Friday, April 20, 2012

What is Hannah Mae doing these days IV?

Exactly one week before her second (!) birthday, I think it's time to write a special post on our most precious fourth child.

At 23 months, Hannah Mae is an amazing, curious, stubborn, tender-hearted mommy's girl. She's kind and so sweet. She loves to give hugs and kisses to her friends, even if they don't want a kiss or a hug. Her favorite friend is three year old SK, who (most of the time) loves to hug her back.
She's also very much a (almost) 2 year old. She has a hard time sharing and often will take toys from her friends and yell 'mine!' I keep a 7 month old during the week, and conversations about sharing happen often throughout the day.

She's talking so much these days though sometimes we don't understand what she's saying. She makes up her own words for things she can't pronounce. We love those sweet made-up words. I don't correct her at all. : ) She has her own word for 'milk' that she's been saying for over 6 months, but just last week she learned how to say milk and it's now one of her favorite words. She is still nursing (gasp! I know!). This is such a personal decision and something that Hannah and I (and Chris too) are happy and comfortable with. I don't talk about it much, but I don't hide it either.

She is such an adventurous eater, which is hilarious because neither Chris or I were as kids. Her favorite foods are baked kale, quinoa, apples (she will eat an apple through the core if we let her), capers, tomato dip, cheese and yogurt, seaweed snacks, snap pea crisps, raw carrots (but won't always eat cooked carrots), all kinds of beans, and soups/chili.

She sleeps 12-13 hours each night. If you have followed my blog since she was born then you know that we NEVER thought that she'd sleep that long ever. She naps once during the afternoon and loves to cuddle with all her stuffed animals. I haven't counted, but I think there are at least 15 of her friends in her bed with her. She still sleeps in her crib and we don't anticipate moving her into a toddler bed for another year or so. She's so short that I can't imagine she'll be climbing out anytime soon, and I have no desire to rush her out of her crib.

Our days are full of playing, cuddling, watching Elmo (her all time favorite) together, reading, making pretend food and having tea parties, running around outside with her friends, learning how to slide like a big girl and taking walks to find birds, bunnies and squirrels. She loves birds, and will point and yell 'fly!!' at them.

Can you spot the baby? 

A rare 'treat' on our road trip to Indy.

After the Easter egg hunt.

Mommy's girl.

Playing with 'her baby'.

This time two years ago, I could not imagine what life would be like if she was born alive and healthy. I am not exaggerating. I simply could not picture life with a living child. It seemed like too big a dream.

But here we are!
And her sweet presence is all around us. Her toys scattered on the floor, the crumbs from her snack crunch under our feet, her clean clothes lay at the foot of our bed waiting to be folded, her little feet run up behind me and she clings to my legs as cook in the kitchen....

I never imagined having all this. I am so thankful.

All glory to God the Father for helping us breathe and live after Owen's death. We have survived... but not past tense at all, we still survive each day without our babies in Heaven, and we thrive. Something I also never imagined. Praise be to God.

In the year after Owen's death when we miscarried our second and third babies, I didn't know that I hadn't felt the sunshine on my face or the wind blow my hair. I was breathing and walking and talking, but I was numb to everything except my grief.

The day I felt the wind rush through my fingers was the first day life broke through the grief. I am so thankful. Painful though it was to feel and live in a world without my babies, I am thankful to have moved forward with my grief. Not move on. Not at all. To the bereaved, there is no moving on.
Moving forward is different. There are days and sometimes whole weeks when I feel like I'm back at the beginning of my grief, but that's not true. The Holy Spirit continually points me back to the Father and his great love, and I know that this day is one day closer to all things being made right. 

"And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His Name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar,
By faith’s discerning eye.
When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through the skies,
The glory shall be Thine.

This is a hard post for me to write. I'm not sure if I'll get it exactly right, but here it goes. 

During church a while back, I sat down near the front (I like to be able to see Chris when he's leading worship) and a young (super) cute couple came and sat in front of me. She was pregnant. Pretty far along. I can only guess she was near the point I was with Owen when he died. They just looked so happy. Blissful is a better word. 
I remember being that way...

The last song we sang was Am I a Soldier of the Cross? Before the song started, we all stood up and I caught a glimpse of her huge tummy and felt the familiar pang of grief. It was so overwhelming. I was fighting back the feelings of bitterness, anger, jealousy, sadness- the familiar questions of why me, why Owen? I almost had to leave, but just couldn't. Chris started to sing and the words washed over me. The second verse shocked me back to the present and I thought about how this applied to me, to the life I've been given. 
I wondered, does God mean this for me too... Am I a soldier of the cross? 

Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease, while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?

I want to get this right, without offending or misleading, so bear with me as I stumble my way through. 
I've said before that I don't like putting God in a box- I don't at all think that God wrote out Owen's life and death to teach us a lesson. I don't believe that God caused Owen's death to get my attention or 'pull the rug' out from under us (yes, I've heard this one before). 
Owen's life and death are part of a greater story than we can scarcely believe or see, but I think that if we can get a glimpse of this beautiful story, then we'd see a God who can redeem all things. A God who loves us enough that he would enter into our suffering and broken world to suffer with us. 

The first few times I heard this song, I couldn't help but think of missionaries living in hostile countries fighting for Christ and soldiers on a battlefield fighting for freedom. When I heard it again a few months ago, a different image came to my mind: 

A bruised and bloodied woman, her arms raised high above her, and her eyes cast heavenward.  
A mother with empty arms and pain lining her face. 
A mother separated from her children, crying out to God in her sorrow. 
She is a solider too. 

We may not look like the others around us and our lives may seem very foreign to them. We may not be very pretty, packaged in shiny wrappings with bows tied neatly around us. There may not be easy answers or answers at all to our suffering. The world tells us to blame God, to turn from Him and find bitterness in our lives instead of mercy. Is this vile world a friend to grace to help me on to God? We must fight. Fight against the doubt, the anger, the lies of the enemy and the world. The lies that whisper (or yell) that God doesn't care, or that He is angry with us. Lies that tell us our children don't matter, not to the world nor to God. 

For days after I heard this song I kept thinking, what a privilege! What an honor to be called a soldier of the cross and what a disgrace that I should ask to be carried through the skies on flowery beds of ease while others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas. 

Please don't misunderstand, I am NOT at all happy that Owen died. I don't think God is either. He hates death. He hates this brokenness. That is why he is coming back...He is redeeming all things and he will make all things right. 

Seeing myself as a soldier of the cross has really changed the way I view the suffering in my life. Do I like it? Nope. I hate it. 

But what a privilege it is to be called a soldier of the cross. How beautiful it is to stand, bruised and bloodied, crying out to God in our suffering and brokenness. I can think of nothing else that we could do that is more God glorifying than to take our sorrow and pain and hurt, our questions and anger to his feet and lay it all down (yes, over and over again for the rest of our lives) and then stand, shaky and broken, and point to the faithful, merciful and great God who loves us. 

I think this makes us all soldiers. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Listen closely. 

Be still.


"And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17

Thank you, Lord Jesus. Fairest Lord Jesus. Our Savior and King. Our beginning and end. 
Give us ears to hear and eyes to see. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A rant and a plea

Every once in a while, I feel the need to rant. Most of the time my rants are only heard by my supportive and loving husband, but this particular chain of thoughts has been bubbling up inside of me for a long while and I think it's time to share- especially because this weekend is Easter.
(I also feel the need to disclose upfront that this rant is about Christians and abortion- a very emotional topic.)

Because of the Gospel, Christians should be the most loving, supportive and biggest 'grieving with the grievers' there are, but unfortunately this is not always true. (And also because of the Gospel, there is grace, so so much grace... for me, for you.)

Most Christians will knock you over with their belief that all life begins at conception and that the sanctity of life extends to a baby in the womb. This is my belief as well.
But what (usually) doesn't knock you over is the support and love of those same Christians when your precious baby, the life inside of you, dies.

I am blown away by some (NOT all by any means) Christians who will go on and on and on and on about how abortion is wrong because murder is wrong. They will stand outside of abortion clinics and loudly protest, or on university campuses holding pictures of some mother's baby after abortion. They will lobby for laws against abortion and try to convince anyone and everyone to believe what they do about life at conception and the sanctity of the life inside a woman's womb.

But in my experience, after a loss during pregnancy some of these same Christians will tell you that 'it' was only a miscarriage, that there was probably something wrong with 'it' anyways. Or that it's better that it happened sooner rather than later. Or that it's better this way because at least we didn't know them yet. Or they will tell you that they hope it works out the next time.

Let me stop here and emphasize that when you call an unborn baby 'it' you are devaluing God's precious child. You are dehumanizing a real person when you refer to a loss during pregnancy as something that didn't work out.

I am not writing this rant to condemn. Really, I'm not. Yes, I want to call out sin as sin but what I want to impress is that we have a solemn opportunity when the tragedy of loss during pregnancy occurs to proclaim and demonstrate our belief in the sanctity of life beginning at conception.

How about instead of knocking someone over with a protest sign against abortion, we stand beside those who have lost their babies during pregnancy and validate their children's lives. What if we used our voices to support and love and console women whose babies' lives were only lived within their mothers' wombs instead of shouting words of condemnation.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't speak out against abortion (and this is a whole other topic and rant in and of itself), but condemning a woman for having an abortion (because we believe that life begins at conception) and then in the same context devaluing a human being's life by calling the baby 'it' and making a mother feel like their baby is less of a baby because they did not take a breath... well, that's a damn shame. (To add to this, grace. Grace. Grace. There is so much grace.)

If we really believe that life begins at conception and want to extend the sanctity of life to an unborn but real person, then we should grieve the loss of a child by miscarriage or stillbirth as no different than the loss of a person who dies after birth.

We, who have been loved and pursued and redeemed through no merit of our own by our Heavenly Father, should cover these women with love. We should validate and value the lives of their babies; babies who are loved not through merit but by the simple and incredible fact that they belong to their mothers and fathers. We must grieve with these mothers and fathers.

If our eyes have been opened by the Gospel then no dark corner of our hearts can go unchanged.

For me personally, if you want to make a huge difference in my day (or week or month) then refer to my son, Owen, as a person. Call him by his name and tell me that you think of him or that you wish he was here with us. He was a person (and he still is a person) though he did not take a single breath. I do not measure his life by the number of breaths he took, or the days he lived, or the growth chart on our doorway or birthday parties we planned. I do not grieve the person he could have potentially been. I grieve him, his absence and the heartbreaking fact that we are separated from each other. This is unfortunately not how most people see my son. They picture a pregnancy that didn't turn out, or a faceless nameless fetus that somehow disappeared when he died. It is a damn shame, and it breaks my heart....
Because his story is beautiful....

His Story is BEAUTIFUL.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Union with Christ

For one of his classes Chris asked me to write my thoughts about what union with Christ means to me.

After Owen died but before I was induced to give birth to him, I remember telling my pastor that I wasn't angry. Unable to stop the tears, I cried, "I'm not angry with God. I'm not angry." And it was true. Then.

Weeks passed and the anger came. I didn't understand why this had happened. He was a perfectly healthy baby just 4 weeks from his due date. I struggled with anger at the Lord, disappointment with God, fear that I had done something to incur this suffering. It would take years of struggling with these feelings before I felt the softening of the Holy Spirit's work in my heart. Through the suffering I experienced, I saw the complete faithfulness of the Father and I gained a great awe and appreciation for Christ's work on my behalf. After all, I was seeing sin exploding from my every pore. I railed at God, my Father, stopped worshipping Him at church, stopped praying and instead griped and moaned and questioned Him.

Even after all this, the Holy Spirit still worked in my heart, beckoning me to look to the Father, reminding me of His great love. I was won over. Suffering produced in me an incredible dependence on the Lord without whom I would still be lying on the floor immobilized by grief and anger. I can see now that my suffering showed me who God was, and that I was united to Him by no work or merit of my own. And nothing could separate me from this awesome union.
Praise the Lord.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Blessings, take two

This has taken me a long time to process and write, but I'm finally finding it easier to talk about the dreaded blessings topic again.

I sat down with a seminary professor last fall to talk about blessings. You see, ever since Owen died, I've had it in for the word blessings. I've downright hated it and even felt a lot of hostility to those who used it frequently. "God blessed me with this or that." "I pray God gives you the blessing of children." Grrr.....  I probably didn't make many friends during this period in my life. I was angry, pretty much all of the time.

I had always thought blessings were the good things that happen to us. It seemed to me that using the word blessings was like saying, "This awesome thing happened to me and if I want to sound Christian-y then I need to give God the credit for it." Blessings were the things that we prayed/asked for and then received.

It turns out I was wrong.

Blessings are in everything that God gives us in order to bring us closer to himself, our Father. Those things that show us our great need of him, and pull us into a deeper and more vibrant relationship with him.
Blessings can be things which we prayed would never happen. (Don't get me wrong, death is still and will always be evil, wrong and something that God hates. It wasn't supposed to happen.) 

Even before this great talk with the professor I've always thought of my three babies in Heaven as blessings. When people would tell me that they were praying for God to bless me with children, I would seriously freak out inside (and maybe on the the outside too). My babies' lives are blessings and how God has worked in my heart since their deaths- that's a blessing too.

One afternoon recently as I was washing up the lunch dishes a thought popped into my head....
Other peoples' stories don't invalidate our own. 

Praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This thought has developed into a paradigm shifting view on blessings and our life stories.
Maybe I'm the only one (but probably not) who has ever felt like God was holding out on me when all my friends were having babies so easily. Or when many of my friends had two living children in the span that I lost three of my babies. Or when it was time for Bible study to end and all the kids came running out the nursery to their mommies and I went home alone.

And then there's our struggles. What is going on when God seems to be so faithful to others in their struggles, but I am still struggling with the same damn thing I've been struggling with for five years?? I don't believe that God's faithfulness to others means that God has abandoned us when he doesn't work in our lives the same way. Or that he's not faithful to us in our continued struggles. He is working in our lives too. Maybe it doesn't look the same or seem as obvious, but if we're his children then he's with us and he's promised not to abandon us or forsake us.

Other peoples' stories don't invalidate our own. Praise the Lord. And when we're his children, he blesses us with his divine (holy and sacred) presence daily. By his Spirit, we can look not to the perceived discrepancies in our lives compared to our brothers and sisters, but to the faithfulness and beauty of God's work in our lives. He loves us.