September 22nd, 2010

In the Valley of the Shadow of Death


In the Valley of Death

Please read this entire post. Thanks.

This post is my heart. It is raw. It is bloody. It is desolate. But I want you to see it anyway, because this is real. We are going through a deep hurt. We are walking in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I’ve never understood what that meant, but I do now, because I can see death looming up next to me.

I’m sharing this with you because you are important to us. I want you to know what is going on in my heart. I want you to share in our sorrow, so that you can one day rejoice with us too. I feel like I should ask something of you when you read this, but I don’t know what that would be. I’ve found great healing in being honest and vulnerable, perhaps this is a part of my healing, or yours.

Our History

Israel and I have wanted a baby for years. About a year and a half after we were married, we thought we were pregnant, or rather, everyone in my family thought we were pregnant. It wasn’t in our plan to get pregnant at the time, we were going to move to Seattle and go to grad school. But, the potential of being pregnant changed our plans. Why not start trying? Why not stay close to our families? Why not start early and be young grandparents?

On January 1, 2008, I took my last birth control pill. And we waited. And we waited. And we waited. The first year was difficult. Birth control had messed with my body quite a bit. We’d go for a month or two thinking we could be pregnant, but there was never a positive test. Once, I went four months without having a period. Eventually, with the help of some medicine, things went back to normal, but by that time, I had withdrawn. I’d hidden the part of me that cared whether we got pregnant, because I couldn’t hope for it anymore. And our families stopped asking, because the answer was always no.

Then we found out about Black Forest Academy, and suddenly it all made sense. If our plans had worked out, we would never be able to move to Germany quickly. If we’d had a baby and a house and had been in grad school, there was no way we’d be able to move so easily. At that point, my desire changed. I didn’t want to be pregnant yet; I wanted to be able to fully invest in BFA for a while. So, we went to Germany on July 16th.

The Blueberry

On Sunday, August 29th, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. According to the way they count pregnancy, my first day of pregnancy was two days before we left, July 14th. We couldn’t believe it. How in the world could this be possible? We’d just finished the first week of school!

Before I took the test, I was angry that I might be pregnant. God knew that I didn’t want this now! He knew that I wouldn’t be able to fully invest while taking care of a baby! But by Monday afternoon, my heart was already gone, given to the tiny one growing inside me. We called it the Blueberry, because that’s how big it was when we found out. The Blueberry was due on April 20th, 2011. It was clear that this was God’s perfect timing. He wanted us in Germany and he wanted us to have a baby now.

A Sudden Goodbye

On Friday, September 10th, I found blood. I was at school at the time. I sat in my office for two hours, wrapped in blanket, quickly wiping my tears away in case someone walked in. Eventually, my dear friend did come in, and I felt brave enough to walk home with her. I was just entering my ninth week.

The weekend was horribly confusing. We were told by a doctor who is on staff at BFA that there was a 50/50 chance of miscarrying. I cramped and spotted on and off from Friday morning until Sunday evening. I couldn’t go to a doctor for an ultrasound because they were closed until Tuesday. On Monday, I was sure I was miscarrying. On Tuesday, the doctor confirmed it. There on the screen was the little Blueberry, but no heartbeat. On Wednesday morning, we went to the hospital for a D&C.

In the Valley

I don’t know that I’ve ever cried so much in one week. I know that I’ve never wept like I did on Friday evening, when I found more blood. After finding it, I sat down next to Israel and began to sob—deep, uncontrollable sobs. Israel had never stopped wanting a baby. He was excited from the moment that little purple line showed up, and I felt like I was taking that from him. I felt guilty and ashamed and embarrassed.

I don’t really know how to process this. I don’t know what the point of this is, or what God is doing.

I was already learning so much! In June, God started working on the most wounded places of my heart, places that I thought he’d already healed, but that were still bleeding. So he’s been teaching me that he is good, that he is my loving Father, that he cares about me, that he knows me, that he loves me. I know all of these things about God, but I don’t believe them. What I believe is that God only does things in my life so that he will get glory and so that I will learn the lessons that I fail to teach myself. I think he does these things with no real regard or care for me. I believe that God doesn’t really know me. I believe that God doesn’t really love me, or comfort me, or sit with me when I cry. But he’s been gently removing the layers of protection I’ve build around my wounds, so that he can heal them. I knew that the Blueberry was part of that healing.

And then the Blueberry left, and I found myself bewildered. I don’t understand what this means about who God is. I don’t know how to believe that God is loving in this. I don’t know how to believe that he cares about me or the Blueberry. Why would he let us get pregnant immediately after getting to Germany and then take it away only two weeks after we found out? We told our families we were pregnant on Sunday, September 5th; we told them about the miscarriage only one week later. What is the purpose in that? It just seems like cruelty.

But I’m trying to hold on to what I hope is true. God is love. God is good. God cares for me. He cares for the Blueberry. He is holding the Blueberry while we cannot. He did not cause this, but will bring good from it. He loves me in this, and holds me while I cry. He hurts when I hurt.

This has brought me to the edge of myself. I wrote this in an email to a friend, “Maybe that’s why he did it now, because he knew this would bring me to the brink of myself, where I have nothing left and am totally shattered. I feel so needy; I don’t like it. I have nothing.”

I am heartbroken. I am confused. I am shattered. I am empty. I don’t know if I’m angry, perhaps I feel forsaken. But I’m believing that God is present and is big enough to hold this weight of sorrow. I’m clinging to the hope that He will save me from these waters, which have come up to my neck. And when he does, I will let him hold me, and I will rest in him, and I will call him my Papa. Because he loves me even more than I loved the Blueberry, who I had yet to even meet.

The day before my surgery, I asked God to give me a sunrise. God gives thunder to one of my friends as a sign of his love for her. I’ve been trying to believe that He would do that for me to. So I asked him for a sunrise, because I’ve always loved them. I stared at the sky the whole way to the hospital; it was a normal sky—blue with white clouds. I had just decided that he wouldn’t give me one, but we rounded a corner, and there it was. Pink marble resting on the hills of the Black Forest.

That morning, I wrote Psalm 32:7 on a note card and kept it in my pocket. “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.” Though I may not be able to hear it yet, he is shouting deliverance around me. He is roaring at the darkness and scattering it. Soon I will be able to hear my Papa coming for me.

I wrote this last Thursday, the morning after my surgery, and I wrote from the depth of my pain and sorrow. I’m not in this place anymore. God’s begun to redeem this. He’s shown me what he’s doing through it. I hope to post about these new things in a few days.

14 Responses to “In the Valley of the Shadow of Death”


  • Dani,
    My heart is just aching for you right now. No words… nothing that I can say change a thing.
    But know that I am praying for you both that God would continue to show Himself strong to you through this.
    I love that you asked for a sunrise. Because that is such a powerful reminder of God’s renewal.
    Stark darkness that is broken with God’s colors to brings a new day.
    I will keep praying as God works in your hearts through this process.
    If there is anything specific I can pray for please, please let me know.

  • Beth West says:

    Feeling sadness with you guys… and hope for brighter days.

    I think of you each time I use one of your dishes!

    • Israel says:

      I’m glad our dishes remind you of us. We are grateful they have a good home 😉

      Thanks for your prayers, we love how supported we are during this time.

  • Dani and Israel, my love goes out to both of you. God will never forsake you even in the special time of need. God does have a plan for the two of you even tho it is hard to see right now. I love you and will pray daily for your healing heart. Love, Grams

  • Janece Jones says:

    Israel & Dani,
    We are so sorry for your loss. We are praying for you. God is good and His healing is eternal and perpetual.
    Love, Kevin & Janece

  • Sarah Damron says:

    Israel & Dani,
    Words will not be adequate, but you already know the One who is fully capable of meeting your needs. I have walked where you are walking (before Alana was born, I miscarried our first baby @ 20 wks). We had announced to our famillies on Thursday and by Tuesday of the next week I was in the hospital for a D&C. Although, I too have walked through this valley… even I can’t give you advice… you and God alone will make this journey. Just, please, both of you, allow yourselves to grieve over the loss–there is no lack of faith in that–only evidence of much love! (this was one of the hardest lessons for me because I thought I had to respond a certain way or people would think I had lost my faith!) In days ahead you MAY be brought back to the feelings of grief and sorrow, out of the blue! It’s ok–keep processing and trusting the LORD… in the valley He restores my soul… no longer trite Christian phrases, but a stark reality.
    Our love & prayers for you both,
    Alan & Sarah Damron

  • Sheila Feist says:

    Israel and Dani,
    I wish I could be there to just hold you both. I’m so touched by your words Dani….Of course I am so saddened about your loss…I was especially excited because I would be having my first great-grandbaby. I have a baby quilt that I have been saving for that occasion and I have been hand quilting it for a few years now! I just know that God has something special for you both…don’t know what or why or any of those big answers but I do know that what God says is true…that “all things do work together for good to those who love the Lord”…. We just don’t know what that looks like.

    Your deep love for each other and for the Lord is what I see.
    I love you Israel and Dani….
    Gramma Sheila

  • Mary Rodgers says:

    I am so sorry to hear about precious Blueberry. Blueberry’s mission was short here, but God created and blessed, but the sadness hurts!! May God give you sweet comfort, the return of His joy and an eager expectation knowing that not only Jesus looks forward to your homecoming, but Blueberry does also. As you walk this journey from sadness, to healing, to joy, I pray you will be able to remember the lessons you are learning in this darkness. They will be what God uses to bless someone else who is in need of “God with skin on”. II Cor. 2:3-4 (Amplified) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God (Who is the Source) of every comfort(consolation and encouragement), Who comforts (consoles and encourages) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with with we ourselves are comforted (consoled and encouraged) by God.”
    My heart aches for you. May God’s blessings rain down on you and those you touch with your lives. Love and prayers,

  • Anna Shurtleff says:

    Dear Dani,
    I have no words to say which could comfort you during this time. Please know that God has not forsaken you. Not easy words (trust me I question him ALOT)! Sometimes God gives us answers and sometimes he doesn’t. Either way I pray that you will allow him to comfort you and grieve through this process.
    Love and prayers,
    Anna & Sean

  • Sandie Ritter says:

    Dear Dani & Israel, I too, have been in “that shattered place” . The very same emotional/Spiritual place that you have described. It is a place where one cannot help but wonder, question, and second guess whether the Lord is walking with you or not.
    My personal valley was not the result of a physical or tramatic loss such as you two have suffered. But it was the death of a vision I felt that the Lord had blessed me with over 5 years ago. After leaving our home in California, our church and everyone & everything we had vested our entire lives to chase after the vision to Harrison, Arkansas; it was mind and heart boggling to find out that we were wrong. Every door was slammed shut, every step towards the vision slid us back more steps then I could keep track of. We pressed and pressed against what we thought was the enemy, only to find ourselves so hard pressed in our Spirits, emotionally, physically and finacially that we were hardly able to stand. But make a stand we did. And we became so much more concerned with our personal Spiritual walks with God, that we endeavored to spend even more time reading and studying our Bibles, more time in prayer then ever before. The building of a Youth Camp sorta went to the back burner. I was finally able to come to the conclusion that even if the Lord didn’t send us out here to do what I thought, and if I was completely off base…even though, who am I to be used by the Lord in such a huge way anyways, I am still here Lord, use me Lord in anyway that you can…here I am. When I finally quit trying to do everything, when I finally quit fighting against the possibility that I was wrong…God showed my family the Ministry that He had been trying to guide us to all along. Doors are opening, my Spirit leaps at the very mention of this Ministry and we are moving forward as if it’s already here and built! Hahahha! What we thought was to be a Youth Camp with special emphasis on terminally afflicted children, is actually the Ministering to Beaten, abused, and abandoned young ladies. Everything is absolutely clear to us exactly what we are to do. And we press towards this endeavor with absolutely no funding as of yet, but with full hearts, and the assurance that if God be for us, who can be against us! We received our letters of Incorporation for the “Serenity Girls Ranch” just day before yesterday, everything is progressingly smoothly thus far. We have the land and await Graphic designers to build our Website, design our logo at no cost, and praying for a Godly Architec to be sent our way to design our future 10 bedroom sanctuary for the Ranch. Our vision for the future is to build a 10 bedroom house, a Chapel (already given 20 pews!), a barn and a chicken house, and hopefully a green house! AND SEVERAL MORE 10 bedroom houses! I cannot express to you how overflowing my heart is, that the Lord saw fit to use me & my family for such a tremendous endeavor! There is such a need for safe places for young ladies out here. There are none in our area that any of us out here knows about. We have already welcomed a young woman into our personal home out of necessity/crisis. Thus we hope to become interveners, to receive the ladies before all hope is gone for them, allowing the Lord to break the generational curse that plaques so many.
    I know, Dani, that what I have gone thru does not begin to make a place against what you and your husband have suffered. And it isn’t my desire to make your heartaches seem less nor insignificant then mine. I have lost a husband 32 years ago, and both of my parents are gone. And although I never thought I’d survive such heart wrenching loss; God has mercifully brought me to this place in my life for such a time as this. I have been married to my bestfriend for 30 years and have a wonderful family! I have always ministered to young girls and ladies, and this Ranch is now my heart beat (for lack of better description!) I want you to know that there is TRULY going to be a season of favor for you! Just like I’m in right now. We don’t understand why we have to walk through the fire and the valleys seem far too deep, but God knows. He is STILL in CONTROL. He truly does bottle up those tears…and one day He will turn them loose into a gentle wind. And in their place will be peace like you’ve never known, a peace that passes ALL understanding…God bless you both…I’m praying for you….
    Sandie Ritter

  • Jeff Shumac says:

    Mr. and Mrs. Jernigan,

    On Thanksgiving day 2001, while we all sat around our table and shared God’s blessings and our thankfulness, my wife announced that we we expecting our first child. The following week we announced this wonderful blessing to our church family. We were so happy. Two days later we lost our twins.
    We were totally devastated. For several months, my wife struggled both physically and emotionally. Together, we struggled spiritually. “Why” was always at the edge of my tongue, though I chose not to verbalize this question to God.
    The only comfort for us was through songs like “Devastated By Your Love”, “If I Could Sit With You Awhile”, “Who Am I?”, “You Are Living Water”, and “I Surrender” – all written by Dennis Jernigan.
    Your father is very much a hero in my life, because his testimony helped to bring me out of the same horrific sins that he had committed. And yet, God loved me so very much that he blessed me with a loving wife that I had known for many years.
    So, the “Why?” was never verbalized because I thought that it was my fault. It was punishment for my sinful life. I hated myself for the pain that I thought I had caused in my wife’s life. However, slowly and sweetly, God spoke to me once again as I listened to a song called, “I Can’t Live Without You” and I realized that it wasn’t my fault that we lost two precious lives; it is just how the human body works (or rather, fails to work), and God used it to remind me that He is my all in all and that even my wife could never love me like he does!
    Since then, we had a beautiful daughter named Elyse Cosette (born march 14, 2003), and only two weeks later, we drove to Dover Delaware to show her to Mr. Dennis Jernigan at a Night of Praise!
    God never does anything bad to us. No, He loves us and when the bad comes, He only allows it to bring us closer to Him!
    Praise be to our heavenly Father, whose love is unfathomable and true!
    We lost another little one two years ago. Though the pain was equally as great, the guilt was not there.
    Elyse knows that she is not an only child! She has three siblings that, one day she will meet when the Lord calls for her.
    Mr. and Mrs. Jernigan, you will get through this and become stronger. Of that, I am sure!
    May God richly bless all of your endeavors as you serve Him and lead others to His saving grace.


  • May you feel His arms around you as you grieve. May He bless the words of your testimony. You are bringing Him Glory by declaring His Sovereignty. He is very close to the brokenhearted. May you hear His heart beating while He holds you.

  • Sarah Hazlewood says:

    Oh, wow.
    I was in this exact “place” 10 years ago. Every thanksgiving is hard for me, because that is when we lost our baby.
    My daughter, who is 9 now, was talking about it one day with my husband, while I was out doing “something.” I came home and she said something about “my big sister up in heaven.” I collapsed in tears on the floor. Not tears of pain this time, but tears of joy and release. I came to understand that I had been “segregating” my “two families.” And my daughters comment brought everything to the surface. I beleive God was telling me, “She may not be sitting on your lap, but she is always with you. She is always with Me. You have two children, you just can’t hold one of them in your arms. Go forward from this point as one whole family.”
    God bless you both. Strength and healing, peace and joy.

  • Gennie says:

    Love you guys.