13 Nov MY JOURNEY TO THE SPACIOUS PLACE
This is a story of how God led us to the wilderness, through the desert, and into the pit, to pull us out into a spacious place…all to intimately show us Who He truly is.
THROUGH EXILE: THE WILDERNESS
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
Our exile to the wilderness started slowly.
My husband and I decided (although through unjust and unfortunate circumstances) that it was time for him to quit his teaching job. With that decision, my husband had no other option than to accept a job working nights and weekends while I was working full time and caring for our two-year-old twins. While our marriage was a game of tag-team, our isolation during this time brought us each face-to-face with God. It was here that the refining began and the Lord started His journey to take His rightful place on the throne of our hearts. He eventually brought us to a place of surrender and trust, because He knew the desert was coming.
He was priming our hearts to say yes to His bigger, greater plan. So after a year, we said, “Yes, God. Your way is better.” We packed up our possessions, put our house on the market, and moved our family of 4 back to Dallas from Austin. Honestly, it felt like a step backwards. We had moved from Dallas to Austin just 5 years prior, planting roots and starting our family. We didn’t really know why God wasn’t providing in Austin, but we did know He had provided an opportunity in Dallas.
We had been exiled.
We said yes, and were looking forward to the lush gardens beyond the wilderness. I had recently found out I was pregnant, and by moving to Dallas we would be moving closer to our support network of friends and family. In my mind we were reaching the lush gardens on the other side of this trial. Right?
THROUGH WAITING: THE DESERT
“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
The waiting started in a doctor’s office just days after our move. I write more about this experience in my first story: Young Warrior. Our 11 week sonogram showed an abnormality called a cystic hygroma on our baby. I’ll never forget the doctor’s words: “There is a 75% chance there is something significantly wrong with your baby.”
There were so many unanswered questions surrounding the outcome. What diagnosis could this be pointing to? What kind of prognosis would our baby have? We learned the possible outcomes included a rare chromosomal disorder, heart defect, hydrops (which is a build up of fluid in her internal chambers and is always fatal), as well as the possibility that this would all resolve in utero and we would give birth to a healthy baby.
Here the waiting started.
Not only were we waiting on a diagnosis and prognosis, but we were also waiting to sell our home in Austin so that we could buy a home in Dallas – all while living with my mother-in-law in a cramped space. I felt I had lost control over all areas of my life. With every new genetic test, the results pointed back to a seemingly healthy baby girl; however, through an isolated last ditch test, we finally received a diagnosis of Noonan’s Syndrome.
With this new knowledge, we researched, we learned, and we connected with a community. Since the diagnosis is not fatal, our shift focused to preparing for life outside the womb with our baby girl, who we had named June. We were ready to roll up our sleeves and fight whatever challenges came along with raising a child with Noonan’s Syndrome. We knew what was causing this and we knew it was a disorder that had an extremely high survival rate. We were figuring out how to navigate life after birth. We would lay in bed dreaming of what she would look like, researching and trying to project the the best and worse situations. During this time, we were also making decisions on where to buy a home, taking into consideration our community, our church, friends that were nearby, and the best hospitals. Through this new focus, we had forgotten about the slim chance of hydrops.
Somehow having an answer, made it more real and our hope was restored. Our life in Dallas was starting to take shape, and, in my mind, the waiting was over. We were SURE to reach the lush gardens on the other side of the desert now. Right?
THROUGH GRIEF: THE PIT
“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.” Psalm 40:2
Truly there were tears and longsuffering in the desert of waiting and receiving the diagnosis for our baby girl; yet the true and utter suffering – or the pit – started on October 13, 2017. I was 22 weeks pregnant, and on this day we were told that June had developed hydrops.
That was it. Game over.
Nothing else we could do or say to save her. I was by myself at this particular appointment, and I remember where I was sitting. Like a child, legs dangling off the patient table, doctor sitting across from me on his stool. Never in my adult life have I felt more like a helpless child.
I left the appointment and went out to the parking garage, called my husband and wept. I went to Starbucks and waited for him to meet me. I still remember the conversation between two women while I was waiting. Talking about the necessity of having a large laundry room. I’ll never forget feeling so much angst toward these women talking about laundry rooms while MY daughter inside of MY body was dying.
Tom met me and we headed to another appointment with my MFM. Somehow during this time between the appointments, we had mustered up hope. That this was not game over. That with all the medical advances today we could place stents, drain the fluid, and she may just have a chance. But by the end of the next appointment, we were leaving with a handout about how to prepare to remember your baby after this doctor confirmed everything the previous doctor had said. This was a slap in the face of hope, but a necessary and sobering gesture on the doctor’s part as she handed the pamphlet to me with tears in her own eyes. Our focus had to shift from planning and preparing for this precious life outside the womb to planning and preparing to birth and bury our daughter.
Everything had been stripped from us. Our city, our home, our stability, our hope, and now our daughter.
This was the pit.
In the weeks that followed, we had 1-2 sonograms a week to check the heartbeat. And at every appointment the heartbeat would still beat strong, which is what we would pray for. But there came a time when I needed this to end. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s true.
Living in the in-between was hard. I was already grieving the loss of my daughter, but had not yet lost her.
I still had to go to work where most of my co-workers didn’t know. I had to endure comments and congratulations, and questions if it was a boy or girl. It was torture. My mind was hyper-focused on remembering June. Booking a photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, getting maternity pictures taken while she was still alive, buying the perfect blanket to wrap her in, choosing a funeral home, burial vs. cremation, memorial service or no service, etc. Decisions no expecting parents should ever have to make. This planning and preparing to remember June was my raw motherly instinct. I wanted so badly to have control over all the things I COULD control. I had literally lost control of all other areas of my life…I had surrendered to God fully at this point out of necessity.
I was doing all this planning while feeling her kick and having a continued strong heartbeat confirmed at each sonogram. The doctors continued to assure me that they had never seen hydrops at this stage in a pregnancy last past 3 weeks. And sure enough on November 1, the sonogram indicated no heartbeat.
Two days later, on November 3, we walked back into the hospital for my C-section. After she was born we were able to spend time alone with her, holding her, praying, and just being with her. Of course, we knew that was no longer her, but that was the physical body God had given her, and I found so much comfort, connection, and joy in holding her.
It’s only the grace of God that can offer joy during such a sorrowful moment.
And even in the letting go of her body, handing it over to the nurse, knowing I would never hold her or see her again, I had peace and resolve. God had certainly gone before us and paved this road…there was no other explanation for the calmness, peace, and joy I had during those three hours.
I hadn’t thought much about the details of leaving the hospital without my baby. When it was time, a nurse I had never met came to get me, I got in the wheelchair and she wheeled me to the threshold before leaving the floor and entering the area where the elevators are. She knew this is where my environment would drastically change, she knew a wave of grief and the reality of losing my baby would set in. She stopped, leaned down and said, “Hold your breath, this is the hardest part.”
And she was right. Tears welled in my eyes as my arms had never felt so empty. I needed someone to validate this feeling of loss and the reality I was facing so that I could experience it, and I am forever grateful for those words.
Once again, God was going before me and paving that path for me. A path I had never anticipated. Leaving the hospital empty-handed.
TO THE SPACIOUS PLACE: FREEDOM
“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 118:19
The weeks following were full of unending support from family and friends. They truly were the hands and feet of Jesus. Every meal, every flower, every gift, every smile, every tear, and every conversation recognizing our grief was a step out of the pit. I was also hanging on to every word in the Psalms. That book was like life and breath to me during this time, slowly lifting me up, until finally…
He brought me out into a spacious place.
But this spacious place was not like the one before the pit, before the desert, or before the wilderness. It was bigger, brighter, and even more beautiful. Yes, I was swimming in grief, but God works best with a broken and surrendered spirit, and I could see His beauty being made from the ashes. He was bringing me out of a dark unknown place I didn’t know I was hiding in…out of the little caves in which I was shut up and imprisoned; into a large place — into a state of freedom. He began to shed light on my sin of pride, anger, selfish ambitions, and comfortable isolation, and gently showed me His way is better – no matter the cost.
God goes before us…through the wilderness, through the desert, through the pit, and even to the spacious place He prepares for us.
He will always redeem and restore the brokenness in our heart if we look to Him. That’s what He longs to do. This spacious place embodies a freedom and light that my life before June had been missing. Much like the story of Job, the Lord has restored HIMSELF to me through this breaking and refining process. After having an encounter with God following suffering, Job states, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5)
Job realized that even though he had feared and followed God, he hadn’t really known God. Through suffering, however, God had revealed Himself to Job in an unmistakable, intimate way. That’s what He has done for me.
In this spacious place, I have learned to loosen my grip on my life…my city, my home, and even my most valued relationships, and live in a place of freedom. Now we have a new city, a new home, and a new baby girl on the way. Sleeping at Last’s song, “One,” says it perfectly: “I’ll hold it much more loosely, but somehow much more dearly.”
I see this tangible evidence of restoration daily through these things, but the most healing and most significant restoration is unseen to the eye…it is the spacious place…It is Jesus.
A devotional in my She Reads Truth Bible states, “This is the ending our hearts ache for, not to have our earthly possessions or bodies restored, but to be fully restored by the God who made us and fully reconciled to him in Glory.”
In 1 Peter 5:10 is says, “And the God of all Grace, who called you into His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you, and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”