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.
You already know, but I have to tell you again. I’ll love you longest. Always, always and forever.
July 14, 2014 § 8 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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
December 24, 2013 § 7 Comments
I’ve been avoiding Facebook and all social media for the past few days due to all the A&E and Phil Robertson hating going on. Because, while I also have an opinion and a point of view on the situation, I don’t need to see, hear and be berated by the nonsense every single day.
But today, as I watched my freshly refreshed newsfeed fill up with pictures, rants, blogs and vines (99% of which were pertaining to the drama and posted or shared by fellow believers), I wasn’t just irritated. I wasn’t just bored. I wasn’t just frustrated. I was
sad. More accurately, I was heart broken.
Today is December 24th. It’s Christmas Eve. And instead of posts, pictures and blogs about celebrating the greatest event in the history of the universe with friends and family, what I saw was Hate. Judgement. Accusations. *Your opinion.
*and by you I mean someone else
This time of year, whatever your personal belief or political stance may be, is supposed to be about joy. It’s supposed to be about family, love, peace and seasons greetings.
Where, might I ask, are the pictures of loved ones gathering together? Where has the marvel and wonder of Christmas gone? Where are the expressions of gratitude and joy over having been Redeemed some 2000+ years ago? They are gone, having been replaced by the ceaseless crucifying of a tv station and a single man.
The part in this whole bit that makes my heart so heavy, is the fact that we have allowed ourselves to become so distracted that we have forgotten what and why we are supposed to be celebrating. Whether you believe in Jesus, or Santa or both, Duck Dynasty and the latest tv drama should not be where our focus lies. As I Follower of Jesus Christ, MY reason for the season is celebrating His magnificent birth, life and death that has ultimately saved and redeemed my broken life. But, even if that’s not your thing, I am fairly certain that the reason for YOUR season is NOT Duck Dynasty, The justification or punishment of the Robertson family, or even gay rights.
So friends, do you think, that for a moment, a day or 2 at most, we could take a step back from the latest Hollywood hype and begin to dwell on the things that really matter in our day to day lives? After all, while every day is a reason to be thankful and celebrate the gift of life, Christmas only comes once a year.
April 9, 2013 § 6 Comments
When I was a child, I discovered a book that spoke straight to my heart, and has continued to minister to my soul throughout my life. Hinds Feet on High Places is the story of Much Afraid- a pathetic, useless cripple whose life is dominated by her Craven Fear relatives and her own inhibitions- and her journey from the valley up to the mountain top, and the changes she experiences along the way.
Currently, what comes to mind are the traveling companions that The Great Shepard sends Much Afraid to assist her in her perilous journey up the mountain. Their names are Suffering and Sorrow. And you know what? Today, I realize that this is the part of the story that Hannah Hurnard got all wrong when writing Hinds Feet on High Places.
In the book, Suffering and Sorrow are quiet, harmless companions that really don’t do much besides follow Much Afraid around and sometimes lend her a hand in the rough places. But, if you have ever experienced suffering or sorrow, you, too, know that this is a false portrayal.
Sorrow is not quiet. She doesn’t meekly follow you around and quickly disappear. She doesn’t remain silent and unobtrusive.
She is loud. Loud like a roaring ocean in your ear drums that drowns out all other thought and reason.
Loud like sobs and dry heaves and screams that come from the deepest recesses inside of you.
She consumes your life, steals your joy and takes her liberties with you.
Sorrow is raw.
Sorrow is blinding.
Sorrow is bitter poison.
Sorrow tears your heart out and leaves you bleeding, but doesn’t allow you to die.
Sorrow is a thief that doesn’t have to sneak around or hide.
She is bold and unforgiving.
Sorrow is lonely.
Sorrow is cancer.
I’ll never understand Sorrow. No matter how many times I have experienced her throughout my life, every single time I face her, she is a new creature. Old tricks and new alike, she never fails to rock me to the very core of my being.
So here I am.
Sorrow has come, suddenly, swiftly, mercilessly. Once again, she has driven me to me knees.
Though I may be knocked down, though I may appear defeated, what Sorrow has failed to recognize is that she has placed me right where I need to be. Face down, broken, unable
to stand, and in desperate need of a Comfort that cannot be found in this world.
You see, she has unintentionally delivered me straight into the arms of Jesus, the Great Comforter. She has stripped me of my foolish pride, and unknowingly enabled and strengthened me to crawl, in my brokenness and humility to the foot of the Cross, the very place where sorrow and all her schemes were defeated over 2000 years ago when Love conquered death so that Sorrow and Suffering would no longer wield the sting of death. She has forced me to seek refuge and strength in the love of my Savior.
And in that place, I find my hope, my joy, my peace, my victory.