Dear Shelomith . . . .

I’ve been thinking of what I wanted to say for months but now, as I finally sit to put words down, I can’t remember any of it.  So I’ll start at the beginning.

When we found out we were expecting you last July, we were thrilled!!  Our fourth child!  What fun! We started thinking about what to name you, wondering if you would be our third son or our second daughter.  We shared the news with relatives and friends and received many congratulations and well wishes.

Wen we told your siblings, they were pretty excited too.  Your big sister just stared; practically a baby herself, she just didn’t understand what we were saying.  Your big brother clapped his hands and jumped up and down!  Your biggest brother stared for a few moments and then asked, “Does that mean you have a baby in your tummy?” and when we said Yes, a huge smile spread across his face.  And then, everywhere we went, they told people about you.  The lady in line behind us at the grocery store.  A stranger at the library.  The hygienist who was cleaning their teeth.

I found myself pretty miserable during the early days of your pregnancy.  Exhaustion and nausea are normal for me, but it seemed that they were worse this time.  Many times I’d make a simple dinner for the family and not be able to eat it because the smells of the various ingredients had turned my stomach.  So I became friends with Marie Callendar and her frozen food buddies and worried about blowing our food budget!  But still, I needed to be able to eat.  I wanted to take good care of you, after all.

I am sad to say that I complained an awful lot about feeling yucky those early days.  I hung a poster on the wall for the children’s benefit, the poster that showed you at every month prenatally.  I read to your siblings from the poster:  how big you were this month, how you were developing; vitally important to help them connect to someone they loved but could not see.   But that was as far as I went with this.  I wish I had thought to take the time to praise the LORD for the wonder of you, growing inside of me, from a teeny tiny cell to a little cashew-like shape to your growing arms and legs.

I was just beginning to get over the early nausea in September.  We took a week for a hunting trip and The Bull and I planned out ways to accommodate for me growing you.  I was very nervous going into this week, but I look back on it now and I’m so glad we did that!  What great memories we have from that trip!  And you were a part of it, too.

Back home, I was cleaning up from the trip and settling into the second trimester.  Preparing to resume your brothers’ school work.  We met with our midwife at 13 weeks gestation and I was surprised that she was unable to find your heartbeat with her doppler.  Still, it was early enough that you were able to hide still (as your older siblings had!) so we weren’t too concerned.  But this was something that nagged my mind, and months later I still wondered about this.

Early on the morning of October 4, I woke with gas pains.  I tried a few things to relieve the pain but it wouldn’t go away.  I regretted having the chili for dinner Saturday night!  The thought crossed my mind that something was wrong with you, but  I quickly dismissed this.  I’d never had a problem before, never had any reason to think that something was wrong with any other pregnancy.  But within a few minutes it was apparent that this was not my body’s reaction to beans.  And then, there you were.

Your daddy came in, and he called our midwife and she arrived soon after that.  I held you and stared at you for the longest time.  I was hoping that this was all a bad dream,  but it was reality.  I could not stop looking at you and was amazed at how perfectly formed you looked.   You looked just like your big brothers except much smaller. You fit completely on the palm of my hand, all snuggled up in the classic fetal position with your hand under your head.  I was too surprised to cry then, but later that day (after we’d had a few hours sleep and began to share the sad news with people) it seemed that I couldn’t stop crying.

Your daddy and your brothers and sister went to the greenhouse and bought a tree for you, an evergreen tree,  and we planted it and prayed.  And cried some more.

I’ve had lots more time to cry since then: when a friend had her baby, when I went to the grocery store and saw (it seemed) every pregnant woman and newborn baby in town, when I saw on the calendar that you would have been 20 weeks or 24 weeks (thankfully I didn’t write any farther than that), when I washed your big sister’s ribs and remember how tiny yours were, or when your big sister asks “Where’s Shelomith?”, or when I see a baby that would be about your  age now.  When I had to put away the baby clothes that I had pulled out of the crawl space for you.  When we had family pictures taken. . . and you were not in the picture with us.  When I tuck in your siblings at night and thank God for them and the joy and all the fun they add to our lives. . . and wonder what it would have been like to have you and what you would have added to our family.  When I see the kids playing with a baby or talking to a baby and realize they would have been excellent with you, even your sister who was so young that I feared she wasn’t yet ready to not be the “baby” of the family any more.  When I clean up the high chair after dinner and realize you will never get to sit in it.  There are so, so many reminders, almost everywhere I look, that you are not joining our family as we hoped and planned.

This Bible study has been painful; it has brought up some comforting verses and some painful ideas.  It gave me something to do, something to focus on, when I would have been focused on getting our house and schedule ready for you to join us.

The month that could have been your birth month passed very painfully for us.  The days I would have expected you, you weren’t there of course.

I find that I wish I’d had an ultrasound, which would have given us a picture of you.  Wish we’d stopped in for another visit with our midwife at 14 or 15 weeks when we’d surely have been able to hear your heartbeat.  Wish I hadn’t complained about feeling lousy.  Wish we’d  have gotten farther than 16 weeks with you and could have felt you moving.  Wish we’d have been able to hold you for longer than just a few minutes or hours.  I wish we’d gotten to see what color your eyes were: brown, like mine? blue, like your daddy’s?  Would your hair have been thick and dark, and lighten over time like your siblings’?  Would you have had my nose or your daddy’s?

And yet, after all this, I am glad for the time we had with you.  I want to hold on to every moment knowing that it was all for you.  Weight gain?  That was you growing.  Nausea?  That was from the hormones that helped you grow too.  Exhaustion?  That was you too; it’s hard work to grow a baby.  I gave you all I had and I wish I could have given more, if it would have made a difference in keeping you growing.

I love it when people click on the link to see your name.  Sometimes I even go there myself, and click on the play button, just so I can hear your name (although we pronounce it differently.)  It is a reminder that you really were here with us, even though so few people got to meet you.

And now we move on with life, knowing that you are not with us and won’t be with us.  It’s like there is a big hole here that will never be filled.  But life keeps on marching.  Autumn turned to winter, and it was winter for a very long time.  And then, suddenly, it was spring.  Now it’s summer again and before long we’ll be back to autumn.  Now we are starting to have reminders of my pregnancy with you. . .  that was just last year.

I want to share some happy news with you now too.  You are a big brother now!  Notice that I did not say (as I might have a few years ago) that you will be a big brother.  This child that is now growing inside of me is as much a person as you were.  That is something good that has come from losing you, I guess, this knowing that you really were even before you were born.  Not that I doubted that before. . . but now I am even more convinced.

Now I look at your big siblings differently now too, try to have patience  with their little irritations and frustrations.  Realize (or try to realize) that it’s not a big deal when cereal gets spilled all over the floor or when the dirty clothes don’t make it to the laundry basket.  (Don’t succeed at this very well, sadly.)

Now I have been better able to cry with other hurting people now. . .so many are hurting with serious, deep,  painful hurts . . . it astounds me.  It is like losing you has ripped the cover off of the façade of life.  There is more to it than I thought there was.  And often, it’s not pretty.

Now I find that I need to keep track of the little joys in my gratitude journal journal.  There are some deep and painful times in life and yet there are sweet, wonderful times also.

I miss you, dear boy.  I love you.  We all do.  ♥

Thanks to the Sufficient Grace community for support through this Bible study.  Walking With You is their outreach program.

WWY: Threads of Hope 9

Lesson nine, the last study chapter of our Bible study, Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy, is called “Finding Joy.”

The first passage we discussed here is in Ezra 3:10.  The Israelites have just come back from 70 years in Babylon.  The temple and city of Jerusalem had been destroyed and  they had returned to find destruction everywhere they looked.

This passage is the account of what happened when the builders set the foundations for a new Temple.  It was a big event and the people gathered together.  The priests and the Levites, who had been appointed to praise the LORD, began their song: “He is good; and his love to Israel endures forever.”  And all the people shouted in praise!  What a wonderful time this must have been!

But the crowd was somewhat divided.  It says that some shouted for joy, but those who were old enough to remember the former Temple wept aloud.  And I don’t think this was weeping for joy, I think this was weeping in  sorrow.  Maybe they were grieving for their rejection of the LORD which had caused the destruction and captivity to begin with?  Maybe remembering the loved ones who had perished in the siege of Jerusalem or in Babylon?  Maybe just because they remembered the beauty and glory of the former Temple and this one just wasn’t nearly the same?

The study asks which group I relate to.  I can definitely relate better to the older ones who wept.  Call it a ghost town if you like, but the LORD had dwelt there in the Temple with His people!  His leaving and the Temple’s destruction were horrible, terrible, dark days for these people.  (And maybe He had promised to inhabit the new Temple, I don’t know,  I haven’t studied that far along.)  It was more than just the destruction of the building, it was a physical representation of their belief that the LORD had abandoned them.

Other verses in the study (Revelation 3:11 and 22:1) talk about our future home in heaven and how glorious and wonderful it will be, and I don’t dispute that at all!  These are wonderful promises!  It just seems so incredibly far away and some days it’s not helpful for me because it’s that pie in the sky kind of stuff.  I still have to get up every day and know that I don’t have my baby and won’t for a very long time.  Knowing that he’s in heaven and I’m not doesn’t make that sting less.

Psalm 137:1 is next.  I think that this is one of the saddest Psalms in the Bible. While in Babylon, the Israelites were mocked by their captors.  “‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’  How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?” Ouch!!  And yes, I relate to this one too!

A dear friend gave birth two or three weeks after I lost my baby and it was months before I could even look at him!  (Fortunately, she was very understanding and not offended.)

Even just a few weeks ago, we sat in church right in front of a couple with a small baby. I’m  guessing, based on his size, that he’d been born about the same time my baby would have been born.  My children were enthralled and kept turning around to look at the baby but my heart was aching.  I’ve done a fairly good job of ignoring babies for these past months, but this was too close to ignore.  :(

How can I be truly happy for someone’s new baby?  It is yet another reminder that I don’t have my baby.

Isaiah 43:18.  Honestly, I almost didn’t get through this one.  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

It’s just TOO similar to something that was told to me after my husband’s death.  It just so happens that I do not want to forget my husband.  And I do not want to forget my baby!  We did not get to hear his heart beat and we did not get an sonogram of him.  I never wanted an sonogram with the other children, but after miscarrying I wanted to cling to everything I could to remember him.

So. . . instead of giving up on the study, I cheated.  :)  I looked at what Kelly had to say about this passage.  And I remembered that the next chapter deals with a memorial for my baby.  So I am not sure what I need to forget (Kelly’s ideas sound pretty good) but I feel better knowing that the study’s authors are not saying to forget my baby.  (Especially when they talk about Isaiah 49:15-16: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?  Yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee.  Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”)

I guess this chapter is beyond my understanding.  Or maybe I’m not there yet in the grief process.  I am not sure what they mean about joy.  What would it look like for me to have joy?  Does that mean I’d no longer cry about not having my son?  Or not have the daily reminders of him?  People say that there is a difference between being happy and being joyful, but then go on to explain them both in the same way.  I’m not going to forget my  baby.  But I’m not seeing any big, profound benefits to losing him either.  More compassion for others who have lost children?  More appreciation for the children I have?  Those are good, but . . . I still want my baby!

And yes, even through the pain of this past year, there have been bright spots.  (That’s why I do the  Multitude Monday posts, to capture them and remember them.)   There have been sweet times, there is laughter, there are wonderful memories.  There have also been many tears and much pain.

I said that this is the last study chapter of this Bible study.  There is, however, one more chapter left and it deals with making a memorial for my baby.   I have been wanting to do something for my baby for months so I will take this opportunity for that!  I am very excited (and nervous, and scared) about this.  And maybe I should just keep this to myself?  But. . . I plan to post it within the next week.

Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries.

WWY: Threads of Hope 8

Lesson eight of our Bible study, Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy, is called “Learning to Let Go.”  I have about 20 minutes to work on this (instead of my usual 3 hours!! yes I do normally spend that much time on these posts, part of the reason why this one is over a month late!)

I’ve really been overwhelmed with life and stuff that’s going on lately and this Bible study seems huge.  It takes a lot of time (for me) to dig into the verses and then deciding what to blog about it is torturous!!  But I really want to finish the study (I started it, I should finish it!) so try I will.

I could relate to what Gwen Kik, the co-author of this book, wrote about hanging in a pit.  About a year and a half after my first husband died, I realized that I felt as if I was hanging on the edge of a cliff, clinging to the edge for dear life.  And yet. . . when I looked closer, it wasn’t so much that I was hanging on, but that the LORD was lying up there on the top of the cliff and holding on to me.  Even if I let go of my grip, I would still be OK because He had a hold of me and He wasn’t going to let go!

A few months after losing my baby, I was talking with a friend who has been there and done that four times!! and was (and still is) dealing with an immense emotional situation right now.  She talked about the passage in Luke chapter 8, where Jesus was on His way to heal the daughter of Jairus.  A woman in the crowd, who had had an issue of blood for twelve years and yet could not find relief from this from doctors, saw Him.  She knew that if she only touched the edge of His robe that she would be healed.  Her issue was more than just debilitating, she would  also be considered ceremonially unclean and banned from public gatherings (see Leviticus 15). . . she knew that she had no business being in the crowd and therefore (I think) did not dare to approach Jesus directly.

And yet she knew what would help her.  And indeed, immediately upon touching the hem of His garment, the blood dried up! And Jesus knew it too. . . this is such a wonderful picture of His grace and power.

Anyway, my friend mentioned that this passage was helping her  through this painful time she is dealing with and it resonates with me, too.  The only way that I will move on from losing my baby is to cling to Him.

In essence. . . in order to let go I must hold fast to Him. . . or am I being held fast by Him?  :)

I was also greatly encouraged in this chapter by the poem they included (which I will include here because I like it so much!)  I sent it to the aforementioned friend. . . it struck a chord with her as well in her situation.

On the Waters of Sorrow

O My child, I am coming to thee walking upon the waters of the sorrows of thy life; yea, above the sounds of the storm ye shall
hear My voice calling thy name.

Ye are never alone, for I am at thy right hand. Never despair, for I am watching over and caring for thee. Be not anxious. What seemeth to thee to be at present a difficult situation is all part of My planning, and I am working out the details of circumstances to the end that I may bless thee and reveal Myself to thee in a new way.

As I have opened thine eyes to see, so shall I open thine ears to hear, and ye shall come to know Me even as did Moses, yea, in a face-to-face relationship.

For I shall remove the veil that separates Me from thee and ye shall know Me as thy dearest Friend and as thy truest Comforter.

No darkness shall hide the shining of My face, for I shall be to thee as a bright star in the night sky. Never let thy faith waver. Reach out thy hand, and thou shalt touch the hem of My garment.

FRANCES ROBERTS, COME AWAY MY BELOVED (1970)

As far as the Bible verses in this chapter, my favorite by far was the account of the Transfiguration (found in Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9.)  This is the one where Jesus took his three closest friends up onto a mountainside to pray.  While praying, something happened, and suddenly Moses and Elijah appear with him and they discuss amongst themselves Jesus’ upcoming death.

Peter, James, and John (the closest friends) wake up and see the three talking and offer to make shelters (tabernacles) for them. . . and then Moses and Elijah are gone.

The study asks a question that I have been asking for a long time (and not getting an answer for!) which is:  How did Peter, James, and John recognize Moses and Elijah?

It’s been suggested that something in the conversation gave this away. . . perhaps Jesus referred to them by name. . . maybe they referenced events from their time on earth that the disciples would have identified with them. . . I still don’t have an answer for it.

But two things strike me about this.  One, that Moses and Eliajah are alive!  Still alive?  Alive again?  Hard to say.  And two, that the disciples recognized these men that they had never before met.

Both of these give me hope for when I (finally) get to heaven and can see my baby Shelomith (which means “peaceful”) again.

Next posting for this study (which may be another month yet, although  I hope to finish sooner; we’ll see what happens!) is the last chapter of the study, “Finding Joy.”

Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries.

WWY: Threads of Hope 7

Lesson seven of our Bible study, Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy, is “Moving On To Acceptance.”

I have been liking the “quilt story” that they include with every lesson.  It’s a beautiful picture (in words) of someone moving through grief.  So much of loss is similar, whether it’s loss of a baby (like so many of us have gone through) or loss of a dream or possession (as in the story) or loss of another loved one.  The details are different, but the emotions are very similar.   In this lesson’s story, the grand daughter finally connects with her dear, loving grandmother and they talk and talk and talk.  Then they start to put the pieces together and quilt.

The study book says: “Acceptance means facing the full reality of the loss of your child.  It is not the absence of pain, but learning to live with the ongoing reminders of your loss.”

A month or two ago I told my husband that it seemed that the moving through grief process was a kind of numbing or deadening of the feelings, moving from something that was terribly painful to–almost–a place of apathy.  I’ not sure this is true, though.  It seems that the pain will always be there.  I still find myself in pain sometimes over the loss of my first husband seventeen years ago.  And I think that I will still feel this  pain, and that of losing my son, and the dozens of other loved ones who are now gone, until I finally get to heaven.  I know that this sorrow and pain will not always be as severe as it is now.

One of my big “aha!” moments during these past few months of grief has concerned John 16:33“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Of course, after saying these things Jesus sat in the garden and sipped tea and nibbled on cookies in agonizing prayer, was betrayed, and crucified.  I think He knew a little bit about tribulation.  :(

But I have gotten the idea from things taught at various churches that “if we are truly trusting God we will have happy lives and no problems.”

At least, that’s what I’ve come to expect or hope for.

And I am here today to tell you that THAT IS NOT TRUE.  Why does it surprise me when hard times come?

I have heard of something called the “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel.  I think that one of the hardest parts of this mindset would be the looking down on others who have not achieved this “health, wealth, and prosperity” because they are obviously doing something wrong and therefore have struggles.  Which compounds a hurting person’s pain and grief immeasurably!

I am learning that we are to expect the opposite.  We should expect the car to break down on a rainy, windy, cold day or to have the rent check bounce because the paycheck was short or to have kids up sick overnight and have to miss their final skating lessons or to expect a foot of snow on the morning when you need to leave the house earlier than usual.

After all, Jesus did promise us this.  “In this world you will have trouble.”  This word “trouble” can mean affliction, oppression, distress.  And–it’s a promise, unfortunately, as much as I’d love for it not to be true.  “Please, LORD, promise me a life of sunshine and roses??”  Sadly, that won’t happen on earth.

But it’s also a promise that He has overcome the world. And that means that it had already been done at that point.  I had thought that this was what He did by dying on the cross.  Apparently it was done by that point!  Wow!  How’d He do that?  Maybe by living without being sucked under by the sin and yuk of the world?

Still, I’m not totally sure how that could be comforting though.  We are still going to have to face the pain of life, but we are not alone as we do so.  And we know that someday it won’t be like this.  Because He has overcome the world, we can hold on to Him?

My time for this study has run out so I can’t talk about the other verses in this lesson.  Gotta run!  Hopefully I’ll be able to get next week’s lesson,  “Learning To Let Go,” done quickly.

Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries.

WWY: Threads of Hope 6

This is the sixth lesson of our Bible study, Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy.  This lesson, called “I’ve Got To Get Better Soon,” focused on the busy-ness of grief.

It is hard for me to understand this because my days are full.  I am home schooling the three little ones and trying to keep the house tidy (not spotless) every day; it seems that I am on the go all day long.  (But I never get to the end of the to-do list and I am realizing that I never will!  I am also a task-oriented person . . . this is hard for me.)

I mean, are there really people who have no obligations, nothing to do, who make things up so they will be busy? I don’t get that.  And even while I am busy with the things that need to be done, I am rarely so busy that I forget about my miscarriage.  Maybe a few times?  More often than not, the things I am doing bring constant small reminders.

The study asks about activities that have helped me stay busy since my miscarriage.  Early on, I did not do very much as I was dizzy, weak, and trying to come to terms with what had just happened.  I spent time sharing the sad news with friends and family, trying to find answers to the WHY questions, and resting.  The Bull took some time off work to take care of the necessities around the house and our church family brought over meals.

The first month (October), I eased myself back into school and house duties.  I felt that it would be good for the children to have some bit of our normal routine back again, but tried not to do so much so as to overdo my energy and end up sick.  With the help of a couple of friends, I made a beaded necklace to help me remember to pray for my children.  It was a little memorial for Shelomith.  I also started a thing that a friend had shared with me, a gratitude journal.  And I wanted a knitting project, so I started on a pair of matching shawls for myself and my little girl.  (Finished them in February or March.)

In November I wrote a novel.  It was a fictional story based on the events that we had just lived through.  (It’s still not yet finished; need to get back to it!)  I also cut my hair really short (my own version of the “sackcloth and ashes” and a long donation to Locks of Love.)

In December we put up a few decorations for Christmas, although my heart was not in it; another thing done for the children’s benefit.  I also organized a holiday party for our good friends.

January, February, and March were blurry for me.  Lots of tears, school work, dishes, laundry.  There have been several new crises to try to handle.  I have also tried to make the effort to visit with friends more often–every week or so.  Also started this Bible study.  There was a particular song that I played on the piano (I’ve all but neglected this for a month or so!)  I cried every time I played it, but it eased the hurting a bit.

Have the activities helped or hindered. . . they have all helped.  Some more than the others.  The gratitude journal has helped with my tendency to consider the worst of every situation by looking for the blessings, the silver linings.  Writing the novel was hard, painful; and yet, so beneficial.  As my fingers flew over the keyboard and the tears flowed down my cheeks, I found there was peace also.  I have wanted for a while some tangible reminder to pray for my children and the necklace, although I don’t normally wear jewelry, has been great.

The only thing that didn’t help was that party in December.  A small problem was blown way out of proportion and I could not understand why.  I felt that my mothering was attacked.  It took a few weeks to understand what had happened there; that morning marked a turning point as the “brain fog” finally lifted.

The classic example of busy-ness in the Bible is the story of Martha and Mary in Luke chapter 10.  We have previously met these ladies in chapter four of our study, when we discussed John chapter 11.

The story goes that Jesus was visiting with them and Mary sat to learn from Him, while Martha was busy with the housework.  When Martha complained, Jesus answered her that Mary had chosen the better part and did not need to be corrected.

And I, the task oriented person that I am, bristle with this one!

Life is work.  We are not here on earth to sit around and twiddle our thumbs and watch the sun rise and set.  For me, housework takes a lot of time, and home schooling is quite time consuming also. Having guests come over is great fun, but lots more work.

Time management is difficult for me.  I underestimate the time it will take to do things, then I am always behind.  I love the times that I can sit down with my Bible, but I don’t have unlimited time.  If I go long on the Bible study, I fall behind in other areas and end up running late all day.

We have taken the story of Mary and Martha and turned it into a warning not to be too busy with life.  So much so that a woman can feel guilty about doing the chores that need to be done!  So what if there are dirty dishes piled everywhere and the kids have no clean socks or jeans?  I am busy with my Bible study and that’s more important.

Actually. . . they are both important.  I know, life is all about balance.  Do some Bible study and some house keeping, right?  Well, I’m trying that.  But the house is never clean all at the same time and the Bible study is late every week.  :(

I think that even more important than balance in the Mary/Martha story is the attitude towards work.  It says that Martha was encumbered, distracted, by the housework.  (verse 40.)  It says she was careful, anxious; disturbed, disquieted (verse 41.)

I have also wondered if the “quiet time” idea (where we read, study, pray, sing, etc., for a certain time every day) can lead to a fractured day.  “God time” (aka, quiet time) and “other time”  (the rest of the day.)

I prefer the idea I got from Ann Voskamp, which is to live every day and every moment of the day in communion with God instead of leaving Him behind when the Bible study of the day is done.  She calls it a “one piece life” and talks about it here.  This is a high and lofty idea and I am not achieving this right now, either.

Maybe I need more of the Mary part while living out the Martha.  Getting the stuff done without neglecting God or my family or friends.  Time spent doing chores with the children could be a time of fellowship with them, training, acknowledging the LORD through it all.

Okay, so I have agonized and wrestled with this posting for four or five hours!  I’ve written and rewritten and edited and deleted lots of what I wrote initially.  Am I missing the point of the lesson?  Am I doing exactly what they are saying not to do? Am I complaining too much?  I don’t know.  And I just don’t have time to discuss the rest of the lesson now, sorry.  Maybe next time.  But I’m done now.  :(

Next week’s lesson:  “Moving On To Acceptance.”

Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries.

WWY: Threads of Hope 5

This is the fourth / fifth weeks of this Bible study, Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy .  (I wasn’t able to post last week.)  This lesson, “How Can I Go On?” dealt with some big feelings: depression, loneliness, guilt, loneliness, and fear.  (I guess you know which was biggest for me this time huh?)

This lesson started out with looking at Biblical examples of expressing grief (they use “grief” and “depression” interchangeably; really, though, they aren’t.)  In Esther chapter 4 we have the traditional sackcloth-and-ashes-and-loud-weeping-and-wailing thing.  I almost wish that kind of thing were still culturally appropriate.  What is considered normal–having a little memorial service with some words and songs and a dinner afterwards–just seems so lacking.

The study asks if I allowed myself to be sad initially, and now.  I was a bit taken back by the question.  Of course I have!  Are there really people who don’t??  But then again, it seems that people believe that we must not let our emotions show, that it’s a sign of weakness or something.  But the more I think about it. . . . if God made us and if He made our emotions, shouldn’t we do something with them?  Not that we should be overly emotional all the time; but there has to be some honesty here.

I was talking about this topic with a good friend whose husband is ill; she mentioned a friend who worked hard to keep her children from knowing that Mommy was sad (etc.) while her husband was deployed.  It seems to me that this would be a gret opportunity to address these emotions that she and her children were feeling, rather than ignoring or denying them.  My friend (whose husband is ill) talked about sharing her hard feelings and fears about her husband with her children, and it has been a growing time for them each–individually and as a family.

I just don’t like this idea that we must as christians only be sunshine and light.  That just doesn’t make sense to me.  Life can be quite painful at times.  We have these big, difficult emotions and they need expression.

OK, off the soap box for now. :)

More verses of grief in the Bible:

Psalm 6:6 (KJV): “I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.”

Psalm 6:6 (NIV):  “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.”

This Psalm starts as a prayer for David to be delivered from God; it is a prayer for mercy.  After this verse the focus turns to David’s enemies.  I love the poetry of the swimming bed.  I can relate to this a bit.

Psalm 56:8 (NIV): “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll– are they not in your record?” (OR:  “put my tears in your wineskin“)  This is a psalm of David, written when the Philistines had seized him in Gath.  Very interesting too.  Why would the LORD want to save our tears?  Maybe there is value to them that we don’t realize.

Psalm 126:6 (NIV): “He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”  This is a Psalm from the time when the Israelites had returned to their land from being captives.

In the KJV, it says: “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves [with him].

So, this Bible study asks what it means by “carrying seeds to sow” and “carrying sheaves.”

The word “precious” is meshek, meaning drawing or drawing up a trail of seed.

The word “seed” is zera, meaning seed or offspring.  Hmm.

And the word “sheaves” is ‘alummah, meaning sheaf, sheaf of grain, something bound; figuratively, Israelites returning from captivity.

So, if you take it in its context, this is talking about how sorrowful the Israelites were to be leaving Israel and how joyous it was when there were allowed to return.

On a personal level?  I’m not really sure.  Is this saying that if we mourn or are sorrowful in pregnancy, then we will rejoice when we return with a “bundle” of joy?  This was true for me three times; pregnancies have been difficult and I am relieved to have the baby born.

But that fourth pregnancy was a doozy; the difficulty of pregnancy did not end with a bundle of joy.  Even worse, “getting pregnant” no longer means “having a baby.” :(

The next question is, “What must we do to return with songs of joy?”  The verse says that those who sow with tears reap with joy.  Sowing with tears, sowing seeds despite the tears?  Keeping on going even though life is hard?

The next section of the study deals with loneliness.  This has been a very hard one for me.  Initially, there were several close friends who were supportive and encouraging.  By this time, five months later, just a few.  :(  I suppose I could reach out to them more, but I know they are struggling with their own difficulties and life too.  I don’t want to over burden them.  And honestly, I am tired and it is too much effort to try to reach out to people sometimes.  I hate the phone and even simple emails are hard.  (Shoot, I’m doing this Bible study two weeks late, okay?)

The study talks a lot about Luke 22, where Jesus is in agony in the garden and asks His disciples–His closest friends–to stay near him and pray.  Of course, they fall asleep almost immediately.  They were sitting near enough to Him that they could have heard His prayers and seen His tears, but they weren’t able to minister to Him.  They were exhausted from sorrow, it says (verse 45.)  In Matthew’s account (chapter 26) Jesus said that their spirits were willing but their flesh was weak.

There is a parallel, I guess, to reality.  Our friends are close enough to see our grief and pain and could minister to us.  But because of their weaknesses, they can’t.  We also have a hard time ministering to friends who are hurting.

The study points out that Jesus often went by Himself to pray and that we can do the same.

The study asks “Have you allowed Christ to comfort you or have you sought the comfort of others instead?”  Seriously?  Do they really think we ought not to seek comfort from friends?  I think think that idea is ridiculous.  Both are needed.

At the same time, I have come to realize that my need for comfort is so great that my friends cannot fill it all.  They can help in bits and pieces, yes, but we’re talking a Grand Canyon of pain and a thimble of comfort.  The only One who can completely comfort me is the LORD.

The section on guilt didn’t do much for me, sadly.  They listed the classic verses about guilt like Romans 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (NIV)

And Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Maybe I’ve just heard these verses so much they don’t do much for me.  Maybe I’m just too tired to really dig into them or think about them.  Maybe guilt isn’t too big of a deal for me right now.  I don’t know.

The last section, about fear, touched on some interesting ideas.  I do have more fears now than before miscarrying.  Like I mentioned above, “being pregnant” no longer means “having a baby” in my mind.  A friend had her baby shortly after I miscarried and when I told my boys that she was going to the hospital, my oldest asked, “Is the baby going to die?”  See, there’s this whole reality that we never really had before.  I was glad to tell him, the next day, that our friend and her newborn baby were fine.  But it was an agonizing day for me, too.

The verses about fear are familiar and slightly comforting to me.

Isaiah 41:10 and 13 (NIV): “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” and “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”  I really like the idea of the LORD holding my hand.

Psalm 23:4-5 (NIV): “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Romans 8:15 (NIV): “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.‘”

And the ever popular II Timothy 1:7 (NIV): “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg as far as scriptures with the message of “do not fear.”  I once heard a quote about the number of times “DO NOT FEAR” was found in the Bible and the number astounded me.  (But I don’t remember now and I’m too lazy to google it.)

My question, then, is how does one “not fear”?  When it’s a sunny day and there is enough money to cover the bills and everyone is healthy and well rested this is an easy thing.  But when it’s cloudy and rainy or snowy and unexpected and scary stuff starts to happen. . . suddenly the bad stuff is more real and scary.  I know that playing the “what if” game is a horrible habit to get into and that most of the things we fear will never come to pass.  And yet, looking at the different scary possibilities can help if we use these ideas to do something different or plan as we can for them.  I guess there needs to be a balance.

Or do we really just need to “turn it off?”  This seems too much like sticking your fingers in your ears and closing your eyes tight “la la la la la” and hoping it all goes away.

One of the classic ways people are taught to not fear is to quote Bible verses.  Like I said, there are a bunch to choose from!  And yes, this does help me sometimes, but not always.

Next week:  “I’ve Got To Get Better Soon.”  Yea, verily.  :)

Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries.

WWY: Threads of Hope 4

This is the third week of this Bible study, Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy .  This week’s lesson, “Why Me?” was actually about anger.

This has been a hard study to do.  For one reason, it has been an especially busy week.  I spent several hours last Sunday that now seems to have been an utter waste of time, instead of preparing for the school week and doing this study.  And it just set me back all week.  (It looks like next week holds a lovely set of difficulties, too. We’ll see how it goes on Monday. I’m praying it won’t be as bad as I fear!)

Another reason for the difficulty of this study is that anger is a really hard thing to discuss.  I’ve heard, in Christian circles, various statements from”We should not be angry” to “It’s okay to be angry, it’s how you express or handle it that is the problem.”  I’m not sure which statement is true.  Even after this study I’m still not sure.

There is the often quoted Ephesians 4:26-27, “‘In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  (Which I just learned is quoting Psalm 4:4, “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”  Interestingly, in the King James version it reads a little differently:  “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.”  Hmmm. . . .  interesting.  I don’t get it.)

There is also the great passage about Jesus angrily evicting the money changers and sellers of animals in the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17John 2:13-16.)  This also seems to imply that there is a proper expression for anger, some way that is not sinful.  (Except, really, that scene in the Temple?  The Bible says that Jesus never sinned; but I read this passage and scratch my head!  Looks like sin to me!  I think if I’d have seen it in person I’d have been a little hesitant to go to him with my child for healing or blessing.  But maybe I’d have been thrilled to see him kick the wicked thieves out of the temple?)

On the other hand, we have such passages as James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  I guess it’s not technically saying “don’t be angry,” but “don’t be quick to become angry.”   So maybe the problem with anger is if it is your first reaction?

And then there’s Psalm 37:8-9:  “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.”  Personally, I get really irked when I hear about injustices against people, especially those who are unable to defend themselves.  So I like this passage that talks about the evil people getting what they deserve.  It’s certainly a better attitude than getting angry about things I cannot change.

Another thing that makes this week’s study difficult is that I don’t feel angry.  It doesn’t seem truthful to say “I am not angry about my miscarriage,” but I have spent a fair amount of time this week pondering this and praying and not coming up with who I am angry with, or what I am angry about.  I feel very sad, horribly sorrowful, disappointed that what I wanted to happen didn’t come about.  I know that I have a hot temper.  I think it is accurate to say that I am easily angered.   I have been known to deal yell when I am angry and some days it seems I yell all day long.

(Of course, it could be just that this week and this coming week are so difficult and sad that I’m in shock.  Got some difficult news Monday and some downright painful news Tuesday.  Check back next week, maybe I’ll be furious. :< )

One thing I have learned the past few years is that anger is often not a main emotion.  Often a person feels hurt, frustrated, irritated, lonely, sad, annoyed, disappointed, afraid, unloved, etc., and this emotion is expressed in anger.  I have seen this many times in myself!  (As an example, if I am watching an emotional movie and one of the kids gets into trouble I may lash out against them.  I’m not truly angry with the child.  I am sad, afraid, irritated, whatever about what is happening on the movie.)

On the other hand. . .with whom should I be angry, anyway?

The biggest group of people with whom I have found myself angry this time around is the people who give stupid, thoughtless, and/or trite comments.  Yeah, I know my baby’s in heaven; but knowing that doesn’t help my aching heart right now. Maybe I can have another baby, who knows?  (I know:  God does.)    And yes, I am very grateful for the lovely children I already have.

(Honestly, though, after my first husband died I received such awful comments that I have severely limited the people I talk with about this miscarriage, so thankfully have not had too many nasty comments this time around.)

After talking about this topic with my hubby tonight, he pointed out that the regrets I have (wishing I’d not complained so much while pregnant, etc.) are a form of anger with myself.  But as this week’s study pointed out, I had no responsibility with miscarrying.  Neither did my husband or our other children.  Even our son that I miscarried had no say in the matter (I did hear that idea, interestingly.)

The only one who had any control over whether or not my baby lived was the LORD Himself.  I guess you could say this is His fault.  And I suppose I could be angry with Him, except that I read and hear of His great love for us; of His plan to bless us; of His desire to see us grow and mature even in the difficult times.  I don’t understand why He allows such painful things in our lives.  But I know I’m not the only mother who has lost a baby and some stories I have heard just sound so terrible.

Besides, He is the one who heals us.  Deuteronomy 32:39, “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.”  Which reminds me of another verse:  John 6:68-69, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.

One of the passages we read this week is John chapter 11, where Lazarus dies.  Martha and Mary individually greet Mary and say the same thing initially:  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (verses 21 and 32.)

Martha, however, continues her statement.  “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”  I just know she’s asking Him for something, but I’m not sure what.  I don’t think it’s to resurrect her brother right then and there, because of the discussion that follows.  Maybe she wants the LORD’s assurance that Lazarus will live again?

Jesus’ reaction to each of the women is different; and I believe that it is significant that he rebukes neither of them, which I take as a statement of “there is no wrong way to grieve.”

With Martha, he discusses deep theological concepts like life after death.

With Mary?  He weeps!

I have found myself weeping before Him; clinging to Him, as my Rock, the One who can make this all better.  I know that nobody else can.  Angry with Him?  Yes, at times I have been.  But who else can I trust?

Next week:  “How Can I Go On?”  I’m all ears for the answers because I have to continue with life here somehow, even though I’d much rather take a nap.  :)

Walking With You is an outreach of Sufficient Grace Ministries.

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