Monday, July 28, 2014

What Eisley Taught Me About Trust (by Karen)

This entry was originally written on my blog ( shortly after we learned about Ember's fatal diagnosis. One big lesson God taught us all during that

Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for families
Protection while we sleep
We pray for healing
For prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while you hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things
Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel you near
We doubt your goodness
We doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

All the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe
Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win we know
That pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
What if my greatest disappointment, or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest night
Are Your mercies in disguise?

I saw that song plastered all over Facebook months and months ago. I never clicked on it, just saw that people were "so touched by it". I don't know why I never clicked on it and listened to it. I just didn't.

I was at a friend's house awhile back and we were talking about old memories of Psalty the Song Book and his wonderful repertoire of children's music, and my friend was flabbergasted that I didn't have my kids listening to the very CD's (which were at that time cassette tapes) we all grew up on. She offered to burn me a copy (thanks Rachel!!!) but there was still some room left on the CD after Psalty. She told me she'd burn some Laura Story onto it, she was sure I knew her.

"No," I told her, "I don't think I've heard her."

"What!?!" she said. "How have you not heard her song 'Blessings'"? It's like written about you!!!"

Well alright then, I better listen to it! And I did. And she was right, I felt like it was written about me. (I realize I say that a lot, but you know what I mean) After our many losses, especially our experience with Lily, I often found myself wondering what in the H-E-double hockeysticks the Lord was doing. Did He not hear my prayers? My cries to keep my babies healthy and my pregnancies uneventful? Why, why, why did this keep happening? I often felt ignored by God. Like He simply wasn't listening to me, or didn't care, or both. In my heart of hearts, I knew the Truth, of course. But when you are in that much pain, you don't care for the truth much.

And then, once again, the Lord allows yet another unspeakable heartache to enter our lives. We have grown to care and love very much this woman and the baby girl she is carrying. That happens when you spend so much time in prayer for people. But once again, it is as if our prayers fell on deaf ears.

We SPECIFICALLY prayed for this baby's health. "Lord!!!" I cried. "WHY can't you just hear me just ONCE!!!???"

I have cried that so many times.

The other day Eisley asked me if I could dig out the Psalty CD. After we got it, we listened to that thing until I was literally dreaming in children's worship songs, so mommy decided to put it away for awhile, replacing it with Adele, which I realize isn't the most uplifting of music, but the change I needed after months of non-stop Psalty in the car (Yes, I do own an Ipod, but we only have one car dock, and Josh keeps it in his car for reasons I am now thinking I should debate...).

Anyways, I stopped for a moment to find the CD, and stuck it in. We listened and sang along, and it was just a Psaltastic time. Yesterday, I was in the car by myself, and the CD had moved along to the Laura Story song "Blessings" my friend had burned for me. I literally had to stop the car because I was just crying and crying over the realization that I, in fact, do not know everything, and God is not ignoring me, but He is aware of a heck of a lot more than I am. Who am I not to trust Him? I have to believe. I have to believe that there is a greater purpose in all of this, that He does hear me, that He does love me more than I can fathom, but He knows something that I don't.

Our greatest aspiration as Christians is to live for the life beyond this one. What if all that He is allowing into our lives, as painful as it is, is fulfilling a purpose that may not be apparent in this life, but will be in the next one? Which life do I want to live for, this one, in its blink of an eye, or the next one, which will last an eternity? As hard as it is to do, I definitely want the latter.

I was out shopping with Eisley today. She begged me, begged me, in her sweetest little Eisley voice, to take her shoe shopping for school. Even though it was totally past a time I like to leave the house and she was already in her pajamas, I just really couldn't think of a good reason to turn her down. It's summer, we are starting school soon, she slept really late this morning, and it would just make her entire day if I said yes, so I did.

She has had her eye on a specific style of shoe ever since I broke down and let the kids start watching Nikelodeon (which I specifically did not allow up until this point because of the commercials and the direct effect they have on my children's begging). They are high topped Sketchers Twinkle Toes, and Eisley simply can't imagine herself starting at a new school without them, especially since I dropped the bomb on the Style Queen that she would be wearing one of six school uniform shirts in a bland variety of colors every single day of the first grade.

So we ventured out on this little shoe shopping adventure hoping to find a cheap pair at Ross or something, but were totally unsuccessful. She was so, so disappointed. I looked at her sad little face and I just melted. It is not often she gets her heart set on things, but when she does, it is simply a travesty not to fulfill her wish. I had these sudden overwhelming feelings of sadness for her, not because of the stupid shoes, but because her greatest wish at this point in her life is to be a big sister. And try as I might, I just can't seem to make it happen.

But I can buy shoes.

So we continued, and we went to store after store and failed miserably at each one. WHERE ARE THE SHOES??? Why would you advertise something and then make it impossible for normal people to find?!? I was feeling like a failure as a mother. I felt so sad that I couldn't grant her this simple thing. I wanted so badly to give it to her. And then I had this thought...

God loves me so much more than I love Eisley (which, I have to tell you, is an unfathomable amount, because I already love her an unfathomable amount, so, you do the math). When you love someone that much, you want to give them the desires of their hearts. You go out of your way to do it. You stay up past your bedtime and go to more stores than you'd like to admit. You spend more money than you probably should. You work extra hours, you spend the time and the effort, you do it. Because they want it, and you have the power to give it to them, and it won't do anyone any harm to grant them this tiny thing, so you do it. I wondered to myself, why? Why, if God loved me so much, wasn't He granting me the one thing I have been asking for these past two years? What was the hold up?

As we walked out of the last store into the dark of the dead of the night, I told her we needed to give it a rest and try again tomorrow. Or try the internet. The internet will not fail us. She sighed. And then she told me she needed to go potty.

Well, okay. We were in a parking lot, and she's six, so I figured her bladder could handle the five minute ride home.

I was wrong.

As I rushed home as fast as my conscience would allow on a very busy main road, she yelped at me from the back seat that I needed to hurry, hurry mommy, don't let me have an accident mommy!!!

I finally made it to the stop light right before our house. I had to turn left, and as I said, it is a super busy road. I waited in the middle of the intersection for the clear space needed to turn left, but cars just kept coming. Eisley is literally crying in the backseat telling me to turn. I'm telling her I can't, it isn't clear yet! She screams that I have a green light and she is going to pee in her pants if I don't turn RIGHT THIS SECOND!!!

"But I can't!!!!!!" I say.


Now, I am an adult, with twelve plus years of driving experience. She is six. The extent of her traffic knowledge is "Green means go." To her, I was torturing her. All she wanted was to go potty, if she didn't get to a potty RIGHT NOW, the worst of the worst of the worst in the world of a six-year-old would become her reality. She would pee in her pants.

But I knew, being the wise and highly intelligent adult that I am, that if I turned, we would crash into another car and die or be severely mangled. Does Eisley know that peeing her pants is nothing compared to being severely mangled? Yes. But she did not understand that these were mutually exclusive. To her, I was simply being mean. That, or I didn't understand the severity of the situation at hand.

Remind you of any other situations you've been in?

I realized, as we were sitting at this stop light, Eisley crying, me panicking, Laura Story singing about Blessings on the CD player, that this situation is not unlike what God must experience on a daily basis. Us humans whining about peeing our pants when He is only trying to protect us from being severely mangled in an automobile accident!!!

This analogy might seem like a stretch to you, but it really hit home for me.

He knows more than I do. He is listening to my first prayer, my greatest prayer, to honor Him with my life, to serve a greater purpose for Him, before my second prayer to have another child. I have to trust Him. I have to trust His love for me, even when what is happening makes no sense to me at all and seems almost cruel.

Eisley thought I was being cruel. That I wasn't listening. That I didn't understand how very badly she needed to go potty. She was mad at me! To me, her pleading broke my heart. I hated seeing her like that! I could relate to what she was experiencing as I myself have been six and had a bladder the size of a walnut with a brother who would have teased me endlessly had I peed my pants. Her situation, through her eyes, was dire. I wished so much that she would just trust my love for her and the fact that I did understand her pain, but I had to make a different decision, for her own good. Even though it broke both of our hearts to do so.

But I know better than her. I love her so much, that I would allow this awful, horrible, no good thing to happen to her, because I wanted to save her the pain of what would come had I turned left when she wanted me to.

Josh and I struggle with the trial that God has allowed into our lives right now. We are so hurt that we are going to lose another baby girl that we have grown to love. We are so sad and especially heart broken for her mother. But if God were to sit me down and explain to me that He is allowing this because of this amazing reason and that amazing reason, that this person may come to Christ and that person may finally turn back to God and showing "Kim" this kind of unconditional love may cause this chain reaction and that chain reaction, I am sure I would understand. He loves us so much. He allowed something awful, in our eyes, to serve a purpose for Him. And I am pretty confident that one day He will have that conversation with me, and we will both cry, and I will thank Him for allowing what He did for the reasons that He had.

Does that make it less painful right now? No. Honestly, no. But it does make it worth it.

Josh and I are determined to find and help create purpose from each tragedy the Lord allows into our lives. We will never, ever waste a sorrow. Ever. We will do everything we can to make the tears and the heartbreak and the utter brokenness of what is happening worth it. At this point, that means sharing with all of you what God is teaching us. I'm sure He is doing a lot of behind the scenes action that I'm unaware of, and that is comforting as well.

We will not shield ourselves, our children, or any of you from the pain of what is happening, because we are fully confident that the Lord will create something totally awesome from it. We will continue to love this little girl and her mother. Even if it means another piece of our hearts is taken from us.

My sweet cousin Lisa sent me this video, that so much better says what we are feeling about this whole situation. Please take a moment to watch it, and if you have two moments, listen to Laura Story's "Blessings".

You won't regret it.

"All of Me"
Matt Hammitt

Afraid to love something that could break
Could I move on if you were torn away?
And I'm so close to what I can't control
I can't give you half my heart and pray He makes you whole

You're gonna have all of me, you're gonna have all of me
Cause you're worth every fallen tear
You're worth facing any fear
You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start

I won't let sadness steal you from my arms
I won't let pain keep you from my heart
I'll trade the fear of all that I could lose
For every moment I'll share with you

You're gonna have all of me, you're gonna have all of me
Cause you're worth every fallen tear
You're worth facing any fear
You're gonna know all my love
Even if it's not enough
Enough to mend our broken hearts
But giving you all of me is where I'll start

Heaven brought you to this moment
It's too wonderful to speak
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me
So let me recklessly love you even if I bleed
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me

Friday, July 25, 2014

Grief - A Man's Perspective - By Josh Harrison

Karen asked me to write something from a man’s perspective for FMN this week.  I put it off for a couple reasons.  One reason is that it’s hard for me to write what I’m thinking sometimes.  Lucky for me I married Karen and she can do any required writing for me now.  The other is that the topic is a difficult one to talk about.  All week long I was thinking about what I could write and I came up with a few things, sorry if they don’t fit together perfectly.
                I’ll start by stating the obvious, pregnancy loss sucks.  I wouldn’t wish any of it on my worst enemy.  For me each of our losses was very different but they all were terrible.  Our first loss, Grace, was very difficult.  We had Jake and Eisley and their pregnancy went smoothly especially considering that they were twins.  Looking back we didn’t realize how amazing it was that everything went so smoothly with them.  Karen convinced me that we should have another kid so we gave it a shot.  At the time my biggest fear was that we would have twins again.  Karen got pregnant quickly and we were very excited.  She went to the Dr. and like I said before, I was just hoping and praying for one baby this time.    The Dr. said that they couldn’t find the heartbeat but that it was probably just too early.  We were both shocked by the news but I wasn’t too scared because I just figured that it was indeed just too early.  We spent the next few days praying and praying for the baby.  I was convinced that everything was going to be fine and that we would see a heartbeat.  I can remember the next part very vividly.  Karen has some Dr. friends who were able to do an ultrasound at night after I got home from work.  Well there was no heartbeat again.  This hit me very hard because I was convinced that God was going to make everything ok and that we would see a heartbeat.  The miscarriage was a lot more difficult for me to handle than I had anticipated.  Karen was just so sad and there wasn’t anything I could do to ‘fix’ it.
 It took us a while but we finally got to the point where we wanted to try again.  This time we were much more aware of what could be the outcome if/when she got pregnant.  Well she got pregnant again but things were different this time.  We were not very excited and we kinda kept our hearts guarded.  We didn’t want to get too excited and attached in case we had another miscarriage.  She had many appointments and each time we went in half expecting to hear bad news, but everything was going smoothly.  Once she made it to her second trimester we started to let our guard down a bit and even get a little excited.  We even told the kids and had an amazing experience bringing them to an ultrasound where we found out that it was going to be a girl.  Eisley was soooooo excited to have a little sister.  Jake was a little bummed but was still excited.  Shortly after Karen had another routine appointment that I almost didn’t go to because she had so many and everything was looking good.  Everything seemed the same at this appointment, little did we know what was to come.  We were talking about possible names in the waiting room then they called us back and started going through the routine.  I always got a little nervous at the beginning of the ultrasound until I could see or hear the heartbeat.  Right away I could tell something was wrong.  The ultrasound tech said that she couldn’t find the heartbeat and left to go get the Dr.  I looked over at Karen and she had tears rolling down the side of her face.  I just sat there in shock and stared at the screen with no heartbeat.  I said to Karen that her name is Lily and she nodded.  I could go into great detail about the next couple days but I’ll just touch on a few things that stick out the most.  I’ll never forget the stupid fake fish tank in that room and when I see one like it now it makes me sick.  I’ll never forget the sad faces of the nurses as we left that appointment.  I’ll never forget having to go pick up the kids from VBS and explain to 5 year olds under a tree at church that their baby sister didn’t have a heartbeat anymore.  I’ll never forget having to call my mom to tell her and not being able to get the words out.  I’ll never forget picking out stuffed animals in the hospital for the kids to bring for Lily.  I’ll never forget the kids coming to visit Karen in the hospital and feeling heartbroken for them.  I’ll never forget sitting in the dark room waiting for Lily to come and realizing that God is in control of this terrible situation and somehow have some peace about it.  I’ll never forget seeing Lily’s perfect face and her lips just like Jake’s.  I’ll never forget the 2 hours we spent with her holding her and singing to her and reading the Bible to her.  I’ll never forget walking to the car and not going back up with our car seat for Lily to go home in.  I’ll never forget seeing the nurse roll Karen out who was just broken.  I’ll never forget going to the flower shop to pick out some Lilies for my daughter’s funeral, and realizing this was the only time I would get to buy her flowers.  I’ll never forget having to tell my sister who was on a mission trip that we lost the baby.  I’ll never forget sitting down and writing what I was going to say at the funeral.  I’ll never forget carrying her little casket the size of a shoe box from the funeral home to the grave site.  I’ll never forget seeing everyone put those flowers I bought on her little casket.  I’ll never forget that I had to be strong for Karen and for Jake and Eisley even though I was crushed.  I’ll never forget that I’ll see my sweet baby girl in heaven someday. 
A couple years have gone by since we’ve lost Lily.  Things didn’t really get easier, but I guess you could say that we weren’t so sad as often.  Even now a couple years out, there will be moments that it feels just as bad.  Like a couple weeks ago I was playing with Jones and he was laughing and all of a sudden it struck me that I never got to do that with Lily and I had a mini breakdown when I was telling Karen about it as we drove by the cemetery where she’s buried.
A while after everything with Lily, we tried one more time to have another baby.  Again, Karen got pregnant quickly.  This time we were very guarded and not excited because we were scared.  Well Karen had another miscarriage.  This one wasn’t as hard for us to go through but it did lead us down the adoption road because it seemed like God was trying to tell us something.
I’ll try and make this long story short.  We went through the very long adoption process and got picked by a birthmom.  She didn’t have any ultrasounds until real late in the pregnancy.  At the ultrasound they told her that the baby had some real issues and wouldn’t live long after she was born.  We went down to the hospital not knowing what to expect.  Well the baby was born and she looked perfect.  But they did an ultrasound on her brain and they found that she only had a brain stem and that her brain didn’t develop.  They said that she wouldn’t live long and that she would need special medical care.  We couldn’t put Jake and Eisley through another sister dying.  We prayed and asked God to show us what to do.  (Oh I almost forgot this funny part)  Somewhere in the middle of all of this Karen found out that she was again with child-more on that later.  We spent a lot of time at the hospital loving on Ember.  One trip to the hospital we went to Jack in the Box nearby.  We sort of laughed at our crazy situation: everything with Ember and the fact that Karen was pregnant again.  We talked about how we have no control over anything and that we just need to rely on God even though we have no clue what His plan was.  When we tried to head back our car wouldn't start.  We just laughed and cried at how ridiculous things were going and walked back to the hospital.  On the way back it was hot and clear skies but we saw a rainbow and felt like that was God telling us that He’s right there with us.   The adoption agency found a lady who had experience with the issues that Ember had.  We felt at peace about this lady taking care of Ember.  Ember was adopted by an amazing family who loved on her for the short time she was here on Earth. 
Back to Karen being pregnant again.  This definitely came as a surprise and we did not expect to have a good outcome.  We were very guarded and not excited.  Even up to the moment when the doctors pulled Jonesy out I was convinced something was going to go wrong.  But God had a different plan this time.  Thank God.  The pregnancy went smoothly and Jones was born perfectly healthy.  And now because of all that we went through we definitely appreciate and love Jones that much more.  We still hurt for our losses but even less often. 
Well that was way longer than I expected.  I guess I like talking about my kids that aren’t here with us since I don’t get much chance to.  Each of our losses was very different from each other but they were all very painful.  My advice to guys when dealing with a loss themselves is to let your wife know that you’re hurting too and that it is a big deal to you too.  My advice to guys that have a friend who is going through a loss is to talk to them about it.  I know this type of stuff isn’t the normal surface level sports talk that 90 percent of my chats are with guys, but just mentioning something about their loss goes a long way.

For me, the only thing that got me through the losses was knowing that I would get to see them again someday.  And trusting that all of this ‘mess’ was part of God’s plan.  

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." -Proverbs 16:9


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Grief. A Man's Perspective by Jesse Brimhall

       I was asked to write a blog post for Forget-Me-Not from a man's perspective. I guess I should start with some of my credentials. I am a 31 year old father to three children that died before they were born. I am a horrible blogger, having come to the conclusion that whatever I have to say of value is usually intermittent and is usually much to short to warrant a blog of its own. Some of the most profound things I have ever said have been limited to 180 characters, and are lost in a jumble of social media materials that supposedly are now being logged for posterity in the Library of Congress. I guess my profundity is not lost. 

Two and a half years ago, my wife and I began trying to start our family. I guess you could summarize the experience in that it has not gone how we expected. We have lost three children to miscarriage, and we have lost a lot of hope along the way. This is not an easy way to go about life, just in case you weren't aware.

It has been an uphill battle. We have shared excitement with our friends when we have found the illusive blue line, and have shared grief with those that would accept it when we got bad news. The truth is, those who want to share in the grief seem to be smaller in number. Honestly, I think it stems from difficulty in knowing how to share grief. 

I lost my father a few years ago, and a list of things to say and not to say to someone in grief caught my attention. All of the things on the do-not-say list were said to me, and very few encouraging things were said. It was an isolating time for me. Good friends didn't know what to say, so they never wanted tot talk about my loss. Subjects were changed and my grief was ignored, and I became more and more introverted and isolated. 

Eventually, I came out of the depression I felt, but it was definitely a dark time for me. I later met and married my wife, and for some reason, still feel like my feelings about my father's death are mine to bare alone. She did help me a lot with it at the time. She was understanding and supportive, but the feelings sometimes return, and as a man, I feel like they have to be mine to deal with.  Similarly, we seem to have been placed in a position in which our grief of the loss of our children is sometimes not easy to share. 

As a man, it's the pain of grief, of loss of a loved one as well as loss of a potential future, combined with the responsibility of taking care of my wife in her grief. The burden is heavy. Traditionally, it is the responsibility of the husband to be stoic and strong, to carry the burden if the family on his shoulders and to never show any sign of strain or fatigue. His role is to tirelessly lead, love and support his family. It's not easy. It's exhausting. 

A lot of people will tell you that the grieving process gets easier as time passes. A more accurate statement would be that grief is always hard, episodes just become less frequent. There are times that everything is fine for months, and then, instantly, something will set me off. For my wife, these triggers are much more common. Sometimes it comes in the form of seeing a pregnant friend, a cute infant, or even just a small situation in which having our kids nearby would have changed the entire experience.

I am not an expert at the grieving process. If I were to speak candidly, I'm pretty horrible at it. I am, like a lot of men, an emotional pacifist. I am pretty content, if not compelled, to ignore all feelings of grief as long as possible. It's when they resurface that things get messy, but only until I am able to sweep them under an emotional rug again. One of the most inappropriate things that I have ever heard was said to me by a volunteer social worker a couple hours before my dad died. It has been one of those profoundly horrible things that has probably mutilated my ability to grieve in a healthy matter ever since. I tell myself sometimes that it was a mostly innocent comment, but the ramifications have been ongoing for years, and I hear them now as I consider my position in my own family.

"It's a good thing you have those broad shoulders to carry your family through this."

It left me questioning, for years, when it would be ok for me to be carried. 

We named our children, and although we never got to meet them, I imagine their personalities based on those things I have seen in the children of friends of ours. Our oldest, our boy, is a spitfire. He is constantly into things he shouldn't be. He is like me, and is going to light our garage on fire with the welding torch before he has a driver's license. He climbs everything, harasses the dogs, shaves off his eyebrows before his first day of school, and is fiercely protective of his two sisters, who he also talks into snatching snacks out of the pantry for him.

The two little girls, are inseparable, despite having opposite personalities. They are adorable little troublemakers, getting out of all sorts of trouble with innocent smiles and innocent quips. All of the rest of the details are very private and guarded. 

There are days that I get lost in thoughts of them. There are also many more days that I can't. The pressures of work, supporting my wife, and just dealing with everyday life cause my grief to be delayed. They have caused my mind to be overwhelmed, at times, and empty at others. In a recent conversation with my wife, we talked about how I deal with the pain, the loss, and the frustration when she can't. My methods, as misguided as they are, have always been to seek solace in distraction. It's why I enjoy owning cars that require tinkering, I watch cartoons late at night when I should be sleeping, and it is probably why I have made a hobby out of having hobbies. It's one of those things that probably largely hereditary, but helps me connect with my father and my absent son. 

Teaching a grade-school aged son to rebuild a carburetor or change brake pads, or teaching a kindergartner how to slow dance at a father-daughter dance. These are the thoughts I have of my children. They are the happy experiences I wish I would have a chance at, but they are the things that I can think about while I absently fix up the car that would have taken my son and I years to finish, and I would have driven my daughter on her first date in.

        This post is an expansion on the thoughts I had while drawing these sketches last week. Becky bought me an iPad for my birthday, and I had started messing around with a new drawing app, and I realized that I had something to say with it. My hope is to turn them into a small book for her some day. 


Monday, July 14, 2014

"It's still a birthday"

As I re-read my answers one more time and finally click the "submit" button, I think about how it feels as though more than a week has gone by.

One week and one day ago, I sat with my head in my hands, the glare of the laptop screen piercing through the darkness as my husband snored next to me.  If he had been awake, he likely would have been wondering who in the world I was talking to.

"This is insane, I am the least qualified person on the planet to do this."

"I SERIOUSLY don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies either--for real."

"But I don't WANT to."

And as I argued.  Wrestled.  With God as to why He had put this seemingly impossible thing in front of me, before my excuses were even mumbled, I knew that He wasn't asking me.  He was telling me.  He was telling me that He knew I was scared, that He knew that "all this baby stuff" really and truly freaked me out--and that He knew that there was no way to come out of this emotionally unscathed.  And a wrestled a little more.  And then a little more.

And as I tried to explain to my husband a little while later what had been brought to my attention (again--not that I told him about the other two times this had been placed in front of me), we talked and prayed about what to do.  See, it was July 6th.  And the next Stillbirthday Birth and Bereavement Doula Certification Class began on July 7th.  And I sat and listened to my husbands thoughts on the matter I was genuinely surprised at how on-board he was.  It isn't that his support took me by surprise, it was more the fact that I heard actual genuine excitement in his voice.  Did he have reservations?  Sure he did.  There was the concern about how this would affect me as a person, as a currently grieving and broken-hearted loss momma.  There was concern about whether or not I was in a place where I could handle reading and watching this type of material in my current state--not to mention the cost.  But we prayed and decided that as we parted ways for the day, we would both continue to pray about it and see where God led us at the end of the day.  And as I found myself a few hours later, sitting on the floor of our Sunday School classroom,  re-organizing 100 FMN boxes, I thought more and more about what this would look like.   And I had nothing but questions on my mind.

How is this going to feel?

What if I get halfway through the material and it's too much for me?

Am I really capable of even making it through the class?

If I even get through the class and I pass the exams, what then?

What in the world would I ever even use this for?

Why me?

But every single question was met with the same response.

"Come with Me."

And the more I thought and the more I talked it over with God, the more I knew He was inviting me to jump.  To take a leap of faith, or whatever you want to call it.  To follow Him on the next path of this journey.  And to come and see what He had planned.  What He had in store.

And so, a week ago Sunday, I talked with my husband one more time.  And to my surprise.  We were on the exact same page.  Now I don't know about you, but I implicitly trust and respect my husband deeply.  And if something doesn't smell right, doesn't line up, I know he will have the wisdom to discern that--and I will follow him wherever he leads our family, for that reason among others.  And so I nervously texted Karen one more time to make sure she was doing this with me (please, like I could do something like this without her...!?), I punched in my debit card number.  And as the welcome information from the head of Stillbirthday began to pour into my email, I blinked back tears as I considered how significant this was.

See, the thing about this certification, about Stillbirthday, is that the whole idea is to be equipped to walk through and support any mother in any birth outcome in any trimester.  For close to two years, I have been surrounded by one birth outcome and one birth outcome only:  death.  This was a result of my own experiences and the experiences of the women that had crossed my path, but it was also a result of my own choice.  I gravitated towards it.  It's all I know.  With the exception of one friend--one friend--I have chosen to not be involved in or participate in any other pregnancy outcome.  Showers, gender reveals, announcements, even most of the meal set ups--I have run in the other direction.  And so, one of the reasons that this decision is so very significant for me is that I am willingly choosing to be exposed to healthy pregnancies and birth outcomes, in the training material if nothing else.  I could not, with words, describe to you how much of a stretch this is for me right now.  It's huge.

But there has not been a single day that the Lord has not confirmed that this decision was the one He had for me to make.  First, there has been the incredible sense of community and support that I immediately began receiving from the other women in my class.  They are kind.  They are genuine.  Many have suffered a great deal of loss.  They are supportive.  They speak the same language.  And they get it.  Then there has been the huge perspective change that has happened in my mind and in my heart.  I had never previously considered that a woman might choose to quit talking about the baby she lost altogether, for fear that her choices in the matter would invite only ridicule and hatred rather than compassion and understanding.  That she might just start saying that her ectopic pregnancy was a miscarriage because the thought of admitting that she induced a chemical abortion so that the baby growing in one of her tubes would not kill her was just too much to bear.  I never even would have thought about that, or how that might feel.  And then there was the new phrase I learned.  "my baby was born through miscarriage."  It took me an entire day to let that one sink in.  And for any woman who has ever had a first term miscarriage, or two, or three, you will understand why.  And the course content is no joke-- the videos, pictures, discussions, and reading materials-- and the "open book exams"?  They should call them open-heart exams.  Those questions cut deep.  And then there was the live birth video that I watched.  And I only made it halfway through and I felt a little nauseous when I turned it off.  But I watched it.  Voluntarily.  There was also the other video that I only made it halfway through for the time being-- the 40 minute training on how a birth and bereavement doula might bathe/help the mother bathe a stillborn 16 week old baby.  And as I watched it, I wept for the women who have needed and will need to know how to do something like that.  

And I have thought to myself more times in the last week, " I am so unqualified for this...That is the weirdest thing I have ever seen/heard...I had no idea that's what that meant...I never knew that...I never knew that....I never knew that...I could never ever do that."  And I truly have never felt so inadequate.  So freaked out.  And so in the right place.

So to those of you who might be looking at me and thinking, wow, are you really ready for this?  Is this really something you are going to actually do?  I don't have any answers for you.  I will be the first to admit that I have zero clue why God is asking me to do this right now.  But as a wise mentor reminded me last week, He would think nothing of moving heaven and earth, of taking me through all of this, for one person.  For one woman.  Who would need this kind of support, this kind of compassion, this kind of friendship and ministry, somewhere on down the road.  He loves each person so much that He would think nothing of that.  And I believe that is true.   And until such a time as He chooses to let me in on what He has planned in all of this, this is where I'll be.