God Remembers Our Losses

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”Psalm 56:8

For those of you who read my last post- Dreading Mother’s Day, you know that I was fighting to choose thankfulness on a holiday that I would rather have avoided altogether…

But on Mother’s Day, I unexpectedly received 3 sets of flowers… one for each of the 3 miscarriages I experienced this past year. I share this story because I’m amazed at the God we serve, who steps in to meet us in our pain and says, “I love you, I care about all that you are going through, and I have not forgotten your pain.”

At church, the Sunday school kids put impatiens flowers into cups to give to their moms. I was helping out with this project, and afterwards my friend gave me 2 boxes of impatiens to take home. …  When I had my first miscarriage, I was pregnant with twins.

Then while we were at a friends’ house for lunch, they surprised me with an extravagant bouquet of flowers. … My 2nd miscarriage was by far the hardest and I still carry the most grief from that time.

And later in the afternoon as my husband was standing out in our yard, a stranger drove past in a truck. He slowed to a stop, gave my husband a bottle with a single rose in it, and said, “Here, you should give this to your wife.” (We have no idea who that man is, but we do live in a small town where people are very kind.) … My 3rd miscarriage was a quieter ordeal, since it was fairly early on.

After giving me the rose in the bottle, my husband mused- “You know Julie, today on Mother’s Day, God gave you 3 sets of flowers, for each of the 3 miscarriages we had last year. And the first gift of flowers was even 2 boxes, for when we lost the twins.”

Tears came to my eyes as I felt the wounds in my soul mend little bit more.

“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins.” Isaiah 49:15-16

Looking at the unexpected gifts of flowers, I marveled that not only had I received 3 gifts of flowers, but they also matched the circumstances associated with each of my miscarriages. On a day that I felt I could not celebrate being a mother, God showed up and so tenderly acknowledged my personal pain and loss.

But it’s that extravagant bouquet that really makes me choke up. Because it is almost as if, through that gift, God is saying, “I know how hard it has been, and still is, for you to lose Keturah in your 2nd miscarriage. So I’m giving you a bigger bouquet to let you know that I understand that the depth of pain you carry from that is greater than the others.”

I don’t know why God has chosen this road for me to walk. For those of you who have been praying for me- thankyou. Throughout this past year, it has been difficult to see God’s Love and tender care through my tears. And often I have felt like God was hiding or ignoring me.

But Mother’s Day this year has been healing to my soul. I have seen that even in the dark seasons when we don’t see God, He is still watching us closely, knows the details of our lives, remembers our losses, and cares immensely for us.

Dear reader, God remembers and God cares about the pain you’ve experienced. He has a purpose and a plan in all of these things, and He understands how excruciatingly hard it is to walk through grief and loss. And He offers to help us in each moment. So as we take each next breath, may we cling to Jesus and ask Him to remind us tangibly again of His Love.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

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Dreading Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. For some women, this celebratory day is another reminder of deep sorrow, broken relationships, or dreams gone awry.

For the past few months I have been dreading Mothers Day. It used to be one of my favorite holidays, because I love having the opportunity to celebrate my mom and thank her for all that she sacrifices and gives of herself. But last year, and this coming weekend… well… it’s painful to have the reminder of what I want to celebrate but cannot.

So to my own heart, and to my friends who are walking through miscarriage, singleness, infertility, death of a child or mother, broken relationships, or any of the other myriad of losses that can bring more tears than laughter on Mother’s day… I present a plea to make the right choice this coming Sunday:

I can choose bitterness, despair, avoidance, anger, or hopelessness.

Or I can choose thankfulness.

I know there are times this seems impossible. But I also know this is possible thanks to my mom, who has given me a lifetime of examples of repeatedly choosing thankfulness, prayer and memorizing scripture.

Living in the middle of the rainforest jungle of Papua New Guinea, when ants and bugs invaded half of our food supply, or rebels kidnapped other missionaries living in our village, or major plans were delayed thanks to living in a 3rd world country… I never saw my mom give up and throw in the towel because circumstances got too hard. Instead, she would continue to overflow with prayer, scripture, laughter, and perseverance. (I’m pretty sure her secret is having a deep faith in God.)

Remember those ants that invaded our food? One of my favorite memories is racing my brothers to see who could finish our bowl of ant-flavored ramen first. (I’m pretty sure this was instigated by my big brother.) But I’m thankful that instead of stopping us, my mom encouraged us to enjoy the adventures of living in the jungle, and filled our house with laughter.

But on days where there is no laughter? I can still choose thankfulness. Or more realistically- I can choose to fight despair with thankfulness and scripture, like my mom taught me.

I will of course let sadness into my heart, and acknowledge these emotions that come with loss… But I will also recognize that despair, bitterness, and hopelessness try to creep into my heart along with sadness, and turn my thoughts to be angry at God for what I don’t have, instead of worshiping Him for who He is.

So this Sunday, I will choose to be thankful.

Because I am deeply grateful for my amazing mom who has given me such an incredible example of love, faith, and beauty. And I am so thankful for my superhero husband who prays fervently for our family and daily sacrifices to show me love and tenderness and protection. And I am thankful for the inexpressible gift of God loving me and adopting me as His daughter through Jesus.

In the midst of grief, may Mother’s Day this year have hope and thankfulness woven through it, because of the Hope we have in Jesus.

“Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless I will show my salvation.” Psalm 50:23

 

PS- If you want to know how Mother’s Day turned out this year, I actually experienced a mini-miracle and saw God’s Love in a very personal way: God Remembers Our Losses

Providence and Jubilee

It was this week a year ago that I had my first miscarriage. Allow me to share a part of my heart, a part of that story, and the names we chose to give the babies we lost. My hope in sharing this story is to encourage our hearts to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in the storms of life.

As I recall, during those weeks before my miscarriage I was happily singing through my days, with the world full of colorful butterflies and sunshine, and ecstatic about finally being pregnant.

But then I started bleeding. No big deal, right? This happens to a lot of women who are pregnant…

A few days later I found myself curled up on my bedroom floor with more severe pain than I’d ever experienced. Google searching helped me know what to expect, as I shakily tried to pack a bag of clothes, in case I went unconscious and my husband had to call 911.

In the days following my miscarriage, my husband and I mulled over what names we wanted to give to the twins we had lost.

We named one child Jubilee.

I’m not referring to a happy, cheesy kind of jubilation that was the exact opposite of my feelings at that time. But in reference to the year of Jubilee, spoken about in the Old Testament. In that year, everyone took rest from their laboring and working, the slaves were set free, debts were forgiven, and people worshiped God for an entire year of sabbath. The year of Jubilee is a crystal clear picture of Jesus, and the way HE gives us rest, sets us free from bondage to sin, forgives our debt of rebellion against God, and provides a way for us to truly worship God. ONE DAY, when Jesus comes back again, we will experience a true year of Jubilee, when everything will be set right in this world, and the groanings of all creation that Romans 8 speaks about will finally be fully healed.

As we walk through this week, remembering personal losses that we have experienced, may we also be reminded that one day all of these pains and losses will be made right. And there will be a Day when we will no longer be living in the corruption of this broken world.

The other child we named Providence.

The day after my miscarriage, I came across this section of the Heidelburg Catechism:

What do you understand by the providence of God? 
God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, 1 whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, 2 and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, 3 indeed, all things, come to us not by chance 4 but by his fatherly hand. 5
1.Jer 23:2324Acts 17:24-28.
2.Heb 1:3.
3.Jer 5:24Acts 14:15-17Jn 9:3Prov 22:2.
4.Prov 16:33.
5.Mt 10:29.

What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?
We can be patient in adversity, 1 thankful in prosperity, 2 and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love; 3 for all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot so much as move. 4
1.Job 1:2122Ps 39:10Jas 1:3.
2.Deut 8:101 Thess 5:18.
3.Ps 55:22Rom 5:3-58:3839.
4.Job 1:122:6Prov 21:1Acts 17:24-28.

Those are fighting words right there, my friend.

“…Fruitful and barren years… no creature shall separate us from His love…” It’s easy for me to attribute fruitful years and health to the providence of God. But my barren years and miscarriage losses? I’m not saying that these losses are good. But I am saying that God is still good and loving in the middle of these losses. And the deepest grief still cannot separate us from God’s Love.

The phrase- “all things, come to us not by chance, but by his fatherly hand” was especially precious to me in the weeks after that miscarriage. My God wasn’t asleep when I lost those babies. He was not too weak or too distracted. He knows these things, He allows loss into our lives, He weeps with us in our grief, and through it all He is our loving Father.

As our minds this week wander to thoughts about losses we have experienced, may we also be reminded that we have a loving Father whose hand we can hold in the midst of the brokenness in this world. The hand that has the scars from when, in the Providence of God, Jesus hung on a cross to reconcile us to Himself.

This all sounds so easy, written down a year later, without the raw emotion and broken questions I carried during that season. But each day during that time I cried out to God to show me something unique that would remind me of His Love for me. And God answered that request. Some days it was a poignant Bible verse, or a fitting sermon, or a friend bringing over chocolate. One day I saw God’s love in finding this song by Casting Crowns, and it became my theme song for that season: “Just Be Held”

As we walk through this week, my prayer for us is that our hearts would understand afresh the hope we have in Christ. To know that even though His providence is allowing for loss in this world, He will not leave us there. One day He will return and bring with Him the greatest healing and year of Jubilee this world has ever known.

“We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.” James 5:11