"No sooner had I labored over this new life did it hit me: I love her, and she could die.
I tried not to think about it. I didn't know what else to do, the thought unraveled me so quickly, I couldn't bear it. As I rocked her back to sleep in the dark morning hours, I tried to train my mind not to consider all the bad things that could happen to her."
-- excerpt from Any Day a Beautiful Change
I read -no- devoured those words just days after seeing the Holocaust picture that
wrecked my heart. I had been feverishly searching for some sort of balm in the aftermath of the image and it seemed that Katherine Willis Pershey was tending directly to me
by sharing her most vulnerable experiences with love.
"I am terrified I am going to lose my child, " she writes, "I am terrified that by giving voice to that fear, I'm communicating to the universe (to God?) that I'm the consummate target to become a bereaved parent."
In spite of the heavy subject matter of that particular chapter, I smiled in recognition of those feeling, I smiled because I felt so not alone.
For months I'd had mothers tell me what I was going to experience and what I was not going to experience but no one had so bravely whispered the most beautifully raw and awful of all the shifts:
my love was going to rip my heart like a claw.
To be clear, this book has just as many laugh-out-loud moments as it does heavy explorations: the things that echo my internal topography right now are the mama moments.
"Do you sing 'Jesus Loves Me' in Sunday school?" I asked.
"Yeah," she answered, nodding enthusiastically.
In the interest of my daughter's faith formation, I jumped at the chance to engage in some meaty yet two-year-old-appropriate theological conversation. "So you know Jesus loves you."
She looked thoughtful for a moment. I waited for the brilliant spiritual insight to spring from the mouth of my babe. Instead, she smacked her rear end and giggled. "That's my butt."
Any Day a Beautiful Change is a collection of essays documenting the life, marriage and motherhood of a female pastor.
Katherine has been a dear friend to me for years; I attended her sermons when she was still preaching in the South Bay and she married my husband and I in Claremont.
Her memoir writing is warm and real, just like her un-written (non-writing?) personality
and just as her sermons did, this book made me want to be a Christian
not because it was filled with persuasion, but because of the honesty with which she loves Jesus
and the brave questions she asks of God, of her faith.
In the forward of Any Day she mentions
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott: I decided that I would pick up a copy to read on my flight to Minneapolis, a kind of one-woman-inside joke for a mama traveling alone with a baby -
if there was time to read even a single page with an infant in tow indeed there are mercies in my travel!!
I just finished the book yesterday and just as with Katherine's text I never wanted it to end. I wanted each woman to come sit with me in the evenings when all the chores had been done-
to sit with me at the kitchen table and tell me more
about their faith
about their bravery and motherhood and faults.
Neither book would have ever been enough because both authors were just so likeable, their experiences so relatable and their words just *so* like an expertly done pie crust... do you know what I mean?
The things you always think to yourself that you cannot ever seem to sketch verbally these two books
drew with a gentle and formidable hand
clear as a Marin morning.
On this day I feel partnered in my joy, fear and searching by these two women, one whose face and mind I know and love, the other who lives a short distance away but whose life I will likely never know intimately.
Beyond partnered, I should say - lifted. Recognizing the bond in the universality of it all - that's a big gift bound in paperback.
What have you been reading lately?