Love

I talked with another tummy round momma the other day.
Closing in on her last two weeks, her swollen feet attested to a long day at work and yet her eyes sparkled with dreams as she snuggled my newest bundle. 

 
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We chuckled as her soon to be promoted two year-old ran back and forth with wet face kisses for the baby momma tried respectfully to thwart on my behalf and like a mantra repeated the name they were saving for the precious little brother. 
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We admired her enthusiasm and dreamed together of the role she would soon take on and thrive in so naturally. Although words can only express so much, I made promises to my friend of the unequaled heart melt to come -
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As I shared recently, there’s the complete beauty in the miracle of childbirth,
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holding the warmth in my arms that I’ve held in my heart for so very long, 
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but then, there’s watching each one of my children 
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and the curiosity and confusion and wonder and frustration and excitement of embracing a new sibling.
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This isn’t to say this welcome of each new little Frenchie baby doesn’t evolve 
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from places of overwhelming moments, days, weeks, that fits aren’t thrown, that toys aren’t thrown (no, honey, the baby can’t play catch yet), 
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that I’ve many a time sat myself down, announced wearily, “Okay, who’s dirty?” 
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followed a series of assembly line worthy diaper changes, one, two, now three,
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and then back to one (with a less than gracious groan) for a round two. 
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This isn’t to say I don’t stumble over whose name I’m intending, 
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that my voice doesn’t strain in response to the whines,
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that many a day isn’t filled with endless tests of appropriate boundaries 
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with some or little variations in the discipline responses 
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but a gradual (or not so gradual) depletion of the compassion and patience I respond with. This isn’t to say I don’t ignore multiple baskets of laundry, intermixed smelly and fresh, to choose Facebook browsing during naptime, that I don’t let my five year-old review flashcards with my three year-old and call that our “preschool” time for the day, 
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that my children can just as quickly (if not more quickly) find each other’s last nerve as they can find their arms around each other’s neck in the most all encompassing embrace (or is that the beginnings of a WWF take-down…).
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BUT.
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Above all of the lessons I was taught growing up, 
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there was one golden rule that surpassed all others in its sacred nature.
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If I reminisce long enough, I can come up with actual stories, recall the setting, the audience, the details of moments where each of us three girls crossed the line in breaking the commandment and reaped the appropriate consequences. 
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Family love comes first. 
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As cliche, natural as it sounds, the years brought their bundle of learning this hard lesson, the grit required to really make this truth a reality. As a child, there weren’t clubs sans sisters, snarkiness towards my siblings meant the play date was over, right then and there, before date night Friday nights, we sat together all five and talked about our week, even if that meant our teenage ‘tudes sat in rebellious silence.
 
At the time, I gathered only glimpses of the profound nature of this mantra, now as a wife, as a parent, it’s only started to come together as I long, strive to impart the same to my own brood.
 
It means choosing loyalty to my husband and then my children above what’s trendy, appealing, easy. 
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It means forgiveness and sacrifice, simple dedication to the one I’ve chosen to become one with, genuine engagement to the hearts I’ve been entrusted with. 
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Oh if they could only know the heights of my dedication, the width of my loyalty, the depth of my love, and not only that, but to glean this adoration from me and thus love each other with the same intensity.
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I understand the high stakes of this longing, 
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but I simultaneously believe this desire for this love to both be received deeply and expressed fiercely is a divine conviction,
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“By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 16:35
 
And so, I start with the most difficult person to remind of this truth,
myself.
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Not just a daily remembrance,
no,
closer to
minute by minute,
and more practically,
frustration by impatience
hurt by irritation
love comes first.
 
Recently, in a rare quiet moment in our home, I overheard the following conversation...
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“Mommy, I love you more than the farthest frog has ever jumped.” Her head rested against me as her baby sister nestled against me, eyes closed in milk drunk serenity.
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“I love Lucy more than the farthest grasshopper has ever hopped.” She continued stroking peach fuzz scalp, tracing tiny curved ears and landing gently to rest intertwined with my own fingers
“Ellie, what about me?” Her brother chirped from the edge of the couch.
“I like bears and lions” He prompted.
“Well, I don’t have any ideas for that.” His sister furrowed her eyebrows in deep thought.
“But I love bears and lions!” He persisted in concern.
“Well, I love you louder than the loudest lion has ever roared…” Her voice rose in poetic inflection, five year-old sincerity.
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“And I love you scratchier than the scratchiest bear has ever scratched his claws against a tree.”
And, just like that he was satisfied.
And just like that, sometimes,
just sometimes,
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I feel like I’m getting it right.
 
 
These
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precious photos of our sweet Lucy's introductions 
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to her proud grandparents 
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(and great grandpa!) 
were taken 
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by Erica Short of Anecdotally Yours 
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and will be forever loved by us.
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