I’m pulling spun-out laundry from the washing machine, when I think of it – how January 3rd is here, and 2016, and it’s a new year already and time goes so fast, and I wonder how many people say that every year. “Didn’t we just start a new year? How can we be here already?”
When you’re fifteen and your bad days hinge on hair and pimple flair-ups, you just smile when people talk about the swift passage of time. “Before you know it, you’ll be middle-aged with a family and you’ll wonder what happened”, and at fifteen, you don’t even have a driver’s license but you’re already wondering if you’ll ever get married, and middle-aged people that say things like that are just weird.
I toss the spun-out laundry into the dryer and I realize I’m middle-aged now and people that say things like that might be weird, but they are also telling the truth.
The earth keeps right on spinning on its axis and time never stops — or even slows — and the honest reality is that your longest day is nothing but a sliver of a moment in the grand scheme of life.
And I might be middle age, but I’m still figuring this out. That my life matters today, on a Monday when “all” I do is clean my bathroom and change laundry loads in the basement and read books to my two-year-old. I’m still “getting it”, that all this living is what life is really all about. That “being someone” and “making a difference” and “leaving a legacy” is about how I love my husband and if I make time to chit-chat with my neighbors and how I raise my son.
When I was fifteen there were so many things I wanted to “get past” – I wanted to get past school. I wanted to get past singlehood then, and start dating, and then after dating a couple of months, I wanted to get past dating and get engaged. You know how it goes, right? There is always something next, right?
It happened when I became a mom. I loved this little baby boy, but I wanted him to start cooing. Then he did and I wanted him to giggle and then roll over and seriously, when would he crawl? Some days, hard days, I wanted him to stop being a baby, like he could just get over that, and be a kid.
It’s human nature and I’m only becoming more convinced, that it’s a messed-up part of human nature. Because the real milestone is seeing the wonder and beauty and importance of today, how this day and this moment marks your life, how it shapes you and carries you to those landmarks of your life, how the moments that stand out are only special because of who you are, and how who you are is all that life lived out every day.
This summer we got a phone call about a baby that needed a home. We said no. Sometimes, as much as you wish you could, you can’t. We had said we wouldn’t do it again, until our Cub’s adoption was finished.
On December 7th, we got another phone call. This time was different and I knew it right away. We had to make a decision fast, like we always do, and I called Ryan at work. He listened, all quiet and then he said, “What do you think?” And I paused before I spoke, because I was afraid. Afraid he would tell me no, that we really needed to wait until the adoption was finished, like we had said we would. That would be responsible, right?
Sometimes I hate being an adult and feeling the need to be responsible.
“My heart says yes,” I was quiet and I waited impatiently for his response.
“Yeah,” he said, “Yeah, me too.”
“Really?” I could hardly believe my ears. “Really?”
We waited a couple of days, prayed about it, talked about it, weighed the pros and the cons and wondered if there are pros and cons to wrapping your arms around a baby and giving it love.
Then we said yes, two days later on December 9th. And the moment I hung up the phone, I wanted to cry. What had we done? I doubted our decision, because we had said that we wanted to wait until the adoption was through and then we didn’t. Did we just make an emotional decision, because there was little baby girl that was going to be born in February?
“God, are we crazy?” I prayed that whole morning, in my heart. “Ok, God, I just need to know we did the right thing. This is a huge risk and did we just plow into it and make an emotional decision? I didn’t think we did, but did we?”
I got home that afternoon, got the mail, and there it was – the cream envelope branded with our lawyer’s name and office address. My hands shook, but I ripped that envelope open as fast as I could. We had a date to finalize the adoption of our Cub.
I smiled all day long. Smiled because in less-than-a-week our adoption would be final. Smiled because we had gone out on a limb and said yes to a baby girl and the timing of everything just felt like a big stamp of blessing from God.
I’m closer to middle age than any other age now, and I’m a far cry from where I thought I would be, when I was fifteen. I’m living a life I would have never marked out and I’m doing things, like foster care, that I merely contemplated as remote possibilities in the distant future.
And yesterday, we walked up to the tall, chain link, barbed wire fencing and signed ourselves in at the front desk and went through security and through doors that only open when you hear a buzzer. We sat in a crowded visiting room and waited for a woman to come out, a woman with a bump at her belly, due soon. We sat there waiting and I thought about the fact that she had already made it clear that she would want her baby back when she got out.
She came out and I gave her a hug and we talked. “What made you decide to do this program?” She asked, between bites of a cheap vending machine burger.
So I told her. I told her how we couldn’t have kids of our own, how we’d doctored and cried and been mad at God. I told her how we ended up getting Leo even though we weren’t on the list and how we’d just finished his adoption. I told her how we never expected an adoption, and how I’d told Ryan six months into loving our Cub, that I would really do it all over again, because for better or worse, my heart might split in two, but I would never regret loving him.
She told us that she was getting out in May and she said, “Only three months without the baby.” And I smiled at her, but my heart cracked a bit.
“You are my angels,” She said then, popping a blue Sour Patch Kid into her mouth. “I don’t think I could do what you are doing.”
I looked into her eyes and I saw her. She was a human, a woman, and she was a mom. A mom who had some really hard knocks and made some really bad choices. A person that needs Jesus, just like me.
“I didn’t think I could do what I’m doing either,” I said, “I don’t know how I’m going to love Nevaeh and then say good-bye. I don’t. I have a hard time explaining this too, but I think sometimes God puts it in your heart to do things that feel crazy and impossible, things you don’t know you can do, but He puts it in your heart and He gives you grace.”
She puts more Sour Patch Kids in her mouth and doesn’t say anything in response. She just looks at me and her eyes are kind and grateful.
And I wonder, sitting there, how it will feel when I place her daughter back in her arms and say good-bye. I wonder what in this crazy, spinning world I am doing, because what I’m doing feels a little like putting your heart up for target practice.
I know how fast time really goes and how short three to six months will really be, and I don’t even understand myself why on this earth we are doing what we are doing, except I am starting to realize that my life matters today, while I’m “just” being a mom and a wife and a woman and a person that believes in crazy grace that equips you to breathe and take one step at a time.
A lot of things in life don’t make sense, and I don’t know why God allows a lot of things to happen the way He does, but Jesus loves me, this I know, and this, my friends, is why I can face the New Year.
And you too.