I wasn’t supposed to be boarding a plane in June headed to the heat of New Mexico. I was supposed to be at home resting, nourishing a life growing within me. Ever since I got a positive sign in March, I knew I would have to sit out our youth group mission trip to New Mexico. I had accepted that this would be one of the many changes I would make to protect the little one. I was sad to not be returning to Zuni, NM, to be missing out on such a powerful experience.
When we first lost our baby, I instantly thought of all of the memories I lost as well. This Christmas with a newborn, first days of school, graduation, and birthday pancakes. But, what I did not think about was all of the experiences I would now participate in because I was no longer pregnant. Like the first time I ordered sushi and I cried over my California Roll. Perhaps that sounds silly and I guess it is but realizing I no longer had the restrictions I had for eight weeks was just another reminder of our loss. So, when the time came around for the trip to New Mexico I had not even prepared myself to go. I packed my bags and thought it would be good to get away. I knew the trip would be no vacation but still, it would be a change of scenery and it would allow me to focus on something else.
I even began to get excited about going. This trip meant I would get to hike, visit beautiful churches, and spend quality time with my youth group kids. But, my stomach dropped as I turned into the parish where we were staying. The first day or so was a haze. Poor sleep combined with yard work left me with overwhelming exhaustion and emptiness. Although the emptiness was not new, I had brought that with me, packed right next to the bitterness and hurt. My heart just could not grasp that I was actually in Zuni, actually experiencing these things, seeing these things, doing these things. Even the sunrises and beautiful night sky that I had gushed over the year before, seemed like a taunt towards my pain. It was like the streaks of orange and red was a reminder that I was only there to see their beauty because of the loss I had.
A few days in we headed out on our first hike and I was excited to lose myself in nature. The landscape of New Mexico is barren, it is dirt and clay, mixes of reds and oranges with either large mesas or miles of flatlands. There are little trees to be found and even less water. When describing it, it doesn’t call to mind a land of abundance but rather a place of emptiness. I had never felt more at home. The vast emptiness of New Mexico, brought a comfort to me I that I was lacking. I felt a kinship to the desertland. I knew what it was like to be in a drought and to have miles of nothing all around you. Every part of me was a desert, in a drought begging for water, unable to sustain abundant life, a wasteland of nothing.
Over the next few days, I caught myself noticing the beauty of the desert surrounding me. The towering Mesas and how the sun simply melted behind them at the close of the day. The variety of colors, the people I encountered and their culture, how flowers appeared even in the most unlikely of places. I found myself wondering if I could find beauty in my desert too. If a ring of purple flowers could bloom from dust then surely something could bloom from me too.
Hope. That is what I found in the desert, in the barren lands of New Mexico.
In a place that was void of comfort, I felt a bud of life.
This trip did not heal me, that is not how this story ends. It did not help me understand losing our child, it did not make me feel better. It ripped open wounds I did not even know were there. This trip stripped me bare and left me exhausted and raw. But, in the midst of it all, it showed me that beauty can be found in unlikely places, among the dirt and clay of the desert.
It showed me that just like the magnificent mesas that burst upward, something incredible would rise from me too.
In my barrenness there is beauty. In my drought there is hope.
Thank you Jesus for the desert and the trip I was not supposed to be on.