Heaven’s Reunion ~ WWY

Thank you for joining us for this segment of Walking With You. We are talking this week about the hope of heaven and the glorious reunion that each of us long for with great hope. Most of this post was originally shared here in September of 2009 during a previous Walking With You, with a few additions to update. Next week will be our last week of this segment of WWY. We will talk about the comfort we can find in praise and thanksgiving.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
~Hebrews 12:1-2

We are living in earthly vessels, but this life is not forever. We are mothers who have said goodbye to our sweet babies, but that goodbye is not forever. We who walk with Jesus, pick up our crosses daily to follow Him as we walk this earth. Why do we do it? For the joy set before us, of course…just like our great Teacher. His joy is our salvation…the promise of restoration…the promise of eternal life with Him…the promise of the sweetest reunion. That’s where I fix my eyes when they grow too weary from looking at what this world has to offer.

There are many verses that speak of the promise we have in heaven. Unfortunately, I do not have the time this evening to look all of them up. One verse speaks of knowing one another as we are known. We will know one another when we get to heaven, just like we know each other here. Faith and Grace will probably have their long piano-player fingers and button noses. They will probably have the same dainty little lips, and I’m sure brown eyes just like their daddy and brothers. Thomas will have the same nose shared by all of our children along with the same brown eyes. He will probably have the same auburn hair that made me smile so for the short time he spent in my arms. What they will not have is a sign of the brokenness that this earth held for them. They will be complete…perfect…knowing none of earth’s sorrows. What must that be like?

One of my favorite books is called Mommy, Please Don’t Cry. It is written from the perspective of a child in heaven to his/her mommy, as he shares all of the fun things happening in heaven. I know that we cannot imagine all that He has prepared for us. But, I know that He promises to prepare a place for each of us…and it is sure to be wonderful…better than anything we could imagine or dream of.

When I think of that day, Jesus is the first person on my mind. I suppose the experience of finally beholding and standing in the presence of my Savior will probably overshadow anything else for a time. But, beyond Him I imagine they are waiting for me. It means so much to me, I can barely type the words through my tears. Truly, no words can describe the picture of my mother standing there without the pain that this life held for her, without the disappointments of this life, without the effects of cancer etched on her beautiful face. And in her arms and dancing around her feet…my babies. My little girls and my sweet, sweet boy. Full of joy overflowing…shining on their faces. For some reason I can’t explain, I see Faith and Grace as little girls instead of babies. They have long brown, wavy hair with ribbons streaming down their backs and pink dresses. They are lively and precious and full of personality. Faith is a little more reserved than Grace, just as she was in my womb. Grace is full of energy and light. They both giggle and embrace me with delight shining in their eyes. Thomas is in the arms of my mother…still a baby in my mind. A roly-poly picture of health and baby-boy sweetness. Sometimes I picture him as a baby…and sometimes a very young boy. He is a little shy and full of wisdom for one so small. In an instant, these little ones I have longed for fill my waiting arms…arms that will never again know emptiness. Every tear I’ve cried for them is dried by the hand of my Beloved Savior…every ounce of sorrow gives way to unspeakable joy that I have never fully known.

Can I describe how it may feel to hold them in my arms on that day? Can I even allow myself to think of what that may feel like? I cannot. The ache is too deep to allow myself to fully visit that notion. Recently, our teen youth group at church did a breath-taking skit to a song about heaven’s reunion (the title slips my mind right now, of course…but I will see if I can find out the name of the song.). The skit was very powerful. In the beginning, it showed a mother who lost a child and various people at funerals grieving for loved ones…mothers, wives, fathers, babies. Then, it switched to show the families reunited with their loved ones in heaven. When the little child ran to the arms of the mother, I melted into sobs into my husband’s arms and couldn’t watch anymore. It means too much to me…that promise, that hope. It is a desperate hope I place in the Lord…so desperate I couldn’t even watch the re-enactment. You see, my hope isn’t just some words on a page. It really means something when you have something at stake. Believing and hoping is easy when there isn’t anything attached. It is a different belief when you’re asked to let go and trust that He will carry not only you, but the children you hold so dear.

There will be singing and rejoicing…a celebration the likes of which I’ve never seen. I cannot imagine the beauty of worshipping with the multitudes unknown…the choirs of angels singing. Some sweet day, I’ll sing up there…the song of victory…I’ll walk the streets of gold…I’ll keep telling that old redemption story…and I will dwell forever in the place that my Lord has prepared for me, surrounded by the ones I love…the treasures waiting for me, even now.

I won’t lie to you. I have faced moments when I questioned the certainty of those promises that I cling to so desperately. I was always so certain…until I watched my dear mother suffer greatly and die after a valiant battle with cancer. She suffered in a way I didn’t know was possible. I felt the Lord’s presence when He carried Thomas home…felt His comfort in the days after we said good-bye to Faith and Grace. But, I sat beside my mother’s bed, crying out to Him, longing to see…longing to feel Him….singing of His truth…searching His Word…praying tearful prayers. Even as I reassured her, I longed for Him to reassure me. Would He really come for her like He promised? Did He really prepare a place for her…for me? I can’t explain why I wondered this…why the questions even entered my heart. Perhaps it came from looking into the face of such suffering. Perhaps it was just the fact that it meant so much to me, to know His promises were true. I had never tasted the bitterness of death so closely.

Time and time again, He has reassured me with these words…the same words He spoke to my heart and hers as her earthly life waned and we felt surrounded by the darkness of death:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, ” I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” ~ John 14:1-6

For now, I will daily pick up my cross to follow Him…fixing my eyes on the joy set before me…the glorious promise of a sweet reunion with the treasures that are already laid up for us in heaven’s glory.

For now, I dream my dreams of them…until we meet again.

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Books

Heaven – Randy Alcorn

Heaven is for Real – Todd Burpo

Mommy Please Don’t Cry- Linday DeyMaz

Someday Heaven – Larry Libby

Walking With You ~ The Things People Say

This week we are sharing some of the things that people said to us while we were in the throes of grief…for better or for worse. Losing a child changes a person, and along with that comes changes in our relationships with friends and relatives. In some ways, our new perspective reveals what’s really important in life, and who really cares about us. (It looks like I originally scheduled this week to talk about the hope of heaven, but we will cover that on next week’s post.)

Every grieving mother I have met has been hurt by the words of someone else. Sometimes those words were well-intentioned from someone who was supposed to love the broken-hearted mother. Some words don’t seem to have been thought out at all or may come from the heart of one who is bitter and hurting. I talked a little about this in my Where is the Love? post. And, before I get too far into this, I do just want to say a few words in defense of those who have said words that caused harm, but did not intend to do so.

I have been a grieving mother…a mother who has walked this path. A mother who has heard the hurtful words. A mother who had some friends who just couldn’t be around her. Friends who didn’t want to hear about her babies. Friends who didn’t understand her loss. (I also have wonderful friends who did love me, pray for me, cry with me and come alongside me. They were few in number…but they exist. We have many friends who support our efforts to reach out to others, now. But the early days were lonely.) And yet, I have also inadvertently said insensitive things to a mother who had several losses. Not knowing of her struggle to have children, and the heart ache of the losses she had endured, I said something about what a great dad her husband would be. She looked at me as if I had stabbed her in the heart. And, in fact…my words had done just that. Did I intend to harm her? No…absolutely not. But, I did…unknowingly. And, I of all people should know that we never know where someone has walked. We never know what they have endured…what they may be suffering. We should be careful with our words.

While talking with another mom who has lost a child a few weeks ago, she asked me what she should say to a mom who had just lost her young baby. She was delivering a Dreams of You Basket to her. She and I both knew the answer at the same time….There are no words. Just hug her. Maybe say you are sorry. Offer her your love and prayers. But…the reason it is so hard to say the right thing…the reason so many people say the wrong thing…is because in reality, there are no words. There are no words that can comfort the ache…the canyon of sorrow. None.

My lovely friend Dawn, from Marshall Photography made a great point a couple weeks ago in her comment on my Where is the Love post.

Dawn wrote:
“And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept, and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.” Job 2:12-13
If only his comforters had continued what they started and simply stayed by Job’s side, instead of trying to explain or give counsel. How many times we try to do things in love…and in the end, we screw it up.

She and I shared a conversation about her comment. She talked about Job’s friends…and the fact that they just sat with Job in his grief for seven days. They wept with him. They just stayed beside him. They were willing to walk with him…but they said nothing. Now, we all know that Job’s friends fell short after that. But…when did they get into trouble? When did they cease to be a comfort to Job? When they opened their mouths to speak in judgment of Job. Boy does that saw a lot.

Please don’t let the fact that we are expressing the words that hurt us frighten you from reaching out in love to a grieving mom. I know it is intimidating. I know you don’t know what to say in the face of such grief. Please know that we are grateful for those of you who do reach out…and don’t be afraid to do it. We want to hear you acknowledge the lives of our precious children. We want to know that you care…that you see our pain. We are blessed by your efforts and comforted by your love. We all need to give each other some grace in this area. And, please know that there were wonderful people who prayed for us, who sent heartfelt cards, flowers, gifts, hugs, and expressions of sympathy. We so appreciate and found great comfort in their efforts.

If I could confess something here (of course, I can!), I struggle with knowing what to say or do often when a grieving mom comes my way. I have often felt that my friend, Ginny, is much better at walking with a grieving heart than I. She has a gift for coming alongside someone who is hurting. I suppose that’s what led her to be a nurse. I will always be grateful for the way that she laid down her own life to walk with me during the most intense days of my grief.

I know…I have this ministry. But, I don’t have all the answers. Again, it isn’t about our abilities…but the Lord’s ability to use us…to work through us, broken vessels that we are. We can’t let our imperfections or the fear that we will not do it right, keep us from reaching out in love. There is grace, even for those of us who don’t always say the right thing. I’m often much better at writing words than saying them in the moment. I like to take time to contemplate and edit myself. Unfortunately, life isn’t always like that. In those moments, we can pray and maybe just say very little but be there for the grieving person.

We have shared here that many of the most hurtful things said to us, came from those who should love us. We listed the cliche sayings. Many of you know that I’ve never been a fan of “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”. (I mean no offense if you like that statement.) Lots of things in life are more than I can handle. Burying my children is among them. It isn’t about what I can handle, it’s about the size of my God, and His ability to carry me through. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I don’t have to be strong.

Many of you shared that you did not feel love at your church…that you were met with judgment or ignored. Sometimes we mistakenly think that Christians aren’t ever supposed to hurt or struggle. Grief doesn’t fit well with that philosophy. It hurts and it tosses you about and turns your world upside down. Hurting doesn’t mean that you lack faith. It just means that you have lost something or someone that you dearly loved. Even Jesus wept in the sight of the sorrow of His friends when they lost their brother Lazarus. I’m so sorry that we fail to love as we should, and I wish we would show the love of Jesus more in the body of Christ. My church as a whole has been wonderful, but I have been hurt by the insensitivity and ignorance of individuals…maybe not meaning to. But it hurt just the same.

Even bible verses can be twisted to hurt us in grief. Lynnette shares about this in her book, In Faithfulness, He afflicted Me in Chapter 3. Lynnette writes: People quoted scripture to us verbally and in notes. These were also a great source of comfort, but on occasion, even a verse was the wrong thing. For instance, a verse like, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials” would probably be better discovered by oneself than received from another. (Chapt. 3, pg. 55 In Faithfulness, He Afflicted Me)

Someone sent me a card with a verse about the “seed that fell from the tree and died so that it could bear much fruit”. Although, I understand what they were trying to say…at the time of raw grief those words stabbed my heart. I didn’t want fruit, and I didn’t want to think that my baby had to die so that there could be fruit. I wanted my baby! I didn’t want to be judged on my performance, on how much faith I had or how well it was displayed as I carried this cross. That was a battle for me…one that the Lord’s grace helped me overcome as He taught me a different way. But, many times the words of well-meaning friends were used for harm. I know that they didn’t mean it…that they didn’t understand. They hadn’t walked there. They could only relate with their own experience.

I have heard…”You can have other children. You’re pregnant again! How many babies do you have now? Don’t you wish you had a little girl? You really need to stop burdening your family with this grief. Now isn’t the time for this. Get it together, Kelly. You just need to give this to the Lord. Christians shouldn’t grieve without hope. Aren’t you over this yet? It’s really time to move on.” And so many more.

Some of these words are true. We CAN give it to the Lord and Christians shouldn’t grieve without hope. But, what does that look like? Does that mean we will never cry or hurt? Does it mean that we will never feel a moment of doubt or fear? No…we will feel all of those things. We will have bad days. The difference is that we know Who to go to. We know the One who is able to carry us through the dark valley. We take all the broken pieces of ourselves to the One who is able to put us back together again. And, when He does…we are no longer exactly as we were before. We are a new creation. And, what shines forth from the ashes is a thing of great beauty.

There is a freedom and a joy on the other side of grief that I would have never known. While I never would have asked for this path, I can see many beautiful gifts…and yes even fruit…from having walked it. There is a love my family would have never known. And, there are things I would not have experienced. But, in those moments of early grief, I probably wasn’t ready to hear about the promise of all of that. I just needed someone to weep with me, pray for me, and walk with me. Someone to get it.

As we emerge as that new person, we are different in many ways. Perspective changes. What once seemed so important no longer matters. It is replaced with things you never thought much about before, but now realize matter a great deal. Sweet Holly said it well in this post. While we will heal and joy will be restored in our lives, we are forever changed. Our very personality may even change. And, we will never get over losing our children. Not that we wallow in grief forever. Not that we will not be fully healed and complete. We will, but we will have a missing place in our hearts until we reach heaven’s welcoming gates. A place where a much loved, dearly cherished, longed for and dreamed about life once lived. Now that life lives on in heaven…the place that we are homesick for, at times. Our children will forever be part of the tapestry of our lives…they are part of who we are. Please understand that. We can no more deny them than we could our children who walk this earth with us.

I am so grateful that we have a place that we are free to share about our children. I know that many of you feel, as I have, that you weren’t embraced by others when you wished to share about your children in heaven. What a gift this blog family has been, and how I cherish the love shown here. Lynnette has said before how she longed for someone to be able to tell her that she would get through this…that she wouldn’t feel that way forever. I so longed for that, as well, after the loss of my babies.

Lynnette writes:
Right after Anna died I desperately needed somebody who had lost a child to tell me I’d be okay. I was so sick with grief that I didn’t feel I’d ever recover. I couldn’t imagine ever being truly happy again without Anna…it just didn’t seem possible. That somebody never came. I did recover though. God was all I really needed. My joy did return. God did turn my mourning into dancing.

God is enough…and He has been enough for me, too. But, He is so good…and always gives us exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. He gives us each other to walk alongside one another on this path. Even though God has also turned my mourning into dancing, I so treasure this community. And, because we have walked there…and because He has traded our tears for songs of joy…we can tell you that this grief will not last forever. You will not always hurt this much. Your joy will return.

I still so cherish the fact that I can share my Faith, Grace, and Thomas here. And, we are received unlike most places in our lives. There is no uncomfortable pause when I write their names. Indeed, many of you write them and know them as you do your own. Oh, how that blesses my heart. And, I will never tire of reading their names…of knowing they are spoken. For, I am a mother, as are you…whether your babies live on earth or in heaven. You are a mother, just the same. And, as I’ve said before…I never would have chosen this path…and I’m so sorry that you are walking it, now…but, I’m so grateful for the beautiful privilege of walking it with you. And, I’m so grateful for being the mother of these precious children…of all my children…and the beautiful gifts that each one has brought to my life.

Thanks for enduring this lonnnnng post! There really is even more to say about this, which I guess is why I need to get cracking on writing that book! I look forward to reading your insights and experiences on this week’s walk.

Here are a couple other links to posts on this subject:

Put it Away

 

Supporting a Grieving Mother (For friends seeking guidance on ways to offer support.)

Next week, we will be talking about the hope of Heaven and the glorious day we will be reunited with our sweet babies. It’s one of my favorite weeks on this walk!

Love to all…

Walking With You ~ Sibling Grief

Walking With You was created to help support those who have lost a child. Together we share our stories, helpful information, scriptures, encouraging words, prayer requests, and more. Thank you to those of you who have joined us for the past few weeks…for courageously sharing your stories. If you haven’t joined us yet, and would like to, you are more than welcome.

This week, we are sharing about the effect our loss(es) had on our children (sibling grief). If you did not have children at the time of your loss, we are also sharing about subsequent pregnancies (after the loss). If you have not had a pregnancy following the loss, yet, you may share your feelings about facing your next pregnancy. Hope that wasn’t too confusing. For this post, I will be focusing on sibling grief. To read about our family’s journey with pregnancy after loss, click here.

Timothy was two years old when we were expecting Faith and Grace. His little life was turned upside down by my extreme illness and constant vomiting. Then there was a long hospital stay and little contact from me. Of course, he was doted on by his grandmas (my mom and Tim’s)…so much so that when I finally returned from the hospital, I had to peel him off my mom. He was getting used to the “spoiling”!

When Faith and Grace passed away, I told him as simply as I could, in language he could understand. He has always been a very perceptive person and a deep thinker. I told him that Faith and Grace were very sick and too sick to stay…that God took them to heaven to heal them. I shared that He gave them new bodies in heaven…bodies that were perfect and they would never be sick again. He seemed intrigued about the fact that they would have new eyes to see differently than we do.

In the weeks following their passing, Timothy drew pictures of his sisters (stick figures with really big heads!). He would sometimes give me a picture when he saw me crying…to “make me feel better”. He knew instinctively how much I missed them. I ran a home daycare at the time and during the early weeks of my grief, I was not working. For Timothy that meant no children filling our house with life. Lonely and sad, sometimes he would stand at the window and say, in the saddest little voice…”no kids coming today”.

He loved to talk about his sisters and look at their pictures. He didn’t seem to notice their brokenness. That was so refreshing to me. Because I didn’t see their brokenness either. As time went on, others grew uncomfortable or tired of hearing about Faith and Grace. But he never did.

We would talk about what heaven was like and what they would be doing in heaven. On their first (and subsequent birthdays), we would celebrate together (with my friend Ginny sometimes) with cookies and cupcakes…pink, of course for our little girls. He would blow out the candle. We would talk about them playing in heaven and Timothy decided they would be wearing Barbie pajamas! I loved his child-like faith…and I loved his openness in sharing about his sisters. Sometimes he would even run to get their picture when a visitor came…making others uncomfortable. I loved his lack of inhibition. And, truth be told…I think we could learn a little from the way children experience grief. They live their lives and let out their feelings as they come.

With Thomas, Timothy had already experienced loss. So, he knew that pregnancy did not guarantee a baby. It broke my heart that he knew that at the tender age of four years. He prayed for this baby to stay. He prayed for a brother. A brother, he was given. But, we soon found out…that this baby would not stay either. We told him that Thomas was very sick, and the doctors say he probably will not stay. He will go to heaven when he is born. It was so confusing, because Thomas was still alive in my growing belly. He shook his head and his little voice sounded strangled as he choked out the words. “So, I won’t get to hold this baby either. He will not come home.” We told him that we could pray for God to heal Thomas…and let him stay…that God could do anything. And we needed to trust Him. I hugged him. He was heart broken, but trying to be tough.

When Thomas was born, it seemed like such a whirlwind. As long as I walk this earth, I will regret not bringing Timothy to meet his brother when he was alive…not letting him hold him. Tim was in so much turmoil and I didn’t want to add to it. I didn’t know if it would be more painful or confusing to Timothy to meet his brother. But, that decision caused Timothy great sorrow…and I’m so sorry for it. Not meeting his brother and holding him was very hard for Timothy…and he talked about that for a long time. I did bring him privately to the funeral home, and he touched Thomas’ cheek. But, his skin felt different than a baby usually feels. And the experience was not a comfort.

We talked often about Thomas and what he would do in heaven also. We shared pictures. Timothy kept praying for a brother. We started traditions, like giving a shoebox filled with presents every Christmas to the Samaritan’s Purse organization in memory of each child. In the early years, we bought Christmas ornaments to remember the babies. We had birthday celebrations…sometimes just Timothy and I…for many years. We would read “Mommy, Please Don’t Cry” and “Someday Heaven”… we loved to talk about heaven. And those talks were a comfort to my heart as well as his.

In the fall of 2000, God answered Timothy’s prayers and blessed us with another pregnancy.  Timothy spent the time praying that this baby would stay. He would often ask me, “Mom, do you think this baby will stay?” I could never say yes for sure. I would say that I hoped the baby would stay…and that I was praying, too. We almost lost James, and there were complications in the first and second trimester. I don’t think I shared those with Timothy. His prayers for his brother to stay were so heart-wrenching. He was six years old by this time. So young to have faced such serious truths of life and death.

His brother, James, was born in May of 2001. And, this time, he came to the hospital. He held his brother, with a sigh of relief. James came home. And, he doted on him lovingly (for the first couple years, at least!).

When my mom passed away in October 2006, Timothy walked the path of grief once more. This time, as a young man. My mom was sort of “his place” where he was always adored…loved…accepted, just how he is. She was his person, you know…the person you go to know matter what. The one who will love you unconditionally. They had a very special relationship. I know it has been heart breaking and life changing to say good-bye to his grandmother. And, I know all of the loss he has experienced has shaped his heart and his life. He had to learn very young what most of us don’t know until we are much older.

Sometimes, we do still talk about what life would be like with all five children here in our little house…and what they would be doing now. We have always focused on the hope of heaven…that we will see our loved ones again someday. And there will be no more good-byes…no more tears. And bodies will not ever be sick or broken.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them, and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” ~ Revelation 21:3-4

For more thoughts on sibling grief, and to read how the Dreams of You Comfort Bears have been helpful to children in working through their grief, click here.

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Not a lot of resources this week. I just want to encourage you to talk to your children. Include them as much as possible in the process. Share moments and make memories with them that include your babies in heaven. Realize that siblings are grieving as well. Be available to talk and listen. Answer their questions simply and age-appropriately. Shower them with love and reassurance. Keep their schedules stable and structured. Routine can be reassuring. Share comforting scripture about the promise of heaven. Pray with them and encourage them to pray. There are things, as I have shared, that I regret…it’s difficult sometimes to make the best decisions in our own grief. Know that God’s grace can cover our mistakes.

A few books:

Sibling Grief ~ Wintergreen Press

Mommy Please Don’t Cry

Someday Heaven

Tear Soup

Someday We’ll Play in Heaven ~ Strannigan (Standard Publishing)

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Next week, we will talk about “What People Say”…some of the words people have said to us in our grief…for better or worse. How have our friendships changed. I also would like to share a little about grandparent grief. Thank you so much for joining us.

Love to all…

Walking With You ~ The Ripples Flow to our Marriage

Walking With You was created to help support those who have lost a child. Together we share our stories, helpful information, scriptures, encouraging words, prayer requests, and more. Thank you to those of you who have joined us for the past few weeks…for courageously sharing your stories. If you haven’t joined us yet, and would like to, you are more than welcome. This week, we are sharing the impact our loss(es) had on our marriage.

Tim and I were married very young and we had a two-year-old when we faced the loss of our twin daughters, Faith and Grace. I had endured a long and extremely difficult hospital stay that caused a great deal of stress and concern for my young husband. We were twenty-one years old at the time.

Losing Faith and Grace was such a shock for us. We had prayed and hoped for a miracle. And, honestly…I just didn’t think that our babies would be among those that didn’t make it. Maybe I was just young enough that I still thought I was “invincible” and that covered my children as well. I don’t know what Tim thought at the time, and I was too absorbed in my own pain to ask. Just the same, we were shocked and devastated.

I wish I could remember clear details, but it’s very fuzzy for me. I do remember Tim missing me and worrying about us during the long hospital stay. It took all my strength to survive, so I didn’t feel the missing as much at the time. I remember how he tried to make me laugh while wheeling my ridiculously large pregnant self to the specialist. I remember his smile when we found out we would have identical twin girls. And I remember the anguish on his face as the tears fell while he stood beside me as I held our baby girls and sang Amazing Grace. I remember how he tried to make me laugh and succeeded some hours after they were born. How he slept in the recovery room watching some random movie with me. I remember the ache of leaving the hospital with empty arms and a canyon of emptiness in my heart. I remember leaning on him for strength as we stood by their grave on that cold November day. And…the agony of sorrow when he went back to work. He held me often during those early days as I cried.

Even while we were in the hospital, I knew that we were forever changed by the loss of our girls…that we had shared something that only the two of us could ever really understand. It separated us from the rest of the world, and bound us more solidly as one flesh. I believe it drew us closer. He was quiet with his grief, having to remain strong. He needed to return to work right away to support our family and pay the mountain of medical bills.

There came a time when I knew my need to grieve openly and talk about the girls brought him pain, and I was grateful to share all my emotions and words with my friend, Ginny. I respected Tim’s need to protect himself and our family from the emotions in planning the memorial service, keeping it private. We didn’t want to add the family drama that often came with any event on both sides of our families to and already painful time. We weren’t prepared to have a funeral for our children. It seemed so unspeakable to us at the time. And we both felt protective of our girls. It was important to me to respect his need to keep things private.

Months later, we began trying to have another baby, and I think Tim wanted to help ease the ache of emptiness for me…for both of us. I have often felt a great burden for the dads who grieve for their babies in a world that doesn’t allow them to express their feelings openly. They have to be strong…and, a father doesn’t just feel the weight of his own loss, but the pain he sees his wife enduring…a pain he can do nothing to fix. A pain he couldn’t protect her from. He couldn’t protect his family from this.

Finally, after many complications that left my body battling infection for about a year after the birth of Faith and Grace, we conceived Thomas. We felt relieved, apprehensive, and excited. Midway through the pregnancy, when we sat in that room and heard the words “incompatible with life” in regards to our precious son…I looked over at Tim…and I saw the life drain out of him. It was as if the light went out and darkness filled his face. Hope left. I have never felt more darkness, myself. I remember him convincing me to take the steps to leave the hospital.

I remember facing “the choice”, and he was quiet, but seemed relieved when I chose to continue the pregnancy. He supported that decision. As I watched him agonize over the fact that he was helpless to protect our family from walking this path again, I struggled with the burden of being “the one” who brought this pain on our family. I know that wasn’t really true. But, I felt that burden. And, to this day, one of the hardest things…the thought that brings tears to my eyes each time I think of it is the grief of Tim and Timothy…and the fact that I couldn’t spare them of this pain. The sorrow it caused them to watch me carry our sweet Thomas, knowing we would have to say good-bye to him.

The stress of that time was heavy on us. I wish I would have had the knowledge or support of those who had walked there, like so many of you. I did have the Lord, and He was enough. He did carry me and pour out His grace. But, sometimes, I think I could have done more to cherish that time. I felt my presence caused pain to my family. A reminder of impending sorrow. It may not have. And they didn’t say that to me, but there was a distance. Mostly because of the stress of the situation. Tim was quiet and distant as the time grew near to meet our Thomas. The pain caused him to delve deep into a protective shell. I clung to the Lord for strength, and leaned on Ginny and Dinah, as he wrestled with what was happening within.

When Thomas was born, the pain was so great for Tim. I felt the joy of meeting Thomas, while Tim’s sorrow broke forth heavily. We leaned on each other once more in those early days, and he respected that I needed to talk about and remember our children and I respected that he often needed me to do that with someone other than him. After the initial days of grief, we talked little about the experience to each other. This time when the desperate ache for a baby to fill my empty arms came, neither of us had the courage to say that we were ready to try for another baby. Fear of another loss was so strong. Tim was very protective of that.

When we were surprised with James’ conception, it was a time of great trepidation and anticipation. I wanted to hold on to hope and joy…knowing that I would not get this chance again. I wanted to cherish every moment I was given with this precious baby. But, for Tim, all that we had endured had taken it’s toll, and the stress of watching me struggle through another pregnancy and the possibility of another loss was just too much. It was a very difficult time in our marriage. God brought us through a great deal of struggles. He has healed our brokenness, renewed our love and strengthened our joy. We walk with Him and trust in Him together, now. But it was quite a journey to this place.

There is so much about that time between us that needs to stay between us. But, I want to share a few things because I know that many of you struggle with the fact that men and women grieve differently. It’s one of the main things we are asked about…marriage concerns and grieving differently.

The thing is men and women are made differently (as you well know!). And we grieve differently. Every individual actually is unique in their grief. He may be quiet, distant, angry, protective, or tearful. You may feel like talking about your babies, need to be close, angry, tearful, or distant. You may not be feeling the same things at the same time. This can cause division and resentment when we do not understand that our spouse is still grieving, even if he/she is not grieving the same way we are.

Tim and I shared this sorrow…and this entire journey, but we rarely talk about it. We are able more now than we did years ago. He supports this ministry and all that we are doing. He is part of this ministry and he helps make decisions….often reaching out in his own way to those who cross our path. We have always respected each other’s need to grieve differently and communicate that grief in different ways. It doesn’t mean that we did not offer love and support to each other. We did and we do. But, sometimes, I went to a friend to talk or share a memory that I thought may be painful for him. And we didn’t let that come between us. It’s O.K. that he didn’t want to go to a special remembrance service years later. And it’s O.K. with him that I did need to go. I think it’s important to recognize and free each other from expectations here. It will prevent being hurt when we feel that our expectations are not met. And, it prevents resentment and division from forming between the two of us.

We are not some perfect example to be held up for display. Indeed, our path to the beauty we experience today was once covered in tattered ashes of brokenness. It is a messy journey, and we often didn’t “do it right”. We are truly bathed in God’s grace. I could write several statistics saying that there is no way Tim and I should still be married. We were married young, became parents at a young age, from divorced families (generations of divorced families actually), and we lost three of five of our children by the time we were twenty-three years old. And yet, here we are loving each other and the God that kept us through it all. I don’t say that as any great success on our part, but as a testimony to the greatness of the God we serve and the power of His grace that is always sufficient. We share a love today that is deeper and sweeter because of where we have walked. It is true that our God does “make all things beautiful in His time”.

Here are just a few words of wisdom we have gleaned:

1. Respect each other’s need to grieve differently. If at all possible, do not do things that may bring pain to your spouse. At the same time, do not deprive yourself of doing the things you feel you need to do to honor your baby your way. Find a way to honor your baby that also honors the feelings of your spouse.

2. Find time to laugh and do things that you enjoy together. Grieving is hard, heavy work. Find some time to keep it light.

3. Keep life as simple as you can. Try not to take on too much for your family schedule. Protect yourselves and each other from extra stress or things that may bring unneeded sorrow.

4. Find ways to honor the memory of your baby as a family.

5. Communicate with love and respect.

6. Take comfort in physical affection. Do not turn away from each other, but turn toward each other.

7. Pray together and for each other. God is able to mend your broken hearts and keep your marriage. Guard your marriage and bathe it in prayer. You may feel too weak to pray sometimes. That’s O.K….saying, “God, help me…it hurts too much to even pray.” is still a prayer. It’s been a prayer of mine many times.

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
~Ecclesiastes 4:8-12

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Thank you again for joining us. Please let us know if we can support you in any way as you grieve the loss of your baby. I would be happy to send you a Dreams of You Memory Package and to pray for your needs. Also, it can help to share with someone who has walked this path. It is our desire to encourage you in your marriage…to pray for you…and offer any support we have to give. Next week, we will be sharing about how our other children faced their grief and ways to support them as they grieve their sibling. If you do not have children, we will also include facing another pregnancy after the loss…and our feelings about that.

WWY ~ The Sea of Grief

Walking With You was created to help support those who have lost a child. Together we share our stories, helpful information, scriptures, encouraging words, prayer requests, and more. Thank you to those of you who have joined us for the past few weeks…for courageously sharing your stories. If you haven’t joined us yet, and would like to, you are more than welcome. This week, we are sharing our first steps into the sea of grief.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:A time to be born and a time to die…A time to weep and a time to laugh…A time to mourn and a time to dance…

A Time To Weep…
Grief has many stages. It is different for everyone, and seems to come at will with a life of it’s own. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to the emotions that spill forth. You cannot predict when it will come, although there are certain triggers that you may come to know as you swim in this sea. It is a struggle to visit these places of early grief and to feel the weight of that great sorrow. But for those walking in that place of new grief, it is so important to know that there is a God big enough to carry us through this, that no matter how forsaken we may feel, we are not, that we are not alone, and that we will not remain tossed about in this relentless sea forever.

In this post, I wrote:
In the beginning, I felt as if I were drowning. The sea of grief was relentless. Soon, I learned to tread water, though, and the sea became less rocky as I stopped resisting the waves. One day, I realized that I had learned to swim in this sea. The waves of grief still rushed in at times, but I was learning to be a stronger swimmer.

It was a sea of grief that seemed to be choking the life out of me. I flailed about those first days. From the moment they wheeled me out of the hospital, past the nursery, and into the world without my baby girls, I felt like I was drowning. I remember one of the first stark realizations that life would never really be the same, that Tim and I would never be the same. At twenty-one years old, we didn’t have a lot of experience with death. We had lost grandparents and that was difficult. But, grandparents are supposed to die. Babies aren’t. While most of our peers still partied through careless days at college, we stood over the grave of our babies.

Words cannot describe the ache…the physical ache that began with my arms and went straight to the depths of my heart and soul. If you are walking with us, I don’t have to describe it. You know it well. I cried buckets of tears. Cried by day and cried in my sleep at night. I would wake up already crying, still reliving the moment I said good-bye to my girls.

I was too weak and broken to function. I didn’t leave the house for a couple months. I didn’t answer the phone or the door in the early weeks. Ginny, my mother, and Tim formed a protective layer between me and the outside world. Flowers came and I would sob. Christmas ornaments in memory of Faith and Grace (born in November). Ginny answered the door. I curled up in sorrow.

I struggled with going to church. I went, but it was so hard. We had been praying for a miracle, believing for a miracle. And the miracle that happened was not the one we had asked for. I wasn’t angry with God. It just felt so tender. The worship songs…the scripture…the prayers. Everything pierced my broken heart, welling up the emotions that were always waiting just below the surface. It was so painful to enter the world without the identical twin daughters that should have filled our household with the abundance of all things baby girl. That’s what we had been preparing for, hoping for, praying for. Not this emptiness…this silence. Not this agony of missing.

It may sound as if I were grieving without hope. But, you know the truth is…I was just grieving. I knew God was the place to go with my sorrow, and I went to Him. But, the hurt was still there. It didn’t leave right away. There was not a quick fix. It needed to hurt. The tears needed to fall. I needed to talk about my babies…to feel the weight of their absence. And, yes…even to wallow a little. As Christians, sometimes I think we expect people to just always feel joyful…as if they are a failure when they feel sorrow. As if they are lacking faith. I really struggled with that.

The thing is, our world had been turned upside down. We didn’t know which end was up anymore. I often felt guilty that I was so overcome with sorrow…thinking I was a failure as a Christian. When I did feel a moment of joy, I felt guilty wondering what kind of a mother laughs after losing her baby. I learned that guilt is part of the journey. Knowing that didn’t make it go away. But in time, God did ease that guilt.

In the last several years, I have learned a lot about grieving. I have watched many people walk through the sea of sorrow…and I’ve returned there myself a couple times. Today, I don’t judge myself or others and the way we choose to walk this path. There is no magic timetable for grief or a right or wrong way to do it. And, when someone is walking this path…it is no time to judge their performance. They are just trying to survive it. Trying not to drown under the tumultuous waves that continually crash into us, over us, and all around us. It is a time for mercy and grace. Not judgment.

If you are someone reading this and wondering when your friend will get over the loss of her child, the answer is…never. She will never stop missing her baby. In time, God can comfort her sorrow, ease her pain, restore her joy…but for as long as she walks this earth, she will have moments of missing her baby. She is forever changed. Don’t rush her. Don’t try to tell her she needs to move on. Don’t assume that because she is grieving a certain way, that she is doing it wrong. Don’t tell her how she should be doing it. She may feel sorrow. She may feel nothing. She may be angry. She may have peace. Or a combination of all of the above. Just let her and love her.

And, if you are a mommy in the new stages of grief, overwhelmed with sorrow…wondering if you will feel this way forever…please know this: You are forever changed. But, over time…those changes will become a beautiful part of the tapestry of your life. You will always miss your baby, but you will adjust to a “new normal”. You will not feel like you are drowning forever. You will laugh again and take joy in the pleasures of life again…you will. Your life may be different, but it is not without hope.
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With Thomas, my grief was different. I was so blessed and comforted in the moments I had as Thomas’ mother. Still glowing from the presence of Jesus when he carried Thomas home, my heart experienced so much healing. It meant so much to me to be the one to hold him as he left this earth. I was so shocked by the loss of Faith and Grace, so robbed of the chance to mother them…the moments I shared with Thomas healed that broken part of me. I felt assured that my babies were with Jesus, and for several days, I just basked in the glow of that promise.

The other reason my grief was different was that I was a little rebellious. I steadied myself, digging in my heels in resistance when the first waves did indeed rush in a few days after Thomas’ funeral. My breasts filled with milk, and again, there was no baby to feed. As if my body were weeping, nothing would stop the flow. But, while my body wept, I did not want to give in to the depth of the sorrow again. When sobs would threaten and waves of grief rushed in, I would start to cry and just shake my head, saying “NO!” over and over. I didn’t ever want to feel that out of control again. So, I wouldn’t allow the sorrow to completely overtake me. Not because I’m so strong or some great pillar of faith. Mostly because I just didn’t want to be at grief’s mercy again.

After Thomas passed, we were in the middle of looking for a church. In a way, that made the whole church thing a little easier. It was a refreshing change to be in a place where no one knew where we had walked. Instead of the small town we lived in where everyone knew and avoided the subject (and sometimes us!) like the plague. Indeed, I wonder if they almost did think something akin to a plague had come upon us. I mean…let’s face it. No one wants to think that babies die…not even one baby. But three babies in less than two years. I don’t blame them, really. And, if you are being too hard on those who stay away, think for just a moment of something that you haven’t endured…but would be your biggest fear. Something horrible and unthinkable. Would you want to visit that situation, and look into the face of that sorrow if you didn’t have to? Of course not. We won’t get into the fact that people are often insensitive and just don’t get it (at least not in this post). We’re actually going to give that subject it’s very own post.

Another thing we will save for another post (next week actually) is the fact that couples grieve differently. And this can cause stress on a marriage. After losing Faith and Grace, Tim and I were drawn closer. But, losing Thomas was so hard on Tim. It just seemed like too much after losing Faith and Grace. A sorrow settled upon our household for a time.

I delved into scripture…seeking the Lord’s comfort. Desperate to understand. I will share further on in this grief journey of the anger that came after losing Thomas…and the healing that followed. But…these were the early days. Messy and imperfect…just like grief.

He has sent me (Jesus) to bind up the brokenhearted…To comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. – Isaiah 61:1b-3

Next week, we will talk a little about the struggles for couple who face grief. We will share a little about the father’s perspective and the strain on marriage after the loss of a child.
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For memory-making materials, burial gowns, memory books, other items and support, visit:
Sufficient Grace Ministries for Women (and families)
We will gladly send you what you need. We do not charge bereaved parents for our services.

Books
I Will Carry You – Angie Smith
In Faithfulness, He Afflicted Me – Lynnette Kraft
I’ll Hold You in Heaven – Jack Hayford
Mommy, Please Don’t Cry – Linda Deymaz
Heaven is For Real – Todd Burpo
Ninety Minutes in Heaven – Don Piper
The Shack – William Young – controversial, but with an amazing, healing message of His love
Empty Arms – Sherokee Isle (secular, but with practical answers)
The Bible – nothing sustains us like His word

Thanks so much for joining us again for Walking With You. Praying for each of you as we join for this week’s walk. If you are visiting, please take some time to visit and pray for the women linked below. It means so much to us.

Love to all…

WWY ~ Naming our Babies

Originally posted in the first WWY series:

Walking With You was created to help support those who have lost a child. Together we share our stories, helpful information, scriptures, encouraging words, prayer requests, and more. Thank you to those of you who have joined us for the past few weeks…for courageously sharing your stories. If you haven’t joined us yet, and would like to, you are more than welcome. This week, we are sharing how we chose the names for our babies and any special meaning behind them.

I have previously written about the reason we chose the names for our babies in a couple older posts. I copied and pasted from those posts here. (Hope you don’t mind…but it seemed a little easier than re-writing what has already been said.)  These past few weeks, our walk has been an emotional one. Last week felt especially heavy as I walked with each of you, re-visiting days of great sorrow. (Please do not get me wrong…It is a great privilege to walk with all of you, and I’m so grateful that you are sharing your stories…sharing your sweet babies.) While I feel it is important to share our stories, I want to remain focused on the hope we have in the Lord. We do not grieve as those without hope. Our sweet babies are alive in heaven. And, I look forward this week, to sharing something special about them…something joyful. Each of us gave our sweet babies a gift…a gift with meaning, from the heart. The gift of a name. A name we continue to hold in our hearts until we meet again. A name we long to hear…a name we ache for the world to recognize. A name that says this life mattered…this person was here.

It still blesses my soul when I hear someone mention the names of my Faith, Grace, and Thomas. Even so many years later, I long to hear their names spoken. Let’s face it, we moms love to talk about our kids. We love to tell funny stories about the things they do. We love to take pride in their accomplishments and seek comfort when we are concerned for them. We love to see them soar…to spread their wings and fly. I love to watch James slide into home plate, hit the ball to the outfield. Love to watch Timothy keep his cool on the pitcher’s mound and steal home. I love to watch the natural beauty of his golf swing. Love when they make good choices, learn lessons from not-so-good choices, and laugh their individual laughs. It’s no different for my children who are no longer on this earth. I love to hear their names, to talk about them and wonder what their life is like in heaven. I love to see the effect their lives have had on others. It sort of feels like I’m watching them spread their wings to fly when someone finds comfort in our journey. Whether our little ones are with us or not, we are moms just the same. And each of our sweet babies have a name.

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

When I was expecting our twin daughters, Faith and Grace, there were many complications. I lay awake in a hospital bed for weeks, praying, waiting, hoping, resisting doubt and fear. When we heard that we were expecting identical twin daughters, almost immediately, Ephesians 2:8 came into my mind. For it is by grace through faith you have been saved… Grace has always been my favorite name, and that verse has always spoken to my heart. It was not something I did to earn salvation, but a precious gift from our Savior. So, it seemed fitting. They no longer were known as Baby A and Baby B, but Faith Elizabeth and Grace Katherine. Their names had deep meaning, and more than I even realized.

Webster’s definition of grace: “unmerited help given to the people by God….”. Unmerited. Undeserved. Given freely, not because of anything we did or could ever do to earn it. Grace that covers us. Grace that is given to us daily in a sufficient portion to meet our needs. Abundant, beautiful grace. Grace that saves…grace that carries…grace that comforts. I learned about His grace through being their mother. And I kept learning long after they left this earth.

At first, I thought that they were just beautiful names from a meaningful verse. When asked by one of our doctors why I chose the names Faith and Grace, I said, “Because it’s going to take a lot of both to get through this!” But, even their situation…twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome made sense with the words in the scripture. Because in the condition of twin-to-twin the “lines are crossed”, so to speak. One baby, (Faith) gets too much fluid, blood flow, and nourishment, and the other (Grace) doesn’t get enough. In essence, Grace literally received her nourishment, her life…through Faith. And they were intertwined. Needing one another for survival.

Interesting…It is by grace through faith that we are saved. What I didn’t know is that there would be more. Carrying and saying good-bye to my Faith and Grace was only the beginning of learning about the faith and grace spoken of in these verses. Carrying our Thomas, we learned about true faith. Not the pretty word we Christians throw around…thinking it has something to do with us. Somehow, if we just have enough faith. Oh boy, do we miss the boat on that one. True faith is not some pretty little thing. It is found in the nitty-gritty journey through this life. It is not the absence of doubt or fear, but trusting in God anyway, when you are most afraid and filled with doubt and questions. Trusting when you don’t see. Believing without seeing. Believing when you don’t get the answer you want or when there seems to be no answer at all. Praising Him in the storm. Trusting Him to carry you. Surrendering to the arms of our sovereign God. Blessing Him when He gives and when He takes away. It’s not about how much faith I have or how strong it is. It’s about how mighty, able, powerful, all-knowing, merciful and good my God is.

So many times, we want to see the miracles with our eyes. We want proof that He is there. Proof that He hasn’t forsaken us. Proof that He lives. Proof that He will carry us. Proof that His grace is sufficient. We want to see. Never have I ached to see Him more than when we heard the words “incompatible with life” in reference to our son Thomas. I have shared about part of that journey before, but today, I want to focus on the precious gift Thomas’ life gave to us…the reason he is called Thomas. His life taught us about “believing without seeing.”

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. ~ John 20:24-29

While awaiting the birth of our sweet Thomas, we didn’t see. Daily, it was a walk of faith to put one foot in front of the other. What would be at the end of the journey? Would the Lord work a miracle and save my Thomas? He is able. Would He choose to? Did I believe enough? I believed He could. I believed that with God all things are possible. But would He? Would He meet us there when the time came to say good-bye to our baby? Would His grace be sufficient? Was Thomas being harmed in my womb without enough amniotic fluid? Was he still alive? Would our marriage survive? We couldn’t see. How I longed for Him to show Himself to me. I waited and prayed, searching His word daily. Searching for Him.

And, He showed Himself to me. I believed when I couldn’t see. And I prayed when I was too weak to believe. And He came. He lives. His grace was sufficient. He showed Himself to me when I held sweet Thomas. He was there in the songs that were lifted from my mouth to the heavens in praise of my King and He carried our sweet baby boy home. He said, “Here I am.” And I could almost reach out and touch the holes in His hands. He came. He lives.

If carrying Thomas taught us about faith, then meeting him taught us about grace. The all-sufficiency of His grace meeting us in that place of unknown sorrows. And replacing what Satan meant to break us, to destroy us, to darken our hearts forever…with joy overflowing as we met our son. As he filled my arms, and as the presence of the Lord filled the room. I sang, “O Lord, You’re beautiful…Your face is all I seek…For when your eyes are on this child…Your grace abounds to me.” And it did. It abounded, surrounded, lifted and carried me.

And none of it…not one ounce of it was about the strength of my faith, or my ability to conjure up or earn one ounce of the unmerited gift of grace poured out over me. It was only the beginning of the outpouring. It has flowed freely into my life since the moment I asked Jesus to come in.

 

Thank you Carly Marie for writing the names.

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ADDED: I just realized I didn’t mention how we chose the names for our two boys that are with us. Timothy James is our firstborn. He is named after his father and grandfather. His name means “to honor God”. James Henry is also named after Tim’s and my grandfathers. He is our youngest son. His name (although not at all chosen because of this. I actually didn’t know the meaning until this morning when I looked it up online.) means “to replace”. Interesting. To us, it is just a biblical name that also honored our family. I also forgot to mention the middle names of Faith, Grace, and Thomas. Faith Elizabeth (just because I liked how Elizabeth sounds with Faith). Grace Katherine (because my mom’s name is Kathy). Thomas Patrick (because my father’s name is Patrick).

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Next week we will be sharing about the early days of grief. We will spend a few weeks talking about different aspects and phases of grief and it’s affects on the relationships in our lives. We will choose specific subjects to focus on for that week. Please link up this week, and remember to take some time to stop by and read the other blogs linked. These mothers will be blessed and encouraged by your words…and your prayers.

Walking With You ~ A Precious Goodbye

Walking With You was created to help support those who have lost a child. Together we share our stories, helpful information, scriptures, encouraging words, prayer requests, and more. Thank you to those of you who have joined us for the past few weeks…for courageously sharing your stories. If you haven’t joined us yet, and would like to, you are more than welcome. This week, we are sharing about saying good-bye and experiencing the memorial service or funeral if applicable. You may visit previous posts by clicking on the Walking With You button above. If you are just joining us, we you may share whatever part of your journey you wish. You may link your post on the new MckLinky below this post.

Sharing the Journey

Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this? ~ John 11:25-26

I have shared before that I do not visit the cemetery often. This week is a rather difficult place to re-visit, and one I generally avoid. I would much rather focus on the hope of heaven than on the seeming finality of the grave. Knowing that our eyes should be fixed not on the seen (physical world) but on the unseen (eternal, heavenly world). But, I do feel it is important to share the pieces of our journey because there is a reassurance in knowing that we are not alone on this walk. There is a healing in the telling of the story. And every piece of our journey is another part of the tapestry that God is weaving into our lives. And all of it has value and beauty…even if it’s the kind that comes from ashes.

Faith and Grace

The first time I heard the word funeral in regard to my children, I was in the delivery room. I remember thinking that it seemed cruel. I hadn’t thought past the delivering of my babies…still shocked that there would be a labor and delivery. I hadn’t decided if I would hold my girls. It all seemed so strange and foreign…so surreal. I didn’t know how one faced the death of a baby in a place where new life should exist. Now, they were saying that we needed to plan a funeral.

I did hold my babies, as you know if you’ve been here before. And, slowly the reality of what was happening sunk in. I realized that these were my children, and a funeral would indeed be necessary. Still too weak and overwhelmed…too shocked and overcome with grief to plan a funeral, I left the planning to my mother. I asked that she find identical pink lace dresses with ribbons for the girls. She picked out the casket, met with the funeral home and shopped for the dresses (which has it’s own story…but I’ll share it another time.) I cried in my hospital bed. I did ask our pastor to perform the graveside service.

We were very protective of Faith and Grace and of ourselves. We did not want anyone around us who may judge us or make an inappropriate comment about our girls. They were bruised and broken…although quite beautiful. Our extended family is quite large and not always supportive of one another. Our parents are divorced and re-married. There was a lot of brokenness and tension. We just couldn’t accommodate all of that in the midst of our grief. Our mothers and stepfathers were there for a brief viewing the night before the funeral. We held each other and cried. My mother thought to take pictures. If those pictures would have turned out, they would be the only ones I would ever share with others (not because I am ashamed, but because we are protective parents)…but, sadly they did not turn out. Faith and Grace looked beautiful, laying side by side in the white casket with pale pink lining in their pink lace dresses, and their dainty faces side-by-side. They had bonnets on their heads that were too big, but just made them even more precious.

It was a dark gray day in early November. The chill in the air matched the chill in my heart. I can’t remember anything that was said by the pastor at our graveside service. I can only remember standing by the side of their grave…and the emptiness I felt. I stood with tears streaming down my face…frozen, unable to move away from the place where my daughters lay. Tim stood beside me in silence for a few moments.

“It’s time to go,” he said.

“I can’t,” I cried. “I can’t leave my babies here in this cold place. I don’t know how to do this.”

I felt his arms around me as he said, “They aren’t here. They are in heaven, and they will always be in our hearts.”

Slowly, he led me away as I leaned on him for the strength to take each step.
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Thomas

With Thomas, we were given the gift of time. We knew in advance that we should prepare for a funeral (even as we prayed for a miracle). I wish that I knew more than I did, but I certainly was more prepared than I was when we lost Faith and Grace. This time, I knew babies could die. I knew more than I wanted to know about what that was like. I chose the scriptures that I wanted read, the songs I wanted sung, the outfit he would wear, and the people who could attend. Still protective of our grief and one another, I respected Tim’s desire that we keep the funeral private, inviting only a few people. I now wish we would have been able to have more people meet our Thomas. I think they would have a better understanding of our grief and this sweet life that was lost. And, I think they would have been blessed to know him…to meet our precious son. I also wish that we would have allowed Timothy (our son, who was 4 at the time) to be more involved. I wish I would have brought him to the hospital, and included him in the entire funeral. I did bring him to the viewing and allow him to meet Thomas there. Our friends Dan and Dinah were there. Our mothers and stepfathers, our brothers, and Ginny (the one who walked with me). Thomas was beautiful…taking our breath away. He was wearing a baby blue soft outfit I had chosen for him, and his casket was white, lined in blue. He was covered in a white blanket my mother made with her own hands, a cross with a little boy praying, and a little teddy bear dressed in blue.

The day was beautiful…a blue sky with fluffy, billowing white clouds. A picture identical to the one we had chosen for the cover of Thomas’ program and thank you notes. Our friend, Dan, gave a beautiful message, shared comforting scripture, and prayed. We all sang Amazing Grace. I had wanted to sing a song myself and was unsure if I would be able to. But, I stood and smiled as the breezed swept past my cheek and the sun shone on my face. When I opened my mouth to sing, the words poured out.

“When this journey is finally over,
And life’s sun sets at last,
Will I find your hand in my hand?
Oh and all life’s sorrows past.
Just to stand in Thy fair city,
With the multitudes unknown,
Is the goal of my heart only,
Just to sit before Your throne.
Just to sit before Your throne.”

(not sure of the name of the song or the author?)

That’s all I can remember. The beauty of the day, the song on my lips, the peace in my heart…and the undeniable presence of the One who put it there.

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Resources
If you are waiting for the birth of your baby, and facing the possibility of a funeral, there are some resources that may be helpful in the planning. I share these to help prevent regrets. Please just do what seems best for your family. Don’t worry about how others may view your decisions. They are not walking this path. It is yours to walk, and you are free to do it your way.

A helpful little book:
Planning a Precious Good-bye ~ (can be ordered at A Place to Remember)

Websites:
Someone recently passed this site on to me to share with you. (Thanks Kristie!) This site provides caskets and burial items: http://www.heavensgain.com/

Another organization that provides for funeral needs:
http://heavenlyangelsinneed.com/

For memory-making materials, burial gowns, memory books, other items and support, visit:
Sufficient Grace Ministries for Women (and families)
We will gladly send you what you need. We do not charge bereaved parents for our services.

Organizations that help with funeral expenses for parents:
http://oliviaraine.org/
Angel Names
http://www.emmazinggracefoundation.org/

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Thank you again for your willingness to walk with us and for allowing us the privilege of Walking With You. I know that it has been a hard couple weeks. These posts are so emotional. We are to grieve with hope, and I promise, more hopeful posts are coming. I wanted to break down our journey into steps so that we could focus on each piece. Next week, we will talk about the early days of grief. And slowly, we will make our way together as the stories unfold to the place where mourning turns to dancing. I promise those of you who are in the thick of it…you will dance again. And your dance will be even more beautiful than it was before the mourning.

Walking With You ~ Meeting Our Babies

Thank you for joining us on Walking With You. I have been so touched to read each of your journeys and to pray for you on this walk. If you are just joining us, we are mothers who have lost a baby and who are walking in different places on that path. We have joined together, that grieving moms may know that they do not walk alone. We will be meeting here to pray for and encourage one another each Monday, sharing pieces of our journey, scriptures, resources, prayer requests, and more. This week, we will be sharing about the birth of our babies and the moments we spent with our children after they were born. If you have missed the first two weeks and wish to share the beginning of your journey, you are more than welcome to share what is on your heart.

Sharing the Journey

Faith and Grace
After spending a couple weeks in the hospital with various complications stemming from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, I was home recovering. I hadn’t felt active movement from the girls in a few hours. It was late in the evening and something didn’t seem quite right. I called my mom, and then Dr. C. I told Tim my concerns. Everyone was on alert in case we needed to go to the hospital. For some reason, that I have wondered since that day, I decided to go to bed and see how I felt in the morning.

In the morning, I was not feeling any movement. Tim was at work. So, my mother drove me to the hospital. We were not rushing. Not feeling a sense of urgency. We stopped to get gas. On the drive, I felt the sense of a slight flutter. Was it movement? It was hard to tell. Movements were hard to discern with all the excess fluid surrounding Faith and Grace.

They admitted me to the triage area and began to search for a heartbeat with the Doppler. I smiled and reassured the nurse that it was often hard to get a heartbeat on the Doppler because there was so much fluid. “They’re in there”, I said confidently.

She went to get an ultrasound machine to make sure. This is where everything gets blurry. I wish my mother was here for me to ask about the details, so that I could share them more clearly. But, maybe they aren’t meant to be clear. I think the nurse may have begun with the words, “I’m sorry…”. I don’t know what else came out. Maybe that there was no heartbeat. Maybe that they were gone. I don’t know, because at that moment all her words were drowned out with a choking sob, a twisted agonized cry that was coming out my mouth…in a voice that I didn’t recognize. I saw the family on the other side of the curtain being escorted away so that my cries did not disturb the pregnant patient. The agony ripped through me with swift devastation. I heard that unrecognizable voice screaming, “No! My babies…” Through the blurs, I heard my mother talking to the nurse. Arguing. She was saying I could go home and wait or induce labor. My mother said I would not be sent home.

Labor. The word cut through the fog. And slowly understanding permeated. I don’t know what I thought would happen…but labor was not on the list. It had never occurred to my twenty-one-year-old mind that I would have to endure labor and deliver babies that would never cry or nurse or fill our house with life. I guess I thought they would just put me to sleep and perform a C-section. But, labor. How would I do that?

Phone calls were made that I can’t remember. I called Tim, and cried that they were gone. Our babies were gone. He sped to the hospital even though there was no need to hurry. I was taken to a private room that would have been lovely under different circumstances. I showered, and prepared to be induced. How, Lord? How will I have the strength to go through labor, knowing that I will not be rewarded with the glorious sounds of new life…but silence? How? Nurses spoke foreign words that had no place in the delivery room…words like stillborn and funeral. Burial. What were they talking about?

It was more than I could process. At some point in the early hours of labor, I looked out the window. There were giant, beautiful snowflakes…so perfect and beautiful…just like my Faith and Grace. Each one unique and created by God. They fell silently…peacefully…such a contrast to the turmoil in my heart. The peace washed over me, and I turned to face the next thing. The labor. It was long, lasting through the night and the better part of the next day.

Mom and Tim were there. On November 3, 1996, Faith was born first and minutes later Grace came. Silence. I held them in my arms, one in each. And although they were bruised and broken, I saw them as they were meant to be…beautiful. They looked like their brother, except a daintier more delicate version. Tim leaned beside me as I held them and we cried together, allowing the brokenness to wash over us…forever changing our once young and invincible hearts. I sang Amazing Grace and prayed over them. My mother also held the girls and said hello and good-bye.

Physically, there was relief, after all the struggles of carrying Faith and Grace. Emotionally, we were heart broken…lost without our girls. We were expecting the unique honor of parenting identical twin daughters. And we were leaving the hospital with nothing, except a little care package with a tiny baby gown, some mementos, and a couple polaroids. The emptiness smothered me and my arms ached with longing, as I was wheeled out of the hospital past the nursery where new babies cried.


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Thomas

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I had wondered from the time we heard the words “incompatible with life” how we would face another labor that ended without the sounds of a newborn baby cry. I had wondered if carrying Thomas was causing him harm. Wondered what we would be faced with the day we met our sweet boy. And my answers would come soon. I was admitted to the hospital to induce labor at about 38 weeks gestation. My labor was long and intense. Contractions came fast and hard but were not effective. I dilated slowly, as I labored throughout the night. I read scripture and prayed, reciting scripture when I could no longer read. The waves of pain were like nothing I had experienced before. I called the nurse telling her that I was going to throw up and needed a bucket. She gave me one of those tiny kidney shaped things that would hold a teaspoon, and said, “You’re fine. You’re not going to throw up.”

No compassion. I felt the waves of nausea with the waves of pain, escalating as one. In a tangle of cords, I forced myself out of bed and drug the IV bag with me as I lunged toward the toilet, screaming in pain, I made it to the bathroom just in time. Tim had fallen asleep…and the nurse certainly wasn’t going to help. But, I wasn’t alone. I clung to the Lord, like never in my life. And He carried me through. He was my focal point.

In the wee hours of the morning on July 14, 1998, an epidural brought sweet relief and a little rest. I opened my eyes to see the compassionate face of Dr. M. and I was wheeled into a special delivery room with an adjoining room where they could work on sick babies. I prayed throughout the pushing, and then…weighing in at more than four pounds, he was born. Alive.

“He has red hair,” were Dr. M’s words as my boy was whisked away by the capable team. I prayed and tears streamed down my face. I was still asking for the miracle of Thomas’ life. I had wondered all those months what would meet me in the moments of Thomas’ birth…and the answer washed over me. The answer to the ugly question on that first day of the bad news…”Where is your God now?” The answer filled me with peace. I knew the sufficient grace spoken of in scripture, as it surrounded and carried me. And the answer to that ugly question: “Where was my God”…He was right here. He met me here in this place. His grace was waiting. He sustained us. And His presence filled the room.

I was taken to a room to rest while they still worked to stabilize Thomas. With prayers still on my lips, I fell asleep, exhausted. Someone came to tell me that Thomas was stable and we could go see him. I needed some help getting eagerly into the wheelchair. I was about to meet my baby. And, when I did, he took my breath away. His beauty was astounding. I was afraid for so long and what I may see when I laid eyes on him. And, I had nothing to fear. He was breath-taking. Perfect. One of the most beautiful babies I have ever seen. I leaned down and stroked his cheek, whispering that he wasn’t alone, that Jesus was with him and his mommy was here. I held his hand and touched his head. I kissed him (although, I sadly cannot remember that anymore. But my friend Ginny assures me I did).

His lung collapsed and the machines that he was hooked up to…the ones sustaining his life beeped and blinked. Alarms went off. And the nurse rapidly informed me that they would have to work on Thomas and I would need to go back to my room. They would get me when he was stable again. I didn’t know about comfort care or birth plans. I knew I wanted time with my son, alive, if possible. I knew that I wanted them to make sure that there was nothing that could be done, before we let him go. Potter’s Syndrome is fatal, but I wanted them to make sure that he didn’t have kidneys…that there was no way to sustain his life. Because if there was a way, I wanted them to save him.

They came to get me after some time went by and I held my Thomas for the first time. The machines made his little body shudder as they breathed life into him. I asked if it hurt him. The nurse assured me that they were making him comfortable. As I held him in my arms, a sweet nurse snapped photos with a disposable camera. At just the right moment, he opened his eyes and looked up at me…just as she snapped the picture. I talked to him and prayed over him with Tim beside me. I sang to him. And, after awhile, after all the tests concluded that indeed Thomas did not have kidneys…and his lungs could in no way sustain his life, we handed him back to the nurses. They took me to a room to wait as they removed the machines sustaining his life on this earth. The nurse laid him in my arms and I began rocking him and singing praise songs, and the most glorious peace and joy filled the room. “His grace is sufficient for me”. His presence was so evident, so real. And, it occurred to me that I had been given a great privilege. I had been chosen to sing to this beautiful baby as he went straight from my arms to the arms of Jesus. I will never forget the gift of those moments. I was blessed among women that day…blessed among mothers. There was so much healing in the meeting of my Thomas. An unspeakable gift.

 

 

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There are many things that I wish I knew to do, or felt more confident to do during my short time with my sweet babies on this earth. So, I want to share a little with you, here. Please contact a NILMDTS photographer. You may not think you will want pictures. You may feel shocked or think it will be too painful. Please just get the pictures anyway. Because you cannot get these moments back once they are gone. Also, I would suggest a birth plan stating your wishes before going in to deliver your baby. Plan for memories. We have several memory-making materials that are helpful for this and there are other places to go as well. Get as much as you can. Do as much as you can to cherish the time you are given. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it or make you feel uncomfortable for your choices. I wanted to give my sweet Thomas a bath and a nurse said, “We don’t usually have our parents do that.” So, I didn’t. I immediately felt squished and like my request was strange. And I missed out because I let that nurse’s opinion rob my confidence. Below, I will list the links again in case there is someone reading this who is in this place right now, and in need of guidance.

Be Not Afraid ~ Difficult Pregnancy Diagnosis
String of Pearls ~ Difficult Pregnancy Diagnosis
Perinatal Hospice ~ Resources for those continuing a difficult pregnancy
Growing Through Affliction~ Support and Encouragement
Sufficient Grace Ministries ~ Memory~ making materials
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep ~ Beautiful photographs for families experiencing loss
A Place to Remember

Books for those waiting with a difficult diagnosis -

A Gift of Time – Amy Kuebelbeck and Deborah Davis
Waiting With Gabriel- Amy Kuebelbeck
Empty Arms – Sherokee Isle (secular book, but good practical answers for preparing)
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Thanks so much for joining us again, and for allowing us the privilege of walking with you. Please take some time to link your journeys if you choose, and if you want to just read along, we hope that you will find comfort and hope here. You may also share about your journey in the comments if you are not a blogger. Please take some time to visit those who link here, pray for them, and leave them a word of encouragement. Next week, we will be sharing about planning a funeral/memorial service…and sharing our memories of that day.

Walking With You ~ Waiting


Welcome to our second week of Walking With You. Thank you to those who joined us last week for the first steps on our journey. This week we are sharing our experience after we heard the news that changed our lives. If you are joining us for the first time, or if this topic doesn’t apply to you…please share part of your journey anyway. I know the Lord will use our stories to encourage those walking this path.

If you are a mother who has heard the words incompatible with life, what happened next for you? Share about the waiting if your journey continued. How did you walk that path? What were some of your feelings? What did you do to form lasting memories? What were your struggles? Things you found comfort in? If you chose to induce labor and deliver the baby, rather than waiting, you are welcome to share your story, as well. Although we would encourage a mother to continue her pregnancy if possible, this is a place to come for love, comfort, support, and healing. And all are welcome. We are all mothers who loved and wanted our babies…babies who are no longer with us. We want to minister to each other in the place we are in…no matter how we ended up here.

Sharing the Journey

Faith and Grace
My time waiting with Faith and Grace after the diagnosis of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome was sort of a whirlwind and much of my time and energy was spent on survival. Mine and theirs. The size of my uterus was pushing on my organs…heart, lungs, stomach, all digestive areas, bladder…you name it. I was measuring more than 43 cm at just 20 weeks. And, that was a lot for my 5’3″ frame. The magnesium sulfate was no fun and brought it’s fair share of unpleasantries to the table. I vomited bile and blood as my uterus stubbornly contracted and the mag doses continued for about a week. They gave me various meds to help control my growing symptoms. I spent many hours that first week listening to women laboring in the rooms on the OB floor and would pray….thanking God for every newborn cry…wondering if my babies were born right now if I would be able to hear them cry. When I asked the nurse in the middle of the night, she shook her head…
“Probably not…”

I was then transferred to a high risk specialist who officially diagnosed the twin-to-twin and admitted me for an amniocentesis procedure to remove the fluid from the sac and relieve the twins from it’s effects…as well as my poor overwhelmed organs. My uterus contracted painfully and I shook uncontrollably. They drained liters of fluid from me, as med students surrounded my bed like I was a specimen. Except for one. One stepped out from among them and looked on me with compassion, speaking words of comfort.

I spent another week or so vomiting blood that looked like coffee grounds as my esophagus was shredded. During that week, I had daily ultrasounds to monitor my girls. We had named the “bigger twin” Faith and the “smaller” was Grace. I looked forward to that time each day, and soaked in the images of my precious daughters. Faith would quietly suck her thumb and Grace swam wildly about…bumping her sister and everything else in her path. I knew them, because they were my own. I imagined Faith’s quiet strength…like her daddy. And Grace’s feisty spirit…like her mama and grandma Kathy. We dreamed of pink lace and ribbons and a nursery filled with two of everything. Much of the rest of my time was spent just trying not to throw up and to endure the discomfort. My heart was palpitating…sometimes it was hard to breathe. There was a lot of pain…contractions, discomfort, and the constant vomiting were taking their toll. My liver was starting to malfunction as well.

Churches all over were praying for me and the girls, and we plowed on. After weeks of the vomiting and not eating, they began giving me nourishment through the IV…like someone may get in a coma, I think. Then, just as quickly as the vomiting came…it stopped. My mother was bringing me sweetened iced tea. She had learned where it was on the floor so that I didn’t have to wait for the busy nurses. The other thing that sounded good was this popcorn that they sold in a big bag at the gas station in our hometown. Tim gladly brought me some. And, much to the perplexed gastro-intestinal doctors dismay…gas station popcorn was the first food I kept down in weeks. And, it was wonderful.

I was released from the hospital and would return for an appointment a few days later. During an ultrasound, our doctors were concerned with the condition of Faith’s heart and sent us promptly to the pediatric heart specialist at another hospital. She was in heart failure. It was the first time that I let myself even consider that we might lose one of our babies…an unthinkable realization. Mine were going to be among the 20 percent that emerged from this syndrome unscathed. My mind had not even allowed the possibility that they wouldn’t make it to form. These were my girls…daughters from a long line of strong women. We had prayed and fought this battle hard. They would make it. But that day, I couldn’t catch my breath and the possibility smothered me. I was given steroid shots to hasten lung maturity, and told that I would probably deliver soon.

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Thomas
The news of Thomas’ fatal condition, Potter’s Syndrome, brought with it a choice. We were told that we had about a week to decide if we wanted to induce labor early, terminating the pregnancy or if we wanted to continue the pregnancy, knowing that our baby, short of a miracle, would die. There were four more months.

I’ll be honest, the answer didn’t come right away for me. Yes, I am a pro-life Christian. But, this didn’t seem so black and white. At least not the way it was presented. The doctors had described what happens to babies who grow in a womb for months without amniotic fluid…the deformities and contusions. My own regular OB doctor (not our amazing Dr. M – the maternal-fetal medicine specialist) had advised us to induce labor, saying if it were his own wife he would not prolong the inevitable but would perform the procedure immediately. This was a man who had walked with me through the loss of the twins. Who had stroked my hair compassionately when I was confused and consumed with grief after another procedure performed from delivery complications. I consulted Christian friends…who gathered with me around my kitchen table talking and praying. I talked with nurses who had walked through this with us. I wrestled with the image of asking my family to walk through this again…knowing the grief that we had already endured. Could I ask Tim to look at me for four more months, knowing that I carried a baby who would die? And, poor Timothy…would this be what he thought of when he thought of pregnancy…sorrow, loss, the robbing of joy? Could our family walk through this again? Could we handle the waiting?

I didn’t know what to do. And, Tim was fairly quiet on the subject. So, I prayed day and night. I searched the scriptures. It was Holy Week, and I had been reading the parts leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. I came to the verses documenting the conversation between Pontius Pilate and Jesus…and the Lord spoke the answer to my heart, as I read about Pilate washing His hands of the situation. The decision didn’t need to be in our hands. We could just leave it to Jesus. So, we chose to wait…to trust Him to carry us and our baby through this journey. If you are reading this and made a different choice, whether because of medical necessity, feeling this option was the best for your family, or just not having a full understanding of the options (many doctors don’t even present the option to continue), please know that we understand how difficult it is to face this impossible situation…this choice that no parent should have to face. We know that we are all parents who loved and wanted our precious babies. And, however the path to this point, we are now parents who have grieved the loss of our children. And, there is healing in the arms of the Lord for all of our hurts.

So, what was it like…waiting with Thomas? I wish I could say that I knew I could fully embrace our time with Thomas…like my beautiful friends, Angie and Stacy and so many of you I have had the blessing of meeting. You have inspired me…to see your strength to cherish every moment of life you are given with your baby. It was before all of the wonderful organizations we have today. There was no Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep organization to photograph my pregnancy or the meeting of Thomas. No perinatal hospice and no Waiting With Gabriel. No String of Pearls. We were charting our own path…and it was lonely at times. I regret that I didn’t know how to do it as beautifully as some of you have…that I had doubts and fears that often overshadowed my hope. Because of the lack of amniotic fluid, I felt little movement, so there were few indications that Thomas was still alive and O.K. I prayed everyday that our decision to carry him was not causing him harm…that he was still alive. I prayed for a miracle, believing with all my heart that God was able…while planning a funeral. I literally lived from ultrasound to ultrasound when I could see my sweet Thomas and know that he was still with me. I worried about my son’s grief…about all the sorrow he had endured at such a tender age (he was 4 at the time). I felt the burden of the sorrow caused in Tim’s heart over seeing his wife pregnant, knowing that the baby within my womb would die. And the grief would overwhelm us once more. The pain tore at our hearts and our marriage. We held on…but sometimes it felt like only by a thread. I did sing to Thomas and stroke my belly and talk to him. I chose an outfit. I searched online for some missing miracle answer. I consulted other doctors. Talked incessantly to Ginny (who walked courageously with me) and Dinah and others who would listen. I cried, prayed, and clung more desperately than I ever have in my life to God’s Word. I never regretted for a moment our decision to carry sweet Thomas, for giving him a chance at life…and even more so in the moment we finally met him…but more on that next week.

I struggled with faith…did I not have enough? If I did, would Faith and Grace have lived…would Thomas live…if I could just figure it out. And, God gave me the answers. He taught me about believing without seeing as I stumbled in the fog…hoping that I didn’t fall of the cliff before me…wondering if I did, would He catch me? The answer was yes. I might fall off the cliff, and if I did…He would catch me. Looking back, I can see His hand carrying us through that time. But, in the moment, I couldn’t always see or feel His presence. I felt overwhelmed with the unknown. And, what I learned in the thick of that fog was that true faith wasn’t the absence of doubt or fear…it was trusting God anyway when you are most afraid and filled with doubt…when the answer isn’t what you hoped or there seems to be no answer at all. I looked to Jesus as the author and finisher of my faith…wanting desperately to do it right. And what I found is that it’s not about my ability to do it right…but about my God who is able to carry me no matter what. I have written about believing without seeing, the truth about the saying, ”God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”, and what faith looks like. Click here to read more about the journey of Faith, Grace, and Thomas.

A few more excerpts from previous posts:
I couldn’t sleep that night. The tears wouldn’t stop. The pain wouldn’t subside. There was no where to find relief. Desperate for comfort. Desperate for hope. Just desperate, I searched the scriptures, struggling to read through my tears. “Jesus is my example,” I thought. “Show me, Lord. Show me the way to walk this path. I want to please you… I want to trust you…but I don’t want to lose another child. My heart is broken…”

The first verses I read were in Hebrews 12:2 …looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Two truths slammed into my heart. 1. Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame. It wasn’t easy for Him. 2. He did it for the joy set before Him. There was a purpose…our salvation and His glory. There would be joy on the other side of the suffering.

Then, I looked to Luke 22:39-44 and focused for the first time on the agony of my Savior. What did He do when He was in agony? He prayed. He asked the Father three times “Father, if it is your will, take this cup away from Me”. 
Then He said, “nevertheless not my will, but Yours be done.” Then, an angel appeared and strengthened Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling on the ground. (verse 44)

This was our Savior, our Redeemer, our King…in agony. What did He do? The more agony He felt, the harder He prayed. He poured out His requests to the Father, but inevitably trusted the Father for what was best. Faith. Trust. Abide. Humble to the Point of Laying Down His Very Life. He accomplished the task, and all the while, He kept His eyes on the prize…the “joy that was set before Him”.
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Resources
If you have just heard the news, and you are facing a difficult pregnancy diagnosis,or if you are waiting on the journey… Please take the time to check out the resources on our Resource Page. I know it can be hard and sometimes we think in our pain that we may not want these things. But, truly it is a time that we cannot get back. There are so many things that I regret not doing and photographs especially that I wish that I had. We would be glad to send you a Dreams of You Memory Book and other materials you may need to help prepare for meeting your baby, so please just email us if you have a need: sufficientgraceministries@gmail.com.

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Prayer Request

Please pray for the many changes and new adventures happening in my family, as our oldest son who turns eighteen this Friday!) makes big decisions for his future and my husband’s new business. Also, please pray for so many grieving hearts, and for SGM as we seek to reach out in comfort and love to these mamas.
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I know this post was long, and I appreciate your willingness to endure to the end. Please link your own post and join us on this walk. And I hope you will take the time to visit, pray for and encourage the others who link with us. Please join us next Monday on Walking With You… We will be sharing about Meeting our Babies. Try not to rush past parts of the story, as we will focus on a different topic each week. This week, try to focus on your pregnancy…the waiting time. And next week, we can share about the precious moments spent during the delivery and birth.

If you have some time, please check back on last week’s WWY to encourage some of the mother’s who recently added their stories.

Walking With You ~ The First Steps

For this first Walking With You, I thought we would begin at the beginning. If you are joining us as a bereaved mother, then it is certain that there was a day, a moment when your world changed. There was a loss of innocence that day – the innocence we have before we know that the unthinkable can actually happen. A complete change in perspective. It may have taken place as you laid on the examining table and heard the words, “there is no heart beat”. Or maybe you have heard the words “incompatible with life”. Perhaps it happened in a blink of an eye when you were expecting to meet your baby, and had to say good-bye before you even said hello.

However the news was presented, that moment has been woven into the tapestry of your life, etched in your mind and your heart. The news that something is wrong with your baby or that your baby has died is life-changing. There are a myriad of emotions and reactions. Today, I’m going to share some pieces of my own journey…my memories from the days that changed my life. The moments when I heard those words, moments that have shaped who I am today, and who we are as a family. Moments that have brought me here to walk this path with you. As moms who have walked this path, we share those moments, and I hope you are willing to share them with us as we walk this path. The stories we have are the stories God has given us to tell…in order that we may comfort and encourage one another. For now, I will just focus on hearing that bad news and initial reactions. As we continue, we will cover other pieces of the journey. This week…we remember our first steps.

Sharing the Journey

We were twenty-one years old and expecting twins. I was about mid-way through the pregnancy…maybe a little further. I was admitted to the hospital for pre-term labor and endured the lovely effects of magnesium sulfate for about a week. The time came for our scheduled ultrasound. The nurses wheeled me down the hallway and into a yellow room. As I lay on the table, I could sense a change in demeanor from the ultrasound technician. Her face paled and grew stony. She would not look me in the eye as I started to question her. I could tell something was terribly wrong. The events that followed are blurry to me. I see them in flashes only…can hear the words in short bursts. “Too much amniotic fluid.” “One baby is bigger than the other.” “A possible problem with the heart.” The room is spinning. I feel like I’m choking, fighting for air. I can see the concern on their faces…hear the somber tone in their voices. They are sending me to a high-risk specialist in the morning. I don’t sleep all night. I pray as I’ve prayed for weeks for the health of my babies. The next morning, in one fell swoop we find out that we are expecting twin daughters instead of just twin babies and that our sweet girls had a condition known as twin-to-twin-transfusion syndrome. The journey continued…but that is how it began.

Less than two years later, midway through my third pregnancy, I heard the words on the telephone. “There were some concerns on the ultrasound.” “Not enough amniotic fluid.” “We will be sending you to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.” “We are so sorry.” I went to the appointment. As I laid on another examining table, I heard the words “absence of kidneys”, “Potter’s Syndrome”, and “incompatible with life “. Never had the darkness seemed so dark and mocking than on that day. The life seeped out of us. As I stood in the hallway frozen and unable to move forward, unable to take one step into the life that held the hopelessness of the words we had just heard. The tears streamed down my face in unison with the raindrops dripping down the window. And one word sums up what I felt in that moment. One lonely, dark word.

Forsaken.

In that dark moment, I felt forsaken. I felt mocked, destroyed, and without hope. For a moment. All the way home a voice in my head mocked me, asking “Where is Your God Now?” I didn’t have an answer in that moment. I felt defeated.

But, that night, as the relentless mocking continued, I reached in my helplessness for my bible. I opened it and let my tears drip on the words…the words that would be my soothing balm, my weapon against the mocking attacks, the truth that would squelch every lie that threatened my hope. As the storm raged on with all of it’s fury, I collapsed into His arms, wet from the rain…tired…bedraggled…barely even able to reach up and take His hand. It was O.K…my weakness, my inability to put one foot in front of the other. The Lifter of my head was there. He met me there. He met me there as I read the familiar words that quieted that mocking voice.

For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. ~ Hebrews 13:5

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

As it is written, For your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which in in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:35-39

He will never leave me…even if I feel deserted, He is there. In the thick fog of the unknown, in the darkness of the greatest sorrow, in the depth of the lowest pit…He will never leave me. He is there. And I do not walk alone.

How do I know? Because I walked there. And, He walked with me.

And His love…nothing can separate us from it. No trial. No sorrow. No loss. No imperfect faith. No inability to measure up. Nothing… can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing. Whether you can feel it or not, His love is so powerful…His relentless amazing love for you and for me. And, if you cannot feel it right now…just hold on. You will again, one day. You will. He won’t stop until you know how dearly loved you are.

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Resources
If you have just heard the news, and you are facing a difficult pregnancy diagnosis, here are a few resources that may be helpful to you on this journey:

Sufficient Grace Ministries ~ Dreams of You Memorial Items

Be Not Afraid ~ Difficult Pregnancy Diagnosis

String of Pearls ~ Difficult Pregnancy Diagnosis
Perinatal Hospice ~ Resources for those continuing a difficult pregnancy
Growing Through Affliction~ Support and Encouragement
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep ~ Beautiful photographs for families experiencing loss
A Place to Remember

Books for those waiting with a difficult diagnosis –

A Gift of Time
Waiting With Gabriel
Empty Arms

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Prayer request: Please pray for us as we minister to grieving families through SGM and please pray for our upcoming meetings covering many projects for 2012

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Whether you are walking this path now, facing the loss of your child, a newly bereaved mother, or whether it has been many years since your loss…we hope you will join us, so that we may take this walk together. The subject this week is sharing the initial news and how you were affected by that…the beginning of your journey. Then, if you have some resources to share that helped you with that part of your journey or some wisdom that would be great. If you are in that place now and have a need or question, you can share that as well…and maybe we can help fill that need. Also, please close with a prayer request if you wish…we would love to be able to pray for you where you are right now on this journey. You can link your post to the Linky or leave it in the comments below. You can also email me directly at: sufficientgraceministries@gmail.com. Or, you can just read along and glean comfort, grace, and wisdom for your journey. In whatever way you choose, I hope you will join us and as always…thank you for the privilege of allowing us to walk with you.

Please enter the link to your WWY post below. Make sure you copy and paste the link to your post and not just to your blog, so that when others click on this, they will see today’s post. Some people may not see these for several days or weeks. This will ensure that they can find the post they’re looking for. It’s also very important to take some time to visit the blogs linked and leave comments of encouragement. One of the goals is to convey the message that we are not walking alone. Thanks and if you have questions, just ask! Love and Grace to all…