First Birthdays

When “normal” doesn’t look the way we thought it would.

First Birthdays. They are most often marked with baby smashing cake into his or her mouth which then turns into an utterly adorable mess. Who could forget the toys that make way too much noise!?! And how inevitably the highs of all the excitement and attention eventually turning into the lows of a sobbing, overly tired baby, signaling the end of the party! All in all, I love those first birthdays.

I have been fortunate to experience many first birthdays with my boys. Each child unique with their own personalities. Every one of my boys at some point would have a favorite toy that got toted around everywhere. It went in the car seat, the diaper bag, the crib, and if/when it went missing, then mom and dad would be on the hunt for that special, coveted, toy. The toy that would sooth the crying toddler and calm the moment down. Our children turning one, it’s a challenging yet beautiful time. Often full of laughter… and tears… mostly from baby… but also from me! 

I am so aware of what “normal” looks like around the first birthday. 

And this is why the month of May held some hard moments for me. On the 23rd of May, 2019 was Ava’s due date. 

As that day came and went last month, my mind would often trail back to remembering her. I’ll never know which date she would have actually been born on. But I know she would have had her birthday around then… Truthfully it still hurts. I wish I was planning a socially distanced birthday over zoom with her grandparents. I wish there was cake and presents. I wish there was worry over making sure the stairs are gated off for her. I wish I had to be extra cautious making sure all the Legos were not within reach of her little hands. I wish there were chubby cheeks and smiles.  And… oh how I wish I could feel the warmth of her in my arms. 

Instead, here I sit in the quiet of the evening, thinking about what might have been, and hoping for what someday will be. 

We all have an idea of what “normal” should look like. We usually have expectations on how life will go. We have things we look forward to, and things we take for granted. And then something happens that changes what “should” or “might have been.” Often, we wish we could go back, have a do over, hope that it could be avoided or fixed. But instead we have to walk forward in what the reality of this situation is. And it does not look like the “normal” we pictured. 

I think it’s safe to say unanimously that none of us thought 2020 would go like this. We wish we could go back to what “normal” felt like, or maybe we wish we could jump forward to our “new normal”. We wish to be with our friends and family again. To take our trips and to honor our graduates in the usual way. We think of those who are sick, those who have lost loved ones during this time. Not even just to Covid-19, but just period, the inability to gather and have a funeral and mourn together is a huge loss in itself. I think of those who are not safe at home, and those who are struggling to feed their families. And now we have the cultural unrest and the hurts of generations of our black community bubbling to the surface and overflowing into our streets. It doesn’t take very long to look around and see the massive amounts of frustration, the huge divide for us as humans, between what life “should” look like and what it “actually” looks like. 

There are no quick fixes here. 

I believe someday when we look back on this time there will be beauty to be found, as well as times of joy and there are probably going to be things that we look back at that have changed for the better. However, right now this is still the reality, it’s definitely not what we had pictured and it’s hard. 

So, we sit, we sit in the broken pieces of what life looks like right now. 

However, we also look forward in hope. We hope there is a vaccine that is successful. We hope that social distancing and the warmer weather will make the numbers continue to drop. We hope for that “new normal” people keep talking about, and we hope that we will enjoy it. We hope to listen and to love our neighboring black communities as Christ loves. 

We hope for a better tomorrow. 

This will get better, someday we will have more answers. Some day we will enjoy the places and people we love again. But even when that day comes, it will not change the truth that we still live in a broken world. The effects of this brokenness that are so evident all around us right now will not go away. There is no vaccine for pain, sadness, sickness and death. They have been here since the beginning, since the fall of Adam and Eve, and will be here until the Lord makes a new heaven and earth. 

I’ve known since I was a little girl that our future hope is ultimately not found here in this life. But it hasn’t hit home as hard for me as it has this last year and a half. I’ve been staring my brokenness in the face. I’ve felt the effects of a fallen world deeply. 

The Lord has brought joy and thankfulness to my heart and much healing to my hurting soul. And I know He will continue to heal me. But I also know that there are some things that just won’t be fully healed until heaven. 

So, in the quiet I sit and mourn the loss of a first birthday. I grieve having to live in a world that experiences the effects of sin and the pain it brings. I grieve my “normal” being shattered with the loss her.

But I also look out in hope. Yes, the world will still bring fresh hurt and difficulties over and over.  But there is hope, for I know that my Redeemer lives. And because He lives, there is healing taking place, joy that bubbles up and strength for each day. The Lord has and will continue to meet me and my needs day after day. He meets my needs on the mountains, in the valley’s and through all the journey in between. 

Hope in the Lord never fails. While we struggle with the brokenness here in the world. As we come face to face with it. God doesn’t just leave us there to figure it out. That is why Christ came, to offer an eternal hope. To make things new, to heal the broken and reconcile all people to God. When we look around and see things that are absolutely not right and break our hearts, may we see Christ and His love for us. Christ became broken so that we can be whole. He took our hot mess and clothed us in His perfection, so that each one of us can know the full acceptance and love of God our Father. 

I look forward in hope to the day I will sit and eat cake with Ava and laugh together and dwell in the gracious, loving presence of our Lord, in a place untouched by sin. To enjoy to the fullest what a better tomorrow actual looks like. I know it will be better than anything I could ever dream up. 

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