Facing the devastating loss of your most precious dreams

Part 2 of an interview with Lindsey R. Dennis,
Author of Buried Dreams

At 20 weeks pregnant, Lindsey R. Dennis and her husband were told the child she was carrying would not live due to a fatal diagnosis. Later, in another stunning blow, they were told the same news with her second pregnancy. Through the crushing of their hopes and dreams, they came to know the kind of resurrection hope that can rise from the grave. This experience of infant loss revealed how sorrow and suffering are instruments in the hands of God to forge in us a greater joy and hope than one can ever know. This kind of joy can only be discovered when we walk through the deep pain of burying our most precious dreams.

Buried Dreams offers an uplifting perspective, sharing how devastating loss of personal dreams can give way to unimaginable hope and how death can give way to life. Framing her own story of staggering loss and soaring hope with biblical perspective, Dennis highlights that we can never plan for the unexpected turns of this life that sometimes lead to great personal suffering, but we can reach for the One who is there with us in the loss.

Q: How is Buried Dreams different from other stories of loss and grief?

You really see how integral our community was in our journey and how they came along side of us to support us not only in our grief, but also in celebrating the lives of our children. This spirit of celebration and army of people rising up to be His hands and feet is not something I have seen much in books on loss and grief. I’ve cried through most books I’ve read on suffering. While you’ll definitely experience the weight of the sadness of our story, I think you’ll be surprised at the things that make you laugh and smile along the way.

Q: It seems counterintuitive that sorrow and suffering would be pathways to hope. Why do you believe this is true?

Hope is quite literally the expectation of something happening. The hope I speak of in this book is “the confident expectation of the promises of Jesus both that we have received now and that we know are coming.”

I think often when we experience suffering in our culture, we just want to get out of it. We fail to understand and see that our response to suffering reveals what we believe not just about life, but about God. It is only in seasons of suffering we see the questions that have perhaps always been in our hearts begin to surface.

What is hope? Can I really trust God with my life? What does it mean that He is the hope that doesn’t disappoint? I want the reader to not miss what God may have for them in these often-unwelcome seasons, but to really see them as integral. Often in this life, in our broken world, and throughout scripture you see glory and joy spoken of in connection with suffering. In Hebrews 12:2, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” In 1 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For these light and momentary afflictions are producing for you an eternal weight of glory.” In Romans 5:3-5 “and suffering produces perseverance and perseverance character and character, hope.”

For some reason, this is how God is redeeming our pain, juxtaposing His hope and joy next to suffering. They always go together. We must learn how to live in the tension of both. I think you’ll see my own journey of wrestling with that tension as well as becoming resolved and surrendering to the mystery of the connection between suffering and hope.

Q: How did your local community come along side you and Kevin during your time of grief? How did your community grow to a huge online following of fellow Christians praying for you and your family?

Our church community really rallied around us when we found out each of the girls’ conditions. While I was pregnant with Sophie, one of my friends from church, Jennafer, created a secret “Celebrating Sophie” Facebook group where people would sign up each week to help us celebrate her life. The one thing we really wanted to make sure we did was celebrate each week she was alive and with us. Kevin and I came up with a small list of things, but our community really elevated our celebration meter. They really entered in with us and did the same with Dasah. Though our journey with Dasah was different, our community continued to rally around us in prayer and encouragement. They really lifted our arms to hope and life during our grief by their constant presence, encouragement and willingness to enter the pain with us.

I had just started a blog a few weeks before we found out Sophie’s condition but hadn’t posted anything yet. When we found out, I knew there would be lots of questions and people would want to know how we were doing. Instead of having to field those questions over and over, I wanted there to be a central place to let people in on our lives and our daughter’s life. My first blog post was of her diagnosis. Within 24 hours it had thousands of views, and I was shocked. As the weeks and months went on, I shared how I was doing spiritually and the ways we were celebrating her life each week. It became an outlet for me to grieve, but also a small offering of hope to others. In many ways, I felt like I had nothing to offer people in the midst of my weariness, but I could at least offer how Jesus was meeting me in the darkness. Something about that resonated with readers and people from all over the country and world began to follow our story. I still can’t wrap my mind around how our story touched men and women from so many different walks of life, but I think when we offer God the little we have, we are often surprised by the ways He chooses to multiply the little. That’s simply what He did with my blog. He took my offering of my brokenness and pain and allowed it to be a means to show hundreds of thousands of people how He is a God who meets us in the darkness and is worthy of our lives.

Q: For those who followed your blog through your experiences, what new content will they read in the book?

Buried Dreams is focused not only on my story with our girls, but how I was experiencing God and wrestling with who He was and what He had chosen for our story. I think those who followed my story online will see a greater picture of my own journey of faith and be invited into some of the deeper places of questioning and pain that I never really got into on my blog at the time. It was just too raw then, especially after Dasah died.

They will also see some pieces of our journey that I never shared such as what it was really like in the hospital and the day we buried Sophie. I never wrote about that on the blog. There are also details of some of things going on in my head in the midst of the celebrating of our girls lives that I never shared. There will be a lot that is familiar, but there will be a lot of new things as well, along with some pieces of what God has done since.

Q: You talk about how there aren’t pretty bows tied up at the end.  Why is that important to you for readers to understand?

It may not be encouraging for readers to know, but I think many of us want a “how to” or resolution to our suffering. However, for those who have deeply suffered the loss of dreams, I think they know that no answer or pretty bow will bring the comfort they long for, at least that was true for me.

The bow I did discover was Jesus, and He is a pretty big bow, yet I want readers to understand that I never got answers to my questions. I still don’t understand why God allowed such pain in my life, but He has given me glimpses into the bigger story He is writing. What I did get was more of Him, and confirmation that I am just a small part in an incredible story He is writing for all the ages. Job didn’t understand His story in light of eternity, Abraham didn’t understand His, Moses nope. Mary. She understood such a limited view of how God has allowed us to be a part of bringing His glory to all the world. And we will not know or understand it fully this side of heaven. I think it is important for the reader who is walking through their own pain to realize it frees us to lay our questions at the feet of Jesus, perhaps over and over again, and embrace that the only answer He give is Himself. Then, we have to let that be enough.

I think we want pretty bows so we don’t have to deal with the pain and sorrow grief, death and disappointment leave behind. This is a lifelong journey, but what I want the reader to see is my own story of wrestling and also learning to persevere in this life. In a culture of quick fixes and always looking for silver linings, it’s important to learn to preserve and sit in the questions and ambiguity of this life. I think that is a lost art for believers today. Will I still follow God when He doesn’t make sense to me? How do I follow God when He doesn’t work like I think He should?

Q: You write early on with great conviction, but it seems, continue to wrestle and even wonder if you really believe the things you said earlier. How do you hope the reader experiences your struggle?

Sometimes I would write, and I felt like a hypocrite… did I still believe everything I was writing? This is why the pretty bows/the silver linings are bogus. We serve a God who allows us and wants us know Him, but a lifetime of knowing Him will only touch the surface of who He is.

I think what I have and continue to experience in the Christian life is that it is not a straight line and it is not even an upward line that never falls back down. I’ve tried to depict authentic Christianity—it’s not “I arrive” and now I’m good. It’s a constant drawing near to God, it’s tall mountains, deep valleys, quicksand and up and down we go. Again, our culture likes a forward motion that looks like I’m “getting better” for lack of a better expression, but I think what all these twists and turns are doing in our lives is not “getting us better” but “drawing us nearer” to our God. We are quick to turn around when it gets hard or struggle with the same things over and over. The Christian life is a constant pressing in, a constant posture towards God. This is the life of faithfulness as a believer, not arriving as some “phantom Christian,” but simply learning to trust God, to draw near to Him in whatever He calls us to, mundane or great, joyful or painful.

Learn more about Buried Dreams and Lindsey Dennis at www.vaporandmist.com. She can also be found on Facebook (Vapor and Mist), Twitter (@lindseyrenae) and Instagram (@lindseydennis_).