Friday, January 28, 2011

Comfort (Warning: VERY long post ahead)

It isn't unusual for babies and small children to have some kind of security blanket or comforting friend.  I mean, even my 20 year old brother still sleeps with Blank, and I'm pretty sure he's not embarrassed to admit it. I'll admit that I have a teddy I sleep with, gifted to me by my husband as the first birthday gift of our relationship.

As with all things, no two kids are ever the same in the way they need comforting. My daughter, AM, is three now (be still my heart). When she was only a few months old, someone gifted her a very soft & fuzzy white blanket - only about 12 inches square - that had a small angel tucked into a pair of wings. The angel was quickly abandoned, but that blanket has stayed. "Fuzzy", as he is affectionately called (yes, he), could be found stuffed under AM's nose, and is usually a dull gray color between washings. I'd post a picture, but it'd probably gross you out. My very thoughtful mother-in-law even saved us by buying 2 more of the exact same blanket to use as backups (we quickly stopped bringing him into stores for safety reasons). Of course now all 3 are often needed, though we can usually manage to convince her that one will suffice. Car trips, nap & bed time and general being around the house are all occasions to need Fuzzy within reach. When it came time to send AM to preschool, we were able to convince her that Fuzzy would keep her car seat safe and warm while she went to play. I'll be honest, I was a bit worried.

EF has never had any one toy or blanket he felt particularly drawn to as a source of comfort. I think AM's devotion is enough for all. Though, bless her sweet heart, if EF is feeling blue, AM will offer up a Fuzzy to him. You have no idea the level of sacrifice this entails. This simple act of empathy always make my heart grow 20 sizes as it swells with pride and joy. What else can fill a mother's heart as she sees such displays between her children?

Those simple acts remind me so clearly that God uses humble and seemingly foolish acts to demonstrate his own qualities. If my daughter is able to find comfort in a blanket, and then share that comfort with her little brother, how much more will the God of all things lavish his comfort on my own troubled spirit?

2010 was a year when I needed God's comfort in a profound and extreme way. Few people know that before Ainsley, Dan and I were expecting another child. It was with joy we found ourselves "in the family way" just about a month and a half after getting married. And it was with a very heavy heart that we celebrated our first Christmas as a couple, no longer looking toward a baby in our future. The first few months I spent here were lonely - new state, new apartment, no job, no car - and then were filled with the grief of losing my child. I thought I could never feel so devastated again. I was wrong.

In July, Dan and I discovered I was pregnant again. We were nervous - 3 kids ages three and under left us thinking that life was about to get extraordinarily overwhelming - but so joyful. Children are always a blessing and we knew that the Lord was able to give us beyond all that we'd need. Little did we know that once again we'd have to walk the dark road of grief. And let me be honest here - you may think going through something you've gone through before makes you prepared to handle it. You'd be wrong. In fact, this time around, it seemed things were harder, the grief heavier. I'd say it's because we knew the joy of children, and were somehow more aware of all the potential joy now taken away. I'd say it's because you think after going through two healthy and relatively easy pregnancies (as if any pregnancy could be called easy! HA!), you think you're safe, protected. (Obviously that's just not true, but it doesn't stop you from believing it anyway.) I'd say it's because this has been a time when most of my friends have announced their own expected bundles of joy. Now, let me make this very, very clear: I am so insanely happy for the friends of mine who are about to become parents (whether for the first or second or third or... you name it... time), but it also breaks my heart a little bit. With every announcement (and I counted at least 2 dozen among my Facebook friends within a few months), I felt reminded that I was no longer on the list. With every status update about sleepless nights, weird cravings, contractions, milestones and ultrasounds, I felt the painful stab of knowing that I wasn't experiencing the same thing. 

I needed God's comfort. I needed it bad. I was getting so depressed, it was beginning to play out in my life. I would find myself snapping at AM and EF as it insidiously eroded away my patience. My head was saying, "Snap out of it. You know God loves you. You know He plans all things and is wiser than you'll ever be. It's not their fault, stop taking it out on them", but my heart was just crying out and seeking ways to make others as miserable as myself. I spent nights unable to sleep, tossing and turning with the thoughts of my children I would never hold. I sought consolation among friends who have experienced miscarriages, or who knew me through other terrible moments in my life. And, as one friend shared, "It's like carrying a 500 lb stone for the rest of your life. It's not that the stone gets lighter, it's that you get stronger."

In effect, I was trying to make myself unavailable to the comfort and grace God wanted to lavish upon me. I would shake my minuscule fists and scream, "I'm angry. I'm hurt. You have taken away such joy. I don't trust you to give me anymore." And most people would stop there, nursing the anger and frustration until there was such a wall built up that it seemed impenetrable. What foolishness. God can do all things, and he promises to give us comfort. It took a long time, the prayers of many and immersing myself in the promises laid out in places like the Psalms, Lamentations and even the New Testament. 

Why should we ever seek comfort anywhere else? 

Lamentations 3
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
   and all that I had hoped from the LORD.”
 19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
   the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
   and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
   and therefore I have hope:

 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
   for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
   therefore I will wait for him.”

 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
   to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
   for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
   while he is young.

 28 Let him sit alone in silence,
   for the LORD has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
   there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
   and let him be filled with disgrace.

 31 For no one is cast off
   by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
   so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
   or grief to anyone. 

And so while I would gladly welcome a new bundle any time now, I can honestly say that I am finally feeling that comfort. I'm no longer devastated when I read all those Facebook statuses. And I can never thank the Lord enough for opening my eyes to the grace that has been there all the time. (and those who have been lifting me up before the Father)

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I once started this blog. It was a place I was going to visit. And friends were going to visit too. We were going to share our journeys together - have some fun, shed some tears and generally just, you know, make our every move and feeling available to the whole wide world. This crazy internets thing.

But, as is my fashion, I discarded the blog after only 13 posts. Thirteen little gems that talked about food and fitness and ... something else that might start with F. I can't really bring any good ones to mind. You see, as much as I love to have others hear my brilliance (and there is so much to share), I just have never been very good at discipline (you may have noticed from the tone of the other posts, ahem).

Also, there is a certain lack of time. Every now and again I'd think of something I'd like to share, but it just never happens because there are two small children that live here. And a grown man. And a dog. But no more fish. The fish died over Christmas - I think we kept the house too cold while we were gone. It's ok, though, none of us were really that attached to the fish. Anyway! Time happens. And it keeps on happening. And it slips by faster and faster (like toilet paper). So, the blog, never a real priority, slipped on down the stream.

But I did want to share some things with the new year. I love The Valley of Vision. Have I shared this before? (Thank you, dear Hannah, for sharing it with me in the first place.) And there is a prayer in there that is often on my heart. In fact, I'd say right around Thanksgiving, as my birthday approaches along with all those other holidays, my mind begins to turn on the thoughts shared within those verses. It doesn't need much of an introduction, because, I'll be honest here, the words are so beautiful on their own, I hate to mess them up with my own cluttered thoughts and emotions. But it brings me to tears (or nearly) every time I read/meditate on it.

So, as you start your new year (isn't every day new year's day? I mean, it's always a year until this day comes back again... I digress, as usual), please enjoy this.

Year's End

O Love beyond Compare,
Thou art good when thou givest,
when thou takest away,
when the sun shines upon me,
when night gathers over me.
Thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world,
and in love didst redeem my soul;
Thou dost love me still,
in spite of my hard heart, ingratitude, distrust.
Thy goodness has been with me another year,
leading me through a twisting wilderness,
in retreat helping me to advance,
when beaten back making sure headway.
Thy goodness will be with me in the year ahead;
I hoist sail and draw up anchor,
With thee as the blessed pilot of my future as of my past.
I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead.
If thou hast appointed storms of tribulation,
thou wilt be with me in them;
If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation,
I shall not drown;
If I am to die,
I shall see thy face the sooner;
If a painful end is to be my lot,
grant me grace that my faith fail not;
If I am to be cast aside from the service I love,
I can make no stipulation;
Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial,
as a chosen vessel meet always for thy use.

Amen! And let me tell you, I've had some trials in 2010. I mean, who has a year that doesn't include trials?! But that's for another post...