My New Heart

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It feels like I have a new heart. A heart that is more sensitive, softer and more easily broken by the things of this world. Before Hannah’s death, I took pride in being a strong woman, a woman who could handle anything. My strength was really a hardened heart. It took the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn son to soften his heart, and it took the death of my daughter to soften mine. My hope is that my heart will remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit, unlike Pharaoh who quickly forgot his heart and pursued the Israelites. (Exodus 7-14)

Please know that I don’t write the following thoughts in judgment. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will speak to your heart in a real and personal way through the imperfect, impure thoughts of this sinner.

One of the things that breaks my heart is that the world is moving on. Intellectually, I know that the world didn’t stop when Hannah was born and cannot stop because of her death. However, my heart aches that the sun still rises and sets as usual. And the worst part is that I must go on. Please know that I’m not trying to rush the grieving process in any way, but the reality is that I still have 3 children here on earth to raise. I still have a race to run. Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2) While it isn’t helpful to ignore my pain, it is also unhelpful to crawl into a ball and cry all day. My daily struggle is to live out my faith and grief simultaneously. Moment by moment, I must choose to die to self, to carry the cross, to NOT throw a big pity party. (Matthew 16:24-25)

Another thing that is causing me pain is seeing my boys grieve. Just the other night at Applebee’s, Jacob saw a baby girl on a TV commercial. I didn’t see it, but he did. In response, he buried his head in my side and said, “Momma, I wish we had a baby in our family.” Every time we see a baby girl, we are reminded of Hannah, and our pain is made raw again. I fully expected to have a hard time with babies, especially baby girls. However, I underestimated how the boys and Aaron would react. Jacob still prays that Hannah will come back into our home every night. Levi still asks where she is every day. And Noah is doing his best to comfort us all. That alone breaks my heart. I hate that my 7-year-old feels it necessary to be so strong.

Complaining is another thing that is breaking my heart. I once heard a women who couldn’t have children say that she hated listening to her friends complain about their children. I thanked her for enlightening me, and ever since I’ve tried my best to empathize. Now I can empathize on a whole new level. Do I still complain about my children? Yes. Will I ever be able to stop? No! Forgive the hypocrisy, but my heart is grieved by a mother’s grumbles. What I wouldn’t give to hear Hannah cry, throw a tantrum, or whine!

Something else my new heart feels is an urgency. I find myself too impatient to stay quiet. I am compelled to allow the Holy Spirit speak through me. Although I often mix my own words into His message and therefore fail to represent Him well, I am eager to share the Gospel or any words of wisdom God brings to mind. My introverted self is being challenged to speak! And no matter how uncomfortable that makes me, I am trying to be as obedient as humanly possible. Please pray for my mouth. 🙂

While my softened heart isn’t necessarily fun, I am thankful for it. It has given me a greater love for the lost, for the hurt and forgotten, and for those who mourn. I specifically think of Pastor Rick Warren today. As soon as I read the news of his son’s suicide, I looked at Aaron and said, “OK. That’s harder.” To be completely honest, the past 4 days have been the hardest ones so far. I was having a bit of a pity party and thinking everyone else had it easy compared to me. That was an ugly, ungodly attitude. Forgive me.

I’m thankful that my sins are forgiven. All of them. The ones I committed before I was a Christian, the ones I just committed this week, and the ones I will commit for the rest of my life have been paid in full by my Savior. I am reminded of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12)

I pray that the same God that is comforting us will comfort all those who are mourning. I pray that God will continue to soften my heart and give me His strength in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I pray specifically for Pastor Rick Warren and his family, that they will use their platform during this time of greif to bring MANY more people into the kingdom of God. I pray that all who read this will be blessed and challenged and drawn closer to God as you seek Him, as you attempt to serve Him and as you learn to honor Him through everything you experience. Amen.

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19 responses »

  1. I don’t know the pain you are going through, I pray the Lord will comfort and hold you all tight in his arms.blessings to you and your family.

  2. Praying for you Steph. I was so convicted when I first heard your story about how I take my own baby girl for granted. Not necessarily even in things as outward as complaining, but in being selfish with my time and inwardly resenting the marathon of self-sacrifice that is motherhood. God has really begun a work in me regarding my own hard heart and it began with hearing about Hannah.

  3. Oh Steph… I am having some of the same feelings. Thank you for verbalizing so many things that pierce my heart.

  4. Oh, you must allow yourself to feel sorrow and grief and anger. You are allowed to feel sorry for yourself. You lost your daughter. It is only after feeling and accepting these emotions can you come around to acceptance and some level of peace. And there is no time limit. Don’t expect yourself not to be human. Sometimes strong people need to show weakness and accept help from others – because there are a lot of strong people that need a role model for learning that.
    My heart and prayers go to you and your family.

  5. I am constantly encouraged, inspired, and convicted by both of your posts. We will continue to pray for your family as you work through this and I promise to pray for your mouth 🙂 Thank you for continuing to write and my God bless you and your family and your efforts toward furthering His Kingdom!

  6. Steph- I was thinking and praying for you all today! God laid on my heart the very sense that regardless of daily routine and life being seemingly back to “normal”, your new normal is not the same and I want you to know that I am still fervently praying for you and your family, especially for comfort.

    Grief can feel like a selfish act, I say this because grief forces us to look inward, to deal with the raging storm that erupts from strong emotion. And when you are a mom, dealing with grief tends to be even harder and a lot of the times feelings of guilt begin to take hold. I know this seems like a silly relation, but when my husband deploys overseas to Iraq or Afghanistan, I go through the grieving process. Granted, he is not gone from this world but there are moments of uncertainty and feelings of loss, and I know all too well how that effects your mind, body, and soul. I also know that without faith to strengthen you, it is almost impossible to get out of bed everyday and to continue a “normal” routine. I know what it is like to see the world move on, and say “why don’t they see how much I am hurting? why won’t someone just see that my life has been drastically altered?” And I know the conflicting feeling of regret for feeling those thoughts. Thank you for your message and for your beautiful soul! I hope that this just affirms that everything you are feeling is perfectly okay. I will be praying for you to be able to embrace each step and know that it is okay to take those moments of sadness, anger, bargaining, depression, and live each day with a vibrancy that can only come from God. Finally I want you, Aaron, and your boys to know, we have not forgotten your loss and what Hannah’s life means; that beautiful little girl has been embedded in our hearts and has made a HUGE impact on more lives in her short time on this Earth, than many have in 50 years.

    One of my favorite verses in Psalm, also happens to be one of my favorite worship songs and I wanted to end this with some encouragement and comfort because nothing feels better than taking refuge under the Father’s arm and resting in His peace:

    Psalm 18:2 “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

  7. Thank you for continuing to share your heart with us. I can’t imagine the ups and downs you and your family must be feeling. But like all things this will be a marathon not a sprint and I pray for strength to endure. You are all still in my prayers.

  8. Yes, Stephanie, I found your words to be such a clear explanation of what you are feeling. Thank you. We think of you so much, and continue to pray for all of you. When I have looked at the pictures you have posted, especially those from Easter, I have been reminded of how you are (because you must) moving forward—three little boys who need you, Easter baskets needing to be filled, outings to be taken—but at the same time each of you are caught in a moment of heartache that will not be quickly eased. Grief is so very hard, even when eased by hope and assurance. Thank you, Lord, for instructing our hearts.

  9. It is good to hear your heart, Stephanie. My heart grieves with you. I also thought of dear Hannah last night at child dedication. There was a beautiful little girl being dedicated that looked a lot like Hannah. It was uncanny. I remember what life was like with four little ones many years ago and how I would also complain. That is just the human in us. Please continue to share your heart and I will continue to pray for your family. God bless you.

  10. Praying for you. I don’t know your pain on this level but I do know the pain of brokenness. Praying for you and your family that as you grieve Hannah’s home going you will also be blessed by the remembrance of many good memories.

  11. WOW! I am sooo sorry stephanie AND Aaron. I truly cant imagine your pain or grief. I cant stop thinking about this, and it breaks my heart. You both have touched so many people and helped so many people and continue to do so. You are both Godly examples. Hey regarding your comment about asking for forgiveness for your “pity party” well you are entitled to it, and its ok. You guys do have it bad. I know there are things out there that are worse, but to me this is also one of them. This was unthinkable in my mind. I know all our children are never really ours, and they belong to God, but wow…it is un imaginable to me. You are both handling it better then I think I could or anyone could for that matter. I see God thru both of you so much. You guys dont have it easy by any means, and our going thru something that alot of people probably wont go thru. We think about you all everyday, and our praying for you all the time. You both are an inspiration! Also whenever I see you guys, and I see a little baby girl…..My heart aches for you both! I just cry all over for you both. Again, I cant even imagine.

  12. Thank you for that. Your words challenge me, reminding me to be thankful not just in the midst of but for the whining and the tantrums. I know I have no right to share this with you, for I haven’t walked in your shoes, and I continue to be hypocritical in thoughts and actions (including being fearful to submit again to God’s plan for our family), but here it is anyway. I frequently read in the old 1925 version of Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Chas. E. Cowman, a treasure in all its painful, heart-wrenchingly beautiful devotional writings that lead us to the heart of our Lord. Here is the entry for April 5 (GreatChristianQuotes.com has the entire text available online):

    “Thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons” (2 Kings 4:4).

    They were to be alone with God, for they were not dealing with the laws of nature, nor human government, nor the church, nor the priesthood, nor even with the great prophet of God, but they must needs be isolated from all creatures, from all leaning circumstances, from all props of human reason, and swung off, as it were, into the vast blue inter-stellar space, hanging on God alone, in touch with the fountain of miracles.

    Here is a part in the programme of God’s dealings, a secret chamber of isolation in prayer and faith which every soul must enter that is very fruitful.

    There are times and places where God will form a mysterious wall around us, and cut away all props, and all the ordinary ways of doing things, and shut us up to something Divine, which is utterly new and unexpected, something that old circumstances do not fit into, where we do not know just what will happen, where God is cutting the cloth of our lives on a new pattern, where He makes us look to Himself.

    Most religious people live in a sort of treadmill life, where they can calculate almost everything that will happen, but the souls that God leads out into immediate and special dealings, He shuts in where all they know is that God has hold of them, and is dealing with them, and their expectation is from Him alone.

    Like this widow, we must be detached from outward things and attached inwardly to the Lord alone in order to see His wonders. –Soul Food

    In the sorest trials God often makes the sweetest discoveries of Himself. –Gems

    “God sometimes shuts the door and shuts us in,
    That He may speak, perchance through grief or pain,
    And softly, heart to heart, above the din,
    May tell some precious thought to us again.”

    Mourning with you in the absence of your beautiful little Hannah, and praying for you with the childlike faith of your sweet Jacob,

    Maureen

  13. I think of you often and pray that you and your family find peace some day. I can’t even imagine what a daily struggle you have and trying to explain things to those precious boys of yours. I look forward to you and Aaron’s posts and I’m glad that you share your faith so openly. I’m learning alot through your posts. I only hope that one day I too will have the faith that you and Aaron have. Praying and thinking about you and your family often.

    Carol Flavelle

  14. Dear Stephanie,
    I recently started reading your blogs when a friend shared with me your story. I cry every time I read one of your entries, every time I see your pictures, every time I hear of your pain. Our lives are quite similar in some ways… I don’t know if i will ever connect with you to share how (tenwek, doctor’s wife, 2 year post residency program, death). I have actually never replied to a blog post in my life but felt compelled to do so today… I too have heard the Holy Spirit speak to my heart that I may have to give up my child to Him in His service, I too have had my heart freshly made new and softened by death (actually having to end my child’s life) I too have known that new urgency of a new heart and feeling like I just had to speak things that God has shown me or the Holy Spirit was urging me to speak and getting mixed responses (likely as you said b/c i add my words to His and don’t get the message clear).
    I wanted to share with you 2 sermons that have helped me a lot in the continued grieving of the loss of our first child 2 years later….

    http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/sorrowful-yet-always-rejoicing
    http://www.hopeingod.org/sermon/life-together-storm-suffering

    Hope you get some time to listen, God has already started doing much of this in your heart… it is so helpful to hear it put well sometimes.

    Asking God to continue to show Himself to you, your husband, and your boys in a way you could never know Him if you were not walking through this Valley of the shadow of death.

  15. Steph….I read the Beatitudes this morning…and thought of you and another friend whose daughter went to heaven last June. Praying that the Holy Spirit will comfort you…as ONLY he can. Your posts are honest and comforting others with the comfort you have received…we continue to pray for your family.

  16. Thank you for sharing your heart. Your posts speak volumes and are such an inspirational blessing to read. God is bringing such beauty out of your loss. I can’t imagine the depth of your feelings right now. I pray God will continue to overwhelm you and Aaron and the boys with his love and goodness, and give you peace in the middle of your grief.

  17. Thank you so much for your honesty. You & Aaron continue to inspire me as you move forward in faith. Please know that my prayers for you & your family continue as well.
    My family & I are currently attending language school in Costa Rica. When we arrived a week ago, we were thrilled to meet another couple from the post-residency program. During our time with them, we talked about your family’s loss and your perserverance through this great trial. We discussed how we were forever changed because of your sweet Hannah and your unwavering faith. Keep running the race, and know that you remain lifted up in prayer.

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