The Making of a Heart

A little over a week ago, Shauna Niequist released a new book, a devotional called Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are. Because I love her writing, I pre-ordered it back in September. On the morning I cracked it open, the reading for the day was titled “Everything is Interim” and the verse underneath was Psalm 16:11 —

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Because it’s so great, I’m going to type out the whole thing for you….

I went for a walk one day with my friend Rosa.  She’s an elder at our church and has four kids. Her husband owns a successful dental practice. The last few years they’ve been traveling, helping churches all over the world, and they’ve decided to move to North Africa.

I commented that this season, while they’re selling their house and getting ready to move, must feel like an interim season. “You know, Shauna,” she said, “everything is interim. Every season that I thought was stable and would be just how it was for a long time ended up being a preparation or a path to the next thing. When you decide to be on this journey with God, everything is interim.”

Life is like that, twisty and surprising. But life with God is like that exponentially. We can dig in, make plans, write in stone, pretend we’re not listening, but the voice of God has a way of being heard. It seeps in like smoke even when we’ve barred the door, and it moves us, to different countries and emotional territories and ways of living. It keeps us moving and dancing and watching. And with the surprises comes great hope.

Whoa.

This is how I’ve felt. I’d been waiting for a different “new normal,” for steady, predictable days. But I’m finding that all of life — not just certain segments — is an adventure, unusual and hazardous terrain. I’m finding that, in the “interim” is the molding of my heart. Each day brings in something that will shape my future, my perspective, my being. We don’t get to step off the ride.

This is beautiful, isn’t it? Our Maker is always creating. Always adjusting and moving and teaching and, often, surprising us. In each of us, there is always a new heart being formed. It’s ever-changing.

There’s an illustration my friend Bruce gave in a sermon well over a year ago that’s been on my mind too. I honestly don’t remember the focus of the sermon as a whole, but I remember this. He said to consider the human heart. In the very first moments of your life, before you are even recognizably human, all these cells, all these microscopic bits, spontaneously come together in a mass. They all just suck together as if they know, somehow, that they belong there. Then, these cells, all at once and in the perfect second, begin to ebb and flow. They fuse and vibrate – a heartbeat.

How cool is that?

Creation is always miraculous. I think we all agree there. We can agree that spring flowers are full of beauty, that new love is divine, and that the way our life stories unfold is endlessly amazing.

Sometimes, though, creation is messy. Sometimes, you have to sling paint everywhere, or leave food nubs on the counter, or worse, a natural disaster clears the earth’s canvas.

Sometimes, witnessing a creation miracle, even a small one, makes our insides want to burst. It’s not always a good feeling, but rather a heavy unbelief, an appreciation for the intensity of what you’ve witnessed. Like a secret you keep – it’s a big thought that, once set free, will change the course of your life forever, and in some ways, will impact everyone who hears it.

I have such a secret.

It has me befuddled and awestruck, petrified, humbled, anxious and hopeful. I want to laugh at the irony and cry at the abruptness with which our life is changing  again.

So, here it is — We’re expecting a little person.

We’ve  known for nearly two months now, but the shock has kept us in a state of disbelief. We’ve needed time to process, time to figure out how to move forward. Last post, I rambled on about my third treatment for thyroid cancer and now, before having time to regain my bearings, I’m telling you we’re pregnant. Which brings me to my next point…

Every time I’ve been treated, we get the “don’t get pregnant for six months” spiel because miscarriage rates increase during this time. We typically smirk at this (because, you know, we’re infertile) but take precautions anyway, just to be safe. With that said, there’s no way this child was conceived post-RAI . . . which means I was pregnant while I was treated. (Full disclaimer: my doctors did test me for pregnancy before giving me the radioactive pill; that’s standard practice. The only explanation is that it had to be too early for tests to tell.)

Now, as I said, this pregnancy should not be. Biologically, there is no possible way he/she should be forming. We’ve done tests. We’re infertile. Point blank, 100%, there’s-nothing-there kind of infertile (thanks, double-cancer). We’d worked through this grief and had come to a place of contentment. We were OK, even glad, to have just the two of us for a while longer. We’d talked through how, if/when we felt led to grow our family, we’d adopt. And we’d often joked that, if God wanted us to have biological babies, he’d have to deliberately flip the switch.

Well, the switch has been flipped, ladies and gentlemen.

And I’m terrified.

Even though there’s no way I could have anticipated this pregnancy, I have felt so incompetent, with so many questions: How could I let this happen? How could I risk harm to an indefensible being? Are my thyroid levels even good enough for proper fetal growth? What do I do if we miscarry? Why now? What kind of cruddy timing is this, God?

At the same time, I am overcome with wonder at what the future holds. I marvel at the change that occurs each second in me, in who I’m becoming. And I’m fascinated by the soul that is being formed in a babe that, despite all odds, the heavens have adamantly determined into existence.

As each day passes, I’m adjusting to this new twist in our story. I’m freaking out (as anyone would) about finances, to-do lists, and how to deal with the excessive baby talk. At the same time, we’re navigating post-treatment health issues, and worrying about our increased chances of development problems or miscarriage. We’ve been given a heavy load to carry again, and I don’t know that I’m ready.

So, we take one step at a time. We’ll try to embrace this interim, this complex creation process. I’m soaking up all that I can so that maybe I will realize the heart that’s being formed in me – both spiritually and physically. We’re grasping for that hope that comes with His surprises. I am waiting for that spontaneous moment when, miraculously, my fresh heart comes together and beats a new pulse.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

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