I don’t think I believe much in coincidence. I’ve had more encounters with ironic or coincidental circumstances in the last year than I’ve ever had in my life. Or perhaps I’ve just noticed these things more and recognized them as blessings, or God’s hand working directly in my life. And that’s what I’m beginning to believe it all to be. Author Ken Godevenos states that based on Greek translation of ‘coincidence’ the “biblical definition then would be ‘what occurs together by God’s providential arrangement of circumstances'”. Nothing is a surprise to Him. He knows every move we make before we decide to make it. So it’s no surprise that He orchestrates things ahead of time to show us that He’s there, and He’ll never leave us or forsake us. There were a few “coincidences” that have been particularly engrained in my mind and my heart that I wanted to share. To offer a disclaimer, many of these may seem insignificant, but if I could explain the impact that they’ve had on my heart and my soul… their significance is profound. In addition, some of these are pretty personal and close to my heart, but in the event that you think I’m disclosing too much, I so desperately want people to understand how completely covered in God’s love and grace I’ve felt these past months.
*To date, the one week and one month “anniversaries” of Ethan’s passing have been the most difficult for me. For the first couple of weeks, the shower seemed to be my place of grief. I would turn on my playlist from the hospital that played almost continuously throughout my labor and after his birth. This was the time that I was completely alone, and could weep, sob, and just lose myself without anyone seeing or hearing me. On Wednesday January 10th, one week after Ethan was born, I was in the shower at the moment- one week later- that our son was pronounced dead. The pain in those minutes was as close to those actual moments as it could possibly get. John sat on the edge of the tub, listening to my sobbing on the other side of the shower curtain. This was the only time I recall him being there and I will never forget his voice breaking the silence between songs to tell me that it was 10:01. At that moment I heard a cello playing and the words, “You spoke a word and life began” stream through the speakers. I knew that God was there with me, in that moment, comforting me in the best way that I could receive it. Fast forward three weeks to February 3rd, one month since the best and worst day of our lives. By now showers, although still my reflection time (more on weekends when I’m not in a hurry to get the kids up and ready for school), are far less painful or suffocated with mourning. I was showered and ready to leave for the mountains to visit Ethan’s gravesite but knew that it was nearly 10:00. In the moments surrounding 10:01 I opened Ethan’s diaper bag and pulled out the outfit he wore just after he was born. I held it close, breathed it in- scented with the soap we bathed his lifeless body in before dressing him and saying our goodbyes. The outfit is still stained with small patches of blood from his entrance into the world. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to bring myself to wash it. It’s the only item of clothing I have that was against his skin. Emotions were tormenting my heart, and I was aching for him to my core, when I became aware of the song playing across the speaker of my phone. The words that played right as the time changed to 10:01 were, “Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me”. If you’re familiar with Selah’s version of this song, it’s the very last lyric and it’s absolutely beautiful. Aside from the need for my heart to hear these words at that moment, I also realized that this was the hymn we’d chosen to sing at Ethan’s funeral. So on two of the most difficult days since we lost him, in the most difficult moments of those days… God showed himself. Do you think it was coincidence that at 10:01 on both days, these two songs, both sung at the celebration of his life, were playing out loud for me to hear? I certainly don’t. Again, He was there, holding me tightly…
*Anyone who knows me even a little is well aware that I’m somewhat of a germ freak. Ok, that’s an understatement. I’m a fanatic. Being that we are in the middle of a horrible flu season, I’m doing everything that I can to keep my family healthy. Satan sometimes gets the best of me and embeds a fear in me so strong that I can’t shake it. Admittedly I’m a little more sensitive to the deaths of anyone from the flu this year, but particularly children. The thought of losing another child this year has me panicked at times. (I’m praying about this, don’t worry). All this to say, Sunday before last was our first back at church since Ethan was born. We left the kids at home with my mom to avoid exposing them to more illness than they already are at school but we both knew we needed to be there. I felt a particular tug at my heart to go worship and be with the church. When the first bit of music ended and our campus pastor got up to say a few words, I realized, again, that God had planted that seed of desire very intentionally. The pastor told the story of Horatio Spafford. His wife and 4 daughters were on a ship crossing the Atlantic when it sank. All four of his daughters were drowned in the accident, his wife was miraculously rescued. After enduring such a loss, his faith remained intact and he wrote the song, “It Is Well With My Soul”. He continued on to say that no matter what pain you are suffering, what loss you have endured, Jesus loves you and will never leave you. I couldn’t hold back my tears, the story, the song… everything. It all spoke straight to my soul. He said that this story was not part of the plan but he felt lead to share it that morning. The message in the sermon that followed was about how challenges in life create perseverance. I knew that it was no coincidence that we felt so lead to attend church that morning. God had a message for me. And with that message He wrapped me up in His arms and held me tight.
*Since Ethan passed, I’ve struggled so much with the idea of purpose. What am I supposed to do with myself now? My arms are empty. There is an instinctual yearning that I have to care for my newborn that is no longer here. How do I fulfill all of these jobs (wife, mother, daughter, sister, employee…) while at the same time feeling like I’ve lost all sense of… everything? I knew I needed something more. Something to honor and remember my precious angel, but keep my mind occupied in a healthy way. But what? This struggle raged inside my heart and mind for days, after the initial shock and earth-shattering grief of his death began to dissipate. Every time the battle began, I would think of a friend of mine from church. She’d been so kind to me, covering us in encouragement and prayer since December, when I’d first shared Ethan’s diagnosis with her. When she heard of his birth and passing she and her husband immediately volunteered to be of any help they could at his funeral, and made the trip to the mountains to serve in any way they were needed. So while it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibilities that I would think of her during these times of spiritual warfare, I couldn’t figure out why she was always on my heart. After days of the same, over and over, I finally sent her a message. I shared my struggle with her and that I felt lead to ask her to pray with me about where to go and what to do from here. And her response was this, “Oh sweet Katie. I pray for you every single day. God has laid a project on my heart that I wanted to talk to you and John about but wanted to give ya’ll time. I spoke to [a mutual friend] about it. You take your time and when you’re ready let me know. I’m here for you 100%. You are so loved.” I don’t know if reading this will have the same impact on you as it did (and still does) on me… but I’m telling you, I felt God MOVE in that moment. Like not just stir my soul, but shake it! Saying, “KATIE! I’M RIGHT HERE!!! Take my hand and let me mold you into what I’ve created you to be.” The same person that I had been lead to, over and over, in my thoughts, had also been lead to me. I won’t share much beyond that, but there is more perfection to His plan than I could even begin to describe. As His plan, and our prayerful execution of it unfold, I pray that it brings glory to God and remembrance to our precious son.
These are simply a few of the ways that God has made his presence known to me in this difficult season of my life. I’ve missed my daddy FIERCELY this week. Sometimes I ask God how on Earth He expects me to get through this. It hurts so badly. And then I’m reminded that my suffering is nothing compared to what others all over the world are enduring. And that this is not our home. This place is not supposed to be free of pain; our world is tainted by sin. I’ve shared this with my husband and my mom, but think that transparency could be more helpful than hiding my struggle to save face. My faith has never been stronger in my life than it is now. Truly. But my walk with Jesus is, and has been, on a rocky path. I stumble daily, falling and sometimes feeling like He’s not there to help me up. But I know He is. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I may not always feel Him, I may never see Him, but I KNOW He’s there. I will never walk alone, I just have to open my heart enough to allow Him to walk with me, perhaps even carry me.