Yesterday was my expected due date for baby James. I knew it was coming, but still on the morning of, I wasn’t certain how I wanted to approach the day. (Read James’ story here).
The week had already been difficult, thinking about what we had anticipated and yet what would not now take place.
Earlier this week, I picked up my daughter from her nap and thought “this was the age she was supposed to become a big sister.” I had spent a lot of time considering what she would be like as a big sister– almost two and devoted to her baby doll.
Or on the drive to church when there was someone sitting in the empty seat in our van that James would have soon been occupying. I was a weepy mess all morning.
Changing a diaper, kissing a cheek, staring into the eyes of a child– the humble pleasures I grieve the most. And the ones I am learning to appreciate the most.
Recently a Fred Roger’s meme has been showing up frequently in my news feed due to the tragedy in Paris. Among other things, Mr. Roger is famous for the phrase “look for the helpers”. In the midst of tragedy and sorrow and pain, there are always people who care. They are often in the background, often never recognized, but they are there serving because they love.
I feel like this has been my story through my grief, though, of course, it was not something I was able to fully appreciate immediately. In looking for the helpers, I see the mercy of God weaving itself through our story.
From the beginning, we received cards with Bible verses, prayers, and notes of encouragement from friends who cared. I kept every card and put them in a notebook along with James’ things. They still minister to me four months later.
Unexpected gifts from friends helped me on some of the hardest days and taught me that God is able to deliver hope when I need it most.
Yesterday, I didn’t know what I wanted to do to remember James and keep the day special. I asked friends for ideas and tried to think of something to do, but I was coming up empty. All I really knew was that I wanted the day to be remembered and be significant.
I realized, though, that I was trying for something elusive, when what I simply needed was a day with the people I loved. I needed to intentionally see them. I needed extra hugs. I needed time to appreciate the gifts I have right before me.
We started the day with an art project together at the dining room table. During that time, I checked my email (because, compulsion) and found that a friend had sent an e-gift card to a favorite local restaurant. She couldn’t be with me in person, but she found a way to love us well in spite of living hours away.
After working on our projects for an hour, we left the house to get lunch and do a few fun things. My friend’s gift card was a blessing also just because it helped us finally make some plans.
Later that evening, I found more helpers for whom to be thankful.
A dear friend from church knew that I would be alone with the kids during the evening because my husband would be at church for the men’s meeting. She offered to give up her evening to come be with me so I wouldn’t be alone on such a difficult day.
The invitation was extended to other women from our church and a handful of sweet ladies came over in the evening. They hugged and asked how I was doing and, most importantly, prayed for our family.
Their kids came too.
It was another occasion in which God gave mercy in a way I might not have chosen for myself– but I am so thankful He did. I am too often slow to recognize that He knows my needs better than I do. Even so, it’s true whether I recognize it or not.
The beauty of the church is on display when people love and serve each other— during sorrow and joy, but especially those dark days of grief.
If you’ve ever wondered if you could make a difference in the midst of someone’s sorrow, please hear me when I say that it’s the little things that often make the biggest impact.
A grand gesture is not necessary. A card. A timely prayer. A hug to let them know you care. A thoughtful gift, inexpensive but full of meaning. They help to lighten the load and brighten a dreary day.
When God is orchestrating all things, caring and loving infinitely more than we ever could, you have great reason to hope that even your smallest efforts will be multiplied and will become part of a story much wider and more intricate than we can comprehend.