Lazarus

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I’m sewing a stocking when Lazarus leaps into my lap and pushes his sweet orange face into my hands.  He is already purring and if cats could smile, he’d be beaming when I scratch behind his ears.  He is all love and joy and gratitude.  I set my work aside.

On November 18, Nora’s birthday, Lazarus just showed up.  We’d gone out for dinner to celebrate Nora’s first year and when we came home, John heard a scuffle in the garage.  He beckoned me quietly and said, “I think there’s an animal in the garage.”  Upon further investigation, we found a scrawny, half shaved shadow of a cat who meowed and cried.

We fed him some of Milla’s cat food and he was immediately grateful.

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He’d shown up on our miracle day and so we knew that if he didn’t have a home waiting for him, a home that was looking for him, that we would keep him.

And ever since then, he has gained weight, begged for food, swirled around ankles, snuggled in laps and has basically just been loving life.

Lazarus is a grateful, grateful cat.

He knows what he’s been given and he knows that he has been rescued.

And this morning when he climbed into my lap…it just got me thinking.  It got me thinking of she who had been forgiven much and how she loves much.  How gratitude is at the heart of that love.

I’m grateful for this refugee cat.  I’m grateful for the reminders.

I know what I’ve been given.  I know that I’ve been rescued.

It’s all part of it…learning to be loved by God.  Learning to drink in that love, to climb into His lap, unable to contain my thanks and my affection, to have it pour out.

To hear Him say…and say…and say….

Beloved, be loved.

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The Preemie Learning Curve

When Julia was born twenty years ago, she was placed in my arms and I held her and kissed her warm head and I knew her.  I had an instinct for her that I could trust.  And I seldom second guessed myself.  I don’t know if that was the cockiness of a nineteen year old or just me settling into a role God made me for or both…but I always trusted my gut instinct when it came to Julia.

Same with Aubrey and with Chase.  I was twenty one and twenty three when they were born, still a young mother but a mother filled with confidence.  I knew what they wanted and what they needed and I trusted myself with these precious little creatures.  I believed in my abilities as a mother.

Lila, then Claire…they were both so different from my laid back, easy going first three.  It was tougher.  I was older, I was more of an over-thinker but still…I knew them instantly and trusted my gut to know what was best for them.

Fast forward to baby #6 and she is the game changer.  I don’t have a gut instinct for her because preemies are so different!  I have to look to the strangers that take care of her every day for guidance.  (And her nurses are amazing!)

My baby philosophy is that you can’t really hold a baby too much…but it turns out, you can hold a preemie too much.  They have immature nervous systems and can get overstimulated.  My philosophy is to feed on demand when they are small but my baby can’t nurse or drink from a bottle yet.  She is fed through a tube, every three hours on the dot.  She’s going to have to learn to drink from a bottle.  And, you kind of get in the habit of changing your baby right after a feeding but a preemie baby needs to have time to be still and digest. These are things I didn’t automatically know.  I am in an odd position of not really knowing what’s best for my own baby.

There are so many things I’ve needed her wonderful nurses to tell me.  I feel like I learn something new every time I go in to the nicu.  The nurses are knowledgeable and kind and they encourage us to do what we can for Nora.  And I do, but truth be told, I’m kind of intimidated by my little 4lb. 2oz. baby.  I’m getting more comfortable with dressing her and changing her and taking her in and out of her isolette.  I’m okay with unhooking her feeding tube to get her shirt over her head.  I’m more than happy to kiss her face right off and pat her sweet little back.  But I don’t always know what’s best for her…because she’s different than all of her siblings.  I am full of questions when we’re in the nicu and I want to learn all I can.

She has to take caffeine in order to keep her breathing regular.  She has to have regular testing to make sure she’s progressing okay.  She is so small that it’s hard for her to keep herself warm.

She has alarms on her body to keep track of heart rate, breathing, blood pressure.  I asked the nurse last night, only half joking, if we could take the monitor and some nurses home with us when the time finally comes.  Because if I’m being honest?  I’m excited for that day and very, very nervous for that day too.

Even as much as Nora has grown, all of my other babies were at least twice her size, some more than that.  (Lila was 10lb. 4oz.)  Will I know what to do with her when I get her home?

And so I’m thinking about all of that this morning.  I’m drinking my coffee and thinking about Nora getting her dose of caffeine.  I’m looking at my Christmas tree and thinking about the lights from Nora’s monitor.  I’m snuggled in my comfy chair, thinking about Nora swaddled in her isolette.  Will I develop an instinct for her like that one that just came for my other five?  I love her so much, just like I loved them…will I know how best to take care of her?

And then I think about God and how He’s promised to give us new mercies every morning and grace for whatever we face.  I think back to all that has happened over the past month and I know that He has shown up.  He has given me grace to handle waters broken at 28 weeks.  He has given me grace to handle recovering from a traumatic surgery.  He has given me grace to endure 22 days in the hospital, countless uncomfortable pokes and procedures, antibiotics that have wrecked my stomach and a very slow recovery.  He has given me grace to accept where I’m at right now- a little broken still but on the mend.

He has given me grace and met me right where I am and ministered to my broken body as well as my humbled and broken spirit.

That’s what He does.  So I can stop looking ahead and worrying about what it’ll be like to bring my beautiful and terrifying tiny little baby home.  There will be new mercy for that day. There will be a grace and an equipping that will come.  He has been with Nora every step of the way, He has been with me every step of the way.

New things are scary.  Uncharted territory?  The unknown?  Scary and intimidating and I wonder to myself…do I have what it takes to do this well?  Can I really be trusted with this fragile and perfect little love?  And the answer is yes.  Because God is with me and with Nora and He is for me and for Nora and He will guide us and give me what I need to be her mommy.

She is a treasure, a blessing and I’m so honored to be her mommy.  I still cry a little bit every time I hold her because she and I have been on a journey together and I’m still awestruck that we’re both here.

Last night, I held her against my chest and sang to her…

“Nothing can separate/even if I ran away/your love never fails/I know I still make mistakes/you have new mercies for me everyday/your love never fails/and when the oceans rage/I don’t have to be afraid/because I know that You love me/Your love never fails.”

It’s our song- I’ve been singing it since the very first pregnancy complication. I trust the One we sing about to bring those new mercies, to make all things work together for our good.

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Go, go, go!

This weekend, Jeremiah said to me, “Wow, you guys really just go nonstop, don’t you?”

And he is right.

We do go nonstop.  And as I sank into my best and most favorite and most raggedy chair for Bible study last night, I felt the busyness of the weekend in every joint and muscle.  I reviewed our crazy weekend and realized I would not have given up a thing.

Yes, we do go nonstop but it’s because our life is so bursting with blessing and relationship that we have to go nonstop in order not to squeeze it all in.

Friday night…

Busch Gardens with Michelle and Mia, Luke and Sam, Bethany, Philip and Eden and Addy.  My family too, all but Julia and Deanna.

We had a grand time. Kids got along great, it wasn’t hot, the park was mostly empty.

Saturday, we had the big birthday bash, celebrating my sister and my daughter. They are birthday buddies- Lila’s the 27th and Bethany’s the 28th. The weather was not great but that didn’t stop us.

Sunday, we went to the movies with Meema and Aunties Edna, Nancy and Debbie and all of the cousins. We saw The Pirates, Band of Misfits. Kids had a blast. We ate an enormous amount of popcorn!

After that, I had a quick visit with John and one of our Bible study friends. Went to serve the children in Kid Kraze at 4:30 then did church with so many of my loved ones at 6:00pm. I love worshipping with those guys.

We continued in that vein at home, where we ate some crazy hot vegetarian chili and had Bible study.

This was an easy weekend to count gifts in.  This was an easy weekend to feel blessed and favored.

This weekend was bursting with good gifts.

So, I don’t think we’ll be slowing down anytime soon.