Today is my birthday. For many years, birthdays have brought with them a weight. I’d feel them approaching with a subtle, hardly identifiable dread. They were like an hourglass, reminding me — the one who was desperately clinging to hope — of what still hung in suspension, all while time progressed. No surprise, this birthday feels a little different. And in honor of both the shift of outward life and all those years where the outward hung, stationary, but the inner flame grew I have a gift to give YOU on my birthday. Read through to the end for details …
That lump in my throat — sometimes it might as well be permanent, it’s so familiar. I swallow it down, hoping it will swallow up my discomfort right there with it.
“I read somewhere that it’s the highest form of happiness for a woman to birth a child.”
How could that one statement, said in passing by a near-stranger, produce such a stir? I didn’t need to look away — in hopes that this one might not see my face, flush-red, and remember to whom exactly she was saying it — as I’d done so many times before. After all, this time around I was just months away from that supposed highest form of happiness. She was sharing with me, not at me.
But the statement was a similar sucker punch. It hurt.
I remembered them. The friend praying late-night prayers for a husband, and the one who’d just lost a baby before those cells took shape within, and the one who’d passed her childbearing years, childless. And I remembered that version of me — the me, not too long ago, whose twenties and half of her thirties were marked by a “not yet” — or a “maybe not ever.”
What about all of us? Were we permanently disqualified from this highest form of happiness, forever relegated to watch but not experience?
I’m in a birthing class. Me, this amalgamation of awe at what He’s done and disbelief that this is my body, but not divorced from the mother I was when I left the house thirty minutes earlier and the one I’ve been for years now.
I see images of skin-to-skin contact of that babe that’s just broken out of womb into world, landing himself right back against the flesh of the one who warmed him. I hear stories of those first minutes of life, when child and mother meet, eye to eye, when they’ve known the brush of one another’s bodies against the other’s for months. I see her tears, that mama whose life has torn open to give way to another life that has her eyes and her very same forehead crinkles.
And I ache the kind of ache that feels like it might just be permanent — the ache of an amputation.
I used to lament that I missed the molting of her baby teeth into big ones and that I never saw his first step. I have no idea what word any of them spoke first. What was it like to hold her when she was just slightly bigger than a football? and Were his ears always that pliable?
My thoughts of what I’d lost with them and what was documented, now, only by God, started with their first years — not their first hours. Until this one, now.
I watch these videos and I study for this life event like it’s a class — because, in my awkwardness, I’m not really sure how else to approach it — but my heart and mind are wrapped up in what’s been lost for my four others who don’t have someone to tell them what time of day their chest gave its first wail out into the world.
And I’m sad that I never swaddled them and their nascent skin didn’t know mine.
What about all these gaps?
I’m becoming more convinced that life is more about what I do with the gaps, less how I live around them. The “highest form of happiness”, unavailable for many, and the years I’ll never reconstruct — what do I have to say about those? What does He have to say about those?
I became an expert at both inhaling the pain of these gaps as they appeared, and exhaling my sooty perspective, all so subtly. It’s not hard to hold both a limited perspective on God and a bitter approach to the world with all the gaps it’s left me in the same hand. Most would never have seen it.
But when the dishwasher breaks, and I’m running hours (not minutes) behind, all while his stubborn will surfaces and my response is “it figures” — the dark-black soot of these thoughts is no longer clouding me, it’s all out there. The truth of what air we’ve really been breathing, long, is revealed when our external life gets pressed.
And it’s here that the gaps — or more accurately, my approach to them — catch up with me. I can’t both profess Him as God and carry this nagging disdain for every hiccup, big or small, in my life.
She told me over tea to try out this new habit, this way of looking at Him and speaking His Word back to Him in my own words. And I was tired enough of myself, and how I was responding to all that wasn’t working, to try it. A few minutes, here and there, adoring Him over breakfast dishes and morning make-up application and up and down those stairs one of the dozens of times per day, and I found myself with a slowly-building stop to that gap.
My mind was made to be renewed and the hundreds of circumstances in any given week that allure me into stone-cold grumpiness are not meant to become my pets. Gaps, big and small — nearly a decade of waiting on a closed womb and a morning with an inconsolable child — are His holy opportunities.
So I adore Him — I say His Word back to Him in my own words — when one of life’s rite of passage’s has a “Do Not Enter” sign for me, and I adore Him when I can’t reconcile His great healing with the wounds that seem to go right into the bones of my children’s histories. I adore Him when the garage door breaks and I adore Him when she’s melting, inside.
Adoration gives those gaps new definition. They move from being these random shards of glass wedging their way into my story to becoming my starting point for conversation: tell me who You are, God, when my life breaks? Show Yourself to me, here.
If you haven’t yet, let me be that friend over a cup of tea: try this new habit.
So, for my birthday, today, I’m gifting you one of my favorite gifts — the one that got me through so many birthdays where time slid by and my circumstances stood still.
I actually made this for me — this was just what I wanted — and couldn’t help but share it with you. “Children Adore.” It is thirty-one days of adorations, compiled by me and my little girl, written in my speak and illustrated by her hands.
Is it just for children? you ask. No way. Or, I suppose, I might more accurately say “yes ma’am.” It’s for the one who desperately wants to restore the child, within, back to Him. And why not invite your children along ;).
There are two ways* to access this free download:
1) Pop on over to our brand-new Facebook page (yikes, so glad I have others helping me do this as social media is not my strong point). When you visit that specific link and hit “like”, you’ll see the image change and you will have access to both the download and the password that protects it. [Note: this method does not work on a mobile device — but we’d love to have you join us on Facebook. Once you do, send an email to sara(at)everybitterthingissweet.com and we’ll send you the password for the download.]
Or, if you’re not on Facebook …
2) Sign up to receive EBTIS (Main Blog posts) via email, using the box up and on the right sidebar, and you’ll receive a follow-up email with the free download and its password.
*If you are not on facebook and you already subscribe via email to the blog, you can send an email requesting the download to sara(at)everybitterthingissweet.com and you should receive it shortly thereafter. If you have trouble with either method above, try the same.
For those of you already adoring with us, September’s adoration is up and ready thanks to Mandie Joy who turns my chicken-scratch into legible beauty. You can follow along with the printout over here or with the crew of us over on instagram.
And one more thing: If this adoration book gets into your home and adoration is working its way into your blood, please spread the word about our little free gift! You can use the direct link to the facebook page [ http://on.fb.me/1e4Id1G ], and any one of your friends who connects there will get access to the download.
**Photos (and a lot of the genius behind our Children Adore rollout and layout!) compliments of Mandie Joy.