It goes without saying that life is precious. According to the book of James from the Bible, "you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (4:14, NASB). Life is so short. We must make every second count! Some of us live to be 92. Others never know life outside of the womb. Either way, in the realm of eternity (and not the temporal), our lives are but a blink of an eye. And yet, God has a plan for us. The prophet Jeremiah tells us the Lord says, "I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (29:11, NIV).
Caroline Grace's life will be very brief compared to the 28 years God has granted me thus far. However, the impact she has had on my life is by far the most influential role that any human on this earth has ever played in my life. Through this journey with anencephaly and Caroline, God has changed my heart in a huge way!
-God has softened my heart. It's important for us to not hold any grudges.
Regardless of the pain someone has caused you or how many times you have been disappointed in someone's repeated behavior towards you, life is too short to hold grudges! If a friend, sibling, or parent has caused you pain, forgive them. They probably chose those hurtful words or actions because they are hurting over something else in their life. And they are expressing their pain through words and actions that are attached to your name as a way to hide their real pain. Instead of getting angry, consider their pain (whatever it may be and however great or small that it is) and show compassion for them. Don't hold a grudge. You're only causing yourself more pain! Forgive. And show them love. Just like Jesus Christ has done for you and me.
-I've learned to not take things for granted. Good or bad.
Caroline's condition is a good reminder that none of us will be around forever. I may not live to see tomorrow. But God has given me today. And I thank Him that I woke up this morning! Instead of getting frustrated with Emily for not having enough clean clothes, an empty drawer is a reminder of all the times that I DID have enough clean clothes!!! And instead of getting upset and taking for granted that my Dad will not answer the phone when I call, I am simply thankful that I still have a Dad. Life is full of choices. God wants us to make the choice that brings joy to our lives and not grief!
-I've learned the difference between Happiness and Joy.
Happiness is a fleeting emotion. It is dependent upon external circumstances. You can be happy one moment and sad the next. However, JOY is a process. It involves a deeper reality than happiness. I can be Joyful and sad at the same time. Joy is a condition of genuine well-being, marked by confidence, hope, and trust that extends well past our personal understanding. I am not happy that Caroline has anencephaly. But I am joyful that Caroline has anencephaly. This is God's will for her life. And I am fortunate enough to be a part of such a transformational experience. I have an assurance that God is with us and will deliver us from this pain and sorrow that we are experiencing. Through this joy, I have hope for a future filled with happiness! Things happen for a reason. Caroline Grace is loved regardless of her condition. And because of her condition, I am a better man, husband, father, and friend. She has given me the joy of having a ministry of reaching out to others who are hurting. It is through my suffering and grace of God that I have grown stronger, more spiritual, and more passionate for helping others endure and persevere through their own suffering. Life is not happy all of the time. But it CAN be joyful all of the time.
-I've learned that most people have great intentions and are sincerely sweet, even if they say things that we interpret as 'not so nice' during our times of grief.
The first time someone said something to me that wasn't exactly interpreted as "nice" about Caroline, my initial reaction was to blurt out something mean in response. But God's grace helped me understand that they were well-intentioned and did not mean harm in any way. (I still blog about my true emotions because blogging is therapeutic. But I bridle my tongue in the moment) Shock, grief, and uncomfortable circumstances create something inside our brain that causes us to say some pretty stupid stuff!! I have to admit that I'm a victim of my "stupid brain" all the time!
-I have learned that God's grace IS sufficient. I've always THOUGHT that and heart that, but now I KNOW it is true.
Whether it's the need to get out of bed for work in the morning or getting through the next doctor's visit, God grants me whatever I need to successfully endure each moment. Some moments turn out better than others, but what really matters is that God is with me through it all. He has proven to me multiple times throughout each day that no matter how hard today is going to be, His love and grace is even more comforting than the discomfort that the pain causes. So, I can go to bed each night reassured that God IS still in control and that He will continue to grant me the grace to go on for another day!
Dear Lord,Thank you, for giving us Caroline Grace. Thank you for your Grace. And thank you for using this journey for your glory in my life. Please continue to bless me so that I can help others find something to smile about in times of grief! Amen.