November 11, 2015

Dear Aria {two months in}

Dear Aria,

You've been with me on this side of the womb for two months now. You've grown from a puffy pink rag doll to a bright-eyed, interactive delight. You coo and grunt and gurgle at me. You reserve special syllables and chuckles just for your daddy. You have sweet dreams and laugh in your sleep. You smile all the time and at everyone.

Your smile is bold, wide, unabashed. It tiptoes around your eyes, flits down to lift the corners of your lips, and then scampers to tickle your entire little body, leaving you writhing with glee. Your smile is not a polite social smile, not a fake, appeasing smile. It's the kind of smile that makes me think your heart must be soaring. It elicits an answering smile from me, bringing me a particular brand of joy that I haven't felt perhaps since I was your age.

But in the middle of the night, when you're finishing your last drops of mother's milk and you beam innocently up at me, sometimes your smile makes your mama cry. I cry because you won't always smile so freely. For now, you have no reason to be frugal with your smiles. You've never met a person who didn't adore you or had an experience that dimmed your sunny world. But someday someone will speak to you harshly and you'll discover unkindness. You'll stumble while playing and scrape an elbow, becoming aware of physical pain. Someday something will break your heart, and you'll become acquainted with heart-pain too. These little injustices pale compared to what other children around the world experience early on. Nonetheless, they will make their mark on you. They will slow your smile. They will cause you to share it timidly, cautiously. You'll learn the polite social smile and the fake, appeasing smile. We will see this earnest baby smile less and less.

I wish I could give you a world that would never steal your smile. With so much of my heart, I want to shield you from these things. But, little one, they are rungs on the ladder of growing up. And though the thought of it brings your mama tears in the wee morning hours, growing up is necessary for you to experience the joy I do want you to feel someday.

I hope someday you have a little girl of your own. As you sit on your sofa nursing her in a barely lit room at 2:00am, I hope she smiles up at you. And in that sacred moment only the two of you will share, I hope her trusting, gummy grin makes your heart soar again—the way your smile makes mine.


July 17, 2015

Dear Aria

Dear Aria,

Now we wait just eight more weeks or so until we meet you. They seem like everlasting weeks when I think of how much I want to scoop you up into my arms. I know you are safest and happiest where you are now, but I’m feeling impatient to look into your eyes, kiss your tiny nose, caress the smooth underside of two little feet that have been nudging me so steadily.

Sometimes, though, I think about the future and already wish that whenever you feel sad, I could tuck you back into a hidden place, safe, warm, and very close to me. Out here in the big world, things can be lonely and scary and confusing. But there is so much love and joy and peace waiting for you, too.

You will find a mama and daddy who love you immensely. You will learn that, as deep as our love is for you, we loved each other first, before you joined us. You will hear the story of how God put the two of us together. By God's grace, you will never doubt that we will keep loving each other long after you’ve moved on. You can expect that in our home, we speak with kindness. We listen with compassion. We feel secure knowing that rifts are always short-lived; because we apologize, and we forgive. We find happiness by serving one another. We’d rather be together than apart, and we like being together at home. We value living simply and slowly. We love God in a way that shapes the words we speak, the songs we sing, the books we read.

Last night your Daddy read your first book to you, The Tale of Three Trees. I think you liked the ending, because you pumped your fists when each of the trees found their place in Jesus’ story. That is what we hope for you—that you grow up to treasure Jesus, to be used by Him, and to point others to Him.

His love for you is even bigger than ours. We'll tell you all about it, I promise. For now, just know you are being welcomed into so much love.

See you soon,

February 27, 2015

My Moriah

I have always wanted to be a mother. My answer to "What do you want to be when you grow up?" has forever been that I want to nurture my own children, to teach them, to love them, to point them to Christ. I assumed I would get married straight out of high school and become a mother right away, hoping my life story would mimic so many mothers I admire. From the time I was six years old, I practiced mothering on whatever younger sibling or niece or nephew came along every few years. Through all of high school and college, I worked in daycares, in schools, and as a nanny, to get even more experience. I took college courses in early childhood and elementary education, attempting to be as well-prepared as possible to home educate my children.

Ten years after high school graduation, my life story was far behind the timeline I had imagined.

For a long while, I have known what I held dearer than life, what at times replaced God as my source of hope. Every sermon on idols pierced my heart because I knew the words were for me. Every song about Christ's being enough was unsingable because I knew the lyrics were not true of me. The movie Facing the Giants made me uncomfortable because of a single line in the script: “If the Lord never gives us children, will you still love Him?” If that question had been asked of me, I don’t know how I would have answered.

I have been drawn again and again to the accountof God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the child Abraham had waited a century for. Even as He voiced the order, God emphasized that Isaac was the son Abraham loved. The Hebrew word translated "love" in Genesis 22:2 means "to desire, to breathe after."2 God was asking Abraham to climb Mount Moriah, tie down the son he had desired with every breath, and kill him as an act of obedience. What kind of God requires the death of a dream? I would wonder. And the answer would come quietly: One who deserves no competition for my affection. 

The ideal of motherhood had become my Isaac, my breathed-after desire yet unfulfilled.

Over the past four years, I have trudged half-way up Moriah so many times. The best intentions at the foot of the mountain dissolved when the altar site came into view. Oh, but I have made attempts. I begged God to take away the longing for motherhood. I burned journals full of my written aspirations and hid my early childhood education books out of sight and out of mind. I immersed myself in work, hoping to be distracted, hoping to acquire a different dream.

Only recently did I make it to the top of the mountain. It took a months-long trek through the Word and prayer and angry runs in the orchard where I had tearful talks with God that ended in surrender. But God led me up that hill to a knowing—even if He never gave me children, I would still love Him. He is what I desire with every breath.

So on December 6, 2014, I wrote in my journal:
This is my Moriah.
This is where I lay the dream down.
Will You still the hand or take the life?
I will not know until I raise the knife. 

10 days later, I conceived.
23 days later, I held two positive pregnancy tests in hands trembling with disbelief.
52 days later, my husband and I first heard our baby’s heartbeat, a beautiful rhythm at 144 beats per minute.

Today I give thanks for twelve weeks of motherhood—twelve weeks and counting.

I hold this stewardship loosely even while I treasure it, for now I have been to the top of Moriah. The desire for motherhood is still alive, but is no longer what I live for.

Though my dream may have come back down the mountain with me, this Isaac is no less God’s.

1. Genesis 22
2. Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon