Right now many of us moms are sending our babies off to kindergarten.
For many moms this season likely creates a huge ache in their hearts and a trickle of tears down their cheeks that they quickly try to wipe away and hide, at least while still in view of their little ones.
After all, we’re sending our babies off into the world. And perhaps this is one of the first true moments of letting go. And the letting go is h-a-r-d.
This week I was one of the moms sending my baby off to kindergarten.
However, I wasn’t one of the moms that I just described.
Now please don’t hear me wrong, especially if you were / are one of these moms. I can empathize with the reactions and tears and difficulties in sending our babies off to school in a way that is much deeper than most realize and there’s no judgement here.
My experience this week was different. And maybe in a way that you might not expect.
You see, when you’ve walked the unexpected and traumatic road of child loss, as I have, it drastically changes you as a mother, as a person, and affects every aspect of your life including how you think and feel and look at the world.
One of the hardest aspects of losing a baby is that you grieve more than just them, more than just who they were, more than just your sweet one month old. You lose them and their entire future – and the future you had expected for yourself.
You lose an entire lifetime all at once, your grieve a lifetime of losses all at once, and you do it for your entire lifetime.
You grieve your one year old, your kindergartner, your preteen, your sixteen year old, your adult child and so on. You lose every moment of theirs from childhood into adulthood. Every single first. Their first steps, their first day of school, their first crush, their first date. You lose their games and events and graduations and weddings and grand-babies. You lose… everything.
The fact that my baby girl would never be a kindergartner hit me hard immediately as every moment of her future went with her.
I mourned the fact that I would never buy a cute dress for her to wear on her first day of school or do her hair up in braids or pigtails or however she fancied. That I would never have the privilege of going back to school supply shopping for her. That I would never pack her backpack or make her a lunch.
I mourned all of those nevers, all of the moments I would never get to have with her from kindergarten to her wedding day and beyond the first day and every day after.
The first summer after our little girl died, I remember going to a store to buy some office supplies. It just so happened to be back to school supply season, which I hadn’t realized. I handled it fine as I grabbed what I needed and paid. But as the clerk checked me out, he asked me which backpack I’d like because the store was giving away free ones with every purchase.
We didn’t need one.
Instead of just responding with that simple phrase. I froze. If I opened up my mouth and said those words, I feared all would come flooding out. So I grabbed a backpack, grabbed my bag, and walked out with nothing more than a quick “thank you.”
The seemingly arbitrary moment nearly crushed me by the time I came home with this backpack. This silent inanimate object that seemed to taunt me with the obvious fact that I had no child for this backpack.
How ridiculous was I for coming home with a backpack for a child I didn’t have.
Oh how my soul longed for our sweet girl in that moment, even if she would have been just a few months old at the time and wouldn’t have needed a backpack anyway – grief told me this should have been hers.
And every year, especially as we reached her kindergarten year, I longed to have her with me.
I longed to be a momma of a kindergartner. I longed to make that little chalkboard and buy that backpack and take that picture and send her off to her first day with a smile on my face as I fought away the tears I didn’t want her to see.
But that wasn’t our story.
For a long time we didn’t know if we wanted to try to have any more children, but eventually God birthed the ideas of our rainbow boys in our hearts and minds and then He gave them to us.
Losing our first child we learned quickly that we were not guaranteed any number of days with our children. We knew even though we were given two sons, nothing promised us that we would see them become kindergartners, for instance.
And so with our rainbow babies I’ve parented and lived moment by moment, day by day, in the present as much as possible, knowing tomorrow is never promised.
And it’s true for all of us and for each of the people in our lives. But often times we realize this too late. But sometimes some of us learn this and live this.
With our first rainbow baby, the boy who had his first day of kindergarten this week, I learned to surrender control of him from the moment God birthed the idea of him in my mind. After all, that’s partially why we named his Isaac – acknowledging to God that ultimately our children are not ours, they are His.
My faith journey through grief brought me to a place of living in obedience to the Lord first and foremost and living surrendered to and trusting God with every single fiber of my being and soul and life, including my relationships, including my children.
This is where losing a child brought me. To the place of surrender.
You see, I was forced to surrender my first child. Even though I desperately wanted to hold onto her and never let her go. I knew my efforts were futile. Her life was completely out of my control. I had no choice but to surrender her.
But being forced to surrender isn’t a beautiful thing. It involves an ugly fight that is chaotic and catastrophic and ends in loss of more than one kind. And the pain of surrendering and letting go of something you love that you cannot let go of is deep and terrifying and feels as though your own self is ripped apart.
And this is how I can empathize with the moms sending their babies off to kindergarten this week whose hearts are aching.
I get it.
I know how hard the letting go is.
I know how scary it is to trust.
I know all the fears and worries and emotions.
I had to let go of one of my children in the most complete and terrible of ways.
And even as I had more children, you better believe the enemy fought with me long and hard to get me to hold them even closer to myself and farther away from the Lord.
No one is going to touch my babies. Not even you God.
That’s what the enemy wanted, and some days I fell and raged against God with those very thoughts. But over time, truth and light won.
Both my grief journey and the spiritual warfare in it and my journey with my rainbow babies and the spiritual warfare in that brought me before God and walking next to Him in intimate ways and through intimate and deep places and conversations.
And God led me on a journey teaching me about surrender.
And it was a long, messy journey of surrender.
There were days when I wanted to hold everything in my life so tightly in my hand with that white knuckled grip, wanting to control everything myself – and those days were tiresome and agonizing and barren.
And then there were days were I learned to open my hand. To expose my heart wide to Him. Everything I held dear. People, dreams, hopes – even fears. The days I learned to open my hand and acknowledged that He is God and I am not where I voluntarily surrendered all to Him…
Those were the days where His presence and peace were glorious miracles in my life that enabled me to be free of all the fear and anxiety and allowed me to come alive again.
The journey of learning to surrender control and entrust God with everything – especially my children – has been one of the most challenging journeys, but also one of the most freeing and life-giving journeys.
Where I surrender and trust, I find peace and freedom.
Where I hold on and want to control, I find agony and anxiety.
So with Isaac, and my other son, Isaiah, I’ve surrendered them since they were little glimmers of hope in my heart.
Which is why on my son’s first day of kindergarten, the letting go wasn’t hard. Because I’ve let him go every single day, since before the beginning.
And I learned that the letting go is what we are meant to do.
We raise our babies to leave us – it’s true moms.
And I began life with this one, my Isaac, loving him fiercely and letting him go. And it’s made all the difference in how I mother and how I find peace on the hard days.
So on this first day of school, this rainbow mom had no sorrow, no sadness, or fears that overcome. And glory to God for that. Of course there were natural momma worries and mistakes and fears that tried to engage me, but I’ve fought many battles before, and I know the victory lies in praying, surrendering, and trusting.
I trust the Lord with my son. In the good, in the bad, in the even if not. I choose to trust.
On my kindergartner’s first day of school, God’s peace covered me, and I was able to spend the day giving thanks and rejoicing for the gift of my son and for this moment that was never promised to us, but that was here.
I fully enjoyed living out my mom dream of buying school supplies and packing his backpack and taking his picture and doing all the things moms do when their little ones start school.
(And yes of course I thought of my little girl and felt sad for a moment that I missed out on this with her, but the joy of this moment with my little boy couldn’t be touched).
And I was able to give him the biggest genuine smile as I hugged him and sent him off. I stood back with that smile still on my face watching my little boy walk off to do his thing and be who God made him to be. I was able to watch it all through God’s eyes. And it was beautiful and glorious and exciting.
And I say none of this to boast about myself and how good I handled my child’s first day of kindergarten or anything like that. I say all of this to boast in Jesus Christ.
Because in all transparency, none of this is me. I want to be a control freak and worry and give in to fear. And I have been like this. But I am here to proclaim God’s transforming powers and give witness to very real struggles, but more importantly, to the very real and very life giving and life freeing work God does in us when we choose to live surrendered.
I’m not sure what season you’re in dear reader or if you’re a mom or not. But what I do know is this. We are all asked to surrender. And for most of this, it doesn’t come naturally.
Are you being asked to surrender something right now? Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? Have you surrendered all He asks you to?
Maybe you’re in a season where you’re being asked to surrender and you’re struggling.
Maybe you did just send your baby off to kindergarten (or another grade) and you’re struggling.
Maybe your little one will be in kindergarten next year and you just can’t even imagine sending him or her off and you struggle with the thought of it, all the fears, what ifs, unknowns, worries.
Maybe you’re sending your child off to college…
Or maybe you’re sending your child or your husband off on his first deployment, or maybe his 10th, and you’re struggling to let go (again).
There’s a million moments of letting go and surrendering in our lives. As long as we hold onto “x” with white knuckles, we will live in fear, hurting, and hindered.
When we learn to surrender and offer God our open hands – to have faith in the only One who is in control and trustworthy – we will live at peace, free and whole.
But you might be wondering, like I have – But how?? How do I live surrendered? How can I surrender this to God? What if I let go and [insert fear] happens?
Let me share how I’ve come to answer those questions in my life.
How can I live with a posture of letting go and surrendering my life (my children, my marriage, my relationships, my dreams, etc.) to the Lord?
Because I believe:
- God’s Word is True, not some of it, all of it
- God created the world, including me, including my child
- God is the author of our lives
- God is in control, and I am not
- God is good all the time, and I am not
- My child is God’s first
- God calls me, and my child, His beloved and precious in His sight
- God promises to never leave or forsake us
- God is faithful and is trustworthy
- God provides for our needs
- God has a purpose and plan for each of our lives that surpasses my understanding
- God will work everything (which includes the bad) for good and for His glory and I don’t have to understand it (but sometimes when I ask He offers wisdom and peace)
- God hears our prayers and they matter to Him and there is power in them
- and so… so much more…
I choose to live my life surrendered to God which enables me to surrender my children to Him and everything else in my life to Him as well.
Praying expectantly over my life and over the lives of my children according to His word has been a game changer.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7
If you’re in a place where you just cannot surrender, maybe you’re frozen with fear, or maybe you just struggle to believe any of those things about God right now (that He’s trustworthy, good, etc.), I pray that you’ll spend some time studying His character and His promises, and I pray that God’s Spirit moves and works in you to bring about the supernatural ability to live surrendered.
Wherever you are on the journey of surrender, expect God to meet you there.
Maybe a good place to start is by singing out these words in this hymn, to Him.
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
This is one of those blog posts that touches on multiple deep topics. I would love to talk with you more in the comments about anything that caught your heart.
Any question, experience, struggle, encouragement that you have or that you have to offer for others and this idea of living surrendered, please leave a comment below.
Hope to hear from you. Blessings, Kristin