Friday, August 26, 2016

When Worship Rips Your Heart Out

I am 38 weeks pregnant with our fourth boy. In August.  In Dallas.  I'm hot, swollen, tired, and addicted to Tums.  I think God makes the end of pregnancy utterly miserable as a grace to women so we won't be so terrified of labor.  Even so, we are excited to meet our newest little gentleman and welcome him into our home.  We can't wait to see if his cheeks are really as fat as they looked on the last ultrasound, if he has the Hoff nose, and I have one son in particular who's dying to know if his newest brother will match his straight hair or the curls of the other two.

Two weeks feels like too long to finally get to greet this gift God is giving our family.

As I waddled around the house this morning trying to get my husband and Boy #1 out the door for school a song came on my husband's phone.  I hate this song.  I skip this song every time.  It's a beautiful song, and up until this morning I haven't been able to stand it.  It's a worship song, taken straight from Scripture, and it fills my heart with pain every single time I hear it.

But in the hustle of this morning I forced myself to sit and listen.  I'm 38 weeks pregnant.  I needed to hear it. I needed to face this battle head-on.

You see, the words to this song flood my heart with gut-wrenching memories of our last year.  A very painful year.  A year where we saw many things that we held dear get flipped around or lost altogether.  A year where we saw God's mighty hand of faithfulness sustain us, but needing His faithfulness stung.  Deeply.

Part of that painful year happened last May when we miscarried.  It was early in the pregnancy, it was an unexpected pregnancy, but our hearts yearned for the life that was lost.  We named our baby Micah, which means "Who is like the Lord?" and we chose these verses as a tribute to him or her.

Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
How unsearchable His judgments, His paths beyond tracing out.
"Who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been His counselor?
Who has ever given to God that God should repay Him?"
For from Him and through Him and to Him are everything.
To Him be the glory forever!  Amen.
          ~Romans 11:33-36

From Him comes every gift.
Through Him comes every joy.
To Him belongs every thing.
Everything.  Including our Micah.

We've known all our lives that everything we have comes from God and everything belongs to God.  As parents we have constantly laid our children before God to do with as He willed.  But when it came to losing our precious baby - so soon after loving it - we understood on a new level what it means to truly live in submission to God.  To treat things like they belong to Him.  To treat Him like He truly can do whatever He chooses with "our" life. To submit and respond to that in worship, not in anger or bitterness.

Worship means bowing down before someone to show their honor and our humility.  And sometimes that hurts really, really badly.

I am so excited about this new baby.  I can't believe God has given us another life to nurture.  I can't wait to kiss his tiny fingers and smell his dark hair in just a couple of weeks.  But my heart is filled with a pain that is hard to explain.  I want my baby back.  I wanted to kiss his fingers.  I wanted to smell her hair.  I wanted to know if he was a he or a she and if they had the same Hoff nose.

But from Him, and through Him, and to Him are everything. And although that hurts - still, a year and a half later - I believe it now more than ever.  My life is humbly bowed down before Him.  These children are not my own. This life I've built is not mine to do with as I please.  I live for more.

God's glory is at stake here.

My heart breaks today for my baby Micah.  I will probably never understand why God took what was His so soon.  And mixed in the joy of welcoming Josiah in a few weeks is a bitter longing for the baby that would've made this little one's life impossible.  It's confusing.  It's hard.  It hurts to think about.

But to God be the glory forever! Amen.

So I listened to the song today and let it ruin my morning.  Then I listened to it again, and again, and again after my guys were out the door.  I wept.  I broke.  I wrote my thoughts out.  And I worshiped God.  I gave Him what was His.  And it hurts.  And I hope He gets glory, because sometimes worship is really hard to do.

Here is the song that ruined my day in a painfully beautiful way.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

An Ever-Steady Shadow

Yes, it was technically 25 minutes earlier than his bedtime, but I decided to put my two-year-old (and the rest of us) out of his misery a bit early tonight.  As he collapsed in a limp, defiant puddle on the floor just outside of his bedroom I asked him if he wanted to sing.  With the holidays and visitors the last few weeks we've been out of our bedtime routine, and I suspected he would welcome a snuggle and a song.  I was right, and he perked up immediately and came running.

It was one of his more tender moments today, to be sure.

I gathered my little fleece-laden sweetness into my arms and started swaying in his dark room as I tone-deafly sang an old favorite.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, My Father!
(he starts mumbling a toddler version of the lyrics)
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
(His head pops up and he points to our shadow on the wall made by the night light. "Yes, that's right!  Shadow!" I naturally keep watching our shadow as we sing.)
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not.
(Our shadow-selves sway back and forth, looking more like one melted being rather than two separate entities.)
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
("Yeah, I caught it, God.")

Today is January 2.  A new year.  A new start. And already things have popped up that are making my blood pressure spike.  So much for easing our way in, huh.

Last year was a really tough one.  The kind where the first thing you say to your husband in the morning on New Year's Day is "Well, Babe, we survived 2015."  We had more challenges, new challenges, bitter challenges last year than I would call "fair", and through it all God proved Himself faithful time and time (and time a thousand times) again.

Back to the song.  The line "there is no shadow of turning" has always made me think of Indiana Jones.  (Hang with me here.)  Remember when Indy and his dad were riding on the blimp away from Germany, but then the shadows start moving around the room, and they realized they were headed in the opposite direction?  It was the turning shadows that clued them in they had to hightail it out of there.

But there is no shadow of turning with God.  He never does that.

Instead, like my shadow with my cranky baby, He sways back and forth, holding us tight, and making it hard to see where His arms end and our life begins.  He is so faithful.  Always faithful.  He has always been, and He always will be.  His shadow will never turn around.  He will never lead us the wrong way.  And His gentle arms will never let us go.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Something Special

"Are you celebrating anything in particular tonight?"

It was such a simple question, but I could not find the right words to answer her.  It felt like an eternity that I stared at her blankly, though I'm sure it was only a short breath.  My mind was swirling.

"Why would she ask that?  They never ask that!  How does she define 'celebrate'? 'Commemorate', sure, but this is not really a 'celebration'. Why won't he answer? Would you call this a celebration, Babe? I guess we're kind of celebrating something.  Kind of.  But celebrations are happy. And I'm not."

"Just a date," I finally responded with a forced smile. I felt guilty, as if I had lied to our poor waitress.  That dear girl had no idea what she was asking.

"Of course, she had to ask that tonight," I said to Nate after she took our drink orders.  "I know," he responded. 

We both stared at the table and subconsciously fingered our rings.

It was our first date in months.  We both dressed up.  We picked a nice restaurant. He even opened the door for me. 

Special - that's the word for it!  Not a "celebration", but it was a very special night.  It was our Micah date.

A few weeks earlier Nate surprised me by ordering some new rings for both of us with our sweet baby's name engraved in them.  "Our baby can't be in any of our family pictures," he said, "but at least this way Micah can be represented in them."  What a beautiful, sweet, tangible way to honor our beloved baby whom we had lost.

We waited weeks for them to be finished, and as soon as he got the call we arranged for childcare and made the plans for our evening of honoring our precious Micah.  We went to the jeweler and picked up our treasures and headed to dinner.

Our hearts were heavy as we put the rings on our fingers.  We would so much rather have our baby's tiny fingers wrapped around our own than this cold metal.  We would rather call our baby's name than read it etched in gold. As much as we love to see the ring and think about the sweetness of being Micah's parents, it pains us to feel the ring when we hold hands knowing it's merely a symbol of our baby because we can't hold our baby itself.

I want morning sickness more than a fancy dinner.  I wish with all my heart I was still preparing for sleepless nights with a newborn.  I would rather the maternal fear of what could happen to my child instead of grief over what has already taken place. I would rather have Micah than my ring.

But I treasure this ring. I treasure my husband's heart behind it. It's hard to look at it and "celebrate", but oh, how special it is to me.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

32 Days

“Hi Abby, this is Becky from Dr. Melamed’s office. I am just calling to let you know that we got the results of your MRI and everything was completely normal.  If you could just call me back and let me know that you got this message that would be great.  Thank you so much! Bye bye!”

That lady’s sweet southern voice handed me some of the most welcome, relieving news.  Fabulous!  So my “weirdness”, as we had come to call it, wasn’t stemming from my brain, after all. I still didn’t know why I had been having shooting pains in my arms and legs, numbness, and tingling skin, but at least it’s not a brain tumor.  So on that Monday morning we tried to put some pieces together – “Why have I had a migraine for five days – so bad I can’t lay my head on a pillow without squirming in pain? Why have I been throwing up for a week straight? Why did I almost pass out?  Why is my heart racing?”

So we took the test. And it said “pregnant”. And I sat there, utterly shocked.  

Because we hadn't figured out my “weirdness” yet, this is exactly what we were trying to avoid! "I still don’t know what's causing all these weird problems with my body, and now I’m pregnant?  Are you kidding?!" I laughed that “total disbelief” kind of laugh.  I stared blankly for a few minutes, shaking my head every now and then.

But then, the smiles came.  The excitement swelled.  We were having a fourth!  A fourth! God is nuts!  And awesome. And generous.

We recorded it on my phone when we told the boys.  *gasp* “I hope it’s a girl!  I really want it to be a girl,” Judah shouted while he danced on the bed.  “A baby?” asked Desh, totally confused.  “A new baby?  Not Jordan any more?” “A whole new one!” I said.  Oh, our family was overwhelmed with this totally unexpected joy.

For the next four weeks I threw up more times and in more places than I have in the rest of my life combined.  I had headaches and nausea all through our move to a new house.  Nate took care of his sick wife while finishing up his PhD work for the semester and the school year at work.  It was crazy. And we were thrilled…


What was the date of your last period?” she asked me again. I told her, again.  She studied the screen.  She was quiet. And I knew.  “Well,” she finally said, “the date you’re telling me isn’t lining up with what I’m seeing here.” Either I was wrong on the date or this “isn’t going to be a successful pregnancy,” as she put it.

Not a “successful pregnancy” – i.e. my child, whom God had formed in my womb; whom, from the moment of conception, had all the DNA it would ever have; whose 6.5-week-old body was just beginning to develop a nose, ears, and mouth... My child had died.

My husband and I firmly believe that life begins at conception.  The fact that it died before it even took a breath does not change the fact that it was a person.  This was not “tissue” that needed to be removed, this was a human life, made in the image of God, and it was our fourth child.

It’s hard to explain to a 3 and 5-year-old that something is now dead that they never saw alive.  And do they really know what “dead” means?  All they know about death is that bugs can still twitch after they die and animated monsters and cheetahs die in movies.  They’ve never witnessed the loss of human life.  But Nate and I felt the sharp pain of loss.  We grieved our child like we would our others.  Was it our fourth son, or our first daughter? 

We miss our baby whose toes we’ll never tickle, nose we’ll never wipe, voice we’ll never hear make a ridiculous knock knock joke.  We’ll never watch him or her cry over hurt feelings, we’ll never witness a graduation or a basketball game, we’ll never dance all crazy to Disney songs or slowly at a wedding. We will never even see our baby with our eyes…not here, anyway.  Our child was only alive on this earth for 32 days or so, but we know that “a person’s a person no matter how small,” and we loved that person with all our hearts.

So we named our sweet little precious one.  Our fourth beloved child is called Micah: “Who is like God?”

It was not our plan to get pregnant when we did.  It was not our plan for our baby to die after just 32 days of life.  It’s never our plan to lose something precious and to experience the grief that follows.  But in this life we will lose many things that are precious, and we will break over it.  We will cry and we will mourn and we will feel the pangs of death because this world has been so broken.  And we will likely never understand why a good God would create a life and allow it only 32 days.  But God is good.  Always, He is good. Nothing is beyond His control.  His hands hold the entire world, and at the same time they catch our tears.  He is near to the brokenhearted, and He is so, so faithful.  Who is like God?

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been His counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever!  Amen.
~Romans 11:33-36

We love you, Micah baby.  Mommy and Daddy and your brothers can’t wait to hold you! Someday.