Six months in and she's got my heart. She did from the beginning, of course, but that heart is only getting more deeply embedded in that fragile place where parents' hearts go, where it shatters at every story on the news and thunders with panic at every feverish night, and yet somehow keeps repairing itself at every wide-eyed grin.
Oh, Cora Ivy. I gave her that name because it means heart of faithfulness – my prayer for her – but how can I dare long for such a treasure when my own faith is ever-waning?
It's the season of faith. The ornaments hang from the tree so confidently, and those lights flicker with abandon, while inside my heart is a wrecked mess of sadness and fear and longing that's within all of us, but no one seems to talk about anymore.
How can I look into those beautiful little eyes without thinking about all that they will see?
Thinking back on my own trials, I can't help but wonder what hers will be. What theirs will be. I
know not what it is, just that it is to come. Living life in a fallen world, no one escapes the battles that overwhelm the soul. Has my path prepared me? How can I help them through it all when my own search hasn't always turned up answers and has too often left me brokenhearted?
How can I teach them about their worth when I struggle with my own? How can I tell them to be bold, that they need not worry about what anyone else thinks of them when their own mama has never learned how to do it? How can I give away patience when I've run out of it?
How can I teach them how to love when the world will never cease to throw at them every false version of love it can come up with?
How can I sit there and tell my big girl not to be so hard on herself when Lord knows I do it to myself too? How can I encourage my boy to be strong when I feel weak? How can I give this tiny baby who strokes my face as she curls up against my body the security that she truly needs?
I sing along with the Christmas carols - “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight” - and the feelings come and go. Here comes the hope. Here come the fears. And so on it goes as it has since the beginning of time.
Before bed I read them The Little Engine That Could, and I dwell on those words more than they will ever know – I think I can, I think I can – turn out the light, and keep chugging along. I keep chug-chug-chugging. It's all I can do.
Then when all has quieted down and I retreat to that place within that can get messy and harsh and fearful, I force myself to fill it with hope. I think about the story my clever little girl wrote and illustrated for me. I think about my energetic little boy proudly bringing in the chicken egg he collected from the hens all by himself. I remember the first heartfelt, unprompted 'thank you' and the last big hug I got, and I let my thoughts linger on all the laughter and joy in between. Because that's the place my heart needs to go.
It's more than how can I. It's why can't I. It's how can I not.
So I'll keep chugging along, but I'll change the rhythm of the engine. I know we can. I know we will. And we will indeed, because what more could be worthy of yearning for but the faith to carry us through?
I must pull my heart from the trenches and place it on the mountaintop. It belongs to them, after all. They need their mama's heart to soar above the oceans so they can fly too.