All of those things are still the reason that celebrating Easter makes my heart soar with joy and hope, but ever since April 13, 2017, Easter will now be filled with even more meaning.
There is a lot of talk in Christian circles about death, and for good reason; the Bible has much to say about it from Jesus' death on the cross, our calling to follow him in self-denial and death to self, walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Death must always precede resurrection.
In the weeks leading up to Margot's birth, Geoff and I experienced death. Death of how we had planned and hoped things would be, and the looming possibility that we might not get to meet our daughter alive. Our doctor's never sugar coated our situation or gave us false hope. It might sound awful to say, but Geoff and I later admitted to each other that we hesitated about even wanting to buy any more baby items or set up the crib because we just didn't know if we'd be bringing a baby home from the hospital. From my hospital bed I searched for preemie outfits on Amazon, knowing that Margot would be early, and eventually ordered her one to come home in. I told myself I was doing it "in faith," all the while knowing that God hadn't promised us that things would turn out how we wanted. People lose babies all the time. And in that time of uncertainty, we walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
But on April thirteenth, when doctors swarmed the room and said "it's time to push! We're going to have a baby!" I felt a relief like I've never felt in all my life. Not only would the pain of labor soon be over, but Margot would be here--out of the danger she was in in the moment with her heart rate dropping dangerously with my contractions (a story for another time), and out of the danger she was in because of my bile acid levels. She came out and we heard her give a good, healthy scream. They wrapped her up and handed her to me for a few moments before whisking her away to the NICU. They said she was beautiful, and she was.
We had walked through the valley of the shadow of death and He had been with us. And if the outcome had been different, He would have been with us still. The outcome is different for many all the time, but by God's great mercy, and for reasons I don't know, He heard our prayers. Weeping endured for the night but joy came in the morning.
Sitting in Easter service on Sunday, I was overcome with so many emotions. I had been through the most grueling two weeks of my life, but the Lord had carried me so tenderly. I almost constantly experienced a peace that truly surpassed understanding. But even on my darkest day in the hospital, after talking with one of the specialists, He brought me exactly what I needed in the form of community, prayers, truth, and laughter. And that morning I had just held my tiny baby girl in my arms. So on Easter morning, I celebrated that I serve a living Savior and I thanked him for a living daughter and for the resurrection and life that He has brought to my soul over and over again.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. The world has never been the same (and He will come again!). And since April thirteenth, Easter will never be the same for me.