Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Missing Baby Blueberry Part 2: Don't Compare

The day we found out that Blueberry was gone, I texted a friend.  She was one of few friends who knew about the pregnancy.  She also had experienced a loss of her own--only her loss was much later into her pregnancy.  I nearly cringed when I texted her about losing Baby Blueberry because, to me, her loss seemed agonizing and impossible.  Mine was tiny in comparison.  What would she say?  What would I say if I were in her position?  She texted back kind and comforting words.  And still I felt stupid.  I was grieving the loss of a tiny blueberry baby. She had to go through labor and give birth to her little girl, knowing she was gone.  I texted her back and thanked her and said something to the effect that my pain was no match for the pain she experienced.  No, she said.  Don't compare.  Grief is grief.

But I still felt guilty in my grief.  I have a healthy boy already.  Isn't he enough?  I never knew what Baby Blueberry looked like, sounded like, felt like.  I didn't know Baby Blueberry's personality.  I never felt Baby Blueberry kick.  It wasn't like I spent years with Baby Blueberry and had memories to mourn.  I never watched Baby Blueberry suffer through an illness and then die.  I never even actually gave birth to Blueberry. Who did I think I was?  I have a friend who gave birth to a son that lived only hours.  I have another friend who had a son who lived only weeks.  Those babies were held and seen and named.  My baby was the size of a blueberry.  My baby did not die under tragic circumstances.  As the doctor said, my baby probably had a serious genetic problem that was incompatible with life......I think they say that to everyone, by the way.

Don't compare.  Don't compare.  I think we are all about comparing these days. Jobs, money, kids, houses.....instagram pics.  It's a race to see who's the most beautiful, the richest, or the highest achieving...whose kids are the wittiest....who can post the sassiest comments on Facebook...who can shut down someone else in an online argument about this or that social issue.  And so then here I was comparing my loss to others.  Measuring up the loss of my baby.  How twisted is that?  I'm not blaming society or culture by any means.  I blame myself for getting caught up in the nasty game of comparing.  And it hurt me.

As I said in my last post, when I first wrote about losing Baby Blueberry I received so many messages and texts from other ladies who experienced a miscarriage or fetal demise, many of them friends.  But why hadn't I known about my friends' losses before?  I'm thinking maybe some of them felt the same way as I felt.  They were comparing.  They felt grief, pain, loss....but because they never met their baby they felt it didn't meet "the standard" for actual loss.  I'm thinking maybe most of them didn't have a friend like I had to say, stop.  Don't compare.  You lost something. You lost someone. Baby Blueberry was small and had a very short life.  But Baby Blueberry was.  And Baby Blueberry was mine.  The culture I live in says that Baby Blueberry wasn't a person. But to me, Baby Blueberry was a person.  A soul.  A creation of God. Someone I'll meet on the other side of heaven.

I'm not suggesting that everyone who loses a baby go and publicly declare their sadness as I have done....I'm doing it because there are ladies out there who need to find the grace that my friend had for me.  I'm saying be the grace for someone else.  Be life-giving! (I learned that at the ARC conference recently and LOVE IT) Don't belittle someone else's grief because you think you hold the title for "Worst Life Ever".  Validate it.  Help them through it.  And if you've lost someone...whether it be a baby or a child or a parent or a friend...sometimes it feels like no other human could ever give you the peace you're looking for.  And you're right.  Only your Heavenly Father can guide you to that peace.  But having a friend who knows what it's like........value beyond measure.

That's all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Missing Baby Blueberry

This past Christmas my sister (in-law) Emily gave me the most meaningful gift--a necklace that she had made with a "B" charm, angel's wing, and a blue bead about the size of a blueberry.  It was to remember Baby Blueberry.  It was even more meaningful because it came from her...another mom who experienced what I experienced.  She knew how it felt physically.  She knew how it felt emotionally.  And not that I was glad that it happened to both of us--no way--but I was glad I had (and still have) someone who understood it--who understands it.  Because although time heals, it is becoming more apparent to me that a mother's heart doesn't forget.  I haven't really blogged about Baby Blueberry, but it's not because I've forgotten. I think about Baby Blueberry every single day. I don't ever want to forget Baby Blueberry--I won't.  But I have wanted to forget the pain of losing Baby Blueberry.  I have the kind of personality where I like to take care of business before I have fun.  I was the kid in the class who wanted to present my final project first so I could sit back and relax for the rest of the week, or who would do all my homework by the end of the night on Friday so that I had a carefree weekend.  I feel like I tried this method in dealing with the loss of Baby Blueberry.  Grieve, I said to myself immediately.  Deal with it now so it doesn't grow into an unmanageable beast.  And then it will be easier later.  You can focus on the things to come.  You can put it behind you and figure out what's next.  Right.

A few days ago I looked at my Timehop App and my Facebook status from last year was, "You hear the cry of the broken."  It is a lyric from the song Cry of the Broken written by none other than my most favorite lady, Darlene Zschech.  Personally, the song points me to Psalm 34:18--The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit...to me one of the most beautiful and comforting scriptures.  I remember the day I posted that status and what was happening in our lives.  Someone had hurt us so badly and I felt like my heart was physically breaking.  It was some of the deepest pain that I had felt in a very long time.  I immediately decided to deal with it because I wanted it behind me.  Gone.  It hurt and I wanted it to hurt no more. So I dove straight in.  Truthfully, it took some time...more than I really wanted to give it...and a LOT of prayer.  But I can look back and say that Johnny and I grew from that painful experience.  We dealt with it head on and then, in due time, put it behind us. Then 5 months later we lost Baby Blueberry.  And that.  That was not only heartbreaking, it was spirit crushing.

When I first blogged about losing Baby Blueberry the response was overwhelming.  I cannot tell you how many messages, texts, emails, etc. I received not only from ladies I didn't know, but from ladies I know and have known for years who have experienced the loss of a baby, and I never knew it.  My mind was blown.  I promise you there are friends, family members, acquaintances, and co-workers who have experienced this or who are experiencing this situation now.  They are suffering broken hearts and crushed spirits--all by themselves.  And I've learned this year that this isn't the kind of heartache that you confront and "get it over with".  It's the kind of grief that actually confronts you and does so when you least expect it.  Like last month when Baby Blueberry was supposed to be born.  Like this weekend as I was driving to Alabama to attend our advanced training session for church planting and felt that little blue bead around my neck and rolled it between my fingers and traced it along my lips. Blueberry.  My baby.  Gone.  Ouch.  I miss Baby Blueberry.  It's been 7 months exactly and I'm not done facing it.  I'm not drowning in it, but you know, it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

So I'm going to talk some more about this.  About this grief with a mind of its own.  About how we who experience this kind of grief all need a sister like Emily who understands this experience.  About how a girl's spirit can and will survive.  And about the grace and peace that is so beautifully and unexpectedly present in the midst of it all.  More to come....

Thursday, April 3, 2014

There's something about that Parkway.....

When I was a kid I used to get pretty annoyed when the Sunday School verse was Psalm 37:4--  Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.  I never liked that verse.  Because the desires of my heart were the following: candy and soda every day, video games all night long, a swimming pool, a puppy, a kitten, a large collection of Trapper Keepers with Lisa Frank folders, a bunch of those shiny dolphin and rainbow stickers, a new box of crayons  for every day (Crayola only), and a 24 kt gold flute.  I also felt like I was pretty delightful.  We went to a fantastic church where I enjoyed myself, had a lot of friends to be delightful with....and that's where the Lord was....and I'm sure he could see how delightful I was....yet my heart's desires were nowhere to be found.  I was fortunate enough to have parents and Sunday School teachers who emphasized scripture.  I memorized a LOT of it through my elementary years....mostly to win contests....but nevertheless, I memorized.  And this scripture.....it was not for me.

It's been a while since I've written.  I haven't forgotten about my blog.  I've actually written 2 or 3 posts and then subsequently deleted them because they just weren't quite right.  The beginning of this year has had me more in a thinking and pondering mode rather than an expressing mode.  I've been thinking a lot about how incredibly different life has become.  I have this app called TimeHop on my phone.  It syncs with social media and every day it tells you what you were doing/saying/posting on this very day in history.  I think it's one of my favorite things to do every day....to look back and see what was going on then and compare it to now.  When I think back to about a year ago, it was when Johnny got a call from a Dallas church regarding a position.  He had been approached several times before by the same church and I was so adamant that I wanted to stay here.  Florida.  Home.  But as I sat at my desk at work, on the phone with him, staring at the pattern on the carpet in contemplation, something inside said, let's go for it.  No, I didn't necessarily want to move away...but I didn't want to stay and continue doing what we were doing either.

We were stuck in a rut.  I was in a job that I enjoyed most of the time, but was high demand, high stress, topped off by a grisly commute.  I was putting all the energy I had into that and giving my family the leftovers.  I know I'm not the only one who has done or does this.  It was difficult, it was ugly, and it was unfair to my husband and to my baby.  Johnny was home taking care of Arlis, working part-time as a youth pastor, and his goal of returning to full time ministry was nowhere in sight.  This...Dallas...moving away....could be our chance.  And maybe the persistence of the job propositions Johnny was receiving was a sign  I could take a break and cut back on working, spend more time with Arlis, and he could take a full time position at a church.  We would switch life around a little bit....maybe a change in scenery would be good too?

But really, the desire of my heart was to be in Florida.  The desire of my heart was for Arlis to be near his grandparents.  And yet the desire of my heart was to allow my husband to lead our family and explore a change in his career.  The desire of my heart was for him to have the desires of his heart too.  The desire of my heart was to give this a chance, because maybe God was trying to tell us something.

So onward we went.  Once the interview process with Texas got serious I was so incredibly unsettled.  Sometimes it is really hard for me to separate intuition from emotion.  Sometimes it is hard to find God's voice and direction in the noise of my emotions.  I consider myself a pretty emotional person....I prefer the word, "passionate".  But here we were making a huge, huge decision and inside I felt like the world could possibly be ending.  And then the arguing with myself began.....

You feel unsettled because this isn't right.  No, you just don't want to leave, you're being selfish.  And you're the one who told your husband to do this.  Yeah...and what else was I supposed to do?  We were running out of gas and there was no other option on the table.  So you do this?  This was stupid.  Texas is not the answer.  Texas is not where you should be.  Um, is that you God?  Or is that my other personality......hello?......God?

I texted my dad.  He is wise and he is a source of calm for me during the most turbulent times of my life.  What do I do dad?  I can't figure out what I'm supposed to do?  He texted back to me an aviation analogy (of course!):
Continue on your current heading and you will know when to land.  

At the time this frustrated me.  I don't want to continue on this heading!  This heading is ugly and hard and confusing.  But I held on to his advice, because my dad has never let me down.

I've told a few people this... when I pray on the Polk Parkway, I get some real clarity.  Amusing, but true.  When Johnny was working at a church in Winter Haven I drove the Parkway a lot.  And I had a lot of praying to do during that period in our lives.  So I'd pray on the Parkway.  I'd sing and I'd pray.  There were 2 distinct times that I feel like I heard from God on the Parkway.  One of them was regarding this situation.  I was struggling with the events that had taken place that day regarding the details of Johnny's interview process.  He was on a plane home as I drove to get Arlis at my in-laws.  We were both confused and I (the passionate one) was angry.  So God, if this was for us, why was the process so very confusing and convoluted?  Shouldn't this be a bit easier?  More peaceful?  At the same time I was "discussing" this with God, I was also resisting with all my might the concept that this was the wrong path because I knew that if I tried hard enough I could find fault, because I didn't want to go.  And I wanted to do right.  I wanted to be uncomfortable if this was going to make life better--if this is what God had for us.  And then....finally.....I allowed myself the justice of considering--as objectively as I could at that moment--what if?  What if this isn't it.  So I said to God, what if this isn't it?

Instantly I was settled.  Nope.  This wasn't it.  I took a deep breath and felt instantly peaceful.  I don't know what was "it", but this wasn't it.  I knew now with a pretty solid degree of confidence that it just wasn't right.  There are a whole lot of other things I could talk about here....about how Johnny and I had to figure this out individually before we could collectively move on.....about how in a marriage sometimes you have to allow things to happen at a pace that you may not necessarily want to move at, for the greater good of  both of you....about how we would go through this process together over and over again before figuring out what was "it."  We came incredibly close to leaving Florida on several occasions over those next few months.  And I mean as close as, we packed up our house and rented it out.  But then ultimately when it was time to pull the trigger, something would stop us.  It wasn't yet "time to land".

Something's missing, I said to Jonathan.  I don't know what it is, but something's missing.  I know we aren't supposed to continue where we left off before we started this process of change, but I know that something is just not right.  Funny enough that "something" was the other thing I talked to God about on the Parkway, months and months and months before.  The church that my husband would start.  Something about that Parkway....

Clearly we are still here.  Lakeland, Florida.  Right near that Parkway.  And we are on such a different path than we were a year ago.  The hindsight is coming now, slowly but surely.  We had to go through a lot of difficult days to get to this point.  And the difficult days haven't ended...they're just different now.  When I sit and think about it, it's really hard to believe that all of it happened, and all in such a short period of time.  Most of 2014 (so far) has been spent trying to sort through it all, and figure out how to express it.  We've started a church.  A real church.  And people actually come to it.  And WANT to come to it.  And me.  I'm a...pastor's wife?  ME?  I'm not a pastor's wife.  I'm a professional and a wannabe lifetime student.  But now --I'm a pastor's wife.  That's scary.  This isn't completely unknown territory for me.  But it is uncomfortable territory.  (More on that later!)

When I was willing to get uncomfortable and leave Florida I think God may have been saying, are you willing to be uncomfortable for me?  And when it came down to it, I was.  I was willing to give it all up in order to allow him to work in our lives.  In the midst of it, I didn't like it.  It was flat out misery.  But I did it.  God gave me the desires of my heart because I was and I still am willing to get uncomfortable.  Taking delight in God is trusting in him, talking to him, and listening to him.--having a relationship with him.  Not to get your way...your way is irrelevant.  Not to spare you pain or discomfort...this is earth, not heaven.  Not to load up on Lisa Frank folders and golden instruments....haha!  But to truly, in your heart, want to do and live in his will.  Ultimately that is all that matters.  This doesn't spare you from heartache and hurt. I know this firsthand.  But when those painful days do come you have a really awesome friend to lean on...the one who made you, who loves you, who knows you inside and out and who, more than anyone else (including yourself!), wants what is best for you.

So it looks like the Kelley family has "landed".  :)  Thanks, Dad.

I don't drive on the Parkway as much as I used to.  But you better believe that when I do, I'm talking to God!