My Friend Is Having A Baby

A friend of mine is having a baby. Now lots of my friends have had babies but mostly they coincided with me having my own. Now my baby is three and not actually all that babyish anymore. So when my friend told me she was pregnant I was thrilled for her and then had this very weird (and big) pang of jealousy.

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OH to have that feeling again! The feeling of a baby moving inside you—so delicately and haltingly at first—so precious you don’t even know if it is for real the first time. (But then they get bigger and if you had a Mignault girl, that feeling of a baby Lord-Of-The-Dance-ing all over your pelvis happens).   But remember that feeling! Of knowing that baby before you ever saw her face—of dreaming and wondering and being so sure of their goodness, their true little selves. Remember the secret? Those precious and fleeting moments when no one but you knew of such a tremendous thing. It was a secret power you had—it was powerful that you were doing such a thing. Or when you would walk around those first few days, knowing and marveling that such a thing was happening but the world was just keeping on like nothing had mind-bogglingly altered on this earth! Oh I was jealous of those feelings. It is such a beautiful time, those secret, hidden times with you and your baby. There are lots of hard things about that time too. When you live so close to your body. You are aware of every thing it is doing, that is shifting. I didn’t sleep for months when I was pregnant. I couldn’t eat for one of those pregnancies. I’ve had three pregnancies but only two children. We lost one in between the girls. That pregnancy felt different. It felt weirdly hard. Like my body was trying very very hard to hold onto something that wasn’t going to be. And then when I finally did miscarry, my body felt instantly calmer and relieved. I wept for that baby who I was sure was my little boy, but my body knew things. It knew such things happened.

 

The miracle of making babies is tremendous. Our bodies make humans. Life out of a inscrutable spark. But as common as every single person you see every day, and have ever seen, that is how common this majesty is. Its CRAZY!

 

That baby then comes into the world. They are beyond precious. They are your gold. And the keep growing—up into wild, wooley children who dance on your bed and tell you stories about juice drinking mice and tell you about when a boy kissed them at kindergarten and it was just so creepy cause it was slimy. And they are not like anybody else and yet we are just like everybody else! We all wake up and eat and drive places and fight and cry and cook and clean and laugh and lay against eachother as we fall asleep, sometimes content, sometimes not. Every day. Just like everybody else. I love how the most amazing secret becomes the most ordinary thing. It becomes day after day of sameness. And yet that sameness is not less sacred. It is still holy. How our bodies continue to move and work and need sleep and healing is holy. How we have to talk to eachother over and over about garbage day and whose reading to who that night and what we are going to do about the state of the basement—its holy. How my kids demand to be fed oatmeal at 645am EVERY DAY is holy.   Its harder to see and harder to remember…but its holy.   Because surely God is in that place.

 

God unfurls his presence is quiet unseen ways. He moves in ways we don’t see or recognize until we look back after a long distance. The hiddenness of growing a baby. The hiddenness of raising a child.   If God is anywhere He has to be in the midst of the dailyness of feeding ourselves and our children and all the working, moving, learning, talking, planning, sighing that we do. It takes patience to see this and I barely get glimpses. I am practicing being present to this hiddenness this Lenten season. I try to remember to see the very ordinary day. To notice it. To be aware of those fleeting moments when I felt something rustle deep within me. And to trust that God is working in those moments, even if I do not know what that work is until maybe years later. And so I practice–Not by trying harder to “get it” but just by doing it over and over until it does itself in my body and bones.

 

 

I was jealous of my friend, pregnant and full-on glowing, who is starting this journey. I long for those times again because they were so precious and went by so, so fast. But now I am in this next stage of hiddenness. I am imperfectly practicing being present to the ordinary days that will unfurl into a lifetime of Presence. And so maybe I can think of Jacob as I fall asleep each night…..“Surely God was in this place and I didn’t even know it. “

 

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Ashes

 

Ash Wednesday. When we remember that we from dust we came and from dust we return. It is a day to usher in the season of Lent. I have a powerful memory of my husband, just after we got engaged, walking up to the front of the little stone church on a dark cold Vancouver night and receiving the sign of the cross on his forehead in ash. This was very unlike his reticent, hang-back-until-he’s-thought-about-everything-self. Especially because he did not grow up in church. But in that season, as we were about to start our life together, he was one of the first up there—definitely without my encouragement. I didn’t want to go up. We had to walk back past the coffee shop I worked at on the way home and I didn’t want to explain the ashes…..(lame-o).   I asked him why he wanted to do that and all he said was, “I just needed to.”

 

Entering into this season, traditionally associated with penitence, fasting, almsgiving, it could be thought of as a dark time. But as with all of God’s dark times, there is something happening that we do not always perceive. Lent literally means springtime. It is our church’s springtime. That time when, like the seed fallen to the ground to die, we loosen our grip on our lives, on shaping and making our lives, and we relax into dying. We practice this dying year after year. It is not morose. It is not morbid. It is not an ordeal we start begrudgingly. And that’s because in this very real, very honest time, there is always a spark. There is this little pinprick of joy. Joy not in the celebratory way, but joy in the quiet way of being your most very real self. It is the joy of being bare, but being safe. It is a joy that comes from being surprised to find that when we cannot, we still are. Because out of that dying, that letting go, newness always comes. Winter to spring is such a valuable icon. And even here in the prairies and foothills where winter is spare, bleak, bright and unflinching, spring is long in coming and honestly its not a flourish—here in our home, it is quiet and gradual. We ache with hope and our desire for life to be restored with all its lushness but we have to wait. Its good practice. We wait, we let go, we trust that it will come. And it always does (sometimes in June, but whatevers). And in Lent we let go, we practice holding our hands open before God, maybe in desperation, but mostly in a way that says, ‘here you go….its not much…..but here”.

 

AND LIKE IN EVERY GOD STORY, we end up not being the main character. Our action is not the main action. Our ability to achieve or even our ability to repent is not the causation of all that follows. Oh friends, it never us. Its always Him and

His appalling strangeness in a love that actually overcomes all the dirt. His action in the dark.

 

In my own life I struggle with wanting to be somewhere—I struggle with being at home with two incredible and loud kids and a big fat mess on the floors ALL THE TIME. I struggle with all the stuff I feel has to get done for this life to happen. I struggle with the reality that I have to FEED THEM three times a day! Everyday. Forever. I struggle with all the ideals and thoughts and grandiose notions of my life that seem to fizzle with every nighttime wakeup that will threaten my next days’ ability to be brilliant and luminous with my God-given talent…..(yah….sheesh). I struggle with bitterness about it all. (Thank God I just reread a Madeleine L’Engle book where she talked about how she struggled with thoughts like, “I bet Emily Bronte never had to vacuum…” it helped).   But THIS is LENT. It is recognizing and practicing our obscurity, our inability. And even if we could make it all happen, I’m not sure that’s the practice that will bring our hearts closest to the reality of life. That we are dust and that He is Big and also very very interested, invested, and active in His dust.

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So I will practice my obscurity of homelife. I will give up the things that I turn to to make me forget that I hate cooking! I long to practice the presence of God in the things that are tedious and boring and repetitive. I need Him to show me He is there. Cause if He is not there, if that pinprick of hope is not there, then it is not anywhere. If it is not in the daily ways that I die, the stuff we all have to get done—on the train, in the car, on a fieldtrip, cleaning out under the sink, picking up the dog’s poop (or the toddlers…) then He is out of our grasp. I think of my husband needing to be reminded of his ash-y-ness at the time when most are most hopeful about life. And His life too is full of obscurity and all that is not grandiose ten years, two kids and a job an hour away from home later.

 

But fortunately, this is a good news story. Lent is an “Evangeline” time.   A bringer of Good News. Good News in the mess, in the dust, in the hands opened up to the sky holding our daily lives. It is a surprised by the Joy time, even as we wait for something to rise up out of the dirt.