HEALING MILESTONE 9
Wondering if I will get to have children. Wanting to know God’s plan for my life. Hoping that children are part of the plan. The desire for children is strange. Intense. Innate. Having no idea what it really means to have children and yet aching with want. But I am prepared, so I would like to think, to give that up if God has other plans. I'd also like to think that if He has other plans, that they will require my full attention and will fully satisfy me, but I don't want to go there yet. I may not need to go there at all. I need to stay here for now, where it is still saturated with the hope for children.
For some unknown reason, I have been ready to get pregnant again relatively quickly after losing Trinity. It makes no sense, and I’ve heard of a lot of people who are terrified to try again after experiencing the loss of a child. I don’t know why I’m not afraid, but I’m thankful. Fear is no way to live. It has taken Richard longer to be ready to try again, but I don’t think it’s ever been a question for him either. Our only discussions have been about when, not if.
So we’ve been trying for months now, and the disappointment is getting old. I keep trying to talk myself into believing that I’m pregnant, so my new improved faith will make it so. But wanting to believe, no matter how desperately I want it, is falling short of true belief. So without knowing what else to do, I keep praying and trying to believe, and every time I take a pregnancy test, I have heaps of hope but not enough faith.
I’ve always been an optimist, and I keep trying to stay positive and hopeful, but one day, when I’m all alone at home, I break down and allow myself to admit my true feelings, even though I do not agree with them. My heart and my head have long been enemies, and my heart wrestles me to the ground this time. I collapse face down on the carpet feeling sorry for myself. Sobbing like toddler, I whine and complain that everybody’s pregnant except me, and when will it be my turn? My head jeers at me from the sidelines, telling me how stupid my pity party is. When I collect myself, I have to admit that I do feel a little better, like after throwing up. All those toxic emotions didn’t agree with me, so I had to let them out. It wasn’t pretty, but it was necessary. Emotional puking. A funny way to think about it.
Everyday life continues, and I have dinner with Joanne at a nice restaurant in San Francisco near my work. We haven’t seen each other in a while, so it’s really nice to catch up. She’s busy as usual, but doing well. She’s terrible at achieving balance, but amazing at achieving excellence, wherever she points a camera. Near the end of our dinner date, I tell her how I am excited to take a pregnancy test in the morning. I see the concern in her face as she tells me not to get my hopes up too far and too soon. But I am very nearly convinced of the outcome. This time, something is different. There is a little something more than just hope. I am curious about this since I do not feel pregnant at all. I have no symptoms whatsoever. I have no reason to believe I’m pregnant now more than any of the other times, except for the presence of the peace that comes from knowing. It’s unexplainable.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrew 11:1
I go to bed with excitement and anticipation, not anxious hope, like before. The sooner I get to sleep, the sooner I can get up and take the test. Sleep is sweet, and the morning arrives quickly. I speed to the bathroom, and take the test. The directions say to read the test in three minutes, so I leave the room to prevent myself from staring at it. That might make it feel like three hours. I pace and pray during those minutes, and they zip by. Walking expectantly back into the bathroom, I see that it is indeed true. I am pregnant! I wish I had a bullhorn so I could tell the whole neighborhood. I grab the test and gently wake up Richard. He gives me a big sleepy hug, and maybe even a few tears. It is a Friday, and I cannot revel in the excitement too long because I need to get to work.
The excitement lasts all weekend, and I puzzle with wonder, “How did I know?” And then something in Scripture jumps out at me that I’ve skimmed right over before. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:2. So Jesus is the author of my faith. Faith does not come from me. No matter how hard I try, I cannot create my own faith. I cannot even increase it or improve it myself because He is also the perfecter of my faith. I am totally off the hook! I feel freer and lighter as my responsibilities seem to lessen. So much anxiety and exhaustion results from trying to wrangle things in our lives that can’t be captured or tamed. One such thing is the mystery of faith. We can plant a seed, but God makes it grow. With faith, I think God plants the seed AND makes it grow. I believe the simple desire for belief is that seed. We cannot make it grow, but we can water it with prayer and fertilize it with Scripture, and watch the Master Gardener make it bloom.
HEALING MILESTONE 10
The weekend soared with pure elation as we scattered the happy news among family and friends. I know the “rule” is to wait three months before revealing a pregnancy, but after everything we’ve been through, I would want all the support anyone was willing to offer if we happened to be unfortunate enough to miscarry. A secret miscarriage would be far too burdensome to bear. So we celebrated unabashedly all weekend.
But Monday morning has arrived to ruin the party, delivering a severe change in mood. Now I am coated with a thick layer of fear. What if this? What if that? What if something goes wrong? My mind is abuzz with fragmented questions that cannot be answered.
As soon as I get to work, I send out an SOS email to my women’s group explaining my much-to-be-expected fear and requesting prayer. I had actually expressed to them at our last meeting, before I knew I was pregnant, that I was afraid of being afraid during my next pregnancy. As we prayed together I envisioned the labor and delivery room full of people and felt at peace as I sensed that, “Delivery day will be a truly joyous occasion this time.” This stood out as a probable message from above since I would never have phrased it that way. The strong influence of fear seems to have blinded my memory of this for now, and I am nervously distracted all day. I work diligently, but all the while I am attempting to pray away this hideous feeling that seems to be seeping deeper and deeper beneath my skin. It is a very long day.
And why is this happening? I know better. I’ve already passed by this way in my mind, determining that living in fear is not living at all. I have decided that the women who have had miscarriages and think that they’ll be safe if they can make past a certain point in their next pregnancy are putting their trust in an illusion. Maybe part of me is just upset that I don’t have that. I have to make it through the entire pregnancy before I can breathe easy. And then I have to worry about SIDS the whole first year. And then any random accident can happen. There is no safe point at which I can let out this breath I’m holding. I have thrown up my hands in defeat at this realization before, and yet here I am, scared out of my mind.
But my friends are praying, and I am praying. What else can I do? Still uneasy, but hoping to feel better in the morning, I go to bed early. Luckily, I am one who shuts down under duress, so sleep is just a blink away.
Morning arrives, and I do not feel much better. As I start up my internal dialogue for the day, the divine idea comes to me to turn from fear and to focus on praise and thanksgiving instead. Desperate for relief, I grab onto this and repeat to myself, “Praise and thanksgiving. Praise and thanksgiving. Praise and thanksgiving.” Eventually I’m able to form sentences again and thank God for the pregnancy and countless other things. I remember that next time “delivery day will be a truly joyous occasion” and I decide that I was gifted this small reminder to hold onto throughout the pregnancy, and to combat the fear that is sure to strike again. The thick covering of fear dissolves and evaporates with the heat of joy.
I breathe deeper, with a satisfied smile, free of fear’s toxicity. I have learned something so simple, yet incredibly powerful. Fear was designed to keep us safe, to make us aware of danger. But sometimes, it is misappropriated. And when that happens, I will acknowledge it, run to God about it, ask for His help, and then reject it. We are told to face our fears, but I think after we face them, hand in hand with God, we should turn our backs them. They are not worthy of our precious time. I’ve heard that we become what we focus on. And my experience proves this true. By trying to pray away the fear, I was focusing on it, and I remained fearful. But when praise and thanksgiving became my prayer, I became joy.
Because we lost Trinity for unexplained reasons, we were to see the OB as soon as I got pregnant again. So after the initial excitement settled down and the distracting fear crisis passed, I came to my senses and made an appointment. They were able to squeeze me in within a week or so, and the day has finally arrived. Our doctor is excited to see us, and ushers us into a special room. An ultrasound tech with the more detailed internal machine happens to be in the office today. Lucky me.
I climb onto the exam table. My husband and my doctor are on my left. The ultrasound tech is on my right. The tiny crowded room is darkened so that the screen is easier to read. She checks the position of the amniotic sac in relation to the cervix. Good placement. She checks other things which make no sense to me, but apparently look good. Satisfied that everything is great, I stop paying attention as we are chatting, until my doctor says, “Is that what I think it is?” My full attention is recaptured instantly and Richard and I quickly request clarification. The ultrasound tech seems pleased to report that it is what my doctor thinks it is, and she answers our concerned question with, “There are two.” Two what? Babies. Twins! My doctor, in a drawn out awww-you-shouldn’t-have kind of way, exclaims, “You guys”. Richard sheds a few tears. I burst into laughter. It is an insanely wonderful moment. We are stunned and elated, dizzy and numb, wide-eyed and grinning stupidly. The rest of the appointment is a blur. We cannot wait to start calling everyone.
Before it became reality, we had joked about twins, some people had prayed for us to have twins, and we had talked about how twins would be an amazing epilogue to our story. One time in particular, Richard and I were having a discussion. He was upset about something, which temporarily blinded him to the many blessings in our lives. I have the terrible tendency to try to cheer him up instead of simply empathizing. I can see that now, but at the time, I thought I should remind him of some of the good things that had been happening. He’d been enjoying one of the best financial years in his career to-date. I had been given two raises. I also had the opportunity to be a guest designer on two episodes of an HGTV show. I was feeling very blessed and hopeful about the future. But for him, it was easy to rationalize all of it as random. He questioned, “How do you know God really had a hand in any of those things?” He retorted that if we had twins, that would undeniably be God’s doing. Twins do not run in our immediate families, and we had never been on fertility treatments. I prayed silently and sadly, “God, you heard him.”
Surely, now that I really am having twins, Richard will acknowledge that God’s fingerprints are all over this double blessing. To my disappointment, he kind of brushes it off, though. I quietly decide that he’s going to have to work out his trust issues with the Big Man himself. I guess it will take a little longer for him to resolve his anger about losing Trinity, and that’s certainly valid. I will have to lovingly persist in prayer.
But for now, the party gets a hurricane force second wind as we call every family member and friend we can. We are on our cell phones for many hours over several days and tears of joy are flowing all over the country. We have no idea how we are going to take care of two babies at the same time, but we are too excited to care. We are more than ready for our happily ever after.
Trinity’s death was a little over six years ago. The twins, Trevor and Jasper, were born were almost five years ago. Making it through a twin pregnancy, Bell’s Palsy, twin births via C-section, nursing, diapers, the whole first year, asthma in Jasper, the terrible two’s, the more terrible three’s, moving from San Francisco to the front range of Colorado, etc. has required way more of me than there is. I have become intimately acquainted with my frailty and weakness. I have come to depend on God’s strength to get me through each day, but I have only scratched the surface. Some days I’m good at tapping into His strength, and I’m going strong well past my bedtime, always to my amazement. Many other days I fall to my knees at my bedside, feeling like a failure, and wondering why God gave me these precious little boys when I’m so ill equipped to take care of them. He has permanently fixed my dependence on Him by blessing me with twins. And He has secured my humility through parenting. He is my absolute life source.
I don’t know how people make it through life without God. I don't know how I used to get by on my halfhearted attempts at right living. I just didn’t get it. Losing Trinity was a catalyst for an intense spiritual growth spurt, and I can say now that I would not change the past if I could. I respect God’s will, and accept that it sometimes contains events we would never willingly choose. Thankfully, we can depend on God to carry us through those events.
We are in the midst of one of those events now with the loss of my husband’s job almost a year ago. Part of the reason we came to Colorado was so that I could stay home with the boys, and our one income has been whittled dramatically to what unemployment pays. And that is scheduled to run out in the near future. Thankfully Richard has been nurturing his faith the past few years, and is taking the blows much better than he would have in the past. He’s had to endure crushing disappointment, as the excitement of each interview so far has been murdered by rejection. It’s a buyer’s job market, and the seller’s market is saturated. I think this situation will result in an intense spiritual growth spurt for him, as every bit of control has been ripped from his hands. He has no choice but to lead our family by faith.
And I am faced with the opportunity to deepen the impact of the lessons I thought I’d learned. Richard’s job loss has been harder on our marriage than losing Trinity. We have tried to be creative with our time and money, but too often the tension bursts our seams. We worry that the stress is impacting the boys. I affirm my trust in God all the time, yet I’ve had some disconcerting episodes of heart palpitations. I breathe deep and remind myself that God’s in charge.
Other days, I love this roller coaster, when I seem to have X-ray vision to see straight through the disguises that the blessings are cloaked in. On these days I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the time we have together as a family, for the opportunity we’ve had to serve and visit other family – the elderly, the pregnant, the moving. I don’t know how this blog would’ve been written if Richard had not been available to pick up the slack, lots of it, while I’ve been at the library writing.
As we approach the year anniversary of Richard’s job loss, and no viable job is in sight, we are strongly considering storing our belongings and ditching our rental in order to travel the country visiting family and friends this summer. He can continue to job hunt as we go, and we can abort mission at any moment if the right job presents itself. But we are buffeted by uncertainty, fear, and anxiety. It’s an all out battle, but we refuse to make decisions based on fear. Though unemployment extends all the way to the horizon before us, we know it won’t last forever, and this may also be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Some days we are a train wreck, other days we are the happy-go-lucky local (a swinging song about a train by Duke Ellington). We’ll find out where our tracks lead if we just keep going, letting God fuel our engines, trusting Him for an on time arrival to the destination of His choice, that will be made known to us at precisely the right time. Along the way, I remind myself of the milestones we’ve already passed, while keeping an eye out for more.
Milestone 1: He has never abandoned us, and He never will.
Milestone 2: Sometimes the answer to our prayers will be “No”, and when it is, there is a very good reason.
Milestone 3: Trust Him. He knows what He is doing.
Milestone 4: Surrender everything to Him for ultimate freedom.
Milestone 5: Heaven is real, and we must remember that our entire Earthly existence is but a breath of time. Stay eternity-minded in order to keep troubles in proper perspective.
Milestone 6: Worship is healing and renewing. Take time to summit our mountain of worries each week, so that all we can see is a breathtaking view of God’s creation.
Milestone 7: Consider Easter from God-the-Father’s point of view. Take comfort and be amazed.
Milestone 8: Keep our eyes on our own path. Other people have what we want – homes to settle in. But what lies in front of us is freedom – no jobs, no mortgage, no pets, young kids without summer commitments. What are we going to do with our freedom?
Milestone 9: Since we cannot create our own faith, we must choose faith and let God manifest it for us.
Milestone 10: We must turn our backs on fear, and focus on praising and thanking God for the freedom and countless other blessings we have right now.
Yes, it’s all much easier said than done. Perhaps that’s why we are given so many opportunities to practice. It’s another chance to throw up our hands in a gesture of trust and enjoy the ride.
To stop and look back over the last six years, I can see that I’ve been transformed markedly. If I could sum it all up, it all comes down to moment by moment dependence on God. Trusting Him and taking comfort in the fact that He’s in charge, not me. That’s where I am at this moment. One day at a time. One task at a time. One moment at a time. I’ve heard for years the importance of being mentally present where you physically are. And I am finally beginning to get it as I become too overwhelmed when I think beyond the present. I am forced to live in the now. It’s uncomfortable, but I know I will be happier when this becomes my mode of operation, and so will my family. My husband and children deserve no less than all of me when I am with them. I need to stop conserving my energy for the next task or the rest of the day. I hate it when I reach the end of the day, and the only thing I can say is, “Whew! I made it.” I need to trust that God will provide all I need for each task as I go along concentrating on one thing at a time. And while I’m living one moment at time, I can try to maintain the upper perspective that time is not static. No situation will last, good or bad. So I should savor the good moments every second they last, and take comfort that the bad ones will move along, too, even if they seem to be sitting on us.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
And as we go forward, one unsure step at a time, into the uncomfortable unknown, the transformation continues...
First of all, I thank God for giving me this assignment, and for giving me the words each week to complete it. I have never wanted to be a writer, and it amuses me how God calls the unqualified to a particular task so that the message shines, not the messenger.
I also thank my husband, Richard for being so helpful with watching the boys, housework, meals, and such, so that I could spend hours at the library writing. On that note, I should thank God for Richard’s unemployment. He would not have been able to contribute so much time if he’d been working, and I don’t know how this blog would have been written otherwise. God truly does orchestrate events in unexpected and amazing ways.
Richard and I thank each of you who were with us during the time that we lost Trinity, during the twin pregnancy and after they were born, and as we forge ahead through job loss. We are beyond blessed to have so many wonderful people in our lives. Thank you immensely for your love, support, and generosity which has taken so many forms over the years.
Finally, I want to personally thank each of you who have read, shared, commented, “liked”, and supported The Trinity Transformation in any way. I was very compelled to share the things I’ve learned that have changed my life in the hopes that whatever darkness may be clouding someone’s perspective would be transformed into brilliant hope and peace. It was terribly frightening to put myself out there like that and to be very vulnerable to countless people in the world, but I have been so blessed by much wonderful feedback. I know this was a divine assignment, and I’m excited to see what else God may have in store. As I head to the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference May 16-19, please remember me in your prayers. I will be seeking the next phase of The Trinity Transformation – perhaps publication, perhaps a continuation of the blog with weekly inspiration, whatever God’s perfect will is. I’m not sure at this point. One thing at a time.
Many thanks and many blessings,