Stretch Marks

Purple marks surround my navel. Hidden under layers of clothes they are there, evidence of the burdens I’ve carried. Today my belly is tight again, filled with life that pokes, jabs, and rolls inside me. My midsection has reached the point where it cannot get any bigger without breaking. And so lately I can feel it–new layers of my own skin ripping apart to make room for the little being who lives inside me–the scars of tearing and healing.

It’s funny the place they’ve shown up. This small space around my belly button; the root which once connected me with my own mother. I wonder if there was a time she gazed down at her rounded abdomen and looked at me pushing her belly all out of shape, but loved me anyway, even though I was breaking her apart? Does she ever reflect on the scar that stretches across her body from where the doctors cut her open in order to save my life?

Shortly after my third baby was born someone asked me “did your third just break you? For me it was my second. My second kid just broke me. I just couldn’t do any more after that!” I smiled and laughed, but as I thought about it, I realized that, no, my newest baby hadn’t broken me. Three kids was certainly a lot of work and the transition was hard for our whole family, but my firstborn was really what broke me.

He was the one who interrupted me from myself and caused the break down and decay that comes with being a brand new mom. The sleepless night were the first hurdle. Then it was the fussy, highly-agile baby who walked at 7 months and turned every nap time into World War III. After that came the picky eating and defiant 2’s and 3’s that left me silently screaming at the top of my lungs and pulling my hair out as I doled out yet another bottomless portion of patience and endurance to simply make it through the next hour of coexisting with a toddler. I didn’t realize it then, but breaking–that’s what it was.

With each child I’ve been broken in new ways, each pregnancy leaving a purple scar to show for it’s labor. My belly is a soft, stretched out map of where I’ve been, and in some ways, it foretells where I have yet to go. Some marks have faded to a pale white, as though the years of mothering the child who left it behind has brought a purity to that once stained area of my soul.

The truth is that this shell of a body has shared its sacred space with five beautiful souls. Three in my home, one in my belly, and one resting with Jesus. I have had the privilege of cradling life five different times. I’ve experienced the honor that comes with being their mother, the challenge of watching them struggle to live in this world, and the heartache that comes from their pain which I cannot heal or fix or undo.

The marks I bare are not pretty. But they are truth. For me they symbolize something greater and are a constant reminder that new life requires stretching, sometimes beyond what’s comfortable or even possible. Life requires a sacrificial breaking down and dying to one’s own self. The stretching is an act of love. And new life will die without love.

And so today as I waddle about getting kicked in the ribs and endure the discomfort of my skin ripping apart underneath itself, I look at my navel with love. I know that beneath its surface lies a new creation; a world crowned with goodness and beauty. A safe haven, a tiny person wrapped inside the loving embrace of another. And right next to its beating heart is a tree of life; it’s job to provide nourishment to this new little human, who is so close to arriving. My belly is a picture of Eden, and part of me wishes this baby would never have to leave it. It’s a place full of potential, oneness, and bursting at every rounded corner with life and love. Painful and ugly as they might be, my stretch marks are a reminder of the sacrifice which makes it possible. They remind me not just of my own journey, but of the One who’s belly also bears a scar which made returning to Eden possible for me.

Sometimes love is best seen in the shape of a scar.

The Greatest Love Story of All

It is the greatest love story of them all, the story of your dad and me. It’s got all the things that make love stories so magnificent. A beauty who needs to be rescued. A brave and mighty hero, who gives everything up to save her. There is even a dragon of sorts, slayed of course, in the end. Yes, this is the story of your dad and me; it’s the story of all humanity. And one day, my three precious stones, I believe it will be the story of each of you.

Love is always at the threshold. Remember that. But darkening the doorway is the adversary, waiting to prey on our vulnerabilities. Waiting to dance in our blood.

Its been a year now since the time of my greatest wound. I was badly hurt and in great pain. Actually, we both were. Through a series of events and reactions– things we chose and also didn’t see coming–your dad and I ended up in a place neither one of us ever expected. Standing on two separate sides of a great chasm, drenched in our own tears, missing each other.

I was wounded because of my weakness and he because of his strength. But the perplexing part was that we had both let it happen. How could us–the dream team, the couple so deeply in love with each other, so together–end up so divided and alone?

In my weakness I sank into depression, giving up in sheer exhaustion while your father fought on. The battle was all around us. But the problem was that he wasn’t fighting for us. He was fighting for himself. And that was the source of my pain. I couldn’t face it or fix it or fill it up with distractions. So I prayed. I prayed until I was broken. I came to hate a part of your father which had attracted me to him in the beginning: his inventiveness, his tenacity, and his insatiable desire to forge his own way.

He was entrenched. A slave to the world we had made for ourselves; it’s risks and it’s payoffs. And lately, there had been far more of the former than the later. He loved the thrill of the chase more than the pursuit of my heart. It defined every bone in his body. Our life had robbed him of his peace. His joy. His physical health. He looked to it for his self-worth and his purpose. And the more it disappointed, the deeper he fell into the snare. His dreams consumed by the flame. Our life going up in smoke.

Because in his quest to triumph, he had forgotten me. He would do it without me, and hate himself for it. So I stood, watching him wage a pointless war. With the weapons of the world at his fingertips, the only way to ease the pain of his losses was to succeed, and he was failing miserably. And I, too tired from fighting against him, could no longer fight for him. Or for myself.

So there we were, almost nine years into a marriage and almost nine months into a pregnancy. We were disconnected, hurt, lost, and so incredibly worn down. We had tried it all. We sold our home, uprooted our family, traded in for a different life. But really, we were no better off. I spent the days hiding away in deep pain, festering the wounds that your dad never meant to inflict.

And somewhere in all this madness and corruption, Grace interrupted us both. Through the broken pieces of his dashed dreams and hopeless endeavors, he remembered me.

He saw me. Tired. Damaged. Broken in half, scared, pregnant and alone, and still desperately in love with him. And I saw him, rubbed raw from the abrasion of a warped sense of identity that had devoured all his substance.

And so all that was left were two tired people trying to hold together something that had once been so very good.

In our brokenness, a miracle occurred. Your father saw the beast on our doorstep, and me, too vulnerable and too weak to fight. He realized that to gain his life and his wife back, he had to give up himself; his dream of being this person he made for himself in his mind. Holding my hand, he gave me back his heart, while gently picking up the pieces of my own. Standing there in the rubble of our marriage, with a baby so close to arriving, he wept in grief.

And then (and this is the best part) he did what all good men must do; he fought for his beloved. But he did not fight with the weapon of the world as so many might do. He didn’t try harder, push longer, or endure further. That had already failed him. Instead, he laid himself down for his bride.

Repenting and returning to his God, he humbled himself. I stood, watching this transformation. Watching this previously hardened heart melt in the hands of its Maker. I watched him give up himself and gain back his life. It wasn’t an outward act of valor. No one but me saw what was really going on. But inside, your father slayed the great dragon. And he rescued me.

It has been a year since the day of our Exodus, a day in which your Dad confronted the greatest of his fears and courageously lead this family out of the oppression that choked us in its grip. He lifted his eyes from himself, saw the plight of those he loved most, and ran to the only One who can save, with the weight of us all riding on his shoulders.

Since that time a year ago, a boy has grown in stature and spirit. A daughter has risen in strength and song. A son–a miracle–has been born. And two very broken people have been made whole. Oneness mending our family, rooted in the sacrifice and love of than man you call “Dad.”

It’s the Greatest Love Story of All. It’s His story becoming the very definition of our own.

Reflections on Love ~ Love Grows

Boy, did I get this wrong. Loving is so hard.

When motherhood hit me like a ton of bricks, I thought I just needed to enjoyed the moment and cherished them. That somehow just smiling through it would be enough. But it’s not. Because love is not the sweet moments, giggles under a blanket fort, splashing in April puddles, or a tender kiss goodnight. Those ideal days are few and far between with two little stones; what’s real is the mundane, the endless teaching, their constant needs, and my own selfishness. Continue reading

Reflections on Love ~ Love Endures All Things

Sliding down the rope, my hands are raw from holding on. The constant uphill climb. I had a good grip at one point. I was solid. And then strength gave way. My fingers loosened. Just a little slip. No big deal. I can recover from this. So I look up, reaching for the knot above me. A resting point I can count on.

From out of nowhere, someone cuts away the knot at my feet. I slide down the rope with a jolt, catching myself from an instinct within. Don’t fall. Don’t let go. Don’t look down.

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Reflections on Love ~ Love is not Self-Seeking

Keeping little stones is a lot of work. An around-the-clock vigil that can break even the strongest. My daily walk with my two precious stones robs me of time. Their heaviness burdens my arms, leaving me sore and spent. Empty and drained.

“Take time for you” I hear. “Do the things you love. Take care of yourself.” A little me time.

” . . . Love is not self-seeking . . .” 1 Cor. 13:5 (NIV)

The words creep up on me, sneaking into view. I would rather pretend I don’t see them. How easy to place priority on myself. It requires no sacrifice or convincing; the guilt justified, after all, in a worthy cause. But in the end, Me time only leaves me wanting more of me. My own agenda. My own pastimes. My own space. Any refreshment it provides is only a temporary refill; my cup drained within hours.

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Reflections on Love ~ Love is not Jealous

Jealousy & envy–both original sins. We got kicked out of paradise for it . . . for wanting something we could not have. Engrained disobedience that started in the garden.

Love does not envy. But I do. Almost daily. Her abilities, his freedom, their bank account. Since our precious stones came along I’m often most jealous of a person I love deeply. Is that possible? To be envious of such an amazing gift? To wish I had his life? The ease of a day in a quiet office, plowing through piles of work without interruption. No one making a mess I just cleaned up. A day without tears. He said he’d be home by 5:15, and he walks in at 5:23. Selfishly I cringe. Eight extra minutes of solitude for him. Eight fewer for me. What dirty greed.

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