Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hurting for the Holidays: When Your Story is Rewritten by Larisa Barth

photo by Jennifer Upton
For the 2013 holiday season, I am hosting a blog series called Hurting for the Holidays.  Twenty-six amazing guest writers are sharing their hearts, hurts, and helps to help those of us who carry an internal ache to navigate this celebratory season.  Find all posts in the series here, and participate via social media through the hashtag #HurtingfortheHolidays.
There is a song by Mandisa & Matthew West called "Christmas Makes Me Cry". I am a crazy music person and truly believe that lyrics speak to my heart more than anything else. This song begins, 

"I think of loved ones who've passed away
And I pray they're resting in a better place
I think of memories of years gone by
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry". 

Asher was born in October, right before all of the holidays. I had his Halloween costume laid out, his turkey bib, his adorable little red plaid and velour suit for the Christmas Eve service. This was going to be our last year to decorate the house without "baby proofing" everything, because the next year he would be a toddler. The holidays were special when it was just my husband and I, but a little one in our lives was going to make it complete. 

Now, the holidays bring constant triggers and disappointments. We get handed a storybook of how marriage and kids and the holidays are supposed to unfold. We grew up having this story read to us, we all know that the happy ending never includes burying our babies. I was trying to create my fairy tale, and I made beautiful traditions and memories along the way. The 40 weeks that I carried Asher were spent dreaming of adding him into those traditions. But, traditions don't seem to matter anymore. We don't decorate the same. We don't jump at the chance to attend a holiday party or spend a lot of money on gifts that seem so pointless. 

I listen to this song and the memories of my life before loss flood my thoughts. I find myself wishing to have that naiveness back. That person who kissed her husband goodbye in the morning and never had a thought about all of the many tragic things that could happen to destroy her world in a matter of seconds. That person who wasn't a statistic. Now, my life is broken into two separate realms. Before I had Asher, and after. 

I have been afraid of myself. I don't know when or why or what will make me cry, and I kept thinking that if I just stayed home, then I don't have to worry about making others uncomfortable or getting hurt by the spoken and unspoken words. I was afraid of family and friends thinking that I couldn’t move on because I was still grieving, but reality is that most often they are in denial because it hurts too much to face their own grief. You cannot start to heal until you grieve. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul does not tell us not to grieve; but to grieve with hope. I finally dared to take a breath a few months ago, and stop sobbing long enough to listen to the chorus of this song, (yes, I listen to Christmas music long before the season).

"Tears of faithfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry”.

Yes! My tears are not of sadness anymore, even though I am forever wounded. I was so confused this year as I struggled with “celebrating” when I felt guilty that somehow Asher would be upset that I had joy. But I realized that he is celebrating with the King of Kings in the most glorious venue and would never want that to diminish my joy! Death causes separation from what should have been joined for many years. But separation is not final with Christ. As I watch the advent wreath being lit each week, it has significant meaning for me this year. The candles of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, surround a center candle that represents Christ. They would all be empty and meaningless without the center. I know that many reading this may not believe in a higher power. But for me, pouring out my heart to God is how I honestly live in the real world. I refuse to ignore or deny the suffering and pain. God wants me to remember my pain and use my suffering, but in order to do that I have to admit my need for Him in my suffering. 

My storybook is being written every second of every day. There are “bad guys” and villains and treacherous cliff-hanging scenes. But there are also beautiful songs and dances and quiet scenes, where I hold my daughter and thank God for the magical moments as He redeems my losses. The ending is not yet written, and although the scene where I gave birth to death seem to be the climax right now, I know that my storybook ending will be epic and filled with rejoicing. 
Our story begins anew each moment -- I love Larisa's reminder of this, the continual refreshing redemption and healing that is available to us now, and now, and now.  What parts of your story would you like to see rewritten, to begin anew?  How can you make space for that newness, here in this moment? 
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Larisa Barth lives and dreams in Northwest Montana. She has been married to her best friend Jim for 7 years and they welcomed Asher’s beautiful little sister, Kamari Morning on January 2nd. Most of her days begin with fresh organic coffee and cream and are filled with hand stamping metal, and responding to the bereaved community through social media. 
Larisa is the founder and president of Held Your Whole Life whose mission is to acknowledge life by creating and gifting personalized jewelry to families grieving the loss of their baby in the womb. She is also finishing her degree in Biblical Counseling so that she can better serve this community that she is a part of. 
In her “free” time, she creates unique infinity scarves and fabric gifts to raise funds for HYWL, as well as cloth diapers and gluten/sugar free meals to save her family money.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King