Isaiah 55:8-12 "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,' declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so it is that my word goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.'"
December 4: Dad was in Boston on business and I knew. I just knew. A positive pregnancy test revealed that I knew right! You were there and my fatigue and nausea and headaches had a special reason. I decided to do the unthinkable: I wouldn't tell dad right away! The special news of you joining our family would be wrapped as a gift for him to discover on Christmas.
December 25: Your brothers and sister were running around the house playing with each other and their new gifts. Dad opened a small gift that contained the exciting news you were growing in me. He looked at me and said with surprise, "No way! How long have you known? Are you serious?" I smiled, gave dad a big hug, and told him it was true.
You'd been growing in me for seven weeks and would be in our arms in early August. We'd hoped and prayed and longed for you for many, many months but it wasn't until December that God chose to answer those prayers. And we were over the moon about it!
December 28: I called to schedule my first prenatal visit in another week and a half. I also mentioned that I was quite sick and vomiting frequently... could they pretty please make an exception and call in an anti-nausea prescription before I came in for an actual pregnancy confirmation visit? I was leaving in a couple of days for Passion 2013 and taking the edge of the nausea was a make-it or break-it need. The doctor agreed, called the prescription in, and I was on my way to CVS within the hour. Thank you, Jesus!
December 29: As a fun way of telling your siblings you were on the way, I wrapped some baby items for each of them to open. As obvious as I thought it would be, it actually took them a while to guess you were in my tummy. And, just the day before when I took a few minutes to rest on the couch Grady Lee commented that "you must have a baby in your tummy, Mom, because you are resting in the middle of the day and you don't normally do that." I knew I couldn't hide my always-tired-and-want-to-sleep state much longer, much less my numerous dashes to the bathroom because of pregnancy nausea.
Your siblings were all very excited: Grady Lee ran to the calendar to start a new countdown; Micah rattled off several names if you were a boy or a girl; and Annalyse couldn't stop lifting my shirt to touch my tummy and try to kiss you deep inside.
December 31: Grandma flew in for a week to watch your brothers and sister while Dad and I joined 28 college students from our church to spend the week at Passion 2013 in Atlanta. We enjoyed dinner out at Olive Garden that evening, and while waiting for dinner to arrive, your brothers gave Grandma some letters to open. Grandma eagerly opened the first envelope and in a matter of seconds was in tears: "Grandma, Did you know there is a baby in my mom's tummy? Love, Micah." She was happy with the joy of knowing there was going to be another grandchild for her to love and hold!
January 1-4: Dad and I left early on January 1st to drive to Atlanta and join 60,000 other college age adults for a week of intense worship and teaching and prayer and growth. Because this was my fourth year at Passion, I was excited and anticipating the time of spiritual change and challenge.
I also knew the conference had potential to be quite interesting since you were part of me now. I mean, how many other people in the stadium would enter with baggies buried in their purse for moments of unexpected vomiting? Would it be obvious that I was taking a gaggle of prenatal vitamins and nausea medicine each morning and throughout the day? Would my constant snacking raise questions? Would I be able to stifle my yawns because starting my day at 6:30 am and ending it at 2:30 am wasn't ideal for this tired mamma?
I thought about sharing the exciting news with our group, but decided against it. I didn't want me to be a distraction. I didn't want me getting unnecessary attention when the focus of our time was to look to Jesus. And so it was just Dad and I that knew. And it was a fun secret to have.
January 5: I came home from Passion and was beyond tired. I woke up in the middle of the night soaked in sweat but freezing cold at the same time. My body ached and I couldn't stop shivering. My temperature read 101.6 and I prayed this was something simple and something to pass quickly. I know God heard my prayers, but he had other plans.
January 6-14: I don't remember the last time I was so sick. And I don't remember ever being so sick and still needing to care for my family, who was also sick. Your brothers, your sister, your Dad, and I all took turns with fevers, aches, chills, vomiting, congestion, sore throats, coughs, and fainting spells. Just as one of us seemed to round a corner and gain strength, someone else would take a turn for the worse and display a new symptom of trouble. We all visited the doctor and we all took a range of medicines and antibiotics.
It was a long 10 days and I messed up in several places: I forgot about a dentist appointment, my OB visit, your Grandpa's birthday, your brothers speech therapy, and nursery commitments. Apparently having a fever and feeling delirious really did a number to my mind!
God extended such grace to our family during this time. Friends brought meals and made numerous phone calls to check in. Family members, who were hundreds and hundreds of miles away, did all they could to love and encourage and help and pray.
January 15: I woke up earlier than usual this morning to try to get several things done before taking your siblings to join several other families for a field trip to the Krispy Kreme factory. My always-hungry and always-craving pregnancy body had a selfish desire to go. I didn't really care if your brothers learned anything that day, I just wanted lots of fresh, hot donuts!
As I was making breakfast I began to feel short, but sharp, pains in my side. Because I was hurrying around the kitchen and trying to get several things done at once I didn't pay much attention to it. A few minutes later, however, I began to realize that the short pains were becoming long, cramping pains and that I was bleeding. My heart sank. My breath stopped. My prayers rattled fast. My hands reached for the phone. The doctor wasn't overly concerned: at 10 1/2 weeks of pregnancy, light bleeding and cramping can be normal as the placenta develops and the uterus grows. He told me to lay flat and avoid any unnecessary stress or activity for the day. I reminded him I had three small children, but that I'd do my best.
And this is where I saw Jesus hold our home and our family close to him. He gave your brothers and your sister a sense that today was a day to play quietly. To play nicely. To play inside. I was able to rest and lay on my bed or the couch for most of the day. By the time Dad came home at dinner, I noticed only light spotting and by the time I went to bed that night, there was nothing. The cramping was gone and the bleeding was gone.
I fell asleep thanking Jesus that he'd allowed today to happen as smoothly as possible with three little ones and that, as best as I knew, everything with you was still okay.
January 16: I left early this morning for a dentist appointment (remember the one that I forgot the week prior when I was so sick?) and to run several errands. Your brothers and sister went next door to play at a neighbors house for those couple of hours, which is always a treat for them.
When I returned just before lunch, I knew in my heart things weren't right: I was bleeding again and feeling heavy cramping. I made a fast lunch, put Annalyse down for a nap, and told the boys to watch a cartoon while I made a phone call. The tears came fast and heavy because I knew. No one had to tell me; I just knew.
I called the doctor and although the schedule for ultrasound and office visits was fully booked at all four of the clinic locations, God did something that allowed me to get in at 3:30 that afternoon. Dad was teaching a seminar all day and I hated the thought of calling him and asking if he could come with me. He was teaching and he was focused and he was busy. But I knew I couldn't handle this appointment on my own; I needed my best friend to hold my hand and listen to the doctor's conclusions.
A short ultrasound revealed what we knew but prayed against: you weren't growing anymore and you weren't going to join our family in six months. We cried and we hugged and we asked lots of questions to be sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that your life had stopped. Dad and I needed to know with certainty before we made decisions on how to go forward.
January 17: I woke up this morning with a heavy heart. I had slept poorly because of the pain and discomfort. Mostly though, I slept poorly because my mind couldn't rest and my thoughts couldn't focus. You weren't with us anymore and my heart ached in unexpected ways.
A precious friend stepped in to care for your siblings for the day. In fact, she didn't even ask if she could help, she simply told me she was going to help. Having walked this road a couple of times before, she anticipated what my needs would be and knew the perfect ways to help. She met us near the hospital first thing in the morning - in the pouring rain - to pray with us and to take your brothers and sister for the day.
Dad and I drove across the street to the hospital, checked in, and got ready for the minor surgery. Dad was full of grace and tenderness and compassion - praying over me, reading Scripture to me, and doing all he could to encourage. I don't remember saying goodbye to him because I was already asleep, but he assured me he kissed my forehead and said he loved me. And, I know your Dad loved you, too. The minute he learned about you he loved you, and the months leading up to you he prayed for you and loved the idea of you someday joining our family.
Surgery was quick and without complication, although I had a difficult time waking up. Previous surgeries should have served as a reminder that anesthesia and narcotics never work well with me. Because of this, we were in recovery for several extra hours. I was sore and tired, but happy, when the nurses said I was able to go home.
Our friend drove your siblings to meet us - still in the pouring rain - and radiated Jesus' love when she hugged me, smiled, and said, "It gets easier. I promise." I knew she was right and I appreciated her tenderness.
January 17 and the days that followed: During this time, friends demonstrated immeasurable love and help. Meals were delivered. Kids were watched. Cards were sent. Calls were made. Jesus wrapped me up tight with the gift of tangible love from His people. I will never be able to say thank you enough or hug them tight enough.
Today: Today is just over one month since saying goodbye to you. It's been a long four weeks in my mind but a fast four weeks in the day-to-day. At moments I find myself wondering and thinking and crying over you; and at other moments I'm so busy with life in general that you aren't on my mind. And I'm thankful for that.
Thankful that the image of God is so brilliantly stamped on my heart that I can't not miss you. You were his creation - a moving little person with a beating heart. But, I'm thankful that God knows my heart and his Spirit is able to work within me to strengthen and encourage and prepare me for tomorrow. I wake up with joy because I know you are with Him and I have the chance to serve Him.
During this past month I've realized in simple ways, just how perfect God's timing is. For example, I didn't have the heartache of saying goodbye to you before Christmas. Our family was able to enjoy the holiday without the pain losing you.
I didn't have the heartache of saying goodbye to you before Passion 2013. I know I wouldn't have physically been able to attend Passion and I certainly wouldn't have been emotionally ready to go. God knew the spiritual training and encouragement I needed from the special week with Him.
I didn't have the heartache of saying goodbye to you during Passion. I cringe to think of how difficult it would have been, not just for me, but for Dad and the 28 other college students that attended Passion with us.
I didn't have the heartache of saying goodbye to you immediately after Passion while I was so sick. I can't imagine the strain, on all levels, of saying goodbye to you while our whole family was so ill.
Once Christmas celebrations were over; once my heart was full with renewed spiritual encouragement; once my body was strong and healthy; and once the rest of our family was healthy, that's when God chose to reveal that your life had stopped. The weight of saying goodbye came at a time when my focus was on God's face.
And really, I never truly said goodbye to you because the Bible makes it clear that I don't need to say goodbye to someone if I know where they are. You're with Jesus. Perfect and complete.
I think, perhaps, one of the most incredible details in all of this is this:
When the technician and the doctor performed the ultrasound, they were able to determine, almost to the day, when your life stopped. They concluded that you stopped growing on either January 3rd or 4th. Did you catch that? God brought you to Himself during Passion 2013. During a time when my mind was being challenged to love Him more, when my heart was being stretched to pursue Him more, and when my hands were up and open in worship to Him.
God ushered you into His presence while I was enjoying His presence in the best earth has to offer. Nothing about that is coincidence. Rather, it magnifies the greatness of God and confirms that every detail of life happens in a grander framework fully orchestrated by God.
I love you, Little One. Your eleven weeks in me were enough to remind me that God gives life and chooses its duration; that God sees my heart and knows my needs; and that God has managed and always will manage the finite details of life.
To Him be all glory - great is His faithfulness.