Thursday, August 25, 2011

“We can’t find the heartbeat.”

It was November 2005, and it was the 2nd time we’d heard this news.  The 1st time was 6 years earlier while we were still living in Fort Worth for seminary.  Now, we were facing the possibility of another miscarriage.  The 1st miscarriage was on my birthday.  And, now, we were just a couple weeks from my son’s birthday.  December 17 2005, Gabriel’s 8th birthday… our 2nd miscarriage… a most bittersweet day. 

Once again, we faced not only our own grief, but also the intimidating task of explaining to our children that the baby in Mom’s belly was gone.  It’s difficult enough to mourn the loss of someone you’ve never known, never seen, have no memories of, don’t know what they look like or who they are, and yet you love them so deeply.  But, now I’ve got the additional responsibility of helping my children to process this, as well.

We began to see the friction in how our children were acting out.  They became very short with each other - yelling and anger increased while laughter decreased.

So, here’s what we ended up doing. 

Picnic Dinner
            We picked up a couple of Pizzas & went to the State Park, where we knew we wouldn’t be disturbed.  I set up a couple of lanterns on either end of the picnic table and we had a fun picnic dinner with laughter as one of the main courses.

Write a letter
            After dinner, I pulled out a sketch pad and some colored pencils.  We explained to our children that we didn’t know if the baby was a boy or a girl, so Dad and Mom picked the name Jesse. 
“Now, since we can’t tell Jesse anything directly, let’s write a family letter to Jesse.  I’ll start:  ‘Dear Jesse, even though I’ve never met you or even seen you, I love you & I will miss you very much.  I am grateful that God gave you to us for this little while.’”
Now, Mom, what would you like to add… Christian… Josiah…” from the oldest child to the youngest.  “Does anyone want to add anything else?”

When all were satisfied with the letter, I passed it around the table for every member of the family to sign.  Then, I said, “Now, let’s decorate it & make it really nice & special for Jesse.”  And every member decorated it however they liked with the colored pencils.  When all of us were satisfied that the letter was complete, it came time for the teachable moment to come to focus.  “We can’t give this letter to Jesse can we?  But, God can.  So, let’s offer this letter to God and ask Him to deliver it to Jesse for us.” 
We moved to the BBQ pit near the table and I had the kids build a small fire in it.  When it was ready, we read about how God collects the prayers of His people in bowls made of gold, & these prayers are incense for Him (Revelation 5.8).  I wanted our prayers and this letter to have a sweet aroma for God, so I sprinkled some cinnamon over the top of it. 

“Oh, yeah.  That does smell good, Dad.”             

So, we all prayed, thanking God again for Jesse and entrusting Jesse to God’s care.  Then we asked God to deliver our letter to Jesse. 
I told my children that what they were going to see was God rolling our letter up into a ball and taking it away.  Then, we allowed the kids to each light a portion of the fire.  It was exciting to watch the paper roll up into a ball as the flame caught at the edges of our letter.

Emotionally, it was an extremely draining exercise.  However, the acting out and the friction were almost completely eliminated and things got back to ‘normal’ after a good night’s rest.  It gave us all a way to “do something” in response to a situation we could do nothing about.  It reassured the children in their helplessness.  It brought our fears, confusion, wounded hearts and tears to the great Comforter.

...and, He comforted us.

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