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. 

I Place My Hope

A couple weeks after Ginny died, I was sitting in a coffee shop listening to the song I Place My Hope” by Ellie Holcomb. When I heard the lyrics, they took on two meanings. Hope meant what we typically think of hope, but to me hope also meant Virginia Hope The song says, “I will lift my eyes from this fragile life, For you will rescue me, you are my prince of peace, And I will lift up my soul to you who makes things whole, Oh, mercy love of old, in you I place my hope” I imagined holding Ginny’s fragile body and placing her in God’s hands. I imagined him making her whole in heaven. I surrendered my hope for Ginny’s life to him. It was heart breaking and also freeing. 

I began to realize I need to place all my hope in God. I had no choice but to surrender my hope for Ginny. But what other hopes do I need to place in him? After the loss and grief, it is easy to surrender my own life to God. I was so raw and had so little vision for my life; I needed God to make me whatever he wants me to be. I almost didn’t have the strength to lead my own life so I give it to him. 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11

In other areas though, it would be much harder to completely trust God. What do I love and cling to too much to trust God with? Definitely Daniel. The thought of placing my hope for Daniel’s life and our marriage in God’s hands scared me. He means the world to me. I can’t lose him! But the truth is, I have no control anyway. My worry and fear and clinging does not add a day to his life. Handing him over to God is an act of trust but it is also just coming to terms with the truth that I have no control. 

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” – Matthew 16:25

The same is true for the lives of our potential future children. I can plan and plan, but really I have no control. I found myself thinking, “If we do decide to try for another baby, we should time it so the baby isn’t born in flu season.” I caught myself and laughed at my own hubris – 1) like I can even decide when we get pregnant, 2) as if non-flu season gives me power to protect my baby’s life. I have to continuously make the conscious decision to surrender control of our future children’s lives. I hand them over to God because he is the one with control and he is who truly knows best. If he gives them or takes them away, they are his. I can choose to trust and praise because we have hope in both life and death. 

“And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’” – Job 1:21

What is the benefit of surrendering and placing hope in God instead of myself? The physical will disappoint every time, but hope in God does not put us to shame. It is freedom to enjoy moments without worry. It is trusting that no matter what happens, our future is full of love and unity. It is no more fear. We don’t have to try to protect ourselves by holding anything back. We can go all in. It is setting our eyes on something bigger and more beautiful. It is embracing the fullness of life. 

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:5

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” – Colossians 1:17

Be Still

Sometimes it feels like God plucked me out of my old life and placed (or more like threw) me into my new life. It’s like God looked at my life and said, “I have bigger things for her” and then moved me like a chess piece. 

I typically don’t think of God as the “big guy upstairs” who moves us like board game pieces. God isn’t like that. He’s a loving and intimate light that flows deep into my life and heart. But looking at my life over the past year, there have been some drastic changes that I was dragged through kicking and screaming. 

I’ve always prayed that the Holy Spirit guide my path, and I’ve truly felt he has. Throughout my life, my paths were laid straight toward “success”. I felt God opened doors before me at all the right times. Up until a little over a year ago, I always felt I was where I was supposed to be. Last year, I was following the path that made the most sense. I had opportunities toward career advancement open before me. But for the first time, I felt like the Holy Spirit was leading me toward something different, something off the beaten path. I hesitated for weeks. Those weeks were the most anxious and unrestful of my life. I finally followed where God was calling me. I quit my job and decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m sure some people thought I was crazy for leaving such a great job and so early into my pregnancy. It was a hard decision, but I felt peace about it.

That decision forced me to shake my old identity. That decision made it possible for me to be present for the moments I had with Ginny, and it gave me the time to grieve after losing Ginny without worrying about getting right back to work. I’m so grateful for that. 

That decision also left me with a big dark unknown future after we lost Ginny. I didn’t have the faintest idea what the future held without Ginny. I had no vision whatsoever. I couldn’t go back to my old life, and all my future plans were destroyed. I had to put all my trust in God and hope even when it didn’t make sense. We gave Ginny the middle name “Hope” long before we knew we would need the reminder. I knew God’s plan for my life was beyond what I ever planned for myself. I knew it was something that I couldn’t envision myself. I would need the Holy Spirit to guide me. I would need to be still and listen. 

In my old life, it took so much effort to be still. I knew Psalm 46:10 said “Be still and know that I am God.” Easier said than done in a busy life. When I did take the time out of my day to be still, I couldn’t shut my mind off. Thoughts of work and life constantly interrupted quiet time and meditation. Most of the time, I was too tired to even try. I always felt refreshed afterward, but making the effort took a lot of energy.  

When Ginny died, my world stopped. I didn’t have anything to prepare for. I was unnervingly still. I felt God’s presence so strongly. This closeness was what I was searching for in the past; now it fell effortlessly in my lap. This isn’t how I wanted to be still. God, I wanted to be close to you in thanksgiving. Do I really need to suffer to know you in this way? Why didn’t you keep this from happening and then draw near to me in celebration?

I’m starting to slowly realize that God was actually near all along, but I didn’t always see him. It is like my suffering was a potent paint stripper that cleared everything else away so God is all that’s left. It hurt to clear everything away, but I can finally see what was underneath the whole time. I can finally see what was covered up by my busyness. It is God’s comforting presence. It’s God’s purpose for me. 

I still don’t have a fully defined vision for my future, but I do feel that the Holy Spirit is gently walking with me down an uncharted path. There have been moments of immense clarity and joy and hope that I know I would’ve never experienced on my old path. I’m trying to be deliberate to not fall into busyness and distraction that is so easy to fall into; it is the default in our culture. I want to fully embrace and appreciate my ability to be still. 

Body Image / Vessel

Body Image

When I was pregnant I used to joke that one of the best parts of pregnancy is not worrying about sucking in my belly in pictures. I could let it all hang out. I could blame all “pooch” on baby bump. No more “burrito” baby or “pizza” baby; I had a BABY baby! I never realized how self-conscious I was about my belly until I didn’t have to worry about hiding it anymore. 

Same as most women, I constantly found flaws with my body ever since middle school, if not earlier. I felt like my thighs were too big, I had cellulite, my legs are too short, my hair is too flat. Do my gums show when I smile? Am I walking with my feet out? It’s all silly, petty, vain. We all do it. We should all stop. 

I never had more body confidence than when I had my big, round belly and larger (albeit weirder) boobs. I know not all pregnant women experience this increase in body confidence during pregnancy, but I am grateful I did. I remember one of the last days of pregnancy when I was at my biggest. I was goofily dancing around rubbing my belly telling Daniel, “I’m really rocking this preggo-bod!” He wisely agreed. 

There is so much beauty in a pregnant woman’s body – growing life. She’s glowing for a reason. It really is beautiful. 

After losing Ginny, I was humbled in several ways, but actually body image was not one. The self-consciousness that I had pre-pregnancy didn’t return. I wasn’t loving my body the way I did while I was pregnant, but I didn’t feel bad about the way I looked. I attribute this to three things:

  1. When you are grieving a loss, you just don’t care about things you used to care about. Petty things don’t seem to matter at all. You only care about what’s important. (RE: Fear and Freedom)
  2. Becoming a parent (which I consider to take place as soon as you find out you’re pregnant) changes you. You lose a bit of shame. Life is no longer all about you so you don’t care as much how you look or how you are perceived. I think this is a good thing. 
  3. I could no longer watch the family vlogs and baby youtube videos I had watched everyday during pregnancy. I found a new non-triggering topic to watch, body-positive fashion videos! I highly recommend Sierra Schultzzie and Carrie Dayton videos. They are all about shopping for mid-sized bodies and loving your body. I chose these videos because they are light-hearted and not family-focused, but their message has actually started to sink in. 

Even without carrying a baby, our bodies are incredible and beautiful. We should not hide our imperfections or feel ashamed of ourselves. We should be proud of our bodies because they are part of who we are and they allow us to do all the things we do. 

Pregnant or not, we should all be kind to ourselves and appreciate our bodies. They aren’t perfect, but they are ours and they are beautiful. For now, I’m rocking my burrito-baby bod unashamedly!

Vessel

I wrote that Body Image post a few weeks ago, and I did not post it. The post is true, but it somehow isn’t the whole story. When I think about my body now, it’s true that I’m not ashamed of how it looks. I don’t really care to have the perfect body. But would I say I’m happy with my body?…no, but not because of the way it looks. 

If I’m honest, I’m mad at my body. My body failed Ginny. I gave my whole body to take care of Ginny, and it still wasn’t enough. It built her and then abandoned her, and it didn’t even let me know. How could it let me survive and her die?

A couple weeks ago in church we sang a song called “New Wine” by Hillsong Worship. I struggled to sing it. The lyrics I faltered on were, “In the crushing, In the pressing, You are making new wine…When I trust You I don’t need to understand, Make me Your vessel, Make me an offering, Make me whatever You want me to be”. 

I gave my whole body to take care of Ginny, and it still wasn’t enough…for what I thought Ginny’s life would be. It was however enough for what Ginny’s life actually is. God had numbered her days (Psalm 139:16). He knew she would only live in the womb for those months, and he knew his purpose for her. My body served her for the days she had. My body was the literal vessel for Ginny’s life on Earth. It was a role that was physically and emotionally painful but full of love. God called me into this role. My body is an offering for the person that I didn’t get to raise. But she is in heaven with no pain or fear or struggle. When I trust, I don’t need to understand.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” – Romans 12:1

In addition to Ginny’s life, I know God is using this experience to bring new wine out of me. I love and empathize more. I’m helping others who are suffering, and I feel God’s presence in a new way. My brokenness and loss is being used for some good. As the other lyrics say, “Where there is new wine, There is new power, There is new freedom, The kingdom is here.”

“And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to do.” – Jeremiah 18:4

Make me whatever you want me to be.

Fear and Freedom

I am a living witness. I have witnessed death – inside my own body. Besides a near death experience, I can’t imagine getting closer to death and surviving. Death caused me to cry out in despair from the deepest parts of myself.

Because of this, I am not afraid. 

It wasn’t until I experienced the despair that I truly understood that I would never be alone and I would always be comforted. It wasn’t until the loss, that I actually comprehended the hope of heaven in the life to come and in the here and now. I am confident that no matter what I face, the love will outweigh the pain. 

Does this mean I will never struggle with fear again? That would be nice, but I seriously doubt it. I think I will need to remind myself of these truths again and again. 

The day after coming home from the hospital, I had a moment of anxiety and started picturing horrible things happening to others that I love. It became real to me that bad things do happen and no one I love is immune to tragedy. Fear gripped me. As I have always done when I’m scared, I ran to my mommy. I told her about my fear of awful things happening to everyone I love. I thought she’d assure me these were my hormones talking and nothing else bad will happen. Instead she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Aimee, we’re all going to die.” “Ugh! Mom, this is not what your are supposed to say to me right now!!” But then she continued, “We have hope in death, and it really is okay.” This is true. 

For survival purposes we mostly live our lives in a state of denial and avoidance of the thought of death. Because of this, there is always a big, dark elephant in the room. We ignore it. We hide from the fear instead of face it and process the idea of eternity.  When we do process it, there is freedom. 

Let me describe the freedom that I am experiencing: 

  • Being close to death changes your priorities. Have you ever heard someone ask, “When you are on your deathbed, will you be glad you spent your time the way you did?” Death puts life into perspective. Pointless things that once seemed to matter, suddenly no longer do. It becomes clear how you should spend your time. You focus on love instead of stressing the small stuff. The truly important things become more precious. You don’t waste your time.
  • You view your life in terms of eternity. This life is only a small phase in the timeline of your existence – the pain will be over. You’ll see your loved ones again. You won’t be lonely. Your body won’t drag you down forever. Your heart will be light soon. 
  • You realize you have no control. You have free will, but some things are just completely out of your control. This powerlessness forces you to trust and surrender and let go. You don’t have to carry the weight or guilt of living in perfection. You don’t have to hold your breath.
  • You no longer care so much what people think of you. You only have so much time to do what you’re called to do on Earth so just go for it. You put yourself out there in new ways (i.e. this blog). You have freedom from your pride and the things that once held you back. 
  • You have a more intimate relationship with God. He is near to the brokenhearted. In that nearness, you show him your brokenness. Through your weakness, he is strong. That weakness includes anger, frustration, jealousy, misunderstanding. You take your anger to God. He can handle it. He has more than enough grace for you. He loves you in your anger. He empathizes with you in your pain. He holds your faith in your unbelief. You are closer to him in a new way, forever. His grace and love surround you.

This freedom has changed my life in almost every area. The wail of a mourning mother is more than pain. She’s forced to look straight into the darkness of death. God’s light shines on it – it purges fear. Raw freedom and life are left. At least this is true in my case, right now, as one who lives in hope.

I’m sure I will fear again. When I do, I will lay it down at the feet of Jesus. He carried all our fears to the cross. Fear has already been overcome. We just need to live in that reality. The power of the name of Jesus is enough to chase away fear. It was enough to chase away death. Pick up the freedom that belongs to you.

Beauty of Suffering

How could a good God allow such suffering in the world? I think at some point we all ask that question. We don’t really have answers, but I feel closer to the answer now than ever before. My perspective on this has changed significantly now that I have endured some level of suffering. 

Similar to grief, suffering is more complex than I once thought. It is possible to simultaneously experience suffering, pain, sorrow, as well as deep joy, peace, hope, and love. Those feelings are not mutually exclusive. Joy and sorrow coexist. 

In our culture, it seems the main goal is to avoid any suffering. We want to be comfortable. We are meant to thrive. Sometimes it feels like being uncomfortable is failure. To suffer is a betrayal of the American dream. We preach that if we have faith enough – if we are obedient enough, God will give us prosperity. I do believe God wants to bless us, and he wants what is best for us. But that may not align with what’s on our vision boards.  

We are not promised a life free of hardship. In fact, we are promised suffering and persecution (2 Timothy 3:12, 1 Peter 4:12-13). Can you think of any God-follower in the Bible who did not endure hardship? Everyone will face difficulty. We are promised hardship, but we are also promised comfort and peace (1 Peter 5:10). That promise has been fulfilled in my experience. 

When we found out Ginny had passed away in my womb, our world came crashing down. How could this happen?! Everything was going so well! I had never had to face any true difficulty in my life. This happens to someone else; this doesn’t happen to me. I’ve prayed for protection and health. This can’t be happening! When I finally realized it really was happening, I also realized God was wrapping me in his arms of comfort, love, and peace. The pain was so strong, but at the same time I felt held. He was so near, nearer than I have ever felt in any worship service or quiet meditation. I thought I should be asking, “Where are you God?!”… but he was clearly right there. I thought I should be asking, “How could you let this happen?! Don’t you love me?!”… but I felt so so loved. 

I didn’t ask those questions. I didn’t even pray at all. I felt him in our presence. I didn’t need to pray; he was part of everything we were going through. Even since, I no longer pray for him to be with me. I feel him with me. I don’t pray for this wish or that wish to come to pass. I pray his will be done and for my understanding and peace. Often I don’t know what to pray, and I know the Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf (Romans 8:26). He truly is near to the brokenhearted (Psalms 34:18).

In suffering you find yourself in a place where you actually NEED Jesus; you need Jesus to get through to the next hour.

You surrender to that reality. When you can no longer hang on, you have no other choice but to let go. There is freedom in surrender. Letting go of control allows you to stop tiptoeing in life and step firm footed. That’s when you experience his love to a new level. You experience mercy to a new degree. You let go and fall back.

Long ago I prayed, “Dear Lord, make my heart more like yours.” Famous last words. If you want a heart more like God’s, it will be broken. It will be broken because his heart is broken and so your heart can grow. It grows in capacity to love and empathize. It grows in its appreciation of life. It grows in hope for the future. The comfort you receive gives you courage to face any challenge. You realize you never have to walk alone (Psalm 23:4). There is a fullness of life in this. In John 10:10, Jesus promises life to the full. I thought that meant we would be given many blessings, but now I understand that it means our lives will be full of love, grief, comfort, brokenheartedness, and all the intense feelings that come along with suffering as well as blessings. It is a full life. 

I used to avoid anything sad; I wanted to focus on being positive and choosing joy. I would never have read this blog. Now I feel I can actually face pain, fear, and suffering and not look away. I have the courage to look at it straight on. I can face it now because I know from experience I don’t have to carry the burden. Jesus already carried the burden (Isaiah 53:3-5). I can help others face it. I can share with them the comfort I’ve received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-6). 

We have been called to suffer along with Christ, to bear our cross (Matthew 16:24, 1 Peter 2:19-21, Romans 8:16-18). To live like Christ is to have sorrow…. is to have pain…is to have peace…is to have freedom. To live like Christ is most importantly to love

This may be obvious to those who have witnessed a suffering world full of prejudices, fear, and injustice. But for a white, educated, “#blessed” woman in America, this is a revelation. 

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:4-6

Control

“I am not the creator and sustainer of life.” These words on the page of my Loved Baby Devotional stopped me. I repeat them to myself. I am not the creator and sustainer of life. I don’t know if they make me feel better or worse. This wasn’t my fault, but how I wish I was in control. 

I knew I was not the one who breathed life and spirit into Ginny. That was a mysterious, amazing process that comes from God, and I have little insight. I did however assemble the cells… at least my body, my hormones, my genes assembled the cells. And I decided when. I stopped taking birth control pills and tracked my cycle. 

I certainly believed I sustained her life. I never missed a day of prenatal vitamins. I followed the rules… no alcohol, no sushi, no deli meats, no ibuprofen. I exercised but only the approved first, second, and third trimester workouts. I slept on my left side. I skipped the roller coasters. I measured my water intake. I was by-the-book, and I wasn’t afraid. I had it under control. 

Now I consider those rules a joke. I followed all the rules, and my baby died. Meanwhile a woman on heroin gives birth to a living baby. Those rules are just to make us feel better. They are there to convince us we have some semblance of control. Maybe they aren’t a joke, but they are at least a society-wide superstition. 

I know, I know. There are reasons for these rules. You have a slightly increased chance of getting listeria from deli meats and fetal alcohol syndrome is a real thing. But the chances are still small, and following all the rules doesn’t eliminate your chances. There is always a risk. We want to have more control than that. We give the rules more power than they have. It sure feels like superstition.I read a frantic post on a pregnancy message board. A woman had such intense guilt about eating an Italian sub sandwich. She was convinced her baby was in trouble. She asked the board whether she should make herself sick to rid herself of the poisonous ham! I was never that extreme, but I did have a sense of security in following those rules.

Sometimes babies die in the womb when we follow all the rules. Sometimes infants die in their perfectly empty, breathable crib with the monitor on. Most of the time we don’t know why. As advanced as medical science is today, we don’t know. I don’t blame the doctors as many do. They were also by-the-book. They followed protocol that works 99% of the time. 

Maybe one day we will be smart enough to know why. I mean, a few hundred years ago we didn’t even know germs cause us to get sick. Maybe there is a hidden “germ” out there causing our babies to die. Maybe we will find it one day….Maybe not. I’m sure even if we did, there would be something else. 

Nature is like that. It’s random. The mysterious randomness is beautiful and has allowed for incredible diversity of life. It is beautiful, but it is cruel. 

At least it feels cruel. It feels cruel to take my perfectly timed, organized plans and throw a wrench in them.  It feels cruel to take a baby from a mother’s womb. But I am not the creator or sustainer of life. What do I know?

I don’t see the whole timeline of eternity. I don’t see the rippling impacts of life, no matter the length. I don’t see people’s hearts. I don’t see the tapestry of the world. I don’t know what is best. But someone does. The creator and sustainer of life does. 

This experience has taught me to drop my superstitions, drop my semblance of control, drop my plans, and trust in Him. His plans are bigger. He sees eternity. He knows what is best for us. He wants what is best for us. He wants the best for us because He loves us. I believe that, not only because His Word says so, but also because I feel it in my heart and gut. He is the creator and sustainer of life. I give Him my life. I give Him Ginny’s life. He had it all along anyway.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33