The Miracle

My beautiful daughter, Sophia, is celebrating her 21st birthday today with her new husband, Frankie, in Savannah, Georgia.  Since I won’t see her, I hope she will check her facebook at some point and read this memory from the past, written not long after her birth:

“The greatest act of futility an artist knows is to attempt to capture in words, in images, or in song what is elusive: LIFE.  To paint a delicate flower is futile.  Who can capture its fragile beauty?  However beautiful, the attempt is by far an imperfect rendition of the flower itself.  To write of the birth of a baby is futile.  What words can describe the miraculous?  Babies are born every day and inhabit the earth by the millions.  Flowers grow by the billions and cover the earth in fields of color.  Yet when we look at a single flower or experience the birth of a child, we know that each is a miracle.  We know that LIFE is a miracle!

Artists can only interpret Truth and Beauty knowing that their attempts fall far short of EXPERIENCE itself.  I don’t dare to hope that I can find mere words sufficient to describe the miracle of my baby girl’s birth.  Yet I am driven by a need to risk futility and so I must try.

In those short days following Hurricane Hugo I found myself anticipating the onset of labor, as every woman in her ninth month must.  Once we had safely reached my parent’s home in Pennsylvania and my husband had safely returned to our home in Charleston, I felt released to concentrate on the churnings of life in my ballooning abdomen.  Many times, often unexpectantly, a persistent thought filled my mind: ‘God’s grace is upon us.’

As I listened to my husband’s accounts of life in the aftermath of a hurricane I was grateful for grace.  Aside from roof damage and many fallen trees in the yard, we were spared major damages.  I longed to be there when I thought of my husband and our dog, Maia, ‘roughing it’ without power.  He told me of the friend from church who showed up at the gate with ice, concerned about us and the baby.  The evening news covered in depth the destruction left by Hugo.  Families who lost their homes and businesses completely found grace in being alive.  Babies were born that very night and were given the namesake ‘Hugo.’  I thought of God’s grace then for those miracles born in the midst of a storm’s wrath.  I was grateful that our own child waited to begin that journey into the world after Hugo.

One week to the day after the hurricane our baby girl was born!  I missed my husband in those bittersweet hours, when the force of nature squeezed me like a lemon being made into lemonade.  I knew the rare gift and blessing of having my mother present with me throughout labor and delivery.  The eternal bond of mother and daughter was deepened beyond understanding.  Her presence was a comfort I can’t describe.  Her love strengthened me, as it always has, but more deeply than ever.

The ecstatic joy that lit her eyes and smile at the moment my daughter slipped into view is an image I will treasure forever.  Her excited voice exclaiming ‘It’s a girl!  Oh, Nancy, it’s a GIRL!!’ is a glorious sound I will always hear.  Something wonderful, something miraculous happened in those brief (thank God for that the third time around!) moments of birth when my mother, my daughter, and I were united as one.

Although the circumstances causing my husband and I to be apart were difficult, and while I missed him beyond belief, I am grateful for the opportunity of a lifetime my mother and I shared together.  I felt God’s grace then and as I gazed in awe at the tiny face of my daughter.  My mother laughed and still does that I was on the telephone telling my boys of their sister and my husband of his daughter while the doctor was stitching me up!

Three weeks of recovery and healing passed before we could travel back home.  The days were filled with the joy of a newborn baby but the boys and I missed daddy beyond belief.  When we pulled in the driveway, the boys jumped from the van into daddy’s arms to give him hugs.  He held his baby girl with the uncertainty of a first-time father and studied her chubby face.  When we hugged one another I felt the events of the past weeks melt away and the love that held us across the miles brought us back together.

In the artist’s futility to express the inexpressible, my husband completed a painting during our separation.  It was a self-portrait he painted by candlelight.  I treasure this painting because it is the only part of him I have during the time we were away.  It is a self-portrait full of longing and vulnerability and it marks an eventful time in our life.  ‘From His fulness have we ALL received, grace upon grace.”  John 1:16. 

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