Three years ago. A quiet night. Babies asleep. Jordan asleep. I was just days away from hosting my very first Selah group. Terrified. Unqualified. But doing it. I tried to fall asleep but couldn’t let go of my anxiety. What am I doing? What can I do for these women? I’m not ready. I’m not capable. Not qualified. Not enough.
And God answered me. And wasn’t talking to Him. But he answered: I am qualified. I am capable. I am ready. And I choose you. Pray for them.
So I prayed. For each woman. By name. That night. Every day. All day. Mostly, I did not know them. But they had come. Something had led to this group at this time. And I prayed long prayers of love and light over them.
There was one name God handed me over and over. I fought back. Trying to give equal prayer time to each woman. But God put her on my heart specifically. Chaney. It felt strange, and I only just admitted to her this call to prayer before we met. But I did it. I prayed.
And when I met her, I knew. God had prepared my heart. Nudged to me notice her. To see and hear and know her. We were meant to walk alongside each other. In this season. Specifically. We were meant to stir one another up.
We were fast friends from the start, and today she's my cheerleader, my trusted mentor, and my best gal for emojis and good laughs. She has shared her gifts with Selah behind the scenes for years (nearly all the photography here is her work).
She is my very dear friend, and it's my honor and privilege to share her story with you here. Her words will hurt your heart, open your mind, and heal your spirit.
Here is her story...
Trigger Warning: this story includes Chaney’s personal account of miscarriage & grief thereafter
Hindsight is incredible, isn’t it? It’s an ordinary word that an ordinary person came up with forever ago. I’ve come to believe it’s the universal way God shows us how our prayers are being answered and just how big His love is for each of us. Time and time again I can trace back my most meaningful relationships to a series of seemingly insignificant moments. And in hindsight, I can see God was opening up these small windows of opportunity for people to slowly climb into my life, love me in ways I desperately need, and accept me for exactly who I am. Katie has her own series of tiny moments, some she may know and some she may not know (until now). And in hindsight, I can see how God marched Selah right up and into my life when I needed it the most.
In November of 2015, my husband and I experienced our first miscarriage. Our daughter turned four years old just two weeks before. I experienced loss before, but this instantly felt different and indescribable. It felt so physical, personal, and private. The best words I’ve found to describe the shock of losing our baby were written sporadically in my journal months after:
“You know that feeling right before you cry ‘happy tears’ when you realize your body is innately reacting to something that brings you instant, inexplicable joy? The happy just rises up until it turns into tears. When I realized I was miscarrying our baby, my body did the exact opposite. It tried desperately to shut off. Like it was stalled waiting for something to reverse and go back to the hour before; when none of it was happening.”
At the time, I felt overtaken and numb. I felt stuck in the midst of a chain of events that could not be stopped. I was powerless. It was uncontrollable. In an instant, the core of what makes me, Chaney, started transforming, and I had no idea what to do. I felt the echo of my doctor reminding me constantly of how common miscarriage is. I immediately felt everyone else’s need for me to be okay, for me to be the Chaney they knew and loved. I listened to the ways they were trying to comfort me, I saw them showing up to help. But all I heard was: I should be okay because it’s common. I’ll try again soon. I have a healthy, four year old daughter. I should be grateful for what I have. I should move on quickly because when I’m pregnant again it will hurt less. All I wanted to say in my saddest and most frustrated moments was:
“It’s common. I know this fact. I know the statistics. This is not common for me though. I don’t know if we’ll try again. I think of my healthy, four year old daughter every single moment of the day. At times, I hold her so close I’m convinced she can literally feel how bad her mommy is hurting. I can’t believe I get the chance be her mom. I can’t move on right now because I still don’t understand what happened. One minute I was pregnant. And the next minute I wasn’t. Tell me how to hurt less. Do you know how to move on from that?”
The summer my family started attending church regularly on this little island I was in pure survival mode. I found myself praying and pleading daily for answers to tons of unanswerable questions. I was struggling while my family and my business were thriving. How is that possible? On the outside looking in, you may not have noticed me breaking. But the brokenness I felt was unshakable. I was carrying the weight of something I didn’t want anyone to see, especially my daughter. Not now, not yet in her tiny life.
I wore my perfectionist tendencies and consummate helper attitude every single day to hide the grief and longing I felt. I tried counseling. I consciously tried nourishing my mind and body in healthy way. I relied on the people closest to me. I constantly wrestled with feeling alone, believing my grief was invisible while being surrounded by so many people that loved me. I questioned how those feelings could exist in the same mind, my mind. But they did.
I asked my family, “what do I do next?” None of my coping skills were working. None of the tools I thought I had were making a difference. I told several of my most trusted, call in the middle of the anything friends, that I wanted to be comfortable in my brokenness. To find the comfort I desperately wanted, I had to face how uncomfortable I was with my own grief. I didn’t want to run from it anymore, but I had no idea what that really meant.
I realized my grief desperately needed more than I could give it. That’s when I started asking for help. First, from the God that I already believed gave me endless grace and mercy. But I had to learn to trust Him in brand new ways. And second, I asked for a huge dose of help from the man I loved the most in this world, my husband. Admitting to him that I was not ok and that I desperately needed help was by far the most uncomfortable piece. All I wanted in the world was to take the hurt away from both of us. He acknowledged my pain, he saw my grief was different from his own, and he loved me through all of it. The small conversation we had in our driveway was a crucial turning point. Asking for help, made my life pivot. It created a series of choices, brought new experiences, and invited the most incredible people into my life. It also guided me right to Selah and straight into Katie’s world.
Katie and I met briefly and just once. Her little family had just packed up and moved to Saint Simons. (see her story here) We were connected through my closest college friends, and we went to UGA at the same time. Yet, we never found ourselves in the same place at the same time on this island. I kept seeing these reminders for Selah. Friends and friends of friends interested in it or sharing it. It got to the point where I would see it daily, click on it, not sign up and then repeat the process the next day.
Being honest and vulnerable with my closest people was hard enough. Was I ready to do that all over again with women I didn’t know? I didn’t want to sign up if I couldn’t be this messy version me, that was still actively changing and had no clue where it was going. I was still uncomfortable with it. I worried how it might make other women feel uncomfortable too. But then there was this day when I clicked on a Selah post. Then I clicked a few more times and before I knew it, I was signed up for Katie’s very first Intensive Group. In all my brokenness, I would show up and so would she.
I was one of six women (including Katie) that met every week for six weeks. In a little room at my home church for a couple hours, I learned what a small circle of women could do. I’d prayed for years for God to help me join a unique women’s group. He not only delivered that group but gave me the chance to share my story through what Katie taught all of us. I found the courage to share because Selah was created for just that. It is grounded in practicing gratitude in the tiniest of moments. It embraced creativity in every form and fashion. And it reminded each of us that when women connect on a deeper level it is powerful, inspiring, and vulnerable.
I am forever grateful for those Tuesday nights. For what they taught me, for how they lifted me up, and for how they gave me the chance to grieve in my own way and at my own pace. They taught me to pause and praise amidst the chaos. To be still, to trust, and to know I’m not and have never been alone. Those nights rushed into my life and made me a better listener, a better friend, and a better mother.
Selah continues to teach me so many things, but in that space, in that season of my life, it personally taught me that being brave after loss meant letting go. My version of letting go is best summed up by artist, Morgan Harper Nichols:
“Letting go does not mean you are okay with everything that happened or the way it happened. It means in spite of what happened, you are allowing yourself to find peace, anyway.”
My peace was orchestrated by a series of insignificant moments and unexplainable choices. In hindsight, God used those moments to help me let go. He transformed me and nudged me to braver than I’ve ever been. I learned that letting go meant I needed to fight hard to relinquish the ways I’d always coped. I didn’t need certain pieces of me I was holding onto. Letting go of those pieces allowed me grieve in a tangible, relatable, and transparent way. A way that would change me forever.
I will never be ok with what happen, I will always grieve in my own way, but I have found peace. His nudge to be uncomfortable with my own grief allowed more of His light to pour into my life. Somehow that light continues to shine out to others too. And for that, I wholeheartedly believe there is no greater gift He could give me, my husband and, now, our two daughters.
Chaney Pope is a wife, mom, and lifestyle photographer on Saint Simons island, GA. After a couple years of waiting, Chaney and her husband found out she was pregnant with twins in the fall of 2017. With the guidance of an amazing medical staff, she was monitored continuously while experiencing vanishing twin syndrome. Despite the fear and grief during her pregnancy, one healthy baby continued to thrive. With constant prayer, support, and love, the Pope family welcomed a healthy, baby girl in May 2018. This year Chaney hopes to unite moms through their own stories of miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility, and infant loss. Tethered. is an online community and will start hosting small group gatherings for local moms this fall. If you know of a mom that’s hurting, Tethered. might be the safe place she’s desperately been looking for. Or maybe she needs more time to decide where to tell her story. Listen to her. Love her. And remind her she’s never alone.
For more information on Tethered., visit the website and follow on instagram @tethered_group.