Napkins

My last pregnancy was really messy. I was pregnant, but I kept losing pregnancies so we had to watch the first weeks carefully. Then we found out the hormone levels were doubling and tripling what they would for a normal pregnancy… that seemed great, except I felt like I was swimming in a sea of off-balance, out-of-body nausea that wouldn’t quit and I didn’t want it to. Then there two babies to rejoice over and plan for and there’s our nearly 4 year old to take care of. Plans came to a halt because there was only one baby now, and deep, deep ugly mourning. And that one night when I rocked my babies, one alive and kicking and one dead. And God spoke clearly to me that my baby angel had done his purpose, had accompanied Joseph through those difficult first stages and was now living in Heaven… twins separated before birth. The prolapsed cervix that followed had me struggling to move. Afternoons of Angelina Ballerina on the sofa trying not to vomit, to mother my out of the womb child and my in the womb child simultaneously when all my energy seemed to be going to growing that baby and there wasn’t anything left over for me or her, my already been born baby. There are videos, songs, books, and smells that have such strong nausea associations with them that I can’t look, watch, read, or sniff without a physical and emotional reaction. There was bleeding and pre-labor and a shot to speed up the lung development and then swollen ankles and fingers and pain in every ligament as the stretching stretched me taut. It could have been a lot worse, but it certainly wasn’t a beautiful thing to watch… not in the way that some women carry babies like a fanny pack. Into that mess stepped a few women who agreed to bring meals to help us out. Women from church, who were living chaotic lives raising children of their own, swung by every other day with a meal, a moment of explanation of what needed to be done to finish it off, a smile and an encouraging word. Then they were out the door easy breezy and I felt like the Holy Spirit had just swept through. Because I was hungry for sisterhood, for someone to come alongside me and wrap her arms around me and tell me that this is what women do for their families. And it would be okay in the end. One poor woman arrived with a meal, harried, rushed, and I needed to talk about the news I had just received that my cervix was prolapsed and I would really need to be careful and I was kind of at the end of my wits. And she was too. I felt it in her presence and I saw it in her face as my need to gush overpowered her need to get out the door. Shock, unpreparedness, discomfort all played like banners across her face. She wanted to scream, “TMI!” And I wanted her, anyone, someone, to sit and listen and grab a Kleenex for me. I bring this up because something is trying to break through in my mind. Women’s Ministry has often been about cute little tea parties and happy little socials where women dress up, show off their new hat, gush a bit over each other, and then fold the napkin prim and proper and leave. That’s been my impression. But, I’m starting to see that the napkin isn’t to be folded. It’s to be used as a tourniquet to stem the bleeding, or as a handkerchief soggy and slimy, to wipe away the stains, to give the other a soft lovey, to sponge up the mess. Ministry of all kinds is more like walking into triage than through a flower garden. Because it’s messy out there. The word in Christian circles has been about glorifying God in the little things, in everything we do from changing the diapers, sweeping up Cheerios, carpooling, folding laundry, photocopying at work, grocery shopping. Ann Voskamp is writing about doing what He tells you to do, even if you’re limping along. Stephen Curtis Chapman is singing about it. So is Josh Wilson. And I try. I try to say as I’m folding Mt. Laundry that this has a very important role in my family life and I’m doing a great service of love for my family. I try to look at the grocery store and the playground and the baseball field as my mission field. And I see the women around me and I know they are coming from seminary and life-experience and while I can’t hold a candle to their Biblical knowledge I can see their scars and their wounds and their pain. Because it is my pain and my scars and my wounds. Sometimes we call it spiritual warfare, sometimes we call it out as Satan attacking, and sometimes we just need to go in a room and cry. Someone pass that napkin, we’ve got an ugly cry in room 3. Cancer strikes. Death leaves a void. People betray trust. Sanctity is destroyed. Families are tearing each other apart. It’s messy out there. I have times when I think, “My goodness, I should be traveling to Africa. I need to go and see for myself. I need to take a greater stand, do more, be more… for Africa.” Because I’m certain that God called me to be a part of Compassion Tea and CompassioNow. He gave me an interest in writing. He gave me modest talents in that vein. He gave me a heart that weeps and weeps and weeps for those less cared for. But the door to Africa is shut for now. Instead, He points me to a friend, a neighbor, a fellow mother and says, “Get busy.” The problem is that I’m feeling a lot like I did in those pregnancy days, a bit consumed with what is going on in my immediate vicinity. Whether it’s a secret room under the house still full of wet insulation or a daughter who’s trying out this new attitude and persona or a son who feels left behind because sister doesn’t have time for him anymore, it is consuming me and when another hurting being comes close I want to gush my woes more than listen to her. I mean, what would have happened if I had stopped my gush and asked my meal-bearer for her story. What kind of meeting would there have been? Or it is okay for a season to be the gusher? Can we even glorify God in the gushing? Can the exposure of our wounds to full view be a blessing to someone else? Put out the napkins. It’s messy out there.

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