Where are we today...3 years later? Bob chose to end his 16 year career as a professional firefighter. We sold our home in TN and moved back to WI in August. We purchased a small-town, family-owned hardware store which has forced me back into socializing again. My mind is constantly occupied with other things which has been an unexpected blessing. Our girls are enrolled in WELS schools. As I write this, I can hear Brittany playing "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" on the piano. She's been given such a gift. We were able to send her to Luther Prep 2 years ago as a result of the Infant Death "Benefit" we received from Grace...another mixed blessing. Who knows...maybe one day she'll be a teacher.
We continue to keep our eyes focused on heaven and God's promises. I continue to be amazed at how He carries us through this temporary earthly life.
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
I wrote the following thoughts 2 years ago as we were driving back to TN after a short visit in WI.
December 20, 2010
We're on our way back home to TN, so as Bob drives, I have 10 hours to think. At the moment, my thoughts are consumed with today's date ~ what occurred one year ago and only 7 months ago. By the end of this trip, I pray that I have a different perspective. Time, prayer, and putting my thoughts down on paper seems to help...not necessarily in that order.
One year ago today, we made the exciting announcement to our families that we were pregnant. As I type this, I have a sick feeling in my stomach. I'm also remembering back to 7 months ago today when we were told, “You'll be having this baby today!” The doctor said this with concern, but I was excited thinking, 'At least I won't be going 10 days over like I did with Britt and Maddy.' I thought that it would be nice to go 2 weeks early for a change. Besides, my sister was 2 – 3 weeks early back in February and everything turned out for her...thankfully. Yes, things turned out for us, too. Just not the way we imagined when we planned on having another baby. Selfishly, I guess we wanted to hold another one of our own ~ We did...just not as long as we were expecting to. I say, “selfishly,” because I'm very aware that so many pray to hold just one of their own babies and continue to wait. We've been so blessed to have 3 healthy daughters with us here on earth.
A year ago today, we were in WI listening to Brittany's Christmas program. I was secretly filled with joy knowing that we were going to be having a baby in a few more months. Once again, Christmas had a special meaning for us last year. We heard the words “celebration, good news, giving birth, great joy, infant, mother and child, holding her baby, baby's cries,” etc. These were all things that we experienced in the past with our other children, and they were words that I was relating to once again while carrying another one of God's precious gifts.
One year ago today, as we drove to my parent's home to celebrate Christmas, we wondered how we were going to share our good news. We received a gingerbread family ornament from my sister, Jackie. It included a dad, mom, and 3 little gingerbread children. Bob handed it back to Jackie and said, “There aren't enough children on this ornament.” After a few seconds of confusion, there were “hoots and hollers”. I can still hear the laughter and joy that followed.
Yesterday, we attended two Christmas programs. The words that brought so many feelings of joy last year brought happiness, tears, red, burning, and puffy eyes, thankfulness, jealousy, and guilt for feeling angry. The words “good news” were repeated so many times that it just became overwhelming. I absolutely realize that Jesus' birth is the best gift ever given and greatest news ever proclaimed. Grace is in heaven because God sent His Son to earth to be born of a virgin, to suffer, and to die for our sins. So why this constant battle of crazy thoughts and emotions?
Being aware that Grace could have an issue with her heart, we never imagined for a second that we'd leave the hospital without her. So when we hear, “Oh, so you knew...” I take that as meaning we should be over this because we were prepared. As if those who know that someone's going to die won't grieve as much or as long as those who don't know. Even if we knew for certain, we could never be prepared. The only thing that we tried to be ready for was a possibly longer hospital stay. Preparing for that meant having a freezer full of food and a list of several meals posted on the fridge.
As Christian parents, we all want to see our children in heaven. Bob and I know, without a doubt, that we have a child in heaven. For that, we are truly grateful and so thankful that God loves us so much that He didn't want Grace to live in this sinful world. Does knowing this make things any easier? Yes and No. We'll never have to worry about her falling away from God. What's so difficult is living with the reality of what God's will is for us. I'm certain that when any of us hears that we are expecting a child, we never imagine our child or children dying before us ~ no matter what age (inside the womb or after birth).
So we continue to trust in God's promises of eternal life in heaven. This doesn't take away the empty feeling that we have inside. Even the word “family” has a different meaning for me now. When I think of “family” in an earthly sense, I feel a hole or an emptiness inside. Last year, we imagined Christmas 2010 with a new Wendt baby added to our family. The happiness comes when we remember that as believers, we are all a part of God's family. When I think of it that way, I don't feel as sad that Grace isn't with us here on earth. The challenge comes when I'm missing her and the life we imagined sharing with her. Some days, it's a constant battle where I need to remind myself that this is all a part of God's plan for us. That's when I think of the Bible passage “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
When I'm feeling selfish and ungrateful, I want her here like we planned for her to be. I don't want to have special Christmas ornaments made that say, “Grace's 1st Christmas in heaven”. When we announced our “good news” last Christmas, we never imagined one year later, that we'd be receiving gifts of money in cards that say “...in memory of Baby Grace,” or “A donation has been made in Grace's name to...” When we announced our “good news”, we imagined having our hands full with a 7 month old enjoying his or her 1st Christmas this year. It's difficult receiving gifts in memory of our child. I expect to see gifts given in memory of my grandparents not in memory of our baby.
Thankfully, Jesus didn't say, “I don't want to die on the cross for Wendy. She won't appreciate my sacrifice and she'll forget to trust that I know what's best for her and her family.” God knows what's best. We know that, no matter how much it hurts.
As we get ready to celebrate Jesus' birth in a few days, our tears will be tears of joy mixed with sadness. The joy comes when we remember God's grace when He sent Jesus to earth as a baby. Heather reminded me several times as she memorized her parts for her Christmas program, “Mom, baby Jesus didn't die.” The mix of sadness and joy comes from remembering Grace's birthday 7 short months ago when God decided that it was best for her to go home to Him. Because of God's grace, our Grace gets to celebrate Christmas for an eternity in heaven. We continue to look forward to that day, as well.
Finally, I want to share with you another one of those “reading the perfect thing at just the right moment,” moments. A little while ago, we arrived home safely from our brief trip to WI. Shortly after walking into our home, I turned my “Inspirations for Daily Life” to December 20. It read, “In everything good, see God's grace.” Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. James 1:17 Another fitting passage as we are about to celebrate Jesus' birth ~ the greatest gift ever given, wanted, and needed.