I cannot believe that my youngest is six today. I cannot believe that he stands so tall and talks so loud and eats the tops off of all of his broccoli. I can’t believe he sees as well as he does, that he breaths without assistance, or that he isn’t on some special life-saving diet. I can’t believe that we don’t routinely see doctors anymore. And I can’t believe that he started kindergarten this year. He loves to throw a football, play his cello, wear excessive amounts of keys on his belt loops, and generally insists on being included in all activities at any hour. Where he comes from, I’m still not sure. I simply see him as one more miracle on our Brower family tree.
That family tree. Something I surrendered a long time ago. But not before I had done a whole lot of flailing that first half of my adult life. What a lot of pride I had pivoted back on when things blistered and I didn’t have answers, but also, didn’t step down. What a lot of power I thought I had, until…..until it was a matter of life and death. Until I stood over the grave of our first born son. A limb, ripped off the tree of who we were trying to become. We were caught in a storm we were never prepared for nor would surrender too.
In the weeks, months, and years that followed Charlie’s death, our visceral cry slowly faded into a shadowy place. We neither lived nor died. We simply rotated through the day hours and tossed through the night. We wept, we worked, we weaned ourselves off of self-control and slowly, ever so slowly, we picked two topics to wake too. Surrender…and gratitude.
What followed was a life we never would have been open too, had we simply stayed in that broken pattern of wake and sleep. Seemingly out of no where, came a son through adoption, and then, while that son was still running around in diapers, I, with my dad and siblings, laid my beautiful Mama to rest.
Each of these events would coalesce into the vital moment of my ultimate surrender. The morning I discovered I was pregnant with Judah. My smallest son. My tiny, unexpected, silent surprise. Had I not opened my hands wide across the kitchen table and surrendered EVERYTHING that day, well, the question looms large. Would we be celebrating his sixth birthday today?
Judah’s journey came on the heels of a year and a half of journaling all the things I was grateful for. A book sent from a friend had challenged me to give thanks in ALL things. To jot down all of my gifts from God. I would come alive, a new vein pulsing in my jagged flesh. I would slow the historically hectic pace of my American life to begin my homeschool journey. I would walk the path of the farm field and dig into the soil of the earth and breath the fresh air of this new found life. I would surrender.
There is much to be said for that moment when, though pain and fear oppress, surrendering can light up a difficult space. What if I had not surrendered my life and Judah’s life while I sat half-naked on the end of an exam table? Six months pregnant and dilating. What if I had not surrendered when a doctor chopped words into my audio existence that today would probably be the first and last day of my baby’s life? What if I had not surrendered short words into cyber space, requesting prayers from family, with no other information tailing the last begging word…’please’? What if I had not surrendered him when delivering doctors gave us a choice, hold him, or attach him to five machines and see if he’ll live? What if I hadn’t surrendered our home to live in a hotel room? What if I hadn’t turned our homeschool into hospital-school? And what if I hadn’t surrendered my life-giving milk to the freezer, while Judah lived on TPN and Lipids? What if I had given up and given in and dumped everything down the drain? Would it have been the draining of my hope, my heart, my higher-calling? But what I had learned through all of my gratitude journaling, was that a feast can be had on simply a handful of crumbs. When what appears to be morsels too small for many, become the very bread of life for a mama watching her milk drip slowly out of a syringe into the pea size stomach of her tiny infant son.
Without surrender and gratitude, I would have found sorrow, depression, misery. I would have gone back to flailing like a small child. I would have resurrected that deep cry of aphotic gloom. I may have even been able to destroy our newly erected family tree.
I thank God that He came and stood over our little Judah. I am grateful that He held my tear-stained face between His hands and reminded me to stop weeping, “…Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory…” (Revelation 5:5 NLT). I am overwhelmed by the journey of surrender, and am often stilled by the view of our branch secured to the once broken vine.
Surrender. If you are seeking joy, then what must you surrender so that joy can begin it’s fulfilling? Gratitude. What might you come alive to in your own life, if you really learned how to be thankful in all things?
Our smallest son turns six today. And I am convinced that Judah is the letter of gratitude my Father sent back to me after watching me turn journal pages of praise up to Him.
“In the distant future, when you are suffering all these things, you will finally return to the Lord your God and listen to what he tells you.” (Deuteronomy 4:30 NLT).
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT ).