Brown Shirt Mamas
Over the past year and a half I have been asked for countless updates on the seven other mamas that decended upon Atlanta for a fabulous Deeper Still weekend filled with worship, late-night talks, tears and laughter. One of the girls, my precious friend Emily, was asked to write a current "status report" on what God has done in each of our families' lives. Her beautiful account is written below. Enjoy God's story...
I was recently asked for an update on our "Atlanta Eight" and thought y'all might be interested in hearing where we are now, too. By His grace alone.
We became known by the color of our t-shirts, but we had more in common than that. We had each said goodbye to one of our babies in the last year. But we had more in common than that, too. Heartbroken and confused, we were clear about one thing and one thing alone: we wanted to see His glory.
It was in the praying for, the holding tight, and the letting go of our little ones that we found out who our Savior really was and is and is to come. He is mighty. He is meek. He is quiet. He is loud. He is strong. He is gentle. He weeps with us. He rejoices with us, too. He listens closely and answers clearly. He heals. He holds when healing doesn’t come. He makes sense when nothing does. His breath is warm. His arms are strong. He is real. He is present. He is God.
It had been exactly one year since my daughter’s death. It had been four weeks since Karen’s son had died. In the time between, Angie, Yvette, Kim, Kenzie, Kristy, and Chrissy had all said goodbye to their babies, too. For Kristy, it was her second son to release to the Lord. By the grace of God, we converged on Atlanta for a weekend that would change us forever.
Deeper Still: The Event was sacred to us. We were able - for the first time in a long time - to feel somewhat normal and understood as we sat together, prayed together, learned together, and worshiped together. Our eyes and the tears that flowed from them, our hands and the way they couldn’t stay down any longer, our voices and the way they quivered as we sang His praises seemed to say it all.
It has been a year and a half since we have seen each other’s faces and held each other’s hands. As long as I live, I will never forget how it felt to take Karen’s sweet face in my hands just before she climbed out of my car and onto her plane, as I promised her that her God was still going to be good a year from then. I remembered wondering how I would make it through a day, when my grief was fresh and my heart was raw, and it was my heart cry to prove to her that our God was more than able to carry her through, too.
I think all eight of us would agree today that God is indeed good and He has indeed carried us further than we ever dreamed He dreamed He might. God was doing a work in our hearts before our babies ever came or our suitcases arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, and He will be working long after our new babies are grown and gone. That’s right. Every single one of us has been blessed with a brand new life in her home. If you had asked us that weekend in Atlanta where we would be in a year and a half, I am quite certain none of us would dared to dream we could possibly be right where we are now.
Poppy Joy Luce was the first of our babies in Heaven to gain the Big Sister status when her parents and big sister brought the beautiful Adrienne Christine home in May, 2008, and made Adrienne’s adoption official on Poppy‘s 1st Birthday that December. Tristan Asher Hostetter’s parents were blessed with the opportunity to bring a sweet baby girl (born on Tristan’s mommy Yvette’s birthday, no less) home from the hospital in October, 2008, making him a Big Brother, just like his own two big brothers at home.
Maddox Donald Stanfield soon earned his Big Brother status when his stunning baby sister, Faith Clare, was born in November, 2008. Judging from his own Big Brother’s smile, I imagine Maddox was a happy boy that day, too. Eva Janette’s mommy learned she was expecting her new blessing - Eva’s adorable baby brother Dante, born in February, 2009 - the very weekend we were all together in Atlanta. Many of us watched Chrissy’s elation and wondered if that would ever be ours again. Oh, how God must have been smiling then!
Kim and I, both Kentucky natives and moms of three girls, were roommates that weekend. We could never have dreamed what God in store for us. The following April, our newest baby girls were born a week apart. Miller Grace Cassetty became a Big Sister to my dear Abigail Joy on April 2nd. Mary Grace Summons became a Big Sister to the precious AnnaGrace Pearl on April 9th. How awesome.
But, God wasn’t done!
After four boys, Kristy welcomed an amazing baby girl, Hope Amelia, on the first day of June. I can only imagine how proud Isaac Matthew and Asher Joseph had to have been of their family that day. True to form, our dear friend Karen was the last to join our joyful chaos. Jacob Ryan Fahmer became the third Big Brother in his family when Karen delivered her fourth gorgeous boy, Jeremiah Gabriel, this past August.
We are just eight women. If you passed any of us in the grocery store, you likely would not give us a second glance. (Unless, of course, one of our children threw an orange at you or something.) We are ordinary in every way. We come from farms and big cities alike. Some of us are working moms and some of us stay at home. Some of us home school and some of us do not. Some of us are nursing mothers and some of us are not. While it is true that some of us have urns on our mantels and others of us buy silk flowers instead of toys when special occasions roll around, you would never know that by looking at us.
Our story is one of God’s power. By no other means could we, as ordinary women who love our children with all we are, have survived the storm we have come through. By no other means could our scarred hearts have healed so much. By no other means could our families have known peace and joy again. Our hope is not in our children in Heaven any more than it is in the children in our arms. Our hope comes in knowing where our true treasure lies, fixing our eyes on what is not seen, but unseen; on what is not temporary, but eternal.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)