I am a huge fan of shoes. That's not always been the case, but somewhere around age twelve or thirteen, something changed in me and I've loved shoes ever since. My mom would indulge me as best she could by buying me shoes I loved in varying colors. My first job was next door to a shoe store, which meant I brought home no money for anything else.
As I've gotten older, my shoe selection has changed. I have an array of flip-flops and Crocs. I own shoes sensible for walking long distances. I have heels chosen carefully so they don't rub blisters or cause undue pressure. I have a pair of surgical shoes I hobbled around in all last summer after hurting my desensitized feet. My shoe collection these days is not glamorous, but it is reliable, and most of all, safe.
Why such a safety girl? Last summer, I wore a pair of my favorite flip-flops to Six Flags and developed large blisters on the bottom of both of my feet. Because my feet are so insensitive, I couldn't feel the blisters developing and remained unaware until they burst and bled. I was driven out of the park on the Medic Cart (embarrassing!) and spent time in Urgent Care. Despite constant care, the wounds didn't heal well, and later, when we suspected infection, I spent time in the ER. That led to weekly appointments with the podiatrist who literally sliced away sections of my sole at every visit. He also banned me from walking as I was accustomed. He made the wounds and my entire situation worse to help my feet heal properly, and without that treatment, I was at a serious risk of loss.
I learned my lesson last summer, pain was my teacher, and now I'm very conscious about my shoe choice in relation to my environment. I take measures to protect myself and to keep myself completely intact. Though I am better and can now walk with ease, I don't ever fail to remember the situation I found myself in and the measures I can take to prevent a recurrence of that experience. That doesn't mean I spend my life in fear of hurting myself or losing my feet, it only means I'm being aware, conscious, responsible, taking measures to protect myself and to prevent a loss.
Regarding shoes, I have a pair of metaphorical shoes: the shoes of my life, the shoes only I walk in every single day. The shoes of my life are lovely indeed. They were provided by a generous Giver who knew just what I needed. There are bows and buckles right where they belong, with beautiful children, wonderful husband, and better friends than I could have ever dreamed. Financial security and a host of blessings make for a good stable fit. Varying hues are the lives I have touched and the lives that have touched mine. I could not create for myself such an amazing pair of shoes.
But the shoes of my life also represent days that are unusual and often not-so-easy. There are woes from my childhood and the days of my youth. There are family and relationship issues common to all. There's a history of pain and of grief and of loss. These are the things that rub blisters and cause scars. These are the things that, if ignored, could fester and grow infected and could lead to further pain and further loss. These are the risks of walking at all, and while the pain can be intense and inconvenient and hard to understand or take seriously, these are the moments that should never be forgotten.
For those who know me, my story of loss is well-told. We've had four first trimester losses, including a twin in this pregnancy, and I had a son, born too early, who lived on the Earth but for a moment. An interesting thing about my pregnancies is that each loss revealed an issue resolved in the next pregnancy. Were it not for my losses, there is no way I would still even be pregnant with this little girl. Medically, it has been vitally important to consider the past, and just as with my feet, I don't ever fail to remember the situations I found myself in and the measures I can take to prevent a recurrence of those experiences.
All of that to say that I got an e-mail this week that really, quite honestly, ticked me off. I know that sounds mean, but I'm just keeping it real. It came from an acquaintance of mine, really a friend of a friend, and while it was well-meaning (I'm sure), it frustrated me to no end. Here's a portion:
I have been asking God to send you a supernatural cloak of peace. May you not be moved by emotions or thoughts from your past. God is doing a new work.Not so bad, right? No, probably not. Still, I'm irritated.
(I'm also hormonal, but that's beside the point.)
First of all, I've never been close to this e-mail sender. We're not friends now, nor have we ever truly been friends. I hear a little about her life through our mutual friend. In the same way, I'm sure she hears about me. She has had some minimal and limited involvement in my kid's lives as a nursery worker, but she's had very minimal involvement in mine. Moreover, we haven't even laid eyes on one another or spoken in two whole years. On top of that, her life has been wrought with different struggles -- never fertility issues and recurrent pregnancy losses. How, then, is she expert enough to even presume to guide me in my current situation? Who is she to tell me how to walk in my shoes when she's never tried them on for size?
If you know me in real life, if you read my blog, if you keep up with me on Twitter or on Facebook, if you pick up the phone, if you e-mail me and actually ask how I'm doing, or if you bother to actually involve yourself in my life for even one moment, you would know that while there have been times of wonder and struggle during this pregnancy, I have personally been awed by the peace that consumes my heart. I expected to be an utter wreck by now, and to my delight, I am not. Even when concerning things happen, I'm consumed by peace. That doesn't mean that I allow myself to be oblivious, or that I cancel medical treatments in the name of faith, or that I disregard what my past reveals about my present. It means that I walk out my present in light of my past trusting God all the way.
I'm twenty-four weeks pregnant now. I'm carrying a baby who could quite possibly live outside of the womb. I have reached this gestational age to my great surprise, and I do not take one ounce of the credit. God has sustained me all along. Even more surprisingly, I am this pregnant and still upright, which has never happened for me -- ever -- and that, too, is a miracle. Even with all these good things, I still walk out my present in light of my past, realizing that each moment I have with this child on the Earth is a blessing.
Babies die in the first trimester, and hearts are still broken.
Babies die in the second trimester, when all should be safe.
Babies die when they are born too early, just like Zachary.
Babies die from cord accidents all the time.
Babies are carried with the knowledge that they won't live.
Babies die for no reason at all.
Am I a fool to remember my losses and to let them influence my attitude in this pregnancy? No -- I am the wise one. These tumbles and hiccups and bumps in the night may be all I know of my daughter for many years to come. That's a truth I know all too well. These children are gifts to us, treasures, and we would all be fools to take even one portion of their existences for granted. Some people realize that without having had their hearts obliterated. My knowledge has grown deeper by walking a much harder path, still, these shoes are mine, and though they are stained and tattered and sometimes broken, I think I wear them well.