Category Archives: Struggles

A Beautiful Mess

I’ve been a mess the past few days.  A pregnant, emotional, occasionally ugly-crying mess.  In a matter of milliseconds, I’ve gone from laughing hysterically to bawling my eyes out and back.  Wrestling with vastly different emotions on behalf of dear friends: miscarriages, pregnancies in peril, healthy babies born, cancer diagnoses, relationships restored, jobs lost and found.  Add in a healthy dose of pregnancy hormones and you’re left with one whopping mess* of tears and chocolate cravings.  (*insert prayer for my dear husband here)

Then Thursday night came.  The whole drive to pick up Jordan from teaching had me, once again, in tears.  Being the genius that I am, I decided to play a Kathryn Scott song that has me weepy on a sanguine day.  Eliana must have been wondering, “what the heck is wrong with my mother?!”  She simply laughed and sang her heart away all the while.  Our trek from Jordan’s office to Journey for worship band rehearsal had thankfully less tears with precious encouragement coming from my wonderful husband (also probably wondering “what the heck is wrong with my wife?!”)

As the band set up and prepped for rehearsal, I saw a dear friend of mine.  Within moments, we both were sharing tears and our struggles from the week.  Though we live quite a distance apart, we both had been experiencing similar emotions and wrestling with similar heartaches from our own experiences and on behalf of mutual friends.  We cried, we expressed our own confusion in ourselves and not having the answers to the questions that perplexed us.  We laughed at our hysteria and how grateful we are for husbands who love us in spite of us.

Then we were able to pray together.  What a gift it was to pray together to the God who hears, even while not having all the answers ourselves.  I’m so grateful for friendships that bear burdens, rejoice together and regardless of current circumstances, go with you before the Throne.  God worked through those few moments together with this wonderful woman to bring peace amidst my madness and to encourage my hormonal heart.

The rest of rehearsal was a beautiful time for me, relishing in the truth of the lyrics we sang and surrounded by incredible music played by people who genuinely love their Savior.  By evening’s end, I left encouraged and at peace.  Granted, I still feel the weight of concern for friends facing trying times.  But God had worked through my steadfast husband, a dear friend, and the songs we rehearsed as a soothing balm on my emotional, weary heart.  Will I cry again tomorrow?  Probably.  After all, I am still quite pregnant.  But I’ll be able to laugh at myself in the midst of the raging emotions and confusing times, knowing that ultimately God still holds my whole world in His hands and that I am not alone.  Thank you, Lord, for all the ways you work in my life.  Even in my weakest moment, Your strength shines all the more.

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Filed under Friends, God, Journey Church, Patience, Struggles, Thoughts

Wondering Why

Recent happenings in the lives of loved ones has me once again wrestling with an age-old question: why.  Why was this allowed to occur?  Why has this not happened yet?  Why?

In many ways, I find myself in a similar place as when I wrote the post Seasons.  Its a time of wondering, of wrestling, of balancing life’s circumstances on this fallen planet with the Truth of God’s Word and His promises.

My quad group (four ladies reading through the Bible in a year together) just finished the book of Job yesterday.  How timely!  After chapter upon chapter of Job’s laments and his friends’ off-based judgments, God finally speaks and sets the record straight.  Interestingly, He never gives the reason for His actions.  He simply reminds Job of who He is and that “whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.” (Job 41.11)   Though Job’s circumstances did not immediately change, his confession certainly did upon seeing who God is.  “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted…I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You.” (Job 42.2, 5)

What struck me most of all was that last statement: I have heard of You but now I see You.  Job had known of God in the blessed times, but it was in the times of deep trial that he saw God Himself.  Job’s perspective shifted from the difficulty of his circumstances to God’s magnitude above and amidst it all.  This did not diminish the severity of what Job had experienced.  Rather it allowed him a greater perspective of who God was in spite of them.  Though Job’s life had been turned upside down, God who loved him remained sovereign and supreme.  Through this dark valley, Job received the greatest gift of all: he gained personal knowledge of the Almighty for himself.

The Book of Job closes with beautiful restoration as verse 12 records, “The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.”  I can’t help but wonder how much more Job valued all he was given after loosing everything.  Each possession and privilege – a blessing.  Each new child born – a gift.  Such a treasured perspective that could only be gained from loosing it all.  And interestingly enough, there is no record that Job ever knew the original why to his suffering.  Nevertheless he gained a priceless gift in the midst.

I’m sure I’ll always grapple with life’s hard circumstances, always struggle with wondering why.  But in the not knowing, I pray that I’ll be able to remember God reigns supreme above it all and that all things allowed to occur can be worked out for my good according to His purpose of conforming my life to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8.28-29).  And perhaps in looking back on life’s mountaintops and deep valleys, I’ll be able to see all the hidden treasures therein.  It may not remove the real pain of challenging times but it will provide His peace that surpasses all understanding.

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Filed under One-Year-Bible, Struggles, Thoughts

He Saw Me

Have you ever had one of those days when your faith and trust in God is seriously challenged?  You’re normally certain in Him and rest in how He has guided you through highs and lows.  But then some days come where that assurance seems to come under fire and you weakly feel so vulnerable, desperately needing a sign that He is there…that He sees you.  Today was one of those days.

Since learning that we were pregnant again, there has been a low rumbling of fears on the outskirts of my mind.  Once you’ve had a child born with severe difficulties, you’re keenly aware that the unlikely is possible.  After all, nothing is ever guaranteed.  I’ve been able to fend off the fears and worries for the most part, but for whatever reason, today they came on like gale force winds.  Jordan and I were at Integrity’s Glorious worship conference all day.  One would think that in an environment with other Christians, fully focused on worshiping God, the day would be incredible!  But from the first song’s downbeat, a tsunami of anxiety washed over me.  It flooded my being and its waters did not recede.  Rather as the day went on, my worry moved to fear, fear opened the door to anger, anger gave way to hardness – a hardness that I could not shake.

Where was this coming from?  Why could I not break its weight?  In the past 3 years, God has healed so much of my heart that had broken after Isaac died.  His peace has enveloped me, opening my eyes to see His love and provision every step of the way.  But today, dark clouds skewed my perspective.  All I could see was the hurt, the loss, the pain.  Why was this all coming back?!

By 4 o’clock, I felt genuinely stuck.  The Integrity team began a Soaking worship session – a time for people to sit, meditate and rest as worship to God was sung over and around them.  It was to be a time of reflection and peace.  But there I sat: stuck and not knowing how to move.  “Lord, I’m angry.  I’m afraid.  And I feel like You are a million miles away right now.  Why did you not heal my son?  Why did you let him die?  You’re going to have to do something.  I know all the right things to do and say in the midst of this, but frankly, I just don’t want to!  If You really care, You’re going to have to make the first move.”  Man, I was in a dark place.

Over the course of the next hour, Kathryn Scott and Brian Doerksen sang beautiful songs of brokenness, surrender and the majestic love of God who hears and heals.  Tears kept flooding my eyes as I felt caught between the two worlds – the reality of how I felt and the reality of who God is.  “Lord, You’re going to have to make the first move.  I can’t and I won’t.”  As the session drew to a close, I just wanted to leave.  I was so weary from the day’s weight and could not see a reprieve in sight.  I simply wanted to run away and hide.

And that’s when it happened.  A stranger walked up to Jordan and I, smiling sweetly.  This young woman reached out her hands to shake ours.  “Hello, I’m Jenna.  You don’t know me.  I followed your journey with Isaac and recognized you from a picture on your blog.  Ever since I saw you earlier this morning, I just had to come meet you both and let you know that you are being prayed for.  I prayed for you all while Isaac was here and I’ve been praying for you ever since.”  And with another smile, this precious stranger walked away.

As she turned to leave, I crumbled to a pile of sobbing cries at Jordan’s side.  I could not contain my tears!  In that moment, God spoke clearly and gently to my heart.  “I see you.  I’m with you.  I will not let you go.”  In the depths of my anger and wallowing self-pity, the almighty God of the universe reached out again just to let me know that He saw me.  He had already shown me time and again of His love, His grace, His provision.  But in my fallen, broken state – needing yet another reminder of what I already should have fully known – God moved on my behalf to show His care for me.  He did not judge or condemn my weakness but rather met me in it.  The King of the universe stooped down low to lift my head.  He saw me as I was and loved me in the midst.

Lord, Your love endures forever.  You are slow to anger and greatly abounding in love.  Though I fall a thousand times, a thousand times more You will pick me up again.  I don’t deserve it.  I’m overwhelmed by it.  Thank You for seeing me and for taking the first step to bring Light into my darkness.  Where would I be without You?  While I don’t know what the future holds, I know You will always be there with me.  I love you, Lord.

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Filed under Faith, God, Isaac, Patience, Struggles, Thoughts

Comfort (Part Two)

All I could do was cry.  Cry for Charlie.  Cry for the Baers.  Cry for every person on this planet who has lost someone.  It was quite a sight – some red-headed chick bawling her eyes out in front of a Buffalo Wild Wings.  “Why, Lord?  Why does there have to be so much hurt?  Why did Charlie leave so soon?  You could have healed him.”  Quickly the sorrow turned to anger.  It was surreal in some ways, like experiencing the full span of the grieving process in a few minutes.  How I ached for my friends.

Within minutes of Josh’s call, I was on the phone with my mom and in the hugging arms of my dear friend, Cathy (she’s practically my big sister…love her to pieces!)  Both these godly women gave me such comfort, reminding me of what I already knew but emotions blocked at the moment.  God is good.  He is always good.  He loves the Baers and my family so much.  He loves little Charlie just as he loves every child He creates.  And because of what we went through with our son, we could now come alongside this family as they begin the grieving journey.  “Comfort others with the comfort you yourself have received.” Once again, amidst the tears and sorrow, I experienced the promised comfort of the Holy Spirit, that “peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil.4.7)

As the days have passed, I’ve pondered over and again the homecoming of these two sweet boys and heartache in general.  At its core, it is simply part of the human experience as we are mortal beings living in a fallen world.  Loss is part of life.  While it comes in various forms at varying seasons, loss is loss.  It hurts.  It changes you, whether for the better or for worse.

During our drive back from Myrtle Beach for church on Sunday, my mind was racing with these thoughts, asking God to make further sense of it all for me.  We pulled up to Journey right on time.  The service was AMAZING!  Pastor Jimmy concluded his series on spiritual warfare, Supernatural.  Wow!  The message was so equipping, so saturated in Scripture.  And the worship, well, there are no words.  Through the morning, Jimmy kept referencing passages from 2 Corinthians.  I’d been trying to figure out what to study next in the Word and felt that 2 Corinthians was calling me.  Monday morning came and as I opened my Bible to begin studying that day, I could not help but smile.  Just three verses in, God spoke right to my heart:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Cor.1.3-4)

God’s love is so beautiful, His timing always perfect.  In that moment, He seemed to make it all so much clearer for me and put to words what He had already been stirring in my heart.  Suffering is a thing of life – a horrible, tragic thing.  But within suffering are hidden treasures to be found.  By God’s grace and power, He has opened my eyes to see the beautiful things that have come from our journey and loss of Isaac.  Had we not walked that road, we would not understand God’s love and peace as we do now.  We would not appreciate Eliana as profoundly as we do each day.  Without Him by our side, we could never imagine such deep and complete healing to be possible.  Yes, we still miss our son terribly.  But our hearts have healed and in remembering that bittersweet season, the sweetness outshines the bitter.  To God be the glory for it!  Had we not spent those 130+ days in the hospital, we would not be able to empathize with other families in that same situation.  I would not even have the opportunity to be part of a Parent Advisory Board at a hospital, let alone make a difference on it.  And had we not been parents of a HLHS baby, the Baers would have gone through the past few months without personally knowing another family who knew exactly what they were going through.  I’ll never forget Josh’s words, “I know we didn’t call much, but just knowing you all were there meant the world to us.”

Suffering is so much more than loss.  It is a beautiful opportunity.  It holds treasures to be found and in Christ, we can discover them.  We serve the Father of compassion, the God of ALL comfort.  He comforted me in all my troubles and because of Him, I now can comfort others in any trouble with the same comfort that I received.  In truth, He has given me a gift.  He has turned my mourning into dancing, taken the ashes of my loss and made them something beautiful.  Does He desire we suffer?  Absolutely not!  But as a wise woman once said, “God is faithful to redeem what He allows.”  What could have been my undoing has become a gift that I can give to others.  It does not take the pain away nor negate the weight of our loss, but it redeems it.  To God be all the glory for the redeeming work He has done.

Please join me in continuing to pray for the Baer family.  The road ahead is long and marked with grief.  It will be hard.  It will sneak up on them at times, as it still does for my family.  But what joy to know that God holds their every moment, captures each of their tears (Psalm 56.8).  And one day, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  He is the God of all comfort, the Father of mercies, Lord over all.  That, my friends, is comfort.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.  He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”  (Revelation 21.1-7)

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Filed under Blogging, Friends, HLHS, Journey Church, Struggles, Thoughts

Comfort (Part One)

Lately, I find myself at a loss for words.  Even now in typing this, my thoughts seem to collect for a moment and flit away the next.  They’ve been churning in my mind for a week now.  Hopefully they will all come out clearly…that or you’ll at least be amused at my scatterbrainedness. (is that a word?)  Buckle up.  Its a longer one.  Here’s the first part of “Comfort”.

It all goes back to one week ago when I was preparing to speak on a parent panel at UNC.  They were hosting at two-day conference by the Institute for Family-Centered Care (IFCC).  As part of this panel, I was privileged to speak to medical staff and case workers at UNC about my experiences as the parent of a critically ill child, reflect on what was positive in our experiences on the PICU, and what could have been improved upon.  I’ve shared our journey many times before and at much greater length in different situations, but for some reason this time struck me differently.  Perhaps it was sharing it with actual PICU staff.  Perhaps it was speaking those words within the same hospital that cared for our son.  Perhaps it was hormones.  Whatever the reason, there was something about that morning that brought so much more detail back to memory of our time with Isaac at UNC.  It left the memory fresh in my mind and strong on my heart.  (Thank You, Lord, for that precious little boy!)

Then Thursday came.  Around 10 o’clock that night, I was out to dinner with some great girlfriends in Myrtle Beach, SC.  We were laughing, sharing stories, and applauding Ailene who had preached a strong word on Joshua earlier in the evening at Barefoot Church’s Ladies Night Out. (seriously…if you haven’t gotten a copy of her study yet – get to it!)  Just as we ordered our late-night dinner, my phone rang.  It was my friend, Josh Baer.  “Hey Josh!  How’s it going?”
His words caught me by surprise and knocked the air from my lungs with the force of a semi.

“Um…Charlie didn’t make it.”

Everything stopped.  In an instant, grief washed over me for my friend as all the emotions of Isaac’s homecoming flooded back.  They were so fresh from speaking on the panel just the day before.  No!  NO!  Charlie was supposed to make it!  He was supposed to have the better outcome with HLHS.  The cocktail of emotions was choking.  Grief, sorrow, confusion, anger.  Even though I knew this was a chance for Charlie simply because of his diagnosis, I had hoped and prayed dearly that it would not be his fate.  Certainly not so soon.

In moments, another emotion swept in to join the mix: guilt.  Why did we get so much more time with our son than our friends?  Why were we able to take our baby home but they weren’t?  In a moment, I was reminded of the frailty of life and how fortunate we were for every day Isaac was with us.  I still don’t understand the why, but rest in knowing:

“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139.13-16)

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Filed under Blogging, Chapel Hill, Friends, HLHS, Struggles, Thoughts

Seasons

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…”  Ecclesiasties. 3.1

I’ve seen tremendous extremes in the lives of family and friends recently: babies born and loved ones dying, jobs lost and jobs found, children conceived and pregnancies ending tragically soon, romances blooming and relationships ending, miraculous recoveries and difficult sudden diagnoses.  All this occurring in a matter of weeks.  What does one make of such extremes in these uncertain times?

Seeing such polar experiences playing out in the lives of people I love has weighed on my heart.  I find myself overwhelmed with joy for those experiencing such rich blessings right now and deeply grieved for the others experiencing the tremendous challenges that come from living in a fallen world.  All the while, God has continued to remind me of this simple truth: life is the journey from one season to the next.  Situations come, circumstances go.  But He never leaves us.  He never forsakes us. (Deut 31.8)  When we walk through those fires, He goes with us & in Him, we will not be set ablaze.  When flood waters come, He will see us through to the shore. (Is. 43)  Even when we feel like we’re walking blind in the valley of the shadow of death, may we remember it is only a shadow and we need not fear evil – we are simply passing through. (Ps. 23.4)  In Christ, death lost its sting. (1 Cor 15.55)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8.38-39

I don’t pretend to have life figured out, nor will I ever fully understand why people’s paths can look so different.  I don’t know that I’ll ever grasp why some have healthy babies without even wanting them while others grieve for the chance to have just one of their own.  Its hard to balance those who live well into their 90’s with those who are crippled by illness before their time.  At this point of my life, I have so much yet to learn and stronger faith to gain.  But if these 27 years have taught me anything, it is this: God is a God of love with plans to give us a hope and a future. (Jer. 29.11)  Regardless of circumstances in my life, I know I am precious in His sight and because He loves me, I need not be afraid. (Is. 43.4-5)  He has blessed me beyond measure.  And in the hard times that have come, my frailty and desperation has allowed me to see His strength, faithfulness, and compassion in ways I would not have otherwise understood.

So take heart.   If you find yourself facing an impossible situation, if you find yourself caught between an army of opposition and an immovable sea blocking your way, remember this: all of life is the journey from one season to the next.  After all, we serve the God who parted the seas of impossibility to grant His children safe passage to their promised future and used the waters that once stood in their way to defeat the opposition that chased them. (Ex. 14)

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  Psalm 27.13-14

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