Seeing redemption in my world

In my small group (or D-group as they are affectionately known here), we take turns telling a “Redemption Story”.

Sounds cheesy?

I thought so.

But, this is my third year here and I actually really like that part. Because it isn’t just a hokey “I was bad and then I got to know Jesus and now I am good” sort of thing that you hear on TV. It is more like saying because I am in Christ, I am being convicted of my sin. Things are happening and changing and they are really subtle or really big and I want to share about it, so the others in the group know and can pray for me and be encouraged by what is happening.

The thing is, nobody is perfect. And no human on this Earth is without sin. It breaks my heart to see how high and mighty we all get with ourselves from time to time. It is easy to get caught up in comparing yourself up higher than others or down lower than others.  It also kills me to see the hurt that comes from it.  That isn’t real love or grace.

Sometimes, it is nice to step back and identify areas that you are struggling in or that you have struggled in and see what is happening. It is okay to be a work in progress. It is okay to feel like you aren’t making progress, because at least you know there is a problem and can seek help. Because it isn’t about the past. It is about the present. What is happening right now.

I think that makes it more relevant. I think it, for me, makes redemption more real, more tangible.  It frames it in a way my concrete mind likes to see it.

There has been this Classic Crime song stuck in my head called “Glass Houses.” For me, it illustrates that struggle to identify those areas that we ignore or don’t even realize are there and how judgemental and hurtful we can be of others. It also points out how things fall apart when we start “playing God” with ourselves and others. How hypocritical we can be.

I’ll admit that I am broken. That I have all kinds of faults and flaws and that sin is in all kinds of little places in my life. I’m thankful that God is working that out in me day by day. And that he stuck me in a community that pushes that along without throwing stones.

Merry Christmas from the M household

It is just about Christmas, which means it is time for a festive blogging holiday (I know, its not like I’ve been writing that much anyway).

This is the first year EVER (and likely the last for a long time) that Patrick and I are just the two of us for Christmas (and Jeter).  I’m excited.  I’m also a little sad because it is weird not being home, but it works out that I have a bit more time off this way somehow.

I’m on call for Christmas Eve.  How holly jolly of me.

But, that hasn’t stopped us from concocting and continuing traditions.

We decorated our tree a few weeks ago.  Our tree is a hand-me-down from my Grandmother with “built-in” lights.  Last year a small chunk of them around the back were burnt out.  This year, once we had the tree fully assembled and pretty looking it was a full strip around the lower middle.  The whole way around.  I freaked out.  I mean, it looked ugly and I tried my darndest to find the broken bulb, but eventually gave up in tears.  Patrick and I opted to decorate it anyway and maybe look at getting a new tree next year.  After the tree was fully assembled with decorations and everything, Jeter promptly settled in under it, then by the next day went back to his previous routine of chewing on the branches, chewing on the wires and knocking off ornaments.  One morning 5 were down.  About 3 days after we put the tree up, I turned on the lights and lo and behold, they all worked.  Then, a few days later a different chunk were out.  Then, I saw Jeter chewing on the tree (and the lights)… It hit me… It has been him.  There is some sort of short and he intermittently reconnects it by gnawing on it.  The lights are presently all on again, but who knows how long.

The tree with the lightless strip before Jeter "fixed" it.

The tree with the lightless strip before Jeter “fixed” it.

Jeter in his spot under the tree.

Jeter in his spot under the tree.

On a related note, we do try really hard to discourage him from chewing the electrical wires.  We know its bad.  We even gave him an object lesson with the cat from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but he persists in causing all sorts of tree related troubles.

Image from thethoughtexperiment.wordpress.com.

Tonight, we went out and looked at lights.  In the rain.  Because nothing says Christmas like pouring rain.  Patrick downloaded 100 Christmas classics and we listened to some festive music and admired lights, much like I have done since I was a kid.

Tomorrow, despite the call, we are hoping to go to church (yay!) and I am cooking french onion soup for supper because it seemed like a good idea.  We always read the Christmas story to each other at bed time, so hopefully I’ll be home for that.

And for Christmas day, our master plan is to sleep in (or read in bed), relax, have pancakes and bacon for brunch and open the presents we have here.  I am being adventurous since this is the one year we probably get to be adventurous and making lamb for Christmas dinner (and all the hipsters should be proud because we bought it at a local butcher and it is local baby sheep).  Besides that, we will pack and watch movies and play board games and read books and all that good stuff.

It isn’t our usual multi-family epic tour full of turkey, but we are excited for celebrating a bit differently.  Patrick calls it the blip year (or something like that) because it is more of an anomaly because there wasn’t a year quite like it before and there probably won’t be again.

So, Merry Christmas from the M household.  Hope you have fun with your traditions or anti-traditions.

The Christian “Look”

Sorry for the lameness in lack of posts recently.  I won’t make excuses.

I will, however share with you this awesome article from Relevantmagazine.com a few friends of mine just posted on Facebook called “Being a Christian Doesn’t Always Look Like You Think It Should.”

The article speaks well about how grace and “real” Christianity does not always look the way other Christians or society wants it to look.  Really, by looking for Christians to appear a certain way, we are putting God in a box.  Grace is a process, we are works in progress and we are made perfect only in Christ, but still exist in changing earthly bodies with personalities and characteristics that change and grow and may not always be perfectly Christ-like.  And maybe being Christ-like isn’t what we all imagine it is sometimes.

I go to church at an inner city church plant.  The pastor call the congregation a “motley crew” and it is true.  We come from all walks of life.  There are hipsters and homeless people and wealthy people and young and old.  People are grappling with addictions, with difficult life circumstances with being students or stay at home moms or with growing up in this world in general.  We are all sinners.  Our thing in common is Jesus and what God’s grace is doing in our lives.

If someone walked in looking for people to look or act a certain way, they might be shocked.  People should know Christians because they are different.  Because of the love and grace the exude.  That does not mean they all have to be extroverts who dress and behave a certain way.  They can have tattoos and piercings or wear skirts and have long hair.  They all still struggle in one way or another.

I am guilty of it.  As humans, we all judge.  We compare and put people and things in boxes.

We need to stop putting God in a box.  And just as much, we need to stop putting what God does in, with and through people in a box.

Nehemiah is not Nineveh

I was reading Nehemiah in my nightly Bible reading last week.

I kept getting excited when I opened up my app (because I am that kid who needs an app to follow any kind of Bible reading plan) because I kept thinking Nehemiah was Nineveh.  Which is not a book of the Bible, but a place… The place where Jonah had to go and didn’t want to go and got scooped up by a whale.

I love the book of Jonah.  I get Jonah.  I’m a big chicken sometimes.  And I freak out to the point where God just sticks me in a situation where I have to suck it up and face the music.  Not quite eaten by a giant fish music, but you get the picture.

I love the lessons of grace seen in Jonah’s misadventures.

But, Nehemiah isn’t Nineveh, which isn’t Jonah.  

But, every night for about 3 nights, I got crushed when I realized that all over again.

It also made me remember this song that we once were forced to sing one Sunday night because the pastor was preaching about Jonah and other Father thought it was a great idea.  I thought it was a funny idea.  Everyone else on the worship team was kind of irritated to sing a children’s song, but I never heard it before, so I didn’t make the connection.  I have been singing it to myself for days.  Problem is that apparently the internet cannot read my mind and find the song I am searching for based on the few words and tune I remember in my head.  I’ll get over that, though.

Plus, I found this gem (although it does get annoying and doesn’t have a lot of point to it)… 

 

White As Snow

The M family has been on the road (minus our guard cat, Jeter). 

Vacation is a beautiful thing.  Especially when it is spent with friends and family (and good books and beautiful scenery).  It is late, we are still away and I am lazy, so no pictures for today.

I just wanted to quickly share a song that has been on my heart.  It is called “White As Snow” apparently, although, I thought it was called “Create In Me” so it took some epic searching to track down the actual song and not some random hymn.  We have been singing it a fair bit in church the last few months and some words in the song are taken from Psalm 51.  

 

 

 

 

Have mercy on me, oh God

According to your unfailing love

According to your great compassion

Blot out my transgressions

Have mercy on me, oh God

According to your unfailing love

According to your great compassion

Blot out my transgressions

 

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

 

The sacrifices of our God

Are broken in a contrite heart

Against you and you alone

Have I sinned?

The sacrifices of our God

Are broken in a contrite heart

Against you and you alone

Have I sinned?

 

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of my salvation

 

Wash me white as snow

And I will be made whole

Wash me white as snow

And I will be made whole

Wash me white as snow

And I will be made whole

Wash me white as snow

 

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

Would you create in me a clean heart, oh God?

Restore in me the joy of your salvation

I have been struggling with anger and guilt and a whole host of other emotions because of a friend and some other crummy circumstances life has thrown my way.  They have come to a head of late and I stated to notice some of my behaviours and tendencies.  To be honest, I don’t like them.  I also realized that although some circumstances are crummy, some people don’t always treat me the way I know I should be treated and some difficulties are bigger than I can fix, it doesn’t mean I can’t pray through them and love and act in such a way that demonstrates grace.  I haven’t been so grace filled.

And yes, I am human.  And yes, I am allowed to feel hurt.  But, it is wrong for me to be bitter.  And I shouldn’t be spiteful (even if it seems satisfying in my head at the time).  Really, I choose how I feel.  And yes, feelings are just feelings, but continuing to fester can be harmful.  And it is sinful.

So, basically I have been reminded that those thoughts, those tendencies, although completely human, they are wrong and hurtful to God.  And in the end, they are hurtful to me and those around me.  But, most importantly, they are wrongdoings against God who has done a ton for me and loves me despite the crap I do.

I don’t deserve to be forgiven for some of this garbage.  But, the cool part is that God has taken care of all that stuff.  A big sacrifice.  And I keep getting second chances.  And that is awesome.  And should make me more excited than it does sometimes.

I really want to be restored to that kind of joy.   The happiness that comes from knowing what I have been saved from and how loved I really am.  I want to move away from some of my harshness and bitterness.  I want to love those who hurt me and those who seem beyond my reach.  I want to be patient.  I know there is no magic switch.  Relationships are hard.  Life is complicated. I’m human.  

But, He is God.  So, He can move me in the right direction better than I or anyone else can.  So, this song is my prayer.

Reuniting With Some Favourites

I had the best weekend.

We spent time with the core group from our small group from when we lived on that lovely island for med school.  The 7 of us were together for basically 3 years and other people came and went.  It is the first time we were ALL together in 2 years.  I have been looking forward to this time, since I found out it would happen in May.

There are people that life is simple with.  There are people that, for introverts like me, barely count as people.  Who you can just exist with and not feel completely drained.  The kind of people you can just pick up where you left off and hardly miss a beat.

These are those people. 

We went to Magic Mountain, a pretty awesome water park.  We played mini golf.  We made up our very own road trip game to drive to one couple’s home complete with mid-trip car switches.  We stayed up until 2 in the morning playing Sing Star and were up and off to the races again at 10.  We explored a market and watched Highland games.  We grocery shopped and went to games stores.  We BBQed and lounged around just talking for hours.  We played a million new board games until almost 2 in the morning again.  We went to church, we went to lunch and had a great discussion.  

I barely took any pictures except at the Highland games.  

I love that we can be real with each other.  Really, truly honest and open about where we are.  That we can talk about tough stuff.  And in the next breath crack jokes about being “tied and pleasured” (long story).

It was a full weekend.

I was sad it was over.  

We are blessed to have many good friends.  Despite that, we have been feeling discouraged because we don’t have as many close friends where we live currently (but we still have a few we are attached at the hip to), but part of that is because it is so rare to have the kind of friendships we have with this crew we spent the weekend with.  God provided us with great people when we needed them in a certain way and I know He is doing the same here, just in different ways.  It has been a slow go feeling like we are a part of things here.  And part of that is because it was so easy when we were there.  And maybe that is because we needed it to be at that time.

Community stretches you and grows you.  Spending time with what was our main community was amazing.  And comforting.  And a true testament to how awesome God is.  Our church here encourages community, and I can sense the community, but it is bigger and broader than what I once knew in some ways and the relationships, like people are different.  But, then again, so are we.  It is a good thing.  

I am thankful for full weekends.  And friends who change and yet stay the same.  And for the comfort that comes from really loving and knowing people.

We get to go away with some other very special friends this weekend.    People we have known and loved much of our lives. I am super excited.  So, really, we are very fortunate.  Two awesome weekends in a row!

I have a musical interlude for this post.  A song that was stuck in my head the whole weekend and, well, is still stuck in my head.  It isn’t quite about amazing friends or community and yet, in some ways, it fits because of the concept of coming together.  

What is one thing?

What is one thing you can’t live without? That thing that would send you into a downward spiral if you lost it? That thing you need for your life to feel fulfilled?

Think about it for a minute.

That was a question we’ve been discussing in church and D-group the last couple of weeks. It makes my head hurt and yet has opened my eyes to how I perceive my reality.

My first instinct was Patrick. I can’t live without my husband.

But, I can live without my husband.

My second instinct was children. I want children. Living children.

But, I can live without children.

The list goes on… My family, my friends, my career, my home, my health.

Losing any of those things could send me on a downward spiral.

What does that say about me? What does that say about my faith?

Life goes on despite monumentous loss. We survive these things that we often can’t even fathom. I see people dealing with these things every day. How do we do it? How do I do it?

I know some people say strength and fortitude and a positive attitude.

I am talking about deeper purpose and something bigger than just getting through.

I know some people will disagree, but that something is Jesus. And maybe I am hum drum, but I don’t feel like I can find meaning in all of life and things without Him.

The passage we were looking at is John 6. It is a long sucker, but the cool part is that John is really intentional in his writing. He doesn’t include irrelevant details and generally stuff goes together to kind of show some bigger point about Jesus. He wrote the book, so that people would believe, so that makes sense.

This is the loaves and fishes chapter. It is also the walking on water and calming the seas passage.

I have seriously heard those stories a thousand times, so what is the big deal?

Well, check this out…

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone wholooks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” –John 6:25-40 ESV

It is kind of a ridiculous conversation. Jesus kind of talks in riddles (Is that blasphemous of me to say? I mean he really does kind of say stuff that comes off as bizarre and people don’t get him…) and the people He is teaching struggle with getting the point. Heck, even the disciples get kind of weirded out.

But this is what it is getting at (I am not that clever, this is what others say it is getting at and it makes sense to me)…

Jesus is enough.

Love the giver and not the gifts. You aren’t sustained (really) by things and relationships and all that stuff. In the end, even the thing you most want to cling to and think will make you complete won’t.

In essence, you can’t take it with you when you go. But when you go, you’re going to want Him on your side.

I like concrete things, so this is tough to process. How do I make Jesus enough. How do I stop being satisfied in stuff and people and start being satisfied in Him? How do I stop trying to fix and control things, but know that it is all completed through Him for His glory?

That isn’t something I just do.

In our conversations over the last little bit, our group has discussed that it is a tough thing to put into practice. It starts with having the desire (just like kicking or starting any habit, you need to want to start).

I’ve got that.

Action starts with awareness.

I have come to realize what I prioritize. What I think will fill me up and keep me content.

I am trying to remember that that satisfaction, although very real, is short lived and not complete. And that there is much more out there than having a happy marriage (although it is super important for a bunch of reasons).

Having real purpose and deep seated peace and joy is bigger than stuff. It is bigger than comfort. Sometimes we have to suffer well and know we aren’t alone in this.

Being sustained by Christ alone isn’t simple. It isn’t intuitive. And it is definitely by standards of our culture weird. But that’s okay (and I need to remember that).

A Good Father Gives Good Gifts

A good father gives good gifts.

This is a concept that I don’t struggle with. At leat not the statement itself.

I was fortunate to grow up with an awesome Dad who provided for my needs and many of my wants. So, the fact that God would do that too, doesn’t stretch my imagination too far.

And yet it does.

I was talking about this with some friends from church last week and it has been coming up in the study I am doing this Lent season.

God gives good gifts. Tons and tons of them.

For some people, that alone is tough to process because they grew up in environments where that doesn’t seem plausible. Where their loved ones didn’t provide good gifts, so the concept that God would is tough to grasp.

For me, it is tough to process because that is a lot of gifts. And those gifts don’t always seem good.

The thing is, that sometimes we are so needy that we miss out on the real gifts. And we miss out on the biggest gift of all, Jesus.

In church a couple weeks ago, we were talking about how we really shouldn’t be giving God ultimatums. Because ultimatum faith is not faith at all. The concept that we will believe if we see a sign. We will believe if good things happen. That our faith is based on our day to day experience only. That can’t be the case. There needs to be trust. Our reality needs to be changed.

Realistically, there have already been signs. The whole water into wine thing… A sign that God provides the best for his people. The whole healings and miracles chunk of time, again, sign of provision, sign of who He is, etc.

Should that be enough?

I mean, there is a place for seeking signs.  It happens in the Bible.  But, in our discussion it was that people sought signs in faith that God would respond.  And it wasn’t an I’ll do this if you do that kind of sign.  It was a seeking evidence for God’s will sort of thing.  And even then, if  you get down to it, often, it was more of a confirmation because the human was doubtful than a necessity.

I am an empirical person, so I admit that it is tough for me sometimes, as I am sure some of you reading this think I am bat crazy. But, I have read around the manuscripts and the origins of the documents and have drawn conclusions that God and Jesus make sense to me.  And that those gifts are good gifts.  And that the changes in me are good gifts that couldn’t be because of me alone.

The reading I have been doing asked the question last week that also kind of followed along with something we were discussing at church.

How would the presence of God be more satisfying to you than answers from God? –Huag and Walker (2013)

Agh. That is a tough one.

I would love to say that I am super holy and that the presence of God is always satisfying without answers.

I would be lying.

Realistically, I know the statement is true. The presence of God is comfort and peace and joy, but it just isn’t simple and happy go lucky butterflies and rainbows.

Answers are tangible. They are the evidence for an empirical mind. And I want answers because I like being worldy brand happy. I want my career to be perfect, I want my family and friends to be happy and healthy, I don’t want to worry about money or housing and I want to have kids. The thing is answers aren’t always what we think they should be and answers will only satisfy me for so long.

I have been struggling with answers. It is tough sometimes to remember that an all knowing, loving God is present when you are hurting and longing for something you can’t have.

It brings me back to ultimatum faith.

Belief because I got what I wanted and acts of faith because I want something. Or disbelief because I can’t have something. That when bad stuff happens, God must be judging us and we aren’t good enough.

It just doesn’t work long term. In fact, it can get to be soul crushing.

I have been learning, especially over the last year or so about valuing the presence of God even when things aren’t going right, when I’m not happy, when things are tough and when loss happens. I have lots of gifts. More than I can ever count. More than I realize I even have. My last couple years have been emotional roller coasters.  But, I feel best in the presence of God because that is better than the stuff I have here in the long run. Sometimes the best gift is no gift at all. Just time and love.

I am striving to switch my perspective. To value the presence over the gifts all the time, not just when it is easy or when things are going terribly or awesomely. Kind of like we should enjoy time with our loved ones, not what they give us.

Presence of God is more permanent than answers. Sure, it is more fluffy sounding, but really it is more hearty.

A good father gives good gifts.

I am thankful for that. I like my gifts. But really, in order to be a good father and give good gifts, being around is key, otherwise you can’t know what to give when. You need to know who you are gifting to.

And that is why I prefer the presence of God. Even if I like the gifts.

Our New Friend (you just can’t make this stuff up)

Patrick and I made a new friend today.

We were on church set-up today, which is basically assembling the place to look like our version of a church (during the week it is a mission) and then cleaning up afterward.  Also, it involves the important task of going to the hipster hostel café down the street to pick up coffee and then return the containers afterwards.

On our way back with the coffee, we got stopped by a random man standing in the doorway of a closed shop.

Oh, I should probably mention at this point that we go to church in what is known as a super dicey part of town.

I like it.  It makes me feel at home (because at home-home, we go to church in a super dicey part of town).  You just never know who or what is going to wander in through the doors.  As much as I am terribly shy, I love some of the personalities and honesty that can come in the door in.  I also think that loving people where they are at is so important, just like anywhere else, but in this place, some of the people unfortunately don’t get as much love.

So, this guy who is kind of looking a bit in disarray stops us.  He has no teeth.  His beard forms a single dreadlock.  He has terrible leg swelling to the point where one shoe has no laces and his foot barely fits in it.  He has a lovely smile.

He tells us that he isn’t asking us for money or food or something because he doesn’t do that sort of thing.  He wants to read us a letter he is writing to his girlfriend.  His girlfriend of 25 years.  Who he dated when he was a teenager.

He hauls out a piece of paper.  On one side is a ton of numbers.  On the other is writing.

It is simply written in block letters.  Some of the tenses of verbs are wrong, some words are misspelled.  He reads us every word.   It is a slow go.  As much as the actual writing isn’t the best, it is pretty deep poetry.  The thought behind it is lovely.

He tells us he is going to make it into a song and chats with us about his blind and lame grandfather who was an amazing piano player and who he gets his musical ability from.  He talks a bit about love.

Then, he starts walking with us and eventually turns off down an alley.

We laughed because that is the beauty of this community.  We were stopped to be read poetry.  That’s all. Most people would have ran or kept walking for fear of what was going to happen.  But really, we got slightly more snowy and much more happy.

After church, we were returning the canisters the coffee was in and we passed the same guy playing a purple children’s guitar on the corner.  He sounded really good.  He picks with his nails, not with a pick (this always impresses the face off of me).

He spotted us and ran across the street to say hi.

Again, he told us he plays and sings for the love of it, not to make money.  He often plays at home on his own, but it was nice today.

He talked to us about his theories about music.  How instead of there being a bunch of (I think he said sixteen) notes in a scale, he feels there are really only four.  He then played us four chords.  The four chords that make up most songs.

He told us that the best way to learn to play guitar is on a children’s guitar like the one he has in an empty room, so you can correct yourself off of your own echos.  That you need to feel the music.  That you need to find your notes.

He sang a song to us and mixed up styles to show us how music is like a wave and you can change the flow.

While we chatted, people walked by.  Everyone seemed to know this guy.  He clearly isn’t just friendly with us.

Eventually he let us go and started talking to a lady waiting for the bus (who did not look as amused as we were).

I love that people aren’t always what they seem.  That someone who clearly loves music and poetry wants to share that with the world, in his own unique way.  That a neighbourhood that is “tough” is very loving and friendly to this unique soul.

Again, you just can’t make this stuff up.

The Blessing and Learning Curve of Gaining and Losing Elim (“ball of cells”)

Image from tochristifrommommy.blogspot.com.

Less than two weeks ago, I found out I was finally pregnant… I called the baby “ball of cells.”  That was my term of endearment.

My medical training made me cautious.  I know that pregnancy does not equal baby.  I know that life is fragile.  I took 3 tests to confirm before I even told Patrick because I wanted to be sure.

It didn’t change our excitement and happiness.  Talking about the future.  Planning for when to tell people. How to make work function.  What we would have to change or do.  Rejoicing.

I knew the longest besides God, of course.  I remember that first Sunday in church when it was still just our little secret thanking God for the new creation growing inside of me and wanting to tell the world and yet wanting to keep it to myself because if others knew, somehow something would go wrong.  The only other person who found out before stuff started going wrong was Patrick and I told him on Sunday night (with what I believe was a very adorable and entertaining card).

Then, we had to say goodbye to “ball of cells.”

I knew something was wrong mid-week.  I re-took a test.  The line got lighter and although this isn’t a perfect system, it wasn’t a good sign.  I told Patrick.

Usually I am the high-baseline, optimistic person.  This time it was him.  He refused to believe anything bad happened to “ball of cells.”  I didn’t want to go to the doctor.  I didn’t want to hear what I already knew inside.  Finally, I went to the doctor who instilled a bit of hope in me instead of flat out dashing our dreams.   I wanted hope.  Cautious hope, but hope nonetheless.

I went for bloodwork.  It was either going to confirm what I thought I knew or make everything better.  I hoped it would make things better.  I needed it to make things better.

Nothing is more bizarre than being congratulated on your pregnancy, being asked about your due date, where you plan to deliver and all that good stuff while sitting there with that gut feeling that your baby is dead.

I didn’t have the heart to tell them.  I didn’t want anyone to feel what I was feeling.

Also bizarre is walking around all weekend not knowing and yet knowing.  It feels surreal.  I have lovely best friends (three of them) who checked in incessantly.  I have a husband who bought me beautiful flowers, cooked me food and was all around over protective.  I don’t know what I would do without them.  I was just glad I wasn’t on call.

Sunday, we watched the Canadian men win the gold in hockey (WHOO!).  Happily, we went to church still not knowing whether we would be parents of a living baby in 8 months.  I was still having some morning sickness and weird headaches, but the acne was clearing up, the cramping was worse and I kind of felt empty.

I prayed for God’s will in my baby’s life and in our lives.  I prayed for strength.  I prayed that we would glorify him in whatever was to come.

We left church on our way to have lunch and board games with friends at our place and there was a voicemail on my phone.  It was my new doctor.  In summary:  My bloodwork was perfect except that my HCG was less than 5.

There would be no baby.

So much for that hope.

It is funny.  I have always thought pregnancy loss was a big deal.  I remember learning about it in med school and thinking how awful it was.  I remember when the first couple I knew miscarried shortly after telling everyone about their pregnancy.  I remember thinking that I didn’t know how they coped with it.

At the same time, I have always been kind of flippant about it, particularly when it comes to me and when it comes to early pregnancy.  I mean, an embryo is an organized ball of cells and odds are there is some sort of genetic flaw that is incompatible with life.  It just makes good scientific sense to clean up mistakes.

I thought calling “ball of cells” just that would make it more clear to me that it may not make it.  I thought explaining to my friends that I was waiting to make sure things were growing or dying appropriately made it all sound more clinical.

But really, there is nothing to be flippant about.

Sure, life goes on.  I know that.  It doesn’t change the hurt of the life that won’t.  Especially because I was one of the only people who really knew it.  And I didn’t even know it that well.  We only got to hang out for about 3 weeks total.  And 2 of them, I didn’t even know it was there.  And it died at some point in the last one.

I feel in some ways like I should care less.  This is technically still a chemical pregnancy (miscarriage before 6 weeks).  It felt different from what I thought might have been my last ?chemical where there was a squinter maybe positive (but in reality probably an evaporation line) and then definite negatives.  It was sad and disappointing, but really not the same as actually existing pregnant for several days when you know something is happening.  It is the difference between thinking maybe and knowing for sure.

It was literally just a ball of cells that wasn’t able to survive.  “It was God’s will” after all.  It was, I guess.  Still sucks though.  Maybe somehow they did have some sort of potential.

I am, in part, glad it happened so early.  Maybe I am less attached than I would have been if I was further along.  People have told me I should be less attached, at least.  That kind of makes me scared for this happening again later in pregnancy.  I have the utmost sympathy for women who loose babies who are more developed and for those who lose children.  At the same time, I am jealous because I was robbed of the experience of even seeing the little sucker on an ultrasound screen.

Sure, I will have more kids.  Sure, I am young.  I know most women go on to have no issues with future pregnancies and get pregnant shortly after something like this.  The statistics are on my side.  I also know I was in the wrong end of the 50% of women who have bleeding in early pregnancy.  Something has to go right.

It is a funny experience telling people you miscarried when they didn’t even know you were pregnant.  Not that we’re telling many people.  It makes them super uncomfortable.  It makes me uncomfortable too (and I often love embracing the awkward).  But, because nobody talks about, I kind of want to.  I know statistically, I am far from the only one to experience this.    I know because, like the big nerd I am, I have read everything I can on the subject.

Because “ball of cells” was so little, I have had a lot of anxiety around whether or not I would see him or her in heaven. Seems silly, right?  I mean, if you believe life begins at conception, of course “ball of cells” was alive and then died.  But, my scientific mind picturing a little cell collection had a hard time picturing my ball of cells chilling with Jesus and my Grandfather.  But, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)  Pretty cool, huh.  “Ball of cells” was a pretty little child, so I suppose he or she counts.

As a result of this, I then got thinking that we should give “ball of cells” a proper name because I am sure they don’t want to be known as “ball of cells” for all eternity.  That being said, the snarky and cold side of me didn’t want to name it because, well, that would make it more real and felt as if I was making much out of little.  Also, I could have other dead balls of cells that I don’t know of (most people probably do), so what about them (I don’t know how to answer this question)?  And, I didn’t want people to judge me (I, in the past would have).  Patrick liked the sounds of naming him or her too, so we went with it.

We named him or her Elim because I have been reading Exodus recently and about how God provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness.  Plus, it is a gender neutral name.

I’d love to say I am all better now, but to be blunt, I’m not.

I’m better in the sense that my body is no longer rejecting the remains of my child.  I’m better in the sense that I know for sure now that Elim died and is in heaven now (while his or her biochemical bits are somewhere in the sewers).

Grief is a funny thing.  And this grief is of a variety that I haven’t experienced before.  Even though I am okay with death, this doesn’t feel okay.  And that is okay too.

I’m sad.  I’m still a bit angry.  But, I feel a whole lot of peace and a whole lot of joy, which is a big testament to answered prayers and the awesomeness of God.

I know, you probably read joy and now think I am taking some sort of pills.  I’m not.

This isn’t smiling, frolicking joy.

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. –John 16:22

It is more the I’m happy I’m okay, Patrick is okay and Elim is okay.  I’m happy Jesus came and that I’ll get to see my baby again, even though I don’t get the logistics because he or she was just a ball of cells.  I’m happy because I feel protected and loved despite the crap that has gone down.

The really cool thing is that I get something more now.  I have just a little bit of a better understanding of how much God must love us.

Sure, I’m still ticked He didn’t fix Elim and I’m not still barfy and headachey and pregnant (okay, confession… I was pretty excited when I was feeling physically well today).

The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  -Job 1:21

But, if I can love a little ball of unborn cells that I barely know that much…  So much that I am mourning their death… That is pretty huge.

If God loves me more than that, then I can’t even begin to imagine how sad he feels when we draw away from Him, when He loses one of us.

So yes.  This sucks.  I am not alone in this.  Neither are you.  But, I am growing and learning in my relationship with God and as a physician and human from this experience in ways I definitely didn’t expect.  Funny how gifts come in bizarre packages sometimes.

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