Seeing love

The minute I start thinking about how much work I’m getting done, whether I’m accomplishing enough in my business, if I’m on target to complete my goals for the month or year, or how clean the house is, I’ve lost the ability to exist in the present moment with my child. Worry robs me of enjoying life with Maggie. You’d think that acknowledging that would be enough to permanently rid me of obsessing over work, future plans, past failures, or to-do lists. But no. I still find myself wide-eyed with locked jaw, focused on matters which I know will not matter one single bit in 10 years… maybe not even in one year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we inch closer to the day she starts preschool—she’ll only go three mornings a week, so it’s not like she’s walking out the door and never looking back, but it still feels big to me—I am reminded that we’re turning a significant corner as a family. Every time she asks me to go sit on the porch with her in the evening to watch her turtle, a little box turtle my husband found for her, which she named, “Said,” I don’t want to say no. But I hesitate, knowing I have a client waiting for a resume. I hesitate because a friend is coming to stay with us for the weekend, and the house is far from clean or even sanitary right now. But I try to leave my worries behind and play anyway because I know I don’t say yes often enough.

There are too many times I’ve hesitated in the past or said no. And I have carried regrets for all of those times over the past few years. I refuse to carry regrets with me related to saying no to my daughter and her requests for my time, love, and attention. Will I say no to her when she asks for material possessions, demands freedom to explore unsafe areas of the world, and permission to push boundaries which are in place to protect her? Absolutely—I will always say no if it’s in her best interest. But I will say yes, yes, yes if she’s begging for more of my love.

I once heard a speaker say, “Whatever the question, love is the answer.”

The other night I was feeling pushed to my limits with Maggie. She had a hard day that day, and I’d had one, too, dealing with repeated frustration with her demands and defiance. I took a breather and stepped out of the bathroom while she finished her bath. I glanced at the wall and saw an old portrait my dad gave me years ago hanging on the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScripted on the portrait were the words, “I asked Jesus, ‘How much do You love me?’ And Jesus said, ‘This much.’ And He spread His arms and died for me.”

I took a deep breath and went back into the bathroom. Maggie splashed around in the water with her bath crayons happily and asked if I wanted to see the pictures she’d drawn of imaginary sea dragons, birds with their mothers, and Mama, Maggie, and Daddy. Of course I did.

I needed to see that portrait. I needed a reminder of just how much God loves me and my little Maggie, and to be reminded that there’s nothing I can do to mess that up. I needed to be reminded that there’s nothing Maggie can do to ruin my love for her and that’s all she needs to hear and see from me every day is a reminder of that Great Love, the kind of Love that holds out its arms all day long for us.

The table legs

A much younger version of my Chumbles

A much younger version of my Chumbles

I’m lucky enough to have several half-brothers, but I don’t see most of them often or at all. I’m fortunate to have a nephew by marriage who is now a big college kid, but he’s busy traveling the world and engineering monstrous machines and dating cute girls. I’m also blessed with another nephew, my firstborn niece or nephew, Joshua AKA Chumbles. At the mature age of almost 12, I’m sure he might be appalled that I’m sharing his nickname with the world via the internet.

I like to think that Joshua and I have a special bond. I was there when he was born (well, almost… apparently my antics and attempts to ensure my sister received an epidural and other drugs were not well-received by the medical staff, and I was relegated to the waiting room for the final moments of her delivery). For several years, I lived in the same town and was able to be THAT aunt–you know, the aunt who attends soccer practices, not just games. The aunt who takes more pictures than the exhausted mother. That aunt.

One Christmas, when Joshua was almost two years old, my family and I celebrated and sipped on cider together at my mom’s house. Joshua toddled around, entertaining all of us with his rendition of Frosty the Snowman, leading the entire family in a parade, carrying paper towel rolls to mimic the musical instruments of the boys and girls on the cartoon he loved watching so much. During post-dinner conversation in the dining room, our quiet chat erupted into a caterwaul. Joshua’s panicked screams filled the room–well, the house, really–and everyone came running to see what was the matter.

Joshua had cleverly discovered, by careful crawling maneuvers, that he could position himself directly in the center of the base of my mom’s retro dining table–you know, the type with the metal hoop connecting all four legs at the base. The hoop served as the perfectly sized circle to encase a curious two year-old boy. Unfortunately, once Joshua had managed to crawl inside the hoop and stand up, grasping onto two sides of the circle, he discovered that he had no idea how to reverse his actions and get out of the ring of terror surrounding him.

So he cried. Desperately. He was inconsolable. Being THAT aunt, I quickly dropped to the floor and tried to rescue my precious little guy from this predicament. I tried prying his hands gently from the metal hoop to no avail. I talked to him and reassured him that we would get him out of the precarious predicament. Finally, my mom and sister lifted up on the table, raising it off the floor while I simultaneously lifted Joshua up and quickly loosened the death grip his hands had on the table legs. I pulled him to my chest and held him. His sobs instantly subsided.

My sweet baby girl, three weeks old

My sweet baby girl, three weeks old

Last night, as I collapsed into bed under mounds of covers, I found myself doing what any good insomniac does–thinking, mulling over, contemplating, ruminating, and worrying. As I contemplated the fact that my daughter would turn one month old in two days, I felt overcome with sadness and fear. Where had the time gone? Had I spent it wisely? Had I appreciated each and every smile and sound emanating from her adorable body? If one month had elapsed so quickly, would I wake up tomorrow and realize six years had passed? Would she still love me when she became a teenager? What if something happened to her? What if I couldn’t prevent it? What if? WHAT IF?

Suddenly, the memory of Joshua crying and clenching those metal table legs came to mind. In the mysterious way that God does, and in a way I can’t rationally explain, I heard Him whisper to me.

“You have to let go before I can get you out.”

My fears and anxiety have kept me encircled and self-contained for years. And just like Joshua that day, my cries and worries and pleading are all in vain if I don’t release my grip on those table legs so that He can raise me up, pull me out, and hold me.

And when I let Him, the sobbing in my soul instantly subsides.