I once heard someone say that if you want to know what kind a relationship a person has with God, listen to them pray – it will show you just how real the person thinks God is.
This past summer, if you were to listen to my prayers, you wouldn’t doubt my belief in God so much as my sanity.
Every day (sometimes twice a day), I would go on a walk to escape the stress of our kitchen/first floor remodel. Walking outside in the warm air and sunshine, away from the chaos and mess, was my coping mechanism. It was my safe place. It was my saving grace.
And yet, as my feet hit the sidewalk and the stress of the renovation started to melt away, a new anxiety took hold. And so I prayed. And I talked to God. And I obsessed. And I worried. And I fretted. I’m sure there were hand motions and muttering involved. I’m sure I’ve become known as “the crazy lady who talks to herself as she walks” around town.
But I wasn’t talking to myself. I was talking to God. About…a baby.
This summer, I couldn’t shake the ever growing burden I had for another baby. I didn’t want to be done having babies. I wanted another child. But good grief, why on earth would I want that? Four? Four kids? That is pure craziness. Total insanity. What was wrong with me?
The thought of being done with my baby growing and having phase of life made me want to sob. I felt a sadness that couldn’t be explained logically or rationally. I didn’t want to be done. Despite all the very reasonable arguments against one more baby, still, I longed for another.
And so I talked to God. I talked and I walked and I walked and I talked. I poured out my heart to my friend. I told him that none of it made sense. I told him how inadequate I felt as a mother. I told him that I felt like I was failing as a mom on a moment by moment basis. I told him that I already felt like I couldn’t handle what I had. How could I handle more? I told him that I felt like a complete failure in our homeschooling efforts. I told him that I loved these little babies more than words could ever express, but that I also couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow getting it all wrong. I told him that I have such stunning moments of clarity where I see just how precious this time in life is that I’m filled with overwhelming gratitude and wonder. I told him that I have just as many, if not more, moments of stunning frustration and bewilderment that leave me grasping for words to understand. I told him that I worried a truly grateful mother would be more patient, more kind, more gentle. Maybe I’m not grateful enough for what I have, let alone to ask for more?
I told him that I worried about all the physical aspects of another pregnancy. I told him how much I hated being on the progesterone shots with my last two pregnancies. I told him that it made me scared to throw the dice again. I told him that I’m grateful for the healthy babies I have now and wondered if I was being selfish to ask for another. I told him that it made me feel selfish to even ask when others struggle to have babies or have suffered the loss of their children. Who am I to ask for more?
I told him that practically it didn’t make sense. I reminded God that we live off of one income. I reminded him that our home only has two bedrooms. I reminded him that I still long to travel. Can you even travel with four kids, God? I told him that I worried what other people would say. We live in the land of Amish, for goodness sake. I am a stay at home mom who homeschools. Are people going to think I’m lame and write me off as one more conservative bumpkin?
I told him that I love being a mom. So much. I thanked him for opening my eyes to what I really value – this, all that is before me – and showing me that all the dreams I had before were empty and selfish illusions. I thanked him for three healthy babies. I thanked him for the chance to get to do this life with them, despite my many shortcomings. I thanked him and I cried and I told him that despite all my faults and fears, still, I wanted another baby.
And one day, as I turned a corner on my walk and in my thoughts, God brought a question to my mind:
What is the one thing keeping you from saying yes to another baby?
I quieted my heart and my mind and I asked myself, at the root of all this worry, what would be the only thing standing in my way of saying yes. It wasn’t desire, that much was clear. So what was it?
And it came to me, so simple and so clear – the answer.
Despite my many “reasons” for not having another baby, the only thing keeping me from saying yes to one more little life was simply fear.
And then God nudged my heart once more with a response both gentle and kind, while piercingly true.
Fear, he told me, is not a reason.
In that moment, I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. Fear isn’t a reason. It’s an emotional fact. I was afraid, but that fear could never change what my heart longed for. Would I allow it to boss my heart around? I’ve always said that being practical is just another term for being scared. And here I was, with all these “practical” reasons to tell my heart no.
But I don’t really believe in living a practical life, because I don’t believe in living a scared life. Lift is scary, no matter how safe you play it. What makes it beautiful and meaningful and full of surprise and wonder is the realization that we can’t carefully arrange our deck of cards to be free of pain and difficulty and effort, but we can choose to listen to the gentle stirrings of our heart. Those longings are what make us who we are. Those desires lead us into wildly impractical situations that, yes, might be crazy, but will be worth it because they are what we are here for. Our heart is constantly trying to tell us who we are and why we are here.
Maybe the scariest part of saying yes to having another baby is that I don’t have a good reason “why.” The list of arguments against is pretty long. But all I can tell you for my “why” is that my heart longs for another.
As humans, we crave certainty. We desperately want things to be black and white. But if there is one thing I’m certain of, it’s that life is startling gray. The very fact that I even feel the impulse to have a “solid reason” for having a fourth baby should tell us all something. We like decisions that can be explained and understood. When things can’t be explained and easily understood? Well, that is some shaky territory. How do we know if it’s right? How do we know if we are right? How do we know if we will be all right?
Ahh, my friends. We don’t. We won’t ever truly know that with any choice. The best we can do is listen to those stirrings of our heart, take a deep breath, and leap.
I’m currently four months pregnant with our fourth baby. I do not possess the same, blind naiveté that carried me through my first pregnancy. But I have something better this time.
I have the beautiful freedom that comes with following my heart, past fear, and straight into the arms of hope.