Be Still

I was standing in the shower with a million things running through my mind, tugging at me, pulling my heart in every direction.  I prayed, “God, I really don’t know what I’m doing here.  Please give me something.

And He did.

My phone had been playing music quietly in the background.  But suddenly it was loud.  Kari Jobe was singing “Jesus, You’re all I need.

Her song, Healer, goes on to say:
You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
And heal all my disease
I trust in You, Lord I trust in you

Sometimes I forget.  I forget that He’s all I need.  I forget that He once calmed the raging seas simply by saying, “Silence!  Be still!” (Mark 4).  And I forget that He can do the same for my racing mind.

As I stood in the shower–my thoughts battling each other, threatening to take over–He reminded me, “…you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

Exodus 14:14

With hope and love,
Kristen

Crashing Waves

2 Thessalonians 4:13

They say drowning is very peaceful. Many who are saved don’t remember the experience.

My life, until recently, has been smooth sailing. (Hindsight is 20/20, after all.) But just as I saw land on the horizon, I was met by a colossal, crashing wave. It pounded my tiny boat until only pieces remained, floating in the water that is once again still.

From the day of Ryder’s birth up to today, I have felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I do still feel the pangs of grief, but I know that my anxieties, anger, and fears have subsided much more quickly than is “typical” when loss is experienced.

At first the peace felt terribly out of place. I remember thinking to myself I must be drowning in my grief–losing grip with reality. There is no way this feeling can be healthy. I need to snap out of it.

But eventually I remembered the countless prayers that had been lifted up on our behalf–prayers said for us and by us.

Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And that is exactly what I have experienced. True peace–not drowning.

Praise God!

If you have experienced loss, I know that it is very difficult to put your hope and your faith in God. It feels like he has abandoned you. But I promise he hasn’t. Remember that poem “Footprints in the Sand“? He hasn’t abandoned you; He is carrying you. When you feel like you can’t take another step, let him carry you. When you feel like you are drowning, let him rescue you.

The LORD is close to the broken-hearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” – Psalm 34:18

With hope and love,
Kristen

Book Review: Savor by Shauna Niequist

My routine over the summer has looked quite a bit different than other summers. Summers are usually a time for me to veg out on the couch and be lazy after a hectic school year.

But after being on bed rest for a month and then moping on my couch for another month, I decided I needed to make myself get up. So I made a point to sit at the table instead of lying on the couch first thing in the morning. And in doing that, I motivated myself to start a morning devotional/quiet time. It has been soothing to my soul to start the day in conversation with God.

The devotional I chose is Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna Niequist. I had seen it mentioned on a blog I read, plus it’s just a beautiful book. Besides the devotions, it also has some of Shauna’s favorite recipes scattered throughout. I hadn’t read any of her other books, but I thought I would give this one a try.

{Beautiful details of Savor}

{Beautiful details of Savor}

At first, I felt very disappointed that it didn’t dig into stories from the Bible. I mean, how could I become closer to God without reading his Word… right? But it turns out, Bible stories were not what I needed.

These daily devotions give an in-depth look into the life of a modern day Christ-follower. Shauna shares intimate details of her joys and sorrows, hopes and hopelessness. And at the end of each passage, she brings the focus back to your own personal relationship with God. She asks questions that are sometimes tough to answer. They make you dig deep and really look into whether or not you are truly putting your life in God’s hands. There are times when I find myself rolling my eyes thinking, why did she have to go there?! I don’t want to think about that!

Eventually, I pull out my journal and pour out my heart, answering her questions. More often than not, it ignites more questions and thoughts that I hadn’t previously realized I needed to hash out with God. What I end up with is a written prayer.

My experience with this devotional has been introspective and therapeutic. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to grow closer to God. Whether you are struggling with putting your trust in Him, or if you feel steadfast in your relationship with Him, I believe you will be touched by Shauna’s words.

If you have used this devotional or read one of Shauna’s other books, tell me in the comments about how it has affected you.

With hope and love,
Kristen

**One negative review I have read about this devotional mentions that most of the stories in Savor come from stories in Shauna’s other books. So if you have read her other books, you may be underwhelmed with this one. But I think the reflection questions will help you see the stories in a new light. 

Faithful in Prayer

I have always felt like prayer was one of my weaknesses.  Being asked to pray out loud has always been a terrible nightmare.  It takes me a long time to find the “right” words.  I stutter and fumble the whole way through, even when praying in silence.  On many occasions, my prayer ends up simply as, “God, you know my heart.  Please help me.

I hear the men and women around me pray these long, beautiful, meaningful prayers.  They almost sound like recitations instead of spontaneous thought.

And I want so badly to be able to pray that way.

But why?  Are their prayers more likely to be heard than mine?  Are they more likely to be answered?

No.  Of course not!

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Romans 8:26-27 says, “. . .the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit. . .”

See, the Bible doesn’t say anything about it needing to be pretty or a certain length.  Sometimes my prayers are rather ugly.  Like when I cry out to God with my hurts and anger.  Sometimes they are short and sweet.  Like when I think him for his daily blessings.  And I know he hears each and every one of them.

When I was in middle school, my youth pastor introduced me to the Five Finger Prayer.  I think it is typically used to teach young children how to pray.  And every night before bed, I still use this method.

  1. Praise God
  2. Confess your sins
  3. Thank God
  4. Pray for others
  5. Pray for yourself

As adults, I think we often try to make things way too complicated.  But the Bible puts it simply:

The Lord is near to all who call upon him. . .” – Psalm 145:18

Psalm 145:18

With hope and love,
Kristen

Due Date

Today was the big day. Or it should have been the big day.

Ryder’s official due date.

I have been anxious leading up to today. I wasn’t sure how I would feel. But it has actually been a pretty good day. Sam kept busy at work while I had a guitar lesson and ran errands. Tonight, we just spent time together cooking dinner and watching movies. Two ladies on a Facebook loss group lit candles in his memory today. It was a very sweet and thoughtful gesture.

Ryder Hudson Marshall

Monday the 15th was Ryder’s two month “angelversary”. The day came and went with little to show for it. At the end of the day, I was feeling partially relieved and partially guilty that it had felt like any ordinary day.

The very next day, I found a pamphlet in my purse titled “Handling the Heartbreak When a Baby Dies.” I have no memory of receiving the pamphlet and I had just cleaned out my purse the week before, so surely I would remember someone giving it to me…. right? (If you are the person who gave this to me, let me know so I don’t feel so crazy. Ok? Thanks!) Anyways… The pamphlet contained an article written by Jane Marie Lamb, the founder of SHARE, a group for bereaved parents. Here is the opening quote, which she attributes to a SHARE parent:

“One day you feel together and the next couldn’t be worse. It comes and goes–the shock, denial, anger, guilt, depression, emptiness, and aching arms. I crave privacy, yet I can’t tolerate being alone. I often feel angry that society doesn’t seem to accept any grieving that takes more than six weeks… The pain subsides, only to come flooding back again. At times, I even relish it–after all, it is part of my baby[…]”

I felt like I was reading all the things I’ve felt but haven’t had the words to say. Extreme emotions are what typically drive my writing–whether it be an extreme high or an extreme low–so when I’m having a rather “normal” day, it’s hard to find much worth writing about. If I’m not grieving with tears or rejoicing through laughter, I mostly just feel numb. And I don’t like that feeling… or lack of feeling, I guess.

One emotion running rampant in my head these days is apathy. It’s not intentional, but it’s there.

I’m sorry I didn’t sign up on your care calendar to bring a meal after you had your baby. I wanted to, but we were at home having meals brought to us.

I’m sorry for scrolling past your pictures on Facebook or Instagram of your baby’s monthly milestones. I really do want to celebrate with you, but it’s just too difficult to think about. They are milestones I’ll never get to celebrate with Ryder.

I’m sorry that I haven’t asked you how your son/daughter is liking the new sport/activity they are participating in or how summer camp went. I’m too busy wondering if I’ll ever get to spend a summer with children of my own.

I’m sorry I haven’t asked how you’re doing. My mind is running in a million directions and I forget to ask about your struggles sometimes. Just know that I do think of you. I wonder how you are and I say prayers for you each day.

I read quite often about friendships that are lost after the loss of a child. At first I couldn’t believe it. How could friends abandon you in your greatest time of need? But now I understand. I don’t think I’ve lost any “friends” on Facebook, but there are friends who have stopped interacting with me. I guess they’ve either gotten tired of reading my posts about loss or they just don’t know how to talk to me. Either way, it’s sad. I often feel very isolated–like I’m on the outside looking in. But I’ve come to learn who my true friends are and I’ve even made a few new friends along the way.

In Sunday School this week, we were asked to watch for blessings in the everyday. Friendship is one of the blessings I’ve put on my list. I have a few very close friends and I cherish them deeply.

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” – John 1:16

With hope and love,
Kristen

Ryder’s Daddy

I want to introduce you to my husband.

{Isn't he handsome???} Photo by Erica Mae Photography

{Isn’t he handsome???}
Photo by Erica Mae Photography

His name is Samuel and I love him dearly. He is my complete opposite in every way. He is funny, he is loud, he is outgoing, he is athletic, he has musical talent, he loves being surrounded by big groups of people, and he seems to be completely fearless.

My handsome 2

We met in 2009 when I came back home to Tyler after college graduation. A new student ministry was getting started and I was asked to lend a hand to help get it off the ground. Our first event was a city-wide scavenger hunt. (You know, one of those where you’re given little assignments and you have to snap a picture as proof.) Well, there was this guy. And he was cute, he was nice, and he was just so silly!

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{“Get your wackiest team member to do something crazy with a celebrity.” His interpretation: propose to a news reporter. Because of course!}

The moment this picture was snapped, I knew I’d marry him one day! He claims it took him a little longer to realize it because he thought I was too old for him and figured I wouldn’t give him the time of day. Boy, was he wrong!

A few days ago, my devotional talked about transformations, and the reflection question instructed me to think about a transformation that I have witnessed. My mind immediately went to Sam.

Watching him transform into a daddy over the six months of my pregnancy was fascinating. He has always loved me well, but adding a baby into the mix created subtle changes in him.

He insisted that he attend each and every doctor’s appointment. At first I felt bad that he would need to take off work to go with me, but I am so very glad he insisted!

He was there to celebrate with me when my pregnancy was confirmed. He was there when we heard the heartbeat for the first time. He was there when the sonogram showed our boy’s sweet face. He was there to hold my hand when we first found out about the CHD diagnosis. And he was there to cry with me when we were told that Ryder wouldn’t make it.

After the diagnosis, he persistently asked questions to better understand all of our options and plans. And he insisted that we seek a second opinion when my hope started to fade.

In the weeks leading up to Ryder’s birth, he talked to him, read to him, and prayed over him. On the day Ryder was born, he held him, kissed him, and cried for him. He was a wonderful coach through all 28 exhausting hours of labor.

I have heard and read many stories of men having a difficult time bonding with their babies before they are born. After a stillbirth, many men have no way of connecting emotionally. Sam didn’t seem to have any trouble bonding with Ryder. I’m sure it helped that we talked about him every day, we felt his kicks and movements as Sam spoke to him in my belly, and we saw his face almost weekly through our numerous appointments. We knew him well.

{Sam spending some time with Ryder}

{Sam spending some time with Ryder}

Father’s Day was tough. It was almost harder for me than Mother’s Day. Not only was I dealing with a myriad of emotions, but I watched Sam ride an emotional rollercoaster of his own. He wasn’t just mourning the loss of Ryder–he was grieving the loss of so many possibilities. The games of catch they won’t get to play, the fish they won’t get to catch, the driving lessons he won’t get to teach. So many hopes and dreams that seem to have vanished.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own grief that I wonder if I’m failing him. Was I a good wife today? Did I love him well today? Was I attentive to his needs today? What more could I have done to help him today?

He is so patient with me. And so forgiving. He has been my rock and he has kept me sane. I couldn’t imagine doing life with anyone else.

With hope and love,
Kristen

New Normal

Life looks a little different these days as we try to navigate our “new normal.” Sam went back to work the Monday following Ryder’s birth, but I haven’t returned to work since school let out for Spring Break and I was put on hospital bedrest in March. I do miss work, but I’m glad I took the time off. My brain needed some time to shut off and reboot. I’ll return to my job full-time in the Fall when school starts up again.

My days in the “before” period consisted mostly of work, errands, meals, and sleep. And now? Now I’m getting to do all the things I used to put off until “some day.”

Some day, I’ll start reading morning devotionals while I sip my coffee. – check!

Some day, I’ll have time to read all those pretty books sitting on my bookshelves. – check!

Some day, I’ll make time to work out three days a week. – check!

Some day, I’ll learn how to play that guitar I got in college. – check!

Some day, I’ll get to meet my husband or my friends for lunch during the week. – check!

Well, “some day” has arrived. I finally have the chance to do all these things I’ve put off for so long. And it’s so refreshing!

But there are also activities that I never planned would be part of my life. Like support groups. Last Tuesday, I went to my second Glory Babies meeting. This time I took Sam with me. I think he was nervous about going, but in the end he said he wouldn’t mind going again next month. I thank God daily for such a supportive husband. And if we have to walk this path, I’m glad we are making new friends along the way.

I’ve had the chance to spend the last two Saturdays in the Dallas area with my best friend and her family. This Saturday, we celebrated her daughter’s third birthday. Princess-themed, of course! As soon as we arrived for the party, she pulled me in to a bedroom to see her new dollhouse and castle. Last time I saw her, she was just starting to put three words together. This time, she was ordering me around and even using different voices for all the dolls as we played. It’s been so fun to watch her grow! She calls us Kwi-ten and Uncle Sam. It’s pretty adorable. The previous weekend, we attended a Phi Psi fraternity alumni event at TopGolf. We’d never been before and it was a blast! Can’t wait to go again.

It’s odd how four hours of round-trip travel and an exhausting day can actually feel like a breath of fresh air. Besides my blood relatives, my best friend and her family are one of the few things that have been consistently part of my life over the past seven years. She took me in when I needed a place to live during grad school, she stood by my side while I said my vows to Sam, she was there for Ryder’s birth, and she always seems to know when I need some words of encouragement. She’s my person.

I wrote here about getting guitar lessons for my birthday, and I had my first lesson last week! I’m pretty sure I’m a terrible student. It takes me forever to learn a new concept, I always forget to practice, and then I forget things easily. But my teacher is also my friend and she was really good about teaching to my level and explaining things simply. (Stevie, if you’re reading this, I promise I’m practicing!!! Even though my fingers really hurt…) I’ll probably never be a songwriter or a worship leader, but I’m very excited to learn something new. I’ve always felt an emotional connection to music, so I think this will be good for my soul.

Tomorrow, I’ll have my morning coffee, read my devotional, have lunch with a friend, practice my guitar, and probably do some yoga. It’s all new to me. But it’s my new normal. And I could get used to it!

image

With hope and love,
Kristen