The main reason we did it today was that some of my husband's family were visiting from interstate. None of his family live here and we don't get to see them often. We decided to dedicate him while they were in town so that they could come. Once the date was set, I panicked. Completely. To the point where I wanted to call it off because I didn't think I was ready and I didn't want to do it unless I meant it. I went back and forth for what seemed like forever (probably only a week!) before I decided that yes, I did want to do it and I did want to do it publicly at church. We had considered doing it with just close family and friends as I didn't know if I could handle the emotion of doing it in front of so many people at our church. Don't get me wrong, I love my church but I didn't know I was ready to be so emotionally vulnerable in front of them! Then one Sunday, as I was taking Levi into the creche, I heard part of a sermon about the importance of testimony and sharing our stories. If there's one thing I have, it's a pretty remarkable story of how God blessed us with Levi after the tragedy of losing Ariella. It was decided. We would dedicate him at church and I was going to share some of our story.
As adamant as I was about what we had decided to do, I still got to this morning and wanted to cancel! I was so nervous - I couldn't even read through what would be said without tears streaming down my face. How could I stand there in front of everyone, yet alone speak? And to top it all off, the last song sung before the dedication was In Christ Alone. That song has been sung at many significant events for me (our wedding, the funerals of friends) and happened to be playing in our car as we drove to the hospital knowing Ariella had likely died. Needless to say, it's not a song I can hear without crying. As it started, I shared sympathetic looks with a few other people who feel similarly. Was this really happening? Did they have to play this song? But then I thought...it played at our wedding. It played for Ariella. And today it played for Levi. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all (no matter what the tears in my eyes implied)!
We chose Psalm 121 for Levi.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
The first section has been very significant to me since Ariella died. Those verses were read aloud at her funeral and I think of them often when I visit her, as you can see the hills from her grave. The rest of the Psalm summerises what we believe for Levi: God will keep him and protect him. Marcus read the Psalm out, while I shared a bit of our story. I had warned our pastor that he might need to read it for me, but with much shaking and a few deep breaths, I managed to share it myself.
"Whenever I think of Levi, there is one Bible verse that springs to mind. It's from 1 Samuel verse 27, when Hannah is talking to Eli and says "for this child I have prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him". For those who don't know, we have a daughter named Ariella who was born almost 2 years ago, but she died just 2 days before her birth day. That experience meant that my pregnancy with Levi was the most terrifying experience of my life so far, because I didn't know if he would live or if he would die like his sister. There wasn't a day when I didn't pray for him, begging God that He would keep Levi alive until he was born and safely in our arms. I'm so very grateful that God answered that prayer and we've had the honour of raising Levi for the last 11 months. And even though I would do anything to keep him safe, I know that he is safer in God's hands, not mine. And so that's why we are here today. As Hannah said in verse 28 of 1 Samuel 1, "now we dedicate him to The Lord. From this time on he is dedicated to the Lord".
If I was being judged on my public speaking abilities, I'm sure I would have failed. I could barely look up from the page, my hands were shaking (perhaps my voice too) and I don't know how expressive I was. I was much too busy concentrating on getting the words out! Although it was quite hard to do, I'm glad I did it. I wanted Ariella acknowledged and I wanted to share how God had answered our prayers. I'm so glad I did, as two women came up to me afterwards to thank me for sharing and to tell me about their children who had also died. It was an honour to hear their stories and to have them share their children with me. Overall, this morning was a very emotional time; I haven't felt this emotionally exhausted in quite a while! But I'm so glad we decided to do it in the way that we did.
|At home before the service. Levi in one of his many lion tops!|