Sunday, December 13, 2009

When the Answer is "No"

I started off the weekend with a facebook status that said "Jennifer has homemade vegetable red sauce in the crock pot for tomorrow's 5 cheese lasagna. More cookie baking tomorrow and then fun with friends tomorrow night! Church Christmas dinner on will be a blessed weekend!"

When the phone call came yesterday, I was so crushed and all thoughts of blessing when out the window.

Yesterday was hard. The phone call came in the middle of getting ready for a party I was throwing. The party came and went, and though all in attendance knew of our loss, not a single person uttered a word of sympathy or condolence or asked how we were doing or even mentioned it. I don't think any of those people read this blog so this isn't to call anyone out or to shame's just to say, if you know your friends are grieving, say something. Anything. Silence is the worst choice of all. So, last night really hurt. (ETA: This is not a plug for comments or emails--I meant in a social situation-if you're in the same room as someone you know is experiencing grief, please take a moment to hug them, weep with them, squeeze their hand, say "I'm sorry," etc. We don't expect you to know what to say...we just need to know you care).

The calls and messages did pour in from other friends and family (including so many of you-thank you!) but because we were in the middle of a party, we couldn't really talk to anyone.

But, as much as the actions of these people hurt, I really think that God redeemed it. I’m a person who processes things by talking (or in this case, writing) through them. By the time the party was over last night, DH and I hadn’t had but a few minutes alone, no one had asked us about it, and when they all went home, we were just too exhausted to talk or think. I’d made up my mind that I was determined to be mad at God, and I’d wake up and deal with it in the morning.

Then we got to church. I wish I could describe to you how much I love our church. I intended to go in the back, sit, stone-faced, teach my lesson and slip back out. Ha! Our church loves you whether you want it or not! We received so much love, and so many hugs, and so much support. And that’s when the tears started. I sobbed my way through the music. A good friend took my class so I sat through the sermon (I normally teach children's church during the preaching) and the sermon “happened” to be on my favorite passage in scripture (John 1). I was convicted through the sermon, and then I bawled my way through Sunday School and then we were surrounded by more hugs. We are so remarkably blessed by the great love shown in this local body of Christ. This church does that part of the Body's work better than any church I've ever seen. And we are so humbled to be recipients of that love, and partakers in this church.

And I got to process through those suspended thoughts in a new context, in an environment of support, and in the light of Truth. So, from that perspective, I am glad I wasn't able to process more last night.

When I say mad, what I mean is I felt a combination of anger, forsakenness, self-pity, confusion, more anger, impatience, grief, sorrow, more anger and overwhelming sadness. And I just wanted to throw my little temper tantrum and tell God I was sick and tired of waiting for His timing, that His answers don’t make sense, that He let me down and that while He promised He wouldn’t give us more than we can handle, I felt like this time, He actually did.

Today, I still said those things, but today they were as a confession of a daughter to her Father, out of an attitude of utter helplessness and desperation for rescue. Last night they were of an entitled citizen whose “rights” had been infringed upon. What a difference a day can make!

In one of His points this morning, my Pastor connected verse 5, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it,” with Matthew 5:16: “Let your Light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” I can’t explain it so eloquently as he did, but the net point was “A, therefore B.” I’ve always understood the passages independent of each other, but the connection today struck a chord with me.

And it dawned on me. In the modern context, a light is usually a light bulb. The light bulb doesn’t get to choose when its turned on, the wattage at which it’s turned on, or the sphere which it illuminates. Its job is to light. It serves at the behest of its master. I abdicated my “right” to turn off and hide under a bushel when I gave my life to Christ. My job is to serve as a vessel of His grace and mercy and love. Even when my feelings want to demand otherwise, I must choose to exhibit Christ in all that I do, including my mourning. There's little room for temper tantrums in that.

Skyler, the two-year-old love of my life who I mentioned a few posts ago, is at the stage where his favorite question is “Why?” As much as I adore that baby boy, I tire easily of that question. When the question is asked as the follow up to an instruction, I find myself, more often than not, answering, “Because I said so.”

I have a lot of “whys” with regard to this loss, our last loss, and our infertility journey in general. And yet as I said it again to Skyler tonight, it dawned on me that the answer is always the same to my questions: Because He said so. Because the Great I AM said so. When He is the answer, the questions suddenly become irrelevant.

And do you know what? That’s remarkably freeing. Not in a “check your logic at the door” sort of way but in a “Someone who knows more than I is in charge, and I don’t need to know all the details because I’m safe in His care” sort of way. Scripture tells us that God’s ways are not our ways. And His thoughts are not our thoughts. His mind is not our mind. But darned it all if I don’t try to make sense of things in my insufficient ways, thoughts and mind, anyway. How futile! And how exhausting!

Pastor said something in Sunday school: in the darkness of our grief even when things don’t make sense, the truth of God’s character remains the same. Praise God! His steadfastness and trustworthiness and faithfulness are not dependent on whether or not I feel them or want to acknowledge them.

No other answer matters. Because He said so. It’s not only freeing, it’s convicting.

Then, as Pastor continued and preached about the miracle of God made flesh, I found Him asking me “Is that enough?” Here we are in the season focused on the precious Gift of the Christ Child, and my selfish heart is asking for more. How much I still have to learn.

I do believe that that God gives us desires of our hearts and there is a way to reconcile that with the Sufficiency of His Person. There is a Way Because He is both. I can’t quite reconcile it all in my head just yet to know how to hold on to one and rest in the other, but I know that He knows those details.

So, that’s where I’m at. I still am a mother who just lost two more children, and I grieve. But my grief doesn’t feel overwhelming, endless, or purposeless.

These are some questions we’ve received several times that I thought I’d attempt to answer.

How is this different than last time?
In a transfer, the babies are put in my uterus, but they still have to “grab on” the good old fashioned way. That’s still entirely up to God and nature. In our last transfer, they did grab on, we got pregnant, and then we miscarried. In this case, they just never implanted. We don’t now specifically when they were lost, and we were never officially pregnant in this case. The end result is the same-our babies are in Heaven and not with us. But functionally, the process is very different. For one, there is no trauma to my body like there is with a miscarriage. For that I’m grateful. In one sense, that makes it much easier. The memories I have of the night I lost the girls still haunt me to this day. I have and will have nothing like that with this loss. On the other hand, that makes it tough, too. The babies just left me one day, and we have no idea when. That ambiguity is a little odd.

Are the results conclusive?
Yes. This news was confirmed through a blood test to check for HCG, the pregnancy hormone. My blood was drawn at a late enough point in the process that even if the babies had implanted at the last possible second in the biological “window” of possible implantation time, there would still be measurable levels of HCG by now. The fact that there are none, means there never will be any, with regard to this transfer and those babies.

When will we try again?
We don’t know. We need to process this grief. We need to “detox” my body of all the hormones and let it return to normal. We need to save the money again for another transfer. Then we need to gear up another cycle of hormones in preparation. So, not for several months, at least. We still have 8 babies in frozen storage. And we are committed to giving every single one of them a chance at life. So we must do this again, at least several more times. We just don’t know when the next time will be.

We had our Christmas dinner at church tonight. It was wonderful. I spearheaded cooking dinner for 100 people and worked with my DH and some amazing ladies to get it done. We enjoyed wonderful fellowship. And sweet Skyler gave me all the hugs and snuggles I could want…the best medicine in the world. But, now, I’m exhausted. Tears, trauma and tasks will do that to you! My sweet DH has been kind enough to wait up with me while I finished this so I should wrap it up and go to bed.

Please pray for us. I feel strong and composed tonight, but I also know my flesh and will are weak. Please pray for His strength, composure and peace. Please pray for rest for us. Please pray as we continue to process and mourn. I know the coming days will be difficult.

And please join us in thanking God for His wonderful mercies: Christ has come and will come again, He loves us patiently, our babies are in Heaven with Him, He quiets the questions of our hearts, and He has given us remarkable family and friends. Despite my mid-weekend faltering, the weekend was, and we indeed are, blessed!

Love to you all.


  1. Working through this tonight: the average person, myself included, lives life as though the common grace of God comes standard and when it is removed that somehow God is testing us or punishing us.  It would behoove us to remember that the absence of common grace should be what normal life is.  Thus, when God finds it in our best interest to pull back the curtain of said common grace and reveal the ugliness of a world without Him, we should run to Abba Father not curse Him in anger as if it is our right of place to ask for - much less demand His favor.

    -Todd (Jen's DH)

  2. What a lovely post and great thoughts, Jen - you always have so much good insight, even in the midst of grief. I'm thinking of you guys constantly! Many hugs,

  3. Jen, you amaze me with the both your deep feeling, and your heartfelt willingness to take those feelings before God, and ask him what you should make of them. What a gift that you heard your favorite passage of scripture expounded on just the day and in just the way that you needed to hear it; I know people talk a lot about the church being the hands of Christ, but this blog post is a real example of how that works. It sounds like He was there for you in the person of your pastor, and those other friends who sat by you and were there for you. And the other amazing thing? In the middle of your grief, you were willing to accept his love. And that, Jen, is the Holy Spirit in YOU.

    Anyway, knowing you, I know part of why you share this is to show the greatness of God. I just want to say that it comes through, and I am grateful that you were willing to share it, because I can really see the grace of Christ in you.

    I was praying for you all during mass last night, and will continue to keep you in my prayers.

  4. MJ - what a wonderful post.

    I was praying for you all day yesterday, and like you I was angry at the fact that God said "no" again. You have the right perspective, the best perspective.

  5. Dear Jen,

    Oh, how my heart broke when I read your facebook update yesterday! Chris and I are praying for you and Todd, that God gives you His peace and surrounds you with His love.... You write beautifully, thank-you so much for sharing. Love, Chris and Anne

  6. jen,
    you sound like such an amazingly strong person. i'm so glad that you are able to see the blessings that you have. i know you will make such a wonderful mother. i continue to pray for you and that God will give you children on this earth soon! also that your heart will continue to heal and that the waiting will go quickly!!

  7. Jen, In the midst of all you are going through, such thoughts of clarity are amazing. I will be forever in your debt for these little gems, and will probably quote them to myself often when I am trying to make sense of some tragedy: "Because He said so. Because the Great I AM said so. When He is the answer, the questions suddenly become irrelevant."

    "No other answer matters. Because He said so. It’s not only freeing, it’s convicting."

    Thanks for that. You're such an inspiration.

    May your sadness become less as each day passes.

  8. Jen, you're such a wonderful example of what it means to be Christian. I wish God hadn't chosen such a painful path for you, but you were wrong when you thought He had given you something you couldn't handle. No one should have to lose four babies, but the way you have handled yourself is an amazing testament to your beliefs. You and Todd are in my thoughts and prayers. I'm so glad you have a wonderful Church community to support you through all of this.

  9. (((((Jen))))) I could identify with so much of what you wrote, you expressed so many emotions which I struggled with after our two precious embryos failed to implant in our March cycle this year. We have walked this path very closely together, with both of us conceiving - and miscarrying - our precious first babies late last year. Ater our m/c in December 2008 and detoxing my body from all the hormones, concentrating on getting my body back to full health and shape, we were delighted that the two embryos we had thawed in March were graded even better than our first babies and we were so sure and prayed SO much that these would be our take home babies, yet neither implanted. Like you and Todd, we were absolutely devastated and the "why's" never got us anywhere apart from piling on more heartache and confusion into our already grief-stricken hearts. I guess there will never be an answer to our "why's", as incredibly hard as that is to swallow, Choosing to trust IS hard, because in the very act of choosing (the verb in itself requires effort!) we have to make that conscious decision, that even in midst of the most heart-wrenching grief, we still have a choice in how we respond to our loving Heavenly Father.

    Our human nature recoils against the idea of choosing to trust in an invisible God, when we are sinking in sorrow. Yet, through God's Holy spirit working in us, we realize that much of what happens to us here in earth is far beyond our comprehension, and much of our angst comes from trying to figure out the mind of God and His ways, with our finite minds! It just isn't possible. As you rightly said, His ways and thoughts are not ours, and that is difficult to grasp within the confines and limitations of our human minds and bodies.

    I love you my dear friend and my heart aches for you both. Yet, your attitude is so inspirational in the midst of the fire. I'm grateful that you have a loving church family who are there for you in your sorrow and I thank God for each one of them who have brought much comfort to your hearts through this time of mourning your precious children gone too soon. I'm saddened that nobody mentioned your loss at your party. I've been there too (even after our m/c) and although everyone knew, not a word was said. How that silence cuts so very deep. I pray that you will be able to forgive them. I agree, that even a "I'm sorry" or a hug can speak volumes in a person's grief. To have NO acknowledgement only serves to compound that grief and sense of isolation and abandonment.

    Love you dearly Jen. You and Todd are never far from my thoughts or prayers.

    Much, much love to you hon.


  10. I love our church family. They are such a tremendous blessing!

    We're still praying for you both, Jen! :)