Last night I tucked a squirmy one-year-old into bed. This morning his two-year-old howls split the dawn. We sat in the rocker and waited for the world to wake up. He sucked his thumb. I drowned in coffee. My tired heart overflowed with fierce joy.
For years I thought God had said a firm “no” to my earnest request for children. I watched kids burst into the world around me, but my arms stayed empty. I was the only woman whose head didn’t turn when a child’s cry rang out. I felt vacant, dry, and out of order.
Infertility can be a lonely place to walk. It is easy for women who trek its stony trails to feel resentful. During those years a few people tried to encourage me. They told me stories about women who had walked the desert and finally found themselves in the lush, shady meadows of motherhood. I appreciated their compassion, but those stories were not encouraging. I already knew with cold certainty that God could give me children. His power frustrated me. I could forgive apologetic inability. But it was hard to accept His deliberate decision.
Tjitske was one of two women who gave me real, solid hope. Her story ended happily, but not with children. I often went to her house for a cup of well-frothed, Dutch coffee. We would sit in her garden and watch little sprouts reach toward the sun. Tjitske never held her own baby. Her daughter went straight to heaven without soiling her tiny feet in the dust of earth. Tjitske would have had grandkids by the time I met her, but her life was not lived in the desert. She found graces other than motherhood to satisfy her heart. She showed me how to embrace the thorny, unpleasant things God gave her, nurture them, and make them her friends. She proved to me that life can be rich, full, and nourishing, even without little ones to share it with.
Finally, after pursuing several medical options, I chose to let go. I wasn’t meant to be a mom. I would pour my whole heart into research, teaching, and missions.
And that’s when God sent us Felicity. The day we found out that she was with us, I made a brazen request. God had burst into my world in a mighty, unexpected way, but I was not beyond responding to His mercy by asking for more. More. More kids. “God.” I prayed, “would you give us more than one?” After all, this little girl would have awfully old parents. Our average age that year was 44. And we tend to move around. Stability isn’t something we find in our circumstances. It would be such a blessing for our child to have some siblings, a tribe of little people who would know what it was like to grow up with grouchy old us, and who would have in-house friends to share each others’ stories and be fixtures in life. Felicity was nine months old when God gave us Malachi.
Today our boy turns two. He is our precious, God-sent “more.” He is barely 2 feet high, but he fills our home with abundance. More squeals, more cuddles, more sound effects, more dirt, more cars, more laughter. He is a solid little rock in the tossing sea of three-year-old emotions. He initiates compassion. He sits and listens to his big sister rant, and then hands her his blankie. He is good-humored. He tolerates manifold big sister abuse with smiles, shrugs, and shares. He is flirtatious. He offers double-dimpled grins to every girl he finds in Costco. He is soft-hearted; he thrives on grown-up attention and likes to cover my eyes before kissing my cheek. He stops to smell the flowers, pet the dogs, and give a helping hand to bugs. He has no interest in learning letters, colors, or shapes, but he will trace the anatomy of fish for three whole minutes. First-born Felicity is already on an industrious path toward becoming a lawyer, a doctor, or a US president. Malachi’s trajectory has him living on a beach, playing with clams, and watching the dance of light and water.
Today my hands are full. I rarely have time to do the “real” work that used to preoccupy me. I rarely even have time to shower. But as I watch the years already flowing fast around me, I am deeply thankful for the life God chose for me. And today I am especially thankful for Malachi, God’s rich, resounding “more.”