Life,  Mothering

Grace in the Wilderness

Warning: This post is about pregnancy loss, centered on the year that followed the losses. However, there is much hope and restoration in this story. If you are dealing with this yourself, I completely understand if you cannot read further than this paragraph. My heart is with yours. I am hurting with you for your loss.

A few weeks ago I had met a new mama in the neighborhood. She’s best friends with my best friend so I knew I was going to love her. Sure enough, I do. Clicked immediately and I can’t wait to see her again. Our conversation wandered towards past parks, because that’s what you do in the National Park Service. You compare past Park experiences with comrades. We’re all secretly trying to find our perfect park. My new friend asked where I had been before Grand Canyon. I responded with a simple, “Lake Mead”. Then came the question that always follows, “How was it?”

Out of all the times I can remember, I’ve responded with “Horrible” or “Horrendous” or my favorite, “It was Mordor. Pure Mordor.” If you know me, you know that I do not like Lake Mead; I do not like the desert. Joanna is NOT, and will NEVER be, a desert rat. My conversation with my new friend moved on in a flurry of personal facts, and I never got the chance to fully articulate my time at Lake Mead. To be honest, it wasn’t even on my mind at the time.

A few days later I heard a soft voice say, “Remember why I took you there.” Oh man. I sat, and thought, and then it came back to me. God took me there to restore me, to restore my relationship with Him, and to build my marriage.

At that time, declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.” Thus says the LORD: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Jeremiah 31:1-3

On January 25, 2014 I lost my first baby. For two weeks the ultrasounds and blood tests revealed something wasn’t right. I never prayed harder, out of desperation, to my God than I did in those weeks. This baby was mine, and I was going to hold him/her later in August. Devastatingly, that was not the case. On January 25, 2014, I threw my baby in the trash. Yes, it feels exactly like it sounds. Horrible. Horrendous. It was Hell. Pure Hell.

My first miscarriage sent me into this spiral of depression, anger, frustration, and loneliness. Never in my life have I been angrier with God. I’m not talking about refusing to talk to Him for a week or two. The only communication we had was me berating and fiercely yelling at Him for the awful, no-good thing He chose to not prevent. I STILL have a hard time understanding why He didn’t knit that baby together to survive. My only solcae is that there was something wrong with the baby genetically. And God Chose MERCY in his/her death.

On October 4, 2014, I lost my second baby. This miscarriage I had no words for, only tears, pain, and quietness. This was the never-ending miscarriage, as if my body was trying to revive that little heartbeat for weeks. Death’s separation is the most unbelievable sorrow.

Somewhere between Baby 1 and Baby 2, there was a job opening at Lake Mead. I cannot tell you how hesitant I was to move there. Finally, the Canyon had fully grown on me. The forest was my favorite place. The summers were perfection. The snow! Oh, how I loved to walk through the woods during the first snowfall. Move to Lake Mead? AKA Las Vegas? No, thank you. Lake Mead was dismissed. November 2014, I’m still miscarrying and Lake Mead has another job opening. It honestly didn’t take David and I long to say “Yes.” WE desperately needed a change of scenery. The little house on Barry Hance in Grand Canyon Village became a constant reminder of my perceived failure of my body. The beloved forest paths became a reminder of God’s silence. Would you respond to someone who yelled at you all the time?

January 2015 we moved to Lake Mead. The plan was that David could gain a different experience to put him in line for a promotion, and I would pursue a career. Dreams of babies left our mind, but not our hearts. My first thought when we drove through Lake Mead was, “What have we done? What on earth did I agree to? There is nothing but brown rock and brown shrubs.” My thought after meeting my new neighbors was, “What. The. Hell. They are ALL pregnant. Why, Lord? Why rub my face in the fact that I cannot keep a pregnancy?” Regardless, this was the new home that God brought to us.

Two weeks go by and I decide to take a pregnancy test. I assumed my late period was because of the never-ending miscarriage in October. Now, I did not want it to be positive. Not a glimmer. Not a speck. Absolutely negative was what I wanted. At this point, a third miscarriage would send me somewhere that I couldn’t bear. Well, that little positive pregnancy test was my beloved Owen Dewey. My crazy sweet spitfire of a child. The heart of my heart.

I didn’t start trusting God overnight. It was a PROCESS. A long process that took time and intentionality. It took a lot of will power to not give Him the ultimatum of “If this pregnancy fails I will be done with you.” Truly, when you honestly meet Him, you’re never completely done with Him. His grace, love, and peace are the BEST places to be in, and will keep drawing you back. They did to me. It’s like sleeping next to your husband after a joyFUL day in the sweetest spot in the house. It’s comfort, joy, and protection.

We were scared the whole pregnancy. Immediately after Owen’s birth it was like a fulfillment of an unspoken promise—“I have created you to be a mom. Enjoy your baby boy.” Owen was the grace I found in the wilderness.

The next 11 months were hard. It was still hot, and dry, with rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widows. The best parts were Owen, my new sisterhood (all those neighbors who were pregnant), Floki and Lola (my chickens). We tried, and tried, and tried, to find another job, another Park, but nothing was working out. In the middle of discouragement, we settled into our new home (a year and a half later). We learned to embrace the beautiful times of year. We loved our new church family. We discovered bouldering together with a baby was doable, AND fun. We had found some contentment in Lake Mead, in God’s desert land, and were living in a time of God-given peace. My favorite place to be in, and that is where I found my restoration, my relief, my relationship with God. I found grace in the wilderness.

They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more.
Jeremiah 31:12

4 Comments

  • April

    Thank you for sharing Joanna…it was absolutely beautiful to read!! We too, felt God “purified” us in that desert, but I kicked and screamed for many years before letting God have control. It was then that we flourished and found contentment in the midst of the desert!
    Love ya!

    • joelaine11

      God created Lake Mead to be such a special place for us! I honestly believe He used it to tell a greater story than just our daily lives. I can’t believe it took me 1.5years from moving away to fully realize His impact. Love you!

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