It was the summer of 2014.
One year after our IVF success/failure. We made 8 babies and lost 8 babies over Father’s Day weekend in the summer of 2013.
It was the single worst experience, the most suffering, and the hardest thing I had ever walked through.
Months of counseling, a summer sermon series on Habukkuk, and a season of stepping away and rest helped carry me the season following.
I have never been a person to choose a word of the year, but for some reason, on New Year’s 2014, I felt like choosing the word “Hope”.
That year, our church regularly used Psalm 130 as our call to worship:
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning,
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption
That summer, I stumbled upon a post Ann Voskamp had written for the advent season previous- but it resonated with me SO clearly, SO intimately, I read it and reread it, over and over and over again that summer. I read it with my Mom. I read it with Jim. I shared it with my friends.
I want to share a little bit of it with you here, (but click here to read the entire post!)
The title is “When You’re This Close To Giving Up Hope”
The whole story is about her and a friend who went to a butterfly exhibit, and all her friend really wanted to see was a fully spread Blue Morpho butterfly. They kept seeing them, but they were always closed up and brown. Ann wrote this:
“Please, Lord — just give her one open spread of blue wings. For crying prayers out loud, just a bit of hope to take out of here.
We waited. Did what the wisest have always done: Waited and Hoped. And the morpho butterfly just outwaited us.
Flitted blue now and then, always a flash on the periphery, glanced us with possibility, but wherever we spun, it locked us out with a determined bland brown.
We’re standing there with our waiting cameras and our frames of brown, without a hint of blue — and I look over at my friend and you can read it like a headline, her flat resignation.
Like she’s struggling to breathe again.
A walk through a butterfly conservatory that was supposed to be this metaphor of hope — is fast turning into this mockery of hope.
Sometimes believing in a miracle feels like living in a mirage. You can feel like a fool, walking around with your pitcher.
Waiting for a picture.
Really, God? Really?”
But then- a butterfly lands on Ann’s shoulder- wide. open. blue.
“My friend nods, she knows, mouth wide open, raising her camera, she knows.
She clicks, snaps, shoots, takes more. More people stop, take more photos. The park ranger asks for my camera, takes a few more. “You don’t understand,” he whispers… “it’s about impossible to get photos of them with their wings in their open blue.”
I nod — whisper it over the indigo wings open there on my shoulder: “And then sometimes — the impossible unfolds into the possible.”
I look over at my friend… who is brimming. Spilling. Tears are never a sign of weakness. Tears are always the sign of an open heart.
And I mouth it to her, like it’s more certain without any sound, like I don’t want it to slip away from either one of us:
My friend, she’s nodding at me. Nodding at this wide open blue butterfly on my shoulder. And her face is right wet, an ocean of ache running like a waterfall of hope now, right off the edge of her chin, and she chokes it out — “How could we ever not believe? How can we ever not hope in impossible things now?”
The butterfly refuses to close its wings — refuses to do anything but remain open.
And I nod yes, yes because it’s a paradox: the way to hold fast to what you’re hoping for, is to hold that Hope with openness.
With openness, hold fast to that Hope — for if the Hope ebbs away, you become a broken wing who cannot fly.
No matter how we’re hurting — it’s only when we lose hope that the real horror happens.
“25 minutes.” She whispers. “That morph butterfly has sat on your shoulder for almost 25 minutes.”
And I nod. Of course.
The very least you can do with your life is welcome in Hope. And He has a name.
And the very best you can do with your life is build a life with Hope. Live right under a roof of Hope.
Sure, hope feels risky. Sure, hope feels like you’re under a fragile roof that could implode, a roof that could get ripped off and leave you staring up at the sky.
But then you’d just stand and look and trust you were meant to see stars.
But then you’d just stand and look and trust that you were meant to soar.
The morpho butterfly rests with these open wings on me.
And we rest with these open hands in Him.”
And I share all of this with you, because I have read that post so many times I could probably recite it to you. It resonated so deeply within me.
Last week, we went to the zoo. It was freezing, but it was the best time ever. Jim actually got to take the day off of work and go with us (never happens) and the five of us enjoyed ourselves so much.
That evening, I was going through our pictures from the day, organizing and editing them, and I came upon one that absolutely took my breath away. I didn’t realize it when I took it. I didn’t remember then. But looking at it a second time, it knocked the wind out of me, brought tears rushing to my eyes, and when I shared it with Jim- it did the same.
I knew I had to come here and share it with you all too.
As 2014 continued to progress, I wondered if I had been SO stupid to choose hope as my word. SO STUPID. It was September. 9 months passing in a year for hope, and hope was waning.
But on September 23rd, 2014 two pink lines showed up on a test. And it was the little girl standing in front of that blue butterfly.
It’s still so hard for me to say that I am thankful for the experiences and the journey that we had to take to get to her, but I had a conversation with my Mom once- in the midst of tears and pain and she looked at me and said, “Courtney? Are you the same person today that you were at the beginning of all of this?” and the answer is no. Of course I’m not. And the God I have gotten to know, who has met me in those seasons of deep suffering? I would have never known without it.
If that is you today, know that you are so, so deeply cared for and loved. Not just by me, but by the God of the Universe. He made you, He has a plan for you, and He loves you.
He doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way that we think He should. We will never have all of the answers. But you can know that He is so, so good. And He wants you to hope and trust in Him.
And I will never, never never never stop thanking Him every single day for answering my prayers for that little girl. She is absolutely worth every single second of waiting and hoping.