The Way She Is With Us

In the song that woke me up this morning, the words replaying in my head as I drove to school…

Even if You take it all away, You’ll never let me go.  Take it all away, but I still know that I am Yours.

In watching as Natalie picked flowers and set them on her stone…

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In the candle that glowed on our shelf tonight while Natalie sang “Jesus Loves Me” in the background…

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In the stories we read together while we cuddled before bed…

I wanted you more than you will ever know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go.

In the way we love each other and the joy we find in the simple moments together.  In the hope we have through Him.  In the promise of seeing her and knowing her someday, together in that place where no candle or light of any kind is needed…

And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:5)

In these and so many other ways she is with us.  Always in our hearts even though she is not in our arms.

We love you Faith.

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Dear Faith (On Your 3rd Birthday)

Dear Faith,

Happy 3rd birthday my sweet little girl!

I think about you often throughout the whole year, but today especially you were on my mind all the time.  I miss you, as I always do and always will.

What kind of celebration do they do in Heaven for birthdays?  Maybe you don’t even celebrate birthdays there because every day is so perfect and wonderful on it’s own.  I’m not really sure, someday you’ll have to tell me about it.

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Sometimes I feel sad that I can’t do more things for you… like celebrate your birthday here together, or brush your hair and read books and learn about the world hand in hand.  Your little sister, Natalie, depends on me for almost everything, and I love taking care of her.  I would have loved taking care of you too.

But I have peace in my heart knowing you are taken care of in a way that exceeds anything I could ever hope or imagine for you, my sweetheart.

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This morning I woke up to a beautiful song that reminds me of you and the way God has used your life to continue shaping me into the person He wants me to be.  Thank you for bringing me joy, teaching me courage, and helping me love more fully.  I hope you know that you made me a better person and I really believe that your life, no matter how short it was here on earth, impacted many people.

You are beautiful and incredibly special and I am so glad God gave you to us.  Even though you are not here with us physically, you are with us always in our hearts.

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I love you, Faith, with all my heart.

Love always,

Mommy

My Daughters

Last Christmas Steve gave me a necklace that has initials and birthstones for me, Faith, and Natalie.  The other night, as I was taking it off, I held it in my hand a moment and thought, “my daughters”.

My daughters.

It made me happy for a moment.  I have two daughters!

But then I felt a wave of sadness.

I rarely talk about them that way.  To be honest I can’t remember a time that I have used the phrase, “my daughters” when talking with another person.  Even in my own mind I’m not sure I often think of them that way.

It’s hard to explain.

I think about Faith as my daughter, waiting for me in Heaven.  I think about Natalie as my daughter, with me here.  But somehow the fact that they are in different places keeps me from easily linking them together.

I love them both, but that love is lived out differently.  I know I have had two babies, but the world sees only one.

Maybe that’s part of the struggle.  So many people in my day to day life don’t know about Faith and I am okay with that.  But now I’ve become so accustomed to answering the “how’s your daughter?” question about Natalie alone, that it feels foreign to think of daughter in the plural instead.

Stranger still… if Faith was here, I’m not sure that Natalie would be.

I can’t find the right words to express something that my own mind can’t fully grasp.  This separation between my two girls.  Two sisters.  Two daughters.

And yet, are they really separate?

In body, yes.  But they are together in my heart.  They are wrapped up together in the love we share as a family.

And as Natalie grows and, I pray, comes to a relationship with Jesus for herself, we have the promise of togetherness in Heaven as well.

Oh my sweet daughters, I am so thankful to be your mom.

 

 

 

 

For Her

One of the boxes that hasn’t been unpacked or stored yet in the new house is the one full of Faith’s things.  Some of her things are already out in special places, I’m trying to decide what to do with the rest.

Not all of it needs to be on display, but I don’t like the thought of putting it in the basement with most of our other stored boxes either.  I’ll probably have Steve carry it up to our bedroom closet.  As silly as it might sound, I feel like it would be nice to have her things close by.

Today, though, I opened up that box and pulled out a candle.  The candle that we lit for the third time tonight.

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It’s a night to set aside time especially for her, and I’m thankful for that, but even on the days when no special candle is lit, I continue hold her close.

I water the plants growing in my classroom that were gifts when she was born and I think of her.  I read her name on decorations throughout the house and I smile for her.  I listen to songs that remind me of her and I cry for her.  I let Natalie gently kiss her teddy bear and I talk about her.

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I lift her little dress out of the box and hold it close and I miss her.

If Faith were here with us she would be 2 years and 4 months old today.  Two years, twenty years, however many years until I see her again, I’ll still miss her.

Someday I won’t light a candle because we’ll be basking in the light of God’s glory together.  Someday I won’t need to hold onto mementos because I will be holding her again.  Someday I won’t miss her anymore because we’ll be together forever.

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And on that day, when we are reunited in Heaven, there is only one thing I do for her now that will still remain.

It can’t be put on display or stored in a box, but it is the thing that matters most, beyond anything else I can ever do.  Today and through eternity this one thing will never change…

I love her.

 

A June 15th Father’s Day

About a month ago I asked Steve if he’d like to share something on this blog for Father’s Day.  For a while he wasn’t sure if he would or not, but tonight he sat down and wrote this.  Although he wanted me to give a disclaimer that it is a longer writing than usual, I’m glad he took the time to share it.  I know it meant a lot to me to read his thoughts and reflections and I hope you’ll enjoy reading as well!

I’m not exactly sure the first time that I realized that Father’s Day in 2014 would be on June 15th.  I don’t think it was until maybe 3 or 4 months ago… I think Megan was the one to tell me.  I remember thinking, wow, that could be a day filled with many different emotions.

If you’ve been following my wife’s blog at all, you may be familiar with the significance of June 15th. It is the date of our first daughter, Faith’s, birthday. It is also the day she passed away. This year it would be Father’s Day…and also the day Faith would have turned two.

This year is my third Father’s Day.  My first Father’s Day was June 17th, 2012, two days after Faith passed away.  That Father’s Day was filled with many emotions, very raw and powerful.  Last Father’s Day was spent in reflection… the mixed emotions were still there.  I think I expected to be in worst shape than I actually ended up being.

This year I felt like Father’s Day would be much easier emotionally.  On December 7th, 2013 we welcomed Natalie Jane, our 2nd daughter, into this world.  This Father’s Day I would get to spend with my daughter here in person.

Today’s plans involved going to church for a Father’s Day breakfast, attending the church service, and then spending some time with both of our families.  I woke up this morning shortly after 7:00 am.  I went to my phone to turn off my alarm and waiting there was a text from my brother, Greg.  The text read, “Love and miss you Faith.  Happy Father’s Day Steve”… a short note, but one that meant so much to me.

Meg and I remember Faith often.  I know Meg has written about it previously, but it really makes us feel good that others remember Faith as well.  My cousin Brian and his wife Beth have sent us cards two years in a row on Faith’s birthday and I can tell you it means the world to both Meg and I.

Anyways, back to the text… I loved receiving this note and knowing that my brother remembered Faith today and let me know, but drawing my mind to Faith first thing in the morning set off emotions that I thought would be scaled down this year.  As Father’s Day got closer and closer this year I really thought that celebrating the day with Megan and Natalie would mean that happy emotions would push out the sad emotions.  I put the phone down and found myself sad… missing Faith.

I missed her a lot.  I haven’t really found myself wondering what Faith would be doing were she still with us, but I lay in bed and found myself wondering what Faith would be like turning two today.  How would today be different if she were still with us?  If we could celebrate today with her AND her sister Natalie!  Tears streamed down my cheeks.

Meg was up by now and noticed… she comforted me, I talked a little bit just to convey my brief emotions, and then we just held each other.  The day hadn’t started like I had envisioned it for sure… in fact, I didn’t feel much like going to the Father’s Day brunch now.  Meg and I just held each other… for a while… it was comforting to me.

I did go in to see Natalie when she woke up.  She was so happy to see us… she ALWAYS has a huge smile in the morning to greet us.  That was comforting to me and made me happy, she got a smile out of me after the rough start.

We went to church in the morning.  As the sermon began, the pastor read from Luke 8:40 and started talking of Jairus, who went to Jesus pleading for Him to visit his house as his daughter was dying.  Meg and I looked at each other and I think she whispered “oh boy”.  We knew that Jesus would go to Jairus’ house and raise his daughter to life, having told Jairus in verse 50, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

Again, some tears welled up in my eyes.  I thought to myself, “I had believed that Faith would live.  I had believed that God would heal Faith while she was in Megan’s womb and we would have a miracle as a witness to give glory to God.”  Pastor Tom did go on to touch on some other things, rather than really dig in and focus on just this last section of Luke, but he did say that we should have an unwavering faith and believe that God’s will would be done.

This brought me back.  I remembered how I felt after Faith passed away.  I remember feeling comforted in the midst of this huge loss here on Earth knowing that God would have a plan and use this somehow for good.

I remember when Faith was diagnosed with fetal hydrops and we sat in front of an ultrasound, looking at the fluids that had suddenly showed up inside her body where they should not be.   I remember coming to a point where I surrendered to God and acknowledged that this child was His.  He was her Father before I was.

We know that God knew her before He formed her in Megan’s womb as He told Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”.  Psalm 139:13 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb”.

God created Faith and God does not make any mistakes.  He knew she would have fetal hydrops and he knew she would pass away.  I know that her life, in its short existence, has touched others’ lives.  I pray that her life will still continue to serve a purpose here on Earth but I know that she is with her Father, God, in Heaven right now.  I found myself comforted again.

God is Faith’s father.  He is Natalie’s father.  He is mine.  He is yours.  Whether you believe in Him right now or whether you don’t, God created you.  He is your Father.

As a father to Natalie, I try to be the best dad I can be.  I like to feel that I am doing a good job, but I know I am not perfect.  I will always have faults.  God does not have those faults… it doesn’t matter what you have done with your life up to this point, He is there waiting and wanting you to love him back… all the while He is loving you regardless of where you’re at.

The rest of my day was pretty good.  We spent time with both of our families.  I got to see the joy that Natalie brings to all of our relatives and I got to spend some quality time with her.

I love her.  I love Faith.  So does God, with the perfect Father’s love.  How much joy do my girls bring to God?  Someday we’ll all be together in Heaven together and what an amazing day that will be!

Dear Faith

Dear Faith,

Today is your 2nd birthday here on earth.  I’m not sure if time works quite the same in Heaven, but here we’re remembering and celebrating you.

I miss you my sweet girl.  I wish I could give you a big birthday hug and kiss.  I promise I’m saving up lots and lots of hugs and kisses for you when I see you again in Heaven.

Your little sister Natalie is here with us to celebrate your birthday this year. She has brought us so much joy and healing. I tell her about you often. Sometimes when we read books together, I pick out the ones that remind me of you and tell her how special you are to us.

You really are and you always will be.

We’re moving to a new house soon. We already put your stone by the flowers in the backyard. Your Daddy and I will be able to see it from our bedroom window and that makes us happy.

At first I thought it might be a little sad to leave the place we lived while you were growing in my belly, but the truth is that you are always a part of us, no matter where we go.

You might not know this, but I truly believe that you made me a better mommy.  Thank you for that.  I know God is taking good care of you.  He’s taking care of us too.

I love you so much Faith.  Happy 2nd birthday my sweet girl!

Love always,

Mommy

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Valleys to Rivers: Refined

It’s been almost two years to the day since Faith was born.

I miss her, but it is different now.  It’s not a constant ache like it was before.  I don’t think about her as often as I used to.

It’s hard to write that down.

It seems wrong to say that Faith isn’t on my mind as much as she was before.  When I first realized that, I felt guilty.  And when I first acknowledged that I was truly happy again, that guilt crept in once more.

I’m her mom… how could I not think about her all the time?  How can I feel so joyful even though my first child died?

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

So it seemed that missing her, and 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 that maybe I was doing something wrong.

I think, 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.

And that can lead to guilt.  It can lead to questions and fears.  It can lead to a lingering stay in the valley of sorrow, in an attempt to maintain that connection we feel with our loved one.

I believe this is a trap.  It’s an easy one to fall into, but it’s not what God desires for us.

As I let go of grief, I also let go of the questions and that nagging voice of guilt.  I have come to a place now where I feel such peace and contentment.

And this is why…

I love Faith.  I love her just as much today as I did in those short hours I held her in my arms.  My love didn’t decrease or disappear when my grief subsided.  Nothing can take away my love for her.

I miss Faith.  I always will.  But my missing her is balanced by a quiet and steady assurance that I will see her again.  Missing her is just for a time, eternity with her lies ahead.

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.

I have a life to live.  Losing a child is part of my story, but it’s not the end of my story.  I want to honor Faith’s legacy by living my life to the fullest.  If she could, I truly believe Faith would tell me that she wants me to be joyful, that she wants me to move forward.

I am refined.  Through a trial I could have never imagined, I have grown stronger in my faith.  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.

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

As I look back over the past two years, 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.