Cardboard testimonies

At YoungLives camp two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to share about some of our story with Maizie by writing a cardboard testimony.  We often end a week at Young Life camp with a visual display of the way God has transformed the lives of some of the leaders in the room.  On one side of the board the leader writes what their state was before Christ and on the other side they share a way God has transformed them.  This visual shows off God’s ability to transform death to life and to make old things new.  To a room full of teenage mothers I wanted to put our story out there because I assumed that in a room with a few hundred moms there were going to be some who had also lost children during pregnancy.

I keep wondering how big a part of my whole story and my shaping Maizie will be.  As I sat debating what to share, I tried to think about what has really been transformed by the Lord since December 6 when we were made aware of her death.  Besides sadness, what did I really live in following the loss?

Fear.  Lots of fear.

Fear that I wouldn’t have healthy children.  Fear my body wouldn’t recover.  Fear that maybe God wouldn’t be good to me.  Fear that people would continue to hurt me.  Fear that broken relationships wouldn’t be restored.  Fear of being misunderstood.  Fear this loss would cause irreconcilable damage on our marriage.  Fear that the darkness would stay this dark forever.  Fear that fear would rule my next pregnancy.  Fear that I would always be imagining worst case scenarios.

And what has God slowly replaced that fear with?  Hope.

Hope in Christ in all things.  Not hope in a healthy next baby but hope in the One who has purchased my soul.  Hope that God works all things out for eternal good.  Hope that my future is secure with Him.

Satan can completely destroy my life on earth.  If permitted, he could end it.  He gave me a good run for my money in 2016.  But he can’t eternally damn me.  There is light, even in the darkness.  Even if it is just the small glimmer of future redemption.  There is always light.  There is always hope.

I stood up to testify to the light I see even in the darkness.  Fear is replaced with hope, even if circumstances don’t change.  Hope did not come with a new pregnancy.  Hope came when Jesus paid the price for my sins on this earth and made my eternity secure.

As I stood backstage at camp, I thought about how truly dark the first six months following our loss were.  So painful.  I couldn’t find myself during that time.  I often couldn’t find God.  My heart ached.  My body went through so many changes.  Some relationships couldn’t handle the strain.  We had to fight to keep our marriage strong.  It was so much pain.

Part of me wondered if I was silly for sharing the other side of my board.  Can I really claim some victory here?  It was almost as if Stan was whispering, “Do you have hope?  Is God really good?  Are you faking healing?  Have you actually made any progress?”  Part of me debated getting out of the line.  “You’re right,” I thought, “I do still have fear.  Some of me is still hurting.  Maybe God hasn’t done much here.  Maybe He will forget me and leave me.”

I realized that God’s work in this area is not complete; but it doesn’t have to be complete for me to start sharing about His work.  In fact, it won’t be complete until I’m face to face with Him in glory.

I choose to claim victory, though I am yet to experience it fully because God has done a significant work to restore my hope.  I believe that is the work God will do in my life – to bring me to FULL hope.  Hope that will be made a reality in eternity.  2 Corinthians 2:14 came to mind, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  While I go forward, I want to march triumphantly.  Even though its not over or fully complete, I want to claim the future victory that is mine.  I have seen God work in the past eight months.  I have seen Him transform my fear to hope.

I went out on the stage and I showed both sides of my sign.

Fear after losing a daughter during pregnancy.

Hope in Christ in all things.

What happened after I shared?  I was bombarded by teenage mothers.  Some who had lost babies early in pregnancy, some who had lost later like us, and one who shared about losing a twin in the delivery room.  The last one asked how I grieved and how I trusted God because she has tried to just stuff it all down.  I told her to grieve that baby and be as sad as she needs to be over the loss; but at the same time, to look to all of the promises of God and to know that she can trust His forever goodness.

Younglives camp

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#3

Tomorrow I have my mid-pregnancy anatomy scan.  Yes, we’re pregnant again and have made it to the 19-week mark.

As I think about this appointment, the same four words keep running through my head.  “There is no heartbeat.”

It was six months ago I was in this exact same position.  Halfway through a pregnancy.  4 months of puking my brains out.  Visible bump.  A healthy sonogram at 8 weeks.  Two appointments with an audible heartbeat.  Everything looking great on the outside.

Yet last time everything was actually a mess on the inside.  We had no idea.

Over the past four months, I’ve battled more fear and anxiety than at any other point in my life.  We’re so thankful to be pregnant again.  Thankful to have spent 19-weeks with our third little love.  We’re hopeful for a future with this child.  At the same time, we’re scared to experience loss again.

People want to say things like, “Have faith it will all be fine” or “I’m sure everything will be fine this time, keep believing.”  But I don’t want to put my faith and trust in things that will fail.  It may not be fine.  This baby may not be healthy.  We may not hold this third child either.  If my faith had only been in these things last time, my entire foundation would have been dismantled.

What I do know is that what God has done over the past six months He is capable of doing again.  I want to put my faith in what won’t fail and what won’t let me down.  My situation may get worse, but my God will not.  God will be near.  God will pour love and grace out on me.  God will heal any broken part.  God will make all things new.  God will give me life eternal.  God will always work for the eternal good of those who love Him.

I am not owed a healthy baby this time.  I am not guaranteed a smooth sailing pregnancy.  I do not get to miss out suffering this go around simply because I took my turn last time.  I wish it worked that way.

I am hopeful that it will look different.  Yet at the same time, I am all too aware that it may not.

God has been asking me each day to simply trust Him.  To be with Him and to remember who He is.  I’ve been reminded to love Him for who He is and not just for what He can do for me.  He can give me a perfectly healthy baby.  He also cannot.

One of the things we are most thankful for with Maizie is that we had no idea something was wrong until after her life had ended.  I went through 21-weeks of pregnancy rejoicing in the miracle of a life inside my womb.  We opted to not perform any early genetic testing this time for the same reason.  We want to be truly thankful for each healthy day we have with this child.  The biggest difference this time is we feel afraid to have much hope for the future or to dream about days to come.

We held off on telling people for a number of reasons.  We needed to hold it close to our own hearts for awhile and to really wrestle some with God.  One of my biggest fears in beginning to share this news was to hear the word congratulations or to see other people only feel excitement for us.  I haven’t been able to get to excited or really joyful.  I have deeply tasted thankfulness though.  I was worried that I would feel like a bad mother if other people were more excited than me.  What kind of mom isn’t the most excited person about her child?  However as we’ve slowly released this news over the past couple weeks, I’ve ended up being thankful for people who can be excited for this child.  They are doing something for me that I can’t quite do for myself right now.  I think that’s ok.  It’s ok that they only taste the excitement, because they don’t know the pain.  It’s also ok that I’m not excited yet, because I am too deeply aware of what loss in this area may cost me.  My favorite response though is from people who acknowledge the tension of what we must be feeling.

I’m hopeful that tomorrow will look completely different than December 6th.  I’m desperate for it to look different.  But even if doesn’t, I know God will be with me.

Smith baby #3, We all love you and we really want to hold you.

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Women’s March

I’m really hoping that a lot of the people I have seen posting about the Women’s March this past weekend are uninformed about what this group really believes.  I hope they are unaware that the group did not want pro-life women to march with them.  I hope they missed the second major principle on the Women’s March web page as shown below.

march principlesThe greatest lie we have been led to believe about abortion is that it is a women’s rights issue.  Women say “it’s my uterus” or “it’s my body.”  But what about the body alive inside of your body?  What if that baby is a woman?  What about her rights as a woman? What about her little uterus? What about that child’s fingers, toes, mouth, organs?  Are you aware that by 8 weeks that baby can dream, recoil from pain and has fully functioning organs?

Who will stand up for these women?  Who will stand up for all of the unborn?  If all of the unborn who have been aborted in the US since Roe vs. Wade were able to organize themselves into a march, they would march at 58 million strong.  If half of those babies were female, that would be 27.5 million women who have been denied the right to life.  Isn’t that the first right that we try to protect in America – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  In trying to protect the rights of adult women, we are taking away ALL rights from the unborn.  Isn’t that the very thing women are mad about?  Some rights being given to men that are not given to women.  Giving to one group of people what another is being denied.  This contradiction is completely baffling to me.

I found out on December 6, 2016, that my precious daughter, Maizie Marie, had died while in my womb.  We later found out that her early death was due to Turner’s Syndrome.  Turner’s Syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality that often results in death in utero.  If the girl does live through pregnancy, she can face varying levels of symptoms throughout her lifetime.  If we had done the genetic testing offered to us early in pregnancy, we would have detected this abnormality.  Many members of the medical community and many individuals in society would have encouraged us to terminate Maizie’s life.  We would never have ended her life.  We all know that we would never kill an infant or a toddler or a child who had a condition that will lower their quality of life or eventually kill them.  We would never agree to poison them or rip them apart.  Why do we have a different standard for babies in a mother’s belly?

Once we found out that her heart had stopped beating, I had to have an operation to bring Maizie out of my womb.  It was during this operation that my body had severe complications that could have led to my death.  Even if we had known that I would face physical trauma, we still would never have ended her life.  I would die in order to give any of my children all of the days that are written for them.  Maizie’s life was not valuable just because she was a wanted child.  She is valuable because she is a child.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” – Philippians 2:3

We need to fight less for our own rights.  My life is no more valuable than Maizie’s.  My life has no greater purpose than hers.  I am not more important than her.  I believe that my life is of the exact same value as every other human that has ever been knit together in a mother’s womb. 

Do you know what I hear when you fight for a women’s right to abort, for a women’s right to kill a baby?  I hear you saying that her child’s life does not matter.  I hear you saying that my child’s life does not matter.  As a mother who has cried over the death of her child nearly every day since December 6th, I will tell you that you are flat out wrong. Maizie’s life matters and it has forever shaped mine.

My daughter had the right to every single one of those days she spent alive in my womb.  She deserved the chance to fight for her right to live.  The same is true of every child.

In the interest of protecting the rights of some, we cannot ignore the rights of others.  In the interest of protecting the rights of women, we cannot ignore the rights of children.  Science and theology are on my side.  Life begins at conception.  We don’t look at the line on a pregnancy test and exclaim, “We’re having a fetus!”  No, from the second that line appears we know we are having a baby.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16

I hope you didn’t understand what you were showing your support for when you marched.  I really hope you were unaware that you were exalting the rights of women at the expense of children.  I did not march because I strongly disagree with the unity principles on the women’s march website. 

The baby model I am holding in this picture is the size of a 22 week old baby, just slightly bigger than our sweet Maizie grew to be.  As you look at this picture, as you think of my heartache over our unborn daughter, may you be motivated to fight for the life of the unborn men and women.

22 weekIf you have aborted in the past, know that there is great forgiveness, healing and redemption available in Jesus Christ.  I do not write these words to add shame to your level of hurt, but I do want to encourage people in the future to choose life for their children.  I long for another child for our family; if you need an alternative to abortion, please consider families like ours who would loving adopt yours.

Lastly, several have asked what I do for women who have unplanned pregnancies.  The answer is a lot.  I work with YoungLives, a ministry of Young Life that places mentors into the lives of teenagers who find themselves pregnant.  We walk through all of life with them, empower them in their parenting and help connect them to the resources and community they need.