Tuesday, February 4, 2014

two weeks in

Some times "thank you" seems so inadequate.

Two words to try and express appreciation for a community that has held you up, supported you and still prays for you, hurts with you, hopes with you, cries with you and laughs with you.

We have needed every bit of that these past two weeks.

Seems unreal to think it has been two weeks today since life turned slightly upside down.

I'll be honest - at times we hid out.

That first weekend we took the girls and went to Chicago for some time as a family to absorb what had happened, hold tight to each other, and just be together.  It was so needed and so good for us.

There were a lot of different dynamics going on that first week - yes we were still grieving and in shock and just absorbing a different reality than we had planned on - but there was just alot going on within our story that I think kept the grief from hitting as deep beyond what we were able to share.

A week ago some large details happened that changed this dramatically and we were left with a pretty clear reality and the grief hit hard.

Grief is a funny thing.  Some days you feel you can manage it.  Some days it is there but in the distance.  Parts of days feel normal. Then other times it comes from nowhere and takes over.  Tuesday and Wednesday it managed me and laid me on my back.  Literally.  We grieved deeply what was lost and the way that lost seems tangible in almost every area of our lives.

I know we need those days.  You can't move forward without those days where you feel and cry over all the loss holds.  It affects our hearts, our home's make up, our calendar, our budget, our prayers, our pictures, our relationships.

I am not trying to be over dramatic . . .it is just the reality of where we sit.  Family gatherings look different than you expect, friends you are looking forward to walking similar journeys alongside still walk those as you absorb a different one, budgets look different, and time off plans suddenly have to be discussed as Ethiopia becomes a possibility that needs planning and foresight for even as you grieve and want to pause. There is the reality of stepping back into an unknown wait.

And yet through it all, friends have prayed and reached out.  I was trying to explain it to one friend that not only do you love and absorb the connections that remind you others are hurting alongside you and praying for you in the hard . . .but you love and crave the reminders that they are thinking of you in the day to day and moving forward with you.

I remember one friend texting me a totally random text about a tv show and that was all it was about.  And I laughed and gave thanks for it . . .because it kept me moving forward and reminded me that grief is not all that defines us right now.  That text may have meant as much as any other that day.

Last week was hard but in different ways as we stepped into the reality that we are now in.

There was good moments in there - almost normal moments - but again hard ones as snow days drifted away, activities resumed and our new reality became more real.  Workout classes you go back to where people ask if we are home with the baby with hope and excitement in their eyes.  Neighbors that come out of their homes and ask for any news and update.  Preschool teachers exclaim "you're back already!" and excitedly wait for the update.

God has been so gracious through those encounters and I know He will continue to be as they are going to continue for the next little while.  I feel as badly, if not worse, for the people asking as they feel for me because I know how awful they feel for asking when they hear. I don't ever want them to feel badly for caring and hoping alongside us.  That has meant so much.  And as hard as that reality may be to revisit as we tell them we are walking a different journey, I can't begin to consider walking this journey alone.

This past weekend held alot of tender moments.

The crib had been moved to our bedroom. Thursday night I looked at Ryan and asked if we could move it over the weekend as my heart couldn't handle any longer having that be the first thing I looked at each time I stepped into our room.

So Saturday as Ryan took apart the crib to store in our basement, I finally unpacked baby boy's suitcase and emptied our dresser of the clothes we had collected.  There were tears and there were prayers for redemption in this loss and for the faith to trust God for the beauty we know He has within it.  And as only He could, He timed the most perfect expression of love of a friend right as I folded and packed and prayed and cried.

Saturday afternoon we got to have a super fun visitor in my 16 year old niece.  My girls were so excited and it was so special to have her.  She sweetly offered to babysit so Ryan and I could get out for a couple hours which ended up being a blessing for a whole different reason than she might have thought . . .

Ryan and I spent our time out making returns for baby boy of the items we decided not to keep and hadn't washed.  A friend had offered to do those for me but the more I considered it, we needed to be the ones making those returns.  To hand them to her felt like denying a reality that we needed to accept and almost harder. While it was tender, to be able to have Ryan with me and just handle each stop together felt healing.  It was almost a slow acceptance and determination that we are still a family and are going to be ok.  God was with us at every stop, even one particularly rough one, and when we returned home it felt good to step into a fun evening with family and making memories and enjoying time together.

Sunday we returned to church for the first time.  I felt anxious but fairly calm until we sat in church and I sat down and the emotions came.  Sitting there brought the grief again. . .as every part of us had been hoping the next time we went to church would be with a little bundle snuggled in our arms.  Arms felt painfully empty that morning. But God.

One of the things that has been so clear and real to me this whole journey of the past two weeks is that we are not the only family walking hard.  I don't mean that in a trivial way.  I don't mean that in a melodramatic way.  It is just a very real statement of what others are walking around us even as we grieve.

I can rattle off a dozen families I know personally and love that are walking their own deep journeys of grief and heartache and their own trampled dreams. . .many of them walking journeys that are harder and deeper.

We are not alone.  We are not exceptional.  We are not abandoned in it.

But it is a heartbreaking reality of a fallen and broken world we find ourselves in and I am so deeply grateful to know that Jesus sits with each of us in our hard, cries each tear alongside us, and promises to right all that is wrong at the end.  In fact He promises to not only make it right, but more beautiful than we can imagine or desire even if it is on the other side of heaven.

Yesterday was a good day. In fact, I would dare to call it a great day in light of the past few.  Laughter came easily to our home yesterday and I felt present with our girls in a way I haven't the past couple of weeks.  It just felt like a whisper of hope in our hearts for our family and our future and I just felt at peace as I looked at our family, our girls and this season.

I felt the grace to look forward as opposed to back.

I was so thankful for that and just texted that praise to some friends at the end of the day.  I don't expect there not to be hard days ahead, tears flow even today as I write, but I just feel the hope for what God has yet to write.

The truth is? That even as we grieve, we firmly believe the risk was worth all this.

We look back and would make every "yes" all over again.

We are choosing to believe this journey was more than just about our family.  And yet we see bits of the fruit for our family too. Last night, as Ava said her prayers before bed, she thanked God that our baby brother was born healthy, prayed he would stay safe . . .and then prayed the sweetest prayer for birth mom by name as well.

Fruit.  Deep.  Real.

Our girls are learning some beautiful lessons about love, compassion, grief . . .and God's faithfulness in all of it.  While it is hard for us to know they still hurt, too, over a baby brother that didn't come home, I am hoping they are also learning that God is big enough for all the voids in their hearts and that to love big is still worth the risk every time.

I am hoping that somewhere in our mess and our hurt, they are seeing that God's grace is there in the hard and sustains us and carries us and gives us hope even when we don't see the other side of this story yet.

At one part of the service on Sunday, they read from Ephesians 3 some very familiar verses:

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."

Those are neat verses.  But where God spoke to me was in the very verse right before these that wasn't read and my eyes just planted on.  Other versions read a little differently, but for that day, God knew just how it needed to read for me that day right before that bigger passage that begins "For this cause . . ."

The verse reads:

"Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.  For this cause . . . ."

We didn't desire to walk this hard or this grief.  But we are holding tight to the truths that we are being prayed for in it, strengthened in it, grown and rooted in love in it and comprehending God's love in new ways.

Thank you for every way you have been a part of that.