I want to tell you a story, but I don’t know quite how to start.
Do I start by saying that I need to get real and tell you the truth? No. That doesn’t feel right because it has all been real and I have always tried to share the truth – about me and my situation, and about the One who is Truth.
Do I start by saying today you are more likely to cry than to laugh? No. That doesn’t feel right either, because I don’t write to ‘make’ you feel anything in particular. We are human beings created with emotions and feelings and they just kind of ooze and seep. Sometimes we are laughing when others are crying and it can feel like that’s not right. Sometimes we are crying when others are laughing and it definitely doesn’t feel right. It is the human condition.
This is a story tied up with kittens.
I have watched them grow. The older they get the harder they are to contain and suddenly they are climbing into everything, onto everything, and they are everywhere.
Perhaps that is the way with this story. At first it was small and fit easily into a box. I padded it with soft things and closed the door on it at the end of the day. But it grew and kept wanting to climb out of the box and sneak out the door. Even when I want to keep it locked up, it leaks out. I would rather laugh than cry – it feels better. Most of the time. Oddly enough, not always. If you are sharing your time with me, I would rather see you laugh than cry. Except if you can’t.
The story I’m trying to tell you, is that this past year has been a dance. It has been a dance that has sometimes made it hard to breathe.
Early in spring, Momma Cat gave birth to a litter of kittens. They were born in the wee hours of the morning, as our day was beginning. By the time the fullness of the day was upon us they had all slipped from life into death. My children had dreamed of each having their own little kitten to love and care for and play with, and instead they laid four little kittens gently in the earth and watered them with tears. That morning my husband stayed with my children to dig a grave and bury dreams. That morning I stepped out tentatively to serve in a way that had been my dream.
Birth danced on the edge of a grave.
The first weekend in summer, as day turned to night, Momma Cat gave birth to another litter of kittens. As the sun slipped away to mark the end of a day, four more kittens were born. It was the day we stood on the edge of another grave. The day dear family lowered beauty into the coolness of earth, wet with tears.
Every day one of these little kittens tumbles across my path, I am reminded of how life and death have danced.
This year took my breath away.
I have seen more beauty and experienced greater joy than any one person can contain. I have worked with women for whom words are not adequate so I relegate them to the realm of music. Their kind of beauty is best felt. Experienced. I have come to know many women from many places and situations and I am at a loss to describe how amazing it is to be part of a group of women such as these. In the safety of their support I have stepped out to serve in ways I hadn’t dreamed I could before.
This year has made it hard to breathe.
Beauty has shared a seat with that which is decidedly not.
I have watched my husband fight. I see him fall and get kicked while he’s down, and I know sometimes, he wants to stay down. But I have seen him glance at me and the kids and get up to fight again. Every. Single. Time. Because he’s fighting for us. And I want to show him how much I love him by fighting in his place. But I can’t. Because I’m not strong enough. And I don’t know how.
I am watching my kids adjust to a new school. And they are being brave. And they are strong. But I know it’s hard and that sometimes even when they are not alone, they are lonely. And I want to wrap my Mommy arms around them and tell them it’s all going to be okay. I won’t let anything or anyone hurt them. But I can’t promise them that because it’s not true. And just like they had to learn to crawl and then to walk, they will have to learn to dance.
I’ve had doctors appointments where they tell me there is something growing where it shouldn’t. I have waited with the unknown, battling fear. I have felt the relief of hearing it’s not the big one. But they still have to cut it out. And I am scared. I don’t want any more cutting away. It hurts.
This year laughter and tears have walked side by side. Joy and pain have danced as awkward partners. One does not make the other less real. Maybe, they each make the other more real.
Our last weekend of summer holidays my family sat on a hill by a lake. We waited for fireworks and music. As the sun slipped away, having done its work of warming the day, the clouds crept in with the darkness. They could not contain their fullness and opened over us.
Cold and wet we sat in the dark watching for bursts of light. Raindrops chased the tears down my cheeks as I watched my brave, strong family huddle together under sleeping bags, determined to see the light in the night.
I cried for the dance. Because sometimes it is so beautiful it takes your breath away. Sometimes it hurts so bad it takes your breath away.
I think of how humanity was just dust until God breathed His breath into us.
And I choose to breathe again, even when it hurts. Maybe because it hurts. Maybe because in the pain of each intake of breath I feel the whisper of the Almighty.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.