Death is Swallowed Up in Victory

Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?

Today is the first day of the autumn season. A year ago, I sat in a hospital, swallowing back tears, repeating to myself the lines from that famous psalm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” It was the closest I could get to praying in that moment. I couldn’t keep from crying and a kind nurse sat beside me on the edge of the bed. He brought me tissues and a glass of water, told me it was okay to be scared. He told me how beautiful my little girl was, how lucky I was to have her. He told me that he’d never been able to have children but, later in life, he’d married a woman with two sons and become a dad for the first time. I don’t remember his name and I probably wouldn’t recognize him if I saw him again but I’ve never forgotten his kindness.

The next morning, I held my son for the first and last time. Sixteen weeks old and so amazingly perfect.

A year has passed and while the rawness of pain and grief has dulled, I still think about that little baby every day. This past year has been hard and good and heartbreaking and joyous. Peter and I have held tight to one another and I’m so thankful that we have each other to share all of this life. I’m so thankful for our Pearl and all the life and laughter she brings to us. On my darkest days last autumn, I knew I still had to get out of bed, still had to make breakfast because of her, for her and for my husband. That no matter how broken I felt, my life was still needed and valuable.

I struggled to pray in those early months. We sing a song sometimes at church with a chorus that declares, “How I love You, how I love You, You have not forsaken me” and those words seemed to choke me when we sang it in worship last fall. I could not get them out. I felt that God had forsaken me. I felt like God was not who I thought He was. After a life time of Sunday school answers regarding the goodness and love of Christ, I was painfully confronted with the reality of “Where is God in our pain? Does He still love me”

Pearl has a children’s Bible that sums up the arrival of sin in our world as the moment that people began to question, “Does God love me?” Satan planted this doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve and it has dwelt there ever since. Reading to her one night recently, this struck me as the fundamental fear that took hold of my life last autumn. Does God still love me, even when He allowed this horrible thing to happen to us?

There are a lot of answers to these questions and the scope is greater than I can delve into here. For many months I longed for a large and dramatic reply from the Lord. I wanted to hear His voice, feel His hand. I’ve had those moments before; I had a couple of them in the months following my first miscarriage in 2014. But this time that moment never came.

Instead, people showed up. Friends brought soup. They sent texts and Facebook messages. Friends on the other side of the world made time for phone calls and checked in with me. When the days stretched out in emptiness, others made time for me, often people I didn’t know well. A neighbourhood mom I didn’t know well yet hugged me as I cried at the park. Some of these people are Christians, some are not, but in each one the love of Christ was steadily revealed to me.

There was no miraculous moment where things got better. There isn’t with grief. It is a slow and steady climb that I will still be on years from now. I will always wonder about that lost little one. I will always miss and grieve over what could have been. There is so much I don’t understand about how God works and His purposes. Yet I do believe, with all my soul, that He was with us every step. I believe He used the people around me – which included doctors and nurses and a trained psychologist because those are necessary too sometimes – and He walked those dark days with us. I believe God grieved with Peter and I for our son and I believe that we will be reunited one day beyond this world. What that will look like, I have no idea, but I know that death is not the end.

In early January of this year, walking with Pearl on a grey, cloudy day, I felt at peace for the first time in a long time. The sadness didn’t vanish but it was the moment when I knew I would be okay, that life would continue, that joy and celebration were still a part of that. And life does continue. It was not long after that I discovered I was pregnant again.

I won’t lie: getting pregnant again so soon has made this year much easier. It doesn’t extinguish the sadness but it has made the milestones gentler and it has turned 2017 into a year of hope. I hope to share more of what this pregnancy has been like but today I am almost 38 weeks pregnant and filled with joy at the thought of meeting this new person any day now. My due date is Thanksgiving weekend and it feels very fitting.

Today, one year later, I remember and I grieve for what has been lost. I’ll be thinking of that little one as I wait to meet this new little one currently kicking around in my belly. I am learning to praise God in all things and as the season turns once more, I keep working to turn to Him, to trust Him in all matters. Death has no victory here.

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“The Lord was with Joseph”

We’ve lurched our way into 2017 in our household with bad colds for Pearl and I. Peter and I made it to 10:30 on New Year’s Eve and I spent most of January 1st in bed. Pearl picked up the illness from me and has had a rough couple of nights recently. Despite that, I’m hopeful for 2017. I’ve set some goals (I don’t know why that sounds better to me than resolutions but it does) and while the year may not look the way I hoped it would last summer, I am still looking forward to what it does bring.

Our house, morning of Christmas Eve.

Our house, morning of Christmas Eve.

As we enter into a new year, the story of Joseph has been on my mind. I know, not exactly seasonally appropriate but here’s what’s been on my mind.

Growing up, I heard this story a lot. Joseph and his dreams, Joseph and his colourful coat. Joseph and his brothers, more dreams, his success in Egypt. It’s told as a success story. It all worked out because in the end Joseph saves his family from famine. His brothers betray him, sell him into slavery, and lie to their father but it has a happy ending.

That’s not a false telling of the story but what’s struck me recently is that this couldn’t have been God’s ideal plan for Joseph and his family. Joseph is the son of Jacob, the great-grandson of Abraham. For four generations God has been promising to expand this particular family. God has promised that a great king will come from Abraham’s line, that Abraham descendants will be more numerous than the stars in the sky. It was never in God’s plan to let this family die of starvation three generations later. God could have kept them alive and safe in their own land. But He didn’t because Joseph’s brothers sinned hugely. Jealous of their younger brother, they could barely restrain themselves from killing him. Instead, they sold him into slavery in a foreign land where he suffered for years. He served in other men’s households. He was accused of crimes he didn’t commit. He spent years in prison. Genesis tells us that Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh. His entire youth was spent in slavery and imprisonment.

We know less about what Joseph’s brothers were up to in that time but what we do know points to them suffering too. Aside from a devastating famine, we know that Judah at least has turned from his brothers and raised sons who are “wicked in the sight of the Lord” and things degrade (Genesis 38, that’s a whole other story). We know also that the brothers are wracked with guilt for what they did to Joseph. When they stand in Joseph’s presence in Egypt and don’t recognize him, one of their first reactions to Joseph testing their honesty is to recall how Joseph begged for his life and they didn’t listen. No matter how many years have passed, his cries still echo in their ears.

My point is that none of this would have been what God wanted for this chosen family. God uses it, yes; Joseph remains obedient to God and faithful in his worship no matter the circumstances and God raises him up to a position where he’s able to help his family. But I don’t think God’s perfect plan involved those years of suffering for the brothers. It didn’t involve what followed for the Israelites – enslavement, escape, wandering through the desert.

Park time on Christmas Eve.

Park time on Christmas Eve.

I take comfort in this because I don’t think the way 2016 unfolded was God’s perfect plan for my life. We live in a sinful, fallen world, just as Joseph did and that means death and decay and broken hearts. It’s so hard to understand why an all-powerful God doesn’t step in and fix these things but as Christian we also believe that He is doing so. That when He sent His Son to die for us on the cross, that was the beginning of fixing all things. Making all things new. We’re not there yet and so we suffer. We suffer because we know that things are not as they should be. Just as Joseph suffered, knowing that his life should have been different, even as he gained power in Pharaoh’s court.

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Snowy Christmas Day in Vancouver.

Joseph trusted that God could redeem what had happened to him. That enslavement and betrayal was not the end of the story. We don’t know what Joseph’s relationship was like with his brothers after they were all reunited in Egypt. I can’t imagine that it was ever as good as it could have been. There are wounds that are not healed this side of Heaven. But the healing process can begin on this side. God works in our lives now, despite the sin, despite the roadblocks we try to put in His way. He works now. He is working now.

A ferry ride home.

A ferry ride home.

I am excited to see how God unfolds His plan for our family in 2017.

(The story of Joseph is find in Genesis 37-47.)

Christmas is Coming

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We’ve had more snow around here this winter than is normal for our little coastal community. Granted, it’s still not that much snow but we’ve been enjoying it nonetheless.

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Every time it’s started to snow, I’ve bundled Pearl into her snow suit so we can go out and enjoy it as much as possible. Around here, you never know how long the snow is going to stick around.

We are in the final countdown to Christmas now and getting more and more excited. Pearl doesn’t really know yet what’s coming but she loves the lights and the fact that there’s a tree in our house and I can’t wait to see her face Christmas morning.

Watching the snow come down.

Watching the snow come down.

Christmas feels a little different this year. As thankful as I am and as much as I have to look forward to, there is a sadness. It has been a hard year. This last season has been really hard in our little house. Every day I can’t help but think about where I should be by now in my pregnancy and every day I grieve the loss of our little boy. Some days I feel surrounded by pregnancy announcements and friends excitedly waiting for their little ones. And I’m happy for them because I love them and I love their babies but it’s really hard too and I wish my happiness for them wasn’t also tinged with jealousy.

And so, when I’m struggling with those feelings, it’s easy to look at the Christmas story as yet another story about a woman who can have a baby when I can’t. And yes, I know, it’s ridiculous to be jealous of Mary – a virgin who unexpectedly becomes pregnant with her own Saviour – but for someone who has had two out of three very planned, very desired pregnancies end in loss, I envy those who can get pregnant so easily.

I’ve found myself skipping forward to the story of Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a woman I can sympathize with right now. A woman who probably spent years trying, unsuccessfully, to have a baby. A woman who had probably long ago given up hope. Or maybe a woman who held on, silently, secretly, to a ridiculous hope for her longed-for baby. A woman whose husband was so shocked by the news that she would have a child that the angel Gabriel literally had to shut him up. That’s a story I understand.

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This year, too, I’ve been thinking about the Christmas story itself a little differently. We like to focus on the starlight, the lambs, the newborn baby. Those things are all important and beautiful but it’s not the whole story. Some focus on the reality of what it must have been like to give birth in a stable, far from home. The stink of it. The fear. How helpless Mary might have felt to be given such a responsibility when she couldn’t even find a room in which to deliver her son.

At Christmas we celebrate the arrival of Christ. That’s a good and wondrous thing to  celebrate and we should probably celebrate it more. But this year I’ve been wondering what that moment was like for God. To send His son into our sinful, filthy world as a helpless baby. To send Him to grow up, to suffer, to die. This year, God is whispering in my ear, I, too, have lost a son.

There is no path I can trod that my God has not walked. There is no road I can take that my God does not walk with me. That is part of the Christmas story. It’s beautiful, yes, but it’s messy and it’s painful and death is part of it. The really beautiful part is that the story doesn’t end on Christmas Day and it doesn’t end with death.

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I don’t really know what it means that I will meet my baby one day in Heaven. I don’t know what that looks like – what he’ll look like – and so I don’t find that much comfort there. What I find comfort in is knowing that the Lord embraces those who mourn. I find comfort in knowing that He holds my baby – all my babies – in the palm of His hand. That He holds me there too.

I know this is not the most uplifting Christmas post but Christmas is still Christmas even in the midst of grief. God is still good.

Camera timer family photo before our church Christmas dinner.

Camera timer family photo before our church Christmas dinner.

Monday Thoughts

Lots of puddle weather recently.

Lots of puddle weather recently

Grief is a strange, lurking beast. While I’m prepared for it in many ways, it surprises me at so many other moments. Sometimes I can ready myself, steel my thoughts against it. And sometimes it simply appears.

Pearl and I went to get our flu shots today and I’d forgotten one of the questions they always ask:

“Is there any chance that you’re pregnant?”

Sometimes, I’m completely undone by these moments. By a reference to pregnancy loss in a television show or stumbling across a pregnancy announcement on Facebook. And sometimes I can take a deep breath and carry on with my day.

Fortunately, today was a deep breath kind of day. “No. I’m not pregnant,” I told the woman who was just doing her job. Pearl and I got our shots. Pearl was brave and only cried a little and then enjoyed playing with bubbles and fell in love with the stuffed Panda the nurse gave her. Today was a good day.

This is the box her Duplo came in. She loves to sit in it.

This is the box her Duplo came in. She loves to sit in it.

Pearl is 20 months and a bit and is full of personality. Her vocabulary is slowly increasing (this morning she said cheese!) but even without words she knows how to make herself understood. She is full of energy and affection and laughter.

Big Bear going for a ride in Peter's backpack.

Big Bear going for a ride in Peter’s backpack.

She’s in a swim class this fall and loves it and we have lots of fun. Bath times are full of kicking and splashing now too. She meows whenever she sees a picture of a cat and will set up tea parties for her four best stuffed animal friends. She hates getting dressed most mornings and wants to wear her pyjamas all day. She likes to brush her own teeth. She continues to want to live on a diet of carbs and cheese but will eat almost anything in smoothie form.

Pearl’s most consistent words are “dad” and “mum”. It took a while for her to say “mum” and now that she does it makes me so happy.

She loves this guy a lot.

She loves this guy a lot.

I’m reading a lot of the Psalms lately, working my way through slowly, using those beautiful poems as a jumping off place for my own prayers. I find a lot of comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in my sorrows, that God has heard and answered other anguished cries.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer,
and by night I find no rest.

Yet You are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In You our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and You delivered them.
To You they cried and were rescued;
in You they trusted and were not put to shame.

Psalm 22:1-5

This past weekend, Peter and I got to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of friends. “Only forty-three and a half more years to go!” we told each other. I’m sure you don’t get to 50 years without some ups and downs and some sorrow and lots of laughter. (I can tell you that you don’t get to six years of marriage without those things.) I’m so glad that God brought such a good partner into my life to make this journey.

I just realized that almost all of these photos are Peter and Pearl. That says a lot about what a fantastic dad he is, I think. But just for good measure, here’s one of Pearl and I:

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday!

Thanks In All Things

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This past weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada. I have so many things to be thankful for – I wake up each morning in a warm house, in a beautiful little town, with my husband and daughter. I know how fortunate I am.

At the same time, it’s hard to give thanks right now. It’s hard for me to feel thankful in all things. Which, as a Christian, I’m called to do. I don’t know how I’m supposed to be thankful for the loss of a baby – or if that’s even what I’m supposed to strive for.

In the days before Pearl’s birth I remember reading the story of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3 and being comforted by the fact that we worship a God who enters the furnace with us. We were saved from that furnace and given a healthy baby. The men in Daniel were also saved; although they were thrown to the fire, they were unharmed.

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire…They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Daniel 3: 26b, 27b

But what do you do when you are not saved from the fire?

I don’t think I’m expected to give thanks for the fire itself. I do believe that my God weeps with me. The Bible never ever chastises the mournful. Jesus himself wept at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11). In Exodus 23, the Promised Land is described as a place where none are barren and there is no miscarriage. Clearly we don’t live there yet. I find it comforting that God’s perfect plan doesn’t involve the loss of my baby. And I find it confusing that an omnipotent God allowed that loss.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 3:17-18

In Daniel, the men declare that they believe God will rescue them. But even if He doesn’t, they will not turn from Him. They are thrown into the fire and a fourth figure is seen in the furnace with them. That is the strange and confusing and beautiful part of our faith. We are not always saved from the fire but we are never alone in it.

I will not be burned up by this fire. I will not bow down to the gods of grief and loss. I am here right now but this is not my forever. Slowly, slowly, I will give thanks. God help me.

This weekend we skipped town for a couple of days with some very wonderful friends in Victoria. Pearl’s first trip to the place where Peter and I met and fell in love and spent the first year of our marriage.

Downtown Victoria Harbour

Downtown Victoria Harbour

We were fortunate enough to be able to fly by seaplane from Sechelt, which makes the trip so much faster. Pearl’s first time on a seaplane went very well, though she refused to wear the ear protection they provided for her.

Telling me to catch up on a walk with friends.

Telling me to catch up on a walk with friends.

There was a lot we didn’t get to do in our quick trip but we did get to catch up with some of my favourite people, meet a new-ish baby, visit my old workplace/Canada’s largest bookstore, and walk a little through a lovely city.

Tried to take a picture of these two at the bookstore and Pearl is picking her nose.

Tried to take a picture of these two at the bookstore and Pearl is picking her nose.

Also, Pearl discovered she can put her hands in her pockets so please enjoy one of my favourite pictures ever:

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There is a lot to be thankful for.

Life right now

At the beginning of the summer I woke from a dream in which I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. Being a dream, the pregnancy test involved neon lights and a flashing plus sign. And when I woke and took a test in real life, it was positive too.

All summer I carried that baby within me. Peter and I waited a few weeks before we slowly began to share our news and, for a little while, it was a lovely secret that just the two of us knew. All summer, we thought and planned for our family of four. Our baby would arrive shortly after Pearl’s second birthday and I was so excited about that age gap, though nervous at the same time as to how we would work it all out in our two bedroom house. “We’ll figure it out and we’ll learn,” we said, “Just like we did with Pearl.”

This past week I have packed up the maternity clothes I started to pull out. I have crossed pre-natal vitamins off my grocery list. I have stared at the ultrasound pictures stuck on our fridge a dozen times a day because I can’t bear to take them down. I wake up every morning and it hits me again.

When I miscarried for the first time, early in 2014, we told only a few people close to us. The day after I had an ultrasound to confirm the miscarriage, I went to work. I didn’t know how to talk about it and there didn’t seem to be space to share our loss, no matter how real and awful it felt for us. I thought at the time that I only knew two other women who had miscarried. In the time since then, I’ve learned how horrifically common miscarriage is and how many women are living with the memories of babies they never got to meet.

Experiencing a second trimester miscarriage makes this loss all the more public. There’s been no hiding it, nor do I want to hide it. We made our public announcements – we shared on Facebook, we told our co-workers, I shared about pregnancy here. I don’t regret any of that because our baby was real and we were so happy to be waiting for him. It felt impossible at first to have to come back and tell people that our baby is gone. And it has been very, very hard. I have avoided people in grocery line-ups so that I could just buy milk without having to have that conversation. I have cried at the playground telling a neighbourhood mom I don’t know very well. I have had to respond to heartfelt congratulations with the news of one of the worst things that ever happened to me.

But so often the response has been, “It happened to me too.” From nurses at the hospital to close friends to almost strangers, other parents have shared a little of their own stories. (And I take great comfort in the fact that, for none of them, was miscarriage the end of their story.)

Honestly, I am struggling right now and I think I will be for a long time yet. And I think that’s okay but it’s still so hard. I am trying to pray and I am struggling to pray. God feels very quiet and very far away right now. But Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us with “groanings too deep for words” and I take comfort in that too. I am trying, too, to remember that God speaks and moves through His church. That His hand and heart are behind each prayer offered on our behalf, each kind e-mail, text, and message I’ve received. Behind the meals brought, the coffees bought, the hugs given. If you are a praying type, please pray for our family. Please pray for me until I can get some prayers out on my own. The Bible tells us that God is loving and merciful and just and that His ways are not our own. I know this to be true at the core of my being but I’m also angry and heartbroken. This is a hard path to walk.

If you read here occasionally for book reviews and whatnot, that’s okay too and I’m glad you’re here. I’ll still be reading books and sharing about them. I am trying to find things in each day to enjoy and be grateful for. Today that includes my beautiful little girl, my loving husband, our little house, and a good book.

Happy Father’s Day

IMG_3159There is this thing our society does where we treat fathers like fools. You see it on television – in sitcoms, especially – you see it in advertising, in common attitudes, or references to dads “babysitting” their own kids. It can be easy to slip into among the moms at the playground. As if it’s a way to bond – our bumbling husbands, bless their hearts, they don’t know what they’re doing.

The truth is, it’s a damaging stereotype and it needs to stop. It’s damaging to our marriages. It’s damaging to our daughters, who will grow up thinking that if they become mothers that that’s somehow “better” or “more important” than a father. It’s damaging to our sons, who will grow up thinking men aren’t expected to be involved in their children’s lives.

Here’s a truth that I have learned in my almost sixteen months of parenting: I am exactly as experienced and qualified for this role as my husband is. (In fact, you could argue that I’m much less qualified because Peter’s actually undergone extensive education re: dealing with children.) The only reason I probably know more about our daughter’s day-to-day habits and needs is because I am the parent who spends more hours in the day with her. And that’s primarily because I’m the parent who has the biological ability to feed her from my own body and I’m the adult in the household who made less money. There’s nothing about me as a person – and certainly not my gender – that makes me a better parent than him. He’s a fantastic father. If I didn’t believe that wholeheartedly I wouldn’t have chosen to have a child with him. If I didn’t fully believe that he was capable of raising our girl on his own, were something to happen to me, I wouldn’t have embarked on this parenting adventure with him.

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Neither of us really know what we’re doing. We’ve both put diapers on backwards and been peed on. We’ve both thrown her up in the air just a little too soon after a meal. We’ve both watched her eat food off the ground and thought, “Eh, that’s probably clean enough.” We’ve both comforted her after a fall. We’ve both made her laugh uncontrollably by doing something ridiculous like putting a bucket on our head or running back and forth between windows to wave at her. She gets super excited when either one of us comes home from work. (Though, if I’m being honest, Pearl gets more excited when Peter comes home.)

Let’s reject the jokes, the clichés, the tired old stories that say dads can’t do this. Let’s find other ways to bond with each other, women, maybe by swapping stories of the times your husband gets up in the night. Or the day you were too sick to get out of bed and he took care of everything uncomplainingly, including making you peanut butter toast and smoothies because it’s all you could stomach the thought of. (True story) Let’s expect more of each other.

Let’s celebrate the dads who get the job done. The ones who are quietly and steadfastly raising kids, who partner with their wives, without whom things wouldn’t be the same. The dads who stay home each day and support those working moms. The dads who go to work each day and come home to scoop up their kids and ask eagerly what everyone did that day. The dads whose eyes light up when they wave at their little girls from the driveway. Let’s celebrate the dads that hold up our families. Let’s acknowledge that we need those dads, that they are vital to our families, and let’s be thankful for the men in our lives who fill those roles so amazingly. I know I am.

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He Is Risen Indeed

IMG_6399If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:19

If Easter means nothing – if this is a day about only rabbits and chocolate and coloured eggs – then Christianity means nothing, our lives are momentary, a breath of air and gone. Then, as Paul says, we are indeed only objects of pity. Thank God that this is a day of victory. This is the day that changed everything. This is a day of great mystery and greater rejoicing. Praise God. He is risen indeed.

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Matthew 28:1-10

 

Beyond the Fire

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Two years ago, I wrote this post to mark Ash Wednesday. It was a time of great personal sorrow in my life. When I was really struggling with the question of, Why would God allow this to happen? Lent isn’t exactly the answer to that question but it is a season that reminds us that we have a God who does not leave us alone in our sorrow. We worship a God who has suffered and wept and experienced loss. Despite living my whole life surrounded by Christianity, I had never so profoundly realized what it meant to follow a God who lost a child.

Last week marked one year from our trip to BC Women’s Hospital where we were told that our unborn child’s heart had not developed properly. It’s been almost a year since I went into Vancouver to await the birth of our baby, not knowing what that would look like. Almost a year since our beautiful girl was born. Since the moment that Peter brought her back to our hospital room, placed her in my arms and said, “The cardiologist says her heart is 100% healthy.”

Two years ago I cried in the street outside my doctor’s office after he gently informed me I might never be able to bring a pregnancy to full term.

Just over one year ago, I cried in our car, in the parking lot outside the hospital, full of uncertainty about our family’s future.

And almost one year ago I cried with thankfulness to have a fully healthy baby.

God has been good. He was good on this Ash Wednesday two years ago and He has been good to me every day since. And oh, how good He was on the day, two thousand years ago, when He Himself cried in the Garden of Gethsemane and accepted the plan for our salvation that involved His torture and death.

Last year, about this time, I was reading Timothy Keller’s Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering and this quote really spoke to me:

Suffering can refine us rather than destroy us because God Himself walks with us in the fire.

He is a God who says, “I know. You are my beloved and I know what you suffer.” He is a God who has suffered too. He will not abandon us.

Lent is a somber season followed by great rejoicing. It is a cause for great celebration because death is not the end. We are not alone.

Pearl and her tiger, Stripes, who was given to her in celebration of a healthy heart

Pearl and her tiger, Stripes, who was given to her in celebration of a healthy heart

All the Many Parts

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Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14

This weekend we celebrated Pearl’s dedication at our church. This is the event where Peter and I, as her parents, make a public declaration of our intent to raise Pearl to know the Lord and we acknowledge her life as a gift from God. It’s also a time when our church promises to help us in this endeavour. I have always loved baby dedications and it was so wonderful to celebrate this moment in our girl’s life.

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It can be a daunting thought – to take on the responsibility of another human’s spiritual growth. It is our hope and prayer that as Pearl grows, she will know God in a powerful and meaningful way. And the beautiful thing is that Peter and I are not left to this responsibility alone.

When I think back to the weeks and events leading up to my pregnancy with Pearl, it was a time when I felt God’s presence very closely in my life. A hard and difficult time but there were moments of beauty, when I felt closer to my Saviour than I ever had before.

As I was remembering those moments, I wondered why I haven’t felt that same presence of God in the months since Pearl was born. And then I realized – I have. It just looked a little different. God was in the hands that our church elders laid on Peter and I as we prepared to meet our child, not knowing what her health would be. God was in the voices and prayers of people around the world who prayed with and for us as we waited, who prayed as we were in the hospital, who celebrated when Pearl was born. He was present in the e-mails, the text messages, the phone calls, the cards. God was at work in His body, His church. And His body has fed us and prayed for us, held our baby and showered us with love in the months since. Looking back over the first ten months of parenthood, we have been so blessed by our community and this weekend we were blessed once more as they stood with us, promising to help us raise this little one.

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We were fortunate, too, to have both sides of our family be there with us. Our little house was full of food, games, and mattresses on the floor for the weekend!

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