Category Archives: sorrow / grief

we named her Hope

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Six months ago, Ted and I went to see the fertility specialist. After three miscarriages in seven months, our hearts were shattered. In some ways it was a relief when the doctor did some tests and found out that both of my Fallopian tubes were blocked. Because of that and several other reasons, he recommended IVF as our only option for biological children, stating that there was no way we could conceive on our own due to complications from the other pregnancies. Since Ted and I have always had a deep desire to adopt, we decided to forego the $14k price tag of IVF (and all the other risks associated with it) and start pursuing adoption. It was a relief in many ways for me to close the door to such deep loss, knowing that we would never return there.

Well, a few weeks ago, I feared the worst… what if these symptoms I’d been having weren’t a side effect of medicine after all… what if I was somehow pregnant. I was gripped immediately by fear. Why would God work a miracle to get me pregnant only to have me miscarry again? No, not that road again. It hurt so deeply as pieces of my heart were taken away and I didn’t ever long to go back. So, I ignored the signs, hoping this wasn’t the case. But God had other plans. After about a week of me silently questioning, I decided to tell Ted. He encouraged me to go ahead and buy a pregnancy test and see what happens. Immediately it came back with two pink lines – two really dark lines. We were clearly pregnant. What the doctor said would never happen just did. My heart was full of as much excitement as fear. The thought of a child with my sweet husband’s eyes was a dream that might actually become a reality. And everything seemed different this time around.

I went last Friday to the doctor for a blood test to confirm the levels of this pregnancy. Because my levels were always so low in past pregnancies, we were afraid to hear the results. But what joy we experienced when the lab work came back 3x higher than it had ever been with my previous pregnancies. The nausea, exhaustion and other pregnancy symptoms keep coming in waves. I couldn’t have been more excited… or more apprehensive. Monday, I went back for the second round of tests. The goal is to see the HCG (pregnancy hormone) double ever 48 hours or so. This was the point in our other pregnancies where it started going downhill. But this time, the numbers tripled. We were filled with hope, seeing that this time was indeed different.

And then this past Wednesday, just a glimpse of my fear was realized. Red blood. Never something you want to see during a pregnancy… especially with my history of repeated miscarriages. We rushed to the doctor, only to find that all appeared normal. It was too early to see much detail on the ultrasound, but overall, the doctor was not concerned. It seemed the bleeding was a side effect of a medicine I’m on to help sustain the pregnancy. All in all, once again we were hopeful. The doctor did a third blood test just to ensure that all these pregnancy symptoms were still pointing to a positive outcome.

And then this morning I got the call. Instead of doubling, my numbers dropped by a third. Another Riley baby meets Jesus before we do. And we are left with the pieces to put back together. Again, my heart is shattered. I don’t know even what to say or how to process this… me, the infertile barren woman conceived again. God worked a miracle. And then just as swiftly took it away.

This baby gave us such hope… a renewed faith and trust in God’s goodness that I haven’t had in months… a trust that God does indeed care about the desires of our hearts and longs to give His children good gifts. I was freshly aware of my need for God’s mercy. His hand holds each day of my baby’s life just as He holds mine. How desperate I became again for His mercy and provision. How aware I was that He is over all. All I could do is beg for mercy.

I’m not sure where mercy is found in death. That is one that I just don’t understand. But God chose, yet again to take my dear child before my hands even had a chance to hold them. I’m so angry. I’m so confused. Where is the goodness? I’m not even sure I want to trust Him right now. This baby brought us hope and then our hope was taken away so quickly. So now, I’m stuck in darkness realizing where else can I go? My Jesus, my Savior and my faithful Friend is the one with the words of eternal life. But right now I don’t want to run to Him. I want to cry out in anger because He could have stopped this and He didn’t. He’s the only one I have to turn to yet turning to Him hurts so deeply. But i do know He is true. I do know He is faithful and will work even this horrible loss to bring good in me. I just don’t see how. And this surely doesn’t feel or seem good in anyone’s eyes. I just ache. My heart is broken and my soul feels raw. I cry to him, knowing full well He allowed this and am just left confused because those two pieces make no sense to me. So for now, yet again, I’m asking Him to just hold me until I find hope again.

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rough day.

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if you had told me this morning what today would hold, I don’t know that I would have believed you… or that I would have gotten out of bed if I had believed you.  I went at 7am for bloodwork, 10am for an ultrasound and 10:30 for a doctors appointment.  We knew by 10:30 that we were facing something bigger than a “normal” miscarriage.  But I guess I knew that for a few weeks because of the pain I’ve been having and the other strangness going on… this process has been over a month so far with no real end in sight.

Turns out that we didn’t miscarry… we had an ectopic pregnancy.  Originally our pregnancy hormone numbers went down, which seemed like a “routine” miscarriage.  But then the symptoms didn’t end.  So, last week I called the doctor and went in for more testing.  And the hormone went back up.  That’s not really a good sign.  And then it went up again.

Basically, an ectopic pregnancy is where an embryo implants in the wrong place… in this instance in the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus.  There is no chance really for the baby to survive because there is no space for it to grow.  And in our case, though the gestational sac was clearly visible, no heartbeat was detected.  The big problem with an ectopic pregnancy is if the tube ruptures there is a high chance of death.  So, no chance of survival for baby and high chance of death for me.  Worst case scenario in both conditions.

Basically our two options were 1) Methotrexate (a chemo drug) to shrink the gestational sac / tissue in my fallopian tube so that my body can miscarry naturally or 2) surgery to remove it.  Since the surgery comes with a longer recovery and the potential of infertility issues in the future, we opted for the chemo.

I never thought we would face a decision like this.  How I wish there was another option.  My heart is broken.  And yet again, we say goodbye to the baby we have grieved over for the last month.  So grateful for my friends who have prayed with us, cared for us and helped us through this. We are confident that God is leading us and we know He is holding us through this time.

will post more later.  going to lay down and cry.

God’s people are prone to be discouraged because of the difficulty of the way. In the bitterness of their spirits, they are often apt to say, with desponding Zion, “The Lord has forsaken me;” or with the faithless prophet, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

But the Christian has his consolations too, and they are “strong consolations.” The “still small voice” mingles with the hurricane and the storm. The bush burns with fire, but the great God is in the bush, and therefore it is indestructible! “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; and may the God of my salvation be exalted.” Earthly consolations may help to dry one tear, but another tear is ready to flow. God dries all tears. There is no need in the aching voids of the heart that He cannot supply. (John McDuff)

Let us look to You

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O Lord God Almighty, though Your way may sometimes seem to be in the sea, and Your path in the deep waters, and Your judgments unsearchable–yet nothing can happen by accident or chance. All is the unerring dictate of Your infinite wisdom and unchanging faithfulness and love. “This also comes from the Lord Almighty,” who is ever “excellent in working.” Often we cannot discern, through our tears, the rectitude and love of Your affliction. Often are we led to say, with trembling hearts, “Truly, You are a God who hides Yourself.” But all is well. We could not wish our concerns in better hands, than in Yours.

You cannot send one trial that is unnecessary, or light one spark in the furnace that might be spared. We will be silent, we will not open our mouths, because You are the one who has done this! Man may err, and has often erred. But, O unerring God–the Judge of all the earth must do right! We would seek to lie submissive at Your feet, and say in un-murmuring resignation, “May Your will be done.”

Our earnest prayer, blessed God, is, that this severe trial may be sanctified to us all. Oh, may we listen to our Father’s voice. May we feel it to be a loud voice, and yet full of gentle tenderness. May it rouse within each of us the question, “What will You have me to do?” May we “arise and call upon our God!” Thus may this very affliction, which, for the present, seems not to be joyous but grievous, nevertheless afterward yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Let us hear Jesus’ voice of encouragement and love, sounding amid the stillness of the death-chamber, and from the depths of the sepulcher, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one who died. Look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave!”

O Helper of the helpless, Comforter of all who are cast down, better and dearer than the dearest and best of earthly relatives–give us that grace which You have promised specially in seasons of weakness. May we realize the truth of Your own precious promise, “As your day–so shall your strength be.”

May this thought reconcile us to bear all and suffer all–that we shall soon be done with this present evil world–and be with our God, and that forever and ever! Hide us meanwhile, in the clefts of the Smitten Rock, until this and all other of earth’s calamities are over and past. May we trust Your heart–where we cannot trace Your hand! We wait patiently for the great day of disclosures, when all shall be revealed; and all be found redounding to the praise and the glory of Your great name!

Hear us, blessed God. All that we ask, is for the sake of Your dear Son–our only Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Praying today for my PopPop… who is on hopsice care and just waiting to enter the presence of his dear Savior.

falling

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I have felt felt greater joy and deeper grief in the past week than I can remember for a long time.  To see God so greatly bless and then so swiftly take is something that rocks you to your core.

We found out today that our baby did not make it.  As simple as that last sentence is grammatically, it has taken me about 5 minutes to even write it.  And I want to throw up even thinking about it.  I don’t want to admit it.  I don’t want to let go.  I want to cling against all hope that there might still be a chance, though I know there is none now.  The blood numbers, the doctor and my body all agree.  My heart is broken and our baby is gone.

Last night Ted and I talked about trusting God with hope, even though we know those hopes could be crushed and that crushing would be painful.  I said its not a matter of putting your fingers in your ears and pretending all will be fine but rather it’s realizing that no matter what God is faithful.  It’s like what Stephen and Mary Beth Chapman said when their daughter Maria died…  “when we fell, we fell hard.  But when we landed our foundation was firm.”

Ted and I haven’t quite landed yet.  I’m not honestly sure when that will happen.  But I know from experience and I know from God’s Word that when we do land, our foundation will be firm.  Thank you to everyone for your encouragement, for your prayers and for your care for us.  Part of me feels guilty for bringing you all into this journey of ups and downs, but then I remember that God has called us to both rejoice and weep together as a family.  So, thank you.  Thanks for your joy with us.  And thank for your tears.  God is kind to have given us such wonderful friends.

On a side note, Psalm 40, 86 and 22 have been very comforting to me today.  In a later post, I will explain why.

Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

…my heart fails me. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me!
O LORD, make haste to help me!

I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:

For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.

O God, I cling with feeble fingers to the ledge of your great grace

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In the past two weeks, my plate has been full  …working full time again, fighting one of the worst ear infections (STILL) that I can remember, planning 2 parties for two dear friends and celebrating the births of five friends babies…  that’s just life though.  life is always busy.  one month its party planning, the next month its something else.  I think where I really feel full is emotionally.  As of yesterday, Ted and I are now in month 8 of trying to conceive a child of our own.  My heart is full. and heavy. And mourning.

I love John Piper’s poem “Job.”  It is a four-part poem and so many of the lines describe where I am emotionally.  Not saying my struggles and pains are on equal par with Job, but my heart can sure relate.  One thing I’m grateful for though is that my friends are no comparison to his.  What a comfort they have been to me lately.  random e-mails.  from MANY people over the last week.  lots of prayers and facebook messages and I can just feel the compassion and love.  Thank you.

“I came with nothing from the womb,
I go with nothing to the tomb.
God gave me children freely, then
He took them to himself again.
At last I taste the bitter rod,
My wise and ever blessed God.”

… so count the cost;
And ponder everything we’ve lost.
And let us bow before the throne
Of God, who gives and takes his own,
And promises, whatever toll
He takes, to satisfy our soul.

Come learn the lesson of the rod:
The treasure that we have in God.
He is not poor nor much enticed
Who loses everything but Christ.

I rejoice with my friends. I can’t wait to hold their babies. But how I long for and pray for a baby Riley (many in fact) soon. I’m 29 and my husband is 36. We really would love a large family and I would love to be pregnant with so many of my close friends. My heart is rejoicing yet also breaking. I struggle to see the kindness of God when He chooses to take.  Yet I know his timing is good. But to my heart it feels anything but good. But I see his faithfulness through every step of my life, so my faith is strengthened in this trial as I look back.  Like Job I say…

O God, I cling
With feeble fingers to the ledge
Of your great grace, yet feel the wedge
Of this calamity struck hard
Between my chest and this deep-scarred
And granite precipice of love.

guess I’m just weary. Weary of the fight. Feeling hopeless… Knowing God has never promised me a child that I will hold in my arms so struggling with how to persevere in faith in my request. We both would love to adopt but right now there is not a peace to pursue that.  But the desire is there.  And God keeps asking us to pray in faith.  That in and of itself is a glimmer of hope.

One little flame when all is night,
Proves there is such a thing as light.
One answered prayer when all is gone,
Will give you hope to wait for dawn.

I know part of the struggle is the physical weakness. My body is worn down from the infection. Cramps never help either.  I am adjusting to a new schedule. All while in this dichotomy of rejoicing with others yet grieving for myself. So many hurts resurfacing from my past as I face all this yet again.

Oh so weary. Thank you friends for your prayers. Thank you for listening to the Spirit and for caring for me. More grateful than words can express.

Beware the thought that all is vain,
In time God’s wisdom will be plain.

…What we have lost God will restore
When he is finished with his art,
The silent worship of our heart.
When God creates a humble hush,
And makes Leviathan his brush,
It won’t be long until the rod
Becomes the tender kiss of God.

joy in Your presence

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In your presence, Lord, there is joy.
Am I far from your presence?
Am I missing your glory when I focus on my pain?
I am weak.  You are great.
Have I forgotten what is truly important?
Why do I not feel the joy that once proved so precious to me?

If you can be glorified through my weakness, will I be content with it?
If you become bigger though my pain, will I give you thanks?
Can I live in gratitude despite exhaustion? Or frustration? Or confusion?
When it’s a sacrifice, will I still choose to praise You?

How long, Lord can I go on like this waiting for your voice?
Help me to listen. Help me to see it.
Help me not to focus on a conclusion as my answer, help me to focus on You.

For You are my answer.  You are my hope.
In Your presence I find my joy.
You drew me out of my pit.  If you’ve done that, why do I doubt?
Why does my heart cry out in anguish and fear?

You’ve proven your faithfulness time and again
Why is my soul downcast yet again?
I look to You. My feet are on You, my Rock.
My ways are secure.  Though hidden in darkness for now.

I will rest.  I will hope.  I will have joy.

a look back

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thanks for your patience with me as i’ve been noticeably absent the last month or so.  i hate that my blog has taken a back seat so drastically, because if for no other reason, it is always encouraging for me to go back and look over what God has done in my life.  I was especially encouraged a few weeks ago to look back and see an overview of what God did in the past few years.

So, keeping up with the tradition, here is a brief overview of 2009…

The year started off on a very low note – with me working through some very difficult issues from my past and having to face some personal heartache that I would have much rather left buried.  Thanks to the help of Matt and Julie and many others from my church, I continued to learn what forgiveness looked like, but not without many tears.

That struggle began several months of discouragement and at times hopelessness.  Looking back now, I am so grateful for my friends who stuck with me, upheld me, and encouraged me each step of the way… and at times, did everything necessary to turn my gaze off myself and back to the hope found in the cross.

I learned through that time, that my safety and comfort must be found in Jesus alone.  That though others disappoint, and at times cause severe hurt and pain, that Jesus never fails.  I learned that like Eustace, in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that at times God strips away ourselves, but it is always done with a hand of love and mercy.

2009 also was a year in which I started to see my health improve.  This year brought for the first time in years the first consistent season of sleeping normally and the first period of weeks with no migraines.  I’m grateful to God for the help of the doctors and others, but ultimately, for His hand guiding my health and my life.

then began a season of questions… should i remain at my job? where should I live? should I pursue moving to another state?  if so, where?  i began pursuing a long-standing desire… to move to the Washington DC area… for months, I investigated, prayed and talked with people.  By late spring, I felt a peace about pursuing it and by mid summer I was convinced I was moving… as soon as God provided a job.  I spent 10 days in the DC area on a fact finding mission, found a place to live, spent hours driving in traffic and was excited about the pending change.  Then God closed the door.  It was clear to me that the door was closed tight and that I was not to pursue any further.  Yet it was also abundantly clear that this change was for my good and was given to me by a God who knows what is best for me.  So, my roots are in Greenville.  But my hope in God grew through that time, and though the “move” was unsuccessful, the lessons learned were well worth the months of questioning.

This fall brought changes once again to my life.  September 13th was my first date with Ted Riley, a man whom I have since grown to love.  We met in August via e-harmony and i am grateful for how God (not merely 29 dimensions of compatibility) brought the two of us together.  I could not imagine a better fit for me and look forward to seeing what God does with our relationship.

The past 4 months have been times of continuing improved health (despite the doctors telling me in August that they thought I could have pancreatic cancer) and new areas of learning to trust God.  Contentment looks different in this season (not “is there even possibly a good guy out there who would like me?” but “when will I get married / when will I have kids / when does the next “season” start?”) but the struggle remains the same… so I keep learning that no matter the circumstance, that my confidence and hope must be in the only One who remains unchanging.

In October, I began writing weekly online devotionals for Devotional Christian.  It has been an encouraging and challenging step for me… in learning to be more thoughful about what I write and growing in being more theologically informed.

I’ve seen reconciliation in relationships this year.  I’ve seen improvement in health.  I’ve seen new changes.  But through it all, I’ve learned more of the faithfulness of our God.  Through every change, He has remained true to me.  And through every time I haven’t remained true to Him, He lovingly corrects and draws me back.

What a God we serve.  I look forward to the challenges and blessings of 2010, confident that through every step, He will be by my side.