Thursday, December 26, 2013

now I know better

(original image from here)

I didn't know I was supposed to say something.

A few years back, they shared the news of their miscarriage in casual conversation, and me -- I had no idea how I was supposed to respond.  Do I tell them I'm sorry?  Talk about the weather?  Look away?  Tell them God has a plan?

How was I supposed to know?  I had never been pregnant or lost a child of my own.  I was newly-married, living in the phase where everything was peachy and when we were ready for the baby-in-the-baby-carriage, it would come.  

Back then, I had never really heard about miscarriage or read any books about it.  I certainly had never talked about it with someone who had been through it {not really dinner conversation, I suppose}.  I had no idea how deeply painful it was to experience a pregnancy loss, or how much a miscarriage could flip a life upside down.  I had no idea. 

So I didn't say anything at all.  I think I may have even changed the conversation, as if the baby had never been mentioned; as if their miscarriage had never even happened. 

Come to think of it, I think I've done this more than once or twice. Cancer diagnoses. Death. Loss of a job or house.

I didn't know I was supposed to say something -- anything to let them know that I was there, on their team and grieving with them. 

Back then, I honestly don't think I knew how.  

But I know better now.  I know better now because I have been there {twice}.  My own life has been flipped upside down.  Pregnancy loss has touched me.  So, now I know. 

I know that telling a grieving someone I'm sorry is the most simple, yet beautiful thing to say.  I know that no matter how strong a person's faith, it just may not be the time to talk about God's refining purposes for our battles.  I know that losing a baby -- no matter how tiny or short-lived -- is losing a person and thousands of plans and dreams for the future.  I know that stories about our-friend-so-and-so-who-had-twenty-miscarriages-and-now-has-a-healthy-baby are well-intentioned, but give off a painful kind of hope, a hope that may never be.  I know that a grieving someone just needs space to be messy.  The healing process can be oh-so-messy.

I am no expert on grief, but I'd like to think that I know better now.  I know that I am supposed to say something.  And if I could go back and tell my friends those two simple words -- I'm sorry -- I would say it a thousand times to erase how deafening my silence must have been to their ears. 

Now I know better.  And I am better because of it.

For that, I am thankful.

Monday, December 23, 2013

when christmas invades

To be honest, I thought that all the what-ifs and the should-haves would swallow me up this holiday season.  I had already decided that there would be no listening to Christmas music, smiling at Christmas cards or placing our nativity scene on the shelf.  Christmas would come and go, and I would be swallowed up with it and spit out into the new year. 

Losing anything is really hard, especially when the world around you is rejoicing and skipping and singing fa-la-la-la-la.  Miscarrying our first baby, and now our second -- that has been harder than I could ever imagine.  This was going to be the week that announcements would flood our loved ones' mailboxes and we'd just be moving into what the world considers to be the safe part of a pregnancy {as if there is such a thing}.  The world around us would rejoice, and we would rejoice along with them.  We would offer prayers of thanksgiving to the bearded God-man for the little life squirming around inside of me. 

But none of that will happen this year.  And some days, the what-ifs and the should-haves and even the have-nots do swallow me up.  I stay in bed and neglect to eat or turn any of the lights on.  This is an inescapable part of what it means to grieve, and I am okay with that.  

But on days like yesterday, when I was sure I could never-in-a-thousand-years celebrate Christmas {or anything remotely joyous} this year, 

we hosted a Christmas party.

Eight of the boys from our neighborhood middle-school bible study flooded our little city row house and we rejoiced.

We made gingerbread houses {and insanely creative gingerbread football stadiums},



fought over giant whoopie cushions and candy and headphones during a white elephant gift exchange,


snapped hilarious photos,


ate tons of red-and-green M&M cookies, 

and speculated about whether or not these lumps of coal are really coal at all.

Christmas invaded our little city row house yesterday and it didn't swallow me up.  

It made me laugh, and smile, and feel really thankful for the life that we have.  

It did not take away the pain of losing our babies {because nothing can do that},

but it did help me to see that there can be joy in the midst of suffering;

that something happens when you put up the lights, embrace what makes you most afraid, 
and just live.

So, here's to the living and the rejoicing and yes, 

here's to the kind of Christmas that invades.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

for him.

I put the lights up for him.

I had already decided to hibernate throughout the holidays this year and ignore the trees and the songs and especially the lights.

To me, the lights are a symbol of something that I just don't have this season -- a glimmer of hope in the deep, deep darkness. A reminder that hope is coming.

It's a beautiful thing, really, to see so many lights twinkling in windows throughout our city; to think of the kind of hope that can give life and conquer death.  That's Jesus.  And that's Christmas.  Hope breaking through the hell to bring life where there is none.

But I'm just not there.  I can't see past the heartache of what hope did not do this year.  Hope breathed life inside of me, another precious little baby, but hope did not save it.  Miscarriage.  Hope knew how much our hearts had already been broken by the loss of our first baby, but hope didn't protect us.  Hope did not respond to our cries.  Despair.

It makes sense to want to hibernate -- to forget that this season of celebration and joy and birth is upon us.  To celebrate birth at a time like this seems so very wrong to me.

But I put the lights up for him -- my lover-of-everything-christmas runner-man.

I put them up because he is grieving the loss of his baby too.  He needs the lights and the trees and the songs to carry on, to be reminded of the hope that is to come.  This is how he will continue to heal.

He asked me for a corner -- just one corner -- that could have some Christmas things in it.

So I put the lights up for him.

Because I love him.  Because we are in this together.  Because no matter how deep my darkness, and no matter how hard I try, I know I cannot wish hope away.

Monday, December 16, 2013

the story of madeira {the beast}

My runner man and I had always talked about getting a dog, just like the way we talked about having a baby.  When we decide it's time, we'll complete steps 1, 2 & 3, and then TA-DA.  It will be. 

For so many, having a baby really isn't much more than making a simple decision to stop preventing and doing the baby dance more often.  

For us, adopting a dog has been a much easier process.  And since I share pictures on instagram and talk about our dog a lot on social media, I'm excited to share her story.  If any of you are dog-lovers or are considering adopting from a rescue agency, I think you'll be excited too. 

It started with a decision that it was time to get a dog.  We wavered between a newly-born puppy and an older rescue for a lot of different reasons:

Everyone told us that with puppies, you can start fresh and train them according to your household routine and schedule.  There is not much "re-training" to do {as you would with a rescue}, but you will of course need a whole-lot-a-patience to handle the challenges of potty training, teaching obedience commands, teaching your puppy not to eat your shoes and clothes and just about everything she sees, etc.  But of course, puppies are so stinkin' cute that none of the above really even matters.  They snuggle up in your arms and you forget all about your favorite shoes and your new rug.  Puppies are that adorable. 

Older rescue dogs can be just as adorable.  But we were told that sometimes, there is no guarantee what you will get.  Many rescue agencies receive dogs that have been abused, abandoned in horrific circumstances, or left to wander the streets and fend for themselves.  Agencies can often only provide guestimations about the age, breed, or history of a rescue.  Some rescue dogs can be be anxious, distant, depressed, or unpredictable.  Some have been trained by loving foster families, while others have bad habits that need to be broken.  It can be challenging to un-train and re-train an older dog who is set in her ways.  But, it is by no means impossible.

We learned quickly that when you adopt a rescue, you are not only providing a loving home for a dog in need.  You are supporting the agency that rescues animals from heartbreaking situations.  We have all seen the commercials.  There are really animals that are found in those terrible-awful situations, and there are people who work and volunteer their time to help.  When you adopt a rescue, you are joining in the battle. 

After doing some research about puppy mills, we decided against a few popular websites whose breeders were ready to hand over their precious newly-borns for thirty-percent-off the listing price in the ad.  It felt like we were buying a used car with no insurance and an engine that would explode once we got five miles down the road.  It didn't sit well with us, so we explored alternate options. 

Here in Maryland, there are a lot of animal rescue agencies that are doing amazing work.  There are places like the Lab Rescue of the LRCPAdopt a PetThe Maryland SPCA, etc.

We decided to submit an application to K-9 Lifesavers, an agency that rescues dogs of all ages and breeds and hosts weekly adoption events where you can meet the dogs in person.  Our adoption counselor {volunteering her time for the cause} was prompt, responsive and oh-so-kind.  She reviewed our application, conducted a phone interview with us, and verified that our house and daily routine was adequate to handle a dog.  We sent her a few names from the agency's Meet the K-9's online listings and waited to hear back about which dogs might be a good fit for our city dwelling lifestyle.

We went to our first adoption event a week or so later, never expecting to bring a dog home.  We thought we were just browsing, considering our options, thinking it over.

The adoption event felt crazy and overwhelming.  Within minutes of registering, I approached the foster-mama with the newly-born plott hound mix puppies and she handed me a brindle baby Gidget, the only girl left in the litter.  I cuddled with baby Gidget for about fifteen minutes while families hovered around me, waiting for me to make up my mind if this was the dog we were going to adopt.  I told my runner-man that even though she was the-cutest-thing-I-ever-did-see, I wasn't sure I could handle the demands of a puppy.  I knew if I handed her over, that was it;  the crazy-hovering-masses would snatch her up.  And they did. 

We were fine with that, and in turn, decided to get to know some of the older dogs at the event.  

There was the insanely hyper german shepherd-mix {who I could barely contain on a gentle leader leash}, the shy catahoula leopard mix {a cutie in my book, but not the one}, and few others here and there.

And then, there was Raven. 

The somewhat-shy, but adorable and affectionate lab {mixed-with-something} who had been rescued from a high-kill shelter in Tennessee.  She had a shiny black coat with splotches of white on her belly and legs, making it look like she was wearing white boots.  Raven's foster-mama told us she was somewhere between one and two {or maybe three} years old, and that she loves to swim and run around and play.  She hugged us and cried when we told her we wanted to take Raven home.

Raven licked my runner-man on the cheek.  And that just about sealed the deal.  So we signed the paperwork, paid the adoption fees, bought her tons of supplies, and gave her a new name:

Madeira {pronounced muh-deer-uh} -- the name of the first street we lived on together here in the city.

Then, we brought her home and made a city dweller out of her.

It has been an amazing almost-six-months with our rescue.  She is the perfect addition to our family and keeps us laughing always.  We have had our 'ups' and 'downs' {like when she decided to EAT the Christmas lights the other day!} and we have learned a lot since adopting her.  I hope to be able to share more about this {and many other hilarious stories} on the blog in the future.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

when there are no words.

Let's face it -- sometimes, there are no words.

No words to express how sorry we feel, how deeply we love, how heart-wrenching our pain.  We struggle to find them and get anxious when we can't.  Isn't there something? Anything?

A friend asks how is your heart, but there is nothing to return but silence.  You talk about the snow storms or home decorating or your new flannel bed sheets, because let's face it -- sometimes there are no words.

It's okay.

It's okay to not feel like writing or sharing or processing.  It's okay to not want to think about the terrible-awful for an hour or two {or twenty-four}.  It's okay to not always read about it and talk about and dwell upon it.

It's really okay.

It's okay if the only thing that you say to a grieving friend is I'm sorry. There are no words.  Because sometimes, you may find that nothing sounds quite right.

Homicide.  Suicide.  Miscarriage.  Infertility.  Human trafficking.  Addiction.  Abuse.  Fear.  Depression.  Birth defects.

Tell the truth when there are no words.

It's really okay.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

where are your kids?

When we first moved into our house in the inner-city, a five-year-old little girl knocked on our door and asked if we had any kids inside who could come out to play.

It made sense.  We moved into a neighborhood where everyone has kids.  That's one of the reasons we moved here.

Up until this point, it had been just me and my runner-man.  We had been married just under a year and were enjoying our lives as "honeymooners."  We were going on dates, doing ministry together, exploring the city and getting into new routines.  We bought a house with four-stories for the future.  Our lives felt full.

We had a joke that first year -- I'd tell my runner-man that I wanted seven kids {yesterday} and he'd reply that he would love to have a kid... sometime in the next ten years.

I knew he wasn't serious and that he wanted kids just as much as I did.  But we were newly married and our friends told us to enjoy it -- go on trips and see the world and make the most of the time you have alone as a couple.  Some of them even made having kids seem like doom, saying things like everything will change and you will never be more tired in your life than when you have kids.

I know what they meant.  And I know that parenting is no joke.  I'm thankful for this counsel.

But when the five-year-old little girl knocked on our door, something happened.  All of the sudden, it started to feel like something was missing.

I'd open the door or go for a walk and kids would ask, where are your kids?  I'd babysit for a friend and people would ask, Is that your daughter? Do you have a daughter?  Once, a kid asked us point blank why in the world we have so many bedrooms in our house with no one to fill them except us.

They did no wrong.  I was wrestling with my own insecurities.

A few months after moving in, we decided to stop-trying-to-prevent.  We got pregnant right away.  And a few weeks later, we lost the baby.

Where are your kids?  

It's complicated.

Several months later and while my body recuperated, we adopted the beast -- our rambunctious little lab-mix that we love and adore.  Everyone else loves her too, but I still get asked when we're going to have a real baby.

It's really complicated.

And now, almost a year to date after our first miscarriage, we have miscarried again.

Like I said, it's a terrible-horrible-no-good-complicated mess.

We have lived here a little over a year-and-a-half and I had hoped by now I'd have a better answer to this question.  Something normal and less messy like ... my kids are right here, want to hold them?

But this time around, when we are asked this question or questions like why Ms. Shelly hasn't really left the house for weeks or why bible study is cancelled again, we are trying to be as open and honest as possible.  It's challenging to talk about, but we are trying our best.

We are trying our best because this is what community is about.  It's about sharing and dwelling in the good, the bad and the really, really ugly together.

We are trying our best.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

are you a teacher?

Many of you know that the runner-man and I live in the inner city here in Baltimore.  We moved to a {tiny} apartment a few years back before making the decision to jump in head-first and buy a house in our neighborhood.

When we started looking for our house, I knew I wanted to live on a block where there were tons of kids.  I imagined a life of playing board games, blowing bubbles, drawing with sidewalk chalk, painting fingernails, baking cookies and more.  I knew it wouldn't be perfect, but it sounded glorious to my ears, especially since we did not have any children of our own yet.

So, we bought a used-to-be-vacant on a block with tons of kids and families.  When I say tons, I mean it. Like 20 kids who live here, and about 15 kids who come to play football here.  Our block is one of the only blocks near by that doesn't have a "No Ball Playing" sign -- meaning there are 10-15 person football games going on outside on any given day.  These are fun to watch, until your car gets dented by so-and-so's elbow after his amaaaaaaazing touchdown.  Everyone points fingers.  The runner-man reminds me that there's something bigger than the dents -- that some of these kids are forced into adulthood way too soon -- that they need to run and play football and be care free -- that the alternative could be drugs, or violence, or crime.  I remind myself that I love these kids and this block and decide to get over the dents.  Then I see a new dent. A bigger dent. { Repeat cycle. All the time.}

Where there are tons of kids, there are also tons of invitations to football games, science fairs, and Christmas concerts.  We try to say yes to everything we are invited to because we want to support the kids and see them get excited about school-stuff.  Most of the time, this means awkwardly walking into the school {clinging to my runner-man's arm} and finding a seat amidst parents and kids and teachers who stare at us and wonder who the heck we are.  We don't quite know where we fit in at these things, but we still go anyway. 

Once, a middle-schooler begged us to come to her choir concert.  She got us tickets and we shuffled our schedules.  It was important to her.  We sat through song after song, only to realize she never joined the singers on the stage.  She never came.  So there we sat, song after song and watched other parents' kids sing Joy to the World and Silent Night.  Again, we got lots of stares wondering who we are and why we are {seemingly randomly} showing up to a kids concert when we have no kids at the school.  I don't know, we just did. 

Time and time again, we have been asked by kids and parents alike: Are you a teacher?

The understandable assumption is that if we hang around kids and go to school-things, one of us must be a teacher.  It makes sense, really, but it's not the case.

We usually reply by saying something like, No... uhhh... we're neighbors. 

[Insert awkward silence and strange stare here.]

We don't know how else to put it. We just live here, have chosen to invest here, and take on whatever role or job title is required of us. We've been nurses, gardeners, chauffeurs, trash-picker-uppers, mediators, chefs, recreation leaders, coaches, mentors, counselors, babysitters, translators and most importantly, neighbors.

We're neighbors.

And though sometimes we may grow tired of the dents and the strange stares and the questions and the knick-knack-knocks at the door, we remind ourselves that this is the block we chose.

This is the life we chose.

And we wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the world but here.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

grief on the most-gracious-day-ever.

Days like today, for most, will be filled with oh-so-satisfying mounds of turkey, the joy of a family united, the coma after the food {plus the football, of course} and the round-and-round-the-table-of-joyful-I-am-thankful-fors.

Gratitude. We give gratitude to the bearded God Man for all that he has given us -- our spouses, our homes, our health, our starbucks coffee. 

We tell Him that we are thankful for all that He has done. Praise Him for giving us that job we wanted. That raise we wanted. That scholarship we wanted. That husband we wanted. That baby we wanted.

We look to the sky and we tell Him that we know we are blessed and the abundance of love and joy and good tidings is overwhelming. 

It's simply too much. Like that last bite of sweet-potato-pie you take before you decide that if you'd ever like to walk again, you'd better stop now. 

But there's another side to gratitude that the not-so-apparently-blessed will wrestle with in their hearts today. A side to gratitude that I am wrestling with in my heart today.

I'm talking about the unexplainable, heart-wrenching times when the bearded God Man "doesn't prevent" the terrible-awful from raging like a lion and devouring what joy you may have had. 

The times when no matter how much you prayed, how loudly you wailed, how much you were willing to sacrifice,
the bearded God Man withholds the good,
flat out says no,
or wait,
that disease is incurable,
that typhoon killed your family,
that man shot your child,
the city is taking your house,
those foster babies won't be yours to love after all.

How are we to be thankful for the terrible-awful?

Do we lift our hands and say thank you for death?

Maybe the saints could be thankful for the terrible-awful. And maybe you can, too. 

But I am no saint. 

I am very-much-human. And to feel poor and empty on the-most-gracious-day-ever is to be a lone foreigner at someone else's table. 

Maybe you're here with me. The world is rejoicing, but all I can think of is the loss -- the loss of life, my heart, my soul. The death of the belief that if you pray enough, wail enough, believe enough -- the bearded God Man will plead your case and bring victory over that which will utterly destroy you. 

For some, he does. For others, he does not. And I'll never quite understand it


On this beautiful-day-of-thanks, your heart may be breaking. You may feel like the lone foreigner, the weight of loss bearing down on your shoulders, wishing for better news or more favorable circumstances, cracking a smile to get through the hype of today. Let it be so. Grieve as your heart needs to.

Or, there may be a lone foreigner at your table, a loved one whose grief is like an unexpected "plus one," making you re-think your already-arranged-table for eight. Recognize that days like today only amplify grief. Don't ask a thousand questions. Just rearrange your place settings and make room for them to be, even if it's uncomfortable. Weep with your loved one, but don't try to fix their pain. Though you'll feel utterly helpless, you can't do it.

No matter which side of the table you are on, one thing is for certain: 

Grief exists, even on the most-gracious-day-ever. 
Even in the hearts of the seemingly blessed. 
Even at your table. 

Let it be so

Sunday, September 29, 2013

in it's time.

This morning, I feel oh-so-tired.  I just got finished telling my runner-man that I feel like all that has been lost over the past year is slowly being renewed.  Slowly.  

I used the only words I could think of in the moment -- that I am emerging from somewhere beneath the muck and mire. 

This process feels so slow, so heart-wrenching.  But it's been a long time coming.  

Some mornings I want to rise up and meet the day.

But on mornings like this one, when the crisp fall air is pushing itself through my window and into my soul, I can't help but want to curl up and forget:

Forget all that has been lost. 
Forget that I'm on this journey. 
Forget that suffering is inevitable.
Forget that life, with all of it's obligations and responsibilities, is always waiting to meet me.

I must welcome it.  Be thankful for the tasks that have been set apart for me.  Find strength to rejoice in this season of life, no matter how much it hurts.

{ But I wish I could forget. }

Or maybe I just wish I could be healed:

Healed so I can remember with grace, forgiveness, and hope for the future.
Healed so I can rejoice with those around me who are celebrating their blessings and triumphs.
Healed so I can be whole.
Healed so I can be holy.

Stuffing the pain deep-down-in-a-ditch won't get me there.  Neither will pretending to just forget and move on.  

I know that I must go into the pain,  
acknowledge that it's there,  
lift it up,
and pray that the Lord does something beautiful with it. 

Most importantly, I must make the intentional, heart-conscious decision that I want to be healed.  That I can wait on the Lord regardless of how long this journey takes.  That I can be patient, yet still have hope.

Henri Nouwen says that "the word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”

{ My patience looks more like pouting. }

And today, although I'd rather try-to-forget and keep busy, I am praying for the strength to live out -- my story, my responsibilities, my life -- to the fullest.  

I am praying for the strength to want to be healed.  To want to emerge.  To want to believe that somehow, something is hidden in this mess that will manifest itself to me.  Something good.  Something beautiful. 

For "He has made everything beautiful in its time." 
{ecclesiastes 3:11}

Saturday, September 28, 2013

on psalm 42 & walking the beast

Exercising has never been the most relaxing thing for me.  I have always had a secret-jealousy towards those, like my runner-man, who can go for five mile runs to "decompress from the day" and then come back with revelations and life decisions already-made-up. 

As I become more comfortable in my own skin, I can admit that there aint no big revelations coming from my runs.  
When I run, I am {for some unknown reason} forced to focus too much on not dying --

Am I inhaling through my nose too much? 
Did I just swallow a bug? 
Are my lungs about to collapse? 
Can I stop now, pleeeaaassseee?
But I love those who can run with serious dedication.  I so admire them.  I wish my lungs would cooperate so I could be them.  Instead, I'm afraid that I'm destined to a life where the back of my car is plastered-all-over with stickers to celebrate all of my "0.0" mile races. 
Now, I know that "not everyone is a runner."  I also know that if I really wanted to be a runner, I could train, and push through my fears-of-dying, and just run.

But I don't know if I want to be a runner.  And I have to remind myself that that's okay

In fact, ever since we adopted the beast, our 2 year old 60+ pound lab mix, by default I have become quite the walker.  {If you have ever been walked by -- or dragged by -- your dog through a squirrel-infested park, you know exactly what I mean.}

Walking the beast is good for me, but it's usually not that relaxing either.  How relaxing can it be to be yanked at a moment's notice at the sight of anything furry and to have to pull random objects out of my toddler-puppy's mouth every-five-seconds?  I love her to pieces, but she makes me crazy sometimes.

On our walk this morning, however, I felt something different; something strangely peaceful and calming.  For the first time in months, I felt like I could focus, and think, and even pray.

As I walked through our local park, I felt -- almost physically -- these words wash over my heart:

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why are you downcast?

There are a million ways I could respond to this question, but I felt a strange sense that I needed to just let the words be.  Soak them in.  Stop trying to argue with the God-of-the-Universe. 

Psalm 42.  These words were from Psalm 42, a passage I hadn't read in years.  Why was I remembering them now?  It's as if they had been tucked away in my heart, only to be brought out for such a time as this. 
When I got home, I opened up to the rest of the passage, which reads like this:
Why are you downcast, O my soul? 
Why so disturbed within me? 
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, 
my Savior and my God.
This is me, I thought.  I am here, and God knows it. 
Downcast, downcast, downcast -- but more aware than I have been in a long time that God is somewhere in this muck-and-mire with me.  I don't know all the wheres or whys or hows {and most likely never will} 
but my hope is slowly being restored, 

my faith slowing coming back to life.

And although I'm not there yet, I believe that somehow and soon enough,
I will yet praise him.

I am thankful today for a beautiful, morning walk,
my crazy, furry-beast,
scripture to heal the soul, 
and yes, even the fact that I am not a runner.

Friday, September 27, 2013

remembering M

Yesterday, we remembered and grieved the loss of our dearest M -- the child we never got a chance to hold, or kiss, or even see.

My runner-man and I took the day off from work. We had decided ahead of time that we would write letters to commemorate the day -- a letter to M from each of us.

We painted a wooden chest the most pink of pale-ballet-pinks and I sewed M a baby blanket. 


As I held the blanket in my arms, I couldn't help but think of how small and delicate M was when she went. The questions of why and how and for what purpose flooded my heart.

God did not answer me. He remained silent, as silent as He has been for some time now.

It was a really sad and painful day, with the tiniest {I mean tiniest} bouts of peace hidden far beneath the tears and the heaviness.

Is this a holy struggle, losing M?  Does God have a purpose for this pain?  Will I ever see redemption?  Will I ever feel whole again?

No one one tells you that it's going to be this hard -- following God, being married, having a baby, suffering devastating losses. But I am told that love is stronger than death. That there is a love -- God's love -- that conquers all fear, all pain, all loss.

And though He has been quiet -- seemingly turning his face as I cry out for refuge and new life -- I know better than to believe that He has left me entirely.

He is somewhere in the midst of this, holding me as I remember M.

Lord, let it be so.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

for the mamas with no child to hold.

For the mamas with no child to hold, a day devoted to all-things-motherly can be more than overwhelming.

I know because today, I feel it.

The stores are fully stocked with I-love-you-mom cards, the tear-jerking commercials have hijacked the television, and neighborhood kids flock the streets in their sunday best and with flowers in-hand to give to the mamas and grandmamas who have raised them.

Don't get me wrong -- I believe that days like today are beautiful and life-giving and necessary.  Honoring the mamas who have given us life {and given their lives up for us} is a powerful thing.  I am forever grateful for the ways God has loved me through my birth mama, the mamas I've gained through marriage, grand-mamas, and the spiritual mamas who have taught me so many valuable, heart lessons throughout my journey.  My life would be so different -- so empty -- without these precious women.

But for the mama whose arms are empty -- the mamas who have lost a child to tragedy, violence, drugs, illness, death, miscarriage -- we mamas wrestle with a different kind of grief on days like today. 

The kind of grief that reminds us {taunts us} of what could have been, what should have been, and even worse, what might never be again.

{ I should be rocking my few-week-old baby to sleep in our mustard-yellow nursery.  My neighbor's 20-something-year-old son should know life and freedom apart from drugs, and violence, and a prison sentence;  he should be celebrating with her at their brunch table today.  That pastor's wife in California should be having a tea-party with her little cancer-free girl, Daisy.  That grieving, tired, god-loving woman should just see those two-pink-lines already. }

Yet, for whatever reason -- some reason far {so far} above my earthly understanding -- these things are not.  These things simply cannot be.

And on this day -- while some mamas and even my dearest friends celebrate the beauty and blessing of motherhood {as they should}, I pray that we're all reminded of the other mamas -- the mamas in every church community and neighborhood and block who throw their hands in the air {or hide under the covers} on days like today, wondering how anything on this earth makes any kind of godly sense; those mamas whose flower vases, and dining tables, and spare bedrooms are empty, but whose hearts are filled with grief, and loss, and pain like-no-other.

Yes, even the mama with no child to hold is still a mama. 

Happy mama's day to all.

With love from east baltimore,


Friday, February 15, 2013

nothing good comes from sitting in that chair

That chair.

I hate that chair.

That chair is where I've been pricked, and pronged and told good luck by ladies in scrubs who have no idea why their really taking my blood. That chair is where I was told to go, day after day, until the doctors could confirm the terrible, terrible news that everyone knew had already happened anyway.  That chair is where I cried silent tears as I flashed a half smile to the ladies thinking their hard work was going to reap the benefit of me getting the happiest news of my life.  That chair is where I sat, knowing in the pit of my being that M had come and gone and I would never quite be the same again.

{ I never wanted to see that chair again. }

However it happened, I found myself in that chair this week...... again.  The nurses pricked and pronged and told me good luck and I just stared, knowing that nothing good comes from sitting in that chair.

You can call later for the results, she told me with a grin on her face as I stood up to leave.

I flashed her a half-smile {as best as I could} and thought to myself, I can't call you because if I hear you tell me it's negative over the phone, I'll never get those words out of my head. 

I drove home in the rain and prayed to God, asking Him to just please make the darn thing positive.  As in, if I'm not really pregnant yet, couldn't He just wave a fancy wand and make it happen so I can just move on from all of this mess?

In the car, I heard a song on the radio and thought to myself, this is God speaking to me..... telling me it's going to be positive.

If we hope hard enough, sometimes we can convince ourselves of anything.

My husband and I sat down for dinner, trying to ignore the big-fat-elephant-in-the-room.  A notification popped up on my iPod touch.... You have new mail.

And just like that, we read the news on a screen that only confirmed that things aren't quite right yet.

Life after M has been all sorts of difficult and we have a ways to go before things will be right again.

And just as I already knew,

just as I had already experienced,

absolutely nothing good comes from sitting in that chair.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

on god winks and learning to survive

For some reason, today has got me thinking about little glimpses of hope. 

You know, those 'ahh-ha' things that happen to you or come to you in the midst of your tragedy, right when you think things couldn't possibly get any worse.  

Words spoken by a loved one, and kisses from your other half, and personal deliveries of 4 different flavors of ben and jerry's ice cream, and purple and pink skies that take your breath away, and invitations to do things that have the potential to make your heart sing again. 

I once heard someone call these 'God winks.'  

{Cheesy, I know.  And I don't usually pull out the cliche on here, but today, I can't help it.}

To be honest, I can just picture God watching me as I shred myself to pieces down here -- helplessly a wreck, convinced that I'll never quite be 'whole' again.  That I'm doomed to a life of childlessness and depression and that I'm always one second away from being smashed under the weight of a falling tractor trailer on the road. 

{Let's just say this whole mess has made me a really anxious person.  I'm working on it.}

But I can picture Him, way-up-there but somehow all-the-way-down-here-with-me.  I can picture Him watching me as I struggle to sing the lyrics when everyone else is worshipping with their hearts; when the tears fall during sermons on Sundays, week after week; when I don't choose forgiveness and reconciliation, even though I should; when I turn to a friend and tell her that I just don't think I'm ever going to know how to pray again.

I told God a few weeks ago that I wasn't really talking to Him right now; that I needed my space because I'm angry and broken and don't really know how to believe that He is good

And yet, He has still been 'winking.'  

{ Nuggets of wisdom from little-old-ladies who feel compelled for no-good-reason to share something God has put on their heart when I visit them for work.  A neighbor who sees me, and walks all the way to my end of the block, just to give me a hug.  A husband who makes my lunch for me for the umpteenth time without grumbling.  The smiles and hugs from neighborhood kids that anxiously greet me everyday when I get home from work.  An excerpt from a book that reminds me I'm not the only one.  A dream in the night that is so vivid and obvious that it must be God hijacking my sleep cycle to tell me that He's just not quite finished with me yet. }

Today when it's oh-so-cold-outside and I'd rather just stay in my bed and in my mess {because let's just face it, sometimes it's just easier to stay there}, 

I'm getting up.  I'm going to have breakfast with a friend.  I'm going to church.  And I'm going to write a grocery list.  Small steps, but really important steps. 


{ Because I've learned that at any given moment and in some of the most unexpected places, God has little glimpses of hope for me. }

And even when I can't find the strength to look for them, or don't even want to see them, 

I do know that I need His winks to survive

Saturday, February 2, 2013

on beasts and fear and standing taller.

We watched this movie the other day... and I cried.  

Of course I cry at just about everything these days -- TV sitcoms, song lyrics on the radio, hallmark commercials.  I guess once your heart has been broken so deeply, it doesn't take much to remind you of where you've fallen

But this movie?  Breathtaking.  It touches on loss, and fear, and embracing where you've come from, and how the things we think might fix our brokenness don't always do the trick.  Plus, the main character Hushpuppy {a little girl with an afro who wears jean shorts, a wife beater and rain boots throughout most of the scenes} is absolutely adorable and convincing.  She gives the world the opportunity to experience some of life's most tragic events through her innocent, youthful eyes.  And that my friends, is rare gift to the world. 

There's this scene -- this strong and powerful scene -- where Hushpuppy stands fearlessly in the face of something she has been taught to run from her entire life.

She stares fear in the face without hesitation, without wavering.  She doesn't run and she doesn't hide, even when all of her friends do.  She just stands there, in all of her 'littleness', taller and stronger, as if she can conquer the world. 

This picture stirs my heart every time I think about it.  It stirs my heart because it reminds me just how much the things I fear and the things I've been taught to fear cripple me

If you get pregnant, you'll probably just lose the baby again
That truck is going to swerve into your lane
You'll never find your passion again
That person doesn't really like you
You're just not good enough
You'll never make it

Someone looked me in the eyes this past week and told me that I just need to accept that awful things happen, that tragedy strikes and that's just a part of life.  

The good and the bad, all wrapped up into one painfully beautiful reality.  

I know this to be true, but if I'm honest, it doesn't make life any easier.  


Because beasts are still beasts, and fear doesn't go away just because you want it to. 

Beasts stir, and scream lies, and knock you over.  

{ Even after you've barely made the smallest tip-toes of progress. }

Going through tragedy, embracing heartache, and still {somehow} finding the strength to stare in the eyes of what scares you the most and come out alive and well after the fact?  

That takes something special, something divine and God-given.... something not impossible, but something I'm not sure I know how to get right now.

{ Right now, for me, the beasts are still beasts,

 and I'm simply learning to accept the fact that they exist. }

Sure, I think I'll stare them in the face someday.  

And I know it will take a Hushpuppy-kind-of-courage.

The kind of courage that moves you to stand there, in all of your 'littleness' and weakness, taller and stronger, as if you can conquer the world. 

Taller and stronger and somehow, 

I'll figure out how to conquer these beasts.