Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Power of Choice

Many days I feel like I am in an alternate world. I wake up asking questions like, "What just happened?" "How can this be?" "Is this real life?" The current conditions of my life are not the direction that my life was supposed to go. I sometimes wonder if this loss was just a dream or if even having Quinn was real. This doesn't happen. People don't lose perfectly healthy 4 month old children in an instant. There is a sense of terror in the randomness of it all. I've said it so many times, but this is not fair. I did not choose this for my life, this is not because of a bad decision or a consequence of wrong-doing.

I have recently discovered the power in choices. This circumstance is so random, so final, so tragic that I feel utterly powerless. Having no choice in this situation makes me feel so defenseless.  Yet, there ARE choices that I have found I DO have power over. I can choose to see meaning in suffering. I can choose to be bitter or choose to invest in the lives of others. According to the rest of the world, I have every right to be bitter, angry, and selfish- but those are all choices. I did not choose this for my life, but I can choose how I respond to it.

The last couple of months I have been reading Job. I feel a kindred spirit with him. I understand completely when he says, "Everything I feared and dreaded has happened to me. (Job 3:25)" We both know what it feels like to have everything one moment and have it gone the next. I used to hate how Job seemed like such a pawn to God, but lately I have chosen to be inspired by the choices he made and how his choice mattered. Even when the rug had been pulled out from under him he chose to worship God. Jerry Sittser in A Grace Disguised writes:
               "I trembled before the power of Job's freedom to decide how he was going to respond to his
                suffering. How he exercised that freedom had repercussions even in God's heavenly court,
                where the hosts of heaven, including Almighty God, watched to see how Job's life would turn out.
                Job's choices really mattered to them. He had no idea how far his power reached, but he was not,
                as he was tempted to think, a solitary figure whose decisions counted for nothing... He discovered
                that God is the answer to all his questions, even questions he had not thought to ask. Job learned
                that behind the apparent randomness of life is the existence of God, whose greatness transcended
               Job, but did not nullify the importance of Job's choices."

So what do I choose to do in my life? I choose God and to believe in His promises... that He is good, that He promises to stand by me through it all. That heaven is real and that Quinn is there in the best hands- His hands.  The hands I choose to believe formed her, the hands I believe were pierced at the cross for her and I. I choose to believe that this circumstance is not random but is part of a beautiful tapestry that God is sewing. I choose to believe that even if I can't see His entire plan that His plan is good. These choices are choices I have to daily, even momentarily, choose because most days they don't come easy. But I believe in what Jerry Sittser quotes as "God's transcendent purpose." He uses the story of Joseph, who is sold by his own brothers into slavery but later transcends to become the king's adviser to explain God's purpose:

               "God's transcendent purpose makes Joseph's personal story a part of a much bigger story.
                 Although Joseph suffers at the hands of his brothers, all the while God is planning to use
                Joseph's experience to move his family to Egypt, where they will live and eventually become
                slaves. Then, many years later, they will be led to freedom by Moses, one of the greatest leaders
                in the Jewish religion. Joseph has no idea that his story fits into this larger plot involving thousands
                of people and centuries of history. As it turns out, however, his life does not consist of a
                succession of isolated events randomly strung together but rather of a story with a purpose that he
                does not see and will never entirely understand... The Joseph story helps us to see that our own
                tragedies can be a very bad chapter in a very good book. The terror of randomness is enveloped
                by the mysterious purposes of God."

So tonight, in this moment, I am choosing to see that my life does not consist of a "succession of isolated events randomly strung together but rather of a story with a purpose that I do not see and will never entirely understand". That this season in my life is a very bad chapter in a very good book written long before Quinn was born, long before I was born.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hope in a Hopeless Place

I have had a hard week this week. A week where I can't see any hope in our situation. A week where I want to throw in the towel on taking the high road and I just want to feel sorry for myself. A week where, even though I know the cliche answers- I don't care about them. I want to scream, THIS IS NOT FAIR! We go to Quinn's grave every night and water her grass and I think, "I should be giving her a bath right now, not watering her grave." A week where either Tim or I have cried ourselves to sleep. I am in such a hopeless place: I will never have Quinn back. This pain is not going away. Nothing can fix this. I think of those moments in life where you think, "life doesn't get any better than this" and realize I will never again have one of those moments, because life could be better... if Quinn shared it with me. There are no words to describe how much I miss Quinn, every day more and more. I want to act like the little kid in the store who never got their way and throw a fit... I want Quinn and I want her NOW!

I have also felt that God has not been as near as he was the first weeks. But last night I opened my Bible to read Jeremiah Chapters 29 & 30 and God spoke right to my heart. The following are the verses:

            4 "This is what the Lord, All-Powerful, says to all those people I sent away from Jerusalem as
                 captives to Babylon: 'Build your houses and settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the
                food they grow. Get married and have sons and daughters... Also, do good things for the city
                where I sent you as captives. Pray to the Lord for the city where you are living because if
                good things happen in the city, good things will happen to you too... Babylon will be powerful for
               70 years. After that time I will come to you and I will keep my promise to bring you back to
               Jerusalem. I say this because I know what I am planning for you," says the Lord, "I have good
                plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my
               name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will search for me. And
               when you search for me you will find me. I will let you find me. And I will bring you back from
               captivity. I forced you to leave this place but I will gather you from all nations... At that time I will
               break the yoke from your necks and tear off all the ropes that hold you... So people of Jacob,
               don't be afraid. Israel, don't be frightened. I will soon save you from that faraway place where
               you are captives. I will save your family from that land... I will completely destroy all those nations
               where I scattered you, but I will not completely destroy you. I will punish you fairly, but I will
               still punish you. You people have a wound that cannot be cured, your injury will not heal.... but I
               will bring back your health and heal your injuries... The city will be rebuilt on its hill of ruins....
              There will be the sound of laughter again. I will give them many children. I will bring honor to them.
              I will set them up as a strong people before me."

At my darkest moment God spoke truth to me through those verses. I felt like he was saying, "Just like the Israelites were captives in Babylon, so are you a captive here in this season of grieving. This might take awhile so I would advise you to set up shop here (build your house here and plant gardens, this may take some time so make the most of it). But I feel like he was also telling me, "hold tight, I have plans for you and they involve hope." That he was telling me, "I am good so my plans for you are good." That he was telling me that I will break free from this captivity. That even though I have this wounded heart that the rest of the world would say there is no cure for, that God can and will heal my heart. That just as God rebuilt the city on its hill of ruins, he will rebuild my life from this pile of sorrowful rubble. We WILL laugh again. And we WILL come out of this a stronger people. So that is what I am clinging to this week. Although I am in a hopeless place, someday, my God will set me free... and that is my hope.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Letter to Quinn

My dear Quinn,
6 months ago today you were born. I will never forget the way you looked when I first met you, the way you looked at the world with wonder. I have not witnessed any babies being born, but I expected you to cry a lot because you missed being in my warm belly. But you didn't. You cried a little to let us know you were ok. But for the most part you looked around with those big beautiful eyes, trying to soak up the world. Maybe you always knew how short your life would be, so you didn't waste a second. Maybe you were just wise- like your name meant. I remember finding it hard to believe that you were actually mine. Since that day, I have loved you more each day and that hasn't changed with your death.

I was so proud of you. I wanted everyone to get a glimpse of this beautiful creation knit together by The Creator. At the same time I was so so tired. I was new at this and NOTHING could prepare me for being a 1st time mom of a newborn. I had no idea what I was doing, but your daddy and grandma Marcia helped me in the middle of the night. They were hard times, but precious times. I would get up in the middle of the night to check on everyone and your grandma Marcia would be rocking you, singing to you, and holding you close and it gave me an intimate glimpse into my own childhood and how my own mother looked when holding me in the middle of the night. She loves you to the moon and back and visited so much just to be with you that she was more like your 2nd mommy.

And your daddy? He is the best dad there ever was. He is absolutely smitten with you. And you felt so safe and comfortable with him. If there was ever a time I couldn't get you calm or when it came time to sleep, your daddy would hold you close to his heart and you would relax and sleep. That is still where you remain... so so close to his heart. Quinn, you are so loved. I sometimes feel guilty for how hard of an adjustment being a mommy was for me. But being YOUR mommy was not hard. You were so easy to love. Not only did everyone who met you fell deeply in love with you, but even people who didn't know you fell in love with you. I wish you could see how many people love you, how you have affected more people in your short life than most people do in their entire life.

I'm lost, so lost without you. I don't know how to go back to not being a mom. I miss you.... so so much. I don't know what's worse knowing that you miss me too, or knowing that you are alright and don't miss me at all. I don't want either... I just want you here with me. I want milestones, like today, to be spent together. I'm sorry, Quinn. I'm so so sorry that I couldn't prevent this. It was my job to care for you, to protect you, and I feel like I failed you. I'm sorry I didn't hold you longer or sing to you more. I'm just so sorry that you couldn't be with me longer. But I want you to know I will work my hardest every day to make you proud. I promise to love the Lord hard so that we can be together in eternity someday. I promise to work hard to take care of, pray for, respect, and love your daddy so that we will stay together. I promise I will NEVER EVER forget you, stop missing you, or stop loving you. You will always be my daughter and I will always be your mom. I am so proud of you Quinn Noel. Being your mother is my greatest honor. Hold tight and in the blink of an eye I'll be there to hold you for eternity.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Waking up from the American Dream

Silence... something that fills our house, now, with deafening volumes. Silence has never been so loud. The silence screams that something's not right here. The silence speaks volumes about an empty house that is supposed to be filled with laughter, cooing, and splashing. The silence bellows of plans, hopes, and dreams dashed. The silence makes me physically ache for a daughter who got gypped out of a full earthly life, a life that has a steady course: crawling, walking, birthdays, school, summer camp, vacations, sleepovers, sports, falling in love, graduation, college, weddings, children, white picket fences.

That's our plan for life right? The "American Dream." That is what I hoped for in my own life and definitely for my child's life. But I'm beginning to discover that the American Dream is just that... a dream, then we wake up to reality. A reality where we don't get the dream job after college, or get married by 25 or have kids by 30. The reality that most of life is not how we envisioned it. Larry Crabb in his book, "66 Love Letters" writes this from the perspective of God and what he is trying to tell us:

                 "You will begin every new adventure in life with naive hope and excitement. Every wedding
                   will begin with passion then move into problems. Every decorated nursery will receive a
                   baby that will present unanticipated challenges. Every new ministry that starts with happy
                   hopes- everything you do, no matter how well organized and well intended- will run
                   into trouble. If you are in touch with what I (GOD) created you to enjoy, everything in
                   this life will disappoint you, even the best spouse, the best kids, the best job, the best
                   church, the best vacation. And that disappointment  will lead you to wonder if you've
                   missed the right road, if perhaps there is a better, more satisfying, less bumpy road
                   through your life. There isn't, not one that leads to real joy... The road to life will expose
                   you to terrible failure and crushing conflict. But only that road leads you to the life you
                  want, the life I (GOD) give you."

When I read this I feel defeated. Why can't life just be easy and go the way I want it to? But I have been constantly reminded that God's plans for my life are better than my plans.
Proverbs 16:9 states:

                  "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps."

Isaiah 28:29 states:

                "All this comes from the LORD almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent."

Jeremiah 29:11 states:
                 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord,  "plans to prosper you, not to
                  harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

No matter how painful it is, I have to give up my own plans and dreams and live into the plans God has for my life, plans that are ultimately better than I could ever dream or plan myself. How do I know this?  Because of the example Jesus set. See, lately I have been grieving the loss of Quinn, the loss of my hopes and dreams, my plan for my life. I have been grieving over my loss so much that I have honestly thought to myself, "This is it, this is how I am going to die... of heartbreak." But I read a verse the other day that let me know, I wasn't the only one who had felt this:

                [Jesus] took Peter and Zebedee's two sons, James and John, and he began to be filled with
               anguish and deep distress. He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.
               Stay here and watch with me."                                               -Matthew 26:37-38

This was right before he was taken to die on the cross for our sins. See, even Jesus, who knew the whole picture, was grieved to let go and live into God's plan. A plan that lead him to the cross so that we might be with him in Heaven someday. This was God's ultimate plan, but it didn't come without pain and suffering. So, I am slowly loosening the tight grip I have on my own plans I have for my life so that someday soon I will have an open hand to what God has planned for my life.