Last week, we shared our third blog post in our infertility series about our daughter, Elizabeth. First of all, I just want to thank everyone who has been following along in our blogs recently. Your support really means a lot to us! We have gotten so much encouragement and positive feedback from them, so thank you!
Now that Brandon and I have had a few years to heal and process our losses, we just wanted to share some of what God has taught us over the last few years. God has taken us on a spiritual faith journey that I am so thankful for, and his grace has been so sufficient in this season!
I ended the last blog with Psalms 71:19-24. This was just one of the many Psalms that spoke to my heart in those following months after losing Elizabeth. It was in the middle of this most difficult trial that we really clung to these truths. As Christians, we read these familiar verses, and we realized that everything we learned growing up was real. The songs we sang, the verses we read, they actually meant something. It’s hard to describe because, of course, we had faith in God for most of our lives, but it wasn’t until we were in our darkest moments that we felt the force of these truths. Songs like “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “Because He Lives” rang true deep in my soul like I had never experienced before. Verses like, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me” and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” were like balms to my wounds. The Spirit of God was so near and dear to us, that as I look back on that time of mourning, I can clearly remember the overwhelming comfort and peace we experienced.
Looking back on all that has happened since then, Brandon and I can see the hand of God guiding us one step at a time. Just a month or so after losing Elizabeth, I began taking pictures of families and couples as a hobby. It became a really good distraction for me and gave me something to focus on outside the house. I took pictures for my co-workers and people at church, and in a way, I felt like I had a purpose in life again (even if it wasn’t as “important” as being a mom). Brandon encouraged me to go for it, put myself out there, and start a side photography business, which eventually grew into our wedding filmmaking business.
We never would have guessed that losing Elizabeth would change the entire trajectory of our lives. Without losing her, we never would have had the time nor taken the risks required to make this dream of becoming filmmakers a reality! And we feel so blessed to be able to do what we do! Brandon has always loved movies, and his childhood dream was to go to Hollywood and be a film director. Obviously, as he got older, he picked a more practical occupation, but God knew the desires and dreams of Brandon’s heart. Out of our loss, God gave us a meaningful career that we love! Brandon never could have imagined that he would ever be paid to be creative and tell stories through film, but this business is just one of the ways God has shown us his love!
At the start of the new year, 2017, Brandon and I decided to read through the whole Bible in 90 days. This intentional diving into God’s Word, at such a sensitive time in our lives, led to a lot of spiritual breakthroughs for us both personally and in our marriage. One of the first things we learned after losing Elizabeth was that God brings life out of death. Because of Elizabeth’s life and death, we saw instances where the hope of the gospel of Jesus was shared with people, and they found new life in Christ. This was the most meaningful and exciting thing for us! The fact that God was able to bring eternal life to people through the death of our child gave us more joy than we thought possible through our suffering! Not only that, but God also gave Brandon and I new life in our marriage. The fire of this trial separated the dross from the gold in our hearts. God refined us, carved sin out of our lives, and made us more loving toward each other. Out of Elizabeth’s death, God brought us and others abundant life!
Another thing we learned was how to have faith for one thing at a time. A lot of the decisions in our marriage were accompanied by the question, “But what if I get pregnant?” Over the years, there were a lot of things Brandon and I didn’t do because of the possibility that I might get pregnant. It was a filter that we put on all of our decisions. Finally, after losing Elizabeth, I thought, “We can’t play the ‘what if’ game anymore. I’m just going to live my life, and if we get pregnant, then we will figure out what to do from there.”
The summer following our loss, Brandon and I felt God calling us to go on a mission trip to Peru. For us, going on that trip was a step of faith! We were worried about getting pregnant again before the trip, but God comforted and assured us that he was in control. God has taken our fear of making risky decisions and replaced it with a faith in him to care for our every need! God gave us the faith to go to Peru without fear, to buy our house without fear, to start our business without fear, and because we were acting in faith instead of fear, God has just poured his blessings on our life!
Lastly, I want to share how God has been teaching us to be content. Coming to full contentment took us these full five years of being together, going through longing and loss, and learning how to surrender. I really struggled with being satisfied with my life our first four years of marriage. After our first miscarriage, I had a deep longing for children, and for years we prayed that God would give us the desires of our hearts. We begged and cried on our knees, and all we experienced was loss after loss. Some days I felt like I had made it. I felt happy with my life, and I was okay with not having any kids. Then, the next day (or moment), I would feel empty again.
I don’t know exactly what has happened over the last two years, but after feeling the nearness and love of God in our deepest valley, I began to long for more of that. I won’t say that I don’t sometimes have moments of sadness or twinges of desire, but I honestly believe that God miraculously satisfied my soul. I feel truly and completely content and at peace with the possibility of never having children. And perhaps God just put that desire to sleep for a short time and will awaken it again one day, I don’t know, but right now I’m okay. It’s so interesting because when we say things like, “we’re very content right now” or “we’re really okay if we don’t have kids,” it makes people sad for us. It makes them upset to think that we have given up hope, and I had to realize that it’s okay to be okay with not having children.
Our contentment comes from an abundance of hope and joy and peace, not a lack of it! We’re not content because we gave up! Brandon and I have found that our lives still have purpose outside of having biological children. We are able to leave a legacy through spiritual children, and the love and heart we have toward the young people in our lives right now is that of a parent’s. We are intentionally and prayerfully nurturing relationships with young people that we can influence and teach.
Jesus is the only one who can fully satisfy our hearts in any stage of life! No matter if you’re single or married, with kids or without, old or young, God wants you to 1) be happy with what you’ve got, and 2) make a difference where you are. If you’ve hit rock bottom, lean into God, and he will sustain you. Even if you feel weak, angry, resentful, or hurt, like you couldn’t possibly even try to lean into God, just keep surrendering. Just keep saying, “God, I can’t do it, you have to step in.” He can do it, and he can handle your doubt too!
I want to end this post with a list of verses that gave me hope after losing Elizabeth. If you are experiencing loss of any kind, these verses were life-giving encouragements to me when I needed it most. I hope they bless you.
Psalm 86:15-17 – “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me. Give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. Show me a sign of your favor that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”
Psalm 94:17-19 – “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
Psalm 112:6-7 – “For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”
Psalm 119:73-77 – “Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word. I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.”
Psalm 127 – “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them. He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
Psalm 136 – “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Psalm 138:8 – “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.”
Psalm 139:4-6 – “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”
Psalm 145:14-20 – “The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.”
Psalm 147:3-6 – “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 25:4 – “Take away dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 61:1-3 – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Romans 5:3-5 – “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”