stay close to the stories

Another morning is blueing into being over the thin horizon behind the dark trees. It is icy cold, fresh frost ringing the windows and slow snowflakes drifting down behind the glass.

I am trying to convince myself to get out of bed.

Already the toddler is singing from his crib, and his brothers are gobbling eggs and pancakes downstairs. The clock tells me another school day is beginning, and there are the usual hundred things to do. All the regular reasons that pull me from warm sleep.

Today I am not sure it is worth it.

My head is still aching from yesterday, hours at the hospital and a dizzying blur of specialists with concerned faces and scary scenarios. Something seems to be wrong with the babies; no one seems to know exactly what; all the options they offer are alarming.

I cannot let myself enter into the sorrow and worry and grief behind every one of the questions whirling through my mind. I do not want any of this. 

I know I have to do the small things that must be done. Push back the covers and put my right foot on the floor first. A silly superstition when the day must be started right. Turn on the shower to hot. Light candles against the winter darkness while the water warms.

I step inside the steam. Try to remember myself as beloved by the One who knit me together in a mother’s womb, too.

And then I slam both angry fists against the wet tile wall because I am helpless and scared.

You cannot do this to us. You cannot have brought us this far for this. Not now. I went through all these months of sickness and throwing up and anxiety and worry, and you cannot take these babies from us now. You cannot do this. All I want is to go back to Before, when life was simpler and worries were smaller and I could just have one ordinary day. You cannot do this to us. Promise me this is going to be ok. Promise me. 

Which is exactly when the story comes back to me.

Grumbling and anger and bitter mumbling among the murmurs – all this way for this? To wander hungry and hopeless? To die in the wilderness? When at least we had bread and fleshpots back there in Egypt, back where we knew our suffering at least, where the familiar was all around us and not this awful unknown? Why did you do this to us now? To kill us and our children with thirst?

There it is: quiet and simple and true. The deepest memory, the of-course of the ancient story, the same anger and despair, the fearful frustration of the wild unknown. (And I cannot help but laugh to think my body’s current state could best be described as “flesh-pot.”)

I stay under the water’s steady stream, and the quiet of-course keeps prodding me to remember, to listen, to live into what I know to be true.

Because how does that well-worn story end? God tells terrified Moses to take his trembling staff and slam it hard against the rock – the huge, heavy, daunting boulder in front of him and all those angry Israelites. And when he strikes the stone, water gushes forth. Fresh hope, new life, clear truth.

The shock of exactly what they needed.

This is always the way the story ends. We wander and forget and despair, and then God says, see? I make all things new. I bring forth life and love and hope where there seems to be none.

Stay close to the stories. I have been hearing these words in my head for weeks, scribbled them down on a note next to my latest project because I thought it was a reminder about the work.

No, I realize then. It was the reminder about everything.

Because if I am going to claim this Christian way as mine, if I am going to dare to live into what this life and love and identity mean, if I am going to survive in this dark and daunting world, then I have to stay as close as I can to the stories. The stories are what make hope.

Anthropologists and sociologists and writers and preachers – they will all tell you how much stories matter. How they make us and break us; how we know each other and ourselves within them; how they hold the only power for transformation.

And I know this, I believe it on my best days, but in the doubting moments, the fists slammed on the wall moments, the threats to life itself moments, it is so tempting to feel alone. To despair at the present troubles. To wander far from the stories.

To stare at the looming rock and forget that water can spring forth from its cold crags.

I stay in the shower for a few more moments, standing under the rushing flow and staring out the foggy glass door, that frigid winter morning still dark behind the steamy bathroom windows. Without thinking I trace my finger through the water drops clinging to the glass. One large heart. Two small hearts inside. What seems hard is softened with hope.

The question is always the same: Is God here or not?

The stories give me answers when I have none.

Stay close to the stories.

41 thoughts on “stay close to the stories

  1. I wish only to offer echoes of what had been offered already: Silent prayers from well meaning strangers. My heart aches for whatever you are going through, being a fellow Minnesotan and twin mom, I feel connected to you and your story. Though this may not be the time, your writing is profoundly beautiful, everything I wish mine was, it tells stories that touch people. Stay close to them, indeed.

  2. Praying for you and your family. Also a Minnesotan and the mother of twins who are now 45 years old. All I can offer is prayer. Feeling your discomfort. Peace, dear one.

  3. It’s always in the moments of “please God don’t ask this of me” that He shows up. Rather, we fully show up with Him. With great suffering comes great grace. But the grace always outweighs it. I promise.

  4. Prayers for you, friend, as you navigate this desert. Praying for your Moses, whomever that may be, that they may shed light and love on your situation, and help you find the answers you seek. Praying that torrents of grace wash over you as you sojourn. Holding you in my heart.

  5. Praying for you and your girls. Oh Our Lady, hear us. Come Holy Spirit.

    Thank your for your beautiful words through it all.

  6. This is the best illustration of “a Catholic imagination” that I’ve ever read. Not that we’re imagining things–but that the stories we know give us an interpretive lens through which to see the whole world.

    Prayers are going up for all of you.

  7. You are in my prayers. Thank you for your post. It was a much needed reminder for me. Just before advent my husband was killed suddenly in an accident leaving behind myself and our five children. It has been difficult to move forward. I have echoed the sentiments “I do not want any of this” and I too want to go back to when life was easier and decisions simpler and made together as a team. I have felt alone and my heart breaks at facing each day without my husband. It is Gods strength that carries me through but still faith gives way to fear at times…fear of the future, fear about how I will provide, protect and raise our children alone, fear that something will happen to me and leave my children orphans… Now, when fear tries to take hold I will be sure to stay close to the stories.

  8. what beautiful vulnerability. so brave, so generous. that you would share this with all of us is a gift. clinging to the stories and the great storyteller on your behalf. believing the truth of his goodness even when the moment in the story points to anything but. standing and trusting with you, beside you, behind you, before you.

  9. My first time here, being directed from another blog. I am a mother who is all too familiar with specialists and hospitals and diagnoses. I know you are scared. And that’s ok. God is still with you; lean on Him and His strength, perhaps like you never have had to do before in your lifetime.

  10. Praying without ceasing for you, Franco, your babies (and boys), and your medical team. Take care of you, too! Thank you for sharing your story with all of us – it looks as though many are storming heaven with prayer and positivity.

  11. Prayers for the uncertainty. I went back and read a few more posts. Be sure you are taking care of your own heart mama. The anxiety–so understandable–leapt off the page at me. I am wishing you sister friends who will swoop in and carry some of your burden. I am wishing you health and peace. I am asking God to hold you in His hand, and Mother Mary to remind Him to do it.

  12. Laura, I pray for your family through this time of uncertainty. One thing Agnes taught me during her short life was that even though things aren’t going the way I want, even though it feels like I cannot possibly bear another moment another piece of bad news another setback, God has a plan for our babies. We may not like the plan, we may not want to participate in the plan, but at the end of the day we have to live the life God is giving us. I pray that your babies are able to carry in the womb long enough, I pray that you and your husband have wisdom in the moment to decide when the doctors are asking you decide, I pray that whatever was discovered to be amiss ends up resolving. There is always time for a miracle. St. Baby Agnes, pray for Laura’s babies.

  13. You are a beautiful writer with a message for us all. Your story and the reminder of THE story is touching. Thank you for making a difference.

  14. Nobody asks for the valleys, but what a powerful witness it is when we turn to God in them when they come. Holding you all in my prayers tonight. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Dearest Laura, Franco, your boys and your babies…I am praying for you all from Down Under…May God hold you in the palm of his hand, may you be at peace, and may the grace of God provide you with all that you need. Much love xxxx

  16. What a gift the unchanging nature of God is.

    Your post remind me of yesterday’s psalm, Psalm 44, highlighting the feeling that God does not see you. It seems in every season God reminds me that I have to SHOUT the truth in the face of lies. That is exactly what these stories do.

    Prayers for you and your sweet family. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Oh, Laura. I am praying for you and your sweet babies. Come, Lord Jesus. And thank you for this beautiful, beautiful post. Your writing is such a gift and I have learned so much from it. May God bless you abundantly.

  18. I don’t know everything about your situation, and I realise it could be very different from my life, but your blog post reminded me of my own experiences with my son’s disability… because initially, it was a very hard time in my life…

    I had a very scary pregnancy 16 years ago…my expected child was going to be disabled… I was pressured to have an abortion but refused …. it was so hard to carry on I would cry myself to sleep… when he was born he didn’t have as many problems as they predicted but still had a lot to deal with. I found the hospital staff were mostly wonderful, and especially helpful with my other child, letting her play with toys when my son had his operations… over the years we have had appointments and treatments and surgery… and some really scary times too… I have found that it’s all gradually drawn me closer to God over the years…

    I’ve been to see the kids at the special school as they perform their’ Christmas plays and how they smile even though they have so much to deal with.. they are amazing people.

    … I have found I developed practical ways to deal with hospital days… the books I take with me to read for the waiting between the doctor visits, the unexpected friends I’ve made with other parents in similar positions …

    I think the greatest comfort these days is reflecting on the benefit hard times have for the soul, I like to think about this a lot… I think I was born with a lot to learn and all this has been teaching me…. It’s not been easy… my plan for my life was so different, but when I think back to what I wanted I realize that it would have taught me so very little. I think sometimes the worst thing is to have an easy life because we would never learn anything … I guess that sounds crazy…

    …. Our son is a lovely lad. The doctors never tell you that even the most difficult disabilities fall into a routine and you will laugh again…. I didn’t expect him to still be here now, all these years later, but he is.

    Sending hugs.

    I hope things work out for you and yours xxx

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