Being a wedding photographer, I attend more weddings than your average person. All weddings are different, and each one has its own unique touch. One thing, however, is almost always the same. The vows. Yes, each has certain words that are different, and sometimes the couple writes their own vows. But they always have the same message. “I choose to love you through all of life’s ups and downs. Regardless of what that looks like. “Sickness and health, rich and poor, till death do us part.
As a twenty-three-year-old girl, wearing a white lace gown, surrounded by all her favorite people, you don’t really understand what those words mean. You know the premise of course, but not the full weight of all that life has to bring.
Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our third anniversary. It feels as though it was just a few months ago, and at the same time, it feels as though it was an eternity ago. Being only three years into marriage, we’ve walked through more ups and downs than we expected to. A move to a new state, new jobs, new friends, moving a business, health issues, losing a family member to cancer, parents separating, and on April 13th we had a miscarriage.
In the united states, 15-20% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. You probably know at least one person who’s lost a child and if you don’t, you probably just don’t know they’ve walked through a miscarriage. I personally have walked through miscarriages with friends and family. Five miscarriages with one friend, and with another, a miscarriage after ten years of trying to get pregnant. My heart would break every time hearing the news. Bringing food, sitting with them, crying with them, praying with, and for them. And yet, through so many times of walking through that sad time with friends, it never prepared me to walk through it myself.
April 13th will be a day I will never forget. I wasn’t too far along, only seven weeks, and yet I loved my child more than anything in the world. We had already told my family, vacation plans had already been changed because the place we had planned to go was known for its Zika virus. A wedding had already been canceled because it was the weekend of my due date. We had already told a few friends, and I had already started thinking about how we would have a baby in a one bedroom apartment.
The planner in me was already pinning ideas on Pinterest and cleaning out rooms and cabinets. (Crazy I know, the type A personality in me was getting WAY too ahead of myself). I was ready, I was so excited, and I honestly wanted to tell everyone I knew. I couldn’t wait to hold my baby and learn all that it took to be a mom. Mothers day was coming up in a few weeks, and I was so excited to celebrate my first mothers day, even if my child hadn’t been born yet.
The day of our miscarriage, Daniel was at a school speaking to middle and high-school students. I was home, working, doing my normal day-to-day schedule. I had texted him earlier in the morning asking him to pray because I was worried. I could tell my body wasn’t acting normal and it concerned me. Around lunch time, Daniel was in the middle of teaching, and I knew he wouldn’t be out till 1:30. It was then that my body started miscarrying. I couldn’t believe it. I knew exactly what was happening but couldn’t believe it was actually happening to me. I was in shock, and probably denial, not knowing what to do. I was just pacing back and forth from my bedroom to the kitchen. Praying, crying, trying to think of something that I could do to stop it, knowing full well there was nothing that could be done. In the midst of the chaos and what felt, looking back, like a blur, phone calls to my mom, texts to Daniel asking for him to call, I called my friend Erin.
Erin and her husband have become dear friends of ours here in Maryland. Standing in the middle of my kitchen, stumbling over my words, and trying to speak through tears. All I could manage to say was “I’m having a miscarriage.” My whole body was shaking, and I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Erin didn’t even know that I was pregnant. Daniel and I wanted to tell them in person, but we hadn’t had the chance to. All in one moment, Erin had just received the exciting news we couldn’t wait to tell, and the devastating news that I didn’t want to admit was happening.
Immediately, without missing a beat, all she said was (or rather all I remember), “I’m on my way.”
Now, something you need to know, Erin has five children. So “I’m on my way” meant dropping everything that she was doing at that moment. It was spring break, two days before Easter, so She was probably in the middle of fixing lunch, taking care of the kids, feeding the baby, doing laundry, or some other kind of “keeping the kids entertained during a week off of school” activity. Erin lives a solid thirty-five minutes away from me, and she was here in a short twenty minutes. She picked me up to take me to the hospital, or so I thought. But really, God knew, she was just there to be with me. To love me, cry with me, and support me when I felt completely lost.
A few hours later, we were back home, just Daniel and I. I didn’t know what to do with myself, and I didn’t want to just sit on the couch and cry, so I started cleaning. Honestly, I was more comfortable standing than sitting and needed to be doing something with my hands. In the middle of this, I glanced out the window and saw the most incredible sunset I’ve ever seen. The sun was a huge ball of fire. The sky was decorated with oranges, yellows, and reds filling every corner.
This was the promise.
The promise that not all hope was lost, that I wasn’t alone or forgotten, that even in my darkest moment HE was still good. It was as though the Lord painted the sky as a reminder of all of His promises. “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:4
Often times when we go through heart ache, sorrow, pain, and death we only feel darkness. No happiness or rejoicing, or joy. But that’s not what God has called us to.
Two days later I woke up to get ready for Easter service. A day that was supposed to be filled with rejoicing, joy, and celebration of His resurrection felt more like a day of hopelessness and sorrow. I didn’t want to go to church, to be happy, to sing praise… I just wanted to stay in bed. But as I stood in the bathroom looking at myself in the mirror I heard the Lord say “praise me anyway.” Every part of me wanted to yell… to say why should I? To question God. But what must have been the Holy Spirits presence fill the room, I quietly, through tears, said: “God I don’t understand, but I will praise You anyway.” Death can steal our song, but it cannot stop us from singing. (Psalm 42)
This changed my entire perspective. I had just lost my child, my baby, but at that moment, the Lord was shifting my focus. He was shifting it off of myself and onto Himself. Now, don’t get me wrong, it didn’t change the amount of sorrow and pain I felt, but it did give me hope. Hope for the future, hope for joy, hope that the Lord would somehow use this to bring himself glory. Hope that from death comes life. (John 24)
Mourning isn’t always exclusive of any other emotion.
It’s not always all sad or all happy. Sometimes mourning and rejoicing can be intertwined. “A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to uproot. A time to weep, and a time to laugh, A time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3. For me, mourning and dancing happened simultaneously. I was mourning my baby’s death, but rejoicing that our baby was in the hands of our Father. Made whole and new, without any pain or suffering. I was weeping but was also hopeful that from death brings life. That the Lords promise upon my life would be fulfilled. That HE is able and that He turns all situations to bring Him glory and produce life. (Romans 8:28)
Rachel Myers, a blogger, and writer says it best “Life and death are not respecters of each other. Mourning and dancing – they don’t always take turns. Not in my story, not in yours, not in the world.” “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
When I stood at that altar three years ago promising life and death, pain and sickness, I promised to walk through all of life’s trials with my husband. I promised to keep God the center of our marriage, and by His faithfulness and grace in our lives, we have been able to do just that. At that moment, as a bride promising forever, I rejoiced. For the Lord had given me an amazing man to call my husband. Two and a half years later, I mourned the loss of our child. But yesterday, I rejoiced as we celebrated our third anniversary. That the Lord has continued to be faithful regardless of the suffering we have had to endure. He’s been faithful to bring us closer to Him.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:6-9
For all you ladies who are mothers…who have lost a child, who can’t have a child, who are mothers but no one will ever know, our loving and gracious God sees you. For the ladies who have been trying to get pregnant for what feels like forever, God sees you too. You are not alone. Hope is not lost. “The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.” Psalm 145:13. Our God is there for you, with promise, with hope, with loving arms ready to hold you. He sees you, and you are greatly loved.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus doesn’t say you won’t walk through trials and seasons of sorrow, but He does say give it to HIM. HE is our rest.
Pain, loss, and affliction – I know them well. We all do because they’re a byproduct of life here in a fallen world. In this life, pain and loss come tangled up with Joy, abundance, and blessing. He’s chosen to weave great joy into deep sorrow.
This story is mine. But these words are only meant for encouragement because there IS hope, and while mourning is needed, rejoicing can always be found.
I pray for you, I mourn with you, I rejoice with you, I see you.
The amazing Megan from Art by Megan turned a photo I had of the sunset
that night on April 13th into a beautiful painting for me. Truly a work of art.