Sunday, April 20, 2014

He Lives.

Today for the closing hymn at church we sang "I Know  That My Redeemer Lives." This has always been a favorite of mine but has been made even more special because it is also the closing hymn we sang for James' funeral services.

We didn't invite many people to his graveside burial, it ended up being family and some close friends and I remember choosing with Kyle a few nights earlier to sing "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," we went over the verses trying to select which ones to sing, which ones held the most meaning for us in this new life we were now living. We decided on three of the four verses (1, 2, & 4):
  1. 1. I know that my Redeemer lives.
    What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
    He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
    He lives, my ever-living Head.
    He lives to bless me with his love.
    He lives to plead for me above.
    He lives my hungry soul to feed.
    He lives to bless in time of need.
I remember singing these words and hearing the voices behind me in support and love. Peace crept over my heart that miserable, rainy morning as I felt love and support from those surrounding me.
  1. 2. He lives to grant me rich supply.
    He lives to guide me with his eye.
    He lives to comfort me when faint.
    He lives to hear my soul's complaint.
    He lives to silence all my fears.
    He lives to wipe away my tears.
    He lives to calm my troubled heart.
    He lives all blessings to impart.
The second verse was completely necessary for me to sing, for within it held so many of my emotions. I felt faint, I was fearful and sorrowful and if ever there was a time in my life where my heart had been troubled, it was then.

    1. 4. He lives! All glory to his name!
      He lives, my Savior, still the same.
      Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
      "I know that my Redeemer lives!"
      He lives! All glory to his name!
      He lives, my Savior, still the same.
      Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
      "I know that my Redeemer lives!"
A few months after James' funeral, my father-in-law was talking to us and brought up the funeral and the hymns that were sung. He made a remark that has remained with me. Our numbers were few, and the majority of those numbers were my family. In my family I am the only member, the only one who knew the tunes to those songs. We had no piano, only hymnbooks and chorister and yet, when the songs were sung, when "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" was sung in particular, I heard many loud, clear, and confident voices. My father-in-law had the impression which I am so glad he shared with me, that on that rainy morning, we were not alone. There were voices heard from those unseen. The angels who had been ministering to me and my family in the previous days were joining in answer to the prayers of my heart for the words of this beautiful song to be true and as I sang, I felt the Holy Ghost testify that those words are true.

He lives and He has not left us comfortless. Because He lives, we are able to receive so much, to learn and grow and have hope that all of this learning and growing has purpose.
 But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. (Mosiah 16:8)
I do know that my Redeemer lives. On this Easter Sabbath, the reality of his resurrection brings more peace and comfort than it ever has before. His resurrection brings me joy.

(Max learning how to use a camera...)

He overcame temptation, He overcame sin, He overcame pain and sorrow and even death. His resurrection is a promise of hope to us all that because of Him, we too can overcome this world. The trials and hardships we face can be opportunities to be sanctified, to be made holy, better versions of ourselves. To be sanctified is to gain greater understanding, more compassion, charity, patience, etc. To be sanctified is to see a garden bloom and grow despite the weeds that try to choke and hold us back.

I pray this Easter may be a time for each of us to offer thanks for the divine gift of our Savior, for His life to has purpose in ours. That because of Him, we may live to have joy and radiate that joy to all those around us.

 (Painting by Minerva Tiechert, found here.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

We arrived at the Grand Canyon right after the sun had set, we knew the canyon would be too dark to see and we had plans to catch the sunrise the next morning anyways. So we headed to our hotel room and enjoyed an evening of bouncing on the bed and watching Chopped.

Sunrise the next morning would be at 6:40am, an easy wake up for the parents of a child named Max. We looked at the map and suggestions from the park newspaper and decided to watch it at Lipan Point, it would be about a 30 minute drive so we would have to get a bit earlier, but we figured the view would be worth it.

We woke up, got dressed, Kyle had to run back in to grab an extra blanket just in case and then we were off. Following a map in an area we had never driven in, in the dark.

We missed our first turn but realized it about 20 seconds later. Once we got our bearings we were off. Slowly the sky was already starting to turn from darkness to light and with each minute my anxiety grew and grew. We were following a tour van that pulled off at Grandview Point and for a moment we considered doing the same but decided that we would surely make it in time, we still had 20 minutes until sunrise and were about 12 minutes from our destination point.

But sunrises can try to trick you. The sky gets lighter and lighter as the earth turns to greet the sun but the actual point where the sun breaks the horizon is what you are really waiting for. I just didn't want to miss it. I chattered away at Kyle about stopping and agonized over the map and clock constantly afraid we would miss the sunrise.

"We are going to miss it..." I would say anxiously every time a minute passed away.
"We still have time, but if you want to stop when is the next viewpoint?"

My nervousness and anxiety was infecting the entire car and soon Kyle was getting nervous even though at the beginning he reassured me that 6:40am was still plenty far away for us to reach it in time.

But we were surrounded by unknowns. We had never been here, didn't know where we were going and although the road was fairly empty, it was curvy and signs constantly warned us to look for animals. It was nerve-wracking all around.

We were getting close to a viewpoint that was halfway between Grandview and Lipan, Moran. I rationalized that surely any viewpoint of the Grand Canyon would be a good one and so with anxiety at its peak, we saw the sign for the Moran and I urged us to take it, to not take the risk of missing the Grand Canyon at sunrise.

It was a beautiful viewpoint, we studied the canyon for the first time in it's early morning purple hued haze. The immensity of the canyon makes it hard to be crisp and detailed from far away. We sat there, bundled up looking down into the canyon and taking turns cuddling Max and taking pictures of it all. We sat there for a good ten minutes before sunrise occurred and when it finally did we watched as streams of light walked down lower and lower into the canyon. As it descended we saw new colors, purples and blues turned red and yellow and we felt grateful for getting to witness it all.

The drive back to get breakfast in our hotel room was curious though. We wondered what Lipan Point would have been like? At Moran there was a portion of the canyon that blocked the majority of the actual sun rising aspect, we saw the effects on the canyon, but missed the actually sun, we were in too shallow of a point. But we couldn't change the choice we had made and we were happy with our experience overall, but still we wondered.

The rest of the morning was spent on a short hike to (I kid you not) Ooh-Ahh Point. The hike descends about a mile and a half into the canyon and the view does in fact inspire oohs and ahhs. After our hike, we packed up once again to finish our road trip back home to Washington. This required us taking that same drive towards Lipan Point and as we drove in broad daylight, the area now familiar, we decided to stop at Lipan point. To see what we had missed.

I am both glad and sad that we did.

We got to Lipan Point and realized immediately that the sunrise would have been incredible there. It was an unavoidable fact. The viewpoint has more panoramic views and we would have been able to actually see the the sun crest over the horizon. We also realized we could have easily made it to Lipan Point had our anxiety not caused us to turn off earlier. It was about 7 minutes away from Moran Point.

I have mulled over this event in my mind many times, I have analyzed and thought about the various aspects and the bigger picture. This story isn't really about seeing the Grand Canyon at sunrise but rather it is about fear causing us to miss out on some of the best of life's experiences.

In my last post, I wrote about learning to trust my body and the experience and process of pregnancy again and my desire to do so is in large part because of this experience at the Grand Canyon. I let fear and anxiety get the best of me and although my viewing of the sunrise was still beautiful, I know that it could have been that much more incredible and affirming. I needed to trust that the sun would rise at 6:40 am. Although the sky was getting bright, the sun wasn't there yet. The experience was still beautiful but making a choice influenced by so much anxiety can leave doubt as part of your memory.

Choosing faith and trust, even when circumstance are beyond your control allows for your memory to be enveloped in peace and comfort. That is what I am striving for in this process of healing. To choose faith and trust, especially when it hard and even when fear exists.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Body Betrayal

I have come to the conclusion that most everyone experiences body betrayal at some point in their life. It may be early for a girl whose body does not fit the standard for beauty that the media flashes all over, it may be sickness, cancer, allergies, or perhaps you are lucky and your body waits to betray you until you are old and gray and deterioration sets in.

Growing up, my mother made it a point to not have a scale in our home, she made it a point to get us to go outside, to exercise and move our body in whatever way felt best. In fact, my mother went to graduate school during my tween years and came across a program called Go Girls. It's aim was to create healthy body images  and self-esteem with young girls. To help them be conscious and aware of how the world tells us how we should look, think and act. She led classes for my classmates and I and for a long time I took for granted that I had a mother who was actively trying to make sure that I knew that I should love my body.

I became aware of my gratefulness for it when I started to hear friends, classmates, or coworkers talk negatively about themselves. I recognized that I had been given a body that was easy for me to love. I fit most of society's standard for beauty, and the parts that didn't fit (curly hair, late puberty, crooked smile) were easy for me to accept.


I struggled for awhile after having Maxwell and realizing that weight gained while pregnant was not so easily removed, but I focused on exercising with the focus not primarily on weight loss but to have a healthy body. A body that could run and play and have the energy to make a difference in the lives of my families and others.

These days, there is a lot of inner self-hatred for my body.

When James died and there was no clear cause, what am I to blame except my body? I have been consumed lately with the thought that my body betrayed me.

My body was supposed to nourish, protect and create a safe home for James and in short, it failed. I don't know how but because we do not know the cause of his death I have nothing to blame but this space where my spirit resides.

This create conflicting feelings for pregnancy after loss.

I no longer have that inherent trust in my body that was created while carrying Max. I know it is possible for my body to carry a baby healthy, to term. But I cannot help but wonder if it will betray me again.

After James died, it was physically difficult to look at myself in the mirror. I would get ready for the day, never really making eye contact busying myself with the routine of gel in my hair scrunch, scrunch, scrunch, mascara to the lashes, concealer to cover the dark circles under my eyes bruised from crying. I would dress in the same manner, trying to focus on the outfit rather than the empty arms.

It has gotten easier to look at myself in the eyes, it took a conscious effort at first and now I am starting to accept the things that I love about myself again.

In an effort to love my body, I am actively trying to trust it. Many in the pregnancy after loss community get induced at 37 weeks, especially when there was no known cause before. I understand this, completely. But I also cannot accept that for myself. I realized that to learn to trust my body again, I had to learn to trust God again. They are intertwined, for He created this body for me and only because of the Fall of Adam and Eve is my body subject to betrayal.

Gratefully, my current doctor is supportive of my effort to trust in this process and in my body again. I know that emergencies happen and my main objective is to get this baby here alive, but this journey of pregnancy after loss is messy and dark and gruesome and finding light in the trust I am building within myself and with God provides peace and relief.

I hope that as you read this, that you will look within your own lives and the own distrust or betrayal you may have felt with your body, as you do I pray that you will find ways to love the unique body you have been given. Its unique traits and difficulties can be opportunities to deepen your understanding of the human experiences. As I have dealt with this I have come to understand feelings of self-loathing and jealousy over perspectives of other's experiences. I have come to learn empathy and compassion and a deep desire for us all to truly love ourselves.

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