For the past few months my life has felt consumed by anger + bitterness. After my first miscarriage I was very intentional to not let myself become bitter. I knew people would say heartfelt, yet thoughtless comments trying to comfort me, and I reminded myself that no matter what hurtful thought or anecdote escaped their lips, what they were really saying was, "I'm so sorry and I don't know what to say, so I'm word vomiting. But what I'm trying to convey is that I care for you and I want to help you feel better."
After my first miscarriage my primary emotion was sadness; I cried all the time over every little thing and once I started I couldn't stop. I was very used to waking up with that heavy feeling; a reminder that I had sobbed myself to sleep. Sometimes I would take a shower just so I could get a good cry in.
Just as I thought I had really turned a corner in my grief I'd run smack dab into a brick wall and I'd feel like everything started over; crying all the time and feeling so, so sad.
But then I was blessed with another pregnancy and Psalm 30:11 became my life:
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
I was really surprised how quickly my mourning turned into joy-filled dancing. Growing a new life is such a blessing that it seemed to demand joy. I also was of course terrified of losing that child. Even though life felt so abundant, death felt way too close for comfort, and suddenly it was my reality again. I nosedived into pure anger.
This time my loss was not marked with thankfulness; I was mad about everything. I was mad that I even got pregnant again if I was only going to lose that baby, too. I was mad I had to have surgery. I was mad at people who didn't say anything and I was mad at people who said the wrong thing. I was mad at life; I hated it and I wanted to die. I was so sick of this life that I wished for death. And I slowly, somewhat unknowingly, let down some of my guards against bitterness. The bitterness began creeping in and before I even realized it my heart was hard and I was insanely bitter. It took root so fast.
Bitterness doesn't grow slowly, once it starts to grow, it is the easiest thing to feed and it quickly becomes a monster... And I'm not going to lie, for quite awhile I was aware that I was bitter but I enjoyed it and fed into my bitterness with no attempt to fix it. My heart was getting harder and harder and I was hating life more and more. I often thought of Job's wife, thinking she was right; it would be easier to just curse God and die.
I knew that ending my life would never be something I truly considered and I began to feel extremely overwhelmed. I felt like I was stuck in a deep pit of bitterness; I had let it get deeper and deeper and suddenly I felt trapped with no way of getting out. My grief felt so different this time around, since my heart was so hard I had few emotions other than anger and I rarely cried. Sometimes I felt like crying but there wasn't a tear to be found in such a cold heart.
Things would pile up on top of each other; things that would've made me cry after my first miscarriage, until something would make me really, really angry and then I'd break. I can count probably on one hand the amount of times I've really cried since this second miscarriage and my two biggest break downs were over things that made me super angry, not super sad.
So many little things piled up until something random and small would be the "straw that broke the camel's back" and I would lose it. I had a mental breakdown where I'd question everything in my life while simultaneously being angry that I was every born. That first breakdown happened in early November. Even though I got through it I didn't realize how fragile I was until a second breakdown occurred when I thought my purse was stolen.
The Wednesday before Christmas I thought my purse was stolen out of my car. I ended up finding it the next day, but for that full day when I thought it was gone I lost my mind. I was driving and on the phone with Michael telling him all of the details and how unfair it all felt and suddenly it was like a switch flipped and I was screaming over the phone telling him that God had abandoned me and that I had no idea where He was, but wherever He was, He definitely wasn't in my life. Then I was sobbing, by the time I got home my makeup was ruined. So I changed into comfy clothes and cried it out. Then I put on some under eye patches and a facial because I would eventually have to go into work. In the meantime Michael came home to check on me because I think he was genuinely concerned that I was going to hurt myself.
After that episode I knew something needed to change, but I still felt really overwhelmed. I knew I needed to start somewhere, but I had no idea where that somewhere was. Since the New Year was fast approaching I figured I'd think about a new word to focus on for 2017. My word for 2016 was Hope and I learned so much and clearly had a lot of inspiration from it because my whole "brand," Lettered Hope, was directly inspired from it.
The word "joy" kept coming to my mind but I thought it was ridiculous because I felt the exact opposite of joyful. I tried to brainstorm other words, but I kept coming back to joy. I thought maybe contentment, surrender, heal, restore, truth, peace, or believe would be more fitting, but none of them felt right. I chose joy because this past year has made me realize how much of a choice it is to choose joy. True joy only comes from Christ, and so my verse to go along with my word is Psalm 16:11.
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: IN THY PRESENCE IS FULNESS OF JOY; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.
Another reason I chose Joy is because I named our second daughter Joy Magnolia and I renamed our first child, who I felt was a girl, Hope Elise. Their first names are the words that their lives and deaths taught me and their middle names are names I like and perhaps would have named them had they lived.
Finding a new word to focus on was helpful and gave me something small to look forward to in 2017. I also knew I needed to start working on forgiving people. I've never been one to hold grudges, but over the past few months I began harboring a lot of bitterness towards several people in my life, and really if anyone said anything insensitive or wrong, they were on my list. I was annoyed with tons of people and really bitter towards a few. Since I still felt so much anger towards people I didn't want to forgive them.
But last night in church, January 4th, my pastor called us to prayer and said it was our first corporate prayer of 2017. My heart crumbled a little as I realized that, four days into the new year, it was going to be my own first prayer of 2017. I felt like a speck of dirt as I apologized to my Father for not praying at all. I had sent up a few arrow prayers asking God to protect Michael as he left for work, but other than that I had not spent any time in prayer.
As I was trying to fall asleep last night I was having a hard time calming my thoughts, so I decided to really pray. For the past few months I have felt so alone; unheard and not seen by God. I was in a desert season. But a package showed up on my doorstep from my sweet sister-friend Jaque from Shield of Flowers. The package contained a signed edition of The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp and letters dating back to September, shortly after our second miscarriage. The letters were filled with encouragement and the love of Christ flowed throughout. As I read them the simple thought occurred to me: I feel so known and loved by God today. I haven't felt that way in months.
So I decided to pray last night and I'd been wanting to get rid of this bitterness for months, and in the most un-profound, yet genuine way, I prayed: "Lord please forgive me for the bitterness and hardness of my heart." (Although I named each person I needed to forgive in that prayer.) And I literally felt my heart soften. It was like He'd been holding my heart this whole time and was just waiting for me to say the word, and as soon as I did He did the rest. His gentle hands carefully peeled back the layers of bitterness that had accumulated and He gave me a fresh start.
Part of me wants to say that of course I still have a lot of work ahead of me, it's not like you can just snap your fingers and be whole again. While this is true, I don't want to breeze past the fact that God answered my prayer. I asked for forgiveness and requested He soften my heart, and He did. That is miraculous. I want to give Him credit for doing that, I still have responsibilities, but out of His grace + mercy + lovingkindness I think He just did a lot of the work. He did work that I never could've done on my own.