Do I Still Believe?

My friend texted me: ‘I see daffodils everywhere (Easter lilies in her native language), so I think about Lily-Amanda almost every day.’ It blesses me that she thinks of her and shares that with me. I see the daffodils too, but I try to not think too much about three years ago when we were so worried about our little girl Susan (lily) Amanda. I postpone it. I do notice it, but then push away the feelings that come with it. Soon it will be three years since our lives were shipwrecked and we came ashore as drowning people. Penniless. Disaffected. Looking for solid ground.

We became beachcombers, as someone described it. Looking for what is still useful of what we used to believe. Do I still believe at all? I remember how I told my Love I did not know anymore. He said, ‘I focus on what happened in the past. You were in a wheelchair and got healed. We have witnessed other miracles. We often noticed God was there. So now I just choose to believe and when we’re past the first three years, I’ll see where I stand then.’

I was surprised, but very reassured by his words. He doesn’t know how to move on either, but he makes a choice. Since I couldn’t think of anything better, I decided to do the same. In this state of upheaval, you should not make life-changing decisions, also not in what you believe. You have to survive, carry on, walk through the shadowy valley of her death.

Now the time has come. Almost three years have passed by. What do I believe? I’m writing a book about it with the tentative title: ‘God Is With Us? About Faith in the Valley’. He is God, greater than you can imagine. He sees the whole picture where I can only see 0.001% of it and yet He is nearby, around me, under me. Those arms we wrote about on the birth- and mourning card, they do carry us forever. These eternal arms are around me. Around you.

Yesterday at church we sang a song I avoided for the past three years: Oceans. This song made me realize shortly after Amanda’s death that I no longer wanted to entrust myself to God. I struggled with unbelief and stubbornness for months. Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me? No! I shouted silently. No! Not if that means another child dies. I refuse that. I never want to go through this hell again.

In a special way I found out that Jesus continued to invite me to come to Him. I wrote a song about it and sang it over and over again. I found out that I trusted God for life, for my future here on earth. But gradually I realized that it is about trusting God no matter what. I learned to entrust myself, my Love and each one of my children to Him. Amanda is safe with Him. My other family members are also safe with Him, although I don’t know if that means they will live here for a long time.

Yesterday we sang Oceans again. I realized that, now more deeply than before, I believe that I and we are safe no matter what. Even if the worst things happen, like your child dying (and I still don’t want to go through that again). Still, in the presence of my savior, I am walking on the water again, so to speak. I believe that God guides, loves, is present. Not to stop every storm or break down every valley, although He can and does. But to walk through the valley, in the storm. He is with us.

Now that the Easter lilies are blooming again and remind me of the period of fearful expectation three years ago, I realize my Love was right. In three years we will see again and discover that we still believe. God is with us.

First published in Dutch on March 9, 2020

Bless This Mess

This morning I was watching a Dutch television program called ‘Ik mis je’ (I miss you). Two people shared about their deceased loved ones. They told how grateful they were, how important their deceased loved one was to them and how they loved to talk about them. They also said it blessed them when someone wanted to hear stories about who they were.

I could relate to that. And I was surprised I did. Amanda only lived for six months and only inside of me. When she was born, she was already dead for several days. Yet she greatly impacted our lives. My life, our marriage, our family, lives of friends, our faith, our world. Life didn’t stay the same and it will not be the same again.

Yesterday I sang in front of the church like I used to do before Amanda was born. It was the first time since her arrival-and-passing away. I felt I had become stronger, more powerful, and more myself. Yet, I also felt more vulnerable. I knew I could easily burst in tears, but the one leading worship knew that too and we agreed he would step in if I couldn’t sing anymore.

The songs aren’t the same to me as well. All least, they don’t feel the same and mean the same as they did before Amanda. For instance, we sang Oceans: ‘Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me.’

Well, He did just that. I did walk on water, so to speak. I do need trust without borders to live and to keep faith and I find it quite hard to sing: wherever you would call me. Wherever You call me, whatever  circumstances life may bring. I will trust in You.

Yet, that is exactly what I did, tried to do and will keep on trying to do, also because of what’s said in one of the verses: ‘You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.’ I sang this yesterday with a loud voice and I say it to myself just like that when despair pops up, when I fear for the future or when I look back astonished about what has happened in our life. You never failed, and You won’t start now.

So I sing. Not because I have it all together and understand it all. But because I believe and I know that in this life I will never have it all together.

In the past years, my favourite prayer was: Lord, bless this mess. With all my children and a lot of problems in my life, keeping things under control became impossible. And because of that, I learned that that was exactly the point: I shouldn’t be in control anyway. I always was supposed to surrender control to God.

Now that my life became a mess even more because of losing our daughter, problems that continue to be problems, children who grow up having different distinguished characters, a body that keeps on giving me trouble, it is still my prayer that God will bless our mess. And I cling unto that sentence: You’ve never failed and You won’t start now. 

Some time after this blog, I wrote a song, related to Oceans, wherein I describe how I try to put my trust in God again. You can find it here.

First published in Dutch on October 2, 2017