Today my arm muscles ache, my blood sugar is higher than it should be, my feet hurt, and my heart is overflowing with happiness. Why?
Because my dear niece got married on Saturday night. She is my daughter's life long friend, so when she asked her aunties to make forty pies for the wedding reception, I responded the only way an auntie can. "Yes," I said without hesitation, knowing full well that between rolling out pie crusts, sampling the wares, crying as she walked down the aisle, handing out pie at the reception, and boogieing at the dance, the Monday after would be a severe day of reckoning. Even so, I chose to say yes, grateful to be part of her day of celebration and happiness, and thankful for the tiredness of today.
Far too often, while caring for a baby with special needs, my husband and I felt like our ability to make choices for our child had been ripped away.
We didn't choose to have a son who needed surgery at birth.
We had to choose to send our baby to a hospital 750 miles away or to let him die.
We were too far from the hospital to choose the surgeon who would operate on our newborn.
We were 2 decades too early to choose family-centered care for his many hospital stays.
We were often too sleep-deprived and despairing to choose hope over despair.
During the first few years of our baby's life, we sometimes felt like the choices that should have been ours as parents had been hijacked by a distant God who couldn't possibly love our son as much as we did.
To this day, I sometimes grieve for the choices we couldn't make that might have eased our baby's pain and for the choices we made that caused him greater pain. But, I have learned, it is not wise to mourn the past for too long. When I feel the despair of those memories closing, I remind myself that the past is over. I reflect upon the moments when we knew God was in the room with our son and with us, when we knew He was not distant and unfeeling, but present and compassionate.
Those moments have piled up over the years and led to the unshakeable conviction that at every pivotal juncture, God had provided choices.
We chose to send our son for tests that pinpointed the problem only hours after his birth.
We chose to send him to a university hospital near extended family.
We chose to entrust our son to a surgeon we never met, but who saved his life.
We chose to stay with son in the hospital, even though family-centered care was not yet a thing.
We chose friends who hoped and prayed for us when we were sleep-deprived and despairing.
God provided choices then. He provides choices now. In fact, He sets the same choice before us every minute and every hour of every day. He allows us to choose whether or not we will be grateful in, rather than for, our present circumstances.
He doesn't expect us to be grateful for a child's autism, for a hospital stay, or for a terminal diagnosis. He simply encourages us to choose gratitude for His presence and provision in when all other choices are gone. And when we choose gratitude, He gives us strength to take the next step, even as our hearts are bleeding.
So today, I choose to be grateful for tiredness in the wake of a wedding celebration and 40 pies. I choose to be grateful for a husband who danced with me at the reception. I choose to be grateful that, 34 years after surgery to repair his esophagus, my son was able to eat all the pie he wanted.