Sunday, December 30, 2007

What now?

Wow, I feel like so much has happened since I last wrote. Since we began this blog back in August, I have never taken such a long break from writing, but it has certainly not been due to a lack of anything going on in our lives. Quite the contrary, so much has happened I have not found free moments to stop and put down in words what is in my heart. Usually at night as I lie in bed, when my mind reflects back on everything that has happened, I think of all the things that I want to share and I attempt to store them away in some corner for safe keeping until I find a chance to revisit those thoughts and put them into words. But over the past few days as I've considered the many things I would like to write about, a question presented itself and began nagging at the corner of my mind. The more I put off writing, the more the question nudged itself to the forefront of my thoughts and discouraged me from actually sitting down to begin typing away on my little macbook. The question I was faced with was this: Why would people, especially those who don't even know me, want to continue reading my thoughts? After all, the namesake of this blog is gone. There was a purpose and a reason for writing as long as she was with me, but what about now?

I've turned this over and over in my head over the past few days, trying to understand why people continue to visit this little corner of the internet. I'm overwhelmingly grateful for the love and support we have been shown by the people who have become a part of our lives by traveling this journey with us, but now that it's over, I find myself considering "what do I have to offer that anyone else would want or need?" I don't know if I have a complete answer to that question quite yet, but maybe I have the beginnings of an answer.

In all likelihood, the vast majority of people who have come here to read over the past months will never lose a baby to Trisomy 18 or any other fatal condition. In fact, most will never even experience the loss of a child at any age. Yet over and over again, people have written and expressed that what we have gone through has meant something to them. At first this surprised me, but the more I thought it over, the more I realized how much that concept made sense after all. Why? Because there is something universal in suffering. No matter how vastly varied the details of two people's difficult circumstances might be, there are always going to be aspects of universality in the experiences. For example, if we are honest, we will have to admit that we don't understand God. Who has not cried out "Why, God?!" when faced with the unavoidable reality of suffering in this world? Who has not experienced the excruciating pain that comes with being seemingly at the mercy of suffering without any power to alleviate it?

It is this common bond that must play a role in drawing us together, even when the hardships we endure share very few similarities. This is why the magnificent stories of the Old Testament are more than just beautiful pieces of literature. They are alive and powerful in their ability to change lives, to speak to hearts, to unveil some aspect of God's love, justice, power, and wisdom even though thousands of years and hundreds of cultures separate us from those people who lived so long ago. In God's unfathomable wisdom, He knew that the stories He penned through the hands of His servants like Moses, David, Samuel and others would have life changing power for people in every generation throughout history. His faithfulness to Noah, Abraham, and Joseph has molded, encouraged and strengthened my own faith and helped me to face Poppy's sickness with more of an eternal perspective. The great thing about the people in the Bible is that as I read, I can see the big picture. I can see how God orchestrated the events of different people's lives in order to achieve His plan and purpose. I can see that even what couldn't have made sense to the individuals at the time, makes perfect sense in the light of God's overarching design.

So, what do I have to offer to anyone who stops by to read? Only this: the story of God's faithfulness to me. Even though Poppy is gone, that story will never end. I don't fully understand it, but I am so humbled that God could use what He has shown me to help somebody else regardless of shared circumstances. It thrills me to know that the journey God has brought us through might play some small part in a journey someone else is walking, about to walk, or has already walked. When I stop and think about it, all I can say is "wow." God's plan is bigger than me. End of story. I'm never going to fully "get it" but each new little part I see just makes me love Him more. Will I keep writing? I guess the answer to that is, for now, yes. I have no idea what the future holds or how long I feel adding to this site will be what I need to be doing. But today, the answer is that I still want to write. I still need to share the story as it continues to unfold of how God used and will keep using the little baby He gave us.

All of that to say, over the past 10 days since I last wrote, my experiences have been full. Christmas brought with it the usual busyness, but it also brought a greater awareness of what is truly important than I have ever experienced before in my life. I still don't know if I could ever actually choose to go through what we did, but I do know that I wouldn't trade the things that came along with it for anything in the world. I wouldn't go back to the comparatively care-free way of living I had just one short year ago because if I did, what I would be giving up would be so much more valuable than what I would gain.

In closing, I want to share a few verses from Romans 11 that have meant so much to me. This passage says "Oh, the depth of the riches both of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

Friday, December 21, 2007


I've heard a lot in my life about choices-how to make good ones, ways to avoid bad ones, and the consequences of both. Most of the time when I think of making choices, I think along the lines of decisions I make to control some aspect of my life. There is action and initiative on my part to either do or not to do something that will in some way, big or small, effect the direction of my life. Yet what I've seen time and again over the past 5 months is that I've had very few "traditional" choices to make.

Instead, we are getting the chance to explore a new dimension to the concept of choice: not the choice to do anything that will change the outcome of what we are going through but the choice of how to respond to the many things that are out of our hands. Control freak or not, it can be an extremely frustrating place to be simply because it has the tendency to leave you feeling utterly helpless. There is something innate in me, and just about all red-blooded humans for that matter, that desires to "do" and to "act" in attempt to make things better. What Poppy has taught me is that many times this just isn't possible. The only "active" role I've had is to pray, a role that initially seemed very inactive, but as my eyes have gradually been opened, I now see as absolutely vital. But, my point is that I found out via real-life experience that many choices are ripped from my hands, leaving me only with decisions to make as to what my response will be to God, to life, to my family, and to myself.

Not long after Poppy died I was talking with my mom about the brevity of her life. Three short hours from the time she took her first breath to the time she took her last. Up to the point she was born, I only had the experiences of those who had gone before me to look at to ascertain any kind of expectation of what was to come, all the while knowing that no one else's experience would in any way dictate what would happen to us. I knew one couple who had lost their daughter after 9 months, one who had a 10 month daughter still living, one who had a boy who lived 3 months, one who had their baby for 8 days, and another who held their daughter for 11 hours before letting her go to Jesus. As I talked with my mom, I thought, "Now I can add myself to that list as one who had their daughter for 3 hours." My time was shorter than anyone else I had personally encountered, which made me wonder if that would scare the others I know who are still to come after me. When this thought crossed my mind it bothered me so badly. I hated that anyone would look on the time we had and feel fear for themselves or pity for us.

Of course if I had been given a choice in the matter, I would have Poppy here with me today, healthy and growing and getting ready to experience her first Christmas. But the hard truth is that God does not allow me or anyone else that choice. I do not have my baby today because He allowed for her to be taken home early, and if someone else out there is holding a healthy baby, it is not because of any choice they made but because God allowed that precious child to have sustained life. That being considered, I can explain why I am choosing not to be disappointed with the time God gave us with Poppy.

I knew going into this that for whatever reason I was not going to get to keep my daughter on this earth with me. I also knew that I had zero control over the amount of time she was given to stay. All of this got me to thinking "Why does God allow some of these babies to be still born, some to live minutes, some to live hours, and other days, months, and sometimes even years?" The only answer I could ever come to was simply: I DON'T KNOW. Just as in every other aspect of Poppy's disease, I can't explain or understand God's plans or purpose. Because of this, I knew I had to decide to trust the fact that God knows what I need better than I know myself. He can see the full picture when sometimes I can't make out even the faintest detail. That's why I decided before I went into her birth that regardless of the time, I would thank God for allowing us exactly what we needed. Then, as December 1st came and went, I knew in my heart that He had. For some reason, 3 hours was exactly what we needed and what God wanted for Poppy Joy Luce.

I have no idea why His plan for us wasn't to hold her for 2 days or 1 month or 2 years. I guess I could drive myself crazy trying to second guess God and question His plan for us, but if I did that, why start with His timing in taking her? Why not just go back to the fact that He gave us a daughter who had this disease in the first place? Once I walk down this road, where does it stop? At what point am I going to be satisfied with God's sovereignty in the things I don't understand? If I'm not willing to accept one aspect, why should I be willing to accept another?

This is where I made the biggest choice of this entire season of my life: the choice to accept that which I don't understand, to hold to the fact that God loves me and He has a plan for me, to praise Him even when I'm hurting and I don't feel like it. I've also made the choice to find the best in what we were given. For example, I see that in many ways I was spared tremendous pain in the brevity of her life. I never had to watch her struggle, or be hesitant to fall asleep out of fear of missing something. I never had to wake up day after day and wonder if this would be her last day. I didn't have to watch Marianna grow attached to her little sister and then have to explain why she was all of the sudden absent from our life. On the other hand, if we had been given more time, I would have found just as many positives in that.

I'm not saying that I walk around with a little Orphan Annie mentality or that I prefer to hide behind a pair of securely fastened rose-colored lenses. I'm simply saying that of the choices I've been given, I choose to do everything in my power to promote life. I don't want her memory to reap bitterness in my heart. How dishonoring that would be of her life to allow bitterness to be the outcome of her time with us in my own life! Instead, I want Poppy's legacy to result in greater joy and a more complete understanding of God than I've ever had before. I choose to trust Him with our future from here on out even when I continue not to understand. I choose to look at the news I received from the doctor this week that I will not be able to consider getting pregnant for 18 months because of the type of incision I had as something that He will use for good even though it's not what I want for myself.

Choice. It's a lot more involved than I used to think, but maybe the choices I've been allowed to make over the past months aren't so small and ineffectual after all.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Poppy Angel

I've learned a lot about myself lately, and some of the things I have discovered have come as quite a surprise. For example, I have always thought of myself as someone who wears my emotions on my sleeve, so to speak. Faking feelings is a technique I have never mastered, so if I'm happy I smile, if I'm upset I let you know it, and if I'm fired up about something I just can't keep it in. I even go so far as to "act out" on my face what I'm watching on a movie or what someone might be describing to me in conversation without even knowing it. This is why it came as a shocker to me when I was driving home yesterday and this mini-revelation hit me: I don't like crying in public. More specifically, I don't like grieving in public.

This newly found knowledge came about yesterday after Nathan and I went to pick up our car from the shop. As I was driving the other car home I realized that it was the first time I had been alone since Poppy was born, and I had not been on the road for more than two minutes before I was flooded with sweet memories that instantly brought tears to my eyes. It's not that I had been suppressing all of those thoughts for the past 14 days, but somehow, not being alone had retarded my ability to really think through things and soak it all in. The drive home was less than 15 minutes, but even in that short amount of time I was able to stop and remember. I remembered what it was like to enter that operating room, not having any idea what the next hour would hold, feeling like I should be terrified, but yet realizing that all fear had been driven out of my presence. I couldn't see them with my physical eyes, but I knew angels were there, surrounding me, protecting me. I remember being able to laugh as I was on the operating table waiting for Poppy to be born. I remember the second she was lifted out, holding my breath as I waited to hear whether she would cry. She did cry a soft and gentle whimper, and then about two minutes later after begging God to let her breathe, she did. From that moment on, she never had trouble drawing another breath until she took her last one. I remember crying tears of joy as Nathan went over to watch as they cleaned her and wrapped her up, and as I cried, the anesthesiologist stood over me, wiping my eyes and patting my shoulders. What I remember most is being overwhelmed with love and surrounded by a greater peace than I have ever felt. I don't understand it looking back, but I remember it, and I will cling to those memories. Remembering is filled with sweetness and sorrow; it hurts and heals at the same time. And even though it made me cry, and will no doubt continue making me cry, it is necessary and good to do it.

Remembering is something that comes (or at least should come) very naturally this time of year. Christmas is upon us, and as I listened to the pastor read the beautiful passage about Christ from Isaiah 53 this morning, I was reminded once again of Jesus and His magnificent plan that started with a baby and ended with a cross. This year as I think about Christmas, I approach it with a new perspective born of the recent experience of both grief and joy. Poppy has left me forever changed, and how grateful I am for that! Now as I think about Jesus, I think more about the pain of God the Father- the pain that comes from letting go. God sent Jesus here to earth knowing the pain, sorrow and rejection He would face. He sent Him with the knowledge that His time on earth would end in the most unimaginable pain of all, as Jesus took the sins of each and ever person, past and future, upon Himself. As I think on that sacrifice, I am filled with a new awe and love for my Father. How could I have released Poppy if not for knowing that she was leaving this broken world behind for a place of perfection that my mind cannot yet comprehend? The fact that God did all of that and more out of love for me doesn't fully register in its magnitude, and it is this love that gives me confidence that if God was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for me, will He not also be more than faithful to take care of me now?

This is why I am not dreading Christmas. I know it will have some difficult moments, but Christmas represents the reason why I have hope, and because of this I will celebrate this year as I never have before. Before she was born, I searched for a Christmas ornament for Poppy. I wanted one that was special, but I didn't necessarily know what that I meant so I was hoping that something would just strike me as perfect. A couple months ago that happened. I was out at a Christmas festival and I saw this hand-painted ornament that had a little angel girl holding a present. When I saw it, I knew that was it. It was so happy; it seemed like something we would want to put up year after year in her memory. Now, I feel it is even more fitting because she truly is my Christmas angel and my gift. This year I will remember Poppy, and as I remember I will do my best to picture her as she is now, rejoicing with the One who has given us the reason to celebrate.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the best words I've heard lately

I am living in the aftermath. The adrenaline has faded, the events are over, and I'm now in the process of re-entering "normal" life. There are many moments of this journey that I have not looked forward to, and this re-creation of a new normal was at the top of that list. However, even though I realize I'm only a few days into it, I am doing well, and just like everything else we have faced, God is taking care of me. It's hard, but I'm making it.

I was telling Nathan last night that there is a profound weirdness in walking around in a store, knowing that I just had a baby last week, yet realizing that not a single person I pass by has any idea. When Marianna was born, I could hardly walk through a store without getting stopped by half a dozen people who wanted to look at her, comment on her, and ask how I was feeling. The absence of all of that is tough. I haven't yet broken down in the middle of Target or dissolved into tears as I've tried to finish my Christmas shopping, but the reminder of the loss is with me nonetheless. It hurts when I dwell on it, and I know that I could become consumed if I allowed my focus to linger each moment on what things would look like if she were still here, so I have chosen not to allow myself to go there.

My desire is not to suppress my grief, because I believe that grieving Poppy's loss is an absolute necessity for a healthy healing process. But at the same time I know that I can choose to submerge myself in something very unhealthy if my grief becomes something I begin to cling to, refusing to give it over to God to allow Him to take away the hurt in His time. Just as some people hold on to bitterness, anger, and addiction even with the knowledge that it is consuming their souls, I know some hang on to sorrow like a pit bull, refusing to pry open their jaws to allow it to leave. I guess it's just plain old fear that puts that desire into each and every heart that has experienced loss. There is fear that if the sorrow leaves, the memory will leave as well. That if healing is allowed to take place, it will in some way diminish the value of the loss. I know these are lies that Satan plants into each of our hearts, and I am praying, asking God not to let this false reasoning take root in my heart. This is where I am right now.

Because of my surgery, I am not able to lift Marianna or drive for another week, so Nathan is staying home with me this week to help. I am so grateful to have his physical presence for another few days. He has been a rock for me the entire time since we have known, but most especially over the past 10 days. I continue to be blown away by him. I want to share with you the words that he spoke at Poppy's memorial service; they touched me deeply and I hope they will do the same for you.

Friday, December 7, 2007

so thankful

I'm at home, sitting in my pajamas after having finished the last of the official elements of Poppy's funeral just hours ago, trying to keep my eyes open as I type. I know I need a nap, but there is so much I want to share and my mind will be busy until I get it all out. Wednesday, Thursday and today have each held a special and unique part of celebrating our little girl and the amazing way God has worked through her short but powerful life. As expected, each day has unwrapped a multitude of emotions, yet what has surprised me is the fact that while physically tired, the events of the passed three days have actually served to lift me up spiritually and emotionally. Adrenaline undoubtedly has something to do with it, but I am convinced that the source of this spiritual and emotional renewing runs much deeper. God has breathed His peace and strength into us in way unlike anything we have experienced thus far on this journey. Nathan said it last night at her memorial service, and I will echo it now: God has been sufficient.

The three-pronged remembrance and celebration began with a visitation on Wednesday night. I honestly had no idea what to expect; I really didn't know how I would handle walking into the funeral home and speaking with the people who came to share their condolences. What I did know was that it very important to me that everyone who came be given a chance to experience Poppy and her life in the most tangible way possible. Family and friends helped me prepare a beautiful memory board, frame my favorite pictures, and arrange her blanket, hat, dress, and bracelet so that everyone who walked through the room could see the physical tokens of Poppy's brief life. I looked forward to being able to show off all of these things, but I knew that along with all of these happy mementos, there would also be another reminder that I was much less ready to see. I just kept asking myself, how do you prepare to see the casket that holds your baby? The answer for me was simply that you don't. Nathan and I didn't spend time trying to psyche ourselves up, or on the opposite extreme, prepare to be emotionally overwrought. We just held hands and walked into the room. What met us was not what I had anticipated. While the tears rolled down my face, I was simply blown away by the beauty that surrounded her tiny casket. The flowers were all were designed to replicate a garden in bloom. Tiny rosebuds, lilies, gerber daisies, and a host of other "happy" flowers graced the most beautiful greenery I have ever seen. Most of the baskets and arrangements contained lovely statues of angels and crosses, keepsakes that I'll be able to look at long after the flowers have faded. But most spectacular were the poppies that the florist had miraculously found on the international market in China. They shone above all the others in their delicacy and beauty, and the small miracle of being able to have poppies in Memphis, TN in December was a reminder of the beautiful miracle they were honoring.

From that moment on, the evening was a time of comfort. Nathan and I cannot express enough our gratitude to all the many people who came out just to let us know that they had been praying for us and that they were sorry for our loss. Many people expressed that they didn't have words, but the look in their eyes and the fact that they had driven all the way out to tell us that, said more than enough. We walked out lighter in spirit than we walked in. We couldn't have asked for more than that.

Then last night we were able to join with several hundred other people at our church for what I can only describe as the most beautiful memorial I could have ever envisioned for our little Poppy. We have had months to plan what we wanted, and when it was all said and done, it was more. Our heart's desire was to express our thanks to God for what He chose to do through this baby, and with the help of our friends and family, we were able to do this through songs, worship, scripture, video, and our testimony. To illustrate the fact that we saw the journey we have been on as something we have travelled collectively with so many precious family, friends, acquaintances, and even people we have never met, we asked twelve family members and friends to read the passages that have meant the most to us over the past four months. After that, we sang four songs that held particular significance to us, culminating with "Great is Thy Faithfulness." Nathan and I also were able to share from our hearts what an overwhelming honor and privilege it was for us to be chosen to be the parents of this special child. I want to stop and say how crazy, lovingly, and overwhelmingly proud I am of my husband. His words last night are something I wish each and every one of you could hear because what he sad was the sweetest, most priceless tribute he could have paid to Poppy and even more importantly, to Jesus. Without doubt, he was the highlight of the service to me. We also were blessed to have Nathan's brother put together a video and picture collage to music, which of course was more powerful than words in its ability to portray her amazing life. The service culminated with Nathan's other brother playing a viola solo to "It is Well with My Soul." In summary, it was simply perfect.

Finally, this morning our family gathered at the graveside and spent some of the most precious time yet as we shared what this journey has meant to each of us. We sang "O, Victory in Jesus," my Papa's favorite song, and it was so fitting. Nathan and I and each of our family members laid a poppy on her casket, and we said goodbye. Again, as we drove away, Nathan and I looked at each other and knew before we said it what each was thinking: It was perfect. Nothing could have been taken away and nothing added to make it any more perfect than it was.

Now, as I sit and reflect, all I can say is that everything that needed to be said, has been said. Everything I would have wanted for these three days was granted. The beauty in the combination of tears, joy, thankfulness and hope is unsurpassed by anything I have yet experienced. All I can say is thank you. Thank you to each person who has followed our journey on this blog. Thank you to each and every one of you who came out to the visitation or the memorial service to show your love and support for us. Thank you to the amazing servant-friends who have brought food, taken care of the babies, helped us prepare for the service, and so much more. Thank you to each person who participated in her memorial service last night, helping to make it the unforgettable night that it was. Thank you to our family members who have gone over and beyond in every way to be there for us and help lighten our load. Thank you most of all to Jesus for giving us the gift of these three perfect days of remembering His faithfulness that shone so brightly through our beautiful little girl, Poppy Joy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Today is Wednesday. This was the day we had planned to spend in preparation for Poppy’s birth, but instead Nathan and I find ourselves getting ready for a busy day of planning for her visitation tonight and the memorial service that will follow tomorrow. The vast disparity between the day I envisioned and the reality we are living in is jarring. It’s still so hard to believe that it’s over. I know the journey isn’t complete, but her precious life that we have anticipated for so many months has already played out its time on this earth.

I was thinking again this morning on her time here with us. So many things about it were lacking: I never had the opportunity to change her diaper, to feed her, or to give her a bath. I didn't ever get the chance to hold her as she drifted off to sleep and then watch as her chest rose and fell with each deep breath. There wasn't time to hold both of my girls together-to cuddle them together and sing some of Marianna's favorite songs. In fact, if I thought about it for awhile, I could probably come up with a list a thousand items long of things that I wish I could have experienced with Poppy, yet I know there isn’t a lot of good that comes from dwelling on what is not to be. I don’t want to travel down that path and live in the world of what wasn’t, because in the end, that road does not bring the things I want. Not that I'm saying I know exactly what I want right now, because I don't. I'm confused, and my mind feels muddled and bogged down in many respects. I can't tell you what I want next week or next month to hold because right now I can't see past today. Yet, despite my current state of comparative mental upheaval, there are still some things that I know that I long for. I want life, joy, and hope. These things are what Jesus wants for me, so I know it is always going to be right to pursue them. But in order for these things to become a reality, I must make a choice. I must choose to remember what was—the unbelievable blessing of the three hours that were given to us. I know with everything in me that the time that was given was a gift. Something inside me is convinced that her body was not physically meant to survive for one minute outside of my womb, yet God graciously breathed supernatural breath into her tiny body to allow the things we had prayed and cried out for to be granted to us.

I want to focus on the list of things that I was able to do with my beautiful little Poppy. I was able to hold her and tell her how much I loved her. Nathan and I got the chance to pour out our hearts to her in the operating room, telling her that she was the answer to our prayers, and that she was a living, breathing sign of God’s faithfulness to us. I was able to smile and be the proud parent as our closest friends and family gathered around her, lifting her up in prayer and blanketing her with overwhelming love. I experienced the purest joy from getting to see my first little miracle hold the second one in her arms and kiss her. Finally, I had the unique opportunity to hold Poppy in my arms as she left this earth and went to heaven. Not many mothers get the chance to know that that their babies went straight from their arms to the arms of Jesus. It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful picture, and it is one I will treasure my entire life.

These are the things I want to cling to over the next days, weeks, and months. I know it’s okay to be sad about the loss, but I never want to forget the unbelievable blessing, joy, and privilege we received from God in getting to be Poppy’s parents. Someone wrote and said that they looked up Poppy’s name in a book they have, and the verse that was next to her name was from Isaiah 35:2. It says, "It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing...They shall see the glory of the Lord, the excellency of our God." I don't have words for a better tribute for her life.

Tonight we will have a visitation, followed by her memorial service tomorrow. I won’t say that I am looking forward to it, but I will say that I am excited about the service because I believe it is our opportunity to express our thanks to God for the beautiful work He did through His daughter Poppy. Please be in prayer for us as we walk through this uncharted territory. Pray that the days ahead will be a time of rejoicing, remembrance, and thanks. We love each of you so dearly. Thank you for your faithfulness to us.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Entering the darkness

My dear, dear friends, I have put off writing since Poppy’s birth because my heart is so full and near to bursting in so many areas that I don’t really know where to begin. I long to share with you what has taken place over the last 48 hours, but how can I use words to paint any kind of picture that would come close to giving the reality justice? Nothing in my life up to this point is comparable to the past two days that God has carried us through. Indescribable happiness, joy, and fulfillment have been inextricably woven with grief, sadness, and loss. These intense emotions don’t seem to be compatible, yet they have existed side by side in our hearts throughout our stay in the hospital.

Poppy’s life is like a dream in so many ways. Her three hours here on this earth were so full yet so short! She was the answer to every single prayer that was cried out on her behalf. She was the fulfillment of a promise—a miracle in every way. Never have I seen God’s faithfulness shine more vividly than it did for those precious three hours Poppy was with us. I want you to know that her time here with us was not marred by a single second of sadness. All fear and uncertainty about her future was driven from my heart and mind from the second she began breathing on her own outside of my womb. I knew that she was sick, and I knew we still had no idea how long she would be with us, yet none of that mattered once we had her in our arms. All I could do was thank Jesus for her and enjoy her. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed her during those hours. I felt like my heart would explode with love and happiness and joy as I held her or watched other people hold her and love her. Looking back, I would not change one thing because every second we spent with her was so full of life and hope. Darkness was driven from that little room, and while there were certainly tears, all stemmed from joy and thankfulness over the precious miracle that was living and breathing right there with us. To sum it all up, her time with us was perfect.

Just as beautiful as the way she came into the world was the way she left it. I freely admit that her death was something I feared. I have never seen anyone die, much less my own child, and I couldn’t comprehend how I would be able to live through those moments. But once again, just as it has been each step of the way, God provided for us and gave us strength the moment we needed it. All of our friends had just left the room, and someone returned Poppy to my arms. I looked down at her, and in that instant I knew she was gone. Her beautiful eyes, which were opened almost her entire life, were vacant and still. It was not until that moment that grief entered our hearts. Nathan and I, surrounded by our parents and siblings, spent 45 minutes with her as her heart beat slowly faded away. It was bittersweet in every way. My tears flowed as the reality that we were saying goodbye settled over us like a blanket. My heart began to ache with loss as I looked over each of her tiny features and tried to memorize every detail and engrave it into my mind. At the same time, even in the midst of that sorrow, we were overwhelmed with peace. Poppy’s exit from this world was the very essence of peace. She didn’t struggle or experience any kind of pain; she simply took one final breath and went home.

In the hours that followed, the time we had spent with her didn’t seem real. I felt almost like I was replaying scenes from a movie that I had just been to see rather than scenes from my own life. But while it was strange, it was also a very sweet time. I was surrounded by a pervasive calm throughout the rest of Saturday and most of Sunday, and I believe that was a direct result of the countless prayers that you have been lifting up for us. The sense of safety we experienced as we were surrounded by the love and comfort of our friends and family was beautiful. I know that God has set His angels around us to give us a hedge of protection from the violence of the emotions that Satan would like to defeat us with. To be even more specific, I feel like He gave us about 36 hours under the protective blanket of emotional numbness before He allowed us to begin to experience the full weight of her death.

It wasn’t until last night that I felt the corner of that covering being lifted, allowing Nathan and me to begin the grieving process. In the quietness of our room, after all of the many visitors had left for the night, we climbed into the hospital bed together and wept as we clicked through the beautiful pictures that captured almost every moment of Poppy’s life. A physical pain began stabbing in my heart as I processed the reality of the loss. I looked down at my stomach and hated the fact that I no longer had her with me. I miss her; there’s just no other way to say it. I know that her body was not made for this earth, yet it’s still impossible for me not to miss her and want to hold her again. It makes me smile through my tears to think about her being with Jesus, and knowing she is whole and perfect and experiencing even more love than she knew here brings me comfort. But for myself, and for Nathan and Marianna, and all of the rest of our family and friends, I grieve the loss of her presence. I grieve what is not to be, while at the same time rejoicing over what was.

Something that Papa said many times has stayed with me over the past few months. He said “Do not doubt in the darkness what God has shown you in the light.” God has poured out His truth on us over the past months, and I want to cling to that even when it doesn’t seem nearly as clear as it once did. This is a season of darkness, but His love, compassion, and truth is just as real as it has ever been. God allows darkness, and He will bring us out in His own timing, but until then He will keep us safe. He will set me on that rock that is higher than myself.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Million Thank You's and One Goodbye

Our dear, precious Poppy was born at 10:26 AM and she weighed 5 pounds, 11 ounces. In the first few minutes after her birth, I waited anxiously by Angie's side as the neonatologist and her nurses stood over Poppy and discussed her. We later learned that the doctor was a little uneasy because Poppy's heart rate was low and she was having trouble breathing. However, while we were still in the operating room and the OB was stitching Angie back together, Poppy started doing very well—she was coloring up and her heart rate increased. Angie and I had a terrific time being with her during the operation, although Angie couldn't hold her herself until we were being transported back to the room, which was around 11:30.

In the room, our family came in and Poppy continued to improve until the neonatologist estimated that we might have a day or more with her. (It was at this point that she expressed that she had been concerned about Poppy in the OR.) My favorite moment while we were with our family was when Marianna offered her outstretched hands with palms up and said, "I want to hold Poppy!" She did a great job with her big-sistering duties and our terrific photographer took lots of wonderful pictures of Poppy with different aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers, great-grandmother and the like.

After the family time, we had a slew of dear friends who were here to see Poppy, so we let them into the room en masse to see Poppy and spend some great time with us in celebration of our sweet baby. Angie proudly held our beautiful daughter while everyone ooed and awed over her. Thank all of you who came in and thank you all who would've been here if you could've! It meant so much to me to see so many of you with us as my amazing wife got to share Poppy with you all!

As many of you know, we have prayed months for two specific request: one, that God would allow Poppy to be born live and two, that all of you would be able to share her with us. The Lord answered both of these requests in a vivid, unimaginably beautiful way, to our hearts' desires and beyond our wildest dreams. Within minutes of the last friend leaving the room, Poppy stopped breathing. We shared some sweet time with our immediate family as the NICU nurse came in and out every 15-20 minutes to check Poppy's heart rate: first 60 beats per minute, then 30, then 8, then...

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! II Corinthians 9:15

Poppy Joy spent three precious hours in this world, this cruel place that her body was never meant to know. As Angie and I spent Poppy's last few minutes alone with her, my sweet wife commented that she could picture Poppy in Heaven with Jesus, saying, "Don't cry for me, Mommy and Daddy." While our pain remains, Poppy is healed and she now knows what we long for.

To those of you who have read, commented, prayed, gifted, cooked, visited and ministered to us in a thousand ways, we will never be able to properly thank you. Still, thank you! To our precious families, thank you! To our sweet daughter, who changed our lives before we ever kissed her dear face, thank you! And most of all, to our dear Savior Jesus, who has wholly and solely given strength and peace in the past months and who will continue to energize us in the difficult days ahead, thank You!

Goodbye, Poppy. We love you so much!


Poppy will be born today. The nurse came in just minutes ago and delivered the news that I will have a c-section at 10 this morning. I feel like I need to say that over and over to make myself really believe it, because it certainly isn’t sinking in. As I write, I am sitting in the hospital bed, counting down the hours until I will hold her, and to say this is surreal would be the understatement of my life. We are really here, and the next 24 hours will undoubtedly change my life forever. Right now, all I can say is that words fall short.

I woke up this morning at 12:30 with steady contractions, and after debating with myself for an hour and a half as to whether the definition of “in labor” applied to my circumstances, I decided to err on the side of caution and come into the hospital. We arrived at 3 and I was put on the monitor shortly after. My contractions have been coming 5-7 minutes apart since I got here, leading the doctor on call to go ahead and make the decision to deliver our baby today. The plan that we have been waiting so long to understand is slowly starting to unfold. We now know the first bit of the story—Poppy’s birthday will be December 1st.

I know I don’t need to say how much we need your prayers. I feel like more than any other time in my life, I need Jesus today. Please pray that He will take care of us. We are at Methodist Germantown, and if you would like to come up at some point today and pray for this baby, we would welcome anyone who can. Thank you for your love, support and prayers for us throughout this pregnancy. We will keep you updated.