Wednesday, 16 July 2014

My little baby is growing up.

In just under two months, she will be a year old. A year old! It feels like yesterday that I was wandering around the house as a sleep-deprived woman, in jogging bottoms with my hair sticking up in all directions, wondering when I would ever a) sleep again, b) find time to eat or c) not be in pain from having given birth. When I look back on it, I imagine us with the shell-shocked faces of new parents, an expression of amazed exhaustion that clearly says: what the heck happened? 

Our heads were full of numbers all the time, I remember. Of technicalities. What time she had last eaten, and how long she had been asleep, and how many ounces of milk she'd had that day, and how much she weighed now. It was all hours and pounds and ounces. We were so anxious because we were scared of getting something wrong.

Now ... now is different. I'm less anxious, that's for sure. To the point where I saw the baby crawl under the high chair today and pick up a rice cake she'd discarded previously and shove it in her mouth, and instead of thinking 'GERMS!' I thought, 'ah well, it's in there now.' My head is full of birthday plans and ideas for day trips, because Chris has booked time off work around her birthday. And then the looming thought of what is to come after that.

What is to come after that?

Her first birthday is a milestone in more ways than one, because I've said since I handed in my notice at work that we were comfortable with me staying at home until she turned one. Then I would start to think about finding part time work, a couple of days a week or something, so we were more 'comfortable', less 'surviving'.

People ask me sometimes, 'What are you going to do, then?' and I say 'Er, I dunno.' Because I honestly don't. Literally anything could happen. I am open for anything. It might be that I go back into childcare; it might be that I end up doing something completely different; it might end up that our circumstances change and I can officially retire from work for a while to be a stay at home Mum.

This is not like me. This happy, carefree, 'whatever happens, happens' attitude. And believe me, from the moment I thought 'Oh no, I'm going to have to quit my job' until a couple of months ago, I was worrying about this pretty much constantly. I hated having something so huge hovering over my head all the time. I knew we were comfortable now, but what happened if I couldn't find a job later? What happened if all the jobs disappeared between now and then? How will we make money? How will we cope? Etc. My head was constantly full of bills and worry and stress.

I don't know what's caused this massive relaxation to happen. Maybe it was the threat of having to move, which turned out to be nothing. I think I realised that I can't hold onto things so tightly all the time. I need to learn to appreciate what I have right now. What I am right now.

What I am right now is thriving.

I love being with my baby, and I'm aware that at any moment I could start a new job, so I feel extra need to appreciate it. So I am. Appreciating it.

But every now and then the possibility of what is to come seems so vast that I start to imagine it. What could I do? Where could I go? Where will I end up?


 So, our baby girl can crawl now.

She can crawl super-fast, too. She can also pull herself up on the furniture. She is very excited about this. I am excited too, although I'm less excited when I see her pulling herself up on the glass shelves of the TV stand (we really, really need to buy a baby-friendly TV stand). It doesn't help that our entire downstairs is hard flooring - either laminate or tiles, which looks nice but is not at all cruising-baby-friendly. I love watching her go, but my heart is in my mouth the whole time.

But she gets this look on her face. It's the look she preserves for the times when she's really going to stretch herself. Usually when she's reaching from one object to another so she can steady herself. You can see that she's appraising the situation - is it safe? Can I do this? - and then she suddenly gets this glint of wild abandon in her eyes and just launches herself forward.

Yes, that's an abandoned nappy that she's heading for, there. Whoops.

She doesn't have the fear that I do. Children need risk - it's how they learn what they're capable of. It's how they hone their skills, their physical and mental capabilities. They need to crawl, run, jump, and generally fling themselves around. It's in that playing that they can really try out new stuff, and in that trying out, that they either succeed and feel pleased with themselves, or fail and then try again until they get it.

So in short, risk is good. Risk is healthy. 

As an adult, I don't like risk so much.

I think we like to limit our risk-taking as much as possible (or at least, I do). I think the whole of modern existence is all about trying to eradicate risk as much as possible. We get good jobs with good prospects for career progression. We invest, we save, we stockpile. We check reviews of things before we buy them, and if something makes our lives a bit easier, we will usually buy it. We have insurance on ourselves, our houses, our mobile phones, our pets. Everything is about striving to be as comfortable as we can. We want extras just in case. We want back-up plans. We want everything to tick along the way it normally does.

I'm not saying that in a judgemental way. I want all that security too.

I'm thinking of trying something new at the moment, and honestly, making any decisions about it feels ... I dunno, life-changing, significant. Like I'm about to choose between cutting the red and the blue wire, with one decision leading to a safe happy future and the other leading to ruin and disaster. 

But really, that is ridiculous.

Here is what I believe about God, and taking risks, in a nutshell:

1) God sees all, knows all, and understands us. He does have good and perfect plans for us. He wants good things for us.

2) However, He does not force us to do what He thinks is best although that would be easier. Otherwise we wouldn't have free will. We have the freedom to make choices. God has given us the brains to make decisions ourselves. So then, we have to take risks sometimes (even though we'd quite like the plan to be laid out like a road map).

3) If you stick close to God, generally you won't go far wrong. Mistakes might be made, but if you are really striving to be near to Him, you are unlikely to make catastrophically awful decisions. 

So really, when I consider my beautiful daughter, gaining her independence, exploring the world, reaching out, stretching herself - not stopping to think 'I'm not good enough to do this', or 'other people can do this, not me' - I see a bit of an example for myself. Obviously I am an adult, and this whole 'risk taking' thing doesn't mean 'doing stupid things'. It means carefully considering choices, weighing options, but ultimately making a choice - and actually going for it.

Not stopping to think 'this isn't going to work, I'm not good enough to do this'. Just trying it.

If it doesn't work, the world won't end. The very worst thing is that I can take a bit of a tumble, and bruises don't last forever, right?

When I first went to bed tonight, laptop under my arm to write this post that has been irritating me for ages, I was thinking of the last meeting we had as a Bible study group before we split for the summer. Beth Moore was talking about serving our purpose while we are alive, and how sometimes all we do is worry about whether or not we're doing the right thing, whether we're missing some huge chunk of life that God had planned for us, whether we'll get to the end of our lives and think 'Oh no! I missed this thing that I was supposed to do'. And she turned to the camera, telling the audience (and the people watching it later on DVD) that she needed to tell some of us a particular message. She crouched down as if to look us full in the face, and said:

'Stop panicking!'

It made me smile at the time. Message received.

I peeped in on the baby. Fast asleep, hands behind her head as though sunbathing on a tropical beach somewhere far away. Little chubby legs crossed at the ankles. I prayed for her, as I do every night, as I did right from when she was born, when the fear of what might happen to her while I slept would overcome me. 'Please keep her safe. Please watch her for me while I'm asleep'. 

I trust God with her. And really, I trust Him with me. When I look back on my life so far, I can see Him like a golden thread weaving through the fabric, holding everything together. Even if I couldn't see it at the time, I can see it now. Really, the miraculous has already occurred. I am no longer the person I used to be. I have a hope and a future that goes beyond houses and rent payments and careers.

When I think about that, this 'big risk' doesn't seem so big after all.


 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:8-9

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