It’s been over a month since I posted anything.
This isn’t going to be an excuse for why it’s been so long…life just happened and I didn’t write anything. I’ll admit that I have spent some time lately trying to figure out how to break the silence…this is it.
Some people use their blogs as online journals, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I didn’t start this site to share the details of my personal life. I created anewdoxology almost a year ago to share my thoughts about faith, culture and life in hopes that it might connect with people in real and perhaps even meaningful ways. I wrote about the music I was listening to and the movies and TV shows I was watching and I did my best to draw connections between these pop-culture things and my beliefs as a clumsy Christian.
I haven’t always posted new content as often as I’d like or spent as much time working on future articles as I would prefer, but somehow I kept thinking of things to share and finding time to write. Although I’ve rarely shared enough information about myself to make it feel like you are reading someone’s journal, I would think you could always see that there was a real person behind the words, that person has always been me.
In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to write enough to justify having a blog. I knew I had a lot of thoughts and ideas, but I wasn’t sure if they would translate into actual entries. Even if they somehow did, I wasn’t sure if anyone would take the time to read them. So I started writing a blog in secret. That probably sounds weird, but I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. So I spent time writing and editing entries in a word document until I had enough to know that I could keep it going. (Note: that word document ended up being the source for a lot of the content I posted during the first few months. Copy and paste.)
But like I said, it’s now been over a month since I posted anything.
A lot can happen in a month.
I’m not sure if it’s necessary that I warn you about this, but in just a few spins of the mouse wheel I’m going to be as open about my personal and family life as I’ve ever been on here, and I know some of you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal Andy? There’s only a dozen people reading this anyway, and we already know you.” If that’s what you’re thinking I guess you kinda have a point (although I hope there are more than a dozen people who still check the site from time to time, even though the guy who writes it seems to have quit lately). But in all honesty, there aren’t a lot of people who I’ve talked to about what’s been going on in my life the past month, and as I’ve been reminded several times lately, what is a “big deal” to one person is not as big of a deal to everyone else.
I’m not going to share these things about to make an excuse for the long pause in my writing. I’m not even sharing all this to explain why I haven’t added anything new for over a month. I’m writing because I don’t know how else to break the silence and I think sometimes the most powerful narratives aren’t the ones we read in books or watch in movies, but they’re the ones happening right in front of us…our stories.
This is part of the story of what’s been going on in my life and in the lives of some people I care a lot about over the past month. It’s not a bestselling novel or a blockbuster movie, but it’s true, and even if you haven’t experienced things like this yourself, I’m guessing you can relate just the same.
I started the month of August with my family at our cabin. It was a relaxing weekend. The weather was beautiful and most of our conversations included something about the fact that both my sisters were pregnant and due within a week of each other around Christmastime (it was the first child for both of them).
I rode home that Sunday with my oldest sister and her husband who had recently found out they were having a boy. During the car ride they asked me to be their son’s godfather (I accepted) and then told me that his middle name was going to be Andrew (I smiled). I was already excited to become an uncle, but now my nephew would also be my godson and would share part of my name. I felt a special connection to the little guy and I wished I didn’t have to wait another five months to meet him. If I would have known then what would happen, I definitely would have been more patient.
I got home from the cabin just in time to throw my bags on my bed and drive to church and preach at Journey. My message that night was a response to the question “what does it mean to be a witness?” and with the help of a few videos we took at look at several memorable events that we have all witnessed, and then thought about how our lives have been shaped and changed by these things forever. The message eventually turned to faith and what it means to not only know that God loves us, but to be witnesses of this love to others.
The next day I flew to California to spend a week editing footage for a documentary about the people I’ve met and the things I’ve witnessed over the last three years in Haiti.
The second day I was in California I talked to my mom and learned that my oldest sister was in the hospital. She had an emergency surgery a few days later, and just before getting on my flight back to Minnesota I got a message from my brother-in-law saying that my sister had gone into labor and there was no way the baby would make it (it was just too early). I called my mom when my flight landed and as I sat outside the baggage claim at the Minneapolis airport I heard the story of my nephew’s birth. She told me that he only weighed a little over a pound, had tiny fingernails and toenails, and was already starting to look like his dad. I didn’t have any words to say, but sitting in silence and shedding a few tears I knew that this was one of those event that everyone in my family would always remember.
My sister had been put under since before her surgery a few days earlier, so she wasn’t even awake when she gave birth, and soon after the delivery she went in for another surgery. She woke up a few days later and had to be told everything that had happened when she was asleep. The rest of us had been dealing with the loss of the baby for days, but now she was just finding out that the baby that had been growing inside of her, the child she had wanted for so long, the boy we had all been praying for, was gone.
I wish I could say the first few days were the most difficult, but really, every day was hard. The days between losing the baby and my sister waking up were hard because we wanted her to get better physically, and we were worried about how she’d handle the news emotionally. The day my sister woke up was hard because the pain and confusion of losing the baby started all over for everyone as we began going through it with her. My brother-in-law and my parents had been in the room when my sister gave birth, and because of the nature of the situation the hospital had kept the baby in the morgue in case my sister wanted to hold him. Perhaps the actual “hardest” day was a few days after my sister woke up and decided she wanted to see her son. We all showed up early that morning and dressed nice, we talked for a minute and then we just waited silently for them to bring him up to the room.
What happened in the hospital room that morning was close to what I had been impatiently excited about on the ride home from my cabin just a few weeks earlier, but my imagination of that scene would look and feel like didn’t include so many sad tears and confusion. That morning I watched my sister holding her son for the first time. I watched my mom take pictures of my sister and her husband with their baby boy, her first grandchild. And for me, well, I never imagined meeting my nephew would be like that. I held him in my arms and thought about all the things I had hoped to do with him, about what kind of uncle and godfather I would have been for him. Through tears I looked down at a little boy who wasn’t quite ready to enter the world, but who would never be forgotten. I was overcome with the urge to break the painful silence in that room and proudly proclaim to my family that in my arms I was holding Emmanuel Andrew…my nephew and godson, the grandson of Tom and Julie, and the son of Roberta and Heruy. I felt like that moment and especially Emmanuel’s life needed to be validated, but for some reason I couldn’t find the courage to say anything. I felt almost paralyzed in emotion, so I sniffled a few last tears and realized that as difficult as that moment and a majority of the surrounding moments had been and would be, there was still hope in that hospital room. I felt a special connection to my nephew because my name was his middle name, but everyone in that room had a special connection to him because he was part of our family. It was his first name that reminded me of the hope that we all needed. My sister and her husband had wanted to be parents for a long time, and with that desire to have a child, they had spent a lot of time considering names. Although I’m biased since my name ended up being chosen, I think they made an especially great choice with the first name. The name Emmanuel comes from the Bible and is found in Matthew’s version of the Christmas story when an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him that his wife Mary is pregnant with a son who will save his people from their sins. This is seen as the fulfillment of what God said through the prophet Isaiah about the virgin being pregnant with a son who would be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”
If things had gone according to schedule, Emmanuel Andrew might have been born on Christmas day of this year (December 25 my sister’s due date), but it didn’t work out that way and we’ll never understand why. It will never be easy to think about, but no matter how many tears we cry or questions we ask, nothing can change the fact that Emmanuel was and always will be part of our family, and we love him very much. I’m sad that I’ll never get to teach him how to play basketball or take him to the kids movies I wanted to see anyway, but I’m thankful for the reminder that his name offers us…God is with us, even though it’s a little more difficult to see and understand right now.
The rest of the month was a blur. We all spent hours and days at a time at the hospital hanging out with my sister during her roller-coaster 27 day consecutive day visit. Somewhere between the end of August and the day she finally went home, I managed to move into a new apartment. Although I’m still not quite settled because I’ve chosen to spend several days at my sister’s house watching movies, taking walks in the back yard and reminding her to take her medicine. Her health continues to improve every day and we’re hopeful that she’ll be back to normal in the not-so-distant future.
It’s now fall and it seems like everyone is in a rush to get ready for something important. Academic years, church programs, political elections are all starting or on the horizon, and nearly every school in the country will soon be holding some form of homecoming celebration (I’ll be going to my five year college reunion in a few weeks). I have been talking to a few students who were part of the youth ministry I used to be involved with quite a bit lately. They are both beginning their first year of college, adjusting to life away from home and parents for the first time, adapting to a new understanding of homework and studying, and even experiencing the effects of distance and new realities on old relationships.
As I look back on the last month of my life, it’s been difficult not to look back on everything else as well. The more I think about my life and everything I’ve gone through – especially when I’m having conversations with 18-year-old’s who are facing some of the most difficult stuff they’ve ever experienced – I think about how far I’ve come and the reasons I’ve been able to get to where I am today. I have a great family, wonderful friends and have been lucky enough have had great teachers, coaches and mentors who all had a significant impact on who I’ve become. But as much as each of those people have done for me throughout my life, I was holding the reason for everything I am in my hands in that hospital room a few weeks ago.
It was a little baby boy who changed the world for everyone, forever.
Emmanuel. God is with us.
By the way, my other sister is healthy and her pregnancy is going well. We’re all very excited to meet her baby girl who is due at the end of December.