When God Stretches Your Heart

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Bella and her cousins who are her stand-in sisters.

 

 

With the boys back in school this week, I’m longing for the smell of fall candles, cooler evenings, and a pot of chili, but we are in our hottest time of the year here in Florida. I wonder if I’m the only woman who gains weight in the summer and loses that weight every fall and winter. I suppose it’s because I tend to hibernate through the hottest months and when that first breeze kisses my cheek, I take a long stretch and become alive again. I’ve told my peoples I’ve decided to become a European. I’ve outfitted my bike with saddle bags, mirrors, head and tail lights, and a cell phone holder. I’ll be the biggest bike nerd in Dr. Phillips. I have a plan to fit exercise into my day, get ready for it… I will bike to the grocery store. Of course, I know this seems a bit counterproductive exercising to get food, but I see it as a way of shooting two chickens with one bullet. Contemplate my brilliance, I can only buy that night’s dinner ingredients, which will keep me from buying anything unnecessary. Save money…loose fat…fetch dinner. I see it as a win-win-win. Make that three chickens. The truth is I’ve been seeing that middle-age monster lurking in the shadows and I know he’s out to get me!

 

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Aubri, Bella and Sunaeya with Sleeping Beauty.

 

 

            There are times our heart needs to get into shape in a spiritual sense as well. When we’ve had an absence of hurt or joy in our lives, our heart can go into a complacent hibernation. Sometimes, this is caused by protecting our heart too much, by tucking it in a dark cave.

             This week, we celebrated my daughter Bella’s fourth birthday. Every year when her birthday rolls in I can’t help but think of my sister Tricia. When I announced I was pregnant with Bella, it didn’t go over so well. We found Tricia an hour later sobbing on her friend’s sofa.

            “I’m so sorry Tammy,” she said. “I’m happy for you and Jay, it’s just this… while you are getting ultrasounds, I’m getting PET scans, while your body is creating life, mine is creating cancer, while you are looking forward to the day you meet your baby, I’m dreading the day I say goodbye to mine. You’re looking forward to the future, while I’m holding on to the past.” It was a painful irony.

 

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Months later, Tricia and her last visit to Florida.

 

 

            The next morning, we stood outside our parent’s home riddled with guilt for the pain we caused the other.

  “I’m sorry about last night,” she said.

 “There’s nothing to be sorry for.” I said. “I would’ve felt the same way. I want you to know I wasn’t trying.”

            “I know God is giving you this baby to… ya know… keep you busy so you’ll keep going when I go.” She smiled and placed her hand on my belly. “You’re already showing.”

            “My body knows what to do by the fourth one,” I said.

            Her eyes met mine. “When she comes, I will go,” she said.

            Although she whispered the words, I jumped back as if she’d punched me. “Wait, No, You don’t know everything Tricia Baines. Besides, I know you’re wrong because Jay only makes boys.”

            She grabbed my arm. “I know okay.”

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August 7, 2014

 

 

            The moment Bella propelled herself into my world, my heart stretched between conflicting emotions of incredible joy and wrenching pain. I smiled through tears at my tiny baby before Tricia’s words flooded my memory, and I let out a sob. Tricia happened to be in a Virginia hospital bed as well that day. True to her prophetic statement, she died around the same time my baby was born, exactly nineteen weeks later.

            After she passed, I kept having these terrible chest pains. Convinced my pregnancy had put a strain on my heart, I underwent an EKG, and a stress test. When the tests results were in, Jay and I sat in the cardiologist’s office for a consult. I knew he was going to tell me I’d need some sort of heart repair, but instead he looked up from his file and said, “Everything looks good. Your hearts in good shape.”

            “No, that doesn’t make sense, my heart hurts.” I said pointing to my chest. “I’m having this sharp stabbing pain.”

            “Have you experienced anything traumatic lately? Have you been under any strain or anxiety?”

            Jay nodded. “Her sister died.”

            “That’s not it!” I said pointing at him. “I’m fine with that. This is physical pain.”

            “That’ll do it to you.” The doctor turned around in his chair dismissing further objections. “Looking over your tests, your heart is great. Our bodies have a way of letting us know when we’ve experienced something difficult.”

 

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Tricia with her children: Caleb, Peyton and Cody.

 

            Every Bella birthday, I celebrate the day my heart stretched and in the looking back, I’ve come to realize a stretched-out heart can only hold more. My larger heart holds more compassion, empathy, and love than it did before, allowing more blood to flow through…more life.  I believe sometimes God lets our heart stretch between pain and joy so we can feel a tiny bit of what He felt as He watched His Son die on the cross. He must have mourned watching the pain and suffering of His Son, all the while feeling great joy for the birth of salvation for mankind.

 

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Newborn Bella flew to Virginia so many times to see Aunt Tricia, she became a frequent flyer.

 

            Has there been a time in your life when your heart stretched? See it as a blessing. Or do you feel your heart has been in a complacent hibernation? Stop protecting it. It needs exercise. Pull it out of the cave.

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Happy Birthday Isabella Fawn Adams!

 

 

Have a great week everyone!

Grace Under Bella

 

 

“But behind all your stories is your mother’s story, for hers is where yours begins.”

— Mitch Albom, For One More Day

 

 

Some days I want to curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb. Isabella is turning out to be quite a handful of stubborn will and steel backbone.

“She comes by it honestly.” Momma said yesterday on the phone. “You’ve just described all the women in our family, and her paternal grandmother too.”

I just didn’t think I’d be raising one…but I am.

Bella is in the throws of it… those good ole two’s, and I am praying daily she will come out of it before this Momma starts catching invisible flies in a paddy wagon. To be honest, there are days I am raging mad. You see, I’ve packed away my dreams again to raise another child, and one that lately bucks me over everything. I am ashamed to admit my selfishness. I love her with every part of my being, but I was rambling down freedom road. Wait freedom? What is that? Frankly, I don’t know, but it was on the horizon waiting to be discovered. I’ve only experienced a few years without children at home, within those years, I wrote a “slush pile”novel, took care of my sister while undergoing chemo, and for another I was pregnant. Forgive me if this sounds like complaining, I’ve come to believe God doesn’t like to see me get bored.

I admit my fuse has been short. It is a battle between my imposing will and her standing her ground. Somedays, we are like the bulls at the farm, locking horns. There are nights Jay comes home and thinks his wife has gone cray-cray. “She’s just a toddler.” he’d said one evening. Steam poured from my nostrils. (All you men out there, never say this to your wife.) I am envious of him. He’s out the door using his mind building things, having lunch, and adult conversation. When he returns, he gets the good Bella. The nighttime cuddles, books, and tired kisses. She’s an angel, laughing in his lap and charming him with her lashes. I want to know where was that child all day long? Meanwhile, I get the tantrums, “the two more minutes,” the naked girl running around the coffee table, the broken lipsticks, and lotion smeared on everything. I won’t even go into our potty training…which is not going well.  Did I mention I am in my upper forty’s? So, yeah there’s the age thing.

I know your thinking there’s nap time. A frantic rush to get the laundry, dishes, dinner prepped, and floors done. Just one more thing, I tell myself before I allow writing time, but there’s always one more thing isn’t there?

This past weekend at the farm, my sister-in-law, Prem and I found a little black calf outside the electrical fence, along the trail. I parked the ATV and jumped out thinking the babe was dead, but as I approached, it raised its head weakly. We put in the call for help. While waiting for the farm manager to arrive we lowered our daughters from the ATV, so they could see the calf up close. Its large sad eyes looked up at us. He still had an umbilical cord attached, and I knew he was dehydrated. He was helpless and alone, with its mother no where in sight.

Sniper, our farm manager arrived, and he carried the calf down to where majority of the herd was grazing. He placed the calf inside the fence, but a watery ditch separated the calf from the pasture. The calf stood alone.

“Where’s the mother?” I said. “What if she’s not in this herd?”

“She’ll find him eventually.” Sniper said unconcerned. He jumped into his ATV and drove away. While we waited and watched.

The calf’s legs wobbled as he attempted to cross the ditch, but fear kept him from doing it. Finally, he mooed out a cry for help. The sound carried across the pasture and one head popped up from the grass.

“There she is.” I pointed to the far end.  Immediately, she made her way towards him and tried to get him to jump the ditch, but he still refused. Finally, she jumped the ditch and met him where he was. It is something I will never forget, and it was undoubtedly something God wanted me to see. The Momma cow extended grace to her calf. She didn’t insist on her way. She met him where he was.

A mother’s love is full of grace that can mold steel wills into masterpieces. Somewhere drowning in Bella’s toddlerhood I’ve forgotten that.

One afternoon, I admitted to Prem how difficult it’s been. The sun brought fire to her black hair as she leaned on the kitchen counter.

“I’m going to remind you of something you told me not long ago,” she said.

“What?”

“Love them through it,” she said. “Fill up their love tank. This season won’t last forever.”

“I said that?”

“Yep.”

 

Stay tuned for Part II next week.