Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jenna is 6!

Our Baytown friends will remember that Jenna was not easy to come by. After losing three pregnancies and then struggling through the first several months of my pregnancy with Jenna (I get notoriously ill when I'm pregnant), a friend at church told me "Girl, when this baby gets here we are going to throw a PARTY." And they did. I had a fabulous baby shower and we still have so many blankets and pillows that our sweet friends there made with their own hands. It usually takes two people to have a baby, but, with a lot of prayer, our entire church family in Baytown got Jenna here. That's something I'll always remember about our time in Baytown.

Here's something I wrote a while back about Jenna (with her age updated):

"Blue eyes, my baby's got blue eyes. Like a deep blue sea on a blue, blue day." -- "Blue Eyes" by Elton John

Jenna was born six years ago today. Eight-and-a-half pounds. A golden sheen to her head that promised blond hair. Blue eyes.

At least I tell people they're blue. There really isn't a word to describe the color of her eyes.

But I'll try.

I learned to scuba dive in 1993. And I learned something about it right off: scuba diving is a big hassle. So much heavy, awkward equipment is required for breathing underwater. The tank by itself weighs 80 pounds. Then there's the weight belt, which must be adjusted just right so you won't float to the surface or be stuck on the ocean floor. Then you have the BCD, the fins, snorkel, mask and wetsuit. Once you get all that stuff on, it's hard enough to remain upright, let alone walk normally.

But once below the surface, the oppressive gear becomes your key to the underwater world. You swim around weightless, holding out fingers as curious fish swim up to them. Your teeth clench around the regulator that, on land moments before, was uncomfortable in your mouth. Now it's the only way to get air into your lungs. The sound of your constant inhaling and exhaling is a reminder that you're doing something humans weren't made to do. You are living, thriving, underwater. The hassle, for the moment, is forgotten.

It took us a long time to get Jenna into this world. I got pregnant, then miscarried. Pregnant again, then blood one morning. Pregnant a third time, but then more blood. We started thinking adoption. Then I got pregnant again, and this one held. I got very sick, was placed on home healthcare, and then developed gestational diabetes. Then, one Thursday morning, the previous year-and-a-half faded as I finally looked into her eyes.

And I remembered the circle of light.

Thirty feet under the ocean's surface, it's easy to become disoriented -- to the point that you can lose track of which way you're supposed to go to reach air. As a scuba diver, you learn to look for light. Light means surface. When you find the sunlight piercing the blue mass in which you are submerged, you slowly swim toward it, exhaling all the way. Surrounded by varying shades of watery blue, the circle of light expands and seems to pull you toward itself. You keep swimming up, up, up -- until you think your lungs can't expel any more air. But the bubbles keep coming from your mouth, and you keep moving toward the light.

Then you reach it and you burst through it into air, light, life.

That's what color Jenna's eyes are.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

17th anniversary

I met Chad in the Bean at ACU one day at lunch. I was with a big group of people and we were sitting at a large round table. Chad was the only person I didn’t know and we ended up sitting right next to each other. He was from Alaska, he said.

Chad was a freshman, and I was a sophomore. He was kinda cute – all my friends said so – and he seemed like a nice guy. We tried to date for a couple of weeks, but it just wasn’t working for me. I was trying to take a break from dating. I had made several bad dating choices in a row and had decided to give that part of my life up to God, since I had made such a mess of it. I promised God I wouldn’t date anyone seriously for a year.

Plus Chad got on my nerves.

He was so nice. Really, he was. But he seemed to be trying too hard. I started avoiding him.

A school year went by. Then a summer. Then school started again. And there was Chad. Would I like to go out Friday night? Sure. OK.

I remember sitting on the couch with my roommate. “Aren’t you going to get ready for your date?” she asked. “It’s just Chad,” I replied.

Then we went out. We had a great time. I liked being with him. He smelled good. So we kept going out. We kissed. His arms felt good around me. They felt right around me.

“You know what I was thinking?” I said one night after we had been dating about three weeks. “I was thinking that I don’t want to date anyone but you.”

And that was it. We were a couple.

That year was fun. I was dating Chad, living with two of my best friends and working as a reporter for the campus newspaper. He came home with me for Thanksgiving and spring break. We had fun together. We kissed. A lot.

We had to be apart for that summer, while he went home to Alaska to work. In August, I flew up there to see the sights and hang out with Chad and his family for a couple of weeks. Chad, his sister Gina and I were all supposed to come back to Abilene together.

While I was in Alaska, Chad’s sister Gina was in a car accident. I was standing in Chad’s parents’ kitchen when they got the call from the highway department. She was in ICU for two days before she died. What a nightmare. My head still gets swimmy when I think about those awful days. Did all of it really happen? Of course it did, but it’s still so hard to fathom. She was 19. She and Chad were only 11 months apart.

We went back to school without Gina – shattered over the loss that was too great for Chad to even talk to me about. It’s hard for me to write about this time because I don’t remember much. My brain has shut it out. I do remember crying in the shower every morning for months.

Then something happy happened. We got engaged. It was a relief to have a wedding to focus on instead of our grief. We got married on Aug. 14, 1993.

That was 17 years ago. A major career change, two kids and three miscarriages later, we’re still here. Chad is my best friend – the “other side of me,” as Michael W. Smith sings. He knows what I need when I’m too proud to voice it. One morning, when Chad had gotten up early and our oldest daughter Julia had climbed into bed with me, I heard Chad in the next room, having his morning quiet time and whispering an earnest prayer. For me. How loved and protected I felt, hearing a great man of God lift me up in prayer.

Marriage isn’t always fun, they tell you in premarital counseling. And it’s true. One of the worst moments of my life was when Chad was holding me in our bathroom seven years ago. I was losing our second child and it hurt – physically, emotionally – it was excruciating. But Chad was there, his arms still so strong around me.

The good times in a marriage are fun and make good memories. But the hard times are the ones that really solidify your relationship. That’s when those vows really mean something. It’s when you have the chance to truly cherish each other.

I’ve been asked when I knew I was in love with Chad. I’m not really sure. Love changes and deepens over the years until you’re not sure what “love” really meant when you said it early in your relationship. But I do have one memory. We weren’t really dating yet, but I was aware that Chad was not getting on my nerves anymore. I had to help with newspaper distribution after Chapel one day, but I rushed back into the coliseum because I wanted to find Chad. He wasn’t there. I was so disappointed that it surprised me. I stood there, in the emptying coliseum, suddenly shockingly aware that if I kept running away from this guy, I could lose him forever. That’s when I knew that I always wanted him to be there.

And he is. And we still kiss. A lot.