Most evenings, after dinner, you’ll find us piling into the car. We drive because it’s so beautiful here, we drive to put the three-year-old to sleep, we drive because we’re worn out and we want to fill the time between feeding and bathing in the easiest way.
I’ve never been very adept at keeping my mind tucked inside my body. It’s always floating off, connecting imagined dots somewhere up in the clouds, which makes me (I’m well aware) a real danger on the road. With Jonathan behind the wheel, I’m free to tell stories in my head, so I do. So many stories.
They’re meant for you; I’m sure of it. Someday (soon, I hope) I’ll share them. But for now … well, I’ve entered a kind of nine-months-pregnant tunnel.
It’s a strange, foggy place. Most of the things I normally value in life seem lost in the general grayness. Like writing for this blog or returning phone calls. Other seemingly unimportant things loom inexplicably large. Like painting my bedroom furniture.
Yes, the baby’s room is a mess of odds and ends, and the bassinet I recently ordered through the mail is still sitting in its unopened box exactly where the UPS man left it last week. But I can’t tell you how vitally, vitally important it has been to attack my bed with white paint.
Please, baby girl, just hold on till the paint dries.
I’m not sure if I’ll be in this space much before she arrives. I do promise I’ll be back before long.
There is so much here (in this new place and season) worth noticing, and I don’t think these things are meant only for me. Things like a full moon rising over a quilt-square patch of corn. Things like driving the same country road night after night until the night when one wrong (right?) turn takes you through a field of sunflowers.
Those things must mean something. They must be a part of some very good story.
I’ll be sure to let you know what I discover. Once the fog recedes.
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).
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.
This is a familiar story (though I’ve never told it before). I’m sure you have your own version. It’s a story about how one song comes to represent something big: young love, say, or new parenthood, or that one particular summer when the weather just couldn’t be believed.
It actually was summer, and, yes, the weather couldn’t be believed. The coolest Chicago summer in a decade. I’ve never liked hot weather, but I was heavily pregnant and extra grateful for lake breezes.
I’d emerged from the long, dark tunnel of infertility. I’d survived the euphoria and illness of the first trimester. I was cocooned in the mellow hormones of the third trimester.
I’m sure it wasn’t all mellow dreaminess, but that’s how I remember it. The worst was behind. The earthquake that is a first baby was still to come. My husband and I took long walks. Went for long drives. Ate out in all our favorite restaurants.
That summer we could hardly turn on the car radio without hearing the song “Yellow” by Coldplay. Perhaps it only happened once, but when I think of that summer this is what I remember: a nighttime drive down the length of Chicago’s lakefront, overhead the city lights like glittery stars, windows rolled down, a baby girl filling me up, and “Yellow” playing on the radio.
That song and my firstborn: they’ve been tangled up in my mind ever since.
Which is a good thing.
Now when I hear that song, I’m taken right back to a place and a feeling it’s important never to forget. I hear the song, and I remember all of the joy and love and hope that a mother feels when her baby is tucked up inside, still unknown.
It can be difficult (often impossible) to hold on to those feelings through sleepless nights, temper tantrums, sibling fights, meltdowns over homework … well, all the ordinary awfulness of day to day life.
And my own mother-failures are the most awful of all.
But the ordinary awfulness is a distraction. It’s not the real thing. It doesn’t tell us who we really are. It tries to obscure the truth of who our child is.
More and more, I’m convinced that good parenting is learning to coast through the awfulness without losing my grip on the truth.
And the truth is this: life is magical, motherhood is an indescribably good gift, and my child (yours too) is more precious and beautiful than even the nighttime sky.
That is the truth, and this song helps me remember.
Just in time for Mother’s Day: a gorgeous cover of “Yellow” by Renee and Jeremy:
Sometimes I think about the privileged ones in God’s story. The ones called out into the desert, like Abraham, Moses, even Jesus. The desert was brutal. Not a place or an experience they would have chosen.
It was also beautiful. They met angels there. They met God himself there.
There are others, too. Like Hagar. Hagar knew desolation in the desert, but it was also there that she discovered the intimacy and the peace of being seen. “You are the God who sees me,” she said. “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
To follow God into the desert is to turn your back on ordinary life. To trade comfort for something much harder and much better.
I know this, but why do I also know that I don’t want to hear that call? Shouldn’t I be willing not only to follow but to run toward the God of the desert?
I’ve had these lyrics bubbling up in my mind for days: