Thursday, May 29, 2014

I am Sorry.

Yesterday, I found out that a friend had lost her father. As I wrote a message to her earlier, I thought about all of us who have lost someone. As a friend, this is my letter to you. 

Dear Friend,
I am sorry for your loss. I am sorry that everything I say will seem empty, even though you will say thank you. I am sorry that I cannot fix it. I am sorry that I cannot bring back your loved one. I am sorry that I am not there to just cry with you. 
I am sorry that I will say something that will hurt you more than heal you. I am sorry that I will forget about your loss in the chaos of my own life. I am sorry that I will forget that you will still be dealing and reeling from this pain longer than I anticipate. 
I am sorry that you will face hard days to come. I am sorry that you will be distraught at birthdays, holidays, and special events that your loved one should have been in attendance for. I am sorry that many days, you will feel like this burden is yours and yours alone to bear. I am sorry that I will forget to help you bear that burden. I am sorry that you will feel alone. I am sorry that I will forget to say nothing, and forget to just sit with you and cry with you because that is what you need. 
Most of all, I am sorry that I, as a friend, will never be enough to help heal your heart that is broken.  
I am sure you feel a void right now, but one that isn't quite a void. I am sorry that you will be in shock for a little and that the reality of your loss will come at you like a tsunami. I am sorry that you may have felt like prayers for healing went unanswered. I am sorry that any hope you had for healing, has been diminished. I am sorry that saying they are with Christ, and with our Lord, will not help the fact that you can no longer hold them, or love them here. I may not know the extent of your loss, or even the challenges you will face with it, but I am sorry that you will face them.
I am writing this to let you know that it is okay. It is okay to be whammied by the suddenness of loss. It is okay to question God on why He allowed this, is it okay to wonder what His plan is. Please, do not question that He does have a plan. When we question His ultimate goal, we can learn His purpose. When we question His goodness in order, we question our faith. When our faith is questioned by us, it is shaken by us. Do not give Satan the opportunity to shake you. 
I am sorry that you will start to see people acting normal again, way before you are ready to. I am sorry that you will feel like screaming "Doesn't ANYONE REMEMBER?!". That's okay. The grieving process is different for everyone, and if you need more time, that is okay. Don't let anyone tell you differently. I trust you. I trust that you know the truth. I trust you know where our hope lies in life and in death. Because I trust you, I will not pressure you to be done with your grief before you are ready to be. The truth is this: you will never be done grieving. You will remember your loved one at the most random times, important times, and special times. Something someone says or does may remind you of them. I am sorry that you will be overcome with emotion in those times. I encourage you to not look at others' processes with the grief and wonder in your mind's eye how they can be doing so well. Comparison in this will leave nothing but inadequacy, dissatisfaction, and bitterness in your heart. I am sorry that you will have to let this circumstance refine you. 
I am sorry that some days you will feel like you have been fighting an unending war and you will be too tired to put your armor on. That is okay. On those days, remember that God has already won the war. Allow Him to shield you on these days, rest in Him on these days. He will take care of you, I promise. 
I am sorry that you will have good days, that might turn into bad ones. I am sorry that guilt might become a constant companion for awhile when you have good days. I am sorry that you will have awful, seemingly insurmountable bad days. I am sorry that I will more than likely not see those days. I am sorry that asking for help, or for a friend will become hard. I am sorry that you will feel like a burden on others. I urge you to remember that guilt is a tool of the enemy. I encourage you to remember that we have a God at whose feet we have the ability to lay down all of our burdens. I am sorry that this will be hard. 
I am sorry that you will need to be gracious with others that try to say the right thing to help, and instead hurt you more. I am sorry that you will have to remember that they will need to be gracious with you as well.  
My friend, it is okay to be hurt, it is okay to cry, it is okay to be confused, it is okay to still be grieving, it is okay to feel alone, it's okay to feel like no one understands, it is okay to not plaster a fake smile on your face, and it is okay to cry during any moments of worship or prayer. It is okay to display 'weakness'. There is amazing strength in weakness, my friend. Christ was weak in the Garden, but allowed himself to be refined and molded. He was physically weak on the cross. Weakness is where desperation for our Heavenly Father comes--weakness and broken hearted-ness is where He meets us, where He holds us, and where He continues to love us. I am sorry that this will be the hardest thing to remember most of all. 
I am sorry,
I remember feeling many of these things as Simeon and I were going through our own losses. Maybe not everything we went through will be the same for everyone, but still, my heart aches for my friend. I ache knowing that the grief isn't just neatly tied up with a pretty bow as it seems many would like it to be. It's messy. It's dirty. It brings up sins and parts of you, that you didn't even know you had. You may feel like less of a Christian because everyone says to trust and not to question. But when we question correctly, we get closer to the character of our Lord. May we always remember our actions compounded with others' grief. May we always strive for being their friend above being their 'fixer', or their personal 'judgement'. May we remember who God was to us in our darkest, and reflect it. I am sorry if this offends anyone. I am sorry if you don't agree with what I wrote. Most of all, I am sorry that yet another person who Christ and his family alike treasure, is no longer here. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

He is Sweet

I sit here thinking of the past years of Simeon's and my marriage. So many moments encapsulated in sweet bliss, hysterical laughing, and complete togetherness. However, I also think about the moments engraved with bitterness, resentment, and blame--for both of us. I think about how far we have come, how far we have yet to go, and how much more we will have to fight to not become limited by bitterness.

2 years ago, Simeon and I went to an adoption summit (or was it just one year ago?) that was introduced by us. It's called 447 Summit, if any of you have the opportunity to go, I would encourage it! It is such an amazing way to just witness the calling placed on men and women's lives for adoption. When we were there, we had the opportunity to meet Nate and Sara Hagerty. Sara has a blog called "Every Bitter Thing is Sweet" . As I learned her story (she is a wonderful writer and speaker), I was reminded of my own bitterness. We had just lost Hezekiah, and I was grasping for anything for hope, for peace, and for simple understanding.

I see bitterness that takes root in my own life, and in others. Are we holding bitterness against others? Are we holding bitterness for the cause of others? I will be honest here, I don't know much about bitterness and where it would be considered right according to our Lord, but this I know from personal experience--it divides. In dividing, it can easily conquer. In association with my last post, about gossip and being a friend that loves at all times, I wonder if we have bitterness in our hearts, if it is remotely possible to be that? If we are resentful towards one (or for the cause of one) can we be the friend that God demands of us--to our spouse, to our friends, to our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, in-laws, pastors, leaders, and to those in authority over us? I don't think that God calls us to be friends with everyone, but I do believe that He calls us to love beyond our limited thinking that induces resentment, anger, separation and bitterness.

In Sara's testimony, she talks about the struggle her and her husband went through to get pregnant, for much longer that Simeon and I. How their plans weren't happening and how it wove bitterness through her heart until she made a choice (I really hope that how I am remembering this is accurate.). She read the verse from Proverbs 27 and explains how it affected her heart here: To The Hungry Soul... , her first blog post. Whenever I think of bitterness in my own soul, I think of this verse, her testimony, and the restoration in her relationships with her husband, with Christ, and with her future children (at the time).
Proverbs 27:7 

One who is full loathes honey from the comb,
    but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

It makes me think...what am I hungering for? What are you hungering for? What you hunger for is a direct line to what is bitter in your life and what is sweet. Am I hungering for a child, for things, for money, or am I hungering for Christ to transform me? Are we going to let bitterness dictate our actions and our thinking or are we going to let Christ be the transforming variable?
Job 21:25 

Another dies in bitterness of soul,
    never having enjoyed anything good.

Proverbs 14:10 
Each heart knows its own bitterness,
    and no one else can share its joy.

I know what it is like to hold on to bitterness because of how comfortable it is. It's hard work to make things "taste sweet". It is so easy to be stuck in a rut of bitterness for or towards others or life's circumstances, but in holding onto it, we miss out on the joy and the good. We live in a cage of mirrors when we live in bitterness. All we see is ourselves, or the ones we love hurt. We don't see outside of it. In the midst of this, one simple question comes to mind--Are we going to be bitter, or are we going to be better?

Again, there is no good segue into our pregnancy update, and I am quite dubious that there will ever be, but I will be okay with that.

"You Know You're Pregnant When..."

1. You feel like the female pig statue at the corner of 14th and our street
2. Laying on your stomach feels really weird...not really uncomfortable...
3. Your grocery budget has been exceeded by quite a lot in the past 3 months
4. You're down to your "painting shorts" for the summer because they were larger to begin with and they are the only ones that are comfortable on your waist.
5. Everyone asks you the same questions (Morning sickness is going away, albeit slowly, and otherwise I feel fine, we are about 16 weeks along, we aren't finding out the gender, I think it's a girl, next appointment is tomorrow...the list goes on and on...)
6. You wait to find out the gender simply because your husband and you couldn't agree on a gender reveal that you both liked and figured that the best gender reveal is when the baby is born.
7. Laundry is a much bigger chore because you run out of staples much faster since everything that used to fit is slowly being packed away every other time you fold laundry.
8. You truly value bowel movements much more (TMI?)
9. You have a nightime schedule. You go to bed, wake up at 4 every morning, go pee (even if you don't think you have to, because you do, you know you do), go back to sleep only to wake 2 hours later out of starvation--literal "I-am-going-to-die-and-throw-up-at-the-same-time-if-I-don't-eat-something" starvation.
10. A secret anger ignites every time you want something to eat and it's out of season--cherries. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

He is Pure

As I am at the 14th week of this pregnancy today, I figured it would not only be a good time for an update, but also, what is on my heart.

Lately, I have been thinking about how many people I know are criticizing others instead of loving others (and I find myself criticizing the people I view as 'the critics'...beam much? Matthew 7:3). I have been convicted to just love. The sad thing is that we all have different viewpoints...what's wrong, what's right, what's good, what's bad, how situations should be handled and how they shouldn't be--the list is never ending. What's really been placed on my heart, though, is that if you are a believer in Christ--we ALL have the same Savior, the same Holy Spirit, the same God. We ALL have come from a place of death, and have been covered by His grace and mercy into a place of life.

Does criticism and gossip bring life or death?

James 3:1-12 "Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships for example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire and is itself set on fir by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tress bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."
James1:26 "Those who consider themselves as religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves. Their religion is worthless." 
Proverbs 16:28 "A perverse person stirs up conflict,  and a gossip separates close friends."

Do we know everyone's struggles? Do we know their timeline of getting over their grief, their pain, their betrayal, or their strongholds? I ask these questions, because I have been so guilty of this lately. I would encourage everyone to love, to care for their 'friends'. If we can talk about them---we can love on them. 

Proverbs 17:17 "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity."

Job 19:19 "All my intimate friends detest me, those I love have turned against me."

Proverbs 22:11 "One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend."

Proverbs 17:9 "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends."

What are we doing to cover offenses? To stay closer than a brother? To heal wounds? Are we taking sides? I remember during my miscarriages, a passage in Romans that stood out to me. 

Romans 12:9-21
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love.Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
I guess, the best way that this has woven itself into my heart is through this pregnancy. We all face something in life---it is a fact. I just pray that when my son or daughter (and even future children) go through one of those "things" that they have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. That they have a friend, right next to them crying--not because they understand, but because they love my child. I pray that my children are forces of greatness and healing in relationships with others instead of one who separates. I pray that my child will cover offenses with their love, and not point them out with judgement. I pray that this child, who is growing every week, will foster a love for Christ that translates to others. One of my favorite songs to describe this is "Words" by Hawk Nelson. Take a listen, even if you know it:

I can't find a good way to transition into an update. That bothers me so very much from a writing perspective. Anyway, I am feeling pretty good. I thought a funny way to update would be a segment that I notice throughout each week or couple of weeks or whatever so....

You Know You're Pregnant When....

1. People look at you with the question "Is she fat or pregnant?" in their eyes
2. You order maternity clothing that's "sized the same way before you were pregnant" and it doesn't fit.
3. You cannot plan a meal simply because as soon as you make it, you want something else.
4. You feel accomplished simply because you cleaned the kitchen, OR, laundry---but never both.
5.You have a super power---it's called your nose, and you can smell a little girl eating cheerios over 2 rooms away.
6. You could sleep all day, all night and still be tired....oh wait, you have to wake up to go pee, you have to readjust your nest of pillows every 30 minutes, you're wide awake at the most random times....the list goes on an on!
7.You're husband is quite literally the bravest man alive because he got you the food that was the only thing you thought you could stomach that day (peaches, pickles)
8. You have to eat All. Of. The. Time. Seriously. Or else you feel sick.
9. Your husband definitely starts appreciating C's and D's instead of A's and B's. (Please don't criticize this...please?)
10. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING fits right. You're too small to show off your cute alien-like bump, and too big to fit into normal stuff.