Monday, November 19, 2012

Growing Pains

He is only 2, but he is almost grown.

I know this because of all the older mothers who tell me it's so. But I know it, too, because I can sense it happening.

In his chubby hands that grow larger each day, edged with peanut butter and bread crumbs. In his shrinking sleeves that bear the smudges of his colors and "marks", as he calls them.

Here in the middle of our day, right in the middle of him playing with his trucks and police cars and Legos, sometimes right in the middle of lunch, or breakfast, or story time, I tell him:

William, I need...

And before I can finish he looks up and puts his arms around my neck. "A biiiiiiig hug," he says, the words coming out in his clear and ringing voice. He has a slight southern drawl that still catches me by surprise.

When he hugs me, I close my eyes. I wrap him up as close as can be and I breathe in deep his toddler graces, his baby shampoo and windblown curls and strawberry breath. He is always lugging a toy, a book, a tractor, a balloon. He is never empty handed.

And then he is off.

He is so fleeting, and I can't get him to stay still. Or to stop growing. He keeps on getting bigger and taller and smarter and funnier and leaner and, even though he is only 2, he is practically 17.

He is racing me. This is why I pour into him. Because he is growing and needs filling and teaching and I am the one charged with this task. I am the one who teaches him daily, who shows him and models for him about demonstrating love to others, who teaches about beauty, and grace, and how we turn to God in all times and all things, from the way we greet our grandparents at the door to the way we speak to strangers. And it is hard work that I do for him, but I do it because I love him and I love Him and even though I know I fail daily, I am sticking with it.

It is no small thing, this raising up of a child. Especially the part about "in the ways that he should go." But I am doing it, and already I see in him a light that is growing.

My sweet bundle of energy and happy laughter, I am doing my best for you. Even when it's hard, especially when it's mundane. I am doing this for you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Change of Seasons

Fall is here, subtle and transient, dropping temperatures on a whim for one or two days before vanishing altogether for weeks on end, and the afternoon sun climbs high and makes everyone sweat and wish we lived somewhere cooler. But I see the beauty in our prolonged summer, the strange bursts of color from shrubs and bushes that are blooming again in the same season, since the weather has allowed it.

Last week I took my little boys to Town Lake to show them evidence of the changing seasons. The foliage along the water's edge seems to change with greater intensity and vibrancy than what we see further inland. William collected handfuls of yellow leaves and fallen acorns, proof of fall's arrival.

I have always loved fall, but as a child I met the season with a bit of disappointment and longing. Our Texas autumn didn't look right to me; it wasn't like the fall I saw in story books, where trees looked as though they'd been set ablaze with color and frosty mornings led to Christmases draped in snow and icicles. I would stand underneath our old oak trees, close my eyes, and pray for snow that never came.

Now, as a grown woman, a mother who understands why it can't snow in November in Austin, I meet the changing season with anticipation and, still, longing. October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. It is also the month that we lost Jordan, and this November would have been Violet's first birthday. Last year marked a season of loss for my household, but as we settle into our new routine with our infant boy and our two year old, I sense the end of that season. The days are not marked with sadness or tears anymore, but with the bustle of a young family with two tiny ones. This season of our lives doesn't look like something I would have seen in a storybook, but it's beautiful in its own way.

Memorial to Unborn Children, image found here
In the quiet early hours before the sun rises, as I slip quietly from our bed to nourish my crying 10 week old Joshua, I feel the cool wood floors and breathe the smell of a fall morning coming in from the open windows. I sense the subtle shift; it is fall in Texas. I cradle Joshua, my own harbinger of a new season, in my arms, and I know that happiness is here once again. I rock him and nurse him, grateful for the few minutes of quiet, and I think of the best way to express this, but I can never settle on the perfect words. Instead, I will just say it the best way I know how: I feel true happiness and I feel true peace, and I believe with all of my heart that God does what is best for me. But my heart cries out, on peaceful quiet mornings, for Violet and Jordan. I think it's safe to say that I will always long, in some way, to hold them and to hear their baby coos and cries, to know what they would have looked like as toddlers and teenagers, to know if they would have had blue eyes like both of my other boys, like their father. I just wanted to share this to honor those other women (and men) who know this type of hurt and longing. There is beauty in every season.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On Carving Out Spaces

I have been putting off writing a new post because, since this newest little chubby child has emerged from the womb (safe and sound!) and come to live in our home*, I have felt protective and unsure of throwing my words and pictures around online. Not because I worry about cyber-crime (feels funny to type that) or privacy issues, but because I care if my words are encouraging. I want to make sure they aren't hollow or misleading or, worse yet, discouraging to any one, especially another mother.

Funny how the protective hands of a mama can extend well past the reach of her children.

Along those lines, I will say that I have felt in my heart a strong, deeply rooted desire to carve out space  lately -- space for my husband to be encouraged, space for my toddler son to grow and play creatively and have quiet time, space for the four of us to be still as a family, space for Joshua to be nurtured, and space for me to feel peace and to create calm and order in an otherwise chaotic world. I plan on focusing a little more on these things over the next few weeks and hope to write more about them.

Ellen at Sweet Water is writing a 31 day series on home, and her words have been so encouraging and strengthening to me lately. You should read what she's writing about because I bet it hits home with you, too.

* I know I skipped a whole chapter and never posted about Joshua's birth or first days here, but I am still thinking about those very special days and what can be said about them. He is, as you can see, totally healthy, weighing 7 pounds and 3 ounces at birth, and is precious as can be.