By His Grace

By His Grace
The Circus

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dear Crystal

To the lady at the gym this morning (I will call you Crystal):

I despise you.  I hate everything about you, Crystal, from your double D cup size to your itty bitty rump.   I hate the way you stare at yourself in the mirror and pose in all your seductive ways checking out your own curves.  I hate that your hot pink shorts are skin tight and don't cover your dairy-aire.  I hate that your matching sports bra and knee high socks are blindingly bright.  I hate that your dead lift form is horrendously poor because you seem more concerned with the arch of your back than lifting your weights. I hate you.  For a split-second I just murderously abhor you.

And then I hate myself.  You see, I can't spend an hour in the Word every day before I go to the gym and not reflect on the Truth of what is in my heart.  It is nasty-ugly.  It is uglier than you.  It is heinous and hideous and everything straight from the pit of hell.  My heart toward you is the righteousness of the Pharisee.  The one who thinks she's qualified for the kingdom of heaven and yet has fallen infinite numbers of miles short.

You see, He who wants to be greatest among us must become least.  Yeah.  I read that last Friday.   Matthew 20:26-28, "It's not going to be that way with you.  Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.  Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.  That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve not be served--and then to give away his life in exchange for the  many who are held hostage." And yesterday Heather Zempel took us through the scriptures from Genesis to this very day in time.  Tears poured down my face as she described Jesus' unprecedented love as He came into the world as an approachable Christ-child growing up to exhibit the elaborate love of God-- to love and be with not the righteous but the scum of the earth.

You, Crystial, sweet daughter of God, are the one He loves.  You are the one He came to be with and befriend.  You are the Mary Magdelene my Pharisee friends and I despise.  And you are the one sweet Jesus adored.

And my heart stops as I ponder the hypocrisy in me.  My skin tight capris are not so much better than your shorts.  So I wear a jacket.  So what?  My ugly heart stains the the cross in greater ways than your beautiful skin.

 I can't help but crumble inside for every man praying to Jesus to complete his next rep without taking you in with yet another glimpse.  I do.  And I mourn for my husband who is faced with the challenges other people's decisions place before Him every day.

But you, are the one Jesus loves.  And I am the one He came to rebuke.

And I hear you, Lord.

As I wrapped up my workout this morning and caught another glimpse of you, after all my pondering,  still I felt spite in my heart.  But though I am a hypocrite, I am not hopeless.  I know my flaws and ugliness are what He came for, too.  I will stand in the grace most pharisees never knew. And I want to be Saul, changed to Paul on the road to Damascus and called to minister beside the ones he himself persecuted.   Lord blind me that I might see.

You see, Crystal, while the first part of that passage convicts me, the rest of the passage is hope for me: Matthew 20:29-34 "As they were leaving Jericho a huge crowd followed.  Suddenly they came upon two blind men sitting alongside the road.  When they heard it was Jesus passing, they cried out, ''Master, have mercy on us! Mercy, Son of David!'…Jesus stopped and called over,  'What do you want from me?' They said, 'Master we want our eyes opened.  We want to see!'  Deeply moved, Jesus touched their eyes.  They had their sight back that very instant, and joined the procession."

I have seen people like you before with the beautiful love of God rather than the spite of self-righteousness.  But somewhere along the way, I lost my ability to see with His eyes.  And now I cry above the crowds and noise, "Son of David! Have Mercy on ME, I want my eyes opened! I want to see!  I want to see the world as you see the world, I want to love with your elaborate love, and have abundant compassion like the world has never seen."  I'm reading the scriptures.  I know He is deeply moved by my prayer and He is granting me my sight once more and in this very light.

Girl at the gym, I want to carry your weights.  I want to meet you in the  mornings and know your stories.  I want to love you in ways I never thought possible.  I want God to teach me the beauty in you and shame my worldly wisdom.  I want to be Christ to you.  And I want you to know grace, too.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Happy Anniversary Lydia Grace Richer!

You know I wouldn't have actually celebrated it?  I don't really mourn her loss.  I still am awed by the way God delivered me through such a trial without so much as an emotional scar let alone a physical one.  But I don't really mourn the loss, and I really think about the whole experience more in the context of those who are going through something similar and experiencing so much intense and lasting pain, and how miraculous it is that I'm completely healed.

I woke up this morning to a text from a friend.  More accurately--my friend's text woke me up.  He sent me these pictures.






It was 7am.  Who does that?  Yes.  Harrison, who did you send to the store at 6am to pick up a pink helium filled balloon for you--for me?  I was touched beyond words.

This came later in the day from my cousin and sister in Christ, Lauren:


A cursive 'L' charm for my bracelet. Who. Does. This????  Y'all, I can barely remember my birthday, let alone my husband's birthday, forget the day of a friend's unborn child passing!  What?  I'm not sure what spiritual gift this falls under but come on!  Heck, I was floored when I got a card in the mail yesterday from Z!  

I'm not a ceremonial person.  I don't really commemorate days with big celebrations and I'm not one to put on a big party unless I feel compelled in some way.  I would have just let this day go by.   I never really thought about it, but that's completely contrary to how God works.

God makes a big deal.  God IS a big deal.  But He also makes a big deal.  God calls us to remember.  Everything that He did throughout scripture He called His people to remember.  He called them to celebrate the Passover feast among other feasts every year.  He commands them to build the ebenezers (or monuments) to remind them of where they have been and how He has helped them in miraculous ways, He called them to ceremonies at the temple, communion--"Do this in remembrance of me," baptism, all kinds of memorials and ceremonies throughout scripture He set up to help us remember we belong to Him and all of them are pointing to Christ. 

I would have let this day pass.  But God wouldn't let me let this day pass.  God commanded me to build an ebenezer.  Here I am writing my monument for you all to see.  God helped me.  One year ago I delivered a stillborn child into this world and He glorified Himself.   He showed me and many others that when we Trust Him completely, and when we fix our eyes on Him, He does not let us sink and we will not and cannot be overcome by any storm, any river, any trial.  It was painful.  The whole trial was painful but full of beauty and adoration and astounding good and perfect gifts.  I would do it all again because of the faith that was proven to me which is indeed more precious than any amount of gold.  I put my trust in Him, and He delivered me.  

One week ago, Jeff and I were out on a date.  I had been thinking earlier that day about ebenezers and how important they are for us and for our children and the generations that follow.  I was thinking how important it is to have things in places where you pass by often to remember the things God has done in your life.  As Jeff and I were walking in the dark along the National Mall, I shared these thoughts with him and shared that I wished we had something in the house as a monument for us and for our children to symbolize the storm He brought us through.  Most people plant trees, but we move every couple of years so this wouldn't work for us.  We agreed we would put our ceremonial daughter, Hannah on the task.  She's good at that.  But when we arrived home that very night (the very same night, people!) I found a package in the mail from my sister-in-law. (I would love to tell you the depths of the meaning of this package based on the complexities of this relationship, but it's too sacred to share.  Just know that you will only be able to grasp 1/100th of the significance of this precious gift and it's timing)  I had no idea what she could possibly have sent, but my jaw dropped as I opened this:


This is a painting titled: discovering grace.  And it's signed, "To Erin- in loving memory of Lydia Grace."  Does my God show up for me, people?  I mean, I'm sorry I know some of you will chalk this up to chance, but this was undeniably the Lord making His love for me and knowledge of me known to me.

Today, the new non-profit I love so dearly just received their second request to help a family and it is for a mother who is pregnant and just found out that they don't expect the baby to survive due to multiple anomalies.  A reminder of the haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaard day that began this amazing journey.

Just now, as I'm writing, my friend who has never texted me before just sent me a random text that said only, "Eucharisteo."  This means give thanks and is from a book that blessed me beyond words and in many ways prepared me to walk the long road of carrying Lydia, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  She had no idea it was Lydia's anniversary. 

Also, Hannah insisted on cake for Lydia's birthday.  So we had cake and released balloons for Lydia Grace and for Faith--Lydia's sweet friend in Heaven whose anniversary is also today.

Today we remembered, as a family, and gave thanks because our God is good.



Saturday, April 6, 2013

"When are you leaving again?"

Thank you.

Many of you have opened your hearts to me, to my family, to my closest friends.  You opened your heart wide enveloping us into many aspects of your precious lives.  Your hearts. Fully agape. Utterly  cognizant of the certain pain that will come with "good-bye."

Thank you.

Here I am offering you a gift.  A peek into our hearts--the ones who leave.  The ones who pack up our homes, wrap up every earthly treasure symbolizing the hearts and homes we tore ourselves from many times before.  We know every. single. one that gets unwrapped whole at our destination is a blessing.  It's all so fragile.  This is a peek into a very unique season.  A very delicate one.  And it arrives just before the finish line of every tour.

Matching the season changes of the cycling year, this season has markers, too.  Signs igniting the strong emotions of what's to come.  "When are you leaving?"  And even more poignant, "When are you leaving again?" You say "again" because you've asked before.  At least twice.  We know you're keeping track.  We know what our departure is going to mean to you.  It is not lost on us.  At least it most certainly is not lost on me.  We are not completely enveloped in ourselves unaware that our loss is your loss, too, though in significantly different ways.  But then not so much.

Every time you ask the question, "When are you leaving, again?" we know you're mentally preparing.  And this question sounds more like, "Can you tell me again how long I have left to replace the space you took up in my life with something else so that it doesn't hurt as much when you leave?"  If you're being honest, is this really what you're asking?  Because that's what I hear.

The truth is that this is normal.  Undoubtedly this is how I would feel.  This is how I would prepare.  That's why I assume it is what you really mean--because that is what is inside of me.  I don't blame you.  But it hurts.

It hurts and I fight to tell myself the truth.  That your questions are fair.  That your preparations are good.  And that our friendship is true, and strong, and real.  They don't mean what my flesh tells me they mean: that I'm replaceable, not all that significant, and just another vapor in the wind that was there for a moment and out of sight and mind the next.  That's the truth.

And here's the real Truth.  I am but a vapor in the wind.  I'm only "here" for a short season.  My life is completely insignificant--forgotten within 2 generations once I'm "gone"-- except for the imprint of God I have the privilege of leaving behind once I "move."  That is all that will last.  That is my worth.  That is all I really have.  And this is where I live.  And this is where I take great comfort.  God briefly showed me the works He's done in my life over the past couple of years, some of His works he's allowed me to partake in, and I was overcome.   When I begin to ebb and flow between the truth and the lies, I take solace in this Truth.

Not everyone can live here.  I may live here, but even I leave this place at times and feel melancholy before coming home.  So let me give you some insights into how you can continue to love us through this season when you can't help but ask, "When are you leaving again?"  Thankfully we have had deeply loving friends who have somehow known just what to do to give me something to hang onto (Thank you sweet friends).  Because of you, I actually have examples of what soothes this pain and ministers to us during this transitional time:

1) "When are you leaving again?  Because we need to do a weekend getaway before you leave."

2) "When are you leaving again?  Because we need to have a photo shoot in which our lives together are forever documented."

3) "When are you leaving again? Because you have been so significant to my life here and I'm going to miss you so, so much."

4) "When are you leaving again?  We need to have coffee because you are a priority in my life for as long as you live here."

I'm so thankful to all of you who have offered me these bandages during this trying time.  You pull out your little first aid kits and somehow soothe my pain.  We need you now as much or more so than we ever have in the past.  Can we find that date to do this weekend getaway?  It means more to me than you know.






Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why We Didn't Hold Lydia and My Request of You

The day after Lydia's memorial was like a roller coaster ride coming to a screeching halt.  Now what?  I feel like I've walked closely with God for 8 weeks straight, completely dependent upon Him, and now I'm supposed to go back to my life in which I had to depend on Him for very little?  There is as much loss in that thought as there is in losing my baby--hard to believe, but true.

It has been like that.  There has been a piece of me that wonders whether God still intends to use my life to glorify Himself as He has done in this past trial.  I fear that life will go back to being somewhat mundane again.  As it turns out, the only truly satisfying experience on this earth that lasts is the moments in which you hear people say, "I know I can live my life with more confidence in Christ because of what He's done in you."  Ultimately joy comes down to knowing God and glorifying Him.  You want to know what your soul longs for?  That's it.  Right there.  The sum total.

A few mornings ago, out on my back porch, in the darkness just before dawn, God gave me this scripture.  I knew as soon as I read it that it was a command and a promise for me:

"Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past.  Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth. Will you not be aware of it?  I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.  The beasts of the field will glorify Me; The jackals and the ostriches; Because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people.  The people whom I formed for Myself, will declare My praise."
   Isaiah 43 18-21

The command: Stop looking back.  It is time for me to let go of what God has done with, through and for me in the past.  Now it's time for me to watch for and be aware of what He is doing now.

Not two hours after I received that scripture my mom called me around 8:00am.  That's pretty early to receive a call from my mom anyway, but to receive that call with a message requesting a return phone call meant she really wanted to talk.  So I called her right back.   Mom began to relay to me a testimony of a young woman she knows who has been going through a very difficult time in which she has had to make difficult choices and take responsibility for past decisions and needs to leave the consequences and future completely in God's hands and trust Him for what is to come.  My mom wanted me to know that this woman told her that it has been through reading my blog and testimony that she has learned that she can trust God no matter what happens. She also shared that as she has been trusting Him, her husband who does not know God has been seeing God's place in their current situation.

I wept.  I mean I wept.  Tears were STREAMING down my face.  Because she is right!  Her situation is COMPLETELY different than mine.  But she totally heard the cry of my heart which is that the world would know that there is a God in Heaven who LOOOOOVES you and GAVE HIS SON for you and is COMPLETELY SOVEREIGN over every aspect of your life and will prove Himself faithful if you trust Him and He is enough!

And then all of the sudden the verse from that morning came rushing back to me and I ran for my Bible to share it with my mom.  Suddenly I knew what it meant.  I am not to dwell on my testimony and look to see what God has DONE already through it.  I'm to watch the living water spring forth from my story and watch the trickle of stream turn into a river of living water that satisfies the thirst of the dry desert places of people's hearts whom I love and those whom I don't even know!  The beasts of the field will glorify Him because of the "new" thing He is doing.  And suddenly I see how easily I can slip into ego-centricity because it isn't about ME at all!  It's about celebrating what He's doing in others now!  Behold He is doing something NEW!

Later in Isaiah it talks about what Christ came for: to make all things new.
To bring good news to the afflicted...to bind up the broken hearted...to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to prisoners...to comfort all who mourn...to grant those who mourn beauty for ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, a mantle of praise instead of a a spirit of fainting...So they will be called Oaks of Righteousness

Before Lydia was born the overwhelmingly consistent advice I received was that "we needed to hold the baby." The nurses told us they would take her to another room, get foot prints and hand prints and photographs, put a hat on her, wrap her in a blanket, etc... and then bring her to us.  I was pretty sure based on the ultrasounds I saw that putting a hat on Lydia was not going to make the situation any easier.  So I asked that they not only do all of those things, but that they come back and describe her to us before they brought her in.

When Lydia finally arrived after many hours of labor, the room that was once filled with lots and lots of laughter was soon much quieter with only the nurses who were not tending to Lydia still laughing.  I was pretty sure I knew why, but I did not look.  Later, after the doctor was called out of the room to examine her, she returned to us to ask how set we were on seeing her.  I looked at her as seriously as I have ever spoken to someone and told her that I was not set on seeing Lydia but that I wanted to know what she looked like first.  The Doctor went on to describe Lydia's body.  She was severely swollen.  So swollen that you couldn't really make out her hands or her eyes or other key features.   There were other very descriptive details of her form that were relayed that made me more than confident holding her was not the right decision.

The nurse who had promised to do all of those things previously came into the room and apologized that they weren't able to get hand prints or photographs or even wrap her in a blanket for fear of rupturing her skin surrounding her swollen body.  And then she handed us a box full of mementos many of which had very clear, crisp beautiful footprints.  I have never been so grateful for little footprints...some.. SOME proof that what I delivered was indeed a baby.  (Now I'm crying)

When Jeff asked me later that evening, "How do people do this without Christ?"  I looked at him with tears in my eyes and said, I don't know!  Without Christ and the promise of greater purpose and eternity the only thing I have left is that I just brought THAT into the world!  That severely deformed baby.

But that is exactly why Christ came.

He came to turn ashes and deformities and all things ugly into something beautiful.  And I am seeing it.

After my mother relayed the story of her friend, she told me that she and my sister would like to make a book titled "Lydia's Finger Prints."  I'm weeping now as I write this.  She would like the cover of the book to have a picture of her little footprints.  And in the book she would like to have all of the stories from people who have read my blog, who have been impacted by her little life, and who would be so kind as to write their stories.

I absolutely LOVE this imagery.  It would be wonderful to have a more complete picture of the beauty she was created to be.  And I am blown away, that it seems that God's work in all of YOUR lives, is the rest of her picture to me.

So now I ask: If God has touched your heart through Lydia's life--in any way, would you kindly consider writing a short (or long) note to me or my mom to be included in this little book?

Mom: patcee1@gmail.com
Me: erinricher@gmail.com
Please put the subject line : Lydia's Fingerprints

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Memorial

Approximately seven years ago I heard a song titled "Blessed Be Your Name."  It is an incredible worship song declaring that I, as a follower of Christ, will worship the God who loves me-- who is more than enough--in the good times and in the bad.  In the blessings and the trials.

I remember vividly the day I sang it at our church in Panama City Beach, Florida holding Hannah on my hip and overflowing from pregnancy with Benjamin.  I remember thinking to myself, I pray that if I ever lose a child (the worst thing I could ever imagine happening) I will be able to  sing this song.


Some of the verses and chorus:
Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord...

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name


See, it's easy to stand in sunny Panama City Beach and sing Blessed Be Your Name while you take in your regular income, relish wonderful friendships, bask in the sunshine, fellowship and witness baptisms in the pristine waters at the beach, get on your boat with your family, meet for regular playdates.  I could never sing that song before without changing the words a little  "...when the darkness closes in, Lord, please let me say, blessed be the name of the Lord."

On August 15th we had a graveside service with most of our family present.  I wish I could express what it meant to me to have so much of my family by my side.  People traveled many hours to stand with us, encircle us, secure us, and remind us we are not alone in this loss.  My family read every word of my blog, and they walked this journey with me.  And by family, I mean my immediate family as well as aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws.

Arriving at the graveside was the first time I had been in the same space as my daughter, Lydia since she was born and quickly taken to another room for evaluation.  We had not held her or seen her.  It was the right decision.  But pulling up to the graveside, I completely lost my breath. Nothing, not even Amy could prepare me for the size of her little casket.

I completely hyperventilated and wasn't sure I was going to be able to pull it together in order to get out of the car.  I know Jeff was concerned because as we settled to begin the memorial the Pastor had to tell him that he had left the car running.  He's never seen me in such a state, of that I am sure because I have never seen me in such a state.  

The pastor who officiated the service spoke words of encouragement and hope. We sang Jesus Draw Me Ever Nearer.  The pastor read Psalm 34, a psalm of God's goodness that I read again and again throughout our journey.  Jeff spoke briefly to let our family know how much their caring lifted us through this time.  And with a quivering voice I have never heard come from my mouth, I read a letter to Lydia:

Sweet Lydia Grace~
My heart aches standing here fulfilling earthly traditions necessary for our earthly understanding and closure, yet in my spirit I know you're not here.  But, in fact, you are in a place that is incredibly beautiful, radically colorful, and unimaginably joyful.

But I am here, left in this hurting world that groans as it longs for peace and restoration which only comes from being where you are---in His presence.

And I overflow with gratitude for your life--for the short time I had the privilege of carrying your sweet soul.  Because along that short road, Jesus met me, walked beside me, girded me up and showed me just how genuinely and deeply I believe in Him.  He proved my faith to me.

Through your life, Lydia, I have been freed from fear.  I truly believe now that no matter what the future holds, God will prepare me for it, go with me through it,  counsel me during it, and be faithful in all of it.  I have seen How perfectly He loves me in trial, and I've learned how to lean into him and shut the doors on the unknowns of tomorrow and rest in each today and the countless gifts each day has to offer.  And when the days feel full of just plain SUCK--I can rest in the promise of His goodness.

Most of all, Lydia, I've learned how small each of us are in the grand scheme of things and how meaningless my life is without the knowledge of God and all of the traits that make up his character.

Through the things you've taught me, I will carry you every day of my life and give thanks for every day of yours.

Rest in his peace, sweet Lydia, and I will, too.

And as if fulfilling one of my deepest desires, The Lord allowed me to sing those words I wondered if I'd ever have the faith to sing.  In Spirit and in Truth I sang the the words I prayed I'd be able to sing when I bore my own cross: "when the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say, blessed be the name of the Lord."

I couldn't have imagined a more precious way to honor my sweet daughter's life than to acknowledge the destiny that she fulfilled in her short life: she has helped God mold me into a woman who can walk confidently with Him with no fear of the future because no matter what happens, in the midst of it God has give me the gift of faith which empowers me to sing, Blessed be the name of the Lord.

In Christ,
Erin





Friday, August 24, 2012

Toeing the Line

My understanding of what it means to toe the line is that one conforms to a set of standards and rules.  This phrase has come to mind several times in the past week as I find myself toeing what feel like two opposing lines.

During the time leading up to Lydia's death was a long period of waiting in which I toed the lines of both Heaven and Earth.  I found great comfort in remaining present in each day and not worrying about tomorrow as Jesus counseled us to do.  However, there were one or two things about which I found it difficult to not worry.  One: I struggled with worry about whether we would be forced to make decisions about prolonging (or not) Lydia's life should we arrive at that crossroads.  This time never came.  In fact, we arrived at the Dr.'s office and began to discuss past and future consultations with more experts before I interrupted and asked that we check for a heartbeat before we discuss future plans.  There was no heartbeat.  The day had finally come.  It was over. There had been no need to worry.  Two: I worried about holding Lydia's lifeless body once she was delivered.  I tried not to.  It was a struggle especially on the day of delivery.  When the time came, the answer was obvious.  There was no difficult decision to make.  We never did see Lydia's body.  And I have absolutely no doubt that I will not regret that decision.  It was right.  And it was worthless to have worried about it.  I knew when the moment came I would know what the right decision would be.  I did know.  But I couldn't help it.  I worried.

There are times as a Christian when you live in both an eternal mind frame as a citizen of Heaven and a worldly one as a citizen of the world.  And you toe both lines.  And it's not an easy place to be.  Frankly sometimes it feels impossible.

I traveled to Edinboro on Monday morning with plans to have some very good times with the kids mixed up with very hard times of burial and memorial planning.  On Tuesday morning I realized that my body was definitely not recovering from the labor and delivery like it should be.  I called my doctor in RI for a consult and they referred me directly to the closest Emergency room.  I wept.  I just wanted the hard stuff to be over and this was not fitting in my plans to take my kids to the fair and Cedar Point.  It had been a long, hard road and I was looking forward to spending fun time with them.  I seriously considered not going.  I went.  I spent all of the afternoon and into the evening in the ER only to be referred for a doctor appointment first thing the following morning with a local obstetrician.  I followed up the next morning, Wednesday morning, for an evaluation in which I was told I needed to go immediately to the hospital for surgery.  There went Wednesday (yesterday)--all day in the hospital and under general anesthesia.

I spent those entire two days struggling.  It's been hard.  Ridiculously hard.  Part of me wanted to complain and feel sorry for myself for drama on top of drama.  Yet I knew that even allowing myself to go part of the way down that road would open doors to depression.  Thankfully,  I found a place where I just embraced the fact that the whole thing was just silly hard.  I let myself cry at times and accepted that the rules and standards of this world involve serious hardship, thwarted plans and expectations. The fact is that I'm living the hard stuff and it's okay to feel the pain that's part of the world.  And I tried my best to remember and speak the Truth which is that God is good.  It's the Truth of Heaven that acts as a salve for the pain of the world.  It didn't make the pain go away, but somehow forcing myself to remember it and speak it soothed the pain a little.  He proves again and again that He is good and I knew He would prove it in this, too.  It was a heavenly Truth I believed but the earthly truth of the pain and the hurt these last two days held outweighed the standards of eternity and endless time.  At least for a while.  

I didn't get to have fun with the kiddos yesterday and the day before.  And today we had to meet with the funeral home for the burial arrangements and the Pastor for the memorial.  This whole week has been full of the earthly concerns.  Burying babies, undergoing surgery, thwarted plans and expectations.  And I find that the ebbing and flowing of earthly concerns and heavenly peace aren't quite as smooth and predictable as the tide.  Sometimes it feels more like riding in a bumper car.  You might be heading along the straight and narrow for a bit but you know the next blow could be just at the next turn.

Today I can look at yesterday and the day before and say I'm thankful for the timing.  I'm very grateful that I don't have to go home to surgery after the memorial and that the memorial will hopefully be closure to this part of my story.  I'm extremely thankful to be feeling better.  I didn't expect the surgery to be the end to pain, I assumed there would be at least a small period of recovery.  But the surgery surprisingly brought complete healing.

I find, now, a day after the last few blows that there is more for which to be thankful than there is for which to be sad.  I wonder if it is like this in every trial.  I have a feeling God has been very gentle with me through these last eight weeks.  I pray that whatever trial comes next, He will be just as gentle and reveal His place in it just as clearly and that the pain and standards of the world will be just as easily or just as quickly outweighed by the standards of heaven.

Tomorrow is the memorial.  We have decided to keep it a very small service with family and very close friends in the morning.  In the afternoon, we will be at my parents' house enjoying one anothers' company.  All are welcome to visit after the service.

I want to send one more "thank you" to all of you, again.  Your notes, comments and messages have been extremely encouraging and brought me great comfort.  It's an incredible blessing to hear the ways God influencing our story is touching the world.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Unmistakable Footprint of God

There is so much that I want to share about the three days leading up to and after Lydia's delivery.   With genuine delight I keep saying, "It couldn't have been more perfect."  I'm telling you it couldn't have been.  There's a part of me that knows that I sound completely mentally unstable when I speak so positively about this tragic loss in our lives.  But I assure you we cry and we recognize there is nothing easy about this experience.  I will share some of the harder stuff in time.   But there is one story that needs to be written now.

This story is the one I will tell now because it is the one that I have relayed so many times in the past 24 hours (because it is simply that unbelievable) that I don't even want to hear myself tell it again.  So I'm hoping that if I write it here, I can just refer people here to read about it.  But I'm sure I'll continue to tell it.  I hope as you read it you can plainly see the foot print of God because He most certainly stepped into this story from before the beginning to the end.  And I am just giddy about how clearly I can see it.  It's like a paleontologist discovering a T-Rex foot print.  Okay, so I'm not a paleontologist and I can't say that for sure, I just imagine it's similar.  Here goes:

Three years ago, Jeff was stationed in Gulfport, MS.  From there he was deployed to Japan.  Jeff and I had decided that it made sense for me to move home to Edinboro, Pennsylvania with my parents for the 7 month deployment.

Shortly after settling in Edinboro I enrolled Hannah in a pre-school program.  The first day of school Hannah's teacher (Amy) met us at the door with a Navy sweatshirt on.  Hannah could read at the time so she said, "Mommy, her sweatshirt says Navy." She looked at her teacher and said, "My daddy is in the Navy."

Her teacher smiled and said, "My husband is in the Navy, too!"

Hannah said, "My daddy is deployed."

She shook her head with understanding sadness and said, "My husband is deployed, too."

 I found this odd since there is no Naval base near Edinboro.  So I asked her where she and her husband were stationed.  She told me they were stationed in Gulfport, MS.  Gulfport's base is a seabee base and is very small compared to most any other military base.  This is already truly unbelievable.  So I asked her if her husband was deployed to Japan and she said yes.  Our husbands were in the same battalion of about 300 seabees, both deployed to the other side of the world and this young woman and I were both back in the same small town with our children staying with our parents.  Unbelievable.

---Okay.  There's the heel part of the footprint.

Amy and I spent some time together over those seven months when we could get away with the kiddos, but when we got back to Gulfport after the deployment we ran in different circles so our paths didn't cross much.  But sometime after we had been in Gulfport, Amy called me crying one evening and shared that her baby that she had been carrying had been diagnosed with Turner's syndrome and they weren't expecting her to live.  She remembered my blankets and asked me to make a blanket for her with her name, Faith, on it and pray for her.  Of course I said yes, made it for her, took it to her and prayed over her and Faith.  That was the last time I spoke with Amy as I remember it.

--Given that Turner's syndrome is Lydia's diagnosis (as far as we know until we get an autopsy report) and Turner's syndrome as the cause of miscarriage past 13 weeks is extremely rare, you know this is the ball of the footprint.

Several weeks ago when we were given our diagnosis I remembered Amy's story.  It took me a week to get up the courage to call Amy because I hadn't spoken to her in so long.  I had never checked on her afterward and felt guilty about it, and I was not completely sure I could handle the pain of someone else's trial on top of my own.  But it came to a point when I knew I wanted to know more.  So I decided I'd try to call her.  Keep in mind I have switched phones three times and lost many contacts since Amy and I had been in contact.  I checked my phone not expecting to find her number.  Sure enough it was in there.  One of the first contacts.  I dialed.  I don't remember whether I was crying or what my message said, but I probably tearfully informed her of our current diagnosis and asked if she was up for talking about her experience.  I received a text back within minutes telling me that she would call as soon as she could.

Amy was just what I needed when I needed it.  She was authentic and unguarded and loving and compassionate.  She walked me through her entire experience making sure not to miss the parts that were the biggest surprises to her that she wished she would have known in advance.  She prepared me for what a baby looks like at that stage of development.  She told me about the astoundingly small size of the caskets (something I have yet to see).  She told me about the insurance that helps cover the burial--something that I hadn't thought of yet, but left me without ever having to worry about a financial burden.  A total blessing.  Amy was one of the greatest gifts God gave me in this.

She shared how they remember Faith every year by having cake and releasing a balloon in her memory.

Amy walked her road by herself without anyone to guide her down it.  The Lord allowed my burden to be lightened by the burden she had already carried.  I will forever be grateful to God for the support he gave me in her.

Tuesday afternoon, August 14th, the day before Lydia was born, when the doctor informed us that the baby's heart was no longer beating and that it was time to be admitted for induction, I texted many people.  As we approached the hospital I texted Amy.

Me: Lydia is with Jesus.  Please keep the delivery in your prayers.  This next phase feels crazy.  Heading to the hospital in a bit.

Amy: Thank you for letting me know...it's going to be crazy!  I'm praying for you guys and PLEASE let me know if I can do ANYTHING!!! ...I'm so sorry you have to go through this...my heart is hurting so badly right now.  my daughter's 3rd birthday is tomorrow so they can share a birthday month!  Call me if you need to talk at the hospital or anything.

Did you catch that?  Her baby who died at 24 weeks gestation from Turner's syndrome was delivered on the 15th of August.   I went into the hospital on the 14th of August.  I labored for 36 hours and delivered Lydia on August 15th three years later, I kid you not, exactly the moment that this picture text came in from her:


--And there are the toes.

Three years ago, before anyone could have guessed what lay ahead, God was drawing up the footprint that he would undeniably leave on my story so that no one could deny that He was apart of it.

It is common for Christians to say that there is no pain that you can experience on this earth that Christ didn't experience, too.  Well, technically there might be.   But God put someone else on this earth who walked an exactly parallel path.  And on the morning of the 16th when the hospital couldn't tell me how they would transport the body to the different places it needed to go and transport the body for burial, I could call Amy and she knew exactly what to do.  She had to do all of the exact same things.  Because her family is still in the military and stationed in Mississippi, she also buried her daughter Faith about 20 miles down the road from where Lydia will lie in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

I'm so thankful for you, Amy.  I will remember you and Faith and the role God chose you to play in my life every August 15th and I will give thanks for Faith, and Grace.  And Faith and Lydia Grace.