Dear Samuel Townes –
(Little Squish, LoveBug, Sammy T, & T-Ball – you have collected so many different names in such a short time)
A year ago today, I was brave enough to confirm what had dawned on me just 2 days prior… You were coming. One day you will understand all the emotions wrapped up in that discovery – shock, surprise, excitement, anticipation, fear.
I decided to keep you a secret – so for 6 days I kept you to myself. Without even realizing it I began to envision a life for you, the things I wanted to teach you, the adventures I wanted to experience, the trips I wanted to take, the things I wanted to watch you do and enjoy. For 6 days, my mind ran wild with dreams and with of course, some fear.
One thing I do (which you will soon learn), when I am stressed or anxious or uncertainty awaits, is I clean, I organize. Somehow your dad didn’t notice I had managed to completely rearrange and organize our entire basement in those 6 days.
I didn’t keep you a secret because I was scared to tell your dad about you, I kept you a secret because Father’s Day was on Sunday and I thought, “what better way to announce your coming arrival then on Father’s Day?!” And just as I expected, well after the initial shock of course, he was elated.
Those first two months of just being our little secret were some of my favorites. We would dream together about you, our travels, our adventures, and we got to plan the most special surprises to announce you to our family and friends. Crossing the finish line of a triathlon with a shirt reading “Baby’s 1st triathlon” will forever be one of my most savored moments as I watched our family register the announcement.
While I sit here and reflect on those first couple of months and the joy that is found there, it’s not those months I want you to know about. I want you to know about the time period, where from an outside perspective (and maybe sometimes from the inside perspective), it appeared as if those dreams were being robbed.
A pregnancy that started with what I imagine are the normal emotions of excitement, anticipation, mixed with some nervousness became a much different pregnancy at Week 20 during our full body ultrasound. It became a pregnancy of uncertainty, trepidation, fear and doctors appointments week after week.
Your dad and I had a choice – we were at a crossroads – we could either lean into this new reality of my pregnancy or we could lean into the Word, pursue prayer, worship through music, be intentional about those whom we surrounded ourselves, depend on them to encourage us, to remind of us the truth that is found in Christ. We chose the latter, to stand firmly in the belief that hope – an expectation of good – is found in a person, Jesus.
Sometimes we would sway like a reed in the wind (thankfully not at the same time – a gift of marriage, I believe by design), but you know who would catch us? His children, his followers, the men and women he so intentionally sent our way – old friends, new friends, recent friends. All people I believe our Savior so thoughtfully crafted to be a part of your story, your journey.
We are not promised easy – we are not promised fair – these are not biblical principles. You will face trails, hard circumstances, some you may have created and some you did not. John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Take heart son, that during them the eyes of your heart would be opened and enlightened with an experiential knowledge of your Savior.
I want to teach you about some things I have learned over this last year, some truths that I have “known” to be true in my mind but now I know them to be true in my heart – the eyes of my heart have been opened. And while I know there is still much to learn and discover, today this is what I have to offer. (Job 42:5/Ephesians 1:18)
I have learned that without a shadow of doubt, that the God we serve is faithful. The God we serve does not abandon you in your weakest moments and he does not shy away from the impossible. Jesus is kind and generous, his love knows no limits and his grace, no boundaries. Jesus isn’t scared of your fear or your doubt – he hears our prayers, our cries for help. Our God is one of miracles and his promises never fail. He is a giver of good, good, gifts – always.
I learned that when you say yes to things that seem out of your comfort zone, growth happens. This is where you meet Jesus, where you learn about him, where you experience him.
When someone asks you to a prayer night, you go. When someone asks if they can pray for you, “you say yes” and don’t downplay your situation. When a friend asks if they can drive 2 hours to pray for you, you say yes. Write down these prayers, you will need them later. These words become a foundation for you – a foundation to keep you moving forward, especially on those long, hard and lingering days. One day you will get to read everything that people prayed and held steadfast too in faith.
When friends ask what they can do for you, it’s okay to say you don’t know and let them help anyway. When you say yes, you discover a little more of who Jesus is. It’s okay to cry, to express pain, fear and disappointment but don’t stay there. When you open up about your vulnerabilities, you discover more of his mercy, you experience more of his grace, and you transfer the burden to him. (Psalm 55:22)
There will be days you feel lost, alone. But you are not. There will be days that feel long, never ending. But they will. There will be seasons where it feels like too much, the load is too heavy. But endure. When you make it to the other side, you will look back and see the jewels you collected along the way. You will see that the light was always shining brighter than the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” John 1:5
I remember one day leading up to your birth, your dad said to me, ‘we are ready to go into this battle.’ I remember thinking, a battle? I maybe even rolled my eyes a little bit (don’t tell) – but I learned something too…
We did go into battle and not just a physical one. Your dad knew we were facing a spiritual battle and he was ready to mount his horse. The question was could I mount mine too?
The Lord used the months leading up to your birth to equip us – he put people in our life that spoke into us, that spoke about you. Every time we needed that kick forward, our gracious Father in Heaven supplied it. Sometimes it was through our own families, sometimes it was through a random text, sometimes it was through a complete stranger. Our hearts remained open to receive as we walked through this valley of unknowns and what we collected there are precious and priceless gifts, and some of those were people. It was these very gifts that kept us steadfast and provided the strength we would need – he never wavers.
One day (at least 20 years from now) maybe we will sit down and watch one of my favorite shows – Game of Thrones. This show is superb for so many reasons but one of the reasons it fascinated me was because of the strategy and planning the different ‘houses’ used to overtake or defend against another. You never were quite sure who the enemy was – an ongoing game of Risk.
But we knew our enemy – so our stake was in the ground to defend you, one of God’s beloved. A child made in his own image, a gift. (Genesis 1:27/James 1:17) And while we have an enemy who lurks around like a roaring lion seeking to devour (John 10:10) – we have a Savior who offers the Much More – the answer to Fall (Romans 5:12).
I was praying this week and reflecting on this last year and I was given a beautiful picture. You may not understand it for a long while but some day you will, so I want to share it.
There is an episode in Game of Thrones where Jon Snow marches to defend Winterfell, his home, his territory, everything he claims as his. The battle seems like its over before it starts, all the evidence of victory points against him and his small army. But with bravery, honor and courage, Jon Snow mounted his horse anyway. Your dad is Jon Snow in this picture. His faith that you would be healed never wavered, his courage to ask others to stand with us in that belief, it never faltered.
What I saw was your dad on his mounted white horse, me beside him on mine and your Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Godparents standing immediately behind us all holding hands showing no break in the line. Behind them were all our friends, friends of friends, filing in line after line, then there were all the people whom we met along the way, and some whom we still haven’t met. There were lines and lines of people who stood in prayer for you, a child of God. These people entered the battle with us – then behind them stood all of our doctors and nurses who entered the physical battle with us every day. And the person leading the charge – Jesus is all his Glory…because you are his.
Then the shift in the picture gave me the clearest understanding of the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). What I saw was a line being connected across the globe of all the people whom were praying for you – from New York and Boston to California to Florida and everywhere in between, down to Brazil, over to France, England and Germany just to name a few.
The Lord was showing me the most beautiful constellation that was serving as a shield of protection over you. As we, a community of believers – all children on the King, took up our shield of faith individually each day, it formed a collective shield over you. Our prayers were heard, and our prayers answered – small prayers and our big, bold and what sometimes seemed foolish prayers. People’s lives were changed, their faith grew, your story was used to strengthen many, to draw them closer to their Heavenly Father.
What I want you to know when you enter difficult seasons, because you will – I cannot protect you although try I will, is that you just need to lean into your heavenly Father. Ask and you shall receive abundantly more. It may take months and even years to realize all that was given during that time in the valley, but what I’ve found to be true, from just a year filled with unknowns, uncertainty and downright scary at times, is that we were loved, provided for, protected, and that the ‘church’ our community operated how God intended – together in unity for the singular purpose of simple believing that the God we serve is a miracle working God and that he saves.
One day, you will probably ask me about this season of our life and the beginning of yours, I promise to be as open, as honest and raw about it as I can. You have taught me the most about strength and perseverance and during it all I have learned more about the mysterious and beautiful ways of God.
Yesterday was a big day – another example of the Lord’s constant attention to detail and intentionality with his children. Yesterday marked the first day where we can officially say we have been home longer than we were in the hospital. So, we start this year new, fresh, with a stronger foundation, at home, made whole, the way it was always intended to be. Beauty comes from ashes and Rainbows after storms. He is Faithful.
Love you Forever,