I’ve been struggling to know what to write next. I’m overwhelmed by grief but I also have this steadfast peace that I can’t explain. I’ve never felt more loved and cared for by God. In effort to give Him glory amidst my pain, I’d like to share a list of the ways we’ve felt or seen God’s tender love for us (and other people involved in our story). There’s no order and I know some have been mentioned in blog posts by Aaron or myself, but here is an incomplete list of the ways I feel loved by God.
1.) Noah’s prophecy about our future. God grabbed our attention through Noah’s “baby girl in Africa” statement, and God showed us that He was trustworthy. “The works of his hand are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.” Psalm 111:7 NIV
2.) The 18-month gap between Levi and Hannah. It was overwhelming to say the least, but I am so thankful that Levi is 2 right now. He is our comic relief and I believe God knew we would need his not-potty-trained, always-happy self in this time of mourning. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7 NIV
3.) God’s promise to my heart. During a worship service at Salem Bible Church, God promised that my life would be better than I could ever imagine if I’d simply trust God and serve as a missionary. His promise is being fulfilled daily. Like He promised Jacob of the Bible, “I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” Genesis 28:15b
4.) Double rainbow. God not only spoke directly to my heart of His promise for my life but He also gave us a reminder of it through a double rainbow the day of Hannah’s memorial service at Tenwek. God keeps His promises. I doubly believe it.
5.) Pink skies. While I have not personally seen any pink skies since Hannah’s death, I heard several accounts of the “pinkest skies I’ve ever seen.” They show me God is tenderly loving His people, not just me. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11 NIV
6.) Foreshadows. Many times before we left for Kenya, I heard the Holy Spirit very quietly tell me that being a missionary would cost me a lot…perhaps a child. It was nothing I ever took the time to think about. I would just respond, “ok, God” and go on. I don’t think I would have been able to go if I had thoroughly thought this through. However, I did acknowledge this possibility and I still trusted God to take us to the mission field. I’m thankful for the quiet foreshadowing of the Holy Spirit. I echo Pauls words, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:22-24 NIV
7.) God is good lesson. Sometime in the last year, Pastor Justin preached a sermon on God’s permanent goodness. It was life changing. From that Sunday, I determined in my heart to believe that God is good no matter what. He is too big to be determined by circumstances. Important lesson to learn if your faith is to persevere through the death of a baby. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3 NIV
8.) Pediatric neurosurgeon. In God’s sovereign plan, He placed a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon in Kenya at the same time Hannah needed emergency surgery. The surgery didn’t save her life but it did give us a life without regrets. It did give us more time with our little girl. It did give our families comfort and assurance that her healthcare was not compromised because we were in Kenya. (The truth is that our healthcare was better than we would have received in the States!)
9.) CT scan at Tenwek. Not many mission hospitals are equipped with a CT scan but God sent us to live at one of the few that are.
10.) Public life. Living life in a compound is like living in a glass fish bowl. Everyone can hear everything, even when you’re inside your house with the curtains pulled shut. While this is daunting, it did make me a better mom. I was more patient, more loving, more available than I would have been in the States in my private little townhome.
11.) Joyce, my househelper. She cares for my family so deeply, and she had a special bond with Hannah. She took care of all the household responsibilities from the time Hannah got sick. She even came up to the hospital and stayed with me while nurses placed the first feeding tube into Hannah. I’m so thankful for her. Because of her presence in my home, I can be the homeschooling mom I want to be without being so stressed.
12.) Family. We have so many families! Our biological families here in the States, our missionary families in Kenya (both at Tenwek and now at Kijabe), and our spiritual family all over the world are so appreciated! We feel your prayers and are humbled by the outpouring of love from the body of Christ.
13.) The last 2 nights. Because we were at Tenwek, we were able to bring Hannah home and care for her in our living room. Aaron and I each had a night with Hannah. We treasure that time when we got to care for her. The sacrifice of sleep was well worth it. Also, we are blessed that Hannah was sick for such a short time. We didn’t have to see her suffer for days, weeks or months like we should have. God, in His infinite mercy and love, shielded her from the typical symptoms of a large brain tumor.
14.) Tickling hairs. Hannah’s hair was pulled up into her typical water sprout the night she stopped breathing. I couldn’t sleep at all that night because her hair kept tickling my face. I’m glad it did, because that’s how I startled and realized that she wasn’t breathing!
15.) ED husband. As soon as I felt Hannah’s lifeless body, I called for Aaron and he immediately began CPR. To say I’m thankful for his knowledge and quick action is an understatement.
16.) 2 a.m. I’m thankful that he tragedy began while the boys were sleeping. They didn’t have to see their sister be carried away to the hospital…or their parents so worried.
17.) Kenyans. Unlike most of us Americans, Kenyans know how to mourn. I’m blessed to be the recipient of their love, prayer, encouraging words, gifts and willingness to carry this heavy load. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 NIV
18.) Picture by the river. I’m so thankful that Aaron took the picture of Hannah in the river. It’s the closest picture we have to what I saw in my vision of Hannah in heaven. God knew that picture would bring me comfort. How sweet He is!
19.) Hannah’s name means “grace.” Like I mentioned in my last post, God gave us the name “Hannah.” Her story is a story of God’s grace. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
20.) Fussiness. The last few weeks of Hannah’s life were taxing. She was fussier than usual. She wanted to be held every waking minute. Never for a second did I think it was because a huge tumor was destroying her brain, but I did hold her a lot more. I conceded almost every time she held up her little arms. I snuggled her so much more than I really wanted to. I didn’t treat her like she was the fourth child. Fortunately, the boys love to play and entertain themselves in Kenya, so this allowed me to spoil her with my time and attention. Looking back, I’m so thankful for the grace God gave me to handle her fussiness because I can honestly say that I have no regrets. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV
Praise God, the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is worthy to be praised!
Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.