entering in: a birthday story

Probably to my daughter's relief, I'm not writing this post about her. Victoria is in it, she's a significant character, certainly, and today is her birthday. But there's more I'd like to tell, all of which I've told before, though not quite in this fashion.

Thirty years as a parent is a milestone, the thought of which doesn't slumber easily at 4:00 a.m., even though the cat whose meowing woke me is already curled by my feet snoring. Memories dance past of that Christmas morning on which I felt the first, real tuggy twinge and knew this was it. Tim drove me in his 1966 Ford Falcon (the same one he'll drive later this morning to work on things at the church), under brilliant blue skies, from Vancouver to the Portland hospital. Later there would arrive my parents and brother, we'd open presents in the birthing room, and then my labor would become intense, while Dad blasted Space Invaders via Tim's Atari in the waiting room and while Tim's three-inch TV on the bedside table played Barney Miller's theme.

This all came about, I ponder now, not because I invented an adulthood of marriage and family exploits, but because I entered into commitment and struggle, pain and process.

I couldn't have done any of it alone. There's never been a doubt I had help from above. The regular, ordinary doubt about what occurred has remained pretty constant -- doubt of myself, of my interpretation which is faulty at best. But that which made itself known to this failing being is that which comprises faith -- the acceptance of what is not yet seen and the surety of what is coming.

In purely human terms, however, I had help from the man I married, the man with whom I signed divorce papers before our fourth anniversary. The day we signed, we hadn't yet had children. I already lived with someone else. As divorces go it was more tidy than some.

But then it didn't happen. We couldn't make our divorce work, because that day we signed the papers we prayed. Tim asked me to. I grudgingly granted his request (I suppose I decided I'd give him a last gift). And then I was quietly amazed. Astounded. That afternoon I told the man I'd been living with I had to leave him, and I did, never seeing him again. I went home to my parents. Later that summer, Tim and I were back together.

I knew that while praying with Tim I'd been invited into something. I gained the strongest sense God considered our marriage a living thing, and He didn't want it to die. I'm aware I may have had a psycho/emotional reaction to something. There are likely a million possibilities. But the facts of the story remain: I had tried to do the "right" thing a thousand times before this, and I failed. Finally, firmly, I had left my husband, and that was that. It was, anyway, right up until the moment, two years before I gave birth to our daughter, when I accepted the invitation to enter in.

On Victoria's birth day (three minutes past midnight, December 26th), I still hadn't learned the whole story. I knew Tim was convinced throughout my pregnancy that we'd have a girl (no ultrasound confirmation back then). He had never wavered. When our baby was a couple months old he told me more about his doings the year I left him.

For a few months Tim stayed near Portland with his aunt and uncle (he'd just been hired by KPTV). I was out of the picture, back in Coos Bay with someone else. At first, Tim was stoic. All right, leave me, I don't care, this has been more mess than I asked for, anyway. Then he started praying. One time, as he prayed, he "saw" me pregnant. He knew then that if we got back together I would have a daughter. He was given no guarantee we could work things out. But he was encouraged to try.

I tell this story, this time, because I've been coming to see reality as something each person is invited to enter into (each in wonderfully differing ways), for the benefit of all. The most genuine stuff, of which tree-boughs sigh and bullfrogs croak and incoming tides thunder, is really all one story. Its endless variations sing repeated hardship and trial, but they encourage the sufferer to undergo them, to discover the surprising interactions. Like a gift on Christmas neither Tim nor I could have imagined, a daughter who would bless our lives. She would grow up to discover an odd church with onion domes and bells, a foreign land, and she'd invite us to visit. And the rest is another chapter, another verse, in a single tale, continuing.