*Posted in remembrance of my sweet "nephew" Jayden on the one year anniversary of his passing into the arms of Jesus.*
I hope you have seen the video my cousins made in celebration of their sweet baby Jayden, who went home to be with the Lord after 124 days of life here on this earth. If you have not, please watch it first here before reading this post.
As I mentioned in that post, there are so many things I want to say about the experience of loving and losing Jayden. God gave him to our family for a short time, but for a great purpose. Part of Jayden's purpose was surely to change me. In honor of him, I want to share with you how God used this precious baby to do that.
Before Jayden was even born, he began to change me. During Christina's pregnancy, we were made aware of some concerns the doctors had about how Jayden was developing in utero. Each time a concern was raised, we prayed and God removed the issue. At the next sonogram, the concern would be gone! Through Jayden, I learned how to really pray- fervent, unceasing, faith filled and unselfish prayers. And because of him, I learned that God does still heal! I saw Him miraculously heal JJ not once but twice.
When Jayden was born and all seemed well, I was overjoyed! When I saw his precious face in photos for the first time, the tears of thankfulness flowed. Even now, as I look back, I thank God my cousins had a month of typical life with a newborn. I pray that God has engraved the sweetness of that time on their hearts forever.
One afternoon, when JJ was about a month old, I got a phone call from Christina to let me know they were on their way to the hospital and to ask for prayer for Jayden. Once again, it was time to persevere in prayer. Through the ups and downs and the lack of answers from the doctors, Jayden taught me how to press on in prayer and to trust God with the result. His life forced me to put my faith in action. Do I really believe that with God all things are possible? Do I really believe that God’s plan is perfect?
When God made a way for my cousins to bring Jayden home and I was able to meet him, I felt such great thankfulness for the opportunity. Holding him for those brief moments were a gift I will never forget nor take for granted. I will never forget his beautiful eyes, his round cheeks, his sweet smile and of course how he looked just like his daddy.
During my visit, my cousins held a beautiful prayer service for Jayden. I will never forget how they purposed to keep the mood light yet prayerful and reverent. Their grace and peace spoke volumes to those of us looking on- both believers and non-believers. As a believer, I was encouraged to see that God does indeed give special grace in our time of need. And those who don’t believe saw a faith that was real, and how God could be loved, honored and glorified even as one walks through pain and fear.
When I got the phone call I had been praying against for so long, my heart broke. But Jayden’s life and my cousins' response to his life and his death, once again taught me. I learned, really learned, that life is a vapor. This is not just head knowledge for me anymore. Instead I feel that truth now with an ache in my heart. My eyes have been opened to see that not one of us is promised tomorrow. I have had to experience what that feels like and to watch my loved ones suffer because of it. I have been forced to acknowledge how I have taken the precious gift of life for granted. I have been inspired to change that- to become one who appreciates each moment of life- my own and my loved ones- as a gift.
My cousins' determination to honor God by celebrating Jayden’s life despite their pain was beautiful! Once again, I saw Him give them the special grace to do just that at JJ's Celebration of Life service. From the music they chose, to the words of the pastor, to the incredible video, to Christina’s unscripted appeal onstage to all to come to know God, to the release of 124 balloons in celebration of his 124 days of life, they set the tone of celebration and faith in the midst of suffering and sorrow. They lifted God and His goodness above all else and, in doing so, set an example for all of us who believe and planted a seed in the hearts of those who do not.
The truth is, I wish with everything in me, that Jayden was still with us. That our prayers had been answered differently and I could have rejoiced to watch him toddling through my cousins' yard as we enjoyed our annual week together in the summer. I mourn with them. I weep with them. But praise God that we do not grieve like those who have no hope! We know where JJ is- in the arms of our Jesus. And we know that he is healed and whole. We know that we will see him again- and this time it will not be for a vapor but for eternity.
I don’t know how to do this. How to grieve a sweet little cousin. How to love my cousins well. How to minister at this time. I only know this. That I love my cousins and their family so very much. And that He loves them exceedingly and abundantly more than I ever could. So I simply trust that they will come through this stronger and more equipped to do His will. And I ask Him to give me what I need to be there for them.
Thank you, Christina and Jason, for sharing Jayden with me. I am forever changed because of him!