Monday, August 30, 2010

Mother of All Living

Women were designed and uniquely created to bear life. Even the most ardent defender of androgyny can’t get away from the sheer biological fact that women can do something men can’t—give birth. Eve was called the “mother of all living,” (Gen. 3:20). Many women who have come after her have carried that great task. Women throughout the Bible have felt the magnitude of bearing life—and the immense pain of being unable to physically fulfill it. Part of imaging God as a woman means bearing life, nurturing life, bringing life into the world. That is our legacy and our calling. But it’s so hard to swallow when physically speaking I have only been the mother of death.

My child did not get the chance to live outside the womb. We prayed for this little one every day since we found out. Now we pray for ourselves in his absence. He doesn’t need our prayers anymore. He is experiencing the fullness of all those prayers we prayed for him—just without us.

It’s hard to feel like I am living my calling when “life” doesn’t define me right now. Women are supposed to give life, not have life ended inside of them. And it’s so easy to feel like the only empty womb among a sea of very full ones. Pregnancy loss can feel like a big scarlet “M” is draped across my neck, like everyone can see in my face that I’m not what I once was—or that I don’t really belong in the world I live in now.

A dear friend of mine shared with me the other day that it is so easy to think that your life is defined by miscarriage (or any loss) when it happens—like people only see a woman with a failed pregnancy when they see you. Maybe they do. To my shame, I know I have thought that before about people. But the most important thing for us to remember, she said, is that God does not see us that way. We are not defined by the loss; we are defined by Christ’s work for us. Miscarriage doesn’t define me, Christ does. And that is hard for me to hold on to at times. So much of me wants to continue being defined by this loss because in my mind that’s where my baby is. But he’s not there. He’s with the same Savior that saved me. Christ is my rock, my resting place, and hope. His righteousness that covers my every sin is what defines me.

Pregnancy, like everything else in this world, is cursed. Miscarriage was never supposed to happen. But it does. And it’s horrible. In a perfect world, we would all be “mothers of all living.” Instead some of us are mothers of death (or not even mothers at all). But with the curse came the promise. The promise of a perfect baby who would make life out of death, who would make joy out of pain, and who would bring redemption to a decaying world. That is our only hope when the sorrows of loss overtake us. He will make all things new—and then we will be mothers of the living.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

When Sorrow Doesn't Feel "Light"

Before the miscarriage I used to hear verses like Romans 8:28 and 1 Corinthians 4:17 and think “of course God works everything for good. Of course afflictions only last for a moment.” Lately when I hear things like “this light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17), I have a tendency to want to say “but it doesn’t feel light and momentary!” Because honestly, in these moments, it feels like the sorrow will last forever. It feels like it won’t ever go away. The sting might lessen. But, for us, we will be missing our baby for the rest of our earthly lives—even if God blesses us with more children. And there is nothing that feels light and momentary about that.

I think that’s why Paul goes on to say in verse 18 that we look to the things that are “unseen” not the “seen.” In my life, the “seen” means walking through life wishing I had held and known my first baby. And that is not a bad wish. But the unseen tells me that this is not the end of the story. We will be reunited with our baby one day. We will be glorified and made new. We will be in complete fellowship with God the Father. Eternity is the end of our story.

That is what we cling to, and need to be reminded of daily. There is a whole host of unseen, glorious, redemptive realities happening behind the dark clouds of the seen affliction. It’s not always easy to see those things, especially when sorrow overwhelms you. In fact, it’s downright hard. It is in those moments that I have seen God uphold me, sustain me, and intercede for me through the power of his Spirit (Romans 8:26). I never understood what it meant for the Holy Spirit to intercede for us in our weakness. But I think I see dimly what it means now. There have been moments where I can barely spit out a “God help me to make it through the day,” but I know he is still keeping me near him—he is interceding for me. He’s preparing me for eternity, even when I can’t see past the transient moments that I am in.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

There Will Come a Day

I know I have only written about our baby in recent days, but honestly it's what permeates my thoughts most days. I've been able to process more, and I hope to post that soon. Initially I couldn't think about anything. My mind was just a blur and I felt like I was coasting through life, riding on the prayers of other people. And they have been such a blessing. I still feel that way at times, but today I feel okay, so I am writing. I say "today" because I really don't know what each day holds for my emotions. And I'm okay with that.

One of the things that has stood out to me clearly lately is how thankful I am for the Gospel. I have always been thankful for it. It's my only basis for salvation. But the Gospel has never seemed so sweet as when I think about that fact that Christ's work on the Cross is the reason that my baby is in heaven, and I will see him again. While I so wish I could hold him, kiss him, and love him, I know that I will someday. And that day our baby will be standing with us, mommy and daddy, singing praises to the great Savior, Jesus.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Mother Never Forgets

One of the fears that has plagued me since we lost our baby is that I would somehow forget that we had a baby. It’s hard to keep the memory going in your mind when the only piece of remembrance you have is a picture of a positive pregnancy test. Last Wednesday, before I miscarried, the doctor ordered an ultrasound. At that time, the baby was still there (though much smaller than he or she was supposed to be). All we could see was a small image that looked like a pea. But it was the cutest pea I have ever seen, and an image I have tried to burn into my memory. I thought about asking for a copy of the pictures, but I was too emotional and overwhelmed to comprehend much of what was going on.

As the days have progressed, and I have had to go back to work and normal life, I have struggled with the balance between doing other things and thinking about our baby. I keep thinking that if I stop thinking about Baby Reissig then somehow he (we call our baby a he even though we didn’t know the gender) will just slip away.

I have been comforted by many women in recent days who have also lost children through miscarriage. The prevailing theme is “I still cry thinking about the baby we lost.” I know a woman who is in her 70’s and she, through teary eyes, told me that even 52 years later she still misses her baby that is now with Jesus.

The culture will try and tell us that you don’t become a mother until the baby comes through a birth canal and breathes his first breath. Until then you are just a carrier of a fetus, supposedly. To them this life is not really a baby. To us it is. Daniel and I became parents at conception. I became a mother before my baby’s heart started beating. And I still am a mother. I just don’t ever get the awesome privilege of holding my precious baby, seeing him grow up, or even teaching him about the Savior. He is already there. He is experiencing joy and comfort that is far greater than what we ever could have provided for him.

And that breaks my heart.

I wish our baby could still be here, growing inside of me. I wish today we could be getting excited about going to the doctor next week to hopefully hear the little heart beating, instead of preparing to go back in for more blood work to monitor my hormone levels.

All of these feelings and emotions of what I hoped for our baby remind me that I am a mother. While it is NEVER something I would have chosen for myself, or anyone else, it is a sorrow that has bonded me to other women like me; women who are also mothers of children in heaven. Mothers who long to hold a baby that never came. Mothers who mark due dates with tears, rather than elation. We are all mothers, even if we don’t look like it at first glance. And a mother never forgets her child.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our First Baby

Two years ago I was diagnosed with something called endometriosis. While this condition can cause infertility, my doctor was optimistic that, with treatment, getting pregnant would not be a problem. So you can imagine the excitement we felt when on the morning of July 27 we saw the little blue line that told us we were pregnant!

As with any new pregnancy we were nervous about the unknown, but excited about the little life growing inside of me. We could hardly wait to tell people about our first baby. For over two weeks we were given the gift of this little life. And we are grateful for every second.

And then God took our baby last Wednesday evening.

I don’t really know what else to say except ask for your prayers in this time. My mind is a jumble of emotions right now and nothing really sounds right when it comes out. The loss we feel at this time is tremendous, and there is an aching feeling in our souls that is our constant shadow.

We have truly felt upheld by the prayers and support of God’s people in this time. Our church family has been a constant support. Our family has been a blessing from a distance. And all of our friends near and far have held us up through prayers, phone calls, and a shoulder to weep on. We will be weeping for a while.

These two verses from “How Firm a Foundation” have been my refrain this last week:

When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
The flame shall not hurt you;
I only design
Your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.

The flames won’t kill us, even though it feels like it sometimes. And God has not left us and has been our rock, for which we are so grateful. Thank you for your prayers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Holding on to Promises

Imagine being called by God to a people who would mock you, throw you in a cistern, and rarely listen to you. In the midst of persecution, you go and speak God’s words to them because God has promised to take care of you. But it isn’t easy.

The story of Jeremiah is a testimony to God’s faithfulness to his promises. But I wonder if Jeremiah was able to see the hope of those promises through the darkened clouds of his ministry. Knowing my own tendencies, it would be hard for me.

In Jeremiah 38 he is thrown into a cistern where he will surely die with no help. There is no food, no water, and no rescue in sight. But God had promised to protect him (1:17-19). How could this be happening? And it wasn’t the first time. He was constantly in danger for speaking God’s words to the King and was even threatened by the Babylonian exile. All the while, God’s earlier promise of protection echoed in his ear. “God promised to protect me in this ministry. What can man do to me?” It probably wasn’t always easy to think this way. Then again, this is only my speculation.

Like all of us, Jeremiah probably didn’t always see how the promised deliverance would be fulfilled, and being stuck in a mud hole left to starve doesn’t give a lot of hope of escape. We, however, see the other side. We know that there is another chapter coming and can see that God provided a way out. For Jeremiah, in the middle of it all, there was only a promise.

We face the same dilemma often, though on a much smaller scale. All we can see around us is mud rising, ready to swallow us up. Although God has not promised to always deliver us, he has promised to never leave us or forsake us—and to always work things for our good (Romans 8:28). We have the great promise that our lives are never lived in vain.

Perhaps it was all of Jeremiah’s experiences that led him to pen the great words “great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Surely it was. The book of Lamentations is no happy book, but it is a hopeful book. Despite all of the hardship and exile God was still working like he said he would—and Jeremiah knew that. He knew God’s faithfulness was great. He had seen new mercies every morning when it seemed like there was no hope.

As followers of Christ we have the same great story. Our God provides the same daily mercies for us that he did for Jeremiah. And we can proclaim along with the saints who have gone through much hardship and strife, that every day his faithfulness is great indeed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday is for Fotos

The last month has been a whirlwind of class for Daniel, travel, and church activities. We just finished up youth camp with our youth group and have a week of rest before school starts up again for Daniel. And we will be soaking up this week of nothing on the calendar!

So enjoy our life in pictures these last few weeks. We have been all over the Midwest!

Part of our youth camp this week was eating at different church member's homes for dinner. The first night we ate at Ms. Laverne's and it was wonderful! Thanks, Ms. Laverne!

Daniel was in a wedding in Iowa last weekend. It was a beautiful outside wedding held at a family farm. We are so excited for the newly married couple!

Here we are in Findlay, Ohio (Daniel's hometown). We went there in the beginning of July for a family reunion.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Iran

Every morning, before I leave for work, I grab my massive ESV Study Bible and spend time reading God’s word. If I am traveling, I take my smaller Bible. If a friend is staying with us and needs a Bible, I grab one of the many of the shelf. We have a plethora of Bibles in our home. And if a new one is released, we can run to the local Christian bookstore to grab one of the latest “stylish” Bibles. Bibles are everywhere. They are an accessory, even.

But imagine living in a world where Christian literature is banned. Bibles are scarce. And you can’t even talk about the greatness of Christ to a non-Christian for fear of being accused of proselytizing. This is Iran.

Iran’s population is over 75 million, with 99% of those people claiming Islam as their religion. Only .33% of the population is Christian. Less than 1%. That is staggering. While the government would say that being a Christian is allowed, it is closely monitored by them. And all Christian proselytizing, or evangelism, is forbidden. Basically, obedience to Christ’s command to go and tell about his atoning work for sinners is a serious offense according to Iranian law.

The Islamic Revolution of 1979 has failed to deliver. The Revolution has led to much corruption and tyranny. Because of the largely anti-Christian sentiment by the government, Iranians are more open to the gospel now. To be a “Muslim Background Believer” can mean persecution. But for the first time in history, these believers outnumber the other Christians within the Christian community. This is a tremendous encouragement.

Ways to pray:

  • Pray for the Christian churches in Iran. Many live in fear of persecution at the hands of the government. Jobs are difficult to come by for Christians and the government is known to retaliate, especially against former Muslims. Pray for our brothers and sisters to have boldness and faith in the midst of a very daunting and difficult existence.
  • Pray that God would open doors to Iran. Currently, Iran is closed to missions, while there are some “tent-making” opportunities for people who can work in the country; it is very difficult to make it in. There have been approximately 5 million Iranians who have fled to other parts of the world. Pray that God would provide a way for Christians to bring the gospel to Iranians throughout the world.
  • Pray for the unreached of Iran—which is basically everyone. There are only known groups of believers in 8 of the 70 ethnic groups in Iran. The need is vast.
  • Pray for access to the Bible and Christian literature. Both are very hard to come by in Iran, but desperately needed and desired. Pray that God would provide ways to get his word and other books to his people.