BECAUSE WE COULD NOT STOP FOR DEATH: MISCARRIAGE AND THE BELIEVER

It happened during a painful meeting after a week of painful meetings at the end of months of painful meetings. I ran downstairs to the women’s bathroom and it was full. I hobbled over to the men’s, praying no one would come in. This wasn’t my first and I knew there was nothing I could do at this point. Nothing.  

. . .

My husband and I had moved immediately following our late spring wedding to a new city where I was coming on staff at a new church in a new community. Everything was new and we felt ripe for it. We bought a house from which you could see the majestic Rocky Mountains. We walked every night around the lake by our house. We threw ourselves into life in this new place, life in a new marriage, breathing it in. Within two months of being there, though, the crumbling began. We, unbeknownst, had come into a church about to undergo a leadership crisis. My husband’s stable work contract let him know they were cutting back and, because he was working remotely, he was the first to go, effective almost immediately. We encountered gun violence up close and personal in a way my counselor said months later, “Just wasn’t normal.” It felt like from every direction we were being crushed into nothingness.

Around Christmas, though, when all else felt too much to bear, we began to suspect the new life within, talk about names, parenting, the world we’d be bringing this baby into. We were tender with it, we’d already had one miscarriage, but we were surer and surer of it. This one little space we could protect and care for. A few weeks later, though, after a week of difficult meetings at work for me, in the middle of a meeting where we were delivering painful news to our local church, and still no job on the horizon for my husband, the second miscarriage began.

I left the meeting as early as I could excuse myself and came home, hobbling in our back door, running to the bathroom. I knew what to expect but nothing prepares you for the emotional and physical toll of blood loss, hormone loss, and the tiny baby loss in the moment. 

Continue reading at Risen Motherhood. 

Sufficient for Its Day

A friend wrote of having a "winter soul" yesterday and I commented there are some who struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) up north from the spate of gray and shortened days, while I struggle with it down south in the minute variation between seasons. But today it was cold enough for me to see my breath when I let the dog outside in the still dark morning. I breathed it in and breathed it out, watching the fog escape my lungs in the light from the neighbor's garage. I have always been happier in crisp, chilly days. 

I had a few hours with another friend this past week. We've known one another since we were late teenagers, experienced a lot of life with one another and a lot more apart from one another, but we have always been friends. She was here so quick and gone so fast, but I sat across from her and breathed too. We have traded places with one another, New York to Texas, Texas to New York. She lives on a little plot of land, hanging her laundry out to dry now, like we used to dream of when we were younger and still mostly unaffected by the world and all the pains life brings with it. We know better now, but "Life is so good," she says and I believe her. The goodness of life is usually about our perspective and less about our circumstances. This is something we learn as we grow. I dropped her off after a few hours and I missed her as soon as we said goodbye. 

This is how I feel about the seasons too, I think. They rush in so quick, we drink them in, they are so good and so short and then they are gone. There are some places I've lived when the winter is long, long and cold and grey and you have to start your car an hour before you drive, not to warm its engine but to melt the inch of ice it is covered under. I am not a winter soul on those days. I am a fickle lover when the seasons bring discomfort and angst and inconvenience. I only want the special days, the crisp apple scent, the warm spices, the smell of woodsmoke that permeates the air where I'm from, and the rows of bare black trees with branches like wet cowlicks, sticking up for miles, like lines of freshly bathed schoolboys. I want the wool mittens and the early evenings, the dark mornings. I love the dark mornings. 

I have always heard that friendships are harder the older you get, sparer and more difficult to find. I know it is harder, too, because we are such a transient world. Everywhere can be home and therefore nowhere is. But I know folks who have always lived in the same state, the same county, and still find deep friendships difficult as they grow older. The older I grow the more I cling to those fewer friends, the ones I've had for ten or fifteen or twenty years. I want to hang onto the ones I love, the ones I know and who know me.

We are told to bloom where we're planted, but even blooms shrivel up and die someday. Nothing blooms forever on a single stem or trunk or branch. Blooms are for certain seasons and so are shrivels and so are voids. I always think it is some strange alchemy when a person perpetually blooms, some magic elixir that will fail them prematurely someday, a falsely inflated self. Death and breaking apart is a part of life too. In some ways, a more important part of life. Part of a scattering life. Seeds on a bloom are beautiful but scattered seeds from a shriveled blossom are sown for more beauty in another season. 

My friend shared words from Annie Dillard in his writing about being a "winter soul" yesterday and I wanted to share them with you today, "If we are blinded by darkness, we are also blinded by light. When too much light falls on everything, a special terror results.” And then he went on to say, "I will not dismiss your summery faith, I will take you at your word that every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before. But in return I ask this—that you not cast off my sense of wintriness, my predestined affinity for Psalm 90, that our years die away like a murmur. If I do not stand and raise my hands it is not that I have betrayed the family of God, but rather that I am a darker optimist, an optimist of the evening. I crouch and rub my hands before faith’s embers, scanning the skies for revelatory constellations, for 'whom have I in heaven but thee.' Mine is a winter soul."

It is very tempting for Christians to assume that if one has the joy of the Lord they will be gregarious, full, sanguine, and abounding always. But I, like my friend, have found more of God in the autumns and winters than in the springs and summers of my faith. I have found more of friendship in the old ones than in the new ones. More of faith in its absence than in its presence. More of life in the discipline of God than in the gifts of men. 

Some of us are in real autumns—the beautiful kind, abounding with color and crisp, and some of us are in the minute variation kind, the nearly changeless days that eek on for weeks, but both of us are dying in some ways. Dying to self, dying to dreams, dying to friendships, dying to goals. We're losing to gain or, perhaps, we're just losing. Maybe we have bloomed where we were planted, in full faith that the adage would always be true, but now we are shriveling, now we are dying, now we are falling to the damp earth, and now our seeds are scattering. 

I don't know. I just wanted to say, today, to be patient with your season as I am trying to be patient with mine. It is not like another's season, same in name only, but not in circumstance. Maybe their autumn is stunning and yours is not. Maybe their winter is ice covered cars every morning and yours is hot cocoa and woodsmoke. Maybe their summer is now and yours was then. Maybe their spring is slow and yours is sudden. I don't know. But just be patient, I guess, with today. 

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

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Rotted Fruit of the Urgent

I'm not sure why, but it is always autumn and not spring, September and not January, Fridays and not Mondays that always feel like the start of something good. I think it's probably because I'm easily discouraged by Great Gains and Grand Plans. I've almost never completed anything I started on time, and if I did, I most likely did it at the last minute. I've been learning about the Enneagram lately and the nemesis of the 9 (the Peacemaker) is sloth. It is like reading all my worst fears about myself. And also realizing some areas the Spirit will always be at aggressive work in my life. 

The fall, though, is always a good time for me to reflect on what did not work last year, what might work this year, to recalibrate our menus, our schedules, and our goals. I've found if I do this on January 1, when everyone else is, my extreme aversion to competition kicks in and I run to the back of the line as quickly as possible so as not to win (and so secure a certain loss).  

I thought a lot this past summer about the various means of communication available to our modern western world. I do try, as much as possible, to push back modernization and technology in my own life, but try as I might, communication is one place that will not be stopped. There are seventy seven inboxes, one hundred apps wanting to notify me of everything, and if I'm not careful, I can feel pressured to succumb to the way one person uses a particular form of technology even if it's not my preferred way.

So this fall, in my ever-increasing desire to press away from the tyranny of the urgent, I wanted to revisit or remake some intentions regarding communication. If I don't set my own expectations, I cannot expect to either meet them or recalibrate them if need be, or communicate them either. These are my principles. Feel free to use them for yourself if you'd like. I would encourage all of us to not come at these things neutrally. They want to eat us alive, we must rule over them.

1. I do not reinforce the belief in my own life that I am the answer to anyone's problems, have the answers to everyone's problems, or that my input into anyone's situation will make or break them or their situation.

2. I let most things wait because the Spirit is a better counselor than I am. 

3. I am not anyone's best source for counsel, correction, insight, or direction. 

4. I do not respond to almost anything immediately. 

5. I do not have notifications enabled for any app. 

6. I keep my phone on silent except for Nate. 

7. Reading news and views does not help me worship or trust God more. 

8. I am responsible to be faithful first to my own life, home, marriage, local church, and community. 

9. I will never deal with personal conflict over any kind of written message (text, FB, email, etc.). 

. . .

Here's how I endeavor to use these tools in my life: 

Email. Email is work and I only use it during working hours, and only if it doesn't impede on other writing I'm supposed to be doing. Because my work is mostly writing, I don't write long emails. 

Blog Email. I think of email from readers more highly than a lot of email and I take your questions very seriously. I want to give more time to responses, either on Sayable itself or in personal responses. (I am enlisting the help of a sweet girl and burgeoning blogger this fall who will be helping me navigate a lot of blog related content/emails/ebooks.)

Phone Calling. Talking on the phone wears me out, therefore I reserve it for far away friends and family (of whom I have many). 

Text Messages. I exercise restraint by not answering most text messages immediately. I want to discipline my own inclinations of self-important, impatience, and need for speed, and also not give the impression of instant availability at all times. I also attempt to not have any serious conversations over text messages. This is the space I most feel pressured to answer immediately and so it is the space I have to be most disciplined in saying "No" or "Not yet." 

Facebook. I use Facebook primarily for sharing links to things I find interesting or things I've written. I do not find it helpful for me to spend much time reading or perusing there. I exercise disinterest in polarizing political statements, fake or overly left/right news, cat pictures, or videos YOU CAN'T EVEN BELIEVE. 

Facebook Messages. I do not check Facebook messages with any sort of regularity unless I know the sender personally, and even then, it's irregular that I check or respond. 

Twitter. I use Twitter primarily for reading news and blogs, and interacting with readers. I really like the word limitations enforced there because it keeps things short and our words meaningful.

Twitter DMs. I do try to check and respond to these often. 

Instagram. I use Instagram primarily to look at photos of babies, art, inspiration, and for sharing bits of my own aesthetic and life. I really care about beauty and would honestly most days rid my online footprint everywhere but here. Because I like it. I love it. 

Instagram inbox[es]. I check both often, reply rarely. 

Pinterest. I use it to gather inspiration for myself or bookmark links I want to remember, rarely to share with others. I'm selfish like that. 

I do not use Vox, Snapchat, and a myriad of other apps available to communicate. Call me a luddite, but I keep very few apps on my phone anyway and have no desire to be ranted at for ten minutes via Vox or try to figure out if those whiskers coming out of your face on that video are real or not. 

I don't know what forms of communication are in your life, but I encourage you to come at them purposefully, intentionally, and with awareness, and not just absorb, react, or rant with them. Whether you only use Facebook or never use it, whether you mainly communicate with the written word or the spoken one, whether you have every app open with notifications enabled constantly or you don't even own a smart phone, we're all being inundated with messages daily and we have to learn to navigate them as humans and not as gods.  We will give account for every idle word we've spoken and written, so let's put some checks and balances in place today.

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Putting Ourselves in the Way of God

I sobbed the night Rich Mullins died. I wasn't a fanatic fan, I was just a 16 year old girl who'd been jostled from a stupor by his lyrics. I still wouldn't awaken fully for another 14 years, but the jostling was powerful still. 

Rich was the first Christian I knew about whose faith—and the wrestle for it—seemed real and not built of principles and precepts and rules and boundaries and all the suffocating things I thought Christianity was. I dreamed about his kind of Christianity for a lot of years, knowing it must be possible to be as jacked up as he was and still as loved as he seemed to think he was. It would be another decade and a half before I'd begin to really understand the way to know the "reckless raging fury that they call the love of God," and that the way to believing we really are that loved is to first admit we really are that jacked up—and to never separate those two confessions from one another ever. 

I sat at a table with a friend last night and we talked, as we have always talked, for as long as I've known her (a few years after the night I cried wet tears with my best friend while we leaned against my bed and listened to the news of Rich Mullins' death on the radio), about the gospel. She has always been a teacher of sorts to me, the one who used the words gospel and grace and predestined and the cross in a way that drew me instead of confused me. She was canning beets and I was drinking water and it has always been that way for her and for me. She, faithful with the work of her hands in a small sustainable farm in upstate New York, parenting her kids, being a wife, listening and sharing sermons, and every day reminding herself and others that the gospel that saved her is the gospel that sustains her and she needs it, oh how she needs it. She's in her 50s and canning beets and telling me again she can't coast by on anything but the kindness of God who draws her to repentance. I want to be like her. 

The thing I love about Rich Mullins, and the thing you do too if you've given any of his lyrics a good hard listen, is that he never let anyone believe he was too big for his britches, too big for a walloping from God, or too important for anyone. I think that's the reason he was barefoot so often, as if to say it's all holy ground, "every common bush afire with God," and yet we're not yet, not yet afire with God. Not all the way through. He wore the garments of sinner and saint well and I want to be like that too. 

I've grown weary of the goodness again, the pretty perfect people. I've grown weary of hearing myself talk or talking at all. The harder I work to be sanctified, the more I despise the person I become, straight-jacketed, self-important, principled, careful, wise, stupid, or naive. I hear more Pharisee in me than Jesus in me. Not because I'm a hypocrite or a white-washed tomb, but because I forget the gospel that saves is the gospel that sustains. 

I read this from Andrew Peterson this morning, the intro to the concert I was a little bit heartbroken to miss. I'm reminded we're all just folks wanting to put ourselves in the way of God, desperate for the kind of affection and attention we think will fix or save or help or reward us. But the thing I think Rich Mullins knew, and my friend who was canning beets knows, and the thing I want to know more than anything is God has put himself in my way.

As a Father he picked up his robes and ran toward our filthy sin-stained rags and our filthy righteous robes. As the Son he became sin. As the Spirit he comes and fills and overflows and empowers us to live today and the next day and the next day and the next, one step in front of another, ragamuffins, but faithful ragamuffins as best as we can understand it. 

There's a wideness in God's mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

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When Plans Go Awry and Link Love

In the beginning of August the government agency for whom Nate works told him he'd had two weeks of training at the end of the month for which he'd need to be in D.C.. We made hurried plans for a road-trip, some driving routes were discussed so I could go too, a ticket was purchased, I let the folks at home in New York I'd be there for almost two weeks. I rarely get truly excited about anything until the thing itself is a reality right in front of me, but I had the quiet rumblings of joy at the unexpected trip. Then, as suddenly as the trip was planned, Nate came home and quietly told me the plans changed and he'd no longer have to go right then. 

I felt so disappointed and sad. You know the feeling? The kind of sadness you can feel in your throat and maybe your stomach and certainly your heart. I didn't want to be sad because it wasn't Nate's fault and yet he would be the one who would see that sadness up close. But I was still sad. It was a good reminder, for me, that we can make plans but our hope has to be squarely on God. 

A few weeks later Nate came home again with some more news: another training trip was needed and this one would be closer to home (for me), and during peak week. The last days of September and the first days of October make up peak week in upstate New York, where I'm from. The leaves are brilliant in their array of color and the weather is usually crisp and dramatic, dark skies with brilliant glinting sunshine, billowing clouds. Autumn is my favorite season and these weeks of beauty are its capstone. 

In two days he and I will begin our long trek eastward, splitting our time between upstate and D.C.. We have 67 hours of driving, a flight, a passel of books on Audible, plans with friends made, and a few spots booked along the route. We are leaving our sweet pup with friends and our home in the care of our housemate (Did you know we have a housemate this year? We do! He's an intern at our church and we thank God for the gift of him every day.). 

This is nothing more than to say that many times our plans go awry. In fact most times they do. I can't think of a single plan I made when I was 20 that has been actualized, except maybe my English degree. Most of my life has been one fumble after another into surprising circumstances, sometimes painful ones, but usually ones I find myself grateful for in the end. I would not have written the story God had for me and I wonder if there are many of you who are saying, or would say (or will say), the same for you. I think most of us find it to be true. 

Here are some things I've read in the past week or so that I enjoyed and you might too: 

The Body and the Earth, by Wendell Berry

Some Kind of Calling, by Pam Houston

What Does a Healthy Writer, Reader, Publisher Relationship Look Like, by Aaron Earls

Five Benefits to Reading Entire Books of the Bible in One Sitting, Crossway Blog

The Parable of the Lost Pointer, by Karen Swallow Prior

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