(updated at the bottom:))
Todd and I seem to be in “Spring Cleaning” mode a little early this year. In the past few days, we have started tackling some home projects that we have been putting off for awhile. One of them (which I was DREADING) was cleaning out our closets. I was dreading it for a few reasons, not the least of which was that there were some sassy pants in a size 2 that I knew God was calling me to surrender to the “in your dreams” pile. I decided I need to take some pressure off myself about losing all of my baby weight, so I was actually pretty liberal with my sorting this time around. I was also dreading cleaning out the girl’s closets because there were stacks of clothes that needed to be sorted by size and season, and different piles for people who have little girls (Summer, Amelia, and Bella..comin’ at ‘ya!!!!). I have been putting it off forever, so I committed the afternoon yesterday and set up shop in Kate’s room. I turned on the radio and started reaching for the piles.
About a half hour later, I was in tears.
I hadn’t expected it to be so mentally draining. I have mentioned this before, but I really feel like I see life in photographs. I remember the outfit Ellie was wearing when she realized that the hose water was freezing, and about 2 seconds later when she taught Abby the same lesson the hard way. I remember what Kate wore home from the hospital, and what blankie I first photographed her in. I remember the bathing suit that Abby was wearing when she felt beach sand for the first time.
I remember the dresses the girls were wearing last Christmas, when I was a few months pregnant with a baby girl I thought was healthy. I have one of our Christmas cards from last year and it is signed “Todd, Angie, Ellie, Abby, Kate and Baby Smith.”
I grieved all over again, in a different way. I grieved because I can’t hold her in those sweet hand-me-downs while rocking her to sleep. It seems like at this point, the hardest moments come in ways that are totally unexpected. I start to feel like I am doing really well, and then I get hit over the head with this queasy feeling of agony.
I sat on Kate’s floor and dreamed of Audrey for awhile. I miss her so much, and I daily mourn the loss of the little moments of life I take for granted with the girls.
As I made my way into my closet, I felt so heavy with sadness. I started throwing my maternity clothes into a giant bag while I had a little “conversation” with God. It was pretty one-sided.
At least it was at first.
After a few minutes, I looked up and saw the bag that has my wedding dress in it. When I talk about “the Lord speaking to me,” it is in a time like this, when I feel a prompting to do something and I know that it is coming from Him. In this moment, I felt like I needed to unzip the bag. It seemed a little odd, but I know Him well enough to know that I should just obey the urging and let Him guide me to where I am supposed to be. I unzipped the bag and for a brief moment, my mind was consumed with the fact that I used to have a 21 inch waist, but then I remembered that the God of the Universe was speaking to me (clap, clap!) so I returned to a posture of listening.
I pulled the bottom of the dress out of the bag and the train came spilling out. I spread it out on the ground and studied it as moments of my wedding day came to mind. I started to relax and my eyes drifted to the edges of the train. And I saw the most incredible, unexpected thing.
The hem of my gown is dirty. Really dirty.
And I know how it got that way. I walked down a church aisle, took photographs in the grass, and danced and ate my way to happiness. I lived in it.
A few dresses down from my wedding gown is the dress I wore when we buried Audrey. It is dirty as well, but not from happiness. It is stained with fresh earth, wrinkled from kneeling by my daughter’s grave.
And so I sat on my closet floor asking the Lord to show me why He had brought me here. I closed my eyes and imagined the hem of my wedding gown as I danced with my new husband.
“… I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
I couldn’t remember the whole scripture, but the words “You are the bride of Christ” came to mind. I suddenly had an image in my mind of myself in a glorious white gown that floated all around me. A seemingly endless train chasing after me as I walked.
And then, Him.
I couldn’t see Him in my mind, but I felt a great peace as I imagined my hands, clutching at fabric all around me so I could run to where He was. I saw myself, falling before Him as my dirty gown settled all around me. Dirty from the hurt and the disappointment. Dirty from the dancing in joy. Dirty from years of walking across a wet graveyard. Dirty from loving deeply, richly, completely. Dirty from the fears, the dreams, the sorrow, the confusion. Dirty from the memories, the regrets, the mistakes, the injustice of this world.
Stained by this life I have walked while my Savior whispered, “One day I will wipe your tears, my sweet bride…”
What a glorious hem surrounds us all. It follows us wherever we go, gathering up pieces of this life in anticipation of the next.
And one day, I will bow to the King of Kings, and I will worship Him.
And as He wipes the tears from my eyes, I will ask Him the question that cannot be answered fully from a closet floor….Where is she, Lord?
And in the meantime, I will start to think of my days like a wedding photograph. I will walk, veiled, down this long aisle, in breathless anticipation of the day that awaits me.
I will trust in the One Who will make all things new in His time.
I will keep my eyes on He Who waits for me.
Or rather, I do.
Thank you, Lord. May my life be an offering that brings You glory…
P.S. How did the 7×7 prayers go this week? I would love to hear about it!!!
P.P.S. The gorgeous girl holding my dress is my best friend Audra, whom Audrey was named after:) She is due to have baby girl number two in a few months…actually, her due date is the week Audrey was diagnosed last year. Audra, thank you for holding my hem in so many ways for so many years….I love you:)