Red Vine Spirituality

Taylor K. Arthur balances Bipolar 1 Disorder, marriage, and motherhood with a nitty-gritty faith inspiring a twisted, blissful life.

Tag: Surviving the loss of a child

When You Feel Alone in Your Pain

Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived.
Judges 15:19


Crank it up with me this morning, friends: “Rise Again” by Need to Breathe

You looked at me the other day and you said, “I can’t find anyone like me.” What you meant, really, is that you can’t find anyone who has been through what you’ve been through. I nodded, because I get it. I get it not because I’ve experienced what you have, but because I, too, have been set apart by the events of my life.

I know what it’s like to stand in a room full of people and feel utterly, entirely alone. I know what it is to not be seen in broad daylight, to bleed loud and violent in the middle of a holiday and marvel at how they cannot hear me, how they walk through my blood and don’t slip.

I wondered why for years.

You spoke true words this week on the phone, and you took my breath away, “I don’t want this to be my life.” I knew what you meant. This isn’t the life I signed up for either, and every day I lose my breath in one small moment of clarity: yes, this is my life. I thought eventually it would sink in, but I’ve been swallowing lithium for a long, long time.

The word Bipolar still sticks in my throat.

Even just today, I missed the son we gave back to heaven. Surrounded by children, happy and free on a spring break adventure, there’s always some detail–their three to my two, another mother leading three little boys around–to prick this mother heart. I keep aching for my missing child. I do, and that’s the truth, and I hardly ever like to admit to it. Admit that some aches don’t leave. Admit to you that I just keep bleeding.

Admitting to you scares me, because I worry you don’t understand.

You asked me two springs ago, before the loss that changed your universe: “How can you stand to listen to someone talk about something so much less important than samkicker?”

I looked at you, and I knew you didn’t know yet: there is no hierarchy of pain.

True, deep pain has one Godly purpose on earth: to open us up. We get to choose: are we going to wall it off, cope, lie, freeze our pain into shards of glass we tiptoe around all of our days? Are we going to interview perspective friends and lovers until we find someone else who has been through enough atrocities to understand ours? Are we going to climb high up into an ivory tower and look down upon those who haven’t felt this much death? Are we?

True, deep pain opens us up to each other if we let it.

I see you, friend. I see you lonely, and I see you afraid. And I know that anger roaring when your pain gets compared, belittled, stepped over.

If I could tell you anything? View this chasmic shift in your heart–this breaking–as a chance at new life. See every redefinition, every bitter pill swallowed, as your way through.

Yes. I know what I’m saying, and I hate it as much as you do. But my pain unresolved is the piece of me that connects the best to others. It’s the piece of me that writes to you today.

Let your pain live out its life cycle. Don’t suppress it. And understand this: when you suffer chronic, when you live through the unimaginable and the unnatural, your life will look different. Like ground the farmer tills and seeds and plows and tills again, so are our hearts. So are our yields if we let Him work.

You are the holy ground, friend. Your heart bleeds and breaks and floods. If you allow it, your heart can yield crop after bountiful crop of beauty.

This brokenness that sets you apart was never supposed to be understood. It was meant to be given. So go give it. Flood it out into another’s barren waste land. Open it up for another’s nourishment. Stop trying to fix it, and start trying to share it.

True deep pain, like the stream carving a canyon into mountain, will find its way through to fertile ground. There, friend, as you water another? There, for one blink, your pain transforms into nourishing purpose.

Taylor

In Pursuit

It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue . . .

-Christopher Gardner, The Pursuit of Happiness

We never count on good weather when we go to the beach in March. We’re not necessarily there for weather. Rather, we come for the roar of the ocean, overwhelming and larger than anything we will ever hold. We go to feel the salt on our faces and the whip of the wind, to know our footprints still hold weight. We write Caleb’s name in the sand, hoping that maybe — just maybe — the same waves that will wipe his name clean from this beach may write our names on the shores of heaven for him to see. We bring our grief, our living hope, to spill out like a bucket of seashells upon the shore. We return to the sea to feel it all and wash it away and return home clean.

This past March was our 6th year. I can’t remember another year when the sun has shone as brightly as it did that day, right in the middle of Caleb’s week. We ran, all four of us, like a bunch of starved refugees, to fill our toes with sand and eat the light of this August-like March afternoon. Two-year-old Miracle and I sat deep in castle-making, his toddler gibberish dancing with the wind. I turned to watch Jack teaching our four-year-old Rainbow how to fly his first kite and caught a feeling I hadn’t hoped for.

IMG_1360

IMG_1805

IMG_1886

I can’t tell you why the sight of my tiny boy flying a cherry-colored kite, with Daddy crouching over him, struck me so. Was it the sunshine or the wind that wound me up into — dare I say it? — happiness? Was it that after so many Marches gray and salty, this beach surprised me with bright? Or was it that for the first time in so long, I could feel sand and absorb light and laugh at cherry red in blue sky?

What is happiness, anyways? Is it real? I remember happy, believed it was possible. But for me, now? Maybe not for me. Maybe what I could have, I thought and prayed, was just a bit of joy to make the days more bearable. And so, a whole year before this moment at the beach, I started to pursue joy – what it means and how to get it. I found 242 mentions of joy in the Bible, but only 6 mentions of happiness.

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. {Job 8:21}

But when a lifetime’s worth of Marches string out, how do I laugh and visit my child’s grave? Will there really be joy again?

I once sat in this house, in this room, with no children stomping down the stairs in the morning. There were no smudges on the windows, no little feet. I survived on the words of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “plans for hope and a future.”

I learned I can hold onto God in an empty house or kneeling at my son’s tiny grave. I believe in His goodness through bed rest and preeclampsia and the terminal heart diagnosis of our thriving Miracle because I know He is working it all out for His glory, my good, and a forever past every tear.

The sun rose this morning, pinking up the sky over the backyard fence. I sipped my coffee and marveled at how this house rocks with boydom, kisses offer themselves up from little boys’ fish lips, and tiny voices cry “Mama” when they’re scared. These hardwood floors I picked out so long ago, swollen large with a baby who would never come home, are covered with crumbs and the tiny trails of chubby feet. This hunk of a man who partnered it all with me, bore the burdens and the tear-soaked nights, still comes home, parched through for us.

I get it now, how simple it really is.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. {Psalm 34:8}

Yes, I still wake hard some mornings to the loss of my sweet child. But I know now that the Son shines in winter, and joy breaks me open to see it. No matter the day or the loss or the break, I know that living in joy is the only way to pursue happiness.

This post first published December 2, 2014 on (in)courage.me


Rainbow Stories: the Relentless Rainbow Butlers (May it be so)

I have never met McCayla Butler in person, but if you are a fan of Rainbows for Noah, you’ll understand what I mean when I say I feel like I’ve met her heart. McCayla, and her husband, John, have endured more than any couple should ever have to. They have buried two sons, Noah and Isaac, in less than one year’s time. I remember sitting in my car outside the Lifeway store when I heard that they had lost Isaac, after a last-minute plane ride down to Lousiana to meet their new son. I wept for McCayla like she was my sister, because you see, once you share the bond of a child in heaven with another woman, they truly are your sister.

When she announced Baby Miles’ name immediately after finding out his gender, I understood because I did the same thing: defying fear and embracing hope and claiming a future for this rainbow child in spite of the darkness clinging. When you have lost a child, you realize that every moment with a child born and unborn is a celebration. And we rainbow mamas won’t waste one of those precious moments, even if every one is a crazy mix of crushing, soul-tearing heartbreak mixed with deepest joy and gratitude.

When Baby Miles was born alive, we cheered for the Butlers. Then I sighed, and cried again. Because coming home with a rainbow baby is its own unique journey I have yet to put into words. What I love the most about McCayla is that she deeply loves Jesus. And yet, she is so very honest about how deeply her grief has affected to her, what it feels like to lay to rest a person who was supposed to lay you to rest. I treasure her commitment to truth, her commitment to the nitty-gritty, and her refusal to give up. She wrote a sweet blog, about a simple rainbow moment with Miles at Costco, and I wanted to share it because I have thought these same thoughts, and lived these full-circle rainbow moments. Without further adieu, McCayla Butler, everyone:

COSTCO HOPE
by McCayla Butler

life is funny sometimes.

last night this happened:

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 11.18.59 AM

my husband was in line to purchase some delicious costco treats and miles and i were hanging out saving a table.

baby was uncharacteristically gitty. like giggling, throwing his head back and laughing type gitty. it made my heart swell with love and pride. then i got a little self-conscious for a second. if there are people around us who just experienced a loss of a baby or who are having trouble getting pregnant, this blatant scene of baby sweetness could be really hard to see. so i kind of tried to tone it down, but miles wouldn’t have it.

too. much. joy.

then it hit me.

you may recall, last summer i wrote a blog post about going to costco and how hard it was to see a happy couple there with a smiling baby. i had forgotten about it until that very moment with miles.

i ended the post by saying, God willing, in a year or so, my husband and i will be that happy couple at costco. giggling with our rainbow baby whilst chowing down on a $1.50 hot dog. and when others see us i pray they find hope.

it gives me goosebumps just reading that again.

my deepest desire is that miles’ life is a living demonstration of hope. hope in the flesh.

even at costco. may it be so.

In Pursuit

It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue . . .

-Christopher Gardner, The Pursuit of Happiness

We never count on good weather when we go to the beach in March. We’re not necessarily there for weather. Rather, we come for the roar of the ocean, overwhelming and larger than anything we will ever hold. We go to feel the salt on our faces and the whip of the wind, to know our footprints still hold weight. We write Caleb’s name in the sand, hoping that maybe — just maybe — the same waves that will wipe his name clean from this beach may write our names on the shores of heaven for him to see. We bring our grief, our living hope, to spill out like a bucket of seashells upon the shore. We return to the sea to feel it all and wash it away and return home clean.

This past March was our 6th year. I can’t remember another year when the sun has shone as brightly as it did that day, right in the middle of Caleb’s week. We ran, all four of us, like a bunch of starved refugees, to fill our toes with sand and eat the light of this August-like March afternoon. Two-year-old Miracle and I sat deep in castle-making, his toddler gibberish dancing with the wind. I turned to watch Jack teaching our four-year-old Rainbow how to fly his first kite and caught a feeling I hadn’t hoped for.

IMG_1360

IMG_1805

IMG_1886

I can’t tell you why the sight of that tiny boy flying a cherry-colored kite, with Daddy crouching over him, struck me so. Was it the sunshine or the wind that wound me up into — dare I say it? — happiness? Was it that after so many Marches gray and salty, this beach surprised me with bright? Or was it that for the first time in so long, I could feel sand and absorb light and laugh at cherry red in blue sky?

What is happiness, anyways? Is it real? I remember happy, believed it was possible. But for me, now? Maybe not for me. Maybe what I could have, I thought and prayed, was just a bit of joy to make the days more bearable. And so, a whole year before this moment at the beach, I started to pursue joy – what it means and how to get it. I found 242 mentions of joy in the Bible, but only 6 mentions of happiness.

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. {Job 8:21}

But when a lifetime’s worth of Marches string out, how do I laugh and visit my child’s grave? Will there really be joy again?

I once sat in this house, in this room, with no children stomping down the stairs in the morning. There were no smudges on the windows, no little feet. I survived on the words of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “plans for hope and a future.”

I learned I can hold onto God in an empty house or kneeling at my son’s tiny grave. I believe in His goodness through bed rest and preeclampsia and the terminal heart diagnosis of our thriving Miracle because I know He is working it all out for His glory, my good, and a forever past every tear.

The sun rose this morning, pinking up the sky over the backyard fence. I sipped my coffee and marveled at how this house rocks with boydom, kisses offer themselves up from little boys’ fish lips, and tiny voices cry “Mama” when they’re scared. These hardwood floors I picked out so long ago, swollen large with a baby who would never come home, are covered with crumbs and the tiny trails of chubby feet. This hunk of a man who partnered it all with me, bore the burdens and the tear-soaked nights, still comes home, parched through for us.

I get it now, how simple it really is.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. {Psalm 34:8}

Yes, I still wake hard some mornings to the loss of my sweet child. But I know now that the Son shines in winter, and joy breaks me open to see it. No matter the day or the loss or the break, I know that living in joy is the only way to pursue happiness.

This post first published December 2, 2014 on (in)courage.me

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial

Like this post? Share it!