Well, I just made our annual red velvet cake. It’s the box version – that’s my way, but I pour a whole lot of love as I’m emptying the four ingredients into that bowl!
I make this cake every year on December 4 – the day we celebrate “Joy Sees Jesus Day”. It’s a cake recipe that perhaps includes some tears. This December 4 cake is a cake of declaration that I choose to walk in faith rather than sight. I make the cake to celebrate a child I KNOW is alive because of Jesus, but whom I won’t meet until I depart this life into the next. It’s a cake celebrating that one of my children has SEEN Jesus. I add the eggs, and I just think of Jesus and Joy. Are they watching me make a cake in their honor – the day my daughter met and was held by Jesus Christ – the Savior of the World? Do they chat a moment together about her family on earth? About Voice for the Voiceless written in her honor to extend the culture of life? About her sisters and brother who place her in normal conversations so often in our home.
Due to the early death of our daughter, I’ve never made a birthday cake for my second child Joy. I have never held her hand. I don’t know the color of her eyes. I don’t have the memory of reading her a bed time story or taking a walk with her after dinner. I don’t know the sound of her laugh. I’ve never heard her voice. I’ve never seen her do anything. I have five days of knowing about her and then losing her to a “miscarriage.” What a terrible, terrible word to those of us who have “miscarried.” We didn’t mis-carry our babies. We didn’t take their lives. They simply passed away before we could gaze into their eyes and hug their little bodies against ours. They passed before they could hear us say “we love you.”
Why Red Velvet cake? Good question. As I walked through my first months of grief, I just grieved that I had no memories of Joy – other than the 5 precious days I knew I was pregnant before I began to lose her. I asked God questions about Joy over the months. I wanted to know what her favorite color would be, what her favorite dessert would be – I wanted to know her. I asked those questions and many others to God. He’s not required to answer, but because He is my friend I believed He liked hearing my questions that came with ache.
You see, with miscarriages, you don’t have shared memories to hold onto. You don’t know the child. But how I wanted to know my daughter! Months later, I walked into a fundraising dinner for another organization not thinking specifically about Joy at that particular moment. I just know that as I walked in, I saw red velvet cake on the table, and instantly my heart began to thud in my chest. I knew God met me at that table. With tears in my eyes, I turned towards Chad and said, “That’s her favorite Chad. That’s her favorite cake and her favorite color.” Chad knew my prayer to God, and tears filled his eyes too. We held hands at that dinner and just marveled that God would reach down and touch us – in such a personal way, on a day we weren’t even specifically looking for an answer to our question. Ever since that time, on December 4 the day our daughter met Jesus for the first time, we have celebrated this day with a Red Velvet Cake. I mix it the same way each year – with tears and faith.
Two things I know:
1. God is a God of celebration. God is honored by our celebration of Joy and receives this day for what it is. I just told a friend today that December 4 feels every year like the scars I hold from this loss are torn open all again. I feel on December 4 that there’s a gaping hole in my life. When I cut this cake and eat it with my kids and husband on this day, I bring them to a table of celebration because of who God is. In faith and surrender, I bring them to the altar of worship. I bring them to a table of thanksgiving. I bring them to a table of trust. I bring them to a table of the value of every life of every person created in the image of God. Every life created. My act of providing this cake (yes, even if it’s from a box but thought about beforehand since I live in Asia!) leads us as a family to throne of belief. Choosing to believe – even when life is so stinking hard. We choose to believe that our precious Savior walks both in the hard and the good times with us. My kids don’t catch all this yet, but I believe one day they will.
2. If you think about it, the color red has to be one of Jesus’ favorite colors– and my Joy’s. Red is the color of our Jesus’ blood that was shed to bring salvation and then resurrection to the broken world. To achieve the glorious celebration of the resurrection, He first provided His rich and royal and loving blood. His body covered in blood provided the path for my Joy to be raised to life. His blood provided the way for my forgiveness and thus my eternal life with both Jesus and Joy.
So today as my wound was re-opened, tears have come. I feel like as soon as I opened my eyes this morning, I was in a battle for belief and truth. My inflamed eye from arthritis was quickly followed by a, “Today is December 4,” and it felt like the pounding began as the inflammation around my heart seemed to swell. It’s been 11 years; you’d think I wouldn’t miss a little girl I have never even held. And yet, you see, she’s mine. She’s my daughter as much as Joeli or Phoebe or Eden is my son. It’s just that I don’t have memories of her – such as things she has said or done or things we have done together in the flesh.
But what I have is the day I held up my empty hands to God and said, “I won’t think of her as loss. I willingly give you this freewill offering to use her short life to extend your purposes. Would you kick Satan’s tail through her short days on earth?” And I believe the Lord reached down and picked up this offering of faith (as Joy was probably sitting on his lap), and said, “Yes, my daughter Leslie. I will get no greater joy than crushing “Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20) through this pain. And now, in our 11th year of grief, Voice for the Voiceless enters its 10th translation.
Someday, perhaps, I will eat a huge red velvet cake (prepared by Heaven’s staff – no store bought there!) with my daughter Joy. I just think our family of 6 will gather around a table made for 7 – you know Jesus will be there too. And perhaps looking on will be all the babies’ lives saved and all the women and men brought to salvation through our pain. And maybe instead of our sitting on earth around a cake asking, “What is life like now for Joy?” perhaps Joy will tell us about every year what it was like to stand with Jesus and watch us eat our cake in faith.
Yes, I must say heaven holds a special appeal for me. The eternal celebration and reunion sounds amazing. But until then, we’ll eat our box version of Red Velvet cake. Jesus loves these types of celebrations when they are done by faith. But He has a better one coming!
Happy “Joy Sees Jesus” Day!