Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gabriella's Here!

And now—finally—she’s here! Gabriella Eyla Cronin. November 21, 2008. She arrived just two days before her mama’s birthday.

Can you imagine how my eyes filled with tears at the news when Richie called? His description was great: “Our daughter is here—and she’s beautiful. 8 lbs, 5 oz long, with long thin fingers and about an inch of dark hair and a great set of lungs.” Later you told me she has curly hair—such a fun surprise.

And then we heard, “The pediatrician pronounced her ‘perfect.’ ” We are overcome with gratitude. Such a gift from God—and nothing to be taken for granted, for sure.
And how precious that you named her Eyla as her middle name—after your grandmother “Nini.” I’m sure there’s singing in heaven over her birth anyway. But I see a big smile on Nini’s face, don’t you?

I’m just hours from boarding a plane for Dublin as I write this. I can’t wait to meet Gabriella. But I can already see her in my mind’s eye—and somehow she looks a lot like you! Funny, isn’t it? I can just see all that dark hair and cute button nose and long fingers—so much like her mama (except her mama didn’t get the curls ’til later in life!)

I’ll arrive in Dublin on your birthday. How fun is that? Twenty-seven years ago Dad and I had a “Thanksgiving baby.” And now our “baby” has a Thanksgiving baby. God gives great gifts. I just can’t stop thanking Him!

I have to keep this short for now. I’ve been too excited even to get my suitcase packed. But Dublin here I come! What a way to celebrate Thanksgiving!

Our special verse for you when you were born was: “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good” (a frequent refrain in many of the Psalms). And now we’re giving thanks again for a new little life. Thank you thank you thank you Jesus!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Letter to My Daughter As She Awaits the Birth of Her Daughter

Dear Eri,

You are sitting, waiting, at the edge of something so huge that no words can contain it. With days—maybe even hours—you will become a mother. One of the best gifts any woman could ever receive. Also the hardest.

It doesn’t seem it could be 27 years ago (almost to the day—will she be born on your birthday?) that I was welcoming you into my arms. My third child on this earth (our first baby having gone to Jesus before he/she was born). And my first—and only—daughter.

You know how I felt in those first days after your birth. Ecstatic. Almost beyond belief. I really have a daughter! Thank you thank you thank you Jesus. The cascades of pink roses. The little girl figurine Dad brought into the hospital. You know the story well. In fact, I’ve told you so many times it has become a joke between us.

But now it’s you, honey. You’re the one about to give birth to a daughter. I know how you’re feeling. Excited. Nervous. Watchful. Sometimes worried. Impatient. There’s a longing, isn’t there? A longing to meet this little girl you have nurtured and sheltered within your body for so long.

A few words for you as you wait. You already know what I am going to say first. Being a Mom is an amazing gift. You have no idea how wonderful it is going to be. No matter how exhausted you may be after the delivery, when you hold that baby, you will know in a nano-second how “worth it” it all was. No matter what she looks like after her ordeal, no matter how loud she screams, you will find yourself loving her with a fierce, joyful love you cannot even imagine yet.
Mama-love is an astonishing thing. And it’s a good thing God gives it to us because we need it as moms. Not just in the early new-baby days. But in every day of our mom-lives. It’s what gets us through all the twists and turns on this road called motherhood.

Mama-love and the grace of God. Especially the grace of God. Because being a mom is not only the best thing that could happen to you. It is also the hardest thing you will ever do. At times it will feel like “mission impossible.” What makes it possible is God’s strength and that amazing, inexplicable, ferocious love God will give you for this child.

So while you are waiting—and waiting, and waiting, a few bits of random advice. It may seem a strange time to be giving advice. But I have to take some time off in my day from my constant pacing and praying, pacing and praying, as Dad and I await news of this baby from the other side of the ocean. And you will have more time to read this before the baby arrives than afterward. And my words will be here to come back to some day when you need them. And so, God willing, will I!

A couple of months ago a mom in an Atlanta-area Mom To Mom asked me a great question: “What are the words of wisdom you might offer your daughter as she becomes a mother?” Here are a few samplings—with the promise of more words (and many prayers!) to come.
  • You’ve just become a lifelong learner. No, you won’t know everything you think you should about being a mother. But you will learn as you go—and be the better for it. You and your daughter will definitely grow together!
  • Rely on God’s strength and wisdom (James 1:5 will become a mama-mantra)—and the encouragement and wisdom of other moms. Don’t try to “go it alone!”
  • Remember that God—and kids—are very forgiving. Yes, you will make mistakes. But consider how many I made—and look how you turned out!
  • Stay on your knees. It’d good training for what will be your lifelong job: Praying for your children.
  • Don’t forget to laugh a lot! It will ease the tension, soothe the pain—and make you much happier and more fun as a Mom.
  • Stay close with Richie. It’s easy to let the marriage slip away in this all-consuming job of mothering a new baby. I remember a quote I read recently from a new father about his marriage: “I feel like the old dog—and my wife just got a new puppy!”
  • Savor the moments. This will seem impossible in the middle of the night when the baby just won’t stop crying. But as one young mom told me, “When your kids are young, it feels like forever. But the years fly by….”
  • Something to look forward to: Being a mom, in a sense, gets better all the time. I’ve loved each stage along the way (well, most of the time). And just think--maybe one day your daughter will be just about to deliver her first child. And you will know the joy and anticipation (and nervous pacing!) I feel right now.
I love you honey—so much more than you can even understand. But very soon you will begin to know more of what mother-love means. And in the meantime, please take this as a HUGE cyberspace hug. That’s it for now (with, as I said, so much more to come). I have to get back to my praying and pacing.

Stay well, my precious daughter—and your daughter too! You are in God’s good hands!

With enormous love,

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bright Spots in Back Therapy

A little update from the land of heating pads and whirlpool baths and PT exercises: This crazy back of mine is still hurting, which seems absolutely incredible to me. Really . . . a back spasm lasting 5 weeks?!

However, I want you to know there are bright spots even amidst all this. Since I’ve had nerve enough to share my whining with you, I feel duty-bound to share some good stuff, too. Here’s a sampling, in no particular order:
  • After two or three weeks of laying low at home, I was finally able to make a quick trip to New Hampshire last week. It gave my spirits a great lift to meet more amazing moms in Seacoast, New Hampshire, and, above all, to spend some wonderful, magical hours playing with my grandson Soren. Doesn’t get much better than that!
  • Another fabulous answer to prayer: In my last entry, I made reference to praying for a friend to have a baby. I’ve just found out she’s pregnant, seemingly against all odds. I’m dancing (well, maybe just doing my stretching exercises with far more joy)—and praying all the more, of course, for that pregnancy. Praise God for positive pregnancy tests!
  • A great new book (new to me, that is) by a delightful young author: Cold Tangerines, by Shawna Niequist. Subtitled “Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life,” it is a collection of reflections on the ups and downs and twists and turns in the life of a twenty-something who, by the end of the book, has turned thirty and had her first baby. But it’s more than that: it’s funny and sad and wise and deep in ways that sneak up on you because her writing is so funny and honest and refreshing. I got so involved I actually finished the last few chapters in the whirlpool and then flat on my back on my heating pad. It’ll help you see your life quite differently—and laugh a lot along the way. (And oh yes, continuing my current “prayer theme,” she even has a funny but very thoughtful chapter called “Prayer and Yoga”—about how both are things we tend to talk about more than we actually do them. Sound familiar?)
  • The Countdown: Erika and Richie’s baby is due in just ten days! Now you know why I’m trying to be such a good little dubie about all those back exercises and whirlpool sessions. It’s a loooong flight to Dublin, even when your back isn’t killing you to start with. But oh-so-worth it, as you all know. Please pray that I’ll be strong enough when the time comes to be a help (and not, please God, a patient!) But above all, please pray for a safe delivery and healthy baby. November 19 (give or take—you know how that goes), just so you know.
  • One more upcoming trip before Dublin: This coming week (November 11-13) is LifeWay’s Women’s Leadership Forum in Nashville. I look forward to representing Mom To Mom and doing some speaking there, Lord willing, back permitting, and baby-hasn’t-come-yet! Maybe I’ll even see one or two of you there. Please come see me at the Mom To Mom table or at one of my workshops. I’ll be looking for you!
Yes, life can be good even with a bad back. I’m learning that—slowly. And God does hear and answer our prayers. Even the ones when He says “not yet . . .” Like my “pleeease pleeease heal my back” prayers. You just have to keep talking—and listening!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Paying Attention: From a Different Point of View

God has creative ways of getting our attention, doesn’t He? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve been forced into a quieter life with more time on my back, more time to pray.

As a matter of fact, maybe that’s what prayer is: paying attention.

This is a big emphasis in Leighton Ford’s wonderful book (which I highly recommend!) The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things. Since I tend to have spiritual attention deficit disorder (SADD) when I am living my usual busy life, these times of lying flat on the heating pad not only give me more time to pray. It seems they also give me a different perspective on what God is doing in this world.

Just yesterday, I witnessed two amazing answers to prayers I had prayed with others over the weekend. And I wonder: would I have noticed them if I hadn’t been paying attention to what God is doing?

Time on my back also makes me spend more time looking up. Funny what one sees from that perspective. More, even, than spots on the ceiling that need some work.

In another wonderful book on prayer, Philip Yancey’s Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (which I also highly recommend; it will take you a while to read, but it is well worth it!), Yancey emphasizes the importance of beginning our prayers from God’s point of view—not ours. I think of it as sort of a “Google Earth” deal. Instead of rushing in with my list of recommendations of what I’d like God to do, I could begin by prayerfully considering His perspective: How much more, for example, He loves and cares for His world, all the way down to that individual I am desperately praying will be able to have a baby.

This “back reflection” business is also a reminder of Who’s in charge. Yancey quotes writer Ben Patterson reflecting on six weeks he had to spend flat on his back. As Patterson was returning to his “real life” and lamenting that he had less time now to spend in prayer, God said to him: “Ben, you have just as much time when you’re well as when you’re sick. It’s the same 24 hours in either case. The trouble with you is that when you’re well, you think you are in charge. When you’re sick, you know you’re not.” (Yancey, p. 169, quoting from Patterson’s book Waiting)

Hmmm….Good point. I hope I can remember that when life returns to “normal.”

One last thing for you, as I know you may not have time just now to read either of these books. Don’t you love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of part of Matthew 6:34: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now.” I’ll bet you can do that even if you’re not flat on your back!