Saturday May 29, 2010

In the deepness and darkness of our sorrow, we feel the arms of Christ around us. Stacks of cards and emails, voicemail messages, references to our Victory Athanasius in the church service, babysitting & help tending my home, making Gabriel feel special, friends bringing food, gift cards for food, figurines and chimes and candies, gorgeous flower arrangements — these things are Christ’s arms extended by His people to fill our home with love. Although it does not truly lessen our grief, it does bring some measure of comfort amidst the pain. To know such tangible love of our family & friends, both those close as well as those distant & can not sit in the dust with us, somehow helps us get through this dark valley, one step at a time. Each step is difficult. And sometimes they are backward steps instead of forward.
We are empty, very weak, feeling hopeless.
And so we are especially thankful for the arms of Christ which enfold us. So tangibly.
We need that.

Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

I don’t understand this verse. And I don’t know what to learn from it.
But I can tell you that it is Truth. Painful, beautiful Truth.

Thursday May 27, 2010

Today marks the third anniversary of the day that my Steven and I covenanted before God and 90-some witnesses to become one flesh. For better or for worse. In some ways it feels like so much longer than three years. They’ve been pretty packed full. 🙂 But in other ways, it feels like just yesterday that I slipped into that gorgeous Cinderella gown, and waited for the veil to be lifted so my love could kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for his love is better than wine. (SOS 1:2) Wow.

I was thinking this morning about how Song of Solomon (8:7) says that “many waters cannot quench love, nor can floods drown it.” I feel like the rainstorms of our life are trying to quench us, and they are failing. Hurray! God is good. No matter how the storms may thrash, and no matter the floods that pool around us (trying so hard to cover our heads), our love will not diminish – it will only grow. Even in the downpours of devastating grief & pain. Because we are God’s. And we are one another’s.

My broken heart is far from happy today. But my heart is held by my husband, and that does make me happy. So very, very blessed. God is good. I am indescribably thankful for my husband. May the Lord graciously allow us dozens of more years together to celebrate His goodness, and to combat whatever rainstorms face us. Hand in hand.

I love you, Steven. Always.

Wednesday May 26, 2010

Everything reminds me of my pain. Reminds me of what I desire but do not have. Reminds me of what I had but have lost. Reminds me of my overwhelming grief.

  • Water – because what’s the point of drinking so much when all it does is remind me that when I am pregnant, I should drink 64 ounces a day; but now I’m empty, so who cares.
  • Coffee – we’ve been off caffeine for a year and a half now, but what’s the point anyway?
  • Vitamins – why take them when they don’t seem to be helping my body.
  • Clothes – I put off buying new clothes, new bras, even new underwear because I am always getting pregnant and thinking “soon I will need a different size anyway”… and then never do.
  • My arms – because they are covered in scars and bruises from all the various needles that have recently penetrated my veins.
  • My body – because the pooch reminds me of what I had, and the lack of belly reminds me of what I don’t have.
  • My face – the break-outs that show my hormones are once again going nuts.
  • Going to the bathroom – that doesn’t need explained, right?
  • Food – I am not ever hungry anymore, but I am always thinking, “oh I need to eat because of the baby…” and then remember, “oh wait, no I don’t.” And then there’s the list of things that I avoid while pregnant, and can’t stand when I’m not: tuna, sandwich meat, soft cheese, caffeine, alcohol…
  • Friends – because everyone is pregnant or cradling a newborn.
  • Church – ditto.
  • Bible study – we’re studying biblical womanhood & right now the subject is “woman as life giver.” Need I say more?
  • Photographs – remembering who I was pregnant with in various photos, remembering who “should have” been in various photos, noticing how small a family photo looks with only three people.
  • Holidays and special occasions – wondering how to celebrate in the midst of such grief.
  • Laptop – I never hold it on my lap when I am pregnant. It feels weird even now.
  • Cell phone – I get a chill when it rings, because the contrast between the nurse’s grave voice and my mother’s sweet “hi, pregnant lady” stuns me even now.
  • Our car – for Gabriel’s 2nd birthday we turned his carseat around like a big boy. And I always wonder if we will ever have a reason to get a bigger car. Dreams of a minivan or Suburban are diminishing in the distance.
  • Nursery – realizing that Gabriel is getting too old to be in a baby room. Realizing that I can’t emotionally handle redecorating it, or moving him to another room & letting it sit empty.
  • Basement – where all the baby things are being relegated; the swing, the carseat, the toys, the clothes; all the things we expected to need again. Now thinking we probably never will.
  • Garden – where I (alone with my thoughts) plant seeds and they grow. And I wonder why peas and zucchini and tomatoes don’t miscarry.
  • Herb boxes – where the basil I planted grew a little and then stopped. Reminding me of my babies.
  • Making dinner – trying to figure out how to cook for only 3, and thinking that I may never have to learn how to cook for 5 or how to cook for 7.
  • Washing diapers – knowing these days are soon coming to an end. Wondering if they’ll ever return.
  • A full night’s sleep – desperately wishing that I would be woken up every 2 hours.
  • Toys – packing away all the infant toys, wondering if I should give them away or save them. Feeling like saving them is clinging to a vapor.
  • My bed – where all this grief ultimately began. And where I cry it out every night. And where my dreams haunt me.
  • The shower – where I can not hide from my emotions, my body, my emptiness.
  • Books – they all seem to be either about grief, faith, or womanhood; all of which sting the wound.
  • Bible – somewhat comforting, somewhat harsh, but always a reminder.
  • Prayer – wondering if my prayers “avail much” or not. Because they don’t seem to from my limited perspective.

These are just the first things that popped into my head. It’s not a complete list. There is not a time of the day when I am alone without my thoughts. No matter what I do, they are with me. Why can’t I turn the switch to “off” now & then? It would sure be nice. To get away from my grief. To hide from it for a while. To feel like I can smile and celebrate without it being a facade to make everyone else around me less uncomfortable.
Someday I would like to look back and think that these things are all redeemed. That they will become glorious and bright instead of gloomy and dark. Pleasantries instead of grievous.
I’m not holding my breath, but I am seeking God’s grace.

Monday May 24, 2010

Gabriel doesn’t know the world stopped spinning five days ago. And so from his perspective, today was positively perfect. Magical and full of wide-eyed wonder. Just as it ought to have been.
And God is good.

Saturday May 22, 2010

Isaiah 45:5-7
I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides Me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know Me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides Me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Calamity. In my home. Where we grieve the death of our youngest baby.
And calamity. In the home of my friend. Where she grieves the death of her baby girl today too.
We stand with them in their grief.
We weep together for the deaths of our covenant children.
Perplexed at the calamities around us.
Certain that God is good, and equally as certain that He is terrible.

Psalm 6:2-3
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD— how long?

Thursday May 20, 2010

Dear brothers and sisters,

I cannot tell you how much I detest writing these things. May God be gracious.
On Monday we learned that the child Melissa and I were expecting has gone to join five siblings in the loving arms of our Lord. God is good and faithful, even when our eyes of flesh fail to see it through the tears of grief. Please be in prayer for us. We feel like we have gone 6 rounds with a prize fighter. It is very hard to look ahead with any hope and in times like this faith does not come easy. Pray that God would supply grace for our every need. Pray that God would mend our broken hearts and carry us forward in peace. Pray that we would mourn the loss of another child in righteousness and that we would flee from the temptations to doubt, fear or let bitterness and anger taint our hearts. Pray that God would show His strength in our weakness.

We have named our baby Victory Athanasius, which means “victory of the immortal”. Christ has defeated sin and death. He is our first-fruits; our guarantee of eternal life. Our baby has put on immortality and is reveling in the victory bought by our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has triumphed, and our child wears the white robes of His righteousness now and forever more.

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-56)

May God grant His perfect grace and peace. To Him be the glory, even in the unrelenting tears.


Tuesday May 18, 2010

Just got home from the hospital, so it’s time to rest. But I wanted to thank you for all the compassion, love, and especially prayers. I am so thankful for that. It feels like the emotional pain is just never ending. Thank you for being our brethren. I don’t know how much I will update on the subject – but please know that we continually covet your prayers.

Monday May 17, 2010

I don’t want to write this, and -in fact- I don’t know what to say.
Baby Seven will not be joining us for our Christmas picture this year.
Instead, we found out that this baby is already singing hallelujahs with five older siblings.

This was confirmed today (although we had thought things were going so well), and tomorrow I will be undergoing an outpatient surgery. Please pray for us. As though it isn’t enough to be grieving the loss of another child, we have so many medical decisions facing us. It is hard to think clearly when we are swimming in such grief. Please pray that our grief would not cloud our judgment. Please pray that God would give us wise counselors. Please pray for my protection, physically, tomorrow. Please pray that we would find comfort in one another, and in our miracle Gabriel. And please pray that God would give us peace in moving forward – whatever that means.

Wednesday May 12, 2010

Mother’s Day

The men made our Mother’s Day feast!

The meal was wonderful! The best (and biggest) burgers, complete with herb butter in the beef and topped with lettuce, tomato, bacon, grilled onion, sauteed garlic mushrooms, cheese… my mouth is now watering, thankyouverymuch! We also had grilled corn on the cob, chips, baked beans, and an ice cream sundae bar for dessert!

Park day on Monday.

Gabriel loves running through the field, picking dandelions, and especially blowing the gone-to-seed dandies. So funny. So cute.

This was my attempt at getting him to smile, by asking, “Where’s Mommy?” and then “Where’s the sky?” 🙂

Monday May 10, 2010

I found so much Truth in the pages penned in this book.

So without further ado, here are my favored

excerpts & quotes from

A Grief Observed

by C. S. Lewis

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. (p. 1)

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all… Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this “commonsense” vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace. (p. 2)

And no one ever told me about the laziness of grief. Except at my job—where the machine seems to run on much as usual—I loathe the slightest effort. Not only writing but even reading a letter is too much. (p. 3)

Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. (p. 9)

I must have some drug, and reading isn’t a strong enough drug now. By writing it all down (all?—no: one thought in a hundred) I believe I get a little outside it [grief]. (p. 10)

Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything. (p. 11)

One never meets just Cancer, or War, or Unhappiness (or Happiness). One only meets each hour or moment that comes. All manner of ups and downs. Many bad spots in our best times, many good ones in our worst. (p. 13)

What pitiable cant to say, “She will live forever in my memory!” Live? That is exactly what she won’t do. (p. 22)

You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. (p. 25)

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand. (p. 28)

And poor C. quotes to me, “Do not mourn like those that have no hope.” It astonished me, the way we are invited to apply to ourselves words so obviously addressed to our betters. What St. Paul says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead better than themselves. If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a great thing, that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild. (p. 30)

Aren’t all these notes the senseless writhings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it? Who still thinks there is some device (if only he could find it) which will make pain not to be pain. It’s doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on. (p. 38)

And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. (p. 38)

I hear a clock strike and some quality it always had before has gone out of the sound. What’s wrong with the world to make it so flat, shabby, worn-out looking? Then I remember. (p. 40)

This is one of the things I’m afraid of. The agonies, the mad midnight moments, must, in the course of nature, die away. But what will follow? Just this apathy, this dead flatness? Will there come a time when I no longer ask why the world is like a mean street, because I shall take the squalor as normal? Does grief finally subside into boredom tinged by faint nausea? (p. 41)

What do people mean when they say, “I am not afraid of God because I know He is good”? Have they never even been to the dentist? (p. 51)

The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear. (p. 53)

I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense. It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become habitual. Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, action after action, had H. for their object. Now their target is gone. I keep on through habit fitting an arrow to the string; then I remember and have to lay the bow down. So many roads lead thought to H. I set out on one of them. But now there’s an impassable frontier-post across it. So many roads once; now to many culs de sac. (p. 55)

When you have learned to do quadratics and enjoy doing them you will not be set them much longer. The teacher moves you on. (p. 57)

God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down. (p. 61)

Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off it is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has “got over it.” But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again. (p. 61)

Still, there’s no denying that in some sense I “feel better,” and with that comes at once a sort of shame, and a feeling that one is under a sort of obligation to cherish and foment and prolong one’s unhappiness. (p. 62)

Tonight all the hells of young grief have opened again; the mad words, the bitter resentment, the fluttering in the stomach, the nightmare unreality, the wallowed-in tears. For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? (p. 66)

How often—will it be for always?—how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time. The first plunge of the knife into the flesh is felt again and again. (p. 67)

I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history, and if I don’t stop writing that history at some quite arbitrary point, there’s no reason why I should ever stop. There is something new to be chronicled every day. Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. As I’ve already noted, not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley isn’t a circular trench. But it isn’t. There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn’t repeat. (p. 68)

I was wrong to say the stump was recovering from the pain of the amputation. I was deceived because it has so many ways to hurt me that I discover them only one by one. (p. 71)

Turned to God, my mind no longer meets that locked door; turned to H., it no longer meets that vacuum—nor all that fuss about my mental image of her. My jottings show something of the [grieving] process, but not so much as I’d hoped. Perhaps both changes were really not observable. There was no sudden, striking, and emotional transition. Like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight. When you first notice them they have already been going on for some time. (p. 71)

Am I, for instance, just sidling back to God because I know that if there’s any road to H., it runs through Him? But then of course I know perfectly well that He can’t be used as a road. If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all. (p. 79)

When I lay these questions before God I get no answers. But a rather special sort of “No answer.” It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, “Peace, child; you don’t understand.” (p. 81)

There is also, whatever it means, the resurrection of the body. We cannot understand. The best is perhaps what we understand least. (p. 89)

How wicked it would be, if we could, to call the dead back! She said not to me but to the chaplain, “I am at peace with God.” She smiled, but not at me. (p. 89)