Monday, 8 April 2013

Grief, Healing, and Reward...The Story of Eli

Baby dedications can mean different things to different people.  For Chris and I, it is about declaring our intentions to raise our children in a way that honors God.  It is our way of saying to the world that we are committing them to God's grace and guidance, and we are praying for God's help and wisdom to help mold and shape their hearts towards God.

To some, it may seem strange that on Sunday we dedicated our youngest son, Eli to the Lord at our church in Greenville.  It's not strange that there was a baby dedication and that we would want to do this, what's strange is that Eli is two years old.  Most children at baby dedications are in fact...babies, usually quite small ones as you can see in this photo.

We had scheduled to do a baby dedication for him in Edinburgh, but there was a huge marathon that day, and we were unable to make it to church on time because a 10 minute drive took us 1 1/2 hours. Then we just had to park and walk another 30 minutes to get to church.  Of course, by the time we had arrived, we were just too late for it to work out.

After that, time just flew by, God was calling us back to the USA, and it just never happened.  I had almost decided that we'd just let this go.  God knows our heart after all.  This wee lad had been dedicated to God long before he ever made his way into our loving arms.

Then I thought of Hannah, Samuel's mom.  And I remembered how much like Hannah I felt in the year before God gave us Eli.

2009 was by far the most difficult year of my life.  The year began with us finding we were very unexpectedly pregnant followed closely by a miscarriage.  Then we returned to our home in Budapest, Hungary to find that the church we were working with was basically closing it's doors, so our world was thrown into further chaos as we began to try and figure out where God was sending us.  We moved back to the USA to await visas before moving to Scotland.  While we were waiting, my brother died suddenly from a brain aneurysm.

My brother James and his wife Beth

So I moved to Scotland in September, and all that loss hit me in a wave of grief so strong that it was hard to breathe.  Depression sank in, and I began to fight with the Almighty in a myriad of questions about how He could allow all of these things to happen to me when I had given up everything to serve Him and follow His plan for my life?  Tears burned my face almost daily, and it was all I could do to get out of bed and keep moving forward. All of this swarmed in my mind while I was also trying to learn a new culture, make new friends, and minister the love of God to the lost, and....oh my toddler around and try to be a good mom!

Somehow in the midst of all this loss, I began to believe that there was one thing that would redeem all of the hurt and all of the loss...looking back it was crazy, but at the time it seemed so logical.  In my mind, I began to believe that having a baby would heal the hurt in my soul.

Like Hannah, in deep anguish, I prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly and saying that if He would look upon me and give me a child, I would give Him to the Lord for all the days of His life.  I was deeply troubled and pouring out my soul to the Lord.  I was praying out of my great anguish and grief.

(If you don't know Hannah's story, you can read it here.)

Month after month, I waited.  Month after month, my waiting was met by disappointment.  Each month the grief intensified, and I began to realize how angry and bitter I was with the Lord.  How could he hurt me so deeply?  How could He take everything away from me?  How could he deny me the one thing that (in my mind) would redeem it all?


After months of wrestling with God in all of its ugliness, God began to show me the reason He was not allowing me to become pregnant.  I was looking for a baby to redeem all of that loss and fill the hurting places in my soul.  In retrospect, how could I have ever put so much responsibility on such a tiny wee soul.  A baby was/is never meant to carry such a great weight.  A child should not be expected to heal a mother's wounded soul....well, at least not any normal child.

But there was one child who was born for such a purpose.  Jesus, the son of God, born of a virgin, living a perfect life, dying a gruesome death, rising victoriously from the grave.  A child was my Redeemer, but the child that was meant to redeem me was not a child that I would bear.  My Redeemer was a child born 2000+ years ago to another mother who came to know grief all to well and in a deeper way than I could ever imagine.

God did not want to give me a child of my own to be my redeemer.  He did not want to give me a bandage or something to replace what I had lost.  He wanted to give me Himself.  He wanted to be my Redeemer, my Restorer.  He wanted to heal my hurt and make me whole.

That way, when He did give me a child, it would not be a replacement for the child I lost or a redeemer of the all the loss I had experienced.  He wanted to give me a child as a blessing, an addition to an already whole and fully redeemed me.

It was hard.  I spent months in anguish.  My husband encouraged me to seek help and a dear friend held my hand and prayed with me and counseled me to allow God to do a deep work of healing in my soul.  She told me that this was not His time for me to have a baby.  That in my life, this was His time.  Tough words to hear.  In fact her words made me so angry at the time, but they were so true.  God wanted my whole-hearted, undistracted devotion.  He wanted my eyes on Him.

I had to repent of all of that anger I had towards God. I had to grieve the loss of a child, a home, a ministry, and a brother. It hurt more deeply than anything I had ever experienced.  I had to let go of the hope that having a baby would heal me.  I had to let God be my healer and come to the place where I accepted that God may never give me another child, and that this would be ok because I had the promise that He was with me, and He was more than enough.

It took months before I finally surrendered and fully repented.  It took time before I could say like Job, "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21) I had to get to the place where I said, "God I want you more than anything."

It hurt.  My soul felt like it was being ripped into shreds, but God was near and very real to me...more real than any other time in my life.  He took me into His arms as I wept.  He was there bringing the healing that no child could have ever given to me because what I needed only He could give.

Finally, I reconciled in my soul that we would probably never have another child.  It was well with my soul.  Then, one month after I fully surrendered all of it to Jesus, we were surprised by joy, and in November, Eli was born.

So maybe it is fitting that Eli is a bit older for his baby dedication.  If you remember, Hannah waited until Samuel was weaned before presenting him before the Lord.  Maybe he was around two years old as well, I'm not sure.  It does say that "she took the boy with her."

So this week as we presented Eli to the Lord, I was able to pray as Hannah did when she brought Samuel to the house of the Lord....

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord."(1 Samuel 1:27-28)


What loss have you experienced?  Where are you going to find healing?  Are you looking for God to be your Redeemer or are you trying to fill the void with something or someone else?

Might I encourage you to go to Jesus?

I challenge you to trust His goodness even in the midst of great loss.  I don't say this because it is easy, far from it.  It may be the hardest thing you ever do.

May I also encourage you to reach out to a friend in the faith or a mentor who will stand with you and hold your hand?  Find someone who will pray for you and drive you to the foot of the cross straight into the arms of the only one who can heal you.

You can be mad at God, but it is very hard to find healing when you are separating yourself from the only one who truly knows your hurt and truly has the power to heal.

This one is hard to say, but don't forget that when you are running away from God, there is an enemy who waits to destroy you.  When you remove yourself farther from your Protector, Satan gains a foothold into your life that you do not want him to have. (This was one of the hardest parts for me to grasp.  The enemy was having his way with not only me, but also my family. This realization hurt, but it helped me find my way home.)

He is here.  He is waiting with arms wide open to envelop you in His loving arms.  He longs to pour out His healing into the deepest part of your heart.  He wants to show you that He bore all of your sin and paid the price for you to be healed, made whole, and set free.

There is a scripture that was hard for me during this season in my life, but it also gave me hope.  I share it with you because God's truth is what you need more than good advice or man's wisdom.

Hebrews 10:35-36 

Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (NLT)

Be confident of his unfailing, steadfast, unwavering love for you even in the midst of your pain and uncertainty.  Persevere and follow Him even if you feel He is leading you straight into the heart of the valley of death.  He will not leave you.  I promise this fight and journey has great reward. Maybe not the one you think, but the reward will always be that you will come out of the valley knowing Him in a deeper way than you could have ever imagined.  It is worth the pain to receive this promise!

Would you dare to trust Him again?  It may take time, but I promise, my dear friend, He will not disappoint. He will draw nearer to you than you could ever imagine if you will allow Him to do His work, His way...and His ways are always for your good.


Father God would you take this message and use it to minister to my friends, your children.  May those who hurt find healing in the shadow of your wings.  May those who are experiencing grief find the comfort and healing that only You can give.

God I pray that every thing that they are wanting to fill that void or loss would be stripped away.  I know that sounds harsh, but I know that those things will disappoint them, and You never will.  Father give them Yourself.  Be their Redeemer, Restorer, and Healer.

I pray that they would reach out for help and find Godly friends who will pray for them and remind them that You are good.  May there be no condemnation for any person who is walking through loss and/or questioning Your goodness.  May there only be healing and turning to You alone.

God draw near to every hurting, angry person and envelop them so strongly in Your love that they can no longer run away from You.  May these words help bring the same comfort to others that You have given to me...the comfort of Your presence and Your healing power...In Jesus name.


If I can pray for you in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know.  You can send me a personal message at  May you find God's rest, peace, and healing in your time of need!


  1. Wow!!! Thanks for sharing Renea! Those words are very powerful.

    1. You are welcome Kim! Love and miss your sweet family!

  2. Renea, this is so good. Thanks for sharing this part of your journey with us. I'm so convinced that God already has deemed how He will turn the most painful times in our lives into moments of rich beauty, if we will let him. This is a beautiful crown in your journey, one that you will no doubt one day lay before His feet. Love you my friend. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Amen. A crown to lay before His feet one day. I love that image! Miss you my dear friend! I don't suppose that you'd fancy moving with us to Pittsburgh?

  3. Beautiful, friend. I'm so glad to have a chance to read more about your heart in those months. Thank you for sharing! :)

    1. You are most welcome my friend. Thanks for praying for us and helping us walk through that whole crazy time! I'm so glad I didn't have to go through it alone!

  4. What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing. This is my first time on your blog and I KNOW God brought me here for a reason. (I found your blog through the comments on the (in)courage website.) I had 3 miscarriages 3 years ago. I have an 11 year old daughter so I know she is a blessing and maybe even my miracle. My story is so very long and I don't want to bother you with it all, but please know that your testimony is a blessing to me, and very possibly exactly what God wanted me to read. I need to pray about it but it's very much right where I'm at right now. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Gretchen, I'm so thrilled that God has used this story to encourage and bless you. I read a book during this time called Grieving the Child I Never Knew by Kathe Wunnenberg. It really helped me move forward from this dark time in my life. I pray that you find God's comfort.

      Thank you for sharing with me your story. I am always amazed at how God uses these stories. May they bring Him glory!

      Here's a link to that book if you think it might be helpful. I recommend it to all my friends who have lost a baby. The author had multiple miscarriages and even a still birth. She writes directly and from the heart.