Many years ago, in another lifetime, I was a treeplanter. I planted trees by the thousands at about 10 cents apiece. It was back-breaking physical labour that I shall not soon forget. More importantly though are the people that were also treeplanters with me. Sarah, Shannon, Joel, Mike...and many others of whom I remember fondly and not-so-fondly. In the summer of 2001, I treeplanted in Northern Alberta. This summer was particularly memorable. Not only did I meet my future husband that summer but I also planted with several Christians, all at a different crossing on the road of their walk with Christ. First was Sarah, a believer struggling with questions. Second was Shannon, fallen away from Christ at that time but full of wisdom, knowledge and un-judgementat answers to all my questions. Third was Joel, he shared the gospel through his life and showing his commitment to God in ways that appeared foolish to my eyes at the time. Fourth was Mike, Mike gave me a bible, gave me some scripture references that were both helpful and not. All of these people have ebbed and flowed in my life in the last years. I am grateful to all of them for the role they played in bringing me to Christ. On Septembe 9, 2001, I gave my life to Jesus with trembling hands and a trembling heart. I remember that day at St. Stephen's Anglican Church in Montreal so clearly. Then, two days later was September 11, 2001. I remember thinking that if this was the end of the world, that I was glad I had given my life to Jesus.
On September 9th 2011, still reeling and blinded by the grief of losing my baby girl, I didn't remember that it was 10 years. 10 years of following the Lord as best I could. These past months, (where a new 10 years has began) I am no longer following the Lord as best I can. Now I am letting Him lead me, I am letting Him hold me. To Him, I commit my body, my spirit, my soul, my broken heart. I am broken and only in Him is there rest and healing for the broken. He calls the broken to Him, the broken-hearted, the weak, the meek, the suffering. No longer can I make it through the day on my own strength. No longer can I say that I made right choices to be where I am. No longer can I say I have succeeded in anything through my own strength. No longer am I following the Lord as best I can. I have joined the ranks of the broken...and His banner over me is love.
Remember Joel? A couple of months ago I received a large rock in the mail. Yes, a rock...and even the rocks will cry out You are God. This rock had been collected on the shores of Lake Superior by Joel and his wife, Renee. They got it sand-blasted with Eva's name and a butterfly. They could not have known that butterflies are our special little connection to our special little girl. It was one of the most meaningful gifts we have been given. This family has seen their share of heart-break. Their little girl, Emily Grace, lived from June 2nd to June 11th 2008. Emily also had a heart defect. Emily also has a rock from the shores of Lake Superior. Emily is also in glory with our Eva. In earthly years Emily is only 2 years and 3 months older than Eva. Today Emily would be 3 years 8 months old. Eva would be 16 1/2 months old. They never met on earth, and yet, somehow, they are probably friends in Heaven.
For some reason, today I went to Joel and Renee's blog http://www.joelrenee.blogspot.com/ and searched out all the posts about Emily. I found the letter below on one of the entries. I felt like it had been written to me...and yet, I also know the pain in which the recipient of the letter must have read some of those words. I was gently reminded a couple of times today to seek joy, and it is difficult to hear and difficult to do.
This letter is full of truth, comfort, hope, pain...and, almost 400 years after it was written I am receiving it.
To a Christian Gentlewoman [23 April 1628]:
My love in Christ remembered to you. I was indeed sorrowful when I left you, especially since you were in such heaviness after your daughter's death; yet I am sure you know that the weightiest end of the cross of Christ that is laid upon you, lies on your strong Saviour. For Isaiah said that in all your afflictions He is afflicted (Is. 63:9). O blessed Saviour, who suffers with you! Your soul may be glad, even to walk in the fiery furnace, with the Son of Man, who is also the Son of God. Take courage. When you tire, he will bear both you and your burden (Ps. 55:22). In a little while you shall see the salvation of God.
Your lease on your daughter has run out; and you can no more quarrel against your great Superior for taking what He owns, than a poor tenant can complain when the landowner takes back his own land when the lease is expired. Do you think she is lost, when she is only sleeping in the bosom of the Almighty? If she were with a dear friend, your concern for her would be small, even though you would never see her again. Oh now, is she not with a dear friend, and gone higher, upon a certain hope that you shall see her again in the resurrection? Your daughter was a part of yourself; and, therefore, being as it were cut in half, you will be grieved. But you have to rejoice; though a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven.
Follow her, but do not envy her; for indeed it is self-love that makes us mourn for them that die in the Lord. Why? Because we cannot mourn for them since they are happy; therefore, we mourn on our own private account. Be careful then, that in showing your affection in mourning for your daughter that you are not, out of self-affection, mourning for yourself.
Consider what the Lord is doing. Your daughter has been plucked out of the fire, and she rests from her labours. Your Lord is testing you by casting you in the fire. Go through all fires to your rest. And now remember, that the eye of God is upon the burning bush, and it is not consumed; and He is gladly content that such a weak woman as you should send Satan away frustrated. Honour God now, and shame the strong roaring lion, when you seem the weakest.
Should you faint in the day of adversity? Recall the days of old! The Lord still lives; trust in Him. Faith is exceedingly charitable and believes no evil of God. The Lord has placed in the balance your submission to His will and your affection for your daughter. Which of the two will you choose? Be wise; and as I trust you love Christ better, pass by your daughter, and kiss the Son. Men lop the branches off their trees so they may grow up high and tall. The Lord has lopped your branch off by taking from you many children, so that you would grow upwards, setting your heart above, where Christ is at the right hand of the Father.
Prepare yourself; you are nearer your daughter this day than you were yesterday. Run your race with patience; let God have what belongs to Him. Do not ask Him for the daughter who has been taken from you, the daughter of faith; but ask Him for patience; and in patience possess your soul. Lift up your head; your redemption draws near.
Your affectionate and loving
friend in the Lord Jesus,
('From Grief to Glory' by James W. Bruce III p. 147)
I cannot help but think, how happy the letter's recipient is now. She is with her children in heaven. She is singing praises to God. The truth will set you free and she is free. How fleeting our lives here on earth are. How momentary. How long eternity is. In heaven or not, our free choice. I am so glad I gave my life to Christ on that September day, over 10 years ago now. I am so glad every day that passes is one day closer to holding Eva again. I know not whether she will be a baby, or a young girl, or a young lady when I see her again in Glory but I know that when I see her I will hold her and I will sing praises to God because I will have eternity with my God and my daughter. Sounds like heaven to me.
Thank you, Joel, for the testimony of your life in the summer of 2001, and your prayers in the summer of 2011...and to Renee, a sister in Christ and in heart break.
Eva, until I see you in Heaven, I am learning patience, as there is no other choice.
I love you sweet girl, your mama.