The Heart Behind Still Ministry
God speaks to us. Whether we choose to hear Him or not is a different story, but I’m learning that God always speaks. I know without a doubt that He finds little ways to lay on our stubborn hearts the plan He has set aside for us. As Christians, I think we can get very comfortable in the “borderland,” as Mark Buchanan calls it. This comfortable in-between of Christianity and safety, feeling like we are living out our Christianity with good works and church-going. I’ve been so guilty of calling the borderland my home for so long, and making God so much smaller than He is. A heart that longs to step out into unknown, but a body that is too scared to try. Seeking a God of immeasurable power and purpose, and then shutting my ears to His purpose for me.
One day I was in the car audibly praying for God to just tell me. Just tell me what it is that you’ve planned for me to do that I’m not doing, Lord. What have I not opened my ears to hear? I can often feel of so little value for God’s Kingdom – like I haven’t experienced enough or don’t know the Bible well enough to do what He’s calling me to do. I hear Him, but for some reason I tell myself that I don’t. Like, surely this is my imagination, Lord. Surely you aren’t asking ME to do that. I’m not equipped. I’m not eloquent. I honestly don’t know enough. Still praying, I pulled into the parking lot of Trader Joe’s and tears out of nowhere just started flowing that wouldn’t stop.
I can’t remember all the thoughts that were flooding my mind, but I know it went something like this. I so badly want to be a good and faithful servant, Father. I so badly want to do all that You’ve set aside for me to accomplish. I don’t want to be busying myself with all these “good works” that lead to nowhere. I want to touch hearts, and bring You glory, and live my life in full pursuit of You. Help me to know what You’ve set aside for me to do. Help me to want Holy Ground more than I want my borderland.
I reached into the backseat and passed my sweet Eastlyn – my precious, NOW-thirteen-month-old daughter – the toy she had dropped and was trying so hard to reach with her chubby little arms and still-clumsy fingers. And then, in desperation to hear anything from the Lord, I pressed #1 on our car radio to get to JOY FM. I sat stunned as the man speaking spoke words directly related to what I know God has been calling me to share. Directly related to a speed bump my little wheels never quite made it over. I’m usually not a “signs” person. I don’t think that the Lord is talking to me by how my fruit loops line up in the bowl. But I’m telling you, in that moment, I knew it was nothing other than the Father. The words He spoke were the words already in my heart – the words that I now realize I had been willing God to speak to me. I walked through the store in a kind of haze, still unsure that the Lord had actually just hit me upside the head. Isn’t it funny how we pray for Him to speak, and when He does (so clearly, might I add), we can’t believe it. We sit there stunned and doubtful, almost as if we don’t want to hear Him, because then we are accountable.
In December of 2015, we had been trying to conceive for more than a year. We were at a place where we had finally stopped taking pregnancy tests, for fear of another depression on my part when, without fail, just one line would appear. It was heartbreak each and every time, and it felt like my body was betraying me in the worst way. There were those who, with the very best intentions, tried to comfort us by suggesting we hadn’t been trying all that long. Honestly, even I reasoned with myself in this way. But the amount of time we had been trying made no difference to the disappointment and sadness that would set in with each negative test. And I know after talking to others who have struggled with this or are still struggling, that we aren’t alone. In a way, with each negative test, I felt like God was telling me to prepare for the possibility of not being able to conceive – and as a woman who found so much of my identity in the hope of one day being a mother – it crushed me.
But in January of 2016, we finally received a positive. There was so explanation for why it had taken so long. Just one day, there it was. After taking the test, positive that it would be another negative, I left it sitting on the bathroom floor and went to bed. My husband Dave popped his head out from the bathroom, “Did you want me to toss this test?” Remembering I had taken it – “Sure. It’s a negative?” *Pause* “Yep.” I heard the test hit the bottom of the trash can, and the familiar ache set in. “No, wait,” he said. “Two lines are a negative, right?” I think I was out of the bed and in the bathroom before he could look up. We screamed, we cried, I’m pretty sure I ran circles around the bedroom, we jumped up and down and called our closest friends and family up at 11pm. Talk about a miracle! A trip to the doctor’s office showed us our little “bean” and confirmed what we had begun to think was impossible. A trip to visit Dave’s family in Pennsylvania fell at the perfect time, so we were even able to tell them in person that we were seven weeks pregnant and record their sweet, stunned reactions. We downloaded baby apps, bought baby books, eyed all the baby clothes at Target, began picking nursery colors, read through baby name books, and so quickly fell in love with the little person growing inside of me.
One Friday evening over dinner, I told Dave I wasn’t feeling well. My stomach was hurting, and I couldn’t finish dinner. Afterward, we needed a few groceries, so we pulled into Schnuck’s parking lot. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I knew something was wrong. Period cramps had started and my body felt weak. I made it to the bathroom, where I instantly spotted blood. Full blown panic set in, a mixture of overwhelming fear, and hope, and helplessness is that best way I can describe it. I made it out of the bathroom, found Dave, and we made a quick trip home. In tears, I called my mom who gave me some hope by assuring us that cramping and spotting often happen in early pregnancy. We were eager to cling to hope – completely unready to lose this precious, prayed-for life that we had just received. With shaky hands, Dave and I held each other and prayed for the life of our child. We prayed for a miracle. Sometime around midnight though, I woke up in tremendous pain. I managed to stumble to the bathroom, and all I remember is blood. Dave woke up to my cries, and I can’t tell you what I was saying or what I was doing, but we knew in that moment our baby was gone.
This is where we started to tuck it away. We changed my clothes, stripped the sheets, and got back in bed. I cried until exhaustion turned to sleep. We woke up the next morning, and life went on. Per the doctor’s recommendation, we went in for an ultrasound to confirm. We were able to see the tiny sac where our baby had been, but our baby wasn’t there. In a haze, we walked through the waiting room, closed the car door, and tucked it away. We called our closest friends and family to tell them that we weren’t going to be parents after all. But our jobs continued and life’s demands continued. We tucked it away. Family and friends who knew what had happened reached out to us in the weeks following, letting us know that they were praying, offering to do whatever they could. But gradually (and mercifully, If I’m honest about how we felt), texts and calls stopped coming, and people quit bringing it up. And we were almost thankful that they did because we had to keep moving forward.
I held onto this mindset of, “Ya can’t change it. Buck up, sister.” But I think in our haste not to wallow, we never truly grieved the loss of our baby we prayed so hard and so long for. I questioned God’s motives, and I questioned my motives. I worried that I didn’t pray for my baby in the right way – that somehow my motives hadn’t been what God had wanted them to be. That I had wanted it too much. I couldn’t understand why babies are born every day to situations where they are unwanted or unloved, and there we were – begging God and so ready to give this child an unbelievable amount of love – but our precious “bean” was taken from us before we had the chance to hold him or her. But we kept it private because, for some reason, that’s what people do. We grieved in our own ways, kept the grief from each other (trying not to bring it up and hurt the other), and ultimately, we just stayed quiet about our pain. We declined help, meals, and sympathy in order to move on from it quicker. On the “other side” now looking back, I feel like I can see where we transitioned through the different phases of our grief without putting any name to it or realizing what it was.
1) Initially, it was the shock of loss. It’s going from, quite literally, the highest you’ve ever been – to the lowest you’ve ever been in the blink of an eye. It’s grieving the loss of someone you were never able to meet – a life that was never able to be lived (and in my ways, this is the most painful aspect). There’s no easy way to understand that, and there’s no simple way to wrap your mind around it. This, coupled with a body that very much still felt pregnant, I’m understating it when I say it was a dark time in our home.
2) Not soon after, it was the hurt of what could have been. It was after the shock and desperation of trying to hold onto our child, that the realization of the precious soul that he or she was on this earth grabbed hold of me. I wanted so desperately to know the sweet little person we had lost. I wanted to know who he or she would have grown up to be. We grieved the loss of a once-in-a-lifetime soul that we’d never know. It was in this phase that I wanted the world to stop and grieve with us, and because it didn’t, I stayed home as much as possible. I didn’t want to see happy families and sweet babies. I didn’t want to be reminded of what we’d lost.
3) Anger followed. What I believed to be righteous anger. I was angry at God for allowing me the hope of a child. I was angry that He answered our prayer to then take it away. I was angry at myself for drinking a cup of coffee that morning. I was angry that friends posted photos to social media of their beautiful babies. I was angry at my husband for not grieving the same way as me. I was angry that I was bitter. I was angry at the world for moving on.
Ironically, the most painful thing in my life is what I now believe God is asking me to boldly step onto the battlefield of. Here’s what I want to share. Whether you are going through, have just gone through, or went through a miscarriage in the past – if you don’t take the time to grieve and heal now, the pain and the hurt will eventually overwhelm you, your spouse, and/or your marriage. My husband and I felt isolated and alone, and we didn't know HOW or who to reach out to. Without fail, mid October always rolls around – the due date of our sweet baby. What would have been our child’s joy-filled welcome into this world. And with every year that passes, I’m finding that the hurt takes new forms, but never goes away. So doesn’t it seem absolutely ridiculous that we keep it all to ourselves? That we stay silent because others do? That we minimize our loss because not everyone understands it? That we reject help because we want to be “strong”? That we think others don’t care because not everyone has the right words? That we hurt alone instead of rallying next to one another with hands held tight and eyes fixed on Heaven – I hear you. I know you. I am here, and I know your pain. Let me pray with you. Let me sit with you. Let me encourage you. Let me help you.
If I’ve seen one commonality in the families that I know who have also miscarried, it’s this – Why did God allow my baby to be taken? It’s virtually impossible with broken hearts to see how God could use something so tragic for something good…or why He would even want to. I’ll be honest, it took time and many, many reminders from our church family to point us back to a much-needed truth. God did not will for us to lose our baby. We live in a broken world, and unfortunately death is a part of it. Satan is daily out to “steal, kill, and destroy,” and with a miscarriage – he can do all three in one quick swipe. But that doesn’t mean we have to let him continue. We have to keep our eyes open to the ways in which Satan can deceive us, and our gaze fixed on the finish line of this life. Here is a truth – our God is a God that will not let us walk through trial without great purpose. Our God is an infinitely good God, who seeks nothing but the best life for His children. But too, the Lord tells us, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9). I think that it is in our seeking to understand as God understands, that we can become our most bitter. God’s wisdom far exceeds our human minds, and if we believe in Him like we say we do, we will find peace in knowing He has a plan far better than we could think up on our own. A good, good plan.
Looking back, I can see how I let Satan continue to steal, kill, and destroy within my life because I held onto my anger and doubt, and lost sight of my goal in this life – to bring glory to the Father, in and through ANY circumstance. I was only seeing our miscarriage as God refusing to intervene, fating my baby to die so that possibly something good could come out of it. And it’s only now that I can see that God was with me, holding me in His arms, and with tears, gently whispering to me, “I love you so much, and My heart is broken. I promise you, I have not left your side. I have a good plan for your life, and this is not the end! I am fighting for you, and have so much good set aside for you. Trust in Me.”
Here is what I learned when I stopped being so angry and opened myself up to healing. This is what I want you to know.
A life has not been lost. While we may not be able to see our sweet babies and give them all the hugs and kisses that we’d like, find comfort in the fact that you are still that sweet little one’s mom or dad. You are still the parent to a beautiful, precious baby in Heaven. Please don’t write this off or minimize this truth. Our time on this earth is so fleeting, but your little one is waiting for you in eternity. Hold on to this. Say it aloud. It’s not a myth or something people say to make you feel better. You WILL meet that precious soul one day. Know it to be true.
A past bride turned dear friend, Rachel, messaged me after our loss with words I will never forget – words that brought such comfort and healing to my broken heart:
“Be patient with your healing and don’t be surprised when things sneak up on you… I get hit with sadness at times I’m not expecting, and yet most of the time he brings me joy. The only thing anyone said to me that made me feel even a little better was from my spiritual director. She reminded me that our souls are eternal, and so our Georgie is not really lost. He’s living in Heaven, where we all hope to be one day, and so I can talk to him and sing to him and ask him to pray for me, and for others. Nothing is lost. He’s still my baby, and I’m still his mama. Nothing is lost.”
Nothing is lost. With tears in my eyes, I’m typing to tell you that the life of my child has not been lost, and in that I find so much joy. My child never had to experience the pain of this world, and instead went straight into the Father’s arms.
While God didn’t cause the loss of our child, He can and will use it for good if I allow Him. I look back on that dark time in our lives, and I can see now how God has been shaping and refining me through all of it – despite me doing my very best to mess it up. He has been slowly speaking truth to me and gradually, day by day, placing this desire in my heart. Opening my eyes to a battlefield right in front of me…laying this mission on my heart. A mission to help others who are hurting and grieving the loss of a precious life unlived. A mission to rally the hurting hearts next to one another, so we can carry each other and point each other back to this truth.
This is where STILL comes in. Our desire is that we can be a place of vulnerability, support, prayer, and encouragement to those walking in the unique grief of a miscarriage, early infant loss, abortion, or stillbirth. If you're still reading and are in this season, please reach out <3 We have a team of volunteers ready to walk alongside you, provide encouraging resources, pray with and for you, provide meals, and offer emotional support and counsel during your time of grief.