Archive for the ‘the ones about hope’ Category

This is a post that has been sitting in the queue of my heart for a long time. You could say that it is long overdue.

I have wrestled with whether I should write again about losing babies and the longing to have more children. I want to be faithful to the story that God has given me, and I hope to encourage those of you who have expressed how these posts have been helpful to you.

I remember walking into an advent season not knowing if there would be a little heart beating on the other side of Christmas. That was four years ago.

Four years. It is a long time to wait. And much of our journey has been recorded here.

One part of our story that never made it to the blog was our attempt to adopt a little girl from Russia. Almost two years ago we started the pile of paperwork. Six months later our home study was completed, our passports were ready and we were waiting for a placement. Another three months past and the whole thing got thrown up the in air and came down in pieces. That door has shut.

And if you or anyone you know has gone through the adoption process you know how much hard work, heartache and hope each one of those brief sentences encompasses.

When it was clear that this adoption was over, it became very, very black, and very, very quiet. I remember last winter feeling like the Lord was so silent. At so many other points in this journey, I had felt his nearness and comfort. This was the blackest part of the night.

It says in the Proverbs that “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” My heart was sick. I could not understand why he would lead us down this path only to hit a dead end.

I remember telling my friend with fists clenched that I was going to keep kicking at his door until he answered me—it wasn’t that I had to have what I desired, it was that his silence was unbearable.

About this time one of our pastor’s wives spoke at our moms group. She told the incredible story of her daughter’s adoption from South America. Her story carried the same themes of longing and waiting, hope and disappointment, and even at times God’s silence.

She explained that often when we are weary of our struggles, whatever they are, we want redeeming grace. Grace that will rescue us for our situation. She encouraged us not to disregard enduring grace. Grace that keeps us running to him. That keeps us crying out to the Lord.

At the end of her talk, it was evident that though at times it appeared that God had abandoned them, he was indeed holding them and guiding them. God knew that this was to be our daughter and that she would go home with them. He also knew each heartbreaking disappointment and setback was in fact the very steps through which she would come home. She could not have been theirs without each painful part of their path.

The very next morning I went to my Beth Moore Esther study and the key passage was Isaiah 30:18

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to how you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are those who wait for him.”

For the first time I saw that God wasn’t on the other side of the door I was banging on. He was on the same side as I was. He longed for the door to be open; He longed to be gracious to me. Had I not heard this mother’s story, I would not have seen the meaning of this verse so clearly. God longed for her and her husband to have their daughter as much as they did, but he knew that they had to walk through their long and lonely journey in order for her to be theirs.

Isaiah 30:18 became the candle with which I walked that long, last dark months of this journey. I didn’t have any promises of or news of any more children, but I had something better. I knew that God was on my side.

Oh, this post is so long overdue. I have crafted it in my mind too many times, and somehow it never makes it to the keyboard.  I know many of you, if not all of you, already know, but I want to officially share the wonderful news that God has given us another child. We are hoping to meet this baby at the end of January.

Before this pregnancy I thought if I was to get pregnant, I would be so enthusiastic and anxious for people to pray that I would tell everyone right away. Then when we found out, I was overwhelmed with joy, but it got caught in my throat. I felt paralyzed. It was like I was holding a bubble in my hand and I didn’t dare move or breathe lest it burst. For so long we didn’t tell anyone. It was like keeping it a secret inside of me was keeping it safe.

Slowly we began to tell people as we saw them. Summer slipped into fall and before I knew it my belly was making my announcement for me. One of my friends was overwhelmed as we told her. She looked up at me and said, “Rachel, you don’t understand. This isn’t just good news for you, this is good news for all of us.” And she’s right, this isn’t just my answer to prayer, it is an answer to many of your prayers as well.

I don’t know all the reasons why we have endured this long wait or what purposes it has or will serve. I don’t know why at times the Lord was silent, but I do believe that he has longed for this baby to come to us as much as we have.

Today, I’m 32 weeks along and home to very busy baby. I still have a hard time believing that this is really happening—that there is a sweet baby coming at the end January. After nearly four years of waiting, this pregnancy is going by remarkably fast! How can I already be 32 weeks? God is good, and we are praying that we will hold this little one soon.

Nate and I feel so humbled by all the people who have been praying for us and especially that this little babe would join our family. Thank you so much for all your encouragement and prayers these past few years. Lord willing, there will be a new character in our story in the New Year!

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It was a little over a year ago that I was sitting on Heather’s couch watching the clock’s hand move from double digits to single digits. We had returned to her home that evening from our two-day trek across the dessert and desolate wasteland that separates St. Louis from Southern New Mexico. My cousin and her husband along with the four girls were sleeping upstairs while I waited to be reunited with my husband. I divided my solitude intermittently between inhaling paragraph’s of Carolyn Custis James’ Lost Women of the Bible and exhaling long gazes at this painting that hung between the two windows that would announce Nate’s arrival.

Earlier that year, Heather had played Doula for her dear neighbor. The husband painted Heather this picture to thank her for her role in ushering in the life of their first child.

To some it may appear odd that they would chose a painting of a coming storm to commemorate the birth of a new baby girl.

The longer I gazed at this painting the more it appeared to be an allegory of childbirth. The first spasms that send their spidery fingers across a women’s belly are the dark clouds on the horizon hinting at the turbulence to come. The winds blow harder and harder moving the darkness closer. The body responds in fits and shudders, contractions growing stronger with each flex. Soon the spasms are rolling one top of the other like a whipping wind leaving the woman breathless and afraid.

And when it seems as though the darkness is swallowing the world, the storm breaks open pouring out it’s furry, pushing down flashes of fierce light and screaming out peals of thunder. The ground is soaked; the limbs are ravished.

Then there in the storm’s wake is a new sky, a new babe, drenched from the storm, but completely new. The sun peaks through the haze shining its rays on the bright, unseen skin. And as bright beams of colors cast their prism across the sky the now-distant storm fades away into the horizon. It dissipates until the awful memory is merely the frame the surrounds the light of the new birth.

The more I stared at painting the more it appeared to be in motion. The clouds were rolling, rolling towards me. Cerulean and cobalt. Graphite and grey. The melancholic hues were tumbling beyond the frameless borders until I could smell the haze in my nostrils.

That night I knew there was a storm rumbling within me, but I didn’t know what it was. The pains that I had felt peeling across my abdomen were growing in intensity, but I was ignorant to their cause. And here it was in front of me. The ominous clouds weighted with sorrow, shrouding the sun. And a white cloud, light with promise, kicking out its feet.

In the morning the dreaded clouds broke over my head. Drops of red would signal the first signs of an ectopic pregnancy. In the week to follow, we would learn the hard and holy details that give us cause to say, “Three in heaven, one on earth.”

Many days in the past year, I have closed my eyes and seen this image. The dark clouds rolling, coming with an unstoppable force. There is no shelter in the picture. There is no place to hide. There is no Savior holding out his mighty hands and declaring, “Storm be still.” The storm is coming. It is going to hit.

The storm did come. And I got very, very wet. Drenched in fact.

And while the darkness was severe, it was not consuming. Because there was a Savior holding my hand saying, “See those white clouds peaking out? See the band of blue on the horizon? That’s from me. I am the Light, walk with me.”

A very wise woman prayed for me several months earlier when we heard that our second child’s heart would stop beating. She prayed, “Lord let her hope be in you, not in doctors or medicine or this baby or future babies, but in you. Let her hope be in you and you alone.”

With that prayer she tethered me to a rock that that would not be swept away in the storm. The rains came down and the floods came up, but I was tied to a rock that stood firm.

Being bound to a rock kept me from drowning, but it didn’t keep me dry. I felt the wind upon my face and my skin soaked in the rain. These storms in our lives are powerfully painful and it is easy to confuse this pain with defeat. It is easy to close our eyes in the darkness and fail to see the flickers of light.

But there is hope beyond these shadows. This painting is redemptive. Like childbirth, on the other side of these contractions is life.

For me, it is an impenetrable union with Jesus and a faith that cries, “You, Christ, are my rock. I was not washed away.”

I know that that this is not the last storm in my life. And I know that as I write this there are many who find themselves drenched in a downpour and others who see cloudy days on the horizon.

Even now I stand on the edges and pray as the dark clouds gather ominously over my friend’s womb, where her baby’s heart beats too rapidly. I pray as the showers pour down on my young cousin whose organs have been devastated by E Coli. I pray that they would be healed, that they would comforted, that they would be filled with peace, but most of all I pray that their hope would in Christ.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation….Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is out refuge. Selah

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I interrupt this impromptu blogging spring break to bring you yet another quote.

If you are going to all the trouble of checking this little blog, than the very least I can do is to give you something new to look at or in this case think about. And since I’m on “spring break,” I sharing another quote I’ve recently made friends with.

The night before I read the pearl of wisdom somewhere at the bottom of this post, I was lying in bed trying to visualize the phrase, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” This little power punch is popular at our church and it used to strike me to the side. I couldn’t quite absorb the intensity or the harshness of this statement. Honestly, I didn’t really like it and I didn’t want to like it.

And now, I can’t think of a better description of my state of being. Somehow, miraculously in the past year I have been molded into that statement. I have become a personification of what I most wanted to avoid. And what I once thought was grim and dour, I have found to be true and beautiful. There has been more soul-satisfying joy laid at my feet in these past eighteen months than all the months that proceeded it. And it has been a year steeped with grief and deep disappointment.

I have not been instructed in the time-tables of bereavement though I doubt it would have had much impact on my heart. I know now that grief comes in waves.

It kind of creeps up on you like the tide coming in at the close of a sunny day.

“I think I feeling sad again…No, no, it’s just cloudy out…. No wait, I think I am really sad…oh, no, I probably just need more sleep…. Wow, oh, there is pain here. Oh, I am sad.”

Quietly it ebbs and flows until all of the sudden you find yourself standing in a cold, salty puddle. And once again the sorrow is real. Red, puffy, wet face real.

In the midst of this I have a joy that I can’t explain or dispel. A friend told me this week that all winter, she would see me and think, “Oh, she must be pregnant. She seems so happy. She has to be pregnant.” I assure you that I am not, but the happiness is real. Because our God is rich in mercy, I have become the paradox I once feared: sorrowful, yet rejoicing (I have to omit “always,” because that wouldn’t be quite true). Even as I type this I am mystified by how the joy born out of suffering is truly greater than the happiness experienced before.

This was my state of mind as I began working on the lesson for my weekly Bible study group. We are working through Linda Dillow’s book, Calm My Anxious Heart, and this week’s study was being content with your role. Contentment with my role–my role as a mother of one child on earth and three children in Heaven. How does that work?

Here comes the promised quote that I was going to write a brief introduction to, but as you can see brevity is not one of my gifts. And since I desperately need to put my smiling, tear-licking self to bed, I pass this post off to Elizabeth Elliot. If you aren’t familiar with her (it’s high time to make her acquaintance), she is Christian author and teacher who was tragically widowed twice.

“One step at a time, over the years, as I sought to plumb the mystery of suffering (which cannot be plumbed), I began to see that there is a sense in which everything is a gift. Even my widowhood.

I say that I found peace. I do not say that I was not lonely. I was–terribly. I do not say that I did not grieve. I did–most sorely. But peace of the sort the world cannot gives comes, not by the removal of suffering, but in another way–through acceptance.” (Elizabeth Elliot, The Path of Loneliness)

Is that peace a gift beyond a salve for the loss that proceeded it? Could it be the balm for all sorrow?

P.S. If you have ever wondered how to help a friend grieve the loss of a child, I must direct you to Molly’s blog. She has started a series called, “How to Help Your Grieving Friend” and it’s brilliant.

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The other day I was at my mom’s group at our church, when a friend came up to ask me how I was doing. I told her I was doing well, but she tilted her head to the side and replied, “It must be hard for you to pray.”

The statement surprised me and stung as though she had reached up and smacked me. Stunned, I feebly responded, “No.”

She wasn’t convinced, so she continued, “Really, it must be so hard for you to pray.”

I was struck numb, confused by the statement. I didn’t respond at all. What I wanted to say, what I should have said was, “Friend, if I couldn’t pray I wouldn’t be here. The only reason you see any semblance of peace is because I fall down and pray.”

The rest of the day I walked in a mist of doubt and confusion, “Should I not be able to pray? Are my prayers worthless? No! No, why Lord, why would you let her ask me that? Why would you let her shake the peace that you have been so gracious to give me?”

Is this what people think when they see me? “God has forgotten her. He does not hear her prayers. Is she even praying?”

And why not?

After months of praying for another child, we were overjoyed to discover that we had conceived. We smiled when we saw a heartbeat and then moments later those smiles dissolved into tears as we were told that that little heart would not be beating within a week. That heart kept beating the next week and the next, but not long enough. Five weeks later, we bid our farewell to the child we never saw.

Three months later, we had another little one growing within me and before we were able to share our good news, we were sharing more news of sorrow.

Two months later, another positive sign followed quickly by the negative signs. I held the grief in my heart and resolved not to tell anyone. I didn’t want to admit that it had happened again. I didn’t want sympathy, because that would confirm that I needed to grieve again.

Yet this baby would not leave quietly. She tried to make a home in a tube instead of the womb that had been waiting for her. The tube could not grow with her, could not contain her life.

Two weeks later, I was laid out feebly on an operating table blinking under the bright bulbs and grabbing snippets of hushed conversations: “lucky to be alive,” “can’t find her baby,” “strange tumor”, all the while thinking, “So this is where secrets get you. The truth will always come out even if they have to cut it out of you.”

The strange tumor turned out to be an extremely rare, life-saving clot that covered the place where the baby had broken my body and shed my blood.

After numerous tests and consultations, I have been conclusively and repeatedly told, “There is no medical reasons why this has happened. All three pregnancy losses were unique and unrelated. They only correlation is that they happened to you and within a short period of time. It’s just really bad luck.”


Not much comfort or conclusion in luck.

And now the waiting and the unknown. Everyone wants resolution and even more than that, a happy ending.

Sometimes I feel like people are holding their breath around me. Like when you are reading a novel and your protagonist has been defeated three times by her foe and she is in the pit. You are certain that triumph must be on the next page, but you can’t see how she could possibly rise out of this situation. You are tempted to flip to the back of the book. You don’t want to keep reading if there isn’t a happy ending.

Well there is no peeking at the end of this book.

After months of quiet and waiting, I sense the spectators are getting restless. I am getting restless. There is only so long that we want to be held in suspense.

Above all we don’t want silence. If there isn’t a happy ending on the horizon we want to fill in the void with a reason for the seemingly tragic conclusion. Perhaps it’s her body; her body just can’t hold any more babies. Perhaps she is not praying; she hasn’t beseeched the throne of Heaven. Perhaps this is a sign that she is called to adoption; doesn’t she realize that she should be adopting? Perhaps she has sinned; God must have closed her womb.

I can’t tell you why there is silence. I can’t tell you why I’m being asked to wait.

I also can’t flip to the end of this book. I haven’t been granted a vision of a smiling babe in my arms. I haven’t been given a promise of another child. But I do know that there is a happy ending.

I don’t know how that happy ending will look and even more so, I don’t know that I will experience that happy ending in this life. But I do know that on the other side of this weeping and longing, there is a place where there will be no more tears and no more loss and where my family will be whole and complete.

So as I sat stupefied last Tuesday over a small probing question, the gifts of peace that have been mercifully poured out on me these sixteen months seemed to dry up. And for the first time in a long time I felt empty.

I turned my face toward Heaven and pleaded once again, “Why Lord, why did you let her ask me that question? And why do I feel so empty?”

The next morning, I received my answer. I’ve been going to a Bible study with some women in my community and we have been studying Beth Moore’s, “Jesus the One and Only.” We watched a video on The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ lesson on how to pray.

“No matter how long we’ve known Christ or how much we’ve prayed,” Beth said at the beginning of her lesson. “We still seem to cycle back to the sobering reality that we know very little about prayer. We find ourselves in the same position as Christ’s closest companions who wisely came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

“Yes,” I said in my heart, “Teach me to pray.”

I left that morning with a renewed conviction that prayer is not about what I am asking, but who I am asking.

Oh, if only I was able to fully comprehend the truth of that. Prayer is not the coins that I stick into the vending machine before punching in the code for the item that I want. Prayer is the coming into the awesome presence of the Most High God and laying down my wants before Him, so that I may be filled with Him.

Prayer is discovering that what we want most in this world and I really mean most is more of God. More than taking the crib out of the basement, more than putting the infant seat in the car, more than hearing another voice answer Ava back as she serves tea, more than laughing with lots of smiling faces at the dinner table, more than all of those and many other good things, I want to know and be known by God.

While I pray earnestly that God would give us more children, and while my prayers often turn into weeping, and while I know that Jesus wants us to cast our burdens on him and to be like the widow who would not give up, I am learning what Jesus meant when he prayed, “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10). He is the center of all things.

The psalmist says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (37:4). Prayer is delighting myself in the Most High God and discovering that the desire of my heart is Him.

So like the Israelites who began each morning in the barren dessert gathering the life-giving manna that God had graciously placed out for them, I wake up each morning and pray, “Give me Jesus.”

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giving thanks

Last Thursday morning started as if it was being led by a director and his crew of producers. Bright white snowflakes fell from the sky in perfect syncopation leaving a duvet of feathers on our lawn.

Ava clapped her hands with glee over the snow, “Christmas is coming. Christmas is coming,” and then squealed when the Macy Day parade started it’s march down 42nd Street.

We placed her table and chair in front of the monitor Nate calls a t.v., and she ate her porridge as Mary Poppins swept good cheer all over Rockefeller square. Two minutes later, she cried, “Daddy, oh no it’s gone. The parade’s gone!”

“No, Ava that’s just a commercial. It will come back.”

“What’s a commercial?”

Please don’t mock. It’s true and sad and good all rolled together. Ava is what we called television-delayed.

No worries, Grandma Penny is a Special Ed teacher and ready for this new challenge. I’m fairly certain that Ava’s stocking will be packed full of Looney Tunes, Mickey Moose, and Sesame Street this year.

Meanwhile, I tied on my apron strings and headed to the kitchen to make the pies that I was going to make on Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday, well you get the picture.

As Snoopy came bumbling through the sky, I tried to salvage the pie dough that I had made the night before. It had mysteriously morphed into a lump of clay, impenetrable and definitely unrollable–but apparently delectable to both Ava and her daddy. Every commercial break she would dart in the kitchen for a “sample.”

After I shed more tears than anyone should over pie dough, I pulled down my flour Bannister and started again. An hour later, I had a soft malleable pie dough.

“It’s like play dough,” Ava declared. Nate says she has a gift for stating the obvious. I’m not sure it’s gift, but it tends to be rather obvious.

Together, we rolled, cut, and crimped two pie crusts. As soon as they were filled pecan and pumpkin goodness, we waved goodbye to Santa and his sleigh and set off for Grandma’s house. We arrived promptly two hours late so as not to disappoint Grandpa Lyle.

Eating at Grandma Penny’s is always a treat. Besides the extra juicy turkey, we had her amazing dressing, mashed potatoes, the gravy made by committee, The Pioneers Woman’s sweet potatoes (they are so good, they will make you cry and then croak from the amount of butter), steamed green beans with toasted almonds, candied baby carrots, and Ava’s cranberry sauce (which everyone loved except Ava. She thought it was going to be more like jello).

Of course, I don’t have a single picture of any of the food or of us eating it. I was too busy sampling everything before it went on the table and then actually eating it when it did. And then I was too full to do anything stare up at the ceiling fan and wonder if I would ever be able to button my pants again.

You’ll be relieved to know that I did, but only because we left the left-overs at Grandma Penny’s. Yes, even the tasty dressing and delicious-but-deadly sweet potatoes.

We did manage to take a slew of really bad family pictures. And by bad, I mean blurry, shaky, black, and just generally terrible. This is was the only salvageable one.

Ava’s singing, her version of smiling, Nate’s laughing because that’s what he does, and apparently I think I modeling for a shampoo commercial. It’s a keeper.

Now the title of this post is “giving thanks” and that is where I’m headed believe it or not.

If you know me or at all familiar with this blog, you know that 2007 has been a hard year for us. It started while we were grieving the loss of a unborn baby, and then two more children slipped from our hands before we had a chance to get acquainted. It has been a year of longing and waiting and disappointment and more waiting and more longing.

I really thought our Christmas picture would be a little more filled out this year. And yet, I am compelled to trust that “No good gift does God withhold from those who love him.”

The other night, I was sitting in my living room, reliving our New Mexico adventures with my cousin Heather over the phone, and the new screensaver on our monitor-t.v. (personally, in my opinion if it has a screensaver and has a cord attaching it to a desktop then it’s a monitor) came on. It’s a slideshow that transitions randomly between all the pictures on our computer and is set to music from our computer.

As I watched the various pictures from the past four years fade in and out of our screen, I was overwhelmed with what a wonderful life I have been given. Pictures of happy friends, sweet baby Ava, parties, adventures, hot dates, and beloved family played out like memory roulette. It was mesmerizing.

And over the music, I heard, “See, I am with you. I love you. Here, see all these good gifts. They are good. They are very good.”

Indeed, they are very good.

This November, I bow my head and thank the Lord for all of this:

For my dear friends, who color my life in so many shades of love and laughter;

For adventures near and far that fill my memories with a wallpaper of postcards;

For a family who holds me tight and with whom I’m intrinsically and forever knit to;

For my darling girl who has grown so much and fills so much of my heart with joy;

For my sweet love who remembers to make me feel special and beautiful;

For digital pictures and pretend t.v.’s that help me remember what I tend to forget;

And for the one, true director-producer who writes the story of my life. And it is good.

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“The tenderness of God is twirling in our living room tonight” –Watermark

Sometimes the mercies of God come dressed in purple tulle and sequins with feather boa sleeves, a shiny, plastic crown, and a sparkling wand. I had come across that bit of lyric from Watermark’s song Elianna last night and had been pondering it all day. And then tonight as if on cue our sweet girl swirled into our living room in all her dime-store glory waving a wand and singing, “Thank you for my daddy-daddy, daddy-daddy, daddy-daddy, Thank you for my daddy-daddy, my fair lady. Thank you for my mama-mama, mama-mama, Thank you for my mama-mama, my fair lady.”
It felt as though Jesus had sent us a pint-sized fairy godmother to sprinkle us with joy and merriment.
Five nights earlier, Nate and I sat in the ER and heard words that made all our joy freeze and hit the sterile floors like icicles: Ectopic Pregnancy. Two grim doctors stood in the gray holding cell where we had been kept for the past six hours gripping charts that revealed blood levels of a six to seven week pregnancy and pictures that showed an empty womb and a cyst that was covering the tube that they believed the baby to in. They explained that an emergency laparoscopic surgery was vital and would need to be performed immediately.

I just stared at them in utter disbelief. “What,” I wanted to shout, “this can’t be happening. I’m not even pregnant. I’m not. This can’t be right. Look at my chart; I’m not pregnant, I just had two miscarriages. Can I please just go home? And No, no thank you, I’d rather not have an IV. Please put that thing away. Seriously, put it away.” But I simply turned my head as the nurse guided the needle into my arm and quietly asked her to bandage it up so I wouldn’t have to look at it.

It wasn’t until several hours later that we learned how grave the situation actually was. What the doctors could not see in the ultrasound was that the little baby had already ruptured my fallopian tube, but “luckily, very luckily” it had clotted immediately and a cyst had grown over the clot. “Usually a ruptured tube has a very different outcome,” the doctor explained to Nate. “Usually it means you arrive unconscious in an ambulance with a belly full of blood. Your wife is very, very lucky.”

What she didn’t know was that when my tube was most likely breaking, I was in a Grand Caravan with my cousin and our four little girls driving 1,100 miles across one of the most barren parts of the country. On the first night of our trip, Heather and I accidentally past through Amarillo, Texas without finding a place for dinner. It was another three hours before we found a gas station with a mini-Taco Bell stand. There is nothing, absolutely nothing out there–no gas pumps, no drinking fountains, no Paneras, no Starbucks, certainly no hospitals, just desert brush and road signs.

When I consider the rarity of the cyst and the desolate territory that I had traveled through, I know beyond all doubt that the Lord touched me and sustained me. In these darks shadows of sorrow, I have an undeniable sign that the Lord has given me life and that he wants me alive.

Why He chose to spare my life, but not the life of this baby or the other two babies; why He allows me to conceive only to take these babies to Heaven; why three of my four pregnancies have ended in surgery; how three babies could come and go before the first baby’s due date–these are the questions that I wrestle with as the long hand of the clock pushes further into the night.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”

That His steadfast love is better than life is the hope that I have wrapped my arms around and cling to. That I am His and He is mine–no turning back. That He is the tower that I can run into and hide in as the storm rages outside threatening to tear down the walls and destroy me. Yet, I will not drown; I will not be consumed; for, he went down into the dark and silent grave and broke free shining like the sun to rescue me, to give me hope. I will awake from this dark night and I will sing in the morning.

Tonight as my tears cleanse my pillow once more, I have hope that the morning will bring new mercies and continued healing. I believe that I will always long for our three little ones whose names I hold in my heart. My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord where I will embrace my children and sing for joy to the living God. So tonight, I will praise the Lord for his sweet blessing swirling in my living room–with weary eyes I will sing:

Thank you for my Ava-Ava, Ava-Ava, Ava-Ava. Thank you for my Ava-Ava, my fairest Lord!

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Let Your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in You.
A few Thursdays ago…

Daddy: Ava, I have good news for you. Jesus heard your prayers and he has answered them.
Ava: Oh, yay!!! Oh, mama, there’s a baby in your belly. Oh, I love the baby. I’m so happy. I’m so happy there’s a baby in your belly. Can I kiss the baby? I wanna kiss the baby. I love the baby. I will take good care of the baby. Dear Jesus, please don’t let this baby die. Amen! Jesus will take care of the baby, Mama. I love the baby SO much!

The following Thursday…

Ava, I have to tell you something very sad. There is no baby in Mama’s belly.

I sit this evening as I have sat for the past week with my hand placed over my mouth. What seemed to be the balm to comfort our not-yet-forgotten sorrows and a beautiful answer to the earnest prayers of a child has seeped away.

This news brought more visits to the waiting room full of women round with promise. I took my place next to neatly stacked issues of Fit Pregnancy and stared hard at a flat stomach that feels more like a tomb than a home. I am hallowed out. The emptiness has begotten sorrow and in it I find that I am speechless.

My sorrow is less for my empty arms than it is for my daughter’s empty hand. “Sammy and Anna go together, don’t they, Mama,” she said to me this afternoon at her friends’ house. “And Michal too. They all go together, don’t they? And Ava. Ava doesn’t go with anybody.” Yesterday, she explained to me that Corrinne and Rachel were sisters, and wanted to know if she could be their sister too. A few weeks before that, after discussing the relationship between her friend Ruthie and her younger sister Lydia, Ava asked me if Lydia could go in my tummy and then become her little sister. How I long to give her what I am powerless to give. How can the Lord not want for her, what seems so good for her? The brokenness that pushes out from my chest does not come from seeing the curve of an expectant mother or feeling the soft fuzz of a newborn, but from the framed picture of the smiling brother embracing his sister, from the glimpse of a girl in a shopping cart lifting her sister’s braid to whisper a secret, from the sight of Ava ringing around the rosies–her hands outstretched and clasping the plastic hands of a dolly.

This past year I have daily heard the faithful prayers of my two-year-old beseeching Jesus to “put a new baby” in her mama’s belly. I have watched a sweet friend hover over an infant son, whose sad, little heart was cut open, pieced together with artificial walls, valves, and rhythmic mechanisms, left open for days, pumped full of medicines, and finally stitched up to salvage the “unique among the unique.” I have listened to a beloved cousin face the frightening implications of “genetic disorder.” I prayed along with hundreds others for a baby boy whose illness mystified medical professionals, and then watched in wonder as his parents surrendered him before the Lord. And I find myself quiet, very quiet. There are no good, satisfying answers here; there are not even questions. Be still and know that I am God. I stand awestruck and silent–the holiness of God is indeed fierce and terrifying.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope. That God is good. That He is true. That He is kind and loving, merciful and just. That He loves Ava and Nate and me. That, that is my hope. That is my only hope. Apart from that I have nothing. Yes, we have said goodbye to two babies in five months. And yes, there are far greater sufferings than these. Yet in these sufferings the Lord remains beautiful, mysteriously beautiful and wonderful, unfathomably wonderful.

So I hold my sadness in my hand, cover my mouth and behold His majesty: Blessed be Your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything. Blessed be Your glorious name.

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tasteless cookie?

Ava and I have relinquished the past week of our lives to a determined and merciless cold (hence the serious lack of blogging). While I have felt much better the past few days, I realized last night that I have completely lost my sense of smell and with it the ability to taste. My nose is clear, but I can’t smell a thing.

So today, I was sitting in Bruegger’s Bagels with Ava enjoying my half of a seemingly delicious chocolate chip cookie; until it occurred to me that I could not taste it. Yet, there I was chewing away, enjoying a tasteless cookie. And if my mind had not reminded my mouth that it could not taste the cookie, it would have been none the wiser. My teeth and tongue were satisfied with the texture, but again, the cookie was all one flavor–an imagined, remembered flavor. I realized that if I had never had a sense of taste, I would have been unaware and “satisfied” with my diminished enjoyment of chocolate chip cookies.

So, is this ignorance, in a small and obscure portion, the way earth is in relation to Heaven? Is this what it means that “these are a shadow of the things that were to come”? Not cookies, but our senses, our enjoyments and experiences here. I think that I can smell and taste and see and hear and feel now, but what of Heaven? What will it be like to taste and see what I was created to taste and see?

Losing our little, unknown babe in December has made Heaven seem a lot closer and eternity not nearly so far away. Having this new connection to Heaven has helped to shake the sediment that grounds me to earth and keeps my eyes downward. It is so easy to forget that we were not created for this earth and that these joys are not the only joys or even the best joys. We were designed to be in the presence of God forever and in His presence is “fullness of joy” and in His “right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11). How encouraging it is to be reminded that our child did not “miss out” on life on earth.

If gaining back my sense of smell increases the pleasure of chocolate ten fold, just think of how infinitely greater the pleasures of Heaven will be with a perfected nose, a perfected tongue, and yes, perfected chocolate. In some silly, yet tangible way, this muted sense of taste has helped me grasp anew that “now we see through a glass darkly,” but someday soon, very soon, I will behold the brilliance of the Lord with eyes created to see the Son.

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Tomorrow morning Nate and I will say goodbye to the baby we have yet to meet. On Monday at our ten week prenatal visit the doctor was unable to find a heartbeat through either the monitor or the ultrasound. She later confirmed by ultrasound that the baby had died. Our sweet babe with face unseen and hands unheld has bypassed our home on earth and gone home to her loving Savior in heaven where she is healed and whole.

The sadness comes in waves and yet my head is held high above them in a way that I cannot explain. I feel as though there are three buoys fettered to me so that I cannot even free myself from their mercy. The first preserver is the prayer of believers. It is only in dark valleys that you smell and taste the sweet fragrance of believers’ prayers. They are a comfort and mercy beyond description.The second is a verse that first came to me inscribed on a stone by a friend and now is engraved in my mind that it is my first thought when the sadness starts to well up around me–“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5). And the final buoy was prayed over me by our pastor’s wife, “may your hope in be in God and not in this baby.”How profoundly true and reassuring these words were and are. God alone is eternal, wise, all-loving, all-comforting. There is no comfort apart from Him.

On Monday evening, Nate told Ava that the baby in mama’s tummy had died. “On the cross with Jesus and now she’s in heaven with Jesus,” was her instantaneous reply. She then explained to her daddy that Jesus was going to heal the baby in heaven and then send her back to mama’s tummy. After a bit of back and forth, she conceded that her sibling was in Heaven forever, while she was still on “earff,” and that when she gets to heaven she can play ring-around-the-rosies with the baby and Jesus. After being told that she could pray for a new baby to come in mama’s tummy, she immediately and very earnestly prayed, “Dear Jesus. Please heal mama’s tummy on the cross. Amen.” It didn’t come out quite right, but we believe that the Spirit interceded on her behalf and presented the message as it was rightfully intended. Ava has continued to be faithful in her prayers for a new baby. Her spontaneous, heartfelt prayers are shared with me throughout the days. I can say with the psalmist that “out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.”Ava’s sweet faith has been a grace and a comfort to me.

A sweet friend wisely sent me this poem–word pictures have always moved me in ways that visual pictures fall short. Through many tears I can say this is true and this is the Rock upon which I can put my foot.

God moves in a mysterious way
his wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
and rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs
and works his sovereign will.

You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
in blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
and scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
and he will make it plain.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way by William Cowper

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Since Ava was a wee babe Children of the Heavenly Father has been one of our favorite rocking songs. Over that past month she has memorized the hymn and is often heard singing it throughout our house. More recently Ava has begun interupting our evening singing with questions: “What’s slumber mean?” “What’s a defwender?” “What’s foe-man, Mama?” What is a two-year-old’s foe man?

Last night Ava’s foe man came in the form of a fever. As her temperature approached 102 degrees it brought on chills and dismissed all thoughts of sleeping. In the early hours of this morning I held her weary, hot body and began singing through hymns and lullabies. By the time I came to Children of the Heavenly Father, she was already heavy with sleep, eyelids quiet and breathing slowly. As I started singing her favorite hymn, Ava’s little lips began mouthing the words. Her limbs and lids remained peaceful as her quiet voice joined mine.

Together we sang about her Father who tends and nourishes her, who never slumbers and who gathers her in his bosom. I finished each verse by praying that God would be her defender, would spare her from evil and that she would flourish in his mighty arms. Ava remained nestled in my embrace as I whispered amen, swept her damp hair off her brow, and slowly restored her slumbering self to her bed. The tranquility that had eluded her all through the night had finally come.

Praise the Lord in joyful numbers for the privilege of being children of the heavenly Father.

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