Archive for May, 2010

I bet you might be able to relate…

Like I mentioned a few days ago, we’re away on a visa trip in Finland, and unfortunately in the midst of getting ourselves ready for the trip, I didn’t have any time to pre-schedule blog posts. Also, our internet situation here isn’t ideal, not to mention that we’re disconnecting a bit and enjoying some vacation days as a family, so things might be a bit sporadic for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully I’ll get some posts up as I get time, but in the meantime I’ll be praying for you all! Feel free to share prayer requests with one another in the comments of this post! What a gift that we can bless one another even from thousands of miles away!

~Ashley

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Grief: Facing the Future After Loss

Prologue: When we first became pregnant we were surprised to learn we were pregnant with identical twin girls. 20 weeks into the pregnancy we learned our girls suffered from a rare condition called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. We experienced a miraculous healing of all symptoms related to this deadly disease and at 32 weeks gave birth to our twin girls, Marylou Janice, our firstborn was stillborn. Providence Joy was just over 2lbs. There was no known cause for Marylou’s death. Time has given me the courage to share some of what God has taught me through our experience of anticipation, joy and grief. It is my hope that I can use this venue and our journey to share with you, dear reader, pieces of what we have learned and experienced so you can walk away with a greater understanding of our God, even amidst pain.


Something that is amazing to me is how God gives us grace for each moment. If you have ever had anything tragic or life changing occur, you can probably remember the moment you heard the news or experienced the pain vividly. For me the moment that I learned Marylou had died still strikes me as a special type of grace. I was sitting on the ultrasound table and the tech scanned her wand over my belly. Immediately I noticed that there was no heartbeat. In that moment as I continued to interact with the ultra sound tech it was as if time had slowed down. Somehow I was able to view what was happening to me in slow motion and God gave me a numbness to do what I needed to do. I called my husband, made the decision with the Doctor to be rushed into surgery to try and save Providence and tried to grapple with the realization that my life would be forever changed. I call this time of numbness a special grace because it allowed me to try and wrap my mind around what was occurring. Behind me lay my past, the joy of having twins, the anticipation for their arrival, preparing to be a mommy to two girls, holding my babies in my arms, singing them lullabies, sending them off to school, watching them graduate and eventually get married; those past hopes were vividly clear and somehow as I gazed back at them through the numbness I recognized that all those hopes in an instant had been changed. Ahead of me lay a frightening future with plans and dreams shattered it was too much for me to venture into or explore so I sat in the chair and in what felt like slow motion performed each of the required things that had to be done. As I signed paperwork and discussed medical options, it was as if time stood still. I didn’t have the mental strength to deal with the future, or the emotional fortitude to grieve what had been just moments before. What was presently occurring encompassed every emotion.

That first night I didn’t sleep at all; for sleep to me symbolized reality, somehow if I slept this nightmare would be real. I remember thinking that I was too young to lose a child and somehow in an effort to bring the past and all its hopes back I struggled to stay awake. As the days went by, the numbness began to wear off. Slowly it was replaced with tears that flowed freely, and then to raw pain and back to tears. As the weeks turned into months I began to question how I would ever be able to think upon the past without crying and thoughts of a future without our Marylou were too unbearable to fathom. Grief does that to you, whether it is grieving a life-long illness, a lost job, a loved one, or shattered hope it causes the past to be painful and the future to be frightening which leaves you in the present. It is at this point in grief that I believe we are given another special grace, living life in the present. At times when my grief is strongest I find myself relishing the moment, taking notice of things that I would have otherwise passed me by in my anticipation for the future or preoccupation with the past.

It has been almost four years since I first held Marylou’s lifeless body and realized that she was with her Savior and somehow in that time God in his grace has brought me to a point in my grief where four years ago I never imagined I would be. As the waves of numbness and nausea begin to fade and come further and further apart he has given me the courage to look to the future again. For the first time the other day I watched Providence play and imagined what it would be like to send her off to school one day and I was amazed. Somehow this life, though not what I would have chosen, has become enough a part of me that I again can see beyond the present to the hopes of the future. It is with appreciation today that I sit here typing, trying to grasp how God used numbness and pain to heal me and to allow me to experience and process life again even after tragedy. As I look to the future I do so realizing that loss and tragedy are a part of this life on earth, and while never asked for or desired they have the capacity, through the grace of God, to expand our understanding of life, past, present and future.

It is a wonderful thing to look back and reflect that right now I am in the future that I couldn’t face four years ago, that somehow those moments where time stood still and past and present were changed brought me to this place. I would have never chosen this place, but in it I have found something I thought I would never fully experience again, joy and hope. Grief and tragedy moved in and robbed me of future hope for a time but then surprised me and through God’s mercy it has expanded my soul and my understanding of truth and my ability to live in the present.

If you are in a point of grief or loss, it is my prayer that you can cling to the hope and promises of God, knowing that God gives us Grace not only for the present but for the future as well.

(Post by: Amie)

This is the day that the Lord has made…

… I will rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)

My family and I found ourselves singing this song today after leaving from the Russian embassy here in Helsinki having experienced our first unsuccessful visa application attempt. (And just for the record, the very minor hassle that I am about to share here in no way compares to the major ones that I know many of you have experienced with visas, but I thought I’d share about it nonetheless. I couldn’t be more grateful that this is so far our biggest visa hassle!)

We were so diligent to meticulously fill out all of the paperwork beforehand and to come ready with every possible thing that we thought might be needed, but what we didn’t know is that we needed to have HIV tests for our entire family in order to get this new type of visa that we were applying for. Oh no! So, what was supposed to be our day of sightseeing on the last sunny day here for awhile turned into a morning full of getting lost downtown and then having to subject one very terrified little girl and one thankfully ambivalent little boy, and ourselves to a less than pleasant blood test. I felt so sad saying to my daughter, “Sorry honey, I know we promised that we were going to go have fun after this, but how about we go get shots instead?!” Not a good trade-off. And now our already 2-week long visa trip is extended by another few days meaning that we’re going to miss out on visiting our sweet neighbor, Babushka Anya, at her summer cabin in the countryside. How sad!

But, the title of the post is truly what God enabled to happen with this day. Praise God for scripture put to catchy tunes for children! God brought this little song to mind right away, and used His word to clearly present us all with the choice of either getting really frustrated and annoyed with the situation, or just going with it and seeing what blessings God had yet in store. I wish I could say that I always maintain the right perspective when my plan gets thrown off, but sadly I don’t. This time though, we really experienced the Holy Spirit giving us patience and joy in the midst of a (minor) trial, and the result was rejoicing and joy in the experience as a family, and even a bit of fun downtown. It’s amazing what the leading of the Holy Spirit plus ice-cream cones before lunch can do to help one keep a joyful heart!

So I write this little post as a little “Hello from Finland!” and also an encouragement to rejoice in the day that the Lord has made for you today. I hope it is a great one, but even if it’s not, I pray that you experience the Lord’s blessings for you in it! Does anyone else have a story of God enabling you to rejoice in the midst of one of these ever-so common inconveniences that are a staple of life overseas?

(Post by: Ashley)

Tuesday Topic: Homeschooling and Furloughs

From Andrea: I would like to know how home schooling missionary mothers adjust their home schooling to accommodate furloughs? What type of yearly schedule do they follow ie. Year round, matching the school schedule of the country they serve in, traditional “American” schedule? Do you do any “extra” school work in preparation for upcoming furloughs? Do you keep a “normal” schedule while on furlough.? Our first traditional furlough is coming up in 16 months and I am trying to work out if I should work through the next two summers in order to take somewhat of a break while we are on our six month furlough I would appreciate any opinions. Thank you.

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com. Provide you blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)

What Would You Like To See Here?

Since the beginning of this blog, the hope has always been to provide community, encouragement, and resources in a way that YOU enjoy and feel blessed. It is my hope and prayer for this site to be used by God as a place to provide a little bit of extra encouragement to help you thrive in the work and life that He has called you to. That is why I wanted to take a minute in the midst of some  future planning to see what you would most look forward to seeing more of here at Missionary Moms.

Would you please take a brief moment to help me know what types of things you would enjoy having discussed here? Are there any other suggestions that you may have that would allow this site to better serve you? Do you have any fun ideas that you think we’d all enjoy? I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts and to seeing them shape what you see here!

(Post by: Ashley)

Grief Part 2- Choosing to Grieve Well

Prologue: When we first became pregnant we were surprised to learn we were pregnant with identical twin girls. 20 weeks into the pregnancy we learned our girls suffered from a rare condition called Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. We experienced a miraculous healing of all symptoms related to this deadly disease and at 32 weeks gave birth to our twin girls, Marylou Janice, our firstborn was stillborn. Providence Joy was just over 2lbs. There was no known cause for Marylou’s death. Time has given me the courage to share some of what God has taught me through our experience of anticipation, joy and grief. It is my hope that I can use this venue and our journey to share with you, dear reader, pieces of what we have learned and experienced so you can walk away with a greater understanding of our God, even amidst pain.

April is the worst month for me. It is the month where the reminder of Marylou and Providence and all the trauma surrounding their birth seems to hit me from all sides. Every year I think that it will be easier because another year has gone by but instead it just seems that my grief hits me differently. It is like grief is a package (and not a fun one) that just as I think I am getting to the bottom I discover a whole new unopened section that I must unpack.

This past week I have struggled with being angry with God. Angry that with my first pregnancy I was not able to experience anything normal. Angry that pregnancy and birth will never be innocent, angry that Providence is still experiencing the effects of her prematurity and angry that once again there will only be one child in the two year old photo shoot. I think it all came to a head the other day when Providence’s cough went from bad to worse. Because of her extreme IUGR and prematurity, any type of infection settles straight to her lungs, every time. This happened the same day I went to buy Rosemary new diapers and realized the girls are in the same size. Yes I did cry at Sam’s Club, pitiful I know. It really breaks my heart to see my child (a year behind growth wise) struggling to sleep and breathe because she was born early, because she was a twin who now has to grow up without her sibling. I think it is all exasperated by the fact that at age two, preemies are supposed to have “caught up” and are often given “non-preemie” status for future health care. We were looking forward to this medical clearance because it would allow us to pursue ministry overseas, but with two years being only a few weeks away, we both know for several reasons that this clearance won’t be happening any time soon for the squirt.

All these thoughts were brewing in my head and I felt angry at God. God is big enough to handle our anger (thank goodness) and in my honest frustrated venting I found myself realizing that I had allowed myself to make the wrong choice. Because of sin, death and illness are a part of our life, a part of life we never ask for but are given none the less. My frustration over Marylou’s death and Providence’s (relatively mild) sufferings was a natural response to things not being right in the world but I can take that frustration and allow God to use it to mold my heart to long for heaven and eternity with Him or I can take it and allow it to make me embittered and angry at God and others.

This past week rather then allowing my grief to enlarge my view of God and how he works and to enlarge my heart, I chose to take my frustration and allow it to become internally focused in a pity party for me and my daughter. Such a choice leaves me no further ahead at the end of the day, but rather further behind in my pursuit of God. It is not possible for me to take my sadness and use it to enlarge me, such a task is beyond my ability or scope but if I ask for the help of God and choose to give that raw emotion to Him and ask what he want’s me to do with it, He transforms that frustration into something more. So Today, with the help of my Savior, I choose to take my grief, embrace it and allow it to enlarge my heart to better understand God’s character and to further my longing for the day when He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and where there will be no more pain or crying. The day when I will be in the presence of my God.

I wrote this several years ago but am still faced with the daily choice to choose to grieve well. God can enlarge our view of Him through our grief, or we can cling to our grief in such a way that can make us bitter and angry. What are some ways you have been able to release your grief to God, and in doing so allow your pain to become a tool to enlarge your heart’s view of God and its longing for future glory?

(Post by:Amie)

Tuesday Topic: Decisions about Medical Care

Topic suggestion from Karen: How have you made decisions about how to approach medical care while overseas, and often in locations with poorer health care? How have you decided when to seek treatment in your host country and when to head back to the US?  How has God led you in this?

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to formissionarymoms@gmail.com . Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, and specify also if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)


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