On waiting: Spiritual journey

All dressed for church
waiting for our ride
because Mama doesn’t drive
never got her license:
I get too nervous, she says—

so we wait while she watches
through the picture window
where I see our reflection: 
Mama, little sister, and me
against the empty street beyond

after a while she says
you might as well change
we have been forgotten

her voice is strange 
and when I look up
there are tears

sliding down her cheeks.

excerpt, “Picture Window.” Draft poem, F. Haley

On the first Thursday of each month, a group of us teacher-writer-blogger-believers post spiritual journey reflections. Today Chris Margocs hosts our gathering on her blog, Horizon 51. We are writing around the theme of “waiting, with a side of hope.”

Earlier this year I wrote those lines above, remembering the scene from long ago. My mother had asked another church member to please stop by and pick us up. We waited, and waited…until my mother understood the ride wasn’t coming. And cried.

I might have been six or seven. I wasn’t too upset about changing my clothes (likely a dress made by my mother) and not going to church. But I was sorry for my mother’s sadness. I couldn’t understand being forgotten.

My childhood pastor once preached on Isaiah 49:15: Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.

I couldn’t understand that either, at the time: How can a mother forget her child? It seemed impossible, inconceivable…

Decades later, as a mother and grandmother myself, I decorate for Christmas with exceeding great joy because of the new baby in our family. As I plan and wrap and make preparations, humming along to holiday music, I can’t imagine ever forgetting my sons, my little granddaughters. I would cease to be me if I did. They’re such joys. Layer upon layer of richness and fullness on all of my days. But mothers can forget. They do forget. There are mental health issues. Addictions. Illnesses. Diseases. Destroyed relationships. A number of things can separate a child from a mother’s love and from her memory.

The Apostle Paul wrote: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

How this links to God’s promise in Isaiah: I will not forget you.

Christmas is a reminder of exactly that.

We are not forgotten; we are not alone. The prophet Isaiah, again: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (7:14).The Gospel of Matthew repeats this prophecy as fulfillment in the first chapter detailing the genealogy and birth of Christ: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (1:23).

Words that resonate. God with us. Every day, all the time. How long a wait it was—around eight centuries—from Isaiah’s prophecy to the coming of Christ.

A long, long wait…but we were not forgotten.

That church member from long ago apologized profusely to my mother for failing to pick us up that day. My mother, I presume, graciously forgave. Whenever the weather was nice, we walked to church, my mother, my little sister, and me. I couldn’t know then that my childhood pastor would ordain my future husband to the pastorate one day. I just walked along, hoping Mama would take us to Hardee’s for lunch afterward. The Looney Tunes glasses we collected from those after-church excursions remain in my cabinet to this day, much as memories rest on the shelves of my mind. They are a treasure. I do not want to forget.

My childhood pastor would eventually tell me that when the church’s bus ministry began, my mother was the first person to sign up. No more waiting for rides that might not show. God provided the vehicle to get us where we needed to go.

He always does. In the fullness of time.

Even now, I hear the distant chiming of those church bells of years long gone:

Savior, Savior
hear my humble cry
while on others Thou are calling
do not pass me by.

He hears. He is here. He remembers.

So do I, Mama.

one of my favorite Christmas cards

*******

with thanks to Chris and all my dear Spiritual Journey friends

a blessed Advent to all
the first candle lit on the Advent wreath this week symbolizes hope


14 thoughts on “On waiting: Spiritual journey

  1. Your memories of church are complex–as I think they should be, if we are paying attention in our spiritual lives! I know this is our Spirit offering for the month, but I can’t help but look at this through an educator’s perspective–as readers, we come to the same text from different places as we age. What didn’t make sense to you as a little girl makes total sense now, as a mother and grandmother and believer. This year, your Advent truly is one of Hope and Promise!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fran: this is beautiful and comforting. We all need reminders that we are not forgotten. I found a passage in my grandmother’s journal when she was forgotten on a Sunday morning also. We do come to texts in different ways according to our life experiences, and just now the quote from Romans speaks to me so deeply. Thank you for this most beautiful post. It fills my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fran, your post is rich in memories from your past combined with present-day thoughts. “He hears. He is here. He remembers.” How wonderful it is to know this. If we wait with positive intent, Our Lord waits with us and He does not forget. Thank you for the precious Christmas card. It shows the humanside of Jesus with the small feet. What a gift His presence in the world is! Blessings to you this month.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your words, Carol. This beautiful card with the baby footprint has a powerful message inside – almost posted it here but I think I will save it for Christmas Day. Many blessings to you and all yours!

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  4. So much to love in your post. The tender story, your mother’s tears. It makes me think of people I’ve picked up for church over the years, especially students (who we sometimes woke up) when we lived near Rice University in Houston. I hope that I’ve never left someone waiting.
    “Words that resonate. God with us. Every day, all the time. How long a wait it was—around eight centuries—from Isaiah’s prophecy to the coming of Christ.
    A long, long wait…but we were not forgotten.”
    And then these words: “God provided the vehicle to get us where we needed to go.
    He always does. In the fullness of time.” I need to put this in present tense for my notebook:
    God provides the vehicle to get us where we need to go. He always does.
    Thanks, Fran, for a wonderful post. Enjoy every precious moment with your grand girls!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for these words, Ramona – I can so see you picking up those students. I think of how small acts have large and lasting effects. I have more “vehicle” stories to share…mulling on that! Enjoy your grandbabies also – the word that comes to mind is “savor.”

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  5. Merry Christmas, Fran. Thank you for this beautiful post and message. What a poignant poem too! When we are little, we are emotional about the situation…it takes maturity to see the layers upon layers in a situation. I had a tough time settling down to write a post for this month. I decided to give myself grace and let them show up when they did. Finally, I have a post for Christmas Eve.

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