Month: June 2017

Be Still

MarriageParenting

We have made several posts so far that talk about or relating to the tragic birth experience with our twins. Today I want to turn to another unique and eventful birth. As with every birth, the Lord worked in a great and powerful way in our family. Truly, the arrival of every one of our four children was a unique and eventful experience, but this particular one is both a great memory and a great lesson. Those who know us personally have heard elements of this story before, and a version of the account given below was posted to the website of our previous church in San Antonio.

On a Wednesday morning, my wife woke me up at 4:20 AM with the words that every expectant father both fears and rejoices in: “My water broke!” Now, this was a bit early, as she was a few days shy of being full term (only 36.5 weeks) and we had already been sent home from the hospital a couple days prior with a false alarm. She yelled this delightfully frightening phrase while in the shower trying to ease her back pain and woke me out of a dead sleep. I had heard repeatedly that labor can go on for hours after the water breaks, but we lived about 45 minutes from the hospital, so I did my best Superman impression and got changed lightning fast. I helped her out of the shower after a contraction and she went to sit on the toilet.

At 4:22 I called our friend down the street to come watch our then-19-month-old son while we went to the hospital. Sara called me in and said to forget trying to get there on our own; she felt the baby would be there soon and said to call EMS unless I wanted to deliver our son in the car on the way there. I walked back into the bedroom to continue dressing and simultaneously call 911.  She then yelled at me again saying that we weren’t going to make until they arrived. This boy was coming NOW!

At this point, my calm and collected demeanor vanished like darkness after turning on a light and I instantly became the sitcom dad frantically running back and forth trying to call 911. Unfortunately, the operator could not understand my hysterical “THE BABY IS COMING!!!” Another contraction came and his head was now crowning. Now I’m really panicked…I threw the phone (forgot to hang up of course) and went into full panic mode. I just wasn’t prepared for this! I never expected anything like this to happen us! Truth be told, my panic was more about having to deliver the baby myself and messing up in a big way. Our first baby got stuck AND had the cord wrapped around his neck. What was I going to do if that happened again?!?

In another instant, it sank in that I was going to have to do this; there was just no way around it. I mentally zoned in (still terrified of course) and helped her to the floor and leaned her back. We were going to deliver this baby right there on our bathroom floor. A contraction came and his head popped out; all I could see below that was umbilical cord. As I said, our first baby had the cord wrapped around his neck and that was quite an ordeal at the hospital so I was panicking just a little bit more now. I was able to simply push it aside and off his shoulder. Whew! Two extremely short contractions later I was holding my son, Jonah, and the majority of the panic and anxiety was gone. Just eight short minutes after waking, we had gone through what felt like an entire day’s trial. My wife then picked up the phone and very calmly explained what had just happened to the 911 operator (who had apparently been listening to the whole thing) while I checked Jonah out and wrapped him up for Momma. The EMS got there about 20 minutes later and we went to the hospital to get everything checked out.

Almost four years later, Jonah is just fine. He is an incredibly sweet, and of course rambunctious, little boy that loves without reservation. There were no complications or serious ailments whatsoever. Of the million things that could have gone wrong with such a set of circumstances, not one of them did. God truly showed Himself and kept them both safe while guiding me to do what I needed to. Psalm 46 in particular came to mind after all the chaos had dissipated:

1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

God reminded me in this moment that there was no reason to panic in the first place. There was no reason to fear at all because He was still in control. We had been praying to have a safe, healthy, and normal pregnancy this time. I believe God answered that prayer, but not in the way we expected. He was telling us that it doesn’t matter how the pregnancy goes or ends; He’s still in control and holds us in His hands. “Calm down. I’ve got you my child,” He says. God will certainly not give you more than He will enable you to handle. You may not (or probably won’t) be able to handle life’s challenges on your own, but He will give you what you need to get through the trial. I had no false impressions on my lack of training and ability to deliver a baby (not to mention my weak stomach for blood and bodily fluids) and that’s why I went into panic mode. However, when you realize that God the Almighty who created heaven and earth, who moves seas and mountains by His Word, and loves you so much He died for you, is standing next to you; there’s no reason to fear at all. The greatest assurance we can have on this earth is knowing that those who love and trust the Lord can depend on His provision and that regardless of the outcome, He is in control and works all things for our benefit (Rom 8:28).

Thinking back to this day, I have come to believe that God’s closeness and watch care were instrumental in the way we handled ourselves in the OR when Luke and Asher were born. I was able to pray and sing in the midst of devastation, because I knew God was there taking care of everything. As I sit here and write this, it has become so clear why Jonah and Asher share such a special connection. When a challenge or trial bulldozes its way into your life and you have the urge to panic, I hope you’ll take the time to be still and recognize that God is right there with you.

What NOT to Say to a Grieving Parent

Grief and Infant Loss

Shortly after Luke & Asher were born, I began to notice that people; friends; didn’t really know what to say to me/us, so instead of just remaining silent, they would try to be comforting and do far more damage to our already aching hearts than good. I know it was absolutely never done intentionally, but there are really just some things you should NEVER, EVER say to a grieving parent.

1) “Everything happens for a reason.” While I know that God has our entire lives mapped out already and that “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” Romans 8:28–IT STILL HURTS. And telling a grieving momma or daddy that everything happens for a reason is not helpful. Sometimes the only reason there is for a child to have died is sin. When sin entered the world, so did sickness and death.

2)  “God only gives you what you can handle.” First of all, this isn’t true at all. He will give you more than you can handle on your own, because we aren’t supposed to handle things on our own. Absolutely the only reason I am still here today, is because He saw me through it. He held me up when I couldn’t do it on my own; which was constantly.  He gave me purpose in getting out of bed each day. And He still does. Because guys, losing my baby was far more than I could handle without Him.

3) “At least”……at least you have your other children. At least you can have more babies. At least they didn’t revive him and leave him brain dead. At least one of your twins survived….. Guys, there is NO “at least” in infant and child loss. None. Already having kids at home doesn’t take away the love you have and the pain you feel for the baby/child you lost. Having the potential to be able to have more children in the future doesn’t take away the love you have and pain you feel for the baby/child you lost. Not to mention–sometimes this baby was the couples only hope of having biological children. Sometimes they have suffered unimaginable losses before this one, but suffered those in silence, or you just didn’t know about them. Sometimes the potential for having more children isn’t there at all.  Having Asher here with us still does not take away the pain we feel over the loss of Luke. Our love for Asher doesn’t erase the love we have for Luke. Having 4 living children now doesn’t take away the pain we feel from the loss of our first baby, Azaliah or the love we have for that baby. There is no acceptable time to ever use the phrase “at least” to a grieving parent.

4) “Things will get better.” Sometimes what I needed to hear was simply “this sucks. I know it hurts and it will always hurt. But I love you and I’m here.” That’s it. Don’t try to tell us that things will get better. We already know they will probably get better, because surely every day for the rest of our lives can’t possibly hurt this much……right?? But in the right here and right now; when the grief is so consuming and overwhelming and suffocating…..just be there for your friend. Let them know you love them and even better, let them know that you love their baby/child too. And that’s it.

5) “I know how you feel; I lost my (insert parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, sibling, friend or pet).” Please don’t compare the loss of your parent, aunt/uncle, grandparent, sibling or friend to the loss of a child. Especially the loss of a “fur baby.” We have had our fair share of losses in life, but I’m telling you nothing, nothing compares to the loss of a child because it is completely against the natural order of life. Again, those losses are difficult but really, don’t compare your loss of any kind to that of any other persons loss of any kind–even if you both lost your mother, your life experiences and relationship with her will effect how the loss affects you. No two people grieve the same and no two losses are the same.

6) “You’re such a strong person.” No, I’m not. We aren’t. We continue living because we have to. Yes, we have a choice to continue on, but doing so doesn’t mean we are strong. Don’t assume that a parent that seems to have it all together on the outside, actually has it all together. Most likely, if you even are able to make eye contact with them, you will see otherwise.

7) “You still aren’t over this??” Ok, thankfully no one has ever said this one to me, but since we lost Luke, I have made so many amazing friends that are also loss mommas; both twinless twin mommas and mommas that have lost a singleton. And there are far too many instances where these friends have come to me or to our group of grieving mommas and reported that someone has actually said this to them! In high school I had a sweet little dog that was only my dog. She was a Christmas gift one year for only me. My junior year, she accidentally got poisoned out on our farm and I was devastated for months. Guys, this was a dog. And I have friends on facebook that post about the loss of their dog/cat/other pet months later after their loss and still get tons of responses with condolences. But for some reason people think that parents should be “over” the loss of their infant or child in a matter of weeks, no longer than a couple months. I don’t understand this one at all. The loss of your child is something you can never move on from. Move forward, yes; but move on, no.

This is definitely not a comprehensive list, by any means. Each situation with child or infant loss is different; so please use common sense in the situation and if you find yourself struggling to find words to speak, just DON’T! A silent hug does far more good than words do sometimes. 

And one last note. Daddies hurt too. Very, very deeply. They have also just lost a baby or child. Ask them how they’re doing. Reach out to them and show them some extra love too. Why do people often neglect the daddy even when he’s standing right by the momma?? Please don’t forget the grieving daddies out there. 💙💙

Edited to add: several loss momma friends of mine have said that they all feel the best thing to hear is simply something along the lines of “I’m so sorry this happened. It sucks. I can’t fix it, but I’m here for you and I love you.” Don’t ignore what’s happened as if it didn’t happen. Talking about our baby/child won’t remind us they’re gone, because we could never forget! But it will show that you care for them and for us. And that is worth so much. 💙💙

Satan’s Darts – Wednesday Edition

Bible/TheologyMatt's Musings

Do you ever have those days where one thing after another seems to chip away at your ability to have a nice, relaxing, joy-filled day? It’s like there’s something trying to get you to stumble or give up on trying to have that picture-perfect family and church life. Well…there is and they call him the Adversary, aka Satan. 1 Peter 5:8 informs us of his M.O. (that’s modus operandi for those of you who like Latin; i.e. how he operates):

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”

Now, 1 Peter is specifically written to Christians (see 1 Pet 1:1-2), so that tells me he’s more ragingly interested in attacking believers than he is non-believers. As many good preachers remark, if he can’t keep you out of heaven he’ll do everything he can to get you to ruin your testimony so you can’t help other people in. His best tool in keeping people out of heaven is an ineffective Christian with a poor testimony.

I’ve come to understand that the stronger your faith is and the harder you try to live for God and do His will, the harder Satan works to ruin you. Ephesians 6:16 gives us his preferred method for taking down earnest Christians:

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”

He’s like a petulant child lobbing rocks at you from a distance just to get you to react! He wants to break your spirit and make you lash out in anger and frustration. I don’t know about you, but this usually happens to me on Sundays and Wednesdays…when I’m supposed to be in church ministering and being an encouragement to others. Try teaching about biblical parenting with patience after you’ve given your kids a thorough tongue-lashing. It feels like you’re holding up a giant “I’m a hypocrite!” sign.

I recently had such a Wednesday where Satan was lobbing fiery dart after fiery dart:

– My workday was filled with people not doing their jobs or constantly asking me how.

– I was stewing (maybe obsessing) over the potential of getting some bad news from a medical test the day prior.

– Our 8-month-old preemie was being super cranky and feverish. We suspected teething, but he was just generally not a happy camper.

– Our 2-year-old suddenly developed a 102 fever – there went church for the night.

– Our 3- and 5-year olds were being rambunctious (as small boys tend to be) and incredibly loud trying to talk over the other two who were crying.

– The dog was scratching at the door constantly wanting out (unless she wanted in, of course).

– Dinner was chaotic and all the kids wanted something different.

– Sara dealing with a very rude billing department over the mountain of medical bills we’ve accrued over the last year. I was trying to keep the chaos down for her but it wasn’t going so well.

Man…it was just one thing after another and I was on the verge of having a rather loud and animated meltdown. I sat at the top of the stairs watching the chaos below and listening to the chaos in the bedroom where my wife had retreated so she could hear someone being rude to her over the phone. I just sat there…wondering how an evening could go so sour when I was trying so hard to do the right things for everyone and get to church.

Then Ephesians 6:16 hit me and it all made sense. I was being pelted with fiery darts and I had to either decide to rage out over it or make some lemonade. The cool thing about Ephesians 6:16 is in the first part of the verse where Paul tells us exactly what to do about the darts: “Above all, [take up] the shield of faith.”

Above all…more important than the belt of truth…more important than the breastplate of righteousness…more important than the gospel of peace and helmet of salvation…that shield of faith is the most important piece of armor because it’s what helps you withstand the fiery darts that are meant to make you ineffective in your Christian walk. Hallelujah! I had the perfect lemonade maker and all I had to do was pick it up (why I wasn’t holding it already is the subject of another post on spiritual readiness…)! Here’s how I used it…

First, I picked up each of my kids one-by-one and loved on them and a peaceful calm settled in. Maybe they figured out they didn’t need to yell and whine to get my attention or maybe I was just more calm because I recognized they weren’t being bad…they were being kids. I didn’t need to explode on them and provoke them to wrath; I needed to nurture them (Eph 6:4).

Next, I decided to be more intentional with them the rest of the night. Ellie got a couple more bedtime songs. The boys got an extra book and Bible story. By the time the bedtime routines were done, everyone was full of smiles and “I love you’s.”

As is normal, Sara was still getting the baby down when I was finished with the other kids, so I cleaned up the kitchen for her and got my breakfast ready for the morning while I watched some Star Trek (hey…don’t judge me…everyone is geeky about something).

I didn’t get to go to church, but I got to enjoy the family that God blessed me with. Here’s the thing, though; it didn’t happen by deciding that I wasn’t going to let the chaos and disappointments bother me. It happened by choosing to love everyone else instead of loving myself (i.e. selfishly concentrating what was not going right for me). It happened by putting God back in the center of everything where He belongs. That is essentially the core of how God wants us to go about life while here on this earth (Matt 22:35-40).

If you’re a Christian, rest assured that Satan is coming after you and doing whatever he can to trip you up. He’s lobbing those fiery darts your way. If you’re not carrying your shield of faith and prioritizing God in your life, your guard will be down and those darts will be free to hit you right in the face. Without centering your life on your faith in God, your priorities and desires will be off the mark and it will be easier for the Adversary to throw you off balance and get you to sin.

Next time you’re having a dart-filled day, remember to pick up your shield and resist the Devil; and I promise that he will flee from you (James 4:7).

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