Thursday, July 16, 2015

Repentance: A Prayer for Sam & Vava & Kachinvya

It's no secret that one of my favourite things about parenting my own children is the chance that I get to see, in the tiniest way, a sliver of God's perspective as He loves His exasperating children - as He loves His exasperating me.

When my kids are disobedient, ungrateful, forgetful little punks, and I love them anyway and keep on caring for them even when exhaustion is straining at the seams, I am reminded to look up into the face of my Father and see Him smile knowingly as I finally understand the lesson.

When they cry in the night and need me and my feet have wings as I run to their room to take care of them, my heart curls in close to the Indwelling Spirit, who never leaves me, never forsakes me.

When they need to be fed, bathed, changed, held - are utterly helpless but for my care - I bow and acknowledge that I, too, can do nothing on my own and need saving.

Usually, looking at my kids reminds me to look to God, to praise Him for His tender care.  

A few weeks ago our pastor was preaching on repentance, and he shared a quotation that took my breath with its loveliness.

The only way to flee from the wrath of God is to turn and run right into His loving arms. 

And it made me pause and consider how I behave when I discipline my kids. I can't exactly say they always find my heart their safe harbour.  I encourage them to apologize, and I forgive them, yes (sometimes with less enthusiasm than others!) - but I have caught glimpses of my still-upset face in the mirror even after the apology and it is not a comforting sight.

Their punishment must spur them to repentance, and then it should not be scary or intimidating for them to repent.  The struggle against their own desire is hard enough; I don't want my stern eyebrows or ranty words to bear heavily on them.  No - I want them to find no greater shelter than my own arms, my own heart, like I find in my Father.  I want them to find, as I do, that the brief sorrow of repentance leads to the great relief of forgiveness, and the joy of oneness restored.

Because maybe ... maybe in the same way that God uses them to point me to His heart, maybe He will use me to point them to His heart too.
And they will be captivated by its beauty.
And they will ache over their sin.
And they will tremble over God's just wrath.
And they will repent.
And they will flee
straight into His wide-open arms.

And walk in the warmth of His presence forever.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Guest Post: How Belzoir Saved My Life

In the summer of 2009 Janelle and I had our second miscarriage. Our baby was stillborn on July 15, 2010, only eleven weeks old. Today, we would be celebrating the sixth birthday of our child.

We've moved on. We've adopted a bright boy and gave birth to a lively little scrap of a girl and another happy little boy and I treasure them.

We've moved on: grief buried deep below the surface. Now I like to remember our missing child with joy and a little bit of sadness because the event of Belzoir's stillbirth and what we experienced before and after were so transformational for me. I think in the future I will look back and see it as one of the foundational experiences of my life.

So I just want to re-share a brief blurb I wrote to commemorate the first anniversary of Belzoir's stillbirth. (I'm a writer, so that's what I do.)


*editor's note: a birthy-deathy sort of graphic.


The last time I saw Belzoir was through a window in a door dividing the examination room from the hospital's inner sanctum. The window was covered by a blind, which I cracked with two fingers to peek through.

And there sat Belzoir on the counter. He was floating in a jar of formaldehyde about six inches tall. Whenever I think of Belzoir now, that's how I see him. Floating upright in jar of yellowish fluid. Probably heading for a grisly dissection at the hands of some med students at Dalhousie.

The truth is, I don't know what the truth is. People said, Maybe it was better this way. People said, Maybe he would have been born deformed or ... or something. But I don't think any of that would have made any difference to me: I would have loved him all the same. I already did love him. More than I knew that I could. Deformed, whatever, I wanted him to be born. I wouldn't have chosen anything else than for him to be born and for me to love him forever.

But the thing is, the baby is dead. What do I make of that? Is there a reason for it? There has to be a reason for it. What I make of it is this: Belzoir saved my life.

She was sitting on the toilet. I came running to the washroom, barefoot and rubbing sleep from my eyes, I couldn't see anything without my glasses—I was in such a hurry that I left them behind. It was 5am and she was yelling.

So, there she was, on the toilet, pushing this thing in my face. My vision was so blurred that I couldn't see what it was and I didn't know whether she was in trouble or what. And if so, how badly? I was actually really annoyed at having my sleep interrupted.

I had to bend down and squint a little to see what it was that she was pushing at me. I saw a pee stick and I recoiled in disgust when I saw how close I put my face to it and then it slowly came to me that the pee stick was a pregnancy test. And that she was yelling because she was excited. Which meant that the result was positive.

Okay, so, first thing in the morning, I'm a bit of a bear. Well, more of an asshole than a bear, really. My first reaction was relief. I was relieved that everything was okay and I could go back to bed and get some more sleep before waking up in the morning. So it took a minute or two to really get excited about it.

We'd been wanting a baby for a long time. We'd been trying to get pregnant for more than a year by now. The little plus sign on the pee stick was an answer to prayer.

We named the foetus Belzoir. The name came from a dream she had, in the dream the name was embroidered on a quilt along with the line: "The morning rang with laughter and ours was naked and seamless." Cousin Bekzor remembered the dream, and started calling the baby Belzoir. (Bell-Zo-Ear.) It stuck.

We didn't know whether it was a boy or a girl: it was too soon. But we always thought of it as a he.

We knew from the start that it was a risky pregnancy. Doctor Graves told us it wasn't properly attached to the wall of the uterus (or something like that), so we got to have ultrasound pictures taken every two or three weeks. The first one we took home with us, there was nothing to see. Just a flash of light the size of a grain of rice. But we stared at it and hugged it and talked about it and showed it to all our friends and talked about how beautiful the baby was. And in the subsequent pictures we got to see the baby grow from the size of a grain of rice to about the size of a plum.

And then she started spotting. Right away I felt sure that we would lose the baby and I was angry. Doctor Graves put her on bed rest and medicated her to try to prevent the loss. Doctor Graves was pretty optimistic with us, too. But I got a little bitter because this was something we had been praying for for so long and now we had it and we were going to lose it. I was angry at God, like he was playing a mean joke on us.

When we first found out, we decided to tell everyone right away about the baby because we wanted them to be happy with us. We shared all our hope and joy with our friends.

And then, at a regular check up Doctor Graves showed her the dead baby in the
ultrasound. In the picture, it looked as though all lights were out. Even though we were half expecting it, it came as a bitter surprise. That was the only appointment I wasn't able to go to; she had to walk all the way home by herself with the emptiness inside her.

I accepted it with a kind of fatalism and the next few days were tough and not a little bitter. Belzoir's death was a huge loss. We didn't just lose our baby, we lost his infancy, his childhood, his growing up years. We lost all that we were hoping for. We lost a real person that we loved dearly and earnestly hoped to get to know.

Our friends came to us with comfort and they shared our grief. We found friends that we didn't even know we had. People who we had regarded as only casual acquaintances showed us that they cared very deeply for us. It was touching.

It felt a bit strange to grieve over a miscarriage. I felt like, to everybody else, I was grieving something I never had. But I did have him, he was mine and I loved him so much.

That same weekend her brother and his wife came from Vancouver to spend a night at our place while they were in the area for a wedding. We had supper together but towards the end of supper she began to feel pain in her stomach and retired to our bedroom. I found her there later, she was curled up in a little ball holding her stomach. I rubbed her back for a few minutes and then rejoined our guests in the living room.

A little later she called me to the bathroom. Tentatively, I opened the door and stuck my head around it to see what was up. (You see, I'm terrified of vomit and stuff like that.) She thrust this little red blob nestled in a bunch of toilet paper at me all the while yammering excitedly.

Startled, I yelled, "Flush it! Flush it!"

"We can't flush it!" She exclaimed, horrified. "It's our baby!"

Only then did I take a good look at the red blob she was holding. It was a squishy sphere surrounded by a transparent membrane. Inside was Belzoir, floating in a cloudy fluid. I was transfixed. Emotion surged through me, seeing this tiny body with arms and legs and hands and feet and little tiny fingers and toes--even fingernails and toenails, and an elongated head with a little nose and mouth, lumps for ears, and tiny eye-holes. He was almost completely formed. A little person.

It's difficult to describe what I felt then. I was filled with love and joy, just to see the body of our baby. It was no longer an abstract idea of a person I would see someday. I was seeing him now. This was Belzoir's body. We huddled together in the washroom and admired our beautiful little baby's body, wondering at how perfect and complete it was. And then we wrapped it up in toilet paper and brought it out and told our guests what had happened. I don't think we would have done this with anyone else, but we unwrapped the body and showed it to them and even took photographs of it. Then we rewrapped it and tucked it into her purse and the four of us took the body to the hospital together. In the waiting room at the hospital, her brother took a picture of the two of us and the purse with the baby's body inside. We smiled widely. The picture got posted to Facebook with the caption, "proud parents."

It was a happy night. We won't see our child grow up and we won't get to know him yet, but we saw him born and he was beautiful and we loved him. It was affirming, seeing the body.

 Now, when I think about Belzoir, I see him in my head, his little body floating in that jar of formaldehyde and I can't be bitter. I am sad that we've lost him, but I am so glad for the time that we had him. The weeks of our pregnancy and the day of his birth are some of the happiest days of my life, now. We shared so much joy and hope because of him. Belzoir is God's gift to us. He will always be.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1.21).

Because of Belzoir I can never be bitter again.