Sep 01 2015

Irrigating Deserts

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles,
but to irrigate deserts.

~C. S. Lewis~

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We need to take special care to tell stories that are ‘not suitable’ for modernists. The Bible contains dragons, giants, principalities, satyrs, and unicorns. Invariably, these get cleaned up in translation so that modernist evangelicals are not embarrassed by them. In such instances, the liberal is often to be trusted with the text of Scripture over the evangelical, because the evangelical is stuck with the results of his exegesis. If the evangelical wants to have it both ways (e.g. inerrancy and respectability with moderns), then he has a lot of work cut out for him.

~Douglas Wilson, The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 156~

When you make decisions moment by moment throughout the day, they need to be filtered through two questions: “Is this activity glorifying God and serving Him?” and “Are my first priorities taken care of?” Thinking through these questions is a habit that we deliberately need to foster. … When our priorities get unbalanced, our spiritual life gets out of balance as well. This affects our emotional life, and we get a spiral effect going that can spin into chaos.

~Kim Brenneman, Large Family Logistics, pg316~

One response so far

Aug 31 2015

Homeschooling, 2015-2016

Published by under Homeschooling,Life

So although we have been schooling year-round, we decided to claim a day as the official start to the new school year. Thus, today is our “first day of school” for the 2015-2016 school year! For us, this meant pulling out a couple new textbooks that Gabriel has been very excited about ~ especially Greek! And it has also meant that Gabriel got to choose the food for the day: grilled cheese sandwiches (with peaches and yogurt) for lunch, chocolate chip cookies for an afternoon snack, and homemade mac & cheese (with carrots, salad, and fresh bread) for dinner. It also included the kids getting pictures taken on the front porch this morning, just for fun. :)

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For anyone (not sure who it might be!) who is interested, this is our general setup & bookish goals for this school year, which I guess we’ll call Second Grade for our seven-year-old, although we are not so very interested in emphasizing grades.

MATH—
Saxon 3

ENGLISH—
Rod & Staff 2
Classically Cursive
How to Report on Books
Draw & Write
The Grammar of Spelling
Reading (this is limitless… we love libraries…)

BIBLE—
Acts
Big Book of Q&A About Jesus
I and II Samuel
Stand Fast in the Way of Truth
Catechism

HISTORY—
Bede’s History of US
A Child’s History of the World

GEOGRAPHY—
States & Capitals
Geography Songs
Legends & Leagues (South, then East, etc)

GREEK—
Code Cracker
Song School Greek

ART—
Bible Stories Coloring Book
365 Things to Draw & Paint

MUSIC—
First Discovery, composer series
piano lessons

SPORTS—
martial arts

4 responses so far

Aug 31 2015

Giveaway Winner, #4!!

Like the rest of life, even things like online giveaways don’t always go as you plan or expect! Right after I discovered the winning comment, our power went out… which means no internet (nor lights nor water, etc)… and it did not come back on for over thirteen hours. So, please forgive my tardy post & announcement. We are very joyful to have our power returned today.

Back to the point though!
Yesterday, the day I was supposed to announce the giveaway winner, I realized I had six entries.
And in our game cupboard we happen to have six sided dice (who doesn’t?). :)

So a little roll of the dice, and up came:

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Number Four!

Comment number four came from Samantha,
who will soon be receiving a copy of The Loveliness of Christ!

Congratulations, Samantha!

For everyone else, don’t be dismayed ~
I plan to have another giveaway during the Advent season,
which will probably be upon us a lot sooner than we think!

Thanks for participating in Joyful Domesticity’s first giveaway,
and please keep reading & commenting.
May God receive glory for our conversations here.

2 responses so far

Aug 29 2015

Grief Has Become Part of Me

Living through grief takes courage.
Looking back at the darkest parts of grief takes courage.
Living life after grief takes courage.
Looking ahead to see that the darkness isn’t always so thick takes courage.

Isaiah 61:3
…to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

I am amazed to look back over the last eight years since my first baby died and see how far God has brought me, even though that grief has been compounded eight times since then.

  • I smile and laugh. Daily.
  • I have children. Even some here on earth. Wow.
  • I can see others’ babies & stairstep children without feeling like my heart is going to implode. Sometimes I can even hold someone else’s baby. Even marker babies.
  • I often see those maker babies (who are turning into marker children) as joyful ~rather than painful~ reminders.
  • I can buy baby gifts or maybe even attend a baby shower without weeping.
  • I don’t have daily anxiety attacks that my husband or one of my living children is going to die.
  • I see all the reminders and memorial items in my home as comforts.
  • I speak of all of thirteen of my children, including my nine in heaven, with gladness and thanksgiving. There might be twinges of sadness and what-if, but there is no despair.
  • I can write about my grief, my miscarriages, my emotional or mental or spiritual struggles, with honest humility rather than humiliation.
  • I find immense joy in Christ my King, to whom I belong ~and to whom my children each belong~ and find ever growing trust in His sovereign goodness.
  • I have a marriage that has been tested by the fire of grief ~including our own version of infertility called uRPL~ which is stronger and deeper and richer than I knew it could be at only 8 years into our covenantal union.
  • I can give of myself ~including my heart, my tears, my experiences, my prayers~ and no longer have to be primarily on the receiving end of comfort or encouragement.

(for similar perspectives from a dear friend of mine on the “then” and “now” relating to miscarriage’s grief, see what she shared here & here)

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I can look ahead to the future with hope and joy… and that happens to include looking ahead to my eternity in heaven, where I trust the Lord will reunite me with the covenant children I continue to miss, right through my new normal and through my embracing of life as it is. I have hope. I have joy. Not only for eternity, but for now. Because of Christ. And His work in me.

Grief changes so slowly most of the time, that it can be hard to notice the changes.
And then maybe after a big chunk of time, suddenly you turn around and see it:
the darkness is not as thick, perhaps the darkness has even lifted.

Sometimes I have felt guilty for those moments when I realize the grief is not as thick.
As though I am not adequately marking the lives of the children who I have lost to heaven.
As though working through the grief and assimilating it into my life is a negative thing.
As though grief is more of an eternal roadblock than a continuing road through my life.

But it is okay… in fact, it is not only okay and normal, but it is truly good… that life continues going on, moving forward, taking new shape. It is good that our grief does not cement our feet in one solid place for the rest of our lives. It is good that someday, somehow, the Lord brings us down the road again. He continues to shape us and mold us, recreating us to some extent, incorporating our past ~including our grief~ into our new normal now & for the future.

I am not the same person I was before I suffered the grief of miscarriage.
Part of who I am is the mother of children in heaven.
My grief, my fertility struggles, my suffering ~ it does not define who I am, but it is part of who I am.

So if you are in the thickest parts of grief’s darkness ~ it may well feel like the clouds will never lift, but someday you will see the sun shining again. You will have new shades & shadows to yourself, you will see through new lenses, and nothing will be exactly the same. And because of our God who is the God of grace & redemption, that’s actually a good thing.

3 responses so far

Aug 24 2015

Not Alone in Grief ~ Giveaway!!

THE GIVEAWAY
IS NOW CLOSED!!

This is a first, I think, for Joyful Domesticity ~ a giveaway!!
Please share this giveaway by sharing this post’s link,
especially if you know someone suffering the grief of miscarriage.

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…~…~…~…

In this you rejoice,
though now for a little while, if necessary,
you have been grieved by various trials,

so that the tested genuineness of your faith—
more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—
may be found to result in praise and glory and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:6-7

My two favorite go-to books for gifting to someone suffering a miscarriage are Samuel Rutherford’s The Loveliness of Christ and Nancy Guthrie’s The One Year Book of Hope. I don’t even know how many copies of those books I have bought and shared with others through the years, but I always figure if the person I give one to already has a copy, at least now I’ve given them a second copy so they too can pay-it-forward and continue the line of encouragement for those who are suffering. When we are in grief, we can feel so isolated & alone ~ but please remember, you are not alone.

Bear one another’s burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

To enter the giveaway for a chance to win one of these two books, please leave a comment simply sharing whether you would prefer to receive a copy of Rutherford’s book or Guthrie’s book, and whether it would be for yourself or for someone you know.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up
1 Thessalonians 5:11

I will leave the comments open through this week, and randomly choose a comment (blindly picking a number) on Sunday, August 30th ~ I will update the post with the winner, and contact the winner by email so I can arrange to ship your new book to you right away.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15

8 responses so far

Aug 22 2015

Comforting Myself in My Grief

Published by under Grief,Suffering

This is my comfort in my affliction,
that Your promise gives me life.
Psalm 119:50

There have been times in my grief where I just needed to do something.
Partly as a distraction of keeping myself busy,
partly as a motherly act of doing something in honor of a child I could not rock or nurse or read to,
partly as a balm for a bleeding & broken part of me that needed tending.

…~…~…~…

I have read. and returning to these books, or even just seeing them on my shelf, continues the comfort they have offered…

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I have written. blogs, forum posts, guest posts for various websites, devotional entries, private journals, countless letters to other grieving women – most of whom I have never met…

I have scrapbooked. when my first baby died, I made a scrapbook in her memory from pregnancy and the miscarriage, including pictures of the flowers we received, email quotes, the cards, etc. and someday yet to come I plan to make a “siblings” scrapbook including all thirteen of my children…

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I have sewn. for every child I have carried in my womb, we have bought an arrow to put in a leather quiver in my husband’s study – and I sew a personalized name tag for each arrow with the baby’s name and a Scripture for that child…

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I have painted. for instance, this painting which represents our four children here and the nine who have flown to the gates of glory…

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I have metal stamped. for instance, jewelry (for me as their mommy, and also for their two grandmothers) and tears bottles

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I have gardened. there is something healing about whacking the ground with a hoe when your eyes burn with tears and your body throbs with a combination of physical & emotional & spiritual pain – I had a big vegetable garden at our old home, and while I have not yet had that at our new home, I have a little flower garden (which happens to be excessively overgrown and untidy at the moment) which has roses and a peony in honor of specific babies, as well as a bell and a birdbath in honor of others…

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I have decorated. these children gone too soon still beautify our home and life – when I see Victory’s chimes, Hosanna’s light, Mercy’s rose, Heritage’s flowers, Fidelis’s bell, and my babies’ names in various artwork around my home, I remember that they are still part of our family, still part of our covenant line, still part of God’s good work in our home & life & family & ministry, still honored here and loved tremendously…

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I have kept my babies close. until their decaying bodies are put with my own in the ground once our souls are reunited in the presence of Christ at His wedding feast, they stay close to me, in the sacred space of my own bedroom…

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…~…~…~…

Putting my hands to physical toil and involving my brain in mental energies outside of crying or talking through my feelings, struggles, emotions, dreams (whether broken or yet whole)… that has been a way of seeking comfort myself when needing comfort in my grief.

As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
Isaiah 66:13

Other people of course do not always fill all the gaps I feel.
I can not always just sit on a street corner with a sign that says, “in grief ~ anything helps” and wait for someone else to fill my hands.
My hands are open to receiving comfort from others.
My hands are folded, my heart bowed low, my conversations continual with my heavenly Father to receive His comfort.
But my hands also often are busied in various ways to comfort myself with tangible things.

Comfort comes in many ways, many forms, many facets. Sharing ideas on what is comforting is just one of those blessed facets.
One of the beautiful things about living in Christ myself and living in a community of His people (both in real life and online) is that these varied aspects of comfort work together in harmony to produce something that can be most balming, most healing, most reaching.

You will increase my greatness
and comfort me again.
Psalm 71:21

So when you are in grief, use your hands.
Fold your hands and lift up the emptiness of your hands ~ in prayer to the Father of all comfort.
Open your hands and be ready to receive ~ open to the comforts that others around you want & try to bestow.
Busy your hands ~ fill those palms and fingers with tangible projects and good things that bless your own broken soul.

Let Your steadfast love comfort me
according to Your promise to Your servant.
Psalm 119:76

No responses yet

Aug 15 2015

Reading Gave Me Comfort

Published by under Grief,Suffering

In the midst of some of my deepest sorrows, darkest grief, and most despondent years, the Lord provided many encouragements for my heart through books, blogs, and online forums. Reading gave me comfort, and was always at my fingertips. When I asked how you comfort others with the comfort you too have received, I was immediately noticing how reading your words was a blessing. And then of course I responded with my own words, opening myself up again to share my experiences, before sharing some of the tangible blessings that I personally found paramount & pertinent in my miscarriage sufferings. Perhaps it is because blogs tend to be word-centric or perhaps it is simply because I have the written word knit so much into my life & self & history… but words are not only part of how I minister but also a huge part of how I am ministered to. The Lord uses words to heal me, bless me, challenge me, grow me, and put me back together when I am broken.

In light of this, let me share some of the particular conglomerations of words that have given me comfort as I tried to keep from drowning in the waves of grief, as I rode the storms that came and went with my many miscarriages. Again, not an exhaustive list, but the cream of the crop from my personal tastings.

Books

Samuel Rutherford’s The Loveliness of Christ has been something that I have not only read through, but referred back to often, and given repeatedly to other bereaved women as well. While the encouragements in this dear little book are not isolated to the grief of miscarriage, so many of them are excessively pertinent, as you may begin to grasp here.

Nancy Guthrie’s The One Year Book of Hope was a lifeline to me when I was sinking. I shared some thoughts and snippets from it here on my blog occasionally: like here, for example, and here again between readings of it (because I did read it two years in a row).

C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed spoke both to my husband and to me in specifics that are quintessentially foundational when traveling the road of grief. He put into words so many things that we suffered and felt but had not articulated. I put together a bunch of quotes from this book here, so of course they are drastically out of context; but I hazard a guess that if you too are living out a storm of grief, they will resonate with you in your own context there.

Jerry Sittser’s A Grace Disguised was another book with which we personally identified, and found many of his poignant paragraphs echoed in our own hearts and experiences. Again, I shared quotes out of context here, but trust that you would find them good teasers at the very least, and possibly inspire you to pick up a copy of the book to read them within their context. It’s that pertinent.

Mrs. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert was revisited numerous times during my years of recurring miscarriages and unending grief. My leather-bound copy is well loved, notated, shared, and oft returned to like an old friend. It truly has been a place of comfort, a place where my tears have dimpled pages in sorrow and in thankfulness.

Hannah Hurnard’s Hind’s Feet on High Places (and to a lesser extent the sequel Mountains of Spices) was an allegory that blessed my heart and challenged my faith in its own ways. A very pertinent telling of a girl named Much-Afraid’s journey through hardships, with the companions of Sorrow and Suffering at her side, following the Shepherd in her steep climb to the High Places. To say that it hit home numerous times, to the point where I had to set the book down and revisit it at a later moment, is a bit of an understatement.

Blogs

While it seems that the days of bloggers have much slowed in recent years, I found empathy, companionship, friendship, and compassion through the world of blogs. My mother and I found stories of other bereaved women, where their babies died at various ages & from various things, but the grief and the suffering was so similar, woven throughout them all. The open hearts and honest glimpses that these women shared allowed me to work through my grief in a likewise open and honest way, which was not only healing for myself but I have since learned that it has greatly blessed other people ~ Mrs. MK, Jess Mac, two different Butterfly mamas, and many more either plowed paths that I followed or walked alongside me… and that has continued to bless me even years later, and even after some of their blogs have fizzled almost completely. While my platform here on my own blog did not originate as a place to simply process grief or walk with others through grief, it has definitely played a large part in that journey. The theme of Joyful Domesticity retains its original intent: that of pursuing and proclaiming a joyful heart in my domestic life and calling. And much of that has been greatly impacted by my grief, my sorrow, my bereavement.

I have also had the joy and privilege of working with other women on various blogs & websites through the years, such as Grieve Out Loud, Faces of Loss, and Mommies With HopeI have also guest-posted throughout the years in various places (including a reproductive immunology support group and my reproductive immunologist’s patient testimonial series) to share my story and my testimony, and while that has been a double-edged-sword type of challenge, God has definitely used those opportunities for my good and my healing, while also using my feeble words and experiences to lift up others who are downtrodden. While many of these aforementioned sites do not have the present activity they once had (I think a lot of places have turned to Facebook groups through the years, which is not a place where I participate… so it is my own choice that has left me out of those group aspects most recently…), it has been a blessing to come alongside other women, even when I was not yet “on the other side” ~ trudging through the tearful trenches together was a blessing. Pushing and pulling one another through the muck was a bittersweet joy.

Online Forums

There was a time when I spent roughly two solid years in a loss forum section of an “i am pregnant” website. It was the first place I learned how online communities could not only function but also bless my socks off. Interestingly, it was my mother who introduced me to the site, encouraged me to sign up, and she even got to know the women from that loss group alongside me as I shared stories with her of these bereaved mothers who, like me, desperately longed to grow their families. Some of these women were Christians, some of them weren’t. It was a wonderful place to encourage sisters in their faith as well as to share faith with those outside of Christ’s family. The Lord not only used that place to lift me up, but I learned through the years that He also managed to use me in the lives of other brokenhearted women. We prayed for one another. We shared life stories with one another. We followed one another’s cycles and losses, spoke of each others’ babies by name, sent care packages to one another. We rejoiced when someone finally got their rainbow baby after loss(es). I remember when one woman on there suffered her fifth miscarriage, and I was horrified that anyone would ever have to suffer so many losses. She and I even talked on the phone numerous times, and we almost met in person one time (although it never quite worked out). I did end up meeting in person with one woman I met on that forum, and not only have we stayed friends, but we have had playdates and she did photography for me when God finally filled my arms with my own rainbow babies. I didn’t have people in my real life circles who knew what I was going through in an experiential way, but God provided the community I needed to fill that specific hole in my heart & life. I am so thankful He did that.

After a while there, my mother found and shared with me a Christian-specific infertility & pregnancy loss forum, started by the author of the book Hannah’s Hope. The forums of Hannah’s Prayer have been a place where I have shared in ministry (the giving & the receiving) for six years. I love being on the leadership team there, where we moderate forums, encourage other women in their own hard journeys of infertility & loss, and where we take seriously the ministry of prayer for one another. I have formed true friendships there, including with numerous women whom I have had the privilege of meeting in person. I even helped write & co-edit a Christian devotional e-book for women going through the pregnancy-after-loss journey, Rainbows & Redemption, along with a handful of specifically-chosen women we met in the forums of Hannah’s Prayer. Where I have had a hole in my life that in-person friends and acquaintances could not fill, the Lord has provided a community of Christian women to step into that gap. His hand has been obvious, and His work of healing has been plain. He has used this place to work in me, and continues to use this place to work through me. I can not describe the privilege of being on both the giving & receiving ends of His grace here. I continue to feel Him at work, and I praise Him for that!

 

Luke 12:6-7
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?
And not one of them is forgotten before God.

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

… … … … …

The Lord has used many things, many people, many places as He has ministered to me, fed me, upheld me, and remembered me. I pray that He might even use this place, this servant of His, and some of the things that I have shared here to likewise minister to you.

Next time, I will share with you some of the things I have done myself in my own journey of grief. Please don’t hesitate to chime in with a comment to share your own pertinent thoughts. Today, can you share any books or blogs that God has used to comfort you in your grief?

2 responses so far

Aug 13 2015

Comforting with Tangible Grace

Published by under Grief,Suffering

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself,
and God our Father,
who loved us
and gave us eternal comfort
and good hope through grace,
comfort your hearts
and establish them in every good work and word.

A lot of us try to laugh it off when our period starts, saying that it is a good time to have a glass of wine and indulge in some chocolate. We grab a heating pad and swallow a couple tablets of Ibuprofen, and curl up anywhere remotely comfortable to wait out the cramps, the bloating, the pain, the annoyance.

But what about when getting your period is no longer about simply getting through feeling sick and pained and hormonal and annoyed for four (or fourteen, depending on how the Lord made your specific body) days out of every month… what about when getting your period is a monthly reminder of the emptiness that you carry around in your body?

What about when you have spent months or years praying for a positive pregnancy test? To pee in a cup, dip in a stick, and wait the two eternally long minutes to see whether two little lines show up… and then only one single, lonely little line shows up… and the loneliness of that line is a faint echo of the emptiness that you feel right there in the depth of your body.

What about when getting your period is a gory, bloody, physically painful and emotional wrenching reminder of miscarrying your baby?

What about when you are enduring a period that isn’t supposed to be happening because you were supposed to still be pregnant?

What about those days when your body is bleeding out from the miscarriage itself, and you think your body will never end the process of delivering that precious little lifeless body of your baby into your hands?

What about the hours that feel like days, and the days that feel like months, and it all jumbles together into an endless mush of numbing time where your heart oozes pain and seeps grief every single moment?

Is curling up on the couch with a heating pad, a chocolate bar, and a glass of wine the way to find comfort? And do we have to have to endure the lonely, empty grief always alone?
Well, it may not be a bad start, but it certainly is not the end of the story.

When I suffered my first miscarriage a little over eight years ago (can you believe Covenant would be so grownup already?), I was suddenly thrown into the receiving end of a whole host of tangible comforts. Enduring eight more miscarriages in the next few years gave me even more opportunities to receive with open hands various comforts from family, friends, even strangers. I still have a host of these tangible comforts in my home or recorded in family memory books & photo albums. I have pocketed many of these ideas to share with others who have suddenly found themselves in the throes of this particular grief.

I have not suffered the particular grief of infertility as defined by an inability to conceive a baby in my womb.
I have repeatedly suffered the particular grief of infertility as defined by an inability to carry a living baby to term in my womb.
And I would hasten to guess that the pains of these things, the griefs they carry, (and particularly when they overlap) are more similar than I can imagine. I pray that God would give me opportunities to extend tangible comforts to my sisters along the continuum of suffering infertility’s grief, in ways that would glorify Him and bless them in their specific stories.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Call this some highlights, if you will.
And please, if you have experience especially on the receiving end of tangible comforts when caught in the throes of miscarriage’s grief, would you leave a comment with your own highlights, where the blessing and grace felt most pertinent at the time?

When I Needed Comfort,
these Tangible Graces Showed Up

Flowers
When my first baby died, I don’t know how many people sent us flowers, but they were numerous. And every single one meant the world to my broken, bleeding heart.
One friend of mine (from adolescence) sent me a single white rose for a baby (and she did this numerous times). I still have one of them (Mercy’s, so it has been long dried) in its vase with its ribbon here on the vanity in my bedroom.
I have received rose bushes for a couple of my babies, and a peony when Fidelis died.
Some people don’t like receiving flowers when suffering grief, because flowers tend to die; and death reminds us of, well, death. But I happen to be one of the people who love them anyway. Even if they do die, and it reminds me. I mean, honestly: it’s not like I was going to forget in the first place.

Cards, emails, blog comments
We were flooded with sympathy cards and emails and blog comments when Covenant died. It has been much less so as the years have passed, and the babies’ deaths have piled up. Take that as you will.
But as someone who is spoken to deeply by the written word, these notes (even if the author inadvertently puts their foot in their mouth, I know the intent was love and compassion) lift up my soul.

Food
My brother and his wife have given us freezer meals and Pizza Hut gift cards, which have been incredible helps when I have been physically or emotionally absolutely otherwise unable to feed my family (or myself).
My parents have shown up on our doorstep with baskets full of hot food to feed us dinners. Sometimes my mother has brought me hot plates right in my own bed. She has fed my husband and children when I could not; and she has fed me when I did not want to. She cared for our bodies, and by so doing she cared for our souls.
One dear couple would do “hit and run” food drops on our doorstep when we still lived in town. A plate of cookies. A pie. They never stayed to force small talk on us. They simply wanted to minister to us, from our tastebuds to our guts to our broken hearts. I’ve never eaten a chocolate chip cookie the same way since then.

Artwork
My parents gave us a framed piece of artwork highlighting hope (using the first few verses of Romans 5) when Covenant Hope died. It has been on our bedroom wall ever since.
An online friend I’ve never met sent me two beach sunset pictures with my babies’ names on them. One is in our bedroom, one is in our guestroom. She also sent a card that pictures an empty swing on the front of it in the middle of a lush green background: I framed it, and it has been in our family room ever since, because that empty swing speaks volumes to me.

Gift Bags
One time, I think it might have been after my fourth or fifth miscarriage although I honestly forget exactly when it was, I received a big package in the mail that was a care package contributed to by women mostly from around various corners of North America whom I had never met, and many of whom were not Christians: it was filled with cozy socks, candy, candles, a blank journal, teas, and a whole host of other things. Women who had never met me, nor met each other, banded together across the distance to put together a care package for me. I might have bawled the best kind of tears.
Another time, I think it was after my son Hosanna died, the wife of our church’s pastoral intern put together a gift bag for us, again filled with various items to bless our hearts and let us know we were cared for. A little brass bird candleholder from that package has been in our family room ever since, and is a continual reminder that our Lord cares for us more than any sparrow.
A third time, after my daughter Heritage died, a friend of mine (mostly long-distance friend, largely through blogging and email communication) gathered a couple of ladies from her church, and they put together a gift bag for us: lotion, lip gloss, toenail polish, Starbucks money, a deep red mug (that I use fondly for my morning coffee), chocolate, and more… and we visited their church a couple of weeks later, this care package was quietly placed at my feet. Women who barely knew me, but had deep compassion for my grief, once again came together with what could look like a random conglomeration of little blessings, and put them in one place and put it at my feet… and let me tell you, I was blessed.

Jewelry
One friend of mine, who now lives far away, gave me a piece of mother’s jewelry. It is a heart, with a little tiny birthstone for each of my babies dangling from it. This gift from that particular friend spoke more to me than any words she ever said.
My mother has given me remembrance jewelry in more veiled fashion through the years. She gave me a pair of pink pearl earrings for my first Mother’s Day, when as of yet I had no babies in my arms but my womb had carried two. She gave me a bracelet made of seven silver strands another Mother’s Day when I had seven babies in heaven. She gave me a necklace with a cross that says “let your faith be bigger than your fear” when I was miscarrying repeatedly again, and we thought the doors to grow our family were closing forever. And when she found out I was pregnant for the thirteenth time, she brought over a silver ring with thirteen leaves on it, and the word hope inscribed inside.

Phone Calls
I am not a phone person, I will probably never really be a phone person.
But this one friend just about turned me into one, because she would call, she would sing psalms with me over the phone, she would pray for me over the phone, she would cry with me over the phone.
And if you ever left me a voicemail (not being a phone person, my voicemail is well-used…), those too have ministered greatly to my soul. Using your own voice to tell me that I am remembered, our grief is not forgotten, our child is honored, our tears are acknowledged, our needs are your concern. Thank you.

Silence
This can very clearly be a double-edged sword, and it must be used with wisdom and extremely carefully.
I am not talking about the type of silence where you don’t let me know that you care; that’s simply called being absent in the face of need.
I am talking specifically about the kind of silence where you sit in the dust and the ashes with someone who is grieving, and you don’t try to fix it with platitudes or offer glimpses of hope that may or may not actually exist.
The kind of silence where you showed up, and we sat side-by-side on my family room couch, cupping warm mugs of tea in our hands. We didn’t have to talk. We simply sat. And I wasn’t alone. It was like a silent prayer became a tangible presence. And that kind of silence can be a gift.

Lastly, never underestimate the power of human touch and human tears.
These are graces from God, comforts built right into our very DNA.
A touch of my shoulder, a clasping of my hands, and sometimes a hug…
Your adding to the tears shed for the sake of my baby’s death and for the sake of my mommy-grief…
These too are tangible gifts. I do not take them lightly. But I open my hands for them, I receive them, I thank you for them.

Next time, I will share a short list of books and online resources that have ministered to me in my grief, and been another source of comfort when in even my darkest of days.

2 responses so far

Aug 10 2015

When My Heart Aches

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Job 30:22
You lift me up on the wind; You make me ride on it,
    and You toss me about in the roar of the storm.

There are many types of suffering, and I understand that the sovereign Lord allots for each of us what He deigns best for us and greatest for His glory. I don’t always understand the nuts and bolts of it playing out “in real life” but I acknowledge it from my heart and from my mind. I understand He is that way, and He is the author of life, even when I can not explicitly understand the whys and the hows behind it all. He is God, and I am not.

I can not count the number of days (let alone hours or moments) when my heart has been in utter and complete anguish within me. And for the large part, in what the sovereign Lord has allotted for me personally, my anguish has been related to miscarriage and its many nuances. I’ve had the deepest anguish, suffering, pain, and grief from burying nine children. There are other reaches of this, though, where the pain seeps ~ basically any conversation about pregnancy, about morning sickness, about surprise pregnancies, about family size, about babies, about childrearing, about being pro-life, about stairstep children, about family vacations, about schooling, about siblings… some anguishes ooze into so many aspects of life that you lose count. And really, to be honest, you don’t want to keep count. That is too painful, too!

Psalm 55:4
My heart is in anguish within me

But one of the biggest blessings for me, both in the midst of the anguish and “on the other side” (to some extent…) of it, has been the giving and receiving of comfort through this journey.
I have been on the receiving end of so much comfort! Some of it has been well-done and some of it has been less-so, but all of it, I truly believe, has been heartfelt and genuine.
I have also been given the opportunity to be on the giving side of comfort through the years, both in various online communities & capacities and in real life (friends or friends-of-friends suddenly facing the grief of miscarriage themselves). I am sure that the comfort I have sought to give has been occasionally well-done and occasionally much less-so as well, but I can honestly say that the comfort I have extended has also been heartfelt and genuine.

Regardless of the years I have spent in the trenches of grief…
regardless too of the years I have spent in the trenches of lifting up others downtrodden in similar griefs…
I still feel thoroughly unequipped to offer much specific counsel or advice on how to come alongside someone who is suffering a miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage, other death, other infertility, other anguish of heart.

When I posted my open-ended question a couple days ago, I was so overjoyed and blessed to have some of you chime in on how you have been comforted when you needed comfort, and how you too seek to extend comfort to others in need of that blessing! Thank you for participating in the conversation! (and please do keep it coming!)

I am going to spend just the next few posts here at Joyful Domesticity sharing some thoughts and experiences I have had.
I’ll share some tangible things that have been a comfort to me from others, books that have blessed me, activities I have done myself that have brought comfort or healing to my own aches, as well as links to online communities & resources that have ministered to me and given me opportunities for ministry as well.
If you are looking for something specific, don’t be afraid to ask; I would love to have some prodding as I go back in my memory banks to some of the darkest days of my life. So many things have actually been blocked from my memory (PTSD style) that sometimes I need a prod to even recall certain days or events or seasons.

The upcoming posts may be redundant to many of you, especially those who have walked alongside me for years through my own miscarriages and sorrows. But whether this is old news or new news, I pray that it would be good news: that it would remind you of how the Lord has ministered to me and been faithful to me! I don’t forget His faithfulness through my anguish!! I don’t want you to forget either, simply because He has been so good to me, and He deserves to be continually praised for it. And I also pray that this would be good news to those of you who are suffering, or ministering to those who are suffering: to see what has blessed others, and to see if the Lord has equipped you to share any of these (or similar) things with those around you, or even to ask for these blessings yourself ~ or at least to extend some of these graces to yourself if you are the one in the trench of anguish.

And remember… if you leave me a comment… I am just a click away, and my heart is ready to step alongside yours wherever you are on this journey of grief… I will pray with you, email you, share resources with you, simply even be a listening ear.
You may have to endure suffering, but you certainly don’t have to do it alone.

More soon.
And in the meanwhile, peace be with you.

Isaiah 25:1-4
O Lord, You are my God;
I will exalt You; I will praise Your name,
for You have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For You have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners’ palace is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify You;
cities of ruthless nations will fear You.
For You have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall…

4 responses so far

Aug 06 2015

How do you Comfort those who Need Comfort?

Published by under Grief,Suffering

When someone you know (whether intimately or superficially) is struggling with infertility or miscarriage or stillbirth, how do you reach out to comfort them?

  • If you yourself have struggled with the debilitating cycle of month by month disappointment, how do you comfort someone who once again sees only one line on that pregnancy test?
  • If you yourself have lost a baby at any gestation, how do you comfort someone who is now thrown into those trenches of horrible grief and sorrow and confusion and pain?
  • How can we show Gospel Grace (if they are new to the Gospel, or if they are already intimately related to Jesus) to someone suffering in these ways?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

10 responses so far

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