Wednesday, December 28, 2011

ready. ?

38weeks +5days.

I'm not sure if it matters, but I suddenly feel ready to have this baby on the other side of the belly.  It's the first time since ... we found out we were pregnant? 

But it's here - that gentle peace lined with hints of excitement and wonder.  It probably helps that our son has slept 9-10 hour stretches without waking 4 out of 5 nights this week.  That's big, considering 5 months ago we were at 6-8 wake ups a night.  I do plan to write about our gentle journey with sleep.  I'm expecting a sleep regression when the new baby comes which I hear is pretty normal with such a big change.  But right now it feels gooood.

When you're not extremely tired, it's a lot easier to be excited about a new member of the family who will be nursing every 2 hours in the night for probably 45 minutes at a time.  :)

I'm still nursing Saf, which I also plan to write about in more detail.  There have been difficult moments most days in that regard, but the benefits are rich and evident.  He's recently had me tandem nursing him with his favorite toys (Cabbage Patch doll, Sinclair, and his kangaroo puppet).  It's ... cute. :)

I find myself savouring moments with Saf - nursing him to sleep as he rubs his hand up and down my arm, having conversations with him which are a mix of his signs, words and amazing facial expressions, watching him play his 'ti-tar' and do a great mix of ballet and hip-hop dance like it's his job.  I love this boy, and these are last days we're living.  A sibling will be a wonderful, life-long gift, but our world is going to drastically change. 

I'm not uncomfortable enough to really think the birth is imminent, but I'm pretty emotional (ask my husband) so I'm sure hormones are shifting ... although I'm usually always emotional and blame it on some kind of hormones.  (Hormones are real!!)

The baby will definitely be coming soon, at least in the next few weeks.  And finally, I think we might be ready.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

advent (but i'm not ready) - a modest anthology and song

It's hard to believe the Advent season is upon us already.  My family arrived this week in the Vancouver area from Australia, making many friends and enemies on the 14 hour flight with our two babies.  Just kidding, mostly friends.  We've nearly beaten jet-lag and are finding our rhythms in the chilly, endless rain.  Our December will be warm though, full of family and dear friends; it's been two years since we were on North American soil, our children are loving their grandparents (and we are loving the extra hands!)

Reflecting on last year at this time I thought I would re-post a few blogs that I wrote around the advent theme.  I was in my last month of pregnancy (baby girl came January 8th), preparing to have two babes 17 months apart (with my son a very poor sleeper), processing the trauma of my son's birth in light of impending labour, seeing so much darkness in my neighbourhood and my own apathy.  Many things felt out of my control.  What did it mean to get ready for God to come? 

I'm pasting these handful of short posts into a long one, but if you have the time then please read on.  My husband and I recorded a version of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" a few years ago and it's at the end of this post.  You have to read everything for the song to play.  Just kidding.


advent (together we wait) 

I confessed some fears to Chris in the dark.  A movie we watched that evening had an insignificant sub-plot line that pricked open a chasm in my heart I had barely remembered was there.  I said the words in whispers, held my breath and then lost it to near silent sobs straight into his chest.  He held me again and listened to my body's weeping motions, reckless waves that he knows well.

Our boy lay sleeping in his bed close by and I didn't want to wake him.  So many times I've sobbed silently into a pillow or my husband's chest, so as not to disturb the rest of the world as she sleeps.

It's almost Advent, Chris reminded me in the morning as we shared more words.  It's that time again.  Time to confess our longing, to name the darkness, to cry tears for everyone and for ourselves.  And it's time to prepare for God to come.

So I speak out my fears and light a candle.  I meet the pain, look her in the eyes and I stay with her there, in the darkness.  And together we wait for the coming of God.

 advent (the womb of the world)  30 November, 2011

We called our pregnancy with Safran our '40 weeks of Advent'.  We waited expectantly for our son to arrive in our arms.  We longed for him with near desperation, especially as the time drew nearer.  My emotions were heavy in those months.  It was dark.  I cried often, in the evenings laying in bed next to Chris, helpless.  I carried the grief and pain of losing our first baby early in pregnancy very deeply.  I battled despair nearly every day.  And yet I carried a whole new baby inside as well, and I was thrilled.  I felt his dance daily and dreamed of our future together.  The tension of grief and expectancy was difficult to hold.  I always felt guilty in embracing either.

Maybe that's what Advent is about - the opportunity to enter the womb of the world, and she's honest with us.  Her dreams have been washed out to sea with chaotic waves; she's lost children, she weeps.  The sweatshops, sex slavery, civil wars, domestic violence, greed and exploitation, cancer and HIV - she knows the faces and stories intimately and it tears her to pieces.  She laments.  She groans, the Apostle Paul writes, with the pains of labour.

And yet, she's still pregnant with new life.  Somehow she carries a hope again that's stretching her to this thin fragility, ready to burst yet being held.  Somehow this same creation that groans in pain also filled with trees clapping their hands in joy and fields and hills singing with expectancy.  She knows that God is coming to judge the earth and make all things new. 

This December I'm actually 'with child' during Advent and the impending "coming" gives me a tangible taste of a pregnant world waiting for God to deliver us all.  I can feel the ache setting in.  I know a bit of the longing.  I too am waiting for a new world to come, for the redemption of my body, for glad cries of deliverance as a fresh babe is welcomed onto my chest.

My growing belly is a sacrament and I solemnly and joyfully partake; my stretch marks holy before the Lord.

advent (fertile darkness) 4 December, 2011

'I believe that Christ came not to dispel the darkness but to teach us
to dwell with integrity, compassion, and love in the midst of
ambiguity.  The one who grew in the fertile darkness of Mary's womb
knew that darkness is not evil of itself.  Rather, it can become the
tending place in which our longings for healing, justice and peace
grow and come to birth.'

- Jan L. Richardson

I remember the moment I first read this quote.  It was the fall of 2004 - I was in a warm living room of a friend/mentor, drinking tea and paging through an artsy book on her coffee table.  I always stayed too long at her house, a few hours after the other girls had left.  She never seemed to mind.  It was the middle of my 'urban studies' semester in North Philadelphia and the city welcomed me and then gave me an education I thought I already had.

Racism.  It was still in full force?  In Philadelphia?  In our community?  What was community anyway?  How were were we supposed to do this in a way that was real and life-giving?  What was worshiping God really about?  Who was Jesus and did it matter if he was actually God?  What about homosexuality?  How big was God's kingdom?  Was anyone excluded?

My internship was 13 blocks down the street at a shelter for women and children.  I was Miss Emma's personal assistant.  She was a social worker now, this strong and beautiful and compassionate world changing woman, committed to serving the families in her care.  She had become a Christian in prison, where she was locked up for 'selling drugs to white kids from the suburbs'.

It was an education that I wasn't looking for, I didn't know I needed.

And every Sunday night I would spend a few hours at my friend's house, just talking.  I would say my questions out loud and ramble, back track, blaspheme and recant and blaspheme again.  Struggling to keep my heart intact; someone was trying to break it - either the city or God Herself.

The questions were real.  They were heavy.  I woke in the night thinking of them, sometimes I couldn't breathe in bed, they were sitting there on my chest keeping me from peace and sleep.  And I found refuge in my friend, in her ears, her honesty that always trumped her age and education.  She had discovered a way to walk knee-deep in the gray; she invited me to come along.  She didn't give me answers, though.  She would never tell me what to think.

She honoured the darkness as holy.  My 'faith crisis' was taking me deeper and nearer, not further away - she promised me.  My questions were growing me and I could befriend them rather than try to conquer them with 'blessed assurance'.

This advent season, I'm remembering those old questions.  These days I'm too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend time with the questions that live in my heart.  Or maybe I'm afraid of ambiguity, of the not-knowing, of the messiness of the theological implications of life on my street.  I'm afraid that if I can't tell Jesus what he wants from me, he might ask me for something I don't want to give him.

But advent calls the darkness fertile.

advent (listen to Mary's song)  18 December 2011

Asking God to come and plant His dreams in us is costly - to carry the things of God we must be willing to change, to grow, to stretch and ache; our bodies will never be the same, our hearts will have a new capacity for love and for pain.  We will steward an exciting and terrifying responsibility - one we will only be able to parent and never control.  There will be sleepless nights and bone-tiring days, few breaks and few acknowledgements of how much we give.

But to carry and bring to birth God's dreams in the world - however seemingly small and fragile they are - what a magnificent honour.  Mary recognized this, despite the great cost she bore, a pregnant teenager who could easily be killed or abandoned because of her situation, and a mother who would one day see her son murdered before her own eyes.  "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of His servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name."  (Luke 2)

What are the things I have deemed too costly to carry?  Let my heart be stirred this advent season by the song of a vulnerable, pregnant teenager, confident in the goodness of God.

advent (implore my doubting heart)  23 December 2011
 
by Daniel Raus, a Czech poet
not even in the middle of a desert can it be claimed
that water does not exist
not even amidst the ocean's waves can it be denied
that there are trees and mountains far away
that's why I teach my impatient mind
to wait
that's why I urge my dulled ears
to listen
that's why I implore my doubting heart
to believe

advent (but I'm not ready)  24 December 2011

It's December 24th, 9:33pm.  The baby has been sleeping a few hours, we snuck away while Nana and Papa listened to his quiet in the baby monitor, and we stopped in at a Christmas party full of people we adore.  We ate extremely yummy and sugary food, we chatted and had pictures taken, we laughed and played games.  A few presents are wrapped and under our little tree (on a table, safe from our saf).  We gave baking to the neighbours and mailed last minute cards (obviously not going to make their international voyages by tomorrow) at the post office.  My belly is bulging with 38 weeks + 2 days of baby and painless contractions are growing less comfortable.  Advent is over, the coming is upon us.

What if I'm ... not ready?

It's been a bit stressful being this pregnant during the Christmas season.  What do we prioritize?  The baby could have come already, or could stay hidden until mid January.  Do we spend our money on gifts for family or on a new car seat?  Do I clean the corners of my house or wrap presents and write postcards? 

As we approached the party up the street, a woman was standing on the corner, waiting for a man to pick her up.  She was dressed in jeans and a jean jacket - not typical attire for that corner, but I'm pretty sure she was working.  When we left the party, she was gone.  I wondered about her, and him, and the sadness still surfacing regularly in my neighbourhood on Christmas eve.

I tried to focus my heart this Advent.  I had more times of reading scripture and stillness before God than usual.  I wrote a few blogs on the subject.  But I don't feel like I made myself ready for God to come.

I don't feel ready for this baby to come, either.  I felt so ready for our firstborn, so desperate.  Probably because I had no idea how a baby can invade so thoroughly, taking so many hostages, relentless and helpless and always confessing need with such determination that someone will come.  I know the cost this time, and as much as I'm trying to to be ready, I'm just not.  How can we ever be ready to welcome a whole other free being into our lives forever, and one that will require so much from us?

But the baby doesn't care if I'm ready, nor if I consider myself good enough.  The baby doesn't care if the house is organized (it is not), or if there are extra meals in the freezer (there are not), or if the bassinet is even set up (nope, although my husband assures me 'that takes like 5 minutes'.  mhm.)

The baby is coming anyway.  (Probably not tonight, by the way, but coming, for sure).

The first time God came to the world, He came as a baby.  That in itself is beyond wild, beyond ridiculous and dangerous and is so hard for me to believe.   The world was in chaos (as usual), He would be born into an occupied territory and grow up poor and oppressed.  He didn't come because the world was ready, for we will never be ready for what Jesus has to bring, or for what He will require of us.


God came because it was time.  Not because we were ready, but because we were in need.  The beauty of Advent is in God's willingness to come to us, not our readiness for Him to come.


That gives me hope this eve of 'the coming'; my street is not ready, nor my home or my family, barely my heart even.  But the belly is huge and the arrival is imminent, though we will never be 'good enough'.  Because we are certainly in need.


Our confession of need and awareness of our longing is what makes us ready for the coming of God.


So I sigh and sing with the rest of the world tonight, "Come, Lord Jesus".


(Here's a rendition of 'O Come...' I recorded with my husband a couple years back.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

advent (implore my doubting heart)

 
by Daniel Raus, a Czech poet
 
not even in the middle of a desert can it be claimed
that water does not exist
not even amidst the ocean's waves can it be denied
that there are trees and mountains far away
that's why I teach my impatient mind
to wait
that's why I urge my dulled ears
to listen
that's why I implore my doubting heart
to believe

Sunday, December 18, 2011

advent (listen to mary's song)

Asking God to come and plant His dreams in us is costly - to carry the things of God we must be willing to change, to grow, to stretch and ache; our bodies will never be the same, our hearts will have a new capacity for love and for pain.  We will steward an exciting and terrifying resonsibility - one we will only be able to parent and never control.  There will be sleepless nights and bone-tiring days, few breaks and few acknowledgements of how much we give.

But to carry and bring to birth God's dreams in the world - however seemingly small and fragile they are - what a magnificent honour.  Mary recognized this, depsite the great cost she bore, a pregnant teenager who could easily be killed or abandoned because of her situation, and a mother who would one day see her son murdered before her own eyes.  "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of His servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name."  (Luke 2)

What are the things I have deemed too costly to carry?  Let my heart be stirred this advent season by the song of a vulnerable, pregnant teenager, confident in the goodness of God.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tonight I'm remembering.


Tonight I'm remembering:  six years ago today, also a Sunday filled with all the things you would normally expect, death came to us with a wave of chaos.  A driver's poor decision in one moment took eight lives:  young ones, bright ones, the breath and motion of friends who had changed me.  I was plucked from West Africa and the lush screaming green of birth, the holiness of dark bellies stretched with life.  Nights spent under stars singing our lungs out to God's rhythms drummed with grateful hands, around a fire (no matter how hot and muggy it already was); very little electricity and not enough water, but friendships flowing with milk and honey, endless conversations about these present moments, difficult and necessary and beautiful.  We had no idea there weren't many left.

with Erin, who was seriously injured, and Bri, who was killed


And then so quickly I was home in the bed I'd grown up in, nights dreaded as my heart ripped to shreds couldn't shut off the pain, or even quiet it to find refuge.  Even sleep was an enemy.  It was winter at home.  The woods I walked in regularly hid nothing of her own grief, and there were no hints of resurrection looming, for any of us.

Six years later:  I write sitting on our couch while my husband sings quietly to his guitar strumming.  My eldest baby sleeps, the rain pounds on the skylight, the Christmas tree is lit up behind us, my youngest babe gets comfortable inside and settles down.  My own scars are fading in so many ways.  But still I remember.

I remember those who suffer:  bodies not yet made whole and new, minds damaged in life-altering ways, mothers whose grown babies never said good-bye to them, a woman whose husband would never return to her arms.  The grief ebbs and flows, but it will always be present; for some it laps at their ankles now and then, others gasp for air daily.

It's a mystery to me - how the waves can roar and crash and destroy so quickly; how we do survive it's aftermath, even when we wish we didn't; how God Herself comes to us in our bleeding and unconcious hopeless state - with mercy, with comfort, with healing.  Bellies grow again and new life comes to us.  The earth has not been abandoned.

One day God will make His home with us, even here.

Until then, we wait.  We run fingers across scars, confess our love more freely, stay put in moments for a little bit longer, and keep our ears pressed to the pulse of the Promise. 

Every tear, He will wipe from our faces.

The sea of chaos will be no more.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Advent (fertile darkness)


'I believe that Christ came not to dispel the darkness but to teach us
to dwell with integrity, compassion, and love in the midst of
ambiguity.  The one who grew in the fertile darkness of Mary's womb
knew that darkness is not evil of itself.  Rather, it can become the
tending place in which our longings for healing, justice and peace
grow and come to birth.'

- Jan L. Richardson

I remember the moment I first read this quote.  It was the fall of 2004 - I was in a warm living room of a friend/mentor, drinking tea and paging through an artsy book on her coffee table.  I always stayed too long at her house, a few hours after the other girls had left.  She never seemed to mind.  It was the middle of my 'urban studies' semester in North Philadelphia and the city welcomed me and then gave me an education I thought I already had.

Racism.  It was still in full force?  In Philadelphia?  In our community?  What was community anyway?  How were were we supposed to do this in a way that was real and life-giving?  What was worshiping God really about?  Who was Jesus and did it matter if he was actually God?  What about homosexuality?  How big was God's kingdom?  Was anyone excluded?

My internship was 13 blocks down the street at a shelter for women and children.  I was Miss Emma's personal assistant.  She was a social worker now, this strong and beautiful and compassionate world changing woman, committed to serving the families in her care.  She had become a Christian in prison, where she was locked up for 'selling drugs to white kids from the suburbs'.

It was an education that I wasn't looking for, I didn't know I needed.

And every Sunday night I would spend a few hours at my friend's house, just talking.  I would say my questions out loud and ramble, back track, blaspheme and recant and blaspheme again.  Struggling to keep my heart intact; someone was trying to break it - either the city or God Herself.

The questions were real.  They were heavy.  I woke in the night thinking of them, sometimes I couldn't breathe in bed, they were sitting there on my chest keeping me from peace and sleep.  And I found refuge in my friend, in her ears, her honesty that always trumped her age and education.  She had discovered a way to walk knee-deep in the gray; she invited me to come along.  She didn't give me answers, though.  She would never tell me what to think.

She honoured the darkness as holy.  My 'faith crisis' was taking me deeper and nearer, not further away - she assured me.  My questions were growing me and I could befriend them rather than try to conquer them with 'blessed assurance'.

This advent season, I'm remembering those old questions.  These days I'm too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend time with the questions that live in my heart.  Or maybe I'm afraid of ambiguity, of the not-knowing, of the messiness of the theological implications of life on my street.  I'm afraid that if I can't tell Jesus what he wants from me, he might ask me for something I don't want to give him.

But advent calls the darkness fertile. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

advent (the womb of the world)



We called our pregnancy with Safran our '40 weeks of Advent'.  We waited expectantly for our son to arrive in our arms.  We longed for him with near desperation, especially as the time drew nearer.  My emotions were heavy in those months.  It was dark.  I cried often, in the evenings laying in bed next to Chris, helpless.  I carried the grief and pain of losing our first baby early in pregnancy very deeply.  I battled despair nearly every day.  And yet I carried a whole new baby inside as well, and I was thrilled.  I felt his dance daily and dreamed of our future together.  The tension of grief and expectancy was difficult to hold.  I always felt guilty in embracing either.

Maybe that's what Advent is about - the opportunity to enter the womb of the world, and she's honest with us.  Her dreams have been washed out to sea with chaotic waves; she's lost children, she weeps.  The sweatshops, sex slavery, civil wars, domestic violence, greed and exploitation, cancer and HIV - she knows the faces and stories intimately and it tears her to pieces.  She laments.  She groans, the Apostle Paul writes, with the pains of labour.

And yet, she's still pregnant with new life.  Somehow she carries a hope again that's stretching her to this thin fragility, ready to burst yet being held.  Somehow this same creation that groans in pain also filled with trees clapping their hands in joy and fields and hills singing with expectancy.  She knows that God is coming to judge the earth and make all things new. 

This December I'm actually 'with child' during Advent and the impending "coming" gives me a tangible taste of a pregnant world waiting for God to deliver us all.  I can feel the ache setting in.  I know a bit of the longing.  I too am waiting for a new world to come, for the redemption of my body, for glad cries of deliverance as a fresh babe is welcomed onto my chest.

My growing belly is a sacrament and I solemnly and joyfully partake; my stretch marks holy before the Lord.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

advent (together we wait)


I confessed some fears to Chris in the dark.  A movie we watched that evening had an insignificant sub-plot line that pricked open a chasm in my heart I had barely remembered was there.  I said the words in whispers, held my breath and then lost it to near silent sobs straight into his chest.  He held me again and listened to my body's weeping motions, reckless waves that he knows well.

Our boy lay sleeping in his bed close by and I didn't want to wake him.  So many times I've sobbed silently into a pillow or my husband's chest, so as not to disturb the rest of the world as she sleeps.

It's almost Advent, Chris reminded me in the morning as we shared more words.  It's that time again.  Time to confess our longing, to name the darkness, to cry tears for everyone and for ourselves.  And it's time to prepare for God to come.

So I speak out my fears and light a candle.  I meet the pain, look her in the eyes and I stay with her there, in the darkness.  And together we wait for the coming of God.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

women, weight, and war.

My friend recently gave me a pregnancy magazine which I've enjoyed perusing.  Unfortunately most of the articles are about nutrition and exercise.  I remembered that I've 'exercised' maybe 2 or 3 times this pregnancy and decided, at 28 weeks, to start.  That was 5 weeks ago and I think I managed an interrupted 20 minute pregnancy pilates video once.  mHm.  I do carry my 25 pound toddler up a steep flight of stairs multiple times a day which must count for something.  I'm sure I'll have plenty of time for exercise ... after the baby comes.  mHm.

Cover of "Pray the Devil Back to Hell"Cover of Pray the Devil Back to HellMy husband saw the magazine sitting on our counter and remarked, "wow, they even photoshop pictures of pregnant women" - who, I might add, already look like models.  I heard recently that generally 99.9% of female images in magazines are altered.  (Really?!?)  The pregnancy magazine was full of tall, extremely thin women who only gain weight on their bellies which they miraculously shed completely back to defined abs within weeks of birth.  I felt a bit depressed flipping through the pages, comparing my body, my diet, my (complete lack of) exercise routine.  The cover donned a heading, "Have the Baby but Keep the Body!"  Because that's the most important indicator of your post-partum success, you know.  How long did it take to get back into your old jeans?  I'm sure your baby really cares.

We recently had some friends over to watch an incredible documentary called "Pray the Devil Back to Hell."  It's the story of Liberia's (a small country in West Africa) journey to freedom from a 14 year civil war in the face of a ruthless dictator and greed-stricken rebels.  And the women made it happen.

Christian and Muslim women began uniting in their desperation for the same thing:  the end of violence, rape, hunger and fear for their children who had never known anything else.  Leymah Gbowee, who at the time was a pregnant mother with three children, courageously led the initiative.  She believed that "if any changes were to be made in society it had to be by the mothers".  She began 2 1/2 years of creative non-violent protest, the bulk of which were thousands of Liberian women dressed in white, gathering at the fish markets, praying, dancing, grieving and celebrating life together.  When given opportunity to address Liberia's dictator, Charles Taylor, she bravely said, " We are tired of war. We are tired of running. We are tired of begging for bulgur wheat. We are tired of our children being raped. We are now taking this stand, to secure the future of our children. Because we believe, as custodians of society, tomorrow our children will ask us, "Mama, what was your role during the crisis?"

It's a wild story.  And it worked.  In 2004 Liberia was the first African country to elect a female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who, along with Leymah Gbowee, was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

Here's the documentary's trailer:


Every time I watch this film I'm challenged in new ways, often looking my own apathy in the face.  And that's a terrifying thing.  This time, as I saw these Liberian women who had been raped, had their children kidnapped, fled their homes for safety, gone days without food and clean water - when I saw them completely risking their lives demanding their country choose another way - I was deeply stirred.  One woman told her children, "If I die, you will know I died fighting for peace."

In Liberia, that's what it meant to be a woman - to fight for peace for your children, no matter what the cost.  The scars of war lay as deep lines on their faces and ache in their eyes.  They were pregnant, gave birth, nursed and raised their babies.  But they had a lot more to worry about than how quickly they lost their pregnancy weight.

I felt shallow.  I felt deceived.  I felt amazed that after spending time with women in at least ten emerging nations, eyes wide open to poverty, injustice and suffering that I could still think being a woman is largely about how I look.  I spent three months in South Sudan, doing life in mud huts, carrying water on my head, learning everything from my friend Miriam who had lived as a refugee in Uganda for 20 years under continual threat of violence.  I had very little electricity and 3 cm of mirror to my name.  My shirt and skirt rarely matched.  And I had never felt so alive.

But once I'm back in my own culture, it's so deep in my subconcious to care about my appearance, regardless of what I say, or even think I believe.  I compare myself to women in magazines, women I see at the beach, or moms around me.  How do I have time for that?  There are sex workers on my block, friends in need of comfort and fellowship, children to grow, a husband to care for, books to read, streets to walk, governments and people in uproar around the world - do I really have time to critique my body?  Do I really think it's that important?  Will I really let magazines with pictures of women THAT DO NOT EVEN EXIST IN REALITY  give me a standard by which to measure myself?  Please God have mercy on me.

Leymah Gbowee led Liberia to the end of a devastating civil war.  Before that she was reading the works of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr while providing for her children in the midst of chaos.  She won the Nobel Peace Prize.  She is a mother of six children.  She is an outstandingly beautiful and brilliant woman and I bet she doesn't give a damn that my culture would define her as "overweight" or "heavy".



I want to be heavy like her - heavy with influence, heavy with compassion, heavy with courage and creativity and suffering love.

When my eyes scan magazine covers at the grocery store looking for a definition of "woman", I want to immediately recall the Liberian mothers, wearing white and changing the world.  They are my definition.  They will be my standard when I feel the need to compare.

When my children ask me, "Mama, what was your role in the crisis?", I hope I have something to say.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

psalm somewhere in the middle

I'm somewhere in the middle of
yesterday and tomorrow, not
close enough to either to feel safe enough
to stay.

I'm somewhere in the middle of my darkest
fears and my unashamed expectancy,
between the stories whose scars I bear
and the unwritten chapters I still need
to live.

I'm somewhere in the middle of my child-less
world-wandering and visits with grand children
who carry my reflection,
somewhere between our 6:30am giggling alarm and
the quiet peace of his nursing to sleep.

I'm always somewhere in the middle of
remembering and imagining,
flipping through scrapbook pages and the
empty journal of my wildest plans.

But may neither steal my gaze
and touch
from the drenched-in-holiness
of this very now.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

on pain, joy, and the risk in between

Right now my smallest baby, in-womb, is having all of their needs met by me, all of the time.  Comfort, nutrition, warmth, closeness, safety–it's all there.  I know this little one is content (despite the dramatic dance moves!).  It's a beautiful thing, and I feel satisfied.

32 weeks


Sometimes I think it would be better if they stayed inside.  They'll never be hungry or cold or away from me, never be frustrated or lonely or afraid, never skin their knee, fall off a bike, experience a broken heart, lose a friend, lose a child of their own, feel their body age and decay…


The risk of a mother in releasing her precious, delicately woven, longed for and dreamed of child into a world spinning with chaos–it's the risk of a God who created all of us children to be free - and then released us into our own hands.  If God, infinitely and completely good, had chosen to simply control our thoughts and actions, I'm pretty sure the world would be a much safer place.  It would be a nice place. 

But there's something so much more right and beautiful and expectant in the letting go and letting us be free.

Most of the time I want to shout, "No!  It's not better!  Put us back inside!  This freedom is destroying us!"  Can the beauty and creation within our capacity possibly be worth the violence and greed we commit daily?  I'm barely convinced.

oh boy!
Then I consider marriage.  In wedding yourself to another person who exists in freedom, you are committing one of the greatest acts of vulnerability–making yourself utterly "wound-able".  And we wound each other!  Not even addressing the devastation of divorce, abuse, infidelity, or hardened hearts sharing a bed for 40 years, we still cause each other great pain even when we are trying to love.  Unkind words, demanding expectations, selfish pursuits and resentment are all things I'm guilty of in my own marriage, fairly regularly.  I wound my husband.  He knew very well, standing at the altar saying words of utmost committment to me, a free and broken being, that he would be wounded.  But somehow he believed the risk of pain in laying down his life for me was worth it, because the alternative risked a greater loss of potential beauty and joy. 



Children are another example.  I read a very intense article by a mother of a child born with a brain tumour who lived only a few hours in her arms.  They carried this knowledge through most of the pregnancy.  She writes that opening yourself up to fertility–at all–opens you up to the possibilities of hell.  Some people struggle for years and years to conceive, grieving their empty womb every single month.  Many women experience pregnancy loss, still birth and newborn death; and even if your child survives birth there's no guarantee they won't die before you do.  I can't imagine the heartache of burying your child, no matter how old they are, but that's a reality families face.  There's the pain that living children inflict on their parents, countless stories of broken hearts and isolation - mothers and fathers grieving the loss of children who are still alive.

And we know this.  We know what darkness is possible, we know there are no guarantees of happy endings.  It's not that we think we'll beat the odds and escape heartache.  We just sense that it's better to risk, to confess hope in attempting to bring a child into the world.  It would be crazy to sacrifice all the love and joy and wonder and beauty of a child in order to minimize our life's pain. 


As I've written before, the resurrected body of Jesus still has his scars.  Even God submitted himself in full wound-ability to that which he created, and He will always carry those marks on his body.

So maybe I'll take back what I shouted earlier, I'll allow my growing baby to be free from the safety of my womb and I'll let my little boy be free of the safety of my arms and my home (someday).  I'll let my heart be increasingly free to risk in love of others, to be vulnerable, to be wound-able.  And when pain comes (and it will) I will stop myself from wishing God would take more control of the world and ask how I can use my own freedom to plant and grow more of what His heart intends to see here.