Joy and Sorrow


Wet and dry. Hot and cold. Happy and sad. Joy and sorrow. Opposites. For the most part, opposites can not coincide. You’re either wet or dry, hot or cold, happy or sad. So why can joy and sorrow meet and dance in my heart at the same time?

I’m not sure I’ll ever quite understand this, nor will I ever be able to adequately describe my heart and head when joy and sorrow meet.

Most days are joyful. Most of the time I can choose joy rather easily. I do have a lot to be thankful for. I have a million reasons to praise my God and Father. However, there are days when a fresh wave of grief overtakes this joy…at least, it really tries to do so.

Being at language school has been great. I’m enjoying the classes and learning process much more than I expected. Plus, I’m actually succeeding in learning! (Let’s be honest, success is always helpful in making me enjoy something.) I have been cooking and cleaning every day so I feel a little more like myself. I’m able to exercise. Our little community is wonderful, and the environment is absolutely beautiful. Overall, it’s been a pleasant summer.

About 4 weeks ago, though, another wave of grief hit me. While Aaron and the boys enjoyed a sleepover in the living room by the fire, I sat in bed alone, missing Hannah so badly and sobbing. I guess their boy time tends to trigger my grief. Usually, at this point in the grieving journey, I’m able to process these kind of waves in about 3 days. I can write in Hannah’s journal, cry really hard for a while and throw a pity party for the next day or so. Then, I’m back to joy, joy, joy! It’s different here though.

Here, at this beautiful place full of wonderful people, I just can’t get through this wave. Like I said, it’s been weeks, not days. I’ve written in Hannah’s journal. I’ve sobbed on several different occasions. I’ve allowed myself time for self-pity, but I know I can’t stay here. I’ve prayed and asked for prayer. I’ve yelled at God. I’ve read Scriptures and devotionals and other books that usually help me gain a right perspective. I even wrote the post about the humorous side of pregnancy in effort to remind myself of the joy I’m able to find in every day life!

And honestly, this wave is different. It isn’t constant. In the past month, I’ve had mostly good days. It’s just that I have at least one bad day a week. That hasn’t been typical in the past 6 months. I guess I could blame it on the hormones, but I don’t think that’s the root of the issue.

The root is that I’m unhappy with God’s answers lately. I hated it when He said ‘no’ to healing Hannah. Now, he’s told us ‘no’ to having another girl. Those ‘no’ answers aren’t just ‘NO!’ For Hannah, the answer was more like the Father saying, “I’m not going to heal her (temporarily) on earth. No, I’m going to do much more. I’m going to make her perfect, complete and whole!” And with this pregnancy, God’s answer is probably a ‘not yet,’ but it doesn’t make it easier. I want a girl now. Actually, I don’t. I want Hannah back. I’m fighting this desire to hold onto her, to resist moving on with God’s plan for us. Having a fifth child wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, we wouldn’t be having this child unless we really believed it was in God’s will for our family.

Aaron and I have been called to have a large family. God hasn’t told us exactly how many kids will end up in our family. We don’t need to know the specifics. We just know how to take it one child at a time and to keep our ears open to God’s voice. When He says to have another baby, we obey. It’s simple, but it’s not always easy. This has been the hardest baby-conceiving decision, but we knew we heard God’s voice. There are risks to having a baby here in Kenya. But more than that, having another baby is a HUGE step OUT of the valley. I know I need to make this leap of faith. I want to want to trust God in this. I’m just having a time of temptation and questioning. While I know God’s plan is best and perfect, I just don’t understand. And frankly, I don’t like this next step.

It’s hard. Most of the time, my mind is on nursery planning, making sure I have everything Joshua will need, keeping my body healthy, and anticipating the lovely feeling of holding a newborn again. But then there are those days when I don’t want any of that. I’d be perfectly happy to sacrifice all of it in order to have Hannah back in our lives. In fact, I’ve even confessed to God that I’d like to have Hannah over 10 more daughters. It’s not logical, I know. It’s just that I know Hannah. There’s still a void from her absence. Future children will be awesome, but I don’t know them yet. I don’t even know Joshua yet. It’s easier to sacrifice something you never really had.

I guess it’s too late now, huh? My heart is so full of sorrow over the absence of Hannah. And yet, it’s overflowing with joy over this crazy-active boy growing in my womb. The joy and sorrow take turns leading the dance. Fortunately, the joy tends to win when the two opposing emotions fight for dominance. Sorrow does take a turn every now and then. Lately, it’s been a little more frequently than I like, but it’s part of the process.

As I continue to walk out of the valley, I’ll keep choosing joy. I’ll continue to trust and obey my God, because where else can I go? He is the omnipotent, holy, perfect God. No matter how much I don’t like something, I need to remember that I don’t see the big picture. He does. I don’t know what’s best for me, or my family. He does. I can’t see the end from the beginning. He can. He is able to restore and provide and bless unlike any other person or god. I trust that He will fulfill all of the promises He has made to us. In HIS timing, not mine. In HIS perfect way, not mine.

The Holy Spirit spoke so clearly to me though Pastor Petero during devotions on Monday. He spoke on Romans 12:1-2, “Therefore, I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God – which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.”

And that sums it up. It’s not about me. Or Hannah. I need to resist the temptation to make her an idol, to make happiness an idol, to make myself an idol. If it’s not in God’s will, then I don’t want it. Lord, may your perfect will be done!

Thank you for praying me through this pregnancy. I covet your prayers so much. Thank you for following our journey. It’s messy and unpredictable. It’s real and raw. Thank you for always uplifting us in prayer.

Praises and Prayer Requests:

  1. Praise God, for He loves us unconditionally. I’m so thankful that I can vent to Him, and He’ll still love me.
  2. Praise God for His provision. I stand amazed at the ways He is providing for our every need here on the mission field.
  3. Praise God for His loyalty and trustworthiness.
  4. Praise God for children. They (even boys) are a blessing!
  5. I praise God for you! May God bless you for all the time and energy you spend praying for me, my mission, and my family.


“Where Joy And Sorrow Meet”

There’s a place of quiet stillness ‘tween the light and shadows reach
Where the hurting and the hopeless seek everlasting peace
Words of men and songs of angels whisper comfort bittersweet
Mending grief and life eternal where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place the lost surrender and the weary will retreat
Full of grace and mercy tender in times of unbelief
For the wounded there is healing, strength is given to the weak
Broken hearts find love redeeming where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place of thirst and hunger where the roots of faith grow deep
And there is rain and rolling thunder when the road is rough and steep
There is hope in desperation there is victory in defeat
At the cross of restoration where joy and sorrow meet


10 responses »

  1. i have been following your journey for awhile…..and i just wanted to say i think jesus knew what it was like to live in a state of joy mixed with tremendous sorrow…..i think back to the story of lazarus…… …..jesus wept at lazarus’s death with the family and friends even though he knew he would raise lazarus……..why did jesus allow his loved ones to experience the death of lazarus…why did he allow himself to experience the death of lazarus……..i think it was more than just making a miracle for the people……peace for you and your family…you are loved!!!


  2. I can’t imagine what you are going through or how you are feeling, but I do know that you are right. God knows what’s best for each of us and that He sees the big picture and that things will happen in His time, not ours. But to trust in Him that He will keep all the promises He has made to each of us. I do understand being upset with God and not knowing why he allowed certain things to happen. That is a hard part of being a Christian and a daily challenge for myself. But I do know He is good and a loving God and I am trying to be obedient everyday. Love to you, Aaron, and all the boys. Continued prayers that God continues to lift your spirits and bring joy on a daily basis as he continues to heal your heart. Love ya sweetie, Lisa

  3. My heart aches for you while saying amen at the same time. In case you haven’t heard, i’m 7 wks pregnant, and i’ve been walking through my own valley of doubts and temptations with wanting to walk away from a life of sacrifice to one of comfort and familiarity. Also, we are leaving this mission at the end of two years, which will be next November and from there???? only God knows but He has always opened and closed doors so we’re trusting Him the only way we know how. Completely.

    Hugs as you walk through this next step of letting go and surrender.


  4. Prayers for all of you. I cannot imagine these feelings you are having. Thank you for being honest and showing people that it’s okay to be upset but you can’t stay there – you need to choose joy. Thank you for this blog…I feel like I know you but we’ve never even met. Hannah and your family have touched my life. Hope to meet you if you visit Upper Path Valley Presbyterian sometime.

  5. Thank you for writing your blog. I’ve been following it for the whole past year. It really helps me to read honest feelings about the loss of a very dear loved one but from a perspective that God is in control. We still hurt and we’d still rather not have it in our lives but it is part of God’s plan for us for some reason that makes no sense. I’m so sorry you do not have your precious girl in your arms. I feel like I can relate to a lot of what you write; you are 5 months farther along in your loss than mine, not of a child but of my husband. I found your blog when I was at the hospital with my husband for 6 straight weeks last summer. When my husband died, it helped me a bit to read where you were in your grief a bit farther ahead of mine. Not everything I read about grief and loss connects with me, but your writing does. Thank you for continuing to blog about the reality of how your loss continues to affect you; as those of us who know that its not anywhere near over after the first year, that no person can fill that empty space that our loved one left.

  6. I so feel for you with your joy and your sorrow.  My heart breaks for you as I read your thoughts and feelings.  I can only imagine that I would feel exactly the same way,  but would never be able to express it so eloquently as to serve and help others with their faith.  Thank you for sharing your honesty and we will continue to pray that God continues to bless your family.  Mary Alice Hasty 

  7. This might be kind of long… 🙂

    I’ve been reading your blog since little Hannah passed away. I grew up as an MK in Africa and went to Rift Valley Academy (graduated in 2006) – one of my friends from there who also grew up at Tenwek posted the link to your blog. I have a little boy just a month younger than Hannah, and I wept for you and prayed for you – I couldn’t possibly imagine what you were going through, but I was amazed at God’s grace poured out through you as you wrote of great joy and hope in the midst of your suffering.

    Fast forward to this year. We were due with our second precious boy in late June. On June 23rd, I went into labor and we headed to the birth center. There, we discovered his heart had stopped beating. I labored all day to bring his body into this world. Theodore was perfect from head to toe – 9lbs 12oz! But he was already in heaven. He had been gone less than 24 hours. We got to love him and hold for several hours before we said goodbye to his earthly body. His big brother Judah (2.5) got to meet him and give him kisses – he was so looking forward to his arrival. We had to explain that he was going to live in heaven with Jesus.

    A month later, on July 22nd (the very day you posted this blog post) I was preparing for a little family graveside burial the next day – we were going to lay Theodore’s ashes to rest, on his one-month-in-heaven birthday. We had a memorial service at the church just a few days after his birth, so this was a small family burial service – another step in the goodbyes. I don’t know what led me to your blog that day, but I landed here and this post was just exactly what I needed. The song you posted at the end voiced exactly what I was trying to put into words as I thought about laying my son to rest. Deep sorrow – my son was born still, yet deeper joy – he is so very ALIVE with Jesus. We asked our pastor to read it out at the little service the next day.

    I came back to this post today just to say thank you. God led me to your blog many months ago and through it was preparing me for this grief of missing my son. As I read you words the truths sank in, though I never knew how real it would all become to me. Thank you for allowing God to speak through you in the darkest of hours. Your words give me hope.

    • God is just so, so good! As He used me to prepare you for something hard and terrible, He’s using you to encourage my heart on a day when my heart is missing my baby girl so much. He’s like that. He consistently gives me answers to “why is this worth it?” just at the right times. Thank you for sharing your story with me. I’ll be praying for you as your grief journey continues. May God get all the glory!!

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