Welcome to our World

This time of year, with the sound traveling farther through the bare-boned trees, we can hear the train whistle in our small bait-and-tackle store community and we can hear the horn at the dam when they open the turbines, as they send water down the river. We can hear our neighbors easier, too— the call of the dog-trainers, the music from the party at the Airbnb, the young brothers playing outside before dinner.

When I first got a phone as a teenager, my parents disconnected their landline and gave that number to my cell, so I could take the business calls. My number has our local area code and the first three digits of our small community. It is listed in the tiny phone book we still get every year in the mail, for this address. And so when people call they often assume I am home still, the girl who is always there—the girl who never grew up, with the same young voice— a little sweet (strange?) spot of continuity in this fly-by world. Sometimes, a bit rudely, someone will say, “Oh! You’re still there?” I never correct them. Most of the time, anyway, they aren’t wrong. I am still here.

Our little boy was born at home in the early morning of December 10th, and perhaps we should have named him Moses, for he was drawn from the water and is a beautiful child. He is easy on me.

The labor was good and beautiful, and yet anything but easy. I found that being surrounded by those you love the most doesn’t by any means lessen the difficulty. In fact, to be so safe only invites into deeper levels of feeling. I would’ve never asked the unfamiliar obstetrician Why does it hurt so much? but I was able to ask that of my friends. 

Their responses to me were as varied as their natures: one explaining what was happening to my body, one laughing, one busy making things just right, one telling me to buckle down and push, one’s face filling with concern— none of these better than the other. Together, the perfect provision of grace.

Jacob was born in a cattle trough, which wasn’t necessary, but we thought it would be a good part of his story. Every child loves to hear of their own entrance into the world and anything that makes it— them— extra special is significant. It was just a little something we could give him, a detail for delight when the story is told ‘round the campfire the night he turns ten.

A friend asked me today why I hadn’t written lately, and mostly it’s because motherhood feels largely covered— the craziness, the sacrifice, the honor, the messiness, the glory— it’s a season of sunsets. Everyone and their mother knows all about it, and all my words couldn’t compare to a single picture. And it’s also just so hard practically. At this moment I write with one hand and burp the baby with the other, holding him away from the toddler who is trying to smother him with kisses. She looks up at me curious, and stands very still as I read her all these words. She smiles and her look says it is good enough.


There is an adjustment period to mothering babies, which perhaps lasts until they are grown. But in any case, I find myself a couple times a week a bit dazed with the course of my new life. The person I thought I was is a memory now. I am not able to care for old people and listen to their stories and write them down. I am not able to write much at all. I am not able to farm, or garden much, or make all the old fashioned things I loved to make, like candles and soap and fresh bread. I do not wear an apron. I do not read many adult books. I seldom travel anywhere. Some weeks I do not even get in my car at all. I do not write in my journal. I do not have amazing and deep friendships. The friendships I have are the sticking kind that are just there regardless of my attention. 

I am a woman who listens to podcasts for company and finds it difficult to have the bed made by the end of the day. I am the wife of a man who sometimes can’t find a clean uniform. I am a mother who given a blessed one hour window of time alone, will lay down, unable to even have the victory of sleep, with a mind so full of things to do. I am a homemaker who spends the first part of the day trying to think of a dinner plan, the second making it happen and the third trying to make it look like it didn’t. I am extremely average, and not what I thought I would be when I imagined my dreams coming true.

When I look back on this pregnancy with Jacob, I wonder if I will remember the book proposal that didn’t work out. Probably not. It was an incredible opportunity, a chance to use my gifts, a chance to be more than just a mom. To be a writer, a real writer. To get a little check, however little: a dream. A dream I could have strong-armed into existence. But instead I let it go. Perhaps I let it go for another day. Perhaps not. There is always the chance when you let something pass, that it may never come your way again. 

Jacob is coming my way, and I will hold onto him. The preacher said last night that, although it might be incredibly difficult, you know something is a calling on your life when you would be miserable doing anything else. 

I didn’t want to go on living without my husband, and when they laid our baby on my chest and said it’s a girl! and I said it’s Helen, I knew my life, my happiness, was now inseparable with hers. It isn’t right to outlive your children. It happens, but the wound does not heal. This is because motherhood is a calling. I love writing and reading and being an interesting productive person, but I am not miserable as I am today, rather worthless comparatively.  As much as I wish I were a better mother, wife, homemaker, I still bless the Lord I am those things, however average. 

When I meet Jacob, I will understand why God made me. I will still look back somedays and wish I was a little more like the woman I used to be before I was stretched out and sucked on, before I was cleaner of a thousand messes and chief changer of diapers, dish-washer, sock-searcher, tantrum-overcomer, nap-enforcer. But when I look back from a greater distance, I know these children will be God’s heritage to me, his best and greatest gift: what he gave me, what he received from me, what he asked me to do, what he did for me. 

Jacob: Usurper, Supplanter. You have outmaneuvered and overreached all your mama’s former ambitions. You have grabbed hold of the heel of my ideals, and wrestled in me a holier dream. We’ve been reading through the Psalms at night, where your God is spoken of again and again. The Lord of Hosts is with Us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. In you he has given us more of Himself, a God who breaks in and busts through, and lays himself down in the arms of a young woman whose world has been remade. 

The Country of Marriage

We love when Andrew comes home from a long day at the hospital. He doesn’t want to touch us until he gets clean, and so we just smile at each other in a goofy way, and Helen hides her face in me. She is shy and confused at feeling so happy.

I always longed for a voice crying from the wilderness: Marriage is good!

Perhaps these words were my own, coming at me from the future.

My husband and I didn’t meet each other until our late twenties. Many might see this as young, but really a lot of our lives had gone by and I grieve those years sometimes.

There is a beauty and a strength in your early twenties, a confidence and carefreeness, and you’ve got time to make yourself more beautiful and strong if you want to.

We had both been through a lot by the time we met. I’m ready to settle down, he said and what he meant was that he was ready to love and be loved, to enter into the wildness and take on the weight of one woman, and he was. 

It is good for someone to meet you growing old, used to disappointment, full of difficult stories, and say you are loved and lovable. It is better still for that someone to imagine and understand who you were and love you as you were, even as you were without them and even as you were in your mistakes.

But it is good to be together now. Not exactly old, but apprehending it’s approach. Living the fly-by days. Pinching pennies in the land of lullabies. A thousand dreams and many thousand cups of coffee. Settled down. Come home. A little confused at feeling so darn happy.

It is a wonderful thing to be giving each other confidence and carefreeness in a time when it has ceased to make sense, to make each other feel beautiful and strong when it is no longer exactly true. It is a strange thing to realize that all your beauty and his strength were meant for each other not in their rise but in their fall, but as we catch each other there and are held so gently, it doesn’t even matter. Perhaps we are even more strong and beautiful this way, falling towards one another.

“Most like an arch— two weaknesses that lean into a strength.” 

I wonder— If you have someone to be loving, could there be any better thing for you to do? Today or tomorrow? With your lips and with your eyes and with your thoughts? With your strength and with your presence, all the rest of your days?

In a shaky world, ever unfaithful and forsaking, marriage supports and holds ever open the door into a promised land, a long land … where a voice cries out:

Marriage is good! There are green fields and high mountains and clear creeks in this country. It is sweeter than you hoped. There is hope it will grow sweeter. It is yours. Welcome home.

All the Poets

The first two poems I learned as a child were about motherhood. This was before I learned to read and the poems were on the walls of my mother’s kitchen. Someone read them to me and I memorized them. I would recite them to myself and pretend that I could read, just like I would pretend I was a mother.

Both poems were about being grateful for your children despite the mess and sorrow they bring into life. I remembered them last night as I laid on the couch and cried, my poor husband doing his best to comfort me, just kissing my wet face, not knowing what to say. I’m sure he was thinking, well they told me women could be like this…

The other day the old bag-man at the grocery store reached out and touched me and blessed me in Jesus name. He and his wife had had two babies 16 months apart. I’m not the sort of person who minds being touched or minds, in general, people touching my children, especially to bless them. I am familiar enough with the Lord to know that his blessing often makes us uncomfortable. Last night I was wondering, even, if my tears were the result of this man’s prayers.

For I was so uncomfortable. There was a foot or an elbow or something jabbed into a tender organ. I was suddenly afraid of labor. I was afraid of the newborn days, so exhausting, so raw and fragile. But mostly I was crying because that evening Helen, who usually plays in the shower, just held onto my bare legs and pressed her face into my thighs, hugging me tight. I was crying for the momentariness of that moment—how soon it will be just a vague memory in an old woman’s mind! And she all grown-up. Then I was crying because perhaps I was assuming too much. Perhaps I, even we, would die tomorrow. Perhaps these precious toddler days with my daughter are the end of what He plans to give me in this life.

She had spent the morning smelling the last of the fall roses in the garden. Soon they will be spent and gone, even in memory, and so will we— even Helen, so young and fresh and beautiful. Her life, too, is a vapor.

I went to sleep, at peace with feeling unresolved, just exhausted, and woke up early to see my husband off. My grandfather sometimes would sit in his recliner and listen to his favorite songs and cry. This made him feel better.

In the dark quiet of the house, I found the poems my friend, Rachel Joy Welcher, sent me and read through them again. I cried fresh morning tears into my coffee, and was deeply comforted. Her words gave place to my feelings, and made me feel more than I was willing to all by myself. I know I will turn to these poems again and again, will write them on the walls of my house.

My husband told me to make a list before he left, and he meant of things he needed to do.

I made a list…

Things that make me uncomfortable:

The strong baby boy of thirty-three weeks

The brevity of life

The blessing of strangers

Things that bring me joy:

Chubby cheeks pressed into my wet thighs

Scratchy face pressed into my wet face

All the poets I have known

P.S. You can order Rachel’s new poetry book here: Sometimes Women Lie About Being Okay

And you should!

Good Enough

When I call, she seems to know my voice. If I say it’s Sarah, she’ll say I know that! or and who else would it be?

She’ll ask about my baby and for a minute, she must remember me. Then one of us (we can’t help ourselves) will grasp at a time when our life together made sense, when I was young. Then her memory will do its artwork, emptying all the paints out onto a palette at once and swirling them together.  Everything she’s ever known runs over and off the page and onto the linoleum floor. 

If men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti, the mind with dementia is like a slow-cooked kettle of hash in the low-country, impossible to explain boiled over stirred up things that used to be.

In an instant, my baby becomes me and I become my mother. She is taking care of two girls, she says (me and my sister), and then she has two boys too (my uncles), and then she has a little baby of her own and her sister is helping her, and then before I can help her (if I could), she knows she doesn’t know who I am anymore, and maybe she doesn’t even know who she is. My baby has become every baby in the world, and she, every old woman. 

We don’t know what to say. We sure need rain don’t we? How’s your back? Did you have dinner? She answers briefly, uncertainly. She hurries to get off the phone.

I love you, Nanny. Her voice turns warm again. I love you too. And sometimes she’ll add Baby Sally and I smile because that’s me. 

Will she remember I called? Not for five minutes. So why do it? It is hard and sad. It is uncomfortable. What good does it do? 

The answer is this: For a moment she remembers and knows she is remembered. 

For a moment she knows she is loved. That is reason good enough. 

Cry the Name

It is cliche to say that children teach us about the Father’s love and sometimes offensive, in a world that’s ever ready to take it up. What I never mean by this is that parents have an in-road on Christ and grace and all that. That is obviously, looking around in Walmart, very much not the case. But rather, when children are spoken of, we ought to all feel included. We were all children, and we can all become like them again.

There are all sorts of cries and I’m only just learning them. My sister, a mother of four, once heard my baby crying over the phone and asked me if she needed to be changed. I hadn’t even thought of that, and she did. There is the sleepy cry, and the hurt cry. There is the angry cry. But then there is the name cry.

I find it impossible to resist when she cries my name. Rich Mullins, single, childless, knew this well when he wrote the beautiful lines, “I cry the name of the one who loves me, the name of the one on whom I call, ‘til it rolls like thunder rolling down these canyon walls.”

As hard as it is, at three in the morning— when your child’s voice is like thunder rolling— when she calls your name, you go. Your heart is moved by her remembrance and her faith in you. Helen does not question my existence or my near presence or my love, and in her confidence I stop questioning those things too. How much more so does our Father in heaven respond to his own, for he has no weakness and selfishness, as I do.

An old friend of my mother’s, Mrs. Dot, was Catholic turned Pentecostal and very into the unseen realm, and her stories had a big impact on my spiritual imagination as a child. Once as a young mother, she was home alone at night with her little boys. They were sleeping, but she woke up afraid. She went all through the house and just knew that something was wrong. She prayed for protection over her babies. I remembered this story the other night, when I had a similar feeling and prayed the same way.

I don’t have a little window in my door, but Mrs. Dot did. She opened it. Outside, she said, she saw legs, just legs. Giant golden angel legs. She said he was as tall as her house. She went back to bed and was comforted. 

This story wasn’t exactly comforting to me as a child. I didn’t want giant angel legs, I just wanted my parents. But now I understand. This is the beauty of stories: Sometimes they wait in the wings. In this world we will have trouble. I have little people in my care. I have real enemies, and so do they. They need me and I need something behind me, the bigger the better.

The good news is that I can cry the name of the one who loves me— and if I forget this, the first of my earthly lessons, that’s alright— he is faithful to remind me.

Not Your Own, and Never Alone

It’s true that often husbands seem oblivious, but any woman who is with another woman in labor can pick up on contractions. You don’t have to be trained to know that one is coming, or is on her, or is almost done. It’s a common sense, intuitive, basic bit of womanhood, to be mindful of these things and sensitive toward them. The woman delivering the lunch tray knows it, as soon as she enters the room, and waits patiently, before she speaks.

And yet they have these things called contraction monitors. I get it. The nurses have too many patients. They can’t possibly watch and chart and bear the liability of them all without machines. This way the nurse can sit at the computer and monitor what is happening in Room 204. Except, of course, if the woman in 204 is moving around and the monitor keeps losing its hold. This can be very frustrating, because the nurse is not chiefly responsible for the patient, but for paperwork.

Why is the mother moving around? She is doing what she must to deliver the child, which is, in fact, the whole point of the contractions. She is working beside them, with them. They are part of the grand design. It is worth watching. These contractions— it’s true that they can be monitored on a screen, we’ve figured that out— but to separate them from the rocking moaning body of the woman, to preside over her “progress” as if she was a mouse in a laboratory… is this progress? 

It has come to this: If a mother wants to be truly helped and cared for, dignified and respected in labor, she must bring those things with her to the hospital. You may be blessed to find them in the heart of the busy, harried nurse, but they aren’t prescribed or written in the chart, or remotely understood by those making policy. 

I have seen a nurse, bless her, move the monitor around to better record the contractions while the mother was fully dilated and pushing.  Finally, the obstetrician, realizing it, said, “Yeah, I don’t think we need that anymore.” 

Everyone laughed, and the nurse said, “Oh I forgot; it’s such a habit!”

How did it become a habit to annoy a woman fully absorbed in the most difficult task of her life?

The policy makers believe that by using machines in place of personal care, they can hire less nurses and make more money. The nurses become exhausted and emotionally diminished. The good desire they had to help people is overridden by overwork, a fear of liability and lawsuits and the frustrated rhythm of just clocking in and out for a paycheck. They feel used.  As greed enters the equation, like sin into the world, truth and goodness take a hit, and quality of care and medical knowledge with them. I could harp for hours on the many ways our birthing system dehumanizes the mother and child and promotes fear and stupidity, but I don’t need to convince anyone, for this kind of thing is found everywhere.

In this wonderful piece by Alan Noble, about simply grocery shopping, he says:

…We’ve freed ourselves from the tyranny of talking with a checker and all it cost us was the presumption of innocence and all human warmth.

This whole experience is predicated on the idea that we are each our own, that we are ultimately only responsible for ourselves and to ourselves. And that means that we don’t owe anyone anything unless it’s contractually or legally defined. The store’s only obligations to you are legal. Their only responsibilities are to profit. When treating customers, employees, or producers as human beings leads to greater efficiency, then they will do so, but only then.

As a young American woman in her birthing years, soon expecting her second child, every word of this article makes me sick with its startling application to our hospital system, where medication is what it’s all about. He goes on to say,

Instead of asking whether our environment is inhuman, our default is to self-medicate, to find a coping mechanism. And even while we self-medicate, we’re also making jokes about self-medicating because it’s obvious to everyone that this is not healthy. It’s not how we are meant to live. 

At the same birth I mentioned earlier, there was a new L&D nurse, around my age. She had been on the floor a couple months and was there to observe, as she had never seen an unmedicated birth before. She wasn’t ready to experience pregnancy and childbirth, she said, but she told us about her “child” waiting at home, a golden-doodle. Everyone started swapping dog stories, but soon stopped. This wasn’t a room for small talk. The mother had been laboring all night and day, and now the time was close. We had been praying for the birth to come before 7:00 p.m. when I had to leave. Although I had been supporting her constantly and she greatly desired me to stay, I was considered a visitor and non-essential.

She was now on her elbows and knees, a very good position to prevent tearing, though unconventional. I was thankful her doctor “let her” do this. Like many women, when I was delivering just a year earlier, I had been told that I “had to” get on my back, though there is no benefit to this position, for the mother or baby. The time had come. I stood at the mother’s head and she held my hands. She knew she could squeeze them as hard as she needed to, and she did. Her husband kissed her and then stood beside the doctor to wait for the sight of the head. 

And that’s what we did— we waited. We all did. She rested a moment. With a cool cloth, I wiped the sweat from her brow. She was not alone. Then the pressure built up once more, one last time…

The doctor said, “That’s perfect! We can see him. He’s coming! You’ve got it. He’s coming! Just a couple more. Just one more…”

And then that doctor, forever bless her soul, just laid that human child right underneath the mother so she could hang her exhausted head and look into his beautiful perfect face. She wept over him. We all did. They were separated now, for the first time, yet still held together with the chord that had pulsed her life into his for forty weeks.

I looked up at the new nurse, hand over her masked mouth, back against the wall. Her face was wet too. We’ve seen this happen so many times, but never before this child, and never again. He will live on this earth, and die and be buried with his fathers, but his birth was a just a moment and now a memory, a good one. 

Good memories about childbirth are not always possible, but they are possible much more often than they are experienced.

The young nurse and her “child” at home— she loves that dog and he has filled a spot in her lonely heart, as we are all greatly comforted by our animals— but we do not carry them inside us. We do not travail over them, and deliver them. They do not stand in the lineage of the human race, a lineage so important to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As much as we care for them, they are not our children. We are not their parents. We are made in God’s holy image, with his fingerprints on our souls, forged in the fires of human passion, choking on the fumes of selfish rage, distinct from Great Danes and Golden-doodles, laboratory mice, robots and the electronic firing of input, storage, processing and output.

The woman sat back on her shaky legs and took up her son, as the mother of Christ did long ago. “He’s here. I can’t believe he’s here.”

I stayed until he was nursing but returned the next day. “How are you feeling?” I asked her. 

“There were many moments yesterday when I felt like I couldn’t possibly do it. When I just wanted a way out, any way out. But now I feel…” she laughed, “Well, I feel like a bad-ass. I feel like I could totally do it again.”

She didn’t feel self-sufficient. She has many times thanked me for my part. She is grateful for her obstetrician. She wouldn’t have wanted to be without her husband. What’s more, she knows she was created to birth, and she was, after all, at the hospital in case something went wrong. What she was describing as “bad-ass” was actually just human. She experienced a beautiful part of womanhood many can not and do not, often, sadly, because they are not helped and supported, and because they simply do not believe in this good aspect of their humanity: that if they are given the gift of motherhood, they are well capable of and created to accomplish the task, in all its many facets, and that they will never be alone.


This is an opinion piece of sorts and different from what I usually write. Forgive me if it seems a soap-box. I have found no other way to continue writing, other than to write about what I see as I see it, and so it is impossible for me not to write about childbirth these days, although I know it is not a present part of life for many.

My friend, Rachel, writes powerfully out of motherhood, and you can find two of her recent pieces with these links: The Contradiction of Healing Prayer and An Unjust Cheap Justice. I have learned much from her.

And my friend, Sarah, had a beautiful poem published in Fathom, but it was this one that gave me chill-bumps

Let Me Be

I am deep in the world of babies now, where the subject of childcare comes up frequently. When it comes to the questions of who is watching your children and where they are kept, something people will often say is children are resilient, to which I always want to reply children are extremely vulnerable

Being made in the image of the eternal immutable God, all humans have a strength of soul and a remarkable ability to heal and cast wrongs into a sea of forgetfulness, but this isn’t anything we ought to take for granted. We should always bear in mind the fragility of the people in our care, not their resilience. I hold to the doctrine of original sin and yet what I noticed about my daughter in the first year of her life was not her sin, but her fear. As sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, broken in fellowship, babies need most to be loved.

What you aren’t prepared for when you first become a mother is how much you will love your child. I’ve known many moms who have a good and careful plan for childcare, and still grieve and regret dropping their babies off and returning to their lives before.

“I wasn’t prepared for how much I would want to be the one with her every day. It ought to be me,” a friend said recently. I totally understood. 

We thought childcare was easy mundane work (don’t the uneducated do it for minimum wage?) but we see now that it is the most important thing we could possibly do, that all our longing is for our children, that no amount of study could have prepared us for how difficult it is to train and nurture them and yet how we alone, their parents, are uniquely fit for the task. As my children were knit together in secret, perfect poems, I was remade and rewritten for them, and I won’t ever be the same. 

And so when it is not possible for us to be the ones with them, we want those people to be the best of our world, the most virtuous, the most careful of their weakness: the grandmothers, for instance, soft and slow and patient and not too self-important to be gentle with their raw noses or read the same book three times or rock them to sleep, the older women who perhaps regret not being the mothers we are beginning to regret we are not ourselves, who see, not their superiority to the task, but their insufficiency to do it justice. That’s who we need, and who we find ourselves becoming. 

“It’s like your feelings don’t matter,” the same mother said. Yes, that’s what the feminist don’t understand. It is not liberating to be freed from our children. It is a denial of our emotions, which are perhaps the most beautiful part of ourselves, and most true to who we were meant to be. For, after all, we are women, and my plea is Let me be a woman…”

Let me be the shield and the shelter for these children. Let me be why they can’t seem to stop believing they are seen and known and treasured. Let me be why they are innocent of evil, alive to all kinds of good, wise to know the difference. Let me be why they look up to God in happiness and run to him in sorrow. Let me be why Helen is glad to be a woman, and Jacob is glad to be a man. Let me be why they trust and obey. 

Let me be a mother, and I will care less for other things. 


This morning I woke up at five o’clock to work on a project. The house was still and dark. When the morning light came in, I could see Helen’s work all over the place. Andrew was late getting home last night from the hospital, and so I let her go into each room and play with her things to stay awake, which means she takes everything out of the basket or cabinet and scatters it all around.

My mother-in-law loaned me a rainbow vacuum cleaner and yesterday I cleaned the floors in every room. But last night when I went to bed, there were toys and socks (she loves to throw socks) everywhere. I remembered all the dirt I emptied from the water tank of the vacuum, and reminded myself that it was in truth cleaner than it had been, despite how it looked.

Today is my thirtieth birthday. When I look back at the last couple of years, my spiritual progress looks as unproven as my housekeeping. My journal is sparser than ever, my reading is minimal, my thoughts are scattered and confused, my reflections are basic, my prayers are simple and brief. It is really hard to say if I’ve grown in the fruits of the Spirit or not. But I do know for certain that I have been on the receiving end of the Spirit. I have had so much love from Him these years, patience and faithfulness. I have had these things mostly in the love of my husband and our baby girl.

Something my husband says to me is “we’ll figure it out”. I guess this is a pretty common thing for a man to say, and perhaps in a critical sense, it could be arrogant self-reliance, but I think when a man says it to his worrying wife, it’s different. Maybe Andrew is just trying to tell me to be quiet and go to sleep, but what I hear from him is “there is time”.  I’m reminded of the promise he’s made to me. I’m reminded that God has mercifully given us time, and will give us more time. As long as we live, he’ll be giving us time. 

The preacher said last Sunday that grace was one-way love. I remembered that last night when Helen screamed from her room, just once. That’s not normal. We looked at the monitor and saw her laying still and it seemed like she was asleep. My heart was racing from waking up to her scream, but my body felt so heavy. Andrew had been working in the ER for 12 hours but he got up and in a minute I could see him on the monitor, leaning over her. Her eyes opened and closed again. She knew he was there. He smoothed her hair and felt all over her arms and legs to make sure she wasn’t hurt. He checked her crib for bugs (we have a lot of bugs). He rubbed her cheek with the back of his hand, and smoothed her hair again and again, until he was sure she was asleep.

That image rose with me this morning. Helen doesn’t give her Daddy much love these days. She often ignores his request for kisses and she loves to run away from him. What’s more, she makes big messes and blow wet raspberries and she makes the whole house stinky with her diapers. But if you spoke to him for two minutes he would tell you about her progress and all the things she is learning. He would tell you how pretty she is. 

It is wonderful to know that there are good fathers in the world, and good husbands. It is wonderful to wake up to a man like this. He has been the Father’s love begotten for me and our children. I know life is always uncertain and we are not promised a long marriage, but I know as long as I have time I’ll be giving it to him, and he’ll be giving his to me.

These are simple reflections, but as I said, that’s all I have these days. And yet it’s always good to remember that the best things in life are in our hands and before our faces.

Come Ye Sinners

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman,” sang Tammy Wynette, “giving all your love to just one man.”

I remember as a little girl thinking hard on that line and wondering if it was true, wondering if an overflow of passion really was a problem of womanhood and a threat to fidelity. You may think little girls don’t think things like that, but I have two nieces old enough now to ask questions, and they sure do. 

I’ll be thirty this month, so I guess I’ve been a woman long enough to know something about it and this problem of Tammy’s… well, it does not reflect the human condition. I’ve never yet met a woman too full of love, or a woman who could afford to be giving it out to two men, for heaven’s sake. Instead, we all of us feel a bit stretched, as Bilbo said, like butter scraped over too much bread. 

Maybe Tammy needed children, or friends or a dog. Maybe she needed a garden. 

I know I need more love. When someone needs me to stay up late and someone needs me at night and someone needs me in the early morning, I need more love and I need more strength. I think it’s true for most of us who are married, that you don’t need to “stand by your man”, as much as you need your man to stand by you. 

What is endlessly comforting to me as a Christian is that the first step in God’s provision is emptiness. What qualifies you for Christ? Need, lack, want. These are things I have, so this is good news. A lack of love and strength is exactly what I can bring to Christ. 

A few years ago I very much wanted to be married and I was part of a very small church.. Faith can be tricky, because although you know God can do anything he likes, drop a good man in your pew, for instance, sometimes it’s also faith to look around and say, “God show me what to do”.

What I had to do was be humble and honest and brave, which all too often meant just showing up with empty hands. I had to stop pretending I was content. I had to stop pretending I wasn’t sad. And the hardest thing, I had to go. I visited churches all over the area, sometimes crying in the car before I went in, looking a mess. I went, not so much to meet a husband, as to meet other Christians, because I knew I needed other Christians and I knew I needed help. I had just enough faith to believe the help I needed wasn’t in a singles Facebook group or Tinder, but in church, which let’s be real, is full of weird and awkward and old people, not to mention the sick and heartbroken. This was the place for me. I tried my best to be honest when I talked to friends and acquaintances, and ask them to pray for me. 

A funny verse that I often thought of during this time was Eugene Peterson’s translation of Psalm 53:2. It says God sticks his head out of heaven. He looks around. He’s looking for someone not stupid – one man, even, God-expectant, just one God-ready woman. Like God I was looking for a man, and God knows I was a man-ready woman. But was I God-ready? No, I wasn’t. But being so is not a permanent state in this life. It comes with perennial need, as we slowly learn that it is Jesus who is ready.

This isn’t a cause and effect story, because God didn’t actually use any of these churches or Christians to get me married, but I did get married not long after this, and I could feel the effects of this softening and tilling up of my heart, when he brought a good man from a world so different than my own. When I visited the seeker-friendly mega church with him and the catholic church with his family, they didn’t feel so strange. I was used to the uncomfortable feeling of being in a crowd of people worshiping God in the way they thought best, of being full of my own need and all too aware of myself to reach for Him in such a place. I knew by then that most people are too concerned with themselves to even notice you, which is a comfort, but the ones who do care, truly do, which is a comfort too. 

Sometimes I’ll say to my husband “I’ve been to that church” and “I visited there” as we drive through town, and we will laugh about our retirement plan to hit every church lunch and dinner in the area to save on groceries, but it’s a true and a serious thing that we may go to the church if we are hungry, and so can you.

This was a long and rambling story to say, if you are like me and looking at all the things you need to do this morning, and all the people who need your love— your man and all the rest of them— and feeling so tired and empty, you are not alone and this is a good place for us to be. As my old friend said, “Needs are my best riches, for I have these supplied in Christ.”

This Christ has a garden in your heart. When you come to him empty, he looks over you with love. He purposes a harvest. He is filled with satisfaction and He is filled with joy.