I also didn’t have it on my radar that this week was the first week of Advent this year. I guess I assumed it would always be after her birthday. (and I’m still trying to digest that her birthday is THIS WEEK – sigh) So that, combined with the baby dedications they did this morning, had me in a mix of emotions.
I wanted to do a baby dedication for Rachel while I was pregnant with her… but was told it would ‘make people uncomfortable’… so I didn’t. It’s one of my regrets and so I have yet to dedicate either of the babies because it hurts too much, knowing I didn’t do it for her. I talked to the Pastor at our new church, Which is Eliot Baptist for those of you who I haven’t told yet – we finally found a place that feels like home again!! We’ve been there since May and love it. Anyway, I asked Pastor Joel his advice on what to do with my dedication dilemma… that I feel like in order to do one for the boys, I would need to do one for Rachel - and his response was amazing… First of all, he took time to hear and understand my heart and didn’t make me feel at all like there was something wrong with me for wanting to include her, which sadly I’m not all that used to. He said that we could *honor* Rachel at the boys dedication, but that she doesn’t need to be dedicated because essentially what we are doing when we dedicate our children is promising to teach them about Jesus and she already knows all she needs to know about the Lord and more! I always thought of it more as me agreeing with God that they belong to him, not to me… and I wanted to make that public declaration of turning her life over to him and I never got to.
I heard this dedication was coming up. I considered signing the boys up and knew it would be the last Sunday right before her birthday so it might be perfect. But I tried to think of how I would ‘honor’ her while dedicating them… and the thought overwhelmed me so I didn’t sign up.
Well, as soon as the dedications ended, they started singing “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”…. The song I picked to play on my blog on Rachel’s birthday.
I was brought back to the night before her birth… Matt & I were up way later than one should be when going in for major surgery in the morning and I was trying to pick a song for my blog (boy do I miss being able to play music on here… L ) I was considering Aaron Shust’s My Savior My God… when the words to I Could Sing of Your Love Forever flooded my heart… that was it and I knew it. It just wasn’t what I thought I’d pick. I expected the song I’d pick for her birthday to be more melancholy…. Slower… more sad…. And what I got was happy and joyful. Singing. Dancing.
And I will open up my heart
And let the healer set me free
I’m happy to be in the Truth
For I will always sing
Of when Your love came down
I could sing of Your love forever…
Oh I feel like dancing
Why did Rachel’s arrival make me feel like dancing? Well, quite frankly, it didn’t. God did. His light shining in my dark place. Her birthday was the scariest thing I’ve ever planned for and attended in my entire life. But with God, I had a sense of hope and joy and peace.
I still had to go through all of the emotions that would follow – and those were even harder and scarier than her birth… but I’m so thankful for how He carried me through that part of my journey. The night before I was going in to watch my daughter die and I wanted to sing of His love forever. That was not me. It couldn’t have been. I’m a mom and mom’s don’t feel happy about their children dying. Ever.
I’m sure you know that Rachel’s due date was Christmas Day. I call her my Christmas baby, but always feel as if she wasn’t really a Christmas baby because she was born 3 weeks before. If she was alive and born early, I probably wouldn’t refer to her as that. But this year, I have really noticed how much her birthday truly does start our Christmas season. The same reason that made that first Christmas without her so hard – and usually makes every holiday season especially hard emotionally… (people get that way when they miss someone they love anyway, but when her dates are both within the month notorious for making the absence of loved ones more obvious) I’ve been seeing how everything having to do with Christmas starts the week of her day… the trees in the stores, the music, the tree lighting in town, the Christmas parade that goes right past our neighborhood. I miss her like crazy right now… and yet I’m feeling this JOY in how she is woven into every detail of Christmas in my heart.
Standing in church on the first Sunday of Advent just before her 4th birthday and I am yet again reminded of how dramatically God makes his hand in my life known when I need it most. On the first Sunday of Advent, is “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” a usual pick? No, I would say it’s commonly more like the songs that followed… like “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus”…. You know, Christmas time songs….
But just like on December 2, 2010 when God unexpectedly put that song on my heart, I believe He did the same as he helped prepare this service through his people. Do I feel selfish, even crazy, suggesting that God would put a song in a service just for me? Yes I do. And it used to happen at Grace all the time – like singing a song we sang at her funeral on an anniversary or Mother’s Day… but I always assumed that maybe someone there knew it was a special day and I needed a touch of Rachel and they did it for me. This morning, it was very clear – because these people are not all familiar with her upcoming birthday or any of the songs we played back then (although I am once again blown away by how many of people here followed my blog back then!) – that this was straight from God and I know He loves me enough to do something that big just for me. And that is why I could sing of His love forever… because it is huge and awesome… and He loves me… little, and not so amazing, me.
And in that moment I realized, I did dedicate her. Over and over again. Both in my heart and for all to see through my words here. I don’t think anyone, including God, was confused by whether or not I trusted him with her life. I got to make a public declaration every day as thousands watched me vulnerably share my walk through the death of my little girl.
Yesterday I came across an old church bulletin in my Bible and I took a picture because it was Hymn #43 - Great is Thy Faithfulness. I was going to write a post about it and hadn’t gotten to it yet. It was the last photo I had taken with my phone.
Today after we sang Joy to the World, we sang Great is Thy Faithfulness….
Desirae just came down and asked if since Rachel's birthday was on Wednesday, would she not be able to go to Bible Study. I said no, because we'll be home setting up our Christmas tree together. She said she was disappointed because Pastor Nathan said that anyone who remembered the verse for that day would get a prize. I asked what verse it was and as she recited it.... well, what more can I say...?
I sat staring at her... "That's the verse you need to memorize for Rachel's birthday?" I asked.
Of course it is!! Should I be surprised??
So as we get closer and closer to her birthday… I’m getting more sad, I’m feeling overwhelmed at all I have to get done for our trip to the hospital and then the baby shower this weekend, but I am reminded of how He takes care of details. He is always faithful to shower me with love that makes me sing with joy. Always. On every mountain top and in every valley.
I will sing of Your love forever, Lord.