Ok...So I have had a tough time trying to figure out how in the world I am going to relay my weekend to "all y'all"....I learned that term this weekend from all y'all southern bells. I got on the plane and went to Charlotte, NC to catch another plane to Atlanta at 11:40. As I sat in Charlotte's terminal, the time of my departure kept being postponed due to mechanical difficulties on the plane...argggg!....now I was the last of the 8 women to be coming in and they were waiting for me at the airport so I didn't want to hold up our evening. We finally got off the ground at 2:00 (in the mean time I ended up sitting next to Reverend Phillip and we talked the entire time about the great things God has done through my life and others using Jacob....coincedence?...I think not!) and I got into Atlanta. Now the Atlanta airport is no small airport....I have to get on the tram thing and here I am all nerved up and I have no idea who I am even looking for to pick me up! So, I come up the stairs and calling my name there is Emily (mother of Miller Grace http://emily0305.blogspot.com/)... the person who made it even possible for me to go on the trip) and Yvette (mother of Tristan http://tristanasher.blogspot.com/) who planned the trip in detail (21 minutes!...I love you Yvette!). They took me to the table where they were all eating lunch. There sat the other 5 mothers:
Angie (mother of Poppy Joy http://poppyjoy.blogspot.com/)
Kristy (mother of Isaac & Asher http://babybolte.blogspot.com/)
Chrissy (mother of Eva Janette http://evajanette.blogspot.com/)
Kenzie (mother of Maddox http://thestanfieldjourney.blogspot.com/)
Kim (mother of Mary Grace http://marygracesummons.blogspot.com/)
What did I say?...nothing profound....no condolences took place.....it wasn't needed....there is complete comfort in just knowing that you are understood because they are there going through it too.....no words can comfort like that, we just sat together and ate and talked about our travels.....like we knew each other from the past and were getting together to reunite. And the weekend continued just like that....comfortable and no awkward feelings. It was like we've known each other for years. When I got to the car to head for the conference, Emily had t-shirts made for our group that had all 9 baby's names and their total amount of time spent here on earth in the order of their passing (the picture is of us from the back walking to the conference)....we wore them and they did not go unnoticed....some people just asked us about them and others knew just who we were because they had read about us on the Deeper Still Blog. We found seats on the floor. 19,000 women in one building gathering together, praising God, opening His Word together and digging deeper into our spirits to be refreshed....how can I accurately relay that to you??? Standing in a row with 7 other women who's babies had died this past year yet we are all standing and raising our hands to God praising Him and telling Him about His goodness, His amazingness, thanking Him for His provision and blessing His name....how can I relay that to you so you feel that overwhelming emotion of praising a God who gives and takes away???? Sitting in that same row listening to Priscilla Shrier preach the Word of God from Exodus 19 about how God invited the Israelites into the wilderness and how He takes us through our wildernesses to see and hear Him and He took them/takes us there by divine invitation so that we can be brought face to face with God and although they/we don't want to be there in that wilderness we are there to see and hear God in a way we have never before and couldn't without that wilderness....how can I relay that presence of the Holy Spirit leading her message right to our hearts as we wonder the wilderness of losing our babies??? She said how God chose the wilderness for His people because it serves His purpose...no one wants the wilderness but we must press on to know Him! She paralleled a mother Eagle rustling her nest and stirring things up to get her baby bird out of there to spread it's wings and sour into the air and if her baby begins to fall, she is right beside it ready to help. God allows things to get rustled up, and although uncomfortable it serves the purpose to get us out of our nest and into the beauty of His purpose and as we soar through the air, He is there right beside the entire time and ready to catch us if we fall. Her teaching sums up my life since October 3rd when we found out about Jacob's heart condition in the womb. It has been uncomfortable and unfamiliar but I have NEVER ONCE doubted my Father's Hand comforting and guiding me through this time and only now, after months of wilderness I can spread my wings and soar and experience life more fully with Him by my side when things get hard and I miss my baby boy. His presence is so evident. I have experienced Him more fully because of this wilderness. THANK YOU LORD JESUS! Thank you for my baby Jacob who was such a powerful tool and has brought me closer to you. I lack the right words to express myself and how great it is to have these words Priscilla shared with us to parallel this wilderness I am in right now and evaluate all that is really happening. Beautiful.
After the conference we headed to the hotel for some pizza and girl-talk. Now, you all know I have been dying to have girl talk.....well there was no lack of that! I got 45 minutes of sleep for the entire night!!!!....and that was more than some! We just chatted and then as other retired, it was just me, Emily and Kim up. I am not sure how we even got onto certain subjects of things but we just talked and talked all night. It was strange....here I am, in a hotel room, with no reservation about what I am saying or who I am sleeping next to...complete comfort. So, then I said some things....things I have NEVER said......things that I have typed to you all about Jacob's passing but these words have never actually rolled off my tongue, out of my mouth to be audibly heard by those in the room. I sobbed. I sobbed in the arms of two of the most beautiful women I have ever met who, although they knew very little about me, they know more of my life now than anyone else could because they were there. They held their babies dead limp bodies. They kissed them for the last time. They arranged a funeral for them. They are praising God for the joy that comes through the storms. They are forever changed because of their beautiful babies they long to hold and will gaze upon them again only in the presence of Jesus. They not only wrapped their arms around me and held me, they comforted me like NO ONE could. How healing.
After our 45 minute night sleep, we headed to the conference. Saturday, June 28th. Miller Grace's (Emily's baby girl) one year anniversary of meeting Jesus face to face. Also, 4 weeks since Jacob's passing. Now, Emily and I found it very crazy how similar we are....we are very compatible and have similar ways of expressing ourselves and similar ways of reading others (it's hard to explain). So here we were, one year/four weeks after our baby's passing, holding each others hands, raising them up in pure whole hearted worship, then staring each other face to face and commissioning each other to live a life "deeper still." How beautifully orchestrated. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11. I thank God for His plans. I thank Him for His plans of blessing us with our babies as not to harm us but to give us hope and a future. I thank Him for so clearly spelling it out for me and giving me the Bible to strengthen and see how God's Words are so relevant today as it was and will always be.
Kay Arthur and Beth Moore spoke (both were sooooo great...even though I was sooooo tired!) and then after the conference, one of the conference coordinators came and escorted us 8 women out of the 19,000 back stage and had us wait in a room. Beth Moore came back and just loved on us. She looked us each in the eyes and hugged us, asked us how she can pray for us, called us giants of faith, and had us kneel down and she prayed over us, touching each of us and lifting up our requests and interceding on our behalf. She cared for us. So sweet. And here is Emily, on her baby girls death anniversary, hugging, posing with and getting prayed over by one of her heroes of the faith.......what a beautiful testimony of God's goodness and granting our desires.
We headed to dinner and then back to the hotel to go swimming and work on some crafts. We each bought a dish and smashed it and then collected a piece from each other and we are to make something out of it. I am not sure what it all stood for but, man, did I love smashing things! Emily didn't want to do hers so I did it and then any time someone needed a piece smashed again, I was right there to smash it. Some ladies are gluing the pieces to a picture frame and some just made clumps of broken pieces....I took each piece and glued them together and when I looked at it, I saw each piece that represented these broken families but glued together we produced a masterpiece that blesses others with our brokenness. Then we made "mats" that represented the crippled man who was brought by his friends to Jesus through a crowd and he was lowered through the roof (Luke 5:17-20). Our craft mat represented the mat and we are to bring each other the Jesus when one is crippled and cannot carry their own mat to Him. We put our baby's name in the middle and then everyone signed their baby's name(s) and their name around it. We then just girl talked the entire night again. Everyone pooped out in our room except Kim and I. Kim's baby girl, Mary Grace, and Jacob share the same birthday and we just talked about how amazingly different our stories are but yet we are all just knitted together with different similarities.
So we finally got to bed for about 2 hours and then the morning of good-byes began. Emily and I slept through breakfast not realizing Angie was leaving right from there (SORRY ANGIE!...we love you!) and then we started dwindling.....our group of 8 was down to 7, then 6, then 5, then 4....we headed to the airport together and then just Emily and I were left. Then I said good bye to her. That was so hard. The woman who was used of God to get me there to experience the weekend of a lifetime....who I cannot just go out to lunch with whenever, who I love deeper than can be explained, who I bonded with from the instant we were in contact, who has allowed my baby boy into her heart to enable her to love again, who is a beautiful vessel....I hugged her and held her tight and cried in her arms. I walked through the airport overwhelmed by what had happened that weekend. Every single one of these women touched my soul. Every one, although we came in contact in different ways, left such a huge imprint on my heart. Every one who's womb carried their babies and their arms are left empty and aching......they are just beautiful women who love Jesus and regardless of circumstances, finds joy in the one true living God. How can you walk away from a weekend like that without tears. How can I not be on the plane randomly having my eyes well up with tears of amazement and thanks. How can I possibly accurately relay it to you. These words do no justice to this weekend. There are no words to accurately relay it....I have left so much out. But it's not for you....it is our gift from God. I pray you never have to experience God in the ways we have....but I do pray that when you are in the wilderness, you will find true joy in it and sit there to hear and see our God like you never have before.