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Losing Baby

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My first prenatal appointment was the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend and I’d woken up that morning feeling pregnant and cranky. The doctor’s waiting room was full of pregnant woman. Their round bellies made me smile.

The nurse routinely took my vitals and medical history, commenting on my good health. She calculated my due date as December 26th. A Christmas baby!

Later the doctor joined us and after introductions, she performed a routine ultrasound. The doctor became very quiet and turned off the screen. I knew something was wrong. Then like a nightmare, she told me she couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat.

I’d lost my baby.

Immediately the room cleared out as I sat there, not sure what to do. How was I going to walk out of the room through the waiting room of pregnant women and drive home and tell my husband? I tried to hold it together, but my sobs were inconsolable.

All the way home, I prayed that I wouldn’t crash, trying to stay focused on making it to my husband and angry at myself that I didn’t have a cell phone.

Running into his arms, I lost it and could barely tell him our tragic news. He had numerous questions. "What did the Doctor say exactly? What’s next? Why?" But the only thing I knew at the moment was that my baby was gone.

I soon found that the loss of my baby left me with an empty void. Not just a physical loss, but a spiritual loss.

It had only been six years before that I’d put my faith in a God whom I believed was all good. But now I doubted whether that was true. Sure, since putting my faith in Jesus, I’d weathered some hard times, but I’d never had a time when I couldn’t see Him. A time when I wasn’t sure who He was. But now I wasn’t so sure. I was hurt. I felt like He’d let me down. Why had God allowed my baby to die?

My dreams were gone. I should have been looking at maternity clothes, picking out names, and groaning of frequent bathroom stops. Instead I was standing at a crossroads in my faith. I could either continue to love the Lord and believe He was good even if things hadn’t worked out as I planned, or I could stop believing in His character.

When I look at Luke 7, I find that I’m not alone in questioning God. While in prison, John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting or should we keep looking for someone else?" Or as I like to put it, "Who are you?"

Instead of scolding John, Jesus sent an encouraging response to him, instructing His disciples to tell him about all the miracles that were happening. They reported that the blind were seeing, the dead were being raised, and the poor were being preached the Good News. He also instructed the disciples to tell John, "Blessed is he who does not fall away because of me." Jesus was saying God’s favor—His blessing—is on those who don’t become resentful or stumble because of what’s happening to them, but instead keep their faith during tough times.

Following John’s example, I asked the Lord, "Tell me who You are?" Since the loss, I hadn’t wanted to pray, read the Bible, or even hear a praise song. Even going to church was agony. I felt God had let me down and spent many restless nights flipping through TV channels and cruising the internet searching for answers. But my search turned up empty.

I finally fell on my knees and asked God all the questions that had been plaguing me, letting it all out. Crying out to God with clenched fists. I wanted Him to give me answers. I wanted Him to encourage me. But most of all, I wanted my baby back. I wanted God to fill the void that the loss of my baby had left deep within me.

Exhausted and at my wit’s end, one day as I was digging through my purse looking for my keys, I came across a stack of prayer cards. Cards I’d picked up to give to someone on a hospital visit. The first card had Jeremiah 29:11 written on it. "’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’" A future? Hope? Plans for good? At the time, I couldn’t see any good in my loss. All I could see were evil and darkness. Yet, the verse encouraged me.

I still have a hard time looking back at that morning in the doctor’s office or the following days. I remember the surgery, the terrible loss, and the unbearable heartbreak. It’s hard to see God in this shocking loss. Still, to hear from Him that His plans for me are for good and not for evil, gives me hope, something I desperately need.

God’s plans are bigger than me and I can’t comprehend them. He was there during my loss. He never left my side and I know that He’s working it all for good. And, when I asked Him who He was, He answered me.

Through this loss, my faith is being strengthened. I no longer love God for what He gives to me, but for who He is. And, even though it’s a hard walk, God is walking me through this and He’s never left my side.

I can’t tell you why I lost my baby, but I do know that God loves my baby. He says in Psalm 139:15-17:

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!

Every day of my precious baby’s life, every moment, God has recorded and has not forgotten.

As Christmas approaches, I can’t help but think of how big with pregnancy I would’ve been or of the baby I’d be joyously waiting to arrive. While my heart and my arms ache for the baby I long to hold, I take comfort in knowing that God is good and that His plans for me include a future and a hope.

Sara Zoephel is the wife of a God-loving man and the mother of a two-year-old son who is slowly learning he’s not in charge. Together they are seeking God and trying to display His glory to others.

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Sara Zoephel is the wife of a God-loving man and the mother of a two-year-old son who is slowly learning he's not in charge. Together they are seeking God and trying to display His glory to others.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Losing Baby

by Sara Zoephel time to read: 5 min
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