One Year Later

It’s next to impossible to believe that it’s been a year since my heart broke in half.

One year ago today James and I said goodbye to a precious miracle we had only just realized we had. After two painfully short weeks of pregnancy, we lost our baby when I miscarried at 6 weeks. We didn’t know such an early loss could hurt so much.

It has been a hard year, living with the grief that creeps up at the strangest times, and that has the tendency to make me bitter. Miscarriages are so often swept under the rug, hidden like some shameful secret, or talked about in whispers. At first, I thought that there was something wrong with me for wanting to talk about it because the awkwardness was palpable when I would bring it up with just about everyone I knew. So few people knew how to handle me, or the situation, so they just pretended like it never happened. I can’t fault them for this because losing a baby IS hard to talk about. It’s hard, unless you’ve lived through it, to understand why someone could be so upset about a pregnancy that had barely even started. I wrestled with so much guilt thinking, “How dare I be so upset when other women have lost their babies later? Or had a worse situation? Or endured more miscarriages?”

It’s been a hard year watching other people conceive and bear perfectly healthy babies. I’ve struggled and wondered why some people can have so many children when we had such a hard time conceiving, only to turn around and lose one. But, these past few months have been so healing as I’ve got to celebrate with friends and family members who are expanding their families through birth and through adoption. I’ve rediscovered the joy in watching God bless others.

I’ve walked the road of pain and loss with other women who said goodbye to their babies this year. I’ve cried and prayed with them and for them, and God has allowed me to minister to these ladies in ways I never could have if I hadn’t experienced it myself. I give Him ALL the glory for the many, many ways He’s redeemed our situation. He’s so good at that. His word promises all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) and I’ve held on tight to that for the past 365 days.

I’ve had days of deep, deep grief and days of joy watching the child I’m blessed to have beside me learn and grow. I’m ashamed to admit there’s been anger, too. There’s been fear that history will repeat itself if we conceive again, and it’s kept me from wanting to try. We’ve struggled through this first year, and we will have an empty space in our hearts forever. But we are healing.

Mamas who are still walking through the valley: The pain does ease. Your world rights itself again somehow and you go on. Your heart will ache forever, but I promise it gets better. And God will use it for good if you will let Him.

Sweet baby,
One year ago today you left us for Heaven. The reality of you was still so fresh and I ache that I didn’t have more time to savor it. I will carry the memory of sitting on the edge of my bed, rocking your sister to bed and thinking that I was so blessed to be able to rock two babies at once. I had no idea that would be the only time I rocked you, or sang to you. I think of you every single day, and thank God for you and the imprint your tiny little life made on mine. You’ve made a difference, my little one. You’ve touched lives. I still cry tears over you and wish I could hold you and kiss you and play with you. But you’re so much better off never knowing sickness or pain or fear. You are perfect, and you are mine. 

Until we meet, all my love forever,
Mommy

Why the Duggar Scandal Matters

Before I even begin, I want to preface this with saying that I in NO WAY condone any form of sexual molestation. My heart breaks for the girls who have been abused and I do not agree with what has happened here. While I cannot exactly relate to their situation, I can certainly empathize with what they must be going through as several of my loved ones have experienced similar situations. End disclaimer.

Yesterday was a rough day in our house. I’ve not made it any secret to my friends and family that I adore 19 Kids and Counting, the TLC reality show that follows the Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar family. Their show has been uplifting, positive, and Christ-centered, and I have watched it since their first TV special eons ago. So, when the news broke this week that Josh, their oldest, has been involved in a case regarding the molestation of what appears to be several young girls, including family members, I was shocked and appalled. I read the 33 page police report that was released online, and my stomach turned over at the allegations, which I was still holding out hope were unfounded or exaggerated. When the Duggars issued their statement to the media last night, the situation was confirmed and the media backlash, long brewing against the family, began in earnest.

It’s really caused me to evaluate my response to things like this. Here we have a very public figure, from a very public family, who has made a very private and devastating mistake. One of the major issues in the situation is that the family downplayed it, and that there wasn’t formal rehabilitation at the time the police were notified. That is a big issue. I’ve seen a TON of condemnation on social media from people saying that once someone offends they are doomed to offend again and again. I disagree and don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that–therapy, rehabilitation and Jesus Christ all make it extremely possible for someone who has offended to change their lives. No, they cannot undo their past or change the ramifications of what they’ve done, but they can seek forgiveness from the Lord and from those they’ve hurt [which, for the record, Josh Duggar did according to both the police report and his public statement]. The media firestorm has centered on the Duggars public persona. They come across as squeaky clean, modest to the extreme, and they put a huge emphasis on sexual purity. They are conservative in literally every way that one can be, and Josh has made a name for himself lobbying in Washington, DC for the FRC, committing much of his career to supporting traditional “Christian family values.” The LGBT community opposes the Duggars, and especially Josh, for their hard stance against marriage equality. Obviously this has put the Duggars under even more scrutiny.

J and I were talking about it last night, and here are my thoughts as a result of that conversation (for what they’re worth):

  • I still, 100% believe that the Duggar family is a Christian family. They have exemplified that in hundreds of ways over the years that they have been in the spotlight. I see literally ZERO evidence, even in the wake of this tragedy, to suggest that they are not “really” Christians.
  • Christians sin. Sometimes they commit heinous, awful, unfathomable sins. This is a horrible situation, and he did intense psychological harm to his victims (because that’s what they are, let’s not forget them in the midst of all this, PLEASE!!). If Christians didn’t sin, there would be no need for the cross, no need for Jesus’ death and the atonement for sins that it offers. Salvation would be irrelevant. Jesus died to cover ALL the sins. Even the horrific ones. And if we can’t accept that His once for all sacrifice was sufficient to cover Josh Duggar’s 14-year-old mistakes, then how can we believe our own sins, no matter how minor or how major, are covered??
  • No one is talking about the girls. I hope and pray that they have received help and that they are healing. I can’t even imagine what they are going through.
  • Christians, be prepared to see the Duggars strung through the mud in really sad ways. This is how quickly a reputation and testimony can be destroyed. It’s so important for us to be mindful of how the things we do affect how the world sees us, and therefore Christ through us. There will be plenty of the “so this is how Christians act?” nonsense floating around the internet for weeks. See bullet point 2. But..
  • We can’t expect a fallen world to do anything less. The name of Jesus Christ is hated in this world. His followers are hated, sometimes for nothing, sometimes because of the mere fact that they are human, too. In fact, I know I’m opening myself up for criticism of my faith and my life just by sharing my personal thoughts on this blog. It’s dumb, but it’s the way it is, and Jesus promised us before He left this earth that it would be that way.
  • (This is completely my opinion and I could be totally wrong about this.) Could it be that their rigid, super-modest upbringing had something to do with this? I’m not excusing Josh in any way, but let’s remember that he was YOUNG. Hormones were raging, pent up sexual tension was there, and they lived in a bubble of ultraconservativeness unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I can’t help but wonder if they were allowed to discuss their natural, human feelings and the sexual awakening that all teenagers have at that age. If that discussion was discouraged and their own sexuality was made to feel dirty, then in a family that large someone was bound to have an issue at some point. This may not be the last Duggar scandal that emerges.
  • Christians, don’t be the ones to throw stones. They DO need our prayers. They have a lot to recover from as a family, and maybe still have things to set right. The FIRST thing we should do when something awful happens is to pray, not withhold our support!
  • Those of us in ministry should let this instigate conversations and prayerful consideration of what we would do if this were to happen in our congregations. Do we have resources ready to call on? Do we have adequate training in crisis care to help the victims and families in the midst of the situation? Have we dealt with any painful past experiences that would influence how we minister to those around us?

I don’t intend to cause a debate by posting this. I just wanted to share my opinion on it, and to voice some of the things that I don’t see being acknowledged by any group. If you have comments please feel free to share–but please know I’m not going to publicly debate anything. That’s not me.

With all kinds of love,

B

On the Day We Should Have Met

My sweet baby:

Today was the day we should have met face to face, when I would have worked hard to bring you into the world, kiss your tiny face, sing you “Happy Birthday” and introduce you to your big sister. I would have given you a name, counted tiny fingers and toes, marveled at your soft weight in my arms, cried over how perfect and beautiful you are. My heart aches that I will never get to do those things.

But oh, my precious, perfect little child, you’re not forgotten. Even though I’ll never have the chance to soothe your tears, kiss your boo-boos, read your bedtime stories or sing you to sleep, you are in my heart every single second of every single day. In the few short weeks that we knew you existed, you changed my world for good. Sharing your story–our story–has allowed me to help other mommies who have babies in Heaven. Losing you taught me more about God’s grace and peace than any other experience of my life. I’m still angry that it had to happen, still heartbroken that we are without you, but I’m at peace knowing you’re with Jesus! You will know no pain, no sickness, no fear, no disappointment, no darkness, no loneliness. And, my baby, I will hold you one day.

Today I will mourn, and I will cry, and I will allow myself to feel the loss. And then I will sing, and I will praise, and I will celebrate you, because you were here, if only for a while. And for your whole existence I had the supreme honor of carrying you for every second. And because of Jesus Christ you will live forever with Him.

I love you, baby.

xoxo – Mommy

Wonder Mommy gets a Reality Check

So, my child is in a superhero phase. Completely independent of her nerdy father (whom I love dearly, and whose geekiness I celebrate), she has developed a fascination with heroes, superpowers and saving the day. Her two favorite songs right now are Hillsong Kid’s “Jesus, You’re my Superhero” and Go Fish’s “Superhero” [which, as an aside, you should totally look up on YouTube–it’s actually really catchy!]. Seriously, the kid is eaten up with it.

She’s so into it that last week she assigned each of us in the family a superhero alter ego. Super Mirra, Wonder Mommy, Bat Daddy and Super Sophie (the dog). No pressure there.

After a weekend of absolute laziness as the three of us recovered from yucky colds, I launched into the work week fresh and energized. The past month has been absolute chaos with mounting work obligations, a new business venture on the side, church projects and the everyday pandemonium of being a parent to a toddler. My body finally just said, “Hey, I’m done. You’re resting,” and it was like someone pulled my plug. I vowed not to get myself in any more tizzies over my schedule; to take “me” time and to let things go that aren’t absolutely vital to my (or my family’s) existence.

Then the day started. My schedule started to fill in. My to-do list started to get longer. My perky disposition started to droop. I texted James at some point during the morning with the statement, “Not trying to be difficult, just trying to be Wonder Mommy.” Didn’t hit me until later how dangerous it can be to put too much effort into living up to that alter ego’s demands.

While I absolutely want to be my daughter’s hero, I want it to be based on the things that matter. The eternal things. Looking back at my childhood, I can say with 100% accuracy that I have no recollection of how many tasks or projects my stay-at-home mother managed to juggle in a day. But I CAN remember the times she took to read with me, pray with me, answer my questions, and laugh with me. The Pinterest-inspired, Mommy Wars-driven details that make mothers feel like they have to compete for the title of Wonder Mommy (because, really, let’s be honest, isn’t that a pedestal we like to be put on??) simply don’t matter in the long run. This is a really, REALLY difficult for this perfectionist Mama to get through her thick skull. I want to do it all, and do it well best. I’m changing my prayer from “God, please help me to get it all done today!” to “God, please help me to make the best use of my time by pleasing YOU today.”

And, while I’m learning how to live all that out, I will still be Wonder Mommy: Keeper of the schedule, finder of lost socks, fixer of broken toys, reader of storybooks, and rescuer of little girls who are stuck in their cribs after naptime! I will just do it all with a hefty dose of reality, and I’ll work on not taking myself so seriously! 🙂

Until next time..

– B

Good News! (AKA: Why I hide things from my Facebook newsfeed.)

Please know before you read this that my intention is absolutely NOT to offend anyone with this post. It’s meant to serve as encouragement, not criticism. I simply want to draw attention to something that’s been laid on my heart–something I’ve been wrestling with for several weeks given the overall state of affairs in our country (and world, for that matter).

If you’ve watched the news (or social media) for even 5 minutes in the last month, you’ve seen something horrific that’s made you wonder “What is happening to this planet??” With the terror attacks carried out by ISIS, the Ebola virus spreading, tensions with other various countries around the globe, and politics being the general craziness that politics always are, there’s a real shortage of positive news out there. I LOVE that Jimmy Fallon (who I just adore anyway) has aired a segment on the Tonight Show called “I Have Good News…and Good News” to try to counteract some of the overwhelming negativity we’re seeing around us right now.

It’s a scary time of uncertainty on many fronts, and regardless of your political inclinations, it can provoke hostility and alarm. It has in me (hello, anxiety disorder!).

After really struggling with a growing sense of “OHMYGOSHWHATDOWEDOWEHAVETOHIDEWE’REALLGOINGTODIE!” for several days, brought on in large part by a Facebook newsfeed FULL of fear-provoking articles, images and videos, I finally said enough is enough. I started systematically hiding those people from my Facebook. What is bothering me is that EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of those people posting things to cause alarm were Christians. Brothers and sisters, that is NOT what Jesus has called us to do.

How can we point people to Jesus by promoting sensationalism and fear? The Bible says that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) and that Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). We have a Living Hope, we need not fear because our God is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6) even when things get really scary and when evil prevails. He has left His peace with us, because HE HAS OVERCOME THIS WORLD! (John 16:33)  We MUST rejoice in that truth and call the people who are fearful of an unknown future to a God who is already present in the future! To the one who shelters us under the shadow of His wings (Psalm 91:4). Who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us (John 3:16) so that we need not fear.

Let us speak LIFE and LIGHT to one another. JESUS STILL REIGNS!

Praying for peace for those who fear and comfort for those who mourn today.

With much love,

B

Brittany Does ____________…with Anxiety!

Anxiety is my constant companion. Has been since I was just a little girl, and I’m coming to the conclusion that it always will be. While the fact that I have an anxiety disorder (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, to be exact) hasn’t changed, my perspective on it has. As I’ve said to many people over the past two years, I’ve learned to make my mess my message (thank you, Joyce Meyer, for teaching me that phrase!). And, in the process of learning this, I’ve also learned the best lesson of all–to laugh at myself.

I’ve given this post it’s tongue-in-cheek title because that’s pretty much how my whole life operates, and I’d venture a guess that many of you who struggle with anxiety would say the same thing. Each day presents challenges provided free of charge by my sweet little brain, and they make performing everyday tasks a little more, shall we say, interesting.

Brittany takes a vacation…with anxiety!
Brittany goes to work…with anxiety!
Brittany does the dishes…with anxiety! [OK, so this one might be an exaggeration.]

For about three years, I had a panic attack every single time I went to the movies. I can remember one time we were going to see Iron Man (J’s a comic book nerd) and we sat in the parking lot forever before I finally had to just tell him there was no way I could go in. Even now the theater provokes more anxiety in me than almost anywhere else, and I have zero idea why. I am usually monitoring my pulse and breathing while everyone else is chowing down on popcorn.

Once in college I was required to attend a conference out of town with a counseling class I was taking. For two solid weeks leading up to it I was convinced I was going to die in the van on the way there, and proceeded to inform my family and closest friends that I loved them and would miss them. I can laugh about it now, because it was so ridiculous, but at the time it was the most real, most terrifying thing I could imagine doing. There was no way out–I went, or I failed. I shared with my small group Bible study what I was going through and was SO BLESSED by some sweet friends who got up super early the next morning to see me off and to pray with me before we left. Obviously I didn’t die, but I was SHOCKED when I got there alive!!

I share these things for a laugh, but also because I know Someone out there is dealing with the same thing, but they are too embarrassed to admit it. Maybe they’re like me and they think that others will perceive them as weak if they admit it. Maybe they’ve been hurt by people in the past when they’ve opened up about their anxiety. Maybe they don’t know how to even talk about, or they think that everyone will call them crazy.

I prayed for my anxiety to be taken away for years [and years, and years, and years…]. It took me until I was in my mid-twenties before I was willing to concede that maybe God didn’t want to take it away. Maybe He wanted to use it somehow, and maybe I would be more effective for Him with anxiety than without anxiety. Tough pill to swallow. I know this is the “thorn in my flesh”–the thing that God leaves with me to display His strength in this broken vessel.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Scholars differ on what Paul’s “thorn” was, but the point is that he was willing to be OK with God leaving it there. What’s your thorn? It’s not anxiety for everyone. But something in your life that you would deem a mess is exactly the thing that God wants to turn into your message. Will you let Him use it?

Healing

Oh friends, I’ve been avoiding this blog like it’s poisonous for the past month, and for that I’m sorry. I did start a draft once, but I just couldn’t handle working on it, so that fell by the wayside. Suffice it to say I’m horrible at grieving. Always have been, always will be, and I’m working on it.

After our miscarriage on August 6, I took three days off from work, tried to enjoy the weekend, and then launched back into my job, full steam ahead. No time to waste, big things needed to be done. While I’m so blessed by awesome coworkers who have prayed for me, encouraged me and made me laugh, I didn’t want to bring that sadness to my day job, so I just stuffed it down. I didn’t want to bring it home, either, though…couldn’t let Little Lady A know anything was wrong, could I? So I stuffed it. [I’m pretty much the poster child for dysfunctional grief, which is amusing because Bereavement Counseling was my emphasis in college and what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up. Yeah…I’m not a good role model.]

I digress.

Two weeks ago I told J that it felt like my emotions were about to snap. One random day at work I just kept feeling it welling up. I’d start crying, take 10 minutes to stop, work an hour, cry again. This lasted all morning before I finally broke down and texted my friend Tabby to ask her to pray that I would make it through the workday. Somehow I did, but I can only compare it to when you know you’re going to throw up, but you keep holding it down. I know that’s disgusting imagery, and I’m sorry, but that’s the intensity of these emotions I was refusing to deal with. James finally sat me down and said it was OK to let it out, and that I had to. My response? If I start, I’ll never stop. I could feel this raw emotion–anger, sadness, confusion??–creeping up, and if I didn’t stop it from erupting I was going to turn into some crying, howling mess. No time for that.

Fast forward two more weeks to today. Still wasn’t dealing with it. Still referring to it in terms of “losing a pregnancy” not “losing a baby” because thinking of it that way didn’t make me feel like punching a wall or sobbing. It’s been nagging at me, and I’ve been ignoring it as best I can.

Tonight I was changing A’s diaper when a searing, awful pain shot down my back between my shoulder blades. I couldn’t move and I screamed bloody murder. After some time I was able to get to the couch and get a heating pad on my back, but there was no mistaking that something was twisted, pinched, caught or otherwise-not-OK in my upper back. It’s a church night, so James was going to have to cover youth group solo since I was somewhat immobile. He and A left for church, which left me on the love seat propped up with a heating pad and my iPhone. Through a random course of events on Facebook I stumbled across the page of a couple whose son is soon to be born, but has been diagnosed with a fatal condition and isn’t expected to make it more than a few hours after delivery. My own loss, while it’s uniquely significant and tremendously painful to J, myself and our families, pales in comparison to the agony this couple will go through in grieving a child after a full 40 weeks of pregnancy.

My heart started to hurt.

I am crazy about the author/blogger/speaker/wonder-woman, Angie Smith. She speaks right to my heart…I feel like in so many ways we are the same person living in two bodies. I turn to her books and blog often for comfort and encouragement, but I haven’t over this pregnancy–see, I did it again without even thinking–over this BABY, because I knew it would be my undoing. If you don’t know Angie’s story, she and her husband lost their daughter, Audrey, immediately following her birth. Tonight I felt tugged to her blog, so I went. And I read the most beautiful letter she wrote to her sweet daughter. And I dissolved.

God knew that I needed this hour alone (a very rare thing in this house) in order to hit the pressure valve on all this emotion. Because by myself, with no one around to hear/worry/judge, that emotion came out in a cut-to-the-bone, broken way, and it’s still leaking out my eyes while I type this. One of my cardinal sins through this process has been downplaying my loss by comparing it to a.) what others have endured and b.) how bad it could have been. Here is what I feel the Lord is wanting me to realize:

a.) No one else is that baby’s mother. No one else dreamed of our plans for it like J and I did. We only had two weeks to dream, but excited parents who have waited for a baby tend to do that quick. I held that baby it’s entire existence. I had named it. It may be that no one but Jesus and I will ever know that name, but that child was desired, prayed for, planned and a child of God Almighty. Two weeks, two years or two decades…it doesn’t matter how short the time you have with your child, you love it with all your being from the second you find out it exists. Though it doesn’t hurt my feelings when people say, “Well it was only 6 weeks, it’s for the best that it happened now,” I do hope that I’m able to shed some light on the fact that it doesn’t really matter to Mom and Dad how early in the pregnancy it was. Until you’ve walked that road (and I hope and pray you haven’t, and won’t have to), you just can’t comprehend the grief of a miscarriage. I am so desperately sorry for the times I’ve scratched my head at why women are so hurt by an early pregnancy loss. Never again.

b.) It could have come at a later date, and it could have been more physically and emotionally painful. But the end result is the same. My child is with Jesus. From the moment of conception, that tiny fertilized egg has a set gender, eye color, hair color and genetic code. God knew that baby before I even knew he or she existed. The end result is the same. He or she took up residence in my body for two short weeks, changed our lives forever, and then went to spend eternity in the presence of Jesus Christ. I cannot wait to meet my baby for the first time. But, here on earth, death is always painful, no matter when it happens.

God had to (literally) knock me flat on my back to make me deal with this. I’m still scared to feel it all, but I know that’s the only way to really heal. I would ask that you pray for J and I as we begin to think about trying to conceive again at the first of the year. We are both a little gun shy and my anxiety does come into play, but we know in our hearts we want another child. And I will be more faithful in writing, to share from my heart, because I know that’s what God is asking me to do.

With much love and gratitude,

Brittany