Gasping for air.
There have been moments the past few months I have been gasping for air.
I had not run too far.
Smoke had not met my lungs.
The walls did not actually cave in.
But oxygen escaped rapidly.
When my lack of belonging and my questioned purpose lifted breath out of me and prevented it from returning to fill my chest, I felt lost.
A teacher without a classroom.
A writer without a book.
A speaker without a message.
A sojourner without a destination.
An orphan without a home.
But how dare I feel that.
How in the facts of being granted a family and chance at life in the States, with adoptive parents who sacrificed much and got a run for their money in my rebellion, could I say I was an orphan without a home?
Might I have any claim to be without destination when I have been blessed with two towns that have welcomed me and embraced what I had to offer? When I profess a faith that keeps its eyes not on this world alone, but in the promise of more?
And of the message, the hope chaser, the one who believes that in loving strong we truly become alive and when we do good work, activate in our potential, we can grow ourselves, communities and the world. Of this message, did it fall mute on my own ears when death stole from those I care for or did it lose strength when people stood on the fringes of faith?
Write on and remember it as such. No book defines the writer, rather words scribbled on paper or across the heart, splattered on the computer screen or spoken into the open. This inflicting thought reared false too. Surely the ink has dried to reality.
But the teacher. The teacher without a classroom is perhaps the most absurd. Are we not all teachers? And one of curriculum and academics, desks and pupils, shall not the lessons ring evermore in new venues and mediums if the passion and training did not exit?
Why then did my chest concave?
Was this fear?
Was this hurt?
Was this hunger?
I chased air.
I needed answers.
I craved just enough to get in a car with a dear friend and meet the unknown with urgency unqualified and my momentum uncategorized.
Yes, two weeks ago I talked to a nun who held my abandoned, rejected self and who had set out to care until I was gifted a future. The phone had been pressed to my ear and my beating heart nearly muffling the song her voice was to me.
My lungs burned to expand again.
I heard her words.
My husband and boys gave me space and I listened. I listened to the nun.
She told me to come soon. (Read Part I HERE)
And I did.
The next day.
Her words fought against my buckling from suffocation and landed me in South Bend, Indiana.
This, the visit to the Sisters of the Holy Cross to see the nun, who with others, would finish out the days of her vows at the Mother House. Each with decades spent abroad serving with their nursing and teaching skills, with their hands of love, I went to visit.
There we sat.
Holding hands like we had loved for a lifetime.
The nun held my hand with a quiet strength.
Her eyes bounced around her memory and then shifted to take me in.
I was one of her babies.
Warmth found my chilled skin.
Belonging danced with acceptance in my soul.
The chairs around me filled with angels as if the great cloud of witnesses came to affirm this aging nun that she had done good work.
The unfaltering smile on her face hastened me to believe that the trip to the convent was well-placed.
The demons of my insecurities would not find welcome here. Peace drew close and wonders piled in, but with calm, they filled the couch space to my left.
My mouth parted open but nothing met sound. It turned to a nervous smile and the nun swiftly let her other hand reach to tap my face.
A hush little baby lullaby floated through my head and the slam of a creaky door outside the room brought the finale to my minds’ wander.
The tap tap, as if a secret handshake between her years gone by and my cheek.
My body leaned in.
Had I felt this before?
Her gentle constant.
Had she really never stopped loving me?
The final tap lingered and turned to one of the purest strokes my being has been witness in.
Gasping for air. Again. Here.
This was not fear.
This was not hurt.
This was not hunger.
This was being overwhelmed in the gift of time. The eight hour drive exclaimed confirmation of time well spent.
I was nearly not able to bend to grab the scrapbook that sat near my feet. She thought I was leaving and she clutched tightly until I spoke of pictures I had brought. Pictures sent with letters during the long wait for my arrival 30 years ago.
She took in the pictures.
She told me of laundry.
She remembered the hostel she founded.
She recounted the hours she spent after teaching to help babies eat and be safe.
She spoke with fervor as she spilled details about the group of 19 Precious Jewels she brought to America.
And then she said it.
I can hardly breathe.
One of my babies is here!
You came all this way, I sure hope I’m worth it.
The one who told me to come soon.
She gasped for air, too.
She wrestled worth just as I do.
And then she stopped.
Swept back to the joy, she began to soften her shoulders and moved back towards me.
She stretched her heart and life’s work out like the table in front of us. The years had smoothed out the mountains and valleys and her spirit had peace.
I soaked her in.
I listened as she continued recalling snippets of a life I had once been a part of.
I vaulted it. The hurt of my story was certainly going to arrive, but not there in the visitor’s house lounge.
Hours later it would, but in that moment, I belonged. I had a right to teach others of their belonging even if I question mine.
She, the nun who ascribed worth to little dejected children, she questioned her own and then stopped…
….to start breathing again.
There is more.
But this Friday bids us pause.
Tell me of you.
Feel the air with me.
We are allowed to breathe.
Best of all is it to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song. ~Konrad von Gesner, scientist, theologian, writer
For all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, chase hope, breathe deep, and when you gasp, remember you belong.