Monday, August 29, 2011

My Daughter's Hands

My daughter’s death affects me differently each day.  In a broad sense, of course, there is a constant sorrow.  This truth is highlighted well in Written in Tears, an aptly titled book I purchased shortly after Savannah’s passing.  In considering the unexpected death of his 13 year old daughter, the author spills much ink explaining how, even with the joy of Christ pervading, he endures a persistent grief.  At one point, he directs the reader to the words of another, quoting Nicholas Wolterstorff from Lament for a Son:

     Sometimes I think that happiness is over for me.  I look at photos of the past and 
     immediately comes the thought: that's when we were happy.  But I can still laugh, so 
     I guess that isn't quite it.  Perhaps what's over is happiness as the fundamental tone 
     of my existence.  Now sorrow is that.
         Sorrow is no longer the islands but the sea.

That bit of prose resonates heavily with me, as there is undoubtedly a sadness that is ever present.  What differs, as I mentioned in the opening, is the way in which the sadness manifests.  Each day I miss my daughter and some aspect of her life anew.  Some days the attribute I most miss is her laugh.  She had a beautiful laugh, one that was both infectious and impossible to duplicate.  Other days I miss watching her walk, a talent she had only recently acquired.  Yet other days I find myself longing for her crooked smile or the pouting lip she displayed when she cried.  These desires can be alleviated, in the minutest manner, by looking at pictures or watching videos.  While the aforementioned endeavors always bring tears, they also provide me with a bit of relief.  I am able, for the briefest of moments, to see an image of her smile or hear a snippet of her laugh.  While it is certainly no substitute for reality, it is comforting to have those tangible memories.

One desire, however, cannot be even partially fulfilled.  That is, of course, her touch.  There is no medium that can replicate that sense.  The closest I can come is dreams…and it is amazing how often those occur.  I could not begin to count the amount of dreams I have had since her death, dreams in which I am holding her cheek to mine or walking with her arms around my neck.  Her touch has been the theme of today…it is what I’ve longed for most desperately during my hours at work…specifically the touch of her hands. 

Savannah had adorable hands, petite like the rest of her, inherited from her equally adorable and petite mother.  I loved to hold her hands in mine and marvel at the intricacy of God’s design.  I loved watching her learn new tricks with her fingers each day as her fine motor skills advanced.  More than anything, however, I loved when she placed her hands on me.  As she learned to walk, I cherished the times when she reached her hand out for mine.  I reveled in the moments that she would grab onto my pants leg and look into my eyes.  My absolute favorite, however, was when she would place her hand to my lips.  I would sit her in my lap for this very reason, knowing full well that she would eventually do so.  She would twist herself around until she could look directly into my eyes, and she would then smile and bring her hand up to my mouth.  This usually resulted in a ferocious giggle on her behalf, especially if I opened my mouth and pretended to swallow her fingers. She would jerk her hand away in delight, wait a moment with curious eyes, and then cautiously place her hand back on my mouth.  The icing on the cake were the times when, as she placed her fingers on my lips, she would say her trademark “DA!.”  

 I can’t write anymore right now.  The tears are beginning to flow and my mind is clouding.  I just wanted to share with others what I’m missing.  I’m including a video below of Savannah and Aspen (our dog).  It’s grainy and low resolution, but I love it because it captures her laugh and the way the two interacted.  Thank you all again for your love.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Jordan's Stormy Banks...

I appreciated Pastor Paul’s exposition of Philippians 3:17-21 last week, wherein he focused heavily on Heaven and the glorified bodies of Believers.  Both are topics that I have pondered heavily since Savannah’s passing.  It is exciting to think about how Savannah Grace will appear in the New Heavens and New Earth.  Will she be young in appearance?  Will I recognize her as my daughter?  These are questions upon which I can only speculate, as the Bible does not provide concrete answers to them.  There is contained within them, however, a truth of which I can be certain.  Whatever the circumstances, I will be filled with more joy than I can currently imagine.  I will, a la Edwards, have my cup filled completely to its brim.  Savannah’s cup, whether bigger or smaller than my own, will also be filled to capacity.  In other words, we will both be exceedingly joyful.  We will be filled with as much satisfaction as possible and it will never wane.  
But here’s what I want to focus on…my joy will not result from Savannah being present in Heaven.  Nor will hers be due to Ashley’s presence or mine.  That isn’t to say that we will not receive joy from the fact that we are all in Heaven, but that our joint presence will not be the source of our joy.  Our joy in Heaven will stem from the fact that we are in the glorious presence of Christ.  This doesn’t make sense to an unbelieving world.  When (or if) the world considers Heaven, they imagine a place filled with loved ones and whatever earthly pursuits they enjoy.  Christians understand that much of that will be present in a redeemed form, but that the center of it all will be Christ.  We must find our eternal hope in Him.  To modify John Piper: “If you could have Heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth including your beautiful daughter, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with Heaven, if Christ was not there?”  I can only answer this question with a resounding no.
The illustration above can also be inverted.  If I were to conjure a picture of Heaven without Savannah Grace but with Christ, the place I would be imagining would still be one of maximum joy.  This one is harder for me to comprehend, but I know it to be true.  It hearkens back to the same truth that I mentioned before…Savannah’s presence will not be the source of my joy.  It compounds upon it, however, by highlighting that a lack of her presence would not detract from my joy.   That seems incomprehensible to me on some level, and I don’t think I will ever be able to fully understand it while living in a fallen world.  Even so, I trust it to be true.  While I have no reason to imagine  Heaven without my daughter, it is encouraging to know that it would still be Heaven without her.  That’s how big our God is.  Christ is so glorious and majestic that His presence alone is enough to fill eternity with unsurpassed joy.  That is crazy love.
So in conclusion, I do long for Heaven.  I long to see my precious girl once again, and to do so in a World void of pain and suffering.  But streets of gold and Savannah Grace are not my hope…Christ is.
     On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
     And cast a wishful eye
     To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
     Where my possessions lie.

     O’er all those wide extended plains
     Shines one eternal day;
     There God the Son forever reigns,
     And scatters night away.

     -Samuel Stennett

Monday, August 22, 2011


So after the saddest birthday of my life, we quickly faced a partially flooded house and a broken down car.

Meanwhile, the Cards are 9 games back and the #1 football recruit in the nation is considering going to South Carolina.

It's amazing how the events of this world, even the small ones, can seem to conspire against our joy.

Good thing our Hope isn't in this world...

Friday, August 19, 2011

From Darkest Night

25 days.  This is how time is now measured.  25 days since our precious daughter took her final breath.  25 days since my wife and I were hurled into an unfamiliar territory…one we never wanted to experience.  19 since we laid her body in the ground.  I know that such measuring will one day cease.  Days will merge into weeks, weeks into years, until eternity one day renders time obsolete.  As for now, however, days suffice.
While time can be easily measured, the grace of God cannot.  It would be impossible to relay the depth of grace that we have witnessed over the last three weeks.  I do not think it beneficial to always try to see the good God brings from tragedy, but I thank God that He sometimes makes it abundantly clear.  It has, for instance, encouraged many to see the way the local church body has responded to these events.  The familial love that we have for one another has been on high display, and many have been moved by it.  The Gospel has been preached to unbelieving family members and friends, and they have seen it lived out simultaneously.  We even have hope that we will see conversion directly correlated to Savannah Grace’s death.  My wife wrote about much of this on her blog before stating the exact point I am about to make.  If it were up to me, none of this would have come about.  Not by these means.  I would trade everything I’ve mentioned to have my daughter back.  This reminds me of how amazed I’ve always been by the beginning of Romans 9.  It astounds me that Paul would be willing to be accursed for the sake of his kinsman.  I love people and want desperately for them to know Christ, but I’m not willing to trade for it the mortal life of my daughter…much less my own Salvation.
The unity of the body and proclaiming of the Gospel are not the only good results to have been made evident.  My wife and I, according to the experts and their statistics, should be growing apart.  Instead, it seems that our relationship is sweeter and closer than it has ever been.  (Please do not mistake this for foolish pride.  I understand that we are only a few weeks in and that trials will undoubtedly come.  I have confidence, however, that Savannah’s passing will have a unifying effect on our marriage overall.  This confidence is based not on anything within Ashley or myself, but solely upon the grace of Christ.) Furthermore, Ash and I have been able to experience the deep love our extended families.  We have been reminded of friendships that we had begun to undervalue and take for granted.  The fact that my wife is writing her aforementioned blog is itself an evidence of God’s grace.  My hesitancy to blog stems from laziness, hers is from something entirely different.  My wife struggles with opening up to people, even ones she knows well, so the fact the she is writing so intimate a blog causes my heart to rejoice.  We have also been made aware of the importance of sound doctrine.  It is comforting for us to understand that there is design in our suffering.  Our daughter’s death did not catch God by surprise, nor was it the best option from a panel of limited possibilities.  We may never- even in eternity- understand the full breadth of God’s plan, but we rest assured in the knowledge that He is glorified through Savannah Grace’s life and death.  Such knowledge does not take away the bitterness of losing her, but it does produce a sweet aftertaste.  We also haven’t struggled overtly with anger toward God, as we understand that any comfort or blessing we have is undeserved.  Ash and I can cling to such truths in the midst of tragedy due to being part of a body that takes the Gospel seriously, and we are extremely thankful that we have been shown our own sinfulness and inundated with solid teaching about mercy and grace. 
Of course, God’s grace is also evident in ways that are not as easy to speak of.  Deeply embedded sin, some of which I was failing to see or deal with, is being made clear.  The sharp edge of tragedy has peeled away layers of cynicism and pride.  While the process itself is painful, I can rejoice in the fact that it is happening in the shadow of the Cross. I recently read a prayer from The Valley of Vision that highlights this truth well.  Near the end it reads: 
     O my crucified but never wholly mortified sinfulness!
     O my indwelling and besetting sins!
     O the tormenting slavery of a sinful heart!
     Destroy, O God, the dark guest within
     whose hidden presence makes my life a hell.
     Yet thou hast not left me here without grace;
     The cross still stands and meets my needs
     in the deepest straits of the soul.
     I thank the that my remembrance of it
     is like David's sight of Goliath's sword
     which preached forth thy deliverance.

It is a joy to remember that my identity is in Christ…that I have been made righteous in God’s sight. 

I’m not sure yet what direction I want to take this blog.  It might be short ramblings, or I may use it to pour out longwinded musings.  I might post weekly, bi weekly, or never again.  The latter option will seem most likely to those who know me well…I don’t exactly excel in consistency.  In case I do end up posting again, I want to make one thing clear.  I believe my little girl is in Heaven.  I mention this because future posts will most likely carry it as a foregone conclusion.  I acknowledge that infant salvation is not something on which the Bible is explicitly clear, but I believe a good case can be made for all infants being part of the elect.  I would lay out my argumentation here, but there is no need.  I’ve found a PDF from a seminary professor that advocates my view in a more concise and effective manner than I could ever hope.  If you’re interested, you’re welcome to download it here.

Grace and Peace