Permanent Marks of His Grace

(Spoiler Alert: Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast)

I’ve always loved Easter. As a child, it represented a general time of joy through community, celebration inundated with pastel colors and pleasant reminders that Spring had finally arrived. Over the years and into adulthood, as I reflected more upon Lent and what the cross meant to me personally, it was a time where my faith was renewed and strengthened. 

Olive's Baptism, Easter 2012

Olive's Baptism, Easter 2012

But with the exception of Emma and Olive’s infant baptisms on Easter Sunday in 2009 and 2012, this time of year remained just that - general times of blessing, where nothing significant really stood out. Where no permanent mark was made in my life. Nothing I’d expect to remember for years or decades to come.

That changed last year.

Learning About Love in the Midst of Mourning

I had my second miscarriage one week before Easter Sunday last year. I was seven weeks pregnant at a women’s retreat, looking to be blessed at a morning worship session when my stomach pain finally got to a point where I realized something wasn’t right. My body had known for days that the life struggling to form inside of me was losing its battle, but I simply hadn’t been able to connect the dots. After calling my doctor from the retreat center, I followed her advice, left as soon as I could and drove myself an hour and a half straight to the ER. I had a few hours to process what was happening, but it didn’t really hit me until I was lying down in that dark hospital room overwhelmed by the awful silence instead of the sound of a beating heart.

They say it’s nature’s way of saying it wasn’t a viable pregnancy. It was only seven weeks - it wasn’t even classified as a fetus yet. We still have two healthy girls. At least it was early and won’t require surgery. We can always try again. But Lord, I thought this was the third child you wanted us to have. What now?

The next 6 months were hard - harder than healing from my first miscarriage eight years ago. I wasn’t plagued as much by doubt whether I’d conceive again or if I had done something wrong. I was mourning the loss of the potential life that could have been. After having experienced first-hand the joy Emma and Olive brought into our lives – the mysterious way we found ourselves immediately loving them when they were complete strangers and then loving them even more as they started to display their unique personalities – I struggled the most mourning the loss of what that potential life could have become. What quirks would we have fallen in love with? What unique traits would have made us smile?

I felt as if I had lost a child and then I struggled with guilt for feeling that way. Some parents have lost a child to tragedy or sickness after having reared them and known them for years or even decades – what right did I have to feel this way after seven weeks when I had done nothing? Regardless of what I tried to tell myself and the attempts to make sense out of it all, the heartache and questions remained. I finally began writing to organize my thoughts and then in prayer came to realize God wasn’t focused on answering my questions. His first priority was to heal my broken heart.

I could clearly see all He wanted to do was to keep hugging me until my crying stopped because He knew even more intimately than I did, what it was like to lose a child. And not just to lose, but to sacrifice His perfect son for me.

Last Easter, when I should have been reflecting upon God’s ultimate act of love and sacrifice displayed on the cross, my heavenly Father was ministering to me – holding me, a broken and sinful mother – in the midst of my mourning, forever reshaping my understanding of His love for me.

Oh, how God truly loves me.

The Best Thing For My Children

Friday nights are usually movie nights at the June residence. A few weeks ago, we rented Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast. Popcorn was made, lights were dimmed and as is often the case after family movie night, yours truly was the only one crying at the end as the credits came rolling in. But this time, it wasn’t just a few tears that the girls and Joseph would usually make fun of me for - to even my surprise, I actually had to hold myself back from starting to weep.

This was a nice little Disney story and all, but definitely not weep-worthy material! Without getting into all the details of the movie, the story is about a new and scary beast to Pixie Hollow – the NeverBeast – who was initially misjudged as an evil creature set to destroy Pixie Hollow, when he was actually their sacrificial savior and protector. After Pixie Hollow is ultimately saved and the beast’s work done, he prepares to go back into hibernation until the next time Pixie Hollow would need his help – in 900 years. The final scene has the six fairy friends realizing they won’t be able to share any more adventures with the NeverBeast and thus say their final goodbyes.

And then that’s when the Holy Spirit decided to give me a good punch in the gut. Just like that poor beast will never get to experience another glorious adventure with the fairies in another Tinker Bell movie - there will come a day where I will no longer be by Emma or Olive’s side to see what adventures they start, the mischief they’ll inevitably get into, the ways they’ll make people laugh, the joyous moments of their life, or the times they’ll be paralyzed by fear and face the biggest challenges in their lives.

As a mother, I want to equip my daughters to navigate this world – I want to help them find their passions and talents, grow a love for discovering, not be afraid of failing, and be strong and courageous. But at that moment, I was reminded of two things - what they will need most when I’m gone is our heavenly Father. And that until then, even while I’m still here, nothing I can do for them will be greater than what the Lord can do in their life.

In some ways, these are such obvious statements for Christian parents. But in the day-to-day, as I struggle to get through each day as a mother and tend to their needs, it’s easy head knowledge but difficult to live by, take action from and be convinced of in humility. There is nothing I can do for them, give to them or prepare them for that will be more powerful or life transforming than the Living God.

Nothing can compare – He truly is our living hope.

What Easter Means For Me as a Mom

From the weighty events of last year to the random Disney-inspired realizations in this year’s Lenten season, I am learning more and more that reflecting upon and celebrating Easter is not just something I need to do individually in order to become a better parent. I need to be intentionally inclusive and communal in sharing my relationship with my Father – my central identity as His broken but forgiven daughter – with my daughters.

As the cross is God’s greatest gift to us, the greatest gift I can give to my children is sharing my relationship with Him: what the cross means to me personally in fellowship, prayer and worshipping the One who loves us all deeply. And as it is so often with the Lord, as I try to give, I end up receiving so much more. I shared my first real prayer request with Emma this past week, asking for her prayers and and she’s been asking me every day if things are better, teaching me what it means to have a child-like faith.

So, my prayer is that this Easter, the Lord gives us all permanent marks of His grace in our lives as we run into His loving embrace.

NOTE: A special thanks to the NMCC Media Team for their passion to find new ways to engage brothers and sisters to share about our faith and relationship with the Lord – all the good, bad, dull and raw. You guys/gal are awesome.