The promise of what lies dead beneath winter's blanket will soon bloom into fullness.
We've done this season many times before, sorting through clothes, making lists of who needs what. Resizing soccer cleats, signing up for softball, cleaning out the garage. In years past we've adjusted with each little blessing of a princess and we've tossed in bottles, breast pumps, teething toys and extra puffs. There was the gradual transition of a few days in the hospital, recovering from repeat c-sections, just me and a babe nursing and staring at each other, breathing in her scent and her eyes a gaze, discovering who I am. But it's different this time, so different. This time through, the transition has familiar elements on the practical front but the emotional aspect, it's a whole new ballgame.
From four to five.
One day we walked into a NICU and held him, the next day I walked out of the hospital with him by myself. No stitches, no congratulations, no cart full of flowers. Instead, floods of texts from friends and family that we can do this, how loved he is already. I remember sitting at a stoplight sobbing, calling Chris at work and saying how I just left the hospital with someone else's baby.
Where is his mama? Is her milk coming in, yet she has no one's scent to breathe in? Is she sad, is she relieved? Is she scared he may never come home, or is she so enslaved to the enemy that she can't think of anything else? Will we have him for weeks or months, or longer?
I drove home, picked up kids from school and an hour later sat in a dance lobby fighting back tears. Watching her twirl and look to see if I'm watching her, while my hands hold this tiny life and wonder what's ahead. Finishing homework, feeding kids and leaving them with my mama only to drive to that lobby. The lobby of child protective services. How I didn't know then that would be the hardest place to sit day after day, week after week.
It was dark outside in the cold of winter. They arrive on the elevator, she's still walking like a new mama does days after birth yet instead of a joyful, swaddled bundle, she carries shame and sadness. Eyes so sad, so angry. They visit in a room monitored by state social workers, then we leave. Home that night only to be up all night while he adjusts and learns my voice, a new environment. The next morning life resumes, I don't have stitches or fatigue from birth, but wounds and exhaustion like I've never known. Looks a little different this time.
Life continued and here we are months later. One night, a dear friend asked if we wanted to join her and another family at the beach. We shopped, packed, prepared and learned how to leave town without a foster baby. A sweet friend who herself knows loss and heartache on a level I'll never grasp asked if she could keep him for the week, that it would do her heart good to hold a baby...especially this baby. Lots of phone calls, releases, paper work and arrangements later, off we went as a family for the first time to the beach. I'll admit I processed through some guilt and emotion, would I be able to engage, can I enjoy a trip and not feel bad about it?
How easy He made it and how blessed beyond measure we were.
We drove in to the little beach town late in the evening, smelling the salt already and hearing the ocean's waves. Tucked little tired babes into bed and anticipated the morning, the week to come.
I hear it mama, I hear the waves.
Sand between toes, chilly ocean blue, and clear skies with a breeze so perfect the only response was hours of play and discovery. Only just the beginning.
Each day there was a local farmers market with little shops and vendors displaying their produce and treats. We wandered around taking samples and admiring the little things that I'm certain I don't notice as much back at home.
This would be my absolute favorite part of the beach. Sand, water, beach toys and an open day. My girls played for hours with their friends. One day a man came and gave a lesson on how to build a real sand castle. No schedule or specific place to be, a calendar wiped clean with a simple agenda to just be.
Beach Town Life
It doesn't even seem real, this little beach town perched on the edge of the ocean. The houses, condos, hotels, food trucks. Bicycles everywhere, carefree wandering and a slow pace I wish would just follow us home.
Our friends are simply the best. Lisa and I met in kindergarten, feel so blessed to have grown up with such a lovely lady. I remember field trips in her mama's van, her yellow doll house we played with late into the night, slumber parties after a day spent at the pool. And Becca, when I was in first grade, I walked 3 houses down and knocked on her door and asked her to be my friend and decades later here we sit, laughing and remembering neighborhood games of hide and seek, summers in the creek teasing snapping turtles and college days as roommates. Now here we all sat, remembering when we would play together and now watching our children play with deep gratitude and thanksgiving.
There is a chaos and a sweetness to 6 adults and 10 kids blending for the week in one house, for all meals, parenting, and every day habits. We shopped for groceries together, cooked together and gathered around the table for simple meals. It's messy and it's cluttered, so much to do and always someone to play with.
I want to shield him from everything and encapsulate him in a world full of endless play, family meals, and alarm clocks that smell like sunscreen and sunshine. Beds full of powdered sand and imaginations running wild on the water's edge.
I want him long enough to teach him the beauty of family, generous friends who open their home, community that rallies and brings meals and sacks of baby clothes.
That my heart has moments and days when I don't want to pursue his mama and I don't want to be His hands and feet.
I want to dream with him and for him, and I want this nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach to go away. I want to be comfortable and I want complete control over every part of this case, of his life.
I want to teach him to throw a baseball and I want to declare identity and call out the gold in him for his whole life and see a destiny come to fruition of plans with greatness and prosperity.
And I know you can do that from a distance and I know His love is more powerful than any scheme of the enemy.
And I know I want my desperate pleas of prayer and breakthrough to be my lens and not curse this tree with my next breath.
I know that I can lay my head down and night and contend for the unseen as he will one day be in another home, not up the stairs tucked in his crib.
And I know, I know, that I don't have to cross that bridge today.
I wish my heart would grab ahold of that more consistently, that somehow my paradigm of excellence and high standards are not any different for my girls than they are for him, yet daily the requirement is to function and compromise, to comply with judge's orders and follow through with things that sound good on paper but go against every grain in you as a mother and an advocate. Learning to comply when everything in you screams for justice and change, that it's not good enough and settling isn't an option.
Today going from four to five feels honoring, empowering, exhausting and scary.
That when I try to collect and grab ahold of tomorrow's provision it only spoils and doesn't serve me well, it never does.
For today I'll choose peace and I'll choose to believe the things I've read on these pages for decades and known worship lyrics to by heart.
Yesterday, today and tomorrow His words, His character, and His peace are real.
They just have to be.
"Thou O Lord are a shield about me,
You're the glory and the lifter of my head."