Beauty for Ashes

By: Holly Berg

Three years ago we bought our son an adorable little t-shirt:  “Big Brother Team Captain”, it said. He wore it to Grandma and Grandpa’s house that evening – he was so excited to share the big secret he had been keeping.

My husband’s parents were ecstatic – they had been waiting for a second grandchild since the day our son was born!

Then I started bleeding. Just a little spotting, at first.

Then more.  beauty-for-ashes

We spent the night in the emergency room but by the time the doctor finally got around to examining me we already knew the diagnosis.

“Your pregnancy has terminated,” he said.  So cold. So clinical.

He gave me a prescription for T3 and sent me home with a dismissive “It’s so early, everything will happen naturally. Come back if the pain gets unbearable.”

Unbearable.

The next day I couldn’t move. I laid in bed and cried.

And cried and cried and cried.

We had only found out about the baby the week before.  One week – but I already loved my little bean.

I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect the pain.

My husband had to carry me to the bathroom and then hold me while I sat there, shivering, shaking, trying not to be sick.

I’ve never seen him cry so much, or so hard.  It had only been one week, but he loved our baby too.

* * *

Two months later I found out that I was pregnant again.

I hated every moment of my relatively easy pregnancy with my son, but I cherished each moment of this much more difficult pregnancy.   It was a pregnancy filled with worry and fear and anxiety, but God replaced our mourning with joy.  

The Bible says “Those who sow with tears will reap songs of joy.  Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”  (Psalm 125:5-6, NIV)  And it reminds that the Lord will “provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)

Ten months after my miscarriage, I gave birth to a healthy 6 lb 4 oz baby girl.  

Beauty from ashes.

At the time I clung to Scripture:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  (Romans 8:28 (NIV))

Going through a miscarriage was horrible, it was scary and it was painful – but looking back, I can see how God revealed Himself – and His love for us – in that situation.  I can see how He worked all things – even our grief – for good.    

The tragedy we experienced strengthened my relationship with my husband. I remember the night after our trip to the hospital, lying in bed, sobbing, with a Kleenex box between us.  We were connected in love and grief.  We went through every moment of my third pregnancy together – my husband was much more attentive and much more involved than he had been the first time around!  We both learned that nothing in this life is a given – we need to depend on God for every single breath.  My husband was there for every doctor’s appointment, every ER visit, and every ultrasound – holding my hand, praying with me, calming my fears.  

ashes-and-beautyI also learned not to take the children I do have for granted.  Even on challenging days, when I’m exhausted and none of us are at our best, I see my children as blessings.  I realize my time with them may be fleeting so I try to make the most of each and every day with them. 

* * *

Maybe it’s just me, but in my experience beauty goes hand in hand with pain.  You can’t have one without the other.  

One of my favourite passages in Scripture says that we may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, but “these have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV)

Being refined hurts.  Weaknesses and impurities are stripped away, leaving us with only what is genuine and true.  But the end result is something more worthy and much more beautiful than gold.  


Readers, Sometimes our deepest sorrows shine light on the richest beauty, but it is not always easy to see through the pain. It is our prayer that today you would have eyes to see that even in the midst of trouble God’s promises still stand true.

43483-2016headshotHolly Berg is a wife, mama, writer and horse nut who wrangles children by day and words by night. She writes to challenge, encourage and inspire others to see beauty in the everyday, minister in the mundane, and share their stories along the way. Read more of her writing at Scattered Words.

Hope on Mother’s Day

Author: Chara Donahue

It was 12:30 AM Mother’s Day 2005, our first as husband and wife, and we were in the ER.

I was bleeding; I was pregnant, but they were telling me I wouldn’t be for much longer. There was no heartbeat. I stared at the wall, and my husband prayed. It felt like he was juicing my hand as he pled to God. It was not that he was trying to squeeze something out of it, but as if he was trying to infuse life into me. The only nectar found was that of silent tears.

They sent me home that morning with instructions for bed rest, information about spontaneous abortion (really medical field, let’s give miscarriage a better technical name), and an appointment to see my OB on Monday. My husband prayed, cared for, and supported me as we began our wait. A wait through Mother’s Day to get the OB’s final diagnosis on what the ER docs were sure about.  My beloved was convinced they were wrong, that we would see our baby alive at the ultrasound on Monday.  I wasn’t so sure.

I am naturally an optimistic person. I knew then what I know now; God is a God of miracles. I was also in a heightened state of awareness that my plans didn’t always align with His, but I could still trust Him as we waited. I had tasted His goodness, knew it never soured; but I still had questions.

 

Miscarriage, infertility, and motherhood always come with questions.

Which path was mine? Would I ever bear a child? Did I do something to make this happen? Would my husband still love me? I had miscarried once before, and I was convinced it was happening again.

When I woke later that  morning, it was still Mother’s Day, and I was still unsure if I would ever hold my baby. Would  I experience the horrors I heard other mothers speak of – stretch marks, morning sickness, swollen everything. Suddenly, I really wanted all of those plagues. I was willing to give whatever it took if it meant this little life would live.

I asked God many things; some reasonable, some not, and my husband began to bake.

When I entered heaven, would I be meeting one or two of my babies for the first time? I knew one got to meet Jesus before I did – would this one too? Were my babies destined to be ones who were in the design of heaven, but never meant to walk the earth?

I turned to God for comfort, and my husband added the oil.

Would we even see anything on the ultrasound? Last time, by the time I got there… the baby was gone. The womb was empty. My body had flushed my baby’s body out, and I had flushed it away not knowing what else to do.

I searched and clung to promises in scripture, and my husband cracked the eggs.

As I sat mesmerized by the whisking of the eggs, I knew my husband was praying, clinging, and sitting in the peace that passes understanding. We were both resting in silence, waiting. We both knew no matter what, it was well with our souls. But it’s never comfortable to have to face it so forcefully.

“I am making you a cake for Mother’s Day,” he said.

Sweet, I thought. Which was quickly followed with, I hope he is going to be okay when they tell us the baby has died. I gazed, eyes half-open as he layered the cake. He took great care doing so, and watching him do it was calming. My spirit was heavy and staying awake was difficult. I wanted to sleep. Sleep through the waiting. Then he lifted the cake and transferred it to the beautiful stand that had been a wedding present less than a year before. Suddenly, he excitedly whispered, “Look.” He held up the plate he had been carefully crafting my gift on.

A thin remnant of the cake had stuck to the plate, and formed a perfect little pink heart. I am notone of those fanatics who would make a pilgrimage to South America to see a tortilla with the face of Jesus in it. I don’t search for mysterious signs, read tea leaves, or beg God to appear in my cereal bowl. Yet that day, through cake, God dropped a dollop of hope onto a despairing couple. He reminded me He is the one who knits people together.

Mother's Day Cake

We hoped as we ate the cake, the clock kept ticking, and we waited for Mother’s Day to end.

We arrived at the obstetrician’s office and guided by a Doppler, she couldn’t find the heart beat. She said she expected this due to my being only about 8 weeks along. She sent us for an ultrasound, before making the final call, and the technician began. Blue gel, an uncomfortable plastic wand, and then…there was a baby.  I could see it, through all the squiggles and static, I saw her for the first time looking like a gummy bear with a flutter within. “And there is the heart beat.” The technician’s words restored hope, and my shriveled dreams tasted the waters of happy tears.

Seven months later around 12:30 Christmas Eve morning, I was again at the hospital, I was bleeding, and I wasn’t pregnant anymore. She had arrived. Alive, heart beating, lungs inhaling, and we gave her a name. A name that means “pure heart”.

Psalm 40

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God. (ESV)

—————

Reader,

I know that Mother’s Day can be a hard day for some. It can be a reminder of broken dreams, unfulfilled hopes, even deep shame. It can intensify the loss of a mother or a child, and it can push many memories into the forefront of our mind which we would rather not dwell on. This is a story of hope from my life. One from my most difficult Mother’s Day, told only with the intent to encourage – not discourage. Know that God cares deeply about the hurts and desires of your heart. He longs to be the one you look to for comfort and to draw you near. Know that your plea is not unheard, and you are not unseen. He sees you, He hears you, and He is weaving something beautiful together as He becomes the anchor for your soul.

Jesus, I ask for your mercy and love to surround the hurting, for your love to wash over their lives, and for the peace that passes understanding to be that on which they rest. In Jesus’ name-Amen

Thanks for Reading,

Chara