Sunday, April 20, 2014

A time to rejoice

There is a lady at my church that has had some interaction with me and my kids away from church. I adore her, she has been a huge blessing to me and my kids. Earlier this week I was caught off guard when talking with her and she said something to the effect of, "It's good to see you smile!" At first I was annoyed. She has spent many hours with me and my children over the past 8 months, many fun and joy-filled days with lots of laughter. Why would she act like she hasn't seen me smile? But as I spent more time pondering what she said, I realized that there was a few month gap between those happier times in the fall and when she spent more time with us again shortly after my recent miscarriage in January. The couple of times she came after that miscarriage I was neck deep in OB appointments, expensive labs to make sure we were doing everything in our power to care for our unborn "neighbors", and trying to discern what we were to do next. I was angry, exhausted, confused, and heart broken.

Today, while commenting on my growing belly, she again said, "You just look SO good. Your color is good, you just look so happy!" I smiled and said, "Thanks, I AM happy."

But later after thinking on it yet some more I realized what I wish I had said both times.

Her: "It's so good to see you smile!"

Me: "Thank you, it feels good to smile again. I know it always makes us happier to see people smile but I also know that my time of mourning and sadness was good and valuable too because God brought me to it. What God ordains is always best."

I was pondering this a lot with Holy Week and, today, with Easter. Easter today is filled with so much joy and laughter for us, but for the disciples and the women, it was like some unbelievable conspiracy come to life! A missing dead body, a strange figure with clothes like lightening sitting on rolled away stone after his in-coming presence quaked the earth, people after their lives while they hid in locked rooms only to have Christ show Himself, feed them, then walk through a wall! I have to imagine amidst the insanity and fear there was a crazy elation and overwhelming joy at what they hoped was coming true before their very eyes.

But faith is not evidenced in emotions.  Mourning is good. Rejoicing is good. But faith is not evidenced in them, it is evidenced in Christ's Body and Blood, in Baptism, in God's Word. I have faith, therefore I go to where God promises to be. Worry about me if I cease to go to God's house, not if I cry or am in a time of mourning. Do not think I do not have peace, or joy, or life, or abundant blessings if I don't smile or if I cry or if I weep. Think I do not have all those things if I cease to be where God has given us Himself. 

I AM happy right now. God has called me out of my time of mourning into a time of rejoicing. The sun is shining and has filled my skin with a radiant (sunburned? ;) glow. My fingers are dirty from sewing new life into the soil both in flower and vegetable form. God has lifted me up from the pit and allowed me to enter back into a time of rejoicing, thanks be to God!

The Contrast of Wisdom and Folly [1] A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. [2] It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. [3] Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. [4] The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. [5] It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. [6] For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity. [7] Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart. [8] Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. [13] Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? [14] In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 ESV)


Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Tonight I attempted a nearly 2 hr long Good Friday service with an 8 yr old boy, a 6 yr old boy, a 4 yr old boy, and a 2 yr old boy....while nauseous. Do you want to know what it's like to do this?

I will try to show you:

It's 2 hours of:

Mom:

"Stand up" "Don't swing on the pew." "Fold your hands" "Whisper" "Don't pick your nose" "Don't swing on the pew" "Sit still" "Sit up" "Put your shoes back on" "It's not your turn to talk" "No singing right now please" "do NOT unbutton your shirt!" "don't swing on the pew" "no, you may not roll up the bulletin into a horn" "stop ticking your brother" "stop making faces at the people behind you" "don't swing on the pew" "do not sit on the hymnal" "do not stand on the hymnal" " stop beating on your bulletin with your pen" "stop stabbing the bulletin with your pen" "don't swing on the pew" "no pushing!" "it's pastor's turn to talk" REPEAT ENTIRE PARAGRAPH EVERY 5 MINUTES.

You would think I'm exaggerating. I assure you I am not. I'm not sure what got into my 4 and 2 yr olds tonight. It could be I let them sample a little too much frosting right before we left for church for the birthday cake for their brother, but even though they were a little more wound up tonight than usual, I found myself wanting to cry out for help from the Lord. I wanted to scream for mercy and help. On top of it my giant 4 yr old wanted to sit on my lap most of the service and I suddenly was so hot I thought I would faint but when I tried to put him down he started screaming his protest.

I assure you my children are disciplined. I love my boys dearly and our days are full of cuddles and Mama love and fun but I also run a tight ship and our long morning devotions give them ample practice for church. They KNOW how to behave. But...they are also 8, 6, 4, and 2. And they are children.

We made it up for communion, somehow, and then returned to our seats. My big man climbed back on my lap and I opened my hymnal while he balanced another on his (my) lap to support his color bulletin.  Though I am a well trained Lutheran, if I am completely honest, my soul was crying out, "Lord, how will I ever show You I love You, how will I ever earn Your love if I can't even think on You or meditate on Your Word or be moved in my thoughts during church because I'm so busy wrangling these monkeys?!" Oh, how I yearn to be able to truly think on my Lord during church!! Then I looked up. We have two pastors at our church and a team of elders that help distribute the Sacrament to a table that is really two tables long. It's a beautiful flow of parishioners filing in behind the table, stepping forward while the next group files in behind them to step forward as they leave and on and on. Well, I looked up and while "Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted" played on the organ and parishioners on the table to the right were being fed, parishioners on the left were looking up at my husband-pastor as an elder held out a freshly refilled tray of the Elements for my husband to speak the Words of Institution over. The altar area where he did it was dimly lit and so much else was going on but in that moment my eyes filled with tears.

Oh how easy Jesus makes it for us! We ran out of communion and in just moments more was prepared. Such simple words that are spoken! How amazing that we humans muddle through, doing the best we can, which isn't much, but Jesus makes it so easy for us to receive Him.

Isn't it funny that of the entire Good Friday chief service, THAT is the moment that would make me cry? But it was so beautiful, so simple, and so completely God providing in such simple, quiet, and efficient way. Not many people probably even noticed we ran out or that Pastor had to pause momentarily to speak God's Word over more elements, but it happened and that's how God is. He saves us when we don't even notice, when we can't notice, when we can't take time to feel Him, and when we are drowning in the work of this world. He comes when no one notices, He dies when no one watches, and He rises, seeks us out, and saves us.

"What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, They pity without end?
O make me Thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
 Outlive my love for Thee."
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded LSB #450, vs 5


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Faith

Once upon a time the theology of glory had crept its way into my definition of faith. The theology of glory likes to do that, especially in America. I once thought that having faith meant staying positive. I thought it meant hoping for the best, that God would give us OUR best. I thought it meant not being pessimistic and expecting blessing.

That is NOT faith. 

Faith is knowing, come what may, that Jesus is still Jesus. 

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

But what are those "things hoped for"? Are they money, riches, a baby, a huge house, success, fame?

Further down in the passage we read:

"Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." (Hebrews 11:35-40 ESV)

Are you in a time of plenty? God is good. Are you in a time of need? God is good. Are you facing illness, persecution, or death? God is good.

Saturday night I experienced the last of my morning sickness. It came to an abrupt end. I was 9 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I knew this was too early for the sickness to end. Sunday came and went, Monday came and went, and by Tuesday morning I knew I needed to call in for an ultrasound. I knew this baby was gone. I didn't feel like doing devotions with the kids but I forced myself remembering that the fiery darts of the devil are so easily extinguished with the Word and hymns. So the kids and I read our readings for the day and then sang "God's Own Child I Gladly Say it", "O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe", and "Lord of our Life". With each hymn I felt my voice singing a little louder and with a little more peace, hope, and reassurance. I did not have faith or hope or reassurance that my baby would live, instead, I had faith and hope and reassurance that come what may, the Lord is with me. Behind me, beside me, within me. And if He leads me to grief, there is nothing I am experiencing that He has not already faced, but without sin.

We got our ultrasound time and I admit I was so sad and downcast. But faith is not defined by countenance but by assurance. And of this I was assured: that Christ always keeps me. Finally we sat face to face with that screen. I held my breath as the wand came to my skin, grimaced, pleaded for mercy regardless, and then beheld God's creation, complete with a flickering heart and wiggling hands and feet. One thing is for certain, this little one is feisty!



For today God has chosen this particular blessing in this particular way because He is God and He has called this good. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness. I do not know what tomorrow holds but I am so thankful that I know my faith is not defined by my definition of blessings, but by God's. Come famine, come pestilence, come persecution, come death, come hardship, come repetitive loss, Jesus is Good and His ways are always, always, for our good, to bring us to our heavenly home.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It's happening

This past week we honored our Abel as we remembered him on his expected due date- 4-8-14. A dear friend and her husband, who we had asked to be the God parents for this child before he died, had a package show up at my door the day before. I waited to open it with my husband that night on the eve of his due date. It was a beautiful gold crucifix. Now we have a crucifix in every room on the first floor. I love it. And now I will always have that crucifix to look at to remind me not only of Christ's sacrifice that atoned for the sins of the entire world, but for my Abel's as well.



After I wrote my last post I spent a long time that evening in prayer confessing all of my fears to God. I didn't try to...piefy (piefy: v. to make pious-OK, yes, I made that up) my prayers but instead just confessed and, with few words, simply asked God to please help me.

I don't know why it surprises me sometimes when He gives me exactly what I ask for in the simplest of ways. I woke up Monday morning and things were different. My fear was gone. poof. I realized it right away, mid-morning, and thanked God for His tender mercy and then got distracted in the first couple days of my week. Tuesday night I realized again how worry free I was and told a couple friends about the wonderful blessing. Then I had a nightmare Tuesday night that I was miscarrying. I woke up and thought it was real, thought I was covered in blood, and then the worry came crashing back. I immediately got onto my knees and confessed it all again, once again asking God to have mercy on me and help me in my meager faith. By mid morning I was once again fear-free.

It's not that I don't know I could still lose this baby. I'm not naive nor does being worry free mean bad things won't happen. It's just that I have met death face to face 6 times in my own body. The Lord saw fit to allow us a long year of very intimate and isolating grief. This cross the Lord mercifully allowed in our lives may or may not be over, but it doesn't matter ... the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed me and atoned for my sins, atoned for the sins of this child as well. This baby is bathed in God's Word each and every day and, come what may, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Lord, I am yours, save me.

Tomorrow I turn 9 weeks pregnant. Happy 9 weeks Genesis Hope. xo- we love you sweet baby.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stuck where I don't want to be

This morning in church just a couple words into the Old Testament reading for the day I had tears streaming down my face. It was the beloved passage in Ezekiel of the valley of the dry bones. When I was pregnant with Anastasia's dead body I read that passage out loud every day in faith that if the Lord wanted to He could raise my baby back to life.

The New Testament reading was the raising of Lazarus. Enter more tears.

It's strange being in the season of Lent at a different time of the year because I will always associate Lent now with finding out our baby was dead right before Ash Wednesday and then going through the first week of Lent plus a little of the next waiting to birth her, and then giving birth and waiting the rest of Lent to be able to bury her body because the ground was frozen. Now I'm in the season again but of course past all the dates of those events. Instead of being so close to Easter and finally being able to put flowers on my baby's grave, I'm waiting for the week after Easter when we are hoping to hear a heart beat on doppler. It was that 12 week appointment with our Anastasia where the doppler gave us nothing but stark silence.

It's an agonizing wait. I'll be brutally honest and say that even though I know I will be OK either way, by the grace of God, this wait, this not knowing, is torture. Every day I look for blood. Every time I'm not nauseous I worry. Every time I'm too nauseous I worry. I can't think about November or birth or feeling baby kick or newborn diapers or bringing up the maternity clothes or asking my neighbor for my arm's reach cosleeper back, because I don't believe any of it will be necessary/will happen.

If it weren't for Anastasia's death, I might not feel this way, but when a pregnancy is going textbook and one day, at 12 weeks for no apparent reason your baby dies...well, life doesn't feel like black and white anymore. Life in the womb seems like this grey area that can just slip away at any given moment. I suppose this is plenty true of life on earth too, but at least on earth we can usually point to a cause.

Back when I had my ultrasound with Anastasia we thought we had evidence of something drastically wrong with her. If you look back at my post around Feb 6 of 2013 where I show the ultrasound picture there was what looked like a "bubble" coming off of her head. The ultrasound tech assumed it was a head malformation that had caused her death. But when she was born, there was no sign of it and her head and face were perfect. We think whatever we saw was probably remaining yolk sac instead of a malformation.

I don't know how long Genesis will be with us. I don't know if her earthly life will only exist in the womb. I know no matter what I love and adore this child and am blessed beyond words to be this child's mother and protector for now. But this waiting time in pregnancy reminds me of what it's like to be stuck in grief.

I don't want to be here, but sometimes in life we have no choice. We don't choose grief and loss and death, it is simply the reality of existence in a fallen world. We cannot lift ourselves out of grief. We cannot choose for it to end. Only God, only our Lord Jesus Christ can lift us up in due time. In His time. And that is good. So very good. These inner workings in my body are not mine to know for now. They are Christ's.

So here I am. I'm in this strange existence between joy and grief. On the one hand I still miss my babies in heaven dreadfully and cry for the children that have all been housed in my body the past year. On the other, I think about this child that might still be alive in my womb right now, maybe even starting to move those tiny hand and feet plates that should be forming, and I smile a private small smile and pray so fervently for this child. I read God's Word out loud and sing God's hymns and read the Catechism out loud and receive God's body and blood, but then I must wait. Even if I had an ultrasound every week that doesn't mean that a day later my baby wouldn't die. So, I must just wait. And wait. And pray the day will come that I can actually feel this baby kicking and squirming inside of me. But then there's always still waiting and praying. And even if this child is granted an earthly life, there is still waiting and praying as the child grows and changes and lives.

Whether or not I parent this child here, the reality is, these children belong to the Lord. This is the walk we are called to as parents, as humans. We are not our own, we are the Lord's, as are our children, and so we wait. We wait and pray and keep our eyes on the horizon. He IS coming back. So in the mean time we muddle through as best we can. Our lives may be full of weeping and mourning, laughter and play, feasting and fasting, rest and sleeplessness, illness and health, isolation and company. We, by the grace of God, take it as it comes, do our best to strengthen our weak knees for this walk, but know all along that Christ goes before us, behind us, and within us.

O Little Flock, fear not the foe,
Who madly seeks your overthrow,
Dread not his rage and power,
and though your courage sometimes faints,
his seeming triumph o'er God's saints,
lasts but a little hour.

As true as God's own Word is true,
Not earth nor hell's satanic crew,
against us shall prevail,
their might? A joke, a mere facade!
God is with us, and we with God,
our victory cannot fail. (LSB vs 1,3 #666)

Christ keep us.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Big Picture




Yesterday morning I woke up in one of those confused stupors where I couldn't remember what day it was or what I needed to be doing and in those moments I forgot that I am pregnant. I sorted out things I knew until I was back in the present and then, once I remembered that I am pregnant, I also realized how 100% pregnancy absorbed I have been over the past few weeks. Obviously, this is understandable for someone that has been pregnant 6 times in a little over a year. And yet, waking up momentarily "not pregnant", also gave me a little glimpse at all the other things going on in my life right now that need my focus while this baby really does not as much. One of my sons is about to turn 6 this month and, of course, we also have Holy Week and Easter just a few short weeks away. My in laws are visiting later this month and then next month we have a Pastor's conference to attend and I have a church event to hostess. As the calendar moves on, we have more things filling it than open space and it has brought me back to more of a focus on what I have at this moment, not what I hope will be.

Right now little Genesis is tucked inside me hopefully all safe and sound. We pray daily, multiple times a day, as a family, for our sweet baby. And yet, there's also the reality that though this baby has been given into my body, he or she has not yet been given into my arms. So, I do what I can for this child: rest, try to eat through the all day nausea, and get moderate exercise, but, with warm weather approaching and a garden needing planting, well, I suppose there's only so much looking down one can do before you have to look up at the bigger picture.

Friday, March 28, 2014

lil Genesis grows

Today I got to see a living baby on ultrasound. I had a couple little scares this week that warranted a nurse to schedule a same day ultrasound this morning and by 1pm my husband and I were driving over. My heart was pounding and I was terrified. I tried to think what to pray and what to think but found myself humming "Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me?" over and over softly. I comforted myself with a sweet sister's words today that so often we are tempted to hold God to our own parameters for how we want to be blessed and in what time frame rather than realizing the ways God has chosen to bless us. I reminded myself that God has chosen to bless us in the past in one way but that does not mean He will choose that for us now.

My husband and I made our way to the waiting room and cracked little jokes. Then we hugged and my husband prayed. He didn't say "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." as he normally does, instead he started his prayer as if he was in the middle of a prayer. I think he was. And is. He's a great guy, my husband.

We went back to joking little sweet jokes and then my husband told me, "I think this baby is OK." He smiled gently and then we were called back.

I liked the technician right away. She was young but tall, pretty, and extremely open as far as what we were doing. She was talkative but not overly. We started with the abdominal ultrasound and I told her how far along I was. She positioned the wand with the new warming gel that is so awesome and I held my breath. I hate those moments where you see womb but not the black hole of the sac and baby. But suddenly there was the sac...was it empty? For a moment I thought it was. She zoomed in and suddenly there was something...zoomed in more and then a flicker. A fast flicker. :) My baby had a beating heart. I cried. And laughed. And I shook the ultrasound. Finally we switched to internal in order to get the heart rate and date the pregnancy. We got a closer look and could just make out arm and leg buds and I thought I saw the slightest wiggle in them. The heart thundered at 132 bpm and the yolk sac was nice and big. Though my LMP dates the pregnancy at 6 wks 4 days, the ultrasound and my own foreknowledge of when the baby was conceived dated the baby at 7 wks. Right on date.

Today felt like stepping out into the sun on the beach. My happy place. Today God chose this particular blessing in this particular way for whatever reason and we are overjoyed. We don't know what the future holds, what form God's blessings will or will not take, but always, always, Jesus is still Jesus and we always have Him where He promises to be: Baptism, His Supper, His Holy Word, and Confession and Absolution.

Thank you Jesus for our sweet Genesis and for all 11 of our children. To God be the glory forever and ever.