In a few days, shiny Christmas cards will pour into mailboxes across the land.
Ones like this…
I mean, this picture has it all…cute kids, coordinating clothes, and universal smiles. And yet, the picture just feels so devastatingly wrong.
I used to actually enjoy squeezing my unruly little family into matching ensembles, and tickling them into their best smiles. I liked how pictures captured the essence of our family and the transformation of our little people as they grew from year to year. I used to love Christmas pictures.
Right up until this year.
Ever since January when baby Charlie died and the world went dark forever…I have been dreading our November photo shoot. Then in June, when the next baby died, the dread got even heavier. My heart ached with the reality that no picture, no matter how great the outfits and perfect the smiles, would ever come close to capturing this little family I love so much.
Because they just aren’t here.
Charlie isn’t here.
Baby Zeller isn’t here.
And now, devastatingly, the newest little Zeller we had hoped to make a million memories and take a billion pictures with…isn’t coming here either.
On Monday, we went in for my first ultrasound. I could tell from the moment the doctor looked at the screen, that all of our hopes for this precious new life…were about to be shattered. “I’m so sorry,” he said, “But I don’t think this baby is going to live.”
It’s been a long, painful week of waiting in agony for this little person to join his siblings in heaven…and now he has. Or should I say she? I just don’t know. We don’t even know if this newest little Zeller would have needed a dress to match the girls, or a bow tie like big brother Freddo. We just know that this new baby isn’t coming to live with us. Either. Ever.
There’s now three babies I carry in my heart. Three babies who we loved and prayed for and longed to know. Three babies who I think about every moment of every day. Three babies who will always be missing from our Christmas card.
And I ache in places too deep to reach as we deal with loss, upon loss, upon loss.
I could fill this post with lots of words…in hopes of describing all that we’re feeling right now. But it hurts too much for words, so I’ll just say it in pictures…SORROW. More than anything, I feel sorrow. I had thought baby Charlie would be here. Holding his handprints is a miserable substitute to holding his beautiful, chubby, ten-month-old hands. I desperately miss those precious hands. I miss the millions of ways they would have left fingerprints all over my doors, and imprints all over my heart. I ache with longing for the baby boy I will never know as a baby. And for the next baby. And the next.GRATITUDE. Gratitude doesn’t come easy…in the shadow of now having as many babies in heaven as we have on earth. I mostly feel forgotten, betrayed, and abandoned. And broken beyond words. At the same time, I also feel gratitude every time I look at this picture. Grateful for what we have been given, in the midst of an endless season of suffering over the children we have not. Grateful for life with these precious ones, as we wait for Life with the others.Grateful…for Emma, who has more tenderness, empathy, faith, and depth than most “big people” I know. Grateful to be there to hold her today, as her body racked with sobs over the loss of yet another baby sibling she had so badly wanted. I am grateful that you, sweet girl, will grow up knowing the true, but very un-American, sentiment that prayer is not ordering God around…but rather humbly bringing the longings of your heart…and knowing your heart may hurt for doing so. I am so challenged by your unwavering faith as you risk the hurt of hope…again & again.Grateful for Freddo, who so tenderly fought for this little one’s life. The other day, I was reading books with the kids. Sophie was about to climb over my belly when Freddo cried out, “No Sophie, NO! You could hurt the baby in Mommy’s tummy! We have to be careful!” I love you my sweet boy, you are the world’s best big brother. I so desperately wish little Charlie was here to play planes and trains with you. And I deeply admire your joyful, cheerful spirit as you suffer through the ache of playing alone.
Grateful for Sophie Noel- my little joy box. Grateful for the sunshine you force into every day of this incredibly painful life, when all I really want to do is lay on the floor and weep. Grateful you invite me to more.
Grateful for my incredible husband. You continue to love me so very well, even though I’m a total raging mess right now. And you continue to cling, bravely and unwavering, to the God I am struggling so much to trust.
And most of all…Grateful for Jesus. It is deeply difficult to hold unto faith right now. So hard to believe that God hears our prayers, sees our tears, and cares about the incredibly debilitating suffering that has become our permanent “new normal.”
It’s a very short list of things I am certain about right now…and one of those is the promise that someday, this horrific pain we have to live in, will finally be over forever. The promise that Jesus is preparing a place for us, and will someday finally rescue us from this life that aches with every breath.
The promise of HOPE.
Which leads me to my favorite family picture. I discovered this the other day as I was cleaning out Emma’s backpack. Immediately, I knew it was a “framer.” She had drawn this before she knew I was pregnant, so of course, it is still not a perfect representation of our family…but it’s close. As close as we’re going to get this side of forever.I love so many things about this. The “boys” spiky hair. The “girls” awesome antlers. And most of all, the smiles on the babies faces. At first, I was so sad to see that the babies are the only ones smiling. But of course they are…
Because they are Home.
And someday, by the grace of God, we will be too.
Until then, we’d so appreciate your prayers as we navigate yet another turn in this seemingly endless Valley of the Shadow of Death we now live in. As we cling to our Shepherd, who promises He is always with us, even as my heart screams out over and over, “Where are you?!” And as we live by faith, and not by sight, that someday…
We will finally get that perfect family picture.