Saturday, August 31, 2013

Taking a break from our regularly scheduled program for a throwback...

I was headed to bed after posting my last blog, and I just felt led to share one more thing with you tonight.  I'm not sure why, but God keeps bringing my mind and heart back to a blog post from last October, and I feel as though maybe someone else may need to hear those words again too.  To be perfectly honest, I didn't even want to read them again myself, but I'm too weary to fight the obvious nagging of the Holy Spirit...so here you go.  This post was written after receiving news (it ended up being an incorrect translation...although we believe there are no mistakes in God's hands) that the orphanage workers were concerned that Zoe would not survive the upcoming winter.  I warn you it's a pretty emotional read being on this end of the story, but I'm trusting God to encourage all of us with these words. It's all for Him.


I just wept. I wept bitterly...gut-wrenching, heart-pounding, mind-numbing tears. And it was in the midst of this weeping that I asked you to pray...that's all I could think to do. I knew I couldn't do it alone so I called on our friends/family to join me. Then I just began to cry out to the Father, my Daddy. For the longest time, the only thing that would come out was, "PLEASE GOD..."  That's it. I couldn't even finish the sentence....so I just pleaded with Him over and over, sometimes shouting...other times barely a whisper..."PLEASE GOD!" There was so much wrapped up in that begging...

PLEASE GOD...don't let her die.
PLEASE GOD...just heal her completely.
PLEASE GOD...help me trust you.
PLEASE GOD...help me understand what you're doing here.
PLEASE GOD...give me the strength to bear it.
PLEASE GOD...don't let her be scared right now.
PLEASE GOD...it will crush our own children to lose her.

...please God...please.


God did so many things in my heart after that phone call...too many to mention...but I thought I'd share the highlights.


I was comforted knowing that Jesus Christ himself was interceding on my behalf and on behalf of C. I also knew that the Holy Spirit was communicating to the heart of God...even with words I could not say. I knew that my big-hearted Father was still loving little C with his perfect and complete love...that had never changed.


I couldn't escape the memory of that speaker I told you about at Living Proof. You remember the one..."called to be a widow." I finally said out loud, "I don't want to be called to be a mom that loses her child! I can't do that!" But that speaker's voice kept ringing in my ears..."I never would've known my God the way I do now if my husband had not died."  Do I really want to know Christ in His suffering? It's a great sound byte...not an easy pill to swallow.


As I wrestled with God's purpose in the pain, I contemplated what my response would be if she died. I'm not trying to be morbid...that's just the very real possibility. My response would undoubtedly be to take action...any sort of action to prevent this from going unnoticed and unappreciated. I pondered starting to step out into any forum available to discuss the adoption process and the difficulties families face who come to the fight unarmed and out-numbered...what lengths would I not go to make a change in a system that seems to value papers over people...what sacrifice would I not be willing to make to speak for those who have no voice? And then the sucker punch...if it would be the right thing to do if she died...isn't it the right thing to do, period? 


I was shocked out of my complacency with that email. There's no turning back. 


Another side to the situation also became perfectly clear in my grief. Although we began this journey with a sincere desire to follow God's leading to do whatever it took to save the lives of these little ones and make Him known, somewhere along the line, my own selfishness creeped in. I'm not sure why I was surprised...it finds its way in every other crevice of my life...but I was jarred into the realization that a good part of my sorrow was that I wanted to be her mom...for my own joy. That, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing...it's just not even close to the main thing. Somehow I had drifted from that. 


The most heart-breaking realization for me, however, was that I had not ever...in my entire life...pleaded with the Lord for anything with such desperation and humility...with such utter dependance on His grace and compassion and power...with such complete abandon that only He could accomplish the work...with such focus that the distractions of the day seemed to be non-existent. Never. Why is it that it often takes intense sorrow and tragedy to drive us to our knees before our King? Because He's not really our King at all. We sit on the throne of our lives. At least I do.



Looks like I need to listen to the Spirit's prompting more often. I needed that.

Confession #4...Yes/No?...And/But?...If/When?...You got it.

I'd originally planned to throw one of these nuggets at you daily, but I'm finding the need to decompress for several days after each one. That whole bare-your-soul thing takes a lot out of you. Now you know.

Regardless, here we are with our next installment which we can, and hereafter, refer to as the bipolar aspect of the grieving parent. Please don't get offended. I'm really not trying to be comical and definitely not trying to mock people that struggle with this imbalance. I can honestly tell you I've searched the dark recesses of my mind...yes, it's pretty dark in there, I admit...and I can think of no better description than that.  So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

I want to plant this thought in your brain but then basically leave you to ponder on the complete ramifications.  There seems to be an unending supply of frustration, both for the griever and the one trying to support and encourage them.  Examples will help explain better than definitions.

There are days/moments when I'm not thinking about Zoe and her death.  There are subsequent moments/days when I think of little else. More frequently, these moments bounce back and forth at a rapid rate in any given 24 hr period.  Here are some examples of my "illness."

Some days I cry a great deal.  Other days I feel as if I'll never be able to shed another tear.

I love to talk about Zoe.  It pains me a great deal to talk about Zoe.

I want you to remember and talk about Zoe.  It's difficult for me to hear people talk about Zoe that didn't know her well.  

I want to get out of the house. Getting out of the house feels like terrorist-level torture.

It's refreshing and reenergizing to shower and get ready for the day. Other days...or weeks..."Do I owe a brush? What's toothpaste for again?"

I want to get back in shape and healthy after eating strictly junk food for 3 months. I want to eat every sweet I can get my hands on. If it's got peanut butter, I'll eat it twice and then go bathe in chips and salsa.

I want to feel joy again. I want to be miserable.

Your concern is touching.  Your concern makes me want to curl up into the fetal position. 

I want to advocate for all the other little Zoe's out there.  I don't want to ever talk or think about adoption again.

I want to adopt more children who need a family and are being passed over.  (See previous flop to this flip!)

I want a hug. Please don't touch me.

Zane makes me crazy.  Zane makes me happy. (I could write this a couple more times to really drive home this point!) :)

I want to spend a gazillion dollars to make a Zoe memorial in our backyard so I can go out there and ponder the deeper things in life.  I'll rather just stay in bed and never think again.

I want to get the biggest monument in the cemetery. The size of the memorial doesn't prove anything to anybody so what's the point?

I want to go visit the cemetery and take flowers.  I don't ever want to step foot in that place again. 

I want to clean every square inch of the house. Just bulldoze the place.

Like I said, I go on ad nauseam.  There really is an endless supply of contradictions running simultaneously through our brains and, often,  out of our mouths.  And no men, that is not just a female thing.  (My darling hubby better not even try to deny he was not thinking the same thing.)  Although you could take all this and A-Rod the whole deal and then you'll see it from the grieving female perspective.  

So if it seems like you can't win as you try to encourage and support the grieving parent, you're right...but only half the time.  



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Confession #3 (part 4)

I've already lost some of you with the confusion in the title, but that's what happens when you have a follow-up to #1! You get #3...which is actually part 4! You didn't even notice did you...now you're checking back to figure out what the heck I'm talking about...no, I'm not smoking anything...sheesh.  

Henceforth, (it's been a long time since I threw around my stellar vocab...prepare yourself to be amazed) I shall (snicker) refrain (bwahaha) from acknowledging the actual number of series installments (dadgum) and shall simply chronicle (holla!) the subsequent points of interest. (boo ya!) :)  I need massive amounts of therapy.  Call my agent.

Now where were we...I even lost myself...ah yes...confession of a grieving mommy #3...here we go.

Referring back to the conception of this series, I shared with you my struggles to be truly compassionate with other people and their trials.  Well, confession #3 hits much closer to home.  Some of the most difficult things I have to process throughout this grieving process are the renewed, or even fresh struggles, of my own family members.  I mean...they were there...they know how gut-wrenching this has been...so why exactly are we fighting over who sits where in the van?!?! Are you kidding me right now? Of course, you could throw any of the bazillion things our kids bicker about...but please tell me it's not just our kids...into this equation...but holy hell-in-a-handbasket, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! 

The argument could be made that tensions are higher, nerves are frayed to the very brink.  True. 

You could add that the family is taking out their anger and intense grief on each other. Most definitely.  

One could even go as far as to say this would be the classic example of "conflict reveals character." No doubt.

But c'mon!  Ain't nobody got time for that. HA.  Sorry...couldn't help myself at this late hour. This actually reminds me of the heart ache the kids were experiencing when we first moved to Iowa in January '12.  We were all reeling from the whirlwind for quite some time, but a couple of the kids struggled to a greater depth than the rest of us.  I remember getting on to one of them pretty sternly one night about their room being a mess after several days of parental demands.  This kiddo burst into tears and cried, "Well if you hadn't moved us to Iowa, it wouldn't be this bad!" Ummm...hmmm...nice try.  Now pick up your socks.  It sounds so comical really, but don't we all try to blame our behavior on our circumstances at some point...or usually...or always?!?

Seriously though, I would liken this scenario to the parable of the servant who was forgiven much only to turn around and refuse to forgive the minute debt owed to him. It seems a greater offense to abuse the grace that's been shown to you by refusing even a sliver of that grace to someone else. They should know better.  

And therein lies the rub. So should I...so should I.  As is so often the case in parenting, God uses the lessons I'm trying to teach my children to grip my own heart and remind me to look in the mirror. Yes, I want my children to cut each other some slack given our family crisis...I wanted them to do that before we ever brought Zane and Zoe home from China. But I also recognize that I need to do the same for them. Being a grown-up stinks sometimes.

The moral of the story? Sometimes a grieving family attacks itself and pulls apart instead of pulling together.  Nothing would make the enemy happier.  So with God's help, I'm trying to remember we fight not against flesh and blood. We need each other...and as much as it depends on me, we will live at peace...I'm trusting in the goodness of God to provide the patience and kindness it will take to do so.


Confessions...Part 3

Now that we've all had a little time to catch our breath after the first doozy of a confession, I thought we'd move along to some additional thoughts.  Again, nobody's looking for a pity party or even a lecture (you know who you are...no, seriously), but I'm hoping to pull away the veil from the grieving parent so we can all hope to minister to those who so desperately need our love and support.

Confession #2:  Every routine normality feels like an out-of-body experience. Three weeks ago, I cooked my first meal since February...and I did it 3 nights in a row.  I knew my family needed it...I knew we had to stop spending money on eating out...but I could barely catch my breath while doing so.  I felt like a fish out of water at times...like a complete other person at best...like I was sitting nearby watching me go through the motions. Crazy stuff.  It's as if I couldn't remember how to boil water, let alone how to put an entire meal together.  (Trust me...I wasn't that fantastic to start.  100 steps back is gonna make a dent.)

But that's how it is with everything routine these days...like an coma patient that wakes up after a year and has to retrain every muscle to function properly.  The brain is sending mixed messages constantly.  

"Get up...NO...go lay down!"  

"Go give that wounded girlfriend a hug...go hide in a corner somewhere."  

"Talk to somebody...what's the point?!?"  

It gets to the point where you aren't sure what voice or message you are supposed to listen to...if any.

So imagine trying to get back into any routine of any kind...all of which seems irrelevant given what your family has experienced, yet necessary if your family ever has a hope of moving forward. Wheels turn hopelessly and helplessly which is another reason why despair lurks around every mundane corner. 

How do you force your brain to reengage muscles that have atrophied when they aren't even aware of their own dismal state.  Coma patients aren't discontent. It's when the haze begins to clear that we get very uncomfortable and uncertain of where we are and how we got there.  It feels like it would've been easier to stay asleep.  As a matter of fact, that goes without saying.

But life does go on...we are moving one direction or the other whether we realize it or not. No one and no thing remains stagnant. 

Therefore, I will offer up yet another day to the Healer, or I will, in fact, be walking backward...destined to repeat the pain of this day. If for no other reason than self-preservation, I choose option A. It's still like Dawn of the Dead on my end, but at least I'm off the stretcher. Gotta start somewhere.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Follow-up to Confessions #1...Red Rover?!?

As you all know, I usually don't back-track on topics...largely because I can't remember what I did 10 minutes ago...but given the situation, I wanted to briefly hit on my last blog post.  For those of you that are just coming to the party, I "confessed" one of the most difficult things that grieving parents deal with...feeling compassion for other people and their "lesser" trials.  I wasn't trying to tell people to suck it up or shut up. I just felt led to let you in on what we're really struggling with.  This was the "dirty little secret" no one wants to talk about...and based on the response I received, it's also potentially what no one wants to hear.

I actually received feedback from quite a few people on both sides of the aisle...so please don't feel as though I'm secretly attacking you personally if you're one of the chosen few. You are in good company.  

The most notable element of the feedback is the great divide that formed between two sides. To put it simply, those that have either dealt with the sudden death of an intimate loved one or who have battled life and death illnesses of their own, totally "got it" and thanked me for putting it out there. 

Those that haven't had that trauma in their lives, didn't get it...at all. My words came across harsh and cold.  It didn't hurt my feelings.  Honestly, I'm glad they didn't get it.  If you understood, that means there would be yet another family torn apart...another mommy who feels like her heart has been ripped out and put through a shredder.  

I would humbly ask you to re-read "Confessions of a Grieving Mommy."  I wasn't trying to defend my heartless commiserations.  I acknowledged my situation for what it really is...the enemy attacking my wounded heart with bitterness.  I confessed the conviction of the Holy Spirit to conform to the image of the Son instead of clenching my jaw on the sour fruit of bitterness. 

As I said previously, this is the ugly naked truth about what we're struggling with, but when people ask how they can pray for you, it doesn't exactly just roll off the tongue. Frankly, I was tired of answering, "I'm ok."


It also bears mentioning that those of us on this side of heartbreak would lovingly acknowledge that we thought we knew and understood grief before going to these depths. We would've likely echoed your exact sentiments. All we can say is it's just another "shake-your-head" moment of realization when the semi-truck of death slams into you going 70 mph, and you're confronted with eternity like never before.  There's just no way to "get it"...until you "get it."  And that's ok.  We understand.  

We are called to live out this Christian walk together. Satan does not want that to happen, and so (in situations like these) he plays his go-to solids of bitterness and anger in order to isolate us from each other.  It's much easier to pick us off one-by-one when we're not standing together.  

Although I don't want to make lite of the topic, this calls to mind the intensity of the Olympic-worthy game of Red Rover. You remember those games, don't you?!?  When your entire elementary school reputation hinged on forming ranks during recess. Your team would call out the weakest among the enemy and dare him/her to breach your wall.  Then with gritted teeth, you'd brace yourselves for impact...as one body...the likes of whom would rise and fall...together. And where would they catapult themselves with tremendous force?!?  To the weakest link, of course.  

Put simply, I don't want my bitterness and anger to be the weakest link.


There is a battle of good and evil going on here. Wars are ugly. Period. But knowing who your enemy is...well, that's crucial.  To borrow the words of the Apostle Paul who, as we know, was inspired by the Spirit of God to pen the following words in the 7th chapter of Romans...

"For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate...For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing...For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind..."

Please hear me when I say, if you are a follower of Christ, we are on the same team. We should wear our team jerseys at all public functions as a reminder! "Christ-followers" (with a sub-title of "Please refer back to Romans 7") Not very catchy, but you get the point.  


My intention was never to offend or silence but to embolden the warriors of Christ to take up arms against the enemy...to eliminate facades and plastic faces so that we rise together as one...marching forward with transparency and grace, taking ground in the secret places of the heart and mind.  

I don't know about you, but some days that's the only way I will move at all...if only on the backs of my teammates.  



Thursday, August 8, 2013

Confessions of a grieving mommy...

...who's also a real-deal, Christ-follower...a bona fide PK...a pastor's wife, even...

You might wanna grab a seat...and a cold washcloth.  This could get interesting.

I've been sitting on this one for quite some time now. It's actually almost been a month since I last chatted with you over a Dr Pepper! Wait...what...you don't drink DP while you ponder the prolific paragraphs that are birthed from my inner depths?!?  Harsh. I shall have to consider defriending you when this whole thing is said and done...of course, then I'll be dead so...yea...guess we can let it ride. Don't say I never did anything for you. Dr. Pepper is, after all, the trump card of all trump cards.  Ask my former students. Don't judge.  Teachers get thirsty.

Anyhoo...

These confessions are so multi-faceted, I may have to produce a mini-series here, so be prepared to be wowed and amazed. Not really...I'll just divide and conquer so the vast majority of you won't fall asleep. I say "vast majority" because my family members already nodded off as soon as they sat down earlier. Whatcha gonna do...can't live with 'em...can't smack 'em around whenever ya want. Such is life.

Yes, I'm stalling.

Might as well jump off the cliff right here at the beginning...enough beating around the bush. 

Confession #1:  I'm finding it difficult...I mean, to the level of deep-throat struggling...to sympathize with other people's trials. I walked into this journey a self-proclaimed hard-nose.  I've always been a "suck-it-up" kind of gal.  I've said on more than one occasion that I needed to call an audible and get an immediate substitution whenever compassion and grace were in high order for our kids. This is so very sad...but so very true.  I'm not proud, just honest.  

I've mentioned in previous blogs that when we began our stay in the PICU, I realized how unloving and compassionate I truly was, when  it struck me how little I had actually carried the burdens of those in pain, to date. Not by way of excuse, but I truly believe on some level it was because I could not fathom the tremendous weight with which they were loaded down.  I tried...I desired to "be there" for them.  I failed...countless times. It takes an extreme measure of God's grace to weep with those who are weeping over something you've only experienced on the big screen. 

And then we began to feel the burden...to be crushed by the weight...and then, I got it. And guess what? I thought that's where God had taken us in His sovereignty...to a place no person wants to be...to the brink...to the edge of an abyss.  That was enough, wasn't it? To hurt all over...to ache with gut-wrenching pain as you see your precious one fighting for their life. I choke on the words, "It can't get worse than this!" over and over in my mind. Because it can...it can get so much worse.  I've lost track of how many times I said, "If only THIS doesn't happen..."...and then it would.

I long for those days when I could feel pain...when that ache reminded me that Zoe was still alive.  Now there's just numbness, where once was life. 

When we sang to her by her hospital bed with tears in our eyes  and warmth in our voices because we knew she could hear us. Too often now, I open my mouth, and nothing will come.  Ice cold.

Those prayers lifted up in that room ranged from sweet whispers of gratitude to bold promise-claiming sermons.  Now it almost feels painful to pray...as if I'm pretending to be thankful for anything when He failed to do what we truly desired for Zoe.  

But 2 months ago, as we tip-toed to the precipice, we shouted, "WATCH THIS! God is doing amazing things with Zoe's story! Wait for it...keep watching!"  

And then someone pushed us over the edge.  No warning. No rope. No rescue team. Only a safety net of God's loving promises. Can I just be honest? It's a long way down before you reach the net. There's all kinds of debris and thorny obstacles before you arrive. Sometimes it even feels...no matter how ridiculous this may sound...as though you're being pushed off that cliff over and over again, as if the first time didn't wound enough. And not only are you falling, but you've got a knife-wielding assassin on your back, making sure you're fully dead upon impact. To state the obvious, the safety net won't do any good if I'm not alive when it catches me.

Are you sensing the attacks of the enemy?!? You should. I know it, but it's not enough to identify the situation...we are called to action...to raise our swords and fight. So here we are right now...at this moment...I will lead the charge. Satan's sucker punch will not best the sword of the Spirit...I won't go down without a fight. 

Ever since Zoe's death, I've moved into new territory. This club...the one no parent wants to join...is exclusive, to say the least. I've taken some measure of comfort from fellow members because they understand the heartache like no one else can. Wanna know why? Because they're still living it every. single. day. of their lives. That's something I never grasped before this trial..."It's been a year...surely they've moved on by now..." Yea. But now that I'm on this side...now that I've got that permanent stitch in my side...the rose-colored glasses are gone. To clarify, they were smashed into oblivion.

By God's grace, we've got a closed membership with high dues and long meetings. You don't want in...trust me.

Before this turns into a pity party, let me hit the nail on the head.

Anything short of our mind-blowing, life-ending sorrow is hard for me to process.  Every time I hear of sickness, or job struggles, or fractured relationships, or any number of things that devastate people (I should point out...they would've also devastated me pre-June 7th), I want to scream! 

YOU'RE ALIVE! DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO! MOVE ON OR MAKE IT WORK! STOP WHINING...YOU STILL HAVE YOUR FAMILY!!!!! YOU'RE NOT PICKING OUT GRAVESTONES!!!! YOU'RE not...IT'S not...I'M not...I just can't...do this.

I don't want to be in the club. I wasn't given the option to refuse membership. I'm a much better cheerleader than a 3rd-string lineman. The hits keep coming, and my feet are glued to the turf. 

But still the command remains..."Bear one another's burdens." "Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep." 

No evaluations of pain-levels. No waver for those who've endured more. No bye for the deepest wounds. 

Therefore, this warrior knows who picked this fight. Not one ungracious thought or unkind word comes from the Father. Not one. That only leaves one option...our adversary, the Devil, prowls around, seeking a way to devour me. He can't take me out of the hand of God, but he can make me limp and useless in that hand. I feel at times like Job...except I was never that solid before...and now I've allowed one devastation to shift my gaze. 

There is no victory in keeping a tally. There is no battle of the mind that a child of God cannot win. This one has been hard-fought and continues to wage on.  I want to remain on the winning side, and so I work out this salvation with fear and trembling...confident that even in my weakness, He is stronger. He is working this confession for His good pleasure, and that's a safety net I will gladly fall into any day.