Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Four Years and A Day

(WARNING:  For those of you who have lost or are longing, this post includes content about conception, pregnancy, and babies.)

It's a great story, really.  The kind with pain and loss, longing and waiting, healing and redemption.  Although I would have chosen to leave out the chapters on pain and loss and longing and waiting - those are part of what make this story so beautiful.  After seven years of marriage, there we were, incredibly excited about starting a family.  Hopeful and naive.  We had no idea what was ahead, but that was for the better.
Our first pregnancy came easily and quickly.  One month of trying and on Easter weekend of 2012, there we were taking a pregnancy test.  The results were positive and we were as excited as could be!  We had this incredible secret that we only managed to keep to ourselves for about a week before we told most of our family.  We loved this little one so much and could not wait to meet him or her.  
For those of you who have read my blog, you already know the rest of the story I had never known that kind of heartbreak until that day.  Hearing the doctor confirm after multiple ultrasounds that our baby did not have a heartbeat devastated me.  It is the kind of pain you just do not know unless you have experienced it yourself.  It changed me.
The grieving was messy I longed for a magic formula or a checklist I could follow that would just make things right.  Instead, I had to live it, breathe it, and feel it, which was the last thing I wanted to do because it hurt so bad.  I had to let go of my hopes and expectations and the what should-have-beens.  I had to grieve this life that was so brief, yet changed everything.
Three months later, we felt ready to try again.  We were blessed with another quick and easy conception.  At the time I did not realize what a gift this was in and of itself.  This time around, we had joy and excitement, but also fear.  This time we knew what could happen and I was afraid.  I prayed that this baby would be healthy and that we would be able hold him or her in arms.  Yet eight weeks later, I began bleeding and miscarried our second baby.
My grief doubled as we now grieved the loss of two of our unborn children.  Part of me did not think I could survive this experience a second time, but with the help of my faith, husband, family and friends, a support group, and this blog, life moved forward one day at a time.  Now looking back, I can see how God has brought healing in ways I never thought was possible.

Then came the waiting.  Oh, the deafening silence of waiting.  Three years of waiting.  Three years of the unknown.  Three years of hoping met with monthly disappointments.  The waiting stretched me and broke my heart in a whole new way.  The daily invitation to let go of the desire my heart and hands were so desperately clinging to.  The invitation to acceptance - to be content with God's plan even if He never granted us this desire in the way we wanted  The invitation to deeper faith.  

So many times, I declined those invitations.  I wrestled.  I wanted it my way.  I doubted.  I felt lonely.  I felt forgotten.  I felt unloved.  I felt hopeless.  I felt angry.  I felt jealous.  But God in His mercy and grace kept bringing me back to Him.  He welcomed me back every time and showed me His love and peace.  Peace that is possible even in the midst of the waiting and unknown.  Peace that passes all understanding.  Peace that lasts even if I never get what I want.

Four years after we began this journey, we felt lead to seek guidance from a fertility specialist.  We felt peace about taking this step, listening to that still, small voice, not wanting to take things into our own hands or rush God's timing.  After reviewing some of our test results, one of the doctors told us that we would not conceive naturally even though we had twice before.  My natural inclination would normally be intense disappointment, but instead I felt peace, believing God could do whatever He wanted. 

We decided to put her treatment recommendation on hold until we could find a way to fund the procedures.  In the meantime, we kept trying and hoping and praying.  Our hearts hoped God would allow it happen naturally, by His own means.  Inspired by Seamless, a Bible study I was participating in at the time, I began praying, "God remember us."  If you read my previous blog entry, you know the details, but I would like to share it again for those of you who do not.

We were studying the Old Testament and had read about a couple different situations in which "God remembered" those involved and then something amazing happened.  On this journey of loss or longing, it can feel as if God has forgotten you.  It is an easy lie to believe and I know I've fallen into that temptation countless times.  If you are currently mourning a loss or are longing and still waiting, please know you are not forgottenHe sees you (Genesis 16:3) and still has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11) even when it hurts or does not make sense.

Angie Smith, the author of Seamless, explains what it means when "God remembered":
"When we see Scripture use the phrase, 'God remembered', it doesn't mean He forgets.  It means, 'He acts'." (pg. 66)
On Easter morning of 2016, we got the best news:  God remembered us.  He acted - in His way and in His timing even though a doctor said it would not happen.  We walked through that pregnancy with such excitement, but also that familiar fear.  Every time we heard our baby's heartbeat or reached a milestone, we were filled with such gratitude and humility, knowing that not all stories include those precious moments.  So we celebrated each and every moment and expressed our gratitude.   

And on December 9th, 2016, four years and one day after our first unborn child's expected due date, we held our sweet baby in our arms.  I am pretty sure I am biased, but let me tell you, he is amazing - even more incredible than we ever imagined.  I cannot even explain to you the joy he has brought into our lives.  Our hearts are full and they are also humbled and grateful that God in His grace has given us the opportunity to parent this precious boy.  

Thank you, God, for remembering us.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Could it Be?

(WARNING:  For those of you who have lost or are longing, this post includes content about conception and pregnancy.)

I notice a change.  It's subtle and small, but big enough for me to notice and I wonder, "Could it be?"  My heart dares to hope and dream while my mind cautions me to wait and see because it has learned that it's safer that way.  Too many heartbreaks and disappointments to go jumping to conclusions.  However, despite my mind's warning, I speak these hopes out loud to my husband and we hope and wonder together.

Days pass and the "monthly visitor" is now two days later than expected.  Our hope grows.  We decide that tomorrow, on Easter morning, we will take a pregnancy test.  We wake on Easter, the day we celebrate when Jesus rose from the grave.  The ultimate day of hope and life, and I see the results displayed on the screen:  "Pregnant"!

After two miscarriages, another three years of trying and waiting - four years after we started this journey of trying to have a family, our hearts hope again.  

In January of this year, after much prayer, we had decided to seek guidance from a fertility specialist.  We felt peace about taking this next step, listening to that still, small voice, not wanting to take things into our own hands or rush God's timing.  After completing the recommended testing and procedures, one of the doctors told us that we would not conceive naturally even though we had twice before.  She then gave her treatment recommendations and I listened graciously while knowing and believing that God could do whatever He wanted.

Due to the costs associated with the treatment, we decided against moving forward right away because we felt we were not supposed to go into debt for the treatment.  Instead, we decided to start saving money and to continue to try in the meantime.  Our hearts hoped that God would just do it naturally, on His own, by His own means.

Inspired by a Bible study, Seamless, I was participating in at the time, I started asking God to "remember us".  We were studying the Old Testament and had read about a couple different situations in which "God remembered" those involved and then something amazing happened.

On this journey of loss or longing, it can feel as if God has forgotten you.  It's an easy lie to believe and I know I've fallen into that temptation countless times.  If you are currently mourning a loss or are longing and still waiting, please know that you are not forgotten.  He sees you (Genesis 16:3) and still has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11) even when it hurts or doesn't make sense.

Angie Smith, the author of Seamless, explains what it means when "God remembered": 
"When we see Scripture use the phrase, 'God remembered', it doesn't mean He forgets.  It means, 'He acts'." (p. 66)
On Easter morning and the days that have followed, I have thanked God for "remembering us".  I have thanked Him for doing it His way and in His timing (even though my heart longed for it years ago).  I have thanked Him for this precious gift.  And although, we do not know exactly what the duration of this pregnancy or the future holds, today we celebrate and say "thank you".

Photo Credits:  JEEK Photography

Friday, March 4, 2016

I Didn't Know

When I was weeks away from turning 22, I ceremoniously committed my life to my best friend.  This day had been marked on my calendar and in my heart for about a year (a lifetime, really).  I counted down the days in anticipation of it's arrival.  It was a beautiful day.  A day full of hope, excitement, anticipation, and expectation...It was a dream come true.  

Recently, one particular moment from that day has been coming to mind, a part of my vow that I spoke to my husband as we committed our lives to one another.      
"I will seek the Lord and spend time in His Word, for it is only through His grace and strength that I will be able to be the woman, wife, and someday mother both you and God desire me to be."

When those words left my lips, I had no idea how our story would unfold.  I didn't know what was to come.  I didn't know babies could die before they were even born.  I didn't know people could try to conceive for years only to be left longing.   I didn't know.  My almost 22 year old self just thought people got married and had babies.  I didn't know any different.

We were married for seven years before our longing to become parents was undeniable.  We had spent the first seven years of our marriage learning how to be married and pursuing callings God had placed on our hearts.  But months after we settled into our first home, we both felt excited and ready to start trying to conceive. 

This month marks four years since that journey began.  Our journey began hopeful as we were blessed to conceive right away (a gift I do not take for granted after all these years of waiting).  I remember the excitement and anticipation of this child's life and the love I already had for him or her.  Yet, all our hopes were crushed when we attended our ten week ultrasound only to discover our baby didn't have a heartbeat.

Three months after our first miscarriage, we were blessed to conceive a second time (again a gift I don't take for granted).  This pregnancy was very different from the first.  Because of our previous loss, I had fears and anxieties and reservations, but they couldn't stop me from hoping and dreaming and loving our child even though I was afraid.  However, my fears became reality eight weeks later when we miscarried our second child.

After that first year of loss and heart-wrenching pain, we decided to try again and have been trying ever since.  It's been a long four years.  Years filled with loss, heartbreak, tears, unanswered questions, doubts, confusion, pain, disappointment, aching, longing, hopelessness, wondering, doctors' appointments, and testing.  But also with reminders of God's faithfulness and love, a stronger and deeper connection as husband and wife, comfort and prayers from people who care, healing after our losses, peace that passes understanding, and a deeper, more mature faith.

When those words left my lips eleven and half years ago, I had no idea how our story would unfold.  I didn't know what was to come.  And I still don't, but I do know that in this very moment, I have peace.  I have Peace.

Friday, December 25, 2015

To Those Who are Waiting...

To those who are waiting...

I feel your longing.
I feel your disappointment, and oh do I feel your pain.
I feel your confusion, your doubt, your fear.
I feel your uncertainty, pondering if all this is in vain.
I feel your hopelessness, wondering if it'll always be this way.

I know this longing, disappointment, and pain.
I know this confusion, doubt, and fear.
I know this uncertainty and wonderings.
I know this hopelessness, yet I know Hope and He has a Name.

Some know Him as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Some know Him as Jesus, their Lord and Savior,
the One who saves them from their sins (Mathew 1:21).

Some know Him as Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14),
whose incarnation we remember and celebrate each Christmas.


He is here with us now,
in the waiting, in the longing, in the disappointment, and in the pain.

He is here with us now,
in our confusion, in our doubt, and in our fear.

He is here with us now,
in our uncertainty, in our hopelessness, and in our wonderings.

He knows you.

He knows your longing, disappointment, and pain.
He knows your confusion, your doubt, and your fear.
He knows your uncertainty, hopelessness, and wonderings.

He knows you, and He loves you.

We can cling to Him when it feels like it's all falling apart.
We can trust Him for He alone can make sense of this mess.
He is our Hope.

To those who are waiting...

I feel your longing,
I know your Hope.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

To Remember

One of the many things I have struggled with following our miscarriages is the lack of something tangible to show the world our children existed.  The few tokens we have of Ashton's existence are a positive pregnancy test, cards congratulating us on a pregnancy, cards offering sympathy after our miscarriage, and a few ultrasound photos taken during their attempt to discover his/her heartbeat (that only came by my specific request).  With Baby "J", our tokens are limited to a couple positive pregnancy tests.

Needless to say, I've longed for more.  I've longed for more ways to acknowledge their lives and the way they changed ours.  I've longed for something physical that I could touch and see.  Something that could give my memories life.  Something of deep significance and meaning.  Something that I could hold close to my heart when I miss them and long to hold them.

Then about a year after our losses, I had an idea.  An idea about something that could acknowledge their lives.  Something physical that I could touch and see.  Something that could give my memories life.  Something of deep significance and meaning.  Something I could hold close to my heart.  

I thought about this idea.  I weighed the pros and cons.  I prayed about it.  Then one day, I came across an image that I thought was a beautiful representation of our babies and their lives.  So I took a photo of it and held onto it.  Then about fifteen months later, after more thought and prayer, I decided it was time to bring this idea to fruition.  My work schedule naturally allowed some time off that would give this idea time to heal and the timing lined up perfectly with my cycle so it wouldn't affect our ongoing attempts to conceive.   

So for the first time in my life, I walked into a tattoo parlor, handed the artist a photo of what I wanted, asked a few questions, put down my deposit, and and scheduled an appointment.  Days later, I was walking through the door as nervous as could be, but certain this was what I wanted to do.  I was fearful of the physical pain, but kept telling myself, "The pain of doing this is going to be nowhere near the pain of loosing your babies...You can do this."  So I did it with prayer and deep breaths and squeezing my husband's hand and rarely watching the artist as she did her work.  I did it and I am so glad I did.  

I love seeing this.

I love its significance and meaning.  I love the lives it represents.  I love the tangible reminder of my children's existence.  I love being able to more boldly proclaim their existence.

I love all these things and I am so glad I did it, but I must admit there was a part of this decision that was much more difficult than the consideration of the pain and permanence of a tattoo.  Many of my prayers were an honest discussion with God about the future, our future, the future of our family.  I sensed God giving me permission to remember Ashton Hope and Baby "J" in this way, but I didn't know whether or not His plan would allow for us to experience more miscarriages in the future.  There were unanswered questions and unknown risks, and I am a person who likes to know all the details, assess all the risks, and analyze a situation multiple times before I make a final decision, but in this situation it was impossible.  I had no way of knowing the future.

I found this beautiful image to represent the two children we had lost, but the truth was that I did not know if we would have more children that would need remembering someday.  I had no idea whether or not we would experience anymore miscarriages on our journey or if this was it.  So this decision to remember our children in this way was really a leap of faith.  It was a way of surrender.  In choosing to move forward, I had to step out in faith and surrender our story to God once more.  

In surrendering, I had to accept that this beautiful image may, in the future, look different than what I desired.  It may not be as perfect as it initially appeared.  It may get messy.  But isn't that true of life?  It has looked much different than I desired.  It has been far from perfect.  It has been messy.  This part of our story has broken my heart, and this current journey of waiting breaks my heart month after month.  But in this different than desired, far from perfect, messy life, I am choosing to take a leap of faith.  I am choosing to surrender to a God who heals my broken heart and takes the unexpected, imperfect, messiness of my life and creates something beautiful - something I may only see glimpses of here on earth, but will undoubtedly see fully when I meet Him and our children face to face.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Thing about Hope

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about hope.  I have read in the Bible that hope does not disappoint us or deceive us or shame us.  I don't know about you, but my hoping heart has experienced disappointment time and time again.  I have also believed and hoped that something would be different only to feel completely deceived when circumstances did not change.  Likewise I have felt shame when I hoped really hard for something only to be let down for the twentieth time.    

Honestly, sometimes I want to give up on hope.  A heart that has been broken and feels like it's breaking all over again can cause me to feel that way sometimes.  But I know I don't have to tell you that.  I know because if you've experienced loss and longing, you know exactly what I am talking about.  Sometimes it hurts to hope.  It hurts to hope for something only to have it not happen.  It hurts have hopes and dreams for a child who is lost suddenly.  It hurts to hope that this month will be "it" only to have that "monthly visitor" break your heart again and again.

So what does the Bible mean when it says hope does not disappoint us or deceive us or shame us?  Am I not hoping the right way?  Am I not spiritual enough?  Am I forgotten?  Am I unloved?  Am I an exception to the rule?
"Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.  And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity).  And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.  Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.  While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for (in behalf of) the ungodly." - Romans 5:3-6 (AMP)
This passage begs the question:  Where am I finding my hope?
  • Am I hoping that if I pray enough or the "right way" then I will finally get what I am hoping for?
  • Am I hoping that if I follow some spiritual checklist then I will finally get what I am hoping for?  
  • Am I hoping that if I do and say all the right things then I will finally get what I am hoping for?
  • Am I hoping that if I attempt to control the situation then I will finally get what I am hoping for?
  • Am I hoping that if do everything perfectly then I will finally get what I am hoping for?  
  • Am I hoping that if I suffer long enough then I will finally get what I am hoping for?  
  • Am I hoping that if I try hard enough then I will finally get what I am hoping for?  
The thing about hope is that it can't be rooted in the process or outcome of what we are hoping for or it will only leave us disappointed, deceived, or ashamed.  

If my hope is rooted in my hopes being fulfilled exactly as I desire then I will be disappointed.

If my hope is rooted in my attempt to control my situation and do everything "perfectly" then I am deceived.

If my hope is rooted in trying harder and harder only to fail over and over then I will feel ashamed.

This hope that never disappoints or deludes or shames us is found in God and His love, which He demonstrated by Jesus' death, and because of His death and resurrection, those who believe can have the hope of spending eternity with Him.

This is the Hope I must desperately cling to.  All others have let me down time and time again and only seem to benefit me if everything works out according to my plan, and we all know how often things go according to our plans.  There is only One who knows what the future holds so in the meantime, I am choosing to find rest in these truths:

1.) God loves me and not just me, He loves you too.

2.) My hope is not based on my efforts, but on what has already been done for me and for you too.

3.) This life isn't the end of the story - Heaven is our eternal home.

The thing about Hope is that it must be rooted in Jesus and what He has done for you and for me.  This Hope never disappoints us or deludes us or shames us.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Maybe, just Maybe

Sometimes I think my year would be better off without the month of May...maybe, just maybe.  The month of May has been one that I have dreaded since our losses.  It includes the anniversary of our first loss, Mother's Day, and the anticipated due date of our second child.

On May 10th, we faced the second anniversary of the loss of our first child, Ashton Hope.  We remembered Ashton Hope with a balloon release to celebrate his or her short, yet significant life and the way it impacted ours.

The following day was Mother's Day.  In the days leading up to that weekend, I will admit that I was fearful.  I was afraid the grief would be too much.  I was afraid of the pain.  I was afraid my heart and mind would flash back to the feelings I had felt on those days two years prior.

But...God's grace is bigger than fear.  Yes, I felt sadness.  Yes, my heart ached for our babies.  Yes, I cried many tears.  But I also felt hope and peace and love and comfort.  It came through text messages and phone calls.  It came through cards and gifts.  It came through a hug, a knowing look, and Mother's Day wishes.  It came through His people and maybe it came through you (if so, thank you).  In those moments, God reminded me that I am not forgotten, that He is the God who sees me (see Genesis 16:13).

Today marks the due date of our second child - one year later.  Today we have thought about, remembered, longed for, and missed our "Baby J", yet we have felt peace and comfort and hope.  We have also asked God to pour out His love and blessings over our sponsor child, Nilver, as he celebrates his eleventh birthday today.  It's such a gift to be able to celebrate on a day that could possibly only be filled with pain.

And really, in some ways, this is what the month of May is becoming.  A time of pain, but also a time of celebration.  I recently received one of the most precious gifts I have ever been given and it came in the month of May.  On May 8th, 2014, my best friend's daughter, Lynsey Joy, was born.  Just days before the anniversary of our first loss, God gave me an incredible gift through the love and thoughtfulness of a friend.  The honor of sharing her daughter's first name, and the opportunity to leave a legacy.

Lynsey Marie with Lynsey Joy
Lynsey Joy holding one of my childhood keepsakes.

Only God has a way of turning a painful month into something to be celebrated.  It looks like maybe, just maybe, my years will be better off with the month of May after all.