Warning: If you stopped by to see cute photos of my kids, get an adoption update, or read a funny story--this isn't one of those posts. But if you ever wondered about the title of my blog, this explains it.
Nine years ago. That's when it began. My love of the 23rd Psalm. My need to savor each verse and digest every word.
Nine years ago I was running errands in my comfy shoes and maternity attire. I stopped at Babies R Us to pick up some goodies for the nursery I was preparing for our third child. Finally some blue in our very pink world. We were over-the-moon excited about this baby boy due on Valentine's Day.
But I noticed that he wasn't kicking. Not uncommon when I was running around, but I went home to rest hoping to feel his mid-afternoon dancing.
I called my doctor in a panic. They said not to worry. He probably had shifted to a position where I couldn't feel him. They told me to drink something sweet and wait. The practice was moving to a new office, that day of all days, but they told me I could go to the hospital if there was no change and see the doctor on call. We dropped our girls off at grandparents and headed to Labor and Delivery. I wasn't interested in waiting for the orange juice to kick in.
Brad and I prayed as we waited to be admitted. I was certain I had watched too many medical dramas and everything was going to be fine and I would feel like a big ding-a-ling for running to the hospital for nothing. I was finally taken to a room for an ultrasound. I was so ready to hear that all was well and return home.
But only silence. The nurses, my husband, the ultrasound. There was none of the "woosh, woosh, woosh" of that heartbeat that I so loved to hear. A nurse ran to get my doctor, she walked in to look at the screen and started screaming, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!" I knew what her profanity meant.
And then I whispered my own, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." My Savior knew what I meant.
That was January 8, 2004. On the evening of January 9th, I held my first son. And then my mother who was at the end of a six-year battle with cancer came to meet her only grandson. She held him and sang to him and we cried until there were no tears left. (She joined her Creator and her grandson in heaven eight weeks later.)
When I was alone . . . I talked to God.
You see, I'd known pain before that day. I had experienced loss. We had had 3 miscarriages, lost multiple beloved grandparents, weathered financial hardship, had moments of personal heartbreak. But this was different. It was too much. In my spiritual immaturity I had conjured up some kind of parameters of what could ever befall me in this fallen world. This exceeded them . . . by a lot. I stared at hospital ceiling tiles wondering if my Heavenly Father was listening and screamed, "But you said you would never give me more than I could handle!"
I had my grandmother's Bible in my hospital room (a story in itself), but no strength to pick it up. It didn't matter--the room was dark and my eyes were swollen shut from crying. My only comfort would come from Scripture I had memorized.
And one of the passages was Psalm 23. Like any child raised in Sunday school, I knew it well. I got to "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. . . . " The tears began to flow until I choked through to the end, "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. . . "
Then I realized the 23rd Psalm didn't end in the valley, it always ends with His goodness and mercy! It was then I knew that the same was true for those who believed in Him. I knew He would carry me through this time because He promised joy would follow mourning, spring would follow winter, goodness would follow brokenness. And He promised He would never leave me.
And He hasn't.
More of Luke's/Brady's story is here if you'd like to empty your box of Kleenex. So much happened in the days and months after our son's loss that never for a minute did I question the wisdom of His plan. So many beautiful things happened that year (and still do today) that I could not deny His presence or His love for me.
And so this morning I awoke knowing it was my son Luke's birthday. I won't lie--nine years later there are still tears.
But I was hugged by my eight-year-old son Brady--our gift of goodness due exactly one year after our loss. Then greeted by Daniel--our gift of mercy through the miracle of adoption. I watched my oldest blessings help the younger ones and observed Miss Dimpled Cuteness navigate through the backpacks lined up at the door. I remember how my big girls gave me a reason to get out of bed during that very hard year and I see our bonus baby who makes me wake smiling now. I have a precious daughter who waits for us in China and know my cup runneth over.
A chorus of kids calling me mom kept me from any moments of sadness. I dropped my big kids at school and Victoria and I returned home to take on the day.
One of my favorite songs came on the radio--Chris Tomlin's "Whom Shall I Fear." Victoria likes to "sing" along (think high-pitched Gregorian chant) and we both belted out "I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind. The God of angel armies, is always by my side." We must have been a sight at the red lights as we echoed the lyrics at the top of our lungs, "You are faithful, you are faithful, you are faithful."
I was grateful to have a very normal day in the life of an abnormal family. The kids are in bed and my eyelids are heavy, but I just couldn't let this day end without thanking God for His goodness and mercy.
There are a lot of hurting people in this world. You might be one of them. I know many have loss so much greater than mine and pain that I can't imagine. But as a mom who once thought she was too broken to be whole again, I want you to know . . .
HE NEVER LEAVES US IN THE VALLEY.