Sometime after the call to prayer but before any hints of daybreak, I feel her hiccup for the first time. The sliver of moon still glows and so does the green neon sign from the bakery across the street. If the windows were open, the smell of fresh-baked Turkish bread would be floating through.
What a wild thing to feel life moving inside your body.
In the quiet darkness of the not-yet morning and in the warmth of my bed, I rest my hand on the roundness of my abdomen, feeling the pulsing thumps. I reach over to tap my husband awake but his deep, slow breaths remind me it’s scarcely 6:30am and I decide to wait.
He had spent all last evening with his head next to my stomach waiting to feel the baby move against his cheek as he murmured a poetic string of Farsi to her into my shirt. “Is it normal?” he looks up, concerned he hadn’t yet felt anything. “It’s because your voice is calming her to sleep,” I reassure him.
It is a certain type of joy to grow any kind of life. It’s like spotting a wildflower bursting through the cracks of dried up dirt along the road. When life finds a way to breakthrough, it’s a beacon of hope, beauty shimmering in the hard places.
There’s a saying from some of the experts in the writing world that says to “write from your scars, not your wounds.” The idea behind this being that there is an importance in giving distance to our emotions and experiences before we share. It is vital to respect the process we must go through before broadcasting it to a wider audience.
But what if we don’t have the privilege to write from our scars?
We are still very much in the hard stuff of life right now. It’s unclear when the new skin will start to form over the hurts and the healing will begin. But perhaps wounds and scarring and hurts and healing don’t need to occur independently from each other. Perhaps it is sacred and important when writing transpires from each place side-by-side. Maybe it is good to hold space for both.
This blog is a place where I write from my wounds, despite what the writing experts say. I do it because I don’t have the luxury to wait for a scab to grow. The things posted here are raw. It’s what we are feeling in real-time. But a tension that comes when drafting each essay is to over-spiritualize the wounds, to end each piece with: this was a hard thing but then we had faith and God changed it! Because God hasn’t changed it. Because I haven’t gotten the thing for which I have longed. Because there is no guarantee I will get the thing for which I have longed. But there is merit to sharing the waiting and the wrestling and the wounds, even while prayers go unanswered.
Paired with the tension of choosing what to share publically and what not to share, is the juggling of both the difficulties and the little joys in our life – that little flower growing against all odds amidst the dust and dirt.
It’s an inhale of devastating news where the course of our lives takes a neck-breaking turn. It’s an exhale of seeing two pink lines appear on a pregnancy test. It’s in this space where joy and sorrow share the same breath. It’s in buying little white onesies and putting together a crib coupled with long drives late at night with tears as our only prayer because the edges of our world are starting to unravel. The blooming of life and the burying of dreams dance together.
The world’s weariness is powerful. It takes strength to push against it and shoulder the door closed. But when it slinks through the bottom gap of the frame and unpacks its bags, hope sits expectantly in the shadows.
Part of what makes hope so elusive is that it must be fought for. It isn’t easy or natural to hold on to it in the midst of difficulties because it slips and slides out of our hands as darkness screams louder.
But with the tiny joy of life growing and forming, hope becomes a beacon pointing us ahead, a lighthouse guiding the way forward.
As my belly swells a little rounder with each passing week, and our dresser drawers fill with blankets and pacifiers and diapers, here is what hope is: it’s looking onward. It’s clinging to that rope — our one and only lifeline — when we can’t grip the edge of the cliff any longer. It’s resting in that tension and believing there are always miracles tucked away in the darkness.
At the beginning of January, there’s always an uptick in blog posts and photo captions about choosing a word for the new year. But how does one determine a word that encapsulates the spirit of the next 365 days? We don’t have the luxury to plan for the next rotation around the sun – or even the next month. We live in the midst of small seasons, standing at the threshold of the ever-changing day-to-day and are face-to-face with life’s chaos. It’s unclear what tomorrow will be or how things will end.
We wish we had been given a tidier story, one where joy and sorrow don’t hold hands, one where dreams always bloom and darkness stays away. I wish we could look down at the healed over scars and think of all the lessons and reflections and gems we gleaned. But this story is messy and we still only have wounds. Joy and sorrow move in tandem. We can’t keep the darkness from entering our lives, but we can hold fast to hope. We can search for joys glistening through the world’s weariness. And I’ll still share here, despite the lack of scars, because it’s important and beautiful and holy to testify of God’s goodness in the midst of waiting for the coming healing.
I didn’t choose a word for the new year because I have no idea what it has in store. But I do know it’s bringing hope. It’s ushering in joy. It’s bringing quiet miracles like the rhythmic hiccups in my stomach in the early hours of the morning.
A baby. A wildflower. Life. It is joy untarnished by the darkness. And, in this new year, may it all be extravagant.