The Hard Place

It wasn’t supposed to go like this.  14 years I waited, while hope of ever carrying a child myself grew worn and faint. Yet it steadfastly flickered on–unwilling to be snuffed out.  Three years ago this month God breathed life into her lungs as we heard her cry for the very first time. Hope majestically fulfilled, finally.It was one of the single most incredible moments of my life. It also marked the beginning of a journey through physical pain that I never even dreamed possible.

Hope flickers, still unwilling to die.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  I wasn’t supposed to be a broken mommy. And yet

It is life in the hard place.

The place of questions and fears and battling to hold onto hope and God when you just do not understand.

The hard place.  Perhaps you know it? If not, you will.

It threatens to steal your breath and snuff out the flame of hope.

Somewhere along the way He has drawn me in and completely convinced me of his greatness and his goodness, even in the waiting, especially in the hard. He is it. When he doesn’t quiet the storm, when the pain continues, when wave after wave of hard hits, he still has you.

And the gift?

You see him more clearly in the pain, all ideas of your “god-ness” fall away.  You finally comprehend that you can’t do this without Him. The sweetness of total surrender is now understood because you are certain of your need. Maybe that is the greatest gift in the hard–the pearls of his presence unequalled even in seasons of great pleasure.

I wish there was some other way, but we wander. We are too quick to believe the lies, and to take our eyes off of Him. And so, though it never ever feels like it, maybe it is one of his greatest mercies after all– lest we get so full of ourselves we believe we never needed Him.

My hope remains unbreakable because it firmly rests in Him.  Where is your hope today?

 

Daring God and Moving Mountains

“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge,

a little human sympathy more than much courage,

and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

V and mommy

She was serious but full of compassion as she read over the lab work.  I was tired. In all honesty most of me lay dormant inside, unable to be roused since the twins died.  Now, when we talked of Ashley and Bethany, they were referenced to simply as “the twins.” But they weren’t talked of much now, the time for polite grief long gone, and life must move on.  The battles for, and adoptions of, our four beautiful daughters had long been finalized and all our energy must be poured into life with them…

“Your liver is beginning to fail.”

The words seemed to hold in mid air for a while.  She looked at me trying to ascertain if I comprehended the gravity of the situation.

I did.

I left her office and sat it my car.  Failure. Me. Age 31. Was this how my life would come to a close?  A slow, painful death of my own creating? 311 pounds–the weight I had eaten myself up to since burying the twins.  It was threatening to bury me when all I was trying to do was bury all the hard feelings. I had always struggled with my weight but this was more, so much more.  I had a problem, or a million problems. But did I care?

I cried an ugly cry.  The snot pouring out of your nose, eyes red enough to stop traffic, blubbering, smack-the-steering-wheel-multiple-times sorta cry. And when I was done and my eyes were firmly swollen to puffy little slits, the stillness spoke– Do you want to get well? He didn’t ask because he didn’t know, He asked for my benefit.  Yes, yes I guess I did. A fire began inside me in that moment. And then, the birth of the most forbidden dream of all was whispered into my heart…

Pregnancy.  Try again. What?

I could not contain the laughter or the tears.  Seriously God? Is it time to go admit myself into the mental ward because HELLO, look at me.  My name is failure. I began to list off every single detail that must be overcome for me to even TRY to become a mom again: the weight, my various health issues, the doctors response after losing the twins, the money, and on and on.

I pointed to the mountain and I dared God to move it!

I say dared because I had an attitude about it all that would make most faithfully obedient believers blush.  I didn’t doubt that he could, my attitude came with the “would he” part and the “trusting” part. But God…was bigger than all the feelings I had tried to eat away, and he was bigger than my terror.

Sitting there, 100 percent a mess, certain I was broken beyond repair, truly terrified of what lie ahead, God met me and he breathed new life.

I love how He meets us right where we are, just as we are.

He had me in his hands the whole time.  When I could not see, He could, and he carried me on to dreams that I was not bold enough to dream.  He carried me through my fears one step at a time–just one step at a time. Trusting Him is the best part and the hardest part.  But you know what?

He moved that huge mountain!  He overcame every obstacle. And the delivery of that beautiful dream came wrapped up as a gorgeous baby girl in July of 2015–14 years after first being told we were infertile.

Today, I need to remember that He is a God that can move mountains.  Here I am again, facing a huge mountain and daring God to move it.

What mountain are you facing today?

 

The Fire

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The oxygen mask strapped to my face felt like a muzzle holding in my desperate cry. I grabbed for it to yank it off.  A stout hand firmly put it back in place and commanded me to breathe. Breathe deeply! A blurry image of a nurse sat next to the head of my bed, repeating her commands at regular intervals like the hands of a clock striking the next second, minute, hour. Breathe! I could no longer feel the pain that less than an hour before had torn through my body without mercy. My body was numb now, empty, and once again barren. I heard someone whisper–something about sats not yet stabilizing, the fever, the sepsis, it was still too early to tell.

I could die.

I could see the blurry outline of my husband sitting with his head in his hands, I knew this was all just too much to process, he was numb too. His hands wove through his dark hair endlessly, his tell of boredom or stress. He was not bored.

I could hear the tears falling.

Where was she? Where was my second baby girl?  We had just gotten to 24 weeks. She had a chance, unlike her little sister born just 2 weeks before.  It all floods back–the team working on her in the corner of the room as soon as she was born, desperately fighting to help her–my husband and my mother helping hold me down as the doctor fought to stop the bleeding–me fighting to stay alert, to get a glimpse of her, desperately wanting to draw her close to me.  Septic. 15 minutes she lived, while my life slipped away.

Why did I survive?

I remembered the specialist’s words again in that moment, spoken not long after my water broke at 17 weeks, their advice: terminate the pregnancy.  “The odds are not good. You, the mother, could die.”

Then let it be.

“I will not kill them. I cannot, regardless of what it might mean for me!” I had said it passionately and without hesitation as I carefully walked out of the small, cold office praying that even then the amniotic sack was resealing.  I knew I served a God who could do miracles, and I would hold onto that hope with every fiber of my being through the weeks to come.

But sometimes the miracle doesn’t come. Sometimes the fire just burns, and ashes are all that remain.

“Let me die!” First a whisper, then I rip off the mask and let it out in a long roar.

“LET ME DIE!”

The nurse is unflinching in her demand for me to breathe and calmly places the mask over my face again.  I have no strength to fight her.  My husband comes over to me, tenderly leans in close, and whispers how he needs me to fight, how he can’t lose me too.  My heart breaks for him and his pain.

I can’t.

Not even for him. Not for our 3 foster daughters either. Not for my mother, who I hear choking back tears as she stood to the side.  My fight was gone.

After years battling infertility we had finally gotten pregnant through IUI (intrauterine insemination), and in the span of a month everything had been lost. I had given birth to two precious baby girls, born less than 2 weeks apart, and watched them both die, powerless to save them.  I could not do this. I could not live through this. I did not want this to be my story. I was certain. And so I begged God to just take me home–over and over again.

Then a whisper played through my mind…

Be still and know that I am God.

A sweetness in the words was almost palpable, but my mind and heart still pleaded with God for a merciful end to my agony.  Again and again, it echoed through my mind, then my heart, then ministered to my spirit in ways no words could ever convey.

Be still and know that I am God.

I didn’t even understand that day what it truly meant, not really.  I just knew that it was a promise of His faithfulness, somehow. In a darkness so deep that I questioned if there would ever be light again, it lit the match.  He was there. In complete desolation, He was there. Though I did not understand, and I was shredded to the core, He was there. Though I did not feel his arms, He held me, gently, reminding me of His love.  Though I questioned, he never wavered.

I know that now…looking back.

This week, almost 12 years later, I learned the Hebrew root of the words be still.  It means to release, go slack, to let go.  I had to smile.  That is exactly what God has been teaching me how to do since that day.  To let go of my fears. To let go of what people think. To let go of my children. To let go of all the hard I face.  To let go of all the things, and sink deep into The One who is able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine.

I think I am beginning to get it, just beginning.

What I began to learn 12 years ago I continue to journey into, like peeling back layers of an onion, going deeper and deeper to the heart, His heart. I can bring all my pain, all my hard, all my tears to Him.  I can pour myself out at his feet. He is safe. And in return, He gives Himself, a precious perfect peace that defies all understanding–even as the fire rages. It was true then; it is true now.

He is capable of raising new life up out of the ashes!  I continue to learn that new, beautiful, wonderful things do come, even in the hard, even when there are scars, but the most precious of all these will always be his presence.

What do you need to let go of today?