Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Moment of Grace

I was sitting on the deck stairs, the early evening autumn light trickling across the backyard through the neighbors' trees. The baby was in my arms, watching his brothers laugh and play with their father alongside them. And I felt a sudden quickening of my heart, an inexplicable intake of breath.

It was a moment of grace.

One moment in a constant day of feeding and changing and discipline and hurry.

But in that moment, that light coming through the trees was like a shaft of light to my heart.

"You made it. Look around you. Smiles, laughter, health, bounty. You made it."

Sometimes you are in something painful or challenging or dark for so long that you almost don't notice when the darkness shifts. And it might only shift by millimeters, but it starts to recede. Little by little, moment by moment. And then that light streaks in and you can see. See what God has done, see the scars and the hope, see the good even in the midst of the everyday challenges.

A moment of grace.

I will always be marked by our miscarriage. Our years of infertility have left their scars. The ups and downs of waiting on our boys changed who I am. This past year of tantrums and battles and fatigue and the completely overwhelming nature of being a mom to two children under two has challenged me to love deeper and more unconditionally than I thought possible.

And in that moment of grace, I could see.

See my laughing toddler and realize with a shock that he hadn't had any meltdowns that day. Not one. See my eight-year-old who went from being an only child in a calm, quiet house to the oldest of three boys in nonstop chaos in just a year and a half's time. And to see him loving it, embracing it. To see it changing him for good. To see this baby who is emerging from the newborn phase laughing and sleeping and staring us down when we eat in front of him and remembering that we didn't even know about him five months ago. To see this man with whom I've chosen to walk life, a true partner, encourager, the hardest-working and most generous man I know, who loves his family with unwavering fierceness.

A moment of grace.

To drink it in, give thanks, take stock and look forward in hope to what our family is becoming. To know these moments will come and go, that some days will still be long and hard, but that God is faithful. That he gives grace and strength. That he gifts us with these moments where we can suddenly see and know that He is good.

This morning, as I reflect on that moment I am reminded of the words of one of my favorite songs:

"Let hope rise and darkness tremble
In your Holy light
That every eye will see
Jesus, Our God
Great and mighty to be praised "  (From "With Everything" by Hillsong United )

Even sitting among the dirty dishes and the long lists for the day ahead, I am asking hope to continue to rise. To see the darkness continue to fade. To move boldly forward in ways that draw myself and others to know God better.

To see more moments of grace and light and make them as much a part of who I am as the scars have been. I don't need the scars to fade - but they are so much more beautiful in the light.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Song

Like many parents, a lot of my day involves tending to my children's bowel movements. Or my dog's. Or the guinea pigs', for that matter.

Bottom line, there is a lot of poop around here.

A few weeks ago, my toddler decided that the perfect time for his 2nd movement of the day would occur smack in the middle of nap time. He then decided this every day (enter sleep-deprived, cranky, spirited toddler) for a week until, in desperation, I wondered if I might be able to have an effect on this new hobby of his.

Having come of age in the 90's, my brain often goes straight to that music for comfort. Just prior to his nap one day, as I was contemplating how I might change this new timeline to encourage him to get more sleep, R.E.M. came into my mind. Why wouldn't they? Surely they have a song I could use to help things along?

Don't all parents think that way?

So, just a few minutes later, while reading to the child, I decided to rewrite "Everybody Hurts" to "Everybody Poops" and see what happened. Couldn't hurt, right?

Magically, inexplicably, 10 minutes later, after having asked the toddler if he'd like to go and then asking if he wanted a song to help and subsequently singing it to him, he pooped. Then laid down, asked me to change it and got back into the chair for a cuddle. And then slept 3 hours.

A fluke right?

Nope, every single day since then, I have asked him if he needs to go. If he says yes, we read a book, turn off the lights, sing our song while he does his business, change his diaper, read one more book and then head to sleep. If he says no, we do our old routine, sans song.

People, seriously? This is magic.

So, in an effort to continue not to care how ridiculous my life might seem, I recorded the song. Your uses for it may be either to (1) gain a good evening laugh at my expense, (2) get your daily dose of anger out while you rail about how people like me ruin perfectly good songs or (3) use it to help your own ill-timed pooper overcome his or her issues.

No matter which path you choose, you are welcome.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

When the Remembering Approaches

In just nine days, my Amara might have been turning 6. She might have learned to ride a bike, maybe she'd be starting first grade. Maybe she would have a gap-toothed smile in her school pictures. Maybe she'd love to read or play soccer or paint. Maybe she'd be the best big sister to her little brothers.

I'll never know.

I don't think about her as often as I used to. After all, when you've waited and dreamed for six years and then find yourself more than full of diapers and formula and laughs and tantrums and sleep deprivation, you think about what you have, not what you don't have.

Just two years ago, this week was profoundly difficult for me. Navigating the anniversaries of heartache in our life can be tricky. Nate hadn't yet been born, we were still waiting, living in a new place, looking for a church and friends, wondering what life might have been like with our daughter turning 4.

But this week, I might see a pregnant woman and not feel jealous. I might see a baby being pushed around in a stroller, giggling and grabbing at a hanging toy and not feel weepy.

Or this week, the grief of losing her might hit me in unexpected ways even as my arms and life are full. You never know when grief might descend. All I know is that I feel that, even as life is chaotic, I see God's work of healing in action. I remember the deep pain but, at the moment, it doesn't own me.

And each year, as I get further out from my own deep grief, I can see more of who God has been forming me to be since it all happened. I can see the ways I see others better. The way I am slower to make assumptions about others' choices or family life. I can see how he has helped me be a better listener, a deeper question-asker. And I can feel the ways my heart has begun to heal.

My youngest son's name means "healer." Did you know that? His birth mother chose it for him, having no idea how profound that might be. And this little boy has brought so much calm and peace and joy into our home. Even as I snuggled him close this morning while he cooed and laughed and nuzzled his little head in, pulling on my hair, I thought about how he won't know his big sister this side of heaven. And I thought about how a year ago or two years ago, that thought would've made me stop breathing for a few moments.

But today? Today I thought that some day in the future, my boys will be old enough to hear about her. To hear about the years we mourned her while we waited and yearned for them. To hear about the ways God changed us as we moved from a family of 3 to a family of five in just 18 months time.

It's not time yet to tell them. But some day we will speak of her. And remember together.

So this week, as we approach the anniversary of her due date, I am committing to remembering my friends who are still waiting on a dream. Who are on wait-lists or experiencing infertility treatments or even still waiting for the right spouse to come along with whom to start that journey of parenting. Those who yearn to be first-time or second-time parents. Those who are hoping for a clean bill of health or a job. Those who have also experienced loss - loss of a child, of a marriage, of a parent, of a dream, of hope.

Dear friends who are still waiting, take hope. On those days that you can no longer even tell God what you want or how hurt you are, please know that I am praying for you. That I understand. Maybe not your exact story, but I understand longing for something you have zero control over and asking God all the whys and why nots there are to ask. About wrestling with injustice and frustration and anger and despair.

This week, I choose to hold your weary, aching hands up in my own still healing ones. If there are ways I can specifically do that, I welcome your comments or messages. Keep on, friends. Keep on. You are not alone.