Remi’s Story

We hadn’t made a big announcement, but over the summer, our hearts and my womb were holding a treasure – another precious Brinson boy. We’d been hoping to grow our family again this year and God gave us another miracle in May. He is so faithful. My first trimester was very first trimester-ish. All the yucky stuff. I don’t know if it was being pregnant in my mid 30s or being pregnant with a toddler in tow but this one was proving to be trickier. But amidst the discomfort my heart was anchored in the deepest gratitude. Gratitude for growing life. Gratitude for miracles. Gratitude for a brotherhood when we found out it was another sweet boy on the way. Gratitude over imaginings of two pairs of dirty skinned knees running together in life. I was thrilled over this boy-gang gift the Lord had given us. The honor of motherhood was tangibly swelling in my heart.

Each prenatal visit had been as positive as we could hope for. We made it into the second trimester and I was thrilled to be through pregnancy’s most challenging trimester. Several weeks in, however, I started having symptoms of possible miscarriage. We prayed faith filled prayers and rose up to partner with heaven’s heart in every way the Holy Spirit led us to, but on a Monday afternoon things took a very abrupt turn and we no longer had our sweet boy with us. I learned that a miscarriage at home is not something I would ever wish on anyone in the world. I can’t begin to describe it. After an ambulance ride and brief hospital stay later, we were sent home missing a huge piece of our heart and our family – our baby boy.

This loss felt very different from our other three, but one difference that brought comfort was having the gift of holding our boy in our hands. The indescribable love that cascades from a mama’s heart as she holds her baby for the first time; maternal bliss mingled with deep responsibility that emanates from every fiber of her being, declaring “Baby, you’re mine and you were worth every bit of this” – it all came bursting out of my heart as soon as my eyes met his tiny body. His worthiness of my love didn’t depend on him staying with us. I held him and told him just that. He was beautifully, fearfully, and wonderfully made. Ten precious fingers and ten sweet toes, the most perfect ears, mouth and nose. I saw Samuel, Zach & myself all in his little face. He was clearly a perfect piece of our family. He was worth every bit of the weeks he was growing inside of me, worth the loss, the pain – it was worth it to be his mama, to love him and hold him, even briefly.

We named him “Remiel” – “Remi” for short. It means “thunder of God”. We felt like Remi was going to be a force for the kingdom and we smiled through our tears when Zach held him saying “He was going to be wild. Samuel was going to have to keep him in line.” We loved listening to who the Father said he was, even if we wouldn’t witness it here on earth.

We have felt the nearness and peace of Jesus in such a tangible way since Remi left. We’ve received an outpouring of love from friends and family who knew what we were going through- its felt like a literal sharing of burden. We are so grateful for every message, meal, and surprise comfort.

Most of all, we are inexpressibly grateful for the abiding, all-encompassing presence of Jesus. Nothing compares to Him. His comfort has been the constant gift that hasn’t left us for one second since our loss. His “peace that surpasses understanding” has been tangibly with me, holding my hand, shepherding me through grief like He’s done so faithfully before. We’ve built a history of walking through hard places together that can’t be touched by any scheme of the enemy. I don’t see the whole path to map it out, but I can feel the worn trail beneath my feet. I keep my hand clasped to His. He leads and I follow the pull of His presence. I don’t have to see that way, because I’m one with The Way. He leads me through the darkest places with steadiness, comfort, and confidence of His goodness. My Good Shepherd.

As I walk this path, there is pain but there is also deep trust and unwavering hope.  Grieving with Jesus doesn’t take the pain away or remove the need to grieve.  It brings unshakeable peace, comfort and confidence of good into the midst of it.  I hold fast to Him in the heavy moments, the moments where I feel the temptation to dwell on things that I shouldn’t, the moments where I feel like the weight of loss won’t let up. As I do, I feel Him steady and cover me- my anchor, my shield, my healer is every way – spirit, soul, and body.  Roots drive deeper with unshakeable confidence into who He is: perfectly good, faithful, my fierce defender. He redeems everything. He has never failed me and He never will.

“…He restores my soul…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.  Your rod & your staff they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:3-4  He is the only Shepherd who can lead us through grief and bring us out whole and healed, more like Him.  He is hope that thrives in the midst of mourning – shielding, healing and redeeming every place touched by the enemy.

This is an exercise from the chapter titled “Good Grief” in my book, Abound.  Psalm 23 is one of my favorite meditations when I’m walking through grief or hardship.  As believers, familiarity can tempt us to skim this scripture.  Put off familiarity and move through it with fresh eyes.  If you’re grieving today, walk through this scripture as a path through suffering.  Encounter the Good Shepherd in each step as your feet steady on the truth of His goodness.  I’m walking it again too…

(Abound: Discovering Abundance in Barren Places

Chapter 3: Good Grief)

Let’s Take a Walk

Psalm 23 is a beautiful picture of what thriving in suffering looks like.  King David’s life was full of pain and yet he wrote this because he knew its truth.  It’s a promise for all who will allow Jesus to Shepherd them through hardship, trauma, and tragedy…

“1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside quiet waters.

3 He restores my soul;

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his names sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

I will fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Psalm 23

When we break it down, we see layer upon layer of promises.  This is what the Good Shepherd does in hard places.  Walk through these verses with me.  Slowly reread each verse before reading the corresponding comment:

Verse one (Don’t skip the reading ): It starts with a declaration of who He is over us: “The Lord is my shepherd.”  We live with that declaration in all circumstances that He is our Shepherd.  He’s the one leading, providing, guiding, and protecting.  When we submit to His leading, we want for nothing.  Notice it doesn’t say we will not “need.”  He specifically chose to say “want.”  Some translations say “I will lack no good thing.” He is a God of abundance.  He doesn’t do the bare minimum to keep us alive and meet basic needs.  He desires to give us “immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20 NIV).  With Jesus Shepherding us, we don’t have to seek our own provision.  Provision is His responsibility.  Following is ours.  We live our lives in surrender and obedience and He takes care of the rest. 

Verse two (Really, don’t cheat! Read it): “He makes [us] lie down in green pastures.”  The wonderful thing about following Jesus is that He never has to work to find green pastures.   They appear everywhere He is.  He has never had to think, “Where should I take them next for provision?”  He’s never in search of life because He is life.  He transforms dry barren land into green pastures by His presence.  Everywhere He places his feet, life emerges. 

Then, He calls us to lie down there in His presence – to find a posture of rest.  A posture where we’ve laid down our guards and self-protective efforts to fully trust His ability to watch over us.  You can’t fully rest when you’re trying to self-protect.  Complete rest is in surrender.  When we embrace surrender, He can lead us to quietness in our Spirit.  His path for our heart is never a chaotic storm, it’s always “quiet waters”.  He is never distracted, anxious, or worried.  Those things can’t exist in His presence.  The quiet waters of His presence refresh our hearts as we bow our heads low in humility to drink from His goodness. 

Verse three: “He restores {our} souls.”  Our soul houses our thoughts and emotions.  In the original Hebrew, “Restore” means “to turn back”.  He turns our hearts back to Him when we’ve set them on lesser things.  The restoration of our souls also involves the release of bitterness and unforgiveness.  If your grief was caused by someone else’s wrong doing, you need to choose to forgive and stop casting blame (even if it is deserved in the world’s eyes).  It’s not merely about their worthiness; it’s about your wholeness and Christlikeness.  You can’t fully heal or become more like Jesus with unforgiveness in your heart.  If we have been radically wronged it can feel hard, but whenever I’ve wrestled with forgiveness, I take myself back to the cross and the sins of which I’ve been forgiven.  I have absolutely no right to resist forgiving someone when I remember how Jesus has forgiven me.  I’ve been forgiven of everything, so I can forgive everything.  If it seems too difficult, ask Jesus to help you.  He will.  As we seek to become more like Him in forgiving freely, He guides us in righteousness.  Righteousness literally means “right and just”.  His path through grief and suffering is always the right way because He is “The Way” (John 14:6 NIV).  Where ever He is, is the right way.  He knows where He’s taking us even if we don’t.  He has a perfect track record as trailblazer of the heart.

Verse four: In the days following our loss of our baby, I experienced that even though we may walk through deep valleys, we can walk with confidence in His presence.  His correction (rod) and his guidance (staff) bring us comfort when we’re tempted to take a turn that won’t lead to life.  We feel the tugs of His guidance while being reminded that He is the one with the directions that lead to life.  He loves us too much to leave us alone.  Sure, we can resist His correction and land ourselves in a ditch (of which He will faithfully bring us out when we ask), but His heart is to keep us from stumbling in the first place. 

My pastor has taught several times that the Lord is always willing to pull you out of “the mud and mire “(Ps 40:2 NIV), but how much more would He love to keep you from stumbling in the first place?  Trust “him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.” (Jude 1:24 NIV Emphasis mine).  We don’t have to fall into pits of hopelessness and despair it we respond to the tugs of His rod and follow His presence.

Verse five: He gives us a place at His royal table and makes our enemies watch while we feast with Him!  Notice this truth – the table is IN the valley.  He doesn’t have to help us escape the valley before we can feast.  He prepares banquets in the valley.  It has nothing to do with food on the table, but everything to do with the fact that we’ve learned how to feast on the “Bread of Life”-Jesus himself (John 6:35 NIV).  That is what fills His banquet table.  Our sustenance is Him.  When our enemies see us being nourished by Him in a place that should bring despair, it rubs their faces in their own defeat.   At that table, He “anoints [our] head with oil”.  Here, “Anoint” means “to fatten or remove ashes”. In Hebrew, “Head” translates to “the part of us that is most easily shaken” (Strongs Hebrew Dictionary 7218) and oil often represents the Holy Spirit.  Look at this this more closely.  When He anoints our heads with oil, He’s saying “I’m making healthy (fattening) and removing any evidence of death (ashes) from the part of you that can be most easily shaken (your mind).”  Good gracious, what an anointing!  Our hearts are satisfied to overflow. 

Verse six: His goodness and mercy (some translations read “loving kindness”) follow us every day when He is our shepherd.  We don’t have to search for them.  They are our rear guards as we choose to “dwell” in His house. 

What a mountain of promises we find in the valley.  Rather than being full of despair, grief is actually designed as a blessing.  God’s intention, when shepherding us through it, is for it to bring healing.  We move through it with Him, and even when we don’t see where we need to step next, His shepherding leads us.  We follow His presence and it leads to healing every time.  As I followed Jesus’ lead in navigating miscarriage and hopes deferred, He restored my soul and deeply rooted my trust in His goodness…

… Being led by His presence means we have to be close enough to touch Him. Many days, my reaching out to touch Him looked like acknowledging my grief and inviting Him into it with me. “Jesus, my heart feels heavy today.  I know you’re here with me.  I know you are good and faithful.  What do I do with my grief right now?”  Then I awaited His presence to come and speak life to my heart.  He might have brought to mind a worship song to sing, or a verse to declare, but sometimes I simply felt the warmth of His love and peace in my soul.  And when that was what He chose to provide, it was sufficient because it was Him.  Sometimes our desire to be led by a clear directive word from His voice can cause us to forget how well He can lead without ever speaking.  Being led by His presence means we HAVE TO be close enough to touch Him. It’s the fruit of intimacy. Don’t get me wrong, I adore His voice. It’s the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear. Sometimes He leads us with it. But sometimes He leads only by His presence- taking your hand in His, beginning to move, and smiling as you follow.

That is trust- no explanation of the movement- simply stepping together, confident that He is taking you exactly where you are supposed to go. When I thought grief would feel like a lesson in perseverance and steadfastness, I realized it was actually a lesson in dancing with Jesus. I step in response to His lead.  He doesn’t have to tell me what dance we’re doing for me to follow. As we yield to Him and don’t hesitate with our steps to follow, our moves become synergized.  We move in oneness with God.  He can dance me atop joy or disappointment, but what is under my feet doesn’t matter because of who is in my arms.

Reflection questions…

Where are you in those verses of Psalm 23?  Are you in need of “green pastures” and “quiet waters” – [His presence and peace]?  Do you need to learn to feast on the Bread of Life instead of the bread of your circumstance?  In your own words, write out below where you are today.  “Where am I in the walk of Psalm 23?”

Invite Jesus to meet with you and show you what His shepherding looks like in that place.  He has something to show you.  Write down what you see and hear…

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1 Comment

  1. “I don’t have to see the way because I am one with The Way.” 🙂 You are – and I am.

    You write beautifully, Madison – because it is your heart that writes – a Spirit filled heart.

    I said at the hospital that you are a strong woman. I know where your strength comes from. Your personality is strong on its own; but, left to itself, it would eventually break – or break something. It is with Him as your source that you have become “unbreakable.” To Him be the glory.

    I love you, daughter of mine – and am so glad to walk with Him and with you.

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