eight gracious weeks with our Iyanu-girl: how the blessings you prepare for the most can be the blessings you feel the least worthy for
Here - words have expressed nothing but wonder and thanksgiving. Eyes have seen nothing but glory and grace. Feet have walked the corridors of pain and peace, and hands have swaddled and snuggled a 2 month-old bundle of pure and holy joy.
When I stand staring at her tiny frame curled in her crib, I’m reminded how nothing quite prepares you for a love like this. No thing. How tears can well up in your eyes because you think of a world that just may be unworthy of this lovely innocence and holy beauty and you just don’t want to ever stop staring at her. Watching and praying over her. Covering her. Fighting for her. Laying it all down for her.
Here I am walking through a love this, that makes me weak just enough to do strong and brave things. A love that gives me but a glimpse of how our Heavenly Father does oh so deeply love us.
It had just been the morning before that I was sat there journaling scriptures for my desperate heart and all that was ahead; “you will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are stayed on you.” (Isaiah 26:3). They say find a focal point during labor, when contractions get intense – and the date and hour was drawing near, I was determined to keep my mind steadied on Him.
Because how do you walk into an unknown and not hold fast to the One who knows the beginning from the end and comforts you through the pain of the in-betweens. And what is more beautiful than how He holds fast onto us reminding that we don’t begin our journey our own and that we are never without Him. Never without His Help. Never alone.
And with His glorious grace, that 12:26am Tuesday morning, July 11th something holy happened. Something holy broke through.
The nurse had said to wait till the contractions were no longer far apart before we came to the hospital. And with every tightening and stretching, my body gave way to a pain I had never known.
And then mama said it: “You are in labor…”
What is your name?
How many weeks pregnant are you?
When is your expected due date?How would you rate the level of your pain on a scale of 1 - 10?….
“9.5.” I grunted as I was wheeled into that purpose room 209.
But how do you really rate the level of pain? Because yea you can believe that labor only begins when you strip below to bear down to push. But really labor begins all the way at the beginning. When you first saw those lines on the pregnancy test strip. When you first conceived that dream. When you first met that spouse. When it all just begins, labor comes disguised in the joy and eager expectations of your heart. Labor never really ends and we never quite know where and when it begins. But pain is always an indication that something new is about to begin. That something new is about to come forth. That you are about to break through something holy.
“Are you sure you’re still not getting an epidural?” Doctor asked.
As the contractions got severe, my blood pressure rose to a frightening and life threatening 200, and there I began to wonder if I could even do this. If I could even do it at all. What if when it was time to push, I would have lost all strength? What if when strength mattered the most, I would have lost it all? What if when I push she wouldn’t even come? And it would all be for nothing. This would all be for nothing. Maybe I am unworthy of this. Maybe I am not enough to even do this at all…
When nothing goes as planned, stopping amidst it all is easier. When the pain becomes unbearable throwing hands in the air and cowering back may just be the easy way. And you go ahead and convince yourself that you at least tried. But even when your body is giving in, your heart reaches up. Your hands find His. Because there is a joy He sets before you that woos you in. There’s a far greater delight that draws you in despite the gnawing pain.
And this is what the brave know: His strength is really made perfect in weakness. That is: His strength begins at the broken place our weakness won’t allow us go further. The brave know that right where all strength fails, grace comes through and takes on our pain till we break through. The brave know that pain is necessary. Because yes, He will never cause pain without allowing something new to be born. (Isaiah 66:9) Brave hearts know this: there is no triumph without pain. There is no victory without labor. No courage without letting yourself do hard hard things.
“Jesus, you have to help me. I am overwhelmed.” Mama says I whisper as she watches me grunt through a pain she cannot take for me.
How gracious is God to let my hands be held by the one who pushed me through. How gracious is He to bring our stories full circle. To redeem broken moments, broken people, and restore joy through broken pieces. How gracious that He is a good good Father who answers every prayer. Because for this child I gave daring thanks and for this moment with mama I earnestly prayed.
And on such a glorious day when you’re all kinds of broken and busted, laying down propped, bared and raw and waiting for your joy-babe, you’re reminded that your life is not your own and that this…all of this breaking, is not about you, but all about His Story of grace and glory. His pure and amazing grace that lets you partake in the glorious Story He is writing.
“Your baby’s heart rate is dropping, I am going to need you to really push this time…” Doctor looks me straight in the eye.
There are some words you have to hear because it turns out they dare you brave. Sometimes, your heart has to sink deep for you to really lean in and reach for His sufficient grace. You simply have to come to the end of yourself to surrender to the strength of God. Sometimes words that break you are just the words that make you – trust Him and leap into triumph.
And there – I pushed my heart out. After the longest 7 hours I may ever know, at 12:26 am Tuesday, July 11th 2017, I pushed my clenched fisted 5 pound 12 ounced baby girl into the world. Into His Arms of awaiting grace.
I too crashed into awaiting grace.
Turns out there is no other way. There’s no other way to gasp and live through your pain. You’ve just got to open up your hands and heart to receive all that He is giving. To receive all of Him. Turns out there is never a time God is closest than when you are low, broken, shattered, bared and naked. When you are there weak supported by wires and an IV, maybe you are only breathing because He is breathing through you. Maybe you are only certain that this too shall pass because you’ve accepted the invitation to suffer with Him because of a greater glory. Maybe you can give thanks through the dark because you know He who is the light and with Him there’s always a way. He is the way. Turns out there’s no other way.
I am staring at my daughter every second before we got to take her home days later. I cannot believe the privilege to be her mother. How gracious is God to find me worthy. No, to make me worthy. With every gaze since, with every snuggle as she nurses at my breasts, with every kiss that enlarges my heart, and every giggle she gives me now that makes my eyes sting, He makes me worthy. Even the nights I have cried because I wondered if I was enough, doing enough, being enough, He is making me worthy.
Yea, nothing prepares you for such grace. But He calls you worthy.
Eight gracious weeks later and I am still awed by His wonder.
She is called Iyanunioluwa (God is a wonder) Lael (Belonging to God) Grace (Favour of God).
IyanuniOluwa Lael-Grace. My dear girl.
I call her my little wonder-girl. Our joy-babe.
There’s always wonder if you wait a while. If you just lean in long enough. There’s always wonder even in the dark. There’s always joy to be held. There’s always joy.
And His joy is so sweet it’ll cause you to forget all the pain it took to get here.