A November full of thanksgiving. My Facebook feed is full of gratitude posts every morning and Twitter’s a-twitter, too. Before the craze of Christmas consumerism kicks in, I’ll take this cultural cultivation of “eucharist” any day.
When we pause and whisper thanks.
There are so many ways to say it, aren’t there? Blessing, gift, grace, abundance. When I look back over the long arc of my life, I’ve known nothing but. Yet so many days were filled with complaining, griping, longing, lunging after more.
Even now it starts to feel like this as my thoughts spin southward: if only I felt a little better, if only I weren’t quite so sick, if only he were home more to help, if only I weren’t so behind in work and writing, if only we could hire someone to clean the house, if only it were December already, if only I could trust that everything would turn out ok.
Instead of the sheer gratitude of spilling out words that say yes.
That say life.
That say again.
Because the gratitude of this one small, overwhelming, mysterious, undeniable fact – that we get to try this again, to hope for another – is tied to every other deep gratitude in my bones.
Gratitude to God from whom all life flows, tiny as a trickle as it starts.
Gratitude to the spouse whose partnership in all things makes our life together – and theirs – possible.
Gratitude to the family and friends who love us through dark and light.
Gratitude to siblings who can’t wait to welcome our baby with love.
When we first started dreaming of #3, back before we learned about a new kind of loss and grief, I imagined all the fun ways we could share the news. Matching Big Brother shirts on Facebook, photos of boys curled up with “Our New Baby” book, adorable announcements about adding two more feet to our house.
But the truth is, once you’ve been on the infertile receiving end of Facebook photo bombs and unexpected emails, you tread much more lightly on the tender ground of others’ hearts. There is too much pain on the path to parenthood for too many.
And once your heart breaks open to this truth, you clutch it fiercely.
And yet here is a child, a child who knows no loss or pain, a child whose life is entirely his or her own, a child whose arrival brings us great joy and greater hope. I have to celebrate this truth loud and clear, too.
So here it is, friends and strangers who grace me with the gift of your presence here and the stories you have shared in this place, too. Here is my gratitude and my prayer. Here is my terror and my fear. Here is my hope and my joy.
It is all wrapped into one new life, and it is twelve weeks young.
I know of no other way to speak this truth into the world than to whisper thanks. Gratitude. Eucharist. Which is, and will always be, a broken heart from which deepest love flows.
It is month of giving thanks. With all my heart, and another now beating strong and steady within me, I can do no less.
. . .
I need ten full moons exactly
For keeping the animal promise.
I offer myself up: unsaintly, but
By the most ordinary miracle.
I am nothing in this world beyond the things one woman does.
But here are eyes that once were pearls
And here is a second chance where there was none.
from “Ordinary Miracle” ~ Barbara Kingsolver
He’s 10,000 miles away tonight. When I finally get him on the phone, I’m a blubbering mess. After a week apart and two more to go, I didn’t yet want to wave the white flag of defeat, but it was such a tough day – too little sleep, too many messes, two little boys with cranky tempers and only one of me, all day long.
Eloquence fails when nerves run this raw: I suck at flying solo.
But the truth was, we’d had so many good days this week: such delight at summer adventuring with my boys, discovering new parks and playgrounds, meeting up with lots of friends to fill our time as a trio. Which is why the spiral downward – from a difficult morning to a disastrous afternoon to a don’t-ever-need-to-revisit-this evening – sank even deeper after enjoying such heights.
C’est la vie, of course, these rolling ups and downs, how life with littles whiplashes from one extreme to the next in a matter of minutes. I shouldn’t have been surprised.
And yet what did surprise me was how quickly his voice calmed my anxiety. How the sound of his sympathy made my whole body relax.
In two minutes he’d talked me off the ledge and back onto the solid ground where a bad day does not make a bad mother. In another two minutes he had me laughing so hard I almost dropped the phone and we started swapping stupid stories about our days, as if he were driving home from work and not working four oceans away.
A sub-par Father’s Day? Probably in most people’s estimations. We never managed to get him a gift or a card or even post a proud photo on Facebook to boast that he (along with everyone else’s dad, according to my scrolling feed) is The Best Ever.
But the simple truth is that the man lives the calling. He is father to my boys beyond my younger days’ wildest hopes of what a partner could be. Whenever I see the way other people notice it, too, that’s when I sit back and soak up the sheer grace of what choosing to love him has brought to my life and to the lives of our children.
He’ll often quote me the line from Fr. Hesburgh that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. And tonight in the smallest way, with a simple (ok, admittedly international, assuredly expensive) phone call, he did precisely that all over again.
Love spreads. His gives me more for them, for a better tomorrow.
If you’ve stuck around through the sap, you can treat yourself to theological musings on the subject: I’m blogging here in honor of the holiday – asking whether fatherhood is a relation, an obligation, or a vocation?
(Bet you can’t guess what I think.)
The last day of November.
I woke up and peeked out the window to find nothing but winter silence: black outline of trees, white dust of snow, stillness of the world folded in on itself. December is about to turn, and Advent eager on its heels. I love the waiting of this corner of the year.
I’m resolved anew to welcome winter this time, to stop grimacing against the cold, hunching my shoulders against the wind. To relax into the reality of the world around me, a world that is frozen and frigid, but still bright with light and bathed in moon once sun sets early. There’s gratitude for winter yet, if I can dig my toes into the snow to find it.
Today I’m writing about gratitude over at The Power of Moms. About trying to grab all that life has to offer, whether fistfuls of green beans or fleeting kisses from growing boys. As the season of thanksgiving ends and the wonder of waiting begins, I’m mindful of how much gratitude matters, how it shapes our vision as the world around us changes, how it warms with hope even as life gets cold.
To read more about my gardening mishaps (and gratitude for these sweet boys I get to mother), come on over to the Power of Moms…
Yesterday was supposed to be a lovely little family celebration.
The second anniversary of S’s baptism, it was supposed to set the tone for baptism celebrations to come. A special meal, a special prayer, a special candle lit on the dinner table.
And considering this blog gets hits every single day from people searching for baptism anniversary prayers, it certainly should have received at least as much attention as last year.
But then yesterday became One Of Those Days. In which the dog had two (yes, TWO) seizures on top of an already crazy morning. I spent most of the day cleaning bodily fluids off of children, floors, self, and dog. Not a shining star Tuesday in my book.
As the special meal went uncooked and the special candle stayed tucked away in the cupboard, I let myself get mopey. Some mothering spirit I was proving to be.
But then F came home with the kind of news that turns even a mopey, cruddy day on its head. The kind of news that involves good friends and scary surgeries and the ICU. The kind of news that reminds you that safe deliveries and healthy mamas are nothing to take for granted. The kind of news that, in F’s words, is every husband’s nightmare.
I stopped moping about the baptism dinner right then and there. It did not matter one bit.
What did matter was the beautiful, beaming, healthy, happy two year-old who spent the day belting out AH-YAY-YOO-YAH at the top of his lungs because “Alleluia from church” is now his favorite song.
What did matter was the beautiful, starting-to-beam, healthy, happy baby who spent the day nursing in my arms, while just miles away another mother couldn’t even hold her newborn, let alone nurse.
What did matter was that I was healthy enough to drag the whole motley crew out of the house for a long walk in gorgeous fall sunshine.
So in case you, like me, needed a reminder today that life is too short to spend time whining about our own small worries, please go here and read this story and prayer that I serendipitously stumbled across last night. And then go hug your babies even tighter.
Because although every morning’s news brings piles of reasons why we should not take one single day of this life for granted, we seem to need reminders over and over again.
At least I do.