Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blog Bit: Checkmate

I've had a lot on my mind and my plate lately, and I've used that as an excuse for not writing as much.  Well, no more!  I'm simply going to include more "Blog Bits" - short, sweet posts that may or may not reveal the innermost workings of my mind...but hopefully you'll enjoy them anyway!
My pastor tells this story at least twice a year, and it's one of my favorites. 

"There was a world-class chess master who visited an art museum.  He perused the ancient statues, the tapestries, the sculpture, and finally came to the modern art section.  In it, there was a magnificent painting of a chess match in which it appeared one agonized player had lost.  The title was "Checkmate".  The chess master summoned a security guard and asked to speak with the curator.  The curator, pleased and impressed that such a famous individual should ask after him, appeared at once.  "There's a problem here," said the chess master.  Expecting to hear about a problem with the service or the facility, the curator immediately apologized and asked what the problem was.  "This painting is not accurate," replied the chess master.  "Look."  He pointed to the chessboard and indicated a possible move that the losing player could still make.  "'Checkmate' means that the game has ended.  But this game is not over.  The king has one more move."

The reason I love this story is that it is so encouraging.  No matter how agonizing our situation, how depressing or seemingly hopeless, we must remind ourselves that our King, Jesus, always has one more move.  The devil thought He was done for on the cross, but Christ had one more move to play - and with it, He redeemed us all.  Even now, when we are in the blackness of a dark hour or an impossible situation, we must take heart in the fact that the game isn't over yet!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Honoring Olivia

The past week was not easy.

But it was wonderful.

Last Wednesday, February 29, would have been our due date.  Although, earlier this year, God gave me a great peace about his plans for me, and me desire for children, I was dreading that day.  My emotions were a jumble the night before, when Pastor Stephanie's leadership group met for prayer and planning.  We prayed for the weekend ahead, which was our annual Encounter God event for women.  Although I knew I needed to focus solely on praying for the women who were to attend, my thoughts kept drifting back to my situation.  I began to cry.  Near the end of the night, one of the ladies gently asked me if God showed me anything during our prayer time.  I continued to cry as I said, "My baby."

While we were praying, the Lord showed me a few things.  One was a brief vision of Jesus, all smiles, pulling my face up to look at Him and gesturing to a bundle He was holding.  "I've got her," he was saying.  "It's ok, I've got her!"  Now, although the Bible isn't specific about what we look like when we get to Heaven, I don't know that Olivia is still a baby.  But, that is how I imagine her right now, and I think that's why God allowed me that short, comforting moment. 

I knew that the weekend was going to be a little bit of a challenge for me.  Along with a few other women, I was going to give a testimony about a very difficult situation that God brought me through.  One lady was talking about taking care of her sickly husband.  One shared about her failed marriages.  Another talked about severe abuse and neglect in her childhood and teen years.  And I was going to talk about my miscarriage.

I spoke on Saturday afternoon.  I had nothing written down, no speech prepared.  I was simply going to tell me story as I had experienced it - and as I was still experiencing it.  I tried hard not to cry, but I couldn't help it.  As I looked out over the faces of the women - as young as 12 and as old as 85 - I saw a lot more tears.  Many of these women had been comforters to me when we lost the baby, praying for me and sharing their similar stories.  But many of these women didn't even know I had been pregnant.  I tried to end my testimony on a high note - that I believed God had the best in store for me - and cited examples of promises that he has kept.  I talked about the horrible experience of my parents' divorce, which ended with a great step-mom and step-sister, and a healthier relationship with both my parents.  I talked about dating a bunch of "duds" and almost giving up on God's plan for my love life, then meeting Ross "coincidentally" and discovering that he was to be my husband.  Still, it was hard.  I didn't have any magical happy ending to share with the group, and I had wanted one.

But God was working out my happy ending through the women who were listening to me.

I won't share too many specific details, because the events of the Encounter God weekend are deeply personal and spiritual.  I don't want to betray anyone's trust.  But I do need to say that, after I shared, several women did approach me to tell me that, in some way, my testimony helped them begin to heal.  They said that they had miscarried, too, some more than once, and that they - or their husbands - had never fully dealt with the pain.  One woman said that she had never named the babies she had lost...but God gave her their names that weekend. 

I truly feel that it's no coincidence that, three days after we lost the baby, we had a youth all-night prayer meeting.  We were given the option to cancel but we felt that God really had some things in store for the kids.  We were right.  It was a wonderful night for them, and for Ross and I, the reward was seeing teenagers praying for each other and their families, encouraging each other, and dancing before the Lord.  This weekend began three days after I was supposed to be heading home with a perfect pink little baby in my arms.  Depression, anger, and resentment could easily have wiped away any desire in me to reach out and do God's work.  In fact, a few years ago, it would have.  But over the past several months and weeks, I am learning so much more about God's nature, the value of fellowship, and the true purpose of selflessly serving others.

Most women go to this retreat in order to hear from and recieve from God.  And that is right - it is what the weekend is specifically designed for.  I went to facilitate and serve, and God ended up blessing me with great encouragement, emotional healing, and deeper fellowship with some incredible women.

I also got the chance to publicly honor Olivia Rae.  I will not see her just yet, but after this weekend, I also know that she is far from friendless.  I feel that each time I meet a women who has miscarried, I have gained another heavenly companion for my daughter, and another earthly sister here for me. 

It is not lost on me, of course, that Jesus was dead for three days and then he rose again.  Is it not, then, perfectly beautiful that, three days after a day of ashes and black mourning, healing would begin to rise up, unfurling its wings like a phoenix?

I love the way God works.