This blog is a tough one for me to write. Not because I don’t love the subject (she’s my sister-in-law, after all). But because putting down onto paper how I really feel about Robin Ince has left me at a loss for words.
Watching someone you love walk through the valley of the shadow of death from the opposite side of the world is difficult. Because all you really want to do is give the person a hug. Just wrap your arms around them and let your tears mingle in real life rather than on the phone. And sometimes the ache of missing the person you love mingled with the pain of grief seems almost too much to bear.
But. And that’s a very necessary and important word here. But when you see the people you love struggle well, struggle for splendor and not just for sorrow, it makes the grief easier to bear.
And Robin and my brother Taylor have struggled well. The splendor radiating off of every stage of their sorrow has touched almost every continent of the world, and for that, I am grateful.
When they went in for an ultrasound at 10 weeks and were told that the baby’s leg was not developing past the thigh, something like cysts were forming around the stomach, and there were possible chromosomal issues, they wept. But they wept in hope, believing that the purposes God had for this child went beyond the suffering.
And when they went in three weeks later and found out that the leg still was not developing properly and that the cysts were actually life threatening, they wept again. But this time they wept in strength. It was a strength I could feel from this side of the Atlantic, washing in with the waves, pounding out the beat of the sovereignty and strength of a God who does not waste our suffering.
Robin wrote a blog that testified to this strength while they were waiting for the news from their next scan. If you want to read her post, you will be as blessed as I was. You can find it at www.taylorandrobin.blogspot.com/2013/09/fearfully-and-wonderfully-made.
Then came the final blow at 18 weeks of pregnancy. The little life they had loved and prayed for so fervently went to be with the Lord, and in His presence, was ultimately healed. For the second time, Robin had to go through the labor process with no reward of life at the end. (They lost their first child, Tristan, at 20 weeks in the womb, and she had to deliver her as well.)
But not once did I hear self-pity in Robin’s voice. Not once did I hear fear…or blame…or even anger. I did not hear the sorrow that leads to death, but only the sorrow that leads to life, rest, repentance, and joy (II Corinthians 7:10).
And that is why, only one of the many reasons why, I love Robin. Her life is not her own. It is lived for Another. And through her season of struggle, I saw that truth played out on an even deeper level in her life. I first saw it when she married my brother, Taylor, six years ago and willingly embraced the life of a pastor, a missionary, a student, and all of the hardships that lifestyle entails. I saw it when she moved to North Carolina and then back to Houston and then to Scotland where they now live. I saw it when she delivered their first child, Tristan, at 20 weeks and delivered her to the grave instead of into her arms. And I see it here. Now. Again. Standing as strong by the grave as she does in life.
That is why when I think of my sister-in-law, I think of a True Heart. A Heart that sings the song of life to the tune of Psalm 73:25-26: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing that I desire on earth besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
While she was still pregnant and in the waiting process, I asked Robin a few questions about her definition of a True Heart:
My Question: What is your definition of a True Heart?
Robin’s Response: My definition comes from the words of Jeremiah 17:7-8: “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
My Question: Looking back over your journey and walk with the Lord, what are things you did, perhaps unknowingly, that prepared you to walk through the trial you are now facing in the present?
Robin’s Response: Through the years, time spent studying and meditating on God’s Word, memorizing Scripture, and participating in Bible Studies like Waiting on the Lord and Beth Moore’s study, Breaking Free, have all helped tremendously. But most recently and profoundly, your teaching on Psalm 139 prepared my heart to walk through the trial with this baby.
(Side Note from Susannah: This past summer, the girls and I spent three weeks in Edinburgh with Taylor and Robin, and Robin and I led a Bible study together for women in her apartment complex on Psalm 139. We spent two weeks talking about all of the intimate, detailed ways God knows us and our children, beginning with our conception in the womb.)
While looking at Psalm 139, I had just started feeling pregnant and had no idea of what was to come with this baby, but the study was such a powerful reminder of how much care the Lord puts into knitting us together and writing our story. It was so comforting having this branded in my mind so close to the time we got our initial diagnosis for the baby.
Also, what has helped me develop a True Heart is by walking with the Lord and consciously working out my salvation with fear and trembling since middle school. Knowing what I believe and the One in whom I believe has helped to build my faith in a sovereign God. So in the midst of this trial, I am not plagued with asking the question of why – knowing that it is all for God’s glory and our sanctification is enough. I look forward to seeing the character and fruit this produces in our family.
Lastly, going through the loss of our first baby, Tristan Joy, helped to prepare my heart for the circumstances of this baby. The Lord used her life to prepare us that babies aren’t always healthy – we are not guaranteed to get to parent them here. This lessened the shock when we heard this baby’s initial diagnosis. Losing Tristan forced me to walk through such a deep valley of grief, but it also taught me how to press in to the Lord in ways that would not have happened without that loss. Ecclesiastes 11:5 has become an important verse to us because of Tristan and now this baby:
“As you do not know the pat of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”
My Question: What is the greatest challenge to keeping a True Heart in the midst of the circumstances you are walking through?
Robin’s Response: The greatest challenge is not knowing the outcome. Will our baby make it to term? If he does, will he be healed completely or will he be born with a disability? How will this affect our family? How do we prepare Seth and Avery? Ourselves? I feel like if I knew what to expect I could start coping. But the Lord gently reminded me the other night after a precious friend prayed over us that He doesn’t want me to cope. He doesn’t want me just to survive this but to be refined by this. He wants to redeem this and for us to come out more joyful on the other side. And so I wait and trust – it’s all I can do.
My Question: Who, or what, inspires you to keep a True Heart to the Lord during this season?
Robin’s Response: Mostly, it is my family and friends who do not know the Lord. I want Him to receive glory from how we walk through this suffering and for our friends to see we can only survive this because of our relationship with the Lord. We want to see their salvation because of our story, our suffering, our Hope.
Also, our children inspire us to keep True Hearts as well. This will be the first major suffering they have seen us go through, and I want them to see how we lean on the Lord and walk through it (hopefully!) graciously. I pray that as they see us walking in the suffering of uncertainty, that they themselves will turn to the Lord in their own suffering down the road, whatever form that suffering may take.
Like I said in the beginning, I really love my sister-in-law. The soil of her heart has borne rich, ripe fruit from which many have tasted of the Lord’s sufficiency, goodness, and grace, not despite her suffering, but because of her suffering. Her heart gives me hope for my own heart – that if I will chose to walk closely with the Lord through suffering, believing in His Sovereignty, I too will be like that tree planted by water, that does not fear when heat comes, and whose leaves remain green nor cease to bear fruit, even in a year of drought (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
Every time I hear Christy Nockel’s song, For Your Splendor, I think of Robin. So it seemed appropriate to end with those words instead of mine:
I’m so concerned with what I look like from the outside
And will I blossom into what You hope I’ll be
Yet You’re so patient just to help me see
The blooms come from a deeper seed
That You planted in me
Sometimes it’s hard to grow
When everybody’s watching
To have your heart pruned by the One who knows best
And though I’m bare and cold I know my season’s coming
And I’ll spring up in Your endless faithfulness
With my roots deep in You
I’ll grow the branch that bears the fruit
And though I’m small, I’ll still be standing in the storm
Cause I am planted by the river
By your streams of living water
And I’ll grow up strong and beautiful
All for Your splendor, Lord.
For Your Splendor, Christy Nockels
(Since writing this post a week ago, Taylor and Robin found out that their baby was a boy. They gave their Scottish boy a thoroughly Scottish name – William Lachlan Ince – William meaning “Will or Determination,” and Lachlan meaning “Light.” Yesterday, they buried William in a cemetery close to their house in Edinburgh, Scotland. The words on his tombstone read:
In Memory of
William Lachlan Ince
Son of Robin and Taylor
Brother of Tristan Joy, Seth, and Avery
October 13, 2013
We look forward to a glorious reunion one day and smile knowing that William and his big sister, Tristan Joy are playing together at the feet of Jesus.)