Twenty-three years ago this morning, in Baltimore MD, our first-born son reluctantly emerged. After anxious months of preterm labor and bedrest we made it to 36 weeks, then all that hurry-up turned into not-so-fast. . . and after a LONG night, as the C-section was being planned, he finally emerged. I won't say that we became parents 23 years ago, because that happened two years earlier when we were first pregnant. Which is why today is a milestone of hope kind of day. We don't forget the scars of lost babies-in-utero. We don't forget the darkness and ache, particularly as we walk through the same with others. But we also celebrate life that overcame death in the end, in a very tangible way in our story. When I want to re-write life as it is pounding on my friends, I think of Luke, and remember that I don't understand divine grace enough to know what is around the corner for others, only to testify that what came to us was so good. Insightful, courageous, funny, diligent, crazy, thoughtful, a whirlwind of creative and passionate dreams, a guardian of family tradition, a promoter of his siblings and friends, and just all-around one of our favorite few people in this whole world. The last time I actually spent his birthday with him he turned 16, but this year we caught almost 48 hours together for carrot cake and hikes.
And as we have spent the last 6 weeks nearly continuously on the road, we've run up against plenty of sorrow. The three young couples we long to see healed of recurrent miscarriages tug at my heart and prayers. And also in my daily prayers, families with kids our kids' ages struggling with mental illness and homelessness. Then the long list of cancer, kidney failure, Alzheimers, injuries. Unemployment. Estrangement. We have thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with many old friends, thanking many faithful supporters. Doing this face-to-face though, means that instead of the quick two sentences on facebook or a card, we have heard a smattering of the depths of life's punches. Sobered, we walk away grateful that these friends still make room in their hearts for people like us, on their periphery, and for the needs of people in East Africa, even further out.
But perhaps there is a connection. While I might expect the suffering to be too poured-out to open their hearts to more evidence of the world's mess, instead they are the empathetic and generous fabric of this world, the people whose perseverant faith against all odds makes a difference. So we humbly salute our friends on February 8th, recognizing the prayers that laid the foundation for our life and our children's survival, and the kindness that follows us through the last 23 years. And purposing to lean into the same prayerful bearing of one another's burdens during this sabbatical, because here we stand as a testimony to hope, and as long as we have breath we will pray for those that are still waiting for their day of joy.