Wave After Wave

Some days you feel like you are standing in the sun and all is right with the world. You feel gratitude while joy and confidence surround you. And then there are some days you feel yourself being plunged under the waves only to come up for a breath before being sucked under again. Fear is consuming, gratitude tastes bitter and relief seems nowhere in sight. 

2019 left me broken. Just as relief seemed to come, another wave sent me reeling back into grief and fear. 

When Ava passed in the cold of January 2019, I found myself, fantasizing about being at the beach. About feeling warm under the sun, toes tucked in the sand and the weight of grief lessening. I longed for the warmth of summer and steady beat of the crashing waves.  Eventually I got my wish. That July Daniel and I headed down to the Jersey shore, just the two of us, for a week. It was the first time we had gotten away together with no kids in over 10 years. It was absolutely wonderful. We were also treasuring some new joy in our hearts. I had found out I was pregnant again just a little bit before our trip. We had lost our Ava and while grief was still fresh, the sting had deadened just a bit and we were excited to hold this one in our arms come February of 2020. 

I sat with my toes in the sand writing in my journal feeling some of the clouds of life clearing. 

We got home from a refreshing trip and the next week I had a doctor’s appointment to see baby at the 9-week marker. It was hard to walk back into that room at the doctor’s office. There are so many feelings and memories left there for me. I remember being incredibly nervous and my blood pressure read sky high. But I was hoping for my nerves to settle a bit upon hearing some good news. I laid on the table as the doctor did the ultrasound, she asked me if I was sure I had my dates right. “Yes” I answered. However, what we saw on the screen didn’t match up. There was no heartbeat and I still only looked to be about 5 weeks. This news was crushing. She made a follow up appointment for the next week to check again. But that weekend I started bleeding and my follow up appointment confirmed my miscarriage. 

I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes feeling crushed and a mess. Where was my redemption story? Where was the victory? I couldn’t talk about it. I felt like my mess was too much for people now. They had just heard me pour my heart out about feeling broken over Ava, I didn’t want to talk about another loss. These thoughts seemed to scream through my head “I am too much of a mess for those around me! …I am too much of a mess for myself!” 

But, as with each crushing blow our world delivers us…  eventually you carry on, you wash dishes. You take care of your children. You go to work. You make dinner. You live life. Obviously, there is a lot more to it than this! But for the sake of not writing a book right now I will leave it at that. I read the psalms, the laments and praises that mingled together. They washed over my soul as a balm. 

And then it was fall. Fall is beautiful here. The leaves on fire with their color, the air isn’t suffocating any longer, but there is still warmth in it. I was catching more of those deep breaths of air, the storms of life calmer.  

At the end of October I had another positive pregnancy test. We were excited, but cautious. Suddenly having children wasn’t as simple as it once was, and the pain was still looming. The next few days went on as usual. Daniel’s youngest sister was getting married in the beginning of November, we were getting ready to head out to the wedding the following weekend. Just the two of us were going, since airfare is quite expensive when you are flying 7! 

“June, 2020 that is when this little one would be here,” I thought. But a few days later I started bleeding again. In fact, if I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test, I would have just thought it was a late period. But I had taken one and I “knew”. Into how many pieces can one heart shatter? I felt so broken and so numb all at the same time. Daniel and I sat in turbulent stillness. My emotions seemed to have given up their functions. The wave had hit us again. Would there be an opportunity to grasp breath this time? I looked at my husband and said to him “I can’t even cry anymore… my tears feel as if they’ve been all used up.” He sighed and nodded his head in understanding and then he responded, “I think Jesus is crying the tears for us.” 

“I think Jesus is crying the tears for us.” That statement hit home. 

When we flew to the wedding, I felt like a walking open wound. I felt completely empty of myself, there was no strength left to muster. The one emotion I seemed capable of was anxiety about meeting my beautiful new nieces. I love my nephews and nieces dearly (that’s one of the hard parts about living on the other side of the country from them). But after having 11 straight boys on Daniel’s side of the family the girls had started to come, and Ava would have been one of them. I knew I would be feeling the raw edges of the hole where she would have been with girls for the first time. 

I had an intense conversation with God on the airplane, yelling in my head “You better show up this weekend! You better be my strength because I have NONE left! You’ve emptied me and you are all I have left to keep me going with any semblance of composure!” It was an honest prayer but also an angry one. 

He did show up. It didn’t mean the weekend was easy, or that I didn’t struggle with my emotions. But He did bring some healing to my heart. He did show me that when I am completely empty and I feel like I just can’t put one foot in front of the other, he can fill me for each moment. He can tend to the hurt with people that love me as well.

Deep down, after Ava passed, I was hoping for some victory in the aftermath. For a healthy baby. For another little girl. For a smoother road. Daniel and I did not feel like God had released us from having more children. We did not believe God was done growing our family yet. But, God, I was remaining faithful! Why wasn’t he? We had three devastating pregnancies! Why was he allowing wave after wave to crash over me? Why couldn’t I feel the joy of standing in the sun again, feeling that all was right with the world? 

God didn’t meet me in a place of “victory” that year. He met me in all my places of suffering. He met me in my weakness. He met me with grace for each day. 

The place of Jesus’ suffering, when he was nailed on the cross, was also a place of the greatest victory. 

When I think of His nail scared hands and feet, when I think of the crowd “shouting crucify Him!” I know Jesus knows suffering and rejection. He remained faithful to the world, to me, in suffering and dying for my sins. When I suffer, when I feel empty, I am reminded of how Christ emptied Himself first. He is a God who empathies with my suffering. 

He is a God who “Cry’s tears for me when I have none left.” 

His greatest suffering brought us all victory! Christ’s triumph spans the chasm that separated us from God.

He brought me victory in suffering. Not because of anything I have done, or any strength I could muster. He remained, and remains faithful, when I am faithless. When I am angry at Him or in despair, he is still there. He sustains me through each year, week, day and step. He had me, and He holds me, through wave after wave. 

Even today as I write this it still hurts. In fact, it seemed I could find no words to write in 2020. I needed time. But it’s a story that needs to be told. Far too many of us suffer in silence feeling alone. But you are not alone. Each of us has our own unique stories of suffering and hurt.

As those stories play out, let us remember that God does not abandon us in our suffering. He meets us in our suffering.

Pslam 34:18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The Purple Dress

 

I remember early on peeking into the boy’s room, and wondering where we would fit the new baby? The crib was still up, Elijah hadn’t quite made the transition to a big boy bed yet. We wondered how we should make the new sleeping arrangements work. Is it time to move some of them to the bedroom in the basement? Then I moved on and surveyed our bedroom and decided we would need a basinet for the foot of the bed for the first few months. And then I started thinking about our van… it would be tight, but the van still had one more seat in it that had not yet been filled.

Mentally I started creating space for our little one. The little one that one day we planned on bringing home.

The minute you see those two pink lines on the test, you start creating space for that little one. I think the first space created is usually a mental one, as you start processing the new information. Depending on where you are at in life, there can be a whole range of emotions. There can be sheer joy, disbelief, fear, anger, relief, trepidation, worry, laughter, thankfulness…  the list goes on. But from the moment you find out, whether you like it or not, you can’t help but start the path of creating space.

After receiving Ava’s diagnosis, on multiple occasion’s I would walk into the boy’s room, see the crib that she would probably never sleep in… and I would cry.

The space that I had started dreaming about, and planned on creating for her, the doctors told me she would most likely never use it.

In the day’s following Ava’s passing, everything that came into my house seemed to be purple. There was a memory box from the hospital that had a little gown and a few things that were purple. The flowers that came, the little notebooks and the different special things people sent us, the majority of them were purple. It was a special gift from God, I knew my daughter’s color was purple.

Following a loss there are certain things that hit you, and they make you so angry… irrationally angry. Like when I started my search for the urn to hold her remains. This wasn’t the space I should be making. Instead of preparing the bedroom for her to sleep in, I was looking for an urn for her ashes. It felt so unfair and made me so angry.

Another thing that broke my heart and filled me with anger, was not getting to buy my first little girl a dress. I have bought adorable sweaters, jeans, and hats for my boys. There have beenso many boy clothes that I have bought and gone through over the years, and don’t get me wrong I am more than thankful for my little men. I wouldn’t change them for a second! But I was pregnant with my baby girl and I didn’t get to buy her a dress. It hurt…

At some point I decided, I would buy her a dress. I can add it to her memory box even if she is already gone. I wanted to do this for her… for me…

I went to target, hunting for that purple dress. Everything that came in surrounding her was purple, her dress also needed to be purple. After picking up a few necessities, I headed for the baby section. I started looking for that dress, I found pink dress, after pink dress and a few other colors as well. But no purple…

This thought hit me like a ton of brinks in the middle of the baby section at Target…

“Of course, there are no purple dresses! There is no place for her here, she’s gone.”

All of a sudden, I felt like I couldn’t breath, my vision seemed foggy, everything became completely overwhelming and I had to get OUT of Target. I couldn’t stay in this place. The emotions, the fear and the panic, were waging attacks against which I had no defense but to flee. And so I fled.

It’s a wonder I didn’t just abandon my cart… or crumple to the floor till someone found me… Somehow, I got checked out with my toilet paper and who knows what else. Then I was in the solace of my car where the tears came hard and fast once again. Where I waited for my heart to slow, and my brain to clear so I could drive home.

I talked to Daniel about what happened at Target. I told him about my wanting to buy our little girl a dress, even though she would never where it. He wanted to do that with me as well. The next week we went to the mall together to keep looking for the dress. We couldn’t find one there either, purple must have not been the color that was “in” during that season.

We sat down over dinner and lamented over the daughter we will never get to know this side of heaven. We lamented the dresses that we would never get to buy. And we talked about what we wanted to do for her memorial. The nature of some conversations are so incredibly hard to wade into, but in the end bring balm to your open wounds.

I ended up ordering Ava’s purple dress and my dress for her memorial online. What can I say? The internet has everything.

I brought her dress up at bedtime to show the boys. Caleb looked up at me with a smile “I can just picture her running around up here in that dress mom. “ And with that statement, suddenly all of this hunting for a dress was absolutely worth it. We were all picturing our little blond girl running around the upstairs in that dress.

One of the hardest truths surrounding losing a baby, is that the space you created, the space you made and pictured them in, will never be filled. The crib will remain empty, the drawers as well, that space at the dinner table remains void.

But this whole idea of creating space brought me to these verses.

 

John 14:1-4
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Revelation 21:3-5
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 

The realization that I would no longer need to create space for my daughter hurt, it was hard.

But we are all finite, someday I will no longer be here either, and my things will be cleared out, passed on, given away, thrown away. I won’t need them. This place will no longer be my home. I will be mourned, missed remembered and eventually forgotten. I’m going to be gone. My place here isn’t for forever.

And while that can seem scary or sad, I’m perfectly content with it. Content to wait, and content to leave. For there is someone who has gone before me, who promises that He is creating space for me, that He has prepared a place for me. That He has a forever home for me, for all who believe in Jesus. And this home is so important. For even though we don’t deserve to be a part of a home that is so perfect there is no sin and death, we have one waiting for us. It is just on the other side of the grave for those who believe in Jesus. Because let’s face it, we cannot deny that on our own, we are sinful, and we drag around our sin and our mess with us. And yet, because of his great love for us, Jesus paid for our sin and our mess on the cross, so that we can be completely forgiven, so that He can clothe us in His perfection. So that we can join Him in His home that he is preparing for us. The space that he has made for us.

Isn’t it a wonder that our perfect, gracious, and huge God promises us that He cares about us so much, that He has prepared for us a place in heaven? That He goes before us and assures us of the space that he has made for us. He loves us, and he walks up into that bedroom we’ll live in someday and smiles about how he can’t wait for us to fill that space for eternity.

This home will never wear out. We will never have to say goodbye, and there will always be space for us. We will never worry about being gone and forgotten.

When I am remined that I never got to bring Ava “home” to the space we dreamed of for her.

This also brings me to the place of thanking God that there was a place He prepared for Her to come Home to forever.

I picture her running free in her purple dress in the perfect care of our Savior, Jesus.

What a loving faithful God we serve.