Last Christmas Hansie wasn’t here.
There was just . . . ceaseless analyzing of symptoms, speculation over the how and when of his impending arrival, kicking and nudging from inside me, trouble breathing, lots of backaches, a hospital packing list, a constant grasping for some concrete idea of who this boy would be, and a belly that made unbearable the usually thoughtless task of picking small items up from the floor.
There wasn’t even a single bit of anyone crawling madly to unplug the vacuum every time we used it; or of anyone sticking an index finger in the corner of their mouth and smiling shyly each time they were spoken to; or even of anyone bursting to wake, flipping over in their crib and desperately trying to pull themselves to a standing position every time their mom tried to sneak in to wake their brothers for school.
Although, there was a one-year-old and a two-year-old, so maybe there was a bit of that type of thing going on. But, there is nothing like an annual holiday or tradition to make me hyper-aware of all the change a year has brought.
It was at Christmas time four years ago (2013) that I’d just discovered we were expecting Summer. At the time I was fairly confident she would be our last child. But there hasn’t been a Christmas since that I haven’t been either expecting a baby, holding a baby . . . or both.
So at this time of year, all filled with sentiment and reminiscing as it naturally is anyway, I am extra contemplative about what has opened up to me and the major shifts in my existence that have occurred in this never-to-be-forgotten span of years. I have this quiet and shifting little visual of my spiritual self during this time. Sometimes she is reaching up and pleading for the burdens and blessings of these years. Other times they are being offered and she is choosing them. And occasionally they are being asked of her . . . and she is humbly and fearfully submitting – a meager attempt to mirror one of the most amazing women to exist on this earth: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”
I don’t know that life has ever been more overwhelming or more of a challenge than it has been for me these past years. I rely constantly on the words of a hymn that The Spirit whispered directly to my heart – personally; God reassuring me – during a major moment of fear on the night after I found I was expecting Hans.
Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
’Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell --
All is well! All is well!
Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
’Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tale --
All is well! All is well!
I’ve acknowledged often, particularly when sharing cheery and bright pictures, that those pictures aren’t the whole truth. That they are only frozen moments of beauty amidst exhaustion and worries and messes and stress.
But I’m not sure I really believe that. It’s an apology of course – a recognition that I haven’t shared all of the difficult and imperfect. There are no dirty dishes or projects hanging over us. There are no tantrums, no tears, no failures, losses of temper, or fears over the physical, spiritual and mental well-being of our children. And yet, . . . looking at those pictures I often sense the most distilled and complete truth of this entire business. The dross and insignificant, and the parts that don’t really matter all sifted out. Only the stripped down, beautiful, and most whole eternal truths left: the hope that through all of the unknowns and fears and impossible hards my Savior has already paved a way and that all any of this truly is . . . is unbelievable, gracious mercy; and kindness; and eventually-perfected love and joy.