Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Pumpkin Patch Prayer

Having the kids help me run the pumpkin patch at my church seemed like a great idea. Hard work builds character, right?

It was our job to turn all the pumpkins so they wouldn't spoil, try to sell as many as possible and one more thing...

A new shipment of 300 pumpkins would be coming in and because the teens were at camp, there might not be a lot of help.

"Search me O God and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts...(Psalm 139: 23,24)"

You better believe I was breathing this prayer to the Lord as I strolled around the pumpkin patch turning each one.

With my husband and children, we would have exactly six people to unload pumpkins, some as big or bigger than my four-year-old.

We needed help.

One college student showed up, but the delivery truck arrived late, and he had to leave for class.

Another young man, from another church hopped into the truck to help. And, he was a customer!

The delivery truck driver lent us a hand. He had other deliveries to make, and he saw we needed the help.

A few more people showed up. 

There weren't many of us working, but we formed a small line, passing the pumpkins one-by-one until they reached my husband who laid each of them on the ground.

Our hearts are like pumpkins in the Father's hands. When we go through difficulties and uncertain times, it's an opportunity to trust in Him more.

He washes us clean with the Word, pulls the stringy sin of self-reliance out of our hearts and sets us right-side up with the Light of His glorious grace shining bright within. 

My husband laid down the last pumpkin. By the grace of God, few hands made an overwhelming task get done.

Now we would have enough to sell at the fall festival on the weekend. And, it's true, hard work does build character, but the kids are not the only ones needing to grow.

"Create in me a clean heart O God, renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)"

Thursday, October 1, 2015

When the Cold Winds Blow: Healing from Pregnancy and Infant Loss

When the autumn winds blow fresh and cool, the maple leaves ambling to the ground, a slow but pervasive sadness creeps up. It doesn’t take long for me to know why.

And in the midst of this ache, a little light trickles in.

An idea. A glimmering grace to hold onto. A comfort to ease the pain.

Gathering leaves, big and small, symmetrical or somewhat askew, I hold them to my heart.

With broken crayons, sheets of blank paper and children needing something to do, I demonstrate. Taking a single leaf, I cover it with paper and rub it over and over again with a red crayon.

As if by magic, the leaf appears. First the stem, the veins and the outline of the leaf’s three points.

My kids are in awe and my heart is at rest. 

To turn death into a learning experience, a thing to grow from, gives me renewed focus and grace...

To look to the One who comforts me and love on the ones I have here.

I have this little blue scrapbook. A book of remembrance. Of a time of waiting for a sweet little baby. A son. His prognosis was grave. I was his life support. When he was born, he would die. Back then, bilateral renal agenesis (BRA) had no treatment and still has no cure. I received the news the beginning of autumn.

December came and he was wrapped up warm and comfortable in my womb while I waited for his birth day. The day I’d have to say goodbye.

Another month before his due date, I spent half that windswept day on a playground with my two-year-old Bright Girl. Pushing her in the swing. Watching her joy as she raced around, her sneakers crunching on the fallen leaves. Not knowing it would be the day before my son’s birth day.

Giving birth to a child born without the capacity to live was incomprehensible. How can you prepare for it?

All I could do was breathe and pray.  

When trying to savor each moment, time slows down. It would be one of the longest days of my life. And, I held my little boy, my Luke, for as long as I could before he passed from here to heaven.

I left the hospital, with empty womb and empty arms.

Trying to find some sort of normalcy, when my strength returned, I took my toddler to the playground. As I pushed her in the swing, a shadow seemed to block the sun. It wasn’t a shadow others could see, but it was felt. And only by me.

I don’t remember how long the shadow lasted, but it came and went like the ebb and flow of the tides.

And it's been like that each and every autumn, when the cold winds begin to blow. For twelve years now. The shadow of grief comes. Sometimes for a day, sometimes a bit longer.

At this point, I don't know if I can call grief a friend, but I now see a pattern for when it settles in.

And, I don't mind it anymore.

Loving and losing someone hurts. The pain means they mattered. And, the latent grief that comes is a reminder to us to think of the ones we miss in heaven. The ones we're waiting to see again.

And when the shadow of grief seems to linger, just remember...

You will bloom again.

Like the sunflowers who turn to face the sun, may we turn to face our Savior and wait for His healing, comfort and grace.

A wise king once said,

“To every thing there is a season…a time to be born and a time to die...a time to weep and a time to laugh…” (Ecclesiastes 3:3-8)

And Jesus said, 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).”

Death has not won the victory, Christ has. His love is eternal. Death couldn't stop Him. He lives on
 and by grace, our loved ones who are gone, live on.

Faith gives us hope.

Hope helps us bloom. To be open to joy.

Love is the source of that hopethe love of Christ, our gentle Savior who leads us on the path He has laid out for us. 

For some of us, it is the path of grieving in hope. The hope that brings whispers of a joy to come. On falling leaves and in fingers making impressions for little hearts to learn.