Firstborn From the Dead

My heart breaks when I think that Ginny may have been struggling in my womb as she didn’t get enough nutrients or oxygen to survive. Was she in pain? Was she hungry – did she feel the lack? I was as physically near to her as I could possibly be, yet I was not there for her. I had no idea she was struggling. And when her spirit left, I could not go with her. I didn’t even know she had gone. A mother should see her child through all of life’s milestones and challenges. She should walk her into her first day of school or into the doctor’s office. She should be there to explain what to expect and to offer comfort and reassurance. I could not walk with Ginny through death. I could not explain or reassure her where I had never been. I didn’t even get a chance to try. 

Two things give me comfort when I have these thoughts. 1) I’m reminded of the peace I felt during Ginny’s birth. God was so near; it was palpable. I know if He offered that nearness to me during Ginny’s stillbirth, certainly He also offered it to her in her final days. 2) Scripture shows me that Ginny was not alone in passing into death. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. He has passed into death, and He has been born back into life. He could walk with Ginny through that milestone in a way in which I never could. He walked her through death and into life in heaven by the power of His love and resurrection. She was never alone. None of us will ever be alone. 

Daniel’s grandmother graciously offered to place a memorial stone for Ginny in front of Great-Grandma Ginny’s gravestone. We have a place to go to remember Ginny alongside family members who have died before her. What a special honor! We got to see the stone for the first time in person during Christmas. It blessed us so much. 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Jeremiah 1:5

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood cross.” Colossians 1:15-18

“Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” Revelation 1:4

“You have allowed me to suffer much hardship; but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.” Psalm 71:20

Dawn in the Valley

The shadow in the valley 
turns dark as night. 
In the long wait for dawn,
will there ever be light?

Will redemption come 
when new babies cry?
Or does the heaviness stay
because others still die?

The broken world claims
another poor little one. 
Is there beauty for ashes
provided by the Son? 

Help me to wait for 
the sky to break light anew. 
Through your eyes show me
what you want me to view. 

There is laud in lament.
There is joy in the sorrow.
There is love in grief.
There is hope in tomorrow.

Man of Sorrows

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:3-6

We live in a broken world. There is evil in the world. There is grief, pain, and injustice. Sometimes it hits us in the face. Sometimes it kills us. 

It hit Jesus in the face, and it killed Jesus. That’s why he is called the Man of Sorrows. His life was full of adversity. Plots to end his life started from his birth. He was a refugee. He wasn’t taken seriously. He was hated for questioning authority. He was hated for hanging out with shady people. He was hated for helping the wrong people at the wrong time. He was hated for speaking the truth. He didn’t feel safe in the city. He was a threat to the powers that be. He was beaten. He was murdered by authorities without a fair trial. He deserved none of that. It was injustice and evil that brought him to death. 

On the cross, he bore the blame of all our iniquity and transgressions. He carried all our sin, sorrow, afflictions. Because of this he is well acquainted with our grief. He has experienced our suffering. He knows the pain. His heart breaks with ours. 

“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:5

But the death he experienced did not get the final word. The power of God overcame death. The power of God brought healing. 

And when Jesus left Earth again after being resurrected, He didn’t leave us alone. He left a Helper, the Holy Spirit. 

“I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:7-8

The Holy Spirit is with us and empowers us with the power of God to also overcome evil.  We do have the power through the Holy Spirit to change the world. We have the power to overcome darkness, inequality, injustice, violence, and fear. We have the power to comfort and help each other in our suffering. Through the Holy Spirit, we can bring more of heaven here. We can bring justice, peace, and love. We can change the world by loving our neighbors. 

We need to stop, be quiet, and listen. Listen to the Holy Spirit, listen to the Word, listen to the brothers and sisters around you with an open heart. When you get a nudging from the Holy Spirit on what to say or do, follow it! 

“For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:12

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there his no law.” Galatians 5:22

We are not alone in our suffering. 

The Man of Sorrows is acquainted with our grief. 

He is broken hearted. 

He empowers us by giving us the Helper. 

Listen.

Love.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

Title: Man of Sorrows, Artist: Unknown Artist 15th Century

Pandemic

After losing someone, things that used to be unthinkable are believable now. Something happens in your brain when you realize the unimaginable can happen to you. You aren’t immune to difficulty. Suddenly the crazy things seem realistic and possible, like this pandemic. 

There are some other things that I’ve realized through loss that are coming in handy now in this time of uncertainty: 

  • Sometimes when we cling too tight to things in our lives (jobs, school, money, security, health, even loved ones), we are reminded we aren’t really in control. We can easily lose anything we thought was ours. Who knows what the future holds? We have to hold things loosely in trust. Hand it over because it’s not yours. 
  • There is immense strength in the human spirit. We are stronger beyond what we can imagine. I’ve seen this in myself, but I also witness it all the time with people who I’m around at work who are battling cancer. We can handle much more than we think. We can survive and thrive.
  • God is with us in times of trouble. He is not hidden from us.
  • There is opportunity for good in this time. That doesn’t make the hard things easier, but it does bring some hope. 
  • This time of stillness is a gift. We often struggle with busyness and being consumed with all the tasks and activities of the day. Now is the chance to embrace the stillness. Let’s not waste this time. This is an opportunity to realize who we are outside of our careers and activities and social life. Let’s experience God’s love for us and our families’ love for us outside of those things. Just based on who we are, not what we do. 
  • If we are fortunate enough to be quarantined with loved ones, let’s make the most of this extra quality time together. Let’s never take this time together for granted.

My heart goes out to those who are fresh in grief during this time. Things are already hazy and bizarre. I can’t imagine adding a pandemic on top of that. It must truly feel like a nightmare. With everything going on, let’s not forget to reach out to those who are grieving.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10

One Year Ago: The Day of No Heartbeat

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.

22 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

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.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Woodwork / True Love

Woodwork by Sleeping at Last

i hear your heart
as it beats beneath
the sound of crashing cars.
as the sirens pour
into every street
surrounding us,
our world caves in on us
and makes us new.

all our love came out of the woodwork.
all our strength came out of the woodwork.
we only notice light
when darkness crashes against it.
we only notice light
deep in the woodwork.

i still hear the song
as it rings beneath the sound
of shattered glass.
in the aftermath,
the melody, it carries on
while we come undone,
and makes us new.

all our love came out of the woodwork.
all our strength came out of the woodwork.

we only notice light
when darkness crashes against it.
we only notice light
deep in the woodwork.

it’s a cruel, cruel trick
how we find ourselves
when we lose everything else.
like a train wreck,
the sound of your breathing hits my ears.
our world reappears
and it breaks us new.

all our love came out of the woodwork.
all our strength came out of the woodwork.
all our trust came out of the woodwork.
we only notice light deep in the woodwork.

I loved this song before losing Ginny, but after losing Ginny it became so much more real to me. The song is about how love, strength, and trust “come out of the woodwork” during a difficult time. It’s a beautiful idea, and it is so true. 

My love for Daniel grew so much deeper during our loss. In the whirlwind of shock and grief, we clung to each other. God drew close to both of us at once; it was so obvious. He pulled us together in love. 

I don’t know what I would do without Daniel. He takes such good care of me. In the first days after Ginny’s birth, he followed me around the house to make sure I was never alone. He was always near if I needed a hug. He knew me well enough to know that’s what I needed.

We listen to each other and try to be aware of what the other needs. When one of us has a wave of grief hit, the other is there to talk to or distract or just hug. When we both are heavy hearted, we are there to cry in each others arms. Knowing we have each other really does give us strength to get through this. 

I knew Daniel was an amazing husband, but I had no idea what an incredible man he really was. In the darkest, hardest moments, he was everything. Even though we have lost so much, I can’t help but feel blessed at how much love we have. 

We aren’t an anomaly. At my job, I have the honor of interacting with families going through serious illness or injury. One thing that has stood out to me so loudly is how much love there is. I witness true love. It’s not a fairy tale “true love’s first kiss” kind of love. It is far more magical than that. It is the “in sickness and in health” kind of love. True love. True devotion. People who care for each other in powerful and meaningful ways. They make each other laugh, encourage each other, do everything together, and serve each other so well. When one becomes weak, the other is there lifting them up. It’s heartwarming and inspiring. 

I’m sure that love is always there, but it does have a way of coming out of the woodwork when we need it most. It’s healing and hopeful and amazing. I’m so grateful for it. 

Comfort Zone

When someone experiences loss, they not only have to face their new reality, but they also are bombarded with philosophical and societal questions. These questions would be hard to face in the best of times. 

Do I actually have no control?

Why did this happen?

Was God in control? How could he let this happen?

What does this mean about my reality?

How would my situation be different if I was in a different place or time?

How would grief be handled differently if I was in a different place or time?

Could this been prevented? Should this be prevented?

These questions expand your world view. You think differently than you once did. You realize that we truly do live in a broken world. 

It becomes impossible to go back to sitting atop your Maslow hierarchy pyramid, staging your perfect Instagram picture.

You can’t help but see your neighbor in the depths of their own pyramid. You have to jump down to meet them there – maybe to help, but most likely to just be present with them there. 

When you see the fullness of life that’s brought forth through suffering, you don’t shy away from suffering the way you once had. You don’t ask advice from the person with the perfect life you’ve always wanted. You now ask the person who has been through the wringer. You aren’t afraid of interacting with people in pain. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to interact with them than the “happy” people. 

When you witness or experience suffering it is often difficult to go back to “normal” life. Many people don’t go back. Students on a missions trip choose to be full-time missionaries. Patients become doctors or nurses. People become social workers, first responders, service men and women, foster parents. These people run toward suffering, knowing their life will be fuller. A comfortable life is not a full life. A pretty life is not a full life. Love is more powerful in pain than it is in comfort. 

Most of us face suffering because we have no choice, but once you have faced it, you find yourself able to walk with others who are going through hardship. That’s a gift. 

You see suffering in places you never looked before. You may have ignored the experiences of someone different from you. You now see their pain, and you don’t look away. You stay there with them. You try to understand. 

Reaching out of my comfort zone used to mean giving a big presentation at work or signing up for a challenging project. It was an opportunity to expand my skills and climb the ladder. Now stepping out of my comfort zone is talking to people I wouldn’t have, admitting things I used to never admit, sharing my heart, and truly listening to others. There’s much more love in these things. 

The Evolution of Hope in Hardship

I’m going to describe my experiences. Everyone’s experience is different. I’m still on my journey. Some days are more hopeful than others. Along with all of my blog posts, these are my thoughts at the moment.

Hardship hit when we lost Ginny earlier this year; we were completely heartbroken. How do we get back to a place of hope after that? It has been an evolution. Hope today doesn’t look like what it did in those first moments. In those first moments, hope looked like survival.

It was something we couldn’t conjure ourselves. We could barely live the next minute. How could we look for hope? 

We didn’t need to. God was right there immediately. We cried out, and he held us right away. How can I describe it? It was like a warm blanket of love covering us, surrounding us. Taking some of the weight off of us. It was undeniable. It was perceivable. It was a “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). I never truly knew the Holy Spirit as comforter until that moment. 

While sitting with Daniel after we received the terrible news, I remember quoting Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” I had never been in the shadow of death before then. I had never felt God with me in this way before. Just to know we were not alone was hope to get through that moment. It was the hope we needed. 

That comfort got us through Ginny’s birth and the first couple of days. When it was clear that we might just physically survive this, we had to look to the future – the big empty dark future. Grief was so so heavy. Waking up each day and continuing was exhausting. How could this possibly be okay? God answered that it is not okay, but love is bigger than this loss.  Our love for Ginny and God’s love for us is bigger than we knew. Love is bigger than this terrible thing. Love doesn’t make it okay, but love does make it worth it. Our love stays with us. That’s all the hope we needed for those next moments. 

As the weeks went by, I spent more time thinking about heaven. I thought about what it’ll be like when I’m reunited with Ginny in heaven. One of my biggest comforts was the thought that our time apart is a small blimp compared to the time we will spend together in heaven. I thought a lot about our understanding of time and eternity. I thought about how small this time of sorrow is in the scheme of eternity. I thought of Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” This isn’t to minimize our suffering, but it is to put it into an eternal context. We are not separated forever; we are separated for now (that’s still so painful). 

An eternal mindset is not one that looks forward to heaven one day. An eternal mindset is one that brings heaven to the here and now. Our love for Ginny is not dead; it is here with us now and it will continue to grow. Our reconciliation with God is not for a future state; it is for here, now. Embrace the love, embrace the good news, embrace life that’s yours. 

Part of embracing life is to keep your eyes and ears open to what the Holy Spirit is showing you. Throughout my life, I’ve continually been attempting to grow closer to god and hear his voice. I feel like I’ve made small strides through the word, worship, prayer, and relationships. But it is when something big like this happens that you can make huge strides towards God and his will for your life. When my life is flipped upside down, I am finally truly listening. I’ve made real changes in my life and career. My path has crossed with others in unbelievable ways; it is clear God has brought us together. I’m not sure where all of this is going. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m where I am supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It gives me excitement and hope for what’s next. It feels bigger than the plans I’ve made in the past. In my life, I feel heaven got a little closer. 

This connection to heaven, this eternal mindset, this realization of love bigger than loss, and this fear-quenching comfort have given me the hope I need to keep moving forward. I’ve never needed this much hope. Now I need it, and I have it. 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

When the Answer is No

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” – Matthew 18:19-20

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” – John 14:13-14

These were the scriptures I had in my heart when Daniel and I were begging for Ginny’s life. In that dark ultrasound room, the technician said that she was having trouble finding the heartbeat. I started panicking. Then I remembered that my God works miracles. The technician left to get a doctor, and Daniel and I prayed harder than we’ve ever prayed before. In Jesus Name Ginny Will Be Born Alive!! We are asking for a MIRACLE! Please please let Ginny grow up. Give her life! Please FATHER!!

The doctor arrived, “I’m so sorry.” We had our answer. I was shocked. 

I was in shock that Ginny was gone. And I was shocked that the answer was no. I had faith! I believed! 

I’ve seen miracles. I know of pain gone, cancer gone, accidents avoided, lives spared, lives restored, unexpected provisions. I knew God could. But God didn’t.

God said no then swept us up in his arms and comforted us. I could very strongly feel his love for us and his broken heart, and yet the answer was still no. 

That whole night and next morning, I knew my family’s prayers. They were praying for more than my peace. They were praying for a miracle. They hadn’t had the chance to petition God for Ginny’s life. 

That’s why I was not surprised when we got to the hospital and my mom asked the doctor to “double check” that Ginny was gone. She didn’t mind when the doctor said that they had double checked yesterday. She knew God could raise her from the dead. But I had my answer. I did have the chance to petition. I knew in my heart the answer was no. In tears I told my mom, “She’s not here.” She accepted that, and we moved forward with the induction.

In the days since, I’ve been drawn to passages that I’ve glazed over in the past. Passages I didn’t want to focus on before. Passages of “no”. 

One of these is 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 where Paul describes a “thorn” in his flesh. A physical ailment that he asked God to remove three times. God answered no each time and responded that his “grace is sufficient for you.” God did not answer in the way that Paul wanted. God used Paul’s pain to reveal the power of his grace to cover all weaknesses.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Another even more powerful example is when Jesus is praying before his betrayal and crucifixion. He asked that this “cup” (his fate) be removed. It was clear that the answer was no in Matthew 27:46 when Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus had to face his fate and bear the sin of the world on that cross.

“And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” – Mark 14:35-36

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli lema sabachthani?’ That is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” Matthew 27:46

In looking at both of these examples, we see the pain and suffering of the moment. But we know the bigger story and can see the eternal context. We can zoom out and see God’s grace covering Paul’s weakness. We can fast forward three days and see Jesus’s resurrection and the redemption of the world. The moments seemed hopeless and desperate, but that is not the whole story. Love and grace get the final say. 

I don’t know much, but perhaps the same is true for our stories. In the moments that God answers no, we only see disappointment. But maybe one day we will be able to zoom out and see the whole story in an eternal context. Maybe we will one day know the “third day” of our situation – one that stems from the redemption of Jesus’s third day. 

During my pregnancy, I prayed for two babies. I prayed for Ginny, and I prayed for a friend of a friend who I heard had a terrible diagnosis. From genetic testing, it was determined that this other baby had a very high probability of having a genetic disorder incompatible with life. The mother chose to carry her baby to term. A few weeks after losing Ginny, I heard that the other baby was born after an emergency delivery – perfectly healthy. No trace of the disorder. It was truly a miracle. He answered our prayers with “yes”. His will be done. 

Triggers

In grief sometimes you feel alright, like you might have made it through the hard stuff. Maybe you will be better from now on. Then it hits… again. Grief comes in waves. Sometimes the waves come for no reason and sometimes they are triggered. 

Triggers can be what you’d expect, like holidays or a due date. Sometimes they can come out of nowhere.

I can see 50 babies stroll by and be fine, and then for some reason the 51st baby makes me break down in tears. I have no idea why.

I think the most random and unexpected trigger I experienced was when I was lying on the couch. My head was resting on my arm. I faintly heard my pulse through my arm and suddenly started weeping. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I realized it was the sound of my heartbeat that made me cry. It was the first time I heard a heart beat since Ginny’s. It was the first time I actually heard a heartbeat after my ears were expecting one on that Monday afternoon. 

Some triggers aren’t bad. They can still make you cry but out of love. Sunflowers are a beautiful trigger for both me and Daniel. Ginny’s nursery and pregnancy announcement had sunflowers. They remind us of her and our love for her. Daniel studies sunflowers, so daily he tends a greenhouse full of them. I know that must be hard for him to be surrounded by triggers, but it is also a sweet reminder of the love we have. 

Some of our friends know this. One couple left a vase of sunflowers on our porch on the 6th-month anniversary of Ginny’s birth. Another sweet friend planted sunflowers in her garden. I’m so grateful that they remember Ginny. 

While sunflowers trigger an outpour of love, other triggers lead to bitterness. The worst is when someone complains even though they are so blessed. It is especially bad when someone complains about being pregnant or about having a newborn. At best I’ll cringe; at worst I’ll have a breakdown. “I’m so over being pregnant.” Don’t you know how lucky you are?! I don’t know what’s worse – your ungratefulness or your ignorance!

I try to keep myself from getting bitter. I try to put myself in other’s shoes. It is really hard to be pregnant, and it is really hard to care for a newborn. It is legitimate to complain. I know these challenges are a part of life, but knowing what it is like to be without, I just want people to be grateful for what they have. It is hard for me to have sympathy. It feels like someone winning the lottery and then complaining about a small paper cut the check gave them. 

If your baby doesn’t breastfeed, you are blessed. If your baby doesn’t sleep at night, you are blessed. If your baby has colic, you are blessed. If your baby survived the NICU, you are blessed. If you got to hold your baby alive, you are blessed. Don’t take anything for granted.

I got to hold my baby’s body, and I will always treasure that memory. I’m so grateful for it because I know not everyone even gets that. 

I want people to rejoice and celebrate their babies! Admit and proclaim your blessings! You won’t jinx it, I promise. I love when my friends post pictures of their families with gratitude. “How did I get this lucky?” “I love my little family!” These posts make some of the bitterness melt away for me. 

This experience has made me more aware of triggers in general. Am I triggering someone going through a hard time? When I posted a happy 34th wedding anniversary message to my parents, I thought of my friend who was recently divorced. Did this post trigger her tears? That thought would’ve never cross my mind before my grief. We shouldn’t stop sharing life in fear of triggering someone, but we can be more aware and considerate. 

I felt so terrible the other day when I was walking along the street after dinner. I was telling Daniel how full I was, “I’m stuffed! I shouldn’t have eaten that dessert.” Then I realized I just walked past a homeless man who was probably hungry. I’m sure he thought, “Don’t you know how lucky you are?! I don’t know what’s worse – your ungratefulness or your ignorance!”

Perspective is everything. We should try to step back for a minute and pay attention to those around us. Are we taking anything for granted? What can we do to help someone replace bitterness with love?