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God’s Gift: Hope

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Day 21 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Habakkuk 2:1, 3:16-19

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Image: public domain

Standing on the tower–waiting and watching. . .doing it with the knowledge that destruction is probable.

But, hope.

Hope is a powerful equalizer.  It lifts up despair, and like Habakkuk declares, makes one sure-footed, confident, as a deer.

There is hope even in the midst of the trials coming, or the trials now.  There is hope in the promises of God, in the evidence of blessings He has provided. 

There is hope in God’s sovereignty.

Thoughts for today:

How does remembering God’s promises help you have hope?

While you wait, what do you do to nurture hope?

Our God does not leave us in despair.  He provides us with a hope and peace that is very different from the rest of the world.  We can be confident in that hope. Sure-footed as we move forward in our time of waiting.  He will direct our paths.

Expectant Waiting

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empty-manger1_origAdvent starts tomorrow for the Christian calendar. Since being properly introduced to the concept of advent {I’m not counting the chocolate calendars our uncle gifted us each year at Thanksgiving when we were children} I’ve associated it with waiting.

There’s a lot of waiting in Christianity.  Maybe that’s not quite the right word.  There’s a lot of walking towards something in Christianity.  We walk towards the manger in Advent. We walk towards understanding who He is during Epiphany.  We walk towards the cross during Lent.

And we do it each year. . .practicing our walk.

And we do it with expectation. Anticipation. The idea of anticipation is filled with hope.  It’s knowing that something is going to happen.

In the last two years, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating the three qualities Paul describes to the Corinthians: faith, hope, and love.  Paul says the greatest of these is love.  I don’t disagree with him.  And James says faith is what motivates us to do. I don’t disagree with him either.

Faith is what changes us. Faith leads us to love. Love leads us to do.

But hope. I have grown quite fond of hope.  It is hope that girds my soul. Hope that keeps me filled with expectant waiting.  Anticipation. It is with hope that I walk towards the manger to see the savior of the world.  It is with hope that I pray that those around me will experience the epiphany of who He is.  It is with hope that I carry my cross towards Golgotha.

It is with hope that I wait expectantly each month with faith in my Father and love for what He has done in my life.

In the last year, I wrote an advent devotional, which I plan to share each day here.  It follows the coming of Christ from the Old Testament.  I wrote it to help me focus on how good God is during grief over the loss of our children.  It has helped me remember His many gifts.  May you find something of our great God in it as well.

Rainbows

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I’ve been thinking about rainbows a lot lately.  I want to do some research on rainbow “lore”. So far, I’ve only checked my concordances to see where rainbow shows up in the Bible.  Depending on your translation, that actual word may not be in your Bible.  And, if it is, it’s only in Genesis the one time.

So, it’s amazing to me how rainbows have come to mean so much in today’s culture.  I taught Genesis 6-9 in my high school world literature class. {Yes, I was allowed to do that. . .the Bible is literature, it isn’t forbidden, and it is in the textbook.} One of the questions the textbook proposed using was “why is the rainbow an appropriate symbol for God to use for His covenant?”

I loved asking that question.  It lead to a discussion of when rainbows appear and what feelings do we associate with them.  Most often my students arrived at an answer along the lines of rainbows mean the storm is over and we survived it; it’s hopeful.  They’re clever, kids. Give them a chance.

But recently, I had a unique experience.  While driving in a storm, a rainbow appeared ahead of me.  I was surrounded by torrential rain.  It was dark where I was. But ahead, I could see there was a lightening of the sky, and there across it, through the rain, I saw a rainbow.

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Image from foap.com

The storm isn’t over.

But the rainbow is still there.

God’s promise is still ahead of me.

Juxtaposition

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I wrote this May 26, 2018–before conceiving and losing Monkey, our third child, who would have been due today. I share it now, because, well, I can. And because, I do want to be a voice for the one in four. 

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When Steven and I went to Savannah after losing Nugget, we were walking past a tattoo shop and he jokingly suggested we should get inked on our trip.  We laughed a bit, but then I told him that I knew what I would get.

Romans 8:28.

That was the verse that even in the short two weeks since Nugget’s removal had been my raft. I knew that there was good that God would create. I didn’t know how at that time and was still swamped in the mire of grief, but I knew it just the same.

Then we lost the second baby.

By that time I knew that the pregnancy loss awareness ribbon existed.

I also knew that I didn’t want to NOT talk about our losses. I am the one. . .one in four pregnancies are lost. That’s just a staggering number to me as before Nugget, I rarely heard about these things. I heard of people struggling with GETTING pregnant, which is also heartbreaking.  But I didn’t know of the ones who walked around with the physical loss. . .the knowing that you CAN get pregnant, but for whatever reason, that little child didn’t make it to birth.

So, the new tattoo. . .a juxtaposition of hope and loss. Romans’ verse speaks of hope and goodness. The pink and blue ribbon reminds of loss and pain. I love how the artist who did my ink has the verse almost as the line of the ribbon because they are intertwined. It is an inseparable part of me.

Finally, for me, this honors my God, my dad {for it’s his handwriting}, and my children.

Monkey, the third

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They say you get pregnant when you’re not thinking about it.

Since the first two pregnancy losses, I’ve wondered how you DON’T think about it. It’s pretty constantly in my mind.

Apparently, you break your leg to not think about it.IMG_20181011_005109

When we found out we were pregnant for the third time, we were relatively surprised.  I was just four weeks out from my tib/fib fracture and surgery. Getting pregnant was pretty much the last thing we were thinking about. We mostly were just trying to figure out how I was going to let the dog out while Steven was sleeping or at work.

But, there was no denying the two pregnancy tests at home and the blood test at the doctor’s office.

Monkey was here.

The doctor used the word miracle after the first ultrasound. . .it looked like I got pregnant from my right ovary; I don’t have a right Fallopian tube. It was taken with Nugget.

But when do we tell people?

How do we get excited when we know the all too real truth of the fragility of pregnancy?

We told people.  I’m horrible at keeping this kind of secret.  It was bursting to be out.  Plus, I started getting “morning” sickness. . .pretty consistently at 7 pm every night. And it seemed to be doing Monkey an injustice not to share our excitement with others who would love the munchkin.

However, there were many days when I had to remind myself that every weird sensation in my body didn’t mean that Monkey was leaving.

The questions that come after a third pregnancy loss are, in many ways, harder than the ones that come with the first.  And it’s almost unfair that this is so.

Is this some kind of sign?

Is God telling me no. . .over and over again?

Am I broken?

Are we foolish?

Why?

We haven’t made it past week 9 without a heartbreaking ultrasound.  We’re starting to hate the room.

Our babies haven’t made it farther than week 7.

Monkey was a boy with no chromosomal abnormalities who had a strong heartbeat at week 7. *the week after I wrote this, the second round of chromosome testing was completed. Monkey actually had a double trisomy which is rare and fatal. It’s unusual for the second results to differ from the initial ones.download

It’s surreal to know this about him.

I wonder if he has two big brothers or two big sisters or one of each.

The week after he was gone I struggled. Just getting out of bed was difficult. I was losing all three of them over again.

In my devotions that week, I read the story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus. Both Martha and Mary say to Him beforehand that had He been there, Lazarus would not have died. My devotion book pointed out the boldness of saying this to God.

But it emboldened me to say it as well. “God, if You had wanted to, this could’ve ended differently.”

There. I said it.

It’s important to also remember that in the story neither Martha nor Mary deny who Jesus is or His omnipotence or omniscience.  And that what He wants to do from that point is ok with them.

Christ points out that what has happened is to glorify the Father.

That challenged me.

Am I holding on so tightly to my grief that the Father can’t do what He needs to do, and better yet, wants to do?

I opened my fist a little. Breathing got easier. Getting out of bed quit being a chore.

Am I less sad?

No, not really. I just find the yoke a little lighter to carry.

I wait expectantly for how God is going to use each of these events to glorify His name. Because that’s what I want for Him to do.

Romans 8:28. . . .always.

 

The Hope of a Cemetery

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arlington 3Recently, Steven and I took a trip to Washington, D. C. Number one on my list of things to do was to visit the Arlington National Cemetery. Steven found this amusing, that it was me that really wanted to have that experience more than him. I guess in some ways it is considering his military background.

But his amusement lead to a reflection on why it was so important to me.

I have been to Omaha Beach and seen the cemetery there {little fact about that land–it’s American soil; the French deeded it to the United States so our boys would be buried in home land–I think that’s outstanding.}  My experience at Omaha was inspiring. Walking towards the graves, people are chatting, but as you turn the corner and gaze across the thousands of markers, it goes quiet. It’s somber. It’s peaceful. It’s amazing.

 

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I think when I saw all of those crosses and stars I was humbled that so many people were willing to die for what they believed was the right way for the world to go. They knew it was crazy and that they lived in a crazy time, but they were willing to do it.

I guess I wanted to see if the same feeling would come over me at Arlington.

And it did.

All of those people fought for what they believed this country could be. When the rest of the world had no real understanding of what was being attempted over here, these people were willing to put it all on the line. I stood in the middle of a field that held our country’s hopes and dreams.

I think about my Opa and what he said about becoming an American citizen and why it impressed him. He told me that to be in a counfb_img_1474152209162.jpgtry where it didn’t matter what you came from, if you worked hard, you could be what you wanted was a novelty. That your circumstances didn’t have to define you. He told me that to be in a country where you didn’t have to agree with the government and didn’t have to be afraid to voice that disagreement was a novelty.

And that’s what Arlington meant to me. That there were people who believed so much in what my Opa was able to do when he came here, that they were willing to die for it so he could even attempt it, though the rest of the world thought they were crazy. . .

that’s hope.

 

Dear Nugget

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It’s been a year. I’m not sure what to tell you about this past year.  At least not anything that is new and insightful. All the regular cliches come to mind–especially that one about how the earth keeps spinning despite what is happening in my life.

That sounds melodramatic, and I can see you rolling your eyes at me just like any good child would at his mother.  I can smile at that thought.

My experience with you has lead me to believe that not enough mothers and fathers realize how often pregnancy loss happens.  I understand some of the shush–the questions that surround a pregnancy loss. There’s a struggle with validity of loss.  But, it is a loss.  There’s the loss of the real and the imagined {your father wrote an amazing piece about just that thing when we lost your little}. So, you my Nugget, have placed a passion in me to somehow normalize the sharing of pregnancy loss.  The “secrecy” places too much pressure on those who experience it. . .too much blame. . .too much guilt–when in reality we just need people to listen and acknowledge our grief.

Grief. . .that’s the other thing that I have been learning this past year.  It’s a doozy. And it’s not a prescribed so many steps program.  It lifts its head unexpectedly and demands attention.  And wouldn’t it be so much better if we all felt that we could just do that. . .give grief attention when it needs it and not feel guilty? Because here’s the thing. . .every person on earth is going to have to do that very thing at some point.

Oh, dear Nugget, our lives changed because of you.  We knew they would from the minute you announced your presence, but we had no idea it would be in this manner.  I miss you and wish you were here, but I also know that what has transpired in the last year has brought your father and me together in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.  Our love and awe of our God is stronger.  Our love of each other is stronger. There’s nothing to say that your presence today wouldn’t have produced the same results. . .and I’m not ashamed to say that I sure would have liked to have seen that. But I’m grateful for this year.

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After your little I decided to do something to honor you two.  I hope you like it.  When your father and I went to Savannah after losing you, he jokingly asked me if I wanted to get a tattoo after passing a shop.  I immediately knew that it would be Romans 8:28.  I don’t have stretch marks or any other tell-tell signs of pregnancy  {though I do have the scars where Dr. D took you from me}. But I have this. My prayer is that it reminds me of God and you and your little and that maybe someone will notice it sometime and feel it’s ok to talk about their loss too.

 

 

 

I love you, Nugget.

Just Keep Swimming

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I do love that little fish, Dory. But, this isn’t about her.

Several years ago, I had a bad year professionally and this became my mantra.  I knew that I just had to keep going, moving forward, doing the best I knew how to do.  And I made it.  It wasn’t without exhaustion, and it wasn’t without tears, and it wasn’t without bruises.

I would take that bad professional year again if I could trade in the past six months.

But, I can’t. So I have to keep swimming.

I’m not a strong swimmer, actually.  I can stay afloat.  I did pass the swim test in order to receive my degree from college–a requirement when I matriculated. I’d much rather lie on a float though.

This school year began with my maternal grandfather being moved to Hospice House for his last days.  Being a support to my mother and being by his bedside was emotional. Knowing that I wasn’t creating those all so important first day relationships at work was stressful.  A month later my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with brain cancer. Barely past Opa’s death, I launched into watching my grandfather’s love for my grandmother as she said the things she needed to say and did the things she wanted to do.  And after a month she took her last breath on this earth.

And then there was Nugget.

Grief is not something you deal with or get over.

Grief is something you swim with.

Some days, I want that float or to just lie on the bottom of the pool and watch others float on by.  Some days, that’s exactly what I do–hoping that grief will soak off.

But, it doesn’t.

It’s part of me now. And every stroke of swimming with it strengthens me in ways I may not understand now–but will one day.

Because, I have hope.

Do You Have Your Passport?

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CarolynI love to travel.  If I could find a way to do it full time, I probably would.  I love taking my students to Europe and watching them realize just how big the world is and then come to the conclusion that while we’re all unique, we are all alike as well.  People have dreams and hopes and fears and families and friends and insecurities and confidence and all the rest of it no matter what their first language is or where they live.

This love of traveling was sparked in me by my friend Carolyn.  I introduced you to her when I first wrote about my book club, Between the Covers.  She was an amazing woman.  She possessed class and dignity and compassion and humor and more knowledge about literature and teaching than I can ever hope to attain.  She took me to London and Paris in 2005 and opened up the world to me.

Several years ago we were going to go to Rome.  But she couldn’t find her passport.  She looked everywhere.  Carolyn considered having it replaced, but her health was declining, and she wasn’t sure if she’d really ever get to use it again anyway.  As it turns out, 2005 was her last trip across the pond.  The lost passport became somewhat of a joke–if we misplaced things we’d say “It’s with Carolyn’s passport.”Passport

However, Carolyn had the most important passport there is.  Carolyn knew our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  She was a godly woman who was an example not only to me, but also to everyone she was around.  She touched so many lives–in her family, in her friends, in her classroom, in her church, in her visits to the hospital and cancer center, in her nail salon, in restaurants.  She was steadfast in her faith.

Carolyn knew John 14:6: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

This morning Carolyn’s Passport was stamped by Jesus Himself as He welcomed her home.