The soft sound of little feet thumping on the sandy beach is pleasing to my ears. The laughter. . . the excitement. The sun is just starting to set but we made it here in time and they are SO excited! They are running now, yards in front of us. I can hear their squeals of delight as their loud voices call out. . . “over here! I’ve found one!” and “AW! It got away!” “There’s another one!”
He squeezes my hand and we exchange a playful glance as we watch our 2 year old try to catch up. Little legs toddling, long hair flying all wild and yelling at the top of his lungs, “I got one too! I got one too!” We are on a hunt for tadpoles tonight. The kids have done their research, they’ve set up a tadpole habitat or hatibat as Levi calls it in a big glass fish bowl at home. They’ve figured out how to prepare lettuce for it and how to catch bugs for it and they have collectively agreed that they will name it “Sam”. This is the last step in bringing their “new pet” home – finding him.
We hunt around the edges of the pond trying to find and catch a tadpole and the kids are suddenly silent while in their serious searching mode. The noise level rises with excitement as Abby spies one and we are able to scoop him up in our little jar. Then we just stand there admiring this tiny little wiggly being. “We found him just in time huh Mom?” I nod and smile at Hudson as he motions to the setting sun and the ushering in of the twilight hours. I can see my husband hunkered down on the beach showing our 2 year old something that he finds absolutely fascinating and I see the resemblance in them as they both crouch down on that beach together and point to that still, quiet water in admiration. I remember going to the swamp with my granddad and I remember collecting tadpoles and bringing them home, raising them into little frogs and then returning to the swamp to set them free. I mostly remember how special I felt that he wanted to share his special place and his time with me. Today we are not at the same swamp, in fact not even the same country but somehow this tadpole excursion has taken me across the span of time and ocean to a time and season when I was 4 or 5 and my granddad took me out in the spring for those long nature walks. I remember walking home with the water sloshing over the sides and that's just how my heart felt too. . . all filled up and sloshing over with love for the special time spent- just my grandpa and me. The bucket was filled with water and tadpoles but my heart was filled with joy. Somehow the time he gave me put a knowledge in my heart of how valuable I was to him and has spoken to me years later of my intrinsic worth.
Abby must have seen them too and she looks out in front of us and notices the ripples in the water. There are little minnows jumping at the twilight bugs that have begun to move over the water and with each and every jump there is a ripple that begins tiny and radiates out beyond to eventually reach the entire pond in some way. We can see with our eyes what a tiny movement on a still pond can do. . . creating ripples well beyond the tiny movement that began it. I have just come back from a women’s conference a few hours before where we talked and cried and prayed a lot about the ripples in our lives, those that came from intentional and unintentional places, people and wounds. I walked away feeling free and feeling hopeful for my own children and the future that they have ahead of them. Desirous that even my tiny movements in parenting would make ripples of joy and wellbeing and grace in their lives and the lives of their future children too.
The kids are marveling in where each minnow is jumping and watching the ripples from each one and I’m standing there on what presently seems a bit like holy ground, praying for them, praying against strongholds that have held on in my family line through the generations. . .praying for us in the choices we make as husband and wife, as parents, as people and how our choices have a ripple effect on our children and our future grandchildren.
We get our fill of tadpoles, and minnows and skipping rocks on the water and we make our way around the pond to the other side. In the process of the night, the kids have learned the Chinese name for tadpole and are excited to use it with the very few people still left in the area. Hudson begins to play with a boy about his age and the grandparents engage us in friendly and lively conversation. They think 3 children is amazing and that I’m far too young to have 3 children but how blessed I am and then they say it. They say it loud and directly and my sweet 7 year old, whose Chinese in some areas is more fluent than my own, understands every word. “Boys are so much better than girls. You are doubly blessed because you have 2 boys.” I feel the hot rush to my cheeks, I feel the protective mama bear begin to rise up and instantaneously I think. . . “Ripples”. You are sending ripples that just may wound my beautiful child’s heart. Knowing that Abby values our opinion more than anyone else’s at this tender age of 7, I say with direct boldness. . . “Girls are a blessing and boys are a blessing. God creates each one and finds each one beautiful and unique and perfect in his sight. I praise God for my daughter, whose very life, whose very being has brought me greater joy than any earthly success ever could.” She nods her head at me but I’m not looking at her anymore. I am looking at my 7 year old girl and I see the pride shine in her eyes as she hears me validate her worth and her specialness to me. She hugs me and holds me close for a minute, her toothless grin all grinning up at me and I think again. . . "ripples." I just dropped a tiny stone in the pond, hoping that this ripple will have an impact in my children's lives greater than the impact of the world around them. And today. . . this IS my prayer.
The waitress pours the coffee hot, our conversation pauses as we both nod, smile and acknowledge her presence and slight intrusion into our “mom”talk. The steam rises up fogging her glasses. I sprinkle sugar into my cup and add the thick cream until it looks about right. We exchange stories about our children, laughing and even a few tears and dream big dreams about what the Lord is doing in our families and in our city. I have this deep feeling of trust and connection with this vulnerable and honest friend and I feel it deep in my bones. Sharing one of the deepest burdens on my heart, I share with her how I am praying for ways to connect with my son. Boys are so foreign to me, growing up with 3 girls in my home. I want to know how to play with boys and love on boys and be the best mom that I can to my boys but especially to my middle son whom I think is crying out for more of that from me.
The check is paid and we are on our way home in the middle of more conversation that is deep and honest and real.
The ring of my phone yanks me out of this conversation with a start. I feel it as soon as I see my husband is the caller, that something is wrong. Hello? There was an accident. He was pushed, pushed off of something, he fell, he is crying. I can hear the crying. Shivering uncontrollably. Broken. Something is broken, I know this instinctively. I’m not sure if it’s him or my heart.
A three minute drive feels like 3 hours and then I get out.
Dodging through the people, I see the back of my husband’s head, the stroller, my daughter. . . and then. . .
I see him.
He turns his head and those sweet 4 year old eyes meet mine and I see the panic, the pain and the broken all wound up in one little glance from those sparkly blue eyes that were dark with pain right now.
I run and scoop him up and he sobs into me. Oh the pain. . . the broken pain. I live somewhere in between denial and reality. I want to race him home because there somehow I can make it all better and I want to race him to the hospital as quickly as I can. I hear my own voice speaking soft and low and calmly telling him that it’s going to be alright. I hear my voice telling him “It is going to be alright.”
Yet I feel a part of my heart wondering what is in store. Is it surgery? Is it a cast? Is it months of difficulty walking? Running? Oh. . . running! My little 4 year old athlete. . . my 1st place track and field 50 meter dash boy. . . how will we survive if he can not run?
“Oh Lord. . . but I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)
My eyes Lord are upon you. I will look up. . . I. . . will.. . look up. . .
Doctor’s office, x rays and more doctors to see. Orthopedic specialists, x ray technicians and back to his pediatrician. Yes indeed the foot bones are broken. . . but did it affect the growth plates? What will this mean for his future? Will he walk normal? Run normal? Waiting. . . for orthopedic specialist and pediatrician to talk in their hushed tones down the hall and come to an agreement on what they see and how to share it with us.
We wait for what feels like eternity to me with my busy four year old popping wheelies in his miniature kid sized wheelchair. “Can we bring one of these home with us?” he asks me and I laugh out loud. Hearing my own voice laughing surprises me and I think about God’s grace in moments of difficulty and trial. I am laboring in my mind about his future abilities and he is trying to figure out the mechanics of how to pop a wheelie with his wheelchair and how to convince me to bring one home. The agony and the laughter mingle together for a short while in my mind and in my heart. How is it that two contrasting emotions can both live here in my heart at the same time. There is a knock on the door and the orthopedic specialist enters back into our waiting room.
I let out a thankful breath when we find out that it did not break into the growth plate. I didn’t even know that foot bones had growth plates before today. Logically it makes sense, but I never needed to think about it before. . .and now all I can think about is God’s grace in missing the growth plate. A cast is applied, another x ray taken and we are on our way home. There is no wheelchair for home, no crutches (he is too little for them) but there was a lollipop and despite the pain and the disappointment, a pretty happy little boy riding in the back seat.
It isn’t until the car ride home that I think again of God’s grace and how it has flowed down and keeps flowing out of my eyes. Today, God’s grace tastes salty as it flows down. But God’s grace is hard for me to breath in right now and yet I receive it with gratefulness. Would my eyes no matter how much of God’s grace flows all salty from them. . . at any one point in time, just stay looking up. . . would my eyes but stay fixed upon Him?