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07 April 2017

Glory's Story

"5 positive pregnancy tests. 2 healthy babies. 2 miscarriages. 1 complete unknown.

There is this misconception in our faith that if we learn the lessons the Lord would have us learn in our pain, that we can cross that hardship off the list and never have to walk that road again. That if we walk around loudly enough in the victory of healing and acceptance that the Lord would not allow the same pain to repeat itself. After all, why would a good God heal us only to rip open the wound and leave us hemorrhaging faith all over again?"

I wrote these words two weeks ago; a couple weeks after we found out we were unexpectedly pregnant, one day before finding out that we would most likely be losing another baby in early miscarriage. 

The night that I saw that second line on the pregnancy test, I was honestly upset. I had no intention of getting pregnant, in fact it was my plan to not get pregnant this year. With the knowledge of every previous pregnancy has been excitement, planning and dreaming. 

This pregnancy was totally different. 

I was not excited, I was overwhelmed. I was not dreaming of my baby, I was in denial. 

After my blood work came back looking healthy, I was more preoccupied with where I would physically put another child in our little space than I was worried about another miscarriage.

You see, I thought the testing was in the challenges of raising three littles ones under three. 

I was wrong. 

I got to the hospital early for our first sonogram and texted a few close friends to pray that everything would be normal and to share that I was on the brink of excitement. Then I face-timed my Mom and found myself discussing baby names and dreaming of what this new baby would look like. 

This was the baby I never tried to have, I never begged the Lord to give her to me. He simply gave. And suddenly I wanted her with the depth of longing I wanted all my babies. This was my baby. And I was her Momma. 

 The second I saw the empty sac on the screen, I knew. 

I went numb. No tears. No sadness. No grief. No disappointment. Nothing but anger.

After the sonogram we waited to speak to the doctor, my sweet husband was processing everything that had just happened while I was uncharacteristically cold. I announced that I was tired and laid my head back on the chair and slept until we were called back. 

When the appointment was over we went to get some food. After a pretty futile conversation with my dear husband - who was grieving and desperately trying to help me process - I suggested that he go back to work and I would see him at home. 

I asked Carson if he would be willing to share a little bit of his own vantage point.

Carson: I knew this miscarriage was different. It felt different. We weren’t trying to get pregnant this time; in fact, we were trying NOT to get pregnant. But pregnant we were, and I have to admit, we weren’t super excited about it in the beginning. We really never made it to that point actually. We were slowly embracing the reality of having another baby; we talked about names and decided we were going to let the gender be a surprise. And just when it seemed we were on the brink of being just a little bit excited, we were faced with the disappointment of yet another loss.

When we got to the car, I thought for sure that the last two hours of Rachel’s silence and blank stares would give way to a flood of emotion, but instead she just sat there. No tears, no words. Nothing. It was so ‘nothing’ that I was honestly a little scared to find out what the raw emotion would be once it found its way to the surface. I knew it had to be in there, but she did not want to talk about it. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just said, “What do you want for lunch?” We had lunch, I went back to work, and she went home.

It was a strange afternoon. Being social is already more work for me than for most people, even if everything's fine. And when everything is NOT fine, I usually pretend that it is because the effort it would take to explain to someone what's wrong - and then receive whatever well-intending response follows - would be completely exhausting. Sometimes I say to Rachel, "I just can't 'people' right now." She knows me and loves me and understands what I mean. I need time to process difficult emotions, and when people interrupt this process before I really know how I'm feeing, I get annoyed. I needed space that afternoon, and I needed to work through this miscarriage in my own way. So I finished my work and went to the basketball courts. 

I know for some people, the last thing they would choose to do when they're upset is exercise. But for whatever reason, I've found that spending some time on the court gives me great mental clarity. I think when you're stuck in an emotion and don't know how to move forward, doing something else that requires you to break an action down to its core fundamentals causes the gears in your brain to start turning again. I felt like I was stuck in sadness and confusion, and also anxiousness over how I was going to comfort my wife who seemed to be broken in a way I didn't know how to fix. After an hour of practice, I feel like I can think so much more clearly about things. Plus, sometimes you just need to sweat it out. I headed home feeling a lot better but anxious about how Rachel was doing at this point. I didn't know if she would be ready to talk yet, or what she would say if she was.

As soon as he left my car and I knew he could no longer see me, I started screaming at God. I was brimming with anger. Anger that I have never known before, at a depth I can't even really describe here. I told God everything I was feeling and everything I didn't want to feel and asked Him questions that I wasn't even sure I would ever get the answers to. 

I didn't want to talk to anyone. I didn't want to feel anything. I didn't want to read Scripture. I didn't want anyone to try to comfort me. I wanted to be left completely alone to pass my dead baby. If you know me well at all, you know that I am typically a verbal processor. I handle most major events in my life by talking it through, so I'm pretty sure my close friends thought that I had gone mad by not communicating with them like I usually do in my grief. 

Everything about my faith became a huge question mark. How could I possibly talk that through? 

"While the afflicted person may cry out using philosophical questions - 'why do you allow such things God?' - the real concern is personal survival. How can you survive it? How can you get through it without losing the best parts of yourself? To speak in a detached philosophical manner to an actual sufferer is cruel. And yet the experience of pain leads almost inevitably to 'big questions' about God and the nature of things that cannot be ignored." - Tim Keller

Losing a third baby in early miscarriage unexpectedly rocked my faith. Instead of a wash of comfort and peace, I felt doubt and unbelief. I hesitate even writing that because most people will not understand. In fact, before we lost this baby I don't think I would have understood. I used to believe that if a woman who miscarried became angry - even angry at God - that she never really trusted God to begin with. I no longer believe that. 

"Those of us who sense the 'wrongness' of death - in any form - are correct. The 'rage at the dying of the light' is our intuition that we were not meant for mortality, for the loss of love, or for the triumph of darkness." - Tim Keller

Death feels wrong because God's original design never included death. Even Jesus himself felt this anger at death. John records Jesus' response when he sees the ones he loves grieving the death of his friend Lazarus. The Bible says that Jesus was "deeply moved", the original Greek root word meaning "to snort with anger" or to "bellow with anger". "So Jesus is furious at evil, death and suffering and, even though He is God, He is not mad at Himself. This means that evil is the enemy of God's good creation, and of God Himself." - Tim Keller 

My anger after the knowledge of losing another baby initially felt like anger at God, but if evil and suffering and death are enemies of God then my anger at the death of another one of my babies is anger at death itself, not the Giver of Life. 

At some point in my processing I began to pray for some kind of epiphany, for a sign from the Lord. I had been feeling so many negative emotions and so little comfort, I needed the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It did not come the way that I expected. 

A week after we were told that we would lose another baby, I had Amanda Bible Williams and Raechel Myers in my mini-van. 

If you follow me on any kind of social media you know that I have been doing the She Reads Truth Bible reading plans for years. What you may not know is how tethered this ministry has been to my miscarriages. I had just completed my first few reading plans with the She Reads Truth community in 2013 when we learned that we would be losing Hope, our first miscarriage. 

I had submitted one of my pictures for a study book with She Reads Truth entitled "Women in the Word" in 2015. They ended up choosing my picture for the day that we would be reading about the story of Rachel in the Bible. Over my head were the words "Then God Remembered Rachel". When I received my copy of this book I was miscarrying Mercy, our second miscarriage. 

As I was miscarrying our third baby I was given the opportunity to host Raechel and Amanda from She Reads Truth for a women's conference at our church. These two women who had created the ministry that spurred me deeper into the depths of God's Word, a discipline that has continued to change my life, were drinking coffee in my "Mom van". 

The foreknowledge of God and His kindness is undeniable. 

It has taken me days and many many pages in my journal to process everything that happened that weekend. So trying to boil it down to the main things is proving to be quite challenging. Suffice it to say that these women are walking with the Lord, and their faithfulness to share what He put on their hearts made them vessels of God to minister directly to me. 

Carson: I was so proud of Rachel for how she opened up to the girls from She Reads Truth, sharing her miscarriage stories with them and how they have played a big part in her walk with the Lord through those times. They were able to bring a comfort to Rachel that was difficult for me to find the right words to express. As a man, I always want to be the one who 'fixes everything,' but sometimes God sends someone else with exactly the right words to comfort my wife. And I have to remind myself that this isn't about me and I'm grateful for God's comfort even when it comes through someone else. 

When we received the news that we were likely miscarrying, that was immediately the biggest thing happening in our lives, but for me that only lasted a hot minute because now the biggest thing happening in my life was that my wife was suddenly broken. And all of my focus shifted from my own disappointment to the fact that my wife didn't seem to be feeling anything at all, which, if you know Rachel, is a very concerning state to witness. I fully expected at some point for her to break down and cry all the tears she'd been denying herself for the past several days, and then maybe it would feel like we were moving towards acceptance and healing. But that never happened. She just kept reading Scripture and books and letting the Holy Spirit work in her, and I watched her move from doubt and questioning God to remembering His promises and choosing to trust that He is good. 

I think sometimes we forget that God can handle emotions that are challenging to us. We think that His specialty is 'hurt' and 'forgiveness' and soft-spoken requests but that if we ever brought a loud emotion like anger, maybe He would be inclined to put us in our place - that God isn't strong enough to handle our heated line of questioning when we don't understand why He would let something like this happen. But He is. He can take whatever we can dish out. Just like a child who has been hurt and is angry will beat his fists against his father's chest in frustration, eventually being in his father's strong and loving arms softens the child's heart, and anger turns into sorrow, and sorrow into peace. 

We decided to name this baby "Glory". "Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory." - C.S. Lewis

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." II Cor. 4:16-17

"So that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I Peter 1:7

"Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" John 11:40

In the end I did receive my great faith epiphany. It is this: I have to decide to believe in God. I have to decide to trust Him. Romantic, spiritual movements aside. Unanswered questions gone unanswered. In the middle of death and suffering, I choose to trust Him. I choose to roll away my doubt and unbelief and commit my ways to the Lord.

And I believe that the glory of heaven will be so much more because of all the suffering here on earth. I believe in a God who not only sees me in my pain, but He is a God who subjected Himself to suffering. He can be trusted because of the cross. "Since even He has not kept Himself immune from our pain, we can trust Him." - Tim Keller 

This has been an incredibly vulnerable amount of sharing and yet there is still so much I have not shared. Miscarriage is a tragic death to be mourned. And death is never a gift. There is only hope in death because God suffers with us in our suffering, and he promises hope. "Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." Romans 5:3-4

So although my heart is brimming with hope, it is also riddled with grief. Losing Glory has been devastating. But my hope is not a hope of this world, my heart longs for heaven. My heart longs for home. 

"Our real comfort is the promise that in heaven our joy will be made greater as a result of the depth of our distress." - Tim Keller

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing this Rachel. I've walked this road also. So sorry for the what I know to be such broken hearted cries! So hard to journey with hope - but man I'm thankful for the Spirit that spoke life when all I could hear was dark! My shouts at God came after a gal told me (because I'm a pastors wife) that now I was more relatable to so many women. My heart sank. Loved your fragile and hopeful honesty!