The Beloved Tamed

On the night of June 24th I laid in bed in a dark quiet house and cried. For the first time I was feeling the regular movements of my second child. For the first time I had the relief and comfort of knowing that this child, and all his or her unborn peers, have been finally seen as humans under the law of the land, humans endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. This is a good and beautiful thing, because it is true.

I know life is especially hard for some mothers, and if that is you, I want to encourage you: If there is one thing I’ve learned as a child of God, it is that He does not give us all the answers before He asks us to obey Him. This is the very point of faith. He provides as you go, as you trust Him, as you wrestle with His will and are willing to say not mine, but yours be done and as He welcomes you into His big heart, He gives you the grace to be an open and hospitable place too— for all humans, but especially those who are very young or old, needy, oppressed or troubled, all of which, along with everyone else, begin life in the same fragile place, the place of the incarnation, a place now made safer some places here in America because God hears the cries of the innocent, even from the ground, and I am so thankful.

The president, in his speech this week, said that women have the power to control their own destinies. I believe this to be baseless and untrue, but more than that, it’s led us into a sad sort of angry freedom. The truth is, we are all bound in many ways. For the most part we can’t prevent bad things or cause good things. We meet death and pain whether we stop for it or not. Mercy comes to us when we least expect it. We can no more control our destinies than we can control the beating of our hearts.

This tapestry above is one of my favorite pieces of art. I could look at it, into it, for hours. It’s called simply “the Unicorn Rests in a Garden” and it’s from the Unicorn tapestries from the late Middle Ages. I have taped it into many journals throughout the years, and underneath I have written the Beloved Tamed and the Shining Barrier. It was a beautiful and comforting image to me unmarried, but full of marriage and childbirth symbolism, it is an especially good piece of art for the contemplation of mothers.

The fence in the tapestry is too low, as any gardener could tell you. It’s love that holds her there.

I wanted to share this piece again. I wrote it several years back, but I stand by it, which isn’t true of everything I’ve ever said. My life has changed so much, but I’m still here telling stories, and Mrs. Eva is still among the best of the earth.


Make Welcome

February 26, 2019

     I spoke to a young woman in a parking lot one day last week. She was there to have an abortion. How old is your baby? I asked. Eight weeks, she said. 

    Can I ask you.. why

    I don’t want it. 

    But is it alright to kill a person we don’t want? 

    She cursed me, sufficiently and repeatedly with a four letter word I don’t even know the meaning of. 

  I was still there when she came out again. She had taken a pill in the office and it was already working on her womb, changing the atmosphere into a hostile place. The slip of paper in her hand told her what to expect after Pill Number Two, told her not to look in the toilet. If she did, I knew what she would see. 

   Oh, would she look? Would she see?

  She turned to me. Do you want my baby? she asked. I only nodded, because I did want her baby, but I sensed a lack of sincerity in her voice. Well, here you go, she said, and pulled down her pants to expose herself. She made the space between us inhospitable, because she didn’t want me either. 

  This parking lot belongs to a large brick building in a nice part of town, a prosperous old Southern town, home of one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world, and about thirty people, not guilty of any crime, are killed and put in a freezer here every day. I drive past it all the time, and did today, as I took an elderly friend to the doctor, where there was a new form for her to fill out, including the question, Have you been abused? I cringed at the sadness of the question, and wondered what she would say, how far back her mind might go. 

    Then she leaned in and whispered in that way old ladies have of informing half the room, “Why don’t they ask if I’ve been abusive? Nobody wants to ask that one.”

    Now, this woman has been hurt. Not a year out of eighty five has gone by without a personal injustice, and some held a good deal more than others. But somehow, at some point, she was given eyes to see the hurt she herself had done looking back at her. You are the man as Nathan said, and with those painful words the hard-hearted king became a shepherd boy again.

    I have never been a mother, not even for a moment. But I’m glad to be a woman. I’m glad to be that part of creation made for the sake of man, and able to bear mankind. I’ve always believed it the greatest honor. Every month my body prepares itself for company, then cleans house only to prepare itself again. We biologically make welcome, and if we can’t for some reason, it concerns us. Unless we in our autonomy do it to ourselves. We fight to keep it legal, but no amount of legislation under the sun could make it right.

    I was in a big house yesterday, all richly furnished and clean. I was keeping the people, an elderly couple and a baby. The old folks slept, laid flat back on recliners, snoring. I sat in a rocking chair with the little girl asleep in my arms. She had hold of my hair so I wouldn’t lay her down. The afternoon light was coming through the blinds all golden. It had been raining and was going to rain again, but now the sun had come to set fire to the little dust motes no one was there to watch but me. There is something here, I thought, no, something missing. Someone missing. It was the woman of the house. I was just the help, yet here I was in the magic hour, keeping peace, witnessing the stillness of the sun between rains shining on the dust motes. It wasn’t right that it should be me, but that’s okay, because they weren’t paying me enough. Nobody wants to keep house anymore. Nobody wants to rock the baby.

     On the main road near the abortion mill, a beautiful woman stands with a sign most Saturdays. Her name is Mrs. Eva, and sometimes I stand with her. She usually tells me to go away, for the cold wind whips like nowhere else in the world around that building. You are too skinny to be out here! she’ll say, as if she wasn’t eighty-two. In Mrs. Eva’s presence, I often feel like my niece Adah, who wants always to be held just at dinnertime when my hands are busiest. Hold you, she’ll say. After hearing no a few times, she just valiantly climbs up my legs, and lo and behold, we find I can put dinner on the table and hold her at once, just as she suspected. 

    Mrs. Eva stands for the unseen ones who enter the brick building and come out again in bags to be hauled away, sold for parts or burned, according to their usefulness. What happens here has all been made real to her. She sees them. I seldom have the eyes or strength to look, but I do see her

    Mrs. Eva is a holocaust survivor. She did survive, just barely. At the age of nine, she was ripped from her home, forced on a train and into an extermination camp in Yugoslavia, where she witnessed and suffered unspeakable things. These abusers didn’t want to actually put the knife to the unwanted throats. No, they would just remove all subsistence behind walls where no one could see for reasons that sounded excusable at the time. She says there comes a moment, in your helplessness, when you can no longer watch what is happening, when the anguish is so great it will drive you insane, and all you can do is cover your eyes and try to run or hide. But if you survive, you will grow up and in some ways, you will recover. You will put on strength, God helping you. And then… then what? Well, there are lots of options for victims available today with a whole menagerie of hashtags. Or you could be like Mrs. Eva, who moves her old feet to the cold floor of a Saturday morning only to stand on a busy road to be cursed and spit upon, who feels the bitter wind up her spine and tells me to go get warm, who would be first to say I’m sorry, please forgive me, and come on in, who has, with all her cares, held my hand in the winter rain and prayed for me.

     I’m not a political activist. I don’t keep up with all the latest. Big things can happen in this world and I won’t know about it until I read the newspaper while mulching the garden six months later. I spend my days with the dying generation who remember as in a dream a place where men looked out for women and women looked out for children and children looked out for the stray cat, and that all sounds pretty good to me, and a long time gone. I’m just an American girl, a product of public schools, Disney and on a good day, Hank the Cowdog. But I’m also a storyteller. If there’s a tidy moral to these narratives, it isn’t yet obvious to me. I’m just here to tell you what I’ve seen lately in the parking lot, the waiting room, the big house and on the roadside. 

    I’m just here to tell you a story, like Matthew when he said, Jesus called a little child to his side and set him on his feet in the middle of them all. “Believe me,” he said, “unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Anyone who welcomes one child like this for my sake is welcoming me.  (Matthew 18, JB Phillips)

       Maybe I do have something to say, a conclusion, however unoriginal: If you are a woman, be a woman. If you have a home, keep it. Don’t think you’re too important to witness the dust motes in the afternoon sun. If your mind is turned to the ways you have been hurt, consider longer the ways you have hurt others. And if you are a mother be a mother. Make welcome. 


   I confess I am afraid to deliver these words, for the internet is like an over-grazed pasture, and I’ve always been one to step in it.

A Bright and Shining Place

It is 6:15 and my husband just left for work. I love this time of day. Our house is at the edge of a thick forest, and through the windows of that side it still looks dark outside, but on the other side it’s as bright as day. 

I am laying in bed again and our daughter is nursing, having slept through the night. As we roll over and switch to the other side, I can see her smile in the morning light. 

Words come to my mind, words from worlds away now, so long has it been since I remembered them in this new life of mundane living—building a house, making a home, becoming a wife and mother so quickly…

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

You will sound so wise and well read if you keep this quote up your sleeve. Everyone will nod and look into the distance as if at a great vision, doubly impressed that you know how to pronounce his name (whether you really do or not). No one will admit how unhelpful it is to be handed a riddle as a definition, or that they have no earthly idea and just a sliver of a fool’s hope about their own journey toward this bright shining intersection: the well of God’s calling, bubbling forth some place they’ve never been, or perhaps in their own back yard. 

I remember thinking years ago, down the rabbit trail of what Mr. Buechner was on about, that perhaps it’s like falling in love. Perhaps you know when you know. Shazam. Just like in the movies. Suddenly your eyes are open and your life is never the same, and you know in the deepest part of you that, yes, this is the place, that lovely place, rumored but doubted, now suddenly solid ground beneath your feet.

Well, dear reader, it is like that. 

When I look down at my daughters smile, her silly morning satisfaction in being fed and having her desires met, my heart leaps up in limitless gladness. Maybe it’s not the world’s hunger, but in a way, it is. She is like us all, every human, just wanting to be taken seriously, slowed down for, given the chance to be small, waited on, not taken for granted, treasured just as much eleven months and two days into the relationship as she was on day one…

to be so very precious to someone who, feeding you, amazed, knows she will do nothing more important in her life than this, nothing more important in her day than this moment, and considering this, knows herself forever blessed. 



If this seems like an emotional tribute to a fleeting season, you are right. I am painfully mindful that once she is weaned I will never be able to comfort my baby as easily or quickly as I can today. She is in a way being weaned from me, and will reckon with this world more and more on her own, and my heart breaks with how quickly this time has come.

But not to leave us all wiping our noses with our nightgowns, here are a few happy things:

If you like this place, you will also like Still Traveling, and I thought this post was especially good: Go on, and be specific – tell us who we should marry. Maybe you’ve been married for fifty years or maybe you’re a fledgling; maybe you have a friend that you love like a sister or a brother. Whoever they are, I bet you know the secret to loving them. I bet, even, that if they have the audacity not to wake you each morning with a Michelin Star omelet, you’ll suffer to keep them around.

I would say, marry a man who could kiss you and your baby so many times in a row that you literally have to run away just to get anything accomplished that day. Marry a man who gets so caught up in planing a shelf to make it perfectly level that he forgets you are on the same planet as him. Marry a man who is as kind and respectful to the dumpy rambling stranger, as to the beautiful and powerful. Marry a man who will laugh with you when you both remember how you snapped at him in the middle of the night and said something shockingly selfish in your sleep, who will bring you a cup of coffee just the way you love it while he laughs at you for being such an obvious little sinner. Marry that man.

And then, a dear old friend is now sharing her poetry every Sunday and they are beautiful: https://towardslight.substack.com

And finally, I had something published at Fathom recently here.

And now that’s it! There isn’t any more! You must be on your way!

A Willing Tree

My husband is a woodworker who often finds himself working with boards that were trees grown wild for many years. As soon as they are laid on the sawmill, you can see how they have grown wrong. Still he will work over them and for them, turning their bent crooked bodies into something good.

I love trees. There are some I would strap myself to and die for, but I have also learned that they are a good gift for making useful, treasured things. I learned this as I watched my husband take little over-crowded cedars and turn them into a beautiful crib for our daughter. This is just the sort of thing Jesus would do. He used no screws or nails, but worked patiently with the stubborn curves and grains, bending them gently, changing them gracefully, making them work together, redeeming them. As he scraped away the rough exterior, the sweet smell of the heart of the wood filled the room, and still does.

I’ve spent much of my young life with different old people, as they end theirs. I’ve come to realize that there is a final shaping at the end of a life. Regardless of what they have been before, a wife and mother, perhaps, now they are something new: someone old. And whether that comes with loss of health or memory or mental capacity or familiar companions and surroundings, or all of these things, it is most assuredly a hard new work. It seems like I have seen it come so much harder for some than others, as if the way they have grown, like a stubborn tree, just won’t accept this new thing the carpenter is making in them. 

They may say things like I want to stay in my home forever, even if that means being alone and vulnerable, and perhaps unclean and uncared for. Although this is their right, I suppose, it is a sad choice, and perhaps a result of not realizing how often God used painful, unwanted circumstances for their good and that they have a duty as long as they breathe, not only to go on loving and being needed, but to go on being loved and cared for. For the one that fights willing dependence and necessary humility, I have come to see this as a life pattern, and although in one way this gives me hope, it also gives me pause. Everything I do now will make for the person I become, and that woman, that old woman, is mostly how I will be remembered.

Mama and Podo Helmer

When I got up at five o’clock this morning to put a hungry baby in bed with me her little feet were cold. She hates socks and kicks them off in the night. I wedged them between my warm thighs and remembered my mama doing this same thing for me.

Today is Mama’s birthday. She is one of my best and closest friends. I think you are lucky indeed if you can say that about your mother. Despite how much she is loved and preferred by our baby Helen, I know this has still been one of the hardest, saddest years of her life so far, and I don’t have much to give her today, but this piece below and a prayer that she will walk over her beloved bit of earth today and take a little joy.

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My mother is an avid gardener and when my sister and I were teenagers she started the Weed and Read Program, in which one of us would read to the other two while they weeded. We loved it so much that we would look for places to weed just to finish a chapter, and would carry it into other work, like folding laundry and shelling peas. We read so many books together this way, but among our favorites were David Copperfield and The Dean’s Watch, by Elizabeth Goudge.

But the first in the The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson was the beginning of these Weed and Read books, and as we waited eagerly for each new book to be written, my sister and I grew up alongside Andrew’s storytelling, as they became more deep and meaningful, coming to our hearts at the perfect most tender time for the telling.

In this series, there is a character named Podo Helmer, the lovable ex-pirate grandfather. In book two his grandchildren learn that when he was younger he murdered innocent lives for profit, something he had ashamedly kept secret from them. There is a hard consequence for Podo in the story, but then there is this simple, beautiful line

“He moved through the days in peace and wonder, for his whole story had been told for the first time, and he found that he was still loved. ”

It was around this time that my mama came to my sister and me while we were in the greenhouse one day. We sat down on the stone steps, and she told us something very wrong that she had done many years ago. We cried together. She was in pain remembering. It had been burdening her heart to tell us, not because she still carried the guilt, but because she wanted us to know her truly and to know what God had saved her from.

Have you ever considered how much easier it is to confess the ways we have been hurt and wronged by others, than it is to confess the ways we have hurt others and been wrong? But looking back now I can see that, as a mother, but really as any sort of friend, that last confession is the best. Grace is given to the humble, and like Podo, Mama moves through her days in peace and wonder, too.

Of course, this isn’t an unbroken state. Life is as hard as it gets right now. I remember that quote from The Horse and His Boy (a book she read to me as a child) about sometimes the reward of one good deed is to do another and harder and better one. And so I suppose perhaps this means sometimes our biggest giants are fought when we are old and tired and worn out.

But today, dear Mama, when you laugh at Helen’s raspberries or as you piece together the puzzle with your own mama, as you feed your chickens and sweep your floor, as the weight comes down and tightens on your chest and as you wrestle with Christ’s words about his yoke being easy and light, believing it to be true regardless of how you feel, know you are known and loved even by your friends on earth and “be at peace now and let the tide carry you into calm water. That is all you have to do for the moment. God bless you.” ― Elizabeth Goudge, The Dean’s Watch

A Journal Archive on Motherhood

My sister has four children, six and under. That’s a lot. but she looks at my little girl and laughs and says, Goodness, Sarie! You’ve got your hands full! And my mama says, I don’t feel sorry for you one bit! You were just that sort of kid yourself!

But mother, do pity me. Life has worn me down already, and after Helen is raised I will be the softest smoothest most worked of all the rocks in God’s big river. 


I was in a miserable mood. I always feel that way after comparing myself with another woman. This particular woman had an even tan and nice calves and a big paycheck. I could walk to Idaho and not have calves of significance. All I had on this woman was being more of a full-time mother, and so I started saying how hard this job can be, because if you can’t be better than someone, being a martyr is the next best thing.

We were planting in the garden, and Mama shouted to me over the kale and roses, “We all think we’re doing the right thing, and yet we all spend way too much time trying to justify ourselves. Why is that?” 

And although I did move several garden beds away from her, I know it is God’s mercy to give me a friend like this. There is no one better able, on God’s green earth, to shut me up. 


I got off facebook when my daughter was born because I was struck by the solemnity of my calling as her mother, and how my choices would affect her. I don’t want her to be on social media herself as a young adult, because I believe strongly in the damaging impact this has been shown, time and again, to have on the soul, the self-image and the capacity for contentment and joy.

I know life goes by fast, and so quickly she will be watching me scroll and copying me. So quickly she will understand how things work and how we get our joy of living. I don’t want to tell her to be different from me, a strength few children have. I want to walk this particular road ahead of her, see the pitfalls and put her down at a better place. I know she will see my sins as she walks with me, but I want those sins to be the old ones, the ones that Sarah and Rachel and Rebekah had—wrong, but familiar—we disrespect our husbands, we tell easy lies, we laugh at God, we regret it.

But the struggle of social media, from what I’ve seen and experienced, is something else, something new, something that shrinks the heart two sizes too small, like plants grown without soil, under artificial light. It is a life less than life.

Sometimes I wonder how writing is different, though. What is the praise of man? A snare and deception. (Words shared and valued.) But would we write unless we thought there was someone out there who would care to read and value our words? Probably not. We can’t speak into the void like God does, we never have and we never will— He didn’t make us capable of this, but I have come to believe with all my heart that neither did he make us fit for an instant visual audience, for likes and loves and notifications.

My daughter is growing up so quickly. Who loves her? A handful of people. Who keeps this child from eating rocks and bark and snails? Who gives her roses to pull apart and to smell? Who scrubs the avocado out of her neck? Who loves to take her picture and capture all the fleeting moments? Who prays wonderful things for her, and some days, just for her to survive? Who desperately wants her to be free from the self-ridden and confused spirit of her age? It’s me, her mother.

February Morning

There is a story I’ve often heard about our great aunt Ola Mae. One day my mother was sitting at the kitchen table with her, and Ola Mae had just finished mopping the floor, when Uncle Tom, her husband, came walking right through the house wearing his dirty boots, leaving a trail behind him. Mama waited for Ola Mae to say something, but she didn’t. 

Doesn’t that make you mad?” she finally asked and Ola Mae said:

Those same boots that bring the dirt in, they bring him in too.”

It is a special memory because we don’t exactly have a long line of sweet-tongued women in our family. I remember it this morning, as I look around my little house, at the many trails left behind. The baby is asleep on the couch, laying in the filtered sunlight coming through the window. She has been sick and I’m glad to see her sleeping so well, little arms raised over her head. The puppy is asleep in front of the fire, content, having finally chewed the laces off a boot he’s been after for some time. It was my idea to get the puppy. My husband could remind me of this everyday, but mercifully, he does not. He himself is full of wild ideas, and at the moment he is trapping beavers.

I had the ambition to write more, and to commit myself so that I’d have to do it, but the month has gone by, and more pressing work has come and found me every day. I thought of closing this part of my life entirely, but I imagine words and stories will come again to me, and it’s good to have some place to put them. 

I remember that last year, in the newborn days, I said to Mama, comforting myself, that motherhood would get easier in time. 

“No, it’ll get easier as you do it,” she said, “and sometimes, not even then.”

Mothering and writing are alike, I’ve found, and they are both like gardening… and gardening, well, it’s like all of life, isn’t it? With gardening, the essential thing is not so much to accumulate expertise, as to continue on in doing it. We do not become better and better gardeners. We are gardeners, and that is enough, for to keep the earth is to reckon every day with being yet so far away from heaven, and so the most important thing is to not lose heart. 

Evangeline

“I begin to think there are better things than being comfortable.” -George MacDonald (At the Back of the North Wind)

For months I’ve guarded her night’s sleep, careful in our little one room house not to disturb her, always thankful to lay down myself, but it wasn’t yet 3:00 AM as I stood over the bassinet by our bed and scooped her up. She stretched as I carried her out into the cold, across the walkway we share with the guest house and into the fire lit room where my sister lay on the bed with her own baby, just an hour old.

I’ve seen many babies come now, in all kinds of ways, but always they come indignant, and always from those gathered around come the same questions— we lose our heads a little— How could someone so little belong here with us? How could someone so big come out of a woman?  To the first we say she’ll grow so fast, and to the second, you’ll need to take it easy, knowing full well we haven’t answered a thing.

As I came and held my confused little bundle up to her cousin, everyone laughed because she smiled like it was Christmas morning, and it was, in a way– It was the morning of the advent of Evangeline, and what a very good bit of news she was, all red and hungry.

But it was an impulsive and nonsensical thing to do, for it took Helen awhile to get back to sleep. I did it because I’ve found that children, maybe especially little girls, love nothing more than to hear their birth stories…

“…and then you looked around, Sally, and tried to hold your head up from the start. You were a marvelous baby, that’s what everyone said.”  She knows this by heart and loves to retell it herself. 

“I wasn’t there yet,“  Adah will add. “I asked Mama where I was and she said I was in God’s plan.”  

I guess I woke Helen up that night so that she could be there in Eva’s story, an important character on the scene, as the first of the children to meet her and the one closest to her age, only just arrived three months before, a sort of John the Baptist preparing the way, reminding us all of the disruptive gospel of every human child, a very costly grace.   

But I also woke her up, in my sleep deprived foolishness, just because I wanted her to see what I was seeing and share my joy, and she did. She’ll remember it too, by the telling of the story, which is how we all remember the crucial things, now I come to think of it.

On the Look Out

One night in 1936, the Aurora Borealis was seen in Ridge Spring, South Carolina. My friend, Dr. Keith, told me this— he was there. He was one of the many children pulled out of bed and brought outside to see. It was beautiful, remarkable. Dr. Keith would grow up to accomplish many great things and travel the world, and yet among his favorite stories, the ones he especially wanted to share, there would be this one: what I saw in the sky

Dr. Keith was a reliable source, but still I researched this and found the Northern Lights have indeed been seen this far south before. There is a legend that warns not to whistle for the lights, or your breath will be caught up with them, and so they must be feminine in nature, for I’ve never yet met a woman who liked to be whistled for.

I like to imagine the adults that night in Ridge Spring. Maybe they were just finishing the chores or rocking on the porch in the cool of the evening . Dr. Keith’s father was the only doctor in the town and still traveled by horse and buggy. Maybe he was waiting up, expecting a call any moment. Perhaps on the outskirts of town, an old woman was slowly dying or a young woman was near to giving birth.

I know now firsthand the deep relief a parent feels when their child is asleep in their bed. It would take something big, something really special, to wake them up after the great work of putting them down. Perhaps some of them just couldn’t do it that night, not for anything. Perhaps they said to themselves, I’ll tell them about it in the morning, it’ll be just as good, knowing it was a lie. Perhaps some were frightened by the lights, and didn’t want to scare the children. But some of them looked up, amazed, and they recalled the wars, the diseases and the darkness of this old earth and how similar the days can be, and so they ran in and scooped up their babies and held them up before the waves of bright and colorful light— a gift to them forever, for remembering.

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Dear Reader, 

If you have found a way to introduce yourself to me personally, I’m so grateful, and I remember you. My life has changed. With marriage and a baby coming so close together, I find that my time is less my own than ever before. Our little girl loves very much to be held. I have learned to write with one hand slowly making its way across the keyboard. That backspace button is more painful than ever, yet still so unavoidable.  

I’m starting something new. In January (good Lord willing), I will begin sharing a monthly email-post, by subscription. For $1 a month, you will receive what I’m calling The Local. It will be a piece like what you’re used to reading from me, especially focused on the mundane, as well as a brief book recommendation and a gardening section (with seasonal tips if I have them or comforting stories of failure).

I plan to work the next couple months on collecting a little stash of writings so that I won’t disappoint, and also try to figure out the best program to use for this purpose, the one most suited to someone who has no wi-fi, no iCloud storage and no patience. 

Thank you for stopping by this slow place, where I sit on the back porch. laptop balanced precariously on my knees, distracted by the birds at the feeder, thankful for the rain still shining on the trees. 

A Birthday

Our baby came on a Sunday morning, came quickly. In the hardest moments I tried to slow down and imagine something easy— my husband skipping rocks in the back creek, but it was difficult to get past the image of being lifted up high on a mountain. This mountain was inside me too, bearing down hot, tearing me open. When they laid the little girl on me it was hard to believe it was her all along, dark and beautiful and quiet. A daughter. 

Most everyone thought she was a boy. We thought so too, and wanted a son. We live a good life for a boy and there’s plenty around here for a boy to do, but when we met her she was what we wanted. When we had to return her to the hospital, I told the Lord she was all I wanted.

Since then I’ve asked him for many other things. Where else would I go? My grandmother often said he took special care of babies and fools, but I didn’t know how necessarily they go together. I am simpler now, less ambitious, incapable. I wonder if she felt that way too, as she strapped us into that little Buick and played the Electric Slide tape for the hundredth time. But Nanny, soft and clean, smelling of bleach and bacon, with her voice like Edith Bunker’s and her endless supply of chicken nuggets and nursery rhymes, she was all we wanted. She never set out to become a mother, but I did, because of her. 

Our baby is four weeks old today, three weeks home. She has seen the cows with their new calves and the riotous, buggy garden, has felt hot horse breath and smelled ginger lilies and tasted my sweat in her milk and listened to the rain on the tin roof and the ee-o-lay of the thrush from the woods.

As for me, I haven’t done a thing but care for her. I feed her and change her and I try to remember to drink water, and the days go quickly by. There’s a lot I’m not doing. The grass is high and the okra is overgrown, and the chickens went a week without food, but in this, I am reminded that this is a good life for a girl, and there’s a gracious plenty around here for a girl to do.

I used to think motherhood was too much a focus in Christian circles, as if all women didn’t suffer from and struggle with the same things, but I realize now that no one receives encouragement who doesn’t need it, for a woman devoid of adequate sleep and nutrition will soon find herself devoid of love and patience, and considering the fragility of babies, we praise the tenderness of mothers, not because it is always true, but because it needs to be.

Her name means light. I’ve been asked if she was planned or a surprise, but she was neither. She was expected, in the same way you look for the stars. And so I see now that she was assumed, which is a dangerous thing, yet this is oddly less true now as she lays eight pounds solid on my chest. 

Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters, spoke of how necessary it is for the demons to keep our minds on the past or on the future, but not on the present, for the present is all lit up in eternal rays. 

The momentary present is where a beautiful soft-boned child is given to a distractible, bumbling woman, prone to tripping and cutting corners, and God saves them. The momentary present is where the same woman sits up at night to nurse again, weak and complaining, and wakes up five hours later to the sun and the wiggling happy grunts of her baby, because God gave them rest. 

The momentary present is where you grieve. It is where you wait for what you want, or used to want when you had hope. The momentary present is where old ones die, yes and are remembered, and new ones are born, not to fill their place, but to fulfill it, to go on with their story. The momentary present is where you must keep on in a long obedience. It is where you might be suddenly, surprisingly, remade. It is where mountains are born and where a man skips rocks across the fern-laced oak-mirrored waters of a quiet creek.

The momentary present is where our beautiful baby lives all the time. You might say she is fully invested. Helen is gospel light in a broken vessel, a conduit of grace, a receptacle of mercy, always in need of topping-off, as am I, her mother.

This photo was taken by my dear friend Ruth, and she shares some of her talents here:http://www.instagram.com/redearthdesignstudio

Due Date

I called my grandmother the other morning while cooking breakfast. I was making hashbrowns her way: Grating the potatoes and browning them on the stovetop. I made our little bantam eggs over-easy and sliced a tomato thick, just like she used to do. I made another cup of coffee, extra sweet this time. She remembered all these things when I told her about them, about how she used to bring me breakfast in her bed on a tray, with a bell to ring if I needed her, but I never did, because she and Pop were always right there. 

Today is our baby’s due date and I am feeling different today. I don’t expect to write again for awhile. We haven’t much longer to wait now, and even though I have been impatient at times, I know I would wait much longer if I needed to. 

We do not know if the baby is a son of Adam or daughter of Eve, but we do know that the baby is human and will be born in need of convincing. My calling will soon be, in all the little ways and with the rest of my days, to restore the trust and hope in that fallen heart, that he or she might truly believe that they are held and known and safe, that someone will come when they cry and be there when they are scared or confused or happy. I will be so far from God-like in my own sin, but I know, from all I’ve seen and heard, that I will deeply influence their thoughts about His own disposition toward them. Like my grandparents taught me, all unaware in their big love, I want this child to know that he or she has both a bell to call on Christ, and also no need to ring it, because he is already right there.

But dear reader, what I say and what I do can so often be like the Arbor Day seedlings, incorrectly labeled and not as grand as the vision, so please ring that bell on my behalf… and I will write again, Lord willing, on the other side.

So Jacob said… “let us arise and go…that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”