On Lines and Love

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My recliner tipped slightly to the right as my daughter placed her elbows and weight on the armrest. She was on her knees beside the chair, and her face was inches from mine. I turned my head to study her preteen face. The braces, the glasses, the innocence.

“Mom,” she said. “What do I do if a boy asks me to be his Valentine at school today? How do I say no nicely without hurting his feelings?”

I smiled and shifted my weight in the chair so I could face her fully. All the while I searched my brain for a decent answer. I decided to teach her one of the classics. You know, a version of the old let-down line; “It’s not you, it’s me.”

“Why don’t you just tell him that you don’t really do that? That you don’t have one specific Valentine person like that. That you want to have lots of friends.”

She thought about it for a moment then shrugged and said she guessed it would be nice enough.

I continued, “Having lots of friends is a good thing!”

She stood and nodded. Conversation over.

The topic of boys and relationships is simply on pause in her young life. I may try to live in denial, but I do know that soon enough, she’ll be hoping for Valentine suitors, and not asking for advice on how to reject them. And that’s a wonderful thing. Romance, love, marriage. They are gifts, and I hope and pray all of my children will experience each someday with great delight!

But, there’s also something to be said about love in the realm of friendship. And not just in Valentine season.

I’ve been to many weddings where 1 Corinthians 13, the so called “Love Chapter” was recited. It’s fine. The attributes of love listed in this passage are great principles for love within marriage and romance. Don’t get me wrong. But, this passage, in its context, is actually talking about a different type of love. Not romantic love, but the “I want to have lots of friends” type of love.

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, and in the context of chapter 13, he’s teaching about love within the Body of Christ. Unity among believers. He’s showing them that love is the be-all, end-all. He says:

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Listen. We, as Christians, should never forget this; It’s not about what we DO for God. It’s about how we LOVE. 

And how should we love? Paul explains that too. He tell us in verses 4-8 what love should look like.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

But HOW do we love like this? How do we put this into practice when ugliness like comparison, selfishness, greed, and entitlement are so easy to focus on instead? Even among Christians. Or unfortunately, especially among Christians. So how do we love like Paul is teaching?

We find the HOW in the WHO.

Maybe we do need that one Valentine after all. Love Himself.

Jesus.

Jesus is actually the author of love, the One who created it. His plan of redemption is rooted in love. John 3:16 says,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For God so LOVED…

If we love Jesus and live for Him, He will teach us how to love. It will become an overflow of our love and relationship with Him. The more we love Him, the more we will learn to love as He loves. 

We learn to love when we focus on Him, not on ourselves or each other.

“It’s not you, it’s me.” I guess Jesus could use that ol’ line too.

And use it best of all.

 

 

 

 

Miscarriage: A Story of Loss and Love

I originally posted this story three years ago. In fact, the ultrasound appointment I refer to was exactly three years ago today, October 4th, 2013. I remember, because I had so looked forward to that date!

Kraig and I had hidden this pregnancy from everyone because we wanted to tell our children first. I was so excited to go to that doctor appointment and hear a little heartbeat! I was almost 11 weeks pregnant. We had plans to go home and tell our kids, and then the rest of our family, that we’d be adding a fourth little one to our home.

Instead, there was silence.

No heartbeat was found.

Because of the impending surgery and recovery (and some rough unexpected physical issues) we decided to tell our children what had happened. We were all heartbroken. I struggled with sadness, but also with anger. I was angry with God. This blog essay tells the story of how I struggled through those emotions and how ultimately, God’s love is the very thing that comforted me.

I always feel so vulnerable when I share these types of stories (it’s a little scary!), but I know that maybe someone else will feel hope because I was brave enough to share. And so today, I’m sharing it once again. It’s fitting because October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.

And, even though it has been three years, and our family is now at peace with being a family of five, we remember this loss and grew from what it taught us. There is pain in remembering, but also momentum to continue forward.

And mostly, this story reminds me that I was angry with God- told Him so- and He waited patiently for me to accept His love and comfort in the midst of the pain.

And His love still awes and sustains me daily!

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19

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I knew it from the first moment I looked at the screen. The ultrasound technician was silent, but I didn’t need her to tell me what was so obvious in front of my own eyes. As she desperately tried to find signs of life on what should have been a wiggly, busy, tiny baby with a rapidly beating heart, my heart was breaking into a million little pieces.

And for the third time, my husband and I tasted the bitter loss of miscarriage.

The tears flowed heavy and often over the next several days. I was so very sad and my heart continued to break as I watched my three children grieve in their own little way. They had wanted this little baby to join our family too. We all missed this little person that we didn’t even have a chance to meet. It wasn’t fair.

Yes, of course I took great comfort in the hugs and kisses of my children. Their presence was a balm to my wounded soul. As they wiped my tears or cried along with me at the dinner table when my hormones were raging and my efforts to conceal my pain were useless, I felt extreme love and gratitude for them. But even surrounded by our three precious children, I knew I had lost another one. A life was gone and off-handed comments of, “Oh, maybe you’ll still have another one!” felt empty, as if this life was so easily replaced.

And I got angry. I was angry with almost everyone and everything, but most of all, I was mad at God.

How could He allow this? Was He trying to teach me something? Had I done something wrong? Was I to learn from this?

I wanted a baby, not a lesson.

The anger and frustration from this loss built in me, and my tears were hot on my cheeks. It didn’t seem fair that I had spent weeks dealing with morning sickness and had worked hard to hide the fact that I was always on the edge of queasiness. I had fought the super-fatigue of the first trimester and dealt with the guilt of needing to nap during the day while I allowed my preschool-aged daughters to watch too much TV. My body had already started physically changing and, as if I needed another reminder of what had been, it held on to the weight that I had gained.

Emotionally, I had allowed my anticipation and excitement to grow along with that little baby in my womb. I had been constantly daydreaming about its arrival and wondering if it would be a boy or a girl and what name we would give it.

And even though I was only 10 1/2 weeks along when I had that shocking and awful ultrasound, I was 100% in love with that child.

It hurt to the core and my anger toward God came to the forefront.

Intellectually, nothing had changed for me. I knew God was sovereign. I knew God was good. I knew God loved me. I knew all of those “right things.” But I didn’t feel them. Emotionally I felt empty and alone.

If God loved me, then I felt like this was a rotten way of showing it.

Through the long days of physical healing that followed I had a lot of time to think. And feel. It seemed that my emotions were winning every battle and though my rational thoughts of what I knew was true were trying to come to the forefront, my anger and bitterness were pushing them back down.

I realized after a day or two that I couldn’t trust my emotions. I was a wreck. I wasn’t in control of my feelings and though I was trying to rally them to help me feel what I desperately wanted to feel… God’s love… it wasn’t working. I was going to have to call upon what I knew was true instead.

It wasn’t easy. My feelings of loss and hurt and pain were so strong that my efforts to see glimpses of God’s love were strained and difficult. But little evidences were there. I decided to take mental note of them and store them in my mind as ammunition against my anger. Perhaps over time I’d have enough to once again feel God’s love, though for now I’d have to be content without the feelings, and take what I could get from the knowledge alone.

And God didn’t disappoint.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy or enveloped in His love. On the contrary, I felt like He was distant and even harsh. But I kept looking with my eyes since my heart wasn’t playing along.

And I saw.

At first my teeth were gritted and my arms were crossed. They stayed that way for several days. I took a lot of deep breaths and used a lot of tissues as the days ticked by and the list began to lengthen.

I still didn’t feel God’s love the way I wanted to feel it. But I was seeing it.

In fact, the evidence of God’s presence and His love was obvious to me in a way I’ve never known before. His love did not feel gentle, but oh it was there! It seemed undeniable. It wasn’t the easy, sing-songy “Jesus Loves Me” kind of love, but the love of an all-knowing, Almighty whom I knew with my mind that I could trust.

I felt as if He’d taken me through a dark place of brokenness, emptiness, anger and desperation so that His love and His truths… HE would stand out in stark contrast. And He did. He was so obvious in the darkness that at one point I actually wondered if He was enjoying showing off!

I had to make a choice. Would I surrender to what my eyes had seen, His love and His presence in the midst of the darkness, or would I continue to wait for my emotions to shape up and start feeling the way I wanted them to feel.

And so I leaned on what I knew to be true.

For days my emotions continued to lay in shambles. I was still angry and I said and thought things that I didn’t mean. But God was okay. He could handle it.

For days my heart was hard and stubborn. But as I saw God’s love so evident around me, eventually my heart started to warm and I began to desire a contrite heart. The softening of my heart wasn’t immediate, but I could tell that the thawing and molding was happening in God’s hands.

To this moment, my mind cannot figure out what the point of this loss was in my life and where it leaves my family’s plans for the future. But my biggest desire now is for peace and joy in the midst of the unknown. I want to be ok with simply trusting God completely for the future, though there is nothing that feels simple about the process.

And in my surrender I knew this truth from 1 John 3:1,

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

I’m a child of God. I am His precious little one that He loves and delights in as I love my own children. No, His love is even more powerful than that. His love has been lavished on me and He calls me His child.

This loss was difficult. It hurt. It still hurts. But when my heart is broken and my emotions are all over the map, I can rest in this truth.

No matter what I am feeling, I am His child, and His love is there.


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I’d Lost That Loving Feeling

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Dear Reader,

Each month I blog for my church’s women’s ministry about a topic that is assigned for that month. This month the topic was INFERTILITY and MISCARRIAGE. It was a tough one! I have experienced three miscarriages, one just this past October. I was unsure if I should share such a personal story, but I decided to start writing and see what happened. As I typed… and deleted… and cried and typed some more I felt the healing process begin. Through writing and sharing my story with other ladies at my church I have actually been the one who has been blessed. I guess that’s how it often works!

I hope you too are encouraged and that you will seek to find joy and peace today — no matter your circumstances!

Thanks for reading!
Christy

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I knew it from the first moment I looked at the screen. The ultrasound technician was silent, but I didn’t need her to tell me what was so obvious in front of my own eyes. As she desperately tried to find signs of life on what should have been a wiggly, busy, tiny baby with a rapidly beating heart, my heart was breaking into a million little pieces.

And for the third time, my husband and I tasted the bitter loss of miscarriage.

The tears flowed heavy and often over the next several days. I was so very sad and my heart continued to break as I watched my three children grieve in their own little way. They had wanted this little baby to join our family too. We all missed this little person that we didn’t even have a chance to meet. It wasn’t fair.

Yes, of course I took great comfort in the hugs and kisses of my children. Their presence was a balm to my wounded soul. As they wiped my tears or cried along with me at the dinner table when my hormones were raging and my efforts to conceal my pain were useless, I felt extreme love and gratitude for them. But even surrounded by our three precious children, I knew I had lost another one. A life was gone and off-handed comments of, “Oh, maybe you’ll still have another one!” felt empty, as if this life was so easily replaced.

And I got angry. I was angry with almost everyone and everything, but most of all, I was mad at God.

How could He allow this? Was He trying to teach me something? Had I done something wrong? Was I to learn from this?

I wanted a baby, not a lesson.

The anger and frustration from this loss built in me, and my tears were hot on my cheeks. It didn’t seem fair that I had spent weeks dealing with morning sickness and had worked hard to hide the fact that I was always on the edge of queasiness. I had fought the super-fatigue of the first trimester and dealt with the guilt of needing to nap during the day while I allowed my preschool-aged daughters to watch too much TV. My body had already started physically changing and, as if I needed another reminder of what had been, it held on to the weight that I had gained.

Emotionally, I had allowed my anticipation and excitement to grow along with that little baby in my womb. I had been constantly daydreaming about its arrival and wondering if it would be a boy or a girl and what name we would give it.

And even though I was only 10 1/2 weeks along when I had that shocking and awful ultrasound, I was 100% in love with that child.

It hurt to the core and my anger toward God came to the forefront.

Intellectually, nothing had changed for me. I knew God was sovereign. I knew God was good. I knew God loved me. I knew all of those “right things.” But I didn’t feel them. Emotionally I felt empty and alone.

If God loved me, then I felt like this was a rotten way of showing it.

Through the long days of physical healing that followed I had a lot of time to think. And feel. It seemed that my emotions were winning every battle and though my rational thoughts of what I knew was true were trying to come to the forefront, my anger and bitterness were pushing them back down.

I realized after a day or two that I couldn’t trust my emotions. I was a wreck. I wasn’t in control of my feelings and though I was trying to rally them to help me feel what I desperately wanted to feel… God’s love… it wasn’t working. I was going to have to call upon what I knew was true instead.

It wasn’t easy. My feelings of loss and hurt and pain were so strong that my efforts to see glimpses of God’s love were strained and difficult. But little evidences were there. I decided to take mental note of them and store them in my mind as ammunition against my anger. Perhaps over time I’d have enough to once again feel God’s love, though for now I’d have to be content without the feelings, and take what I could get from the knowledge alone.

And God didn’t disappoint.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly didn’t feel all warm and fuzzy or enveloped in His love. On the contrary, I felt like He was distant and even harsh. But I kept looking with my eyes since my heart wasn’t playing along.

And I saw.

At first my teeth were gritted and my arms were crossed. They stayed that way for several days. I took a lot of deep breaths and used a lot of tissues as the days ticked by and the list began to lengthen.

I still didn’t feel God’s love the way I wanted to feel it. But I was seeing it.

In fact, the evidence of God’s presence and His love was obvious to me in a way I’ve never known before. His love did not feel gentle, but oh it was there! It seemed undeniable. It wasn’t the easy, sing-songy “Jesus Loves Me” kind of love, but the love of an all-knowing, Almighty whom I knew with my mind that I could trust.

I felt as if He’d taken me through a dark place of brokenness, emptiness, anger and desperation so that His love and His truths… HE would stand out in stark contrast. And He did. He was so obvious in the darkness that at one point I actually wondered if He was enjoying showing off!

I had to make a choice. Would I surrender to what my eyes had seen, His love and His presence in the midst of the darkness, or would I continue to wait for my emotions to shape up and start feeling the way I wanted them to feel.

And so I leaned on what I knew to be true.

For days my emotions continued to lay in shambles. I was still angry and I said and thought things that I didn’t mean. But God was okay. He could handle it.

For days my heart was hard and stubborn. But as I saw God’s love so evident around me, eventually my heart started to warm and I began to desire a contrite heart. The softening of my heart wasn’t immediate, but I could tell that the thawing and molding was happening in God’s hands.

To this moment, my mind cannot figure out what the point of this loss was in my life and where it leaves my family’s plans for the future. But my biggest desire now is for peace and joy in the midst of the unknown. I want to be ok with simply trusting God completely for the future, though there is nothing that feels simple about the process.

And in my surrender I knew this truth from 1 John 3:1,

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

I’m a child of God. I am His precious little one that He loves and delights in as I love my own children. No, His love is even more powerful than that. His love has been lavished on me and He calls me His child.

This loss was difficult. It hurt. It still hurts. But when my heart is broken and my emotions are all over the map, I can rest in this truth.

No matter what I am feeling, I am His child, and His love is there.

Socks…Really?!

DSC_0744This is the time of year when children rip into presents with eager joy and anticipation.

It’s also the time of year when we see a particular phenomenon occur during these times of gift opening.

You’ve seen it.

The child, with tongue pressed to their upper lip and eyes wide open, lifts the lid of a box and pulls out… socks. Then the child, whose valuable time has clearly been wasted, swiftly lifts the socks and drops them onto the floor in one smooth and rapid motion while already reaching for another wrapped box, which they hope contains something they actually want.

I mean seriously, what kid is thrilled to get socks for Christmas?

But goodness knows they need them.

Take my son for example. I’m not sure how he does it, but he can wear a pair of new socks a few times and suddenly they have holes on the bottom of them so large that at that point they are really more a pair of leg warmers instead of actual socks. How does this happen so quickly? I don’t understand. But after cleaning out Karson’s sock drawer recently and throwing away enough holey socks to poorly cloth half his elementary school’s feet, I decided we’re buying him socks for Christmas.

A lot of socks.

I’m the parent here and I know what my kid needs. But, I’m embarrassed to tell you that the sock situation around here has gotten so ugly that Karson actually asked for socks for Christmas. Yeah, it’s that bad.

But regardless, I do know what my kids need. And sometimes my husband and I give them things that they don’t want. Take punishment, chores and non-flavored children’s Tylenol for example. But, we know what’s good for them and we do it all out of love. Even the socks.

As Christians, sometimes we give our “wish list” to God through prayer. We have specific wants and needs and with wide eyes and eager hands we wait for Him to come through granting each of our requests.

But sometimes we get socks.

Sometimes the circumstances of my life are not what I had in mind. I think, “Lord, I think you misunderstood. This isn’t what I wanted. Did you check my list twice?”

But He knows. He’s the parent here. He’s my Heavenly Father and he knows exactly what I need.

Matthew 6:25-34 talks about this. Jesus is telling us to stop worrying about what we will eat, drink and wear because our Father will take of us. He says,

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Our end of this deal is pretty simple. Not easy, but simple. We are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Our focus is to be on Christ and honoring Him with our life. And we should trust Him for the rest. He says, “and all these things (meaning the things we need) will be added to us as well.”

We can trust God to take care of us and to give us what we need. And He delights in often giving us what we want as well. He’s such a loving and trustworthy Father.

So as I watch my son open his socks this year I’m going to smile inside thinking about how my Heavenly Father knows what I need too.

Socks may not be very thrilling, but sometimes it’s necessary to give and receive them.

Don’t even get me started on underwear.