Gratitude

Gratitude.

It may very well be my most overused word of 2014. Days have passed, time has moved forward, but there remains an overwhelming swell within my soul that cannot make it through a single day without bubbling up and making itself known. Even when there is no one around to hear, the whispers of my heart make their way to my lips and I thank my Father…for the zillionth time for the miracle He has worked in my life.

So it should come as no surprise, I suppose, that on this Thanksgiving Eve especially I am overcome with it. I fail miserably to find a word that fully expresses the depth of my emotion, so inevitably the same word emerges time and time again…gratitude. Plain and simple.

There are so many dimensions to the story that has redefined me, that I frequently balk at the task of capturing it in words on a page. Just as your appreciation for the beauty of a prism deepens with every turn of the wrist, so it is with me. Every time I carefully unpack the memories that have become some of my greatest treasures, God illuminates a new angle of those familiar moments and leaves me speechless.

I’m just so thankful, I don’t know what to do with myself. If you had told me years ago that one day I would nearly die in an operating room, listening to the doctors’ helpless voices as they struggled to invent a procedure to save my life, I would have been terrified. If you went on to say that I would come to value that experience as one of my greatest gifts, I would have thought you were a crazy person. But so it is.

On that cold night in March, God took a faith that I professed and showed me His power first hand. He took the scripture that had been planted in my heart and brought life to those words in a way that I never could have imagined. The promise in His Word that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us leapt off the page and into my life. He carried me. In my darkest, most helpless hours, He focused my eyes on Him and piece by piece put me back together.

I laid on a table watching my vitals slip away and was completely at peace…not because I was ok with dying, but because I knew God had me. There is a song by Mandisa that I can no longer listen to without brimming with tears. I loved it before, but now the words echo the cries of my heart,

“He is with you in the ICU when the doctors don’t know what to do and it scares you to the core, He is with you.”

I sing this song with joyful tears because while I always understood it to be true, I KNOW it to be true now. I was there…that was me…and God showed up.

The nurses couldn’t help but remark on their shock at my calm. Outside of my epidural, there were no drugs. No sedatives. Nothing to alter my mental state in the slightest or numb me from the reality playing out around me. “How was I keeping it together?” They wanted to know. What I was unable to tell them in the moment, I long to tell them now. I wasn’t. God was. Fully awake and fully focused on Him, I was acutely aware that He held the broken bits of my body together and I felt wrapped in His abiding, profound peace.

Three hours of surgery and a single scripture.

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

A scripture that reminded me of God’s incredible faithfulness and one that I shared on social media 3 months to the day PRIOR to the night I would need it most.   God didn’t just show up on March 3. He didn’t take a break from heaven to check in and rescue me. He was there all along. Three months prior, He knew what I would be facing and He planted that scripture deep in my heart so that when I needed it, it would already be there. The fact that it’s documented as three months exactly is just icing on the cake. It’s as though He wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the fact that He was there, preparing me far in advance before my greatest trial.

“It’s a miracle from God.” At the end of my surgery, the doctors used those exact words to say what I already knew to be true. They couldn’t explain how I was saved, outside of divine intervention. God showed up. Not just for me, but for everyone who was there to witness it.

Gratitude.

Not just for the fact that I live to see another day, but for the fact that every day is now framed with the understanding that I will never walk alone. That just as He orchestrated events and carried me through this harrowing ordeal, He is even now, preparing me for everything that lies ahead. I don’t have to fear…I don’t have to wonder…for the rest of my life, I walk in tremendous freedom, knowing that I won’t live a single day outside of His will for me, and that He will always see me through.

And for that, I am forever awash in gratitude…plain and simple.

Called.

I once heard it said that the greatest difference you make in the world might not be what you do, but who you raise.

While I no longer remember the context or author of this idea, the weight behind the words has remained with me for years.  When I first heard it, I was not yet a mother and still the words stunned me with their profundity.  Now with a future man in my care, the idea has an even more sobering impact.

I thought that when we first had William, we had a complete understanding of the tremendous responsibility given to us as parents.  As we crept along I-4 after leaving the hospital, we were overcome by the reality that we. were. his. parents.  We would be responsible for making sure he was safe, fed, and cared for, every hour of every day.  It was daunting and inspiring, terrifying and empowering.  We weren’t sure how to go about it but minute by minute, day by day, that is exactly what we started doing.  We woke in the middle of the night to make sure he was still breathing.  We obsessed over how much he was eating.  We checked the temperature of his toes constantly to make sure he wasn’t too hot or too cold.  Every doctor’s appointment served to affirm that we were actually doing ok.  He was growing.  He was healthy.  And we were relieved.

16 months into this thing, my perspective has shifted a bit.  God has taught me so much in these 500+ days of motherhood and I can say without question that I am not the same person who welcomed William into the world…hopefully, I’m better.  I have grown and changed in countless ways and am now feeling at home in this identity of Mom.  While I am much more confident in my day-to-day responsibilities as William’s mama, one thing hasn’t changed…I remain humbled and awestruck by the responsibility of raising this little boy into a man.  While the general concerns regarding his well-being haven’t lessened, the scope of what it means to raise him in my mind has broadened considerably.

I must teach him the alphabet and also teach him how to give and receive love.

I must protect him from harm but also encourage him to take risks that will enable him to grow.

I must hold his hand to show him that he is safe and cherished, but let it go when he needs to experience new things apart from me.

I must help him read.  And dance.  And swim.  And compromise.

I must instruct him on how to eat with proper table manners and also how to live a life with integrity, honor, and passion.

I must provide a safe place for him to ask questions and also show him that it’s ok to not always have the answers.

I must help him learn to walk without assistance and navigate the path between right and wrong.

I must kiss his hurts and wipe away his tears, while affirming him and letting him know that it’s ok to cry.

I must show him how to put others first, all while the world is screaming at him to only look out for number one.

I must teach him the Gospel, but even more challenging, I must live the Gospel before his eyes in the way I love.

And on…and on…and on…

A person could get downright overwhelmed and desperate in the light of this awesome responsibility.  How thankful I am that I will never walk a day of this journey alone.  When I start to feel like I can’t do something, I am reminded that God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

God has called me to this position…chosen me not just to be a mama, but to be William’s mama.  With that knowledge, I can take a deep breath and rest in the fact that while I am caring for William, He will take care of me and meet all of my needs minute by minute…hour by hour…day by day.

 

His mercies are new every morning.

How thankful I am for days.

It’s an odd thought, but it hit me today with such power and relevance that I couldn’t help but express it here.  W and I had a bit of a rocky day together.  His sleep schedule was thrown off last night, which trickled into today, which wrought havoc from sun up to sunset.

We limped through this day and fought for moments of joy.   I was exhausted, he was exhausted, and frustrations loomed around every corner.  My sleepy baby is prone to falls and he had many.  Trying to keep a hand on him at all times was futile, since he is now a “walker” and “doesn’t need my help.”  When a much-needed nap turned into an hour long rebellion, my patience wore thin.  It had been a day and I was over it.  I wanted to show him the grace and love of Christ, but what he got when I lifted him from his crib was a grumpy mama.  I prayed out loud, for his sake and for mine, that God would redeem a day that had clearly derailed.

We made it.  Minute by minute, hour by hour, we trudged through our challenges and made the most of our moments.   Near the end of the day, we took a walk to the pond and chatted together while he chased the ducks.  Just before we started the journey for home, he plopped down in the grass and excitedly squealed “DOH!!” which is his word for flowers.  I laughed.

He was sitting in a patch of weeds.

I was just before redirecting him to a beautiful azalea bush just a few steps away when I saw it.  Sure enough, out of the hideous tangle of overgrown and unwanted plants, a darling little flower emerged, its petals reaching for the sun.  We sat there, my boy and I, for several minutes enjoying the flowers amid the weeds and I was reminded that while beauty is always present, sometimes we have to work a bit harder to find it.

Grateful that God had redeemed the day, I enjoyed the second half much more than the first.  Our evening wasn’t without incident–there was still a toe to be stubbed, a bath meltdown to be had, and a tumble to be taken while feeding the puppers–but I found comfort in the awareness that this too shall pass.  How incredible…an idea that is a bitter pill to swallow in moments of joy, had the capability to make my frustrating moments palatable.

Once my little lion was sleeping soundly, I plopped on the couch and exhaled.  I thought about how it wasn’t my best day, nor was it William’s, and asked God to forgive me for all of the ways I blew it.  With those thoughts buzzing in my brain, I was reminded of this scripture:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

I was so thankful that we would be able to turn the page from this day…go to sleep and wake up with a whole new opportunity to love and live the abundant life God offers.  Certain I had used up all of my allotted “mercies” for the day, I was thankful to get a whole new batch in the morning.  ;0)

Thank You God for days…for the ones that make us smile and the ones that make us cringe.  Thank you for loving us through our messes and giving us a chance every 24 hours to start again.  Thank You for days…and for the grace You pour out according to our many needs on every. single. one of them.