To the Family Who Just Miscarried

Two years ago, my husband and I lost our first baby. I soon learned that miscarriages are very common. Because of this, I made a point to share our story and my journey through grief. Since then, I have had numerous people ask me how to go about helping someone they know who has miscarried. These are my thoughts in response to that question.

First of all, my heart hurts with your family. 

There are a few things that immediately come to mind when I think of what helped me grieve well.

First was when a friend reminded me that he (our baby) was never mine to have in the first place. He always belonged to his Creator. And His Creator has only love for him. As I dwelt on this thought, the Lord changed my whole perspective and I found a deep comfort in this truth.

The idea of my precious child dying tore me to pieces, but my heart was okay with him being held even tighter in his loving Creator’s hands. Proclaiming that he belonged to and was being held by my Good Shepherd was what brought my heart to finally say it was well with my soul.

Secondly, for me, I needed a body to grieve over. I needed a sort of funeral, burial or formal goodbye. Grieving that little life, especially without a body, was so hard. I didn’t miscarry naturally. I didn’t learn I had miscarried by seeing blood or going into labor. I had no symptoms of the loss.

We went to our first doctor’s appointment and there was no heartbeat to be found. Our little peanut’s measurements told us his heart had stopped about 2 weeks before the doctor’s appointment. Because he had already been in there, lifeless, for so long, my doctor wanted me to get a D&C if I didn’t go into labor within a week.  You can’t control when you go into labor and my husband hated the thought of me going into labor and miscarrying our child at home, alone while he was at work.

We decided a D&C was a good option so that we could be together when it happened. But after the D&C, I simply woke up with an empty-womb. I never got to say goodbye. For me, that closure never came until my family dog died and I had a physical body to grieve over. Another thing that I thought might help was burying an ultrasound photo.

After the D&C I was all over the place. I would feel I was grieving well. Then would have a sort of relapse and completely fall apart again.

My advice for those comforting the grieving parents (especially the mama). MANY people said things to me along the lines of, “Oh, you’re so young, you have time, you’ll have more babies. Don’t worry, you’re obviously fertile. You’ll get pregnant again. You’ll have another baby before you know it,” “You know it’s just nature’s way, something was probably wrong with the baby and this was best.” And these were just the worst things anyone could say to me. It was so hurtful, at the time. To me, it was shutting down that there was any reason for me to be grieving. It was like saying this specific child didn’t matter. It wasn’t a child, it was just a thing, a pregnancy. It’s called an “early pregnancy loss” but to me it was the loss of my first child.

I later realized it’s important to acknowledge BOTH the loss of the child and of the experience of pregnancy. Don’t invalidate the family’s experience in your efforts to have something comforting to say. Simply grieve with them, or allow them the space to grieve. Ask for practical ways to help. Maybe you could help by bringing over a meal or simply sitting and hanging out to bring a sense of community and normalcy in their difficult time.

My husband was very understanding and validating of my feelings on the pregnancy and our child. I wanted to talk about him all the time! About pregnancy and about my experience for the one month I did have him in my womb. It was sort of my way of acknowledging he was alive, and wanting others to see him as alive too. I later read this is very normal with a pregnancy loss. Really, it’s normal of any parent. We want to talk about our kids. And the fact that they were never visible to outsiders doesn’t change in our mama hearts that they are indeed our children.

So, as uncomfortable as it can be for other people, I’d encourage her (and your family) to still talk about the baby if that’s what she wants to do. And if she doesn’t, then don’t. But don’t be afraid to talk about him/her, because that can be a way to validate his/her life, your feelings, and process the grief. For me, that often meant writing more than talking. But I still talk about it and that pregnancy just like I would my second pregnancy with my son.

When it comes to scriptures that I went to, I honestly just leaned into the passages that had comforted me in rough times in my past. Especially Psalm 63 and 23.

Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” This was a verse that spoke to what I said in the first paragraph. It helped me to think his life had purposes only He knew.

One book that really helped me sit with God and keep my heart vulnerable with Him at the time was Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb (never finished the book but what I did read helped me). Another book I recently found that I wished I had at the time is Grieving the Child I Never Knew by Kathe Wunnenberg. It’s a devotional, and has really great questions for each devotion that are labeled “steps toward healing.” The questions are really, really great.

A few articles that were affirming for me:

Sharing the Silent Grief of Miscarriage

What It’s Like to Have an Early Pregnancy Loss

Don’t Worry You Won’t Remind Me

We Lost a Child and Gained Something Greater

You can read through the writings I’ve posted about my experience with miscarrying our first baby.

To those grieving, take your time, don’t hide from the pain. Lean into the discomfort, walk through this with one breath at a time. Let God be your comfort.

If you ever need someone to talk to or want to talk about your baby with, I’d love to be available to you. Either head on over to the Contact Me page and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Much love, Jesse

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How Our Dog’s Death Brought Me Closure

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He’s gone. They inserted the needle and he faded away. I held him like a baby, rocked him and kissed his forehead.

I was able to hold my baby today. I cradled him, rocked him, told him how grateful I am for the time we had together. I let go of his warm, limp body and Justin laid him on the table.

Even in his death, he served his purpose and helped me heal. Spencer, Our Healing Helper. He helped mama heal from the death of her brother, and he helped me heal from the death of my baby.

After we made it into the exam room. He made his rounds, from mom to me to dad to Justin to me to mom to dad to Justin to me to mom to me to mom. He looked me in the eyes, laid his head in my hands, and rested there as I kissed his temple and told him how much I loved him and how amazing he had been all his life. I told him how much I would miss him. And I told him to give my baby a kiss for me. He looked me in the eyes, with the light spirit he had used to comfort me with for years. He looked me in the eyes and he told me he was okay, he was ready, he loved the life he had lived, he loved us, farewell love. He was okay. He was content with our decision. He was ready, he didn’t fight it. He welcomed it. He rested on the table, looked us in the eyes, and drifted away.

Everything came full circle. We passed the building where we found and adopted Spencer on our way home. The movie Blended came on – it’s the movie I watched for the first time the day we found out we lost our Peanut. I saw the scene where she sang the little girl to sleep. And my heart did not crack open to spill blood. I was okay. We’ll be okay.

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Spencer was loved by so many people, and it’s sad he’ll no longer greet everyone that enters our home. But man, what a life he lived.

Spencer’s death came at just the right time. I was ready for closure, and his death was just that.

Grieving an unborn child is mysterious. There was no body to grieve over, no ceremony, no sense of closure. Grieving Spencer gave me a body to grieve over. As I grieved him, I felt as though my baby was there too. I felt my baby go from life to lifeless, right before my eyes. He was there, and then he was gone. And he was gone. Closure.

Ever since this day of healing closure, I have been much more stable. I no longer lose myself to grief. I feel stronger. I feel healthier. I feel grateful.

Words to My Sweet Peanut and on Grieving

27 Oct 2014

Peanut,

There wasn’t a moment of your life when you weren’t wanted. There wasn’t a moment of your life when someone wasn’t thinking fondly of you. For every moment you were alive, I was carrying you. And as close as you were in my womb, my heart carried you closer, warmer. In my heart I was already swaddling you, singing you to sleep at night. I miss you. I miss you so terribly.

Sometimes, I feel like you’re not gone. I look down and yearn to see you. You would’ve been bigger than a lime by now – almost the size of a plum! I might have even been able to start seeing you soon. I could hardly wait to feel the bump you would make inside of me. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

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It’s an emotional roller coaster, for sure. And just because I miscarried earlier than some doesn’t make my loss any less devastating. My baby may have been tinier but he/she was still my baby. My first child. And I have experienced a real loss. I should be free to feel whatever I feel and grieve whatever I need to grieve. (Preaching this to myself, as much to you.)
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I’ve found myself having a difficult time grieving freely because there was no physical baby for other people to see. But my baby was already a person in my mind. A person that I was desperate to know and now terribly miss. I need to grieve all my dreams of what could have been just as much as I need to grieve the death of my first baby. We all grieve in our own ways. And every loss is its own trauma.

Happy 2 Years and Missing Peanut

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All written on March 9th, 2015
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I still tease him about children too often, but I am slowly getting better at returning to a realistic perspective.

I am slowly embracing my roles as his wife, partner and homemaker with grace. I’m learning to release unrealistic expectations and taking up my roles with a relaxed mindset.

I have dreams, visions, ideas about a creative endeavor. I have pinned many business plan worksheets and researched other sellers. I have yet to slow down enough to actually work thru a plan. I plan to take time each week to go thru one plan at a time.

Today marks two years with this hunk. It hardly feels as though we’ve been together that long and yet it feels we’ve always been together.

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3 times a week i drive past the hospital where i lost you. It’s the place where we were separated, where we became no longer one. I think of you everyday. Sometimes I feel incredibly grateful and thank God for allowing me to experience the miracle you were. Somedays i just miss you. I miss having you here with me. I miss the light you brought into my life. I miss the feeling of knowing the miracle of new life was sprouting up inside of me. I miss the love I felt for you and the hopes I had for us as a family. Yes, we hope to add to our little family in a few years, but you were special. You came at a special time for special reasons. You taught me about the nearness of God, and that perspective is everything. I miss wondering about what you were doing inside of me, how big you were and when I would start to feel you. I miss hearing your daddy pray for you at night. I miss talking to you and singing to you as I did housework. I miss you, you sweet, little peanut.

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I’ll refer to an “embryo” and a “fetus” as a baby. I believe that life exists from the moment of fertilization – when the cells start multiplying. My baby’s heart stopped 2 weeks before science would consider him a fetus. For no particular reason, I usually refer to my little peanut as a “him”. The doctors/nurses called him “embryonic tissue.” But, from the moment of conception, I called him our baby, our first child.

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Earlier today, I told JD how I thought I’d realized a positive way to miss and grieve my lil peanut. How I could say I miss him and remember him in a positive light. Remember all the good things and lavish his memory in gratitude for experiencing his life at all. And at group, I heard a child screech blubbery responses to his dad’s silly faces. And I smiled inside and thought, “Ah, what a sweet, sweet sound! What a gift!”

But then I flip open Instagram and see a woman’s baby bump. And I am reminded of the negative ways that I remember our peanut. How I still long to feel his body growing inside of me and longing to feel his presence. How I feel cheated of the experience of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. How I feel rejected, denied that privilege. Every time my lower belly swells from a full bladder, I encase it in my hands, look in the mirror and tell myself, “One day. One day you will house new life again. One day, you will watch him grow. One day, you will have the joy of finally holding your child. It will be good. Now is not that time.” And I don’t know what to do with these thoughts except cry and release them. If I let myself dwell there too long, I can lose myself in the grief, disappointment and unfulfilled longings. But here. Right here. This is where I am right now. Honor Him here. Obey Him here. Praise Him here. Converse with Him here. You don’t need a child inside you to have new life sprouting from within. He brings new life. Not just to your child, but to you. Will you believe there is life inside of you, even after feeling your womb filled with death and darkness? Will you believe that He is the source of all light? Will you believe that He will release radiant beams of light from within you, even while you are not with child?

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Grieving Together, Beauty in the Midst of Pain

 

He thanked me for making him a daddy. Even if it was only for a little while. He reminded me that just because he doesn’t cry as much as me doesn’t mean he doesn’t care or he isn’t hurting. He is hurting. He is grieving. He’s just sitting with it right now.

Like me, I often let it sit in the background, untouched. Somedays something sparks me to write about it. Most days I write about it because I need to. I need to write to process it. I don’t know how else to sift and filter through all the thoughts and feelings that have come and gone.

I told him how I never used to be able to picture myself as a mom. Not until last month, at least. But when I saw that pink line, everything changed. Suddenly nothing mattered as much. All of life was brighter. I had the most life fulfilling purpose I could possibly carry. I’d give up just about anything to protect and nurture that child. And all so suddenly, I was a mother. I was a mom. And I had no control over the miracle of life inside of me. I was simply a witness. Delighted and yearning.

Just as suddenly as I became a mom, I became a mother who had lost her child. A mother, without a child. My higher calling, crumbled and fell from beneath my feet.

And JD. He was desperate to be by my side for every little stepping stone. The morning sickness, the exhaustion, my lack of housekeeping… He was torn between working and studying for our futures and fearing he might miss the special little moments that build the future. I didn’t realize he was worried about it. I felt he was doing such an amazing job at it. I think it’s remarkable that we could be apart more often yet feel closer than ever. ‘Cause it was always about us experiencing every step of the way together.

We were in it together from the moment I showed him those pink lines. No. No, we were in it together from the moment at lunch that same day, when he told me all his fears. When he wasn’t just strong for the best of us. He told me his fears, his initial feelings of regret and panic and responsibility. That’s the moment I felt we were truly in it together. We were real with each other in a way that we hadn’t been in quite a while.

It could have shaken our marriage – freaking out separately and not sharing it. But it sealed our bond right, and built a foundation for the grieving that was to come. Now, we grieve. But we grieve together. We feel the waves of pain, together. We grieve what could have been, in each other’s arms. We take turns holding each other. And we allow the other to see us and sit with us in our brokenness. And that’s a kind of bond that is absolutely beautiful in the midst of the awful.

Thoughts written on October 16th, 2014

Oh How I Yearn

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My husband and I had plans to visit NYC with a friend the day after my first prenatal appointment. Even with the heartbreaking news, we decided to keep our plans for the weekend. So, we spent the day grieving with one another.

Before our friend arrived, we watched the movie Blended. And there was a scene where a woman put a child to bed, and softly sang to her. I felt my heart, fallen wide open. Insides gushing out, trying to escape my body in waves of aching sobs.

I would never have the sweet moment of singing this child to sleep. Of his clinging to me for comfort. Of me having the ability to comfort him and lead him to rest instead of fighting sleep. I would never cradle him in my arms, hear his voice, or see his eyes. I would never have the joy of knowing this beautiful person. I will never meet our first child.

The following is what I wrote as I fell asleep after our day in NYC.

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Today felt weird. Life felt less exciting. The city was less exciting, more dull. I guess that’s because excitement comes from within me and not from external circumstances alone. The emotion is in how I process the circumstances, how I see the world that day. Today, the city was less exciting without our baby. The city really didn’t matter at all. That little bitty life inside of me was the excitement and overflowing joy that made other happenings have more color. That life opened inside me a bright light. But now it’s gone. Everything looks a little less lively. And I see grey. Dull. Lifeless.

Walking thru the city I kept hearing myself saying “I’m carrying a dead baby inside of me. An itty, bitty, dead baby.”  As if saying it over and over would flip a switch in my head and heart to make me finally comprehend all that it is and was and will be. No such switch flipped. Knowing me, it may take me a few years to wrap my head around it. And even then I’m sure I’ll gain new insights about it for many years to come.

But right now,  it hardly feels real. Sometimes it does, and then I just cry. I sob. I hurt and yearn. Oh how I yearn.

For a healthy baby to sing to sleep. To know the person he or she was going to be. For the family I thought we might be. I didn’t want a baby, not for years at least. But then I found out we had one. And then I was ready to give up everything, all my plans and what I thought I wanted.

And now I don’t have to give up those plans, but I wish I did. They feel so dull and selfish. Less worthy than bringing new life into the world. Partnering with the Creator in the most intimate way. I thought He was knitting together a miracle inside of me. But then He stopped. He stopped. And so did the little ones heart. I was praying over him, singing to him and talking to him. But he didn’t hear me. He wasn’t really there. Was he ever really there? If there was a heartbeat, was there a spirit?

I just keep picturing the little peanut floating in my womb. Stillness. Darkness. Lifeless. All alone. And yet loved and wanted desperately. Wanted. I don’t just want any baby. I wanted this one. I want this one.

When I first found out I was unexpectedly pregnant, I had one burning desire. I desired for the child to never feel or believe that he/she was a bad accident, unwanted, ill timed, a regret or resented. And I guess that prayer was fulfilled. Because hearing that awful news crushed us. And we wanted to give up everything for you. We already began preparing for you to be well taken care of. We wanted you, desperately. Desperately. And we’re devastated that we’ll never hold you near, sing you to sleep, rock you thru the night, comfort you and kiss your boo-boo’s.

I’ll never feel your skin on mine, hold you on my heart or nurture you with my breast. I’ll never see him try to make you laugh or feed you a bottle when I’m tired. I could hardly wait to love on you. And he wanted to surround you with security, a warm home, and a happy mommy. I’ve never seen your daddy cry the way he did over you. You were lavished in love before science would even call you a fetus. But you were our child. Our precious, beloved child. And you changed us. You have already changed us for the better. You made us into more of a team. And we’ve never felt closer. Thank you.

I wish I could kiss you goodbye and bury you next to a beautiful waterfall. But I don’t think it works that way. The doctor probably won’t let me take you, and you’re smaller than a blueberry. But I’ll take your one and only picture and I’ll lay you somewhere beautiful and magical. And I’ll always remember you. I’ll always carry you in my heart.

Written October 12, 2014

Grieving the Loss of My Pregnancy Experience

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It’s called “early pregnancy loss.” And as much as people say it’s losing a pregnancy, I focused on the fact that I was losing a child. My first child. And I would never know him/her. But now, 3 months later, I’m realizing that I never grieved the loss of the pregnancy. The whole experience of the pregnancy. From conception to birth. From watching our little peanut grow from invisible to a bump, to laboriously bringing him into the world. I have recently felt devastated that I never had the experience of giving birth to our first child. I see birth as such a womanly journey. And my pregnancy ended abruptly, just as soon as it had began. I feel robbed of an enriching experience. Just when I thought I was truly coming to terms with our season of life, I painfully realized I’m not as accepting of it yet as I thought I was.

Written January 31, 2015

Curveball vs. Uncovered Treasure

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Last week I told you that I would begin sharing my personal writings from the last few months (Read last week’s post here). Today, I’m sharing the first two pieces I wrote after finding out that I was pregnant.

Written September 11, 2014
(the day we found out) 

This was not the plan. The plan was, I’d spend my time working on finishing school, furthering my love for photography and once I graduated I’d get a job. JD would work through his ELDP program, classes and Masters program. We would keep saving to travel and visit family (but especially for travel!).

I feel I have so much more maturing to do, we have so much maturing to do. So much more I wanted to have established and experienced before we even considered bringing a child into the picture.

I was in between switching contraceptive methods so we were diligent to use protection the week around ovulation each month.

At this point, I hardly have any concept for what is to come. I don’t have a name for you. I’ve unknowingly been carrying you with me for almost 3 weeks now. I’m sorry for the way I neglected to care for my body, your home, these last few days. I want the best of everything for you. I hardly understand the concept of you being real and alive right now. But one day I’ll see you.

I want you to know that you are a beautiful creation. And I want you to know that you are the fruit of an act of love. I truly, truly mean that. I love your father and this last month with him has been very sweet and dear to me. Of all the times I have laid with him, this last while has been especially sweet and deeply loving. We have learned a new level of being real, honest and intimate with each other. I think that’s important to me, that you would be conceived in the midst of an act that I can look back on and wholeheartedly and honestly tell you that you were the fruit of an act of love and sweet intimacy.

I will want you to know you were divinely sewn together with delicate intention. That you are a miracle, and I am in awe of your being. I am watching as El Shaddai creates you piece by piece. He is a master at work, and you, my dear, are like the beautiful clay His whole mind is wrapped around. You are new life. And in you is sacred life. You’re so tiny and fragile, your ears haven’t even formed yet. But I’ll speak these words over you again and again until they’re intertwined in the fibers of your being.

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Written September 12, 2014

He feels guilty…
For ruining our plans to travel,
For not taking charge and making sure we had secure contraceptive,
For letting something happen that he didn’t think would be best for me,
For complicating so many things, making my schooling more difficult and complicating our hopes for transferring to a different state in a year,

There are so many ways we could react, so many thoughts we could entertain, so many declarations we could speak over this fragile new life. But I don’t want any child to have the weight of feeling a burden, unwanted or the regret of his/her parents, to believe he is a mistake in his parents eyes.

So yes, I do realize, our lives are about to drastically changes in ways I could never imagine. Yes, I do realize I have no idea what’s ahead of us. But that does not mean that I have to choose fear, regret, anger, or guilt. I can choose to acknowledge that where we are today is where we are today, and that every bit of life deserves to have its sacredness realized and honored. So I want to honor and treasure this new person by choosing to speak words of love, blessing and gratitude over him/her.

I owe him/her the submission of my will to that of the Lord’s which will protect, nurture, and foster good health for this dear child. Hence the title of this post… I realized that I can choose to see this as either a curveball – an inconvenience and complication of my plans. Or I can choose to see this as unforeseen treasure that we stumbled upon. My plans are all to benefit me. I knew getting married was a huge step of putting myself in the position where I would need to learn to say, “Yes.” to a lot of maturing. And let’s be real, maturing isn’t comfortable. Real life change and maturing happens outside of the comfort zone. And let me tell ya – seeing a positive on those pregnancy tests was not comfortable. I had no idea what to think. Part of me wanted to scream and thrash around, but part of me wanted to jump up and down and dance around.

Written September 12, 2014

Surprise and Loss: A Collection of Writings

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There’s no easy way of beginning this conversation. So, let’s just dive in.

On September 11th, JD and I discovered that I was pregnant! I was utterly speechless (As was JD!). Terrified and excited, we began a long, beautiful, and painful journey. But it’s only just begun.

At our first prenatal appointment, we learned that our child no longer had a heartbeat. He was supposed to measure just over 9 weeks and he measured just under 7 weeks. I was absolutely devastated. As I have tried to process all that has happened and come to terms with reality, I resorted to writing. A lot. I write to learn what I’m thinking and to peel back the layers and see what’s really going on inside of me. I write to process the depths of life.

So, I have written on my feelings, my pain and confusion and even letters to the baby. Now, for the next few weeks I’ll be posting my writings from the day we found out I was pregnant until… well, now. I plan to post a piece about once or twice a week.

I’m going to do this, because I want people to be able to hear my thoughts and sit with me at each stage of the pregnancy, the loss and the beginnings of healing. I want people to be able to walk through the experience as if they were walking alongside me through the experience. To feel the excitement, the joy, the love, the devastation, the confusion – all of it.

No one wants to talk about a dead baby. But babies die. And women need to know they can talk about their experience, even if few understand.

While I was going through all of this and beginning to process it I was deeply comforted by hearing other women’s’ stories. To go to another woman, hear her story, tell my story and know that she understood not because she was so insightful but because she had been there herself – that was truly powerful for me. So, I want to open the opportunity for other women to be heard and in community through the process of grieving a miscarriage.

I hope these writings will meet other women wherever they are; that my writings will be a friend sitting beside them, sharing the great excitement and the great pain alike.

Desperate for Change

I feel desperate for change and yet in the day to day I often feel unwilling and inadequate to make the changes necessary.

So much of what comes out of my mouth is negative – it’s poisoning my home, my days and my husband. My most common state of mind lately is discouraged, inadequate, dissatisfied. Lazy and lonely. Yet cowering at even the mention of putting myself out there and being vulnerable enough to begin a real friendship here. I’m just so broken already. Crying in a pool of my own chaos. Chaos created by my neglect of responsibility.

It’s easier to make the decision to go back to the dim lit bedroom, light a candle and practice slow yoga with scripture when you’re already feeling weak and in need of healing.

Lately, on my mat. When I just breathe and stop forcing things, I just cry. I’m either in a tense state of forcing things, or in an open state of allowing my wounds to feel some air. And when I pull back the bandages, they’re fresh and they ooze. They’re still so new, raw and mangled I can’t see what there is to treat. All I see is a big bloody mess. And my eyes fill with tears. My heart sinks.

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Friends, sometimes the only way to experience healing is to sit with the hurt. To sit still in silence, with your pain, and know He is there. And that’s all you need. No comfort, no healing, no fixing, no changing. Sometimes, you just need to remember He’s there, sitting with you, feeling your hurt with you. And that is everything. His presence is everything.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Andthere is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

– Hebrews 4:12-16