Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Four Year Old

My sweet Elizabeth turned four years old today. What a joy she is to my life. She was also an important part of bringing our family together. I've told this story before, but I want to share it here.

Everything in my world changed the day I married Mark. I became a wife, a mom, and a Texan all in the same moment. I do not recommend taking on all three challenges at once. Seriously. Do not let love blind you. Take it slowly.

Dallas is a big, hot place. Living there is a lot different than living in a small mountain town. You must get on the interstate to go to the grocery store. You must drive 180 mph when you are on the interstate. The interstate is always under construction. The people who are in charge of roads and stuff are forever building huge, multi-layered clover leaf things (pardon my technical language) to make room for the traffic, which means there is only one tiny lane available on which to drive 180 mph with thousands of other drivers, drivers who do not allow for safe stopping distance and who don't care that you are new and are still adjusting to life in the big city. This is only the beginning. If you have to make major life changes, at least stay close to home to do it. But let me move past that part.

Imagine all the other changes and adjustments. I became Mom to three energetic, smart children who were not used to having a mom around to care for them. I came into a house that had been run by a bachelor trying to work full time and feed, clothe, and homeschool those three energetic children. Ladies, your home is not dirty or messy. Trust me. I didn't know how to drive anywhere at first, and I certainly didn't know any neighbors. Our church was on the other side of the city, an hour away (how do I always manage to do that?). (Another side note, in the Texas heat, I was the only ding-dong on my street who opened my blinds during the day. I hated the heat, but I needed light!) It was all crazy and I often felt very alone.

The adjustments were not easy for the children, either. It had been just them and their dad for some time. They were a team. They had survived the divorce together. They got through losing their older brother and sister in a car wreck. They were a tight-knit team. They loved having a new mom to love them. They loved that I was now the cook (with all due respect to Mark and his oatmeal with apple juice and other delectable dishes). But I was different. My rules were different. My way of cleaning, of homeschooling, of organizing, of doing EVERYTHING was different than they were used to. I was an extra set of eyes to see what they were getting in to! Did Dad really think they were going to obey this new lady? Right.

It often seemed like I was the outsider invading this peaceful circle. The way they did things might not have been perfect, but it worked for them and they didn't want me coming in and changing things.

As if learning to be a family was not enough, I got pregnant. If I didn't know better, I would insist it happened when Mark and I exchanged rings during the wedding. It was really that fast. (We love to tease our friend Kim, who gently warned us, "Oh, it takes a while for couples' bodies to get in sync. Be prepared that it will likely take you a while to conceive.") A Texas summer, three children, a new husband (!), and morning sickness, which I am certain was named by a man who obviously knew nothing about pregnancy, or else he would have known that the sickness does not only occur in the morning. Oh, and I was more homesick than I could ever imagine. It was not pretty those first few months.

Then Elizabeth came. She was beautiful and perfect and full of joy. Her siblings loved her right away, and she connected with them. I honestly think she was the bond that God used to bring us all together. We were a family. The us and them feelings did not go away over night, but there was something about having Elizabeth that took away any divisions. Even now, Elizabeth lights up when she sees her siblings and they love when she bounces into the room.

Before Elizabeth was born , Mark was offered a job in Kentucky. The company agreed to let him wait until after the baby came to start work. I cannot express how happy I was to be going home (with due respect to Texans...). After an unplanned, early C-section delivery, I came home from the hospital with the task of finishing our packing and getting us ready for the move. Mark and Hannah got a nasty bug which knocked them out and sent them to bed for several days, and Elizabeth was jaundiced and had to spend several days and nights in a portable tanning bed contraption to help her heal. It was up to the boys, who were 8 and 9 at the time, and me to pack, care for the baby, care for the sick, take care of the dog, and survive. (Did I mention that I was recovering from a C-section?) Again, it was crazy.

But we did it. God blessed our feeble efforts. We worked together. We grew closer. And, praise God, we made it home. (I insisted that I would have strapped Elizabeth to my chest and walked the entire 1000 miles.) Life is still crazy in our home. It's just a different kind of crazy. We love it, most days.

Elizabeth is certainly an important part who we are. Happy Birthday, my precious darling. Thank you for loving me, for teaching me about joy, for loving your Daddy and your siblings. Thank you for the light you bring to your grandparents' eyes, which melts my heart. Thank you for crawling in my bed in the middle of the night and whispering, "Mommy, can I sleep in your bed?" Thank you for snuggling up next to me and putting those tiny, precious hands on my face. I love you more than I ever dreamed possible. May God bless you and draw you close to himself, may he give you the joy of salvation and may you have many, many, many more joyful birthdays.



Tiffany said...

Happy Birthday to your beautiful daughter! What a story God has written in your lives, full of grace, love, healing, redemption, fresh starts... He really is the Author of our faith.

Mary said...

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth! What a sweet adorable girl! Thank you for sharing the story of how your family came together, very moving. :)