Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Do you ever have those moments where you have so much you want to say but all the words get clogged up in your brain and you are not sure what to say first?

Of course you do.  Most of you are writers and speakers.  But I am sure that even those of you who are not still know what I mean.

I seriously thought that this last SDG post of the year was going to be my side-by-side comparison of tissues, but thankfully, my cold has all but fully passed, and I'll suffice it to say that I highly recommend both the Vicks-scented Puffs and the Cool Touch Kleenex.  It's nice to have a little variety when all you see in front of you is a tissue for most of the day.

So instead of free advertising for cold-remedy products, instead, I want to offer some encouragement, a prayer, and my heart.

First, I love these words from Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest that I read today:
"At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise when we remember our yesterdays.  Our present enjoyment of God's grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday's sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future.  God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present."
This quote reminds me that newness is always possible, and not just because it is the eve of January 1.  So often our hearts are filled with possibilities of fresh starts, new beginnings, and a determination to do this one differently.  And then, we hear these voices of lies that tell us that it's not possible, that all we have to do is look back at our track record and see all the times we've tried before and failed.  Newness and continued, sustained renewal, at least for me, is impossible without God going before me, showing me how to side-step the familiar traps and press on through the hard.

The desire for rebirth is innate with in us because it perpetually draws us closer to the only one who can wash us clean, again and again.  And so my encouragement and prayer for you is that the first time you find yourself trapped in the past, mentally or behaviorally, that you realize that God can use that past to push you forth into His newness.  To stay in the sticky web of past mistakes and old habits is to believe the liar that speaks to all of us.  To get up and try again, even if we mess up the first day of the  new beginning, is to continue walking the path of ever needed renewal.

Here's the thing:  Any day, any hour, any moment, you can choose to start over and to begin again.  This is grace.   It doesn't have to be on January 1, or in the morning, or after you do X, Y, or Z.  He is always going before you and He is all you need.

And here is my heart:  I want this Soli Deo Gloria community to be a source of encouragement and inspiration, a group of women to function together to help each other press into this renewal, this grace, this unconditional love.  I want you to be here and be an integral part of how this group functions as a living, breathing community.  I don't want anyone to feel ignored.  I don't want anyone to feel left out.  I want Monday nights to kick off each week as the start of many opportunities to show love to each other.

I'm not sure what changes are ahead, but I'm listening and learning and I'd love to hear your ideas.

Each of you, I carry in my heart.  May I be diligent in showing my love to you.

One more thing -- have a post you love?  Share on Twitter with #SDGsisters.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

(Final) Close Enough to Forget: The Kids


About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.
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It was a dark and stormy night.

No really, it was. I peered out the window at the rain, shivered, double checked the thermostat, and made sure the doors were locked. My oldest had come home from school that day complaining of not feeling well. I waffled all afternoon, then at 4:55 I finally called the pediatrician to talk to the nurse. She offered an appointment for the next morning, and I thought, “There go my errands!”


The last few days of school were intricately choreographed: drop-off, toy store, pharmacy, cleaners, grocery store, pick-up. I sighed because his appointment was going to alter my carefully crafted plans. I felt (kind of) guilty about that, but the guilt wasn’t strong enough to keep me from complaining to my husband.

The children slept and the rain continued. It kept time as I marched about the house doing night-time chores. I shuffled toys into the playroom, loaded the dishwasher, and charged my phone. As I connected the cord, a text appeared. A friend was at the hospital with her son, and she was asking for prayers. He was about to undergo emergency surgery to reattach his lip. Something about squeezing the family dog too tight during the normal bedtime routine. I stopped, and I prayed. I stayed up later than I normally would, waiting for more news.

The house was completely quiet when I flipped the Christmas tree lights and finally headed towards bed. As I stood up in the dark room, I thought about my friend’s son and mine. It hit me: They are the gift. These precious children are the gift. Taking care of them is a gift. Staying up late with them, breaking up their fights, taking them to the doctor, changing my plans for their needs – it is all a gift. But it’s just that sometimes, they are so close, you forget.

I forget.

I nearly sat back down, heavy with gratitude and grief over my own selfish and misdirected thoughts. This was on December 12th. How could I have known that less than two days later, I would be overwhelmed with gratitude and grief once again? I didn’t know then that the horror of what happened in Newtown would shake us all; that it would – whoosh! - clear our foggy stupor, and help us see the truth so crystal clear: children are a gift. I didn’t know it in that core-altering way yet, but on December 12th, I walked down our quiet hallway with a fresh resolve to do better as a mom.

I kissed each nestled boy, and helped our youngest sleepwalk to the bathroom. He never opens his eyes or says a word during this part of our nightly routine. But on December 12th, as the rain pitter pattered outside, he spoke, just as I was leaving.

“Mama?”
“Yes?”
“I love you.”
I caught my breath, and whispered, “I love you, too.”

And then, “Thank you, God. Thank you for these gifts.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Courtney is a former lawyer who now spends her days tying karate belts and separating tiny Lego pieces. You might see her shamelessly driving around town in a minivan, or you can catch her at her blog, A Work in Progress. where motherhood, faith, and the occasional domestic pursuit are all fair game.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: taking him FOR granted or WITH gratitude

About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.
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The once vibrantly alive houseplants in the large and sunny dining-room window missed my husband even more than I did.

Their healthy leaves had begun to yellow and fall off, forming a withering circle of condemnation around the base. "Can't you just flourish like you did before?" I implored.

"Miss Black Thumb here didn't choose you. Keith did. He's the one who gave you a home, and provided refreshment and nourishment. I am truly sorry, but my only role was to drink in your beauty."

At the beginning of the year, my husband took a promotion offered by his employer that required moving to a city about an hour and a half away. We had spent a significant amount of time talking about and praying on the pros and cons of the opportunity. We had decided it was worth doing, even though it meant, for several months, we would be living apart for the first time in almost three decades. However, once he had settled into the new job, we would find a more permanent home for the two of us in this new phase of our lives.  

So we separated for almost five months.



He lived the much ballyhooed but barren bachelor's life in a small, one bedroom apartment in a large and anonymous complex. 

I stayed at home, surrounded by all my warm and familiar comforts. Fortunately, our relationship had always been incredibly strong and mutually supportive.

Well, I thought it was.

What I learned to my deep chagrin, however, was that not only does absence makes the heart grow fonder, but the distance exposes the thin places in a relationship.

As G. K. Chesterton wrote, “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

Guilty and convicted: I was taking my dear hubbie for granted.

The poor plants took the first hit, but other responsibilities I wasn't equipped to handle soon reared their heads. They had to wait for a brief overnight visit from Keith to be taken care of, a visit that was scheduled for R&R as opposed to work.

The realization dawned of how much Keith did to keep the proverbial home fires burning. With friends and family mere minutes away and safe and sound in my cocoon, here I was enjoying the freedoms of being single—cooking and eating at will, going to bed and reading as late as I wanted, getting up when I was ready—without much of the downside.

I was not being fully supportive of where he was physically and emotionally: alone in a strange city a long way from friends and family, recently diagnosed gluten-intolerant and learning how to shop, cook, and eat without wheat, and at a new second-shift management position that was turning out to be very disappointingly different from everyone's expectations.  

I chose to change, to show more gratitude.

I visited almost every week, and would often stay for at least a couple of nights. Although I brought my work with me, I made spending time with Keith a priority.

I bought cute cards and mailed them so that they would arrive in between my visits. I wrote short love notes and hid them for Keith to find after I was gone. He stuck them on his bedside lamp, so they were the last thing he saw before he turned out the lights. Everybody together now: Awwww. :-)
Our new normal.

While the position did not work out, God presented another opportunity where Keith had worked prior to his promotion. My husband took that and moved back home on a warm day at the tail end of spring.

We are so grateful for our experience. We learned a lot about ourselves and our relationship in those months, but especially that things are not always what they seem.

Sometimes we just aren't able to take a true measure of our gratitude until circumstances intervene to sharpen our perspective.

I am so glad they did, and so are his plants.   


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Hall shares her life experience with big servings of enthusiasm, hope, and joy on her blog, Too Darn Happy. Drawing on her almost thirty years of marriage, parenting two daughters, and being part of a large family, she offers fresh perspectives, practical advice, and a challenge to find happiness in all circumstances. She recently authored her first ebook, Practicing Gratitude and Discovering Joy-30 Days to a Happier You. She can be found happily sharing as well on Facebook and Pinterest, and on Twitter as @kimahall.



Linking today with JenniferTracy,  and Emily.

Monday, December 17, 2012

the dual themed post and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.
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"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  Martin Luther King, Jr. 
I had planned a fun Christmas post, but then after the Connecticut shootings happened, I wondered if that would be appropriate.  I decided to take Glenda's wise approach (for those of you who know her, isn't she just so wise??), thus including both.

Regarding the atrocity of the events on Friday, I don't think I've fully been able to process it. When bewilderment hits me, I have used it as a call to prayer -- to pray for the families, the communities, the nation, and the world.  I have not dwelt on trying to understand the un-understandable because that is futile.  What is not futile, however, is to be on my knees or in the grocery store, expressing groans that I cannot make coherent, but that God can.  

Running with my dog by our own neighborhood school today, I found myself being watchful.  The man behind the fence caused my heart to race in panic until I saw his own dog bounding back towards him, ball in his mouth.  I questioned the woman on her cell phone by the cafeteria entrance, wondering if sinister plans lurked in her mind.  I start questioning God -- what do I do with this suspicion, this fear, this unknown world where tragedy strikes at any time or place?  I pound the pavement, my dog pulling me this way and that after every squirrel or bird or stroller, and He whispers to me:

Pray.

I pass the school again, intentionally this time, not to keep watch, but to ask God to keep watch.  I ask Him to place His angels around the school, guarding every door and every window.  I pray for safety.  I pray for His presence.  I pray that every person in that school would know His love.  And then I ask Him to extend my prayers toward every school in our country, every teacher, every student, every staff member, every custodian, every lunch lady, and every volunteer.

I pray because I trust.  I pray because I know that I am little and He is big.  I pray because I believe that what Satan intends for evil, God can redeem for good.

And I pray for courage for myself.  Courage to really see, to really speak, to really pray, to really love.  Because can't so much change if we choose to love well?  May we love well through debates about gun-controll and mental health.  May we love well as we discuss prayer in our schools and how to live in a diversified and divided nation.  May we love well as we turn over our fears and facts and judgements.  

May we love well.
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I'll just close with a few of my favorite memory-maker traditions around the Ferguson house:

{1} The picture at the top of the post is the Heritage Tree in our little town and they have a big holiday party centered around its lighting.  Different local businesses come and sponsor booths filled with crafts and you always see a few thousand people you know.
{2}  All of our stockings were made by our grandmothers.  Hand-stitched.  (Guess I'll have to learn needlepoint before my children have children!)
{3}  Did you notice from the previous picture that the letters do not spell "NOEL?"  They did when I put them up, but tradition holds that the children will rearrange them to spell LEON at some point during the season.  Why?  My mother-in-law accidentally sewed the hanger on a cross-stitched ornament on the wrong side.  Of course, then the ornament read "LEON" instead of "NOEL."  When each of her children got married, we all got our own upside down "NOEL" ornament to hang on our tree.  And of course, we all take turns hanging LEON every year.
{4}  Christmas morning is very orderly around here.  Everyone opens a present one person at a time so that we can all see what each other gets (and enjoy the smile on the receiver's face) as he/she opens the present.  We also never just sign our names on the packages.  Instead, we make up fun clues as to what might be inside!  (Yes, Christmas morning does last forever around here!)

Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition?

NOTE:  There will be no SDG party next week, as this is Christmas Eve.
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Soli Deo Gloria is on Twitter!  Have a favorite post?  Share it on Twitter with the #SDGsisters!
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I am so happy to see your face here at Soli Deo Gloria.  Did you know we have small groups?  As SDG has grown, it started to lose a bit of the small community feel.  As such, we have groups that visit each other and leave comments for each other on SDG days so that you don't feel lost in this big blog world.  Would you like to be a part?  If so, please email me at jenfergie2000@me.com.  Also, if you are new here, please put "I am new" as your caption so that we might give you a proper welcome.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Joy Bearer or not so much?


This is the first year I have some of my baby ornaments on our family tree.  Almost all of them are from my grandmother and as I read their inscriptions, I can remember how much joy we brought her.  She really did see us a magical beings that brought out that twinkle in her eye.  It's amazing to know that this is possible -- our words and presence can elicit joy (sadly, they can also elicit other things, of which I am guilty of, too!).  Remembering this inspires me to be a "joy-bringer" to other people, no matter who they are, where they are, or what they do.

How can we be bearers of joy today?  How can we bear witness to the coming Christ,  no matter
where we are,
who we are,
what happened to us today, or
what we must accomplish?

 Linking with Sandra on SaturdayDeidra on Sunday, and  Laura on Monday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: Waking up to find your underwear on the Christmas tree

About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.
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It's nearly Christmas. As I write this I am sitting beside the tree, its green, orange, blue, yellow glow. Ornaments detail the years we have shared---superheroes and Star Wars, our first Christmas, ones our boys have made. My wife was a ballerina, so the Nutcracker nation has descended and is staring at me from atop the closet. Slightly intimidating---smiles.

photo credit: Jenise Daigle
The holidays are filled with comfortable traditions. Things we look forward to every year. Things we only do this time of year. On some level, Christmas comes with a script. We know we will share presents, go see gramma, Santa will come and my mom will make those nasty marinated brussel sprouts---that I will once again hide in the couch until I can slip them into the trash after everyone has gone to bed. (sorry Mom.)

A few years ago we added a new tradition. An elf came to live with us the first of December. His name is Dodger. Each night the boys take him to bed and snuggle him tight, only to find when they wake that he is no longer there. Dodger is a very mischievous little elf.

This morning they found him in the refrigerator, bits of broccoli on his outfit and still holding a sprig in his hand. A few nights ago, he decorated the tree with our underwear. He hides among the nutcrackers, stays up all night reading books, does funny things with the boys toys. You never know what you will find Dodger doing each morning.


There is room for tradition in our holidays, but there is also room for the unexpected. The same can hopefully be said of our love relationship with our spouse.

The lovely Lori is hosting today.  Please click here to read the rest of Brian's story.

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And here is a bit of a tidbit about Brian, if you don't already know him:

Brian Miller is a husband, father, poet, teacher, counselor & cat owner. He like long walks in the woods, walks on the beach, and whipped cream. Key lime pie is the way to his heart, which he prefers over birthday cake. He thinks writing a bio in third person is funny. You can find him at http://www.waystationone.com or at http://www.dversepoets.com 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Semantics of Expectation and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

stock photo
If you look in the online dictionary, there is not really a difference between the definitions of expectation and expectancy.  In fact, expectancy simply means to be in a state of expectation.  And yet, somehow along the way, my brain has differentiated the two.  I've deemed expectation as negative and expectancy positive.  I look harshly at expectation, deeming it as having preconceived notions as what should be.  I see it as a set up for failure and disappointment, neither of which I covet for my life.

On the other hand, I've attached to expectancy words such as "light-hearted"and "hopeful waiting" for whatever God has to offer.  I've deemed this as a good, palms wide open approach, where I will be happy with whatever I receive.

But the differentiation is baloney.  It has nothing to do with semantics and everything to do with the focus that I allow my heart to have.  It's not so much about what I expect to happen, but about how I choose to prepare my heart for whatever is to come.  If I don't prepare my heart, I will not have a light-hearted, hopeful, palms-wide-open approach to anything.  I will say and pray one thing and yet live out something completely different.

I think about Mary during her pregnancy and how God must have prepared her heart for what was happening in her life.  I read the words in the Bible, sure that I must have missed somewhere when Mary cried out to God about all she had been through to carry this life and couldn't God at least give her a comfortable bed in which to labor?

I'm pretty sure that something like this would have come out of my mouth.  And I am pretty sure it's because often I have viewed my trials and my sacrifices as ways to try to earn things from God.  And I am pretty sure it's because I've been so busy preparing my life that I've neglected the "prepare your heart" part.  Oh, I have visualized not having high expectations and telling God that "whatever happens, happens" but I haven't actually lived this out.  The proof is in my thoughts and the actions I carry out on a daily basis.

You see, I think often about when I'm going to get the Christmas cards addressed.  I think about how my house will be in tip-top shape for when my Dad and his girlfriend arrive.  I think about my candle assortment and the food that I will serve for my Bible study gathering.  I think about if the art piece I did for our mantel is good enough and why haven't more people commented on it?  I wonder if my children will get up the gumption to participate in the Christmas pageant at church and if I've given enough to charity.

See, I'm really good at preparing...things.  And so on Christmas Eve as I sing "O Come All Ye Faithful" I'm expecting to feel this enormous sense of God and then...I don't.  And I don't because all Advent season long, I've spent all my time preparing...things and I have neglected to prepare my heart.

On Sunday, my priest said something like this:
"Advent invites us not to be full.  Advent invites us to be empty...so that when we celebrate Christmas, there is room for Jesus."
Oh, yes.  I have had it backwards all this time, trying to fill myself and everyone up that I have spent no time making room for the anticipation of Christ's birth and all that means for me everyday that I walk on this earth.  It's not that the preparation of the things of Christmas is bad, but if I am going to expect to have a spiritual response to Christ's birth, I need to carve out time to sit still and wait expectantly for that big day to arrive.  In the waiting, there is an invitation for God to come in and prepare me.  In the waiting, there is room for Him to shift my priorities and my perspective.  In the waiting, there begins the willingness to lay everything down.

So whether I call it expectation or expectancy, what I really want is to be able to kneel at the manger and worship and be fully there.  My party may fail, my house may not be super clean, the Christmas cards might be late, but if my heart is with Jesus, that is all that matters.

I want that to be all that matters.

What about you?  How do you remember to value your relationship with Jesus during this Advent/Christmas season?


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Soli Deo Gloria is on Twitter!  Have a favorite post?  Share it on Twitter with the #SDGsisters!
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I am so happy to see your face here at Soli Deo Gloria.  Did you know we have small groups?  As SDG has grown, it started to lose a bit of the small community feel.  As such, we have groups that visit each other and leave comments for each other on SDG days so that you don't feel lost in this big blog world.  Would you like to be a part?  If so, please email me at jenfergie2000@me.com.  Also, if you are new here, please put "I am new" as your caption so that we might give you a proper welcome.


Friday, December 7, 2012

the name I cannot leave off: grief during the holidays

A Christmas note to my grandmother

Dear Grannie,

This is the 3rd Christmas without you, but I haven't been able to remove your name from my Christmas card list.  It's not like I can just draw a line through "Grannie" and I can't seem to bring myself to start a new list and omit your name.  Don't worry, I won't actually mail you a Christmas card, but as I address all the other ones, I'll be wishing that I could.

I'll imagine what you would say upon receipt and I think of myself holding the phone up to my ear as you gush over how much the kids have grown.  I'd smile as I heard all your usual sayings about how fast the kids grow up...how it will all be over before I know it...and how you just wish you lived closer.  Then, you'd of course say something about the poem I wrote on the back.  You never were short on praise for me, and as hard as it was to receive it, I'm still secretly thankful you did it.  You'd ask me at least three times over the course of the Christmas shopping season about the girls' shoe sizes, dress sizes, and underwear sizes (because, you know, you were practical like that).  All that squared away, you'd ask me if I was getting enough rest and not taking on too many projects.  And even though I always said "yes," you knew that I meant "no," and you'd proceed in telling me how important it is to take care of myself (because, again, you were practical like that).

I'd imagine how you'd close the conversation in your southern drawl because it was the same almost every time:  "You know how much I love you, darlin'.  It won't be too long now 'fore I see ya."

But even though I can't physically hear those words now, I think of how they still ring true today.  It won't be long, in the whole scheme of time, 'fore I see ya, Grannie, up in Heaven.  And while I wait, I'll be sending you Christmas cards in my head and replaying our old conversations.  And I'm pretty sure you'll find a way to let me know you're thinking of me, too.  Because you are practical like that.

I'll love you forever,
Jen

To my readers:  Grief is not often discussed, especially around the holidays, but I invite you, in the comments, to leave us with a name of a person whom you miss, and why, so that we can celebrate those not with us anymore on this earth.  Sometimes, it does wonders for the heart just to speak of our loved-ones names and let others know why there are so important to us.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: 8 Ways to Support your Spouse after Loss

About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.
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even with loss, we can still grow roots
On June 30, 1998, I sat at the edge of a tiny hospital bed with my husband and watched our 9-month-old son, Noah, die.  The loss of my first and only child (at the time) rocked my world worse than anything I endured before or since.  It has become for me a defining moment in everything that matters—my faith, my perspective, my hope, and my relationships—especially, my marriage.

I realize very few of you have experienced the loss of a child.  But I know most of you have experienced other devastating trials that shook the very foundation of your marriage covenant.  Maybe it was infidelity.  Pornography.  Job-loss.  Depression.  Chronic illness. Bankruptcy.  A wayward child.  An aging or dying parent.

All those things involve loss.  Whether it’s loss of a dream or an ideal, of health or security, it’s still loss.  And all loss involves grief.  And all grief involves terrible stress on a marriage. In our nineteen years of marriage, Jon and I have experienced four of those things I listed, plus the death of our son.  Our marriage has been attacked repeatedly—sometimes by poor choices we made, and sometimes by life circumstances neither of us expected.  Statistically speaking, we should have divorced years ago.

But, instead of allowing our bad choices or unexpected circumstances to destroy us, we chose to fiercely protect and defend our marriage.  Because of this, we have grown in depth and commitment to each other in a way neither of us could have anticipated.

It was not easy.  And it won’t be for you, either.  Significant trials wear you down, leaving you vulnerable and depleted.  Depending on the nature of your situation, one (or both) of you may feel tired,  irritable, angry, sad, helpless, or hopeless.  Maybe you are pushing each other away rather than running towards each other for support.  Maybe you can’t fully articulate your feelings or your needs, let alone try to recognize and meet your spouse’s needs.  Maybe you truly cannot see how your marriage will survive. 

All of that is normal.  You don’t have to deny the toughness of your situation.  But the toughness of the situation shouldn’t be the final word in your relationship with your husband.  I am no marriage expert.  I am simply living proof that a marriage can survive and thrive after repeated losses—including the loss of a child.

Now, here’s the part of the post where I wish I could introduce all the eloquent things I said and self-sacrificial things I did to save our marriage after Noah’s death.
  
I can’t.
 
I was a complete mess for about a year after we buried him.  Basically, I cried a lot.  So, if you wondered how I supported Jon…I’m pretty sure I didn’t.  (Unless by “support” you mean “cry a lot.”) 

Jon, on the other hand, was a rock.  That’s not to say Jon is not perfect.  He is not.  Jon would be the first to tell you he has made many horrible mistakes in our marriage—some of which greatly contributed to our marital troubles through the years.  But with God’s help, Jon was able to support me after Noah’s death in ways I didn’t even know I needed—ways that far surpassed any expectations I had of him.  So, my forthcoming suggestions of how to support your spouse during a loss come solely from the way Jon supported me.

·      Validate.  After Noah’s death, no matter what I said and no matter how crazy, mean or angry I felt, Jon responded with, “you have every right to feel the way you do,” or “I understand why you feel this way,” or “I understand why you would say that.”  He probably did not understand everything anything I said, but he never judged or corrected my feelings.  This made me feel safe.  It caused me to run to Jon before or instead of anyone else.
 
·      Touch.  No matter where we were, if I would start crying, Jon would simply open up his arms and say, “Come here.” Then he’d embrace me until I stopped.  Jon doesn’t always know what to say to me when I’m grieving, but that’s okay, because I don’t always want him to say anything.  The human touch can be more powerful than the right words, especially between a husband and a wife.

·      Liberate.  Jon let me take the lead through my stages of grief.  He never made me feel like I cried too much or withdrew too long.  He never questioned me when I didn’t want to move Noah’s things from his room, and he never questioned me when I was finally ready. He gave me permission to grieve freely, which liberated me to heal completely (a critical step in repairing a damaged marital relationship.)

·      Encourage.  If I had a dime for every time Jon said to me, “It’s going to be fine.” I am not kidding when I tell you, he said this every. single. time. I expressed fear or anxiety about the future.  “What if our next baby dies?  What if I never stop crying?  What if I never feel real joy again?”  No matter what I asked, Jon would say, “It’s going to be fine.”  I would often ask in response, “How do you know it is going to be fine?” and he’d say, “I don’t know, I just do.”  Of course, he had no way of knowing whether or not it was going to be “fine.” But it always made me feel more secure that my husband had hope for me—hope for our future. 

·      Pray.  Two weeks after Noah’s death, I became pregnant with our second child.  Along with the obvious joy, I felt devastating fear.  My prayers for this new baby seemed so inadequate—I wasn’t even sure I knew how to ask God for healthy babies, since my prayers for Noah resulted in death. Sometimes I was afraid to pray at all—that if I prayed for my new baby, she would die, too.  Jon never questioned or challenged that fear.  He would simply say, “I understand why you’d feel that way,” then put his hands right on my growing belly and pray. Every day.  Out loud.  And I’m not talking a trite prayer, either.  I mean a full-blown, faith-filled, spirit-led, I-don’t-care-what-anyone-thinks prayer.

·      Stand in.  When I couldn’t answer the phone, answer the door or answer another question, Jon would take over.  He never pressured me to respond, and often protected me from overly zealous people.  I recall hearing him field phone calls or visitors saying, “She’s a real trooper…she’s so strong.”  Not only was he helping in a practical way by talking to the person so I didn’t have to but also in an emotional way, by expressing to others that he believed in me even when I felt like I was falling apart.  He always made me feel like I could still be strong and grieve at the same time—that grief was not a sign of weakness. (It’s not, by the way.)


·      Ask.  I know the dynamics of your marriage are completely different from mine.  If you can’t see how any of these suggestions will translate into your relationship, the best thing you can do is ask your spouse what he needs.  Just come right out and humbly say, “What do you need from me right now?”  Listen to what he tells you.  And then do it.

·      Get help. It is unwise for you and your spouse to rely solely upon each other for emotional support.  You are quite simply ill equipped to be everything he needs.  This is always true, but it is especially so after a loss. Therefore, I highly recommend that you seek the love and support of your family, friends and church.  If you do not have a stable support system outside of yourselves, seek professional counseling, either together or separately. 


The enemy of your soul is always looking for an opportunity to destroy you and your marriage. If you are not vigilant in protecting it and your spouse, who will? God knit your hearts together—divinely, eternally.  You may not understand your spouse’s needs, but you can trust God to direct you so you can become a safe-haven for him through any loss and its aftermath.  And then your marriage will become a testimony and an inspiration, not a statistic.


Sandy Cooper is a freelance writer, Bible study teacher and author of her personal blog, The Scoop on Balance (www.thescooponbalance.com). Her passion is to encourage women to live a life of balance through intimacy with God and hearing His voice in everyday life. Her greatest accomplishments include surviving the death of her 9-month-old son (Noah), surviving a seven-year battle with clinical depression, and finding a laundry system that actually works (the search for which may or may not have contributed to the depression). She lives in Louisville, Kentucky with Jon (her husband of 19 years) and her three living children Rebekah (13), Elijah (11) and Elliana (6). But she longs for her eternal home where laundry piles will cease, life’s battles will make perfect sense, she will be reunited with Noah and stand face-to-face with the God who sustained her through it all.

Linking today with Jennifer, Tracy,  and Emily.