Beauty for Ashes // A Personal Post : Our Life.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This post was written in faith on November 29, 2012 in hopes that one day I would get to share it with you.  
Today, is that glorious day.

Well Friends, this is definitely going to be the longest blog post to ever hit Arlina Rose Photography, but don’t worry, there is still a few pictures!  I invite you to read along with me to experience the fullness of beauty that awaits you at the end of this post. 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  The question that rings in our ears as elementary school students but becomes more of a reality as we get into High School and even more so in College.  Many times the answer to this question changes over the years, but for me, that wasn’t the case.  My answer remained the same then as it does now.  What do I want to be when I grow up?  I want to be a wife and mother. 

I knew from a very young age that I was created to be both, and I couldn’t wait for the day when that the dream would finally become a reality.  In the Lord’s abundant grace, I met my prince charming at the young age of 18 and we were married after my sophomore year of college when I was just 20 years old.  Oh how thankful I am for the gift of marriage!  I am so blessed to get to be the wife of such an amazing man and so thankful to have been given this gift at such a young age.  

Because I was so young, and still had two years of school left, we decided to “wait” on starting our family.  I say, “wait,” because in all reality, it never was up to us to begin with, but we definitely liked to think it was at the time.  God, in his abundant mercy, allowed me to finish school without getting pregnant, and I am so thankful for his provision and timing in our lives those two years. 

And here is where my real journey begins.

I was scheduled to graduate December 2011, and Chris and I had begun talking about starting our family and trying to get pregnant the summer before school would finish.  In May of 2011, my heart was ready for my children.  I knew that if we got pregnant in May, I would still be able to finish school and then have the baby.  We didn’t technically start trying to get pregnant until that September, but in my heart, I started trying and preparing for our family in May.  It seemed so perfect in my mind. I was going to be finished with school and ready to be a mommy. 

The summer came and went, and although we weren’t actively trying, we weren’t really preventing either, and I became hopeful for our family because I knew that God gives life and that if we were supposed to get pregnant, we didn’t really need to try. 

Three months came and went, and no baby.  But I told myself it was OK because we weren’t really trying, so maybe that was the reason.  September came, and we had made the decision to really start trying to get pregnant.  Chris had just started a new job and I was out of school, and we felt like the Lord said it was time for us to start our family.  We were so excited because having a family together was a dream we had shared for so long and now it was happening.  Or so we thought.  September came and went, and nothing happened.  October, November, December, January… May.  Nothing.  To say we were disappointed would be the biggest understatement of the century. 

I knew that the Lord had given us this desire, and that children are a blessing from him, but the roller coaster of hope from month-to-month was exhausting and heart wrenching. 

Meanwhile, in our community of friends, 40 beautiful babies were born and/or conceived from the time we had begun trying. 

Yes, I said 40. And no, I am not exaggerating.  

If I counted distant friends that we are connected with merely on Facebook, it would bring that number to a staggering 50+ babies.  50 Babies.  That means that every month we were trying and coming up empty, we were receiving multiple announcements of other people in our lives that were celebrating the very thing that we were longing for most.  Our children. 

I have never cried so much in my entire life.

The Lord calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep, but it seemed a little out of balance, because I seemed to be the only one who was weeping.  Knowing that I was made for something but having no control over when it would actually be a reality was devastating. 

Every week there was something new.  Whether it was the “We’re Pregnant” or “It’s a boy” or “She’s here,” the announcements kept coming and my womb was still empty.  I felt so alone and so broken.  I knew that I wasn’t entitled to get pregnant or have a baby, but it sure felt like everyone else in my life was getting what they wanted when they wanted it, and I was just told to wait with no end in sight.  I knew that life was a gift from the Lord, and even in the midst of my brokenness, I was called pray for and celebrate all the life around me. 

But then everything changed in June 2012.  We just moved into our new home, and a week and a half after moving in, we saw something that we had never seen before - two pink lines.  We were shocked.  For nine months we had been waiting, longing, hoping, praying to see those lines and now it was happening!  We didn’t believe it at first because it seemed so impossible in the months before.  But there they were.  Two pink lines.  My heart was so full of thanksgiving and humility, to think that the Lord heard our cries and had answered our prayer with the blessing of a child.  I couldn’t believe it!  It felt like a dream.  

There is a verse in Proverbs that we really held on to during the time of waiting.  It says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a wellspring of life.”  We understood the heart sickness part all too well, but the desire fulfilled was new to us; and it was a wellspring of life! Several of our friends had been walking very closely along side of us in the 9 month journey of trying, waiting, hoping and being disappointed, and we quickly shared our long awaited good news with them.  They wept with us in joy and celebrated the gift of life that the Lord had seen fit to give us. It all felt like a dream that I never wanted to wake up from. 

After finding out that we were expecting, a few days passed and it was a Friday morning.  I was spending time with the Lord, praising him, thanking him, and submitting my pregnancy to him. I was reminded that He alone creates life and knits us together in the womb. 

When disappointment overwhelms your life for a long time, the enemy likes to creep in to your most vulnerable places and speak lies over your life - “You’re never going to get pregnant,” or “If you get pregnant your going to have a miscarriage,” or “If you get pregnant the baby isn’t going to be healthy,” etc.  And so even though we had just found out we were pregnant, I had so many fears going into our pregnancy.  So that morning, I decided to lay all of my fears at the feet of Jesus and ask him what he wanted to give me in return.  He said to me, “Be a vessel of my glory.”  I had no idea what that meant at the time, but I figured I could do that.  So I said, “OK.” 

About four hours later, I started spotting.  I called one of my dear friends in a bit of a panic, but she told me that a lot of women have spotting at the beginning and that it was probably nothing.  But the spotting didn’t stop. 

My heart began to sink as I began to realize what was happening. 

The very life that had been given to me was now being taken away.  This couldn’t be happening.  We had been trying for so long!  We had been waiting and hoping for so long!  This can’t be happening I said.  But it was happening. 

In the midst of our sorrows, it is sometimes hard to find any joy at all, but something that is always available in the midst of our deepest pain is peace. And the peace of God is about all I could grasp onto as we were losing our first child.  

I cannot explain it, but as the reality of what was happening in my body began to sink in, the Lord whispered, “You are a vessel of my glory.”  In those words, the peace that surpasses all understanding surrounded me in a moment as our baby’s life was coming to an end.

And so we waited.  We called a few doctors to see if there was anything that could be done to save the life of our child, but everyone told us, if a miscarriage is happening, there is nothing that can be done to stop it.  And so we kept waiting.  That evening our precious little miracle passed through my body and it was over. 

All I could say to myself was “I am a vessel for his glory, and somehow, my Jesus is going to accomplish his good in this, somehow.”  At first it was surprisingly easy for me to believe that.  Our first child, that we had waited for for so long, had just been taken from us, but I could still believe that my Jesus was on his throne and that he was in control. 

My heart was still very broken by the loss of our baby.  It all felt like a dream that turned way too quickly into my worst nightmare.  The desire fulfilled came and went and I was back to heartsickness; and I wanted to be anywhere but there again.  Within a week of our little one passing away, 4 of our friends had babies.  We lost our baby on Friday and by the following Friday, the fourth baby was born.  I was so overwhelmed that all I could do was pray.  And so I prayed, and I wept, and I prayed again, for these beautiful little babies that surrounded me.  I prayed for health, and for peace and for purity and for salvation over these little lives.  I proclaimed purpose over each one of them, even my own, because one thing I knew for certain, was that God is the giver of life, and there is ALWAYS purpose in the life that He gives, no matter how long or short it is here, there is purpose. 

The baby announcements kept coming and the waiting began again. We were approaching the one-year mark of us trying and I began to rely on my own strength instead of the Lord’s because I felt so hopeless.  I was hoping for a miracle, but I wasn’t pregnant the month after our miscarriage, or the month after that, or the one after that. And that is when I became angry.  

I didn’t want to be angry or offended with God, but I was.  I tried in my own strength not to be by telling myself, “God is good, and I have no right to be angry with him. Who am I to question the Almighty God?”  But my broken heart was angry.  And my broken heart began to believe the lie that “God is good, but not really to me, just to everyone else.”  Lies like that are poison to the soul.  And poison they did.

Out of all of the babies in our life why did mine have to be the one that died?  Out of all of the women in my life, why do I have to be the one who can’t get pregnant?  Why!

Bitterness began to take root in my heart and choke out any ounce of hope that was left in me.  I didn’t want to be bitter, but because I was believing lies about God, I had no strength of my own to fight against it.

In the Lord’s amazing grace, he finally gave me eyes to see that, “Why?” is a horrible question. 

Because the reality is, even if He answered the question of “Why,” it wouldn’t change the fact that my baby was gone.  

I knew I was in sin, and that my heart had begun to believe lies about who God was, but my heart was so broken and weak I didn’t know what to do.  So I cried, and I screamed. I wept and I repented.  I was crying so much that my body began to shake and all I could do was lay down at the feet of Jesus and receive his forgiveness for being angry and bitter about what had happened.  And it was in that moment that I realized that none of this was really about me, but it was all about Him. 

He wants Himself to be the very thing I desire most.  He wants me to be most satisfied in Him and Him alone, because He knows that He alone can satisfy my longing heart.

Oh Lord, forgive my wretched heart for worshiping something other than you.  You alone are worthy and in you alone am I satisfied. 

“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) 

“No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11) 

These verses began to fill in my head over and over in the months that followed.  It was not my natural response, but it was a choice that I knew I needed to make for my heart.  And choose I did, sometimes better than others, but I had to choose to say it because my heart didn’t want to believe it.  Because here is something that my broken heart chose to find comfort in: His Word is always true, even when my feelings or my circumstances don’t agree. 

So even in the midst of my brokenness, I tried to hold fast to what His word says is true: God is good and his purposes stand (Isa.46:10).  He is the giver of life and he is at work for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:10, 28).  He is the sustainer of life, and apart from him, I have no life at all (Rom. 6:23).  He will never leave me or forsake me (Deut. 31:6).  He will not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly (Ps. 84:11).  He is more for my good than I am for my own good (Ps. 73:28).  He is in control and his timing is perfect (Gal. 6:9). He is compassionate with me and he understands the pain of losing a child; a child that he sacrificed so that I might have forgiveness of my sins and eternal life in his presence (Rom. 8:32). 

He is enough.  

He is all I need. 

The list of truths about who my God is could go on for miles and miles.  He is God, and I am not, and even though it doesn’t feel like love in the midst of my pain, he loves me with an everlasting love and he is for my good. 

So here I am, 17 months after we first started trying, writing you this letter in faith that one day I will actually get to share it with you, because as I write this letter, I do not know if I am pregnant or when I will be pregnant. 

But I do know that the Lord has given me a story to share with you and share it I will, in faith, that He is up to something big and that He is for my good and for my family’s good.  

He wants you to know that He loves you and will never leave you, even in the midst of your darkest days when you feel more alone than ever before.  He wants to bring healing and wholeness to your life, and sometimes, the way he does that, is through our own brokenness. He wants to bring beauty from your ashes.  He wants you to know that He is what you need more than anything else.  

I don’t know where this letter finds you, but I do know that everyone has disappointment and heartache in their lives, and the God of the universe wants to meet you there and bring you out more whole then you were before.  I know you may feel broken and confused.  But praise the Lord, for He is the healer of broken hearts!

For those of you who are in the midst of your darkest days as you read these words, I want you to know that I am sorry that it is so hard.  I am sorry that it has to hurt so badly and be so confusing.  I also want you to know that you are not alone.  As I continue on this journey, there are a lot of things I don’t understand, but here are a few things I do know-

I know what it feels like to be disappointed with life.
I know what it feels like to have a broken heart.
I know what it's like to feel like there is no hope, and yet a small voice never stops whispering, "Hope in Me."
I know what it is like to wait for something that you want more than anything and be disappointed when it doesn't happen.
I know what it's like to finally get the very thing you had been waiting for just for it to be taken from you again.
I know what it is like to be a mother without a child.  
I know what it feels like to rejoice with those who rejoice in the very midst of your own sorrows, over and over and over again.
I know what it's like to wait with no end in sight, with absolutely no control of the outcome.
I know what it's like to be angry with God.
I know what it’s like to cry more than you ever thought possible.
I know what heart sickness feels like.


I also know that my Jesus has never left his throne.
I know that my Jesus is the same Jesus that he was 17 months ago.
I know that he hears my cries.
I know that my God is the healer of broken hearts.
I know that my God loves me enough to let me walk through trials in this life so that my soul may be strengthened and my faith solidified.
I know that my God loves me in the midst of my deepest pain and that he will never leave me or forsake me.
I know that my God is at work in my life for his glory and my good.
I know that my God is more for my good than I am for my own good.
I know that my God knows what it is like to lose a child.  And he has compassion for me and for you.
I know that my God is a God whose power is made perfect in my weakness.
I know that my God is a God of miracles!
I know that when it doesn't make sense, he is up to something big.
I know that my God is the giver and sustainer of life.
I know that a desire fulfilled is, in fact, a wellspring of life!
I know, that in the end, it is all for LOVE.


And so, if you are reading this letter, it is because the Lord is faithful!  It is because He is good, and He has heard our cries.  If you are reading this letter, it is because the Lord has dealt bountifully with us and has seen fit to bless us with a child! 

And, if you are reading this letter, we want you to know that Baby Pletcher number 2 is on the way!  

This letter was written in faith on November 29, 2012.  We found out we were expecting on January 8, 2013. 

“[The Lord anointed Christ] to provide for those who grieve in Zion—To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”  Isa 61:3

To Him be ALL of the glory forever and ever! Amen.


Holly said...

Rejoicing with you friend! Rejoicing and joining you in prayer! Thanks for sharing, it is always good to be reminded of the Lord's unending faithfulness.

Sarah Best said...

Wow... Arlina that was so beautiful! I definitely shed a few tears... Thank you so much for sharing this with us. :) So excited for the new life the Lord has brought!

brandilyn said...

Arlina, I haven't talked to you in years, but I wanted to let you know I read every word and cried and cheered when I got to the end. It took us a solid year to get pregnant too, and it is the hardest of waiting games. If there is anything I do know, though, it is this: motherhood is worth fighting for! It is worth the waiting time and the heartache and the aches and pains of pregnancy, too. I am so excited for you guys! Congratulations!

Jon and Brittany said...

ARLINA!! This is such wonderful, exciting, grace-soaked news! We are rejoicing with you guys and the life that is being woven in your womb RIGHT NOW! Praise the Lord, friend!

Anonymous said...

A beautiful and 'real' testimony of grace and love. Praising God with you and Chris over your treasure. With love! Dean

Gina Pletcher said...

Thank you God for this absolute miracle of life and thank you, Arlina for sharing your deepest heartfelt words and emotions.
Your letter takes my breath away and truly brings tears of joy for you and Christopher.
I love you both so very much.

Anonymous said...

Just read this Arlina! I am so happy for you and Chris and baby!! How sweet to trust God before we know the outcome, to know God is good-even when we are struggling to "know". Blessings!
Debbie H.

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