Sadness and Joy

File Aug 10, 1 58 14 PM

I’ll make this as coherent as I can. I feel a need to share, but I’m not sure how well-formed my ideas are. It’s been a weird summer. It’s been filled with bittersweet first anniversaries from my second pregnancy that ended a year ago on this day. Memorial Day commemorated the weekend we found out I was pregnant after yet another grueling Clomid cycle. All of June I kept thinking about how just a year ago I had been pregnant and had no reason to think anything was wrong. As July grew closer, my mind started going back to the day we learned our baby’s heart had stopped beating, and the days that followed. On the 4th of July I was in a really weird space, because even though we were celebrating with good friends and having a fun time, I couldn’t help thinking back to who I was a year ago– someone three days away from her worst fears becoming reality.

The first days of living in that new reality were the worst, and the few weeks after were not much better. I wasn’t able to leave the house for more than a couple of errands before the tears would start up again. I had brand-new experiences of anxiety and shortness of breath. It took a few months before I was able to cook a full week of meals. Grief took up residence in my body, and I’m still working on how we can live more comfortably together. I still can’t breathe properly, I have new aches and pains, and sometimes my very thoughts feel different. It’s taking a team of practitioners– family doctor, functional medicine doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, counselor– to help me figure out what’s going on and how I can get back to myself, or I guess to a healthy new self.

A year is a long time, and it’s also not. The sadness feels long, but there has been joy, and that has made the time fly. When I think that not even six months after my miscarriage I was hearing God’s voice encouraging me to stop fertility treatments and consider adoption, and just a few months after that we researched and chose an adoption agency, and not long after that announced our plans, I just think, “Wow.”

Once I stopped treatments, I gradually felt less and less of a desire to be pregnant. I actually found myself feeling grateful at different points as time went on. When it got closer to our baby’s original due date, I truly felt relieved that I wasn’t living through the uncomfortable third trimester. After the due date had passed I would occasionally feel blessed and happy to not be recovering from childbirth or in the throes of breastfeeding. These are experiences that I know I might still have, and would be grateful for, but during the past year I think the Holy Spirit has worked in my mind and heart to give me a gift in the form of relief. Yes, there’s plenty to be sad about, but at the same time it feels like a weight lifted to no longer be trying to conceive, to no longer wish to be pregnant. That’s not just amazing, it’s supernatural.

Speaking of supernatural, some of my closest moments with God have taken place during these saddest times. The one I most want to share with you is something I now feel very strongly about, and want every person to consider. As I poured out my heart to God over losing my baby I heard him tell me that I’m his baby. And I had to practice it a little, but I let myself be that baby. Let myself be comforted, soothed, rocked by the God who created me and cares so deeply about what I’m going through and how I feel. I accepted being truly helpless to have controlled anything about the situation I was in, and let myself be the child who cries out “Abba, Father.” It didn’t change what happened, or necessarily make it hurt less, but it changed my heart in a way I struggle to explain but feel deeply. We are all God’s children, uniquely created and uniquely, purely loved.

This comforting image of Father God is consistent with what we read in Scripture (especially the Psalms but it’s definitely found elsewhere), and I’m so thankful to everyone who ever taught me the Word, every person who ever encouraged me to read it on my own, every nudging from the Holy Spirit to open my Bible and sit with God’s words. Because all of those little moments are investments into our souls; those words get tucked away, waiting for the moment when they are brought back up for use. And in my moments of grief, God’s Word came back up to teach me about the depth of his grace and love. It came back to remind me that God is sad with me, will comfort me, and is ready for whatever comes next for me. The Word came back in new ways to show me that as I take my wobbly steps into the future, God is there with me. I want everyone to know that no matter who you are or where you’re at with God, you’re his baby and he loves you SO much.

(As I write this there’s SO much more I want to say, because obviously we can’t always just be a baby. We need to obey and do what’s right, we need to mature, do the good works we were created to do, and there are things in life that we are responsible for, etc. etc. BUT I do firmly believe that one facet of how God views us will always be as his babies, and if we can learn this it will help a great deal with how we view God, ourselves, and others.)

While I have learned and grown a lot, can let go of a lot of things, and can “move on” in a lot of ways, I still carry the grief and the pain of loss… and probably always will. And there are plenty of triggers out there in the world for someone who has experienced miscarriage(s), especially for someone who doesn’t have children yet and may never have biological children. Mother’s Day, casual conversations about surprise pregnancies, assumptions everywhere that families are only biological, movies and TV shows that either get infertility/loss/grief/adoption completely wrong OR get it so right that it hits you in the feels… there’s a tenderness that is part of me now as I move through my life.

It seems to me that loss is like a thinning of the protective barrier between the individual and the world. In many ways it can be good– I’ve certainly found that being more vulnerable is good for my personal growth and for my relationships. But, of course, it hurts. I know the two babies I’ve carried and lost can’t be here, and I’m at peace with that fact, but it was painful to lose them and the dreams we had of knowing them here on earth. That kind of pain sticks with a person.

I could continue to write paragraphs going back and forth on this forever– how sadness hangs out with my peace and hope and joy. Where I’m at right now is that I simultaneously carry multiple things: the pain of infertility and recurrent miscarriage, and also the joy and hope of pursuing adoption. But even in the pain of infertility, there has been joy. And in the joy and hope of adoption, there will be sadness and pain. I wouldn’t change any of this, because I can tell I’m on the right path, and God is doing amazing things.

A year ago today I was beginning to walk through one of the darkest, saddest times of my life. But it was also one of the deepest and kind of best times for my relationship with God and others. To let my guard down, to really feel my feelings, to be served and ministered to in new ways, to wrestle with my thoughts… it all helped make me the person I am now, a year later. I trust that it will make me the person I need to be a year, five years, twenty years from now, too. I trust in a God who, through my pain, is growing me more and more into who I was truly created to be.

For anyone else who carries sadness along with their joy, I see you. As we move through the world with this extra tenderness, let’s also use the gifts our loss has given us. For me it’s compassion for others, remembrance in prayer for those who grieve, grace, and vulnerability– just to name a few. I hope I’ll get better at using these gifts and discover more as time goes on.

I’m coming to see that everyone I encounter has either experienced loss already, or will experience it at some point in their lives. This might not be a super-profound realization, but it’s new to me and I’m trying to let it color my thinking and actions. I’m aware that if you’re reading this, it’s very likely that you carry a grief of your own. So if you like, leave a comment about the ways loss has shaped you. We need each other!

Inside Out. Cue the tears, am I right?

My Hope Is You

This isn’t a story I’ve told before, but I really should, for a number of reasons. First of all, I remember the things I write about, and I want to remember more. Second, we encourage one another when we share about our own experiences. Also when we tell our stories, we might jog another’s memory back to a time they had forgotten, to an experience of their own that they can share. In fact, I only thought to post this story because of what another friend shared, “just in case” someone needed to hear it. So you never know!

Here it goes; I haven’t spent a lot of time on this so there might be gaps or incoherence… dear God, please make sense of this!

When I was a junior or senior in high school, I was blessed to travel with my youth group to a New Year’s Eve event in Gatlinburg, TN. This was a huge event with hundreds of students and leaders gathering to hear speakers and bands, and I’ve since met others who have attended… but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. Maybe someone can help me out. I do remember that David Nasser was a speaker- so funny and encouraging. I’m also pretty sure that NewSong played “Faithfully” as part of one of the guys proposing to his girlfriend. That was cute. Anyway, I clearly remember that Third Day was one of the musical acts. I’ve always appreciated Mac Powell’s voice and approach to “performance;” every time I saw Third Day (which was quite a few times growing up in the Nashville area) it was more about worshipping God than about the band. So even though I was having fun with my friends, giggling over all of our inside jokes and discussing the minutia of our high school lives, Third Day’s music focused my attention on the Father.

It was during “My Hope Is You” that God really grabbed me, and the moment felt important, even as a young person who frequently found herself wrapped up in the little distractions of teenage life. I had a pretty deep inner life, too, but the pulls of pride and friends and comparison were strong! With a transition to college looming on my horizon, and not having life planned out to the degree I thought my friends had, I felt in my heart, assured by God’s Spirit, that I could say the words from the song to my heavenly Father: “My hope is you, show me your ways, guide me in truth, in all my days.” I prayed it in my heart, and I meant it, even though I couldn’t know then the true weight of it. And somehow I grasped that, too… “I don’t know what this will mean, but I know what it means to say it now.” As much as I could at the time, I was willing to put my life in God’s hands and accept whatever he had for me.

At different points in my life, the Spirit has snapped me back to that moment, in the dark, surrounded by youth group friends plus hundreds of strangers. Because of how God’s Spirit can move our hearts and communicate with us directly, I felt for a moment that it was just me and God, his listening to me and my telling a feeble promise to him.

Flash forward… the latest example of God upholding the promise I made to him (sounds backwards but it’s true) was near the end of another medicated cycle. I found myself in the middle of another “two-week-wait“– that time when everything I could control had been done– feeling defeated. My post-ovulation blood work had not been good and we weren’t sure we had gotten our timing right, so I figured this cycle would be another bust. But I’ve been through this experience enough times to know that, inevitably, for “whatever reason” (hint: there’s a reason), I would find myself hoping against hope for a positive pregnancy test as the wait neared its end. It had happened without fail every time before: I would find any shred of positivity I could and think that maybe, just maybe, we would finally have a success. I really felt like I couldn’t bear feeling that way again only to be disappointed. So I prayed that God would protect my heart by keeping me from hoping for a positive. “Please, don’t let me get my hopes up just to be brought down again. Let this end quietly, on a down note, so I can just move on to the next round.”

But this is what I heard back from him, from his Spirit to my heart: “That hope you feel when you reach the end of every wait… it’s not yours, it’s mine, and it canNOT be taken away. You asked for my hope all those years ago, and I’ve given it to you. I want you to feel it regardless of what happens, because I am here for you in every disappointment.”

I didn’t get that positive, as I guessed, but I was so humbled and thankful that God would remember. That he would give hope, and then sustain it in his strength and faithfulness. That he gives me what I need so I don’t have to be afraid. That his presence is constant, even though I sometimes think I’m alone. That he can bear my disappointment because we both know I’m not strong enough.

This is just one example of God helping me keep my promises and reminding me of who he is when I ask him to show me. He is always moving and working, even when I forget the things I’ve asked for.

It’s because of moments like these, and many since, that I often find myself praying for God to “bless and multiply my efforts” in this life of following him. I’ve seen him do it many times. It is exactly because of what he has done in faithfully showing his hope to me that I can keep going and keep doing this life, even and especially through the dark times. He’s taking the growth he brings about in my heart, mind, and deeds and graciously using it for his glory in so many big and small ways.

If you are a follower of Christ I’m sure you have examples of these gracious, “only-God” things, too. Ask him to show you what you might have missed… and then tell someone! We need to remind each other of his goodness.

Here’s a little image to remind us of God’s hope…

…and the song that God used to speak to me all those years ago.