One year. Today one year ago I held you in my arms for the first time. You had beautiful dark hair just like your daddy that fell out a few months later to be replaced by strawberry blonde. You had and still have the sweetest chubby cheeks and biggest blue eyes. I’m most definitely smitten with your adorable little self, but I’m even more in awe of your happy, sweet, and gentle heart that is already apparent at such a young age. You have taught me so much about joy, both the happy, over-the-moon, kind of joy and the deep, difficult-to-fight-for joy in the midst of heart break.
See, you won’t understand for a long time, but my best friend, your “Aunt Anna”, lost her precious baby boy Camden just three weeks after you were born. Your Aunt Anna and I shared so much together since we were pregnant and due around the same time. We had wonderful plans of raising you boys and Noah together. Weekly play dates and shared milestones. Shared joy. But that all came crashing down suddenly and unexpectedly. I was holding you when I read the message from her with the gut wrenching news. My heart shattered. It took all of me to carry you to your dad before I collapsed on the ground sobbing. I’ve lost loved ones close to me, but I’ve never known heart break that deep. I could not imagine losing one of my sons. How was I even going to be able to be a friend to her? I had no idea the depths of the pain she was and would be experiencing. What if she couldn’t or didn’t want to be my friend anymore? What if seeing you, Caleb, would just be too painful for her? Would that mean that she’d never be able to look at me again, too? In the days, weeks, and months that followed the loss of Camden I feared the possibility of losing my best friend. But time and time again she invited me into her pain and grief when she was able. What a beautiful, amazing friend Anna is to invite me into the most tender and wounded places of her heart. God carried me through those times. I had to rely on the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom beyond my own capabilities to know what to say and when, and how to pray for her and with her. I’m sure I did not always do that perfectly, but I tried. Mostly, He taught me to rely on Him, to hold onto Him as the anchor in this terrible storm. Then I would come home to you, beautiful, sweet and happy you.
How was I supposed to fully enjoy my son when my best friend, my sister, was without hers?
That was and still is the difficult thing for me. I’m so grateful for you. Beyond words grateful. This tragedy has put so much into perspective for me. Every child is such an incredible gift. You are an incredible gift! But, it has been a deep struggle in my heart to be full of joy for you when I know that Aunt Anna is without her son. For the first few weeks and months every time I looked at you I thought of Anna and Camden. I had to fight for joy with each of your smiles, milestones, and even the late nights and difficult times.
We can hold joy in one hand and grief in the other. Joy and heartbreak can exist together, but Joy must be fought for.
I can tell you, son, that this past year has been one of the hardest, most devastating, spiritually-stretching years, between the loss of your great-grandfather to cancer just a month before you were born, then the loss of Camden just a short three weeks after you were born. You came into my world while my heart was war-torn and weary. But, it has also been the most joyful year because of you and Noah, and the most holy experience of my life to be called into such a unique and difficult role to be both mother and simultaneously a soul-sister of a grieving friend and my grieving family. I’ve felt God carry me through some of the most difficult tasks this past year. He’s given me depths of strength and peace like I’ve never known. So today I’m celebrating the gift of you AND grieving the loss of what we thought today would be a year ago.
Some things in life don’t go the way we thought or planned they would. But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t there and that His heart for you isn’t still good.
My heart for you and Noah is that no matter what would happen in your lives that you will cling to God. Wrestle through the tough questions. Allow sorrow and joy to coexist in your heart simultaneously. Allow yourself to be angry with him. Because when you seek Him with all your heart He will meet you there. He will heal your wounds and your heartbreak and give you strength for each day. He will give you life and peace in the midst of the unthinkable. He will turn your mourning into joy. He will grow and mature you to be a man after His heart. My momma heart wants to wish only good things for you, but I know all too well that if we live long enough we will experience deep pain. Because, son, this isn’t our home. Our home is Heaven with our Father. So while you’re here, seek Him. Just seek Him with all of your heart and He will meet you there. It’s as simple as that. My desire for you is that you would know your heavenly Father deeply. What I’ve come to know is that I’ve learned more about the Father’s heart in the valleys of life than on the mountaintops. So don’t be surprised when those deep, dark valleys are suddenly in your path.
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13
31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:31-39
Caleb, the original meaning of your name is “dog or bold”. Immediately after you came into this world I had to be bold. Well, I guess I didn’t have to be, but I’m sure glad that I chose to. I boldly followed God into the dark unknown of walking through unimaginable grief alongside Anna and while extremely difficult and imperfect, it is holy to grieve with someone and be all that God enables you to be for them when they are in need. I’m certain that the meaning of your name will come into play in your own life in the future, but your name and the timeliness of it has already been a marker in my life. Owen has a few meanings: young warrior, well-born, and noble. Because you’re God’s, you’re well-born and noble. You’re meant for great things in His Kingdom. I know that God gave you your name because He has a very special purpose for you. What an honor it is to be the mother to you and Noah. Thank you, my sweet boys, for being my joy in difficult times.