Mourning into Joy 

I have the honour of being a part of a series called mourning into joy stories started by Sharon McKeeman (@sharonmckeeman on instagram #mourningintojoystories). As I began to write, I realized that there was more I wanted to share than a few sentences on instagram hence this blog post. I feel like sharing my own process might help someone out there.

*Disclaimer, this post is super raw and real and deals a lot with loss, mess and mental illness. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, please feel free to avoid this post!*

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2017. We’ve now entered the 7th year since we lost our daughter Eisley. In some ways it definitely feels like it’s been years, and in others it feel as though it was just yesterday. Here is a bit of our journey and my own honest process through loss.

At 13 weeks pregnant I bled, they found a blood clot which ultimately killed 2/3 of my placenta by week 19. And so began our journey with our Eisley-girl. Nearly every day for months we were told that we would lose her (due to the lack of nourishment to her body). That we should abort her and get on with our lives. But she fought, she held on longer than they’d ever expected. So much longer that the day before she passed away they shared with us that they’d deemed her “viable” and they would deliver her the next Friday. While her potential death had been lingering in it minds for months, it was still a complete shock to our systems when she passed away. It felt unbelievable – she’d held on for so long (7 months). We were so close. We had prayed and believed with everything in us. Many around the world prayed for her. And yet there we were, suddenly thrown into a world of loss: deciding how to birth her (we choose induction and she came 3 days later), preparing to meet her only to say goodbye, planning arrangements for her body, a memorial service to honour her life… and then the years of grief that have followed since.

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At first, I felt peace. Along with many, many things and I let myself feel through them all. I thought I was grieving “well”, to be honest. And then year after year I noticed my heart growing harder, I realized my prayer life had died along with our sweet girl. I didn’t even know how to pray and even how to believe for the best anymore. I denied these things, of course. Until the ache and bitterness inside me seeped out. Into my marriage, my family, my friends. My dreams and desires had changed, even my beliefs shifted. 2015 was my toughest year – I found myself depressed beyond what I’d ever imagined. My marriage was falling apart due to distance I’d created. I felt angry and bitter at everything, especially with God.

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I found myself living defensively, afraid to be broken again – believing I couldn’t possibly live through anymore brokenness and I’d do my best to control all things to avoid this. Having control seemed like the place to be. It seemed safer than giving anyone or God the reigns, that much was certain. So I clenched my fists and held on. But what I found instead was I felt out of control trying to maintain control. I was always angry (still struggle with this bad habit), always defensive and overly protective, always building new walls, all while trying to appear as though I had it all together. Trying to show loss hadn’t broken me beyond repair, that God was still on the throne of my life, that having two healthy pregnancies after Eisley had “redeemed” many things. Yet beneath the hardened shell was a broken Jami who didn’t even know if she believed in God anymore, and she certainly didn’t believe the sayings she’d heard others speak over her to cover her grieving and broken heart. Beneath it all was a girl who felt she’d scarred her marriage, her children and her own life beyond repair. A girl who felt all hope was lost and constantly wondered how she’d carry on.
I hit rock bottom March 2015. I entered the new year pregnant yet lost the baby at 8 weeks. Less than a month later, our daughter Everly (almost 1) was hospitalized with RSV and it triggered memories of loss and I imagined the worst case scenario possible during the scary times with her. Though she was only in for 4 days and recovered well it triggered grief I’d shoved away and it all felt too much to handle. And to be completely honest, the best option I saw was to leave this world of pain and heartache. I walked my husband and family through hell on that terrible night in March, when I felt I couldn’t continue living the way I was.

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But Jesus met me in my brokeness. When I felt all hope was lost. He met me and I didn’t feel hopeless even though I didn’t know what was next. My husband and I started counseling. I got on medication for depression and anxiety. And we fought: for life, for restoration, for hope, for dreams.
By the time 2016 came I still felt broken though healing was happening. Ted had to move away to Alaska to provide for us as a family and I suddenly was thrown into parenting alone and actually two of my worst fears were combined: I felt so alone. And I felt judged and misunderstood by those around me.
It was unfair to place expectations on others to look after me, especially when I wasn’t honest with where I was really at emotionally/mentally. But I did. And guess what? I was wounded and expectations weren’t met. And I felt utterly alone – so alone in fact it felt physically painful.
And He met me again. Jesus, without any amount of phony sayings to get me through suffering, He just met me in my broken mess. I picture it like this: I’m sitting on the ground with huge glass mirrors shattered all around me. No one wants to come close because of the mess and the fear of being hurt themselves, but here comes this guy I’d rejected so much in the past few years. He didn’t care about the mess, the chance of being wounded… He cared about ME. In fact so much that He joined me in the thick of the mess and brokenness.

“In brokenness I see your face, the colour of your eyes and the taste of your ways.”

(I wrote this years ago and it’s so very true. I realized how close He really was. He’s in my suffering with me.)

Finals-14(September 17, 2013. Eisley’s 3rd birthday, and pregnant with our second daughter, Everly)

Suffering is so complex. And I still have my doubts, I still have questions, and still have no full answers but one thing I do believe with everything within me is that He meets me here. In this mess, in the suffering. He doesn’t shun me for asking the hard questions or for having doubt. He can handle me at my worst and is unashamed of me. He is not disappointed with me. He’s WITH me in my suffering.
Whatever you are going through currently or still processing from years and maybe decades past, HE is with you in your suffering. And anyone who tells you that you must have blind faith, and accept that He “gives and takes away”. Let it go. It isn’t true. He is a good and loving Father and He didn’t do “this” to you. (Seriously, go and watch the sermon on Job by Greg Boyd called Twisted Scripture – it wrecked me in the best way!)
People may not be able to handle you at your worst, but Jesus sure can. Go to Him, He will walk beside you until you find your feet and even then He stays put, helping you as you walk through this journey of loss, heartache and pain.

Through every ebb and flow of grief’s waves. Through every memory that still stings, through every present ache that exists.

He is with you, carrying you, holding you, crying with you…

He will be with you always.

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He can turn your mourning into joy.

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Since the loss of our Eisley-girl, we have since welcomed two healthy pregnancies and babies into our family. While they do not take the place of our sweet girl or perfectly redeem what we’ve walked through, their precious lives have helped in our healing process. We are so grateful for who they are, and how much they’ve impacted our family!

Shailo Valour (5) – We were terrified during his pregnancy yet felt so strongly that he was everything we named him, Shailo (Shiloh) – God’s gift, a place of peace and rest and worship in a time of battle and Valour (Valor) meaning courage in the face of fear/battle, brave. He has truly, even from the womb, been our brave little gift from God in the midst of fear/anxiety/battle. Seriously, our lives are so much more full, exciting and adventurous with Shailo Valour in our lives.

And Everly Selah (almost 3) –  I remember crying out to Him one evening and journaling my heart out. There was a part of me that felt we would have another daughter someday, and I decided on that evening her name would be a reflection (of who He is to us, to her and who she is to Him) and a declaration that would mean “Forever Amen”. I knew that I wanted her name to declare that He is forever sovereign, good, loving, caring, worthy, etc, etc, etc… amen. We wanted to declare that even though we’ve walked through the darkest valley (for us) He is still all of the beautiful things we believed He was. Despite our suffering and loss, He was still good and caring. We were still His and He was still our Father who loved us. I decided I wanted our next girl’s name to mean forever… so I decided on Ever and added ‘ly’ to fit with our Eisley-girl’s name. Though she ins’t here with us on Earth, I still, very much so, wanted her to be apart of our family. Even when it comes to names. 

We are now 30 weeks pregnant with our 3rd son, and we are hopeful and believing he will be joining us come early March! 

No small thing.

I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you. – Isaiah 46:4

10398778_8392886988_2318_n(statue in Thailand, from one of our times there)

I see it on the news, on social media feeds, on newspapers, even if you were to avoid all of that – you still see it in the eyes of neighbors, or someone you pass at the grocery store: suffering and pain. This world overwhelms me with its incredible pain and suffering, and it isn’t ceasing, if anything it increases daily.

I sometimes want to turn away and ignore what’s before me. Whether it be something I see in our own neighbors or the homeless man whom we see almost daily near our home’s exit, or what I know is happening in my extended families, or what we’ve seen overseas from Red Light District in Amsterdam and Thailand to the streets of Indonesia and Malayasia, or maybe it’s in the stories we’ve heard of starving children in refugee camps.
THERE IS SO MUCH pain. Too much.
I felt overwhelmed this morning, angry even, crying out about the needs and brokenness I see. I was remembered this verse. It’s one of my favorites. And I know personally, His carrying, sustaining and rescuing doesn’t always look like what we might imagine, but He always does pull through, even if it’s simply His presence and peace felt in a season of chaos, ruin of dreams or lives, and even death.

There is a sense of peace that comes when remembering HE has overcome the world. HE has made, carries, sustains and rescues our broken souls, even our own and whatever “little” to big thing we may be walking through.

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(from my trip to Indonesia)

Every single soul we come in contact with has meaning and purpose.

Well, duh! We all know this, right?

There is something I’ve noticed in my own life. It isn’t pretty and it’s tempting to skip over this part.

Something can happen when you’ve traveled around the world and seen the things we’ve seen. What’s before us, here in front of us in our typical American neighborhood, can seem so small and insignificant. I once heard someone say that they couldn’t engage with others here (in America) because of the things they had seen overseas. They’d decided that the people’s problems were small and insignifanct compared. I was surprised by that perspective but then I had my own moment at a soccer game where I realized I too had this sense of entitlement, where I had decided someone’s story/life were insignificant.

A fellow soccer mom who I had engaged with throughout the soccer season, asked to swap numbers. I caught myself, and it hit me, when had I started thinking it was okay to decide  that someone’s life/pain was less significant or meaningful because they aren’t walking through the horror/tragedy I’ve seen others walking through? I feel like it was a moment that has forever changed my perspective. It’s like this,

“Saying someone can’t be sad because someone else may have it worse is like saying someone can’t be happy because someone else may have it better. ~Unknown”

Since Ted has been gone this quote had truly popped up in my mind SO many times. I had many, many, many people compare their life and circumstances to my own – without my husband here – and talk their own struggles down. And I constantly thought it and spoke it out when I could, their struggle or pain or exhaustion was REAL.

There story/life wasn’t insignificant simply because my own personal walk looked different than theirs. 

But what does this mean? To actively live this out, recognizing that every person we come in contact – along with their problems – is signigicant, does that mean we bear even more weight of the world?

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It would feel easy to get all wrapped up in feeling overwhelmed again. To either shut down and ignore it or try to carry it all. But friends, maybe it isn’t our job to carry all the weight of all the world, but instead lighten it whenever we can, in whatever capacity we can.

Is there any act of good that is small? I really don’t believe there is!

I immediately think of my own life, in this season since Ted has been away, and the seemingly small things that have had a huge impact on my life that others have done to take care of us. From meals, watching my kids, speaking truth where I’ve believed lies, a friend offering her husband to come over and chase my boys around since their daddy is gone, asking me how it’s going, inviting me to things, helping carry the weight of my husband being away. THESE ARE NO SMALL THINGS.

Listening to the neighbors or a friend that just need a listening ear, a word of compassion or encouragement. That is NO SMALL THING.

Making eye contact or even introducing yourself to another momma at the park. That is NO SMALL THING.

Giving a water and granola bar to the homeless man with kind eyes, who often stands at your home’s exit. That is NO SMALL THING.

Being a parent. Enough said, right? That is NO SMALL THING.

Asking others about their life, showing that you care and desire to know how they are doing. That is NO SMALL THING.

One of my dearest friends in one of the most giving and humble souls I know. She is constantly doing good, with whomever she comes in contact with – from her neighbors to the refugee center she takes her 3 small children too biweekly. It isn’t for other eyes to behold, her name isn’t shinning in light as she never shares it publicly. She simply does good for the sake of being Jesus to others. It’s unseen to others, but the people she’s reaching THEY see it. And that is NO SMALL THING. (I do love to read of the good others are doing elsewhere or here in my own town, so I’m not saying sharing publicly is an issue! )

What I am saying is that these good things that are done, even the seemingly insignificant ones, even the unseen ones, they are NO SMALL THINGS.

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(another one from one of our times in Thailand)

We are doing good. We are being Jesus. We might not even recognize it because it can sometimes feel it’s too simple, not significant enough to make a difference, not blog-worthy enough to write home about even, but it is truly significant. We are being light and goodness, even on a small-scale, it is impactful to the heart of that person.

Which is NO SMALL THING.

Take heart, friends. Do what you can. And remember Jesus has overcome (fill in the blank)__________. He is your Maker, your Carrier, your Sustainer, and your Rescuer.

He is also THEIR Maker, Carrier, Sustainer and Rescuer.

Be Jesus and let Him carry the weight of the world while you/we do good.

When all we see is our mess, but He sees us.

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” -Mother Teresa

12694713_10153426711111989_4536754274534016780_oSince I’ve pulled my boys from there schools, I’ve returned to a slow paced and calm (ish) life. And I’ve had time to reflect and even look inward.  And OH how I’ve missed and needed this! 12716242_10153436427526989_6775363051451239941_o It’s different this time, for one, obviously Ted is gone that part is hard – but mostly because I just miss him. We all do.



12771553_10153444665221989_5198546652115345337_oBut I’m actually talking about a difference in me, in this season. I’ve found a newfound, or maybe I should say a renewing, of things I am passionate about. Things that bring me life. Even in how I mother. And ultimately all from going deep, remembering who I am at my core. 12747279_10153445374231989_8213789854029803742_o

Don’t get me wrong, it has been hard. And there have been many tears shed between my kids and I.  12622407_10153387077861989_6949008415152673507_oMany arguments, many a time where I’ve felt confused at how to help my kids where they are at. Many moments of lost tempers, patience and grace. 12496223_10153385164066989_4827455189661559232_oBut everyday I feel a new measure of grace and hope and perspective rise with the sun. Okay, woah cheesin’ big time… But guys it’s true! 12698624_10153417125386989_7483916795792617295_oAnd how beautiful and hopeful my life has felt as I’ve remembered this. 12695016_10153416311661989_5998714702086564629_oI mess up everyday in someway. And these 3 little faces peering up at me with such honest and pure unconditional love, and it reminds me of Jesus and his amazing grace and love for me. 12646860_10153409559161989_6676799095229820562_oJust like these precious souls, he doesn’t see my as my messes. 12615255_10153398453606989_5490379131347757456_o He sees ME. Who he’s created me to be. Sure the mess is there and we’ve got to organize, in a sense. Purge and get rid of what isn’t me. 12594038_10153385586471989_2059732738726609481_oAnd when I stop solely focusing so much on my own mess and failures, and listen, he helps me sift through all the mess and suddenly remember who I am, and recognize the girl beneath all of the things piled on me.  12694787_10153406307261989_6295064438992989985_oAnd I feel that happening, in this season. I’m ready, and he’s drawing out of me what he’s places inside of me. And to see that who I am, even in all my deep feeling ways, is beautiful and is useful.img_2437That I am not too much of this or too little of that. I’m not the lies I believe, or the words spoken over me.

 There are treasures inside of all of us. We often let all the pain and guilt and weight of the messes weigh us down so we can’t see that beauty within anymore.   And feel it’s hopeless to try to manage the mess anymore. (Have you ever seen an episode of Hoarders? I picture sometime like that. :)) but, friends…

He is forever faithful.
And loving.
And compassionate.
And kind.

He’s so faithful to work with us through whatever our mess may be. And however long it may take.

 This season has been painful, and difficult as I’ve decided to start facing my piles of pain, bitterness, rejection, loss, loneliness, selfishness, broken dreams, words spoken over me, parenting fails, etc … I could go on and on. Couldn’t we all?

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Or we do the opposite and believe there is no mess, no fault in us. I’ve had seasons like that too. Where pride, or perhaps fear, get in the way and we put on a disguise (knowingly or unknowingly).

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I’m beginning to remember who I am at my core, discard who I’m not – the things I’ve picked up along the way that maybe are someone else but aren’t me, face the things I’ve done wrong, and love, love and love myself through this process. Which is something I’ve never really done. Maybe you haven’t either.

I’ve spent years pouring my life into helping others, which does bring me life! But often time I have ONLY poured into others. I’ve even tried to prove my love and worth to others. And only recently it hit me, to be honest I felt burnt out and too weighed down by trying to live solely taking care of others, that I realized I {NEED} to remember to nourish my own soul, too. I need to work through these painful messes. I love the quote you see above by Mother Teresa. And I agree but wonder, what if take it a step even further back…What is we started with ourselves and then the person nearest us, and go out from there! God can use us broken, I believe it and I’ve seen it, but I believe he wants to help us to remember who we are and that our brokenness doesn’t define us at our core. Is shapes us in certain ways, for sure.

 And we will have scars, hidden and exposed, I sometimes think of the more exposed scars as perhaps as a way to share our stories and help another not feel so alone. And the hidden ones that are maybe too personal or painful to share with anyone besides Jesus himself or a close few. (We all have our own personal measures on what we share of course!)

 I’m realizing it isn’t selfish to look inward and take time to remember who you are at your core. Who has he made you to be? What are the things he placed inside of YOU? Maybe things that are beautifully YOU but you’ve unknowingly shut them down because of what man has spoken over you? Or maybe you just haven’t taken time for yourself in a long, long time and you’re weary of the mess you’ve made/collected/picked up along the way? Whatever your “mess” is, it isn’t too much for our Creator, our Father, our Friend. Don’t lose hope. You’re not in this alone!

Take time for YOU. Do things that bring you life and rid yourself of the rest, even if temporarily or maybe forever. For me I’ve limited my interaction with the Facebook world and focused more on reading, journaling, listening to music and singing, and playing with my kids, getting out into nature often – gathering new freckles from the sunshine, spending time with my friends. I’m working on my emotional/mental state and attempting to work on my physical state as well – but that’s for another post ;)

Also blogging is something  I want to pick up again, hence this post.  12764652_10153453776456989_787978701691174019_o

What brings you life? What refreshes and renews you? What disguise have you tried to maintain, maybe even unknowingly? What lies are you believing? Has busyness become your norm that you’ve forgotten how to be still and dig deep?

Do something healthy for you today. Because a healthier you, equals a healthier outlook on life, a healthier and more genuine way we reach people and show them who Jesus is. (Speaking to myself here too of course!!)

Maybe it’s time we unmasked the disguised version of ourselves, faced our messes, purged the hell out of the piles, and maybe even shared our scars with the world and watch what happens. I think we’d be amazed!

I already feel this way and I’ve only just begun. How amazing is our Jesus, who can use us along the way of purging these messes – that he doesn’t wait until we’ve reached perfection!

How beautiful His loving kindness that when all we see are our messes, He sees US. And longs to show us what He sees.