The Pink Stick by Jen Luitwieler

I adore Jen Luitwieler (even though I misspell her name all the freakin’ time). She is the best encourager when it comes to running. For reals. Every time I post something about running, she comments, even though I’m a total n00b and she’s this running rockstar. Her book publishes on September 1 and I’m telling you now, you absolutely must purchase it. I adore this post because it’s exactly the way I felt on a couple of occasions. Now, read, then go preorder her book.

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“I can’t.” I glared again at the slender pink stick in my hand. I used my other hand to prop up my head, rubbing my worry lines between my eyes into worry caverns. I kept thinking if I waited another 3 to 5 minutes, giving the pink stick more time to do its calculus, it could change its mind and reverse the future I held in my hands, rather unwillingly and in speechless disbelief. Speechlessness is not one of my spiritual gifts; finding myself in this state feels unpleasant.

Our daughters, 5 and 3, slept unawares in their rooms, which, as I stared at the stick of doom, seemed to shrink under every new implication my mind hit upon as it skittered from thought to thought, a dropped penny spinning with a clang on a dirty floor. My husband sat in a chair next to me, a vague smile on his beautiful face, shaking his head. He met his disbelief head on, acknowledged its presence and came to a sudden reckoning.

Sudden reckonings; another spiritual gift I don’t possess. I’m beginning to wonder if I have any at all. I had it all mapped out; two daughters, the perfect number of children for this already overwhelmed mama. Just days before this, I had sat at dinner with my girlfriends, telling them in no uncertain terms we would not be having any more children. I had sat there, eating my chicken salad, smugly unaware of the tiny seed growing in me right then.

'Dos rayas' photo (c) 2009, Daniel Lobo - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I happened to glance at the calendar a week later. I furrowed my brow. I thought, “That can’t be right.” An immediate and unstoppable sweat coursed over me. I yanked the calendar off the wall. I repeated myself. “No. Way. That just cannot be right.” On a good day, I can wreak all kinds of havoc with numbers, math being another spiritual gift not gifted unto me. Today, I could not perform my own calculus to arrive at the answer I wanted, rather than the answer that was digging a hole inside my chest, taking root in my womb.

“I can’t.” I bellowed it this time, a beached and heaving mammal, unsure of anything. I tried to make sense of it; we were careful. We knew how to avoid this. I had two kids already. I couldn’t possibly be expected to mother another one when I was barely managing to keep our heads on straight as it was. And God? What in Sam Hill did He think He was doing? Throwing this curve ball at me so hard I felt bruised and dazed. I railed at him. “How can you, of all people, think I’m capable of this nonsense?”

When I ask God that kind of question, I swear I can almost hear him laugh. Not a derisive laugh; a confident, tender, loving laugh. A laugh that suggests he might, quite possibly, know more than I do. As if.

(To be clear, I do know that He knows more than I do. I am, however, stubborn when it comes to accepting this, or to acknowledging it. When will I learn? I don’t know.)

Nine months later, the first two of which I cried, we welcomed with joy, real and true and root-deep joy, our son, Elliot, who is now seven years old. He was born at home, surrounded by some of the most special women we’ve ever been blessed to know. Our entire family was swaddled in the love of a community that told me I could, when I knew for sure I could not.

Of course, it wasn’t just the community, though they were a tangible and breathing extension of the Father who calls and equips. It wasn’t just that God worked a softening in my heart and mind that alone I’d have never reached. It wasn’t just that my husband was delighted by our exceptional baby making abilities. It wasn’t just any of that. It was all of it.

And it was this boy.

You date, you marry, you have as many children as you plan for. When you’re young, there’s this assumption of the future, as if getting married and having children is an inalienable right, while totally overlooking the blessing part of it. Totally overlooking that conception, or even marriage, might happen later for us, if at all. Completely ignoring the fact that even the best birth control isn’t always fail-proof.

When I met Elliot, who wants to be a ninja when he grows up and alternates inviting girls and boys over for playdates and dances everywhere he goes, I suddenly understood that you can’t plan blessings. You can’t expect gifts. You can’t prescribe a life the way you might prescribe a course of action. This child. He says, every night, “Mama. Will you snuggle me?” I always agree, saying, “Of course I’ll snuggle you. For as long as you let me.” And he says, “Mama. I’ll always let you snuggle me. I’ll never stop.” That’s the kind of blessing you can’t expect, don’t deserve and grasp with your whole being. 

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Jennifer Luitwieler writes about crafts and athletics. Her first book “Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo,” will be released on September 1 with Civitas Press. She’s got a long simmering relationship with running, does not like her dog, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter

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