January 8, 2013

In the Meantime

Last year was our hardest yet, but there were unbelievably sweet spots, too.

Bradley rolls his eyes at the iPhone growing from my right arm, but that faithful companion records moments my addled brain can't recall. I'm so thankful to have captured the lighter bits of 2012!

It doesn't seem fair, after unloading my heavy, healed healing heart, not to point out how much joy there is here, too.  Enjoy an overload of Smith snapshots!

Sibling sweetness as Bradley read Luke 2 on Christmas Eve.
Trying out his new "drinking glasses."
Testing out some gifts in Columbia.
In the glow of Mimi's Christmas tree.
All my favorite little people in one place.
There was a fire in the living room...
I can't stop laughing about this!
MB, with a sinus and ear infection, lost over a pound and went back to the 1st percentile. But that reflection!
An ornament from halfway around the world! One of my favorite gifts.
After a year without movies, B and I saw two in one weekend: Skyfall and Lincoln.
(Ask me how we left Anna Karenina after 90 seconds and went to watch ol' Abe...)
If I ever put my phone down, who would capture this?
A second Smith baby makes friends with Curious George.
If I'm feeding MB her lunch and one of us is dressed, it's a victory.
An ornament for my little fireman.
Mac and I got matching tats.
(Ask B how the one on the right, inside my forearm, came to reside on his ribcage.)
The handsomest boys I know.
MB learned to sign "more" and is just as proud of herself as we are.

Christmas night we snuck away for our third and final movie of the year: Les Mis. One of us bawled through half of it.
We rang in the New Year, after a big Tiger victory, with our best friends in Atlanta!
Baby hands - those dimples never get old.
Mary Brooksie wants to stand. Break my heart already!
For I am about to do something new,
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness,
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. 
Isaiah 43:19

January 7, 2013

Starting Anew: A Long Time Coming

No more apologies or false starts: we're back. I'm back.

I wanted to say so much the last two months of 2012; I didn't stay away for lack of things to discuss. (You know that's never the case.) My fear was that my words made me a broken record. Hadn't I already said those things before, in some form or another?

I spent most of 2012 grieving and, worse yet, denying I was doing so. What's there to grieve when you're home and holding your baby again? Somehow I was doing both.

I grieved in tears, in sleepless nights, in visions and nightmares, in hives and panic attacks, in headaches and laughter that turned back into bawling. I grieved in silence and in exhaustion and in the midst of powerful, endless gratitude.

I grieved in months and months deleted by the wide-eyed, glazed over, "just shuffling my feet" kind of living recovery required. I grieved in conversations I'll never remember and days that went by without my noticing.

I grieved my expectations, what I thought our life would look like. What Mary Brooks' blissful baby days would be filled with, easy and sweet as they had started. How my life would continue as I'd always known it, focused on daily concerns and only occasional, manageable roadblocks.

I grieved my innocence. The 'floating through life' feeling I had for 30 years, coasting along on a whim.

I grieved the pulling back of some unknown veil, showing me what the depths of hurt looked and felt like. And how the world was filled with more of it than I'd ever realized, busy as I was with my floating.

I was an unwilling beekeeper, scrambling to pull that life-saving veil back down and keep everything out. I wanted to take the world in through that gauzy cheesecloth again, blissful in ignorance.

I had my dukes up most of the year, bracing for another impact. I felt the constant rush of adrenaline you get after a near-miss car accident; every tiny thing made me jump, left me wanting to crawl out of my skin.

I hadn't known unbridled pain like that existed, what I felt when I came face-first into my inability to protect Mary Brooks. My inability to run the world and care for everyone I love who lives in it.

I peered into a limitless well of hurt - and panicked. Once the immediate danger was over, I couldn't pinpoint the continuing source of my grief. Then it came to me: I had made it through "this," but knew that if there was anything worse out there in the universe, deep down in that well, I couldn't survive it. I wouldn't.

I thought I really might have died from the sheer awfulness, from the consuming ache. In the hospital it welled up and burned in my chest, leaving me tearless, wordless - scarred.

In the months afterward the pain came and went - when I thought I was out of the woods (and trumpeted the news widely), it swooped in to prove me wrong.

But I couldn't let myself say the words, let myself admit that, despite the joy I wanted to exude, there was a gaping puddle of sorrow.

I know now they can coexist, grief and thankfulness. And the more you admit you're hurting, the less it aches.

I'm sorry for not telling you. For being more concerned about sounding boring or self-absorbed than I was about being authentic. For not shepherding even one person who might come across these pages in a similarly difficult moment.

I feel tremendous relief in the starting of a new year, the rolling over of a calendar and a fresh era for our family. I feel it all rising.

The upside to losing six months of memories is that we'll celebrate a second "first" Easter, Mother's Day, Fourth of July, beach trip, start of the school year.

At the end of the summer Bradley left his job, the one that kept him from us more than 100 hours in his final week, and a weight was lifted immediately. (And another one added, but I'll get to that.)

I was able to fall asleep before 4:00 am for the first time in ages, to share the daily duties of running our life, to start forming memories that lasted more than an hour or two. We began the real, slow work of recovery then.

It might sound crazy, particularly to people who aren't believers, but we felt his decision was in obedience to what our family was being called to do. Who leaves a job with nothing else lined up, not knowing what's next? After trusting the Lord with the very life of our child, you'd imagine it'd be difficult to put up a fight on something as (seemingly) small as a job. And yet we did.

It took months of prayer and discussion and weary conversations (mostly dead-eyed stares over our dining room table, sleepless as we were) to make the leap. I'm so proud of him, the hard worker and constant provider, for making this big transition. For putting aside what makes sense to the rest of the world and setting a tremendous example of obedience and faith.

So here we are, five months later, and the future is unclear in that arena. Better hours will require a career shift of sorts, and we're praying about the details (tiny things like insurance, resumes, interviews, encouragement, provision) as we go. For a planner like me, it can be unnerving - but I'm making a moment by moment commitment to surrender.

My prayer is that the Lord tells a big, wonderful story through our family, just as He did last year, despite my temper tantrums doubts and without my help.

We have seen so much confirmation of our decision, and God has richly blessed us with gifts I can't begin to name. (Being able to string words together without crying, for instance, and growing my business in ways that both excite me and help our family.)

Bradley has been busy, though not in the way he first expected, with a side project that I look forward to sharing with you, too.

For now, just know I'm back. I can't wait to discuss what matters with you - and to discuss royal babies, Downton Abbey, and every other mindless diversion I've missed.

Thank you for keeping me busy on Instagram (heaven help the folks who don't enjoy seeing pictures of my kids), Twitter and in real life. For being patient and prayerful. For emailing and calling and texting. For wading through all this.

I feel a weight off and a light at the end of this tunnel. Welcome, 2013!


The Lord has done great things for us, 

and we are filled with joy.

-Psalms 126:3


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