My mother told me that being a Christian woman is one of the hardest life paths one can choose. This is because being truly Christian means that you walk this path on faith and faith alone. You must trust your life to something you can not see or hear. Something that is invisible, intangible, and unprovable. You must hand your body and your soul over to the Lord and HAVE FAITH that he will carry us.
I committed my life to the Lord a long time ago. 14 years ago, to be exact. I was confirmed by the Arch-Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles when I was just 13 years old. I knew then what faith was and that I trusted the Lord to lead my life and to use me as a vessel to spread His word in this world. I was ready for whatever He asked of me. And I was ready to have faith in Him.
14 years ago, I could have never imagined the task He had for me. But the Lord works in mysterious ways, and I have found that leading my life with blind faith has lifted me up, scared me to death, and rocked me to my core. But it has NEVER steered me wrong.
When Abigail came so early, I prayed that she would be alright. But I remember all to well the moments I had those first few days when I didn’t trust God and His plan. I thought that I must have done something wrong. I thought that I was being punished for something. One morning, while still in the hospital, I looked over at Anthony asleep in the other bed, and I started to talk to God. And I asked that one question we aren’t supposed to ask…”Why Me?”
I got angry. I threw in His face that I’d been a loyal servant for so long and that I could not think of ONE thing that I had done to deserve this. And I got even more angry when I reminded him that Abigail was innocent. What had SHE done to deserve this kind of suffering? I sobbed in my bed and I asked Him hard question after hard question, with none of His peaceful calm coming over me the way it always does when I pray. I got even more angry. “Why aren’t you comforting me???”
I had actually uttered those words out loud. I gasped for air as I realized that I was not praying, like I thought I was. I was fighting. I was screaming inside my head and my heart and I realized that I could not hear whatever it was the Lord had to say to me. I apologized. I prayed for peace and it swept over me like a ray of sunshine. I prayed for guidance and I knew I would have it. I prayed for good news from the doctors and I knew I would have that too. And then, I prayed for answers. I prayed that He would show me the “why” of it all and give meaning to our suffering. And, just as I can’t explain faith, I can’t explain how I knew – but I knew that all of this craziness had a purpose and that He would show it to me, in time, if I just trusted in Him and walked on faith.
I will tell you now, most fervently, that God answers EVERY prayer. But I also must remind you that it may not always be the answer we are looking for.
I must stop here and tell you all that I have the worst kind of news one can bear. Dear friends, our prayers for little Taryn were answered, but not in the way we had hoped. The Lord took her home and made her one of his angels yesterday morning.
Again my faith was tested yesterday. I grieved for my friends and their loss. I mourned my own loss in the love I had shared for this little baby girl. I was saddened for the friend that Abigail will never know. And I wanted to know “why”?
But as I prayed for peace for my friends, I found a peace and a clarity come over me. I realized that all of my prayers had been (or were being) answered. I prayed for Taryn daily. But I didn’t pray for her to live. I prayed for her to feel better and called for the end of her suffering. And in then end, God granted that. While I asked for prayers from all of you for a miracle, I was praying for the things Janelle had specifically asked me to pray for – like answers. Movement. And for God to show us His will. Janelle said it over and over and over, “His will be done.” We finally got answers – that there was nothing more the doctors could do, and so Ben and Janelle didn’t have to “make a call” or “give up” because we had come as far as we could. There was movement – a last attempt to heal her would give us an answer one way or another: she would either get better, or leave us all behind. And His will was done. He obviously needed another angel in heaven and He made Taryn especially for the job.
I know now what my Mother meant all those years ago. It is so hard to walk on blind faith. I’ve heard it asked so many times, “If there is a God, why doesn’t he end all suffering?” And today, I have to laugh and say that He does – it just isn’t always joyous. He ended Taryn’s suffering, and in time he will calm Ben and Janelle and take away their suffering too. But it is hard to believe that. It is hard not to get angry and ask, “Why me?” It is hard for me to believe in a merciful God when my heart is breaking for my friends. And it is so hard to deal with the guilt that comes with being the mom of the one who survived.
I know Janelle well enough to know that she would never want me to feel guilty. She would want me to rejoice and praise God for the gift. And believe me, I do. But as I held Abigail in my arms last night, I was reminded about how fragile she was and how easily the roles could have been reversed. But then, I was reminded of a promise that God made to me that morning in the hospital – that this has purpose, and in time He would show me.
Abigail has purpose in this world. I know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt. That is why she is here. Taryn has purpose, both in Ben and Janelle’s life and in heaven. That is why she has come and gone. And I found purpose in the connection I’ve made with Janelle. The Lord knew that we would need each other in times of trial on this journey. He placed the “when” so specifically, it hurts! Did you know that Abigail’s and Taryn’s due dates were in sync? Abigail was due on the 18th of Sept, and Taryn’s was the 17th of October. Almost exactly one month apart. And their births? Abigail was born on June 2nd. Taryn was born on July 3rd. Again, only one day off from a month apart. They were both 24 weekers. I don’t believe in coincidences. It was like God painted two GIANT arrows over our heads saying, “Ladies – get to know one another. I have plans for you.”
I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I just know that God gave me jobs to do. He gave me the job of raising Abigail so she can fulfill His promise. And He gave me (and Anthony) the job of being the one friend Janelle(and Ben) can lean on in a way that no one else understands. I’m happy to say that Ben and Janelle have an army as big as ours to care for them, comfort them, and lift them up. But on the days when she feels like she has no one to turn to because they just “don’t get it,” she will remember that she has someone on her side that has walked a very similar path, and that she is not alone.
Ben and Janelle, I am praying that the Lord’s peace swallows you whole. I am praying that He gives you the kind of understanding that he has given me. And I am praying that this is just step one on your journey to becoming a family. Anthony and I are here for you whenever you need us. Peace be with you. Amen.