Becoming a Woman of Peace

A Woman of 
Peace

For much of my post-college life, I felt I was stuck with the sort of person I turned out to be. As a student, as a wife and friend and daughter. I’m not entirely sure why I thought that way, only that I’ve begun to realize as I’ve started a new phase in my life, that of motherhood and staying at home, that I have the opportunity to change that.

More truthfully, it’s because I’ve felt God asking me to take up a new banner now that my family has expanded. I don’t have to find my identity in my grades or in others’ expectations of me (the erroneousness of this way of thinking is the subject of another post entirely), and nor do I have to look about me at what other stay at home moms are doing and take those identities onto myself either. My identity is in Christ, and he is asking me to build my family and my home around a new calling.

Rather than being a student, a mediocre cook, hard-working, bookish, a little geeky, and a wife who finds herself too often on the defensive thanks to years of conditioning with brothers, my new role in our family as a stay at home wife and mother sets before me several new goals.

I was afraid of this transition. I feared I would miss too deeply my work and the interactions I had there. Granted, I’m only 4.5 months into this new life, so the time may well come when I DO feel burnt out and wish I could go back to working with adults instead. But for now, I feel contentment in the place where God has positioned me, and receptive in the quiet moments I’ve gotten since Lucy learned how to nap to what God is asking me to do with my home.

I believe God uses the family unit to impact his kingdom in far more ways than people realize. And I believe that regardless of working or SAHM status, wives/mothers set the tone of that family. While the Proverbs 31 woman may have a standard which is difficult to achieve, (and people constantly bringing her up get on my nerves, so my apologies) and some scholars believe it was written as a celebratory song for weddings and such rather than as an admonish for womanly behavior, nevertheless, she resides at the end of the Proverbs–a book one looks to for wisdom on how to live–as a contrast to the many “fathers teaching sons” statements in the beginning of the book. Not as a “here you go, ladies, here’s your piece at the very end,” but as a praiseworthy example of the kind of woman who runs a household and knows what she is able to, and should, contribute to it. The one part that many women like to quote is “she is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs without fear of the future” in verse 25.

Strength. Dignity. Something you don’t see as much of as you might like in women of fame and influence. Radical feminists fighting to get their way without a whole lot of dignity in their methods. But I digress. Strength and dignity are a great place to start when looking at what kind of woman God is asking you to be.

My own personal mission

But the word that keeps resonating in my head when I think about my family’s mission and banner is “peace.” This struck me to the heart the first time I thought on it. I’m not naturally a woman of peace. I mean, I’m not a woman of war. I don’t stir up fights. I generally like to keep the peace among friends and family and avoid drama. But avoiding drama is not the same thing as pursuing peace. And I could definitely be accused of rising to defend myself in disagreements with my husband. Usually with gusto. Furthermore, my mind is not always at peace. I’m more inclined toward anxiety and fear. I most definitely have a temper.

But it is so like God to choose for me a purpose which is contrary to my sinful nature. To leave off my anxiousness and commit to trust is difficult. To keep my mouth shut in the face of injustice toward myself… nobody likes doing that. But we are called to peace: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom 8:6). “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” (Col 3:15). Peace which transcends will guard our hearts (Phil 4:7); we are to cast anxieties on him (1 Peter 5:7); we are to “turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit.

What does this mean for me practically?

I believe that this pursuit of peace has many aspects to it. Notably, it means raising my children in an environment of peace, and not of anxiety and rush. It means building up my husband in his own calling as co-influencer over our home, and his purpose outside of it. It means leaving aside fears or mistrust from the past and seeking joy. It means not allowing envy or comparison (such as one gets scrolling through social media) to set expectations or the way I view myself. It means opening my home as a place of comfort and welcome to those who enter. It means pursuing godly relationships with those in community with me. It means serving the church. It means making sure my family’s way of life is a light directing others to God. It means controlling my temper. It means daily receiving and living in grace.

There may come a time when I don’t have quiet moments for reflection and Bible study. When I have three or four children and my days are filled with small people needing me constantly and things to do and errands to run and I’ll forget my banner and my mission. But that is why I hoped to write it today. To give myself a written purpose; a family manifesto, that I can look back on in my lifetime pursuit of peace. And for those near to me to point it out (gently, kindly I hope) when they feel not peace upon entering my home, but something contrary.

But I hope, too, that by writing, I might inspire other women to realize that they can always start again; they can follow Christ’s lead into a mission of their own. Whether single or married, with children or without, this is the chance for us as women to pursue wisdom in the way we lead our families, or our sphere of influence, into a personal and a collective life lived to the glory of God. But above all, that there is grace. Grace in the failing every day, grace years from know when we look back and see that our plans have failed, and grace to take up the banner again a thousand times after a thousand failings, with God’s hand in our lives and callings.

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Dear Rainbow

dear-rainbow-1

Dear Rainbow baby,

You have been my comfort after the storm. You continue to be. I think the term “Rainbow baby” is a little bit of a misnomer, because the rainbow after the flood in Genesis was a promise, and a covenant. You have not been promised to me. But in the other sense, where the rainbow appeared in the sky for the first time and Noah and his family saw it and worshiped God–in that sense, that sense of hope, you are my rainbow.

Nine weeks remain until your due date and I love you. I cannot wait to meet you. I realized this last weekend that the expectation of meeting you has finally tipped the scale in its favor, over and against my fear. But until that moment when the cord is cut and you are laid on my chest, breathing and blinking and alive, there will always be a hesitation in me to unleash the fury of my love.

I cope, for now. I have always been a control freak, wrestling away the semblances of control God grants me, holding them tightly against me, pretending they are true and manifest control over my own life. So my way of coping is to frantically prepare myself for the act of childbirth, writing out my plans, organizing my registry, tidying up. But God snatches even that back from me–your daddy gets sick for three weekends he was going to use to work on the nursery, he’s sick during one of our baby classes, my registry discount is unavailable to me yet, and it happened to fall that none of my baby showers occur prior to 32 weeks’ gestation. Which means that despite my obsessive desire to physically prepare for you, I’m still miles from where I need to be.

And at one point, this caused me so much fear and overwhelm that I ended up having twelve Braxton-Hicks contractions in less than two hours (which I later was reprimanded by the nurse for not calling the on-call doctor about), and a breakdown of all my attempts to prepare and was forced to just lie there, and rest, and focus on you and your little kicks and punches.

And truthfully, that’s what I don’t want to do, because I’d rather focus on something that makes me feel in control, and makes me feel prepared. Instead, to focus on you is to feel intensely how much I love you and how much I do not have a bit of control over how often you move, how fast you are growing, how developed your little brain and body. But more than once I have dissolved into a heap of desperate love and admitted to myself that time loving you and trusting our God is what I need to do the most.

So much unknown comes after you are born. How will I feel meeting you, when I never got to meet my first baby? Will I have post-partum depression again, and if I do, will I realize it and seek help? How much will it change my marriage? How much will I miss my job? It all seems negative and fearful because the true positive, the hope and joy and love in meeting you, is the one thing I cannot control and cannot allow myself to dwell on.

I always come back to Brennan Manning though. He is the patron saint of this pregnancy. He writes, “But what about doubts and worries? Do they, too, signal a rejection of God’s Kingdom? Not necessarily. There can be no faith without doubt, no hope without anxiety, and no trust without worry. These shadow us from dawn to dusk; indeed, they appear even in our dreams. As long as we withhold internal consent to these varied faces of fear, they are no cause for alarm, because they are not voluntary. When they threaten to consume us, we can overpower them with a simple and deliberate act of trust: ‘Jesus, by your grace I grow still for a moment and I hear you say, ‘”Courage! It’s me! Don’t be afraid.'” I place my trust in your presence and your love. Thank you.'”

And for the first time in my life I consistently give myself grace for my fears and doubts. All of them are founded on a legitimate cause. I lost one beloved child; I fear losing another. But to have hope at all of meeting you, to allow myself to feel love for you, I must withhold consent from those fears and allow that peace of Christ to remind me that He is good, and he knows how to give good gifts to his children. However contradictory it appears to my actual experience, in a worldly sense, it remains true that what He does is good and what He will do, whatever He will do, will also be good.

I suppose the same is true of his rainbows. We are not promised no storms at all. But we are promised his grace and his restoration after those storms. I hope you are mine.

Dear Rowan: On Your Due Date

copy-of-copy-of-dear-rowanDear Rowan,

I have been dreading this day for months.

No words can describe the sense of emptiness and the feeling of being cheated, with empty arms on the day I should have met you and held you. It’s that day–and nothing happened.

2016 is coming to an end and there is no baby in my arms. It’s unfathomable, unfair, and devastating. Death is not natural. It’s not supposed to feel right. I’m not supposed to feel peace. It is not well with my soul and quite frankly, I don’t think God blames me. Death is the enemy, and he doesn’t deny that. Jesus wept at death and the grief it caused his friends, Mary and Martha. Nobody can tell me he doesn’t weep over the grief yours caused me too; over the unnaturalness of not holding my baby on the day I was supposed to.

Rowan, I will not get to meet you today. But I will one day. I will not get to see your smile, your first words, your first report card, your first drawing, your first laugh, your first car, your first friends, your first child. I will never see those things on earth that I, as your mother, should have. Death won. I am defeated by it and bear its weight. It settles over the house in the form of your empty nursery and the lack of your cries. It settles over my body in the emptiness of my arms and my chest. It settles over my marriage in the lonely day we spend together, shouldering the weight of what would have been ours. It settles over my soul in the darkness of feeling defeated and devastated by its clutches.

But it has not escaped my notice that your due date comes after Christmas. I have been completely unable to focus on Christmas in any way other than being physically present to move through the motions of it. I cannot focus on my mind and heart on the point of it, or my spirit on the message of it. Yet I know it so well as the backbone of my faith that it sinks into my subconscious anyway. How dare this sacred holiday be tainted by death? And yet the Christmas story itself was tainted by death–I weep with the mothers of Bethlehem whose babies were murdered by a cowardly king. And yet literarily, what a foil. The earthly king feared the gospel message and his response was violence and death. In the meantime, life prevailed in a manger despite him, bringing with it the power to defeat death once and for all. The contrast is intentional. It does not escape my notice.

And yet how I groan as the world does with the weight of death still lingering as the last enemy has yet to be defeated. The earth is full of it just as it is full of sin and evil, waiting until the final judgment. You, my sweet child, escaped all of that and you will never feel what I am feeling now.

Nor has it escaped my notice that your sister reached her viability milestone yesterday. She is now at the point where she would most likely survive outside the womb, and doctors would fight to save her. One day before your due date. Nor has it escaped my notice that in the days leading up to your due date, her kicks have become so strong they hurt.

All of this comforts my mind and soothes my heart. But my arms and my soul remain at a loss. I don’t know what words to use to describe this state of lack. I am missing a child. I just am. There’s nothing good or redemptive in that. And God stands with me and feels it too.

It has changed everything. I have had my innocence destroyed. There have been small moments of excitement in my journey with your sister that have bolstered me thus far, but overall I have had no glow of expectation, no moments of quiet joy or bonding with her. I find it impossible to allow myself to expect to meet her. As much as I speak of her arrival, I don’t believe it. I will begin the motions of preparing for her as the year turns, but emotionally I have not bonded with her to the extent that I would have wanted–because I am afraid of feeling for her the intensity of the love I have for you. It’s all in there, bottled up and ready for later, but impossible to touch upon now. I hate it, for her sake. She deserves all my love and my joy. But it is normal to struggle with this, and I give myself grace, knowing that one day it will be easier. One day, God willing, I will be allowed to feel all of that love and joy.

So far, Rowan, every day of my pregnancy with her has been a day that should have belonged to you. But from this day forward, we go on without you, and I think it will bring me some closure, some chance to make this pregnancy hers alone.

This year has been the worst of my life in a dozen small and large ways. I cannot wait for it to end. I close this horrible year with your due date and will leave both behind me, hoping that the next year will be very different indeed. Many have suffered his year. I will likely suffer a great deal more in my life. That is the nature of our existence. But symbolically, I am glad to have reached this day. It stings with the pain I expected it would. Yet it is altered not only by time but also by the new child within me and the hope she brings.

My dear Rowan, my beloved first child, I will never, ever forget you. You are my first, my love, my heart, my soul. You made me a mother and I hope it makes me a better mother to your sister. I hope the loss of you makes me more fully aware of the hurts of the world under the weight of sin and death, that I might be a better wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, coworker, and woman of influence. But for now, in the smallness of a normal Tuesday, on which most of the world moves forward (though five or six remember you by name, and your due date, and honor you by mentioning you to me), I am alone and empty, desperately missing what should have been mine today. I’m overwhelmed with the normalcy of the day, longing for there to be some way for the world to acknowledge you, other than in the memory of a select few who surround us with prayer today. But there is no reception of you in the world, because you are not and will never be in it. As your mother, it is unfathomable to me. But it is my truth.

The sun is shining today. It would have been a beautiful day to meet you.

But dear Rowan–I will meet you in heaven instead of today. I love you. I wish I could tell you that from my lips to your little ears. But for now, feel all my love in the wordless longing I have for you today.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen, Part Seventeen, Part Eighteen Part NineteenPart Twenty, Part Twenty-One.

Dear Rowan: Part Nineteen

DearRowan19Dear Rowan,

A few things have happened since the last time I wrote.

First, my body figured out what was going on and resumed a normal rhythm (to use the nicest euphemism I could think of) and I think that gave a reboot to my hormones. My PPD declined steadily from there.

Second, I continued to read A Grief Observed. I think before I was reading it too early. I wasn’t ready. And now, I’m finding so much comfort in Lewis’ wrestlings with his grief and with God. Every other line in that book resonates deeply with how I feel about losing you. His despair and hope, his anger and depression. Even his loneliness and fear. Friend, if you are reading this and you have lost a baby, please read this book. It will help you, not necessarily to feel happy or better, but to feel less alone. If one of the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century can feel lost and betrayed and doubting, then it’s OK for you, too.

Third, I went on vacation. I mentioned this in my last letter but here’s a little more. Technically I had a week at home and a week in Georgia with your daddy’s family. The aunts and grandparents and great grandma who were looking forward to meeting you. The week I had at home was good because I was able to have more time to lay on the floor and cry and then get up and clean the house and pack and run errands, instead of working, then crying when I got home, and then not having the energy for anything else. The vacation itself was a powerful separation from everything that reminded me of you and of my loss. A physical one, particularly. Sort of like a chance to step out of myself and fast forward to a time where I felt better. I still cried most nights as I fell asleep. I felt how I had been excited before to wear a swimsuit for my little maternity bump, and how I had looked forward to being surrounded by family excited for me and for your impending arrival. I felt it when I saw pregnant women on the beach and babies in town. But overall, I felt better.

Partly it was just the amount of time I got to spend with your daddy. The rest of the family let us go off and do whatever we wanted. There was no pressure to do anything with the family if we didn’t want to, which I appreciated so much. Your daddy and I spent a lot of time talking, snuggling in that glorious king bed, relaxing, watching tv, swimming, and visiting the beach. I felt that our marriage was stronger than it has ever been. We celebrated our anniversary with a long day together in Charlotte. I met my cousin Shawn and his family and he and his wife Tabitha so sweetly prayed for your daddy and I for healing and for a blessing on our future family. That meant so much to me.

Coming home was hard. I cried every morning that first week, feeling overwhelmed and surrounded by everything that reminded me you were gone. I felt lost, hopeless, separated from my friends, still not pregnant, still despairing. But I made my way through the week with a sense of peace I gained from vacation. More on that later.

The fourth thing that happened was that the counselor I had been looking to meet with finally had an opening. I thought about cancelling, since my PPD was gone, but I thought perhaps just talking to someone who was paid to listen to me was better than dumping it on my friends. It was helpful in many senses. I felt that she didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t heard from friends and family and my own understanding of God, but it was different having a professional tell me it’s alright to grieve, alright to be angry, encourage me to scream and yell things at God, to express my anger knowing he can handle it, but she also told me how to be able to tell when I was holding on too long where it got to be unhealthy. I felt a bit better just having someone recognize my perfectionism and tell me to stop being hard on myself and give myself grace and make myself realize that I can’t control how the grieving process goes because there are no rules. Again, if you’re reading this and are struggling with grief or even PPD, I recommend counseling if you can help it.

The final thing that happened was this: on our last night in Georgia, your daddy and I went for a walk on the beach at sunset. We talked about life and idle things; about our favorite part of vacation. The sunset was beautiful, the temperature was ideal, and a storm was visible rolling over the ocean. Your daddy went inside but I wanted to watch the sunset and the storm. I sat on the beach and I inevitably started thinking about how much I missed you. I started talking to God again. Less anger, less begging. More just feeling defeated and lost. I know he understands. I felt him grieving with me as I cried. It helped to know he did. I fell into my usual questions: “Why did you take my baby? What did I do wrong? What lesson do I need to learn before you give me another baby? What bargain can I make with you to let me keep my next baby?”

He asked me, “What did you have to do to earn my love? My grace?”

I said, “nothing. Just trust you.”

He said, “what then did you do to lose Rowan? What do you need to do to keep your next baby?”

I said, “nothing.”

And the ocean seemed to echo it over and over, to my perfectionist, hard-on-myself heart, “nothing, nothing, nothing.”

What does this mean, then? That you were stolen from me purely by the evil of this world and not by anything I did wrong or any cruelty on God’s part? Yes. I have always known this but my human heart has never wanted to admit it. Anger at myself and anger at God is the easiest thing to handle.

I have no idea how to go forward. I’m still as lost as I ever was, but my faith has remained intact. I knew it would. Even on the day I lost you, I knew I could never turn from my God, no matter how angry I was or how much I doubted him. Another book I’m reading says, “cling to God’s character no matter what you experience in this transient life.” This is what I have done. I have no idea what will happen if I lose another baby. I think it will wreck me beyond what I felt losing you, Rowan. I don’t know how I will live, how I will function. But I’m trying to hope my rainbow baby will come and my God will prove himself faithful to me as he has done for my entire life.

I miss you so much, Rowan, and I love you so much. But for now, I think my letters are done. I am at a place where my depression has eased and my grief is less. I cry about every other day now instead of every day, or all day. I have felt truly happy and truly close to your daddy. But while I will always miss you and think of you and nothing will take that away from me, I need to stop for now. I love you. You are my precious first child.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen, Part Seventeen, Part Eighteen.

Dear Rowan: Part Eighteen

DearRowan18Dear Rowan,

I tried, and I think I did well, to be careful not to place too much expectation on my vacation to fix anything. I knew it would be good for your daddy and I, for our stress levels and for our marriage, but I knew that I would be coming right back to the same things I’ve been enduring for weeks.

And it’s true. While I had moments on vacation where I deeply felt my loss and wished I was there with my whole family–you included, Rowan–I still had moments of peace and healing. But then I returned home after eight days to the house that holds all my horrible memories of losing you, and it all came back. Nothing changed. I’m still grieving, still not pregnant, as far as I know. The world marches on around me, moving on with life, and I’m still feeling everything just as deeply as before.

But it simply emphasizes to me the inability of anything on this planet to help me. Not people, not changes of place, not distraction, and possibly not even a new pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong–I have had wonderful people speak incredible encouragement into my life in a way that I never expected, and which has changed me forever. As I have said before, this has allowed me to discover how loved I am; far more than I ever thought. I continue to be encouraged  by cards arriving in the mail even in recent weeks, by hugs, by prayers, and by people checking on me. But in the end, even people are not enough. They grow weary of treating me differently. They vanish altogether because they don’t want to share my darkness (understandably, I suppose), or they don’t want to talk to me about it as if miscarriage is contagious or something. C.S. Lewis spoke of the same thing in A Grief Observed: married couples didn’t like to talk to him after Joy died, because it reminded them that the same thing may happen to one of them.

(If you’re reading this and you haven’t lost a baby, yes, it may well happen to you. The odds are certainly in favor of it. But don’t let it frighten you. I wish I had known how likely it was so I could have been more prepared. And if you have lost, don’t forget how very much you are not alone.)

People are incapable of curing grief. They are wonderful for providing support; support without which I would not have made it through nearly as well as I did. But they will always be a temporary relief. Humans are selfish, and return to their own lives and their own happiness. I would do the same in their shoes. It’s just human nature. As one friend put it, when I felt I should be doing better than I was, and perhaps even comparing myself to how other, stronger women might be feeling in my shoes, “You’re being too hard on yourself. Remember that you have the right to grieve however you want. Screw what people expect you to do [who] have never lost a child, and you have.” And darned if that isn’t some of the best advice I’ve gotten.

I made the mistake, since I didn’t wish I talk to God, of looking to people to help me more than perhaps I should have. I turned to online message boards for miscarriage mamas, and while they provided me with some practical information on life post-miscarriage, both the physical and emotional, they had nothing else to offer my pain. I turned to people for advice and encouragement. And while many did not let me down, and one might argue for the importance of opening up to people, I was still dodging the truth: that nothing in this world helps for more than an hour or two. I tried not to expect people to check in on me every day or let me know I wasn’t alone all the time. I gave a lot of grace that I would have wanted if I was in their shoes. But I still felt alone. And still do. Some friends have had a greater capacity for compassion than others, and I cannot begin to express how much I appreciate them, but they are also human.

The truth is, though, that whether someone has suffered similarly or not, or suffered far worse than I, even, no one can truly understand the heart-wrenching, hair-tearing anguish of loss in the moments one feels it. Those who have also suffered still feel their own pain, but time has healed the wound a little. Even I, one day, will not properly understand the pain of someone else in their moment of present anguish. I would argue that even now, though I still feel my grief deeply, still mourn every day, would not quite feel as deeply the pain of someone else were they to lose a child today. People are not enough. We are all incapable of being enough.

And so I was prepared, on vacation, to come back home afterward to my depression and grief. Places and separation and distraction are not enough. Time, perhaps, is enough, but it moves too slowly and cannot be a present comfort.
The only thing that can ease the pain and grant hope and peace is God. I know this, and I have always known this. But how does one turn, for comfort, to the one who caused or allowed the affliction? How does one pray for relief to the one who didn’t answer the prayer that would have kept the grief away to begin with? How does one find the same comfort and peace one had in childhood, when one’s childhood God looks very different now than he used to? To loosely paraphrase Lewis, it’s not so much that I feel that God has abandoned me, it’s that I now have to question his love of me, and the view I have had of him all these years.

In A Grief Observed, Lewis says, “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted in it?”

I have been a Christian for 23 years, and a whole-hearted follower of Him for 18 years. I have read the Bible 13 and a half times through, and attended church regularly for all of those years. I studied his nature and character in undergrad and graduate school from seasoned Bible and theology scholars. Has my perception of God been wrong all this time? Has he been merely a fabrication of my first-world, comfortable mind? People responded to my grief just as I would have thought they’d do. Time, distance, distraction and change do those little temporary favors to me as I would expect. But I did not respond to God in my grief as I would have thought, nor he to me.

Lewis, as I have written before, felt the same of God. That God was gone, had abandoned him, and, as he felt at least at one point, may never have been there. This is how I have felt for 8 weeks (I should have been 19 weeks pregnant now; should have known your gender, Rowan). But my revelations of God from A Grief Observed and from my vacation will have to wait for another letter, as this one is getting a little long. But suffice it to say that I have begun to speak with Him again, to wrestle with my ideas of him, and to feel Him as He seeks to repair me, little by little, however much anger I still hold against Him.

Dear Rowan: Part Seventeen

DearRowan17Dear Rowan,

I have lived the last eight years of my life believing emotions are wrong. My parents didn’t intend me to ever believe this. But my mother grew up in a family where emotions are kept to yourself and inadvertently continued the legacy. I had my father to balance me out. His mother was all exuberance, delight, joy. Let’s just say I learned practicality and reason from my mother’s mother and passion and enthusiasm from my father’s mother.

I grew up in a church that valued emotion. Not above doctrine but perhaps nearly equal to it. How right this was I am still working out, but whatever the circumstances, I grew up with a strong faith and an excellent relationship with the Lord that was the foundation for everything I am.

In college, two things happened. First, I was burned by some who had an emotional faith which turned out not to be doctrinal and in fact led them to have a very weak faith indeed. Second, I studied theology as my second major. Regardless of the  background of any of my professors, I had found what I had longed to study and clung to it as only a perfectionist who loves rules and reason could.

Logic and emotion warred with one another in my two majors. This was particularly so in my senior year as I studied my senior seminar in theology and my senior seminar in literary criticism. Theology won over my affection, and those classmates and professors whom I respected led me to an appreciation of doctrine above all.

Since then, as I have matured, I have seen the importance of both and the danger of preferring one over the other. But my perfectionism has lent me to appreciating reason and logic perhaps more than I should. What can be better than rules and logical ways to understand the universe and faith? Old habits of feeling defeated in arguments for years against three brothers came out in arguments with my new husband, himself a southern baptist who had never so much as raised his hands in church. How could I expect any arguments from emotion to trump arguments from reason? They cannot and should not, right?

As a woman it has been my torment to feel logic overpowered by hormones on a regular basis. Any woman can be rational and force herself to be so, but at times it is far harder than others and I have grown to hate it.

So when I found out I was pregnant at last, I was delighted but held it in. I kept myself distant even from you, Rowan, until my ultrasound, where I saw your tiny heart beating and was told the chance of losing you t that point was very small. I fell in love and let myself do so to the full extent of an expectant mother, unleashing my imagination to wonder if you were a boy or a girl, what we would name you, what it would be like to have you meet your aunts and uncles and grandparents at Christmas. To add baby books to my amazon.com wishlist, to begin to imagine how we would decorate your nursery. To tell a few friends about you.

When suddenly I lost you, emotion turned the tide and won the war. Reason is a fair weather friend. I clung to it still. When the ultrasound technician quietly and calmly asked me if I had any questions, I did not ask, “Was there something I did wrong? Is this my fault?” I asked, “What is my next step?” How can I remove this pregnancy and move on? How do I handle this? What are the rules for the next month of my life?  After your father was contacted, I asked Holly to go to my house, check on the dog, and remove all signs you had been expected. The maternity clothes, the fetal Doppler, the single onesie I had allowed myself to buy for you.

If only there were rules for this. I could have held onto them as the waves of grief pummeled me by the minute. I could have clung to them as hormones drained abruptly and unceremoniously from my body. I could have trusted them as my faith wavered and my trust in God seemed misplaced. But grief has only stages, not rules, and they don’t even stay in a proper order. What a disappointment. What a betrayal. Even now, with the postpartum depression fading and my objectivity returning and my physical self technically ready to try again, reason is insufficient.

Probably it always was. I resented being governed by grief and loss and sorrow and anger and hormones and depression. Emotions are the result of chemicals in the brain and also the result of being human. Both reason and emotion are attributes of God’s nature. We, made in his image, have both as well. We have the capacity to feel deeply. We love and we lose. We have joy and despair. Artists and authors will argue that emotion is what makes us human more than anything else, for in it we have what animals do not. Furthermore, we do not speak of God as reason, though he is that. We speak of him as love, for he is that too, and we as humans value that this is his essence.

What a fool I am to worry if I have grieved rightly. If I have walked this road of grief in an admirable manner. If my report card for grief has an A+. Typically I do not worry if I have pleased others so much as my own expectations of myself, but in this I have worried if my anger at God has caused others to stumble. If my words in my letters to you have expressed falsehoods. But this is equally foolish, for grief has no right or wrong road.

Whatever I have said in the last six weeks, whatever I have felt, it is beautiful and horrible. It is human and it is a new realm of the spectrum of human emotion for me. It has dragged me, screaming, into the depths of what is evil about this world, into the darkness that God saw and entered into to rescue us from. It has moved me as it moved God into his rescue mission to the world. It has also led me, on my knees, into the beauty of what it means to love and lose a beloved one. It has freed me from my fear of and disdain for emotion. It has allowed me to see the purity in mourning from the soul itself, despite what logic would dictate. It has taught me grace.

I am far from past it. My loss of you is still my very present existence. I breathe in your heartbeats and exhale the lack of them. But here, six weeks later, I am at last in equal measure governed by emotion and reason and can choose from the two of them as I will. And rather than choosing to cling to reason as if it was my savior and the superior choice, I will choose to feel as much as I want how much I love and miss you. Perhaps for the first time in eight years, I give myself permission, without guilt, to feel.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen

Dear Rowan: Part Sixteen

DearRowan16Dear Rowan,

I am re-reading the Harry Potter series as I am seeking nostalgia and a comfortable book series to hide away in. As I read today I was reminded of an important plot point: Harry is protected from the antagonist in the first book as well as every summer of his life when he goes home from Hogwarts because of a powerful magic: when his mother died to save him as a baby, a protection was flung on him that is inexplicable to anyone who doesn’t understand it. It was sacrificial love, and it rescued him from evil by clinging to his very skin.

Perhaps this is a silly comparison, but forgive me. I feel our roles here are reversed, Rowan. When I lost you, I was the one marked by a very strong love. Where you are there is nothing but love. It matters not at all to you how much I love you. But it matters to me. I am marked, even deeply scarred, by an empty, hollow, object-less love. It’s burned into my very skin, and carved into my heart. The day you died I remained a mother but lost the one that made my identity what it was.

But as painful as it is, it is also beautiful. I am a mother. You made me that. You changed everything about me and your heartbeats, not far from mine, are forever stamped into my soul. I think that’s why my stomach hurts and my heart aches and my arms feel empty when I think of you. Science aside, maternal love may as well be its own kind of magic. I am drenched in it. Head to toe, inside and out, drowning in it. I love you with the same fierceness with which I love your father.

Every Tuesday I count the weeks you should have developed. Week 17 is coming up. I should have a little baby bump and be able to find out your gender quite soon. I should have seen your fingers and toes, blurry, on the ultrasound at 12 weeks. I should have heard your heartbeat. It’s so strange to have the love I do without the subject still growing and changing and heart beating inside me. It’s now been nearly six weeks since I lost you and my love for you has only intensified.

I stand on one side of a locked door. God stands on the other. He aches with love for me as I ache for you. But he won’t open the door. I don’t know that I want him to. The door is hard and cold against my back as I lean on it, wishing to be closer to my heavenly father but not ready for him to embrace me lest I have to look him in the face and ask why he took you from me. But he is an omnipresent God, so the door means nothing, really. My very skin tingles with the presence of God everywhere. He is not separated from me by matter. He is within me and around me, beside me and above me. I am too angry to speak to him, or run to him or feel his love. Because I know a very important truth about my God: he is prepared to wrap his arms tightly around me and sink to the floor with me as I sob, and cry with me for the loss of you. This is the kind of God he is. He is a God who has known the loss of a child. He is the God who came and suffered everything a human can suffer. He is not distant or separated by the vast expanse of the universe, let alone a door. He is here, he is love, he is my father. And he cries over my pain too.

I am marked by his love. His blood was shed and in that sacrifice, a “magic,” if you will, covers me too. I am marked by a love even stronger than the love I have for you, Rowan. It carries me and shields me and heals me. I am not untouched by evil and suffering but I am, because I am marked, promised relief and rest. I cannot open the door yet, though. I will rest on this side of it as I work through my grief and my anger and the resulting depression. I can live with my back against the door and know I have only to open it when I’m ready.

I will lean against the door a very changed woman. A childless mother whose maternal love breathes from her very pores, and a hopeless child separated from her father but marked by his love too. Drowning in both kinds of love, wishing I could kiss your little face just once. Is this how God feels when we run from him or simply refuse to ever accept his love? Does he ache for us and miss us and long for us? He must. He is love itself. And his love is not blinded by human weaknesses or chemicals being released in his brain. He is beyond that; his love is pure, the real thing, the original. He loved us more than most of us love anyone in that he died for us to have us back when we strayed.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen