I still remember that restless night and day almost twenty-five years ago. The kicking, tossing and turning was the last thing I expected. Surely I was carrying a soccer player in training. My restless one was doing all the kicking, but I was the one exhausted! After ten hours of non-stop movement in my belly, fatigue gave way to weary sleep. What happened over the course of the next few days was the last thing I had expected, but the one thing that ended up saving both me and that little life struggling to make his entrance in the world. I never dreamed that my son would come into this world three months early. It was something I was most unprepared for. I had not even picked out a name for him, thinking I still had three months to find the perfect one. This unexpected moment in time forever changed my life - forever changed "me." People said that he was born "too soon," but something deep in my being knew without a doubt, he was right on time. The struggles we both endured those first months as he fought to survive, grow and thrive had given me courage and purpose in a way I never imagined. The arrival of my "pint sized hero" was a stark reminder that life has a way of charting its own course regardless of the plans we map out for ourselves. His birth and miraculous survival was also a lesson in trust. No matter how unexpected things may seem, there is a divine plan that charts our life's journey moment by moment and it is up to us to find purpose in those moments and recognize blessing even if it is hidden like a diamond in the sand.
Sitting here tonight remembering those first moments of my now grown son's life, evokes so many memories from the past years. That preemie that needed my undivided attention, care, prayers and love so many years ago, gave me a reason to get up many days during a time of life when I might not have had the courage or hope to do so otherwise. He was what I needed most at the exact moment I needed him. I'm not sure exactly why I am feeling so nostalgic tonight. Perhaps it is the soft twinkling glow of the Christmas lights on my twenty-something year old tree that has survived many of the moments my preemie and I have through the years. It sheds like a live tree and has a few sagging branches and gaping holes, but exudes a beauty in its familiarity as it stands loyally faithful bringing joy to us another year. This old "evergreen" has been packed and unpacked in half a dozen places since it was first purchased and has been a part of our annual celebration wherever we were through the many unexpected moments and changes in our lives.
There is a lesson illuminating from the lights of this stately old tree, I think. No matter how many detours life takes you on, regardless of how many unexpected moments you are faced with that were not a part of the plan or the logical next step, there are some things that remain the same, that remain ever loyal, faithful and dependable. Only you know what those "evergreens" are in your life. Perhaps it is the loyalty of a friend or companion who stands by your side no matter what, who sees you as a priority and drops everything without notice to be with you. Maybe it is the acceptance of family members who are there for you when life's unexpected moments knock you to your knees. It could be a talent, skill or hobby that is your hiding place when the pressures of life threaten to pull you under. Maybe it is the lights of "home" that welcome you at the end of a tiring day. For me, one "evergreen" stands taller than others. Ironically, it is that "pint sized hero" who grew into a tall handsome young man. He was there right by my side when "family" was no longer a traditional trio - accepting the fact that a single mom and a little boy are just as much a family as those including both a mommy and a daddy. When health issues threatened to take away every ounce of strength I needed as a single mom, that little "evergreen" stood by my side, folding clothes, making sandwiches and pouring iced tea; checking the doors each evening to make sure we were locked in safely and waking me from my wearied naps on the sofa and helping me find my way to my bed each night. He would cover me with a warm blanket when I shivered from pain and fatigue. As unexpected moments escalated to hours, days, months and years, he was there when it became necessary to pack up our lives and move from the one house that had been a home. He stood strong as the "little man of the house" encouraging me and assuring me that everything would be okay. His hugs of reassurance helped me understand that "home" meant much more than the brick and mortar we were having to sell and move out of. The years passed and that little boy grew into a man. As he began to spread his wings, he never hesitated when life produced unexpected moments. Over and over he set aside his own agenda to be there for the family - and for me.
I've seen other "evergreens" planted firmly around me; like my giving mother who was there for me. She is also a loyal daughter and now the caregiver for her mother through the unexpected moments that come with age. There is my sweet Daddy, who took my son under his wing and became the fatherly role model that helped mold my son into the man he is today. I think about friends and co-workers who stood in the gap for me when I was too weary to stand on my own. Then there's my physician. When my health condition baffled the most knowledgeable experts, he dug deep in research and "went back to school" as he explained, in order to find out what was behind my health issues. There is no doubt, his diligence saved my life those years ago. I could go on, but to continue would take me into the New Year with story after story before I even published this New Year's message to you.
As I reminisce about the many unexpected moments over the years, it isn't really a surprise that the moments themselves are not what I remember nearly as much as who I shared those moments with and how I handled those moments. Each moment good and bad, brought blessing in its own way. None of us truly know what the New Year holds or for that matter even what the next hour or day holds. Some things we come to expect, but many things sneak up on us when we least expect them. Life is a mix of highs and lows, of vibrant color and somber tones. It marches to a fast pace then pauses in stillness. Like the lights on my evergreen, life's moments twinkle with excitement, but also glow soft and steady when I need light on my path. The blessing is not in the diversity of the moments themselves, but rather those that share those moments with me. Unexpected moments remind me of what matters and what doesn't. May your New Year be filled with "evergreens" that last through the year through each moment you face.
Happy & Blessed New Year!