charlie's song

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How Suffering Produces Hope

Today marks three months to the day our sweet Charlie died. On one hand, I can’t believe it’s been three months already, it feels like only yesterday when his baby toes were kicking the inside of my belly. On the other hand, these have been the longest, darkest, and most painful ninety five days of our entire lives.  So much pain.  So much suffering.

And the sharpest pain usually comes at the most unexpected times. The other day Emma’s school took a field trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo. Overall, it was a super fun day, and really special for the kids since they rarely have Mommy all to themselves. It was also an extremely painful day for me in a lot of ways. First, because it was a field trip I had never planned to take. I had expected Charlie would be with us now, and that the field trip would be unrealistic. And yet, there we were, boarding the train at 6:30, on a morning I had planned to be at home caring for my baby boy.

But the hardest part of the zoo trip were the spring babies. There were babies everywhere at the zoo this week. Newborn babies, three-month-old people babies, fluffy little black swan babies, and the cutest little six-day-old giraffe baby named Dane. The kids grew so accustomed to seeing the babies that when we got to the lion enclosure Emma said, “Mommy, where are the little lion babies?”

And thats when I heard Freddo quietly say, “Mommy, I think all the lion babies died.”

Deep. Soul. Sigh.

My wild and fun little boy, who still eats boogers in his spare time…has grown very, very deep. Deep in ways that I never wanted him to be.

Or did I?

Obviously, it is incredibly painful to see the weight of the world on the shoulders of a three-year-old boy. I wish so very much that Freddo was playing with his baby brother right now, not grieving the loss of his life. I wish so badly that it wasn’t the first thought on sweet Freddo’s mind that there were no lion babies at the zoo because they had all died. But at the same time, as someone who highly values depth and authenticity, and empathy in others, I am so thankful that those are the ends that God is bearing in each of our lives, even though I absolutely hate that Charlie’s death is the means.

I keep thinking about this Emma Thompson quote I heard recently. She said, “It’s unfortunate and I really wish I wouldn’t have to say this, but I really like human beings who have suffered. They’re kinder.” Now, obviously not all people who have suffered are more kind than all people who haven’t, but I do think it’s true that God uses our sufferings to make us kinder…and a great many other things.  And I do think its true that some of the things we most long to shelter our kids from…are the very things that will develop the deepest character in their lives.

I love how Paul unpacks this truth in Romans 5:3-5…

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Did I want my children to experience the deep suffering of losing a sibling? Never. Did I want their precious child-like faith to be tested so deeply at the tender ages of three and five? Not exactly. But I do long for them to have a faith than endures through the storms of this life. I do long for my children to have godly character. And I do long that my kids would have true hope…hope in God and His love being the best part of life. Hope in eternity with Jesus who will finally put an end to all this heinous suffering. I realize now that suffering produces hope…because when life becomes truly, deeply painful…you can no longer put your hope in any of the things that used to make you happy.

And I see this promise in Romans becoming real to each of us as we continue to be broken and also, by the grace of God, healed in certain ways through Charlie’s precious life. I see it in my kids lives, as they grow more thoughtful and aware of the deep realities of life, and in turn grow more tender towards others…especially others who are hurting.

And I see it in my own life. I yell less. And hug more. I complain less. And treasure more. Sweet moments like the day at the zoo…moments I know I will never get to have with Charlie…have become a greater treasure to me.

Does it mean we are always grateful, thoughtful, gentle, and kind…ummm…not exactly. But, we are more tender than we used to be. More deep. More kind. And perhaps, most of all…more grateful for each moment together now that we know acutely that we’re not promised endless days of bliss on this side of eternity. That’s Heaven. And endless joy is reserved for Heaven’s side.

My kids now know, in ways I never could have taught them through words or flannel board stories, that heaven is the one place where there will be no more tears or crying or sorrow or pain.

And they know that until then…life will be filled more often than we’d like…with many painful things.

They know that until then…it’s our privilege to love others as they walk through pain, and to let others love us as we walk through ours each day.

And they know that until then, we’re going to enjoy together the unexpected moments of sweetness that come along the way…




The God Whose Love We Can’t Escape

Though absolutely nothing compares to the day we buried the tiny body of our precious son, the last few weeks have been incredibly difficult. We have been under tremdendous spiritual attack, and life has felt like one trial after another. We’ve been dealing with a very stressful financial conflict, a deeply painful relational one, and we’ve started to wake up each morning saying, “God, what suffering is next?” I wonder if this is what Job must have felt, when, still reeling from the news of his children’s death, in marches more bad news.

In the midst of all of this, it is of course, our trust in God and His goodness that has felt the most shaken. But isn’t that always the case for us frail humans? Our relationship with God is ultimately what Satan is after in every one of our trials and sorrows. Each battle is a battle for the soul. Satan, with hopes to steal, kill, and destroy, and God with plans to heal and restore.

This all sounds reasonable on paper, but in real life there’s blood everywhere. And in the lowest moments my broken and bloodied heart has cried out, “Where are you God? Can I even trust You anymore!” I’ve had moments where I’ve seriously thought to myself, “Maybe I can’t trust Him. My baby’s body is laying in the ground, my heart feels broken beyond repair, and meanwhile the hits just keep on coming. Maybe I shouldn’t keep walking with you Lord.” And each time that thought has come to mind, an Enrique Inglesias song blares in my head.

Perhaps I should backtrack. My senior year of college was filled with trials. They weren’t of the magnitude we are walking through now, but they were still very painful and there came a point when I wasn’t sure I really wanted to trust God and walk with Him. I had a very honest chat with the Lord and told Him what He already knew…and then something very interesting happened.

I was talking with a friend and she was telling me about this new guy who was pursuing her. She was interested in him, but feeling so broken from a previous relationship that she just felt like she had nothing to give. He had called her that day and when she hung up she had stared at the phone and said, “God, If you want this relationship to happen, You’re going to have to make him fight for me.”

The moment she said it, I knew that that was where I was at with God. And so I prayed, “God, if you want me, you’re going to have to fight for me, because I am so weary and broken and have nothing left to give.”

And you know what…He did. Immediately, and over time, God continually fought for my heart.

Earlier that summer I had been working at a surf shop and the song of the summer was good old Enrique’s “Escape.” All summer long, I’d dust off surf boards, hand out surf reports, sell shell necklaces, and listen to Enrique’s words, “If you feel like leaving, I’m not going to make you stay. But soon you’ll be finding, you can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape my love.” All. Summer. Long. I got so sick of it. But that fall, when I asked God to fight for me, every time He did…it’s like He was saying, “See…you can’t escape my love.”

The week I prayed the “Fight For Me” prayer, I was visiting the office of my favorite professor. He asked me how my summer had been, and I gave him the glass-half-full version. I didn’t once mention to him that God and I were barely on speaking terms. When I finished my shiny summer recap, he said, “Misty Leigh, it sounds like you had a great summer. And please don’t be angry, but the Lord has put something on my heart so I’m just going to step out in faith and say it.” And then he said, “Misty, do not give up on God. If you fell away from the Lord you would fall very far and very hard and take a lot of people down with you.”

Cue the music. There it is again, that crazy Enrique song.

Ok… God. You have my attention.

My professors unsuspecting words were just one of the countless ways that I saw God fighting for my heart over those next few months. And, that’s how it’s been over these last few months as well. It has been pitch black darkness as the battle rages on in the unseen spiritual world. And we have been acutely aware of the battle for our souls. But we have also seen the God we can’t escape, lovingly fight for us.

I share this story because I think it’s one of the dirty little secrets of Christendom that we Christians don’t struggle to walk with Christ. But we just plain do. We struggle when we’re in college with college-sized battles, we struggle when we’re parents broken and grieving from the loss of a child, and some of us may struggle even on our death bed.

And how do I know this is a universal problem…because even the disciples struggled to follow Jesus. Jesus’ lonely, almost friendless suffering on the cross is a perfect example. Where were His friends?

But we are not without hope. In the last few agonizing months there is one story that God has continued to bring up to my heart. It’s recorded in John 6:67-69. A number of Jesus’ followers had just turned away from walking with him. They realized they couldn’t box Him up like they had thought they could, and so…they gave up on God. Jesus then turns to his disciples and asks, “Do you want to go away as well?” And Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

And that’s exactly how I’ve felt in my lowest moments since baby Charlie’s death. “Lord, I am broken, and struggling, and some days it is so hard to keep trusting You…But honestly, where else would I go?

I am convinced that YOU have the words that give eternal life and hope.

I am convinced that Your presence and love have been the best part of the darkest nights of my soul.

And I’m convinced that YOU…in spite of all that You have taken away…are still continuing day after day to fight for our hearts.”

I firmly believe that it’s in the deepest darkness that we most clearly see the truth that we are not indeed, the ones holding our relationship with God together. It is Him. All Him. The One whose love we cannot escape. The God who loved us all the way to the cross.

Do not give up on Him dear friends. I am here to testify that in the most paralyzingly dark moments of life… God is still God. And He longs to fight for us.

I have had good reason to question if He will…and even greater reasons to believe that He does.


A Personal Letter From Pastor John Piper

The week after Charlie died I received an incredibly kind and thoughtful letter from Pastor John Piper.  It was a long story I’ll keep short, but I was deeply encouraged that he would take the time to write me, and his words ministered so much to my heart.  We have never met, and probably won’t this side of heaven, but I can’t wait for the day when we do.  I can’t wait to introduce him to Charlie and to tell my sweet son that in one of the darkest nights of my soul, Pastor John’s words were one of the Lord’s kindest reminders to me of the promise of the joy that will someday come when I finally get to meet my baby son.

I was reminded not just that I will someday meet our precious Charlie James, but that I will meet him AS his mom, and have the joy of loving him as my son.  It meant so much to me to imagine a real conversation taking place with this little person I love so much, in a world where I will finally see him, and hear him, and know him, and love him…as I had so desperately longed to here on this earth.

We actually wrote one another a few times, but I’ve hesitated to share his words on a public forum without his permission.  I left it in the Lord’s hands and was so encouraged when Pastor John’s assistant wrote me this week to share that a number of people at Desiring God had been deeply encouraged by John’s letter and believed it would be a great blessing in the lives of others.   They asked for my permission to publish his first letter to me, and it is my prayer that it will be an encouragement to all who are grieving the loss of someone they love, and especially for the thousands of parents in this world who have experienced the heartbreaking pain of having to wait for heaven to be with their precious child.  The wait is so very long.

But I was reminded through Pastor John’s tender words that there will one day be an end to this sorrow.  And that the anguish from all of the missed birthdays and Christmases and Mothers days and Fathers days will one day be eclipsed by the joy of being with my little one forever in the Presence of Jesus.  The One whose presence gave us the grace to endure the deepest sorrow of our souls.  The One who Charlie always had the joy of knowing…from the very first days of his life…to the very moment when I finally get to say, “Hello, little one.  I’m your mom.”  The One who carried each one of us safely Home.

I can’t wait to meet our sweet Charlie James.  Until then, I rest in the promise that he is in very good hands. The Best in fact.

If you would like to read it, here is Pastor John’s letter…


A New Friend in Heaven

Yesterday, we were in Trader Joes and the checkout lady overheard sweet Fred announce that he had picked out another lollipop for Charlie.  Then she asked,

“Oh, so you also have another one at home?”  

Hmmm… in so many ways, yes.  Another precious little one is waiting at Home for us.  And today our sweet boy met someone very special in his life…his great-grandfather.

Today, Charlie James Zeller met his great grandfather James Zeller when Reid’s grandpa left this world and went to be with Jesus.

Went…implies motion. There was actually movement from one very tangible place to an equally, and yet uniquely, tangible place someplace else.

To be…Reid’s grandpa still very much is. I have never fully understood this until the moment our sweet Charlie was born. As I looked at the tiny frame I had longed to live life with…I knew in the most honest place in my heart that though I couldn’t have him and keep him the way I so desperately wanted to…our precious baby still was. He was just someplace else.

With Jesus. This, is the best part.  We go to be with Someone. Someone who loves us. Right now as I type, the little person who I longed to know and to love and to be with…is meeting his great grandfather.  The man who made the man who made the man…who made him.  In the presence of the One who made them all.  And though we so wanted to know him first, I am so very thankful for Jesus’ promise that from the moment we leave this earth, today…that very day…we would be with him in paradise.   I don’t know exactly how it all works, but I do know that Jesus never lies and never wastes words. And so I can trust him that Today. They are with him. And it is paradise.

After the recent loss of our precious boy, we just don’t have many callouses left on our broken hearts. And we feel raw and exposed as we process yet another loss. We also feel deeply envious. Grandpa Zeller is so very lucky to be free from all this pain and to be Home. To be with Jesus and Charlie in this moment.  I used to think Pastor John Piper was crazy for saying that he would be ushered into heaven shouting “Gain!” at the top if his lungs. Now, I get it.  The gain of being with Christ far exceeds the highest joy of any earthly moment.  It is all the best of this world, and infinitely better because He is there.

Right after Charlie died I read the following words shared by Pastor John at his baby granddaughters funeral. They were a great comfort to my heart and today, even more so…

“Being Felicity’s grandfather means that I have felt the loss through her great grandfather, my father Bill Piper. And this experience is totally different from all the others. In this case, the loss is all gain. My father died six months and sixteen days before Felicity did. I believe the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ covers the sins of all who trust him and all who are not old enough to trust him here but will trust him later.

Therefore, I believe Felicity and her great grandfather met each other early Sunday morning in the presence of Christ. And my father said, perhaps, “Hello, Felicity. I’m your great grandfather Piper. Come, there is somebody I want you to meet. His name is Jesus. He’s the reason you’re here. You don’t need to be afraid. Your Savior has led you all the way. And Jesus does all things well.”

Tonight I told the kids that their Papa’s Daddy had moved to heaven.  And Freddo exclaimed, “Jesus is in Heaven too!  And Charlie and his Papa!  They are both being friends!  So fun!”

And though I wish that we could all just be in the same place right now, someday, by the grace of God, we will be.  And it WILL be so very fun.

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Not Somehow, but Triumphantly

The summer after I graduated from college I was invited to a church to hear a woman speak.  She had been a missionary during the Vietnam War, and had ended up in a prisoner of war camp for three years during the worst of the fighting.  I don’t remember her name, or her ministry, or any other significant aspect of her story, but I do remember vividly one thing she said that day.

She was several months into her imprisonment and feeling deeply discouraged about her new reality.  One day, she just couldn’t take it anymore and broke down weeping.  She was sitting on the ground next to her husband…dirty, disheveled, broken, and weary.  In that moment she turned to him and said, “We have to get through this horror somehow!”  And he replied, “No.  Not somehow, but triumphantly.”

I’ve been thinking about those words a lot today as we continue to walk through the deep sorrow and suffering of burying a baby.  I’ve also been thinking about the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and I empathize with them deeply.  I know what it feels like to be happy one moment, and a moment later…the bomb goes off and you enter a life of permanent pain.  Births, marathons, birthdays, weddings, these are all “supposed” to be happy moments in our lives.  And the shock of joy suddenly turned to agony is incredibly debilitating.  The victims of this tragedy need the Lord in this moment desperately.  It is so very hard when you are sitting in the dust of despair to see any hope past your pain.  You can’t imagine even surviving your suffering…let alone triumphantly.

And yet, this missionary couple who were prisoners of a heinous war in a horrible place…did that very thing.  They walked with Jesus through the pain…not just barely, but triumphantly.  How did they do such a thing?  Honestly, I don’t remember the details really.  This was all pre-iPhone and I don’t have the notes I took from the day I heard this woman speak.

But I’ll tell you what I am certain about…it was Jesus every step of the way.

The missionaries words make me think of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:14, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  

As a Roman citizen, Paul was probably envisioning a “Roman triumph”- the religious rite in ancient Rome where the victor would get to publicaly declare his triumph on a foreign battlefield.  A victory lap for all the world to see.  The battle had been horrible beyond belief, but still the victor had won ultimately.  And now it was time to party.

This verse gives me great hope for today.

I’m still sitting in the dust, broken and weary.  I miss baby Charlie desperately, and wonder constantly why God chose this for our story.  We can make battles seem so glorious, but the real battles of life are devastatingly painful and there is nothing glorious about being broken and bleeding.  Most days I feel a lot closer to the battlefield, than to the Roman victory party.

But I truly believe that the party will come Someday.  One day, we who are in Christ, will finally see with sight, what we once had to take by faith.  That through every one of these painful sufferings of life we were being led by a loving God…

Not just somehow, but Triumphantly.

And in doing so…He spread the life-giving fragrance of Christ, revealing the glorious knowledge of Him along the way.

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The God Who Never Sleeps

The other night I was laying in bed at 2 am desperately trying to fall asleep, and the thought suddenly hit me…

“God, YOU are the one keeping them through the night.”

I thought of my precious kids in the next room over, sleeping soundly.  Breathing in.  Breathing out.  Again and again.  Breath after breath.  Night after night.  And in that moment I was overcome with the thought that with every breath He chose to give them…God was sustaining their lives.

And then I thought of my fourth baby.  The one who will never be coming to sleep in the room next to me.   I will never hear baby Charlie’s sweet breaths in the night.  And I ache with pain.

But the question remains:  Who kept me safe in the night when I was pregnant with Charlie?  Who caused my lungs to fill with air, and my heart to keep on beating?  Who kept me every one of those precious nights baby Charlie lived his life inside of me?  And who caused his heart to beat?  Who protected him in the night?

This was an important thought for me, because it’s most likely that baby Charlie died in the night.  Maybe when I turned over during the night.  Maybe while I was motionless and fast asleep.  As much as I long to know the exact moment and the exact way…does it matter really?  I was most likely fast asleep in that infinitely precious moment between my baby’s last moment on earth and his first step into eternity.

During my first pregnancy I had thought very seriously about buying one of those personal heart monitors that supposedly let you hear your baby’s heartbeat every moment of the day.  But do you know what held me back from that ridiculous purchase?  The words “every moment of the day.”  Because it wouldn’t be.  In the end…we all have to sleep.  No one would be able to stay awake and in “control” of that much of their life.

For all our dithering as humans about words like “choice” and “free will,”  and all the attempts we make to be “safe” and “healthy” and “protected” each day,  in the end we are all reduced to dust and frailty every time we go to sleep.  Even criminals and mafia dons are like helpless babes when they sleep.  I wonder sometimes if God gave us sleep simply to remind us daily of our frailty as created beings.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I used to be afraid of dying in my sleep.  When I was younger I had two fire alarms, a carbon monoxide detector and a radon dector in my room with me.  (I know.  I can be a real overachiever when I put my mind to something.)  My fears probably arose somewhat from that children’s prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”  Probably not the best prayer for a child as impressionable, imaginative, and literal as me.  But at some point I did take those words literally, and I became very afraid of dying in my sleep.

Then one day I shared this with a friend during a prayer time and she said, “Why don’t you close your eyes and picture yourself sleeping.”   She then told me to take a minute and imagine where Jesus was in the room while I was asleep.  And in that moment, as I prayed, God gave me a picture of Jesus coming around my bed and laying down beside me and rubbing my back like my mom used to do for me.  Next my friend said, “Now, as you picture Jesus with you in this moment, tell Him why you are so afraid.”  And so, I told Him.  I poured out my heart to Him in that fragile place…the place of sleep.  It was not strange or hokey in any way.  It was just a simple prayer time.  A time of talking to Jesus and seeing His presence in a painful and scary place in my life.  And I was no longer afraid.  Somehow, seeing God’s nearness to me in a place of deep fear, took away its power over my life.

Try it sometime.  Try going back to a moment that was painful or uncertain, or seemed to be a moment when God’s presence did not feel close by…and pray that God would give you a real picture of where Jesus was in that place and time.

Honestly, I think falling asleep was a huge fear of mine, ultimately because it felt like the end of me.  It was a very tangible picture of my being out of control of my life.  And isn’t that what all of our fears are really?

As the saying goes, “Tell me what you fear, and I will tell you what you love.”  Ultimately, every one of us have fears that reveal feeling out of control and incapable of protecting that which we love most.  Our lives.  Our loves.  Our health.  Our wealth.  Our dreams.  We fear reaching the end of ourselves.  We fear losing something we desperately wanted to keep.

And that’s what the last two and a half months have been for me.  Seeing the end of me.   I know now that I can’t keep my children alive past the number of days God has ordained for their lives.  I know now that I can’t protect my little ones from all of the pain and sorrows of this life.  I can’t protect them as they sleep.  I can’t even control one breathe I breath in the dark of night.  Or, for that matter, in the bright light of day.

We cannot protect our kids nearly as much as we’d like to think we can, and all of the vitamins, and seat belts, and doctor appointments in world mean absolutely nothing when God says that your time on this earth is finished.  I know this acutely.  And so does every parent I know who has had to bury a baby.

Every morning we humans wake up…up into the lives that God sustained through the night.  And then we go right back to a long day of fighting God tooth and nail for control of virtually every aspect of our lives.  And then, whether we like it or not, we go to bed each night, forced once again to give ourselves completely over to His safekeeping.  And thus ends another day.  Its exhausting this battle we humans fight.

What if we just stopped fighting?  What if we began to acknowledge Him for His goodness and sovereignty over every breath we take?  Both asleep and awake.   And what if we were able to more fully see His goodness and Sovereignty over even the day we stop breathing?

I wanted so badly to live life with our baby boy.  I wanted so very much to have a lifetime of seeing God give our Charlie breath, after precious breath of life.  But I am learning that just because life is precious… does not mean we’ve been unprotected when it is taken away.

Psalm 121:4 says, “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”  I love how Israel means “One who struggles with God.”  That’s you and me.  It pretty much sums up us humans perfectly.  Constantly struggling against the One who never slumbers nor sleeps.  Who lovingly gives us every breathe we take.  And then, one day, lovingly… doesn’t.  One day, in each one of our lives, He will instead chose to protect us and keep us…by gently drawing those who are His into eternity.

And as these days go by, what defines us most is not the number of our days, or even the quality…but rather our faith in the One who gives us every breath we breathe.  Our faith in the God who does not sleep.

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How Death Changes Your View On Dying

You would think that the worst days of grief would be the first ones.  But there is just so much shock and raw pain during that time, that in some ways it hurts even more as the shock waves begins to subside.  There’s been so many moments lately where I’ve been struck by the reality that this is a permanent pain.  Fred has started asking a lot more questions about his baby brother lately.   He talks about Charlie all the time.  And every time we go to Trader Joes, Fred picks out a special lollipop for Charlie.  At first I thought it was just a really smart way to acquire an extra lollipop.  But he never eats it.  He just saves Charlie’s lolly for him…day after day.

It’s just so hard to look into those beautiful, big brown eyes on the face that looks so much like baby Charlie’s and to tell him again and again, “I am so very sorry, Freddo, but Charlie is not coming to play.”  “He is not coming to eat that lollipop you picked out for him today.”  Or ever.  Never. Ever.   This is one of a million permanent pains.

I am now permanently broken in certain ways.  My arms will always be empty.  My heart will always ache for the baby boy that God did not let us keep.  I will always wish that God had chosen to write this story a different way.  I will always weep when I look at the one day of pictures I have from my baby boy’s entire life.  I will always feel a catch in my breath when I hear someone say his precious name.

But my heart is also permanently changed.  Changed in a few very precious ways.  And one of the big ones is my view on dying.  Suddenly, I am no longer afraid to die.  I, who have always been afraid to die.  It’s amazing how death changes dying.

I have always wanted to go to Heaven someday.  But I wanted it to be on some very distant day, when nothing else was going on in my life.  But when exactly would that be?  There will always be something, or someone, or some moment that makes earth feel like a special place that’s somewhat hard to leave.  And that is probably what has most changed.

Suddenly, something I want very badly…is on the other side of life.

Please hear me…I do not want to take my life. I just finally get it, in a real and tangible way, that LIFE goes on past the breaths we breathe.  I get it now that someone very special and very much alive is waiting for me on the Heaven side of eternity.  You don’t really get this until someone you love even more than you love yourself…leaves your life.  Knowing my baby Charlie is there already actually makes me long for that day…just like I long for other days.

The other day I was talking to my friend Jenn about my longing to be with Charlie and she said, “But there are so many good things yet to come in this life…seeing Emma walk down the aisle on her wedding day, watching Freddo graduate, seeing Sophie come to Christ, and you don’t want to miss all of those good things.”  She was crying as she said it.  She’s a great friend.  But even as she said it, I thought to myself…I really DO want to be at those things, but even my thoughts about those things have changed.  Because now I know in my heart, and not just my head, that there is also joy waiting after the grave.  That someone is waiting.  The moment of finally meeting my baby boy is waiting for me on the other side.  And I am permanently changed.

I want so much to be at those special moments of life, but I know now that they’re not everything.  That life does not hold EVERY joy.  Some joys, are actually waiting on just the other side.  I realize now that some really special things are actually waiting for me on both sides of my life, and as a major dreamer and planner, this reality is a huge paradigm shift for me.  I now long for those joys with three of my kids and my joy in finally meeting Charlie equally.  It will be my first time seeing Emma wearing white and holding a bouquet.  It will be my first time seeing Fred wearing a cap and gown ready and waiting to venture out into life.  But…Heaven will be my first time seeing Charlie.  It will be my first moment truly seeing my baby boy.  And it got me dreaming…What will that be like?   What I will say?   What will he look like?  And as I dreamed of that day, there was such joy knowing that THIS WILL BE HAPPENING.  I.  Can’t. Wait.

But I have to.  And until the day God choses for me to meet my baby boy face to face…I have to take it by faith that there is joy as well on this side of the grave.  It probably feels crazy to read that since most of us spend most of our lives longing for these days, and, let’s be honest, clinging to them in a lot of ways.  I know.  I was just like that.  And I think God knows our hearts and understands our longing for this world and it’s joys…since we’ve never been to the Place He’s preparing on the other side.

But God knows my heart in this new longing for Heaven as well.  He knows, even better than I, that someone I love deeply is now in that Place.  There has been a permanent heart shift, and this is one of many ways that I can see how deeply my sweet Charlie’s life has impacted mine.   He has shown me that not just Jesus, and not just Heaven, and not just Eternity are waiting on the other side of the grave, but so too are some of my favorite and most special memories.  Memories with the people I love most.   Memories with one little person in particular.  Memories yet to be made.

Longing to meet Charlie doesn’t lessen the highest joy of seeing Jesus on the other side…but it does heighten my awareness of how real this Place is going to be.  Of how good it will be to finally be Home.  To finally greet people with “hello,” and never have to say “goodbye.”  To finally be free of the sickness and sorrow and suffering and pain that mark each one of our lives.  To finally be.  And to just keep right on being…for all eternity.

Thank you my sweet boy for teaching me that this world is not the only place that holds joy.  I knew it was true, because I believed in the One who is waiting with you in Heaven, but now I feel it in new and deeper ways.  Some day I will see you both face to face.  Your life has taught me to be on a countdown to eternity.  Your life has taught me more deeply that what Paul said really is true, that for believers in Jesus, “To die is gain.”  It will be gain to see His beautiful face.  It will be gain to meet you baby in that precious place.  It will be gain to finally take in by sight…all this that I had to take by faith.  And so, I wait for life with you.  I wait for gain.

I love you baby, Mommy.