Valentine’s Day

roses in paper heartHave you ever seen something that caused your knees to buckle, and the breath to be taken right out of you? A couple weeks ago, I stopped by the grocery store and had one of these experiences. There, right in front of me was a large display for Valentine’s Day. Yes, I know that the red and pink hearts, fuzzy bears, and beautifully wrapped candies have been on store shelves since right after the first of the year. But I guess I had been (mostly) successful at avoiding them. Now they were right in my face.

When I think of Valentine’s day, I am taken back to last February 14…

It was mid morning and I was walking down the hall of the hospital, making the long trek from registration to the elevators. The hallways were so crowded that I had to pick my way through. Smiling faces. Hearty laughter. A beautiful table was set up just outside the gift shop with colorful Valentine gifts for sale.  I didn’t want to look, I couldn’t bear the happy smiles. I hardly knew what day it was until the hospital reminded me. I remember trudging past the happy celebration, wondering how all these people seemed to be going about their merry way. I was almost astounded that the world was still moving, everyone hustling about like it was a normal day. Didn’t they know? To me, the world was standing still. Less than 48 hours before Adam and I had found out our littlest love had died.

This was Valentine’s day for us last year. When I think of Valentine’s day…

photo(24)I think of the balloon my dad brought to the hospital while we were waiting for my labor to kick in…”Happy Valentine’s Day” it read as it slowly bobbed around for the next 24 hours, reminding us what day it was.

I think of the giant, sweet card that is still sitting buried in my closet. I bought it for Adam last February, but never found the right time to give it to him.

I think of the tattered, red, goodie bag still sitting on my kitchen counter from last year’s early party. It contains cute Valentine’s from all of my siblings, including one precious one that says: “To New Baby, From Uncle Jo.” That February 5th party was one of the last days that Esther was still with us.

Treasures. Pains. Battle Scars. I’m not sure what to call these memories.

We sort of skipped Valentine’s Day last year…but then again, we really didn’t. We very much lived it, just not in the way we would have liked to. I have been dreading this holiday since last February.

But this year, I am finding that I now have a love hate relationship with the day. Not long after my knee buckling experience of having to face the fact that Valentine’s day was indeed coming, I walked back into the same store – right up to the displays, looked through the gifts, and picked up the soft animals.

Doing so took me right back to last year. To the place I sometimes want to run away from. But then a beautiful thing happened. I could feel it again. I could feel her. I could feel the joy and anticipation that had been there in my pregnancy. I could feel the horrific pain of my heart being broken. And I could feel the amazing force of love that formed in me last Valentine’s Day.

As I browsed the shelves, my eyes immediately caught an adorable, little pink elephant. I picked it up and wished so much that I could give it to Esther on her first Valentine’s day. I imagined buying one for each of my girls, and seeing their delighted eyes.

When I finally walked away, I felt the pain again. The deep, aching pain, knowing that this holiday will never be what I hoped for and pictured in my mind. It will always hurt. And yet, this will always be one of the most precious holidays for the rest of my life because my memories of it are so closely tied to her…That tiny baby girl who forever touched our lives with a depth of love that I never knew was possible.

Once again, I am learning to embrace the journey. To embrace this journey, even though it isn’t the one I picked for myself. It is my journey now.

After walking here almost one whole year, we have adjusted a lot. Is it okay? No, it will never be okay on this side of heaven. But there is an amazing beauty in brokenness that I have learned this year. Being soft and mold-able in the Potter’s hand allows Him to fashion amazing things. And yes, He can even make beautiful things that could never have formed before.

As these memorable days come and go this year, I pray that I could remain soft in His hands. I pray that the tapestry He is weaving through the joy and the brokenness in our family would become something beautiful to bring Him glory.

Because, after all, He is the only One worth living for.

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