Moments Of Impact
For many years, I’ve thought about starting a blog. I’ve hesitated, because I really believe that in these precious years when my little ones are little…I would rather be with them than be writing about being with them.
But in life, there are moments of impact. Moments that change you, and all you knew of life…forever. And this week…on January 28th, 2013…we experienced the deepest, most heart-wrenching, life-altering moment of impact we will probably ever face.
Our precious son, Charlie James Zeller was born without a beating heart. His body was whole and beautiful and perfect…but the breath of life was gone. No words can fully describe the sorrow and torment in this moment of impact.
Last Sunday night, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I just hadn’t felt Charlie kicking very much. Of all of my children, Charlie was the only one who I had felt kicking very much to begin with, so I was more concerned than I normally would have been. Since I was at 37 weeks I felt that things were fine and that I should just go in for a quick stress test. I didn’t even pack a bag. I went alone. Utterly and confidently alone… because I didn’t know it was going to be the darkest night of my entire life. I just didn’t know. I got to the hospital and the nurse came in to check on my sweet baby’s heartbeat. Every other time we’ve checked for the heartbeat it has taken but a moment. Charlie is my little kicker. His heartbeat is also easy to hear and fast to find. And yet, as the nurse waved her little wand around my belly…there was just silence. Silence forever. Finally, I told her, “This just isn’t normal…it never takes this long.” And so, an incredible doctor who just “happened” (one of a million mercies of God) to be on the floor that night, said he would come take a look with his ultrasound so I wouldn’t have to wait an extra hour for the on-call doctor to arrive. By this point…I knew. I knew what silence means, but I still couldn’t comprehend what that moment of silence would mean for my night, for my week, for my life.
The doctor came in and after a few moments of looking at my belly, at Charlie’s home, he said, “I’m sorry. I don’t see or hear anything. Your baby is gone.” I couldn’t even cry. I couldn’t even comprehend. I just kept moving. Through the worst phone call of my life…to the person I love more than anyone in the world who was so very excited to meet his new baby boy. Through six trys and retrys of an epidural that would not even end up working. Through a long night of labor that would not end in joy, and an even longer night of the soul. Through that ultimate moment of impact when Charlie came out and we didn’t even know it because of the silence. I remember looking at this beautiful, perfectly formed, and absolutely precious little body and thinking, “There he is. He is finally here. And he is gone.” I knew…I knew beyond any doubt that his body was here in the hospital room of earth, but that my little boy was not here…I knew our baby was already with the Lord.
I love theology and could wax poetic on all of the verses of Scripture that bring confidence to my heart that Charlie was immediately with Jesus in heaven, but for now I’ll save those. What matters is that I knew. And knowing was enough to get through the night, and give grace for that moment. Those moments of holding him, this hot little weight in my hands…who had Emma’s feet, Sophie’s nose, Freddo’s crazy hair, Mommy’s chin, and Daddy’s lips. Feet I so badly wanted to hear running along behind the “big kids.” A little nose I wanted to wipe every time he fell and scrapped his knees in the true fashion of a little boy. Hair I wanted to tousle, lips I wanted to kiss. And all of that…ALL of that was gone.
And then, in that moment of utter darkness the Lord brought the Bible story of Hannah and her little Samuel to my mind. I didn’t remember the exact words at the time, but one thing seemed very real to me…Hannah had given her son into the Lord’s hands…to live not with her, but with Him…for Samuel’s whole life. I felt like the Lord was saying to me in that moment, “Will you give your precious son to me?” Will you trust Charlie into My safekeeping…in a painful and profound way…for every moment of his life?” ”
Will you do what Hannah chose to do, not because you chose it, but because I have chosen this for you…I have chosen this for him? Because I have chosen to take Charlie’s life.”
“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there. -1 Samuel 1:27-28
When we think of what we pray for our children above all else, it is that each of our kids would know the Lord Jesus and walk with him their whole lives. And even though our hearts are breaking, and we would have loved every minute of life with our precious little boy…the dream is the same. Being pregnant with three other kids means you just don’t think about the fourth kid as much as if he were your first, but over the last nine months the one thing we have prayed for most for our sweet Charlie James is that he would know Jesus someday.
Someday came so much earlier than we would have liked. But Someday came.
And so we give our little one over to the Lord, born into the arms of Jesus… for his whole life. I don’t want this. I don’t want this to be God’s will, but I am absolutely convinced that it is. After many blood tests the doctor said he is almost certain that somewhere during Charlie’s 37th week of life, the placenta became unattached from my uterine wall and our Charlie was gone in an instant. Even if I had felt it, even if I had known…nothing could have been done. I have asked God a thousand times “Why?” “Why now?” Why him?” “Why this?” but there is only one answer to that question though we keep on asking. It is the same answer I give my kids when they ask me “Why?” about something and I just need them to trust me…“Because I said so.” Some moments the grief is so utterly overwhelming I don’t even know how we will ever go on through another day of life without our baby boy. But I know that this is our story because God said so…and that though He slay me…though He shatter my dreams, bring to pass my deepest fears, take away what I love most…yet somehow I can really say just as Job once said, “I trust Him.”
Over the next few days, weeks, years, who knows really…I will be sharing more about our sweet Charlie’s story, but for now I want to share why we are calling this Charlie’s song.
No words can fully express the sorrow we have felt in the last seven days. But there are some words in my heart, and for the first time in my life as a mother… taking the time to share them is one of the only ways I can love my precious baby. I’d rather be holding him. I’d rather be sleep-deprived, and angry about nursing, and overwhelmed at four kids and new motherhood… but one of the only ways we can love our 4th born son is by honoring his story and sharing the story God chose to write for our little Charlie. Please read it. Please remember his precious life. Please know Jesus and His love more through him, and all that God is teaching us through loving our sweet Charlie James.
I think about how Paul says to the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 3:2, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.” And being precious, made by God, formed in my womb, and known and loved by Him…I really believe our little Charlie is as much a letter from God, written to make known God’s love for the world…just as much as you and me.
But as I was thinking about little boys, I was thinking how much they are NOT writers. For the first part of boyhood, they can’t write. For the rest of boyhood, most of them are forced to against their wills by well-meaning schools. Little boys don’t want to be writing…they want to be playing in the mud, splashing in puddles, singing in the sun. And so…here is our little Charlie’s song. Written on our hearts. May it be known and read by everyone. And may reading it…change forever how you see our precious Savior…the one who is holding our sweet Charlie today. The One who is singing to him, even as He continues to write our Charlie’s Song.
With love and tears, ever desperate for your prayers,
There are things that we just never, ever wanted to do. Picking out a baby casket. Choosing a place to bury our son. Saying goodbye to the child of our love. Inconceivably dark sorrows. But…there are also things we never knew. We never knew just how much the Lord Jesus lovingly carries you when you absolutely cannot even walk. We never knew how tender He can be to gently lead those who as Isaiah says, “Are with young.” And we never knew how beautiful the hope of Heaven is, and what it feels to long to be there so very badly. To actually want to be in heaven…more than we want to be on earth. In the last seven days we have experienced both the things we never wanted to do and the things we never knew…and often in the very same moment.
Last week, as we went to see where our baby boy’s precious body would rest until the return of Christ and resurrection of the saints, I was overcome with sorrow as I looked at the beauty surrounding that place…
The rich green hills: A little boy would have loved hiking on these green hills. The path that leads to the ocean just a few miles away: Oh how I longed for Charlie to go surfing with his daddy. The perfect little climbing tree: Charlie would have loved climbing this tree with his big brother someday. And it hurt so badly thinking of all that will never be in this beautiful place. All of the things that we will never get to see Charlie do…that we wanted, and dreamed, and planned on for as long as we have known of his life.
But it is so very true that the steadfast love of the Lord endures, and His mercies never fail. As I looked at the place we call “home,” a place of green pastures and quiet waters where the Lord really has restored our souls…I was reminded of something that happened before Charlie came. A few months ago, we were driving home from a family adventure through the beautiful green hills in our town, and listening to Phil Wickham’s “Heaven Song.” And I remember thinking in that moment how much our hills remind me of the hills of Heaven.
As I listened to that song this week in the place where Charlie’s body rests, tears of joy streamed down my cheek. God somehow even in the darkest night…is so very good. He is so good that we get to see Him someday face to Perfect face. He is so good that we will get to see our little Charlie some day, and finally get to know him as we so desperately long to.
And as we spend every day that is left of our lives apart from where Charlie is spending every day of his…my heart says in a fresh way that has never longed for Heaven so badly…
“I want to run on greener pastures, I want to dance on higher hills
I want to drink from sweeter waters, In the misty morning chill
And my soul is getting restless, For the place where I belong
I can’t wait to join the angels and sing my heaven song.”
I love you my sweet boy, and I can’t wait to be with you and Jesus someday soon.
click here to listen to Heaven Song
What I Want You To Know About Our Sweet Boy…
Today, I have this desperate longing for baby Charlie. The day we found out we were having a boy we announced it to everyone on instagram with “Screaming for Joy, we’re having a boy!” It was honestly one of the happiest days of my life, and one of my favorite moments with our sweet Charlie James. He had waved at us that afternoon during the ultrasound, and we had all gotten to see him suck his sweet baby thumb. It was such a great day.
Oh, how I wish I could hold his little hand today. There is so much I longed to know about our precious Charlie. What color were his beautiful eyes? How I long to see those eyes! Would his favorite color have been blue like his big brother, or green maybe? Would he have loved to hear “Twinkle, Twinkle” before bed or “You are my Sunshine?” Tears stream down my face as I think of all I long to know about my sweet boy. What I do know about him is so dismally inadequate when I had longed to know him for a lifetime.
I also have this desperation for you to know our Charlie James. You would have loved him, I just know it! And you will when you meet him in Heaven someday.
But here is what I do know…and I will treasure these knowings always.
Charlie was an adventurous little guy. While he was with us we had such fun times as a family. In June, Charlie went on a ministry trip to East Asia with Mommy and Daddy. In July, he went kayaking along the beautiful Central Coast of California past deserted islands, and through star fish-covered caves. In October he went hiking in the Redwoods, and to the pumpkin patch, the apple farm, and the beach. He drove all the way to Oregon and back one crazy weekend when we bought our vintage camper…which was seriously one of the only ways we “nested” in preparation for Charlie’s coming. And he went to Disneyland and heard fireworks and the “It’s a Small World” song…waaaaay too many times. : )
Charlie loved chocolate-covered almonds, rotisserie chicken, sparkling water, and blueberry pancakes. He loved playing soccer in my belly late at night. He loved story time and always kicked so happily while Mommy read him stories.
Charlie was loved deeply by our family. Every time I held his big sister Sophie in my arms she was right there hugging baby Charlie. He heard Mommy and Daddy’s voice singing to the big kids every night at bedtime. Charlie heard his big brother singing the crazy “Awana Goodbye” song every Tuesday night. He heard our endless list of things we were “Thankful For” during November and Christmas music every day after that for a solid six weeks. He also heard the big kids playing, Mommy and Daddy laughing, and the Word of God as we’d read His love letter together as a family.
And most of all…he heard the many things I did not. Charlie heard my heart beating. He heard the ocean waves of amniotic fluid. He heard me breathing. And one day, though we’ll never know the exact day, Charlie heard His maker’s loving voice say, “Come with me…I am ready to take you home my sweet boy.”
I wish so badly that God had written a different story. But I am learning more and more each day, that the God of Job, the God of Jacob, the God of all who call Him Father and wrestle to see His face…He is also my God. He does not change. And He always has and always will be the God of Ephesians 1:11 who does all things “according to the counsel of His will.” My will? No. Your will? No. God checks with no one but Himself when He is planning each moment of our lives. He takes counsel from His will alone. That is His job. Surrender to that…is mine.
Some moments that’s going well actually. Most moments it is not. But I am learning that I can praise Him and thank Him for what I do know…and that that will absolutely have to be enough for my heart today. We know that we will always be the proud parents of a beautiful baby boy named Charlie James, who loved music, and pancakes, and adventures, and is finally safe where we all long to someday be safe…in the presence of our loving Christ.
I want to close with what is now one of my favorite pictures of our precious Charlie. It’s from Blue Ice Cream day and it’s awesome and perfect in every way. Fred is picking his nose, I’m trying to clean off Sophie’s face, and she is about to plunge into that lovely looking ice cream. It is just so classic. It is just so our crazy family. And it is a great picture of sweet Charlie in my belly. In the midst of our crazy photo shoot…there he was our baby boy. With us for eight and a half precious months in our messy, glorious, God-ordained lives.
i love you, my sweet baby. And I can’t wait to finally be together again Someday.