I live with the rise and fall of a breath warming my chest, the caress of soft buttery skin against my own and the weight of a baby across my shoulders. I have been wearing babies for more than a few years, each in succession: One. Two. Three. Each one cozying up. Each one with different needs. One and two, walked by their first birthday, straining against the closeness as they began to go make their way in the world. But my last, number three, he is still here on my hip. My precious heart warrior baby, even beyond his first birthday, still lives in this close and protected space within my arms. But as he grows, each carrier grows too small, uncomfortably tight, too close. I’ve been contemplating a new sling, but choose to make-do, because he is my last, and our baby items are dwindling, not accumulating.
And then, a precious soul, a kind acquaintance, handed me a box containing the most beautiful soft linen sling, the carrier of my dreams. She responded to the quietest whisper of a need, a want, and responded. And I wept at her generosity. I wept from the relief of being seen, in my exhaustion, in my need, in my private vulnerability. The tears still flow each time I remember that someone reached out to care for me when I could not or did not choose to care for myself.
They say that to be seen is to be loved, and in this season of Advent, this season of waiting, this season of hustle and bustle, these recent moments make me wonder how many of us are simply waiting to be seen? How many of us are yearning to feel that kind of love?
This time of year especially, I think of the shepherd who came to visit the Christ babe, and whether or not you celebrate the season because of this story, the familiar words will no doubt fall on your ears in the coming weeks: “and Mary held all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” Because she had birthed a baby in a barn, with only her husband to help. Because she was in the throws of exhaustion, blood, milk and emotion, all alone. Because there was no one to visit her, no one to hug her, no one to bring her meals, and tell her congratulations. And she bore it all, just as so many of us do. She fought to bring her child into the world, and she would fight for him, as his mother, for all the years to come. How often, when she felt tired, alone and exhausted in the mothering of it all, did she stop to remember the time she had been seen? Did she remember the other time she felt alone and vulnerable and the shepherds came to rejoice in her baby, and then she didn’t feel so alone? When they came to celebrate her baby and honor her for bringing him into the world? Honor her for all her hard work? How much love did she draw from those precious moments?
And while it is a holy story, I like to think Mary was a lot like all of us: with good days and bad days. With days where she rocked at motherhood and with days she felt she wouldn’t make it until dinner. And I think, like us, she was sustained by the love gathered from moments she felt seen in amongst it all. She collected the gifts of moment when she remembered she was not alone, and hid them in her heart to return to on the dark days.
Having been on the receiving end of this kind of insight and love more than once, I’m grateful for the recent spark of generosity and inspiration in this holiday season. It reminded me that you don’t have to know someone that well to reach out. It reminded me that to meet someone where they’re at, not only communicates that they are seen, but that they are truly loved. And it inspired me to love boldly through whatever means are available to me.
From the bottom of my heart, I hope you know what I’m talking about, Friend. I hope you’ve felt seen and loved in some way that refreshed your heart and inspired your mind. I hope you hide that moment in your heart, no matter how big or small and return to it whenever you need to remember. Whenever you need to not feel alone. And then I hope you can turn all these things into love for someone else.
Need some inspiration? Been a mother for a while? Then you know exactly how to reach out to an expectant first-timer, and tell her it’s going to be OK. Remember what it was like to battle breastfeeding? Buy a bunch of different types of bottles and take them to a struggling mama, and tell her it’s OK. Ever had a sick baby in the hospital? Call and load up a cafeteria card for a family you heard were there with their sick baby. See a mama struggling to carry her immune suppressed baby close? Find a way to get her a new sling. Or simply walk down the diaper aisle and leave little cards that say, “You’re doing a great job, Mama! Keep it up!” for the bleary-eyed and exhausted co-traveler.
Because wherever you find yourself throughout this Advent season, I hope that all our offerings to each other, no matter how big or how small, will come from an overflow of the miracles we’ve held in our own heart and are ready to share.