Christian living

Better, not bitter


(FYI: This is the one and only tattoo I have ever wanted or will get. But I don’t regret it!)

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve taken the time to sit down and write. I’ve had so many thoughts swirling around in my mind, but it’s been hard to sort them out to make sense of them all. Not to mention, this time of year is full of things to keep someone busy. Fun things, some of my most favorite things, that leave little room for sitting down quietly with my thoughts.

And, in case you’ve been wondering, the day has finally come. Tomorrow, November 5th, was supposed to be our due date.  There’s a lot of things I could say in reference to this long-awaited day, but I’ll keep it simple. It’s bittersweet. Bitter, because it’s a reminder of what could have been. Sweet, because of what has been gained through loss.

It’s got me thinking back to the events of the past several months. I can still remember exactly how I felt that day, how kind people were, and different comments people said in effort to bring us comfort. Prayers that were offered, meals that were cooked, hugs that were given, and one question that people have continued asking that has blown us away every single time.

How have you been able to face this with such faith? You two are amazing!

No, we are not. But I want to give you our honest, heart-felt response to this question and statement. From the very moment we received our gut-wrenching news, my husband and I had a choice to make. We could get bitter or better. We could shake our fists at God in anger, demanding that He give us an explanation, or we could accept our circumstances and allow Him to turn a mess into a message. We chose the latter, and He has been doing exactly that. Not because we are “amazing people” but because Christ in us is our hope and our joy.

If you read Hebrews 11, you get to take a walk through what modern church people refer to as the “Hall of Faith.” I’ve been doing some reading through this list of spiritual heroes and have come to a few conclusions. Mainly, they weren’t heroes at all. They were ordinary people who allowed God to be their strength and use their weaknesses for His purpose and fame.

There’s Abraham and Sarah. A couple who faced years upon years of infertility, which was a badge of scorn in those days. They trusted God. He gave them a son, and made Abraham the father of many nations. They chose better over bitter.

Then you have Joseph. Sold by his own flesh and blood as a result of jealousy, he became favored by Potiphar and put in charge over much. When his family (who had sold him) needed food during famine, they had to come to come him, swallow their pride, and ask for help. Here’s what he said: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Gen. 50:20).” He chose better over bitter.

Take Rahab. She was a prostitute and had every opportunity to become bitter after years of being used and abused by men who did not love her. Yet God used her to help His people. She’s included in the lineage of Jesus. (Joshua 2)

In Judges, we find one of my favorites, Gideon. I love his story. I loved teaching it to kids last year at VBS and seeing their faces light up with wonder at what God can do. Long story short, the angel of the Lord appeared to him while he was hiding and called him a mighty warrior. He basically says, I think you’ve got the wrong guy! I guess I love him because he voiced his doubts and questions; it makes me feel better about my own! He had endured, along with his people, years of being oppressed by the Midianite people, a big group of barbaric bullies. He was a little bitter, but he trusted the Lord, and God used him to defeat the entire Midianite people with only 300 men. Thank God He chose not to be bitter anymore! What a powerful testimony his life had a part in! (Judges 6-7)

I could go on and on with other examples from the Bible. But I know a few people personally that I’ve seen make this same choice.

There’s the man we met this week during lunch. He owns a local restaurant and had to leave his country in 1996 because he wasn’t free be a Christian there. He left everything to follow Jesus. Instead of pouting about what he lost, he uses his business now as a ministry. Before we left that day, he placed his hands on my son’s head and prayed that he would grow up to love Jesus, too. Better over bitter.

I think of some of my closest friends. One has taken a life of low self-worth and turned it into a life of reaching out to teenagers just like her. Her house is literally a safe haven for so many kids from broken homes. She is a mother to many who aren’t biologically hers, all because she chose to allow the painful places of her life to minister to others.

I think of another friend who has just taken in a stepson who has a laundry list of physical disabilities. His condition requires constant attention, endless energy, and never-ending unconditional love. And she gives it freely instead of grumbling that her life is just too hard. She could get bitter that she has “no life” (and I’m sure she gets frustrated and exhausted) but she keeps pouring love out on that sweet boy anyway. Better over bitter.

I think of another friend who went through years of wanting another baby and finally had one. She didn’t get bitter, and that child is the biggest ray of sunshine you’ll ever meet. Her smile will brighten anyone’s day.

All these people are just like you and me, the ones from the Bible and my friends. Each one of us faced, at some point, with difficult and overwhelming circumstances that have had every reason to make us turn bitter. Yours may not be the loss of a child like mine is, and I pray it never ever will be. But it might be infertility. Or a child who, after all your effort, decides to go astray and the waiting for him/her to return to God is about to kill you. Maybe it’s illness, or loss of a life-long dream. Maybe it’s loneliness or living with a husband who’s first love is not God and second love is not you.

It could be any number of things, but I can tell you this: it’s not a matter of if you will face something, it’s when. At some point, if you haven’t already, you’ll be faced with the choice to get bitter or better. We all have this same choice everyday. Will you allow life circumstances to cause hardness to build in your heart or let God take what little, messed up offering you have and reshape it into something beautiful? He wants to– I promise.

I pray that the testimony of my life and yours can be the same words as Joseph: what was intended for harm, God used for good and used it to save many. 


And if not, He is still good

If there is one thing God has given my five year old son, it is a sincere love of music. As an infant, I could put him in the baby swing, press the music button, and he would be perfectly content. Fast forward a few months, and Baby Einstein classical music was the key to an almost instantly happy baby. Since age two, I have listened to him sing and “play guitar” at the top of his lungs almost every single day. His music of choice? Worship music. On any given day, I can find him in his room strumming away and belting out lyrics to the many songs he’s learned from home, the radio, or church. It’s pure, heartfelt praise. The passion he has for music and worship at such a tender, young age makes me a proud mama. But there have been moments I think God has used it to teach me something.

One of those moments happened during the days leading up to Collier’s delivery. That week, on top of overwhelming sadness from his loss, there were so many difficult decisions we were forced to make. Discussing the specifics of his delivery, burial and memorial service were nothing more than brutal reminders of how life had changed so quickly. Add in a roller coaster of hormones and emotions (a roller coaster that I’m still riding), and I was a mess. I remember thinking so many times how unfair it felt to be planning a funeral for my baby, while others I knew were having fun celebrating their pregnancies with baby showers and maternity pictures. Why, I thought, did God choose to take away our child, but allow everyone else to keep theirs?  It seemed as though everywhere I looked, there were more painful reminders that Collier was really gone, and unless God performed a miracle, the circumstance would not change.

That Wednesday afternoon I had just gotten off the phone with my doctor, finalizing details of the delivery, and I was feeling overcome with grief. I tried to pray, but the only prayers I managed to muster were crying out to God “please help us” or “Your will be done.” I’ve learned that asking God’s will to be done in the midst of heartache can be so very,veryhard to pray. What if God’s will is different than what I want to happen? What if He chooses to allow us to walk the road that is more painful? What if He hears my prayer for a miracle, but His answer is still no?And if He chooses to say no, does that mean He is still good? Why would a good God allow something so hurtful to happen to those who have tried to serve Him faithfully our whole lives? It’s not that I believed we were more or less deserving of anyone else. But I have been taught of God’s goodness my whole life, and how He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11). Nothing about this felt good.

Somewhere around this time of praying and questioning, I heard noise coming from our living room. It was the familiar sound of my little boy belting out again with his guitar. Here’s the song he had chosen to sing that day:

You’re a good, good Father

It’s who You are, It’s who You are, It’s who You are

And I’m loved by You

It’s who I am, It’s who I am, It’s who I am

You are perfect in all of your ways

Perfect in all of your ways

You are perfect in all of your ways to us

My precious boy will never know how grateful I am for him singing that song. At that moment, in his little mind, all he was doing was singing something he heard at church. But God knew what I needed and used the faith of a child to remind me of His character. Looking back, I truly believe that day was when I began to let go and trust Him. I began trusting that He would carry us through whatever was ahead. I began trusting that He had the power to perform a miracle if He wanted. And if not, He was still good.

Because, He is.

He is good because He sent His only Son to pay the penalty for my sin–a costly gift that I did nothing to earn, nor did I deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9).

He is good because He has given me a wonderful, faithful, loving husband. One who over the past 9 years has been my very best friend, my source of laughter, and the one who has held my hand through everything life has thrown our way.

He is good because he has allowed me to carry three children—a privilege many never get to experience at all, and one that I treasure.

He is good because he gave us Collier, even if for just a little while. I heard his heartbeat. I felt him move, and I got the joy of carrying him his whole life. 

He is good because He never changes. He’s the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

He is good because He doesn’t make mistakes. His ways are perfect, even if I can’t see it (Isaiah 55:8-9).

He is good because nothing catches Him by surprise. He is all-knowing. He sees the beginning and the end all at once, and every detail in between (Psalms 139; Isaiah 46:9-10; Luke 12:7). 

He is good because He hears my prayers and He answers them, even when the answers are not the ones I wanted. His answers are always best (Matthew 7:9-11).

He is good because His Word says He is, and I choose to believe truth (John 17:17). The truth that He is working all things together for my good (Romans 8:28-39). 

We chose for the song “Good, Good Father” to be sung at Collier’s memorial service. I can’t help but think how perfectly fitting it was. It soothes the ache in my heart to be reminded over and over that His ways are perfect. God knew exactly how long Collier would live, and his brief life had purpose. It mattered. It will always matter.

I’m not sure if you have ever doubted the goodness of God like me. Maybe you look around at all the evil in the world and wonder where is God? Maybe life has crumbled right before your eyes and you don’t see an ounce of goodness anywhere. Maybe you’ve prayed for a miracle that never came. I don’t know what your circumstances feel like, but I do know how badly it hurts to lose someone I cared for deeply.  I want to tell you from experience, He is still good. He truly is a good, good Father.

Jesus, God’s only son, experienced intense grief to the point of sweating drops of blood. He asked, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will (Matt. 26:39).” God heard that prayer. He could have chosen a different way, but He didn’t.  He chose to allow suffering because it ultimately led to good. Our good. As our Father, He works all things together for His glory and our bestinterest. All because of His great love for us. He hears our prayers. He sees our tears. He understands our problems. He knows our pain. And we can trust Him with it all—because He is faithful and He is still good.


Collier’s Story

“But God loves broken-hearted people. He doesn’t avoid them….God doesn’t ignore your tears or tell you that if you really had faith you wouldn’t cry. He wipes them away.” -Nancy Guthrie

One month. That’s how long it’s been since the day life left me feeling completely broken-hearted. This is Collier’s story….

About a year ago my husband and I felt the Lord leading us to expand our family once again. God has already given us two energetic little boys who have added so much joy and life to our family. After their 5th and 3rd birthdays, we realized how much we missed having a baby around the house and started praying about having another child. Just a few short months later, I happily walked out of our bathroom with a positive pregnancy test! Three tests to be exact (nothing wrong with being extra sure). All the emotions that I felt with my previous pregnancies immediately set in- excitement, being overwhelmed, a little fear, and a lot of gratitude. Life was good.

We kept our secret for a while, wanting the assurance of the first ultrasound before we shared our news. And we got it…a good strong heartbeat and a healthy baby! In April, we spilled the beans and in May we found out the gender…another boy! Now, I won’t lie to you. Part of me was hoping for a little girl. Not because I don’t love my boys, but because I thought we desperately needed another female in our house! Someone who shared my love of all things pink, polka dot, and girly. Someone who I could one day have a relationship with like I do with my own mom. And, while I’m being honest, someone who could ring the toilet! But all of my plans and what I thought I wanted were quickly replaced with excitement over our new baby boy. I realized that God obviously wanted us to have all boys, and while the thought made me feel totally unqualified, I gladly accepted the challenge!

We had already chosen his name, Collier Grant Davis. We started planning, decorating his nursery, and dreaming of what he would be like. Would he look like his brothers? Would he have hair? Would he be a happy baby or would he have the dreaded colic? What would his personality be like? What would he grow up to be? All of the things you can’t help but think about when a new baby is on the way. All of our family was excited. Everything was going well and I felt great! The best I have felt out of all three pregnancies, with the exception of a little morning sickness at the beginning. Our anatomy ultrasound in June showed that he was right on track and he was healthy. Everything was still good.


On July 25th   I was 6 months pregnant and went to the doctor for a routine check-up. It was going to be one of those appointments where they check your blood pressure, the heartbeat, basically tell you you’re still pregnant and send you home. Uneventful. That’s the mindset I had going in that day. I figured within an hour I could be out and on my way to TJ Maxx or Hobby Lobby, like I usually did after appointments. About halfway through my time with the nurse, I noticed she was having a hard time picking up the heartbeat. She gave me no reason to be worried, but sent me to ultrasound just to be sure. I still wasn’t concerned because the same thing happened with Alex (my 3 year old) once. He kept moving and they couldn’t get a clear reading. I assumed it was a similar situation.

It wasn’t.  Moments later I found myself in a puddle of tears, listening to the words that no mother ever wants to hear. I’m so sorry. There is no heartbeat. One month later and I still can’t find words to describe how incredibly painful it feels to hear those words. There isn’t language strong enough. The pain that grips your heart when you hear that your baby has died without warning just hurts, almost unbearably. Almost as if your heart has physically broken in two. Questions immediately started flooding my mind. Was it my fault? Did I do something wrong? Was this reality or a nightmare? Are you sure there’s no heartbeat? Can you check again? How am I going to explain this to my kids, who have prayed for their brother every day for 6 months? Is God punishing me? Why did I not have any warning? Why…just why?

My doctor and the nurses said and did so many things that day (that week) to try and help make things better. I’ll really never be able to thank them enough. But nothing helped. I was in shock, pain, and at the same time I felt completely numb.  I knew what the next few days held for us, and I didn’t want to accept it. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to be. While we should have been planning his arrival, we were now planning his delivery and burial. Not a joyful delivery where we would be bringing him home – stillbirth. Every time that word crossed my mind I felt like I would throw up, and the tears would start all over again. Sometimes they still do.

That day we did the only thing we knew to do. Pray. Even though we didn’t know how to pray or what to pray. We called and texted those closest to us asking them to pray. We went to Facebook and asked everyone to start praying for us. Thank God for other believers. In times when you don’t know how to pray for yourself, it’s comforting to have others who come alongside you and carry the burden for you in prayer. Hundreds and hundreds of people starting praying that day– people that we do not even know. I don’t usually like posting stuff like this on Facebook, but that day I was thankful that it helped spread the word so quickly. Knowing how many people were praying for us is the only thing that carried us through those next few days. And a very specific prayer was answered.

Peace. God gave us incredible, indescribable peace. Apart from Him, it does not even make sense to have peace in a situation where you feel like your heart is broken and your world has been flipped upside down. That week, all I could do was cry- weep– and beg God to please let this be a mistake or a nightmare I could wake up from. Several times I went into his nursery and sat alone crying, until it physically hurt and wore me out. Knowing that I would never wake up to him crying in the middle of the night. I would never get to feed him or rock him to sleep. Never change his diaper. Never dress him in all the clothes that were waiting for him to wear–the same ones his brothers wore. Never sing to him like I did his brothers. Never watch his first steps or hear his first words. Never read him a story. Never would I even hold him alive. But even after mourning over all those things, there was still peace that no matter what was happening, He was there. God kept the promise He made in His Word to give us “a peace that passes all understanding that will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:7).” Even though at that time He felt very far away, I knew that He was actually carrying us every single, painful step.

As much as I didn’t want it to, July 28, 2017 still came–the day that Collier was born. Without a doubt, it was the hardest day of our lives. Physically speaking, it was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Again, there just are no words. There is something very painfully eerie about giving birth to your child and there is no sound. No heartbeat being monitored during labor. No cry. No life. Experiencing birth and death at the very same time. Holding my son for the first and last time here on this earth, knowing that he’s not even there. Trying to study every feature of his physical body while I held him, hoping not to forget a single thing. Saying goodbye before I ever even had the chance to say hello. Tears flow and pain fills my heart every single time I think about it.

But God….He gave us His peace that day too. Yes, it was unbelievably hard. It hurt terribly. It still hurts me terribly every day, as I’m sure it will for a while. But God was there. His presence was felt in our room that day, not just by us but by others who stopped by to pray with us. He helped us have faith, which He made evident to others as well. Even our doctor and nurses noticed a difference in us, which can only be explained by God working through us at our lowest low. I can promise you at that time, faith was the last thing we felt we had.

In addition to His overwhelming peace, God also gave us the strength we desperately needed and a likely explanation for his death (umbilical cord). But even more than that, He kept reminding us of the joyful promise that Collier is now very much alive.  As much as I wanted so badly for him to move or open his eyes that day, not for a second would I want him to exchange the life he has now for what he would have here. As his mother, I can’t do that. I know that in heaven, with Jesus Christ himself, Collier is experiencing life more fully than he ever would have here. While I may never understand why God took him the way He did, as early as He did, I am thankful that my son has never experienced anything other than being in the presence of the One who made him and “ordained all of his days, before one of them came to be.” (Ps. 139:16)

Naturally as a mother, I want the absolute best for my children. I want to nurture them and care for them. I want health, joy, purpose, safety, and love for them. I want them, as they grow, to know God and make Him known with their lives. I want them to be a living testimony for what God has done and is doing on the inside of them. God wants all of those things for them too, so much more than me. And He can accomplish that even after a person is gone. That’s my purpose for starting this blog. I want to allow God to take Collier’s story, and all of the things He’s teaching me along this journey through grief, to bring hope and healing to others. To allow Collier’s life to be a living testimony here, even though he physically isn’t. To give God a chance to bring beauty out of these ashes. That’s what His Word promises to do. “To comfort all who mourn, and provide those who grieve…a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 66:3

For now, I’m taking it one day at a time. Some days, it’s been more like an hour at the time. But I have hope….the hope that I will hold Collier again one day, and he will be very much alive!