She is sitting down, on a potty, right in front of me, when all the thoughts start swirling in my head again. Seven months, quickly closing in on eight, her eyes are bright, filled with wonder and interest, and I am simply lifting the tow hook of a little lego truck and letting it fall for her to see.

Gravity is not in her vocabulary, but wonder, oh how wonder is.

Gift. Gift I think — what I could have named her, and her brothers. Gifts. For the days that are long and hard, for the losses that grab a hold of your heart and squeeze so tight it’s hard to take each breath. They are gift, gift, and reward.

And the thoughts that swirl? How strange it is to see this as other than gift.

Sure, there are days. Laundry piles high. Dishes stack up. Tempers flare: He hitted me with that ball! Let go of your brother, you are not his Mommy or Daddy! How many times do I have to call your name before you will look at me? I strain my voice too often.

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But stand still. Be still just a moment. Mimic the wonder you see in front of you — take it all in. Flesh of flesh, bone of bone, this child that sits here with half my DNA — absolutely desired before she arrived, though fear met me once or twice: This is quick. They will be less than two years apart. Two kids in diapers… 

Still, and I see it: she cannot be seen as other-than gift.

And what of the other-thans?

They are the words of strangers: Boy, you’ve got your hands full! You know where they come from right? Aren’t you finished yet

And the stories they tell: I could only put two through college. We just wanted one and we would be done. How can you handle more than two or three at the most? Kids are bad for the environment.

The world’s sending mixed messages, one grocery store checkout line at a time.

Post-potty bath time, she is splashing and full of wonder — water swirling with a few white suds from a little baby wash in the duck tub sitting on the island in our kitchen. She beams. Glee. HH hurries for his camera — and I tell the truth, he calls her name and she looks and poses as if she understands, with a huge grin, mouth open nearly as wide as it will go, eyes, too. She pauses the splashing to pose and lets us capture the moment.

I beam with Mama-pride at this simple moment. Thankfulness has been swelling my heart these days — I am taking it seriously. A thankful heart prepares the way for the Lord. I am taking seriously the business of being still, giving thanks.

I have wept with friends, struggling to become pregnant. Wept with friends who have experienced loss. And with research, intervention and no small amounts of effort together as a society we endeavor to put children in the arms of the childless. Through the marvels of modern medicine and the awe-inspiring beauty of adoption.

None is sad. One is great. But too many? A burden — and some might even say downright wrong — bringing too many children into the world.

A gentleman sitting next to me on a plane once genuinely questioned the sanity of a married couple who does not want to use birth control if they already have more than a couple of children. What is the difference between birth control and clipping your fingernails? he mused.

I disengaged from the conversation as quickly as possible.

You’ve got your hands full. Maybe so.

But these moments of God-wonder have not slowed. For the four-year-old who understands so much, thinks deeply, cares and cares. With the two-year-old’s milky white smile, peeking from perfect, parted pink lips, eyelashes to rival any mascara commercial — and eyes to charm any man or woman in town.

And this little one, who sat in front of me, warmest smile, toothless, yet so full — wild after-nap wispy waves encircling her head. Able to take my mind off the greatest problems, able to unfurl every knot that threatens to tighten me up to that struggling-to-breathe-state that occasionally finds me.

Who is right? What is true?

A friend and I talked about it the other day, the comments from the older ladies in the grocery store. How it is nice to hear “treasure this time” and “it goes by fast” — these reminders to slow down and take off your shoes. It is hard to hear “how many do you actually want” and “Boy, you’ve got your hands full” — which with certain tones and inflections sometimes sounds more like “Have you heard of birth control, you idiot?”

He has held her, for me to type now, and brings her in pink polka-dot pajamas, perfect hand-me-downs from her older cousin. With privilege I kiss her cheek before he takes her to bed.

God’s hand has provided riches beyond measure. I see it. I could take off my shoes if I were wearing any.

The Bible puts it this way:

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord;
The fruit of the womb is a reward. {Psalm 127:3}

With the busyness that has me doing the things I must and sometimes keeping me from things I love to do, these three little gifts are constant reminders: He is so, so good. And my answer these days to the world of other-thans, to the “Boy, you’ve got your hands full {—you dummy—}” folks?

“My heart is even more full.”