Friday, December 31


somebody please remind me to never take a three week trip again. especially not at christmas time. especially not when my daughter just died.

i'm sitting at the schmidt's house, watching the snow melt from the roof and listening to the guys debate over whether or not true love exists, and if we as humans can truly love another since only perfect love is in Christ.

i've started about three different posts on this trip, and haven't finished them. i feel pretty lost, pretty done, and VERY ready to go home. home to my life, to where i am a wife and a 27 year old woman, where my daughter fits into the context of my surroundings. where i have a daughter...

so this is a nothing post. but i am still alive up here. just so you all know.

Friday, December 24

to: gwendolyn hope, from: mommy

Merry Christmas, my love.

It's Christmas eve, and I'm the last one up, as usual. I've always liked to stay up late, watching the christmas tree lights twinkle and reveling in the magic of the season. And here I sit, reflecting on Christmas and aching to hold you. You've been with our Jesus for sixty-six days now. (Although I have a theory that God keeps the spirit of babies in heaven before birth... completely unfounded, but it's a better option than what's out there.) I hope that they celebrate Christmas in Heaven... I know that every "day" in Heaven is a glorious celebration of our Almighty God, but I also like to think that there are still special moments of remembrance, especially of Jesus' birth, death and ressurrection.

I've missed you so terribly this holiday, gwendolyn. You're in every thought of mine already, but not having you here --- when i had such hopes for your first Christmas --- is literally heart-breaking. I gave your daddy his birthday gift tonight... the scrapbook I made of your life here with us.

To be honest with you gwenny, i'm already dreading next year's Christmas. I see the year of 2011 as a long line of holidays, marked with your absence. Next year's Christmas already seems empty, with you a  year older in Heaven and your earthly friends a year older here. Maybe i'll become a kwanzaa celebrator... it doesn't have anything inherently based around love, mothers, fathers, or family.

I feel as if what is "mother" in me is slipping away, the further away i get from you. I'm regressing to being just Erin, which is not near as joyful or fulfilling as being your mom. I am your mom. You are my daughter. I have a daughter. I will keep saying that to myself over and over, to remember that it's true, and you and i know each other deeply.

Look at me, writing you a merry christmas note and getting sidetracked on myself... i'm sorry love. It must be silly to pray for those in heaven, since you are in the fullness of joy. but i earnestly pray for you, my gwendolyn hope, that you are profoundly at rest within Love, full of joy and peace.

I cannot wait to see you again. I enjoy you, every moment. I love you, beyond what you'll ever know. I am so glad you are my daughter. Merry Christmas, my beautiful sweetheart.

Thursday, December 23

hope mommies

it's thursday, two days until christmas. christmas is kindof relative, since we're going to celebrate tomorrow, and then on ... some day next week with blair's family. but it's hard to believe that the end of the year is here.

the fingers of my left hand are extremely stiff... i've been working on a project for christmas that requires detailed cutting with an exacto knife, and my hand is cramped. so typing is a challenge right now.

tonight blair and i are going to a Stars game with the chapman kiddos and their significant other, and autumn and justin. i've never been to a hockey game, so this could be interesting...

my parents gave Gwendolyn a stocking. and i'm really thankful... i know that when  i get around to it, i'll make stockings for our family and give her one as well. i miss writing her name. i feel cheated out of signing it 1,000 times.

her name was never one we considered seriously, actually. i had briefly thrown around gwendolyn or genevieve, but we discarded them for some reason. we agonized over names... especially boys. we didn't really think gwen would be a girl, and were so wonderfully surprised by her gender.

i think we named her at some point on monday while in the hospital, amidst the morphine. perhaps it was tuesday? but we both decided that she wasn't our other name options for girls. we wanted something that meant "blessing" or "miracle", because having her revived to life was a miracle. and at first we thought her middle name would be "joy", but it's taken in our family (leila joy), and it just didn't settle in our souls. "how about 'hope'? 'Blessed Hope.' " i suggested. and Gwendolyn Hope Cushman was announced.

and Hope has become our theme. never before have i so tangibly grasped the concept of hoping in Christ, and hoping for heaven. Gwen's service was beautiful, and pastor chris preached on 6 hopes that we now have, but they all boil down to one: the hope attained by the work of Christ's blood over our sins. I only have peace because of Christ. I will only be in heaven because of Christ. and Gwen also, is ONLY in heaven because of Christ. she and i share the same hope, the hope of glory, Christ in us.

Last night Sarah Erwin and i were chatting for a while on facebook, and the topic of our new title came up ("angel mommies", a phrase given to women who have lost their babies in one way or another to death.) we both agreed that we disliked all the titles that are out there that label us - "babylost" is depressing, as if our children are somehow missing. and "angel mommies" suggests that our children are now angels, which i most emphatically disagree with. and even "heaven mommies" isn't quite right, since i didn't mother heaven. so we decided to make up our own title that we'd agree with. and we discussed how the only reason why we'll get to see our children is because of what Christ accomplished on the cross for our sins, opening the gates of heaven to usher us in. and that is our hope. and tada! "Hope Mommies" is our new theme. and our babies are "Hope Babies", born out of hope, prayed for in hope, taken to Christ in hope.

(how many times did i write the word hope in this blog??? ) i will stop. and brave a trip to Northpark mal l before the Stars game.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-13

Sunday, December 19

the red line

in 2006, three days after graduating college, i packed all my belongings (mostly clothes) and headed to chicago, all because the Lord told me to go. and what i experienced there is a different story, written in a different blog, but pieces of it come back to me frequently. it was a sweet time of learning to love the Lord beyond anything and anyone.

A few months in to my time in chicago, faith and danielle came to visit me. i remember us running through downtown chicago in the pouring rain, then sitting on the Metra train for 3 hours in the a/c, and f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g, missing our concert and being bailed out by a stranger. i remember all of us huddled on my full size futon, sleeping sideways with our feet hanging off because i didn't own any other furniture in my apartment. and i remember our goodbye, how the girls were on the opposite side of the L tracks, waiting for their train, all three of us crying. and i think it was faith that said, "this is so dumb," because we were 20 feet away from each other and crying, but separated.

i've felt that way a lot, recently. in the last few days i've felt that i'm on opposite side of the tracks, able to see my friends, hear their words, cry with them... but still separated. what a lonely road, this grief.

we're in denton for christmas. my mom graduated on friday... i am so proud of her! she has spent the last eight years completing her undergrad and master's degrees, all the while being a wife, full time employee, mom, and busy grandmother. now she's done, and i hope she'll be able to relax a bit before she and dad figure out their next big adventure.

i feel a little lost here. i'm out of my routine, so i'm not sure what to do with myself. i'm also attempting to keep a step ahead of a cold/ear infection, but i think it's a losing battle. i feel like grief is present but healing is on hold... but that's probably not true. part of healing is catching up with the rest of the world, right? i mean, my living room couch isn't the only place i'll experience the touch of God... right?

tonight we went with autumn and justin to a community group called the Upper Room in dallas. and i wasn't very present... there was a family with 6 children in front of us. 4 were adopted. one was a baby girl, just a few weeks old. i was watching the girls most of the time. one of the girls, a cute little asian 4 or 5 year old, was standing on the chair behind her mom during the worship. and she was singing along and mimicking the adults around her, raising her hands and swaying. and i cried, wishing i would see gwen mimic us, and knowing that one day i'll get to worship with her. and the baby was asleep in her older sister's arms. as i watched, she woke up and opened her eyes, waving her arms and focusing her gaze on her sister. and i cried, wishing with all my might that i could've seen gwen open her eyes, move her hands... anything with life.

so tomorrow is monday. we're going to the Hydrant to work for a few hours, then tour a camp. maybe tomorrow i'll be a bit more myself. but for now i just feel stuck on the opposite side of the tracks.

Tuesday, December 14

"oh yeah..." moments

i have lots of those now. the moments when you think, "oh yeah... i think i forgot to turn off my hair straightener... oh yeah, retail orders... oh yeah, i haven't written so-and-so back and i guess its been like a week... how did that happen? ... oh yeah, etc." 

i've always been slightly forgetful, but it's worse. blair can tell me something and in that moment i'm totally tracking with him, but then the next day he'll bring it up again and i have no idea what he's talking about. 

and i'm slightly amazed at how fast days go by. i'll have the "oh yeah..." moment and i realize it's been many days since the phone call i meant to return, or the thank you letters that i need to write, or emails/facebook i need to respond to. huh.

i'm just not fully present, anywhere.

it's tuesday morning. and already it's halfway through december,  my mom graduates on friday, matt and dad are having birthdays this weekend, my baby brother's 14th anniversary/birthday (what DO you call that day??) is this week as well, and gwendolyn would be 2 months this friday. and then it's christmas, flying to wisconsin, driving all over wisconsin for a wedding, flying to dallas, driving home. geez. i'm exhausted just writing it out.

i really wish i had more/better pictures of gwenny. i didn't think at the time, "oh this is the last thing i'll have of her. i should get really nice photos..." i just still hoped that i would have life with her, and i could take a gazillion photos every day. 

i miss her today. i miss her every day, but today the pain is acute. every thing i do has sadness wrapped up with it. i've been working on christmas gifts; i won't ever buy her a christmas gift. or birthday gift. or a what-the-heck, i-just-love-you gift.  i'm drinking coffee this morning; i won't have the moment when she's young and wants to try coffee because mommy drinks it, screwing up her little face in distaste. or the moment when she's a teenager and wants a frappucino from starbucks because it feels cool, or when she's a young woman and we go out for coffee to talk about her life and her heart. i won't make scrambled eggs for her or rub her back when she's sick, or show her how to crochet and knit and embroider things. 

so for all of you who have kids, can you just enjoy the heck out of them today??? because i can't enjoy mine. and i know it's valid when you get irritated at your child, but honestly... it is very difficult to walk through walmart and hear a frazzled mom lashing out at her children about things she will NOT buy, or hear complaints about lack of sleep, lack of understanding about what the child is communicating, etc. 

i would LOVE to have a reason to be irritated. one of these days i'm going to pop and start yelling at the women yelling at their kids, "You HAVE your KIDS! Stop yelling at them! Isn't that more important?! Who cares if they're irritating you!? or you can't sleep!? or they can't sleep!? they're with you, aren't they??? you don't have to wonder what she would be like at 5 years old, or 12, or 18. You'll get to experience it. so just deal with the unpleasantness and enjoy the fact that your child is alive, and loves you."

okay... didn't plan on venting. sorry.

and disclaimer: for my sweet friends who have children, please know that i  really love you and am not trying to induce guilt for when you are at your wits end. it's still valid. and i know i'd have the same moments if gwen were alive. i guess my prayer is that you'll be able to quickly move through the frustration and give thanks that you are even being frustrated. (and i'll still want to hear about your life and difficulties, even if it's hard for me okay?)

coffee? check. 
crying? check. 
quiet time? getting to it now...

Sunday, December 12


I'm a visual learner. If someone is giving me directions, I need clear landmarks, and I mentally map out the left and right turns. Just giving me the list of where to turn and when does not help me naturally - i like to see the little map and visualize the turns. Whatever i'm instructed to do, I have to mentally visualize myself doing it, anticipate all the avenues and repercussions of each step or decision, then go about the task. This is the only thing that works in my favor and enables me to be somewhat creative (i am not naturally - i just copy.) I can picture the purse i want to sew, then "un-sew" it in my head and piece it back together in reality.

anyways. long explanation. the point is that i'm also a visual learner in my relationship with God. I see my life with Him in pictures, and can only fully express how i'm feeling or what i'm thinking once i envision myself inside of a story.

This past wednesday the fictional "me" was screaming, throwing things, smashing mirrors, etc. (I think the fictional me keeps me from actually doing most of these things in real life.) I've been seeing her stumble her way through a long dark valley, overcome by the shade of grief. And yesterday, she was done. She just sat down in the cold darkness and cried.

So that's what I did too. I'm done.

I had an incredibly challenging week, due to 'normal' activities. I worked, went to a movie, a christmas party, grocery shopping, and spent a day with the Walkabout students. All this normality is suffocating. I can only handle trying to be brave for so long before i crumble, which is what i did at the river walk in San Antonio. and again in the office bathroom. and again in a parking lot. and again at the YO hotel during the christmas party.

So yesterday, I gave up. It was kind of like an emotional and social hangover... I was foggy, unresponsive, and thoroughly done with everything. My poor husband. He's so incredibly sweet, and I am not a very good wife right now.

My hangover is wearing off. The Spirit and my conscience won't allow me to simply give up and die, or emotionally check out for the rest of my life. So I get up, and start walking again. Still with no light, no explanation, no foreseeable change coming up.

You know what's amazing too, about God? He gets so excited about praising Himself, I think. The Spirit seems to exclaim, "YES!! Good job! Right choice!!" when i choose to get over myself and be swallowed up in grace. And then He infuses me with the ability to trust and go on walking.

This morning I read Psalm 6, and it led me on a treasure hunt:

I am worn out from sobbing,
All night I flood my bed with weeping,
drenching it with my tears.
My vision is blurred by grief;
my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.

My vision is blurred by grief. Surely it will not always be so? "Surely..."

"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life." Psalm 23:6

What does it mean by "follow", I wonder? As in, it will trail after me, but never be with me? So i pull out my trusty Strong's Concordance, and am blessed by the Lord - this word "follow" means to pursue, to chase, to overtake. 

I'm not normally a fan of The Message, but i like the word picture it paints for Psalm 23:6: "Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life." 

Strong's also says that the word for "mercy" in verse 6 means "strength", "steadfastness", and "love". To render a translation without those three meanings would lose it's richness, and either be solely a sentiment without a backbone (love) or cold and legalistic (strength).

So I am being chased by the steadfastness, strength, and love of God, even in this valley. His love is not an empty sentiment, all fuzzy with no depth and no hold over real life circumstances. And His strength and steadfastness are not calculating penny pinchers with no compassion. I am pursued - consistently, steadily, and mightily being overwhelmed by the tenderness of Yahweh.

even here. even now. even 8 weeks later.

Tuesday, December 7

i've never cried so hard because of an animated movie

until i saw Tangled today. super cute, you should see it. one of the best animated films of this genre, for sure. and i'm glad i saw it and will buy it when it comes out, but fair warning - there are a few incredibly tender, (and for me, raw) scenes in it. the happy ending is so... heart wrenching for anyone who has known the pain of separation from their child. i cannot wait to run to gwen some day.

so thanks Tangled, for causing me to weep in the parking lot of Chinatown restaurant.

plodding on

it's tuesday morning, and i'm slow to start the day. i have my coffee with me, and that's about the only peaceful thing i see... my house is once again, wrecked.

this new normal is starting to sink in, i think. which scares me, of course. i would almost rather the agony of those first few days and weeks than the dull ache and clouds. but life goes on.

our weekend was full - christmas shopping, meeting with the midwives, dinner with friends in kerrville, our  elder meeting on sunday morning, church, lunch with friends, more errands (we bought an iphone) and almost picked up hitch hikers, but we weren't going very far in the direction they needed. (a disappointment; i've always wanted to pick up hitch hikers.)

yesterday was a monday, highlighted by crying with valerie, a bible study with the walkabout girls and anne, and meeting with sydney.

i've been trying to get the thanksgiving photos to download, but they're being problematic. so i haven't forgotten dad!

not much to say here, really. i'm just plugging along, one foot in front of the other. it seems to be that God's word to me is, "Wait." wait for what? wait for how long? and will whatever it is that i'm waiting for be as good or better than what i had wanted and still want? no answer, just "Wait." and if His waiting was the kind that hides under the covers, counting down the days until that Day and becoming untidy and unkempt... well i think i could do that kind of waiting quite easily.

But God's "wait" is never like that. He wants me to keep living, to keep engaging, to love and serve my shattered heart out. I think... I think that He wants to show me that He will come through. He will be faithful. He will enable me to stand upon the heights, to laugh over my enemies. He will enable me to run and not grow tired, to walk and not faint. He will do these things, as i wait.

Friday, December 3

breakfast blend and the expositor's commentary

"Hope despairs and yet despair hopes," is how Martin Luther summed up Psalm 13. 

I awoke with this question before the Lord, "How long will i have sorrow in my heart?" Not quite remembering it's biblical address, I went searching through my ESV, and found Psalm 13.

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? 
How long will You hide Your face from me? 
How long must I take counsel in my soul 
and have sorrow in my heart all the day? 
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; 
light up my eyes, lest I  sleep the sleep of death, 
lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," 
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. 

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, 
because He has dealt bountifully with me.

This sums me up perfectly. How long shall I wear this heavy spirit as a garment? How long will I wake up every day, missing Gwen? How long will it take until I am whole, and quietly resting in Your presence with joy? How long will it take before life seems like life again? How long will it take until I can have children again? Light up my eyes, Lord, lest I despair unceasingly and lose hope, and lose myself in depression. Look upon me and answer, O God. I don't want the devil to delight in this, to rejoice over me and say that Death has won. You are greater! Do not allow me to put You to shame by being shaken. "I know whom I have believed," and i trust in You. You will not fail me, or allow Your name to be dishonored. Because I hope in YOU, not in my circumstances or in potential future blessings You may give me, I will rejoice and sing. 

I have many thoughts bouncing around in my brain, but I can't figure out how to organize them neatly, so i will just write them out in no particular sequence:

Random thought #1:
I think that all too often, well meaning Christians give Satan more power than the Lord has allowed him. I've never been one to say that "the devil is tempting/discouraging me," because I usually think that the majority of the time, it's my own sinful nature and desires that do those things (James 1:14). But I do believe that Satan wields death ("The last enemy to be destroyed is death." I Cor. 15:26). But I don't believe Satan can harm believers without God's allowance (Job 1:6, Luke 22:31). I KNOW that God allowed and determined the day of Gwen's death. So i will not say that satan had victory.

And now that you know my foundational beliefs, I will say that I have recognized Satan, Death, and Disbelief as my enemies during this time. And I can pray along with the Psalmist, "Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life;" 

I earnestly desire for God to have an ABOUNDING, undoubtable victory in my and Blair's faith and life. I desire that satan and his minions be put to shame, and disappointed altogether as they wished for us to lose heart, to doubt God's goodness to us, and to abandon the faith. (Praise be to God that He always wins!)

 Random thought #2:
I have more hope than I think people think I have. I just feel the freedom to fully mourn and lament. The Expositor's Commentary says this of Psalm 13:5: 

"Though he has experienced deep despair, the psalmist does not give up. His feet did not slip. He held on to the promise of God's covenant love. He is not overwhelmed by his troubles, but in his depression he says, 'But I trust.' The emphatic 'But I' is a surprising response from the heart of a depressed person. Because life may be so bitter for some, it is only by God's grace that the heart of faith may groan, 'But I.'  "

Random thought #3:
I've felt guilty for being consumed by the loss of Gwendolyn. "Surely I should be giving thanks... I still have a husband who loves me, family, my health, friends, my home and job... I should probably feel a little more grateful. And i'm saved from an eternity in hell." And I've felt guilty for not being as enamored with salvation as I think I should be. 

And I truly am grateful, and in some of my most disheartened moments I've had sweet times of prayer, choosing to list my blessings and thanking Him for them. 

The Expositor's had something to say of this too, speaking of the word "salvation" in verse 5: "The effect of God's love for which the psalmist longs is the experience of salvation. 'Salvation' signifies the whole well-being of God's child. He needs the assurance that God cares, as well as the experience of victory over enemy and adverse circumstances. He also needs the healing in his thoughts of anguish and self-pity. God's 'salvation' takes care of all his needs. He will rejoice in the Lord when God shows his fatherly care. The verb gamal ('deal bountifully with') is fraught with meaning. Yahweh bestows his benefits, not in small measure, but in fullness, so as to give his children the experience of complete and free deliverance." 

And so I will now pray, with freedom from guilt, of God's complete deliverance for us. 

I guess that's all my thoughts for now... that was kindof long.  

Thursday, December 2


it's been an interesting week. monday and tuesday were almost normal feeling... which feels wrong. on monday i cleaned and had help cleaning, salvaged a vintage couch that i'm going to gut, and made something for dinner. on tuesday i went to bible study, ran errands, bought groceries, and had the chisms over for dinner. on wednesday i went to the staff meeting, and called the insurance agency about medical bills. it was then that i was knocked out of my feelings of normality by a simple question from an unassuming customer service agent: "how's the baby doing?"

and i was thankful, actually. thankful to start crying and break down in the office. thankful for the reminder that i'm still not okay, because i was beginning to worry that i was, and that i was moving on.

and today i'm just sad, unprompted by anything other than the fact that my daughter is dead.

and the Spirit just whispered to me, "she's on the other side, Erin! she's alive, and waiting. and you will see her. a horizon is nothing save the limit of your sight. take heart, dear one! take heart."

a GCM song has been ruminating in my soul:

wait for the Lord
be strong, and let your heart take courage
yes, wait for the Lord.

I would have despaired unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!

Monday, November 29

six weeks

this has been the longest six weeks of my life. i feel as though i've aged, and now 27 doesn't sound so young anymore. i miss you, sweet girl. i wish i was saying "i love you" to your soft face and not a photograph.

it's monday. we just got home last night from denton, and every room in my house is now messy. if i lived in a town, i'd hire a maid for the rest of the year. what should i do today, i wonder? my house needs cleaning, gwenny's room needs to be reorganized, work is waiting, our accounts need balancing, food needs to be planned and cooked, decisions still hang over me about headstones and insurance, and christmas gifts are waiting to be considered and shopped for. oh, the options!

all of these normal things used to excite me 6 weeks ago. (okay, "excite" is too strong of a word.) But the motivations behind each task was wonderful - "baby is coming, so the room needs to be ready! meals should be frozen, so i can warm up something when i'm too tired to cook. i should deep clean now so i don't have to think about scrubbing the toilet when i'm holding my newborn." all of my motivations centered around my new role as a stay at home mom and manager of our home, and that gave me joy while i was cleaning/budgeting/folding laundry, etc.

and now, what does it matter? i fold laundry so we don't go naked. i cook and clean and shower because my husband needs food and a clean house and a wife that's not disgusting herself. and so life goes on.

and that is just my house. what of my relationships? my work? my ministry? the women i'm privileged to know and disciple? all of these things are too weighty for me. I want to hide under the covers and sleep my life away, waking up to a better day filled with a baby's cries and children's laughter, when mundane things like vacuuming take on a glorified purpose.

i'm struggling with Your goodness to me today, God. and I honestly don't want to step out and try and trust that even today, You will be good, and that even today, i can find joy in serving You and doing laundry for Your glory. Lift me up, strong Son of God, and enable me to bless You.

Friday, November 26

i give thanks.

do you ever feel how God comes through at just the right time? tonight was ending on a sad note for me. thanksgiving had gone well - crazy, but well - and today was shopping, movie watching, knitting, playing games, and more movies. mom, dad, blair and i went to see Unstoppable, then walked around downtown denton. we stopped in at Jupiter House for the loo and a drink (i recommend the carmel nut nebula; they also make fabulous latte art).

the last time i was in denton was two weeks before gwendolyn was born. blair was driving to texarkana for work, and i was enjoying a day with my friends. i had started my morning off by taking mom to work, then going to Jupiter House for coffee and a quiet time. i remember being exuberantly happy ... it had been a beautiful fall morning, i was wearing a scarf and drinking coffee, and in a city again. i was immersed in pure felicity. i even wrote danielle and faith, telling them how ridiculously happy i was. and why, you ask? because my life was all that i had hoped. i loved my husband, i was due at any moment, and all was right in the world.

and tonight, remembering how happy i was... well it's just depressing. it seems as if all my happy moments are a mockery.

i met kelly recently... another sweet mom who is missing her baby. (i honestly just hate it that there are so many of us... so much death.... hate it. ) and she sent a link to a youtube video of Desert Song. it is encouraging to know that other people who have felt such a deep loss also have felt the "loss" of feeling God's nearness in the way that you have felt before. and you trust in the God that you know, and you keep walking blindly.

This is my prayer in the desert
And all that's within me feels dry
This is my prayer in the hunger in me
My God is a God who provides

And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames

And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon forged against me shall remain

I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

And this is my prayer in the battle
And triumph is still on it's way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I'll stand

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I'm filled to be empited again
The seed I've recieved I will sow

no weapon formed against me shall remain. thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, November 24

captivate us

"A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" Matthew 21:28-31

I desire to do your will, God. I don't want to be as either of these sons... I want to be the one who joyfully and obediently responds. Mom always said that delayed obedience was disobedience. Lord i know that i have been disobedient, i have struggled with Your will to rejoice always, give thanks, to trust and hope in you. And you have proven faithful, and have patiently endured my railing and doubts and anger. Forgive me for thinking less of you than you really are.

Lord, please be my strong Shield and Tower, my Refuge of strength. hide me away from the sorrow that blinds me to the Truth, the despair that overwhelms me, the doubt that seeks to destroy my faith in You.

Tuck me away, God, and "be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me! Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life; let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire my hurt! Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, 'aha, aha!' But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, 'Great is the LORD!' As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!" Psalm 40:13-17

Teach me to run to you with my grief, God. Your love does not always seem like love to me. but Your ways are higher, and good.  Your ways are different, but good.

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?' 'Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?' For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. amen." Romans 11:33-36

Lord, give me discernment as i wade through the rolling emotions of each day. teach me to run to Jesus with them and uncover the truth or the lies behind them. may i only know Truth, God. teach me to rest in your goodness when i cannot understand your will. i love you Lord. so imperfectly, but i love you.

Monday, November 22

my journal entry today - don't judge too harshly.

can Faith be Faith without emotions? does it only include positive emotions? and when emotions are void, does it nullify your faith?

What do you want of me, God? You have taken what is precious to me. And you desire my affections too? You are most Unfair, God. My obedience you have. My will, my life, my allegiance and faith. And that is not enough? You desire my affections? Do you realize how ludicrous that sounds to me? You wound me, maim me, strip my love and hope away, yet still call, "All of you Erin... love Me with all of you, even your affections."

You are most Unfair, God. You create me four-fold. My physical body mocks me, a constant reminder of what happened and how it failed me. spiritually and mentally, i know Whom I have believed. but maybe not as I should... and emotionally? You do this to me and yet You still exact your requirements to be emotionally loved by me?

And will You not speak to me until I have met them? Will You not meet me here, in the dust and ashes of burned up hopes, as I tremble and hesitate to light the fire of my broken offering? Is it only after that You will comfort and bring relief?

And Your answer to Job in his distress was a display of Your power and awesome might. is that all i am to expect? You put me in my rightful place amidst earthen pots and unformed clay? No comfort, no tears, no divine hug and glimpse of an explanation? Even my parents gave a reason when they disciplined, even if i didn't fully understand it at the time. They never physically struck me without telling me why. Are You not a greater Father and Mother?

But You have struck, You have marred, You have reduced me to nothing. and i hear nothing.

If it's for Your glory that You take children from the arms of eager parents... You are sorely testing our faith in Your loving kindness and compassion.

Should I be so enamored by the Christ's atonement that the loss of Gwendolyn ceases to matter? If that's the case, then why love at all? why create families? Why give us blessings if we're not to enjoy them?

And what does Your Spirit say to mine today? "She out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

You are most Unfair, God.

Sunday, November 21


i don't have much to say. i had a depressed day.

yep. that's about it.

i was thinking about how debi coached me to relax into contractions... to surrender to them. i was very confused about that, even in my foggy-labor brain. how do i surrender to the massive amount of pain i'm experiencing? how do you keep your body from resisting it, from seizing up and attempting to control or channel it elsewhere? i didn't have much luck with that concept during my labor with gwen.

today felt like a contraction. well, i would say the peak of a contraction. this whole weekend was mounting sadness, and it crested over me today. and i don't know how to surrender to it, to just feel sad, knowing there's no light in the midst of death's shadow. a Companion, yes. but no light at the end of the tunnel.

yep. that's all i got. nothing profound or uplifting or anything to grasp on to. just pain, pain, and pain.

Thursday, November 18

i'm melting, melting...

i didn't even realize i was having that difficult of a day until i had a melt down tonight. the instigator? a foiled pizza. (literally--- somehow the foil stuck to the crust.) and then i had a wonderful moment where my wedding ring fit my finger again! ...and that lasted for about 5 seconds, until i realized it was cutting off the circulation in my finger. but could i get it off? no. ensue meltdown.

it took about 20 minutes of icing, holding it above my head, wine, whining, saran wrap and lubricant, and one very patient husband to get it off. sigh.

blair and i took a trip to hot springs for a few days. very sweet friends of ours lent us their house and gave us a spa treatment to allow us to relax and be away from our life for a few days. it was really wonderful to have such quality time with blair, and have time away from the internet and phone.

Nancy Guthrie in her book, Holding On To Hope said, "The day after we buried Hope, I understood for the first time why so many people choose to medicate their pain in so many harmful ways. That day I tried to sleep it away. And in the days that followed, I discovered that I could not sleep it away, shop it away, eat it away, drink it away, or travel it away. I just had to feel it. And it hurt. Physically."

I had read that before our trip, but I still hoped that traveling would allow me some reprieve... negative. Gwen was everywhere. I will never take her shopping. I will never get coffee with her. I will never travel with her, and learn her traveling style (serious plan from point to point like her dad? wandering aimlessly like her mom?) Doing life is painful, since life is exactly what i will not have with her, for a while. but each day takes me closer.

I was able to worship today to the this song by Third Day:

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul
In you, O God, I place my trust
Do not let me be put to shame
Nor let my enemies triumph over me
My hope is in you
Show me your ways
Guide me in Truth
In all my days
My hope is in you
I am, O Lord, filled with your love
You are, O God, my salvation
Guard my life and rescue me
My broken spirit shouts
My mended heart cries out...


Grammar was never really my thing. (when it came to school, I’m not really sure I had a “thing”… biology, maybe? Psychology? Definitely not anything sports related, we know.) I didn’t really click with English grammar until I was learning German, and had to remember how adverbs and adjectives and indirect objects and prepositions worked.

I’ve been thinking that God is a fan of the preposition “through”. According to, the word “through” means: in at the first step of a process, treatment, or method of handling, passing through subsequent steps or stages in order, and finished, accepted, or out of the last step or stage. And that’s what He’s doing in me and in Blair… it's a process, a treatment... a purging of the dross and refining by fire. He wants us to go through the red sea, through the valley of the shadow of death, through the water and fire. There’s no getting around the pain… the only way up is through.

My daughter is one month old today. What would she have been like today? Crying, difficult to understand, opinionated? (read mother’s daughter?) or calm, cautious, and cute as all get out (like her dad)?  Would she have settled into a routine? How much would she have kept us up at night? I bet she would be able to hold her head up. And have gained another few pounds. My daughter.

What kind of mother would I have been? Patient? Enjoying every blessed moment? Frustrated from lack of sleep and having no idea what my screaming baby was trying to communicate? All throughout my pregnancy, I envisioned taking great naps with her. And now, when I lay down I think of what it would feel like to have her little body next to mine, sleeping away. 

What kind of woman am I now? Broken, grief-filled, questioning yet determinedly clinging to what I believe, yes. But how then shall I live? I want to be a better woman, a better wife, daughter, sister, friend… I know that Gwen has impacted me deeply, but I want it to be the good kind of impact that leaves me not a little bit closer to Jesus, but DRAMATICALLY closer to Him and radically more like Him. 

Sweet baby, I miss you today.  Every day brings me closer to you, and I hope in that. I love you, gwenny.  Happy one month with Jesus.

Saturday, November 13

but most of all

today has been busy with fall camp. it has been fun... and good to laugh. i feel the undercurrent of sorrow seeping through my eyes and smiles and laughter, and i can't fool anyone. but i've been trying to keep it from sweeping over me. my attempt at ignoring it made me remember a story i wrote 5 years ago... i've edited it some to more accurately reflect where i am now:

My house has become a curiosity as of late.  Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve had certain visitors come… and stay.  Without asking, they’ve taking up residence somewhere along my borders, or inside my home. In the mornings I can hear Brokenness outside the front door, pacing across the creaking wood floorboards.  He has developed a routine: knock twice, pace.  Tap at the bay window, pace.  Knock again, sit.  He’s very eager to be with me, but he gives me such a hollow feeling that I politely decline and attempt to ignore his requests.  When I venture outside to go about my business, he clings to me like a shadow.  When I (we, I should say, for he has taken to lodging on my front porch) return, I ask him to wait outside and he always replies, “Happily, ma’am.”
In the evenings I’ll often find Mara and Mourning in the garden, strolling on the stone paths overtaken with vines and ivy, or resting under the gazebo’s graceful arms.  Neither of them are very cheerful creatures, and in a small way I fear them. Or rather, I fear what affect they would have upon my countenance and being.  And so I oblige them with an arm in arm stroll across the grounds, and soon after I bid them goodnight, I’ll hear them sing.  Its always the same song: a slow lament that winds its way through the eaves of the house and under the crack in the kitchen window and settles itself softly in the hallway. 
Sorrow is a peculiar thing. He likes to hide in the most unusual places… in between the bed sheets, for instance.  I find him frequently peeking out from behind the picture frames that line the walls, or lingering around the coffee cups.  He especially likes my perfume cabinet.  He and I often sit on the overstuffed couch that rests in the living room, and entertain Silence, who comes to call rather frequently.    
But most of all, there is Hope.  She comes less often these days, but her visits always cheer me.  She usually takes my hand as we walk to the top of the stairs, through the french doors and out on the balcony.  We sit and watch the sunset and before she leaves, she hands me a gift…always the same, small token: an exquisitely carved wooden leaf made from solid oak.  She always repeats the same phrase, “Fulfillment is on his way.”

Friday, November 12

it's been a bad day

"Suddenly, here it is again. The chain of suggestion can begin almost anywhere: a phrase heard in a lecture, an unpainted board on a house, a lamp pole, a stone. From such innocuous things my imagination winds its sure way to my wound. Everything is charged with the potential of reminder. There is no forgetting." - Nicholas Wolterstorff

It was a bad dream last night that prompted wailing, weeping, and yelling in the shower today. it wasn't supposed to be this way.

"He has made my skin and my flesh grow old; and has broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead." Lamentations 3:4-6

"Has God forgotten to be merciful?" Psalm 77:9

"The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me." Job 30:27

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me? so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent." Psalm 22:1-2

Thursday, November 11

even the stars sometimes fade to gray, even the stars hide away

i woke up this morning, really wishing that reality wouldn't set in. i just don't want this. i miss gwen today, and miss feeling her inside me... i was always amazed by how strong she was, and how she could reach all the way around to jab me in the kidneys or lung... my sweet baby just needed more room, i think.

i've been thinking about NOT thinking about the emergency procedures. It is so difficult for me to remember when things started to go wrong... when Dr. C told me that my baby might not be alive... i never, never, never ever want to hear anyone tell me the things they told me and did to me in the emergency room. So at this point, i keep shoving those memories into the dark corners of my brain, and would like them to stay there. (it's not as if i could really forget, but i don't want to call them to mind.)

But am i supposed to remember? Do i need to? is there some sort of healing to be found by remembering those things? Do i need to be intimately acquainted with every square inch of the cross i now bear, or can i carry they weight without knowing?

i want to hide away today.

Wednesday, November 10

mother daughter dates

i feel like the Lord was gracious to me yesterday, and that his birthday gift to me was a double portion of joy. gwen was never far from my mind, and the depth of losing her will always undergird other emotions, but yesterday i was able to feel joy.

i went to our bible study and was encouraged by the message. lately i have been so comforted by the fact that Gwen is REAL, she is still a physical being in a physical place, and has a personality, a love for Jesus, and Lord willing, is still 10lbs 1 oz. She is not a fairy tale or fictional character, she's not surreal or imagined or non-existent. I will see and touch her and hear her voice and laugh with her some day. I will know my daughter. yesterday I read this quote about children in heaven, and while i don't know if it's true or not, i really hope it is:

"I believe with all my heart that God will raise the little ones such that the mother's arms who have ached for them will have the opportunity of holding them. The father's hand which never held the little hand will be given the privilege. I believe that little ones will grow up in the care of their earthly parents, if they are saved." - J. Vernon McGee

I had errands to run after bible study, but i was longing to spend time with my daughter. I got my favorite starbucks drink and went and sat at her plot, thinking of how one day her body will be resurrected from that small 2 foot by 1 foot space. I prayed and talked with her and God and asked Him to pass along messages to her. I read 1 Corinthians 15 over her, and told her what will happen in her future. I find so much comfort knowing that Death will be swallowed up, and never allowed to touch anything ever again. The earth will be purified from the ravages of decay and death, and be freshly new. And we who love and know Jesus will inhabit it.

Afterwards I went and spoke with the rep at the monument place - he spent an hour educating me on all my options for headstones. (Okay so not the best idea of what to do on my birthday, and it was emotionally taxing. i thought i would just stop in, but it was helpful.) I have to say though that i know more about headstones than i ever wanted to know, and they charge you an arm and a leg for a piece of granite.... hard not to feel like they take advantage of people in grief. but maybe the good stones really do cost $900...

they put up a temporary stone for the time being.

Monday, November 8


i've had a lot of ideas and thoughts that meant to turn themselves into a blog, but didn't...

my sister came for the weekend, at the last minute. it was so sweet to my soul to have her here. we're only two years apart, and have always been close. when i watch my nieces play together, i think autumn and i must've been the same when we were 6 and 4... playing pretend about nearly everything, fighting over toys and learning to apologize. we've gone through everything together, and i love that she is so near to my heart that we feel each other's sorrows and joys deeply. she is mourning my loss as a mother and hers as an aunt; and we settle into a rhythm of relating to one another that's 27 years into the making. autumn knows the balance of asking questions, crying, making me laugh, serving me when i need it, giving me space with my husband and quiet time with the Lord... what a good thing God creates when He makes sisters. I never have adequate words to express my whole heart, but know that i love you, aut.

speaking of time ... tomorrow is my 27th birthday. i've had a habit for the last 10+ years or so, that the night before my birthday i will sit and journal about the past year and what has changed, how i am different, what were the highlights and the lows, etc. i pull out my journal(s) and read through the past 365 days, remembering what God brought me through.

the theme of my 26th year was Baby. it's what dominated the majority of my thoughts, prayers, and actions. we started trying to get pregnant in december; we found out we were pregnant on february 7. overall, i believe my year was one of JOY, unspeakable joy. and i won't let despair take that away from me. being Gwen's mom for the 9 months of her life was the most lovely thing i've experienced.

Today I was reading Isaiah 61, and how the Lord came to proclaim "the year of the Lord's favor". I began (and will still) be praying that God would give us a year of His favor... but I believe He already did. and while it didn't turn out at all as i had hoped, anticipated or dreamed, He did give us 9 sweet months of joy and a beautiful baby... He had favor over us.

Here's to a new year... Lord, please give me new hopes, new dreams. please show your favor on us once again. please fulfill my longing in your good timing... but soon, Lord, please. Draw my heart after Yours, God. Thank you for never resting until I am wholly, completely Yours. 

Friday, November 5


i've been thinking a lot about mourning lately, and how i think we americans do it all wrong. and i figured, that if there's a way to do it right, i'll find it in the bible... and what i've found is outward, emotional, long periods of mourning. they expressed grief. they took time for it. they stopped all celebrations and rituals and habits. they sat in silence. they wailed loudly. the psalmist expressed his range of emotions through writing and song. these are the ones that grieved well.

i've met so many women who have lost children or siblings or parents, who have told me that they think blair and i are doing well to "let it out" and to write and write and write and talk and talk and talk. they had not, they tell me, and you can still see the burden they carry. 

so i am determined to do this well.

i was reading ecclesiastes 3 today, and decided to expound the verses and personalize them (vs. 2-4):

God predestined a time for Gwendolyn Hope to be born - it was October 18, 2010 at 3:10pm. He also predetermined her time of death - October 20, 2010 at 3:30am.

He gave Blair and I a time to plant and cultivate dreams for Gwen - 9 sweet months. He gave us a time to dig them up and plow up the ground, readying our hearts for His new (and good) plan  - this is now.

He created a time to die to ourselves and to our own wills as we lay them down before Him.  He also promises a time of healing, a season in which He will gently bind our wounds and restore our broken walls.

He gives us days full of breaking down emotionally before His Body, the Church. He gives the Body the grace to build us up and carry us --- physically, emotionally, spiritually.

He hollows out periods of time for weeping, and weeps with us. He graciously gives moments of laughter to balance out the waves of suffering.

He has determined a time for us to mourn, and promises that we are blessed because of it, for we will be comforted. He invites us to dance with Him, like clumsy children standing on His great big feet as He moves us along to His rhythm.

This is my God. He makes all things beautiful, in it's time. 

Thursday, November 4

theology vs. emotions

so maybe i spoke too soon in my blog post about trying not to be angry... i feel so, SO hurt by God this morning... and i just want to be angry to help myself express it better.

what am i to do, when my theology battles my emotions??? i KNOW that God is good, i believe it with all my heart. i KNOW that He is powerful, and the Creator, and could speak LIFE into Gwen, even now!! 

but He didn't. He didn't! WHY!? why???! she was just a baby! why not!? 

and what does that mean about my faith??? at some point in september, i asked God to give me more faith. And since He is the object of my faith, i thought it would behoove me to study the character of Christ. So i began reading Matthew and Luke, concurrently. And now i regret that decision, since i don't know what to do with the Jesus i'm reading about. He tells me that if i have faith, i can move mountains (Matt. 17:20) and that if two of us agree on earth about anything we ask, it WILL BE DONE for us by our Father in heaven (Matt. 18:19) and that i ought always to pray and not lose heart (luke 18:1) because "will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily." (Luke 18:7-8) 

and i understand that that doesn't mean i get everything i want, and that God has this giant cosmic plan that i couldn't understand even if He explained it to me... but didn't Jesus want his disciples and the crowds to take Him at His word? to believe what he spoke to them, and have faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish great things? 

i don't care to know that there is a purpose in this.  no purpose will be good enough for me. i know that's selfish, and very me-focused. but i'm not okay with my baby dying for my sanctification, or other's sanctification... and i'm not really okay with her dying to bring other's to Jesus. isn't that what His death was for? 

I'm not okay with God today. I feel hurt, bruised, disappointed, broken... and His words just confuse me today. today i don't have the faith to say, "though he slay me, i will hope in him." 

Wednesday, November 3

what's the phrase about biting the hand that feeds you?

i've been thinking a lot about anger these past two weeks. i've had many people tell me that it's okay to be angry, to express my anger, to yell and scream when i need to... God can handle it. and i know i've said the same thing to many people before. and what we mean when we say this is, "don't bottle your anger." or "it's not a sin to be angry." or "be willing to go deep into all your emotions." or other things like that.

but anger is really a secondary emotion. it's a productive emotion... it gives you a sense of control and power, and it is normally directed outwards at God or others. but when you get down to it, anger is really just being hurt. and it's not any fun to just sit inside "hurt-ness" and be vulnerable... it's much easier to be angry.

when my brother christopher died, i was so hurt by God that i threw myself into anger and bitterness... i was the embodiment of rage, just waiting to tip over on some poor, unsuspecting person.

i don't want to be that again. as much as it hurts to just feel hurt, i don't want to be engulfed by anger. i'm still asking God "why", and telling Him how much i feel hurt by him. and maybe some day i might need to yell at him, but right now He's the only one who can comfort my soul completely... he also injured my soul, but "he disciplines those he loves." (or wounds, in this case.)

racoons are like satan.

they come to steal, kill and destroy. this morning at 3am, two of them snuck into our chicken coop and killed two of our chickens. We heard the chickens squawking and blair saw the coons out the window, so he went out and shot them. i don't think we woke up too many of the neighbors... we both laid in bed for awhile, trying to calm down. i kept thinking of our poor chickens and how they had probably all flew off. so i decided to go looking for them. as i walked out i saw another coon on top of the chicken run - i told blair and he got that one too. afterwards we decided to check the chicken area, and thankfully 9 of our original 11 were still sleeping inside their coop.

silly things, but additional loss in any way is distressing to me.

today i decided to come back to work for a few hours. i'm not sure if that was the best idea for today or not. i was fighting back tears during the staff meeting... how silly. i'm not ready for "normal". My previous normal, up to October 17, was to be pregnant and enjoy my husband and be ready for a child. Now everything that is "normal" just seems wrong... some people find comfort in routine after grief... not my style. i just want everything to be different, since it IS different. I should have a new house that doesn't have the hope of gwen around every corner. I should have new clothes that i didn't wear with her, ones that fit a new body that is marred by a 6 inch scar. i should have new hobbies and habits, things that won't make me cry as i remember how i was excited about sewing her clothes or knitting her a new diaper cover. I have all of my old life waiting for me, full of every reminder that we don't have our blessed hope here in our arms. i try to remember life with her in me and be thankful... and sometimes it works. but today it's just too sad for me to remember.

 i am thankful for Blair today. Apart from the Word of the Lord, he is the biggest encouragement to my heart and can still make me smile. And this morning, and i saw him doing things he doesn't like to do (like shoot animals when he's not hunting) i was thankful that he is the Defender of Our Home, and my Close Companion and Champion of my Heart. I love you infinitely more, husband. Thanks for making me smile today.

Tuesday, November 2

gwenny's star

This morning i read Psalm 147:3-4. "He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names."

My dad has been praying verse 3 for me and blair. I thought verse 4 was interesting... i always thought the idea of God naming the stars and giving each of them value was beautiful.  I didn't see the correlation between the verses though. 

This afternoon we received a package from Holland --- from the star registry. a friend of ours named a star after Gwendolyn, so that every time we look at the heavens we can be reminded of the hope that we have in Christ Jesus.

After a rough two days and a half, this was a bright spot in my day. here's a picture of her star... it's by Hercules and Corona Borealis.  

Monday, November 1

the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

isn't that the title of that kid's book? a little over the top, but expresses an emotion quite well.

i just re-read facebook messages from the last two weeks... and they roll from prayers of healing and faith into prayers for comfort in grief. it's difficult to remember.

i'm broken hearted today. i don't want to be strong, and i don't want to know or attempt to be comforted by the fact that God is using this to give me a greater faith or make us great witnesses or anything. i really just want this to be a dream, and to wake up with gwen kicking inside me or crying beside me.

but i won't. and the nightmare just goes on.