I'm going to be honest. Today has been a much harder day than I expected it to be. I assumed that the anticipation of the day would be harder than the day itself, which was true for Bridget's due date and for Easter. But not today, not Mother's Day. I thought I had prepared my heart for today. I thought I was going into it STRONG.
My plan for today was to go to church wearing the pink dress I wore on the day we found out Bridget was a girl. It is the dress that I also wore to her funeral. I had cut out a small heart shaped piece of fabric from that dress and buried it with Bridget in her casket so that when I wore the dress again I knew a piece of it would be with her.
But I could not find myself to get up and go to church today. Maybe it was the rain. Or the fact that there were going to be baby dedications today. Or that today the whole world seemed to be reminding me that I do not have living children. Or maybe I am just sad and miss my girl and need a day to rest and feel the weight of my sorrow. Most days I am strong. Most days I am running a million miles a minute working tirelessly to bring her honor and glory to my God. But today, I was still. I rested. I cried. I allowed myself to feel.
This year is my first Mother's Day as a mother. If Bridget would have been born around her due date, she would be three months right now. Matt and I would be adjusting to life as new parents. We would be holding our girl in her mint green nursery, sitting her on our laps and staring at her, giving her kisses, and taking (too many) pictures of our sweet little girl. She'd be wearing all of the precious clothes I've been saving up for her and I would be putting her in cute leggings and headbands. I would be nursing her in a big comfy white chair, looking down at her eyes and letting her grasp on to my finger. Braxton would be licking her face and giving her his golden kisses everyday. At three months, Bridget would be cooing vowel sounds and I would be talking to her about everything going on in our day. We would be reading her Bible stories and ten books a day.
I'd be singing her Twinkle Twinkle, Old MacDonald, BINGO, and all the other children's songs I sing being a pediatric Speech Pathologist. Bridget would be sleeping next to us in a bassinet in our room, maybe even sleeping through the night by now. She would be smiling and reaching for objects. Our families would be coming over to play and love on our girl. We would have been going on zoo trips, going on walks in a stroller with Braxton, and I'd have her company as I ran my normal errands to Hobby Lobby and Target - talking and gazing at her in the shopping cart as I strolled through the aisles with my girl (something that always tugs on my heart strings when I see other mommas doing). We would be a happy little family of four and everything in life would be good.
But none of that is happening. Bridget wasn't born on her "due date" and she's not here with us on earth. She's in Heaven. We are temporarily separated. But we are still a happy little family of four, and even though I am sad missing her today, I still believe everything in life is good - because HE is good.
God is constantly teaching me that His ways are higher than mine. He shows me how much better a life is when it is surrendered to Him. Surrender is when we come to the end of our selves and the end of our broken dreams, and say, "God, YOUR will be done. Not mine. Use my life however You please. Do whatever YOU want in my life." It is a hard and scary place to be, but I can honestly say that it has brought me the most joy and peace to live in accordance to His will and to live surrendered to His plans for my life even when they contradict the plans I had for myself.
Surrender doesn't mean that you will no longer have sadness, or trials, or persecution, or pain. Believing in Jesus and having hope in Heaven doesn't mean that you won't miss and ache for loved ones during this temporary separation between Heaven and Earth. Surrender (and grief) can be a balancing act of joy and sorrow. Both felt simultaneously or sequentially, but both a part of learning to let go and relying completely on God.
Surrender also means giving yourself grace. We are human after all. We're not going to be strong all the time. We're not going to live up to God's expectations, or our own expectations every time. Days aren't going to go the way we plan everytime and we aren't going to feel the way we think we should all the time. So it's okay that I didn't put make-up on today. It's okay that I couldn't bring myself to go to church to watch other mommas dedicate their living children to the Lord. It's okay that I cried. It's okay that I wasn't as strong as I was planning to be.
So what did today entail for us? We visited Bridget at the cemetery. We brought her my Mother's Day flowers. Her headstone was dirty. No matter how many times I clean her headstone with a toothbrush, the rain comes and washes mud onto it. As her mother, it always bothers me when its dirty because I want it to be clean and sacred ground. But, today, I placed flowers on her dirty headstone and had peace. Peace that I can be a good momma and her grave can be dirty. Peace that everything doesn't have to be perfect.
Then we walked the Stations of the Cross just north of her grave. We've walked those paths many times but today, on Mother's Day, we stopped at the station where Jesus came to His mother on His way to Calvary. Can you imagine being Mary watching your son carry a cross, after being badly whipped, knowing He is marching to His own death? What a strong, strong mother.
We continued walking until the final station, the empty tomb. We sat there for a moment and then I said, "Everything hinges on this." Because the tomb is empty, Jesus has conquered death. Because the tomb is empty, we will see Bridget again.
After visiting Bridget, we came home and placed the memorial stone that my mom (Grammy) gave to me for Mother's Day (we had a Mother's Day Brunch yesterday to celebrate both of our moms). We planted a memorial tree for Bridget a few weeks ago (I'll write about it in a future blog post) and we wanted to have her stone placed underneath it.
My mom also got me this beautiful vase with a picture of Bridget and I on her birthday. I absolutely love it and it will always be so special to me as a keepsake of my first Mother's Day.
So today did not go as planned, but it was good. The sun came out. I was loved and supported. Friends and family sent me love and prayers. My sweet husband, whose 30th birthday is also today, encouraged and supported me. I didn't even want to write a blog post today, but because of his leading and prompting, I have managed to get these words out in hopes that my journey may help another momma on hers.
Thank You, Jesus, for making me a mother. Thank You for knitting Bridget in my womb and creating her to be fearfully and wonderfully made, so precious and perfect. Thank You for letting me experience motherhood on this earth and teaching me everyday how to be a mother to a child in Heaven. Thank You for Your love, provision, mercy, and grace. Thank You for all that You are doing with Your ministry, Bridget's Cradles, and how much You love and care for families experiencing the temporary loss of their babies. Thank You for guiding me through today, the sorrows and the joy. Thank You for Your grace and understanding that we are human and will not always live up to Your expectations or even ours. Thank You for understanding that we will sometimes feel sadness even when we have great hope in You. Thank You for being our strength in our weakness. Thank You for dying for us, and thank You for Heaven. Thank You for holding my daughter until I am reunited with her. I had hoped to sit her on my lap and tell her about You, but please sit her on Yours and tell her about me, her mother. I love You, Jesus, thank You for Bridget. Give her many kisses today from her momma and tell her I love her with every ounce of my being.
Psalm 73:26 My heart and flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
See you in Heaven,
Written by Ashley Opliger
Bridget's Mom & Executive Director of Bridget's Cradles
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Website | www.ashleyopliger.com
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