It's true what those strangers say to you during the years you struggle with strollers and diaper bags and twisted car seat restraints. When you wonder if they'll be potty trained or graduate from kindergarten first. When you wake up for the fourth time in the middle of the night to chase a monster from under the bed.
They grow up so fast.
My son was two years old and I was vacuuming. And I had one of those panicked motherhood moments. My mind flashed forward twenty years and imagined I had failed my son. I imagined the worst possible scenario for his future. You name it, and I imagined it.
In the minute it took me to vacuum under the dining room table, I had believed the worst for my child. Imagination twisted itself toward fear and stopped me cold. I stood frozen as the bristled brush roller on the underside of that vacuum whirled in place on the floor at my feet.
In that panic my heart gasped for air and words spilled in straight from heaven: "As long as there's breath, there's hope." I held my hand over my heart, as if to press the words into place.
I lifted my gaze to the ceiling and breathed small words of thanksgiving. Glad to know all was well. All would be well.
Nearly two years later our youngest child coughed in her crib in a moment between midnight and dawn. My husband thought he should check. And she lay there. Blue. Fighting for breath.
My husband raced to the car with our child in his arms and as I watched them drive into the night, I wondered what would happen to hope if her breath never returned.
But this is what I hadn't realized that day in my dining room. While the vacuum cleaner had been inhaling the Cheerios and play-doh and dust from my floors, God had been talking to me about my breath. What He meant that day was that even if all I have left is breath —. Even then there is hope.
For ten days our daughter fought for her breath in an oxygen tent in a hospital bed. At the end of ten days we brought her home and she and her brother grew up so fast.
It's been twenty years since I stood frozen, holding onto that vacuum next to my dining room table. Those years have had moments of anguish and sorrow and sickness and grief and deep disappointments.
I have made mistakes as a parent and as a wife.
I have failed and lost multiple times on many fronts.
I have thought for sure all hope was lost.
And then I catch my breath. And remember my hope. And hold my hand over my heart as if to press the words into place.
When all we have left is breath, even that we offer up to the One who whispers hope and restores our souls.