Last night, we hosted a work session at SGM, to put the finishing touches on Comfort Bears and pack Dreams of You items into bags for grieving mothers. At the end of the session, I was preparing a special Dreams of You bag for a dear friend, and fellow mom to take to a young mother of twins. One twin is in the NICU. The other is in heaven.
Everyday moms write to us from the pits of grief. Everyday, we experience the truth that sometimes babies die. It is our work…and reaching out in comfort is the passion God has laid on our hearts. You would think that we would be used to it, this work. But, to truly walk with someone, you must have the courage to allow the feelings to pierce your heart. You have to be willing to look where others may not, and weep with those who weep for a while. Not long ago, I shared with someone that this mission has so taken up residence in my heart, it’s almost consuming….like the kind of consuming that leads a person to sell everything they own and move to Africa to help feed starving people…with both physical and spiritual nourishment. You may think that sounds crazy, or unhealthy.
But, can I just say that in this vulnerability….in this place of hearts that connect on the deepest level….working alongside a “gathering of girls who get it”…in the place where an 8′ x 10′ picture of my Thomas hangs without apology, reminding of the day when Jesus came near, alongside a drawing of my daughters dancing in heaven’s meadow…a place where I’m Faith, Grace, and Thomas’ mother….I have never felt more “healthy” and alive. God’s math is like that….He fills in the emptying. The more we pour out, the more He fills up. The more we give, the more He blesses. And, I am witnessing the most precious beauty I’ve ever seen in human beings in the midst of the most heart wrenching brokenness.
So, last night. It was time for me to pack the bag for the mom with the twins. I like to keep our workdays pretty light. A variety of helpers join in…some high school and college kids earning volunteer time for scholarships, some moms who’ve had a loss, some people who are gifted in sewing. We pray for the mommas, work on our bears, and enjoy fellowship with one another. People seem to feel blessed when they come to serve…comfortable and welcome…and full of peace when they leave. Doing God’s work leaves you full, somehow. He is in the midst as the hands work and the hearts bond through conversation.
I was looking for bracelets for the girls, and asking about sizes to get an idea. Time for business. Time to do our job. Game face on.
I stopped, swallowing hard. Twin girls born at 26 weeks. I know exactly what that looks like.
My eyes caught Stacie’s for a moment. She knew. I mumbled some “Ums”, busying myself to find what items to pack, trying to shake off the impending emotion and focus on the job.
There is no wall allowed to cover your heart in this ministry. You can try. And, sometimes it’s necessary to do the “business” of it. But, I couldn’t stop the tears that fell as I picked up that delicate, tiny bracelet with the pink crystals and the heart dangling from the middle. I made a joke for a moment to lighten things up. I had told Timothy last week that we don’t get all weepy during our work sessions…that they’re pretty light and enjoyable. And, of course, the first time he comes to help, tears are shed! The humbling grace of it all. He doesn’t mind. He is used to it…in a good way. We stopped to pray a tearful prayer in the midst of the work, a somber reminder of why we carefully put bows on bears…why it matters so much that every one is straight and just right. They tease me about being a bit of a Nazi…as I oversee “quality control”. But every one of these items must be the very best we can give. How I would have loved to put a beautiful bracelet like that on the tiny arms of each of my girls. To dress them in pink gowns befitting the princesses they are.
I couldn’t then. But, I can now. By God’s great grace and mercy, we can honor each life with beauty…reach out in comfort to every family that comes our way. We can offer something precious to each one. It won’t fix the pain…and isn’t meant to try…but it is a gift, still. A gift to know that you are not alone. Someone gets it. Someone walked this path, and survived…with hope. And, it’s a tiny offering to honor each precious and treasured life.
So, yeah…I’m consumed.
And, I’m not sorry.
I am the mother of Timothy and James…and Faith Elizabeth, Grace Katherine, and Thomas Patrick Gerken. If it makes someone uncomfortable, or it’s too hard to consider, that may be. It doesn’t matter to me, anymore…because it isn’t worth trading the beauty God is creating before our eyes, every time women gather and serve together. They often come back, because the blessing of serving is great…and because they feel His peace in the midst too. God is doing a work beyond the scope of my imagination. It is bigger than all of us. Some are missing it, and I’m sorry if you’re missing it. But, I’m not sorry that I am their mother. For many years, I hid what their lives meant to ours…carrying those sacred pieces in my heart. But, no more.
Some may wonder about the sanity of one who chooses to spend so much time around grieving hearts. Can that be healthy? What kind of life is that?
I’ve never felt more free and alive. It’s as if I had been sleeping for years, and have awakened. We are called to different things…and this admittedly isn’t for everyone. But, it is what God has laid on my heart. And, when we do what He has laid on our hearts to do, the blessing is beyond description.
It is in the pouring out that I have been filled. In the depths of grief, that I have found the purest joy. Under the heaviest of burdens, sweet freedom found me.
His ways are so not our ways…