Often I think on
If Time had dealt
a different hand,
A life in which
My mother still stands.
But then I ponder
That with her breath,
My story would be
Unknown to me.
My dear friend Melody has a story that’s full of more abuse and trauma than most of ours, but also one of a redeemed heart that bears witness to an unfailing and ever loving God.
She let me into her story 4 years ago, and for 4 years these images and words have been stored on my computer. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to put them together, but I am happy that I can now share it with a desire it that it gives others hope. God has not forgotten us, not even in our darkest darks and our lowest lows.
When Melody was four years old she had a dream that God came to her, the glowing white God of contemporary Christianity, he came to comfort her on the eve of her sister’s surgery. In the dream God told her: “Don’t be afraid and don’t worry, surely I am with you for all of time. And I will always be with your sister. Don’t be afraid and don’t worry.”
His pursuit of her was real and constant, woven throughout both her good days and her bad days.
I feel privileged to share with you the story she told me on a rainy November day.
I remember her telling me “Wake up, wake up Melody, today is my wedding day. I’m going to get married today.” I felt like someone just dropped a concrete block on my stomach and I just cried and begged her not to do it.
It was in 1982, so I think I was 6.
My stepdad was a rageaholic, he would beat us and touch us where he wasn’t supposed to. He was always preying on us. He would tuck us in at night and say “this is normal”. My mom was always defending him and saying he can do that if he wants to.
I think for a long time I never even questioned it.
My sister went to high school, and he really beat her bad. She got twice as much as I did. It’s partly her personality because I’m a fighter and she would just sit there and take it. She got really busted up one day and went to school and the teacher told because he had to.
They did this whole investigation, they were taking pictures of stuff and it looked really bad but you couldn’t see it on the polaroids. They said I could go home because I didn’t have any signs of abuse, but she couldn’t. So I was there by myself so I was catching all the hell. You know I was a fighter and I thought I could take him.
I always had that feeling in my stomach that this can’t be right. Once they took my sister, I knew, I knew it was wrong and I was just daring them all the time. And I would say things like I wont just leave like she did, I’ll have your ass thrown in jail, you’ll lose everything. Fuck with me again, I dare you.
When I was 13 she said I know where your dad is and you can go see him if you want. Every memory I had of him was terrible because my family hated him and nobody ever said anything good about him. I never agreed or disagreed with them because I didn’t know, I always wanted to wait and find out.
He has this tattoo on his chest, this flower, and it has my sister and I’s name on it.
And he said, “You’re always close to my heart and you’re always near me. And I know I fucked up and I can’t ever make that up to you and I know your family says terrible things about me and it’s true, but I did love your mom and married her and I loved her. And you two were conceived in love. It’s the only thing I ever did right in my whole life.”
I was so thankful to hear that.
He said, “We were going to name you after me because we just knew you were a boy.”
When he heard the doctors say I was a girl, he said he heard this song, “In my heart there rings a Melody” which is this old Christian hymn.
He said, “I heard it like I was sitting in church, I could hear that song. I knew your name was Melody, I knew to name you Melody.”
He started talking to us about when we were babies, and I leeched onto every word he said because I had never heard this stuff before. He said I was so sensitive and if they just made a funny face I cried.
I’m still like that.
It comforts me that if Jesus came here and he was in a stable, it’s OK that this is where I was. I wasn’t forgotten about, discarded. My value as a person doesn’t equate to what I feel like my hand was dealt.
It took me a long time to get to this place where I felt peace about that. That’s a lot of work to get to a place where I can embrace that and not be ashamed.
An important part of Melody’s story that isn’t included above is that her father was incarcerated for 23 years of her life on a conviction of rape. Praise Jesus, I know personally that Melody has had to do a lot of hard work to be at peace with this and He has been faithful to her in her walk.
A few bits of our ordinary day.
I woke and stood up to go to the bathroom when I felt some water leaking. Joy filled me. Finally, at 41 weeks and 4 days pregnant labor was imminent!
It was 6 am so I crept downstairs in the silence to read and pray.
Amongst the excitement the day brought, I also worried over the fact that my water had broken before I had any contractions. The same thing happened with Theo and I didn’t want to end up in the hospital with Pitocin and an epidural.
With a homebirth we were unlikely to have to abide by the same ridiculous standards that hospitals do, but I still had a lot of “what if’s” running through my head. “What if my contractions don’t start?” “What if I go too long before giving birth and get an infection?” “What if we end up at the hospital anyways?”
I woke Brad and we spent some time together downstairs.
The boys soon joined us with excitement. We ate breakfast together and enjoyed their presence, knowing our family would be changing before long. I had mild contractions throughout the morning and before lunch we sent the boys off to Papaw’s house. I tidied our rooms and we went for a walk down the hill to get things moving.
Slowly but surely my contractions started to pick up. It felt slow and frustrating, but we spent a good portion of the afternoon resting in between pains.
After checking in, Patty decided it was time to come and arrived in the early evening.
Almost immediately my contractions stopped. Throughout the night they picked up and then slowed down again. Finally, in the wee morning hours I felt they were strong enough to get into the birth pool. The water was warm and wonderful and Brad read to me from a Henri Nouwen book. It was beautiful and relaxing and exactly what I wanted…except that I had only one or two contractions while I was in there. Out I went back to the bed.
Dawn broke on Wednesday morning and my anxiety was at a high. How could I still not have a baby in my hands after 24 hours of labor? Friends and family were concerned by our lack of baby. “Go to the hospital”, some warned. (Not helpful advice, by the way).
The progression of the morning is fuzzy to me. I was so tired and so sad that this birth wasn’t going like I thought it would (does it ever?).
After a while Patty checked me and tried to maneuver the baby so she would be in a better position to stimulate contractions. She had me push even though I felt no urge to do so nor had I thrown up in transition yet. It was tiring but at least I was doing something. She covered me in oils and had me swallow some herbs to increase contractions. Her presence was calming and peaceful and not once did she worry or make me feel like this wasn’t going to work out okay in the end. I am so thankful for her help.
Soon it all changed. Unbearable pain set in and I vomited. As much as I hate both pain and vomiting, praise Jesus I knew the end was in sight!
I was a mess by now and too tired to try and control my pain reaction so I yelled and screamed and the whole bit. I was hot so the windows were open with a beautiful spring breeze rolling in. I hoped the neighbors weren’t outside to hear me.
On hands and knees 31 hours after my water broke, I finally birthed our first baby girl. Weary with exhaustion and filled with elation over our meeting, I collapsed on our bed.
Winifred Marie weighed in at a tiny 6 pounds and 2 ounces, our smallest and most overdue baby. She was born after a year of change, bringing light into the pain and difficulty that life has brought our way. Praise Jesus for another beautiful gift.
Our dining room is my favorite spot in our house. A place of convergence at all times of day to both create and eat. During the evening hours of spring and fall the room fills with glorious light. The sun creates pockets of highlights and shadows that easily take your breathe away.
Today contractors are removing one of my beloved windows to make a room for my grandmother to live in. My sacred space of light is about to darken.
This whole process of deciding and planning to move my grandmother in has been one of many ups and downs.
She can no longer live at home safely but she can no longer stand to live in her assisted living room. There are days she’s ready to bust herself out of there and I can’t really blame her. Who wants to be old? Not even a 90 year old woman.
But how am I going to care for an elderly woman along with my four small children? Only by the grace of God I’m certain.
How is she going to fare living alongside our loud and chaotic household? I’m not sure. This quote from G.K. Chesterton has really been helping my perspective on the whole thing:
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered”
This is bound to shape up as quite the adventure, and I’m looking forward to experience not only for Brad and I, but also for our children. This is a life changing experience we get to embark on. What is it like to care for someone in their last stage of life? I imagine it is humbling and sad as well as joyous and insightful.
We are taking an inconvenient risk and our house and our lives are permanently changing. I pray that there are more moments of light than darkness, and that the joy of the Lord is present in this place.