I remember when my son was born.
"It's a boy," the doctor said. Then she raised that sweet, tiny bundle and placed him on my chest, leaving a heaviness over my heart that hasn't lifted in the five and a half years since. I've discovered that having a child is exactly that: a deep mark on your heart, a hand pressing down that leaves fingerprints all over your formerly untouched soul. You are never the same.
Throughout his infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool years, my son painted himself all over me. His handiwork is a mural of sorts, a tapestry in relief that dips and curves according to the lines of his small palms. You'd think that having a second son would only mess up the already chaotic sprawl of his youthful art, but our second baby was, and is, the perfect fit. And so two children, in concert, have their way with my heart. I wouldn't have it any other way.
But there is one thing I know. I want them with me. Always.
We've been talking a lot about Africa in our home lately. Our non-profit is making incredible strides in Liberia and we have a trip planned for November of 2011. We want to take our kids along, but I worry about the little one who puts bugs in his mouth to see what they taste like. And I worry about the big one who has allergies and who is a homebody... But we had a conversation a few days ago that changed my mind.
"How many shots do I have to have when we go to Africa?"
Silence as mommy remembers the Hep immunizations, yellow fever needles, anti-malarial pills, and more. "Uh, I don't remember exactly."
"Well, I don't care. I'll be brave."
Phew. Though mommy wonders if they make needles small enough to stick in his narrow little hip.
"I really, really want to go to Africa."
"Yup. I'm going to be a missionary when I grow up. I'm going to tell people about Jesus."
Gulp. Visions of distance and danger and sickness and strife. But mostly distance. Away from me? But isn't this what I've always prayed for? That he'd have a heart for God?
I don't know if my son will be a missionary when he grows up. But the fact that at five years old he wants that more than he wants to be a football player, firefighter, or motorcycle stunt man (his previous longed-for occupations) breaks my heart in that good, heart-rending, God-aching way.
I pray for my sons, and I pray that God will continue to break my heart with the things that break his. Maybe when they grow up I won't have my boys with me, but I pray that even if I can't hold them, God does. And Lord, let them cling to you right back. I think I could handle that kind of heart break. In the meantime, they're here. They smell like syrup from breakfast and their scraped knees call out for kisses. Their hair is morning-mussed, their cheeks still pink from the warmth of their pillows. They say, "Mommy, I love you so so so so so so much."
I love you so so so so so so much right back.