The Ship and the Stowaway

What words can be used to describe something as beautiful as an everlasting soul?

When I flew home to spend two last weeks with my family before I am married and begin my own family, I did not anticipate that I would be privileged to watch my sister labor to bring forth new life. I thank God that her child decided that late was better than never, for I’ve rarely been as moved as I was the day Clara was born.

My sister was a beautiful bride, but perhaps a more beautiful mother. I watched quietly from the edge, in awe at how she embraced the swelling of the sea that accompanied the storm of childbirth. Was it terrifying to watch the ship careening on the waves? A little—until I understood that a mother must not go down, she must not drown, until every ounce of strength has been spent to liberate the stowaway. She must fight for what is her own, and this is not terrifying but inspiring, for it reflects the fierce love that God Himself has for us. I have always looked up to my sister for her courage, her strength, but now more than ever.

When the dark, crimped hair of a baby’s crown appeared, and then a creamy forehead followed by a face, my heart danced in my chest. And when a pale lavender-hued body slipped out with a hot gush, I cried with my sister. Even from the shoreline, it is a victory to watch the ship bear through the storm—the stowaway at last stumbling onto deck to greet sweet light. With big, blinking eyes, Clara looked into her mother’s face. The ship did not go down.

I pray the world would open its eyes as this impossibly perfect little girl has, to see that every storm, if embraced, leads to the victory of everlasting beauty.

Loss and Gain

It’s been nearly three months since my laptop first betrayed me. Alas, when it returned from the repair shop, it had not in fact repented (as I was told) and swiftly reverted to its old ways, leaving me with no choice but to find a faithful replacement. Thus here we are, my new little laptop and me.

To be honest, the task of capturing the thoughts that have been swirling in my head these many weeks is somewhat daunting. I feel as if I have almost—almost—forgotten how to write. But I know that my calling to write is as true as ever, for I have not lost the desire (my heart quickens when I think about plunging again into the editing of my sequel). If nothing else, the imposed retreat from writing has revealed to me that I must write if my purpose is to be fulfilled. However, I do not consider these past weeks a waste (although I do wonder what I would have written), for I am called to be more than a writer. God is preparing me to also be a wife and mother.

And so I have been creating the home I will share with my beloved. It is a haven that I’ve been given, a rare gem that God decided should fall into my hands. Here in the countryside, the old brick convent where I live is only a few strides away from a Catholic church, where I can attend weekday Mass if I choose. Already my heart is won by the community, nurtured by their warmth and kindness (a few souls in particular seem to be gifted with inexhaustible generosity and lettuce). Within the bright apartment where I’ve begun nesting (as they say), the windows look out to a distant hilly horizon and down upon the manicured churchyard and cemetery, as well my garden. Yes, I was able to plant a garden at my first home, a humble stretch beneath young oaks, something I never expected or even dared to wish for (I was anticipating a cramped apartment in the city, you see). Here, where the birds are not drowned out by the roar of traffic, I can breathe and pray and think and—write. Until I am joined by my husband, I am enjoying this gift alongside my gray-and-white kitten (the runt of the litter), followed about by him as I hang pictures, paint furniture, bake banana muffins, and welcome friends to share in the peace of this place.

Do I feel ready for my vocation to marriage? No. I am not ready. I will never be ready. Daily, I am discovering my weaknesses in greater depth. But I have come to see that it is not about readiness—it is about willingness. Willingness to hurl one’s weaknesses into the furnace to stoke the fire of love. All one must do is let go and let God transform one’s weaknesses into one’s strengths. Considering that I am marrying a man whose strengths certainly outnumber his weaknesses, I’d say he and I have a good swing at a rather impressive bonfire. Yes, with him, my hope sparks.

I think that must be the true hearth of a home—not the romance of fire without flaw, but of fire born from a family’s flaws. Souls melting together into gold only when they surrender everything to the fire. In the end, nothing is lost, only gained.

And so I sweep the hearth of this home, preparing for fire.