The Empty Seat and Who Will Fill It (Counting Rainbows)

On May 1st, my birthday, we stopped at the local Dunn Bros coffee shop for my birthday frappe and headed west on the interstate toward Des Moines. We were meeting my sister and brother-in-law, whom I hadn’t seen for nearly a year. I snapped a picture of my mocha frappe between answering “happy birthday” texts from friends, and posted the image on Instagram – cool blended coffee with a backdrop of my dashboard and the road ahead. I tucked my phone in my purse and looked up as we rounded a bend, where a rainbow stretched before us over the interstate. I think I knew it then, but I didn’t want to be too hopeful.

“Not February,” I told Garth weeks later when it was clear I wasn’t pregnant yet.

“Not February,” I prayed to God, then tried to control the outcome anyway.

February, that black spot on the calendar. The due date that brought no baby, the death of a friend, that second miscarriage that was still so new. Yet, God insists on redemption. He emphatically insists on lavishing us with good things, even in trials, if we will trust him.

“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus tells his disciples (John 16:33). And we do. Not to punish us but as a consequence of living in a fallen world. We see all around us brokenness. Chromosomes multiply too rapidly to sustain new life, hearts fail, hurricanes wipe out whole corners of already impoverished islands. And if we focus on it all we find ourselves in one season after another of grief.

“But take heart,” Jesus continues, “I have overcome the world.”

He promises that we will be in his very presence, that we will have joy, and that nothing can take that from us. Redemption. Hope. What more could we ask for?

And yet.

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We’re adding to the family.

“Never again,” I said to Garth in that hard, sleepless season of infant reflux and anxiety, depression, insomnia. “I won’t survive a second baby like this.”

I’ll tell you something about miracles: Not only can God open wombs but he can change hearts and circumstances. I can tell you it is nothing short of a miracle that I survived that season of such intense loneliness. And it is another miracle that not only am I pregnant, but that this child was prayed for, wanted, desired.

And our firstborn – that hard baby – she’s a strong-willed yet loving and intuitive toddler. The day I told Garth I was pregnant, she came to me, fingers in mouth and mumbling under her breath. She wanted a hug. She curled into me and then leaned back on my lap and pointed at my belly. She’s so excited about “our baby.” Her level of comprehension surprises me every day.

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She doesn’t even need practice, she’s ready.

Right now, when I look to the future, I see so much to fear. Will I feel lonely again? Will this baby be hard? Will Garth get a job that can provide for us straight out of grad school? Will I have anxiety or post-partum depression again? Will this baby continue developing normally? What trials await us?

But God didn’t give us a spirit of fear but of “power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV). He pushed back the darkness to reveal the light, and nothing – nothing – can undo his work. Whatever trials lie ahead for me in this broken world has already been undone and restored in his kingdom. I trust that.

I can look back at how he’s worked redemption and restoration in my life up to now, and I know his work is ongoing. It isn’t over yet.

And now I’ll get to look at two living evidences of that grace. I’ll have two rainbow babies to remind me of God’s promises and how he brings us to them.

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Room for two. We look forward to filling this seat next summer.

Strobaby dos will be joining our family this next February!

A special thanks to Studio 124 Photography and Design in Austin, MN, who graciously provided the images for this post.

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