Posts Tagged ‘grief’

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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