Through all of my loss and grief, I have learned this: faith is a choice. We choose to believe that God is who he says he is. When the path set before us feels insurmountable, an Everest to our mustard seed, God calls us to believe he can move Everest. November, December, January, February all crept by. Winter weather for my grief. But still, in faith, I gave thanks for the sculpting. A new feeling blossomed in spring: joy. I had come to wear my childlessness well. I had accepted that I could be happy without babies in my arms. The ugliness was falling away from the carving knife. I had a precious god-son, whom I loved immensely. I had learned my sister was carrying my first niece or nephew. These babies would help fill the hole left by my sparrows. Then, in April, the date we women watch for on the calendar each month came and went. I stared in disbelief at two pink lines, emotions surging hot. Why now, God? This isn’t funny, Father. I just learned to be happy! Trust Me.
It was time to see what my mustard seed could do. I opened the big, leather journal I have been writing in since Daniel and I were newly engaged. The first entry tells of a dream I had 4 months before we said our vows. Daniel and I walked hand in hand down an old market street. He wondered away from me and Jesus came up to me holding a ribbon in his calloused hand. Wordlessly, he tied it around my waist. It fell to the ground. Twice more he tied it, only for it to fall back to the dirt street. So, once more he tied the ribbon, placed his hand on my belly and said, “You will have to loosen it as you grow. I have answered your prayers for a child.” He embraced me, and I woke up. I turned the pages, reading through my journey of 5 and a half years of growing up. Searching. I was looking for Ebeneezers. Stones stacked by the old miracles to remind me of God’s faithfulness. I found many. Then, I wrote a new entry. I poured out a prayer in black ink into the journal filled with tears. I asked him to help me believe the dream-promise.
The day of my first appointment came. I believed I was 11 weeks pregnant, and was relieved that the period of waiting would be over by the first appointment. The sonogram told a different story. 6 weeks. My heart sank. I thought I was done with the first trimester, only to learn I had 6 more weeks to go. The tech laughed, “Your due date is Christmas Eve!” My Christmas gift to you. I could never put into words the peace I felt. I knew this was God’s way of reassuring me.
4 more weeks came and it was time for another checkup. The checkup that always ended in tears. My doctor walked us straight to the sonogram room to avoid any trauma with the doppler. I blessed her silently. Up on the screen was the most amazing image of a tiny, 10-week old baby. Even the doctor was astonished by the clarity of the image. We were watching our 2-inches-tall miracle dance! 8 weeks later we learned our miracle was a healthy daughter!
In the midst of the miracle pregnancy, we decided to sell our sweet little home to be closer to our ragamuffin friends and our jobs. So, as my belly got bigger, I crawled around the floor we’d layed with our own hands and painted the baseboards. I scrubbed and cleaned and fluffed pillows and swept floors. Every day. We scoured listings, looking for the right home to bring our Lily home to. Too expensive, too many repairs, wrong neighborhood, too small, too big. I posted a dejected status on Facebook, “I wish we could just pick our home up and move it!” One month later, our pastor called with a proposition. He had seen my whiny status (though he had the grace not to call it whiny), and he and his wife felt like they needed to sell us their home. Their home was the same floor plan as the little home we loved so much, and it was exactly where we wanted it to be. I was getting the chance to pick up my home and move it. I told Daniel about my reservations of doing business with friends. I didn’t want to negotiate. The pieces would have to fall in to place perfectly or I was out. We toured the home. It had the layout we loved plus a sprawling, well kept back yard with a covered porch. Then, my friend took me to her daughters’ room. I was struck first by the paint color: pale green. The exact shade I had planned to paint Lily’s nursery when we found a home. Then, I saw the tree lovingly painted onto the wall, and perched in it’s branches were three tiny sparrows. My heart stopped. This is your home, Kimberly. God all but spoke the words aloud. So, we walked back to the living room to meet our husbands and talk about how the sale would go. 30 minutes after we walked through the front door to take a look, we agreed on the price that our friends asked for the house. No negotiating. God had already worked the deal out.
We moved in 1 month before Lily was born. Closing the front door behind us felt like closing the chapter of grief and loss. We were starting a new chapter. A chapter that is filled with challenge and hardship, but the theme is joy! Shortly after Lily’s first birthday, I stared once again at two pink lines filled with promise. October would bring another miracle. My Willow. I was still learning about faith, and belief in God’s goodness. But the stone in my chest had been chiseled away to reveal a beating heart, filled with faith and trust in a loving God.
The chaos that is motherhood has consumed every waking hour, and those hours are many. My faith remained, but I stopped having time to talk with God. As a result, I’ve been walking in my own desert. Feeling parched. I’ve lost my patience, been short with my husband, cried over the tiny things that pile up so high they threaten to crush me. Just try harder. Don’t slow down. You asked for this. For two years, the only prayers I prayed were the simple prayers for sweet dreams as I rocked my babies to sleep, and the occasional desperate prayers for help on the hard days. So I sat, watching through my notebook as the stones of faith piled higher. What do I write, Lord? It’s been nearly a week, and I know what to write on my stone.
I’ve traded my stone heart for a stone to mark the ways he’s been good, etching onto it the step of faith I will take. I’m choosing to believe him through prayers that are strong and courageous. I’m going to take risks with my prayers, knowing that God hears them and believing that he’s good.