The concept of joy has such a special place in my heart, as it shoudl to all of us, but it was the worst days of my life, no hyperbole, when the concept hit me square in the chest.
Growing up, all I could see was a life without choice. Regardless of the proclamations of the world around me, the statistics didn't lie. While the teachers and the books said " you can be whatever you want to be," the statistics said that for children from these parents, from these circumstances, these were the overwhelmingly likely outcomes. I didn't see a choice in it; I saw those statistics, and I believed that what I wanted for my life didn't matter...I was just another statistic.
Sure enough, I found myself falling right into that pattern before I knew. Though it was God's leading, I found myself following those statistics dead on, when Mr. SoulFull and I got married just 6 weeks after high school graduation. Though I felt God's leading, and total love, I couldn't help but let those statistics nag, thinking " but everyone must feel like this at the beginning." I felt like I had no control over the longevity of our marriage; divorce was just something that could happen to us, statistically speaking, regardless of what I felt, it probably would.
I then clearly remember the moment when I realize that THAT was a lie. Thanks to Debi Pearl, and her book , I realized that it was my choice. I realized that if our relationship was about pleasing God, and in the process making myself the best version of myself possible, then I could take the worst possible, divorce-inciting scenario I could think of and just decide NO! just because the world tells me that this should mean divorce, it doesn't have to !
Whether that is the decision I would or should make in those situations is up to my relationship with God, but the idea that I could make a decision, instead of falling into the situation, was liberating.
This may not seem so novel to many, but I guarantee that to me, this was truly a turning point. I stopped being worried about something going wrong, and I started just enjoying being in love; in return, my husband has turned out to be more than any Prince Charming I could have dreamed of.
Yet while I had realized the existence of choice in that one emotionally driven relationship, I hadn't recognized the place of choice in other parts of my emotional and mental world. While I had wanted to have control of my emotions, and certainly of my thoughts, I constantly struggled and felt that it was futile. I come from a family with a long history of untreated depression and anger-management issues. Those things I struggle with still. However,I no longer struggle under the belief that I am destined to be slave to them.
When we discovered we were expecting Bumbles, in the fall of 2008, it was unexpected to say the least. I will avoid the details, but even the midwife agreed that this conception should not have happened from a medical standpoint, but it did (and of course I thank my Lord every day). I was not opposed to another child, in fact I desperately wanted one, just not right then, and especially not when I had thought that God was telling me to close that door and focus on other things he was putting on my plate.
Soon we realized though that THAT was exactly why he'd given us this third blessing; the moment I turned my heart's desire over to him, willing to forfeit it to his will and service, he showed his love. He didn't have to, just as a parent that loves his child and loves to see him smile does not have to give that gift he knows his child will love. BUT if that parent has the opportunity, and it will not cause harm, that parent so loves to bring a smile to his child's face. And isn't it even sweeter when that child is truly grateful ?
So once we overcame the shock and the worry over certain logistical issues, we were thrilled, though still nervous about telling family ( really...another one?!?!)
My morning sickness was awful, but I tried to keep my spirits up. We decided to send Man-Child to public school, since we were juggling school and new baby preparations, but we settled into things and felt that we were truly coming into the happiest days of our lives.
That feeling was compounded when we traveled to Southern California to visit family.
It was a wonderful time to bond to family we had little chance to fellowship with. Mr. SoulFull's grandparents are the founders of the family, as we know it at least, and it was special to be with them and share their great-grandchildren with them. I even hand the opportunity to bond with dear Uncle George, the neighbor who'd become family long before Mr. SoulFull or I was ever born. It was lovely; the weather was lovely.
We were staying through my favorite Holiday, Thanksgiving, and I really thought it was one of the most THANKS filled thanksgivings in my life...up until about 20 minutes after dinner.
Then the world dropped out from under me. Sitting at the table, waiting for my stomach to settle in order to avoid the nausea of the yet-to-be announced pregnancy, we heard the family's dog snarl. In that moment, you usually imagine the worst case-scenario, then you quickly take stock, and move on with only half a thought of how bad that almost was.
Mr. SoulFUll moves much faster than I do on a good day, and when I heard his voice from the kitchen, his ever-calm voice, I could hear a tone I had never heard in all the years we'd been together, and I knew...it was bad...
My beautiful two year old, the one that had followed her great Aunty into the kitchen, and whom I thought would be fine without me for just a second, had been bitten by their very big dog.
The first thing I saw, and the way I saw Mr. SoulFull holding her, I thought that she had been bitten in the throat. Within seconds, there was already so much blood that it looked like something from a horror movie. Then in my periphery, I recognize man-child, and I hear him saying " he killed my sister," though it felt almost like hearing something while under water. All I could do was grab him, and go outside. I knew I was useless in the house, and all I could think to do was to take him away from our horror, and to maybe, somehow be useful by flagging down the ambulance when it came.
When man0child shares his part of the story, he always tells people how Mama took him into the yard and started praying to God. I do remember having a very clear sense that he was there, and he'd even been there at the moment when the floor had dropped out. What I can't recall for certain, was whether this one message actually came to me in that moment, standing in the street, waving for teh ambulance, or if it just came in tandem with a flashback.
But we had been pondering a certain name if the suprise #3 were to be a girl. The boy name was already decided, long ago picked for a character from a mutually beloved book, but there girl name was tricky. Looking for something spunky, with maybe a British flavor, I thought of the name in question, and I quickly looked up the meaning. The meaning was pleasant, and it added to the allure, but it was only generally meaningful at that point, not personally meaningful.
But standing in the street, or else reliving that horrible moment, I heard God tell me that THAT was the name...that this baby was coming with JOY, because Joy was a choice. Joy is something that we can choose to have, even in the darkest situation, by choosing to reside in God. Happiness is an emotion. Happiness is uncontrollable and situational, but JOY is a state of being, of being in God and accepting his providence.
Grandma and I followed Fi and Mr. SoulFull in the ambulance. I kept pinching myself to try to make the hurt something tangible that I could deal with. I wanted to scream. I was terrified, and at this point, all I knew was that there was so much blood and that the paramedics had only decided not to airlift her because her Daddy had her calm and they didn't want to jeopardize that. One the way, the car that got in front of us had her (lengthy) initials as its license plate number...
I never saw her before surgery. I needed to steel myself before seeing her, and then Mr. SoulFull, knowing the secret that no one else did at this point, thought it was best I stayed in the waiting room, as he instructed the nurses, where he could keep the baby calm.
The hospital was amazed at how calm he was, and they allowed him to go into the OR, all up until the point of anesthesia. By the time I saw him again, they had given him scrubs to change into, and a bag to hold all of their bloody clothes. Grandma left to go check in with the rest of the family, and Mr. SoulFull and I tried to console one another. As calm as he was, I knew he was shaken.
The doctors called us back to perform mid-surgery consult. This was when I learned the extent of her injuries, and it was as though I felt each part of my own face being ripped apart, along with my heart, as the doctor explained. To help you understand the difference between any dog bite, and this dog bite, the doctor likened this to adult having been bitten by a bear.
Her nose was broken along one side like an egg shell. She had a large laceration on her right cheek, that went through the cheek, through the gums, and had punctured her jaw bone. Her left eye lid had been torn apart, clear across her nose ( my husband had been holding her eyeball into her head in the time it took to get her into the OR). At this point, they could tell that her tear duct system was not just damaged but completely gone, and they were amazed that the eyeball itself was somehow intact (he explained how they removed it to check that the whole orbit of the eye was intact). There were several smaller lacerations on her face, including one under the jaw which was probably what had made me think her throat was bitten. None of them, of course, was as bad as the one to her eye. Another surgeon ended up having to be called in, and again, we had a consult. During the hospital stay, the doctors explained that she would have to have an artifical tube put into allow her eye to tear and drain. They also thought that it would take 5 to six surgeries, besides this initial 4 hour surgery that put everything back together, to make her eye appear a normal shape.
When the little girl in her hospital room saw her for the first time, she cried. It broke my heart.
to be continued...