I’ve been working my way through a Beth Moore Bible study titled Breaking Free. I chose to host a study group in my home this year, because I knew my availability as a stay-at-home mother would be limited; and I also wanted to invite anyone in my community to share & fellowship. Despite having good reasons for it, I was also hesitant & apprehensive. I thought, “Break free? Do I even want to know what this sort of study will entail? I think I just want to stay in my corner of grief & sadness. I don’t think I can ever break free from the fact that my firstborn daughter died in my arms.” So, in case you think I’m a goody-goody Christian girl, think again. I’ll tell you the truth before you read the rest of this post- I haven’t broken free from my pain & suffering. I’ve actually come to accept it and live with it and see God there with me in it. I think sometimes that’s all those of us who have suffered great loss can do. Accept it. Live with it. Be with God in it.
Beth Moore says, “the life of a Christian is never about sameness. It’s always about change.” It seems to me that all of life is evolving, and whether or not you share the same faith as I do I’m sure you’ve experienced the ebb & flow of time & change. I’ve seen a great deal of upheaval in my life in a short period of time. It’s truly been daunting, and I’m only human, so there’s only so much I can process & understand about it.
Today I stumbled upon a question in the study that made me take a bird’s eye view of my life, and I knew I wouldn’t like what I saw. The question was posed, “Have you ever experienced a season when you seemed to face one loss after another?” Ha, have I!?! I’ll lay it out for you as I did in the margin of my book.
Two months after I married my sweetheart in 2012, he left for a six month military training program that plummeted him into survival mode and smothered his instinct to bond with his new bride; not only were we miles away from one another, we remained emotionally and spiritually separated even months after he returned home from the grueling program. He was not the man I thought I had married and I wanted out. That was Change & Trial #1.
During the first two years of our marriage, I delved into my job as a Vision Therapist, and I treasured every day of my work. It gave me meaning and purpose and drive. I intended to stave off having children and invest more into my career. But then I was unexpectedly and shockingly pregnant in early 2014, and I was truly devastated. I knew that having a child would mean I’d quit work for a while and stay at home. Simply put, it was my standard for family life; although it was sacrificial I also felt it was necessary. And I grieved from the day I found out I was pregnant – I heavily grieved – the impending end to my career as I knew it, and the next Change & Trial of my life.
Then four days after my precious daughter Heidi’s life had begun, she was gone in an instant, sound asleep never to be woken again. Her death hurled us into deep & dark grief, anger & abandonment, bitterness & fear, trauma therapy, marital counseling, and more than I can list here. The Changes & Trials of my life continued into its third year with no break in sight.
By the summer of 2015, we had left our first home behind, all of its memories of Heidi – giving birth to her there, the days we spent with her in bliss, the horror of her death – and had bought a tiny 100 year old farmhouse in preparation for the birth of our unexpectedly-conceived second daughter. Only a couple months after moving in, I admitted myself to the hospital for strange symptoms and signs of early labor when I was just 30 weeks pregnant. I’m not one for mainstream medical practices, so the experience itself nearly put me over the edge of emotional stability. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was where I needed to be in order for my child to have a chance of survival, but I didn’t want to be there, and I gave up my dignity & privacy for the sake of my child. That was Change & Trial #4.
My second daughter was delivered at the cusp of 31 weeks, and we were thrust into NICU life for six weeks. I lived part time at home for some physical recovery but I mostly commuted to the hospital and spent hours upon hours there with my little girl who was hooked up & stuck to wires and monitors and machines and all kinds of strange sounds. I was devastated to see her life start like it did, and I could hardly cope with my loss of Heidi as well as the loss of a dream- to give birth to my second daughter at home and to bond with her naturally as all mothers & children should. I had been forced into a place I didn’t want to be in, and I had been forced to bond with my child despite the IV inserted into her scalp. The Changes & Trials of my life seemed to be never-ending for three years straight.
As you might imagine, I didn’t know myself anymore. I didn’t know who I had been before, and I didn’t know who I was in the moment, and I didn’t know who I should be. That is truly one of the deepest pits of life- to not be found & to not be known.
There has been a reprieve, on some level, from the horrendous storm of Change & Trial, but some things have happened since 2015 that I wouldn’t have wished for and that I’m being forced to accept. However, I have a simple conclusion to my three year saga, and it’s this profound statement I read in my study: “God becomes the only explanation for our emotional survival and revival.”
I’m not just sharing my story- I’m also processing it, and I’m embracing it, and I’m communing with other sufferers, and I’m certainly stronger than I ever was, and I’m nearer to the throne of Grace than I’d ever imagined I would be. You see, I’ve experienced some unimaginable grief & trauma in my life, and I’m not even 30 yet; I’ve wrestled & torn at my identity and fought with God. But I’m still here. And I’m still sojourning. And I’m still learning to love & laugh & live.
How can that be? It can’t be because of my own damn fortitude. As I said, changes & trials can bring you to a place of not knowing yourself anymore, and then you’ve got nothing left. The only way it can be that I’m still here is that God has got a hold of me, and he’s not letting go. He’s not going to leave me. Even in all the mess and the muck and the mire of death, trauma, grief & suffering, he’s still there.
So I guess it’s a matter of WHO’s there. Is it me? Or is it Someone else?
“God becomes the only explanation for our emotional survival and revival.”