A lady from our church had a baby pretty recently, a preemie, and they are in the NICU here and today we got to go for a visit.
The NICU is still, and in my mind it's kind of peaceful. It's different from the ER, or even the regular PEDS wing in that it's quiet, and the lights are low and there's little nursery rhythms written on the walls and stars. There are no rooms, just different areas sectioned off by curtains. Everything feels gentler and softer.
There was the beeping of the machines, nurses and charts. But this is the kind of world I know best. To me, it felt familiar, even while it felt foreign. I know this world, even though the NICU feels like a different part of it, like different states in the same country.
The smell of the hospital soap was familiar. So was the nurse at the front desk of the floor, and the large white board with a list of patients and doctors. I still remember the location of the kitchen, and the playroom like the back of my hand. I can pick out the rooms where I've stayed (Most of them) and the rooms were I haven't (Very few.)
It's been a while since I've been here, but I still remember it well.
Baby E is tiny, so tiny. Her 4 pounds felt so light in my arms. She is perfect, absolutely beautiful, and so amazingly knit together for arriving into this world too early. She is whole, a tiny human being. I held her and she opened her eyes and 'smiled' at me, and she squirmed and wriggled.
I could have stayed there for a long time, breathing in this darling baby. Every so often I want to go back there, crave the chaos that happens in that place. Because I grew up there. I colored pictures for nurses and walked up and down those hospital hallways.
The ones who enter in these hospital doors, who spend the night, the preemies and the chronic illness children and teenagers, they are family. They are my kin.
As I hold these babies in my arms or look into the eyes of a small child, it's sort of enchanting. It's a "Hello, welcome to the family. I'm Alisha and your life won't be easy from here on out but I promise you that you won't ever be alone and that you can make it through this."
Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen? To loosen the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry, and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, and when you see the naked clothe them, and not to turn away from your own kin?
Isaiah 58: 6-7
This is the ministry I've been called to, one full of love for the sick and broken, the outcasts. This is my family, my kin. This is the kind of fasting that has been chosen. And while this isn't the life I have chosen for myself it is the life i have been given. Life that is a gift, life that is beautiful none the less, a life that is full of love and blessings and hope. This life has become my ministry, my grounds, and these people have become my family, my kin.
I walk these hospital halls and they are all achingly familiar. This is the world i know. I grew up here, lived here, grew here, loved here.
This is the kind of fasting I have chosen: to not turn away from my own kin. I have little to offer, but I know a God who turns a little into enough. I am sick and broken myself, and the hands I stretch out are empty, but I know a God who uses those empty hands to bless and to love.
I have been called to this place. And while I may not understand I want to raise my empty hands and let them be filled. These are my people. This is my ministry. This is where I have been called to give and to serve and to love. This is where my emptiness becomes enough.