For today’s post, I am going to share a little more of my family’s story and how God has been gracious to us through pain and sorrow bringing us joy and peace along the way. To do so, allow me to introduce you to the newest love of my life. Her name is Isabella Virginia Page and she was born on the 3rd of May 2016. She is our 4th daughter and in her first 5 months of life, she has brought immeasurable joy to our family. I am a proud dad, that is to be sure, and all 4 of our daughters are so special. My heart is overflowing with love for them.
With Isabella (Ella) though, the experience of the pregnancy was different than it was with the other 3 girls. You see, in December of 2014, we learned that my wife was pregnant. We were excited for this new addition, but in March, at a routine ultrasound, we learned that the baby had died. My wife delivered our child, stillborn, the day after the ultrasound. We named the child Ilya. I had never experienced grief and heartache like that before. I shared a little about the story in this blog post this past summer. God was present and comforted us through the grief and pain. Just over a year later, He allowed us to have another baby. The experience was different this time as there were weekly ultrasounds to make sure that all OK. All of the landmark moments that a pregnancy brings (hearing the heartbeat, feeling the baby kick, seeing the baby at the ultrasound) were not moments of joy this time as much as they were moments of relief that things were OK. Even after Ella was born, there have been panicked moments where my wife or I will feel like something has happened to her and rush to check on her, only to find out that she is sleeping peacefully and that everything is fine. We hug all our kids a little tighter, tell them we love them and are proud of them a little more frequently and enjoy time together as a family more after going through the loss of Ilya.
Former NFL MVP and future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson and his wife LaTorsha also had the experience of losing a baby during pregnancy. You can read here about the heartbreak they went through, and the joy that they have in the birth of their son Daylen. It is a story that again reminds us that there is more to life for pro athletes than what happens on the field. There are events and circumstances that they go through that bring pain and sadness. Tomlinson’s story is more than what we could see on the field.
Although the things that he accomplished on the field were pretty special. He was drafted by the San Diego Chargers with in the first round on the 2001 draft with the number 5 overall pick. He had become a star at TCU as an All-American in 2000. He was also a 2 time WAC offensive player of the year in college. In the NFL, he was 2 time rushing leader, 5 time Pro Bowl selection, and a member of the “All-Decade team” for the 2000’s. He was a league MVP and his #21 has been retired by the Chargers. He owns or shares the NFL record for consecutive games with a TD (18); rushing TD’s in a season (28) and total offensive touchdowns in a season (31). It was an impressive career for Tomlinson, and the expectation is that when the 2017 Hall of Fame class is announced, Tomlinson will be on the list of new inductees. Tomlinson is quick to share the important role that his relationship with Jesus plays in his life. You can read more about it in this article from CBN.
I have long appreciated LaDainian Tomlinson. He was easy to cheer for because of his skill and his humble attitude. As I learn about this part of his story, I am an even bigger fan. When I hear about how he leans on his faith in God, then I want to share that part of the story with others, too – so that the way God has been with him in good times and hardships can encourage all of us as we battle through our own lives. In an interview with Chad Bonham, Tomlinson says “My job is to let everybody know what I stand for and to let my light shine. I want to show others the way I live so that hopefully they follow. I can also tell about my experiences as a Christian so that I may help bring others to Christ.”
Here are my takeaways from Tomlinson’s story:
1- Joy Exceeds Pain – The Tomlinsons’ story of heartbreak at the loss of their unborn baby is tragic and sad. It connected with me as my wife and went through that too. But as we struggled through the grief, God’s presence was strong and evident. And with the birth of Ella, the joy that we have felt from having her join our family, holding her, seeing her smile, hearing her laugh and all the other joyous moments of parenthood are so much sweeter than we could have imagined. God has given us this beautiful baby to love. The joy that she brings to us exceed the pain that we felt.The pain was real and deep-reaching, but so much more is the joy that God has granted through Ella. This is a small picture of the ultimate result of a life lived for Him. There will be hardship, pain and heartache over and over in our time on this planet. But there is more to come – in fact the best is yet to come. We are invited to be with God in a place where there is no pain, agony, tears or sorrow. The joy that is to come far exceeds the pain that we feel here.
He is with us in the hardest of times and His presence and His love is all that we need to get us through the pains of this life. He does not answer each situation we face in the same way but He does answer in the perfect way. Trust Him and lean on Him in the midst of whatever hard things come your way.