I heard a story of a baby conceived in difficult circumstances…a troubled teenage mom, the father not involved, the family in distress and full of uncertainty. And I thought about Christmas—the Holy Family…young, poor, without a place to stay, rejected…a bad scene—from the outside. And inside, for the eyes of faith: warmth, love, light, God’s graceful providence. And hope. Hope because God in His great mercy was willing to share in our fragile human life…in the messy, vulnerable perfection that is a baby.
Do we reject Him? Do we run away from the source of all goodness because He has the smell of a stable? Because He is okay with a bed of straw? Do we keep seeking Him in the silken sheets of palaces, because we want a God made in our image? And this is the image we want: riches, comfort, power, control. Not the messy, vulnerable perfection that is a baby.
These are not new ideas, but I think they are worth revisiting. Because embracing new life, no matter what the circumstances, is a way to embrace God. Trusting that He is with us in everything, and is able to bring good out of everything, even when we mess up, even when things don’t go according to our plans—made with our small human minds and our limited vision. Even when our plans don’t include the messy, vulnerable perfection that is a baby.
But maybe it’s precisely that baby who will be our salvation, who will bring untold goodness to the world, who will change our lives and our hearts for the better. This Christmas season, which is still going on, let’s try to remember that in embracing our human reality, with all its difficulties, we are also embracing God, who has entered into it…Who has raised it up to touch the Divine. When we eventually caress the face of that baby, born unplanned and unexpected, let us realize we are also touching the face of God, who enters our lives with His unexpected plans, and changes them forever.
“Little one arise,
get up from your corner;
unfold your sulking arms
and dance with me.
If you don’t know which way to go
stand on my feet
I will guide you.
Give me your arms
see my face
I am with you.
Listen for the music of grace
give in to the mystery of my rhythm
I will guide you.
Don’t refuse to dance
because you don’t know all the steps.
The music will guide you,
you will see
when you let go.”
“Father God, forgive me
for being afraid
for refusing to dance
with a light heart
and joyful feet.
I know you are leading me
and yet I resist—
call out in fear when you dip me,
stiffen my arms when they should be supple
for a twirl—
Let me instead be responsive to your guidance,
open to your plan,
a joyful partner
in this unexpected
dance of life.”
I’ve been keeping this sitting in my heart for a while, so you could say this post has been a long time in coming. As you can guess from the title, for those of you who don’t already know, I am expecting a baby this November, after having lost my little Josephine in labour last September 30th. It is hard. Beautiful but hard.
I’m normally one to be on the phone with mom buddies the second the little plus sign shows up on the pregnancy test, but this time I’ve been much more hesitant to talk about things. My usual excitement has been tempered by the confusing feelings of having lost my last child, and not knowing how to experience a simple, trusting hope that everything will be fine.
I do hope and trust, but in a more complex and nuanced way. Not in the way of thinking things will always turn out how I want them to. But hoping in a plan that’s bigger than mine, a vision far wiser and more encompassing than mine. In a love stronger than death, knowing that no matter what, I can never truly be separated from my babies.
Sometimes children are so wise. My five year old told me, “Don’t worry, Mummy. Either the new baby will come be with us, or will go be with Josephine in Heaven. So it’s ok.” What strength and clarity of vision!
It is hard to take this risk again—the risk that I might not see my baby smile or breathe until I meet him in Heaven—but it is a way of affirming that I am still alive, still have hope, still believe in goodness in a world where hard things also happen. Besides, the only way to ensure my heart could never be broken again would be to stop it pumping, but risking brokenness is essential to being open to life and to love. It’s part of the fragile thing called being human.
Several of my close friends have lost babies and have been able to have one after. Those babies are a beacon of hope for me. I rejoice in each one of them. I realize they are miracle and a free a gift, rather than a right. We think we have so many rights, but we forget that people can only come to us as gift, in the freedom of love.
I also rejoice in the children I do have, just seeing them running around full of life, dancing and laughing, and I think to myself, “They made it. That incredible journey…like little travellers from a far off planet, they made it through the epic journey of the few inches from womb to world, and arrived home.”
So as November approaches, please keep me in your prayers. Especially my little one, that he may arrive safely into his mama’s arms, and that this time, my tears will be of joy. And for all of you who are in the same boat, know my heartfelt prayers are with you as well.
Recently my dear friend Natalie from Chicago came for a quick visit, as she was back home for her grandmother’s funeral. Her presence was like a sweet breeze from the Windy City. She brought a little pot of cheerful daffodils to brighten my table. I got florally spoiled! It was a gift to be able to see her, and have a heart-to-heart talk while the kids played at the park. A moment of happiness I will cherish for a long time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately, and how necessary it is to choose it. Not just as a lifetime hope, but moment to moment. Choosing to embrace each good moment that comes, choosing to smile, to dance with the kids, to laugh when they tell me funny little things, to savour each time they hug or play together well. Tonight we had homemade pizza. “We’re having a nice lifetime,” said my four year old,”This is the best pizza ever!”
I have to see each of these moments as gifts, despite the underlying ache for my little lost daughter, who is busy painting Heaven’s clouds pink with her rosy cheeks. She would want me to be a happy mother who is present to her children, who is affectionate and fun, who is able to enjoy her children and to apologize when she loses her cool.
We can choose to see life as meaningful gift, painful but precious, or as a terrible burden, fraught with danger. But how would the latter help us? To be paralyzed by fear is to refuse to live. And we must live and love, even as the sun must rise, because that’s what we’re meant to do.
Who among us is without pain? We have all suffered in one way or another…
Yet we still have the ability to choose happiness. The longing in our hearts for truth, goodness and beauty is there because those things exist, and we are meant to possess them.
“The essence of greatness is having the heart of a child,” quoted James Stenson in a parenting talk. I think this is also a choice: to let sadness wither you up and go grey inside, letting yourself become even internally old, or to choose youth—hope, joy, simplicity, trust, laughter—for to embrace life is to be young.
This is not a choice we make only once, for we are so changeable, like the shadows of leaves dancing on a windy day…it is a choice we have to make again and again, every time an opportunity comes to enjoy life, to be silly, to dance, to relish a conversation with a dear friend, to bask in the sunlight that pours down on us.
If we refuse the joy of those moments, because the pain of deep old scars that still throb, we are being like the child who refuses to get over her tantrum because one toy broke, even when she is offered many others. It’s really easy to be that kind of child, but we have to remember the resilience of children who seek joy in each new day, who get excited about little things, who are easily pleased by small shows of affection.
All the daily blessings we receive, all of those good moments, are caresses from God’s hands, and a sign that He is with us, despite life’s struggles. Say yes to them. Say yes to Him. Say thank you. We are in bigger, better hands than our own, and only in them can we truly live as children who know how to trust and rejoice, despite the tears that also come.
As I’m trying to take my own advice, here’s some photo’s of me being a kid on my retreat at Loon Lake, climbing about in the woods and getting wet pulling a raft across the lake. Felt like I was 12 again. Was great!