"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."
1 Thessalonians 4:13
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior:” Isaiah 43:2-3a
Not only have I heard this passage read but have also read it many times. Little did I know that on July 11, 1993, my family and I would go through one of the most difficult trials in our lives. We needed this reminder that the LORD was going through this trial with us. It is so easy to focus on the trial and allow it to suffocate you and those around you. When we focus on the LORD instead of the trial, we may not understand the “why”, but He gives us the strength to endure it.
I had just started my eighth month of pregnancy. The LORD had already blessed us with two beautiful little girls, 10 and 8 years of age. We were all excited and waiting for this precious little one to arrive. I hadn’t been feeling that great the week before, but I had seen the obstetrician that week and he said all was fine.
On that morning, I was getting ready for church and feeling strange. I just pushed it aside thinking that I would feel better in a little bit. Unfortunately, it didn’t get better but worse. While at church my mother suggested that I go to the hospital, so after calling the doctor, my husband and I left.
After we arrived and were put in a birthing room, my husband and I joked about this little one wanting to come early. The nurse placed the fetal monitor on me, and we could hear our precious baby’s heartbeat. As she had me turn to my side, our baby’s heartbeat was gone, and she could not find it again. When the doctor came in, he told me that I had to have an emergency c-section! They rushed me to the operating room and prepared to put me under. Throughout this time, I was nervous and scared, but the LORD brought to my mind some of His precious words. As I was being wheeled to the operating room, I was quoting Psalm 23 verse 4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” and Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”. As I closed my eyes from the anesthesia, I whispered to the LORD, “Your will be done!”. I prayed that our baby would be okay.
As I look back now, the LORD was there with me in that operating room and with my family in the waiting room. He never left any of us. He had me focus on Him and because of that, He gave a peace as I went under. I learned after coming out of the anesthesia, that we had another little girl, but she was in the presence of her Savior. Gabriella Joy Armstrong weighed 4 pounds 2 ounces and was 17 1/2 inches long. She had black hair and a lot of it! As my husband brought her in to me and placed her in my arms, I marveled at how much she looked like our other girls and how perfect she looked, but at the same time I felt such a heart of brokenness and saw that same brokenness on my husband’s face.
The LORD was there the whole time, comforting all of our hearts. Emotionally, I was doing well at first, but as time went on, I started thinking of all the circumstances around her birth and became angry with the negligence of the doctors. I started to take the focus off my LORD and put the focus on my pain instead. That’s a dangerous place to be as it gives room for the devil to plant his lies in your mind.
I am so glad we have such a patient, compassionate Heavenly Father. A few years earlier we had started a support group, His Loving Arms, in our church for parents that had children who died either through miscarriage, stillbirth, early infant death and even abortion. We had already had two miscarriages ourselves, and I thought it would help others that had gone through the same thing. After Gabriella was born, every time we had to tell her story in the group, the pain became even more unbearable. I thought I had released Gabriella to the LORD, and maybe I did do that to a point, but I think there was a part of me that didn’t completely. It was as if I was holding onto her little fingertips. I just didn’t want to let her go.
As we thought about her memorial stone for her grave, we wanted something else on it along with her name that would give hope to people when they saw it. We had decided on the fact that even though our baby’s body was in that ground, we had the HOPE that she was safe in Jesus’ arms. When the time came to order it, we forgot as we were overwhelmed at the thought of buying a stone for our child’s grave. When we realized that we forgot, it was too late to change it, but the LORD continually reminded me that she was in His arms.
I have come to realize that each person deals with their grief in a different way and timing. I also realized that I was not the only one affected by her death and that it was not all about me. Shocking, isn’t it?! Not only was my husband affected, but our children and parents were. It is so easy to get wrapped up in yourself, that you don’t see the pain that your loved ones are going through also. One thing I have learned is that when our focus is on the LORD, He will also help us to see the pain of others, taking the focus off ourselves.
As I was putting this devotional together, seeking the LORD’S guidance and direction, He laid on my heart that it was time to share Gabriella’s story. I reminded Him that I had done it, but He reminded me that it was time to take the “Band-Aid” off, completely. That meant it was time to draw Gabriella’s picture. I kept asking Him if He was sure, but as soon as I asked Him, I knew He was and that He had something to show me.
I started going through all the precious cards and notes that we had received from so many loving people back then. I came across a poem that my cousin wrote in memory of Gabriella, and as I read it, I knew the direction the LORD wanted me to go. Grief is real pain, and it hurts the LORD to see His children in that kind of pain. I thought I had healed and realized at that moment that I hadn’t completely. My cousin captured that raw pain I had, in her poem and with her permission, I am sharing it here.
“In Memory of Gabriella Joy”
Sweet baby girl,
Bundled and Blue,
The world’s been waiting
To meet you.
No precious cooing
Greets my ears
No eyes are dry –
Only tears, tears, tears.
My arms are empty,
My heart aches.
There’ll be no Baby’s First Birthday Cake.
I counted your fingers,
And then your toes,
How the pain and my love for you
Your lifeless form
So cold and still –
I release you to Jesus,
His arms to fill.
By Lisa Bauman
This is what the LORD wanted me to share in this devotion, that there is HOPE! Jesus gave that hope when He came to place our judgment on His body as He hung on that cross. He took our pain, our sorrows, our sin, because of His great love for us, all. As I started to draw Gabriella, the message the LORD wanted me to convey was that no matter the grief we are going through, if we have put our faith and trust in the redemption of Jesus Christ, we have that hope of being with Him someday, along with our loved ones that have gone before us.
As you look at the drawing, she is in His arms, safe! I drew her hand on top of His, as it displays such tenderness of our LORD and her feeling safe with Him. I didn’t draw His face on this picture because I wanted the focus to be on the message, that Gabriella is Safe in Jesus’ Arms! I look forward to the day that I will see her again and wrap my arms around her, telling her once more how much I love her. What a grand reunion that will be. I want to end with a poem my husband wrote regarding Gabriella’s home going. It reminds us of the HOPE we have in Jesus Christ, not only through the pain we are going through, but the fact that this is not our HOME. Heaven is… and Gabriella is waiting for us there.
“Daddy, You’re Home”
I have a daughter in Heaven now,
Though it wasn’t my plan.
She left this life without smiling once,
To hold the Savior’s hand.
I’ll never get a kiss or a hug,
Or a smile to start my day,
But never a tear will she shed,
As by the Savior’s feet she plays.
My life is much more richer now,
Although it caused much pain.
My soul is much more opened now,
To the Savior’s plan.
My life on Earth will pass
With emptiness in my heart,
Till the LORD calls me home,
To cure the hole within my heart.
When I see my Savior’s face,
The sound of little feet I hear,
And a cry of happiness,
You’re finally here!”
By Jeff Armstrong
Karen's Artistic Thoughts
I decided as I was working on this website, that a blog would be a way to explain what goes through my mind as I work on each piece the Lord has laid on my heart.