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They Matter

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Facebook reminds me of this, and friends post their words on this, and stories flood back to me, and my heart grows heavy. I wrestle the with words I long to share, swirling inside of me, as my own darlings yell and fight over Saturday chores outside of my bedroom door.

Sitting in the space of pregnancy loss is uncomfortable. Something about the way it appears we had and have control over getting or not getting pregnant causes rationalization and hasty statements to make sense of the senseless. We want to push ahead to the but then this happened and look at how everything turned out just fine. In fact, if I hadn’t lost x then I wouldn’t have y.

And yet, x mattered, too. Every moment of x. The days written for x were x’s days to be, and I think we lose something if we leave x behind in the dust and ashes of rationalization and spiritualization. We cheapen all things working together for good when we fail to acknowledge all that is not as is should be. Working together for good and good are not the same.

First, there is grief and loss. Those things are not good.

I remember each pregnancy test I took. I can still feel the edginess of ambivalence, wondering if I really wanted to know, wondering if my life was about to change ~ again, wondering how I would break the news ~ again.

To write this from a place of eight pregnancies carried to term with relatively little complication is not meant to be insensitive to those who have struggled or never have or never will. There are pieces still in process in my story. I have struggled deeply. More than I am ready to share with the world today.

It is to say, I know the strong, life-changing feelings that occur simply by anticipating peeing on a stick (or in a cup as it was once-upon-a-time when pregnancy tests were more like chemistry sets!). I know the panic that blood during pregnancy brings. I have been there.

Knowing that blood equaled loss in my mother’s story, I thought it would be the same in mine, and prepared to lose my first dream, weeks into my marriage.

As it turned out, that first child has always been strong and made us well aware of her presence with the sound of a heartbeat, earlier than was supposed to be possible, according to the midwife. Nothing was sweeter and more reassuring than that sound of life galloping away inside of me.

But for a time, I was preparing for loss. I was on the edge of physically and emotionally losing the little one I had dreamed about and hoped for. Even in my ambivalence of newlywedded overwhelm and uncertainty, I wanted that little person so badly.

I wanted every one of them so badly. In the hard places, when I was not sure I was ready, once they were there, I could not imagine them not being. It is why I believe we usually get nine months to prepare. In best-case scenarios.

I have lost siblings to miscarriage. I have watched my mother grieve.

I have sat with women in hard places of loss, hearing heavy words and big feelings. I have held the fragile, lifeless body of my nephew born too soon while the same size of life grew inside of me. I have been unable to be there at times when I wish I could, leaving loved ones to suffer loss in loneliness.

I grieve.

Those little lives mattered. Each one of them. Even the ones that are hard to understand and process and place.

Every day that they lived was the life written for them. They had something to teach us and something to say. I find great comfort in Psalm 139:16, Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Even 49 days matter. Even if another child is conceived two months after that. A child born after loss does not negate loss.

The secret things belong to the Lord, and there are things we will never understand this side of Heaven. Those who have experienced the profound loss of a child, or the hope of a child, or the death of the dream of a child, or a dream that they had for a child know that there are no easy answers. There is no making sense.

To those who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss, some of you sit in a space of longing for and missing your child, knowing with certainty your story of what was and then was not. Others sit in a place of confusion and conflict, not knowing for sure. I believe it is possible to know deep in your heart what was, even when no empirical evidence exists. Your body knows.

I invite you to consider what was written for you in the life of your child. What did that little one have to say to you? What were you taught through your little one’s days?

Because it matters. They matter.

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13.

Keeping Memories

I don’t think it’s that you have too much stuff. I think it’s that you have a lot of people to keep track of, and so it looks like too much.

These words of wisdom, spoken by my recently graduated high school senior, offered comfort to my heart, as I sat sorting and sorting and SORTING at the dining room table. End of the school year papers, awards, and report cards only scratched the surface. There were bits of art work, creative stories, and pictures in the mix. There were outgrown toys being boxed up and brought down from rooms.

There were my own issues coming into play, surfacing in the midst of the sorting. There was the reality of another year passing and change knocking on the door of my heart, or at least tapping me on the shoulder. There was a deep sense of reminding and remembering.

Once upon a time I dumped my memories into the trash. Boxes containing awards, medals from band and music achievements, childish journals and pictures, scrapbooks, all were cast aside. In their stead, I packed boxes of magazines for the mid-senior-year move that wrenched me 1,100 miles away from all that I knew.

Upon arrival at our new house, I asked when trash day was, so that I could leave the box of magazines on the curb. When packing up the old house, now several states away, mom had to leave her dining room chairs for lack of room on the moving truck, and dad’s tools went like hotcakes at a fire sale. I think we all were in a state of disorganization, shock, and chaos.

Maybe this factors into why my children’s memories are so important to me, and why I find it necessary to save things of perceived meaning. I want them to remember, or at least have the option of remembering. I don’t want to revise, though. Therein lies a bit of tension.

Each child has a clear plastic tote in the basement where items holding memories can be tossed. They also have a binder on a bookshelf with clear page protectors where papers can be inserted. Finally, each has a file folder where I can quickly sort and stash paper items to save for later.

I realize that everything cannot be saved, and I am not an advocate of hoarding. What holds meaning for one child does not for another, so one may have notebooks filled with written stories and hand drawn pictures, while another has objects no longer played with but still special.

Some kids are more sentimental than others.

Here is a list of things that I place value on and often date and save:

  • Creative writing or original stories
  • Hand-drawn pictures, especially “firsts” first drawing of a person or drawing of our family or written name. Usually found on the back of proper school work or on a church bulletin somewhere.
  • Samples from various developmental stages A kindergarten drawing of a family looks different than a third grade drawing, so I might have a sample of both.
  • Places where identity or dreams are processed What I want to be when I grow up. What makes me special now at whatever age I am.
  • Notes from others written to them
  • Words of affirmation
  • School certificates or awards
  • Team pictures
  • Programs or playbills from concerts or performances or recitals they were in
  • Notes written by them to us, even painful ones where they are angry
  • Birthday lists
  • Anything they request that marks a milestone or end of an era One child often asks me to put small items in the memory box that are outgrown, yet meaningful.

There are so many other options, and each family and child is different. I tend towards the tangible rather than the digital, even though I blog and do plenty of work with technology. No, I don’t save everything, and sometimes when going through items, I pare down further, realizing that I was a bit over-the-top.

On this particular sorting day, I processed my workbasket which was piled high with end-of-school-year paper items. Pulling everything out and separating into piles for each child and then into binders and finally onto shelves, the feeling of a slate being clean was very real.

I am ready for fall with the middle schoolers’ elementary items boxed away and the elementary child’s sorted into her binder. The high-school graduate is preparing to move and doing some serious de-cluttering of his own.

Maybe it is the season of mid-life processing that I am entering that calls me to keep memories for those who do not know their value, yet. Maybe it is the reckoning with myself. Whatever it is, by keeping memories for my children, I want to hold for them that who they are is connected to who they were as they grow into who they are becoming.

I also want to get a jump on my mama final exam.

March Goals Post

Another month has come and gone, and it’s time to post an update on the goals.

Here is what March looked like.

  • Spiritual ~ Maintain daily quiet time and prayer, following current Bible reading plan. Journal responses and thoughts that result from that time. Spend time in stillness. Read one faith-based book/month.

I remained on track with Bible reading, pondering places in Deuteronomy, Luke, Psalms, and Proverbs. I have to work on intentionally journaling my thoughts and responses, but a new journal from Coco makes it easier to remember. Stillness is a struggle. My faith-based book this month was unChristian by Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman.

  • Family ~ Connect with Steve intentionally each week on a heart-level. Risk sharing something scary or overwhelming inside of me with him during that time. Connect with at least one child intentionally each week. Keep track. Make the most of one~on~one impromptu moments that arise with the children. Keep track.

This goal still feels ambiguous. I try to connect with Steve on a heart level but timing is not always the best. It is a challenge to know when to work and when to give it a rest and just relax together. I connected with Coco at DQ for a fun time of laughter and eating.

Chloe

We also had a surprise successful shopping trip together that I will grab as a bonus! Roo and I got Shamrock Shakes together on St. Patrick’s Day. Little Mae had a friend over on Good Friday, and the three of us had fun getting pretzels and lemonade at the Dayton Farmer’s Market before returning home to eat lunch, color eggs, and watch Lilo and Stitch.  The boys have been harder to connect with. Rides home from work or trips to the dentist’s office or conversations in my room have had to cut it this month! I hope to have something more concrete to report with them next month.

  • Social ~ Connect with at least one friend for coffee or conversation time each week. Say yes to fun. Make an effort to have people over to the house again starting with once/month. Adult kids and their guests are a bonus and not part of this number!

Steve and I went out with some friends for a fun date night! The following morning, he was my coffee shop date friend. That was fun. I have had regularly scheduled time with friends, both in-house and out. I took Panera broccoli-cheddar soup over for lunch with my grammy one Saturday. The having people over goal morphed into getting invited over to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for Easter dinner. I fully intended to try hosting or mooching my parent’s house to host when my sweet sis suggested we eat at their house. I contributed bagged salad, homemade rolls, and cherry-cappuccino trifle to the feast if that counts! We picked Grammy up and had a wonderful evening together.

food

  • Physical ~ Do 20 minutes of yoga at least five times a week. Longer or more times is a bonus. Improve flexibility in my down dog. Practice presence on the mat. Consider walking Dewey as an opportunity to get exercise and fresh air and not an annoying burden built into my already full day!

I continue to wake early to stretch on the yoga mat. Dewey is being walked regularly in the fresh air and sunshine, though an injury to his kneecap has caused us to adjust this a bit. Longer days and warmer temperatures make evening walks more appealing.

  • Teaching ~ Organize my teaching materials and office space. Write an encouraging note to one student/week recognizing individuality and strengths.

I am working on organization of my materials and office space bit by bit. Several notes have been written. One of the cutest moments was watching one of my first grade boys read his when he didn’t know I could see him. He put it in a special place at his desk, and I see him refer to it often. It is a reminder of the power of an encouraging word at any age. Little people like to be noticed, too!

I am still waiting on the verdict for the LCC and then on making the decision as to whether I will go this year or not. It has been a major source of ambivalence and prayer if those two things can co-exist! I read Dan Allender’s newest book Healing the Wounded Heart this month.

  • Ministry ~ Attend Stephen Ministry meetings regularly. Participate actively. Return to worship team rotation at least once per cycle.

I attended each Stephen Ministry meeting this month and got the bulletin board changed. Sadly, my worship team opportunity was sidelined by illness, and I missed out on my Sunday to sing. The Wednesday night practice was wonderful, though! I also attended March’s Community Worship night. That counts for something, right?

  • Financial ~ Take intentional time with Steve to go over the family finances and budget and grow in understanding of our financial goals together.

This is still a weak area for me, laden with triggers and irrational emotion. Steve kindly collects and enters receipts, but I need to step up more and work on engaging the budget. We attempted a budget conversation the last night of March and hope to connect more regularly about the spending categories and money spent.

  • Writing ~ Schedule intentional time each week to write and work on the blog. Submit one Red Tent post for consideration each month.

I don’t have a set time for writing blog posts, but this month I was able to find time to write and publish 14 posts on the blog, and Red Tent Living published my March submission Like Brown Suede Rental Skates. I received notice that I am on the docket for April, so stay tuned!

There is still some processing to do about how it is for me to write and share these goals posts. Maybe that will happen. Thank you to all who take the time to read and respond with words of encouragement. It means much. Many blessings to you all, Friends!

Committed Spirit

Last week started with a lofty goals post and ended with sex. Both were big draws to the blog. I knew about the goals link-up and had planned on it. It felt good to get some goals down on paper and out there for others to see.

I had not planned the timing of my Red Tent post. A backstory was written to go live whenever it ran, which happened to be Thursday. That was a day full of cyber and real-life engagement.

It started with texts full of kind encouragement. There were questions about how I was feeling. There were likes and comments and shares on Facebook. I was in my classroom, as usual, all day, so I wasn’t following the cyberspace chatter. After work I checked in to find several alerts and comments and even some new Composting the Heart page likes!

Yes, there is a Composting the Heart Facebook page that you can like if you haven’t already!

Far from going viral, it was still my farthest-reaching post, confirming what we already know. Sex sells.

So here I sit at the beginning of a new week, reflecting on all that has happened and all that might come. Big feelings stir inside, and I wonder, Is it worth it? Sharing my goals and hopes and dreams? Risking and writing and opening my heart?

Last Monday morning while reading in Psalm 31, verse 5 gave me pause.

Into your hand I commit my spirit, you have redeemed me O Lord, faithful God.

Often I think of these words in connection with death, not life, because in Luke 23:46, Jesus commits his spirit into his Father’s hands and breathes his last.

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

In David’s context, however, he commits his spirit while he is living. Reading this early Monday morning, caused me to fill with questions that I began to journal.

How do I commit my spirit into your hands, Father?
What is it to trust in your work on my behalf?
How do I rest in the space of un-ease? Unknown?
This looking ahead to dreams and goals and plans feels too big, yet I commit my spirit to your hands. Please show me the way!

I was given a new perspective and visual of handing my spirit to God for safe-keeping, not just in death, but in life. It gave me a renewed sense of peace that God already knows his plans for me and is working them out. Looking back over last week, I was grateful for the reminder when the stirring of unrest began to fill me.

I am still pondering this committing of spirit. Still practicing the trusting. Still learning to rest in the unknown and in the Father’s redemption of my life.

I am still learning to Bless the moments that we feel you nearer.

 

Words

It’s tough to ignore the vexation,
the insults hurled ~
angry words.

A fruit~bearing root is
established,
secure ~
Planted deep, so it cannot be moved.

Healing is brought through the words of the wise ~
they bind wounds that a harsh tongue inflicts.

Good words spoken
Gladden ~
Lighten an anxious heart.

They lead to a pathway of life.

~pondering Proverbs 12~

Woman

Woman,
You’re astounding.
You are humble.
You are wise.

Your heart has been trustworthy.
There is kindness in your eyes.

Woman,
You have studied
to give counsel
and to bless.

Your words have guided many
safely through their painful mess.

Woman,
You’ve been steadfast
to speak truth and
to be kind.

You’ve often given freely
of your treasure and your time.

Woman,
You are weary.
You’ve served others.
You have blessed.

You’ve come upon a season
where your own heart feels pressed.

Woman,
Please be watered.
Please be cared for.
Please take time

To let your loved ones serve you
when your heart does not feel fine.

Woman,
You are precious.
You have flourished.
You’ve borne fruit.

It’s time to step aside to breathe
and rest upon your route.

~inspired by Proverbs 11 and the wise women who have inspired me~

Return to Romans 12

After posting this journal entry written nine years ago, a friend asked what I would change had I written it today. Full of shoulds, I had resisted editing them out.

This is my Return to Romans 12.

It’s hard to present myself as a living sacrifice through the daily offering of my life to God.

It’s easy to sit in the early-morning quiet and ponder the measure of grace I have been given for the tasks I have been called to. Harder is to step out and act on them, viewing the inevitable conflicts and messiness ahead as my reasonable service.

It doesn’t feel reasonable to do laundry, plan meals, clean up dog poop and pee, change small animal bedding, listen to middle-schoolers arguing over preschool toys, watch mail and bills pile up, pack lunches, fix breakfast, mediate arguments, deal with disappointments, find socks, walk the dog, scramble for lost papers and permission slips, pack lunches, figure out the daily school drop off and pick up schedule, spend hours in a classroom, monitor homework, figure out computer time, and do it all again tomorrow.

My desire to conform to the world tells me there must be something more than this. That I have missed out. This feels boring and pointless without a renewed mind that says, You are being transformed!

Being transformed sees my life as full of opportunities to love as Christ, to use my spiritual gifts, and to function as part of his body on earth. It sees these opportunities before me in my home as valid and meaningful.

So in my walking through each day, rather than wallowing in not this again, my cry is, Transform my heart, Lord! It is thinking of myself more highly than I ought to demand that I not bear my part of the broken, the painful, the hard. I am exactly where I need to be to fulfill God’s merciful plan for my life.

Believing this offers rejoicing in hope while practicing patience in tribulation. Instead of wallowing in the dog poop on the floor, I can rejoice that there are no longer poopy diapers! Once upon a time those were my biggest trial.

There will always be a new biggest trial.

My prayer is for a fervent spirit making me diligent about the work I have been called to today. I long to give preference to my family with brotherly love, to distribute to their needs with kindness, to show them hospitality.

If my greatest “tribulations” are a house to care for (shelter), laundry to do (clothing), meals to plan and prepare (food), and a classroom to run (employment), how ungrateful to complain about the blessings in my life. Transform my heart, Father, to see as you see and to receive the good gift of this day from your hand.