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.

 

The Work Of Our Hands

pomanderYesterday marked the beginning of the end of dignified walking.  I awoke to a sharp pain in my pelvis as I swung my legs out of bed.  It’s known in the pregnancy world as pelvic separation and is caused by a hormone known as “relaxin” (aptly named) which makes the ligaments in the pelvic girdle all loosey-goosey.  It means that when my legs aren’t moved in symmetry (which is, unfortunately, most always), there is sharp pain from the instability in the pelvis.  Hello, waddle.  Or even funnier, if I scoot sideways like I’m country line dancing there is great relief.  Feel free to laugh at that image.

I’d love to be attending to my gardens, but I simply can’t.  I need to prepare a blueberry bed by digging-in white pine needles to raise the acidity.  I need to dig up my elephant ear bulbs before first frost.  I need to prune my nectarine and apple trees.  I need to dig out a tree sapling that pretended to be part of the grapevine.  I need to prune back the raspberry and blackberry vines that fruited this year.  There are potatoes to dig, there are weeds to pull, and there is an unstable pelvis saying “no”.

So, I ordered a pelvic support belt yesterday morning while chair-bound.  Yes, I am going to be actually manually pulling myself together.  Until that blessed relief arrives, my creative endeavors are limited to what can be accomplished sitting.

I had to wonder last evening, as I lay in bed with my pregnant belly covered in bits and pieces of whole cloves, how many husbands go to sleep with their wives beside them making pomanders.  Round and round the orange the cloves marched in staid procession, each puncture releasing a waft of orange scent.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while; making these early American fragrant Christmas decorations, but had never gotten around to it.

“It’s amazing how strong that smells,” said my dear husband as I poked cloves into the orange.

“Yeah, and it’s supposed to still be fragrant for years if it dries nicely.  I’ve wanted to make these for a long time”.  I poked in more cloves and the thought came quick:  there are so many things I want to make.  I looked at my husband.  “What do you want to make?”

He looked puzzled.  “You know, like Tom really wants to make a wood canoe?”

“Yeah…I just don’t really have anything I want to make.”

How very different we are.  I have a list a mile long:  paper kites, red ware pottery, tinctures of all sorts, hundreds of soaps, handmade papers, chair caning, basket weaving, mosaics, etc.  I want to learn how to do everything.  Which is why I was poking an orange with cloves at ten at night while he enjoyed some peaceful, well-deserved, rest

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands.” -Psalm 90:17

peppermint mochaI find great satisfaction in making things, whether it be pie dough massing between my hands or cutting thick bars of soap or stringing a batch of words together.  It all brings me joy; the disparate parts becoming a new whole, a useful thing, a thing of beauty.

While not everyone has this impulse, or, ahem, compulsion, to create, I hope that each does have that deep satisfaction in their work.  For my husband it is taking boxes of fittings and lengths of pipe and with them providing clean drinking water and waste removal to countless homes and businesses.  Ever thought of how much of a blessing it is to be able to flush away waste?  To be able to shower in fresh water to your precise temperature preference?

I imagine the particular joy of an accountant, having all the numbers tabulated, filed, and organized.  I picture the satisfaction of a surgeon, having implanted a new organ in the place of a failing one and seeing it come to life.  And the farmer seeing his hay stacked high in the barn and the nanny soothing the baby to sleep in her arms and the grocery bagger slipping the last tidily filled bag into a cart.  Do we see our work as a blessing, as a joy?

I hope you do.

Even if you have to walk sideways or endure any other number of impediments or hardships.  I hope this day that you can feel the satisfaction of work done well.