Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Elijah’s Birth Story, Part V

 

The next days and weeks were filled with joys and challenges, as is the case with any new family. Christy and Robin stayed for a total of almost 24 hours, battling exhaustion at the end to make sure Elijah was healthy and ready to spend his first night safely in our arms. Breastfeeding was a challenge for the first five weeks or so due to some TMJ issues that Eli had as a result of his grand entrance. My in-laws stayed with us for the first four weeks (or I should clarify: Rob’s mom stayed for four weeks, Rob’s dad came the last of those four weeks) and helped immensely with our transition. My body struggled a bit regaining its strength and thank goodness that Annette was there to help me with the cooking, tidying, and laundry that was necessary as Rob went back to work. It was a time when we were figuring out what our new “normal” was going to be.

I am asked constantly if I would have made a different decision regarding homebirth if I had known the end of my labor would be so difficult. This question always surprises me–perhaps because I simply can’t imagine a labor and birth process any other way! I loved laboring at home, with my family and my animals and my own room. I loved being able to eat or drink or move whenever I wanted. I loved that medication simply wasn’t an option, and that I needed to rely on my own strength and bodily signals to help Elijah emerge into the world. Yes, it was difficult. Yes, at times it was painful. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s not something that needs to be feared or avoided. I feel so much intimacy with the threshold between being in this world and being in God’s embrace after this experience. In many ways, it is a paschal experience. Birth and Death and Life–and trusting in God to guide us over those thresholds–hold such a sacred, delicate balance.

Being able to share this experience with a midwife is also something that I will always cherish, and the attention and care that she gave us is something that I think every woman deserves. When we were still seeing an OB/GYN, we were lucky if an hour’s wait in the waiting room led to more than a ten minute visit. We had to try to remember every question and cram it in, because obviously he was hurried and had other patients to see. I’ve heard stories from my friends about their OBs not even remembering their names or the circumstances of their pregnancies. Our experience with Christy was so different. She came to our home, and would listen to Eli’s heartbeat while I was laying on my own couch. She would sometimes have dinner with us, and we would talk at length about any question or concern or anxiety I had. She sacrificed many Friday nights with her own family so we could do after-hours appointments that Rob could attend. And in the hardest moments, I trusted her implicitly because we had built that relationship throughout my pregnancy.

Every woman who labors decides how they want to do it, and this is not the forum for saying what I think everyone should or should not do. It is simply my way to express what worked best for me and my family. I hope that every woman gives thought to such a choice. We have more strength than we give ourselves credit for–many women I have talked to have said they couldn’t imagine laboring without medication. And yet in doing so, they sacrifice feeling some of the most undeniably unique and intimate sensations a person can experience. Pain doesn’t always have to equate to suffering. Pain isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s a gift.

These days, I’m enjoying this new world as a mama. Being a witness to my son awakening to the world is a holy experience, one I am honored to experience. I’ve begun to see my relationship with my own parents in a new way, and likewise, with God. Elijah truly is a miracle. I pray that I may learn to gaze at God the same way Elijah gazes at me.

The adventure has only just begun.

Advertisements

Packing Up

IMG_6159

Our current apartment is slowly morphing into stacks of boxes against the living room wall. I’ve been going through the closets, cleaning out old boxes, packing away elements of our lives for the transfer into the next chapter. A few boxes actually hadn’t been opened since our last move, so I’m determined not to have “open much later” boxes this time around.

It’s interesting going through all of our things. In many ways we have already done a pretty good job of simplifying and taking stock. But looking through old letters and memory boxes, or seeing things that were really important to me three years ago that seem so much less important now–it’s a thought-provoking process. In some ways it’s like a longer version of an examination of conscience. Where have I been? What has mattered most to me? Who am I becoming in the wake of these experiences?

I think about where I’ve been and the contrast of dreams to come. I think about the long road Robert and I have walked to get to this point, and the work that lies ahead of us. I thank God for the trials and the blessings, those in the past and those that are inevitably waiting. This process is blessed, even if it is, at times, a painful or scary one.

Feeling anxiety about the unknown is also inevitable, I think. No matter how wonderful a future seems, leaving the warm comfort of one’s known world requires no small amount of courage. As I pack up each box, I think about all the things that will be different when it is opened again. It thrills me and makes me nervous all at once. The passage of time is stronger than the movement of glaciers across our lives. Each second gone, one second closer. I embrace the coming of this dream.

Three weeks to go, and it’s all I can do to keep my mind on school. I’m already planting gardens, hammering fence posts, sewing clothes. I’m checking the temperature in the greenhouse. I’m taking our dog on a walk. I’m watching our family grow older and bigger in this new home. I need to remind myself that the present is sacred, too.

And I cherish it. I cherish the “lasts” of living in the city. The last few times a Barnes and Noble is right down the street.  The last time visiting our beloved vet. The last time driving to my parents is an easy 40 minute car ride. Last, last, last. I cherish the lasts, as I anticipate the firsts. But I feel the tension of being caught in the middle.

Yes, I embrace the dream to come. But I also embrace the one that is here.

A Morning Prayer

IMG_6024

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

 ~ Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, Part 2, Chapter 2

The unknown path

These days are full of joy and uncertainty. As the nightfall arrives earlier and the air begins to cool, we sit at the kitchen table each evening for dinner and the talk inevitably turns to the future. It’s exciting and scary in a new way; in the past our anticipation centered around the wedding (in the early days), or a new job, or starting school. Now the talk centers around having children, buying a house, moving to a new town, and above all, our shared vocation. We know we’ve been placed on this journey together for a reason. It feels like we’re beginning to understand that reason a little more clearly.

Discernment is a lesson that I continually learn. What is from God? What is sourced in my own will? Am I trying to force the issue? Am I scared of what God really wants me to do? Do I even know what God wants me to do? Do I have enough faith?

It takes patience and trust to properly discern such heavy issues. Sometimes the answers don’t come for months. Sometimes they don’t come in the way I expect. So discernment of God’s desire is important, because if I was left to my own devices, I would craft for everything to happen now and under my terms. Of course, this would inevitably lead to disaster.

It’s a good thing God’s in charge.

In the meantime, I have to settle for the tension of uncertainty. Like the autumn days, there is inevitability in the air. “But not yet,” the night’s breeze whispers, “Not yet.” We continue to try to discern to the best of our ability, and I try to remain patient in the unknowing.

Thank goodness we’re in good hands.

Communal Hope

IMG_5416Rob and I spent some time chatting with LMU students last night about Creation Care. Officially, he and I were speakers on the topic for a “Theology on Tap” gathering. But, as seems to continally be the case, I found that as we ministered, so we received blessings tenfold.

These young men and women were mostly seniors in college–about seven or eight years younger than me. They are filled with a vibrancy and hope that inspired both of us.  I am finding that as I speak to more and more people, it becomes clear that the ideas are out there. The motivation and desire exist.  Most people just need one or two things: a little direction, and the knowledge that they are not alone in their journey. This is why I am so passionate about speaking on Creation Care–not because I have an abundance of knowledge to impart, but rather to give people a reason to come together. As we share ideas, talk about what one another is doing, and make connections, we build a network of support for one another.

Which leads me to comment on the thought that has been turning over and over in my head throughout the last three weeks of this quarter: the lynchpin of all sustainable Christian movements is communty.

True community is sorely lacking in many of our most foundational Christian gathering places.  We seem to get very comfortable in the way things have always been, and are anxious when we consider things being different. What if we really knew the people in our parish–really knew them? What if we extended our boundaries beyond Sunday Mass or meeting with fellow parents in the school parking lot, and decided to try to model the early Church of Acts? I’m speaking mostly to my Catholic brethren now, because this is the community with which I have the most familiarity. My experience at Fuller has taught me that there is much we can learn from some of our brothers and sisters in certain Protestant denominations.

I had a class last quarter with a young man (he couldn’t have been over 24 years old) who had formed a group of about fifty people within his church. They decided to be a type of “emergency ministry.”  Any time a person in their congregation had a personal emergency–a woman’s transmission suddenly blew out, or a father lost his job unexpectedly, or a family didn’t know how to pay for a child’s school supplies–they went to this group of people. Everything was out in the open and nothing was secret. The person would talk about the problem with the group, and they would find a way to help. The natural checks and balances within the community kept the system sustainable; since everyone saw eachother at least once a week, people could continue to see how the person was doing as the emergency passed. Likewise, the person knew two things: they could depend on the community and that they were responsible for how they responded to the gift. The young man described great success with this program and told us that it did bring the church community much closer in their support of one another in time of need.

I tell you this story because I believe it shows the importance of community in our Christian lives. Often we look at the problems of the secular world and feel overwhelmed. How do we counter a culture of overconsumption and spiritual starvation? The answer, I believe, lies in community. We must break free of the idea that we need to “go it alone” or accomplish everything as individuals. In community we are stronger, and in community we can accomplish more through our combined gifts than we ever could on our own.

Back to the idea of our experience at LMU last night. Forming a small community–even for a moment–was just one example of how we might support one another as we seek change in our world. I think that every opportunity should be taken to do this. It may be for one night, it may be for a whole year. But forming community and supporting one another is essential. We cannot live out Christianity in solitude. That’s just not how it works.

Thank you, LMU students, for giving me more to think about–and for giving me more hope. I am continually amazed and grateful for the potential that God has placed in each of us. Think of what we can do with that potential….together.

Fall-ing

IMG_5896I have many things to write and tell about. My heart is overflowing with things to share, both joyful and painful.

But for today, I am content to enjoy with you this crisp autumn morning. Fall is indeed upon us. Not only are the nights cooler, but the morning chill carries with it an expectancy that begins now and continues through Advent. There is an expectancy in the air. The cycle of the earth’s Paschal Mystery has begun again.

It is a good time for reflection. Brew a cup of hot tea, hold it between your palms. Walk out into the brisk dawn, warmed by a sweater that you haven’t had to wear since March. Watch your breath make small swirls in the air. Drink in the slow awakening, for the night is stretching further out into the morning and the stars are becoming hesitant to fade.

It is a beautiful time of year. I know I wrote about it recently, but I can’t get enough of it this year. Perhaps it is because I can feel the cycle of change beginning in my own life. Things are indeed shifting. Some parts are reaching the end of our walk together. Others are just beginning. There is a bittersweetness in it all, but even as the leaves begin to fall they do so with a brilliant last hurrah. A reminder to celebrate what has been. A reminder to hold out hope for what is to come.

The change is not an easy one. All of the earth struggles with it, and many creatures make provisions to anticipate the winter’s lean times. There is wisdom in this; there is wisdom in reading the signs of the earth, to be synched enough with its messages that they prepare themselves adequately. Spiritually, I think it repeats the echo of the prophets throughout the ages: Prepare the way for the Lord. We must understand the cycles within our own lives, read the movement wisely; we must prepare our hearts for the inevitable dying back in order to create fertile ground for the Spirit. God is present in it all…we just have to have eyes to see it.

Education, not disappointment

 

IMG_5086Rob and I continued our path of forming relationships with farmers last night through a 3-hour dinner with our bison farmers from the farmer’s market, Kathy and Ken Lindner.  There is a deep wisdom, accompanied by comfortable kindness, in this couple.  They make you feel at ease, and within moments of talking with them you are assured of their intent: the wellbeing of and right relationship with creation (specifically of and with bison).

There’s so much I could write about regarding this holy encounter, but for now I will focus on one phrase of Kathy’s that struck me. We had commented that so much of what they encountered when trying to sell their meat to grocers and restaurants (compared with their current model of selling directly to custumers at farmers markets) must have been extremely frustrating and disappointing.  Kathy’s reply was simple, but profound: “It was education, not disappointment.” She went on to explain how each part of the journey, even ones that didn’t end up fruitful, was part of their education toward what really needed to happen–for their own good, for the good of the customer, and for the good of the bison. Because their philosophy is not steered by making money, but rather by contributing to the Greater Good, it seemed to me that theywere able to put these “frustrations” in the proper perspective. Disappointment is a matter of expectation. Education is a matter of learning, of growth. The same circumstance can be seen either way: it’s our choice on how to perceive it.

I think this is such an important lesson in my own formation. It’s so easy to see setbacks or delays as disappointing. It’s so easy to be discouraged when people just don’t understand the importance of balanced food ethics, or their role in a culture of over-consumption, or the crucial element of conscious solidarity in an active faith life. It’s a temptation.

Yet I think it’s important for me to realize that passion can only take me so far in my faith life (and consequently my vocation). Zeal isn’t necessarily sustainable. It’s valuable, and certainly can be used for goodness, but it’s not sustainable. It’s what is needed for a sprint, but not a marathon. What I pray for today is the sustainable maturity of faith that Kathy and Ken showed us last night. They may not necessarily use those Christian terms, but this language speaks to what I need and pray for–grace to mature in my faith, to be content with the process, the lesson, the metaphor, the now.

The willingness to see the education rather than the disappointment.