Friday, August 31, 2012

The Real Problem

August 15, 2012
Sometimes grief turns its unattractive little head around and points the finger at you.  In some ways I feel like I've let my whole family down; as if somehow it's all my fault that Cora died.  I know those feelings are nonsense, but like I said before, grief is unpredictable and doesn't always make good sense.

My husband lost a daughter.  Our parents lost a grandchild.  Our sibling lost a niece.  Their kids lost a cousin.  Already, Cora was so loved by everyone.

What color would her eyes have been?  And would she have been musical?  Athletic?  Spunky?  Sweet?  I just want to know her!  I want to hold her and rock her and give her my love.  I was happy to sacrifice everything for her.  My precious baby girl.

I feel like I failed Cora too.  It's easy to slip into the "what ifs" and the "if only's."  (Feel free to imagine a whole bunch of them being inserted here.)  And if only....then she might be here!

Instead, we had this nightmarish trauma unfold.

But, I have to remind myself that Cora is in Bliss.  Do I really believe that?  If do really believe she is in Paradise, then I have to believe that the Lord cares for her.

Sometimes I struggle to believe God cares for me.  Why would he take her?
to punish me?
to sharpen me?
to change me?
I don't like the idea that God allowed this to happen just to show me his love and comfort in deeper ways.  Couldn't he have done that without taking my child?

I will never know why, and even if I did, it wouldn't ever be a satisfactory reason. test my faith?
Ah...And herein lies the real problem.  Honestly, I would have rather lived with my mediocre faith and had my baby than love God above all else.  And that is idolatry.  Period.  This is where my heart gets laid bare, and it is not pretty, sweet or comfortable.
In his book, "Safe in God's Arms," John MacArthur talks about moving on in grief from asking "why" to asking "what now."  If there is a "what now" for me, it is to confront this very core problem in my heart that I have not loved Him above all else.  The Lord is asking me now to pour out this most precious and costly perfume, my Cora Lane, at his feet in unadulterated worship of Him alone.  This truly is testing my faith.

"...for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:3-4

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A plea from Psalm 119

August 13, 2012
The rest of the lessons from Philippians are a little too advanced for me at this stage of grief.  I will come back to them.

And so I turn to Psalm 119 and these are the verses I underlined.

25  My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word.

28  My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

In both, it is God's word that gives life and strengthens.  I need to be in the Word to recover from the blow of Cora's death, but in my flesh, the Word is the last place I want to be.

50  This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

It's in these sorts of Scriptures that I have to trust because at times nothing seems farther that the truth.

In my flesh I'd rather say:
"God's promise?  What promise?!
God doesn't answer prayer.
He doesn't bring life, he allows death.
God doesn't love me, he afflicts me.
God can't be trusted."

Oh how the Tempter twists and deceives!
Giving in to these tempting thoughts does nothing but worsen my grief because not only then will I have lost Cora, I will have lost my faith.  Instead of one tragedy, there would be two.

It is the grace and mercy of God that keep me hoping in Him even while I'm angry at Him.

68  You are good and you do good; teach me your statutes.

Perhaps verse 71 is true:

71  It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.

75  I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

76  Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.

Lord, 82  When will you comfort me?  For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.  116  Let me not be put to shame in my hope!

132  Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.  133  Keep steady my steps according to your promise and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

Jesus, 169  Let my cry come before you, O Lord, give me understanding according to your word!
170  Let my plea come before you, deliver me...
173  Let your hand be ready to help me...
176  I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant for I do not forget your commandments.

Oh God, hear my prayer.  Do not forsake me to unbelief.  Lord, increase my faith that I may see you in this.  Please don't let Cora's death be in vain.  Hold onto me, Lord.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fear and Trembling

August 12, 2012

We were in Sonoma for a week to get away, and the time with Evan was good.  We laughed, cried and talked about Cora.  We talked about God.  Evan has such a strong faith, much stronger than mine.  He is unwavering in his assurance of God's goodness and thank God for that!   I, however, struggle with all kinds of thoughts and questions.  My experience of losing Cora actually makes me fearful of God and His plans for me in moments of weakness.

"But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?
What he desires, that he does.
For he will complete what he appoints for me,
and many such things are in his mind
Therefore I am terrified at his presence;
when I consider, I am in dread of Him.
God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me"
                                 Job 23:13-17

My thoughts exactly.  I think Job knew how I feel.

Yet "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
I don't feel wise, I feel broken.

It's not that I'm tempted to doubt the existence of God.  I know he does exist.  It's rather like what C.S. Lewis says in A Grief Observed...."it's the terrible things I come to believe about God" that frightens me.  (forgive the paraphrasing!)  Satan would love to use my pain to cause me to doubt God's character.  I have to choose not to give in to those dark thoughts, but it helps to know I'm not the first, nor the last, to question God's goodness and to be fearful of his plans.  The answer as to whether or not God is good, however, has not and never will change.  He is good.  I will myself to believe it.

We are home now, and this is the first time in almost a month that I have been alone.  Truly.
The house is quiet.  All the voices and faces are gone.  Evan is at work, and I am left, sitting on the couch.  As I reflect, I can hardly believe it's all real.  This really happened.

My belly is flat ('s by no means flat).  There is no sweet kick or roll from within, no toes tickling my ribcage like before.  -Just an empty, confused body and a hurting heart.

As good of a book as Job is, I failed to be comforted by it.  It was helpful in making me see that "God is" and "God does" are absolutes.  It helped to keep me from cursing God or sinning against him in my anger, but it didn't salve my wounded soul like I thought it would.  Job suffered.  We suffer.  Suffering happens, and God allows it, even uses it, which is not very comforting.  It does however beg the question, "what does God want to produce in me as a result of this pain?"  I'm not ready to answer that question yet.

Then Evan and I read Philippians.  Paul exhorts them to be pure and blameless.  He tells them that God began a "good work" in them and that God will complete it.  And then he says,

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good purpose."
                                                     Phil. 2:12-13

(Side note:  So, not only do we have to be pure and blameless and obedient, we also have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling?!  C'mon, God!  Blast the human condition!)

Back to the fear and trembling.  Well, I've got that part down.  Now for the "good purpose" part.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Why have you made me your mark?"

August 10, 2012

Evan and I read through Job together.  The poor man!  All his children were killed, his livelihood destroyed and his health taken away; yet he did not sin against God in his complaining and anger.  How did Job have the grace and fortitude within himself to restrain his thoughts?!  I guess that was God's whole point in allowing Job's suffering.  God knew that through it all his servant would not curse God or stray from the truth.

"...Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."(Job 7:11)

This tells me that I can "complain" to God and speak my thoughts to him.  He can take it.  But, in my complaining I must not sin.

"In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong."  (Job 1:22)

How do I yell at God, knowing that He is the one who took Cora away, and not accuse him of wrong?  "In your anger do not sin." (Eph 4:26)  I've tried to be careful in my prayers.  Authentic but careful.

Job did not, however, hold back from crying out to God.  I identify with his sentiments....

"What is man that you make so much of him,
and that you set your heart on him,
visit him every morning and test him every moment?"
                                             Job 7:17-18

"...if I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind?
Why have you made me your mark?..."
                                             Job 7:20

In other words, "why me?"  Why me, God?  Why us?  I remember distinctly feeling like God had singled us out, like we had been targeted almost.  "Why have you made me your mark?"  It still feels like that at times.

I was one of the masses of pregnant women. In retrospect, I was enjoying it (for once)!  In pregnancy and childbirth you want to be normal!  My pregnancy was uncomplicated and quite easy in comparison to many women who experience sickness or discomfort.  So when I was in the hospital, the last thing I expected to hear is that I'm one woman in a thousand to whom this happens in this way.
The cord was wrapped around Cora's neck four times.  It was an unusually long cord.  Poor baby, she didn't know she was getting herself into a mess.

And yet, now she is richer than I'll ever be this side of Heaven.  She is without sorrow or pain or grief.  She is truly alive and truly who God made her to be.  This was no accident....

"But ask the beasts, and they will teach you, the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.  Who among these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In his hand is every living thing and the breath of mankind."  Job 12:7-10

It is okay to be angry and sad.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

She is In His Hands

Evening sketches....

Death and Resurrection

I am resurrecting this blog following the death of my baby girl, Cora Lane Nelson.  Sounds depressing, doesn't it?  I assure you my purpose in writing is not to depress anyone.  My purpose, rather, is to share with you both the shadows and slivers of light shed on this dark path of grief and in doing so, hopefully encourage your heart and mine with the truth of God's Word despite the difficulty of understanding it amidst this loss.

Some of what I share will be painfully honest, but there may also be times when I choose not to post something because it wouldn't have been edifying.  Grief brings many kinds of thoughts, helpful and destructive.  I do my best to choose the ones that bring life and light.  It's not always an easy choice, but I believe that's what I'm called to do.  I apologize in advance for my frankness about infant death, but when it happens to you it's almost impossible to be anything but frank.  If you are one who may be put off by it, this blog is probably not for you.  And that's okay!  But, if you have experienced something similar or have some connection to Cora herself, I pray you find these thoughts encouraging and at least informative.

I began journaling specifically about my grief about two weeks after Cora went to be with Jesus on July 27, 2012.  I recently asked my husband, Evan, if I should share some of my writing on a blog.  He thought it might be a helpful way to process both for me and for others, friends and strangers alike.  What I share on this blog will be portions of my written journal.

But first, let me say a bit about Cora.  She was a wiggly baby!  Everyday for the past four months or so I delighted in feeling her stretch and squirm.  My due date was coming up fast, and my mother had flown in from Pennsylvania to be with us for Cora's arrival.  We busied ourselves with yard work, shopping, dining out...all the fun things moms and daughters like to do while waiting for babies to arrive.  My due date came and went.  The doctor had been talking about induction, but when Cora scored a perfect ten on her "health tests," the doctor said it would be okay to wait and let Cora come on her own time.  I wish we had induced.  Three days after my due date, our world fell apart.  I had stopped feeling that sweet stretching and squirming, and Cora's heart had stopped beating.

We prayed there would be an obvious reason for her death that would be revealed upon delivery.  There was.  The cord was wrapped around Cora's neck four times.  It was impossible to have known or prevented her passing.  As my mother said, "She twirled herself right into the arms of Jesus."

And so began our journey down the road of grief.

August 6, 2012

"For the thing that I fear comes upon me,
and what I dread befalls me.
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, but trouble comes"
                                              Job 3:25-26

"Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."
                                             Job 7:11

What I feared most happened in late July 2012.  Cora Lane, our sweet baby, died in the womb, three days overdue.  She was small and lovely, even though her little head lolled lifeless and her tiny jaw fell open.  Six pounds, eight ounces, she was perfectly formed.  Her long fingers were slender and graceful though they did not clutch mine.  I held her body tight though her soul had long since departed to Heaven.  She had soft strawberry-blonde hair and perfectly intricate ears.  My Cora, God's Cora.