Thursday, June 19, 2014

Room In The Psalms

I read a book recently in which the main character was a piano student. Her teacher forced her to learn hymns so that the words would be rooted deep in her heart for use at an appropriate time. The girl became a prodigal daughter of sorts and through her wanderings, her mistakes, and her pain, those words would spring up in her head and she couldn't push them out. They flooded her rebellious and hurting heart with Truth.

I totally get it. Music permeates - it has a way of getting right to one's soul, cutting out the superfluous. It has been doing this to me lately, and I admit I don't always like it.

Singing on the worship team at my church is a privilege and something I really enjoy. But it is not always easy to get up week after week and sing songs. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it and I love Jesus - I feel called to proclaim the Gospel to people in this way and wouldn't change it. But oh, there are days when it is tough.

Within two weeks of losing our first baby I was back there, standing in front of my brothers and sisters in Christ, singing. Some days it's hard to get the words out. 

There was one Sunday, I believe after our second loss, I cried during a song we were singing in the choir. And let me tell you, there are few things more miserable than crying on stage and not being able to do anything about it. That song spoke to my broken heart.

There are also Sundays where those songs are a balm, a banner over me, promises from God. Those days the songs are my hope and I cling to those words of encouragement. Those days the songs are reminders of God's provision and his love, that He is able to do immeasurably more than what we ask. And those are great Sundays!

Then there are Sundays, like Mother's Day, when I just don't even go there. I give myself some grace and don't sing.

Lately, I have been surprised by my emotions. At my last counseling session, after we had talked about several things, my therapist asked me how my heart was doing. As I answered I began to cry - I had been forced to show my cards. Then at my MEND meeting last night I was an absolute mess. I see that under the surface, the waters of my heart are murky and unsettled. I have been doing a bit of treading water - keeping my head above what is below. I have been doing well, really, but I think I have been neglecting the tough stuff a bit too much. My due date for our second baby is June 30th. Father's Day was this month. We are close to getting more medical testing done. Sometimes our story is overwhelming to me. There's the waiting. My hope is a bit deflated. And there's the longing.

Then tonight. Tonight we rehearsed for this Sunday morning, a day I have already been expecting to be more emotionally challenging than most. We sang those Jesus songs. And I felt like I was singing the words but crossing my arms, not wanting to hear them.

"The enemy, he has to leave. At the sound of Your great name."

Yeah. Yeah. Seems to me like the enemy is not leaving. Seems to me like he is camping out at my house, having a flipping hay day. 

Bratty, I know. Hearing truth, but not wanting to hear it, because really I wasn't feeling it. Internally I was covering my ears and shaking my head, working to drown out the noise of the words that felt a bit like a personal affront.

But those words. They permeate. I can't sing them and not think about at least some of them, even though I might not want to. The truth is God is Redeemer, He is Healer, He is our Savior, Defender, Lord Almighty. I know that even when I might not feel it, He is

Later in rehearsal we sang another song with a line that said,

"[He] knocks outside my broken heart till I let Him inside."

That's it. The words pierced again. There He is. Knocking. In my heartbroken state, He is knocking. Waiting. Even in my anger, even when my flesh screams that it's not fair. Even when I shake my head at those words, not wanting to hear them. He is knocking on my broken heart.

And I have to decide. Even though I have no guarantees that things will go my way, do I let Him in? Or do I only open the door when there is a celebration going on inside? Is He allowed to come in only on those days? Or is He allowed to come in when my house is a wreck and my face is tear-stained and I might be angry? I don't think God walks in and pretends like the pain is gone, forcing us to move on to other things. I think He comes into the living room, sits down on the couch and grieves with us. He knows there is a time to mourn and a time to dance. He is our comforter. Because even when I might not feel it, He is. 

When I don't let Him in, He is still there, waiting. And when I let Him in, He gives me space. He gives me room to lament. I may not always feel like singing those songs, but He understands that. As Sarah Bessey says, "There is room in the Psalms for your grief." God is near to the broken-hearted. The celebratory days are good, but the other days - that's when the hard work gets done. That's when the words can really pierce the heart and force us to examine ourselves. The words can wash over us and speak Truth. That's when we hear God knocking, waiting. That's when we have to make a decision.

I may not always feel like singing the songs, but I think that is when I need to sing them the most. 

~Kathryn

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Days For Moms and Dads

Dear Mr. Hallmark,


I am writing to you from heaven,
and though it must appear
A rather strange idea,
I see everything from here.
I just popped in to visit,
your stores to find a card
A card of love for my mother,
as this day for her is hard.
There must be some mistake I thought,
every card you could imagine
Except I could not find a card,
from a child who lives in heaven.
She is still a mother too,
no matter where I reside
I had to leave, she understands,
but oh the tears she’s cried.
I thought that if I wrote you,
that you would come to know
That though I live in heaven now,
I still love my mother so.
She talks with me, and dreams with me;
we still share laughter too,
Memories our way of speaking now,
would you see what you could do?
My mother carries me in her heart,
her tears she hides from sight.
She writes poems to honor me,
sometimes far into the night.
She plants flowers in my garden,
there my living memory dwells

She writes to other grieving parents,
trying to ease their pain as well.
So you see Mr. Hallmark,
though I no longer live on earth
I must find a way,
to remind her of her wondrous worth
She needs to be honored,
and remembered too
Just as the children of earth will do.
Thank you Mr. Hallmark,
I know you’ll do your best
I have done all I can do;
to you I’ll leave the rest.
Find a way to tell her,
how much she means to me
Until I can do it for myself,
when she joins me in eternity.
~Jody Seilheimer
Shortly after Karlie became a part of our family, Mother's Day had a new layer of sweetness for me, and for that I am so thankful. Then in 2013, shortly after the loss of our first baby, the sweetness of Mother's Day was tempered by the bitter. The rawness of aching over a life lost, the longing to have a little one to hold, and the celebration by so many who already have achieved this was all so very loud. This year, with two more babies in heaven, I admit there was a part of me that wanted to crawl into a hole and wait for the day to be over. I also know there are others who are aching for their mothers and still others whose memories of their mothers conjure painful emotions.

And then this weekend is Father's Day, and I know we will celebrate with Karlie, but my hubby is also the daddy to three little ones in heaven. For me, I was so incredibly touched by the amount of people who reached out to me and told me they were thinking of me on Mother's Day, so let's not forget the dads! If there is someone you are thinking about right now, reach out to that person! Rarely do we ever regret sharing how much someone else means to us. You can send a text or message, or even a card. Our M.E.N.D group was sweet enough to give us a rose for Mother's Day and Father's Day, and there are other ideas on our Hannah's Hope website.


As the poem above mentioned, you may find it hard to say exactly what you want on Father's Day. Since it's 2014 and things are all technologically advanced, you can now create your own cards online. Here is an example of one I made from Treat Greeting Cards. Here's the front:

And here's the inside text (I filtered in on insta):


Okay, so if I was actually going to send it to Mark I would be more personal because he is my husband. Ha. But, you get the point - if you don't see the perfect card in a store you can create one yourself. (-:

Let's use these holidays as ways to shower hurting people with love! I know sometimes it's easy to talk ourselves out of reaching out to others and sometimes we feel like we don't know what to say or don't want to say the wrong thing. A simple "I'm praying for you today and thinking about you on Father's Day" works just fine. Acknowledging parents of babies in heaven as moms and dads can mean so much to them. Shauna Niequist says it well when she says: When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. I don't know about you guys, but I'm all for that!

So, Happy Father's Day and Happy (belated) Mother's Day to you!

~Kathryn

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Peace and Quiet

Peace and quiet, hand in hand. Companions.
Working in the yard. Flowers and vegetables and thoughts. Peace and quiet. 
Peace and Quiet. Uninterrupted sleep until the alarm sounds.
Car rides around town, conversation and music. Peace and Quiet.
Dinnertime. Peace and Quiet. Clanking silverware, conversation. 
Evenings without plans. What to do? Peace and quiet.

It’s funny how quiet can be so loud. Quiet is loud when you know something is missing. 
When quiet is an adversary of peace. When things should look differently.

Working in the yard. Cooing and laughing, distracting the gardeners.
Sleep. Short increments. Always interrupted. 
Car rides around town. Crying until sleep sets in. The same song over and over.
Dinnertime. Food thrown on the table, meltdowns inevitable.
Evenings without plans. Bathtime. Books. Exhaustion. 

Sometimes quiet speaks for itself. 

Yearning for noise and what’s missing today. 

~K

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Seasons


This is a season. 

I heard the words quietly whispered to my heart. I was unsure where they came from, but as they washed over my soul in the way only words from the Holy Spirit can, I knew. With a heavy heart and no words to pray, I was wandering through my neighborhood with my poodle as my companion. Tears were in my eyes as I asked Jesus to intercede for me, as I was out of prayers.


It was the end of October, and I had not yet discovered the fall palette with which our Creator had begun to experiment on the trees. Coming around the corner toward our house, I saw it. I saw the colors, one yellow tree in particular. This season is striking - the golds and reds, just beginning to be brushed onto some trees, other trees already surrendering. It was then that I heard the hushed voice.

This is a season.

My heart became full as I began meditating on the seasons in that moment and in the days that followed. The leaves, the trees, the wind, the cold, the new growth. There are some trees that change at the first blast of cold air. They don't hesitate - they are happy to give a burst of color at the first sign of a new season, and the leaves are equally prepared to leap from the branches and fall to the ground in a swirl of color. These trees are proud to be the first- the first to change, the first to empty, the first to be ready for winter and new buds.

But there are some trees that are in no hurry. Stubborn trees. Only a few leaves change for what seems like forever. These trees are still a deep spring emerald with just the edges giving in to the change of fall. These trees compete to be the last - the last to change, the last to empty, the last to be ready for winter and new buds.


We sit and anticipate as the days go by. We expectantly keep a watchful eye, waiting to see the brilliant display of change and the new season. Sometimes it is weeks after the first trees have long been emptied before the reluctant trees surrender. The colors take our breath away. The wind conquers the last few leaves that were holding on to the nearly bare branches and they finally fall.

This is a season.

This simple phrase has been a balm to my heart. There are some trees in my life that are so stubborn. The leaves are hanging on with everything they can muster, not ready to change or let go. I sit while prayerfully and expectantly looking for signs of change. I know that even though they are determined, the season will change. The cold air will force the leaves to color, and they will not be able to withstand the wind.



Seasons in life do not adhere to the same time table as the trees. Life seasons can last months or years instead of days or weeks. But I am encouraged and confident to know that the seasons will change.

This fall, the trees seem to be putting on an exceptionally rich display. I am grateful that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and for a moment lifted the veil, pointing out the beauty and mercy that is found in the seasons. It has been said that this year the trees are extra beautiful, and I know that part of the reason for this is because God is choosing to pour out his love into my life through His creation. Every day when I see the leaves and their various personalities, I am reminded of that whisper and thankful for a God that loves me so intimately. When you see those trees as I do, beloved, be reminded and encouraged in knowing that God cares about every detail in our lives, and this season will not hang around forever.


The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.  ~Psalm 145:9


~Kathryn

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Remembering

You may or may not know that yesterday, October 15th, was National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day. I had been looking forward to this day for a couple of months - since I found out that my support group (www.mend.org) would be doing a balloon release in memory of our babies on that day. Karlie came down from Shawnee with her boyfriend to participate in the event, and it was really beautiful.

They had lots of balloons ready to go when we got there!



We were given balloons so that we could write messages to send up to our babies. It was very sweet, and also very emotional. Mark started tearing up as soon as he started writing on the balloon.





After we finished writing on our balloons we took a couple pictures before going outside to release them.



When everyone had finished their balloons, we all went outside on the porch and got in a circle. The leader said a prayer of thanksgiving for our babies and then after the prayer ended we all released them. We watched them go up into the sky until we couldn't see them anymore. It was beautiful.



After the release we had our regular meeting, and it was nice to have so many couples with so many different stories. The cool thing about MEND is that it's remarkable to hear how people work through their grief in so many ways. You can see the healing, the redemption, and Jesus all in the midst of the pain. It's really incredible. You are also surrounded by people who understand how it feels to experience a pregnancy loss, and people are open in sharing. It's people loving other people who are experiencing the same walk in life. I can't say enough good things about it! (-:

After our meeting, we went around and looked at the tables. People brought memorabilia for their babies and it was really special to see what everyone brought. I chose one of my ultrasound pictures, a little lamb, and a card saying that a Bible was donated in memory of our baby.


All in all, it was a perfect evening. (-:




~Kathryn

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spring

My therapist shoved a box of tissues at me and encouraged me to cry it out as I confided, "I know in the grand scheme of things that these things are not that big of a deal, but for my life it's a lot."

That particular session I was telling her about a ten day span during which I caused a car wreck ($800), contracted food poisoning, mourned the passing of my aunt (while attempting to comfort my grieving mother), and received a surprise bill in the mail for my D&C to the tune of $1000.

I accepted the kleenexes.

Truth be told, earlier this year I was just coming out of a challenging season for me with some non-family relationships. That, in addition to the everyday challenge of full-time work, full-time grad school, and full-time life, and I was ready for change. I was looking forward to a new chapter in my life when we found out that we were expecting Baby Johnson. All that to say, I was just finishing up licking my wounds when April happened and we lost the baby. It was just too much. Sure, I functioned - I continued with work and school, but I was not doing well at life in general.

I would be a liar if I said everything that has happened over the last seven months has been no big deal. It has been a big deal. Emotionally, I have been wrecked. In May, my anxiety began to spiral. Maybe you have experienced a similar spiral - I think it's somewhat common - and this has been a problem for me throughout my life. Anyway, I knew I needed help. So, I contacted a counselor that I found who specialized in pregnancy loss and seemed to be great fit for me. The weekend after I contacted her, we were robbed. Because, of course. Icing on the cake.

And so for the past few months, I have been sitting on a couch, nervous because of the unfortunate stigma of counseling, but leaving each session feeling empowered because I am dealing with my "stuff" and confident that things can and will change.

I have been learning to validate my feelings. It's normal that I have feelings of sadness when I see babies. It's normal to be frustrated each month when there is only one line on the stick. It's okay that when I hear a strange noise in the dark that my initial reaction is to want to start sobbing and running away. I don't have to have it all together all the time.

I don't have to have it all together all the time.

And you know what? It's so freeing. It is so freeing to know what when I have a less than stellar internal response to yet another pregnancy announcement, I can validate my own loss and why I am feeling that way, and work on being happy and joyful with that person. It's freeing that if I need a minute to be sad and re-goup, I can do that. It's freeing to know that my exaggerated responses of fear when I am around a person or situation that makes me uneasy are completely normal for someone who has been a victim of an armed robbery. I don't have to pretend like I have it together all the time.

I am also learning to take a step back and see this season of my life as a book on my shelf. That way, I see it for what it is. I can take the story of this last season down off the shelf temporarily and look at it, but then I can put it back. It's still there, but I'm not in it. The next book in our shelf may not be a light read, but I pray that is is.

Melodrama is not my goal here. Please don't misunderstand me. I appreciate that horrible things happen every day, and I am so beyond blessed. I don't want to lose that perspective. But I want to be honest -and writing this out is healing for me. And honestly, the fact that I'm to the point of writing about all this is really encouraging to me.

So, what now? Well, I certainly don't plan on wallowing in my circumstances. Do I still grieve for our baby? Absolutely. Am I still nervous to go to a gas station? You betcha. Do I still battle fear and anxiety? Certainly.

However, I am feeling the winds of change. No, I don't know the future, but I know that within my own atmosphere, I am on the cusp. I can feel new life budding. I feel tentative hopefulness. I feel renewed excitement for what is next. I feel like I am being healed. And I feel nervous.

I am wrapping up graduate school this week. I am closing that chapter of our book. Mark received a financial blessing at work this week that covers my hospital bill. The season is changing; I feel as though the fog is lifting. And for that I am so very, very thankful.

I think if I had to pick one particular song that summed up this season, it would be this one. I have sang this song countless times in my car. I have cried tears with this song. It has been a balm to my soul in the midst of my pain and uncertainty to know that God is constant. None of my circumstances change the fact that God is good - I can only control my response.  I have learned that my responses need work, which is very humbling.



And now, I just blogged. I can't promise that I'm completely back yet, but I felt like writing. And that's a good thing.

~Kathryn

Monday, September 2, 2013

Well, Hello September!

This month is significant for a couple of reasons. I can now officially say that NEXT MONTH I will be done with grad school. Um, wow. That is incredible. I can also say that I have less than 40 days until I am done (38 actually, but who's counting?). I have really been thinking about what I want to do when I am done with school, and what I don't want to. I am keenly aware of the amount of time I will have when I am finished, and I want to be intentional with it. I've been working on a list, and I think I may start blogging about my list, as a sort of countdown to the end. (-:

Also, on September 5, there will be a hearing regarding our robbery. I believe this will help determine whether or not the criminals will take a plea deal or if it will go to a jury. Eek! And, potentially, we can get back some of what we lost - it's all the hands of a judge. I had to write a letter about what happened to us because of the crime, and I think I pulled at some heartstrings, but we'll see.

I cannot tell you how excited I am about graduating. It's like surreal. I can't even believe it's happening. I'm starting to have a hint of excitement but I don't want to get too excited in case I fail my last two classes. But you better believe that I'm starting to freak out.

That's about all I have to say for now.

~Kathryn


 
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