Do you remember when I first started asking you to bless us with a new baby? Of course you do. Jake and Eisley were three. They had gotten so independent, becoming less and less needy of their mommy. I had begun to get that "itch". That baby itch. I knew some of my friends would be trying to have their first baby soon, so maybe this time I wouldn't be going through it all alone like I was with the twins!
Josh and I had begun to talk about it. Wondering if it would be a good time, thinking if we were going to do it, we should do it before the age gap got too big (little did we know that "gap" would grow another four years!). We talked about how weird it would be to "try" and get pregnant, when we had tried for years to not! When the babies were, well, babies, I remember thinking I could never purposely get pregnant again. They were so much work. They had put such a strain on us and our marriage. I was perfectly content with two. Until I wasn't...
Somewhere down the line, you put that desire back in my heart. Most people think having a boy and a girl, twins no less, is "perfect." That we had hit the jackpot (and we had!) getting a boy and a girl in one shabam. I was asked all the time if one or both of us were going to "get fixed". Friends, family, even strangers would ask me that. My answer was always, "I'm 22 years old. I have a feeling God might not want me to close that door with 20 good years left of fertility."
I had times I didn't want any more children, but I could never have gone through with doing anything permanent. I knew I wanted to leave that door open. And when the kids were three, I was so glad I did!
But, then, everything changed. My life was turned upside down and inside out as I watched my marriage crumble to the ground. It was nothing I saw coming. It destroyed me. It destroyed Josh. It absolutely destroyed our marriage. And after that, planning for another child seemed like a memory from another life.
What was that like for you? Knowing, before I knew, what was about to come to the light? How was it for you to listen to my heart, knowing I wanted another baby, and knowing it would be years of struggles and heartbreak before you could give it to me? Did you weep with me? Did you dread the day when it would come to my knowledge as well? Did you hope beyond hope that I would choose the path you desired after it all, that Josh and I would choose to reconcile and allow you to rebuild? Did you worry about what would happen if we didn't? Do you worry about things, or is that the opposite of being omniscient? Someday I would love to ask you that.
I am so thankful you are in the business of rebuilding. You are an architect like no other. You can create magnificence from pure ashes. Ashes. When I think of ashes, in my mind I have the picture of chalky grains of soft sand running through my fingers, blowing away in the breeze. Blowing away all that was left of my marriage, of my relationship with Josh, of our plans for the future, of our hopes and dreams for Jake and Eisley, of our relationship with you. There was nothing left. Just ashes.
Isaiah tells us that you are a God who gives us beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness. (Isaiah 61:3). I had heard that verse a hundred times growing up, but it wasn't until these past few years of my adult life did you prove that to me over and over again. So much so that I tattooed it on my wrist as a reminder. Not that I need a physical reminder. All I have to do is look up. Look up and see how you restored my marriage, how you didn't just renovate it, you burned it down into pure ashes and rebuilt it from the ground up. When was the last time I thanked you for that miracle? Thank you.
And it was a miracle. Josh and I had to completely start over, start anew and begin again. And we did. When we renewed our vows, Jake and Eisley were then four years old. And this time, we were not only making a promise to you, we were making a promise to them. And no offense, but promising your children you will stay together forever seemed even bigger than promising it to you.
And then, there is was again. That heart tugging. My desire for another baby didn't vanish, it had just been sleeping for awhile while my life was getting straightened out again. Josh and I talked about how it would be such a blessing for us to bring another child into this marriage, into this family. Because we felt it was a completely different marriage and family than the ones we were planning to bring it into a year before. And we decided together we wanted to try.
I wonder sometimes, if that's when you cried. When you realized that we were asking for another baby, and you saw us start on that path, and you could see where it led us, years out, and you saw how much we would be hurt, how much would be asked of us...did you cry then? I would have. If I knew Jake or Eisley was beginning on a path that would bring them joy and pain, a lot of pain, I would cry. I would rejoice that they were choosing the right path, but it would still be so incredibly hard for me to watch.
Before we even got pregnant, we said if it was a girl, we would name her Gracie. We were so very thankful for the grace you had shown us that past year. We wanted to honor you with that. And when you gave us Gracie, knowing we'd never meet her or even know for sure if she was a girl, we were so happy. So thankful. And when it was time, you took her home. And that's when we experienced you as the Great Comforter. We had never known pain like that. I had known worse pain, sharper pain, different pain, but never pain quite like that.
But there you were, holding us so very tight. And we didn't feel alone. We struggled with anger, and fear, and sadness, and feeling like it was so unfair. I can't imagine how hard it would be to watch your children struggle like that. I fight not to jump in when Jake can't sound out a word right away. I hate watching him struggle. That must have been unbearable for you.
But we grew. We grew together as husband and wife, and we grew as parents, and we grew closer to you. And perhaps that was your desire all along.
Six months later, I finally felt healed enough to feel that desire again. It had been blocked away by boulders of grief over my miscarriage, but it was still there. And as you pulled away each stone, one by one, the desire came back again.
You blessed us with another baby, and you didn't have to. I have to believe there was a reason you did, why you created a special, beautiful little girl to live inside me for 20 weeks. I have to believe that you loved her as much as we did, more so, and that you knew we would be the perfect family for her. I have to believe you had a purpose in it.
Did you rejoice with us when we got further and further along, our fear shrinking with each day? Or did you know what was coming, and hold your breath? I have come to believe that you created our Lily knowing the exact number of days you would be giving her life, and to you, her number of days was no more tragic than someone you give years and years of days to. You knew what her purpose was, and you knew she needed just that number of days to accomplish it. But I also know that you know us, and you know how the humans you created and love find such a short amount of days to be tragic and heartbreaking, and you knew Josh and I would be tragically heartbroken when Lily's days were up. And I'm sure that broke your heart as well.
Thank you for giving her to us, even for just a short time. We wouldn't trade it for anything. And maybe that's why you chose us to be her parents.
I know how you saw my heart harden after Lily died. Not in every way, but in certain ways. Maybe harden isn't the right word...toughen? Strengthen? I'm not sure. But it changed. I still desired another child. Josh did too. But we were forever changed. We could not take for granted that what we wanted was what you wanted.
I can only venture to guess why we tried once more and we lost one more baby to miscarriage so early. My guess is that it was the straw that broke the camel's back for us, the one thing that would turn us towards adoption. Had we had a successful pregnancy, I don't think we ever would have started that adoption path. But that did it for us. As you know, we didn't grieve much for that pregnancy, if at all. We were so...jaded. We just had no grief left for a pregnancy we barely had the chance to accept. But Lord, please know, that I know it was another one of my children, and I look forward so much to meeting them one day!
I remember how very quickly we dived into the world of adoption. How you led us so clearly, step by step. How you continued to open door after door after door, leading us through them confidently. What were you leading us to, Lord? Who were you leading us to? As the months of this pregnancy has gone by, I have wondered. I have wondered why we were rushed down that path so quickly, so easily, only to have it halt at the very end. But then...I have wondered. I have wondered if it didn't end at all. I have wondered if you were quickly leading us to Ember Rose. If she was the goal. If she was the one and only reason you hurried us down the road...to be there just in time for her.
Why did we feel led to say yes to this mother, knowing her situation and risks to the baby? Why did you open that door and nudge us through, knowing it would end with another goodbye? Was it because you knew? You knew this baby, this child, would have been alone? Completely and utterly alone, had we said no. Lord, you know we did our best to show Ember's mother your love. We did all we could to be an example of unconditional love to that mother and her baby. I hope we did okay. I really do.
We loved that baby girl. We would have taken her home in a heartbeat, if that's what you wanted. You know that to be true. I cherish those hours and hours of snuggling her, of bathing her, of dressing her in pretty clothes and hair bows, of combing that gorgeous hair, of staring into those blank eyes. We loved her, and we would have loved her as our own daughter. But you knew.
You knew she had a short number of days as well. You knew we weren't her parents, but we were put there to be her caretakers. The ones who would make sure she was loved and doted on until she moved on in her life. And we did the best we could. And our hearts broke, again, if that's at all possible.
Sometimes I wish I knew where Ember is now. I know she was blessed with an adoptive family, somewhere out of state. That's the most I'll ever know. I don't know if she is here on earth or perfectly whole again in your arms as I write this. I wish I knew. But I don't have to know. We have total peace that we made the only decision we could make, and total peace that you took perfect care of her once we released her from our arms.
And even then, even in the midst of letting go of Ember, you had blessed us again. Even though I was not able to accept it for some time, even as I rocked Ember to sleep in that NICU, a baby grew within me. One you had put there despite our wishes, despite our "plans." And I have to believe you knew what you were doing.
Here I sit. Nine months later. That tiny baby has grown into a beautiful, healthy, wiggling, rolling child ready to burst out at any moment. I am enjoying my very last moments with him or her inside of me, directly under my heart. You have brought me so far. When I rocked Ember to sleep, I remember telling you, "I don't want to talk about it." And you knew. You knew I'd need time to accept this baby, to grow in love with it, to allow my perfect love for this baby to drive out all of the fears crowding my heart.
And I did! I have grown to love this child so much. So very much. So much so, that what I feared would happen back when I was rocking Ember to sleep, what I promised myself I would never let happen again, has happened. My heart has become so intertwined with this baby, that losing it will rip it to shreds once again. I tried. You know I did. I rejected each attachment of each string. I turned my head. I closed my eyes. But one day, I woke up, and there it was. The realization that millions of tiny strings had formed from my heart to this child. And there was nothing I could do about it.
So I enjoyed it as much as I possibly could with my wounded heart, such as it is. I hope you will reassure this child throughout its life how very, very much I love them. I hope they never doubt it. Please Lord, make sure they know their story, the full story, not just the beginning. The story of how we prayed for years that God would bless us with a child, and how you took years to prepare our hearts for this child.
We are only hours away from laying eyes on this gift. I think you know how excited I am. You also know how absolutely stone cold terrified I am. You have heard my cries, my doubts. What if this baby can't make it til tomorrow? What if something goes terribly wrong? What if the baby dies? What if I die? What if Eisley's heart is broken again? What if Jake cannot recover from another blow to his sensitive little heart? What if...what if...what if...
Thank you for listening to that. I'm sure it gets very frustrating for you. Especially since you have tried to teach me time and time again that you are in control. That nothing happens without your say so, and if you say so, I trust that to be the best thing.
Thank you. Thank you for Jake and Eisley. Thank you for Josh. Thank you for the countless family and friends who have continued to love on us and support us throughout this entire process. I ask that tomorrow will be filled with joy, but Lord, if it isn't, I ask that it will still be filled with You.
I cannot wait to lay eyes on the child you've known we would be given years ago, when we first started on this path. I cannot wait to tell them of all we've been through to get to them! I cannot wait to feel your tears of joy right along mine, after all the tears of sorrow we have cried together. Please, Lord, show us how we can honor you with this little one. With this gift you've given us. A gift you didn't have to give at all.