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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Chisel and His Hand


A couple months ago I was sitting at my friend's house discussing life... how it seemed odd that some people had such a painful hand dealt to them while others seemed to have it relatively easy. I remember saying that I was one of the lucky ones who had had it pretty good. I had a happy childhood, my parents are still married (almost 37 years), other than my grandparents I haven't lost anyone close, I'm healthy, educated, financially stable, married to a wonderful husband and have two pretty amazing kids. I've had very little suffering in my life. I remember saying it was likely just a matter of time before that changed.

Little did I know how soon that would happen. It's been said that loss changes you. I can assure you, it does. Whether the agent of change is the loss itself, the process of healing, or God chiseling away to mold me into something better I can't be sure, although I think they're all interlinked and work hand in hand.

I remember being uneasy from the very beginning of the pregnancy. Due to some pretty intense pain earlier in the week, I just couldn't rest easy, despite seeing those incredible two lines on the pregnancy test. Yet I was hopeful and insanely happy. I can't help but think this was the beginning of God's hand tapping the chisel to begin this painful process.

Tap, Tap, Tap. I want you to rest your hopes in Me.

Days went by, Monday came and so did my doctor's appointment for all the routine lab work. I told the lab nurse of my concerns and she assured me that it was normal (why I allowed myself to be comforted by this, I don't know. I've had two kids and know what is and isn't normal). She said that the test was "a strong positive." This too was comforting but not comforting enough to completely relieve my worries. I kept wondering if I had requested to talk to my actual nurse if we could've set something in play that might have prevented what happened later that day. But I didn't and here I am.

Tap, Tap, Tap.

I told Mark it had been confirmed and began cleaning the house getting ready for my mom to bring the kids back home and stay for a visit. I told Kathleen and Michele the good news, one because of wedding preparations that might have to be altered and the other because I wanted to. I received a text message from my brother saying "It's a boy" letting us know that we'd be getting our first nephew. It was all I could do not to tell him of our good news! And within a few hours, everything went downhill and everything I feared began to unfold.

Tap, Tap, Tap. Trust me.

I knew what was happening. I didn't bother calling the doctor because I was waiting on them to call me with the quant level results and truthfully, I knew there was nothing that could be done. Although if I'm honest, I still play the "what if" game.... The call never came and the issue went unaddressed until Tuesday. Mark was at work, my mom was running behind, and I was home alone.... and I began to feel the weight of what was happening. I was alone and I felt it.

Tap, Tap, Tap. I'm here. You're never alone.

I remember thinking "He won't do this to me, He won't. I serve Him, I go to church, I pray, I read my Bible, I teach the kindergarten Sparks class on Sunday nights, I go to my Life Group, I do Biblical counseling.... He won't do this to me. He just won't." Yet in the very next thought telling myself "What makes you think you're exempt from pain and loss? What makes you think you're any different from everyone else who has lost a baby? Nothing, that's what. Nothing at all." My thoughts then turned to "I know there's a problem. I know there is. This can't be normal. But You're a God of hope and miracles. You can fix this, I know You can. Please fix this. Please make it okay. Save our baby. Fix it. Fix it! Fix it!!! YOU HAVE TO FIX IT!!!! Please, please God, fix this. I'm begging You, fix this."

Tap, Tap, Tap. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)

I pulled myself together, put a smile on my face and greeted my mom and kiddos. As happy as I was to see them after they'd been gone for the weekend, I couldn't help but to not want them here during all of this. It hurt to see them and know that we were planning on telling them about the baby and to know that it was very likely this wasn't going to ever happen, yet still hoping all the while that it could still all turn out okay. Isn't it odd that I was begging God for a miracle but all along expecting just the opposite? Is this lack of faith or just being realistic? Of this, I'm still not sure.

Tap, Tap, Tap. "I tell you, if you have the faith of a mustard seed....." (Luke 17:16)

I'm still not sure why I hid things from my mom instead allowing her to be here for me. I'm guessing it had to do with the whole upcoming Mother's Day thing and us planning to surprise her and Mark's mom with our good news. I was still holding out for a miracle but yet so desperately needing to let it out. But I didn't. I kept quiet. I was cranky and irritable, impatient and short with the kids to the extent my mom told me I needed to lighten up. I was anxious and nervous, waiting on them to call with my lab results and the waiting got the best of me.

Tap, Tap, Tap. "Be anxious for nothing, but in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Phil. 4:6)

Thanksgiving? Are You serious? You can forget it. How am I supposed to be thankful that I'm losing our baby? And I think I've clearly made my requests known.

Tap, Tap, Tap. "Cast all your cares on Me, for I care for you." I Peter 5:7

Tuesday came and so did the phone call saying my quant levels were low, but that I was early in the pregnancy so that might could explain it. My hormone levels were even lower (no surprise there, they were with Anna and Eli too) and so she had me start taking progesterone. I told her of what was occurring and thankfully, someone was finally straight up with me, not giving me false hope. While stating it could occasionally be normal, she said I might also be in the middle of a miscarriage, to come back in Wednesday for more blood work. My levels should've doubled since Monday.

More waiting? Seriously!? And more trying to maneuver everything around my mom being here and keeping everything a secret.

Tap, Tap, Tap.

Wednesday came. Same routine. Blood drawn, now on to playing the waiting game. It was torturous. Throughout this time I was still holding out for a miracle, still begging God to be merciful, yet all along having that feeling that I wasn't going to get what I was praying for.

Tap, Tap, Tap. Trusting me doesn't always mean you get what you want. I'm not sure you get this yet. Let's chisel some more. Tap, Tap, Tap. Tap, Tap, Tap.

Thursday morning came, along with the phone call that still resonates through each passing day. "Your levels were 450 and are now 291. It does appear that you've had a miscarriage. You'll need to come back in a week for more blood work to verify that your levels are continuing to decrease."

TAP, TAP, TAP!

I tried to pull myself together and if you've ever been through this experience, you know that trying to do that is like trying to get a 6 year old to sit still so you can pull a tooth. It just isn't going to happen. I called Mark at work. I recall him asking me the most random questions that I found irritating until I just came out and said "Why does that matter? Why are you asking me dumb questions?" His response shocked me and I immediately felt bad. "I just want to keep you talking so I know you're okay. It's not your fault. It's going to be okay."

I came out of my bedroom, lingered in the dining room trying with all my might to hold it together and couldn't. My mom was in the kitchen fixing a drink and so I went straight to her and absolutely lost it. It was then that I began seeing how He'd been orchestrating things. She was there for me when I needed it most. I was supposed to meet her half way to pick up the kids but she wanted to visit awhile. And here she was, helping me through it all. She picked up the slack in a major way - doing the dishes, the laundry, helping with the kids.... and then took the kids back home with her so Mark and I could have some time to ourselves. In hindsight, her being here is what kept us from telling the kids about the baby (because lets face it, a 2 and 4 year old are terrible at keeping secrets). And I was thankful for not having to explain all of this to them.

Tap, Tap, Tap. I told you, I can be trusted. Why do you doubt me?

I truly wish I could've felt that God could be trusted during the next two days that unraveled. There's a distinct difference between knowing God is trustworthy and wanting to believe it during some of your darkest hours. I found myself in that place where I knew all these things to be true, yet somehow couldn't quite hold on to them.

Soon after my mom left I began experiencing pain like never before. And if you knew me after I had Anna, you'd know to top that level of pain it had to be severe. And it was. I didn't understand..... at all. And on top of being hurt and disappointed, now I was downright angry. "Why me? Why? Is it not enough that You took our baby but now I have to go through whatever this is? Where's the mercy in this God? Where is it? Because from my view bawled up here in the floor, it's not here. Where are you? Why can't I feel you here with me?"

Tap, Tap, Tap. I'll never leave you or forsake you (Deut 31:8).

And He didn't. I've come to know that even when we can't seem to feel God that it doesn't mean He's not here. He's always here, He weeps with us. He wept with Mary and Martha when they were mourning the loss of their brother Lazarus (John 11). And I find that refreshing. Oh, so refreshing! This description from Angie Smith's book, I Will Carry You better explains why I've come to love this passage so much:

"At first glance it appears that Jesus, Mary, and Martha were sobbing together, but the original language of the text reveals that while Jesus was weeping (dakryo), the women were wailing (klaio). While Mary and Martha were crying out in agony over the loss of their brother, their tears moved Jesus, and He began to weep. This is the only occurrence of dakyro in the entire New Testament. He isn't crying over the death of Lazarus but rather the hurt He is experiencing with people He loves dearly. He isn't crying because the situation is hopeless, but because He is an empathetic God."

Jesus was crying because He was sad that Mary and Martha were sad.

Wow.

Take a minute to soak that in. Jesus knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew it wasn't hopeless or beyond repair. And even in that knowledge, he was sad because his friends were broken and mourning. And "Jesus wept". (John 11:35)


Tap, Tap, Tap. I'm here and I'm crying with you.
If there's one thing I've learned through this it's that surrounding yourself with people who can "weep" with you is so helpful, but also a rarity. Whether it's actually crying or just lending a listening ear, it seems finding those who are willing are few and far between. I've been fortunate to have a handful of people who are willing to "weep" with me, either because they've been through it or simply because they just know how to be there for someone. Michele is one such person.

As counselors, we're quite familiar with grief. Every instance deals with grief in some instance, whether it's drug addiction, adultery, finances, death, loss of a dream, career concerns, difficulties with children, etc. They all have portions of grief. We're schooled in grief. But for me, this is where the rubber meets the road. The place where it's no longer dealing with other people's grief but dealing with my own. And she gets that. She allows me to feel whatever I'm feeling. She's not uncomfortable with my tears or my questioning God. She knows how to just be here. She doesn't feel the need to fill the void with empty words and cliches that she knows are more hurtful than helpful. She gets what it means to come alongside me and become a part of my pain. And I love her for that.

Ashley is another such person. 3 weeks prior to us losing our baby she lost her second child to miscarriage as well. It's a twist of "fate" (is there really such a thing?) that we're even friends - that her taking family pictures for us would bring us two together and 18 months later draw us closer through grief. She gets it, in every sense of this experience, she just gets it. I can say something and she'll come back with "exactly!" She's encouraging and I'm honored to have her as a friend.


Why mention these people? For one because I value their friendship. But also because I want people to understand what it means to come alongside someone who's in grief. I want people to see the link between Jesus weeping with Mary and Martha because He felt their pain and how they can should deal with those around them who are grieving.

But most importantly, I want you to know that you're never alone, even when you feel like you are. I've been there and it's painful. There hasn't been anything easy about this process. But I remind myself that when we're being refined that it isn't supposed to be painless, that refining comes through fire.... being chiseled down to help us become more like Him requires letting go of what He's decided to chisel away. The tapping hurts. At times, it seems brutal. But I have hope that I'll come out of this with more faith, stronger than before, and trusting Him more fully because I'm determine to not come out of this unchanged, to have learned nothing, and to not have found the purpose He has planned for me through this.

Tap, Tap, Tap. There you go. Now you're beginning to understand.

Tap..... Tap.... Tap.

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