It’s whisper-steps on the stairs in the still dark, as I move slowly, so as to not wake the sleeping house. My husband, peaceful for another hour. My oldest, sleeping later than she used to sleep. My boys, the ones to maybe sleep in, if any ever will. And my other girl, well, I’ll be lucky to beat her by a few minutes, no matter how early I wake.
I go through the motions that make a morning: strike a match and watch the blue flame circle to life. Put on the kettle, with just enough water, so it won’t take too long to boil. Measure out the coffee into the camp-style coffee maker. And while I wait–brush my teeth, floss, pull my hair back into its standard low ponytail. The water boils so I pour it into the top of the metal coffee maker, then stand still and listen to the slow drip-drip-drip. I pour the coffee into my mug, the only one used by me: the one with the flowers, old-fashioned, quite unlike me at all, but mine, nonetheless. His portion goes in the travel mug, to stay warm.
I make it out to the veranda without anyone waking, and sit low in the blue chair, the one given to us by our neighbors upriver who left last year. I sip coffee, watch the light in the trees, and listen to my world by the river awaken, not quietly–not at all quietly. I whisper words from that Common Book, words old, and new, to me: Oh Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you, as the day rises to meet the sun. I find comfort in words I didn’t need to think of myself, in prayers unfashioned by me, when I know the unease of my own heart, the faltering belief I hold in the power of my own language. I find grace in the words that let me pause in the questioning, in the not-light, not-dark hour, and simply belong: before my day rushes into pancakes and dust, sentence structure and multiple digit subtraction, laundry and swishing the toilet, and all along–looking for Him, and all along–missing Him.
Oh, Lord I do believe! Help my unbelief.
It’s a rush of a morning already, when the man strides across the dirt toward our front door, green cloth wrapped around his waist, black tire sandals on his feet. I was late getting started with the day’s history reading, and late to start the bread rising, and our day will now crash into itself, as it tumbles onward. I don’t really want to go out to see what he wants, but I slip on my flip-flops and head out the door, calling to my two oldest to start their folders, they’re on the table, like usual.
I fumble, with the words, and with understanding, but catch enough to know there’s a wife, and a baby, and too much blood. Will I come? No one could possibly grasp how little I actually want to go, and it isn’t a want of compassion. But I grab the necessary supplies, the kids with strict instructions to finish their work as best as possible, and I leave with the worried husband, trying to match his long stride.
It’s the doubt that catches my heels, as I hurry across the sand, doubt that burns into the top of my head with the mid-morning sun. It’s doubt that bends me low as I crawl through the knee-high opening into the small domed house. It’s doubt that pricks painfully, conscious of all I cannot do. And it is doubt that prays, I’m here, for whatever it’s worth. Are You going to show up, too? And truly, truly, not actually having any idea how, or if, that prayer gets answered.
She lies still under a blanket that bears the marks of the night, the long, long night. A mother, a sister, a second wife, gather in the dark space with me, and I massage a belly, now slack and tender, witness to the months of a life under the surface. Her husband was right: there is a lot of blood. I do what I’ve been called to do, the reason I supposedly have the answer, and no one else–held in a clear glass ampule and a syringe. I feel what I need to, the expansive, life-giving womb now small, now shrinking, now finished with its nine month calling. The mother barely stirs, but I know she’ll live, to hold her baby, the one shaking his tiny fists in the background.
Oh, Lord I do believe! Help my unbelief.
It is a moon nearly full, already rising well above the dark outline of the thorn tree that stands guard over the chicken house, when I lay down to end the day. I find peace in learning the moon, and all of her faces, and the times she likes to peek through, and how she will make my babies and the birds both restless on the nights she invents herself as bright as the one she mirrors. I find comfort in the nights when the darkness is thick, a true kind of darkness that can practically be pinched in my fingertips, and this: to imagine that the darkness I so often try to hold at bay might actually be held in my hands, and felt, and loved, a little.
I find comfort because I am learning to believe that there is as much truth in the black new moon as in the hope of a full silver circle. I am learning to believe that there is as much grace in the dark of night as in the bright of day. I am learning to believe that there is as much prayer in the routine of a day as in the faltering words of the morning. I am learning to believe that there is as much healing in just showing up as in a miraculous rescue.
Oh, Lord, I am learning to believe! Even in my unbelief.
What stirs in you as you read this post?