Friday, October 10, 2014

anxiety, guilt and the holy work of play

The other morning I was walking a few blocks from my home with my three children, two in the pram in front of me and one strapped to my chest.  I was almost at the top of the hill, across from a petrol station, when a young man began crossing the street pointing at us and yelling angrily.  He was obviously wasted and I had a clear moment to think, "Wow.  What am I going to do?  How am I going to protect my kids?"  I glanced around to see if there was anyone who would help us.  A woman I recognised shouted at him, "They're just children!  You leave them alone!"  He stumbled away to the bus stop shelter, suddenly looking harmless

Sometimes it seems the whole world is a wasted man lumbering towards my children and I'm not sure what to do.

I'm sure it's something most mothers have felt from the beginning of humanity, I imagine Eve holding her precious firstborn with relief and joy after tremendous pain and in the next breath fearing for his little life, worrying that his future will be as painful as her labour.  I read the news and contemplate how the world will be when my kids are adults, how nation-states will have changed, where will the countries that have issued their passports be dropping bombs?  Who will our neighbours be, what about our enemies?  It's possibly still postpartum hormones but I nearly have to look away from their faces because they are so beautiful and they don't yet know how unsafe the world is.  I don't want them to ever know.

And the things is, as sketchy as our neighbourhood can occasionally be, we also live so close to the sea.  The weather is warming and the kids and I spend so much time outside doing nothing but enjoying creation's goodness.   I have this subtle, nagging guilt; it's rare for me to feel free and joyful for too long before I remember those who are displaced and mourning, especially in the Middle East but just about anywhere.  The pregnant women, those whose labour is imminent, those giving birth even as bombs destroy close to them or soldiers are fast approaching - this is reality and I don't know how people survive it.  I worry about what God thinks about all of our sunny tomfoolery, about how much time my children and I spend playing, is there something more important that we should be doing right now?

I learned about the Christian Peacemaker Teams in 2003, when Peggy Gish and her late husband, Art, visited my college and we had a small meeting where we heard their stories from Iraq and Palestine.  Their hair was as white as their commitment to non-violence was fierce.  They were the real deal and I was left deeply inspired.  I've been reading Peggy's blog lately, she is still with a small CPT team in Suleimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, welcoming IDPs and sitting with local leaders who are building bridges for peace.  I remember Leymah Gbowee and the thousands of mothers who used creative non-violent resistance to see the end of civil war in their beloved Liberia and saw the establishment of a new government.  I love knowing there are brave and kind people in the world.

I wonder where I'd be right now if I was single, I wonder where I'll be when my hair is grey.  Is it okay that motherhood has so drastically changed me?  That all I really want to do now is keep my babies safe?  I used to feel brave and strong and I don't feel that way at all anymore.

Somewhere deeply buried beneath my anxiety and my guilt there are tiny seeds of hope pushing up on the darkest earth.  I want my imagination to massively expand, I want my heart to be broken and heal wide open, I want to pray for a justice drenched peace in the world and in my neighbourhood.  I want my mind to be surprisingly reoriented towards the best security we have:  God is midwife, and the Prince of Shalom arrived as a baby, taught us the way and inaugurated a whole new world.

How we do conflict in our home does matter, and what I teach my kids about power and weapons and money and the world's history and loving people who seem very different than us will give them freedom to dream bigger and more whole-ly than I will ever be able to dream.  There is something holy in their innocence, their joy, their commitment to laughter and bare feet and play.  Maybe it's the prayer language of pre-schoolers, calling the whole world back to the way things were in those very first days.

Let the children lead.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Motherheart of God: God is a Midwife

My friend Adriel is hosting a "Motherheart of God" series.  She's exploring aspects of God's essence in a Christian worldview that we often overlook or underestimate—the expression of God's nature and character reflected in the feminine experience.  I am over there writing about God as Midwife.

"If our mothers had named the Holy One, would God have firstly been midwife, continually welcoming new life in even the most excruciating circumstances?"

Be sure to check out the other posts in her series!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

For Chris: I didn't know how well I'd done when I married you.

me and my friend boy, six years ago this month

It's Australian Father's Day and while you are Canadian and I'm American, all of our babies have been born in this third country where we have made a home together.  I've had the flu this weekend and the littlest one is miserable so you are out with the big kids on your own.

When you and I were dating, (mostly through the interwebs, but with our whole heart) I had no idea.  We were babies then, not thinking at all about having babies of our own, talking about EVERYTHING we could think of to try and make a wise decision together.  How would we spend our money, where would we live, what does hospitality mean, would we travel or root ourselves deep?  We talked about how we would space our babies (or not), and how many kids we'd like to have though that was for someday in the future, not anytime soon.  You were handsome and creative and kind and I was very much in love; we said our vows and moved in with each other, we thought we would make so much music together.

Instead we made babies - our first, who waits with us for all things to be made new, and the three who are growing us up now.  I didn't know that you as a father would be so enmeshed with you as a husband but that's how things have unfolded and here we are now.  You hadn't even held a newborn until you had your own.  We had no idea how children would gently wreck us and force us to re-imagine everything we thought about ourselves.   I didn't realise how well I'd done when I married you.

I didn't know the thousand hours you would spend holding our children in the night while I slept.  Or how you would throw off grumpiness by throwing a blanket over yourself and chasing the kids around the house.  (Big brother clings to little sister, giggling and assuring her over and over again, "It's just dad.  It's just dad.  It's just dad.")  Or how you would be able to connect with our son when I just can't, and tell the most perfectly boring bedtime story/songs night after night after night.  When you are in love over Skype, who talks about how long they will breastfeed, where babies will sleep,  the anger that tiredness can bring, or the pressure of small screaming people?  How could I have known how present you would be in the suffering of my body when each child has arrived, what a balm you would be to my heart?

I didn't realise how much you would care for people outside of our little family, how you would connect and mentor and serve.  I didn't realise how deeply proud I would be when I see you around, that you are mine, and I am yours.  

When we were dating I thought I was in love with you.  I didn't even have a clue.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

when pain gives way to joy (salem's birth story)

My baby boy has been in my arms for over 12 weeks.

I've wanted to share his birth story here for awhile now, but this has been a summer (or winter, for those of us in the southern hemisphere) of much trauma and pain across the globe.  I don't think the world is getting any worse off as there is much positive change, healing and reconciliation as well.  We are all just more connected, more aware perhaps?  But still, news of our shared brokenness across this spinning planet leaves us reeling and confused and fearful - will we slowly destroy ourselves?

I won't write about how vulnerable and reckless it feels to care for tiny, dependent people these days, I'm sure mothers have felt that way for four thousand years.  Are we crazy for thinking this is a good time to have children?  No, we are brave.  Expecting good and hope for our children's future is courageous, and it's only born out of a deep trust in a God who creates and commits and promises all things new.  I wonder if we've done the right thing in creating more people to be dependent on us, with the capacity to suffer and grieve.  But the world needs new tiny humans, whose imaginations are free, humans capable of love, forgiveness, peace-building and conflict resolution.  The world needs people who will sing their hearts out and lay down their swords.  Even God decided to arrive as a baby; that wasn't the safest option but somehow it was best.  

Pregnancy and birth do not always go to plan, I know that well, and many other mothers and fathers know that much more painfully than I do.  There are many, many variables to birth and some of them are completely outside of our control.  Like anything, we learn as much as we can, do our best and keep our chin up.  There's nothing to prove, just tiny babies wanting to be in the arms of their mothers, however that may happen.  Sometimes the stars align and babies come gloriously, the pain evaporates into a distant memory and mother bonds freely with child.

When the incredible pains of labour (that can nearly swallow a woman whole) are able to bring a real baby - screaming and alive - into the her hands, and even leave her body in need of no repair, the memory of the pain quickly melting away - this is a sign to us.

The world's suffering, and our own, is all going somewhere.  Just as we feel we have lost everything and there is no hope, it will surrender itself and give way to joy.  And all the boots of the warriors, all the garments rolled in blood, all the F-16s and tear gas bottles, riot gear, disease, chaos, racism, tanks and drones will be burned like fuel for a fire.

For we need to boil some water; a child is born.  His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace. (Isaiah 9)

So I'm sharing the story of my son's birth and I wear the memory of it deep in my body, a reminder and a sign.  Pain and suffering in this world do not have the last word.


(Prepare yourself for some graphic details written very bluntly.  Feel free to turn back before it's too late.)

The baby's due date was the 25th of May and I expected to give birth around that time; both of my other children were born at 40weeks + 2 days gestation.  I was half expecting a long labour and half expecting the child to slip out onto the floor spontaneously.  I processed pregnancy fears surrounding giving birth and felt like I moved through them in a new way, I felt pretty sure that whatever happened, God would be midwife:  present and GOOD.

I found most of the pregnancy exhausting and the last six weeks pretty painful as I got huge - I gained 28 kgs/ 60 pounds and I was caring for my other two young children.  My husband should be writing this part as I'm sure he can recount properly some of my misery.  :)  I wrote at the end of my 39th week that I was holding together pretty well and then I promptly started to fall apart.   I was having some pretty intense pre-labour pains off and on, especially in the night.  Ina May Gaskin talks about how for some women labour can try to begin as many as five times before active labour actually kicks in. This was priceless information especially as I hoped to have as little of my labour at the hospital as possible.  Some nights I would lie in bed trying not to time the waves of pain as they came but unable to sleep through them for a few hours at a time.  One night I really thought it was the real deal (how can you know but in hindsight?) and spent so much of the night awake.

I spent the days doing a lot of walking, 35 kg of toddlers in the double pram, hiking up the hilly street we lived on.  My friend on the corner would always ask if I was sure I wasn't having twins which is a great question to have to answer multiple times.

I liked to think that every night could possibly be THE night and then when I woke in the morning I wasn't too disappointed.  Until the morning of June 2nd.  I woke up quite a mess, around 5:30am.  At 40 weeks +8 days  I couldn't believe I hadn't gone into labour yet, I was only a few days away from being induced.  My midwife had done two stretch and sweeps, at 40+3 and 40+7, each one leaving me slightly more despairing.  I still didn't truly trust my body to cooperate with the natural process of birth.  Both of my other labours had been full of interventions and I desperately wanted to give birth the way I know it is meant to be.

When I woke up on June 2 I read an email from a good friend of mine in Canada.  She had been praying for me and felt like I should make sure I was informed about cesarean birth - she didn't think I would have one but knew that many people do have one without having any sense of preparation, and processing that possibility could help me face any lingering fears I have surrounding the birth.  I was so upset to read this, already on the verge of tears upon waking and realizing my baby was still inside.  I sobbed and sobbed and wailed and sobbed in my husband's arms.  My face filled with snot and I had trouble breathing.  I wanted to be out of my body, I was shaking.  I hadn't felt that low in a very long time.  Chris said he would stay home from work, and he did, even though I told him I didn't need him to be home. Ha.

I took a Panadeine and fell back asleep for three hours, waking around ten am.  I was still crying when I woke up.  Chris had read the email and told me he thought my friend was right, that I should make sure I face any lingering fears.  I did read a short article on 'natural cesareans' but mostly I just let go of all of my hopes for an intervention-free birth.  More than anything, I wanted that baby in my arms.  I didn't care how he or she was born, I just wanted them safe in my arms - whether that was via cesarean or vacuum or forceps, with or without syntocinon.  I didn't have anything to prove to anyone and more than anything I just wanted to know this child, face to face.

I was still weepy but was able to get out of bed and take a shower.  I messaged with another friend in Canada, a midwife also heavily pregnant.  I mentioned to her that I was having some kind of contractions but I had been there so many times before in the past week that I wasn't getting my hopes up.  Around noon my daughter woke from her nap and I nursed her for quite a while as I texted with a friend, making plans for the next day.  I noticed things were getting more intense but we were planning to take the kids out since Chris was home for the day.  Chris went to get some hot chips for the kids before we left and I reckoned I should time the pains, which were coming every two and a half minutes.  I called my midwife, still unsure if this was really labour and she said she thought it was, that I should come to the hospital.  I cried endorphin filled happy tears.

Our friend came to be with our children and my friend Hollie arrived for birth support.  We drove to hospital together, arriving at 1:30pm.  I had about five contractions walking from the outside of the hospital upstairs to the maternity ward, still able to talk through the pain and so flipping happy that my body was in active labour on it's own, for the first time.  I was all smiles as I hugged my midwife and we got comfortable in the spacious birthing room, which had a bed, a shower and a bathtub.

I could feel the pains increasing in intensity and length.  Soon I had Chris putting pressure on my lower back during each contraction and I stood with the moveable shower head on my tummy with very hot water.  I preferred to be standing up, swaying, trying to keep my body relaxed.  I told myself that the baby was safe, that I was safe, over and over again.  I could chat between contractions for the first 90 minutes or so but needed to quiet myself and focus through them when they came.  At 3pm my midwife checked me for the first time and I was 6-7cm dilated with my membranes bulging.  What my midwife didn't tell me was that the baby was occiput posterior and if she had I think I would have freaked out as my daughter's labour had been posterior as well.  I kept labouring and spent some time in the bathtub.  In the end I couldn't get comfortable in the standard size ceramic tub, but I did do a big push at one point randomly and my midwife thinks that's when I turned the baby into a better position.

By 4 pm the pain was very, very intense.  I couldn't believe I was going through this again, even though I had been here before (and this time without any augmentation) it was still fiercely overwhelming.  I had to fight all the thoughts of needing interventions.  I had to be very focused - during contractions I would say to myself "One two three, baby's coming" and I slowly breathed in and out and swayed side to side, still with lots of lower back pressure from Chris and Hollie.  I was either in the shower or rocking on the toilet and if Chris had stepped away I would yell for him as soon as the contraction began.  Between the the pains I would say to myself, "You can do this.  You are amazing.  You are so strong.  You only have to get through one more contraction and your baby will be in your arms."  That wasn't true of course but it helped me to really stay present.  Chris and I kissed between contractions a few times, like Ina May encourages couples to do.  I tried to keep my face and shoulders relaxed and loose and listen to whatever my body wanted to do.  Even though I ultimately had to bring this baby through my body alone and no one could take on that physical pain for me, my Chris was right there supporting me in any and every way that he could.

After another hour I started to feel a lot of pressure and naturally took a position more on my hands and knees, still in the bathroom.  I did a big push and my waters exploded everywhere.  There was some meconium present but I was in the zone and trusted my midwives so I barely paid attention.  They had to wrap some monitors around my belly to trace the baby's heartbeat but I was able to stay on my knees in the bathroom. I heard my midwife say the meconium was present because my baby was so overdue and not to worry because baby was fine, but it was a hard moment for my husband.

I wanted to really let my body do the pushing since my other births were very directed by this point.  I felt very connected to the universe at this point, it was primal, like I was the most human I had ever been.  I felt very much alone but also safe and cared for.  I could feel the baby's head with my fingers and as my body would come to the middle of a contraction I would have an irresistible urge to push.  I wouldn't push for long, and only once with each contraction.  I may have had five or so contractions until the head started to crown.  Birthing the head was a crazy and excruciating couple of minutes and my body desperately wanted the baby to just be out.  I let out a little scream and started to panic but my midwife sternly told me to stay calm and to pant.  I wanted to pull this baby out of me as the feeling was so overwhelming but I was able to breathe and pant and only just barely push gently.

Once the baby's head was born I had to do another big push for the shoulders and then I brought my sweet child up to my chest.  It was a whole new world.  I couldn't believe the joy, how quickly it had all turned around, how the pain had surrendered itself once this baby was in the world and breathing for the first time, soon screaming glad deliverance cries.  I held the bald baby close and kissed it's beautiful face, I thanked my midwife who had believed in me, empowered me and watched over me through the whole process.  She asked what I'd had and I said I didn't even care, I was too busy kissing this child.  When I looked I started laughing because this whole time I'd been mostly expecting a girl and the baby growing 41 weeks inside of me was a little boy.

It was 5:30pm on June 2, 2014 and we named him Salem.


We are all over the map when it comes to seeing painful situations in our lives give way to joy and healing and laughter.  We groan under the weight of the suffering at times, with no end in sight.  Take heart, friends.  We have not been left alone.  One day all things will be made new.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

packing boxes and stirring up dust (for chris)

We packed up nearly three and a half years of belongings that we'd bought, found, written or been given into a hundred boxes and bins and buckets.  We only moved a street over and a few more up (or down) but it's a bit of a different world leaving an upstairs not quite two bedroom flat for a little house with a washing machine inside and no massive flight of stairs to climb with three children in tow.  Choice is a luxury and we made the decision quickly as it was the best time to do it and also the worst.  I couldn't believe how much dust got stirred up everywhere, especially between us.

The actual moving day was a breeze because somehow we know lots of people with strong arms and spacial awareness.  It was the packing and sorting and choosing and unplugging and cancelling and fixing (oh the fixing) and scrubbing that did us in.  The scrubbing is good for us though, isn't it?

If only we could have moved house with all of our stuff when we were just engaged.  We would have been so much nicer to each other.  But in five years of marriage there is a comfort and a solid feeling and who we really are is brave to come out a little bit further.  We've never had so many consecutive evenings of arguing, each wave receding but only increasing in intensity the next night.  We got through it, a little wounded of course but also knowing our vows were still wedding us tight, and that's a beautiful thing to know.

Two days after the move, boxes EVERYWHERE and I still wanted to go to church because I'm a pastor's kid and that's what we do.  I was driving home with our two littlest in the backseat of our station wagon.  Our girl asked where we were going and I said, "We're going home".  She started to cry, "Not going home!! I want to go see my brother!"  She thought "home" was the name of our now empty flat; though she spent her whoooole life there that space meant nothing to her if her brother was somewhere else.

I'm glad our children have a house with rooms that will better suit our needs (and my sanity, as you are well aware).  I'm glad we are a bit further from the pub noise on weekend nights and closer to the playground and some dear friends and the sea.  I love our bright white walls and big kitchen table and I'm so glad you'll have a little space in the back to make music, I can hear you strumming a a tune even now.  But more than anything, more than anywhere, I want to keep hanging up my curtains with you.

Someone could offer me the biggest house in a neighbourhood with no strange men or stray dogs, with a promise that all my laundry would be taken off the line for me, folded and put away daily and stacks of paper would cease to accumulate on counter tops - but I would turn them right down if you were going to be somewhere else.  Even if there were laundry piles everywhere.

Monday, July 7, 2014

a few words on writing

I'm a big fan of D.L. Mayfield's writing - it's usually crazy good and the things she writes about are what I need to keep me uncomfortable and examining my life.  I was super flattered when she said some very nice words about my writing and 'tagged' me to write about the process.  

I don't have much of a writing process right now as not too much writing happens around here.  But the new baby is pretty happy cuddled up with his dad watching Saturday Night Live so I'm giving it a shot.  (And now a week later I'm frantically editing while the baby sleeps and the big kids are out.)

1. What are you working on?

I apparently cannot grow babies or raise babies and do very much writing at the same time.  Hopefully I'll increase my capacity to write when I can but for now I rely very heavily on 'happy feelings of inspiration and confidencewhich I don't seem to have much of these days.  Most of my process happens in my head so I'm probably 'working on' things for quite a while before I actually start writing.  I did write an essay for SheLoves Magazine called "These Universal Labour Pains".  I just gave birth for the third time and had three very, very different experiences - I look forward to processing that a bit here, hopefully soon.

I really love to write music and that happens much less often than writing words, but when a song is finished (and even recorded sometimes - I married the right boy!) it is extremely satisfying for me.  One of my favourites is called "Come be You".

2. How does your work differ from others in its genre? 

The dominating factor in my life right now is that I've given birth to three children under the age of four in my first five years of marriage.  Much of my writing here (so far) is thoughts on pregnancy, labour and birth, pursuing gentle parenting and every now and then I'll write about the boy who rocks the babies to sleep at night.  These topics can be fairly exclusive depending on how they are written and many people carry wounds in these areas, especially around birth.  I often think, 'What if a woman read this post who wasn't able to breastfeed, or their baby died during childbirth?  What if a reader is divorced or single or hasn't been able to become pregnant easily?  What about someone reading who is from a different faith background, or none at all.'  I want to make space for everyone in what I write which is slightly noble but I'm not sure if it's possible or the best pursuit.  Sometimes these questions cripple me and sometimes they just keep me quiet for awhile.  I want the things I write to be true, but not just for a fairly privileged white, married girl.  I've got a long road to walk in that regard, but I'm walking.

I've had experiences in different cultural contexts, especially with women, and they shape how I think and write.  I'm also drawn to write about suffering and where God possibly is in it all.  Although I had a very safe childhood I've experienced trauma and loss a few times in my adult life and I like to write through the layers of it all when it comes up.  I've also seen miracles happen and want to honour the variables, the unknown, the mystery surrounding healing that sometimes breaks into our space and rewrites our future, and sometimes, sadly, does not.   

 And I want to write again and again how I've found nothing, nothing, nothing but good in God's heart.     

3. Why do you write what you do?

What really encourages me to write is meeting someone who has read my stuff and hearing that they've really connected with it.  That happens occasionally (usually a friend of a friend) and it's such a deep and genuine blessing to my heart.  I want people to process through and find healing in their experiences, to connect with people they would have otherwise passed by, and to think crazy, crazy things about God's love for the whole world, and even (and especially) for themselves.  I have a pretty small audience but it means so much to me when what I write is meaningful to someone.  I know I should write even when nobody cares, but that's hard at this point in life. 

Having a public space to share my ideas encourages me to actually think a bit beyond my day to day activities (two wild children, so much laundry and a newborn) and to work through them a bit.  The fact that I even have a little piece of online grass in the sunshine encourages me to grow something when I have the time - I'm not sure I would write much at all if I didn't have this blog.  That's sad, but at the moment it's true.  

4. How does your writing process work?

I usually have an idea gestating in my warm dark brain for quite awhile before I have a chance to write about it.  I've probably pitched it to Chris (fanboy) or maybe a close friend.  If have the energy and motivation to write, it's in the evenings.  It has to be an early bedtime evening for the big kids (around seven) and then I type furiously for a couple of hours, usually writing it all in one sitting.  Occasionally I will edit in the morning but usually Chris pressures me to just publish.  It's often around ten pm and that's when 'grumpy becca' comes out (I don't function well past 9:45 which many people in my life can attest to) so Chris is the one who sizes the picture and posts it to Facebook for me.  I'm usually falling asleep brushing my teeth at that point.  And being grumpy.  It's great.  Chris really believes in my writing and encourages me to write any evening we are free; 9 out of 10 times I'll accuse him of being bossy and suggest we watch a show instead.  He reads every post and often gives me editorial suggestions which I either accept or yell, "Chris!  I would never say that!  Get your own blog!"


I'd love to tag two of my favourite writers, one is a friend in real life, Michaela Evanow, and another has become an online friend, Kathleen @Becoming Peculiar.  Both are mamas who live out their values intentionally, have a child to care for and one growing inside so I'm curious how they make writing happen when they do.  

** Bonus Picture for No Reason:  This is the lunch I packed for my first date with Chris, when he had just flown across the country to see me for the first time in over ten months.  He tells me now, seven years later, that he was slightly horrified.  He knew what he was getting himself into, that's for sure.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

These Universal Labour Pains (Posting for SheLoves Magazine)

I wrote a guest post for SheLoves Magazine

There are moments in which I’ve felt naked against all the darkness possible in the world.
I have never felt this way so much as I did when I gave birth to my first child. I remember thinking that if I just left him laying on the bed, just walked away from him, he would die. I couldn’t believe how all-consuming his need was for me, how he searched for my milk, my comfort, my sustenance every hour or two around the clock, every single day. I had never experienced this kind of terrifying dependency. I’d been responsible for other people on many different levels and even in “dangerous” parts of the world, but this sense of responsibility, well, there was nothing like it. Exacerbated by a wild postpartum hormone cocktail, it could nearly crush my heart if I let my thoughts wander rabbit trails to all of the possibilities of us being separated.…
Head on over to read the rest of the post!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

our baby of peace

This announcement is slightly overdue, but so was the baby. :)

Salem John Elias was born June 2nd, at 41 weeks and a day.  The labour and birth were painful and so beautiful, the way birth is meant to be but isn't always.  I was very surprised to see we'd grown a boy, he was 3.775 kg (8 lbs 5 oz).  My recovery has been very easy, it's been good to have Nana and Papa here visiting from Canada here to ease the load.  Big brother is adoring and surprisingly helpful.  Big sister fawns over "Say-yim" but struggles with feeling a bit usurped.

Salem is another form of the word "shalom", which means peace inclusive of justice, wholeness, wellbeing and security which comes when people and all of creation are rightly connected.

John was Chris' grandfather who died when Chris' mom was young.  This name came to Chris while Salem was literally being born, even though his gender was still a mystery to us at that point.  Good thing he was a boy. ;)

Archbishop Elias Chacour (just retired) is a Palestinian priest who has spent decades working for justice, peace and education in Galilee.  He wrote a book called "Blood Brothers" that I read while studying in the Middle East in 2001, it was foundation shifting for me.

We're extremely happy that Salem is in our arms (my husband is typing for me and I'm dictating because Salem doesn't like to stop nursing in the evening hours).  I'll write more soon about how the birth went for those interested, but I only had about five hours of active labour.  Chris and my dear friend Hollie were pretty incredible birth partners in so many ways.

I'm grateful for everyone who supported, encouraged and prayed for us throughout the pregnancy and even during labour.  There are so many variables surrounding birth and it's impossible to know why they sometimes line up so well.  I just feel really grateful.

Friday, May 23, 2014

heavily pregnant ramblings, and a song.

Every night I've gone to sleep for the past two weeks thinking this might be the night that our baby comes.  I've been happy about that.  And every morning I've woken up (and usually multiple times in the night to pee/comfort a child) and realised I was still pregnant.  And I've been happy with that.  It's a good place to be, this cozy spot somewhere in the midst of hope and belly-bulging expectancy resting up against contentment.  I can't remember the last weeks or days of my other pregnancies being like this and I may not feel this content in another week or so.

In the day to day I'm tired, I'm often uncomfortable and my cortisol levels are through the roof, I'm pretty sure.  I become very upset at my children when they are doing things that suddenly feel extremely dangerous - like chasing each other up the stairs to our apartment or slamming each other into couches and coffee tables.  They've noticed my temperament shift - my husband was home for lunch so I had a lie down for a few minutes.  When I came out, my nearly 4 year old said, "NOW will you be LESS grumpy with us?"  He also dictated for my mother's day card, "I hope you feel better once the new baby comes out."  mHm.  Let's hope so.

But in the deeper places I feel really peaceful.  I feel joy.  Friends and strangers say I look great, so relaxed for someone who is a couple days away from being 40 weeks pregnant (although they should probably check in with my husband about that).  I'm under no illusions that labour will be easy and I'm under ABSOLUTELY no illusions that three kids on the outside is going to be easier than having two on the outside and one on the inside.  My children are a beautiful rip tide and I am only just learning how to swim horizontal.  I watch them grow while they grow me up, the most sanctifying mirror I've ever had in my life.  I remember what I wrote a few years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter, 

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.  

Whatever it is that God lays before us, I think we can never truly grasp what the cost will be.  And still we say yes, we are willing, because we know it will be Good.  


At 37 weeks I found out that I'm not eligible to try for a home birth through my local hospital's program that I've been apart of through this whole pregnancy.  It was reviewed by multiple people and because of my 900 ml blood loss following my first birth I am not eligible.  I have had so much peace with that decision.

It was massive for my husband and I to spend the pregnancy deciding together whether we wanted to have this baby at home.  I really did.  I was certain I would labour more effectively at home, not having to transition to the hospital where I had a very traumatic first birth.  My husband was scared, having seen our baby almost die and his wife lose a large amount of blood quickly, he wanted to feel like someone was going to be in control, that emergency personnel would be right at the door if need be.  We had some very difficult conversations over the months, spoke out lots of fears, read articles and watched documentaries, talked to friends who had given birth at home.  We explored the many factors that contributed to our previous births and ultimately we decided, together, that we did want a home birth.  We decided to not only trust my body and the birth process, but trust the systems that were in place - my midwives and the hospital twelve minutes drive away.  

And part of us trusting the hospital is submitting ourselves to the decision that I'm not eligible.  I appreciate that I was even considered seriously and that Chris and I were able to make our own decision first.  I think it was a very important road for us to walk and I honestly believe that it would be extremely safe for me to have this baby at home.   But I barely feel disappointed, especially in light of pregnant and labouring women around the world.  I'm going to have my baby at a world-class hospital, my birth covered by the same midwives who helped me deliver my daughter and I've known now for almost three years.  I don't want to find myself complaining about being so well cared for when many women have no access to the healthcare they need to survive.  


I'm so grateful for the friends who have been praying for us through this pregnancy, and even those who are in places of longing and grief when it comes to babies of their own, have supported and reached out to us.  I've felt acutely that our ease and joy throughout this pregnancy could cause others whose hearts are broken and arms empty to feel their grief even more deeply.  Somehow there is grace to journey together, carrying each other's burdens and celebrating each other's expectancy.  I think the healing reign of God is there, arriving gently and quietly when we open up our hearts to make room for someone else, even when it's really, really hard.  I have some really beautiful friends.

On Mother's Day at church a woman shared about losing her first child, a baby girl, a few days after her birth.  The baby had a congenital heart problem and her mother, left with no picture of her, has written her a birthday card every single year, her fortieth birthday would have been this month.  As she spoke I cried quietly and didn't know how I would get up and sing when she was done sharing.  I pulled it together somehow and sang a song I had written in 2005, while volunteering at a hospital in southern Nigeria.  I made it through most of the third verse, 

"Emmanuel, can you hear us now?  The whole earth groans in labour.  Can you birth your kingdom here?  Will heaven come despite our fear?

And we pray to you and we hope in you and we wait for you expecting you to come."

I sang the word 'come' with all of my greatly pregnant body and heart, broke a string on my husband's guitar and broke down into sobs.  I kept strumming and after a minute or so I continued to sing …

"Come Lord, Jesus
We need you to deliver us
We are exhausted and the pain is strong
Tell us it won't be lo-ong
For the pain is strong"

I want to allow these labour pains, whenever they come, to connect me into creation's own labour pains - in the lives of people I know intimately and my sisters and their children around the world.  There is something beautiful and holy, not in experiencing pain, but in choosing to share it.  It's something of God born into the world.

(this is a very rough and old recording of the song, with my friend Cale on the harmonica)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

misconceptions: facing the inevitable pain of doing hard and beautiful things

I'm writing some short posts inspired by Naomi Wolf's book "Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood".  You can read my first post here and my second post here.

Giving birth is painful.  Amen?

Naomi Wolf writes, "Traditionally trained doctors and nurses often deal with the pain of childbirth by assuming that women can't handle it and medicating them at the earliest onset.  Naturalists on the fringes of the movement, on the other hand, can treat pain in a way that borders on puritanical.... [they] sometimes romanticize the pain either by minimizing how excruciating it can be or by idealizing women who choose to undergo it without resorting to drugs.  They use euphemisms such as "discomfort" and "intensity" to describe the pain of birth, or "rushes" and "surges" to describe what can be agonizing contractions." (184)  Wolf recognizes these ideological naturalists as being on the fringes of the natural birth movement, which is truly made of up of people (like Ina May Gaskin, a naturalist who is also a realist) working hard to "humanize in the United States what should be the normal and --dare we reclaim it?--beautiful experience of giving birth. (185)

Does this seem like a contradiction, Naomi Wolf writing about the agonizing, near torturous pain that usually accompanies some part of labour for women giving birth and then calling the whole process still a 'beautiful experience'?  Does preparing women for how extremely painful birth likely will be necessarily bring fear into their experiences or can it actually empower them to face the pain with more resilience and tenacity and courage?

My first experience with labour pains was when I lost our first baby very early in pregnancy.  After a couple days of spotting which became heavy bleeding and an ultra-sound showing our tiny baby with no heartbeat, the pain began.  It was a few hours of the most excruciating cramps I'd ever experienced and in some ways it rivaled the pain of labouring with my two living children.  There was no rhythm to the pain, and no relief.  I rocked on all fours on our bed sobbing, a hot water bottle against my abdomen, my brand new husband of two months rubbing my back and quietly praying, having nothing to offer but his presence in my very physical grief.  After a few hours the pain lifted and the hardest part of the loss was over in my body - so many of us know too well how long lasting the pain is in our hearts.  I'm still amazed at how physically painful the miscarriage was even at such an early stage of pregnancy - but it helped me embrace that something very real had just happened, something very dark and difficult, something that would be written into our marriage and onto our hearts.  That precious honeymoon baby was not a dream, and the loss of that life was not something I needed to quickly brush aside because I was young and fertile and would likely have healthy children.  The pain was able to unite my memories to my actual physical body.

During pregnancy I never was too entranced by the idea of having a pain-free birth; I saw the pain as a rite of passage, something that would be preparing me for the extremely grueling task of mothering real live humans.  Most of the really good things we do in our lives are also really, really hard.  I won't go into the details of labour with the two children who are asleep in our bedroom as I type, but they were both very painful.  No orgasmic birth experiences here.  I had to fight very hard to keep myself on top of the contractions mentally as well as practicing lots of active birthing techniques to keep my body upright and moving.  

Both of my labours unfortunately involved Synotocinon (Pitocin) at some point which increased the intensity and frequency of contractions to an almost unbearable pace.  I look forward to labouring without any sort of drugs increasing the pain to my body, but I do know that even without syntocinon, labour can be extremely painful.  Even my friends who had very peaceful births found the experience at some point to be shocking.  One friend is an experienced midwife whose home water birth felt like she was being torn apart in the process and she worried that she wouldn't be able to handle being with labouring women ever again.

It took some time, but she was able to process her experience and it increased her capacity for empathy when her clients were in the throes of labour.  She knew how close they felt to death in those moments, how they were not being dramatic or weak but were facing some of the greatest pain that humans can experience.

Wolf writes,

"No one informed me even remotely in our birth classes about the kind of courage you need to tap into during labor.  Yet women who are prepared psychologically and physically for extreme pain - prepared, perhaps, to do battle - may well be better able to manage the trial of labor with less fear -- and possibly with fewer medical interventions." (p 93) 

What if pregnant women were helped to understand how physically painful and difficult labour can be, and all the million dark places your mind will take you in those hours?  Rather than suggesting quick escapes from the pain before it begins or minimizing the grueling intensity of labour, what if women were given as much support as possible to face the pain head on? 

People experience pain in unique ways based on many psychological and physical variables - there is no place to judge each other and our decisions when in the extremely vulnerable place of active labour.  For some women, labour is just hard work and for others it is so much more excruciating than that.  I have friends who had extremely long and difficult labours and found an epidural to really help them cope mentally and their body to relax enough to continue the labouring process.  I have friends who were encouraged to have epidurals not realizing how close they were to being fully dilated and ready to push and in hindsight wished they hadn't.  When women are given good support and accurate information they and their partners can make good decisions for themselves.  I think that those decisions can look very different for different people and that women whose labours and births go many different ways can all feel very proud of themselves.  What's sad is when a woman feels they have no choice, no options, and that they were unsupported and unprepared for what labour would bring.

I wrote in my last post about how I erupted into joyful sobbing when I was deep into active labour with my daughter.  That wasn't because the pain had eased, but because I felt so alive and strong and free in the midst of incredible physical pain and emotional uncertainty.  (That being said, when my labour was later augmented with Syntocinon for the last two hours, I relied heavily on nitrous oxide (gas) to help me not completely fall apart.  I was extremely close to accepting the epidural that was being offered to me by a doctor and that was within only twenty minutes of being on the drip.)

At 34 weeks in this pregnancy I can say that I'm looking forward to labour again, even though neither of my previous births went the way I had hoped or anticipated.  While I don't have any assurances that things will be miraculously different this time, I'm still really expectant that they can be.  There are choices we will make differently that will likely increase our chances of having a peaceful birth but ultimately bringing a child into the world is a wild, beautiful, holy thing and nobody is fully in control.

If I believe anything to be truer than true about God, it's that we're never left alone in our pain.  As I wrote in a song, one of my most profound experiences of God has been as a midwife, who labours with us all night.  When we desperately fear pain and avoid it at all costs we miss incredible opportunities to connect with the human experience and the Divine presence.  If we are naive about how joy and pain in life are inextricably intertwined, we will often bypass the risks required to experience life more fully.  And if I believe anything about pain - whether it's the pain of healthy babies born or the pain of grief, loss and chaos - it's never wasted.  Not that all pain inherently has purpose like labour, but God can write meaning and purpose into our very real experiences of pain.  Jessica Kelley writes about this eloquently on her blog after losing her four year old son to brain cancer.  We can partner with God to see green living things come from the black ashes of our burned out forests.  And we can trust that one day, the whole world will be born new, free of suffering and fully alive.


Do you resonate with what I've written here about pain, or maybe you see things differently?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Monday, March 31, 2014

misconceptions: birth and fear

I'm writing some short posts inspired by Naomi Wolf's book "Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood".  You can read my first post here.


I deeply appreciated the chapter entitled "Fifth Month: Mortality".  It begins with a Beriba Proverb,

A pregnant women is a dying person… An often-told tale depicts the ancestors in the act of digging the woman's grave throughout the pregnancy.  If she survives the days after the delivery, they begin to shovel the sand back; forty days after the delivery, the grave will finally be closed without her.

The Sudanese mamas would walk five miles each way in hottest sun to learn about their bodies and pregnancy and birth - education could bring life-saving knowledge to the women in their villages; a Nigerian father wails outside the labour room finding out his beloved wife was no longer alive; twin girls in India lost their mother to Eclampsia, she gave them life as she lost her own.  So much of the world knows that surviving your child-bearing years is somewhere between a hope and a miracle.

The statistics are fairly grim for reproducing women in the developing world, which is where 99% of maternal deaths occur.  Lack of resources, lack of education, poverty and powerlessness all put women at risk when pregnancy and birth don't follow the normal rhythms we expect.  People work hard to see these stats change - and they are changing - but having a baby in Australia (where I've given birth) is drastically different from the risks so many women face in other parts of the world - especially in areas of conflict, where women's access to any care available is obstructed by violence.


Deep inside me there has been a very real fear of death in childbirth - that I'll leave my husband and small children to live their lives without me.  That fear has nothing to do with the Australian statistics, the amazing care I'll receive during my pregnancy and the attentiveness and skill of my midwives during birth - not to mention the emergency personnel on hand at all times.   It's almost an instinct, a primal sense of vulnerability.  My son was born with an Apgar score of 2, he was resuscitated then transferred to a larger hospital to be 'cooled'; I hemorrhaged substantially and developed a uterine infection.  It all ended well and we were soon both healthy and bonded and relieved. 

When I faced the impending labour with our second child, I didn't have fears that she would die, my fear was for my own life.  I felt very, very ashamed of that, certain those thoughts were "bad mother" thoughts, as I should have been more concerned for my unborn child.  But that's what was real.

Naomi Wolf writes of her pregnancy,
Suddenly death seemed everywhere.... Why was I so surprised at this new sensitivity to the loss and decay of things?  Many cultures pair birth with death and treat women's fertility as the gateway to both states.  But our culture, by insisting on revealing only the life-affirming aspect of pregnancy and birth, seemed to make the darkness more palpable....From such cues that are so dismissive of one's fear, it seemed that it was acceptable to express fears of one's baby's death but impermissible to talk about or contemplate the not entirely unrealistic fears we had for ourselves.

The risks of death are extremely low for women in Australia throughout their pregnancies, but there is always still a risk.  Are some of us oblivious or free from sensing this?  Or do we all carry it as a secret we dare not speak out to our partners, family members and close friends?   Do we believe that to acknowledge such dark thoughts will increase the chances of the unimaginable happening?  What kind of sub-concious fear do so many of us bring to the birthing room?

I wonder if naming our fears is what sets us free from their power - not that the actual risk is lessened, but our fear of the future can be disarmed.  Before our second birth Chris and I met with someone we trust and respect, who has weathered a decade more time on the earth than we have.  We let our words flow freely, the things we assumed would shock or we believed should be brushed away.  We named our fears one by one, spoke out the moments from our last birth together that haunted us, shared the lies we'd believed about ourselves in those moments, how the world was spinning and where God was in all of it.  I remember crying as it was all welcomed, and I could see it laid bare on the table, the light shining bright, the shadows evaporating. 

I prayed out what I knew to be truer than all my fears, prayed the truth would bury itself in the places that those fears had left vacant.  I went into my daughter's birth with an urgent excitement, surprising joy and deep expectancy.  There was no promise that it would be easy or go as I planned or even some Divine assurance that my child and I would survive.  I wasn't looking for that anyway.  I just didn't want to be afraid.

There was a moment, around six in the morning after labouring all night with my daughter, when I burst into loud sobs as I rocked through another painful contraction.  My midwife ran into the bathroom where my friend and husband were with me.  As tears streamed down my face and I reassured her:  "I just feel so, so happy right now."  

The reality was that my daughter had turned posterior and my labour wasn't progressing as fast as the hospital required without intervention.  But my heart - it felt alive and hope-filled - despite the past, the present, and the future's possibilities.  My heart felt so very free.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

On Naomi Wolf's book "Misconceptions" and all the things I feel.

Cover of "Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, an...
Cover via Amazon
I'm trying to get my fingers typing again on this little blog, so you'll have to bear with me.  I've really enjoyed a book recently and feel inspired to write out some of the feelings it's uncovered and the thoughts it's generated.  I'm planning a few short posts that will hopefully give you an idea of what I'm thinking about at the moment.  //

A dear friend picked me up a thrift store copy of Naomi Wolf's "Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood" and it has been a very refreshing read.  I feel so much permission in reading the story of her pregnancy and her analysis of the United States' maternity system in the late 1990's.  She shares her own unique journey as an influential feminist, pregnant for the first time in her 30's, in an egalitarian marriage as well as the stories of many of her friends and women she meets as she digs into these topics.  It's a bit of an exposé on the way the American health care system treated/treats it's pregnant women and new babies, but more than that it's women being honest about their experiences, throwing off the sanitized versions of pregnancy and motherhood bliss that we often feel we must share louder than any of the challenges we face. 
"Becoming a mother requires a kind of supreme focus, a profound discipline, and even a kind of warrior spirit.  Yet our culture prefers to give women doggerel: it often suggests that motherhood is something effortless.  It calls motherhood "natural," as if the powerful attachment women have to their babies erases the agency they must show in carrying, birthing, and caring for children...  There is a powerful social imperative to maintaining our collective belief in the "natural bliss" of new motherhood.... Birth is viewed through a softened lens of pink haze: the new baby and radiant mommy in an effortless mutual embrace, proud papa nearby.  Because of the power of that image, many women feel permitted to ask few questions; we too often blame ourselves, or turn our anger inward, into depression, when our experience is at odds with the ideal." (page 4)

Wolf is so honest with her feelings throughout pregnancy and I found myself realizing that my feelings are okay  -- they are just feelings.   I'm not always super ecstatic that another human being has taken over my body and will take over my life for the next twenty years, but probably forever.  Excitement, ambivalence, vulnerability and fear are all completely normal feelings throughout pregnancy, ebbing and flowing like the powerful hormones that bring such change to our bodies.  Perspective is so important.  Gratitude is vital.  But it's okay to be honest with yourself and people you trust when the feelings you actually are feeling might not be what you hoped for or expected.

When I was pregnant with my daughter (a surprise pregnancy when my son was 8 months old) I was very scared and intensely feeling not-ready until about a week before she was born.  I think those feelings were actually present and demanding I face them because parenting two babies under 17 months was going to be very tough, and I needed to realize that.  Going into labour with my daughter after an extremely traumatic birth with my son was going to be tough, and I needed to be ready for that as well.  None of my fears were crazy or delusional or kept me from doing the things I needed to do, but it's amazing how shameful they feel when you try to restrain them deep inside.

I want to keep exploring my feelings of fear in these last eight - ten weeks of this pregnancy - I want to welcome them and learn from them as well as name them and let them go.

Wolf begins her chapter entitled "Mortality" with this Beriba Proverb:

A pregnant women is a dying person… An often-told tale depicts the ancestors in the act of digging the woman's grave throughout the pregnancy.  If she survives the days after the delivery, they begin to shovel the sand back; forty days after the delivery, the grave will finally be closed without her.

Any act of opening ourselves up vulnerably to the joy and pain of newness also runs closely alongside the possibility of uncertainty, loss and grief.  How do we keep our lives open to any kind of fertility when we've ached with disappointment before?

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

solo parenting, revolutionaries, preparing for birth: randoms from the past few weeks

I made it through two weeks of solo parenting while Chris was away on a film trip in Fiji.  For those of you who solo parent often (or all the time) I'm sure it doesn't seem like that big of a deal but we had literally not spent even a night apart in over two years.  Granted, I had his parents (who had been visiting us for two months over the holidays) stay with me and the kids for the first week and another friend for the second, so I had a lot of support, especially in keeping the house tidy and entertaining the children.  But still.  I'd been most intimidated by the nights - of having one wakeful two year old and a 3 1/2 year old who often would wake once a night as well (expecting his dad to cuddle him back to sleep).  It turns out that I was the one to struggle with sleep with Chris away, but the kids did really well and Saf even did a streak of no nighttime wake-ups which was so nice.  [For those who are interested: We recently moved him to his special 'bed corner' which is a single mattress on the floor in our room.  He loves it, surrounded by his favorite stuffed animals and a soft, new blanket.  In the same room we also have a double bed and a queen bed pushed together which now sleeps Chris, myself and our daughter in different arrangements.  It's a pretty nice set-up at the moment if you're into family bedrooms.]

It was good to spend those days and nights apart, to remember why I want to live side by side with this Canadian friendboy, and to feel capable again.  It was one of those things I didn't think I could do, and for a time it would have been very stressful on our son, but the timing was right.  Still hard, but it was good.  

I wanted to share a few things that have been inspiring me lately.  Here ya go:

I am in the middle of two books right now:  Jesus Feminist - by Sarah Bessey and "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth".

Jesus Feminist Cover

Jesus Feminist has been highly recommended by a few of the blogs I read and for great reason.  Sarah draws you in deeply and quickly with her ability to address sticky theological issues that often divide us with welcome, subversive thought and poetic voice.  I've connected with her personal story shared in the book even more so than I have through her blog (which says a lot!).  She has walked with her whole heart, slowly, through the murkiness of grief and loss and huge questions, grappled with vocation, mothering and women in the church and chosen HOPE over cynicism.  If you'd like to re-imagine what it means to be a woman or re-inspired to delight in yourself as a woman I would say definitely get your hands on a copy.  If you live near me you are welcome to borrow my copy as soon as I'm done!

I'm reading Ina May Gaskin's book to prepare for giving birth again.  I've not had the kind of birth's I would have hoped for and while all the variables will never be in my control, I'd like have some new ideas in my head as labour draws nearer.  Ina May believes very strongly in the role of a woman's psyche during labour to encourage or discourage the natural processes that bring forth a baby.  This is in no way about blaming myself for how my births have gone, but I do want to examine any experiences/fears/doubts that are in my heart and mind that could hinder my ability to be as relaxed and confident as possible.  I feel now that the trauma from my first birth may have definitely played a role in the slow progress (and therefore augmentation under hospital time constraints) of my second birth.  I don't think for a second that reading a book or praying a prayer or any other activity will guarantee the birth I hope for, but I just want to do what I can, in hope.


Krista Tippett's podcast "On Being" is my go-to when the kids are out with their dad and I'm home, likely washing the mountain of dirty dishes that seems to always, always be around.  I especially enjoyed recently her conversation with Walter Brueggemann, one of my favorite scholars whose work I first read in college over a decade ago.  He's such a lovely, intelligent, humble man - the interview here is about an hour, but I especially loved the way he talks about the word mercy from minutes 35 to 38 1/2.  Check out Krista's archives and you will likely eavesdrop on some incredible conversations.


Chris and I watched two fairly intense movies lately.  The first was a documentary on the Egyptian Revolution called The Square.  It really, REALLY helped me to understand what has been happening ( in a city that I LOVE) much more cohesively than I have been able to keep up with reading articles on the BBC website.  And I can't handle how deeply courageous these people are and how well-articulated their passions.  I feel like they put my own understanding of my nation's political situation to shame.  And did I mention they are brave and are willing to be killed for what they know is a process that is much longer than they may even be around to see?  You can watch the trailer here.

And last night we watched Captain Phillips - the story of an American cargo vessel that is attacked by four young Somali men while en route to Kenya.  It's intense (an understatement) and brings up sooooo many questions in my heart about 'redemptive violence' and structural injustice that leads to terrorism and my own primal desire to stay alive no matter the cost.  It's sad to think this is probably most viewers only exposure to Somali people and the complexity of what is happening in that nation. 


Otherwise I've been enjoying my two live-wire kiddos on the outside and well-behaved kiddo on the inside.  This pregnancy (25 weeks) is smooth, minus some back pain here and there, and while I long to meet this little one face to face I'm also very happy we have a few months to go before he or she arrives and turns our world upside down.

We're still doing our best to be good neighbours to the people around us; it's gotten messier and more complicated than a few months ago but I have to believe this is how Kingdom things slowly grow, that our meager attempts at love are better than nothing at all.  We showed our son a dirty needle that was left outside our gate yesterday and explained to him how important it is never to touch something like that.  We disposed of it, the fourth in the past couple of months within 20 metres of our apartment.  The little playground a few steps from our back gate is a great place for our kids to play (always wearing shoes) but it's also a place where people buy and sell and escape.  We want to be present in the neighbourhood and enjoy the goodness here while still keeping our kids as innocent and safe as possible.


I'm curious if you've seen either of the movies I mentioned or have read any of the books?  Or have you ever prepared for a birth in light of previous disappointments and found something especially helpful in the process?  I'd love to hear.  xx

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Friday, January 17, 2014

'Come be You': a song for our weak, courageous hearts.

Well, we made some music.  The babe who was in belly when we first began recording might have just turned two, but we finished it.  And we are pleased.

The words to "Come Be You" were written about four years ago.  I was newly married and adjusting to a cross-country move to the other side of Australia.  Six months earlier we had lost a baby early in the pregnancy, a baby who had been made during our honeymoon celebrations.  I was still wading around waist-deep in the muck of grief and confusion when I became pregnant again; he is now a wild and wonderful 3 1/2 year old.  That evening when I wrote out the words in a notebook I didn't know what would happen in that pregnancy, I didn't know what the first years of our marriage would bring.  I didn't know how to honour the pain and loss that I felt deeply while at the same time carry the joy and expectancy of a new baby on the way. 

All I could pray as my emotions ebbed and flowed was, "God, come be You."

come be You in my weakness
come be You in my grief
come be You in my celebrations
come be You when I bleed
come be You in my weakness
come be You in my grief
come be You in my celebrations
come be You in my expectancy

Carrying joy and pain together is so much of what it means to be human and to be interconnected with one another.  Whether it's within our families, neighbourhoods or communities, often we experience the depths and heights that are possible, right alongside each other.  We lose our job while someone we love is being promoted; we give birth to a healthy child while our dear friend suffers through another pregnancy loss; we watch our friends get married while we are single and wanting a life partner, or living in the wake of divorce.  Life is painful and so beautiful and often it's in the same day, in the same body, we carry those things in our hearts all mixed up together.  Part of growing our capacity to grieve and celebrate together is allowing God to first come and be God in all of the complexity - and we don't yet know what that means.

My very talented husband helped with the music and we started to share it in our community.  In 2011 we began recording it and finally, FINALLY (after a long hiatus), finished it a couple of weeks ago.

Please have a listen and feel free to share it if you like, especially if you have someone in mind who you think might be encouraged by this song.  If you want to download it from our bandcamp site, we're making it 'pay what you want.'  (


On a side note, Chris, myself and two very talented friends (Spiro on percussion and Zack playing harmonica) were invited to play some music recently at an event.  We played for about thirty minutes, doing a few originals and a few covers (we did a version of 'My Girls' by Animal Collective, 'Closer to Fine' by Indigo Girls, my fave was Patty Griffin's 'Forgiveness' and my husband is obsessed with Neil Young's 'Harvest Moon'.)  It was really fun - thanks to all our friends who came out!  When Chris and I started dating we dreamed of writing, performing and recording music together.  Baby-making has usurped our music making over the past few years but hopefully this is the start of something new.

Thanks Mat for the snaps!