How to Breathe Through the Hard Times

They were born the same week.

Both of them, days apart, two miracle years ago this week.

My scribbly little book and her loveliest little person.




And my sister had said to me, said into the phone, during early labor — “Tell me I can do this.”

And I wait for her to breathe heavy through the mother wave cresting up around the child swelling and I say, “Yes, you can do it.”

She’s in labor over love.

Her body tightening, hugging a child into this world. It’s always fear that brings tension the tension that brings the pain.

And then it’s the pain that makes us think that we can’t go on… So when the world contracts tight… breathe deep, and let it all come with no fear, no fear.

“Remember?” I whisper it gentle, what I told myself through all our six labors: “You’re a bag of sand and there’s a hole in your toe — and the sand just keeps trickling out.

Just let everything that comes on, trickle on through. Don’t hold on… Just breathe and let go.”

All the torn places in a life show us to how let go.

And the work of birthing a child is the work of raising a child —  knowing how to let go.

We breathe slow together, letting what He gives in this moment fill us, run through us, move on out into the world.

I don’t know how many times a day I still midwife myself and these children, “Just take a deep breath… Breathe.

The beautiful labor over a child never ends.

And our every breath is a murmuring of His name, YWHW.

“The letters of the name of God in Hebrew… are infrequently pronounced Yahweh. But in truth they are inutterable….

This word {YHWH} is the sound of breathing.

The holiest name in the world, the Name of Creator, is the sound of your own breathing. That these letters are unpronounceable is no accident. Just as it is no accident that they are also the root letters of the Hebrew verb ‘to be’… God’s name is name of Being itself.

~Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

She’s inhaling now, soft whistle breath calling Him, her very existence an unceasing invitation for Him to come. And she exhales, breath returned to Him, a circular ventilation of the soul. YHWH. YHWH.

Breathe — and call the name of Being Himself. Keep breathing — and pray without ceasing.

This is how to labor over your child,  your life: breathe, inhale prayers, exhale prayers, breathe. YHWH. YHWH.

I breathe prayers all morning. I watch the hands of the clock and feel the everlasting arms underneath.

And when the phone rings, I catch my breath, and it’s her voice and I wait to hear and she whispers it happy– “A girl!”

And I throw back my head and laugh wonder! Five girls in a row!

And when the newest of our women folk, small and bundled, is placed into my open arms, this curl of warming wonder, I behold grace and breathe the unending prayer of women everywhere:

“O Thank you, Lord.”

And then God —

He orchestrates it that days after  that book of ours, One Thousand Gifts, delivers into the world, that my little days-old niece stops breathing.

She turns blue, color of heaven.

Would we still look up to the heavens and whisper what we’d written in the pages of One Thousand Gifts: God is always good and we are always loved.

The words we preach must always become flesh. Else they aren’t words but lies.

We wait to hear from doctors in the critical care unit.

My niece breathes shallow and laboured.

One Thousand Gifts preaches what we stand by, over a year on the New York Times, preaching All is Grace — because Christ can transfigure all.

And we kneel with this wee one and thank God for even this, how He will use even this.God asks us not to only read or write words, but become them.

Will we live the hard eucharisteo, gratitude for that which makes no sense to us on this side? We eat the manna, the mystery of the moments, and thank Him that He alone is enough to sustain us.

My sister emails an update from the monitors of the hospital room and this blinks across my screen:

I am grateful today, Sister, for:

a husband who loves me even when I’m breaking
that days like today come to an end and that He is faithful to provide His grace for each suffocating moment

I bite my the corner of my lip to hold it all from giving away.

The words we believe, they breathe. We are living it. The words on a page about thanks in all things again take on sinew and muscle and blood and skin and again we become words.

Our every breath is a surrender to His sovereignty: YWHW. YWHW.





And now, two years later this week, after all that He has brought us all through —

We all gather in the snow, my sister and I and my mama, with our very good men and her 5 girls and our half a dozen crazy tribe, and we sing happy birthday.

Sing Happy Birthday for the little girl, whose beginning, whose hard breathing and hard eucharisteo, were tied inexplicably to this gift of giving thanks in all things —

in all things

 for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus. 

And it is a wonder —

pink cakey


my button

'bir day' in the snow

right there!


A wonder that she twirls, mittens in the air, and wonder that we laugh, and wonder that there is the miracle of now when it might not have been at all, and wonder that all is grace.

And the snow falls around us like manna, breath of heaven come down.

{And while this video looks like it’s about a goofy son and his fish? (Youtube won’t let me change the thumbnail!} One click and you are in this little one’s pink and two years ago this week and the birth of our little niece — and we watch the miracle unfold and it chokes me up every. single. time.}

{RSS Readers may click here to watch the video that started it all: How to Figure Life Out. Consider clicking off the music in the left sidebar, just a click of the speaker icon?}
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most photos by gracious sister, Molly

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are — {two years old this week!} — 44% off at
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