Thursday, June 22, 2017

a request for prayers, for all in the midst of grief

My dear husband has written a letter and we would like if you would read it.

Dear friends in Christ,

Jamie and I would like to request your prayers. Specifically, we ask that you pray for comfort, and for the Lord to renew us in the strength of His Word.

On May 13th, Jamie learned that she was blessed to be with child. The news was received with joy, for we trust His Word, that children are a precious gift. And yet, large families are not always easy. There is the stress of life, the cost, the fear of our inadequacies, as well as the awareness of living in a world that fails to see an additional child as such a gift to be received with joy. The joy of life was diluted, in some way, by the weakness of our own flesh. Faith delighted in the Lord’s gift, while at the same time, our old Adams wondered if it really would all be good.

Soon after, Jamie and the kids traveled to Tennessee. During that wonderful visit she had an appointment with her OB/GYN. She hoped to confirm the pregnancy, but also to find out why she had started spotting. The visit was productive. Indeed, she was pregnant. About 4 ½ weeks along. But, a hemorrhage had been discovered as well. We would need to keep our eyes on things. This bleeding could go away, and everything could end up proceeding as normal. However, this could also be an indication that a miscarriage was likely.

Unfortunately, the bleeding never did stop. After a week or so, it worsened. It became so consistent that, just after midnight on June 6th, Jamie headed to the ER about 25 minutes away. I stayed at home with the kids. A few hours later, Jamie returned home, having had the doctors conclude that she was likely miscarrying. On the morning of June 8th, she had an ultrasound in a neighboring town and it was confirmed that, in fact, she was suffering a miscarriage. This life, which was given from above, had now died after six

weeks of development. “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

At first, I think both of us were a bit numb. After all, Jamie had yet to develop those motherly signs which every expecting mother looks forward to with equal joy and dread. The first ultrasound tech had even intentionally avoided calling this child a baby, or a life. What God had begun to form together was called “a ball of cells.” I just wonder what the LORD might think of that description. It certainly only exasperated our frustration, for our desire to act in accord with our confession was real. We wanted to hurt, and to grieve, for we know, without a doubt, that it is the LORD who gives life. And He had done so. So why didn’t it hurt like it would if we had already heard the child’s heart beating, or changed a diaper or two? Of course, all those fears being relieved through this death only made us feel even more guilt. This was a child. It was the child God had given to us. Why didn’t it feel like a loss? “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)!

Of course, on top of this all, we didn’t know who to tell. The children hadn’t known Jamie was pregnant. And they would have been so thrilled. They always simply assume another one would be coming at some point. That’s the life they’ve always known. Thanks be to God they simply receive God’s gift of life with joy!

Unfortunately, additional burden would come from those who, for a variety of reasons, wonder why we hadn’t already chosen to stop having children. Some voice this concern to us; others only express themselves to others. But the truth is – thanks be to God! – Jamie has never had any complications with any of her previous pregnancies. And isn’t God the giver of life? Who are we to tell him when and where He should do that? Which of our children should we look at as a mistake because we should have chosen when “enough is enough”? It wasn’t so long ago that the voices who see large families as an unwelcome burden today were enjoying their own large families. But I digress. Suffice it to say that the pain and burden is real. Not only is there the loss of a child, but there is the burden of guilt for not feeling the loss, to go with a world that doesn’t understand, all the while trying to figure out how to let our children know what is going on. “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12;10).

 After multiple visits to the doctor for mommy, the children were asking questions. We decided to tell Naomi and Micah. They, we reasoned, were old enough to wrestle with the situation. Of course, as we told them the events of the previous few weeks, we saw the expected joy on their faces when they learned mommy had become pregnant. But then, that joy was snuffed out as we reported the miscarriage. But “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33). For both of them were quick to trust God’s promise. They now had another sibling, as they had always expected they would, but now they had a reason to pray for the Lord Jesus to return. They now wanted to meet that sibling. And there was no doubt in their mind that they would. Would that we would all trust God’s promises “like a child” (Mark 10:15, et al).

At some point, we decided also to tell Hannah and Abi, who also exhibited the same course of emotions: joy turned to sadness. But that is what death will do. At least, that is what death will do…for a time. For even death cannot end the gladness of those who trust God’s certain promises. And so, just as was the case with their older siblings, Hannah and Abi joyfully looked forward to meeting their new sibling. They only wanted to know if they would have a new brother or sister, and other additional questions. Once again, there was simply more reason to pray. “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20)!

 The doctor recommended that Jamie have a D&C, and that she shouldn’t wait for too long. I had been planning to attend a conference in Wisconsin, and Jamie didn’t want me to cancel. So, on Tuesday, June 20th, Jamie had the surgical procedure. The kids were blessed by a neighboring pastor, his wife, and six children, and spent the day playing. This allowed me to tend to Jamie. And thankfully, the procedure was without complication. She came out of the anesthesia just fine. She relaxed in a quiet home, and I tried to tend to her needs the best I was able. Wednesday, another loving family took the children so Jamie could rest again. But because Hannah had her last T-ball game, I had to be absent from a meeting at church that evening.

It isn’t normal for me to be absent from a meeting; especially not a meeting of the Parish Planning Council. I needed to offer an explanation. I was going to have to tell them what had happened. Of course, this brought back to the surface those insecurities connected to how others would respond. Would they understand? Would they confirm the fears of our weak flesh? Would they also think we were foolish? Would they understand why their new pastor couldn’t be present for the meeting?

I should have learned this long ago from the other congregations I’ve been blessed to serve. For every response we have received thus far has been both understanding and comforting. I guess the words our Circuit Visitor (a pastor for pastors) shared with us are really true (duh!): “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort” (2 Cor. 1:6-7).

And still, it hurts. In a way I didn’t experience at first, but somehow hoped it would, it hurts. That there is so much confusion about the gift of life, and the terrible consequence of sin called death, only exasperates the pain. But strangely, now that a few others know the burden through which we’ve been suffering, it has allowed us to hurt. There is no more hurting and hoping nobody will notice, or that it won’t affect my (or our) work. We can grieve. And it is okay to grieve. In fact, it is right that we should grieve. After all, the Scriptures reveal: There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:4).

We don’t understand why the LORD has chosen, in His infinite wisdom, to give and to take away. To attempt to answer that question is to attempt to search into the hidden mind of God, to engage in speculation, and to be left without the comfort of what He has actually revealed. And what He has actually revealed is that He is merciful. That He delights not in the death of anyone. To be sure, this little life had inherited the sin of Adam, but we give thanks that through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, God has reconciled the entire world to Himself. We have no other choice but to trust. “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

At some point, as St. Paul writes, we will all now be able to offer comfort to others who themselves have suffered in this way. I pray that this present suffering would serve to make me a better pastor for such people, and a better husband and father as well. Having had five children without any hiccups, Jamie has now been given a cross to bear that places her among a host of faithful women who themselves have suffered such a loss. What comfort they will all be able to draw from one another. And the kids. Well, they won’t always be so happy about it. In fact, there have already been a few moments of tears. But we will do for them what we endeavor to do for them in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. We will search the Scriptures. We will point them to Jesus. And we will teach them to cling to the clear and certain promises which we have in Him, even as we ourselves cling to them as well. And we will pray. We will call upon the name of the Lord in this, the day of our trouble (Psalm 50:15), and the Lord will deliver us just as surely as He delivered His Son, Jesus Christ, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor. 15:20).

So, on behalf of Jamie (and the kids), we simply ask for your prayers. But not only for us. Rather, pray for all who struggle to rejoice in the gift of life; who have suffered the burden of death; and for the promises of God in Christ – who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification – to be our joy in the midst of grief. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

With joy in Christ Jesus,

Saturday, June 17, 2017

newborn photography

I am so out of practice when it comes to newborn photography. In fact I think the last newborn I photographed was my little man who is about to turn 2...but I could be wrong...I just know it's been a long while. So, while out of practice, I still know a few things and was able to get some cute shots of this adorable little brother for some  new friends at our church. I have a pretty good track record of newborns NOT sleeping through their sessions. I tend to keep them on high alert and so getting the super squishy, flexible, sleeping photos are tough. This little man was the same...but we managed to get a few cute shots. I really hope you like them Joanna and Caleb. Thank you so much for letting me snuggle your little man for a bit and for trusting me with these precious memories!! Here are a few of my favorite shots!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

father's day FREE printable!!!

Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad. 
Fathers, a sons first hero a daughters first prince.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.

Sunday is Father's Day. Let's show all those awesome, selfless, caring men in our lives how much we really love and appreciate them. I am always stumped as to what to buy for my husband. But I've realized more and more that he doesn't need STUFF (although the stuff is nice sometimes) but what he really wants is some quality time snuggling on the couch with the kiddos or a nice dinner date. I think (correct me if I'm wrong Greg) that my husband would prefer an "experience" over another book, tie, cardinal gear, etc. I think he would prefer handwritten notes from the kids telling him what he means to them. I think he would prefer they spend some time with him rather than buying a bunch of items from the dollar store that he will just throw away. 

I have collaborated again with my friend Kristin for Father's Day (and we're talking about possibly making something fun every month!!). She drew this awesome tree and the verse that came to mind was Psalm 1:1-3...Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked nor stands in the way of sinner, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does he prospers.

Wow! What a great message and what an incredible reminder for the men in our lives. I can't even begin to unpack that all but know that God is good and he is on your side. He loves you and the fathers in your life. Let those men know how much you love them with this beautiful (and FREE) printable. Then have the kids write him some notes as well and make a special dinner. Experience some family time and love on the man whom God placed at the head of your house.

This printable is FREE but please send your friends here to download their own copy!! We would love to see how you use these printables. Feel free to tag me on instagram or facebook @purejoycreative or #purejoycreative