Giving Thanks, Even When It Is Hard

First Thessalonians 5:18 tells us “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

In everything.

Give thanks. 

That means we are to give thanks when the harvest grain bins are full; it also means give thanks when they’re empty.

That means give thanks in the good times and in the bad.

Why? Because it is God’s will. It’s that simple.

For this reason, we’ve looked around us to see ways that we can cultivate a thankful heart, even in the often unpleasant and undesirable circumstances of life.

We can be thankful for…

  • The rent check we just wrote because have a house to live in.
  • Dirty dishes because our family has food to eat.
  • Dirty laundry because we have clothes to wear.
  • The water bill because we have clean water to drink.
  • The toys strewn across the house, the spills at the dinner table, the poopy diapers, the interrupted sleep…because we are blessed to have children.
  • The long car rides because we get to spend time with other people.
  • The wait-time at the doctor’s office because we have good health care.
  • The cold weather because we have variety in seasons.
  • A husband who hunts because I have a husband. 😉
  • Busy seasons of transition because we have a new house, child, etc.
  • Long hours of solo parenting because our husbands have a job.
  • Dirty floors because our children enjoy playing outside.
  • Unknowns because we have a God who knows and is in control.
  • Hard parenting days because it brings opportunities to trust God and point our children to His grace.
  • Rough patches in relationships because they help us learn to love and understand each other better.
  • Limits in finances because it presents us with opportunities to be content, to be frugal, to learn to pinch pennies.
  • Friends who live far away because it helps us appreciate it so much more when they come to visit!
  • Changes in the seasons of life because they help us learn to trust God with the question marks of the future.
  • Rotten food in the refrigerator because God provides.
  • Being forced to step out of our comfort zone because it allows God to do a work in our heart and give us joy.
  • Suffering because it exposes our weaknesses and forces us to depend on God.

As we celebrate this Thanksgiving season, may our hearts learn to give thanks in all things.

Please follow and like us:
0

Miscarriage: When You Have One

My last post on miscarriage, When Your Friend Has Onegave a few ideas on how to minister to your friend who has gone through a miscarriage. However, because of the statistics, it is likely that you yourself may have also had a miscarriage. In this post, I’d like to share a few practical things that ministered to my heart in a very specific way as I worked through the loss of our twins

1. Music

I don’t know about you, but music is a incredible balm for the soul. Shortly after our miscarriage, several songs became very special to me, for they reminded me of who my God is. Those songs, along with some select albums, are now part of a special playlist. I like to think of those songs as my go-to songs to help “lift my eyes to my Savior” when the emotions flood my soul or when I am tempted to wallow in a private pity party. This playlist has played so many times…and over and over, I’ve wept as the words remind me of who my God is. Through the tears, these songs have helped me worship my God who is forever good and faithful towards His children, even in the valley.

2. Special Memorabilia

Because our miscarriage was pretty early on in the pregnancy, we didn’t have any physical souvenirs to indicate that our twins had ever even existed: no ultrasound picture, no special outfits, no wristbands from a hospital stay, no indication of whether they were boys or girls, no names picked out. Nothing.

In some ways it felt like they had come and gone and it was all just a figment of our imagination.

But of course it wasn’t.

After months of struggling with this emptiness, I finally got to the point where I just really, really, really had to have something physical as my special reminder of the little ones God gave us for such a short little while: I decided to go with a simple heart necklace. It is the only necklace I ever wear and I love wearing it.

However, now that I think about it, there are other items scattered throughout our home that remind me that our twins have not been forgotten: dried roses in a vase from a bouquet that friends sent, that
small stack of cards from friends and family, a wall plaque my mother-in-law gave around the one-year anniversary of our miscarriage.

So perhaps you have a name ring, a Christmas ornament, a necklace, an ultrasound picture, a special onesie for a souvenir box, or something altogether different but it holds special meaning to you. Whatever it is, find something that reminds you of your little one. As strange as it sounds, there is an element of comfort in having something more than just a memory to remind you of your little one.

3. Topic-Specific Reading

While there is an abundance of articles and blog posts on the internet discussing personal experiences with miscarriage, be careful of those that are absorbed with all the emotions surrounding miscarriage, particularly if they come from a secular perspective. I agree that there is an element of encouragement in knowing that “you’re not the only one going through this,” but this encouragement is only temporary. As a believer, your ultimate comfort should not be in the warm emotions of fuzzy feelings and virtual group hugs from people you’ve never met or who may not even know Christ as their Savior. Rather, as a believer, you have access to a lasting comfort: the comfort that is found in your Savior.

With perfect timing, God brought along the book Inheritance of Tears by Jessalyn Hutto, as well as Courtney Reissig’s blog. Both of these ladies have gone through multiple miscarriages and have written on the subject to help point other ladies towards a gospel-centered comfort. The truths that these ladies have written were instrumental in refocusing my heart on my Savior in the midst of the sorrow.

Another resource that was highly influential in showing me more of the character of my God in the middle of my sorrow was the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. While not specifically about miscarriage, Trusting God deals with learning to trust Him in our sorrow, even when we don’t understand His ways (which is exactly what we struggle with, is it not?).

One last resource that I am currently reading is Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul Tripp. This book is an incredibly down-to-earth look at how we are to view the suffering that God takes us through in this life. Even though it has been almost five years since our miscarriage, Suffering is beginning to unpack and shed new light on so many of the hard emotions of grief that filled my heart after our miscarriage.

If you are longing to make Biblical sense of why God has called you to walk down this road of losing a child too early, I believe these resources can help point you in the right direction. I highly recommend them!

4. Scripture

This is perhaps an obvious statement, but I cannot emphasize it enough. If you don’t remember anything else that I have written here, please do remember this: saturate—and I mean soak in, marinate in, drench, flood–your soul with God’s Word.

As emotional of a journey as a miscarriage may be, don’t get caught up in just the emotions. Fight the tendency to wallow in the emotions and offset it by rehearsing to yourself the unfailing truths from God’s Word.

God’s Word is true and living–the only source of lasting comfort–for it reveals the character of it’s author.

It the Word that reveals the one who created the little one you lost.

It the Word that reveals the very nature of the one who knows your every thought and emotion going through your heart during this time.

It is in the Word that you will begin to see more clearly the God who is sovereign over all things, even your miscarriage.

It is in the Word that you will begin to understand the reason for the sorrow and suffering that we have in this world.

And it is in the Word that you ultimately will find true comfort–because it will point you to finding your comfort in God.

So read the Word, listen to sermons, study the Word, read it some more, write out passages that God uses to cause your heart to worship Him, pray the Word back to God, read the Word some more.

If you’re at a loss as to how to saturate your soul with the Word, start reading the Psalms. Over and over again, the psalmist depicts a state of sorrow, despair, and anguish—all emotions we can identify with as we try to make Biblical sense of our sorrow. However, after sharing his heart’s state of despair and anguish, the psalmist points his reader to the specific character of God that upheld him in his darkest hours. And that is what our souls need: a rehearsing of who God is. The Psalms remind us that even though our world feels like it has just crumbled around us, we still have our unchanging God, good and faithful in all of His ways.

So cry out to God. Plead with Him to make His Word to be living waters for your parched soul to drink from so that your heart might rejoice in Him.

Pray that He would be true to His character and show you His goodness in the sorrow of your miscarriage.

Pray that He would cause you to again sing praise to Him and give thanks to Him forever (see Ps. 30:12).

Pray that you would experience that He is, indeed, good and that His steadfast love is everlasting (see Ps. 118:29).

Pray that you would be able to testify that it is His steadfast love that is the very thing that upholds you when you are about to slip (see Ps. 94:18).

Find your ultimate rest and comfort in the God who is sovereign over all of creation and who very purposefully and intentionally created your little one for His glory.

Please follow and like us:
0

Miscarriage: When Your Friend Has One

Because miscarriage is so incredibly common, chances are high that you either know someone who has had one or you have had one yourself. I’d like to share a few practical ways God used others to be an encouragement to me when He called me and Isaac to walk this path ourselves, almost five years ago now. While there are many, many ways to do this, I have limited this list to the specific things that I personally experienced. Hopefully some of these ways can help you know how to better interact with and comfort a friend who has had a miscarriage.

1. Say something

We’ve all had those thoughts of “I don’t really know what to say” when someone we know is grieving the loss of a loved one; the temptation to just not say anything is great. When it is a miscarriage, the temptation to not say anything is even greater. For some mysterious reason, the situation just seems incredibly awkward and tricky and we don’t want to make things more difficult than they are. So “mums the word” often becomes the default course of action.

However, I am learning that we tend to over-analyse the need to have the perfect words of encouragement to say to a friend who has miscarried. Because of this tendency, we then fail to take advantage of an opportunity to show our love and care for her.

When a friend loses a little one, the glaring need at hand is not to be the one to speak the words that will somehow magically ease all pain. Rather, more often than not, we need to extend intentional encouragement and comfort by simply being there for her. In many cases, this action comes in the form of saying something…anything. In fact, it’s ok to stumble with the words, perhaps even as they come out of your mouth. It’s ok to be honest that you don’t really understanding what they’re going through. It’s ok to keep it simple. It’s even ok to say “I don’t really know what to say.”

But please say something.

Yes, it might be awkward, but please, say something. Even the words “I don’t know what to say” can be some of the sweetest words to the ears of one who has lost a baby—that baby who was fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s sight, even in its most undeveloped and unperfected state. Even if it has been months or years since your friend has miscarried, it isn’t too late to express your care for them and acknowledge that the baby’s life mattered.

Saying something is one of the most significant, yet simple, ways to do that.

2. Be willing to just listen

This one comes on the heels of my previous point. For some reason, the topic of miscarriage is kind of hush-hush. No one talks about it…at least not very openly. While there may be many reasons for this, I don’t believe it is because people don’t care. Instead, I think it is mostly because people just don’t know how to react to a miscarriage: they don’t know if the mom wants to talk about it, if it will make her cry, or even if it is too personal of a topic to bring up.

However, I don’t think it is too broad of a generalization to say that most of us who have gone through a miscarriage do want to talk about it. Yes, there probably will be tears, even if it happened years ago. Yes, it is an intensely personal subject. But we want to talk about the precious life (or lives) that changed our lives forever.

The day after our miscarriage, one friend asked if she could come over and just be with me, since I was home alone for the day. She brought something hot for us to drink, and then we sat on the couch and just hung out for the afternoon. It was a simple action, but it still means the world to me that she was willing to give of her time to sit with me during those lonely hours immediately following our miscarriage.

Another friend, despite having her own burden that God has called her to bear, wasn’t afraid to ask me, even months later, how I was doing with it all. In so doing, she provided me with rare opportunities to talk about it. And then she listened while I talked. She was such an amazing blessing from God.

Don’t be afraid to be the one to bring up the subject.

3. Pray and send a card

If you don’t live nearby, do something to express that you care: send a note, a card, a text, a special song, some flowers, or even a care box filled with some special dark chocolate. Even if the person isn’t a particularly close friend, if you feel led to do something, don’t hesitate to act: small actions communicate a lot!

When we miscarried, we received numerous cards from people we had met maybe once before, but who wanted us to know that they were praying for us. Several years later, I came across that small stack of cards that had been stashed away in a drawer. As I read them all over again, I was once again reminded of the very specific way God poured out grace, strength, and comfort on our hearts through those cards.

4. Remember dates

There can be multiple days that stand out in a mom’s mind when she thinks of her miscarriage: the date of the actual miscarriage, the due-date, or the day she took that positive pregnancy test, to name a few. For the grieving mom, sometimes these dates are commemorated on a yearly or monthly basis. Sometimes even a particular day of the week could be hard. Each mom is different in how she handles these days.

Take some time to find out what days and dates might be hard for your friend and then remember them. As those days come around on the calendar, take a minute to let your friend know you’re thinking of her. Send a text or give her a hug the next time you see her. These are small actions that can speak volumes.

5. Be an encouragement when there’s a new pregnancy

Finding out that we were pregnant again was one of most exciting things ever: we’re going to have a baby!

But I distinctly remember one day at work soon after we found out. I was terrified—absolutely terrified–that it would happen again. I began to panic. I had to share this burden with someone.

And I had to do it now.

I hid in the bathroom for a few minutes of privacy and pounded out a desperate text to a friend, telling her that we were expecting and then begging her to pray that God would give me a peace and a quiet trust in Him, despite my fear that the worst would again happen. It was a subtle yet certain comfort to know that not only was she rejoicing with me with the news, but she was also praying.

A new pregnancy is an incredible roller-coaster ride of emotions for the mom–emotions about the past pregnancy, emotions about the new pregnancy, emotions about so many what-could-have-beens, emotions about so many what-might-yet-bes.

Let your friend know that you’re rejoicing with her, but that you haven’t forgotten about the past.

Pray for your friend. Pray for the life of the new little one. Pray for a confidence in God’s sovereignty and goodness, no matter what. Pray for a peace that surpasses all understanding. And pray that the Lord would deem it to be a good gift to grant your friend the gift of holding her baby, alive and healthy.

During this month of remembering pregnancy and infant loss, let us be intentional about reaching out to those moms around us who have lost precious little ones. May we be the hands and feet of God’s love and comfort to them.

Please follow and like us:
0

To Rejoice and To Weep

The announcement that they were expecting was adorable. The added twist in saying that they were expecting twins made it even more delightful, for it is not every day that the Facebook algorithm brings up a “We’re expecting twins” announcement! I’m truly happy for the couple who now has two precious little girls in their family!

But along with the joy in my heart came a twinge of sadness, for I couldn’t help but think back to the time when we were also expecting twins. The thrill of finding out we were expecting was only heightened by the discovery that there were two! For close to twelve weeks, I carried our two little treasures, created in God’s image and precious in His sight.

But then mysteriously, there was no more growth; there was no more life. God had taken our twins from us.

Rejoicing with each other

In these bittersweet moments of genuine joy tarnished by aching sadness, Scripture’s words echo in my mind: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice…” (Rom. 12:15). It is amazing how God knows our tendencies to think only of ourselves. It is even more wonderful how He deals with that problem by providing a specific remedy for it: He has commanded us to rejoice with others! As hard as it can sometimes be, rejoicing with each other is a very tangible way of taking our eyes off of ourselves and focusing on the other person. It is so hard, but we must do it: rejoice with those who rejoice.

The struggle to rejoice with others was, oh so hard those first few years after our miscarriage. There were the newborns everyone oooh-ed and ahhh-ed over, the pregnancy announcements, the couple who seemed to be able to have kids without even trying, the couple who didn’t want to get pregnant but did, the baby showers. The tears often flowed freely…mostly at home, once I was finally was away from inquisitive looks. However, sometimes the hot tears came in public, unbidden, revealing my struggle to rejoice with those around me.

Each of these baby-related situations felt like a knife being jabbed deep into my aching heart, for they reminded me that my arms were empty when they should have been full. However, even in the midst of the pain, I also had the opportunity to rejoice with those around me.

As we walk alongside each other as sisters in Christ, we have the opportunity to walk with each other in the joyful times. Many times, this requires us to find genuine joy in each other’s rejoicing, despite our own sorrows that threaten to hold us back.

Weeping with each other

But we all know that life isn’t just about rejoicing–there are both happy times and there are sad times. And so I must mention the second part of Romans 12:15. Many of you probably have already finished it in your mind: “…and weep with them that weep.”

Yes, weep.

Weeping has the idea of the intense shedding of literal, physical tears. In this context, it is done on behalf of another because of the sorrow they are going through.

Walking with each other as sisters in Christ means coming alongside each other not only in the joyful times, but also in the difficult times–those times when nothing in life seems to make human sense, when our hearts cannot help but cry out “Why, Lord?”, when we walk through a valley and we emerge from it forever marked by that time spent in the valley. Sometimes the most significant encouragement and comfort is found in knowing that we’re not alone as we grieve.

And so we are commanded to weep with each other.

Giving the gift 

I’ve been on the receiving end of both of these commands: when we were first expecting our twins, I know there were those who rejoiced with us, despite their own sorrows that I know they had; I also know there were those who came alongside us and wept with us as we walked through the darkest days of our miscarriage.

By God’s grace, I am slowly learning what it means to also be on the giving end of this command: to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

I am reminded of the passage in Philippians 2 where we are called to think of others before ourselves, being motivated by Christ’s example of selfless and humble love. Rejoicing and weeping with each other often demands such an attitude of sacrificial love, for we tend to think that life revolves around us and what we are going through. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in our own needs, we will fail to see the needs of those around us. But we are called to step out and show love to the other person; we are called to come alongside each other–no matter what life’s circumstance may be–and walk together in it by rejoicing and weeping with each other.

Perhaps God has called you to walk down this road of infant loss or miscarriage. May He enable you to find true joy in how He has blessed others, despite your loss; may He also bring along those who will freely offer the gift of weeping with you.

Or perhaps you’re on the sidelines, watching a family member or friend go through the grief of experiencing an infant loss or miscarriage. Please take intentional steps to come alongside them and to “weep with them that weep.”

God has not called us to rejoice in His blessings all by ourselves; neither has He called us to walk through the deep valleys of life all alone. As sisters in Christ, we have the incredible privilege of extending the gift of coming alongside each other to rejoice and to weep with each other. By His grace, may we learn to do so freely and generously.

This post was originally posted on Angie’s private blog, In the Meantime.

Please follow and like us:
0

Wrong Theology Leads to Wrong Thinking

I balanced my feverish, crying 10-month old on my hip and tried to block out the noise of my 2- and 3-year-old children who were clamoring for my attention. It had a been a long week with six days of a high fever and no clue as to how much longer this would last. 
I was stretched thin. I was worn out. 
I was going to lose it. 
As my emotions started to kick in, I knew I needed help beyond my control.  “God, please help me!” I prayed. 
I wanted out. I wanted this fever to go away. I was so tired of caring for little people.

Focusing on my circumstances was not going to be a good solution. 
I knew that. 
Especially since I had just read an article earlier about how to focus on scripture when I felt weak or overwhelmed. So, ever so dutifully, I ignored the persistent questioning of my preschoolers  and spoke above the cries of my infant while firmly quoting Psalm 23 out loud and marching around the house with the fervor of a saint. I felt my soul quiet momentarily but then as I heard the crying and needs continue on around me (despite my prayers and use of scripture) the overwhelming exhaustion and emotions took control. 

Suddenly I was angry with God. I had tried to turn to Him but my soul hadn’t found the rest I was hoping for. Wasn’t He supposed to bring rest? It felt like He hadn’t answered my prayer. It felt like He hadn’t been there to help me. I was confused and, to be honest, I felt abandoned by God. 

Over the next day I kind of avoided God. I didn’t want to spend time with Him or talk about Him. My faith felt weak. How could something so simple shatter my trust in God? 

The answer? Wrong theology. That’s how. And I had a bad case of it. 

Twenty-four hours later, my husband took our still feverish baby for a bit and I sat down with my notebook and Bible. I began to write out my fears, putting them under the label of wrong theology. It looked something like this:  

Wrong Theology:
#1- God wasn’t there. 
#2- God didn’t help to take the struggle away.
#3- God didn’t answer the way I wanted.
#4- God didn’t calm my soul.

Then I started looking up scripture to challenge these thoughts and correct my wrong theology.

Right Theology:
#1-  God was there. I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb. 13:5)

#2-  God never promises to take the struggle away. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor. 12:8-10)
#3- God doesn’t have to do things my way. His thoughts and plans are bigger than mine. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Is. 55:9)
#4- It’s MY job to quiet my soul by continuously speaking truth to it. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. (Ps. 43:5)

My wrong theology had told me that if I went to God and desperately demanded for Him to quiet my soul, while also quoting random scripture, He would do so! I believed that if I did the magic formula the struggle would dissolve; He would either change my circumstances instantly or immediately change my emotions. Taking the time to dig into scripture finally helped me to see that seeking to trust in God doesn’t always mean that my soul and emotions will automatically be on board.  I had wanted to be a super-christian, but God wanted me to keep on coming to Him. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has said “Anything that makes me need God is a blessing. We want to be confident, strong and capable. God wants us to be needing and dependent.” 

 And so, I must continue to take my troubled soul to God and His Word even when the road doesn’t get easier and His ways don’t seem to make sense. Will I trust Him when the storm continues to rage or will I, like Peter, be told “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31).

 

Please follow and like us:
0