Nora Laughs

IMG_3289Nora laughs out loud now.

Julia stretches out beside her on the rug in the book room.  She talks to her small sister, she takes one finger and taps gently on Nora’s collarbone and Nora just laughs.  I watch this moment, my first and my last, twenty years of mothering in one place and I watch this moment. Breathe it in.

I remember Julia’s first laughs.  I was getting ready for work and she was lying on my bed, smiling at me as I bustled around.  I had her socks in my hand.  I went over to her and talked to her for a second, reveling in those sweet smiles.  I took the sock and ran it across her nose, which always made her smile wider.  She laughed.  I melted.  I did it 100 times that morning, loving that sweet laughter.  I was late for work.  But even as a young mother, I knew that moment was one to memorize.

When Aubrey laughed, she was still a little butterball with tons of black hair.  Chase, a round faced ball of sheer joy- he laughed early and often.  Lila’s laugh was so infectious that the whole household stopped to revel in it.  Claire’s laugh came late after months of colicky fussing and when it did, our hearts just stopped.

Now Nora joins the ranks, adds another set of “firsts” to my career.  She is my last, the last of the firsts and my heart breaks a little bit over that but is mostly just filled with the joy that I am here to witness these firsts, to witness the miracles.

I am here to see her smile.  She is here to smile.  I am here to hear her giggles, she is here to giggle.  We are here.  We are here together.

So often my thoughts take me back to those moments, the moments when I went in for surgery, so afraid.  When I woke up, tubed and confused but somehow at peace.  When I held Nora the first time, when I had to go back to the hospital.  Night after night in various hospital rooms…the pain I’m still in…the exhaustion I can’t describe, this painful bone deep weariness.  Five months out and I struggle in mind, heart and body, struggle daily to take one step forward and two steps back.  (Sometimes even more when I overdo it.  Which I always do.)  Five months of pain and weariness, soul battle scarred and tired…

But these moments, these firsts, this baby’s smiles and laughter…it’s worth it.  I wouldn’t have missed Nora’s smile, Nora’s laughter for the world.

I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to.

That’s enough for today.

 

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I Don’t Know How You Do It!

There is a thing that people say.

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People have said this to me (or some variation of it) regarding my divorce, my surgery in November, my near death, having a child in the NICU, taking the kids to the grocery store (honestly, I’m not sure how I do that one either), or just for having six kids.  I know that my friends who’ve lost a child, friends with special needs children, single moms, people who’ve had hard things happen, I know they’ve all heard it too.

“I don’t know how you do it!”
“I couldn’t do it.”
“I’d never be able to handle that.”
“I don’t know how you got through that.”

And I think people mean well.  They’re trying to encourage, trying to ascribe strength and courage to the person living the hard thing.  I hear it a lot about going home without Nora, or about her NICU stay for 8 weeks.  And it’s not a statement that hurts.  I think it’s just a statement that baffles.  Because maybe we don’t feel strong.  Maybe we don’t feel courageous.  Maybe we’re just doing our best to survive.  Maybe we’re just getting through it.

We don’t choose the hard things that come our way.  And we don’t know what we can do until we don’t have a choice about it.  I didn’t choose to have a child in the NICU. I didn’t choose to have placenta percreta.  It happened to me and I had to muddle through it as best as I could.  My friend didn’t choose to have a child die and another become gravely ill.  My friend didn’t choose for her newborn daughter to die days after birth.  My friend didn’t choose for her son to be born with a rare disease that has caused him a lifetime of hard days in his almost six years.  None of us sign up for these hard things.

If I had looked into the future and seen November and December when I was a younger mother, I would have said I couldn’t do it either.  But when the time came, no one was going to do it for me and I had no choice.  I had to do it.

“I don’t know how you do it.”

I don’t either, but here’s what I do know.  God offers grace for every hard thing.  God offers strength for every hard thing.  God offers courage for every hard thing.  His mercies are new every morning.  And so, when these hard things come our way…we just do them.  We just live.  

We just live.

And sometimes we handle things better than other times, but we live through it.  Because there isn’t a choice.

And if we open our eyes to His Hands on our lives, we can see those new mercies and see those good gifts and see how He holds our arms up through these impossible things.

I don’t know how I do it either.  I don’t know how we do it.  But we do.

All of us.  We live.  We survive.  We grow.  We change.  We receive His goodness.  We accept those new mercies and we keep on going.  We live.

Remembering Gratitude

I spent quite a bit of time on Easter Sunday trying to get a perfect  somewhat decent picture of the three little girls.  Their outfits had been chosen with care, coordinating, but not matching.  Fitting each child’s personality and they looked so cute!  But this is what we ended up with.

Look at the camera, Claire!  Look at Mommy!!!

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Clairey!!!  Nora!!!  Look at Mommy!!!!
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Claire, stop making that face!  Lila, SMILE!!!

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Clairey, please look at Mommy!

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Okay, now we’re all looking and the baby is spitting up.  And what’s on Claire’s face?  Oh well, maybe I can fix it in editing.

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CLAIREY, PLEASE LOOK AT MOMMY!!!!

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Okay, almost.

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Well, all right then.  At least everyone is looking.

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That was as good as it every got but I just smiled.  Because I remembered the last time I got annoyed about a picture.

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The very last picture of our family before my Nora’s birth and my surgery.  I was so irritated that day.  It hadn’t worked out for us to take the family pictures I wanted to take.  Older kids had to go places and do things and everyone was being crazy when we stopped for this quick snapshot.  The older kids wouldn’t keep looking and stop leaning, Claire wouldn’t look at all, Lila inexplicably burst into tears in the middle of the whole thing.

And I was mad.  I needed a Christmas card photo and these kids were not cooperating.

This could’ve easily been the last picture of my family with me in it and if I could take back how irritated I was about it, if I could just see how much this picture would minister to me in the days to come…

My water broke less than a week later and I was admitted to Norfolk Sentara General where I would spend 20 of the next 30 days.

In my hospital room, I was so homesick.  I missed my kids, I missed my husband, I missed my house and my own bed.  I missed my life. I ran a slideshow of my family almost all the time.  Sometimes my sweet nurses would stop and watch it with me for a little while, telling me how beautiful my family was.  I stared at this picture, loving each face, wishing to be home.

And I’ve been thinking about that today.  How sometimes disappointments and irritations wind up being blessings.

I think about my divorce and how my heart broke into a million pieces.  How I felt so disappointed in how life had turned out, in what had happened.  Disappointed in my marriage, in myself, in my ex-husband.  So grieiving a life that changed without my permission.  So sick at where we were and so afriad for what would happen next.

But what happened next is that I met John.  And God redeemed the whole thing.  God restored.  God brought new life.  And yes, my divorce was hard and disappointing and not what I wanted…but look how God restored.

I think about the babies I lost, about Peter and Asher…I think about how they have eternal significance and how God has promised to work all things together for my good.   Even those losses.  I wonder, if Peter had been born, would I have had Nora?  If Asher had survived the pregnancy, would I have come home with one baby, two babies or no babies?  This is a harder one, because I can’t see the full plan, the whole story.

But I can see what I have right now.  And I am awash in blessing.

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When did I stop counting blessings?   When did I decide to stop being grateful?  I pull out my gratitude journal and see that I’ve written NOTHING in such a long time.

No wonder.

No wonder I’m struggling so hard in the here and now.  I’m letting the pain of recovery, the exhaustion, the stress, the trauma…I’m letting all of that speak loudest.  I’m not even looking for joy.

And it all seems clear now.  God wants to give me restoration.  He wants to walk me through this valley.  He wants to give gifts along the way.  But I have to open my eyes to see them.

I have to choose to find joy and contentment, to find peace.  It is there for the taking.  It might take some work on my part but it’s work I must choose to do.

Who’s with me?  Who wants to start counting joys today?  Who wants to begin the Joy Dare and see where it takes you?  All you need is something to write or type on and to open your eyes!

List your first five in the comments section!  Start NOW!

1. Nora’s giggle
2. Claire and Lila singing, “Like a Lion”
3. Simply Vanilla scentsy
4. The coffee my husband made me this morning
5. The smell of spring

Only One

Claire comes downstairs proud and pleased.

She has dressed herself in what she figures is her finest .  I smile at her accomplishment, tell her she’s done a great job.  She looks crazy but that’s part of what I love about this stage of development, the quirkiness that they don’t know yet to be self conscious about.

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She is all Claire, all personality and I love her for it, for every bit of it.

Lately I’m struggling to keep my head above water.  Physical recovery seems to drag on and drag out.  Hormones run wild, dropping and surging like the ocean’s tides.  I feel depleted in almost every way but one.

Love.

I am so loved.  A husband who is my champion, who believes in me and roots for me and helps me and supports me.  Two grown daughters who cry at their baby sister’s dedication, who laugh about the silliest things, who send me snapchats and tease me for having blood transfusion Alzheimer’s.  One tall teenaged son who turned sixteen last week, who remembered childhood with me, who sings Emery songs with me.  Two younger daughters who fill my days with wonder and frustration, two younger daughters whose love for each other literally makes my heart sing.  One sweet, peaceful, gorgeous little baby who is a constant blessing.  My sister who is my best friend and brother in law who is more like a brother, my nieces, my smiling nephew, my parents and in laws, my aunts and uncles and cousins, our Polly, all of my friends….I am so loved.

I have so much.

All of that love seeks to fill up my depleted heart and soul but only One can fully do that.

And as I smile at Claire’s fashion choices, I feel that One smiling over me.  Singing over me.  Saying that when I try to do my life myself, Claire’s outfit is kind of what my life looks like- backwards, mismatched, not quite right.  But He still revels in who I am.

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I feel like that’s a good place to start this morning.  Face turned up to the Son as He sings.