Mama-ing two small boys pushes me to the brink of me. Stretched to boundaries of what I conceived beyond the realm of possibility. Then my mind escapes that moment, convinces me I can’t keep doing and being. But I do and I become. But with joy?
A backwards parenting resume of all the things I cannot do and am not equipped for. All the reasons why I’m not the best hire. The bold header reads these boys could do better. The lack of experience neatly bulleted down the page. Interesting how tidy these lies come packaged.
With joy? I want that. Need that. But cannot seem to grasp it for more than a fleeting moment. The anger wells up, hot and sharp. If I can’t even find the joy in the doing, in the becoming, then what? Especially then why?
The wisened joy-soul Ann Voskamp reminds me that no one gets to joy by trying to make everything perfect. No? Not even by trying to follow all the rules perfectly? No one gets to joy by trying to make everything perfect. No? The truth is that perfection isn’t the goal? No one gets to joy by trying to make everything perfect. Perfection means I haven’t arrived? Joy won’t be waiting with a hug and kiss around my neck when my day, my morning, my hours, my minutes — overwhelmingly interrupted by two little boys — is perfectly uninterrupted? When my facade is perfectly constructed so that even I’m deceived? No one gets to joy by trying to make everything perfect.
There. The perfection myth cracked. But I’m cracking, too. Tiny spider-webbing cracks encroaching on my life. All running together until maybe the fissure runs to deep, too wide. Then what?
Leonard Cohen shoots straight, telling me
Forget your perfection offering.
There is a crack in everything -
It’s how the light gets in.
Then to remember of what I’m made. Dust and water. Spun and formed as a clay jar. What the ancients would have considered mundanely ordinary. And yet He, the one who is Light, considers us as triumphs of His grace. This cracked, perfection-hungry mama a triumph only in His grace.
Three years has unfolded an observant nature. A giggly, silly, make yourself laugh personality. A determined and sometimes stubborn spirit. A gentle, kind soul. And a love for all things that can (and often shouldn’t) be thrown.
You were born on the cusp of summer’s end, just hinting at fall. A beautiful season where summer’s memories are stockpiled and autumn promises things that warm and fill the soul. I remember leaning on the cusp of becoming something, someone, I never dreamed.
People want to know things about you. Are you walking, talking, learning more, yet, or enough? Have they learned yet? The world never says to any of us enough. Time’s impatient yet is scattered like seed on everyone. None of us measure up with our more.
But that’s why we don’t build our life on more, yet, and enough. We nourish a life on this moment present , on daily given grace, on a never giving up kind of love. And we declare all of this exceedingly enough.
You, Samuel Reed, are loved beyond measure. Your ma and daden (as you would say) give thanks for the little boy you are and the beautiful person you are becoming.
Happiest of birthdays to you, bubba!
He watches, intently absorbing each movement, each smile, each something, every everything. And then the smile, the grin, appears. Sometimes a baby laugh tumbles forward. And the watching fueled by curiosity trains his eyes on us.
But Luke studies Reed closest of all. He’s enamored with this bigger-than-him brother, percolating a fascination, reserved especially for his strawberry-headed brother. Luke’s round, blue-eyed perspective reveals awe, amazement, and excitement about Reed.
Simply, Luke sees better than most of the rest of us.
See differently, Mama. See him as my big brother who will teach me to do — to be — so many things.
My American-made performance, perfection, preoccupation with perception (others’ mainly) self seems awkward and gangly, mis-shapen and out of place between these two brothers. The older made me a mama, the younger is showing me a new way of knowing Reed.
How could I have known brotherhood would teach me so much about motherhood?
It’s always the questions. The unspoken ones — the ones people aren’t sure how to ask but they may really, really want to — that unwrap my heart.
Will Reed ever __________? (Does Reed’s diagnosis perfectly map out, hem in, and decree exactly who he will be and what he will do any more than other children?) What’s it like having a kid who needs therapy three to four times a week? Will your other kids have the same issues? Does Luke?
Are you relieved that Luke doesn’t? (How can I value the health and typical-ness of one without devaluing the one whose atypical-ness has won and reformed my heart?)
But, you know what relieves me most of all? Realizing a Reed-formed truth: What I want most for both of my boys — more than typical genetic structures — are faith and character and strong minds.
My beautifully talented sister-in-law Sarah (who owns Blue Couch Studios) captured some wonderful family pictures for us. Like this one over there to the left.
But everyone knows that behind every smiling, perfectly poised picture are a hundred that, let’s be honest, are just hilarious.
In particular a certain two and half year old had his own ideas for fun and that didn’t necessarily include posing in any form or fashion.
To one unruly toddler, add an unseasonably cold, windy day in mid May and a newborn. That we captured quite a few good pictures attests to Sarah’s photography skills!
Here are a few of my favorite out-takes!
Let’s play “Run, Squat, Pose Like a Dinosaur”!!
Done with that game. So, what can — oh, look – a pretty flower!
And now Dada, let’s play blow the petals off the flower!!
You’re going to take the stick?
Yep! So I can play with it!
…..aaaand we’re done!
Feel free to leave your own captions as comments!
Our May baby came as an April surprise! Exactly three weeks before his due date, Benjamin Lucas Byxbe arrived at 9:31 a.m. on Sunday, April 28th, weighing 8 lbs 4 oz and measuring 20″ long.
While my first pregnancy was declared “boring” by my then doctor, this pregnancy was anything but! Gestational diabetes, gall stones, high fluid, and measuring full-term an entire month before I technically should were all minor complications that made for a very uncomfortable pregnancy.
If my first delivery was long, drawn out and a bit emergent, this second one was quick, albeit unexpected, and calm. Around two in the morning on April 28th, I rolled over in bed thinking I needed to go to the bathroom. As I tried to heave my 37 week pregnant body out of bed, I felt my water break. When others say you just know when your water breaks, they are not kidding! I tried to run to the bathroom (but even not pregnant and 30 pounds lighter, I’m not much of a runner) as I’m yelling to Ben that my water just broke (okay, this wasn’t exactly the calmest part of the story!). I’m panicking a little bit at this point but the on-call doctor says I should wait six hours before coming to the hospital. Six hours!?! In my mind, water breaking = immediately proceed to the hospital, do not pass go, do not collect $200. And then she tells me to go back to bed. Ha! Back to bed, yeah right. After cleaning up, I spend the next couple of hours texting family and friends but definitely not sleeping. Ben on the other hand, who is always the calm and collected one, has the good sense to actually go back to sleep knowing it’ll be out last night of decent sleep for months.
At 5:30 a.m., the on-call doctor calls back after reviewing my not boring medical file, to ask us to come on into the hospital. Apparently after she talked with me at 2:15, she had to deliver a couple of other babies before getting a chance to review my file. With the series of minor complications I had, she thought it was best to come on in.
We arrived at the hospital at 6:30 a.m., by 8:30 the doctor made the call that we needed to proceed with a c-section, and by 9:30 a.m. our dark-haired, three pounds heavier than his brother at birth baby was born. Surgery always makes me a little nervous (especially the kind where I’m numb from the chest down but completely cognizant), so Ben held my hand the whole time and I cried at the first glimpse I got of Luke.
Two and half years ago I was a very anxious first time mom, so I’m relieved that this time I’ve been more calm and relaxed, making it much easier to enjoy having a new baby around despite the sleep deprivation!
Here’s a side-by-side of my two boys from birth, Reed on the left, Luke on the right.
Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
I know we’ve reached a mountaintop. I can breathe more freely than I have in two and a half years. How far we’ve come indeed. Feels like we’ve lived a thousand years and walked a million steps. I’ve let go and pressed in. I’ve smiled genuine. Knowing. Knowing is the battle. Knowing that what could be used for evil, You have used for good. Our good. Even in those valley drifts and shadowed places, You were Emmanuel. We see another set of little footprints now because he, with our hands, is walking. He, with our patient guiding, is talking.
Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us
But I haven’t forgotten the battleground. Knee to earth, hands to grass, I feel the place where my heart bled, my knees scraped, our future pierced me through. Eyes closed, my body trembles through the earthquake where we felt life shift. I couldn’t know then what sweet victories we were fighting for. But You knew and You know, even as the next battleground slumbers.
Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say
Like a small child proud of her battle wounds, these scars attest to great joy and greater grace. To a soul reformed and repurposed for You. Scars that carve out grace and wisdom and peace permanently on my soul’s skin. Your handiwork of a tattoo on my heart, which will forever know, really know that…
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Your love is unfailing. You loved us through people’s kindnesses and generosity. You loved us through hope and prayer. You loved us through mercies of grace upon grace. You surrounded us with so many people. So many sojourners. So much love. So much goodness. So much. And we share this mountain top, this season of goodness with them. For without them, apart from You, we might not have.
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone
Carried and held when the darkness was its darkest. When grief was its hardest. When fear held its greatest sway. When the distance seemed too great. When we mourned our fading dreams. Carried and held. Constantly and perfectly.
Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Lyrics in bold: Matt Redman’s “Never Once”