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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day: Just Hear Me Out?

I didn't realize today was going to be Mother's Day until about...Friday.
And I didn't really care. For my sake, I mean. (Because, you know, I'm a mother now. It still blows my mind.)

It isn't that I don't want to honor my mother...my mother-in-law...my grandmothers...and it isn't that I don't want my children to honor me. But why should these things be going on? Do I want my daughter to give me flowers because its Mother's Day and this is what the TV ads and the Hallmark aisle dictate that she's supposed to do? Because I deserve to be pampered for all of the pain she's put me through and the care I've given her? Friends, I don't "deserve" anything. Esther and I both need to be honoring our mothers and grandmothers every day of the year for one reason: because it brings glory to God. Don't you think it is worth noticing that the country spending 20 billion dollars for Mother's Day caters to a rebellious youth culture in which parents are continually disrespected and then stuck in nursing homes at the ends of their lives?

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Okay, that may have sounded a bit harsh. I don't want to be insensitive--my Facebook feed was filled with beautiful posts thanking and praising many, many amazing women. They were beautiful and sincere, and I was blessed to read them. I just think we should do that sort of thing all throughout every year--and continually be holding ourselves accountable to God's expectations for honoring our moms, so that we can guard against cutting ourselves slack and then easing our consciences with a pink carnation on...what day? Oh yes...the Lord's. That brings me to my other objection.

Sunday is the Lord's day. it isn't mine, it isn't my mothers. It isn't my grandmother's. God asks for one day out of every seven. Of course they are all His, which makes these dichotomies a little more difficult to explain, but this day is holy--it is set apart for a specific purpose. If we don't wholeheartedly commit ourselves to rest and be replenished in communion with our Christ on His day, how can we possibly be equipped to give proper honor to our mothers the rest of the week?
Maybe this is more of a struggle for me than for you. I know everyone has different strengths. But it is hard enough for me to put my fears, worries and even just mundane focuses aside every Sunday without extra interference from a secular culture.

So just to make sure I've been perfectly clear...I love my mom. She is my inspiration--if by inspiration I can mean that the things she has sacrificed and accomplished in her life boggle my mind every single day and I have been trying fruitlessly to think of the words to her poem for years. My mother-in-law has given her life selflessly to serve God, she's been through hardships I can't really imagine, and I couldn't have been blessed with a better one, because I don't think a better exists. My grandmothers have shaped my life in ways that I can't limit by describing at the end of a paragraph, even if wide physical distances separate all of them from me now.

I give praise to my Father in heaven for each one of these mothers in my life...and I think Mother's Day does them a great disservice. 

photo source: www.girltalkhome.com

Monday, April 1, 2013

Once Upon a Tangled Mess: Situational Ethics

I like fairy tales. 
I've liked them for as long as I can remember. I like to read them and write them. So I stumbled across a show on Hulu called "Once Upon a Time," and that sounded just like my cup of tea.

It basically throws all of the classic fairy tales into one story world in which the evil stepmother from Snow White concocts a curse which is meant to prevent all happy endings. Our favorite fairy tale characters are locked into a town called Storybrooke (set in modern Maine) with their real memories erased and fake ones in their place. Everyone has backstories in their heads which didn't really happen...and the goal of the story is to see the curse broken and the truth back in the minds of the people. It's a fun premise.
Snow White and Prince Charming are newlyweds when the curse takes effect, but as far as their new brainwashed selves are concerned, Snow is a single schoolteacher named Mary Margaret, and Charming is now David...who is married to another woman.

The problem is, because none of that is actually true, David and Mary Margaret find themselves irresistibly attracted to each other. They feel a connection that's just "right," and no matter what they do, they just can't help knowing they were meant for each other.

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So David leaves the woman he thinks is his wife for the woman who really is his wife. We are clearly meant to be cheering and exulting at this point, but it just left a sick feeling in my stomach. They could very easily have written the story so that his true memories were coming back to him--other characters were remembering bits of theirs around the same time. But they wanted that twinge of naughty satisfaction to go along with the audience's justification of the affair. That's their choice...but it cost them a viewer. And this is why.

As my pastor is fond of saying, "Even if something is not wrong to do, if you think it is and do it anyway, you're sinning." 

This is sort of a paraphrase of Romans 14:14, which says, 

"I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean." 

Paul is speaking of food, but the principle transcends the context. He gives it a broader application later in the chapter: 

"But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." 

Then we have the movie Tangled. It's a beautiful movie with some things I really like, but why did they have to change the story and set it up so that Rapunzel thinks the witch is her mother who loves her and has her best interests at heart?

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Friends have asked me what I would have her do differently in such an emotionally abusive situation. I'm not saying I don't think she had options, even if she did think the witch was her mother, but if her only motivation for leaving was that she just had to see the magic lanterns on her birthday...I just don't think that cuts it. Escaping could have been fine in certain situations--I mean, she could run out of food...some emergency...but no. She just wanted to have fun. Silly mother just worried too much. She knew she shouldn't leave...and she did it anyway. I think that was sin.

The world loves to present us with hypothetical situations in order to see if we'll compromise. But we have a promise:

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." ~1 Corinthians 10:13~

We will always have a Godly option. It won't be easy, and it may require sacrifice. But sin is never the only way.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pipe Dreams and Cloud Castles

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You know what? I've been in the teens for so long that I feel quite comfortable in them.
Twenty is approaching apace (i. e. in two months) and I'm still in denial. It's not like I don't want to be old someday, or I'm obsessed with youth...I've just had a lot of fun being a teen wife and teen mama, and I feel like I'm giving up my favorite sweater. The twenties will take some breaking in.
But as I get older, a couple of old fancies which have been embedded into my subconscious for a while are working themselves out, and the realizations have hit. They hurt, but I'm slowly accepting them. I'll survive...I think.

1. Hannah, you are not Rapunzel. You never will be. So keep your hair cut.

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Ever since I can remember I have dreamed of growing my hair out looong long long. It went perfectly with my picture of ultimate beauty--rippling floor-length dresses...bell sleeves...pointy ears...
It didn't help that we were friends with a family who had three gorgeous teen girls who kept their hair exactly the way I wanted mine. It flowed to their knees, was glossy and smooth, and oh, it was just lovely. So ever since, my default has been to grow my hair as long as I can with that goal in mind. But it is so frustrating and I don't really put the time into the maintenance long hair requires, and it's not thick enough to avoid looking stringy, so it generally just gets thrown together. I've got a job, people. So I looked around and after assessing my friends and relations and observing that none of them have Rapunzel hair and they are FINE, I've finally decided to let my imaginary ropes and ropes of braids go--and have hair that can actually look as taken-care-of as I want it. I still plan to keep long hair...just not VERY long. I, unfortunately, am not Rapunzel.

2. You are not a pioneer woman. So work out.

It just seems silly. We spend all this time and money figuring out how to get places easier and faster, do our dirty work with machines, talk to people across the street from our couches...and then we have to spend MORE time and money hopping around in a very pointless fashion in order to keep ourselves functioning at any sort of healthy level. How does that make sense? So in the name of logic, I have put off a good exercise regime, thinking that maybe hooking up the washer and dryer on the second story would give me enough trips up the stairs to work up the necessary sweat.
It didn't.
So I sat down with myself and had a good talk. 

"Self," I said, "If you want to live that way, you're going to have to move somewhere with potato fields and outdoor plumbing. Otherwise, deal with the squat-jumps."

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So I have resigned myself and started the bodyweight 100-500 program. 


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Golden Splash: The Birth of Esther (The Long Story)

Years rolled on again, and Wendy had a daughter.
This ought not to be written in ink, but in a golden splash.”

~Peter Pan~

Well, my friends, it has happened again. Life has snatched me and tossed me across a gap I cannot uncross. It is done, it has been written. My daughter is born, and in the bathroom mirror I see the face of a mother. It is a wild and wonderful thing.

On August 9th, 2012, I looked around and found everything in place.
How often does that happen in life? Not very. But on that day it seemed like even the tasks I wouldn't have minded leaving until after the baby's arrival had been taken care of. Dishes washed and put away...clean laundry...I even found time and energy to pull the grates off of the stove and scrub it down. Even though the baby wouldn't be sleeping in the crib just yet, I was also happy to have had Daddy and Caleb put it together a few days before, since I needed every bit of storage I could get.

So I had leisure to sit and wonder about the new sensations inside me. She seemed to be pushing down, but harder than before, and almost in a rhythmic sort of way. But then...could a baby en utero be able to push quite so hard? Was this what Braxton-Hicks felt like? I hadn't had any until that point. The sensations faded away after the morning, however, so I set the thoughts aside.

August 10th, 2012, I woke up at 2:30 am as usual to send my husband off to work—and found the same rhythmic pressures at work. However, they weren't going away, and were accompanied by the discovery of a lost mucus plug. I promptly called my doula.

“You're having a baby,” she said.

I somehow managed to convince my panicking husband that he really didn't need to call in absent at work, so he left after many reassurances that I would be fine, and I would call him if anything seemed to be progressing more rapidly than I expected. I tried to go back to sleep, but what I now identified as early contractions wouldn't let me quite doze off. So I laid in bed with a timer, paper and pencil, and turned on the BBC Persuasion with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root. The contractions averaged at about 7-10 minutes apart for several hours.

At 7 or 8 in the morning I called my mother-in-law just down the road, and she came to get together a last-minute Wal-Mart list so we would be stocked with snacks, toilet paper, and similar incredible luxuries. Caleb came home from work at 10:30 (I still wonder how much he managed to accomplish, checking his phone every five minutes in an agitated flurry to see if I had tried to contact him) and at that time I called my mother. After asking how she was doing, and getting the reply that it was just a nice slow day, I asked her,

“Well, if it's a slow day for you, is it a good day for a baby?”

I gave her the scoop on my contractions, and then couldn't really get another word in because she was too busy calling Dad on the other phone and giving my brothers instructions for while she would be gone.

By this time, I was thanking God for my rocking chair, and every time a contraction hit me I would sit, rock, and breathe.

At somewhere around lunchtime, I called my midwife to let her in on things, and she told me that before she headed over, because it was a long way to drive, I should take an hour-long bath. This would stabilize my labor, which would either slow down and possibly delay for as long as a couple more days, or it would pick up and let us know that this baby was ready.

By the time I got out, nothing had slowed down. My doula arrived, and promptly banned me from the rocker and all other flat surfaces. After that I mostly sat on the birthing ball. I found that although the ball strengthened the contractions, I had longer and better rest periods in between if I used it. So I sat and rocked and leaned against the arm of the couch as Caleb pushed on my lower back to ease the pain.
If I needed to stretch, I would stand up and circle the kitchen table, stopping to lean on the counter and rock back and forth through the contractions.

Things were far enough along at this point that I was putting vibrato into my exhales and distracting myself with scripture verses. I had prepared five particular verses for labor, but was surprised to find that the most readily available in my memory turned out to be the beginning of James 1, which my family memorized to rhythm about 10 years ago. The sing-song quality matched my rocking movements well, and the words turned out to fit well--

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

It wasn't long until the vibrato-breathing turned into what my sister-in-law describes as “dying cow noises” and I would have to approve of that description. That's what it sounds like, people.

My midwife arrived around six in the evening, checked me, and told me I was between six and seven centimeters, and between 80 and 90 percent effaced. I got into the pool, which my husband and doula had been filling with water from the stove for quite some time. It felt so good.

A lot of mothers talk about their “push-urge” as a powerful sensation which sort of overtakes the whole process of laboring. I assumed it would be (excuse my simile) something like the vomit reflex—hard work, not pleasant, but involuntary and all-consuming. I don't know whether it's because I could have waited longer before starting or I just didn't understand the descriptions, but I found that I had to make myself push much more than I thought I would. The closest I came to what might have been an “urge” was when it became much more painful if I didn't push through a contraction than if I did.

I pushed for an hour, squeezing one of my husband's hands, and one of my mother's. My voice grew hoarse, and between contractions I lay limp against the side of the pool, asking God for help. I think it was about this time that I started saying to myself what every mother must in the face of hard labor:
I'm never doing this again.
(Of course, that sentiment doesn't last very long.)
My water broke sometime inside that hour, and when Esther began to crown, they said I could reach down and feel her head. At that point I was so tired that I really didn't feel like breaking my concentration, but my midwife encouraged it, so I did—and I'm so glad. It brought a smile to my face and renewed my resolve, because we were so very close to meeting face to face.

The rest is rather a blur of pushing and standing up to deliver (so her head wouldn't hit the bottom of the pool) and the sting of my tear, and then I sat back in the water to look at my baby girl.
I don't really have words for that moment. Maybe someday they will come to me.

We moved to the bedroom for delivery of the placenta. I had planned on much more skin-to-skin and nursing time with Esther at this point, but I ended up being so weak and tired that when the cord stopped pulsing and Caleb cut it, I was happy to let Mom take her out to meet the crowd of uncles, grandpas and neighbors who had gathered in the living room. It was strange and surreal sitting there getting stitched and listening to the deep laughter and conversation in the next room as they admired my 9 lb, 13 oz daughter and (bless them) siphoned the water out of the birth pool.

We have been trusted with an eternal soul to nurture in her Creator's name. I could not feel more honored, nor more delighted. So ends the story of Esther's birth at home, with which I could hardly have been more pleased. I didn't find myself harboring nasty feelings towards my husband or anyone there, I never thought I would die, and I never felt like I just couldn't do it.
There was a point during my last few pushes where the contraction stopped and my midwives kept urging me on. I had no strength to push without the force of the contraction, so I gasped out, “I can't...” and I think they may have mistook that for a moment of despair, because they immediately cut me off with, “Yes you can. Yes you can.” But it really was only that I needed the help of the contraction to continue.

Life doesn't always play out the way we hope, however. Across the following weeks, nursing became more and more painful...my baby cried more...and her fat rolls began to shrink away. She is healthy and strong now, but I will save that story for next time. God has been good.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the low estate of His maidservant.”

~Luke 1—The Magnificat~