In three days it will be a year since we lost our third child, and I'm trying to find a way to process all that God's taught me since he slipped away. It hasn't been an easy year. I've handled some things well, and other things with an acute lack of grace. Some days have been filled with joy, others with pain. I have friendships that are stronger now, and others that might not make it.
But I have learned a few things over the last 362 days.
Grief looks different for everyone
I'll be honest. When we found out we were pregnant with Alex, we were a mixture of excited and completely overwhelmed. We looked around our home, at our two beautiful but taxing little boys, and thought "how in the WORLD can we manage another child?" I had days of happiness, because I had always wanted three boys, and days of unadulterated fear, because I wasn't sure I wanted everything a new baby would bring.
That may sound heartless to some, but it's my truth. As much as I wanted Alex, I also didn't want everything that came with him. I don't know how to explain that so it makes sense. I loved him deeply, prayed over him almost hourly, dreamed of all he would be, but his coming scared me to death.
My emotions were all over the place from the very beginning, so when we lost him, I wasn't sure whether to be devastated or relieved. I ended up being a little bit of both. And at first, I wasn't sure that was OK.
Grief looks different for everyone. I wish we had Alex with us. There are times that I literally long to hold him, nurse him, make him laugh. But there are also times, and more of them, that I'm deeply satisfied in what we already have, and don't feel the need for anything more...ever.
Sometimes, the simplest reason is the best reason
I've come to a place of acceptance about the "why's" of life that I didn't have before. I don't know why we lost our baby. I don't know why God took both of my dad's brothers home and left him here. I don't know why my children get to grow up knowing their grandfather and my cousins' children don't. I don't know why bad things happen to good people.
Or at least, I don't know a long, drawn-out reason why.
Sometimes, the simplest reason is the best reason.
My friend Tracey, who lost her son Jarrett in the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, says that a crazed madman did not take the life of her son. God did.
Since the beginning of time, the length of Jarrett's days, my baby's days, my other family members' days (and yours) have been written in God's book. Jarrett's time on earth was done, so God took him home. Yes, it was gun shots from a crazed madman that killed him, but it had been determined that April 16, 2007 would be his last day from the very beginning of time.
It had been determined that September 20th, 2011 would be the last day I would hold my baby inside my body since the very beginning of time.
That gives me peace. And I'm not sure I need to know why.
True friends are one of God's greatest miracles
Two Sundays ago, during the altar call/prayer time our church has every week, my friend Jamie tugged on my sleeve, and those of three other close friends, and took us all to the altar. We knelt together and prayed.
I listened to Jamie thank God for the gift of these important and faithful friendships and began to cry. And I tried to pray. But my tears turned to sobs as the realization of just how great the gift of those women had been to me over the past six years sunk in...and I couldn't finish.
They have brought me meals, prayed over me, encouraged me, let me ramble on and on (and even pretended to like it!), hugged me, looked over my quirks and absentmindedness, and just let me be me. Maybe that's the best thing they did—let me be me.
They have been God's great and merciful gift to me, and I hope I get the chance to prove it to them.
In His providence, I'll be busy worshipping with a group of my closest blogging friends in Alabama in three days.
Fitting, since the blogosphere reached out to me in such a powerful, unexpected way.
I want you to know, blogging friends, that I won't forget that quickly. Blogging relationships haven't come easily for me. But you...well...there's no other way to say it than you simply showed up. And I'm grateful for you. So very grateful.
We don't have to wait for God to show up in our pain. If we know Him as Savior, He's already there.
I stole that bit of wisdom from my friend Michelle, who just started an amazing blog called The ReDesign of Michelle West, because it's amazingly, breathtakingly true.
So many times in my life, I've shouted at God to come. I've wondered why He seems so adept at dropping everything to come to the aid of others, but doesn't seem to be so quick to do it for me.
I know now that this is a lie.
God never left me, and He's never left you. He can't come if He's already there.
The best stance is arms wide open
I used to love Crystal Lewis. Man, she and I used to belt out some songs all alone in my car. I was 23, single, and believed with all my heart that I would go wherever God led. I meant it when I said I would be light in the dark, and salt in the street. I was prepared to do whatever He required no matter the cost, to live for the lost, so they would know of the cross.
(Related: It's a wonder I never wrecked singing those songs while driving).
Since that time of sincere desire to follow God, I've found myself in a different, darker place. One with much less "I will go wherever You lead," and a lot more, "here's where I want to go. Now get me there Lord!"
Now, after three years of wondering why God didn't love me enough to give me my dreams, I'm finally at a place where I want His dreams more than I want mine.
I've found that the best stance is arms wide open.
I'm still healing.
I still have moments of pain that take my breath away. But I've learned that saying "yes" to God is worth whatever it costs me.
And that, friends, might be the secret of life.