The Idol of Annie

Not long ago, ultrasound pictures of our growing girl filled The Gathered Round cardholder on our dining room table. If you saw them, I’m sure you’d agree that Annie may very likely grow up to be a model because she has the perfect pouty lip pose down on every profile picture the tech captures. She’s also quite ladylike; she usually has her legs daintily crossed at the ankles while her hair (she already has hair!) floats around her head like a halo.

The Gathered Round has “Annie” written on the chalkboard centerpiece and now, the pictures are being replaced with numerous cards filled with prayers and encouraging Bible verses. Thank you, LRCA elementary teachers who bless us with these notes in our mailbox every single week!

I’ve loved having this piece that gives homage to Annie so central in our home. But last weekend, I realized a slight problem. That homage going to Annie is horribly misdirected.

Last October, I went to a women’s retreat where the speaker talked about her list of comforts that she clenched so tightly and told God that He couldn’t have any part of. She even threatened Him, “If You touch any of these things inside my protective fist, I don’t know how I’ll ever trust You or know that You’re good anymore.” One of those things was the health and life of her children.  I was only 12 weeks pregnant with a supposedly-healthy Annie, but went home and told Matt that I fully understood. I wouldn’t know how to handle it if anything ever happened to Audrey or our new baby.

Well, let’s put it this way—I guess we’ve found out how I’ll handle it. I haven’t been terribly angry. I haven’t questioned God’s goodness. I haven’t even questioned His faithfulness to us or doubted that He has a purpose. I haven’t once thought about walking away from my faith in Him, which is the only hope I have. But I have still been missing something.

Last weekend, I went to see Jen Hatmaker speak. She challenged 1500 women on seeking our comfort and sitting on our pile of great stuff to only feed more of our personal desires, trying to placate what God has for us by setting up a safe life.  All I heard was something about those temporary comforts we cling to more than we cling to God.

Inside my sweaty, protective, white-knuckled palm sat Annie. Her life. Her health. My comfort. And at a far arm’s length away stood Jesus. Because I’d put Him there.

So I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been clinging to the wrong foundation. I’ve had Annie in the wrong spot. It’s not her life, her health that will provide comfort. The only comfort is found in my hand grasping tightly to that of my comforting Savior. He is the one who can heal. He is the one who provides. He is the only one worth holding to.

“And He will be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is [my] treasure.” Isaiah 33:6

I’d Rather It Be About Me

I know that you read Purpose Driven Life several years ago because you’re totally not a Christian if you didn’t. Just kidding. But I think that popular Christianity (or at least Rick Warren’s PR team) made us believe that. Even if it didn’t grant salvation in the process, it did teach a highly valuable, intensely difficult lesson: It’s not about me.

That sounds so wonderful as I leaf through the pages, gaining encouragement that my life has such a grander, more glorious purpose than my comfortable bubble could ever offer. The God of the universe, the Creator, the Maker, Holy God wants to use my life for what He is accomplishing–to draw people to Him. Is that awesome or what?

Well, yes it is.Until the way He’s accomplishing those plans of His is so brash and discomforting in my life that I can hardly trudge through the day.

In the middle of my fear and worry over Annie’s days ahead, God is working in incredible ways. He is using Annie, His little unborn sweet girl, to draw people to Himself. 3lb 11oz Annie has a spiritual legacy already! What?!

We’ve seen loved ones recognize their need for a hope outside of themselves, a hope that is only found in Jesus. I’ve had the opportunity to answer acquaintances’ probing questions with ease, questions like, “Aren’t you worried that she won’t live? How can you be positive? How can you have hope?”

All I could think of was 1 Peter 3:15, “… always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

My only answer for hope is found in the cross. It’s found in the purpose that I see God weaving each day of Annie’s life. It’s found in life change that I see happening in others as this belly change happens in me.

But the truth is: having an eternal perspective is the hardest thing that I’ve ever faced. I know that I am created solely for His glory. I know that I am created for Him. But some days I’d rather it be about me and my comfort. I just want to know that Annie will be okay. I want to face the days ahead with confidence found in myself and in modern medicine, not needing to pray for healing. So I pray, “I believe.” And in the next breath, “Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:25).

I so want my life to be His and for His glory alone. I am thankful for how He’s sustaining me with hints of purpose along the way. I pray that the true cry of my heart says, “All of life comes down to just one thing: that’s to know You, oh Jesus, and to make You known.” If my circumstances are making Him known, then I’ll rest. And pray for healing of MY heart along the way.

Afraid to Love

How do I prepare our home for a new baby and prepare my heart that our new baby may never come home?

Simple: I can’t.

Dreaming of Annie as a newborn in her bedside bassinet, as a toddler tumbling down our stairs, as a little girl racing around the backyard,  and as a teenager with her downstairs bedroom door locked seems so natural to an expectant mother. But for me, each of those dreams is interlaced with such heartache because I know it may never come true. So I’ve tried not to allow myself to dream of those blissful days of motherhood ahead.

A few months ago, I told a friend that I wasn’t going to buy Annie anything. I reasoned that technically nothing new was a necessity. We have plenty of clothes from Audrey that she can wear, a car seat, a stroller, crib bedding, etc. “Yes, but don’t you WANT to get a few things that are especially for Annie?” she challenged. I admitted that I didn’t; no, I couldn’t. How will I bear it if the crib waits empty, if we never cut the tags off her ruffly homecoming outfit, and if her newborn diapers stay neatly lined along the changing table?

I don’t know how I will.

But a better question is, How can I keep myself from dreaming about our little girl? My friend helped me get started by buying the first piece of clothing that is strictly Annie’s. Then I received a care package from Sisters by Heart, a nonprofit started by moms whose babies have HLHS. It was really fun to get a whole bag full of things for Annie! To picture her in the leg warmers that she’ll need for the NICU. To pin ideas for room and crib decor. To listen for the future murmurs of her and Audrey’s late-night laughter.

Then I accepted it. I cannot wait till I know Annie is “safe” to fully love her. (To be honest, it wasn’t working anyway.) I am choosing to live expectantly. I am choosing to soak up each little kick in the ribs. I am memorizing the sensation of each squirm and wriggle, laughing with joy as I watch my stomach bounce and roll. I am enjoying Annie’s life. Because it’s here and it’s now, no matter what tomorrow holds.

When You Say Nothin’ at All

Confession: I’ve been giving God the silent treatment lately. Not because I’m mad at Him. It’s more because I feel like I don’t know what to say anymore.

The majority of my prayer life has looked like having my list of prayers and finding a formal time each day to sit and give my requests to God.  That’s a model of prayer that I was probably taught accidentally. Because I can also recall being taught in depth about prayer being a continual conversation between God and me, to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and about the richness that prayer offers in so many more ways than simply treating God like my vending machine or my special magic genie to grant my wish list.

I’ll also say I haven’t admittedly or consciously had these views of God, but when I look at how I’ve communicated with Him in the past, it seems I’m more than guilty of wanting Him to be my daily Santa Claus. I know this doesn’t fit anymore.

My list has been shortened to one desperate plea for my daughter’s heart and life. And I’m certain that I’ve prayed for that relentlessly since that crushing November afternoon. But I think I’ve had prayer all wrong.

I’ve been treating it like my weekly to-do list, more like God’s weekly to-do list that I get to assign. “So, God, today it’d be great if you finish forming Annie’s heart. And um…if you can find time, it’d also be nice if you widen her aorta just a smidge. And maybe you could start working it out where she’ll come on her own before they want to induce me. I mean, if you think those things would be okay, you know? But I’ll check back with you tomorrow to see how it’s all coming along.” What am I? Target–er Heaven–manager? How embarrassing!

I’m learning that I should be conversing with Him simply to give due credit with my lips and heart to the awesome, powerful, sovereign, loving, in-control, good God that He is. I’m learning to ask that His will be done, because if He really is all those adjectives, then I can trust what He decides to do…and that He’ll do it without my nagging or a follow-up meeting in my office tomorrow at 10am. Eck!

I’m also learning that those whispers in my heart that cry out to Him  when my voice feels like it can’t are precious prayers too. Maybe even more authentic than my tidy little list. So I’m seeing that when I say nothin’ at all…He’s still listening.

And it looks like He’s showing me just a few things that I could talk to Him about, even in this waiting room of silence.