I toast a sourdough muffin golden, two halves, and slather them with butter and mounds of strawberry freezer jam.
I love the color of strawberries mashed in the making.
And red, to me, is the color of hope.
I steep a cup of Earl Grey Green, inhale the fragrance of bergamot, and settle at the table.
The hummingbirds have gone, I think. And I’ve seen geese fly in V’s. The ashen sky hangs heavy while soybeans brown and leaves fall to lie all wet and matted on the gravel.
Life is sacrificing, seeding itself.
Yet there’s color in the changing, in the dying.
The earth’s getting ready to pull up its blanket.
To rest and gather strength.
For the first time, I’m looking forward to winter.
I crunch and sip, and I remember ashen days.
When after months of tests and corrective surgeries, life finally seeded and grew.
When I stood in front of the mirror and imagined my body changing, taking on a new shape.
When I hummed and patted my tummy.
When I smiled as I caressed soft blues and pinks and bought a new flowing top.
When my heart danced with every hint of nausea.
When I ignored—denied–my doctor’s concerns.
And when I almost died as red slowly seeped into my belly.
Until one morning I was so tired.
So. Very. Tired.
Worried faces hover around my bed.
Someone removes the color from my toenails.
Someone else tries several times to start fluids in my arm.
My husband strokes my forehead.
And my pastor comes to pray.
I wake up to be told that I’m forever changed.
But that my body itself will never change to see life grow or feel it move.
Why God? Why place this desire in our hearts and let us walk through all the doors that led us here?
And part of me dies.
But there’s color in the changing, in the dying.
I pull up the hospital blanket.
And two days later, I curl up in the green chair with the Word.
To rest and gather strength.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles . . .~2 Corinthians 1:3-4a (NIV)
There’s a commotion in the hall.
A gurney rattles through the door accompanied by two nurses.
They help the ashen-faced teenager into the other bed. Then they leave, and she cries softly.
I go to her, and she sobs. Her baby grew in her tube, too, and her parents don’t know she’s pregnant. Was pregnant. But they’ve been called. Her boyfriend’s on his way.
Red spills into her belly.
I hold her hand and stroke her forehead as they come to strip her color and start her fluids.
. . . so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ~2 Corinthians 1:4b (NIV)
Months later a miracle seeds and grows in another’s womb and brings life to me.
And something dies within her.
Lives forever changed.
I nibble a strawberry-topped muffin and sip my tea and ponder this.
Because this gift took us places we’d never dreamed we’d go, to see things we never wanted to see.
And the pain was almost too great to bear. Why God?
But sometimes we’re mashed in the making.
And there’s color in the changing, in the dying, in the growing.
There’s seeding in the sacrifice.
And wherever He leads, there’s hope.
This was a guest post last year for Emily at imperfect prose. I’ve dusted it off a bit to link with Ed Cyzewski’s synchroblog connected with the release of his and Derek Cooper’s new book, Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus in both paperback and Kindle editions.
Do you have your own Hazardous Faith Story? You can share it here: My Hazardous Faith Story.
Janet Macy says
Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.
Just what I needed as I go through my struggles of late. So glad you dusted this off.
As a RN I love that you could comfort immediately. When I had my 2nd child, I too had a teenager put in my room. At the time I thought ‘good grief. Couldn’t I have someone who I could talk to?’ But then I saw the nurses were rather cruel to her. You know in 1974,it definitely wasn’t cool to be unwed and pregnant. She also cried and I also comforted.
One nurse decided the father couldn’t hold the baby because, after all they were not married. I sat up in my bed and loudly said “He IS the father of the baby. Judy, YOUR head nurse told them this morning that he could come this evening and hold his baby!! So get their baby” It also helped that my last name was Macy and two of the doctors on staff there were my brother-in-laws. Hehe. I thought maybe it was my time as in Esther. That child was put in my room for a purpose. For my purpose to defend and fight for her. She was so grateful. We laughed, talked, shared. Such a neat girl. God knew what he was doing.
Little did I know that 11 years later my 16 y/o son would die in a farm accident, where I was present. Horrifying. I later adopted 11 Cor 1:4 as my motto.
My husband and I now help parents who have lost their children. “For such a time as this”
Oh, Janet. That’s an amazing story. For such a time as this is right. What a blessing that child was placed with you and that you could–and did-intercede for her. And firmly. I wonder what seeds that planted.
My story happened in Florida. At least a year after this incident, after we had moved out of state and back to Georgia, we met with old friends who had used to be in our small group. They had moved to Florida before we did, but we had never connected. They’d come back for a visit, and I don’t remember how it all came about, but turns out they actually belonged to the same church as this little gal and shared that my being there had been a gift for her and her family. How often do we ever hear that?
I can’t imagine the horror of your son’s death. I’ve been praying for you as you continue to struggle. Have you read Ann Voskamp’s book?
Janet Macy says
Yes – I have read Ann’s book. She (like you) has a way with words. Love it.
I have often thought of that teenager in my room who was such a joy and sent up a prayer. As a nurse I was ashamed that nurses would be that obvious in their disapproval.
Of late I have not felt well, lots of migraines and dizziness. Rather unsettling. I’m to the point where maybe I need to cut back some at work. Hard decisions. Saw a neurologist yesterday. We’ll see.
Keep writing. I love your words
Megan Willome says
Sandy, I had an ectopic, too.
Your red jam photos, they’re jarring. Scary. But I like what you’re doing, especially when paired with your previous post on the red cord of hope. This post challenges me. The verses still grate, all these years later.
Seems like you told me you had an ectopic, too, Megan. 🙁
Prior to that, I’d had an ovarian cyst that required removal of the whole ovary. They couldn’t save this one either.
I never thought about the jam being jarring. I can see that now, though. The thoughts first came to me as I mashed those berries and processed them for later eating and giving–much as we process our pain after we’re “mashed” I suppose.
You’ve given me much comfort, friend, and I know that ability comes from being able to understand, having been there and done that. I cling to those verses, but still the ache remains.
I remember when a recently married college friend went through this. How I warred in prayer for her, how distraught I was at the news. And how God gave her a beautiful son not long after, the first of many. Powerful story here that resonates God’s beauty from ashes. And builds faith and hope. Thanks for sharing.
God’s good like that. 🙂
But sometimes, He doesn’t “come through.” Can we still hazard to lean into Him and trust He’s got a greater or different purpose in mind in spite of the pain? Do we still believe He’s good?
Somehow I missed this one Sandy. I’m so glad you re-posted. It is so moving. It is so difficult to belief good can come form our deepest sorrows and hurts – but miraculously it does. It comes from a loving Father to a willing heart. You bless me sweet friend.
You bless me, too, Linda. Sometimes it takes a long time for the broken or misplaced pieces to come together, it seems. And it may not even happen in our lifetime. That’s a hard thing to lean into sometimes, right?
Diana Trautwein says
Oh, Sandy. Even the second (or third or fourth) time through this, I am caught by every word. So much pain. And the loving grace that flowed through the wounds. Thank you for re-posting this. And thanks to Laura Boggess and to Ed – Ed for his invitation to think about the hazards and Laura for being the first one to think of dusting off an older post. When you’re not in a season of hazard, sometimes it’s tough to remember it. So glad we now have these memories written somewhere – and that somehow, they bless others, too. You surely bless me with yours, friend.
I know. I struggled a little to think of a story–at least one that could be told now. 🙂
Did you see the post the other day on THC where the question was raised whether or not Christians seemed to suffer more than most? I guess He’s going to refine us, we better expect some fire.
Monica Sharman says
Dear Sandy. How very powerful this is. May God keep using us in these ways, and may I be surrendered enough to see the opportunities in the pain.
Amen, Monica. Daily surrendered.
Lynn Mosher says
Oh…my…gosh! What words, what words can I express. I guess I missed this the first time. I think this is one of the best, if not THE best, you have ever written. So heart-tugging. Sandra…too precious! Bless you!
Love you, friend.
ed cyzewski says
I have nothing to add, only that after reading this story, I have a new found appreciation for the word “hope.”
On another note, that jam looks amazing. I need to run to the store to buy some muffins!
I’ve got the jam. Meet you halfway.
I remember reading this at Emily’s and feel blessed by reading it again. Such a beautiful story, even in the pain. I am in love with your writing and the Truth it expresses.
Thanks so much, Sadee. You bless me big.
Amy @ themessymiddle says
Sandy, “mashed in the making” is going to be added to my vocabulary and story telling — and I’ll share where I heard it. From you, from you.
From God, from God.