I hugged my squirming babies and breathed in the scent of innocence and dirt. I sniffled over the chopped carrots and garlic. Onion was nowhere to be seen. I hollered at a child to clean up his mess for the 7th time and sighed with pleasure at the simple fact that he was there to holler at. My heart ached to think of the mommies and daddies who were in the midst of planning Christmas presents and activities over the weekend for their little six year olds. Activities they'll never do. Presents they'll never open.
"Why, God, why?!?"
The world seems dark and hopeless. The value of life decreases daily with the legal murder of babies in the womb. They have little hearts pulsing real blood by six weeks old. Life blood.
Children wither away from neglect or abandonment in some countries. For some there isn't enough food to sustain their growing bodies. For some, terrible war signifies the cold end.
And dark red stains cold linoleum in the quiet halls of a school in Connecticut this morning. Life blood. Irremediably spilled. Life done.
I have such plans for my children. I hope that they will grow taller than me (not tomorrow, but soon.) I want them to master riding a bike without training wheels. Camping under the stars with Daddy. Knowing their multiplication tables. Reading chapter books for fun. Staying up too late with their friends. Driving a car - well. Learning tact. Cutting a straight line. Cooking. Doing their own laundry. Treating girls like princesses. Holding their first paycheck. Graduating. Bringing home the woman of their dreams to meet the parents. Giving me my first grandchild.
But perhaps they won't. Perhaps these are just my plans for my sons. Perhaps God's plans for them will be complete sooner than I expect. Jesus welcomes little children into His arms everyday, saying, "Welcome. I'm expecting you." Even then He holds the pieces of the mother's broken heart tenderly in His hands and abhors along with her the evil that caused the end.
To Him, it isn't a life cut short. It is simply the end. Complete.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Rather than "hope," some versions render it "an expected end."
We cannot surprise God. We cannot get away from His ultimate plans. I think I can sometimes. Jonah tried. Even in the bottom of the ocean, surrounded in the darkness by gastric juices and partially digested fish, God was there. David wrote about it.
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. Psalm 139:16
God has planned out every second of our lives. It is written and set in stone. Six day's worth for some. Six years for others. Sixty for others. Each life, prepared in advance. Each life, purposeful. Each life, precious.
There's an old Puritan prayer the Pilgrims likely knew at the inception of our nation. It was the cry of my own heart early this morning. But they said it better.
O God, I cannot endure to see the destruction of my kindred. Let those that are united to me in tender ties be precious in thy sight and devoted to thy glory. Sanctify and prosper my domestic devotion, instruction, discipline, example, that my house may be a nursery for heaven.
(From page 209 of The Valley of Vision, A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett.)
O that I would treat every day of my and my children's life with the same purpose and preciousness that You intend, Lord!
Never thought that would be in the baby book.
Last night, I watched my five year old at his first basketball practice ever. I don't think we own a basketball. Yet. He stood, alone in the midst of the general mayhem of kindergarteners on the court, trying to dribble a ball. Bounce. Smack. Bounce. Repeat. If sheer will could have forced the ball to submit to his untrained fingers, it would have been easy. But will isn't enough, no matter what the movies say.
It's not glorious. In the sport, dribbling is merely the littlest accomplishment. It doesn't earn you any game points. But you must start there.
Tonight, my almost two year old concentrated as he took his halting first turns of little tires. Older brothers squabbled for a turn to push him, but we had to hold them back. Let him do it. Let him feel movement of his own labor. Alone in the midst of adoring older ladies at a store, he glowed with the accomplishment of moving forward. A whole tire rotation. Baby steps. Baby wheels.
At home, he crashed delightedly into the refrigerator. What a lovely feeling of power.
It feels like there is a little toddler in my house, for the fourth time.
He will get himself stuck like every toddler (only this time, mostly in the laundry room, because the house slopes that way.)
He'll realize he's tall enough to knock things off shelves, crack his head against the dining room table, empty the contents of mysterious drawers that had always before been just over his head.
He'll get fast enough to steal toys from his brothers and take off. He'll get stuck on the thresholds, but the brief chase will be glorious.
So today, my baby's learning to wheel.
I am so proud.
Time to toddler proof after all. And, as a friend said, invest in steel toed boots for the whole family.