Friday, June 28, 2013

Like a Penny in Your Pocket

Several summers ago, I got to go to Hawaii.  It's not the kind of thing I would be able to pull off myself, but my friend Derek's parents were taking him and were allowing him to take a friend.  He was single.  I was single.  We were great friends.  His parents were incredibly nice.  Hawaii sounded awesome.

Derek's sister Becky, also a friend, was pregnant with her second child and did not go on the trip.  She had to look on at our daily Hawaii updates on Facebook and endure Derek's endless dishonest text messages about how we met Tom Selleck.  I don't exactly remember how far along she was, but for some reason ten weeks is my guess.  One day she commented on Facebook on how tired this baby was making her.  I wasn't sure exactly how big a ten-weeks-gestation baby was, but I was confident it wasn't large.  

So I decided to be funny, and I responded with "I bet it's exhausting.  Like carrying a penny in your pocket."  

She did not think it was funny.  She responded with a copied-and-pasted list of all of the things her pregnant body was doing.  And I learned.  You don't joke with a pregnant woman about being tired.  

Fast forward almost four years.  And here I am.  Fourteen weeks pregnant, and I am tired.  And though it has gotten better, the tiredness I have lived through is nothing like I have ever known.  I am usually tough.  I can push through lack of sleep, sickness, sadness.  I keep going.  I just do what needs to be done.  But this... this is like nothing I have ever experienced.  This tiredness is debilitating.  It begs for full night's of sleep, which I get, thanks to half a Unisom every night.  Even so, it requires naps.  Long naps.  And thankfully, since school is out for the summer, I get long naps.

I hear stories about how the first trimester is hard.  The second is easier.  The third goes back to hard.  So far, I am mostly only versed in the first trimester, and I can tell you, it's the worst I have ever felt physically.  I need a nap before lunch.  I start to breathe like an asthmatic while walking from my car into my house or walking up half a flight of stairs.  I get worn out while painting my toenails.  And through these days, as I walk through rooms of still-unpacked boxes, I am reminded of the sarcastic words I so carelessly typed onto Becky's Facebook wall long ago.  So I should probably say that I am sorry, Becky.  I get it. And should you ever decide to have another child, I promise to be the most sympathetic, understanding friend you've got.

With all of this typing, I need a nap.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

There's Always Thursdays

After almost five years of living in Texas, I feel like I have a thousand things to talk about, to reflect on. And I want to write those things before I get caught up in day-to-day living and loads of laundry and meal planning. I will write about them in no particular order, just in the order they come to me. So here it goes.

Some events you always capture on film- birthdays, graduations, family reunions, vacations. You know these things are important, and you want to document them from start to finish so you will always have that reminder. Other things are non-events. They are seemingly insignificant. They are regular, everyday things until all of a sudden they aren't anymore. They can be life-changing. Life-sustaining. And you didn't even think to take a picture. That is the way it was with Thursdays.

I am sure I probably went before then, but the Thursday after my D&C, I went. I needed to be around people. Every week, my friends René and Urba planned out a little meeting place, sent out an email about the when and where to a huge group of local friends, and generally 3 or 4 of us would show up. And on January 17, I was kind of crumbling, so I went. We had hibachi, or I did. They had sushi. And in a completely God-orchestrated providence, each of the four of us that sat at the table had endured the loss of a baby. I was surrounded by girls that knew what I was going through.  They shared their stories of grief and healing, and offered unspoken hope in the fact that they went on to have lovely, healthy children afterward. For the next few months, the group grew and Thursdays became important.

We met at coffeehouses and taco joints and Ethiopian restaurants and pizza places and sandwich shops. The group varied from week to week, but essentially, it was the same little collection of girls meeting. We read through Esther and Ruth together, chapter by chapter. We talked about the cultural things in the stories that we didn't understand and the ones we did. We shared where we were spiritually and what God was teaching us. Sometimes it was profound and good and big. And sometimes it felt like He was silent, and we were free to say that, too.

We brought our kids (I even brought my niece once) and we wrestled them into submission while we read, sometimes just giving up and leaving before everyone else. We prayed with Catrina as she watched her husband wrestle with cancer and then through his ultimate heavenly healing when he passed. We prayed for Lori who spent months in limbo, not sure if she should settle into life in Dallas or if her husband's job would move her little family again. We prayed for Tulana's grandmother when they got her cancer diagnosis, and we are still praying even now. We prayed for René's kids, for Christy's health, and we watched as God spoke and answered. They joined me in prayer when we knew God was moving us away from our church. They prayed for our finances when our pay was cut. They waited with me in anticipation as we prayed through the possibility of moving to Tennessee. We joined in prayer for Constance, for provision and safety as she traveled to Thailand to work as a missionary. And we laughed. Sometimes very loudly. And we talked about things that didn't matter in addition to the hundreds of things that did.

This was how we spent our time on Thursdays over the last six months. Sometimes certain ones of us stayed way longer than the others (ahem... Catrina and René) because we needed the fellowship. We were a funny group. We all came from the same church, but God had moved us away a little at a time. We were kind of displaced. Church refugees. And then God gave us this thing that we didn't even know we needed and so we never asked for. But He knew.  And in my head, I can still hear Catrina singing page number 558 from the old red Methodist hymnal... I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.  Though I am mostly a local church girl, I certainly found church in these moments.  I found it right there in the pizza parlors and coffee shops, over bagels and chips and salsa.  

Then Jake and I were moving. And then so was Lori. And preschool ended, so moms went from having free Thursdays to hanging out with preschoolers. Now school is out and so everyone has kids at home and I am far away in Tennessee and Lori is headed to Illinois. And just like that, our Thursdays are very different.

This was our gift for a season.  It was never meant to last because God knew we wouldn't need it forever.  Carrie has settled on a new church, and I think the other Carrie has, too.  Catrina is still walking through her first days of being a widow, and I am sure the term "widow" seems as strange to her as it does to us, no matter how true.  She is daily, walking proof that God's grace is sufficient even as we walk through the unthinkable.  Lori is packing boxes, and I am sorry that I am not there to pack with you, girl.  I really am.  Dawn has settled at a new church and loves it.  Urba is out there running laps around us, getting up at crazy hours to work out.  Chrys has moved to Fort Worth with her sweet, growing babies.  The others are doing well... moving on.  I am here in Tennessee, and though I have only been here a little while, we already feel loved and cared for by our new church family.

But I will miss Thursdays.  I will find a new way to spend those mornings.  Maybe I will spend time in prayer for these girls.  Maybe I will start a new Bible study on that day.  I don't know just yet.  But I'm thankful for the gift... thankful for the season.  And girls, every Thursday, I'll be thinking of you.

After I wrote this and said we had no pictures, I ran across this one.  It's the only one I know of, and we took it before we prayed and sent it to the person we prayed for.  I think it's the perfect tribute to the moments we spent together.  

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It Never Gets Old

This morning I got a free ultrasound.  Our health insurance canceled at the end of May, and even though I was blessed to get an ultrasound at 10 weeks and all was well, I knew I would want something closer to the end of the first trimester.  My nerves needed it.  I also knew I would need some time to get health coverage and to find a doctor in Tennessee once we were moved.  Being the cheap resourceful girl that I am, I searched the internet for a place where I could go and get a little discounted peace of mind.  And I found it.  For free.

I found a local pregnancy center that has a mobile sonogram unit that parks itself in convenient locations all around Dallas.  They offer free pregnancy testing to the community at large and free sonograms to those with positive pregnancy tests.  I called and explained my situation.  The woman on the other end of the line say that I should come on in.  And this morning, I did.

I was nervous.  I have had my share my scary pregnancy dreams, and last night I had another one.  From what I hear, they are common for those of us who have experienced loss, and while I know they have nothing to do with my reality, they are nerve racking.  So this morning we drove over, and I had Jake pray with me before I went in.  They asked to speak with me alone first.  The woman who answered the door was slightly intimidating, letting me know right off the bat that they would not be looking for birth defects or abnormalities, if that's what I was after.  They would only be looking for an approximate due date and a heartbeat.  A heartbeat was what I wanted to hear, so I assured her that was fine.

Once inside with my paperwork, I took a pregnancy test, and I sat and waited with the counselor while the nurse confirmed that I was indeed pregnant.  The counselor talked with me for a minute, and even after hearing a very condensed version of my life story and knowing that I professed to be a Christian, she asked if she could share the gospel with me, just to be sure.  I said yes.  And I have to tell you that for the next few minutes, I just cried.  Now granted, I am hormonal these days, but it has been a long time since someone has shared the gospel with me one-on-one just because they thought I might need to hear it.   As she read through the familiar verses from Romans, and I nodded my head in agreement, I remembered that this story that she was telling was the thing that every part of my life is based upon.

Because of this simple story, I have relationship with God.  I have God's Word that gives me the ability to fight against fear and anxiety.  I have comfort in knowing I will one day see the child that I lost.  I have forgiveness of sin and hope of heaven.  I don't have to fear death.  I have confidence that my Father is ordering my steps.  I have faith in His provision.  I know that my life has meaning and purpose.  I can obey Him, even when it is scary, knowing that He has my best in mind.  All of these things I have because of the gospel.  And it was lovely to hear it again.  The story doesn't get old.  The truth of it still impacts me, even 30 years after I accepted it.

Afterward, the counselor held my hand and prayed with me.  She prayed for this little life that God has given to us.  She reminded me that God knew what it was like to lose a child in death, and she assured me that no one would ever love me like He does.  And she was right.  I know it.  I believe it.  But it was so good to hear it again.  It just never gets old.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  

Who do you know that needs to hear the gospel today?  

In case you wonder, the ultrasound was beautiful and wonderful.  We saw a perfect little baby and heard an excellent heartbeat.  Baby clearly has large hands like his (her?) father and likes to nap like his mother.  We love him already.   

Saturday, June 1, 2013

On What Will Fix Me

This picture is borrowed from the internet, and is in honor of my friend Laura, who thinks posting pictures of pregnancy tests is gross.  Happy birthday, friend.

I cannot put into words the devastation I felt upon losing our first baby.  The unbelief.  The emptiness.  I felt like I had been allowed into an exclusive sorority, one that had taken almost a decade to enter, only for my membership to be retracted before it was even enjoyed.  I felt hollow and fearful that I would never have the children I have always wanted.  And I honestly believed that the thing that would fix the pain was to wait out the 2-3 month required recovery time suggested by my doctor and get pregnant again as soon as possible.  That, I thought, would fix it all.  I dreaded the thought of getting to August 8, my original due date, without having another baby on the way.  It would be too much.  I was sure of it.

So I did everything right.  I read books on miscarriage.  I attended support groups.  I lost weight.  I carefully packed up my maternity clothes and sad reminders of what we had lost, only to be reopened when we had something else to celebrate.  I read my daily Bible reading on my iPhone.  I bought a basal body thermometer, and I began waking up every morning close to the same time to take my temperature.  I recorded each day's temperature on a chart, and I learned as much as I could about luteal phases and such.  I am amazed at how God created the human body to work in such unique, yet predictable ways.  But in all of my doing, the goal really was to just get pregnant again.  This seemed to be the real fix.  Because, after all, having a family was the goal.  And pregnancy is where that seems to start.

I tested too early.  I knew it was too early.  I knew better, but I had waited over two months while my body healed.  I was done waiting.  And so on a Friday afternoon, I took a pregnancy test.  It was negative.  Or was it?  I stared at the test for a good long while, and there seemed that there may be a faint line.  I knew enough to know that sometimes women see what they want to see on these things.  So I reached out to women who knew my pain.  I posted a picture of my test on a message board of women who were expecting after having lost babies.  I asked for honest answers, and I got them.  Looked positive to them.  A line's a line, they said.  We were officially expecting.

And here is what I found.  Rather than relief and celebration, I found myself waking up at 2 a.m., hurrying to take another test, hoping that the two pink lines would still show up.  Instead of peace, I found terror.  I found disabling amounts of fear that my blood work would come back with bad news of another baby lost.  I prayed to sleep through the night because I knew if I awoke, the anxiety would overtake me and not let me go, not let me sleep.  I compared tests, certain that the lines were not as dark as they should be.  I imagined my first ultrasound, and I always imagined the doctor finding nothing, just an empty black space on a screen.  I cried when I should have been laughing, should have been thankful for the new life growing inside of me.  And it became clear very quickly.  A new baby was not the fix.

It never is, you know.  It never really fixes anything.  That thing that you long for?  That thing that you hope will make you feel secure or settled?  It won't.  Not if you can't find peace and security without them.  And I know this.  I do.  It's a lesson I have learned a thousand times and will still need to relearn, I am sure.   The security doesn't come in the people or the circumstances or the good news.  Peace does not come with a baby or a boyfriend or a wedding or a new house or a good paying job.  Fear and anxiety don't end with the custody issues are settled, when the divorce is final, when the bank account is full.  Not completely.  Because all of these things are temporary. They can change.  In an instant, the thing we find our security in can be lost.  Material things can be lost.  Relationships can fail.  Babies can be lost before they have the chance to be born.  

So I went back to what I know, to the thing that has brought me through every single difficult time in life.  I go back to the truth.  I love that the King James Version says that if my mind is "stayed on Thee"  that He will keep me in perfect peace.  I began carrying my verse cards* with me (again), and I started reading over specific verses to help with the anxiety.  And my mind began to be transformed.  The fear gave way to trust.  The anxiety was replaced by peace.  My faith in my heavenly Father became accessible to me again.  I know He is good.  I know He is faithful.  And I know that whatever circumstance I walk through, He strengthens me in it.  He gives grace to get me through it.  

I am praying daily, thanking God for this baby, knowing that this child's days are numbered by a God who loves him (or her).  By a God who loves me.  And I can trust Him.  I can trust Him even when I am unsure about the outcome.  I can trust Him when nothing else looks right.  I can trust Him when circumstances go wrong.  I can trust Him while I wait to decipher His will.  I can trust Him when all seems lost.  I can trust Him, and that is what fixes me.

*You can get your own verse cards here.  This has been one of the greatest purchases of my adult life.**  
**My lavender jellies and a Cabbage Patch Kid named Delta Noelle were the greatest purchases of my childhood, in case you wondered.


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