Someone Else’s Tears

Someone Else’s Tears

I didn’t know.

When we opened the door almost a year ago with the simple word “yes,” when we opened our arms to an infant tossed and tumbled by the storm of tragedy, when we brought home his brother too (little more than an infant himself) and made them a part of home, we didn’t know what we were getting into.

We knew we didn’t know.  We felt God’s hand on our shoulders, His voice soft in our ears…surrender to my will and we said that “yes” without condition or direction, knowing only that we did not, could not know and that somehow, God asks us to find peace in that place.  In His wisdom He knows and all that we can do is be still, listen, let him grow us in the protected garden of the now– where the future comes one day at a time and shows itself no further than that, a chain of nows that He waters in the shelter of submission.  There are some “yeses” that lay the heart bare and open, that break apart the hard, protective shell of costal bone and lay it wide to the slings and arrows of the world and this year has been open-heart surgery, open soul surgery.

What I didn’t know, is how life can break a person so that their heart is hard, the walls have thickened and grown cold and inside there is no room for the kind of love you need to raise a child.  What I didn’t know is that addiction is a cold, hard thing…a killer that rages within and stamps life out, one love at a time.  A thief of will and judgement that breaks into your life to take everything of value and leave you empty, always wanting. What I didn’t know is how you can love such a person so intensely, want so badly to see them succeed and fall so easily into the habit of saving them from the natural consequences of their actions over and over again.  How easily a person can contribute to the downward spiral, simply by trying to ease the blow at the bottom of the fall.

I have found myself in places I could never have pictured myself in before…locked in a room full of addicts court-ordered to come and share their stories, waiting for the outflow of heartbreak to be finished so I can take her home, this meeting being a rung in the ladder she must climb.  Here in this office, shabby and worn, is  more heartache than my mind can possibly wrap around. More heartbreak, but no tears…they speak these bare, hard stories out flat and frank, unsoftened by emotion, untouched by tears.  I have come to the conclusion that tears are the solvent that breaks down the hard crust of apathy, that they are absent here speaks more than the words that are falling down around me. They are talking to each other in loud voices, comparing stories of prison time and discussing the favorable conditions of the jails here in this state. My friend, she does not belong here.  Not yet.  But then, too, any of us could belong right here, given a few months of bad choices and bad circumstances.

Or, perhaps, given the compassion to be here as a healing voice to catch and defuse the harsh words and hurt that fly through the air of this room, this life. Me, I only sit here thinking about how wrong this could go…with the doors locked for the meeting and the gang tattoos and the fractured minds and I am weak, thinking only of myself and not the love of God that needs so much to be spoken here.  I look at my hands, fiddle with my purse.  I search for Bible verses stored in my mind but they read through my head without waking my heart. I tell myself this is not my calling. I tell myself this over and over, Jonah-like, grasping at any excuse to stay mute and safe in my imaginary world where these people do not exist, where they know how to heal themselves and Jesus doesn’t need to be spoken loud enough to break through closed ears and emptied hearts.

It occurs to me: I am the only one waiting there for someone. All of the others?  Have no one. I hear one woman say, in a voice raked over by years of smoking things I’ve never even heard of, that she’s alone now, entirely alone.  She’s used up everyone she ever knew, used them empty and then, too, I see it on her face…the empty, so that even as these words are spoken her eyes are dry.  The hurt lives somewhere else, in a place apart from her. I think perhaps it lives instead in the eyes of those used up, who have had to let her go. I know this personally, how someone else’s tears can fall from your own eyes. There are no words for the fear, pity, rage, and sadness that collide in my heart sitting there, faced with the knowing that this story, in which I am just a chapter…a transient, supporting character…is only one of so many others and each one is equally broken, equally incomprehensible.  My own, too, except for Jesus. Sometimes the weight of all the suffering, knowing it is there…the weight of it presses down on my chest and makes it hard to breathe.  To draw in the air of all this brokenness and sorrow, and to do it again and again…perhaps it’s that very weight that drives people to pick up the bottle, the needle, the pills.

Where is Jesus in this room of suffering?  I’d like the answer to be simple, to say that if only they each knew Him, the suffering would immediately end.  But I have lived enough life to know that sometimes even those of us who know Him suffer, even those who love Him sometimes bleed out of hope and out of touch.  Where we are heading is one thing, how we are living is sometimes quite another. I have seen enough to know that sometimes all of us, like lonely addicts, we use Him without giving back…no, without giving up…our control, our will, our desire, or idols, our addictions to anything and everything other than Him.  We do our best to empty ourselves of Him, our souls seem to run dry.  And our tears fall from His eyes.

This is how it happened…Part 4 (building)

This is how it happened…Part 4 (building)

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Please forgive the silence…this last post in the series weighed heavy and I felt I couldn’t move forward until I was finished with this part of the recent past.  But each time I sat down to write, I found I couldn’t find the words…This is a continuation of a post started here.  The story is ongoing and I have no clear ending to it.  Then again, that’s the way all stories are…our souls are continually written by Great Author, each new chapter beginning where the last left off.  The chapter that ends with the last days of life here on earth leads to the one that begins eternity.  Part One
Part Two
Part Three

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It is late, later than we intended to be up.  We have a fire going in the fireplace, and scattered around us are boxes and bags, fields of colorful wrapping paper, bows blooming brightly against the living-room carpet.  The lights on the tree are on, we are wrapping gifts just after midnight just like we do every year, despite the fact that each year we promise not to let this happen again.  We share Christmas cookies and a warm drink, laugh about the fact that we always end up here:  Frantically wrestling with scotch tape and ribbon in the hours before Christmas morning.

We don’t talk about it much just now, but this year is different.

This year, alongside the gifts for our own children, we have a box of beautifully wrapped gifts for the two babies who we are caring for.  A sweet soul from our church family had called a few weeks ago, gotten together everything the boys will need for Christmas morning.  It is beautiful to see the love of Christ alive and active, it is a blessing that the boys will not remember but one that will stay with the rest of us forever.  We arrange them under the tree, pick up the scraps and empty shopping bags and rolls of tape.  For just a moment, we stand leaning on each other and gaze into the room, the lights sending their soft glow out into early-morning darkness, the packages, the Christmas Cards that line the mantle.  The room waits for joyful children, for bright sun shining down on Christmas morning.

I find I can’t talk much about the day before.  The emotions are too raw, the pain too deep.  It feels unreal, and yet it weighs heavy in my chest and when my mind brushes against it the crush of it knocks the wind out of me.  Hubby understands and does not press me, he does everything he can to make things seem as normal as possible and when I pause too long over the gift wrap and tissue paper he just draws me close, holds me there a moment. I am fighting to find the balance where I can process the suffering that is going on with the babies’ mother, the reality of the situation with their father….while living and enjoying the beautiful days that I have been blessed with in my own home.  I am struggling to let my children know just enough about what is happening without taking away from their joy.  The sweetness of the babies, their innocence, Toddler’s bright smiles and Baby’s precious warmth…oh, it pierces me through when I think of what is happening in their lives.  But there is so much joy, as well…the beauty of a powerful new love that has settled down on us, has filled our hearts and our home with a deep fullness that defies description. The hands that reach out, open-palm, open heart–to help them, to help us.

The morning dawns gray and overcast, rain still hanging over the valley. The children are sleeping still, and hubby makes coffee while I feed Baby a bottle.  I  have worried that Toddler, who has no Christmases logged yet in his memory, will not react well to the bustle of Christmas morning and I feel bad for being concerned that this will take away from the children’s morning.  But this morning, Toddler sleeps in and we have more than enough time to open gifts, share Christmas cookies and the usual family time that has been tradition through the years.  It is a beautiful, normal moment in the midst of everything, this little window of time…our three children have been amazing in their adjustment to having the babies here, and they share their time and their love with open abandon.  Yet it feels like a gift that we are able to have this time together, and then a gift all over again when Toddler wakes and we can all help him learn to unwrap his gifts, laugh as he hides in the boxes and toddles about with  bows stuck to his footed pajamas.  The gifts are finally all opened, we are deeply touched by the time and thought put into the babies gifts…how blessed to see the love poured out be people who have never met them, and love them like family.

It is late in the day, and we are at Hubby’s parents  house, surrounded by family.  Toddler has been bounced and tickled and chased round the house by our children and cousins and uncles and aunts.  He has fallen into a fitful sleep, after a day spent on the sensory overload that inevitably hits young children on holidays.  Baby is being passed from lap to lap, and he is flashing his new smile generously at all the new faces.  I reflect that in the time we have had him, he’s gone from newborn to this smiling baby, who holds his head up bobbing and wobbling, tiny forehead wrinkled with the effort, big bright eyes scanning the room for faces to smile at.

The call comes before dinner, the one I knew in the back of my mind all day must be coming.

That morning, just before noon, while we were opening packages, snuggling Baby and laughing at Toddler swimming in all the tissue paper and gift wrap, their father passed away.

I hold Hubby and we cry.  The fact that this happened on Christmas day is bittersweet, we are told that his mother is taking some comfort in the fact that this day is the anniversary of the day he accepted Christ, and so it is fitting that he go home to Him on this of all days.  I bury my face in Hubby’s shoulder and I can’t get the picture of that tiny apartment so full of medical equipment, of a wife and mother walking down this hard path she could neither change nor leave, of the darkness and sadness and the terrible strength that is found in simply getting through.  I wonder if the Cathedral bells are chiming, wonder what they say to the grieving family this Christmas day.

The day is closing and the children as asleep, all five.  Hubby and I sit quietly in the living room, the lights on the tree glow into room, the shapes of left-over boxes and paper and gift bags change the landscape of the room into something chaotic, the aftermath of a storm perhaps.  Hubby holds Baby and I lean on him and we wonder but don’t speculate on what will happen next.  Tomorrow will dawn and we will do our best to put the pieces back together, to help build something new out of the chaos that was left behind.

There would be dark days ahead, weeks when the future was so uncertain that the thought of it was too much.  There would be a time when the babies’ mother seemed lost, when we all wished we could go back to not knowing how tragic life can be, how quickly things can change.  Slowly, slowly the pieces are being put back together, the brokenness is being healed and the future, though hazy, is beginning to take shape.  As a family, we have grown…we have learned, we have laughed and cried and had good days and bad days and we have, without a doubt, been blessed mightily through this.  We have seen our church family become the hands and feet of God, and we have seen the babies’ mother adopted in to that family.  What I didn’t know then is this:  I have been given not only the gift of knowing and caring for these two babies, but also the gift of knowing their mother.  We are taking things day by day the Grace of God abounds, it is enough.

This is how is happened, Part 3 (Let it begin with me)

This is how is happened, Part 3 (Let it begin with me)

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Can you bear with me through this just a little longer?  I struggle to write about the days I’m sharing with you and yet I also struggle when I don’t write.  There is pain here but there is also beauty, there is suffering but there is also redemption. Sometimes I ask myself why I am writing this, is it my own selfish need to get it out, see it on paper? It feels raw, naked to share this and yet I feel like it needs to be shared.  Because although this is just one story, it is part of a greater need that is important to think about, important to share.  Right now, there is someone with a need this great in your community.  Right now, there are children whose parents cannot care for them, whether it is due to a tragic crisis like this one or a different, equally desperate need.  I want to share it because we, who are blessed with our health, our financial situations, our homes, our stable families, the support of our church families…we are the ones who can offer our hearts and homes to those who are struggling.  Through foster care, through adoption,  through giving to others who support the care of orphans and families in need.  I want to share this in hopes that in reading it, the need will become more real…and the call to action more audible. 

Part One
Part Two

For some reason, it is raining.  I can’t seem to make it feel like Christmas Eve, with the rain drumming down and melting the snow that crusts the corners of the yard.  It is Christmas Eve, and the rain is falling and I am tugging a shirt over Toddler’s head, snapping grippers on Baby’s onesie, pulling tiny shoes over feet too small to stand.  I comb their hair, close my eyes to inhale the smell of fresh baby shampoo.  My three children stand and watch, quietly.  They are not dressed up, they will be staying here with their father and doing Christmas-Eve things.  They will light the fire, play cards on the floor in the spot of warmth it creates.  They will listen to Christmas music and wrap gifts, sip cocoa stirred with candy canes.

The babies and I, we are going to say goodbye to their father.

I load them in the car, speak silly words that amount to nothing as I snap Toddler in the car seat, secure Baby next to him.  There will be a photographer there, one who specializes in photographing families who are losing a member to cancer.  I cannot imagine doing such a job, and yet I see what a blessing it will be.  A part of me cries out to God against the fact that there even is such a job.  Rails against reality of this.  Why do cancer photographers have to be necessary?  It is a dead-end question that does nothing to help the situation.

We drive across town, the three of us.  The rain drizzles down, gray against gray, as I pass through the tall buildings of down-town.  Lining the streets are the Christmas lights…Oh, the lights!  They glow against the rain and look out of place here, this day does not seem to warrant Christmas lights and yet there they are, silently glowing.  Lighting our way.

I pull in front of the run-down building that holds her apartment.  I let the motor run a moment, let the shush and whoosh of the heater warm me through.  Baby is asleep in his car seat, toddler is quiet.  The rain still falls.  I turn off the engine, take a breath.  In front of the apartments, a white home-health care van is parked.  I wonder, abstractly, what it is they provide for this?  What accouterments do the last days of life entail?  I don’t know what I will find inside.  I don’t want to think about this, I don’t want this to be the way it is, I don’t want this Christmas Eve to be the last one for anybody’s family.  I am not strong.  I am not good in these situations, I don’t know what to do or to say and I fear that the discomfort and sense of I’ve ineptitude I’ve always felt around people will seize me in this situation, make me silent,  strike me dumb.

What on earth do you say at such a time?

I pray in the car, pray for whatever it takes.  I don’t even have words for it, I just ask for whatever it is that I need.  I pray for their mother, because I can’t even imagine the strength it is taking her just to draw a breath today, just to draw a breath in the room where her husband is dying.  I close my eyes, breathe in.  There is something I can’t identify that moves me forward, a strength good enough for this moment (and, please God, for the next) that takes me out of the car, moves me where I need to go.  I take out Toddler, kiss his warm forehead.  I pull Baby’s carseat out of the back and walk across the street, past the white van. I am selfish, I admit, even at a time like this. As I pass, I pray that there will never be a white van like this one in front of our house.

I knock, softly, on the door.  Inside, a small crowd of people are standing.  Hushed, too quiet.  There is the home health care nurse, who murmurs a few things, a few instructions, saying again and again…when you need us, call us.  We will be here right away.  Anything at all, you just call us.  She nods and nods, smiles a little but not too much.  She has been in many rooms like this before.

Toddler bounces from lap to lap, does not seem to be phased by the hospital bed or medical equipment in the living room.  In his short lifetime, it’s become natural to him. He is blissfully  unaware, and we are all struck by a fact that is both comforting and heartbreaking:  He will not remember this, and, he will not remember this. The man who lies on the hospital bed, each breath sounding like cloth being ripped a bit at a time, this man who not too long ago was strong and cared for his boys with the hands that now lay so still…he will be a memory to be passed down second-hand, though photos and stories and memorabilia.  There really is no good outcome here, when you think about it.  Is it grief or second-hand memories that is the lesser of two evils?

The photographers arrive.  There is posing, Baby placed in the crook of his father’s arm, tiny pink hand in stark relief against the white of flesh, the black of tattoo.  I help hold his father’s arm in place, feel the weight of it, how cold, how heavy.  There are a lot of pictures taken.  There are tears.  I place my hands on his head, pray.  The photographers are packing up, they are practiced yet compassionate in their hushed tones, their heartfelt condolences. The afternoon passes quickly, and then again I feel like years have passed. Someone puts a cd of Christian music on the stereo.  I hug their mother, hold her.  I hug the babies’ grandfather, am cut to the heart when he breaks down in my arms. They asked me where I am going…I had to tell them, I am going to watch my son die.  No one should ever have to say this, no one.

Outside, the cool air feels like a blessing.  I am thankful and feel guilty to be thankful that I am on this side of the door, that I get to go home to my husband and my house full of life and I must leave them all here.  The rain is drizzling, mixing with my tears.  I have cried more in the last month than I have all year combined and I don’t care who sees it, don’t stop to rub the tears off with the palm of my hand.  Just down the road, the bells of the Cathedral start to chime a hymn I remember from childhood. I sit in the car, the babies in the back seat.  Sit there and let the tears fall and feel broken and grateful, feel grief and the reality of death and the amazing, oh the amazing and piercing beauty of life wash over me.  I thank God for what He has given us, for the moments He has let us have and the beautiful bells sing out a message for Christmas, a message for me:
Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now. 
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow. 
To take each moment and live each moment with peace eternally.  
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.


 

 
How it happened, part 2  (made to be broken)

How it happened, part 2 (made to be broken)

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This is a continuation of a series started with this post. This situation is unique, but our world is full of hurting people, families in need, children who are displaced, orphaned, or in need of loving arms to care for them.  There are many ways to help…open your home to foster care or adoption.  Give some of your resources to ministries that help families stay togetherHelp raise funds for  another family’s adoption. Go on a short-term mission to an orphanage overseas and love on the love-starved children there. I believe that in His Holy Word God clearly calls every one of us to help. There are many ways to answer that call.  Let’s all continue to pray for God to lead us in what His will is for each of our families.

Part Two

We stand together, Hubby’s arm around my shoulder, and gaze at the newborn child who sleeps in his car seat on our table.  The same table that we’d sat around just a few weeks before when we first learned of the tragedy unfolding in this new baby’s life.  Somehow, pie crumbs and coffee cups have brought us to this:  a beautiful new child with an uncertain future now depending on us for his every need.  The sense of unreality that I experienced on my way to pick him up still clings to me.  I am slow to process all of this.  A part of me is beginning to feel a frantic sense of panic.  Have I forgotten all I used to know about infancy?  About newborns?  This baby is so much smaller than I remember.  Memories and bits of babyhood, facts and numbers and needs come flooding back in a disorganized barrage of thoughts, memories, fears.

The baby, unaware, is sleeping.  His brow is wrinkled, a pucker of concern cuts a line between downy eyebrows just barely beginning to be visible. Even in his sleep he looks tense, anxious. I think back to the days of colic and reflux when Eldest was this age, how we barely managed to make it through each day.  The late nights, the ringing in our ears as he cried inconsolably for hours on end, the mountain of laundry as we struggled to keep the milk inside the baby long enough to make him grow.  There had been two of us, both healthy, and Eldest was our only child.  I can’t even begin to imagine how things must have looked for Baby’s family in the few short weeks of his life so far.

He wakes.

I hold Baby, laugh at the faces he pulls.  His eyes are that indescribable shade of blue that may well one day turn brown.  He is tiny, so very small that I marvel he could even be four weeks old.  He seems so fragile, so new.  He seems, in the way all newborns do, to be just a bit unfinished.  Hubby fixes a bottle (formula being a new skill we must now learn) while the kids and I sit on the couch, wonder at the amazing way life begins.  His fingers curl around my pinkie, Middle Child notes how tiny those little fingernails are.  Eldest laughs as Baby’s little-old-man forehead, how it wrinkles as Baby studies us, his mouth working, eyes struggling to focus.  There is a hush to the moment, a sweetness that I feel deep in my bones.  Hubby returns with the bottle and takes Baby gently on his lap, settles him in the crook of his arm, feeds him.  You could never tell that eight years have passed since he last fed a month-old baby.  It is as natural as it was back then and I am blessed, moved by love that comes so easily, by the acceptance and devotion that my children show so naturally, the steady support and love my husband gives so freely that makes an unfamiliar situation feel comfortable.

We fall into a routine, caring for Baby while trying to keep up with the usual pace of life as best we can.  Some days are much easier than others.  Once a day I call Baby’s mother, touch base with her. Some days she is despondent, her husband is slipping farther away as organs fail and infection rages.  Other days, her voice holds hope:  Today he sat up.  This morning, he knew her and they had a lucid conversation.  The days after those hope-days are the worst, when he has slipped back into that in-between place and taken her hope along with. Some days when I call she does not answer at all.

It is hard to picture the darkness and tragedy unfolding on the other end of the phone.  Hard to connect the baby flourishing here in our family with the life unraveling on the other side of the city.  As days blend into weeks Baby changes, becomes settled.  Colic seems to be a thing of the past although reflux stubbornly remains. He changes day to day as a new baby will, growing and learning.  I find that it is impossible to hold back love, even if I had wanted to. I learn that everything they tell you about adoption and foster care is true:  it is as easy and natural to love a baby that is not biologically yours as it is to love one that is.  Love is not found in the double-helix of DNA or in tidy rows of paired genes.  Love is found in the heart and in the very marrow of our bones and it is blind to biology.

In the dark hours before morning I find myself rocking, soothing with the familiar motions of mothering and I marvel at how deep these feelings are.  I know now that you can adopt a child and love him as deeply as your own, I know now that you can foster a child and love both him and his mother so much you are willing to face the heartbreak of giving him up.  I know now that the human heart is made to be broken, that it is not loving and losing that shatters the soul but rather never loving at all.  The words of a counselor friend echo in my heart,  “It is better that this baby bond with you and lose you, because he will have developed the ability to bond again.  It’s the babies who never bond that fail to thrive.” 

It is now just a week before Christmas.  We have put up lights, decorated a small tree.  We are reminded by the baby in our arms of the baby in the manger so long ago, another foster-child of sorts whose broken heart would beat for the least of these, for the widows and the fatherless and those in need.  I feel it in my own heart, the openness of a soul broken wide by love.  I had not noticed the way I’d hidden my heart, the way it had become muffled and smothered under a protective layer of safety, until it lay bare and open and feeling, awake again.

The phone calls grow more sporadic, the news when it comes varies wildly between improvements and deterioration.  It is late one evening and Christmas music is playing quietly in the background and I am holding Baby in my arms, rocking gently, wrapped in the warmth of the moment. The phone rings, and the moment crashes down:  whatever hope had been held out, whatever prayers for healing now lay broken.  There is only the bare, hard truth of the direction this is going: Baby’s mother sobs as she tells it, as she breaks under the weight of a decision no wife, no mother should have to make. They have done everything they can, and everything is not enough.

The week before Christmas, she chose to take her husband home to die.

It is wet outside, the brightly colored Christmas lights reflect garishly in pools of rainwater on the front porch and the music continues to play and the fire is flickering and I don’t want to tell my children what is happening, don’t want them to know how fragile life is. In the morning, I will go and get Baby’s thirteen month old brother.  We will give them the best Christmas we know how.  We will pour our love into these small boys and into these moments and this bittersweet season and our hearts will lie open to whatever God wills next.  In the dark hours after everyone is in bed, Baby is fussy and nothing seems to soothe him. I pace the living room floor trying to keep his cries and mine from waking the rest of the family. The rocking and pacing and swaying do not work and on this night, it is the jagged rhythm of my sobs that soothes Baby back to sleep.

Continue to Part three…..

Also visit The High Calling to read more about helping children and families in need….

This is how it happened

This is how it happened

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Part One

The Thanksgiving feast is almost over, traces of wine in crystal glasses line the counter by the sink, dishes stacked high that I vow not to think about until morning teeter precariously and roasting pans are soaking and the turkey is safe in the fridge.  We are sitting together amid crumbs of pie crust, wilting whipped cream, chairs pushed back from the table.  We are in that place where we continue to sip lukewarm coffee because we are enjoying the conversation and it might end if the cups are collected and the crumbs swept away.

That’s when she brings up the situation.  Hubby’s sweet aunt has befriended a woman ten years younger than I, a sweet lady whom I last saw four months ago with her then nine month old son, a strong soul whose second son swelled six months along as we sat and talked that summer afternoon.  I’d met J perhaps twice before, at Hubby’s aunt’s house, and marveled at the strength of her soul.  Her husband was sick, fighting for his life.  Cancer is an evil thing, an unfair adversary for a couple so young to be facing.  In all honesty I could not imagine what she was going through…did not want to imagine it.  I offered whatever help I could give, but did not hear from her.  I was, after all, little more than a stranger.

Hubby’s aunt now tells me she has heard that J’s husband is in the hospital, and it does not look promising.  That their new baby is suffering colic and reflux, has been in the hospital and is now in crisis care, his mother so burdened by caring for her husband and Baby’s thirteen month old brother that she can’t care for him.  Hubby and I look over the table at each other and know:  this is something we know how to do.  Eldest’s infant-days were plagued by these two woes and we have done this, we can use what we learned from those days for good and God always gives us that opportunity.  He works all things for good for those who love Him, who are called to serve His purpose.

We offer help, finally connect.  Yes, she says when we speak on the phone. There are hospital noises in the background and I hear the strain of too many late nights, too many moments of hope crashing to the floor with each new problem arising, each step forward brings two sliding back.  My voice breaks and I speak softly and wonder what on earth I can offer that will help, short of love and prayers. It is and it isn’t enough.

After hanging up the phone I walk down to our basement, looking for boxes of baby items I remember storing.  How quickly eight years have passed!  Youngest was an infant just yesterday.  Youngest’s infancy was a hundred years ago.  The boxes are mostly gone, passed down to others with new babies who have grown and are now in grade school.  Have I really gotten so far removed from babyhood?  I loved every moment of it and carry it with me, in my heart it all happened just a few short months ago.  In my basement, it happened long enough ago that I find I have very little left to offer.

I make phone calls.  The first of the many blessings of having a beautiful church family happens, and in a matter of days I have more than enough baby items sitting in my living room.  A sweet sister in Christ brings over a tub of clothes, blankets, baby wipes.  A bassinet.  Another friend brings a swing, toys for the Toddler. Hubby’s aunt brings baby gates.  I look around and feel blessed, loved.  I realize that we don’t have as much space here as I thought we did.  Things are arranged and re-arranged and we walk nervously around and pace a bit and we realize how long, how really long it has been since we cared for an infant.  We are nervous and we are excited and we feel the grip of the unknown, that we are embarking on a journey that only God knows the end of and we realize that yes, that is how it’s going to work and yes, that is where we need to be, what we need to embrace.

The phone call comes at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning.  I dress quickly, kiss Hubby, pray with him.  The morning is gray and cold, there are points of white snow drifting lazily down in a not very serious way.  It is a silly, average, regular morning. It doesn’t seem like someone’s husband could be fighting for his life, that a young woman could be fighting on her own for balance, for hope, for respite from the terrible burden of caring for everyone in her life and needing so desperately to be cared for herself.  It doesn’t seem real that I am picking up an infant to care for, that she is trusting me to take this precious burden, this beautiful child, to care for him while she cannot.  I should be bringing her a baby gift, dinner in Tupperware containers to be eaten late at night with her husband, when both babies are finally asleep and they have a moment together.  The feeling of un-realness somehow makes everything sharper, makes me see things in greater detail.

I find her apartment, hold her a moment, tears falling.  Baby is in his car seat, ready.  He is tiny…so impossibly small.  I have forgotten how small four weeks is, I am floored by how much I have forgotten.  I have a bag full of diapers, medication.  I have insurance cards and a medical release and bottles and formula.  We strap the car seat in the car and I cannot imagine how she is able to say goodbye, except that goodbye must mean something very different to her just now.

I start the car, drive down the hill.  The sky keeps falling in tiny white flakes.

I cry all the way home.

Read Part 2 Here

This story is only one, about one way we can care for children and families in need.  Over at The High Calling, there is a series unfolding on the plight of orphans and children in crisis, and the ways that we can follow God’s command to care for them.  Please go there and read more about this, and if  you have a story to share link up there!