Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Miscarriage Awareness | Response to Grief

“Oh Lord, help me not sin in my grief.”
I remember praying those words as waves of pain enveloped my body. For the second time in less than six months, I was losing a baby. The first was an ectopic pregnancy in the spring of 2011. I can’t pinpoint an exact date of loss because it took weeks on end for my body to complete the process.
But for the second babe, it was Halloween morning.
I knew in the afternoon I would need to put on a smile, dress up my daughters as an adorable monkey and bumblebee, and take them door-to-door for candy. I knew I would also need a mask to hide my pain from the community at-large, also taking costumed children by the hand and escorting them through the crowded business district.

Me, mere hours after the onset of my second miscarriage.
For the morning, though, I let the grief wash over me. Grief is not wrong. It doesn’t look the same for everyone. But for me, I knew I had to choose between healthy grief and unhealthy grief. In the past, I had chosen unhealthy grief and bitterness had rooted and grown, clogging productivity and joy.
Looking back, I’m thankful I had the cognitive awareness to pray the prayer I did. While I grieved loss of precious life and shattered desire, I was able to persevere which transformed to character and hope.
From what I know of the grief-process, it looks different for everyone. It is not one-size-fits-all. In different circumstances, grief for the individual will manifest in different ways. Lately, in completely unrelated circumstances, I have added to my prayer, “Help me not sin in my grief, nor in my anger.”
Different circumstances call for different processes.
But since October is miscarriage and infant loss awareness month, I want to hone in on helping families grieve and mourn a life that often wasn’t known, but was wanted.
After my ectopic pregnancy article ran in the Free Press in May of 2011, people asked me how they should respond and what they should say to women who have lost a baby to miscarriage. In effort to make sure my advice was helpful, I asked other women who had lost a baby to miscarriage or infant loss to help with specifics. This question turned into a blog post titled “Response to Grief” which I ironically posted a mere six days before I would lose baby number two.
Today I want to share those responses here.

  • Say "I'm sorry for your loss." One woman said: "I know that sounds kind of cliche, but it really was more comforting to me than people not saying anything at all. I appreciated some sort of recognition that what I was going through was tough."
  • Be patient. As one woman said: "The grief process isn't over after a month, or three, or nine...everyone is different. But it's not over like a flip of a switch."
  • Offer to help--meals, watching older kids, housework. One woman said: "Do not say, ‘Call me if you need anything.’ She won't call. Say instead, ‘Can I call in a few days to see if there is anything I can help with?’ and then offer specifics when you do call. A grieving mom can't organize the help she needs...she is too overwhelmed."
  • Ask about the baby's name or nickname, depending on how early or late the loss was.
  • Ask how the dad is doing.
  • Let the family be sad--as long as it takes.

  • Discuss faith explanations for why a loss happens unless your friend brings it up. One woman said:"While faith explanations for why things happen may be helpful for you, this is not a time to discuss why the family doesn't get to have a baby in their arms. This includes: God needing more angels, everything happening for a reason, God's will, etc."
  • Act like it never happened. This is forever a part of their lives.
  • Tell them to take comfort in other children. One woman said: "I did not find it comforting when people said: ‘At least you already have two boys, or you can always try for another.’ While both those statements are true, they were not helpful. Yes, I have two boys that I am thankful for but my desire was to add another member to our family."
  • Tell them they can adopt. One woman said: "It's not about finding a replacement. This child was special and wanted. The hopes and dreams for this child as a part of their family is gone now."

Whatever your methods, let’s help families experiencing the grief of miscarriage and infant loss grieve well.

This post was originally published for my column, Lipstick & Pearls, in the Oct. 18, 2017 edition of the Hillsboro Free Press.

For more thoughts on my miscarriages, CLICK HERE

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Responding to CRISIS

Have you ever been through a season where the only place that makes sense is when you're in the WORD?

My guess is, there are lots of nods and hand-raising going on. Scripture tells us to expect trial. It tells us to expect trouble. And it also tells us to take heart. (see John 16:33)

That’s what I have been doing much of recently. Taking heart. In the middle of trouble. In the middle of suffering. In the middle of trial. In the middle of shattered desire.

But my God is faithful.

I wouldn’t have always said that. There would have been a time when I would have played the blame game. Or held a “why me” pity party. But let me tell you, neither option served to produce endurance to character to hope. (see Romans 5:3-4) Blame games and pity parties simply served to put distance between myself and I AM THAT I AM.

It’s not that I’m not tempted to go that would definitely seem justified, right? But somewhere along the road, my attitude toward suffering began to shift. There are various instances I can share, but today I want to expand on three.

When I miscarried two babies in a span of six months in 2011, I remember praying this prayer: “Lord, help me not sin in my grief.” Blessedly, I can attest to His provision. Something so grief-inducing as losing precious life would have, at one time, shaken me to my core. But God was faithful to that pain-filled plea. My heart was still broken, but He bound me up.

And He did the same last summer when a heavy weight of family crisis fell once again on our shoulders. It was a time of great adversity that not only affected hubby and me, but also our young family. It felt like a direct hit, and threw us into the fire of rage-filled childhood trauma. Previously, I would have placed my anger over the injustice of the situation at the sovereignty of God...this time, it was properly placed on the sin of man. We were afflicted but not crushed. Perplexed but not driven to despair. Persecuted but not forsaken. Struck down, but not destroyed. (see 2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

God promised to fight for our family. He did. He is. The trial isn’t over...the ramifications continue to surface...but HE is faithful.

And now, the crushing weight of crisis is here once more, this time bringing chaotic confusion and ever-widening ripples. I have added to my miscarriage prayer: “Lord, help me not sin in my grief, nor in my anger!” We’re in deep waters, but He is with us. We’re in rivers of difficulty, but we won’t drown. We’re in fires of oppression, but we won’t be burned up.

For He is the Lord, our God,
   the Holy One of Israel, our Savior. (see Isa 43:2-3)

But how do we persevere and develop character that leads to hope?

I’m guessing there are different methods for each of us. Because of that, I can only share a few observations and tips that have helped me stand. Perhaps they will be of some comfort/help to you as well.

  • Increase time reading the Word. In times of crisis, it can be easy to let circumstance dictate time in the Word...making it so we spend LESS time reading the inspired Word of the God, when we really need MORE. The competition for time is a fierce part of the battle. We must fight to increase time soaking in the WORD.
  • Pray. Draw near to God. James 4:8 tells us that when we draw near Him, He will draw near us. May it be!
  • Pray on the ARMOR. One of the prime battle scriptures I draw on frequently is in Ephesians 6--The ARMOR of GOD. As I studied this scripture, I was struck over and over by a few words: full, all, every, whole. It is vital for us to utilize every piece of protection we have. And after the battle, we’ll still be standing firm.
  • Turn to the Psalms. In seasons of trial, I have found comfort in reading the Psalms out loud-- praying them, crying them, claiming them. There have been times when tears have been my only prayer as I poured myself out before the throne. The Psalms do a great job in taking us through emotion and then re-grounding us back under the Lord on High.
  • Sleep in peace. This is a tricky one for me. When I am stressed, I don’t sleep well. I don’t sleep peacefully. Ever had one of those dreams where you wake up and ACTUAL tears are streaming down your face? Yeah...I have those! One thing I do that seems to help me is to sleep with my Bible. I use it like my kiddos use their stuffed animals. Just the act of holding/touching the Word seems to bring me comfort. And in times of great crisis, any sort of balm to my heart is welcome!
  • Exhortation. I preach the Word to myself. I write. I read. I pray. I read scripture aloud. Anything to remind me of God and center me in Truth.
  • Worship. The day after the most recent crisis hit, I lost my voice because I sang continuously. As loud as possible. There are songs that hit all the emotions of the Psalms (that’s what the psalms are after all!) There are songs that lament, songs that praise, songs that exhort, songs that encourage. In crisis, we need to worship. To me, one striking part of musician Jeremy Camp’s testimony is this: When his first wife died of cancer, Camp said that even though it was hard, the family gathered to worship the Lord in song after she died. There's beauty in his testimony, and an example to follow. For, even in trial, God is still God. He is still Good. He is still Faithful. It is good for us to glorify His name.  
  • Be Still. This can also be hard. We don’t really like silence, do we? But as we are still, we can know He is God! (PS 46: 10)

I will leave you with Psalm 46 in its entirety. Please remember when trial comes, you are not alone. He is with you. He is near the brokenhearted. And in Him, nothing that happens is ever wasted!

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
He utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
How he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
He burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Awards, what?!?

You guys! I am excited to announce that I have been nominated for two blogging awards! This was totally unexpected, and I feel unworthy, but I am glad nonetheless.

Sarah Joy at Joyful For Jesus nominated me for the Liebster Award {an award given within the blogging community, for upcoming blogs with potential with under 200 followers}. Whit Devereaux, author of  “Not By My Own” and blogger at nominated me for the Blogger Recognition Award. Thank you, ladies!

There are two components of these awards...answering some questions and nominating some blogs. You will find both things in this enjoy!

Why did you start blogging? (Liebster and Blogger)
My first post was March 13, 2010. We were expecting baby #2. We were in the middle of a medical journey with kiddo #1. And I started blogging that exact day, and I quote, “for no particular reason other than I (Malinda, that is) had some time to sit down and write.” HA! God has continually shaped this little space, and ideas for what this place will look like moving forward are developing. Exciting! {Follow me on Facebook to stay up-to-date!}

What is your favorite Bible verse/passage? (Liebster)
THIS QUESTION IS SO HARD! The more I study the Bible, the more it all connects into this beautiful story of redemption, so I have trouble picking anything specific! In different seasons I have had various passages speak to my heart. A turning point here, a “get back on the straight path” there, a pruning and fruit bearing over there. The WORD to me is LIFE! I guess one verse that captures these thoughts nicely is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

What do you do if you can’t think of a blog topic? (Liebster)
I don’t blog! HA! But seriously, I do much more journaling than I do blogging. My journal is where I process and where I pray. I keep my journals, and then years later, I can go back and draw from them, being reminded of the story of MY GOD and me, His servant. I am finding those old journals provide much inspiration for the book I hope to write, and also for blogging resources.

What’s your motivation to keep blogging/why do you blog? (Liebster)
I will admit, in the hierarchy of my writing, blogging doesn’t take top priority. In this way, I am old fashioned...I like printed material, and spend more time developing my newspaper column! BUT, blogging has allowed me space to process and practice, honing my craft. As an aspiring author, that piece is vital, as is developing exposure to a broader audience. (and this internet thing, folks, is very broad! 😏 )

Where do you see yourself in 1, 5, 10 years? (Liebster)
If the Lord wills it, I hope to develop a writing ministry/author books (and have them published!)

What’s one quirk about you that people don’t know?
I have a hard time turning down a the time when a fellow track coach “suggested” that I see if I could still touch the basketball goal net. Challenge accepted. {If you’re wondering, I can still grab the net, but I can no longer touch the base of the rim. Old legs, people. Old, out of shape legs!}

What are your other hobbies? (Liebster)
Reading! I love, love, love historical fiction, but reading of any sort energizes me. I also enjoy home design and renovation...I get so much pleasure out of this kind of creativity. I can also crochet 😄

What’s your advice to new bloggers? (Liebster and Blogger)
Work with excellence. Hold on to things loosely. Cover your ministry in prayer. Study the WORD daily. Be willing to ask for help and support. You never know where the Lord will take you as a willing servant!

The nominees for Liebster:
Jenny at {the story of how we got connected and then met at She Speaks last summer still amazes me! ALSO, this girl just self-published “31 Day Create”, a great devo. Go check out her stuff!}

Kristen at Right Hand Work {Kristen was my prayer partner for She Speaks, and we have continued to keep in touch. She is a nurse by day and writes about that “right hand work”, among other amazing revelations.}

Michelle at {Michelle and I go WAY to pre-school. She writes about parenting, her young family, and everything in between.}

Jill at {Jill and I spent several years living in the same community, and bonus, our daughters are buds. She is the author of a brand new blog (yay!), of which I am convinced will be a place for introspection and growth!}

The nominees for Blogger Recognition Award:
Heather at The Rescued Letters {Heather and I connected at She Speaks last summer, and I was immediately drawn to this lovely lady! She just self-published a Bible study called “Ready: Finding the Courage to Face the Unknown”, based on Joshua. Go on, click and learn more!}

Alice at Poema Chronicles {Alice and I “met” through a Christian blogger’s page on Facebook. I am always drawn in by her willingness to tackle HARD topics and that she grounds herself in scripture. Her depth and understanding are amazing!}

Liebster requirements for nominees:

Please answer the following 7 questions:
  • What is your favorite Bible verse/passage?
  • What do you do when you can’t think of a blog topic?
  • What’s your motivation to keep blogging/Why do you blog?
  • Where do you see yourself in 1, 5, 10 years?
  • What’s one quirk about you that most people don’t know?
  • What are your other hobbies?
  • What’s your advice for new bloggers?

Blogger Recognition Award requirements for nominees:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Write a post to show your award.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Share 2 pieces of advice for new bloggers.
  • Choose 15 other blogs to give this award to.
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them. Provide the link to the post you created.