With all the amazing truth God has shown me over the last few weeks, I thought for sure I was ready to tackle Tenley’s first birthday. “I think I’ve finally come to terms with Tenley’s big day,” I told my friend, Amanda. Kindly, Amanda simply smiled her “We’ll See” smile and opted not to argue.
I’m thankful to have a friend, like Amanda who sometimes knows me better than I know myself. In the days that followed, it didn’t take long for me to realize that God and I still had some work to do.
Two days before Tenley’s birthday, my emotional dam broke open. After arguing with my husband over something insignificant, I found myself angry and upset. To my surprise this petty argument was all it took for my defenses to crumble. Pent up tears started to fall, slowly at first for the frustration I felt towards Chris, then quickly for my heart’s true ache. Before I knew it I found myself weeping for the unavoidable arrival of Tenley’s birthday and for all the longing I have felt this year.
“God, why?” I asked. “After all you have taught me, why do I still feel this way? Why do I still feel so deeply upset?”
“Because it’s not just about Tenley, and it’s not just about the day she was born,” He gently replied.
Suddenly, I realized through God’s tender reply, that all the grief I have been feeling over Tenley’s birthday and the loss of a natural delivery is not just about these recent experiences. Rather, this grief is old and lasting.
It’s about the time in high school when I didn’t make the basketball team. It’s about the time I failed to finish my first marathon. It’s about my decision to not finish college and the book it’s taken me five years (and counting) to finish. This grief is about all my significant failures. It’s about each and every time I’ve felt defeated or have failed to accomplish something precious and important.
Finally, the nagging ache in my heart made sense. Some of these experiences happened to me when I was very young, and all of them have awaited their chance to be tended by God’s loving care for a long, long time. In a sweet instant, in my very own water to wine miracle, my tears turned into laughter, and for the first time in 363 days of sorting through the desires of my heart I felt at peace.
For so long now, I have looked at this season of desire, loss, and sadness as something I had to get over, as something I had to let go. By validating my feelings of grief, I also feel that God is showing me that these experiences are not something I have to let go or get over. They are a part of me, a part of who I am. Each and every one of them has shaped me, formed me. How could I let them go?
Rather than dwelling on them, rather than staying here, stuck in grief, I must, by God’s grace and guidance keep going. I must continue to bring the aches of my heart to God. I must find my security and comfort in Him and His truth. I must allow myself the grace to grieve my losses, defeats, and failures. And I must continue to desire, to trust in the plans He has for me, and sow the seeds He plants in my heart.
Throughout the scriptures God instructs His people to set up memorial stones as a testimony to the way He has worked and provided for those He calls His own. Tenley has grown a lot this year, but sometimes I wonder if I have grown even more. This growth has only been possible through God’s work in my life, and I feel the need to remember this year, to testify about what He has done.
As Tenley’s birthday arrives, I will hold her, love her, and cherish her. With every smile, every kiss, every hug, every chance to watch her sleep, every second lost in her deep blue eyes, I will remember my year of desire, loss, and growth. Tenley is my memorial stone, my testimony and sign of what God has done in my life and in my heart.
When the time comes, I’ll lean in close to Tenley’s cheek and help her blow out her first birthday candle. As I watch her eyes grow wide with the excitement and joy only a birthday can bring, I will give honest thanks in my heart to God, creator of desire and healer of hearts, for all I have been given: A beautiful daughter. A mended heart. Two precious gifts worth celebrating.