Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A God Moment

After a not-so-great day on Monday, we decided to take a little day trip on Tuesday. Maren was buried in a beautiful casket built by the brothers at New Melleray Abbey from trees grown in their forest, a ministry they provide free of charge to families who lose children. We drove there and saw where her little casket came from and thanked them for blessing our girl with such a gorgeous gift.

The "God moment" of the day came before we even got there, though. I'm always amazed at how He orchestrates things.

We stopped in a little town called Mt. Vernon for breakfast. We had to park halfway down the block, and as I got out of the car, I saw a t-shirt in the shop window that instantly made me think of Maren. At her visitation, someone called her "the little missionary." She touched so many people in the short time she lived, and she continues to help kids as memorials in her honor arrive in the mail every day for A Better Life for Kids. One person -- one tiny little person -- can do so much.

As we ate breakfast, I kept thinking about the shirt. I feared it would cost an arm and a leg, being in a little shop in a little town. Then I remembered that Sunday is Mother's Day, and I doubted Kevin had gotten me anything yet. I asked if he wanted to stop in and buy it for me for Mother's Day, and he was happy to oblige. (Trying to figure out what to get me for Christmas/my birthday/Mother's Day/etc. is torture for the poor guy.)

We stepped inside and I was totally thrown off -- I was expecting a boutiquey kind of shop, but instead I saw a wall of different t-shirt designs, a bunch of soaps, and something that looked like a big printing press. I looked around in confusion, wondering what I had just walked into. About that time, a guy our age appeared and explained they're a fundraising company, One Mission Fundraising. People from all over the country use their little shop to raise money for adoptions or youth group mission trips or whatever their need. Very cool. I picked out my t-shirt size and his wife fired up their t-shirt making machine.

As I paid, they asked which fundraiser I wanted to support with my purchase -- 40% of each sale goes to the person or group supported by the fundraiser. I did a shoulder shrug, not really sure who or what to support. Having found out earlier where we lived, he said, "How about No Foot Too Small? They're in Iowa City." My stomach did a little flip-flop. They raise money for research to end premature births and birth defects. They also support families who lose babies.

I teared up, knowing God made this happen. This couple had no idea we were on our way to see where our baby's casket was made. They didn't know we lost Maren just a week and a half ago. They couldn't know how perfect the suggestion was, and that by buying a t-shirt to remind me of my baby girl, I could also support other families who've lost their sweet children.

So today, instead of wallowing in sadness, I'm remembering the God who cares for and comforts me . . . and I'm so thankful for the ways He continues to surprise me.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Missing Maren

I'm having a rough morning. When I woke up, I thought, Two weeks ago at this time I was calling my mom and announcing, "You have a granddaughter! She's alive and she's beautiful!" But two short weeks later, here I am with empty arms. It seems like yesterday. It seems like a lifetime ago. People tell me it will get easier with time, and one day she won't be my first thought when I wake up in the morning.

As Maren was dying, I had a memory of a made-for-TV movie I watched when I was a kid. It was called Alex: The Life of a Child and was the true story of a little girl with Cystic Fibrosis. Craig T. Nelson from Coach played her dad, and the scene I remembered showed little Alex requesting root beer as she was dying. Of course there was none in the house, so her dad drove like a maniac to the closest store, then rushed home with it. She took a small sip, said, "Thank you, Daddy," and then died.

I remembered this because at one point I thought sweet Maren felt cold, so I asked Kevin to go and get her little hat. He did, and as he walked back toward us with it, he breathed warm air into it so it would be warm when he put it on her tiny head. For the rest of my life, I will remember that tender gesture. He was such a good daddy to her in the short time we had.

And as I think about those acts of love performed by earthy daddies for their little girls, I can't help but be thankful, because I know the love of earthly fathers is just a shadow of the love our Heavenly Father has for us. I know Maren has been shown even greater love in heaven since leaving us here on earth.

But I also have to remember he's not just Maren's Heavenly Father; he's my Heavenly Father, too. Through all of this, he's been beside me, arms wrapped around me, crying with me.

The sad truth about miracles is that they're like everything else in life -- once you've experienced one, you want more. After those three days, I wanted three more, and had I gotten three more, I would have wanted another three. I miss my girl. I try to focus on how wonderful those three days were. I try to remember I'll see her again. But right now, the hurt is what's bubbling to the top.