Weary and Waiting to Rejoice

12/15/17


Sometimes I can feel his fingers stretching against my insides, down by my left hip. At least I like to imagine them to be little fingers; It’s hard to be exactly sure what’s what and details have never been my strong suit. Knees and elbows jut out once in awhile like little drawer knobs. Push them and they’re gone. Poof.

But I always know where his back is.  Long and hard, its position doesn’t change much this late in the game. Head down, spine strong: almost ready. Any day now he will break me open. He will be red and wailing; I will be white from exhaustion. Any day now the world will change in a way most ordinary and yet most catastrophic. Any day now we will both know new life.

Everything groans within me: my back, my esophagus, my uterus, my bladder. I feel small contractions and resist the urge to time them; I know instinctively it’s not the real thing. They don’t hurt badly enough yet. For now, I wait. It is Advent, after all. 

Said Mary.

//

It wouldn't be right to have no wait during Advent. Part of me is relieved that this baby boy hasn't entered the world, even as part of me bemoans it. There have been years in the past when I have felt Advent. When I was pregnant with Moses those four weeks before Christmas I have blissful memories of lit fireplaces and quiet, meditative living room nights after Alyosha went to bed. It was dark and still, the air thick with meaning. We would fumble our way through mass, the rhythm of the ritual still not quite familiar to our bodies, and I would marvel at the good fortune of being in a position to meditate on the scandal that the son of God had a mother.

Theotokos. Mother of God. The abrasiveness of it is almost meant to alarm you, but I delighted in the shock of it. No naysayer can call the name inaccurate without calling into question Christian teaching. He was fully God. He was fully human. She was the mother of God. It was delightfully terrifying, and I lapped it up.

But this year, this Advent, this pregnancy, is different. I have three other children at home to tend to now. The post-bedtime nights are too short and not often contemplative. I don't glory in the wait the way I did four years ago. I just want the season to pass; I just want the baby to come. I just want Christmas without having to watch how slowly the purple and pink wax drips down the living room wreath. I just want to sing of how the weary world rejoices.

Instead, I must feel the weariness just a moment more.



He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

(excerpt from the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55)

Colorblind

12/11/17


My white parents were raised in Mississippi in the fifties and sixties. My siblings and I grew up hearing about how the Civil Rights Movement affected the young lives of our mom and dad; how Brenda Travis, a girl in my dad’s hometown not much older than he, had dared to participate in segregation protests and was subsequently taken from her family and banned from the state; how the Ku Klux Klan had threatened my parents in their early years of ministry; how my maternal grandfather was a champion for his black constituents as a local politician, even as a product of a deeply segregated system himself.

However, I grew up in central Texas in the nineties, when Americans were too sophisticated for that kind of drama. I grew up in a nation that hailed itself colorblind and would hear of nothing else. I grew up certain that racial injustice was a horrific part of history that no longer held any systematic or economic weight.

The first time I was confronted with the truth was when I drove through a sea of small towns with my college roommate, who was black. Her family lived further away than mine so her coming home for occasional weekends with me became part of our norm. But the first time we took the route, lazily rolling to a stop at an empty red light in a nondescript town, she shrank low in her passenger seat, eyes darting furtively around.

...

Read the rest at Sick Pilgrim!

A Miracle All the Same

11/20/17


A miracle is that we could do the will of God, the priest said.

He was quoting a story by Father Anthony De Mello that addresses the heart of where our spirituality goes wrong. "In your land, it is regarded as a miracle if God does someone’s will," the native tells the inquiring traveler. "In our country, it is regarded as a miracle if someone does the will of God."

//

I couldn't see her face during the funeral mass to say whether she cried. I was in the very back pew wrangling the embarrassing circus that is my three wolfish boys. Although I suspect my most wiggly one would do better if seated closer, my autism spectrum one feels safer in the back. The toddler will be loud either way, but no one minds about toddlers.

So I saw her back only; her starched dress and careful hairstyle. When I hugged her before the ceremony, she'd had no tears in her eyes, and it struck me that maybe her ducts had run out. Four and a half months, seven surgeries, never once taking her firstborn child home. Maybe there wasn't a single tear left in her. Her eyes were bare, almost vacant. I don't think I'd understood until that moment how the death of a child takes part of a mother's soul; but there it was, missing when I looked in her eyes.

I use words like embarrassing to describe my own children, and I don't move the cursor to delete them when I think maybe I should. My stretched abdomen tells of a date on the calendar that I simultaneously long for and fear. But my fears are silly ones: being overwhelmed and impatient, not getting enough sleep, not having time to work on my own projects. The post-childbirth fears I entertain do not involve poorly developed internal organs or months in the NICU. I have that luxury. My friend never will. Any subsequent pregnancy from now on will wreck her with anxiety, and no well-meaning platitudes could ever lighten her burden.

//

We had all prayed for a miracle. We prayed she would live. Why would God let a baby die? I will never have an answer.

But a miracle is not that God could do our will, but that we could do the will of God. Hundreds of people crossed the Catholic-Protestant divide and became "of one mind as Christ our Lord" in financial provision, prayer, food delivery, and emotional support. Hundreds of people crossed culture and nationality to believe with one another for the life of a little girl and the well-being of her parents. The Church acted like the Church. We did the will of God, and it was a miracle. Not the miracle we were hoping for, but a miracle all the same.

Mass is always a trial for my son with autism. When I explained that being calm and quiet during the funeral mass was a way to show our love and care for our friends' deep sadness, he looked me in the eye and said: "I want to do that." This, too, is a miracle. Not the miracle we were hoping for, but a miracle all the same.

//

We got home from the reception and the toddler came down with a stomach virus. Twelve hours of throwing up and forty-eight hours of laundry ahead of me. But every time I held him tight as the regurgitated liquid ran down my t-shirt, all I could think was how she would give anything, anything, to be cleaning up vomit. How they went home together to an empty apartment.

The night before, I had sat at my own dining room table and wiped tears from my eyes as I explained to listening ears how heavy a weight motherhood has felt to me lately. I know it doesn't diminish someone else's enormous cross to confess that I have a small one of my own and that it's damned hard to carry sometimes, but I can't help but be assaulted by the perspective nonetheless. At least I have tears left to cry. I have never known that kind of drying.

How do I honor the life of this little saint in heaven and her empty-handed parents left behind? I clean up vomit. I diffuse sensory meltdowns. I endure Legos thrown at my head. And I do it with gratitude. Because to do the will of God is a miracle. Not the miracle we were hoping for, but a miracle all the same.

I Interrupt This Very Serious Blog to Bring You... a Decorating Post

11/15/17

Didn't see that one coming, did you? Me neither, really, but a little light breathing never hurt anyone- and sometimes I miss that old school blogging where we just showed each other what the insides of our unprofessionally designed houses look like. Anyone else?

When we decided to move back to Iowa this summer after our Texas upheaval, I came alone into town and had about 24 hours to find us a new house. By a stroke of good luck (and the help of a lovely realtor from our church) I managed to find one situated both in the zoning of our oldest son's former elementary school and within walking distance to downtown, our two biggest priorities. It's 100 years old (just how we like them), unremarkable from the outside, but charming and cozy when you step foot indoors. It's historic feel captures our family vibe, but the big updated kitchen has me waving my 21st century praise hands, and the kitchen/dining/living space is really great for hosting.

Favorite part of new house: a kitchen door that opens straight to the backyard for optimal kicking-kids-out proximity

Least favorite part of house: having only one bathroom for six people; imagining said bathroom with four pubescent boys

We hemmed and hawwed over which of the upstairs bedrooms to make the master (and I use that word so loosely it's hysterical), since they are all pretty much the size of the box that my preschooler's last pair of shoes came in. The one that somehow ended up making the most sense happened to be... wait for it... bubble gum pink.


I would show you pictures of the rest, but actually that's basically the entire room. We bought the king-sized bed years ago when we were in a house that had a normal amount of bedroom space and have questioned whether we've regretted it ever since. But man, when you have at least one extra human sleeping with you (no matter how small- you know the tinier the human, the more horizontal he sleeps) every night for years, it's pretty hard to beat. So I have to shimmy against the wall to get out my side in the morning, but I can more or less sleep through the night no matter who joins me so #winning.

Anyway, back to the pink. I personally kind of liked it, but I'll leave you to guess how Eric felt.

(if you guessed "ambivalent", go back to the drawing board)

But hey, hey remember who's preggers and can't spend hours painting poorly ventilated bedrooms? So we waited until my mom came into town - which always guarantees somethin's about to get DONE - and let her do it.

E and I agreed on sage green but when I got to Lowe's I accidentally didn't at all get sage.

It just looked so... dark! And serious.

So I got Melancholy Mint. Perfect, I thought, Melancholy for him, Mint for me.

Unsurprisingly, his assessment was too much mint, not enough melancholy, but agreed it was a heck of a lot better than sleeping in Pepto Bismal. So we left it, I like it, and I think he doesn't mind it.



The room still felt rather sterile, so we thought a rug might warm things up. Eric surprised me by bringing one home spontaneously one day but I returned it because I am a monster.

Eventually we found this one together at Target and it's not artisan made or ethically sourced or even super original, but gosh I like it. The piece of art on the wall was given to us by our friend and uber talented artist Mick Burson, and I adore the colors.

(The armchair is so great, but children have written alllllll over that mug. Don't look too closely.)


So the room came together fine I'd say- but it fell short of the kind of special, pulled-together vibe we were hoping for. Enter Pixers wallpaper. They offered to send me some samples and their watercolor designs didn't give me a chance to say no. I've never applied wallpaper before but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as hard as I thought. I actually didn't bother to match up the patterns on the individual sheets, but as the placement is behind the bed I don't think you can tell unless you're looking for it.



Pixers has some beautiful wall murals, and if you're looking to jazz up a space with an accent wall, poster, or decal, I would definitely recommend checking them out. I'll be honest, the prices are not cheap- BUT 'TIS THE SEASON FOR WISHLISTS, am I right?! Let grandma give you the gift of a beautiful space.


Last but not least, I need your help. What on earth could I possibly hang on this huge blank wall over our bed? I'm stumped. Of course I know that a gorgeous canvas painting would be the best option but let's be realistic about that bank account, shall we? Does anyone have ideas on something really large but also inexpensive, and not so heavy that I'm terrified of it falling down and killing us in our sleep? Por favor.



We're still dreaming of one day making this a guest room and finishing the attic to be a real, live master. But in the meantime, I'm totally feeling this sweet little B-and-B style hideaway.

Do you have an old-school home decor post in the dusty archives of your blog? Link to it in the comments so I can see! I'm feeling nostalgic these days.


(I did not receive monetary compensation from Pixers for this post. I did receive free product to review, but all thoughts are my own.)
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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

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