This is a new season in the Wells home. Grace starts Kindergarten tomorrow, oddly enough on the same day I start full-time college. Today I’ve had school supplies strewn out in my living room, one pile colorful and fun, one slightly more serious. We’re both excited and giddy at the new adventure God is beginning in us.
He makes all things new.
The beginning of fall is in the air, and change comes with it. I have one friend who is starting a new job as a teacher, another is soon to return to work after the birth of her new little boy, another waits to hear word that she can travel to go get her new daughter from the country of her birth, and another is adjusting to a new normal after her world collapsed into what seemed like an unholy mess, but for God. Today in church I got to sit next to a new friend, and I pray the Lord will bring her back to join with our little messy body of Believers.
He makes all things new.
New hopes rise, sometimes in the shadow of hopes lost. That is certainly my experience this Fall. In my head, the countdown to what would have been my due date is still ticking away. I thought it would have stopped by now, but I am still learning to grieve and trust even when the grieving takes longer than I wanted it to take. In some ways, although this fall brings great blessings, it still feels like there is a hole where the new baby was “supposed” to fit into the picture. And I’ve had to come to peace with that void and with that feeling of incompleteness. Our little family in my head and heart is five, even though it stubbornly remains at four. And I’ve had to wrestle with that over and over this year. In the quiet, after the wrestling, I remember that God is still good, is for us, and is still doing new things in our hearts and minds even if the new thing we were expecting isn’t going to happen.
He makes all things new.
I’m so grateful for that truth. He even makes new our hopes and dreams, and our visions for the future. My heart that felt weary and full of doubt as I cried out my fears and questions to people who loved me just as recently as last week – that heart today feels hopeful. And that is a miracle of our God. He brings fall every year, with the death of some things and the change of others, and in all the change, He remains loving toward us, accepting of us, pouring on us His mercy. He shows us that death is never the end, because of the cross, and we never have reason to lose hope.
He makes all things new. I pray that truth is real to you this Fall, despite your circumstances.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17
I had a brilliant therapist once who told me that self-awareness is a choice, and few choose it. I thought I was pretty self-aware, but this grieving thing has shown me that I am not.
We adopted a dog on Saturday. For most of you – that’s not a big piece of news. But for people who know me well, they just went “WHAT?!?” and laughed out loud. I am not a pet person. I am a bubble-girl to a highly-unusual degree and literally I can’t sit in grass or touch animals because I swell up. And I am really sensitive to smells. So the combination of these two things makes pet ownership difficult.
And yet, suddenly, last week, all of my previous arguments against getting a dog melted away and I found myself on adoptapet.org searching out the perfect dog for our family. It was like I unlearned everything that 36 years had taught me and suddenly I NEEDED A DOG. I found one, emailed about it, and we went and adopted it.
We brought him home, changed his name from Snuggles (a boy named Snuggles? No.) to Henry. Henry is adorable. He looks like my parents’ dog, which is the only dog I’ve ever really gotten close to. It seemed perfect. But soon after getting him home, Henry began to be very dog-like. In fact, he was very puppy-like. Peeing on my carpet and rugs, jumping on all of us, whining and crying all night long – he was the trifecta, a perfect embodiment of every argument I’ve ever given myself and others against a pet.
And I started crying (another thing I don’t do that often). And I didn’t just shed a tear – I sobbed. Poor Justin has a dripping, heaving, impossible-to-understand woman on his hands, and he has no idea what is happening.
I was crying because it hit me. I didn’t really want a dog. I was sad, and I was hurting, so I did something drastic that just happened to look like a cute little dog named Henry. I wanted to take things into my own hands – unstick what was stuck. And looking back I realized this pattern. In times of past sadness, I’ve done some pretty radical things. I’ve cut my hair or sold my car or taken up painting, or countless other rebellions that weren’t as visible but were my own little war against the way things were. This time I got a dog. And it didn’t take a therapist to see what I was really doing. I was sad about the baby, and since I couldn’t change that and I couldn’t give my girls the sibling I wanted to give them in the timeframe I wanted, I gave them a dog. It was obvious, except to me.
I was crying because my solution didn’t stop the sadness. My house smelled, chaos reigned, I had a DOG, and I was still hurting.
So carefully and a little fearfully, I leaned into the sadness. I trusted the Lord with my grief. I allowed myself to cry. I revisited everything that happened a month ago that I have been trying not to dwell on. I re-read the verses that sustained me during that terrible time. I grieved. It was cathartic and probably very healthy for me.
As I cried, I cleaned up my house and tried to turn myself into a dog person. Because Henry is cute and the girls love him, and the Lord already used him to allow me to grieve a little. So maybe we can make this work.
I don’t do well with sadness, but I want to. I want to accept with open hands what the Lord gives and allows, even if it isn’t my plan in my timing. I want to trust Him more, and myself less. And I know I need the Lord to help me do all of these things, because they are completely contrary to my instincts and nature.
Lord I don’t want to run after my own impatient solutions to the challenges you have allowed in our life. I want to learn to wait. I want to grow from the lessons You give, to trust You with the timeline, to trust myself with the sadness. I want to feel. I want to be honest. Help me Lord. Forgive me when I fall short. Bring Your blessings in Your time for Your glory. I trust you with how our family will grow.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley…
This week I had a miscarriage. I realize many of you family and friends didn’t even know we were pregnant, and I am so sorry. We had just gotten to the point where we were excited to start telling people about the baby when I started having complications and everything became very uncertain. At first it seemed like the baby was strong despite the difficulties, but ten days later, the pregnancy was over.
I am tired, and aching, but grateful. Grateful for a husband who holds me, even as I am coming to peace with things hard to understand. Grateful for my girls dancing around me oblivious and so priceless. Grateful for a sister who held my hand in my darkest moments in that doctor’s office and a mom who took us in like she always does to carry our burdens and meet every need. For a dad who prayed and held me tight, and friends and family who called and texted and brought flowers and meals and prayed countless prayers that broke light into our darkness. They carried me through this experience. I’m grateful for practical mercies too – insurance literally days before we needed it, and a Christian professor and a Christian boss who allowed me to disappear from my life while I walked through this valley, no questions asked.
As this unfolded, I was astonished by what I didn’t know about miscarriage, and what I wish I had known. Not to make this experience easier, because frankly I don’t think there is a way to make it easier, but so I could have had empathy for my friends who have gone before me in this, and also maybe I could have anticipated this past week better. Because in general people don’t talk about it, except in very clinical, sterile words that aren’t accurate, but I wonder if maybe we should.
I just didn’t know. I didn’t know that a miscarriage sometimes takes days; days of fear and blood and pain and exhaustion and prayers and confusion and labor. I didn’t know the vulnerability and fear that came with simple acts such as standing up or going to the bathroom. I didn’t know that doctors and hospitals really don’t have answers when you are facing something like this. I didn’t know that hope and despair battle in your mind as you pray for mercy and a miracle. I didn’t know how hard it is to tell people what is happening because it is private and messy and terrible; plus most people didn’t even know you were pregnant, much less that the pregnancy is in jeopardy. I didn’t know about the feeling that your body is betraying your baby, the what-ifs and guilt (that you must fight through because there is nothing you could have done to affect this outcome). I didn’t know about the moments begging God to make it stop, and then the moments where you have to reconcile yourself to the idea that it isn’t stopping, and that God is still good. I didn’t know how it drags on and on, as your house gets messy and your laundry piles up and kids need to be held and hugged and fed and taken to school and picked up and bathed and put to bed, but you can’t do any of it. So you rely totally on all of the precious people around you, and they do it all, balancing your life and their own, and you feel so guilty, but you also know that every time you stand up it gets worse, so you lay there, and they all work hard and carry your burdens.
I didn’t know, and I am sorry. I am sorry for people who went before us, I am sorry for anyone going through this now. This was so much harder than I thought it would be. I’m sorry if I ever judged your pain, or your reaction to pain. I’m sorry I didn’t help more or understand. I’m sorry for the little life that never grew up and for the moments you didn’t get to have and the loss of your sweet little baby.
I’m sorry that any of us ever had to go through this.
And the sad part is, this happens so often and many, many people I love have experienced this hurt, and many others will certainly walk through this valley. So let me tell you about what I learned about the goodness of God in this, because there was much I didn’t know there as well. I didn’t know about the way he prepares your heart for news you don’t see coming, or about the fog that surrounds your mind as you work through each step in this process, or about the peace that truly is beyond understanding even as you are facing things you never imagined. There are small mercies that help make this bearable. He allowed this to proceed slowly because he knows I am a person who needs time and he gave peace when I needed it at each step. He also brought people beside me who grieved this with us – family and friends who carried the burden of grief and cried with us and for us. I needed that so badly and for those of you who carried that, thank you. Looking back at this entire thing, from day one, I can see his hand of mercy. I returned to school today and my professor stopped me and told me that I looked good and that she was so thankful I was smiling, because she could tell that the Lord was with me. And I feel that. I can tell you that he never left me alone, not for a moment.
Now I am at the point where I am struggling to wrap my human, planning, finite little mind around this tiny life that was lost, and the idea that a child that is part me and part Justin is in heaven, who would have been my girls’ sibling, my siblings’ niece or nephew, and our parents’ grandchild. I’ll be honest and tell you that doesn’t feel real yet. But even in that – the Lord has spoken.
He spoke through Angie Smith’s amazing book What Women Fear, when she wrote these words, “I am still standing, and I still believe.”
I am still standing, and I still believe. I believe that God is good. I believe our child is safe in the arms of the Lord. I believe that death didn’t win.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11
I know this post was personal and heavy, but I had to write about it. I write about it because I need to process the lessons of this valley. I write about it because I cannot imagine writing about anything else until I have written about this and explained how I was changed by it. I write because I wish I had something like this to read when I was in the middle of this searching for answers on the internet. And I write because I always share what I learn from my children, and this child is no different. I’m grateful for the lessons this little baby taught me, lessons of empathy for other moms and cherishing my girls and the mercy of God during dark frightening days. I write, and I heal, and we move on toward heaven ourselves and toward Jesus who does understand all of this.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. (Psalm 23)