I woke up this morning just happy to be alive. Both boys snuggled into our bed for a few minutes before breakfast; one happy baby had just enjoyed his. We were getting ourselves together to go and visit some friends and meet their new baby girl — a precious two-and-a-half-week-old gift from heaven.
Breakfast and showers and everyone dressed except the little one who can stay in pajamas all day if he likes, I checked my email and peeked at Facebook before our departure. I noticed a few messages in my inbox and decided to go ahead and glance at one of them.
The message was from one of my best friends — a friend who has stood by me and supported me and encouraged me so much throughout these long years on the other side of the Atlantic. She sent love and gifts, calls and prayers to Scotland, and then to South Africa, and I treasure her deeply. We are committed to being witnesses to each other’s lives, and I would be wrong to speak of her friendship without using the word “thankful.”
Her brief message shared the news that the child she and her husband had been expecting was lost. At fifteen weeks, their pregnancy came to an end. I wept, recovered, shared the news with HH and wept some more.
I wanted the world to stop for a moment — for everything to be still and quiet and let me grieve, for a plane ticket to spontaneously arrive so I could go and be with her — to grieve this child I wanted to know and had been mentally planning care packages for.
Moments later, I was assisting the Bear to put on his shoes. I hugged him and asked him for a kiss. He head-butted me in the nose, instead, so hard that I started crying again.
We piled in the car to see our friends and meet the baby, and we noticed a strange thing that has happened once before. Our car was in the shop for a repair, and the mechanics working on it took the CD out of the CD player, found an old CD in the glove box and put it in instead. I’d actually labeled this one “Good Random Mix — Where’d I come from?” at some stage. Today I couldn’t remember what was on it or where it came from.
As the journey to Cape Town continued, I transitioned to the back seat to help the little one fall asleep and entertain the older one with whatever I could find in my purse. Stevie Nicks began to sing Landslide and I listened to the lyrics, my heart stirring with the season of life, so much movement, joy, sorrow, change.
I wandered through the lyrics, wondering what I’ve built my life around. Has some part of me these six years away been built around being away? Am I afraid of going home because I’m not sure I still am who I was when I left? Have these years allowed me to hide? Am I just sad because this season is ending? Though the overwhelming sentiment for my return to the Carolinas is excitement, still too, there is a grieving.
I’m sad to say goodbye to being away. I’m sad to see this adventure come to an end. I don’t want to admit it because it feels wrong for so many reasons. How can I grieve something that was full of challenge? How can I grieve when my prayers have been answered?
The music continues from Enya to James Taylor to Nelly Furtado, and I think about who might’ve given me this CD. And then the Dixie Chicks come on, singing their beautiful rendition of Nick’s Landslide. I listen to the words again.
After meeting the beautiful baby girl — so perfect and tiny and precious — we are on our way home again, and the CD loops to start over. Stevie sings again. The Chicks sing again. I’m lost in my own thoughts about change. Rejoicing with friends rejoicing. Lost in sorrow for my friend’s loss.
I ponder how this life is all a gift — why am I blessed with this wonderful husband while friends of mine raise children on their own? Why am I blessed with these boys and with health, while others lose children or never have them to begin with?
Only two things are completely certain in my mind: the God who never changes, and life, which always will.
It feels like the loss of this child gave me permission to grieve the loss of the now. The loss of a season that you loved and struggled through still hurts, even when you feel ready to move on. With growing children, a growing family, I am eager to be settled. But I don’t want to let go of now.
Somehow it is not about me, or my friend: it is all about Him who always was, in whom and through whom all things are held together.
We’re at home and my four-month-old stirs awake from a cosy nap in his carrier. I pick him up and begin to cry.
Can we do more than take these gifts for granted?
We watch the trees sway in the wind outside and I begin to sing the lyrics from those girls who sang my heart today:
Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing cause I
built my life around you.
But time makes you bolder
children get older, I’m getting older, too.
With prayers for a very dear friend,
He came home with yellow flowers for me the other day,
and my heart began hearkening back,
as the baby’s soft hands reminded me of my grandmother’s.
I was at the hospital holding them
while I prayed the night she died
I studied the yellow flowers around her room
and the ones in the pictures on the wall
and prayed that they’d be like angels
to surround her and take her home
so she’d no longer feel any pain.
Ever since I’ve loved yellow flowers
tiny angels sent to remind me
the Lord hears
even the prayers of a girl who doesn’t yet understand
what it means to follow Jesus or how to ask something just right.
He hears the heart of the pray-er
and though I might try to sit long at His throne with steadfast eloquence
quoting chapter and verse to explain how I think it ought to be
or working words with great reason to say how I hope He’ll move,
those yellow flowers remind me
of the God who hears the prayers
of a hoping teenage girl who isn’t sure who He is
but feels sure enough to believe
flowers can turn into angels
and help someone fly away home.
He let her know He was listening
and her sister chose the program for the funeral
where a white country church
stood warm on a summer’s day,
quietly basking in a field,
full of yellow flowers.
I wrote this just after Baby Brother was born, but today was the day for posting it. I hope it’s an encouragement to you Moms who feel like life’s going a little too quickly sometimes. Please feel free to pass it on. xCC
I lay in a hot salty bathtub this evening, a set of grandparents and a dear friend and a husband downstairs, a two year old delight asleep in his big boy bed, a three day old asleep in the crib in our room.
So much has happened in these few days that my heart is overwhelmed. Two weeks ago my father-in-law had a heart attack, but they waited until they arrived here to tell us, to avoid adding stress to our lives while we waited for this one’s arrival.
The hot summer wind is whipping outside and I’m thankful my hot bath is beginning to cool off as my stitches do their soaking.
This tiny boy arrived without much of a warning. The floor in front of our passenger seat was baptized as we sped to the hospital. Waters of life, pouring out in preparation for life to pour out — it all happened at a frightening pace.
Suddenly he is here and I am home from the hospital, healthy and well, sore and tired. Emotional.
And the juxtaposition of that heart attack hits me like a ton of bricks, set against the backdrop of baby blue life, deep blue eyes, milk and nursing, cradle and grave.
Life happens so fast.
I think about the tiny sleeping boy and experience tells me in no time at all he will reach out and touch my face. He will step. He will dance. He will giggle at his big brother. He will take me by the hands and say, “Comee, Mommy. Blue Clues. Otees. Poopy potty.” All in the blink of an eye.
I bring my hands to my face as I cry out to the Lord:
Lord, it’s so hard! Life is like this water — this river that just keeps flowing. I am in the stream and it is passing and I don’t want it to!
I ponder where I would tell it to stop.
The day he was born? A little too traumatic. The day after? Quite a bit of pain there. A few weeks from now when things are settling in? By then he will already be so many days — so many weeks. I will still want to look back.
The waters of life are around my ankles. I am in the stream and I think of how it could be different. A lake which stays put? A pond which stays still? These things are stagnant.
And the Lord said to me:
The Good Water is the Water that flows.
Yes, Lord. It flows as this baby makes his way into the world. It flows as I fill up this bathtub. It flows as we grow and change and learn and love and walk and die and breathe. And stranded in the wild with the choice between a puddle and a stream we know what to choose.
Good water is water that flows.
I will enjoy what comes down the stream to me. I will splash and drink. Savour and live.
I pull the plug and the water begins to drain from the tub. Before it has drained out, I am up and drying off to look for more.
These are the beautiful days
when arms barely reach above
heads and lips slowly purse together
and pout as sleepytime stirs to
These are the beautiful days
when a tiny person’s entire being
seems employed in the joyful art of a
good wake-up stretch
These are the beautiful days
when tiny eyes seem fiercely blue
while heads tilt back, mouth open,
chin quivering, because being on the outside
is such hard work
It’s been said that freedom has a scent
like the top of a newborn baby’s head
And though I didn’t get to hear those lyrics in concert,
it’s a privilege to daily stop
and smell the music.
It is another peaceful day in Gordon’s Bay. Wind blowing gentle, sometimes strong. Feeling weak and tired after a little Bear sprang up early like an over-eager alarm clock, I spent much of the morning moving slowly, doing little. High hormones or low blood sugar getting the better of me, at 10:30 I was teary-eyed and promptly sent back to bed by Hero Hubs.
A nap and a read and a lovingly prepared peanut butter and jelly sandwich — the stuff that beautiful days are made of.
A little taste of Pepsi in bed with a Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar, baked by that same wonderful Hubs when I mentioned cookies this morning — love that I can hold in my hands and savour on my tongue.
I am up and the Bear is down for a nap. Ropes clang against masts in the harbour, blinds occasionally clatter with windows in the wind. The wagtails outside remember us sharing crumbs with them weeks ago. One has returned to ask for more and is singing his request in the patio shade. He considers venturing into the dining room through open doors: with seven or eight hops he could be savouring a lonely cheerio a little Bear must’ve dropped from his bowl.
Ann Voskamp’s words find their way across the ocean, to South Africa, to Gordon’s Bay, to my screen, to my heart:
Doesnâ€™t urgency over everything imply that Godâ€™s in control of nothing?
My soul continues to learn to rest. To be still and know. To look for the glorious Creator in the bush aflame. In the bird with a song.
Postponement for the best to become possible.
My joy is to smile and to wait.
We take the same route to church and to the the doctor’s office for my prenatal checkups. Depending on whether it’s a weekend or a weekday, the sights might be slightly different, but it always seems like there’s something to tug at my heartstrings.
Turning out of our neighbourhood, we’re on a fairly busy stretch of highway. Mr. Potato Head grumbles in the direction of the nearby Steenbras mountains, and then we turn and start heading in the direction of the Hottentots Holland mountains, further in the distance. We cross over the busy N2, up a hill and in a moment we’re whisked into Sir Lowry’s Pass village.
Until you come face to face with the reality of poverty, it is still just images on a TV screen or website, or in a brochure you received in the mail. But the reality is so much bigger — more complex, more colourful, more hopeful, more distressing.
We grumbled along for a prenatal appointment a couple weeks ago, and my heart rode the up and down roller coaster it usually rides on the journey. We pass the big dumpster where three or four goats are usually grazing on a pile of trash, and we come to the one little roundabout with a small food store on one corner, shacks on another, a freestanding house opposite the store. The rundown wall behind the goats closes out the circle. It’s a school day and the streets are full of life.
Children in uniforms are dispersing in every direction, and one little girl is giggling and scurrying away from an older sibling, or perhaps her mother. They are both laughing and seem so joyful I wish we could stop to ask what’s so funny.
A tall gentleman with a checkered shirt, a baseball cap and nice shoes struts across the street on the other side of the roundabout. A smaller guy with long dreadlocks and a red t-shirt hops up the curb on a little trick bike.
Outside a shack built entirely of what looks like found or recycled pieces of wood, a dog and a cat stand beside one another, staring in, as if something important is happening and they’re waiting to get inside. Children, some with shoes and some barefoot, are walking or sitting in the shade of the occasional, small trees that line the road. They’re eating their lunch and enjoying treats they’ve just gotten at the food store.
Life seems to be joyful for a moment.
A little further along we pass a little boy, gray-sweatered and green-trousered, still in his school uniform. Like children often do, he has taken off his school shoes to preserve them, and is walking barefoot and alone, a backpack on his back and his big black shoes in his arms. He steps normally with his right leg, but with each step he has to drag his left leg around in a circle, as if the leg cannot be bent at the knee. Watching him struggle under the weight of disability and the load he is carrying, my face is flush and I begin forcing back tears.
My mind begins to marvel that my heart hasn’t grown cold. I thought after a year or so these scenes would become familiar…that I’d struggle to find emotion…that I’d eventually begin to feel sorry that I didn’t feel sorry.
We pass a woman who is pregnant, but not as far along as I am. The difference in opportunity for the life growing inside her and the one in me…I almost want to shuck the thought away instead of letting it sink in. Who’s to know, really?
Sometimes Africa feels like a deep ravine set in a distant jungle. People come from miles around to find it, because everyone’s goal is to fill it. We throw in resources. Money. Food. Clothing. Bicycles. Shoes. Then we lean over to look in, and still can’t see the bottom. It’s a struggle to see progress. Hand-ups and Hand-outs start to look similar.
But I’ve seen change. I’ve seen generosity make a difference. And I’ve seen the numbers. And I’ve shared some of them with you here. We could be the generation that makes poverty history. If we grow weary in well-doing, we probably won’t. But if we continue the fight, our chances of success improve considerably.
The car grumbles on to the doctor’s office, my head and my heart like soft serve ice cream, thick with heavy thoughts. Staring down into the ravine, the hope is for something unseen. And who knows how it’s all going to come together.
I hope my part in this journey will end with a “Well done.” Sometimes I’m not sure what else to hope for.