I step out of the shower and wrap myself in a towel, hair dripping down my back. I look out the upstairs bathroom window and see in our backyard three girls in varying shades of purple and pink, hair glinting in late morning sun.
The girls turn and twist the ropes of their swings as tight as they can, faces stretched with anticipation. Then they let go, and their hair spins, limbs flung wide, mouths laughing long and free as the swing unwinds them and keeps unwinding them until they jerk to a stop.
Our massive horse chestnut tree branches are bare, and I see the outlines so clearly, framing and holding these daughters here in this place, this time.
And then in the next moment I worry about these living, breathing gifts under branches. That they will get caught up in those ropes, hurt their tender little necks.
I worry about all they’ll see and know. The world’s pain and wrong that hardens some hearts and breaks others wide open.
I worry about mothers who wake from fitful sleep to daytime nightmare lives that no longer hold their big, beautiful boys.
I worry about what year upon year of injustice and hatred do to people.
How can pain, hope, desolation and beauty share space under the same spring sky?
How can beds lay empty of children and swings creak vacant in wind, when in this backyard laughter fills empty space?
In comparison, the pain in my own body feels small.
And yet big as our own pain often does.
After my tumble down the stairs, I struggle to find my way in new limits. My left side tingles and falls weak, right side takes the weak one on its taut back and powers the heck through.
I am doing what I need to do to get better and take care of my family and tend to the needs, but the part I rail against most is the just being in it part. Where there is no plowing through to the other side, and I walk through the moments and live them as they come.
The place where life hurts.
I don’t know how long, and I want an answer, a solution. Yet through it, my tired body hears “Be still, and know that I am God.”
Sometimes I don’t listen well.
Part of me still lives like “Buck up, and know that I am God.” Or “Get over yourself already, and know that I am God.” Or “Worry a little bit more, and then let go and know that I am God.”
But the command to be still challenges me.
And once I’ve stopped, I can know in that moment the One who is unchanged by all my moving.
This afternoon Sici reads a book of quotes by Yogi Berra because she’s read every kid book in the house at least twice, and then she asks about the Leaning Tower of Pisa and why Cleopatra is called an empress and an enchantress. I do my best to answer.
J and Lala read books and play their music box, color coloring books and dance ponies through the blue and orange tent that we set up in the unplanned sunshine of our backyard.
I watch through the mesh in the tent’s wall and see their heads close together talking sing-song under the covering. And they do not know yet about the world’s evils and the monumental losses of individual mothers, individual sons.
But we are teaching them. Imperfectly and haltingly, we are teaching them.
To keep eyes open to wrongs so they can speak up for the forgotten, oppressed and cast aside. To walk in ways of justice and love.
And to receive with thanks the holy covering (the be still and know) that holds them and empowers them.
In this afternoon light, I am held in this time and space with them — body and mind just where they are.
Under this covering, under the broad-reaching branches that hold us like Everlasting Arms.
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This mother’s heart aches for the numbness and the pain in her dear girl’s body; aches too for the heart of hearts you were given before birth, the one that knows and feels the pain & sorrow of others, though your own spirit seems made of golden joy. (This was an incredible piece Ashley, though it feels strange to comment on the writing when your body is in such distress.) I love you Dearly! And I’m so sorry for your pain!
It’s hard, but so good to be reminded of my (our) need in all these ways. Thank you for your love. I love you!
Sorry for the uncertainty and pain in your body.
Sorry for the loss and pain you reference.
This is an apt tribute.
Thank you, dear friend.
I loved your blog entry today. Isn’t it amazing how our thoughts of overwhelming gratitude and blessing and love and our agony of potential and real loss and evil almost always coexist in our minds and hearts at the same time. It is a mothering thing I think, but it also is a coexistence that in many ways helps me best understand God’s heart for us, His precious, fallen Creation.
Thank you, Rebs. I am always surprised how closely those two realities live to one another. You are so right — the beauty and the pain such ever-present reminders of our human need and ultimate loving fulfillment.
Beautiful and may your pain soon fade away. Mom
I hope you are getting the right support for your pain? It seems health care is so inconsistent. My mom (we’re in Canada though) had to keep phoning and going in until they finally gave her the attention she needed. I think you are right to try to focus on the beautiful in the moment… sending you peace and a lessening of pain.. I’ll say a little prayer for you. xo Smidge
Your condition has not improved much and you are still in pain. I am sending you all my love and heartfelt best wishes for good days ahead. As you so vividly lay out for us, pain comes in many forms, physical,emotional,spiritual, mindless insensitivity among others Truly blessed are the ones who feel the warm embrace, know the love, hear the soothing words of encouragement, know that they are unique. There are no limits to their dreams, they experience unconditional acceptance. The blessed ones are content in the knowledge that they matter and have the strength of love and will to lift others.
You’re right, Papa! What great power love has to lift the recipient and those the recipient will then touch.