When Will The Suffering End?

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Right after Thao died I had the fleeting thought that I had paid my dues. The unimaginable had happened. Thao died. I lost my son. 

I had been convinced a few months earlier that I would never lose a child. That the Lord would not allow that kind of pain and suffering in my child's life. 

But I had been corrected. 

And yet I still thought that maybe I was safe. The rest of my life I could rest assured because I had already spent my time in the hospital. I had already surrendered. The Lord asked for surrender. I dedicated my life and my marriage and my family to Him. Done.

Check. Check. Check.

But friends, where in the Bible does it say once you have suffered enough, I will make the road easy for you? Your journey will be full of only good things. Your life will be easy. And comfortable. 

No where. 

The Lord says this world is fallen and broken and sinful and a wreck. Because, sin. 

The Lord also says He gives us the gifts of joy and hope and salvation and heaven. Because, Jesus.

I lost my son. I lost three precious babies before I held them. I waited three and a half years for my Congolese babies to come home. I lost a lot of stuff in a house fire

And none of those things have stolen my joy or my love or my salvation or my Jesus from me. I love my life and I enjoy my days!

Because the things I cling to are eternal, not earthly. The thing I will hold most dear to my heart cannot be bought with money or contained in a house. I hold onto Hope the most of all. 

Because of Hope, I know that I will see Thao again. 

Because of Hope, I know that I will meet my precious babies face to face. 

Because of Hope, I endured the wait. 

Because of Hope, the stuff I lost was put into perspective. 

Because of Jesus, my Hope. 

So, dear friends, when will this suffering end? 

As long as we walk this blessed earth, we will endure suffering. We will walk alongside the suffering. We will bring the suffering into our homes. We will be the suffering. 

It will ebb and flow. Some days just finding shoes for five kids feels a lot like suffering. Some days soggy carrots and messed up meal plans feels a lot like suffering. Some days I feel as though I carry the suffering souls in my own. Some days suffering is holding my child as he takes his last breath or watching my house go up in flames. Some days suffering is holding a hurting child and loving them anyway. 

Do not run from suffering. 

We can't take anything with us, but we can see other souls ushered into Jesus' arms by the way we live through the suffering.  

Be like Job. 

Praise Jesus through the suffering.  (Job 1:20-22)

Be like Job's friends. 

Sit with the suffering. (Job 2:13)

Bringing Thao Home

We brought him home from the hospital. Our young little selves, at twenty-two and twenty-three brought a real life human baby home to care for. God created and grew him in my womb. Only God could create this tiny miracle. And here we were, still newly-weds of some sort, bringing home a child to love and care for. And let me tell you, no one could love a baby more than us. 

We doted on him. For hours we would just stare at him, this miracle. We counted fingers and toes.  We ran our fingers down his soft baby skin arms. We smelled his head and marveled at every little noise he made. He had a crooked little yawn. He stretched like big people do, only it was tiny and much cuter. He curled up his chubby legs. He opened his eyes and they met ours, again. At times it felt as if he could see straight into my soul. He intently watched us, always observing and learning about the world around him.

Time passed and soon his days and nights straightened out. We found a new normal, adjusting to life as parents. We worked during the day, Jeff at a cabinet shop while I stayed home and watched extra kids. Our evenings consisted of spending time with our little family and working on our forever-fixer-upper house. Life was good. Thao was growing and learning and keeping us on our toes.

We were in awe of this little boy with bright blue eyes and contagious smile. He loved well, learned much, and snuggled often. He learned to crawl and then to walk. 

It was a simple life, a quiet life. And it was so good. 

"For me, the worst part of giving birth was the fact that I had to share my baby. I couldn't protect him or selfishly keep all the smiles and snuggles to myself. He was a beautiful, fun baby. He was our gift." -Excerpt from Still.

You can read more of Thao's story in my memoir, Still (when all else fades away)

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When Thao Was Born

I will never forget the first time he looked at me. The way our eyes met, he knew me. I will never forget the tears of joy his daddy cried. I will never forget the gentleness of his cry. Or the fuzzy curls on his head. 

I remember the weight of his tiny eight pounds placed in my arms. It was nothing compared to the weight lifted off of me when he was finally here, healthy and safe. He was our rainbow baby, although I hadn't heard that term at the time. He was our breath of fresh air. He was wanted, longed for, prayed for and loved. He was a dream come true, our adventure, our son. 

I remember when we got to show him off. As proud as parents could be, we introduced him to his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Of course they ooooed and ahhed over him. Of course they would, he was beautiful.

My round little one with the gentle cry, the strong appetite, the button nose. We were so in love. Doting on him as parents do, our love grew deeper that day. Stronger, even than it was before. It grew to encompass this tiny baby. We changed his diapers, soothed his cries. We dressed him in clothes we had chosen so many weeks before. We slowly placed him in his carseat. We were ready to take this baby boy home. To start this life as parents. To teach him and train him and love him and nurture him. To snuggle him and smile at him and love him 'til it hurt. 

We just didn't know then. We didn't know how much it would hurt. Or how fiercely we would love. Or how tested our patience would be. We didn't know how imperfect our parenting was. Or how much this tiny little boy would teach us. About himself and ourselves. About our marriage. About love and grace and forgiveness. About patience. About God. 

We had no idea how much personality was wrapped up into this itty bitty bundle. We had no idea how many questions we would answer. Or how many questions would be left unanswered. 

I was twenty-two years old. Married for two years to my best friend and beginning this new adventure of motherhood. After losing our first baby to miscarriage, this child was the answer to our heart cries, our prayers. I wanted to be a mother for as long as I could remember. Other girls would dream of becoming a veternarian or a teacher. Other girls would go on to universities and become doctors. I wanted to be a mom. I dreamed of staying home with my own house full of children and greeting my husband with a kiss when he walked in the door. This child was everything we ever wanted. 

I didn't know so many things at that point. And thank you, Lord, for that. Because not knowing helped me to just be. Just be a mom to Thao. A regular, stay-at-home, fiercely loving, mama. 

those toes. 

those toes.