Wednesday, January 30, 2013

And Then Came Grace

It was early on a Sunday morning that she came into our lives.  We had eagerly anticipated her arrival but nothing could prepare us for that moment when she quietly entered our world.  I have given birth to three children but have never seen a birth, until this one.  The experience was overwhelming.  Her mother labored and her father encouraged and coached and she came.  After hours of anxious waiting, sitting by her mother's side and watching the monitors, listening to her heartbeat, and worrying about the potential for complications, she came.  A small, petite little girl with a mass of black curls and a squeaky cry--she came.  And our world will never, ever be the same.

I well remember the rush of overwhelming love that I felt when my children were born but I was frankly unprepared for the same experience with this birth.  The months leading up to her birth were incredibly painful and chaotic for our family.  I rejoiced in her impending birth but it just didn't seem real to me, until she came.  Our family had been torn apart by scandal and divorce and while I was very happy she was "in the oven," I couldn't wrap my mind around the reality of her existence.  So much had been lost, so much stripped away--maybe I was afraid to hope, afraid to believe that she was real.  Until she came.  When I saw her tiny head emerging from her mother's womb and then her entire body slid into my world, I thought my heart would explode with love and a fierce need to protect and care for this tiny little girl.  I was smitten, completely and irrevocably--she had my heart wrapped around her tiny little finger.

The cord was wrapped around her neck and had to be cut before she was fully born so rather than place her on her mommy's tummy, she was put in the infant warmer.  My son and I stood on either side of her, whispering words of comfort and welcome and soothing her kitten-cries.  She calmed instantly at the sound of her Papa's voice and wrapped her tiny fingers around his finger and his heart.  My first-born son with his first-born child and I was there to see this life-changing, dramatic moment in their lives.  Nearly 31 years after he made me a parent, I was there when he became one and it was priceless.  My own baby girl stood across the room watching and comforting her sister-in-law and I was reminded of another delivery room many miles away when she came into our lives.  And I remembered the sleepy eyes full of wonder when her two brothers were introduced to her.  Life has a way of cycling back and giving us an opportunity to re-experience key moments in another context and we celebrate the circle of life.

I learned of my impending grand-parenthood just two weeks into the most horrendous experience of my life.  Like Naomi who left her homeland with a husband and two sons and returned as a childless widow, my future had just been dramatically and tragically changed as the result of the actions of another.  As a widow without sons, Naomi's prospects for a future were bleak and she knew it.  She would be dependent upon the generosity of others for basic survival.  And like Naomi, I was at that time completely dependent upon the generosity of others for my basic survival.  So when the welcome committee came to greet Naomi by her given name, which means "pleasant," she informed them that her name had been changed to "Mara" which means "bitter."  She said, "I left here full of life, and God has brought me back with nothing but the clothes on my back.  Why would you call me Naomi [pleasant]?" (Ruth 1:21).  I fully identified with Naomi's sentiments.

But Naomi had an ally--a faithful and loving daughter-in-law--who left her own home to accompany her mother-in-law to a strange, new land.  The bitterness of loss and impoverishment were not the end of Naomi's story.  Her daughter-in-law met a prominent man in the community, married him and gave birth to a son.  We are told that Naomi cared for the baby--that she took him in her arms, cuddled him and cooed over him--so much so that the women in the neighborhood began calling him her baby boy.  Her bitterness was once again turned to joy and the end of her life was pleasant and full of promise.  So when my precious daughter-in-law called to tell me that the pregnancy test was positive, I immediately thought of Naomi and the promise of a better end to my story sprang up.

When the ultrasound revealed that this precious promise was a little girl, her Papa announced that her name had to have "grace" in it.  Her existence was the perfect demonstration of grace to our family still reeling from such devastation.  Her chosen first name is a derivative of "Elizabeth," which means "oath of God."  It also has the connotation of joy and great happiness in Hebrew and other variations of the name refer to a noble one or one "consecrated by God."  So our tiny little girl is a consecrated promise from God that brings great joy and happiness to our hearts--she is grace personified.

The morning after her birth, I looked at my personalized daily Scripture card and read the following verse:
"Cherished Brenda, this is what the Lord who created you says, 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name; you are mine.  You are precious and honored in my sight.'  The Almighty God, Your Creator, Elohim." (Isaiah 43:1-7)
My eyes welled with tears as I remembered the absolute delight and profound love I felt for Gracie the moment I saw her.  God feels this way about me and about you!  Within an hour of her birth, two lab technicians came to draw blood from her microscopic veins.  They were not successful on the first try so were desperately searching for a vein in her small hand.  I was ready to clobber them--I felt so fiercely protective of this little girl.  God feels the same way about me and about you!  And just as Gracie's name has great meaning to us, my name is known by God and has meaning to him as does yours.

In the days since her birth, I find that I cannot get enough of her.  We frequently "fight" over who gets to hold her, although those fights disappear when it comes time to change her diaper.  But we long to hold her and love her--she cannot do a single thing for herself or for us but we still are addicted to her.  As I hold her close in my favorite rocking chair, I know without a doubt that I would gladly give my life to protect hers.  And there is absolutely nothing more important than rocking my sweet Grace.  And God feels the same about me and about you!

Gracie at 6 pounds 15 ounces is profound statement that my story does not end with disgrace, scandal and tragedy.  I have a future and it is bright with promise because grace has come.

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