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Loving with a Broken Heart

empty table

Loving with a Broken Heart

Living with the echoes of a miscarriage

This post will go live on Valentine’s Day, but it could be written on any random day over the last few months.

I sat this morning, looking at my children, and my heart ached for the baby who’ll never sit in a Bumbo, a child who’ll never have chocolate smeared on her face, a little girl who will never have the chance to forget her Disney Princess lunch bag at school.  Our family of five has a sixth member who we’ll never meet and, on mornings like this, the feelings of loss that have slowly faded to the background of life come rushing forward in a moment that makes me catch my breath.  I miss the baby I never met.

It feels funny to write that last sentence.

(you can read more about how we’ve processed our story here: http://westcoastcm.com/?s=miscarriage)

Before our miscarriage, I could have never understood the way that losing a child hangs with you like a cloud on days like today.  I never understood why parents would buy into the myth that our lost children spend the rest of our days hovering over us as guardian angels.  Now I understand – there are days when it feels like there is literally something hanging over you.  It’s hard to explain.  If my understanding of Scripture and the historical Judeo-Christian understanding of angels didn’t get in the way of this belief, I’d consider buying in.  I blame Hallmark, Precious Moments and It’s a Wonderful Life for making this belief a popular option for mourning families.

For those of us in ministry, we need to go out of our way to make room for families who will find themselves mourning the loss of a child at random times.  If you’ve been impacted by the loss of a child, this isn’t news to you.  However, if you’ve never suffered through a miscarriage, still birth or loss of a young child, I’d encourage you to consider keeping tabs on The STILL Project.

I’d encourage you to watch the trailer below, and to say a prayer today for families who have an empty spot at their table today that could be filled by a child they’ve had to say goodbye to.

So, today, help me leverage our loss for the greater good.  God’s heart is for those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).  Share this post, or the video above.

Point people toward this post: http://meredithannemiller.com/2012/01/09/the-world-has-stopped/

Or read and share this post: http://www.lauraziesel.com/2011/12/miscarriage-fertility-and-my-broken.html

Or share your story.  Our communities need to speak openly about this topic.

Today, I’ll keep loving my wife and my kids, even as my heart breaks.  I’ll pick up my son from school.  Help coach a T-Ball team.  We’ll cuddle on the sofa later and watch Charlie Brown movies together.  The echoes of our miscarriage still bounce off the walls of my heart sometimes.

Thanks for listening in with me.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Importance of Sharing

The Importance of Sharing

Believing in a God who rescues

A few weeks back, I was given the opportunity to preach at all four of our church’s weekend services.  We were between sermon series at the time, so I had the chance to choose what my message would focus on and what text our congregation would reflect on.  If you have 30 minutes, you might want to check out that sermon by downloading it here: In the Image of Dad.

When given the chance to share my heart, I felt the need to share my belief and hope that God rescues us when we cry out to Him and, that in the midst of our cries, He rescues those around us as well.

In Need of Rescue

I’ve tried to be transparent about the miscarriage that my wife and I experienced last year and have written about what it’s like to go through that loss as a parent, as a father and as someone in professional ministry (A collection of those posts can be found HERE).  I think my hope, in sharing that story in written form and through spoken word, was that God would redeem that story and bring hope where there was only pain.  Reflecting on things, I think I also shared that story with the assumption that it would be the last thing that God would have to rescue me from.

I write this post today with hands that are shaking.  Yesterday, I stepped out of a meeting to answer a phone call from my wife (we have a policy that, if she calls, I answer – no exceptions) and couldn’t get her to put three words together without bursting into tears.  I left the office and ran home to check on her and the kids – I’m not sure what I thought was wrong at home, but I was pretty sure I could fix it.

I’m good at fixing things.

The things you can’t fix

The longer I’m married, the more I realize that I can’t fix everything.  There are days when you wake up in need of rescue and find yourself in the same place when the sun sets that same day.  In life, there are days of “in between” when you feel helpless and vulnerable.  Sometimes you feel like you’re in the belly of a great fish, sometimes you feel like a giant stone has been rolled between you and your Creator, and sometimes you simply lay in bed at night unable to sleep because (as much as you know you’re not supposed to) you worry about something that you have no control over.

Yesterday, my wife and I were told that blood work that was done last week has come back with markers that show that our baby, now in the second trimester, might not be as healthy as we had hoped.  Because we believe in the power of prayer and in a deep call to living in community, we sent this message out last night to our closest circle of friends:

We just got a call that the second trimester genetic screening blood test indicated that we are considered high-risk and should be offered both genetic counseling and an appointment with a high-risk OB. The test is not diagnostic for any certain problem, but we have been offered further testing to determine if a genetic disorder or other problem exists. The baby can still be absolutely fine. We are choosing to discuss the results with a counselor and have a full ultrasound done this week, our appointments are on Wednesday afternoon.
We believe in doing life in community so we will be making this public knowledge and asking for prayer… Please [pray] for the health of Baby Nutmeg and that we won’t be overwhelmed with worry between now and Wednesday. Thanks so much!

The Importance of Sharing

Sharing has never been easy for me.  I was the kid who stole toys from kindergarten because I didn’t want other kids to play with them.  I’m the kid who went to a counselor in High School and spent an entire session refusing to speak.  I’m the one who sits with the TV remote next to me so that I can control the fast-forward button during commercial breaks.  Sharing means giving up control – and I like control.

Friends, though it’s not my knee jerk reaction to share, I believe with all of my heart that God’s people are called to share their story with others.  When we call out for help, I believe that God comes to our rescue and that, in the midst of rescuing us, that others come to know Him.

In this season of worry, pain, grief, anxiety, nervousness and heartache, my wife and I take comfort in knowing that God writes a better story than we could ever dream of.  Please, during the next few days/weeks/months join us in praying for the health of our baby (“Baby Nutmeg”).  And, while you’re at it, pray that God might use our story in a way that leads others to the Hope we have in a God who rescues.

Today is a hard day.

This is why we don’t do life alone.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2012 in Thoughts

 

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The Painful Act of Letting Go

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A Painful Goodbye

This weekend, we honored the day we had hoped to meet our Baby Tiny.

Instead of holding her in our arms, we cut the band I’ve been wearing to remember our loss and took steps forward into the unknown of what comes next.

I’ll be posting later this week about what that moment looked like for us and how we’ll continue to remember the baby we won’t meet on this side of Heaven.

Thank you all for your prayers during this week.  We continue to feel your love and support.
Thanks for being with us during our journey.

To read more about our journey through our miscarriage and ministering in the midst of it, check out this post:

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/the-lingering-pain-of-loss/

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2012 in Thoughts

 

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The Lingering Pain of Loss

The Lingering Pain of Loss

Ministering in the midst of brokenness

I place a high value on authenticity and transparency in leadership.  With that in mind, I’m going to lay some stuff out there that some in ministry circles might cringe at.  I apologize in advance.

Church leaders are just like you.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Just. Like. You.

We have struggles and hurts and brokenness.  When you see us on Sunday, we aren’t serving the church because we have it all together – we’re serving because we’ve submitted our broken and imperfect lives to something bigger than ourselves and the call on our lives is something that exists in spite of, in the midst of, and even through our imperfections.

—-

“One of our friends needs to have a baby…”

I was sitting in a car on the way to lunch this week when one of my friends dropped a seemingly harmless thought into conversation.  As I sunk deeply into my seat, he continued to talk and think out loud about how much fun it is to go through the holidays with pregnancy stories and how our circle of friends needs someone who will bring up the stories of helplessness that are associated with trying to care for a newborn.

It was just a few months ago when we were that family.  Just before our nation’s birthday, we had news to share of another coming birthday – my wife and I found out that we were expecting another child.  We were ready to welcome a new baby into the world.  A baby that might might grow to love the color green or have a passion for cartwheels or desire to one day be an amazing stay-at-home mom like the one that she was going to grow up with.  Then, on a Sunday morning, when I was getting ready to take a bunch of kids on a week-long adventure to summer camp, my wife came to me crying.  She was bleeding and frightened and scared that she may have lost our baby – and I had to keep our Sunday programs running.

Life happens.  Even on Sundays.

We came out of that scare with hope that the baby was fine.  Our doctors and nurses seemed to think that the episode was just a hiccup in the pregnancy and that we’d still deliver just fine.  And yet, a few months later, we received the news that we had prayed against – our baby was gone.  We weren’t going to have a chance to meet her on this side of Heaven.

We were crushed.

“If you could ask God one question, what would it be?”

We were sitting in our living room a few days ago when my son began pondering this question.  He decided that he’d ask if he was going to get to see Baby Tiny in Heaven.

Months have passed and yet time is moving slowly for my family.  Carter still draws pictures of the baby he’ll never meet.  Christine stands in the kitchen and stares off into the distance and holds her now empty tummy.  Kate continues to grow and continues to dance in slow motion.  And then there’s me.  I keep standing in front of crowds of people on Sunday mornings and at conferences to tell them that parenting is hard and marriage is hard – so we shouldn’t do them alone… we need to be part of a family that’s bigger than the walls of our home and a church that’s bigger than the walls of the sanctuary.  I get to tell kids that God is with them in hard times and that he writes a better story than we could ever imagine.

Yet, for the last few weeks, I’ve avoided checking in on our nursery team on Sundays.  I can’t even walk into the room.  I’m broken.

—-

The funny thing about loss is that it lingers.  Knee surgeries give you a limp – people can see the scars and have visual reminders of your story.  Losing a baby is different – there’s now a nothingness that sits at the dinner table with us, is in the corner of our family pictures and continues to draw hits to a video we posted on youtube to announce the news of our pregnancy.

If I didn’t tell our story, we’d be the only ones who knew that nothingness even existed.  And, here’s the thing, we’re not alone in dealing with our loss.  Because we’ve been transparent and we’ve told our story, we have a community that understands.

And so, on days like today, our story continues moving forward.  We eat goldfish crackers, build LEGO creations, shop for eyeliner and fill the refrigerator with new groceries.  Life, at times, is hard – that’s why we don’t do it alone.

Thanks for being a part of our story.

for other posts related to our journey though miscarriage, check out

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/losing-baby-tiny/

https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/saying-goodbye-to-baby-tiny/

 

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2011 in Thoughts

 

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Saying Goodbye to Baby Tiny

The Art of Honoring a Miscarriage

I once heard it said that married people don’t just wake up one day and wonder if they’re really married.  A person might wake up and have all sorts of questions about being married to the person with morning breath laying next to them, but it’s a rare case to hear of a couple who woke up and felt the need to rush to the courthouse for fear that their wedding and subsequent marriage possibly didn’t count.  The argument goes, as I once heard it, that our culture celebrates weddings and marriage in such a way that it’s hard to doubt whether or not a couple’s wedding was good enough for the couple to count as being married.  We might not do a great job of fighting for those marriages to work, but most everyone loves a good wedding.

However, since my wife and I experienced a miscarriage last week, I’ve met many other couples who have also experienced a miscarriage – many of them who feel like a miscarriage is something that hides in the shadows of their family history and rarely gets talked about.  I’ve met moms and dads along the way who wonder if that little baby who once lived at the center of their lives actually counted for anything.  I was given a handwritten note from an anonymous couple at my church who have experienced over a dozen miscarriages during the last 3 years and are still struggling to tell their friends and family that they’re even beginning to try to have children.  Somehow, our culture has built a culture of shame and misinformation about miscarriages that has left many couples feeling as though they are alone and wondering if the life of their baby is something worth grieving and, if so, how they should go about honoring that child.

What I’m about to offer is not a how-to guide, it’s simply the story of how our family chose to say goodbye to Baby Tiny.  We felt like we needed to honor the child that God had given us, even if we never had the chance to hold her – I didn’t want to wake up one day, 7 years from now, and wonder if that baby counted.  It’s hard for a story to be redeemed if that story goes untold – and, because we hold fast to the belief in a God who writes a good story, we wanted to share this chapter of ours with you.

Because we live in Southern California, we made a drive down to a secluded little beach just north of San Diego for a chance to say goodbye to Baby Tiny.

Our friends, Jim and Yo, along with their children and my wife’s sister, joined us for a time to honor our baby and remember the hopes and dreams that we now had to let go of.

Each family member was given a handmade Lei to release into the ocean in remembrance of Baby Tiny.  (Kate, in true Kate fashion, didn’t want to let go of her Lei because it made her feel like a princess.  So, she wore it during our little makeshift ceremony)

 

The Lei represents “Aloha” and love – placing ours in the Pacific was a chance for us to say goodbye to our loved one until, as our 4-year-old Carter reminds us daily, we meet Baby Tiny one day in Heaven.

We watched in silence as the waves began to carry each of our flowers out to sea.

As a family, we each prayed for our little one and for each other.  That God would draw near to us and help us not forget how much we loved Baby Tiny.

As my wife and I have mourned the death of Baby Tiny, I’ve been surrounded with a community who is willing to mourn with us.  I cannot begin to put into words how grateful I am for the ways in which our local church community, as well as the global #kidmin community, has surrounded us in prayers and kind words – thanks, friends.

It’s good to know we’re not alone.

And it’s good to know that Baby Tiny isn’t alone either.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Thoughts

 

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Losing Baby Tiny

There aren’t words that can fully express the sadness that comes with the news of a miscarriage.

I’ve known this to be true for years – in ministering to families, I’ve walked alongside (what feels like) too many families who have had to mourn the death of their unborn child(ren).

Those words were never more true to me than they are now.

On Wednesday morning, my wife and I were given the news that no parents want to hear during a regularly scheduled doctor’s appointment – our nurse was unable to find the heartbeat of our unborn child, Baby Tiny – we had experienced a miscarriage and our baby had died.  The rest of that day is a whirlwind of sadness and confusion – and, days later, we’re still processing what just happened.

So, today, I thought I’d put some words down to help me process and to share a little about our experience for the many others out there who are going through, or have gone through, a miscarriage.

Mourning in Community

When Christine and I first discovered that we were pregnant, we had a question to answer – when do we tell people that we’re expecting?  We decided, as many of you know, to share our news in a fast and furious fashion (see our video here).  If the worst were to happen, we discussed at the time, we’d rather mourn in community than feel as though we were alone.

Now, 2 months later, we are faced with the reality that we now have a lot of people that we need to share our not-so-great news with… and, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  As hard as it is, the fact that we’ve had a community of friends to rally around us during our sadness has far outweighed the negative aspects of telling people the sad news.  Our closest friends spent the first evening with us and brought us all of our favorite comfort foods.  We sat around, crying a bit, laughing a bunch and just talking about life together.

Had we waited until later in the pregnancy to share our news with everyone, we would have missed out on that time we were able to spend together – I’d be willing to bet that the friends who were with us on that night will be in our lives for a long time… mourning together tends to grow people closer together.

Bad news never travels fast enough

Nobody likes sharing bad news.  People don’t like hearing it either.  That’s why I think people feel the need to turn bad news into good news.  In telling people about our miscarriage, I’ve noticed that most people try to put their own spin on the news.

“At least it happened early in the pregnancy.”

“Well, you’re young and can still try again.”

“You already have 2 kids… that’s something to celebrate!”

“I don’t know how to keep my mouth shut, so I’m going to just start talking.”

Okay… nobody actually has said that last one.  But, it’s kind of at the core of most people’s response to the news.  Everyone feels like they need to turn the bad news into not-so-bad news, so they try to spin things to lessen the sadness in the room.

I write all of that to say this – if someone tells you bad news, just listen.  And, if you have sad news to share, please know that even the nicest person can say hurtful and stupid things in the midst of sadness – please don’t hold it against them.

—-

I know a lot of people who will read this are in ministry.  I’d encourage you to check out an event that one of my ministry friends, Kenny Conley, has put together for his church – Born into Heaven (http://www.childrensministryonline.com/family/born-into-heaven/).

If you’re a friend or family member reading this, you could help us out most by telling one other family our news, and encourage them to do the same.  We’re a little nervous about church this weekend and having to tell and re-tell our news to each person we see (I’m trying to figure out how to tell a couple hundred kids who love and pray for my family about what happened) – it would be helpful if you helped spread the news.  If you don’t know how, just tell them the basics and send them to this post.

I think what I’m most sad about is that I won’t get to ever know what kind of kid Baby Tiny would have been.  Would he have his brother’s need for structure and love for Lego Star Wars?  Would she show no fear around a swimming pool like her sister and have a passion for destroying her brother’s Lego towers?  In mourning the loss of our baby, I’m forced to also mourn the loss of my hopes and dreams that I had for her (I had been hoping for a girl, btw).  That seems like it’s the saddest part.

We’ll spend part of today at the beach putting together a little ceremony for Baby Tiny.
I’ll share pictures and more about that ceremony sometime next week.

Thanks, in advance, for your prayers.  We know that we’re not alone – and we appreciate the support.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Thoughts

 

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