I didn’t realize it until I wrote the date in my journal, but today is an anniversary of sorts. Exactly five years ago today was the due date for a pregnancy that was not meant to be.
We were all giddy when the doctor announced that our baby would arrive on 8-08-08. The perfection of the date seemed to be confirmation that God was fulfilling His promise — and confirmation that we weren’t crazy to have a baby simply because we thought He was asking us to.
Eleven weeks into the pregnancy, we went to a doctor’s appointment only to find that the baby had stopped thriving. It was a tragic time for us, not only because we lost the baby, but because we wondered if we’d heard Him right. If we’d ever heard Him right. It was a sort of a spiritual crisis for me.
A lot of grieving followed. To our surprise, a lot of good followed. I want to share about one of the sweetest things that comes to mind as I reflect on this anniversary.
After the miscarriage, time seemed to be measured by ovulating cycles and negative pregnancy tests. June arrived and I was feeling rather desperate and far from the Lord. I remember stepping outside the last-days-of-homeschool-chaos in my dining room and saying to God, “I need to hear from You. I need something… a sign that You still have me in Your hand.”
The day wore on, and in the late afternoon I received a phone call from a friend.
“This is totally last minute, and crazy, but I am leaving tomorrow for a scrapbook weekend in the mountains, and I want to know if you’ll come with me. For free. Talk to your hubby and call me back ASAP!”
It turned out that someone had paid for their spot at this cozy cabin weekend, but couldn’t go. So I got to go. For free! I knew that was God’s answer to my I-need-a-sign prayer. It was a far more extravagant sign than I had anticipated!
The weekend was full: sweet friends, gourmet food, scrapbooking, and evening walks in the mountains. God ministered to me so tenderly that weekend. I had been guarding my heart from Him, but on the drive up the mountain, I opened up, and He began speaking to me so clearly.
On one walk that weekend, He drew my attention to some trees scattered along the edge of someone’s property. It was clear that the trees had been kept meticulously over the years. I noticed knobs and little stumps all over the tree trunks. As I drew closer, I could see that each knob represented a branch that had been cut off. I thought, who would take the time to do all of this? And whatever for?
God whispered the answer immediately… the owner cuts off every low branch so that the tree will grow higher. The Lord began to talk to me about all of the branches He’d recently cut off in my life. It was affirming to hear Him review all of the losses that had caused me to grieve and question Him. There were relationships, finances, opportunities, service positions…and the baby. All cut off in a short time frame.
He affirmed my pain. Indeed, this process of pruning and redirecting is painful. But an important truth was made clear: God wants me to grow higher. I’m often content to grow sideways, pursuing the things that please me, but God wants me to grow upward.
Later that day, while sitting on a bench with my sweet friend, God drew our attention to another tree, one much larger than the original ones I observed:
This is a drawing from my journal that weekend. Near the top of the tree we were looking at, I could see two branches that formed nearly a perfect cross. I knew it was a symbol of the future He had planned for me. The sun was descending behind the tree and the cross branches were practically glowing. The whole scene shifted my focus from grief to hope and expectation. I was confident that God had better things for me if I were to keep growing upward and letting go when lateral branches needed to be removed. I knew He’d bring us a baby at some point (which He did). For the first time in months, sitting on that wooden bench miles from home, my heart was at peace.
Funny how the anniversary of something lost can turn out to be the anniversary of His kindness and faithfulness. An anniversary of trouble can become an anniversary of hope. That’s how God works.
Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the valley of trouble a door of hope.
You can read more about our baby adventure in previous blogs:
the desire of my heart
the wailing wall