Beauty from Ashes
By Rachel Lyttle
When I was in my twenties, I found myself complaining that I didn't have a testimony. I grew up in the church and my parents took us to church without fail whenever the doors were open. I gave my life to Christ in early childhood, sitting on my bed with my mom walking me through the sinner's prayer. Nothing had ever happened to me to shake my faith. It was part of who I was, just as my blonde hair, or my hazel eyes. Some would say my testimony was that I had been saved from trials, placed in a family that would encourage me to run after Jesus and to grow closer through his Word.
I met my husband when I was 16, was married by 19, and had my first child at 21. By the time I was 25 I had three children and thought my life was complete. Things had turned out exactly as I had planned as a child, it seemed nothing could ever go wrong. Until my world was suddenly upended.
In 2011 we found ourselves unexpectedly pregnant with our fourth child. This child had been prayed for by our daughter who was known to complain that she was the only one in the house with no roommate. It was an unexpected, yet wonderful surprise and we were already sharing our exciting news with friends and family by about 6 weeks. We planned out how we would add a crib to Teagan's room, we started dreaming of names, and we got excited about this blessing. At 11 weeks I went to my first doctor appointment. This was the appointment where they would do an ultrasound to measure and confirm a due date. This was the appointment where our hearts would be shattered. This was the appointment where we would learn our daughter was not made for this world. We added a new word to our vocabulary this day: *Anencephaly.
We learned that our child had anencephaly, that she was doomed to die upon her entrance to the world. We were told repeatedly, in no uncertain terms, that the best course of action was termination. To the shock of our doctors, and more than likely quite a few of our friends, we decided that we would carry her and love her until her body ceased working. We couldn't, and wouldn't, be the ones to take her life. We prayed for miracles and prepared for her birth and death.
We worked through some difficult questions with our three children. We explained her diagnosis, we all cried together, and we reminded them that we serve a God of miracles. We told them how we were choosing life, that we would always choose life and God's plan, even if it seemed that it would end in pain. We spoke of how we would trust God in the outcome of Sophie's life, and that although we may not like the answer, we could rest assured that God loved us and would take care of us through it all. The three of them became prayer warriors. They each have a worship song that they associate with this time, something that has been written on their hearts through the trials. And when she was born? They were able to love on her with no reservation. They were thankful for her life and had processed enough to be able to celebrate the moments they were able to hold her and love on her here on earth.
After a very difficult pregnancy, we welcomed our daughter Sophie Grace in March of 2012. She had not been healed. She lived for 95 minutes and was surrounded by her family and loved on for each minute. We sang Amazing Grace as she left her earthly body and was welcomed into heaven, made perfect and whole. We were able to donate her organs and were blessed to know that her life had made an impact on at least three other children. On March 14, we celebrated her life with a beautiful 'celebration of life' service. Our pastor spoke of how 'every life has a purpose'.
After Sophie's diagnosis, while still pregnant, we started to talk about adoption. We had always talked of adopting a child: in the future, when we could afford it, when our bio kids were a little older... It was something we talked about but never thought would occur. A dream that was too big. Sophie changed everything. We decided that we would pursue adoption as soon as our family healed. And so our journey to Chloe began in November of 2012.
Now I had something to focus on that dulled the pain of loss and I dove in head-first, learning everything I could about international adoption. I joined groups on Facebook, stalked timelines, read and reread our agencies information, basically made it my job to know and prepare for every eventuality. Soon our paperwork was on its way and I was sure we would soon see the face of the child that would join our family. But we didn't. We waited, and waited... I remember how impatient I was during this time. I had long ago decided that we would be matched shortly after our paperwork was completed and in China. Instead, we waited 5 months. We were matched with a little girl in February of 2014. When we received her paperwork I noticed that she was abandoned the same day that we held Sophie's celebration of life service. A reminder that "every life has a purpose"...
March 14, 2012 was a day of loss. And yet in that loss came redemption. Chloe was rescued from the side of the road and eventually brought into our family. Sophie is no longer with us, but there is joy where there was mourning. I believe God wove these girl's stories together to show us that he makes beauty from ashes. He took the brokenness of two little girls and brought healing from tragedy.
2 years after we had adopted Chloe, we heard of the great need for foster families in our state. After a few weeks of praying and discussing, we attended classes and became a licensed foster home for 2 children. We have now had 7 children come through our doors, one of whom is now our legal son.
Even during the darkest days of our grief, we held tight to the promise “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Romans 8:28). We felt God's presence so near to us through our community of faith, through the Word, and through his settling Spirit. What could have broken us has brought us 8 more children to love and pour into. Sophie's legacy lives on in our lives and in the lives of our children. She will never be forgotten, and we are blessed to share her story and how God used her in our lives and in so many others stories as well.
You can read Sophie's birth story at
*From the CDC website: Anencephaly is a neural tube defect. Anencephaly happens if the upper part of the neural tube does not close all the way. This often results in a baby being born without the front part of the brain (forebrain) and the thinking and coordinating part of the brain (cerebrum). The remaining parts of the brain are often not covered by bone or skin.