Of Greater Worth Than Gold

A Grief That Is One Year Old;
A Daughter Who Is Eternal

I have been thinking about this day, the first anniversary of my daughter’s heavenly home-going, for months. And even though I have words today, I really still don’t have any, you know. I still rely solely on the streams of hope and joy that I find not by searching deeply within myself or by attempting to understanding my own feelings. I open my mouth to receive from the endless Supplier. I have no words for what I still feel and know that in many, many days I still will not. I long for a day when all will be made new. And I still believe that day will come. I still have faith because I have One who is faithful. And I can thrive alongside my unfulfilled longings because the One whom I long to see face-to-face is with me in this moment too. 

But, no, there really aren’t complete words for this, at least I haven’t found them yet, but there are some words. Here are the words I have prepared for today:

It has been one year since I first held the body of a baby, my baby, who was no longer there—one year since I was in a hospital bed and uttered with piercing clarity of mind the words dramatically juxtaposing my deep maternal and personal desires: “She is not here anymore. She isn’t here. She was made for a different land.”

Her body was there. And I am sure that I had previously held the quantity of 7lbs and 7oz, but I am more sure that I have never held pounds like hers. It was a new kind of weight in my arms that day—precious weight. It seems to me that a mother and father are often given the grace to be able to deeply grapple with the realities of their children’s circumstances, whatever they might be, by virtue of their relation. I had understanding for my daughter’s. So, I said those words with hollowness and hope

I held her first in my arms on April 17, 2013. Yet, she lived—truly lived in a way none of us have yet lived—on April 16, 2013. 

God had a plan for her and her life. Of this I have no doubt—she wasn’t made for this place. And I can see God’s hand on my heart in the months leading up to the day when I had to give her up for the duration of this life.  

Allow me to trace the steps for you.

Below are blog posts from my pregnancy.  I made them all “private” after coming home from the hospital, but hadn’t looked at them until a few weeks ago. Wow. They had a remarkable bearing upon my unknown future. 

I see God’s unmistakable hand: Some posts have an air of preparation—the Scriptural roundedness gleaned in the easier times for trust in the difficult times. Some are phenomenal to me—I can hardly believe what I had on my mind and heart in the months before her birth that relate so to her death. (I started to experience panic attacks before my pregnancy with Noelle; later, I would discover them to be related to other medical issue that have, gratefully, been resolved. But, unbeknownst to me, God was using those panic attacks to prepare me.) Some words are heartbreaking right now to revisit, but show how thoroughly God allowed me to enjoy my moments with her. Remember some with me:

  • On August 18, 2012, I blogged about Noelle: “Our love for Thee is far too small who love another thing at all unless from Thy hand we take and love for Thine own Name’s sake.” (Augustine)

  • On September 17, 2012, I blogged: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world…” (C.S. Lewis)

  • On November 15, 2012, I blogged about death:
    Death, be not proud (John Donne)

“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”

  • On January 21, 2013, I blogged: "Holy and virtuous lives are more effective in advancing the Kingdom of Christ and convincing sinners to repent than all the sermons in the world.” (Dr. Gerstner)
    I have written it before and likely will again: more humble hearts adoring Him is what Noelle and I both yearn for.

  • On January 2, 2013, I blogged about heaven: "When we seek for any thing in the dark by so low a faculty of discerning as the sense of feeling, or by the sense of seeing with a dim light, sometimes we cannot find it; though it be there, it seems to us to be impossible that it should be. But yet, when a clear light comes to shine into the place, and we discern by a better faculty, or the same faculty in a clearer manner, the thing appears very plain to us. So, doubtless, many truths will hereafter appear plain, when we come to look on them by the bright light of heaven, that now are involved in mystery and darkness.” (Jonathan Edwards)
    Seeing God face-to-face will make clear earthly mysteries.

  • On February 26, 2013, I blogged: “I remember the different concerns I had at 15 weeks—ones that I had to entrust to the Lord each day. I was already so attached to this baby person. Everything about pregnancy was so new. I don’t think I had ever trusted Him like that before—with something so dear to me, so seemingly fragile and beyond my control. Today, I am grateful to Him for such a smooth pregnancy—with no complications, with a healthy Baby/me [and honestly hardly any discomfort, save fatigue!]. His favor is overwhelming at times. I am waiting for my life to alter yet again—to earn for itself a new fragile set of concerns beyond my control that are presently impossible to understand. And I am anticipatory to be living in a sublime day weeks from now, seeing my little girl and getting to know her. With all of those events ahead, I must trust Him again and again. I know from His character that I can. And I really do—I trust Him 20 weeks ago, 20 weeks ahead, and, by His grace, always.”

  • On February 14, 2013 I blogged: “The weeks have passed, and I grow and grow nearer to the inherent promise of pregnancy—seeing her and then seeing her start to grow. But the Lord knew my child long before my first broad smile on her account, before I cried fresh, wet joy at her first ultrasound image, before I consumed her first kick. Think of the prophet Jeremiah of whom God spoke: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,’ (Jer. 1:5). Think of the psalmist David who writes to the Lord: 'For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb,’ (Ps. 139:13). Surely He also deeply knows my little girl, the precious subject of my prayers [this promise is my joy, my confidence, my peace].”

April 16, 2013 - She truly lived for the first time. 

April 17, 2013 - We held her dear body in our arms.

April 18, 2013 - We posted “She was made for a different land." 

What more can I say? God’s hand is in it all. Intricately. Deeply. Lovingly.

And His hand still is. The hand that formed her in my womb is the same hand that holds me. 

And so, I conclude with this thought—it’s not that I believe I have earned the ability to write this, but that this is what I would want someone to say to me, what I want to be continually reminded of. So, I speak this as boldly as it is true: Believer who suffers, how much more would you have Him do than He has already done? He has made you for a different land, a better land—a heavenly one. Your citizenship is elsewhere—not here. Our time on this earth is so brief when compared with the eternity He has given to us. When you suffer with selflessness, you will find that "these [trials] 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” (1 Peter 1:7). There is nothing greater than living for that which will result in His praise, glory, and honor. 

Many friends and family members who are reading will know that we started a fund in memory of Noelle that supports missionaries associated with our local church who work with children in rural Kenya. And many of you have given to this fund. Please hear from my heart, I am grateful. I am grateful on two accounts—one that we have been able to remember our dear Noelle in this way together and two that it has made an impact. The Kamunges want me to tell you “thank you!”

Most recently, I was blessed to read this update from the Kamunges: “For about five years, we have seen a huge spiritual, emotional, and psychological transformation in the lives of Sunrise kids. Some of the kids came in to the program with a lot of emotional and spiritual questions; some came with a lot of frustrations and others (those who are infected) with a lot of doubts in life. Now we can testify that all of the kids have hope in Christ and in their lives. Mary and I are their spiritual parents and through them, we have experienced a lot of blessings from the Lord. Facilitating eternal life in their lives has been a vital ministry to us.” (emphasis mine)

Whether we are able to recognize it or not, He is at work. Intricately. Deeply. Lovingly. He is sovereign. He is in control. He is good. Certainly Noelle knows it. I am exceedingly grateful that the Sunrise children know it. I hope you know it.  

With thankfulness in love,
Lianna

Lianna Davis