December 10, 2012

In The Land of The Living

It’s Christmastime and my mind keeps wandering to death.

I should be thinking about baby JESUS born in a manger and being born the hope of the world, but instead I keep thinking about death.  

The death of my six babies and the death of a dream that I had to be a mom in the ways I wanted to be a mom.

I hate death.  If I could, I would spit in its face and send it to its own grave.

Needless to say, going back to counseling has been a needed way to spend my time.  Each time I go I ask the question, “Is this normal?”  And each time Roger says, “It’s normal for you.”  He reminds me that this journey is complicated and taxing and could destroy the faintest of hearts.  

So often I would like for nothing more than to melt into my own tears.  To not feel.  To not know loss on such a level as this.  To walk away- not from my life- but from the pain of it all.  To lock it up in a box and sink it to the bottom of the ocean.  To wake up one day and not have a thought of death and go to bed the same night thinking only of life. of babies who live.

Right now I wish I could fast forward through this part of life.  I want to be out of the baby-making, family-building season and I want to know where GOD will land us in this area of life.  I want what feels so present and raw now to be distant and dulled like I hope it will then.

Through all of our losses, I have come to find that suffering is not equally distributed and that grief is a bittersweet way to connect with my LORD on a very intimate level. 

It’s not what I was hoping for and it certainly was not anything I was looking for, but here I am.  

I am in the land of the living amidst my thoughts of death.  And every year and month and week and sometimes day, I am learning what it looks like to walk in the land of the living while I mourn. to feel in the land of the living while I wish I could go numb. to have joy in the land of the living while my heart is breaking.

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  
Psalm 27:13

December 3, 2012

Our Sixth Glory Baby

Dear Baby,

It’s been almost two weeks since you were due to be here.  As I was busy in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day, I thought of you.  I could not help but think how much I wish I was laid up in a hospital somewhere reveling in your arrival and not thinking at all about food or table settings.

If there was a hallway that ran from my heart to my mind, it would be worn with thoughts of you. I do believe that one of the hardest points about being here without you is finding the time and space to grieve you.  Because all I wanted to do that day- and the days since- is stop doing all that is expected or needed of me and grieve you.

And to grieve this body of mine that continues to fail me.  If I were not grateful for my eyes to see, my arms to hold, my ears to hear, and all of the other things GOD has granted me, I would condemn this body and wish to see it go.

But I want you to know that even in your death I have seen the goodness of GOD.  For HE has not been slack in HIS promises to make much of HIMSELF while working for my good.  

I found my voice after you left and while I am still learning how to use it, so much good has come in the aftermath.  

Nearly two years ago, I began to piece together thoughts on who GOD is in my suffering and grief.  All that time I went back and forth on those thoughts- tweaking them here and there but still not sure how or when they would be used or shared.  And then after we lost you, I was flooded with GOD’s truth about HIMSELF and the words poured out of me until there was nothing left to be said.  Nothing left to write.  Nothing left to question or wonder about.  Those thoughts became the message I got to share with a room filled with women who were panting to know GOD’s goodness.

The week we lost you, we invited friends to come and sit with us and so many times they would say to us “There is so much peace in this place.”  How strange to find peace in the darkest of hours.  But I felt this peace too.  It did not make sense to me, but I was thankful for the gift of it.

I marveled to so many how good GOD was to me in the timing of losing you.  HE knew that my heart- and my faith- could not stand up to the despair that came had we lost another baby soon after a fifth.  HE knew that I would need the time to become well-acquainted with who HE is in our suffering so that when we did lose you, I could only point myself and others back to the truth of who HE is, even in the midst of our loss and despair.

I am more broken because of you.  And I am less hopeful because of you.  But I have tasted and seen more of my FATHER’s goodness because of you.

You have changed me.  For better or worse, I am not the same me I was nine months ago.  

Christmas will be here soon and while many will not know, I will know that you were supposed to be here with us.  

And I will wish that you were.

I always will.

With abiding love for you,

November 9, 2012

Dear Infertility

Dear Infertility,

It’s been three years since I met you and I have come to find that you are a strange friend.  I feel so conflicted about meeting your acquaintance- most days I wish I had never met you and then there are moments when I am thankful for all the things you have brought to my life.

Because of you, I have heard the silence of family who do not speak of my losses or the difficulty of walking this road day in, day out.   But because of you, I have felt the comfort of strangers who talk about my losses and their words have been a healing balm.  Like the lady who looked like Mary Kay Ash with bright pink lipstick and pulled me aside at an event and told me she was praying for me and that she saw my mother’s heart when I spoke of my babies.

Yes, because of you, strangers feel like family and family feels like strangers....

To read the rest of my post, head over to the Bevy Blog where I’m guest writing today!

October 25, 2012

Hard Days

I get asked the question “How are you doing these days?” a lot.

I have to be honest and say that most of the time I just gloss over the truth of how I am doing because 1) most people do not want to take the time to listen; 2) some really do not want to hear the honest truth; and 3) I don’t like talking about my sadness and losses with just cheapens my experience and that bothers me.

Oh gosh, I can imagine it’s so hard to be on the other side of someone like me.  You don’t know what to say (usually just saying “I’m sorry” suffices) and you’re afraid to say something wrong (believe me, I heave heard it all...the only wrong thing you can say is “I understand what you are going through” when, in fact, you don’t).  

But I am thankful for the few close friends I have who will enter into my emotion by listening to me no matter what state I am in, which these days has been mostly angry sprinkled with tears.

I am in a hard season right now and have been having more bad days than good.  I try my best to stay on the sunnier side of things, but between the fact that I do not have a bent toward sunny outlooks and the reality of our circumstances, it’s easy to sit under a cloud and wait for more rain to come.

My sixth due date is coming up in just about 4 weeks and I can’t help but lament for my baby.  The time has gone by so quickly and it’s hard to imagine that we would have been getting ready to bring a baby home.  

The holidays are approaching and I always associate holidays with children.  

The three year mark of us trying to have a family is coming up in a couple of weeks.  Never in a million years would I have ever thought that three years from then we would still be in the same place as we are now.....only with more losses and less hope.

I feel left out.  I am at a stage in life where nearly all of my peers/friends have children and since we do not, there is a lot that we miss out on- parties, outings, conversations, you name it.  I am becoming more and more aware of this.  I guess I feel irrelevant- infertile and irrelevant.  I know that’s a lie (well, the infertile part isn’t) but it’s one that I am having a hard time not believing.

And this one is hardest and hurts the most- sometimes I feel so sad for my husband that he may never be a father to a child he can hold and talk to.  I hate that my body won’t allow us to bring a baby home.  I see how hurtful this experience can and has been for him since men are often forgotten in this journey and so few of them have the experience of friends truly entering into their sorrow.

I don’t like how tritely what we are going through is sometimes treated, like we did not get into the school we wanted and can always try for another one.  We may not have children, people.  That’s a big deal.  It’s a game-changer.  It’s a life sentence.

And I don't like it when others assume to know everything of how we are doing, what we are doing, what life is like for us, or how we are processing all of this just because they read this blog.  

There is a lot that I do not share on this blog (especially the medical parts) and what I do share is a glimpse into our journey that I feel led to share with the hopes that it may encourage, normalize, or educate someone.  

To that end, if you do read my blog and have along the way sent an encouraging note or made a comment, thank you.  I always appreciate your words and prayers.

So where is GOD in all of this?

HE is right in it with me.  I don't have to pretend with HIM because HE knows how I am feeling even better than I do.  HE knows these are hard days for me and I am so thankful that HE promises to stay with me in all of my days.

October 22, 2012

Our Fourth and Fifth Glory Babies

My Sweet Babies,

It’s been a year and a half since you left us and it’s taken this long for me to know what to say in the aftermath of losing you.  

There is so much I don’t remember about the time you came and then went and I think that had so much to do with the shock I was in and the deadening of my spirit that naturally comes with loss and anguish.  

One thing I know for sure is that having you and then losing you changed me and it turned what had been just a personal journey into something that is more like a mission- pointing others to their MAKER and HIS goodness and love for them.  

But that did not happen right away- that part of the journey took time to take root and become something beautiful.  First, I had to walk through a valley that was so wide and so deep and so long I was not sure I would ever come out of it.

Because I lost you I could no longer keep carrying on with life and relationships and pretend that I was okay because I wasn’t.  I wasn’t okay that death engulfed me; that people ignored what was happening; and that you left me.  I was crushed. hopeless. angry. 

And losing you forced the questions I needed to ask GOD and it brought to the surface so many doubts I had about who HE is- doubts I did not know were there.  

And so I did the only thing I knew to do and I stepped away from people, from work, from obligations and intentionally entered into a valley.  I needed space and time to figure out where to go next and I needed to be with GOD.  There was only one thing I asked of HIM- to meet me in that valley. to show up. to be present and near me.

And HE did.  Over and over HE met me in the depths of my despair and in the longing I had to be with you.  HE showed me HIS goodness and HE brought beauty where I did not think beauty could be came from losing you.

You did not hold very much physical weight in this world, oh but you hold so much weight in my heart and that is what counts.

Babies, my heart still aches from the sting of losing you.  I wish you were here but I want you to know that even though we did not meet the way we were meant to and you did not change my life the way that babies typically do, you did indeed change me.

In your deaths I saw and tasted and heard and felt HIS goodness.  And because of you, my voice is stronger in a world that is filled with hurting people.

Someday we will meet and I will hold you the way that my arms long to, but until then the goodness of GOD is being made known to many and that, my sweet babies, is your legacy.

As your mom, I couldn’t be prouder.

September 27, 2012

I Don't Pray For Babies Anymore

I don’t pray for a baby anymore.  I just don’t.  

Maybe it’s a lie I am believing or it’s a lack of faith that I could ever have a baby, but either way, I don’t pray for babies anymore.

Instead, I pray for more of CHRIST in my life.  

I am not saying this to sound uber spiritual or make it seem that I am somewhere in my faith journey that I am not, because the reality is that I still struggle with the storyline GOD has written for me.

I don’t like being the infertile woman.  I look in the mirror and I can’t believe I am the face of infertility. that I have a body that loses babies. and that my arms may never hold a child of my own.

But I keep inserting GOD’s truths and promises into those things and what I keep coming back to is praying for more of HIM and less of me. and less striving. and less coveting. and less of this world.

And I don’t have a lot of hope for a baby anymore.  I used to, but that ship has sailed.  But I know my husband has hope and I love him for that.  His hope is the current that keeps me moving along- doing the tests, doing the procedures, taking this and that, and allowing us to talk about “some day when we have a baby.....”

And sometimes I feel like this is all my fault.  That I must have done something to my body in the past or in the present that has made us lose all of our babies.

After every miscarriage (except for the first one), I go about punishing my body in the only ways I can think of: I don’t exercise, I eat foods that I know will make me sick, and I stop taking all of my supplements and vitamins.

It’s my way of saying “F-you” to my body and for a little while I like the feeling of control I have over it even if it does only hurt me in the end.

Maybe it’s mother’s guilt- this feeling that is must be my fault- but I think it’s satan’s lies.

Something rather divine happened last week after our weekly staff meeting.  Two men from another church in New York were spending time with us and over the course of a few days, my husband and I had gotten to spend time with them either together or apart and at some point, my husband shared with one of them a brief history of our losses.

When I went to thank the man who knew some of my story for his time and words before he left for the airport, he said he had a word for me: that JESUS was pleased with how I was allowing my story to be used for HIS kingdom and that what has happened is not my fault.

How could he have known that I sometimes carry the weight of what has happened on my shoulders and feel marked and shamed?  Only GOD HIMSELF could have compelled him to say those words to me.

And I am grateful to him for saying them in the middle of a coffee shop with people all around because for a few seconds it felt like GOD HIMSELF was saying those words to me and it moved me to tears.

My heart is weary these days and it is not because of any one thing- it's just the natural ebb and flow of this journey we are on.  But I am going to do what I know to do- lean on my FATHER, press into HIM, and ask for more of HIM.

September 25, 2012

GOD Truth #7: HE Is Our Greatest Treasure

This is part seven of a seven series post that was born out of some very intentional time I took to walk the road of grief and longing, and sit in the place of despair and doubt. And I asked JESUS to meet me in my very broken place and to show me HIS goodness.

And HE did. Over and over HE did. And the more I looked for ways that HE is good, the more I found.

I call the things I learned about GOD in that season my GOD Truths. These are the very true things that GOD does and is to all of HIS children.

I know that my journey is meant to open the eyes, ears, and hearts of others to who GOD is. To draw them closer to their MAKER. To tell of HIS love for HIS people and HIS goodness throughout all the ages.

I have wanted to be a mommy for as long as I can remember.  Every day I long for some part of motherhood to come true for me.  Every day.  

I see a pregnant belly and I wish it was mine.  I see a woman nursing and I want to do that.  I see a family at the park and I want that for Jason and I.  

I think about the joy a baby would bring into our lives and very quickly that baby is on a pedestal assuming a higher position in my life than CHRIST does.  

A baby is not my greatest treasure.  JESUS is.  

I may never have a baby, but I will always, always have JESUS.

And because HE is my greatest treasure everything that I must endure in this life- losing babies included- is worth it because it draws me closer to HIM.

Romans 8:28  “And we know that for those who love GOD all things work together for good, for those who are called according to HIS purpose.” 

GOD’s purpose for your life- no matter what place you are in now- is a good purpose. 

I don’t know what the rest of my story will be.  I may not ever become a mother to children who are born from my own womb- this is very likely- and I grieve this deeply.  Every year that we go without having a child of our own in our arms, we see friends and family have babies of their own.    

And when I ask “Why them and not us?” HE reminds me that it’s all for HIS purposes and that I am where I am because it is where HE wants me to be and it is all for my good.  

And HE points me back to HIMSELF- back to the majesty of HIM; the sufficiency of HIM; the sheer awesomeness of HIM; and the treasure that is HIM.

Oh gosh, I am not trying to blow sunshine in your face, to make you think if you just accept these truths into your own life that suddenly your pain and your waiting for the things you hope for and desire will get easier.  

No, I don’t want to do that.  

I don’t want to cheapen your hurts and your longings and reduce them to “problems” that can be solved if you just insert one of these truths into it.

What I want to do is to point you back to the ONE who is the AUTHOR of it all and to remind you that HE is good.  

HE is good in your pain and hurt; HE is good in your grief and sorrow; HE is good in your longing and waiting; HE is good in your sickness; HE is good in it all.

And nothing can separate you from the love of your FATHER.  Every day HE is pursuing you and every day HE wants to manifest in you HIS goodness.

HE is your greatest treasure because you are made alive with CHRIST.  HE is your greatest treasure because by grace you have been saved.  

And until JESUS returns or you take your last breath, HIS banner over you is love and HIS plans for your life are good.

HE gives, HE takes away; HE is unchanging; HE is sovereign over all things; He gives beauty for ashes; He promises HIMSELF; HE has not forgotten you and HE is not through with you; and HE is your greatest treasure.

Believe in the goodness of GOD and pray that HE would give you the conviction to believe that HE is good.

Believe that everything HE does in your life is good.

Humble yourselves and repent of all the times you have found fault with HIM in the way HE has treated you.

Be satisfied with the will of GOD for it is holy and perfect.  Do not resist it.  Do not resent it.

Taste and see that HE is good.  

Because GOD, and HIS great love for you, is good.

Oh LORD, that you would find us faithful in our journeys; that we would not for one minute doubt YOUR goodness or YOUR sovereignty; that we would seek YOU and find YOU; that more than being married, or having a baby, health, or anything else, we would want YOU; that we would dwell with YOU in our valleys and still dance even when our hearts are breaking, our souls are longing, our arms are empty; and our bodies hurting; that we would be thankful for the work YOU have done, will do, and are promising to do until our last breath; and that we would not wish our journeys away, but rather, be willing servants of our KING to proclaim that YOU alone satisfy and are worthy and that YOU, o LORD, alone are good.  Amen.

September 24, 2012

GOD Truth #6: HE Has Not Forgotten You and HE Is Not Through With You Yet

This is part six of a seven series post that was born out of some very intentional time I took to walk the road of grief and longing, and sit in the place of despair and doubt. And I asked JESUS to meet me in my very broken place and to show me HIS goodness.

And HE did. Over and over HE did. And the more I looked for ways that HE is good, the more I found.

I call the things I learned about GOD in that season my GOD Truths. These are the very true things that GOD does and is to all of HIS children.

I know that my journey is meant to open the eyes, ears, and hearts of others to who GOD is. To draw them closer to their MAKER. To tell of HIS love for HIS people and HIS goodness throughout all the ages.

I walk the streets of my city and I see the strollers and the pregnant bellies and I can easily go to that place of “GOD has forgotten that I want a baby.”  Maybe for you it’s the same or it’s that HE has forgotten that you want a boyfriend/girlfriend or a husband/wife; or that you want that great job; or that you are struggling with a sickness and need healing for your body.  

Whatever it is, I know we all can be swayed to think that HE has forgotten us or that we are sitting on the sidelines while everyone else gets to play the game of life the way we want to.

Oh friends, let me tell you again and again that HE has not forgotten you.  

HE sees you.  HE knows you.  HE knows your every heart’s desire and HE is always, always, always working for your good.  

GOD is not your enemy.  HE is not the obstacle in the road that keeps you from getting what you want.  

HE is not withholding any good thing from you.  

No matter what pain or situation you are in, GOD has a purpose for it.  

Yes, you could have made poor choices that have found you where you are, but GOD has a purpose for it....for all of it.  
John 9:3 says “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of GOD might be displayed in him.”

GOD is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise, and HE is all for you. 

There is a story being told- it’s your story- and GOD wants to use it to bring glory to HIS name and draw others closer to HIMSELF, including you.  Every day, every hour, HE is working out HIS good purposes for you.

HE has not forgotten you and HE is not through with you yet.

September 23, 2012

GOD Truth #5: HE Promises HIMSELF....And HE Is Enough

This is part five of a seven series post that was born out of some very intentional time I took to walk the road of grief and longing, and sit in the place of despair and doubt. And I asked JESUS to meet me in my very broken place and to show me HIS goodness.

And HE did. Over and over HE did. And the more I looked for ways that HE is good, the more I found.

I call the things I learned about GOD in that season my GOD Truths. These are the very true things that GOD does and is to all of HIS children.

I know that my journey is meant to open the eyes, ears, and hearts of others to who GOD is. To draw them closer to their MAKER. To tell of HIS love for HIS people and HIS goodness throughout all the ages.

You and I are not promised designer brands to wear; new cars to drive; and Starbucks every day.  I know that’s likely no surprise to you.  And you and I are not promised high-paying jobs; health; marriage; or even babies.   

But we are promised JESUS today and all the days of our lives.  And HE is enough, that is, if we truly believe in the word and promises of GOD, HE is enough.

To say that I am not promised anything but HIM is so bittersweet to me.  

It’s bitter because it means I may not get what I want.  But it’s so very sweet because I am promised for all the days of my life the one true GOD; the mighty FORTRESS to run to when I am scared; the wise COUNSELOR to seek guidance from; the GIVER of life when death surrounds me; and the good SHEPHERD to walk with in valleys and on mountain tops.

In Hebrews 13:5, HE tells us “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 

HE promises us HIMSELF for always and forever.  And HE is enough.

September 17, 2012

GOD Truth #4: HE Makes Beauty From Ashes

This is part four of a seven series post that was born out of some very intentional time I took to walk the road of grief and longing, and sit in the place of despair and doubt. And I asked JESUS to meet me in my very broken place and to show me HIS goodness.

And HE did. Over and over HE did. And the more I looked for ways that HE is good, the more I found.

I call the things I learned about GOD in that season my GOD Truths. These are the very true things that GOD does and is to all of HIS children.

I know that my journey is meant to open the eyes, ears, and hearts of others to who GOD is. To draw them closer to their MAKER. To tell of HIS love for HIS people and HIS goodness throughout all the ages.

One day not too long after losing my second baby, I was sitting at Starbucks having a conversation with GOD (in my head!) when HE promised me something.

HE told me that if I gave over all of my journey to HIM- all of my grief, longing, anger, disappointment- that HE would do something beautiful with it.  I asked HIM how anything beautiful could come from the deaths of two babies and HE told me that the same way HE made the death of HIS own SON something beautiful for all mankind, HE would do something beautiful with my story.

I could not see how this could be, but in that moment I trusted HIM- I took HIM at HIS word and I have made the choice to surrender it all to HIM, even when I do not feel like it.

And HE has done beautiful things over these last three years:
  • I started using my blog as an avenue to share openly this journey that Jason and I are on- it has become cheap therapy for me and as it turns out, it is a source of comfort and an encouragement to other people, some whom I know and some whom I do not.  People from all over the country have stumbled upon my blog and have shared that my story has drawn them closer to GOD and given them a deeper understanding of who HE is- believers and unbelievers alike.
  • This past spring I was asked to write an article on faith and infertility for a national newsletter that is not faith-based.  I still have yet to write the article, but when I do, thousands of people will get to hear that GOD is good even in infertility......especially in infertility.
  • My dear friend Katherine had her second baby earlier this summer and she and her husband named her baby after me- not because she had a special love for my name, but because she and her husband wanted to honor the lives of mine and Jason’s babies and pay tribute to the glory our story is bringing to GOD’s name.  What I love most about this beautiful gift is that it is not corruptible; it will not wilt; it cannot rust or rotten.  That even after Anastasia Justine has taken her last breath on this earth her name will live on and it will carry a story- our story- and make mention of our babies.

I could go on, but the point of this is not to sound my own horn or make you think that I am something pretty special, but rather to show you how GOD does make beauty from ashes.  

It takes surrendering all of it on my part and getting my agenda out of the way so that HE can freely move in and through my journey and put HIMSELF on display.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, "They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls."  

I love the imagery of those words: I picture a deep, deep black sea- this symbolizes hurt, sorrow, loss, grief, pain, you name it.   And then a person dives into it- they don’t just wade in the water, but they knowingly placing themselves in the middle of it.  And when they dive in they do not come up to the surface right away- to get air, to at least escape the sea with their head- but rather they go to the depths of that sea.  They go to the dark places on the bottom floor of that sea.  They explore and find beautiful, rare pearls.  

How something so beautiful can grow in such a dark place is a mystery, but it’s a mystery that has an AUTHOR.  HE alone knows how it can be so; how a dark sea can yield the most beautiful of treasures.

HE gives beauty for ashes.  HE turns mourning into dancing.  HIS economy is different than ours.  HIS ways are not our ways.  HE gives good things even in the midst of our pain and suffering and longing and sickness and heartbreak.

September 14, 2012

GOD Truth #3: HE Is Sovereign Over All Things

This is part three of a seven series post that was born out of some very intentional time I took to walk the road of grief and longing, and sit in the place of despair and doubt. And I asked JESUS to meet me in my very broken place and to show me HIS goodness.

And HE did. Over and over HE did. And the more I looked for ways that HE is good, the more I found.

I call the things I learned about GOD in that season my GOD Truths. These are the very true things that GOD does and is to all of HIS children.

I know that my journey is meant to open the eyes, ears, and hearts of others to who GOD is. To draw them closer to their MAKER. To tell of HIS love for HIS people and HIS goodness throughout all the ages.

In the midst of the physical process of losing our third baby, I went to see our counselor, Roger.  And at some point in the hour we were together the thought came to me that perhaps I had exited out of the realm of GOD’s protection and therefore, HIS sovereignty over my body and my baby.  

But Roger assured me over and over that GOD was indeed very much in control of what was happening and that though sad and grievous, losing a third baby was a part of HIS plan for my life.

Relief washed over me and I was glad for the gentle reminder that pointed me back to the truth that GOD is sovereign over all things, including my suffering.

JESUS spoke of the will of GOD in the Garden of Gethsemane when HE was praying. HE said, in Matthew 26:39, “MY FATHER, if it be possible, let this cup pass from ME; nevertheless, not as I will, but as YOU will.” 

The will of GOD is HIS sovereign governance of all that happens in our lives.  It cannot be broken.  It will always. always comes to pass. 

Daniel 4:35 says, “HE does according to HIS will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay HIS hand or say to HIM, ‘What have YOU done?’ ” 

GOD governs all things for HIS plans and purposes.  Nothing is out of HIS realm of power or protection.  Whatever befalls you- sickness, infertility, unemployment, and a broken heart included- it’s all under HIS authority and power.

You were created for HIS glory and HE is faithful to fulfill that glory if you love HIM and live for HIM.  Your suffering is not a surprise, but a plan.  Trust that HE is working for your good in all things at all times.

George Mueller was an evangelist who lived in the 19th century and he lost his beloved wife Mary after 39 years of marriage.  By only the strength of GOD, he was able to speak at his wife’s memorial and said this:

“I miss her in numberless ways, and shall miss her yet more and more. But as a child of GOD, and as a servant of the LORD JESUS, I bow, I am satisfied with the will of my Heavenly FATHER, I seek by perfect submission to HIS holy will to glorify HIM, I kiss continually the hand that has thus afflicted me.”

Oh, that we would rest in the sovereignty of GOD just as our brother George Mueller had done.

September 11, 2012

GOD Truth #2: HE Is Unchanging

This is part two of a seven series post that was born out of some very intentional time I took to walk the road of grief and longing, and sit in the place of despair and doubt. And I asked JESUS to meet me in my very broken place and to show me HIS goodness.

And HE did. Over and over HE did. And the more I looked for ways that HE is good, the more I found.

I call the things I learned about GOD in that season my GOD Truths. These are the very true things that GOD does and is to all of HIS children.

I know that my journey is meant to open the eyes, ears, and hearts of others to who GOD is. To draw them closer to their MAKER. To tell of HIS love for HIS people and HIS goodness throughout all the ages.

We can fall into the trap of thinking that GOD must not like us; or that HE is not looking out for us or that HE has forgotten us when things happen in our lives that we do not like or anticipate.  

But the reality is that HE is unchanging and who HE is and HIS promises to us do not change even when our circumstances do.

You do not get the job you wanted.  You are still waiting for that special someone to come along.  Your body is not responding to treatments.  You lose someone you love.  For me, it’s not having a baby in my arms.

After we lost our fifth baby, I took a year to allow my body and my heart to heal- I was depleted in all the ways you can imagine.  And then this past spring when I found out I was pregnant for a sixth time, I felt certain that GOD had used the past year to prepare us for the gift HE was going to give us come this November- a baby to hold in our arms.

On April 19, I was pregnant with our sixth baby and did not know the fate of my baby, but I knew that:

GOD loves me and my husband; 
that HE is working all things together for our good 
because HE is good.

On April 20, we heard the words “There is no heartbeat.”  I left that appointment with more questions than answers, but I also left knowing that:

GOD loves me and my husband; 
that HE is working all things together for our good 
because HE is good.

I can see now that HE used the past year to prepare my heart for the loss of our sixth baby.  HE showed HIS goodness to me in that way.

My circumstances had changed. But HE did not.  

HE is who HE says HE is and HE does what HE says HE will. 

HE is the same in my happiness as HE is in my sorrow.  HE is the same in your contentment as HE is in your restlessness.  HE is the same in your health as HE is in your sickness.  HE is the same in our satisfaction as HE is in our longing.

GOD does not change nor do HIS promises to us as HIS children. 

I like how John Piper puts it, “Nothing in all creation takes HIM off guard and backs HIM into a corner where HE might have to act out of character or compromise HIS integrity.” 

And James 1:17 says, "With HIM there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  

The circumstances of our lives are ever-changing, but HE is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  

When nothing in your life stays the same, HE does.

September 10, 2012

GOD Truth #1: HE Gives, HE Takes Away

This is part one of a seven series post that was born out of some very intentional time I took to walk the road of grief and longing, and sit in the place of despair and doubt. And I asked JESUS to meet me in my very broken place and to show me HIS goodness.

And HE did. Over and over HE did. And the more I looked for ways that HE is good, the more I found.
I call the things I learned about GOD in that season my GOD Truths. These are the very true things that GOD does and is to all of HIS children.

I know that my journey is meant to open the eyes, ears, and hearts of others to who GOD is. To draw them closer to their MAKER. To tell of HIS love for HIS people and HIS goodness throughout all the ages.

I have always had a special place in my heart for Job. Long before I even knew what it was to truly suffer, I had an appreciation for the story of Job. I suppose it is my melancholy side that finds me drawn to the darker side of life.

Job was a faithful servant of GOD, going so far as to make burnt offerings for his children every morning after the night of their feasts just in case they may have sinned or cursed GOD in their hearts.

Job lost his children and his wealth in one swoop and then just as he was grieving his losses, he was stricken with a horrible disease; his wife urged him to curse GOD and die; and his friends suggested that he must have sinned against GOD something awful to have such things happen to him.

And what strikes me the most about Job is his response to his suffering: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

This man just lost everything- his money, all his children, the respect and adoration of his wife, and he just found out his friends have really bad theology- and he wants to worship the LORD!

Don’t misunderstand, he still grieved something fierce but his worshipping GOD is so notable because he did it in his grief, not instead of it.

GOD has given my husband and I babies to rejoice over. We have felt the excitement of life growing in my womb and we thanked HIM for the gift of life HE created through us each time.

And GOD has taken away our babies. Each time after I have lost a baby one of the first things I long to do is be in corporate worship singing songs that speak to the power, love, and goodness of my LORD.

You see, the world tells me that I should be mad at GOD, that I should shake my fist, curse HIM, and walk away from HIM. Job did not curse GOD when he lost everything; instead, he worshipped HIM. And because of that, the worth of GOD was made known to all.

When we suffer- when we are grieved or longing for what was or what may never be- we must resist satan and hold tight to the goodness of GOD. Do not curse HIM in your sickness. Do not curse him in your grieving. Do not curse HIM in your longing or waiting.

Worship HIM and bless HIS name.

The LORD gave to me and then HE took away from me, and I still say “Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

August 14, 2012

Don't Count Me Out

Thank you for praying for us these last couple of weeks as we awaited the procedures that I needed to undergo and then waited for the results.

We (but I think mostly me) had so hoped that the doctor would find just one thing wrong with me so we could have something to fix and move forward with, but all of the tests came back normal and we have reached the end of our journey as far as medical testing is concerned.

Jason says that GOD is bigger than anything wrong that the doctor could have found and I love him for that- for pointing me back to the truth of how big our GOD is and how HE could still work a miracle in our lives and gives us a baby through this womb of mine.

There are days that I feel that the LORD is preparing my heart for a life without children of my own and even as I type this I cannot believe that I am admitting this. Nothing prophetic has been said or shown to me, just the quiet peace in my heart that knows that we will be okay if this is where the LORD leads us.

I marvel at the places HE has taken us; at the people we have met and whose lives have been woven with my own; at the stories that have been shared; at the chances I have had to share our story; and at the steady, unrelenting love of our FATHER who has proven over and over that HE has us in this and will never let us go.

Yes, HE is good. All the time. And I am seeing this and living it and believing it more and more.

You may be wondering what is next for us and to that all I can say is “I don’t know.” We still have hope but mine is lessening and my heart feels tired of all of the pain and disappointment that come with getting pregnant again only to lose another baby.

The other day a friend asked me how many babies I wanted and I answered that I always wanted five children but now I have six. Six beautiful beings made in the image of GOD and born from my womb into eternity are waiting for me on the day I take my last breath and I can hardly wait to see them and hold them the way my arms still ache to do.

I feel these empty arms and I think about trying just one more time to see if they may be filled and somehow the longing to fill them outweighs the instinct to want to protect my heart from being broken again.

So don’t count me out yet, friends.

July 31, 2012

Praying for a Positive Result

This week I will be going in for a couple of procedures to hopefully get some answers on why we keep losing our babies. The good news is that if the doctor's find what we are going in to look for it is easily fixed and treated, and after a lot of bad news and unanswered questions, we are really hoping for some good news.

So I am asking for prayers....

....for my nerves because even after all the doctoring I have done in the last three years, I still have a lot of fear about being in a hospital setting.

....and for a positive result- we are hoping the doctor's find something wrong! What a strange relief it would be to hear that we have finally found something that is wrong and to know that it can be fixed and likely increase our chances of having a baby.

GOD is preparing my heart for the chance that we may not get any answers and I am so grateful to know that HE knows the results and HE knows the outcome- not just of these procedures- but of all the rest of my days.

Thank you for your prayers and for continuing to journey with us through what has been the most grievous, heart-breaking, long-suffering, and yet sweetest road we have walked.

June 27, 2012

The Gift of A Name

Nine years ago I met Katherine and we were instant friends. And much to our delight, our husbands became friends, too. We took our first and only couples vacation with Katherine and Geoff and over the years, we have shared in dinners and events too many to count.

Jason and I love Geoff and Katherine. Knowing them has made us better in all the ways that count. It’s no small thing to find friends that do that for you.

Over two years ago, Katherine and I became pregnant at the same time. We both had one miscarriage behind us (though not far from our minds) and I found out I was pregnant first.

I remember calling Katherine and telling her our news but I did it with a spirit of dread- I just could not get excited about news that I knew could make her sad. Katherine was so generous with her congratulations for me- this was not at all a surprise.

But just days later she called me and told me she was pregnant, too! Oh that made me so happy and I told her “Now I can be fully happy about my baby!”

For weeks we would check in on each other and talk each other through the symptoms (or lack of them) because there is an element of fear that takes root after you have had a miscarriage.

I felt so fortunate to be able to journey through that second pregnancy with such a dear friend and knowing that we were just days apart in our November due dates was just too perfect. It just was.

It really was.

But then we lost our baby. We saw a heartbeat one day and then three days later there was no sign of life.

Katherine had her first appointment the week after we had ours and I remember feeling physically ill- I could not bear to hear good news from her but I also could not bear to hear bad news.

But thanks be to GOD, she got good news at her visit and so began what would be a complicated dance for us both. It’s the dance of of anticipation and longing. of life to come and death that is. of joy and grief.

And in that season I made the choice to distance myself from Katherine because it was too hard to talk to her and know that she was where I had so desperately wanted to be. I am not saying it was the best decision- it was very selfish- but it was all I knew to do to be able to cope with my loss.

Well the time came for the baby to be born and the day "S" was born I cried something fierce. My tears were hot and never-ending and after crying most of the day, I willed myself to stop and I forced myself to think past my own loss and try to feel what Katherine must have been feeling: elation and joy over the birth of her daughter.

Her daughter. She had a daughter. My friend, who had wanted a baby for so long, finally had one to hold in her arms. And for a brief time I felt that with her. And I sent her a message of congratulations before my tears took over once again.

I did not know how I would respond the day her baby was born- nothing was ever written about what to expect the day a baby is born around the same time yours was supposed to be born but I would venture to say it was as sad as I had expected it to be.

Slowly I came around and visited "S" three months after she was born. It felt so good to hold her and look her in the eyes and breathe her in and talk to her and feel the grip of her hand on my finger.

She was finally here and meeting her was like a healing balm for my breaking heart. Funny how someone so small and so new can do that for you.

And so began mine and Katherine’s journey to re-connect. We had a good heart-to heart after that visit and I’ll just say that I am so grateful for Katherine’s generous spirit and her willingness to allow me back into her life even after I hurt her by stepping away from it for a time.

Since "S"’s birth, Katherine has seen me through three more miscarriages and she has always been faithful to pray me through the pain and grief. Always.

I remember when she shared with me that she was pregnant again and I will admit that I felt jealous, but I moved myself to a place of “rejoicing with those who rejoice” and from that day on I have been happy for my friend and excited to see her family grow.

It was about a month ago that Katherine phoned to ask me something I was not expecting. She told me that she and Geoff had decided on a name for their second daughter and then she asked how I felt about them giving her my name as her middle name.

When she shared why she wanted to do this I did the only thing I could: I cried. What a beautiful gift. What a remarkable way to honor the lives of our babies and the journey we have been on.

A name does not rust. or perish. Nor can it be torn. or thrown out. A name does not wither. or wilt.

A name lives on and on.

And so, just a few days ago, a sweet little girl was born into this world and she was given a name filled with meaning- here is part of what her parents wrote upon announcing her arrival (I am not sharing her full name or the full announcement to keep some privacy):

“A” is also named for our dear friend, Justine, whose journey to bring a baby into the world has been marked by pain and grief. In giving our daughter this name, we desire to remember the babies Justine and her husband Jason have conceived and lost, to recognize the sorrow that child-bearing in this life can bring, and to honor Justine and Jason’s steadfastness and faithfulness to the God who promises to make all things new.

Thank you, Katherine and Geoff, for thinking to honor our babies and our story in such a meaningful and lasting way.

And welcome to the world baby "A!" We are so excited to watch you grow in stature and in GOD's love for you.

June 18, 2012

When Nothing Satisfies You

Some have said that I am strong or brave when they reflect on what has been my journey in the last nearly three years. I assure you I am not either- if there is anything strong or brave in me, it’s from the LORD.

Because the reality is that I am scared of what the future holds. Lately I have been asking Jason if we will be okay if we never have children. That question comes from a place of being scared.

And while I am, for the most part, in a place of peace with the state of things, there are days like today where I buckle and I cry- over the loss of my babies and the dream I have of becoming a mother slipping away.

The reality that I carry with me every day is that I may never get to have a child of my own. That brings me to my knees. It’s a hurt and sorrow that I am intimately involved with and it’s one that I would gladly break up with if given the choice.

Nothing about my life and how it looks now is at all what I planned or dreamt of. Some of that is good: being married to Jason; living in the city I was born and raised in; working in ministry- these are good things that I had not planned for.

But some of it is sad and hard and uncomfortable and unwanted.

The truth of the matter is that I don’t want to be here in this place of life. I don’t want to be the person who can’t have a baby and gets to watch others around her do what her body won’t let her do. I hate it.

I have struggled greatly with jealousy and anger towards women who are pregnant and I have had to watch family and friends go on to experience the very one thing that continues to elude me. Four times now I have had a friend who is pregnant have a due date within days of my own and have had a front row seat to watching their bellies grow and their lives be changed by this amazing and mysterious gift that is a baby. How do you be happy for them when you are so sad for yourself?

I don’t know. After all this time and “practice,” I still do not know.

Walking this journey has put us in a place of having really insensitive things said to us and around us; of having to push through feelings of hurt because some family and friends choose not to enter into this journey with us. Even after all this time and all these losses, there are still some that have said nothing to us.

So what’s the point of what probably sounds like complaining and bemoaning?

The point is this: I am not satisfied with where I am and what has been my portion in life. I’m just not. I don’t want to be here.

If I take what life has given me in the last nearly three years at face value, then I would say it is a huge disappointment and is the most unfair thing I have ever experienced.

I am guilty of looking to things, and food, and appearances, and work, and people for satisfaction. I am guilty of it all.

Nothing this world has given to me has satisfied me. Nothing. It’s all crap. It all has torn, rusted, perished, spoiled, ended and left. All of it.

It was about two months ago that I began hearing the LORD say to me, “When nothing satisfies you, come to ME.”

When the pursuit of things loses it’s appeal and you are on to the next sale, come to ME.

When the taste of food leaves your tongue and you want more, come to ME.

When you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, come to ME.

When an endeavor comes to an end and the excitement fades, come to ME.

When a person disappoints and you feel hurt or angry, come to ME.

Come to ME.

Surender your agenda, Justine.

Step away from what the world says is good and look to ME.

Stop striving, Justine.

Know that I work for the good of you.

Repent of your jealousy and your anger and your resentment.

Come to ME, Justine. And ME alone.

Rest in ME.

When nothing satisfies you, believe I am good and I love you. And I will satisfy you.

Oh LORD, that you would find me faithful in this journey; that I would not for one minute doubt YOUR goodness or YOUR sovereignty; that I would seek YOU and find YOU; that more than having a baby I would want YOU; that I would dwell with YOU in this valley and still dance even when my heart is breaking; that I would be thankful for the work YOU have done, will do, and are promising to do until my last breath; and that I would not wish this journey away but rather be a willing servant of her KING to proclaim that YOU alone are good and worthy and that YOU, o LORD, alone satisfy.

“Therefore, as you received CHRIST JESUS the LORD, so walk in HIM, rooted and built up in HIM and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6

May 1, 2012

And I Am Not Through With Him Either

It’s important for me to say that my faith in GOD has not been deterred in this. That even though HE allowed us to lose six babies and we are still not promised the gift of becoming parents; and that I still have questions that have not been answered (they may never this side of heaven); and that I don’t always agree with or like how HE does things, who GOD is in my life and the place HE holds has not changed.

I still trust HIM and I still believe HE is good and loving.

After my fifth miscarriage, I took an extended time away from life: work, social commitments, and people. The point of that time was to allow myself to journey to the places I needed to go without distractions and the hope for that time was that I would begin to experience some measure of healing from all of the loss we had experienced.

What I remember most about preparing to enter that time of intentional isolation with GOD (and the other important men in my life, my husband and my counselor) was the thought that kept running through my mind: This could be the thing that makes me bitter. This level of loss and the feelings that come with it could be the very things that cause me to shake my fist at GOD and walk away from HIM.

I asked a few people to pray against that for me- to pray that bitterness would not take root in my heart and grow uncontrollably. That bitterness would not be the legacy I left behind.

That is still a prayer of mine.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have bouts of anger about all of this- I feel some now- towards GOD and people. But anger (and bitterness) will not be the undercurrent that carries me along.

I wish I could jump out of my skin and not go through this again. and not feel what I feel. and not be in this season of life. I wish I could have my longing to be a mom satisfied just as I had always hoped and thought it would be. But I cannot. I cannot choose any of these things.

The reality is that I must continue on this road with, for the time being, this unsatisfied desire, but I do have a choice I get to make: I can do it with GOD or without HIM.

And so I choose do it with GOD.

I choose HIM because the loss of earthly life has been extensive for me and my husband and HE is where eternal life abides. I choose HIM because the alternative is to choose bitterness. I choose HIM because HE promised to make something beautiful out of this.

See, HE is not through with me yet....and I am not through with HIM either.

April 30, 2012

He Is Not Through With Me Yet

This is not where I want to be. And this is not where I thought I would be.

I really believed that GOD was going to redeem the last almost three years and give us this baby to hold in our arms. In my mind, HE used this last year- the year I learned to dance in the valley- to prepare my heart for the gift HE was going to give us in November. This baby. This baby whose life ended soon after it started.

I thought it was a perfect ending to a long road of suffering and loss- me holding this baby for all to behold and then saying: See? See how good GOD is. See how much HE loves us. HE gave us this baby after taking away all the others.

What a beautiful ending that would have been.

But that’s not the ending we were given. And even now, I can see that HE used this last year and the intimate journey we were on to prepare me for this ending. The one where HE gave and then quickly took away.

On Thursday, April 19, I did not know the fate of my baby, but I knew that GOD is good; that HE loves me and my husband; and that HE is working all things together for our good.

On Friday, April 20, we heard the words “There is no heartbeat” and we rode home in the back of a cab and while the rain hit the window I was looking outside of, I imagined that all the world was weeping with me over the loss of our baby and over the uncertainty of our future ever getting to be parents.

I left that appointment with more questions than answers, but I also left knowing that GOD is still good; that HE still loves me and my husband; and that HE is still working all things together for our good.

Even still HE is who HE says HE is and HE does what HE says HE will. My circumstances have changed. But HE has not.

Oh, what sweet comfort this is. When at times it feels my heart will burst from the swelling pain, I say this truth over and over. While it does not take away the pain of the loss or the sting of the state of things, it does soothe and it does still me.

And so now, with tears in my eyes and a pain in my heart, I say to you: See? See how good HE is. HE ushered me through a valley and taught me to dance in it. See how much HE loves me. HE restored a broken spirit and body so that both could once again endure the journey HE has me on. So that even in my grief I can testify to who GOD is and that my pain would not deter people from GOD, but rather would point them to HIM.

HE is not through with me yet.

"There was a choice. To make sorrow my friend or my enemy. To walk with it and let it teach me, or scorn it and become bitter." Taste of Tears, Touch of God by Ann Kiemel Anderson

April 21, 2012

These Dark Hours

I awoke early this morning and the reality of what happened just hours before greeted me with a pain in my chest and tears in my eyes. It’s not a dream. It’s nothing that can be taken back or undone.

Today is the second day of these dark hours.

Yesterday we found out that we have lost another baby. This is our sixth baby, the one we had the greatest hopes for. All the circumstances appeared to be in our favor: we gave my body a year of rest; we were treating a blood disorder I just found out I had this winter; I was feeling nauseous and so, so tired; and I had made it past the 8 week mark- the furthest my body has ever allowed me to carry a baby.

So when we went to see the midwife at 9 weeks, 2 days pregnant, there was a level of anticipation in the room that this could be a good visit. And there it was- death on the screen. again. No heartbeat. No sign of life. It appears that this baby stopped developing at 5 weeks but my body did not get the memo.

When we got home it felt so empty, so lifeless, so void of the excitement that once was there just hours before; it still feels that way. I walked through the house and thought, I want to be anywhere but here. I still feel that way, but then again, where else would I go or what else would I do?

This house has been the setting for many a dark hour, and so it will be again as we wait for this baby to pass physically from my body. Though it is painful, it can be a welcome distraction from the sorrow that surround us.

I know it's early in the process, but this feels like the end of the road for us- there is a feeling of finality that is the undercurrent that is moving us along. Maybe that is why the grief of this feels so much stronger than it has before. It feels like the hope of having a baby of our own has floated away and that just adds to the sadness of all of this.

An Invitation to Mourn

There is need to remind me that GOD is in the midst of this- I know that. Or that you are praying for us- to be honest, it’s of little comfort now. But if you want to sit in this with us- if you want to be a part of our dark hours, then please do.

There will be no funeral or memorial service, and while it might be awkward for you or for us, if you feel led to mourn with us, then come over and we will sit and mourn this together.