The Purple Dress

 

I remember early on peeking into the boy’s room, and wondering where we would fit the new baby? The crib was still up, Elijah hadn’t quite made the transition to a big boy bed yet. We wondered how we should make the new sleeping arrangements work. Is it time to move some of them to the bedroom in the basement? Then I moved on and surveyed our bedroom and decided we would need a basinet for the foot of the bed for the first few months. And then I started thinking about our van… it would be tight, but the van still had one more seat in it that had not yet been filled.

Mentally I started creating space for our little one. The little one that one day we planned on bringing home.

The minute you see those two pink lines on the test, you start creating space for that little one. I think the first space created is usually a mental one, as you start processing the new information. Depending on where you are at in life, there can be a whole range of emotions. There can be sheer joy, disbelief, fear, anger, relief, trepidation, worry, laughter, thankfulness…  the list goes on. But from the moment you find out, whether you like it or not, you can’t help but start the path of creating space.

After receiving Ava’s diagnosis, on multiple occasion’s I would walk into the boy’s room, see the crib that she would probably never sleep in… and I would cry.

The space that I had started dreaming about, and planned on creating for her, the doctors told me she would most likely never use it.

In the day’s following Ava’s passing, everything that came into my house seemed to be purple. There was a memory box from the hospital that had a little gown and a few things that were purple. The flowers that came, the little notebooks and the different special things people sent us, the majority of them were purple. It was a special gift from God, I knew my daughter’s color was purple.

Following a loss there are certain things that hit you, and they make you so angry… irrationally angry. Like when I started my search for the urn to hold her remains. This wasn’t the space I should be making. Instead of preparing the bedroom for her to sleep in, I was looking for an urn for her ashes. It felt so unfair and made me so angry.

Another thing that broke my heart and filled me with anger, was not getting to buy my first little girl a dress. I have bought adorable sweaters, jeans, and hats for my boys. There have beenso many boy clothes that I have bought and gone through over the years, and don’t get me wrong I am more than thankful for my little men. I wouldn’t change them for a second! But I was pregnant with my baby girl and I didn’t get to buy her a dress. It hurt…

At some point I decided, I would buy her a dress. I can add it to her memory box even if she is already gone. I wanted to do this for her… for me…

I went to target, hunting for that purple dress. Everything that came in surrounding her was purple, her dress also needed to be purple. After picking up a few necessities, I headed for the baby section. I started looking for that dress, I found pink dress, after pink dress and a few other colors as well. But no purple…

This thought hit me like a ton of brinks in the middle of the baby section at Target…

“Of course, there are no purple dresses! There is no place for her here, she’s gone.”

All of a sudden, I felt like I couldn’t breath, my vision seemed foggy, everything became completely overwhelming and I had to get OUT of Target. I couldn’t stay in this place. The emotions, the fear and the panic, were waging attacks against which I had no defense but to flee. And so I fled.

It’s a wonder I didn’t just abandon my cart… or crumple to the floor till someone found me… Somehow, I got checked out with my toilet paper and who knows what else. Then I was in the solace of my car where the tears came hard and fast once again. Where I waited for my heart to slow, and my brain to clear so I could drive home.

I talked to Daniel about what happened at Target. I told him about my wanting to buy our little girl a dress, even though she would never where it. He wanted to do that with me as well. The next week we went to the mall together to keep looking for the dress. We couldn’t find one there either, purple must have not been the color that was “in” during that season.

We sat down over dinner and lamented over the daughter we will never get to know this side of heaven. We lamented the dresses that we would never get to buy. And we talked about what we wanted to do for her memorial. The nature of some conversations are so incredibly hard to wade into, but in the end bring balm to your open wounds.

I ended up ordering Ava’s purple dress and my dress for her memorial online. What can I say? The internet has everything.

I brought her dress up at bedtime to show the boys. Caleb looked up at me with a smile “I can just picture her running around up here in that dress mom. “ And with that statement, suddenly all of this hunting for a dress was absolutely worth it. We were all picturing our little blond girl running around the upstairs in that dress.

One of the hardest truths surrounding losing a baby, is that the space you created, the space you made and pictured them in, will never be filled. The crib will remain empty, the drawers as well, that space at the dinner table remains void.

But this whole idea of creating space brought me to these verses.

 

John 14:1-4
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Revelation 21:3-5
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 

The realization that I would no longer need to create space for my daughter hurt, it was hard.

But we are all finite, someday I will no longer be here either, and my things will be cleared out, passed on, given away, thrown away. I won’t need them. This place will no longer be my home. I will be mourned, missed remembered and eventually forgotten. I’m going to be gone. My place here isn’t for forever.

And while that can seem scary or sad, I’m perfectly content with it. Content to wait, and content to leave. For there is someone who has gone before me, who promises that He is creating space for me, that He has prepared a place for me. That He has a forever home for me, for all who believe in Jesus. And this home is so important. For even though we don’t deserve to be a part of a home that is so perfect there is no sin and death, we have one waiting for us. It is just on the other side of the grave for those who believe in Jesus. Because let’s face it, we cannot deny that on our own, we are sinful, and we drag around our sin and our mess with us. And yet, because of his great love for us, Jesus paid for our sin and our mess on the cross, so that we can be completely forgiven, so that He can clothe us in His perfection. So that we can join Him in His home that he is preparing for us. The space that he has made for us.

Isn’t it a wonder that our perfect, gracious, and huge God promises us that He cares about us so much, that He has prepared for us a place in heaven? That He goes before us and assures us of the space that he has made for us. He loves us, and he walks up into that bedroom we’ll live in someday and smiles about how he can’t wait for us to fill that space for eternity.

This home will never wear out. We will never have to say goodbye, and there will always be space for us. We will never worry about being gone and forgotten.

When I am remined that I never got to bring Ava “home” to the space we dreamed of for her.

This also brings me to the place of thanking God that there was a place He prepared for Her to come Home to forever.

I picture her running free in her purple dress in the perfect care of our Savior, Jesus.

What a loving faithful God we serve.

 

 

 

 

Bedtime Questions

Mommy, why does the bible call me a sheep?

I kiss soft cheeks good night and tuck little feet under covers, the room dimly lit by the glow of the light coming from the hallway. In this place I hear deep questions uttered from the mouths of my boys.

“Mommy, why does the bible call me a sheep?”

I see light come to his eyes with the next questions. “Does this mean that sheep are really special? They are really smart right?” The confounded look he had with the very first question was replaced with a knowing smile, he thought he had figured it out! ‘Sheep must be a worthy, special, intelligent, animal, right?!?’

I breath a deep sigh as I think about how I will answer this question, for this question is deeper than he realizes.

But first! Before, we get to the picturesque moment of sweet boys tucked comfortably in their beds, you need the bigger picture, you need the context, and for this we need to back up 15 to 20min.

This place is chaos, peace is a stranger here. This place contains the bickering over who brushes their teeth first, or if someone got more dessert. It’s a two year old disappearing to who knows where because he loves being found. It’s yelling at them to stop jumping on the beds. It’s children’s feet pounding on the hardwood, belly laughing while they run with no clothes on. The night sky may be cloudy, but there are plenty of moons out, running through the upstairs of the house.It’s tired parents trying to wrangle children who have found a second wind the minute the word bedtime is spoken. The level of crazy varies from night to night. But it’s usually there to some degree.

However after the crazy, the “quiet” turns their minds to talking about everything, from  farts, to questions like “Why are there homeless people? Why can’t we give them houses and food, so they don’t have to be homeless anymore?”

After teeth are brushed, pajamas are on, and they are in the right bed… my brain is tired. Deep thinking is not convenient.  The couch and a bowl of my favorite ice cream is calling my name. Idleness is what I crave when the house gets quiets.

But as I have come to realize, you never know when God is going to call you to attention, it’s most often not what we expect or when we consider it convenient.

I clear my head, and as I look at my son, I chuckle. “Ok, Let’s talk about sheep…. and no, they are not super smart…”

Sheep… Let me share these couple tidbits I found on the internet!

If a sheep rolls over onto its back, it may not be able to get up without assistance, according to the Sheep101 website. A fallen sheep is called a “cast” sheep. They can become distressed and if they are not rolled back into a normal position within a short period of time they will die. When back on their feet, they may need to be supported for a few minutes to ensure they are steady.

  • Live Science.com

 

(What? For real??)

 

Sheep are frequently thought of as unintelligent animals. Their flocking behavior and quickness to flee and panic can make shepherding a difficult endeavor for the uninitiated.

  • Wikipedia

 

OK, so there are more nice things to say about the usefulness of sheep on the internet as well. But these made me laugh, and they also talk about the nature of sheep and how they respond to certain things.

We see here that sheep are not considered smart animals. They can’t defend themselves against their predator’s, they are prone to wander, quick to flee in a panic, and when flipped on their back they get completely stuck in their predicament until help comes… or death…

They need a shepherd to make sure they are protected, to stay with the herd, to be led to pastures that have enough food and a place with water.

If I was going to be compared to an animal, a sheep wouldn’t be my first choice.

I understand why my boys are confused with the Sunday school song “I just want to be a sheep… baa baa baa..”

They would much rather be a cheetah, a horse, a wolf, maybe a dog… but a sheep?? The wheels in their brain spin trying to figure out why God would ever compare them to a sheep?!

Oh, how even in our young minds we cling to the understanding that we have done something to be special! That we are “awesome” enough to be worthy of God’s love and attention.

Let’s take a look at one of the scripture passages that got this whole conversation started in the first place.

 

John 10:7-18

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.  The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

 

When we take a closer look here, it has nothing to do with the sheep and their awesome skills.

The focus isn’t on who the sheep are.

The focus is on the relationship between the sheep and the shepherd, and on the character of the Shepherd.

The focus is on how much the Shepherd loves the sheep and the lengths that He will go to care for them, and to bring those home that are not in His sheep pen yet.

The focus is on the Good Shepherd’s voice, and how the sheep know his voice.

And so, though the Bible calls us sheep, these helpless, stubborn and ridiculous animals, it does not leave us without a Shepherd.

We have a shepherd that sees us with our faults, our flaws. He sees us with our hearts that are so prone to wander from the good pastures in search of someplace ‘better’. He sees us when we get stuck in the muck of life and become overwhelmed and start to panic.

He sees us in the wilderness of certain death, and he hunts us down and carries us home.

He doesn’t hunt us down because of our special behavior in the wilderness, he doesn’t come running for us because we deserve it, or because we have won His approval.

He comes running for us because He is the Good Shepherd, because He chose to love us with this crazy love. With a love that dies for underserving sinners like me.

He has brought me, the underserving sinner into His pasture. He calls me His own, and leads me to life and not just life, but a life of abundant love and grace and mercy and care.

Just because He loves me.

We know His voice. The reason we know the Good Shepherds voice, is all because of Jesus, who laid down His life for us, the sheep. When He died on that cross and took our punishment, He gave us life. Jesus is the gate that we enter through into His pasture by grace. Because of Jesus we can now be called children of God, and children know their Fathers voice.

So… at bedtime when I am tired, when the timing seems inconvenient, and I don’t think I will be able to find the right words. Here God invites me to share of His goodness, His grace with my children. Even here in this conversation I continue to see how the Good Shepherd pursues us, He is always at work, bringing in His lost ones, tending to us and loving us, His sheep.

We are special.

Not special because we are so awesome. But because God has made us so.

 

 

What If?

Over the past months I have often drifted back in thought to the day Elijah was born and the events that surrounded his birth.

(Daniel wrote a blog post talking about those events Here.)

I have played the “what if?” game. What if we had both died? What would that have meant for the family left behind?

The week leading up to his birth J-Term was going on. J-Term is a week where they bring in special speakers to the seminary and many of the Lutheran Brethren pastors, as well as some lay people and of course the students from the school attend, and receive further training. I was able to attend this past one because my mother and father-in-law were staying with us and my mother-in-law was able to watch the kids.

It was really nice to go and sit and just listen and soak up the training and speakers. Mostly it was wonderful to not have a child hanging on me begging for more gummies while I try and listen to the sermon. Ha!

At J-Term I had so many people come up to me and tell me that they would be praying for me and my baby and the delivery. In fact, so many people came up to me to tell me they were praying, I said “Daniel I’m starting to get worried that something is wrong or going to go wrong! Everyone is praying for me!” Then I proceeded to laugh my worry off and go about my day.

But God was at work long before Elijah’s delivery day.

Shortly after I found out I was pregnant I had a dream. And in my dream, I knew that something bad was going to happen to Silas so I was doing everything in my power to protect him. He still fell and got a nasty cut on his head. But I was relieved, I thought to myself. Ok that was it! I saved it from being worse. But then I realized that event was an illusion and what was actually happening was Silas was in the bathtub by himself and it was filling up with water. And I watched as if from a distance helpless to do anything about it. Then I saw Daniel go in pick him up out of the bath and “save him”.  When I thought on the dream the next day I knew God was just telling me to entrust my children to Him. He knows all, He loves them more than I possibly can and He is in control, not me.

Flash forward to Elijah’s birth. As I was bleeding and they were prepping me for surgery I knew something was very wrong. Before I knew it, I was on oxygen and they were running, literally running at points to the operating room. Panic was overtaking me. But there was nothing within my power that I could do about my situation. As I felt the blood leaving my body and the panic overtaking, it wasn’t an audible voice but it felt audible in my head. “Do not fear, I am with you.” And then there was an overwhelming peace that descended on me. Whether I lived or died I had nothing to fear. God has me. I am His child.

God reached down His hand of intervention and saved Elijah and I that day. There was nothing I could do to save me, or him.

Pondering these events this afternoon brought me to think about our state as human beings. We think we have it under control. We have the illusion that we can save ourselves. There are so many religions that say you can earn your spot in heaven. Or that the path to peace is through ourselves or that we simply just need to be good. As long as we are a decent human being we are in the clear. We think that our view of the world dictates how the world actually is. We think we got it. I have it under control.

But the fact is, we don’t have it under control and our view of who we are doesn’t change reality. The illusion is just that: an illusion, a mirage in the distance that never comes.

The reality is, I am a helpless human being that has no ability to save myself. I am bleeding out in my sin, and there is nothing I can do about it. I can try to staunch the blood, but that is not fixing my inner problem. I’m still dying.

But God in His ever-loving mercy reached down His hand of grace and divinely saved me. Jesus came and did what I could not do. He did only what He can do. He lived a perfect life, and then He died on that cross, He shed his blood on my behalf, He covered me in is grace so that God the Father no longer sees my black heart, but sees His Son. He healed my inner problem. It is finished.

Now I still deal with sin. I won’t be perfected until God actually does call me home.

But I am right before the Father. There is no longer sin that separates us. Because of my faith in Jesus I am now a child of God.

I can’t explain the inner spiritual workings of how God makes this all possible. Just like I can’t explain the inner workings God did to physically save me and my son. Elijah was the most physically healthy baby that I have ever delivered. The doctor pronounced him a 10 and said, “I can’t find anything wrong with this baby.”

God has made me whole and complete in Jesus.

But Jesus didn’t just die for me, He died for all of humanity. And He longs for all to come to Him.

God brought glory to Himself that day. God showed His mercy and love to us. Just like He showed the world when He sent His son.

I will just share one last thing.

A few days before Elijah was born we finally settled on his name.

Elijah – Meaning: My God is YAHWEH

God brings Glory to Himself throughout all of it.

Praise be to God.

John 3:16-17

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.