Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Two Years Later

Today, our Nan would be two years old.  There are so many thoughts that race through my mind as soon as July rolls around.  Last year, I thought it was because we were reaching the coveted one-year-mark that anyone who is grieving longs for from the day their beloved person leaves this earth.  But this year, as soon as July 1st came, I found myself engulfed in the familiar emotions and harsh memories.  Each day closer to the 22nd reminds me of those last three weeks before we held our daughter.

I don't mean to be heavy, but navigating this life with a huge, gaping hole in our family has been difficult.  We have choked out grace time and time again as we have re-learned how to do, just about everything.  That first year, everything just seemed so hard.  Cooking dinner was hard.  Social media was hard (so I eventually deleted everything).  Holidays were hard.  Sitting in a crowded room was hard.  Sitting alone was even harder.  Everything about our lives just seemed so labored, and it seemed as though it always would be that way.

And then, just before Nan's first birthday, I found out we were expecting again.  The one thing I was sure would take away all of our troubles.  And, oh, the disappointment when it didn't.  Realizing that each and every day of my pregnancy with Billy I had to cling to the Lord.  I had to re-learn (or maybe really learn for the first time...) that I serve a Sovereign God.  There is absolutely nothing out of the realm of His power. And even though our circumstance (being pregnant with Billy) didn't change our sadness or loss, the Lord did.  I found when I stopped looking for something to heal my broken heart, I did find that there was Someone who actually would. 

So it seemed that this second year was bringing up so many of the same emotions of the first year.  And I think that makes sense, because the things the Lord has taught me in these two years are real.  And they are eternal.  They are not light and happy things, but they are good things.  And I am sure they could not have been taught to my cold, selfish heart in any other way except through the most beautiful life of Nan.

I have learned that the Lord is living, and intimate.  There have been countless moments that the Lord has met me, right where I am.  I remember staring at my Bible for days (and probably weeks...) after Nan was born, unable to open it.  When I finally did open it, I started in Job.  I needed to read this man's words who had suffered, because at the time, it seemed like it was the only thing that would pierce my heart of stone.  And it really did.  I felt like I really learned how to lament my sorrows to the Lord from Job.  And then I went to Isaiah, and when I read what the Lord wrote through Isaiah, it literally took my breath away:
"See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.  The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create...I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more.  Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years..." Isaiah 65: 17-20a

I just couldn't believe how specific the Lord was with this description of His return.  I'm sure I've read this passage before, but I will never forget reading it after Nan was born.  What a sweet promise for my broken heart. It was like the Lord was saying, "Julie, I know your heart hurts.  I know your pain, because I know the pain of losing a child.  But one day, these will be the former things."
 Praise God for His Truth.

I have learned that our story is not unique.  It was so easy for me to sink into 'our story'.  Losing our daughter was tragic and awful.  But it is not the first time it's ever happened.  And, unfortunately, it's not the last time, either. The Lord has used the past two years to take me further outside of myself, and make my world just a little bigger (I'm still working on this...).  I am certain that we go through these terrible, soul-splitting times for His glory.  And because I believe this to be true, I can walk alongside dear, dear friends who find themselves in a similar position as I did.  And I can whisper words of hope when hope seems to have vanished from every inch of this world.

I have learned that His goodness is not contingent upon our circumstances.  So often we will say, "God is SO good!" when something great happens.  And this is great!  When friends and family members are healed, when babies are born, when we get a job, etc.- these are all GREAT things!  But there is goodness in losing Nan.  God is good, even though Nan is not here with us.  I would say, almost especially so.  And it's taken me a long time to be able to say this (almost two be exact).  His goodness has manifested itself in so many ways in our little family- our marriage grows each and every day.  Jesus and Heaven are so real to George, and I'd say even more real to Clay and me.  So, while it's okay that I'll never be 'happy' about Nan not being with us, I can celebrate His goodness.

So, here we are.  Two years later.  I am still missing Nan, and I think it's okay if I always miss her.  But I will honor her in the only way I know how- by always deepening my love for the One who created her, and numbered each and every one of her (and my) days exactly.

"This bitter cup, I take it, my fainting heart restored.
So here I stand, unshaken, I trust upon the Lord.
Sweet comfort, sweet comfort, yet shall fill my heart.
Sweet comfort, sweet comfort, sorrow shall depart."
- Sweet Comfort by Sandra McCracken

Happy birthday, Sissy Nan.  Our hearts will love you forever.