Goodbye, Mr. Graham

February 21, 2018

I just received an email from my Alma Mater, Wheaton College, that Billy Graham has gone to be with Jesus.

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I had to write because I recently finished watching Season 2 of The Crown, which is one of the best shows I’ve watched in a very long time. Like, I think sometimes Mad Men got to this level, and also Battlestar Galactica, but I can’t think of anything else in recent years that has been this good, all around.

The show is just good on all levels: set, costume, acting, production…the writing is the best part. Mr. Peter Morgan, I applaud you.

What I love best about the show, however, is embodied in one of its simplest scenes – between Queen Elizabeth and Billy Graham. It wouldn’t be so beautiful if not for the witness of Elizabeth throughout the first part of the series. We find her to be a solid rock – though everyone around her keeps trying to tell her she’s invisible; swallowed up by the crown. Again and again, I have found myself admiring this woman, and feeling thankful for her, though she’s not my queen.

crown

In the scene I’m remembering, what you notice most is Elizabeth’s hunger, not for recognition or fame, but for a word from a godly man. You see, in the scene between Graham and the Queen, a kinship she doesn’t have with anyone else. It brought to mind the reports I had read of her words in the book she’s released on the celebration of her 90th birthday – that she is grateful to God for his steadfast love and that she has “indeed seen his faithfulness.”

It was a comfort to me to think of these two leaders meeting together. That they both loved Jesus. That it made them better leaders. I can only hope and pray for some more like these in the future.


Fasting

February 14, 2018

I’m in no position to be writing about this. As I write, I’m mentally reviewing all of the terrible food choices I’ve made since Christmas and the subsequent mini- breakdown in my physical and emotional health. We’ve been bringing a steady stream of bottles of alcohol into the house. Not enough to fill a liquor cabinet Not even enough to take up any real estate in the kitchen. But enough that when we run out we get more. The desire for a drink in the evening has become more prominent than either of us would like.

I had wanted this post to be more victorious, and there is some victory in it, but right now I am mired in my own weakness and need.

I had wanted to start a fast today. An honest-to-goodness food fast that would go for at least 10 days. I had planned to have only water and green smoothies during this time. In order to be ready for this fast, I had wanted to cut out grains, starches, sugars, caffeine and alcohol in the weeks leading up to it in order to make the transition easier in the first few days. But last week we started school with my 7 year old for the first time ever. As I was trying to cut these things out of my diet, do school, prepare for guests and keep up with my writing work (which is seriously very minimal), I slowly lost the will to keep even those things out of my diet. They crept back in, one by one. So today – or tomorrow – is more about starting over again than triumphing.

This – starting over again – seems to be the story of health, and of fasting, for me. The whole reason I had the crazy idea that I could fast for 10 days in Lent is that I had experienced some success in this arena this Fall. Before that, the few times I had tried fasting went very badly.

For as long as I can remember, I have had blood sugar problems. As a kid, I had to race to the milk and cereal as soon as I got out of bed to stave off the sick hunger I felt as soon as I woke up. A couple of hours later, I would crash again. I eventually self-diagnosed an addiction to sugar/hypoglycemia. I concluded it was messing up my adrenal function, contributing to my depression and anxiety and controlling my life more than I wanted to see clearly. Toward the end of college I made some attempts to cut grains and sugar out of my diet. I usually caved after a week or made some legalistic exception in order to “keep the fast” without the actual benefits of cutting sugar out of my diet. Except for one curious incident, I always returned to a more-or-less “healthy” version of the SAD (Standard American Diet).

The curious incident was this:

In order to be prescribed medication for my depression and anxiety in college, the doctor wanted me to take a five hour glucose tolerance test. This is where you go in to the hospital, drink a disgusting high-sugar drink on a empty stomach and let them draw blood every half hour for five hours so they can track how your body is responding to the sugar. If it turned out I had a blood-sugar problem, she wanted to treat that first before putting me on medication.

For a person who couldn’t drink pop or eat anything sugary by itself at any time of day without immediately getting a headache or feeling a distressing combination of nausea, light-headedness and weakness in the pit of my stomach, I went into this test afraid that I would spend the morning vomiting. I knew, at least, that I would have a very wretched time. But I was sure it was going to mess me up for a week. At this point, I doubt I had ever fasted until lunchtime.

I did feel wretched, although I never vomited. But what I experienced was an after. The nausea and light-headedness passed. I returned to more-or-less normal after the sugar storm passed. I was just hungry. And I proceeded to down a McDonald’s meal as fast as physically possible.

I don’t know how I avoided gaining the weight I eventually did for as long as I did. I knew my diet wasn’t good, but I was lazy. My right hand was reading books about nutrition that were on the extreme end of the crunchy spectrum while my left hand was routinely putting large slices of pizza in my mouth. I told myself that a long walk or run once or twice a week was evening things out.

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My church at the time did a church-wide fast twice a year (or quarterly?) in order to unify, and come together to pray over the ministries and plans for the future. It took me years to even listen to the call to fast and be part of it, but eventually I wanted to try. The plan was to fast for 24 hours, come to the prayer meeting at 6 or 7 p.m. and eat afterward together. I never made it until after the meeting. A day of only drinking grape juice (I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea) would inevitably leave me panicking to eat as soon as I left work. Pretty soon after that I entered a long, exhausting march of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Fasting was not in my lexicon. But I did start gaining weight I couldn’t shake off, and my desire to change my diet intensified.

Enter Whole 30.

When we moved here, I had tried going Paleo once or twice with little success. My new friend, Joanna, announced she was doing a Whole 30 and that was all I needed. She was my rock – without even knowing I was relying on her. The first time I tried Whole 30 was in Lent, appropriately. It felt like a spiritual experience. And for the first time, I experienced my cravings falling away from me. Sugar had lost its grip on me for a time. I hear this is what actual fasting is like too – after about 3 days you stop feeling very hungry.

This was two years ago. I lost and regained water weight a few times and then I discovered intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting can be practiced several ways, but the way I did it was through fasting for part of every day, rather than a prolonged fast once or twice a month. You can look up the benefits of fasting if you want to have your mind blown, but I’m not proselytizing for fasting here. Of course, you will probably lose weight, but my desire has always been to free myself from the cravings and addictions of food. Whole 30 was great, but intermittent fasting combined with a diet as low in sugar and refined carbohydrates as possible made me feel like a different person. I finally started to lose more than water weight.

The problem is that those foods are always lurking. I’m always just one french fry stress-eat away from letting it all tumble down around me. But I’m starting to be okay with that.

For one thing, once your body gets into ketosis once (where it’s burning its own fuel rather than the sugars you’re consuming) it’ll get into ketosis again much faster the second time. I have found that to be very true. Now, it doesn’t take a week to start feeling the changes to my gut and my clarity when I cut out those foods again – more like 2 or 3 days. Now I know it’s not impossible. I’m actually, at any given time no matter how badly it feels like I’ve fallen, only about 2 weeks away from starting to lose weight again. There might be a few days of genuine suffering in between but I have learned to suffer a little bit too.

I find this whole process to have been God’s way of showing me, in real time and with my own body, what it means to be His. Fasting, as I have been told for years, simply reminds me of the truth. I need. I am not coming to this with any strength.

And so I enter this Lent with less will than ever before. I have less determination to do Lent right; to really fast. I feel so weak. But I also know that it all it takes is one small yes, one little mustard seed of intention for God to use. In two weeks, my outlook could be completely different.

So I would like to do it at some point during this Lent: try an actual fast. I think the place I’m in is pretty good: the acknowledgment of my need. But I’d like to try to go further. I’d like to try to press in to that place more. I want to see what happens after, what place I get to on the other side of some suffering.

God bless you as you press in this Lent. I pray you do. And I pray you, too, get to see what comes after.


Christ In Summer

October 7, 2017

pexels-photo-207247.jpegHe plays, naked, upon the field

On a midsummer Sunday morning

the Christ-child, or child-man

Clothed in the warbled hymns and tears of His people

In gratitude.

He dwells at home with beat of butterfly wing and wind of bird

Races the doe and buck and fawn,

Carousing with Fox and Coyote, past placid cows who long have known His name.

 

He revels in the dirt-mystery of the world He made

Bathing in the stream that can still be found flowing over, around and through the hues of stained glass window and worn pew

And He lets me see him there


Gratitude. And Holiness

September 7, 2017

In a couple of weeks Henry and I are attending a Hanson concert in Birmingham. If you don’t know me that well, or you were born after 1989, you’ll be like, “Great, who’s that?” If you read what I wrote last year, you’ll get it.

Can I tell you a secret? I’m terrified of going to this concert. It’s like a car wreck. I am like a car wreck.

I STILL care a lot (too much?) about this band and this music. I keep thinking I have to get out from under it somehow but it hasn’t changed in 20 years. Not really.

It’s the typical story of an idol in many ways. When I was younger, I thought I could work hard enough to make myself an equal with these guys: musically, or in fame, or with my personal beauty, or even in my own character. The older I get, the further away from my reach all of those things seem to be – especially the last. I don’t feel like I’ve risen above a damn thing.

I often have to ask, why did Jesus want me to go on this journey? I felt a huge initial relief when I figured out what had been going on all those years. But it’s not like I’m immune to jealousy and vanity. Quite the opposite. I see more clearly the real power they have over me.

If there ever was a time when I felt less as though I was “born to do something no one’s ever done” I don’t remember it. I often feel as though motherhood has stripped me of everything that made me myself. There is no book that can tell you how limiting and, frankly, sad it can feel to be spending your youth for the good of other people. Even if you chose it. It’s a grief I have yet to figure out how to get through.

What it also is, still, is a lack of humility. Sally Clarkson, in her book “Desperate,” said something that cut me to the quick. She said, who am I to think that I’m too good to sacrifice my life for my children? Who am I to think my time is more important than theirs? The same goes for everyone else. Who am I to be bitter if I’m cooking while everyone else is resting, or having fun or playing music together? I’m not too good to serve people. I’m not too good give up my time, or my potential, for the good of someone else. I don’t know…that thought got in there this time I guess.

For that matter, who am I to begrudge the Hanson brothers their talent, luck, charisma, joy and personal beauty; Or, alas, the happenstance of being born male? Who says that me getting all those things would have been more fair? And yet…I still want to prove myself or wish there was some way I could. I still operate from the old model of self-righteousness.

The true model, of course, is upside-down from that. Whatever power, beauty and joy that I’ve assigned to the Hanson brothers is an atom in the universe that is God. But God gave it up. He didn’t come to earth, with all its vagaries, as even a beautiful man. He didn’t even allow Himself that comfort. He came as a homely, homeless wanderer. He often went hungry. He had all the nuisances of fame with none of its glory.

I can’t escape the fact that I have been baptized into a death like Christ’s, not a life of prestige and fame. But I can’t always make that track with why love for the beauty I see feels so good and right. There’s something I’m not understanding in moments like this.

The one thing I’m glad I did this year was to listen to Hanson, one album at a time, starting from where I left off. I heard them grow up, and get better, in fast forward. I found out first hand what I’d kept hearing as a rumor: “Hanson’s still around! They’re really good.” I discovered that I don’t like every single song they’ve ever released! And I’ve heard a few songs that made my jaw drop. How did people so young write such things?

For brief moments, I felt like I was actually in awe. I felt real, starry-eyed wonder. I can’t explain it other than to say it’s a little like watching your best friend give birth. Because they are my age, maybe, I can’t help but be flabbergasted sometimes. Are you guys really doing this? It’s not a stunt?

And then came the gratitude.

The gratitude: that’s been the only healing thing about this whole, silly, Hanson journey. The moments of light and wonder, wrested from so many years of miserable despair, are the real gift. They make me realize I’ve never been grateful before at all. It’s been the kind of feeling that leaves no room for anything else; no regret about my own failings, no envy that they have something I don’t, no embarrassment or shame that I like something so trivial so much.

I don’t feel it all the time. If I could, I’d be a much better person than I am now. If and when I can access that gratitude, it all feels worth it: all the embarrassment, self-pity, anger and pain. Because then, it’s bigger than me AND it’s bigger than Hanson. After all, who made them?

If I can lay hold of that gratitude, it all makes sense. Hanson is my proverbial flower. Their “beauty” is part of what they do and who they are. And it’s not FOR them, you know? That’s not how beauty works. The flower’s color is for the bee. The tree’s fruit is for the animals.

There’s no getting around it: it’s difficult to be confronted with a beauty, talent, will and passion bigger than one’s own. In some ways, I know I will struggle to enjoy myself at the concert and I will feel self-conscious. The comparison is not flattering to me. It’s why I’ve always had a hard time at concerts. (A true 4!!)

But gratitude changes that. Gratitude makes me happy just to be me and happy to be able to see them being them. So I hope against hope that I will come and go from that concert venue full of wonder and gratitude. If I can do that – even if sometimes I still get stuck feeling jealous or regretful – I will consider it a win.


Well, pride.

August 26, 2016

I’m racing to the basement computer immediately after listening to this to write something I think should follow my last post, which I hope showed, more than anything, the process of finding out the depth of pride in my own heart.

Lately I have been going back about 20 years to try to see more clearly a fundamental way I misunderstood the world that has carried forward to the present day. Well, and because in this season (the isolation of early motherhood and having recently moved to a new state) I find myself re-living a lot of the feelings of loneliness I had then. I also find myself STILL GOING BACK to the same thought patterns and fantasies of achieving my “dreams” and experiencing romance I did then and let me tell you: it’s not so cute or harmless as it seemed when I was 15.

So I pulled out my box of old journals and re-read a couple of them from 1997-98. I have had a few people cringe when I told them I did that. Not for me, but to imagine themselves doing it. Or maybe it was for me. Anyway, I wanted to see if I could tell what my life was actually like, since I described it in such glowing terms. I also thought it would be helpful to read the words I wrote about my internal state. To a great extent, as I wrote before, I had carried that self with me into my 34th year and only lately have started to tell the true story of my life.

I found a few things there and ALL of them had to do with pride. The last one I will mention is the most “current” and I want to make sure I talk about it. The first two, though, had to do with what was going on in my head all the time about myself and about God.

#1 – As I’ve written about extensively in my last post, I wanted with all my heart to be perfect and successful and as part of that, to gain the love of someone I saw as also perfect and successful. I consequently had a lot of negative feelings about myself because I didn’t have – and didn’t really believe that I would have – those things.

But concurrently, I discovered, I – really, truly, with all my heart – believed that if any boy (whom I deemed worthy) really got to know me, he would fall in love with me and that that process would finally make me feel fulfilled and happy. In addition to what was written about my obsession with Hanson (not much was written, but I am me, so I could read between the lines. It’s actually very touching how often I wrote down prayers for the Hanson brothers and their family), I was concerned with how much attention I was getting or not getting from a select few boys of my acquaintance in youth group. I think I’ve finally answered the burning question of my youth about why I didn’t receive much attention. It wasn’t because I wasn’t pretty enough or talented enough – as I feared. And it wasn’t – as I wanted to believe – that they were intimidated by me; at least not in a good way. They were not overawed by me. They were turned off by me because of my pride. I was simultaneously afraid of being embarrassed by saying or doing the wrong thing (ironically, it would often happen that the very moment I decided it was safe to tell a joke I would say something truly embarrassing and horrible) and too proud to value the attention and friendship I did have as it ought to have been valued. There were some wonderfully talented young men who liked me. Apparently, they  just weren’t good enough for me. Also, I had friends who were telling me the truth in love but I just couldn’t see it.

There was a terrific conversation with the afforementioned Mark Olson in there that I’d forgotten about completely. On a car ride he was asking me about why I didn’t date. At the time, I wasn’t allowed to date because my parents were sort of dabbling in the courtship movement. I know, because I remember my rebellious thoughts on the subject, that I was not into it. I was all for dating. But I sat there and argued courtship to Mark Olson like it was my personal holy grail rather than tell him ugly truth that I wasn’t dating because no one I liked had asked. Well, to my credit I did admit it at the very end. But only after I’d made it perfectly clear that I “didn’t want a boyfriend anyway” to the boy I’d been hoping would like me back, and ask me out, for years. I remember the utter elation and the abject fear that he might see and know I liked him. I panicked and reacted in pride. It was my default.

#2 – The other thing in there was so much talk to God about my own “worthlessness” and how I knew that I would just hate me if I was God and if He didn’t love me so much He would hate me. It almost doesn’t need to be fleshed out, but obviously, this isn’t the gospel. It’s also obvious that it was another reaction of pride. I wanted to earn my salvation, knew I couldn’t, and was in prideful despair over it all the time. And I was the one responsible for thinking this. I have liked, in the past, to think that my church did it, or my parents did it. I may have been mislead by some things but ultimately…

#3 – Here’s the main thing I wanted to say. When I described my life outside my own mind as harsh, dark, sad and silent I knew I was not being accurate so much as trying to reflect my memory of how life felt. What I forgot was that I was taken to piano and voice lessons in addition to youth group and church every week, that I had a job at the gym where my sister practiced competitive gymnastics and that I did several other fun trips and classes throughout the year. That I, to this day, couldn’t even remember those things says a lot about me. In my own healing journey, I have both blamed my parents for things out of their control and rightly seen things they did that were wrong and hurt me. It’s so easy, once you see more clearly what you needed and didn’t get, to stop there. But you will never be healed, not really, until you are healed of your pride. Here’s what I have failed to see in the past: it’s important to have nurturing parents (and don’t think that I’m trying to say I didn’t. I did.) but I didn’t deserve nurturing parents. This one is really hard, I know that. We’ve all been hurt by our parents. My own parents were hurt terribly by theirs. But it’s never been more clear to me: If I can’t see what they did give, and do give, as a gift I will never experience joy. And I won’t be able to see anything as a gift if I believe to my core that I shouldn’t have to experience pain and suffering,  that I deserve anything other than the judgement that was taken for me by Christ. 

In other words, I made an idolatry of pride itself. It didn’t, it couldn’t, result in feelings of superiority because I knew that I had failed to gain the attention of a “worthy” boy, I had failed to hone my musical skill and become famous like the Hanson brothers and I had failed to live up to my internal religious standards. An overblown ego doesn’t look the way I always thought it should. It actually looks like the kind of blindness, excessive whining, blaming of other people (like my parents) and depression I saw in my old journal and see in my behavior every day.

I’ve often heard, and rejected, the idea that depression and pride go hand in hand, but there it is. It’s plain to see.

My mom came and visited us recently. I posted something on Facebook about it and you know how I knew something was different with me? I don’t know if I’ve really done that before. I didn’t just know I should be grateful for her love and help and I didn’t just feel good about it for a little bit; I felt filled up with gratitude. For my mom. As a person. And, as great as she is, it’s not because she’s gotten so much better at being helpful. It’s that I hadn’t been able to see it. The problem truly had been with me. It doesn’t mean we don’t or haven’t hurt each other. It means, in the only way that truly matters, we are both off the hook. And that makes us free to accept what the other has to give. So many times in the past I have looked at the exact – or near enough – offering she’s given and said it wasn’t enough. By the grace of God (I hope, in removing some foundational layer of my pride), I could take the exact same amount and be filled to overflowing by it. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.


Where Else Can I Go? (A Story About Hanson. But Ultimately Jesus.)

July 30, 2016

It’s Summer, 1997. I am 15 years old. For a summer job, I am babysitting for four children, ages 9, 6, 6 and 2. All day five days a week. I have successfully negotiated for one dollar per kid per hour.

So…four dollars an hour.

I am excited about this job because it allows me to leave the house, which doesn’t happen much unless I ride my bike around the empty country blocks. I have exactly two chances to see people other than my family every week – both at church. I listen to whatever music my mom listens to in the public space of our home and I have just been allowed to own a walkman in order to do personal listening, as long as I only do it while I ride my bike. I listen to Rebecca St. James and DC Talk’s “Free At Last.” I ride my bike, I jump on our trampoline and I obsess over how badly I think my lanky, well-proportioned body looks in swimsuits and shorts. I eat as few grams of fat as possible each day, mostly bread and twizzzlers, and a sensible dinner. I have flirted with an eating disorder, had a long-standing crush on Mark Olson – the most ripped man I’ve ever personally known – and been “on tour” to several Christian camps with our church teen choir. The established facts about me are that a) I have a full and precocious singing voice, b) I am not one of the popular kids and c) only the geeky boys will ever be interested in me. Plus d) that I have already blown my shot at olympic glory by not becoming an ice skater or a gymnast. My best friend is Bethany, full of grace and truth and not too prone to silly teenaged fantasies.

At the house where I babysit I have discovered that there is cable TV – something we have had at home only once or twice for a month. This means I can, and do, watch music videos with the kids. Music video watching is a guilty pleasure of my mother’s who, God help her, has had to do all of her pitiful guilty pleasuring in front of us for as long as we’ve been alive. She has, in the past, had a lunch-hour music video habit, which we shared until the cable got shut off. There were one or two videos she had to turn off because of sex but then she would turn it back on once she thought the video would be over. We’d sit there for the three minutes in communal silence, pretending we weren’t imagining the sexy video happening behind the blank screen. But this phase has passed. There has been no afternoon delight for some time. So, babysitting.

I am doing a little mid-day viewing with the elementary kids when it happens: the electric guitar arpeggio starts up – the one I still can’t hear in my mind’s ear without a twinge of pleasure, sadness and embarrassment – and I think, “this is that new song. I think I heard this in the car.” The camera cuts to a young blonde woman singing and playing the keyboard. I can’t understand what she’s saying. But wait. That’s not a woman.

Hanson_9494

Let’s just remind ourselves, shall we?

It’s a flash of lightning to my gut, mortifying damage done the instant I realize what I’m seeing. (For years I would wonder why these boys, why this year of my life? Why? I felt like I’d fallen down and was looking at the world from a prone position; everything tilted sideways.  Their very presence in the world was a torment.) They’re beautiful. teenaged. boys. They are on the television. They have a record deal. They are famous for something I thought I was good at. I feel silly for thinking he was a woman. I feel silly for thinking I was a musician.

Within a day or so I know their names and their ages and some random facts. Thanks pop-up video.Isaac.Taylor. Zac. I will not be able to have a whiff of a crush on anyone else for years (and years, and years) without comparing him, just a little, to Taylor Hanson. I have a secondary crush on Isaac. Zac is 11. They are brothers. Home-schooled. From Oklahoma. I can feel the feels thick in that room containing four girls, ages 15, 9, 6 and 2. We don’t say a word about it, but I can tell we’re all in just about the same boat.

I’d like to say the rest is history.

I asked my mom to take me to Walmart and I bought “Middle of Nowhere.” All Summer long that album played in my head when not – to my constant mortification – in our living room. I snuck upstairs to the radio in my parents’ room every night at 9:30 for weeks to listen to the “top 9 at 9” on U93 because I knew it would be number 1. People started to talk about it for being so ubiquitous. I had several opportunities to pronounce, with admirable calmness of manner, that I liked the song and thought these three nice young men were very talented.

I couldn’t quite pretend to my family as I did to everyone else around me that nothing had happened, but I didn’t really talk about it with them. I did notice, however, a remarkable uptick in the amount of hawkish watching that was done of me by my mother. She’d been watchful since the Jonathan Brandis era. For several months while we lived at my grandparents’ house, I’d faithfully taped Sea Quest if we were away from home the night it aired. I had a sci-fi buddy in my dad. He was my screen. At all costs, I must hide how badly I wanted and needed to see his face every once in a while. Jonathan Brandis. Not my dad. The voyeuristic fruits of teenaged girldome – Tiger Beat and its ilk – were forbidden to me as much by my own refusal to stoop to that level as by my mother’s disapproval. She was the one who’d read an article about him in line at the Walmart, not I. Not in a million years. Not though everything in me screamed to pick up the magazine and devour that article. In those days I had been half-awake at all times, only living in my body as much as I couldn’t help it and in every other waking moment striving to make his presence in my fantasy as real as possible. I wanted to recount his features and their expressions in vivid detail. The world my body occupied was grey, harsh, dark, sad and silent. With Lucas, I could be loved and I could do something great. In the future, under the sea, anything was possible. By Summer of 1997, however, Jonathan Brandis had been upstaged by Christian Bale, Kerri Strug (non-romantically), Mark Olson and Christian Bale again – in that order.

Though I imagined the disapproval radiating off of her, I wanted the album too badly to forego it. I had birthday money. She gave one last-ditch effort: I thought you wanted Blues Traveler. I know, I said, but I thought about it and I really like this music better. I really like it a lot. The years of my supposed fandom after that are very hazy. I had no way, would take no way, of knowing if or where the band was on tour or if or when they would be appearing on TV. One time, when my dad was testing out the modem in his new laptop in our kitchen phone jack, I asked him to type in the “web address” I found in the liner notes from “Middle of Nowhere.” Hanson.net. I looked for a few minutes.

I would sometimes read things by accident in the modest publications lying around our house: Taylor and Isaac’s birthdays – which I have forgotten. I saw an appearance on Rosie O’Donnell by accident. Another accidental viewing when they appeared on Saturday Night Live. I would steadfastly avoid looking at the hundreds of magazine covers and t-shirts bearing their images when I was taken along to the store or the mall. How could these girls be so brazen, I thought. I would never make myself look so foolish. At home, I would read the song lyrics and try to avoid looking at Taylor’s face.

And after all this time, this is the part of the memory which can bring me to tears. They are tears of pity for my sad, lonely little self so consumed with a huge, inarticulate desire embodied by two (and a half, sorry Zac) teenaged boys that I couldn’t name and couldn’t dislodge from a place in my chest  – which I both wanted with all my might and wanted desperately to be rid of. That I would, in the privacy of my own bedroom, have to hide from myself such that I couldn’t even look at a picture of Taylor Hanson straight on. And to top it off, they were real musicians – at their ages – and I was…just a high-school girl who got the solo in church choir.

And, I don’t have to tell you but I will: Oh the fantasies. If only I had worked harder, had gotten better at piano, had been more driven, could somehow gain their attention in an unusual way. I was home-schooled too…maybe there was a way to work that angle. Could I be discovered, somehow, by Hanson at some sort of national homeschool event? Do those exist? I made them all dance to my bidding in my mind. Such empty work.

So when, a few years later, I came home from camp and threw it away, that was all I knew how to do. And it took a whole contingent of my friends throwing away all of their secular CD’s and me throwing away all of my other CD’s at camp to finally get rid of this one, which was the only one making my life miserable.  I hadn’t even been able to bring it to camp.

Almost 20 years later and it finally came to me that Jesus has been there in my head wanting to talk to me about Hanson. He’s been trying to give me permission to be a fangirl. “So, you didn’t think you could be silly back then. You couldn’t accept you’d have crushes on boys. Let me be a fangirl too. I’ll watch the videos and giggle at the jokes and be filled with nervous joy next to you. Let’s just face facts: boys are super cute. It’s really going to be okay. You can be stupid about it and I won’t judge you. In fact, I’m pretty into it too.” Somehow, imagining Jesus as a teenybopper made something deep inside me unclench. So I watched a bunch of Hanson things on Youtube. Starting with the music videos from the 90’s that I never let myself watch. So. Cathartic.

And here’s what I know so far:

  1. I was a total, fucking, neurotic, prideful snob.

It’s actually endearing that they all married girls they met at their shows. I had, at 15, just assumed they were too cool to be interested in a girl who would go to one of their concerts. I was trying to be a Hanson fan without associating myself with Hanson fandom.

Nope. Gah! That’s not even true.

2. I didn’t even want to be a fan!

I wanted THEM to be MY fan! I was deluding myself into thinking that I wasn’t like all the other girls, in my heart. In my heart was where I was exactly like all the other girls. It was only in my behavior that I wasn’t. Actually, I was way worse.

In one interview Taylor tells a story – maybe 10 or 15 years after the fact – about rolling into a parking garage late at night that they’d blocked off so the band and crew could unload efficiently. A few girls got the intel and snuck in to the garage before they closed it, hiding under cars until the band arrived. They expected, according to Taylor, to jump out in their cute outfits and be folded into his arms but forgot they’d slept under a car and were covered in grease. I think he was recounting it as a funny story and not trying to make fun, but he just seemed a little disdainful. I can imagine this kind of thing would get old after a while, so at first I missed the point. I felt disdainful too. I would never have done, never would do, something like that.

Are you noticing it though?

Those girls who hid were at least being honest with themselves. They knew, in a way, how needy they were; that they weren’t going to get the guys’ attention any other way. That behavior – directed toward Taylor or Isaac or Zac Hanson – might be idolatrous but that’s not why it made me recoil. It made me recoil because it looked pathetic. I believe that I have not asked to be loved on anything other than my own merit.

My refusal to be a fangirl is not virtue. It’s pride.

I was right to throw away that CD in high school. I couldn’t see any other way to get free. It felt like a presence had left my life after I did. I’m not sorry. But I am sorry, now, that I’ve missed out on so much in life because I mistake pride for embarrassment or virtue.

So, back to Jesus. “Look,” He said, “imagine there’s Taylor Hanson in the parking garage and you are there, covered in oil. No…actually, you’re at home refusing to look at his picture. But he shows up at your house, says ‘hey we’re in town. We’re playing tonight and I want you to come.’ He shows you his backstage passes. ‘Actually, here’s the deal: I don’t just want you to come see us play, I want you to sing with us. On tour. Join the band. I’ve heard your voice and it’s really beautiful. And yes, I know you are kind of in love with me. And I want to tell you…I love you. I’ve loved you for a long time. I want to marry you. I want you to be part of my family.’

“You’ll just have to take my word for it if you won’t believe it,” says Jesus, “but I think you will now: What I’m telling you is that you wouldn’t go. You’d persist in disbelieving it was for real – even when shown the proof – and then even if you did join, sooner or later you’d resent him. You’d blame him for tricking you into marrying him and making you be in his band, for curtailing your freedom. Whether or not you’d actually act on it, you’d want to be free from his love, free from the thing you were convinced was the only thing that could make you happy.”

And I do see it now. Holy fuck. He’s right. I can think of the many small times I’ve done this to my (dear, sweet) husband. My basic orientation to reality is that I will have it on my own terms or not at all. And those terms are subject to change whenever the hell I say they are. That I’ve never really gotten the things I thought I wanted with my whole being is beside the point. Everything I ever thought was the entire point is…worthless.

something in me is broken.

I have had, over and over again, something akin to that moment of sublime connection for which I longed then and thought Taylor Hanson and only Taylor Hanson could supply. (I might have accepted Mark Olson or Christian Bale in a pinch) I had one a few weeks ago. It filled me to overflow. So exquisite was it, I felt it would ruin me. In my moment alone with Jesus, I could barely breathe or glance up into His face; there was so much…so much…there aren’t even words for it. In moments like this when I can remember how it was, even the memory of it is…Life itself. Like standing next to the sun and not burning. I can’t explain it. And I’ve been told, and shown, over and over again HOW I am loved. The depth to which I am loved, a language is spoken to me which I thought I had made up but it’s spoken better, more fluently. I have been wooed and wooed.

And I forget.

No. Be honest Jenn.

I don’t just forget. I feel those things and know them to be real and then I turn around and I HATE the bestower. I hate him when he gently suggests that I am his. I am fully loved by him, fully known, deeply wanted. And I hate him. The problem is me.

“They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, ‘we played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'”

Some of this isn’t going to get healed this side of heaven. It’s written right into the man/woman curse that lives in my bones. I like to hope that one day, in the new earth, Taylor and Isaac and Zac will be there and somehow Jesus will have made it okay enough to say all of it – all of the things ever – and they would get it. Or that none of us has to say anything because there would be a wholeness that is, as things are now, totally elusive. Not even able to be imagined by me.

I like to hope  – and as I hope, hope it’s not wrong to hope – that I will see in the new heaven and earth all of the men I’ve ever idolized. I hope they’ll all be there. I hope they choose Jesus for so many reasons I don’t have time to write about now. I pray for that so hard. And I pray for their wives and families. But I hope one day I will see them as they are, not as I have imposed upon them. I hope I can talk to them without fear and without a trace of the pride and self-loathing that has characterized my life. It’s always this hope that supersedes everything else, that shocks me out of my own daydreams with a new kind of lightning strike: Maybe someday this, too, can be made new. Not denied or erased, but made clean. Set in order. Beautified in Christ and able to be enjoyed without pain or regret. Yes, My soul says. Somehow, that’s the answer. I don’t know how, but I know that if the longing is there, it’s meant to be fulfilled.

“The reason we want to live forever is that WE WERE MADE TO.” 

“Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it — tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest — if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself — you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for.” – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I’m just going to add as a postlude here that these guys are really good. Henry thinks I should be sent to a Hanson concert some day. We’ll see. But damn.


Being a mother is hard. Some thoughts on kids and judgment.

July 13, 2015

I don’t have a lot of time this morning. In fact, I’m squandering precious moments of Gwillis nap time and allowing the boys extra PBS time in order to write it. I felt compelled, and so I’m hoping this is meant for someone out there.

Did ya’ll read this article by Jen Hatmaker?

It was hilarious. So go read it if you haven’t. I actually don’t read her regularly, but she’s hitting on something that is dawning on me and which I devote (probably way more than necessary) time thinking about lately. Motherhood, right now at this moment in time, is spectacularly hard. Not because kids are different than they used to be – at least if that’s true it’s not what I’m talking about – but because the world is a way, way different place than it used to be.

There doesn’t seem to be any place where we can experience rest from the duties of being present with or watching or providing something for our kids. Not the park! Unless you are there by yourself and you are reasonably sure your kids won’t run into the street (heaven help you if you have to use the bathroom and you have two boys on opposite sides of the playground who are too busy playing to hear you, let alone willing to come with you. And then you just decide to go anyway and hope no one dies and then when you come out, one of them is nowhere to be seen and his bike is lying on its side by the road. Not that this happened to me or anything. [don’t worry, he was just playing in ditch water]). If someone else is there, it’s generally frowned-upon for you, as a mom, to sit in the shade and just watch or intermittently read a book or write in your journal. You may NOT allow the children to work out their own issues with sharing because there’s no consensus anymore in parenting. The park has become a battlefield of niceness. Underneath, we don’t all agree with each other but we don’t say it. We don’t ask where someone else is coming from. And we can’t be challenged in our beliefs because we’re all so afraid we’re wrong and that we’re failing.

And you can’t let your kids outside your house alone, to play in the yard or – un-heard-of now – tool around the neighborhood like we used to do. Not that I could, or would, let my 4 and 2 year old do this. But, honestly, when I was a kid in the mid 90’s, my 4 year old sister came with us (the 6 and 9 year old) to the corner store 3 blocks away to buy penny candy or to the park two blocks behind our house where our mom could not even see us. I often feel nostalgic for her era of motherhood that I won’t ever have. Seriously, what was she doing in glorious solitude while we fought over the tire swing at the park or scraped our knees when we rode bikes in the alley behind our house (my little sister no doubt behind me on my banana seat) without helmets? Probably folding laundry. *sigh*

My point is, if I did this, the neighbors would have something to say about it – and most likely to the police when they showed up instead of to me.

I started to write a paragraph about judging here. Honestly, I’m tired of hearing this sentiment most often directed at Christians by other Christians: “stop judging!” I don’t think it’s getting us anywhere. Obviously, we’re all still judging and feeling judged enough to provide fodder for the “stop judging” contingent.

I received prayer on Good Friday that has started me on a path to deeper healing (a deeper easing of depression and anxiety and more consistent joy) than I have ever experienced. The reason this prayer was so effective was in part because the person praying for me has thrown off the false definition of “don’t judge.” This, I have observed, has come to mean a very dangerous kind of moral relativism. It has come to mean “what’s right for me might not be right for you so you can’t evaluate me based on your own code of ethics and better just leave me alone to relate to others who believe exactly the same way I do.” This is NOT what Jesus did. He surrounded himself with moral screw-ups who KNEW they were in need of Him and He judged (and very harshly) the Pharisees: the moral teachers who had made their own code of ethics based on outward appearances. The ones who were trying to impose extra rules to make themselves feel morally superior. They had long since lost a sense of God’s real presence.

The person who prayed for me primarily AGREED with me that what I was sensing as a problem was a problem. She called my sin what it was, but in the next breath, she was able to offer healing, hope, wholeness. Not in herself, but through the work of Christ – His death for me. I had been to countless prayer ministers and well-meaning friends giving advice over the years and their message was always the same: “don’t be so hard on yourself.” This is too hard to unpack in a blog post, and there’s a lot more to it that I’d love to write about later, but I think what I needed is not different from what everyone needs and what’s behind a lot of the angst we all feel as mothers. Jesus did this regularly. He didn’t tell the woman at the well (a marginalized person, living for her own passions and yet searching for something more) “you are probably being too hard on yourself. You need to learn to love yourself more.” He named her secret sin, he offered her Himself (living water! You will never be thirsty again!). And she was changed.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this issue: we mothers (especially those who desire to raise our children without the interference of the state and without exposure to the messages of the world until they have sufficient wisdom to judge wisely) live in a very different kind of world than our mothers. More is demanded of us. We will have to pray for the patience and endurance to be present with our children so much more often. Is not Christ present with us at all times? Should we look for a better model of parenthood than God? We will have to pray for, and practice grace and patience with other mothers who have different values than we at the park. We have to pray for grace for a populace increasingly un-used-to families with more than one or two children and therefore often saying awkward or hurtful things without knowing it. We will have to find new ways to live as Christians, raising our children first as citizens of the kingdom of God, in this world and stop yearning for a time that is gone. At least, I know I do!

Secondly, we need to pray for the discernment to stand for what we know is right when the time is right (Not on Facebook, for the love of God!) but to have grace and openness to the people around us. Yes, even those of us who are introverts and are desperately tired from always caring for our children. Christianity is a white-knuckled clinging to this incarnational reality: Christ is with us and IN us. We judge precisely because we DON’T have a hold on being good. Precisely because we know we are NOT good, and apart from Christ could not even wish to be loving to one another; because we know there is an objective, real reality outside of and above our selves. Some are longing for this knowledge and some can’t hear it at all. Our job of loving – and primarily of practicing the presence of Christ – is the same.


Gwillis – or Virginia Eowyn Louise

March 27, 2015

This time it took us about 8 weeks to come up with a “creature name” for our newest member. If you remember, Wyatt is more commonly called “Sproot” and for a very long time Gilead’s only named name was “Piggle”. Henry has a fascination obsession with words and how they sound, so what was once an accident or a passtime has become an object of real consternation: finding a “creature name.”
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{Here she is a coule of weeks ago. I just can’t get over how beautiful she is!}

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{Here are the boys at roughly the same age, for comparison. She looks like a Shuffle, doesn’t she?}

We started calling her “Gwil” – or something like that – in imitation of Wyatt who has to be schooled in proper pronouns every time he refers to her. (My favorite was Wyatt, during a diaper-change he was observing, remarking to Henry: “He has a seashell. He has a seashell on his penis.” We are not used to girls around here. So we tell him, “she’s a girl” and he says, “Oh. She’s a gwil.”) But we couldn’t think of something unique that would stick though we were trying every day for weeks. Eventually, Henry said it to me and I laughed and it stuck. Our daughter’s nickname is Gwillis. I call her Gwillies.

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She is actually named after some righteous women, though. In both senses of the word. Virginia was Henry’s Grandma Shuffle’s middle name. He never met her. She died of lung cancer the year before he was born. His grandfather – with whom he had a special relationship and who died two years ago at the age of 103 – called her “Jin” or “Jinny.” The first Thanksgiving I spent at his house when we were dating, he handed me a wedding picture of theirs straight out of the photo album because I said I wanted to copy one. The man was known for being hospitable and generous, but what I hear of Jinny from Henry’s dad and uncles was that she was home. It’s something I feel passionate about because I think it’s disappearing. In fact, all of my children have names that reflect our feelings about home and that will hopefully remind us, and them, to be brave. All three of her names are reminders to us of real, and fictional, brave women: Ginny (Harry Potter. Because it wouldn’t be a Shuffle name if it wasn’t somehow derived from nerdy literature), Eowyn (Tolkien) and Louise, which means warrior. Funnily enough, there are two family names we’ve used that have stood for multiple grandparents. Wyatt’s “Robert” is after both of my grandfathers. Louise was both my Grandma Swank’s and Henry’s Grandma Zaffke’s middle names. I eulogized (is that a word?) at my Grandma’s funeral that she was a mighty woman. She did everything. And she taught me to sew. I miss her all the time. I wish she’d been able to meet this one.

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A Glimpse of Heaven From My Bed

February 17, 2015

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I think this may have been the day after we got home from the hospital. It’s a blur, but I can tell from how she fits into these preemie size pajamas (she doesn’t fit anymore) that it was early on. When we left the hospital, Ginny weighed 4 lbs. 3 oz. She now weighs north of 6.5 lbs. In under three weeks! In the words of my doula: “you have cream.”

I sat here for a minute trying to come up with the one impression to sum up my birth experience with Ginny and the feeling that stands out – stronger than the fear and pain and stress that preceded it all – is that of profound rest when I finally sank into my bed in my new home. My mom and one of my best friends, Megan, were in the house caring for my sons and making a delicious dinner. There were flowers and tiny gold baby shoes waiting for me on my table and I got to hold my daughter and just sleep with her in my arms for the first time since she’d been born. I know so many people have to wait so much longer for this moment (like another client of my doula’s who had also been planning a home birth, went unexpectedly pre-eclamptic and was induced two days later. Her son had heart surgery this past week, so she still hasn’t gotten to hold him in the comfort of her home. My heart goes out to her every day.) but it’s the first time I haven’t gotten to immediately hold and cuddle and sleep with one of my babies. I had the thought before I crashed into sleep that this, undoubtedly, was a bit of how heaven would feel: the feeling of having fled from terror and pain into the embrace of perfect peace and rest.

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Aside from that I’ve been trying to decide what’s worth telling. This morning I have to confess that I’ve gotten angry with my kids several times because of various thing preventing me from writing this post. It seems like such a small thing to want to do. I keep thinking surely it’s not selfish to want to write this post. But my babies need me and staring at a screen doesn’t count as being present. Right now they are watching PBS kids so we can all calm down but I just can’t keep parenting this way, so this may be my last post for a long time. I wish I could write all of the things in my head about television and attachment and bonding and joy and parenting but I think I’m not mean to write right now while I’m in the trenches. Perhaps, even, what I write right now doesn’t even have much significance! 🙂

Anyway…the birth was very different from my other two. I was prepared to be in labor for much longer because it was an induction. From the time I knew it would be an induction I was also prepared to accept an epidural if I needed one and was trying to be prepared for the possibility of a c-section. It all ended up going about as well as could be expected while spiraling down from health to a dangerous end of my pregnancy. I went, in 16 or 17 days, from thinking I was in a perfectly normal and healthy pregnancy and expecting to give birth at home to having a preemie in the hospital. The steps in between are hardly relevant anymore. There were a lot of doctor visits and many tests and tears. I was very afraid, when it came to the day before I would be induced. That afternoon I put my boys down for their naps thinking there was at least a chance we’d never see each other again in this life. I knew I probably would be fine, but I couldn’t help trying to leave them with a sweet memory in case this was goodbye.

I ended up going to the ER the night before my scheduled induction because my BP skyrocketed and I was feeling even worse than I had been. It turns out I’d gotten the stomach bug Wyatt had that morning. He’d thrown up on me before I left the house to go have my long ultrasound. They gave me a dose of Cervidil at 10:30 p.m. and it felt a lot like the gradual beginning of natural labor, except that I hadn’t been able to eat anything all that afternoon and evening and was super weak and shaky. In the early morning I started throwing up and couldn’t keep any liquid down. The contractions were getting a lot harder, too, and I couldn’t really get out of bed to deal with them because of feeling so weak and because they wanted to have the monitor on Ginny as much as possible.

I just re-read my post about my experience giving birth to Wyatt. I wrote about feeling pretty lonely the whole time. If I’d had more energy to reflect this time I’d probably have said I felt more alone than I ever have. I spent most of my laboring time with only a sleeping or sleepy husband to accompany me. I didn’t even have a friend in the state and hadn’t thought even to bring music. It was just me and Jesus in a dark hospital room and some texts from friends. I think the fear kept me from feeling the loneliness. And the prayers from ya’ll.

There were two points at which things got inexplicably better. One was after the neonatologist came to talk to us about how our baby would be doing when she was born. I literally threw up in the middle of talking to him but he reassured us that our baby would probably be fine and be able to come to me and nurse right away. He also assured us that nothing would be wrong with her long-term despite my having been told she was in the 3rd percentile size-wise and that she hadn’t been getting what she needed in the womb for a long time. Shortly after he left I got some anti-nausea meds, which probably helped too but when I was re-telling this story a couple weeks ago I realized that period when the darkness lifted coincided with the original time I’d told people I’d be induced and many people didn’t know I’d come in the night before so they were probably praying at that moment.

I labored on for a few hours with renewed strength after that. I couldn’t eat anything but the meds were helping me not feel so shaky and I’d stopped throwing up at least. The next moment when things really changed for the better was when I got the epidural. I have two thoughts about this: one is that I probably would have been able to get through the induction without it if I’d been able to use the tub or be more mobile and the other is that I’m so grateful it was an option for me and that my doula didn’t shame me for it. My decision to get one was based on being weak, not being able to eat or drink much, knowing I may have hours and hours to go (I was at 4 cm dilated with a thick cervix) and needing to lie down and rest if I could (This was Thursday late morning. I’d been awake since 4 a.m. Wednesday morning and had gotten an average of 5 hours of sleep for weeks before that). It was absolutely the best decision for that moment. I just felt so grateful when the contractions got weaker and – at least for 30 minutes or so – went away altogether. I needed a rest.

I didn’t actually get to sleep! The end came much more quickly than any expected.

The epidural probably kicked in at about 2:30, Henry got lunch and then we settled in for a rest with the lights off. I tried to sleep between being turned from side to side every 15 minutes but not long after the first or second turn I could feel contractions getting stronger through epidural. I’d gotten one dose of pitocin and she’d turned it up once so I thought that was probably why. I made a mental note to ask if they would wait to turn up the pit for awhile so I would get more of a chance to rest. The contractions got closer together and I started to feel a twinge of nausea after one would subside. I don’t know why I didn’t think it was the nausea meds wearing off, I just didn’t. I started to think maybe I was in transition. I mentioned the pain returning to the nurse and she said I should just use my extra dose of epidural – which I did – then she turned me on my right side and left the room.

This is the crazy hilarious part. Get ready for it.

As soon as she turned me (this was probably 3:47 or so) the contractions got super intense and there was no let-up. I was having to moan my way through them even WITH the epidural. The ONLY time I’d ever experienced this in the past was when pushing was imminent but I didn’t want to cry wolf. I also had to throw up, so I woke Henry up to get me a bucket. I added, reluctantly, that he should probably tell the nurse that I thought I might be in transition and call Courtenay. I dimly remember him doing that as I was on my side trying to position the bucket so I could puke. Then I dimly remember the nurse coming in as I threw up and my water broke and saying to her afterward, “yep, it’s transition. My water just broke.” She was moving around doing various urgent things as I threw up again and said “I just felt her move down” and I truly don’t know what, if anything, had time to transpire before my third puke that PUSHED MY DAUGHTER OUT to which I replied “a whole bunch of stuff just came out.”

A whole bunch of stuff.

Stuff.

The only reason I can think for saying it like that was that I didn’t want to admit I’d just puked a baby out and didn’t wait for the doctor or possibly that she was so tiny and in her caul that it didn’t feel like a baby at all – just a bunch of stuff. Seriously. It did NOT feel like a baby at all. And I could feel it. It wasn’t because of being numb. Epidurals don’t actually prevent you from feeling the “ring of fire” sensation of pushing. I just didn’t feel it.

Anyway…

The nurse came over and lifted my blanket (yes. I was still covered in a blanket, on my side, with all the lights off) and said into her walkie-talkie “and…we have a baby.”

Oh man, was that doctor in a controlled panic. She was obviously not ready for this. None of us were. Henry was standing by my side, stunned. He couldn’t muster a word for a good 5 minutes. I was trying not to crush my daughter with my leg, worried there was something wrong with her because of his expression as he looked down, and sad that I couldn’t really see her. Apparently she was covered in a thick layer of vernix. In 10 seconds we had roughly 50-100 people in the room (Oh, hi med student I chatted with this morning! welcome to my vagina!) and everyone calmed down when it became clear that Ginny was fine (crying, pink and perfect. We got a thumbs up from Dr. Boxwalla [the neonatologist] and she came to me about 2 minutes later) and that I hadn’t just ripped my lower body in half puking out a baby. In fact, the first smile my OB cracked was when she looked up at me and said, dryly, “no lacerations.”

The other awesome thing about my epidural was that because I gave birth so soon after I got it, it was still in effect for a lot of the after-birth contractions which suck so badly.

Ginny had to spent about 15 hours in the special nursery and I got almost no sleep for the ensuing two days while at the hospital, but that is all done now and feels like ancient history. I’m just so grateful it all ended up the way it did. I’m also grateful I’m not still pregnant. I totally could have been still pregnant as I write this. Her due date was yesterday. And I’m grateful for you all – for your love and support and timely words and prayers. I couldn’t have done it without you.


Blood, Brazen Poetry and Bad Dancing

February 9, 2015

I’m working on a post about Ginny’s birth, but it’s slow going so I’m just going to write about a few random funny things if that’s okay.

So, I watched some of the Grammys last night. It was about what I expected. It’s funny to watch something like that when you never do. I find I look at it all with a kind of detachment that makes the spectacle funny. I can’t take any of it very seriously. Like Madonna, for instance. Did anyone else think she looked vaguely arthritic while she was dancing? I also caught the Lady Gaga Tony Bennet duet. I’ve never really seen her perform so this is just my first off-the-cuff impression. I thought she nailed that style vocally but watching her perform I thought, “this is a woman who is NEVER off stage. She’s incredibly self-conscious.” Her performance was flawless but I had the impression she knew what every molecule in her body was doing at any given time and was in tight control of them all. I wouldn’t want to be her in a million years. I guess that’s not funny…just interesting.

A couple weeks ago on our way home from church this Hozier song came on. I mean, THE Hozier song came on. Can I just ask what’s up with the white British boys who sound like black men on the radio? It’s disconcerting when you find out what they really look like! And Meghan Trainor…also not black. Sorry…anyway, I made Henry let me listen to it (he usually flips to NPR automatically) and we got to talking about how much we love this song. I said there was something appealing about the lyrics even though they kind of use religion in a non-religious way. Henry said he thought it was good poetry. He said it was brazen, like a passage from Moby Dick – which he finally just finished reading – where they do a mock communion about catching the whale. It’s not holy, but it’s kind of powerful used sparingly. Anyway, I just like everything about the song. And, OK, I bought the album today. Did anyone see this last night? Gah! Totally worth watching the Grammys to see. I had chills. Then I proceeded to hear the song all. night. long. in my dreams. I woke up from a dream where I was sitting at a piano vainly wishing I could play and sing it and arguing, a la Wheaton College days, with a couple of random young men and my sister about the finer points of theology and culture w/r/t church and sex. I was on the point of using Henry’s example to back up my liking of the song when I woke up. Guess I liked it a little TOO much. 🙂

So…on Friday – my second day home by myself with all three kids – I was sitting on our sun porch nursing Ginny when I heard an altercation upstairs followed by Wyatt crying. Nothing out of the ordinary. I figured he’d come to me if it was bad enough. He usually does this. After a few minutes with no abatement in crying Gilead came to me and casually mentioned that Wyatt wanted me because he’d hit Wyatt on the head with a block but that it had been an accident. I sighed and put Ginny in the crib (where she proceeded to cry for me…what the heck, mom?) and stomped to the stairs. I looked up to see this:

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It was funny later, I promise. He was more upset about the blood he could see on his hands than the pain in his head. It was a very minor cut, it just bled a lot. After a bath and some ibuprofen, he was fine. But just picture me sitting in the bathroom on a stool holding and trying to nurse Ginny with one arm while I sobbed and tried to mop up a sobbing Wyatt with the other and, in between sobs, admonishing an whimpering Gilead in the doorway not to hit people because he could really hurt them. It must have been an awe-inspiring scene. Good times.