He Knows Me

I thought I knew God.

I grew up learning about Him at home, at church, at camps, and through my own study and prayer. I attended a Christian college and was just a handful of credits short of a minor in religion thanks to all the Bible courses I took as electives. I knew my way around the Bible, I listened to Christian music, I enjoyed fellowship with Christian friends, I made God a real part of my every day life.

Then Faith was born and died in moments and suddenly the God I thought I knew seemed harder to understand.

So I sought Him.

I read – both my Bible and books about grief and loss from a Christian perspective. I listened to music and sermons and speakers online. I wrote through my thoughts. I prayed and cried out to Him.

And little by little I came to know Him again. To know Him even better than before. And in spite of, or truthfully because of, the loss of Faith I came to a deeper faith than I’d experienced in my life thus far.

I thought I knew God.

Then Hope was born with a rare and complex condition that will impact her for the rest of her life. A condition that required open heart surgery within 15 days of her birth and intestinal surgery at just under 4 months old. A condition that will require at least two more open heart surgeries and other interventions in the months and years to come. A condition that will most likely limit her ability to participate in things the rest of us take for granted. A condition that could potentially shorten her life here on earth.

And suddenly the God I thought I knew seemed harder to understand all over again.

But this time I didn’t seek Him. I stubbornly dug in my heels, angry at the thought of having to learn who God is all over again.

As terrible as it may sound to admit it, although I knew that this experience could bring me closer to God, could give me an even better understanding of Him, all I really wanted was to simply be happy. To bring home a healthy baby and live life the way I pictured it would be during those wonderful 20 weeks of pregnancy leading up to her diagnosis.

To be clear, I didn’t turn my back on God. I clung to Him still, like a drowning man clings to a life preserver, but I refused to open myself up to more. Maybe I was too angry or stubborn or just plain weary to try. But deep down I think I was also scared.

I am scared.

Scared of the process which, from past experience, I know can be uncomfortable and downright painful. Scared that God will ask even more from me that I don’t want to give or do or handle. Scared that learning more about Him, about how He can use all this, will give it purpose. And while that should be a good thing, I kind of hate the idea of acknowledging a purpose because it means also acknowledging that the life I imagined is forever changed.

It means letting go, and I am so much more stubborn than I realized.

I’ve been re-reading C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and was struck by a single, simple line in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in which Eustace is speaking with his cousin Edmund:

“But who is Aslan? Do you know him?” “Well – he knows me,” said Edmund.

He knows me.

I don’t know Him. Not like I thought I did. But He knows me.

I have stubbornly resisted what I need to do to know Him more. But He knows me.

I will never fully understand or grasp who He is. But He knows me.

He knows me.

And right now, that is comfort enough. Even in my lack of understanding. Even in my questions. Even in my anger and sorrow and fear. He knows me.

And because He knows me, because He loves me even as He knows me completely, I will seek to know Him. I will never know Him completely, not this side of heaven, but I will try to know Him more each day. It won’t be easy, and sometimes I’m sure I will still stubbornly try to grab for control, but I will try.

Because I need Him and He knows me.

The lyrics of the song Let Me Rediscover You* by Downhere are so fitting and have become an inspiration, an anthem if you will, for what lies ahead:

How can I say I know You, when what I know is still so small?

Let me rediscover You
And breathe in me Your life anew
Tell me of the God I never knew
Let me rediscover You

Let me rediscover You
And by Your grace I’ll follow through
Reveal to me the God I thought I knew

So this is the start. These words on the page, admitting my struggles and committing to the journey of rediscovering the God I thought I knew. The God who knows me.

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*You can find the video for Downhere’s Let Me Rediscover You by clicking here: Let Me Rediscover You Give it a listen – so good!

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Dear Faith

Dear Faith,

Happy 5th birthday my sweet daughter! I can’t believe it has been five years since I held you in my arms.

It’s funny, but ever since you were born I’ve pictured you in Heaven about the age you would be now. I don’t know why but that’s how I’ve often imagined you… a young girl with long brown hair, smiling and giggling as you run through Heaven. A girl big enough to run into my arms, but small enough to still nestle onto my lap.

The words of an old Jars of Clay song make me think of you…

In open fields of wild flowers, she breathes the air and flies away, she thanks her Jesus for the daisies and the roses in no simple language, someday she’ll understand the meaning of it all

When I think of you running through Heaven I think of Heaven like that – not just the golden streets but also a huge field full of tall grass and flowers that tickle your legs and never make you sneeze! I picture you, never getting tired, never getting hurt, never feeling sad. I imagine your pure joy as you revel in a place that knows no sorrow or pain or sickness or death.

And I think of how incredible it is that you already understand the meaning of it all.

The song goes on to say…

Someday she’ll trust Him, and learn how to see Him, someday He’ll call her, and she will come running

I rejoice in knowing that you already live that, in a purer and deeper way than you ever could here on earth. You trust Him. You’ve seen Him with your own eyes. He called you Home on the day you were born and you came running.

Maybe that’s why I picture you running today. Running to His arms with the joy of a little girl who has never known anything but love. From my womb where you were treasured and so deeply loved, to His arms where you are fully known and loved beyond comprehension.

I miss you, but I am so thankful to know where you are and Who is holding you until I can hold you again.

With love always my sweet girl,

Mommy

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Refined

Two days ago we celebrated Faith’s 4th birthday.

When I think about the journey we’ve been on since she was born, about who I am today in large part because of the work God did in my life through her, the word “refined” comes to mind.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

I love this picture of gold being refined by fire and that our faith – of greater worth than gold – can be similarly refined.

Refined by the fire of trials and grief to become something more precious and genuine than it was before. To become something worthy of praise, glory and honor.

That is a beautiful thing.

I have been refined. Through a trial I could have never imagined, my faith has grown stronger, more genuine, more precious. I have developed a deeper trust in God. I have gained a purer love for Him.

Through the life and death of our beautiful daughter Faith, He has refined me and I am thankful for that.

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But I must add this – there is a big difference between being refined by grief and being defined by grief.

I can’t do very much for Faith as a mom. I can’t take care of her, can’t watch her grow up and celebrate the milestones of life alongside her.

So for a while it seemed that grieving the loss of her was something I could do for her.  When the grief began to lessen, when I didn’t miss her with that same deep ache, I worried and even felt guilty. Was I doing something wrong?

Often, when we lose someone, our grief over losing them becomes a connection to that person. As a result, if we let go of grief it feels like we are breaking that connection.

But if we hang onto our grief it can start to define us, and that is not what God desires for our lives. We are not made to linger in the valley of sorrow forever.

I came to realize that it was okay, in fact it was right, to let go of grief. I realized that grief had played a role in shaping and refining me but it was not and never would be the defining characteristic of who I am.

Similarly my grief over losing Faith did not define my connection with her.

My love for her didn’t decrease or disappear when my grief subsided. I am Faith’s mom and that is enough. I don’t have to do anything for her here on earth to prove myself as her mother, I just am. Nothing can ever change or diminish that.

And so I let go of the grief.

Losing a child is part of my story, but not the end of my story. As I look back over our journey, I am thankful. Thankful for the time I had with Faith. Thankful for the future I have with her in Heaven. And thankful for the way God continues to refine me.

He truly has led me each step of the way… through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy.

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Dear Faith (On Your 4th Birthday)

Dear Faith,

Happy 4th birthday my sweet girl!

It’s a beautiful day today – warm and sunny, my favorite kind of day. I miss you very much, but when I look up at the bright blue sky and think about what it must be like for you in Heaven, that makes me smile.

I want you to know that even though sometimes I get sad, I also feel happy on your birthday.

I feel happy because you are my daughter and this is a special day to think about you (even though I think about you lots of other times too!). I feel happy because I know you are happy, living in the most perfect place. And I feel happy because someday I will see you again.

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Not too long ago I finished reading some of my favorite books called the Chronicles of Narnia. They were written by C.S. Lewis (have you met him?!) and if you were here with us I would definitely read them to you.

The ending makes me think about what it will be like when we meet again in Heaven…

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Isn’t that wonderful, Faith? It brings the good kind of tears to my eyes.

I wish I could hug you and kiss you today on your birthday (and every other day too!) but I know I will get to hug you and kiss you again.  And when that day comes it will be just the beginning of our forever together.

Forever together!

I hope you know, my little girl, how much you are loved and how thankful your Daddy and I are to call you ours. God had a special plan for you and I’m glad His plan included us. He takes care of us always, just as He takes care of you. We love you and miss you and look forward to the day when we see you again.

Happy birthday my sweet Faith!

Love Always,

Mommy

 

 

Our Story

Four years ago Steve picked up Thai food and brought it back to our hospital room. After dinner we shared chocolate covered strawberries for dessert. It was our 4th anniversary.

The following morning we would hold our daughter, Faith, for the first and last time.

Today we celebrate 8 years of marriage. It’s strange to realize that Faith’s birth falls right in the middle of our married life. Four years together before her, four years together after.

Our story didn’t begin in that hospital room and it didn’t end there either.

Our story as husband and wife began that morning when I put on the prettiest dress I’ve ever worn and held a bouquet of pink and white flowers in my hand. It began when we met at the altar, in front of our family and friends, and made our promises to each other before God.

When we pledged to be there “in sickness and in health” and “for better or for worse”.

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We could never have guessed the kind of “in sickness” and “for worse” we would experience four years later.

I remember, soon after we came home from the hospital, crying as I looked up at our wedding pictures on the wall. Crying for the person I was that day and the joy I felt then, fearing I had lost both.

But I was wrong.

I am not the same person I was on my wedding day, but not in the negative way I thought in the weeks after Faith died. Today I have a stronger faith, a sweeter hope, a fiercer love, and a deeper joy.

Yes, joy. I hadn’t lost it after all. In fact I know it more fully now than I did before.

Last week Natalie pointed up to those same pictures on our wall. “You’re dressed up like a princess!”, she said. “I felt like a princess that day,” I replied. Then she looked right at me with a big smile and said, “And now you’re a mommy!”

My heart melted. Yes, my sweet girl, now I am. To you and to your beautiful big sister who first gave me that honor.

And you know what else, little one? The man who held my hand in those pictures has continued to hold my hand ever since.

We walked through “in sickness” and “for worse” in the same way we walked down the aisle after we first made those vows – holding on to each other.

Two lives, joined under God, a cord of three strands not easily broken. This is our story.

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Valleys of Sorrow to Rivers of Joy

How do you “celebrate” the birthday of a child who has died? There’s no guidebook for that, no answer that works for everyone. For me it means writing.

Writing is my way to reflect on everything we experienced. It’s my way to honor Faith’s short life here on earth. And when writing I pray that someone – even just one person – can find encouragement, strength and hope in what I share. Sadly there are many who have walked or will walk a similar road. If you are one of those people, I pray that these words bring comfort and remind you that you are not alone.

There is a beautiful Jars of Clay song that I often think of in regards to our journey after the loss of our first daughter, Faith. These words especially resonate with me…

I will sing of Your mercy, that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy.

Near the end the song, after these words are sung, there is a weighty pause. The music stops. The singing stops. Silence for a few long seconds. And then one single word – “yeah”.

That part always gives me goosebumps.

The silence is so full. It’s as if everything comes down to that moment. You can say the words, but do you truly believe them?

In that pause I let the truth of those words sink in…

I will sing of Your mercy, that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy.

Yes, I do believe it.

I believe it with full confidence. God has led me and been with me always. He was there in the midst of the valley of sorrow and He is here with me now in the rivers of joy filling my life. His mercy is constant through it all.

Life is always changing. My life is different today than it was four years ago in the days waiting for Faith to be born. And four years from now it will look different still.

But God is the same and nothing can change who He is. No circumstances or passing of time. Not the deepest valley of sorrow nor fullest river of joy. His love, grace and mercy are steadfast.

This week, in honor of Faith’s 4th birthday, I will be sharing a series of posts about our journey through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy. I pray that through these words you will see our incredible God who has sustained us every step of the way.

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For those of you who followed my previous blog, you may see excerpts that look familiar but there will be new writings too so I hope you’ll join me.

For those who do not know our story, you may want to read a couple entries from my previous blog through the following links. Four years ago today I shared this post – Hold Me Jesus – about our baby’s condition. We didn’t know then that she was a little girl who would be held by Jesus herself moments after she was born. On June 15th, 2012 we met our sweet Faith.

 

 

When You’re Sinking

Have you ever felt like you were sinking in the midst of a life storm?

When my husband and I found out, 30 weeks into my first pregnancy, that our baby was suddenly and inexplicably very sick, I knew God was still in control. When Faith was born two weeks later and the doctor’s face revealed the answer before he even spoke the words, I knew God was still with me.

But that didn’t change the fact that losing our daughter was the most painful experience I have ever faced.

In those first days, weeks and months after Faith died the sorrow was like the cold water of a lake, always under the surface, and I was sinking into the deep.

That sorrow has faded for me now, replaced by a settled longing I will carry with me until I meet her again in Heaven someday. But there are new trials to face, as there always will be.

For me and for all of us, as long as we are in this world.

And when it comes to the stormy waters I encounter in my life, I feel kind of like Peter in Matthew 14:28-31.

“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?'”

It’s not the step out of the boat that I struggle with, it’s the fear of sinking once I’m walking on the water.

I know and trust who He is when I step into the water, but when I focus on the waves of whatever trial I am facing, I lose sight of Him. And yet He’s right there, reaching out His hand in the midst of the storm.

Having faith in God doesn’t mean that we will be spared the struggles and sorrows of this world, but we can know that He is with us through it all.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Struggles and disappointments, unanswered questions and unfulfilled hopes… whatever the trial may be, I believe we all have moments when we feel like we’re sinking.

When you find yourself sinking into the deep, know that He is there. Look away from the waves and into His eyes. Listen to His voice in the midst of the wind. Grab hold of His outstretched hand.

Know that the one who has overcome the world is there with you, and He will keep you from sinking. He will pull you up, out of the deep and into His arms.

 

I enjoyed linking up today with Live Free Thursday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Word: Faith Like Abraham

Read: Hebrews 11:7-12, 17-19

What do you think of when you hear the name Abraham?

Maybe the way he was called by God and given a promise that he would be a father of nations? Or perhaps the fact that he became a father to Isaac at the age of 100?

Maybe the words of the old song “Father Abraham had many sons…” is the first thing to pop in your head (and if it wasn’t, maybe it’s in there now!)

One of the first thoughts I have when I think of Abraham is about when God told him to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22:1-18). The faith and obedience he had in response is amazing.

I love these words that Abraham speaks to Isaac as they walk to the mountain together, “…God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son…” (Gen 22:8). Wow.

Last week I wrote about the way faith is shown in actions. Several of Abraham’s actions are recounted in this chapter and all of them show his faith and obedience despite things that, humanly speaking, seemed difficult or near impossible to accomplish or understand.

He went out to a place “not knowing where he was going” (Heb 11:8).

He “lived as an alien” in a foreign land (Heb 11:9).

He and his wife conceived a child “even beyond the proper time of life” (Heb 11:11).

He “offered up Isaac… his only begotten son” (Heb 11:17) and “considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead” (Heb 11:19).

In each of these actions we can see Abraham willingly following God’s lead in the face of uncertainties and unknowns. He didn’t just say he had faith, he lived his faith through obedient actions.

Abraham wasn’t perfect (we’ll talk more about that idea next week!) but he is certainly an example of faith that is worth remembering.

Reflect: Are you willing to step out in faith even if you don’t know the end result? Do you trust that God will provide if you do? Is there a specific area in your life where you feel God’s call but struggle to move forward in faith? Pray for God’s strength and peace to guide you in this.

 

 

Weekly Word: What is Faith?

Read: Hebrews 11 (whole chapter) then re-read verses 1 and 6

From the end of the kitchen I hear her little voice, “One, two, three, go!” Scampering feet as she runs to the family room, straight at me, and leaps into my arms. I hold her close and we tumble together into a pile a pillows. “Again, again”, she giggles, pushing herself back to her feet.

“Tackling” Mommy is a favorite game lately. It came to mind as I was thinking about this chapter and the meaning of faith.

Hebrews 11 begins with this statement: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” I love this translation (NASB) with the words “assurance” and “conviction”.

There is a certainty and confidence to our faith in God.

Think about this… when my daughter runs and jumps into my arms she fully believes I’m going to catch her. Why? She knows (although I’m sure she doesn’t think of it in this way) my character. She knows that Mommy loves her and will be there to take care of her and protect her. She also knows that I’ve caught her every time before. I have a trustworthy track record.

I think of faith in that way.

As Christians we know God’s character. We know His track record. We have His Word and can see the promises that have already been fulfilled. We know Him to be trustworthy, so when it comes to the things we can’t see, can’t yet know, or can’t fully understand, we can still believe in who He is and that He will care for us.

Faith is not irrational. It is assurance and conviction. Faith is rooted in truth and is a gift given to us by God (Romans 12:3).

The chapter continues by giving us an incredible look at the history of God’s people,  capturing the faith-filled actions of men and women throughout the Old Testament.

Notice that they are actions. It brings to mind the words of James 2:18, “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.'”

If we claim to have faith our actions should match. Our faith can be visibly expressed through our actions.

On the other hand, works without faith means nothing and cannot ultimately please God as seen in verse 6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

So what is faith? Faith is a deeply rooted assurance that shows itself in our actions. It is a gift from God that gives us confidence that what we see isn’t all there is. It is fundamental to our relationship with Him and necessary to live a life pleasing to Him.

Reflect: Is there an area in your life where you claim faith but lack action? Pray over it this week. Remember God’s character and know that He is trustworthy. Ask Him for the courage and confidence to put your faith into action.

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

There is so much in this chapter and I know I’m only scratching the surface, but I hope you’ll join me again as we revisit Hebrews 11 over the next few weeks. To read more about Weekly Word click here.