Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Grief counselor/Crisis Care Minister

I mentioned in a previous post that one of the things that helped me the most after my m/c was meeting weekly with a grief counselor from my church. I think she (I call her M in case she doesn't want me to give her name) is actually called a crisis care minister. At my church crisis care ministers are part of the congregational care ministry. They are very similar to Stephen Ministers which I think a lot of churches have. Stephen Ministers, according to their website, are "lay caregivers who provide one-to-one Christian care to hurting people." I wanted to write a bit about this in the hopes that this information may help someone else. Of course, I wish that none of you would need a ministry like this. I wish that none of you would ever experience hurt or pain, but that is not the world we live in. Jesus said we would have trouble in the world (John 16:33). The thing is, prior to my m/c, I really didn't know this ministry was something my church had and I certainly wouldn't have thought about utilizing this ministry after a m/c. Of course, that is partly because that would involve actually asking for help, something I don't do very well (the Lord is still working on me with this one). The meetings came about because M and I are in the same small group. They know about our IF and IVF and were among the first people we told about the m/c. If M hadn't called and offered to meet with me, it is unlikely that we would have begun meeting together because, like I said before, my pride would have kept me from asking for help.

M and I have met every week since about the third week in January. It is a designated time for me to be able to talk about everything without ever feeling like a broken record or feeling that I am burdening someone else too much with my problems. I think the thing that helps me the most is that each week I set goals to be accomplished by the next time we meet together. Knowing that M is going to ask me about the goals I set provides a level of accountability for me that is very motivating. I am not usually one to say I will do something and then not do it. Early on the goals focused on planning and having a service for Johannah. Other times they were very simple goals like exercising. I had mentioned previously that when you face a loss any unresolved grief comes back up, so lately my goals have related to dealing with these issues. By setting these goals, I am intentional about spending time each week focusing on healing. One of the other things that has been most helpful is that each week she asks me for specific prayer requests. I strongly believe in the power of prayer. Having someone who knows exactly where I am at and what I am struggling with praying for me on a regular basis is a huge blessing. Someone asked me if it was just like counseling. There are similarities - we meet together for about an hour, our time together is focused and intentional, and she is objective in her relationship with me. It differs from counseling in that the goal is to provide care. They come along side of you in the midst of your crisis in a way that counselors do not. I am so thankful for this ministry and the healing that has come about through it. I think that a ministry like this could be a great help to anyone facing a crisis.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I came across a fun web game on Jackie's blog that supports a very good cause. She is trying a new thing each day for a year. I think that would be a very cool thing to do in the midst of IF. I can see how it would help you to keep living life and seeing what's out there. It is so easy to shut down and forget all that there is to be thankful for and all that there is to experience in life. Anyway, her new thing for one of the days was to help fight world hunger by playing FreeRice. For every question you get right 10 grains of rice are donated through the UN World Food Program. The default is vocabulary words, but you can choose another subject if you like. The site is sponsored by the UN World Food Program and the rice is paid for by sponsors who advertise on the site. All of the money raised by the site goes to the UN World Food Program to help feed the hungry. Since October 2007, a total of 61,308,080,150 grains of rice have been donated. So instead of solitaire play FreeRice and help feed the hungry. Click below to play.

Help end world hunger

I think it could be very addictive! My highest level so far on vocabulary is 40, but I can't seem to stay at that level. I very quickly get one wrong and they drop me back down. I got up to 1000 grains before getting tired out. I think I can beat that, how about you?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Blog Name

I decided to change my blog name. Partly because I wanted something simpler and partly because I wanted to highlight one of the things the Lord has been teaching me lately. Why "Day by Day?" It started back in October/November when we were undergoing IVF. At the start of the process, it seemed completely overwhelming. How could I possibly take all those drugs, give myself shots every day, undergo surgery, etc. I remember looking at the at-home pharmacy I had on what use to be my kitchen counter thinking how am I ever going to remember what to take when I supposed to take it. How am I going to do this? And that's just some of the physical aspects. For me the emotional part of putting myself through all that and getting my hopes up, only to have it potentially not work was even more difficult. But the Lord spoke to me during this time, saying fix your eyes on me and take one day at I time. That's how you will get through this. And so I did and He faithfully saw me through the process.

Losing Johannah also meant the return of infertility. This is the other reason I like the name "Day by Day." When I think about infertility and the possibility that it will never end, it is overwhelming. But when I think about enduring infertility just for today, it is so much more manageable. The thing is I have no idea how long infertility is going to last, things could change tomorrow. All I need to do is look to the Lord trusting and obeying Him each day. When I do so, He provides me with "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow" (from the hymn "Great is thy Faithfulness).

One of the other things I really struggle with is wanting the Lord to give me a detailed road map of where I am heading. I want to know the outcome. In my ladies Bible study, I have been studying "Experiencing God" by Henry Blackaby. One of the points Blackaby made that really hit home with me was this one:

We say, "Lord, if You could just tell me where I am heading, then I will be able to set my course and go." He says, "You don't need to. You need to follow Me one day at a time." This response comes only from those who have learned to walk closely with God and to trust Him to care for the details of their lives.... Who really knows the way for you to go to fulfill God's purpose for your life? Who knows how you can experience abundant life? God. Jesus said, "I am the way."

By nature, I am a worrier and I like to be in control. But that is not how the Lord want me to live. He wants me to trust Him, to put my hand in His and follow Him step by step, one day at a time, wherever He leads me.

After I came up with "Day by Day," I wondered if there were any Scriptures that used that term. I found 2 Cor 4:16-18,

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

I love this Scripture. It says exactly what the Lord has been teaching me, which is to fix my eyes on Him and have an eternal focus. As painful as infertility is, it is a "light and momentary trouble" when viewed from the perspective of eternity.

Then I googled "day by day" and came across a hymn written by Lina Sandell. It was written not long after she watched her father drown after being thrown overboard after the ship they were traveling on suddenly lurched. Here are the lyrics:
  1. Day by day, and with each passing moment,
    Strength I find to meet my trials here;
    Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
    I've no cause for worry or for fear.
    He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
    Gives unto each day what He deems best,
    Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
    Mingling toil with peace and rest.

  2. Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
    With a special mercy for each hour;
    All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
    He whose name is Counsellor and Pow'r.
    The protection of His child and treasure
    Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
    "As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
    This the pledge to me He made.

  3. Help me then, in every tribulation,
    So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
    That I lose not faith's sweet consolation,
    Offered me within Thy holy Word.
    Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
    E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
    One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
    Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Better? Part 2

I said at the end of my last post that I no longer was angry with God over the m/c, but I should probably mention I still did have some anger at IF. The anger wasn't really towards God or anyone else, just anger at the situation. I have never really grieved IF itself until now and anger is part of every grief process. I also found myself getting easily annoyed and irritated with people. This may have been somewhat caused by my hormones going a little crazy, but whatever the cause, the irritability along with just general anger over IF was causing me to have to fight the urge to yell at random people in the commissary (military grocery store for my civilian readers), at the movie theater, and basically any place else I went. At this point I felt like God was telling me to step back from things, that I needed time alone with Him to heal. Initially, I had tried to jump right back in to my ladies Bible study and had tried to venture out with friends. I knew church itself would be too painful so I hadn't even tried to go back to church at this point, but I was also feeling really guilty about that decision. About this time I came across this post on Beth's blog and the Lord really spoke to me through it. She said,

“Right now God has me tightly in the palm of his hand protecting me and loving me, and asking everyone else, except for the people HE has chosen, to please leave the room so that he can bring the young girl who is “asleep” back to life. I am the young girl asleep right now, and in due time, I will rise with a new and vibrant life, and what a story we will have!”

She wrote this based on the following passage from Luke.

When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep."53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up... "

I believe these words were meant for me. It also confirmed something else the Lord had previously revealed to me. I have been reading from "My Utmost for His Highest" since the end of last year each morning. On the morning of January 13th (which was when we found out Johannah had no heartbeat) before I went in for my doctor's appointment I remember thinking this exact thought before I read that morning's devotion, "I wonder if God has a special word for me today." And this is what I read,

"Have You Ever Been Alone with God?

His solitude with us. When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted desires, a broken friendship, or a new friendship - when He gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question, then He begins to teach us."

Whoa, that didn't sound like anything I wanted to hear right before my first OB appointment. And so at the time I brushed it off thinking surely God must mean this for some other time or better yet for some time in the past. But it was meant for this time and He told me to go back and read it again. I did not go back to church, I stopped attending my ladies Bible study, and I stepped back from social outings. I should mention that I did not completely shut myself off from everyone, I still attended my small group Bible study, I still met with each week with my grief counselor, and I still kept in contact with people through blogs and emails. But I began to spend more time with the Lord studying the Bible, praying, and listening to worship music. As I was obedient to the Lord, He began to reveal things to me. The thing about grief is that it doesn't go away, it will wait for you. When you experience a new loss, any unresolved grief from previous losses will pop right back up, "Hey, remember me? Yup, I'm still here." The Lord showed that there were other issues that still had to be dealt with. He has been taking me through a healing process by working me through the first of these issues. He has shown me that I need to surrender it all to Him, every bit of hurt and pain and allow Him to use it however He chooses. I can't hold on to it anymore. This process has only just begun, but already God has brought about tremendous healing and truly set me free from some things. I don't know if this would have happened if we had not lost Johannah, so as much as I wish we had not lost her, I am thankful for how God has used it for good.

I would not say I am fully healed, but there were a couple of things that God really used to bring about a great deal of healing. One of these is meeting with a grief counselor from my church on a weekly basis. I think I will write a separate post on this because I have much more to say about this. The other thing that helped me a great deal was to hold a service for Johannah. I know this might seem like a weird thing to do to some people, but it was so healing for me. I may write about this in more detail later. The morning of her service I was able to write her a letter to say good-bye for now. Having the service and writing the letter really unlocked the tears that were needing to come out. The day after the service is when we went to the beach and wrote her name in the sand (see picture below). After this I was able to have some good cries and I definitely felt such tremendous sadness over our loss. When John left for Peru on the 13th my plan was to take time alone to grieve some more. I spent the first 3-4 days after he left alone to allow myself time to grieve, but I was surprised that I didn't need to cry more than I did. I wouldn't say I am all cried out, I still miss her all the time and I know there will be hard times ahead, especially around her due date. But I think I have reached the point of acceptance of our loss. I was able to go back to church the past 2 Sundays and I started to go back to my ladies Bible study (not sure about this one yet). So this pretty much sums up things up until this point.