Joy in the midst of suffering

These last few weeks have been marked by suffering. They have been some of the most difficult days we have faced since marriage. Yet, we have heard from those around us that they are encouraged by our faith during this time and can see our joy even in the midst of the storm.

So what is JOY? defined – the inner attitude of rejoicing in one’s salvation regardless of outward circumstances. One of the fruits of a right relationship with God. JOY was created in the character of God. Joy was born in the person of Jesus Christ. We can have JOY by trusting the Lord, because He is JOY.

So, how can you have JOY in the midst of suffering?

I believe the answer lies where your HOPE is. Our hope was not in our children, our hope was not in being the perfect parents, our hope was not in carrying our babies to full term, our hope was not in having another unmedicated 6 hour labor, our hope was not in the health of our babies; however, our HOPE lies in CHRIST. And He is enough to fill us with JOY.

The bible tells us in James 1:2-3 “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great JOY. For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

That verse says WHEN troubles come, not IF, but when. They will come, and you should count them as JOY. God blesses those who patiently endure testing, and when we are patient our endurance grows and then we will be complete in Christ. How incredible is that? Through testing our endurance grows which leads to completeness in Christ. We are made more like Christ through trials. Someone once told us that the 5th floor isn’t the place to get your theology, you better now your theology before you get there, and you will get there, so take time now to seek your father. What great insight is that?

Tommy Nelson once said, “you know you are in the will of God by the adversity you are facing, and adversity births growth.” We cannot grow individually or in our relationship with Christ unless we face adversity. What great news that is! If I want to grow in Christ, it is a GOOD thing to face adversity.

God tell us to “Be truly glad, there is wonderful JOY ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold-though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6-7  I remember when I came across this verse a few weeks ago, it spoke straight to me. I can trust in God because he is working all things for my good and He will bring JOY, I just have to be patient and trust him and his plan.

He also tells us in 1 Peter 5:10 “After you have suffered a little while the God of all HOPE who has called you to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord will himself RESTORE, CONFIRM, STRENGTHEN and ESTABLISH you.” He will heal us, he will restore us, we simply must hope in him. It is that simple.

Through my HOPE in Christ, I can have JOY in ANY & ALL circumstances, because my JOY is not dependent upon what all is going on around me. My JOY comes from Christ and him alone.  No matter what situation you are facing-good or bad-take it to the feet of Jesus, and find rest in him, ask him for JOY and he will gladly give it to you. You will face trials in this life. How are you going to respond when you get the phone call, or the doctor gives you the news you didn’t want to hear, or your job lays you off? My prayer is that you would be JOYFUL always and give thanks in all circumstances. This does not mean you cannot weep or be sorrowful, it just means that in the midst of the storm, you can still find JOY, there is still a reason to sing.

“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“Weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

For Arden & Nasa

I have been trying to write this post for several weeks now, and every time I sit down to write it, I don’t like the way it sounds, or I get stuck with what to say and how to say it. I am by no means an English major, or a writer; however, I do enjoy expressing my thoughts through writing. These are the hardest words I have ever had to write…so, here goes the raw, real, unedited thoughts to my sweet precious tiny babies:

Arden Hope & Nasa James,

I miss you so both so much. Is it crazy to miss someone you’ve never even met before. How can 2 people who never walked this earth have such a HUGE impact on your life? It has been a month since we found out you have gone home to be with the Lord, and it has been 2 weeks since you were taken from my womb. I have been wrestling with guilt and shame by having you removed from my womb, verses letting you pass naturally. I still wonder if God could have revived your lives had we not chosen to have the D&C, but we will never know the answer to that. Most days, I just want to lie in bed and not get out, because then I have to face reality. Every day is a struggle, waking up to what seems like a dream, but knowing I am living in dark reality-a hard reality that I have to face-that the Lord decided to take y’all home; therefore marking me as a women who has had a miscarriage. A miscarriage, never in a million years did I think that would happen to me; although to admit, that was my BIGGEST fear with this pregnancy. I was so terrified the Lord would take y’all from me before y’all were able to be here on this earth, and indeed he did just that. Part of me is thankful that y’all do not have to endure this hard, dark, and broken world; and part of me is sad because I will never get to hold you, hear you laugh, hear you talk, give you advice, watch you grow up, play with you, enjoy life with you, make memories with you and watch you do incredible things. That is the hardest part, wanting something so badly and never being able to have it. But as he has been teaching me over the last several years, His plans our not our own, and his ways our not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts.

Every day feels like a physical beating. Some days are harder than others. It’s hard to look around me and see friends who are now pregnant, see the birth of babies all around and know that I will never give birth to my two precious gifts. For the first time in my life, I am really questioning God. Why did this tragedy have to happen to us? Knowing God doesn’t make mistakes, but still asking, are you sure God? Did you get it wrong this time? How is this plan for my good? I have been asking him “WHY?” lately too. WHY did he have to take y’all? WHY did y’all have to die? What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? I have grieved, been sad, mad, angry, confused and afraid. Afraid that my womb will be closed forever. Afraid that I may never give birth to any more children. Afraid that miscarriage after miscarriage will continue to happen. And those fears can eat me alive because I want a big family, I want lots of children..So many questions and so many fears that I have brought all before the Lord;  he hasn’t given me any answers yet, and I may never get them, but I have choose to believe that He has good plans for us, hopeful and prosperous plans. And through all of this and all the pain, all the hurt, all the questions, he has been right here with me, and with Bryan. He is our refuge, our shelter, our strength, our place of rest. And he is carrying us through this. And even though we may not understand, he does. And he is still in control, he is still sovereign, he still holds me in the palm of my hand. And he gives me strength for each day. He tells me not to fear or to be afraid. He is guiding me. And he is writing my beautiful story. The story he planned out for my life before even time began.

I hate that y’all don’t have the chance to get to know me or your father or your big brother Caleb or your grandparents. You would love your daddy’s goofy side. He would chase you all around the house and kiss you all over and wrestle with you and teach you about the Lord, and how to walk with him daily and how to memorize scripture, and the importance of managing your money and teach you how to play basketball. Caleb would have been your best friend. He would have looked out after y’all and not let y’all be bullied. He would have played with y’all, and kept y’all company when you were feeling lonely. He would laugh with y’all and watch cartoons with y’all. And me, I would teach you the importance of manners, and how to cook and host people, and I would tell you that I love you and am proud of you every day, and I would let you eat a snack in the living room, even though your daddy hated that; and I would teach you how to dance and how to write and read to you. I would let y’all sleep in the bed with us and snuggle with you for hours. I would hold y’all on my hips in my arms for hours on end, just to have you close. Oh how we all love you both so very much, and though you are gone, you are not forgotten. And though you will not come to us, we will one day come to y’all.

I remember the day we found out we were pregnant with y’all. I had a gut feeling we were having twins because y’all had made me so nauseated. We were so excited, but were quickly filled with grief when Dr. Hagood told us neither one of y’all had heartbeats. I couldn’t believe it, it didn’t seem right. We didn’t understand-at all, but we knew it was a chance for the Lord to act and for us to trust in his will for y’all. We prayed fervently for you both to be raised from the dead. We asked God to bring breath back into your dry bones, to begin to let your little hearts beat again (Ezekiel 37). We wanted a miracle, we wanted y’all to live here with us. We asked others in our church body to join us in prayer; friends and family all around were praying for you both. But the Lord chose not to answer our prayer in the way we wanted, but he did answer. He gave you both breath and you are living again, only its not here with us, and I have to be okay with that, because he doesn’t have to answer us the way we want. But it still doesn’t take the pain away and I still do not understand why. But I do know that you both were fearfully and wonderfully made and that he had your days numbered before you were born and that every day of your life was recorded in his book. Every moment of your lives were laid out before a single day had passed.

It has been a hard month sifting through the pain, the questions, the tears-a lot of tears. I don’t like to face reality, because when I do it is hard, very hard to come to grips with the fact that neither one of you are here. I know in my head that you both are in a better place, but its my heart that is having a hard time believing. I know you are with our Father being loved on and cared for so much more than you could have received from anyone here on earth. But that still doesn’t mend my brokenness. It does however, give me hope, because I know one day we will be reunited with each of you, we one day meet you and be able to love on you and worship our father together. So, until that day, I will continue to trust the Lord and his plan for us and continue to hope that we will one day meet y’all.

Know dear children you are dearly loved and dearly missed. So though, for now, we do not understand, we are trusting on our God and his good and perfect plan for us, knowing that this trouble is producing for us a glory that will last forever. And we are choosing to fix our eyes on what we cannot see. At the end of the day, he is enough and that is what we are choosing to belief.

Our prayer for this tragedy has been that the Lord would glorify himself through the twins, and that he would show us how he will glorify himself. It has been so incredible to see him already answer that prayer, as we have begun to share about our loss with others around us. Understanding my Father and his ways, is something I will never be able to do. But it is so sweet to watch him work and bring hope to even the darkest of situations. He is a good good father, it is who he is. And we are loved by him, it is who we are.

“Come, let us return to the Lordfor he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lordhis going out is sure as the dawn; he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” Hosea 6:1-3

Our precious twin babies
Arden Hope and Nasa James received their names on 10/18/2015. Arden & Nasa both mean “to be lifted high”. They went home to be with the Lord on September 4, 2015.

If you or someone you know is walking through miscarriage, know you are not alone. Know, it is very common. 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Know that you are loved and cared for and prayed for and that God is right there with you. When you walk through deep valleys-He is with you. When the storms rage against you-He is with you. He will carry you through. There is a great ministry called Hope Mommies that is for moms who experience the loss of a child. Please check our their website at http://www.hopemommies.org