Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bringing our series to an end…Confession #10

I wish I could say that I've saved the best for last. But in reality it feels like I've held on to an atomic bomb...until the masses are lulled into complacency…and am now dropping it on a school filled with innocent children. Yea…high levels of drama…but that's the vibe I'm feeling over here. Once again, I'll ask you to stick with me until the end. It's gonna be a bumpy ride. 

Our 10th confession won't be anything new and earth-shattering…it may just be another eye-opener to the inner turmoil of the grieving parent. For me, it was a gut-wrenching realization. 

Confession #10: The grieving parent is experiencing intense emotion toward the Sovereign One. This emotion surfaces in various forms…anger, apathy, and disappointment, to name a few. My personal "favorite" was the latter…disappointment. 

I lost track of how many times someone told me after Zoe died, "It's ok to be angry with God!" or "God can handle your anger and questions!" Anger would've taken much more energy and effort than I could bear at the time…my emotion centered on disappointment. It also matched the heaviness of my spirit more. Anger would've demanded passion. I couldn't pull anything close to that from any crevice of my being.

I just found myself so very disappointed that God would orchestrate this path…and not just disappointed in the shocking plan…but disappointed in the One himself. Before you call an elder meeting, let me add…I still trusted and loved the Father, but if I'm being honest, I didn't like Him very much. Ok…I guess you're probably still leaning toward making that call. Hear me out, though. I fully believe you can be torn inside out by the debilitating throws of grief and still trusting the Almighty for the big picture. It just felt…and sometimes still feels…like God and I…well, like we "were on a break." 

I would liken it to my relationship with my own children. There are many times when I'm super disappointed with their choices and behavior…and feel as though our relationship is very strained…yet my love for them never fails. Is that a fair analogy?

I've mentioned in earlier blog posts that we were praising God for His miraculous work in sustaining and healing Zoe already. Why did He feel like this was the better way in spite of all that?!? We may never understand. We may not be meant too. But this definitely led to my disappointment with Him.

Truthfully, I wanted to not feel this way…I wanted to trust His plan implicitly. But that's why this falls into a confession…especially in Christian circles…nobody wants to admit, let alone talk about, this one…and yet it's a core struggle of the grieving parent. 

It's a strange place to find yourself in a situation where the thing that gives you the most comfort, grace, and compassion is also where you find your greatest torment. By that I mean, the truths found in Scripture are so encouraging and so frustrating at the same time. 

How about I put it this way...sometimes I wanted to stay miserable, and God just wouldn't leave me alone. (another familiar them when I think of family relationships) Lame.

There are so many times when this internal conflict became apparent to me, but I’ll only list a couple for time’s sake.

 I could site innumerable times when someone shared encouraging Bible verses with me, only to have my heart clinch in turmoil at the truth of God’s sovereignty or love for each one of us. Honestly, I didn’t really want to hear it at the time. Yet, truthfully, the only real comfort I’ve had these last 6 months is pondering the fact that God is up to something bigger than I could imagine in Zoe’s life and death.

As dear as music is to my heart, there were times I couldn’t utter a single note because of the words that were attached to them…usually centering on trusting God and following Him, no matter where He leads. I couldn’t bring myself to lie in order to keep singing. Then there have been other times we’d be singing in church, and the stone cold reality of God’s loving compassion would hit me like a brick wall, and I’d be so overwhelmed by His presence that it would feel like the world stopped spinning for just a moment, and He reached down from Paradise and gave me a big ol’ bear hug.

I even signed up for a women’s Bible study and was excited to study the story of Esther in greater depth and see how God would use it to further heal my aching soul. I quickly began back pedaling, however, when it seemed like Beth Moore was trampling all over my tattered heart with every, “…for a time such as this…” comment. For fear of passing out or vomiting all over the sweet women in the class, I just couldn’t bring myself to keep going.  I’m still looking forward to doing the study because I’m confident God had me there for a purpose. I may just have to do it in a smaller setting or even alone…and that’s ok, too.

Regardless, it all seriously comes down to my disappointment with God in choosing this path. We believe He can and will…and IS…redeeming Zoe’s death for some amazing kingdom purpose. I have no doubt. But that doesn’t make me want her any less. Let me be painfully transparent here.  One day, I remember telling my pastor/husband, “Everyone keeps saying how awesome it is that people are hearing about Christ because of Zoe’s death. I know it’s so awful and ungodly to say, but right now, I’d still choose Zoe. I guess that reveals how little I truly believe what I say I believe about Jesus.”  Such a sad commentary on the heart condition. Not that anyone would not understand the plight of a mother who’d just buried her 3 year old daughter…it’s just a miserable place to be when you find yourself wholeheartedly wishing for the temporary at the expense of the eternal. But like I said, sometimes…like our children…we just want to cross our arms, stick out our lip, and be miserable for awhile…no matter how comforting the arms of our father can be.

So it is in the throws of relinquishing ultimate control and God-given nurturing desire that disappointment was born. Even though He had given life, He took it away. Even though we obeyed, it wasn’t enough. Even though we sacrificed, He demanded more.  I guess the real question would be, “Will my heart CHOOSE to say, ‘Lord, blessed be Your name’?” Because in these moments of deep disappointment in what God has ordained, my will must lead the way. I’m trusting that God will bring along my emotions/feelings when the time is right. For now, I’m left with the words of a song that has comforted our family greatly these past 6 months.

What if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments…or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

Maybe one day…just maybe…we will look back say…

"That disappointment and anguish? Well, that ain't nothing compared to this. This…THIS…is so much better than we could ever have imagined." 

Now wouldn't that be something?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Confession #9: The Elephant in the Room

We are traveling back home for our Christmas Eve service at Harmony, as we speak. Although brief, our time with the Wagenschutz crew was crazy and fun, as always. It's always special to be with extended family, especially at Christmas time. Distractions of chaos have been helpful as we approach this holiday without Zoe, but that's for another blog post, so I'll move on for now. 

We are leading up to the doozie of all confessions, in my opinion…#10…at least it has been in my book. Maybe I've already hit on one that rang your bell, but #10 sticks to your ribs…and hips…and thighs, if you know what I mean. ACK!

Anyway, I wanted to share confession #9 with you while I have the opportunity. We are leaving tomorrow afternoon to travel over to Indiana to celebrate Christmas with the Carr side! More chaotic distractions…just what the doctor ordered! :)

SO…here we go…confession #9 is very simple. It may be so simple that it's difficult to explain, but I'll do my best.

Trying to avoid talking about Zoe is more painful than talking about her. I'm already confused. This isn't going well.

Let me put it this way…I may (and probably will) tear up when anyone (including me) talks about our precious girl. But those are tears of sweet remembrance and disappointed dreams. Good tears. This needs to be ok. I've become very aware that this makes people feel bad…like they've done something wrong by bringing up Zoe to her family. This couldn't be further from the truth. We are sad she's not with us any more. That's how it will always be. Humanly speaking, we will never say from our standpoint, "We don't miss her anymore." Never. Please don't try to keep us from remembering that.

The FAR more painful tears come when it's obvious that you're avoiding bringing her up to us. That cuts much deeper. I'm confident this isn't done with any malice whatsoever, but primarily out of discomfort of not knowing what to say…not wanting to hurt us any more than we're already hurting…not wanting to bring up old wounds that cause fresh tears. I get that. I really do.

But can I just say…she's always on my mind. When I think and talk about our family, I think and talk about Zoe as well. To not do so feels like another sort of abandonment to me. 
She's part of our family now…even in her absence. Imagine our joy when you remember that with us. 

I don't want to pretend that we only have 5 kids, but I know it's makes some people uncomfortable when I accidentally say 6. This "elephant in the room" travels into many facets of our lives. I totally understand now why it's so difficult for families to put away the things of the child they lost…why some parents struggle with changing anything in the child's bedroom…why any "new" experience is just as painful as the old memories.

Let me give you a couple examples in our family.

Although we took Zoe’s clothes out of the room she shared with Zane, I haven’t been able to bring myself to take her name down from the bedroom wall…or to take her bed and pink quilt out of the room.

We also didn’t take a family Christmas picture this year. Could. Not. Do. It. Not without her.

We also have framed pictures of Zoe sitting around our house.  I can’t ever think we’d remove them.

Before you think it’s creepy when you go to someone’s house that has lost a loved one, and you’re reminded of that loss as you look around,  please understand that to remove all evidence that this person existed feels like a betrayal of epic proportions.

Also understand that we are thinking of our sweet angel even when the world keeps spinning and time keeps marching on without her.

Maybe then you can appreciate the sweetness of a memory instead of the sadness of a death.

We WANT to remember. Please don’t want us to forget.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Confession #8: Gifts…it’s a love/hate relationship

Well, here we are again…in conflict…with ourselves. Awesome.

I’m going to paint with some fairly large brush strokes here so please stick with me to the end.

One of the struggles a grieving person has are with the many gifts received.  I’m seriously practicing the Lamaze breathing as I type these words because of how awful that sounds. Didn’t use it in childbirth, but it feels right for this.

Now, before I go any further here, please don’t think we’ve tossed any of your thoughtful gifts out the back door. This is also not to say that I’m dreading receiving any new gifts that some wonderful friends have been promising. That has not happened in any way, but there are some things I haven’t had the internal fortitude to fully appreciate as of yet.

Gifts are another common issue for those that have experienced deep heartache but are too ashamed to admit. I have to say…it sounds so ungrateful and selfish. I hear ya.

But here’s the conflict…we SO appreciate the thoughtfulness and sheer love that prompts people to give said gifts. No joke. Deeply moved, kind of appreciation. But the reality is, it takes much more time to appreciate the gift as much as the giver.

I’m really not sure if it’s because of the reminder of WHY we received the gift…or if…well, yea…that’s it.

As a matter of fact, as we were recently talking with someone who’d lost a child, they said sheepishly, “If they ever drain the pond behind our house, there’s gonna be big trouble because that thing is full of every kind of thing you could imagine! We just couldn’t handle looking at it all.”  Well, we haven’t tossed anything…and we won't…but we also haven't soaked it all in yet either. 

Interestingly enough, gifts we received while Zoe was still fighting for her life in the hospital are especially dear to me. For example, our dear friend, Miss Candy, gave Zoe a heart necklace representative of the new heart she was getting. We hung it on her hospital bed during her stay, and now it hangs around her big sister, Dre Dre's, neck almost daily. She did get a new heart, and this necklace is a great reminder. Candy also gave me a necklace that day that said "Believe," in order to remind me to have faith that God would heal Zoe. I also wear that almost daily, but now I'm reminded to trust and believe that God's plans are higher and better than my ways. 

On the flip side, I can't seem to part with some things that are seemingly nonsense. One hospital day, we got some Chinese takeout for dinner. You can probably guess where I'm going with this…it's almost embarrassing. My fortune cookie that day contained the following message: 

"You will find complete contentment by summer's end." 

Well, even though I don't put stock in the reliability of FORTUNES, I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. I put it on my bathroom mirror as a reminder to keep looking forward to the future and not get overwhelmed in the scary moments. Honest to goodness, on the last day of summer, I cried as I read it. It's still there. I figure it didn't specify WHAT summer's end…so…yea…it's still there. Don't judge. Told you it was embarrassing. 

SO…to wrap this up…obviously I love and appreciate the thoughtful gifts friends and family have given us in remembrance of Zoe, FAR more than nonsense fortune cookies…and yet…what can I say?!? Nobody has accused me of thinking…or feeling…straight even before Zoe's death. Shocker.

Some of the best advice I could give in this area would be to continue to give from your heart, expecting nothing in return. Please understand that it may take some extra time to process even the sweetest offering. 

One such message and gift came by mail. It was a book from a new friend…one I've never met face-to-face…one who adopted her heart baby from China. He also did not survive his surgery. Heavy sigh. His sweet Momma wrote about their experience, and she sent me her book with a note attached. 

"You may not be prepared to read this yet, but I wanted you to have it whenever you are ready to do so. Praying for your family."

Honestly, I sat down with the book and was only able to get through the first 2 pages before I had to put it down. I still haven't been able to open it again…but I know it's there…and I truly look forward to reading it all one day. 

Does this make sense to you? I sure hope so. I guess part of me wants you to understand, among other things, why I haven't even been able to sit down and write out the thank you notes from Zoe's funeral. I feel the added weight of guilt for that, but the weight of sorrow is greater.

What's even greater? The incredible people who have given so much of themselves to our hurting family. We are most grateful for them…and are so very blessed to have each one of them in our lives. Please just remember that. We hold these relationships most dear…and it is that which we will treasure always.

A Reminder

Hey there, friends. I wanted to briefly remind you of a couple things in regard to this series of posts. First of all, please remember that I’m not posting these confessions to get a secret message sent to any offending party or even to give myself an avenue to vent. The sole purpose in sharing these things with all 15 of you :) is so that we (you and I, both) may be better equipped to help those who are hurting so deeply that they can’t begin to actually tell you what they need or how to best minister to them. Those of you that know me well, could testify that, if it were only concerning Eva, these confessions would never have seen the light of day. I try to tell myself to suck it up even more than I tell my children to do the same. Whoa. That’s a horse pill to swallow there. But I’ve felt compelled to press on even when I’d rather shut up.

So…I’m throwing myself under the bus here with these 10 confessions (I know…I know…you’re thinking, “Get this over with already!!! Sorry…2 more after today!) because I realized after losing Zoe that I had NO CLUE how cavernous this grief, and how arduous the process of scraping my way back to the surface, could be.

As I’ve shared before, this is an ugly process. I would encourage you to be the most patient with that truth. C’mon peeps…say it with me…

U-G-L-Y…you ain’t got no alibi…it’s ugly!
Hey hey…it’s ugly! Oh yea!

I may or may not have just plummeted off the deep end…even by cheerleader standards. Actually…mostly by cheerleader standards. We have a code, ya know.

Ok…focus. I was saying I’d encourage you to be patient with the dark days of the grieving process. If you think the grieving person/s should be rounding the corner and moving past their heartache, you’re missing this exact point. It takes as much time as any specific person needs for them to feel the ability to function with a chunk of their heart missing.

While straining for anyone, this is especially difficult for someone with type A personality like yours truly. It makes people uncomfortable for me to be down, less than exuberant even…to not be cracking jokes…talking loud…laughing even louder. Honestly, there have been plenty of moments…days, even…when there has still been a plethora of chaotic Eva-nonsense to make the concerned peeps relax. But there are also many days when the heaviness is great, and I’m in need of a supernatural lifting of my head. How sad would it be for me to stay isolated during those times, for fear of making others feel uncomfortable around my grief?

Let me put it this way. If the heavy heart of the grieving parent (or the like) makes you feel sad and uncomfortable, just imagine how much worse it would be for the one who’s in the thick of it. We don't like it anymore than you do.

Be patient, my friends. Be patient. Most of all, be compassionate.

Secondly, please remember that I’ve processed through a great portion of these issues before I ever share them with you all. This is not to say that I’ve checked them off my list and moved on, but rather that the Comforter has been hard at work in certain areas long before they reach your eyes and ears. The hard evidence of this would be where we stand in our series. I’m about to share confession #8 with you. I’ve already told you there are 10. Like I said, I haven’t been throwing these out to you right when they come to mind. I can honestly tell you that all 10 of these issues hit me almost one on top of the other within the first couple of weeks after Zoe’s death. But we’ve been waiting, you and I, to talk openly about them until some measure of grace has already been experienced.

We continue to be amazed by a mighty God and His loving people as we experience His great grace and faithful compassion in the midst of our heartache. Thank you for being with us on this journey.