God’s Handprint

Jen Pacienza and her daughter Lilianne

God “sees you, hears you, knows you, and loves you.” These became familiar phrases our children would say as we tucked them into bed, phrases that came from our daughter Lilianne’s favorite book, Be Still, (by Kathryn O’Brien, a meditation on Psalm 46:10). Before our Lilianne went to live with the Lord she had repeated this verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” I would put her on my lap and she would anticipate the next words. We made up hand motions to recall God’s character: “He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God.” Lily may not have understood the robust passage she was reciting but I do believe that God used her repetition and declaration for the seven months prior to her being swept up to glory. God knew we would not be able to understand our daughter’s death. He had been equipping us before the earth gave way. 

The Sunday morning our Lily went to live with her Heavenly Father, we gathered in the living room to worship. There was a noticeable empty spot, an ache in my heart and a little girl missing from my lap. The pastor announced the news of Lily’s death and without preaching a sermon that morning, chose to read Psalm 46. Was this by chance? Of all the passages read the morning our daughter woke up to worship in heaven, it was her Psalm — her song of trust. No one knew our family routine or bedtime snuggles. Only God could arrange this moment. We came to worship the Lord with our burden and with the reading of His Word we felt His presence. I believe it was a divine moment and a word of comfort from our Father to remind us He was at work in our days.

I had spent the months prior to my daughter’s death studying the text she recited. I had meditated on God as “my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). We had even spent our family vacation along the Pacific coastline talking through the passage. As we traveled through the mountains and overlooked the cliffs down into the sea, we had a visible picture of Psalm 46. The mountains are a symbol of strength and stability. The sea crashing against the rocks is a symbol chaos. On that Sunday morning, like the Sons of Korah, the earth gave way and “mountains moved into the sea” (cf. Numbers 16, 26:10-11; Psalm 46:2). We have walked through loss—some might say the valley of the shadow of death—yet God has provided. We could not muster this up by our own efforts.  It is God’s grace at work in our everyday moments that enables us to be still and rest in the story He is writing for our family.

On Sundays you would typically find me sitting with a busy row of children learning to worship. Lily would often sit on my lap. I found myself the year before she died tracing her hand in worship in my Bible. A few months after Lilianne graduated to heaven, I sat with our son discussing how we could know for sure Lily was with God. He would ask, “Did Lily know the magic word to get into heaven?” I took him to the passage that the Holy Spirit has often prompted us to, John 1:12, “To those who believe in his name he gave the right to become children of God.” Of all the scribbles I would find there in my Bible, Lily’s hand was traced over John 1 exactly one year before. Only God in His infinite power and plan could allow a 2-year-old’s scribbles to mark His Word in such a personal way. He confirmed His promise of her life with Him. I remembered that I had traced her hand in worship, telling her “God sees you, hears you, knows you, and loves you.” 

We witness God’s handprint over all our days. 

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