I had one more meeting with Pastor Jennifer about all this stuff before I finally sent Natalie the incredibly long and crazy email I’ve been drafting for weeks.
We met in the prayer alcove, because I wanted to be with Zac’s window.
I apologized for how completely unhinged I was when I was in her office a couple weeks ago. “You just came back from vacation, and I showed up so thoroughly outside of myself. I feel … somewhere between sorry and embarrassed that you saw me like that. You’re the fourth person in my life since high school to see me so outside of myself. And you thought you were going to have an easy Monday of getting back in the swing of things, and there I was.”
She seemed bewildered at my discomfort. “You cried a little, sure, but this is such a big thing, how could you not?” And then she said something that really surprised me. “I love you, Alisha, and I love the life that God is guiding you through. You have a foundation of trust in God that lots of people don’t have. Even when you have a really big, complex problem, that foundation makes it easy to help you. I don’t mind that you were upset, of course you were. But at the core of it, you were asking me to help you hear the God you already trust and love.” I guess I do trust in God, except of course when I don’t! I don’t think of myself as being so faithful as what she says she sees in me, but maybe it’s because I go to such extremes. My faith isn’t about believing a little and asking God to prove God’s omnipresence. It’s more that when I get scared and frustrated, I either trust God deeply or start asking myself whether all of this talking to an invisible, all-powerful being isn’t a little silly. I don’t have much middle ground. But if I’ve learned anything in the past ten years, it’s that God is more present and more powerful than I ever want to give God credit for.
I told J all of what has happened since I met with her last–from my revelation with Zac’s window, to my reception of the parable about the farmer and his big barn, to my crazy dream, to the discovery/acknowledgement that Harrisonburg is part of what makes all of this possible.
“It’s amazing to me that it seemed impossible, really, here,” I told her. “The valley is the land of perpetual harvest. It’s the right place for an act of abundance.”
She listened through this whole long thing, and I swear she barely breathed. She just was drinking this story. When I finished, her eyes were shining like she was near tears, and her face was joyful. She said, “I feel…full. Full to overflowing with love and joy. I believe this is holy work, and I thank God for walking with you through it. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.”
We talked about how weird and magical it is when all of these disparate pieces come together into a perfected whole. About the dream, she said, “I do believe that God guides us through dreams, sometimes. I wouldn’t want to live a life where every decision waited for the right dream, but I have certainly had experiences where a dream helped me pull together all the different pieces of a situation. This dream feels like it has power. And to be gifted with such a beautiful name–Ai Li–and so much weight and meaning to it…that’s a powerful thing.”
I told her I don’t know what Logan and Natalie’s faith situation is, and somehow that doesn’t matter much to me. She said, “That’s fine, to be loving and accepting no matter where they are. But imagine how great a witness this is. If not to them, imagine telling your niece or nephew this story some day. This is holy work, and God is present in it, regardless of what they believe about it. I can’t imagine how big a gift this is, and I know they will understand that. Your family tree is fractured in so many ways, but imagine this child and the healing it represents. I don’t know if there’s a way to draw this into your family tree–there’s not a symbol on the key for it–but it’s definitely a new kind of connection.”
I told her I’m still worried about what I have to do after the birth, about handing the baby over and all of that. She said, “God’s work on this isn’t completed in you yet, and there is still so much time. I think that as you explain this to your children and to your friends, as you walk through this, God will provide you with what you need. I believe that. Sometimes God leads us to the edge of the swirling sea, and the path God clears is only one step at a time, and yet we walk through on dry land.” It sounds sort of weirdly corny written out like this, but it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard, in the moment when she said it.
At the end of our time together, she said, “I will continue to pray for you, but is there anything else I can do for you right now?”
I said, “Not for right now, but there is a personal favor I wanted to ask you—for later.” She nodded and waited. “I think I’ve told you that the day you came to my house, right after Silas was born, and you blessed him and prayed with us–that’s one of my most cherished memories from that time in my life. I don’t know why it was you who came–I think we must have been short a pastor at that point, but I’m glad that you did. And then when Petra was born and Pastor Steve’s baby was born the next day, we didn’t have that, which was fine, really. But for this…I know it’s probably Pastor Dayna’s job to do baby visits, but would you, please, be the one to come? It would mean so much to me.”
And then her tears spilled over. “It would mean so much to me, too.”