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Love Brings Strength

They say a picture says a thousand words. If that is true, this one must say a million.

This is June 26 to me.

My girl lived her whole lifetime in less than a week, but the Lord allowed us to have absolute peace at the end of her time here and looking back, it has always felt a bit like those days must have been concentrated somehow, holding all the life they did. As a result, these long, hot, end-of-June days are written on our hearts. I believe my heart will recognize these days when they come long after I forget everything else. These slow-paced, laidback days when kids have no schedules, families are going on vacations, churches are inevitably holding VBS programs like the one her sisters attended that week, fireflies in the sky are fewer, and lighting cracks the sky more often. These are her days. These are the days the Lord reigned supreme and we saw Him more clearly than we ever had.

We remember not to dwell in the past, but to praise Him for what He showed us is to come.

In reality, I can remember every detail of my girl, but the days we shared are sadly a blur. I stayed in that blue chair every hour I could. When I could sit no longer, I'd collapse for a few hours, rise and put on my standard jeans and a black t-shirt and go again. I knew her by heart, every seizure-like movement no one else could explain, her breathing pattern, the way she held her hands. Loving her was the easiest, most instinctual thing I have ever known. I was exhausted, but I advocated for and defended her fiercely. I remember a team of doctors trying kindly to speak to me of quality of life, statistics, prognoses... and I remember standing to my feet and telling them Miller Grace was not one of their statistics and they could keep their opinions to themselves. She would live every moment she was meant to live. I remember her nurse, a man who towered over both my husband and me, telling us through a chuckle that he heard the doctors talking about how I had surprised them on the way out the door and he said he told them, "This is not her first rodeo. This mama knows her stuff."

I didn't know anything. I just knew love.

"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
1 Corinthians 13:7

That was not the first time my inner mother bear reared her ugly head and I'm afraid I'll never see the last. As mothers, there is nothing we will not do for our children. To hold a child you know is leaving your sight for the rest of your lifetime is suffocating and maddening at best, but holding her and pouring everything I had into that girl every moment we had is my greatest accomplishment to date. God showed me through that tiny girl what I was made of. Over the years, He has gently allowed me to discover what courage really is. When I think of those days, I remember how weak and helpless I felt, but how determined I was to mother her well. I see now that any strength I had did not come from my own will or stubbornness, but from God's faithfulness to equip us for every season when that season comes. Not a moment early and not a moment late. He shows up and gives us just what we need.

I was reading Romans today and Paul's words stopped me in my tracks. As he was writing, he shared his longing to go to Rome. The faith of the Romans was proclaimed in all the world. Paul had been praying for these people faithfully. He longed to go to the people there not because he merely wanted to visit with them, but so they could be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. He longed for the encouragement they could bring to him and he said he longed to impart some spiritual gift to them to strengthen them. He wanted to do whatever he could do to give them strength. 

How powerful would it be to have someone like that in your life? How powerful would it be to get to be that person to someone else? We say we will pray for people all the time, but what if we were constantly interceding for them, longing for the day we would get to see each other, wanting most of all to mutually encourage one another, to be able to do some small thing to help make them strong? Wouldn't that just change everything? Oh, I long to be a friend like that.

I have friends like that.

Just tonight, one of them messaged me out of the blue to tell me she remembers every detail of those days eleven years ago. I replied that I would never forget the sound of her heels coming down that long hall to my girl's hospital room. She drove hundreds of miles to get to us, to strengthen us, and I heard later there was a lady at the nurse's station who tried to slow her down, but failed miserably. That's who my people are. That's who I want to be for my people. 

That's who my God is to me. He's the shepherd that leaves the ninety-nine for the one. He's the Father waiting with open arms for the prodigal son. He's the Mighty Defender of widows and the Good, Good Father to the fatherless. When His people are afraid, He rebukes the wind and calms the sea, for even the winds and the waves obey Him. That's my God.

I'm just an ordinary young mom who had a baby who lived for a little while. It might not be the kind of story that is spoken of often - this world isn't keen on looking such sad stories in the face - but it happens every day. We don't see them on the highlight reels of social media very often, but there are a million variations of my story. We all have a story of heartache, grief, or devastation of some kind. They do not define us, but God can use them to show us what we are made of and just who He is if we will let Him. I am not special and the truth is, to anyone but us, our girl really wasn't either. In this harsh world, I cannot imagine the struggles she would have faced if it had been the Lord's will for her to continue on in that body with those shackles. By His grace and power alone, He called her home and gave her Heaven instead. We got a glimpse of His power and might and it ruined us in the best way possible.

I know me. I remember how weak and vulnerable that girl in that blue chair felt. In four years, all three of my children had been diagnosed with life-threatening birth defects. I was a twenty-four year old new college graduate and I had done everything I knew to do to ensure they had the best chance at life possible. Instead, as one callous doctor said, "Lightning just struck you twice." Then, three times.  That explanation wasn't good enough for me. I told you yesterday that I ask questions, study, and analyze until I understand things completely. It's what I do. I cannot sleep until I get it.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Friends, I can look at that picture and tell you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God was at work. His power was evident. No man has ever been able to describe what God was doing then. I may never "get" why my babies came in the packages they did, but the power we saw as He worked through their tiny, vulnerable lives left us in awe forever. He healed them all, some here and one there. And He made us strong in the process. Paul's words stopped me in my tracks today because that is exactly it. I long, desperately long, to help strengthen my brothers and sisters. We don't need answers. We need strength to keep following when our finite minds cannot possibly understand God's infinite wisdom as He works in our lives. When nothing makes sense, we just need to hear somebody's heels coming down the hall to find us and help strengthen us enough to keep following.

If I could boil everything I will ever have to say down to a few words, it would be those: "Just keep following."

Why? Because one day, maybe over a decade later, you may look back at those impossible, nearly crushing times and see the presence of God right there in you.

Love brings strength. It's just who He is.


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