Time is a strange thing these days. My concept of it is totally different than it used to be. Everyone around me is talking about how long this winter feels. You may think that I feel the same way, but honestly, I don’t. It’s gone so quickly because I’ve only been able to live one day at a time. (Truly, thinking about tomorrow swings me into a breakdown 80% of the time.)
Very, very early in this season of grieving Helen, God placed these verses on my heart:
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:13-17
I thought so much about how much time and energy I wasted fretting about life once Helen arrived, rather than being grateful for her every heartbeat. I never want to be like that again.
One day at a time. Through the pain, through the joy, through the unknown. One day at a time. When I’m tired when AB is fussing when she is laughing when Tim is happy, and when he’s not. One day at a time. Living in the present moment means more to me than ever before. So far, this may be my favorite thing that Helen has taught us. I will forever be grateful to her for teaching us what really matters and how to live, truly one day at a time.
All that to say, I meant to post these letters weeks ago. You probably didn’t need to hear all that, but this blog is as much for me as for anybody else. I needed to say it. So without further ado, here are the words we penned for our dear girl. It’s not always how I feel, but these words I wrote over a month ago help my unbelief when I forget God’s goodness.
My dear girl,
Many might say your life was wasted. They might wonder why a God would bring you here just to take you away. But my girl, your life has had purpose all along. You’ve given us two of the greatest gifts: you’ve brought us closer to our God and closer to one another.
When we first found out you were coming I was excited, yet anxious. I wondered if I could take care of both you and your sister. I wondered how I would get it all done. I worried about raising two girls and wanted so desperately for you two to be the best of friends. How would I foster that? I was so excited our family was growing, but uncertainty and fear crept into my mind and heart. You reminded me that it’s through our weakness that God works. That I didn’t have to be the perfect mom to raise wise, loving, and kind girls, I just needed to let God in to do the work through me.
In October, we learned of your cleft. We rejoiced that you were otherwise perfectly healthy. You were perfect, you just had a “dent in your mouth”. But we mourned then. We mourned the loss of the expected and began to prepare for a long road of hardship, feeding complications, surgeries, therapies, doctor appointment after doctor appointment. Oh, how I rejoice now that you don’t have to endure that pain. You taught me gratitude. I learned how God can transform a heart that’s scared and aching when it seeks to find the good, and thanks God for every single gift.
I was nervous about seeing your face for the first time. All the other cleft Mamas told me I would instantly love that little cleft and my fears would melt away. Oh, how they were right. Your precious mouth was my favorite part of you. I would do anything to see that precious little gap every day for the rest of my life. You taught me that sometimes what we are most afraid isn’t really scary at all. That love is stronger than any fear.
When we learned that your heart stopped beating one day shy of 36 weeks, we were devastated. Our world, our lives changed forever.
But not without purpose.
We have never been closer to God and closer to each other. We’ve never been stronger…because of you. God gave us a great honor. Suffering and pain are not a curse. It is through the suffering and the pain that life comes. Christ suffered deep, agonizing pain on the cross in order to bring us life. I endured pain and suffering to bring your body into this world- though you weren’t given life here, you found it with Jesus. Your daddy and I have suffered greatly, but you have brought us new life.
In the book of Job, God allowed Satan to test Job because he had great confidence in him.
Job 1: 8-12
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man, himself do not lay a finger.”
What a great, great honor to think that God allowed this devastation in our lives because he thought “Tim and Mary Margaret, they can handle it, they won’t leave me. I will carry them through and they will come out stronger and closer.
Helen, all of you is a gift. The exhaustion you brought me in the first trimester, the kicks inside me, your cleft, your little nose, your head full of hair, your sweet face like your sister’s. Your stillness. All of you is a gift. I’m so grateful God gave you to us. One day, I will hold you in my arms, we will laugh and smile and worship our Jesus together.
Meanwhile, know you will not be forgotten. Your life matters. We love you dear one.
Oh, my sweet little shining light. This is Daddy. Your Mama and I love you and miss you so much. We miss the future, the life we could’ve had together. We miss the first breath you never took. We miss all your milestones like steps, teeth, words, and foods. We miss the love and the fights that you would have with your sister. We miss bringing you home, family vacations, sporting events, car rides, driving lessons, graduations, giving you away to another man, and watching you grow into motherhood.
Now that we’ve gotten some of the more sentimental stuff out of the way, (don’t worry, there’s more), as your father, I still deem it my responsibility to send you off with some advice on how to make the best of yourself. Inspired by a book called Rules for my Newborn Daughter that we bought for your sister before she was born, I have a list for you, and some sentimental adjustments, that in time your sister will hear as well, but now is our time. Let’s do the fun ones first, then finish with sentiment, shall we? Here we go.
- Throw like a girl
- On a first date, order the steak
- Yes, you can enter a beauty pageant… as soon as you earn your engineering degree
- Pause to appreciate a well-wrapped gift. You have a good family for it.
- You don’t drink wine at the ballpark
- Righty tighty, lefty loosey
- There is not a man on the planet who hasn’t deserved to have a drink thrown in his face. (Thank God you don’t have to deal with that.)
- No high heels on a boat – not that I’m speaking from experience
- Given the opportunity, use the outdoor shower – On that, I am speaking from experience
- Keep promises, especially ones to yourself
- And, you can always squeeze one more in for dinner
Now for the sappy ones, that having spent almost 2 weeks in heaven, you probably already know, but I’ll tell you anyway.
- Let your work speak for yourself, and for the Lord.
- Maybe not so many pillows. Jesus is the greatest comfort.
- If a boy says something that isn’t funny, you don’t have to laugh. God has the best sense of humor.
- Sand the wood before you paint. Jesus is a carpenter, and God is an architect.
- A boy has never liked a girl for her makeup. God created you in His image.
- Beauty is mostly attitude, the rest is good lighting. Proverbs 31:30 says “Charm is deceptive, beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
- If your date doesn’t meet you at the door, don’t even bother opening it. Jesus is begging you to open door
- A diamond is just a rock, it’s the story behind it that counts. The cross is just 2 slabs of wood, it’s the story behind it that counts.
- If a man offers you his seat, take it. Jesus offered you His life, take it.
- And lastly, no matter where you are, I will always come get you. Someday I’ll come join you, and we’ll be reunited.
We love you, little girl. Every 19 plus inches of you, cleft lip and all. Even though we only had 12 hours together in this world, know that you will always be with us.