Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Truer Peace and GOOD NEWS

Shortly after Samuel died, I began to reevaluate my understanding of peace.  I have always been a person of intuition, a trait I share with my mom.  Sometimes I just know something.  Bryan tells me he has no idea what that means because he's never experienced it, but it's something I have experienced many times in my life.  For instance, I just knew I was going to marry Bryan long before we made any plans to marry.  I knew Joel was a boy from the moment I found out I was pregnant.  I knew Bryan and I were going to win Fellowship Christian High School's raffle drawing for a 1965 Ford Mustang in 2002.  And I knew that working with married community groups under the leadership of John Woodall was the job for Bryan before there were any job openings in that department and before anyone had ever mentioned the possibilty to Bryan.  To some extent, I have always trusted my intuition.  That changed after Samuel.

When Samuel died, I began to question my understanding of peace.  I had incredible, indescribable peace when Samuel was alive.  For the first nearly three weeks of his life, I interpreted that peace to mean that Samuel would be ok and would come home with us eventually.  When Samuel became so sick that death grew imminent, I knew my peace meant that God was with us and would carry us through the tragedy ahead.  After Samuel's funeral, as life fell into a new rhythm much like life before Samuel's birth yet entirely different from that life, I started to look back over my experiences with peace.  I realized that in the past I had interpreted a feeling of peace to mean God was going to do what I had asked, that my intuition was trustworthy.  I remember feeling really peaceful when I found out I was pregnant with Caleb -- I had a strong sense that I didn't need to worry about miscarriage.  I believed that peace was because my baby was going to be just fine.  I began to realize that my pattern with peace was to elevate WHAT God was going to do -- and to find peace because of how God was going to answer my prayers.  My peace was based on an assumption about God's actions.

When God's actions about Samuel so drastically failed to line up with my requests and yet I had a pervading sense of peace throughout my little son's life, I realized I had misunderstood peace all along.  Peace isn't about WHAT God is going to do.  Peace is about WHO God is.  Peace is knowing deep in my core that God is enough, that no matter what is ahead, He will be enough to see me through it, to carry me when I can't take another step on my own two feet, to heal my broken heart and enable me to smile and laugh despite my sorrow and grief, to be Hope in a dark world, to be a good God even when life is horribly hard and people are rotten.  Peace is truly trusting God to be who He says He is.  If I really believe that God is who He says He is, then I am filled with peace even in the face of tragedy, uncertainty, death, fear, betrayal, and destruction.  God is God always, and I can rest in Him.

I used to tell Bryan that I didn't like my new understanding of peace.  It wasn't as comforting as the old one.  I liked believing God was going to do what I asked.  In the last two months, I learned the fallacy of my preference for my errant understanding.  Nearly two months ago, Bryan and I learned wonderful news.  We learned that I am pregnant again!  Yes, let me say it again: I AM PREGNANT!  :)  I can't help but be teary as I write that.  It has been a long, long road to this place.  And I always expected it would be really hard if we ever got pregnant again.  I assumed the first months would be like the first months of pregnancy with Samuel -- a form of torture.  Since I was fresh off of two miscarriages when we conceived Samuel, I spent the first weeks in a constant state of fear and anxiety.  I went to the bathroom every hour to see if I was bleeding.  I would buy myself 5 minutes of respite after a trip to the bathroom, but soon enough I was counting down again until a reasonable time to go back and check once more.  It was awful.  I didn't have a peace that God was going to spare the life in me.  I wanted to know my baby would live, but I didn't know if he would or not.  It was an utterly peace-less few weeks.  I lived in fear that God wouldn't do what I was asking.  When I did start bleeding one day with Samuel, I thought for sure I was losing another pregnancy, and I wept on the bed in agony.  But in those moments and hours of thinking the worst, I knew peace.  I knew God was with me, and He would carry me through the very thing I thought I couldn't survive.  I should have realized then how wrong my view of peace was, but I didn't.

So, when Bryan and I learned our good news, I expected to be plagued with the same fear and anxiety.  I was pretty shocked when I felt peaceful right from the start.  A few days in, I realized that I felt peaceful because my peace was real and true.  My peace was (and is) in WHO God is.  He is God.  He is good.  He is faithful.  He is Healer.  He is enough.  So these last two months of questions and uncertainties, which continue of course, have been peace-filled and rich.  My peace is tried and true because my God is tried and true.

We are so, so grateful for this pregnancy -- no matter how it turns out.  We are thankful beyond words for this picture of hope.  I am currently 12 weeks pregnant, and on Friday we went to the perinatologists' office where I went every week the last couple months of pregnancy with Samuel.  We saw our little one swimming and kicking and heart-beating, and we were filled with more hope and joy and excitement.  Of course we have no idea what will be.  They won't be able to look at baby's heart (Caleb has named baby Tad, and Joel calls baby Sebastian -- incidentally, they both think baby is a girl and chose those names accordingly!) until 17 weeks, so we won't know anything until then.  Even then, we won't know anything for sure.  I will be monitored closely my whole pregnancy regardless of what they discover about baby's heart.  We have a 3-5% recurrence risk whereas the average person has a 1% risk of a CHD (Congenital Heart Defect).  CHD's are the number one birth defect.

In a letter I wrote to my extended family announcing the news, I wrote this, and it accurately describes where we are:
"As we navigate this road of another pregnancy after losing Samuel, we find ourselves trusting in God in new ways again.  This morning as we drove to the doctors' office, I was telling Bryan how comforting it is to know from experience that God will be with us no matter what is ahead, and He will be sufficient to meet our needs, to comfort our hearts, to heal any brokenness, and to see us through even the worst of possibilities.  He is tried and true, and I am grateful to know God in such a way that I can have complete confidence in who He is -- in His love, grace, goodness, faithfulness, presence, and kindness.  As He continues to heal our hearts from Samuel, I know He can heal any new wounds that come our way.  Of course we hope for the best possible result, and we fervently pray for it, but even if God says 'no,' I am confident He will meet every need we face and prove Himself enough yet again."

We covet your prayers for this new life growing in me and for us as we walk a familiar and yet foreign road.  Most of all, we give God glory for this new life, and we praise Him for WHO He is no matter WHAT He does.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Couple Psalms

It has been a while since I've written on here. Months, in fact. This fall I have been taking a seminary course that covered, among other books, the Psalms. One of the assignments that we had was to write two original, personal psalms. One was to be a psalm of praise and the other a psalm of lament. It was an intense exercise for me. I thought that I'd share them here.

A Psalm of Praise

I praise You, Lord, for You are faithful.
Your kindness has never failed me.

You have shown your goodness to me,
Your mercy to my family,
Your kindness to the generations before me.

You send rain to refresh the land,
Blessings to the hearts of your people.
And provision to their hands.

I have lived with plenty all of my life.
Your hand has provided for me well beyond my needs.

Though the earth is filled with trouble,
You are still God.
Though this world is broken and given to decay,
The beauty of Your creation testifies that You are.

There is no end to the troubles of this world.
We are prone to conflict and confusion,
Destined for disease and death.

Yet in you there is peace and prosperity,
The promise of life.

Further still, You are my hope,
Not merely for peace in this life,
But for shalom in the world to come.

Though I taste of Your goodness in this life,
An everlasting feast awaits me.

While I glimpse shadows of Your beauty on this earth,
In the new heavens and the new earth I will see You face to face.

Now I hear but whispers of Your wisdom.
In the world to come, Your truth will resound continuously.

In this life I merely brush up against the intimacy you desire for Your people,
But an eternity of knowing and loving embrace awaits me.

You are my God, faithful and kind,
The hope of the world.

A Psalm of Lament

Oh, Lord, save our son.
Rescue him from death.

His lungs heave with every breath,
Gasping for survival moment-by-moment.

Though blood courses through his body,
It knows not the path it should take.

Though doctors surround him, answers escape.
The latest technology cannot simplify his condition.
The skilled hands of a gifted surgeon are no use to him.

Father, hear the prayers of this father.
You know what it is to see your son suffer.

Please spare his life.
Heal his body and relax his veins.
Direct his blood to right paths
And reform his heart that it may sustain his new life.

Though I fast and pray, I hear no answer.
Despite my pleas, healing stands aloof at a distance.
To the supplications of many, You give no reply.

My soul is perplexed, God.
My mind is in turmoil.
My heart is troubled.
My spirit cries out.
My able body is weak.

An old heart may fail
An aged man’s body may weaken,
And a wise woman’s breaths shorten.
This is the order of life on this earth.

But the steps of the young should bounce,
And the current of their blood should flow like rapids.
The aspiration of the young should be inspired with dreams and hopes,
Not desperation and grasping.

God, You do not make mistakes.
No accidents fumble from Your hands.

As You fashion all life, so You have fashioned Samuel.
You formed his body as it is, his heart and lungs in their deformed state.

But, death awaits him.
His infant body cannot sustain his own life.

Though You give him only 30 days, I will praise You.
Though his life spans only a month, I will still say, “God is good.”

Because Your Son died, my son will live.
Because Your Beloved rose from darkness to light, I will see Samuel again.

In the midst of my heartache, You are near.
You are my hope.

I am promised an eternity in which You and Your Son, and I and my son will be nearer still.
You are my hope.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Family Photos

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours offered to take a few family pictures for free, and we took her up on it.  Here are our favorite ones:

Thanks, Candy!