We were whooshing down the sidewalk of a busy street. There’s really no other way to put it. She was confident as could be, my six year old pedalling so hard her feet might have fallen off had it not been for her sheer determination to try and beat her daddy home from my grandmother’s apartment.
I found myself wincing, clenching, and smiling with pride all at the same time. I mean, can’t God put a force field between the road and the sidewalk for when children are learning how to ride their bikes well? She’s way past training wheels, but she’s not quite tour de France ready, you know?
My daughter is my only child, and she and I had a fantastic summer.
Her daddy was away at an Army school for most of the summer so a lot of it was the two of us playing at the splash pad, going to different playgrounds, traveling to PA, VA and DC, riding scooters and bikes, picking berries and playing game, and watching Barbie. Always Barbie.
The overwhelming gratitude for this life, in that moment of hard-and-fast pedalling, was real and true. It was immense and all-consuming, but it hadn’t always been that way.
Four days before my daughter was born, I had a dream about pirates stealing from me. I woke up knowing in the deepest part of me that hope would be incredibly important in the days and weeks to come. It was important to listen to that whisper because while my daughter was born healthy and fine, I almost did not survive. And the only way the doctors could save my life was to give me a partial hysterectomy.
I survived and recovered well, but the prayer I had been praying since I was a young teenager: God, can I please have twins? Or can I please have four-to-six kids? was definitively answered with a big, clear No.
Yes, we could have adopted. Yes, we could have done other things. But from every angle - emotions only; emotions mixed with on-paper reality; on-paper reality only; faith only; faith mixed with emotions; or fatih mixed with on-paper reality - that was not to be our story.
As I settled comfortably into motherhood, I exhaustively wondered why. For years, I berated myself with questions of: am I not a good enough mom for more than one? Why does that other woman get 2/3/4 and I don’t? Why am I not worthy of a yes here but everyone else is? I wanted a big family and I’m good at this; why couldn’t I have it?
I was so mad at God.
I wanted a big family. I had written it in jungle green ink on my “In 20 Years…” capsule wish list that I wrote on August 18, 1998, one month before my 14th birthday. Was it based on 7th Heaven? Sure. But it was buried deep in my heart: a big family; a full dinner table; two or more kids who would look out for one another.
For about six years I asked those questions. I had reframed my heart out to pull out the gifts: the cost of one kid, the attention you can give one kid, the relationship you can build with one kid, the alone and couple time you can have with one kid etc. Still, I had big questions and a hurting heart.
Then my daughter had one of her last softball games. There were seven girls on her team. Everyone had at least a parent there, usually no more than four “fans”, parents and siblings included, per kid.
My daughter that day had seven. As many kids as were on the team, she had fans. Parent, grandparents, uncle, aunt. I looked at that picture after I took it and heard deep in my heart:
There’s your big family. I didn’t say ‘no’; I said ‘yes’, just not in the way you planned.
Sometimes, it sounds like such a cop-out to reframe answered prayer. Doesn’t it? Like we’re dismissing what we didn’t get and just resigning ourselves to what we did get.
But that’s not the case. We reframe prayer because it gives us a chance to remember that God is God and we are not. We reframe prayer because it gives us a chance to lay our broken hearts down and pick up the restoration God promises. We reframe prayer because it helps us see the truth.
I do have a big family. One that celebrates a six-year-old’s slugger of a swing. One that shows up in droves to a game that doesn’t matter in the fabric of eternity but matters to a little girl and her mama. A family that loves fiercely, forgives regularly, and is just as loud as that dinner table might have been had I had those six kids. And, bonus: I don’t have to wipe all those sticky fingers!
I’ve learned a lot about God in my motherhood journey so far. Big and small lessons pop up every day when I’m paying attention.
But one lesson shouts for attention more than others. It has wiped away the frustrations, the anger, the discontent of seemingly unanswered prayers. And it’s remembering that while I may not see a yes from God in the way I want, there has always been and will always be an underlying truth to how God answers my heart’s cries:
I love you, daughter. I see you now, I see your future, I am good, and you can trust me.
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