Today, is October 15th, 2017. I thought I would share a bit about our story.
We have one beautiful daughter, Olivia, who just turned six. Jeff and I have been married for ten years. I wouldn’t change anything about our life is what most people would say and though I wouldn’t trade our lives… we are missing people from our family.
Olivia could have had an older brother or sister, but we never got to meet that sweet baby. Saw their heartbeat and then we didn’t. I had surgery a few weeks later, which happened to be the week before Christmas. Whew, that was a rough holiday. That spring we moved to Mobile, AL, and Jeff started his journey to achieve his degree in Worship Leadership from the University of Mobile.
My second pregnancy was Olivia, who entered into our lives in a miraculous way while we were at college and I’ll never forget the moment we heard her heart beat. A breath of life was given to my dry bones that ached from the loss of our first child.
Our third pregnancy surprised us while Jeff was away at summer camp leading worship for the youth. Olivia was almost three and couldn’t read so I went to grab a “Big Sister” shirt for her to wear when we face-timed him. The joy was overwhelming. We shared the news with our closest friends at the camp and settled the news close to our chest. That joy was short lived as I started to lose the baby two weeks later.
In the midst of these two valleys, Jesus met us. He was with me in my tears, anger and numbness. He spoke to my tender heart through worship songs, friends and scripture. Jesus still does.
Last November, I experienced a more physically tragic loss. After years of praying for another baby, we celebrated the unexpected news but couldn’t take a deep breath just yet. Our first ultrasound said we were too early and a few weeks later we knew something wasn’t right. My pain escalated and I was in surgery within six hours of walking through an ER door the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We were concerned for my life and processed the loss of yet another child again over the coming months.
Today, is October 15th, 2017. It’s known as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Truth is, I’ve never celebrated it. Maybe I shared something a few years ago or thought it was nice that someone posted about it but it never meant anything to me.
Our house could have one eight year old, a three year old and a three month old in addition to our sweet Olivia. It is a crazy alternate life my mind drifts to every blue moon.
Now, don’t get any ideas because we love our tiny tribe.
What I don’t love is the crazy train I board every so often… It’s like having a subscription to something you forget about until you see there have been three charges. I start taking a few pregnancy tests a week and maybe even buy them in bulk from Amazon. They are negative but surely it is because they are broken. So, I test again. Still broken. And so the cycle goes until I jump off at a stop. Over the last year, I’ve found the more I talk about our losses, the more I hear from others who are struggling with the grief of a miscarriage but have no one to talk to. I don’t pretend to know what your story of grief is, nor do I compare and say I wish I had your story or that you should walk in our shoes. I do know that our story isn’t finished and after a day (that will be saved for a book one day) this week, I am thankful that we’ve had great loss. I am thankful that in my weakness God always shows up. I’m thankful for the negative months that force me to recall God’s past faithfulness. I’m thankful that He is capable of my questions and that it doesn’t make me less of a Christ follower. I’m thankful that in my moments of despair and heartache I’m never alone. I’m thankful that my daughter tells me she dreamed about me having another baby and that allows us to talk about God’s faithfulness no matter the outcome. I’m thankful that our family may indeed be complete this side of heaven and it is well with my soul because I practice what I preach.
I trust Him.
I’ll confess, it isn’t what I sometimes think it should look like. In fact, I was most recently convicted about what part I may have played in the days leading up to His crucifixion based on my fickle heart’s responses at times. Grace. Thank God for it.
You may prefer, but I’m not normally one for the Message’s paraphrase version of scripture, but after speaking to one of my closest friends this week she shared this with me…
“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 MSG
I had to find some humor here because what she couldn’t have known is just hours before while laughing at myself, I shifted my perspective yet again on my grief and thought, “Thankfully, God won’t waste this. He won’t fail to come to my aid. He continues to mold me and shape me through each valley or each wave of grief. I am weak but He is strong.”
Not even two hours later, I stumbled across this John Piper article to a mother who lost a child. This description of grief struck me in a profound way that I’ve been desperate to receive;
And amputation is a good analogy. Because unlike a bullet wound, when the amputation heals, the arm is still gone. So, the hurt of grief is different from the hurt of other wounds. There is the pain of the severing, and then the relentless pain of the gone-ness. The countless might-have-beens. Those too hurt. Each new remembered one is a new blow on the tender place where the arm was. So, grieving is like and unlike other pain.
There is a paradox in the way God is honored through hope-filled grief. One might think that the only way he could be honored would be to cry less or get over the ache more quickly. That might show that your confidence is in the good that God is and the good that he does. Yes. It might. And some people are wired emotionally to experience God that way. I would not join those who say, “Oh, they are just in denial.”
But there is another way God is honored in our grieving. When we taste the loss so deeply because we loved so deeply and treasured God’s gift — and God in his gift — so passionately that the loss cuts the deeper and the longer, and yet in and through the depths and the lengths of sorrow we never let go of God, and feel him never letting go of us — in that longer sorrow he is also greatly honored, because the length of it reveals the magnitude of our sense of loss for which we do not forsake God. At every moment of the lengthening grief, we turn to him, not away from him. And therefore, the length of it is a way of showing him to be ever present, enduringly sufficient.
I’m not sure where you are in your grief story or if you even have one. I’m not sure if you’ve lost a child that never had a name or one who you’ve kissed while tucking them to sleep. Maybe you said goodbye to a parent or a friend before they were old and grey. But I know that our story isn’t complete and because I’m living that and breathing the grace and truth God has for me, I’m also here to tell you that your story isn’t complete. Loss won’t be the only thing that defines you. You will have days of high mountain tops and possibly stay longer than you wanted in a valley. No matter what anyone says, That’s okay. Keep your eyes and heart on Jesus. He will be with you every step of the way.
Today, I’m not crying in a valley, I have tears of thankfulness rolling down my cheeks on a mountain top thinking to myself that our family is complete, we just aren’t all completely here. Levi Lusko’s book Through the Eyes of a Lion paints a beautiful image of his daughter Lena being in Heaven while the rest of the family is still on earth with Jesus as the connecting factor. The gospel truth that is in that imagery is so beautiful. I’ve linked the book and the article below if you are in need of prayer or encouragement, I’d love to hear your story you can email me AT firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot me a DM on Instagram @jesshendersonphoto. You aren’t alone.