Who's Strength?

Today I was confronted with a question that I haven't faced in some time... definitely not since the birth of my third precious child... and not even for months before that. You could say it's been a LONG time. Of course this was not just any question but THE question that I struggled with so long ago. Maybe I have unknowingly surrounded myself with people that "know" and therefore don't have to ask, or maybe it is simply that I have been a little "laid up" since September. Whatever it is, I faced it head-on today... exactly 1 year ago to the day (not date) that sweet Maddox was born. I hate making excuses but I truly don't think that it is a fear of the real world or meeting new people... I just haven't had to confront it. That is... until today. Today it came up. It came up not only once. Not twice. Not even three times. Yeah, I answered the question four times today in the only way I know how.

I have three children.

It was that "mixed" feeling I had as soon as the words left my mouth. Words that many of you mamas have had to search for as well. Words that, if you haven't, I pray that you never will. Words that feel fumbly and awkward as you struggle to explain... as you struggle to not make others feel sorrow or pity or awkward themselves but yet somehow try to preserve the memory of your child that is gone. I know... "to each his own." I totally agree that each mama should answer in the way that is only right and appropriate for her and for that reason I still choose to say three. I know what it feels like for me to leave Maddox out and I have left feeling sick and wanting to literally tackle the person I said that to in an attempt to take it back... to explain my answer.

So today I said three. I think in the foreseeable future I will say three. Did I caveat my answer and feel the need to justify? ... Today I did. In the future I might not. Either way, although today was so much about that simple question- it was also about so much more. God had something big to reveal to me...

See, we are just beginning the study No Other Gods by Kelly Minter and our teacher was giving an overview of the study, talking about the "common" idols (money, children, media, etc.) and how this study actually makes you confront other idols you might have never considered. Now, I certainly wouldn't be bold or arrogant enough to say "not me" regarding many different idols in my life, but check this out... As I sat there and "listened", these thoughts were running around in my mind...

Wow, Kenz... pretty impressive. You just answered that TOUGH question that used to make you cry. You did it well... You didn't even get emotional. Girl, you have come a long way in a year. Just think of where you were on this day last year and how well you have done. You are living... you are managing. Gosh, not even just managing, but thriving! Way to go! You are so strong. Others grieve daily and here you are, approaching Maddox's first birthday and you are holding it all together. Look how together you are!

I'm feeling pretty good about myself. I'm feeling like this study is going to be great and in the coming weeks it's going to show me so much... Little do I know.

Then we get to small group. You know... introductions. Most of the people sitting at the table are friends I have known for years and they "know"... But there are a few girls there that don't. So here it was, the fourth time having to answer the question. As everyone proceeds around the table to answer get-to-know-you questions, I am feeling sicker and sicker. I see it from the beginning. I am the last one to answer. Each person answers casually and it is getting closer and closer... WHAT?? I answered this question completely emotionless just an hour earlier and here I am LOSING IT at the thought. It's finally my turn and I say "I'm married to Dusty and we have... I'm feeling so sick... we have three kids. (...tears, struggling to speak, to breathe... can't quite get it out...) Deacon is 3, Maddox would have been one in two days, and Faith Clare is 10. 10 months. No, 10 weeks. I can't even think..." I continue to answer the questions with tears pouring down my face. I glance around the table, looking into the eyes of my friends. A few friends who sat with me one year ago at the hospital. Several other friends who sent cards, brought meals, and prayed and prayed and prayed for our family prior to meeting Maddox and walking with me through the grief. As I peered into the eyes of those sitting at the table with me and saw their tear-filled eyes as well... God spoke so clearly to my heart.

Isn't it interesting how you think YOU did this? How YOU managed so well? How YOU got through the grief? Who did all of this? Who's strength did you rely on for so long?? Was it your own? What about these people that surround you? Think Kenzie, Who's words did you turn to? Who gave you comfort all these months? Who continues to fill your heart and bless you? Why are you now taking the credit for something that only I am big enough to handle? Kenzie, I love you but it is only through MY STRENGTH that you have done ANY of this.

Honestly, He brought me to my knees today. He showed me that in a moment... on my own ignorant self-reliance... that I can absolutely fall apart. Those thoughts I had as I "listened" weren't ones that were from the Lord. They were self-centered thoughts... ones of pride and ones that Satan has slowly been feeding me. Then suddenly, in a flash, I could see the grip that he has had on my life. I have permitted these idols to take up residence~ idols of self-reliance and pride. Somehow secretly loving the fact that I was "coping" and feeling a certain amount of pride at "how well" I was doing. It's like because I'm consciously not allowing grief and fear to dictate my life now, I have been unknowingly giving way to a God-ignoring, prideful, self-dependence. It's absolutely sick... and so revealing. God grabbed a hold of me with two hands today.

Now you see it... Hopefully soon you won't. It will be a lifelong battle to give up control.

Thank you, Lord, for again revealing to me my need for you and YOU ALONE. I cannot and do not want to do this on my own. I again turn my life over to you. YOU are my strength and I ask for you to be my Rock and my Foundation. Fill me with your peace and Lord, continue to reveal areas in my life that I still cling tightly to... areas that must be turned over to you. Thank you for my children, all three, and the testimony that you have given me to share of your complete faithfulness. I love you and trust you with my life and theirs.

"But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you."- Psalm 5:11 (God's Word- My prayer of protection over my children)


Beautiful, Kenzie. May you always find all your strength through Him alone.
Emily said…
Oh Kenzie. You have no idea how this reasonates within me. I love you and I'm praying for you as you continue this journey, with Christ alone as your strength.
Michelle Jamie said…
Hi Kenzie,

I could identify with this post on different levels, one being I’m of those sharing the road of grief with my sister-in-law who last year at 39 weeks pregnant found out the baby had died. And secondly because my eldest son just started play school and we are both going through a rough patch adapting to the change. He doesn't want to be away from me and I don't want to be away from him but helping him demands it. I was just thinking a day or two ago that I'm surprised that even though I'm overwhelmed by emotion everyday I've not cried. The Lord has humbled me in the last two days and I've shed many, many tears. I agree it is by His strength alone that I can commit to doing this painful but necessary thing for my son.
Christa Mc said…
kenzie - as always you are such a gifted writer... I admire how brave you are to be so transparent so that we can learn about God through you. Thank you for reminding me who is in control of everything and to not lean on myself for strength, but to lean on God. Also thank you for the reminder to us all to give Him credit when credit is due. We are to glorify him. love you and as i watch the days go by on the calendar the 23rd (tomorrow) has been very heavy on my heart. Praying for you and your family.
Anonymous said…
You are so faithful to the God that has brought you through this. Thank you for your honesty and example. Your children are beautiful. I am a counselor so honestly, I should know all about talking to people who have been through this type of loss but you have taught me way more than any grad school class. And even more important, you have pointed me to God, who must be my strength. Thank you so much.
Laurie in Ca. said…
Sweet Kenzie,

I needed this today. Gods strength is so very strong and ours is so weak. Such an intricate balancing act takes place when we are healing and want to feel we are moving forward into His light. I love that He loves us so much and is so close to us that He will trip us to let us know it is Him. His loving eyes are on us at all times, He does not sleep. I am sure that His discipline for the moment blessed each and every one at that table as they witnessed your heart. He wants you to know that He has given you three children and one of them is waiting for you in heaven with Him. And it was He who gave you the strength to birth Maddox and place him back into Gods arms one year ago tomorrow. No matter how you feel in your humanness, you wear Him well in your life and it shows. I love you Kenzie and my heart is with you.

Love and Hugs, Laurie
boltefamily said…
Thank you so much for sharing that Kenzie! It is something I need to do often myself. Erradicating those hidden idols. You are doing it girl, you are leaning on Him. He is your strength. Love you!
Thank you for writing this and for connecting your experiences to God and his place in our lives. I am truly struggling with the "How many children" question as well. In my heart, I have four children. And, I want the world to know that. But, I've yet to find a suitable answer that doesn't consume me emotionally. Maybe that's part of the journey? Finding out who's supportive, who's experienced the same, who's eyes need to be opened, finding connections with other people to God that we never knew existed? I suppose thinking of it this way, our children continue to impact the world. Even while we cry.
bri said…
That is indeed a tough answer. When we are out and people "see" that we foster they always ask "do you have any children of your own?". Harmless in and of itself but when we have had 3 children, none of which lived then it is very complicated when you say yes we have 3... in Heaven.

Some days it is harder than others just because some days you just don't want to explain. But God always brings the strength needed to conquer the mountain laid before us!

You are precious and are doing an amazing job allowing God to come in and strengthen those places and bring healing to your heart.
Shannon said…
Thanks for sharing Kenzie. How sweetly he reminds us huh? Esp since he really COULD smack us with it if He really wanted to : ).

On the subject of "the" question, I've found myself faced with that question too lately, as I struggle to stay put in a public place long enough to even be asked that question. I found myself leaving Josie out and I hated it. I like how you pointed out that you would have tackled them to get a do-over, that's how I feel, felt. I pray I have the strength to do better next time. I'm just not myself, and don't know who I am yet, now, without her.

Praying for you today as you prepare for tomorrow.
The VW's said…
May God continue to give you His strength and bless your wonderful family! Thanks for sharing your heart with all of us. This is an important lesson and reminder for all of us, something that I've been coming to the conclusion of as well lately. God Bless You!
mrsrubly said…
kenzie, you are doing it girl! you are relying on HIM to give you the strength to make it through these trials you and Dusty are going through. what a great reminder today that all of us need to kneel down and trust in God to help overcome some hurdles give us strength to follow thru! thanks for posting this! yes you do have 3 precious beautiful children kenzie...
Rachel said…
You addressed the very question that I asked myself just a few weeks ago. My husband and I were talking about what life would be like when we get pregnant again and all of that. Then we asked each other, what would we say when people ask if this next pregnancy is my first or when they ask how many kids we have. I hope that I will have the courage to say this is my second pregnancy or we have two kids. Thank you for continuing to be an awesome example of a Christian woman who walks so closely with God and follows Him and loves Him deeply.
Candace said…
Thank you soooo much for this post. I have been following your blog since just before your little girl was born, and appreciate your faithfulness and honesty. I have recently suffered a miscarriage, and know that it is only by God's strength am I able to make it through the day without crying. You are a blessing and thank you for blogging and sharing.
Kathy said…
Dear Kenzie,

Yes, you are the mother of three beautiful children, one whom resides with the God from whom you draw your strength.

You are such a witness to the faithfulness of our Lord. Thank you!

Anonymous said…
You are so transparent. Thank you, Kenzie. You challenge me to look at my relationship with the Lord and my independent streak. May the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry through your blog.

Andrea said…
Hi Kenzie-
You have been much on my heart lately as Maddox's birthday has drawn nearer. God has brought so much significance to his brief, precious life on earth, that, at times, I feel as if I miss him (which may seem weird since we've never even met).

How beautifully you continue to glorify God through your words and willingness to share yourself with others.

Praying you continue to rejoice in the weaknesses within you that let God's strength shine through you.

Love in Christ,
Corie said…
Thinking of you as we celebrate our boys! Praying for a good day for you tomorrow.
Cathy said…
A beautiful reminder that only through Him will or can we have all these things we do have.
Blessing to you sweet momma of 3 now and forever.
kristy said…
celebrating Maddox's life today. I am so thankful for that sweet little boy and for his mommy!
Just Me said…
Happy Birthday Maddox!

Sending extra prayers to your family today as they celebrate your life, wishing you were here to celebrate it with them, but knowing that you are in the most perfect place.

Take care,
Anonymous said…
Happy Birthday, sweet Maddox!

I am thankful for your story, your life, and your family's willingness to share it, always.

You have touched my life in so many ways, and strengthened my relationship with our Lord.

As a Mama, I can only imagine how much your Mama's (and Daddy's, and the rest of your family's) hearts hurt today, without you here with them. I'm sorry for the hurt. I can only pray that I can continue to share some of their burden.

Maddox, you're loved and missed. Happy Birthday!

Blessings to you all,

from Beth in Michigan
I went to sleep thinking of you and Maddox and woke up and my first thought is you and Maddox. Happy Birthday sweet boy. So...I came here to look at his pictures and to think back on this day, the day before I was heading back from Mary Grace's funeral in Kentucky and got the news that they were trying to get Dusty home from his trip to the hospital. I remember being able to step out of my grief for Mary Grace and to pray for you and Maddox with hope and love. And I remember reading days later about how He answered all your prayers and praising Him yet again for another miracle.
I read your post and I am filled with tears, not sad ones but tears of how He continues to carry us and show us that without Him we can not get through this. Without His continued blessing, we can not see the hope we need to survive this. You know and you are holding on to Him. You are doing this through Him. I know when people say you are so strong I think "if you only knew" I a lot of times say "it is not from me, I take no credit". It's so hard but with Him we do it, it's daily but we do it.
When you were with me this last weekend, I never lost sight of the fact that I was in the presence of a Mommy of three. Maddox is there, he is in the mix...I could not look at Faith Clare without seeing Maddox because without that sweet boy she would probably not be here. What a good big brother huh?!
Well, I am realizing I should have e-mailed you cause I have so much to say. I love you friend. I lift you and Dusty up today as you celebrate your miracle of Maddox one year ago today. To God I give all glory!!
Jeff Warner said…
Happy Birthday Maddox! Praying for you Kenzie and your family today as you celebrate Maddox. May God fill you with peace today! Wendy
Chelsea Pang said…
I love this post, totally speaks to exactly what I have been going through. I have small group where new people show up and I just need to say something. I have patients (at work) who ask how many children I have or do I have kids. And I have to search my heart to know when is right and why. Am I saying something to not lie, to glorify God by naming his child or to honor my experience? It is different every time. But I believe that the truth is always healing and useful to those who hear it.
Linda said…
Your words are beautiful. They ring so close to home for me. I am speechless at how well you articulate the feelings of a grieved mother.


My sister Michele shared your blog with me.
Anonymous said…
Someone linked me to this and I am very glad she did. My daughter passed away 44 days ago and I often wonder how I should answer that question.
Someone just asked me off hand "How's the baby?" I stumbled for a moment and then said, "Couldn't be better!" and I meant it, because there's no better place than with G-d. I hope He continues to comfort you.

Paige said…
Kenzie, I feel like I could have written this post myself (well actually i don't write as well as you, but my feeling are the same!) Our baby girl was stillborn at 36 weeks in may and I still struggle with the question "do you have any kids." In fact, I still avoid situations where I will meet new people whom just like you said don't "know." If I say yes, then here comes the story and then they feel awful because I probably am crying. If I say no, I lie and feel horrible myself. Thanks for a post that hits so close to home!
Jenifer said…
i love you, my sweet friend and your transparency is a treasure. every time i visit your blog i am encouraged, inspired and honored to be your friend :)
Anonymous said…
Hi Kenzie,
I stumbled across your blog and have been deeply moved by your story...I know this is a late post, but just thought I would share. Last week at church our minister was talking about a similar situation that his family had gone through...when asked the question of how many children his sister had, she replied I have one among the living and two among the dying...he went on to explain that their baby in heaven is eternally alive and we here on earth are on our way to dying...it was very moving and he was much more eloquent than I.

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