Monday, March 14, 2016

The Elevator

I don't like writing these things. I keep putting it off. But, sometimes the grief is too much to bear. And so here I am. Because I know I will be comforted when I do. Writing does that. Sharing does that. Being real does that.

It happened again. I don't know why, but happened again.

And so I talk to the Lion who listens to all of us.


I am not thinking about You when I take the elevator to the 2nd floor. There is a maintenance guy working on the digital directory. I panic a little, and then I find myself hoping (and remembering a little) that the 2nd floor is where I want to be. There is a guy in the elevator and we talk about how we hope that we are going in the right direction, that we'll be in the right place at the end. And so we ride the machine and exit when the doors open and we walk together to the same place. "I guess it's the same place!" he says, and we chuckle like strangers do when things are awkward. He doesn't have a woman with him. It's the OB offices. I wonder what he has come for, if not with a woman.

I am not thinking about You when I check in. I use the bathroom as instructed. I wait. I text. I'm called in. And then I wait again. The friendly nurse...Michelle is her name...begins it.

And then...

I am not thinking about You as I sit at the end of that clinical table. I am too busy thinking about the scenarios. I am thinking: "This can't be happening, not for real. I'm getting too emotional about something that is normal. They say the baby is tiny right now, so it makes sense to need an ultrasound to hear the heartbeat. Doesn't it?" Michelle doesn't look convinced, but she keeps apologizing anyway when she can't find the heart beat with the Doppler. Why is she apologizing? It isn't her fault.

I start to think about You a little when I use the bathroom before the ultrasound. I always have to use the bathroom before my ultrasounds. I'm never far enough along for them to do it the "normal" way. The babies are always too little, there is always a concern too early, they always have to use the stick. I forget they do it any other way. But, I think about You a little when I start to pray. I pray out of panic. Not because I care in that moment what You think, or even that I care that You are listening. Because that's what I do when I'm scared sometimes. I remember You, and I don't want to look at You. Go away.

I'm in a different room now. I'm not paying any attention to You when they look at the screen. You are there. I can feel it. And I can't afford that. If I invest in acknowledging that You are here, right now, I will be spent. And I will have nothing left to give.

And then, right away and too fast and without waiting for me to wonder, the doctor shakes her head...

No, slow down.

"I'm sorry, Sarah, I just don't see a baby."

My ears are ringing. Of course you don't.

I can't cry. I am too embarrassed. It feels like my fault. It's like I came in to have an ultrasound without a right to it, like I asked permission to play or something. It was like I was pretending to be pregnant. Why? The heartbeat was there before. Everything looked perfect before. Was it a trick at six weeks? I'm not an idiot!

Now I see You. You come bounding in and Your giant body makes me want to curl up like a fetus, curl up like a newborn, curl up like the people who die after a long and healthy life. I don't know how You fit into that little room, and I'm a little surprised to see You now. I suppose at some point I invited You in...maybe You came in because I invited You...but that feels like a long, long time ago. You know, in those moments when we say, "Help me," or "I'm afraid," or "Let's try to have a baby." Because, why not? You'll bless it. Right? If we want it? We are so foolish to think that You come only when invited. Because sometimes You don't wait for that. You know that we can't afford to wait for that.

And now...

Now You're large, giant belly is resting on the floor. Your enormous head fills the space above my bed, and Your tail brushes against the stirrups. Your shadow makes the floor glow. It's like darkness isn't allowed in Your shadow...your shadow is too bright for that. And Your face...well, it's too close and I'm afraid I'll forget that You are scary. It's too close to me, as if You want to eat me and swallow me and digest the badness that is in me...for me. Don't try, I promise...I promise it'll make you sick.

Because I hate You right now, and we aren't supposed to hate You.

Right? I do.

And then You step forward as if You are eager to take me up. There is a rumble that starts in You now. Like a distant volcano or a nearby avalanche or a present prairie thunderstorm. You are full of nature, full of creation, full of life. And with the kindest eyes, You show me what those destructive things can do. And I want to cry out: take these scary things away!

"Don't hurt me anymore," I whisper. I plead. But really, the plea is screaming inside the lava waiting to get out. I can hear it in my head. I don't want to see that destruction anymore. It is too much. It's too much. It hurts more than it should. It kills and quakes and washes away...and then the heat turns cool.

And then You sit. Like a kitten. And You blink. I blink.

No, You look too safe. I am too scared to crawl under Your belly and away from that bed with my back to the empty sonogram picture and the very sad doctor. I'm too scared to go there because I will lose control in front of the professionals and I will look like a child and I will cry like a baby who needs somebody.

But You won't go away. And You sit. The volcano erupts, the avalanche spills, the thunderstorm rains. It rains. And I smell the grass.

All right, then...what do You want from me? You want me to look at You? Here. I'll look at You. I'll even give You the question because I know You're just waiting for it: what did You do? Did You lick it up? With Your giant tongue did You go inside my belly and lick up the life that You created there? Why? Why did you do that again?

You lick my toes and there is a pleading whine in your throat. Go away.

But now I'm thinking about You, and I can't stop. It seems as if the doctor and the nurse are going in and out, in and out of the room again, but I don't know why. I don't know anything, not anymore. I can't feel anything. I can't think. They talk about molar pregnancies and cancer and D&Cs. The technician doesn't even look at me when she nods at the screen. They hurry around, apologizing for something they didn't do. Stop apologizing for something you didn't do!

But YOU...YOU apologize for what You did! Please. Please. Please...tell me You did it on purpose. That You have a purpose. And that the purpose isn't for me to just "be an example" to somebody else. Because I'm tired of making babies for heaven. I'm tired of being a hero. I'm tired of being brave.

The room is empty now. It's quiet. There is no hum of a fetal monitor. There is no computer fan. There is no air conditioning or music or ringing phones, just a hum. And You are still here. You sit at the end of my bare legs, staring at me and blinking and challenging You know I want to spring up and tear You apart. But I know what'll happen. You'll catch me and pin me down. You'll hold Your lips close to mine and whisper, "You are mine."

And I'll fight it. I dare you. Just try it. Just do it. And...

Suddenly, Your Spirit moves and I see something. Not visibly with my eyes, not a vision like many people would, not that. Not a vision. But, Your Spirit doesn't always work that way. No, You are showing me something else. And the room is full of giant, strong people. It is an army of yours. And they bow their heads. And they wait.

That's all. But, their wings move a little.

The doctor comes back and she has a lot of information for me to process. She apologizes again, and then she hugs me. Your giant lion face leans in and Your Spirit whispers in my ear as a growl rumbles behind your teeth, "Hug her, Sarah."

And I do. And I finally cry. And I cry out, "Four!" And she says, "I know." And I say, "How am I supposed to tell my children?" And she says, "Tell them that they will see that baby in heaven."

The angels look up and I catch one looking at me. A male.

And then everything moves. The nurse leads me out the back way. I hold the chromosomal testing kit under my arm. It'll be needed for the D&C, if I choose to "know" if my husband and I are compatible. The nurse leads me through a dark hallway and out a door and away from the mothers and bellies. I walk to the elevator.

There is no man in the hallway this time. Just me. And You. And I stop in front of the elevator.

I know what's on the other side of those doors: extreme sadness, days and months of watching others having their babies and reaching their due dates and suckling their newborns...and many more moments where I have to smile and have conversations in which I really do have to convince friends and sisters that I want to hold their babies and that they should let me because it's the only way I can heal...months of that. And then September. Another due date and no baby. Just work.

I walk into the elevator now, and of course it's full of people. Too many busy people. And somehow You manage to fit! I don't get it. I never will. You are huge. You are too big for things like this, and You fit. I can feel Your breath, hear Your rumbles, and I can sense Your giant face at my back. I have to be brave. But I can't be. So just do it for me, because You owe me that. You promised You would. So just do it.

"Just breathe."

I finally get out of the elevator. And I walk away from the elevator with people at my back. And I am overwhelmed. You walk beside me now. My hands grapple at You and I'm gripping so hard and I grab Your fur, because if I don't I will fall into nothingness. I'm holding on to You, but You want to run. I can tell, because You want to pull me out the massive front doors and into the sunshine. But You don't want to run the way I do. Not the way I do. You want to run and leap and chase me to my pain so that I'll deal with it, like chasing me to the volcano where I will get burned away, like chasing me to the avalanche where everything dirty will get buried deep, like chasing me to the prairie thunderstorm where I will get rained on and washed and clean. But You hold yourself in check, because you know I'm not ready for that...and You walk. And You lead me through those doors and out into the hot parking lot and into my van. And then You crawl into the space beside me while I cry and sob over that steering wheel. I've been here before. It's the same old thing. I have to go tell my husband.

And then we drive together. Through the town. Up and down the hills. Under the sun. The light of the day blinds me. And I desperately tilt my head towards You because it's the only way I know how to show you how much I need Your face.

Elevators are scary now. But they are only elevators. You are scary, too. And You are everything. And I will cling and cry and crave your healing. Because for the fourth time You have called me to Yourself.

And I will come running.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hiding In A Closet

I read an article today, biased and angry, about a girl who gave birth in a toilet.


You know the truth, first, You do. Better than any of us, really. You know what the article doesn't say. What's accurate and what isn't, as always. You sit beside her. Your body is so huge that I bet if she knew, she'd be surprised at the room for her there. She'd scream at the site of you, but then maybe put her feet up on You to bear down. You watch her as she slides up her sweat-shirt, a covering she's been using to hide everything. You look at her eyes and silently call, waiting for her to look at You with pleas.

Instead, she stares at the wall.

Maybe she bites a towel, as the article reports is so. But whatever she does to silence herself, she does out of fear and out of a desire to dismiss the nightmare completely. You won't let her. She knows and she cries and she gives birth to a boy this Christmas. Does she know that You are growling beside her? Does she know that You are crying in that bathroom? Does she know that You exist?

Animals procreate, but people hurt. You know this, and You want to lick the blood away. You know that it would only take a Word from You to still her hands to let the baby live to wake up her parents to make her stop to give her friends to make the emptiness full to make the anger not so hard to make the doors to heaven open to make You her reality forever.

But, she won't let You and You watch with a faithful hum of a freedom offering. It's like an on-going chime that doesn't stop that annoys people when they don't know You with their hearts.

Maybe she doesn't want to listen to the music. Maybe voices crowd You out. The serpent, the one You crushed and will crush and will smear into the underbelly of the world...sometimes she listens to him more.

She kills that baby and hides him in a closet. Now he's Yours. We don't weep for the little one that You have. We weep for the one You want.

Thank You, merciful Beast.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Visitation: A Christmas Study in Luke 1:26 - 38

Angels have muscles in their wings. 

It's incredible to me that You made them exist, these magical, glorious, beautiful beings that sit with You and worship You, too. Gabriel. Is he Your favorite? Or Michael? Or do You sit with them equally and laugh with them and call them each by name? Maybe You chase them and play with them in open fields, growling and playing like a giant kitten. Maybe they play instruments for You and beg You to sing over them. Hosanna, they sing to You in return. Perfect one.

I see those angels, sitting close to You and whispering in Your ear. "Is it time?" Words, like melodies I want to hear. But, You don't tell them when, because no one knows the hour yet. You do, though, promise that there will be one.

Read Luke 1:26 - 38.

Sixth months into Elizabeth's pregnancy, Michael and all of the others watch. Gabriel appears to Your Mary, just as You told him to. Gabriel knows she's supposed to be married to the carpenter. He knows she's a virgin, and has no real understanding of what sex is. Is he concerned? Is Gabriel sympathetic. Does he know that she'll be accused, secretly talked about, and expected to give birth on the floor? He certainly isn't afraid of the outcome, and so he says to her, "Do not be afraid."

Oh, to be favored and entrusted.

" have found favor with God," he says. BEHOLD. (1:30)

And You are there. Oh, glorious Beast, enormous Spirit with no beginning and end, You are here. Alpha and Omega, You created conception. You know that it takes 24 hours for a human sperm cell to fertilize a human egg, but this time there is no sperm. In an instant You take on the tiniest beginnings of humanity with Your own contribution to those important chromosomes. And You are a boy!

Luke 1:29 says, "But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be." (The Lutheran Study Bible)

Mary, with discernment, questioned why this beautiful person, clothed in something outside of this world and slowly bending and stretching wings...


...bending wings like a bird, is visiting her.

She doesn't know. Mary hasn't seen You laugh with angels. She hasn't seen You before in all her life. She's a Jew, and she only knows a God of past, power, and military passion. She knows a God of law and history, though yes a God that has promised a Savior. Hers. Why would You come to her this way, and now? She's never seen You before.

Then, is this true?

"...for nothing is impossible with God." (1:37)

Mary, not even fifteen years old, is a child. You expect her to be a woman. So, she will be. Let it be done as You have said, because we need You to save us. Enter this world in safety, because You have promised to deliver Your mom. Us.

Let it be as You have said.

Gabriel bends his wings a little. 
Those muscles, flexing, are ready for the deliverance of God's people. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I avoid the gate sometimes. If I get too close to what those big doors mean, I start to cry because I miss Jessika too much. Today, though, I feel like sitting here next to the gate. Closed, and waiting for something.

I sit here, and rest my hands on the ground. I look at the shoes. Jessika left her shoes.

Jessika loves sparkly things. Her shoes sparkle, because anything bling is anything Jess. Her shoes sit here, looking so heartrendingly familiar, and yet so forgotten. I think she slipped out of them in hurry because she wanted to run faster.

I set the shoes gently to the side, after touching the artificial stones that don't really sparkle now. The manufactured threads poke through the worn places. The plastic is cheap and dirty. Some of the bling is missing.

I shake myself, and I put the shoes next to Heidi's. Heidi's shoes are purple. But, they are starting to look less like purple and more like nothing. Heidi's shoes sit next to my grandma's orthopedic sneakers, the white faux leather now gray. Heidi knew my grandma. They weren't related, but she knew her. I think if I touch my grandma's shoes, they'll fall apart and the shoes won't look like shoes anymore. But, nobody needs them anyway, and I'm just too curious about what death feels like to leave them alone, so I touch them.

I touch them, and they do fall apart and I sob, because death feels the way I thought it would.

Shoes. So many shoes. Jessika's bling, Heidi's purple. Generations of leather and treated animal skin. Pretend fabrics mixed with real things like cotton. Some have bullet holes from wars I've never lived. Some of them, I can tell, were gifts. Some, hand-me-downs. All of them sitting along the gate, down the wall, off into memories that exist because people lived to build them.

Memories are the hardest part.

I find Erik's shoes. They are too far along the line, too far too soon. I see baby shoes, lots of them, hundreds of them, too many of them. I know I can look, but I won't find them. My babies didn't get to wear shoes.

Then I start to shift the shoes around. It's hard, because they fall apart and it hurts tremendously. I arrange them the way I think it should have happened. Babies in the future, grandmas much later, friends the same time as me. But, it's useless. These shoes just sit there where I put them. The stories don't change just because I move them around. They just sit there, and be as they were. It just is.

Oh my gosh, You scare me. Just when I think I'm alone, You're sitting there too, and I never remember to pay attention. No, I don't want to leave. I want to just sit here and look at these shoes. I don't care if they decay in my hands. I don't care if colors disappear and laces fall apart. I don't care if all the bling on all the shoes in the world fall off. I want to look at them.

You put Your giant lion face hard into my belly.

Ok. I'll come.

You take me to the ends of the earth. I see houses being built. I see dinners being made. I see cars being purchased, and birthdays celebrated with gifts. I see money raised for charities, and I see everyone treating themselves to caramel mochas. I see classrooms and books and teachers enjoying Christmas treats. I see plays and productions. I see legos and crafts and movie nights. I see people laughing and loving and living.

But, I don't want to do all that if it means that sadness always comes. I don't want to do any of it if it means that my shoes will only fall apart. Why build a house if I won't live in it forever? Why save money when saving it might be for nothing? Everything is meaningless. Your Word, the living power of what breathes in those flimsy, perishable pages, says so. So, why can't I just sit at the gate and wait for the doors to open? It'll be safe that way.

You bite me, and it's never tasted so sweet. You remind me that Your Word is not perishable, though all things fade, and You look at me with those gentle eyes that remind me of my dad when he says he loves me. You head-butt me, and I laugh so hard that it breaks my heart open and all of the sadness falls out. It falls into my arms and my legs and comes out of my eyes, and You lick it up. This is just so hard.

Then, You give me a flower. It is living here, with me and with You. It isn't on the other side of the gate. It's here, all the time, every spring. It's beautiful, and I cry.

I will live. Lord help us, we will live.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wedding Day

I remember the day Erik died.

The first thing Jessika said to me: "Who will walk me down the aisle?"

How beautiful to imagine that Erik did, when he brought her to You.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Let Me In

I don't want to write this post. But, I have to.

I stand in front of You, and I can see the new world behind Your tail. Your tail is swinging back and forth like a contented cat, and it infuriates me because it makes me think that You don't believe that this is bad. You lay there instead with Your eyes gently opening and closing, with Your giant head turned to the side just a little. You make me think that You're not listening...that You're telling me that this is ok.

But, it's not. You know that. You sit there, with that new, different world behind Your tail. You between it and me. And Jessika's standing over there. She's waving at me, and she's waving at all the rest of us, and she's happier than she's ever been. So why can't I go there, too?

I move a little to the left, to see past Your giant head covered in hairs that move like rivers. I'm distracted by them. It's like those rivers are endless...streaming down and disappearing near Your toes. I look to see past all of that hair, but You get up a little and look right at me. Cats like to look to the side like you were doing before...pretending to look at something else when they're fully aware of everything. But no, You look straight at me and get up a little, like You're going to come after me.

But, You don't. You don't take me to where Jessika is, and You slowly lower Yourself to the ground again.

So, I move a little to the right this time. Jessika's waving so much now, and I've never seen her smile so big. But, when I move too far, too close to it, I hear a rumble in Your throat like You're ready to bite. You won't let me get there. You're keeping me out. Why are You keeping me out? Why are You keeping all of us OUT?

So, just to make You mad, because I'm mad at You, I run straight at You with tears and cries and with my claws, because if You won't let me into that world where Jessika and Eric and Heidi and Grandma and my babies are, I'll hit You. I'll hit You so hard. Let me take Your hair, and Your paws, and that gentle tail and pull as hard as I can.

But, before I get there and with an enormous roar that shakes the earth...Jessika falls to the ground and laughs because of this...You catch me. You wrap Your beastly arms around me and You catch me. And You purr until the sound is a thunderstorm in my ears. You lick me all over and hold me. I think, for a moment, that You will eat me. And suddenly, I want You to. If You eat me...there will be no more pain. Only Your sweet breath, and that's all I want. That's all I want.

But, You don't eat me, and Jessika doesn't come back over here, and You still won't let me in. I sigh. I'm mad, I'm so very mad at You.

So lick me again, while I sit here in the grass with my head on your paws. Please...cover me with Your own tears, because I know this hurts You, too.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Messenger: A Christmas Study in Luke 1:1 - 25

Let me sit with You, and please remind me of those servants from a long time ago that spoke of these great things, and the servants that saw with their own eyes Your paws in that great, to-be-remembered city we celebrate at Christmastime. At that time, when You came here, Your breath was short and quick because You were new, and Your eyes were set in a way that made Your mother love You, and want to feed You with her milk. Tell me, please, while I sit under the warmth of Your chest, this whole true story. Do not cut me with Your claws, but instead embrace me with them so that I might not be cut with anything else.

Read Luke 1:1 - 25.

Zechariah comes to You, and tends to You in obedience. His family of Aaron knows the traditions of his people, and he is a part of that. Does he enjoy this? Does he love this? Does he bring You beautiful images and sweet-smelling stuff to make You grin? Does he delight in You, the way You delight in him?

His wife, Elizabeth, she worships You and is found blameless, too, yet she cries. She hurts. She probably calls out to You, so you listen and we know You hear her. You hear Elizabeth with powerful, soft ears. You listen to cries of embarrassment . You plant the longing to hold an infant. Then, why so long? Why do You wait so long to give them a child of their own? I know women that wait now, and it kills me. You don't make a mistake in giving them the desire to give birth, to hold a baby, to raise a child of their own. So why do You wait so long? To not keep a baby is one thing, to not even make one is another. Answer this, beautiful Beast.

Zechariah comes to You. Others pray outside. Maybe they pray for Your gentle mercy. Maybe they pray that Your dangerous teeth will not snatch them away to be torn apart. But instead of that horrible nightmare, You send beautiful Gabriel, Your messenger. You know this will frighten Zechariah. Why do You do things like this? To remind us that You are a Beast? Your messenger tells Zechariah the news, but like so much of what You say, it is unbelievable. Zechariah simply isn't able to believe in John. What's in a name if the father can't believe he'll exist? We name our lost little ones, too, Lord. Do You assign these names to them? Or do You send Gabriel to give them titles: maybe regal titles reserved for those who have not lived in this world at all.

John is coming in Your story. You know him before he comes. You know him before he is conceived, before he is created, before his little baby heart begins to beat. We value the living because You roar over the lives that have yet to be created. We love Your lion heart, and we long to know what that sort of loving really feels like. Make our hearts ready. Prepare us for Your running down the hill, for Your giant leaps and bounds, for Your rolling around in what is good, and for Your shaking it all over us. It will be a sight that will frighten us, and we will scream out in the thrill that will pour out of us at the sight of You. Glorious, gorgeous You.

There will be people that will not understand what is happening to us. They will stand outside Your holy temple, and ask questions and say things like, "They have seen visions." May it be true of us. May we hear Your angel's voice giving assurance. May we be so overcome with Your beauty, and overcome with a holy fear of You, that we are unable to speak.

Elizabeth waits in seclusion, now. There are many of us that wait in fear of what's growing inside of us. We fear losing the heartbeat, and hide away from others who don't seem to be afraid of their own pregnancies. May we anticipate John, too, and look forward to Your bounding into David's birth city. May we shout at the top of our crying lungs when You are born, and say "The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

Because You are real, and You are coming soon.