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October 11, 2013

a beautiful day

Today should be a beautiful day.

A Canadian October is a brief sigh, released after a gorgeous summer; it's the last hurrah before the snow comes. 

Today should be all hurrah.

The autumn breeze is playing with my hair. I'm holding my niece close to my chest, hearing her tiny breaths and watching her bright eyes. I bundle her in my shawl as the wind cuts cooler and closer to our skin.

She's healthy. She's happy. She's a sweet little person who chortles and chuckles, scoots and shines. So much joy entered our hearts when we met her one year ago today. My heart should be full. 

Today should be so sweet.

But today I got a message from a friend in Asia. A few days ago we were glowing and praying and wishing her well at her baby shower. Today the words are choppy, as they come—without a lot of explanation—and the glow is gone from the terse phrases:
It's a baby boy.
He's early.
Don't know if he will live through the night.
She lost a lot of blood.

And on this day that should be beautiful, hurrah, and sweet...
with a healthy, happy October 11 baby in my arms, 
suddenly I'm crying. And crying. In my mind, I see American blood washing down Asian drains, dreams drowning in grimy gutters.

When I get the message, we're cutting out party decorations. And my niece's mother tells me, “You can go if you want. You can go lie down.” No need to string paper owl birthday banners when another baby is suffering.
I do go lie down.
I'm still crying.

On the day that was supposed to be beautiful.

I'm back on the park bench, with my lovely niece. I wrap my French shawl tighter around her and snuggle her against my Asian top. My bangles clink. I think about how, while sometimes it feels like I have come back to a place where nothing has changed, I have changed. A tour of Europe, ten months in Asia, and now a visit back to Canada. Here I am, weeping for people that my friends and family have never met. They try to understand: “So is this a family you work closely with?” They kindly offer a pr@yer for him or listen to the baby's story with compassion. But it's hard for them to comprehend the world that opened itself to me in ten short months. The world into which fresh pain has entered today.

Babies suffer every day. Why am I crying for this one? Because I love him, I suppose. I loved him before I met him, because I loved his parents. Now I love people so far from my quiet park bench under the grey autumn sky. I have changed.

Today I see life and death undiluted. The joy of a cozy child, resting contentedly and joyfully. Another baby, struggling to breathe: pain, sorrow, and anguish.

I have in my day a cross-section of life on earth as we know it: true joy, true pain...“and underneath are the everlasting arms.” If not for those arms that stretched wide and took pain, true joy would have been eclipsed by the suffering sin brought. The solution for our pain was wrought 2,000 years ago, but for now the two realities coexist in a sort of tension, until that long-expected day when joy wins and sorrow is put away forever. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain....”. Some days we feel that joy-pain tension more than others. Days like today.

But without the anguish of the “Man of Sorrows”, we would never have received the Comforter. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 
Today is a beautiful day, 
it's even hurrah,
it's even sweet...
because between tears, we have the assurance of lasting joy in a not-too-distant tomorrow. 

Our pain is temporary. Our joy is forever. Thank you, Je'sus.

[Note: I posted this on October 23 but back-dated it to October 11.]

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