Lessons From Loss

Turner would have been five years old this year. Starting kindergarten this fall. That feels significant, monumental, impossible.  We went to dinner with some friends tonight to celebrate, to remember, to grasp at something tangible of him. We were listening to “Praise Him in This Storm” as we drove, as it rained. I know God didn’t send those few minutes of rain during those precise few minutes of song for me and only me, but sometimes it’s hard to not to wonder. Casting Crowns sings,

“I’ll praise you in this storm, and I will lift my hands,

For you are who You are no matter where I’ve been,

And every tear I’ve cried You hold in Your hands,

You’re always by my side, and though my heart is worn

I will praise You in this storm.”

God must have some mighty big hands. Hands that span five years’ worth of tears. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from loss over these past five years. I have to think about what I have learned often; otherwise I might go crazy from the tragedy of it all.

In college, I used to write a monthly newsletter for our college group, and in every issue I included a top ten list of some kind. It usually had to do with something pretty trivial, but it always brought me a lot of joy. My beloved youth pastor even incorporated a top ten list into his message for Jeremy’s and my wedding. And back when I was an overachieving young mom, I wrote an annual Christmas letter in top ten list form. This is my top ten list of lessons from loss thus far, with the obligatory disclaimer “in no particular order.” Here’s what five years without the boy who was supposed to be mine has gotten me. Some of it’s good, some of it’s not, but all of it’s been given to me in this wild, tangled, Turner gift.

1) Anxiety with a capital angst. I would have never classified myself as easygoing, but before Turner, I was pretty convinced of my invincibility. And the invincibility of those around me. I wasn’t a helicopter mom. If my kids could climb up it, I felt ok with them falling off it. If they ate something that had been on the ground, I chalked it up to bolstering immunity. I trusted people, trusted the world, trusted God. But once I experienced tragedy firsthand, everything came to be viewed through the lens of catastrophe. Five years of sleepless nights, terrified that the next catastrophe is around the corner and that I will experience this level of pain and loss again. I joke that you can tell where I’m at emotionally by peeking at my Google search history: symptoms of meningitis, children kidnapped on cruise ships, signs of ___ cancer, how does the Ebola virus spread. It would be funny if it weren’t so stinkin’ sad and exhausting.

2) Crazy love. It is almost painful to think, feel and talk about how deeply and generously we have been loved throughout this process. Family who labored with me through Turner’s birth; friends who visited and prayed with us in the hospital when it was awkward and uncomfortable; people who asked us how we were doing and meant it; meals, cards, prayers, flowers, gifts, time from doctors, nurses, funeral home directors, acquaintances, church members, family and friends. People who wept with us, walked with us, wowed us with amazing, unfathomable, crazy love. This kind of love is the closest I’ve ever been to understanding the magnitude and nature of God’s love. It was that close to being utterly divine.

3) A PhD in griefology. Grief is a worthy opponent, unmatched in strength, stealth, and ferocity. It’s abstract, unstable, unpredictable, and inconvenient. It’s inexplicable, contradictory, merciless and relentless. It’s more of an exhausting zig-zag than it is circular or linear. It rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times and often leaves as quickly and unexpectedly as it came. And it seems its work is never fully done. But grief is also an unlikely friend. It’s healthy, healing and necessary. It confronts that which you seek to avoid, it demands exposure of that which is left in the dark, it is unconventional in its methods but uncontested in its results. It is a hard teacher, but never cruel. It will drag you to the darkest depths but it won’t leave you there forever. As cliché as it sounds, the only way out is through. And the heart of grief is to take you through.

4) A physiological need for the ocean. I don’t know if it’s the immeasurable vastness and unplumbable depths that are so reminiscent of God’s character, or how it is the quintessential metaphor for grief, but time at the ocean brings healing in ways nothing else can. Maybe it’s the way grief crashes in violent waves against the shore of my soul, pulling pieces of the pain away droplets at a time as the water recedes. Or that, though massive, it is still finite and makes the massiveness of my loss feel less infinite. I like to imagine Turner’s little hand in mine as we swim away from the shore and meet Jesus on the other side. He is safe there and I know he will be taken care of. Maybe it’s the wind that reminds me of the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter, that even though I can’t see Him, I can see His work, and I know He is near. I picture myself as a jagged rock, being smoothed and polished by the force and power of that which is far greater than I can comprehend or see.

5) Winter in the spring. Every February, I feel it coming. The heaviness, the darkness are a little heavier, a little darker. And then a lot. No matter what I tell myself or how I feel leading up to this season, February marks the beginning of what feels like a slow, agonizing march towards death. I don’t have to endure the physical pain of a truly terrible pregnancy or the excruciating agony of giving birth but the emotional ask is far worse. My soul has been branded by this season and there’s no escaping it. Every step between the middle of February and May 15 feels more impossible than the last and by the time I arrive, I am done. It’s a miracle I survived.

6) Empathy, empathy and more empathy. One of the truly blessed secrets as a member of the sisterhood of suffering is your heart is torn open all at once and it bleeds for everyone. Everybody is somebody’s child and that is how you see them. When others are hurting, I don’t have to imagine their pain: I know it. This is potentially the greatest gift I have been given in this loss: the capacity to feel with people instead of just for them.

7) Woulda-coulda-shouldas. To not question what might have been is impossible. To not wonder or wish or want. To not regret. Always longing for a chance to do over, to be clearer about what had been happening in my body…maybe it would have been different. To have let Parker see and hold his brother so that he could live without regrets…it could have been different. To watch the Dragon and the Cowboy delight the world in epic brotherhood….it should have been different. I can know that I know what I know, all the rightness, goodness, purity, and truth that God is sovereign and is weaving together an incredible story for His perfect plan…and still have all the what-ifs lingering in the dark recesses of my mind.

8) The good enough. When you’re me, and you’re living through the loss of a child, and you feel as if everyone is watching you, there’s a temptation to do everything right. That’s my nice way of saying I often felt I could not express the depth of my sadness or anger or fear or doubt. As if God was incapable of handling all of those things He already knew I was feeling. As if somehow I were superhuman. Then I read the story of the death of Lazarus and how Jesus traveled to be with his grieving family. And they greeted him with doubts and fear and anger and sadness, questioning His plan, too consumed by their loss to think, act or speak with pretense. And He wept with them. He didn’t admonish them for not trusting His plan, although He knew the plan hadn’t yet reached completion. He didn’t rebuke them for questioning Him, blaming Him, expressing their dissatisfaction with Him, although He knew all the details of the miracle He was about to perform. He didn’t shame or reject or distance Himself or condemn. He wept. He sat with them in their grief and He wept and went on to miraculously raise Lazarus from the dead. And He weeps with me. And then does the miracle.

9) A fear of God. More of a terror really. In February of 2010, pregnant with Turner, I sat in the chapel of our church and mourned the shocking death of a dear friend’s young husband. I saw God working in that. And I was tired of my spiritual famine. And I asked God for a revival in my heart. If I had known then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have asked. In my mind, that revival came at an unbearable cost and now leaves me paralyzed with the fear that closeness with God comes at a price that I cannot afford. It is a moment by moment battle to combat these feelings with truth, to view God for who He truly is rather than the demanding punisher I can make Him in my mind. My hope is that someday the faith will be far greater than the fear.

10) My kids have experienced death. Seeing my kids process death, talk about it, understand it, offer empathy to those hurt by it…those are priceless gifts that only come from experience. They have witnessed in a very tangible way how brokenness leads to healing, how death precedes new life. Without the death of Turner, there is no life of Shaeffer, and that is an abiding joy that none of us can imagine living without. A sweet song says “roots grow deep where wind is strong”, and the Turner tornado we survived together has plunged our family roots into unfathomable depths.

So there it is. Not all that I’ve learned. But some. Enough. I hope it gives a glimpse of the profound gratitude and loss that has come from being Turner’s mom. It’s a gift I love and hate all at once. And I’m thankful to share it with you all.


Hard, Terrible, Beautiful, Real

They say time heals all wounds. Whoever “they” is obviously never lost a son. Either that, or they must’ve lived to be 2500 years old. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. It helps them scab over, leaves a scar, maybe makes them easier to put into a little box that sits on the shelf of our soul gathering dust. But full, whole, good-as-new healing? I don’t think so. It’s been almost 5 years since Turner died, and I often feel like I’m on day one of this giant, circular, grief calendar. Five years and I feel just as alone, angry, confused, and heartbroken. Five years and my emotional limp is worse, not better.

The other day I opened my Turner box, a painfully small box that contains the only tangible things I have of the boy who took residence in my heart and soul for 36 weeks: his footprints, his yellow knit cap, and his two pictures. We handed out pictures of him at his memorial service, my sleeping angel in his yellow hat, so sweet, so peaceful. But the thing about his pictures is they were photoshopped. I never knew the depth and breadth of my brother’s love for me until he took these precious photos into his care. But that’s a story for another day. My dear and selfless brother spent hours poring over these pictures on his computer to make them appear presentable, to mask the horror of the originals, of the truth. Because what was hard and terrible and beautiful and real was too much to share with the world. The peeling skin, the missing eye, what was hiding underneath that yellow hat and hospital blanket. The boy who could no longer be held hours after birth because he was literally falling apart. It was just too much.

For the past five years, I’ve been living a photoshopped life of sorts. Trying to say the right thing, do the right thing, feel the right thing because the idea of letting anyone in to my hard and terrible and beautiful and real is just too much. Trying to have faith, trust, be thankful, struggle well….when in the darkness I am sweating blood, begging that this cup be taken from me, my soul shrieking, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?!” So much guilt for feeling so much over losing so much. So. Much. Knowing God’s plan and hating God’s plan all at once.

But God…can’t the One whose back bore the sins of the world shoulder my anger, my doubt, my pain? His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Does God love me in spite of my questioning? Or might God love me because of my questioning? Am I condemned because I don’t know anything and I don’t understand? Or am I consecrated because He knows everything and He understands? I have to believe that when I’m tormenting myself for not struggling well, that the still, small voice who was tormented for me leans in and whispers, “You can struggle freely, for I have already struggled perfectly for you.” Because God.

Sometimes people can’t handle the hard and terrible and beautiful and real. They’d prefer the photoshopped. But that’s an exhausting place to live for someone like me. At times, it’s almost excruciating. Because it keeps me trapped in the darkness. But darkness loses its power when it’s exposed by the light. I don’t want to live in the darkness anymore. I want to accept the hard and terrible and beautiful and real me. I want to embrace it. I want to celebrate it! But it doesn’t come easily or naturally: it’s five years in the making and often feels like it’s just the beginning. That’s why this blog is a journey. A journey out of darkness into marvelous light.

No, time doesn’t heal all wounds. But God does. And someday I think He’ll heal mine. But in the meantime, I invite anyone to share with me their story or ask me about mine. Then we can be free in the light together instead of alone in the darkness.

A Letter To My 21 Year Old Self

Dear 21 Year Old Me,

You look just like I remember you. You lost your pregnancy weight in less than a month! Good for you. You make me sick. I know how receptive you are to unsolicited advice. I’m gonna give it to you anyway. My best advice is stop listening to advice. Stop reading so much freaking stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I’m impressed with how you’re only a few units away from acquiring an honorary doctorate in multiple cutting edge fields of study: immunizations, circumcision, homemade baby food, homeschooling, sleep training, potty training, child training. But you’re putting a lot more into this than you’re gonna get out. And you don’t have to be a doctor to see that. It’s gonna come down to choices and consequences. You’re gonna make choices. Face the consequences. Learn from the choices and consequences. Repeat. And if hearing this in its most simplistic form makes you anxious by how unspiritual it sounds, let me be clear. God ALONE is perfectly capable of guiding you through the choices, teaching you through the consequences, and loving you through the choices and consequences. You do not need all that other stuff.

If you haven’t already figured this out, you have a bent towards worry. Just consult your latest Google search history for a reality check. Dangers of tummy sleeping, what does wheezing in a newborn sound like, makers of indestructible car seats, infant choking hazards, risk for pregnancy loss. Everything you worry about is not only terrifying but possible. Your worst nightmares may come to fruition or they may not. Truthfully, it will be a little bit of both. And sometimes a lot of the one. But you’ll be ok. Your definition of ok may change, but you’ll be ok. You can’t control the outcome of your worry, but you can control your joy amidst it. Sorry, I know how much you appreciate clichés.

Whatever you do, get hugs and kisses. Get a lifetime’s worth. Bank them, you’re going to need ‘em someday. Because even though in a couple of years you’ll get him to agree that he’ll hug and kiss you forever, that verbal contract is not binding and one day they will be few and far between. It doesn’t happen all at once though. It’s kind of a slow fade. Like dark brown to gray. Sorry to break it to ya but the start of that slow fade is only about 7 years away.

In about a dozen years, your house will finally be clean! Well maybe not clean but cleaner than it used to be. Funny thing is it doesn’t feel nearly as good as you imagined it would for all those years. The noise may be exhausting but the silence is excruciating. I can’t wait until you realize how little you actually care about your house being a pristine showpiece. It’s a very freeing realization, albeit a little unsanitary.

If I could tell you one thing (see how much you’ve grown in your humor?! This is like thing number 20, but who’s counting? You are. I am. Let’s be real), it would be that it’s not too late. Make new traditions, take pictures, change your mind, start over. Smile more, complain less, don’t yell at all. Say I’m sorry, say I love you. It’s not too late. It’s never too late. Put that little saying you scribbled in that raggedy notebook everywhere your eyes are likely to glance: “There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a thousand ways to be a good one.” Find one way. Sigh, I know you’re already aiming for at least five. Find. One. Way.

Can I be honest here? Like brutally honest? Everything the older moms tell you is true. The years fly by. Cherish the moments. Major in the majors. They’re only young once. It’s just a season. It. Goes. By. So. Fast. Every trite platitude they offer sweet-voiced with knowing smile, they’re really screaming inside. Wake up! One day you’re wondering when’s it all gonna end and when will you get a break and can you even survive. Then comes the break and the new phase of life starts and you’re wondering if how you will possibly survive.

I know I sound dramatic. One of my many, many endearing qualities. But don’t feel too bad for me. I will never have morning sickness again. I no longer have to ponder the eternal question that defines you as a mother: to epidural or not to epidural? I wear dresses to church without fear of emergency disrobing caused by the whims of a newborn’s appetite. I SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT. Well, mostly. I’m much more comfortable in my overstretched, undermoisturized skin. I don’t judge people nearly as harshly or nearly as much. Even better, I’ve banished the gavel on myself. Well, mostly. I’m deeper and wiser though weaker and wider. I am a woman now and not so much a twoman (I don’t know, the in between a teen and woman word. It’s probably not gonna catch on). Overall, I’m pretty freakin’ awesome. And you will be too someday. So hang in there. You’re doing just fine. Well, mostly.

I have to sign off now (how I’ve suddenly aged half a century in one pretend letter, adopting phrases like “signing off”, I’ll never know. I’ve always been mature for my age). Tomorrow is baby’s first day of preschool. And even though she’s the last one, I’m starting a new tradition: I’m taking a first day of preschool picture! And through my tears, I’m gonna smile, give a million hugs and kisses, and say “I love you.” It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

With all the love, admiration and acceptance that you deserve now but won’t give yourself for more than a decade,

The 33 Year Old You

When Baby Turns 2

Today was an epic day in the Braun household. An exhilarating, terrifying, heart-wrenching, glorious day. A day I’ve been longing for and dreading ever since I joined the ranks of motherhood almost 12 years ago. Today baby turned two. Not just the baby. The. Baby.

When baby turns two, you say goodbye to diapers, bottles, and midnight wakings. You can expand your Sunday wardrobe to include clothing that doesn’t have secret milk machine trapdoors. You can wear dangly earrings without fear of being dislobed. You can even consider the possibility of the future purchase of white pants. You are well on your way to being free.

But when baby turns two, you say goodbye to their soooooft skin, their miraculous eversweet breath, and all those firsts that seem like distant memories of a lifetime ago. Your days of trying to decipher unintelligible babble are rapidly dwindling; your opportunities to find custom artwork in bafflingly custom places is becoming rarer; you are closer to bidding farewell on the first day of preschool than you are to welcoming baby into this world. Yes, you are well on your way to being free.

But sometime in the last two years, something unsettling, nay diabolical, has happened. That pesky biological clock, the one that alarmed you repeatedly for so many years that it was that magic time again (and again. And again. And again.), has morphed. It has mutated into some kind of cuckoo, reverse biological clock (maybe even a diabological clock?). Because now, instead of hearing the available moments of your fertility and youth ticking away at a sing-songy pace, you hear the ominous dong moment by moment of the disappearance of the youth of your children. And it is loud. And it is cruel. And it is right.

And sometime in the last two years, you have discovered the wonderful and terrible truth that this too shall pass. You are in a season of life. This won’t last forever. And when baby turns two, you are viscerally hit with the sickening realization that it is ending sooner than you ever could have dreamed. And nothing you can do can quiet that clock. Or turn it back. Or slow it down.

So you just be in it. You are fully present in each ridiculous movie slow motion moment of each excruciatingly endless day. You laugh at the spills and falls and breaks and fights and losses because otherwise you’d cry. You say good night, good job, good luck, good God, because you know that soon enough you will be saying goodbye. You let loose and let live but don’t let on or let up because in the span of a breath you know you will be letting go. You do that season, that week, that day, that moment because that’s what you’ve got. And there’s no guarantee of any more than that.

Yeah when baby turns two, that’s something. But it doesn’t always live up to all the hype.  You don’t know quite what it is, but it’s something. Maybe it gives you pause to do more, do better, do over, do not give up! Maybe it’s a second chance before you really need one. Maybe it’s that one pivotal moment that changes everything but that you will only know for sure sixteen birthdays from now. Unequivocally, it’s loss. It’s grasping in futility at the slippery sands of time, a mother’s heart trying to outrun life itself. It’s too much love and not enough time. It’s tremendous joy and matchless sorrow very present, at the exact same moment, when baby turns two.

Amazing Alyssa, Amazing God (not in that order)

Growing up, I became convinced that I was amazing.  I mean sure, I’m part of the infamous Generation X (which I’m convinced that somehow the X stands for entitlement but I have yet to find the missing link to prove this.  Maybe it’s a 7 degrees of separation/Kevin Bacon kind of thing.  But I digress.) and its self-esteem and its giving your kids the world and its everyone’s a winner mentality.  But beyond the scope of my generation’s amazingness mantra, I truly believed I was amazing.  Because of what I could do.  Because of what I could achieve.  Because whenever I did and achieved, people told me I was amazing.  I was the original “My Baby Can Read”.  Amazing.  Valedictorian?  Ah-mazing!  Finished my BA in 2 and a half years while I worked 3 jobs and got married?!  Totes amazing.  Achievement was my drug of choice and the high of amazery was addicting.  And after a particularly sweet trip (sorry if my drug analogies don’t match up but part of being amazing is a strictly “hugs not drugs” policy.  Which I will continue to adhere to until marijuana is legalized in California.  At which point it will only be broken out of submissiveness to my husband.  Yes, even in my potential future drug use, I’m amazing.  But I digress.), I would go through withdrawals of amazing proportions.  Because I was always left wanting more.  There could never be enough amazing.

So the only problem (and by only I mean one of many…which I realize is ironic.  Yes, I can be amazing and ironic at the same time, which is, dare I say, downright amazing.  At this point I’ll stop verbalizing the digressions just for the sake of time and potential for eyeball overexertion) with being amazing is that after a while, your amazing becomes ordinary.  And to regain your position as the one who amazes, you have to up the ante.  The cost of being amazing only goes up and, at some point, you can no longer afford to pay.

And as with any trend, the little line thingy on the graph/chart/math thingy (sorry, I scraped through Advanced Math with an amazing minus) doesn’t go up forever.  Sometimes it peaks.  Then it may plateau.  Eventually, it might even plummet.  And that’s where I’ve been for the last decade-plus since having kids.  On a steady (AKA speed of light) downward spiral, heading completely away from amazing and totally towards…perfect (huh? Say what?! Just gimme a sec.).

To be sure, I did attempt some quasi-amazery in the early years of motherhood.  Tried to have a bunch of kids super close in age because that’s how amazing moms roll (moms of whatever impressive number of kids under whatever unfathomable age, calm down.  This has nothing to do with criticizing you.  You’re amazing.  But not because you have a bunch of kids all in a row.  And it didn’t work out for me that way anyway so relax already!  Sheesh.  Hypothetical blog-reading critics can be so sensitive sometimes).  The penultimate test of being a worthy mother: natural childbirth.  Duh.  (So in reality it happened Emergency C-section, epidural, natural childbirth, stillborn, induction/epidural…so what?  I’ve had every kind of birthing experience possible, which only added fuel to my amazing fire.)  Trying to run a retail store with my husband that’s open 70+ hours a week.  In a state 3,000 miles away from home.  With a 6 year old, 4 year old and a newborn.  If preschoolers playing unsupervised with drill guns and a banshee-screaming baby on the floor of the store aren’t both professional and amazing, well then, I don’t know what is.

Yes, these events marked the beginning of my descent from amazehood, and it has been a steady freefall to perfection ever since.  Perfection, you say, eyebrow raised, rereading to see if perhaps your subamazing sensibilities have misunderstood?  Wondering somehow if this trajectory towards utter doom being called perfection is something only comprehensible by my amazing mind.  Or if I need to add an “-ly insane” to my amazing.  What’s actually amazing is that I’m beginning to understand that it’s only in the death of this amazing Alyssa that the perfect Alyssa can truly begin to live.  That my brokenness becomes my wholeness.  My hurt is what brings me healing.  My weakness is where I find my strength.

It’s the Gospel.  The good news of my badness: that there is much less amazingness in me than I thought; there is none.  And that is good!  That weary and worn is exactly how He wants me, because then my yoked, burdened soul will find rest.  That He does not love me because I am amazing; He loves me in spite of the fact that I am really, truly not.  And it only works because the God-part in me becomes the whole of me.  God does not simply give me an upgrade.  He does not take my achievements, my abilities, my amazicity to the next level, upping the ante, as if I were almost there.  I am not just a better version of my formerly amazing self. No,  I am made new.  He replaces the flawed, failing, fully dysfunctional Alyssa with the righteous, holy, unadulterated perfection of His Son.  Who, by the way, became my fallings short of perfection so that I could indeed be amazing.

So when my homeschooling is subpar (brutal honesty?  For awhile, it was really just a vehicle for me to feel more amazing while simultaneously considering others less amazing); when my house is consistently featured in the Opposite Day edition of Good Housekeeping (I mean the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Isn’t that what cleaning is?!); when my days are full of tantrums, tears and talking back (you’re assuming I meant the kids, aren’t you?  Well, that’s sweet: believe that, and I’ll let you consider me amazing awhile longer).  Then I truly am amazing.  Then I am perfect.  Because nothing I do changes what He did.  Nothing I am changes who He is.  I am sealed and held and kept in His perfection no. matter. what.  And THAT is amazing.


Having Yourself A Melancholy Christmas?

Growing up, Christmas time was a hard time of year for me.  Especially after my parents split up, I often felt a little lost, searching for a place, wondering how to have a real family without having a real family.  And Christmas just seemed to heighten all of those anxieties and fragile emotions.  Each year, I loved the thrill of opening gifts and making treats and seeing people I didn’t always get to see.  Yet at the end of each Christmas night, the lostness, the loneliness, the longing remained, and I continued to yearn for things that can’t be unwrapped or checked off a list.

Even as an adult, December unleashes a flurry of mixed emotions: the thrill and joy of celebration and family and giving…and yet remains that nagging gloom that colors my Christmases with many more blues than reds or greens.   And it’s not like I don’t know the right answer to all of this.  I know.  I know Jesus is the reason for the season.  I celebrate the Christ in Christmas.  I understand that it’s the best birthday party of the year.  And all the other trendy things that I can do to give lip service yet still end up trivializing the reason for all things, the Messiah, the birth that changed the world.

I had a moment today where all the emotions, the knowledge, the old, the new, finally seemed to make sense. Christmas is the birth that leads to new birth.  It’s this meekness and humility incarnate 2,000 years ago that renders all of my weakness and humiliations as a past event.  The fear and anguish and suffering that Christ endured then frees me from my fears and anxieties and sufferings now.

And it all means that I have everything I want for Christmas.  Not in the sense of having wishes granted by some cosmic genie.  I do not have every item checked off from my list of worldly lusts.  I am not celebrating some prosperity Gospel in disguise.  But I can boldly approach the King of the universe, through the One who was born that I might be reborn, and lay out the darkest areas of my heart and receive the gifts of transformation and newness and hope.

Christ was born so that my melancholy at Christmas could someday be reborn as supernatural joy.  Without Him, there is no light, no hope, no life.  May the birth of the Savior mean something to all of us in this day and always.

The better to trust Him with

Today I had my 13 week ultrasound (that’s my way of saying, “Hey, if you haven’t heard, I’m pregnant!”).  I used to think 13 weeks meant home free.  I’ve come to learn that whether it’s 13 weeks or 35 weeks or 7 years, there is no home free.

It took what seemed like a long time to feel remotely ready for another baby.  Even after a year had passed after losing Turner, my heart would seize up in my throat at the thought of being pregnant again.  I didn’t want to rush into anything.  I didn’t want a replacement Turner.  I wanted to be “over” everything so that none of what had happened would affect my next pregnancy (I’m sure you can see where this insanity is heading).  At the beginning of July, I was feeling particularly brave although still uncertain.  I told the Lord that if He wanted me to get pregnant, then I would trust Him.  At the end of July, four positive Dollar Store pregnancy tests had me feeling significantly less brave and infinitely more uncertain (and it had nothing to do with the brand of pregnancy test).

But really, I thought, I can handle this.  I’m ready.  I’ve grown.  I’ve learned a lifetime of lessons in a short (yet longest of my life) year-and-a-half.  I’ve moved forward, though maybe not moved on.   I’ve changed.

Turns out I haven’t changed that much.  Because today I had my 13 week ultrasound.  My fourth ultrasound in seven weeks.  And while each one brings a little relief, it feels very temporary.  It’s man trying to trace the hand of God, figure Him out.   It’s chariots and horses, offering a reassurance that soon disappears like a vapor.

So where is God in this for me?  A hard question a wise woman often asks me.  A question I wish I still didn’t have to ask.  One I automatically knew the answer to because I’m so profoundly different that I get it now.  But I don’t.  I still suffer through a night of fitful sleep and a morning of tears and questions before my appointment today.

“But God!” I cry.  “What big needs I have!  There are so many doctors and specialists and tests and screening and ultrasounds and…..how do I know whom to believe?  Will any of these doctors or tests make things ok?  Am I just trusting in chariots and horses again?  Where does my help come from?”  But He is patient with me.  “The better to hear Me with, My dear.”

“But Lord!” I wail.  “What big weaknesses I have!  I can’t handle all of this!  I can’t handle losing another baby.  I can’t handle any more grief or loss.  I can’t handle the heartbreak and disappointment of one more person being heartbroken or disappointed for me.  I can’t handle the kids being that profoundly sad one more time.  I can’t do it.  I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!”  But He is compassionate toward me.  “The better to see Me with, My dear.”

“But Lord!” I weep.  “What big fears I have!  What if I have another horrible, painful pregnancy?  What if I lose another baby?  What if I have to travel that dark road of grief again?  What if I don’t lose the baby but something is wrong?  What if your answer is no, and there are no more babies for me?”  But He is as wise as He is tender in His dealings with me.  “The better to trust Me with, My dear.”

Today I had my 13 week ultrasound.  That’s five more weeks of trusting the Lord until my next ultrasound.  And 27 more weeks of trusting Him until I hope to hold a warm, crying infant in my arms.  One that I don’t have to give back.  One whose eye color I know.  And Lord willing, a lifetime of trusting Him after that.  Sometimes I just wish I had it all together.  That there is no fear, no panic, no anxiety, no grief, no loss.  But it remains.  The better to trust Him with.

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