Glimmers of hope feel so rare that when one appears we instinctively christen it precious. I believe hope is actually much more abundant than we perceive, if only we were accustomed to seeking God over self, but as it may be, we don’t see much of authentic hope, choosing instead our lens for doom.
What am I talking about? I really don’t know. It’s been almost six months since I wrote anything. I’ve been knee-deep in researching my son’s health problems (gut and skin related). No, make that waist-deep. Mamas do whatever it takes, can I get an amen? So my time at my computer has been spent pouring over the GAPS diet, allergy testing, toddler poop elixirs, and magical eczema cures that only cost every penny we have. It’s been a season of Benedryl and tears.
I feel like I have forgotten how to write. Why to write. What it did for me; what generous friends told me it did for them. What of value do I have to say? How on earth can I eloquently share it? Who is listening anyway?
There’s no promising that I can be eloquent. (Actually I probably can’t be). Eloquent is not my thing. But, I do have a knack and a passion for being real. Too real, I sometimes fear. Is this okay to say? Is it going to ruffle feathers? Is it going to get me or others into trouble? Is that even the point?
I really don’t know. I’m starting not to care as much? It’s just that I have thoughts I feel cannot (should not?) be contained. As the late and magnificent Maya Angelou put it, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” There are things, real things, hard things, yucky things, that I am feeling more and more compelled to write about. I’ve read writing advice that urges authors to write the books they long to read, and the things on my mind are those I yearn to drink up from a printed page. Part of me feels like I’m swallowing fire but I think I’m going to keep down this road, at least for today.
A baby recently made its first tiny kicks in my belly. That’s right — I’m pregnant. Showing and everything. More on that in a bit.
I have friends and family struggling with the deaths of loved ones, with singleness and with marriage, with lack of work and with work that’s lacking, with cancer and repeated miscarriages and the difficulties of old age.
It’s been over eighteen months since my husband lost his pastoral position at our church due to financial hardship. That loss — of job, church, home, community, life — was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. It debilitated me, shook my faith to the core. I finally crawled out of the pit, having decided to grasp the divine hand extended, but I emerged wounded and exposed. No longer trapped but no longer sheltered. I don’t remember how to “do church.” I don’t remember how to trust. Healing is underway but it’s a longer process than I anticipated. I love Sunday mornings once more and that is miraculous. Slowly, so slowly, I thaw.
Gabe giggles — and tantrums — every day, and the toddler lifestyle breaks me a little bit more and makes me a little more dependent on Jesus. Because sometimes (a lot of the time) being calm, giving choices, setting limits, etc, does not get me from wake time to bed time. And thank God it doesn’t. Perhaps Gabriel is God’s most powerful instrument for reigning in Halley Watson Kim, for drawing her back into The Arms of Love.
At Bible study the other night, which my husband annoyingly but accurately dubs “my gab group,” we discussed a single question: “Where in life are you ‘just making it?’ In what areas are you relying entirely on your own strength/living apart from grace?” (See, we do talk about Jesus sometimes, dear!). The question is sort of haunting me.
What is grace anyway? It becomes so watered-down in church culture, so vague in culture at large, it’s difficult to actually define it. I looked it up. I’m more of a thesaurus gal than a dictionary chick, so work with me here: charity, favor, leniency, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, reprieve.
Where in my life am I making it without any reliance on the CHARITY of God?
In what areas am I scraping by without any dependence on the MERCY of God?
Why do I insist on pretending I have no needs rather than seeking REPRIEVE in the bosom of my Heavenly Father?
How do I so quickly forget that God truly is tender, soft-hearted, and benevolent? That He is inviting me to live out of His grace if I would only trust Him?
Because the world is harsh; the world is cruel. There is cancer and unemployment and hours of crying from eczema-riddled toddlers in pain. I am not equipped with knowledge or time to explain how and why the goodness of God and the world’s suffering can coexist. (However authors such as Tim Keller, C.S. Lewis, and others have undertaken this grand task in the form of big, meaty, foot-noted books).
You see, I have many more questions that answers. There’s not a lot that I know, at least not in my heart when life starts crumbling (the head is much more easily convinced). There is much I question, much I misgive. My faith is two steps forward, one step back. I whine at God, I yell at God, I cry to God. Though spoken in various renditions, “WTF God?!” is not a rare psalm from my lips. Despite believing in the goodness of God, I still doubt. Despite seeing pain all around me, I still believe. (Sometimes this makes me feel like a complete idiot). But here’s the thing: I’m still here, on this bizarre journey with a carpenter who hung on a cross, because I need a complex faith for a complex life. Life doesn’t make sense, neither does faith. Maybe they go together like milk and cookies.
There is agony and chaos. There is joy and bliss. I miscarried as winter bled into spring. Now as summer yields to fall I’m pregnant again. Pushing fifteen weeks. I’m wearing maternity jeans and taking prenatal vitamins and crossing my fingers I’m done throwing up. A few weeks ago I heard my baby’s heartbeat for the first time — 150 perfect beats per minute. I cried tears of relief because my baby is still ALIVE. He or she is real. Perhaps I am permitted to feel joy amidst fear?
The truth is there isn’t anything I’m not trying to do on my own strength. I am quite like the toddler who drives me crazy all day long. My daily, if not hourly, stubborn retort to the Lord is “I do myself!!!!” Just like my almost two-year-old, I am still so young and headstrong. I do not rely; I do not depend. Needs? I have none of those! I will eat my yogurt myself, and though it will land on my face, my shirt, the table, the floor (essentially everywhere but my mouth), come hell or high water I will do it WITHOUT HELP! And God just stands there next to me, sighing but forever patient, ready to offer me a wet washcloth to clean my face, which I will inevitably protest.
It’s no different with this pregnancy I’m afraid; I’m doing this on my own. It allows me to feel in control, and as anyone who has lost a child understands, control, assurance, a promise that all will be well THIS TIME is tantalizing. But that control is an illusion, and there’s the rub. No amount of progesterone shots, no frequency of listening to baby’s heartbeat, no degree of healthy eating, and no length of delay in admitting I am pregnant to others can guarantee me a healthy baby. There is nothing I can do to make absolute sure that this baby is born alive at term. I just can’t. I’m being forced out of toddlerhood and the thinking that I can rig this on my own. And it’s the most helpless feeling in the world.
But, then, sometimes, I think about Jesus. And about how I know him.
I know that he’s offers charity, mercy, and reprieve to me if I want to take it. I know that he knit this little one together in my womb with purpose and love. I know that he did the same for my Susannah, lost too soon, and I know she was treasured all the same. I don’t get it. I don’t know why some babies die and some babies live. I do believe, sometimes for reasons I cannot explain, that there is a God who cares and who is accessible to me.
That Jesus guy knew pain. Betrayed by a brother, denied by a friend, abandoned to die by most everyone. Jesus was intimately acquainted with physical agony, barbarically hung up like a picture on a tree, huge nails pinning him to impending death. He took a very real trip to hell.
I don’t know why there is so much pain and agony on this side of heaven. Sure, I could talk about sin and the devil and a broken world, but I’d really rather not. I hate pat religious answers — they can be patronizing and do not appeal to the heart. Sandy Hook undid me as it did everyone. I screamed at God and later wept in his lap. Because there’s just one thing I know. God always has Kleenex. Jesus wept and still weeps.
“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” ~ Hebrews 4:4-16, The Message
So…maybe today I can let God help me. Maybe tonight I can pray for this new seed of life in my uterus, in addition to taking progesterone supplements and tabulating protein grams and (Oh Lordy, the praying I could do if I remembered Jesus as often as I count protein grams). Maybe I can exhale and draw in grace, care, love…hope. Maybe I don’t have to do pregnancy — or life — all on my own strength (#losingbattle). Maybe I can hold the juxtaposition of a God who is all-powerful and all-loving. Who gives and takes away. Who fills and empties the womb.
Maybe I can find freedom in being small and letting God be big. Maybe he can protect my baby far better than I can. Maybe I’ll let him carry me as I carry my own child.
Here’s a picture of my belly, full of child, at thirteen weeks. Yes I know, my hair is wet, my bed is unmade, and I’m wearing sweatpants. But the sun is shining through the window. Hope is shining through the window. And, like his mercy, I believe it’s new every morning.
“The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again.” ~ Ecclesiastes 1:5, NLT