Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maybe That's Why...

My heart has been heavy this week. Other than simple bumps and scrapes, this has been my first experience with the heart-break of seeing my child in pain; the guilt of wondering if I could have prevented this. Every time I see her wince as she tries to get comfortable, I find myself asking, "why?"

We saw an orthopedic doctor on Tuesday, and it turns out that the bone is cracked halfway through. She needs to wear the brace for four to six weeks, 24 hours a day. Matt carried her out to the car and we headed home preparing ourselves for the reality that we will have both an injured toddler and a newborn baby in just 10 days.

Why did this have to happen so close to the end of our pregnancy?

Why did this have to happen at all?

Why does she have to experience this pain?

Why? The question tumbles from my lips in an automatic response to life’s not-so-pleasant surprises. From minor inconveniences to major catastrophes, I find myself looking toward the sky and demanding an immediate answer or an easy solution. Sometimes I just freeze for a minute as I wait for God to part the clouds and say, “Just kidding. This isn’t really happening.”

And as much as I wish that my situation weren’t real, my questions for God extend far beyond the walls of my own home this week. The list of people we love who have been hit by difficult circumstances and tough uncertainties is so long that our dinner is cold long before we finish saying our prayers.

Morning, noon, and night, I am in constant prayer, asking God to provide strength, comfort, and peace to my daughter, my family, and my endless list of loved ones searching for reasons of their own. As I pray, my phone beeps with constant emails, texts, and facebook messages - reminders of the many prayers flowing into my life as my prayers flow out to others. People offer to bring a meal or lend a hand in the same moment that I am sending that same offer to someone else.

As I sit in the middle of this outpouring of love, the questions begin to fade and I am surrounded by a rainbow of gratitude. Because without these challenges, without these questions, we might forget how to love this deeply, how to pray this desperately, how to reach out this easily. We might forget what it’s like to come to him on our knees and feel His embrace. We might forget to surrender to His hands and His plan. And we might miss the peace and the joy of knowing just how loved we truly are.

This is a Bigger Picture moment.
Share with us today at Melissa's place!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lessons from a Broken Bone

I caught my oldest brother (who is both single and childless) eyeing my stomach from across the room, “What?” 

“So, pretty soon you’ll have two kids.” He said it as if no one had ever explained to him how this process works.

“Yeah… and?”

“Isn’t that gonna be a huge pain in the ass?”

Although he said it jokingly and I laughed out loud at the time, that really is one of my concerns. I don’t exactly voice it in those words, but I often think about how I will adjust to the added demands of a second child. Every day I have at least one moment where I wonder how this is all going to work. I have gone from being consistently punctual to chronically late; I have to sit and take a deep breath at least once a day; and I can barely function after 9:00pm. And I only have one kid!

Today I had one of those mornings. Everywhere I looked, another task begged for my attention and I couldn’t seem to make a dent in my mental to-do list. I bounced back and forth between my roles on the toddler entertainment committee and the cleaning crew, and I kept trying to picture a newborn in the mix. Maybe my brother had a point.

Just before lunch, Reese was playing on our bed while I separated laundry. I didn’t see her fall, but I heard the thud as her body hit the bedroom floor. I rushed to her side, trying to determine what was hurt. She pointed to her shoulder. I scooped her up and comforted her while I waited for the tears to stop. They didn’t.

I laid her on the bed and ask her to raise her arms. She only raised the right one. I asked if I could take her shirt off and she refused. From what I could see, nothing looked abnormal. There were no lumps, no swelling, and even though I felt like an overly paranoid parent, I decided to take her to Prompt Care anyway. I threw on a hat and a pair of flip flops, wrapped her in a blanket and carried her out the door in my pajamas.

On the way I called Matt at work and he wanted to meet us there. Great. Now we’re both overly paranoid. When we got there, the doctor wanted to do x-rays. Standard procedure. Or maybe he’s an overly paranoid doctor. I was surprisingly calm the whole time because I kept waiting to hear, “It’s nothing. Go home, put some ice on it, and wait for the bill for this unnecessary visit.”

That’s not quite what he said.

Fractured collarbone. Brace. Sling. Pain meds. Orthopedic referral.

We brought her home and took turns sitting with her on the couch while she watched re-runs of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and snacked on grapes and cheese crackers. The remainder of our afternoon and evening revolved around her. We ordered a pizza for dinner and Matt got displaced to the guest room so Reese and I could sleep in our bed.

As I sit here typing in bed with the computer on my lap and a sleeping toddler at my side, there is a wet load of laundry still in the washer, a dried piece of green Play-doh ground into my living room rug, and a puddle of spilled salsa drying on the bottom of my refrigerator. The messes that somehow seemed so dire 12 hours ago suddenly don’t matter at all. My mental to-do list now contains only one item, take care of Reese. Everything else has either been completely forgotten or termed unnecessary.

I would have guessed that a situation like this might worsen my concerns about having another child. Instead, it eased them - totally. Reese has never had an injury or an illness worse than a cold, and I had forgotten the ease with which this mode of motherhood takes over – the mode that gives us added strength and patience, that blinds us to the rest of life’s demands, that lowers our standards for the condition of our homes and the frequency of our showers, that carries us from moment to moment without a single priority beyond loving and nurturing the children who need us.

That's how a newborn enters the mix. That's how we accept the responsibility of dressing an extra body and feeding an extra mouth. That's how we deal with a child who has the flu or a fractured collarbone. To people who aren't ready for children, I suppose it would seem like a huge pain in the ass. But to the women who already have them, it's life. It's motherhood. And we wouldn't have it any other way. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Best is Yet to Come

Slowing our bikes to a stop, we gathered in a giggly cluster on the front lawn of my childhood home. A white limousine sat in front of the house across the street next to a group of smiley teenagers. We watched in awe, whispering as quietly as young girls can whisper while we cast our votes for the prettiest dress and the cutest date. When the limo finally drove off, we returned to our bikes and I pedaled down the street behind my friends, fantasizing about my own prom night and the many promises of a bright and beautiful future.

That was eleven years before I actually attended my own prom, and here I sit eleven years after, having experienced so many of the days that once seemed so far away – high school, college, marriage, pregnancy, motherhood. Through the first three decades of my life I looked toward the years ahead with such hope and anticipation. Every year brought another exciting “first” and the future was full of mystery and adventure. I wanted to look older, feel older, be older. The best is yet to come.

Somewhere along the way, my feelings toward the future began shifting away from excitement and floating in the space between indifference and dread. With so many major events now in the past, I feared that life would become perpetually repetitive, boring even. No longer able to fantasize about where I might “end up,” I wondered if the adventure was over, if I would begin to spend less time daydreaming about what is to come and more time entertaining thoughts of what might have been “if only…”

Yesterday I celebrated my 30th birthday – not the way I celebrated my tenth with a slumber party filled with popcorn and late-night laughter; or the way I celebrated my eighteenth with a huge bonfire in my parents’ backyard; or the way I celebrated my twenty-first with an irresponsible number of shots and a very spotty memory. Instead, I spent the day at the pumpkin patch with Reese and my mom, and then I enjoyed a pedicure and dinner with friends. It was quiet, peaceful, and perfect, and I celebrated because the repetition I anticipated has become the comfort I seek and the boredom I feared has become the contentment I cherish.

With one decade closing and another about to begin, the future is filled with a different kind of adventure. The identity-seeking years of wild parties and tangible firsts are becoming the peacefully stable years of security, consistency, and continued spiritual growth. With a greater appreciation for simple joys and deeper gratitude for even the smallest blessings, I have a renewed sense of excitement for all that lies ahead.

As 21st birthdays become 40th birthdays, weddings become 50th anniversaries, and graduation parties become retirement parties, I will always remember that little girl on her purple bike pedaling toward the road ahead with the wind at her back and a heart full of hope and anticipation for the promises of a bright and beautiful future. 

The best is yet to come.

This is a Bigger Picture moment.

Share with us today at Jade's place!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Keep the Fire Burning

I poured my Saturday morning coffee and settled into the recliner. Reese was still asleep and Matt had already left to work on the farm. I stared out the window, watching the sun rise over the treetops. In the corner of our yard, two empty lawn chairs faced the stone fire ring. Tiny strands of smoke rose intermittently from the center of the circle, the final remnants of the previous night.

Just ten hours earlier, Matt went outside to light a fire while I put Reese to bed. I waited for the sound of rustling bed sheets to fade away before joining my husband beneath the stars for a much-needed night of reconnection. Pulling our chairs in close, we took turns tossing in empty pizza boxes and pieces of shredded mail. The warmth enveloped us, creating a shield against the chill of the night. The heat pressed into our cheeks, forcing us to inch our chairs backward as we fed the flames. 

Alone in the dark, we reunited with the couple we were seven years ago, before full-time jobs, children, and mortgage payments began chipping away at our time, energy, and patience for each other. With no clock to remind us of the hour, we rekindled past memories, laughing as if we didn't already know the end of each story. We talked late into the night, ignoring our bodies’ pleas for sleep as we fed the flames of our marriage with laughter and simple presence.

Knowing the morning would come all too soon, we finally made our way back to the house. Behind us, the fire began its slow death. We didn’t even bother to fully extinguish the remaining flames. The lack of attention would be enough to seal its fate. Crawling into bed, we snuggled a little closer, held each other a little tighter, kissed a little longer…

Sitting in the recliner just a few hours later, I wondered how I would possibly muster the energy for a full day of toddler mayhem. Regret began crowding my thoughts as I silently scolded myself, you should have gone to bed earlier…

My inner voice suddenly quieted as I watched the fire take its final breaths, completing its descent from a beautiful burning blaze into a lifeless pile of ashes.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pondering a Miracle

People often ask me to compare pregnancies, which I appreciate because that's often the only time I stop to think about it. The demands of a toddler have kept the time moving forward at warp speed, and I haven't been following the progression of What to Expect fruits, but it sure feels like this baby went from fig to pumpkin overnight. Still, I have managed to find quite a few differences this time around. 

The morning sickness was much better, but the physical discomfort of the last few weeks has been worse. The bladder control issue is definitely new and I change my pants at least once a day. My cravings have switched from hash browns and fried foods to applesauce and fresh fruit (which has kept me about ten pounds lighter, quite the bonus). This baby is a lot more active, and I'll be shocked if I make it to my due date without some kind of internal injury.

Yesterday I was snuggling in bed with Reese when the baby started distorting my stomach into the oddest shapes. I took Reese's hand and pressed it against my belly. The baby pushed out against her little fingers. She smiled up at me, whispering, “Mommy, there’s a baby in there.”

Her hand lingered on my skin. The same hand that once pressed out from the inside now rested on the outside, perfectly formed and belonging to a flawless little body and a beautiful mind. Created by us and our love for each other. Created by God and His love for us. And soon we will be blessed with another child, equally perfect, equally reflective of the depths of unconditional love.

My gaze shifted from the intermittent protrusions from my abdomen to the toddler at my side. It's still so unreal. I can feel the baby's kicks and see it's movement. I can hear Reese's giggles and hold her in my arms. Yet a part of me still questions the possibility of it all.

I hear that no matter the gender, no matter the number, every pregnancy is completely different from any other. Judging by my experience thus far, I would be tempted to agree, but one thing always remains constant...

From the double line on the plastic stick to the bright lights of the delivery room.

From the very first flutter of life to the toddler running laps around the kitchen table.

From the feeling of a tiny hand pushing out from the inside to the sight of that same hand now resting on the outside.

The awe.

The wonder.

The miracle.

Of life.

Of love.

Of motherhood.

This is a Bigger Picture Moment.
Share with us today at Hyacynth's place.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Kind of Budget

It’s Saturday morning. Two steaming mugs of coffee and an apple juice sippy cup rest on the patio table while a happy toddler chases bubbles. Matt and I pass the bottle back and forth, seeing who can blow the most bubbles with a single dip of the wand. We have no time limit, no agenda. I live for these mornings.

And I am beyond thankful that these days are not few and far between. This is a typical Saturday. This is our lifestyle – one of the many reasons I chose to stay home. The groceries are bought. The house is [relatively] clean. There are no errands to run, no bills to pay. My days are filled with diapers and coupons and bills (oh my!) so our evenings and weekends can be filled with snuggles and bubbles.    

At times, this life is not easy. We sacrifice a lot to have it this way. Our kids may never go to Disney World or have a fully paid college education. Christmases and birthdays are small and the gap between what we want and what can afford is often big.

All around me I see people taking vacations, refurnishing rooms, upsizing, upgrading. And it is tempting – oh, so tempting – to join the race.

Until Saturday comes again and I sip coffee with my husband and blow bubbles for my daughter with no time limit, no agenda. Because everything else is already done and there is nothing left to do but relax and be thankful that we may have to budget our money, but at least we're not short on time.