This is going to sound a bit cliché and like I’m quoting a song lyric, but this year has been somewhat of a rollercoaster! I’ve lived through fear and faith, success and failure, joy and despair, growth and stand still, birth and endings, new and old, comfort and loneliness, confidence and doubt, excitement and monotony. Often it’s happened simultaneously or in a pendulum like fashion, swinging from one extreme to another, sometimes in the same hour! 2017 has seen some of the highest points and some of the lowest points I have ever had to deal with. That said, I made it, and not only did I make it but I’m excited to step into 2018. I’ve been stretched and tested in every way, physically, mentally and spiritually….. would I change anything? YES I would… ha! But that’s what a new year is for, a new page, a chance to apply all that I’ve learnt and grown in 2017. I never arrive, but I journey forward and hopefully leave behind what I don’t need, and take up what will nourish me and help me to build in 2018.
I’m grateful for every experience, everything has taught me something, good, bad or ugly and that is valuable! Grace has sustained me, and whilst my faith has been challenged, questioned and strained at times it is still the thread that weaves everything together, and ultimately brings me out on top. It resets my failures, informs my best decisions, gives me another chance and drives my passions. Without it I wouldn’t be me.
2018…. let’s go!
When you start dating, people often ask, “So when are you getting married?” and then when you’re married, “When are you having children?” On both occasions, if you’re anything like me, you think, “Slow down people and let us enjoy the moment!” For us, having children was always something that we wanted to do… in the future. Moving to London when just married, we both had an excitement and anticipation for our futures, believing we were following God’s direction to use our talents, (dance and sound), in the entertainment industries. At that time children didn’t yet fit into that picture – and that’s OK. We were still young enough, and possibly naive enough, to accept living with other people despite being newlywed, and working in jobs that were a means to an end to allow us to pursue our passions. We could survive on a steady diet of beans on toast, cheese on toast, egg on toast, toast on toast, right?
Five years in and many challenges, highs and lows, stretching and growth later, God started to change our hearts and impress on us a softness towards the idea of having children. Once Rich made the decision, he was ‘all in’ and ready, but for me, it took a little longer to accept the challenge. After all, carrying and giving birth to a baby changes the game, in every way. Dreams I’d held onto, things not yet accomplished or even had the opportunity to dip my toe into, seemed like a distant pursuit that would be pushed even further away if I chose to put my ‘life on hold’ to have a baby. Having a baby was a huge step of faith for me because that side of giving birth, everything was so unknown and as it was a ‘new’ desire to grow and nurture a tiny human, I had little experience of what that could or would look like.
Fast-forward to Rich and I eating fish and chips, (one of Rich’s faves), after work one evening and the conversation again turned to…. “So kids”… and us both smiling at the prospect of what that could be like. We finally made a decision together to go for it. In my heart, I made a whisper to God, “OK God, I trust you with this.”
Getting pregnant for us was easier than we thought, and pretty much within the first two months of trying, my little regular monthly friend failed to appear. I must mention in the run-up to that I probably thought I was pregnant every day – ha – turns out I was just bloated! Now that we’d made the decision I was excited, albeit a little nervous at the prospect of us becoming parents. We decided to keep the news to ourselves until we reached the ‘safe’ 12-week mark and had seen our first scan. Even though it was still early days and it felt very surreal, we couldn’t help but start to imagine what this little life might be like.
Unusually the hospital had somehow confused our paperwork and we were due to have a 6-week scan, something that seemed a little odd, but as we were newbies to this whole thing we went along with it. At the time Rich was the Head of Production at our Church whilst I was leading the ‘Glam Squad’ – (hair, make-up, wardrobe) – team, and we were coming up to our annual Christmas Carols at Wembley. Lots to do with lots of moving parts. The day before Carols was a Saturday, and we were at our Church warehouse doing the final prep for the big event when I started to experience cramps and experience some light bleeding. A mixture of emotions ensued as I tried to continue to organise the team and final prep, whilst battling this underlying distraction. I found Rich and told him and we both decided that we would pray and give it to God and wait until our scan on Monday, the day after Carols, as there was nothing we could do and we needed to focus on the task in hand.
Praying on the way to the hospital, a little nervous but full of expectation we arrived and patiently waited for our turn.
Lying on the bed and hearing the news that nothing was there, they couldn’t see anything, was somewhat of an out-of-body experience like I was watching from afar. Again, they said it, “I can’t see anything, it looks like you’ve had a miscarriage.” Initially, I managed to get up from the bed and sit next to Rich whilst maintaining a reasonably steady demeanour. As I started to process the words, reality suddenly began to sink in and it seemed like all my hopes had come crashing down, and the tears began to fall.
So much was riding on this moment, I trusted God and I’d put my life on hold, I’d started to imagine a little person, and myself as a mummy. I tend not to cry in public, but this time I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. What followed was the walk to the crowded waiting room full of expectant mothers. I felt overwhelmed with sadness and disappointment, made all the worse by the embarrassment of not being able to control it in front of a room full of strangers. Rich was looking on in shock and doing his best to console his inconsolable wife whilst trying to process his own emotions.
Fast-forward to many appointments and hours of waiting later, what transpired was, in fact, an ectopic pregnancy, something I had remembered reading about and thinking, “That won’t happen to us.” It was like a cruel joke the enemy was playing, “Ha, you think it won’t happen to you”.
The day I was booked into the hospital to have an injection that would help to remove the cells from my fallopian tube was a Sunday, the Sunday after Christmas, and a touching Heaven service at Church, (extended worship and prayer). I was so desperate to be there; so desperate to not accept this fate, and so desperate to lift my eyes higher.
From a medical point of view, I was in danger if the cells continued to grow in the wrong place. The fertilised egg was going to die anyway, so the sooner we could get rid of ‘it’ the better. Thank God for the concern and diligence of the medical professionals! However, I knew that the living Almighty God of the universe that created everything, who is omnipotent, was able to change this situation around and move this fertilised egg to the womb as this was the beginning of a precious life.
I still believe He is and He can, but on this occasion, He didn’t. Something I still question and seek answers to and may still for a while. Was my faith not enough? All I know is, it’s not God’s will for the innocent to die but we live in a fallen world. My prayer is this, “Teach me to call Heaven to Earth like the Lord’s prayer instructs.”
So many emotions and feelings ran through me; faith that God was in control no matter what the outcome, reliance and dependence on Him, faith that at any moment God could still infiltrate this situation, grief for a life so short-lived it hadn’t even had a chance, grief from the death of hope. Disappointment and heartache joined this mix of sensations and a sense of hopelessness settled in, I mourned, “But God, I trusted you with this.”
Rich made the necessary calls and he was excused from work, feeling a little helpless he waited patiently until he could come and be with me at the hospital. Strangely, that Sunday, during the extended worship, the sound system suddenly cut out at our Church venue, the one week Rich wasn’t there! No coincidence I think.
The weeks and months that followed were tinged with a black cloud, trying to make sense of what had happened whilst carrying on and still leading in each of our respective areas. Trying to bring encouragement to others when our hearts were filled with discouragement. There have been so many challenges since moving to London and those bright-eyed, bushy-tailed youngsters were close to being chewed up and spat out by the big City, “why was nothing easy?” There had been many blessings along the way too because God is God, but in moments of despair, they seem to fade into the background if we don’t fight to remember.
A turning point for us was when we were invited to a leadership evening with an American pastor, who shared about losing his wife to cancer and still having to lead his Church. He shared on the report given by the Israelite spies when sent to scope out the land of Canaan, and how the negative report of 10 of the 12 stopped a whole generation of Israelites from entering the Promised Land despite the promises of God spoken over them previously.
I realised I didn’t want us, or the people under our care, (many of whom had no knowledge of our situation), to miss out on what God had for us just because I couldn’t remember the promise of God and had become discouraged at the first hurdle. Little did anyone know in the room that evening how this testimony was watering my soul. Hearing his testimony and the Word that is alive and active, faith once again began to rise within our spirits. The decision to try again didn’t happen overnight and it involved a process of choices, sometimes daily, to believe and profess God’s goodness. I once read a definition of perseverance that reads like this: “Perseverance is a continuation in the state of God’s grace.” Each day was a decision to continue in the “state of His grace.”
There is so much more I could write and share but for the sake of brevity, we finally decided to try again. I’d like to say from the moment we made the decision all things fell into place and we jumped in feet first, and when we fell pregnant again, there was definite joy, but also trepidation and a little numbness as we sought to protect ourselves from further disappointment. Keeping our hearts soft towards God and holding onto hope for the future was a battle we had to fight.
Today our family of 3 is a wellspring of joy to my life. Sienna Faith Harris was born on 23/02/2017. Her entrance into the world wasn’t without struggle, a story for another time, but she is beyond worth it. Piece by piece our broken hearts have mended and God has restored joy to us through her.
These days I’m a little more careful about asking others, “So when are you getting married?” or “When are you having kids?” knowing that every person’s journey is different.
There is no deep and fancy meaning to the name Sienna and we’ve never visited the town in Italy called by the same name, (although spelt differently). In fact, it means ‘reddish – orange/brown’, not particularly inspiring. However her middle name – Faith – is of great importance to us.
Had we let our story end with discouragement she wouldn’t exist; had we allowed the negative report to be the end of our story she wouldn’t be bringing joy, (and lots of poop), into our every day. It’s also a profession over her life, that we believe that she will have faith that will move mountains and see her enter into the adventure of a life walked with Jesus when she chooses. We believe that she will have faith that will be an inspiration to us and her generation. I have such an expectant hope for her that I couldn’t describe to you what I think it looks like because it’s beyond my imagination.
I realise there are many people out there who have had even longer journeys to parenthood than myself and some may even still be on that journey, but I write this in the hope that it brings courage to someone who needs it, to face whatever struggle they are facing on this day. To know that God’s word cannot return to Him void and if you don’t allow hopelessness to be your end, there’s a promise waiting to have life given to it on the other side of your hope. For us, literally.
Proverbs 13 v 12
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”.
My hope in writing this blog is that, as I put words to my experiences and thoughts, they may bring some encouragement and light to another. As I flesh out my own personal journey and navigate this road called ‘life’ and walk through all its seasons, I’ll attempt to document as best as I can, the faith interwoven along the way. For me, it’s impossible to see, think, dream, and be without it, as it’s at the core of my very being; it informs my decisions and my perspective and provides a baseline to which I find myself constantly returning.
I’m not an expert writer or communicator. Neither do I profess to have all of the answers or for that matter, even some of the answers. Wisdom is what I seek; it’s an ongoing adventure for this normal girl; me. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend.