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Over the Hill, Not Empty-handed

Over the Hill, Not Empty-handed

I’ve passed the threshold.

No, it’s not the “over the hill” mark, although it certainly is that, too. This birthday has marked a new place in my life that I never thought I’d reach –

The age of 40 without any more children.

Since Dominic, I’ve just known, somewhere deep, that I would have more children by the time I was 40. 38 passed, and then 39. Then the pregnancy that I knew was God’s promise came and I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I at least had a baby on the way before the dreaded “Give-it-up-you’re-too-old-to-be-a-baby-mama” birthday.

Yeah, that didn’t work out so well: Strike two and I’ve still only got two batters on base.

So, I’m here…at the halfway mark, and no babies. 2 beautiful girls, yes, who are growing into young ladies much too quickly. But seeing them just reminds me – I’m 40. 40 year olds have tweens and young ladies, not babies.

Not babies.

There has been a tremendous sense of grief around this, for me.

I don’t mind being 40, in and of itself. In fact, I like where I am in many respects, at this point in my life. I know who I am. I know my strengths and my flaws, and I no longer feel the need to pretend like my flaws don’t exist.  I have a much better sense of what matters and what doesn’t, in this life, now. I have both a deeper respect for life and less of a hold on the life of this world than I ever did before. I have learned the value of choosing what is right over what I feel, and have come a long way in being able to revel in the moment I am in, rather than constantly look for something better in the future. No, it’s not 40 that I mind.

What I mind is being 40 without having any more babies.

Babies are for the young..and I am no longer young.

My Plan is Shot

I’ve been grieving this day in an unofficial capacity ever since the miscarriage in December. Although I know that there’s not technically anything different about the day I turn 40 than the day before when I was 39 and 364 days old, it feels different. And, in some ways, I suppose it really is different.

It’s the day that marks my life officially being off script from where I desired it.

I’ve always had a plan. Every month, waiting for signs that it might be “this month”, I would convince myself of how that particular month would be the perfect one to get pregnant. July would be a great due date because it would be a reminder of God’s promise of new life in the month that Dominic was born. August would be a great due date because it would be some sort of poetic justice for his loss that month. September would be great because it’s the start of a new school year and would be symbolic of the start of a new chapter in our lives. October would be perfect because fall is my favorite time of year and the season that I most miss Dominic – because of all the plans I had in walking around farms with him in my woven wrap. November would be perfect because…

You get the picture. Apparently God didn’t get on board with my sense of poetic timing.

Instead, He has shown me, “My plans are not your plans”. And now I have passed the point I have dreaded most – being 40 without any prospect of more children.

I have, officially, not gotten what I wanted.

I have fought it, all the way. I have prayed and cajoled and begged and huffed and cried and had tantrums. I have reminded God to look in my heart and know just how much faith I have in Him that He can give me more children. I’ve even pulled out the, “How could you ignore my KIDS’ prayers for more babies?!” manipulation.

But I’m here. I’ve passed the deadline. It didn’t happen. And although there has been plenty of grief and soul-searching around that fact for me, ironically, I also feel…

an odd sense of freedom.

In a Brave New World

First, there is definitely sadness. But I have decided that I am just sick of living in sadness, and that I am not willing to miss out on what I DO have because of mourning what I don’t. Grief just gets exhausting after a while, and kind of annoying – like a morose song that plays over and over and over until you’re so sick of it you’ll do anything to hear something different. I will not stay there, in that depression, the rest of my life, babies or no babies. There is just entirely too much great music out there, to spend it replaying the dirge incessantly. So, I’m going to choose to dance, the best that I can.

It’s like I’m in a brave new world. A world I don’t know, can’t anticipate, and am completely unable to manipulate. My plans are shot, and I don’t really know what to do with that. I now walk each day without a deadline that I’m working against, without a script to follow. I have KNOWN that I was going to have more children, that I was going to homeschool them, and that my world was going to be one of raising little people into becoming disciples of Christ. Now I…

What am I going to be, exactly?

There is something both wholly frightening and oddly emancipating about not being in control of any of it. So, yes, there is not only sadness – but an odd sense of freedom as well. It’s this sense of no longer having to live under the pressure of what I needed to have happen, so my life could be the orderly, controlled framework I needed it to be. I honestly have no idea what He has planned for me, now. And while I grieve the loss of my dreams, I also welcome the freedom that comes from walking in anticipation of what He is going to do next.

No more stressing about getting pregnant by 40. It’s passed, and it didn’t happen. And, as a result, for the first time, I am really, honestly, looking at the reality of a world for me that does NOT include more babies.

That puts me in a new place, spiritually.

I have not been able to truly accept the idea of a life without more children, before now. My world simply had to include more children, for me to be able to live in it. I’ve postulated what I would do if the answer is “no”, but I haven’t really had to live it. Now I do.

For the first time since Dominic, I can truly follow where He leads, without my preconceived notions.

Surrender

Oswald Chambers wrote:

“Beware of surrender that is motivated by personal benefits that may result. Our motive for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all. We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself. It is like saying, “No, Lord, I don’t want you; I want myself. But I do want You to clean me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I want to be on display in Your showcase so I can say, ‘This is what God has done for me.’ ” Gaining heaven, being delivered from sin, and being made useful to God are things that should never even be a consideration in real surrender. Genuine total surrender is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself.”

I don’t want to be here. I want my plan, my children, my babies, my promise. But this is where “Leave all you have and follow me” hits the road. This is what the price of grace is. This is where we find out if we truly love Jesus or if we just want what He will give us.

Do I truly seek His face, or only His hand?

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27

Hate = be willing to leave behind, for Him. Even children. Even baby plans.

Yes, I have learned that becoming His disciple means walking where He walked – willing suffering. But even more than that…To be His disciple, NOTHING can come before Him. Not my God-given desire for more children. Not my grief over my lost children. Not my plans for my future. Not my control.

He will keep working on me until nothing comes before Him. Nothing. And ooooh, it is hard work, indeed.

“He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:59-63

I’ve said enough goodbyes, and I’ve buried my dead long enough. It’s time to look forward, and to follow where He is leading instead of my own family plan.

So what does obedience, in this, mean for me, at 40 with no babies?

I am working on figuring that out – but I believe it means being present in the here and now, in His presence, each moment, rather than trying to plan what it means for the future.

I think it means getting up every morning and finding the joy in teaching my daughters, today – in the opportunity I have with them in this moment, to impact their personhood and to simply relish who they are. I think it means taking a ride in my new vehicle and thanking the Lord for the incredible monetary blessing He has provided that makes it possible for me to have it, and translating that gratitude into tangible giving to others. I think it means studying scripture more diligently this evening so that I am better prepared to meet the sophistry of our culture head on, and so that I can illuminate truth whenever there is an opportunity. I think it means planting new shrubs in my front yard while marveling at the intricacy and beauty He has created, and lifting my eyes to Him in awe and praise. I think it means making calls to service providers for a woman in need, this afternoon, and garnering resources to help her take steps to become self-sufficient.

I think it means visiting my son’s grave, but not living there – shifting my focus from what I want the Lord to do for me to what He wants to do in me and through me.

I am 40, and I don’t have anymore babies. Maybe, now, I can finally release control.

Not Empty Handed

What is going to become of me, when I do?

“And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed.” Deuteronomy 15:13

Just as God commanded the Israelites, in the year of Jubilee, to release their slaves with blessings from their abundance, He will not release me from my enslavement to my baby plan empty-handed. I have no idea what He has up His sleeve, and I simply cannot imagine how it could possibly be better than my baby plan.

But it will be.

Because Jesus never releases us from something without releasing us to something greater.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

because the Lord has anointed me

to… proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners…

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

a planting of the Lord

for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61

Maybe I have been more enslaved than I knew. Maybe it has taken being 40 years, 2 baby deaths, with my plans for children shot, to become free.

I don’t know; frankly, I just feel over the hill.

All I can do is pray that the loss of my plans means there is space now for His.

Maybe – hopefully – that’s what it takes to get me into the best shape of my life to be used by Him.

 

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