Tag Archives: miscarriage

Anna Kate Shurley: Keep Singing

Luke 19:28-40

images-17

“…Since Christ is Lord of Heav’n and Earth, how can I keep from singing?” So asks the nineteenth-century American minister Robert Lowry in the second verse of his still-famous hymn.

No one could keep from singing Jesus’ praises on that very first Palm Sunday as our Lord rode into David’s city. He had wowed everyone with his acts of healing, his miraculous feedings, and his extravagant (and sometimes scandalous) love for all. He was the Savior King the prophets had promised.

Palm Sunday was great then, and it is great now. Who doesn’t love seeing our sweet children in their Sunday best, walking down the sanctuary’s aisle, waving palm branches and offering “the simplest and best” praises as the organist plays “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna?” Who doesn’t love that? It’s fantastic. How can we keep from singing?

Today is my husband’s birthday. Birthdays are big at our house: we hang streamers; we bake the birthday boy or girl’s favorite cake; we make birthday cards and homemade presents; we sing the birthday song ad nauseum. We can’t keep from singing.

Four years ago, though, we had trouble singing. Four years ago today, we suffered a miscarriage, less than a week after discovering we were expecting our second baby. The praises we had shouted as we learned of that pregnancy quickly turned to crying as we realized the horror that was happening inside my body. Easter seemed a long way away, and while we knew it was coming, we couldn’t yet wrap our broken hearts and minds around it.

We had to move on though—at least in practice. Being the clergy couple that we were and are, we had to continue planning for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter. When Palm Sunday arrived, I wept my way through the processional. I was so very thankful that our daughter was joyfully singing God’s praises, and yet I was completely devastated that our unborn child would never have that chance. How could I keep singing?

Holy Week is a peculiar, and downright raw, few days. It is pure horror, bound on one side by naïve hosannas and on the other by unbridled hallelujahs. The parade-goers who cheered for the One who came in the name of the Lord had no idea that He would not be meeting their expectations in the ways they thought he would. The Palm Sunday crowd had no idea what the week would bring. They had no idea that their hopes would be destroyed on a criminal’s cross.

We, who are on this side of that first Holy Week, know the whole story though—and thank goodness. We know that Jesus was the fulfillment of every prophetic promise his people had heard. We know that Jesus was not what the people were expecting—he was more. Jesus Christ exceeded any expectations his people could’ve had because he did the unthinkable: he kept on riding.

On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus kept on riding into Jerusalem, knowing the horror that awaited him. He rode up into the temple and challenged the corruption he saw there. He rode into the festive Passover meal with his beloved friends, knowing it would be his last. He rode into an unfair trial and allowed himself to be condemned to death. He rode to the cross and endured its horrors, knowing that by His wounds, we all would be healed.

And then…and then…he rode out of his tomb, having conquered death as only this truly triumphant king could do.

On Palm Sunday and in the days that follow, we are reminded that our Lord has moved with us through our highest joys and our deepest, most unfathomable sorrows, because he moved through his own for our sake. Christ our Lord has vouchsafed that our moments of despair do not have the last word. Instead, the last word is and will be Hallelujah. Joy will come, because Christ has come.

How, then, can we keep from singing?

IMG_0001

 

Anna Kate Shurley is a Baptist minister, a Presbyterian minister’s wife, the mother of Virginia and Oliver Shurley, a Girl Scout leader, a carpool magnate, a hopefully-soon-to-be-published author, and the Interim Director of Youth and Family Ministries at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Gulfport, Mississippi. She has lots of great reasons to sing.

Jennifer Andrews-Weckerly: Journeying Through the Darkness

22DVN8IWSV-300x199

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. In some ways, it seems like a strange month to choose. In October, we are often focused on the harvest. We have harvest-themed door wreaths and table decorations. We enjoy a taste of the harvest ourselves – picking apples and pumpkins. This is a time we celebrate abundance, and yet this is also the month when we honor when abundance is taken away.

As a child, I knew very little about pregnancy loss. I had an aunt who sometimes referred to infant she lost by name, but no one besides her talked about it much, and the subject was so hushed and confusing that I never asked many questions. As a chaplain, I experienced my first pregnancy loss with a patient. A whole new world of darkness invaded what had developed in my mind as a world of joy. I was at the age that my friends were starting to have babies. But no one had ever talked to me about the dark side of pregnancy. The darkness still felt very “other.”

Finally, a dear friend – one with whom I had shared many confidences – lost her pregnancy. We lived far away, but I had just seen her pregnant belly at a reunion of friends for the weekend. We had laughed and shared dreams about the child. It had been a weekend of light. And suddenly, that weekend was washed away with darkness. We all rallied, sending flowers, meals, and cards. We prayed and we cried. And we listened. My friend was very good about being vocal and honest about her pain. We journeyed with her through the darkness.

During our mourning period  . . . to read more, click here.

Jennifer Andrews-Weckerly is rector and pastor of the Episcopal Church of St. Margaret in Plainview, New York, and a contributor to Project Pomegranate’s book Though the Darkness Gather Round, Devotions about Infertility, Miscarriage, and Infant Loss. This post appeared originally on Jennifer’s blog Seeking and Serving, was shared on Project Pomegranate‘s blog, and was used here with permission.

Rachel Whaley Doll: Healing Journey

Rachel's painting
Rachel’s painting

Early last spring, as we were preparing to move, my husband, Aaron, brought me several small bags. “I found these in the freezer. Can you believe we still have bags of breast milk?! I’ll just throw them out.” I grabbed the bags, highly offended. “No, YOU did not make this, you do NOT get to decide what happens to it!” I surprised even myself at my passionate response to these little bags. You see, my youngest child is now six, in first grade, and stopped nursing at age one.

But those little bags signified so much I had never dealt with. I put them back in the freezer and spent the next week trying to decide what their fate would be. Our move would take us 800 miles away, so the bags would not be traveling with us. But they represented a time in my life that had been so hard in coming; I was not willing to simply throw them away. It felt like I had a tangible connection to so much untouchable loss. I prayed, I meditated, and I waited to see what would be created from those little bags of breast milk, sitting my freezer.

I’m not sure how I arrived at my plan, but I saw a watercolor forming in my mind. I gathered blues, purples, and black paints; sea salt to represent so many tears. And I waited. It occurred to me that over the course of our ten rounds of fertility drugs, there had been ten embryos that had been created by Aaron and me. Ten. That number was astounding. Those little bags of milk represented the end of a four year struggle with infertility. They represented seven embryos that never attached. They represented the child lost through miscarriage. They represented the cherished time I nursed two amazing children. Still I waited.

One day, amid packing boxes and looming deadlines, the feeling was overwhelming. It was time. I stood at my dining room table and began to swirl the blues, the purples, the black. I left ten little spaces and while the paint was still very wet, I dropped the breast milk onto the canvas and watched as it swirled and mixed and danced with the colors on the canvas. I sprinkled salt over it all, and whispered prayers for each of those embryos, for the space they would always hold in my soul, for the healing I longed to take place there. Finally, eventually, it was finished. The power of that dance; of paint, milk, tears, salt, and prayers – was unspeakable. I had no idea how much I had needed that dance. When it was finished, I sat in silence with the painting for a long time. There was a powerful connection swirling in the air. Eventually the feeling of connection was replaced by a wide feeling of peace inside me. There was a little milk left over, and I walked outside and sprinkled it over the wild blackberries that grew in our yard, knowing it would feed someone; birds, squirrels, friends, strangers.

That was months ago, and the painting is very dear to me. It went to the book launch party with me, and hung that night in the art gallery as we celebrated. After our move, I hung it in our new home, in our bedroom, and enjoy its nearness. A couple of weeks ago, my hand brushed the bottom of the canvas as I went to turn on the light. My fingers came away damp, and I turned on the light to see streams of paint weaving down the wall. The painting was wet. Aaron said the recent high humidity had caused the salt to soak in the moisture from the air.

But why now, in January? It had not done this through the many humid months of summer in North Carolina. I counted up the months in my head; it has been dry and fine all this time. Chills raised the hairs on my neck as I realized it had been painted nine months ago. I realized it was weeping. I cannot explain the journey of this painting except to say we are connected, and in my eyes it is beautiful beyond measure.

Whatever journey you are walking, honor the connections your soul sees, and allow them to dance.

Rachel Doll

Rachel Whaley Doll is an educator, Biblical Storyteller, and lover of beach sand. She is also the author of two books, The Exquisite Ordinary, 2012, and Beating on the Chest of God; A Faith Journey Though Infertility, 2014. Connect with Rachel at rachelwhaleydoll.com.