Advent, Prayer, Psalms


On the shortest day of the year in 1994, I had an amniocentesis. I found it terrifying, not just because I don’t care for needles, but because the results in my previous pregnancy had been bad. I feared the results and feared the possible injury to the baby–really, the chances were very slim that either would be a worry, but that did not stop me from being anxious.

I took the doctor’s advice: 24 hours of bed rest after the test, just to be on the safe side. No one ever said that the first time, not that I remember. I probably went right home and hoisted my toddler onto my hip. But this time, on the shortest day of the year, I went home and got in bed.

My sister-in-law, with a baby of her own, came over to wrangle my four-year-old and eight-year-old until their father came home. I watched a movie, but I could not focus on Daniel Day-Lewis or Winona Ryder, and I’ve never been able to watch it all the way through again, my age of innocence past.

Because I knew by then that no matter how good we are, or how good we try to be, there is no guarantee against tragedy or even disappointment. I knew by then that no matter how good we are, or how good we try to be, we may suffer.

Life felt random, as random as the way two cells divide to make more, to make life itself, the circle unbroken, until it’s broken and smashed, and yet it’s not.


I had been sent to the high-risk OB, because they wanted the amnio done early, though it got no results, and on that shortest day we went through it for the second time, the baby and I.

When you’ve been lying in bed all day and the sun goes down mid-afternoon, you know you are facing a long night.

In the days before the test, at the end of my first semester of seminary, I wrote papers for a Christian History survey and turned in a project about the use of hymns in worship, and last of all, I finished a paper on Francis of Assisi for a class about ethics and the environment.

In bed I considered naming the baby Francis, or even Clare.


I admired them, or maybe I envied the uncomplicated life they seemed to lead. Coping with the things science offers us seemed too much on that dark December afternoon as it crept toward evening, such a long evening.

They told me they would try to get the rapid results, in three days, but the chances were we would wait until the new year to know for sure.

I remember trying to sleep carefully. Can a person sleep carefully?

I remember trying to sleep.


I’m awake in this middle of the longest night, fourteen years later, for no particular reason, and I’m not sure why that night feels so vivid. I’ve hardly thought of it since then. The ten days went by slowly and became 14 because of the two intervening holidays, two long, dark weeks. One long, dark night.

Tonight I’m thinking of people who wait out this long night, awake, worried, wondering, holding themselves carefully, afraid that there will be no good news.

I hold them in prayer.


9 thoughts on “Selah”

  1. I went to bed tonight, this longest night of the year, but woke only two hours later, as I feared I would. As I tend to do, these days, or nights….so, I am up with a headache the size of Texas and a broken heart to match. Such is my life…
    I’m glad that test, or I assume that test, led to a healthy birth….perhaps my waiting pangs will too…although I have my doubts…

  2. This is a beautiful post, Martha, and a reminder that our times of suffering provide us with depths of compassion for others (not that I’m romanticizing, but I do believe that to be true.)

  3. Grateful for the beautiful young lady who I am proud to call friend.
    Sorrowing for the pain that came before and after and the waiting.
    Praying with you for those who mourn. They are blessed, we are told, but sometimes it does NOT feel that way.

  4. Beautiful and true and painful. Thank you Songbird. And Blessings to you as the nights get shorter.

  5. Having kept vigil of late with a family in similar circumstances, I understand the long nights and prayer for those who watch and weep. Blessings to you as you journey with them.

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