love…. with ferocity and abandon

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, it was 4:00 am, Jeremiah was calling for me… I never went back to sleep (although Jeremiah did!). About 5:30 am, by God’s providence, the following story was staring me in the face:

http://www.abort73.com/testimony/1816/

When I read this it reawakened all my grief in a flood of tears… that sent me reeling all day long. I felt like I was struggling just to breathe. I wanted Tirzah, and I wanted this baby (who died 2 days before Tirzah’s actual death)… I’m thankful that they’re together in heaven and that they know so much joy. so. much. But it still hurts to not have them here.

This is the short synopsis of the story I read: a young girl, at age 17 became pregnant… and was excited to have a baby. She made lists of everything she needed. She started a journal of letters to the baby. Her boyfriend simply ignored the pregnancy until she was 21 weeks… then he demanded an abortion, or else he would never having anything to do with her again. She was manipulated and coerced. At the same time I assert this, I am not claiming her innocence before God. But I AM looking at the full story.

In her words there is a story of heartache and grief… I am convinced that her grief must be similar to my own. Except she wanted foot prints and hand prints and didn’t get any… She begged the nurses…

She didn’t get flowers, meals, and cards, and necklaces… But she lost her baby too.

Before the abortion, she didn’t know what it would be like… there was an insidious lie… now she knows. And now there’s no way for her to grieve the way she needs to. She is silenced by the guilt, and the shame… but she wants her baby back, just like I want Tirzah back.

I now believe that post-abortive women are truly a category that is unseen, unheard (or just avoided)… despised from both sides… and while everyone is busy arguing right vs. wrong, this woman’s pain is *missed*.

Her pain is too messy and the horror too striking to sit in it for very long. So she sits alone. Or turns to addiction in one form or another… to be her companion… and sit with her.

So now I have deep compassion for women like this one… I want to have open arms for women like this, because Jesus has open arms… “Come to me, ALL who are weary, and heavy laden, and I will give you *rest*”… His forgiveness is offered to all, and gives true rest.

He gives rest, because He took our guilt AND our shame to the cross, and it was nailed there… and once we accept that free gift, God will never bring those things against us, EVER.

I understand that there are looming questions: How does God fit into the death of a baby? Either by still birth, or abortion… and how could God allow babies to be formed with deformities and disabilities? How can He *exist* and be *good* and *all powerful* and these things happen??

Belief in God clearly influences perspective on abortion, because if there IS a God, he designed even the babies with deformities, loves them eternally,  gave them an eternal soul, and has a plan for their lives… no matter how short, just like I believe and experience for Tirzah, though I don’t understand the fullness of how plan… but how do I know she didn’t have some deformity? Tests didn’t show anything, but we don’t know why she died. And I’m still so thankful for her life and to be her mother. I cannot imagine any mother of a baby born with anencephaly saying that she wished she had aborted at 20 weeks… Each one will say that their baby was a *gift* and they are *so thankful* for the short time they had with their baby.

The God I believe in says he has chosen the weak and despised things of the world for His own… That’s *me*, and that’s *each of these babies*… each of the aborted babies is an eternal soul that God has chosen for His Kingdom. I truly believe that is in large part how God is fulfilling his promise to Abraham to have a people in number the same as the “sands on the sea shore”, and a people from “every tongue, tribe and nation”… through the eternal souls of babies miscarried, aborted, still born, and infant deaths. And each of these has a soul that is just as valid as mine. It feels like a mystery to imagine how that can be true because we feel our soul so connected with our conscious thought that results from a fully developed brain. But I believe it is true, and there is a mystery to it… like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly… and will one day be unveiled.

But back to the story of that Wednesday… God used this girl’s story and my unspeakable pain to give me a passion for ministering to post-abortive women. I’m not sure how yet or when… but I’m seeking the Lord… It’s my desire and heart to step into the messiness of women’s lives and offer real help… too often people offer “prayer” as a substitute for tangible help (and I’m NOT discounting prayer, but only when it’s used as an excuse for inaction)… In James 2 it says “if a brother or sister is poorly clothed or lacking in daily food {or has an unplanned pregnancy??}, and one of you says to him, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that??”

Here is the paradox: as I lay curled up on the floor, weeping, begging God to take me… He answered No. And He gave me a passion for living in proportion to my desire to die {I need to insert here: *in that moment*, I AM NOT suicidal!!}… Prior to this day, I could read Paul’s words in the book of Philippians and agree in my mind, but this was the first time I had this very same experience, and could honestly say that these words are from my own heart:

to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus,…  striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,  and not frightened in anything by your opponents… For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. ”

~ Philippians 1:20-29

I pray that this experience will produce a great and lasting boldness for the truth of the Gospel of God’s grace through Jesus Christ… and that I will not be hindered by such things as mere awkwardness or men’s approval… because when I’d truly rather be with Jesus… and Tirzah… really, who cares??  As Isaiah 22:2 says, Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he??

So the kingdom and power of Darkness here on earth ought to tremble, because as long as the Lord gives me breath and life on this earth, I plan to attack the realms of evil with a ferocity and such an abandon, as if I have nothing to loose.

and we all tore our robes

Then Job arose, and tore his robe… and fell on the ground and worshiped. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, Blessed be the name of the Lord.  ~ Job 1:20

This weekend at the Respite Retreat, in Henrietta, TN with David and Nancy Guthrie was a hard and yet glorious time.

My heart was freshly broken for all the families we met, and feeling their pain of loosing their children along with them, along with our own heartbreak for our first daughter Tirzah.

At the end, we all agreed that we didn’t want to leave the retreat…. It was so good, because it felt so safe… it was wonderful to cry and not hold back.. to have people to cry with, and not try to fix it, or feel awkward or rush us past it… i could freely let out the deep guttural cry of my heart… it was wonderful that Tirzah’s name was said, naturally and often. It was amazing to be with people who “get it” and just “know” and we didn’t have to explain or justify anything. Tirzah’s value and worth was assumed and celebrated.

We also found in our time together, the Lord to be faithful and the Rock on which we stand. The *name of the Lord* is salvation, redemption, and resurrection… for our babies… and for us.

We found together that *Jesus understands* both the overwhelming weight of grief, and the loneliness in that grief:

Then {Jesus} said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?

Jesus understands what it is like to pray and receive a “No” from the Father:

he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me

Together we found God’s answer to the “Why??”… and a beginning of putting to rest the guilt and regret we all are tempted to have eat away at our hearts:

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Here in John 9, in this story of a blind man, we see Jesus answer in terms of purpose, not cause, as Nancy drew out of the passage. That was a wonderful reminder, and a truth in season for my heart. Nancy reminded each of us that God DOES NOT punish those *in faith*. For those who have accepted the free gift that Christ offers (the gift of being our substitute on the cross, and dying the death our lawbreaking demands as penalty), ALL the punishment that I *deserve*, Jesus took upon himself on the cross. *This sounds too good to be true* but we accept it and rejoice in this gift by faith. And now, God wants to pour out on US love, mercy, grace, forgiveness and GOODNESS.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. ~ Psalm 23

*ALL* the days includes the days that our children died. God’s *goodness* was there, and IS there in the depths of the despair we still feel.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 (paraphrase) ” and the day of death is better than the day of birth.”

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. ~ Psalm 116

And not only is God good on these days, but He has planned them, purposed them, and written them. Nancy read to us from Revelation 1:17 and Psalm 139. She emphasized this TRUTH: *God holds the key of death. No one walks through until God himself opens the door. And He is ALWAYS right on time.

“Fear not, I am the first and the last,  and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. ~ Revelation 1:17

God has written *every* one of our days. Even the days that our children die.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me… ~ Psalm 139:16 

And finally, we read this *on going* invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

She gently reminded each of us to come to JESUS himself, with a simple and pure heart… it doesn’t say “go to church”, or “seek a spiritual experience”, or whatever we might turn to… instead, we come to our Lord- the *person* of Jesus, and, like the *beloved* disciple John, we simply lay our head on his chest, experiencing his love and rest.

Memorial Speech for Tirzah

The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy
As part of our memorial service for Tirzah, I’d like to share with you part of the journey that Ryan and I have been on over the last several months.
When Ryan and I first found out by ultrasound that we were expecting a baby girl, I cried tears of joy right then and there. I was so excited to have a girl and I hoped that she’d have red hair like me!
We knew right away that we’d name her Tirzah Catherine. Tirzah is a Hebrew word meaning “She is my delight”, and is found in the Scripture book The Song of Solomon, which is a love poem between a man and his bride. We chose our wedding scripture from this book, and we knew that our Tirzah was going to be a beautiful little picture of the special love that Ryan and I have in our marriage.
The Lord laid on my heart a Bible verse to be Tirzah’s “life verse”, which signified our prayers and desires for her: Song 2:10- “My Beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise my love, my beautiful one, and come away…”

Our prayer for her through this verse was that she would have a beautiful and intimate relationship with the Lord. We didn’t realize the meaning the words would later take on, as the Lord truly did call her away.
Ryan and I have joy in knowing that our main prayer for Tirzah, which we prayed over and over during the pregnancy, has been answered- our prayer for her salvation. We have the most confident assurance that she is with the Lord Jesus in Heaven. We believe that the Lord delighted in her so much that He wanted her to be with Him right away. And I believe with all my heart that if we knew what she knows now, and we could catch a glimpse of what she’s experiencing with God, we would have only pure joy and celebration for her. The Lord brought this to my mind in the first hours after learning of her passing, and it has sustained me through the dark valleys of grief.

In a few moments we’ll be singing a praise song called “I stand in awe.” I requested this because through Tirzah’s passing, I have stood in awe at the work of Christ in new way. I accepted the Lord as my Savior when I was 5 years old, and in some ways I think it’s easy for me to take my own salvation for granted. However, when I realized that the death of Jesus on the cross as our substitute and payment for sin, made it possible for Tirzah to be with God as well I was overcome with thankfulness and awe in a new way.
As Ryan and I grieve by faith in the Lord and we have a lot of hope, and joy mixed in with grief. I often feel an overwhelming thankfulness- because Tirzah was a beautiful gift, and everything I prayed for- she even had red hair! Also, every prayer we prayed for her life has been answered as well, although in different timing than we expected.
Now our prayer is that many will be blessed through Tirzah’s precious life.
We pray for our loved friends and family who do not have assurance of salvation and eternity in Heaven that you will respond to the invitation of the Lord.
Romans 10:13 says, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The invitation is so simple and the grace of God so stunningly free: He requires no level of goodness or checklist of good works, and there is no sin He won’t freely forgive. All that He desires is that we come to Him with the simple trust and heart like a child to accept His gift of salvation with delight- like a child eagerly opens a gift on Christmas.
Romans 10:15 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” I picture this verse for Tirzah- how beautiful she is in heaven, like the instrumental hymn just played- in the Garden with Jesus, inviting us to join her in eternity.

I’d like to close by adding that Tirzah has been a very real part of our family the past 9 months, and even though Jeremiah did not get a chance to meet Tirzah face to face here on earth, he was the very best big brother to her!
I’d like to share just a few of our special memories:
1. Jeremiah would sit with me during story time with his little hand on my tummy to feel Tirzah move. He would pause and say, “Tirzah is moving!”
2. When I was getting Jeremiah out of the car one day, he kissed me and I said “You’re going to have lots of kisses for Baby Tirzah too right?” and in reply Jeremiah bent down and kissed my tummy for Tirzah!
3. During my trip Buy Buy Baby, Jeremiah knew right away that we were shopping for Baby Tirzah. I asked him help me pick out a little sweater for her- he knew right away that the one with brightly colored flowers was the one for her!
And last of all, Ryan and I want to thank you all for your love and support and being here with us today.
Thank you!