The gentle teacher

Amy took 36 hours of hard labor to enter this world. I remember being up for two full nights with no sleep, and feeling rather more like a limp noodle than a radiant new mother when she finally emerged!  It was the sweetest, purest of my four labors, with my mom singing and whispering verses through the whole thing. My grandma Fern was in the hospital at the same time, and the poignancy of that book-ends experience - one leaving this earth and one entering it - has stayed with me ever since. Two verses comforted me through the long second night of labor pain and effort, as I felt my body literally broken to "deliver" the sweet treasure housed within: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be in God, and not of us. (II Corinthians 4:7) And weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

I remember the sea green her eyes turned around 3 months, and the wildness of her strawberry blond hair. The intensity with which she nursed, and her growl of frustration when she couldn't do something as an infant (sit, crawl, walk...). It was a whirlwind - she was 5 months old when I learned I was pregnant with Caleb, 13 months when she weaned during the busy Christmas season (much to my distress), and 15 months when Caleb was born. We had very little time just getting to know this little one.

When cancer struck in 2008, I was bathed in regrets: regret over her early weaning, which was probably a result of my newness as a grad student and my craziness as a crafting Christmas gift-giver; regret that I would be leaving her for so long for radiation (Caleb would hardly know it, as a babe, but 2, she felt it). Most of all, I wept over the many times I had been a mom with gritted teeth, buckling to my duty only because it was my duty; the loveless days, the angry days, the days I moaned and fought inside while my children twirled around me, and me oblivious. I wrote about it while I was away for cancer treatment, while I was processing through all of that.

And then, 2009.  A year of mostly good news in terms of cancer. And a year when we nearly lost this little one, the kalamata olive eyed girl, the girl with the wild hair and the belly laugh and the hard-working spirit.

It wasn't until October 31st that she began to show improvement. She got her shots on the 6th, began to show symptoms on the 7th, was really ill by the 11th, and in the hospital most of the time between October 14th and November 6th, and off and on for days or weeks at a time throughout November and part of December. When the daily trials of her recovery - still ongoing now a year later - overwhelm me, it is good to look back at how far she has come in a year.

A quote stuck out last year, and hits me just as hard now after a full year of living in this trial:

"God often digs wells of joy with the spade of sorrow."

We sat with friends this past Monday night, mulling over a new difficulty that has arisen in our lives. Our friend Jason (who, incidentally, is a neuropsychologist and *may* have some counseling experience) asked us what God has taught us, how He has changed us, through all of this pain in our lives. My answer is that God has taught me to quit fighting.  He has made me a peaceful woman through all of this. The internal temper-tantrums that were a daily failure in my earlier years of mothering are few and far between today, maybe monthly? You have to go to the brink of losing something to understand just how precious it is to you.

He is a gentle teacher.  Taking me quietly through the warm fertility of those first few years with my babies surrounding me like baby birds, sending my last baby so close to the last, intensifying the trial; allowing cancer, and showing me the richness of my life through that lens; and then the hardship and heartache of Amelia's encephalitis and the many times we could have blamed someone and railed against fate or doctors or the laws of the universe; and finally, the day to day struggle of parenting a child with significant special needs, adjusting our whole lives around this one who is weak among us.

A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:19-22)