Mike&Sarah

Tag Archive: weekend

Christmas Cookies!

What would you do with more than eight dozen sugar cookies in the shapes of Christmas trees, snowmen, holly leaves, candy canes and Christmas stockings?  Decorate them, of course!  We pulled the student women and their friends together for a festive Saturday afternoon of decorating with icing and sprinkles.

Decorating Christmas cookies is a holiday tradition for some people, but none of the students had ever decorated cookies.  Julie and I made a quick training video for them.  The video was in jest, but I thought you’d laugh with us!

Our hostess, Kelly, was rather clever about the event, covering her table with a plastic table cloth and setting out paper towels and plastic knives along with the colored icing and sprinkles.  Christmas music and Christmas cartoons played in the background all afternoon as we all got to know each other and “ooh”ed and “ahh”ed at each creative design.

One sweet aspect of the day was that the first six dozen were set aside to give to a halfway house for men with mental challenges.  It was great to show that Christmas isn’t just about getting, but about giving, too.

And in that spirit of giving, Julie led a short discussion about the individual art of decorating each cookie and made parallels to how God was directly involved in “decorating” us when He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs.  She then talked about gifts God has given us, and that December is when we celebrate the greatest and most significant gift of Jesus Christ.

Three hours into our decorating extravaganza, and with plenty more cookies to decorate, some of the student men crashed us, er, rather, they stopped by unannounced and little hungry.  We made them work for their eats, and showed them the fine art of slathering sugary confection all over small, sugar cookies.

Update from Sad News

I’m so thankful for dear family and friends who drew near to us during the first horrible days of our miscarriage and these four weeks since then.  We are the recipients of so many kind words and thoughtful gestures that my words of thanks seem inadequate, but my gratitude for people’s kindness, gentleness and compassion goes even deeper now.

One friend sent the book I’ll Hold You In Heaven which is written to parents of children who have been aborted, miscarried, stillborn, or died in early infancy.  This book was a quick and reassuring read exploring through scripture the idea of the unborn having souls from conception.  It helped me realize that I have a child waiting in Heaven.  What a humbling thought.

Other friends sent prayers which made me cry as I read them.  I’m overwhelmed at how many people have suffered the loss of an unborn or stillborn child.  I never knew the depths of grief so many friends have struggled with, but as a friend who struggles with infertility recently shared with me, “loss is loss.”  You don’t have to have experienced the heartbreak of a miscarriage to understand the heart ache of unfulfilled dreams and longings.

Several people told stories of friends who held memorial services for their lost little ones.  I thought I was “beyond” that, for I’d already poured out my heart in an authentic, vulnerable, soul-bearing way just days after I lost my heartbeat-less baby.  In other words, I’d checked “grieving” off of my list and I wanted to move on without experiencing any more grief.

Mike, though, thought it was a good idea, and I wanted to be supportive (but not too emotive), so I begrudgingly agreed.  I didn’t want to open that wound again for it felt like the healing had started — was well in motion — and I wanted to simply move forward into the future with vague reflections on that sad time in our lives.

Two weeks after our loss Mike and I took the Hampton Jitney (bus) out to Montauk, NY, where my family has been going for over 50 years.  My Gramps and my Dad are both buried in that small, unassuming, unpretentious beach town, so Mike thought it would be an important place for us to memorialize our long-prayed for baby.

The weather was perfect: a sunny October day with clear skies.  There was even a festival in the middle of town.  Mike looked for a baby blanket or some kind of object we could use to represent our little one, but none of the boutiques he walked into carried the kind of items he wanted.  I didn’t think I could handle shopping for baby items without crying so I sat on a park bench near the town square and watched happy families buy large jars of pickles.

As a last resort we stopped into White’s Drug Store deciding on baby socks. Because the florist shops were closed, Mike gathered wild flowers from along the winding road as we walked up to Fort Hill Cemetery.

Fort Hill is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited.  From that quiet, grassy place you can see Montauk Pond, the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.  There’s a meandering trail with scenic vistas and teak benches which are perfect for long, thoughtful rests as the sun sets.  There’s usually a soft sea breeze blowing across the top of the hill, too, taking the edge off the heat and humidity on hot summer days.

Sitting beside my Dad’s grave, Mike and I spent an hour praying to God and talking to each other about the baby we never held.  It was a surprisingly, unexpectedly healing time for us. I didn’t know what to say at first but sometimes silence suffices.

Here we are one month later.  Physically I’m healed.  Emotionally, I’m tender.  Spiritually, I have questions.  See, I had hoped that after my previous foray into writing about our miscarriage I’d be able to dam up my emotions and move forward with veiled references to loss and heartache.  But I’m learning that God has more for us than that: He is calling us to live authentically with loss.  We will have many opportunities in the years to come to celebrate with others while taking our broken hearts to Jesus.  We will live with the reality of lost dreams in a way I never imagined, marking milestones by someone else’s precious baby.

Sad News

It was our sweet little secret.  Our joy and delight.  And we’d only shared it with our immediate families so they could pray with us through the tender time.  We were debating about with whom to share our news after this first appointment and with whom we’d share the news when we were finally in the clear after the first trimester. When would we make it “facebook public”?

After three years of trying to get pregnant, of seeing fertility specialists, undergoing rigorous tests and being told we’d need “medical help” to get pregnant, we were so excited and surprised by this unexpected gift.  We found out the weekend we moved into our new apartment.  While surrounded by boxes and the chaos of moving, and with my younger sister also moving in with us, I walked over to the Duane Reade drugstore to buy a pregnancy test.  I’d never done that before.  I took that test while Mike was napping, and then held in my giggly news while he continued to nap and my sister shared her dilemma about her weekend plans.  Meanwhile, I searched the internet for pregnancy due date calculators and to check the growth and development of our tiny little baby.

It was pouring on Friday.  During a meeting break I ran out from our ministry office to one of the shops at Grand Central Station to buy rain boots.  After our first prenatal appointment later that rainy day, my oldest sister planned to pick us up and drive us out to Montauk to meet up with the rest of my family.  The next day Mike and I were to volunteer in the rain to give out water to the runners during my younger sister’s first half marathon.  She ran her race, but we never made it out there.

Wearing my new polka-dotted rain boots, I suggested we take a taxi to the hospital for our appointment rather than taking the subway and then having to walk the four long blocks.  But it was hard to hail a taxi in the rain, what with the traffic from the UN General Assembly being in session.  Eventually we jumped on a bus to take us uptown.  Our weekend bags were soaked, and it didn’t matter that we had umbrellas; we were soaked, too.

I called my doctor’s office from the bus to alert them to our delay, and we finally rushed into the waiting room about 15 minutes late.  They handed me a pile of papers to fill out and as I struggled to balance the clipboard and papers with my wet bag, wallet, insurance card and dripping umbrella, the nurse told us we could go back to the examining room.

This was it.  This was finally the day that Mike could see proof of all the changes I could feel happening in my body.  For three weeks we held tightly to our happy secret, but I was the one who had just outgrown her current jeans and had to start living in a larger size (not maternity sized yet!).  I was the one battling exhaustion, sometimes even taking two naps a day (a big deal for a gal who doesn’t nap!).  My breasts were tender, I was waking up a few times in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  I was starting to deal with hormonal acne break outs.  My body was changing.  But today Mike would be able to see his baby, and see the heart beat.

Maybe I should’ve suspected something when my doctor didn’t turn the screen around on our ultrasound machine so Mike and I could see it.  Instead she said, “Let me just take a look around.”  But the words she was about to say to us were not even in my categories.  It was just this week that my jeans didn’t fit!

But then she said she was sorry.  She couldn’t find a heart beat.  She didn’t have any doubts about it, but she wanted us to be confident so she sent us for a second opinion.  We gathered our wet jackets, weekend bags, office bags, umbrellas and papers, then had some blood tests before going up to the seventh floor for the second opinion.

I sat, wet, cold and shaking with chattering teeth, for 45 minutes while we waited to be squeezed into someone’s schedule.  The waiting room was full of pregnant women accompanied by their mothers, boyfriends or husbands.  The air conditioner was on full blast to keep those over-heated women comfortable, but I was freezing in my wet dress (but my feet were dry thanks to my new boots).

I had to drink glass after glass of water for the next ultrasound while right in front of me two pregnant women shared a joyful reunion.  The air was full of “I didn’t know you were pregnant!” and “How far along are you?”  These friends hadn’t seen each other in months, but then they counted, out loud, “one, two, three” and lifted their shirts to show off their growing bellies. Their bellies full of promise.  Their bellies pregnant with joy, and dreams and possibilities.  I averted my eyes and cradled my belly with my baby who didn’t have a heart beat.

Fighting tears several times and yearning to get as far away from the room full of potential and hormones and beating hearts, I was glad when our ultrasound technician finally called us back to her room, which was easily four times the size of my doctor’s exam room.  We had plenty of space for our wet weekend bags.

She told me to pull up my dress as I climbed onto her table.  Mike sat in the chair by my head.  We both looked at the monitor mounted near the ceiling.  The gel she squeezed out on my water-filled belly was unexpectedly warm, a welcome relief after the frigid air from the waiting room.  And that’s when we could finally see our baby.  For the first time; the only time.  On the screen.  Our baby looked like any other baby I’d seen in ultrasound pictures at this early stage.  But this technician agreed with our doctor about our baby’s heartbeat.  It was missing.

All day long this woman looks into expectant women’s bellies and tells them happy news like their baby’s gender.  But today she affirmed our doctor’s sad diagnosis of no heartbeat.  We did another ultrasound, and then she left to call in the supervising doctor.  He, too agreed with my doctor.  That put us at three ultrasounds on two machines and three people with one voice confirming that our baby didn’t have a heartbeat.  Devastating.

Mike and I clung to each other in that room, crying tears of sorrow, sadness, disappointment, heart break.  They gave us some privacy, so we stood in that room of promise for everyone else; that room which held no promises for me.  And I wept.

I later called my mom to share the wretched news, which meant two of my three sisters who were with her also knew.  But my oldest sister had been stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike for hours (was that a Divine delay?) and had just crossed the George Washington Bridge.  Mike texted asking her to pull over and call us.  I didn’t want to share this news while she was driving.  She suspected something was wrong (as did the rest of my family) when she didn’t get cheery text updates from us during the last few hours.  Rather than coming across town to pick us up and then head out to Montauk, she drove to our neighborhood to wait for us.  We hailed a cab and headed home.

Jennifer spent the weekend with us in New York City.  On Sunday the rest of my family came over for a few hours.  Mom then spent Sunday and Monday night with us.

The weekend was rough.  I didn’t want Monday to come.  I cried.  I slept.  I did laundry.  I was in shock.  In my belly I still had our child.  But our child didn’t have a heartbeat.  How strange.  And on Monday my doctor took our child out of my belly.  How wretched.  It really was a horrible weekend.  I didn’t want Monday to come.

But Monday did come.  Waiting in the “Ambulatory Surgery” unit for a surgical room to open up so they could squeeze me in, wearing the drawstring surgery pants under the ubiquitous hospital gown that is open in the back, with the seer-sucker robe and anti-slip socks did not settle my nerves.  Mike waited with me for hours in the chilly pre-surgery room, then walked with me as far as the hospital personnel would let him when they led me to surgery.  He held me and whispered, “I love you,” before I pushed my IV pole into the elevator.  As the doors closed, I couldn’t help but feel fear.  And feel alone.

My sweet, kind, gentle husband wanted to be in the surgical room with me.  He didn’t want me to be alone.  But I couldn’t think of anything worse for him to have to endure. The hospital didn’t even give us this option, so he sat in a different waiting room until my doctor reported to him about the surgery and he was allowed to find me in recovery.

I was escorted to the surgical suite.  I walked in.  There were several people in the room wearing surgical masks.  Two greeted me and asked questions: Do you have all of your teeth? Is there anything in your mouth that is removable?  Do you have any allergies?  Have you ever had a bad reaction to anesthesia? Have you had anything to eat or drink since midnight last night?

I don’t know why I thought this, but I remember thinking, “Don’t cry! Don’t cry!”  But why?  My world was falling apart.  I was in a surgical room, and they were going to take my baby, my baby without a heart beat, from my belly.  I could feel the tears burning the rim of my eyes.  My chin was starting to quiver and now the nurse and anesthesiologist couldn’t understand my answers anymore.  I stood next to the surgical table crying. I still had a kleenex in the pocket of my hospital-issued seer-sucker robe.

My doctor appeared.  My doctor.  I am so grateful for her.  She shared the horrible news on Friday with such gentleness and compassion.  She called me on Friday night to explain (again) our next steps and options.  She called on Saturday night to answer any questions which may have come up.  She had one of her interns call us on Monday morning while she was in surgery to answer questions and let us know it was time to come to the hospital.

The last thing I remember before the anesthesia lulled me into a peaceful, numb oblivion, was my doctor holding my hand and saying she that she hoped to see me under happier circumstances in labor and delivery.  I clung to that little bit of hope as I slipped into my silent slumber and they removed my baby.

It’s three days later.  My belly is empty.  My breasts aren’t tender anymore.  I don’t wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night anymore either.  I have to lose the weight I had started to gain (story of my life).  I’m still tired, though.  But I don’t have the pain I expected, or the bleeding I anticipated.  Instead, Mike and I both have pretty bad colds.  We’re welcoming this opportunity to slow down: to grieve, mourn and rest.

I love the three floral bouquets we’ve received.  I’m surprised at how meaningful they are to me.  I’m thankful for the emails, voice mails and texts from friends who mourn with us; but I don’t want to talk on the phone or return any of those emails.  I’m also thankful to the two friends who brought us dinner the last two nights: we’d eaten a lot of delivery from Jesus Taco over the weekend.

We have three retreats for the next three weekends, and after that a week of leadership development in Orlando.  Mike and I are again giving leadership to the two-year national leader development program our organization holds for senior leaders.  It’s one of my favorite jobs with the ministry.

The everyday groceries which my family brought are nearly gone.  We need eggs and milk and cereal and fruit.  The kitchen floor needs to be swept and mopped.  Life moves forward.  My heart is broken, but healing.  I’m still sad, and I don’t want to give voice to this pain.  But writing about it has felt good, honest.  I’m hopeful that we’ll get pregnant again.  For two people who were told that we have “unexplained infertility and will need medical assistance to get pregnant,” this baby was a clear sign and reminder that God is the author of life, with and without medical assistance.  Perhaps He’ll enable us to get pregnant on our own again.

But for now, I’m taking it one hour at a time.  I’m reading my Bible.  I’m praying.  I’m resting.  I’m watching TV.  And I’m writing, which is so good for my soul.

It’s still raining. But today, maybe I’ll put my rain boots on and go outside.

Procrastination

…to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done.

Yes.  I’m procrastinating.  But I’m procrastinating from doing what I really want to do rather than from something distasteful.  I’m avoiding something that gives me energy and joy and makes me feel alive.

So why do I procrastinate?  One reason, perhaps, is tied to where I find my value.  Though I seldom admit it out loud, my actions often convey what I really believe:  my value is based on other people’s perception of how well I perform.  “If people think I did a good job, then I must be ok.”  “If other people think I’m a winner, then I really must be a winner.” Those phrases run through my mind.

I’m preparing to speak at a women’s retreat for Redeemer Hoboken Church on 5-7 November.  I’m really excited about the topic.  Whenever I talk about it, I get animated, talking with my hands.  I can feel the heat in my face as I radiate excitement.  There’s potential for this retreat to be really powerful.

So here I sit in front of my computer, with all kinds of ideas and thoughts swirling around in my head.  I’ve studied the Bible.  I’ve done a lot of research.  I’ve taken notes.  I’ve even started the rough drafts.  Yet I’m still resistant when it comes to refining these drafts.

This yearning for the approval of others is a big thorn in my side.  As a recovering (or not-so-recovering?) perfectionist, I can see how I often push things off until the last minute.  I mean, if my retreat talks are terrible, or I completely bomb, or no one at the retreat likes me, I can rationalize that pain away by saying “its simply because I didn’t have enough time to thoroughly develop my thoughts.  They would’ve loved it (or loved me) if I had more time to prepare.”

And so I’ve wasted hours of valuable preparation time by updating my ipod, stalking friends on facebook, writing this blog entry, making lists of things that need to get done around the house, then checking off some of those items on that list.  I’ve even watched a lot of TV, which is saying something because we just canceled cable and we only get NBC now.  Do I care about Sunday Night Football?  I didn’t until the other day when I could have been praying and writing!  There are very few urgent items in my life right now.  The fact that I have preparation time in my schedule is a gift that I’m squandering.

And here’s the kicker:  the retreat isn’t about ME.  I want these women to take their next right step to enjoy a healthy, vibrant, honest relationship with God!

But that’s the rub: I need that statement to soak into my heart.  Perhaps my next right step with God is to be honest with Him about my fears and insecurities.  It might be time to confess that I love the approval of others and believe what people say about me.  I use the word “confess” because God has clearly told me that He loves me, and that He’d rather die than live without me, so how can I toss that aside so quickly with a whiny “yeah, but…” regarding the opinions of others?  No one loves me as wholly as Jesus does.  He knows each bitter or blessed word before it is on my tongue. He perceives  my thoughts from a far. And loves me anyway!

If I totally “bomb” next weekend, does that mean I’m worthless, or a terrible person, or that I have nothing to contribute to the world?  Does that disqualify me from being involved in the lives of other people?  No.  And no.  And yes, I have “bombed” before.  I can think of a few speaking engagements that fell completely flat.  I’ve experienced both success and failure.  If I step out of my black and white view of the world, I’ll see that there were other times when speaking engagements were just ok.

So it is not about me.  It’s about God, and what He wants me to believe about HIM through this preparation time and then through the days at the retreat.  And when we are at the retreat, it is all about each woman there and what God wants each of them to believe about HIM because our thoughts, actions, behaviors and words flow out of what we believe about God, ourselves and the world around us.

Time to talk with God about what I believe.

You’re Invited to attend “A Weekend To Remember”

To thank you for living out God’s call in your life and for partnering with God’s call on our lives, FamilyLife®, a ministry of Campus Crusade, is making it possible for you to experience an unforgettable weekend – FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember at a discount of almost half of the regular rate. Click on this link below and learn more about this incredible opportunity to invest in your marriage. You will be so glad you did! Just click here!
The Weekend to Remember conference also has a track for pre-married couples.

Our Planning Weekend

When you work for a faith-based non-profit, your private and professional lives have little separation.  For instance, did you know that if you work for our ministry and are involved in immorality or a felony you are at risk of immediate dismissal?  I just learned that.  Mike works in Leadership Development for the Campus Ministry and, sadly, is sometimes involved in conversations about someone’s “private, personal life” playing out in daily ministry.  Why?  It’s an issue of character, integrity, and living out Godly, biblical values.

Our ministry encourages staff to take a weekend to evaluate the trajectory of their life and/or marriage, identify areas to work on, and set goals for the next six months.  It’s a way to help people grow in their personal lives.  Doesn’t that sound healthy?  It’s like a check-up, or an oil change.

While an entire weekend is recommended to work through the suggested goal-setting worksheets, you can modify it for an overnight trip, or even a few hours at a coffee shop.  The idea is to give focused attention to different aspects of your life in order to identify growth areas.

In spite of this healthy, wonderful habit encouraged by our “corporate culture,” I have yet to meet anyone who takes full advantage of it.  I only took one planning weekend during my 10+ years as a single woman on staff, and the last time Mike and I sat down to “make plans” for our life was when we planned our wedding a year and a half ago.  

So, armed with suggested questions for reflection and discussion, Mike and I scheduled a weekend away in September.   We didn’t stick to the outline, or even use all the questions, but we made major progress in identifying pitfalls and admitting weaknesses.  We set measurable goals for growth.  And that feels pretty good. 

Our next “check-up” just happens to be around our 2nd anniversary in March, which seems like a poignant time to re-evaluate and make sure we are headed in the same direction.

Not a bad way to spend a weekend.

Want a copy of the suggested outline with discussion and reflection questions?  Email me and I’ll send the attachment.  There’s an outline for married couples and one for single people.

Married and want to refocus on your marriage?  Our next blog update will let you know about a special offer from Family Life, CCC’s ministry offering help for today and hope for tomorrow.