by Heather Bowie
Amanda is the friend in my life who asks, "How are you....really?" She never lacks boldness, isn't afraid to ask the tough questions, nor does she accept the same polite answers I give others. That has remained true throughout our ten year friendship. We get together once a week to hold each other accountable and pray through our "stuff" - our failings, our hurts and sorrows, our frustrations. God uses her to call me out of the bushes.
Amanda used every bit of courage and faith she could muster when she was pregnant with her second child. In a short time she went from the joy of being pregnant, to the fear of hearing there might be a problem, to the devastation of being told her child would never be born alive. She and her husband made the difficult decision to continue her pregnancy,not to bargain with God nor to make a statement, but because they felt God's clear direction to move forward. That decision in and off itself took great trust and fortitude. She recalls her visits to the doctor being like a visit to the grim reaper; she couldn't look at the ultra-sound as she knew it was a picture of her son slowly dying. Amanda carried on when she wanted nothing more than to end her pain quickly. She and her husband retreated with their anguish, grief and faith and planned their son's funeral together. They fell bravely towards each other's brokenness and pain, clinging to their God and each other for the strength to take the next breath.
It was a heartbreaking privilege to walk that road with her. What I appreciate most is her honesty. She had to have known that her beautiful pregnant belly with a failed promise of life was the source of awkwardness and discomfort for the rest of us. What could we really say or do to ease her pain? We stood helplessly by. Amanda, with her constantly tear stained face, never tried to make her precious child a trite example of some bigger lesson. She lived a haunting picture of a very real, messy, and powerful faith.
I remember praying with Amanda and her husband the night before she was to be induced. Yes, she had already made it further along in her pregnancy than anyone expected. They had the audacity to pray for one small thing, "Please Lord, just give us a moment, one moment to hold our son before you take him." They were pleading and grieving and crying and in that wreckage somewhere they had an ounce of outrageous hope to ask for more. Go boldly before the throne of Grace....
I want to end the story there. I want you to know Amanda is a woman of valor because she bravely and willingly followed God on this most painful journey; that this valor comes through in her relationships because she calls us to dig deeper and live larger and love with abandon.
But I can't...because there is a beautiful six year old boy out there who is an amazing story teller, devoted lover of all kinds of machines, and exuberient hugger. His name is Caleb and he is a miracle and a gift.
*[*Amanda would be the first to clarify that it wasn't her faith that produced this gift. She claimed in her darkest hours that "God is good" not because she felt that in her grief, but because she knew it in her soul to be true. Amanda would not want her story to be shared as a tale of cause and effect. We both acknowledge and honor the pain of parents who have lost a child.]
Heather Bowie is the mom of a child with special powers who can be found singing in her kitchen using a spatula for a microphone and blogging at Team Aidan.
This post is part of our Women of Valor series. Eshet chayil—woman of valor— has long been a blessing of praise in the Jewish community. Husbands often sing the line from Proverbs 31 to their wives at Sabbath meals. Women cheer one another on through accomplishments in homemaking, career, education, parenting, and justice by shouting a hearty “eshet chayil!” after each milestone. Great women of the faith, like Sarah and Ruth and Deborah, are identified as women of valor. One of my goals after completing my year of biblical womanhood was to “take back” Proverbs 31 as a blessing, not a to-do list, by identifying and celebrating women of valor. To help me in this, you submitted nearly 100 essays to our Women of Valor essay contest. There were so many essays that made me laugh, cry, and think I’ve decided that, in addition to the eight winners we featured in August, I will select several more to feature as guest posts throughout the fall.
We have honored a single mom, a feisty professor, a midwife, a foster parent, an abuse survivor, a brave grandmother, a master seamstress, a young Ugandan woman who reached out to a sister in need, and many more.