I’ve heard it said that our lives are kind of like a tapestry that is being woven. In the process of weaving, it looks like a giant mess of string wads. Yeah. Kind of like our lives sometimes. We never know what in the world kind of goodness could possibly come from our turmoil or struggle. It’s hard to see that kind of perspective when you are in the midst of the muck … or for me … while I was in the midst of my grief. At the end of the weaving process, the beautiful tapestry is born. The messy string wads that were once covering it are all cut away, and what remains, is something warm, beautiful, and good.
This is the last part in a series that I have been sharing about the loss of my newborn son. If you haven’t read the other parts, you can find them here.
Today is Joshua Caleb’s birthday. Today he would have been 25. Unbelievable to me.
There are times that it feels like 1992 was just a couple of years ago, and then at times it feels like it was an eternity ago. This post has always been the last part of the series to write, but I honestly didn’t plan to post this today (on his birthday). As I was writing this last part (a week ago), I looked at the date of posting and realized the date would be November 21st.
At that moment, I just knew that the Lord was in this … Just more confirmation of his love for us all, even in something seemingly, so insignificant as when to make a blog post go live. What timing! Yes, as of today, 25 years have passed by. Over the course of this series, I have eluded to being able to see God’s goodness in the aftermath of a tragedy.
You may be wondering if I have been able to find any good. Well, 25 years later… Yes!
A resounding Yes!
No doubt in my mind that God is who He says He is, and that the Word is absolute truth. Yes, it’s still a choice I make to choose faith over fear in any situation. Yes, it’s still a struggle sometimes. I honestly can’t believe it is, but it is. I’m just being real here. Sometimes I wonder what God thinks when he sees us questioning or worrying. I kind of imagine He’s watching us thinking, “Really? You are worrying again? Have you not seen what I’ve done for you?” I guess it’s hard for us humans to catch on sometimes. Haha!
So what good have I seen come from the tremendously painful loss of my son?
Let me start by saying, in 25 years, I have been fortunate to be the proud momma to 3 more loves. We have 23-year-old Jacob Gideon. He is very smart, faithful, and honorably serves our country in the Air Force. We have a beautiful, 20-year-old Rebekah Danielle, who is very smart and creative, and is currently on the path of figuring out what she wants for her life, and then a 9-year-old Zoe Isabella, who is very loving and full of life in every way. God has thoroughly blessed us with children.
I still see Joshua daily, in my memories and in all of my children. When that little tiny 2-pound baby boy lifted his head and turned it over at 3-days-old (dislodging his ventilator to the amazement of his nurses), I saw his fighting strength. I see that same characteristic in my beautiful Rebekah, over and over. She was a fighter from the beginning too, but that’s another story. 😉
When the doctors told my husband and mom that Joshua would not likely make a 45-minute ride to Egleston on the day of his birth, I saw his determination to beat the odds. I see that determination in my Jacob, who never gives up even if he feels like he wants to sometimes. When the nurses were so surprised at how active Joshua was (both during the pregnancy without amniotic fluid and after birth), his strong-will and tenacious spirit showed through. Guess who I see those qualities in. I see it in Zoe. Every. Single. Day.
My family went through a healing process
In Part 9: I Prayed for Peace the Day I Buried My Son, I mentioned a glimpse my father and I got of my mom and my step-mom washing dishes at my kitchen sink. That was just the beginning of how things began changing. Joshua’s birth and death were actually the first time my mother, father, and step-mom were in the same room without tension and arguing. They were there for us. Their focus switched from the hurt and resentment of the past to the need of the moment. The door was opened for healing to begin. Over the course of the last 25 years, we began celebrating birthdays and holidays together. My mom, dad, and step-mom were able to begin a (somewhat strange to me and others) friendship. A heart change was evident in all of them, from my perspective.
I have no doubt that my father is in Heaven
My Dad was deeply hurt when his good friend, the church pastor that he looked up to as somewhat of a mentor, ran off with the church secretary. Dad believed that if the pastor couldn’t live a life true to his beliefs, then how could he even think that he would be able to. While my mom took me and my brother to church, I don’t recall my dad ever coming with us or showing any interest in faith or church. I remember several arguments about a difference in the way faith and values were managed in our household. The use of “X-mas” verses “Christmas” as a minor example. I’ve heard him say things (whether he realized I heard them or not) that indicated an overall lack of caring about God.
Some of those words he said stuck with me.
Through the years, when God or faith was brought up in conversation, he would be quick to change the subject, brush it off, or leave the conversation. At the very least, I did understand, that his heart was hard towards God. I remember as I grew up fearing for my dad’s soul and praying so faithfully that God would allow things to happen in his life that would change his heart. I remember a solid point in time that all of that changed.
Yep. Joshua Caleb.
This was also one of the very, very few times in my life that I saw my father cry. Following Joshua’s death, Dad would not just tolerate the spiritual conversations, but he began starting them. He began asking us questions. Questions where we would literally get out our Bible and look up the answers together. Those kinds of questions.
I believe he was seeking God out in his own way and in his own time. In the years to come, he changed. I don’t just mean a little bit, but a lot. Family was always important to him, but in the past, how he showed love was by buying you things. As the years passed, he began spending more time with us all, and hanging around home more rather than working at one of his 10,000 jobs. He began playing games with us when we came up for a visit.
It was evident that his heart began changing. Don’t get me wrong, he still got frustrated with people. He still had his faults. We all do though. But charity was a big deal to him. BIG DEAL. I remember a story of some construction equipment that he had donated to a local church for an auction to raise money. Dad drove the bid up as high as he could and bought the equipment, and then returned it to the auction for them to make more money from someone else’s purchase. Haha! He was kind of crazy like that.
Three and a half years ago, when I received that dreaded phone call in the middle of the night, from my step-mom, telling me that he had passed away, my heart grieved for him. Desparately. Actually, my heart still grieves in a big way, if I’m truly honest about it. I still miss him dearly every single day, but immediately, I had an ever-present peace in knowing I will see him again.
So yes, I believe he made his peace with God and that I will see him again. After all, I saw the fruit in him. This is worth my agony.
My Faith was made stronger
We saw miracles take place in front of our eyes. Miracles. We saw Joshua’s body healed. We saw the doctors confused at some of the things that happened with him. We saw God answer our prayers. We saw Him move mountains. I mean right in front of our eyes. His spine was broken in 2 places! And then 2 months later, it wasn’t!!! His kidneys didn’t function in-utero until after my 5th month!
Doctors stayed baffled. There was one night that my son, Jacob, asked me “How do we know God is real?” I told him my reasons for how I know, without doubt, that God is real, but that he needed to seek his own answers to that question. I told him once he has experienced God and His goodness then nobody can ever take that from him. It’s his for a lifetime. Our experiences are what grows our faith if (and when) we have the perspective to see. That’s why it’s important for us to reflect back on our lives and experiences from time to time, so we can see where we were and where God has delivered us to!
My husband and I grew together
So often tragedy tears couples up. All of this loss occurred in our first year of marriage. We turned to each other. We bonded over all of the loss. We supported one another. We took care of each other. We prayed for each other. And over the last 25 years, we also remember together. I’m not saying we are perfect. We are not. We have had our fair share of ups and downs along the way. Satan has attacked us at various stages. But do you know what?
Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
We walk together on this narrow path and we trust the ONE that has the answers.
It drove me to my passion
I have known since I was about 15 that I wanted to grow up and be a counselor. I wanted to help people that were hurting. It wasn’t until I went through losing Joshua that I realized I wanted to focus on women and marriage. That’s where my heart is. I felt God’s prompting back in 2005 to go back to school. I got a Bachelor of Science in Social Science and Human Services from Mercer University, and then got a Master’s Degree in Family Therapy, and went on to get licensed by the state of my residence.
I have been practicing for several years at a counseling center attached to a church, and more recently, I have felt called to expand my borders. Yep. In one sense, I’m terrified. In another sense, I’m at complete peace. I will begin offering life and relationship coaching services ONLINE beginning in January for women and couples. I’ll tell you more over the next month. It’s a big step and lots of change, but I am so stinking excited about it.
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Just a little something to ponder …
Our perspective, while not always truth, it is our reality. It’s our truth. Grief is a monster any way you look at it. I’ve had my fair share of it. No doubt. But I choose to believe that God will make a way where there seems to be no way. The day Joshua Caleb passed away, I didn’t know what I know now. I’m not sure that it would have changed anything about the grief that I felt over the years, following his death. BUT … I look back now and I can see where a beautiful tapestry was being woven out of a tremendous heart-wrenching, broken-hearted tragedy.
I admit that I have been living in disobedience for many years. I have told the testimony of Joshua on many occasions, when prompted by the Holy Spirit, but I must be honest and tell you that God told me to write it down about 15 years ago. I didn’t. Why? Because I knew the story wasn’t finished. The truth is that our stories are ever-changing. Our journey continues until the day we leave this planet. God continues to use our experiences, good and bad, for our sakes, yes, but for others, too. I regret that I didn’t write it sooner, and I may never know the impact on others that read it. But what I do know is that God is always faithful if we choose to step out of our box and trust Him first. So that’s what I’m doing here. Stepping out of my box.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4
What’s next? I have some ideas and promptings, but really NO CLUE what it all means. I’m just taking it one step at a time and attempting to follow through when I hear God’s voice say to me… “Now do this.”
No matter what your situation is… No matter where you are in your life… No matter how badly you think you have screwed up… No matter if your marriage is in shambles… No matter if you can’t see a way out, or a way home… God is not done with you. He is not done with your story. He is NOT. DONE.
No reason to fear though, He holds the world in the palm of His hand.