Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Resting and Learning

Hello everyone. Sorry it's been a little while since I posted. This past week I've been trying to rest. Not just physically, but emotionally too.

I realized that for a month, I was basically mourning in public. While I wasn't hiding anything from anyone or trying to put on a brave face, it is just exhausting to be around a lot of people all the time. Even family and friends, who I loved being with. It's hard to be asked, "How are you doing?" over and over, and to be told, "You look wonderful." It's also hard to just see the looks on people's faces; the "knowing" looks of sadness or pity. It's also hard to hear "I'm sorry." Don't hear me wrong. I am not upset that people care and want to show it. I'm glad I had time to be around people so I wouldn't have to be alone. I know people meant the best and want the best for us. I appreciate it all. But after a need time alone to think, to pray, and to just heal. I didn't really get much of that alone time until this week. It was extremely nice to be able to do nothing unless I wanted to, and to be able to rest physically so that I could rest emotionally as well.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I have learned some new lessons this week. Haha. If you sit and think and pray enough, you'll learn something. I guess that's why God tells us to "Be still, and know that [He] is God" (Psalm 46:9). In such a busy world, it is good to take a break and rest. Anyway...

I've been a crazy jumble of emotions this last week. Sometimes I felt wonderful, almost as if I didn't need to mourn anymore. Other days, I was a grumpy, moody mess, with about fifty million emotions warring inside my heart. Some days I could think about babies and children and all the people around me dealing with them, and barely even feel a twinge. Some days, I wanted to throw a temper tantrum because things aren't "fair." Lawsy, I feel sorry for my husband right now. Haha. He never knows what he's going to get with me. But I can say, even on the bad days, that the negative is not as strong as the positive. Part of that is because I am choosing to look at the positive as much as I can, through God's grace, and some of it is because God is just awesome.

I'll tell you something else. I have learned more deeply the meaning of taking your thoughts captive..."We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5. This is my new challenge.

I have learned a lot about the character of God because of our time with Caroline. I have begun to know God in a way I never have before. A lot of the lessons I learned involved trust, sacrifice, and humility. I had to trust God with a lot. I had to be humble. I had to learn what true sacrifice is. I had to learn to die to myself so that Jesus could work in me. Much of it is very painful. Many of these lessons were understood only through many tears. But I am so glad God is patient enough to teach me. In this new time of life without Caroline, I'm having to learn some of those lessons all over again.

I've shared that I'm not terribly nervous about future pregnancies, healthwise. I'm trying really hard to trust God with all of that. He's in control, He's in charge, and He's the Creator and Healer. Whatever He wants to happen in my next pregnancy will. I truly believe that and have found peace and comfort in that knowledge.

What I have to do is a little different than I expected, I think. The thoughts I have to take captive and return to Christ are numerous and varied. Some are self-pity thoughts. I shared in my last post that there are many, many things that remind me of my loss. Seeing babies, seeing toys, walking through stores and seeing any baby related item, seeing pictures of friends' baby showers, seeing updates on friends that are now expecting their own babies. In fact, just taking down my Christmas decorations was extremely difficult for me emotionally. I'm not sure I can describe why...I decorated before she was born, I celebrated her life all through Christmas, and now things are done. I guess it was just an emptiness knowing she was gone. It's amazing to me how much can remind me of what I've lost. It's in those moments that I have to take my thoughts captive. I have to take my human, limited vision and try to replace it with eternal perspective. I have to make my thoughts "obedient to Christ." My feelings of jealousy or anger are not glorifying to Him, even though they are completely "normal" and "natural." If I begin to question His character, which is what I do when I start to feel and think, "this isn't fair, it shouldn't have happened to me," I'm not making myself obedient. Christ was obedient even to die himself. I can be obedient in this. I can rejoice that Christ is holding my baby girl for me instead of letting her experience this fallen world. Because that's the truth.

Other thoughts I have to take captive are ones for the future. I want another child badly. I am incredibly anxious to have another baby. Recently, God has reminded me of the lesson I learned with Caroline. I cannot want another child more than I want Christ. My next baby cannot become an idol or stumbling block. I need to surrender our next one just as much as I needed to surrender Caroline. I know wanting to have a child is not wrong. I know that desiring to have a relationship with our children is a mirror of God wanting to have a relationship with us. Wanting another one is not the problem. The state of my heart is. If my heart desires another child more than it desires to be obedient to Christ, then I'm off. If I want another child for God's glory, then I'm ok. I've had to really ask myself where I stand when it comes to that area of my heart. It's a tough struggle, but it's worth it. Any children we have will never be "ours." They'll be His, on loan to us. The better I am at remembering that, the better a parent I will be. I want to be a good mom, so I'll keep trying to make myself obedient in that. When my thoughts start to wander too far into the "I want one and I want one right now!" area, I have to submit them to Christ in obedience. I want one right now, but I want God's will more. In His timing, with His blessing. Another area I have to trust to Him.

It may sound like I have things going pretty well in this regard. Don't be fooled. This is a struggle to me just as everything else has been in our time with Caroline. As I have said over and over again...I have good days and bad days. I'm still learning. I'm not perfect. I'm nowhere near perfect. It's hard to do these things I'm talking about, and I struggle to do them. But I want to do them. I want to glorify God, not just in outward actions that impact others, but in my private thought life. I can't be a light outwardly if I'm filled with darkness internally.

I want to be close to Jesus. He's been close to me throughout our time with Caroline. I want to continue being close to Him. I know emotions will change and fade, but I don't want to lose what I've found in Him because of our experience with Caroline. He's given me a precious gift in Caroline, and I never want to take it for granted or to forget about it. I've been praying that He will help me. Because it's hard.

I'm still sad. I still mourn. I still miss my baby girl. But I take my thoughts captive and submit them to my Savior, some days better than others. And I have amazing joy knowing Caroline is perfect in Heaven, waiting for me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Back and forth

It's been about a month since Caroline was born. In some ways, it feels like so much longer, and in other ways, it feels so much shorter. We're done with everything for Caroline, except for what we're personally dealing with emotionally. Today's been a pretty good day for me. I haven't had a terrible time. In fact, I even went to my doctor today for my post-partum check-up, and that didn't even send me into hysterics. Even this far after her birth, I can still feel the grace that I had all during my pregnancy, and in the immediate days after she was born.

I thought after Caroline was born that I would be done with the "dual realities" and the constant tension and back and forth. I don't think that's ever going to go away now. It will be less intense someday, surely, but it's never going to go away.

When Caroline was still with us, my dual realities were hope for healing while knowing the medical certainty. Now they are missing Caroline dearly while knowing I'll see her again someday, and that she's in a better place. I go back and forth between wishing she was still here with me and being glad that she's with Jesus instead.

Not a day goes by that I don't miss her. Some days are worse than others, but I do miss her everyday. There's not much that doesn't remind me of her, or of the fact she's not here. Seeing other families with children makes me want her here, seeing expectant mothers makes me wish I was still pregnant because that would mean she was still here. Seeing toys at the store makes me wish I could buy some for her. Seeing the lack of baby things at my house makes me wish I had a chaotic mess of baby stuff to deal with, because it would mean she was here. Going to the doctor today made me a little sad, in a way, because the last time I was in that office was the day before I went in to labor. I should have gone in a couple weeks ago for my monthly check up, not today for a post-partum check up.

There's a lot of things that remind me of what I've lost.

But even in the midst of that, I am amazed that God can have healed me as much as He has. I am amazed that I can go past the hospital and not cry my eyes out knowing that's where I both had her and lost her. I am amazed that I could go to my doctor today and not have immense heartache. I am amazed that over the last several days, even in the harder moments, they have been overcast by a great joy, knowing she's in Heaven and is waiting for us. God is good, and I am truly amazed at what He's done for me.

Don't get me wrong. I am still sad. Like I said, I miss her everyday and am reminded of my loss by a lot of things. I have had my days to just want to cry all day. I've had moments where I've told God I'm not really happy with how His plan turned out. I've had moments of jealousy of other expectant moms, knowing they'll get to keep their babies, and I didn't get to keep mine. I've had moments where I've asked God why He's allowed a gazillion people I know to be pregnant right now.

But it's fleeting. In the end, I am comforted by the great Comforter. In the end, I know God's plan is good, even if the events recently have not been. I know that there is a reason for Caroline having anencephaly. I know there is a reason she came to us. I hurt a lot because of my loss, but I can also rejoice, not just because I will see her again someday, but because God has worked, and is working, and will work in people's lives because of Caroline. Myself included. I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned, even if I don't like how I had to learn them. I'm happy to know more truly God's faithfulness, mercy, grace, and love, even if I don't care for the way I came to know them.

And I know, in the end, I win. I get eternal life, by God's grace. I get to see my daughter again, by God's grace. I get to be used by Him to bring others with me, by God's grace.

So I do go back and forth, a lot. Back and forth between mourning and joy, peace and anxiety, confusion and clarity. I'm sure I will forever. It's just the nature of being human. Heaven and earth are two totally different places, and we have to live on Earth while looking toward Heaven. It's messy.

So here we go on a new adventure...back and forth in a new way. I'm sure it will be quite a ride.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The blessing of the change

It's Monday. I'm spending some wonderful time with my husband and my family before Cameron and I go back home. Caroline is safely laid to rest. We're done with pretty much all of the pressing events and arrangements. Now it's time to "get back to normal." Soon Cameron will go back to work, we'll be back home, doing our "regular" routine, as much as possible. We know that our normal is never going to be the same normal we had before Caroline. But we also know we're going to have to adjust and function. I'm curious to see what happens when we are there next week. I'm sure God will be faithful, just like He has been, to comfort us and gives us peace.

I've been amazed by the peace I've felt throughout the past few weeks. There have been the moments of craziness, but overall, I've felt a great amount of supernatural peace. I've also felt what I can only describe as relief. I know Caroline is in a better place than this crummy old earth, and that I now know what will happen to her. When she was still here in my womb, I had to live with the questions and uncertainty about what God's plan was. Now I know. Even though that plan has brought the pain of loss, it's also brought the joy of knowing where Caroline is, and that she's healed and perfect in God's presence. God has worked, and will continue to work, everything out for the best. From how we found out about Caroline's condition, to the ability of family to support us, friends to be there for us, the way she was born, the timing of everything, and now the way we've laid her to rest. It's all just incredible. He has truly worked everything out for us.

I can specifically recall one day in the past couple weeks where I just missed Caroline a lot. I started crying...ok sobbing...asking Jesus to heal the hurt and help me through the hard moment I was in. In the middle of a raging fit of tears, I literally felt the urge to cry dry up. It wasn't because my emotions stopped or because I went into some weird shocked or numb stage. I literally felt the weight of pain lift from my heart, and some crazy weird supernatural peace filled it's place. It was like I was watching the end of a dramatic tragedy, then all of a sudden the movie changed to a fairy tale with a happy ending. My heart ceased feeling the enormous pain of loss and instead began to feel the amazing joy of salvation and peace. I don't mean to say that I stopped feeling the loss entirely...that will never happen. What I'm talking about is a God who cares enough to bind up the broken-hearted, make heavy burdens lighter. He made me feel, almost physically, that I don't need to be sad for Caroline. She's in perfect peace with our Lord. I also don't need to mourn her loss, so to speak, because I haven't really "lost" her, I just have to leave her with Jesus for a while till I can get to her later.

I don't mean to say I won't mourn her loss, or that it's not ok to mourn. Jesus himself wept when one of His friends died (John 11:35). I figure if Jesus shed some tears over the loss of a friend, who He then raised again to life, then it's ok for me, too. But what I mean is the depth of my sorrow has been lessened so significantly it almost doesn't feel like the sorrow for the death of someone I love. I don't know what the future holds for me when it comes to emotions and pain, but I do know God will continue to help me through each moment.

I know I've said over and over again how much I've grown and changed throughout this situation. It can't be overstated. I am not the same. God has completely carried me throughout this whole time with Caroline. I would not be where I am right now without His grace and mercy, picking me up and carrying me through the darkest days of my life. Looking back, I can see clearly how He was hanging on to me, not letting me fall into despair or rebellion, but clinging to my hand, showing me the way to go, toward light and life, not darkness and death. Because He has brought me to where I am, I know I am where I'm supposed to be. I know I'm in the right place.

Not only that, but I also feel blessed to have had this experience. That may sound crazy, but it's true. I think I've seen and felt a side of God most people don't get to see. I've been drawn so closely into God's loving arms as He's carried me through this time, that I know and have seen a part of Him that can only be seen when you have been broken and devastated, and then healed by Him. I know I'm still healing, but I've already experienced a lot of healing. I would not wish the pain I have felt on anyone, but I would love for everyone to experience the joy and peace I have felt because of my loving Savior.

Part of that blessing I mentioned has been the change in my perspective. I truly look at everything differently. That's not to say I have achieved perfection and never lose sight of my goal. But I will say that I look at Heaven in a totally different way now. I look at this earth in a totally different way. I look at time differently, I look at children differently, I look at parenting differently, I look at myself differently, and I definitely look at God my Savior differently. I know now what is truly important. It's not the typical, "life is short, make the best of it" stuff. It's something deeper than that. I now realize that "For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). While I'm here on this earth, Christ is everything. He rules everything. He gives and takes away, He is the power behind everything I do, He is the giver of peace and grace, mercy and love. He provides me with everything I need, He leads me where I need to go, He teaches me the important things, He strips away that which makes me rebel or think less of Him. I used to be comfortable here on earth. I used to long for a long life, to experience all the things I thought were too important to miss before going to Heaven. Now I realize how ridiculous that is. I still would like to experience certain things here on earth, but I'd be ok if I got to go to Heaven now. Kind of like Paul, I feel torn between the desire to remain and the desire to depart (Philippians 1:22-24).

Once again, I cannot take credit for anything. God is doing all the work in my life. I have chosen to let Him, yes, but even that has come from His grace and power. I have had to ask for help for everything over the last few months, and I hope that I can continue to. It's only when I'm weak that He is strong, so I would love to remain weak in myself so He can be strong in my life.

As I go through the next few months, I'm sure there will be many weak moments. I'm sure I will need God to take more burdens from me. I'm sure I'll need more grace and peace. I'm sure I'll need His strength to carry me. And because He is faithful and loving, I know He will. I know He'll give me everything I need and more than I ask for. I know He has a plan for me, and it's one for my good, one to make me prosper, and not one to bring me down or destroy me. I am so grateful for my wonderful God. I'm so grateful He saw fit to give me the gift of Caroline, both as my daughter and as a way to draw me closer to Him and change my whole life. To God be the Glory.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Dull Ache and a Great Peace

Today marks three weeks since Caroline's birthday. Cameron and I are in my home town awaiting Caroline's funeral. I am actually quite surprised about how I feel. I don't feel the intense pain I thought I'd feel. I don't feel overwhelmed. I feel a great peace. I also feel a dull ache. I don't feel the deep hurt I felt a week or two ago. But I do feel the dull ache that I will feel the rest of my life. I still feel pain, but it's not intense and terrible.

I've tried to figure out why I don't feel a horrible pain of loss right now. I've got a much better understanding of "the peace that passes understanding" now. It's how I feel right now. It doesn't make sense outside of God's grace.

I think it can all be summed up in one word. Eternity. When I am focused on eternity, this just doesn't seem so bad. We met with my parents' pastor today. He's going to be doing the message at Caroline's funeral. Something he said really struck me, mostly because it's pretty much how I've been thinking, he just verbalized it in a way that made more sense. Haha. He shared with us a verse from Philippians 1. The context is that Paul is in prison, writing to the church in Philippi, talking about preaching the gospel, and that he is torn between wanting to go on to Heaven and to stay here on earth to keep preaching the gospel. The pastor emphasized verse 23, where Paul says he is "having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better." (emphasis added, NASB translation). Very much better. Where Caroline is in Heaven is "very much better" than where we are here on earth. I just thought that was a great way to think about it. It's very much better. If I love my daughter, which I do, then I should be happy she's in a place that's very much better. That's why I can have such joy for Caroline even as I have to deal with her loss temporarily here on earth.

I don't know what Heaven will be like. It is beyond anything I could imagine. And I don't know what Caroline will be like/look like when we see her again. What I do know, is we will rejoice when we see her again. We will all be joyful and stand in awe of the Lord who allowed us to live forever with Him in eternity. It will be so "very much better" than anything we have here on earth. So I long for that day while I live here on earth. As Paul said in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." If I am blessed with more time here on earth, it will be to live in Christ. If I get to go to Heaven, it will be enormous gain. I will see my Savior and my baby girl.

I have to live with the dull ache for a while, until God calls me home. But I also get to live with a great peace. To God be the glory.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

It is January 1st. Welcome to 2012.

There have been a lot of things about the year 2011 that were unpleasant. It seems like a lot of people I know have had a hard year. We most certainly had a hard year. But even after all I've been through, I can't say we had a bad year. The joy that accompanied Caroline's existence here on earth made up for the pain her condition caused us. I am also grateful for the many lessons we learned through our experience. I know that when I look back at 2011, I won't remember much about the year outside of Caroline. And that's ok. She was, and is, a precious gift.

Because we knew what was coming, Cameron and I have been able to semi-grieve Caroline's loss for a long time, even while hoping for our earthly miracle. We both have had tears in the last couple weeks, and felt enormous pain. But at the same time, we have felt enormous comfort, and a great peace. I am amazed that I can feel this way in the midst of a very difficult situation.

I don't know what the future holds. I know that the next three months will be difficult. Caroline was supposed to be born in March. I should still be carrying her right now. It is still a little surreal to me that she's been born already, and gone on to Jesus to wait for us there. I'm sure when March 5th, her due date, comes around, I will be sad, and there will probably be some tears and heartache. But I also know that she is in Heaven, being loved by God more perfectly than I could have ever loved her.

Caroline's funeral will be next weekend. I know that also will be very difficult. But it will also bring closure and healing. God is already healing my heart. I am in awe of His amazing love and grace toward me. It is beyond my understanding and beyond what I expected.

2012. A new year. The year Caroline was supposed to be born in. A year I know God will use in my life, just as He did with 2011. I'm anxious to see what He will do.