God is the one with the needles


She’s small. She’s got the dimensions of a dancer, although she can’t even walk; you can tell that she would be graceful if she could. Her hair is dark and short; it just rings her head. A little fringe of it falls across her brow like mini bangs. Her skin is perfect, with a yellow undertone and a rice-paper topcoat. It’s smooth. It’s velvety to the touch, or at least soft the way finished fine leather is soft. Maybe silk is closer, actually. There’s nothing like skin.

Skin that is new like that, with hardly any pores even—just thin, fine, babyish skin with a thin layer of fat under every inch of it.

Her eyes are big, doll big. And blue. Her daddy’s aren’t blue and neither are mine. But hers are. Today I was watching them as window light fell across her face and parts of them lit up; I think they are just as bright as they ever were. Permanent blue. But it’s not sky blue; it’s too dark for that. Almost like the sky in September. Tennessee sky in September, at the very top of the sky where it is deepest. Yes.

Above the eyes are two beautiful, infant eyebrows. Dark, like her hair. Shaped like the professionals have gotten to them already, though they haven’t and won’t. Her nose is perfectly formed, a little 50s-illustration-for-baby-food kind of nose. Round, slightly turned up.

Her lips are precious like stones are precious. Two little bows. She smiles all the time with them, but the smiles vary with her moods. There’s a straight-lipped smile, where she refuses a sight of her teeth and gums—in her silliness, she sucks them together, looks straight at you, and makes a wide little line of her mouth. Then there’s the toothy smile she offers when she sees a doll just after waking up in the morning, or when daddy comes home at the end of the day.

Then there’s a wide-open laugh of a smile, accompanied by a gasp of giddy pleasure. The thing about that smile is she also gives it away to strangers, to any old person we pass at the park or grocery store. They all get the smile of recognition, even if she doesn’t know them from Adam. She only knows that they are descendants of Adam, I guess. The humanness of all the people—she recognizes it from far away and calls to them across parking lots, across streets, across lawns. “Person!” she says with her smile and her outstretched hand. “You are a person! I am a person too!”

There’s a small mole on the side of her forehead, a few inches above her smooth cheek. A beauty mark—that’s what people will think of it when she’s older. Really it’s a beauty mark now, too. So close to the lashes. Looking down on her as she sits in my lap, I have to peer through those lashes to see the eyes below them. The lashes, the sweeping black lashes of a starlet, but babyfied and imbued with innocence. They are the darkest thing on her face—her eyebrows, her mole, her lips, her eyes—they all lend structure with their varying darkish tones, but her eyelashes alone have remained a sooty black, the way her hair was when she was first born.

She is shaped like a ballerina, though, and she moves like one. She will be like my mother, probably. A small, quickly moving woman. Energetic. Not like me, with my wide hips and shoulders, big feet, broad back. She’ll be shopping the petite section. I’ll have to learn how to style straight hair.

—–

This is the one thing I would try to communicate to people who wonder what it is like to give birth to someone. God knitted her; he’s still knitting her. David recognized this when he said that God knitted him in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). A Mama has the womb where the knitting takes place, but she isn’t the one with the needles.

God is the one with the needles.

Norah feels like something that has happened to me, not something that I have done. That’s not to say that she doesn’t also feel like a grave responsibility, a responsibility Justin and I talk often about and try our level best to plan for. But when I look at Norah, I don’t see my own image that I’ve re-created. Instead I see God’s image that he’s re-created, and I’m just the person who’s standing closest. In fact, I’m standing so near this process while it’s happening that it’s my own belly, my own breast, my own home, my own hands that are getting to watch.

It is a sacred privilege–a show so good that I am obsessed with watching it.

That is what it feels like.

When Justin and I come to the end of each day, we lie in bed telling each other little stories about what happened in it: “We worked up in Smith County today.” “She cried when you left for work this morning.” “Got an email from Rick today.” “This morning I was putting her down and she was asleep, totally asleep and she sat up already grinning like she’d been faking or something.” “I saw that picture you took.” “She ate a cricket this afternoon.”

And we laugh about her. We tell each other these details about things the other missed, because we mutually understand that we are obsessed and want to hear it all. We are amazed. We say silly things like, “She’s so pretty.” “I know.” “She’s a monkey.” “Yeah.” An endless repetition of stock observations.

But for all of that, and even in the pride we feel to let her meet new people, we feel much more like witnesses than accomplices.

We’re only two more of so, so many—the men and women whose bodies have been used to bring about every single person. And what we’re really seeing is what’s been true all along: we live in a magic world. God breathes and there is light, and snow, and air, and flowers, and waterfalls, and bunnies, and little girls named Norah. He breathes and we feel the breath and we’re allowed to touch and taste and smell and hear and watch. And if he were still walking in his garden with us in the cool of the day, we’d be able to run over to him and tell him about the things he’s making. But in this brief time of separation, until we’re finally reunited with our Father through the work of Christ, we instead can turn and tell one other about the things he’s making. And then we can kneel together and thank him for them.

“Thank you for her. Thank you for my husband, my wife. Thank you for the snow. Make us faithful to fight well for this baby’s soul and her heart. Make us faithful to fight for one another. Thank you for life, and eternal life. Thank you for the Tennessee sky in September.”

And thank you for the work of your needles.

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