It’s Christmastime! I went a little over the top this year with Christmas. I put up our decorations towards the end of October and pretty much had all gifts purchased and wrapped before November 1st.
At first I thought my exuberance for Christmas was because we are celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with Davin’s family over Thanksgiving break and I needed to be ready. However, I realized that’s not it, because we’ve done that in the past and I remember Davin hinting that we had Christmas garland and what if he helped me put it up, and how about those stockings come mid-December?
I think it’s because last year at this time, we were in the hospital with Evelyn. Last Christmas, although we absolutely had a million reasons to celebrate, last year was different. It felt rushed and when we were in the hospital, Christmas the way we knew it wasn’t a given. Neither was Thanksgiving. Yes, the days would come but at this time last year, we didn’t know where we’d be celebrating them as a family. As we walked the hospital halls grateful for the beautiful garland and decorations, we wondered if we’d be home to celebrate together.
So, perhaps my exuberance is an effort to make up for last year. To really have as many days as possible listening to the music, making the cookies, seeing the garland light up on my own banister and not just the hospital hallways. And I am so making up for it! I wanted us to feel the lightness of this Christmas as opposed to the uncertainty and coldness of last year. Which I have yet to fully write about. (Another time!)
In fact even a month ago, I was still broken inside from what had happened to our baby. My voice was still laced with an icy, angry tone that I tried to hide from myself when I talked about Evelyn not being fully healed yet. I would notice tears that I would push back into my eyes, choosing to instead smile and reply, “It’s okay, it’s not what I want but at least we have her with us”. But it didn’t feel okay.
Bible study came along this fall and the same group of women who’d prayed for us, brought us dinners and watched our kiddos last year asked, “How’s she doing?” and I’d share honestly, “Well, she has to take daily medication right now, and I’m kinda mad about it.” My heart each time I said it feeling betrayed by the Lord. Trying to smile and be strong on the outside, but internally dialoging with God:
“You said she’d be healed. THIS isn’t healed. This is DAILY reliance on medication. Haven’t we been through enough? Didn’t we go through it right? Didn’t we trust you!? We had nine months of no medication, thinking she was healing fully on her own only to discover that she hadn’t. She wasn’t well enough. She wasn’t fully healed. I don’t like that she has to be on medication.”
I was SO angry and disappointed about it.
And those same women wrapped their strong arms around me while I cried in the school pick up line. And my family came around me with encouraging words, prayer and support, and my friends all listened while I shared and everyone prayed with us for her full healing, each one still trusting God.
I’d say in my head as they prayed such sweet prayers full of faith and love,
“Well, it’s good YOU’RE praying for her healing, because I’m done! At least someone believes she’ll be healed!”
I was a bit too mad to trust God that he had any further healing for her. If he had, I figured he would have done it by now.
I believed the lie that God didn’t love me enough to heal my baby.
That he didn’t love me enough.
Even though I was being covered in love.
Maybe you’ve believed this lie before too.
A few weeks ago, one of my good friends, Melissa, sent me a voice text with a prayer and attached a song. I had to run and hide upstairs in my closet just to hear the prayer because Evelyn was yelling for things downstairs and chasing me. She found me just as the prayer ended. Over the voice text Melissa had said that she could see Evelyn was in God’s care, she could see her so bright and full of color, right before God and that she was safe. Yet, I was back, behind my friend in the shadows, lacking color. That I was the one who needed prayer, not Evelyn. She wasn’t sure what was shadowing me, but she prayed for Jesus to lead me out of the shadows.
And I knew her words were true.
Evelyn and I walked into her room and I turned on the song my friend had sent.
“Hold you? Hold you?” Evelyn requested as she grabbed her blanket.
We sat down in her bright white rocking chair. With her blanket in hand and thumb in her mouth she thumped her head against my chest. I held her and we rocked together and listened to the song. I thought about my friends prayer, as I wondered at the shadows she spoke of. Rubbing Evelyn’s back I silently prayed,
“Lord, I don’t know what the shadows are, and I don’t know how to come out from underneath them. It’s not like I’m trying to be miserable or doubt you. We’re still friends, I’m just mad every time I think of how things aren’t going my way. I don’t know how to get out of the dark shadows, to be bright and colorful again, but you do. I don’t want to feel let down and mad at you but I do. I need you to fix it, because I can’t.”
“Again mommy, again?” Evelyn asked. She was so still, it must have been a miracle.
I hit replay and she rested her head back on my chest, even though we were no where near nap time.
I looked over at her bookshelf, and I noticed the penguin her aunt Keeli gave her when she was in the hospital, remembering how it sat in her dark metal hospital crib every day, brightening up the dull, cold space. Pink and black and wearing a hat.
I glanced up at an owl another family gave her just days after we were admitted, when we were so scared and unsure of the future.
At that time, we were watching our baby grow closer to death each day right in front of our eyes and praying for a miracle. And yet, I have a picture of her sleeping peacefully on Mr. Owl, smiling, bright white, yellow and gray.
Evelyn was starting to nod off to sleep now and I could feel tears starting to rush behind my eyes. I pushed them back, trying to hold back crying and waking her.
I glanced at her colorful books all lined up on the wall. My brother Aaron and his wife, Christie gave her a giant set of board books for us to read to her in the hospital. My dear friend, Kia even gave us a recording book to play for her. Evelyn especially loves books. Bright blue, yellow, pink, green, orange and red. So many colors. So much color and life in this room made just for her. So many memories of the ways we were loved by others.
I thought about how I decorated Evelyn’s room when we moved into this rental, trying to use Ellie’s pink pale decor but attempting to make her room look bright and colorful as opposed to the muted pink I had chosen for Ellie.
I thought about how fortunate we were that we needed to decorate a room for her in the first place. That the reason for this bright colorful room was resting here in my lap.
All the books, animals and toys… all the colors in this room were for her. For Evelyn.
Because she is still with us.
Because God took care of her.
It didn’t have to go this way. Her life wasn’t a guarantee. It could have gone a very different way. I started to cry.
We may have never had the chance to decorate another room for her.
As I rocked her, I reminisced about all the people who loved us so well when she was in the hospital. Some friends showed us love by faithfully visiting and sitting by our side at the hospital, others came and prayed over her, over us, others brought us meals and activities for our kids, others picked up our littles from school and babysat, others did our grocery shopping. Tears were filling my eyes again, but for the first time in a long time, they weren’t angry tears.
They were different, they were grateful tears.
Grateful tears that God saved her life.
That she was in my arms, now asleep, safely resting and breathing deeply.
That God took care of all of us, as a family.
That God loved us through others.
I pulled softly on one of her blond little curls damp with her sweat, I felt her breathing in an out gently and as I stared at her dark eyelashes draping across her closed lids I felt so incredibly grateful for this little life. This little person.
The song played,
“Take courage my heart. Stay steadfast my soul. He’s in the waiting. He’s in the waiting. Hold on to your hope, as your triumph unfolds, He’s never failing, He’s never failing.”
But she isn’t healed yet…
“And you who hold the stars, who call them each by name, will surely keep your promise to me and I will rise in your victory.”
“He’s in the waiting.”
“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8
We have our Evelyn, and I have his word that one day she will be healed fully.
She fell asleep on my lap as I cried and listened to the song on repeat. It was a healing moment from the Lord. The one my friend had prayed for. The one I had said I couldn’t do on my own.
The Lord doesn’t always answer our prayers in our own timing. He answers them in his timing. And I have to trust him and believe that what he said he’d do, he will do.
“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Hebrews 10:23
I am grateful for all the color he has brought into my life because of her.