Marco Polo.

It has taken me a week to even write this. Every time I start, I am at a complete loss for words. It is rare for anything to leave me entirely speechless.

A few years ago, we had to turn down multiple birthday party invitations for my oldest, Mecaden. They were pool parties. Yes, she can swim. Yes, she wanted to go. The only problem- all of her friends from school only know her as hearing. They know she was born deaf and has cochlear implants. They know when she takes them off she can’t hear anything. But they have never had to experience her without her “ears”. We go to the pool and to the beach every year- her external processors cannot get wet, so they go in a case to stay away from any water. She runs off to jump in, and often times other little girls want to befriend Mecaden. I have to go over and communicate to both of them, explaining that Mecaden can’t hear, and telling Mecaden what the little girl is saying (Mecaden used to be able to read anyone’s lips, now she really can only read mine). Sometimes its too confusing so the other children will go on and find someone else to play with. Other times (many times) the other children will try their hardest in attempting to play with Mecaden and make her feel included. The more children, the harder that is to achieve. They start squealing and splashing and hollering, “Let’s all see how far we can jump from the side!”… she can hang in that situation if I tell her what’s going on. Then someone pipes up, “Let’s play Marco Polo!!” Well, at that point she is done. She has to sit out. Not because she won’t attempt to play, it’s because other children simply don’t understand and don’t have the patience to work with her hearing loss. Truly, it is never out of unkindness that these children move on and play without her. They just don’t understand. But I cannot tell you how it kills me to see her trying to keep up, the kids swimming away after another new game, and leaving her bobbing in the water and slowly making her way to the side by herself. She just sits there and watches them, wishing.

For years this didn’t seem to bother her. Mostly, because we only went swimming with friends. Friends she has grown up with and they have always known about, accepted, and worked with her hearing loss. It’s not new or different to them. It’s normal. No one ever swam away from her. Since starting elementary school, it has started affecting her. After a few turned down invitations, she sighed and told me, “I just wish I could hear in the water. It’s not fair.” I decided to fight my own pain in hearing that, and mustered up all the chippiness I could, and forced a smile… “I know, Mecaden. But remember, when you get to Heaven, you will be able to hear without implants all the time!” Normally, that worked and encouraged her. This time, however, she burst into tears and said, “But I don’t wanna wait for Heaven to hear!” I cried, too, and just wrapped my arms around her and told her I was sorry. My heart shattered. My little girl can’t play Marco Polo like all these other children, like I did as a little girl. She can’t even tuck her hair behind her ears because of the processors that take up so much room, not to mention the arms of her glasses that have to fit back there somehow.

Sometimes the broken things threaten to destroy us in life. Sometimes it is hard to see the beautiful in the broken. Sometimes its hard to wait until Heaven.

When Mecaden recently got glasses, I decided to submit to insurance a request for new implant processors. These are just different external components, no surgery required. An all-in-one unit called Rondo. It would take all of the pieces that go on/around/behind her ears and be in one mostly-round unit that magnetizes right where her internal component is. It would mean she could wear her glasses much more comfortably. I didn’t think insurance would cover it… but I asked our friends, family, and Sunday School class to pray big prayers. God showed up in big ways.

The Rondos were approved in full (!!!) and I learned they would come with completely water proof covers. As in, MY GIRL CAN PLAY MARCO POLO THIS SUMMER. I cried on the phone with our audiologist. You would think, almost 9 years into this journey, you can get a hold of yourself and not cry anymore. So not true. I had to hang up and call back. We wrote a message for Mecaden to read when Todd got home from work. She opened it and read “Mecaden, you are getting new cochlear implant processors. That means this summer you will be able to hear while you swim.” Mecaden has this built-in gauge of excitement on her face. It’s her single dimple on her right cheek. The deeper it gets, the more excited she is. I have never seen her dimple that deep. Pure. Joy.

Last Monday, I took Mecaden to her cochlear implant/audiology clinic. In no time at all, her Rondos were mapped and ready to go. A little bit of sound booth testing, some tweaking, a little more testing and we were out the door. A couple hours later, we made a stop at the optical dispensary where she got her glasses. She needed the arms adjusted to fit her ears better since she no longer had any processors on them to hug them to her head. Mecaden hopped out of the car and I stopped her so I could take a picture. I told her to pull her hair back so I could see her new processors and suddenly it dawned on her. “Wait. You mean I can put my hair behind my ears?!” The rush of emotions I experienced was unexpected. I grinned and said, “YES, you can!!!!” And with that, I watched as my little girl tucked her hair behind her ear for the very first time, and a grin spread across her face. That deep dimple appeared again.

I am thankful for our daughter’s journey. If you asked me, I would tell you that of course I wish she could hear without implants. But she doesn’t and she won’t until Heaven. And God has taught me more about Him and given me more joy through brokenness than I feel I would have otherwise. Timothy Keller said that “God shakes our confidence in our earthly life so that we can yearn for our heavenly life, where our joy is truly unshakable and where our wailing will be turned into dancing.” That is one of the hardest things to be thankful for… broken things to remind me of the day when there will be no broken things. And while we wait, God blesses us richly with little tastes of what that day will be like. Things like waterproof cochlear implant covers and impending games of Marco Polo, and simple things like your daughter being able to tuck her hair behind her ears. I encourage you to look for the beauty amidst the broken. Sometimes its not as grandiose and obvious as the broken. But it is there. The tiniest reflections of the incredible goodness and kindness of God.

From my trench to yours,

Emily

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A Beautiful Mess.

“We do not play with hammers.”

“Why did you flush a ball down the toilet?’

“No, we don’t color on the baby.”

These are just a sample of things I have said to my three year old in the last 24 hours. On any given day, I find myself asking the most bizarre questions and imposing the strangest rules I never dreamed of. The other day I came down from a shower and found the milk jug in the middle of the kitchen floor, a mason jar beside it, and a baby spoon floating inside of it. A couple months ago I had to “sort through” toilet contents for three straight days to look for a swallowed penny (which, thankfully, showed up). The back of my couch is covered in crayola, and I just repainted our pantry door with four layers of paint to cover purple sharpie. Today, I found almost an entire carton of blueberries eaten and a pack of deli ham on the coffee table- also half eaten. She throws fits when each divided part on her plate isn’t filled with a different food. Suddenly she doesn’t like bananas, even though she ate them every day for the last week. Some days I think she will turn into a mermaid if she stays in the bath any longer, other days it’s a fighting match just to get her dunked and clean. At preschool pick up, I pull out of line to buckle her only to reach her door to find she has jumped up in the front seat. I go to the front to get her, and of course, she hops right to the back.

Y’all. I have literally called my dad three times in the last week and have said, “Daddy, I am so sorry for EVER BEING THREE!!!!!!” He just laughs. “Dad, you don’t understand. She sharpied on the door!”… “Well, is it pretty?”… “No, it’s not pretty! Pinterest can’t even help me get it off! I have to paint it!” More laughter. I often say that Capely is the child my mother prayed I would have. To get me back. She won. And If I listen closely, I can even hear her laughter from heaven.

My girl is so. SO. exhausting. As my husband says, “She could make a preacher cuss” (something his grandma used to say about him). She literally can get my blood boiling with frustration… and steal my heart that the same time. I’m cussing in my head at the same time I’m grabbing her sweet face and kissing her all over until she giggles uncontrollably. She makes me question my sanity, but there is nothing she could ever do to make me love her less… or more for that matter.She is the most beautiful mess.

I often wonder if we are all a little like Capely in God’s eyes. The choices we make in thought or in deed. He’s not surprised, but I’m sure He shakes His head quite a bit. At least with me, I know He does. However, God has such patience with us. He is longsuffering with His children. We may choose to stray, maybe even for years. We don’t know how to turn back to Him even if we wanted to. We let the enemy drive a wedge of fear into our hearts that God is disappointed or even angry at us for the choices we make. Maybe we have done something we don’t think He could ever forgive.

We would be wrong.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, we see a son who makes incredibly poor choices that cause him to separate himself from his dad. His dad, on the other hand, stays right where he always has been. The son squanders his inheritance and lives a life of recklessness. In verse 18, we see where the son, who is now eating among filthy pigs, decides to return to his father. He knows his sin causes him to no longer be worthy of being his father’s son. He only hopes his father will treat him as his servant. Much like the son, when we stray from God and make poor choices, we listen to the voice of the enemy and assume God will have nothing to do with us if we return to Him. That He will treat us as though we do not belong to Him. That we are unforgiveable.

The son returns and the parable picks up in verse 20 as follows:

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and
 ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

What! Yes, you read correctly. The father saw his son was returning and felt compassion. The son confessed his sin… I imagine his head was hung low, and I bet he couldn’t look his dad in the eye. What recklessness he had been a part of, what shame he brought to his father. Surely his father wouldn’t forgive him. Suddenly his dad is calling for the best robe to adorn his filthy son who had just left a pig’s sty. His dad throws a huge dinner celebration and is overcome with joy.

Friend. This is how God sees you. He hasn’t moved, it is you who have moved. But take heart. This parable is to portray God’s love for his children. The moment God sees your willing heart turning back to Him, He has compassion on you. The moment you confess your sin to Him, He clothes you with complete forgiveness. Not some watered-down version of forgiveness for the “worst” sinners.  You get the same forgiveness Mother Teresa received, Billy Graham received, and that the thief on the cross next to Jesus received. The common denominator is a broken heart and a contrite spirit; a confession of sin. The moment you repent and ask for forgiveness is the moment your broken relationship with the Lord is restored. Completely.  Because of Jesus’ blood, those of us who were once far off have been brought near (Ephesians 2:12). You don’t work for it and you cannot earn it. The prodigal son sure didn’t earn it. And neither can you. But you can receive it. From a loving Father who never moves even when we do. There is no sin you can commit that will make God love you less. There is no good deed you can do to make Him love you more. Because God is love. And He demonstrated that love by sending Jesus to die for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). It is unmerited mercy and grace.

If you have found yourself far off from the Lord… take heart. Don’t listen to the enemy’s lies that you can’t go back (or approach Him for the first time ever!).That God could never forgive you. Jesus says “Come as you are”. You don’t have to change first. You just have to have a willing heart. He will do the changing in you.

You are a beautiful mess that God loves.

From my messy trench to yours,

Emily