Pulling My Son Up From Under the Water

Pulling my son up from under the water, his eyes closed and dead, his fingers pinching his nose, there is a moment when I recognize death for what it is. I see it, right there in front of me. But this is a momentary death, and my recognition of it is fleeting. His eyes open, and his flat line mouth turns into sputters, and life, pure life, lights up into a smile.

The water that runs off the head of my son, freshly baptized, is like no water I’ve ever seen. I want to bottle it and take it home. Set it reverently in the corner of my desk, in front of the picture of him when he was crawling around naked after a bath, two years old. I want to put it in front of the picture of my father and I (the three of us share a first name) at my graduation so that I can see that event, that relationship, new, through the magnifying glass of my son’s baptismal water.

I wonder what I would see in that water, if I put it on a small glass slide and viewed it through a microscope. What single cell organisms participated in his rebirth? What tiny amoeba lost its relatives in a drop of water he may have swallowed? The moment was so holy that I find it hard to believe the water wouldn’t be full of signs, full of molecules that point to new life.

* * * * *

Unless a seed dies, it remains a single seed.

* * * * *

And then, my daughter crawled lightly into the tank, so buoyant it felt like I had to hold her down just to keep her from floating into the air. So small. So young. She shook with excitement and nervousness. I wondered what she was thinking at that moment. I wondered what she expected this submersion to accomplish.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Then she was under and coming back up, face first, water running.

I wonder what death she will experience in this life, what disappointments, what discouragements. Sickness and sadness – it waits for all of us, often when we least expect it. I hope this second birth will help her through these things, later, when this baptism is just a distant memory, when all that remains are shadows and dreams of the day her father and grandfather baptized her in a tank of extraordinary water in a small church in Gap, Pennsylvania.

* * * * *

I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

* * * * *

Baptism by fire. Now there’s an image.

I can’t confess to understanding this God, the one who dies, the one who leads us into death, the one who baptizes, not with water but with fire. For while I can collect the water that runs off my children’s heads and stare into it, study it, analyze the minute life that swims in it, I cannot do that with fire. I cannot put fire under a microscope. I cannot soak it’s puddles up with a towel. I cannot stand in it with my children.

None of us even have the will to enter into fire. That sort of baptism – you have to wait for it to fall down.

Why I Wanted Our Fifth Child to be a Girl


“If you don’t want to know the baby’s sex, now is the time to look away from the screen,” the ultrasound tech said, so Maile closed her eyes and I looked down at the tiles.

“Would you mind writing down the sex on a piece of paper for us?” Maile asked, her eyes still squeezed shut. When she closes her eyes like that, she looks like a little girl, I thought to myself. I thought of Madeline L’Engle’s words:

I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be.

“No problem,” the man said. He was a straightforward man with a kind voice and very little expression.

“Do you ever, you know, is it always easy to tell if it’s a boy or a girl?” Maile asked, trying not to express any doubt in the man’s unquestionable abilities as a magic waver of the ultrasound wand. He looked at her and waited just a second before answering. The pause gave his words added effect.

“At 20 weeks, it’s easy to identify the baby’s sex,” he said, matter-of-fact, like an elementary school teacher answering a child as to whether or not one plus one always equals two.

So that was that. He folded the slip of paper and put it inside an envelope. Written on it was either the word ‘boy’ or ‘girl.’ My sisters would take the envelope to a friend of ours who makes cupcakes, and she would open the envelope and then fill the cupcakes with blue if it was a boy or pink if it was a girl. On Sunday at my parents house some family members would gather and we’d count down and bite into a cupcake and there it would be, boy or girl, the new shape of our family.

We never did these sorts of things with our other children. We always waited to find out until the final push, the first little wail, the anguish-ecstacy of a life breaking into the world. But these are new days. New times. And we are, all of us, changing.

* * * * *

“So what are you hoping for?” everyone asks, and in the past I would have said “A healthy baby” or, if I was feeling particularly ornery, “A human.” But now that I’m older I hold myself to a lower degree of scrutiny. I am less affected by what I used to consider weaknesses of character. I am who I am, and while I still strive to become a kinder presence in the world, use a softer voice with my children, and be more sensitive to the needs of my wife, I also understand that God loves me deeply, just as I am.

So when people asked me what I was hoping for, I answered in a straightforward voice without hesitation, “A girl.”

And I did hope for a girl. At first I wasn’t sure why. I love my sons fiercely and tenderly, so the thought of another son wasn’t something that filled me with bad feelings. This made me even more curious. Why do I want a girl? Then it came to me, through the foggy cloud of self-awareness and personal history.

I didn’t know if I had it in me to be a good dad to three boys. Two already stretched me. I remembered the amount of time my dad spent playing ball with me, the only boy. I remembered growing up with a sense of uniqueness, the only son of Merrill Smucker, the oldest child. I have a very good father.

Parenting girls has never weighed on my mind. Perhaps because I grew up with three sisters, or perhaps because some of my best friends as a child were my female cousins. Whatever the cause, I feel relaxed with my girls, sufficient. I feel that the love that I have for them will be enough.

The arrival of  our fourth child, and second son, Sam, was a surprise to me. I think I always assumed I would have one son, that I could be the same father to my boy as my father was to me. But as Sam grew up, I found myself fighting off feelings of inadequacy. I didn’t have time to play ball with both of them, separately, every day, as my own father did in my memories. I didn’t have the energy to be what I felt Cade and Sam needed me to be. I couldn’t be the same dad to them that my father had been to me.

So at the thought of having another boy, I felt myself shrink back. The voices in the back of mind stepped closer to the foreground.

You should be a different father than the one you are.You could be a better father to your sons.

“So, what are you hoping for?”

“A girl.”

* * * * *

On Wednesday night, four days before the planned revealing of baby number five, we got snowed in. Our half-mile lane was blanketed in two feet of snow. There was no way we were going anywhere, at least not for a few days, so we holed up in the house. I stacked wood outside the house for the woodstove and Maile made all kinds of delicious food for the stretch ahead of us.

On Friday, I started getting a toothache. A bad one. And not only were we snowed in, but we had no pain reliever in the house, nothing, and my dentist was closed for the week. I spent Friday night soaking my mouth in ice, then miraculously drifted into a long night, a fitful sleep.

Maile would dream that we had a boy, but that by the time he was a toddler we still hadn’t decided on a name for him. A little boy walking around, nameless, us still undecided.

On Saturday things didn’t look much more hopeful. My neighbor usually plowed our lane, but his plow wasn’t large enough for this amount of snow. My friend who had a plow had been plowing for his business for 48 hours straight and couldn’t get all the way down to our house in the southern tip of the county. The revealing for Baby #5 was 24 hours away. My sisters threatened to go ahead without us. Then my dad swooped in.

“I’m going to come down and see if we can figure something out. Plus, you need some Advil,” he said. He called me 45 minutes later.

“Hey, I’m out here at the end of the lane and I can’t get the Jeep in. I’m going to ask around and see if anyone has a plow.”

He called back thirty minutes later.

“Do you know your neighbors?” he asked. “You’ve got some really nice neighbors. I talked to the couple in the house at the corner and she’s calling around for someone to come plow your lane. Then I met a little old lady who lives in the small house across the road. They’re trying to help, too.”

Let’s be honest – I’ve lived at the back of that half-mile lane for a year-and-a-half, and I’ve met one set of neighbors. Now my dad comes down to our area and in the span of 45 minutes he was best friends with everyone on the block.

As I hung up the phone, it hit me: I am not my dad. I would have been content to wait until the snow melted, or to sit tight until a friend found the time to come down and help us out. But my dad was canvassing the neighborhood for help. I could have lived in that house for ten years without meeting our neighbors, but my dad got to know them all, and remembered their names, in less than an hour.

And that sentence flashed through my mind again, like a bolt of lightning.

I am not my dad.

A burden the size and weight of a two-foot snowfall lifted from my shoulders. My dad was a wonderful example to me of what a dad should be: loving, accepting, encouraging. He challenged me to make good decisions and to accept responsibility when my decisions were off-kilter. Those are things I can do for my boys. But I don’t have to be him. I can be the dad I am to my sons (and my daughters).

In fact, I have strengths as a father that my dad did not have. If I have a third boy, it will be okay. And I will be enough.

* * * * *

We sat around the table and one of my sisters counted down from three to one. Everyone took a monster-sized bite out of their cupcake (except me – you know, that toothache – so I just pulled mine apart). And then, unplanned, unrehearsed, everyone shouted out together.

“It’s a boy!”

I found myself getting unexpectedly emotional. And so happy. Because I will be a good father to this third boy, of that I am determined. I will be the father he needs.

I looked at Maile and she was crying and I smiled.

“It’s a boy,” I said, shrugging my shoulders, laughing, because it was the kind of joy that forces you to respond.

* * * * *

On Monday morning my dentist fit me in for a quick visit that turned into an on-the-spot root canal. The difference I felt in my mouth before and after was unbelievable. It was the difference between pain and no pain; pressure and no pressure. It was the difference between downhill and uphill, the trajectory of a life.

It was the distance between trying to be someone else, and then suddenly discovering that I am sufficient.

(I’m going to begin posting once a week. The posts might be a little longer, but I’m going to settle into this rhythm for a bit while I work on some other projects. I hope you’ll keep coming by – look for new posts every Wednesday morning.)

When Maile and I Woke Up to an Empty House

It’s been a cold week in Lancaster County. There have been a lot of snow days. You can tell by the look in the eyes of mothers wandering the grocery store aisles, the crazed searching, as if they expect to find, hidden behind the boxes of Cheerios or perhaps tucked away amongst the Campbell’s soup cans, small portions of summer, or all-expenses-paid trips to Cancun.

When I was a kid, my favorite part about snow days was stumbling back in out of the cold and finding steaming mugs of Swiss Miss hot chocolate on the table with those little white sugary things they called marshmallows – we all knew they weren’t quite marshmallows. They were more like tiny bits of sweetened, edible cardboard. When they started making packs with “20% More Marshmallows,” well, it didn’t get much better than that.

Unless it was Grandma Smucker’s hot chocolate. She made it with real milk and Hershey’s chocolate syrup, back when we knew nothing about human trafficking, back when we had no idea (and, quite frankly, didn’t even think to ask) about Hershey’s methods of doing business, where they got their cocoa beans, how they treated the workers who harvested their profits. Back then it was simply Hershey’s, and it was simply delicious.

Grandma Smucker, the queen of hot chocolate, died about sixteen months ago. All eight of her children, along with their husbands and wives, and their thirty-some children, and a dozen or more great-granchildren, spent that last week with her, watching her fade and singing “When We All Get To Heaven” and “What Heaven Means to Me.”

A country where no twilight shadows deepen
Unending day where night will never be
A city where no storms will ever gather
This is just what heaven means to me

* * * * *

Last week Maile, the four kids, and I drove to Missouri. Whenever we told people we were driving to Missouri, they looked at us as though we had said we were driving to Antarctica.

“You’re driving to Missouri? How far is that?”

Turns out it’s about 1051 miles, but the miles going out are shorter than the miles coming home. I’m not sure how that works, but it’s true. While we were out there we met with a publishing house about a potential book project, and we also got to catch up with some family and friends.

One of the couples we saw are old friends from here in Lancaster. They have a beautiful little nine month old who reminds me of our oldest son when he was that age, all smiles and quiet sitting in his high chair, watching. It’s hard to believe ten long years have come and gone since our son was that old. Time is a funny thing, and the last thing you should do if you want it to move slower is to try and grab on to it.

* * * * *

On Monday morning Maile and I woke up to an empty house. From under the warm covers I could hear large slabs of frozen snow sliding off the roof and crashing on to the ground. The kids all spent the night at my parents’ house, and it was nice having an evening with just my wife.

I went downstairs and stoked the fire in the wood stove, then came up to the main level and opened all the blinds. Bright snow light glared through the glass. I made myself some breakfast and started working. The house was very quiet.

At one point in the morning, Maile said, “It’s hard to believe that someday all of our kids will be out in the wide world.” Cade, on his own, making breakfast? Lucy, driving to work? Abra, making a list of things to pick up at the grocery? Sam, little Sam, paying bills? It’s very hard indeed, believing that, but on a morning like that one I could feel it, the peace and the sadness, the freedom and the sense of missing things.

It’s a good stage we’re in, this busy, loud, kids-sleeping-on-the-bedroom-floor-almost-every-night stage. Someday it will pass, and the new stage will be good, too. I guess it all just reminded me to love this snow-covered, freezing cold day for what it is, and not to reach for the future too often.

Searching For Signs Of Life (or, a visit to the midwife)


We walk through the dreary, rainy day and into the small clinic. The last time Maile was here, they couldn’t find a heartbeat. The time before that, a little over a year ago, we found out the pregnancy wasn’t viable. Such a small place, that clinic, lost in the farmers’ fields. Such an ordinary place.

The midwife leads us from a virtually silent waiting room, down a short hall, and then into the examination room. I squeeze into a chair in the corner, beside the sink and across from a small, clear plastic model of a woman’s reproductive organs. It’s rather fascinating, all those tubes and passageways. I try not to stare at it though, because then the midwife might think I’m weird.

The paper on the examination table crinkles loudly as Maile climbs on and then lays back. She hikes her shirt up so that it rests on top of her slightly round, ripening stomach.

“This is going to feel a little cold,” the midwife says, placing a heartbeat sensor loaded with gel on to her white skin.

Immediately the silence around us is replaced by a whirring, a rushing, a storm heard from inside the deepest parts of a ship. But it’s not constant, like television static. No, this rushing is alive and moving. It’s the inside of Maile, the sounds of her body magnified, sent rushing through wires and electrical equipment, then pushed through a speaker so that those of us outside can eavesdrop.

But that long whooshing noise interrupted by the occasional cosmic crackle is not the sound we are listening for.

Then we hear a slow, ponderous gulping noise. It seems odd and out of place, that steady rhythm emerging from the random, white noise.

But that’s not the sound we’re listening for either.

“That’s your heart beat,” the midwife says quietly, quickly, so that we will not mistake it for anything more. “Baby’s should be right around here somewhere.”

She slides the sensor back and forth slowly, and Maile’s heartbeat fades in and out of the whooshing noise. For just a moment I think about my struggle with silence, the way it batters me and soothes me. I think about the silence I encountered in Istanbul, and how it changed me. I think about the dying man I met there, the man who has since passed on, and I think about the silence of writing his story.

Silence is a thing that frightens many of us, because complete silence is death, and we have been taught to resist death, to fight it, or let it terrify us. But I’ve learned there is something behind the silence, something worth more than all the noise in the world. My true self waits there on the other side of silence. God waits there as well, emerging from that lack of noise like a whisper, or a heart beat.

Then we hear it. A sound not unlike Maile’s heartbeat, but smaller and faster and more urgent, like a tiny voice crying out, “Listen to me! Hear me! I am!”

As quick as it came into being, it was gone.

“Baby’s a mover,” the midwife says, smiling. “He or she is pretty quick to get out of the way when she feels the pressure from this.”

We wait, and we hear it again. Tears can be like a thin film on your eyes, a cataract.

* * * * *

Later, I go out to the waiting room while they take Maile’s blood. Sorry. Not a fan of that. For some reason I can watch a baby come lurching into the world, bloody and messy and all tangled in on itself, but I’d rather not watch a skinny vampire needle suck the life out of someone.

The lady at the front desk asks me to write down directions to our house from their other location in case of an emergency, but I have never been to their other location before so I stop and think about all those back roads, the winding ways from here to there. The unlikely paths we take. An Amish man, also waiting in the room, speaks up.

“Did I hear you say you’re from Holtwood?” he asks in that Amish accent, the one that sounds like English words are fighting with German words and the English ones are emerging victorious, but only just.

“Yeah,” I say. He goes on to explain the easiest way from the other clinic to where I live, or at least the general vicinity. I could take it from there.

“Thanks,” I say. “You from down there?”

“Well, I grew up in Nine Points, sort of down Holtwood way, but now I live over in Kinzers.”

“I grew up in Kinzers,” I say. “Across from the paint store, just down from the high school. Umry who used to own the paint shop? His wife is my mom’s cousin.”

“Is that right?” he asks. “My brother-in-law is Umry’s cousin. Sure is loud up this end of the county, at least compared to Nine Points.”

Now, Kinzers has a population of about 2,000 people, spread out over rolling fields and forests. It’s a large area. I had to smile when he said Kinzers is loud. But now that I live in the “southern end,” I know what he is talking about. Kinzers has its fair share of small businesses, and they draw large delivery trucks down their skinny roads. It’s downright silent in our neck of the woods – no one but farmers and writers and other such sedentary folk.

“Sure is quiet in Holtwood,” I say to the Amish man just as Maile emerges from the back of the clinic. “Nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, nice to meet you,” he says, and he sounds surprised that he means it.

We walk out into the mist and I hold Maile’s hand for a moment. I imagine that I can feel her pulse in her hand, maybe two pulses, the deep reverberations of life going on, going on, going on. There’s something about the presence of a heartbeat that can sometimes make you think this life will never end. It seems like such an irresistible force.

But I’ve heard it, the silence, the absence of the heartbeat. I’ve traveled through that space, not unscathed, not unchanged, but I’ve traveled through it. We drive out on to the road and the sound of the tires on the wet asphalt is very much like the sounds we had heard inside of Maile in those moments when the midwife searched for signs of life. And I think that’s what we’re doing, all of us, most of the time.

Searching for signs of life.

What Happened When We Told Our Kids a Baby Is On The Way

IMG_0462In mid-November we decided to tell our four kids that there was a fifth on the way. Their reaction was not exactly what we had expected.

“Everybody come up to our room,” I shouted downstairs. “Mom and I have something to tell you.”

The sound of eight little feet pounded up the steps, slip-sliding their way into our room. All six of us crawled up into the bed. The kids eyes were large and curious – that is where we have the most serious of conversations, in our room, sprawled on the bed. This is where we talked to the littles about, as Sam calls it, “private-cy.” This is where we read together. It is, in other words, Holy

I found myself getting more and more excited to finally tell someone. Anyone. We had been keeping everything quiet, keeping our hope caged up like a small bird. But here it was: a chance to tell. I wondered what it would be like. I wondered if, in saying the words aloud, it would seem more real to me.

“Mom and I have something to tell you,” I said quietly, anticipating their cheering and shouting. I paused for a moment.

“What?” they all said. “What is it? Tell us!”

“I’m going to have a baby,” Maile said.

The response was not what we had expected. Let me rephrase that. The response of our oldest two children (ages 10 and 8 at the time) was not what we had expected. The younger two leaped to their feet and cheered. Sam screamed with delight, over and over again, “I’m not going to be the youngest anymore!” Abra grinned, her blue eyes wide and full of hope.

But the older two. Ah, the older two. I keep forgetting they are full-fledged people now, with their own hopes and dreams and expectations. Cade’s eyes filled with tears and his lip got all trembly. Lucy openly wept. Maile and I looked at each other. What had we done?

“What’s wrong?” Maile asked, on the verge of tears herself.

Cade spoke first, his voice wavering.

“I…don’t…really…want…our…family…to…change,” he said, balling up his fists and rubbing his eyes.

I leaned over and put my arm around Lucy.

“And why are you crying?”

In the most mournful voice possible, she replied.

“I don’t want another baby to die,” she said, through those hiccup-sounding sobs, then burst into tears again. Lucy had taken the previous miscarriage very hard. She had been seven years old, and very much looking forward to a baby to treat as her own. For her, the possibility of encountering that pain again was a scary, overwhelming thing.

Maile and I looked at each other. I was hugging Lucy and she was holding Cade’s hand. After ten minutes of assuring and reassuring and explaining and encouraging, the four of them went back downstairs, returning to their busy childhood lives.

I turned and looked at Maile.

“Well, that went well, don’t you think?”

* * * * *

Anxious about change.

Scared of death.

I realized that the reactions of my oldest two children pretty much sum up the foundational fears of most of humanity. Most people I know avoid change because it’s scary and unknown and makes us feel insecure, like a soft-shell crab. And you don’t have to look far in our culture to find the fear, or denial of, death. We flock to any remedy that keeps us younger, our hair less gray, our skin less wrinkled, our age less apparent. We want to be young forever.

We surround ourselves with noise because at the heart of silence lies an awareness of our mortality. Noise helps us forget the steady, onward march of time and the inevitability of our passing.



The reaction of my oldest two children has me thinking about the coming year. Because, a baby! It’s not that both of them won’t be ecstatic to have a baby in the house. But the fear of change and the fear of death steered them away from wanting this new thing, this new adventure.

What changes are you avoiding because you’re afraid?

What potential deaths (failures, mistakes, the end of a relationship, potential discomforts) keep you from moving into an area of life where you know, deep down, you want to go?

* * * * *

Related Post: Miscarriages, Waiting, and “Do Not Be Afraid”

Miscarriages, Waiting, and “Do Not Be Afraid” (or, An Announcement)

During a recent trip to God’s Whisper Farm, I woke up in the morning to discover that our four kids had invaded the bed.


After a few hours of waiting, I sent my wife a text message.


The phone rang moments later. I picked it up. I felt like I was in a movie because suddenly, surprisingly, the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. Eventually, I asked, “So what happened?” But even before she said a word I knew what the results had been.

“They couldn’t find a heartbeat,” she said through quiet sobs.

“What about a scan?” I asked. “Could they get you in for a scan?”

“Not until Tuesday! I can’t wait until Tuesday,” she cried to me through the telephone. “If I have to wait until then, I think I’ll lose my mind.”

I thought about the previous fall, when Maile had miscarried her last pregnancy. I thought about the tiny mound of rocks and the barely-held-together cross we had made out of branches. I thought about the tiny box now buried in the cold ground under the snow, the box that had “HOPE” inscribed on the top.

I thought about how we had just about finished paying for that last miscarriage. The last monthly bill had arrived from the hospital, and the balance would be gone after one more payment. Not that this had anything to do with money, but the irony was sharp, that in the same month we finished paying the bills associated with one miscarriage, we could very well begin paying for the next one.

“Just come home,” I said. “We’ll figure something out.”

* * * * *

Do not be afraid.

How many times do those words appear in the Bible? God says that phrase to Abraham multiple times, reassuring him of the promise. Joseph says it to his brothers when they discover his identity. Moses said it to the people. God said it those same people. Nearly forty times that phrase appears in the Old Testament.

Do not be afraid.

Do not be afraid.

Do not be afraid.

* * * * *

I told the kids while making their macaroni and cheese.

“They couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat,” I said. Their eyes opened wide. “But that doesn’t mean anything, not yet. Sometimes it’s hard for doctors to find the baby’s heartbeat when it’s this small.”

“I don’t want the baby to be dead,” Sam said, now on the verge of tears.

“It’s going to be okay, Sam,” I said quietly, delivering the four bowls of mac-n-cheese. “But Mama is kind of sad, so she’ll need some hugs when she gets back.”

A few minutes later, I heard the car pull down the lane, tires crunching over cold stones.

“C’mon,” Lucy said to the others. “Mom’s home.”

They ran to the door and when she opened it they engulfed her. The cold air blew in around us.

“It’s okay,” she said, holding them close, forming a huddle. “It’s going to be okay.”

* * * * *

The last instance of Do not be afraid appears in Revelation, as John falls prostrate after seeing the source of the voice speaking to him. The Bible says he fell as if dead.

But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me,“Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.

Do not be afraid. I am the beginning and the end. I hold the keys to death.

* * * * *

After a few calls, we found a medical center that could do a scan for us that evening. We drove straight there, passing houses at that particular time of night when Christmas lights are coming on. I dropped Maile off and took the kids for dinner. The sun set over white, snowy fields. Cars crept into town, towards the malls and the shops.

We sat in the sandwich place and the kids chattered and ate and laughed. Then, out of no where, Sam looked at me with sad eyes.

“I don’t want anything to die,” he said.

“I know, Sam. I know. It’s going to be okay.”

Then, much quicker than I expected, a text came through from Maile. I didn’t want to look at it, but I had to.

* * * * *

We’ve mourned a lot in the last year, lost friends (too young) and a grandmother and seen things I hoped I’d never see with my own eyes, seen things I’d hoped I’d never be this close to. Only a year ago I wasn’t sure if I could keep writing for a living.

But there have been moments of peace, too, peace that cannot always be explained. There have been small patches of joy that, when stretched, surprised us and became more than adequate to fill the gap in the cloth.

This is life, isn’t it? The goods and the bads. Ground gained and lost, and, sometimes even worse, the battles that stretch on for months and years without any sign of a clear winner. But this is life.

Celebrate with us today, will you? And, when we need it, as I’m sure we will again, come alongside and hold us up.

* * * * *

“We have a baby!!!!!” the text message said.

The kids and I pulled to a stop outside the medical center. It was nearly vacant, and a lone individual stood along the curb, smoking a cigarette. The van smelled of sandwiches and a cold winter’s night.

“I know!” Lucy said. “When Mom gets into the car we should all scream for joy.”

We watched through the glass. They practiced their scream. Then we saw her. She came through the dark night, opened the door, and held up the ultrasound photos, smiling like I hadn’t seen her smile for many years.

The sound of those kids’ joyous rapture was quite a sound to behold. It probably scared that lone smoker nearly to death. To me the sound was as good as a host of angels, and words came to my mind, through the cacophony.

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

“So there’s going to be a number five,” I said, grinning. But my voice was drowned out by another round of cheers from the back.

* * * * *

I’m currently running a Christmas giveaway (ending Wednesday at midnight) where you can win an advanced copy of my upcoming book with Tim Kreider, Refuse to Drown, as well as copies of five other books I’ve written or co-written. You can enter the drawing HERE.