Remembrance: Where There’s No Straining For My Eyes To See

I am sitting in the quiet of my living room as little ones sleep. This pregnancy has led me to eating lunch around 10:15 rather than noon. So as I unashamedly finish off a plate of spaghetti by mid morning, I sit here thinking about this new little one that has continued to grow inside me.

The gift of children has been quite the journey for us. For two and a half years God has lifted my eyes to trust him as he tells me that his ‘word is upright and all his work is done in faithfulness’ Psalm 33:4, a life giving verse for me in the midst of a trial that wanted to suck the life out of me.

As we first kissed our firstborn and buried him into the ground in the same week, the Lord stood guard over my heart from the hungry sins of bitterness, anger, and hopelessness who were always tempting me in my hours of sorrow. But The Lord stood in my sorrow, loudly declaring for me that if he did not spare his own son for my sin how could he also not provide me all things?
Since then, every pregnancy has been a step of faith onto a path to which the final destination is not visible. We cannot strain our eyes and squint hard enough to make sure we see a baby down the road that will survive after birth. What we can see is the Lord’s faithfulness to us before, where there’s no straining or squinting for our eyes to see. God has shown Ernie and I the power of remembering what He has done.

So I lay here, feeling the kicks of a little girl squirming inside me and I pray that she continues to kick and move and jump for 15 more weeks. I want her to live. I want to watch her grow and watch our son care for his younger sister. I do not want to place her in the ground. But my hope is not in a living child. My hope is that God emptied his anger and wrath on his son. He showed his son no mercy so that he could freely give mercy to me. In light of this hope, I can walk in faith with bearing or not bearing children, raising them or burying them.

Guest Post: My Husband

(Written March 30, 2013)

Today I have the joy of letting my husband, Ernie, share a little about our first son, Haddon. I’m very excited to have this on here, hope you enjoy reading about his love for Haddon and his even bigger love for Jesus. Thanks honey, I love you.

This weekend marks the celebration of the death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. We will be gathering to celebrate his perfect life, his death as the ultimate curse of God for sin, and his resurrection, the proclamation of the Father’s satisfaction with his Son’s sacrifice. We will join the millions of Christ-followers who see the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the most central and important event in the history of the world.
This year as we celebrate Easter we will also be celebrating another important celebration in the life of the Blanco family, the 2nd anniversary of the life and death of our first-born son, Haddon Brooks Blanco. While Easter has always been important to us, through our son Haddon, God has given us a lens in which to view Easter. We are far more aware of the joy that the resurrections provides as an anchor of hope for all who are in Christ. We are growing and experiencing a new understanding of awaiting that one day when all who are in Christ will be raised to glory with the resurrected Christ.
Haddon has taught me that God’s love for his own son is far greater than my love for my own children. As a proud father, I have experienced what many other fathers have experienced when they transition into the role of fatherhood, an immense awakening of fatherly love. We are so proud of our kids the instant that we first see them. We almost immediately began searching for similarities to claim before anyone else can suggest otherwise. We find for the first time joy in being awakened and depended upon during the night (though certainly this applies much more thoroughly with our wives). We would do anything to show our kids how much we love them. This is a gift from God that our hearts are instantly tied to our children, as if we had been best friends for a countless number of years. That is exactly how I felt as I entered fatherhood when Haddon arrived two years ago. I loved him instantly. My bond to him formed quicker than any other bond God has ever given me, even quicker than the bond that first formed meeting his mother and my wife, Lisa.
God’s relationship with his Son is so profoundly deeper than my relationship with both of my sons. Whereas my bond with Haddon, and his younger brother Ernie has lasted as long as I have known them, God’s bond with his son has existed from the foundations of eternity. Prior to the coming of Jesus to earth, the Father and Son had never experienced any separation. Their bond was so profoundly rich because of their unique relationship that it is difficult for Christians today to even conceive of the love that exists between Father and Son.
The Lord has also taught me these past two years that the deeper the love one experiences with another, the deeper the hurt one feels when experiencing a separation from the relationship. This is why the separation of the Son and the Father on the cross is unparalleled in all of world history. Not only did God separate himself physically from his Son, but he also separated himself from any sense of goodwill, of love, and of affection for his beloved first-born. He so separated himself from his relationship with his Son on the cross, that Jesus literally became the curse and scorn of God by hanging on the cross at Calvary. And because that separation between Father and Son occurred, we were given over victory over the temporary separation that occurs when a child of God departs from this earth. I am reminded when my heart aches for the separation that I currently feel from Haddon, that God the Father is more than familiar with my pain. He has destroyed the sting of death through the loving sacrifice of Jesus. As Haddon’s dad, its just a little easier to understand some of the grief God’s heart must have went through Christ was afflicted with the sins of the world.
Lastly, I am reminded that God is the magnificent victor over death and sin. Jesus did not stay dead in the grave, but as the Scriptures remind us Jesus conquered death and rose on the third day appearing to over 500 witnesses before ascending to the Father in glory. God’s stamp of approval of his Son’s death in the resurrection is the reason that there is hope to be found in a world marred by sin. This hope is spoken of in 1 Peter 1:7 which states, “In this you rejoice , though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The resurrection reminds me that each trial God has called me to and will call me to, are carefully designed for my good and for the everlasting glory of Jesus Christ. This Easter, which is also the same day as Haddon’s birthday, I will be rejoicing in my God who has victoriously conquered death and promised new life to all who put their faith and trust in him. The resurrected Christ indeed is our only hope for victory over death.
Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will ne not also with him graciously give us all things?”


Jesus Reached Down into Death

(written September 3, 2012)

Tonight baby Ernie and I read about Jesus raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead in Luke 8 in his Jesus Storybook Bible, we absolutely love that book. So there was Ernie, drowsy and on my lap and I’m reading along. Then I came across the part where Jesus comes to his daughter, when no one believed Jesus was going to wake her from the dead.

“Jesus walked into the little girl’s bedroom. And there, lying in the corner, in the shadows, was the still little figure. Jesus sat on the bed and took her pale hand.”

I began to cry as I remembered Haddon’s still little figure when there was no longer any life in him just like this little girl. I still continued reading, this was a good story.

“Honey,” he said, “it’s time to get up.” And he reached down into death and gently brought the little girl back to life.
 The little girl woke up, rubbed her eyes as if she’d just had a good night’s sleep, and leapt out of bed…
Jesus was making the sad things come untrue. He was mending God’s broken world.”

I told Ernie that one day, we don’t know when, Jesus will reach down into death, into the very grave we visited of his brother, and raise him back to life as if he had had a good night’s sleep. With his mighty hand, he will make this sad part of our family come untrue. 

My Two Boys

BoysLook at my boys. Their newborn similarities melt my heart to pieces. Haddon, what a sweet boy you were, I miss you today. Sometimes when I glance in the rear view mirror and see the car seat that holds Ernie, I picture another car seat next to him that could be holding a little one year old Haddon. I’d be asking him to keep his hands out of brother’s face, or something like that:)
Sometimes I give Ernie Brooks a tight squeeze and remember God has sustained him and he is such a gift to us, along with any other children that may come our way. Sometimes I whisper to him about big brother, how he’s with Jesus and much happier than he or I could ever be right now. My dad’s sketches of Haddon sit above Ernie’s changing table, and Ernie’s eyes often glance in that direction as he wobbles around during his diaper changes. We like to think he’s looking at the sketches.
These frames of them hang on the wall of my parents house side by side, and my heart just wells up every single time I go over there.
My boys, my boys. I love these two boys.

To Women Who Struggle This Mother’s Day

Perhaps this Mother’s Day is difficult for you and your heart is exhausted from all the celebration. I know that feeling. Last year was my very first Mother’s Day, it had also been just a bit more than a month since I had lost my firstborn. I remember going to church was too painful so I spent the day with Ernie. Now each Mother’s day will come with the desire to have my little Haddon with me as his daddy and siblings gather to say how much they love me. How sweet it would have been to have him today. If you are approaching today having lost a child, or you have longed for a child and cannot have one, you should know your pain never goes unseen by the Lord. I pray that you hold on to this truth today:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

One thing I keep tucked away during days like this is that while the Lord is gathered with families celebrating with their mother, He is also gathered with the families who are mourning.The Lord is able to both rejoice and weep with his children at the same time. Remember that when the Lord says he is near to the brokenhearted, it is a promise he keeps.

A Year of Sorrow And the Sweetness of Jesus

Isaiah 41:10 has been a verse I run to all year long:
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

This past weekend we were able to celebrate our precious son Haddon’s first year with Jesus. As we were approaching the 31st of March I had no idea what the morning would feel like when I first woke up. Haddon would have had his first birthday, I would have loved to have rushed into his nursery and woken him up with a “happy birthday big boy!” and see him light up and giggle, not really understanding what a birthday means but just enjoying such a greeting from mommy.

But Saturday arrived and as I opened my eyes there was a peace from the Lord as I awoke in a quiet home that my heart longs to be filled with baby chatter; my son is with Jesus, where there is joy unending. It’s been a whole year of delight for him that is unimaginable to me here on earth. I wouldn’t exchange that for him to be present at a party, even when I miss him to a point that feels unbearable.

I opened God’s word to Psalm 33, a chapter that has been a light in the darkness of this year. When we first lost Haddon this is what God used to remind me that all His work is done in faithfulness and that He loves righteousness. That’s where I rested in many days of sorrow. I use the truths from Psalm 33 when I have to battle these sins: jealousy or envy of other parents with little precious newborns, when I’m so thankful a NICU baby makes it but my heart aches to compare how my son didn’t, when I struggle to think the woman in the checkout lane could be more thankful for her children she snaps at, when I stand over Haddon’s grave and when holidays come and I can’t pick out a special outfit (ah the little plaid shirts and ties). But the Holy Spirit does his work, I’m so thankful, and reminds me that God’s work for my child is done in faithfulness and he is not jeopardizing his righteousness to bring us through this deep sadness. Ever.

This weekend I reflected on how God brought me closer to himself because I was able to watch Haddon as he passed away. There is something about watching a life pass that came from your very own womb; it makes the fact that all things belong to the Lord permanently sealed in your mind.
Here are some photos from Haddon’s Birthday, March 31, 2012.

Haddon's bday 1Haddon's Bday 2Haddon's Bday 3Haddon's Bday 4Haddon's Bday 5Haddon's bday 6

Haddon’s first Birthday

6 months ago I figured that Haddon’s birthday couldn’t be harder than any other day. I mean, we are always thinking of him, dreaming about him, crying together about him. But, March comes tomorrow, the last month i carried him when i was so close to his due date and when i saw him for the first time, and it is already bringing knots to my stomach and lumps in my throat. Part of me doesn’ t want any more than one year to go past…to look too far ahead without him can sometimes seem very dark. We are talking about his birthday lately, Ernie and i, as it’s getting closer. There will be lots of writing prepared for the day. A lot of precious memories between Ernie and I will be shared together when we wake up. We will battle for faith to remember his reality of seeing Jesus Christ for who he is is far greater than planning a birthday party or tasting cake for the first time.

A Reason To Hope

haddon's feet
A season has come where I often weep
My eye wastes away with little sleep
I rage war against doubt and hopeless fears
My pillow is drenched with endless tears
But when a spear to the soul conveys my grief
O, the Almighty God brings sweet relief.

My little one has departed from me
and has joy that will last for eternity
Yet sorrow upon sorrow builds in my heart
for the years I must wait while we are a part
But my child sees Christ, and endless bliss
And I could never ask for more than this

So Lord we wait for your return.
And trust your promises are firm.
You know the grief of weighty loss
Your son bore sin and death on the cross
You tell me: “Remember! My Son conquered death!”
And so, never fear your baby’s last breath.

Goodness and Mercy in The Shadow of Death

(written December 9, 2011)

Coming across a promise of God that is stated in the Bible is very different for me now. I feel like I have to stick my circumstance into the verse and read it that way in order to process it. One caught me today in Psalm 23: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” The psalmist is so certain, surely, goodness and mercy will follow me. So, God’s goodness and mercy, it’s not just only there in the good days, but all your days. When I read that I rewind it for a second and say to myself, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, including the day Haddon died.” So, because all my days include a death of my firstborn, I’m glad the psalmist includes all my days and I’m glad he includes surely, telling us it’s not just a sentimental thought to use however you want. And as I sit here tonight, having some fears about getting back into our day to day routine (sometimes it’s just the normal days that are so difficult without Haddon), I can read about God’s  goodness and mercy that are promised me tomorrow.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” is written after the psalmist writes “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” The goodness and mercy of God follow you, even through the valley of the shadow of death? I’ve seen the valley. God promises his goodness and mercy in the very shadow of death. When we sing in church, and any song includes a “valley”, like a trial or suffering, I have to fight back tears. There’s so much meaning behind singing of God bringing me through a valley now, because it’s real, it’s not a general valley. I remember a few days after Haddon went to be with Jesus and we had all our family in our house. I was doing fine, then heavy grief hit me like a train and I panicked. What do you do? People picked it up rather quickly I think that I wasn’t doing well and started to leave, and I went to my bed. I wept so hard, harder and even louder than I have in my whole life. So as I read about God’s goodness and mercy following me all the days of my life, I think about that day, my lowest day. God promises that even on that day there was goodness and mercy.
Practically, I wonder what God’s goodness and mercy look like to me. And how do they follow me everyday? There could be several things mentioned here. I feel like trusting that there is goodness and mercy following me every day, means I have to also be trusting the bigger picture. I think it means I have to remember God has given me salvation that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading made possible through Jesus, and that there is coming a day when Christ will return and the suffering I’m experiencing now will result in the praise of Him. That’s another promise found in 1 Peter chapter 1, and that’s what I think of when I read about goodness and mercy following me, leading up to his great return, and we get to see all trials and suffering bring glory to him, and seeing that suffering will also be no more. That’s  another promise in Revelation 21.
So (as if I haven’t typed it enough times in this post) “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life”, including the difficult days of getting back into routine tomorrow.