Reece’s 14th Birthday

Reece on Election Day, 2008 (20 months old)

It has been another year. Another trip around the sun, as they say. For so many years, I have not done a birthday post for Reece. Last year was the first year in quite some time. Some years, it hasn’t made sense. Lately, however, I think it makes a great deal of sense. March 24 is such a good day around our house, that at this point, writing a bit about him makes perfect sense. I just re-read that sentence and, if I was a person other than me, my last statement would seem counterintuitive and not remotely convincing. If I hadn’t walked in my own shoes, knowing what I know, I would think I was trying to convince myself it was a good day.

I’m currently slogging my way through a paper on Romans 8 and that text, in combination with a year of immense suffering for people, worldwide, brings to mind hope. We truly need hope–not the shallow, wish-filled kind, but the real anticipation of what is truly to come. We set our minds on things beyond our immediate circumstances and “suffer well” as we allow the Spirit to work through our lives, living eternally-focused, yet still in the present. This is evidenced by our hope. One of the greatest gifts given to me was witnessing Reece who, in the midst of a terminal illness, suffered well. One evening, not long before he passed away and riddled with so many side effects he could barely walk, eat, or keep his body warm, he was lying on our couch, cocooned in blankets, watching us get ready to eat dinner. He was too tired, frail, and lacking in appetite to make it to the table with us. We decided to pray over the meal and asked Reece if he’d like to join in. Without skipping a beat or waiting for us to pray along, Reece, from across the room, practically yodeled the “Johnny Appleseed” prayer song. He turned his head up to the sky like a dog howling at the moon and started in, “Ooooohhhhh–the Lord is good to me and so I thank the Lord…” and we all just sat at the table and cried, trying to keep up with him and not deter his singing by our tears. In reality, we knew he was not well and the energy it took for him to sing as emphatically as he did could only find its source in hope beyond his immediate circumstances. He was praying and worshipping in a way that had nothing to do with what was immediately in front of him and everything to do with what he hoped for–and there was no mistaking it. He was praising God. When I am tempted to throw in the towel on the day or give up in discouragement, I have this gem of a memory, along with many others from Reece’s life, stored in the treasure box of my heart. And I thank God for this pure witness of faith and hope through Reece’s suffering, gifted to me in the midst of a desperate situation.

Truly, March 24 is one of my absolute favorite days of the year, because we slow down and we celebrate Reece. In ways that are nearly inexplicable, Reece’s day is truly March 24…we don’t punt a birthday party to the weekend or invite a bunch of kids over to help tear open gifts. We don’t do gifts and parties. We do cake and memories. And since I am the only person in my immediate household who remembers him, it basically is me relaying those memories. The kids love talking about him…and we all love cake. Reece loves birthday cake. He and I used to talk about how our favorite dessert is birthday cake. We love Reece. And while it isn’t always an easy day, March 24 is always a good day.

Happy Birthday, Reece. I love you.

Reading Isaiah and Reece’s Faith

So I read through the book of Isaiah today for my seminary class and recalled that Reece came to accept Jesus when we were studying the book of Isaiah in BSF (he was three at the time). It prompted me to head out to the Like Olive Shoots blog to make sure I recalled the details correctly. Sure enough, there it was—the memory is just as lovely as the day it happened. I read through the blog post, which includes the parent tribute that Terry and I read at Reece’s memorial service. And as I read through it I was so struck by my kiddo and what an incredible life and testimony he has. I say with absolute joy that being his mother is one of the rare treasures in my life and the awesome reality that he is in Heaven can only be understood through the depth of grief that accompanies it. I’m reposting the parent tribute in case you’d like to read it.


Parent Tribute: Reece’s Faithstory

Reece has always had a heart for Jesus.  He has a wonderful faithstory that speaks to his relationship with and love for God and God’s love and protection for him.  Much like we, as his parents, have been covered by God’s grace, so has Reece.  We look back at Reece’s life on earth and see God’s work.  And, we have had the unique opportunity and privilege to see Reece’s life in its entirety.  While we certainly would have not chosen the course that Reece was led down, we trust that God’s plan for him is perfect.  We know that based on our personal reflections of his life and what we were able to witness, Reece has found much favor with the Lord, especially considering his last few months on earth.  And while we never felt we should take the liberty to publicly share the part of his faithstory that we were able to observe, we believe it is important to tell others about Reece’s love for Jesus now that he is in Heaven with Him.

Reece spent time in many different churches between our home church here at Westwood, two different church preschools, and three different church bible study programs.  All churches that housed these programs helped to nurture Reece’s love for the Lord.  He knew at a young age that God and His church weren’t associated with any particular building.  At just over a year of age, he would point at various churches—many that we had never been into or had any association with and happily say, “God’s house!”   We began doing nightly devotionals with him and openly discussed God and Jesus.  We also attended church with him.

When Reece turned two years old I began attending Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) with him.  His faith and enthusiasm for God continued to grow through the BSF children’s program.  I distinctly remember one particular week when lesson was on the Holy Spirit.  Knowing that they had discussed this with him that day, we came home after study and I asked him if they had talked about the Holy Spirit.  Reece said that they had and so I asked him what he thought the Holy Spirit is.  Reece replied with a wide smile on his face, “It’s Jesus in my belly!”

Two days prior to his fourth birthday, we were driving to BSF.  Somehow Reece began asking about “bad guys”—bad guys seemed to be an interesting topic for him at this stage of life.  He eventually asked if bad guys go to Heaven.  I told him that anyone who has Jesus in their heart goes to Heaven and that even Jesus loves the bad guys.  He then asked how one goes about getting Jesus in their heart.  I told him that you have to ask Jesus to come into your heart.  I also told him that if he ever felt like he wanted to ask Jesus to come into his heart, he could tell me and we would pray the prayer together.  As we pulled into the church parking lot, he said that he wanted to pray the prayer that very day!  I was so excited for him, but I told him that we would wait to do it later in the day when Daddy got home—so we could do this as a family.  As it happens, the lesson at BSF that day was from Isaiah 53, which is believed to be a reference to the ministry of Jesus.  This must have been on his mind all day, because he made sure that afternoon that we didn’t forget about doing so.  Later that evening, Reece prayed a prayer to ask Jesus to come into his heart.  He prayed with such intensity and spirit aloud as he recited the words.  His words were genuine; he was excited to have the Lord in his heart!

Reece loved singing songs about Jesus and often led us in prayer before meals.  He loved singing the Johnny Appleseed meal blessing.   Singing was his most apparent way he showed his love for the Lord.  It was, however, difficult to get him to talk about any sort of lesson or learning.  When asked about his day, he often times would sit quietly and suck his thumb.  Despite his lack of desire to share many thoughts with us, God was working on his heart, and his love for Jesus was evident.

So while Reece wasn’t one to give much detail about his thoughts and activities, it was around the time that he asked Jesus to come into his heart that Reece would tell us that he was going to go to Heaven before us.  He was quite matter-of-fact about it.  The statements were not given in a way that suggested fear or worry.  Often, these statements would come up while doing normal activities like playing with toys or driving in the car.  At times he would ask what he would do if he got to Heaven before us.  We would tell him that he would be with Jesus and that Jesus loves him even more than we do.  He not only talked to us about this, but other family members as well.  He only brought the topic up on an individual basis with each of us, so our experiences in witnessing him discuss his leaving us and going to Heaven was unique to each person, but shared the common theme that he would, in fact, go before us.  Most of these discussions happened prior to Reece’s diagnosis.  A few times, however, after Reece’s diagnosis, he definitively stated that he would be leaving us soon.  We tried not to read too much into this, to maintain a hopeful outlook, and to assume that Reece would survive his transplant.

During Reece’s stay in the hospital, he was quite ill and did not talk and chatter in the same way that he did when he was healthy.   However, we know based on what Reece said to us that God was working on his heart and preparing him for what was in store for him.  For the months during his hospital stay, he was delighted to see people wearing their red “Team Reece” bracelets and he told us that anyone who wore one would get to go to Heaven with him.  He never complained in the hospital; people who cared for him often remarked about how tolerant he was.  How sweet and cute he was.  We can tell you from what we witnessed that we would have never been able to handle what Reece did in such a tolerant and accepting fashion.

The week before Reece was readmitted for his final hospital stay, he, out of the blue, asked us about the believer’s prayer we prayed when he asked Jesus into his heart.  He said he wanted to pray it again.  We told him that he only had to pray it one time—that once Jesus is in your heart, He remains there.  Reece seemed satisfied with that answer.  Looking back, we believe that he was aware his time on earth would be ending soon.

We know that we have had only a glimpse into what Reece’s relationship is with God.  But we are certain that Reece loved and continues to love God and Jesus and that he was at peace with going to Heaven.  This is a peace and a faith that can only be gifted by God.  Reece is a child who knows God’s love for him.  What we were able to witness has provided us much comfort that the Lord was helping Reece to see His plan for his life, even through his toughest days.  We are fortunate to have known and been present with Reece throughout his entire life and we cherish the unique opportunity we had with him to discuss Heaven.  We are blessed to call Reece “son” and eagerly await hearing him fill in the details of his story, in his own words, when we see him again in Heaven.

We love you, Reece.

feeling alive

Shortly after Reece passed away, I had this deep desire to go rock climbing.  I’m talking about the kind of rock climbing where you need ropes and spiked shoes and you basically hang off the side of a cliff.  This goes against just about everything that feels natural and normal to me.  I’m pretty risk averse and camping for me includes our backyard and the ability to go lay down in my own bed after everyone else has nodded off…I don’t like waking up in dew.  This rock climbing idea was borne out of a need to have a larger-than-life sensory experience; to feel alive when many things inside of me did not.  I also did not feel nearly as concerned for my safety.  I wasn’t reckless, I just wasn’t as worried about the “what ifs” in my daily functioning.  As life began to pull itself back together, my desire to hang off of rocks still remained, but it didn’t seem as important.  There were other ways I found to feel alive again.

Strangely, I have always told Terry that if he goes to Heaven before me, I know I will feel great peace about the two of them being together.  I have never thought Reece needed one of us to be there.  But there is something about knowing that one of his earthly parents is there with him again that gives me some sort of resolution about the transplant here.  I don’t know how else to say it.  I can honestly say that I was right, though–I do feel strangely at peace.  It is so right and so odd all at once.

I have spent some time reading through my posts on Like Olive Shoots and have found myself sick and tired of it.  Not of Reece or Terry, but of the situation.  I don’t want to read about it, wallow in it, or live in that any more.  After Reece passed away I felt this need to preserve him.  As time went on, I began to understand that Reece was separate from all sorts of emotions I had about his transplant and passing.  In the process of understanding this, I have been able to appreciate my relationship with him.  I certainly don’t mean to minimize his struggle with BMT or how incredibly strong he was during that time.  But I recognize that my relationship continues with him and I celebrate the memories I have and the future I look forward to with him again one day.  I already feel this way about Terry.  I’m already so sick and tired of the whole situation.  I don’t feel any need to prove anything to myself about him or our relationship.  But I’m tired of the garbage of this world and how it impacted our lives.  I’m just done with that.  I’ll figure out what to do in the wake that was left behind from his passing and then I’ll look forward to seeing him again one day.  But in the middle–the rest of my life here–I need to move forward.  It’s not unhealthy or too soon.  It is what it is.  I’ve been through a lot and I’ve seen a lot.  I need normal, dammit.  I’m going to find it again.  It won’t be what normal used to be and that is fine with me.  I’m not looking to go back to anything that was there; that’s not even a desire buried in my heart.

I did have the notion a couple of weeks ago that I would like to go skydiving.  Ok, let’s be honest–it’s probably not going to happen.  I’ll never say never about it.  However, I’ve realized that I again have a deep need to feel alive again.  This time I recognize I need to reclaim my life.  It will happen, but it won’t be as quickly as I would like.  I’ve had so many discussions with people who have said, “I just want to fix this for you.”  I can tell you truthfully, no one wants to fix this more than me.  There is no fixing the loss of Terry, but there is a way to repair the other things that are left behind.  I’ve been through enough life and grief to know myself in the midst of them.  Many people have told me to just slow down and take some time for myself.  Trust me, taking time for myself doesn’t include sitting around.  I am not a crazy person, despite living through very difficult circumstances.  (Or maybe I should say I am no crazier than I have ever been at any other point in my life.)  I’m not shuffling around in a bath robe or hiding out in my house.  Truly, I’m a pretty typical person, just trying to live life.



life with the littles

It’s been about a month since I last posted and I just can’t seem to get things on here more frequently.  I really enjoy writing and hope that I can figure out a way to make it a more regular event.  It is a true reflection of how busy things have been around here and how much time I have to myself these days. I’m not complaining–nope. It’s just a fact of life.

The summer has been flying by and I–unlike so many Midwesterners–am not at all sad that this is the case. I’ve never been a huge “summer person”–whatever that means. Mostly, I am antsy for this baby to get here and to be finished with the chapter of life entitled, “Pregnancy”. I’m trying my best to savor it, but it is getting harder and harder with each passing day. Pregnancy alone is fine, but combined with an active one-year-old who gets into just about everything, it is brutal. Pregnancy is one of those events in life, where you simply forget about all the ins and outs of it after you get through it.  I get to certain stages and have very little memory of what I experienced in previous pregnancies.  Additionally, I was so stressed out and distracted during my last pregnancy (plus, my parents and aunt were primarily chasing Britta), that I don’t recall many of the normal pregnancy-related happenings other than the crazy monitoring at the end.  I really can not remember back four years ago (or seven, in Reece’s case) to remember all the nitty-gritty details I experienced with Britta. Plus, I think I was spared (mercifully) from some of the aches and pains during the last pregnancy.  Even the fourth time around has its own set of surprises.  Still, one thing that I have experienced in all four pregnancies is this: I get tremendously excited when I see food expiration dates on packages that are either my due date or even beyond!  I’m not talking about cans of soup and boxes of Uncle Ben’s wild rice.  I’m talking about milk, cheese, and anything that, should you eat it past that date, it could really get your tummy turning.  That’s right–every time this gets me super excited.  You should have seen me buying milk at Target with the family the other day.  Terry just stared at me in bewilderment when I enthusiastically shouted out that the expiration date was only a day before our due date!

Since my last update regarding my pregnancy (found here), things have calmed down a bit as far as our doctors’ monitoring of the Little Dude (Britta affectionately calls him, “Pineapple”).  My follow-up ultrasound showed that he was measuring at the 40%–a bruiser in this household–and that they had originally had the wrong due date in radiology.  Basically, he was never as small as they originally thought and he made up for lost ground in the month between ultrasounds!  I go back in for what may be my last ultrasound prior to delivery (assuming all growth has held steady) in another week.  We’ll see what’s happening, but right now they are treating this as a, “boring, normal pregnancy.”  We’ll take boring and normal!  This baby is quite active and while Scarlett has no clue how her world is about to change, Britta loves feeling him kick around and is always proud to tell everyone that she is having a baby brother.

As one can imagine, these last few weeks are full of baby and house prep.  We have not become more efficient at front-loading our baby prep work with each successive pregnancy.  We must be clutch players or clutch parents or clutch whatever.  Actually, I am not a clutch kinda gal at all, so while I await the upcoming dates set aside to get this stuff done, I find myself nesting like crazy to try to control something…cooking, cleaning, and making lists of things for Terry to get done.  Which always goes over really well.

We haven’t been the epitome of health this last month either. Between colds, sinus infections, and reactions to medications, we are thankful to be a healthy foursome for the time being.  We spent one entire Saturday in the ER with Britta.  She had a fever the day before and woke up complaining of head pain.  We were advised to take her to the ER for fear of bacterial meningitis.  In the ER they initially suspected strep throat, but when the initial test results came back negative and her CBC revealed elevated bacteria levels, they felt there was enough ambiguity that they needed to do a spinal tap to rule out anything serious.  So, we immediately clicked into hospital mode and it fit like a glove.  We naturally began silencing beeps, finding supplies, understanding a disturbing amount of “hospital-speak”, and engaging in our regular, light-hearted, distracting hospital banter which is our joint way of coping with various amounts of stress, depending on the circumstance.  As the doctor was prepping us for the procedure she was apologetic and kept telling us she wouldn’t want her own child to have a spinal tap.  Confused as to what the procedure actually entailed and trying to gauge how worked up I “needed” to be in my own mind, I looked at her and said, “Is this as invasive as a bone marrow biopsy?”  She replied, “Oh goodness, no!!!”  Terry, as he always does, stayed in the room for the procedure (I rarely opt to do so).  Again, as the doctor was discussing the procedure Terry asked, “Do I need to gown up?”  She looked startled and said, “Oh no, it’s only me that needs to use a sterilized surface.  You guys really have seen a lot.”  The difficult part for us was the partial sedation she was placed on that lasted for hours afterwards where she was in an awake-but-somewhat-vegetative state.  We had never experienced this with any other child (full sedation is more like going to sleep and waking up normally).  Thankfully, the spinal tap results looked great and were negative for meningitis.  We were released in the evening and given a call the next morning saying that the overnight culture for strep came back positive!  We were humbled with the actual results and grateful it was nothing more.  The doctor was apologetic that we had to do the spinal tap and I was thankful we did it so we could be released of the worry.

One funny story came about from that night after we returned home.  As Britta came out of the sedation further, she acted almost drunk.  The doctor warned us about this as it is usually what happens.  (My gut reaction when the doctor mentioned this was to ask, “So you mean she’ll get slightly cocky and demand to sing karaoke?”  But I refrained.)  Sure enough, as she further awoke, she began to slur her speech when she started chatting with us and needed lots of help moving around.  It was a two person operation to take her to the bathroom.  So as Terry and I crouched down about eye-level with her sitting on the potty, she looked at me and said, “Mommy…Mommy is mean to me.”  (Again, sounding like a very drunk person and wobbling as she tried to maintain her balance.)  Terry, feeling badly that I was getting accused of being mean, chimes in and begins to say, “Britta, why would you say Mommy is mean?”  But she cut him off mid-sentence when she pointed to him and said, “And thaaaat guy!  He is mean to Scarlett!”  We couldn’t help but sit there and laugh.  She finally disclosed that we are mean for putting them in time-outs.  No, we do not put our one-year-old in official time-outs.  But Terry did use the verbiage with Scarlett recently after she maniacally crawled across the floor to bite Britta.  Just another day in the life with The Littles.

The week of July 4th (and 5th, of course) went really well.  We ended up spending those days at my parents’ home.  On July 5, we took the girls strawberry-picking.  It was fun and fitting as Reece absolutely loves strawberries!  They are one of the few things he ate on a regular basis–even in the hospital.  The girls enjoyed the time and we did as well.  As predicted, I did feel a sense of relief after that week passed and yet I found I was met with heavy, heavy feelings about a week later that continued throughout the month of July.  But I’m not going to blog about it today.

We are so thankful for the many people who reached out to us over the month of July and mentioned Reece to us.  People from many different facets of life reached out to either share a memory or let us know they were thinking of us and it means a great deal.  I continue to feel a sense of gratitude for what we are given and hopeful in the direction life is taking us.

“The people who make a difference are not the ones with the credentials, but the ones with the concern.”

~Max Lucado

my year in genesis

We finished our year of BSF on Tuesday and we reflected on what we had learned through studying Genesis.  I will admit, I was a little hesitant about studying Genesis and it was mostly due to not really wanting to learn anything further this year.  I was “learned out” from a practical application standpoint, but decided that it would be good to be studying The Word with other women again and indeed it would be good for the girls to go to the children’s program.   When I left partway through Acts last year, most of my answers to the study questions were theoretical to me.  I had lived a pretty cushy life and while I had some challenging things happen, nothing had been so big that I couldn’t muscle my way through it.  Coming back to study, after living through the isolating, pain-filled, God-dependent ordeal we had lived through was entirely different.  I mean, where was I to start?  It seemed so many questions needed several pages to answer and depending on the day, I simply did not want to go there.  I’ll admit, about halfway through the year I thought about not continuing, but it really didn’t make sense to quit and I knew if I didn’t face some of these challenges now, I’d face them in the future and have to work through them all over again.  I reminded myself again that I could not deny the girls the opportunity to attend and learn from the loving, caring women who faithfully teach them the lessons every week.  And ultimately, I knew I had to do something “normal” in regard to social interactions.  I decided to stay.  So reflecting back over the year was an important exercise for me; to see where I came from and where I am now.  Here are my big takeaways from a year in the Book of Genesis:

God is purposeful and good. 

He made everything purposefully.  We are purposeful beings.  We have ups and downs and they mean something to Him.  Because they mean something to Him, it then changes the way that I view it.  I can rest when I know that He has purpose for what we endure and the hardships we face.  Nothing feels worse than to go through something difficult and feel like it happened for no reason.  This is NOT the case with God.  When things feel senseless and meaningless, I can rest in knowing that He will use it all and it will ultimately be good, because He is good.   According to Google, “good” means something that is morally right; righteous (noun) or to be desired or approved of (adjective). How many times have we prayed that meal blessing at our table, “God is great; God is good.  And we thank Him for our food,” and not really let the words sink in?  I realize that when watching the news it is hard to believe that things will be used for God’s purposes or that any good could come from them.  The world is full of things happening that seem senseless and terrible. I don’t desire the circumstances Reece lived through or that others endure, but I know in my soul that it will be well.  It’s a matter of trust in God that He is faithful to what He has promised.

As we studied the life of Joseph–who was sold (by his brothers, no less) into slavery, believed dead by his family, and thrown into prison for being (falsely) accused of attacking a woman, he ultimately became a powerful man in Egypt and he trusted in God and His plan.  Told near the end of Genesis, the story of his life is more than the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat–it is worth your time to read it.  But here’s my other deal with it.  I’m so thankful that Joseph had things happen later in his life where he could see some, I repeat some resolution here on Earth.  He could see how his turmoil resulted in something great.  However, there are many people who never see that resolution here.  It doesn’t mean that the same promise of God doesn’t hold true or that He is only good when He demonstrates the resolution here.  It just means it will be resolved and revealed in Heaven.  I don’t think of Reece as losing a battle or not being healed.  False.  He is perfectly healed.  Being delivered into Heaven isn’t a consolation prize for not receiving healing here.  Terry and I agreed even on the day he passed away that we would not ask for him to be back here, even in his healthiest, normal state.  If we truly embrace the promise that Heaven is our home, I can’t ask for him to come back here.  I remind myself often that Reece is doing something today that far exceeds what his day or any of our days would look like here.  It’s awesome to think about!  Nevertheless, I don’t get to understand how that all plays out for probably quite sometime.  I didn’t get the chance to see it resolved here, but resolution for him did happen and I will understand it all one day.  Likewise, God knew we would suffer the loss of Reece.  This will not be resolved for us here.  We expect that we will suffer this until our own bodies give way; we will endure lifelong suffering.  But my soul is at peace here when I know deeply that it has purpose and that God is good in it.  He made the earth and everything in it and declared it good.  He is good.  He is good even when it doesn’t turn out the way we want it to turn out.  This year, in particular, I needed to see that He is purposeful and good.

My walk with God won’t be easy. 

I knew this to be true already, but it was powerful to read about the lives of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) and Joseph and to see how while God chose these men to establish His people, they struggled in life.  They made poor decisions, they endured hardships, they wrestled with God (Jacob, literally), they struggled to trust God, yet God was faithful to them.  He showed his love for them through it all.  While I already knew life here would be tough, it was oddly reassuring to read through it this year and realize that these struggles have been going on since Creation and will always be while we are here.  It doesn’t mean that God is necessarily punishing us (although at times, it might).  It means I am guaranteed suffering here, but that shouldn’t be falsely interpreted as God not caring for me or loving me.  God’s love isn’t solely demonstrated by what He spares us from, but also includes what He helps us endure.  Since the beginning of time, God has persevered with people by His love and mercy–The Fall, The Flood, The Patriarchs, slavery, the death of Jesus, and so much more up to the present day.  It really gets back to my first takeaway.  Even when life feels raw, when we suffer, when we are hurt, when we make bad choices and suffer the consequences, God cares and He is faithful to us.  I needed to see that come through the lives of the men in Genesis.

I should preface this next part by saying it has been an ongoing process to discern what is laid on my soul by God/stirred through the Holy Spirit, what is produced in my mind as a fear or protective, innate response to something, and what is just my mind wandering.  It’s one thing to look backwards and sort through things to see God’s hand, but I have been paying attention to try to understand, at present, what the Lord is trying to communicate to me.  I will never know God’s plan for me or my family in full until I get to Heaven and God reveals as much as I need to know.

With this in mind, I had something laid on my heart a few weeks back that has been aided by my learning in Genesis and that I feel God specifically pointed out to me one day.  Scarlett, our third child, has always been a mystery to me.  She is the one child of our four that seemed to come out of nowhere.  I love her so much, so this does not reflect any sort of negativity towards her.  However, we were quite surprised to find out that we were pregnant with her about six weeks prior to Reece’s blood work.  As the pregnancy continued on, it limited my ability to help with Reece (picking him up, doing overnights at the hospital, etc.).  I felt frustrated with my lack of ability to do things with him and often had to tell him I couldn’t do what he wanted.  I felt torn between Reece’s many needs and Scarlett’s baby needs after she was born.  I felt somewhat resentful that pregnancy should be a happy time and instead my pregnancy with her was full of stress and tears.  I have felt anger over having to tell Reece “no” to anything at all in his last months with us.  There were many times I felt I had to choose between the two kids and it felt so wrong given the serious nature of the situation.  Also, I struggled with knowing that Scarlett’s birth and Reece’s passing were only 9 weeks apart…forever associating the two in that way.

In addition, while I don’t regularly struggle with this line of thinking, it is difficult to not feel at times like Reece suffered for something we did.  In my pursuit to try to make sense of Reece’s failing health, many things have run through my mind and certainly one of them is that we are somehow punished by this circumstance.  The Bible discusses punishments–even punishments for sins committed generations before.  I don’t get mentally stuck there, but it of course has come up in conversation.  However, as we continued to study Genesis, it highlighted how blessed people have been with children.  Certainly, we know we are blessed with all four of our children.  Children have been a source of blessing back to the Creation.

Keeping all of this in mind, I had this moment of peace and understanding one morning that touched me so deeply, I believe it is from the Lord.  It occurred to me that Scarlett was given purely as a gift of life at a time of earthly death.  This might seem obvious and when I read it, it seems obvious, too.  But on a deeper level, I thought about it in terms of such a contrast of blessing with both the beginning of life here for one child and life in Heaven for another.  I feel like Scarlett was, among many other things, a way for me to understand that God’s purpose for us is parenting.  He continued to show His love in such a powerful and joy-filled way through the obvious blessing of her.  The joy over (well, all three children at the time) Scarlett and Reece are so vastly different, but bringing life into this world at such a time is, to me, a sign of God’s faithfulness to us.  It really overwhelms me to think about it.  It doesn’t mean we will be spared from other suffering or loss, it just means to me that God is faithful to us.  He would be faithful without having given us Scarlett, but He chose that for us, just like He chose to take Reece away.  He didn’t have to give us a child to show His faithfulness, but He reassured me that He indeed has chosen a path of parenting for us and that we are blessed with this path.  I don’t believe He is punishing us for something we are doing or something we did.  It seems affirming in our decision to parent as though He is saying, “I’m going to take one child from you physically, but I am going to entrust you with another, so you understand that I trust you with these children and that I love you.  This is about my plan for Reece and your lives, but it isn’t about your punishment.  You need to trust Me.”  (He didn’t audibly say that, but that is what the message felt like to me.)  He blessed us in the middle of it all.  So many of the blessings felt like they had to be wrung out of that circumstance, but Scarlett was poured out over us.  He didn’t have to do that for us.  Now, what seemed so frustrating in the midst of it all has turned into a completely different realization. It doesn’t change our longing for Reece.  However, He knew our desires before we even knew them ourselves and worked it out for our good, so while in the midst of our suffering we can also literally see our blessings.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28