This was the word I clung to. In those beginning months of grief, ‘hope’ came back to us over and over. It was the only anchor that kept us firm. We held onto the promises that Christ gave us in that. I had hope that things had to get better. I had hope that God would hold us close in that time. Most of all, I had hope that I truly would see my sweet boy again someday. And while this didn’t take the pain away, it did give us a reason to keep going. When my baby girl was born 6 weeks after Skyler went Home, we named her Janae Hope, later learning that ‘Janae’ meant ‘God is gracious’. He truly was gracious to us. As I knelt there next to my firstborn, holding his still hand where he had breathed his last breath, I thought that there is NO way I can bring forth new life from my body so soon. I felt like there was NO way I could love another baby, after losing the first baby I loved so dearly. Now, as I’m about just as far along in pregnancy with #5 as I was then, I know that only by God’s grace was I able to have that strength. We later realized that she was what we needed. She kept me living, and truly showed me what ‘hope’ meant. Looking back now, so much of that time was a blur. I remember how some of my senses were so dulled with shock. Some things had no taste when I ate, sometimes it felt like an elephant was sitting on me. I remember once sitting in my chair with living room full of people, wondering if I should have someone bring me to the hospital because I couldn’t lift my arms. I realized it was just part of it all. Then some details I can remember SO clearly, the exact thoughts running through my head, the tears of people I loved as they cried on my shoulder, even when I had no tears of my own. The many many people that showed us love. Which brings us into the next area…
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Romans 5:13
I thought I knew. I thought I understood what love was before. Now I’ve realized it’s a life-long journey of learning. When I was in 8th or 9th grade, I remember being at a place of understanding. I believed with all my heart in the God who created and loved me. I was on fire for Him, with big plans to go on mission trips and so on as soon as I could. That faded a bit as I got older, though I never walked away from my faith. When I got married, and after Skyler was born, I got a taste of a new kind of love. The love I had for my husband was something I had ‘chosen’ in a way, and had happened gradually. But the love that I had for our son completely blew me away. That heart explosion of holding him for the first time, and watching him grow into a little boy was enough to make you stop and think what God had really done when He sent His Son to this earth. And to imagine the love that He has for us that is SO much bigger than what I was feeling. With the birth of Rystin, and seeing the amazing relationship that Skyler developed with him, with the birth of Vayah and seeing how she just adored her oldest brother. Those are the things that make every day worth living. But when that first little boy was taken away from me, I thought my heart had shattered. How could someone I loved SO much just be gone in an instant?! There HAD to be something I could do. But there was nothing. I had never wanted anything in my life as bad as I wanted him back. And I couldn’t have that, no matter what I did. And I realized that I loved him even more that I had thought. That phrase ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ is so true. But in those days and weeks and months that followed, I realized I hadn’t lost my love for him. It didn’t die with him. I still love him as much now as I did then. While it’s hard to watch time pass, memories get fuzzy, and even pain start to fade, I can still feel that love that was always there for him. And during that time, I also felt the powerful love of Christ in a way that I never had before. It’s something that’s impossible to explain. There were times that I literally felt like His arms were around me. I’d open my Bible and He would speak to me. My home was filled with people coming and going, all being the hands and feet of Christ to me during that time (and they still do). I have never felt as close to God as I did during those first weeks. There were times when things got quiet, and I would begin to feel far away from God. But He was always there, and He showed me His love in small quiet ways, over and over again. I realized how He is truly faithful. Those promises of hope that He gives us really are sure. I had never ‘needed’ God like I did then, and He was right there all along, pouring out that love onto us so generously. And that is enough to slowly bring the joy back again.
1 John 4:19
We love him, because he first loved us.
It was so hard to imagine ever feeling joy again. How could we be joyful when we had lost so much? We were all so broken in such different ways. Our needs were so varied, and our grief so personal. How would we survive the complete mess that grief brought into our lives?! It was ugly and frustrating. And Satan immediately tries to sneak in when we are weak and pull us apart from each other and from our God. He accuses us of doing it ‘wrong’. He makes us feel selfish. He plants seeds of doubt in our minds and points fingers in all directions. He tries to convince us that there’s nothing left to live for. But our God is so much more powerful than Satan. He brings us out of the pit and plants our feet on a firm foundation. But it is a long slow journey. We fall down and slide backwards. But He is always there to help us up again. We see peaks of the mountain tops from a distance. Occasionally we get to a place high enough to feel that spark of joy again. And so goes the journey of life. We have valleys and mountains, but our God is the same through it all, never leaving us. Joy doesn’t always mean happiness. Joy isn’t always something outward. But the joy that God places in our hearts is Eternal. The joy in my heart is the same joy that is in Skyler’s right now. His is fully alive and reality. Mine is just a glimpse as I walk the journey. But praise God for the joy He gives, because it also leads us to a place of peace.
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11
One of the things I am most thankful for these past (going on) 3 years in the sense of peace. Somehow, even in those first days, I was able to feel some small amount of peace. As time has passed, that peace has grown, as far as facing loss anyways. There have been seasons that are harder, and probably always will be. The holidays can be especially difficult when there’s such an empty place always there. But this season I have mostly felt peace. Sadness crept in as I watched the 2nd grade class recite their verses and sing in the Christmas program at church today, but mostly I felt peace. I think I feel more peace with Skyler being Home, than I do in day to day life here with my other kids sometimes. My mind runs 1000 mph in all directions, imagining what could happen to one of them. If I leave them with someone else, I am constantly wondering if they are ok, and thinking of all the what-ifs. Fear sneaks its way in again and I struggle. It is so hard to give up the control that I seem to think I have, and trust in God’s plan, even though I’ve seen the beauty in the ashes before. He’s brought us through my worst nightmare, and I’m still here. Why would I doubt His plan for the future? Someone recently shared with me that it’s ok to allow myself to struggle. I set pretty high standards for myself, and feel like I fail if I have a hard time with something. Going to the farm with the kids is still difficult for me. But that’s ok! That’s normal and part of it, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for allowing myself to grieve. It’s ok to step back from life and heal. That was a bit of a revelation to me, since I just try to push through it and make it go away. So I have felt so much blessing of peace in the loss and the process, but still hold onto fear in the life we have ahead. But when I remind myself that God alone is in control, and that His promises are firm, I am reassured with the peace that only comes from Him.
Isaiah 12:2 - Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid:
for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
And as in the season of Advent, this hope, love, joy, and peace all point to our Savior. That sweet babe, God’s only Son, truly brought all of these things to us. And while this life is hard, and these struggles face us daily, we can be assured that these are Eternal. Because of God’s gift to us on that first Christmas night, and what that baby grew up to do, we can face each day. That baby boy, Jesus, grew up to teach us His ways. He showed us what hope, love, joy, and peace really meant. And His death and blood that washes us clean give us a Forever promise. It is only in Him that we can be confident that this world is not our home, but our True Home is waiting for us as we journey here. That place of eternal joy, where the pain is gone, where there are no more goodbyes. May each of us remember this Christmas, of what we are living for. Let us remember that we were worth dying for. And let us focus on what it means to feel hope, love, joy, and peace in all season of this road of life.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.