"Mary." My voice comes out rough and strained, like the squawks we hear from turtledoves at the temple. Mary looks up from the pot of oil, listening.
"We need to tell Jeshua."
The creases deepen around Mary's eyes. "But Joseph, he's still a child. How will he understand when we barely do?"
I reach for her hands with my rough, weathered ones. Hers are used to labor too, yet somehow still soft. "Mary, I know he's young. But I cannot run the risk of misleading him. For one second confusing his true lineage and putting me above Father."
Mary squeezes my fingers and nods. "You're right. Kneel with me?"
Mary bows her head while I speak. My words to the Father, to Jeshua's Father, seem to float around the rafters above us, feeble and unsure. But Father sends that warm feeling to my heart as he often does, and Mary's breathing relaxes, so I know she feels the same.
Hand in hand, we go toward Jeshua and Leah, playing under the shade of the Cypress trees. Jeshua's laughter rings through the early morning air that already beats down on the dry, hardened earth.
"Teep going Baby 'Eah! You tan do it!" Jeshua claps his hands as Leah tries again to take a step toward him. The bright happiness in his face when watching his sister rivals the harsh sunlight.
"Jeshua, son, Mother and I need to speak with you." Mary pulls Leah into her lap while I pat the ground for Jeshua to come sit.
"All right. Speat to me." Jeshua kneels on his chubby legs, eyes wide, expectant, and trained on me.
"Well," I struggle for words and glance at Mary for help.
"We want to talk to you about Heavenly Father."
"Yes, Jeshua. You remember that angels told us about you before you were born?'
Jeshua nods and sifts through the sand. "Angels, angels, angels," he sings.
"They also told us important things about your father. It's important to know that your Father in Heaven is your father for earth too. For Leah, I am her earthly father, but for you...I'm not."
The joy that had been etched to every chubby crease on Jeshua's face leaks out. "You're not my father?"
"He is, Jeshua, in a way" Mary says, her voice as gentle as Leah's coos. "But he joined me after Heavenly Father created you..."
I shake my head in my frustration. Jeshua's face wrinkles, ready for tears. How can I explain this to my--no His--child.
"Father in Heaven is letting me take care of you. And I always will. So in a way, I am your earthly father. But..." I feel defeated. "But just remember that Heavenly Father is your most important father. Always listen to him first and foremost."
Jeshua wraps his arms around me. "I will 'isten. But you're important too, Papa." Jeshua kisses my stubbled cheek and wanders back toward Leah, who Mary has released. The two toddle off together, Jeshua holding her tiny hands. I sigh, inadequancy and confusion mixing in my blood.
Mary comes to my side and lays her arm on my shoulders. "I don't get it Mary. I was so sure, but you were right. He's too young. And it's too complicated. I don't even grasp everything."
"Joseph. You weren't wrong because he doesn't understand it all right now. He'll learn. So will we." She raises me from the ground and walks me toward house with confident, faithful steps. The warm feeling from earlier seeps back into my heart.
Yes, so will we.