Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Eighth Tuesday


20 minutes ago marks the moment, eight weeks ago, Ben was lifted from my womb.

Eight weeks.

A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a moment to our God. My son has worshipped my Father in person for eight weeks. Eight thousand years.

He knows the answers to secrets I long to understand. While I "see in a mirror dimly" and "...then [will see] face to face," knowing in part, he "knows fully..." (1 Corinthians 13). My little son knew nothing of the beautiful days on earth, and perhaps, when I meet him one day, will marvel that any of us ever feared leaving this place-- the glory of our most beautiful days falling so terribly short of the most ordinary parts of heaven.

And do I only consider the existence of God and heaven as a comfort? Am I delusional? One of the intellectually impoverished for whom heaven is an escape from this world of limitations and sadness? Or am I more like those who tend to believe in aliens, asserting that it is arrogant of us to believe that we are the only forms of intelligent life in all of the universe? Do I need heaven to exist so that I can confirm the hope of my salvation, or do I suddenly just need it to exist for the hope of holding my son again?

Does it matter?

Today is breathtakingly beautiful in Georgia. I'm sitting in the grass underneath a hundred year old pecan tree in my yard, the wind whipping my hair around my face, and the sound of a rooster crows nearby. I can hear the screech of a hawk occasionally, birds singing, and dogs barking in the distance, along with the sound of a lawn mower down the road and hammering on a roof-top. These are the summer sounds of childhood, and I wonder if I will spend the rest of my life only longing for Benjamin to see days like these. To be distracted from the splendor of this gorgeous place by my longing for my child. In my imagination, his strawberry blonde head pops up from the trucks he pushes through my yard when he hears the sound of the train in the distance-- the same train I grew up hearing. He says, "Train!" or "airplane" or "dog" when he hears these things that get heard and unnamed by me. In my mind, today I take pictures of him as he naps on a blanket in the yard. In my mind, his cousin Ella will lean her red head over his crib and stare at him, reaching out a jelly-sticky hand to touch his face, and her mother will say, "Ella, gentle! Can you say hello to your baby cousin Ben? Say, 'hey Ben'"....

But instead, his focus is on higher things. He stands before a throne that I cannot imagine. He enjoys the knowledge of the Holy, face to face. My son sings, "Majesty" and sees Him. Before he was born, I cried out to God that my son would know Him, and that he would hear the call to worship. I knew that he was a worshipper-- I knew it. I knew that my son's primary calling in life would be to praise God. I had no idea that he would be called to do it in person. What an honor for him; what a gift. In my mind, I can see him there...

"For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has given me my petition which I asked of Him.
So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD " And he worshiped the LORD there. (I Samuel 1)

I asked the Lord for Ben. I cried out to Him and He did what I asked: He gave me a son. And I rejoiced! And I dedicated him to the Lord. For as long as he lived.

And he worshipped the Lord there. Hannah left Samuel at the temple after she had weaned him (but oh God, she got to wean him... ). And he worshipped the Lord there.

And her song?

Then Hannah prayed and said,

"My heart exults in the LORD;

My horn is exalted in the LORD,

My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,

Because I rejoice in Your salvation.

There is no one holy like the LORD,

Indeed, there is no one besides You,

Nor is there any rock like our God.

Boast no more so very proudly,

Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;

For the LORD is a God of knowledge,

And with Him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are shattered,

But the feeble gird on strength.

Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,

But those who were hungry cease to hunger.

Even the barren gives birth to seven,

But she who has many children languishes.

The LORD kills and makes alive;

He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The LORD makes poor and rich;

He brings low, He also exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust,

He lifts the needy from the ash heap

To make them sit with nobles,

And inherit a seat of honor;

For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S,

And He set the world on them.

He keeps the feet of His godly ones..."

1Samuel 2


How like Job Hannah sounds here.

I imagine that she had so many emotions on the day that she left her son with Eli. He no longer lived in her home-- his job was to minister to the Lord before Eli the priest. He kept the lamp of the Lord in the temple, where the ark of the covenant was. What an amazing job. But still-- she saw him once a year. He was no longer her baby son. He did not live under her roof.

She gave him over to the Lord.

So did I.

I cannot imagine. One of my descendants is standing before the throne of God, singing and worshipping and learning. Can he hear me when I sing to that same God? Does he know that I worship him, too? Does he know that I prayed that God would use his life for His highest good? That I do not understand what happened? Does he know?

Sigh. It matters, but the questions are futile for now. For now, I will simply enjoy this, my eighth Tuesday without him, and will pray that God will be glorified. I cannot resist Him or stay angry with Him. He is so good. He heals my heart. He is perfect in all of His ways.


Monday, June 22, 2009

I'm No Job, Part 2 (or, "Uh, seriously God?")

This has sort of been one of those seasons.

Been thinking about Job a lot-- the plight of all believers who go through any kind of pain, I'm sure. Of course, we all must preface conversations in which we ever-so-humbly compare ourselves to Job with, "I know that what I'm going through is nothing like what Job went through, but...." And it's just true-- I didn't start off with the same amount of stuff at stake: no riches, no children, no servants, etc. But most believers would agree that God put Job's story down for a reason: to teach us, to show us something about His character, to illustrate something about relationship with him.

At first glance, I must admit that it's not the greatest personal campaign, Lord.

I mean, let's think about this: Job was a man who was fantastically upright. He was doing his best to walk justly before His God. We know because God says so right there in His word.

1There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.

We understand that the Bible isn't saying that Job never sinned-- it's saying that he was not sunk in sin, not walking in the habit of sin, feared (respected) God and pursued doing what was right (by turning away from evil). I mean, the discussion makes me think of Mary-- she wasn't perfect, but she was exceptional.

Anyway.

So Job is a man who loves God. And God chose to give us the book of Job so that we would see some things about Him that He wanted us to see and, if not understand completely, recognize as HIM. Job was a good man and God chose to allow his world to be torn apart.

Already, I'm in way over my head.

Alright, so I'm driving down the road on Saturday morning, thinking of the latest thing that has come to the surface during this season of losing my baby boy: fear. O Fear, how I hate thee. How I tend to draw you to me, though, and pet you and coddle you and feed you and invite you to stay awhile and torment me-- this has to go, go, go.

So I'm driving down the road and I'm thinking, alright, if God gave us Job, what can I glean from this? So the first thing I do is attempt to compare, and I kind of have to do a little happy dance-- one thing to understand about me is that I really like when things a) happen in threes, b) follow a pattern, and c) make me laugh, even if it's only eventually. I used to love semi-colons until I had to start teaching on them in grammar and now I hate them. Periods are much easier to use.

Anyway.

So I started thinking: Okay, Job lost his children (I lost Ben). Job was afflicted with boils (I have a wound that is almost healed, but was really giving me a hard time for about 3-4 weeks, and being attached to Wanda is getting on my nerves-- does that count as physical torment? Probably not). But I had to stop there-- I don't have a partner who is telling me to "curse God and die" and I have no material riches to lose.

Still, I kind of got excited.

Because you know, one of the things I am longing for in all of this is for something to make sense. I spent time on the phone with two dear friends of mine today-- Sarah and Kristen-and one of the things that came up in both conversations was the desire to understand and the reality of probably never understanding why God chose to allow this to happen.

So what if we just sort of scratch that need and look at the present reality? What does God want to do as a result of this horrific thing? What if He wants to take us to a place in Him we've never been before? What if He's asking us to love Him in the face of so much pain and hurt?

To tell Him, okay, I trusted You with my baby and You took him. I'm still going to trust You with my husband. My parents. My brothers and sisters. My nieces. My friends. My own life. I'm still going to trust You.

Because I want to know You.

So I'm looking and thinking, okay, there's a little pattern going here-- children, physical ailments, and .... nothing. And just then, guess what happened.

My car broke down.

No joke.

Normally, this wouldn't be that big of a deal-- I'm one of those people who has always had crappy cars until the last year and a half. So I'm used to breaking down. But right now? My tolerance for this kind of thing is low right now. My husband has just left for several days in the wilderness. He's gone. I am already struggling with fear like a mad woman. It's HOT outside and I'm attached to a machine and am physically uncomfortable. I'm sad and scared and exhausted. And now my stupid car breaks down?

I call my dad: "My son has died, my house is a mess, my husband is camping, my car just broke down and I alone have escaped to tell you" (just kidding-- a little Job humor).

Now, I would be lying if I continued to write about how awful it all was and how terrible things got. I would really, really be lying. But I did have a bit of a meltdown with God before He sent in the reinforcements.

I put my head on the steering wheel and said, "GOD?? Do you even LIKE me?? What are you doing??? Can't I just have a break? Just a little break? Where are you? Have you forgotten me?" (I seem to remember praying the same prayer when stricken with that demon constipation right after the hospital...)

Melodrama, thy name is Samantha.

But seriously.

He didn't say anything. Because of course He loves me. What He did was provide me with the sweetest, most helpful tow truck guy around; a great friend who cheerfully abandoned her breakfast at a restaurant to come and pick me up (thank you, dear Melissa); parents who are always able to talk me back into the land of reason; and a dear friend who loaned me her car while she was on vacation.

God came to my rescue again, as always. Because He is good and kind and holy and perfect in His wisdom.

I just don't understand what He was doing on April 28. Maybe I never will. And maybe that doesn't matter so much. I just wish He hadn't allowed it. I just wish that tonight we could all go to sleep and wake up on April 28 and get a giant do-over. Those of you who do not need do-overs could just get a really, really restful sleep and the rest of us could get that day back and then wake up and it's today and everything is right again.

I'm no Job-- I'm just one of many, many women who have lost their babies and who are struggling to work through the nonsensical pain of it. But I'm happy to study him and to do my best to adjust my response to God in the face of adversity-- there is a reason God wanted us to see and study Job. Because I know that "God can handle your anger" is a true statement (He's God. He can handle anything), but I want to know where the line is. I want to steer clear of the attitudes taken by Job's friends. I want to be respectful toward Him. I'm hurt with Him, but how much of a right does that give me to rail against Him? Just because He understands my anger, that doesn't make it okay. I'm not saying that it's healthy or good or Christlike to push down my grief...but where does pointing our rage God-ward become too much? I do not ever want to cross that line-- He'll forgive me if I do, I know, but how much better to try to walk humbly with my God in the face of adversity?

I want to know Him, to understand Him, and to walk with Him. That means dying to myself, right?

Oh, I want to get to the bottom of this thing.

*Cisilia pointed out what I forgot to say and what I was going for in the first place!: the car breaking down was the third thing, completing the pattern of threes! :)

Communication, or "I SAID, the baby died"

I'm listing this as an "overheard" because I am positive that there are some people who will be talking about overhearing this exchange this weekend...

Don has been telling me for several weeks that I need to get a pedicure.

Seriously.

My feet got so crazy swollen and dry during the last couple of months of my pregnancy, in addition to the fact that my brother and I both have hardcore outdoor-feet. I could walk on pine cones and feel no pain as a kid. Anyway, lotion wasn't helping at all and Don was threatening to break out an industrial sander so I wanted to go get a pedicure. I got Mom, Melissa, and Paige and off we went.

The place was packed-- it was about 96 degrees outside on Saturday, so I guess that's pedicure weather. Sliding into the pedicure throne, I saw my 19 year old pedicure girl eyeing Wanda curiously.

I felt the need to explain.

"Um, I just had surgery. This is just a you know, a thing..." and let my voice trail off. Hopefully my response to her questioning look was awkward enough to help disuade further questioning.

She nodded.

"Oh, you have surgery? What you have?"

This is where I should have just made something up. Look, I don't mind talking about Ben, but the reality is, saying "my baby died" is an unecessary bummer that people are NOT expecting when they ask me about what I had surgery for (which is why I need to say that I had an appendectomy or something in the future). There's no casual way to say it ("But it's okay! We're over it now!") and there's no easy response ("Okay, well... good luck with that").

But we had something worse than social ettiquette between us.

Serious language barrier.

So, looking around, I saw that we now had the attention of two or three of the people sitting close by at the manicure desks. Openly looking at us, they were waiting for my response. Hm. Quietly and quickly, I said, "Um, it was a C-section" --and really wanting to stop her from her embarrassing next question, I quickly tagged that with "and the baby passed away."

I know that translators hate working with me-- when I had to speak in YWAM with a translator, I was always told that I had to slow down for real. I talk FAST. I was counting on the girl being uncomfortable with asking me to repeat myself, nodding at me and smiling.

But no.

She waited a couple of minutes, working away on my tough-as-nails feet, humming quietly to herself. She looked up at me and asked,

"So, what kind of baby you have?"

Um. Dead?

"Um, it was a boy. He passed away."

Smile, nod, keep scraping away on feet.

"How your baby?" This was starting to be funny.

I glanced over at Paige, who was trying not to laugh, and suddenly it was hysterical. Again, I quietly said, "He passed away" and did not look up at the faces watching us. I don't know why I wasn't thinking about the fact that my phrase was not translating to this young Vietnamese woman, or if it did, she simply could not hear me. But she wasn't getting it and I was about to start laughing. I looked at Paige and she leaned down toward the girl and said, like she was talking to a 98 year old granny,

"She SAID, the baby died."

Let me just tell you about the quietest, best pedicure ever.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

morning

for some reason, mornings were highly anticipated by don and me before Ben was born. i have no idea what it was we were looking so forward to...maybe something. well, i mean, i have an idea: early morning times when everyone is just awake and happy and before things have started moving...

so mornings are sort of bittersweet around here sometimes. and even though we've both been blessedly home-- maternity leave turned into bereavement leave and my precious husband has acted as counselor, nursemaid and pastor for over 6 weeks now-- it's uniquely saturdays. even though each day is much like the one before it, being on the crappiest "vacation" (it's pure bliss being together, truly, but for the worst reason ever, is what i mean) either of us has ever gotten to take, saturdays maintain that certain feeling. every day of the week can feel like saturday to a teacher in the summer time, but saturdays always seem to feel like saturdays no matter what. and ben should be cuddled up in the bed with us, warm and cooing and smiling (or crying) with us.

that's all. just thinking.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sometimes

Sometimes I feel like I'm holding sadness away, at the end of my outstretched arm. I pinch my nose with my free hand and look away, like it's a bag of stinky trash.

Other times, I let it wash over me.

I can't do both at once. Grief is an awkward dance, and sometimes it's beautiful. Mostly, I think, I stumble.

Oh why did you have to go? Nothing will ever be the same without you Benjamin-- your presence in my body, your arrival on my horizon. I hope our Father lets you know how I long for you...how your mother and father long for you.


I am benumbed and badly crushed;
I groan because of the agitation of my heart.
Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You.

psalm 38:9

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

which is infinite which is yes




i thank You God for most this amazing day
e e cummings


i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


Freedom!!! I am finally able to go outside and walk for real!! The wound is healing up (thanks to the aforementioned Wanda) and I just feel better. My Don has been taking me outside to walk a mile or so for the last couple of days, and he reads our daily Bible reading (our pastor has challenged our congregation to read 1John this week, and to ask the Lord to open the sacred book to us!) as we go. It's been so great, walking and talking about the Lord with my favorite friend.




Today is Tuesday. The sixth Tuesday. The sixth Tuesday that my son has worshipped my King in person. How I ache for him...but am so grateful for the distracting beauty of the Lord today.


(pics are from today's walk, tho one is the spot but not my pic)

Say hello...


... to my little friend. We'll call her Wanda.


Wanda the Wound Vac.

I was going to write a little Ode to the Wound Vac a few days ago, but I couldn't find the thing that attaches my camera to the computer to download the pictures, and it just wouldn't be the same without pictures, you know?



Thing is, I'm not hating Wanda as much as I was, so I'm having a hard time getting worked up about her-- so I'm not too inspired to write hate notes about her.

What IS a "Wound Vac" you ask?
It's not exactly as icky as it sounds.
My abdominal wound (from the emergency C-section) has been taking forever to heal. It hasn't been incredibly painful-- just incredibly inconvenient. Uncomfortable. Irritating. A little painful. Definitely restricting. I won't go into the details of LBW ("life before Wanda"), but let's just say this: in the last few weeks, Don has shown his incredible committment and love for me in a thousand ways we never anticipated, including wound care. I am constantly amazed at the way God manages to do a thousand things at once-- not only have we been learning about what it means to grieve together, in a way we never anticipated, but in my physical weakness, I have watched his incredible tenderness as he loves me the way Christ loves the church. He has seen me at my worst...and he loves me still. How grateful I am for this man.

But one thing he cannot do is physically heal this wound himself, or carry the wound vac for me-- and I'm attached to it 24/7. Basically, it's this: the wound was taking forever to heal, but there was no infection or anything. My nurse (her name is Joy, and she's awesome) recommended that we put a wound vac on it in order to speed the recovery process. One end of the wound vac is a flat disc with a piece of custom cut foam attached to the back of it. The nurse measures the wound, cuts the foam to fit into the wound, and tapes the disc and foam to the wound. Attached to the disc is a long tube, which is attached to the other end of the contraption, which is seen above and here-->


The nurse came and "installed" the wound vac last week. She told me, "You will be amazed at how well this thing works, and it will work fast, but you're going to HATE it before it's all over."


No joke. She put it on me on Thursday and by Saturday afternoon I was more frustrated than I have been in weeks. The pack is little, but it's unbelieveably weird to be 100% attached to a little machine at all times. Everything I do is hindered by or affected by the wearing o' the machine. It might seem like no big deal, but I am beginning to wonder about the psychological affects of being dependent upon a machine: how do people in wheel chairs feel? How do people who are hooked up to ventilators or other vital machines feel? Especially those adults who end up having to be attached after an accident or late onset of illness-- because they aren't used to it. Now, for me, the end is in sight, but what about those people who have no idea how long they will be dependent upon a machine of some kind?


Being attached to a machine that is working for your good, but from which you are never parted (day and night), can feel claustrophobic. Even though the walls aren't closing in on you, you are restricted as far as where you can go, or how easily you can go or get there.


Really, you can go anywhere with the wound vac. It can be unplugged and slung over your shoulder like a purse (sorta like a purse). It's very light and pretty small. Thing is, there is this tubing that will occasionally have a small burst of urine-colored fluid coming from... well... somewhere on your person... into the bag. It's draining the wound using negative pressure (drawing fluids up through the tissues to help the regeneration of new tissue)-- and this leads to the "percolating" sound... as the fluid flows through the tubing, it's deposited into a cannister. Yeah, nice. Fortunately, it's all encased in the black "purse" and you can't see a thing. Except the tubing.


Today, the nurse was excited to pronounce the wound nearly healed-- she's thinking I'll be off the wound vac by Friday (YES!!!). Bless the Lord. And Wanda, the Wound Vac.


On the home stretch to being restored, physically. It feels good, but a little sad, too. The end of this chapter sort of closes the end of the physical chapter of pregnancy with Ben.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Let Us Press On

“Come, let us return to the LORD.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
“He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”
(Hosea 6)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Even so...

Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my Salvation.
The Lord God is my strength.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More Than You Can Handle

I have heard it said, especially in the last few weeks, that God will "never give you more than you can handle."

Now, normally, if I disagree with a statement that is spoken from someones personal philosophy on life, I just smile and nod. It's not necessary to foist my opinions upon someone else, especially with the intent to change personal opinions which have been hard won, formed in their own personal hard times. I want to respect those opinions. I mean, I don't have to always function as a teacher. Especially to my peers.

But lately, I feel like I'm in a graduate program for Hard Crap You'll Go Through In Life (some topics include, "How Much Percocet Can You Take Before You Become So Constipated You Think You're Going to Die?" and "It's Okay to Cuss When Your Child Dies, Even If the Preacher's in the Room"). That said, I'm going to throw caution to the wind and say that I believe the above statement ("God will never give you more than you can handle") to be patently untrue.

***Upon further reflection... I''ll temper this statement with "generally tends to be untrue"-- there are many times when He brings us through trials He has prepared us for... and I also think that this whole concept goes back to Job, and I'm a moron if I think I can adequately take it on. So I'm going to say that "patently untrue" is too strong and that the whole topic is too high for me... but I DO think that the idea that God expects finite humans to be able to handle some or all of the crap we experience--to suggest that God allowed some of the abuse I've seen my students receive because He knew they could "handle" it... no. But I do agree with a dear, wise friend of mine who felt that the Lord spoke to her heart while digging in her garden, that He had been "preparing Samantha for this her whole life." I think He does both*****

It is to be expected that, as mature believers, God will give us stuff or allow stuff that we cannot handle. And not because He's mean. It's because in our weakness, THAT is where He shines:

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9, 10

It is not in me to handle what has happened this season. It is not in me to still be sane. When I begin to let my mind wander to the fact that my little son, whose body I watched roll and flip across my stomach, whose voice I longed for, whose presence in my body gave me heartburn every day for 6 of the 9 months, who made me laugh out loud when he poked late at night-- when I let my mind begin to imagine his precious body that was grown inside me, that came out of a place in me that is still not completely healed physically, being placed in an oven for cremation.... it is not in me to handle that without losing my mind.

But it's His grace in me.... it's His spirit. I have never understood this depth of sadness before April 28. I have never understood profound weakness of mind, heart, and soul. I have never truly understood what it meant to have nothing left of me... and I rejoice to report that there is MORE!!! That when the well of wellness was completely plumbed and found empty in my heart, suddenly grace burst forth and THERE WAS WATER!! It was not OF me, but it was IN me. My God is supplying grace where there was only despair-- His spirit in me is the strength to handle what has been given to me to walk through. It is the power of Christ, dwelling in me.

And I do not boast, except to boast that HE IS ALIVE in me! Oh, the agony to look at my son's beautiful face... to sit at the side of my bed, longing for the bassinet that was there for brief hours, staring at the empty place it left... down that path is total and blackest night-- but I am not alone, deep inside. His power is alive in me-- I can and MUST go down this path of loss. But I am not alone. YEA, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for He is with me... He has not left me-- or you-- alone.

He has allowed more than I can handle to enter into my life this season, but He did not leave me alone in it. We live in a fallen world where really, really hideous stuff happens-- I have no idea why my perfect son died, but really, why not? It's not "why" today-- it's "how" on all sorts of levels. How will I let this change me? How will I respond to this tragedy? How will my son make a change in this world, even though he didn't breathe one breath of it? How can I let God be glorified in all of this?

Tom Marshall, an outstanding speaker I heard while working in YWAM (he passed away in '93), used to say that "God works in the margins." I never forgot that idea. That in life, we do what we can, using our gifts and abilities and strengths-- but there comes a point where we run completely out of ourselves. We are tapped out. We have nothing left. It is there, Marshall, said, that we find God at work.

Friends, I find myself at the margins this season. God has given me and my family and friends infinitely more than we can handle-- and we are experiencing the grace and power of God that is perfected in weakness, living in the margins. I am further comforted by the fact that I have a TON of weakness, so that gives Him lots of room to show off...

p.s. Check out my friend's blog for some awesome music and other stuff (especially Audra Lynn's "Yet Will I Sing"). Thanks Randy!!

:)

Overheard: You Better Watch Out...

At Perimeter Mall last Saturday. The food court:

Mother: [holding an infant, pushing a stroller piled with bags, purse sliding down her arm, trying to reach a little boy of about six with her one free-ish arm] Jon. Joooooon. JON. Jonathan. Jon. Come here. NOW.

Jonathan: [completely oblivious to the fact that his mom is trying to grab his arm, boy is trying to climb the lunch counter] Mommy, can I have pizza?

Mother: Jon, I need you to stand here-- get down from there-- excuse me ma'am-- Jon, stand still please.

Jonathan: Mom, I'm thirsty can I have a napkin I need ice cream where is the toy store look at that bug hey---

Mother: Jonathan, do you know who is watching you? Jonathan, Santa is watching you right this minute. Do you really want him to see you acting like this? Thank you, come stand over here. I mean, really. Santa is everywhere, you know.

Well, dang. That's hardcore-- bringing out Santa in JUNE!! Apparently she didn't appreciate how funny that was-- I had to laugh when I heard what she said and she totally glared at me!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pictures...

So, I added a couple of pictures of Ben... I didn't put them in the body of a post because I didn't want to just sort of surprise you when you landed on my page-- boom! Picture!


But I wanted to share with you how beautiful he was. I can't believe that he's gone-- that he was here, and now he is gone. He just seems to be a sleeping little man in the photos... I especially love the one of mom (Grandie) holding him. He looks exactly like his father, except that he is blonde... I wish that I had one of everyone holding him-- so many thanks to Paige for taking this one.


If you want to see him, just scroll down the right hand side of the page. His pictures are just above his sweet cousins, Ella and Chandler.


And thank You Lord for the rain today-- it's lovely.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Relief

Here is what my back yard feels like:

It's around 9:30 in the evening and the temperature is in the mid 60's. There is a light breeze and the scent of honeysuckle wafts by my place on the steps every few minutes. If I wait in the darkness, almost holding my breath, and focus on the woods beyond the dirt, I see the first of the lightning bugs and my heart sighs. Tree frogs ping messages back and forth, croaking and chirping and thrumming, sounding like little kid cellos and cat gut guitars, all across my back yard. There is a whole life beyond the bank of trees in my back yard, and all I can do is hear it, alive and well beyond the curtain of pines and crepe myrtles.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I'm no Job

I keep having dreams that my wound comes open.

Yuck, I know.

Someone asked me a few days ago-- gosh, who was it? I can't remember-- if I'd had any dreams about Ben, and I was sorry to say that no, I haven't had any. Not even one. And I've always been a vivid dreamer-- why haven't I dreamed about the single most important little person I have ever met?

No, my dreams are squarely focused on the "exit wound."

Today, mom and I went to the mall so I could get some really good lotion from Aveda (and copy my friend Mary by picking up fantastic perfume :)) and after walking around for a while, I was completely wiped out. It has been five weeks since Ben's passing and I'm still recovering and it makes me so angry I could scream. In fact, the only real anger I have felt since all of this has happened has been related to this physically painful part. I mean, it's not the end of the world-- I'm not in a lot of pain, though it's incredibly inconvenient and very irritating-- but it's a constant reminder of what's been lost.

The first time I felt the anger, I had just gotten out of the bed for one of the first times after the surgery. My mom, Paige, and Beverly were helping me to the restroom-- I can't remember why there were three of them at that moment!-- and I just broke down crying...oh, that's why there were three of them. I remember now. I was walking the room and it hit me like lightning-- oh, the pain of the incision and the pain of empty arms. Anguish ... at that moment, I knew the word for what it meant. There was no baby in this room. There was no baby in my arms. There was no baby. My baby was in the morgue. My child was cold and uncovered and unheld and unseen and alone, in the same building I was in, but gone from me. I felt like my knees were going to buckle, and Beverly (like an aunt to me, I have known her as long as I've known anyone), Paige, and Mom were at my side. We had banished everyone from the room so I could walk to the restroom freely (and that's saying something-- that place was teeming with friends and family during our whole stay-- and we loved and needed it!) and suddenly there was a freedom to really sort of fall apart.

It felt like the physical pain was for nothing. That it was empty and pointless and fruitless.

It still feels like that.

And it makes me really, really angry.

But with whom? Where do I aim my anger? I can't-- won't-- blame God. I know it's not His fault. It's not my fault. It's not Don's fault. It's no one's fault. I wish I was pagan-- I could blame some wood sprite or tree fairy or Mother Nature or something. I cannot blame anyone. Can I blame Ben for not being strong enough to hang on? Of course not.

It occurs to me, everyone walking the earth is a winner. Birth is dangerous. Treacherous. It's amazing that we survive it, especially when you consider how many perfectly healthy babies don't make it through birth. If you're reading this, I have good news: you've been a success since birth!

Anyway, I want to beat my pain out on the pavement, walking and crying until I collapse, but I still have this stupid wound that is not completely healed. My heart cries out to God, "HEY!!! Did you completely forget about me down here? Hello??? I'm doing my best to trust you in this whole death-of-my-son thing-- you'd think You could at least heal my body so I can get on with life. Hello??"

I'm no Job, but it occurs to me that the enemy tried to get at Job through the death of his children (and wealth), and then through physical pain.

Oh.

It was like, he knew that Job's physical comfort was the sort of final frontier to a complete loss of sanity or heart. Take his health, the enemy said to God, and he will definitely curse your name.

Hm. Okay, so I'm thinking that I could offer this pain to Him. To say, Okay, even in THIS, I will worship You. Even in the part of this that feels the most meaningless, the most futile, the most worthless, I will worship You. This makes the least sense to me, but I will do it anyway. I have no idea what in the world this pointless pain is achieving, but I will offer it up anyway.

But I'm still praying that the wound heals more quickly.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

By and By...

One of the beautiful by-products of walking this way, this season, has been meeting people-- men and women-- who have stories just like mine. I had no idea how many people are walking around with these enormous holes blown in their hearts. And they look normal-- you know so many of them, whether you know it or not. People who have been touched with death in some way, and specifically, the death of a child.

One gentleman that I teach with stopped by my classroom on Friday to welcome me back (the kids had already gone-- it was post-planning) and let me know that he was thinking of and praying for us. Of course, it turned into church right there :). He shared with me that he and his wife have lost four children-- and they have four living. Wow. I cannot imagine. Anyway, he reminded me of an old hymn that has brought them comfort....

By and By, Charles Albert Tindley (1905)

We are tossed and driv'n on the restless sea of time;
Somber skies and howling tempests oft succeed a bright sunshine;
In that land of perfect day, when the mists have rolled away,
We will understand it better by and by.

(chorus)
By and by, when the morning comes,
When the saints of God are gathered home,
We’ll tell the story how we've overcome,
For we’ll understand it better by and by.

We are often destitute of the things that life demands,
Want of food and want of shelter, thirsty hills and barren lands;
We are trusting in the Lord, and according to God’s Word,
We will understand it better by and by.

(chorus)

Trials dark on every hand, and we cannot understand
All the ways that God could lead us to that blessed promised land;
But He guides us with His eye, and we’ll follow till we die,
For we’ll understand it better by and by.

(chorus)

Temptations, hidden snares often take us unawares,
And our hearts are made to bleed for a thoughtless word or deed;
And we wonder why the test when we try to do our best,
But we’ll understand it better by and by.

(chorus)

Bless God, we'll understand it better by and by...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesdays

Today was hard.

It's so weird, how this whole thing works. You go one or two days feeling completely normal, and then all of a sudden....

It's music that does it most of the time. Worship music. Words like this:

I don't understand Your ways
Oh but I will give You my song
Give You all of my praise
You hold on to all my pain

With it You are pulling me closer
And pulling me into Your ways

Now around every corner
And up every mountain
I'm not looking for crowns
Or the water from fountains

I'm desperate in seeking, frantic believing
That the sight of Your face
Is all that I need
I will say to You

It's gonna be worth it
It's gonna be worth it
It's gonna be worth it all
I believe this...
(Rita Springer, Worth It All)

Something happens when we sing and I don't completely understand it. I know that there have to be books written by worship leaders or even secular musicians, exploring this deep thing that seems to get opened up in people when music starts-- whether we are listening or singing/playing ourselves. Because it's huge. I can feel it-- it's like a spring loosening in the pit of my stomach, or an electric current, and it rises until sometimes I feel like I could fly.

But when I am sad, it's a key to opening my heart. Yesterday, this song (above) brought me to my knees. Are there words to add to it? I don't understand His ways, but still I will bring Him my song. I will bring Him all of my praise. Because

...we do not lose heart, though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 corinth 4:15-18)

There is something eternal happening in my heart. I have no clue what it is, but something in me just wants to sit back and let God do it. I cannot for one moment say that my son's death is a "momentary, light affliction," but in the light of eternity... will I one day see it that way? OH, I cannot imagine it. And what could have been any purpose?

Am I being "sifted"? Am I being tested? Or am I just a resident of a demented, fallen world in which tragedies befall people every day and at least I have my health?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

There is a statue at the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, that is one of the ugliest, most horrifying and passionately beautiful images I have ever seen. The sculpture is cast in bronze, I think, and is well over 10' tall. I had pictures of it, but my film was in a bag that was stolen and I lost all of them (so much was lost on that trip). At any rate, the statue is of a genderless human figure whose head is only made up of a huge hole, which we understand to be a gaping mouth, silently screaming sky-ward. The figure is holding what looks to be a child, limp, lifeless, in its arms.

I remember thinking that the statue was screaming "Why?" to the heavens.

I am by no means comparing my loss to that of the Holocaust victims. But that statue... it resounded in me when I saw it in person, when I was unmarried and untouched and had no idea that one day I would carry a child in my womb whose name would be Benjamin, and that one day I would hold him in my heart and scream "Why???" to the heavens, deeply and silently and obediently in my heart. It resounds with me now, as that mother. Sometimes I feel faceless, and that my whole heart has been boiled down to one aching desire: Give him back, God. Give him back...

And it feels like our lives are filled with one moment after another which could have the caption, "Will you still serve me?" or "Will you still love me?"

Will you still serve me even if you struggle so hard with unbelief that you think your head will explode and no one has answers that satisfy your racing brain?

Will you still serve me even if you invest yourself in training and bonding with this team and at the last minute I send a snow storm in the south in the spring and you can't go?

Will you still serve me even if I bring you to the only city you ever wanted to visit and I allow total chaos to wreck relationships that were priceless to you, and never restore them?

or

Will you still serve me, will you still love me, if I take your only son? If I take him from you before you ever have a chance to see his eyes? If I take him from you and never let you count his toes and kiss his eyes and memorize the way his skin smells? Will you still love me even if you feel that I haven't been very loving toward you? Will you choose to trust me? Will you let me sing to your heart that it's going to be worth it all someday? Will you close your eyes and let me lead you and trust me that in the light of eternity, this is a momentary and light affliction?

The cry of my heart is that this love for God that I have been walking in all of these years is not just words. I have never had to mean it like I do this season. Suddenly, I feel old, deep down inside. But it's not old as in "decrepit." No, it's more like... this is real. More real than anything I have ever known. Would I have ever given Him my son? Like this?

I mean, dang-- the words are right here in this blog-- the NIGHT before he returned to the Lord, I was praying Hannah's prayer! But OH GOD, what was I saying??

I'm under no delusions-- I know that Ben didn't die because I prayed that prayer. I do not know why he died, but it wasn't that. If anything, I can take comfort in having prayed that prayer... oh, it's too much right now.

Anyway, what if this whole thing served to draw Don and me closer to the Lord than we have ever been? And it is doing just that. Would that be worth it? Would Ben himself have willingly given his life for that as an adult? What if his life and our response to his death served to glorify God? How intensely lovely would that be???

I'm rambling. I'm tired. I looked through his pictures and all of the stuff from the hospital (not the first time, but I haven't done it since a week ago) today and discovered that the nurses had included a lock of his hair in a little baggy and I hadn't remembered that. It was precious to find. Today he would have been five weeks old. Instead of marveling over his blossoming personality, I held his personal affects in a zip-locked baggy and searched the little cap they had on his head for any stray hairs, pieces of flaky skin, some bit of him left over.... I wept. He is gone. Profoundly, simply, truly gone.

But we are not alone. Jesus even said it-- "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever-- The Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive (welcome, take to its heart), because it does not see Him or know and recognize Him"... John 14

He has not left us alone. Someone told me this week that she had never felt the presence of the Lord before, but she was sure she had felt it in our hospital room a few weeks ago.

Selah