Stumbling over choice

Four weeks ago, I *quit* sleeping with my children. Well, sort of. At least until 4 a.m. About one out of every three mornings, I wake up with one or both of the two youngest snuggled up to me. When dawn broke one morning last week, pink on the pillow above Amy's shoulder, I sat in awe almost long enough to forget to grab my camera. But not quite!

Cancer - and, more recently, Amy's life-threatening brain infection - brings a lot of things into question. Life has become a tedious and sometimes terrifying balancing act between discipline and making room in your life to experience joy. Right at the moment, I hear the happy sounds of kids playing Thomas the Train and cowgirl who-knows-what in the background, but my brain is entrenched in a variety of pots boiling on my mental stove: school, a grant I'm writing, some Facebook drama with long-lost friends, an old friend I'm missing, the baby I'm mourning, the blog I'm writing. My natural tendency is to parent just enough to keep the wheels rolling smoothly on this family bus I'm driving. Break away from my work only when discord pops through the surface. Pull my arms away from the computer, the dishes, the laundry, the scrubbing only if someone really begs, cries or screams.

You could argue that there really isn't anything confusing about what I should do in these instances I've mentioned. And I freely admit that this is a shortcoming of mine - focusing more on the polish of the home and less on the deep, gear-level work that needs to be done. Keeping it neat and functional, and hoping all the deeper stuff just works itself out. A verse memorized when Katy was about 18 months old snaps me out of this trap frequently: a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (Proverbs 29:15b) I cannot choose short-term benefit and ease without trading long-term benefit and glory.

Last night, a more subtle quandary arose: Amy has had three "bad days" in a row. Three of the worst days she's had in a while. Her eyes just won't track, she feels "tippy" and has had balance issues, which were almost completely resolved. She seemed on the verge of the focal seizures again yesterday. Finally came the end of an exhausting day, a day when I spent a lot of time ("too much time", it seemed) on the couch with her in arms, reading, comforting, soothing, loving. And, of course, as all sick children do, she wanted nothing but MAMA at bedtime. It was one of those moments where I chose the hard line, much to the dismay of my instinct: no, Amelia, you must stay in bed and sleep with your sister. This new covenant we've formed in our marriage that surrounds our bedroom and bedtime and developing Engedi in our everyday married demands attention. But to the exclusion of this fragile child who may or may not emerge from the shadow of this illness? Whose life and especially function is still under such question by the top specialists in the region? It was just one of so many millions of similar moments in the past 2 years: I walk away, fists resolute at my sides, mouth set, voice firm; heart screaming protest, prayer of supplication forming a volcanic explosion straight from my heart to the Throne (the Mercy Seat). After so many moments like this one, you would think I would have the answers figured out. I would have a system for coping. I should have made my peace with the fact that life must be lived as though good will happen, not bad; yet hearts will wonder if bad might happen, rather than good.

I woke up this morning, alone with my husband long before dawn. (Please don't ask how I like rising at 4 a.m. Let's just say it is a sacrifice that is well worth making.) No Amelia. I rushed to her room and watched her little chest rise and fall, blissfully asleep next to her sister, arms entwined. It wasn't until I listened to this song this morning that I reconciled - again - the Promise and the warning that always stand side by side in the subtle moments of decision. These moments, when laid before the Throne, may be unfulfilled, may be unrestored, but they are redeemed.

For every choice that led to shame
And all the love that never came
For every vow that someone broke
And every lie that gave up hope
We live in the shadow of the fall
But the cross says these are all
Places where grace is soon to be so amazing
It may be unfulfilled
It may be unrestored
But when anything that's shattered is laid before the Lord
Just watch and see
It will not be unredeemed

~Unredeemed, Selah