In the little stone church, I did hear what Holy Spirit was saying to the Church and the power of grace shook the rocks and Rocky Mountains and leveled my understanding. It is the sadness of the world that there are people who look into the tomb and see a dead body. I was dead for so many years because that is what I saw. My own reflection, could it be? At the nuclear level there are two of us on earth: the one who sees death and the one who sees an empty tomb.
2013, Amaya Engleking
[This is a continuation from Deep I]
Poverty and sorrow my allocation
I became a proverb unto the nation
Adorned in sackcloth, I am set afar off
From those who care not for salvation
But you know I am neither deaf nor dumb
Having been my trust and all life’s sum
Forsake me not, give strength to this lot,
Your power to everyone that is to come Read More
To sacrifice smarts for wisdom
Simplicity the gift, the dream of the ages
All these lines evolve into something greater than themselves
Greatness intrinsic to the word-seeds
If you could love a perfect prophet then you know love Read More
I’m a ragdoll, carried by my God
I hear Jesus speak
Speak in a language I do not know
He takes my limp hand in his
Looks at my thumbnail
Addresses the atoms by name
They are neither male nor female
Like God or colors Read More
Words are nutrients for the lone poet. She who, in loving devotion, asks for revelations from God, is shown the brilliant design in golden fish-scale scapes layered as soft pearly flakes– rising miracles from the cracked crust of the earth, with each new world existing both for, and because of, divine love. She dips into one pool and each ripple is a new-born dream, manifest as human on earth, as star in sky, as song in space. Read More
My May baby. As you made the conviction that you were ready to be born into this world and slip today, May 19, 2016 from eternity into this strange design of time and measures, I ate the first cherries of the season. Once again and forever, these cherries taste sweeter when I talk to God.
At around 12:45am, some cramping woke me up but I didn’t think much of it since I’d been having irregular cramping for weeks. Plus, my due date was still three days away and I’d been convinced because of Qohelet’s birth that there was no way this baby was going to play by the rules either. But after about an hour of laying in the dark under almost-full moon-shine while the mild rushes came about every ten minutes or so, I asked Joshua not to go to work today. We heard Qoey stirring so while my husband went to put her back to sleep, I boiled water for tea and stacked a bunch of towels, hydrogen peroxide, wash cloths, Chux pads, and sterile gloves on the kitchen counter.
For the next couple hours under a strand of Christmas lights, I laid on the futon breathing through the 8-7-6-5 minute apart contractions while during the breaks, Joshua rubbed my back and prayed the rosary. I thought it so lovely that I was able to spend these early hours of labor chewing on cherries and sipping raspberry tea. The Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s, and Glory Be’s added to the serenity of what was going to be a sacred day for our family. I had been relatively fearful about this day compared to Qoey’s birth because now I knew what the out-of-this world pain of labor felt like and what I’d have to endure again. Last time when the first of the many back labor contractions hit me, I was told that it was my time to suffer with Jesus on the cross. Now with the sweet cherry juice, I also swallow the truth of what it means to give your enemy not only one but both cheeks to strike, to face the pain with a cutting perspicacity that reminds me of Psalm 91. “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but evil shall not come nigh thee.” Baby and I were going to get through this birth experience by going straight into it.
At almost four we decided to call Heather, the midwife, because everyone had told us that second babies usually come in half the time as the first, and since she lived about an hour away; I just felt like we should give her a heads up and get her input. After listening to me breathe through a contraction, she said she’d shower and head over. I have loved her organic way of doing things all throughout the pregnancy. She didn’t weigh me, I never had an ultrasound, she didn’t test my urine, and only pricked my finger to see my iron level once. Prenatal visits had all been at our house and consisted mostly of her putting her hands on my womb to feel the baby, checking my blood pressure and Baby’s heart rate, and just talking about anything on my mind. Even after the birth, at our three-day postpartum checkup, Heather came by and stayed for an hour and a half revisiting the birth from her perspective and opening up about her calling to the midwife vocation, akin to a priest being called to a religious life. So before we hung up the phone, she said that there’s no need to time the contractions anymore but to sink into a space filled with prayer and rest.
When she arrived we continued what we were doing while she checked heart rate and blood pressure, then took a nap on the alpaca wool. At around six our daughter woke up and the contractions pretty much stalled. I felt like her presence pulled me up to the surface as I thought about her needs like I did every other day. I felt bad about calling the designated baby-sitter, Amy, so early so I decided we’d have an hour of family time and then make the call. When I talked to her on the phone she said she’d take Qoey to school with her that day since she had to work but didn’t hesitate for even a moment to come and get her. What love!
With Qoey out of the house, we were all able to reestablish our intent for the day and while Heather and Joshua ate scrambled eggs and veggies and I had my four bites that I had promised Heather I would eat for energy (I didn’t want to eat anything but the cherries); I put the Mantra of Avalokiteshvara on the stereo and chanted, bent over the birth ball.
After breakfast Joshua began the birth tub scenario (“It’s always a comedy,” says Heather) and sure enough we would also not let that prophecy go unfulfilled, as we soon learned that our shop vac didn’t blow, but only sucked. So Joshua began filling it manually with our birth ball pump and the “elk call” wheezes this made coupled with another anticipated forty-five minutes or so of this “music” was enough to send Heather laughing and out the door into town to grab a cup of coffee.
By the time she returned, the tub was blown up and my contractions were stronger, so I changed music to Arvo Pärt and other ethereal songs and just groaned heavily and low through all the waves, remembering from last labor to send the energy downward. Since the back labor was not bad like it was last time, it actually helped to walk around and sway from side to side. At one point Heather said softly and full of meaning, “You’re dancing with your baby.” My love for Baby throughout labor was overwhelming. Any time Joshua or Heather mentioned something like, “We’re going to be holding the baby in our arms today,” a wave of love crashed over me and I would start a gentle cry, knowing this was the truth.
The tub comedy continued when for some reason they discovered the water heater was only feeding cold water into the hose. Luckily Joshua remembered from shutting off our water when we left town over Christmas (high-altitude living, haha) that there was a hot water tap in the crawlspace. And I was oblivious to all of the logistics of water birth by this point, when I didn’t want to even hear music anymore. I just know I was so relieved when Heather said I could now get into the tub, which didn’t make the contractions any more bearable but was extremely relaxing in between them, with Joshua beside me offering sips of grape juice from our daughter’s neon cup.
After laboring for an hour in the water, Heather thought I should get out and try different positions, because at that point the body had adjusted to the water and temperature so that it no longer had an analgesic effect. The contractions were coming one on top of the other by now, and while I was in the midst of an especially long and hard one, I looked pleadingly at my husband right as a huge gush of water came out of me and nervy-Joshua jumped back with surprise. “Your water bag broke!” exclaimed Heather. “This will increase the pressure.” Not something I wanted to hear in the throes of this pain but I knew I couldn’t stave off the inevitable either.
Soon I was back in the tub and I intermittently had the urge to push during contractions. This sensation was confusing to my body and to Heather, who at one point said, “If you’re going to push you’re going to need to lift up your leg.” So she checked me and saw that there was still just a tiny amount of cervix in the way, creating all the confusion. I still had work to do. Joshua helped me to breathe through the pain and laid cold wash cloths on my forehead, because I was being shaken by the energy of the surges and allowing it to escape out of my mouth rather than focusing it downward. How did Jesus do it, offering up his other cheek? It’s one thing to preach it when your pain and enemies are in the periphery, but when it’s happening and the persecution and suffering are real, and they’re actually nailing palms and feet into wooden beams, how is it possible to do what you said you should do? How can one be so pure? Like birth, a miracle.
A few contractions later Heather checked me again and said I could trust my body to push now: the cervix was completely out of the way. But I was scared. As I felt the baby’s head enter the birth canal, my mind and body remembered what it felt like to do this excruciating part. I said no. The contractions stopped. Heather knelt next to me and looked me in the eye and said, “Amaya, it’s your baby. Your baby’s coming.” She said some other affirmative words about the women who throughout time have ‘danced this dance’ and about how hard this ‘gift of labor’ really is, but unconditional love was all I needed to remember.
As she went to get another pot of water to pour into the tub, this love fueled me through the oncoming wave and I knew this was it. With Joshua right behind me, sweet good God, I felt the baby move down and I wasn’t going to stop this movement. I screamed with pain letting Heather know that this was it and she ran over as I guided the baby’s head out. “Help me!” And I cannot believe it that afterward Heather said it was four minutes in between the birth of the head and the birth of the rest of the body. I guess it was a grace that it all seemed to happen so quickly, within seconds. The baby’s arms were crossed around the shoulders so Heather had to reach all the way in, hook her hand under the baby’s armpit, and pull the baby out. I felt the searing pain of the tear as the baby was completely born and Heather lifted the baby from the water and onto my body. “Praise God! Our baby! Our baby!”
That first glimpse of those eyes — that little squirming thing inside me has eyes! — and the feel of the warm, slippery, body against my chest, and oh, the first time you hear your baby’s voice… I just want to do it all over again for this moment alone.
But the gifts keep coming! Just this morning, a week after our second daughter, Salome Medo, came into the world, the sunrise rays poured into our bedroom as the two of us woke up peacefully lying next to each other and I nursed her; while my husband laid Qohelet next to us and gave her a bottle of mama’s milk I pumped yesterday. I held my older daughter’s hand. Bountiful milk and love flowing through this family these days, as Qoey kisses her sister’s tiny, soft head and says, “I love you, Mei Mei.”
My May baby, we are blessed.
© 2016, Amaya Engleking
Deliverance. I was at a loss about what to write since it feels that these days the womb baby takes up all the space and pushes out anything he/she deems superfluous. But fortunately God squeezed in one word for us to digest like our trusty folic acid. Apt for us both, as my post from Pentecost Sunday, A Conversion, describes the pivotal hour of life in this body in which I was delivered from evil; and the baby will be, any day now, delivered into this world. Read More
Dark day in Hengyang, small city in the middle of China. Five million small. Mao Zedong from a nearby city. The dishwater sky blending right into the slate-gray outline of the industrial city. Dismal to view from the little metal balcony, and even more disgusting to go forth into the leaden din. Last time I was in the country I swore I’d never teach English and least of all to middle-schoolers. But that’s what I was doing in this city where I saw a homeless man masturbate in front of an elementary school. Right outside the gate through which passed hundreds of pigtails and oversized backpacks on tiny bodies. Read More
Are we as a country becoming more divided or more unified? When historical decisions are made and elections fall to one party or the other, there is an “in your face” celebration focused at those who lost. When was the last time there was an election for president that was separated by more than a few percentage points in the popular vote? When was the last time there was a unanimous Supreme Court decision on any major decision? It’s usually 5-4, or 6-3 at best. That tells me there are a lot of people who will be hurt, lost, disappointed, and even confused as to what the future holds for them and their beliefs. Where is the leader who has seen his/her cause win, and then truly demonstrated a humility that there are a lot of people who are not celebrating?
John Pickard, Lakewood
This letter was published in the July 5, 2015 edition of The Denver Post
When I subscribed to that newspaper, it was so easy to get caught up in the issues of the day and to think my opinion actually had pull over another’s. It was so easy to get angry. When Mr. Pickard wrote this humbling letter, it immediately stood out as prophetic, and I was reminded of that which I ought to focus my energy instead: Christ’s teachings. Not left, not right, not forever down in a dark, deep cave. (See About section.) But above.
I cut out this letter and magnetically stuck it to the fridge, the beginning of my own magnetism upward to heavenly things, rising above the perpetual tug-of-war, the pull of gravity, the torrential seas. Transcending these laws lets us walk on water. Putting the needs of others before our own desires–prayer–is the way to get there.
© 2016, Amaya Engleking