3.23 - Remembering Emma Grace

“Today would have been her birthday.”

The thought was the first one on my mind as I awoke that March morning. I lay there with my sleepy eyes open not really knowing how to feel. Today was the due date given to us for our baby girl whom we had lost months before. The day when I was supposed to hold my first-born. The day when I was supposed to look into my husband’s eyes and say, “She has your nose,” was now the day that I had told my husband last night I wish we could skip. “Let’s pretend it’s the 24th then,” he had said with a weak smile. But that was yesterday. This was today. And the day had come just the same.

A strange myriad of emotions kept me tucked in bed, unmoving: melancholy mingled with hope; aching mixed with healing. It was an emotion that had no tangible description to hold on to and one, I was certain, only a believer could understand. Although my heart had been supernaturally lifted out of the ashes recently, it was still a day of mourning. I had learned in this season that the two truths – healing and brokenness- were not at odds. Jesus, after all was both the man anointed with joy more than any other while at the same time being the man of sorrows familiar with grief. If anyone understood contrasting feelings, He did.

“Lord, help,” I prayed silently, staring up at the ceiling. I pet my cat that was pawing next to me, bellowing his demand for me to get up and feed him his kibble. “Well, at least someone knows how to communicate what they are feeling,” I rolled my eyes at him. “I’m up! I’m up!” I assured him and kicked my legs out from under the covers and placed my feet on the floor.

With famished cat darting in and out of my legs, I made way to the kitchen to feed the starving 20 pound beast and to pour my caffeine deprived eyes a strong cup of coffee. “Lord,” I prayed as I filled my cup, “do you have a word for me this morning? Something to hold on to?” I took my cup of joe over to the couch and plopped down with bible in hand.

I sighed deeply.“3.23. The day that has hung over me since I first heard the date.” I sat there pondering the day – 3.23. 3.23. I kept my bible closed and took a sip of coffee. 3.23. 3.23. “Is there any prophetic significance to that number,” I casually thought. Nothing came to mind. I took another sip of coffee. Then the idea came to me: “I’ll look up all the scriptures that have a 3:23 until I land on something that speaks. Yeah. That’s what I’ll do.” I had done this before on other occasions: my birthday, my husband’s birthday, and other special days – so why not this one? I took another swig of my brew and opened up my bible.

“Well, let’s start at the beginning,” and I flipped over to Genesis fully knowing the chances were small for finding a scripture to speak to my need there. It was, after all, not exactly a chapter known for blessing and encouragement (it’s the one all about the temptation and the fall of man). I stopped my finger on the spot: Genesis 3:23 -

Therefore the Lord God sent them out of the garden to till the ground from which he was taken, it read.

“Yeeeah, not exactly awe inspiring this morning.” So, on I flipped to Exodus, not expecting to find much there either. Then on I went to Leviticus with zero expectation and then to Numbers and then to Joshua and so on and so forth. By the time I was turning to 1 Samuel, I thought, “Maybe Ecclesiastes will hold the answer.” I paused a moment to see if that was my own voice or that of the Lord, for sometimes, I am not always certain. “Humph,” I shrugged, “We shall see.” But as I read through both Samuels & Kings, I had a certain feeling that it was my own voice that thought Ecclesiastes would hold the key. “Yep, that was just me,” I settled. And just like that - as soon as I distinguished my own voice - I heard a familiar whisper, “You will find it where you least expect it.” “Aaah!” I smiled. “There’s your voice, Lord! I know it now!”

When I reached Ecclesiastes, I had to laugh. It most certainly was my own voice that thought I would find a word for today there in chapter 3 verse 23…because the chapter ended in verse 22! “That’s one sure fire way of knowing you only heard yourself,” I chuckled. “Still…I know I heard you say I would find an anchor for this day where I least expect it.” So on I turned.

But I was finding nothing. I was beginning to doubt what I had just heard: you will find it where you least expect it. Maybe that was my voice, too.

When I reached Jeremiah 3:23, I literally said out loud, “Yeah, thanks for that,” in a sarcastic tone. It was a scripture about idolatry. “At least it wasn’t as bad as 1 Kings 3:23 which is the scripture where Solomon talks about dividing the baby in half,” I sighed as I shook my head and turned on to Lamentations. Doubt and that nasty twinge of sarcasm was beginning to manifest in my heart. “Lamentations,” I sneered, “the book of mourning. I mean, come on! The book’s title shows no hope. I’m not gonna find it there.”

I flipped the thin pages over to Lamentations and then landed on chapter three. My eyes counted down the verses: 20, 21, 22, until they stopped on the number 23.

And there it was. Lamentations 3:23 - as big as day. As beautiful as any promise I had ever received in scripture:

Your mercies are new every morning. Great is Your Faithfulness.

I read it again. Then again. Then again. Tears flowed as I read the context of my promise:

“Remember my affliction and roaming, the bitterness and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. [But] This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope: Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions do not fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness! ‘The Lord is my portion’ says my soul, ‘Therefore, I hope in Him.’” (Lam. 3:19-24)

With salty tears wetting my lips, I took another sip of coffee and drank in His mercies. I could hear the Lord gently chuckling, “I told you that you would find it where you least expected it.”

But it made perfect sense to find it there, really. The book of sorrows. The book of mourning. The book called Lamentations. It’s the kind of logic that can only be grasped by a believer. It’s the kind of Kingdom logic that is topsy-turvy: that there in the mist of lamenting, you find the greatest praise; that there on a cross meant for sinners, you find the savior of the world; that there in a dead man’s tomb, you find Resurrection Life. And for me - that there on this day that was marked by pain, I had found my promise. It’s the way of our Master, the way of our King – you find promises where you least expect them.

With hope rising in my heart, I sang the words to the old hymn based on my 3.23 promise: Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth. Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Blessings all mine with 10,000 beside.

Never had the lyrics meant so much to me as they did that day. I had never pondered their words of “a peace that endureth” like I had until March 23rd. I had never pondered how his presence “cheers” like I did in that moment. And as my day rolled on and the sun began to set in the sky, my Lamentations 3:23 promise remained: Great is His faithfulness.

And great is Your faithfulness. Great is Your faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed your hand has provided. Great is Your faithfulness, Lord, unto me.


See you soon, Emma Grace.

© 2018 by Desiree Dunleavey.

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