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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Therefore, My Heart Is Glad

One year ago today I sat in the den of my in-laws.

I had just returned from a tumultuous evening of walking around with our "expectant" birth-mom, trying to get labor started, and subsequently sleeping on her couch, just in case her water broke over night.  Her "contractions" were five minutes apart, the car seat was in my car ready to bring a baby home, and everything in our life was ready to embrace Addison Renee, our soon-to-be-daughter.

Of course now I can point to the red flags we saw along the way, but until then, I was in denial until it all came crashing down.  The preparations and the dreams died that morning when we realized we had been betrayed and fooled.  Addison Renee would not become our daughter through the miracle of adoption because Addison Renee did not exist.

So, there I was in the den.  Completely in survival mode, trying to figure out how to pack up my belongings (Levi and I had been staying in Western PA with my in-laws), avoiding Levi's questions, and just trying to remain positive. Burned in my memory is the moment that my mother-in-law walked through the door, stood in the door way and looked at me.  I couldn't believe she had come home from work for me - the gravity of loss had not yet set in. She stood there, for just a second, as if to ask a question she couldn't form, and I simply shook my head.

In an instant, she had crossed the room, wrapped her arms around me, and as my face buried itself in her hug, I let out the sobs of a mother who had just lost a child.

And now, here we are, a year later.  The weather is the same, I am not.

Last week, I had an incredible opportunity to visit my sister, Wendi, who worked on a cruise ship for the last year.  This trip so perfectly bookended my year of grief and loss.  I loved exploring cities of New England and Canada, and due to traveling alone and my sister's work schedule, lots of time by myself, my thoughts being my only companion.

Walking along the harbor in Saint John, New Brunswick, I realized this fitting analogy of the past year:

When we lost the dream and child of Addison,  we experienced a trauma.  In a physical trauma, you treat it immediately with triage or surgery or whatever is required.  In this case, our triage treatment was a trip to Myrtle Beach where we licked our wounds, fittingly enough, during an actual hurricane (read about that here).  God blessed me with the song "It Is Well," and I got a tattoo to commemorate the loss and the hope.


After you suffer a physical trauma and it is treated, you must follow up with doctors appointments and physical therapy.  For me, this was following the advice of Melody and Sarah and admitting that I was not "okay," and seeing a grief counselor.  This therapy was life giving.  It was sad and there were moments I didn't want to be real with the loss - shaming it away.  After all, Addison wasn't even "real," right?  But I had to grieve, and I had to grieve hard.  Of course, this helped the healing process (thoughts on grief here).

Then, as sometimes happens after a little bit of healing, my wound got infected.  This was the spot in the story where the baby who would have been Micah almost entered our lives.  His mama chose to parent him (as is completely her right to do).  This time, though painful and a road block in recovery, the wound was not as harsh, quickly treated, and therapy continued.

In the last months there has been evidence of actual healing, though I take things slow, as you would with a physical ailment.

My cruise marked the end of the year of grief, and represented what a one year check up would be.  Walking along the harbor in Saint John, it hit me - I have a scar, but it's not going to cause me any more pain.

Ironically, in contradiction to the hurricane we experienced in Myrtle Beach last year, this year when I cruised, the weather was completely perfect.  The temps were 65-75 degrees, and the sky was clear. We drove south to go to Myrtle Beach during "triage,"  I drove north to cruise.

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
Jess reminded me of the story of the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness after their delivery from slavery.  Deuteronomy 2 says, "You have been wandering around this hill country long enough; turn to the north."

Oh, you can bet I identified with that!

And then a few verses later, it continues, "...the Lord has blessed you in everything you have done.  He has watched your every step through this wilderness...the Lord your God has been with you."

In the last year, there were lots of moments where I felt like I was barely holding on, where I was walking in the wilderness, where the emotional pain was so strong it felt like a physical ailment.  Yet, laced in to the gut wrenching, heart breaking pain, there has been so much self reflection, so much growth, so much change in me.

But only by the grace of and to the glory of God - soli deo gloria.

My faith has been through the fire, and it has been refined.  In the face of deep pain, clinging to the Lord was my only consolation.

For now, I end with some verses from Psalm 16 -  I feel like I could have penned this myself.

Preserve me, oh God, for in You I take refuge. You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.  I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.  You make known to me the path of life, in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your righthand are pleasures forevermore. 

Psalm 16: 1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 11