep trying, because everyone struggles.

I suspect you need to hear that as much I needed to hear that.

Keep going, friend.  No matter what hallway you’re in right now.  Whatever the vision, the calling, that Thing you simply have to keep doing, keep on keeping at it.

At the proper time, you will reap the harvest.

To God be the Glory.

 

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Jean…

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Meet my grandmother, Jean.

As a young, pregnant wife, she loaded up her entire life, left her husband (a man who did not appreciate the gift he had in her) and drove back home to the great metropolis of Alexander City, Alabama.

All alone.

She became a divorced, single mother in a time when women simply did not do that.

For a decade, she raised my mother while living in her own mother’s home and working at the local factory.

She then married my grandfather and she and mom began a new life with him.  Traveling with Granddaddy, supporting him and protecting him through every crazy scheme and dream and drink he took.

Grandmother went on to have another daughter and a son.  Though, she suffered multiple miscarriages and, later, the horrible loss of her eight-year old daughter to cancer.

Still, every day, when she wasn’t fighting her own cancer, she went to the women’s prison to teach and serve the women in the prison school.

Teaching provided a steady income and good benefits.  Both of which were desperately needed.

Grandmother never shared her hopes and dreams with me. It’s possible by the time I came into her world, she might not have been holding on to many anymore.

But because she loaded up her car that day and drove all the way across the country, my mother was born.

Safe.

My mother and grandmother were safe.

As posts and tributes have flowed today, praising brave, bold women who have impacted the world around them, I want to remember my grandmother.  And all the grandmothers and mothers and aunts and sisters and friends like her.  Ones who gave of their whole lives.  Quietly.  Sacrificially.  Completely.

Here’s to the women making hard choices.  Women who have lost dreams but keep showing up.  Women who dream for the next generation and hope they give us enough of a boost to reach higher than they did.  Women who leave one terror and walk boldly into the unknown.  Women dreaming of rest and quiet over breaking barriers and ceilings.  Women who intentionally and doggedly do exactly everything they must do for the survival of their family.

The larger world may never know these women but in their own little worlds, they deserve celebration.

Love you, Grandmother.

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On Showing Up…

A couple of years ago, we went through a phase we lovingly referred to as, “The Pruning.”

In case you think that sounds just super fun, you’re absolutely correct.

Kinda like a stomach bug is super fun.

The season started with a devastating loss at our church.  One we did not see coming.  And one we were in no way prepared to experience.  What followed was the pruning of friends, purpose, ministry, comfort, and our physical home.

Over the course of eight or nine months.

I never knew when God would be done.  I felt lost and abandoned and unseen.  And most days, all I could pray was a simple, “Lord, I want to be found faithful at the end of this journey.”

Honestly, faithfulness seemed impossible.  Things and people and dreams were being chopped out of our lives and our heads were spinning.  We knew basically nothing.  We had never experienced a true pruning.

Y’all.

We faced a choice:  Listen to our feelings or listen to God.

Our feelings are not truth.  God’s word is truth.

Too often, we let our feelings run our life.  Right?  We give them power, a position of authority.  And those feelings?  They lie.  When we chose to let them take charge, we give power and authority over to the enemy.

I refused to give the darkness authority in my life.

That power and authority belongs to Christ alone.

My feelings said the pruning wasn’t even necessary.  My feelings searched for fruit on those branches being cut.  Fruit the Lord must have missed and He obviously needed me to find on His behalf.  But God’s word says He is the gardener and he WILL cut off what does not bear fruit.  The truth of God’s word told me there was no fruit to find.  Period.

My feelings pushed me down into the pit of shame and guilt and unclean.  My feelings told me I was not enough and not worthy.  God says I was already clean through my acceptance and belief in Jesus.  “Already clean.”  Not in the process of cleaning.  Not dirty again and needs a new washing.  No.  It is done.  I was clean before the pruning started and the clean had not been removed.

My feelings wanted to tell me I was alone.  God and I were separated and distant and reconciliation was a lost cause.  But God instructs me to “abide” in Him.  Remain.  Persist. Stay.  God did not move.  He did not leave me.  The truth of His word says I needed to remain, persist and stay with Him.  In Him.

So whatever my feelings?  I had to let them go.  Lay them at the feet of my Savior.  And allow God’s holy word to speak truth into my heart.

When I felt at my worst, when faithfulness seemed completely out of reach, I made a decision.  Reading and listening and memorizing scripture was step one.  The next right step?

To show up.

I showed up for prayer.  I showed up for conversations with Godly friends.  I showed up for worship, both private and corporate.  I showed up with gratitude.  I showed up.

And I continued to show up.

Friend, God has not abandoned you.  You are not unseen.  You are not living in condemnation.

You are being refined and made new and, yes, maybe even pruned SO THAT your life will be “even more fruitful.”

If you are going through your own season of pruning, show up.

Show up to church.  Actively participate in worship.  Sing in your car.  Pray in the shower.  Ask the Holy Spirit for some of his fruits.  A lot.  When friends invite you to coffee or lunch or a new small group, say yes.  Allow the body of Christ to serve and comfort and love you.

Show up for your commitments.  Don’t allow yourself to wallow.  Be where you are expected to be when you are expected to be there.  Work, PTA, soccer practice, leadership meetings.  Nothing is to be gained from removing yourself from the world around you.  That allows your feelings to speak even louder.  Don’t give the darkness space in which to speak.

Show up for honoring the people in your life.  Don’t grant yourself permission to get drawn into gossip.  Don’t look for someone to blame or hold on to bitterness about the circumstances or burn bridges with people God has placed in your life.  God is the gardener.  As much as I wanted to be angry with the people and situation, I knew that was a lie.  God was pruning.  Not humans.

Show up for Godly council.  Open your heart to trusted, God-centered friendships.  We met with leaders we trusted.  Sat over coffee or a Coke and shared.  They shared in our grief but they also reminded us of the Truth and the Light.  Not one person spoke against us or our circumstances.  But they sure spoke life and redemption and hope.

And then show up all over again.

You will, without a doubt, have to intentionally decide to do so each and every time.

Showing up may not be easy.  Faithfulness may not be easy.

But it is worth it.

The good fruit God has for us is worth it.

He is worth it.

At the end of the journey, once God had finished His good work of pruning, I sat alone outside on the patio of our new house.  The house God provided to us only thirteen days before we would have been homeless.  I sat, silent, listening to the rain on the roof.  Breathing in the cool breeze on the warm summer day.

And exhaled.

Grateful.

Thank you, Lord.

 

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I Don’t Like Today…

Really.

I do not like today.

Not a single thing about it.

Oh, it’s a beautiful day.  Sunny with temperatures up in the high sixties.  I got in a run this morning, took a shower, ate some Cheetos and…AND… I’m wearing real clothes.

That’s a good day, friends.

Only not today.

One year ago today, my daughter’s namesake was killed in a car wreck.

And, for me and where I am in the grieving process, I am pretty angry about it.

I’m mad at the car.  He should have been driving a fancier car that would have auto-corrected or at least alerted him to the oncoming wall.

I’m mad at the wall.  I don’t know who built it but I’d be mad at them too if I did.

I’m mad he took the back roads and was even near a wall.

I’m mad he was too tired.  He only needed four hours of sleep a night and they did not have to be consecutive.  Would two hours of sleep saved him?

I’m mad he was going where he was going instead of being safe in his office running the company.  That’s where he belonged.  Not on that darn road.

I’m mad…well.  About everything.

As I’ve processed some of the grieving with friends, I’ve realized one of the reasons I am just now hitting “anger” on the journey is simply distance.  I don’t live in the same city he lived in.  He hadn’t been a part of my daily life in nearly five years.  And I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw him.

But he was larger than life.  And so, he was a part of my life even when he wasn’t.

His large loomed in my small.

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And I’ve thought and grieved and wrestled with something resembling gratitude in preparation for today.  But y’all.  I just honestly can’t bring myself to it.

At least not with my whole heart.

So here’s what I’m going to do instead…

I’m gonna give what little pieces of my heart I can push towards the light over to the gratitude process.

These are the moments when the disciples and their never-ending questions and confusions and lack of understanding become so real for me.

These are the moments I become Thomas.

But Lord, we don’t understand.  How can we go where you are going when we don’t know where that is?

Lord.  Can I have a map?  Is this something I can google and find?

And it’s not.

Not where Jesus was going then and not where my daughter’s namesake has gone now.

Where he is, I cannot go.

And why he is there, I cannot know.

So I stand here, in this seemingly endless hallway of grief, disoriented and unsure.

All I know how to do, all God has taught me how to do, in every hallway, in all the In-betweens of life, is to be grateful.

Gratitude produces hope.

Hope in the hallways.

So I’m choosing gratitude today.

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I am grateful I had the honor of working for him.

He wasn’t my friend.  He had been my boss.  More than that.  He had been the CEO and founder of the company for whom I worked for over seven years. Most definitely not a friend.  But he had been a caretaker and a benefactor.

I can still look around our home, even though this is the fifth home we’ve lived in since going to work for him in 2004, and see signs of him every where.  That job, the job he hired me to do, provided.  His company paid and paid well.  It’s not an understatement at all to say, I was grossly overpaid for the job I did.

He simply believed in taking care of employees.  They were (and are) a company’s greatest asset.  Although, most American corporations may not run on that same philosophy.  But he knew, appreciated, and utilized the concept of treating employees and their families well.

And I am grateful for his care.

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I am grateful he was a part of our family story.

For so much of this year, I’ve been reluctant to share my grief with anyone.  Just a few select people whom I trust but that’s it.

During the second half of my tenure at his company, I worked from a different office in a different city.  I was sort of the joke around there.  My respect and admiration for our CEO wasn’t something I hid.  Or at least, I didn’t hide it well.  My co-workers, I suspect, created a cartoon version of me in their heads.  One that might have looked a like a love-struck robot, serving and adoring blindly.

Of course, they had not spent the previous three and half years working for him.

My co-workers had no way of knowing this man, our CEO, had asked to be kept up to date on our infertility journey.  They never knew I was sending him copies of receipts for treatments and procedures and medications.  Emails with results and negatives and encouragements to continue “onward and upward.”  A process that lasted a full year.

They weren’t at my house to receive flowers Aubrey and Katie sent us when we were finally pregnant during our third attempt at IVF.  Or at the hospital after our daughter was born when more flowers from them arrived.

None of my co-workers were standing in front of him, thanking him for providing infertility insurance and adoption assistant as part of our new benefits package.  None of them heard him say, “Oh yeah!  That was because of you!  I never knew how much that stuff cost until you.  Good!”

The people in offices around me, the people I rode the elevator with each morning and parked next to in the parking garage, they had no idea the impact of giving over 10,000 employees and their families financial access to grow when they might not have been able to do so before.

But I knew.  My family knew.  Our close friends knew.

And because of all that, we named our daughter after him and his wife to honor them and how God had taken our story and made it, not only their own, but those 10,000 families’ story too.

I am no longer embarrassed by the carton character version of myself others created.  They didn’t know and couldn’t know and I am finished allowing myself to feel shame for my respect and admiration for such an amazing man.  Or to hide from my grief and refuse to process it.  Today, that ends.  Today, I say, he was a part of our family story and because of that, I am going to honor him by embracing the grief and allowing the healing process to begin.

And I am grateful.

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I am grateful to serve as a witness to his life.

The man I knew spent ten of thousands of dollars helping a caddy at a golf course who needed extensive work done on his teeth.  He met the caddy once.  Recognized he was in pain.  And paid for his pain to be fixed.

But that story, and others like them, was not something I told.  Because they were not my stories to tell.  And because I knew him well enough to know, he didn’t care for anyone else to hear them.  He hadn’t done it for publicity or recognition.  He’d done it because he could.  He had the resources and the caddy did not.

I tell the story now because it was one of the many told to hundreds at his funeral last year.

In fact, just before the funeral began, I was talking to a friend sitting with me.  She knew the story too and we had just talked about how many stories we simply never told.

And then that exact story was told.

We kind of chuckled.

There are lots of people who can bear witness to his life.  Employees, friends, family, administrators of universities and non-profits alike.  Thousands, really.  And we each have a unique perspective.

We all will be a part of creating the legacy of his life.

Books will be written about him.  The articles written are already too numerous to count.  Some good.  Some not so good.  He was fearless.  He was an anointed visionary.  He was generous.  And he worked furiously towards a goal.

In all walks of life, those qualities can be used to build or tear down.

He chose to build.

I have never worked as hard nor as long as I did for him.  He demanded much of us.  But we knew we were part of something bigger than our own individuality.  He invited us to join him on a journey to create and establish and craft something that had never been done and would outlive us all.

And we all enthusiastically agreed.

In doing so, I became a witness to his enormous life.  His energy.  His indescribable intellect.  His unconditional love for his wife and family.

All of it.

Even smack in the middle of that, even when life was moving almost too fast to notice, I was acutely aware of the privilege it was to be there.

In our every day, much can get lost.  Much can be overlooked or under valued.  While other things, like busyness and stress, can become over-valued and mistaken for actual good fruit.  But working for him taught me to look beyond the busyness and stress and see the vision, the caring for others, the building of good, to see those.  To look for the purpose.

My daughter will never know her namesake.  She met him once.  But one picture of the three of us will be the sum total of her memory of him.  But as a witness to his life, she will learn about him from me.  Already, she is like him in some ways.  My girl comes home from school concerned for kids who don’t have tennis shoes or who didn’t have a good lunch.  She wants to give and give and give.  She is a natural caretaker.

And that?  That is the legacy he left in our family.

I am grateful.

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I am grateful for the One who creates beauty from ashes.

Those years of waiting for a child were hard.  But on that day, standing in front of my much-loved CEO, hearing him say the new infertility and adoption assistance was because he had watched our journey, every day of waiting was worth it.

Every.  Single.  Day.

We never used the benefit.  We were already pregnant with our daughter when it was introduced to the company and God called me home before we were able to have a second child.  I remember being concerned we wouldn’t have another child when I left me job.

Okay, “concerned” is wrong.  Flat out scared is a better description.

But God so clearly said to me, “That insurance was never for you.”

And I didn’t so much care for that answer but I accepted it.  I obeyed His call to leave my job anyway and His reward was our son, 40 weeks to the day of my resignation.

Too often, we see ourselves in the middle of our hallways, waiting for answers or resolutions or fulfillment of God’s calling and we can not see the beauty God is creating from our ashes.

We are covered in soot and smell of fire.  We don’t feel refined or made new or strong.  We feel used up and unseen and left behind.

But our feelings are not truth.

The truth is there is always beauty.  There is always a purpose.  There is always a piece of Him and His kingdom to grasp.

In the middle of this grief hallway, I see ashes all around.  The fires feel even hotter now than a year ago.  I’m not even entirely sure I want refinement or something new.

Keep your new things, God.  I’d rather have him here in this world.

But those feelings of mine are not true.

Someday, someway, somehow, there will be beauty from this.  And y’all, we may never, this side of heaven, know the purpose.  That’s where faith steps in.  That’s where faith reminds us of what He has done before.  Reminds me that in the middle of the infertility hallway, when I could see nothing but my own burning pain, God was at work.  Putting a generous caretaker and an infertile girl together to create beauty.

Faith allows me to grasp that small piece of Him and His kingdom and hold on.

And to keep my eyes and ears and hands open to the One who creates that beauty.

0302-aubrey-mcclendon-getty-5Honestly, I don’t really know what’s next.  It’s been a long, long time since I grieved someone.  Something, sure.  A dream, a goal, a life expected.  But not someone.

This grief hallway is mostly new to me.  Even admitting I’m here is uncomfortable.  But it’s time.  And just writing through this, this is a big first step.

If you are where I am, in the hallway of grief, not sure what to do or how you can find some stable ground on which to stand, I offer you the same process you just read.

Take what pieces of your heart you can.  Big or small or so tiny you’re not even sure it counts as a piece.  And push it towards the light of gratitude.  That subtle heart shift matters.  Gratitude takes your heart and mind off of the things of the grief and turns them towards the Comforter and His joy.

Onward and upward.

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