This was one of those below-the-surface names. But it came bubbling up one day in a conversation with my husband and he called me right out on it. Told me I'd named it wrong and gave credit to the wrong side in doing so. (It is so outside of his nature to confront or call me- or anyone- out like that that it got my attention right away!)
We had been talking about an extremely dark and painful season our family had gone through over the course of about six months over a year ago. It is not an experience that can be easily summed up so when we were discussing it, I made an offhand remark calling it "Our Little Nightmare".
And certainly, that name is totally valid. Many of those days felt exactly like we were living in a nightmare. We were coming up on the one year mark of the precipitating event, and I was having flashbacks. And it was like I was reliving the nightmare all over at random times throughout the day. In the carpool line. At the grocery store. In my bed at night...
All the sudden I'd be there again...
Lying on a pull-out sofa in the hospital at 2 a.m. unable to sleep and literally shaking from the inside-out, my body succumbing to a state of shock.
Standing in the courtroom and my knees just giving and I'm buckling and I don't know how I got here.
Clutching the hospital room phone in the bathroom choking on my tears and trying to find the words to tell my friend what was happening and could she please come quickly.
It still felt like a nightmare because that's the name I'd given it.
Which would've been fine if that's all there was.
If all it was was darkness and pain and brokenness. But truth is, all that darkness was the just the perfect backdrop for our faithful and powerful God to do His best work.
Because into the nightmare pushed the Light. All His people and the love poured out.
And then came the miracles.
We must have been told literally a hundred times over the course of the next few months- that just doesn't happen. There is no way this is going to happen. We've never seen this happen before! We even signed waivers saying we wouldn't hold anyone responsible if said thing didn't happen. Lots of waivers.
Truth is, right from the start we saw the power of God. We walked through some very difficult days and fear threatened to take up residence in me. But in the end, it was all just a chance for God to show Himself faithful. Just a chance for Him to show the lengths He would go through to fight injustice and bring one of His precious daughters into a family. This temporary "nightmare" was simply the perfect setting for a flood of breathtaking miracles. For where does light shine so clear and pure if not in the darkest night?
It was here, in our dark night, that God came and showed us all that He still does miracles... still shows up on behalf of those who call out to Him in weakness.
Like Joseph, we could say with confidence, "What you meant for harm, God meant for good!"
And this was Scott's gentle challenge to me as we sat there a year later remembering - how will you name this, Haley? Who will you give credit to when you remember this season in our lives?
The fact that I'd named it all "Our Little Nightmare" revealed that my focus was really on the power of darkness that took us so off-guard. But what our experience taught us was that we may have underestimated the power of darkness, yes... but we also saw that the power of darkness is limited. And God's power is limit-less.
Really, I was continuing to give darkness power over me by letting fear in. Naming the whole thing in honor of the darkness.
But how do you stop the memories? I didn't want to think of these things- they just came flooding back when my mind would wander.
Then one day a friend who knew of my struggle encouraged me to ask God to show me where He was in all of those horrific moments. She, too, had a traumatic memory of her own. She had gone through an unwanted abortion years ago and had found profound comfort when God answered her prayer to show her where He was in that room when she lost her baby.
By God's grace, over time as I prayed and others prayed for me, He has replaced the horrible feelings of abandonment in my "nightmare" moments by literally showing me where He was in each of them. Of course He was there and everywhere, and I'd always known that. But now I'm able to remember each of these moments and the emotions that come are the feelings of being held and protected. I see the scene in my head but I also see God taking a very active role that I just simply could not see before.
You see, God is renaming my story!
Before I felt abandoned. Now I feel held.
Before I felt fearful. Now I feel protected.
Before I felt attacked. Now I feel victorious.
Because my God is in the business of restoring and redeeming, He has given me new memories. New adjectives to describe my experiences.
But there was one thing He left for me.
As I've gone through this healing process, there was still one thing missing. I needed a new name for it all. And God had left this naming part up to me. It would be an act of faith for me to no longer remember it all as "Our Little Nightmare". To give it another name that better reflected the limitless power of God and the fact that, in the end, victory belonged to Him.
And that's where Gabby comes in. I left that basketball game on World Down Syndrome Day and drove to a little nearby fishing town. And I sat quietly for a long time. I thought a lot about Eden and Gabby. And I thought a lot about the chance I had to rename our experience. And that's when I remembered that Gabby had another name- that once she was renamed, too, to better reflect what God was doing in her life. Gabrielle was renamed Miracle.
And that was the day "Our Little Nightmare" became "Our Great Big Miracle".
"I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us-- yes, the many good things he has done for (us), according to his compassion and many kindnesses". Isaiah 63:7