I am almost one month away from going back to work and I can't imagine leaving Gemma. I know moms say that all the time and that the hardest time for them is dropping their baby off at daycare when they go back to work. I am anticipating a lot of tears on my part as I drive away from her.
Although I will be sad spending the day away from her, she will be in such good hands. My mom has graciously offered to watch her full time until the summer. My mom is such a good grandma. She just dotes on Gemma and it's really wonderful and touching to see her love love love my little girl. I have been so stressed out about finding a daycare that I feel good about, that is close by, and affordable. With the extra concern about Gemma's risk for respiratory infection, I was even more concerned about her being around other kids and germs. I had an amazing friend lined up to take care of Gemma 3 days a week but she lives really far away from me. I was so willing to drive to know that my girl would be in good hands but I am absolutely overjoyed to be able to drop her at my mom's (about 10 minutes away). My dad is retiring sometime in the near future so they should be able to have some good quality time with her. What a gift for her to really be loved by them and known by them from such a young age.
In other news, we are vaccinating Gemma for some of the crud she could get this season. I had a really big knot in my stomach about vaccinating her. There is a lot of information out there on why kids should or should not be vaccinated and it's hard to know what choice to make. I have a lot of friends in the medical field and they are usually horrified at the possibility of not vaccinating kids. My brother, a physician, said that once you see a child die of whooping cough, you'll never argue against vaccination again. How horrible- I can't imagine. There really is no option for us due to Gemma's lung/aspiration issues and my being surrounded by germy kids all day every day. With RSV season winding up and flu and whooping cough starting to make the rounds, we just can't risk it. I did some independent research through the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I talked to our pediatrician and my friend who is a nurse practitioner and picked their brains about the safety of vaccines. Both of them encouraged me to protect her as much as I can- there are even some additional vaccines that she may qualify for due to her lungs being "compromised". So, I will be praying for the absence of any side effects to any of the vaccinations she will receive.
That brings me to the title of this post. Surrender. If God has been teaching me anything through my beautiful little girl, it's surrender. Most of you who know me would probably say I'm pretty high strung. I guess I thought I wasn't that much of a control freak but I have seen myself become more and more stressed out about things that are out of my control. This has been especially obvious to me during my pregnancy and Gemma's first 6 weeks of life. I can't fix her feeding issues- I can't make her stop aspirating. I can't prevent her from refluxing. I can't possibly be next to her every second of every day to make sure she doesn't choke on her own reflux- and it's really hard for me to let go!
I read a great book by Angie Smith called I WILL CARRY YOU about the sacred dance of grief and joy. She lost a beautiful little baby Audrey Caroline, started a widely read blog, and unearthed a whole new understanding of God. I highly recommend it. It's beautifully written and so authentic. God is using her in mighty ways in honor of her daughter Audrey. Like Heather said about Briana, it's not a ministry she would have chosen but it's one God has called her to and a way she can celebrate her daughter. One of the things that really spoke to me from this book is how to communicate with God when we so desperately want something. She paralleled her story with that of Lazarus. When his sisters sent word to Jesus hoping for healing, they simply told him that the one he loved is sick. Jesus knew this and more already, as evidenced by his telling the disciples that Lazarus was dead. The sisters never told him this, he was already aware of the situation. What deeply moved me was the idea that the sisters didn't ask that he heal Lazarus, or make him well, or name specific things that were going wrong that they wanted Jesus to address. They simply told Jesus that the one he loves is sick and left the details up to Him. They simply went to him with their concern and believed Him to be big enough to know what to do. It was a message that communicated their belief in who Jesus is and their faith in His power. Sometimes, in my need to control things, I just have to communicate my concern to God, and believe that He is big enough to take it from there. Is it possible, that's what God wants us to do with everything? Surrender?
Every night I place my hands on Gemma's softly rising and falling chest and beseech God to be with her when I sleep. What a struggle to offer my child up to God and simply say, "Lord, the beautiful, precious, little girl, You love, is sick." and leave it at that. I have to qualify it usually by saying, "and I'm not going to tell you how to do Your job... You know what she needs and I surrender her to You." :) I say this multiple times, to convince myself to let go. I could stay up 24 hours a day and watch her to make sure she doesn't choke but I would not be able to parent her in the way that God wants me to parent her if I neglected sleep and my health. I would be ill, mentally and physically, if I chose to be that controlling. I know she needs a healthy mama to be a healthy girl. I know I can't completely protect her- I know I can't "save" her- I know I can't be everywhere all the time. But my God can. and is. All the time, He is with her. When I close my eyes to sleep, He is with her. When I hear her cough, gag, or stir- no matter how fast I get there, He is always with her. I know that surrender implies the outcome could be painful. But that is what true surrender is. NO matter the outcome, surrender is letting go of the reigns. That's why it is so HARD!
When I finish praying over her, I slowly leave the room, crawl into bed and turn on the monitor. I can see her picture in the video monitor we have but I turn the picture down to sleep (it's like a giant search light in our bedroom). Sometimes, I pray over her through that monitor, surrendering her again, beseeching my Savior to give me peace as I turn her over to Him. This has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do- not dealing with her health, not making decisions about which direction to go for treatment options- no, the hardest thing I do every day is leaving her side to sleep. I know it's possible that she will throw up her last feeding and could choke on it- I do everything in my power to help her digest it before she goes down for the night but ultimately, I have to leave the room- I have to sleep- I have to hand her over to the King of all Kings.
If He is who He says He is, which I believe to be true, He is more than able to care for my little girl. Surrender means knowing that He is God and I am not. Surrender means knowing that I can't do everything. Surrender means knowing that my girl could choke even on His watch. Surrender means turning off the video screen of the monitor and closing my eyes. Surrender means knowing and acting on the belief that God is in control no matter the outcome, no matter the situation. If I believed that everything would be fine or Gemma will always be perfectly safe because I am a Christian, then surrender would be easy. But that's not truth, Jesus says in the book of John, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Whatever pain I endure or fear I struggle with does not change who God is. He is mighty and powerful, all-consuming, and the the ultimate Prince of Peace.
Being a mom has made me feel different about God. Knowing how I love Gemma, how I feel about her and tying that directly to how God feels about all people- and me personally, is so humbling. To be the recipient of that depth of love is staggering. It's also made me look at my parents differently- to know that at one time my tiny little heart was in their hands and they cherished me as much as I cherish Gemma. And even though I'm all grown up now, being loved by my parents or being loved by my Father doesn't change. The love doesn't go away or lessen; that fire in your soul for your kids is permanent. God designed it that way- for us to see in each other a poor man's representation of true love. And I don't know about you, but this divinely inspired "poor man's representation" or human version of marital love, parental love, brotherly love, is unbelievably intense and wonderful. How much more magnificent is the love of God? God lit a match in my heart the day Gemma was born, a match that lit a candle, that lit a bonfire, that lit a wildfire that is uncontrollable, and unquenchable.
One of the songs that I sang a lot while I was pregnant and play now for Gemma is How He Loves- on this blog, performed by David Crowder Band. Here are the lyrics.
He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I realize just how beautiful You are, And how great Your affections are for me.
And oh, how He loves us so, Oh how He loves us, How He loves us all
Yeah, He loves us, Oh! how He loves us
Oh! how He loves us, Oh! how He loves.
We are His portion and He is our prize, Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes, If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking. And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, And my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don't have time to maintain these regrets, When I think about, the way
He loves us, Oh! how He loves us
Oh! how He loves us, Oh! how He loves.
It's so true... how He loves us- hurricane force, tender as a kiss, unchanging mercy. I'm unbelievably grateful to be on this journey of surrender with a God who loves me more than I can fathom- more than my bursting heart loves my precious girl, more than I could ever possibly love Him back. What grace, what mercy, Oh, what love!
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1