“I wonder if you need to forgive.”

Remember that time I said something along the lines of, “I’ll be back next week” in my last post, and then a whole summer went by and I said nothing else? Sorry about that.

Confession — summer is really hard. I wish it wasn’t. It’s so bright and sunshiny and happy, and life slows down, and ALL the fun summer things happen like lake trips and beach trips and outdoor concerts and sno cones. It’s the lightest time of the year, and it is the darkest time in my soul.

Summer is bookended for us with the day we lost Judah and the day we should have met him, and everything in between comes with the remembrance of a surprise pregnancy that ended a month later with a devastating miscarriage. Summer is a kind of dark time in the Gilmore household, to be honest.

All summer long in the back of my mind I knew if I would just be disciplined to write some things down I would probably feel a lot more like myself, but it felt scary and vulnerable, so I didn’t. This is a thing I’ve been working through in counseling for months. I don’t know who I am anymore, I say. Have you been writing at all, he asks. Repeat.

And then this week I went to visit my friend Ellie. We were catching up the first night I got there, and she asked me how I was doing and why I haven’t been writing much in this season. As I began to unpack all that’s been going on in my heart this summer — the remembrance of and resurfacing of grief, the way its affected my marriage and my whole life, really — I started to realize that there’s a pretty deep wound at the root of it all.

Somewhere along the way with all the grief and the trauma, I just put walls up. I didn’t really mean to, but at some point I just started to operate like I was waiting for something else bad to happen, so I’d put up a ton of defenses to keep anything from hurting me again.

What dawned on me as we were talking that night is that there is a very specific piece of God that I’m still offended by, and it’s the Father Heart of God. It isn’t with the person of Jesus — I feel like I know Him better because I’ve suffered. It isn’t with the power & presence of the Holy Spirit — I have made it through the last few years because of Him.

What I’m still offended and confused by is a Father who lets his daughter suffer. That we would step out in faith with the Judah story after all the ways He spoke so clearly, and then lose him they way we did. That He would surprise us when we weren’t even trying with a baby, only to allow us to lose that baby so soon after. It makes no sense. It never will.

And yes of course I know all the “right” things to say to something like this, things about the goodness and mercy of God, about His perfect timing, about how we see in part and He sees in full — but none of it changes that I was faithful and I lost anyway. I hate that. I hate losing. I hate loss. I’m still so angry with God for letting those things happen to me.

As I processed all of this through tears with Ellie she looked at me and said, “I wonder if you need to forgive.” Sweet Ellie. She always challenges me in the most humble of ways. What she should have said was, “Hey stupid, forgive your Good Father already. That unforgiveness is keeping you in chains.”

I don’t even really remember what we talked about for the rest of the night because those words were echoing in my mind, waging an entire war with my pride in a matter of minutes.

The next day I wasn’t feeling well, and I was tired and frustrated and laying on Ellie’s couch while she was out running a few errands. In my frustration I said, “God, will you please heal me?” and instantly I felt convicted that I know deep down I don’t believe Him anymore to do kind things like that for me, and that crushed me.

I cried and wrestled through whether or not I felt ready to say out loud that I forgive Him. (Quick theological side note: God is perfect. He needs no forgiveness. He has done nothing wrong. WE need to forgive so that we can stop seeing him wrongly. The forgiveness is from us verbally, but it’s for us spiritually.)

I sort of half way said something like, “I know you have never harmed me. I know you don’t willingly afflict your children (Lamentations 3:33), and I really don’t want to be mad at you anymore.”

And then that night Ellie and I did the same thing we always do at the end of our time together — we prayed. We pray for all the things. Our marriages, our families, our communities, our hopes, our fears — all of it. And as I began to pray that night it just all started pouring out of me…

“Abba, I forgive you.” I told Him I was still mad and confused but I miss Him. I am so tired from sitting down to try to spend time with Him but keeping myself from deeper places with Him because I built walls to protect myself from any more trauma or grief. I had built a wall in place of the veil that had already been torn. Sheesh. Who’s the real offender here?

I needed to repent. So I did. And as I repented through snot and sobs, I felt Ellie’s hands reach across the table and grab a hold of mine, and in that moment I just sensed God saying, “You’re OK. I’m here. I never left you.”

Sometimes we need a good friend to grab us by the hand and drag us into a holy moment.

The next day I was flying back to Salt Lake City from Nashville, and I had a layover in Denver that was supposed to be like 3 hours long. I had been fighting off a cold for a week, had a tired baby, and was so ready to get home.

Our flight landed about 10 minutes early, and I quickly looked up other flights to see if there was anything earlier I could try to get a seat on. It was 7:20, and the only other flight to Salt Lake before mine was at 7:40. I got off the plane at 7:25 and sprinted across terminal C to try to get to the gate before they closed the doors at 7:30. The whole time I’m praying, “Please God, let us make it and let there be an empty seat.”

I got there right as the last passenger was boarding. Completely out of breath and sweating, I blurted out to the girl at the gate, “Please tell me there are seats open on this flight I have to get this baby home!”

She said there were but I’d have to go to the customer service desk to see if they’d transfer me before they have to close the door, like, now. So I run over to the desk (which by the way is VERY far from the gate at the Denver airport), praying the same prayer, ask the same frantic question, and long story short they were able to transfer me and they opened the already closed door for me to let me on.

As I was boarding I cried and thanked God for reminding me that He is still kind in small places, when I’m tired and weary and just want to get my sad baby home and my sick body to bed.

“What makes things divine is the inclusion of God in them,” says John Dawson in a YWAM teaching from the 70s on the Father Heart of God.

I’ve excluded Him for too long, afraid of being hurt again. And man, I think I missed out on some intimacy with Him during that time.

So here’s to a new season. I love that I’m writing this late on the last night of summer, as the dawn will bring the official first day of fall to us tomorrow. May a new season in all of our souls follow along — guided by His kindness that leads us to repentance.

And for the love, someone hold me accountable to keep writing in this new season we’re all in together.

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An introduction of sorts.

Sitting down to write right now feels a little bit like an awkward first date with a guy I’ve already dated before. Like that episode in Season 5 of Gilmore Girls when Luke & Lorelai get back together, and they have to keep reassuring each other, “We know how to do this. Yeah, we’re good at this. We’ve done this before.”

It’s not that I don’t know how to write — I’m actually really good at this. I think. It’s just that my life is so different now, and I’m SO. FREAKING. TIRED. all the time, and I have new mom brain which NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT, where you all of a sudden don’t remember anything and your mind moves, on a good day, at about 58% of the rate you’re used to from your previous, lots-of-brain-space, slept-through-the-night life.

Oh, and everything you eat or drink is room temperature because sure, it was probably either hot or cold once, but you forgot about it, so this is your life now. 72 degree everything.

None of this has anything to do with what I’m actually sitting down to write about, but since I’m re-learning how to do this, an anecdote to ease the tension.

Actually, now that I’m really thinking about it, it kind of has everything to do with what I’m sitting down to write about. Here’s the thing: on November 5, 2016, I was just the same Sara I’d always been — childless. And then on November 6, I received a phone call that I was going to have a daughter in oh, say, 3 weeks. (Insert jazz hands and lots of tears and all the dancing here.)

Most people get 9 months, y’all. And of course, it’s true that we waited and fought for this for Y-E-A-R-S, so technically we had a lot of time, but 3 weeks to wrap your head around the reality of that kind of life change is a little bit overwhelming, to say the very-very-very least. So what do you do? Well, we Gilmores happen to thrive amidst the chaos, so you know — when life sends a tempest, grab anything that floats and just keep swimming.

Enter: 3 weeks of absolute madness. Finished furnishing a nursery. (Actually, first I went to Nashville — praise the Lord — but then I finished the nursery.) Called all the moms for all the crash course help because who has time for books at a time like this?

At one point during those 3 weeks there was like $10K we still needed to cover some unforeseen birth mom expenses, and it literally just got handed to us by people in our community in one day. (What!?)

Packed a bag for Phoenix immediately after we found out we were matched, because I’m a planner and always prepared. HA! False. I frantically called my friend Kate 3 hours before I had to be at the airport on November 30, who is (1) a mom and (2) a planner, and I’m pretty sure all I said was, “Help. Come. I need all the things. Bring the things.”

I was in the middle of a photo shoot for our Christmas Eve marketing campaign for church that morning when our case worker called to tell me it was time to get to Phoenix cause this baby is coming today. “Aaaaaand that’s a wrap! Surely one of those 5 shots we got in this 3 minutes will work. Merry Christmas, everybody. I have to go have a baby now. Well, not me — er — see ya.”

And then 3 hours later, Noland and I are boarding a plane to Phoenix and we don’t know when we’re coming back, because interstate adoption paperwork has to clear, blah blah — point is we left with one way tickets in the middle of a work day and we were coming back on some mystery day hopefully before Christmas, with a small human.

And then I looked up and it was May.

My whole life has been flipped upside down in the best and hardest way, and there are so many things I’ve been meaning to “process by pen” as my friend Melissa says, here for all of you to follow along with.

But the sleepless nights and the room temperature coffee and the mom brain.

So here I am, just wanting to drop a note to tell you that I can’t wait to catch up. The thing is, when I catch up with you, I catch up with me, too. Writing helps me see and know myself. Which is probably why I’ve felt a little bit like I’ve floated through the last few months in a bit of a fog, in some ways.

I can’t wait to tell you a few more of the Ellie Joy miracle stories, in addition to the birth story I already shared here. I can’t wait to process what it’s been like to still be unpacking grief in the presence of such sweet fulfillment and joy, to tell you about how I’m really wrestling through feeling sidelined in my work, to share what I’m learning about being WHOLE after some really traumatic and broken years, and to talk about how I’m getting to know my husband all over again — he’s a dad! Who is this man?

So let’s think of this post as a bit of spring cleaning. Cleaning out the cobwebs. Reminding and/or reassuring you that I still live here.

Next week we’ll make our way back to the deep end. I sure have missed this place.

xoxo

Sara G

Red Sea Road — the most timely hope anthem.

June 20, 2015.

It was just a few weeks after we’d lost Judah Rise. The sting of death still burned all the way to my core, and my heart bore a gaping hole so big that I think it may have been visible from outside my body. Grief marks you that way.

Maybe you remember the part of the story where my sisters were both pregnant at the same time that we were expecting Judah. All three babes were to arrive within a month of each other, and my aunt was throwing a shower for all three of us that Saturday. Within those few weeks between us losing our boy and the date of that baby shower, my sisters had both called me to let me know they understood if I didn’t want to come. I love them for that, but I went anyway.

I knew it would be hard. I knew my family had wholeheartedly released me from having to show up. But I kept thinking about my sisters, who are two of my dearest friends, and my two nieces that were on the way. I was about to move across America to plant a church, and the cost of that was to leave my entire family back in Texas. The years ahead would be full of major life moments I would miss, including the birth of my nieces, and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to show up and celebrate with the people I love the most.

I remember just feeling sort of numb that day. Grief isn’t really easy for anyone — for those of us grieving or those of us close to those who are grieving. It’s hard to know what to talk about, what to acknowledge or not acknowledge. Especially in a setting where you’re supposed to be celebrating someone else.

It was easily the most uncomfortable I’d ever felt, trying to engage in conversations that day, dodging the sad eyes of my friends and relatives and smiling through awkward small talk. I’ve never been good at small talk, even on my best days.

I remember feeling like people were looking at me like they knew I was in pain but didn’t know what to say about it, so they just didn’t. I don’t blame them. I think I would have done the same thing. And honestly, I didn’t want to talk about it. That day was for my sisters, and that was why I went. But at the same time, I couldn’t ignore how I felt.

At one point I walked over to the corner of the room to get a drink and have a moment alone to regroup, and I happened to look at my phone when I did. There was a message from my dear friend Ellie Holcomb, who may as well have been an actual angel in that moment, because it was as if God had walked into that room and bypassed all the other people to walk straight up to me and say, “I see you.”

She had sent me a message earlier that week, which I guess I’d forgotten about, letting me know that she had been thinking of me and that she’d written a song that day inspired by us and our journey and Judah’s story. And that morning as I sat there feeling so lonely and exposed at my sisters’ baby shower, this is what she said to me:

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I choked back tears long enough to sneak out of the room. I sat down in the bathroom of an old historic hotel in downtown Houston, and I just wept as I sat there with my phone to my ear, listening to her sing a song in a voice memo that seemed to give me language for everything I was feeling but didn’t know how to articulate.

It felt like she wrote me a fight song, ironically partially inspired by words I had written in a blog post earlier that month. For almost a decade Ellie and I have stayed in touch just by praying for one another in every season, holding each others arms up in battle, lighting the way by worship and prayer through the valleys and celebrating with one another on the mountains. This song was a light in the darkest moment of my life, and it has carried the day for me through the hardest seasons I’ve ever lived through.

It’s about how God makes a way where there is no way, the same way he split the Red Sea for the Israelites to walk right through, when death was chasing their heels and it seemed like they had nowhere to go. It’s honest in the way it feels to grieve, doubt and question, and it raises a banner of hope even in the face of death, because with Jesus, hope always rises — even out of the grave.

Tonight as I write this, my baby girl Ellie Joy is asleep on my chest. Every time I look at her I can hear the words of this song in my head declare that He. Is. Faithful. That our stories never end at the graves we sometimes find ourselves standing over, and that our God is a way-maker in the wilderness.

I’ve been listening to this song and letting the truth of our God’s faithfulness wash over me on hard days for a year and a half — through a major move right after losing Judah and a lot of hard days on the way to healing — through a miscarriage and the hard days of healing from that, too.

And for the last couple of months, I’ve been singing, dancing, weeping, fist-pumping and worshiping to this new record of Ellie’s, and I am so excited to finally get to share it with all of you.

Do yourself a favor and go get this record today. I am so certain that it will be water to your soul. I pray it breathes life back into your bones the same way that it has mine. And if you’re in need of a declaration of hope in impossible places, I pray that Red Sea Road becomes your hope anthem the same way that it’s been mine these last couple of years.

I challenge you to do just what this song beckons us all to do…

“We will sing to our souls, we won’t bury our hope…”

Sing. Worship. I have learned it’s the only thing that keeps me whole when everything feels broken.

. . .

Click below to find Red Sea Road on iTunes:

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