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

Walking with Grief

Since Ryder’s birthday, I’ve found quite a few things to help me as I walk through grief. This blog has helped immensely, but it’s just me and my thoughts. When grieving, you really need outside resources to help you up when you feel so stuck in your thoughts that there seems to be no way out.

People

People have been my first line of defense to keep from sinking into a depression. It’s a lot harder to get stuck in your thoughts when your friends are dragging you out of the house for dinner, to play cards, or watch them sing karaoke. Visitors, even a couple days after Ryder’s birthday, gave me a reason to get out of bed, take a shower, and put on clean clothes. That’s a pretty exhausting feat when you’ve just lost your son. But it’s a necessary step toward healing.

Support Groups

At first, I joined groups on Facebook, meeting women all over the world who have been, or are going through, similar situations. They’ve also introduced me to other bloggers who write about grief. It’s not a fun club to be in, but I sure am glad I’m not in it alone.

This week I attended my first support group meeting. There’s a group in town called Glory Babies for those grieving the loss of a baby during pregnancy or infancy, or those struggling with infertility. You can find out more about the group here.

This week, it was just the founder and me. That made me very nervous. I don’t handle awkwardness well and I’m no good at small-talk. She told me that sometimes there are ten people and sometimes there are none, but that “it is always exactly what it needs to be.” She was so right! We had a great chat. I think I really needed that one-on-one time with someone who has been where I am now. It’s refreshing to know that there is a future. I can make it. She spoke a lot about Ryder’s purpose. It’s exactly what I needed to hear. I look forward to future meetings.

Books

I buy my books like I buy my wine. If it’s pretty, then it must be good. So far, it’s worked out pretty well for me on the book side. Wines… not so much.

Look at this book!

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{Savor by Shauna Niequist}

Isn’t it beautiful?!? Even the inside is beautiful. And I don’t just mean the blue-gilded pages, though that’s my favorite part. I’ve only read a few of the devotionals so far, but I like it. It’s real. It talks about real life. And I like that.

Each day’s devotional is one page long and starts with a scripture. Then, the author shares a story from her life to tie in the scripture. It ends with a reflection question to think on. It’s really great if you journal during your quiet times.

I’ve always been a quitter throughout my life. I’d start a sport and quickly realize I hated it and quit. I’d start a journal, forget about it one day, then get so far behind that I’d give up and quit. I’d start devotionals, only to get too busy…. and quit. You get the picture.

I don’t want to quit this. I’ve never been one to spend oodles of time in the Word. (I know… bad Christian.) I’ve been more likely to just memorize individual verses or read other books that talk about the Bible. I’ve always been a Cliff’s Notes kind of person. That’s why I’ve always loved the idea of a devotional. Hopefully this one will stick!

I’ve also read I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith. It was given to me by a couple of church friends when we found out that Ryder wouldn’t make it, and it was exactly what I needed after losing him. It’s actually a very good book for anyone to read. It gives the reader insight into what someone going through loss may be thinking. Angie Smith’s husband is a member of the Christian group Watermark and they wrote a song called I Will Carry You for their daughter who they lost. It’s a beautiful song and we played it during Ryder’s memorial service.

Yoga

I’m honestly not sure about this one yet. Arizona State University is doing research on how yoga helps bereaved mothers through their grief. It’s a twelve week study and I just started it yesterday. It was an intro day, so I just watched videos on technique, breathing, and props that can be used. I don’t even know if I like yoga. But… I was once that grad student begging for participants for research. (It’s really hard to get people to do something for free. Even if it’s the equivalent to a personal trainer.) So I’m going to try my best to stick with it. (I’m not a quitter. I’m not a quitter. I’m not a quitter…)

This is just a small list of things to help with grief. I’d love to hear what has helped you through difficult times!

With hope and love,
Kristen

Forgiving God When He Disappoints

image

As I was driving around town today, Matthew West’s Forgiveness was playing on the radio. For some reason, the thought of forgiving God immediately popped into my head. And then I thought… “Is that even a thing???

Maybe it should be a thing. I mentioned here that I’m not really angry at God right now… but I do blame Him.

Job 14:5 says, “A man’s days are numbered. You know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set.

Ryder’s days were numbered before his conception. God knew he wasn’t going to live here on earth with his mom and dad, but that he would instead live with his Father in Heaven.

God is to blame.

I’m not sad on Ryder’s behalf. I actually feel joy for him because he never had to suffer here. God took him Home before his illness could cause him pain. He’s livin’ it up, partying with Jesus on the streets of gold. What’s better than that?!

What I’m sad about is me.

I’m sad I only got to enjoy my first pregnancy for six months instead of nine. I’m sad I don’t get to feel baby kicks anymore. I’m sad I don’t get to hold my baby boy and watch him grow up. I’m sad I’ll never have his drawings hung on our fridge. I’m sad I’ll never get to embarrass him by kissing him on the cheek as I drop him off for school. I’m sad I’ll never get to dance with him at his wedding.

God is to blame for my sadness, my heartbreak.

And while I trust Him with my life, my soul… I know I need to work on forgiving Him. He let me down. He didn’t live up to my expectations. I need to learn how to forgive Him – not for His sake, but for mine. I have no idea what that will look like, but if I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

With hope and love,
Kristen

One Month

It’s been one month. Ryder would have turned one month old on Friday, the 15th.

I spent the day running errands, helping my mom get my grandmother settled into the nursing home where she’s getting rehab therapy, and spending time with friends late into the night. I was thankful to have the distractions, but it didn’t stop the thoughts from flooding my mind every time I got still and quiet.

If Ryder were here, he’d most likely be healing from his first heart surgery and I’d be taking his one month photos with the pretty, wooden count-up blocks we bought.

I realized this week that many of you may not know how we got here. I met some of you after Ryder left us, and some of you may not have followed our CaringBridge journal.

On January 28th, at our 18 week ultrasound, Ryder’s heart didn’t look quite right. We were referred to Dr. Blalock, a pediatric cardiologist, who confirmed that Ryder had a congenital heart defect. On February 11th, at 20 weeks, we went to the Fetal Care Center at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. There, Dr. Eapen, another pediatric cardiologist, diagnosed Ryder with an AV canal defect (the bottom two chambers are not separated as they should be), Heterotaxy Syndrome (organs are not in their correct place), and a little fluid around his lungs. On March 12th, at 24 weeks, I was placed on hospital bed rest due to a shortened cervix. My body was starting the labor process way too early. I spent a week in the hospital and then moved in with my aunt, who lives near Baylor UMC, so I would be near the specialists. On March 27th, at 26 weeks, a sonogram showed that my cervix had shortened drastically and that the fluid around Ryder’s lungs had increased so much so that his heart could no longer grow or pump blood appropriately. We were sent home with the knowledge that Ryder would not survive.

We were completely devastated. How could this be? Up until that point, everything had been manageable. We knew Ryder would have to go through multiple surgeries, but we had a plan and the doctors had been optimistic. Suddenly, there was no hope left.

{After hearing the devastating news, we chose to do a 3D/4D ultrasound so we would have more pictures of Ryder}

{After hearing the devastating news, we chose to do a 3D/4D ultrasound so we would have more pictures of Ryder}

We prayed and prayed and prayed for a miracle. There were many, many prayer warriors that also interceded for us. On Easter Sunday, our church family prayed over us and annointed us with oil. But healing Ryder here on earth was not in God’s will.

Ryder hung on for two and half more weeks. He was such a fighter. As the fluid built up, he had gotten so still. But during his last week with us, he kicked and rolled around more than he ever had before. I’m grateful that his daddy got to feel him moving. He always got more active as Sam read to him each night.

On Monday, April 13th, at 28 weeks, I started having regular contractions late in the evening. I was scared, but I thought it might give me the chance to meet Ryder face-to-face while his tiny, broken heart was still beating.

We went to the ER around 1:30 am. Around 8:00 am on Tuesday, an ultrasound showed that Ryder’s heart had stopped. Our worst fears became reality.

I labored for almost 24 hours in the hospital. Family and friends came to be with us. They prayed with us, encouraged us, distracted us from our grief. I’m so glad we chose not to do it alone! It would have been a very different day without our loved ones being there with us. The day is a bit of a blur for me, but I remember that I wasn’t scared or anxious or upset. I’m not sure if it was the prayer or the pain meds, but other than the contractions, I mostly just felt peace.

Labor went smoothly and Ryder was born at 12:45 am on Wednesday, April 15th. He weighed 2 lbs, 1.8 oz, and was 13.75 inches long. We held him and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over his tiny hands and feet. He had my nose and chubby cheeks, and Sam’s lips and long, skinny feet.

{Prints of Ryder's hands and feet}

{Prints of Ryder’s hands and feet}

He never suffered. All he knew was love and comfort. His heart was healed… but not here. There is no doubt in my mind that Ryder is in Heaven. We will see him again one day!

And though I grieve his loss, for the most part I’m not angry at God. I’ve quickly realized that life is too short to be angry. We’ve been grieving since we first heard Ryder’s diagnosis. I try to thank God for the time we did get with our son. I even thank God that we knew losing him was a possibility. Many stillbirths are spontaneous and have unknown causes, even after autopsy. I can’t imagine not knowing why. My heart aches for the parents who are left with more questions than answers.

In 2 Samuel 12, David’s son fell ill. David fasted and could not be consoled. When the child died, he got up, dusted himself off, and went to eat. His servants were very confused, thinking that he should now grieve the child’s death. David’s response shows the certainty in which he believed in eternal life in Heaven:

David said, “While the baby was still alive, I fasted, and I cried. I thought ‘Who knows? Maybe the Lord will feel sorry for me and let the baby live.’ But now that the baby is dead, why should I fast? I can’t bring him back to life. Someday I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.” – 2 Samuel 12:22-23

I know I will see Ryder again. I will be sad. And I may get angry sometimes. But I survive by my faith and hope in the Lord.

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. – Romans 12:12

{Photo by Erica Mae Photography}

{Photo by Erica Mae Photography}

With hope and love,
Kristen