Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
This verse in Luke is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Mary had just given birth to her first child and a little while later a group of shepherds came running in, telling her about angels that had just visited them in the fields. The angels were praising Jesus, the same Jesus Mary had just given birth to. What must have been going through her head at that moment?
As 2016 draws to a close I realize that this year has been a year of treasuring up and pondering; like Mary did in her heart when the shepherds came rushing in after Jesus was born. I can only imagine how overwhelmed Mary was after going through labor and delivery, then facing these visitors and their message from God. Sometimes the weight of a moment is too much to take in right then. Sometimes God reveals things to us that we can’t possibly fathom. Sometimes the beauty and wonder of the moment deserves more than the time it’s given. Life is so fleeting. I often wish I could pause time to fully take in the wonder before me, chubby arms and legs, toddler sized proportions in nothing but a diaper, the sweet five year old love ballads to Mommy, the gentle kiss from biggest brother to tiniest sister. Since I can’t stop time I treasure up the moment and soak it in, ponder it in my heart, store it up to take out later and admire. My year has been full of these moments that I want to keep forever. Moments that point back to God and His goodness.
The moment when Mary stopped to treasure up all the things that were happening around her, to ponder the message God was sending her about her child, often reminds me of a day when I did the same but in very different circumstances. February 8th, 2013, the worst day of my life, when my daughter’s heart stopped and my body became a tomb, God made His radical promise to me, “I WILL REDEEM THIS.” I had no energy or clarity of mind to even attempt to grasp what the words meant, so I stored it up for later. Like Mary, who probably could not believe what was happening to her or how the path of her life had suddenly gone a completely different direction than expected, I struggled to take it all in. I was in shock. But God spoke over and over again, an audible voice in my head, “I WILL REDEEM IT.” And each time He spoke I took His promise like a treasure and stored it away to ponder later. Since that day, almost four years ago, I have contemplated the promise many times, turning it over in my mind. God promised to redeem my daughter Lucy’s death and all the loss and pain that came with it. But did He realize how much was lost on that day and all the days since then? That promise of redemption feels too large. It feels impossible. The first year or two after Lucy’s death I reached in and took that promise out in anger, wielding it like a weapon towards God, “You promised me! But you let more tragedy strike instead! Why would you make a promise you could never fulfill?” How could He possibly repay me for my daughter’s death? Over the years God has patiently and carefully crafted my story, moment by moment, using all the loss for good, mending broken places and making the barren wasteland fruitful. And yes, even redeeming parts of my Lucy loss that I thought would never be redeemed on earth.
This year especially I have seen the redemption He promised emerge more than ever. There have been countless moments of glory, beauty and joy that I never thought I would experience again on earth, too many to list here. Many of these moments involved my miracle baby Nora and many of these moments involved other women with high risk pregnancies who were looking for support. I treasure all these things up and praise God for them (especially my baby Nora!)
There have been other moments this past year that felt surreal, heavy and empty at the same time because Lucy wasn’t in them:
The play date where all the babies have their preschool siblings along too but three year old Lucy is missing. I’m supposed to choke down my chicken nuggets and smile like everything is normal. I’m the only one who sees the empty space where she should be.
Folding up and putting away her empty stocking on Christmas Eve after the other three have been filled with toys and chocolate.
Telling her brothers that I am sorry, I don’t know what she would look like today and watching their hot tears stream down.
Suddenly realizing in the middle of an English lesson that the little girl I’m teaching is the exact age that Lucy would be today. Her big brown eyes staring up at me, her little laugh. Would Lucy look like that? I don’t even know what her laugh sounds like. I weep for my baby girl the entire drive home.
Over the course of this year God has been teaching me to pause right then and ponder the painful moment, gather it up and give it to God to be redeemed later. I’m learning to trust that He WILL redeem even that terrible moment. Every tear shed, every time the weight of grief feels too heavy to bear, every single thing I miss with Lucy will be redeemed, repaid and restored. God can redeem the deepest loss, even your loss. He can bring beauty from ashes, He can even heal parts of your heart that you thought were broken forever. Some things can never be mended until we get to heaven, but these things that He does redeem on earth are our foreshadowing of the glory and restoration to come.
If you are reading this I have prayed for you. I’ve prayed for your 2017, that God would bring about the most beautiful redemption in your life. I’ve prayed for your healing and for your joy, that God would give you the desires of your heart and would grant you the request of your lips. Be bold and ask Him for the thing you so desperately want. Gather up all of your hurts and hand them over to Him to be redeemed. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Psalm 126 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.