Friday, June 30, 2017

She Walks in Darkness...and Chooses Light

This girl here has been my girl's bestie since they were giggly girls in pigtails reading Laura Ingalls Wilder side by side. This week we took it a step further; we headed into the frontier. We talked about Laura and her daughter as we hiked. We also talked about Indians, black bears, tornadoes, the differences of growing up in the 70s, 80's and 90s, and Monte Cristo sandwiches. And we checked for ticks in each other's unbraided hair.

Speaking of checking one's daughter's hair for ticks...Keisha will readily tell you she never wanted to be a mother and, as a millennial, tell you in the same breath: "Don't judge me!"  Yet here she is, pregnant with numbers three and four (five and six if you count her miscarriages).

And she is living between darkness and light. This trip was not only a Mother-Daughter vacation into the stillness, for her it was a chance to take her two baby boys on a little hiking adventure...together. Collin will not remember it but years from now he'll be able to point at these pictures of their momma with excitement and joy, and laugh at the wonder of it all. He'll be able to tell others that he got to go hiking in the woods with his brother while their momma watched for big black bears that could have gobbled them up and spit them the way little boys talk, you know. It's a memory planted in the stillness of a mother's life and in the deep recess of the beautiful Ozark woods. My daughter walked quietly next to her, silently supportive. Silently mapping out the journey. A silent witness.


I learned that walking and talking for miles in the woods beats social media spouting any day. I also learned that walking for miles in the woods with a girl who has been told her baby will die at birth offers more depth of soul and perspective of life's nectar than anything social media can offer. I watched how respectful listening does more healing and ministry than active talking and twittering and face-timing can ever do.

I also learned that, for the most part, when one's children reach adulthood, as mothers we must take a backseat (sometimes literally) and become silent witnesses. Learning to not insert ourselves into every conversation is difficult...especially for mothers. Our children are such a big part of us that it is really hard to not make it about us and insert ourselves into the story. But learning to watch the story and listen in stillness is its own reward. There is a tranquil peace found in the shade of the forest...even when we must helplessly watch and follow from a distance. Her mother, Margaret, is a true witness to this and I'm humbled for her teaching me this lesson.

And when we walk down those shady spots of observation...did you know that narrow trails laid out with wildflowers make the path less threatening to navigate? It makes the path almost tempting to wander. You don't know what's at the end of it but you know that beauty and life begets beauty and life. In fact, these wild things of the valley invite us to wander down to the edge. They lighten the way and the mood and make light the uncertainty of a distant cliff. It's a real thing. Really.

And often they lead us to the majesty of God...

The doctor offered to cut off baby Joseph's blood supply. Keisha made the decision, as a mother would, to defend, protect, and "embrace both my babies" (her words). She knows she can do nothing for her baby boy who will die at birth. He is only alive because of her, through her. One would think she is powerless. And yet...she knows God is more merciful than that.

She knows she is the lifeline to that little one and it is a line no one else can hold. She is life to Joseph...for a day, a week, a month, nine months!...she is life. And she embraces the power and exclusiveness of the mission only she can do. She gets to hold the wildflower before it fades. Grateful? She spoke of how much, in five short months Joseph has changed her. She is not made weak in her very vulnerable state. She is empowered. She said the thought of being able to keep him alive makes her feel like an warrior. I told her that's because she Amazon a very real way. She is defying the darkness, daring the looming shadow, standing up to a force she knows will threaten to engulf her little family. She faces the darkness while bearing a torch which God has given women for generations to carry to the next generation...the light of life. And she carries it so well.

And so the week passed with walking and talking...pretty much the things women are also good at. ;-) And Kei told us how her six-year-old daughter prayers over her baby brothers and "tells them secrets" and how these are the moments she lives for, the moments that make life breathable and endearing and precious. We spoke about what a privilege it is to prepare for this birth and have the waters of baptism refresh him in a way he is denied the life-giving water now due to his condition. She spoke of the kindness of others...the tiny name-knitted hats someone is making for the boys to wear, the offers from family and friends to watch their girls so they can focus on their boys, the beauty in having her wedding dress made into two tiny baptism outfits which Joseph will be buried in after his hospital baptism and Collin will wear as he is brought into God's family, and the five generous photographers (including my sweet daughter-in-law Tavyn) who called and offered to memorialize the twins' birth and wrap it up as a gift for the parents to treasure always. Kei spoke of how much they struggled with the privacy of it all yet how she wants people to know about her baby and how much she is really and truly (minus the times the darkness hangs like a shroud in the night) enjoying this time with both her baby boys. She isn't somber and sad, she's joyful and embracing this short time-warp. She wants it known how good a baby he is, giving her less trouble than the back kicks and pokes his brother enjoys giving her. She wants you to know how chill he is and how he pushes his little bootie into the air when his brother invades his space. She wants everyone to know his name: Joseph! She wants it known that...for today...both her boys, all four of her children, are alive and happy...and that makes her happy! She wants it known that she will have as many children in the bosom of Christ as she has in the bosom of her home. She speaks so joyfully of her two boys that her children will always know who Joseph is. Respect for life begins with these moments. She has embraced, not only her boys, but the gift of living in the moment and knowing that tomorrow is promised to none of us. The wisdom learned through this experience is a gift if one sees it as such.

She knows the storm will pass and the darkness will evaporate. And she will emerge from the woods, stronger and more life-giving and able to face the darkness and at every Eastertide will be able to say ...


We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O grave, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:51-57

And who doesn't love a mystery!

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