Friday, April 22, 2016

Let Your Gentleness Be Evident To All

Grief is a strange strange thing.

I can sit at a soccer game cheering for Levi, travel to Disney World and enjoy it all has to offer, make exciting plans to "move on" (whatever that looks like), deal with big grown-up things that are hard and have nothing to do with my grief.  I can function as normal, but the grief is always there, just below the surface.

I really hoped it would have fled by now.  Some days it's the loss of a baby and the loss of a dream of what could have been.  Some days it's the burn of betrayal mixed with the dream of justice, or even revenge.  Some days it's the sting of infertility that hurts as freshly as the first time I read a "not pregnant" on a stick.

And for all the pain, there is just as much hope.  

But I'm so weary of waiting and hoping and pressing forward.  Some days I want to scream - "GUYS I CAN'T DO THIS.  DID YOU FORGET WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?"

And then I remember that something happened to all of us.  Not with Addison - but life in general.  We all have those circumstances where we think, "Holy crap, I can't believe what I have endured, I can't believe this is my reality," and we want to wear the badge of grief like a sandwich board sign reading, "Be gentle with me.  I can't handle this today."  Maybe that would actually be helpful.

If nothing else, I hope this stage of sadness gives me empathy.  Teaches me to be more gentle with the unknown battles that others are fighting.

Photo credit: Via

There have been many times in the past year where I find myself reciting this (it's probably the only significant passage of scripture I can actually say without looking):

Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, REJOICE.
Let your gentleness be evident to all - the Lord is near.
Do not be anxions about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding
will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus

Philippians 4:4-7

I know how much tenderness I need; I bet others need it too.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Around the Corner

I've learned a lot about grief in the last 6 months.  It comes in cycles, and once you are past one stage, you are not free from ever revisiting that stage.  The stages aren't evenly timed, and can be triggered at unexpected intervals.  It's been painful, and yet, weirdly fascinating (maybe I should have pursued that psychology minor I toyed around with).

I have emerged confident, yet cautious; strong, yet vulnerable.  I like the person I have become, and though I grieve the life that would have been with Addison, am grateful for the refining her loss has brought in my life.

The best advice someone gave me, a month after the other shoe dropped, was to see a counselor.  I was strangely fixated on what bad thing God might ask me to endure next, and my sister in law said, "Do you think maybe you should talk to someone about that?"  It was such a simple question, but gave me pause to think, "Huh, maybe."

And then it was the friend who said, "I hear you keep saying things like, 'I thought I was okay, but then...' Have you considered that you might not be okay, and that's okay?"

I had to embrace the loss.  I had to speak her name.  I had to cry in front of people.

And then I had to share my story.

Looking back on the last month, I cannot even comprehend all the opportunities God has given me to speak boldly about grief, loss, suffering, and, of course, where God fits in to it all.  I have learned that JOY and GRATEFULNESS can co-exist with GRIEF and PAIN... and that beautiful tension keeps me pressing into my savior for comfort and hope and thanksgiving.


I find myself grappling with big philosophical things like TRUTH.  I have no time for niceties that come from well meaning people in The Church - in fact I think there's a lot of junk we've been accepting as Truth, and then when our hearts are broken, we are wrecked emotionally and spiritually because what was thought was God maybe actually wasn't, and our focus was on the wrong or misinterpreted promises.

The is only the beginning of a new chapter.  But I like how it's starting.  I trust Him more, and yet have a healthy amount of questioning for Him, and lots of room to be taught and to gain understanding.  I am not going anywhere, and neither is He.

And, as a point of healing, yesterday I held a brand new baby and ENJOYED it.  I snuggled her and smelled her head and changed her diaper and gave her a bunch of Addison's headbands, and didn't feel even a pang of grief or sadness.

Thank you for supporting me, friends.  This has been a year I will never forget, and I know you have held us up in prayer and love when we were at our weakest.  I love you for that.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Christmas Card

I embraced the coming holidays with open arms - my tree was up before Thanksgiving, Advent activities were printed and even laminated, and I was at Target on Black Friday in the middle of the night.  I was Christmas ready.

But the thought of sending out Christmas cards overwhelmed me.  Too much money.  Who's on the list?  Takes time to actually write a little note on each card (which I actually like doing).  And then there's the issue of the family picture.

I hemmed and hawed about Christmas cards for a week or two, and finally realized the hesitation.  The giant elephant in the room.  This year, our Christmas card was supposed to look different.  This year our Christmas card would have featured big brother holding baby sister under the tree, introducing the world to sweet Addison Renee.

And now, it's not.  Because, she's not.

Soon after this revelation of hesitation, I met with my new counselor for the first time.  "If you are not treated the loss of Addison like an actual death, you are doing yourself a disservice."

For months, I have been shaming myself out of grief.  "How can I grieve a baby who wasn't even REAL?!" I thought.  "She was real to you and to all of us, " several of my friends reassured me.

And so, as another season of the year began, filled with joyous songs and twinkling lights, another stage of grief began.  Instead of denial, I felt sadness.  I cried more in the first weeks of December than I did in October and November combined.  I forced myself to actually speak her name, and refer to the "loss of Addison."  She may not have been flesh and blood, just a lie conjured by a hurting and sick woman, but she was also a dream and a fulfillment of hope, and the missing part of our family.  And she deserves to be grieved.

I've questioned God - not his existence, but rather his intention.  By his grace,  I've landed back where I started - grateful for his comfort, trusting in his presence, seeking him for the future. 



I've found sweet solace in the music of King's Kaleidoscope.  Seriously good - grief mixed with hope mixed with solid theology mixed with a 10 piece band mixed with Seattle musicianship.

And I've given myself permission to skip the Christmas card this year.   Praying that the new year is filled with hope, trust, faith, love...and a baby.


Maybe someday we’ll meet under the stars
Healed and home free, complete, that’s where we’ll start

Zion, I’m coming soon to where you are
‘Till then my love’s with you, though world’s apart

This will take much longer than I’ve planned
But I will wait to see you, and hold your hands

Waiting each day, God will comfort my soul
You are home now, healthy, safe in His fold

Beyond this storm’s a brilliant sky of stars
I’ll follow you

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Have You Considered...

"How are you really doing? How has this whole baby ordeal affected your walk with God?"  she asked without hesitation.  I knew the question was coming, and I knew because of our long history of friendship, support, accountability, and you-know-my-crap-and-love-me-anyway-ness, I had to actually answer.  Not with Christianese, not with pleasant "doing ok," platitudes, but nitty gritty get to the heart of the issue thoughts.

I side stepped a little, and then the real truth leaked out. I took a deep breath and spilled.

A few weeks ago, I realized that in every trial I face, walking away from faith doesn't cross my mind.  Each struggle, each heartbreak presses me to the feet of God.  "Help me understand," "Teach me to love like you do," "Give me peace."  There is beauty in that blessed assurance...I'm not going anywhere, and, more importantly, neither is God.

But I've found myself sincerely struggling with the idea of what else might God allow to happen to me in order to "test" my commitment.  For example, I'm "okay," with what we've endured (although I wouldn't want to live it again), but find myself getting super anxious about what else  might happen.  What's scarier, is I know there is pride and distrust at the root of this issue.  Distrust is a form of disobedience, and I'm grateful that all of this craziness is coming to the surface so it can be dealt with.

In fact, yesterday, I came to the conclusion that the six scariest words in the Bible "Have you considered my servant, Job." This feeling of God somehow choosing Job's suffering.  God knew that Job would persevere and still choose faith in the end, and the most horrendous things to happened to Job.

And so, there on the phone through my tears, I started listing some terrible things that could happen to me.  I ended with "Why would God NOT do that stuff to me?"

Then, as one does when faced with a conversation that's just a little too real, I quickly changed the subject to my new babysitting job, and how perfect it is for Levi and I, and how I kind of prayed for this exact scenario, but didn't really think much about it, and then it literally fell in to my lap.

"Michelle, I am going to tell you some things you already know," she inserted into the conversation when I stopped to breathe.  "God is a good father.  He loves you, and He does not delight in your pain." She was right.  Even in the juxtaposition of presenting the facts of feeling like a spider in God's fingers just dangling over the fire next to the answer to a prayer I barely breathed out, there was evidence of God's goodness, His faithfulness, His love for me.

Of course I chewed on this all day.  I texted Herb about my cry fest, and felt at peace.  But later was feeling down again, and couldn't shake my "Job Complex."  I'm so freaking dramatic.  

"No more Adele on Pandora," I texted my brother.  "Every song is making me cry today," I wrote, thinking about all the crappy things that have happened in the last few years.  The lowlight real was playing strong in my mind and like a broken record was stuck on some continuous loops.  When he pressed me a little bit about my sadness, I tried to explain the "Job Complex."

Almost instantly, he wrote back, "I'm not convinced that we are all Job.  Does God let us suffer, or is that just life?" 

With one text, he diffused the bomb I had been wiring all afternoon.  Suddenly head knowledge started flowing in, replacing irrational emotions, reminding me in the dark what God had previously taught me in the light.

I heard a pastor say recently, "God is such a genius at taking evil and turning it into good that will be tempted to look at the good that comes from evil and think that He willed the evil to get the good."

But He didn't.  He can't.  There is no evil in Him.  Life is hard and suffering is real, and it sucks and we want to avoid it.  And we don't know why God intervenes sometimes, and not other times, and that's ok to not know the answer to that.  The struggle is real, and it's going to happen whether I am a Christ follower or not. In that same sermon (seriously, check out Mike Erre preaching about "When God Doesn't Answer" if you have time), he read Romans 8:28 and surmised these three things:

1. God is always good
2. Evil is evil (not pretend good)
3. God's relentless commitment to bringing good from evil

I love this verse in Romans, where Paul writes about the faith of Abraham, "Against all hope, in hope Abraham believed." (Romans 4:18)

This morning, that brings so much peace to my heart. Trusting God to do and be what He promised, even in the face of a broken heart and a weary soul. Sometime in the last month, I kind of forgot that.  He has allowed free will, which has made way for sin, and, as a result, pain in this life will happen. But HE is incapable of evil.   He is a GOOD father.

Against all hope, in Hope I will believe.  I will rest my burden on Hope.  Hope looks a lot like Jesus.  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Looking Through the Macro Lens

Sometimes we need reminded to look big picture.  You know, "In the Grand Scheme Of Things, this is not that big of a deal."

And sometimes even the Big Picture isn't reassuring.

It is in those times, that we have to look through the macro lens.  In macro photography, small things are enlarged to show beautiful, colorful detail that might otherwise be missed.

For example, these red mums.  The contrast of their scarlet color against the concrete with a little bit of moss patina.  The curve of the stem with the budding dark green leaves.  The delicacy of of the remains of a thin white spider web, trailing off the pedals, flowing in the wind.



But if you were here at my house, walking up to my front door, you would probably miss this beauty. You see, these mums are the remains of something I planted last year that failed to thrive in my flower bed this year.

You would notice the yellowed hosta, the pathetic lone daisy, the cracked concrete porch, and maybe your eye would catch the dying mum.    

 


As my husband says, sometimes a close up looks better than real life.

Isn't that like life sometimes?  We look around and notice all the things that are not going the way they should be going.  All the angst that weighs us down.  All the hard work and toiling that seemingly never ends.  All the hopes that remain unfilled.

But if we stop and really look through the macro lens, what might we notice?

The smoothness of Levi's cheeks when he nuzzles my face.

The strength in the squeeze of Herb's arm around my waist.

The gratefulness I feel when I consider the faith my parents instilled in me at a young age that carries me through difficult times.

Beautiful colorful details are all around us.   Oh, that I may stoop down and look a little closer.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Likes Comments and Shares

I know you're not supposed to measure your self worth and popularity using the yard stick of social media, but on this special day, I can't help it.

Five years ago today, I wrote about the homecoming of our "tree of life," the day Levi came in to our lives.  It was after weeks of sorrow, somewhat similar to what I'm feeling now, although the situation was completely different.  It was a total surprise, and honestly felt as close to a "stork drop" as realistically possible.

Facebook reminded me, that on this day, five years ago 120 people wished us congratulations.  ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY.  Those same people were praying for and wishing for a baby for us, joining in our sorrows and our joys.

And those same people, plus about fifty more, have sent condolences, wished us well, and have surrounded us in prayer following the heart break of not bringing home a baby girl last week.

The numbers astound me.  I'm just an ordinary person, how am I so blessed to have so many people who care?

What's the point?  Who cares about social media?  I do.  I have felt so loved, so supported, so prayed for in the last five years on our journey to parenthood, and now on the continuation of the family building journey.   Maybe you don't always understand how adoption works or why it works, but you care, love, and mean well, and hope for the best.

Thank you, you guys.  Whether you are in our close proximity of people we see on a regular basis or part of the crew who's path crossed ours for only a season of life - thank you.  You are our village and I can't wait to show all these comments and well wishes and joy filled messages to Levi when he's older...and hopefully his younger sibling too.




Wednesday, October 7, 2015

It Is Well

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Two and a half weeks ago, I found myself on the top of a mountain.  Unprepared for the journey, over dressed and unprepared, we journeyed uphill for a breathtaking and surprisingly beautiful view.  Ten days later, I witnessed dark billowy clouds rolling over the ocean, so dense that they could be sliced.  The sky met the sea, impossible to see where one ended and the other began.  The winds were debilitating, it was, after all, a hurricane, and waves pounded the shore, loud and angry.  

I am speaking both quite literally and figuratively.  


Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Every time I have stopped to write, my fingers pause.  Our hopeful adoption situation is now tinged with deceit, lies, broken heartedness, anger, and a whole lot of hope deferred.  I want to tell you every juicy detail.  I want you to come over for coffee and gasp in horror when I tell you the story.  I want to hug it out and share a tear.  But I feel like spending time explaining is a waste.  This part of our story doesn't deserve the tears and anger that have already been shed.  I just can't inscribe words that will live for eternity on this place of hope fulfilled.

Because, at this point, it is well with me.

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
This mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

After the house of cards began to crumble, Herb whisked me away to the beach.  It was the most healing and therapeutic time for our family of three.  God met us at the ocean, wrapped us in His arms, dried our tears, and settled my heart.  Just like in Job 38:1, in the midst of the storm, the Lord spoke.  

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know his name
It is well with my soul

And I reminded myself in a permanent way about how God is in the business of hope fulfilled.  He has given me Jesus.  That would be enough.  But then he gave me Herb.  And then He gave me Levi. I am so beyond grateful for His faithfulness, and I can do nothing except just trust Him.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

It is well with my soul.

**lyrics from "It Is Well" (Bethel).  I can't believe how fitting they are for this season of life, but really, why am I surprised?  God is good.   

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hope of Hope

The air is crisp, the kitchen is clean, the house is quiet, the coffee is brewing.  These are the inspired moments.  The moment preschool drop off is over, and the reality of chores hasn't sunk in.  These are the times when I think - who's life is this?  I get to be me?

I was going to title this blog post "The Joy of Anticipation," until I logged on and realized that I actually DID blog about that already, it's just been that long.  I wanted to document this anticipatory time as much as I did with Levi, because it's just been so different.  So hopeful, so happy.  Five years ago I was just bitter and sad most of the time and couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And now, I have contentment, peace.  Looking down a long tunnel, I saw a light, and now we are almost there.  It is surreal.

Quite honestly, at this point, 38 weeks and quickly progressing, the anticipation doesn't feel only joyful right now.  The joy and excitement is there, but it's also surrounded with anxiety, oil changes, lists, and is glued to a phone, just waiting for the message, "It's go time."  I am surprised by how stressed I feel, given that I have felt so relaxed for the last four months.

And of course there are the normal second time mom feelings - did I spend enough time with Levi recently?  Have I been too distracted?  Did we go to the park enough?  In fact, last night I was getting all weepy thinking that I didn't read to him enough in the last five years.  Adoptive parents apparently have raging anticipatory hormones, too.

This morning was good, though.  It was what led me to my inspired moment of writing.  We had to take my car for an oil change before school, so Levi and I packed up our bikes and rode from the garage to school (yeah, little town).  The wind blowing in my face reminded me of all the hours of bike rides that we have enjoyed.  The fifteen (no lie) times Levi  yelled "I love you mom!" when he was getting in line for school affirmed me and calmed my anxiety.

Recently I heard a song whose chorus plays in repeat in my head...

"Where there is no way you make a way, when no one else could reach us, you find us."

I keep reminding myself of God's faithfulness.  He has so clearly guided us thus far, I must continue to trust the next steps to Him, as well.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Joy of Anticipation

Weeks ago, when we began to slowly and cautiously share our baby news, one of my often quoted friends Lauren said, "Oh Michelle.  I am so excited that you get to experience anticipating this baby."

"Stop.  What?  All I want is for the next five months to be over and have that little squish in my arms!" is what I thought.  But instead replied, "Yeah, I guess me too."

As she often is - she was right.  "Walking through" this pregnancy with the E-mom (E) has been redeeming for me in so many ways. We each signed up for The Bump and have enjoyed texting each other every week, commenting on the baby's eggplant size or developing ear lobes.  E has been so faithful to text me every day - "So many kicks today," "Heartburn sucks," or "Do you want to talk about my hospital plan?"  In every choice she makes, she considers me, more than she would have to.  I can't speak highly enough of her integrity in this journey.

There are ultrasound pictures.  I have three that E has so thoughtfully texted to me.  It amazes me to see the growth and the development of facial features.

When I look back on our waiting time for Levi, I remember the angst.  I was NOT a joyful waiter.  I was not content.  I was heartbroken and desperate and miserable.  And then when he was in my arms it all changed.  To quote Mater's Tall Tails, "You remember, you was there."

At the beginning of our second adoption, I was so nervous about whether or not the feelings of anxiety and baby-desperation would return.  God is so GOOD - they did not.  Even now, in a 5 month match process (that's what the time is called between when you are picked by an expectant mom and the baby is actually born) my heart is content.  This is the kind of peace that passes understanding.  I get that verse now.

I'm so excited for the calendar to turn to September and know the baby could come any day, but I'm genuinely enjoying getting ready for her.  If I feel like working on the nursery, I do.  If I feel like dropping $25 at Target on baby gear, I do.  I have enough time to spread out purchases so nothing feels like a huge hit.  And yet, we still have 2 1/2 months to go, so there are not any rushed feelings  (yet). 




We were walking out to the car and Levi said with a sigh, "Oh mom.... I just can't stop thinking about that baby."

Me neither, buddy. 


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nine

On my favorite episode of my favorite show, there is a wedding.  Pam tells Jim that because wedding days fly by, they should take mental snapshots of moments throughout the day.  This morning I woke up thinking about some very specific moments of our own wedding day, which was nine years ago today.  You know - the moments that weren't captured by the photographer, and not captured by a smartphone (it was nine years ago), and are burned in my memory simply because of their significance - or significant insignificance?

Waking up at 4 am and spent the next two hours journaling, shaving my legs really well, just bidding my time till the bridesmaids woke up, too.


The moment my sister noticed I was awake way too early and got up to hang out with me.  We talked and walked laps around the hotel parking lot.  That just might be my very favorite sister moment.

Standing in the church bathroom with my mom, both of us dolled up, feeling the most beautiful I have ever felt, and hearing my mom affirm those feelings.


Waiting, nervously, in the hallway as the clarinet choir played.  Jocelyn came to fix my veil and when our eyes met, we both crumbled into a ball of tearful emotion.

Walking, arm and arm, with my dad, feeling all eyes on me.  Walking past all the friends and family who came to support us seemed so fitting - like every person had helped me along the journey which ended at the alter meeting Herb.  I wanted to hug everyone I passed and shout, "Thank you!"


Herb gently holding my hand at the alter and turning it over to see the terrible result of a spray tan on the palm of my hands.

Exchanging vows and choking out the words "in sickness."  How far we had already come at that point, and how much more we've endured since then.


Sitting in the chairs after the ceremony, waiting for pictures, my brother came over to admire my rings.  It was the first time I looked at them together.  We marveled at their beauty and had a tender moment of congratulations.

Posing for pictures and feeling awkward.  I just knew these posed pictures could not be looking good - I was right.  Our posed couple pictures are super awkward.  (Don't make big chested girls in strapless dresses try to sit on the lap of their equally sized husbands.  It's just weird.)


Hearing the jazz band at our reception and wishing I had offered to pay my friend and have them play for more than three songs.  In all fairness, I hadn't really been to any weddings that had dancing/music and wasn't sure how to structure the event.


Dancing with my dad and him remarking, "I had no idea this day would be like this.  This is so wonderful.  You did such a good job."

Trying to direct everyone who was helping clean up and my mother and sister-in-law telling me to just leave already - they had it handled.

Flopping face down on the bed at the hotel room while Herb carried in our luggage.  Tears of nervousness and excitement stung my eyes.

Sitting in Red Lobster later that night because of course we didn't eat anything at the most expensive meal my parents had ever purchased.  It was almost closing time and it was freezing.  But we were starving and it was the most delicious meal ever.



Feeling incredibly awkward the next morning when my in-laws drove us to the airport.  They knew what we DID the night before.  Haha.

Today I am going to hook up the VCR and show Levi our wedding video.  I wonder what moments I have forgotten?

Just last week, Lauren asked me how I felt about where God was leading our family.  Tears sprang to my eyes.  Remembering the fear of loneliness and the relief of finding the love of my life I replied, "I never thought I would be here and look what God has done.  I am happy to follow Him in whatever comes next."