Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Just Breathe: Why Life is Best Experienced Through the Lens of Family

My daughter has been in our house for almost 3 weeks now.

My son has been in our house (and driving me to the brink of physical exhaustion) for 134 weeks.

I just keep telling myself to breathe, because like the Darius Rucker song wisely reveals, "It won't be like this for long". I realize that God planned for kids to grow up. He is a graceful God and wouldn't leave us knee deep in power struggles and sleepless nights forever.

For now, my newly formed gruesome twosome-- which we affectionately call "the kids" (making me feel very much like an adult) is somewhat manageable.

For instance, when J is up and R is asleep, me and my son try to play together or watch his favorite movie and cuddle like the old days. When R is up and J is asleep, we just look at the skylight (her favorite) or walk around the house talking girl talk.

Now if R is up and J is up-- well there's the rub. That's when I am tested to my mental and physical limits. Those are the moments when I have one baby hanging in the crook of my newly muscular left arm (score!) and another child pulling at my leg with jam in his hair and a raisin up his nose. 

But what my life looks like today will very soon  become something different entirely. R will be awake more than she is asleep and during those moments J will just continue to become more and more of his own independent self. When those two things begin to happen interchangeably, I will desperately need a proverbial swimmie to save me from drowning.

And so as the planner that I am, I have begun to fashion a life preserver out of a new-found perspective I've discovered.

Regardless of how difficult it gets (or how difficult it already has been when both are clamoring for my attention) I am still choosing joy as the main ingredient in my daily bread mix.

I fully realize that joy is a decision. It's a choice we make. It isn't something that happens naturally. Especially in young parenthood.

So how do I get there? How do I get to a place of joy when my eyes are brimming with frustration over my son's tantrums or my daughter's demanding sleep schedule?

I imagine not having either child in my life now that they are here.

A thousand stones in my gut. Emptiness in my soul. Stripped to the bone. Raw. 

When I envision a life without my children a thick web of oddity and uncouthness swarms. It doesn't make sense anymore- that isn't who I was supposed to be. I may have given birth to my children, but God is the one who gave me life through them. 

And this leads me to something that has been very heavy on my heart.

Someone who is on the peripheral of my life finds herself facing the decision of potentially ending her unborn child's life. A young college girl with hopes of becoming a lawyer- this inconvenience would terribly derail her plans. And while I don't consider myself a particularly political person, I desperately want that child to be born.

Ashamedly, I don't think I have ever personalized this issue. It hasn't affected me so I have just let it lie in the big wide open of hot button topics that make me sweat under the collar.

However, my pride and passiveness aside-- I have realized that this hurts my heart because this is truly about a child. And in turn I feel like this is about my son. This is about my daughter. This is about your children. This is about the parents who decided to have you.  

There is room enough for us all. Not every single one of us got here in a pretty way. Not everyone's parents had a nursery immaculately decorated, names picked out, and a college fund already operating. Some of us had very sordid beginnings. I know Jesus did. People believed He was born to the town joke- a "virgin" mother who obviously had some dude on the side that Joseph was completely turning a blind eye to. The Savior was born into scandal and I think He turned out okay.

However, I am not one to tell someone when its time to be a parent. Some of us aren't ready or never will be. And even though someone may have conceived a child I don't think that means it's time to get married and make your scarlet A less red. But I do believe that God can work out all things according to His good plan. (Romans 8:28).

In truth, I am not expecting this girl to keep the child for herself. Raising kids has been the hardest and most ugly, inconvenient, revealing, heartbreaking, and jubilicious experience of my life.

But I want that child to be adopted by a family who is desperate to have them. I want that child to take its first breath, scream it's first scream, and pulsate with hope, fear, and blood like every person before them. I desperately hope that this child gets the chance to feel what the simple emotion of being alive is like.

And more importantly, I want the parent of that child (whoever they may end up being- could be my husband and I for all I know) to feel what I feel when I hold my already-born children. 

I want that parent to feel like they have rescued a child from nothingness. I want them to realize that they have not only given the child a home, but an identity. I want them to realize that we are all tattered pieces of worthless cloth that comes together in a gorgeous patchwork of imperfection and protection called family. I want the view from the parent's heart to be lavish like a beautiful landscape of jagged hills and sweeping valleys; I want them to experience mountain top moments and shadowy places, respectively.

Some families come together by violent earthquakes and others by soft rainfall. The how is irrelevant.

 I feel like I am in a place today that I would have never arrived at on my own had it not been for my children. I think I would be having the exact same struggle that this girl is having if it were me back when I was her age. I'm not above the reality that I could have been in her shoes.

And while I don't have the ability to talk to this girl in person, I have been praying real prayers (not fluffy ones that seem to float up to the ceiling and break apart due to lack of intention). I have been allowing my heart to feel deeply for this child and in turn fuel prayers of passion.

And in doing so, I have been able to love my children deeply even when I am deeply disturbed by the job description I have (poop wiper, spit up attender, tantrum finisher, fussy baby whisperer, and crying kid comforter).

So if you are having a particularly rough day (which I have all the time lately), hug and kiss your kids. Particularly the defiant ones. Because we are active participants in the important job of cultivating their life- we are their family.We are the ones who first introduce them to love- and love doesn't only happen when good little boys and girls act the way they are supposed to. It happens most effectively when our children make mistakes. Or when we do.

So whether you are a parent mediating meltdowns or are the child feeling forgotten in this huge place called life, I think we can all agree that everyone deserves to breathe.

And so I will pray for breath. Not only for this child, but for all of the would-be adoptive parents and their already designed children who are simply waiting to be found.


PS- I read this article today on what adoption should mean for Christians and it was too good not to footnote: Jason Johnson Blog: Abortion, Adoption & The Church

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