March 14 changed our lives. Now, August 14 comes along marking 5 months since we first entered this deep, deep valley. So much has happened, so many good things but also some bad things. All in all, God has proven Himself trustworthy and loving over and over and over again. Let me share what He’s teaching my heart at this phase of the grieving process.
First of all, and most importantly, I’d like to rejoice that we aren’t at that deep, dark part of the valley now. Those first moments, before the Holy Spirit took control, were the scariest of my life. I remember feeling like I was spinning out of control, oscillating between anger and disbelief. Fortunately, I was in that place for only a half hour or so. Then, it was like God the Father shot me with a heavy dose of the Holy Spirit and a switch flipped inside of me. That is when the overwhelming peace and presence of God overtook my anxiety. I am abundantly thankful that I have the Holy Spirit within me because otherwise I may still be there in that scary place, or even digging deeper and deeper into a pit of despair. It was His presence that enabled me to say good-bye to my daughter with grace and blessed assurance of so many Truths.
Now, 5 months into mourning, I am noticing that I’m starting to walk uphill, out of the valley. It’s getting brighter as my heart heals, but it’s also getting harder as I must climb up out of the valley. It’s hard to explain. Shekinah is gone. I no longer feel that special, almost physical, presence of the Holy Spirit. I know He’s with me always, for the Bible tells us so. Now, though, I’m aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit on a normal level. I’m between the rains so to speak.
It’s this between the rains period that is tough. I experienced this downpour of the Holy Spirit, and I loved it. I felt supernatural at times. And now, it’s a dryer time. It’s when I must choose, over and over again, to believe in His Truths even when it doesn’t feel quite right. It’s when I must claim His promises even when I don’t hear them spoken anew. He has proven Himself faithful, so now I must trust Him when life is becoming more normal.
Recently, while my parents were visiting, we watched several sermons by Louie Giglio. He’s a powerful, funny pastor. If you’ve never heard him speak, I encourage you to google him and listen. It is worth your time. One of my favorite messages was about suffering. He said that when we walk through a deep valley that it’s like putting a megaphone to our hearts. Whatever is at the core of our belief system is magnified when we’re undergoing great suffering. His challenge was to make sure that your faith is in a condition that WHEN (not if) you face great trials that you would be honoring God and seeking to glorify Him.
Then, when I was listening to a sermon at our local church, the pastor read 1 Timothy 1:3 – 2:2. It reiterated the message. I especially like verse 14: “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you — guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
Many people have overanalyzed my grief. Many have insulted me with their assessments even when they intended to encourage me. Each time, I remind myself that man’s opinion of me does not matter. It is God who I aim to please, and therefore I try not to defend myself. What was encouraging about Louie Giglio’s message was that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me, “See, Steph, you did it. You walked through a deep, deep valley and you somehow managed to honor God through it. Your faith was proven strong. Your God was proven worthy.”
(Man, I miss this girl!)
And that’s the point. If we are so focused on our comfort or happiness or earthly stuff, we can’t see the cross. The cross is what I cling to, for it is the cross that sets me free. My God knows my grief. He knows such deep grief that I can’t comprehend it. Again, at church that same Sunday, we sang Christ Tomlin’s Here I am to Worship. The line that got me was “And I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sins upon that cross.” I teared up because I know more than I want to know, I feel the cost more than I want to feel it. Every person who has lost a child has the privilege to feel the cost of the cross a little deeper than other parents. That cost is overwhelming, unimaginable. While what I feel can not compare to the pain God felt when His one and only, perfect Son was beaten and harassed and killed, what I do feel is too much for me to handle.
Going back to 2 Timothy, he says, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord…But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.” (verses 8-9) It’s when I learn to love HIS purpose and grace that I can allow HIM to heal my heart. That empty, Hannah-shaped hole in my heart may never be filled by anyone or anything, but God can fulfill HIS purpose and grace in my life. HE can heal me. HE makes me whole, complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4)
But perhaps the most practical and encouraging thing in Louie Giglio’s message about megaphones was that he acknowledged that all the good that God brings about after suffering isn’t enough to make all the pain go away. Sometimes, I feel guilty for feeling like what He’s doing isn’t enough. Even after hearing story after story of lives being changed or saved because of Hannah’s story, it’s not enough. If I could take back that day, I would. Every time.
This is not how a baby girl should look. Ever. So, yes, if I had the power to re-do March 13-14, I would.
Reality is, though, I can’t. I can’t undo anything. So I choose to do what brings HIM honor and glory. I choose to shout in my megaphone, “My Redeemer lives!” Jesus “has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (I Timothy 1:10) I can marvel at the way God unfolded everything so perfectly and tenderly. I can accept the blessings He’s shown me through it all. I can try to learn as much as possible while taking each step through this valley. I can focus on the cross at the very end of my journey. And I can praise HIM no matter what.
Please join me in praising HIM.
Praises and Prayer Requests:
1.) Praise HIM for the hope of heaven.
2.) Praise HIM for life and breath and able bodies.
3.) Praise HIM for HE is worthy to be praised!
4.) I praise God for each of you, my prayer warriors. I pray many blessings from heaven on each one of you who continue to follow our journey, share our story and uplift us in prayer.
5.) I praise God for the faithfulness and steadfastness of the Holy Spirit. What would we do without it?
6.) Please continue to pray for the Mitchells who arrive in Kenya tonight. They will do the massive stock-up shopping trip (with me…Yikes! you should probably pray that I do a good job at showing them around Nairobi and telling them what to buy!) on Friday and we’ll travel to Tenwek on Saturday. (If you go back to my travel itinerary, they’re following much the same schedule.)
7.) Please pray for all of us who will be involved in the Tenwek co-op. Both students and teachers are preparing for the beginning of the school year.
8.) Please keep the hospital in your prayers. Pray that Tenwek will maintain its mission: to treat and heal the physical body in the NAME of Christ and to share the LOVE of Christ through evangelism, service and education.
9.) I have a prayer request that is very private, so private that I can’t tell you how to pray. Please join me in trusting that God knows my heart and He knows how to honor your wordless prayers on my behalf. Thank you for respecting my desire to keep some aspects of my life private.
10.) Pray for Levi’s little heart. He is expressing some sadness about missing Baby Hannah. It breaks my heart, but I’m so happy that he’s able to vocalize his emotions and that’s he’s doing it in a healthy way.
11.) Pray for our family, specifically Aaron’s mom’s side. Aaron’s maternal grandmother is ill. We’ve already lost Hannah and Aaron’s paternal grandmother since we first left the States to serve in Kenya. This will be the third blow. Pray for our grieving, weak hearts.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.