Sunday, October 21, 2012

Flashback: How I went broke when I started to tithe.

Some of you may remember this post from a couple years ago (if you've been following my blog that long, you honestly deserve a medal...)

Today I'm bringing it back, in honor of our new series, The Challenge, where we are going to be challenged to give above and beyond our comfort levels.  I'd sort of forgotten about this experience until I was sitting in the auditorium this morning.  It was good for me to go back and re read it.

Yesterday morning, at Next Level Church, Todd talked to us about the importance of giving. He shared a fairly startling statistic about church goers and tithing, and how the national average of people who tithe regularly is somewhere around 9%.
This is a pretty low percentage, but yet – I get it. I totally understand how hard it is to part with money. It took me a long time to develop a real, genuine understanding of tithing and a desire to be obedient in doing it.
Years ago, I was sitting in a church, listening to the pastor give an amazing sermon on giving 10% and I was SOLD. I was a struggling single mother – living on the bare minimum. No TV, no car payment, no “fun” money…just rent, utilities, groceries and daycare. I literally had NO extra money to spare. But he incited a passion in me, and I just couldn’t WAIT to tithe and feel the love of God rain down upon me.
So off I went, writing those tithing checks every pay period, literally watching my bank account sink further and further into the red. Yep, I started bouncing checks. Overdraft fees accumulated. But I remembered the pastor’s sermon, I kept on giving, and I kept on overdrawing my bank account.
Let me remind you at this time in my life, I very literally had NO unnecessary expenses. There was nothing for me to move around or sacrifice so that I could tithe and breathe easier. And I’m sure you are waiting for me to end this story with an amazing account of how money appeared like magic in my bank account and I was able to pay the bills and life has been rainbows and lollipops ever since. But that’s not what happened.
I decided to email the pastor and explain my situation. I told him how much I’d been inspired, I told him how desperately I wanted to tithe, and I told him what serious hot water I was in because of it. He responded kindly, gave me some advice and hooked me up with a financial counselor with the church. Long story short, the church was able to help me get back on my feet. What did that experience teach me? I am ashamed to admit it didn’t teach me what it should have.
Honestly, I felt kind of mad. And a little miffed – I mean, I wasn’t expecting thousands of dollars to show up at my door…but I definitely wasn’t expecting to have to be referred to a financial counselor after digging myself into a hole by following God’s word. I was kind of turned off by the whole experience, and it was a long time before I felt ready to give again.
So there I was sitting in the auditorium yesterday listening to Todd talk about how important it is to give, and I realized that without that experience, I would not be where I am today. Even though I was scared to tithe for awhile, I still attended church frequently – built great relationships, furthered my journey in being a Christ follower, developed talents and gifts I never knew I had, and probably the greatest thing of all – ended up meeting the person who will become my husband in T minus 19 days. (Sidenote: HOLY COW that is coming fast!)
My blessings from giving were not an immediate, tangible thing. Neither a brand new car or a Publishers Clearing House check arrived at my house. I continued along as a struggling single mother. But when the church helped me crawl out of that hole, it set me down a path to where I am now and that is one of the most precious and intangible blessings one can ever receive. I now know Christ better than I did before that experience. It took a long time though – none of that happened overnight and I didn’t even RECOGNIZE the blessing that came from it until yesterday.
I am hoping many people will prayerfully consider The Challenge, and am looking forward to hearing the stories of those who do!
Saturday, October 20, 2012


I haven't updated in about a week and a half - I guess partly because I'm still processing the loss of my daughter and partly because I know at some point, most people don't want to hear about it anymore.

Truth is, some days I am feeling fine.  Some days, it's almost as though it never happened and for a day or even a few hours, I forget.  And life moves on, and I smile and laugh and enjoy the moment and I don't feel sad.

But other times, it hits me - like a sucker punch in the gut when I'm not looking.  And sometimes I sit and think about my little girl.  I take pictures like this one -

- and suddenly the thought occurs to me that there should be a little newborn girl in a picture like that one in about 17 weeks and there won't be.  And it feels like the wind gets knocked out of me for a little while.  I can't breathe and the tears start all over again.  The pain feels tangible and so very present.

I'd be lying if I said I haven't been deeply, deeply affected by this loss.  I'd be lying if I said the reality of losing the little girl I so fervently prayed for after years in a house of boys {who, as you all know, I love DEARLY!} didn't strike me as cruel.  Sometimes it seems just so unfair.  Sometimes, I want to look up at the sky and yell, "SERIOUSLY?"

Ok, sometimes I HAVE done that.

I'm pretty honest with God these days.  I have to be - the last 6 weeks have given me a freedom to be honest and real and open with people like I never have been.  To tell someone when something hurts my feelings.  To cry with my husband and tell him how deep it hurts.  To pray to God and tell Him how sad I am.  And sometimes, angry and uncertain, and very fearful.

But the peace always comes.  Even in moments where I think it won't, I always feel it.  It settles in and spreads around and I look at my life and feel blessed, even in the midst of pain and sadness.  And when my husband spoke on Sunday about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I was pretty sure he was speaking right to me.  It brought me a lot of comfort to think of Jesus teaching that He places value on things like grief & weakness.

I have started to thank God for this experience.

It sounds weird, to thank Him.  But I don't know what else to do - because if I don't try to maintain an attitude of thankfulness and deep appreciation I know I could easily become bitter and resentful and angry.  And even though *I* hurt, I know that God's plan is far better than anything I could put together for myself and I have to remind myself of that.

It actually occurred to me a week or so ago that my pain comes from selfishness.  Let me explain - because these "selfish" feelings are not bad feelings.  The desire to have a daughter and finally get to shop in the pink and ruffly side of the children's store - wanting to experience baby dolls and Barbies and princesses and dress up.  Wanting the mother/daughter relationship - none of those things are selfish in a bad way.  But they are all my wants.

In addition to the pink and the princesses, life is hard.  It's messy and it's painful.  And bad things can happen to really good people.  And people struggle and suffer, and no matter how we - as parents - try to shield and protect our children from it, they will feel the pain themselves at some point in time.  They will experience heartache and hurt and grief.  And Lilia skips over all that.  My sweet girl will never feel sadness.  As a parent, could there be anything more awesome to consider?  She gets to go right to the good stuff.

So I thank Him for the growth that comes and will continue to come.  I thank Him that someday, I will meet a woman who is going through something similar and will be able to share myself with her.  I thank Him that even though I didn't get to meet her, I have a daughter.

God has a purpose for all of us, even Lilia.

I bought a necklace with her name on it.  It is beautiful and simple and a constant reminder that what belongs to me, belongs to God.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

We got the call

Today we got the call we've both been waiting for and dreading.

A nurse from my OB's office called to let us know that the chromosomal testing we requested came back normal - no known reason as to why our baby's heart stopped beating.  She also let us know that we had a daughter.  Not much can prepare you for what it feels like to hear someone say, "She was a girl"  when it should have been "It's a girl!" or "She's a girl!"

"She was a girl" is a painful sentence to hear.

For the first 16 weeks of my pregnancy, I was absolutely certain I was having another boy.  I joked about it, laughed about it, and generally felt at ease with the idea of adding another boy to our family.  But when I laid on the table that day in September, hoping and praying to hear a heartbeat - I knew as soon as the image came up on the screen that we lost our daughter.

I don't know how I knew this - the ultrasound tech assured me several times that she couldn't see the gender.  I even called back a few days later to double check because I had been SO sure that it was a girl - I thought surely the tech must have seen it.  But they assured me that no, the gender was not able to be determined.

But over the last four weeks, as we've waited for these results - in my mind, I've thought "she", "her", and "daughter".  I knew in my heart that we were waiting to find out about the daughter I won't meet in this lifetime.  

Before we had the information from our doctors though, we talked about names.  I couldn't bear to use any of the names we had been tossing around already.  For some reason, naming this baby seemed a hundred times more important.  I threw out the non traditional, the trendy and the names without meaning.  I needed this baby to have an incredibly meaningful name.

It is, after all, the only thing we will know about her.  Her short little life will be summarized by the only thing we can give her.

We talked about a few ideas, but one night I was laying in bed unable to sleep when I was consumed with the desire to look up names meaning "beautiful".  Through a few different websites, I came across a name that I knew would be absolutely perfect and the next day shared with Todd, who quickly agreed.

We have chosen the name Lilia Faith for our daughter.  Lilia, comes from the flower Lily, which represents innocence, purity and beauty.  And the Hebrew meaning of the name Lilia means, "What belongs to me, belongs to God"

There are a lot of things in my life I could turn over to God with ease.  Children are hard to let go of though - and I say this knowing that there are those who have experienced losses much worse than ours.  Children who were stillborn, children who have fought difficult illnesses - these are all tragic endings to lives that are far too short.

Lilia's name will remind me that as sad as this experience is, my sweet daughter belongs not just to me, but to Him.  And she is with Him now, beautiful and perfect. And there is nothing to fear, because as my husband reminded us all in a recent blog, we are called to be fearless and death will not get the final word.

While I never got to hold her, I will think of her often and be grateful for the daughter who will continue to teach me about life, about God and about myself.