This little guy turned one this month. Gabriel Chase is his name. He is my nephew and godson.
Gabriel’s life changed mine. So in celebrating his birthday, let me share with you the story about his life. To begin, you will need some context to understand what was going on in my life at the time.
It was late fall of 2014. Rex and I suffered through our fifth miscarriage with Abigail Therese. There was even more hope that we would actually get to hold Abby because of particular circumstances so when we miscarried again we were even more devastated than ‘normal’ that we had to bury another child.
Shortly after this, my parents were not shy to share the news that my brother bought a ring and had plans to propose to his long-term girlfriend.
A little history to understand the kind of relationship I have with my brother. We are three years apart and I could do nothing right. Growing up I’m sure my brother hated me. When he turned sixteen and got his license, we barely saw each other and only spoke when necessary.
Now, as adults we are closer, but not super close, and get along great. While I was still in college, he moved to CA after our grandma passed away to be closer to family. We would text periodically and interact on social media.
When my parents shared this news, I was so excited for my brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law (they had been dating for over four years). I was happier my brother found love. However, I must confess, shortly after my initial excitement for them my mind began to wander and I was flooded with anxiety. Mostly with the haunting idea of:
“What if they have children (on Earth) before us?”
I began to have mixed feelings about the thought of them getting married and I struggled.
All these feelings hit before my brother even proposed.
I felt guilty. I felt terrible. I felt awful.
I began to pray.
“God, you know my heart. Please heal me and strengthen me.”
I prayed this every day for a long time. Probably longer than I would like to admit.
After they were officially engaged, I figured it would take at least nine months to plan a wedding. I thought then I would have several months for God to work in my life and heal my heart for the day that they might have a live birth before us.
A few short weeks after announcing their engagement, I got a phone call from my brother. Since we are not super close, a call from my brother seemed strange. I thought he would tell me that they had set a wedding date so I could begin planning my trip to CA, after all, I am a relentless planner.
Instead, he tells me that his now-fiancé is pregnant. It took everything in me to hold back my tears but by the grace of God, I mustered out, “Oh! Congratulations!” We chatted briefly for what seemed like eternity but when I hung up the phone I just wept.
I am incredibly thankful that Rex was with me when I got the call. Rex knew what my brother shared on the other line. He was not sure how to comfort me but we had each other. Not only do we have our cross of grief to carry but it is difficult at times because we grieve very differently.
I was at a loss.
“Really, God?!? I’m not ready… I’m not strong enough… My heart still hurts… I need you more than ever… Heal me… Strengthen me.”
See the thing is, for my sanity, since Casey, I have had to set healthy boundaries with virtually every other pregnant person in my life. It has not been easy and I hate that I can’t be normal, but it has been necessary.
And it was my brother.
I felt convicted. I was ashamed of my mixed feelings but I had to set them aside and engage. I knew I had to be involved, even if we were not very close. This was family after all.
Every time I got mad because they were not even trying and we have tried for years and suffered greatly; I prayed.
Every time I got sad because she was pregnant and I was not; I prayed.
Every time I thought it was unfair because we are married and they were not; I prayed.
Every time I wondered if my nephew would have any cousins (on Earth) from my side of the family; I prayed.
I prayed unceasingly. Honestly, I cried just as often as I prayed.
A few months later, my family met in Las Vegas for their civil wedding ceremony. I was extremely anxious about that trip. Thankfully, God opened the doors for Rex to come with me.
A week before our trip, we learned that we were blessed to be carrying our sixth child, Nathaniel Patrick. We did not share the news during our trip but being pregnant helped me be more present and hopeful, though a few short weeks later, we would miscarry again.
As my sister-in-law’s due date approached, the thought of getting them a gift haunted me. Shopping in the baby section seemed like torture. So I solicited suggestions from friends I trusted for gifts that I could order online and just ship directly to them.
Not too long after my nephew’s birth, I was asked to be his godmother. Such an honor. I was overwhelmed and anxious.
It was through this great responsibility that my heart has experienced divine healing. When Gabriel was three months old, my brother and sister-in-law came to the PNW to visit. Again, that same week Rex and I found out about our seventh, Damien John. Despite being pregnant, I was still anxious about holding my nephew. It had been years since I held a baby so small and whose parens I was not that close to.
But the second I laid my eyes on him and held him in my grieving arms, my heart melted. Love overwhelmed me. I did not think my broken heart would be able to love so much.
Words cannot describe how much I love my nephew and how thankful I am for his life.
Despite all that, it is easy to get caught up in what could have been…
Had Abigail Terese been carried to term and born alive, she would only been about four months older than Gabriel.
Or had Nathaniel been born full term, he would had been about two months younger than Gabriel.
But I know I cannot focus on what could have been but rather what is.
We have been blessed with eight precious children, all personal intercessors, and with our beloved nephew, Gabriel.
Although my heart still aches, my heart is full of love for my nephew. My heart has experienced healing and I am stronger than I was before I knew of him. I still may struggle but since Gabriel I have held numerous babies, liked social media updates, and even been able to engage in conversations about babies. These may seem like small matters but they are huge for me.
Gabriel Chase, you have forever changed me and I am so thankful for your presence in my life. I know that God has incredible plans for you.
Happy 1st Birthday, Gabe.
Whatever your cross is and whatever you need healing from, I pray that you will always seek God. Especially in those moments of temptation, I pray you will remain strong and seek God even more. Trust in Him always.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
Praying for you,