One moment she was wobbling around the driveway on her pink training-wheeled bike, a raggedy teddy bear buckled onto the back with a red-loopy jump rope.
And the next minute, she was gone.
I’ve been telling myself for days that it will be okay.
That I will be okay.
And his little sisters who used to finger paint the walls and his droopy-diapered brother who used to stand at the front window and beg to ride the big yellow school bus that chugged up the hill each day–they’ve all disappeared, too.
But I’ll be honest. It feels different this time.
This time I’ve lost my baby.
I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately, the little girl who used to cling to my knees and trip on my feet as she followed me around the house every moment of the day.
I’ve been remembering the way she’d cry when I’d slip out of sight to go switch the laundry or take a bathroom break without an audience. And how she’d exhale a squeal fringed with anger and relief when she’d find me again, and then wrap her slender fingers around my neck with a fierce and territorial love that nearly choked me.
She liked it best when there was no space between us, no walls or stairwells, no other children or conversations toeing in on her turf. And sometimes, when the days grew long and the hours felt endless, it felt as if the very air she breathed had to be filtered first through my lungs.
She loved me so much that she squashed me.
And forced me to loosen my grip on my own plans and cling only to Jesus. ‘Cause it’s hard to keep holding on to the lines we’ve rehearsed in our mind when our scripts are being shredded by love and rewritten by the Author of Life.
God works in gloriously upside down ways and that fifth-born who turned my life upside down with her great big personality and consuming love pushed me to the edge of myself and beckoned me to stand free in that frightening place where a mother ends and the sufficiency of Christ begins.
My baby harnessed my heart and devoured my days; but she also expanded my faith and drove me into the wide open spaces of amazing grace.
But even as I began to embrace my new story- the one that made me a mom of five who burned bread and showed up at the wrong soccer field on the wrong day and lived a life that spilled happy and messy beyond the lines– even then, there were days that I struggled to breathe. When I was her air and she was my shadow, I had to remind myself to inhale patience and exhale prayer and count those tracks on the carpet as evidence of His lavish love.
And sometimes, when my hands were full but my soul waned empty, I dreamed of just being alone.
All alone without ceaseless chatter and crying and clutching.
Now and then, when the house grew quiet and the moonlight seeped silent through the windows, I’d collapse on the couch and give way to tears of sheer exhaustion. Because dying is often accompanied by tears, and that little girl of mine kept inviting me to daily death.
“I just want to run away,” I’d tell my husband who would inevitably offer to pack his bags and join me.
And if I didn’t cry harder, I’d laugh and tell him that even he wasn’t welcome on my get-away.
I wanted solace. With. Out. Anyone.
I was thinking about those late-night conversations as I watched that baby of mine walk proudly across the stage at preschool graduation.
And, once again, I found it hard to breathe. Because soon my wish will come true.
Soon, I’ll walk my unexpected gift into her brightly colored kindergarten room, and I’ll finally be all alone.
And for just a moment, I wanted to go looking for my missing little girl.
I wanted to turn back the clock and hold her on my lap and squeeze her tight between my arms and trip on her toes tangled beneath my feet.
But her smile was so proud and her eyes were so bright that I commanded my heart to be still and reminded my hands to remain open to all the joys to come.
And I realized once again that the hardest part of being a mom isn’t being squashed by love. It’s surrendering to Love.
The hardest part of motherhood is savoring today without fearing tomorrow.
It’s choosing to hold our children close in prayer while launching them far in faith.
The hardest part of motherhood is this delicate danceof embracing and releasing, relishing and relinquishing, clutching and catapulting.
And sometimes we get tangled in the tango, and we have to remind ourselves to breathe.
A preschool graduation certificate is hanging proudly on the silver refrigerator door and a big girl on a two-wheeler is hollering from the driveway.
I grab my shoes and race through the garage past that abandoned pink bike slumped lonely in the corner, it’s training wheels dusty and dull.
I peer down the driveway and spy my not-a-preschooler spinning happily around the culde-sac on her brother’s old red bike. And when she casts me a toothy grin, she bears an uncanny resemblance to a little girl who once refused to let me out of her sight.
But today she’s not clinging to my knees, she’s circling my feet, her rubbery black tires kicking dirt on my ankles.
And she’s still scripting my hours with plans and possibilities.
“Mom, let’s go! I’ll bike and you can catch me.”
She gives herself a push and begins to pedal away; then turns to offer a word of advice. “You’d better run as fast as you can, ’cause if you don’t, you might lose me….and then you’d be all alone.”
I take a deep breath as I watch my girl disappear over the hill, and I wonder for just a moment how I’ll ever keep up with all the changing steps of this crazy dance.
But that verse I highlighted on the crinkled pages of my Bible this morning echoes hopeful through my mind–
So I put my feet to the pavement and start racing after that pink-helmeted girl who is squealing happy just over the bend of the next hill.
And I murmur a prayer of thanks for the One striding ahead of me and running beside me and always following behind.
And with every breathless step, I let myself get lost. Lost in the wonder of a Savior who refuses to let me dance alone.