Monday, January 09, 2017

We rattled this town

My favorite part of any photograph
        is the bit just outside the frame
   the part you don't know is there
unless you were there.

You can't see, for instance, that I'm grinning
             not just because of the insanely attractive boy beside me
and his arm hard around my shoulder
      (touching me gingerly not because he was shy, but because, that's your dad taking this photo)
but because the man behind the camera
       is just a few months fresh from the longest-three-weeks-of-my-life hospital stay--
when no one could make the coughing-blood stop
        when I watched him turn pale and flimsy as the sheets and gowns they tucked him into
when the news that came back was not good
               when I wailed my grief and terror into the shoulder of a boy who was a fairly-new friend
    and in his arms and voice found a man I wanted to know in a more way--
this man
     this sick pale man
this man is alive
      and he is standing
  and he is laughing
and he is watching me begin the first day of the rest of my life
         (though neither of us knows it now)
  and in a very real way I have seen
           this one was dead and now he is alive again
and I am so purely happy for this exact moment.

You can't see, for instance, that this day
    (though I am more attractive than I've been maybe ever before)
             is maybe literally one of the worst of my life
because I am at a wedding
            a brilliant beautiful wedding
    and I just can't be quite happy
because I am surrounded by my childhood, its friends and mementos and feelings,
            and I am seeing just how far I've come
   I am missing someone I've known less than a year
and I hear Holy Spirit agreeing with my heart that
                  this is the one
     and I finally identify--
for one of the first times ever--
           that this discomfort is okay
   even though it is terrible,
it's okay
     I'm just feeling the too-real pains of growth.

You can't see, for instance, that even though I wasn't there
         this selfie kills me every time
    because it looks like something I would do
somehow both of them at once, though they're doing totally different things
        the helpless laughter
  the steady determination to try again--
it makes me smile and realize all at once
        how much I'm like them
    and think about the ways I'm unlike them, too,
 and tear up because
            though they are faithfully distinct and wonderful
     they always gave me the space to be who I am
not who they are.

You can't see, for instance,
         who we're looking at
  just outside the frame
                 and I can't even remember now
   but it drives me nuts, still,
because aren't you supposed to have eyes only for your bride, your groom
        on your wedding day?
   But today I think it's okay
because it's just a thing
         a part of this story
   and yeah, it probably has deeper connotations than just
you never looked at the camera at the same time
             but I'm not really worried
    because Jesus seems to have a handle on this
and we're both pretty decent at listening to Him
         so I think this'll all pan out.

        You can't see, for instance, that I'm laughing just that hard because just behind the photographer
    is a man I didn't know (when I met him) would quite fill out the title of Father
couldn't realize the ways that Jesus would use his wisdom, his humor, his challenges, his kindness,
              to heal things I didn't even know needed healing
  and I just glimpsed the sparking mischief in his eyes say
                       this will be the best photobomb ever!
and the next frame was.

You can't see, for instance, that I am making a great funny face
            but I feel like literal shit
    because possibly my entire uterus is dissolving and I really think I've never been this bloated
and someone just got in my husband's face and told him
        she's probably pregnant and just hasn't told you
even though he and I have just agreed to wait a little longer
   but I am feeling so ugly and so chubby and so gross and so damn angry because even though I know it's right,
     I'm done with waiting
             but then the littlest baby started crying
and his mama and daddy needed a minute to just play
       so I scoop him out of his seat
   hold him close
and for just a minute
           when this loveliest friend comes sidling up to me
     I can tip the baby's face to her, then cuddle him close,
and pretend
      just for a minute, please God, I swear it will just be a minute
that he's mine
         and you can't see that he broke my heart every day I held or saw or heard him for the next six months
   until I was so angry
               and so done
that I couldn't even talk to Jesus for months.

(Spoiler alert, you can be that angry and survive but it'd probably be easier if you just admitted it and cried or yelled for awhile instead of staying busy and making nice.)

   You can't see, for instance,
that I survived
     that I was feeling so beautiful and hopeful and wonderful
         and just full
standing next to my handsome love
     and it was spring even though there were grits of snow scudding across the lawn
and my new! almost! brother! was behind the camera so I knew it would be a great photo
               but I also felt distinctly the kind of ache that comes from knowing fear, pain, despair
    and surviving
and I knew that now, this moment,
          would be one I needed to remember
   to pull out when the days got dark again
and say
  Look, self, you were happy and he was holding you and everything was okay and spring really does come after the long cold dark winter and it will be okay again
          and God, I was right,
      I've needed that over and over and over,
but in that moment
     I was strong enough to hope that I wouldn't
that maybe, this time,
          hope wouldn't disappoint me.

My favorite part of any photograph
        is the bit just outside the frame
   the part you don't know is there
unless you were there
         the hopes
     the fears
  the backstory
              the little whispers of who we were
     who we will be
 the promises
            the broken and fulfilled and yet-to-be
and I hope
  that I remember not only the where and when and who of the photos
but the why
    the how
        the part that says til now
   the Lord has helped us
and the hope that is held in the eyes that says
         and tomorrow
     His mercies will be new.

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