The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short (And Eternity is Forever)

The days are long, but the years are short.

If you’re a parent of little ones (or medium ones or big ones), this proverbial nugget has likely resonated in your soul a time or two (or perhaps a hundred times or a thousand bajillion times).

Time can drag on. When the days are full of poop and meltdowns and play dates and a myriad of activities, sleepless nights and discipline, they can feel long.

Yet simultaneously, time is so fleeting. You blink and your toddler is starting preschool. Or your son is getting married. Or your kids are having kids of their own.

For me, it’s strange how the presence of grief has altered my perspective of time.

Lately the long days feel especially long as we adjust to our growing family and figure out how it all fits in with my ever-present, ever-evolving grief. I miss Evelyn all the time, without end. Adding another precious child into our lives has certainly increased our joy, but it hasn’t diminished the ache of our loss. Heaven can feel so far away as the pang of Evelyn’s memory hangs heavy in my soul while I wait.

I was reading in 1 Peter this morning (while everyone in the house was miraculously sleeping at the same time), and if scripture could speak audibly, then that’s what it did…

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

It seems almost unnecessary to expound on such a rich passage. It stands on its own with so much power. But here are my reflections anyway.

“Though for a little while…”

I’ll tell you what – the particular trial of losing Evelyn doesn’t feel like it’s only lasting for a little while. It has touched every aspect of my life and there are constant reminders throughout my days. Some of them hide in the corners of my daily routine, waiting to jump out when I least expect it. Others just hover in front of me all the time. It often feels like there will be no end.

My perspective of time must be altered.

Because God promises that there is an end. And everything that I’m feeling right now – the pain, the sadness, the long suffering, the waiting – it will seem like it only lasted a little while when compared to the eternal reality of heaven.

So on the really long days, I can trust by faith that it’s only a drop in the bucket when measured against eternity. This isn’t meant to diminish the trial. Not at all. Rather, I think it’s meant to give courage and hope to push through the trial while holding onto God’s loving hand as he leads me to a perfect forever.

“In all this you greatly rejoice…”

There are so many reasons to be sad. But there are an infinite number of reasons to rejoice. Can I get an amen? The rejoicing doesn’t eliminate the sadness. Not by any means. But it provides fuel to keep living, to fight against despair.

I rejoice because Jesus hasn’t wasted Evelyn’s life. He continues to use her brief appearance on this earth to inspire others toward hope and courage in the midst of their own difficulties.

I rejoice because when I surrender it all to Jesus, he miraculously takes the worst parts of my story and touches them with his grace so that they become the impetus for the best parts of my story.

I rejoice because Jesus has loved me with an everlasting love, and he has sought me out to rescue me from my sin and my trials, so that I can be filled with an inexpressible joy as I wait for my own climactic entrance into heaven.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him…”

Speaking of heaven, I can’t wait to see my daughter again. I can’t wait to see what she looks like as a healthy girl. I can’t wait to hug her and kiss her. I can’t wait to hear her voice. I think we’ll play and laugh a lot. My little Evelyn is a big reason that I long for heaven. I love her with a mother’s love that knows no end even though she’s physically not with me now.

But as much as I love my daughter (and all of my children, for that matter), the one love that dominates my soul is Jesus. I love him so much. He’s the one that gave me this living hope, this inheritance, this faith, this salvation. I can’t wait to see him face to face. I think I’ll hug him because I’m certain he loves hugs. And I wonder if I’ll weep into his shoulder? Not sad tears. Because there’s no sadness in heaven. But visceral tears of deep relief – the ones that come when you’re so overwhelmed that they involuntarily pour from your eyes with no ability to stop them. The tears that feel like your eyes are sighing. It will be amazing when my faith becomes sight.

I don’t know who will read this. Other than my mom, of course. (Hi Mom!) But I’m assured that every set of eyes that scans these words is facing some kind of trial. Or trials. They are as vast and various as the people experiencing them. It’s my prayer that God will shield you. I pray that he will fill you with the inexpressible joy that is ours in Christ (which, by the way, is a complete mystery to me that a heart can inhabit joy and grief at the same time). I pray that he will strengthen your faith as you embrace the living hope that exists because Jesus rolled the stone away.

In conclusion, here’s an extremely low-quality video of pastor Francis Chan emphasizing the magnitude of eternity compared to our few short years on earth.

May it give us a proper perspective of time, so that we can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we navigate the joy and pain of this life. The trials won’t last forever, my friends. But heaven will. So take heart.

 

 

Facing My Giants

The story of David and Goliath is a highly requested saga at bedtime in Caleb’s room. My fearless toddler lives vicariously through young David every time – rescuing his daddy’s sheep from bears and lions, courageously approaching the Philistine army with nothing more than a sling and stone, until the climactic “BOOM!” down goes Goliath. It gets him every time.

We try to emphasize that God gave the victory to David. When we trust in Him, “no weapon forged against you will stand” (Isaiah 54:17).

Turns out each time I explain these things to my toddler, it’s really my own heart that needs to remember where my victory lies, and that God is big enough to knock down any giant in my life.

Because let’s be honest. Giants are big. And scary. And hairy. And powerful. They can instill fear, doubt, despair and hopelessness through their fiercely deceptive intimidation, leaving us crippled and ineffective and unproductive.

But with Jesus, there is victory in every battle. Period.

The latest giant in my life has been breast milk. Scary, right?

It all started when we began our adoption journey earlier this year. And we recently brought our newest baby home. (Surprise! We’re waiting to share more details until later on down the road.) I wanted to try adoptive breastfeeding (it’s a thing – crazy, I know) so that our little babe could have the nourishment of breast milk and we could experience the bond of nursing.

We had a strong beginning, but soon after we started, I knew I needed to supplement the nursing sessions with the breast milk that I had stored in the freezer from December and January – milk that my body had produced for Evelyn.

After she died, I had the option to donate the frozen milk to a milk bank, but I chose to keep it by faith, knowing we would soon add another child to our family through adoption, and our little one could benefit from the liquid gold.

But when the time came to descend into the basement of my in-law’s house and uncover the milk from the abysmal corner of the deep freezer, I wasn’t so sure anymore if I wanted to use it. For nine months it was out of sight, out of mind. I had unintentionally avoided this particular aspect of my healing and grief. Now walking into the basement felt like I was re-opening an old wound that had been conveniently concealed up to that point.

To my relief, there was no time to pause and reflect on the surfacing grief feelings because I had to rush home to tend to my family. So I grabbed the milk as quickly as I could and stuffed it in the freezer once I got home. I shut the door so that once again it was out of sight, out of mind. Avoidance prevailed.

Then at 3:00 in the morning, our hungry infant awoke, in true infant fashion, so I went to the freezer to retrieve a few ounces of frozen milk. I thawed it, poured it into a bottle, and as I began to feed our sweet child, the suppressed emotions from earlier in the day erupted from my heart, and tears began to fall. As I wept there in the quiet of the night, staring at a sleepy, hungry baby, I  knew I was experiencing a sacred moment. I said out loud to my little one, “This is Evelyn’s milk. It’s her gift to you.” And the tears continued to cascade from my tired eyes until we both went back to sleep.

The next day I returned to the freezer to get more milk, but being the middle of the day, I was more alert to my surroundings, compared to the midnight feedings where I struggled to stay awake. I took the milk, and without giving it much thought, I read the label. It said 12/23 @ 7:00am. This was the first bottle that I had pumped after Evelyn’s death. It vividly took me back to the sterile hospital room where my husband and I sat side by side, exhausted in our bodies and spirits, as we held our lifeless baby in our arms. It’s a chapter of my life that I don’t like to revisit often. And in that moment, it was too much for my heart to bear, so I shoved the bottle back into the freezer and chose a different one.

But every time I went to get milk, that particular bottle was emphatically staring back at me. I was afraid to use it. I don’t know why exactly. I guess it felt sacred and using it seemed dishonoring. Or maybe it brought back too many painful memories. Probably all of the above.

Day after day I avoided that bottle, until I felt like the Lord was tenderly asking me to reach in and use it. He gently led me to my place of fear so that he could help me overcome.

Scripture tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

It wasn’t really the breast milk that I was afraid of, but rather everything that it stood for.

Death. Sickness. Disappointment. Sadness. Fear.

It was a tangible leftover from Evelyn’s life. It was something wholesome that my body miraculously produced specifically for her. It symbolized my connection to her. But it also symbolized her departure from me. And when there are so few tangible mementos to hold on to, each one feels precious. If I used the milk, it would be one less physical connection to Evelyn.

On the other hand, if I didn’t use it, then it would sit in the corner of a freezer for months and months (or perhaps years and years) until it became worthless. What good would it be then? Instead, I could use it presently as a source of nourishment for our growing infant.

I had approached a fork in the road. Would I let this breast milk keep me chained to the painful memories of the past, rendering it useless and leaving me in a state of fear and pain and avoidance? Or would I allow it to propel me forward, so as to create an opportunity for redemption? This thing that had reminded me of Evelyn’s death could now be used to promote life in our third child. What once brought sorrow could now fuel the joy that I feel when I hold my sweet baby.

In that moment, I decided that I would not let the breast milk (and everything it stood for) have power over me. I would not give in to fear and despair. Instead, as weird as it sounds, I would lift up the breast milk as an offering to the Lord. I would not hoard it, but rather I would surrender it to him. I would receive strength from the Lord so that he could help me keep moving forward. I would give him my pain so that he could bring healing.

So I thawed the milk. I fed it to my baby. And then it was gone.

But what stands in the place of that empty bottle of breast milk is a growing sense of freedom from the past and a budding courage as I look ahead to the future. It doesn’t mean my sadness is gone. It doesn’t mean my grief has reached its completion, as if that were even possible… It simply means that the painful memories will not rule my life and keep me from healing and, dare I say, enjoying life once again.

There will be more giants in this journey of grief. Of that I am sure. But I am confident that God will see me through victoriously.

After all, if Jesus can defeat the greatest giant of all – death and sin- certainly he’s capable of giving us victory over every other circumstance, no matter how dark or sad or painful. He is faithful and so powerful and oh, so merciful.

And now, the denouement…