When we got home from the babies' church dedication last week and before we had changed clothes and settled into a Sunday afternoon feast, a little spontaneous moment of celebration broke out between me and Casey. I had gone to the garage fridge in search of a casserole to warm up for the meal. What I discovered, along with the casserole, was a bottle of champagne that a client of mine had given me a few months back; a bottle which I figured due to our hectic life would not be dusted off for many months from now, perhaps on our 11th wedding anniversary next June. Popping the top on a bottle of champagne means only one thing in my mind - a celebration has ensued - and I was immediately struck with the realization that in the midst of all of the chaos and craziness that this day had brought to our family, we had not taken pause to celebrate the day for all that it meant to us. Needless to say, I came back from the garage with more than a casserole in my hands.
It was Thursday, August 14th, 2008 when we got the news that would change our lives... immediately and indelibly. At the time, it was six babies, labeled by our fertility doctor as A, B, C, D, E, and F on the sonographer's screen. And as you know, the final head count ended at five, labeled six months later by their still-in-shock parents as Brooklyn, Britton, Jack, Lila, and Ryan. And now here we were, seven months to the day after their birth, committing our little tribe to the care of Christ's church. On that day it was never more apparent that these five babies - five blips on a sonographer's monitor 12 months ago, five little newsmakers on Austin's TV screens just seven short months ago - had grown into five precious, beautiful, little miracles, whose very lives speak volumes about the glory of our creator and now continue to change our lives...immediately and indelibly...every day. Yes, we had reason to celebrate!
Maybe it was the busy-ness of the preparations for the day or the fact that we went on our mini-vacation the two days leading up to the dedication that directed our thoughts elsewhere. And though I had had some thought that the day was every bit as much a celebration as it was a dedication, it never really occurred to me actually take time to, well...celebrate. Judging by the look on Casey's face when I walked in from the garage with a casserole in one hand and champagne in another, the thought hadn't occurred to her either. But as the cork was popped on that pink, bubbly bottle and we shared our first toast, there was no doubt that a celebration was called for...and maybe even longed for.
When the first toast was being poured out, a friend commented to us that he sensed that the day had been a bit of a celebration - honestly, I think that is the first time the word had been uttered in reference to the babies' dedication. Of course, our immediate thoughts and response were in reference to the babies: we've got five healthy, happy, growing, smiling, beautiful babies that were dedicated to the church today...heck yeah, this is a day to celebrate! We're still alive, still mentally competent, still married, and still happy with life after seven, wait make that twelve, of the most difficult months anyone we have ever known has ever had to endure...you better believe we're celebrating!! That day, and most especially that moment, will forever serve as one of the more captivating memories in my overstuffed inbox of memorable times thanks to the course of life our Father has put us on!
In the few days following the dedication, once the glow of recent memories began to fade like the embers of a campfire as do the stories that are passed around it, my thoughts began to trail to a different reason for celebration on that day, in that moment, because of these times. No question, the day was reserved and celebrated for the babies and God's goodness and that was reason enough. But another reason began to emerge, unknown and unspoken to most, but equally important to our family, if only in our little world with only quiet recognition.
Casey and I have been married for ten years and dated for six years prior to that and had enjoyed a pretty decent relationship for much of that time. But never had our marriage been on more solid ground than the day we got a glimpse at what lay ahead for our marriage and for our family. We had just come off a year of heavy focus on what was most important in our lives – faith and family – and we had found a really good place for both. To find ourselves in that place, where our marriage was never more alive was an achievement we were proud of and as we went through the process of trying to bring another baby into the world, we were looking to the future with more excitement than at any time since we said our "I do's."
And that is why, as the doctor dutifully identified the six little blips on that screen as our future brood, behind the excitement was a whole lot of fear in both our hearts. How would our relationship survive, let alone thrive, with all that the changes that these blips would someday bring to our lives? We had worked so hard to bring our relationship to a place that God had intended when he created the institution, why would he now drop this bomb on our hopes, plans, and dreams? How would we have enough time to ever focus on each other, something that had been so vital to our lives together? I don't know how to accurately rank our fears following the news we received on that day little more than a year ago, but I can say for certain that the future health of our marriage, our relationship, and our love for one another was at the top.
So after a bit of reflection on just what it is that we were celebrating on Baby Dedication Sunday, my answer to that question may not be as obvious as once thought. The way I see it, the babies' health, well-being, and miraculous lives are reason alone to celebrate on that day, but honestly, those things were never in question in our minds. God did the heavy lifting on that part, with little input from us. He created them, protected them in the womb, allowed for the amazing medical advances that ensured their health beyond the womb, and stirred a tremendous amount of love in people's hearts to help care for them in the months since. You've heard me say this before, but truly, God did this.
I believe that there are times in life where God takes complete control as I believe he did with the babies' health. But I also believe in free will. And somewhere between these two polar opposites, I believe there are times in life where he simply presents us with options and gives us a choice to make and decisions to be made around that choice. And this is what I believe was presented to me and to Casey, as individuals and as a couple, in the days following that fateful appointment in our doctor's office. We were presented with options and were forced to make decisions that would impact our lives forever...immediately and indelibly.
I tell you today that the evidence is on display and our verdict is in: we made the right choices. We chose to not allow this pregnancy and these births to destroy what we had worked so hard to build. We chose not to accept survival; rather we chose to maintain our focus, sharpening it where necessary. Simply, we refused to believe that God would allow his creation to destroy his blessing…as long as we did our part – make the right choice. And somehow, through all of the craziness that has swirled around our lives lately, our marriage has found an even better place than it had a year ago. Somehow, in spite of all of the stress and the worry for what lies ahead for our little band of misfits, we are even more excited about the future than we ever could have imagined!
So yes, absolutely - it's a celebration! It's a celebration of all that is good and pure and miraculous about life, as any baby's life can attest. Can there be any more striking example of God's goodness than the life of an infant, let alone five at one time? I think not! But it's also a quiet celebration for Casey and me, a small victory dance between the two of us, whether the world is watching or not. We have survived, we have thrived, and we continue to fight alongside our Father - for our marriage and for each other and for our family - as we look confidently towards the future. And yes, every once in a while, we celebrate...