It’s rainy today. As I sat rocking Hope before her nap, another rainy day came to mind. A day over two years ago now, in June of 2017.
Today Hope and I made our weekly trip to the library and grocery store. It might seem like a normal, inconsequential thing to most, but I treasure it.
Because today she played alongside the other toddlers in storytime, when just this past winter I couldn’t imagine taking her to such a public place.
Because today she chatted with me from her seat in the grocery cart, when one year ago we were planning for her next heart surgery.
And because today she lay her head on my chest as we cuddled before nap, when two years ago, on that rainy June day, I didn’t think I would ever get the chance to rock her to sleep.
It was the nearly the end of June 2017 when we went to our routine 20 week ultrasound and left with the devastating news that our baby girl had hydrops, a heart defect, and potentially other complications. We were told that she would not live. We were offered the choice to terminate the pregnancy. And we were scheduled for follow up a couple weeks later.
In the days that followed we grieved. I was angry and afraid and crushed and sad beyond words. I couldn’t bear to put on maternity clothes because I didn’t want to see the growing bump that held another baby we wouldn’t bring home. The thought of going out in public, of some innocent bystander noticing and congratulating me, was so intimidating that I avoided leaving the house.
But one day, a week after the diagnosis, my mom invited Natalie and I to go strawberry picking. I knew it would be a fun outing for Natalie and I wanted to get out for a bit. Plus I’d be with family, who knew and understood what was going on. So I said yes and threw on an oversized t-shirt and off we went.
As we drove out to the farm, dark clouds started to roll in. A little rain at first, then more. By the time we parked it was an all out downpour. We could have been disappointed, but instead it struck us as so funny that we couldn’t stop laughing. I was laughing so hard that tears formed in my eyes.
It felt so good to cry from laughter after crying in sorrow for the past week. It felt so good to realize that I could laugh, truly laugh, even in the midst of such heartbreak.
The rain finally did let up enough for us to pick strawberries, but what I remember most isn’t picking the berries, but laughing in the rain.
It’s a lesson I’ve been learning in life as well.
Sometimes plans don’t go the way you imagined. Sometimes storms threaten to overwhelm. Sometimes downpours leave you drenched in sorrow and fear.
I’ve been there. I’ve been overwhelmed. I’ve been drenched. And I haven’t always laughed in the rain. I haven’t always felt joy or peace or even hope in the midst of the storms. But I’ve been learning.
Little by little, as I walk this road of life, I’ve been learning that there is joy, even in the middle of the storm. It’s different than the happiness I so often seek. It’s deeper. Some days it feels natural and some days it’s a purposeful choice. It’s rooted in God and the knowledge that He is always with me. It’s fed by an attitude of thankfulness and trust. It is a way of life that I will always be learning, until one day I’m home in heaven and all the storms are banished and joy is fuller than we can imagine.
A week after our strawberries in the rain we would find ourselves back in the doctor’s office, this time with some good news that gave us hope of bringing our baby home. And today that sweet baby girl, who isn’t really a baby anymore, smiled and blinked away rain drops as we hurried from the grocery store to our car.
Today we laughed in the rain, together.