When the Pain Doesn’t Make Sense

In trying to process my 4th miscarriage, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the topic of my first blog post. I’ve copied it here for you…

Have you ever felt like a small shade plant left out in the glaring sun on the hottest day of summer? It dries up. Wilts. Loses its strength and structure as it droops, crying out for any drop of water.

I told a friend once that I felt like I was being dried up and withered by everything going on in my life. The drain of my emotions, and the lies that I listened to in the aftermath of another miscarriage, were sapping my strength. I had no energy left to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

But as soon as the words left my mouth, I remembered the story that Jesus told about the different kinds of seeds and how they represent different experiences that keep us from being fruitful in God. Here is the part of the story that I relate to:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. … Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. …

 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message [about the Kingdom] and immediately receive it with joy.  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.” Matthew 13:4-6, 20-21

This seed has a major problem. It doesn’t have a strong enough root system to outlast the drought or reach through the rock to pull up enough water to survive.

I know God doesn’t promise to make this life free from pain. Instead, He promises to help us in our need. But I still couldn’t understand why He wasn’t stepping in to fix my problems and help me like I expected… (Read: give me babies and I’ll be happy again and this problem will be solved.)

Obviously, my biggest problem is that I want to have babies and instead I keep getting miscarriages… right? Don’t get me wrong, that is a major problem. But what if I have a deeper problem going on? One that God always is helping me with, and not even the deepest pain in my life can stop Him from helping me with it?

What if the deeper problem is that my roots are shallow, and I don’t have a way to find hope in God in the midst of difficulty?

It’s a problem of not being able to get water, refreshment, sustenance in the dry seasons of the soul.  I have plenty of excuses for why I crumple to the ground and want to give up as soon as another struggle or fear comes across my path. But how often do I recognize that it’s because I’m dry and wilted?

The troubles of life absolutely do sap all the water, hope, and energy from us. I’m not minimizing the problems in life that we face. But what if the deeper problem really is that my roots are shallow, and I don’t have a way to find hope in God in the midst of difficulty? Then the question is: Am I being refilled with the life-giving water from Jesus that can heal and nourish my broken spirit?

Since I’d rather not answer that question right now, it’s easier to just blame my emptiness on the rock that’s underneath my roots. No plant should be expected to put down roots through rock this hard, right?IMG_3596.

Actually, I think it depends on the type of plant. Today, I’m going to look for a plant that’s growing through rock. Or cement. And then thank God that He’s given me these analogies in the world.

” Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7

When I just don’t have the energy or strength to deal emotionally with this next hurdle coming up, that’s when I pray and plead for God to grow my roots deeper into His Love. I don’t know how He does it. And I don’t always see what He’s doing. But I know it involves me being obedient. And then, as God keeps me from the things in this life that I thought would satisfy me, I realize that my refreshment and strength is found in God alone, and not dependent on my circumstances or emotions.

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:17

Do I still want babies? Of course! But I know that my deeper need is to be satisfied in God so that no matter what earthquakes come my way in life, my hope is rooted in something deeper- that will not fail, die, or be destroyed. (1 Peter 1:4-7)

When the pain doesn’t make sense, I wonder if I’m looking at the wrong problem and the wrong ultimate goal. God is using everything in my life for my good. (Including those things that are not good.) If my ultimate goal is to have children, then it doesn’t make sense why God hasn’t given me a baby yet. But if my ultimate goal is to love God with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength… then even this loss and grief becomes a tool in the hand of my Gardener, to hack away at the rock that’s stopping me from finding my all-sufficient satisfaction in Jesus.

A Personal Rescue

“In all their suffering He also suffered,
    and He personally rescued them.
In His love and mercy He redeemed them.
    He lifted them up and carried them
    through all the years.”
Isaiah 63:9 (NLT)

 

I came across this Bible verse this morning, while reading the book “Trusting God Even When Life Hurts“.

In whatever circumstances we are walking through today, may we see God’s very personal love and care, shown most deeply in Jesus Christ- who suffered and died to rescue us.

Number 4? Really?

Sad news y’all… I had a 4th miscarriage earlier this week. 

I was hoping to have different, happier news to share. But instead, I’ll keep my eyes fixed on that horizon and the coming dawn

What do you say in a time like this? I’m not really sure.

But here is what I texted a friend this morning:

“I know God promises to work all things together for our good, so I’m holding onto that promise in this time.

I was thinking yesterday how my miscarriage loss last October was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. And yet, if someone were to ask me which time in my life was most significant for growing my faith to be stronger and more dependent on God, … I would say those few months after my October miscarriage. During that time, my heart learned that God’s love for me is not based on circumstances or how I feel. And my faith went deeper, to be less easily shaken.

And so I can see (looking back) how God brought about great good from something that at the time felt like the worst thing ever for me.

Which is why I’m trusting that, even in this, God is working for my ultimate good and His glory, and that He has a good purpose in allowing this.

I have recently cherished that verse in James 5:11“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” The New Living Translation says “for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.” It reminds me that God’s purpose, even in deep sorrow and loss, is tenderness and mercy.”

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; 
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”
Psalm 34:18

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

“To whom will you compare me?
Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.
Look up into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.
O Jacob, how can you say
the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard? Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” Isaiah 40:25-29

Merin’s Story | Freedom in Forgiveness

The power of forgiveness to bring healing and freedom is a resounding testimony to God’s grace and work in the lives of His children. In this 3rd part of Merin’s story, she shares about the freedom she has experienced through Jesus. Feel free to contact her if you want someone to talk to.

Come Awake

Guest Author: Merin Minch
Before you continue, read Part 1 & Part 2 of Merin’s story.

View original post 699 more words

Merin’s Story | The Journey to Joy

This is the 2nd part in a 3 part series of Merin’s testimony. God meets us in the darkest places and brings healing, even when we think that healing is impossible. If you need someone to talk to, feel free to contact her.

Come Awake

Guest Author: Merin Minch
Before you continue, read Part 1 of Merin’s story.

View original post 742 more words

Merin’s Story | From Brokenness to Healing

It takes courage to honestly share the power of Jesus to transform and heal the deepest wounds. The forgiveness that this woman has shown is breathtakingly beautiful and a testimony to the supernatural power of God. Please take her up on her offer to message her if you want someone to talk to. This is part 1 of a 3 part series.

Come Awake

Guest author: Merin Minch

A note from Merin: I have been thinking and praying about posting my story for about three years now, but the Lord kept saying, “not yet.” The Lord has finally opened the door and my purpose in writing this is to express to all of you the journey of healing I have found through Christ. I desire to point to the faithfulness of God despite the brokenness of my past. We live in a world that runs to money, sex, and power to numb pain. However, the comfort I have found in the Lord, through my struggles and the redemption of Christ, is what gives me the grace to move forward knowing He is enough and is truly the only path to freedom and healing. I hope you will be encouraged by these words and that perhaps one of you will find the peace you have been…

View original post 512 more words

Unspoken Expectations…

We carry around these unspoken expectations
Like black anchors on our souls.
Insidiously life-stealing
Their chains drag our hearts down.
We refuse to let go,
Insisting we must fulfill their impossible demands,

Loss creates a vortex that swallows whole
Our expectations and anticipations,
Leaving us empty handed.
I wish I could have said…
I wish I could have done…

In a frantic strain to patch
The gaping hole left by wounds,
We distort the “I wish” into “I should.”
I should be able to say…
I should be able to do…

Mistakenly betraying ourselves into believing
that others emphatically agree
With our self-imposed expectations,
We’re left with these anchors-
Unspoken, unmet, and ever burdening.

What is it for you?
Those secret, lurking lies
That steal joy and breath without us fully realizing it?

Fear of more miscarriages,
Barrenness, and the uncertainty of adoption,
Whisper reckless lies
That only in the “I wish or “I should” world-
Can I find everything worth wanting…

Except, that’s not what God says.
God says, “I AM.”
And “I have redeemed you for a purpose.”
Everything worth wanting is found in God,
Not in chasing ever-elusive expectations.

What if we choose instead
to trust God with all these things?
What if we focused on where God has put us,
And do what we can with what He’s given us?

What if we earnestly ask Him to lift off of our hearts
These unmet and unspoken expectations that weigh us down?

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-30

The Best Anchor: “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.  Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20

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

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