Monday, 9 September 2013

I Want to Talk About Miscarriage

Actually I want to talk about babies, because that’s what they were. Miscarriage is a word that describes losing a baby in the first 23 weeks of pregnancy. The first 23 weeks! Miscarriage is not a good enough word to describe losing a child, at any stage, because that’s what it is, however tiny, a child. To me they are not just a group of cells, these are the tiniest of people, the potential of greatness, the longed for and the hope of a legacy that is worth so much more than we could ever build with our hands.

There is a lot of room in the heart of a mother. That room often grows with a positive pregnancy test. When you have a child you feel like you couldn’t love anything more and the prospect of loving anyone or anything as much as that baby seems hard to comprehend; but you do. You love another baby with the same love, in a different way: but just the same. When you lose a baby it leaves a hole in your heart.

I have two beautiful girls that are here, with us, and three babies in heaven. When I talk of losing a baby I don’t think that baby is lost, I know exactly where it is, born into heaven. I did not understand how big this loss was until I experienced it, and if I’m honest it has taken three babies for the weight to really take hold of my heart. I was surprised by the pain I felt when I didn’t know these babies for very long, but that’s what they were, my babies and I love them like my girls, the same love; but different and that is why it is so heavy.

I want to talk about miscarriage because not many people do. I want to talk as someone who as been on the receiving end of the people who didn’t know how to talk about miscarriage. I believe our God wastes nothing and for all our babies I want to talk; to help people to talk and to help more people know what to do.

They say that 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage. It is a fairly common occurrence but for the one who loses, there is nothing common about it. It is not an average day when your baby dies. We will all know someone who has lost a baby. You might not know who they are, and they might not know how to tell you that they had a baby and it died but you will know someone, it might even be you. If it’s you, I want to honour your baby and raise a glass to the little life that didn’t make it, and say to you, “Your baby is recognised and you are not alone”, because it can feel like that… very lonely. If you know someone who has lost their baby or babies and you don’t know what to say or do here’s some thoughts that I hope will help.

1.    If you don’t know what to do, please don’t do nothing! Bring shopping without asking. Everyone will need milk and bread at some point, or little treats, or cook tea just so that the person doesn’t have to think about it. It means doing the washing up when you pop in for coffee or cleaning the bathroom without asking. It means sitting and listening, sharing tears and hugs and silence. It means bringing hope but not underestimating the pain. Try not to say ‘Let me know if you need anything’. It shows you care but can bring pressure to someone who just. Needs. Something. Use your initiative, it’s up to you to help.
2.    If you don’t know what to say it is totally ok to say, “I just don’t know what to say but I’m here.” And then actually be there. Being there means not trying to say ‘helpful’ things, or fix a broken heart that is not easily fixed. And when you say ‘I’m here’, you need to be there for the long haul. Everyone is different and some people take a very long time to recover from losing a baby and it should be ok. The other thing is not to assume that if someone wants to talk they will let you know, sometimes a grieving mother just wants to be asked; it’s not hard to say ‘How are you doing?’ and then give time to listen to the answer.
3.    Don’t expect someone to go back to ‘normal’ after losing a baby. We don’t get over these things, we are shaped by them. I feel like I have been battered in to a completely different shape, but I also felt a pressure at times to just go back to ‘normal’. After losing three babies, I couldn’t even remember what normal was. Be someone who reminds the grieving mother who they were, who they are now and who they can be.
4.    Please don’t judge. Everyone is different. We all react differently and we all need different things. I confess after losing my first baby, I picked myself up quite quickly and when it happened a second time I thought it would never happen again, but it did and it might again, and for me the pain was almost unbearable. For anyone who suffers tragic loss the shock that sets in can overtake your life and send you into panic. No-one knows how they will react to a tragedy until they are in it and reason and controlled responses can be out of reach. Please be someone who doesn’t judge. Who says ‘you do what you need to do and I’m here’. Jealousy, anger, sorrow, sadness, wanting to be left alone, wanting distraction, wanting to keep going, wanting to not be on your own, are all normal responses. Be someone who can see if things are out of control and step in, and be someone who listens and understands that each day is different to the last, just because someone is in desperate pain doesn’t mean they can’t laugh or have fun.
5.    Don’t be afraid to talk about the baby. Even if the mother cries. It’s comforting to know that your baby is remembered. If someone dies, they have a name to say and tell stories of. If a baby dies in the womb often it doesn’t have name to remember, the only stories come from the mother who felt them growing and the Father who shared it all. To acknowledge that they existed means everything.
6.    Try to remember a due date if you can. Any mother who has lost a baby will remember when her baby should have been born and if you can ask and make a note it means a lot to send a text on the day or around the time saying ‘Today I am remembering your baby. Wish they were here.’  When a child has a birthday everyone celebrates. A due date is a potential birthday but it can pass silently with a deep pain that no one really sees. It matters to send a card on that day.

When people ask me how many children we have my heart breaks a little bit. I want to say five, but I say two and smile. When those close to me acknowledge that there were three others it helps to make those questions lighter.  It matters what we do for others. A good friend said to me once, ‘the way that people are really determines how much you can bear’. And it’s true. Isolation hurts but an invasion of love matters. ‘The Lord is close to the broken hearted’ so let’s try to be Jesus to those with broken hearts. Miscarriage is so often hidden and the pain underestimated. It is not something everyone wants to talk about, but for those that do it must be ok. The grief is hidden too and it’s heavy.

If you are pregnant and you know someone close to you who has lost their baby near to your pregnancy don’t assume they don’t want to share your joy. It’s hard to, but sensitively make it the choice of the one in sorrow. You can simply send a text or ask them how they would like to you to be. Do they want distance or do they want to be involved? Keep checking in on their pain and be sensitive in how much you share. Read how the person reacts and let them share your joy in a manageable way for them. No-one wants to undervalue your joy, but for a broken heart, that joy can be hard to enter into truthfully. Again, everyone is different, take the time to find out what your friend needs from you and remember that if you feel awkward the one who has lost their baby feels worse. It’s hard to be brave when you hurt, so if you have your joy, be the brave one and take the first steps, it will protect your relationship.

If you have children please don’t say ‘I can’t imagine how you feel. The truth is you can. Imagine a due date arriving and passing and no baby to hold. It hurts. Let yourself go there and compassion will stir you in to action. Remember the Dads who carry the weight too.

I hope this helps you to help anyone who is suffering, and if it’s you I hope you read this and it makes the weight a little lighter. There is so much more to say and if you want to support someone, need support or just to know you are not alone this organisation wants to help You can follow them on twitter @sayinggoodbye and they are brilliant!
I want to finish by sharing a prayer by the wonderful @AnnVoscamp. It is a Prayer for the broken hearted. We can cling to the hope that with pain can come wisdom if we look for it, and with suffering can come compassion if we let it and when we change shape we are carved out into people who can change this world, one person at a time, with the little things that are big for some and matter more than we will ever know. Our God wastes nothing unless we let it be wasted. If it’s you ‘the secret way to heal a broken heart is to 'let love leak out like an ocean through all the cracks.’
Be loved. Be strong. Be weak. Be comforted.

Father of the broken-hearted daughter…
oh, hear our prayer….

Give Your daughter the wisdom to know it:
Hiding when you’re hurting won’t heal you and growing isolated can just let infection grow.
Give Your daughter the love to live it:
The secret way to heal a broken heart is to let love leak out like an ocean through all the cracks.
Give Your daughter grace to do the crazy impossible:
It’s the hurting and wounded who are always the ones called to be medics — to administer lavish grace, to cast the messy in the best, merciful light.
The best way to tend to your open wounds is to open your arms. Out-loving is the only ointment that healed anything.
Let the broken choose it: When you’re most wounded by words, run to the only Word that always brings healing.
Let the broken see it: When you’re wounded and need dressing, look in the mirror, touch you face, and see how He clothes you in righteousness, wraps you in promises, swathes you in a Savior — who saves
When you have Jesus on the inside, you’re never on the outside.
Let the broken say it: When you’re bruised by lies, believe truth and whisper it louder: I am my Beloved’s.
When Love’s got hold of you, there isn’t a lie in the universe that can pull you apart.
Let the broken trust it: Giving the benefit of the doubt — is what benefits the people of the Faith.
Doesn’t love always believe the best, not the worst?
And may that wind the brokenhearted daughter faces, may it fly her hair like a glory flag,
And may the hills that rise before her be but an exhilaration,
And may all her trials be but a trail,
all the stones on the way be but grace stairs to God.
In the name of Jesus who broke His heart to heal ours…

For our babies - we miss you xxx

Saturday, 25 May 2013

'Cheek to Cheek' Kind of Close

As a child do you remember having a favourite teddy or doll or a cuddly toy that you loved? I had a few. There was only one that stuck out for me. I remember a cuddly ‘Tigger’ that I had. I suppose of all my cuddly toys, this was possibly the most memorable. It was quite small and I used my own money to buy it from the post office. I can’t even have been that small because I remember going to buy it myself. It was £4.99. I loved that Tigger. It was the only toy I went to sleep with, it was with me when I was poorly and he was always there for a cuddle.

When my Grandma got sick I let her borrow him. She seemed so glad that I had lent him to her. She would hold him to her cheek when I was nearby to show how grateful she was and I think it brought her comfort. I was a teenager by this point, but I still felt like Grandma appreciated Tigger. I suppose it reminded her that she was loved. As she got more sick my brother bought her her own Tigger. It was a Christmas one, with reindeer ears. She gratefully received it and I was grateful to get my Tigger back! Again, she held this Tigger to her cheek and made us feel like she loved it. Really she loved the fact that my brother wanted to buy her something that would bring comfort to her in her darkest hours. When she died my brother kept the Tigger and I still have my Tigger at home with my girls.

Those Tiggers have been at many cheeks. They have been held and cuddled and squashed to our cheeks in hard times gone. There is something about holding something that close. There is nothing more precious than a loved one at your cheek. A newborn baby, just minutes old, as you bring them close to you to kiss them. Watching children hug a sibling or a close friend cheek to cheek. A lover holds you in a warm embrace and you dance cheek to cheek. And how about God? How about Jesus, the wounded God at our cheek? That’s something you don’t always feel everyday, but you can: He’s there.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”- Psalm 34:18

When your heart is broken it is hard to feel anything but pain, but it is in those moments that our wounded God is close by. Not just standing across the room from us; not just reaching out to us; not just with a hand on our shoulder but cheek to cheek kind of close; the kind of close that not even air could come between; the dancing kind of close. His wounds say, “Come into me. I’ve got you”.

In our times of brokenness there have been moments where I have not felt God at all. I knew that Jesus had not gone anywhere, but I just couldn’t feel him. There have also, however, been moments where I have been swept away by God, I have danced with God and been held cheek to cheek. Those moments are the most precious of my life.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted”, says the Psalms.

And He is.

His wounds have made such a way that we are able to encounter Him in this intimacy. He is the very air that we breathe and that air fuses our cheeks to His as He holds and comforts us. I needed to feel Him like that. And He knew.

You may find it strange that I am talking of God in such an intimate way, but that’s how I see it. He is the lover of my soul. He is mine and I am His (Song of Solomon 2:16).

If your heart is broken: He is close by.

If you need to be held: rest in His embrace.

If you want to dance: let Him sweep you off your feet.

So take your broken heart, your wounded, cracked and desperate heart and place it in the hands of Jesus. Imagine Him at your cheek and dance again to His whispers, to His melodies over you.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted”. ‘Cheek to cheek’ kind of close.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Keeping it Real

Life isn’t perfect but it is what you make it.
The world keeps revolving whether you fail or not.
Get up and try again.
Don’t even try to lie to God, there’s no point.
Even if you fool others you can’t fool Him.
Tell the truth… always.
Be open but wise.
Be just but show mercy.
Don’t try to be anyone but yourself.
Make fair and honest decisions in business, it matters more than you think it does.
If you are happy be happy.
If you are sad be sad,
But don’t be so sad that you forget about joy.
Fight for joy like your life depended on it.
Cling to hope like your life depended on it.
Love people.
Show grace.
Change somebody’s life with a little act of kindness.
Praise God always… even if it’s hard… especially if it’s hard.
Don’t let people tell you ‘you can’t’ when God tells you ‘you can’.
Be noisy sometimes.
Be quiet sometimes… in fact make room for silence, you will find God there.
Learn from people.
Encourage. Protect. Enjoy.
Children are everything. Invest in them.
Move mountains.
Make waves.
Make a difference.
Don’t ‘fake worship’ there is no point.
Don’t fake humility there’s not much worse.
Be kind. Be courageous.
Tell ‘fear’ where to go!
Read the Bible, it is your sword and your food.
Fall in love with Jesus… over and over.
Breathe in God, He is your source.
Encounter the Holy Spirit,
Make room for Him everyday, don’t shut Him out.
Think on God often.
Stop talking sometimes and listen.
Stop being busy and rest.
Learn verses by heart.
Talk to friends and love your enemies.
Ask for help.
Go out of your way to help.
Don’t do nothing… at least try something.
Listen to music that inspires you and have fun with friends to re-energize you.
Host dinner parties.
Welcome people in.
Welcome change.
Keep growing.
Keep dreaming.
Keep ‘keeping it real’.

Don’t believe the devil’s lies.
He will always tell you what you are not: believe the opposite.

Most of all be you: The real you. Not who people think you are, who you really are. Not who you are trying to be… just who you are. Try to be better but stay you. You are perfect in your imperfections: A gift to this world. And you have been loved since before the world began. 

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Interior Adoration

Sometimes this world is full of noise. Who can shout the loudest? Who can make their point the clearest? Who can prove that their version of faith is the right one? We over complicate the simplest of things and when it comes to faith we try to work out a formula for it that can sometimes be about getting God to do what we want Him to. The truth is, for me, that the more I see of Him the less I understand but the more I am in awe of the wonderful mystery of who He is.

I figure that we would be best to simplify things from time to time; to rest in His presence and learn to understand how to adore Him in the most intricate and everyday details of our lives. We need to understand how to practice the presence of God everyday, as we would practice medicine if we were a doctor or a nurse.

This concept is unpacked in the beautiful writings of Brother Lawrence in his book The Practice of the Presence of God. What this man saw is beyond me. His relationship with Jesus is simple but strong and so powerful.

This quote is one way to simplify how we adore God but at the same time take our relationship with Him into new depths where our ability to adore Him runs through our bloodstream, like our very breath adores Him and our minds are set to ‘adore’:

“A little lifting up of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, an interior act of adoration, even though made on the march and with sword in hand, are prayers which, short though they may be, are nevertheless very pleasing to God, and far from making a soldier lose his courage on the most dangerous occasions, bolster it. Let him then think of God as much as possible so that he will gradually become accustomed to this little but holy exercise; no one will notice it and nothing is easier than to repeat often during the day these little acts of interior adoration.”

When no one is looking: lift you heart to Him. When you are going about your day: remember Him, as you would a loved one that you are longing to get home to. These ‘interior acts of adoration’ will bring strength, depth and power to your relationship with God. If something is ‘interior’ it is inside of us, not visible to others. These interior acts are about our thoughts. The effects of these things in the long term might be visible to others, but that is not the point, the point is that the motive of these acts are not for others to see, they are just for Jesus.

I find it refreshing that he tackles the idea of being ‘on the march and sword in hand’ in this way. When we are in battle we tend to think that we need to be shouting out prayers, making noise to motivate us and promote faith. Sometimes this is true, but I am learning to understand faith as a quiet confidence that God is going before us. Our little thought prayers are just as powerful. If we can tame our thoughts so much that we don’t have to convince them with ‘shouting’, this quiet confidence brings real courage; deep courage that is already convinced of who God is rather than a feeling that, if we declare or shout things, God might be more likely to hear. God is not so far away that He can’t hear unless we shout. He is in fact so close that even our innermost thoughts can be heard by Him.

We must also be careful that we don’t mistake passion and noise. Sometimes passion is an ache that can’t be heard. Passion is powerful and compelling, driven by emotion and, in this case, love. Sometimes we love loudly and that is good, but we don’t have to. Adoration doesn’t have to be loud, it can be quiet and contemplative. It is a gaze, a moment of dwelling on our thoughts of Jesus. There is nothing superficial or manufactured about it. This passion is strong and deep.

Jeanne Guyon, a 17th century catholic mystic, says this:

Some persons, when they hear the ‘prayer of quiet’, falsely imagine the soul remains stupid, dead and inactive. But unquestionably it acteth therein, more nobly and more extensively than it had ever done before, for God Himself is the Mover and the soul now acteth by the agency of His Spirit… instead then of promoting idleness, we promote the highest activity, by inculcating a total dependence on the Spirit of God as our moving principle, for in Him we live and move and have our being…Our activity should therefore consist in endeavouring to acquire and maintain such a state as may be most susceptible to divine impression, most flexible to all the operations of the eternal word.

In other words our quietness can promote the highest level of activity because God moves our soul into action by the power of His Spirit stirring our passion and this instills a total dependence on the Holy Spirit as we seek to adore Him. If we look to our inner health and enter the quiet we become ‘susceptible to divine impression’.

Oh that God would imprint His heart onto mine and that His word would shape me and change me!

Another thing that occurred to me is that if we think of ‘interior design’ it is all about what our rooms look like inside our homes or buildings. We think about fabrics, wall coverings, ornaments. We think about what things will work together to make our ‘interior’ look beautiful. Often it doesn’t take much to just add those touches to a room that make it work. Maybe we need to add some touches to our interior: those thoughts of Jesus, thought- prayers of thanksgiving, those internal gazes and moments of remembering Him in the quiet. Just to think on Him for a few seconds is making our ‘interior’ better. When we think on Him we encounter Him and he touches us and leaves His ‘divine impression’.

Brother Lawrence says this:

“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”

The fact is God is not making demands on our time. He deserves our attention but it’s our choice to adore Him, He is not forcing us. And as we choose to gaze on Him, we can’t help but fall in love with Him. When we thank Him for our food at meal times He is pleased by it and, if we think in human terms, He feels our love from even ‘the least little remembrance’.

So every day remember Him. Remember Him until your thoughts are quietly dominated by your adoration of Him. Think on Him often. As you go to work remember Him, in your lunch break remember Him and gaze on Him from time to time. No-one but God will know, and how good it is to please Him.

What beauty is noticed, what courage is given, what rest is found in our little acts of interior adoration.