Being Ugly

September 24, 2014 § 3 Comments

I never wanted to get anything out of losing my child. No lesson. No higher calling. No meaning. Nothing. I never wanted to be able to think “I’m at peace with what happened because now I can:
1. Help others in similar situations
2. Appreciate my future children more
3. Have a better relationship with God because he brought me through a great trial
4. Any other lousy “try to feel better” answer.

Now, I still feel that way. There is no equation where the solution ends up making me feel thankful for this experience.

But.

It’s happening anyway. Against my wishes and all my will, there is good happening. And I think, somehow, because I really am am so against it, that it almost makes it ok.

When I pour out my heart through this blog, I’m really not looking for anyone to read or care. It’s just an outlet, something tangible and non-destructive for me to center my thoughts with. The fact that people are actually listening and responding completely blows my mind. In the moments where I talk about feeling so broken, people are telling me that my words bring them comfort and hope. What? People are telling me that the God I feel so far from is using me to speak to them. How? I didn’t understand it. But what I have come to realize, is that people just want someone to tell them it’s ok. It’s ok to be hurt and have feelings that aren’t all blue skies and sunshine. They want to know that it is entirely possible to follow Jesus, love God, and feel like life isn’t worth living another day, simultaneously. They want to know that you can be a follower of Christ, and a human being at the same time. Depression, anxiety, rage, sorrow, bitterness, jealousy – they are all real. They aren’t a secret or shock to God. The bible is filled with stories of men and women more holy and godly than I could ever hope to be, who struggled and often gave in to the curse of human emotion.

I don’t know when people started believing that following Jesus meant having all of your crap together, all the time. I don’t know when the “Church” stopped being a place for struggling, hurting people to come and be ugly together. I don’t know when all these misconceptions and faulty belief systems came in. I don’t know. What I DO know, is that it’s time to tear them down. Because as far as I know, my Jesus didn’t willingly crawl up onto a rugged cross and give His life for people who were already perfect. People who didn’t have an overwhelming, desperate need for His redeeming, gracious and life changing love. Jesus died for ugly people, with ugly crap so that when we go through ugly times, His grace can manifest in our lives and turn our ugliest into glorious.

So be ugly. Be a hot mess. Be rough around the edges. Be unfinished. I know I am. I know I will always be needing Jesus to redeem me in some new way. Because I’m weak and He is strong. Because He loves my ugly.

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Broken Pieces

September 22, 2014 § 2 Comments

A week ago, I didn’t care. It didn’t matter if the sun was shining or it was pouring rain. It didn’t matter if we we had money in the bank or were down to our last dollar. It didn’t matter if I lived another day or closed my eyes and never opened them again.

I didn’t care.

There’s something so healing in being able to say that out loud. To admit to that kind of weakness takes a measure of strength that I didn’t know I could ever again poses.

Grief is so strange. Some days, it’s almost an afterthought. Some days, you can forget about the pain, the longing and the sweet, tiny face that is the source of all your heartache. Some days, it devours you. Some days you want to die a thousand deaths so you can

Just.
Stop.
Hurting.

That’s grief. It’s where I’ve been existing lately. And yes, I do mean existing. You can’t really call what I’ve been doing “living.” Surviving might be a better word, but that almost makes it sound like I’ve been putting forth effort, which just isn’t true. I’ve certainly been doing all the right things – Going to church, taking my vitamins, working out, eating organic, drinking less – all while trying to care. My husband would tell you that I’m doing much better because I haven’t tried destroying my sons nursery in a drunken rage for almost 2 whole months now. I’m not crying every day anymore, and I can actually sleep through the night without drowning myself in a bottle of wine. My first and last thoughts for each and every day haven’t been, “why couldn’t You just let me die, too?” for at least a month now. So, sure. Better.

Most of that has been replaced by this listlessness for life. I have adopted Ecclesiastes 1:14 as my mantra. “Everything under the sun is meaningless.” This was my reality. My personal buffer and defense mechanism against the pain of life was to simply stop caring. Then my grandma died, and in my searing, soul shattering sorrow, I realized that my buffer was really just a dam that had burst wide, wide open. All the pain of loss that I had been hiding from came flooding back. All the self loathing and blame and deep, dark hopelessness were waiting for me right where I had left them.

Consumed

So I came home to Florida, to my family, to my momma. Broken in more ways than one, believing that the sole purpose of this life is to suffer alone and try to hold on until the end. What I found, is that I was wrong. Though the circumstances that brought me here are not what I would have wished, I am grateful non the less. Stepping off of the plane and into the arms of my family and church family, was like having a searing heat wave shot straight into the winter wasteland that was my heart. For the first time in months, the weight of my soul wasn’t crushing the life out of my spirit, and I felt like I could breathe again. Just being near all of them, enveloped and hidden in their loving support has been the most healing and uplifting time I have ever experienced. I have seen and felt the heart of God in more ways, from more people than I can count on two hands. If I could name each and every one of you, and gather enough words to express my love and gratitude, I would. I came here shattered, choking and suffocating on all of the fragments of my broken life. I’m leaving with a new heart, filled to overflowing with hope and healing.

I’m so thankful to belong to a God that finds beauty in brokenness. I’m thankful that while there is great pain and great suffering in this broken world, there is a GREAT reward waiting for me at the end of this life. I’m thankful that when I am broken, I can cling to the One who will put me back together again.

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I Loved You First

September 14, 2014 § 2 Comments

In the past 3 months, my thoughts have often turned to Job. I’ve pondered the silence in which he endured his suffering. I’ve wondered if perhaps, the reason he was silent was not for lack of words to express his grief and despair, but because he was experiencing the silence of God.

Was he quietly waiting, alone in his own world of sorrow, for a word of comfort, explanation or reassurance from the the Almighty? Was he hoping to hear the still small voice in the wind? The voice known by the mountains, the wind and the waves? I believe he was. It’s exactly what I’m doing. Listening. Waiting. Hoping.

Just over 3 months ago, I lost my baby for reasons unknown to man. Less than 12 hours ago, I lost my grandma to cancer. And today I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, “answers” do not mean a damn thing. There is no magical explanation button you can push to ease the pain of grief. Knowing that cancer is the reason my grandma is dead does not make it ok. I am furious. I am broken. I am human.

Our humanness, the very thing that makes us all at once detestable and precious, compels our hearts and souls to demand answers when the unimaginable happens in our lives. When the innocent and the righteous die long before their time. Those moments, when the promises of God feel like a lie and we are left wrestling with our all consuming need to have some kind of explanation for our suffering.

I have to believe that the God I know and love understands this need. He has to know that my soul is weary beyond anything I could ever imagine. He has to know that once again, my heart is broken and so very disappointed that He did not intervene. He has to know that my flesh wants to deny His very existence in the aftermath of such great destruction. He has to know, I can’t. Because as much as I want to deny Him in this moment of humanness, my spirit knows that without His love and truth in my life, there is nothing.

I can’t say that I understand, or tell you that my heart is at peace. What I can say, with great confidence is that God is good. He is sovereign and He is holy, and He is worthy of all my praise, my hope and my trust. When my world is shaken, when I can’t see His hand in my life, and even when I don’t believe any of the words I just spoke, I can take refuge in the unwavering truth of His great love for me.

The title of this post, “I Loved You First”, are the sweet words that my grandma always said at the end of our time together, to which I would always counter, “I”ll love you longest!” Words, that will remain truer than true for all of my tomorrow’s. She called me Sunshine, taught me how to be brave and was everything I could ever hope to be.

As deeply as my heart is hurting and longing for just a little more time, I can’t be sad for her. For even in the midst of MY great and momentary suffering, I take great comfort knowing that she is not. I know that she is basking, as I long to be, in the eternal glory of THE Sonshine with her son and mine. If there was anyone who could deserve such a priceless gift, it would be her.

Grandma,
You already know, but I have to tell you again. I’ll love you longest. Always, always and forever.
Lovelovelovelovelove,
Your Sunshine

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Being “Good”

July 14, 2014 § 7 Comments

I’ve told more lies in the past 6 weeks than I have in my entire life. Mostly to my mom and my husband. Mostly to everyone I know. It’s just so much easier to paint a smile on my face and say “I’m good” or “I’m OK” and be done with it, than to say ” It feels like I’m dying inside, and I wish I was” and have to deal with the resounding chorus of “it will get better” or “you just have to choose joy” or “just have faith, God’s got a plan” or, (oh God please no) “there will be more babies.”  Because, while all of those things may be true, when I hear them now I just want to scream “It’s not, I can’t, I don’t, I’m scared.” Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I know that those uttered phrases are meant to offer hope and encouragement, and for the person that is speaking them, I believe that they do. I’ve come to realize that there is a selfishness in most of us that makes us feel the need to say something when we come face to face with someone else’s pain. Something light and fluffy and full of good intentions, to try and help lighten the mood of the situation. It’s almost like a buffer against the other persons pain. I remember being that way; wanting, needing to be able to offer words of comfort in the midst of unspeakable grief to try and make myself feel lighter. But now, standing on the other side, I have come to realize that there are no “right words”, and sometimes silence is the most helpful, healing gift you can give to a broken person.

Truthfully, as morbid as it may seem, I don’t want to “choose joy” or “fake it till I make it.” I want to be sad. I want to experience the hurt. All of it.

Every-single-moment.

Because the alternative, feeling nothing, pretending to be something I am not, stuffing my emotions and true feelings deep down inside – that only leads to more pain. Pain that eats away at you every day of your life. Pain so unbearable, you self destruct in the most agonizing, horrifying ways. Pain that causes you to starve and cut and abuse your body and mind. Pain that steals your dreams and makes living unbearable. Pain that makes dying seem ideal.

I know about that pain, and even now, walking through the most devastating, heartbreaking loss of my life, I can’t go back to that place. I can’t let myself become that person again. So bring the sorrow, the rage, the fear and the emptiness. Let me walk, or even wallow in them for a while. My son is dead. My baby died before I ever got to see his eyes light up with life, or see him smile at me. That is devastating and infuriating and just all wrong even . So right now, for me not being OK, is OK. Not having words to speak or prayers to pray or songs to sing or hope to offer, is OK. In my heart I know that one day, all those things will come.

But for today and as many tomorrows as it takes, I’m not good. I want to cope in all the wrong ways. I want to scream and cry and break things. Some nights I lay in bed sobbing hearing “I’m sorry, I don’t see a heartbeat”  overandoverandoverandoverandoveragain until I’m paralyzed and I can’t breath. I replay the last “normal” day of my life, wondering what I was doing when my little boy’s heart beat for the last time, wondering if he was scared or in pain. I ache for my husband, who will never get to experience teaching our son how to golf, or ride a bike or take care of cars or any of the other things a father dreams of teaching his son. So many moments, lost before they ever came to be. That’s not “good.” That is horrible. That is agony. That, is where I am.

 

Untitled.

July 8, 2014 § 9 Comments

I have been thinking about writing this post for the past 38 weeks and 2 days. I had a long list of all the wonderful things I wanted to share about finally being a mother; a dream I’ve been dreaming since before I can remember. I wanted to tell the world how awing and humbling it was to have something so perfect and beautiful and good, come from someone so imperfect and undeserving. I wanted to say that I finally understood what scripture spoke of when it talks about Mary treasuring the first sweet moments with her son and pondering them in her heart.

And I can.

But, I can also tell you that I understand the burning rage of Pharaoh, the unspeakable grief of Job, and the maddening sorrow that drove the woman in Solomon’s court to steal a living child.

My beautiful son, Lincoln Allen Hartley, was stillborn on June 5th. And now I know that silence is the loudest thing I have ever heard. Waiting, aching and longing for a cry that never comes, a heart that doesn’t beat – those are the “sounds” that haunt me.

There are no words to describe the feeling of knowing that something has died inside of you. Something that you nurtured and loved so fiercely from the first moment you knew it was to be. Something that you had dreams, hopes, and so many plans for. Something that you wanted and treasured over all things. When you love someone with the entirety of your being, losing them feels like you have lost yourself.

The emptiness is unlike anything I have ever known. Most days I want to crawl outside of myself, just to feel a moment of respite from the sadness, the longing, the pain. The anxiety and stress of simply being has never been more overwhelming. I can’t rest. I can’t relax. I have to stay busy or else I am overtaken. But every moment can’t be filled, and every morning my barely conscious mind betrays me and I find myself reaching for a baby belly that is no longer there, and it all comes flooding back. Once again I am lost in the aching and pining for the child I will never know, the voice I will never hear saying “I love you mommy.”

The 34 weeks, 3 days and 12 hours I had with my sweet son were the most beautiful, fulfilling and wonderful days of my life. In that time, I learned how to love with a capacity that I didn’t know I was capable of. In the space of a moment I learned what selfless, self sacrificing love was all about. And in the end, I learned that sometimes, God says no.

One day, I know I will be able to talk about how God has perfect plans, and how He has loved me, my husband and our family through this time of sorrow. But right now, I’m still trying to wrap my heart and mind around the fact that the arms I would normally run to for comfort, are full of my baby boy.

So here I am. Broken. Trying desperately to sort through the pieces of my shattered life and find a new strength and a new beginning.

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When God Wrecks You

March 19, 2014 § 3 Comments

By nature, I am *impatient. On my best days I am testy, impetuous, restless, quick-tempered, short-fused and vehement. I find it terribly hard to wait on God for a decision I want made yesterday. And like a child, I tend to get upset when I have to wait for an answer.

*I’m working on it. Slowly.

I’m not proud. Really. I’m just being honest. My flesh and my spirit are at constant war for my emotions. In my heart of hearts I want to be gentle, kind, loving, merciful, full of the grace that has been given to me and most of all patient. More precisely, to find JOY while being patient. I do. But like I said, the struggle is real.

If I were to make a movie about my life thus far, you would see that the main conflicts in my life are a direct result of me. Me trying to do things my way. Me trying to make things happen in MY time. Me trying to be in control. These are the *battles. I’m in one right now, and I’m finding it extremely difficult to be joyful.

*I lose. Always.

So, that being said, here’s where the wrecking comes into play.

Some of the things I’ve heard all my life are “The joy of The Lord is your strength.” And “Just choose joy!” Ok. Great. They’re just some of the things people say to you when they know your walking through something difficult. To be honest? They never really helped me feel better. Until today; and it was like God was telling me I should have had a *V-8.

*forehead slap and everything.

“…You will enrapture me [diffusing my soul with joy] with AND in Your presence.” (Acts 2:28 AMP)

Wrecked.
Angst.
Selah.

He will diffuse me with joy WITH His presence.
He will enrapture me with joy IN His presence.

What The Lord revealed to me today is this: Even when I don’t feel like it, I am constantly IN His presence. I carry His presence WITH me everywhere I go. There is no reason in heaven or on earth for me to not be consistently FILLED and OVERFLOWING with joy! All this time, the enemy has been trying to rob me of something that is impossible to steal. If His presence is part of me, (like the Word tells me it is because I have traded my life for His) then His joy is also a part of me. They go hand in hand. You cannot fully experience the presence of God without fully experiencing the complete and utter JOY that is found there!

Sadly, that doesn’t mean that my struggle with impatience ends. It doesn’t mean it gets “easier” to wait on God and His perfect timing. What it does mean, is that I don’t have to be discouraged in the waiting. I does mean, that I can be content and joyful where I am now, even if it’s not where I want to be.

So here’s to waiting. Patiently. Joyfully.

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Politics VS. Policies: The Reality of What It Means to Love Jesus

February 22, 2014 § 2 Comments

I just love the fact that Jesus was a “rebel” in his time. He went against he grain and the accepted “normal”, thus setting the PERFECT example not only of how we as individual believers should act and treat all people, but how He wanted the Church, His BRIDE to treat the world! He wasn’t out to tell people how awful they were, He was out to show them how WONDERFUL He was! The Jesus I know and read about wasn’t judgmental, hateful or self righteous because he was the Son of God. He was the definition of acceptance, love and humility, all while keeping His standards in line with the truth of God’s word. Just because we as believers are called to a higher standard doesn’t give us the right to elevate ourselves higher and mightier and holier than our brothers and sisters. And likewise, it doesn’t mean that we are to lower our standards to conform with what the world says is acceptable. Jesus said we are to be in the world, not of it. He also said to love your neighbor as yourself. That includes your homosexual neighbor, your atheist neighbor, your democratic, liberal, conservative, republican, and non-voting, whatever neighbor (shocking I know), your pro-choice neighbor, your lost neighbor and your believing neighbor. Because even though Jesus didn’t promote prostitution, murder and theft, doesn’t mean he didn’t love the prostitute, forgive the murderer, and welcome the thief in paradise.

Often I feel like we get so caught up in the politics of Christ, that we forget the policies of Christ. But at the end of the day, His greatest commandments are still these:“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV)

We show love to God by loving the people He created, regardless of their political agenda or personal beliefs. And I for one, will never be able to think of my “neighbors” the same way again.

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