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Here I raise my Ebenezer. #1

Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.

I’ve heard myself say several times over the last few months, “I guess it all started when . . . ” There are so many ways I can finish that phrase.

In one sense, it all started when Elise was born. I could probably find things earlier too, but I don’t want to go too far back.

When you bury your child, you question everything. All the little clichés people say. God really protected us from a lot of the silly things people could have said, and I will scream from the mountain tops that we clearly felt God’s care wrapped around us from the very beginning.

Grant and I have four children in Heaven. After the last miscarriage, I was still just numb. To be a mom of four and never having met one of them was a lot to bear.

It was exactly five years ago this week when I probably reached my lowest point. Here’s how I described it way back when. I’ll just copy and paste it below:

While I endured the roller coaster of grief—from denial through guilt and self-pity and bargaining to sadness and finally acceptance—and learned from it that God was always lovingly in control, the second week of February 2003 was probably my lowest moment. I had had two additional miscarriages since Elise was born – that’s four pregnancy losses total. Satan attacked me with three horrible thoughts:

  • I had overheard friends who had recently discovered they were pregnant express that they were scared to be pregnant “because of everything Camille had been through.” I was struck with the thought, “What am I now a discouragement to people? Great.” When you’ve had such horrible loss, you begin to think you’re a jinx and sometimes innocent comments like this only confirm those ugly thoughts.
  • Then Grant and I went to Wal-mart for some essentials. Nothing extravagant—deodorant, light bulbs. It was $42 total. And we couldn’t buy it because our debit card didn’t go through. For a lousy couple of bags of nothing really, we had to walk away. We later discovered we only had $37 in our checking account. And that same day we got a bill for some recent medical procedures and tests for me—over $3000.
  • I was smocking a dress to celebrate the adoption of a new family member. Scott and Chris Lining were adopting Janae after a long difficult illness for Chris and an arduous adoption journey. As I sat there poring over the patterns, relishing the planning of colors, thread, flowers, pearls, and fabric, Satan hit me right between the eyes with, “What kind of a fool do you think you are? Do you ever think you’re going to make one of these for your own child? Hmph. You’re a fool.”

This all happened on a Thursday. All these ugly thoughts and events coincided on that one day. By Friday night, when I was finally alone, I threw myself down in tears before the Lord, begging for Him to help. I finally prayed, “Okay, Lord. I am throwing this all in your lap. I need something. I don’t know what I need. But I need something. So I’m just going to assume that you are going to give it to me by Sunday night at church. . . . And btw, I promise that I won’t second guess it. I won’t question it. I’m just going to take your message at face value.”

There’s something about having all this education. You begin to question everything. You say to yourself, “That’s just what you want to hear, silly. That’s not what God’s saying.” So God was prompting me, I believe, to put aside my critiquing muscles and listen like a child.

I remember walking into choir practice that Sunday night. I prayed, “Lord, help Danny as he’s preparing. Remember, I’m listening. So give him what I need to hear.”

God had better plans. He didn’t wait until church. He started in choir. I sat away from my friends where I’d be tempted to giggle my way through. You know how chatty we sopranos can be. And He sat me right in the middle, right in front of Dr. Cook—who was in a bit of a chatty mood himself that night. We started with “None like you,” and I felt like God was softening me up for the next song: “And the Father will sing over you with joy.”

You all remember that song? It’s based on Zephaniah 3:14, 17

And the Father will sing over you in joy!
He will take delight in whom he loves.
Is that a choir I hear singing the praises of God?
No, the Lord God Himself is exulting o’er you in song!

Wow.

Warren amplified these words a little bit further. God rejoices over us? He SINGS over us? My word!! God is encouraged over me! What a cure to worrying about what others might fear from what God has carried you through. 

The song goes on.

My soul will make its boast in God,
For He has answered all my cries.
His faithfulness to me is as sure as the dawn of a new day.
Sing, O daughter of Zion, with all of your heart!
Cast away fear for you have been restored!
Put on a garment of praise as on a festival day.
Join with the Father in glorious, jubilant song.

The Holy Spirit struck me with the thought, “Honey, that dress that you’re making for Janae. That’s a garment of praise! You’re celebrating the fact that she’s home. See what I’m saying here—I’m telling you to get ready to put on your own happy garments. Get ready. The happy is coming. The festival day is coming. Just not yet.”

I wept through the entire choir practice. My poor sweet husband ran to my side afterward, but it was really all good. God was showing me His message. He was whispering to me His comfort while always underneath His care.

Whew! I was done, I thought. Okay. Wow. That was good. Okay. We can move on. The service began, and I realized Danny wasn’t preaching. It was Jerry Sivinsky. Hmmm. . . . okay.

He preached on prayer. Maybe you remember the sermon? He preached on praying specifically and confidently and with even a “deadline” of sorts. But get this—he had preached the exact same sermon at school in November. Huh. That’s certainly God trying to get my attention, so I knew I needed to listen.

But that was hard. You know, we pray so timidly. We ask as if to say “if that’s okay” and “don’t want to bother you.” Jerry was telling us something different. He was describing a boldness—like a child who marches up to her Father and asks, “Daddy, may I?” My critical muscles started to flex. “That’s not what God means.” But I told them to cut it out. I had to.

The next week, I sat down and wrote this prayer through tears and shaking hands. I was scared to even write it. I asked the Lord:

  • To continue to carry us through these hardships so that we could feel His presence.
  • To take care of our finances in a timely manner.
  • To . . . . [and this is the one that made me so scared] give us a normal, healthy, screaming baby by the end of Christmas vacation. 

I knew He could do the first one. That’s a metaphysical request. No big whoop. The second? I’ve heard him do miraculous things with school bills and such. I knew He could do that. But that last one. . . . to be honest, I was thinking “Christmas” when I wrote “the end of Christmas vacation.” But I was giving God a few more weeks there—just in case He needed the later deadline. 

That scared me. In order for that to happen, there would be so much that would have happen “just so.”

  • My surgery would have to go smoothly without incident. 
  • My recovery would have to be easy.
  • The doc would have to give me the go-ahead on my second cycle after the surgery.
  • We’d have to conceive.
  • That pregnancy would stick and be viable.
  • I would carry that baby through to a live birth. 

That’s a lot. I remember sitting in that paper dress in my doctor’s office for my post-op follow-up. My incisions were fine and everything was healing well. I asked, “When can we go ahead and try to conceive?” He hesitated, “Well, you need to wait one more cycle. . . . Oh, here’s a phone call. I need to take it. Just a sec.” 

Sigh. . . . I laid there on the exam table and prayed, “Okay, Lord. You’ve got it worked out. I know that. I’m bummed about this, I just want you to know. But I know this is best.” 

The doctor came back in and said while thumbing through my massive chart, “You know, there’s really no need for you to wait. You can go ahead and start this next cycle.” 

YIPPEE!! And the next step was starting to take the baby aspirin and the folic acid and such which I started the Friday night of the Ladies Retreat two years ago. In the next few months, God reduced my medical bills to $320—we could manage that—and the next Fall, we FINALLY got a raise. And as you all know, three days before Christmas our precious little screamer, Isaac, was born. In fact, he screamed a little too early which is why he had to stay in the NICU for a few days. I’m still tickled that God heard my prayer for before Christmas even though I officially wrote down “the end of Christmas vacation.” 

I love this metaphor of “under his wings” because it’s a maternal metaphor. God is quite flexible in how He describes Himself, and He isn’t worried about narrow roles. And it says that He’s protecting us instinctively. He’s holding us very, very, very close to Him when danger is near. So close that He knows the intimate and even unspoken and unwritten desires of our hearts. He wants to give them to us. He’s not maniacal—dangling a carrot at the end of a string in order to watch us dance at His command. He’s not locking us up in our rooms when we have strong and difficult feelings. God doesn’t do time-outs; He does time-ins. He draws us close, rocks us to sleep, carries us all the day long. 

Answering my prayer and giving me this little life to enjoy is proof to me of how much God loves me and how closely He listens. But loving this little life has also taught me what that love is like. When I comfort him through teething, clean yet another explosion in his pants, giggle at his imitating Daddy brushing his teeth, and instinctively protect him under my wings, I think I get a better glimpse at how lovingly, persistently, and generously God loves us. 

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust.

[tags]Pregnancy Loss, Stillbirth, Grief[/tags]

Here I raise my Ebenezer. #1

14 thoughts on “Here I raise my Ebenezer. #1

  • February 12, 2008 at 3:51 pm
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    Oh dear sweet Camille! I just went back and read Elise’s Birth Story.

    Amazing what your words do for my heart! So many things that I experienced, that you found a way put into words! How do you do that?! : ) Thank you for taking the time to write that way-back-when!! I am so glad that I could read her story and yours, too!

    I am so thankful for you and for the love that you showed to me when I lost Job! You truly understood when others couldn’t. Thank you!!

    And I am so thankful for Grant and the part he played, too!

    I am right there with you, praising God for the little ones that He has given (before and after!) that we are able to have with us here on Earth! What a joy they are to our hearts! Aren’t they amazing?!

    God is so GOOD!!

  • February 12, 2008 at 5:51 pm
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    (((Camille))) That brought tears to my eyes, I needed to read that, thank you.

  • February 14, 2008 at 9:27 pm
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    Wow. You have no idea how much I needed that. Huh. God DOES hear us before we speak. And I had almost lost faith.

    (((goes back to pray)))

  • February 16, 2008 at 11:10 pm
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    Last fall, I read for the first time about the ministry of sewing for stillborn infants. It stayed with me for awhile, but I put it on the backburner. Lately, I’ve been doing more sewing, and to read this lights the fire. Thanks for sharing your story. It has inspired me to action.

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  • March 24, 2008 at 2:49 pm
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    I enjoyed your story. I have had 2 miscarriages and struggled with infertility issues my whole marriage. I now have several wonderful children and God used the birth of each to teach me a spiritual lesson. I know those times after miscarriages are dark and lonely. After one miscarriage I had to go to 2 baby showers at church not long after I had my miscarriage. It was hard, but I cried my way through them. Then we went through another round of fertility drugs and God without a doubt gave me a message one day through a series of events. He showed me that He knew what lay ahead and my infertility issues were in His hands. He makes provision for the birds and the flowers, He woudl care for me. When I did finally get pregnant with my last child, God’s plan came to fruition and I realized why I had to wait so long. I had a devastating event happen in my life and had I not been pregnant, I don’t know that I would have survived. When my precious little angel arrived, I made up my mind that everytime I looked at that baby that I would remember that God sent that child to help me get through my difficult time. God is so Good!

  • April 13, 2008 at 8:34 am
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    Thank you for writing this. I found this blog because I had Googled the line from the hymn, trying to find out where it came from. God has been teaching me more about Him, and I see through your writing that I am not alone in how I have sometimes viewed Him. You mentioned “dangling a carrot” and I confess I have sometimes wondered if He might hold out something I wanted and then take it away at the last second. I also identified with how you described your prayers. I myself have described my own praying as “overly deferential and downright wishy-washy”. I am often too afraid to pray for something specific because I don’t want to be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. I guess I have always felt that if I want something for myself or my family (as opposed to requests for other people, which are easy to pray for), I am being selfish, and therefore whatever it is can’t be in line with what God wants. May God forgive me for my lack of trust. He is so patient!

  • September 21, 2008 at 12:05 pm
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    I cried with you.

  • October 26, 2008 at 1:22 am
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    Wow. Unbelievable. I had never heard all these details, Camille. Thank you for sharing. It’s an encouragement to me.

  • October 28, 2008 at 1:36 pm
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    Dear Camille, 33 years ago last May I lost a little boy. He was born 3 months too early and was only with us 9 hours. And Satan got to me really well. I became a Buddhist. After long and tortuous years in the cold and dark, I came in from the cold a year ago September. In the meantime, I had a daughter, and she in turn presented me with two beautiful grandchildren. We wanted a good education for them, so we sent them to Bethlehem Lutheran Church School, never dreaming that it would change everything.

    That year ago, as I knelt to confess my sins at 8:00 am, the light came through the west skylight and covered me (there’s no light from the west in the morning here in September). The change has been awesome.

    I am glad you had the assistance of the Holy Spirit through your ordeal. May God continue to bless you and yours.

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  • May 26, 2009 at 5:54 pm
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    Thank you for sharing. This really blessed me as I read.

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