So another big milestone is approaching. October 27th. We "should" be celebrating the fourth birthday of a beautiful, healthy, happy rambunctious little boy.
Well, that dream quickly changed when John and I were brought face to face with diagnosis after diagnosis after diagnosis the first few days of his life. The dream changed to us looking ahead and wondering what obstacles our four-year-old CHARGEr little man of steel would overcome. Would he be able to eat on his own? breath on his own? see us? hear us? would he walk yet? We would reflect on the setbacks and rejoice in his victories--just thankful for the four years we've had with him.
As you well know, there won't be a party to throw for Malachi this year. He actually never made it to his first one. It's interesting, I'm not usually all sentimental about parties for the children who are still under my care. I don't go crazy. I don't think about all the little details. I'm just happy to make a cake and call it good. I haven't even been present for two of Emma's last three actual birthdays due to church responsibilities. (The day, not the party... at least I tell myself there's a difference)
So where do I find myself this October? I find myself the entire month wishing I was planning out all the intricate details of Malachi's party. The cake, the invites, the food, the guests, the games, etc. etc. I find myself grieving. I find myself questioning all over again. I find myself wanting things the way I had pictured them. I find myself telling God that it woud be better if... that maybe He got it wrong.
Since Malachi's death we've "celebrated" three birthdays in his honor and three anniversaries of his death. We've celebrated the birth of Malachi's little brother, Jackson and watched him grow into an amazing little boy. We can't help but wonder what amazing friends Emma, Malachi, and Jackson would have been growing up together. What would he be teaching us? What would his interests be? We put our plans for China on hold. We've fixed up another house. We've been called to full-time ministry. Not in China, but in the States to international students. We've been juggling family and work obligations. We've been adding more ministry responsibility. We've been pursuing an internship with our local church in preparation for missions. We started homeschooling. We've been busy.
All that to say, I'm in a weird place. For better or for worse, this is where I am. In the days approaching the 27th I'm torn. I'm conflicted. My stomach is generally in knots. My natural desire is to be angry and bitter toward God, to demand my own way. Grief has a way of shaking you to your very core. Your emotions are up and down and pulling you all over the place. It amazes me how quickly grief can become all-consuming. The other night I went to check on Jackson in his bedroom. As I opened his door, the bed was empty. My illogical-October-brain jumped to the conclusion that he had died and I was a terrible mother for it (at least that's the Reader's Digest version)... Isn't it amazing how fast and how far your train of thought can take you?
At the same time, God is working in me and His truth, His word is battling. There is literally a war within me and it's exhausting. Sometimes it keeps me up at night; sometimes it allows me to sleep for three or four hours in the afternoon after a full night's rest. Sometimes I feel "put together"; sometimes I just sob. Sometimes I'm just downright defeated; other times life feels "normal" again. Sometimes I want to be surrounded by people; sometimes I just want to be left alone. When I'm apathetic, I just want to feel something/anything; when the emotions run rampant, I long for apathy. Most of the time, I really just don't even know what I want.
In reflecting over the last few years, I'm thankful that I'm in a better place than I was during the silence of years one and two following Malachi's death. I have most definitely been tested, but I think my knowledge of God is deeper and my faith is stronger. I'm learning I've been given a platform for the gospel. I'm also learning that I've been neglecting it. I've been able to connect with other moms who are hurting due to miscarriage and child deaths--which has its ups and downs. I'm honored to be allowed into the lives of these women who carry deep, deep hurt (many times alone), but it cuts deep. Their pain becomes my pain. Frankly, I think that's biblical. We are called to carry one another's burdens. With the story God has trusted me, many times that invitation comes from them and I don't have to ask to be let in. There is also great joy in learning what it means to walk by faith, trusting in what's real even if it may not be obvious.
I am thankful for friends who have allowed me to be real and transparent with them in this ongoing struggle. Not many truly know the day-in and day-out battles I can fight with grief. But those who do point me to the truth of God for which I cannot fully express my gratitude and appreciation. And, seriously, if you aren't annoyed with my conflictedness from everything I've said up until this point, try living with me. God has blessed me with the most amazingly patient man who consistently points me to truth (sometimes when I don't feel like hearing it). He is wise when it comes to listening, to acknowledging the pain, and generally his ministry to me goes largely unnoticed. God knew what was in our future when He brought the two of us together. John knew the baggage I carried with me as a fairly new believer and as the product of a divorced family. I'm so thankful his patience with me has only grown.
If you've made it this far, kudos to you. I apologize if it doesn't even make sense. Feel free to leave a comment below either here on the blog or on facebook. It's encouraging to know I'm not alone in this. It's encouraging to know that people remember my baby.