I once won a national championship with a baby in my belly.
At the time, I hadn’t known I was pregnant. It was too early for morning sickness and my hockey gear still fit.
In Duluth, Minnesota, there is an arena on the shore of Lake Superior. I drove by it recently, and the memory of that tournament years ago came billowing back: standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my teammates as the national anthem played, sprinting back to the hotel before the championship game because I had forgotten my contacts, skating with a reckless abandon that predated motherhood.
I have been a mother now for going on 27 years; my recent trip through Duluth, past that old rink, and on to Superior, Wisconsin, was to watch a son play the game that I love.
At the time of that tournament, so long ago, it would years before he was born. Now, his oldest sibling, that baby in my belly, has a child of her own.
I cannot shake the nostalgia.
For it was here, on the other side of that great lake, where my family lived for years.
Snow fell there at Halloween and did not stop until Easter, banks piled higher than the cars, roads a treacherous hardpack where snowmobiles raced in the night.
Huge freighters tooted good naturedly to one another as they chugged up the St. Mary’s River, one block from my open window, where I sat nursing my babies or reading them fairy tales.
We would tuck into strollers and roam the Soo Locks, where big ships would pass through on their way to Detroit.
“Look,” I told my little blondie the first time there. “See the boat?”
“Where, Mama?” he asked, puzzled. “What boat?”
His tiny perspective could not behold the wall of steel gliding by, stories high, and judge it “boat.”
I needed to remember, wanted to recapture, those days decades ago on that wild, windy lake.
One baby, two babies, three babies, four.
Tugging those littles in a wagon to the beach, bathing them in a kiddie pool in our driveway upon return; pre-school skates with other mommies, hands laden with toddlers and strollers and snacks; days devoid of mobile phones and college bills and worried weariness.
So much has happened, so much has come and gone.
Why do we ache for the past?
Surely there were troubles then, heartbreak and conflict and pain?
Does my old body long for its former might, my old brain wish to remember only the ease, my old soul believe that there is only more loss ahead?
I looked in the mirror this morning and was startled by the face staring back at me.
When did I get so old?
Recently, I have been waging a war against a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; I know it is unlikely I will ever stand again at a blue line and hear the sweet chords of an anthem play. I may never be able to run more than a few miles at a stretch or sleep unperturbed through the night.
Although I am fighting back with diet and determination, the outcome, as all things earthly, is not assured.
Could it be that as I look up at the steel wall of the uncertain years ahead, my perspective needs to change?
Am I – are we – nostalgic not for what is past, with its twisted tableaus and rosy reminiscences, but for what actually awaits?
The apostle Paul had much hope to offer in that regard, for he tells the Corinthian church:
We are convinced that even if these bodies we live in are folded up at death like tents, we will still have a God-built home that no human hands have built, which will last forever in the heavenly realm. We inwardly sigh as we live in these physical “tents,” longing to put on a new body for our life in heaven…So, while living in this “tent,” we groan under its burden, not because we want to die but because we want these new bodies. We crave for all that is mortal to be swallowed up by eternal life. 2 Corinthians 5:1-4
I groan, longing to don this God-framed body like a beautiful dress, silken and soft, aeolian, the color of butter or kittens or foam from the sea.
And this is no empty hope, Paul continues, for God himself is the one who has prepared us for this wonderful destiny. And to confirm this promise, he has given us the Holy Spirit, like an engagement ring, as a guarantee.
That’s why we’re always full of courage. Even while we’re at home in the body, we’re homesick to be with the Master— for we live by faith, not by what we see with our eyes. We live with a joyful confidence, yet at the same time we take delight in the thought of leaving our bodies behind to be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:5-8
It’s been a rough decade for many of us.
We cannot possibly know what 2020 holds and beyond, but we can trust the Father, who has told us that of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. Isaiah 9:7
Ever expanding, ever enlarging, the eternity ahead tugs at the one nestled in my heart, nostalgic for that great and glorious prize, the promise that has yet to be fulfilled for we who believe.