07 August 2010

my mount moriah

It's been awhile, my friends. We each traverse such divergent paths now. Since the last post, so much has happened in each of our lives, and so much more is happening. I send this out to you with tremendous humility, knowing that each of you carries her own burdens, is the thick of her own trials, and in each a different way, is walking through her own dark night.

This is mine. I'm not going to go back and edit, because I really don't care right now how this sounds as a piece of writing. I just need to spill and be raw with you.

bathed in love & light // selfportrait by kirsten michelle (2010)

The closer we get to Ewan's birth (in less than 60 days, I'll be 40 weeks pregnant), the more nervous I am becoming. I am waiting for God's provision, and wondering just how down-the-wire it will get before He unleashes His provision. I am ready and waiting.

I feel this morning like a truck has run me over. Last night in bed, my thoughts turned to that not-so-distant point in time, in a future so near it's impossible not to think about -- Ewan's birth and the seeming madness that will follow. I cried and I wept in a soul-deep way and my face shows it this morning. I feel hung over from it. I feel as though I cannot shake this cloak of dread, no matter how lightly it touches my skin.

I mentioned it very briefly in my most recent post here, but the reality is this: if we do not have another source of income by the time Ewan arrives, I will need to return to work much sooner than taking full advantage of my leave would allow. I'm not talking about returning at eight weeks after his birth, or even six -- but two or three at the most. There is no financial way possible for us to keep our apartment, maintain our current financial obligations, and eat without both streams of income. Assuming Ewan arrives around his due date, I will have about two weeks of personal time that I can apply toward my leave, allowing me to have another full paycheck. After that point, I am eligible to apply for six weeks of disability pay at 60% of my current pay. After that, we are on our own. With bills still to pay, with a child recovering from major surgery (and all the medical bills that go with it), we still have to pay my part of our health insurance premiums ... and the list goes on. That 60% is all well and good and in different circumstances, I'm sure that would feel like a godsend. But it's not enough. It's just not enough.

The job market is dismal. James has networked in a variety of circles, he's talked to recruiters, he's had his resume revamped, he's put himself out there on job search sites. The lack of work is not for lack of trying, nor for that matter, for lack of considering options that we hadn't previously considered (everything from fishing to nursing).

Before we became pregnant, it was always our plan (and our hope, our expectation) that James would have work by the time the little bean arrived on the scene, allowing me to stay home. This was the desire of both our hearts, believing it to be God's ideal for the family and as such, our faith that God would make that possible. In the past several months, it became apparent that I'd need to return to work at least briefly to allow maintenance of our benefits. The cost of Ewan's care is likely to reach into the millions, and now is not the time to lose our benefits.

And now it's becoming apparent as we get closer and closer with still no prospects for James's employment that unless something miraculous happens between now and Ewan's birth, I will need to return before my body has had a chance to settle, while (in all likelihood) he's still in the hospital. Said simply, my heart cannot handle this. My heart absolutely CANNOT handle this. It was with enough grief that we realized me returning to work at all seemed inevitable. And now, this. This ugly reality, this double-knife to my heart.

I wonder just how much God expects me to give up, anyway? How much will he demand of my mother's heart while my firstborn lies in the NICU for weeks on end recovering from heart surgery (HEART SURGERY!!) -- am I really supposed to return to work in the thick of that? No time at home at all with my son?!!? I can never get that time back. Is that really what He wants for our family? The thought that God might be asking this of us puts me so far beyond angry and resentful. I am positively furious, in fact, if this is what God is asking us to do.

It made me think of Abraham and Isaac, God asking him to sacrifice his own son, the evidence of the fulfillment of God's promise to an aged man and his wife. Isaac was a miracle, and more than that, he was a promise: many descendants will come from this son. But descendants don't come from a corpse.

I wonder what Abraham went through emotionally when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac -- to take him up Mt Moriah and hold the knife over him. I can imagine a litany of objections rising in his mind instantly, a host of questions. We're told that he reasoned God was able to raise the dead, and so he obeyed.

I wish it was as simple as all that for me. I wish I could reason that way. I want to have the faith, to trust that our needs will be provided for -- but I also am aware of the reality that some kind of plan needs to be in place before this birth happens -- something needs to be in place so we don't get swept up and lost in the chaos of it, so we don't find ourselves facing mounting expenses with no idea as to how to pay them.

I wonder how long I'll have to hold that knife, how close it will have to get to piercing the skin of those I love most in this world before God will stay my hand.

Or will He? Will He stay my hand? I guess that is the real question I have, the real bone I have to pick.

So many other family things are going on the midst of this, too -- Peder and Annie moving away just in time to miss the birth of this child (I know this is not meant to be intentionally hurtful and I know it has nothing to do with us specifically, but I don't mind telling you since I've already told them: the timing totally, completely, and in all respects stinks), and others in my immediate family are each in their own dire places. It's too much. I find myself falling apart already, and really ... we haven't even gotten to the hard part yet.

And so I put this out here in our collective space -- it has acquired some dust I see, but I know you are still here. I appreciate you reading this when I know each of you is in the thick of her own pain, climbing your own mountains and I'm sure, holding knives of your own. We've found encouragement and strength in the collective before -- just like the three who faced Nebuchadnezzer's flames did. I'm hoping maybe we can find that again.


Sarah said...

Wow, Kirsten. I've been staring at this post off and on for hours now and can't come up with words that say enough. Maybe they don't exist. Anyway, know that there's more here than I can say.

First, I owe you an apology. I've wanted to email you for weeks now, not to say anything particular but just to let you know that, though I'll never know what you're walking through, I will be with you as much as I can be, praying and feeling and interceding, and that if you want to try to share about where you're at, I'll listen. I'm sorry I didn't send that email - I'm afraid, I think, that hearing from me will somehow make where you are harder, knowing that I have a baby who didn't have to face the things Ewan will face, and that I didn't face those things as a mama. Valid as that may be, I don't really think that not talking about it makes anything better, and so I'm sorry I've been so silent.

After that, well, most of what came to mind when I read your post was swearing . . . at God, at stupid American governmental bureaucrats who don't value maternity leave because it's inconvenient, at people who aren't smart enough to realize they should hire your brilliant husband. I'll spare you that, as I'm sure you have more than enough to go around.

When you'd posted about the job situation before, I had a fleeting thought wondering how bad things really were. And now I know . . . bad. Terrible. The Worst. And yet . . . and yet. Yet we have a God who is worthy of our following even when we're in The Worst, even when it's more "Valley of the Shadow of Death" than quiet pastures and still waters, when we stand in flames and it's getting darn hot. We follow the one who is worthy of following even if he does not spare us what we hope he'll spare us.

Sparse comfort, that. Words, just words, words that don't mean anything to the heart of a Mama-bear swollen with tears. But true words, nonetheless.

And I think about how he carried you through before, how he brought you James out of nowhere, how you walked through the times when your body didn't work and you felt terrible all the time and didn't know why. There's something there, something small but substantial and real and luminous, I think, like the dense cluster of one star afar off in space. Not sure what that is. Hope, maybe?

In the end, I want you to know what I'd have told you in that email: I will walk with you, as much as I can from here and as much as you want. I'll walk with you as you struggle to follow the one who doesn't guarantee that any of this will be easy, the one who has come through before but whose past rescues don't guarantee that any of us will stay in the furnace this time.

I love you, friend.

Christin said...

I am here. My heart breaks for you. I am praying for you. I will email all three of you in the next few days with a response. Today was T's first birthday, so it has been crazy. I need some time to settle, pray, and get back to you. I love you, Kirsten. (And you, Christianne. And you, Sarah. )

christianne said...

Dear Jesus,

I want to understand what you are doing here with my friend. I want to know why her road is so hard. It has been so hard for so long, and you have given her brilliant and luminous faith and strength through so many trials on her road. I am thankful for that. I am sure when she looks back on her long journey, she too is thankful for that. And you showed up in miraculous ways, bringing James into her life and giving them a love and a story they never had imagined.

But Ewan's heart? That news and reality has asked of her a faith that stretched far beyond what she'd been asked before. I have watched her faith grow through this ... as she's wrestled and wept, she's also resolved to trust you. It has been quite a journey for her faith.

But now this, too? What the heck, God? Why are you doing this? Why haven't you provided work for James? Why are you asking them to hold the possibility that my beautiful friend will not be at home with her son, even for maternity leave? Why are you doing this?

I am asking you to provide, God. I know that you can. I even know enough about you to know that you very likely have some unexpected glorious plan up your sleeve. You are so often the God of the last minute. Is that what you're doing here? I pray that it is.

God, I do not want my friend to have to leave her baby's side so soon. I don't want her to have to leave his side ever. I want her to be with him, to lean into being Ewan's mama, to spend time giving him the care and nurture he needs.

I want her heart to rest.

Please provide, Jehovah Jireh. Please provide.