Abide in Me

Close up of baby's foot in mother's handWhen I am asked, “How many children do you have?” I don’t know how to respond. “Three,” I answer, while I finish the sentence in my head, “…here with me and one in Heaven.” I will never forget my daughter, Rachel Faith, even if the only life she experienced was in the womb. She is always with me. As beautiful as she was at birth and at death, those images are not what flutter through my mind. I imagine her dancing with her sister. I twirl her dark curls. I embrace her, though she’s not physically here. Rachel died at birth and age stopped counting, but to me she’s almost 10.

Rachel lived in me. Her heart beat loud and strong while she stayed with me. But she left my body, and our hearts no longer beat in harmony. She was here. Then she was gone. About a week before Rachel Faith was born, I felt a sharp pain on my lower left side. I feared its significance; I knew her birth was near. By this time, the trisomy 18 had been confirmed, and the grim outlook bore gravely down upon me. I fell to my knees and wept. Through tears, I whispered to Rachel, though she could not hear or understand, “Stay with me! Don’t come out! Don’t go!” As long as she was in me, her heart beat. In me, she was alive and strong, vital. Apart from me, her imperfect body could do nothing.

Jesus says in John 15:5 (NKJV), “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” The Greek meno (abide) means to stay in a given place, to continue, endure, or remain. Jesus tells us to stay in Him. In Him, we are alive and strong, vital. In Him, we bear much fruit. Apart from Him, we wither. Apart from Him, we perish. Now, my Rachel could not physically remain in me forever. Her departure from this world was an act of the Father pruning my husband’s and my branches. We faithfully allowed God to work His will in our lives out of obedience to Him. “By this My Father [was] glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8 NKJV).

Losing Rachel evoked desperate emotions. My thoughts echoed Job’s, “May the day of my birth perish…That day – may it turn to darkness…May darkness and deep shadow claim it once more; may a cloud settle over it; may blackness overwhelm its light. That night – may thick darkness seize it; may it not be included among the days of the year nor be entered in any of the months…for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me to hide trouble from my eyes” (Job 3:3-10 NIV). The pain was so intense; I felt it would be better never to have existed at all than to experience such heartbreak.

Though I lingered awhile in the darkness, I could not wallow forever in my misery. I emerged from the pit despair plunged me into, “And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 4:2-3, emphasis mine.) Rachel existed, but she did not live to “see the evil that is done under the sun.” I know she is truly happy, for to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

From time to time, I gaze my affection upon memories of Rachel. She was here so briefly, they are but few, so I hide those treasured trinkets away in my heart. Often in regard to writing, I tell people I know it’s a God thing when my writing goes a completely different direction than the one I had planned. The same is true in life. I had plans for Rachel. Big ones! But what God had planned for her was so much better. Better than both is he who has not yet been! All Rachel has ever known is Glory. I rejoice in God’s plan. Sure, I cry tears of sorrow from time to time, but I long for time without end when I join her in God’s presence and see what she has always seen.

Jesus wants us to produce fruit for Him. The type of fruit we produce by remaining in God’s love is what results from our example of faith, things such as reaching the lost, drawing His children closer to Him, and exemplifying His gentle mercies. We must continue in Him. We must remain attached to the vine in order to bear fruit. He tells us this 10 times from verses 4-10 of John 15!

If I abide in Christ, and He in me, I am vibrant. As Rachel was alive in me, I am alive in Jesus! Remain in Jesus, dear sisters. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11 NKJV).

By Jodi Whisenhunt

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Stephanie Shott

Stephanie Shott is the founder of The M.O.M. Initiative, a ministry devoted to making mentoring intentionally missional. She is an author and a popular speaker who helps women live full, fearless and faithful lives. To invite Stephanie to speak at your next event, visit her website at www.stephanieshott.com. To find out more about The M.O.M. Initiative or to begin a M.O.M. Mentor Group, visit www.themominitiative.com.

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Comments

  1. My heart broke reading your story, and it took me back to the ectopic pregnancy that I suffered in 2009, and the healing that has come in stages.

    This is beautiful, and what a lovely spin to place on such a sad mystery — one that we will truly never understand this side of heaven.

    Thank you so much for your bravery, and authenticity.

  2. Thank you for sharing. In the last week, my prayer list has added one expectant mother who just received this type of news and another who received it months ago and held her precious son for 90 minutes a few days ago before he left for heaven. Thanks again for sharing your story and please join in my praying for Michelle and Shauna.

  3. I’m so glad you shared this Jodi, not only for the window it gives into your heart and life, but for the embrace of encouragement it’s going to be for some many others.

    • Thank you, Julie! It took me several years to be able to talk about losing Rachel with anyone who did not walk through that time with us. I hope my story can help bring peace to others in similar situations.

  4. Tara Dovenbarger says:

    Wonderful, encouraging post. Thanks Jodi!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jodi. Very touching and so helpful for others who have gone through this.

  6. Thank you for sharing your story. We walked a tough road in 2005 when the doctors told us at 14 weeks that we were going to have a child with “some sort of special needs”… they didn’t know if it would be trisomy 16, 18 or 21. Two of which aren’t compatible with life… I ended up having contractions at 5 months. They wanted us to have an amnio to “what we were dealing with”. We didn’t want to risk losing our precious daughter so we choose not to have one. The conversations my hubby & I had during that pregnancy brought us closer to each other and our Lord. We were very blessed to have our Hannah born at full term with down syndrome. But my heart goes out to all mom’s who have had to deal with the trisomy 16 & 18.

    • Kat, thanks for sharing your experience. We too found out early on via the “triple screen” blood test, and then the trisomy 18 was confirmed with amnio at about 20 weeks. Rachel was born at 28 weeks and lived only moments. It was definitely a difficult time (that’s an understatement!), but my husband and I both were certainly sharpened in our faith. What a blessing your Hannah must be!

  7. themomin says:

    Jodi ~ Thank you so much for sharing such a painful place to minister to those who may be there now. I love how you said, “All Rachel has even known has been Glory!” What a beautiful truth. And how good to know we will once know that Glory too and you will see that precious one once again, more alive than ever!

  8. So beautiful! Made me cry!

  9. I am so sorry for your loss (I just found your blog through the time warp wife). Thank you for turning such a tragedy into encouragement for others, I can only imagine how difficult it is to do that. Your story makes these scriptures come alive for me, and make them more real to my heart. (I realize it’s hardly a consolation)

    I’d be honored if you’d share this post with my encouraging link-up http://www.lessonsfromivy.com/2012/04/encouragement-in-trials-with-linky.html

  10. This is an amazing post. I’m so sorry. What a day that will be when you and your sweet Rachel are reunited in Glory.

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