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Beauty For Ashes—Losing Emily Anne

People have asked me how I find the time to write a blog. My answer is that I simply make time for it, and yes—sometimes it's a labor of love, and other times, it's a real beating! I started blogging this past February as a way to chronicle my 2020 Closet ClotheSure Challenge. Knowing that I needed additional content besides talking about shedding my closets of everything that doesn't make me "feel like a ten", I've included a lot of personal stuff. I spend anywhere from two to four hours on each post (not counting the time it takes to prep for Closet ClotheSure for the workweek).

For the past couple of months, I've known that the day would come when I would write about our daughter Emily Anne. She was stillborn on August 5th, 1990, and would have been thirty years old today.

A friend was surprised when I told her what I'd be posting this week."You don't talk about Emily very often," she said. "Are you writing about her because you feel it will be cathartic?"

"No," I replied. "I'm doing it because I think it's the right time." And maybe it will give someone else some encouragement and hope, I thought.

Afterward, I thought about our conversation and searched my heart for how I really felt about losing our daughter. Even after three decades, I'll admit I still feel a pang in my heart whenever I see a newborn baby. I wonder what Emily might have looked like as a child, a teenager, and a young woman. What would her hobbies and interests be? I long to tell her that we loved her and wanted to watch her grow and pursue her goals. These are, of course, a mother's natural hopes and dreams for her child. I'll always be sad for this devasting loss, but I'm not angry at God—not anymore, that is . . .

Rage Before Beauty

I'll never forget waking up in the hospital after having an emergency C-section. James was sitting on the edge of the bed, holding my hand. "We lost our little girl," he told me as tears flowed down his cheeks. "She's gone."

I don't remember many details besides that moment, except that once they moved me to a private room, a nurse came in and asked us if we wanted to hold our baby. I guess she could see how shocked I was by her question. She told us that she too had suffered the loss of a full-term baby and understood what we were going through. I'm so grateful that we said yes to holding Emily and that we had the chance to say goodbye to her. It will always be one of the most precious and profound moments of my life.

Before I was discharged, the same nurse returned to my room and gave us a book called Empty Arms. (Written by Pam Vredevelt, it's a book that offers hope and support for those who have suffered miscarriages, stillbirth, or tubal pregnancies—I highly recommend it) It touched me greatly because I knew she'd purchased it with her own money and written a special message on the inside front cover with her home phone number, telling me to call her anytime I needed to talk. There's no doubt that God used this wonderful woman to help us cope with something we were totally unprepared for.

While we did not have a traditional funeral for Emily, there was a small burial service at a nearby cemetery attended by family and close friends. To be honest, that part of it is a blur. I still get a little emotional when I think about my sweet husband having to make burial arrangements while I was recovering in the hospital.

Throughout the service and over the next few days I was numb to the world and cried at the drop of a hat. At the time, James worked for a large ministry and most of our friends were associated with the church. Many people came and went, bringing food, flowers and of course, praying with us. Although I assured everyone I was doing all right, my faith was badly shaken. I just couldn't understand why God would allow me to carry a baby for nine months and then take her away. I mean, what the heck? We were good people, just trying to have a happy life! There are women out there crankin' out kids they don't even want—why take our baby? I thought. It just seemed so cruel.

It made no sense and frankly, the more I thought about it, the angrier I became. While I pretended to be fine, deep down I was really furious with God and felt separated from Him. It was truly a dark time. Fortunately, it didn't last for long . . .

One afternoon, Al, one of the pastors from our church, came to visit James and me. He told us that he and his wife had suffered through multiple miscarriages. Although they were eventually blessed with three children, we could see the pain in his eyes as he spoke, at the memory of losing their babies. "You just have to trust God," he said. "Remember, He gives beauty for ashes."

We prayed together before he left and, although others had prayed with us, something clicked in my spirit and I knew Al was another person God chose to minister to us. Before he left, I said, "You know, I don't understand any of this, but one day when I get to Heaven I'm going to ask God why?"

Al gave me a kind smile and said, "Monica, I think when we get to Heaven, it's not going to matter anymore!"

Hmm. Probably not . . .

Throughout the Bible and ancient practices, ashes have often been the symbol of deep repentance and grief. Here's one of my favorite scriptures from Isaiah 6:13 KJV: To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.

Staying in Faith

Moving forward after Emily was tough. It's been shown that losing a child can tear a couple apart. It can also draw them closer. I'm forever thankful that in our case, the latter is true. Even in his own grief, James was my rock, his faith in God never wavered. I wish I could tell you that mine was the same, but I definitely had my ups and downs.

In an effort to change everything within my control, I cut my hair short and changed jobs. I talked James into moving out of our apartment and into our first home. We made one of the bedrooms a nursery, setting up the crib and other baby things we'd intended for Emily. I clung to scriptures like this (one of my all-time favs):

Hebrews 11: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

This scripture resonated with me very strongly during this season. I think it was the first time I understood just how important my faith really is. James and I didn't have our firstborn, but what we did have was our faith and we lived in a spirit of expectancy, believing if it was God's will, we'd have another child.

Almost a year to the day after we lost Emily, Jacob Evan Simmons entered the world. Delivered by C-section, he was a little jaundiced and had the jowls of a ninety-year-old man, but to us, he was perfect! And although I'd secretly made a deal with God that I'd be content if he'd give us just one baby, it wasn't long before I started praying for a third child. (Hey, in the book of James, it says, You have not, because you've asked not!) Happily, Nicholas James came along three years later.

And, in case you're wondering, I did repent for being mad at God and also for my arrogance in thinking myself (or any of us) can go through this life without experiencing challenges. I think anyone familiar with the Word is familiar with this from John 16:33:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." New Living Translation 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.”

Sidenote: Certainly something that rings especially true in 2020, right?!

I sometimes wonder how I'd done if God hadn't answered our prayers by giving us Jacob. I'd like to think that I'd be one of those people who's faith grows stronger the longer they've weathered a storm, but I'm just not sure. Fortunately, when we are weak, He is strong!

I've never forgotten the kindness shown to us all those years ago by the nurse in the maternity ward. I've long since given the copy of Empty Arms she gave to me away to another hurting mother and have purchased several copies for others. Over the years I've tried to follow the nurse's example and made myself available to talk, pray, or just listen whenever someone needs me. Sometimes, Pastor Al's words come back to me: "You just have to trust God. He gives beauty for ashes."


Closet ClotheSure Challenge 2020 - Week 27

Monday -

Starting off the work week with two pieces I purchased from New York & Company:

The scalloped, black halter has a fun bowtie at the back of the neck. I bought this top about four years ago and normally wear it untucked but paired with these fire-engine-red power trousers (by Eva Mendes), I thought tucking would be more flattering. #evamendes

Tuesday -

This cranberry-colored, lacey summer dress is something I picked up a few years back at White House Black Market. As I recall, I bought it for a song—likely due to its length, it was hanging on the clearance rack, begging me to take it home with me. Done!

Wednesday -

On Hump Day I chose this long tunic top and matching fuchsia capri pants—both from White House Black Market. I seldom comment on my shoes (my husband asked me if my next challenge will be a Closet ClotheSure for shoes!), but these black pumps are also from White House Black Market and are some of my favs because the heel makes them dressy, but they're not too high

Thursday -

To end the work week, I went with a fun lacy summer top I bought in the Macey's Jr. Dept. a few years back. It's the perfect thing to wear with anything high-waisted. Here I'm wearing it some Ann Taylor wide-leg, belted black slacks. I teased everyone earlier this week that one of these outfits would be getting the boot. If you guessed Thursday, you were spot-on! It's not necessarily a matter of the clothes no fitting, I'm just going with my "Feeling Like a Ten" rule. Just not feelin' either of these pieces any longer!

From The Garden -

I don't know if you recall seeing these pesky critters grubbing around near the creek at the bottom of our property. Over the past few weeks, I've been posting photos of them.

Well, I'm happy to report that Trapper Jim (a.k.a. James Simmons) has successfully trapped and relocated three of the four down to Grapevine Lake!

Three down - one to go!

In hot pursuit of the elusive fourth armadillo, Trapper Jim snagged this cute little raccoon a couple of days ago.

Rocky Raccoon has also been relocated.

And, for the record, we know that eventually, all these critters (or their offspring) will make their way up into our neighborhood again!

One last thought while we're still "In The Garden" — Our sweet cat, Onyx (Ony Boy) went to Kitty Heaven a few days ago. That's a photo of the big, black Bombay cat at the top of this post yearning for the tiny lizard on the outside of the window. (I wasn't sure what image I'd use for this post and this picture has always made me smile!)

Onyx was a gentle creature who brought our family years of joy and was a faithful friend to our son, Jacob. Afraid of his own shadow, this silly cat once stood fixated in front of my boot-puller for an hour trying to figure out if it was friend or foe.

All of us (especially Jacob), will miss this sweet boy. We laid his body to rest in the serenity of the Saint Francis fern garden.

Wishing everyone a blessed and happy Hump Day! Love one another and remember -

God is in control & hope is on the move!




kimy v
kimy v

You write eloquently. Thank you sharing. I am so sorry about Emily Anne what a pretty name. it’s her birthday today!!!!

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