We had a few warm days this past week and it was just so incredibly amazing to get a break from the icy temps and bust outside without winter coats and without shivering our butts off and just relax on the deck together! It gave us all such a craving for Spring to come SOON…..
but, as we creep closer to Spring, that means we also get closer to our Gianna’s one year heaven anniversary and Easter……and closer to all those things that are so achingly beautiful and yet so painfully hard to walk through.
I was sitting outside this past week and just literally drinking in the warm sunshine.
I was also wrestling the harshness and brutality of February (heart month) without our baby girl, my first birthday without my baby….while also glancing over at her garden which also seemed to ache and moan in the depth of winter too ….
and I started to remember some of the ways that God has carried us and shined HIS light into our darkest season over the past 10 months and how he is lovingly teaching us to learn to see HIM while walking in this wilderness…. something we will be learning our whole lives.
but, as I glanced over at her garden… I was recalling how God used that special space to start to birth in our hearts a deeper HOPE…a deeper anchor…and a deep desire to GROW amid our deep loss.
I thought about how He showed us, through creation, what that Miracle would look like deep in our own hearts as we walk this painful road.
Months ago, when Gianna first went to Heaven, I committed to writing while within the lifetime of this wrestling mess….I do this for one reason… Because it’s therapy to my heart To put a translation to my groans….
I wanted to be authentic about documenting the struggle of faith and grief and not the glossed over version of grief….but rather the grit of grief through faith…..because grief is never tied up in a pretty package with a red bow just because you take God at His word….and it’s not “made all better” with cliche sentences or even deep truths.
No, it is a grueling journey of growth and struggle and we have only just begun this pathway.
However, it is a journey worth it because of a great love we’ve been so blessed to receive through the forever gift of our daughter.
Grief is the high price of love. …a price I would pay a million times over and would never trade for anything if it meant I didn’t get to LOVE. It’s a lifetime road we will take with our God who promises to draw near and hold us….and give us grace even within the pain of living on this side of eternity when one of your babies has run ahead of you to heaven.
GRIEF has been a gift that has recklessly unbolted us from this Earth and fiercely tethered us to our truest HOME.
This aching Grief has allowed us the GIFT and perspective to truly see LIFE and hold tight only to that which really matters in the perspective of eternity.
So, today starts a series of blog posts that I am entitling MIRACLES OF LIFE: which are a collection of reflections and reveals about the intimate ways that God has been shining light and life through the broken and shattered cracks of our hearts and teaching us to SEE LIFE through the valley of loss.
This is a small glimpse into HIS story of miracles from ashes…. because all we’ve been given is just a sliver of a holy glimpse into a story that will not be complete until Heaven….and hearts that will not be made whole again till Heaven.
And it is a glimpse into a story that will one day wholly speak complete victory because of JESUS alone and His gift of salvation.
I can write with Hope only because He is the ultimate rescuer from Death and that is the saving truth that we claim, even in our deepest LOSS.
It does not take away the pain but it breathes oxygen into us when we are sinking under the weight of the excruciating suffocating waves….It is the only reason we grieve WITH HOPE.
I just do not know how people survive SUCH horrible pain and loss without JESUS.
Reflecting back, I still remember that horrid first day home from Boston without our baby … Even from that first day home, God had already graciously started breaking through the darkness …as we walked around outside in His creation.
But Home was NOT HOME anymore….it was like another planet without our Gia-Bia right next to us, holding our hands and squealing and skipping about with her siblings among all the new spring blossoms and ooohing and aaaahhing over her new adorable baby animals!
Home felt like a strange isolating land we had never known or seen before.
We walked outside, feeling completely lost and in despair….Upside down, amputated, bleeding, and disoriented….
One thing I noticed right away was that the sunny Spring day contradicted everything we were feeling in our hearts.
Everything had lost its color and sparkle. Everything felt dead….even though it was Spring, my heart only saw the harsh winter. I could not see LIFE and light blooming around me….I only saw and felt the sting of Death.
We walked toward a spot on our land that once held a beautiful canopy of Mulberry branches from a glorious weeping tree where Sibling Summer berry picking adventures took place every Spring with our Gianna
. Oh how she LOVES squishy juicy berries!!!
But….now …I was looking at what felt like the mirror of my heart … I saw nothing but LOSS.
I saw the effects of a brutal winter storm that had stolen all the beauty from that spot. Now I was looking at a fallen tree… a left behind hole….a cut off stump inhabiting the empty space that once held beautiful overflowing LIFE.
This assault had taken place on our land just days before our own assault had taken place on our baby’s heart…
Gianna’s terrible cardiac arrest happened just days after a huge storm ravaged our land.
Looking back…. that snow and ice-storm almost felt prophetic in a strange way.
Here I was….back home facing the destruction of winter on my own heart and my soul and my family….while being swallowed up by the hole that screamed SO MUCH HURTFUL LOSS…
Despair threatened to overtake us all.
I fell to my knees in that desolate space where LIFE used to thrive under a tree no longer standing there and I wept bitterly at this visual of my broken heart ….It was one of the many moments when I felt like creation around me moaned right along with me. I wailed….I thrashed and I pounded the ground grieving our deep loss.
I just wanted my baby back, I just want her back everyday.
I HATE YOU, DEATH!!! I HATE YOU BROKEN WORLD!!! I JUST WANT MY BABY GIRL BACK!
Though it was spring, my heart was stuck in a dead hopeless winter…
Mommies and daddies should never have to bury their babies…. I cried, I yelled, I sobbed!
But, then I heard a soft voice. I could literally hear God whispering a promise to my heart within the storm….I heard that whisper..
I am Not even sure how my heart was able to even hear Him, but I did….HE broke through…
He spoke to me in the most gentle and direct ways:
I WIN….DEATH DOES NOT WIN!
REMEMBER THIS TRUTH, my daughter!
SEE! ….I WILL make all things NEW.
I Know it all looks dead now….
But, keep your eyes open and I will help you SEE SPRING again….take my hand, learn from me….
SPRING IS COMING….. I WILL RESTORE LIFE
I bring beauty from ashes……..let my TRUTH comfort you… I will give you eyes to see …trust me and follow me….
I have overcome death….
This was all a complete grace gift because my heart was not in a place to receive truth, I was overwhelmed with FEELINGS of despair….
It was a miracle that I could hear Him and feel a ray of light in my pit…
TRUTH broke through the darkness in a miraculous way in that moment…He was inviting me to SEE TRUTH through HIS eyes as I surrendered to Him in the most painful of ways.
Then a surge of lightening felt like it came through me….it felt like an intense spark…. I can not describe the passion and intensity that came over me in that very moment as I started aggressively digging in the cold ground with my kids. We started to dig holes around that tree stump…..altogether we were digging…digging for life.
It was as if I had to claim NEW LIFE around our HUGE loss in a tangible way.
We had to take God at His word.
I had no other choice….. I hated the story, and I hated that He had not given her an earthly healing,,,,but, I wanted to learn what He wanted to teach us through this hurt….I wanted to learn to SEE the Truth of victory over death through HIS eyes when my eyes seemed so broken.
Most of all, I wanted my kids to learn to see truth in our deepest darkness.
I wanted us to see TANGIBLE TRUTH of what God was showing us!
I prayed and wept for eyes to see!
…..it was in that sacred moment that God started giving us visions of SO much color, sparkle, fragrance, blooms, and goodness ..all growing around that dead tree stump that screamed loss…..
our Gianna loves flowers and all things BEAUTIFUL, so there would be an EXPLOSION of FLOWERS growing around this tree stump, I shouted!
So, this will be the place of the most beautiful display of color and NEW LIFE where all the butterflies and fairies will come to dance and celebrate OUR FUTURE ETERNAL JOY WITH GIANNA!
It will be a holy space that will receive and welcome both smiles and tears, laughter and ache.
This sacred place will sing of a VICTORY….this anointed ground will be a glimpse into heaven’s HOPE and a symbol of the actual STOMPING ON satan’s HEAD in victory!
It was a claim for truth when we could not FEEL truth!
Death did NOT win, Gianna won….God won!
Jesus purchased OUR HOPE on a cross with HIS blood poured out and I had to let that blood bring me actual LIFE when I needed it most….. in this darkest pit.
THIS was where our FAITH had to struggle to become REAL.
This space would be a rebellion against the sting of death.
God has to continually remind us that our baby is so alive and our time on Earth is short, but our future with Gianna will go on Forever and Ever and be so much greater than our past with her because Death does NOT win!
It was and IS a literal choosing of LIFE.
Choosing TO SEE GOODNESS when it all felt SO TERRIBLY BAD….SO BAD and SO broken!
It’s not ever a place where we finally arrive but, instead, a commitment to journey with TRUTH HAVING A VOICE in the struggle.
With our bleeding hearts, we were choosing HOPE. We were believing for life even when we saw no color.
It is a difficult and willful surrender. The hardest surrender of all.
In our darkest dark, God was already trying to teach us how to open our eyes to a greater vision… a vision of SO MUCH beauty and light around that empty stump!
LIVE, GIANNA! GROW FOREVER!
GROW US, JESUS!!
You know we hate living without our Gianna, and you hate that too. You hate this broken world as much as we do! But, we know you overcame it and you can grow us in our grief because of Victory!!!….Grow us around our loss in the truth of HOPE and the honor of our precious JEWEL, Gia-Bia!
In our deepest anguish and sorrow and ANGER and rebellion of all things broken, we were literally driving STAKE IN TRUTH!
Driving our shovel into that broken dead ground and believing for LIFE to come from darkness!
And, right there ….became the sacred commencement of
Our Gianna’s Victory Garden.
It was a symbol of a vow (that we would have to re-make and re-choose over and over again) to not let feelings win over our Faith, but to continually claim TRUTH together!
This was just the beginning of what would be a lifetime of learning to wrestle WELL....
Lysa Terkeurst puts it so well when she says,
My feelings and my faith will almost certainly come into conflict with each other…. and they yank me in different directions with never-ending wrestling….
To wrestle well means acknowledging my feelings but moving forward, letting my faith lead the way….
Her Garden became a tangible visual of LIFE and light coming…a visual of how to ask God to help us see truth while we
walk crawl forward with LOSS, with heartbreak, with ABSOLUTE darkness and ache and pain!
Her victory Garden would become, for our family, a symbol of Gods promises.
Her sacred garden would become a balm to our busted hearts and a picture of our greatest surrender to HOPE in the face of our greatest LOSS.
Opening that ground around that dead tree stump to prepare it for seeds and life would become the beginning of learning to open our broken and bleeding hearts to receive HIS goodness and the commitment to cling to everything we had believed and stood on and built our life around up to that point.
We just now had to actually LIVE that TRUTH in a real and painful way that equals HOPE in the face of despair.
We would now have to learn to choose Life while living with great pain….but He was showing us that we would not have to do it alone.
He was teaching us to see TRUTH in the darkness and how to lean into Him.
It was a place where we could let our tears literally soak the ground to water the tiny SEEDS OF HOPE.
IT was a place that friends and family could also bring seeds and flowers as deposits of future JOY and color and Life and to honor our baby girl!
One thing I have learned through our many wrestling matches is that Claiming truth does not take the pain away, nor does it make us OK with the story…or OK with the ashes
….but claiming TRUTH allows another voice to be louder than the despair and ashes.
It allows another voice to be heard at all!!!
When you wrestle truth, it means you are near the chest and heart of God….
near the voice of TRUTH!
My wrestling between Faith and Feelings will never be done until I get to heaven….
However, This is a fight worth staying in the ring for….it is worth staying near the heart of God, even when I do not agree with HIS story…..or rather, this chapter…
BECAUSE HE IS THE ONLY TRUE SOURCE OF HOPE.
I know WHO WINS. I know the end/beginning of the story…the story that will never end!
My baby girl’s story is NOT done….her miracles are NOT done.
Gianna is NOT dead, she lives forever because Jesus lives.
Our life will grow in her honor.
Our Gianna-hole will always remain until heaven, just as that stump will always remain in her garden on earth….. But Her miracles of color and beauty and LIFE will continue to bloom….She is a force of LOVE and Faith and HOPE and her light and life shine forever…..
We do not want to miss the miracles!
He is not done.
Our hole and our pain will remain until we all embrace again in heaven, just as that tree stump will always remain…in the center of her Victory Garden.
That stump will always have a space to dwell just as the flowers that bloom around it will also always have a space to grow and live and thrive.
Because, here’s the thing…. You can honor both the painful Loss and the overflowing Beauty at the same exact time.
You can cry and hate death and ache for your baby, but also, at the same time, still stay open to growth and goodness and gifts and purpose.
You can both celebrate LIFE and yet still ache for LOSS in the same exact occasion.
You can hate the hour, the day, the month, or even the holiday you are currently being swept under in a suffocating wave of grief….yet still look forward to the Light and joys ahead that will come….
It is not a ONE or the other scenario for those who grieve.
I have learned that understanding this important truth allows for freedom for those who suffer Loss and allows others to be more empathetic and less critical to those who grieve and to those who live with gaping holes in their hearts.
You do not have to exchange pain and ache in order to receive Joy and beauty.
You can hold both.
Joy can grow around the ache….In fact, Joy can bloom because of our great ache!
THIS is NOT depression.
This is freedom.
There is such freedom in giving holy space to both the pain and the joy and a freedom in simultaneously honoring both the broken and the beautiful moments.
There is not a defining line anymore.
It us all now a mess and tangled up thread of two realities that criss- cross and magnify each other in such a chaotic way that each deserves a voice.
He is reminding us that BEAUTY will grow around the hole and that beauty will be a balm to our busted up hearts……but not a cure.
Nothing will cure our loss, or make it completely healed or fill the hole.
Heaven is the only cure.
And tears will always be a part of our story on earth.
Knowing the deepest Pains and having seen the the darkest Hells allows us to truly appreciate and feel the deepest Joys and see the brightest lights.
we are learning to keep our hearts and eyes open to growth and the light and the gifts…and all things Good, even if through falling tears and moans….
Tears and ache and grief remain as long as we live, but so does HOPE and TRUTH and Love…..
We laugh often when we talk about our sweet Gia’s garden because it literally keeps expanding on our land and its borders keep getting stretched and increased to make room for new flowers and trees and bulbs….. her beautiful garden is never truly done growing, because SHE ALWAYS wants more!
And for those that know our girl, you know that that is just SOOOO OUR Gia girl…..always wanting more…..
She always chooses more joy, more color, and more LIFE....
and So WILL WE!!
It is So Gia to Never stop growing and grabbing at color and joy!
Her life teaches us to always CHOOSE MORE JOY…and It is our gracious loving GOD who shows us how to See that JOY and Goodness so that we may be able to take a hold of it….in our valley of loss.
God’s stories NEVER end in ashes….. Her miracles go and grow on forever!
THAT IS the blazing light of TRUTH that He is helping us to see and wrestle with in our darkest and blackest night!
Lord, keep teaching us to SEE the many treasures in this darkness and keep growing us in HOPE and TRUTH!
THANK YOU for TRUTH and HOPE!