It happened by chance, the day we found the ducklings.
Our family was mobile last summer, and biked/roller bladed for hours at a time.
Quite the change from this summer.
There is a trail a few miles from our house that forms a figure 8 around two small ponds. Partially shaded by trees, we set off one night to explore.
As we rounded the corner and crossed the bridge, we watched as 40 ducks waddled through the brush and into the moss filled water upon hearing our approach.
Excitedly, the boys watched for a few minutes as the ducks fluttered and chased each other.
We left with the promise that we would return next time with bread.
Two loaves in hand, we went back the following week to find very friendly ducks. They would waddle right up and practically take the bread directly from your hand.
As we were throwing morsels to the quacking masses, I noticed a mallard off to the side, struggling with a piece of bread. Upon closer inspection, half of his beak was missing.
You might think it strange, but it was the most beautiful thing to see inside his beak. The way the muscles worked to process food was amazing.
I took a liking to that duck, the "one with the broken beak". Every time we visited, which was at least once a week, I purposely sought out that duck and threw bread directly to him. As his friends were fighting over Bryce's half scraps, he always got a hearty helping.
I feel like the mallard with the broken beak. You sought us out, and loved us well.
Seven days after we received Tessa's diagnosis, I posted this quote "God showed up, but not how I thought. He showed up through His people."
Those were the darkest days of my life thus far, and we were immediately enveloped in love.
Fast forward months and months later, and I am amazed by how God continually used His people to reveal his love for us.
I could literally weep if I think on how this community has surrounded us. 6,500 people checked here the day she was born. I am not sure I even know that many people. You prayed when we couldn't and begged your friends to join you, helped us with gas when we didn't have a dime, and brought meals by the truck full. I feel your love for my child, and I am not really sure how to adequately thank you for that.
I won't pretend to know why this happened, or why God miraculously spared her life, but I do know I have learned a whole lot on the journey.
1) Often, people would say something like, "I am struggling with ________, but it doesn't compare to what you are going through."
Pain is difficult to compare. Suffering is hard. Period.
And sure, I look at Reed's parents and know that what they went through was much tougher because their little boy did not make it, but it doesn't discount the months of devastation we endured.
It was valid.
Sometimes life is miserable and someone out there probably does have it tougher. But once you know profound misery, you are able to empathize.
A woman I admire greatly sent me a quote, "Only people who have cried deeply can laugh. Everyone else only giggles."
I can truly say I am laughing in a way I never have before because of the deep sorrow endured.
And I can empathize in a way I never have before because of my affliction.
2) When I tell someone I will pray, I will.
I had a friend going through a tough time a few years ago, and ran into her at the mall. She told of problems in her marriage and asked for prayer.
As we parted, I told her I would pray for her.
And I did.
My follow through in the past has been pretty dismal.
As this community has prayed and prayed and prayed and stuck with us, I have learned a lot about perseverance of prayer.
3) God loves to lavish blessings on His children.
My brother has a couple of friends that have morphed into our friends as well. One of them was also having a baby this fall. I had grand visions of Kelly, Amber, and I sitting in the softball bleachers with our pregnant bellys "talking baby".
As my pregnancy turned into a nightmare, I could not be around pregnant bellys or new babies.
Dealing with the excitement of their new life when Tessa's future was so unsure led to extreme depression. It was easier to protect my heart by avoiding those situations entirely.
After Tessa was born, I finally took the time to look at baby rooms and shower pictures and all the things that were so painful to be a part of when I was pregnant.
In M's room, there was a plaque that said "I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him."
I told my mom, more than anything else, I had to find that for Tessa's room.
Well, if you know anything about my mom, she called every Hallmark and Family Christian Store in the state of Michigan to purchase that sign.
Nobody had it.
After a really rough day at the hospital, I came home and someone had given me that sign (thanks Sarah!) without even an inkling as to how badly I wanted it.
So often through our journey, God has given us little treasures to remind us of how greatly we are loved.
Having our two favorite nurses the last two shifts at the hospital.
The women that I wanted to pray over me, and how the prayer meeting just "happened" to be the next night.
I prayed and prayed that Tessa would go home at 38 weeks, and she was discharged at 38 weeks, 6 days.
Rachael working the night we found out about NEC.
Our two pastors being there the morning we decided to deliver.
I can fully say that God was present in so many ways for us, and bestowed beautiful blessings amidst the pain.
Reading my devotional one night, I came across a man that prayed, "Support us, Oh Lord. Yes, support us on every leaning side!"
Without getting too sappy, thank you for supporting us on every leaning side.