My friend Stephanie is one of the bravest people I know.
We met at camp when I was in 7th grade and she was an 8th grader. God, I thought she was the coolest (she IS the coolest) and I wanted to be like her. Fast forward several…several years and I’m sitting at her kitchen table as our collective 4 kids run around her home. Three of them are hers. Two of them are twins. They are all 3 and under.
Stephanie moved away to Wichita, Kansas as I was moving back home to Southern Illinois. We just missed each other in passing. While she was away Stephanie experienced a lot of pain and a lot of healing. One of the greatest trials Stephanie and her husband Ray walked through together was the death of their child. Stephanie carried her baby for a few short weeks during her pregnancy before they had to say goodbye in October 2015.
It was January 2016 when Stephanie found herself pregnant again and was introduced to the ministry of Glory Babies
Glory Babies is a support group for women walking through infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and child loss. It was started in 2008 by Melissa Scappa and Amy Stevens in Wichita, Kansas. Over the course of a year women meet once a month to talk together, pray, yell at God, cry together, ask hard questions, participate in kinesthetic and therapeutic activities, and find healing.
When Stephanie moved back to Southern Illinois in October 2017 she felt called to bring Glory Babies with her. Her desire is to walk with other women through the pain and heartache she and her husband experienced while guiding and teaching the friends and family of those who have experienced loss.
“Glory babies was instrumental not only because of my own loss in my life but also being able to walk through my friend’s struggles.”
As our toddlers tore through the house laughing, crying, asking for more snacks, I couldn’t even begin to identify with the pain Stephanie had experienced, is experiencing, after losing a baby. But Stephanie is patient and kind. She is real and open and unafraid to be vulnerable, especially when her vulnerability brings glory to the Father and ministers to others.
Stephanie with a laugh shares that she has no problem getting pregnant, as she recalled her first pregnancy with her now giant 3 year old with the greatest imagination and cutest cheeks.
She was a teacher in Wichita, so when it was time to start making their second baby, she planned it down to the week. 6 weeks of maternity leave than summer vacation. Stephanie is very smart. Everything went smoothly when they were ready they tried again for another baby. Stephanie was expecting a Spring baby and a summer full of all the wonderful things a newborn brings to a family. She also became pregnant around the same time as one of her closest friends. Perfection.
Her friend miscarried on a Monday.
“The idea of losing a baby had never even occurred to me and we only told a few close friends and family members. Even after Sarah lost her baby I had never thought it could happen to us.”
Stephanie and Ray miscarried that Friday.
Sitting across the table from Stephanie all I could see was a rock, a pillar, a woman who has looked Pain in the face and told it to go to it’s room (at this point she was actually telling her 3 year old to go to his room). But it took a long time for Stephanie to work through ALL of the feelings that accompany a loss like this. Stephanie’s faith was shaken.
“I couldn’t understand how God could be so mean. It validated every insecurity I had about God – that he was not good and he did not keep his promises.”
Not many months after losing the baby Stephanie was pregnant again.
The way others looked at this event was that Stephanie and Ray should be happy – bonus baby. An extra baby to make up for the loss. I don’t know how people don’t get punched in the face more often.
Stephanie experienced the revelation of the twins a little differently,
“When we got pregnant with the twins it felt like a cruel, sick joke that God was playing on me because we had a small, 2 bedroom house that we were renting and we had a car that would NOT fit three car seats and I was a teacher. How would we afford this? How is any of this going to work? How do the logistics work of taking care of 3 kids?”
Not only did the presence of twins not validate her pain and their loss but there were complications. Stephanie lived in fear the entire pregnancy.
Another friend was pregnant at this time. Twins. Boy and a girl just like Stephanie.
She lost the baby girl.
Stephanie was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even if the pregnancy would be successful, even if her babies would be given safely into her arms, something bad was going to happen. Fear lurked like a lion. The lies Stephanie had started to believe about God’s goodness whispered in her heart. 9 long months.
As we speak Raelynn shouts at Carter as our daughters gang up on the poor guy. A head full of hair and a face full of smiles. These sweet twins are all sunshine.
Healing is a process. Loss will always be loss. An absence will always be felt. But God is good and he is a healer. He takes our pain and our brokenness and molds it into something beautiful.
Stephanie described an activity they did at a Glory Babies meeting. She took a canvas and wrote down a lie she was believing about God: God is not good. She took that lie and began to paint over it. With each stroke the lie began to vanish and in it’s place bloomed a flower.
God is good.
I asked Stephanie what the most important thing they did to honor their baby. They named their baby and had a proper burial. A real person. A real life. A real loss.
The baby’s first name would be Selah. Selah is a resonant pause used in Scripture. You can find it in Hebrew poetry. Selah. Pause. Take a breathe. Wait.
“Our prayer at the time that this loss would just be a pause and not the end of your story.”
Jude would be their middle name. In the Bible, Jude verse 2 says this: may mercy, peace, and joy be with you in abundance. That’s good stuff right there.
So today what is a truth about God that Stephanie remembers when the seeds of a lie creep into her heart?
“God had a greater purpose for our loss because if we hadn’t lost Selah we wouldn’t have attended Glory Babies, we wouldn’t have a knowledge of how to walk with other women down that road or be able to be a friend or a support for others. God used it for his glory. Selah’s life had purpose.”
Thank you baby Selah. We really can’t wait to meet you one day.
Glory Babies of Southern Illinois
May 8th, 2018 will be the first meeting for Glory Babies of Southern Illinois. Stephanie will meet with women from our community at First Christian Church of West Frankfort and begin to walk alongside them.
Stephanie’s hope in all of this is to help bring truth and healing to women in our community along with their friends and family. It’s a journey to take together. The road is difficult but hold on to each other. Stephanie will carry the lamp. God will carry your heart. Your sisters will take your hands and carry you.
We talked a lot, Stephanie and I. We could have talked for hours but our kids were getting cranky. She has a final word for you;
“We have such a limited perspective of our pain and that even if we eventually discover the reason why doesn’t invalidate how terrible the hurt is. God’s plan is bigger than that. He uses our struggles and our hurts to bring glory.”
Stephanie and her husband Ray are remarkable people. She fiercely lives out her faith everyday, even in the darkest moments. She’ll be the first to tell you how hard it is but I’ll be the first to tell you how real she is. If you or someone you love is walking through infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or child loss, you are welcome to Glory Babies of Southern Illinois.