Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Let love be genuine;" Being there for your friend

I'm so excited to have my first ever guest co-writer on this blog! Olivia is close friend that I met when we moved here (Quad Cities, Iowa). Olivia shares a story similar in nature to mine. During this heartbreaking season of our lives, both of us have experienced an amazing God, amazing scripture, amazing prayers, and amazing fellowship. We have both experienced what it is like to be the friend-in-need and the friend-of-a-grieving-friend, and it showed both of us the true need for someone to shed some light on how to handle miscarriage. I was talking with a mutual friend on the phone recently and she said something that got me thinking, "it seems like this happens so much, but I still don't really know how to handle it or what to say." And she was right, miscarriage is more common than you realize and also very common--not knowing how to react (or even if you should react) as a loved one. Thus the reason for this post, to attempt to encourage and communicate how or what or when you should react as a friend.

Accept it, embrace it. Even though everyone's natural tendency is to take the bad and turn it into good, there is an important part of grief that simply cannot be overlooked. Acceptance. There is a reason that denial is a stage of grief, because accepting it is so hard. But your friend desperately needs you to accept her loss. She needs you to sit in her grief with her. No, you don't need to be a debbie-downer, but sometimes the best thing you can do is feel with her. You are not going to make her feel worse when you say sincerely..."I'm so sorry" "I can't imagine how hard this must be" "I hate this for you, I'm here for you, and I'm praying for you." Being optimistic isn't bad, just make sure that you are doing so without trying to brush the loss under the rug. It's hard to grieve with a friend, but when you do she won't feel so alone--which is a beautiful thing.

Say something. Say anything, but not anything. Since our miscarriage several friends have shared with me that they thought of me and prayed for our family often and wanted to say something, but just didn't know what to say. I think that we all have a little voice in the back of our minds telling us that if we say something that we might be one of those people who just end up saying all the wrong things. But the catch is that by not saying anything to your friend who lost her baby so you won't hurt her or remind her about her pain, you really just make her feel like you are ignoring a massive gnash in her heart and don't care at all. Honestly, you can say most things. You can especially say things like, "I'm so sorry" and "I'm praying for you" or "Is there anything you need?" or even the most feared..."Do you want to talk about it?" More than anything, your friend needs love and encouragement and support. You are her friend, so don't be afraid of showing her friendship.

Bring food, bring flowers, bring Starbucks. Just know that you aren't going to fix it. Yes, your friend is capable of cooking herself her favorite comfort meal or driving through Starbucks, but I can guarantee you that she won't. And nothing you can bring her will make her feel right or normal, but it will make her feel loved. Loved because you care, loved because you know her, and loved because when you have a crappy day you just want your favorite things.

Encourage with truths and promises of Scripture. When you aren't sure what your friend needs, give her scripture. It NEVER fails. It is NEVER void. It is NEVER hopeless.

"...For we were so utterly burdened beyond strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead." 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9

"During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel- and God knew." Exodus 2:23-25

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." Romans 8:26

"O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you." Psalm 38:9

"Let your UNFAILING LOVE surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone." Psalm 33:22

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Pray for and pray over. The day we found out about our miscarriage we saw some of our dear friends and that night (although I probably wouldn't have planned to visit friends) was an enormous blessing to me. My beloved friend Camie had the most loving reaction to our bad news, she let herself cry in front of me and simply said "there are no words" as she squeezed me tight. Seeing her pain over our pain made me feel literally covered in love. That night while Austin had to be out, she prayed over me and on my behalf and reminded me of the biblical truths of God's grace and mercy and love. In that moment I didn't even know how to pray for myself, and her prays truly interceded for me until I found a way to put my prayers to words.

"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." Romans 12:12

Be there. Go out or stay in, but be available. One of the biggest reliefs I experienced in early days of our miscarriage is that I had Olivia with me to return newly purchased maternity clothes and then grocery shop together. When we got to the customer service counter of Target, Liv totally took charge so that I didn't have to. It might just be my memory, but I am sure that she sent out the vibes to the Target lady not to even ask why I had to return my items. It was such a simple little thing, but it meant so much to me. It meant that I didn't have to face it alone.

No offense. Even if you could completely know how your friend feels, she might not care or feel that you do. In moments of grief, sometimes sensitivity is not the characteristic that you friend is exhibiting to you. So just keep that in mind if she says something with a little snap or an attitude of "what I am going through is worse than anything anyone has ever experienced" (because in that moment, those feelings are completely valid to her). This doesn't meant that your friend has a right to treat you with less respect than you deserve, but just understand that she is under a thick fog of pain and when she breaks through it, she will have a little (try alot) more clarity.

What not to say.   "This is why you don't tell that you are pregnant so early." "Well I'm glad because I know you were kind of freaked out about being pregnant." "Well at least now you can (eat sushi, drink wine, live off caffeine, lift heavy objects, eat rare steak, soft cheeses, and deli meat)." Also, anything that might hint that God is punishing, or that once your friend is pregnant again this will all be forgotten. Just stay away from those things. I wish I could give more insight, but honestly...just don't say those things.

Endure. At some point, you will see your friend emerge from her fog of grief and get back to "normal." She will want to do things you used to do together and laugh and goof around and watch chick flicks. Be careful that you never forget what she went through and keep in mind that she might have a rough week come out of the blue. There will come a time when she doesn't need to talk it out or cry on your shoulder, but her miscarriage will always be a part of who she is.

My deepest and most sincere hope is that you can be helped by our experiences. I know that for every woman that can relate to the loss of a miscarriage there is at least a handful (if not two or three or four handfuls) of dear sisterfriends that love her and care. Words cannot express how much the women in my life meant to me in my time of need. Austin and I both were blessed by the friends and loved ones who stuck closely to us during our miscarriage. We love you all and hope that we have the privilege to love and serve you the way you have for us.

*We are by no means the authority on miscarriage. We realize that not every one feels or needs the same things. Between each of our experiences these are the things we agree on.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Relate, never anyone but you

I am filled with love and gratitude about today's particular relate blog post, the relationship I share with my beloved husband. It being Monday, I am especially sentimental (for those of you who don't have our family schedule memorized...Monday is our only full day "off" as a family). We spent this morning the way we spend most Monday mornings, going to our favorite breakfast place and playing with Lyric. I don't know what it is like to be married to someone who doesn't like their kids, but I frankly can't imagine it. I can't imagine not seeing both of my guys glowing with love and playfulness on our den floor in the early mornings and evenings. I love the rhythm of our family. I love every minute of it. Even more, I love that when our rhythm is jolted and jerked by unexpected heartbreaks or unforeseen changes I love that I can literally bawl my eyes blurry on my husband's shoulder and he won't even comment on the mascara (both on his shirt and ALL over my face). I love that we can spend an entire day putting a massive dent in the couch and our netflix que, but that any moment we can go on a long bike ride or talk or write or clean together. I love that we both love to make people laugh. I love that we both love to dream. I love that we both love having friends in our home, especially cooking for them. I love that we both confess secret thoughts and desires with "I would never say this to anyone but you..." I love that I have a best friend who will call me out (in private) if I'm out of line. I love that Austin locks all our doors and turns off all the lights before bed. I love that Austin makes his mind up about something and does what it takes to make it happen.  I love that he loves the Lord, I love that he teaches me about the Lord, and I love that he leads our family biblically. I just love him. He is my favorite person.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Relate, sisterfriend

My husband always says that God gave us two things to make life here on earth more bearable. The first being martial relations (that's marital people, if you aren't married then you need to wait and see) and the second being good food (like really-good-takes-hours-and-hours-and-lots-of-love-kind-of-food). But I think that we have three things, and I think that the third is relationships. Not just every relationship, but the ones that make you better and the ones that push you forward. So here is my first post of my "relate" blog series, which is a conglomeration of odes, if you will. And today it's about the sisterfriend. I'm so thankful for my cherished sisterfriends, you gals know who you are and I hope you can one day know just how much I cherish your friendship.

I'll admit this is a little greeting card-esk, but let's face it--who doesn't sound mushy when they describe the people they love.

A sisterfriend will brave that dreaded hour of "crying it out" with you during nap time at your house so that you can chat over coffee. A sisterfriend will meet you in the midst of your pain and cry with you and pray over you. A sisterfriend goes on walks with you and lets you vent about that thing that's "just hard right now" during the first leg of the walk and brings you back down to earth and to the feet of Jesus during the second leg. A sisterfriend brings you flowers right before they bud because she knows that more than anything, you need to see the promises of spring unfolding in front of you. A sisterfriend knows and loves that your man comes before her and always will. A sisterfriend knows you, loves you, and cares; that is the meat and potatoes of the most meaningful gal pals I've got. Just showing up and knowing, loving, and caring.