On Saturday night when the snow falls large, like feathers from heaven’s tick, I kneel in the muck of the barn and milk a sow.
Rub her udder, warm and swollen right heavy round, nudge at the vessel fullness of her, and wait for her drip.
Wait for the sticky whiteness of her dripping sweet, the snow piling without a sound on the roof.
When I’m bent over her udder with a pail of chop for her trough, her last, this mirage of a runt, it slips out of her and feebly scrapes its way out of its blooming fetal bag. I watch it struggle for untried legs, these wet twigs.
She can’t stop her thin, begging tremor. Quakes in a cold and broken world. Presses her wet shiver up against the unwilling back thigh of the sow.
Malakai wore his suede shoes through the snow this afternoon and they puddle this sad, soggy mess of ruin in the mudroom.
Three packages have been sitting in the mud room for two weeks waiting for just one person to finally make the 4 mile pilgrimage to the post office.
There were no clean underwear in the top drawer on Friday morning and tell me, what do you do there, just standing in your flimsy towel?
What saves you everyday from going a little bit insane?
This isn’t a crazy question.
I cup the runt to the sow’s belly up udder.
I nuzzle her bare offering with my hand, nuzzle for the shivering runt, believing the saving white drip will come. If he wants half a chance, he’s got to get some warm cream into him.
Somedays we all are desperate for something, Someone, to save us. The pitiful thing feels like a cold pebble in my hand.
C’mon — Live. Drink. I massage the sow’s udder hard.
Once this woman, she’d bravely told me that she’d sent for it to come in the mail, this story of counting 1000 gifts and taking the dare to joy right right where you are, and she walked hand in hand with her husband to pick up the book up at the post office.
And who could know then, that even that night, her husband would send an email from his midnight shift, pixels that made letters that could detonate one woman’s only world — that he wanted a divorce. That he’d run into an old girlfriend and was up and walking away from his old life and those certain sermons that he’d preached for a month of Sundays from the pulpit.
She said she couldn’t remember getting off the floor a few days later.
Or remember packing up the cat or that small overnight bag or grabbing that package with its ridiculous dare of one thousand gifts or making her way to her daughter’s couch.
She said the pain just went on and on and on. She said she knew God was her only way through this; that she’d listened to enough of her husband’s sermons to believe even that.
She said, “I begged to die.”
C’mon — Live!
The sow lets down and grunts slow and steady and there’s this leak of creamed hope. We need you — we. need. you. — please, please, open your mouth up, girl.
The runt’s only ribs, this concaved prayer.
The woman said that the pounds, they just kept slipping off her laying there on her daughter’s couch. The part of her that was left, it hoped that she’d lose the last of herself and fade invisible.
“One thing I did do: I read about counting one thousand gifts.” She said this. And then she punctuated it with all the breath she still had:
“I HAD to count all my gifts — had to.
To keep me ‘here‘.”
Live! Live! C’mon, we need you to LIVE! The runt’s opened her begging mouth and I can feel her in my hand — I can feel her every warming swallow. I can feel her belly warming. Drink.
When you are dying of thirst, passively reading about water quenches little; the only way to be quenched is to actually get a cup and drink. We have to do more than read and think and plan, we’ll have to do something.
You’ve got to open up your mouth and swallow.
You’ve got to taste and see He’s good —
God isn’t asking us to earn His love. He’s simply asking us to turn towards His love.
You’ve got to taste His love.
You’ve got to grab a pen and count gifts. You’ve got to look for the glory and hunt for the grace and seize beauty in ugly and laugh brave and defiant in the dark and you can lose everything but nothing can steal Jesus and He is enough and you have got. to. live.
She said that later: “We don’t see God in so much (if any) of what we do. But He IS there. Using all our pain to help others. And we’ve got this privilege of bringing Him glory. Imagine...!”
I couldn’t. I couldn’t imagine that…. Her being brave in the face of pain, her counting it a privilege to bring God glory in the midst of gutting pain…
I could hardly believe you could say something like that after your vowed, tender heart had been abandoned like that, after your heart had been gorged like that.
But she was the one who had lived it and could give real testimony, who hadn’t right bled to death and she had counted gifts because she had to, had to if she was going to stay here, and she’d brought Him impossible glory in the impossible and she had testified He had saved her, so how can you not want to live a truth like that?
Believing something is one thing. But the best things only come when you decide to Be Living it.
It’s leaking at the edges of the runt’s mouth, the best of her, the milk of her. Why is it hardest, to open yourself up and let yourself be blessed?
It’s literally saving this runt, one glory, milky swallow at a time, each swallow just like one murmured thank you after another.
Spacibo in Russian. Thank you, spacibo, thank you. Spacibo, thank you, in Russian — the literal translation of thank you in Russian is: God saves you.
There is a to-do list I can’t do. And there are demons I can’t slay. And there are these thin, cold days that make me quake dead weary.
And there is a pen that nuzzles at the day, one number at a time, and Spacibo could be an English word: Thank you. God saves you.
God saves you! Live! Live!
And at the very end in the dark in the kitchen, Kai’s shoes lay upside down over the heat register at the back door, the washing machine’s slogging on faithful.
I sit in the still, smelling a bit like a pig and the barn and one runt determined to drink and really live.
This swallowing the richness of living, it comes in letting yourself be blessed. Letting yourself be loved.
Let yourself be loved by Him. Count all the ways He loves you and Live!
The ink numbering joy….
just one saving drip at a time.
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