As we travel toward December 25th, I will be marking the four weeks of Advent with this series – Pregnant with Christmas. With one child born two days after Christmas and my tummy full of another one right now, so many of my thoughts are on that teenage mother of 2,000 years ago and her un-shakeable faith. So, each Sunday I will offer part of my own stumbling journey toward motherhood and what I’ve learned from watching Mary’s. I hope you’ll join me. And teach me.

I sit on a plane between Birmingham, Alabama and Charlotte, North Carolina and try to remember my mom. I try like I haven’t done for years. I lean my head against the vibrating bulkhead and want to picture her. Strong cheekbones, blue grey eyes, glasses, shoulder length, wavy hair. Shapely frame that’s tall and has all the curves it took me two children to eventually earn myself.

We lie in bed looking at each other. I’m on my right side and she’s lying on her left and we have heads on pillows looking directly at each other like we never did when she was alive. I’m a mama and so is she. We lie and look into each other. She strokes one finger down my nose and smiles, crooked, like me.

It’s always awkward to cry on airplanes.

I need to know what she loves about me. What makes me her daughter? Her daughter.  How do I fit together the pieces of who I am if half of them are missing – buried in the meerkat vlaktes of South Africa? I let it all back in –the fragmented child’s-perspective, memories half-forgotten and half wished away by years of absence.

She loved marrying into dad’s family. She relished the loud, the energetic; the emotional clash between members, unrestrained in expressing themselves. Meals were often forgotten but people celebrated with pizzaz, aplomb and homemade decorations. Music. There was always music. The louder, the better. The Mamas and Papas, John Denver, Bruce Springsteen, Mango Groove. No embarrassment over showing emotion – good or bad. And books. So many books. To read, to share, to discuss. Books that became like old friends and opened up new ways of looking into the nooks and crannies of God’s heart. Stories were a relished, shared language.

I feel her eyes on me across the span of the bed, eternity, and know that she loves these same things in the grown-up, mama-version of me.

How many mornings did she come out into the driveway wearing nothing but her night shirt to dance us away to school? Skinny, un-beautiful me in the blue high school uniform with the ill-fitting belt and the shoes that were split right open into a gaping grin around the toes that I refused to surrender since the year was almost up. And Josh and Luke. We’d crane around to look back as dad pulled off in the green Volkswagen station wagon.

She would always be dancing.

Crazy, shameless, jig of love right there in the early morning drive way. Wiggling fingers and dimples at us, she’d dance. Always different and always the same. Wild, delicious, ocean of evidence that we mattered. That the children she’d produced were beloved by the person who bore them. That our leaving was noticed and our home coming waiting to be celebrated.

To belong is a truth felt so deep and profound it echoes all the way down to our bellybuttons – the literal evidence of having come from someone else and the indelible reminder that all our needs cannot be met by ourselves.

Love must sustain for nine months and then multiply by a lifetime on the outside.

Someone else must say it, “I love you.”

She spelled it out in pencil in her Bible and in blood in the bellybutton she gave me under that Amarula sky. It is stretched now, from my own daughter growing beneath it. So I am scratching through old boxes in my head trying to find the one with her voice in it. And the way she could make us all feel somehow bigger, serve us bread buttered with margarine and sugar, and know more about me than perhaps she let on.

I will take these memories out of their layers of wrapping paper and treasure them again.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (NIV).

But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. (New Living Translation).

Mary treasured all these things in her heart and always thought about them. (God’s Word Translation).

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered [them] in her heart. (King James Bible)

To treasure: to guard, protect or hold onto to (according to Beth Moore/Deeper Still conference 12/4/2010).

I’d buried that treasure so deep, I’d forgotten where to find it. Then I spent the weekend with 14,000 women. The air was so full of the love and mystery of being a woman – a daughter and a mother –  that I wanted to open my mouth like a kid in the pouring rain and let it just run down my face, my cheeks and deep into this heart of mine that’s been so afraid of having a daughter. So afraid of wounding her. Of leaving her feeling unloved, unwanted, unknown.

I will treasure you child. At the beginning of your beginning I promise you are already wanted.

And there will be dancing at your arrival.

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