A Knowing Story

On the morning I knew, there wasn’t much time to stop and think too hard about what it meant. We were supposed to meet friends bright and early (earlier than any of us liked) earlier than was really reasonable for this mama who loves a slow morning. The whole world was still quiet and dark, hinting at rain, so I let the big girls sleep, and I sat with the thought of you.

Time dripped past too quickly. I’d decided to miss our friends, and go alone to the field instead, just us three. The girls were up and they threw on whatever they could find. Walking towards the door the sky broke loose. We waited another half an hour, talking and eating sourdough bread, prepping the loaves to bake later.

In the car we looked for good music, still waiting on the rain to quit. Mama found a 90’s station, and the girls laughed as I sang my heart out to TLC and “I’ll Be.” The organic blueberry field is six minutes from our house, and it feels like not another soul knows about it. The only company we had were a handful of stray cats which kept my youngest busy while she picked (and then ate) all eight of her berries.

Sadie and I worked hard to fill the freezer for winter, to have lots of extra for making blueberry butter to can with friends later – our very first time canning! It was hot and muggy and misty. We were dressed in boots and long pants and began shedding layers as the sun rose higher. When they whined about the heat or the quiet we sang songs to keep our minds as busy as our hands. I took pictures of the blueberries and the after-storm clouds in the sky, of my growing girls working alongside me, and I thought of you.

You see, I had waited, prayed, hoped, cried out to heaven for you. I’d imagined you. And maybe, here you were? The line was so faint I couldn’t tell if I was imagining it. But the next day it would be crystal clear. You were coming. And baby, we were so ready.

A good friend of mine said that the thing about being pregnant is that every single day is a huge investment. There’s a person on it’s way, and it doesn’t matter that it’s a year from now, because you know that they’re coming. You changed the entire landscape of my days, and it happened fast.

And then there was a morning when I knew that you weren’t. I wasn’t ready for it. How can you be ready for the end of a life that’s just beginning?

A deep quiet pain filled that tiny seed-sized hole. You were so incredibly small. We didn’t even know your name. I never felt you move. So how can it hurt this much to say goodbye? It’s the memories we already had of you – the blueberry fields, telling your big sisters, the icecream and sharing of our joy – there’s that loss. And then there’s the loss of who you could have been to us. Sadie said, “I’ll never know what kind of games we would have played.” How would you have felt about your sisters? What would you have liked to eat? Silly things maybe, but things that make up a life together. I hadn’t known how much life we had to offer you. How beautiful it was to be one of ours. And now I do. Now I know what a gift these sisters are. How clever and kind and honest- an articulate emotional masterpiece your biggest sister is. And that little one is so gentle and motherly, ready to keep you safe and kiss your toes and read you stories. You would have had a great time, Little Pea. You would have really liked it here with us.

I’m still sort of shocked by the depth of this pain, and I want to put it on paper. That’s why I’m here writing it all down where everyone can see it. Because how is it that you can love a speck in your stomach so deeply? And if I loved it so deeply, if my children and husband loved it so deeply, what must the Creator feel for each one of these tiny little lives – the wanted and the unwanted alike?

If we, being good mothers and fathers would wish only good for our children, how magnificently otherwordly His love must be toward each and every one of us. He knows the names we don’t know, the stories that won’t be. He knows the pain I feel, and even knowing it – He handed us His Baby, His Jesus. Who is this One real, living, breathing, speaking God? How does love get that big?

Oh, how it must hurt to love the world.

But He looks down on all of this- the stinking broken mess we’ve made and He says “Worth it.” I want each one. I’ll take the impossible pain to make it possible for them to have life. I said last night that if I knew I would have to walk through this again, I don’t think I would willingly choose to do it. That I would rather not get pregnant at all than lose the baby. But I don’t think I mean it. It’s the potential for relationship that makes it worthwhile to try. And it’s that very potential for relationship that drove the Creator to craft creatures out of nothing, not machines with no options, but real flesh and blood returners-of-love. He made us knowing full well that we’d spit in His face, knowing that He would have to die to make us whole. Love died to get to me. And He would do it again in a heartbeat.

No, love is not a waste of time. It is really the only way to un-waste the time we’ve been given. Love Himself is the gift and the treasure and the point of it all.

You see Him now, Little Pea, but even though I do not see Him, I love Him too. And one day soon our Abba will right every single wrong.

And you and I baby- we will get our together.

The Best We Can Hope For

Forgiveness is really the best any of us can hope for.

And that’s only because perfection isn’t really an option, right? I mean, if I’m being honest (feel free to be honest along with me) my hope most days – as a mother, a wife, a friend, a homemaker, a Daughter of the King, as a person – is be as perfect as possible. Which is hilarious because only crazy people chase after a thing that they can’t ever actually catch… right?

It’s pretty jarring when you actually look it in the face, and it’d be cute to tell you that this obsession with perfection is a product of a difficult childhood (some of it is, yeah sure), or to just pretend like it’s not constantly trying to hijack my parenting or my peace, but apart from good old fashioned self-reflection and confession there is no real possibility of change. And change is what I’m after.

Also hilarious: how the jolt into motherhood makes certain things very clear very fast. One minute I’m working hard to bring this baby girl here, and the next she’s on my chest screaming loudly, wriggly, and soaking wet. I am immediately convinced of two things: (1) this is not about me, and (2) I want to do this perfectly.

Which brings us right back to the problem of chasing after perfect motherhood. And I think it inherently comes from a place of instinct, a super-naturally planted desire to protect this tiny person you’ve just been handed, a recognition of the weight that comes with the title of “mom.” And then the weight gets bent and our prides pokes its head out, winks at us arrogantly. Stand back world, I’ve got this one.

It’s only through the growing side-by-side that we realize how wrong we were, how impossible perfection actually is. Those first nine months of making room for each other are nothing compared to the first nine years. I age and she ages. I learn and she learns. I hurt her and she hurts me. I fail. Is this what I signed up for?

Human relationship? Painful? Yup.

If children are “natural born persons” as Charlotte Mason says, and you just welcomed one into your life, you can bet that there will be plenty of room for heartbreak, and if you’re lucky plenty of opportunity to ask for forgiveness.

I remember the moment that I found out we would have a second baby girl, and the thrill at realizing that my first baby was getting a SISTER. And then the panic that surged up hot immediately after that when I realized that my daughters would undoubtedly hurt each other, maybe even a lot. They’d have a whole lifetime together after all. I hadn’t even gotten up from my seat in the doctor’s office when these thoughts came crashing down on me one after another. Someone I love is going to get hurt.

To be human is to be in constant need of forgiveness. It’s just kind of part of the deal this side of heaven. The trick is to make friends with this need, to see it not as a weakness, but as a gift.

In order to see it as a gift, you need to put your pride down (just put it down, Mama), and pick up the cross, the visible image of both our lack and His longing for us.

I know this sounds like the hardest thing in the world (Jesus called it DYING to yourself, so yeah that kind of hurts), but if you’ll choose to put your imperfections front and center in your relationship with your children it will actually make everything better. It is giving them the gift of truth. They need to know (i.e. to experience, to witness) that we need Jesus too. And if we’re not comfortable with our need, how on earth can we expect them to do this very hard thing called “dying.”

What they don’t need is a mom who is going to single-handedly raise beautiful kids, make beautiful meals, and live a beautiful life. When we attempt to shove our imperfection into the nearest junk drawer, we communicate to our children that grace is something to be ashamed of, that it’s a last ditch attempt to salvage perfection on the rare occasion that you can’t hack it.

This is not truth. And, dear ones, don’t we want our homes to reek of truth? Don’t we want them to reek of the glorious gospel of grace?

Grace is as vital to my Tuesday afternoon as oxygen is – without one I don’t get the other. Grace is the privilege we get to celebrate every single second, third, fourth, and fifth chance we get to try to love each other better. Grace is rejoicing in our deep need for a Good God that came to us when we needed Him most, that stays with us and dwells with us even now, knowing exactly who and what we are. He is not scared of our imperfections. In fact they drove Him towards us, not away.

And it’s Love Himself who teaches us how to mother best. He teaches us how to look sin in the face, douse it with the radical forgiveness of a Faithful God, and then nail it to a tree.

“Love keeps no record of being wronged…” (1 Cor. 13:5)

What if we actually didn’t?

What if we gave and accepted forgiveness as often as we needed to, without exceptions or excuses or cold-shoulders.

What if perfection was never designed to set us free?

Only dependence on Love can do that.