A Time to Mourn

JESSICA ROAN | GUEST She really was extraordinary—funny, loving, and firm when she needed to be. If a perfect teacher exists, she would be at the top of the list, in our house anyway. Thankfully for us, our younger son was in her class, not once, but twice. When we found out he would have his kindergarten teacher again for 5th grade, we were elated. The unpredictability of 2020 was especially difficult for him. While we couldn’t be sure which activities, even school itself, would go on, we could be sure about one thing: Mrs. W. And she delivered—suddenly breaking into song, encouraging dance-offs, dressing up in wild costumes. If there was anything an 11-year-old would love, she did it. Now that life has resumed some normalcy, we have tried to embrace change. My boys started new schools this year. While they were excited to move on to new adventures, the subtle dread of leaving this enjoyable relationship behind haunted us all. My son periodically says, “I miss Mrs. W.” After six great years under her tutelage, we all miss her. We mourn this transition in our lives. Mourning comes in all shapes and sizes. Not only has our family mourned transitions, we’ve mourned broken relationships, and the passing of dear family members. Life is filled with losses and each one brings us great grief.

A Time to Mourn2022-05-04T00:44:54+00:00

Grieving the Loss of a Baby? You Are Not Alone

LAURA BOOZ|GUEST The banquet room sparkled with excitement as waiters removed our dinner plates and topped off steaming cups of coffee. I reached toward the center of the table and selected a dish of chocolate mousse. I was attending a bloggers’ conference with hundreds of women from all over the country who loved the Lord and wanted to reach others through blogging. We networked with one another and attended sessions about how to write compelling content, attract readers, and manage the technical side of writing online. The room relaxed as we rearranged our chairs to enjoy a warm drink and listen to the evening keynote address. We applauded as Angie Smith made her way up to the stage. I couldn’t believe that she was speaking at this conference. I had just read I Will Carry You, a book Angie Smith wrote about carrying her baby, Audrey, to term, despite the doctor’s prognosis that her daughter wouldn’t live long after birth. Audrey did, in fact, die shortly after birth. The book is heartbreaking and helpful. Here was Angie, at the blogging conference that would keep me occupied as my baby’s due date came and went. I originally thought I would have to miss the conference because I would be in my hometown delivering a full-term baby, healthy and happy. But I had delivered my baby four months ago. She was stillborn. Earlier in the evening, I had introduced myself to Angie and told her how much her book meant to me. She listened intently, as if I were the only grieving mother in the world. She hugged me and looked in my eyes and asked, “What is your baby’s name?”...

Grieving the Loss of a Baby? You Are Not Alone2022-05-04T23:29:03+00:00

Letting Go of My Mother and Friend

PATSY KUIPERS|GUEST God blessed me with the gift of a godly mother, a blessing that would impact my life in innumerable ways over the six decades we shared. Raised as an only child after my baby sister passed away, my bond with Mom was strong and multi-faceted. She could be a firm disciplinarian, but she was also my best friend and closest confidant. When my 39-year-old husband, Ray, passed away suddenly, Mom and Dad moved to Georgia to help me and my then 7- and 10-year-old daughters navigate life without our beloved husband and father. In the ensuing 24 years, my daughters, son-in-law, and three grandchildren also benefitted from her selfless, unconditional love and unwavering faith. I couldn’t imagine life without her. As a child, I would sometimes hope we’d die together in an accident of some sort. Little did I know then that a day would come when I’d sit by her hospital bed and plead with the Lord to take her Home. But it did. Role Reversal Unlike my husband’s sudden, unexpected loss, I lost Mom bit by bit over the last few years of her life. Tiny but determined, she continued to take care of her home and loved ones even as arthritis and osteoporosis took a greater and greater toll on her physically. Then came some red-flag moments signaling a decline in her mental abilities— her request for help balancing her checkbook even though she’d worked in banking for years, the inability to successfully bake a cake she’d made countless times over 50 years. Those moments alarmed and saddened me. Gradually, our roles shifted as I assumed more caregiving activities. Mom would often tell others, “I don’t know what I’d do without Patsy. She’s the mother now.” Or she’d tell me, “Thank you for your help. I can’t ever repay you.” I’d remind her, every time, of the years she’d invested in my children and me, lavishing so much love and care on us, and that if we were keeping accounts, I’d be the one forever in her debt. Bound by love, we knew there was no record-keeping between us. Yet, there was a growing sense of sorrow as we experienced our changing roles and limits on what we could do together...

Letting Go of My Mother and Friend2022-05-04T23:24:06+00:00

Small Acts of Faithfulness

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST I remember marveling at how small it was, that tiny little coffin. It still wasn’t real. 4 months old. Was he really gone? Was my friend actually mourning her first child? I have never felt so helpless, so unable to do anything to help. As I stood at the cemetery, I heard a familiar voice begin to speak. I couldn’t see him, but I’d recognize that kind voice with a slight lisp anywhere. He spoke of God’s love and hope amidst maybe the worst tragedy a young mother could suffer. As I looked around at my co-workers, most of them unbelievers, my heart breathed a sigh of relief. That familiar voice belonged to a youth pastor I encountered in my teen years. This soft-spoken, kind, humble man was a pastor at a friend’s church when I was in high school. We were never particularly close, but his presence was God’s gift to me (and many others) that day. God was there in this seemingly hopeless situation using this man to bring my friend (and myself) the comfort we both needed. I saw him a few months later, and thanked him for his message on that sad day, but he will never know just how much his presence meant to me in that season of my life. You see, that year was full of tragedy for my family. My father-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and passed within a few months; my mother-in-law’s health was failing; and my son’s nine-year-old classmate had suddenly passed away from complications with the flu. My children were young- five and eight-and while we were trying to help them navigate all of this loss, I was unknowingly mourning these young deaths as if they were my own children. Recently, I reflected on this pastor’s seemingly small role in my life...

Small Acts of Faithfulness2022-05-04T23:25:55+00:00

Delicious Despair 201

ANN MAREE GOUDZWAARD|CONTRIBUTOR My entire backyard burst with the colors of spring. Everything bloomed. It was a perfect, 70-degree day and the landscape showed off. I looked out my window and saw the wicker chairs scattered under the pergola and balloons dotted on the boulders strategically situated throughout the yard. When we invested in landscaping last year, I had visions of hosting joyful events. The picturesque backdrop was perfect for a tea party or bridal shower. In fact, we planned to host a “baby sprinkle” for my daughter that very day. (A “sprinkle” is a baby shower for couples who already have children.) Cori and Brett had all they needed for two kids, but then they found out they were expecting twins. So, we planned a sprinkle to help them provide for multiple babies. We hosted a memorial for the twins (Deacon and Hallie) that day instead. In 2020, the pandemic reminded us to preface our plans with “if the Lord wills.” Everyone’s agenda hit a “hard stop,” and we realized how precarious goals are. For our family, 2021 ushered in the opportunity to experience that truth in real time. My husband and I planned for chaotic bliss in adding a twelfth and thirteenth grandchild to our already bustling family. Together with our other children, we coordinated our calendars to support Cori and Brett at her due date. God had another plan. The Lord willed something different. Something more difficult. An accommodation we had no idea we would need to make. And so began my education in grief. What’s essential in the grief process is to try and grasp God’s redemptive plans. This takes time. It may even last indefinitely. In Delicious Despair 101, I wrote that Martin Luther fully expected the pain of suffering to result in a transformation.[1] For instance, in opposition to the “first step” of grief (denial)[2], candor looks suffering in the face and says, “Yes, that really happened.” Candor acknowledges devastation, but it also asks, “Now what do I do?” Wallowing in self-pity over the events God ordains is antithetical to biblical grieving. In 1 Thess. 4:13, Paul instructs mourners not to grieve as those without hope. So, we must keep moving through our grief and actively seek wisdom to reinterpret what happened as perfect and good...

Delicious Despair 2012022-05-04T23:19:25+00:00

Delicious Despair

ANN MAREE GOUDZWAARD|CONTRIBUTOR It was date night. My husband and I were enjoying our first outing in over a year. Our favorite restaurant looked a lot more like a family night; kids and babies were everywhere. My eyes kept connecting with the sweet baby boy at the table next to us. He was cooing in his daddy’s arms while his father gently rocked him. He was content despite all the commotion. I’ve never been much of a baby person. I prefer hanging out with teenagers. But ever since my twin grandchildren were born and passed too soon, I’ve found my eyes lingering on chubby cheeks and toothless smiles. Deacon and Hallie’s brief life outside the womb created an emptiness in my arms for something I had but lost. The void is overwhelming. So, instead of growing impatient with the noise of children and a baby’s laughter, I smiled. As we were leaving, I turned to stand and saw the baby boy seated in a Bumbo on his table happily eating his dinner. I smiled at him. He smiled at me. But, in a flash my joy turned into ugly tears because, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a second Bumbo. Seated next to the baby boy was his sister. His twin sister. My eyes went back and forth between them. Was I seeing correctly? Were twins really sitting right in front of me? Torrents of grief washed over me. I couldn’t stand. I looked to my husband to confirm the scene. He saw the shock in my eyes. He wrapped his arm around my heaving shoulders and helped me walk out of the restaurant. I barely made it to the car. In an instant, I found myself back to square one. Denial. It’s typically the first “step”[1] of grieving.  It had only been a little over two weeks since our grandchildren’s death and, in a heartbeat, I was once again questioning, “Did that really happen? Did mourning really crash into our family’s world? Were the sweet little babies we expected to love and cradle ushered into the presence of God instead?” Grieving is not passive. Suffering isn’t something that just happens to you and then you ride a wave of emotions until the circumstances quell. Suffering is like school, and grieving is how we accomplish the coursework. It’s not the kind of education anyone willingly signs up for. But, when devastation enters our lives, we are automatically enrolled into the seminar on suffering. And, just as we would prepare for any class, we must download the syllabus and begin to faithfully complete the assignments...

Delicious Despair2022-05-04T23:17:18+00:00

Facing Feelings of Guilt and Responsibility in Pregnancy Loss

“Was it my fault?” Prenatal-care instructions draw a straight line from our bodies and decisions to the health of our babies. We’re told to avoid eating soft cheeses and drinking alcohol. We’re instructed not to exercise too rigorously and to stay hydrated. We’re counseled to take a daily prenatal vitamin with plenty of folic acid. The burden of responsibility that accompanies motherhood starts long before a baby is born. So, when the death of a baby occurs within a mother’s body, this is the sort of question that haunts us as we mull over things we did or didn’t do, or feelings we did or didn’t have. A Common Offer of Comfort I remember so clearly my doctor placing his hand on mine, looking into my tear-filled eyes, and saying, “This is not your fault.” His intention was to offer comfort, but I remember wondering how he could say those words with such certainty when he knew so little about me, my past, or my actions during this pregnancy. Just as my doctor couldn’t tell me the reason behind my miscarriage, I cannot possibly know the reason behind yours. Yet whether or not my doctor’s statement was true, the sentiment behind it was absolutely correct. There is no point in being consumed by guilt over your miscarriage. Of greater comfort than these scripted words from a physician with limited knowledge are the words of Scripture—the word of the God who does know all things, who is in control of all things, and who actually has the authority to forgive and to offer full assurance of pardon. Greater Comfort in God’s Sovereignty David’s declaration in Psalm 139 v 16 tell us that God knows all the days of a baby’s life before he or she is even formed in the womb: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Facing Feelings of Guilt and Responsibility in Pregnancy Loss2022-05-05T00:00:24+00:00

Grieving Loss and Reordering Loves

When 2019 ended, I raised my glass and rejoiced at the conclusion of one of the hardest years of my adult life. I was thrilled to enter into 2020, seeing it as a new year filled with new potential. The first half of my year was planned to the max with travel, speaking engagements, conferences, teaching Bible study groups at my local church, and the publication of my first solo writing project. There was excitement, joy, and expectation; after a season of wandering, I felt as if I finally had direction and was gaining traction. During the first weekend of March, I was on a trip with friends in South Carolina when I got word of the first COVID-19 infection in Nashville, my hometown. As I traveled home on Monday morning, I found myself walking through empty airports and flying home on empty planes—the spring of 2020 had officially begun. Over the course of the next two weeks, my 2020 calendar went from full to numbingly blank, as every event I was attending or leading was (understandably) canceled. I spent hours on the phone with friends, crying about lost events, anxious about firings and furloughs. And I, like so many, had to learn to work from home in a job which was never meant to be done through a flat, cold, computer screen. On Monday, March 23rd I finally hit a wall. It became apparent that no amount of wealth, education, or social connection could prevent the experience of loss. This beast was going to deeply affect us all in some way. Any semblance of control seemed to be slipping away, and—if I am honest—the collective experience of loss left me feeling as if I were swimming against a rip tide of grief and fear....

Grieving Loss and Reordering Loves2022-05-05T00:12:17+00:00

If the Lord Wills

There is a short-term mission trip truth that many of us understand: The one going on the mission trip usually receives way more than the people to whom we are hoping to minister. And that was true last summer when I visited some old friends of mine in Kenya. A team of women from my church went to teach at a women’s leadership conference and put on a medical clinic. It was fantastic. If the Lord Wills As we arrived, we started reconnecting with women I hadn’t seen for years. It felt a little like old home week! I was laughing and chatting with a friend of mine when I remembered something about her. This woman would rarely make a statement regarding her future without ending that sentence with the phrase: “If the Lord wills.” It was like her own personal punctuation mark. She’ll say something like, “Sue, I will see you in the morning, if the Lord wills.” My friend is a farmer and lives her life a little more hand-to-mouth than some of us do. She lost her daughter tragically and has a deep faith in the Lord. She knows exactly what it feels like to pray for rain, food, clothing, and all the Matthew 6:25-33 things. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes forget that the Lord has a plan, a sovereign plan, and everything we have is from his hand. One of the most difficult days for me since this whole crisis started last March was when I began to clear my calendar of upcoming events, both professional and personal. I mean, I wasn’t simply postponing things or rescheduling. I was removing them from existence. It hurt. Many of us have experienced grief and loss of many kinds during this season...

If the Lord Wills2022-05-05T00:19:16+00:00

For Every Woman on Mother’s Day

KATIE POLSKI|CONTRIBUTOR When I was about twelve, I was asked to help with a special assignment at our church on Mother’s Day. As each mother entered, I was told to hand them a pink carnation and say, “Happy Mother’s Day!” I distinctly remember my follow-up question: How will I know who is a mother? These kinds of gestures are certainly thoughtful and meant to be celebratory, but, oh, how narrow-minded we can be on this holiday! As a believer in Jesus, be encouraged this Mother’s Day not for the reasons the world labels it as “happy,” but find joy in the precious words of Jesus that bless and exhort each who are uniquely touched by the emotions that accompany this particular day. For Those Who Have Lost A Child “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38) You likely enter Mother’s Day with empty hands and a longing heart. Whether it’s because of a miscarriage, disease, or other tribulation, there are so many tender emotions tied to Mother’s Day because of layered grief. Dear woman, be encouraged by the depth and width of the love of Jesus. There is no hardship or suffering that is great enough or powerful enough to separate us from the love of Jesus. It’s because of this immeasurable love that we need not be consumed by grief or bitterness. It’s because of this immeasurable love that you put one foot in front of the other, still loving those whom God has put in your midst. You are embraced by the powerful love of Christ, and nothing can loosen His grip. For Those Who Long for Children..

For Every Woman on Mother’s Day2022-05-05T00:46:15+00:00
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