Normal

When most everything feels so abnormal and foreign to us right now, it’s okay to feel it and at least to normalize the feelings. We’ve never been here before, collectively. The adrenaline of new information and new risk is wearing off as we settle into our shelter-in-place lifestyles. The novelty of using Zoom, Discord, FaceTime, and any video calling service is wearing off. And our bodies are finally starting to catch up with our racing minds.

For two or three weeks now, all we hear about, all we think about, maybe all we talk about is the coronavirus and what impact it will have on us. And our bodies didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for it. Personally, I’m experiencing greater levels of fatigue and sleepiness throughout my days than I ever have before in my former, office-working life. My body is teaching me what it’s like to mitigate risk by running marathons, not sprints.

So if you’re starting to feel the adrenaline buzz wear off, the novelty is just not so novel anymore, and you’re missing the old life, it’s normal to feel that. We all lost something, albeit temporarily, so abruptly that we went into fight-flight-freeze mode to get through the immediate danger, and now we’re realizing that the enemy moves much slower, but can run much longer too. We are feeling the adjustment as we shift into road trip mode instead of drag strip mode. Allow yourself all the grace you need and know that it’s normal.

We’ve never been here before. It’s totally normal to feel anxious and worried.

Some of us have never been homeschool parents. It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed and stretched thin.

Some of us have never worked from home. It’s totally normal to struggle with focus and feel like your work and home are too close.

Some of us have never been without work. It’s totally normal to feel angry and afraid of how you will provide for yourself and family.

Some of us have never stayed in one place for so long. It’s totally normal to feel restless and confined.

Some of us have never been alone for so long. It’s totally normal to feel a need for human touch and affection.

It’s totally normal to feel exactly what you are feeling.

Yes, beloved, it’s totally normal and I hope you can rest in that. Thank your body for taking care of you so well.

Anakephalaiossathai. Grace and peace, my friends.

Bonnie

This is the toughest thing I’ve ever sat down to write. A couple weeks ago, my wife Dixie and I were crushed by a sudden and unexpected miscarriage. This post will be a combination of writings and voices. We will briefly share the news. Dixie and I will each have a section of our own writing. Then, we will close in the prayer we’ve been grieving through for the past couple weeks.

We have been trying to start our family for the last three years. For various reasons, this has proven difficult and leaves us with no luck, even with medical interventions. To spare much of the medical detail, Dixie has PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which makes getting pregnant very difficult. This involves her body getting off her cyclical patterns and making it very hard to tell when different moments of a typical cycle are happening. What we thought was a “normal” (again, normal for Dixie, not medically typical) late cycle blindsided us as a very early miscarriage.

Here’s a bit of an email Stephen sent out to our closest friends last week:

“We had no idea or indication that we were pregnant until the miscarriage started. By the looks of everything, we were about 4 weeks along the process.

Right now, we’re both in emotional shock with sudden strong waves of grief. It’s not lost on us that we are able to get pregnant, as our health improves and as we continue to pray for the beginning to our family. So there’s an odd nugget of hope in the midst of the huge loss. But I speak for both Dixie and I that we feel stunned, incredibly sad, hurt, robbed, sick, cheated, and betrayed by the body. We are swinging between being furious and angry with God to weeping prayer with Him being our only comfort. Neither of us are sleeping very well at all. Food doesn’t really taste right now. I am finding it very hard to focus at work.
This is very new and very raw for us now, but we needed to let our closest loved ones know. We’re sorry to bring you down into the grief with us, but we don’t know how to do this alone. Thank you, and know that we love each of you dearly. Thank you for loving us.

Grace and peace,”

Following the news going out initially, our family and closest friends continue to bring us tremendous amounts of comfort by their presence and love. We know being in the same circles as grieving people can be uncomfortable and awkward, but a strong hug, a crying shoulder or just a quiet movie night is enough for us to know we’re loved and prayed for. We’re thankful for these who don’t feel like they need to tiptoe around us. We’re also thankful for these who know that we can talk about other things, even play games and have fun.

The grief process here is a new one. The sudden strong waves of sadness and loss rise and fall as they have from the beginning. But the in-betweens feel so normal, really like life just keeps going. I (Stephen) expected grief like this to cripple me and confine me to dark rooms and boxes of tissues. Yet life just keeps going. It really is a weird thing to come to terms with as we talk and pray through what our hearts, bodies, and minds are experiencing.

After much prayer and thought and the tender advice of loved ones who have walked this path, we’ve decided to name our Little One. We were so early in the process when things started breaking down that there was really no way to know the sex of our baby, but Dixie has that deep, momma sense that it was a girl. A sweet baby girl, that both wounded us with love and sparked hope for our future. The beautiful answer to our prayer for the last few years: that we could get pregnant one day. So after the Celtic word for Beautiful Good, we’ve named our little girl, Bonnie. We continue to pray and live as though we will meet our sweet Bonnie one day in heaven paradise. We have the faith to believe we will then and there, where “our hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflow, and our joy is like swords, and we pass in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.” (Paraphrase, The Return of the King, JRR Tolkien).

 

Dixie

I didn’t even know I was pregnant until the pregnancy was over. It was so shocking. I was so numb and didn’t even know what to feel. I don’t think I felt anything until about a week after everything happened. I was so confused. I still am. I was torn between grieving the loss of this baby and simultaneously feeling content knowing that we can actually get pregnant.

Finally, after years of prayer, doctors, needles, pills, and trying, we did it. I got pregnant. But by the time I realized what was going on it was already over. She was already gone.

I am grieving the loss of our precious girl. I know she is in her heavenly Father’s arms. She was the physical manifestation of all those quiet prayers and bitter tears. She is the very answer to our prayers. She is a representation of God’s promise to me and Stephen. I will grieve the loss of my Bonnie girl and rejoice in what she really meant to us and what this promise means for our future. We can get pregnant.

“Thus up from the garden to the Gardener, from the sword to the Smith. To the life-giving Life and the Beauty that makes beautiful.” (A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis).

 

Stephen

This is a letter I wrote to my daughter in my journal over the last few days.

Bonnie, my dear,

I wish I could have watched you grow in mommy’s belly and spoken to you while you were still growing within her. I wish I could have heard the moment of your first breath and cry. I wish I could have held your little body to my chest. I wish I could have watched you nurse and grow with your mother and witness that sacred bond between you two. I wish I could have held you close and kept you warm during your first winter. I wish I could see your bewildered face when I blow softly on your nose or raspberry your tummy. I wish I could deal with the sleepless nights and endless diapers like I’ve heard so much about. I wish I could listen to your first words. I wish I could teach you the names of colors and shapes and animals and plants and people. I wish I could feel the terror of dropping you off for your first day of school. I wish I could watch you grow slowly and quickly into a woman before my eyes. I wish I could take you on ice cream dates. I wish I could teach you my favorite video games and board games. I wish I could go to your bad middle school choir or band concerts. I wish I could cheer you on while you played soccer. I wish I could dance with you while you practice for your first prom. I wish I could cry at your high school graduation. I wish I could help guide you through college. I wish I could give your hand in marriage to the man who dares to love you. I wish you could meet your grandmas and grandpas, your aunts and uncles, your cousins.

I wish you could meet your mother. Dixie loves you so much, far beyond what I could say in words. She’s much cooler than I am. She’s brave, strong, smart, kind, generous, hilarious, beautiful, passionate, considerate, patient, firm, powerful, creative, and above all, she is loving. She brings so much color and imagination into our home. She would probably sit and watch you and me play for hours, joining our giggles and laughter. She taught me what beauty can really be like, and so do you.

I miss you, my love. It’s so hard to miss you like this. But I know Jesus is holding your hand and teaching you the names of colors and shapes and animals and plants and people. I know he’s as in love with you as I am and is taking the best care of my precious baby. Please give him a kiss for me and wait for me there, love. Daddy loves you so much.

 

Together

Lord, into your gentle open hands, we commit our baby girl to your care and your love. We don’t understand what is happening. We’re mad at you and we’re desperate for you. We want Bonnie with us now, and hold on to the hope that we will all one day meet where our tears are the very wine of blessedness. Kiss our baby girl tonight and tell her all about us. In the meantime, let us love her how we can from here and teach us to glorify you to the end of our days. Amen.

 

Repair

I’ve learned a lot this week. Things feel like they flipped upside down without warning. It’s teaching me the value of my relationships and sound advice. My wife and I discovered that both our vehicles are looking at repairs totaling thousands of dollars. So I’ve been a wee pit preoccupied this week and admittedly let this writing habit slip in the midst of our work and scheming. So below is going to be a rapid fire list of things I’ve learned in the past week, about myself, about my wife, my relationships, and about cars.

  • Handle crisis in community. We’ve asked several people for finance advice, car advice, and relationship advice.
  • Get and stay on the same page with your partner. Dixie and I started this week with a long meeting about our options that has guided several decisions and conversations following.
  • Choose the right attitude. Of course, staring down massive repair bills, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and start to freak out. But we consciously chose in our first meeting to say “we are the kind of people who get after it, work hard, while trusting God and trusting others”.
  • Be open to course correction. When my attitude was lacking this week, Dixie was honest enough to say “hey, we chose a different attitude, remember? We don’t get to act like this”.
  • Before things need fixing, operate on a budget and set money aside every month to help pay for moments like these.
  • Spend less money than you make, as a matter of policy. 
  • Build margin in to your budget and be willing to make sacrifices in crisis mode.
  • Surround yourself with people you trust.
  • Go ask advice. Ask advice of those who are more knowledgeable and experienced. You work with them, go to church with them, shop at the same grocery store, visit the same coffee shops.
  • Don’t be afraid of being the idiot in the room. I am certainly not shy about it anymore. If I don’t know what we’re all talking about, I’ll be the one to speak up every time.
  • Education does not stop with school attendance.
  • There is a fine line between a car worth fixing and a car worth selling “as is”.
  • Moisture and/or coolant in your oil will gum it up and ruin your motor’s piston rods.
  • Assess the costs of repairs versus what the same sum of money would get you in a replacement vehicle.
  • Second opinions. Always get them. Consider even a third opinion.