[Jennifer Wallace is a school teacher in Saskatoon, where she and her husband John raise their sweet children.]
In 2005 I wrote and performed a monologue in the character of Mary. I imagined what it would be like to be her. These are the last lines of Mary speaking to her baby boy:
“You are so peaceful. Tiny perfection. This place, this world is far from perfect. But the Lord saves. God is with us. My Jesus—My Immanuel. You’re here.”
In November 2006 we awaited our own little miracle. But soon after our happy rush to the hospital we received crushing news. Our baby was gone. We knew that in other rooms there were happy cries but they were for someone else. Joy would not be ours. I had never known a Christmas like that one…the baby boy was not there. This is what I wrote then:
“This season is one of beauty and pain for me, of deep sorrow and of peace. The decorations are up. My sweet nephew and niece are here. The snow continues to fall each day. Carols play. I am looking forward to giving the gifts that I bought. And yet it is so easy for the tears to come–often right after laughter. It is so easy to feel the ache of emptiness and loss. Sometimes walking in grief I forget things or lose focus. Sometimes I get angry and annoyed. Sometimes it is hard to realize that I am the same person who is also very changed.
Who I am now? Last year I played Mary on Christmas morning for our service. I imagined what it would be like to have a baby…to not know what the future would hold…to eventually have to let go. This year I have lived that joy and pain. I had to let go of my baby before I held him.
Gordon was spared the pain of this world. I am grateful that he lives in Everlasting Praise. [These two words were painted in our nursery] And yet, someday I want to have a child who will live in this world. I want to parent. I want to live through moments whispering, “If I could do this for you I would,” (Just like my mother and John’s mother did for me), wanting to spare my child pain: teething pain, hurt feelings, scraped knees…
While I am grateful for the peace and calm of the nursery now, I want a room that will be noisy with my baby’s cries. That is what life in this world is about. Joy and pain. Don’t get me wrong…if I could have this cup of pain pass from me, I would let it go. Instead it is my will I have to let go of. What do I hang onto? What is this cup? At times the cup is bittersweet. But oh it can be beautiful too. It is the cup of communion that we all share in. It is a cup of everlasting praise.”
December 2007 we awaited our second baby and I wrote this after her arrival:
“I didn’t know that labour could be this way. Everything went so much better this time. … I had a peace. As true labour began it went quickly. … As she crowned and came out there was a burp and a cry. There was not an eerie silence. I felt relieved and lighter. The tears of joyous crying were uncontrollable. They placed her … body on mine and I was in another place. She is beautiful. I would be taking her home. …This Christmas we feel truly blessed. We are surrounded by our family. We are immersed in love. We have been given Imogen and for her we will always be grateful.
And now this Christmas 2010 our second son is here. I was scheduled to have a c-section at 36 weeks (a month early) but labour began two days before our schedule. I didn’t really believe “it” was happening. I was giggling in between contractions at my parents’ house—out of town.
We are delighted by our boy. Immy is a great big sister; she watches over him and literally loves on him. We should have known as I laughed between contractions that it would be him: the name we had chosen for a boy –Isaac—means “laughter,” Sol means “sunshine” as well as “answered prayer.” This past year was certainly about expectation and our answered prayer for our family. We celebrated the weddings, reunions, birthdays, anniversaries and new arrivals. However we shared tears with friends who went through sadness, stresses and grief. Life is full of paradox.
I came across this very paradox reading Wrestling With Angels by Carolyn Arends who saw a nativity play Dreams of Kings and Carpenters that juxtaposed Jesus’ birth with Rachel’s weeping for her children in Matthew 2:13-23. Rachel, the character, speaks:
Frederick Neidner writes:
On Christmas Day we join choirs of angels and raise the strains of “Joy to the World!” Our children sing sweetly of the, little Lord Jesus so peacefully asleep on the hay … But then the music changes drastically. We hear wailing and loud lamentation. Ancient mother Rachel weeps inconsolably over the loss of her children. Must we listen to this? Have we no season to block out the sounds of grief?
The whole reason that Jesus’ family had to get up and go was that firstborn baby boys—just like in Moses’ day—were being killed. How heart-wrenching! But the beauty of the nativity is just that: perfection and beauty entering our hurting and broken world.
As I look back on 2010 I cannot help but see how we live life in expectation. We are almost always looking forward to being done that project, enjoying the weekend, cheering on the team to the next game and waiting for that baby to arrive! Even grief creates this sense of longing for heaven and for the lessening of pain. Our two children and our forever baby continue to give us glimpses of how precious life is, how to see life with a sense of curiosity, joy and expectation and how heaven is just a heartbeat and a breath away.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
May your days leading up to Christmas be filled with anticipation and expectation, and may 2011 be filled with a sense of awe in what is to come.