Reluctant Jam

Shawn Smucker inspires and challenges my thoughts about writing all the time. There are a handful of people who have had a direct influence on how I write and Shawn is among them. I am honored to have to opportunity to post over at his site today about my recent failed jam experiment (and some other failures).

The tools and ingredients were laid out on my counter. Gram’s potato masher, our biggest stock pot, sugar, pectin, and loads of fresh blueberries. We had picked 22 pounds of blueberries the night before and I couldn’t make and eat enough cobblers or pies or cakes to use all of those berries. And while I don’t consider myself a particularly good cook, jam isn’t terribly complicated to make, and I’ve made it before with some success, so I thought that would be the best way to use a portion of our harvest.

I carefully mashed, measured, boiled, and added the ingredients together. I watched the mashed berries morph from an unappetizing brownish goo into a beautiful dark indigo sauce. It smelled amazing, but as I added the pectin and sugar, it didn’t seem to thicken. I ladled it into the jars that I had prepared and hoped that it would begin to congeal as it cooled, but a few hours later, it still looked far too runny to be considered jam.

Read the rest at Shawn’s site. And be sure to read around and subscribe. That man can write.

Stuff I’ve Been Reading #7

Happy weekend, friends! Here’s a list of some of my favorite things out on the internet this week. Enjoy!

  • I loved this post about living in sin from my friend Grace. As one who has been there (is still there, at least according to some), I thought she pretty much nailed it.
  • Joy Bennett wrote a fantastic piece about independence and how that uniquely American view of God is hurting the way that we relate to one another.
  • Along those lines, Matthew Paul Turner has written a book that releases in just one month about how God became an American. I can’t wait to read it, but while I wait, his publisher has released the first chapter so we can get a taste.
  • This weekend, Andi Cumbo-Floyd is hosting her first writer’s retreat at her farm. I wish I could be there, but in the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed this post she wrote about simple things.
  • Benjamin Corey wrote about 5 ways we can all be better Christians. I think this list is pretty spot on.
  • Stephen King is one of my all-time favorite story-tellers, and one of my favorite novels that he’s written (11/22/63) is available on Kindle for only $2.99 right now. I’m often torn between this and The Stand as his best work, but since this is the one I’ve read most recently, I’ll say this is. Regardless, if you’re looking for a good summer read, make it this one.
  • I haven’t been this excited about a Weird Al album since back in the Michael Jackson days, but Mandatory Fun is absolutely phenomenal. He’s been releases a new video every day for 8 days (all on different video sites, which is crazy clever), but my favorite one has definitely been his parody of Blurred Lines, Word Crimes.

 

What have you been reading/writing/watching/listening to that moved you? Link it up in the comments!

Casting Cares and Laying Down Burdens

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burden

I was sitting on an old towel covering up the sticks and leaves of the woods seminar at Creation ’88. The mosquitos were out in full force as we took shelter from the late June sun under the trees. The speaker was telling a story about how he and his dad went bar hopping and spent the night getting wasted together, and how that moment with his mostly absentee father was one of the best representations that he had of God. Someone who was with him even in the dirtiest, most disgusting places. Someone with whom he could be his most honest, disgusting, true self. We didn’t say “authentic” much back in 1988, but that was what he was talking about.

And though I was not quite in high school and my history was pretty blameless at that point, I remember thinking that was a God I could get on board with. Someone who loved me completely, without judgment. Someone who would not simply accept my failings, but would walk through them with me. My church upbringing left me pretty sure that God existed, but it wasn’t much of a touchy-feely church, so the parental aspect of God had never been talked about. Love was a very abstract thing. But this wasn’t abstract – this was a God who was WITH me. This was Emmanuel.

I had never done an alter call before, but that June afternoon, I had no choice. I had to know that God.

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This morning as I was driving kids to summer school and band practice, I was listening to Crowder’s song Come As You Are. The chorus is as follows:

Lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
O wanderer, come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart
Come as you are

I think this is a beautiful sentiment, but I don’t know if we ever really talk about how to do that. What does it look like to lay down your burdens when they feel like they are attached to you? How exactly do you lay down hurt when it’s so entangled in your everyday life?

More importantly to me, even after we get past the how’s, is where? Where do I go when I finally figure out how to lay down the troubles of the world? The Bible says “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” People say “give it to God” but what does that meanIf my pain is invisible and God is invisible, where exactly does this transaction take place?

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I’m on the phone with someone who, yet again, has disappointed me by not behaving in a way that I think is appropriate. I tell her that until her actions are different, I can no longer have her in my life. I don’t want to talk to her or hear about her anymore. I cut off contact for nearly a year because I believe that while maybe God doesn’t demand that I leave her to her own destruction, it’s certainly allowed.

God has certain standards and when someone doesn’t live up to those standards (as determined by me, in this case), I no longer was obligated to have anything to do with that person. I may have had biblical support for this shunning, and I certainly used that in my arguments, but the truth is, I just didn’t want to deal with her perceived failings anymore. This was just a little bit too dirty for me. God could walk with them, but me? I was going to bow out of this one for a while.

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Every single Christmas, my parents would wait until my sisters and I were in bed to put presents under the tree. And every Christmas morning at intensely unreasonable hours, my sisters and I would gather in one of the bedrooms. My middle sister would sneak downstairs to look at the gifts and then report back to us. Even as we went to college and were far too old to continue this tradition, we still did. Christmas morning meant the three of us bouncing around in a bed, trying not to be too loud before the approved time when we could all go downstairs together to celebrate together.

I’m not sure if it was the bed that was too old or us, but one Christmas morning after the spy returned, one of the boards that held the mattress on the bed we had all piled onto broke. We all screamed a little and then laughed, but it could no longer support the three of us. We had to move to another bedroom to await the morning’s festivities.

Even though that happened, I don’t fear collapsing into bed at the end of a long day. I don’t gingerly lower myself into bed, I flop. And I do it without really thinking about whether or not it can hold me. I trust that the bed will do the job that it does every night and hold me.

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When I start thinking about casting my cares or laying down my burdens, the most tangible place to do that seems to be the Church. We meet each week with others who are struggling, who are hurting, who are in pain. Surely if there is a place where we can be our most real, honest, authentic selves, it would be in the midst of our Christian brothers and sisters?

I have heard it said that we can’t trust people because they will let us down, so we should only trust in God because he will never let us down. But if I can trust that a bed will hold me even though one collapsed on me once, I don’t think that trust in the Church would be so shaky if there were only a handful of times when the people failed to hold up one another in their desperation. Unfortunately, the Church as an institution and Christians as individuals have failed over and over to be a support to those most in need. We use discipline not as a way to bring people closer, but as a way to shut them out.

If I’m to lay down my burdens, I have to know that the place that I lay them down will be strong enough to hold them. When the Church behaves as I did, using God to justify my own prejudices and hatred and fears, it becomes yet another burden to carry.

What drew me to God in that bug infested clearing in 1988 was the thought that I could be completely myself and know that I was loved, and that unconditional love was what made me want to share love with those in my life. It wasn’t fear of God that led me to repentance, but rather the kindness of God. We cast our cares on God not because we are afraid of him, but because we know that he cares for us.

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There is a line in the song that says, “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.” I don’t know if Heaven is a real place, but I know that right now, we can offer healing to those who are experiencing sorrow. We can offer hope to those who are going through despair. We can offer respite to those who are burdened.

We can bring Heaven to Earth through our kindness to one another. We can be a place where people can cast cares by being people who care.

Photo by Tetsumo

While I Wait

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blueberries

Blueberry season is finally upon us here in West Virginia. Last week I made it out to a local farm’s blueberry patch on their opening day. I’ve gone berry picking almost every summer of my life, but I believe this was the first time I’ve ever been out on an opening day, and it was glorious. The bushes were heavy with blueberries, and in no time at all, I was able to pick two buckets full of the most plump, sweet berries you could imagine.

When I was finishing up the first bucket, I thought that this might have been the first time I could have possibly out-paced Gram at picking. Then I smiled, because that was based on nothing but wishful thinking. Gram was the one who first took me blueberry picking when I was just a little girl and never once had I picked more berries than her, even when I joined her as an adult. Maybe she was more patient, staying at one bush while I wandered around from place to place, looking for the best berries. Maybe she daydreamed less while I would think about this boy that I liked or that story I was going to write. Maybe she just didn’t eat as many berries as I did (and still do!) when out in the patch.

This has been a year of one loss after another. Mom, Gram, Elliott. Sometimes I can’t even tell who I’m grieving. Out among the berries, I naturally thought about Gram, because this was the place where I felt the most connected to her. But I missed Mom as well. The first time I made blueberry jam, I was on the phone with her constantly because I knew that she had done it before and I wanted her long-distance reassurance that I wasn’t screwing it up. And I missed Elliott, thinking about how I had been looking forward to taking him into the fields with me and his brothers and sisters, passing on this tradition of putting our hands on the food we would later enjoy.

There is often talk of waiting when people speak of the dead. Of how we’re waiting to see our loved ones again. Of how they’re waiting to greet us in Heaven.

I’m not sure what I think about the afterlife. I have a lot of questions about what I’ve been taught about heaven and hell, and as a result, I don’t find a lot of comfort in talk about what people who have died are doing now that they’re no longer with us. My uncertainty makes me uneasy. I believe that there is something more than this life, but the not knowing makes it difficult for me to dwell on it.

It means that I don’t find comfort in waiting.

But regardless of what I believe or not, there is a kind of waiting that happens when some are gone and some remain. Almost daily I am reminded of the separation that has happened, and in that moment, I am waiting. Sometimes with expectation, often without, but I am forced into the position of waiting.

It is inescapable.

Blueberry season is short – just a few weeks. Soon I will be waiting for next July. But while the blueberries are in season, I will enjoy them. I will make every recipe I can find or just eat a handful right from the bush. I will appreciate their beauty and savor their flavor. I will fully experience this season.

Our time here is short as well. Whether it’s the few months that my son had or the 80-plus years that my grandmother had, we are only here for a moment.

So while I wait, I will cherish memories of those I’ve lost, and I will make memories with those who are here. I will take my children to pick blueberries and tell them stories about my childhood and things that I remember about my grandmother. I will make blueberry jam and give some away to people at work and tell them about my mom’s writing about the raspberries that she grew in her back yard. I will bake a blueberry cake with Rich and we will remember how he could calm Elliott with his voice when our son was inside me.

I will wait, but while I wait, I will fully live.

Stuff I’ve Been Reading #6

So it’s been forever since I’ve done one of these, but I’ve read some good pieces lately, and I wanted to share them. I hope you’re having a lovely Sunday and that these piece inspire some interesting conversations.

    • This piece by Darlena Cunha at the Washington Post about driving her Mercedes to pick up food stamps was one of the most powerful things that I read this week. It’s easy to think we know by looking what “poor” means, and this post challenges that.
    • As always, I loved this bit of poetry by John Blase about where salvation is found.
    • David Henson is giving a homily this morning about the parable of the sower, and when I read what he would be saying, it changed my view of this passage of Scripture. I absolutely loved this.
    • Ed Cyzewski wrote an important post about the wave of child immigrants that are coming into America, asking us, “Who is our neighbor?”
    • My friend Jennifer Luitwieler wrote a fantastic piece about choice and women’s rights. Love that lady.
    • I got all weepy watching the newest video from Colbie Caillat. Such a good reminder for all of us (not just women) that we are more than our appearance. (This John Legend video is pretty fantastic, too. Plus, Laverne Cox!)

What have you been reading/writing/watching/listening to that moved you this week? Link it up in the comments!

Dear Leo – Here is the World

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Buechner quoteDear Leo,

Welcome to the world, little one! Or as Frederick Buechner so brilliantly stated, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

Sweet child, all of this is true. There is so much beauty in the world. There are the instagrammable moments of beauty, like sunsets and spiderwebs catching morning dew and huge puffy clouds that look like your favorite stuffed animal. There are green hillsides that prepare for their winter slumber by donning the most spectacular bedclothes of yellow and orange and red. There is the smell of freshly cut grass and sassafras trees and your favorite meal cooking on the stove. There are miles of highway stretched out in front of you, taking you to friends and family you haven’t embraced in far too long.

Some beauty is harder to capture on an iPhone. That’s because it’s often the kind of beauty that can only be experienced when the terrible things happen. It’s the beauty of humanity.

Don’t get me wrong, dear boy. Humanity can be ugly. We war against one another – sometimes with guns, sometimes with words, and sometimes simply by turning our backs. We allow our differences to fuel violence. We embrace ignorance rather than understanding.

But those terrible moments often allow us to see the goodness of humanity. When one chooses to be a villain, others will choose to be heroes. When some choose to wound, others will choose to heal. When some choose hatred and violence, others will choose love and peace.

Sometimes we don’t know the role that we will play. I think this is where fear plays in. What if I make this choice and it’s the wrong one? What if I cause the terrible rather than the beautiful?

Child, sometimes you will make that wrong choice. You will be the instrument of pain, or your choice, even if it is good in itself, can lead to pain. We cannot escape it, so don’t try.

Because when you choose to live a risky life, you will see more. More of the terrible, yes, but so much more of the beautiful. You will have the opportunity to experience generosity, and kindness, and laughter. You will see that light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Welcome, welcome, welcome, Leo. Make the world beautiful.

 

(My friends Maile & Shawn Smucker gave birth to their fifth child last night. Right around when he was born, Shawn messaged me to let me know that he & Maile were praying for us and that he felt that there would always be a link between Leo & Elliott. It reminded me of the Buechner quote and how in the midst of the terrible, there is still beauty, and that is a reason not to fear. These are words that I would have wanted Elliott to know, so today I’m sharing them with Leo.)

What Turning 40 Means To Me

40

Tomorrow I turn 40. I was born at 1:03am, so I’ll be 40 as soon as I wake up.

We’re right in the middle of a move, so the birthday stuff has kind of been on the back burner. Don’t even get me started on how brutal it is to find a place when your husband is a luthier so you have really specific housing needs and trying to fill those needs while you’re basically immobile for the first half of the month because preeclampsia isn’t something that just disappears the second you cease being pregnant or being so depressed that you can’t really get up the energy to think about finding a house, let alone actually doing the move. Let me just say that this is among the hardest moves I’ve ever done.

But despite all of the insanity that has happened this month, tomorrow is the big day. One of those milestone birthdays that ends with a zero, meaning I’m starting a whole new decade of my life.

In the waning hours of my 39th year, I feel like I should have some Big, Important Thoughts about what it means to turn forty. After all, that’s one of those ages where I should know things. I should be old enough to have some sage advice to dispense.

I guess I do know what turning forty means to me.

Not very much.

Here’s the deal. The things in our lives that really change us are seldom going to happen at times when we expect them. Turning forty is unlikely to change me. I’m still waking up today to go teach piano lessons. I’m going to spend the afternoon with Rich and my kids. We’ll get some kind of take-out because we’re living between two houses, so that’s easier than cooking. All of the people who are good singers will probably sing purposefully out of tune. We’ll play a game of cards, go to bed, wake up and it won’t be my birthday anymore.

Life altering stuff happens much more unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s really big and immediate, like Elliott’s death. Sometimes it’s much more gradual, like the realization that I love cooking with Rich. We can’t look at our calendars and say, “This is the day that I’m going to fall in love!” or “This is the day that my dad will die!” or “This is the day I’m going to write a blog post that goes viral!”

Good or bad, most of the events that shape our lives tend to sneak up on us without our knowledge. They catch us unaware and make us different. Sometimes, even things that we have planned can catch us off guard. Either they don’t go the way they were supposed to, or they don’t have the outcome that we expected.

So yes, I’ll celebrate. I will be with people who I love and who love me. And maybe something spectacularly life-altering will happen.

But it won’t be because I’m forty. It will be because I’m alive. 

 

Photo by Jon Jordan

What To Expect When Your Friends Are Expecting…And You Aren’t

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empty bassinetWhen I was pregnant a decade ago with my first batch of kids, I had lots of friends who were going through the same thing. We experienced pregnancy cravings together, enjoyed one another’s baby showers, shared the good and bad advice that we received, called each other in the wee hours to cry about our crying infants. Having friends who were experiencing the same things was a comfort when I was parenting four kids who were five and under.

But I had one friend who had several miscarriages right around the time I was expecting my last two, one just a few weeks after I gave birth to my youngest daughter. We cried with her during that time, but I’m ashamed to admit that I probably didn’t understand just how hard that was for her and her husband. It’s true that I was wrapped up in parenting two other young kids as well as a newborn, but I also didn’t find time to sit with her in her grief. For that, I am truly sorry. I probably expected there to be more celebration than she was able to give at that time – after all, I was excited about my new baby girl, why wasn’t she more enthusiastic? I didn’t understand the balance that she was trying to maintain, going from excited participant in the birth process to onlooker in the excitement of others.

Over the past months, I’ve been thrilled because several of my online writing friends are expecting new little ones in their families. I have two friends whose wives are expecting in July, one just a few days away from what was my due date. Now, as we near July, two of them are still anticipating the births of their sons and my son is only a memory.

I don’t know how to feel about that.

Part of me just wants to ignore it entirely. I want to block them on Facebook for a while, because I don’t want to see the pictures of their wives here in the final days of their pregnancies, looking absolutely beautiful and joyful. I don’t want to see the pictures of the births. I don’t want to see pictures of their siblings holding a new baby. I don’t want to see these dads kissing the tops of their newborn sons’ heads. It’s not fair, and it hurts to even think about it.

But I can’t ignore it. If I leave my house, I’m going to see someone with a baby. When I’m at work, there are students who have tiny brothers and sisters who wait outside of my room for their siblings to finish their lessons. If we go for a walk, we’re going to see a pregnant mom getting in her laps before she has her baby. People will post pictures of their children online every single day. If we’re driving down the road, we’ll see advertisements for ob/gyn practices that have pictures of adorable infants on them.

Unless I want to live in absolutely seclusion for the rest of my life, there’s no way to avoid that hurt.

And the truth is, I am happy for my friends.

I love that these men and their wives are bringing new life into the world. It makes me smile to think that there will be more love in these households, more stories to be shared, more beauty to be experienced.

Some days I’ll cry – probably most days, at least for a while. Their pictures and stories will remind me of what we lost with Elliott, and I will grieve that. But I will also take time to celebrate with my friends. To admire their sons and daughters. To laugh with them at their children’s adventures. To commiserate with them about long napless days, and longer sleepless nights.

When I need to withdraw, I will. When I need to grieve, I will. When I need to cry, I will.

But then I will celebrate.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Breaths

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Elliott's hands

When the nurse asked us if we’d like to hold our son after he was delivered, I had reservations. What if something was horribly wrong? Could I stand to hold the lifeless body of this person who just the day before had been joyfully squirming around inside of me? I told her that I just couldn’t make a decision right then – I would let the team know after the delivery. Later I took my younger sister aside and asked her to look at him for me, to let me know if he looked okay and to warn me of anything that might be shocking.

My sister also asked if I wanted pictures. I told her that again, I was unsure, but that if she used her phone, that would probably be okay. I didn’t think I wanted them on my phone, but if I decided later that I wanted to see them, I didn’t want there to be no pictures of him at all.

After his birth, my sister exclaimed that he was perfect, that there was nothing wrong with how he looked – he was just a small baby boy. So after a nurse swaddled him, Rich and I cried as we held our son. It was a beautiful moment as we looked him over, seeing what about him reminded us of one another – Rich’s nose and toes, my ears and lips. It was over far too quickly, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget those moments with him.

After about a week, I texted my sister and asked her to send me the pictures she had taken of Elliott. Rich and I were taking a few days by ourselves at a friend’s beach house that he generously offered us, and as part of my time to sit with my grief, I wanted to see pictures of our little boy. To remember that he existed, that he had a body, that he was beautiful, that we were his parents, no matter how briefly.

And the pictures did that. They helped connect me in a different way to this small person who blinked out of existence far too soon. Because the circumstances of his birth were physically tolling on me, there were times when I had mentally checked out simply to survive the physical aspects of recovery, but now I wanted a moment to be present with the sadness.

As I scrolled through the moments that my sister had captured that morning, I remembered that my friend Tamara had texted me, asking to see pictures of Elliott if I was willing to share them. I texted her back, tentatively asking if she still really wanted to see them. I was hesitant – after all this wasn’t a typical happy baby picture. Maybe she had changed her mind. Maybe asking to see a stillborn baby had been a mistake and she was regretting it. But her response to my question asking if she still wanted to see him was, “Absolutely.”

I sent her a picture of me holding Elliott. He still was covered in vernix because his skin was too fragile to clean much off. I was holding him awkwardly because my arms were severely swollen. But there was beauty in the picture – a mother holding her child nearly always has an element of beauty in it.

When I shared it, I experienced something I didn’t expect. I felt pride. This was our son. He was no longer with us, but this picture proved that he had existed and it proved that he belonged to us, that he would always belong to us.

There are numerous posts written about the things not to say to parents who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth. I’m grateful for those, even though I’ve heard more than I expected in just the few weeks since his birth. But I’ve seen fewer that have offered advice on how to comfort a grieving parent.

And while this may not be true for all parents who have lost a child, nothing has been a greater encouragement to me than for people to ask to see my son’s picture.

If he had been born alive, one of the first things that I would have done would have been to make Rich Instagram a picture of me nursing him. My Twitter and Facebook pictures would have been immediately changed to a picture of my newborn, my profiles inundated with photos of this new little one who I loved so completely. I wouldn’t have cared how annoying it may have been – I would have been a proud mama and I would have wanted the world to see why.

The truth is, I am still a proud mama. For 8 months, I carried this little one inside of me, feeling him move, thinking about my hopes for him and his life. I loved it when he would respond to Rich’s voice, when I could time his hiccups. While I never had the privilege of caring for him outside of my womb, I was still his mother, and a mother who loves social media wants to show pictures and tell stories about their little ones, even if there are only a very few.

When friends and family ask to see his picture, they validate his existence for me. They validate my role as his mother. They validate our status as a family.

Nothing can replace the joy of a healthy newborn. But in sharing pictures and memories of Elliott, there is a bit of life that is breathed into him and into me. For that, I am grateful.

 

(The picture for this post is of Elliott’s hands. I want to be respectful of those who have lost a baby or who are expecting and don’t want to see the face of a stillborn baby, but I also want to share some of the beauty of our son, so this is my compromise. I promise that I won’t share his face with anyone who doesn’t specifically ask to see, but I also don’t want to hide him away like a shameful secret. He is my son, and he was lovely, and I am proud of both of those things.)

Lost

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lost

“We lost the baby.”

I heard those words coming out of my mouth, and they left a bitter taste. Of course we didn’t lose him. He was right there, still inside of me. There was no heartbeat, but he wasn’t lost. He was dead. Speaking in niceties felt like I was being unfair to this little person who never had the chance to be nursed or rocked or sung a lullaby. He deserved better than euphemisms.

But to say the words, “My baby died”? That was unthinkable. Babies aren’t supposed to die. They coo, they poop, they laugh. They grow up and say “no” too often and “I love you” not quite often enough. They infuriate and invigorate. They surprise you with insights about the world and about you. They are beautiful, terrifying people who make you lose your mind in the best and worst ways.

So I felt stuck in this world where I want to honor the truth about what has happened to our son and a truth that was just too harsh to say aloud.

I still feel stuck there.

I’ve heard about stages of grief. I’ve always thought of them as being somewhat linear. You experience them one at a time and move through each in an orderly fashion – not the same for each person, of course, but still something fairly predictable. But the past two weeks, I have found them to be more of a collection of grief experiences than stages. I’ll bounce between anger and depression and acceptance all within a few hours.

On Father’s Day, I was doing okay. I knew that it was particularly hard on Rich since he has lost not one, but two sons now in infancy. I wanted to be stronger for him, and was feeling peaceful in the morning. I was able to give to him through the day. We wanted to make fish tacos for supper, and needed cilantro to make our favorite marinade, so I offered to go to the grocery store to pick it up because I was feeling strong.

Near the end of my shopping trip, I saw a table that had various books on it, and among all of them was a copy of Goodnight Moon. Immediately memories came rushing back of receiving a copy of that when I had my oldest son, and of reading it to my kids through the years. I thought about how I had looked forward to reading that and so many other books to our new baby, and suddenly I found myself beginning to tear up in the store. I checked out, and then had a full melt-down in the car. Grief snuck up on me and leveled me in a completely unexpected way and at a completely unexpected time.

I said that we lost Elliott, but the truth is, I’m the one who feels lost right now. When I start crying around other people, I feel like I need to be holding it together more. When I’m not crying around other people, I feel like I am holding too much back. I hate feeling physically weak when I don’t have a baby in my arms to justify the weakness, but I don’t want to be pushed too hard because after all, I just gave birth. Whatever I’m feeling feels somehow wrong, like I should be feeling something else. I stumble around trying to grieve the right way, and end up feeling not only like a failure as a mother to safely deliver my child into the world, but as a failure for not honoring his death properly.

And my faith? That feels lost as well. C.S. Lewis’s words echo my heart so well right now.

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’ (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed)

I read 2 Samuel 12, and my heart rips apart. What kind of God punishes an adulterous couple by bringing death to their child? I have to wonder if my grief might be quelled a bit if that passage was simply not in the Scripture – if I could trust fully that Elliott’s death wasn’t a punishment for my sins, perhaps then I could begin to lean on God, the way that so many have suggested. Can I lean on a God who has a history of stealing children away from parents because of their sins?

I don’t know.

For now, I lean on the kindness of those around me. I lean on friends who validate my son’s existence by asking to see pictures of him. I lean on family that sits quietly with me in my darkness. I lean on people who barely know us, but give generously to us. I lean on those who wrestle with the same questions.

My son is dead. I am lost.

I hope the second of those will someday be a little less true.

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