"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
It's hard to believe that it has been six years. August 14, 2002, Joshua Isaac was born into our family. 9:53 am delivered by c-section, 3 weeks ahead of his due date. Our 4th boy. Joshua was born with Trisomy 18.
The doctors had said he wouldn't make it through delivery. He did.
They said he wouldn't be able to take a breath. He did and he cried.
The ultrasound showed a gastroschisis of his intestines. There wasn't.
They thought he had a two vessel cord. It ended up being 4! (normal is 3)
He was small. 4 lbs. 9 oz. He had tiny ears and a tiny mouth. Perfect nose and beautiful, deep blue eyes. And a bald head.
His little hands were clenched into fists that didn't open, except for his little pinky on his right hand...which he loved to keep straight.
God worked many miracles that August 14th day, 6 years ago. We prayed for healing....God healed. We asked God to give us time with our son.....and He did. He was gracious. There is so much I am thankful for.
And here I sit, today, on what would be his 6th birthday. It is a strange, emotional day each year. I told my husband today, that this day is like watching a movie that you have seen many times. The first time you watch it.....there is some apprehension....you don't know what is going to happen. The next time you watch it.....you know what to expect. You know the ending. It might still make you cry, but not as hard. You might still laugh, but you know the jokes that are coming. And somehow, whereas you might love the movie.....it changes each time you see it. Each time you watch it.....you see more details. You catch something you didn't the first, second or third time around. That is how Josh's birthdays are to me. There isn't worry or fear about what is coming. I know the ending. But I think back to the different moments. The moments throughout the day, as they unfolded 6 years prior. I see more details in the big picture that God was and is still weaving together.
I remember walking into the hospital early in the morning. I remember our pastor coming around the corner as we made our way to the labor and delivery floor. I remember laying on the operating table with Sara Groves singing in the background (my ob let me bring in my own CD player during the delivery.) I remember the solitude and somber attitudes that filled the OR. I remember the chill that came over me as they prepared me for delivery. I remember the nurses trying to ask questions about my other children, hoping to ease my anxiety. I remember my husband laying his hand upon my arm. I remember praying. Praying so hard that God would be gracious in this moment. That Josh would live. I remember him being delivered and taken from my body. I remember the joy on my doctor's face at seeing Josh's intestines enclosed within his abdomen. I remember Josh faintly crying and the nursing staff being amazed at his cries. I remember him being laid gently next to my face and feeling the warmth of his skin next to mine. I savor these moments. They aren't erased. They are a part of me, forever.
I remember Josh being wrapped tightly in a blanket and being given to me, as they wheeled me back to a delivery room. My family was all there and they each came in to the room. Josh was doing well. But his skin tone was dark. He was breathing, but he was having some trouble. We just didn't know how long we had and wanted to hold tightly to each and every moment. Josh was dedicated to the Lord by our Pastor. And after each family member held Josh, he laid with me....content. I had peace that day throughout each moment. I had God's peace over me. I knew we were all in the palm of God's hand. I trusted God.....but as a mommy......I ached inside. I cried for my baby and for his life however long or short it would be. I just wanted to be still. He was here and he was wrapped in my arms. I wanted to just hold tightly to him.
God choose to Give Joshua life and for that, I was thankful. Josh didn't leave my side. We spent three days in the hospital, more for my recovery than for Joshua, and then came home with Joshua. He was on a feeding tube, but that was all the support he needed. And he lived with us and his 3 older brothers for 119 beautiful and glorious days.
And so today, it was a day, like any other....except my mind was focused on him all day.....as well as on God. My BB, Beth, called right at 8:30 this morning to say hi and let me know she was thinking of me today. I cried. She was with us in the recovery room. She held Josh in his first moments. She knows this day well. She remembers.
She asked me what I was going to do today. I told her I had cleaning to do and at some point, I would pull out all of Josh's "visual history" and go through it. That is what I do each birthday. I go through his memory box and read the cards that everyone sent me over the 13 months of his diagnosis, life and death. I go through his scrapbook of pictures. It's like watching a movie again and taking in each of the details more fully. Beth did that with me today. It was so nice to share that with her and to have her here.
And here is what I have to share from my day today. Here is what God has been speaking to my heart over the last couple weeks. It is captured in this picture that I took a couple weeks ago. I wasn't sure why I took this picture, at the time, but the look of the plant struck me, and God brought it all together today.
I was on the deck watering flowers. You can see that this poor flower needed some TLC. It is next to our pool and my sweet little 2 year old daughter, Faith likes to water it with the pool water. We have a salt water pool and plants don't really like salt water too much. It is water....but not the right kind. That is part of what hit me today. The leaves are wilted. If you look closely, you can see some weeds. But what really struck me the day I took this picture was this: The flowers. This plant bore fruit. There were some beautiful flowers. But then the flowers in their beauty had to die. Their life came to an end. They needed to be cut off and then in their place a new bud would emerge, that would bring forth another brilliant flower: new life.
If I was diligent in pruning, or deadheading this plant.....there would be gorgeous buds and blooms throughout. It I was diligent in watering this plant, with good water (Jesus Christ)...there would be gorgeous buds and blooms throughout. If I did all of this.....deadhead, water and place in the sun....this plant's blooms would be born, but still eventually die. Just like in this picture. Each bloom would go through its life cycle and die and in its place, a new more glorious bloom would emerge. It is a process. It is a cycle. It is life and death. It is transformation.
That has been my journey with Joshua. It has been a journey of physical life and death. But more importantly.....a journey of spiritual death and life.
When we received Joshua's diagnosis at 20 weeks gestation. God was bringing me to a point of death. I was walking with God....but I was doing the leading. I was reading my Bible, but not diligently. I knew God as my savior. But He wasn't my LORD. I had been at a women's conference right before his diagnosis, and I bought this book out of the blue (God ordained.....not out of the blue!) Elisabeth Elliot's "A Path Through Suffering." I highly recommend this book to anyone experiencing pain and loss. This book rocked my world. (Really God did....but He did it through this book). I read it in the days preceding Joshua's diagnosis. In the book Elisabeth Elliot speaks of death bringing forth life....the life of Christ lived through us as we die to our agendas, our plans, our wills.
"I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20
"For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed--always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you." 2 Corinthians 4:6-12
I was like that flower pot. I was barely surviving spiritually. I still had blooms, but they too were dying. But I needed so much more and before more blooms could come....the old had to be cut off. God used Joshua to cut off the old in my heart. And through Joshua, made all things new.
When I was pregnant. The refiner's fire was another big verse for me. Malachi 3:3
"He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord."
I found out about what a refiner does. As the silver or gold is in the furnace, he sits patiently by and waits for the impurities to burn out of the metal. The heat is up high and the silver and gold is melted and purified. The silver and gold is valuable. The refiner doesn't want the metal to go to waste. The refiner knows when the metal is done....because he can see his face shining back from the metal. He then pulls the silver or gold out of the furnace.
For these past 6 years, I had thought I was in the furnace during Joshua's pregnancy through his life and then his death. But then I thought I was taken out.
Today, as I was cleaning and vacuuming our mudroom...I looked down and saw dirt all over the baseboards. I saw cobwebs in the corners, behind a chest. Here I was feeling sorry for myself today....Joshua's birthday......I was cleaning. I wasn't preparing for a party. I wasn't baking a cake. I was vacuuming the floor of our mudroom.
But you see, cleaning......refining....that is what God has been doing with me since Joshua.....and it hasn't ended. Just like my mudroom floor, there are cobwebs in my heart. The baseboards are dirty. It thought I was out of the refinery. I gave God glory. I laid my will down, my cross and I willingly picked up HIS. But, no, I believe, as God spoke to my heart today, that in this life, we are always in the refinery.....the temperature just changes, as the heart dictates. The refining, the good, it is becoming like Jesus. This takes a lifetime. It is a process and we aren't finished until we are face to face with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Joshua......he is finished. He is refined. He is in his glorious body. And today, on his 6th birthday, I am still in the refining fire. Right now, the heat isn't turned up too high. The plant. Well, it is blooming.....I think. But each bloom will still need to be pruned to bring something more glorious. The temperature, at some point, it will be turned back up. And with the plant and with the fire....God sits patiently, watching, asking for more of us to be laid down, cutting off the dead shoots, and taking that which is broken, that which is dead, and bringing forth life.
Six years after my son was born and then taken home to heaven. I can say that there is new life in me. I praise God for that. Do I feel grief and pain.....not like I did six years ago. The movie....it replays each year......but I know that:
"in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son." Romans 8:28,29
May others see my blooms and ask for the hope that is within me....it is Jesus Christ. To Him alone I give all the honor and praise.
And I know that one day, I will be reunited with my son! Happy Birthday Baby....mommy loves you!
Here are a bunch of pictures that I wanted to share with you all of my baby boy, Joshua.
Right after Josh's birth
Our first family picture....although Luke wasn't here. He was only 1 so stayed home with a sitter.
Our Pastor holding Josh and dedicating him to the Lord.
Seth holding Josh shortly after his birth