Today marks the 12th anniversary of the passing of our daughter, Isabella Grace, who was tragically stillborn at 36 weeks. Although we’ve honored her passing every year since her birth on January 7, 2008, this year feels more significant than all the rest. There is a sense of completion.
I am not entirely surprised by this, since it has been 12 years, knowing that the number 12 signifies “totality” in Biblical numerology, and is also a symbol of faith and the church. The number 12 is prominently featured throughout the Bible – from the 12 tribes of Israel to the 12 apostles, from the 12 gates of the New Jerusalem to the 12 angels who guard it.
On that tragic day in the hospital delivery room, Scott and I asked the Lord for a word to comfort us in our great sorrow and to give us a name for our child whose empty shell would soon come forth. The Lord gave us both a comfort and a name in the same verse of Isaiah 61:3. “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”
Scott and I claimed that promise, “Beauty for ashes,” by naming her Isabella Grace or “Bella Grace,” which signifies beauty in the presence of God. I asked the Lord to take her ashes and give to us in exchange not only the beautification of Isabella’s soul in His kingdom, and not only the restoration of our own hearts but also that her life and death would somehow play a significant part in the BECOMING of His heavenly bride. I prayed that Bella’s life would somehow matter in the completion of the Lord’s own passion project. We had the words, “Beauty for Ashes,” engraved on her tombstone.
Almost immediately after returning home from the hospital, God began waking me up in the watches of the night to minister specific words to my soul. He would give me one word or one clue at a time. This often felt frustrating, especially at first. But each whisper would eventually prove itself a step farther away from the valley lands and closer into His gracious and empowering presence. This pattern of being woken up and receiving whispers of truth in my inner man continued consistently over the course of the next 12 years. The Lord was guiding me into the spiritual practices of the ancients and imparting creative ways to implement them for my own healing, and eventually to teach others who also found themselves in the valley of broken pieces.
The Lord Himself mentored me in the way of 12 different spiritual practices for the progressive reconciling of my soul to His, my soul to my regenerated spirit within, and my life to the lives of others in the body. These practices weren’t some kind of new truth. Certainly not. All 12 of these concepts had been there all along, just waiting for me to discover them in the pages of the same Bible I’d studied since childhood. The attributes of God’s character I was now experiencing had been hidden all along in plain sight within the creation itself. It was the same beauty He’d spoken into existence from the very beginning of time, but which now seemed revelatory to my needy soul.
I’ve come to realize that the Lord is ever-speaking to those who have ears to hear and are willing to take the time to, “Stop, and consider the wondrous works of God”. Because of our prayers and the whispers my spiritual ears had come to discern, I now associate Isabella’s life with that of a pomegranate seed. A seed that was planted in the sacred garden of my soul. And one that has since BECOME our household’s ministry of BECOMING. Interestingly enough, pomegranates are not only the most abundant of all fruits, as their meat and their seeds are one and the same. But each seed (or aril) is a 12-sided rhombic dodecahedron. The perfect shape for packing together but never crowding out one another. Moreover, from the foundations of the world, God designed the pomegranate to bear the mark of the only naturally occurring star of David that can be seen by the naked eye. And a fruit that when sliced in half reveals a glorious flower at its core.
The planting and breaking open of the seed of Isabella’s life caused a profound breaking in me, but which made way for a greater BECOMING in my spiritual life, in my relationships, and in the work of my hands. A new life has taken root – a contemplative life; a life of intentionally practicing the presence of God each and every time I lose a sense of His abiding peace and abundant grace. I learned the way into His presence by way of the 12 gates of the new Jerusalem, entryways that have been offered to all who believe in His name.
May the life of our heavenly flower, Bella Grace, continue to sing praises unto God as His beloved Bride BECOMES on earth as she is destined to be in Heaven.
For those still journeying out of the valley lands, below is a video link to a talk Scott and I gave at Focus on the Family, less than a year after our loss, about not wasting your sorrows and surviving in the shadowlands. Click Here