There’s something magical about that new baby smell. I’m convinced. It almost gives life to your spirit when you breathe it in. I didn’t realize it, but I’ve had the scent “bottled” for years. Who knew?! I spent this week sorting through the tubs and tubs of clothes that I’ve been hoarding for years for another baby. We are moving at the end of the month, and I have been trying to decide what to do with them. Should I move them again? Or is it time to let go?
I think that God has been gently leading me toward an answer. A few weeks ago I shared with the kids this blog post written by a missionary friend in Tanzania about the natives’ struggle between the heart, the means, and the energy to give. We talked about their quality of life, and how giving is so much harder for them physically, yet comes so much more naturally. Sweet Eden burst into tears. She said between sobs, “They’re hungry! It’s not fair that they don’t have enough food! I just want to help!” I reminded her that we’ve been praying for them for months, and prayer is powerful. Her child eyes needed something more concrete. She replied, “NO! I want to DO something!” I messaged my friend then and there and asked if there was anything we could do from across the world. She suggested that I send a dress or two that Eden had outgrown with our mission team that would be going to Tanzania within the month. Great idea! Funny that you should mention clothes… And then, just last week, another missionary spoke to our congregation about his work in the Philippines. At the conclusion of his summary report, he listed some ways that we could help. One of the items on the list–sending clothes for a children’s home that is run by the church. It was almost as if God was nudging me with a friendly elbow to the ribs. “In case you didn’t get it the first time, Jamie…” Yes, Lord, I know. I am clinging. It’s time to let go. I’m still learning.
So, I’ve spent the week sorting through the memories, the pain, the hope. It’s been quite an emotional ride. Eden’s things were the most difficult. The process was the same: pick up an item, breathe in that scent, cry, sort, and repeat. It was hard. Each piece held a memory. She wore this on her first birthday. Or This was a gift from _______. (It’s uncanny given the complete lack of dependability in my memory lately, but I do remember almost all of them!) Each piece stung with pain. Some of them were articles that Thea would be wearing right now. I imagined what she might’ve looked like in them, toddling on unsteady legs in an effort to keep up with her big brother and sister. Those were the hardest items of all. I hugged them and sobbed. And each piece carried hope–my hope for another baby. My rainbow baby. However, as I sorted each article into its designated area, I realized that I was mentally closing the greatest and hardest chapter of my life. Not that I have no hope of another baby…just that I think I can finally say that I will be OK if God does not grant me that gift. He has filled my life in other ways.
As I contemplated that thought, I recalled an article that I read last week, written by another loss mom. It was entitled, “Not Everyone Gets a Rainbow.” If you’re not a part of the baby loss community, you might be unfamiliar with the term. I don’t think I’d heard of it before being plunged into the depths of this ocean. A rainbow baby is the baby that follows a loss. He or she represents the promise of life in the midst of one of your darkest storms, the filling of empty and aching arms. The article discussed the harsh truth that some never receive a rainbow. That thought led me to this moment in my memory that I wrote about almost a year ago. And I realized that while I might not have a baby in my arms, God has given me a rainbow. Maybe we all get a rainbow after all! It might not be the rainbow we were hoping for, but it is a promise, a beautiful gift, all the same. And just maybe God gave me that day, that moment, that gift in preparation for this very week that He knew was looming on the horizon of my future. Today, more than ever, I am thankful for my rainbow…
written August, 2016
An age-old question that we rarely ask or answer honestly–how are you? Often motivated by courtesy rather than concern, we ask it in passing without even hesitating for a response. When asked of me, the question makes me cringe. When I’m not feeling blessed, or great, or even good, how should I respond? These days, my answer is typically “I’m fine,” or “I’m OK”. Translated into overly-analytical, can-we-skip-the-small-talkese, that means, “I’m not really good, but I don’t want to say that. And I don’t want to lie. So, I’ll just say that I’m fine. I’m not sick; I’m not dying; I’m here, living another day. I guess ‘OK’ sums it up quite nicely,” spoken with a forced smile and followed by the dutiful, “How are you?” (Whew! Pressure’s on you now!)
I resonate with so many songs these days. One of them is called “When I’m with You” by Citizen Way. Following a pregnancy loss within his own family, songwriter Ben Calhoun wrote of the messy state of his inner being while fighting to keep up appearances on the outside. He describes the relief that he feels in letting down his guard with the Lord. To me, the most striking line in the song is his admission, “Everything’s not fine, and I’m not OK, but it’s nice to know I can come this way.”
One evening, on the way to worship, I was driving Eli and Eden as I listened to this song. It had been a hard day, emotionally speaking. Most Sundays were, I think because I’m more reflective than other days. As I listened, I thought about how I was weary of being “not fine” and tired of being “not OK”. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever feel “fine” or “OK” again. It was a weighty matter to consider, and as I did, I felt that familiar sting of tears.
In that moment, I rounded a curve on I-459 and before my eyes, stretched across the width of the interstate, was a rainbow–one of the biggest I’d ever seen. Immediately the tears that I’d been holding captive began to flow freely. Just as my hope was failing and I had begun to question, “How long, O Lord?”, into my outstretched hands He placed a gentle reminder of His faithfulness. “Eli! Eden! Look outside! A RAINBOW!!!” They were as excited as I and scrambled to basque in its beauty. However, as quickly as it had appeared, it was gone again, our vehicle turned just slightly in the other direction, the rainbow’s vibrancy hidden behind the trees. I sighed, disappointed. Then I looked again as we traveled along, turning still more in the direction I had believed to be away from the rainbow, to see its other half, just as striking as the first.
Reflecting on its beauty, I remembered God’s promise with the very first rainbow sighting:
13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. (Genesis 9:13-15)
Did He promise that there would be no more rain? Of course not. Did He say there would never be another flood? Not even that. He said that He would never again send a flood to destroy all flesh.
It reminded me of a pslam of David that I have treasured for many years, one that has gained new meaning in my life lately. Found in Psalm 37, it’s about trusting God and His timing, and committing your way to Him. Two of my favorite verses are 23 and 24:
23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; 24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.
I picture in my mind a parent walking hand-in-hand with a small child. If you’ve been there, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The two of you are walking along and the child stumbles. Instinctively, you, as the parent, tighten your grip. You might even pull the little hand that’s in yours toward yourself to keep the child from tumbling to the ground. Did your child stumble? Yes. But did he spill headlong onto the unforgiving concrete sidewalk? No, because you snatched his hand the instant he began to tumble.
I might stumble a dozen or more times a day, but the Lord is there, walking beside me, holding my hand. And with each faulty step or obstacle that lurks unsuspecting along my path, He reacts, immediately and instinctively. Though I fall, I am not cast headlong, for He upholds my hand. It might rain in my life every now and then. I might even endure a year-long deluge (or more…). But my Faithful Father will not allow me to be utterly destroyed by the flood in my soul. And He sent me the gift of His promise, wrapped in a very colorful package, as a reminder.