Sometimes Lightning Does Strike Twice

Last Thursday we received the devastating news that our baby, a third little girl, has several serious complications. According to the doctors the prognosis is very poor and they told us that we should not expect this baby to survive.

My heart ached as I absorbed the idea that this little girl, who we have longed for and prayed for and imagined bringing home, might join her big sister, Faith, in Heaven instead.

My heart aches now as I wrestle with this path we’re on and wait for whatever is to come.

At what was meant to be our routine 20 week anatomical ultrasound they discovered fluid in this baby’s chest cavity surrounding her lungs. It felt like some sort of terrible deja vu – reminiscent of the hydrops that Faith experienced and the fluid that was discovered throughout her body at 30 weeks.

Following that appointment we were sent to a specialist who found, in addition to the fluid, that this little girl has a heart defect and her stomach looks to be located on the opposite side of where it should be.

The doctors suspect an underlying genetic cause. We had done no genetic testing earlier in the pregnancy so I had amniocentesis on Thursday and we should receive the results at our appointment next Friday, as well as have a follow up ultrasound then.

When Faith was born we had many tests done, both during the last days of my pregnancy with her as well as an autopsy and genetic testing afterwards, and everything came up clear. No answer. Unexplained. A lightning strike.

Sometimes lightning strikes twice.

I have so many emotions and thoughts, but it’s hard to put everything into words. I am crushed and truly can’t believe this is happening again.

God is with us, we know. He will never leave us… but still, this is difficult beyond words.

I will try to share more when I can and update as we receive more information. In the meantime, we sincerely covet your prayers for us and for this little baby girl.

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Deuteronomy 31:8

 

 

 

 

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Dear Faith

Dear Faith,

Happy 5th birthday my sweet daughter! I can’t believe it has been five years since I held you in my arms.

It’s funny, but ever since you were born I’ve pictured you in Heaven about the age you would be now. I don’t know why but that’s how I’ve often imagined you… a young girl with long brown hair, smiling and giggling as you run through Heaven. A girl big enough to run into my arms, but small enough to still nestle onto my lap.

The words of an old Jars of Clay song make me think of you…

In open fields of wild flowers, she breathes the air and flies away, she thanks her Jesus for the daisies and the roses in no simple language, someday she’ll understand the meaning of it all

When I think of you running through Heaven I think of Heaven like that – not just the golden streets but also a huge field full of tall grass and flowers that tickle your legs and never make you sneeze! I picture you, never getting tired, never getting hurt, never feeling sad. I imagine your pure joy as you revel in a place that knows no sorrow or pain or sickness or death.

And I think of how incredible it is that you already understand the meaning of it all.

The song goes on to say…

Someday she’ll trust Him, and learn how to see Him, someday He’ll call her, and she will come running

I rejoice in knowing that you already live that, in a purer and deeper way than you ever could here on earth. You trust Him. You’ve seen Him with your own eyes. He called you Home on the day you were born and you came running.

Maybe that’s why I picture you running today. Running to His arms with the joy of a little girl who has never known anything but love. From my womb where you were treasured and so deeply loved, to His arms where you are fully known and loved beyond comprehension.

I miss you, but I am so thankful to know where you are and Who is holding you until I can hold you again.

With love always my sweet girl,

Mommy

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The Courage to Wait

Natalie is on a Cinderella kick right now.

We do a lot of fairy godmother magic together… turning invisible pumpkins into equally invisible carriages and making imaginary glass slippers appear on our feet. She sweeps her wand of pink and blue ribbons through the air and creates a palace in our family room so we can dance at the ball together.

It’s sweet and special and so much fun for me, the girl who always loved imaginary play more than anything else.

Yesterday I showed her some scenes from Disney’s live action version of Cinderella. I’ve watched it myself several times before and always enjoyed it, but as I saw it again something stuck with me in a way that wouldn’t let go.

The theme of courage stood out to me. The courage to persevere through trials and the courage to wait. A biblical truth wrapped in a fairy tale story.

It made me think of Joseph… sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused and thrown into prison, forgotten and wronged. And yet, after all of that, he was raised up to be second only to Pharoah in the land of Egypt.

But what if we didn’t know the ending?

What would we think, in the midst of Joseph’s troubles, if we didn’t know that he would later tell his brothers,“Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”(Genesis 45:5)?

How would we feel, as Cinderella is cruelly mistreated, if we didn’t know her story would end in “happily ever after”?

We all have Cinderella and Joseph moments don’t we?

No, I’m not saying we all have evil stepmothers who treat us like servants, or brothers who sell us to slave traders… but we all have trials in our life. Sufferings that we can’t make sense of. Unanswered questions. Struggles that seem unfair.

And we don’t know the ending.

That’s the hardest part. That’s what takes courage. Courage to persevere and courage to wait, not for a fairy godmother’s magic, but for a very real God who has a very real plan for our lives.

Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Waiting isn’t easy for me. I like plans and clear directions and paths to follow. But the ending isn’t for me to know and I find comfort in the truth that God will never leave me (Deut 31:6), that He has overcome the world (John 16:33), and that the trials themselves serve to grow me in perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5).

So may we have the courage to wait, even when the ending of our story is unknown.

wait for the Lord

 

 

Refined

Two days ago we celebrated Faith’s 4th birthday.

When I think about the journey we’ve been on since she was born, about who I am today in large part because of the work God did in my life through her, the word “refined” comes to mind.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

I love this picture of gold being refined by fire and that our faith – of greater worth than gold – can be similarly refined.

Refined by the fire of trials and grief to become something more precious and genuine than it was before. To become something worthy of praise, glory and honor.

That is a beautiful thing.

I have been refined. Through a trial I could have never imagined, my faith has grown stronger, more genuine, more precious. I have developed a deeper trust in God. I have gained a purer love for Him.

Through the life and death of our beautiful daughter Faith, He has refined me and I am thankful for that.

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But I must add this – there is a big difference between being refined by grief and being defined by grief.

I can’t do very much for Faith as a mom. I can’t take care of her, can’t watch her grow up and celebrate the milestones of life alongside her.

So for a while it seemed that grieving the loss of her was something I could do for her.  When the grief began to lessen, when I didn’t miss her with that same deep ache, I worried and even felt guilty. Was I doing something wrong?

Often, when we lose someone, our grief over losing them becomes a connection to that person. As a result, if we let go of grief it feels like we are breaking that connection.

But if we hang onto our grief it can start to define us, and that is not what God desires for our lives. We are not made to linger in the valley of sorrow forever.

I came to realize that it was okay, in fact it was right, to let go of grief. I realized that grief had played a role in shaping and refining me but it was not and never would be the defining characteristic of who I am.

Similarly my grief over losing Faith did not define my connection with her.

My love for her didn’t decrease or disappear when my grief subsided. I am Faith’s mom and that is enough. I don’t have to do anything for her here on earth to prove myself as her mother, I just am. Nothing can ever change or diminish that.

And so I let go of the grief.

Losing a child is part of my story, but not the end of my story. As I look back over our journey, I am thankful. Thankful for the time I had with Faith. Thankful for the future I have with her in Heaven. And thankful for the way God continues to refine me.

He truly has led me each step of the way… through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

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Grief Is…

They say there are stages to grief and I imagine that is generally true, but since every individual person is different, I believe grief manifests itself in a variety of ways.

In the days, weeks, and months after Faith died my grief took on many forms. And while I’m no expert, it is through my experience that I share what I learned about grief in my valley of sorrow.

Grief is a process.

It takes time to grieve. I don’t necessarily believe the sayings, “it will get better in time” or “time heals all wounds” because I know that it is God who heals and comforts, not the passage of time. However, as time passes it allows you to work through the process of grief a little each day.

And sometimes that’s what you need – to just take each day as it comes.

When we first came home from the hospital I remember feeling exhausted – physically, mentally and emotionally worn out. It was  weariness like I’ve never experienced.

I also remember feeling this aching uncertainty. I felt lost because the identity I had imagined for myself – a stay at home mom – had disappeared. Where would our lives go from there? I was plagued by questions that had no answers.

In my valley of sorrow, in the midst of that deep grief, I had to face my exhaustion and uncertainty and work through both piece by piece.

Sometimes that meant a day at home reading a book just to rest my mind and body. Other times it meant pushing myself… to get up, put on real clothes, walk the dog, go for a drive wherever the road took us.

There was a lot of talking, crying, praying, writing, reading, listening to music, and letting myself work through everything bit by bit.

And this is what I learned: you can’t rush the grieving process, but you can’t let yourself fall prey to the trap of staying in your grief forever either.

Like a literal walk through a valley you must take each day, and sometimes each moment, a step at the time. Looking back I can say with certainty that none of those steps were wasted.

Grief is unpredictable.

I could prepare for certain things, such as the 15th of every moth that first year, knowing they would be difficult for me. But I couldn’t prepare myself for the “sneak attacks” of grief when I didn’t expect it.

A pregnant woman in the restaurant. The smell of hand sanitizer that brought me right back to that hospital room. A baby around the same age Faith would have been in the row behind us at church.

Little or big things, they would come out of nowhere and send my heart racing and my eyes blinking back tears.

For me, acknowledging that those moments would come and acknowledging that I wouldn’t always be ready to handle them was half the battle. Instead of letting the unpredictability of grief paralyze me, I learned that I had to let my guard down and allow myself to “roll with the punches” so to speak.

I couldn’t prepare for everything that would happen or how I would feel, but I learned to take it as it came and keep pressing on.

Grief doesn’t last forever. 

Read that one again. I promise that it’s true.

This is where my faith made – and continues to make – all the difference for me. I did not grieve without hope (1 Thess. 4:13) becasue I knew, beyond any doubt, that Faith is in Heaven. I know she is living in the perfection of God’s glory and I know that I will join her there someday. And on that day this life without her will feel like a blink of an eye in comparison to the eternity we will share together.

That hope allowed me to let go of grief and, as grief lessened, joy returned.

There were moments in the beginning when I wondered if it would be possible to feel joy again, but I can truly say that I did and still do. As I wrote yesterday, I miss Faith and sometimes I’m sad, but I came to understand that joy is not based on my circumstances but instead on my confidence in God and His promises.

And so, after my journey through the valley of sorrow, I found that river of joy. Not on my own, it was His hand that brought me there.

He can lead you as well, through any valley you might face.

If you are going through a valley and you don’t know the peace and assurance that comes through faith in Christ, I encourage you to seek Him. He truly is there… through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

valleystorivers

If you are interested in some of the resources I found to be helpful through my grieving process, the following is a list of books and songs. It opens as a word document, feel free to print or share as you would like: Resources for Grief

Also, if you are a friend or family member to someone who has recently experience loss, this post – Valleys to Rivers: Family and Friends –  from my previous blog may be helpful to you.

 

Dear Faith (On Your 4th Birthday)

Dear Faith,

Happy 4th birthday my sweet girl!

It’s a beautiful day today – warm and sunny, my favorite kind of day. I miss you very much, but when I look up at the bright blue sky and think about what it must be like for you in Heaven, that makes me smile.

I want you to know that even though sometimes I get sad, I also feel happy on your birthday.

I feel happy because you are my daughter and this is a special day to think about you (even though I think about you lots of other times too!). I feel happy because I know you are happy, living in the most perfect place. And I feel happy because someday I will see you again.

Faith1

Not too long ago I finished reading some of my favorite books called the Chronicles of Narnia. They were written by C.S. Lewis (have you met him?!) and if you were here with us I would definitely read them to you.

The ending makes me think about what it will be like when we meet again in Heaven…

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Isn’t that wonderful, Faith? It brings the good kind of tears to my eyes.

I wish I could hug you and kiss you today on your birthday (and every other day too!) but I know I will get to hug you and kiss you again.  And when that day comes it will be just the beginning of our forever together.

Forever together!

I hope you know, my little girl, how much you are loved and how thankful your Daddy and I are to call you ours. God had a special plan for you and I’m glad His plan included us. He takes care of us always, just as He takes care of you. We love you and miss you and look forward to the day when we see you again.

Happy birthday my sweet Faith!

Love Always,

Mommy

 

 

Valleys of Sorrow to Rivers of Joy

How do you “celebrate” the birthday of a child who has died? There’s no guidebook for that, no answer that works for everyone. For me it means writing.

Writing is my way to reflect on everything we experienced. It’s my way to honor Faith’s short life here on earth. And when writing I pray that someone – even just one person – can find encouragement, strength and hope in what I share. Sadly there are many who have walked or will walk a similar road. If you are one of those people, I pray that these words bring comfort and remind you that you are not alone.

There is a beautiful Jars of Clay song that I often think of in regards to our journey after the loss of our first daughter, Faith. These words especially resonate with me…

I will sing of Your mercy, that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy.

Near the end the song, after these words are sung, there is a weighty pause. The music stops. The singing stops. Silence for a few long seconds. And then one single word – “yeah”.

That part always gives me goosebumps.

The silence is so full. It’s as if everything comes down to that moment. You can say the words, but do you truly believe them?

In that pause I let the truth of those words sink in…

I will sing of Your mercy, that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy.

Yes, I do believe it.

I believe it with full confidence. God has led me and been with me always. He was there in the midst of the valley of sorrow and He is here with me now in the rivers of joy filling my life. His mercy is constant through it all.

Life is always changing. My life is different today than it was four years ago in the days waiting for Faith to be born. And four years from now it will look different still.

But God is the same and nothing can change who He is. No circumstances or passing of time. Not the deepest valley of sorrow nor fullest river of joy. His love, grace and mercy are steadfast.

This week, in honor of Faith’s 4th birthday, I will be sharing a series of posts about our journey through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy. I pray that through these words you will see our incredible God who has sustained us every step of the way.

valleystorivers

For those of you who followed my previous blog, you may see excerpts that look familiar but there will be new writings too so I hope you’ll join me.

For those who do not know our story, you may want to read a couple entries from my previous blog through the following links. Four years ago today I shared this post – Hold Me Jesus – about our baby’s condition. We didn’t know then that she was a little girl who would be held by Jesus herself moments after she was born. On June 15th, 2012 we met our sweet Faith.

 

 

“I was the Lion”

Recently I’ve been re-reading C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. They are some of my favorite books and this is probably my fourth, if not more, time reading through the series. I never tire of the stories and always seem to find new truths when I re-visit them.

Last week I finished The Horse and His Boy and one scene in particular stood out to me. Shasta, the central character throughout, is lost and wandering on horseback feeling very bad for himself as he reflects on all the unfortunate events in his life.

Suddenly he realizes that something, or someone, is walking next to him. In the dense fog he can’t see this thing, but it speaks to him and asks about his troubles, so Shasta recounts everything, from his unhappy childhood without his real parents, to being chased by lions twice on his journey.

The voice replies, “I do not call you unfortunate” and Shasta argues, “Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?”

“There was only one lion,” the voice counters.

“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

Those words gave me chills.

Haven’t we all had moments in our lives when we felt bad for ourselves? When we felt “unfortunate”? When we wondered why things kept going wrong or, at the very least, not going the way we wanted them to.

I certainly have, most significantly after Faith passed away at birth. For months afterward I wrestled with a verse I knew (or thought I knew) so well…

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) 

I accepted the truth of this verse, but struggled to understand how it looked in my life. How could the death of my baby work for my good?

Eventually I came to this conclusion – the good in this verse is not referring to my temporary (earthly) good but rather my eternal good.

God never promised we would live easy or comfortable lives. In fact we are told that we will face trials and suffering. But we are also told that He is refining us, and there is nothing more “good” in this life than to become more like Christ!

Furthermore, this verse, and it’s surrounding context, points to the glory of Heaven that we as believers can be sure of, which is the truest and best “good” of all…

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

I believe there is a purpose in everything we experience in this life. Sometimes it may be to push us towards a person or place we wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. Sometimes it is for the benefit of others or to accomplish a larger goal outside ourselves. Sometimes it is for our growth and refinement in becoming more like Christ and learning to rely on Him more fully.

And sometimes it is simply a reminder of the future glory we have, for this world is not our home.

Through it all we are never alone. God is there, walking beside us even when we can’t see Him through the dense fog of our wanderings. He directs our steps. He comforts and protects. He writes the story of each of our lives.

He is the Lion.

 

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Lewis, C. S. The Horse and His Boy. New York: HarperTrophy, 2000. (Quote: 164-165)

 

The Light on the Trail

We’d been on the trail since 7:30am, but after climbing three peaks we found ourselves still in the woods as darkness fell.

Out came the headlamps.

For the last hour of our journey we took each step into the short beam of light that shone from our lamps. We couldn’t see our destination, we couldn’t even see what was around the next bend, but we kept trekking, step by single step.

So often I find myself looking ahead in my life, trying to see what’s next on the horizon, trying to prepare and plan for it however I can. But life is full of unknowns and many times the future is like a trail in the fading light,  uncertain and hard to see.

I’ve been feeling like that a lot recently. With decisions and plans I want to make lingering in my mind because I’m unsure of what’s to come.

There’s nothing innately wrong with looking ahead. In fact it is wise to consider the future and make conscientious decisions in that regard.

But when my eyes become so fixed on the unknowns ahead and my heart and mind become so wrapped up in trying to figure it all out, then I miss the real life moments that are happening each day.

This quote by C.S. Lewis says it well, “What one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day.”

Lewis interruptions quote

This day to day, step by step, journey is my real life. It’s a life that has questions and unknowns, but also has the confidence of God’s hand in every step of the way.

Because the interruptions and detours and twists and turns along the way are not unknown to Him.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.  When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

I’m thankful for the daily gift of life and I don’t want to miss what He has given today because my eyes are always on what might be ahead. May I rest content in each moment, no matter how far ahead I can, or can’t, see.

I live in the beam of light on the trail… holding tight to the hand of the One who establishes each step.

Empty

Because the tomb is empty, I am not.

Because the tomb is empty, I am filled.

Filled with peace because my debt has been paid. Filled with joy because God calls me His daughter. Filled with hope because I know I will spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

No matter what life brings these promises remain true. Because the tomb is empty nothing can take them away.

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Matthew 28:1-9

Happy Resurrection Day! May the truth of the empty tomb fill you with peace, joy and hope today.

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