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Grief 301: Scrapbooking and The Lord’s Next Plan For Me

Grief 301: Scrapbooking and The Lord’s Next Plan For Me

It is almost 2016, and it has been months since I have blogged.

The past few months have been a slow, laborious process of doing grief work – but not so much over Dominic. I have realized that this past year the greatest portion of my grief has not been so much over the children I lost, but over the children I am likely never going to have. While I certainly am still emerging from the deaths of two children, there is a death that is much more subtle, but just as real: the death of my dreams for a larger family. And it hurts every bit as much as losing my babies.

2015 has been largely about managing emotions surrounding a never-waning, often desperate longing for more children butting up against the reality of age and time. The two of those do not make good bedfellows.

One of the ways my sadness manifested itself was in my scrapbooking. Jessica Sprague Ash baptism Lesson 10

You see, I stopped scrapbooking after Dominic. Prior to that, I had never missed a month of cataloging my family’s memories. Even with my second child, I never got behind, but diligently took photos and wrote journaling to preserve memories in such a way that we could remember and appreciate the blessings of the life we live.

Then Dominic happened, and I couldn’t do it anymore.

Scrapbooking became a painful reminder of the photos I WANTED to take, but couldn’t. Of the experiences I WANTED to have, but never would. And then even as the grief of Dominic’s loss became less acute, it became replaced by a new one – grief over the fact that my dream of having more children seemed to be dying just like my son.

For the years prior to Dominic, the two-plus years after his death until my miscarriage, and the year since then, my greatest desire has been to expand our family. Each month has seemed to laugh in the face of that desire – and to cement the reality that for what I have so desperately yearned, and who I have so clearly seen myself to be – a full-time mom to a large brood – is not God’s plan for me. Even worse – they seemed to mark a horrible irony: It is my losses which have revealed to me that most of what we spend our time, energy, and resources toward are, as Ecclesiastes 2 puts it, “chasing after the wind.” One of the only things that truly matters, that truly lasts, beyond Christ, is our relationships with people. Yet right at the time that He has given me the wisdom to see the ultimate beauty, meaning, and value in children over most of everything else in life, I can no longer have them.

Scrapbooking became a physical marker of that sad truth.

Over and over again I have wrestled:

 

  • Who am I going to be, if I’m not a Mom anymore?
  • What am I going to do, when this mother-homeschooler thing is over?
  • Why did God take away my desire for most of the things of this world, and replace it with  a hunger for and open eyes to the ultimate significance of children, while not letting me have any more of them?

I still don’t know the answers to those questions.

Thanksgiving 2014I have done a lot of soul-searching in the past few months…the kind that happens when life is not the way you want it to be, and you cannot do anything to change it. And the truth is that I have been completely overtaken by “Is the Lord going to give us more children” for about 7 years, now, and I cannot stay there any longer. Every single month has been a quest to see whether “now is the time”, and dealing with the emotional and spiritual aftermath when it isn’t. Every step of the process has been fraught with a fight against being all-consumed with the “maybe”s and the “could it be”s and the hope. The hope that sucks me in to the world of what might be, according to the dream I have, rather than the world of what is, where He is working.

But God is in the “what is” – the right now. And I cannot live in the “what might be” without missing Him in the “what is right now”.

“But Jesus responded to them, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.”  John 5:17

“Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?… If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith?…But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Matthew 6

RVCC Williamsburg Apr 2014 12x24I believe the Lord brings all of us to a place, at some point, where we must decide if He is Lord, or if our own desires are Lord. And if He is Lord, then that means my life is in His hands, to use as He will, not as I will. It means that I cannot stay in the self-centered place of nursing my grief over the loss of my personal dreams; but must join where He is working right now, and be willing to be used however He deems fit.

Even if it means not being a forever-homeschool-mom. Even if it means not ever using the woven wrap, still lying at the top of my closet, to carry a child. Even if it means my kids not getting to change diapers on their long-prayed-for sibling.

The questions badger: Will my life still be beautiful if it doesn’t look the way I want it to? Will the Lord accomplish something meaningful through me, if I do not have more children? If the baby dream is truly over, will the glory revealed in me from following whatever His new plan is be worth the pain (Romans 8:18)?

If He is who He says He is – and if my faith is what I proclaim it to be – the answer to those questions is…

YES.

“He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians  5:24

“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—“ Ephesians 3:20

The physical manifestation of that spiritual discipline in my life has looked like this:

I have begun scrapbooking again.Girls Easter Apr 2014

After three years, I’ve been facing the photos of my children that show me they are not young anymore. I have been journaling about the experiences we have had that have not included more children. I have faced my own graying hair and skin that requires increased Photoshopping – marking the passage of time. I Have been able to do it out of grace – small glimpses that have become more sustained vision of a future that does not look the way I want it, but still has beauty, meaning, and purpose.

I’ve fought for the baby dream for so long, I hardly know who I am without it. I certainly don’t know what my non-baby future is going to look like and, honestly, I fear for how much it is going to hurt. There are times when thinking about it makes me feel like I’m suffocating. But when I signed up for this whole “You’re Lord of my life” thing, I gave up the right to write my own story. And I also gave up the right to think that somehow the story is about me at all.

So I am scrapbooking again. Even though we are likely not going to have any more children. Even if it means my scrapbook doesn’t look the way I want it to.

Christmas 2014In 2016, in spite of the pain, I desire to live the words of Isaiah 43:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name; you are Mine…

“Do not remember the past events,
pay no attention to things of old.
19 Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert…
The people I formed for Myself
will declare My praise.

I can do so only because I truly believe, however messy and difficult the process may be, that the scrapbook He designs will end up being more beautiful than anything I could create myself.Snow girls b&w 12x24

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