Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Our Story

My daughter, Lia Grace Tyler, was stillborn on November 24, 2007, about 2 weeks before her official due date. While we do not have confirmation about the cause of death, the attending doctor believes her cord became several twisted cutting off her blood supply. But even the physical evidence of a crushed and twisted cord does not explain why or how.

Lia was quite a dancer and loved to move around, and she had plenty of room to move since her big sisters had made for ample space in my previous pregnancies. Perhaps in all her movement the cord became tangled. Also, I was suffering from severe bronchitis during the final week of Lia's life. I had extreme coughing spasms that shook my whole body. Lia's movement would decrease right after a coughing fit - but I just figured she was taking cover from the quakes of my abdomina muscles. Of course, along with those potential issues, there are a myriad of wives tales I violated including raising my hands above my head and carrying my toddlers around.

Over the past year, through many tears and many questions, I have accepted that while the cause is known to the Lord, He has chosen in His wisdom to not reveal it to me. But my hope is not in knowing or preventing a cause. Instead, my hope has been in knowing that her life was not in vain. Lia lived exactly as long as the Lord intended. I have known many amazing people in my life, but none has affected me more or challenged me more than her little life that I never beheld with my eyes.

This blog is just a portion of the hours I have poured into my private journal. My writing has been the only way to slow the flood of emotions and give myself the time to see all that God is doing and to hear His wisdom.

My prayer is that these pages would be a source of hope to those suffering and a window into the soul for those who may not yet have experienced grief. Above all, it is my way of welcoming the world into the center of our storm. The winds have been raging around us since that snowy morning a year ago - but at the center of the storm - in the arms of the Lord - we have found a peace and joy beyond comprehension.

It has been my honor to share our story with you this year. And I thank each of you for your prayers, cards, gifts, and words of encouragement.

Blessing to each of you. May you find comfort in your afflictions in the shadow of His wing.

Lia's Mom

A Gift For Baby Lea

Yesterday, on our Baby Lia's birthday, my 4 year old daughter and I visited the birth center at the hospital where Lia was born. Kaiden has had a lot of questions as Lia's birthday approached and I thought visiting the hospital, seeing the rooms, and seeing the babies might help her understand.

While waiting for the shades of the nursery to be raised, I visited with a grandma, anxiously awaiting the birth of her new granddaughter. We were the only two in the area. Even though the ward was busy, not many babies had arrived into the world yet. As the shades rose, the grandmother said - "I wonder if our baby Lea is here?" Tears instantly rolled down my face.

Her little Lea hadn't been moved to the nursery yet, so as we watched two other babies, I told her the story of our Baby Lia. The grandmother hugged me and so kindly said that she was honored to share this wonderful day with me. The nurse directed the Grandma to a set of doors where she could go and see her son, daughter-in-law and new granddaughter in their delivery room. With a hug goodbye, Kaiden and I watched Grandma and Grandson walk to the delivery area. Kaiden, holding my hand and all smiles said to me - "Mommy, it is Baby Lia's birthday and it is the New Baby Lea's birthday!"

Then Kaiden paused, looked up at me and asked, "Mommy, can we go buy a present for the new Baby Lea?" Absolutely sweetie.

In the hospital gift shop we looked at all the stuffed animals and Kaiden chose a cute monkey that had fallen off the shelf and landed right on her head. I wrote a note to the family and we headed back up to the fourth floor. Only intending to leave the gift at the door, the family welcomed us in and Kaiden and I got to meet the beautiful baby girl. Little Lea has beautiful thick dark hair and was awake and alert - and very hungry. I held Lea for a few minutes, and Kaiden gave her a kiss on the head.

Three weeks ago, when thinking about my Lia's upcoming birthday, I had an idea that at the time I thought absurd. I thought how wonderful it would be to take a gift for a newborn at the hospital. Just a way to bring a gift of joy to someone on a day that could be sorrowful. The idea seemed too far fetched - I mean, what would I do - just buy a cute doll and wander into someone's room - or maybe leave an anonymous bouquet of roses at the desk. People would think I was a stalker! The idea was so ridiculous that I completely forgot about it, until late last night as I thought over the amazing day Kaiden and I had. I had a desire in my heart - a desire to celebrate my daughter's special day. I disregarded it, but the Lord did not.

Lord, I am still at a loss of words of how to thank you for the opportunity to experience the joy of new life! I have seen you move in so many ways this year, redirecting military assignments, granting unspoken wishes, providing for unforeseen expenses. But this, allowing me to meet a family and be blessed to meet a new little Lea, such a gift from You honestly is far beyond anything I would have ever asked. I think what amazes me most is that this gift was not something I needed ~ I could have survived yesterday without this blessing. But Lord, You go so far beyond our need. You know the deepest reaches of me and make dreams come true.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Long Night, A Painful Night, A Joyful Night

Saturday night was frightening for me.

It was at 2am on November 23rd of 2007 that I woke up and suddenly knew that my daughter was gone. Now here we were one year later, preparing to fall asleep in the same bed in the same room. As I walked into the room, I said to Mark - "I think I'd rather go stay at a hotel tonight than be here!"

As I attempted to sleep, the phantoms attacked. Phantoms are my words for invitations of grief that do not come from within. They pass around me and whisper horrible thoughts that I have never contemplated. The most frightening one whispered - what if it happens again tonight.

Grief overwhelmed me and I began to cry. It was then my new little girl gave me a big kick. Praise You Lord, I called out, praise you that I am pregnant again. You knew how difficult tonight would be and thank You that my body is not empty! Thank you for the new little girl you are growing in me.

T4 (Tyler#4) is not much of a kicker yet. She has her active moments but overall is a calm girl. But Saturday night, she kicked for the entire night! Every time I woke up, there she was, wiggling away as if to say, it's okay Mommy, I am still right here with you. Mark had not felt her move before, but last night she gave him a big 'ol kick that made his finger jump.

God directs the paths of migrating birds, He causes the rain to fall on the earth, and I believe last night He instructed my daughter to dance away! What a blessing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thankful for a Smashed Ankle

One year ago today, I was pushing my shopping cart through a crowded grocery store. It was the evening before Thanksgiving, and I was determined to scrounge up a few staples to pull together a meal. I was painfully pregnant ~ you've seen those women ~ when we look like we'd rather sit down in the middle of the aisle and take a nap than go another step. I had been having a rough week, lots of pain, and now bronchitis on top of everything else. Each step through the store was a challenge. I clung to my cart and pressed on... then it happened.

At the chaotic intersection of dairy products and paper goods, I stopped to let someone by, but the lady behind me did not. Her cart crashed full speed into the back of my ankle. The shock wave shot through my entire body and I could barely speak words to acknowledge her apology. With tears beginning to stream down my face, I suddenly realized something, the only thing that hurt was my ankle. The belly pain from contractions, the tight chest from coughing, all were completely eclipsed by my throbbing ankle. It was as if all other senses had been turned off to devote attention to the new crisis.

Now, with only a crushed ankle to worry about, I hobbled through the store feeling better than I had all day. I was actually thankful for the injury because, as I wrote to a friend later that evening - what seemed horrible was actually for my good!

Barely two days later, in the early hours of Friday, November 23rd, my little girl went to be with the Lord. Just as I would never wish for a crushed ankle, I would never wish for my daughter's death. But what seemed horrible has been used for our good. The concerns and the pains of the world, the nagging things that can weigh me down and sap my strength are all dimmed when I think of what we have endured.

Thank you Lord for smashed ankles and broken hearts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Cross on My Belly

We are coming up on Lia's birthday. The slew of emotions has been enormous and I can say that once again, as from the very beginning, I am constantly reminded that nothing of this world can soothe the pain of death. For that I am thankful. There are times that I wish a big ice cream dessert and a shopping spree would make everything feel better - and perhaps a purchase of new minivan. But I am thankful that each time my heart aches, I find that my only peace is found in God.

This truth however does present a challenge to me - how do we remember on earth a little life now held safe in heaven. Every book, every article, every blog presents a new and unique idea for remembering - yet none seem appropriate for us. The other day, while driving through town, I saw a cross on the side of the road - a remembrance for someone whose last moments were on that corner. I thought to myself, maybe I should just tattoo a cross on my belly with Lia's name on it. After all, it was there where she spent her final moments. My husband didn't think it was such a great idea.

So this week, as we remember the last days of our baby's life, I am praying that each memory, regardless of the pain, be shrouded in the hope of God's eternal life. And I trust that God will guide each step of every day - just as He did one year ago - carrying us through the storm. I do not know the waves that will crash over me in the days to come. But my good Father in heaven knows the path we are to take. He knows exactly what we need to remember Lia- in honor and in hope. He will guide us in remembering her just as He did one year ago.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Daddy, it's been a good day

Lynon, an elderly gentleman, was a guest at in our marriage class tonight at church. When asked of the importance of forgiveness in marriage and living without regret, he shared the following story of his wife's last day:

She had been suffering from Parkinson's for several difficult years. But this day had been different - she was feeling much better than normal and they were able to enjoy the day together. As he put her into bed for the night, she said to him, "Daddy, it's been a good day." He returned to the room 45 minutes later and she had passed away.

Lynon cherishes those final words of his wife and holds in great fondness his final day with her, a day of no regrets.

Hearing his story brought to the surface of my heart an unhealed sadness and pain. I do have regrets of Lia's last day with us. Regrets that prior to now I have only shared with my husband. Many days I have thought of how I would have lived differently if only I had known I would lose her. I have even felt anger at mothers who knew their unborn children had terminal defects - mothers who have spent the final months of the pregnancy cherishing each day with their unborn babies. Instead, I spent Lia's final hours in a irritable frustrated mood. There had been good times early in the day - times of joy and laughter watching my girls play in the first snow of the season. But the evening was filled with angry words and impatience. As my little baby began to slip away from this life, I was wishing for my day to be over as quickly as possible.

I know that the calming presence of God was with her, welcoming her into His eternal glory. For that I am so thankful. But how I wish in that last day, rather than putting head to pillow, wishing for the day to end, I could instead have heard the words..... Mommy, It's been a good day.

I have tried to heal myself of the pain of regret. I made promises to not lose my temper again, promises to not raise my voice at my kids, promises to live every day as if it were the last I would see my loved ones. But all of those good intentions have failed in the reality of daily life.

So tonight in my tears God has reminded me of a simple word that has carried me these past 11 months - Redeemed.

God is capable of redeeming any junk of this world, any sin, any evil, any sorrow. Our Sovereign One, Lord of the Universe can turn anything from evil to good and use it to His glory. My hope, my faith in His ability to redeem has given me tears of joy in the midst of pain. And again tonight I am calling out for Him to redeem.

Lord, from the first sin of this Earth you have never ceased in turning all things to good and for your glory. Lord I am ashamed of my conduct, I am ashamed of my failure as a mother, I am ashamed of the anger and even rage I have hurled at my family. But above all, I am grieved that the final words Lia may have heard on this earth were words spoken in anger. Lord I know that you have forgiven me, that you have heard my cries, but I still sit here and see the ashes of my regret. Lord I know that you can turn these regrets into works of beauty. Please redeem the pain and sorrow of my sin, of my unbridled tongue and poisoned heart. Please shine a healing light into the deepest wounds of my soul. Lord, none of my own efforts to redeem, none of my own efforts to change my ways or heal my wounds has worked. I know that true healing and true redemption are found in you alone. I know I have faith and hope in You and Your redemption, but right now Lord, my faith is weak. I am tired and weary from carrying the burden of my regret. Take me in, hold me close and mend my broken heart.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Eyes on the Everlasting

Over the past months, my mind has been busy with thoughts of my current responsibility and my body has been preoccupied with growing a new life. I was beginning to wonder if the grief had come to an end. I would often go days without thoughts of Lia or of how my life has been affected. But with the first cool breezes of Autumn, the memories, emotions, and contemplations have all returned. They have returned like a welcome friend returning from travels abroad. I am once again nightly consumed with pouring my heart into my journal and seeking the peace and solitude of my quiet room. Is it possible that grief's return can be a welcomed, familiar companion? I feel like I am finally able to continue conversations which had been cut off by the busyness of life. I almost feel like I am finding myself again. The busyness of life disrupted my view of the eternal - and that is where my daughter is - held safe in the eternal. How ironic that the mudane repetative cycle of the seasons of life and a predictable cool fall breeze would beacon my heart to look beyond to the everlasting.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

So Why the Silence?

If I still want to talk about her, as my last post stated, you may be wondering why I haven't written in so long. Two huge things have occurred in the past months that have delayed me from writing. First, this blog's primary purpose is to share with others what I am learning from God while traveling this road. And for the month of August, I truly shut God out of my life and my heart. I got caught up in a hundred distractions and simply forgot how essential it was to daily communicate with my Creator. The Lord is the one who leads my heart, my thoughts, and my fingers as a type. Writing without His leading is arduous. I stumble to connect my thoughts and struggle to communicate clearly. But with His words and my hands, I am able to share the previously unspeakable struggles of my heart. When I rejected His fellowship last month, I lost a clarity of mind and the hope of each day. I began to lose any connection to Lia, and I lost the most critical thing - my daily strength found only in Christ. So why the silence, because I gave God the silent treatment.

This month my relationship with the Lord is being restored. His end was instantaneous. The moment that I cried out, recognizing how I had exchanged my love for Him with love for the things of this world, He immediately embraced me. But I still walk cautiously, like a lover caught in an affair, unwilling at times to believe I have been truly forgiven and restored.

Now for the second reason for my silence. A most amazing and surprising thing has occurred.

We are pregnant.

I am 15 weeks along, and hopeful through the rough days physically. But this surprise in my life has caused me to turn inward in a way I have never experienced before. I simply wasn't prepared to share with others the strange and often unpredictable mix of emotions I am facing. Even today as I write I still hesitate, but I trust that the Lord will continue to lead my fingers to share what He desires.

So I guess this blog and its purpose have been extended. Not only will I be writing of grieving and healing, but now the new strange emotion of saying goodbye to one life while welcoming another.

The Lord drew me so close to Him when Lia died, and as the months have passed, I have begun to drift away from His love. Now, faced with a future I did not anticipate He is once again drawing me in, allowing me to say in tears and in prayer what He already knows my heart is feeling.

Oh how thankful I am for a Creator who listens even when I am refusing to speak. How thankful I am that He knit me together and understands every fabric of my being. He is never shocked by my words, my emotions, my actions. He just watches, waits, and then embraces me. He is not offended by my eternal joy in the face of death, or now my grief as new life begins. He allows me to feel and be what I am while guiding and drawing me to a place He has designed for me.

Thank You Lord for not requiring perfect right emotions or a mature response to this life. But thank You most of all that in my time of need You make Yourself even more known, drawing me to You.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

.....and I still want to talk about her.

While watching the freight cars slowly pass by, one piece of graffiti caught my eye: It's been 9 months and I still want to talk about her.

The girls and I are in Alabama for a few weeks, living in a tiny one room apartment with Daddy while he attends training. It has been a good taste for me of life away from the familiar. 50 other families, and not one knew my story. They see my daughters and comment on their cuteness, some inquire if we are having more.

I don't want to wear Lia as a badge on my shoulder, but there is a part of me that feels very lost when no one knows. The first night here was the most challenging. Everything of Lia's, a blanket, a lock of hair, a hand print, are all back home. Coming here, while good for our family was like taking another step away from Lia.

Even though time has healed us greatly and I am no longer dealing with the moment by moment memories and thoughts, I still want to talk about her. So last night, on the way to the spouses' bible study, I quietly prayed for an opportunity to share at least a piece of my story.

The leader opened the study with this question - What does Grace mean to you?

Thank You Lord for once again meeting the most basic of my needs - the need to connect, truly connect with others. Thank You for opening a door to share a piece of Lia Grace's story and the story of Your Sustaining Grace poured out in our lives. I know it is silly, but I guess I needed to be reminded that You are Lord everywhere, even in Alabama.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What If?

I have always struggled with fear. In my first year of college, I knew 9 people who died. By the end of that semester, I had great fear when friends would leave for the weekend. I always wondered who would be next to go.

I expected and prepared for a similar reaction following Lia's death. But the level of fear has become much more intense. By June, my fears had become full blown anxiety - right when my husband was gone for 3 weeks. I feared every sound in my house, every storm that blew overhead. It was as if every form of evil and peril had its purposes set on our destruction. All I could think of was the "what-ifs" What if my daughter dies in her sleep. What if someone breaks into our house. What if we are hit by a tornado. What if Mark's jet goes down. What if....

A wise friend once told me that we don't live with what-ifs, we live in what is. As I sat one night with storms quickly approaching our home, I thought and journaled about the what-if life I had come to live. How was it that I endured the death of my daughter with such strength and clarity but am completely panic stricken due to an approaching storm. And then I realized - the God of the Universe, the Great I Am, is not the god of "what-ifs". You see, what-if is purely speculating. It is taking myself to an imaginary land of horror and asking God to meet me there and give me peace. But God is not the god of that land. In fact, He isn't even present there. So no wonder I feel the darkness closing in and the fear surrounding me. When I choose to enter the land of what-if, I am leaving the security of the Lord. God absolutely gives us the grace and the strength to endure the sufferings and trials of this life - the true, the real, the actual sufferings of this life - not the ones that we fear might happen.

So that night, as the storms approached, I took my eyes off of the what-if and placed them on what-is. I spent a wonderful evening reading with my daughters before bedtime and rubbing their backs as they fell asleep. I trusted the Lord, the Great I Am, the God of what is, to make me aware of danger, but I did not wait at the window for what-if's potential arrival. And God did surround me with an amazing peace that night. I chose to live in His presence, not in my own fear.

Lord I thank You that all eternity is held in the palm of your hand. From beginning to end there is no "if" with you. Lord my fears are so great and seek to consume me! I pray that you will continue to draw me every day into your presence and away from the darkness of my anxiety. Thank You Lord, God of the Universe, for taking the time to comfort me in your presence on a stormy night.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Who Am I?

Thoughts from this year's Mother's Day

Mother's Day was of course very challenging, but not in the way I expected. I thought that if I was truly being affected, I would be in a pool of tears by 6am. But instead it was until the middle of our worship service that I realized something was wrong inside of me.

A wonderful gentleman in our church lost his wife several years ago and is raising his 5 boys on his own. Every Mother's Day, he helps the kids in his 4year olds Sunday School class to make special gifts for their moms. He can be seen on Mother's Day handing roses to each of the women who serve as teachers for his boys. This year I received one. And as I sat in the pew, and the music began, I looked at the beautiful long stem rose and thought about my life. I convinced myself I had no reason to be sorrowful. Imagine those who lose their first born and are not seen as mothers by the rest of the world. I had two beautiful girls, both of whom I had been frustrated with earlier in the day. I convinced myself I had no reason to be sad.

But, as God always does, He found a way to break through my facade and reach my heart. The worship band began the song "Who Am I". I could feel my heart soften to the pain as the words of the song echoed through my mind. I began to ask again the question that had been haunting - Who Am I... am I Lia's Mom...am I a mother of 3 or a mother of 2...am I still going to have more kids....

The final line of the chorus sings - I AM YOURS. And then the tears came. I am not a list of credentials. I am not a line of children following me. I am not a resume of accomplishments and degrees. I am not a title. I belong to God and that is all that matters.

Lord thank you that my identity is not bound to anything of this world. No matter what I accomplish, no matter how many children I have, no matter where I go, no matter who my friends may be, no matter what my husband may do... the answer to the question of "Who Am I" is always the same - I Am Yours. What a blessing it is to know that the foundation of everything does not rest with me, but in You - a foundation placed before the beginning of time. Thank You.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Two years ago I sat in a fast food restaurant in Kansas City with my two girls having lunch. Kaiden was 20 months old, Jordan just 2 months. A woman sat behind us, muttering something to herself, then she began talking at me. The woman was mentally ill, and was convinced that my tiny Jordan was her son. She began to cuss at me, demanding that I give back her child. She said I couldn't take him to California, she wasn't going to let me. She began to walk over to me when a manager came and escorted her from the restaurant. As she left the building she banged on the windows and said she wanted her child back.
I have often thought of that woman, wondering what did happen in her past to destroy her mind in that way. I wondered if she really did lose her son - was he taken from her, did he die? Now, having lost a child of my own, this woman is a very real picture to me of what could happen if I do not daily hand over my pain and sorrow to the Healer of my soul. This woman was trapped in her moment of loss. Perhaps I too am still somewhat trapped, like when I wake in the middle of the night and think I am still pregnant. I joke with my husband that I will be 98 years old in a nursing home and conviced I am going into labor! Some days I wonder when such feelings will fade, but in other ways, I hope to never lose them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In Better Hands

It's like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down....

I first heard the song In Better Hands by Natalie Grant last fall when Mark was deployed. On November 1st, after a long hard day as a pregnant mommy with 2 toddlers, I sat in the Chick-fil-A parking lot munching on fries and praying my husband to come home soon. Better Hands Now came on the radio and I was reminded once again that God presence and grace were so strong and perfect to hold me safe while Mark was away. As the song ended, my cell phone rang - it was Mark calling from overseas - ticket in hand and bags on board- he was coming home.

I have continued to hear the song numerous times in the months since Lia's passing and each time it brings joy to my heart. The greatest joy came on Memorial Day. We visited Lia's grave in my husbands hometown and saw for the first time the beautiful memorial stone. My mother-in-law gave us a small statue - a baby asleep in angel's wings - to place beside the stone. I didn't want to leave the cemetery that evening. I felt that holding vigil would somehow keep her safe and ease my pain. Mark planned to leave with the girls and return for me later. As I helped me load the girls in their seats, Better Hands Now began on the radio. I took another minute at Lia's grave and then left with my family. Lia didn't need me to stay there - she is in better hands now, held in the love of God.

In Better Hands by Natalie Grant:
(video - very emotional for me)

It's hard to stand on shifting sand
It's hard to shine in the shadows of the night
You can't be free if you don't reach for help
You cant love if you don't love yourself
There is hope when my faith runs out
Cause I'm in better hands now

It's like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down
It's like my soul is flying though my feet are on the ground
So take this heart of mine there's no doubt
I'm in better hands now

I am strong all because of you
I stand in awe of every mountain that you move
Oh I am changed, yesterday is gone
I am safe from this moment on
There's no fear when the night comes 'round
I'm in better hands now

It's like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down
It's like my soul is flying though my feet are on the ground
Its like the world is silent though I know it isnt true
Its like the breath of Jesus is right here in this room

So take this heart of mine there's no doubt
I'm in better hands now

Friday, June 6, 2008


I have been on the road for almost 3 weeks now. We began the road trip to my husband's hometown over memorial day weekend. That is where Lia was buried, but more on that later.

A week and a half into the trip I was completely drained. I found my Lia CD in the case and put it into the car stereo on the drive from rural Iowa to Kansas City. The Lia CD is a compilation I made back when things were "normal" - 2 weeks before Lia was due. It is full of beautiful, empowering, and visual music that I wanted to listen to in the days leading up to her birth. This CD now has become so much more than just a relaxing meditative pregnancy CD - the songs truly communicate so much about this season of life.

As I drove through another downpour on the way into KC - the song "Sunshine on my Shoulder" by John Denver was playing. Though I did not intend it when putting the CD together, several of the Lia songs refer to sunshine. How ironic I thought -Sunshine. Lia was stillborn on a rainy-icy cold November day. She was buried during an ice storm. And now, 6 months after her passing, our road trip back to hometowns, family, and her grave has been socked in with rain and severe weather.

Listening to the song and driving through the rain I was reminded that the sunshine which warms my soul and gives me hope is not of this world. And if I look to this world to be my source of strength and hope, I will have nothing but misery equal to 2 weeks of constant rain storms and dreary weather! I understand that my hope is in things to come - in a eternal place where there are no shadows for the light of the Lord is ever present. But in challenging times here, I lose sight of that light and focus only on the shadows. So I prayed as I drove on - Lord just let me see your light.

And as I prayed, a car passed me with a personalized license plate: SN SHNE.

Isn't the Lord a riot! Here I am in the modern comfort of my minivan, zipping along a drenched interstate and the way the Lord communicates his presence is through a passing vehicles plates! So if you are the driver of a Volvo crossover from Nebraska with the plates - SN SHNE - just know that the Lord used you to bring a little sunshine into my rainy day.

Lord thank You for reminding me once again that my hope and my joy cannot be found in the things of this world but only in You. God, the coolest thing to me today is that though my hope is in heaven I can receive it now. That simply leaves me speechless. Thank You for not leaving me to deal with this alone.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Unsurrendered Grief

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God ~ I Corinthians 10:31

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him ~ Colossians 3:17

There are many areas of my private grief that I have had to bring under the submission of God lest they destroy me. What I mean by submission is I place myself directly under God so that my grief can be shown for what it really is and the light of His truth direct me on how to proceed. Sometimes my grief has been revealed to be bitterness and anger. Other times my grief is jealousy. Sometimes my grief is genuine, a longing for things to come. Sometimes my grief isn't even grief at all, just an excuse for a self-centered moment of laziness. But there is one area of my grief that I have refused to surrender - that I have claimed as my own, as my right. And that is my eating.

When I was pregnant with Lia, I had to give up a lot of the comfort foods that I often clung to in stressful times. Nothing satisfies me like a cold Pepsi or Cherry Coke at the end of a long day. Those who know me well have even heard me sigh as that first drink cools my throat. Soda was just one of the things I chose to give up during pregnancy, for my own health and the health of my baby. But the day Lia died, something snapped inside my mind.

The morning of her passing was filled with phone calls, arrangements, and confusion. I did not think to care for myself, even though I would need to go through a regular labor and delivery the next morning. By evening, I was hungry and as my husband and I wandered through the store preparing for our hospital stay, I saw all my old indulgences. Suddenly, all my reason for restraint was gone. It didn't matter any more. For three years I had been either pregnant or nursing, always trying my best to stay healthy for my babies. But now my last one was gone, and though her body was still with me, she no longer needed my health and my strength. I simply quit caring.

At first, the eating was justifiable. Friends brought delicious foods for us or took us out to dinner. The holidays and travel meant that eating out was the norm. But by January my eating was clearly out of control and was beginning to show.

Several months later now, I am 15 pounds heavier. I have tried many times to get a grip on the eating, but it has become my refuge in stress and in boredom. The moment I become frustrated or grieved I head to the kitchen or to the local convenience store. More than the weight, it is the emotional effects that scare me. I become so focused on trying to meet my indulgences that I completely disregard the needs of everyone else in our family. And when I cannot satisfy my craving my moods become uncontrollable and extreme.

God has knocked on my heart numerous times with this issue, and even though it seems that the rest of my life is laid open before Him, I have refused time and again to surrender this area. I may have made good plans or intentions after a bout of guilt, but nothing that has stuck for more than a few days. But I think I am beginning to understand why nothing has worked.

My motivation for trying to get my eating in check has always been based in my fear of getting fat, my fear of not looking as good as my friends, my fear of being unhealthy. But the source of my eating - my grief and my anger about Lia's death - those things lie deeper than my need to look good for people. So when the desire to eat is flamed, no obsession with my image is going to be able to quench it. The only thing that can quench it is God Himself, whose grace and mercy can reach even deeper than my deepest pain.

I started a new bible study this morning, one to help curb eating addictions through showing that satisfaction is found in God alone and examining why we choose to go to food instead of to Him. The key verse today was from I Corinthians 3 - that we with unveiled faces reflect God's glory and by His spirit are transformed into His image. That is the same verse I studied last fall just 2 weeks before we lost our baby, and the same verse that directed our decisions in the week following her death.

When we unveil our face, when we look to God and allow His light to be reflected in us - the world comes to know Him. With unveiled faces we can show our joy in the time of sorrow, a joy that only comes from Christ. But apparently I was ignoring a key element of that verse - that we are being transformed more into His image. That is the challenging part. It is not enough to be joyful in the areas of grief that are easier to endure, or that our personality better inclines us to endure, we must allow every part of our being be exposed to the transforming light of God. A mirror with any imperfections will distort the light it reflects. God desire to work out all the imperfections in me so that He may be clearly displayed in my life.

Lord thank you for the light You have been shining upon me, a light that has brought me joy and hope, but also a light that reveals my sin. Lord I confess that I have not allowed you access to every area of my grief. I cannot go on attempting to satisfy my hurt through food and drink. I know that only You can truly heal me. Lord I pray that You would continue to show me a hundred times a day just how real and true and present You are. Give me faith to trust the eyes of my heart and follow your way. I love You Lord, and I am sorry for thinking that it was okay to destroy my body out of anger. You have many things for me yet to do, and I need a healthy body to fully accomplish Your purposes. Heal me of the damage done and lead me in Your everlasting way.

And whatever I do whether in word or deed, and whatever I eat or drink, may it all be done to Your glory.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:13-14

There are times when I want to be completely free of the exhaustion of grief. When I want relief from the constant thoughts of my circumstances. When I feel that I cannot endure another day. But God is gracious, and understanding, and brings across a simple verse in an evening quiet time. He says to me

My child, just rest and wait. I know you are tired and weary, but just rest and wait. Do only what I have shown you to do and do not be anxious about matters whose times have not yet come. I will never give you more than what I know you can, through my grace, endure.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Seasons of Grief

We went through Hurricane Ivan a few years ago in Pensacola, Florida. Houses destroyed, trees stripped bare, destruction and death all around. But within a few weeks, a miraculous healing began to occur. Even though it was fall, the broken and wounded trees began to bud as though it were springtime. New leaves and beautiful blossoms covered the surviving Magnolia trees, hiding the truth of their broken bodies and bringing hope to a destroyed city.

But then comes the winter. The fall blooms and buds cannot bear the cold of winter and are discarded, exposing again the broken limbs. The hope is that some healing of the tree occurred before the cold set in.

I feel I am entering in to the winter of grief. The initial storm of our loss stripped me bare and broke me. But God in His great wisdom, just as He designed the Magnolia, allowed me a season of growth in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Broken limbs of my heart became covered with buds of hope as I basked in the warmth of His presence. Blossoms of joy covered me. Healing occurred. But to everything there is a season, and the season of winter is setting in. The fall foliage is being cast off and wounds that were masked by a temporary covering are now being exposed to the cold.

Just like the Magnolia blossoms brought hope after destruction, I am thankful for the countless miracles and joys I experienced, bringing me hope in my grief. But everything must have a winter and the Lord has said that now is the season for my wounds to be revealed. It is shocking at times, when I see the brokenness once again exposed - but I must simply trust the Lord that what He reveals He also will heal.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Eternal Optimist

Okay, the optimist in me cannot end my night without posting a follow up to Fallen World. While everything I wrote is true to my current emotions, I feel like it didn't tell the whole story.

I am frustrated with a lot of the things in this world, but I am far from hating it (most days anyway). The truth is, I absolutely love this amazing place God made for us. I love the smell of a fresh afternoon breeze blowing through my bedroom. I love the sound of raindrops outside the sunroom windows. I love to walk outside on a brisk fall night and gaze up at the stars. God really did make a pretty amazing place.

But what is more amazing to me than anything else is that all this beauty is only a shadow of the life to come. Every joy of this earth with be completely eclipsed by heaven. So do I love this fallen world - yes! I love how much it makes me think of my Lord. Every day is a wonderful chance to discover something new and to see what it shows me of God.

I guess some days though, like today, I am more overwhelmed by the dark shadows of this world - the pain, frustrations, and trials. But thankfully these dark shadows will not be found hereafter. Oh how I long for that day. Or, as my 3 year old says - Oh Mommy, it takes such a long time to get to heaven! Yes it does Kaiden, but thank goodness we will be there forever!

This Fallen World

Sometimes I feel like I have been lied to. Throughout all my years of learning there was always logical outcomes. My entire education seems based on being able to predict the outcome given the input. Science class was that way - hypothesis, experiment, theory, law. Math was full of proof and algorithm. The world was predictable, at least the world of textbooks.

But this world is fallen and therefore is apparently not prone to arranging itself in order. Instead, the opposite happens. I spent my pregnancy carefully monitoring my diet and exercise and yet, in the last week, Lia died.

Today I am watching a friend face this fallen world. She has breast cancer. It seems she has done everything right, eating healthy and exercising but again, she faces the opposite of the expected.

Life is not a textbook and things don't happen according to plan. So where is the hope? If I can't depend on this world to behave as I think it ought, then what hope do I have? Am I simply at the whim of happenstance?

Thankfully no. For even though this fallen world does not act according to how we think it should, it still is under the authority of God. At times, God feels as unpredictable as the trials I face, but that's okay with me. I don't want a God who is bound by codes of conduct. I don't want a God whose choices to work in my life must be weighed by logic and exhibit reasonable predictability. His law is love and His love knows no limits or bounds. He can work miracles or simply just make the world work. As crazy, painful, and frustrating as life on this fallen world can be, God is never caught off guard, never flustered, never frustrated. Instead, he is just the opposite always in control and always patient.

So am I still frustrated with this fallen world? Yes. Am I still angry that babies die and mommies get cancer? Yes. Do I still love God? Absolutely yes. More now than ever.

Monday, April 21, 2008

So Now What

I am struggling. My family doesn't look the way I thought it would and I just am not sure what God wants us to do next. Do we have more kids? Do we have kids of our own or adopt? I feel like this question is being held in a dusty old box in the attic of my mind. Every time I crack it open, moths coming fluttering out in all directions. I look inside for the answer but find nothing. All I have is confusion, with divergent thoughts fluttering through my mind.

Oh, I think I know the answer, at least for today. I am sure my thought will be different tomorrow. And therein lies the problem. God does not change and His plan for our family does not change. But I sure am being tossed by the waves. I have felt moments of great confidence, certain of what God is saying. But within a day I am once again off the sturdy foundation of the rock and lost in the crashing waves of my emotions.

So much else in life right now feels in place. Things make sense. I can see God's hand clearly directing opportunities. But every night, in the quiet of our home, I constantly think.... So Now What.

Lord, I need wisdom. Perhaps I am not ready yet to know Your plans for our family, but whatever it is within me that is holding me in this sea of confusion, would You please reveal it and take care of it. I just can't seem to hear you over the constant roar of the waves. In moments of stillness I think I hear but as the next wave rolls in I am again swept away. Lord I want to hear what You have to say, but I need You to calm the storm within. Prepare my heart to hear and receive what You intend for us.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Common Grief and a Consistent God

I had the great joy last week of listening to Karen, a lady in our church, tell the story of her recovery from a near fatal car accident. Thrown from her rolling SUV, Karen suffered multiple broken bones, internal bleeding, a broken neck and crushed pelvis. Her recovery has been painful, difficult, full of grief and anger and joy and hope.

As Karen spoke of the trials of her recovery it was as if she were reading from my own private journal. Many of her comments mirrored my own - word for word. Even though our trials are vastly different, our God is the same. This is encouraging to me because it reminds me that the hope I cling to is not just for empty-arm mommies, but a hope for all who suffer.

So often in our Western Christianity, we keep our sufferings to ourselves. And when we have "recovered" we are often counseled to "move on". But we must share our stories. We must share the joys and the hope we find in the middle of our storms. Every person's storm is unique but our God is the same. No matter how insignificant our struggles may seem, anything that causes us to better know the Lord is a light in this dark world. We must allow these lights to shine, leading others to the hope of Christ.

Lord I thank You that You do not change. I thank You that all I have seen You do is available to all who believe. Thank You for Karen's testimony and for reminding me that You are present in every person's storm. I pray that You will continue to use Karen, and me, to share with others the greatness of Your comforting presence to those who are hurting.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Lost balloons

In September, Kaiden lost her balloon. We were climbing into the van on a windy West Texas evening. Two helium filled balloons from our fun dinner at Red Robin wafted in the back of the van. I opened one sliding door to load the kids, then opened the other to help me better reach to buckle them in. The wind whipped through the open van, sucking Kaiden's balloon up into sky. Kaiden, not yet buckled in, jumped from her seat and ran across the lawn screaming as she tried to reach the balloon, now 20 feet above her head. "Mommy, please, make it come back."

Filled with rage and grief, Kaiden sobbed in my arms as the balloon whisked around the corner of a house. Mommy, can't you make it come back. No, Kaidi, that is what balloons are meant to do. If we don't hold on to them tightly they will fly away. The balloon is doing what it is supposed to do.

As we drove home, Kaiden still quietly crying, I wished I hadn't opened both doors of the van. I remembered watching the balloon begin to move with the breeze and knowing it was about to be lost - but my thoughts were slower than the wind and I couldn't think fast enough to stop the balloon from escaping.

I didn't really understand Kaiden's grief that day. I knew she was sad, but in my attempt to be a rational parent and end her tantrum, I just couldn't be sad with her. After all, balloons are supposed to float away, right?

Since Lia died, my own grief is causing me to think a lot more about how my children mourn. Did I do the right thing by keeping my response to Kaiden so factual? Or should I have helped her rejoice in her sorrow - by helping her see the joy of the balloon no longer tied down in a van but instead dancing in the wind?

The simple honest open grief of my three year old daughter is so much like my own silent grief. She was so excited to be bringing home a balloon, I was excited to be bringing another life into our home. Just a few minutes from home, her balloon was suddenly taken from her. Just a few days before her birth, my daughter was suddenly taken from me. Just like I regret opening the doors of the van, I constantly question and regret choices I made that may have affected the health of my baby. And just like Kaiden, I cried out watching my dream float away.

If someone had come to me the day Lia died and said - well, this is just how it is. Babies die. If we don't monitor them constantly, something can go wrong and they might die. I would have socked them in the face! Instead, through friends, through God's word, and through the gentle whispers of His Spirit, God was saying I know this is hard to understand, but look at her dancing in the wind. She is free of the pain of this earth. She is where I intend for her to be.

God is so gentle and good with us in our grief. I only hope that I can be as gentle with my daughters in their sorrows as the Lord has been to me.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Amazing Grace

We sang Amazing Grace last night at a women's event. The 2nd verse has become my favorite - whenever I sing it, I think of the amazing sufficiency of God's grace and how I have come to know it so deeply through loving my daughter Lia Grace.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed.

I am so thankful for all the amazing songs that have ministered to me these past months. Perhaps I should post my "soundtrack of godly grieving" for all to enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Celebrating Every Day

Today is Jordan's birthday. She is 2 years old, although, if you ask her, she says she is 4. At first, I wasn't in the mood to plan a party for her. While most of life feels "normal" I have a hard time getting in the mood for holidays and celebrations. Unfortunately, Jordan's birthday began to feel like more of a burden than a celebration.

That's the horrible irony of grief. Loss shows you how precious each day is, encouraging you to make the most of every moment. But it also takes from you the desire and energy to celebrate, leaving you to feel that any form of celebration is vanity.

As I thought about Jordan's birthday this year, my desire was not to find her the perfect gift and have the perfect party. Instead, my heart has been drawn to think about how to be a better mom for her. Gifts and party hats are so much less than she deserves. On this birthday, I want to give her the best of me. I want to give her joy and laughter and a passion for living every day of life that God gives us.

I guess it isn't that I don't want to celebrate, I just don't want my celebration of life to be confined to only special days on the calendar. I want to celebrate my children, and all the blessings I have been given, every day of life.

Lord, I pray Your blessing upon Jordan's life. Continue to raise her into a beautiful young woman who can love and serve You with all her heart. I thank You Lord for all my girls, Kaiden, Jordan, and Lia, and for the unique things You have taught me through each of them. Lord please help me to cherish each day, to seek You and Your will for each day, and to live at peace with You and with others.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Attention to Detail

On Thursday, my friend emailed me a beautiful video about a newborn with Trisomy18 who only lived 99 days. A friend of hers just had a baby with the same condition and it was unknown how long the baby would live. Carolyn wanted to share the video with me, knowing I would enjoy it - it is simply beautiful - a wonderful tribute to a tiny precious life.

But God intended much more with this video in my life than just tears shed one afternoon. That evening Carolyn and I attended the Abilene Pregnancy Resource Center's annual banquet. During the banquet, the Center introduced a new ministries to parents whose unborn children have a terminal disease such as Trisomy18. They showed an amazing video of a family whose daughter, born with Trisomy18, lived only 8 days. It was a moving and heartwrenching memoir of a family's few days with their wonderful baby girl.

Another friend came to me after the banquet to make sure I was okay after viewing such a difficult video. With a smile on my face I shared with her how God had prepared my heart by showing me a very similar video only a few hours before.

God was in the details. Once again, I am completely amazed how the God of the Universe, holding all things in place, cares enough to prepare me for an emotional moment at a fund-raising event. But He does care. Oh He does care.

I highly recommend you watch 99 Balloons, Eliot's story.

Quieting My Spirit

Each day in our home, at 1pm, we enter into a time of great uncertainty - afternoon naps. Will Jordan peacefully fall asleep while holding her favorite book, or will she toss and turn and cry, fighting the sleep she desires. Will Kaiden snuggle up beside me for a gentle backrub or sit crosslegged on the floor and scream "NO". I love and I hate our afternoon quiet times. I love to watch my children sleeping peacefully, I love to see their shining faces after they wake, I love to sit by their beds reading, I love to rub backs and help them relax. What I don't love is the feeling of helplessness on the rough days - when I speak softly, encouraging them to close their eyes and not be afraid of sleep, but they just keep fighting.

I realized today that God and I have something in common - frustration with our children's need for quiet times. I am sure that just as it breaks my heart to see my children fighting sleep and rest, it must break God's heart when I fight the stillness so necessary for my soul. How often do I wrestle in my mind through the night with questions that will not have answers? How often do I toss and turn longing for sleep yet defeating it with my own anxiety? God sits there quietly beside me, whispering softly, urging me to be still.

I wish that I had a magic word that would instantly calm my children's fears and help them to rest. But my Heavenly Father, the God of the Universe, who called all of creation into being does not have a magic word to put me to sleep. So here the two of us sit, the Father beside me and I beside my children, being a still small voice inviting them to be at peace.

Friday, April 4, 2008


A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11

This verse came to my attention 2 months ago and I have been struggling over it ever since. At first, I welcomed the verse as confirmation of the need to have self control, even in our grief. I had read books encouraging me to allow myself to grieve completely, to not hold back any emotion. Such counsel seemed wrong and dangerous - should I really be allowed to give full vent to my emotions. I can see it now, plates flying across the kitchen, smashing against the wall. Or driving my van full speed into a light pole - just because that is what I desired to do at the moment. Giving full vent to my emotions would destroy me and my family.

But as I have been thinking about this verse and examining my life, I realize that instead of venting in extreme manners, I am giving full vent to emotion in more socially acceptable ways. I justify eating the whole bag of chips, drinking too many cherry cokes, and staying up way past midnight. All of them justified because "I have been through so much and I deserve this right now, so just leave me alone and let me have this indulgence." And don't try to get in my way as I am pursuing the full expression of my "grief". Just ask my daughters.

I think I understood this verse to a degree, understanding that there is a time and place and appropriate nature for expressions of emotion and grief. But what I missed is that while the wise man holds it back, it doesn't go away. To take this verse alone as the sole counsel concerning grief, anger, and emotion is as foolish as allowing full vent to your spirit. Step one is to have wisdom in holding back at times, but step two, the step I seem to keep missing, is to go to God instead, allowing Him to receive all that my spirit is bearing.

Matthew 11:28-29 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Psalm 119:28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Under All I Say and Do

Following my last post earlier today, I was discouraged. It has been a challenging day- attending the visitation of a stillborn child and learning of the tragic death of a near born child and mother. But shortly after my writing, I sat in my mommy chair for a much needed quiet time and read these words from Streams in the Desert

Just longing, dear Lord, for you,
Jesus, beloved and true;
Yearning and wondering when
You'll be coming back again,
Under all I say and do,
Just longing, dear Lord, for you

Some glad day, all watching past,
You will come for me at last;
Then I'll see you, hear your voice,
Be with you, with you rejoice;
How the sweet hope thrills me through,
Sets me longing, dear Lord, for you.

Yes my grief is a constant undercurrent of my life, a constant longing for my child. But a deeper stronger current flows, my spirit's longing for the Giver of Life. The amazing thing to me is that my desire for the Lord, my longing for Him is strengthened and sustained not by me but by Him. That gives me great encouragement on these difficult days when I really don't know that I can continue on the path He has laid before me, a path to seek out the hurting and bring them the hope of Christ. On days when the pain is overwhelming, His constancy within me is stronger still.

Thank You Lord for your sustaining grace that not only opens the gates of heaven for me but allows me each day to take a simple breath.


Grief is like breathing - a silent undercurrent of every moment of my day and night. Like breathing, my grief often goes unnoticed. I continue through the day, busy in the activities of routine and the chaos of kids. But then for those brief moments when I stop to take a breath or sigh - in those moments my mind invariably becomes aware of my grief. Questions and emotions pass slowly through my mind, almost to the rhythm of my breath. Sometimes I wish that this season would pass, that I could go through a day without the quiet undertone of painful memories. But I am sure a day will come when I realize that Lia has not been on my mind, and I will grieve.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Praise You in this Storm

I heard this song for the first time last Sunday at church. I am glad the music was loud because I am sure my sobbing would have echoed off the cinder block walls. I was so amazed how every line perfectly echoed the words I have cried out to God in the privacy of my home. But after watching the video and hearing the inspiration for the song, I understand why. Click here to watch the live performance and read along with the lyrics below.

Praise You in this Storm, Casting Crowns

I was sure by now, God,
that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone
how can I carry on if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls I barely hear You whisper through the rain "I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls I raise my hands and praise the God who gives and takes away

I lift my eyes onto the hills where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes onto the hills where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

A Wise Woman

Having a daughter in heaven has caused us all to think a lot more, and ask a lot more, about heaven. Kaiden wonders if we need shoes in heaven, she wonders if God makes people be nice to each other, and she wonders how far away heaven is. I do a lot of contemplating too. I wonder if Lia knows her great granparents, I wonder if she can see me, and I often wonder how "old" Lia is now.

You see, I only thought of Lia as a newborn for one day - the single day I was able to hold her tiny hands and feet. Ever since then, I have always seen her as a young lady - full of wisdom and spirit and joy. In a way, I hope she isn't still a baby. God gave her a mind and though it never grew to contemplate the things of this world, I certainly hope that she has the full use of it to praise and enjoy Him in heaven!

Just a few days ago, as I was packing away some of the girls old clothes, clothes that would have been Lia's, I realized that I don't even think of Lia as the baby of the family. Despite her birthdate, it really feels like she is the older sister - years older in fact than Kaiden and Jordan. Oh, I bet she is a woman of great wisdom now! It makes me smile to think that my daughter is already wiser than me! It brings me so much joy to think of her in that way. Isn't that what all parents hope for - for their children to grow in wisdom and someday surpass them?

Lord, I thank You that almost every thought of my daughter brings a joyful smile to my face - that each time I begin to grieve of something lost here on earth, You remind me that every joy of here is a mere shadow of the joys of heaven. Oh Lord You know that I desire my daughters to grow in wisdom and grace, to be beautiful women who glorify You. But any level of wisdom we achieve here is only a seed of the wisdom abounding in heaven. What joy I have that Lia may worship You in spirit and in truth in Your very presence. Thank You Lord for using my sorrows to show me the glory of heaven!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Restless Heart

Oh restless heart - beating against the prison bars of your circumstances and longing for a wider realm of usefulness - allow God to direct all your days. Patience and trust, even in the midst of the monotony of your daily routine will be the best preparation to courageously handle the stress and strain of a greater opportunity, which God may someday send.
-- Streams in the Desert, March 17 reading

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Deep Enough to Dream

There are moments when I am suddenly smacked upside the head with a flashback or memory - moments when I do not want to dwell on the pain. I had one of those moments last night at 1am, while I slept restlessly waiting for my husband to come home from a late flight. In those moments when painful memories become an unwelcomed guest, or when grief simply becomes a bit too much to bear, I listen to a beautiful song from my pregnancy CD - Deep Enough to Dream, by Chris Rice. His words and melody carry me away, first to a quiet sunny porch, then to heaven itself.

Lazy summer afternoon
Screened in porch and nothin' to do
I just kicked off my tennis shoes
Slouchin' in a plastic chair
Rakin' my fingers through my hair
I close my eyes and I leave them there
And I yawn, and sigh, and slowly fade away

Deep enough to dream in brilliant colors
I have never seen
Deep enough to join a billion people
For a wedding feast
Deep enough to reach out and touch
The face of the One who made me
And oh, the love I feel, and oh the peace
Do I ever have to wake up

Awakened by a familiar sound
A clumsy fly is buzzin' around
He bumps the screen and he tumbles down
He gathers about his wits and pride
And tries again for the hundredth time
'Cause freedom calls from the other side
And I smile and nod, and slowly drift away

Deep enough to dream in brilliant colors
I have never seen
Deep enough to join a billion people
For a wedding feast
Deep enough to reach out and touch
The face of the One who made me
And oh, the love I feel, and oh the peace
Do I ever have to wake up

'Cause peace is pouring over my soul
See the lambs and the lions playin'
I join in and I drink the music
Holiness is the air I'm breathin'
My faithful heroes break the bread
And answer all of my questions
Not to mention what the streets are made of
My heart's held hostage by this love

And these brilliant colors I have never seen
I join a billion people for a wedding feast
And I reach out and touch the face of the One who made me
And oh, the love I feel, and oh the peace
Do I ever have to wake up
Do I ever have to wake up

Do I ever have to wake up
Do I really have to wake up now

Monday, March 10, 2008

Our Family Wall

As I sit in my mommy chair, reading and journaling - this is my beautiful view:

It includes pictures of our family, pictures of the girls together, individual pictures of the girls, and a small sculpture of a mother and father holding a baby. The cross is there to remind me that the Lord is always present in our home. I set up this display about 15 months ago, and when I put the sculpture and cross together on that shelf, I remember thinking - that's how it should be, us laying our children before the Lord.

One week before Leah was born, I sat in the mommy chair, looking at the wall and wondering where we would put her pictures. I thought through a new layout for all the frames and looked forward to adding her beautiful face.

A week after Lia died, I sat in the chair again, looking at the wall which would never hold a picture of her. No longer did it matter where she would fit in. Then I realized that she had been there all along. The Lord knew, on that fall day 15 months ago when I hung the photos, before we even contemplated baby #3, to include Lia on our family wall. I thought the sculpture and its placement beside the cross were just symbolic - but that is Lia we are holding. Our little girl who we have loving laid before the Lord.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Peter's Roller Coaster

Apparently, I am not the only Christian who has been taken on a roller coaster ride! I was thinking today about how much Peter must have felt discouraged after the crucifixion. Here he was, picking up his nets and going back to fishing. Three years of miracles, teaching, learning, being encouraged and being rebuked - he had to believe it was leading to someplace wonderful. But instead, after all the pain and sorrow of the Passover night he was back where he started - catching fish.

But that is where the resurrected Jesus came to meet him, preparing for the disciples a skillet of fresh fish! (See John 21)

Roller Coaster seasons of life can be so discouraging - finding ourselves right back where we started with nothing to show for the adventure. But how encouraging to know that Jesus is waiting there, right where we started, to meet us and encourage us. It may look as if nothing has changed, but for Peter, his heart had changed. Jesus used Peter's roller coaster to prepare him. There on the beach, sharing some fish, right back where they started is where Jesus gave Peter the great assignment - "Feed My Sheep". It was because of all Peter learned on the roller coaster that he was prepared to care for the fledgling church.

Lord thank You that the seemingly pointless seasons of life, seasons that only take us right back where we started, are never pointless for You!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Roller Coasters

About one year ago, I strapped in for a ride - the ride of pregnancy with all its twists and tummy churning dives. I assumed that the ride stopped at a new destination - the land of 3. Isn't this how rides in this life are supposed to work - you climb on board for the adventure that takes you to the next season and destination of life. But my ride wasn't a train leading to a destination. My ride was a roller coaster which landed me right back where I started.

I am addicted to change, I love change, I love growing. I go crazy if I don't feel like I am moving forward in life. I thought that this last year was going to be full of change. I expected today to be caring for 3 kids and living in South Carolina. Instead I still have only 2 and am still in Abilene, and I am still staring at the same kitchen wall that I still haven't finished painting. It looks like my year got me nowhere!

But there is much more to growth and change than just moving forward. Yes the roller coaster brings us back to where we started, but we are not the same. Our hair is mess and our faces show the joy, thrill, and fear of the ride.

In those moments when I feel like I haven't moved at all, when nothing has changed, I need to look at who I am, not what or where I am. I am definitely a different person this side of the ride.

Lord thank You that when I feel like I am just spinning circles in the sky, You are still growing and perfecting me! I am so glad that not a day is lost with You! No matter how routine or mundane, every day is opportunity to move forward with You.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Strength to Strength

Ummm... I guess God wasn't done with my fingers yet! Yesterday I was convinced that he was moving me toward a different endeavor, and while I do feel that he is directing most of my energies for a new thing, it doesn't mean that He doesn't still want me, on occasion to continue to share the hopes He shares with me.

Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca [depth of tears], they make it a source of springwater; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings. They go from strength to strength; each appears before God in Zion [heaven]. Psalm 84:5-7

I finished my Beth Moore bible study today (Stepping Up) and she ended with this verse. I have come to love this verse in the past few months because it is my proof that I am not insane! From the moment that I lost my daughter, I have felt a strength and a joy that at first I thought must be due to shock or dilusion. But here it is, penned centuries before, proof that those who trust in the Lord will have strength and will walk from strength to strength on their pilgrimage to Zion.

Being visual, I picture a video game... here I am, Ms. SuperMario Sister, hopping from toadstool to toadstool above a merky pit of goo. I am going from strength to strength! And to add faith to the picture, sometimes I have to hop to the next toadstool before I can even see it. But God is faithful and continues to provide toadstools - rocks of salvation - to keep me above the death of this life.

One thing Beth Moore emphasized in her teaching today is hugely relevant as I write - we are only give the strength and grace necessary to live life one day at a time. That is why we go from strength to strength - from day to day. Many of my friends have expressed that they could never handle the things I have been given to handle in my life, but I can only handle what I have been given because God has provided an appropriate amount of grace for each trial I endure. Do not be afraid of what the Lord may have ordained for your life! God will always supply the strength and grace for each new task, we just simply have to choose to receive it and use it!

Lord thank You that You apportion to us for each day exactly what we need to be strong and victorious in You. Thank You Lord that You do not leave us to flounder in the midst of our suffering. Thank You that with each day You provide a firm place for us to plant our feet on the broken and twisting road of our pilgrimage. Lord I pray that today, for those who are enduring sufferings they could never imagine, I pray that You and Your strength would be abundant and real. Thank You Lord that You came to Earth as a simple human, weak like us, in need of strength like us. Jesus, you lived day to day, strength to strength on the bread of the Word and on the fellowship of prayer with the Father. Help me today to live like You - depending only on the strength of God.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Thank You

I want to say thank you to those who have been reading my thoughts over the past 2 months. I am so thankful that God provided me words for my often seemingly inexpressible thoughts and emotions. I have enjoyed writing and allowing God to work in me and through me as I write.

I believe that the season of this blog is coming to a close. I hope that God allows me the opportunity to write again someday. I will continue to keep this blog online - my prayer is that in months and years to come, others who are grieving may find the hope of Christ here.

O Lord, Father in Heaven, I thank you so much for giving my fingers a place to pour out what my lips couldn't always find ways to speak. Lord I pray for the multitudes who have experienced the loss of a child - O Lord I pray that You would become so real to them - that they may hear Your voice in the silent absence of their child's cries. May they see You and come to know You. May they know the goodness of Your ways and the gentleness of Your voice. Lord surround them with Your loving, comforting presence just as You have surrounded me and all others who suffer grief in this fallen world. I love You Lord, thank You for being Lord of my life and for helping me find life in the midst of death.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Holding What I Have Not Seen

From my marriage, I have learned a lot about God's love for His people. From military deployments and waiting for my husband to come home, I have learned a lot about waiting for Christ's return someday. From Lia, I have learned about Jesus.

For years I have struggled deeply with wrapping my head around the concept of Jesus - fully man and fully God, walking around here on earth. I often wished I was one of the disciples, thinking that somehow being in the daily presence of Jesus would help me believe. I have struggled with this one thought - How do I believe in, talk to, hold to someone I have never seen?

My love for Lia is helping me learn how to love and hold to Jesus. I have never seen Lia's smile or the light in her eyes. I have never heard her voice, her tears, or her laughter. But I know them. I know as any mother would. I hear and see in my heart and in my spirit what my flesh has never and will never know. And my love for her grows each day.

Because of Lia, I feel I am coming to know Jesus better too. Just as it is enough for my heart alone to know Lia, it is enough for my heart alone to know Jesus. I don't need to see Jesus and hear Jesus to love Him because I can come to love Him as I have come to love Lia - with my heart. Yes, my eyes wish they could see them both here on this earth, but with faith the eyes of my heart see clearly.

When I think of Lia, when I see her with my heart - my joy is overflowing. Oh Lord, let me see you with such clarity. I long to see and know you as intimately as I know my own sweet Lia.

I Peter 1:8
and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sharing a Day of Sunshine

My thoughts while listening to one of Lia's Songs (from my pregnancy CD).....

Sunshine -- John Denver

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a day that I could give you
Id give to you a day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
Id sing a song to make you feel this way

If I had a tale that I could tell you
Id tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
Id make a wish for sunshine all the while

There are many days I wish I could share with Lia, today being one of them. It is simply beautiful here today, bright sunshine and all. I think of the songs I would teach her, the stories I would tell her, the games we would play. But if I did have just one day with her, I am sure I would wish for a thousand more.

Lord, thank You that Lia is with You, hearing the songs of Your angels and the stories of Your glory. Lord You know that there are days when my heart aches in missing her. But I thank You Lord that the brightest day of sunshine here on earth is only a shadow of the light of heaven! And I thank You Lord that Lia will know your Sonshine all the while.

Why I Needed a Mentee

I wrote the following testimony for our women's ministry newletter this month

In a mentoring relationship, we often think of the Mentee as the one in need...the one needing a listening ear, the one needing wise counsel, the one needing a prayer warrior. But in this unique season of life, I, the Mentor, was the one in need.

It was clear in October why Katie and I were matched for a mentoring relationship - both with cute little round pregnant bellies (although hers a bit cuter than mine since it was her first). Our ambition was to explore biblical motherhood together as we brought our new babies into the world. But on November 23rd, our relationship took and unexpected turn with a silent ultrasound. My 3rd daughter, Lia, had gone home to be with the Lord. Given the difficult situation, me with no baby and Katie due in just one month, I could have surrendered my responsibilities as her mentor. But I signed a covenant - and as I had just learned in my Covenant bible study (Kay Arthur), we are empowered by God to keep our covenants! I was committed to continuing the relationship through God's strength.

Having Katie in my life has been a tremendous source of healing - from visiting her in the hospital to finally holding her precious son in my arms. Mentoring is often though of as one-sided: you pouring your life into another. But I am so thankful to the Lord for the way He has poured blessings into me. I needed Kaite as my mentee so that in a time of intense grief I could praise the Lord for the miracle of life! My heart was ready to welcome and love my own daughter - and though my daughter has gone home to heaven, God has not left me empty. In His abundant wisdom and goodness He brought Katie and her beautiful son into my life.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hold Me Jesus - miracles #3

For Lia's Memorial service, I designed the programs. It was one of my first ways of finding words for my emotions. I felt great about the layout (I tend to be a perfectionist with design work) but I just couldn't figure out what to do with the front page. I stayed up for hours trying different design ideas, but nothing seemed right. So I left it in the capable hands of our church secretary. I did not see the design until the day of the service, but it was perfect. On the front cover was a watermark pencil sketch of Jesus holding an infant.

Lia was buried in Mark's hometown, and over Christmas we went to her grave for the first time. The funeral home in Nebraska placed a temporary marker at her grave. It included her name, date, our names and....the same sketch of Jesus holding an infant. The funeral home secretary said that it just seemed like the right picture to include. Seeing that same picture gave me an amazing sense of peace. Both here in Texas during the memorial, and there in Nebraska at the grave God was reminding me that she is safe with Him.

I have a "pregnancy and labor" compilation CD full of great music to help me relax. I listened to it daily in the week leading up to what I expected to be a normal birth and I listened to it numerous times after Lia was gone. Included on the CD is one of my Rich Mullins favorites: Hold Me Jesus. Thank You Lord that You held Lia while I held her in my womb. Thank You for carrying her home to be with You.

Hold Me Jesus, Rich Mullins:

Well, sometimes my life
just don't make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus,
'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It's so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

So hold me Jesus,
'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Surrender don't come natural to me
I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I've beat my head against so many walls
Now I'm falling down, I'm falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

So hold me Jesus,
'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won't You be my Prince of Peace

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Before a miracle was even needed, miracles #2

Friday November 16th was my last normal OB appointment. All was well, Lia's heart beating strong - but the Lord was already preparing a miracle to meet our need in her death. On Saturday the 17th, my friend Carolyn was at a wedding and visited with the photographer. They shared with her a ministry they are involved in - bereavement photography. They go to hospitals when infants are stillborn and take professional, beautiful, respectful photos of the infant.

On Friday November 23rd, Carolyn was sitting down at her computer, looking up information about the bereavement photo ministry when she received the email that Lia had died. God laid it on Carolyn's heart to arrange for a bereavement photographer to come to the hospital on Saturday. Carolyn attempted to contact the 2 members of that ministry living in our area, but neither were available.

Friday night, as I attempted to sleep in preparation for the morning induction, a thousand wishes raced through my mind. One was that I wanted to capture pictures of Lia, but I have never been pleased with my camera, and I didn't want to take 70 shots just to find a good one! I thought about how much I wanted my friend Steve, a professional photographer in our church, to take pictures for me. But I couldn't ask him. How could I possibly ask someone to do something so difficult? Though I couldn't ask him, God did....

Carolyn contacted Steve and told him about the bereavement photography. Steve was able to contact one of the experienced photographers who over the phone gave him some suggestions for how to best capture the pictures. I received a call just shortly after Lia was born that Steve and his wife were available to come and photograph our baby.

No one knew my prayer -- I hadn't even told Mark about my desire for Steve to come and take pictures. Only God knew. I am so thankful that God spoke to Carolyn and to Steve, prompting their hearts to serve.

While I cherish my photos of Lia, I am even more overcome that God began this miracle on a day when Lia was still healthy and strong. Yes, we all know and agree that God is in control of all things and knows all things - but sometimes, in our greatest moments of suffering, we need to see that it is true. God knew what was to come and set into motion a miracle before a miracle was even needed.

Lord Father in Heaven, thank You so much for loving us beyond time! Thank You Lord that from the beginning of time You have numbered our days and set forth the path of our steps. Oh Lord, when I see the goodness of Your hand, a hand not bound by the limits or diminsions of this earth, I am strengthened. My feet step surely on the Rock of my Salvation - a rock set before the beginning of all, a rock to climb upon above the crashing waves. My mind cannot contain or even begin to contemplate the enormity of You Lord! Thank You for the simple gift of beautiful photos of my daughter, and Praise You Lord for the miraculous way in which You provided them. You truly are a wonderful Daddy, giving good gifts to Your children.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lia's Feet - miracles #1

"There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world."

Lia is a dancer! I know that because she practiced nearly every fancy step on the inside of my tummy. At about week 34 I was daily in severe pain because her kicking was so intense. It was in the midst of a kickboxing session that I cried out to God to make her stop. He gently said to me, she's not kicking, she's dancing.

Oh how I longed to see those dancing feet of hers! I knew they were big, you could often see the outline of one pressed against my tummy. But when I finally saw them - oh how beautiful! Definitely the feet of a dancer, long, slender and elegant. As I held her little feet in my hands, I longed to hold them forever... I wished I had more than just a picture and an inked footprint, I wanted to place my hand against her toes and feel their shape. As I held her I silently whispered to God how badly I wanted to have an impression of her feet. Just a short while later came the answer to my prayer. A friend from church had a "first handprint" kit delivered to the hospital. The nurses took care of the whole thing for me and now forever more I have Lia's feet and hands to hold in mine. This is just one of several amazing and immediate answers to prayer that we had. I can almost see it clearly in my mind, our sweet Lord, waiting there in my room at my beckoning call, waiting for the next moment of need and then running out to make it happen. But the truth is even better than that - He knew my needs and desires before I even spoke them and was setting out to make my wishes come true, laying on the hearts of others things they could do to serve me. How can I ever be angry with a God so good?

At Lia's memorial service, we closed with the song Fields of Grace by Big Daddy Weave. Yeah, it may seem a little fast paced for a traditional funeral, but it best reflected the truth. As Christians - praise the Lord - we can celebrate, truly celebrate, when one of His children is taken home. Lia is in heaven today, with her beautiful elegant feet, dancing with the Lord in fields of grace!

Fields of Grace:
There's a place that I love to run and play
There's a place that I sing new songs of praise
Dancin' with my Father God in fields of grace
There's a place that I lose myself within

There's a place that I find myself again
Dancin' with my Father God in fields of grace
There's a place where religion finally dies

There's a place that I lose my selfish pride
Dancin’ with my Father God in fields of grace
I love my Father, my Father loves me

I dance for my Father, my Father sings over me
And nothing can take that away from me

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I need a nap

Return to your rest, O my soul,For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. Psalm 116:7

I have been working a little too hard lately - not on my kitchen, or on the den (the carpet will speak for that) - I have been working a little too hard lately in communicating with God. I keep looking for the walls to shake and the booming sound of His voice as He bellows forth wisdom and commands. Oh how I have loved these past months, pouring out my heart before God to a depth I have not known before - pouring out my agony, tears, screams, and cries. I have been speaking, He has been listening. And then there are days when I am overwhelmed with His voice, as he shows me things I have never even contemplated. He has been speaking and I have been listening.

But communication takes effort and sometimes I guess I work a little too hard at it. I stare at the blank page of my journal feeling I ought to write something. I dig through my bible reading feeling I ought to hear something. I fear the silence of not hearing God. I fear the silence of having nothing to say. But maybe, rather than fighting to find a conversation topic He simply wants me to climb into His lap and take a nap.

It's 12:58 here, 2 minutes to our daily quiet/nap time. I could read my bible, my devotional book, or my bible study. I could pour words onto the pages of my journal. But I think today I am going to curl up with my mommy blanket in my mommy chair and simply take a nap. As a friend told me today - take a rest Anissa, you deserve it.

Lord, help me not be afraid of the silence. Help me know that the intimate moments of resting in You are just as vital as the deep moments of conversation and contemplation. Lord calm my mind from wrestling with questions You have choosen to not answer. Lord help me to rest.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Unveiled Joy

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

When Moses went up the mountain to receive the law, the people saw the shroud of cloud and fire - a horrible and frightening sight. But inside the storm, Moses saw God. The same is true for us.

I have a friend who has been diagnosed with arthritis. She is an amazing woman of God and does so much to further His kingdom. Seeing someone so willing to live their life for the Lord suffering and in pain just makes me angry. It makes me question God, question His wisdom for allowing it in her life, question His goodness and protection for those He loves. I see the storm from the outside. But inside the storm, she sees God.

When Lia left our lives, many of my friends expressed shock, anger, and fear at the storm that had decended upon us. But inside the storm, like the eye of a hurricane, we had peace and we saw God. Just like Moses, our faces were shining with joy from experiencing the Lord's presence. It is a great temptation to veil your face, believing that such joy is inappropriate for grief so deep. But the depth of the grief - the intensity of the storm - only intensifies the beauty and glory at the center of it. We must not veil our joy! For the sake of our friends watching from outside, filled with so many questions, begging to know that God is still at the center of it all, we must not veil our joy. When we come forth from our suffering shining with the light of God, it is then that our suffering not only strengthens us but also all who see us!

Watching my friend suffer now is heartwrenching. I cry out to the Lord, begging Him to take her pain away. But on Sunday, she showed me her shining face as she shared the joys of the Lord they are experiencing in the midst of suffering. I needed to see that. I needed to know that God was still at the center!

Lord, God of our storms, thank You that You truly are the center of all things, even our suffering. Thank You Lord that in our suffering we can come to know You because You surround us with an increased measure of Your presence. Thank You Lord that through our suffering we can bring joy and hope to others by sharing with them the shining light of unveiled faces! Lord do not let us be deceived by a culture telling us how we ought to conduct ourselves in grief and in suffering. Let us leap for joy, let us dance in Your presence. For in the center of the storm the songs of heaven drown out the thunder! Thank You Lord today for my friend, for her tender heart, for her willingness to credit You for her strength. Thank You for the testimony of her shining face! Thank You Lord for once again proving Yourself faithful and being the Center of her storm.