Sunday, September 30, 2012

His Jewel

Lately I've been revisiting one particular Wednesday in my memory.  It was the last day of Cora's life.  I probably keep recalling it because I so desperately want to remember her as a live baby.  Unfortunately, reliving the sweetness of that day always leads me to the inevitable disaster of the next.  I attended a farewell party at First Pres that Wednesday.  I pulled weeds.  I ate Vietnamese food with my mom.  Weird little things like that come to mind.  I remember being so tired of pregnancy.  My feet ached.  I felt huge.  I was huge.  In the weeks after Cora died, I struggled with real guilt for having been so "miserable" in those last days of pregnancy.  There's nothing like death to put mere discomfort into perspective.  In retrospect, I would have endured the worst of aches and pains with joy if it meant getting to hold my Cora alive.  If I had known she was going to die, I would have cherished every minute of being huge and uncomfortable with her.

Revisiting those days is like torture, but not ever going there is almost worse.  I need to remember our daughter.  Remembering her validates her life.  She was a person and still is a precious part of God's creation in Heaven.  She is a gem in His crown.

The song, "Jewels," has become our theme song for Cora Lane.  Evan used to sing it -rather obnoxiously I might add- all through our dating and early married years.  Seriously, for the better part of five years I was annoyed by this song!  But, on the afternoon that my family and I sat around planning Cora's funeral service, it was the first song that came to mind.  Its lyrics (which I had actually not really known before) rang perfectly true with ironic yet sweet clarity.  He has gathered her to himself like a precious jewel, his loved and his own.

"When He Cometh" or "Jewels"

When He cometh, when He cometh to make up his jewels,
all is jewels, precious jewels, his loved and his own.

Like the stars in the morning,
his bright crown adorning,
they shall shine in their beauty,
bright gems for his crown.

He will gather, He will gather the gems for his Kingdom,
All the pure ones, all the bright ones, his loved and his own.

Like the stars in the morning,
his bright crown adorning,
they shall shine in their beauty,
bright gems for his crown.

Little children, little children, who love their redeemer,
are the jewels, precious jewels, his loved and his own.

Like the stars in the morning,
his bright crown adorning,
they shall shine in their beauty,
bright gems for his crown.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Two Months Ago Today

Two months ago today, Cora died in the womb.  Two months ago today, we found out there was no heartbeat.  Two months ago today was the worst day of my life.  The following day was the hardest.

What do you put your hope in?

Earlier in the summer, before we lost Cora, the Waldo Canyon Fire raged out of control.  My dear friend, Cliff Anderson, died of cancer, and then the horror of the Aurora shooting took place.  My thought was, "Cora Lane's arrival will be one bright spot in this summer of darkness."  She represented hope to me.  And, when your hope dies, literally, what is left?

I think of the disciples when Jesus was crucified.  He was their hope, and he died -literally.  They had put all their stock in that guy.  The kicker part is that he had tried to tell them that he would come back, that their hope would not disappoint.  Yet, they still lost hope, they didn't remember his words, and if they did remember, some didn't believe it would happen.  Imagine the despair they must have felt on those dark days between his death and resurrection.

My hope has been in the wrong things.  -Husband, house, children, "happiness," adventure...  It has been the kingdom and all its blessings, not the King, that I've desired.  Do I believe that God will make all things new like he promised?  Even if I do, the glory is in Jesus, not in the retrieval of what was lost.  The objects of my deepest affections have been all wrong.

It may sound like I'm nay-saying my love for Cora.  Fear not, I'm not condemning parental love or the desire to have children.  Rather, I am recognizing that Christ alone should be my real hope.  Christ alone should be the desired Jewel.  In my heart, Christ alone should be the object of my worship, not the accouterments of a happy life.  How many times I have sung "In Christ alone, my hope is found" and it hasn't been true!

Two months ago today was the beginning of my open heart surgery.  The Surgeon reveals all the decay and cleanses it with the Truth.  I'm still on the operating table and will be for a long time.  There is much more work to be done.

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord.  For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes from God that depends on Faith -that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."
Philippians 3:7-10

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Tantrum and The Victor

This was a hard week.  My guess is I've been stretching myself too thin and not taking enough time to grieve.  All the evidence points to it...I've been short, easily annoyed, slow to smile and quick to cry.  Grief makes me feel like a terribly selfish person.  Then I feel guilty for being selfish!

I think I need to be more thankful.  No, I know I need to be more thankful, more aware of the blessings in my life.  But, I really don't want to thank God for anything right now.  I don't want to give in and let him win.  It's like I'm a willful little child all over again!  If I begin thanking God for the good things it's as if I'm giving up on being sad over Cora or like I'm letting God off the hook for taking her.  I want him to know I'm still mad about it.  Sometimes I want to try to punish him by witholding myself -my love, my approval, my worship- from him.  What sin!  Am I God that I should judge his actions and attempt to punish him?!  Yet, this is what I do in my heart.  -As if I am anything that God would be less without me!  Ha!

So, I will breathe a big sigh and surrender.  God wins this battle in my heart, and I become his restored daughter once again.  

Jesus, forgive me.  Lord, thank you for:

-My husband who loves me
-My mom and dad who cling to your truth and encourage me with it
-Today's sunshine and blue sky
-The glorious fall weather and golden aspen leaves
-Our cozy home
-The wildflowers blooming out back (They're Cora's flowers.  I had given up on them, but they began blooming around the time of her due date.)
-The Weerasooriya family and how they've blessed me
-My mother-in-law who carries the burden of grief with me and sits with me in times of fear and sadness
-My Gracie dog whose cuteness ought to be bottled and shared with others who need to smile
-Students for my music studio
-Your forgiveness of my many sins
-The Grief Workshop and the people there who are walking through their own valleys of death
-Old friends, near and far, who challenge me to extend the same Grace that God gives me
-The prayers of saints around the world which have upheld us
-Music that speaks the language of the soul when mere words cannot express the depths
-Tears that are a meager meal but that satisfy and enable me to face the day

Thank you, my God, for you -the Victor.  You win every time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Living in Freedom

Excerpts from Isaiah 53

"He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief..."

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace;
and with his stripes we are healed."

"Yet it was the will of God to crush him;
he has put him to grief."

Does Jesus know my sorrow and relate to my grief?  If ever there was a question (and there was), this passage answers it.  He not only knows it, it says he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows.  He became the afflicted one so that we could know freedom and grace.  "With his stripes we are healed."

Lord, help me live in your freedom!

Speaking of living in freedom, my friend, Rushika, and her mother from Sri Lanka visited me today.  Year's ago, Rushi's mother lost her 16 year old son and then lost her baby during labor and delivery shortly after her older son's death.  You would think that this woman's life would be completely defined by sorrow.  But quite to the contrary, she lives in absolute peace and joy!  She hands out encouragement and comfort like lifelines to those around her.  Because she is so closely acquainted with grief, she now knows the Lord's character very well and makes it her mission to extend his love to others.  I was so blessed by her today.  She spoke truth to my soul and prayed for my empty womb that it would be blessed with Cora's future brothers and sisters.  She said, "God is not testing you with sorrow, he is trusting you with it because he knows you can handle it"...without losing faith in his goodness.  Such a perspective makes me feel almost as though it's a privilege to carry this grief.  I pray I will be like her one day, encouraging those around me with blessings and truth.

Thank you, Rushika, for setting up our meeting today.  And thank you, Lord, for the Body of Christ near and far who extend your love in amazing ways!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Hurt that Heals

September 7, 2012

Sometimes fulfilling God's purpose for your life means trudging through the trenches of doubt, confusion, sadness and fear.  I really cannot see beyond the dirty walls of this ditch.  Imagine a World War I infantry trench.  That's what it feels like in my heart some days.

I used to have such fantastical dreams of the glorious things God would call Evan and me to do in life!  -Me and my tender-warrior-husband, hand in hand, changing the world for Jesus, cresting spiritual mountain tops and basking in God's blessing!  Boy, what a reality check we've had!  Could it be that following Jesus may mean wading into the dark, swampy valleys of pain and loss?

In the days just following Cora's death, I felt so betrayed (tricked, even) and hurt by God.  I recall asking, "Lord, why are you hurting me?"  He gently replied, "Joy, I was hurt."  I cried, "God, I feel so betrayed!"  He even more gently replied, "I was betrayed."  And when I remembered that he was hurt and betrayed for me, I had no more words.  It was as if he was just patting my hand saying, "I know.  I know."

...But I wanted answers!!

Instead, he told me to be satisfied with his peace and presence.  I'm not entirely satisfied with it yet -it's a daily process.  I still cry out, "why?!" more frequently than I want to admit. (It's amazing the pressure I put on myself to be "better" already.  It's been only six weeks!)

Looking back, I love how God didn't rebuke my bad theology, and he didn't slap my hand for blaming him or calling him a betrayer.  He just said, "I know."  He entered right into my hurt.  At that moment I realized that he had hurt far more than I could ever imagine.  And his hurt is the hurt that heals.

Friday, September 7, 2012

True Metal

It seems like somehow suffering is linked to our worthiness of the Gospel of Christ.

"Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.  This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, that you may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering.  ...To this end we always pray for you that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power."
2 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 11

We suffer for the Kingdom of God, and by it, God makes us worthy of his calling.

I'm not entirely sure how this translates to me in losing Cora.

Could it be that how we handle suffering is what makes us worthy or not?  The "steadfastness and faith" of the Thessalonians is what caused Paul to boast about them.  Because of their steadfastness and faith in the face of persecutions and afflictions, he considered them worthy of the Kingdom and worthy of God's calling.

Now, I ought to be careful to not to slip into a doctrine of works here.   This is my disclaimer!  Steadfastness and faith are certainly works, but they must be fruits produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit.   It seems to me that I cannot, on my own strength, be perfectly steadfast nor faithful!  Neither are a natural response in the face of trial.  My human condition -my frailty, sin and feeble mind- impair me from standing strong and keeping faith.  It is only God's Spirit within me that allows me to bear up under such sorrow and to have faith beyond all hope in God's goodness.

So in reality, it is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that is the true metal of the Christian and it His work which makes us worthy of the Kingdom and of the call of Christ.   It just so happens to be showcased best by affliction.  In this way, suffering not only makes us more like Christ, it makes us worthy of the calling of God and of his Kingdom.

This may be part of his purpose for me in losing Cora.

I don't like it.  I wish He would have chosen to do it another way.  In truth, I'd still rather have my baby, but I am learning to trust that God's calling is greater by far than any earthly joy.  I must remember and believe this.

Lord, make me worthy of your calling and Kingdom through this pain.  By your Spirit, help me be steadfast and faithful.  Help me stand the test and through it be made "perfect and complete" (James 1:4) for your purpose, pleasure, glory and praise.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Good Cry

August 26, 2012

Sometimes all you need is a good cry.  I find that any sort of change in circumstance sends me reeling.  For instance, my sweet family was just visiting and left today.  How wonderful it was to have them here!  The kids were a therapeutic delight, and holding my precious baby nephew was so good for my soul.  I even enjoyed having a noisy house!  But when all is quiet again, now that they've gone, the tears well up at the floodgates and burst through.  All the old questions come screaming back, and I sit helpless to take myself out of the torrent of tears and hurt.
I know it sounds miserable and sad, but crying is a release!  I feel such freedom to then go about my day.
Thank you, Lord, for creating tears and for creating us humans with the ability to cry them.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."  Psalm 34:18

Monday, September 3, 2012

"We are destined for this"

“…to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions.  For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.  For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.”
1 Thessalonians 3:2-4

I continue to be impressed by the thought that ‘this was no accident.’ –That Mary’s vial of perfume was always meant to be shattered and poured out at Jesus’ feet.  –That Cora was always meant to go directly to Heaven.  –And that we would have to “sacrifice” her in our hearts to the Lord.

"We are destined for this."  God knew this would happen.  Whether he cause it or allowed it doesn't matter to me.  They essentially are the same.  They both imply that if God is in control (and I believe he is), he knew already (or planned beforehand) that we would lose Cora.  It was destined, as Paul says regarding affliction in 1 Thessalonians.

In these thoughts I start to get the tiniest inkling of the "why" or at least a hint of the purpose for this "tragedy." 

First of all, is it really tragedy if losing Cora is what God had planned, if it's what he had purposed all along?  Yes, from our earthly, human perspective this is definitely a tragedy.  No parent should have to experience the emotional whiplash of joyous expectation being turned into bewildering pain and sorrow at the loss of a baby.  Being denied the reward of a precious child after nine months of pregnancy is truly devastating, and we should mourn...we DO mourn that loss.

However, aren't we as Christians called to have the mind of Christ, an eternal perspective?  We are told that in this life we see "only through a mirror dimly."  I realize that my perspective is so very limited.  Attempting to peer through the lens of eternity, I begin to find comfort knowing that Cora never had to battle with sin, never had to experience the wickedness of this world, never had to know hurt or sorrow.  Instead, she knew only love here on earth and now knows nothing put perfection in the presence of Jesus.  With that in mind, isn't Cora fulfilling God's perfect and good will for her life?  And if so, then is it really a tragedy in an eternal sense?  No way!  As a parent who wants the Best for her child, I can't imagine any better outcome for Cora's soul.  I praise God that she was ushered immediately into Glory.  Cora's destiny was to meet Jesus face to face; to know him, worship him and be loved by him.  What a high calling and what a good God!

I'm still struggling to praise God for our destiny, being the bereaved parents who are left behind, but there is comfort in knowing that the Lord, in his sovereignty, has a purpose for Evan and me in this.  I finally want to get in line with his purpose for my life, my destiny.