This is by my oldest child, Stephanie.
Thirty-five years ago today a little bundle just over 8 ½ pounds gushed into my world. My life was changed forever. I was only 19 and had spent nine long months hating my life. Pregnancy was the last thing I wanted, and I was convinced I’d ruined my life. In early pregnancy the thought of an abortion comforted; I imagined it a solution. I received a poem from someone – who knew nothing of my situation – and one of the lines of the poem was “I want this day to bring good, not evil.” Somehow, even though I had a hard heart and a thorough hatred for my situation, that line spoke to me and I knew I couldn’t abort her. I still loathed my circumstances and spent the remainder of the pregnancy hoping for a miscarriage. When a miscarriage didn’t come, I hoped for a stillbirth. The darkness in my soul was profound and had I had the courage, I would have committed suicide. There was not a fiber in my being that wanted to be a mom.
Imagine my shock when they laid that squirming warm body on me and I was immediately head-over-hills in love. I still had more emotional issues than I could shake a stick at, but one thing was certain: I was madly in love. I had no words to articulate my thoughts, but I knew I wanted something better for Stephanie than I presently had to offer. I know now that those thoughts were a prayer. God took those thoughts – which I couldn’t even unravel into words – and drew me to Him. I didn’t have a clue how to start, but that’s when my journey to God began. Since that day 35 years ago, my journey with God has sustained me through everything. I’ve committed horrible, grievous sins, but God has never shaken me off. Journeying with Him is what gives my life meaning.
So today, when normally I’d want to wish my sweet baby Stephanie a simple Happy Birthday, I wanted to share something a little deeper. My crisis 35 years ago turned into the greatest watershed moment of my life. It turned into one of the greatest blessings and sources of joy in my life.
For those who have had an abortion, I do not judge you. I say everything I’m saying not to condemn those who’ve had abortions, but rather to extend hope to those who find themselves in that situation now or in the future. Because of Stephanie, the topic of abortion is personal. Where would I be without her? She changed the trajectory of my life. I cannot imagine this world without her; the good she’s done, the life she’s chosen, the lives she’s touched . . . My crisis passed and nobody had to die. If you find yourself in a crisis, please know, it will pass. It may be excruciatingly difficult, but no one needs to die. Choose life.
Happy birthday, my darling Stephanie. Thank you for letting me share a bit of our story. I love you.
I sit on Stacie's porch and enjoy the quiet and beautiful North Carolina nature show. I will sorely miss this quiet-time spot when I go home in a few days. This is a foretaste of heaven. I'm so thankful for the reprieve from real life.
It's Mothers' Day. I'm thankful for all the mothers who have positively influenced the way I mother. Mama! I'm thankful for the hurdles she overcame and/or at least wrestled, to bring us up with values, conviction, humor, work ethic, warmth and smiles. She taught us manners which I didn't really appreciate until more recently. She modeled prayer and Bible reading and it was a powerful model and I'm grateful. Now I'm ear deep in raising teenagers and appreciate Mama's efforts more.
I am so disillusioned with motherhood. I want my kids to know my deep love for them. Gordon has told me a number of times that they don't feel I love/like them. It's a preposterous notion. I hope it's his idea and not theirs. My kids have all taught me special things and I adore each one in a different way. They're all so different and bless me in different ways. I'm thankful for the variety.
Stephanie's birth shocked my "old man" to death and brought forth the bones of this "new man," new creation. I'll ever marvel and be grateful for the profound spiritual awakening God brought to me through her warm, pink little body.
Full bodied and quite upset after the birth ordeal, Christopher was precious and sweet. I was shocked yet again by the intensity of this love called motherhood! I was a great mom to Christopher those first four years and when I saw him over the years after that. But as I only realized in the past six or seven years, he felt abandoned by me when I lost custody of him. Will this pain, his or mine, ever subside? Probably not in this life. Something about fallen man, sin nature, imperfect world . . . I get it. I just wish it were different. I wish he could know the intensity of my love. It's still there.
I'm thankful God let me be a mom. I tried so hard, put my heart and soul into it and it seems I've failed on every front. Deborah is an absolute mess. Rachael and Hannah have thrown all our values away. I feel like an incredible failure as a mom and I'm so puzzled why it went so wrong. I sought hard after God. I read parenting books, took parenting courses; prayed, taught them Scripture and applied the principles therein, homeschooled. Why is it all so f----- up? I don't understand and it hurts so, so badly. I expected to be so proud of my girls' choices at this time in life. I expected them to be pure, making good choices, etc.
Mothers' Day. I know this will pass. But today all I'm thinking is how all my mothering seems to have gone awry and I'm confused and disillusioned. Maybe someday it will all make better sense. Today is not that day.
2. I will be with Avery and Romie Boy all of October. Isn't that special? I can't wait to play I Spy, have a picnic, bake cookies and go for walks with Roman. We will have so much good bonding time, because that's what Beppies do.
3. I can't wait to hold Avery and sit with her in the porch swing. She'll be one month old and plenty old enough to think I'm the softest Beppie going.
4. Roman was traumatized (in Beppie's sense of the word) in a church nursery recently. Not his church's nursery, but another one. Now he's afraid of his old fun, familiar nursery.
5. I'd like to visit the nursery-worker that traumatized him and give her a piece of my mind. Because I'm mature and grandmotherly, I'd weigh my words really carefully. I'd say something like, "I'm Roman's Beppie," and then I'd kick her really hard in the shin.
6. But I won't be visiting her. And she can keep the shin guards at home.
7. Every day I'm getting closer to finishing Roman's I-Spy-With-My-Little-Eye quilt. I have to say it's not very pretty, but I'm hoping it'll be very fun.
8. Hannah's bedroom is right next door to my sewing room. We meet in the sewing room nearly every night to play like we're playing with Roman.
I spy with my little eye a donkey dressed up all snazzy-like.
I spy with my little eye a monkey with an umbrella.
I spy with my little eye a puppy.
If everything goes according to plan, this quilt will be Roman's forever-attachment to Beppie and give him hours and hours of fun. Lordy, I hope. I'll be sorely disappointed if he's not interested in I Spy with My Little Eye.
9. But I would never kick him in the shins.
10. It's been a long time since I saw Roman. The last time I saw him he was in the "whazat?" stage. He's long past that, but in our minds he's still there. In mine and Hannah's evening I Spy game, we always point at something and whisper, "whazat?".
11. Roman is very loved.
12. He talks in his sleep. Isn't that cute?
13. He loves Madagascar, the movie. He laughs in all the right spots. They went to the zoo on Sunday and instead of calling the zebra a zebra, he called him Marty.
I know I'm going past 13, but it's Roman...
15. Today at the hospital a nurse took Avery away to take her blood. Roman cried and said, "No, no!" to her.
16. The first time he saw Avery he touched and patted her and rubbed his chubby little fingers on her head and said, "tickle tickle."
17. That sweetness is almost too much for this Beppie to contain in her heart. It makes my eyes leak.
And isn't this a charming picture of Stephanie and John Mark?
I had a lovely visit with Stephie Pooh last night. I love to hear her stories of Roman's growth and development and always find a bit of cuteness in her stories of his mischief. Being a grandma sure is different than being the mother.
She told me things she's learning and I was pleased to hear of her own growth and maturity as a little homemaker, wife and mother. Why do those things please me so? It's all delightful to hear about. It's like a refreshing glass of iced tea on a hot summer day. Smile...
Romie Boy throws fits now. Who'd thunk it? He's a mere mortal with a sinful nature. As she and John Mark struggle through how to train him in a Godly path, I am thankful that I know everything will be OK. They are going to hit and miss the mark so many times just like the rest of us, and yet because of the grace of God, Roman is going to be OK. He's going to be a normal little boy but he already knows how very special he is and how loved he is. Could I ask for more?
Roman has thrown a few fits and the times where Stephanie "got firm" with him only served to make him angry. She told me of one little fit where she felt like God gave her wisdom. When he started his one-year-old anger bit, she remembered the verse, "A soft answer turns away wrath." She got down on his level and softly chastised him. Amazingly it worked.
Isn't God good to give little snippets of wisdom to us struggling moms? He did it for my mom, for me, and now he's doing it for Stephanie. I'm thankful.
Last night I was cleaning out my purse and came across the last of my U.S. money from my trip south.
When I went I had a small wad of traveler's cheques. About 1 1/2 weeks before I came back home, I used the last one. I had a Visa and a bank card with me, but the spending money was used up.
When I gave the cashier lady my last $50 traveler's cheque, she gave me $2.83 in change. For some reason I got terribly tickled right there. Stephanie was beside me and I showed her my wealth and said, "This has to do me till I get back to Canada." I laughed at my remark till I couldn't hardly stand myself.
The next day Stephanie and I headed out to the middle of nowhere to a gigantic craft sale called War Eagle. It's really really big, but Stephanie and I didn't know just how big it was. We drove and drove sure we had the wrong directions. Then seriously in the middle of nowhere we came to this huge mass of tents, cars, parking directors and the like. We surely weren't expecting such a big deal. We had assumed that the place we were going would be closer to civilization and ATMs. We were mildly stressed by the overwhelm of being so much farther from home than we anticipated, the huge crowd, no money, and getting there just an hour before closing time.
We quickly shot through tents trying to see as much as we could before it closed. War Eagle was amazing, way too amazing for one hour.
We were starving too. There was roasted corn-on-the-cob and I wanted one. I was shocked to learn one ear of corn was $4. I don't remember what Stephanie was thinking about getting, but it didn't matter. She had $1 in cash. I still had my $2.83.
Once we saw our money wouldn't buy us anything and confirmed that the concessions didn't take bank cards I said, "Well, if we pool our money, maybe we can buy a tootsie roll."
We were in and out of Arkansas's biggest craft sale in 43 minutes.
Stephanie and I were looking at panties at the store. I picked up a set of five thongs that had phrases on them. One pair said "kiss me," another said "love me," etc. I pretended that I was buying them for Stephanie. She said, "I don't do panties with messages." When I asked why she said, "Well, if my panties are on that's where they're staying. If they're off, well, that's the message."
Stephanie recently told me about some of her unrealistic desires and expectations prior to Roman's arrival. I was amused by these as I did the exact same thing with every single pregnancy. I got grandiose ideas of things that had to be done before I could possibly have a baby. Before Stephanie's birth I had to wallpaper above the kitchen cupboards. So at 41 weeks pregnant (she came at 42 weeks) I lumbered up and down the kitchen counters wallpapering.
I was so tickled to learn that others, Stephanie namely, got these same weird ways of thinking during the last days of pregnancy.
For one, Stephanie insisted that her back yard be fenced before Roman came. She fretted and spoke openly about this need. Her father-in-law saw the obvious flaw and eloquently suggested that Roman wouldn't be playing in the backyard for a while.
Another thing that Stephanie insisted on was looking good for delivery. This tickled me too, as I rolled my hair and put on makeup before I went to the hospital for Stephanie and Christopher's births.
Stephanie told me about getting a new hair cut "for delivery." Post-birth she saw how silly this was. She said, "I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I thought he was going to come out and say 'Wow, are you ever cute!'"
I'm having a great time with Stephanie and John Mark and, of course, Romie Boy. Steph, JM and I have laughed lots. Romie Boy is so cute, cuddly, and sweeter than honey. He has definitely charmed this Beppie.
Stephanie is a woman, a real woman. Wife, mother, nurse, cook, cleaner,... I'm so thankful that she is able to be home with Roman most of the time. She only works a couple nights a week and Roman is with John Mark during those times. I'm proud of them for their priorities.
I went to Christopher's last weekend. I enjoyed him enormously. I went to his football game and mourned that I couldn't go to more. I got a tour of his dorm room and a quick tour of the campus.
My time in Arkansas is coming to an end soon. Stacie will be here in a couple days. I can't wait to see her. All the family is getting together at Diane's then. I'll see nearly everyone. We'll laugh our heads off, no doubt.
I miss my hubby and girls up in Canada. How I wish we all lived closer. Last night I cried thinking about leaving here. How can I leave? How can I not? Life can be so hard. I am tired to death of living two lives, having two families. I want us all together.
I'm having a great time in Fayetteville. Christopher is with us now and we are laughing lots and watching lots of football. The guys are on their third football game today. I didn't know three games a day was something people did. But these men are definitely hooked. We had lunch with my sister Diane yesterday. When I mentioned the football enthusiasts to her she said, "Football is like a cult here."
A while ago the kids were talking about a publicized incident that happened on a school bus on the way home from a soccer game. Stephanie and I got pretty fired up about it and John Mark and Christopher seemed to think little of it. Stephanie ranted, "You guys don't know what goes on on a school bus."
Christopher, who's ridden lots of school buses to and from football games, calmly said, "Stephanie I know exactly what goes on on a bus. I've actually ridden 'em, unlike you."
John Mark is really into sports. I was surprised to learn that Stephanie doesn't particularly like going to baseball and football games. She told me what it's like to go to the games, walking through mud and dirt. It sounded pretty lame and I thought I'd missed the point. For clarity I asked what about the games she doesn't like. Without hesitating she said, "I can't wear cute shoes."
Stephanie is a nursing mom and has learned like all the others who've nursed babies that breast feeding temporarily does things to one's anatomy that one may not like.
She told me about someone talking about Angelina Jolie's breasts. Stephanie responded, "I have breasts like that too except my nipples are the size of dinner plates.
No one can possibly believe how precious Roman is. He is so very very precious. He doesn't mind his Beppie holding him -- so long as he can still see his mommy. Boy oh boy, does he ever love her! All she has to do is look at him and he kicks excitedly and smiles.
After supper John Mark held Roman and he fell asleep and slept contentedly in his daddy's arms. It was beautiful. Beautiful.
Today is my baby daughter's 8th birthday. It feels unreal that once upon a time Deborah was not a part of our lives. Nor does it seem that eight years ago today she lay on my chest for the first time. That day was filled with so many wonderful memories. It seems almost poetic that my 14-year-old Stephanie was the first of us to see Deborah draw her first sweet breath of life. Still behind the blue sheet that separated Deborah from us, Gordon and I missed that virgin intake of breath, but Stephanie took it all in with sacred joy and awe.
Now Stephanie is going to deliver her little Roman any day. I wish I could be there to see his first moments. Some day she'll be the mother writing his birthday story. As I write this, my mind is divided among three precious lives: Deborah who is eight today; Stephanie about to push a new life into our world and feel the mammoth changes in the way she perceives life; and little Roman who will soon draw his first breath. Thinking of those things, I feel like I'm penning sacred thoughts.
I remember so well seeing Stephanie standing behind the glass watching the c-section. Her eyes were wide, her face radiant, and wearing nurse's scrubs for the first time. Another precious memory of that summer morning of eight years ago.
Over the past few days, I've recalled many sweet memories in Deborah's eight years. When she was barely one, we drove to Colorado to visit my sister's family. Deborah was a phenomenal baby traveler. I'd heard nightmarish stories of families taking trips with their children and how they screamed for hours and hours. We basked in pride over our parenting skills and how we had produced a baby who traveled so well. Surely, we thought, this good fortune had something to do with our terrific wisdom and advanced parenting abilities.
Our Deborah made it to Colorado with patience and long suffering. On the return trip she sat in her car seat seemingly content as we toured Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. We got in and out of the van, took pictures and enjoyed a couple tourist spots. Then suddenly, as we walked toward the van, it was as though someone flipped a switch on our sweet baby's back. When she saw our van that we were walking toward, she started flailing, screaming, kicking, and slamming her head on my chest. The hazel-eyed baby that had given me many reasons for parental pride, had morphed into a red-eyed, rage-filled, screaming demon-ette.
(Deborah and Hannah at one of our favorite summer spots. 2004)
Her cheery mood quickly spread to Rachael and Hannah and soon there were three little girls trying to break up their parents' marriage. Gordon and I had never experienced such outbursts from one child, much less three at the same time. We started screaming at each other trying to navigate this new dynamic of family life. Stephanie and Christopher looked on in shock at the way our family was falling apart with little warning. (After recovery, Stephanie said, "Wow, I'd never seen ya'll talk to each other like that").
Later when someone asked Christopher what the highlight of his trip was, he quickly responded, "When Mama gave the girls Gravol in Yellowstone." Yes, I ended up doping my little angels.
When we finally unloaded our human/demon-ette occupants in our driveway, my girls returned to their previous disposition.
Roughly six months later, the girls and I flew back down to Colorado where we met all my family for Thanksgiving. Deborah won hearts as she'd go to the kitchen and look up at the strangers who were aunts, uncles, and cousins and say "dink peez." So politely she used the few words she knew when asking for a drink of water. "Dink peez," she'd say softly. If no one responded, she'd say it a little louder. If still no one responded, she raised her eyebrows, stood on her tippy toes and more assertively said, "DINK PEEZ." In the end, she always got her water.
(Just before leaving for Brownie camp)
Deborah loved to be rocked, sang to, and cuddled. Once she asked me to sing "Amazing Grapes" as we rocked.
When she was two, I started discouraging her nursing. She didn't nurse but a couple times a day, but she was pretty serious about it. I told her that we were going to rock and sing, but we were going to quit doing "breasties." She was thoroughly confused. They were all one and the same to her. But she soon comprehended the new way. On about the third day, she asked if she could have "breasties." When I told her we were not doing that again, she put her index finger and thumb about 1/2 inch apart and asked, "Just a little bit peez?" My heart ached, but we stood firm.
Of the girls, she's the most girly. She loves to dress-up, play with little girl make-up, have make-overs, wear high heels. More than once we've arrived at church to find her in her little play high heels instead of real shoes. When she was four, she was in the washroom when church started. We were near the front when she entered. The pastor ceased the opening call to worship, went silent as he smiled at our little Deborah entering the sanctuary. All eyes fell on her as she walked determinedly down the aisle with her Fisher Price high heels on, a purse strapped over her shoulders, and a fresh application of lip gloss. When I realized things were silent because of Deborah's entrance, I was thoroughly pleased to see the sea of smiling faces as they watched her. She was oblivious to the attention she was commanding.
Deborah is a very kind person. She's gentle, considerate, and polite. She is a social butterfly, always ready for personal interaction. Right now she and her Daddy are out of a birthday date, having lunch together. In a few hours, Beppe' will come over and we'll have yet another birthday meal. At her request, quiche is the main dish.
Dear God, I'm so very thankful that you let me be Deborah's mother. I'm thankful for the life you've given her, for the safety and health you've blessed her with. She has given us so much joy and I'm thankful. Thank you for loving her more than I am capable of. Thank you for loving her enough to give your Son for her. More than anything, I ask You to continue to draw Deborah to You. Give her a tender heart that always follows hard after You. Draw her into a life of being a student of Your word and a pray-er. Give her a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Equip her with all she needs to be a leader in doing what is right and standing against what is wrong. Help her to be a lover of the things You love. Thank You. Amen.
After finishing his treats, Christopher asked Stephanie for a drink. She kindly obliged and he took a hefty drink.
With marked annoyance she complained, "Ugh, gross! Look at all that backwash. Who would want this?"
Seizing the opportunity, Christopher optimistically piped, "I WOULD."
My granny died of breast cancer in 1985. The cancer had been untreated for years and her breast were huge and hard as rocks. They were so huge with tumors that they had split open. Her neck was swollen too as the tumors had spread into her throat. She was in horrible pain.
She lived in a nursing home and I saw her every day for the last couple months of her life. Stephanie was a newborn and was always with me when I'd go see Granny. Granny loved to see Stephanie and called her "my baby."
As Granny deteriorated, we knew it was just days or maybe hours until she died. She was mostly unconscious for the last week or two. As she lay there, mostly asleep but occasionally groaning in pain, I asked God to let her know we were there. She lay there, seemingly oblivious that we were there. But I continued to ask God to let her know we were.
One day as I was sitting near Granny's bed, Stephanie began to fuss a bit. Granny opened her eyes and said, "I hear my baby."
Within hours the nurses said she was in a coma and wouldn't be waking up again. She died a few days later.
Her last words, "I hear my baby," were the answer to my prayer that she'd know we were there. She knew.
That's a special memory.
Years ago I knew a lady with the reputation of being a "gold-digger." Stephanie knew her too and heard her called that name on occasion.
Several years ago Stephanie told me that she always thought that "gold-digger" meant nose-picker. She used to watch this lady hoping to catch her in the act of diggin' for gold - in her nose, of course.
Hearing of a paternity suit on the radio today, I was reminded of story. I was a young girl from a small town, there was a young lady who got impregnated by someone she shouldn't have been impregnated by. What I mean is, she was married to someone else. (I've never understood how these things become common knowledge.)
There was much gossip around this situation. As it was being discussed in front of my dad - my family knew both guilty parties - he sat quiet and pensive. After a few seconds of silence, Daddy said slowly and thoughtfully, "I've never understood how you can throw a rabbit in a brier patch and then claim to know exactly which brier scratched her."