We live on a very quiet gravel road dotted with a couple dozen older homes tucked into the landscape of beautiful pasture on rolling hills. Until recently, I (Joy) have never even glanced in the direction of the other homes as I speed to my house tucked far away in the woods off the gravel road.
However, since two of our neighbors now let us use their pastures, we're communicating with them often and beginning to hear the "neighborhood news". Several weeks ago, Timmy heard a report of one neighbor's forty-three year old husband dying and another neighbor's baby dying just one week before her due date. I just couldn't imagine it was true considering we have so few neighbors and assuming they were all elderly. As we drove out one day, we saw another neighbor and asked him about the validity of the news. No sooner were the reports confirmed, than did the young mother who lost the baby, drive by and Timmy pointed her out to me. I didn't even know we had young people living on our street, much less someone who had been expecting.
As I talked with the Lord about her the next morning, as well as the confirmed new widow with three children ages 12 and under, I confessed that although I wanted to share Him with these hurting girls, I was very intimidated to visit either of them - knowing that I knew nothing of the pain they were experiencing.
Armed with prayer and a batch of Meredith's freshly baked cookies, the little boys and I headed out to meet these hurting neighbors. We drove to the home supposedly occupied by the young mother, her husband, and their four year old daughter. The only confirmation I could find of its current residents was a withered graveside wreath on the porch steps. We knocked on the door, but no one answered.
As we began to drive away, I noticed what appeared to be the young mother's truck just ahead at another house. I remembered that Timmy said her parents lived on our road as well. As we pulled over at the house with the truck, I noticed several women in the yard. One came to greet us and smiled so sweetly as she took us to meet the grieving mother. As I stumbled through my words of sympathy, all my fear melted as this tender, precious young girl reached out to hug me. She told me all about her pregnancy, the fear that the baby's inactivity brought, and the suspicion that the ultrasound confirmed of the baby's death just one week before her anticipated arrival. She smiled with great joy as she spoke about the 8 to 9 hours she spent with her baby after the forced c-section, remarking on the baby's perfect features. She quickly showed me a picture on her cell phone, apologizing for the poor quality.
I spoke of the hope we have through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, how Jesus can get her through these dark days today, and lead her into eternity to forever more be with her baby. She sweetly listened, at times biting her lip to hold back the flood of emotions that she surely was experiencing; pain that will forever be hers while on this earth; pain like I've never known and cannot even comprehend.
Even though we left and visited with the young widow next - a dear, sweet girl my age who lost her husband after a long fight with diabetes - my thoughts continued to return to the grieving young mother - specifically to a tattoo that I had noticed when I had been standing in the yard talking with her. I noticed that the tattoo was freshly applied, and bore her baby's name neatly written under a large cross. When I commented on the memorial on her arm that she was eager to display, her conversation became even more intimate as she talked about the choosing of that particular artwork to commemorate her baby girl's life and death.
While reflecting on this later, I wondered if the tattoos increasingly present in society are really messages being sent by those who are hurting. It was as if this young, grieving mother was saying, "Since you may not make any effort to ever really know me, here's a sign on my arm that tells you that my heart is hurting."
I have asked God to give me a sensitivity to the hidden message behind the tattoos people wear. May God shake me from my cold-heartedness where I drive down my road oblivious to the broken-hearted households and may He do a great work in giving me a heart for those who are hurting.
Yesterday, as I approached the cashier in the check-out line at Wal-Mart and saw her message imprinted into her skin, I asked, "What happened on 9-1-06 and who is Z.O.E.?"