Friday, January 4, 2013



They have many different meanings. There are sighs of contentment; sighs after a hard day of work. You're instructed to breathe deeply during yoga or meditation. Breathing deeply and slowly is supposed to provide healing to our bodies. Summer Sunday afternoon sighs are some of the best. The moments after you've gone to church and just eaten; lying on the couch and listening to the gentle hum of the fan as you lull in and out of sleep.

Since July 10, it's felt like my life has been one big sigh, braided with gallons of tears and stabbing pains.

I don't know how to explain how January 1st, 2013 changed everything for me.
But somehow, it did.
It was like a switch was flipped.

This year was difficult, before we even found out we lost Carlie. Financial strain, moving back to Tennessee from Florida (after finding belonging for the first time in a long time), marital distance, early complications in the pregnancy, getting back into the swing of things at my job. It's felt like one hit after another. Despair is the best way to describe the perpetual feeling I've had, beckoned out of me through circumstance and a broken heart.

I've thought for the longest time that New Years resolutions and the general idea of a do-over for the following year is just ridiculous. You can't erase what happened in the year before, so how can you look at the first day of the next year as a fresh start?

But I've also never been through truly unexpected tragedy. I've never had one year completely blindside me with its pain and devastation. But 2012, you were both a blessing and a curse. And I'm thrilled to be passing you by for 2013.

I've searched for things to ease my pain, anger, depression for months now. I'm the first one to tell you emotional pain doesn't make me brave at all. I would take physical pain over an ounce of gut-wrenching emotional turmoil. But grief and its inability to be grasped has made this pain impossible to pass by. It reminds me of that song I wanted to sing with Carlie, titled We're Going On a Bear Hunt.  

Oh look (oh look)
Over there! (over there)
It's some woods (it's some woods)
It's some dark, dark woods (it's some dark, dark woods)

Can't go over it (can't go over it)
Can't go under it (can't go under it)
Can't go around it (can't go around it)
We'll have to go through it

There were times when I felt that I would never begin to see a small ray of light through the forest of my emptiness. Every time I tried to bypass the thickness of the trees, I'd get whacked in the face with another thorny branch.
Many times I cried out to God, but He was silent. I'm still working through all of that with Him. I'm relearning my relationship, and I feel that everything will be more real this time. After all, how can I sing the hymn It Is Well With My Soul the same way I sang it before all of this happened? It's not possible. This experience has touched every inch of my life. Nothing came out unscathed. From the way I hear certain songs, to the crippling ache I feel in my heart each time I hear another mother has lost her child. There's no way of escaping the change her death has brought me; even if I wanted to run away from it, I simply can't.

I'm starting to remember what it feels like to breathe again.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Beneath the Porch

Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state, but a process.
 - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

In my early teens, I had a dog that got into rat poison. 

I remember looking underneath the porch and seeing her body. I called out to her, thinking she was just asleep. But after a minute or two, I knew she was gone. 

She'd given no indication that she was on the brink of death. I remember being confused; not understanding why she didn't come up to the trailer door and scratch on it, letting us know she was sick. She'd simply slipped away, quietly. No doubt she'd been in agony, her stomach churning as the indigestible chemicals took their toll. It was as if she knew her fate, and didn't want us to witness her life slowly cease.  Her last act of loyalty, in some slightly noble, considerate way.


Recently, I've learned that it's in my nature to suffer alone.

I've never been one to lack transparency. With a hurt so deep, so earth-shattering, there are several reasons why I feel I can't talk to nearly anyone about my grief. 

Like my dog, I don't want people to worry or for my pain to feel like this cloak I'm passing onto their shoulders without permission. If you ask me how I'm doing, do you really care? Or instead, are you wanting me to parrot that I'm "doing okay" so that you can breathe a sigh of relief and go about your day? If you ask me how I'm doing, do you honestly want to know? I don't trust that most people actually want to know every inch of my grief. And I haven't yet figured out how to hold back without lying entirely. It always comes out in verbal vomit or not at all. I can't reconcile the two.

Going back to trust...I don't share because, how can I honestly trust you with such sacred pain? How can I be assured that you won't discredit it by encouraging me to "Rejoice in all circumstances!" Was Jesus rejoicing in his hours in the Garden of Gethsemane? Of course not. Am I saying my pain is anything close to what Jesus experienced? I wouldn't dare. But I do believe that my Savior is empathetic to me. And I believe that even though I am to regard Him with fearful reverence...He respects my pain. He understands. He doesn't rush me to echo Sunday school answers. He wants me to use my pain. How can I trust you when there's a possibility you might say something as idiotic as "You'll have more children;" the statement said by itself and alone as if having other children will somehow replace the ache and hole that I will always have in my heart. Yes, I crave for my womb to be filled like I crave oxygen, but don't comfort me by disregarding Carlie's brief life and the loss that we experience from that.

Finally, I don't share because some people have a way of making me feel shamed for even grieving. The single-most traumatic, crushing thing that's ever happened to me (only three months ago) is somehow pushed to the side, replaced with statements of what are meant to be encouragement. However, they leave me feeling like I'm a bad Christian because I can't seem to wrap my mind around this thing called grief. I so wish I could just lean on the promises of the Bible and leave it at that. If I could only just repeat them, like a religious mantra... maybe I could be okay. These people who can move on from loss and press on toward the next step, so passionately; I envy them. I have always felt pain deeper than most people. I consider it a gift and a curse in the same breath. It allows me to be empathetic to situations I haven't even experienced. I listen to people with my whole heart. Yet it also doesn't allow me to fool myself into feeling okay. It knows me too well. That masquerade is fruitless. 

I'm a Christian, but I'm struggling with trusting God with my whole heart and life again. 
I'm a mother, but I hate my body for how it betrayed me. 
I'm at peace that Carlie is in heaven, but I hate with every breath that she isn't here.
I'm prayerful, but there are days I even struggle to pray. My desperate, tear-soaked prayers to keep Carlie on earth were overlooked, so how can I trust that they even matter?

I'm a lump of contradictions.
This is me; take it or leave it. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Letters to Carlie Wren:

Please check out my Tumblr, which consists of letters, songs, etc. that I wish I could share with Carlie Wren.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Carlie's gift to us: Sunday

I want to tell you about a Sunday I had recently.

It was a few weeks ago, actually.

Chloe, my niece, stayed with me after Carlie's memorial. Wesley and I had received a mailer from Journey Church. It resembled a mailer normally sent out by our previous church, New Walk.

For those who are new to my blog, my life has been anything but normal for several years. After spending four months in Asia with Revolutionary Life International, my husband and I relocated to Florida for a season, and found a wonderful church family there. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Unfortunately, we could never get our heads above water financially. After a year of being Floridians, we moved back to Tennessee, where I returned to the job I left prior to going to Asia. I found out I was pregnant a week after we moved to Tennessee.

After everything that happened with Carlie, I understand so much more why we were supposed to come back to Tennessee. I couldn't imagine going through all of this while being 10+ hours away from family, and I can't imagine being at any other hospital than Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. Like God has done so many times before, he directed our path long before we knew what we'd face.

However, I'll admit it: I missed New Walk as soon as we arrived to our new-old home, and I've been shamelessly comparing every church we've visited to the equation that is New Walk Church. Nothing came close. I was beginning to get discouraged. We found a fit at our previous church. We were involved in the Youth Ministry, had several close adult friends, and felt included in a tight-knit family of believers. As we rode to Journey Church, I said a silent, simple prayer to God: Lord, please let this be like New Walk. I know it won't be exactly like it, but please...just let it be a little like it.

We arrived, and the feel of it was inviting. Comforting. Like a soft blanket on a rainy day. I breathed deeply, exhaling, for the first time that week. There were two worship songs that I didn't recognize. However, once the third song began playing, I recognized it immediately.

We were camp leaders for one summer while at New Walk. During those few days, there were several worship songs that gained significance in my heart. It's hard for this not to happen, especially when you see teens worshiping to a song with reckless abandon; hands held high, faces to the ceiling, singing out to God. Even though they are universal worship songs, there are some I consider "New Walk songs."

He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree. Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy...

 I immediately felt a welling of warm love flooding inside of me. God was letting me know He'd heard me. He was letting me know that I mattered. After a trial that felt like it consumed me, He was filling me up with a teaspoon of strength. Because, you see.. How He Loves is very much a New Walk song. More specifically, it is a De^oted Youth Camp song. I was taken back to that summer when the room was elbow to elbow with young men and women, worshiping with their whole hearts. I was home. The message followed, and the style of the pastor and his passion reminded me of our previous pastor.

...I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affections are for me.

After this, we decided to go see The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Mind you, we didn't know much about it. The only thing we knew for sure is that the storyline told of a couple who struggled with infertility. One night they decide to dream up what they believe their child would be like, writing the characteristics on pieces of notebook paper. They put them in a box, and bury it in the garden. And out grows a child. Their son, Timothy, with all the attributes they dreamed up. I knew I'd identify with the storyline due to the subject of infertility alone. I was prepared to cry.

But the movie was so, so much more.

We've seen this movie twice and both times, our cheeks have been soaked with tears by the end of it. It's a movie of love and loss, reminding us that some children only come into our lives for a season. Carlie Wren was our free bird, and she flew away when her purpose was fulfilled. If the movie had come out a couple of months before all of this happened, the significance would be drastically different. I'd cry a little, say that it was a great movie, and move on. Instead, this movie has become yet another way we feel Carlie is speaking to us. Some words Timothy spoke to his parents... it was like hearing Carlie's voice instead.

["I didn't tell you because there's nothing you could've done."
"Don't ever give up."]

Also, Wesley and I both agreed that the girl in the film, Joni, reminded us of who we thought Carlie Wren might've been. She had similar features, and her style, entirely quirky and earthy, made us think of her. 

Lastly, the movie opens with an adoption worker asking the family what qualifies them for adoption; what makes them good parents? They answer "Timothy." Carlie Wren has done the same for us. Though we were never really able to parent her, she has made us better parents. Because of her short life on earth, we will never take moments for granted with our other children; the children I know in my heart we will have. We recognize, truly feel in our bones, that this life is a vapor. Here one day, gone the next. Not only do we recognize, but we have witnessed it. We have witnessed and understood, to our very cores, the fragility of life. When I hold my next child in my arms, breathing and squirming about, I will be full and lacking, all in the same moment. And I will know that their big sister, Carlie Wren, is saving us a place in heaven. A place where we can one day be together again.

 Oh, how He loves us so
Oh, how He loves us 

How He loves us so.

Sunday, August 19th, was a gift -- from My heavenly Father, and from my sweet baby girl. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I'm not okay, I swear it.

 Disclaimer: The title "I'm not okay, I swear it", is to explain that unlike a lot of women that can make the step of returning to work after four to six weeks, I cannot. It does not mean I'm going to harm myself. It does not mean that I'm not going to continue to heal through all of this. Please understand that, sweet readers. I'm "okay" in Christ, but "Ashley" is struggling...and I'm making the steps to continue allowing Him to be my healer. This is a glimpse into the dark side of grieving, but I am not letting it consume me. I am not letting it win. Thank you. - Ash

When I was thirteen, I began cutting myself.

I'd use razors usually, though I'd also scratch until my arms were sore.

My acts were partly peer led, and partly self-soothing. If you aren't a former cutter, you can't understand the euphoric peace that floods across your body the minute you drag the blade against your skin. I would often run my fingers across my scabs and torn skin, loving that my pain could be manifested into a physical representation. Somehow, in a ceremonial way, I felt that I was releasing all of the negativity that weighed me down.

This wasn't true, of course. I was using avoidance through self-harm. Instead of facing the disgustingly ugly truth of my emotional pain, I preferred to distract with physical pain instead. Instead of processing through why I hated myself and dealing with my raging emotions, I stuffed them inside with cuts to my arms.

After I found God, I completely stopped cutting. He took those emotions I'd been feeling, and He channeled them to the foot of the cross. I can safely say that managing my emotions has been a beautiful work in progress since my Jesus accepted me into His family. Until I could experience that dance of healing, the change wouldn't take place. I was simply lost in my own bloodletting.


There is a certain culture I've witnessed in the Christian grief community. Noticeably, a Christian mourner is less likely to go off of a deep end than someone who has nothing to hope in. This is understandable. In ways, it's beautiful. Yet in other puts this insane pressure on the Christian mourner. Also, simply knowing who Our Father is, we are expected to be strong because our strength is in Him. To show any less is a disgrace to His healing power. One can't be a witness to His power if we appear powerless, can we?
For me personally, at times I've questioned the "Christianess" of me. I was watching A Duggar Loss, which showed The Duggar Family discovering their 17 week old baby's heartbeat had stopped. As soon as the ultrasound tech confirmed that she didn't see a heartbeat, Jim Bob and Michele immediately quoted "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." I was shocked. Honestly, it confused me. Though after this was spoken, significant tears began to still baffled me; the automatic, almost robotic response. I don't begrudge the Duggars of this. I think they are living, walking examples of unshakeable faith in God. But I could not do that immediately. Ever.

Here is where my problem lies. Though my faith is unshakeable, my flesh isn't. While so many people have responded after grief with joy as an automatic response...that's something I simply struggle to do fifty percent of the time. Though I know my Carlie Wren is in heaven, and had a better Tuesday than I'll ever have this side of heaven...I struggle back and forth between being devastated and joyous about this. I've read perspectives from Christian bloggers who speak of returning to work in four weeks. I so long to be like that. I long to get past all of this, so I can move forward and not feel like the slightest push toward taking a step sends me into an anxiety attack. Does the fact that I'm struggling more than "most" Christian women mean that there is something inherently, spiritually wrong with me? I'm too weak, where other women have been so very strong, right?

Is the picture of me, completely, a picture of God and His strength? Or can I simply not shake these things aside because I'm simply not strong enough in my faith? I don't know the answer, but I can't help but envy these women who move forward quickly; who can compartmentalize grief and daily life and somehow come out more content than they were.

So, this is what I do know. 

The following is my own raw, beautiful wreckage that Carlie Wren left behind.

My name is Ashley Calvert. I have been off of work since July 10th, when I was admitted into the hospital due to incompetent cervix. What I thought was a routine check up turned into one of the scariest moments of my life: knowing I was dilated; knowing it was too soon for her to survive. We prayed til we couldn't form words anymore, and I fought against infection and bleeding.

Fourteen days later, I laid my baby girl to rest. I couldn't leave her graveside, and a huge, bloody hole has been punched in my chest since July 21, 2012 when she was born into heaven. I am a mother, but my arms are empty.

I tried to go back to work on August 6th, but the Wednesday before, I had my first post-partum appoitment with my doctor. She strongly suggested I take more time. When I had three more break downs that day, I realized she was right.

I tried to go back to work a second time on July 27th. I lasted about two and a half hours before my husband had to come get me. Everything in the office was a trigger. From the people I'd previously talked to about my pregnancy, to seeing tiny, pen-scratched numbers on Wednesdays of each week on my desk calendar, marking how many weeks I was along. I angrily whited out the numbers, and when I came to November 28th, with DUE DATE written in huge letters and circled, I lost it.

I've developed anxiety attacks about returning to work. I had my first counseling session today.
I'm taking anti-anxiety medication to help with the bouts of anxiety. I've been on them since I was in the hospital. I've had thoughts on four occasions of overdosing on pills, though I am always able to rationalize my thoughts out of that valley. Before all of this, I was a very care-free individual. Even in my darkest days before I got saved, I'd never had suicidal thoughts.

 I haven't had a normal sleeping schedule since before I entered the hospital. Even now as I type, it's nearly 2:30 a.m. I've been on sleeping pills since the hospital, too. Some nights they work. Some nights they don't.

I worship to my very core these days. This experience has made heaven a tangible place for me, not something merely pushed to the back of my head. During times of worship, I almost feel I can reach out and grasp it with my bare hands. I long for my heavenly home as I long for breathing.Worship has become one of my favorite things to do.
I read my Bible with passionate longing.
I have floating ideas in my head of ways I want to help women who are/were in my shoes. If I don't do some of these soon, I might explode.
I dream a million, trillion times bigger than before. I lack the blind naivety I had at one time that "everything will work out." My eyes are wide open instead. I prefer it this way.
I love my husband harder.
I love my husband for who he is, not for what he does or doesn't do. It's amazing what you learn about a person in the midst of a horrible crisis.
I know the next child we have will be the luckiest child within a 200 mile radius, because we are going to be good parents. We are going to love that child like our lives depend on it. After a day of work when we're too tired, we will still get up and play outside. We will remember absence, and we will remember being full. We will be such a beautifully wonderful family.

Until then, I'm left trying to build a masterpiece out of the wreckage.

 Through my brokeness, might you rise me up again, Lord? Might I achieve the joy that surpasses all understanding once again? Can you make a beautiful story out of the mess that is me? I fear I fail you with my weakness. 

  So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).

- 2 Corinthians 12:10, Amplified

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

31 Days - (Day -1 to 5)

{Day -1 (July 20th):
 I had a fitful night. I didn't feel like I was in my right mind, honestly. It had been ten days since I was admitted into the hospital. The emotional toll of everything was beginning to wear on me, and the doctors were concerned I would get an infection. We found out this morning that, where originally Carlie Wren had only her feet in my cervix, she'd moved to a squatting position. The doctor warned this made labor inevitable. He also warned that cord compression was a possibility. As with every day before, I cried until I lost the energy to create tears. Just a day before, it had appeared that Carlie had tucked her feet up higher. With the ultrasound today, it crushed the 7th wind we were riding on from the good news. Still, we remained prayerful, believing that God could create a miracle in Carlie Wren's survival. That night, I was placed on a contraction monitor per my fear that I was going into labor. No contractions were found, and at 4:00 a.m. that morning, I heard my sweet baby girl's heartbeat for the last time. It lingered in the 140's, as it had since I was admitted. I fought my sleeping pill, and for the first time, I was given both my sleeping pill and an anxiety pill so that I could sleep. It was the best sleep I had while in the hospital. Somehow, I feel like my spirit was being quickened, knowing that Carlie wouldn't live another day. Perhaps me fighting sleep was my attempt at grasping the last few moments with my baby girl. The last song Mommy played for her on the IPod, before eventually trying to sleep, was The Pretenders "I'll Stand By You."}

Day 1 (July 21st): 

I slept until 9 that morning, before meeting the doctor that was on call, Dr. Stacy Hunt-Okolo . I had never met her before, but she quickly became the angel I needed for this difficult day. 

I specifically remember that on this day, where I usually would've had Carlie's heartbeat checked on the doppler in the morning, I napped throughout the day and a nurse didn't get to me to check her heart rate until after 2:00 p.m.  At that time, the nurses spent what felt like an eternity, poking around near my pubic bone to try and get Carlie's heart rate. They reassured me that perhaps since she had dropped so low that getting a heart rate via the doppler wasn't possible. They ordered  that an ultrasound be done in my room by Dr. Hunt-Okolo. Wesley and I were anxious, but we didn't lose hope. We reasoned she was just too low to pick up a heart rate. After all, she'd had such a strong, healthy heartbeat earlier that morning. Surely, just as she had so many times before, Carlie was just keeping her Mommy and Daddy on their toes. 

They rolled the ultrasound machine into our room, coating the lower part of my swollen belly with the gel I'd grown accustomed to for the last 11 days. As the doctor began maneuvering the wand, I immediately noticed that our wiggly Wren wasn't moving around as she usually had before. I reasoned that she couldn't move a lot because of the absence of fluid in the sac. But soon, the doctor's sorrow-filled eyes turned to lock on mine. She grasped my hand as she slowly shook her head "No", her lips tightly held together as she communicated an unspoken message. She pointed out the absence of movement inside the four chambers of the heart. She explained it was difficult to see things clearly due to the lack of fluid. She asked if we'd like to have a second ultrasound after I filled my bladder, stating that the fluid might help us see things clearer to double-check. Relieved, I whole-heartedly agreed. As soon as the nurse and doctor left the room, I broke down. Wesley placed his hand on my stomach and we prayed a dozen prayers, much in the same language that Jesus used to will Lazarus to life. We weren't giving up hope. God could still revive her tiny, strong heartbeat. He could, if it was in His will. After the second ultrasound, we learned that nothing had changed. Our daughter was really gone. 

Through the guidance and encouragement of one of my nurses, Whittney, I decided to begin induction of labor that night, and the process began around 11:00 p.m. 

Day 2 - Carlie Wren's Birthday - (July 22):

Actual induction began at 3:30 a.m., and six hours later, my beautiful baby was born. My insides quaked with nervousness, as I wasn't sure what she'd look like. A 21 weeker isn't fully developed, and the longer the baby stays inside the womb, the more their body will change. However, as soon as she was placed in my arms, I fell in love. She was beautiful. She was perfect. She was ours. 

 Throughout my labor, my blood pressure plummeted at least three times. I was left dry heaving on several occasions, one of these being while Carlie was in my arms. It infuriated me that these sweet moments were interrupted by sickness. We were wheeled to post-partum, and I was so very grateful that they placed us in another room, instead of going back to the same room we'd spent the last week in. It had a beautiful view of the bright, cloud-scattered sky. I held Carlie in my arms for hours, taking ten and fifteen minute naps in intervals. I sang You Are My Sunshine to her, and scattered her firm forehead with dozens of kisses. I had my desired skin to skin contact, with her cuddled against the top of my chest. She was cold, but for a moment, it felt like she was cuddling me back. I looked at the sky to the right of me, and I sobbed; my baby was in Heaven. 

I never wanted to let her go, but eventually I had to try and get up to use the restroom. If I wasn't successful by 6 p.m. that night, I would need to have a catheter put in. After a horrible experience with my first catheter, I was scared to death of having a second. However, I wasn't successful. As soon as I sat down in the bathroom, I began to pass out. They used ammonia to bring me back, and it took me several minutes to reach complete consciousness. It was discovered that due to the large amount of blood I lost before and during delivery, I would need a blood transfusion. I eventually did have to have a catheter in, as my uterus began spasming due to the fullness of my bladder. This was by far the most physically painful thing I'd experienced in the hospital, and ever.

I couldn't bear to give Carlie's tiny, 11 ounce body to a nurse until well into the night. It killed me, and my arms ached the moment she was taken from me. 

Day 3 (July 23rd): 

I was given a blood transfusion, and received three bags of blood. After this, my color began returning to normal, and I started feeling better. There were many, many tears shed this day. Things were sinking in, and with each new realization, I was devastated. We battled with decisions no parent should have to make; burial or cremation. I asked for her body again, and a nurse brought her to me. I'm still not sure if this was the best decision, as she had deteriorated significantly. It was heartbreaking to see how fragile she was. Still, I was able to tell her the mommy things I'd wanted to say the day before, but couldn't muster the energy to utter. I sobbed as Wesley called for the nurse to come take her. Though my mind told me it was time, my heart just couldn't let go of her. I begged for more time, but in the end, it was best to let her go. I didn't want to cause her tiny body any more trauma. I went to sleep with a heavy heart, knowing that she would never be coming home with me. 

Day 4 (July 24 - Carlie's Graveside Service & Burial): 

The next morning, I was so ready to leave the hospital. This day marked two weeks since we'd arrived. I was torn, because I couldn't bear the thought of leaving my baby at the hospital without me being there. God mercifully orchestrated an opportunity for Carlie to be buried that evening. I panicked at first, pleading with Wesley, telling him I wasn't ready for any of this yet. However, my desire for her to be at rest overruled my anxiety. I finally got out of the bed, and Wesley and I cuddled on the hard loveseat in the room, positioned by the window. We watched birds fly by, and more tears were shed. I was finally discharged, with a little over three hours to spare before we were to be at the Graveside Service. I sobbed through the whole service, and leaving her side was one of the hardest thing I've ever had to do. If it'd been my choice, I would have camped out with her that night. These thoughts aren't rational. I know that my baby is in Heaven, rejoicing with the angels. But that fact doesn't automatically turn off my motherly instincts and need to protect and nurture Carlie Wren. So, I waited until the dirt tucked her in tight, and then I waited some more. I was so frustrated as I heard people talking around me. Couldn't they understand my world had stopped for a moment, and the last thing I wanted to hear was the outside world carrying on with business as usual?
Eventually, it was time to go. Wesley comforted me by describing her first night in the cemetery:

"She'll be out under the stars, out in the country. And she can listen to the birds." 

At the exact moment he said this, a chorus of birds began chirping cheerfully. I smiled internally, and it was just the strength I needed to rise from the ground, the soil of her grave rubbed into my palms, as we made our way back home. 

 Day 5 (July 25th): 

I received the first few edits of our photos, courtesy of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep  and Brandy Kemp. They were breathtaking. We cried at how beautiful they were, and we mourned the loss of our daughter. I soon learned that aching sorrow would become a daily occurrence, not easily avoided.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What do you do when you're a modern day Job?

via Facebook


Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him. - Job 13:15

 I was reading this article about a young woman who was caught in the crossfires of the Aurora, Colorado shooting. If you have a chance, I recommend you read it. It's inspiring, and definitely encourages us to not claim the martyr card when "simple" things are going wrong in our lives.

I was particularly fascinated by certain parts of the article:

  • Bonnie Kate wasn't from Aurora. She was passing through with a friend from a ten day vacation in Seattle, Washington.They were returning home to Baton Rogue, Louisiana when they decided to stop at a hotel in Aurora.

  • Bonnie Kate wasn't a fan of the Batman movies. The only reason they went to the midnight showing was because the lady at the front desk suggested the midnight showing at a nearby theater.

  •  Due to the chaos that the shooting created, she waited in the local ER for three hours before pain medication could even be administered. 

  •  Bonnie self-described that the various reconstructive surgeries she's received since the shooting have left her in more pain than the initial shooting.

Bonnie Kate describes the pain she experienced. She doesn't ignore that. And yet, with everything, her response is to praise God. She forgives the shooter whose gruesome acts left her confined to a hospital bed until this past week. 

For so long, I viewed God as someone to protect me from all of the really awful things in life. Sure, I'd heard of other Christians going through hell and back, but somehow, I had this naive view that my life would always be, though wrought with problems, liveable.

The thing that hit me so hard from Bonnie Kate's experience is this:
God not only allowed her to go through pain, suffering, and fear...but he orchestrated events so that Bonnie Kate would be in that theater the night of the shooting. So many things could have gone differently. Perhaps if they'd driven just a little bit further, they would've been in a different hotel in different city. If they'd decided to go to bed early in their hotel room instead of listening to the front desk clerk, Bonnie Katie and her friend would be in Baton Rogue by now, planning other adventures.
Bonnie Kate didn't notice any signals to steer away from the theater. She didn't hear that still, small voice, firmly warning her from going. Quite the opposite. She said in the article:

"I’m not a huge Batman fan, but I thought, oh, it will be fun,” she recounted.

This may be my own opinion, but I believe that if God didn't mean for Bonnie Kate to be in that theater the night of the shooting, He would've given her some warning. We've all felt an internal security alarm go off in our spirits, haven't we? I know I have. Steering away from a person that just "doesn't feel right"; avoiding a place that makes your skin crawl. Those are all signs and signals from our heavenly Father, trying to protect us. In saying that, some would ask "Why didn't God protect Bonnie Kate then?" If you were to ask Bonnie Kate this, I'm sure she would shake her head in disagreement. He did. And He continues to, every day.

“When people say to me ‘Oh, Bonnie Kate, you’re so strong and amazing’, I say ‘I am not strong and amazing but I have a strong and amazing God whose grace I rely upon.’”
A painful realization I've come to recently is that God not only knew what I would face, but He allowed my cervix to dilate, my emergency cerclage surgery to fail, and my sweet Carlie Wren to die.

  In Angie's Smith's I Will Carry You, she describes a painful struggle during her pregnancy. She discovered through a routine ultrasound her daughter, Audrey Caroline, had a medical condition which would cause her to die shortly after birth. Angie went through a roller-coaster during this time.They hoped and prayed for a miracle, and right before their eyes, problems they'd encountered in a previous ultrasound were disappearing. Where a stomach and bladder weren't, they suddenly appeared.  Where three chambers around her heart had been, four were now formed. Eventually, the doctor took back that diagnosis, though was cautious about everything. Angie and her husband hoped and prayed for a miracle. They had hundreds of people in agreement with them. However, once her daughter was born... the NICU nurses discovered that Audrey wouldn't live past a few hours. After her child passed, she obtained the results from Audrey's genetic testing... and they found nothing wrong with her child.  Shortly thereafter, she had a friend who was due a few weeks after her. The friend had been diagnosed with the same medical condition as Audrey. However, her son was born screaming. Angie recalls thinking "What a beautiful day for a miracle!" No doubt the boy's family felt that everything had been a misdiagnosis, as the infant's lungs weren't even supposed to be developed, according to modern science. 

The boy died an hour after he was born. 

In all three cases, we had faith that everything would be fine. That God would allow our children to live. This didn't happen. We had families believing with us that everything would be fine. I had so many people tell me they "just knew" that Carlie would pull through. In some small way, {though hoping in the Lord renews strength}, we experienced more pain through hoping than we would have through accepting the doom and gloom the doctors were forecasting. The fact that our miracle wasn't granted felt like a cold, callous slap in the face.The world would say we were made to look like fools. "Look at your God now! Where is He? How can you believe in a god that abandons you when you believe He will give you a miracle?" 

 People say "God is weeping with you." Yes, He is. Just like Jesus wept over Lazarus, seeing the pain of Mary, Martha, and all of his friends. Jesus knew He was going to heal Lazarus, but He still wept. Why? Because we have a heavenly father that empathizes with our pain. However, this wasn't a surprise to Him.  He saw Carlie running to His arms long before I even knew I was pregnant. That is a difficult, bitter pill to swallow. I have the temptation day after day to ask why me? Some days, I give in. Other days, I remember how God brought me through each and every step in that painful journey, shortly before we found out Carlie died. Do I think this all happened because it's a horrifying result of our fallen world? Yes and no. Of course, if sin hadn't entered the world, I wouldn't know this pain, or any pain. 

However, God is a God of living and breathing miracles. If He'd willed it, Carlie Wren would've been another miracle to glorify God with. We begged Him for it. We wept for His presence, for Him to reverse all that happened. We claimed our Psalm 118:17 life verse over her, believing she'd pull through. We pleaded that my amniotic fluid would be restored, that Carlie's feet would tuck back up into my womb, that somehow, against all odds, we would be spared from the pain that loomed above us. And yet, like Bonnie Kate, we weren't. Carlie died, and it left a gaping, bloody hole in my heart. I had dozens of Facebook messages encouraging us during our hospital stay. Many people explained how they'd heard from another friend that their daughter/son was born at 21 weeks, and lived. We were given hope that never came. We held onto our faith, white-knuckled, and despite all of this... we weren't given our miracle. 

I'm never going to understand this side of heaven the exact reason for why my baby girl never saw the light of day. I also know that I had to come to a personal journey of acceptance to understand what I've written above. I don't think it's ever a wise decision to comfort a person in the midst of grieving that "This is God's will." Though deep down the griever may know it, that statement doesn't comfort in a time of immense, raw pain.

 Scripture promises me that HE works all things together for good. Just as Bonnie Kate has a platform to minister to thousands of people through her testimony, so will we. 

"If you're praying for a miracle, and God doesn't give you the miracle, you WILL be the miracle for someone else." -Nick Vujicic