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Cultivate Space (for the Sweet Mercy)

cultivate

 

I’ve basically been gone from this blog for, um, around eight weeks. (Except for when I introduced you to my main squeeze, Ace.) Let’s call it a maternity leave.

In my former blogging life I would have shed a lot of tears, frantically paced the floor over the amount of unwritten words, and internally berated myself for letting all my readers forget about this blog, and (let’s be honest) this writer.

Those are fair concerns. In fact, if you’re reading this post, I’m shocked and amazed that you noticed it was here. And I’m also okay with the fact that many people will probably not notice.

My blogging life has changed a lot in the past year. I’ve written here about how I’m learning to release my unhealthy obsession with performance and perfection, how I’m learning to slow down and make space for rest and for my family when I need to.

But spaciousness in my life has not only been about blogging. The desire to cultivate space in my days for health and relationships has come as slowly as my babies. With each child, I discovered more of my weaknesses, more of my need for wholeness.

When August, my first, was born I was overwhelmed and stunned by the reality of motherhood. When my second baby, Brooks, came around I wanted to feel like motherhood had made me capable. So I tried to prove that I had parenthood figured out, that I was totally cool with two kids. I pushed myself to keep every commitment, to keep writing blog posts (instead of getting sleep), to keep it together. I was a mess.

Some people can transition to a new place in life and continue with their routine. In fact, they need that routine. They are cool moms, you guys. But I am not. I’ve learned this about myself. When there’s a transition, I crave complete focus on the transition. I crave the present moment.

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And this time around, that has meant ignoring my writing career for a long amount of time. I spent the early weeks reading, breastfeeding, going to doctor’s appointments with Ace, and playing with my older boys. I needed space to transition. I needed to nap. I needed to eat chocolate nib and sea salt cookies at night while I watched cheesy BBC shows with my mom.

This time, with my third—with a special needs baby—I’ve been given the gift of two seemingly opposite feelings: The peace of already knowing how to take care of a baby, and the wild uncertainty of all that I don’t understand about Down syndrome, of all that can go wrong.

Ace spent the first few weeks struggling to eat, struggling to gain weight. And the gift of those weeks was that I’d done the breastfeeding thing before: I knew how to feed my babies. I didn’t have to beat myself up. I got to receive the reality that this is a different baby and I will learn him as I go. I was wise enough that I didn’t listen when the mean voices in my head told me I was failing.

Maybe that’s what spaciousness is: Giving yourself room to receive the challenge in front of you, while still clinging to the truth. Learning to see that within the pain of the suffering, there is something remarkable. Beautiful. There’s always a both/and.

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And so far in Ace’s life I’m learning the goodness of holding to both at the same time: Holding the heartbreak of an uncertain diagnosis in the same hand as I hold the sack of flour baby snuggles. Blessing my older children’s cheers for him as he learns what all newborns are trying to learn: how to lift his head on tummy time, how to grab a toy, how to smile.

When we received Ace’s diagnosis, Chris and I were surprised that though we grieved, though we struggled to see what this would mean for Ace’s life, for our older boys’ lives, for our lives, we never really found ourselves asking why it was happening to us.

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about that. How did we skip that feeling? Did we skip that feeling? And our only answer was that we’ve spent most of the past six years in a church that always reminds us that the world and our city are both beautiful and broken, always at the same time. And that liturgy has been planted deep into our souls. It is always both. Life is always beautiful. Life is always heart-breaking.

We can ask why, but we can’t ask why without noticing that everyone else is suffering as well. In different ways, we all walk through pain.

And sometimes your suffering is also your sweetest joy. A now-nine-pound baby that cuddles like a sack of flour and gulps milk (making those baby nursing sounds), and daily grows chunkier thighs.

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Time passes and we all learn what we need in the transition. (I need dark chocolate and Netflix.) And babies grow and sometimes struggle to grow. And little boys play and get taller and their blonde hair grows longer. And first graders learn to spell longer words and graduate to second grade.

And the middle boy takes the baby’s face in his hands and says, I just love you so much, my sweet little mercy. And I hold my breath, because, isn’t he? A sweet mercy.

Yesterday was a hard day. A hard day after two and a half months of hard days as an Elder in my church. And when I came home, I sat my baby in his bathtub and poured water on his head over and over, like baptism. And I told him—again, as if he doesn’t know (of course he knows)—that he is God’s beloved, that his life is important and beautiful and valuable. And he stared at me with his dark blue eyes and let me pour the warm water on his head…

In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m learning—over and over again—to cultivate space for this miraculous life I’m already in the middle of: hard Sundays and ordinary baptisms and four-year-olds recognizing mercy.

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Sweet Mercy right in front of us.



  • Rebekah Tesone

    First off, I love the wisdom and love that God has deposited in your life the wisdom you need for the third round. Second, you know, some of us appreciate a blog here and there. Who has time for the rat race. I tend to read the ones that come in sparingly r as there must be a special message. When I open my email and see a daily line of the same blog I choose or put off what to read. Funny I blog a little and once I tried to do every day. That’s nuts! Welcome to the good mix of motherhood and heathy spacing! Reb

  • Allie Wallace

    Micha, thank you for writing this today. Your words just touched something in me and feel like comfort food for my heart-like a warm apple pie for my broken spirit. “Life is always beautiful. Life is always heart-breaking”-that thought is upon me today. As my family says goodbye to my husband’s dad, who has been given just weeks to live, that truth is definitely upon my heart. Thank you.

  • I noticed you weren’t in the blogging world. And when I’d think on that, I would offer up a prayer for your family as you learn a new normal. I loved this. How you know deep down now that broken and beautiful go together. I think every single post from here on out should have a picture of Ace. Because. Sweet Mercy. Indeed. Keep writing for yourself and for us.

  • Ann Ehlert

    My best friend and I joke about how you are our other best friend. I know sounds stalkerish! 🙂 Glad you are taking time to be with Ace and you family. Our third baby has DS as well and its good to educate yourself and sort through feelings. Grateful Ace is getting chunky! It took our Ada awhile for that to happen. She’s still on the tiny size and is 3 year olds. Grateful for your gift of writing that I enjoy so much but more grateful that you do what’s best for your family and your relationship with Him.

  • Meadow Rue

    So beautiful. With our typically developing kids, each milestone was exciting and wonderful, but with our daughter Ruth who was physically dependent on us, each milestone was a miracle. A true gift. An opportunity to see past the ordinary into the extraordinary. And a daily opportunity to practice mercy. Missing her every day.

  • LisaLaverty

    Micha! I just found your blog recently and was taken by your love of Jesus and well your new son!!! The photos of him make my heart ache in oh just the best of ways. I have a two year old son with Down syndrome (he has 6 older brothers). I hear the uncertainty of what this means and the love of this beautiful new life, I’ve been there. I’ve written a little about my son Augustine’s Down syndrome and his wonderful old self at my blog http://www.makingitinvermont.com . I look forward to reading more about your journey of faith, family, and life in general. What can I say, this post struck a two year old chord. Lots of love to you and your beautiful family!!!

  • The beautiful and the terrible and the intertwining of the two, the way Beauty dwelt among us and took on Suffering… I think this is what saved my faith.

    Whenever you have time to write, we’ll take what we can get 🙂

  • Laura Tosto

    A sweet little mercy! How wonderful that our children see, so plainly what we struggle to see. Every child brings doubts and fears, but how awesome that you know you can pour yourself out before god, and he hears us. Lamentations tells us to pour our hearts out like water before the face of God. A few years ago, I was really struggling with being in the present, all kinds thought plaguing me and I read a quote that left a great impression on me. It made me feel like my emotions were ok. “life is filled with such moments in which sadness and joy kiss every moment”- Henri Nouwen Thank you for sharing your heart with us. From one mommy to another, grace to you Micha!

  • lindalouise

    I just love this. Blessings.

  • Stephanie

    Hi Micha, of course you are not forgotten about! I check your blog regularly and knew if I waited patiently that you would come back to your “other” supportive family. Although we have never met, every time I get to pray for someone, they become part of my Jesus family. I am glad that you are back and that if your postings slow down,it is not because you have a down syndrome child, it is because you are a mother of 3 BOYS!! I have 3 girls, I know how much energy and time you need to spend with them and sometimes things have to go by the wayside, like cleaning, showering, blogging, etc… So, I will check back every few days, hope for a new posting, but knowing a full time Mom only has so much time. I enjoy all of your blogs and as always, wish you the best and know that God blesses us all in different ways and that Ace is the way he is blessing your family right now. Have a wonderful week, Stephanie.

  • pastordt

    Glorious and good and welcome, whenever you have time/space/energy/inspiration. You are not forgotten – never could be – and your words are always welcome. And these words? Perfection. Thank you.

  • Micha,

    Congratulations on your new third son, Ace! We rejoice with you, knowing that he is fearfully and wonderfully made. Your post was honest and honoring and heart-wrenching too. Thanks for being you. May these next few weeks and months of figuring out your new rhythm with two young boys and a newborn be full of rest.

    I enjoyed your book “Found” last August and just recommended it this week to a friend again.

    Jennifer Dougan
    http://www.jenniferdougan.com

  • Lori McCormack

    This is beautiful, honest and raw. Thank you for always sharing from your heart. I look forward to your blog posts and “Found” has been a soft place I land as I try to understand this new role as mom. Ace is absolutely beautiful and Sweet Mercy captures him and so many of our littles! I have never met you but appreciate your leadership at City Church and pray for you and your sweet family.
    Lori

  • Anna Smit

    Thank you for this post and thank you for opening your heart to us too, allowing us a window into God’s goodness and mercies. I’m also holding the heartache of loss and the snuggles (of a toddler and five year old) together. Just today those snuggles were a welcome reminder of God’s grace in missing my Mum and grieving the suffering she endured. Thank you for reminding me to look for the grace. May God continue to embrace you in the struggles and grief you bare.

  • Bethann Ayers Johnson

    Beautiful.

  • Kendra Burrows

    Oh my, so beautiful. I needed this so much this morning. It is what my heart has been trying to tell me for a very long time. Thank you.

  • This is just…beautiful. Your writing, your insights, are spot on. Our sweet mercy is Joshua, and he is as precious now as he was the day he was born…29 years ago. He was our first of 4, and we had no clue about parenting…no clue about Down Syndrome…no clue of the twists and turns our lives would take. But, like you, and by God’s guidance and GRACE, we figured him out day by day. Ace is precious. A sweet mercy. Thank you so much for sharing. So happy to have found you from Emily’s blog. 🙂 http://martysmoosetracks.blogspot.com/2013/08/cinderella-complex.html

  • Roxanne Gunther

    Beautiful

  • Mindy

    I’m just now reading this post. It is beautiful Micha!