Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Journey: Guest Post - Helen Deese

Whew! Life has been so busy of late. I finally got over my cold and finished my days at a local elementary school as visiting author. I hope to share a little about this later when I have time to catch up. This week I'm in Atlanta for vendor events in Fulton County Schools. 

In the meantime, a friend I was very close to during the season of my journey with Allison recently sent me her thoughts. I appreciate her willingness to be my guest blogger for the day and get me started back on the track to blogging again! Helen's piece in this story illustrate just how much our stories are not all our own. 

He Came to Me in Whisperings of Loss

While we were living in Columbus, Georgia in the 1980s, we were in a close knit church of about 150 who loved to share life together, serving each other in love. Cliff was the pastor and I was friends with his wife Doraine.

One day I was over at their house helping her with some housework because she was about 6 months pregnant and struggling with this pregnancy. I just wanted to lend a helping hand to lighten her workload for that day. I remember I was in the living room dusting a table when I looked across the room at her. Her tummy was round and she had that pregnant glow we both had experienced already. All of a sudden I “heard” the words “This baby will not see the light of day!” The words were so powerful, so clear, so direct yet so devastating. I didn’t know what to do with them. I rebuked the thought. I pondered them for the rest of the time I was there, but was eager to leave and process them. I hurried home and told Bill about what I’d heard and ask him what I was to do with that word. After praying, we decided that we were not being asked to do anything so we just held it and prayed for her pregnancy.

Doraine’s pregnancy progressed up until term and Bill and I were rejoicing, still confused about what I’d heard. Then one afternoon we got a call that Cliff and Doraine were on their way to the hospital to deliver their stillborn daughter. I went into our room and cried for hours, confused, sad and wondering if there was something I could have done that would have prevented this terrible loss. After a time had passed and I found the courage, I went to them and told them of the word I had received and asked them to help me understand what happened. After praying about it, they reassured me that her death had nothing to do with me. I was learning to hear God’s voice in unnerving news as well as good news.

They went on to share that they spent some time holding their little Allison after she was stillborn and felt God had spoken to them as well that He could do more through her death than her life. At first that was confusing to them, but as time passed, an impacting ministry developed for families who had lost babies like Allison and their pain and grief was slowly converted into power in others lives.

Through receiving an alarming forecast from the Holy Spirit, I came to understand that my Father needs me to trust Him in all things, whether it fits my idea of how things should be or not. He wants to share His will with me and disclose his purposes according to his plan, not mine in his way and in his timing. He wants me to develop a trust big enough that I can embrace whatever he chooses to give me a glimpse of. Father, may I hear your voice and simply respond.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Flu

Antibiotics for the sinus infection.
       Syrup for the cough.
               Nasal spray for the stuffy nose.
                          Tylenol for the aching head.

Oops. Allergic reaction to the cough syrup!
              Bug, be gone!


I will eventually get well and return to blogging.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Journey: Good Grief!

As I have been working on telling this story, I went back and read all my journals from 1985. Once I was past the initial stages of the grieving process, I jumped back into real life with both feet. I resumed leadership of a women’s group. I continued to volunteer at my children’s small private school. I did laundry, cooked meals, and cared for my family. My private conversation with myself and God, captured in those pages, reveal both a deep love for the people whose lives mine touched and a numbness somewhere inside myself that I could not force to disappear.

Excerpts from my journal:
March 2, 1986 - My emotions are going haywire. I feel like I’m running down a road. At one point I’m happy, then I’m upset and hurt, then I’m frustrated and angry, then I’m sad. All the time running down the road at a speed so fast I don’t have a chance to deal with each emotion.
Mother’s Day, May 1986 - I want to scream. I don’t want to be “chosen”. I want to be obscure. I don’t want to have faith or be part of the great purposes of God. I wish I could go out into a forest and be alone and be left alone and be quiet and not have to have faith.

At once my older eyes want to cry out to my younger self, “You don’t have to do all this! Give yourself time to recover.” And I wonder why someone didn't say those words to me. I wonder if I would have listened if they had. Of course, you can’t just stop everything when you have a husband and three small children. Cliff was very understanding, never pressing me to be okay. It was me that pressed.

I have always expected a lot of myself, perhaps as a result of my upbringing. Those expectations make me a very reliable, responsible person. Not all a bad thing, but there are times when you have to cut yourself some slack. The grieving process is one of those times.

With nearly thirty years more life experience, I think I understand a few things better than I did then. And yet, this last month as I have walked through the grieving process once again, I still find myself with the same problem—thinking I should be able to accomplish all the things on my to do list in a reasonable fashion. And I can’t. My brain doesn't want to hold all the information that I feed it. My body needs more rest than usual. Although I understand the steps of the grieving process, and have embraced them, and have found a place of peace in relationship to my Daddy not being around anymore, the effects of that process are profound, even when I feel peaceful.

It is as though every part of me needs to work through the healing process—not just my emotions, but my body and my mind and my spirit, as well. Repercussions, undulating waves that spread slowly to the farthest shore of who I am, and must be weathered, watched, and acknowledged with grace.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Journey: Finding Peace

While I was pregnant with Allison, I often read this poem from the Book of Psalms. It was a difficult pregnancy physically. I was off my feet most of the last three months and needed "abundant" strength and support. I was so often unable to do the things I felt needed to be done. I could only rest and wait. 

After Allison's death, the words took on new meaning. My heart was broken and in need of binding up. I longed for understanding beyond my temporal existence. As I began to find some healing for my sorrowing heart, I found the "bars of my gates" being strengthened. I knew my daughter had been blessed within me. Peace began to grow in my borders. I love the closing image of God satisfying me with the "finest of wheat." I spent lots of time thinking about what those words meant for me. 

Psalm 147

Praise the LORD!
         For it is good to sing praises to our God;
         For it is pleasant and praise is becoming.

The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
         He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
         And binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars;
         He gives names to all of them.
Great is our Lord and abundant in strength;
         His understanding is infinite.
The LORD supports the afflicted;
         He brings down the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
         Sing praises to our God on the lyre,
Who covers the heavens with clouds,
         Who provides rain for the earth,
         Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.
He gives to the beast its food,
         And to the young ravens which cry.
He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
         He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man.
The LORD favors those who fear Him,
         Those who wait for His lovingkindness.
Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
         Praise your God, O Zion!
For He has strengthened the bars of your gates;
         He has blessed your sons within you.
He makes peace in your borders;
         He satisfies you with the finest of the wheat.

Friday, March 8, 2013

March Madness!

It's Poetry Friday! For more wonderful poetry, visit our host, Heidi Mordhorst, at My Juicy Little Universe

And it's only a few days to the March Madness Poetry Tournament, hosted by that evil, poet genius, Ed DeCaria, who dreams up four-syllable words and expects competitors to invent child-friendly poems with them. 

Voting on first round poems begins on Wednesday and Thursday. With an 11-seed word, I'm pitted against Cheryl Laughton Malone, who sounds important and very poetic. Yes I am shaking in my boots!  

This poem from Samiya Bashir perfectly captures my frame of of mind. 


By Samiya Bashir 
if this is a game then we have made it, unknowing,
to the final four. unlikely underdogs. spectators turned
to suspect sport. anti-athletes. out of shape beyond reason.

at season’s height we fight for a limited audience. few dancers.
fewer cheers. down by 30 and our coach m.i.a. we, foolish, dribble.
each bounce-back brings a stranger. can’t call us for traveling because

we ain’t going nowhere. instead, we trade terrified looks. search

Read the rest here. I love her last line!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Journey: A Blanket of Love

The next morning we found seats near the back for the first conference session. A young couple came into the next row, pulling their baby stroller close to them in the aisle. The conference session began with an period of worship in song. During the first song, the little one in the stroller began to fret. The mother to pick her up, a little girl dressed in pink, about two or three months old. The dad, who stood directly in front of me, took her into his arms and laid her against his shoulder.

This bright-eyed little girl bobbed her head around and stared at me. She was beautiful. I thought I might fall apart. I didn’t know if I could stand there and watch her watching me.

The voice that went through my head said this: Just be quiet. Don’t sing. Stand here and look at her and let me touch you. I’ve learned to listen to that still, small voice when it comes. So I did as I was told. I watched her moving her sweet little hands, looking all around, bobbing that cute head up and down from her daddy’s shoulder.

I had the sensation of someone wrapping a blanket around me, almost as though I were the baby in the father’s arms. It was such a strong impression, it was almost physical. I stood there, resting, occasionally opening my eyes to see the child’s again, pulling that blanket of quiet tighter around my sad heart. I don’t know how long it was, but when it was over, I knew something was different. That I was different somehow.

As we left the conference room, the mother of the little boy I had spoken with the night before greeted me and asked if I wanted to hold him. So I took him. It wasn’t like holding Ray. It wasn’t an acknowledgment of what should have been. It was different. I was able to look at him and laugh and coo like the silly woman who got her hands on him first the night before. I could hold him and know that this was someone else’s baby and it was alright.

The next week I had my six-week checkup with the doctor. I was able to tell her about all I had experienced during the last two months. I put my arms around her and hugged her, prayed for her, told her how grateful I was for her compassion, and asked God to comfort her and he had comforted me. I felt like our roles were reversed. Out of the measure of healing I had experienced, I was able to offer something to her.

I questioned the change in myself. Was it real? What would happen if I walked down the baby aisle in the grocery store? So I tried it. Nothing awful. I took a meal to a neighbor who was just home from the hospital with her new baby. Again, I held him with the peace that this was someone else’s child. Not that I stopped thinking about Allison. I thought of her often. I still think of her. But I could feel the beginnings of thinking about her with joy instead of anguish. She changed my life as much as any of my other children.

So was I really healed?

The answer is yes. And the answer is no.

Grief, as I was to find, is cyclical. But whenever it cycled back around, I knew what to do with it. And slowly I worked my way back into real life.

A song that meant much to us during this season of both grieving and healing was "It Is Well With My Soul." It was written by a man who lost his business in the States, sent his wife and three daughters to England ahead of him, only to lose the three girls in a shipwreck. His wife telegraphed him, "Saved alone." On his voyage to England to join his wife, they ship captain showed him the place the first ship had gone down. Out of his grief and struggle to find peace came this song, sung in rehearsal here by the Blenders, an Australian men's chorus.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Journey: Beginning to Heal

During that first month after Allison's death, friends continued to stop by. There were times I didn't need to cry, but my comforters did, and that was okay. I would hold them and let them cry for me. That act itself brought some measure of peace, but a baby picture in a magazine or crying child in the grocery store still caused my heart a sudden free fall into my belly. 


One day a friend went with me back to the hospital. I needed to stand at window of the new born unit and watch the babies kick and cry and sleep the sweet sleep of life. I touched my fingertips to the glass and breathed a wistful breath. I might not have a child to hold in my arms, but others did. Life continued. Mine. Theirs. The world kept turning. We walked back to the car in silence, but I knew I would go on. Keep living. Keep breathing. Keep hoping. 

Then a friend who had been pregnant with me delivered a curly-haired, ruddy-faced, healthy baby boy. His name was Ray. When she came home from the hospital, I went over and spent a day with her. I held that sweet little boy in my arms, rocked him, and changed his diapers with the strange sensation that this was someone else's child, not the one I should have been holding. But this was the way it would have felt. Sort of a weird deja vu that I allowed myself to feel. 

Sometime toward the middle of February, Cliff and I attended a church-related conference in Macon. I walked into the hotel meeting room the first night and encountered a group of young mothers in the back corner. Two ladies were pregnant, two had infants, and one held a tiny baby boy about seven weeks old. Allison would have been six weeks at the time. With a bit of fear and trembling, I joined their circle and greeted the mother with the youngest child. We had a mutual friend who had told her about my loss. 

We talked some about my journey to this point and I asked if I could hold her son. As she was holding him out to me, another woman walked up and reached for him. "Oh, let me see this sweet boy!" she cooed.

Okay, I thought. Not time yet. One step at a time.