This season, where there are twinkle lights and Christmas trees everywhere, it’s magical. It has always been that way for me. I’ve loved Christmas for as long as I can remember. My mama used to tell me that I arrived 3 weeks early just so that I could be a December baby, because it was the perfect fit for me. I’m so thankful for the magic of the Christmas season. From the carols and familiar songs to the lights and the smells. It closes each year out perfectly.  But what I’m most thankful for is a Father who sent his son to be human. A human who would live perfectly, love intensely, and die to wipe clean the slate of every human who would come to love him and accept his gift of redemption - particularly the babies.

As Audrey and I were driving the other day, she was telling me about her children - her future children to be exact; not the imaginary ones she bosses around and cares for throughout her day. It’s always so interesting to hear what she imagines her adult life to look like. From marrying her prince {aka her dad} to being a mother, or doctor, or princess, she talks to me about grown up life with vivid detail and intensity. This day was no different. Except instead of the usual light and often silly circumstances that come out of a 3 year old’s imagination, this particular future situation hit really close to home.

She told me that when she grows up she’s going to have one kid. “Because that’s all God is going to give me”. Then a few minutes later she went into detail about her “only” child. It would be a girl, of course, and it would have a baby brother who got sick and had to go to Heaven. I about slammed the brakes.

My heart stopped. In that moment, the reality of the depth of how her brother’s life has shaped her world view was intense. How many 3 year olds imagine a life where they bury their own child? It’s hard enough for me to process our son’s life and why we lost him. But it utterly breaks my heart to know that our darling daughter and big sister had to experience death at just 2. And that not only did she experience it at such a young age, it has become normal for her to expect people to die - and while that’s probably a good lesson to learn, I will never understand why it was taught before her second birthday; and in such an intimate way, at that.

I don’t really know how to engage her when things like this pop up. I know it’s her way of processing - play and imagination are truly gifts from God - and I don’t want to hinder that. I also don’t want her to expect death at every corner. I want her to feel that same innocence and ignorance that I felt when I got that first positive pregnancy test. I want her to have that same excitement as she figures out what it means to carry a child. Not the anxiety ridden, fear riddled, despair of a looming ending. It has taken me almost 2 years, 3 different medications, countless hours of counsel, and more minutes in tears/prayer than I can even know, to get to this place of being somewhat OK. I had to work through the process of healing my physical body. Then I had to work through the numbness that led to anger and frustration. Then I had to face the irrational fears of the sky is falling. And then I had to stop fighting the embrace of Jesus and rest I’m his refuge as I came to the understanding that my questions about why - in whatever form they take at any moment - may not be answered this side if heaven.

How many of those layers of grief is Audrey experiencing? How many is she aware of? When will she realize that death, while impossible to escape, isn’t the norm? That even in this broken world, parents burying their children is the exception? I didn’t know until I went through it for myself that 1/4 of all pregnancies end in loss. I didn’t know that 1/4 families is missing one (or more) of their babies. I’m definitely more mindful of that now. And I can only hope, along with faithful prayer, that my own daughter’s intimate relationship with death is going to be put to great use for God’s kingdom. Because while I lived to be almost 30 before I realized the magnitude of death among our families, my sweet Audrey Nole will grow up with a special heart for those who have or will experience loss. She is God’s warrior. And sometimes warriors look more like friends than anything else. 

I cant think of a better place for the babies that don’t end up in their parent’s arms than in the embrace of their Heavenly Father. It doesn’t fix the hurt, but it is a wonderful way to get through those stages of grief. Thank you Jesus for coming to that manger. And then that cross.  

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. - Proverbs 31:25