Monday, November 17, 2014

Gratitude

I try to be grateful for what I have been blessed with year-round, but November always takes my gratitude to a new level. I know what you must be thinking: Thanksgiving has that effect.

However, Thanksgiving really does not have anything to do with it.

To understand what I'm talking about, you need to go back nine years ago. I was an nineteen-year-old unmarried pregnant girl living in the bible belt. Even though I was engaged to the father before I got pregnant, and even though we loved each other, I still wore the Scarlet A. I lost most of my friends, and my fiancé and I had basically nothing. We were in college, and between us, neither one of us had a car. We lived in the teensiest one bedroom apartment you've ever seen. For realz. One person could pee and do laundry at the same time. It was a furnished apartment, so we owned nothing in it except our clothes and a TV. We did not live close to any family. So we made a new one with some of the few friends we had left. I am very thankful my {now} husband's friends didn't abandon us. Two of the friends I had left who moved next door and became like my sisters. Without the little family we created, I have no idea what we would have done. These friends were kids, just like us. But they bought us diapers, checked in on us, and made sure we were still invited to things we would have been invited to pre-pregnancy. Not one of them ever told us we were too young to be doing what we were doing, and they didn't place bets on how long our marriage would last. They encouraged us and I am completely convinced each and every one was heaven sent.


Leo, me, and a couple of the friends who stood by us

Let's rewind a little bit further. I grew up in & out of church. I also grew up seeing people act one way in church & another outside of church. I was born into a hostile situation between my parents. I'm not sure I ever remember them agreeing on much of anything except for their dislike of one another. I remember praying and asking God to remedy the situation, but it never really got any better. So in my Senior year of high school, I decided that since God didn't really seem to care about me, I just wasn't going to care about Him. I was going to do things my own way and be happier. 

I felt so empowered during this time--I could control my destiny and wouldn't waste my time on more fruitless prayers. Freshman year was a blur of parties, irresponsible decisions, and a lot of selfishness. And that's when it happened. The stick turned blue. And then another stick turned blue. And then another. And another. I thought to myself "Wait a minute. I take my birth control religiously. How does this happen?" After a few minutes of panicking in the bathroom, I walked out to tell Leo {now my husband} what I'd been up to in there. He was just as confused as I was. Like me, he had distanced himself from God as well. 

What happened next is beyond explanation. Even though we were both sort of "done" with God, we both looked at each other and then sort of looked up. We prayed together and said "Lord. We cannot do this, but we know You can." An odd peace came over both of us. We both knew it was going to be OK. I still cannot explain it. Neither one of us is the type to just accept that things will be OK, so I can only assume that He protected both of us from a massive freakout, because He probably knew we could turn on each other if we didn't stay calm. 

I was due around Christmas of 2005, which we thought was perfect timing because Leo was set to graduate December 17. We figured that would give us some cushion for him to find employment just in time for the baby to born. He began sending out resumes and interviewing that entire last semester of college, and we began planning a future together. In November, everything changed. My blood pressure was dangerously high and the doctors wanted to induce right away. Cue freakout. Labor didn't work. Cue a bigger freakout. Baby's in distress--we now have to do a C-section. Cue massive meltdown. Family isn't here yet. Cue panic attack. Doctors aren't sure how the baby will be outside of the womb. Cue sedation from doctors. I prayed and begged God to spare the life of this precious, innocent child. He hadn't yet had a chance to live at all. I prayed specifically for him to have the chance to live a full life, run, play, sing songs, read many books, make friends, and start a family of his own. 

At 12:05 PM on November 16, my precious son was born. And you know what? He was perfectly healthy. Just teeny. He never had to be hooked up to a respirator, he never had any surgeries, and his APGAR was a 9. They only deducted the one point for his size. He did have to stay in the NICU for a a few days, but it turned out to just be a precaution. 

My Dad got sober about a week later. He and I became closer than we ever were before, if that was even possible. I watched him work the steps at AA. I watched him become a different person. He began to serve selflessly. He began to work on his own moral inventory. He began to make amends to everyone {and I do mean everyone} that he ever wronged. Watching him change his life made me forever change mine. 

I became a better mother. I became a better friend. I forgave those who ditched me. I accepted my moral failings and pleaded for forgiveness. And you know what? I felt that forgiveness wash over me from the inside out. I felt the love of Jesus permeate every last bit of me. I was left forever changed. My identity no longer rested in what had been done to me, or more importantly what I had done to myself, but it rested at the cross. I felt free. 

Leo graduated on schedule and we moved out of state the very next day. Crazy idea, but we made it work. We had some ugly hand me down couches, a crib, and a bed, and that's really about it. I giggle now thinking abut the fact that we used upside down laundry baskets as a spot to check email on our desktop computer on the floor. No kitchen table, and nothing else but our dreams. We went to the courthouse and promised to love each other for better or worse until death did us part. Most people would say that we were living in the worse, but we were so crazy about each other, at the time it really felt like it was the better.

Our Courthouse Wedding

We began attending a church that would change our lives again. I began reading my bible, and I learned that the opposite of love is not hate. It's selfishness. When I watched the hypocrisy of the church as a kid, the church was never the problem. Jesus was never the problem. The selfishness of the people in it was what I had a hard time dealing with. The same thing with my family. The problems were not rooted in hate at all. Hate may have been a byproduct, but the root of all of it was selfishness. That's not what I wanted for myself or my family. 

I learned more in 2005 than I had learned in my 19 years prior. God sent His son to redeem the world. And as it turned out, He sent my son to heal me. I cannot help but love a God that took such a mess of my own creation, and turned it into something so beautiful for me to love for the rest of my life. Gratitude doesn't begin to cover it. 

4 comments :

  1. Beautiful, simply beautiful!!! May God continue to lay his blessings upon you and your family!!! Such a handsome lil guy you have there!!

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