I sketched out these sweet little lollipop trees in watercolor and ink when I opened my Etsy shop in 2009. They were my original logo and shop banner, based on Psalm 1--it was a promise for ever-nourished creativity with growth and harvest to come in the right season.
My Eowyn was a newborn at the time, nursing on demand (i.e. constantly! ) and I wanted something to keep my hands busy as I sat there on the couch for hours at a time. Painting had been one of my cravings when I was pregnant, and I was delighted to unexpectedly still have some time to devote to it after Eowyn was born--Hubby was laid off that summer and therefore home for a few months to help take care of the baby.
He was such a natural at parenting from the very beginning--he and Eowyn had (and still do have) a very special bond that honestly made me a little jealous at first! No, but really, I am so grateful for that bond. Hubby burst into fatherhood as a knight-in-shining-armor: "Superdaddy" to the rescue! Eowyn was rushed to the NICU just 20 minutes after her birth, and Daddy rode along in the ambulance while I stayed behind to recover. He never left our girl's side during those first 24 emotional hours; he was strong and clear headed, talking calmly with the doctors and responding with great wisdom, while I recoiled in hiding: exhausted, confused, in shock.
During the hospital stay, Hubby could hold Eowyn and calm her in an instant, deftly navigating all the tubes and wires and monitors without a glitch; I always managed to detach something by mistake, triggering the alarm on her heart-rate monitor so the nurses would come running. And after the wildy beeping machines were calmed, it was sometimes the baby's wailing cry that was triggered by her helpless mama--she was being fed through a tube that nourished her but couldn't satisfy her hunger, and she cried when I held her close, sensing that I was supposed to be fulfilling this need for her! That was a difficult time, but it would make our homecoming even sweeter.
Slowly but surely, Eowyn's paralyzed vocal chords healed. After almost 4 weeks in the NICU she pulled out her feeding tube for the 14th time and refused to keep the nasal cannula in place, so the doctors finally decided she was ready for the test to see if she could swallow and breathe on her own. Two more days and they were convinced she was nursing well and gaining weight, so we were released to go home just before Eowyn turned one month old.
With the home-field advantage, I was able to settle into my role as a new Mama and to get over those feelings of clumsiness and helplessness. Eowyn is still quite the Daddy's girl, but she and I understand each other with an undeniable spiritual connection. And when baby Penelope, the Mama's girl, was born a year later, boy oh boy did I begin to fully appreciate the gift of that Daddy Magic that worked wonders on big sister!
So I re-worked the trees this week (I added in a digitally-altered, watercolor background that I originally painted by hand), thinking of our rocky introduction to parenthood and the promise of growth and nurture and cherishing that held true through it all. And as I painted, I found myself revisiting this promise that first entered my heart in 2009 (it's hard to believe that was nearly three years ago)--the promise that I would someday, somehow, also come into the fullness of my creativity and passion.
I know that promises are not forgotten, although they may linger in the fulfilling. And there is always testing along the way. The hope that began sometime in 2006--for the miracle of life and the creation of our little family--was fulfilled after three years and much heartbreak, then tested some more by the doubt and fear for our baby's life that sometimes haunted me (in what now feels like a short stay!) in the NICU.
As I work now with a passion that is curbed sometimes by a resurgence of chronic pain and exhaustion, I can't help but think about my feisty little firstborn, so full of life and fighting against her physical restrictions in the hospital. She has lived up to the name we gave her, our warrior princess who flew into her first battle just moments after her birth--refused to be caged by breathing devices and feeding tubes, and even later by a crib (she never slept in her crib!).
As strong as she was, Eowyn needed a little help at the beginning of her life. It was hard for me to accept that fact then, just as even now it's hard for me to own up to the fact that I'm not strong enough to handle everything on my own. So I'll humble myself and ask for some help. But I won't accept my body's restrictions on my heart, oh no.
And I pray that you'll throw off whatever it is that binding your heart today too, friend.
Remember (as Rain so eloquently put it here): we only wear our bodies--they are not who we are. And as we become "the shape of our souls," let us determinedly give thanks for the struggles and pain of this physical body ...because all seeds are planted in darkness before they burst forth with the blossoming beauty and strength of the tree.
What does he plant who plants a tree?
A scion full of potency,
He plants his faith, a prophecy
Of bloom, and fruitfulness to be;
He plans a shade where robins sing,
Where orioles their nestlings swing;
A burning bush - a miracle!
Who plants a tree, - he doeth well!