Monday, July 26, 2010

Gift After Gift After Gift

Every day, in some small way, I am reminded just how quickly time passes. The only exception to this would be from about 5:00 to 7:00 on the nights when daddy is not home. On those nights, I'm counting the minutes til bedtime; minutes that very S-L-O-W-L-Y tick by. Other than those moments, I find myself wanting to hang onto every last second but, instead, I face the realization of how fleeting time really is. Try as I may, I am continually learning how impossible it is to freeze a moment in time just so I can savor it a little longer.

There are obvious milestones that remind me of the years that are ticking by faster than I ever dreamed. Each year when I pull down the Christmas decorations and then 6 weeks later when I box them back up, I am hit with how quickly the season passed. With each birthday party I plan, I face the realization that one of my babies has gotten another year older. With each anniversary, I celebrate the years that God has given to Jason and I and how with each passing year I love him more.

But, what gets to me the most, are the much smaller moments that mark a passing of time that no one but myself knows about. Today it was the act of carrying Micah's baby bathtub to the attic. It is easier to bathe her in the kitchen sink now. But, one day, in the not so distant future, the kitchen sink will no longer hold her and she'll move to the big tub, thus reaching another moment that pricks my heart and causes it to silently scream for time to slow down.

This very day last year, I was mulling over 20 shades of lavendar paint chips. I was determined to find just that perfect color for her nursery. One outfit at a time, her closet was starting to fill up with the things in a little girl's wardrobe; things our house had never seen before. I was discovering hairbows and bloomers and dreaming about the day when my little girl would be here to wear them. And, now she is 9 months old and I wonder how can that be? With every month that gets flipped on the calendar and each time I have to adjust her carseat straps, I just want to scream, "STOP!" Why is that?

Of course, I know if I could have the supernatural ability to stop time, I would miss so much more. If my sweet baby girl were forever a 9 month old, I could cradle her in my arms and gaze at her gummy smile the rest of my life, but I would forfeit much more. I would never see those first steps, hear her first words, see her off to kindergarten, teach her about Jesus, hold her while she cried over a classmate not wanting to be her friend, watch her develop into a lady, witness her walk down the aisle, and stand in awe the day she becomes a mother herself. Moreover, I would never know of her secret crushes, her talents and her dreams. Yes, to be able to forever cradle my baby, I would lose so much. But, it's still oh-so-difficult to allow her to grow up.

This weekend, a fresh reminder hit me as I was with my beloved Women's Ministry ladies. I heard several stories from women, who are now grandmothers themselves, as they talked about when their children were pint-size like mine. The stories they recalled were still so vivid in their minds although they occured over 25 years ago. The realization that time is fleeting washed over me once again. One day, I will no longer have babies to care for. The reality of that is painful because it has consumed my life these past 2 years. As challenging as having two under the age of 2 plus a 7 year old is, I absolutely love every second of it. I love riding the wave of highs and lows that a house bursting with children, chaos and activity bring. In the highest of highs, I feel joy like never before. In the lowest of lows, I cling to my Savior like never before. All the times in between, I am at peace.

So, what do I do when I clean out yet another closet and pack away old clothes? Each season, I am having to ask myself the hard question, "Store them or sell them?" With each piece, I remember the times whichever child wore it. In my mind, I can see them in that outfit, I can remember how small they were and I am briefly transported back in time. Selling them would mean closing this chapter of my life forever. In 7 years, I have never sold a thing. The "what-if's" silence the "we are done's". And, I wonder, "Is our family complete with 5?"

While I don't know if Micah is the cherry on top, our last sweet addition, I rest in knowing that God's plan will come to completion for our family. Three children or just one more, I don't know but He does. My job isn't to worry about that but rather to embrace the three little lives He has entrusted me with and continue to watch them grow, tending ever so lovingly to their needs.

This coming month, it will be an honor to hear all of Eli's new words, play toothfairy once Jacob's front wiggling tooth finally decides to come out, watch Micah master the art of sitting up, and love my man a little more than I did last month. It will also be a privilege to get another hug from my parents, share more laughs with my friends, and spend more time in God's Word. Each moment will feel so great and I will find myself wanting it to last a little longer. Inevitably, something will remind me that it can't. Maybe it's a new shoe size or a gray hair. Whatever it may be, I know it's God's way of reminding me that life is supposed to be lived and lived to its fullest; full of love, full of grace and full of giving just as Christ lived while on this earth. "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." I love the translation of this verse in The Message, "We all live off his generous bounty, gift after gift after gift."

Each day, each moment shared and each memory is a gift. However, perhaps the greater gift is that we are given another day, another moment shared and another memory. Over and over, year after year, with no merit on our own, God gives us the gift of time. It is up to us how we receive each gift. If I try to cling to the time that I have been given today, I will miss tomorrow's gift. Therefore, in the morning when I wake up, I will embrace all that the day holds. In my heart will still be the joy and laughter from today, but, there will be room for more.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Swimming, Sunscreen and School

Today was a very important day: it began the one month countdown until school starts. This one day shifted our focus from enjoying these lazy summer days to doing everything we can to savor what precious few days remain. Yesterday, I filled in the dates on my dry-erase calendar for the month of July. There were a few leftover boxes at the bottom so I went ahead and marked the first few days of August. I was tending to a dirty diaper today when I heard a big groan from the kitchen followed by "Huh??". My mommy ESP told me that Jacob had spotted it. There, on the calender in big orange letters, were the words "August 6 - First Day of School". I listened as he proceeded to say to himself how unfair that is, that last month went by too fast, he wasn't ready for school.... I got up to walk into the kitchen so that we could talk about it before he broke down and started crying. When I entered the room, however, there was no Jacob. I called upstairs for him. He happily said, "What?". "So, he's already over it. That was fast," I thought. Then, I looked over. August 6 was suddenly a blank day on the calendar. It no longer stood for anything. It was not a dreaded date or one that would start a countdown into motion. It just blended in with the other seamless days of summer. Smart kid. I wished it were that easy. Just erase the dates we don't want to face. Maybe they would never happen.

I called him down and we talked about why he erased it and he said he didn't want to go back. He was having too much fun being at home. He said that he decided that he wanted to be homeschooled, something we've been praying about but haven't commited to just yet. If you would've asked me 3 months ago about homeschooling, I would've said, "No way. It's great for other people who have the patience, but not me!" I can't exactly put into words why I have since changed gears. All I can adequately say is that it was a complete, instantaneous change in my heart. I literally felt it. The change didn't tell me that I HAVE to homeschool my child. It simply told me that it was unfair that I haven't ever considered it, weighed it out and given it to the Lord to decide. Since that change of heart, I've read a homeschooling book and gotten excited about the possibilities, talked extensively with Jason and peppered my conversations with Jacob about what-ifs. Still, I'm not sure if the timing is right since I stay so busy looking after two little ones all day. But, I'm willing and open to do it if God's will reveals it.

Back to our summer. I have to admit, I wasn't exactly thrilled about the prospect of entertaining 3 kids all summer long. During the school year, I had gotten into my routine with the babies at home and when big brother got home at 3:15, the house seemed as if it would burst from all the noise, activity, crying and utter chaos on some days. A whole day filled with those things....oh my! But, much to my pleasant surprise, this has been the best summer in years. The biggest decision that I have to make some days is what bathing suit to put on Micah. The pool has been our salvation, an aroma of sunscreen clings to us and afternoon naps are our respite from the hours in the sun. I can't get enough of the tan lines between the rolls in Micah's arms (all 4 of them), the brown biscuit that Eli has turned into and the sweet company of Jacob. During school, we were battling each other quite a bit. The ease of the summer has brought with it a new joy in our relationship. I have discovered how well-mannered, fun and caring he truly is and what a great UNO and not-so-great Yahtzee player he is.

In these short 6 weeks, we have squeezed in every bit of activity possible. While the activities fill our calender, the friends and family that share in our fun fill our hearts. The calendar for the whole month of July for now is eerily blank, something we're not accustomed to. All the big summertime plans have already passed. All that stretches out before us between now and August 6 are blank slates in which we have the luxury of filling in any way we wish. There's only one thing I'm sure of: there will be lots more sunscreen. And, for August 6th? Again, the calendar reads, "First Day of School" in big orange letters but with one exception. Right next to those words is a blue frowny face.

Here are a few highlights of our summer: