Almost exactly one year ago I miscarried my first child. I remember the day so painfully that I hesitate even now to revisit it. There was a palpable tension in the air when the ultrasound technician scanned for the heartbeat that was no longer there. My heart began sinking, sinking, until she gently said she was sorry and left to give us privacy for as long as we needed. I slowly reached for Brian and we held each other and wept quietly in the middle of the rigid room that has seen the most vulnerable moments in so many family's lives. I allowed myself about five minutes before I whispered "I just need to get through this" and went through the motions into the adjoining room where we learned what I could expect in the coming weeks. I remember being thankful for the back door situated strategically next to this room so we could exit privately, avoiding the prospect of running into any other human being that could be lingering in the halls or waiting room.
About two weeks later I went through the most heart-wrenching emotional and physical pain I have ever endured. I slept a lot, and I cried. It felt as if the world had slowed down and I was experiencing the tick of every minute go by, dragging me along with it unwillingly. I went back to work way earlier than I should have in an effort to get back to normal and in many ways I succeeded. A fiercely private person, I kept my pain to myself and a few close friends that I trusted to pray for me without finding and dispensing inappropriate advice as to how I should think or feel. However I had dealt with loss and pain in the past, this time was different. It is hard to explain even now, but I remember accepting my husband's love and affection at a careful arm's length. I operated on total silence for hours at a time and slept on my side facing outward. The only way I can put it is that my pain, while we experienced much of it together, felt intensely personal. I wrestled with the Lord and what His purpose in all of it was. I challenged Him in what seemed like a pointless, unnecessary act of testing to my faith.
It was during this time that I began reading "Anything" by Jennie Allen. A punch in the gut kind of book, it built up to a crescendo in one of the last chapters entitled "Scrapbooks", starting out with a story of a teenager who proudly displayed a book she had put together of all of the material items she had envisioned for her future. A beautiful house, car and husband were all included. Almost immediately switching gears, a list of common desires in every woman's life filled the following page:
"We plan it all out: when we will be married; how many kids we will have; where we will live; how much money we will make; what our jobs will be; what our houses will look like; how our husbands will treat us; the places we will travel; who our friends will be; how our kids will behave; how close our grandkids should live; when we will retire; and what our ministries will be like. At some point we realize it doesn't work that way."
I remember pausing at this point and acknowledging the expectations I had for my own life. Being the eldest of five children and frequent babysitter, I have had a maternal instinct for as long as I can remember. I do not believe my desire for motherhood to be incorrect or sinful by any means, but I realized in that moment that it had never occurred to me that God might have other plans. The book went on:
"We can't control the actual scrapbooks - the ones reflecting the past rather than the future. But we still long to try to control our lives and to build them to match the pictures of the lives we want. And letting go? The idea that we would actually hand it all over to God and say, "Go. Build it. Do whatever you want with all I have"... it is terrifying. What if God has planned any of these as part of the story? Singleness; struggle; adoption; a difficult husband; infertility; moving from the town we love; an apartment instead of a house; cancer; disapproval; death..."
I read in horror. What if instead of leaning on His promises for me I had created idols in visions of the future I thought I deserved? What if trusting God meant letting go of the life I felt entitled to? I closed the book and I wept. Not because I believed that nothing good would ever happen to me again, but because I asked myself if I could still love my God, the giver of good gifts, if I could not have children and in that moment I knew the answer was not yes. The concept rocked me and brought me to my knees in a very real sense. I cried out to the Lord for grace in my brokenness, longing to feel His presence as I struggled.
It has been almost exactly one year since, and my precious baby boy - my second child, has woken up in my womb. He kicks a lot these days and even has the hiccups. At 28 weeks, he is growing right on track and has the incredible ability of keeping me up at night even before he is born. I love him with all my heart. But I am not entitled to the blessing that is his life and this story is not meant to end with a fluffy happy ending. I see it now: there is no way that I can spell out for you exactly how the rest of my story goes - the joys and the heartbreaks that are sure to come. All I know is that everything that has happened to me so far has brought me closer and closer to the acceptance of God's love and ultimate plan for my life. It was during Thanksgiving dinner last year when we were going around the table saying what we were most thankful for that it hit me: I was so thankful that the Lord entrusted me with such pain. It has instilled in me a softer heart towards others and a further dependence on His will. Brennan Manning says in his book "The Ragamuffin Gospel",
"Trust clings to the belief that whatever happens in our lives is designed to teach us holiness."
I am working towards my "anything". My complete letting go of selfish and even unselfish desires that are not rooted in God's ultimate plan for me as revealed by the unfolding of every beautiful, mundane, surprising, busy, ordinary, crazy day. I want to embrace the disappointments with, "well that happened, God... what was your reason for that? Give me wisdom and the faith to accept it with joy only made possible through your grace".
For those of you who are at the crisis of your story, wading through the questions that your pain forces to the surface, take comfort in the powerful truth of Romans 8:28: "And we know that for those that love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose". That includes the heartbreak. The loneliness. The tears. The stuff that doesn't make sense. Even the "why, God..." moments. I love the Elevation Worship song that summarizes it this way:
"Nothing is wasted."
Loving the calligraphy design included in this blog post? Check out other customized creations from my wildly talented friend, Kathleen Ostrom, at Leen Jean Studios.