Oct 20 2014

Tangibly Remembering

Psalm 105:1-6

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
tell of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that He has done,
His miracles, and the judgments He uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, His servant,
children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

One thing to help us in a visible, tangible way to remember our nine sweet babies in heaven, giving us fodder for conversation about it, and to be a sort of picture to our children here is to release balloons into the sky. I know it may seem like a silly sentimental thing to do, and I won’t deny that there are aspects of silliness & sentimentality here. But I’m okay with that. I love that my kids played with balloons and then said goodbye to them. I love that my kids each had three white star balloons to let off into the sky (3×3=9). I love that (simply due to the nature of having three little kids be in charge of letting off nine balloons into the sky) not all of the balloons were let go at once ~ in fact, they were let off in sets of 1, 6, and 2 which incidentally is the way my babies in heaven have been grouped as well (one before Gabriel, six between the boys, two this year). I love that my kids shouted cheerfully after the balloons, everything from “goodbye balloons!” to “brothers and sisters, we love you!” to “we hope you reach heaven, balloons!” and the boys wanted to be reminded of all their brothers & sisters’ names. I love that we got to talk about heaven, God’s sovereignty, the gift of life, contentment while still desiring more, remembering God’s works, living mercifully together in community. And balloons. We got to talk about shiny white star-shaped balloons too. :)

It was silly. Sentimental. Sweet. Tangible. Visible. Fun. Bittersweet.
And in a situation that is often filled with just tears and emptiness and unanswered questions, those are some pretty great adjectives.

Here’s a small glimpse into some of that. And yes, it got dark between playing with the balloons and actually releasing them into the wind. So we added some glowstick wands into the mix. :)

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Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is His work,
and His righteousness endures forever.
He has caused His wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear Him;
He remembers His covenant forever.
He has shown His people the power of His works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of His hands are faithful and just;
all His precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to His people;
He has commanded His covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is His name!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

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Oct 15 2014

Unedited Raw Remembrance

I remember Covenant Hope. She made me “Mommy”—she was the first little image-bearer of my husband and me that God used us to create. I remember peeing in a little glass cup that had a sheep on it. I remember seeing a plus sign in the test window, but it was faint and I did not know what that meant—so I emailed a picture of it to a friend of mine! I remember my friend confirming my mommyhood to me. I remember waiting to tell Steven until the next day so that I could do it picture-perfectly. I remember setting up a special dinner, a gift (an arrow in a quiver), a Bible with Psalm 127 highlighted, a card with the positive pregnancy test in it. I remember telling my parents they were grandparents, and the delight in their eyes. I remember going to my sister-in-law’s wedding across the country, carrying my baby in my belly. I remember going camping with my brother and my other sister-in-law, carrying my baby in my belly. I remember craving Cheezits. I remember feeling so sick to my stomach. I remember being ecstatic to expect a March baby, wondering if the baby would be born on Easter. I remember thinking that I would know my baby’s gender early enough to buy gender-appropriate Christmas gifts for him or her.
I remember being in church that summer Sunday morning. I remember coming out of the bathroom, and asking a couple of young moms in the fellowship room if spotting during pregnancy was okay or not. I remember being nervous that afternoon, but resting in my bed and sending my parents home because we thought I’d be fine if I just laid down long enough. I remember feeling the cramps turn into contractions. I remember timing them. I remember calling the OB on call at the hospital. I remember his name. I remember hating him in my heart for his cold way of reacting to my fear. I remember calling my parents to come back to be with us. I remember sitting on the toilet and delivering the placenta, wailing. I remember being in my little bathroom and delivering my beautiful little baby into my hands, screaming. I remember my parents arriving. I remember holding little Covenant in our hands, each of us taking turns to cup her in our palms—because we knew this was our one and only chance to cuddle her. I remember getting cards and emails, flowers and food. I remember staying in bed, crying my eyes out. I remember the desperate desire to give Covenant a younger sibling. I remember knowing that she changed me forever in so many, many, many ways. I remember making things with her name on it: a necklace charm, stitchery, a scrapbook dedicated to her short but impactful life.

I remember Glory Hesed. This little baby did not live long in my womb. I remember those short days. I remember making Gabriel a onesie that said big brother. I remember trying to teach him to touch my belly and say baby. I remember thinking about having babies eighteen months apart. I remember thinking Glory was a boy. I remember telling people that I was having another baby, and how some seemed so shocked while others seemed so casual about it.
I remember working at my dad’s office that week for some reason… I remember being there, beginning to bleed. I remember very little about how the miscarrying process happened with Glory. I remember it being sudden, shocking me. I remember feeling so blindsided. I remember dreading Thanksgiving and Steven’s birthday, or anything autumnal. I remember sticking that big brother onesie in the bottom of the pile and just begging God to give me another reason to pull it out before it was outgrown. I remember that there were some emails, some flowers, some food again. I remember feeling like everyone expected me to get back to normal pretty quickly. I remember people telling me to focus on Gabriel. I remember wondering why people wanted me to neglect my little Glory.

I remember Promise Anastasis. I remember that she was in my womb for Gabriel’s first birthday and for my second wedding anniversary. I remember calling my midwife and begging for early appointments. I remember anticipating having a baby in the snow. I remember pulling that big brother onesie out again, trying to squeeze Gabriel into it again. I remember having hope that this time my baby would survive. I remember my in-laws being here to visit.
I remember it began with spotting again. I remember going to the emergency room for a blood draw one night. I remember frantic phone calls and fervent prayers. I remember lying flat on my back in bed, not daring to move for fear the baby would come out. I remember waking up the next morning, the baby coming out. I remember leaving the house just minutes later to go meet the local reproductive endocrinologist for the first time. I remember weeping in the RE’s clinic so they gave us a private room, a storage room, to wait in. I remember him giving me an ultrasound. I remember seeing emptiness where my baby had been nestled just hours before. I remember hiding in my bedroom. I remember having to celebrate Father’s Day the next day and feeling like my smile had never been so fake. I remember being told that Promise officially sent me into Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, because she was my third baby in heaven. I remember more necklace charms, more stitcheries, more tears. I remember connecting with women online who were suffering miscarriages. I remember trying to cling to hope.

I remember Peace Nikonos. I remember having renewed hope again because we had just spent three months of appointments, bloodwork, waiting, and getting my thyroid in order. I remember traveling across the country with Peace in my belly, although I didn’t know it yet, to say goodbye to Steven’s grandpa. I remember telling my father-in-law on his birthday that I was pregnant again. I remember calling our baby my little Arrow while he was in my womb. I remember seeing that beautiful little body and miraculous heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. I remember sitting on the couch with my friend Margaret, dreaming about having this baby to raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—even talking about baby names.
I remember the spotting. I remember the nurse calling to say that my hormones were doing crazy things and that it meant the baby could not possibly survive. I remember my mom telling me about a place online called Hannah’s Prayer. I remember meeting my friend Kristi who was in painfully similar shoes. I remember going back for another ultrasound the next week, and seeing the baby again—our baby, still alive. I remember rejoicing and thinking that God was simply showing everyone that with Him all things are possible. I remember going home and getting back in bed on bedrest. I remember Margaret calling and singing Psalms over the phone with me. I remember calmly going to the bathroom and rejoicing, thanking God out loud that there was no blood—and then suddenly, shockingly, my sweet Peace being delivered into my hands one second later. I remember screaming for my mother, I remember she was cooking in my kitchen. I remember saying words that needed repented of, and I wailed, begging God for forgiveness. I remember calling Steven and simply saying come home now. I remember Steven arriving home just minutes later, and having to tell him that once again our baby had died. I remember the shock of holding my baby in my hands just a matter of hours after having seen his beautiful heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. I remember the feeling of total deflation.

I remember Mercy Kyrie. I remember the incredible delight of what people call a surprise pregnancy. I remember getting in touch with reproductive immunologists across the nation because we were suddenly completely outside the realm of what the midwives, OBgyns, and reproductive endocrinologists could comprehend. I remember trying new medical treatments. I remember beginning steroids. I remember starting iv infusions of a clear sticky looking substance called immunoglobulin. I remember feeling like it was such a mercy to be pregnant over Christmastime. I remember my dad leaving a bouquet of roses on my front porch with a happy note, congratulating me on my excellent hormone levels. I remember feeling exhausted and nauseous. I remember deciding to wait until eight weeks for an ultrasound this time.
I remember my mom came with us for that ultrasound. I remember finding out Mercy had died the same day Steven’s grandpa died. I remember thinking of my babies singing alongside great-grandparents in heaven. I remember getting second opinions. I remember the agony of waiting it out. I remember walking around feeling numb and hollow for nearly four more weeks. I remember calling my womb a tomb. I remember contractions finally starting one night. I remember laboring for hours during that night. I remember delivering in my bathroom by myself. I remember wanting to let Steven sleep through that horrible delivery. I remember bleeding so much and feeling so weak, we were finally almost ready to go to the emergency room. I don’t remember much of what came next. I remember that this is when I began to truly despair. I remember that this is when it felt like life was actually falling apart.

I remember Victory Athanasius. I remember going to a church conference and telling our closest friends when we all got there that I was pregnant. I remember my friend Elizabeth squealing with utter joy. I remember being so thankful for her and her ecstatic response. I remember thinking being due on New Year’s Day was a fantastic thing to look forward to, a good fresh start for a new year. I remember nurses coming to my house to give me iv infusions. I remember the migraines and the nausea.
I remember being coldly told that my baby was not growing, was not alive. I remember getting second opinions. I remember heeding the advice of doctors to get genetic testing done. I remember going to the hospital for a D&C procedure. I remember having to say goodbye to my husband. I remember waking up wailing and weeping. I don’t remember that I kept asking Steven if my baby was gone—but he does—and he had to tell me over and over that yes, our baby was gone until the anesthesia finally completely wore off and I was awake enough to simply weep. I remember begging God not to let our nephew be born the same day as Victory. I remember going through the motions of celebrating Gabriel’s second birthday a few days later. I remember going through the motions of celebrating our third wedding anniversary just a couple days after that. I remember getting genetic results that our baby was a normal, healthy girl. I remember being willing to do absolutely anything to have a living child again.

I remember Hosanna Praise. I remember taking the pregnancy test. I remember climbing back into bed to tell Steven. I remember we had so much hope. I remember he was due on Father’s Day. I remember we had already been to Mexico for a controversial medical treatment three times, but we needed to go a fourth time now that I was pregnant. I remember making airline reservations. I remember craving salsa every hour of the day, and thinking that was so funny because I’d been to Mexico so many times that summer. I remember looking up what the word hosanna meant, and finding that save Lord was the perfect mantra for the pregnancy. I remember nicknaming my baby Hosanna-Baby in faith that the Lord would save him. I remember that during this pregnancy, Gabriel could finally communicate his understanding of things. I remember Gabriel, barely verbal still, praying for the baby. I remember Gabriel cheering me on while I gave myself blood thinner shots in my stomach every morning. I remember getting more iv infusions, and I remember liking some of the home care nurses better than others. I remember those flights to and from Mexico with Hosanna in my womb. I remember seeing that beautiful baby on an ultrasound, growth and heartbeat encouraging my soul with hope.
I remember a repeat ultrasound that lasted about ten seconds because all the doctor did was quickly glance, saw there was no heartbeat, and was ready to move on to the next patient. I remember the horror. I remember wanting to vomit. I don’t remember walking back to the exam room from the ultrasound room. But I do remember crumbling to the floor when I got in the exam room. I remember screaming the ugliest sound while pulling handfuls of hair from my head. I remember having to call my parents and tell them my baby died—again. I remember going to a new OBgyn for a second opinion. I remember the incredibly bittersweet gift it was when he let us stare lovingly at our little baby’s still body on that ultrasound screen, to quietly cry over this horrible death. I remember getting a picture of my baby’s ultrasound. I remember not wanting him delivered on Peace’s birthday. I remember going to a new hospital for another D&C. I remember my dad being there with us this time. I remember trying so hard to be brave. I don’t remember saying goodbye to Steven this time, and I don’t really remember waking up either. I remember getting a phone call from a new reproductive immunologist who my father had spoken with—I remember his compassion, just calling me out of the blue to give me a shred of hope for the future, and encouragement not to give up yet. I remember the candlelight vigil our church family held on our front lawn one night. I remember lying in my bed, physically to the point of needing to hold Steven’s arm to walk around, knowing people were outside praying for us. I remember peeking through the miniblinds to see Christian brethren wrapped in scarves and blankets, standing or kneeling or sitting in folding chairs on our grass, holding candles and praying together. I remember getting cards after Hosanna died. I remember my friend Amber calling to tell me she was praying about being a surrogate, gestational carrier for me. I remember finding out Hosanna was a perfectly healthy little boy. I remember grieving hard when I found that out. I remember Gabriel talking about his little brother in heaven with so much clarity, so much faith, so much peace, so much praise.

I remember Heritage Peniel. I remember trying to conceive her for months. I remember thinking I was pregnant each month in the fall. I remember having just one pregnancy test left, and it was about to expire so I figured I may as well use it. I remember getting ready for church while I waited for two minutes, and when I glanced back the test was positive. I remember thinking the timing could not be more perfect. I remember sauntering over to Steven in nylons and heels, paired with a nightie, and asking him if I looked like Mom to eleven. I remember needing to repeat the question, trying not to laugh. I remember immediately calling the baby Little ‘Leven and praying for God to use this child to bring life to the Kingdom. I remember telling my parents later that day by giving them a coupon for two new cheeks to kiss and ten new toes to tickle that would be redeemable in August. I remember the utter delight of actually surprising my parents with this news. I remember telling Gabriel by giving him a letter to read, and I remember the priceless expression on his face when he read Mommy has a new baby in her belly because he had been praying for another baby for months. I remember Steven telling his family via webcam on Christmas Day. I remember planning for a summer baby. I remember thinking I would have three under three like I’d always dreamed of. I remember buying AIO cloth pocket diapers because I wanted to have diapers that would fit all three of my kids who would likely be in diapers at the same time. I remember thinking what fun it was going to be to have a baby just a few weeks younger than my brother’s new baby. I remember thinking how great it would be to spend an entire pregnancy happily side-by-side my sister-in-law. I remember being pregnant together on Christmas Day. I remember my parents gleefully talking about how next Christmas there would be two new grandbabies to cuddle and spoil. I remember feeling like all the shots and all the pills were not a big deal anymore—because I knew they were so incredibly worth every penny, every owie, every inconvenience. I remember Gabriel and Asher taking turns praying with me while I did my shots every morning. I remember telling my dad that we would need bunkbeds before summer came so that we could work on shuffling kids’ rooms and beds around. I remember trying to figure out whether I would put the baby in with Evangeline, or move Evangeline upstairs with the boys. I remember being terrified but telling myself that my fears were invalid. And then I remember going to the OBgyn for an appointment. I remember seeing our beautiful baby and her beautiful heartbeat. I remember deciphering my doctor’s quiet and solemn demeanor. I remember him pointing out that her sac was small. I remember thinking that was a silly thing to worry about, until he explained that 90% of babies with a sac this small miscarry for some unknown reason. I remember putting myself on partial bedrest. I remember forcing myself to drink a gallon of water each day in hopes of helping that little sac grow. I remember feeling encouraged the next week at our ultrasound, finding that the baby had grown appropriately and the heartbeat was still strong. I remember needing to wear bigger pants and taking some pictures of my belly that was starting to remember what to do when a baby was growing inside.
Then at another later ultrasound, I remember being utterly shocked that the baby was still. I remember how horrific it was to see my baby on that screen, but not be able to see her heartbeat. I remember straining my eyes, blinking, squinting. I remember Steven’s head dropping into his lap and his hand feeling limp. I remember my doctor asking if I was surprised. I remember saying yes as tears began to roll down my cheeks. I remember holding it together really well as we waited for an appointment at the hospital for a more in-depth ultrasound with a specialist. I remember going to a craft store to pick up some supplies for Evangeline’s first birthday which was just a few days away. I remember the incredible compassion of the ultrasound tech. I remember loving her for how she let me just stare at my baby, how she printed out numerous pictures for me, how she used words like baby rather than fetus. I remember how I felt in my gut when she zeroed in on the baby’s heart, and there was just a flatline. I remember praying for God to cause it to beat. I remember begging Him for a miracle right there in front of my eyes. I remember leaving the hospital knowing that my baby had died. I remember getting home from that appointment to find my children and my parents waiting for us in our house. I remember my parents gathering my two little ones on their laps to read books on one couch, while Steven and I had Gabriel come sit with us on the other couch. I remember Gabriel looking up into my face and asking how the baby was doing today. I remember I just started crying, unable to speak. I remember his chin quivering, his eyes filling, and then him joining me in my weeping. I remember telling him that the baby died. I remember how he sobbed on my shoulder. I remember my best friend found out she was pregnant the day after I found out my baby died. I remember taking medication to induce labor. I remember walking in circles around my house waiting for it to begin. I remember crying as I put the pills in my mouth. I remember putting my hands on my stomach, knowing that my time holding Heritage inside had come to an end. I remember the pains starting. I remember feeding my children lunch and having them be distracted with a video, as I calmly made my way to the bathroom feeling the urge to push. I remember delivering Heritage with my mother there. I remember how beautiful she was, curled up. I remember looking at her eyes and thinking what beautiful blue eyes she must have in heaven. I remember looking at her little bum and her little back, and how much she reminded me of her big sister. I remember holding her and crying over her. I remember taking pictures with her. I remember Steven coming in to hold her. I remember my dad coming home from work to hold her with us too. I remember my dad taking the placenta to the lab for the genetic testing. I remember saying goodbye to my sweet little baby, and putting her precious little body in a vial that would go in the treasure chest her grandpapa was making for her. I remember finding out that Heritage was a girl, perfectly whole and healthy. I remember hoping my brother’s baby would be a boy—and then hoping that at least my new niece would not have a similar name to what Heritage’s would have been. I remember burying those dreams of baby girl cousins just weeks apart in age. I remember packing away Evangeline’s baby clothes, knowing I did not have the strength to see them on any baby but Heritage. I remember dreaming about having little girls eighteen months apart. I remember waking up from those dreams in tears. I remember wanting to get pregnant again right away. I remember desperately wanting my little Evangeline to be a real big sister.

I remember Fidelis Se’arah. I remember trying some things differently this time. I remember taking different medications, being more monitored, and hoping against hope that it would be different because Heritage’s small sac was probably an anomaly. I remember taking a pregnancy test one morning and thinking it was negative, so I went back to bed and cried. I remember looking at the test a couple hours later and seeing it looked positive. I remember spending that day feeling confused. I remember taking a pregnancy test again the next morning. I remember immediately falling in love with my Darling Dozen, and anticipating the season of Advent this year because he would be born then. I remember Gabriel praying that God would make Mommy’s tummy strong for the baby. I remember Gabriel praying that God would make us happy even if our baby goes to heaven. I remember asking God to give me a similar reckless faith and abandoned trust in God’s sovereignty. I remember praying for twins, hoping for twins. I remember how quickly my belly grew in those early weeks, thanks to supplemental progesterone and high doses of steroids. I remember eagerly walking in to my OBgyn’s office one day, expecting to get good news. But we didn’t.
I remember that all-too-familiar squinting at the ultrasound machine. I remember the agony of thinking I saw the heart beating but then realizing it wasn’t. I remember wanting to melt into that ultrasound table and never get up again. I remember taking deep breaths and preaching psalms to myself while my doctor was talking. I don’t really remember anything he said. I remember Steven had to go back to work. I remember that I had to wait around to be seen at the hospital imaging center, so I went to the grocery store and Starbucks before ending up at Steven’s office so I could just sit and numbly stare at the walls. I remember my dreams of Christmas babies and a happy ending to the hard year being shattered around my feet. I remember the next ultrasound tech and how much grace I had to extend toward her because she had no tact. I remember asking for a picture of my baby, and the way her eyebrows raised. I remember leaving the hospital, feeling like the breath had been completely knocked out of me. I remember driving home. I remember needing to pull over to the side of the road at one point to call my dear friend Elizabeth because I needed to tell her about my baby, and I could not wait until I got all the way home. I remember crying on the phone with her, but I remember that I even laughed on the phone with her. I remember pulling up to the house to find my kids playing outside with my mom. I remember begging God to give me strength and grace and joy in the next five minutes. I remember Gabriel running up to me right away asking Mommy! Is the baby alive?! I remember kneeling down in front of him, holding his hands, and looking up into his eyes. I remember I forced myself to gently smile. I remember explaining that sometimes God says yes and sometimes God says no but all the time He loves us just as deeply and faithfully. I remember believing it as well as saying it. I remember when Gabriel asked if God said yes or no this time. I remember telling him that God said no this time, and that we would have to wait longer to sing with this baby. I remember how sad he was. But I remember him immediately saying he would start praying again for a baby, for God to say yes, for us to be happy with God’s best decisions. I remember feeling most confused with God over Him saying no to Gabriel. I remember getting another ultrasound a few days later before once again taking pills to induce labor so I could deliver at home. I remember not wanting to deliver on Victory’s birthday. I remember resenting my body all over again. I remember feeling so much guilt all over again. I remember the physical process of delivering being faster and easier than my heart thought it should be. I remember taking pictures with our baby again. I remember trying to figure out how to compartmentalize enough to still enjoy Gabriel’s sixth birthday a few days later, and my seventh anniversary right after that. I remember adding that ninth little wooden treasure box made by Grandpapa to the rest. I remember that we had to buy an additional shelf for our room to make space for all the little boxes now. I remember getting test results saying that it was a healthy girl—but then finding out that it was my DNA rather than my baby’s. I remember suddenly realizing that that meant we could not find out if Fidelis was a boy or a girl. I remember getting one bouquet of flowers, which meant the world to me. I remember realizing that I would not have a 2014 baby after all. I remember saying goodbye to my baby. I remember packing away my medications. I remember putting away the stretchier clothing. I remember realizing that I would never have three under three, never have three in diapers. I remember planting flowers and strawberries and herbs while Fidelis was in my womb—and I remember how they bloomed long after my baby died.

I remember so many raw details. I remember so many joys. I remember so many tears. I remember the anguish. I remember the hope. I remember carrying them in my womb. I remember seeing them on ultrasound screens. I remember holding them in my hands. I remember how beautiful they all were. I remember how much I loved them. I remember how vastly I love each of them still.

Covenant, Glory, Promise, Peace, Mercy, Victory, Hosanna, Heritage, and Fidelis ~ Mommy loves you, my sweet little darlings. I’m slowly on my way to join you in song, where we will all together tune our hearts to sing His praise! You are sweet jewels in my crown, and I am so thankful for each one of you. I will always love you.

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Oct 14 2014

Arms of Christ

We need Christ. And never more have I needed to feel His embrace than when I have given up one of my children into His arms. Through the years, through the deaths of nine children, I have felt His presence in various ways. Sometimes it is through reading Scripture or a Christian book on suffering ~ Job, Psalms, the epistles of Paul; Nancy Guthrie, Elisabeth Elliot, and Shauna Niequist touch the tip of that iceberg for me. Sometimes it is lovemaking with my husband or handholding with my children. Sometimes it is dessert left on my front porch. Sometimes it is a candlelight vigil on our front lawn. Sometimes it is a baby oak tree, sacrificially planted by a dear brother in Christ. Sometimes it is crying, other times it is laughing.

But the ultimate point is this: I feel Christ’s presence perhaps most tangibly when someone else, another person who is knitted into Christ’s body like I am, is with me. Whether it’s an author, a meal-maker, a note-writer, someone to sit next to me on the couch, someone who wants to look at pictures of my babies or their memorial items… when someone else enters into these moments with me and touches both the joys and the griefs alongside me, it shows an aspect of Christ to me.

I have felt Christ in hugs. I’ve tasted Him in chocolate chip cookies. His compassion has knit its way tangibly into my soul through letters and cards. His empathy has decorated my home with flowers.

When I am in grief, what do I need? I need the arms of Christ!!
I am so thankful for how He has used His people to wrap His arms tangibly around me through the years.
Thank you for the flower bouquets, the notecards, the Pizza Hut gift cards, the food left on my porch, the homemade bookmarks (a tatted one, a scrapbooked one), the emails, the poetry, the rose bushes, the oak tree…
Thank you for the prayers. I know that I don’t always feel them in quite the same tangible way, but I know truly & deeply that the prayers of the saints around the world who have held my family up through prayers during our grief have been life-giving and life-sustaining.

When I read it, I put my head down and sobbed, in sadness, but also in gratitude, for a woman who knows me well enough, even after all these years, to know what words will stitch me back together when my heart is broken.
~ Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p114 ~

 

When you’re mourning, when something terrible has happened, it’s on your mind and right at the top of your heart all the time. It’s genuinely shocking to you that the sun is still shining and that people are still chattering away on Good Morning America. Your world has changed, utterly, and it feels so incomprehensible that the bus still comes and the people in the cars next to you on the highway just drive along as if nothing’s happened.
~ Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p119 ~

 

We don’t learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p132

So when you are faced with an opportunity to bless someone in their grief, do not be afraid to go the tangible route. I’m not saying not to pray for them, of course! But I am saying that one of the greatest ways to minister to a hurting person is through the tangible. Through food, the written word, your physical presence (even if you are holding a candlelight vigil in the front yard while the person is passed out in their bed inside the house), flowers arriving on the doorstep. Be the arms of Christ. Not just through prayer, but through physical acts of mercy.

Tomorrow, on October 15th, I will be sharing some of the things I remember about each of my nine babies specifically. But for today, I wanted to share that some of the things I remember most about my seasons of grief are the various ways Christ’s arms have enveloped me through His people. Tangibly.

When you feel the Lord prodding you to embrace someone in His name, be His arms. It is one of the most beautiful privileges and responsibilities of belonging to Him, of bearing His name as a Christian. To be His arms to someone else. To be His instruments as He heals the brokenhearted and binds up wounds (Psalm 147:3).

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Oct 13 2014

in the middle

I’m still in the middle of it. The thick part. Of my story. Of grief. I knew the happy chapters weren’t going to be the end. I knew that shadows would come again, because that is part of the scenery of life. But at the time… when Evangeline came so soon on the heels of Asher, for instance… I confess that I really did think I had moved past the thickest and hardest part of my grief chapters. I admit it: I had grown naive all over again. Not quite to the point of naivete that comes ingrained into us all with our first pregnancy ~ no, of course I could never go back that far into the naive. But I was at least naive enough again to think that God had wrapped up those chapters, and tied them up with a pretty bow, tucking them away into this magical part of my life story called the past. And then 2014 happened. And it’s been like reliving 2009 and 2010. And what’s funny is that I suddenly realize that I am right back in the middle of it. Back in the thick of it. In a place I thought I’d left, hoped I had left forever.

I’m still weary. Weary again. And then some.
Every day I feel not only emotionally and spiritually spent, but seriously physically exhausted. And no, it isn’t just because I am a young mom of three amazing little kids with electricity-like energy. It’s an exhaustion that I can not explain. It’s so much more tiring than the early days of infancy. I had so much energy when I had a 4 year old, a 14 month old, and a newborn. This is different. This is what Shauna Niequist calls the middle. And I’m still there. In the thick waistline of my grief story.

When you’re in the middle, pretty much all you can ask for are little bits of flame to light the darkness that feels interminable. You don’t know what the story is about when you’re in the middle of it. You think you do, but you don’t. … I hate the middle. The middle is the fog, the exhaustion, the loneliness, the daily battle against despair and the nagging fear that tomorrow will be just like today, only you’ll be wearier and less able to defend yourself against it. The middle is the lonely place, when you can’t find words to say how deeply empty you feel, when you try to connect but you feel like thick glass is separating you from the rest of the world, isolating and deadening everything.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p216

There are diamonds in crevices, hidden throughout the darkness. To be sure.
The nine jewels in my crown who live in heaven are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the diamond mining we do in the shadows of our grief.

I believe in mining through the darkest seasons in our lives and choosing to believe that we’ll find something important every time.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p194

But sometimes when stuck in the middle of it all, I am not equipped for the mining yet. That often comes later. It comes when the exhaustion is not so overwhelming, when the tears are not always at the ready, when the cynicism has worn away a bit. In the meantime, it’s the comfort of Christ, and the comfort He extends through His people, that helps pull me through the middle.

Jesus is no stranger to pain or loss or heartache, and there are some times when the only thing that eases the pain is His comfort. I wasn’t ready, and still am not, to mine through this experience for opportunities to grow, things to learn, ways to transcend and transform. Maybe I’ll be ready over time, and maybe not. But it is an opportunity to be comforted. I’d rather not need the comfort. But I’m thankful that it’s there when I need it, because I’ve needed it desperately this month.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p248

As we continue to see the story of our life revealed through time and circumstances, we are thankful to know who the author is. We trust Him and praise Him. We seek His face, His mercy, His grace. We rest in His comfort and delight in His love. We cry to Him and fall at His feet, and know that He is here with us even in the thickness of the middle.

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Oct 12 2014

October 15th is coming!

It’s that time of year again ~ October. The month where everyone wears pink for breast cancer awareness. The month where I think of my mother in law, as well as my best friend’s mom, who both are survivors of that horrible cancer! But it’s also the month for pregnancy and infant loss remembrance. Even with all my twelve babies, I have never had a due date in October nor have I ever had a delivery (of a living child or a miscarried child) in October. But there’s October 15th right smack in the middle of the month. And that is a day that I claim as mine. Ours. A day when I don’t feel shy about my nine little babies in heaven. When I light candles to remember their light, to wear pink & blue in their honor, to let off balloons in remembrance of their ascents into heaven (and as a tangible thing for their brothers and sister here on earth), to speak their names more frequently than I normally might.

So this is the week. And while I am feeling of fewer words this year in my grief than in some years past, I will at least be sharing some pictures and some quotes in honor of October 15th for Pregnancy And Infant Loss Remembrance Day ~ in honor specifically of Covenant Hope, Glory Hesed, Promise Anastasis, Peace Nikonos, Mercy Kyrie, Victory Athanasius, Hosanna Praise, Heritage Peniel, and Fidelis Se’arah. These are the children the Lord has given to me ~ God has been good to me. Amen!

If the only thing you have to offer is a broken heart, you offer a broken heart. So in a time of grief, the recognition that this is material for sacrifice has been a very great strength for me. Realizing that nothing I have, nothing I am will be refused on the part of Christ I simply give it to Him as the little boy gave Jesus his five loaves and two fishes—with the same feeling of the disciples when they said, ‘What is the good of that for such a crowd?’ Naturally in almost anything I offer to Christ, my reaction would be, ‘What is the good of that?’ The point is, the use He makes of it is His blessing.

~ Elisabeth Elliot ~

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I believe deeply that God does His best work in our lives during times of great heartbreak and loss, and I believe that much of that rich work is done by the hands of people who love us, who dive into the wreckage with us and show us who God is, over and over and over.
~ Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p94 ~

One response so far

Oct 09 2014

Recipes

It is rare these days that I find recipes for sweetish things that I love and can eat. No gluten, no sugar, no oats, no rye or malt or barley.
So here are a few new finds that I am really enjoying. I should figure out how to replace the maple syrup with medjool dates… but I haven’t yet. I am cheating on my sugar free aspect a little with a wee bit of maple syrup. Sue me. ;)

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Breakfast Bars

  • 1 ¼ cup almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup unsalted nuts
  • ¼ cup raisins (and/or other sugar free dried fruit)
  1. In a small bowl, combine almond flour, salt and baking soda
  2. In a large bowl, combine oil, maple and vanilla
  3. Stir dry ingredients into wet
  4. Mix in coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts and fruits
  5. Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish
  6. Press the dough into the baking dish, wetting your hands with water to help pat the dough down evenly
  7. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes
  8. Cool bars in pan for 2 hours, then serve

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Gluten Free & Grain Free Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nut butter (I actually used sunbutter)
  • 2 medium sized bananas (The more ripe, the sweeter!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • Toppings: unsweetened shredded coconut, raisins, seeds or nuts, dark chocolate chips, cinnamon, and/or anything else you can think of.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor.
  3. Blend until well mixed.
  4. Pour batter into a greased muffin tin. You can also use a mini muffin tin to make 24 mini muffins.
  5. Add additional toppings of your choice to each muffin and lightly stir into each cup
  6. Cook time: 15 minutes for full size muffins and 10 minutes for mini muffins.
  7. Reheat in a toaster oven for about 4 minutes at 350 degrees F, or eat at room temperature.

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And I made this cobbler for a Sabbath meal with friends, where the hubby is gluten free. I couldn’t eat it because of the sugar (I could probably have figured out a way to make it without sugar, but I didn’t bother… not worth it for a fruit dessert I wouldn’t have loved much anyway!), but he said it was probably the best gluten free dessert he’s had. :) I could easily make this vegan by using coconut oil instead of butter, and almond milk instead of dairy milk. But I didn’t and it was delicious! Of course. Nothing is better than butter in dessert!!

Gluten-Free Peach Cobbler

1 stick of butter, melted
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour mix
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. each cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
2 cups chopped peaches (or any other kind of berries/fruit)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 3-quart baking dish with butter.  Whisk together flour, 1 cup sugar, and baking powder. Stir in milk, vanilla and then the melted butter. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the fruit evenly over the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sugar over top. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until golden.

6 responses so far

Oct 08 2014

More of this!

Can I ever be fed, and need no more food?
Can I ever sleep and need no more rest?
Can I ever feel my wife beside me as we watch
living, eternal, laughing things we were used to create,
and not want to see them again tomorrow?

~N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, p61~

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2 responses so far

Oct 04 2014

Little Darlings

If you’ve been marked by what might have been you don’t forget.
You know the day, the years.
You know when the baby would have been born…
It makes the calendar feel like a minefield,
like you’re constantly tiptoeing
over explosions of grief until one day you hit one,
shattered by what might have been.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p110~

I can’t always pinpoint exactly what makes me miss my sweet babies more on some days than on others. But today is a day where I just feel their absence here tangibly. When I was lying in bed this morning, I suddenly noticed I had my hand resting on my belly: almost as if I were waiting for Fidelis to kick me. I keep looking at Evangeline’s things as I pack them away into the basement and wonder what I should do with them… and I wonder what her little sister Heritage would have looked like in each outfit, and whether she would have loved shoes and hairbows as much as her big sister does. All three of my children are infatuated with babies, and even their little babydolls (Bennett, Timmy, and Bea) ~ and when they play house together, I watch with my own arms empty, my womb closed up, my breasts dry.

This year is so far from what I thought it would be. And while most days I am able to not only function with joy & thankfulness & peace, there are the rare occasions like today where all I want to do is crumble into a ball in a dark closet and weep for the children I lost to heaven.

On most days, for me, it’s all right…
But for today, for a minute, it’s not all right.
I understand that God is sovereign,
that bodies are fragile and fallible.
I understand that grief mellows over time,
and that guarantees aren’t part of human life,
as much as we’d like them to be.
But on this day, looking out at the harsh white sky of a Chicago winter,
I’m crying just a little for what might have been.
…I’ll always know.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p110~

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A couple days ago, I read the account of Lazarus’ death and resurrection to my children, and Gabriel said “if Jesus had been here, would our babies not have died either?” I assured him that Jesus indeed was here, and it brought Him joy to take our children to heaven. And I reminded him of how Jesus Himself said all of these things are so that God would be glorified.

Today I miss my sweet babies acutely.
They are my little darlings, and I will always be their mommy.
So I’m thankful tomorrow will carry new mercies, and my God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.

All around the world, God is giving and sustaining life to the praise of His grace.
His mercy is new every morning, and it’s always morning somewhere.
~Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, p149~

2 responses so far

Oct 01 2014

Daily Soul Food

Published by under Faith,Quotes,Reading

We are teachers, we work with words,
which means that we are builders of worlds.
~Douglas Wilson, blog

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Distance learning is not a new thing. We have always had distance learning.
That is what books are.
~Douglas Wilson, blog

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There’s no better time than all the time to boldly ask God for mercy and grace.
~Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, p109

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3 responses so far

Sep 23 2014

God’s Wisdom & God’s Stories

Published by under Faith,Quotes

Mothers who feed their soul with the Word of God will thrive
as their hearts are taught by God’s wisdom.

~Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, p101~

I write with the authority of a woman who has tasted
a lot of soul junk food and suffered from painful spiritual cavities.
Spiritual counsel that has “empty calories”
or is devoid of rich, biblical doctrine
cannot and will not satisfy a soul that was made to be satisfied only with an infinite God.

~Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, p102~

I bet God has done something in your life
that would make our hair stand on end if you told us about it.
I bet the story God has written in your life and your home
gives voice and breath and arms and legs to the gospel
every bit as much as a church sermon ever did.
Preaching is important, certainly.
But it can’t be the only way we allow God’s story to be told in our midst.

~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p238~

One response so far

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