The smell of hay greets me each time I push open our back door. A scattered pile is sitting by the door. The hay had been for Kaiya's bunny which has relocated itself from the cage lined with hay to living underneath the porch. This drives our dog completely mad. He sniffs at the cracks, and whines.
When I smell the hay my mind takes me to a stable. I'm quite certain that what I imagine is nothing at all close to reality. For example, I don't even know if they had 'hay' in the then and there of Mary's time. Or if middle eastern hay from over two thousand years ago was altogether a different thing entirely than what my husband picked up at a local feed store two months ago.
I smell and wonder, each time. I wonder at what kind of person lets herself be used by God like that. My modern mind just can't wrap itself around: 'I am the lord's servant, may it be to me as you say.'
My mind gets stuck on my dear friend, still recovering from a car crash that nearly took her life. How uncomfortable a neck brace and a constant headache must be. Or on my neighbor who is about to lose her oldest son to death and how simply awful the waiting on that must be. On my friend recently diagnosed with cancer who tells me she is camping out on scriptures about trees. These are just three examples of the dozens of tragic stories swirling around tiny me.
And my mind gets stuck on how powerless I am to all this. That no matter how many pictures I draw for my friend I can't make her headaches go away. That the pizzas we take over to the mother don't do a damn thing to make her son better. That the tree I paint isn't imbued with any magic to make cancer go away. That my prayers feel powerless. And that is the hard, ugly truth of my lack of belief and even uglier- my pride that makes me think I am 'needed.'
This time last year I was desperate. My mother's face would swim before me just under the surface of absolutely everything. Cancer. Again. We scrambled to change our plans to go up to Kansas and I could only breathe out one-word prayers: please. help. her. Sometimes it took me all day to get that out. Please. please. please. I would get stuck on the word please.
Sometimes I would say 'him' instead and it's a 'him' I've been praying for since I started praying at around age 11. I even had to swap with someone else who just couldn't pray for their one anymore either. So we traded our ones. That was about five years ago. Him. help him.
Sometimes I would say 'them' and it's a them I've been praying for since they lost their daughter. Because. I can't even imagine. When I do my kids get very uncomfortable, too-tight hugs from their mother who is crying for no good reason. I couldn't help but selfishly pray for another. Like that will ever take away the pain of the one they lost. Still. The words came: please give them another child.
Sometimes it was a different her, the same her who is all broken and head-achey now, who then I breathed out prayers in grief for her husband. And last year a new widow joined my prayers. I would breath them out together like they were twins. Who on earth wants to be a widow twin? Her. and her.
Every single person reading this has a 'him,' a 'her' and maybe even a 'them' to. In fact, I bet you were picturing your ones and not bothering a wit of mental space about mine. It's ok. We all have our ones.
The only answer I have to all of this thick sadness that makes me all sniffly, and I try in vain to blame on allergies, is to recount the good. For that's the thing. My first one I mentioned: my her is still here. A Christmas miracle given in January. A confused surgeon sitting across from me telling me the very thing I prayed for: 'I'm surprised.' I wanted to leap in the air and scream: 'huzzah!'
Or the other answer to one of my one-word prayer streams: an announcement on Christmas Day that they were expecting. Hu-freaking-zah!
Does it make it less that some of the other prayers I have to keep saying? That just when I think it can't get worse in some cases it somehow does? Nope. That would be like grumbling about having manna for breakfast again when having manna means you have been freed from Egypt.
This year I have new hers, hims and thems. Ok, some of them are the same from last year. And some got worse. But some got better. I pull up the smiling baby face and grin back at her for starters. That one. I got to pray for that one. When I arrived at my grandmother's house a few weeks ago the first thing I did when I walked in was hug and kiss my mother. That one. That one is still here. I got to pray for that one. This week I will get to visit my dear widow friend. She is still here. Broken, but here. That one. I still get to pray for that one.
What if being willing to be used by God looks a bit like this? What if the prayers that we think are going unanswered are actually building something up in heaven? When we circle back to the same spot, like our poor dog trying to get to the blasted bunny, it is not for naught but is indeed making space for God to come in and do his thing?
And if that's the case then the very best thing to say is: I am the lord's servant may it be to me as you say. And the best thing to do is to wait for him to show up and do it. To move aside your worry for the one you can hardly breathe their name. To make space for him to come and do his thing. Right in the middle. Even if your middle is a mess scattered with hay. For that's the thing. You. You are his one. Your name. I bet you anything it takes him all day to just get it out sometimes. I am his one. Courtney. Oh Courtney. Would that you know how much I love you.
Yes, indeed I do. May it be to me just exactly as you say. Scattered hay and all.