Celebrating Easter Sunday when you feel stuck in Saturday.

Today is the second Easter since our daughter was born. The second Easter since she passed away. My second Easter as an empty nester in her mid twenties.

It’s a difficult holiday because of all the things I wish I could do: the egg hunts, the pretty frilly dresses, the big baskets left by the Easter bunny, the children’s books about the resurrection.

But it’s also a hopeful holiday for a grieving heart. Hope because Sunday came for Jesus, and Sunday is coming for me.

It’s hard because there are so many times when I feel like I’m stuck in Saturday. Good Friday feels like it has come and gone, but I’m in the in between phase. Still on earth yet missing my daughter who has gone to heaven before me. I’m still waiting for my own day, when I can hold her in my arms again. And while I try not to live that way, just wishing each day away until I can see Aria again, it is the hope of that day that keeps me going.

While we were still in the hospital after giving birth to Aria, Brian and I had a conversation about Easter and what it meant to us. I said to him, “If there is no heaven, I’m done here. If I don’t have the hope of seeing Aria again, I don’t want want to live another day on this earth.” In this moment, my faith was being rocked and shaken harder than ever before. Was my faith going to overcome my pain? Was I going to keep trusting in a God who was allowing me to lead an earthly life filled with so much agony?

Somehow, despite so many prayers that look a lot more like me screaming angry frustrations at God, I’ve grown to trust Him more than ever before. I’ve leaned on Him in the moments when I’m walking through more than I can handle. He hasn’t always rescued me in the way I wanted, but He has carried me through. I know this because I’m still here, and without Him I wouldn’t be.

I don’t know where you may be in your life today. I don’t know if you are like me, and your heart is hurting in an unimaginable way. But I do know that Sunday is coming. All will be made new. Every tear will dry. And this is why I celebrate. This is why I hope. This is why I live.

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Can we talk about God real quick?

People often turn their backs on faith in times of despair. It’s natural. We tend to ask “If God is real, and says he loves us, why did he do this to me?” I have asked that question more times than I can count, and I will probably ask it again in the future. No one is immune to doubt. We all feel it at some point, and it’s part of being a Christian. God gives us free will, you can choose to believe just as much as you can choose not to. God is not a puppeteer. 

When we learned that our daughter’s chance of survival was incredibly slim when I was almost seven months pregnant, I felt so abandoned by God. How could he do this to me? How could he do this to my baby? She’s so innocent, she did nothing wrong! I cried out to God asking why he was punishing her. I was enraged. 

Then my husband, Brian asked me to pray with him. Excuse me? You want me to pray to the very God who is going to let my child die? I wanted to refuse but I saw the hope in Brian’s eyes and couldn’t say no. So we prayed. 

And my heart softened. 

Then Brian asked if we could meet with the chaplain at the Children’s Hospital. I dragged my feet, and made plenty of excuses. When we found out the chaplain wasn’t available right away, I told Brian it was probably best if we just went back to our hotel. But he pushed, he wanted to wait for her. Once again, that hope in his eyes was enough to shut me up. So we met with the chaplain. We talked about God, we talked about faith, and we prayed.

And my heart remembered the promises of the God I once loved. 

The bible says God is near the broken hearted. He grieves with us and feels our pain. He doesn’t want us to suffer, but that is the cost of living in an imperfect world that has been torn apart by sin. He has not abandoned us, and our faith will be redeemed.

At the biggest and most heartbreaking moment of our lives, we chose to have faith. We chose to trust in the Lord’s plan for our lives. So Brian and I began to pray, hard. We forced ourselves to sit in silence and wait for God to show us the way. We even stopped praying for him to save our daughter because we didn’t know if that was his will. We prayed that God would lead us down the path that we were meant to explore. If he was going to save her, we asked him to bring us through it. If God was going to send us into the valley and call our daughter home, we asked Him to be our guiding light. We continuously prayed for His will, and the Lord provided. 

I’m sure a few of you are wondering how I can say our prayers were answered when our daughter did not survive. That is because we didn’t pray for our own will. Every single ounce of my being wishes that my baby was still here. I will miss her for every moment of the rest of my life. Losing her ripped a massive hole in me, and I’m not sure that hole can ever be fully repaired. We wanted to be able to keep her and watch her grow. But the reality is that having her here is not the life God intended for her. She was just passing through this world, blessing our lives for a little while before making her grand entrance into heaven. God showed us that, and we have felt His healing presence throughout our grief. We asked Him to guide us, and He has. 

There is a song called “Blessings” by Laura Story and in it she sings:

What if your blessings come through rain drops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

This song resonates with me because it relates to our experience in multiple ways. Our daughter’s health problems were incredibly serious and complex. Even in the womb, the safest place for her, her little body was fighting. One doctor told us that if she did survive, we needed to be prepared to see her suffer. That was incredibly heartbreaking to hear but she was being honest and I’m thankful for that. God calling our daughter home prevented her from ever feeling pain. In her short but meaningful life, she knew only love. That is God’s mercy working in her life. He did save her, just not in the way we truly wanted Him to.

So I ask of you, if you find yourself at a crossroad in life, choose faith. God will not let you down, no matter how dire the situation may seem. Even the world’s biggest tragedies can bring hope. 

You can read our daughter, Aria’s full story here.