I’m super-excited to present the second place entry of the 2016 45th Parallel Contest. Here’s the incredible story of baby Emalee Echols. Her mom, winner Joanna Echols, is senior associate editor of Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr. magazine.
Does Emmy’s warm-hearted smile lift your spirits? It sure warms my heart and soul!
Congratulations, Joanna and Emmy!
1 lb, 5 oz.
11.4 inches long
One Saturday morning in March, we decided to take our miracle baby on her first fishing trip. Emmy spent the first four months of her life—months when she “should” have still been growing inside my womb—cocooned in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Perhaps the darkness and pain of those first four months—and the contrast of how well she’s doing now—contribute to the pure joy Emmy expresses, especially when she gets to spend time outside with Mama and Daddy. I took this photo on our way home. And it’s my favorite picture of her, because her expression brims with unparalleled joy.
“Weeping may endure for a night,” Psalm 30:5 says, “But joy comes in the morning.”
As our 1 pound, 5 ounce baby struggled with life-threatening issues, my weeping endured for many a long night. I’d never before felt so desperate—or so confused as to why God would usher us through a seemingly endless tunnel of darkness.
While I still lack answers to many of my questions, they no longer matter as much . . . because joy has come in the morning. Or to put it another way, joy has peeked through the mourning. Because I wept, I can now weep with others. I can now offer heart-felt empathy and comfort to fellow parents of preemies.
And Emmy—the way she reaches out to us in pure joy—is evidence of the loving-kindness and mercy of our God. Time and again, He spared Emmy from death.
And now, she fully embraces life. We, too, have been spared from the worst death—eternal separation from our Father. Given that second chance, may we fully live!
Joanna Echols, senior associate editor of Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr. magazine, loves to make her baby laugh. She also loves to write, create new recipes, make her husband’s day and cultivate flowers. She’s trying to pass along her love of flowers to Emmy, who tries to teethe on them. Once Emmy managed to tug a bit of flower into her mouth, so Joanna had to Google it to be sure it wasn’t toxic. Life is never boring in the Echols’ home!