Silas, C-Section, and Letting Go

Events and circumstances are often used as catalysts for the freedom, change, wholeness, or transformation God is trying to work out in our lives.  I’ve been learning all year about how I cannot and do not hold everything together.  God has been showing me so clearly this year that I cannot even hold myself together, I cannot get everything right and perfected every time.  I cannot hold my children’s world together.  I cannot hold my husband’s world together.  I cannot control or determine their feelings or actions. 

I have been learning freedom in the truth that while I cannot and do not hold all things together, I do follow the only One who does.  I know that in Jesus all things are held together (Colossians 1:17), and as I follow Him and listen to His Spirit, I am able to be held together.  As I listen to Him for how I parent, how I run my home, how I love my husband, then I can step into His freedom and peace and rest in my every day life…because He is the one holding it all together…not me. 

I thought I had been learning all of this pretty well.  And maybe I had.  This pregnancy was definitely the hardest of any of my pregnancies, and through the exhaustion in it, I had already been learning to let go of so many things.  However, it seems that there are even deeper levels to this release and rest that God wanted me to know. 

Over two weeks ago now, I was already getting a sense that something was “off” with the end of Silas’ pregnancy.  Labor wasn’t coming the way it had with my other two.  Five days past my due date, I woke up in the middle of the night with a sense that something just wasn’t right.  After being induced later that next day, things didn’t progress the way they had in my previous births.  Thankfully, because of all of this…because of what I had sensed…I was not exactly surprised when the surgeon and my doctor walked in to tell me that I would need to have a C-section.  We had already exhausted every other option.  While nervous, I had peace.  This was right.

It was very apparent to me that not only had God allowed the C-section as an act of grace to get my sweet Baby Silas out into the world with me, He had also allowed it for me to learn deeper levels of letting go of all of my efforts to hold things together.  Nothing quite “stills” you like being on pain medication, not being able to lift anything heavier than your 8 lb. newborn, and not being able to drive for two full weeks.  Everything weighs more than 8 lbs.  These new restrictions brought to the surface how much I still try to hold things together.  For the first time since becoming a wife and a mom, I literally could not hold anything together. 

That first day home, I didn’t even leave my bedroom.  Just Baby Silas and I hanging out all day in my bed up in the master suite. My super amazing stud of a husband did not even bat an eye at the new weight he would be carrying.  From the moment we came home, he has been committed to giving me a solid recovery time so that I would heal well.  He has done everything for our little family…literally everything.  As I observe him, I see God giving him the energy and the heart to care for me, our home, our big boys, to go grocery shopping, to plan and cook meals…to carry us right now.  It is humbling to be cared for like this.  The love my husband has for me is so full and amazing.

Yet, twice now, I’ve already overdone it.  It’s like I won’t learn.  It’s like I can’t accept grace, love, and rest.  I find so much satisfaction and worth in doing and accomplishing…in holding things together, that already at least twice in the last week, I’ve found myself pushing ahead of where I am right now.  Instead of trusting my husband to run the plan, I’ve stuck my hands in his plan, trying to also accomplish my agenda…and ultimately find satisfaction in accomplishing things.  Last night, in tears I was sharing with my husband that I’ve really got some issues when I have been given every resource and reason to rest and I still won’t rest.

My father-in-law has been hear since last Friday and is staying until my mom gets here this Friday.  We have help and support.  And yet, I push past the very obvious gift of being able to rest.  I push past the work God wants to do in my soul in regard to rest.  I push past the truth that I don’t actually hold everything together, but He does.  It is time take a good hard look at how much I tie my value and worth to accomplishing and achieving.  This is the moment to ask Jesus to transform my very heart to these deeper levels of trust, freedom, rest, and peace. 

How all this will look past this season is still unknown to me.  I will have to return to carrying some family responsibilities again very soon.  But I am hopeful that this time is on purpose to solidify deeper realities of peace in my soul.  I am hopeful that when returning to everyday life, I will be able to integrate a new understanding of peace and rest into my roles and responsibilities. 

So, I am surrendering myself to rest.  I am surrendering myself to this gift.  I am incredibly grateful for a husband who is working hard to let me rest…a husband who wants me to rest right now.  I am beyond thankful to have parents and in-laws who are incredibly willing to help us, to be involved in our lives and love on our kids. 

I am slowly learning to be at rest in my very spirit as I let go of all attempts to hold my little world together.  Because the truth is…I don’t actually hold it together anyway. 


When It's Time to Quit

One of the most profound conversations of my life happened with my sister at a coffee house on the corner of Kietzke and S. Virigina.  I was twenty-two and was working at a church at that time.  Full-time ministry.  My dream.  The only problem was that I felt like I had lost connection with God…and I really didn’t really love the people I was ministering to.  As I shared all this with my sister, I revealed a question I had barely let myself entertain: should I quit my job?  It seemed contradictory to quit “ministry” so that I could be close to God, yet it felt like my ministry was standing in the way of my knowing God.

My sister said words that I have lived by since that day: nothing matters more than knowing God.  She went on to emphasize that if my job was getting in the way of knowing God (even if it was a “ministry” job) that I needed to quit my job.  She said it with such matter-of-fact confidence.  It was just so clear to her.  And became so clear to me. 

And I have never once regretted the shift my life took after quitting my ministry job.

Now, ten years later, a similar shift is happening all over again.  Val and I are about to step into a very unconventional year.  A year to re-center on Jesus.  To re-order our life's priorities. 

Starting in October, Val will step away from his faculty position at the Christian residency where he has been working and will simply work a part-time hospital position.  We also will be taking a year off from any “official” ministry.  That means no retreats, no leading, no conferences, no speaking for at least the next year.* 

When I describe to my friends our reason for doing this, I explain that both Val and I are exhausted, burnt-out, and fried.  I explain that we are living the professional and ministry life of “fifty year olds,” but are doing so while also living in the young family reality of our thirties.  We just can’t be in both right now.  It is literally sucking the life out of us to try to do both.  We are both also longing for more of God.  To really know Him and be with Him.

There is a necessary re-ordering of our priorities in front of us.  We need to re-organize our outputs.  The last five years since we got married, we’ve just been piling more and more and more onto our life.  Val was already a faculty member at the residency program when we got married.  His job not only included practicing medicine, but also training residents in medicine, discipleship, and ministry.  Nine months after we got married we added our first baby to our family.  We added another baby.  Both of our extended families underwent drastic changes and shifts, which engaged our hearts and emotions in ways we never expected. Val began speaking more.  I published a book.  We started leading more in ministry.  We had a miscarriage.  Retreats started stacking up on our life.  Another pregnancy.  More.  More.  More.

This is where we’ve found ourselves as we’ve come to this major life decision of stepping back from the “more.”  We’ve got to wipe the slate clean and start over.  We’ve got to have Jesus at the center.  From there, we can begin to invest in all the rest of life: marriage, parenting, our little family, our extended family, and whatever else God reveals.  We just cannot keep on running along a proverbial hamster wheel, but must evaluate where and how our energies our being invested. We cannot strive to gain great things while missing our very souls.** 

In a recent blog post, Ann Voskamp described how plucking off the blooms from the first strawberry harvest would lead to much more bountiful strawberry harvests in the future.  So, she sacrificed the entire first harvest for much richer and larger harvests in the future.  More strawberries.  Better strawberries.  Just from pinching off that first round of flowers.  No strawberries at first to have more and better strawberries later.*** 

This is where Val and I find ourselves right now.  A harvest of flowers blossoming up in front of us, yet knowing that for the fullest and best harvests in the future, we’ve got to pinch off the blossoms.  It seems counter-intuitive to cut back what seems like a good harvest; however, we have vision for a better harvest.  A fuller harvest one day.  So.  We stop.  Break off the current blossoms.  And ask God to make His fullest harvest in us in the future, re-centering on Him and allowing him to reorder our priorities. 

I feel that we must throw off anything that we can that is weighing us down during this season so that we can see and run the race He has ultimately marked out for us.****

* Our hands are still open to the possibility that God may lead both of us to a specific, temporary investment of our gifts at some point in this next year.    

** For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  Matthew 16:26 (ESV)

*** Click here to read her full post.

**** Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)


After a Miscarriage: Responding to Your Own or Another's Miscarriage

What follows is a simple post both for the woman processing her own miscarriage and also for those close to someone going through a miscarriage.  These are my heartfelt thoughts (and hopefully helpful words) on responding to miscarriage, whether it is your own or someone else’s.

For many, miscarriage is a moment of deep feeling and loss often to be tucked away just weeks later, almost as though it never happened. 

I will never forget the moment.  My doctor friend scrolling over my belly, my husband holding one of our sons to see the screen…the other son standing nearby.  Waiting.  Searching.  No flickering heartbeat.  Me holding my breath.  My husband took the boys out of the room.  My doctor friend looked more and talked and processed with me. 

Miscarriage: the formal term for losing a little life, the medical word for the loss of a baby that will never exist outside its mama. 

Miscarriage: the aching loss so many women experience, often secretly and quietly, concealing their grief as though nothing happened.

Traditionally, miscarriage has been something only whispered about between close girlfriends.  Cried about alone.  At times, husbands holding their wives through the pain.  Other times, husbands feeling the loss yet not having any cultural context for processing the loss of a person they never actually touched. 

Yet, now, a wave is starting.  Brave women opening up about the grief of miscarriage and the importance of recognizing the life that was momentary on this earth but very real.

It’s been almost exactly a year since we lost our little baby.  Recently an older woman asked how I would keep this little baby’s story alive in my family.  I shared of things we had done to recognize the brief little blip this tiny baby was in our lives.  But there is more.  So many of you validated her little life in ways that forever touched my heart.  So for the world out there, I want to offer a few words of encouragement in regards to responding to miscarriage.  Words that encompass my own process of grief, words that share what others did to love me through that season.

When It’s Your Miscarriage

Say what you need.  During the days from the ultrasound to the actual moments of miscarrying, we had some extenuating family circumstances going on.  I didn’t know what to do in those circumstances nor how to communicate my needs well.  Going through a miscarriage is a moment in your life where you must speak up and say what you need.  Do not feel guilt about saying what you need. 

Choose comfort.  It’s a physically and emotionally draining process to go through a miscarriage.  When I did finally speak up and say what I needed, my husband helped create some quiet, alone space for us for a few days complete with wine (and pain pills on hand just in case the process became too intense).  The night I actually miscarried our baby, I had a little wine and watched a chick flick with my husband…the combination of which is my most “comfortable” reality.  We actually kept our boys home with us during those days, but my husband shouldered their care so that I could rest.  As best as I could, I rested my body, mind, and soul through the process.

Grieve.  You lost a little life you were anticipating.  A soul.  A person you now don’t get to meet.  Allow yourself to grieve.  Cry.  Journal.  Yell.  Curl up in a ball on the bathroom floor if you want to and sob until you’re done.  And the sob some more.   

Recognize that Little Life.  In whatever way fits you, find a way to validate and recognize that life you lost.  It could look so many different ways.  I blogged about my loss.  My husband and I lay in bed one night naming our little baby.  I shared the name and the story of the name with those closest to me.  I even painted as a way to remember.  These were my ways of recognizing and validating our baby’s life.  Find your own way, a way that suits you, to recognize and validate your baby’s life. 

Read This.  The following link is one of the most powerful pieces I read while processing my miscarriage and the subsequent questions of where my little baby’s soul was.  Click here to read John Piper’s “Funeral Meditations,” which he spoke in response to the loss of a baby who lived for only ten minutes on earth.  Piper’s words were some of the most helpful words in my processing.   

When It’s Someone Else’s Miscarriage

Use Sensitivity.  A woman going through a miscarriage is often emotionally fragile.  Even if she seems strong, stable, and at ease, there is so much more going on inside that she doesn’t want to tell you.  Be gentle with her heart.  It is surprising how even the smallest insensitive word can crush a woman grieving the loss of her unborn baby.

Ask first.  She will probably welcome help and care; however, just ask first.  What you want to do may or may not actually help her and/or touch her heart. 

Offer Practical Help.  Offer to take her kids for a few hours for a playdate.  Offer to bring dinner over.  You know her life and what she might need help with.  If you can help her out in some way, offer that help. 

Get Her Favorite.  One night in the midst of that emotional week, one of my closest friends texted me to see if I would like a pint of ice cream.  When I responded, “yes,” she drove over minutes later with my favorite ice cream.  I cannot even tell you how much this meant to me.  Whatever your friend’s favorite treat is, take it over and drop it off.  Grief is a time to be comforted.  So whatever comforts her, take it to her. 

Listen.  I needed to process.  With my husband.  With my mom.  With my girlfriends.  It happened sporadically and unexpectedly.  I couldn’t always anticipate when I’d need to talk.  I wrote emails with a plethora of questions to a couple of my friends who I knew had experienced their own miscarriages.  I texted one of my closest friends over and over again through those days and she just “listened” to my text messages, and in response, she expressed gentle compassion and understanding.  I cried so many times, just needing my husband to hold me.  I needed to talk about our baby.  I called my mom one morning an irrational crying mess, stressed about other complicating factors in our life at that time, and she just listened.  And then she spoke truth to me.  She settled my chaotic heart and gently (but strongly) spoke truth about those complicating circumstances, offering freedom, confidence, and perspective.  I will never forget that conversation.   When your grieving friend (or wife or daughter or sister) is ready to talk, listen. 

Validate the Life.  Because I walked through my miscarriage fairly publicly through my blog, I had the comforting reality of many, many people responding with love, tenderness and validation of the life I was losing.  When I wrote my mom and sisters, sharing with them the baby’s name, they wrote back with such tender and feeling responses.  Their words validated my little baby’s brief life.  One friend had already purchased a gift for this baby as soon as she found out I was pregnant, she texted one day and asked if it would be good for my heart or more painful to have the gift.  I asked her to please send it.  Another good friend showed up at my house weeks later with a small gift…a simple necklace with the baby’s first initial imprinted on a significantly meaningful charm.  I wore that necklace every day for months.  To whatever extent your friend opens her heart and experience to you, reciprocally validate the life she lost. 

Support Her Husband.  In those first few days of losing our baby, I was such an emotional wreck that I knew I was unable to truly help my husband process.  We were trying to connect over the loss, but it was so hard because there were so many other factors complicating our life at that time.  He called up one of his buddies who went out with him in the midst of it all.  That friend listened to Val, asked Val questions, checked on Val’s heart, and offered support.  This gave Val the strength he needed to come back and continue to hold me as I cried and grieved during those really hard days. 

Pray for Her.  She is grieving.  Pray for Jesus to be so near to her.  I could feel that people were praying for me, for Val, for our family.  Just weeks after the miscarriage, we were off leading a retreat.  And at the retreat, Val and I shared with the couple leading worship (strangers to us before the event) that we were in the middle of processing and grieving, and they stopped in one powerfully spiritual moment and prayed over us.  For those few minutes, it was as though heaven and earth touched as this couple prayed over our grieving hearts. 

Talking with Kids about Miscarriage

Elijah, our then 3 ½ year old, knew that there was a new baby inside Mama’s belly.  I knew I needed to explain the loss to him.  Yet, at 3 ½, he was only just beginning to understand death.   So, in plain but gentle words, I explained that our little baby had died.  This was followed by questions about what happened, where the baby was, and if other babies in other women’s bellies were also going to die (his best buddy’s mom was also pregnant at the time).  So, we talked through every single question.  And then whenever he would bring it up again, I would answer whatever he wanted to know, making it a safe conversation.  Months later when I got pregnant again, Elijah’s questions about babies and death and “our other baby” surfaced again.  So, we talked through it all once again. 

A much as you are able, allow your child or children talk with you openly about the baby that was lost.  Answer their questions with age-appropriate truth.  One web resource I read encouraged miscarrying mamas to use real words even with very young children…words like “die” instead of “lost,” as even those subtle differences can create fear in preschoolers trying to process miscarriage (will Mama “lose” me too?).  Recognize that for your kids this is the loss of a hoped for sibling.  Allow this loss to be part of their story, too.  Your family lost someone.  Find ways that fit your family to mark and remember the life that never actually got to join in.  For us, it’s a simple page in one of our many scrapbooks.  We pass over that page once in a while when we look at that scrapbook and it keeps that one life a part of our story. 

Miscarriage is a part of so many of our stories.  A part of our stories to process, grieve, and remember…interwoven in the fabric of our very lives.