As I sit here on the last day of December on the closed lid of my toilet with two kids playing Water Fountain in the bathtub and splashing water EVERYWHERE, I think about the year that’s bleeding away.
This year, you sat with me and held my hand as I crafted words on larger scale than I’ve ever written. One year ago, almost exactly, I picked this blog up, dusted it off, and turned it from a very occasional hobby into… well… a super, duper, extra-time-consuming hobby that I like a whole lot more. So it’s a completely different animal, really.
There were some pretty hefty birthing pains along the way, but you turned your head, ignored the horrific mess and the crap all over the table and encouraged me to PUSH. And then you rifled through the gore, and, at the precise moment when you could’ve said, “OH MY WORD, THIS IS TERRIFYING,” you were all, “Look at the pretty bloggy BAYbee!” And even though my writing was wrinkled and wet and squishy and red and new, you found the precious bits and encouraged me to keep producing.
You enCouraged me.
This year, I learned from you that encouragement doesn’t simply mean cheering or applause or praise.
It means to hearten. To give heart to.
It means to infuse with courage.
Way back last year, a handful of people infused me with the courage to don my writing cap more regularly. I was infused with a courage that was not my own. You handed me yours to borrow, and every time I was afraid to push my publish button on a post, I could hear you, my unwitting birthing coaches, yelling, “PUSH!”
And then I did.
Nonprofit organizations send annual reports to their donors detailing all the things their gifts made possible. Here’s an annual report of sorts for the ways I used your heart and your courage:
Your generous enCouragement allowed this mama over and over again to Find the Funny in situations where the Funny SO didn’t ask to be found. I got to be the Laughing Mama more often than I was the Frustrated Mama.
Your generous enCouragement helped me capture moments like my outrageous pride in the stunning accomplishments of my oldest son who otherwise fights every moment of every day to be understood.
Last year at this time, I shared with you my New Year’s Resolution, and I hope you’ll forgive me for sharing it again, but it turns out I mean it even more now than I did then.
Brian Doyle wrote The Wet Engine about his son’s heart surgery. In an Oregon Public Broadcasting interview, he said, “We mistakenly think that life is about being strong. It isn’t. There are things that happen to us and to those we love that no amount of strength will overcome. Instead, we endure. We bear.”
I suspect that one of the triumphs of life is in the endurance of it.
And that a triumph of relationships is in the privilege of bearing witness.
Tomorrow begins a new year. It’s a natural time to reflect on the past and to think about what the future may bring. Some moments will be fun. Some will be funny. Some will break my heart. Of course they will. I’m a mother.
I didn’t expect that this year would see not one, but two, recurrences of my 5-year-old niece’s cancer which her little body continues to battle. That’s a heartache that’s not my story to tell, except for this: there are days upon days when my grief is overwhelming, and I know that the level of my sadness doesn’t begin to touch that of Kay’s mama and daddy. I am helpless in the wake of cancer.
And I didn’t expect that this year would see my 2-year-old nephew hospitalized repeatedly for his ongoing penchant to stop breathing. I am helpless in the wake of childhood illness.
More than anything, dear friend who gave me enCouragement, I want you to know this:
Your generous enCouragement allowed me, over and over, for days upon days, to seek out the joy in the middle of the grief. To refuse to lose the precious moments with my own children out of heartbreak and fear for others. To know that I bore witness to the aching and beautiful ways that our children triumph over life every day in the endurance of it.
So these are my New Year’s resolutions, almost same as they were last year, written as a letter to my children:
Dear Abby, Ian, Aden, Cai and Cael,
That which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you.
As we enter a new year again together, I want you to know that:
I resolve to see you.
I resolve to bear witness to your amazing and crazy lives.
I resolve to infuse you with courage by giving my heart to you.
And I resolve to endure with you.
And always… always, always… I love you; no resolution required.