She was born on September 12 at 4:46 in the morning – two weeks before we expected her but not a moment too soon.
Here are the things I will never forget:
In a new home with no family or friends nearby, we were not alone. Not unprovided for. At eleven p.m. I admitted I might be in labor. The kids were all asleep (the three-year-old only just), and we called the one person we knew best in this new place: our realtor.
I wasn’t sure that this was really “it,” but I didn’t want to bother her at 3 a.m., so we called. She came. We worried some – what if the three-year-old woke up, and we were gone? What if he found a stranger in our room?
But what point is there in worry?
Jonathan said he had been reading the Bible that evening. These words from Psalm 121: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”
We knew then that he was with us. All night, he would be with us. And so we let go of worry and walked.
Too soon for the hospital, I thought, so we walked, up and down the drive, the milkyway just visible between the branches of so many old, old maple trees. We walked, I decided that yes, maybe this was real. Maybe it wasn’t too soon, and, at one a.m., we left for the hospital.
I felt foolish as we checked in. It’s still early! I’m just fine! And worry sometimes crept back in: will she be able to feed the kids breakfast? We have notes posted everywhere about our son’s allergies, but it’s complicated. What if? And will she be able to get them on the bus? And the three-year-old, will he panic? Cry for Dad to be there, making pancakes, as always?
But, we let it go again, and things moved fast and faster. The nurse said, “Just rest. Let me know if you need me.” Barely ten minutes later rest sounded ridiculous, and I yelled, “She’s coming!”
And she came. And she was beautiful. And we were stunned.
Jonathan left us an hour later, left us tucked into our room together, and he was home before anyone in the house woke up. Yes, he was there, making breakfast, when everyone came in, rubbing their eyes, to hear that they had a sister. That her name was Elsa Spring.
“Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.”
Song of Songs 2:10-12
A big house with open doors. Four seasons of God’s glory.
Community. Hospitality. Roots planted deep.
This dream is big, and we’ve dreamed it for so long. Maybe that’s why I imagined fireworks. Cymbals crashing. An arrival announced with lightning bolts.
But even big dreams are realized in little ways. A morning. An evening. Another morning. It seems that trust and faith are still necessary even after the dream’s inauguration.
The old farmhouse on the hill fills up with our stuff. It’s good. Also overwhelming. We visit a local church. It’s good. Also underwhelming. Is this the place? The place to dig deep? It’s hard to say.
Our first Sunday is also the day for the church’s once-a-month family picnic. We hesitate. Potlucks are danger zones for our middle child. But, they’re grilling packaged meat, and we can check the label. There are big slices of watermelon. So we stay.
And it’s beautiful, this place. A playground shaded by trees. Meadow grasses leading down a wide hill. There’s a small, bubbling creek. A fishing net and a bench just to the side. The kids wade and play and can’t believe their luck. This is church?
The man across the picnic table tells me about this place. Native Americans long used this hillside for their winter rests. Returning from summers spent on the plains, they came to this spot. They took a break from their wandering, and they took that break here. By this water.
The creek, he tells me, is no ordinary creek. You can’t see it, but there is a river here.
The creek that bubbles up just below our table is the beginning – the very small beginning – of a big river. A few miles away this water holds barges, he says. But it all starts here. This is its beginning.
Later that same day I read these words: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10).
I haven’t felt like rejoicing. Too tired. Too hot. Too pregnant. Too much to do. But, I know now that our dream has begun. It has taken shape. Made us tired with the work of realizing it. And that is very, very good.
It is the end of the first day, and we sit on the porch. No chairs, yet. Just us, here, on the steps.
There is a full moon high in the sky, and it is God’s joy for us.
Because the work has begun.
Last Saturday, my birthday, I woke to read these words: “At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home” (Zephaniah 3:20).
With the kids out of school for the summer, I haven’t had much time to write for this blog. But that isn’t the only reason I’ve been quiet. Instead of spending time each day reading and writing, I’ve spent hours cleaning out closets, filling bags of out-grown clothes and toys for the thrift store, and packing up bins of game pieces and legos and building blocks to store in the garage. The idea, I think, is to make our house look as if actual children do not live here. This is a home for fantasy, catalog children (they make their beds, they keep one toy decoratively on the shelf), and this house … it can be yours!
Our house is for sale. My husband has a start date for a new position with his company. Next week, I will try to wrest six-months of medical records from my doctor and hope, as I enter the third trimester of this pregnancy, that I’ll soon find someone to accept them. Someone who will say, “Oh, yes, we’ve only just met, but I will deliver your baby in a few weeks.” (What if Mary had had to find room for a mountain of medical records on the back of that donkey?)
We don’t know exactly where we’ll end up. Next week, my husband and I fly to Philadelphia. From there, we’ll roam the countryside searching for the home God has promised us.
I’ve often told friends that living in Florida has felt like a two-year vacation. This is both a good thing and a hard thing. Vacation is a restful, enjoyable place to be. The scenery is beautiful, the pace is slow. The sun always shines, and palm fronds rustle in the breeze.
However, even the best vacations can last too long. Then, you find yourself longing for home. Resenting the emptiness of days devoted only to rest. You dream of that place where your roots are planted deep.
For two years, I have cried out, “Please, I want to go home.” I didn’t mean Chicago. I didn’t mean Texas, where I grew up, or any other place that I could point to on a map. Spurred on by God’s voice, his whispered promises, I knew there was a home for me.
“See, I will bring them … and gather them … Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor … I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble” (Jeremiah 31: 8-10).
We are headed home.
There are times when we get to see the full circle of the year pulled tight around us. The firstborn’s annual dance recital is one of those times.
I remember leaving the downtown theater last year to find ash from the wildfires covering our car. Driving home that night we followed an enormous moon made blood-red by reflected smoke. I remembered the stories of a fire by night and a cloud by day, and I believed we were being led through the wilderness. I believed we would not wander forever.
But the days to follow were often a heavy burden. Stretched out before me, they looked like a desert landscape, dry and empty.
This year’s recital ushered in one more rainy day in a season of rain. It’s been pouring steadily for weeks. The retention ponds are overflowing. Streets have flooded, and I haven’t seen anything like this in the two years since we moved here.
It seems the drought is over.
In so many ways, it is over.
We’ve been handed a key, and we can spy an open door just a short way ahead. I can’t say exactly where it leads, but I also know exactly where it leads:
“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land – a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills” (Deuteronomy 8:7).
My daughter has been working on her ballet for nine months, yet somehow I didn’t realize until this week’s dress rehearsal that the dance was performed to a symphony rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
I don’t usually find myself moved to tears by early 80s rock anthems (and, no, I don’t think I can blame the pregnancy hormones. Or, not entirely).
For two years I’ve heard only one word of instruction from the God I follow: believe.
That’s it. That’s the only thing that has been required of me (though even that one thing often felt impossible).
When “Don’t Stop Believin’” first came across the theater’s speakers, I wanted to put my head down and cry.
Not out of sadness or misery. But relief. Gratitude.
“These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
Revelation 3: 7-8
Pentecost Sunday was nearly a week ago, but I still feel stuck in that room. Waiting. Asking this question: how did they survive the long, empty days between Jesus leaving and the Comforter coming?
How did they endure being lifted up by the joy of a promise believed only to drop again into the discouragement of yet another not yet?
And why the gap? Why did they have to wait at all?
We do know that the wait moved them to gather together. I imagine the promise was easier to believe when they could see the hope in one another’s faces. When they could pass around their Jesus stories, like a platter of bread and fish. Stories multiplied into hope. And faith.
And I imagine they worshipped. Sang and prayed.
Was this what it was all for? Was their worship the reason?
Did God wait, strain with holding himself back, because he wanted to hear their songs?
“Call to me,” he had once told them. “And I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
Call. My husband tells me this word suggests something organized, something formal. Something created. Like a song. Like a poem. Something more than careless words tossed at the sky.
Maybe you don’t sing songs. Maybe you don’t write poems. But maybe you journal. Maybe you sketch. Maybe you take photographs or bake bread for the neighbors. Maybe you orchestrate elaborate finger-painted messes with the three-year-olds at church and maybe, just maybe, that is your call? Your song? Your cry for more of God?
And maybe that is the point of it all. The point of waiting. The point of living. To add our call to the many others until a crescendo of sound and beauty and worship rises to heaven and All is unleashed.
Then, just as it was that Pentecost when God’s church was born, wind and fire reveal the great unknowns.
What have we all been waiting for? To hear the mysteries of God’s glory in a language we can comprehend.
Those unsearchable glories we never even knew to seek.