Last year, late in the season of Lent, a full sanctuary of worshipers gathered with the lights dimmed to worship God, singing their beloved “Holden Evening Prayer.” A wide-eyed, dark-haired three-year-old from the congregation (She looked like a miniature version of me, bangs and all.) followed me to the front of the sanctuary as I prepared to sing the prayers. I asked her if she wanted to pray with me. She nodded her head. I scooped her up in my arms and held her while we sang with the congregation, “God of Mercy, hold us in love.”
It was a holy moment, beautiful, but also heartbreaking.
I had a deep yearning in me to be a mother. Some days I found it really sad to think about how far I was from seeing this yearning fulfilled, and even sadder to think that it might never happen. If anyone would have told me how much my life would change in a year, I would have laughed at them—not just any laugh, but a laugh like I imagine Sarah laughed after she overheard that she would have a son. I believe she laughed deep, a belly laugh, almost an over-laugh. You know this laugh, the kind that escapes your lips as an instinctual reaction to “absurd” news, while on another level it prevents you from crying. You laugh, as not to cry, at the sting your heart feels because you have been longing for the fulfillment of a promise such as the one the stranger gave.
Last night, I held a wide-eyed, dark-haired almost-three-year-old (She looks like a miniature version of me, our hair both in messy buns.), and we sang Alan Jackson together. “I’ll buy you tall, tall trees and all the waters in the seas… I’m a fool, fool, fool for you.” The words were not quite as poetic as “God of Mercy, hold us in love,” but it was just as holy a moment.
You see, this holy moment came at the end of a wonderful day. The little girl, her brother, their dad and I went out to dinner at a restaurant and spent a few hours at the coolest park (It had a wooden castle! And a dragon!). We ate a snack before putting on jammies, reading bedtime stories, and saying bedtime prayers.
That day in Lent when my heart broke as I prayed and swayed and sang “God of Mercy, hold us in love,” if anyone had told me that in a few weeks I would begin to date and fall in love with a man with two kids, I would have laughed a Sarah laugh. A deep, belly over-laugh. But that’s exactly what happened.
A few weeks from now, another holy moment will take place. The little girl will wear pink, sparkly shoes and her brother will wear a suit with a bow tie. They tell people they are the Ring Bear and Sister Bear. I will wear white, sparkly shoes, and I will follow them down the aisle to meet their dad, who will wear a suit and necktie. He and I will make vows to each other. I will also promise to love his kids as if they are my kids, because in those holy moments of singing Alan Jackson and bedtime prayers, those holy moments of holding them and loving them, they have become my kids.
This last year has brought more changes than I ever could have imagined and those changes have come with a good share of tears and a good share of laughter. But my life feels framed in refrains. Like the prayer, “God of mercy, hold us in love,” I do feel held and loved. Like Sarah, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” Like Alan Jackson, my heart sings a little song to my almost-husband and nearly-step-kids, “I’ll buy you tall, tall trees and all the waters in the seas, I’m a fool, fool, fool for you. “
Photo Credit: Erin Bell