Dear Baby…

Dear Baby,

When your sister was born, my first ever baby, a dam broke within me and a flood of words came out in long, awe-filled, breaths, “IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou”.  My mouth couldn’t stop kissing her face, her fingers, her feet.  I became a mother.

Your brothers came and my dam stayed broken, my love spilling everywhere and never ceasing.  This is what love does.  It bursts, it cascades, it floods.

Henri 087

I smiled as I looked down at a little plastic test; I smiled at the knowing of you, you just coming together in tiny cell divisions and intricate movements orchestrated by God Himself, down there in the deep.

I began loving you then.  As God crafted you through the days and nights, giving you a heart and a beat to go with it, giving you ever-reaching arms and nubs that stretched out into fingers, as you opened your eyes for the first time to the ruby-colored pool of muted lights and sounds, as God made you, I loved you.

You have the hiccups right now, making my whole belly jump every ten seconds.  I run my hand over you; you are so near and can never be nearer, but I miss you, I long for you.  The swelling in my ankles is nothing compared to the swelling in my heart, the longing to kiss your face and know you with my fingertips, my eyes, my nose burrowed into your neck folds and inhaling the essence of dear you.

May God keep you safe and well, my dear baby, may He make you strong and vigorous.  May He bring us both through safely in our trial to come.  May we soon look into each other’s eyes in that first of many holy moments, the knowing.  God bless you, dear one, God bless you and bless you again.

Love,

Mom

Not Quite Prostrate

“I’m going to have to lay down.”

My husband’s eyes went wide, anticipating perhaps a bit of embarrassment for us both if I did so, right in the middle of the church service.  I weighed my options:  one, go to a back pew (assuming there was one empty) and lay down there with the risk that someone would be alarmed by the pregnant lady stretched out alone and would feel the need to intervene, two, go find somewhere in the lobby to lay down with the risk that someone would be even more greatly alarmed to find a pregnant lady on the floor, or three, stretch out right beside my husband on the pew and hope that any alarm would be mitigated by the proximity (and calm) of said husband.

See, I couldn’t breathe.

Standing or sitting there was an unbearable tightness across my chest, something I had woken up to, a small and closed-in feeling in my lungs.  Breathless.  I had to stretch out.  Now.  So I did.  And the sermon floated over me and I drew truth and air in.  I love to worship laid out prostrate, but this was not quite that, this was more a desperate flop, a bid for air.

It’s a vulnerable feeling, to be pregnant.  There are bodily discomforts which can strip one of the ability to walk well, to eat normally, to sleep soundly, to make it more than an hour without needing a restroom. There are fears about delivery, about the health of the baby, about whether the pain will swallow one whole.  Most of all, though, it is the inherent vulnerability of loving.  I have growing just under my skin a soul that I would die for, that I have surging waves of love for, and that is by no means guaranteed to me.  Maybe that is what miscarriage does to a mother’s heart.  Two cups are put before me, one bitter and one sweet, and I’m not told which one I’ll have to drink.  I wrap my arms around my swollen belly, I curl around that life.

We’re all vulnerable, though, aren’t we?  If we didn’t feel that way with our friends and family going through cancers of all sorts, or divorce, or other tragedies, the news would certainly fill in the gap with some harrowing concern.  I feel it each time the bus pulls away from the curb bearing three of my dear children away, away from my gaze and my protective arms to shield them from dangers, moral and material.  We are vulnerable, flesh and blood creatures, so easily snuffed out, so infinitely valuable.

“For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.'”

-Acts 17:28

Each breath, each contraction of the heart, each blink of the eye, each message sent zipping from nerve to brain, all of it held, by Him.  Enabled by Him.  And He is not a god of guarantees.  He doesn’t give us a contract for a long and healthy life, He gives us the invitation to love, for however long we are here, vulnerably like He does.

“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”  -Job 12:10

Knowing our shared fragility, let us be unafraid to lay down, to be seen as in need, to be found vulnerable.  Let’s not be embarrassed.  Sometimes you just have to breathe.  And that can’t always be done sitting or standing respectably.  We have to set aside pride to find needed relief.  And laying down?  It’s so close to laying prostrate, so close to fully-laid-out worship and reverence and surrender.  In a fire you need to crawl below the smoke to find air.  In the spiritual walk, you’ll need at times to go low, to be humbled, to be seen on your belly and gasping.  Even our Lord found that place as he awaited the tortures to come on the cross.

“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'”

-Matthew 26:39

And do you know the miracle of it?  When you do lay down?  There and then you find the hands reached out in concern, there you find the prayers whispered over you, there you find the church at it’s best.  You find God in the caring of the assembled Body.  And also? You help others find the floor.  To find a way down where the air is, where the healing is.  They feel the soul-deep permission to admit their needs and their weaknesses.

I could stand for the closing song.  My lungs had been filled and the tightness had eased and I could sing again.

 

Everybody Gets A Trophy And Other Absurdities

It was time for my friend Ginny to open her birthday presents.  I always loved this part of birthday parties; there was something deliciously voyeuristic in seeing someone tear open packages and find delightful surprises therein.  Even if it had a dark side, invoking a green jealousy and inner-pity-party, it was mostly joyous.  Her mom passed her the first gift and then quickly passed a gift to…her brother?  What the world?

I may have asked or maybe the mom volunteered the information, seeing my shock making itself known on my face, but she told us that it’s just so much nicer if siblings also get a gift on each birthday so they don’t feel left-out or jealous.  In my 10 year-old heart I was all incredulity.  It was a mix of “That’s stupid, it’s not his birthday.” and a brief hope that maybe I could convince my parents to give me gifts on my siblings’ birthdays.  They would have laughed out loud at the idea of it.  I’m glad they would.

So, Valentine’s Day rolls around and isn’t it a day for lovers?  How then has it become a buy-cheapo-cards-and-candy-for-our-kids-elementary-school-friends day?  How has it turned into a mom-bligation?  Aren’t the moms supposed to be sprucing up, eating chocolates, and going out with their love on a date?  Can we dare to make a holiday exclusive?  Non kid-centric?

There was always a degree of hope and anxiety on Valentine’s day in elementary school.  Would my construction paper heart-covered paper bag be full of love notes?  Would he give me a “Be Mine” card or a standard “You’re Cool!” card?  Oh, the suspense!  I remembered carefully, very lightly drawing a faint heart on his card.  Maybe he’d see it?  Maybe it was too light?  It was a bold move!  I was declaring my love in barely-there-colored-pencil!

He laughed out loud.  He turned and showed it to all the kids around him and then yelled my way, “What is thiiiiis, Sarah?”.  Cold.  Sweat.    Blushes and protestations of innocence.

I didn’t dare telling anyone else that I loved them until nearly out of high school.  Love was too risky.  But, isn’t that better than too tame? Too predictable?  Everyone gets a valentine (a standard rule in classrooms now), everyone gets a ego-soothing trophy, everyone gets a gift, and everyone is super duper special?

I think I’m developing an appreciation for frustration, disappointment, and failure.  They are unpleasant crucibles of character, surely, but some metals just won’t yield without intense heat.  Won’t become something more and beautiful and new.

They’re having problems in the universities these days; too many non-riskers too afraid of failure.  Safe answers.  An abysmal lack of creativity and problem-solving skills, and I wonder if it goes back to the buoying-effect of over-praise, ego-protecting, and feel-good-ness of this era.  If you’re always floating on a nice, plush air mattress in a calm pool, why would you bother trying out a tippy kayak down a class three rapids?  Even if the rewards and the end are much greater?

If everyone gets a trophy (like in some kids’ leagues), you can end up with a whole lot of sad entitlement and false satisfaction.  If everyone gets a valentine, then is anyone really pursued, sought-out?  If we never experience the sharp edge of disappointment, how will we ever marvel at the flush of joy when we’ve actually earned a trophy, a valentine, a commendation?

So…yeah…I’m taking back Valentine’s Day for lovers, for me and my man.  The kids can see this as something unique and set-apart, and not-there-yet-for-them.  They can be frustrated and jealous and impatient for a moment, so they can someday truly have all the inner alarm-bells a-ringing when they receive an honest-to-goodness love note of their own.  Not written by Mommy.

For The Love

Image

I had just put my boat away and changed into dry clothes; another day at the rowing club in Chile.  I’m sure my back was sore, my knuckles bleeding, and that I had a salty crust of sweat and sea water on my face.  It was summer in Chile, and I stood with my fellow rowers in easy companionship until someone mentioned un balde de cachorros (a bucket of puppies).  And there it was; a five-gallon bucket full of lab puppies, sitting in the hot sun, abandoned at the door of our rowing club.

This is an all too common occurrence in Chile and no one was shocked, there were no authorities to appeal to, no local media to descend upon the situation.  I knew none of them could take them home; their parents would just dump them back on the curb.

So…

Image

This happened.

On the bus ride home, with four puppies in a bucket at my feet, I mentally rehearsed the speech I’d make to my husband.  I am a word smith by trade, but no combination of words seem to soften the blow of “Honey, I have four puppies in this here bucket”.

ImageImage

The children were thrilled.  They love being a halfway house for street pups.  First we warm them up, then bathe them with flea wash.  Then come the anti-parasite drops, then food and water.  Then we take them to the street pup adoptions downtown and try to find them good homes (new owners being held to a sterilization contract).

Many animals came through our doors…

Image

Hotel Gingrich quite full.

Image

This one above I plucked right from the hands of a boy who was viciously abusing him.  I gave that little boy a stern lecture; I’m sure he’s still terrified of the angry gringa who told him off and took away his toy.

Don’t you feel it, that righteous indignation that anyone would be so callous and cruel as to hurt-abandon-kill-torture such a helpless little creature?

Now, look at me, right in the old blue eyeballs a minute…..I want your attention.

Image

54,559,615.  As of January 23, 2012, that’s how many babies have been killed by abortion since Roe vs. Wade.  (http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/shock-estimated-54559615-abortions-since-roe-v.-wade)

Image

Photo credit:  (http://www.flickr.com/photos/74896762@N00/3167352760/)

They feel it, you know, the pain of dismemberment.  Where is the righteous indignation that a bucket of pups can evoke?  Where is the horror that babies are being chopped up daily, hourly, endlessly?  Why all this compassion for animals and none for these dear ones?

If you have had an abortion, I do not hate you.  I cry for your baby, and I cry for you.  They didn’t tell you that your heart would be dismembered too; that part of you would be carried away without words, out of sight.  That it wouldn’t ever stop hurting.

Please, never do it again.  Please know that God loves you intensely and nothing is beyond forgiveness.  He wants nothing more than to bring you close, forgive you, and heal you.

If you are considering an abortion, please, no.  We would love to adopt your baby and love them as our own.  They’d have three big brothers and one big sister and a mama and papa head-over-heels in love with them.  We know amazing couples who cannot have their own children, who ache to be mommy and daddy.  Your baby is a treasure, your baby is a gift.