Today is a day of happiness, but also a time to reflect on past sorrows.
Four years ago I was going through one of the toughest periods I had ever experienced.
We made the decision after a year of earnest prayer to close our business in North Carolina and move our family to the hubs' hometown in Iowa. His mother was not doing well, his Dad was aging, the family farm was falling into shambles... and we felt increasingly lead to make this huge leap of faith.
We knew it would be hard to start a business over from scratch, especially in an area where there really aren't a lot of trees and where a lot of the hardworking people take care of things themselves. We didn't know how hard. Six months later found us completely devoid of our savings, living in a single wide trailer on the family farm, and doing everything possible to try to keep it all together - and food in our bellies.
And then I got a phone call one early Monday morning, February 5, 2007 that put it all into perspective.
My father had been killed while attempting to board a ship 2 miles off the coast of Delaware, at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. He fell 30 feet into the water where he was run through the propellers of the very boat that had taken him out to meet the ship. The only thing they ever found was his float coat wrapped around the propellers of the pilot boat. My world tilted on its axis, as I stared into a mirror trying to comprehend what my mother was telling me.
Funny how when something like that happens, you realize that nothing else matters. Not money. Not what you have. Not where you live. Not what you drive. Nothing. How insignificant are the trappings of this earth. And you wonder how you'll ever be the same again. And really, you never are.
The day my daddy died, was the first day of my time of the month. A month later I was late. I thought it was stress and didn't say anything to anyone. Not to my mother. Not to Scott. No one. After a week and a half passed, I closed myself up in the bathroom in my Dad's house in Virginia Beach with a test. And when I got the results, I cried. Sobbed, actually. I couldn't handle losing my Dad, settling the estate, our current financial situation, and now, a baby on the way. When Scott came to the door to ask if I was okay, I opened the door enough to throw the pregnancy test at him and slam the door. Then I cried some more. And raged against God. Hadn't we gone where he led us? Wasn't it enough that He had taken everything we had and then when we were at our lowest, my father? Now, a baby when we couldn't even support the ones we had? I felt like Job of the Old Testament. Why?!
Fast forward to November. I'm heavily pregnant, nearing the end of my 40 weeks. I had petitioned the courts to have my father declared deceased. I had spent many weeks on the road between Virginia and Iowa settling the estate. And life was still going on, when I couldn't have imagined it ever would. And I still wasn't ready to take on another child. I dreaded giving birth.
November 6th, 2007.
I'm in labor. I have a picture of my Dad on the bed, as I brought this new little life into the world. Not ready for late night feedings, walking the floor with a crying baby, and still managing to take care of five other children while still struggling with my grief.
The moment he was born, my little man has been the easiest of all my six children. I chatted away with Scott and my sister-in-law, as he crowned - not even realizing it. A half push and he slipped into the world - and into my heart. As I looked into his eyes and counted his little fingers and toes, I realized he was the spitting image of my father as a baby - down to a little curl on his forehead, a birthmark on his chest. And in his eyes was the knowledge of an old soul... If you believe in that kind of thing. Which, I have never have.
When the nurses brought around the complimentary quilts that a local organization makes for new babies, amid the pastel pinks and flowers, the bright primary colors depicting tractors and farm animals, a bright blue caught my eye. A quilt of sailboats and ships - in Iowa of all places. And my eyes filled with tears when I thought about the woman that had made this quilt. Did she know when she picked the fabric that the Lord was guiding her hands and her heart? I think it was then that my heart began to thaw towards God.
I never walked the floor with him screaming. He woke up minimally to eat and always went right back to sleep. He was satisfied in my arms, in the swing, or in the bouncy seat. You couldn't have asked for a better baby. And time began to heal my hurt... With the snuggles of my beautiful boy. With the powdery scent of baby. With the unconditional love he had for me. How many hours did I spend just sitting looking into his eyes.
We named him for my father. A big name for a little baby. And even bigger shoes to fill.
When my mother first saw Landon 8 months later, my brother tried to prepare her for how much he resembled our father. And she still gasped and burst into tears when she saw him. Not one of us could believe it. A gift in the midst of unspeakable sorrow.
So today we celebrate Landon's 4th birthday. It has been 4 years, 40 weeks, and 2 days since my Daddy died. And its also been 4 years, 40 weeks, and 2 days since a tiny baby was sent to heal our hurts, when we weren't sure we'd ever see our way out of the darkness. And isn't that the Lord's way? A tiny baby sent to save the world so many, many years ago. And a tiny baby sent to fill the gaping hole in our hearts. And he has.
Everyday he still continues to fill our hearts and our home.
Each year on this day, I am reminded that sometimes unexpected blessings come when you least expect them and that sometimes, when you might rail against the hand that you have been dealt, that there is Someone who knows better than you do. He knows what you need and He will give you comfort when you need it - even when its not in a way you expect or maybe even want. Today there have already been some tears while I reflect on the circumstances of Landon's birth, but there is also an incredible happiness that we have been so very, very blessed.
So, happy birthday, my little man. You are still filling my days with happiness and laughter - with your sunny smiles, while I marvel at your innocence and your happy go lucky nature. And I thought for sure you would be tainted by my horrible sadness and bitterness as I carried you in my womb. You are my light. You are my heart.
Happy Birthday, Landon.