I feel a bit like Mole in the beginning of Wind in the Willows, just popping out from his winter hole at the beginning of spring after a long hibernation. Not much is told about his life below in the winter months, the story just picks right up and moves forward as he meets Rat and the two embark on a river adventure, Mole’s first time in a boat.
And so, here I am too, popping back into this blog after a long hiatus. Rather than trying to recount all the happenings of the last year and a half since I wrote, I’m here simply to write about today.
Today we are back in Crested Butte for our family’s third Rocky Mountain Adventure with Lifelines, the outdoor network of Cru. Earlier today Chris went on an 20-mile training mountain bike ride (at 10,000″ elevation). He’s training for the Dakota 5-0, a 50 mile mountain bike race in the Black Hills later this fall. He recently got back from two days of guiding students down record-high levels of rapids in Browns Canyon, CO. I, on the other hand, spent the morning moving between our couch and dining room table, planning a simple, family birthday party for Pippa’s 4th birthday.
Little snapshot update about Pippa…given the opportunity she will dress herself from head to toe in all pink, doesn’t go a day without two clip bows in her hair, she is just about as passionate about skiing as she is violin music, her attention span for coloring/art is about two minutes (Argh!), she’s obsessed with Itzhak Perlman, and her favorite indoor activity is creating “nests” or houses out of anything and everything she can physically lift and move. She also likes to do what I call “gathering.” Basically this explains how my pot holders end up stuffed in a lap top sleeve with coasters, a ball pump and a Thomas the Train engine. Doing preschool one day a week with her this past year was the highlight of my year. One of her favorite phrases these days is “Speaking of…” Sometimes she’ll use it in a way that works, and sometimes she’ll transition from a conversation about needing to finish her dinner to what she really wants to talk with something like, “Speaking of playing outside…”
Speaking of “nests,” our is about to get a little bigger. About a year ago, Chris and I began asking the question, should we? We’d always planned on adding more children to our family, but cancer has a way of changing things! We knew that it would be a more medically involved process because of medications, my high-risk factors, etc. At first, the question seemed ridiculous: our future as a family is still too unknown, there might be inherited risk factors, what if, what if, what if. Underneath all these questions, though, was a persistent whisper: I have called you to be people of life and hope, not death and fear; will you trust me and take another step toward life? Once we settled in our hearts that, even if our world came crashing down and our worst fears were realized, God would still be enough, we were ready to say yes. We started down the fertility treatment road feeling optimistic and confident. But after a year of constant disappointment and repeatedly nodding as medical professionals told us, “Your odds of success at this stage are really only about 15%” (and let’s just say we had to land in that 15% category about four consecutive times for us) we moved ahead only because we were certain we needed to take steps toward life in faith…not because we were certain we would actually have another baby.
Friends, God has been abundantly generous and kind to us once again. We are expecting another baby—a boy—in early November. We are still shocked. We shouldn’t be—the gospel itself pulses with an infinitely greater joy in generosity to the most undeserving. So here we are, sinful, broken people who are once again left with nothing but small words with which to express how we feel to our great God: You are kind. You are mysterious and inexplicable. You’ve given us life, opportunities to be life-givers, children we never expected, and most of all, yourself. We see you. Use us for your glory, and may we never stop saying thank you!
While we often feel like we’re floating above the clouds like this little blue balloon, I also think of friends and family who’ve recently lost babies, had to come to terms with disappointment after long-held hopes of a baby, or are still in the grueling process of waiting and hoping. And I’m just moved to tears. God is inscrutable and mysterious and generous and compassionate. I see these truths in our own lives and in the lives of the people we love. So within our own story, I tread gently to a place of gratitude, deep joy, and insatiable wonder.
In fact, this time of year always carries us to places of deeper reflection than usual. Pippa’s birthday–another year forward. Elliott’s birthday just a few days later–another year past. Probably like most moms, I find Pippa’s birthday to be bittersweet. Three-year-old Pippa now permanently in the past, but each new year has brought new joy and new amazement (new challenges, of course, too) and I have loved watching her grow up.
Elliott would be five today. All the books said that “resolution” usually comes at the four-year mark. For me, it still feels complicated and tender. This was the first year I didn’t think to look at July 3rd right away when we got our schedules for our time here in Crested Butte. I felt okay about that. We don’t always visit his place at the cemetery when we’re in Colorado Springs, and sometimes I don’t even remember to. But then there are times when the longing to be there and connect with him is fierce, and my heart aches with the thought of him and the way losses of memories with him keep accumulating as time passes. Talking about him still often brings me to tears.
I think of him every single timesomeone casually asks, So is she [Pippa} your only one? or How many kids do you have? Early on, I’d explain even to strangers in the park that we’d lost our first to stillbirth. To answer otherwise felt like a betrayal and was worth the inevitable awkwardness or abrupt redirection of conversation. Anymore, I don’t share about him unless it feels right or comfortable. But I have yet to absorb the question without the sting, and even some guilt in answering that Yes, Pippa is our only one. I’m still deeply proud of Elliott. As weird as it sounds, I wish you all could have seen his cute face and the way he and Pippa looked so much alike as infants.
So where do I go, today especially, with this swirl of emotions? The joy of a new baby to anticipate; the ache for those I love still waiting or grieving; the celebration and sting of a child another year older (pink balloons still scattered around our house); the love for the boy we’re still missing. It’s all too much for me, so I turn to the Good Shepherd and ask, Sit with me a while today? I just want you near. And it’s enough. More than enough.