Gracious Gifts

by Terrilynn Schump

Almost ten years ago, I took a tiny baby girl to the library nook in the corner of my living room, settled into the faded green rocking recliner, snuggled her close, and marveled at the miracle of her.

This was my grandbaby girl.
The morning light slanted through the big bay window, filtered through the leaves of the potted ficus tree, and dappled her angelic sleeping face with dancing sunbeams. While her two-year-old brother played with his toy trains in the middle of the room and watched his beloved Thomas the Tank Engine on TV, I set the chair to rocking, and for the umpteenth time, I counted her ten itty-bitty fingers and ten teeny-tiny toes.

Her brother had been a miracle, too. As had been her father.

I was young when my son was conceived, and the pregnancy was anything but easy. After the fifth month, I went into premature labor on an increasingly regular basis. Even with complete bed rest, I made frequent trips to the hospital where the nurses would stick an IV in me and give me whatever wonderful medicine it was they used to make the contractions stop. They could never find a good vein in my arm, so always resorted to sticking the needle into the big, obvious one on the back of my hand. By the time my son was born, I had six IV holes in my hand and a serious needle phobia.

But born he was! Healthy and whole, with ten itty-bitty fingers and ten teeny-tiny toes.

My son was my miracle baby because I was never able to have another.

For fifteen years we tried. Only a woman who can’t conceive knows the heartbreak of waiting month after month after month for some sign of life. And then, when that sign arrives, the devastation of losing that little soul. The clinical term is miscarriage, but that simple word can’t begin to convey the wracking sobs, the gaping hole in your heart, the aching throb of hope lost and deep despair setting in. Three times we eagerly anticipated the beloved one we desired so desperately. Three times we grieved as he or she was gathered into heaven before we ever got to see who that little person might have become.

But God . . .

But God was growing me. He often uses the most painful experiences in our lives to draw us closer to Himself. He is my Comforter. He is sovereign. He is good. He assured me that those babies are waiting for me in heaven, eager to meet me when I arrive. He wrapped His arms around me and let me know in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t that He couldn’t give me a baby. He is the Author of Life. It was just that He had a different plan for me. After the third miscarriage, after fifteen years of doctors and discussions and living life around my cycles, we quit trying. God gave us peace.

We adopted.

Our second son was almost twelve years old when we met him, and he’d been shuffled around in the foster care system since he was eight. He is his own kind of miracle, protected by God and placed purposefully in our family. We love him, and we know that God had special reasons for bringing him into our lives.

But, though high functioning, he is on the autism spectrum and doesn’t like to be touched at all. As much as I appreciated the gift of our new preteen, my heart was still longing for that little one to hold close, someone to lift up on my lap so I could cover his face with kisses.

So, when my older son began his own family, when my newborn grandson was placed in my arms, when God filled that baby spot against my chest and deep down in my heart, I cried. Not just because of the newness of life, but because of the miracle of it. Some people take life for granted and throw it away. I will never. Each life is a pure gift. And if it is a gift usually so freely given by such a gracious God, that makes it no less astounding, no less precious, no less worthy of gratitude and praise.

My grandson was my miracle baby because he was the gift of the God of second chances. The joy of being a grandparent is the chance to go through it all again. This time with more experience, more wisdom, more patience. Only hours after he was born, I held my grandbaby boy in my arms, counting his ten itty-bitty fingers and his ten teeny-tiny toes, worshipping the One Who created him.

My grandbaby girl, I thought as I sat in my library nook almost ten years ago, was my miracle baby, too. She became the confirmation of my calling. On that quiet September morning, when she was only a few weeks old, I sat rocking her while she slept. My heart was so full of love I could imagine it overflowing, spilling out on my grandbabies and seeping into their spirits.

And then God spoke to me. Not audibly, of course, but oh, so clearly.

This is what you’re doing for the next five years. I knew it down to the depths of my soul. Until these babies went to school, it was my job to love on them, to be there for them, to be flexible in my schedule so I could be the free babysitter their parents needed while they worked. To feed them, to teach them, to guard and protect them, to lead them to the love of Christ by every word and deed. To just stay home and take care of them.

The call had been the same for my son, but I wasn’t following Christ at that time and didn’t recognize it for what it was. The call had been the same when my grandson was born, but circumstances were different, and the enemy worked to muffle the call. With my granddaughter, the call was loud and clear, and I knew exactly what it was.

My grandbaby girl turns ten this month. Those early years I got to spend with her and her brother were absolutely amazing. There is nothing like knowing for sure that you are exactly where God wants you to be, doing exactly what He wants you to do. My days were spent in a haze of joy and love and sandboxes and trucks and baby dolls and preschool lessons and spilled milk and potty training and reading Dr. Seuss over and over and over again. It was glorious!

And then it was gone. A childhood is such a fleeting, precious moment in time. Our children and grandchildren grow, and the call to love them never fades, but the how changes. My husband and I are empty nesters now. My kids are busy working, and the grandbabies go to school. When we get together for birthdays and holidays, I thank God that my family is in town so I can see them so often. And I praise God for all the gracious gifts He’s given us – the son I gave birth to, the daughter we gained when he wed, the son we adopted, and the grandbabies who are almost as tall as we are, but who will always be our babies.

I think back and I thank God. Yes, Lord. This was a good plan. I wouldn’t have it any other way.