Love

The numbers glow white in the darkness and reach my tired eyes. 

1:48

I try to push my thoughts into the prayer chamber but they come leaking out; dripping, streaming, pooling. Just like the driving rain that’s the soundtrack to this nightly vigil.

I listen to him breathe. In and out. In and out. This innocence lying in my arms.

Oh. This love you have for a child… It starts out tentatively. You love him because he’s helpless. And because he’s part of you. Because he needs you. And, honestly, because you have no choice, really. It sometimes feels like a forced love. It didn’t come naturally; not to me… It was detached. A stranger, this little life I had to look after.

Months go by and he changes and grows and becomes someone. As he develops, I start to see him more clearly. His little mannerisms and personality; his way of relating to the world and to people. I’ve got front row seats to this beautiful production playing out in front of me. It’s like the fog is slowly lifting to reveal more and more of the intricate landscape that is my son’s soul – the mountains and valleys, the streams and bridges, the horizon… Every day I see more.

And the love I have burning inside me for this precious boy is wild and untamed now. And it’s spreading. Consuming. Blazing hot. He’s such a part of me now… So much more than when he was actually growing inside of me. So much more than when I held him for the first time after the gruelling marathon of birth and we were connected by a pulsing cord.

I couldn’t bare to part with him. Not now. Not ever.

These early years are sacred years. Years when we can live such connected lives. When I will be his first love. The one he wants to be with. The one he wants to share everything with. The one he can’t wait to see. The one he wants to be comforted by. The one he talks most to. The one who knows him best.

I get to love him completely. Unashamedly. Boldly. Profoundly. Deeply. Fiercely. I don’t have to worry that I’m overbearing or too much or too intense.

I can’t believe how incredibly favoured I am.

I know of so many who are aching to experience this miracle. This tiny piece of God-made wonder.

I recall our own struggle. The months of rollercoaster emotions: the despair, the hope, the disappointment, the sadness, the anguish, the elation… The loneliness, the cliches, the pain of not being understood…

How quickly I forget.

Most nights I fight against myself, tenaciously holding onto my fraying sanity with both hands. Usually my temper, resting on the hot plate of exhaustion, is only seconds from boiling over, ready to hiss and spit ugly anger and frustration all around. It leaves a sticky mess that is hard to clean up…

But not tonight.

Tonight I see the complexity of love. The oxymoron of life. The profound mixed in with the ordinary. Frustration fused with compassion. Revealing the ugliest bits and bringing out the most beautiful ones – sometimes all in one instant.

It’s wanting to give up but always carrying on. It’s having too much to bear but always finding strength for more. It’s never wanting it to end and wishing it would just be over. It’s weakness and courage, it’s vulnerability and resilience, it’s painful tears and uncontrollable laughter. 

It’s all blended together. Kneaded into one cohesive whole. Rainbow colourful. Sweet. Sour. Bitter. Salty.

I want to treasure every moment. Even the ones teetering on the edge of the deep dark hole of despair.

I want to make every moment count.

I want to remember that every minute is a special gift straight from the hand of God.

Faces

I don’t see her face anymore.

The grubby face with the lifeless eyes at my car window – cupped hands held out.

I don’t see his face anymore.

The one hiding behind the flimsy cardboard sign, sitting with the frayed blanket and the intrenched sadness.

I don’t see their faces anymore.

The ones living in one bedroom make-shift shacks, sharing beds and too little food. Where life is cheap and the struggle to survive is real. And affluence is a stone’s throw away. And the contrast is sickening.

The reprimands about being grateful for the things I have are on repeat in my head.

Be grateful. Count your blessings. At least you have a roof over your head, and food on the table. You are better off than the majority of the world population!

I don’t see the face of poverty first hand anymore… I see different faces now.

I see the fraught face of the mother whose child is gripped by severe anxiety. I see the discouraged face of the man who was retrenched and is desperate for a job. I see the heart-broken face of the widow who is isolated and lonely. I see the hopeless faces of the couple who are yearning to have children of their own. I see the devastated face of the father whose young child is diagnosed with cancer. I see the anguished face of the woman carrying deep scars from her childhood.

Can we measure suffering? Can we compare the weight of each other’s burdens? Can we judge who is hurting more? Whose pain is more significant?

There are so many faces contorted by the crudity of adversity… Physical, emotional, spiritual.

So many faces.

Father, you see them all. Abba, you care about them all. Daddy, you love them all.

Let me see them… Care about them… Love them…

Friends

How do you make new friends?

I can’t believe I’m typing it into Google.

In my adult years I have never struggled to make friends.

Every season, every new place I’ve settled – God faithfully placed incredible friends in my path. Sometimes I asked for them; sometimes God just bowled me over with an unexpected beautiful connection.

I have lifelong friends scattered all over the world. Solid, deep, confiding relationships.

A cuppa. A friend. A heart to heart. That’s my territory. That’s my forum. That’s where I can be and become and share and connect and pour out compassion and loyalty and love.

But here… This place…

So many acquaintances. But hardly any I can call friends.

And it makes me question everything.

Do I need to relearn this delicate, ancient skill of friendship forging?

Am I doing something wrong? Do I not have anything to offer? Am I not (insert any given attribute) enough?

Are they doing something wrong (these elusive friends I am searching for)? Have they filled their friends quota? Can they not see me for who I am?

It baffles me. It makes me uncomfortable. I can’t figure it out. I wrestle. There’s a civil war in my head between my insecurity and my pride. The casualties: my confidence, my joy and my peace.

Some days my inner dialogue is brutal.

And then I want to slap myself for having this lapse into high school pity-party insecurity.

I’m a grown woman who knows the truth about my worth as a daughter of the Most High.

Yet knowing in my head is different from heart knowing.

I’m trapped.

But a conversation with my husband unexpectedly lifts me from the narrow-minded tug-of-war that keeps shifting the blame between me and them.

What if my natural inclination is being pushed out of the way to make room for God’s grace? What if God wants me to learn to lean on Him and not fill my hours with appointments? What if there is nothing wrong with me OR them – God simply has a different plan for this season?

Yes.

God is making room for something new – something more – something better – something eternal…

The Label

“Sub-fertile.”

Somehow the label was comforting. Freeing. Validating.

The first year of trying in vain to start a family had been the worst year of my life. Too many well-meaning people had handed me cliches that constructed the bars of the prison I found myself in. Isolated. Carrying a burden no one understood.

“You haven’t even been trying for long!”

“All in God’s time!”

“Stop thinking about it and relax, then it will happen.”

“Maybe God has a different plan for your life.”

So many easy answers were handed to me, neatly packaged with a colourful bow that wrapped swiftly around my mouth, silencing me.

I was thirty and desperate for a child.

I lived in a vast barrenness that year. I was lost in the desert of my emptiness. I plodded through endless desolate days, one flowing into the next, a meaningless stream of hours, weeks, months.

When you long for something so desperately it invades your every cell and seeps into every crack of your identity. You become possessed by this fixation; the more you try to ignore it, the bigger it looms, chasing and hounding, engulfing you entirely.

Every month the faint flicker of hope was promptly extinguished by rising pain.

I was in constant disguise, the pull of the shadows only occasionally ripping the falsehood away.

My only rest from the relentless warring that controlled my mind and raged inside my heart was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Experiencing grace liberated me from myself. It was like climbing into a hot bath after a long gruelling run. An unburdening. A sigh of relief and contentment. For a brief time my turmoil was on pause and my life felt meaningful and hopeful again.  

To know I could quit my striving, to know I was good enough, to know all of life and faith was a total undiluted gift – it kept me that year.

But I am fickle and the grace moments are fleeting at best…

But my Father knows and my Father sees.

And He knew what I needed.

So here we were. A string of tests completed. Staring at a gigantic wall of smiling baby faces – success stories – sipping on complimentary herbal tea, facing an overwhelming set of lifestyle changes and a bucket-load of supplements and herbs. In the company of people who understood and took us seriously.

And cradling a label that was setting me free.

Bible Study

There is always too much food. The brave ones reach for seconds. Bibles lie open on laps. Mugs with lipstick stains and remnants of lukewarm tea dot the table.
I’m so familiar in this setting, yet so uncomfortable.

I listen to the other beautiful ladies contribute: so flawlessly, so much knowledge, so much eloquence, so much wit. The extroverts work the room. They get the laughs, the acknowledgements, the knowing nods.

I strike a blank. I can’t say a word. My tongue is thick. I feel mute. And stupid. And tiny.

I sit in silence and wish they could see me. I wish I could reach into my mind and lay out on the table what even I can’t put words to. They would all look at me in surprise and realise that this mummy isn’t stupid after all.

STOP.

When did this sacred time around the Living Word become about me and my insecurities? When did I start listening to the lies of the enemy that convince me that by not being the centre of this gathering I am somehow not measuring up? When did I start competing with my sisters for the eloquence trophy? When did I start mistaking this community of believers as rivals? When did I start worrying more about what people will think about me than what God is trying to teach me? When did I start putting people on pedestals and stopped seeing the equal worth of everyone’s uniqueness? When did Bible study become about impressing fellow sinners?

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

So that no one can boast.

And so that no one can belittle – themselves or others.

The ground is level at the foot of the cross.

Jesus died for us all. Introvert, extrovert, eloquent or not, knowledgeable or ignorant. Rich, poor. Mums with babies who sleep and those who don’t. Skinny or chubby. Articulate prayers or word stumblers. Bible scholars or the complete novice.

No pigeonhole you are shoved into can exclude you from grace.

No amount of stereotyping can exclude us from the fierce love of God that engulfs us all in equal flood.

Take Over

Anger rises like heartburn in my chest.

Unpleasant. Hot. Unstoppable.

I can hear it. Like an alarm going off in my head, ringing louder and louder until it reaches red fever pitch and I can’t control my reactions and emotions anymore. I don’t even want to.

I tally up all the things I expect from you. The way I deserve to be treated. I examine my circumstances and pridefully feel sorry for myself. Look at how hard I’m working! Look at how much I am sacrificing! Acknowledge me! Bow down to me!

And my woe-is-me status serves to justify my childish outburst. I blame my innocent son and direct anger at him when nothing but my immature short-comings are to blame.

Just like the crowd blamed an innocent Son.

We condemn the guiltless one who doesn’t defend himself and set the criminal free.

And You stand and take it. This ridicule. This pain. This suffering. All these false accusations.

You were the only righteous One! You were the only justified One!

You kept silent FOR ME.

You took the blows FOR ME..

No trace of anger in Your eyes. Only love.

You took it all because I couldn’t.

Because I can’t.

I rage and feel entitled, justified.

But the only righteousness in me is You.

Lord, take over.

Invisible

I wish I could make myself invisible.

Not all the time. Not even for long.

Just on those days when the unbridled, sin-riddled old Adam is escaping out of my mouth, mind and soul through destructive, negative, feel-sorry-for-me, angry words, thoughts and actions. Rolling eyes and slamming doors. Gritting teeth and profanity tumbling out. Resentment building up like plaque on unbrushed teeth.

It feels dirty, ugly.

Today I want to be invisible.

Today I feel entangled in myself like knotted hair that doesn’t want to brush out. Like the second drawer in the kitchen that’s full of mismatched utensils and devoid of order. I can’t make sense of it all. I can’t make sense of me. Just a whole lot of noise as I rummage around, not even sure what I’m looking for.

I want out. Out of my skin. Out of my head. Away from the person I don’t want to be but the person I can’t help being.

But I am bound.

Bound by my expectations of who God has made me. A wife. A mother. A daughter. A friend.

These incredible gifts. They seem too heavy. Too much responsibility. Too much giving of myself. Too demanding.

Connections I can’t sever. Knots I can’t untie.

I am ungrateful today.

So ungrateful.

I come to the end of myself as I throw scattered toys into the box, desperately murmuring for God to make me invisible.

Nothing happens.

I didn’t expect anything to.

But as the day wears on I hear myself say compassionate words. Understanding words. Kind words. 

My heart softens. Opens. Clears.

And then I see it.

It’s not me speaking at all.

God HAS made me invisible.

He has drowned me.