A Gracious Grief

“I hate to say it like this,” he paused, “but you get a freebie. Miscarriages are unfortunately very common and this was most likely a very unfortunate happenstance of sorts.”

He was trying to reassure me that my body was capable of growing another human being, of having future healthy pregnancies. He was clearly stumbling over his words, unsure of how to formulate clinically sound statements with sensitivity. Bless the man.

I have walked into hospital rooms of women who had lost their children, at a loss for what to say or how to support them in their grief. I know to some extent what it is to stumble and falter, to be uncertain of how to marry clinical necessity with human reality. I have wondered at how many idiotic and obtuse things I have unintentionally uttered to women in their darkest moments. As I looked at this man, this physician who had never met me before, who would never know what it is to carry a child in one’s womb, I wanted to laugh at the atrocity of this follow up appointment. It was so horrific it was humorous.  I looked at the student shadowing him, hoping he adopted a more empathetic response to loss in his future career.

I treated myself by aimlessly wandering the aisles at Target, finishing a latte while it was still hot, and picking up fresh flowers on my way home. I called one of my beloved friends to relay the awkwardness of the morning. I put my hand over my stomach, as though Dylan could feel me somehow, “You’re my freebie, huh?” I chuckled. The dull ache within my soul mixed with a sweet fondness for grace. Grace that made me forever the mom of two little loves. Grace that enables me to find humor and joy, even in the most awkward of circumstances. Grace that enters in with gentle perspective, lifts my head up, and reminds me that grief is not my enemy.

One of the greatest sources of anxiety for me is feeling emotions that I cannot connect to a root cause. I struggle to feel emotions and would rather analyze them. I feel in control when I can make sense of an emotion, but Dylan’s loss seems nonsensical and waves of grief have felt like panic attacks. I do not like “feeling all the feelings” without being able to understand them, because understanding them helps me move forward. I have spent countless hours in counseling sessions over the years learning how to identify feelings, connect them to a root cause, and process them accordingly. This is a great way to address my anxiety and help me find a solid footing when I feel overcome by irrationality; but grief has proven different. I don’t have a why, a reason, a way to make sense of Dylan’s loss to which I can attach these feelings. I refuse to believe that life is so accidental that loss can be an “unfortunate happenstance” and yet I will never know what caused my baby’s heart to stop beating. There’s no sense in it, and yet there is truth.  Truth guaranteed in the Gospel. Truth secured in hope. Truth that I am loved, held, seen, and rescued by Holy God.

I can anchor these feelings in the foundation of truth. They need to be felt, they need to be named, and for me, they need to be anchored lest they sweep me off solid ground. The very fear of loss and lack that I have dreaded the majority of my life has struck a blow and yet I am not undone. I feel undone at times; paralyzed by sudden panic over potential future loss, future grief, as though one more experience could be the straw that breaks this camel’s back. Imagining my future without God’s presence there with me is (unfortunately) a trap I fall into often. Grief has underscored my faulty imagination and highlighted the prideful root of my anxiety.  Grief has exposed the ways in which I have minimized God’s presence, power, and competence and magnified everything else. Grief has and continues to be the most sanctifying tutor the Holy Spirit has ever given me.

Who knew that grace could come in the form of grief?

-a

Surrender the Pen: the Struggle to Embrace My Entire Story

I started a journal for both Sam and Dylan the night I found out I was pregnant with each of them. This intense drive to write would pull my very awake self out of bed in the middle of the night. It’s how “Letters to Little” started, and how I’ve continued to process losing Dylan.

People grieve differently. Hell, I think grief comes in different forms and ways even within my own being. Some days I just want to get it all out, as though once it’s out it will be out for good; whereas on other days, I want to hold everything so closely as though I can will Dylan’s presence and life back into my womb. I say this because, for me, grief has been anything but linear. Stages of grief have ebbed and flowed, sometimes occurring simultaneously, and though one moment I may feel at peace with God, the next I may feel incredibly pissed off. This is important because it’s easy to read a blog and walk away with a sense of permanency, but a post is very similar to a picture. It’s a snapshot, a scene of sorts, but it can never fully encompass someone’s grieving process. I say all of this to preface an entry I wrote two weeks ago in Dylan’s journal. I say all of this because what I am about to share is insanely personal to me, but by no means is my intent to communicate it is true of you or for you in your own experiences with grief. The hope is always that this is encouraging for someone, but I want to be clear that this is me working out my own loss – not me telling you how to work out yours.

“My precious baby –

As I write this, I am sitting on a balcony, overlooking the ocean. The warm breeze is pretty healing and the rhythmic sound of the waves lulls me into a peaceful place. Sammy just went down for a nap, and so it’s just me.

Before we lost you, I would talk to you. I’d lay Sam down for his nap, pick up my schoolwork and say, ‘Okay baby, we got this.’ I said that the day after we lost you and then burst into tears, realizing I was alone.

I’ve had a lot of emotions and hormones coursing through my body; muddling my brain. It’s left me pretty frustrated, to be honest. Nothing makes sense. I’m angry and confused, and mostly just sad. I realize it’s incredibly arrogant and entitled to be angry at God for your death. I never deserved you in the first place, and I know the gracious gift that you, your brother, your dad – our family – is from God Himself. I’m disappointed; this is not the way I wanted this story to go down. Then, if I was writing this story, you probably wouldn’t have existed.

See, I would’ve never written Nashville, or a character like your dad, into my story. I would never write in someone so unique, unexpected, and different from me; someone so kind and gentle, patient and warm, and generous. I would’ve never been so bold to think a man (so obviously not my type) would and could love me so insanely well. And then I would’ve never written your brother Sam. Not only would he not exist without your dad, but even in my wildest dreams, I could never create a character as funny, smart, adorable and stubborn. I would never think I could parent such a kid, or be deserving of such a gift. It’s part of why I grieve you so. I wonder at who you are and what a treasure you would be to unpack and observe. My heart aches for what will never be known this side of heaven; for you are an endless trove of possibility.

This is not how I would’ve written our story, and yet I wouldn’t have written any of the goodness or the pain. My story would be lifeless in so many ways. Though I grieve you; though my heart is forever changed and, at the moment quite broken, you remain one of my greatest gifts. I’m so thankful to be your mom, Dylan. I know you’re living it up in heaven right now. Never will you know pain, grief, loss or disappointment, which makes me so happy despite this intense feeling of missing you.

When Israel was a young nation, they begged Samuel for a king. It wasn’t enough to have God rule over them; they wanted to be like the other nations. This bothered Samuel. God reminds Samuel that this is not so much a rejection of Samuel as Israel’s judge, but a rejection of God as their king. Samuel was experiencing a small taste of what God was experiencing, and it wasn’t fun. God tells Samuel to give the people what they want, but not before informing them of the consequences of their choice. They didn’t care. They wanted someone to fight their battles for them, despite the reality that God had successfully fought their battles for years; they wanted someone tangible.

In so many ways, I want what Israel wanted even though I know how it turned out for them. I don’t want a king, but I want you in the flesh. I want to reject this part of the story and go back to when you were alive; your heartbeat so perfect, your little body so formed already in such a short time. I want to go back to having my sweet study buddy and dreaming with your dad about what life might look like in this new season. I want to, and have tried to, reject all of the suffocating feelings of sadness. I want a rewrite…but to reject this part of my story is to reject the author and editor of my entire story.

I want to believe that God doesn’t will death; that He didn’t write this, but rather within the limits of his authority that men granted at the fall, Satan willed this. I know God gets the final edits, like He did in Job’s story, but I’d like to think that this wasn’t His original design. Though there’s a lot of confusion there, and murky theological implications, one thing I do know is that God is writing my story. He is the author and perfector of my faith. He is the one who will finish the good work He began in me. I am His workmanship. I am not God and He is not like me. His ways are not my ways. His thoughts are not my thoughts. He is so much higher and wiser than I am. None of this makes sense to me, but He didn’t ask me to write this story. He asked me to trust Him with the pen.

As I sit here, listening to wave after wave, I am reminded that there is a sense of peace in the rhythm of the ocean. I remember a moment of swimming in some intense waves as a teenager. I was a strong swimmer, but I lost track of how far out I was and began to feel overwhelmed by how tired I felt. I remember questioning my ability to handle my current situation; a feeling that seems familiar in these days. That sense of panic clinching around my heart, forcing the air outside of my lungs, suffocating the life out of me. It took me a bit to realize I could use the waves to my advantage. Rather than fighting the current, I could ride the waves in and walk back to where I wanted to be on the shore. The rhythm brought me back to solid ground.

Fighting these feelings is most natural to me, but riding them into a firm foundation in the Gospel is not. It’s hard. I don’t want to feel vulnerable, to have unanswered questions, to hurt, but maybe there’s peace in these waves. Peace that goes beyond a feeling. Peace that is the person of Christ. The peace that stands in the gap for us. The peace that opens the door for us. The very shalom of God, where nothing is missing, nothing is lacking, nothing is incomplete or broken.

Though a part of me will be missing until eternity, I’m believing there is wholeness available in the purest of forms. I am believing I’m not alone in these waves.

All my love my sweet D,

Mom.”

Now What?

Now What?

“Now what?” is a question I have asked myself often in these early days of grief. As Ray and I have tried to process what has been the greatest emotional roller coaster of our lives thus far, as the reality sinks in more at the most unexpected times, and as life around us continues to move at a very busy pace as always, it is a question that has gone mostly unanswered beyond addressing those daily necessities. In so many ways, Sam has kept me grounded in a routine, and subsequently grounded in my own body.

I’ve sat down with my bible at a complete loss as to what to read; driven by an intense need to be in God’s presence. Beyond the wealth of emotions and questions I bring with me, there is an urgent feeling that if sense is to be made from losing Dylan then it is to be made at the feet of Jesus. I am so thankful for the very real people within the Scriptures that grieved openly.  They have given me the freedom in many ways to grieve honestly with Jesus, trusting that He is big enough to handle the weight of it, believing that He grieves with me.

Psalm 95: 4-5 says, “In His hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.”

This is my strength for today: that God holds the highest, the lowest, the most uncertain, and the most stable points of my life and experiences in His hands. Whether I feel as though I am drowning in the sea, secure on dry land, lost in the depths of the valley, slugging it out on the climb, or celebrating on the summit, He holds me. Furthermore, He has promised that I will not be overwhelmed by these things. Isaiah 43 is full of beautiful promises and reminders of God’s faithfulness to us, especially in moments where we feel overwhelmed by the waters, fire, depths or desert. Reminding me that, though I may feel overwhelmed, God reigns over His creation, makes a way where there does not seem to be a way, and is faithful to His promise to keep me securely in His hand.

Let me be clear: the truth of God’s sovereignty does not negate my grief. None of this is meant to gloss over the very real pain of all of this. There are no religious cliches that can suddenly make the loss of my child okay. Not to wade into murky theological waters, but I am unconvinced that God willed this loss, or any loss of life. I believe it breaks His heart; everything within His character works for life, redemption, and restoration. However, the truth of God’s sovereignty, the reality that He holds the heights and depths in His hands, gives me a safe place to grieve, to question, to weep, even to rage. The truth of God’s sovereignty empowers me to grieve; giving me the authority in Christ to reign over the emotions and thoughts that threaten to overwhelm me, so that I can process them, appropriate them, and communicate them.

Thank you for bearing with me as the blog has become an outlet to process. As always, please be reminded that I’m no authority on theology or biblical studies. Take this, hold it up to Scripture, seek counsel, and then, as one of my favorite pastors says, “Take the meat and leave the bones.”

-a

Dylan’s Story

I realize I have been MIA for quite some time on the blog. Life has a way of getting crazy when you decide to go back to graduate school and keep up with an active toddler who is all boy. The last two months in particular have been an extra special kind of chaos. As the semester was wrapping up, I realized that something had to give. The lack of sleep, the extra coffee, the anxiety, the exhaustion all caught up to me and kicked me in the butt. Despite sleeping more, studying less, and even kicking the caffeine, I couldn’t get a handle on my body. My sweet husband cautiously asked me a few times if I might be pregnant, but I was resolute in being 95% sure that was a negative. I just needed to get through finals, and then I would have a week off to rest, adventure with Sam, and be refreshed for summer classes. Plus, last minute changes in my degree plan had caused a lot of extra frustration and now that I had a settled schedule, my summer was looking a bit easier to handle.

The weekend of finals also came with two positive pregnancy tests, overwhelming nausea, and a lot of emotions. My immediate response to both of our pregnancies has been one of excitement and instantaneous, sheer terror. Since I had been so confident my body was going crazy because of stress related to school, I found myself caught off guard to say the least. Suddenly my week of rest, relaxation, and adventuring with Sam turned into a week of debilitating nausea and fatigue. I confessed to my counselor that though I was excited, somewhere deep deep down, I was mostly overwhelmed in every part of my being.

It’s amazing how tackling morning sickness can make you feel ten times more optimistic about growing a human. I stopped beating myself up for resting or letting Sam watch a lot of TV or letting chores slide so I could nap when Sam napped. Little one proved to be extremely different than my pregnancy with Sam, keeping me on my toes for sure. The Thursday before Mother’s Day, when I was finally coming out of the fog of first trimester symptoms, it occurred to me that I had forgotten to get my own mother and mother in law something for the holiday. Sam and I packed up and headed to Target. I felt like what I imagine Olympian’s feel like tackling errands with Sam and baby in utero. As Elevation Worship played on our way home, I felt the Holy Spirit gently and powerfully convict me of my fear concerning raising two babies. I had been so consumed with my insecurities and inadequacies, so overwhelmed by how all of this was going to work with Sam, school, etc. that I had completely forgotten the world changer I was carrying and the One who was shaping him or her. Tears flowed as I prayed for a shift of faith in my heart and my mind. In that moment, I felt at peace for the first time in a long time.

A few hours later, after settling into study, I felt a sharp pain followed by a flow of blood. I wept helplessly as the life inside of me felt so fragile. A dear friend came to watch Sam while Ray and I went to the midwives. I held my breath as she began the ultrasound, never more happy to hear that strong, beautiful heartbeat. Baby looked great, but we were encouraged to be “reassured but cautiously optimistic.” The bleeding continued into the night, filling my spirit with more caution than optimism, but we hoped and pleaded for life.

On Tuesday we went for a follow up ultrasound that would check on baby and tell us our due date. Mom tagged along to hang with Sam and I while Ray headed to work. The sonographer looked grim as she looked at the screen, with a calm, clinical voice she told me she had bad news. We had lost baby’s heartbeat.

What followed was a blur of meeting a new doctor, discussing my options, calling Ray with the worst news of our marriage thus far, and thousands of thoughts and emotions flooding my brain simultaneously. I had to email my professor, I had to finish my homework, I had to pick up milk for Sam from the local grocer because it was Tuesday. I forgot to get a picture of the ultrasound; why didn’t I get the damn picture. I clutched the steering wheel and bawled, while Mom sat nervously in the passenger seat and asked me if she should drive. I didn’t know how to tell her that I felt an intense need to be in control of something, anything, otherwise I might spin completely out of control.

We stopped by the grocer and splurged on fresh, local strawberries, treats from the bakery, and my favorite pint of Jeni’s ice cream…and Sam’s milk. Sam danced to the music in the attached café, stuffed his face with strawberries until his fingers were stained pink, and serenaded us on the way home. He is such a precious gift.

On Thursday, we headed to the hospital for surgery. I was nervous, it took all within me not to let death have the final say in all of this. The first nurse we met in pre-op held me close, looked me in the eye, and with all compassion told me she had experienced an early loss and this surgery herself. She settled us into our room and told us she was praying for us as she left. Everyone was kind, and clearly treaded carefully into our room, unsure of what to say beyond anything clinical. Our nurse at discharge gave us a bereavement folder and warned us about a poem; Ray glanced at the poem, his eyes filled with tears, and he quickly pulled the sheet out and gave it to the nurse so I wouldn’t have to see it. I was thankful she had our back. I was also thankful she had Toradol. My coping skills were shot, so even the mildest cramping felt unbearable.

It has been perhaps the most hellish week of my life. Without question, it has been the most insane emotional roller coaster of a week I have ever experienced. We have been surrounded by the best support system, felt sustained by the prayers of those around us, soaked up all the snuggles Sam will allow us, and felt overwhelmed by waves of intense grief. To say that this part of our story hurts is an understatement, but we know this is not the end. We decided to name the baby Dylan, a name we liked for either a boy or girl since it was too early to determine gender, a name after the author of one of our favorite poems.

Though we grieve, we are not without hope. Though sadness sits like an elephant on my chest, making breathing feel impossible at times, we are not without joy. We have no idea what is next, nor do we know how to navigate this, but we trust that God wastes nothing. Somehow, in all of the ugliness and heartbreak, He’ll bring beauty and redemption out of this…. He always does. I have never been more thankful for the reality of the Gospel, nor have I hastened heaven as I have in this past week.

I don’t say these things to gloss over what feels like a nightmare we are walking through. I say these things because, though it feels as though death has won, it has been defeated. Love won on the cross of Christ. We trust that love will win in Dylan’s story and in our own.

-a

Nuggets.

This season has been full and yet I have never felt more spread thin. Honestly, I have been vividly aware of how beautiful my life is while simultaneously being terrified I will inevitably screw it all up. I feel like a puzzle scattered on my living room floor, with plenty of pieces to go around but only a fragmented woman to offer. Sound familiar to anyone else?

Clearly this area of my life has suffered as I have been MIA from writing. For those kind, sweet and faithful friends who keep checking in – I am sorry for this insanely overdue update!

I am halfway through my first semester of graduate school, and though there is no break in my near future, I finally feel as though I am back in school-mode. My inner hippy has become out of control as I have started experimenting with making crunchy, homemade soaps, cleaners, and dreaming of owning chickens and goats when I graduate. Ray and I have been dreaming of getting some land, fixing up a farmhouse, and I believe the more I send him to buy goat milk the more I am convincing him goats are a good investment. These dreams are fueled by no small amount of Ray binge-watching Fixer Upper while I “study” next to him. Let’s just say the best compliment I gave my husband this week was a text that read, “You are the Chip to my JoJo.” Obsessed with shiplap much?

Sam is 20 months going on 20 years old. For real, the kid picked out a fedora and plaid this past weekend at Target. He is talking more and more, and he has the BEST belly laugh. My heart melts every time he comes up to me and says, “Hand! Hand!” while he takes me by the hand and leads me into a new adventure. To say that this stage of life has been full of difficulties as a parent would be an understatement, but getting to witness Sam grow and experience life as a toddler has been the greatest joy. Ray and I are constantly wondering how such a cool kid could come from us, until his little sinner side comes out and it’s obvious he has our DNA.

The past few weeks have been a battle against fear within my heart and my mind; for every display of grace and faithfulness, there has been a counter attack of whispered lies and exposed insecurities. Thankfully, the truth of God’s word and the grace and kindness of His character always have the last word. This is the hope to which I am clinging. In the midst of unparalleled exhaustion, toddler tantrums, marital ish, insecurity and doubt, it has been so easy to slip into a frantic state and feel overwhelmed by pressure that was never meant to be placed on me. One of the sweetest reminders from the Lord met me in that pressure cooker this past weekend, and I want to leave you with this gracious nugget of freedom:

The Lie: The belief that I am only worth what I can generate or contribute; that I have to bring something awesome and revolutionary to the table.

The Nugget: I’ve not called you to be a generator. I do the generating. I am already working and moving in each and every person and circumstance. When you accept my invitation to partner with me, I’ll show you where I am working; I’ll lead you and guide you by the Holy Spirit.

As always, hold this nugget up to Scripture; take the meat and leave the bones.

-a

Hustle & Hypocrisy: An Update

I opened up the blog today, the poor long lost and forgotten blog, and took a deep breath as I settled into my chair. There has not been nearly enough coffee, or sleep, or chocolate in these past few weeks to both tackle toddlerhood, graduate school, everyday life functioning, and writing, but I have missed you.

Sam is officially an 18 month old – WHHAATT? His new hobbies include locking doors, pulling things down from the countertops, attempting to put on shoes, talking about shoes, attempting to ride the dog like a horse, talking about the dog, eating like a dinosaur, talking like a dinosaur, and running laps down the hallway. He is basically the greatest. This week he said, “I wub you mah” (Sammy version for “I love you, mom.”) for the first time and I told him he could have a pony.

Graduate school started 20 days ago – WHHAATT? Two thoughts enter my head often: “Get your masters, it will be fun!” said no one ever.” and “How did I pass nursing school the first time, again?” In all seriousness, “Every day I’m hustlin’,” plays in my head every morning around 5:30am; it’s my new theme song.

School has taught me two things so far that, should I bust it in this program, will forever impact my life. The first has been the reminder that I have an epic husband. Really, I do. I hated him a little at first for pushing me to go back to school, but I hated a lot of things in the wee hours of the morning these past three weeks. He has been the best cheerleader, the best dad, the best baker of frozen pizza, and the best maid. He knows the dreams I have for my life and he also knows that I’m a scaredy cat who will talk herself out of pursuing those dreams; not on his watch. He knows the calling God’s placed on my life and the anthem of excuses I have for why I am inadequate, and he pushes me out of the nest with a kiss and nuggets of truth. If husbands are to be a reflection of Christ’s love for us, then I know that I am loved with a gentle, butt kicking, grace-filled frozen pizza kind of love.

The second thing I’ve gleaned is that the grunt work is hard. Taking the next step can be hard, especially in the midst of tremendous brokenness, need, and weight. I look around at my country and I am grief-stricken. I look at my overwhelmed schedule and barely-in-the-black bank account and feel helpless to do anything but intercede in prayer and advocate for with words. I am reminded that there is a great responsibility in faithfully taking the next step God puts in front of me. You don’t change the world because you set out to do so, you change the world by being faithful in following Jesus one step at a time. One test at a time, one project at a time, one meal, story, cuddle, bath, bedtime prayer at a time. Each step that I take in love is a step further from fear, and that is how we change the world. Each step that I take in truth is a step further into freedom, and that is how we change the world. Each step that I take in grace and mercy is a step further into justice, and that is how we change the world.

**You can stop here to avoid political opinion.** 

My heart is heavy with the president’s latest executive order concerning refugees. Images of Syrian refugees fleeing to safety have flooded my mind and heart, specifically the one of a toddler’s tiny body washed ashore. In my mind, I wondered what the world has come to when we stare at our own children, when we nurse them at our breast, when we rock them at night, when we dress them in the morning, and then so easily turn our backs on those in need of refuge. Those children, whose parents’ hearts for them are so closely aligned with our hearts for our own children. Those children who carry the God-given capacity to change the world just as ours do. I am convicted by my complacency, by my privilege that affords me the ability to go about my days without the discomfort of discrimination, war, famine, and injustice. I am reminded of the ugliness of fear and the incredible capacity for foolishness that we bear when we operate out of fear. I am compelled to live better.

We have dressed up fear-driven self-preservation with a bow and called it patriotism. We have thrown the full weight of the White House behind a pro-life banner merely to spit in the face of life days later. The hypocrisy of men who have proclaimed Christ as Savior yet directly contradict the words of Jesus for professional policy and national security is one for which words fall short. The silence of many representatives and senators who call themselves Christians on this issue is cowardice of the most deafening decibel.

God have mercy on us in these days if we claim Christ crucified and risen, and yet love our comfortable, privileged, ostrich-like lives more than faithfully, fearlessly welcoming, loving, and serving the least of those among us. There is no fear in love, and there is no faith in disobedience, but there is a heck of a lot of power to change the world one beautiful step at a time.

-a

 

PS: Find out how you can contact your state and federal representatives here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

Storms of Emotion: Waves of Provision

Storms of Emotion: Waves of Provision

This morning was one of those that seemed naptime could not come quickly enough. The undulating emotions of my toddler had me feeling quite apologetic for every one of my own emotional episodes during my teenage years. The energy and passion encompassed in such a tiny body is bewildering to this exhausted mama. I realize as I sip my tea that no caffeine could give me a rival boost, and that makes me a little jealous.

The word “tantrum” has been recently introduced into our parenting vocabulary in the past few weeks. Sam seemed to test the waters before, not quite committing to a full breakdown, but experimenting with tactical outbursts to see what might garner our attention. I suppose we did not give him the desired reaction, as he has been escalating in dramatics. Say anything close to “no” and the back arches, the knees buckle, and the tears stolen from a crocodile roll. Most days it is difficult not to laugh at him, still there are more days where it is difficult to extend compassion and grace to him. It is difficult to remember, in the midst of my own frayed nerves and worn emotions, that my toddler has no frame of reference or method of communicating what he is feeling, what he is needing, and what he is desiring. My fiercely independent son is easily frustrated when he cannot communicate all that he wants, to the point that he forgets how to communicate what he can in the midst of intense emotions.

Sam knows how to sign for help, and other specific key words that help us address his needs more efficiently, but he often tries to tackle a challenge on his own. I think this is beautiful most days, until those breakdown moments occur. Sam throws his body and cries or screams while I try to figure out what the heck is going on. I ask him if he can tell Mommy what he needs. “Do you need help?” “Are you hungry?” Ninety-nine percent of this kids problems are rooted in “hangry.” After a few minutes and a few questions using key words, something generally clicks in Sam’s mind and he can connect his thoughts with words or signs that help us address his concerns. The thing is, Ray and I love Sam and want to meet his needs. We want him to feel comfortable communicating his needs and wants with us. We do not need him to know the specific, detailed words, we just want him to come to us with “help” or “eat” or “please” so we can help, feed, and give more readily, without the distress.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving followed an intense stomach bug and a week of heightened anxiety for me. As I watched church online from my couch, I began to sob during worship. I wondered how someone could be so faithless, fearful and fragile and yet claim Christ as Lord and Savior. How someone so quick to place their weak eyes on the waves of circumstance and forget their God has the authority to calm the seas could be used to help others navigate storms of their own? As I sat there, tears welling up, I heard a gentle whisper, “You are not so different from Sam.” I looked down at my little man playing on the rug in front of me, worship music hanging in the air, and watched as the Lord placed image after image before my mind’s eye.

Alex, you do not need to know all of the specifics, all of the details, all of the what ifs of what you need or are experiencing. I know those things. I hold those things. I stand ready to help you. I love meeting your needs. I love you. I love it when you come to me and tell me what you need. I love it when you come to me and ask for my help. My heart for you is not one of frustration or flailing. I want you to feel comfortable coming to me as you are, where you are. You do not have to know it all, hold it all, or have it all…you just have to trust that I do.

In the ninth chapter of Luke, Jesus sends the twelve disciples out for ministry with nothing. As they return and debrief, they are met with a great need: a hungry crowd. Their response is practical, utilitarian, and republican as they call for the crowd to be sent home to find their own food, but Jesus challenges them. The disciples had experienced God’s generosity and provision for their own needs during their time of ministry, and now they were being called to extend the same generosity and provision to meet the needs of others. In this interaction, Jesus redirects their focus from the great need of the crowd to the resources they have to place in Jesus’ hands. Jesus uses what they have as they have it, which means He did not call them to go into debt. He then uses the disciples to distribute that which He had blessed and multiplied. As a sign of His radical provision and the complete satisfaction of an overwhelming need, the disciples are then called to gather a total of twelve basketfuls of leftovers.

The disciples experienced a greater fullness when they trusted Jesus with what they had in the face of a need they could never meet on their own. The same Jesus who satisfied the hunger of the multitudes with a kid’s meal is the same Jesus who sits enthroned in heaven today, who whispers peace in the midst of our overwhelming emotions and circumstances, who stands ready to help us and who delights in using us to help others experience His radical generosity, compassion and provision.

As we enter into this holiday season, may we trust God’s heart and His promises towards us. May we come to rest in His help as we boldly entrust our every resource into His capable and wise hands. May we be faithful to extend the same compassion and provision we have received from the Father to those around us, especially our little ones.

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