Friday, January 22, 2016

Learning to Flourish in Sorrow

To flourish in sorrow is a bit of an odd paradox. 
To flourish means “To grow or develop in a healthy vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment” (Webster’s Dictionary).  To flourish sounds lovely and sweet.  I think of my wedding day and walking down the aisle in white towards the boy I had loved since thirteen.  To flourish evokes images of a warm sun and my yellow haired daughter twirling in a sea of brightly colored wild flowers. Flourishing reminds me of my son meeting the ocean for the first time, his squeals of delight as the waves crash cold upon his toes. 

he word sorrow makes me wince.  It is painful to write.  
Each of us can recall moments or seasons of sorrow in our lives.  The first experience of saying goodbye to a pet.  The news that your parent’s marriage is crumbling.  The phone call to let you know of the tragic passing of a friend.  The medical test results that came back far worse than you ever imagined.  The SOLD sign on your family home after months of failed attempts to climb out of the debt pit.  
It goes against everything innately in us to associate sorrow with flourishing
And yet, I find myself currently in a season of such.  A season of flourishing in sorrow. 
And it is both bitter and sweet.  It has been a season of tears that seem to flow like milk and honey.  A season of grief and heartache and days so dark that I haven’t wanted to get out of bed.
At the same time, this season of walking through grief has been oddly beautiful.
And, dare I say – Holy. 
I’ve spent the past 5 months mourning the loss of a second baby to miscarriage and riding the emotional roller coaster of trying to grow our family.  For any of you who has ever lost a baby and (or) have spent time trying to get pregnant – I’m sure you can remember how emotionally charged this season is.  It is a season accompanied by sadness, disappointment, frustration and bitterness. 
A few weeks ago, after a particularly rough morning, a friend said to me, “I don’t think getting pregnant again is going to fix anything for you.” 
Her words stung.  But she was right.
The truth is, often times when we are faced with pain, grief and sorrow, the temptation is to seek out the shortcut that will take us to the next season of joy as quickly as possible. 

Perhaps it's time we give ourselves permission to sit in the tension of grief for a while. To press into it even.  To allow ourselves to rest and just be.  To be sad.  To be angry.  To mourn the dreams that have been lost. I believe that allowing ourselves the ability to grieve with no timeline is ultimately what God uses to grow and change us. 
To be pregnant right now would without a doubt bring joy.  But I believe the joy of new life would overshadow the growth and the stirring in my soul that God has been doing since September.  I am not the same girl I was last summer.  There's new depth and an understanding of suffering and pain that I can't say I had fully grasped before.  And the ability to walk with others in their suffering and to truly understand pain is a gift.  Suffering alongside others is no small thing and I am humbled that God would teach me to how to do so. 
Fellow MOPS momma Ashley Lande writes in the latest issue of Hello Dearest magazine, “Noticing goodness means a surrender, a yielding to the new vision that eclipses old, cataracted sight.” 
I believe God has been giving me new sight.  He's been giving me the gift of epiphany moments in which I am given glimpses of the redemption He is doing through this season of my pain.  And when I’m really looking with wide eyes, when I stand with open hands, willing to receive all that He has for me, I am able to see the flourishing in the sorrow.  I am noticing goodness and glimmers of hope in the midst of my brokenness.   
I have noticed flourishing in many aspects of my life -- in my marriage, my parenting and my friendships.  But most poignantly in the way He has allowed my heart and ministry for other mommas to flourish. 
After our loss, I did the only thing I know to do best.  I poured my grief onto paper.  I held nothing back because I believe words have power and they heal people.  And I knew that writing about my sorrow would mean something to another momma going through the loss of a baby.  I watched in awe as God took those words and shared them with thousands of women who were also hurting.  All I could do was acknowledge the flourishing that was being cultivated in spite of my brokenness and my sorrow.  All I could say was “Thank You, Jesus." 
After my blog post "Shattering The Silence" was shared, I was contacted by a non profit organization called Hope Mommies. Hope Mommies walks along side grieving mommas who have suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, birth defects, still birth and SIDS.  I was able to share more of my story and after reading some of my past posts, I was asked to join Hope Mommies as a writer for their organization to create Bible studies and book reviews for grieving mommas.
I share these things not for any glory of my own.  Because really, I did nothing spectacular.  I simply shared words from my heart. It is not lost on me that, had I not experienced this miscarriage, I would not be writing and speaking truth over thousands of women who are also hurting. God has been doing what He does best -- He is bringing beauty from ashes. 
In the winter issue of Hello Dearest Magazine, Ashley Lande shares in her essay "New Eyes", “Noticing goodness in another, and in ourselves, doesn’t mean negating or glossing over our brokenness.  It doesn’t mean calling the brokenness good.  It means lamenting that it can be redeemed.  It means to look toward the light without pretending the dark isn’t there.  It means recognizing the beauty that could be within the beauty that is.”

If I'm really being honest, as I look back on the past 5 months, I don't think of this season with negativity.  Truly, I am more in awe than anything.  I am in awe of a God who would use me as a vessel for redemption.  I am in awe of how the enemy meant for brokenness and sorrow to cripple me -- but God has empowered me and made me brave. 
With that in mind, I have had this thought --
What if perhaps, this life isn’t about me?  What if it never really has been about me?  What if I am simply a vessel and every season of joy, every season of sorrow is really meant to point others towards Jesus?  What if, in my most broken places, I were to acknowledge that redemption is what’s at stake – for the heart's of others who are daily crossing my path.
Perhaps it takes walking through the valley of the shadow of death for real life to begin -- for holy flourishing to take place.  While I grieve the loss of both of my babies daily, I am certain the flourishing that has taken place has brought great glory to God.  And for that, I am so incredibly grateful. 
My eternal perspective has also flourished.  I have daydreamed on many occasions what it will be like for me the day I will finally hold my two babies, kiss them and tell them how much they were missed.  But more than that, my longing for Jesus has flourished.  My longing to see redemption and pain disappear from this world, for all things to be made new has flourished.  I am learning to grieve with hope for a future that is far more fulfilling than this life. 
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:6–8)
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