The Big Truth I Learned In 2015

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At this time of year I typically spend some time reflecting on the past 12 months. Some years are full of happy memories and hope and promise. Other years are full of shattered dreams and disappointment and the twinge of loss. And other years–like my 2015–are a chaotic mix of the two. 2015 has been one of the most challenging, heart-breaking, life-changing years of my life…and, yet, it’s also been filled with more hope and joy and grace than ever before.

My take away this year? The one big truth that I learned? God is faithful. Time and time again this year I have seen God keep his promises and remain unchanging in His love and care for me. Through both the hope and the disappointment, through the promise and the shattered dreams, through the joy and the hurt: God is faithful.

2015 began on unsteady feet and my whole world flipped upside down when we discovered in late-January that we would inevitably miscarry what would have been our third child. We’d only learned about the baby a few weeks before, on Christmas Eve, and the hope and joy we’d entered the year with was quickly replaced with fear and heartache.

The pain I felt during those first few months of 2015 was so real and so deep that I didn’t think it would ever go away. Truth be told, it probably won’t ever go away–not completely. Yet things have gotten better and, through it all, a resounding truth has sustained me: God is faithful.

I knew God’s faithfulness each time I was spoken to with love and truth from His Word, friends, family…even strangers who came alongside me in support. I knew His faithfulness each time I looked at my boys and relished in the vivacity of their lives. I knew His faithfulness when I observed new flowers blooming in the spring, bounding forth as new creations after the dark, cold days of winter. I knew His faithfulness when, in early summer, we discovered that we would be blessed again with a baby. Through some of the darkest, coldest days of my life His light never dimmed. God is faithful.

I witnessed God’s faithfulness again in August when we were forced to move out of our comfortable and still-new-to-us home at seemingly a moment’s notice. Granted, the circumstances were highly unusual–our landlord had been murdered (What the what?!?!) and his family had to sell the house–but I took the whole transaction very personally.

We had literally moved halfway around the world and had just begun to settle in to a new life in our community. Finding out that our home was being taken away from us after less than a year was frustrating and incredibly stressful (if you’ve ever tried to find a home–or two–in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the nation–while dragging two young children along with you to every open house within a 20-mile radius–then you totally get it). I began to question our very existence in this land of over-priced, unavailable housing. But then I was reminded: God is faithful.

As a last-ditch effort I put out a plea for housing to my local mommy running group’s Facebook page. Within a few hours I had gotten several responses from people vowing to help us find a house before our move-out deadline. By the end of the week we’d not only signed a lease on one of those houses, but we got it for below the budget we had set out to find. Add to that the fact that our neighbors are truly some of the most generous people I’ve ever met and our new community has embraced us with open arms. I feel like we hit the housing jackpot. My fears of homelessness and being uprooted from our home were replaced with amazement the moment we arrived at the place He had planned for us: home. God is faithful.

In September I experienced God’s faithfulness again when we finally settled on an education plan for the boys during this school year.  After months of considering our options and feeling unsettled about decisions that had already been made, we decided to scrap it all and try something completely different: homeschool. I had never wanted or planned to homeschool our children, but as soon as we made our decision I felt at peace.

Over these last few months as I’ve spent time teaching, learning, praying, and playing with my boys at our little “school” I have seen God work in amazing ways. The boys have shown a great interest and joy in learning, which basically fulfills my wildest teacher fantasies. Their relationships with each other, with us, and with God have grown deeper. The flexibility we have with our time and our schedule have positively impacted our family in so many ways. In the end, this decision that I had dreaded and attempted to escape has actually turned out wonderfully. God is faithful.

And there have been countless other times this year when God has proven his faithfulness in the ordinary moments of life.

Like that time when I was walking through a parking lot with both boys and a car backed out of their parking spot to within about an inch of my big toe before slamming on their brakes.

Or the time when I was having a particularly rough day and an unexpected care package arrived on my doorstep.

Or the time when our house in Washington just would NOT sell and we were paying overlapping rents in California and  I was sure our checkbook would never find it’s balance again–and we received a long-forgotten Irish tax refund in the mail.

Or that season when a beloved family member passed away and we were able to rekindle family traditions in her honor and pass them on to our children.

Or the hundreds of times when, out of the blue, one of my boys randomly professed his undying love for me or snuck in for a kiss or called me beautiful…and I knew I must be doing something right. Time and time again, God has shown His deep love for me through His faithfulness.

So, there you have it. My big lesson of 2015 is that God is, always and forever, faithful. Life will have its ups and downs and there will be times when nothing seems to be going my way, but that’s…life. Even during–maybe especially during–these hard times, I need to remember that I am not alone. God’s plans are always bigger and better than my own, and His big picture holds many more details than my sliver-of-the-picture that I can see.

As this year concludes and the next one begins, I hope that I can keep this truth close to my heart. For all of the challenges that this year has brought me, I am grateful. Grateful because the challenges have changed me, grateful because it has made me appreciate the not-so-obvious blessings in my life. I am grateful, because God is faithful.

And on that bombshell, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Finding Grace In My Miscarriage

daffodilThis post will not be funny. In fact, it will not even be fun. But I need to write it. I need to write this, because writing helps me process my own thoughts–and I have a lot of thoughts racing through my mind right now. I need to write this because some day this moment will only be a memory, and I’ll want to remember the details. I need to write this because I need your prayers right now. I need to write this because I know I am not alone in this struggle–and if I can help any of you to feel hope or peace knowing that you are not alone, then it will be worth it.

Today was supposed to be a fun day–I would have gotten a popup from the baby tracker app on my phone that told me all about my fetus who would turn 8-weeks today. My baby would be the size of a raspberry and have brain cells growing at the rate of 100 cells per minute. But instead of being 8 weeks closer to meeting our new baby, I am saying goodbye to a baby that will never be. I am in the middle of one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever found myself in: a miscarriage. It’s one of those experiences that I’ve witnessed in others and prayed to never have brought upon myself. And yet, here I am.

When Jon and I found out on Christmas Eve that I was pregnant, we were overjoyed. We had been praying for this child for over a year, and it felt like we’d scored the jackpot. It was a Christmas miracle! Since we were in Washington for the holidays, we got to share our happy news with all of our family and closest friends in person.  Looking back, I am so grateful that we had that time to share our joy with the people we love them most. For the moment, it seemed, everything was perfect.

Unfortunately, our joy was short-lived. Once we returned to California I made an appointment with my doctor to confirm the pregnancy. But during my first routine blood test, a problem quickly became apparent. My pregnancy hormone levels were raising, but not as much nor as quickly as they should be. Over the course of that week I returned to the doctor for half a dozen blood draws, prescription medication, and two ultrasounds. Then, last Friday, January 16th, I got the very diagnosis I’d been dreading: our pregnancy was coming to a close, and there would be no baby to meet at the end of it.

The doctor explained to me that I was experiencing something called a blighted ovum or an anembyonic pregnancy. What this means is that a fertilized egg attached itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo never developed. Somewhere in those very early stages of development, something went wrong. My body didn’t know this, though, so it kept preparing to host a new life. The pregnancy sac and the placenta developed, and I experienced the normal side-effects of first-trimester pregnancy. There was no way I could have known what was actually happening inside my body, and there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome.

Eventually my body will realize that the baby is no longer developing, and a physical miscarriage is imminent. My doctor gave me the choice of taking medication to initiate this process, or of going in for a medical procedure, or of simply waiting for nature to take its course. I opted to wait for a week to see if things will occur naturally, but when I return to the doctor this Friday we will decide if there are other steps that I want to take. For now, though, I am in that gray area of waiting. Waiting for something I am dreading and mourning. Waiting for the inevitable unhappy ending to my fairytale. It’s horrible, and I am broken.

A few days ago I went for a run to try to clear my mind. And as I was out there, alone on the trail, I came upon something that made me stop in my tracks. Right there on the side of the trail was a clump of daffodils, pushing their way out of the soil and proudly blooming in the sunlight. My first thought when I saw the daffodils was that this just wasn’t right.

Having lived in cold places all my life, the blooming of daffodils has always been a sign for me of triumph and new beginnings. Daffodils come at the end of the darkest season to remind us of the light that is to come. You see, in cold places, there is this season that comes every year called winter. In California we don’t so much get winter as we get a few cool-ish days mixed in with the usual sunshine. Winter in cold places is different. Everything is frozen and dark and bleak. The plants wither away to shriveled twigs and the animals go into hiding. I detest it. And then, just when it seems you’ll never enjoy daylight again, Spring arrives. The sun begins to warm the earth, the animals come out of hibernation, and the plants awaken. The daffodils bloom. I know that the worst is behind us and a new season has begun.

So as I was standing there staring at daffodils blooming in the middle of January, I understood something. These lucky California flowers didn’t have to endure the long winter and fight for survival, yet they were still allowed to blossom and grow. They were experiencing undeserved grace, getting something wonderful even though they’d done nothing to deserve it. And you know what? I am experiencing that same grace, even in the midst of this darkest hour.

Every time I hug and kiss and snuggle the two sons I already have, that is grace. Every time my husband encourages me or lets me cry on his shoulder, that is grace. Every time a friend calls or texts or sends me an email to let me know they are praying for me, that is grace. Every time I find joy in the midst of pain, that is grace. Every time the sun rises on a new day, that is grace. Every time I am reminded of where my hope lies–not in the fleeting conditions of this world, but in my eternal salvation through Jesus–that is grace.

And, even though I so desperately wanted to meet this baby, there is grace in this miscarriage. I don’t know why my baby didn’t grow, but I do know that God knew how this story would end before it even began. He allowed this to happen and, some day, I may even understand why. You see, God never promises to spare us from pain. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Bible promises that life in this broken world will be FULL of hardship and strife. But God has an answer for that pain. He promises to be with us in our struggles, to comfort us and to heal us and to strengthen us. He promises to never leave our side, and to give us hope when we feel hopeless. Despite my great grief, I feel that overpowering peace that I know could only come from Him. I am reminded of God’s promise:

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

So that is the grace I am holding close to my heart today. Even though all I see right now is a disaster, God has a plan. He has a plan for me and my family and our baby who He’s already called Home. He has plans to pull me out of my despair and allow me to flourish again. This ordeal is not meant to harm me, but to grow me in new and challenging ways. He reminds me that my hope has simply been deferred, not abandoned–and that my hope in His Truth has been strengthened.  He promises me a future. This is not the end of my story.

And just like the daffodils, I will bloom again some day. But first, I have to get through the long, dark days of winter. I will survive, and I will live to see the light of a new beginning.

By God’s grace, I will triumph.

 

Daughter Promises

On Jon’s first Father’s Day, when I was still pregnant with our first baby, I gave him a book. The book was called Daddy Promises, and it is one of the most beautifully-written children’s books I have ever read. It is about all of the promises that dads make to their children, and how that connects to the promises that God the Father has made to us, His children.

The first time I read the book I cried, and I still cry tears of joy when I re-read it. I know that my husband is demonstrating God’s love to our boys through his forgiveness and grace and bedtime wrestles. He is an amazing dad–the best dad I could have picked for my kids. The other thing I think about when I read this book is my dad–the best dad I could have picked for me.

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My dad is a rockstar father. He has loved me unconditionally, prayed for me unceasingly, and supported me through my most difficult times. I even remember one time that he drove up to my house, an hour away, one night just to be with me after I’d had particularly rough day at work. The time, the distance didn’t matter–he just wanted to be there for me. When I was in labor at the birth center, the hospital, wherever they took me–he was there, up all day…then all night…then all the next day in the cramped little waiting room, patiently waiting and praying for me and my baby. He is a model of Christ-like love, and he has lived out so many of God’s promises for me.

In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, I have a few promises of my own that I want to share with my dad–my daughter promises.

I promise to stay true to the path you have set me on. That even when I wander (and maybe do crazy things like pierce my belly button) I will remember the way you have taught me, so that “even when I am old I will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 

I promise to walk in faith, and to trust the One who is leading me, even when you are not there.

I promise to live in the peace of Christ that you have taught me. That I will not let worry consume me or doubts take away my joy.

I promise to be persevere. I have always thought that our mutual perseverance (stubbornness?) is our best trait!

I promise to keep healthy and active. Otherwise I won’t be able to keep up with you when you’re running marathons in your 60’s and beyond.

I promise to maintain the magic of childhood for my kids, the same way you did for me. Right now I’m working on mastering the whole “pulling off my thumb” trick.

I promise to pray for you, just as you have always done for me.

I promise to teach my children proper anatomy, starting with the pectoralis.

I promise to love my boys the same way you love your girls: unconditional, unceasing, unrelenting parental love.

I promise to love you forever and always.

To all of the amazing dads out there, Happy Father’s Day! The world would not be the same without you.