Saturday, April 15, 2017

the in-between, the saturday, the long wait

We were at our finally-met-in-person (!) friends’ church this weekend in NYC.  David and his band, The Brilliance wrote a beautiful song for Clive 2 years ago while we were in the hospital.  

It was so good to finally connect with them.  Their music has been such a gift to us.  From the crying out of “Have You Forsaken Me?” (which we blasted and cried out on our drive home from the hospital after Winnie died, and had some friends play for her funeral) to the hope of “The Sun Will Rise” to the beauty of “Gravity of Love.”  (They have an amazing new CD out, please check it out!  Or really any of their music.  I’ll share more about their upcoming projects when I hear more, too.)

The service at their small church was exactly what we needed.  Something about the anonymity so much more freedom for me to openly cry.  It’s harder to do that in a room where everyone knows me, even though I know no one would be surprised or bothered by it.

We got prayer.  David’s dad and friend prayed over us, their faces wet with tears.  His dad said the apostles’ creed:  “We believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…” 

And went on to pray “I say WE, because we know that sometimes you can’t believe alone.  We carry you.  Even when you can’t believe, we believe for you.”

So beautiful. 

Isn’t it true, though: I believe.  Also, Lord, help my unbelief.

The sermon was about expectation and disappointment.  Jonathan Merritt shared about the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem the week of his death.  He came riding a donkey, and people thought: “Can this be the king? Righteous and victorious, He’s coming to do something Big here.  He has done so many miracles, now He will do more.”  But he came to die.  They did not expect that.  (Please listen here: http://www.tgctribeca.com/teaching-archive/2017/3/15/lent.  So worth listening to, especially if you’ve felt in a season of disappointment!)

We sang Hosanna, after talking about Syria and Egypt’s tragic weeks.  It was the saddest Hosanna I have ever heard.  The instruments cried and wept with us. 
Hosanna.  Hosanna in the highest. 

So somber, so sad.  My face was streaked with tears. 
On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into the city.  Welcomed and praised and surrounded by hosannas.  Killed only days later.  The hosanna would be oh so sad if they knew what was coming.  Somber.  Grief. Death.

And then, days later:  New life.  Restoration.  Resurrection.

I feel like I’m living in the middle days, on the Saturday.  Yes, I can rejoice in what is ahead.  But I am still somber, stricken.  I am still naming what is wrong and waiting for someday-restoration.  My hosanna song is somber, tear-filled, because I know of these broken days, and this broken world that surrounds. 

Yes, I rejoice for the work that is done.  For the presence, peace, life, joy that I (sometimes) feel in Christ.  But, I will not pass over these days lightly.  I will not, cannot, say “But look what comes ahead! Life!”  Because the middle can be ever-long-suffering.  Not that we lose hope, but that we don’t just reject the teaching that suffering offers us when we meet it with somber reflection. 

My hosanna is sad, because I know what lies ahead in these middle-days and I don’t know when the end will come.   Just as they didn’t know Jesus would rise, I don’t know when joy will return in this life, or when full restoration will happen in the next. 

As I sang the hosanna-song, I thought of my joyful babes in heaven. Singing a happy hosanna-song.  Oh, how I miss them!  I wept.  Not for them, but for me and the others waiting in these middle-days.  We don’t know, we don’t understand.  We wait.  We sing “holy, holy, holy,” and we wait.    He will return, making all things right, and new, and true. 

I wrote this post a few days ago, and received this in an email this afternoon: http://www.faithgateway.com/in-between-despair-and-joy?utm_source=fgtoday&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fgtoday20170415B#.WPJ_54jytPY  SUCH a good article about the Saturday wait.  Please read!

“It’s a strange day, this in-between day. In between despair and joy. In between confusion and clarity. In between bad news and good news. In between darkness and light.”

Sunday, April 2, 2017

struggling to pray | by Sam

This may come as a surprise, or this might be the most obvious thing in the world, but Rachel and I have both struggled with anger at God, and are in the midst of struggling with anger at God. Except, (and I’m speaking for myself here) I’m not even sure anger is the right word, something more like disappointment and frustration may fit better. Anger, I think, requires too much energy for someone as tired as I am.

For me, one of the biggest consequences of this is that it is very difficult to pray. Prayer requires submission to God, it requires some level of seeking and accepting (and trusting) His will. I do want to point out that I haven’t completely given up on prayer, just as I haven’t completely given up on God, but it has been very difficult. Praying with sincerity was difficult after Clive died, but it has become nearly impossible since Winnie has died. I pray, but I can barely bring myself to ask anything of God, or when I do, I struggle to believe it can happen.

I have a few different thoughts about this and maybe they will take up multiple blog entries, but I am going to try and put them coherently into this one, because my lack of energy usually means months go by between posts.

My first thought is this, the three questions that every person has to answer in their own hearts are:
  1.   Is God real?
  2.   Is God good?
  3.  Can I trust Him?

When a crisis strikes we are brought back to these 3 questions. For many people, their answer to the first question is “no” and they move on with their lives. For a lot of other people, they begin by accepting God as real, but as life progresses they have a hard time imagining Him as good, so they decide that He is neither good, nor real. Because, honestly, if you decide that God is not good, you pretty much also have to also decide that He is not real. It is my belief that our inner selves cannot accept a reality where God is real and not good.  There are people who probably claim to believe that God is real and that He just started creation down its path and is indifferent, or not powerful enough, to intervene.  But I think that once someone has gone down this road of logic, practically speaking, they don’t really believe in a God, because that sort of god means nothing to everyday life.  In actuality, that sort of god is an insult to existence, it would be better if everything were meaningless.
Surprisingly (given the circumstances) I still believe God is real and God is good. I struggle sometimes to believe that I can truly trust Him to work good in my own life, but that is something I am grappling with. However, it would be impossible and meaningless for me to grapple with it if I didn’t first believe that God was real or that he was good.

I think this is a very important starting place for those who are struggling through difficult circumstances, or struggling through their faith. I can’t guarantee that this line of thinking will be helpful for everyone, but I have been helped a lot by Christian apologetics (“apologetics” means giving a rational defense of the faith). A couple of books that have been hugely influential to me are “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton and “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” by Timothy Keller. In addition to almost everything written by C.S. Lewis, though perhaps especially, “The Weight of Glory”.

My heart is a pit of despair. To approach it, and to wrestle with what is inside of it, is oftentimes beyond what I am prepared to handle. I think it is even dangerous for my mind to try and deal with my heart until my mind has solid foundation to stand on. Otherwise, my mind is not prepared to deal with the sorts of questions my heart is going to inevitably ask. So, before I can help my heart, I have to first address my mind, and for me that has meant comforting my mind with the assurance that 1) God is real, and 2) God is good. The 3rd question is really a heart issue, but like I said I can’t wrestle with that until I’ve wrestled with the others. If I attempt to, I am likely going to suppress my nagging doubts until they fester and pop up again at the next crisis, which I think is what a lot of people do.

The books I mentioned above have comforted my mind with what I believe to be Truth. How they have done that is to assure me that the existence of God, and specifically the story of Jesus, make sense and explain the world we live in better than the alternatives. Chesterton (as well as Lewis) tackles this issue by appealing to the arts and literature and our own imaginations. If we can create such beauty in our arts, and if the stories we love to tell speak again and again of heroes saving the day, then it is very likely that those longings are trying to approach that which is ultimately true. Otherwise, what are they trying to approach? It would be a sad world if our imagination was better than reality, and if it were, what is it were are imagining anyway? But what if our imagination is trying to tell a story of how things should be? Our longings for peace and justice are not mere chance, but have truth inside of them. Which is why these same longing have appeared throughout human history, going back to the earliest writings. The hero we have been longing for is the One that actually came, Jesus. This line of thinking rings true to me, although I cannot guarantee the same will happen for you. This isn’t a step-by-step guidebook that works for everyone, life is far too complex for that.

So, I have gotten this far, but I still struggle with the 3rd question: can I trust God?
You might think that this is closely related to the 2nd question, Is God good? If He is good, than surely you can trust him.

There is sense to that thinking, but the reality is that trusting is much more difficult than merely believing. Saying that God is good and letting it sink into your heart that you can trust Him with your entire being are two very different things. They are definitely related, but you have to take some serious steps of faith in order to answer “yes” to that final question and seriously mean it no matter what. If everything falls apart, will you still trust him? Will I still trust Him?


This leads me back to prayer. I’m not saying I don’t trust God. I’m not saying I answer “no” to that 3rd question. But I am struggling with it. It’s not a simple “yes”, and at times it definitely feels like my answer is “I’m not sure”. This makes prayer difficult. At least sincere prayer, I guess surface level prayers and saying a quick grace before eating a meal aren’t as difficult. But the real prayers. The kind that take trust and faith and a real relationship with God. Those are difficult. Yet, I still find myself trying, making attempts to say the words I struggle to say. Or just sitting quietly before Him and hoping (perhaps even daring to trust) that He will do the healing work in me that so desperately needs to be done. 

He is good after all, right?  I still think so.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

what's with the shirts?

The why.   I love knowing the background stories, so I thought I’d share a bit today about why I’m making all these shirts and selling them to fund our adoption.  

In October of last year, I found myself (obviously) in a really dark place, two months out from losing Winnie.  My plans for raising Winnie been completely smashed.  I’d quit my job earlier in the year, and my job of “mom” was ripped from me again.  Sam returned to work, and I didn’t have anything to structure or govern my days.  I had little energy, didn’t want to interact much with people, found that my words were gone and I was unable to write, and I was very alone.  

I found myself deeply questioning my identity, value, purpose, and life.   I was still in shock and numb, and that protected me from an even deeper darkness, but I knew that something had to be done.  I remember a couple days spent in bed, begging God to give me some peace and to feel his presence.  I did not feel this, and it was incredibly hard.  Sam had to carefully pull me out of darkness and keep me from slipping away.  I knew that I needed something to give me a little boost in feeling support from others around me, something to do to keep my hands busy, something to give me the gratification of ‘work’.  

It all sounds so dramatic when I write it down, but I really think that making my first batch of Trees & Flowers shirts brought a tiny sliver of meaning back into my meaningless days.  My hands kept busy, and my mind was distracted, and a making some silly shirts just might have saved my life.

I know that there are other (and maybe easier) ways to do an adoption fundraiser, but making these shirts has been so much more than just trying to set aside some adoption money.  It’s been an outlet for my creativity, a distraction for my hands and mind, and a way to feel the arms of our community wrap around us.  

Thanks for doing that.  Thanks to the high school friends, college friends, family, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, and the friends we haven’t met yet.  #ittakesavillage 

Shop on Etsy @ treesandflowersco.etsy.com to see all ten designs.  







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As an aside, (I always feel I need to make it clear, because it's just so darn easy to assume we're 'better' now) we have so much more to process, grieve, and heal.  We are still so far from ‘better.’  The numbness has continued these last 7 months, and we see the blessing in that--allowing us to take off tiny bites and process as we are able.  We’re taking more steps in intentionally working through and giving space for that.  Practicing rest, silence, and solitude.  (Netflix and wine—or another house project-- is so much easier than intentionally grieving, but we have to know our limits.)  Thanks for listening.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Adoption



We’re adopting!  I'm sure most of you won’t be surprised to hear that we’ve taken steps towards a domestic adoption.  We have so much love in our hearts, and we can’t wait to have our arms filled again with another son or daughter.  There’s no replacing Clive and Winnie, but we are so ready to have children in our home.   Our hearts will continue to grieve, but grief and love and hope and new life can all co-exist.  Isn’t that beautiful?

We may still have more biological children in the future, but we definitely feel that adopting a child is what we’re supposed to do next.  Since we’ve always been interested in adopting or fostering, it hasn’t felt like a difficult decision to come to, it’s just felt right.  We didn’t know when we’d adopt, and thought it would be after we had a couple kids in our home already, but we feel that it definitely the right time now. 

One hard part was deciding between domestic, international, and foster-to-adopt.  Since all of them have different paperwork right from the start, we were forced to make the decision early and feel certain that we should do a domestic adoption at this time.  While international adoption may be in our future, we didn’t feel a clear sense about adoption from a specific region or country right now, and there are several countries that have had significant delays and hiccups in the adoption process in the past few years (including some stopping all US adoptions).  Foster care has been on our hearts, too, but since the primary goal of fostering is reunification with families, we feel that it’s not the best situation for us right now after loss. 

We have almost finished our homestudy.  It involved several day-long training sessions with our agency, lots of reading, tests, appointments, and hundreds of essay questions.  

(The white pages are our essay questions...) 


It was cumbersome, and even frustrating at times to think about what we have to do to ‘prove’ ourselves worthy of a child.  But, in the end, it’s easy to understand that the agency has to very thoroughly screen all adoptive couples to make sure that they are not allowing an unstable family to adopt a child.  They need to understand our upbringing, where we are in our grief, our philosophy on parenting, our expectations of adoption, and our stability in marriage, jobs, and friendships. 

It can take many months (or years) to have a match or placement, we aren’t sure how long we’ll have to wait to bring our baby home.  We’re excited. We’re hopeful.  We’re nervous.  Nothing about adoption is simple. The paperwork, the decisions, the emotional rollercoaster, the cost, the matching, and the parenting an adopted child.  We’re so glad to have experienced several friends that are helping guide us through these decisions and give recommendations.  It truly takes a village!

For now please join us in praying for the following:

  • The decisions we’ll be making and conversations we’ll be having to reach those decisions.    
  • The birth mother(s) we’ll be working with, her heart, and her decisions.  It will most likely be an open adoption where we will know her and she (and possibly the birthfather) will stay a part of our child’s life.
  • The child we’ll be adopting.  For adjustment, health, and joy.
  • That the timing of our match and placement would be right, and that it would happen this year. 
  • That we will not have failed matches or failed placements, so our hearts can be protected from further hurt and disappointments.
  • That we will use the waiting time to prepare and grow.
  • That families will come forward to foster children in our area.  Our hearts are so heavy for this, but since the goal of fostering is to reunite children with their families we feel that it’s not the best situation for us right now after loss.  But we see such a great need!  

I’m sure that many of you will have questions, but there is not much more that we can share at this time.  At this time we're set with an agency and not actively searching for a birthmother on our own, as some couples do.

Thanks for praying. 

We aren’t doing much fundraising at this time, because the amount we need to fund may depend on several factors, but I will be making and selling t-shirts that will go towards our adoption.  Some will be adoption themed, and some are coffee themed (surprised?).  Check out the shirts and order them here: etsy.com/shop/TreesAndFlowersCo    More styles will be added soon!  


I’ll share more on Facebook and Instagram if you want updates, or you can sign up for blog emails below. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Terrifyingly confusing

It's been so hard to write.  It's been so hard to grieve.  It's been so hard to process Winnie's death.  The past few months have been very hard, and we've been relatively quiet about how we're doing.  




Clive’s and Winnie’s deaths were so different, and our response has also been different. 

Clive’s body failed him slowly.  It was traumatic to watch him suffer so greatly.  His body was so incredibly broken.  We held him.  We said goodbye.  We watched him close his eyes one final time, and breathe his last breaths.  We ushered him from our arms into heaven.  We were devastated, but we had a measure of peace knowing he was finally healed in heaven.  God's presence was with us in that hospital room and went with us as we left the hospital and headed home. 

Winnie, though...  Winnie’s death was a violent shock. She was here, and then she was gone.  Like a vapor.  9 days were really just 7, as she was born so late in the night, and died so early in the morning.  Most of the days she was under the phototherapy lights for hours, with a little mask over her sweet eyes.  We got a call in the very early hours of the morning, and rushed across the street to the hospital.  We had to try three entrances before we finally got in through the ER and hurried through the long hallways to the NICU.  We didn't say goodbye.  Her final moments were anything but peaceful.  She was gone so suddenly. I held her body for hours after she passed.  We were wailing and weeping.  I was begging God to let my heart stop, too.  Please.  

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I read an article about losing a child and gaining something greater in our closeness to God and our understanding of his suffering.  (http://www.iamsecond.com/2016/01/we-lost-a-child-and-gained-something-greater/)

I get it.  I get the gist of what they are trying to say.  I actually would have resonated with it a lot after losing Clive.  I felt close to God.  I felt a small measure of understanding.  I felt a remarkable and surprising peace.  It hurt so incredibly badly, but I felt the sense that good was happening in midst of our painful story with our son.  And it was.  It did.  It still is.

But, Winnie.  Winnie’s death has broken me open.  Winnie’s death has not made me cling to God in that way.  Winnie’s death has brought utter confusion and complete terror on a new level.  Winnie’s story was supposed to be an expectant one.  It was to be one of restoration and hope, of renewed joy, of prayers answered.  We were so hopeful of healing.  I remember being so glad that this time I wouldn’t be the ‘scary NICU story’ and that I could have a place to reach out to NICU families from the other side.  We had so many plans for that little girl.

I don’t feel that I gained more in losing her.  I lost more.  I'm not sure I’ll ever understand why things happened the way they did.  Sometimes there is no ‘silver lining’, no reason, and no ‘better’ to come of it.  Sometimes things feel so devastatingly broken and completely shattered. 

Processing her death has been terrifyingly confusing.  Sam has described it so well: it’s as if I have just placed this traumatic event on a shelf in my mind, unable to register it or process it.  Every so often, I take it off the mental shelf, and open it up.  My brain freaks out, sending it straight back onto the mental shelf.  

Terrifying confusion.  I have no other words to describe it.  

My perspective may change.  My healing may bring some different understanding and some peace.  I hope for this.  I desire this.  I’m pressing into Him.  

But, in my completely honest and vulnerable heart right now, I feel an unrest and lack of peace.  

I feel anger and indignation.  

I feel jealousy and frustration and bitterness.  

I feel darkness and abandonment.  

I feel exposed, abused, and cast out.  

I feel many, many things that I didn’t feel in the same way after losing Clive. 

I feel that I understand both sides now.  I understand the people that watch others grieve with peace, understanding, and acceptance and think “How is that possible?  What’s wrong with them?  What’s wrong with me?”  

And I understand the people who have peace that surpasses understanding.  

But right now, that is not me.  

And if that is not you, either, I want you to know that I see you, I hear you, and I'm with you.  

It is so very hard.  It's hard to feel so uncertain.  It's hard to sit across from a friend and say. "I need you to know that I am not okay."  It's hard to do some normal things and feel that people may interpret it as being 'better.'  We may smile, but we absolutely ache inside.  We are not better.  We are not okay.  And that is to be expected.  Our children are dead.  We shouldn't have to be okay.  

Right now, it's hard to hope.  Hope has disappointed us.  Each day is a struggle for both of us.   We're very unsure and unsteady.  But, even on the days when darkness is incredibly heavy, we are showing some hope.  Right now, hope is evident in working, eating, sleeping, and just living.  Hope is evident in the fact that we have plans for the next month and that we haven't given up.  

We still have so much hardship ahead of us.  There is so much we could share, but struggle to even find the words to communicate.  It's hard to be in a familiar place of devastation again, but find that many of the tools that worked last time are too painful or ineffective this time.  Healing and grieving is looking different, and it's hard to figure it out.  

I'm in different and separate places in my grief with Clive and Winnie, and it's confusing to sort that out mentally.  I've processed and grieved Clive's death so much more than Winnie's, and I've figured out how to mother, love, and remember him.  But with my sweet daughter, I am stuck.  Healing is so hard.  It takes a ton of effort and energy and I just feel so tired.  

I sat in a heap of rubble after our miscarriage, and slowly allowed healing to happen.  It took time and effort, and I witnessed the rebuilding and restoration.  The walls fell again when Clive died.  I found myself again sitting in the debris.  I slowly created something with the ruins.  Rebuilt and healed.  It took so much effort, but I saw the hope and joy slowly restoring.  But after the walls fell again, I feel incredibly defeated.  Healing is hard for me, because it's been followed with more pain, more damage, and more destruction.  Healing is tiring.  There's a thousand stones around me, and I'm just taking one small stone at a time.   

Thank you for continuing to reach out.  Even when texts and messages and calls go unanswered, it means so much to us.  Thank you for taking the time to write to us at Christmas and share how our story has impacted you.  We're still slowly reading those comments and emails.   Thank you for continued prayers.  We still need them.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

reflecting on God and gods and a request for this Christmas

We recently went on a trip to China (for business) and Thailand (for fun).  It probably goes without saying that these countries are very different from the U.S. (especially China).  We ate lots of interesting and different foods and tried our best to observe and learn about the cultures.

One of the obvious things we noticed is that both cultures are primarily Buddhist.  We had the opportunity to visit Buddhist temples in both China and Thailand.  Bob, our business associate in China, knows some of our story and knew that we recently lost Winnie.  He had a son born the same month as Winnie, and I think our loss “hit home” for him in many ways.  He took us to a Buddhist temple in Qingdao.  It was the largest temple in the city, sitting on top of a hill.  It had many different buildings within the complex, and each housed different statues of gods. 

(On a side note, I took World Religions in college and studied the major religions, including Buddhism, but I am quite rusty on the subject.  I was surprised to see so many different gods (or different forms of Buddha) representing different things.  Many of the statues didn’t even appear to be Buddha, it seemed like an interesting mesh of Hinduism and Buddhism.  Since Bob’s English isn’t proficient enough for complex conversations, it was difficult to ask a lot of questions.  Anyway, I digress.)

One of the reasons Bob took us to the Buddhist temple is that he wanted us to pray for healthy children in the future.  He cares so much about us and wants to see restoration in our future (just like all our friends and family do).  We politely told him we couldn’t kneel and pray to Buddha because we had our own God we prayed to.  But we walked around the complex and observed the different buildings and statues and what other people were doing.   One thing we saw a lot of (or so it was explained to us) was many women and couples coming to pray for fertility and for children.  Some were praying to have children and some were pregnant and praying for healthy children or specifically male children.  For some people, this was a daily part of their routine and a high priority to them. 
A week later, we found ourselves in Thailand at another Buddhist temple.  We started up a conversation with a guy outside the temple and he told us that his wife was pregnant and they came to the temple to pray for a boy (since they already had 2 girls).

I find it so interesting that so much of religion over the course of human history has been driven by fertility.  Historically speaking, the three things people probably most depended on god (or gods) for was good weather for farming, healthy children, and protection from enemies.  Today, most of us don’t farm and are relatively safe from our enemies, but for many people the issue of having children (or in our case having healthy children) is still a huge issue.

In countries like China and Thailand it drives people to go to the temples and pray to god (or gods) to bless them with their heart’s desire.  In Christianity, we often don’t treat God very differently.  When it comes to this difficult issue we want to approach Him and plead our case and do whatever it takes to convince Him, or twist His arm, to give us our way and obtain what we desire.

I think about what all of this says about our story.  I kept wondering what the people around us in China or in Thailand would think about us if they knew our whole story.  Would they think we had bad karma?  Would they think we were cursed?  Would they think we hadn’t pleased the gods or had not performed some superstition correctly to win favor?  Would they think we had some hidden sin issue that caused our children to die?


And what about in America, what does our story make others think?  I think, at the very least, it challenges many pre-conceived notions many of us have.  Notions of control, notions of blessings for a life well-lived.  Ideas that I don’t think are rooted in Christianity, but are instead rooted in our human nature to try and make sense of the world.  Our story doesn’t make a lot of sense and our human minds are repelled by it.  We don’t want it to be true, because it doesn’t fit into any sort of story that we want to be true.  We don’t want babies to die.  We especially don’t want babies of people we love and find to be nice, caring people to die.

I guess I wonder about you, whoever you are, reading our blog.  What does our story make you think about?  Part of it is probably a strange interest in a story so terrible.  I’m sure a proper person like you would never admit this, but I also know something about the human heart, and it’s messed up.  Part of it is probably concern about and love for us.  How are we holding up? What are we learning?  Part of it might be because you have a similar tragic story and long journey ahead of you.

We both hope that part of what our story makes you think about is that a light of truth and beauty shines through our lives in the midst of such darkness.  We could hope that so much is true, although we doubt it sometimes.

Christmas is coming up this week, and neither of us is looking forward to it.  Dreading it is probably a better description.  We didn’t decorate.  It seems all wrong.  We began to think we should have come back from China after the holidays were all over. 

If you’re reading this, I ask this Christmas gift of you:  Can you share in the comments below one way our story has changed or challenged you?  Or shown or reminded you of something good?  Or broken you away from the tired and untrue way of looking at the world and at God as just someone who rewards our good behavior and punishes our bad?

I hope it has.  We hope it has.  As we walked through the temples, we saw people praying out to gods to hear them and grant them their wish.  We hope our story, in its tragedy and brokenness, shows a different path.  A path that rings more true.  A path that contains The Truth.  A path that says there is Hope even when none seems present.





Our road has been so difficult.  The past few weeks have been really hard and we expect the next few weeks will be no better.  So we ask you, as part of our community, to give us some words of encouragement to remind us that there is still good in our story, and that you’ve been changed in some way by it.  We thank you in advance for that.

Monday, November 21, 2016

For Rachel

Rachel’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago.  We honestly didn’t really do anything special for it.  Which is completely my bad.  We were up in Wisconsin and we drove to her parent’s house for dinner and dessert.  I feel asleep on the couch until it was time to drive home and then I was grumpy that I had to drive home late on a Sunday night with work the next morning.  We then got in a fight on the drive home.  Which, if my memory serves me right, was provoked by the tired and grumpy version of myself.  It was not a good 30th birthday for Rachel.
I’m sure most of us in marriages have stories like this, but grief is a hard road to walk hand in hand with your spouse.  Grief makes you exhausted and it makes you selfish.  Almost all of your energy is spent dealing with your own thoughts and emotions and you feel like you have very little leftover to give to your spouse.  While at the same time your spouse is going through the same thing and as a result you have two tired and selfish individuals that don’t have the energy to have empathy.  This is basically a recipe for marital disaster.
Luckily (or unluckily in our case), Rachel and I have walked this road before and so we have enough knowledge to call a spade a spade.  We are at least aware enough to see what’s going on and try to recognize our own selfishness, although sometimes it is after the fact.
As for Rachel’s birthday, we’ve never been ones to do a ton for the other person’s birthday.  Usually we go out to eat and they open presents and it’s just the two of us.  It’s difficult to know now how to make a birthday feel special.  Nothing feels very special.  With the holidays coming up we are both pretty certain that neither Thanksgiving nor Christmas will feel special.  In fact, if they do feel special it will be because we will likely feel especially sad missing our children on those days.
Be that as it may, in the midst of this season of grief and in the midst of this upcoming holiday season I wanted to say something that any of you who read this blog already know, and that is that my wife Rachel is amazing.  I hardly ever write some gushy thing on facebook showing the world my love for her, that’s not really my style.  Something about it seems insincere (at least to me, you do what you do), but I want to brag about her here for a minute if you’ll let me.
A beautiful picture of Rachel
and Winnie
First off, like the rest of you, I read the stuff Rachel writes in awe.  I was as shocked to discover what a talented writer she is.  In fact, I have seen her writing grow and improve over the last year and a half and some of her most recent posts are absolutely spectacular (especially the one about abortion).
Her wrestling through grief for the world to see if something that is worthy of admiration and love.  Her goal isn’t even to “make her grief into something beautiful” but it naturally happens through her writing.  Her desire to love and help others, and her desire to love and serve Jesus both shine through even in the moments when she doesn’t even emotionally feel those things.  Those truths have so permeated into her character and are rooted so deeply down into her heart that even when she is writing something that is dark there is a light that shines through. 
I loved her before these things, but I love her for these things.
She is something very special.  As many of you know and as I have heard many of you say.
I hate (as so many of you do) that she and I have had to walk this road.  It’s not really a consolation prize that we might walk it well.  But then again, I think deep down both of us long to hear the words “well done my good and faithful servant” from our Lord, and so we try to walk well, even on the days when those words seem a joke to us.  And Rachel is walking well.
As her husband I know ALL of the behind the scenes secrets that you don’t get to know.  I know the ugliness, I know the darkness, I know the selfishness.  We all have these things, they are a part of us all.  But I am proud to say that for Rachel those things don’t define her.  They are not what shines through, they do not dominate her character.  What does is love, patience, kindness, self-control, gentleness, and faithfulness (and she's beautiful too).  And to top those off she is an excellent wife and an excellent mother to our children.  I know with all of my heart that Clive and Winnie both know what an amazing mom they were blessed with.  It’s hard to know sometimes (since she is such an amazing mom) why she didn’t get to mother for longer.  But as with a lot of things in life, we don’t get to decide that.

So, I just want to say happy belated birthday to Rachel and in this Thanksgiving season she is who I am most thankful for.  She is someone who brings so much joy into my life and I cannot imagine walking this road with anyone else.  She makes me better.  I can only hope the same is true the other way.