Diary of a Pregnant Woman: Week 29

I have officially made it to the third trimester. The baby registry is done and I couldn’t be more relieved. With all honesty, building a baby registry has been the worst part of my 7 months of pregnancy (minus the crap I’ve put up with at work this year). I know, for some new-to-be-moms that’s one of the highlights. Not this girl, I’d rather be tied to a chair and forced to listen to Cardi B’s “Pull Up” on repeat until either my ears bleed, or I laugh myself to hysterics because it is seriously one of the most ridiculous (and worst!) songs ever created.

I loathe shopping. Aj doesn’t understand this about me. Last year, for my birthday, all I wanted was for him to fix a pair of black boots whose sole had separated from the seam.

He refused and said, “It’s time for new boots, Steph. These cost you thirty bucks and I already super glued them once for you last year.”

I contested, “I don’t want new boots, I want theeeessssseeee boots.” I held out the word ‘these’ for emphasis, and raised them high in the air in front of his face, with one hand on my hip and my head cocked to the side as a sort of authoritative protest. He just looked at me and reiterated the words “New boots” and walked away.

I feel immense relief with the pressure of the baby registry out of the way, where you have 15 gazillion options for everything, no seriously, everything. For example, why do I need to decide between 108 versions of a baby bathtub? It’s water and soap no matter how you slice it. Not to mention the endless pages of baby “essentials” that I have no idea if I actually need or if they’re just a gimmick used to access the wallets of overbearing, overly anxious first-time parents. I mean, do I really need a poop alarm? Isn’t that why God created noses? Or pacifier wipes? What’s the harm in using water from a sink? Or, a bathtub thermometer, diaper cover, diaper genie, formula mixer, bottle warmer, etc. The list is endless.

This leads me to the other “big issue” that I have been feeling semi-confused over…the nursery. Everyone wants to see the “nursery”. “What color is the nursery? What theme is the nursery? OOooh, OOooh, let me see the nursery.” The reality is people, and I’m sorry if this disappoints, but my theme is… cheap. I currently have three items in the smallest bedroom of our house with nothing on the walls–a dresser, a bookshelf, and a glider–and they are all used items. Cheap…my theme is cheap. Is that so bad? Because, the reality is, the more you buy new the more pissed off you get when it gets broken or scratched. That’s why the majority of what we own is used. Someone recently asked me why we didn’t have a crib yet and I told them we weren’t doing a crib for the first year, a pack-n-play would do just fine and be a lot….cheaper (see you guessed it!). She looked at me appalled, as if I had broken one of the 10 commandments of first-time-parents. She said, “That won’t do. You need a crib!” Patted me on the arm in that “you poor, pathetic, clueless girl” kind of way and went about her business. But, the reality is, I was born into this world without a themed “nursery”, without having my formula machine stirred, or my ass wiped with toasty moist towelettes. And so were you. And we all turned out okay in the end, well…most of us. In the grand scheme of things who is all of this stuff really for? Maybe I’ll eat these words one day and will come to regret that I never included the pee pee tepee on my registry. But for now, I think my child will do just fine.

You see, one of my life motto’s is “less is more.” And I try to keep to it whenever possible. Let me show you what I mean. For example…less stuff, more space. Less work, more play. Less choices, more decision. Less busyness, more time spent. Less excuse making, more responsibility taking. Less complaining, more gratitude. Less comparing, more contentment. Less me-centered, more others-centered. Less calories, more room in my jeans. You get the jist.

This motto also works in reverse though. For example…Less sleep, more tired. Less time, more stress. Less money, more bills. Less family and friends, more loneliness. Less prayer, more worry. Less wisdom, more foolishness. And it’s these last two that I have been focusing on these past few weeks.

As my pregnancy progresses I spend much more of my time awake in the early hours of the morning, while the rest of the world is asleep. It’s rather typical for me these days to wake at 3am for the remainder of my day. It’s in these early hours, with my husband lying beside me and my dog at the foot of our bed that offer up my petitions to God in between the rhythmic breathing of both Aj and Dexter. As I lay there with my hand on my belly and pray, much like this morning, Sofia is most active kicking (or hiccuping) away. I lay there in the quiet darkness of the morning…praying. And I don’t know why, but I most often petition Him for his strong, yet gentle hand of protection over these three beautiful gifts that lay beside me and within me.

Prayer has always been a regular characteristic of my life. Sometimes I’ve done better than other times, but I have always relied on God in the best of times and the worst of times in my life. Even as a small child. I have memories of praying myself to sleep every night. My prayer always started off with “Dear God, thank you for today and please forgive me for my sins and forgive those who have sinned against me…” These days, I have become more acutely aware of the need I have for Him in my marriage, and in the life of this little one that grows inside of me. The need for His wisdom seems more pressing now than at almost any other point in my living. I look at the world around me and wonder “God, how do we do it? How do we raise our child to know you authentically, to love you and love others. To see her dependency and need for you as her Creator? And to understand and know you as her Rescuer?” I wasn’t raised in a home with biblical, Christian parenting. Neither was Aj. Don’t get me wrong, we were raised in homes with parents who loved us very much and provided for us. And we both thank God for that. But the inclusion of faith and Jesus, the idea of a real personal God, who I could know and who knew me wasn’t apart of the parenting I received. I have no model for how to raise a child with the knowledge of a real personal, loving Creator and Rescuer in a world that holds such hostility towards Him. And so these are the things that fill my prayers in the early morning hours.

How do I withstand the temptation and not make my life all about my child (like so many other parents do) and instead teach my child that life is all about Him? How do I teach my child that life is not about what you get out of it, instead it is about who you trust in the midst of its uncertainty. How do I teach her that society and culture are not her moral barometers; but instead, it is the person and work of Jesus. The honest truth is…we have no idea what we’re doing. No one does, I understand that. And that is why I pray and ask for His wisdom, not my own. I am well aware that my wisdom, in all actuality, apart from Him is actually foolishness. I am also aware that the less I have of Him in my daily living and consideration, the more I have (as well as my family) of emptiness and unfulfilling self-indulgence. And so these have become my early morning prayers…less of me and more of Him.

Diary of a Pregnant Woman: Week 24

This is my first post in a few weeks. Work continues to kick my butt and suck away the majority of my free-time. But, finally here I am able to sit and write…for me, a form of processing, decompression, and preparation for what is about to come. Some people prepare by shopping for baby clothes/items, spending an exuberant amount of time (and money!) on decorating the nursery, putting together a baby registry (I still need to do that!), making a list of what needs to be accomplished before baby arrives, etc…I, myself, eat and write.

So, in the three weeks that I have been absent in writing here is my attempt to catch you up to speed on happenings, noticing, and developments.

  1. Pregnancy glow. First of all, my boobs are amazing these days! Amazing for me anyway. When you’re as small as I am (pre-pregnancy as flat-chested as a 12 year old boy) any growth in that area is a welcome development! Hahaha…see what I did there..development….anyway. Occasionally, I like to chase Aj around the house with them yelling ridiculous things like, “Touch ’em!! They’re Aaammaaaazzing!!!” He puts up with me. Sweet man. Likewise, my hair is my all time favorite! It’s long and thick and amazing. From the boobs up I feel like an Herbal Essence porn star model. Just don’t shoot me below the boobs!
  2. The belly staring. It’s amazing how many people stare at your belly when you’re pregnant. Family, friends, strangers, anyone really. It’s almost like no one has ever seen a pregnant woman before. And then I think to myself…did I stare this much before at other pregnant women?? I can only assume I must have and not realized. It is such a strange feeling to constantly be the subject of others’ stares. Previously, I could walk the building at work or enter a convenience store and go virtually unnoticed. Not anymore. And the worst place of all is the gym! Recently, I noticed a young woman staring at me every time I walked past her. If I had to guess her age I’d say she was some where in her late 20s. Although, with all that makeup on it was truly hard to tell. Lo and behold, at the end of our workouts we crossed paths in the locker room. She literally looked at me, and said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but you are like the cutest thing ever! And when I grow up, I hope I am just like you, seriously! ….When she grows up?? What the…??!
  3. Crazy dreams. I’ve heard pregnancy can cause crazy dreams and I have now begun to experience the weirdness. I have had gruesome dreams from a bear attacking my dog and leaving him nearly dead and shredded to bloody pieces in my arms, to having our newborn baby and crating her in her crib, leaving her alone for 8 hours at a time without being fed or changed as we go about our day. These are just a couple of the truly weird and sometimes disturbing dreams I have had.
  4. Baby gender and names. For those of you who don’t know we are having a baby girl. Although Aj says this means I will just need to keep having babies until we have a boy the reality is we could care less about the gender as long as the baby is healthy. What I surprisingly discovered was how many people advise against sharing the name of the baby with anyone until after the baby is born. The consensus among most people for not sharing the baby’s name is “There will be people who will give you their opinion and discourage you away from your name choice. But all I can think is, So what? We feel abundantly confident in the name that we have chosen for our baby. So much so, in fact, that we spent more time picking out a name for our dog than we did for this little eggplant. Her name is Sofia Nicoletta…if you decide that you don’t like the name that’s okay with us, because chances are, we don’t like your name either.
  5. Pregnancy brain. Aj insists that I am making this one up regardless of how many articles I send him on the validity of it. Truth be told, I too would have thought it to be a reason for an excuse by a woman, had I not experienced it myself. I have never been so forgetful in my life. The worse case came a few weeks ago as I was getting ready to leave for work and I couldn’t find my car keys. We had a lot of activity at our house that weekend and Aj spent a lot of time moving our cars around. So at that point it seemed as though my car keys could be anywhere. In a panic as the clock ticked closer to me being late to work I called Aj. Together we tried to retrace his steps from the weekend in locating my keys. Together over the phone we searched outside, inside, in the basement, upstairs, on the work bench, washing machine, I even looked on the tractor but every time I came up empty handed. And the clock kept ticking closer and closer to first bell. I had no choice, without a way to work, all I could do was call in my absence. Aj felt terrible for having misplaced my keys. About four hours later I put my coat on to take Dexter outside and as I placed my hand in the left pocket of my coat…there were my keys, in MY coat, which means I was the last person to use them. And then I remembered, Sunday morning I drove my car down the road to play ball with Dexter and when I got home instead of putting my keys back in my purse I put them in my coat pocket. So, not only did I forget where I put my car keys, but I also forgot about an entire event of the previous day that had I remembered would have led me to my keys.

I frequently remind Aj that we are closer to delivery than further from it. And he continues to prepare in his own way by working on the house. Although I really have had an absolutely wonderful pregnancy so far and I feel absolutely great on most days, I also recognize that I am quickly entering the homestretch where things can become a bit uncomfortable. But, until then I thank God for this baby that is growing strong and healthy inside me and marvel at His handiwork as my body transforms to produce and sustain life. The miracle of life truly is amazing. And to think that God allows our participation in it by the way that he has created our bodies to undertake such a dramatic event is mind blowing and humbling.

Diary of a Pregnant Woman: Week 19

There isn’t a whole lot that separates me and my husband these days. I mean to say, the similarities seem to outweigh the differences. Aside from the obvious gender specified sex organs, we share a lot more in common these days than not.

Here, I’ll give you some examples of what I mean. For starters, we both snore like freight trains. We both complain about aches and pains. We’re both gassy as all get out! We both sneak junk food during the day, keeping it a secret from the other. We both have gotten lazy with working out. We’re both moody and cranky at times. We both have the appetite of a fat kid whose been locked in a candy shop.

Aj often looks at me in disbelief when, for example, like this morning I go to breakfast with a friend and then come directly home and immediately go out to second breakfast with him where I easily down a side of bacon complimented by a side of French Toast drowning in syrup. His astonishment is readily seen when I decide to throw off my lady-like persona and let it rip because, lets be honest, holding it in these days is just too painful. In all these moments I have of aggressive snores, giant sized appetites, and the gassy output of what resembles a grown man, he looks at me like ‘What has gotten in to you!” And often comments to me with, “What has gotten in to you??’ To which I respond with, “These are all the side effects of pregnancy. So what’s your excuse?’ To which he responds, “Stay off Google!”

Overall, and not because of these silly ‘shared symptoms’ this little mango inside of me has brought Aj and me closer than we already were. Aj is a ‘man’s man’…did you know that he has been and continues to build us the most beautiful home. Although, romance is not necessarily his style, building me stuff is. That’s him telling me how much he loves me. That’s why when I see him building the nursery and putting it together, with no request from me, it warms me through and through. That’s him telling me and our little mango how much he loves us. The sweetest moments have been on those occasions when he has touched or kissed my growing belly and whispered ‘I love you’s’ to our baby. And that’s why when we have left over chocolate cake later tonight…I’ll grant him the bigger of the two pieces.

Diary of a Pregnant Woman: Week 18

I absolutely love my dog! I mean like, I. LOVE. HIM. I have become one of those dog people that other people roll their eyes at, it’s true. The funny thing is, I use to be the eye-roller in the face of (more like peripheral vision) all the other dog lovers. I just couldn’t wrap my head around people who talked to their dogs like children, or dressed them in ‘dog-clothes’ (to be honest, I still don’t understand that), or spent any time considering their ‘comfort’ and ‘feelings’ when it came to sleeping, lounging, car rides, or anything.

I remember as a teenager my parents had a dog, Casey. She was sweet and loving, but nonetheless, a dog. Casey got cancer and I’ll never forget my stepmother driving to and from Cortland a multitude of times for treatment, spending literally, thousand of dollars on a dog! All I could think at the time was, this woman is cuckoo-bananas, it’s a friggin’ dog! Get a grip lady! Never would I have believed in a thousand years that one day I would love the crap out of a 75 pound 8 month old German Shepherd terrorist.

I often think to myself, if I love my dog this much, I can’t even imagine how much I will love this baby growing inside of me when it arrives.

Like all mothers, I desperately want to be the absolute best mom I can be. And I have felt guilty at times over these past several months that I haven’t been able to do more to prepare for the arrival of this little sweet potato inside of me. Work is absolutely kicking my butt with time spent working in the evenings and on the weekends. On top of, we’re still in the process of renovating our what was once a run-down foreclosure in the woods. Day after day I think about all the things I should be doing to prepare: creating a baby registry, researching items for a baby registry, birthing classes, finding a pediatrician, finding childcare, creating a birth plan, exercising, maternity leave paperwork, reading baby pregnancy books, etc. The list is endless, and day after day it leaves me feeling like I am not doing enough to prepare for the arrival of our baby.

But, I had a thought this week that has changed some of my perspective. What if preparing for the arrival of our baby actually has very little to do with all the things I just listed? What if preparing for the arrival of our baby has nothing to do with nursery preparations, gender reveals, or finding the right breast pump for working moms. What if instead, preparing for the birth of my baby means orienting my heart, mind, and affections towards my Creator firstly, and secondly investing my time and energy on nurturing my marriage?

What if preparing for the birth of my baby means acknowledging God, who He is, and what he has done for me in the person and work of Jesus. Allowing my heart and mind to meditate on that daily, and out of that seeing my heart’s affections be changed and transformed. Reminding myself that any success to be gained in motherhood has everything to do with where my strength, patience, and wisdom come from today and every day. Because the truth is, any success to be had, in any of my horizontal relationships (marriage, motherhood, family, friendships, etc.) first needs to start with my vertical relationship with God. So what if one of the best ways for me to prepare for the arrival of this little orange ‘tater is by not forgetting who God is and what that actually means for me and my life on a daily basis.

Secondly, what if preparing for motherhood means focusing my mind and attention on being a good wife. It’s easy in the hub-bub of life to become too busy for our spouses, too busy to put the time and attention into nurturing a marriage. It becomes easy in the midst of conflict to only see one side, your own. To assume you’re right and your spouse is wrong. To make the excuse that you don’t need to be kind with your words, or gentle with your reaction to things, they just need to ‘toughen up buttercup.’ How easy it is to give our spouse only half of our attention, scrolling our phones while also ‘listening’ to them. What if preparing for the arrival of my little one means pushing back on myself in my marriage? Asking myself how am I best loving, encouraging, and honoring my husband this week, this day, this moment. And not just when I am getting what I want out of the relationship, but doing it without conditions, even when I am not getting what I want out of the relationship. What if preparing for my little one’s arrival means speaking to their father with words that build him up instead of tear him down? What if means realizing my own sin and selfishness that gets in the way of the relationship instead of being quick to point out his? What if it means praying regularly for my spouse.

The reality is, my love and affection for God, or lack there of, ultimately drives my beliefs and actions in every area of my life. And I will spend the rest of my life modeling that reality to my child in a multitude of ways. For example, I will either forgive others when they hurt me because I realize that I too am selfish and yet God forgives me over and over again. Or I won’t forgive people when they hurt me because I will have come to believe that I am better than them and they don’t deserve my forgiveness. My beliefs and actions will teach that to my child. Likewise, I will either model for my child what a loving and honoring marriage looks like even when life is hard. Or I will model to them dysfunction and selfishness. Those will become the beliefs and values that I will inadvertently teach my child through my modeling. And because of that, there is no registry item, no baby book, no pediatrician, no birthing plan that can ultimately prepare me for what it really means to be a mother to my child.

My thoughts and prayers this week have revolved around the simple truth that the seeds I plant today will be the harvest that I reap tomorrow. In my preparation and pursuit to be the best mother I can, I must plant good seeds today in both my spiritual life and my marriage. And then pray and ask God that those seeds grown into an abundant harvest for my little one to benefit from.

Diary of a Pregnant Woman: Week 17

You know what I find amusing these days? When certain people tell me how tired they are. Really? I think.

Now, the people who are exempt from this sarcastic reaction by me are full-time working mothers. Or, mothers who have just given birth. Or mothers with toddlers at home. Every. Second. Of. The. Day. The rest of you, I’m sorry, but suck it buttercup! I know this is bound to piss some people off, but…as you’re told when you’re little, not everyone will like you.

See, here’s the thing, I know a woman who doesn’t work. Whose kids are well into their middle school and high school years of schooling who repeatedly tells me how exhausted she is with her schedule. And all I can think is, Really? Because as far as I can tell, you have the first 9 hours of the day to yourself. Uninterrupted.

I know another woman who only works a couple days a week with no children and she is one of the most exhausted people I have ever met! I know this because she is constantly sighing heavily and recanting her exhaustion. And all I can think is, How do I find me a two day a week job that I can live off of??

I know another woman, who works full-time with no kids who tells me that she can’t possibly do multiple house chores in one day because it’s too exhausting. And all I can think is, What the…?!?!

The thing is, I know a multitude of full-time working mothers, full-time working mothers with babies, with toddlers, with big kids, with multiple kids, with kids with disabilities…so when someone other than them tells me that their tired, I can’t help but inwardly pretend that with my magical super power I pick them up, crumpled them into a tight little ball and punt them as hard as I can, off the side of a mountain somewhere.

I saw a woman the other day more pregnant than me at the grocery with a belly almost out of reach of her arms, her 5 year old in the front seat, and a cart full of groceries. I just stood there looking at her, literally my feet planted in place just staring at her, while the rest of Wegmans zoomed around me. And, all I could think to myself was…how does she do it??

The thing is, I’m not one of those working moms quite yet and these days I am so…exhausted. I wake up anywhere between 330am and 5am every day of the week. That’s after having been up half the night, tossing and turning because I can’t find a comfortable position to sleep in longer than a half hour. And, I’m on the go attending to, mostly, other people’s expectations until 830/9pm. I haven’t taken a nap in weeks, partially because I feel guilty not attending to tasks and because I have a puppy who simply just won’t let me. Not to mention, there are certain things that if I don’t do them, they just won’t get done.

I broke down one night this week as I was taking Dexter out to play ball because all I want is one day for myself. One day where I don’t have to attend to anyone else’s expectations. No my dog’s, not my student’s or employer, not my parent’s/family’s, not even my husband’s. All I want is to be left entirely alone, to myself, to do whatever I do or don’t want to do, without the expectation or pressure of having to do anything at all.

The thing is, feeling this way makes me feel worse. Because in 5 months, when the onion inside of me is finally able to be compared to a picture of a real baby (what’s up with the fruits and vegetables What to Expect app??) it will be a permanent expectation that I will not be able to escape. And what if….I fail at it? What if I’m too tired to give it all of me? What if there are days I just don’t want to do it anymore? See, even that right there, that thought makes me feel bad

This week a friend said something to me, as I was weighing the pros and cons, contemplating whether or not to get the flu shot this season. Something that has stuck with me all week. She said, ‘This is just the beginning of your mom-guilt.” I’m glad she said those words to me, because she’s right. There will be a thousand things to feel guilty over in this next new phase of life. I guess the trick will be figuring out how to go easy on myself, extend myself grace, and know that my best is good enough.

Diary of a Pregnant Woman: Week 16

After breakfast this morning I noticed that my soon to be eight month old German Shepherd Puppy was MIA. Generally, that would be cause for alarm. Someone once told me soon after we got Dexter, “silence with children is golden, but NOT with dogs!” Man, have I learned that the hard way. It means something in the house is in the process of being destroyed or already destroyed. It means my favorite flip flops have seen their last sunny day. My favorite sweatshirt will never be worn again because “Dexter the Molester” got to it. It means he has decided to eat a whole bag of glitter and transform into the Glitter Monster. It means he’s found my underwear and is off in a corner somewhere having his way with them…that “Dirty D!!!”

This morning, though, my gut told me otherwise. I took my last sip of tea and quietly made my way down the hallway. There he was, exactly where I thought I would find him. In his dog bed. I had a hunch he wasn’t feeling well this morning. So I did what any loving dog-mom would do, I got down on all fours and crawled into his hairy, stinky dog bed, taking the position of the small spoon next to him. And sure enough, two seconds later my insides felt warm as he wrapped his left paw around my shoulder and the two of us lay there listening to one another breathe. Dexter isn’t a big cuddle-er. I always wish he would be, but seeing we don’t let him in our bed or on the couch, I think his silent protest to us has been banning cuddles from us. So far he’s doing a marvelous job.

That’s why these mornings are rare and beautiful to me. In a lot of ways I assume having Dexter has been preparing me for some smaller version of what it will be like once this little avocado inside of me makes its big debut. We got Dexter when he was eight weeks old. And boy, I had NO idea what it meant to have a puppy. All I thought was, “Cool, floppy ears!” I had no clue. My parents have had a couple dogs over the years, but that doesn’t even rival what it means to have a puppy. I remember when we first got him, every night my husband and I would take shifts waking up every two to three hours to take him out until he was potty trained. I was dead tired those first two months we had him. I’ll never forget when he started losing his baby teeth all over the house, I was fascinated and disgusted all at the same time. I saved them all though!

The amount of attention that he requires has been unparalleled to anything else I have experienced up to this point. He’s constantly on ‘play-time” mode. He’s like the friggin’ energizer bunny, except his battery never gets old and stops working. Instead, it’s “Hey mom, can we play ball?? Can we play tug?? Will you chase me now?? Ooh, what’s that? Can I see?? Can I have some? Mom, come on, get up…here let me help you with my nose.”

Early mornings to myself, where I get to sit, sip my coffee, relax and read don’t exist anymore with Dexter. I give him a toy to play with, he drops it and it rolls under the couch. I get up from where I just got comfortable, get down on my hands and knees to retrieve it. I give it back to him and the whole process starts all over again. Drop, roll, retrieve. Drop, roll, retrieve. I go to the bathroom he comes with me. I take a shower he waits on the bathmat ready to lick my wet feet when I get out. I try and put my socks on he wants to help. Even now as I write this, Dexter lays right here beside me. My only reprieve at times comes at night when he’s asleep and I think: Finally, me time! The problem is, by that time, I’m too tired for me time and ready for bed myself.

Aside from all that though, he is the cutest, goofiest, fun-loving dog ever created this side of Heaven. That’s a fact! My husband says that the only reason I think that is because he’s our dog. He says all dog owners feel that way about their own dog. But I’m like, dude, have you seen the other dogs?! No seriously, I’ve seen the other dogs. With their rat faces, narly hair, and annoying barks. They ain’t got nothin’ on Dex. Aj just rolls his eyes in amusement.

All of this calms some mom-to-be anxieties within me though. It makes me realize that all moms love the crap out of their kids while at the same time being annoyed as hell with them. It’s normal. All moms think their kids are “the cutest” when in reality the other humans of the world whisper back and forth to one another, “Did you see the size of that kid’s head. What a freak. Man, I hope my kid doesn’t turn out looking like that!” That’s normal too. When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing how God instills in moms and dads an undying love and loyalty to a child that other grown adults in the world can’t stand! It makes me realize that God is preparing me, even now, with 5 months left to love and protect this precious gift that He is in the midst of forming and creating inside of me.

Diary of a Pregnant Woman: Week 14

I’ve entered that awkward stage. You know, that stage where I don’t quite fit into maternity clothes but I certainly don’t fit into my own clothes anymore. It’s that stage where people who are familiar with you look at you quizzically like, ‘Is she pregnant, or…did she just eat too many cheeseburgers over the summer?’ But they’re too afraid to ask because of the sensitive nature of a woman’s weight. I’ll admit, for me, it’s a little bit of both…

Earlier this past week, as the result of a particular event, I found myself sitting in my car sobbing. And when I say sobbing I mean sobbing! Not teary-eyed or crying, but sobbing. You know, those deep heart-wrenching convulsive gasps where you can’t catch your breath.

Sitting there, hunched over, weeping so deeply my chest hurt, I had a most remarkable experience. All I could think in that moment, through my sobs was, ‘Chocolate ice cream! I need chocolate ice cream! Chocolate ice cream will make everything better! So I did what any rational pregnant woman would do in that moment. I drove myself, through tears of blurry eyes all the way to Byrne Dairy. Mascara smudged and puffy-eyed I got out of my car, sniffles and all, walked into the store and up to the counter where I ordered a small chocolate ice cream. I sat in my car and ate it, stopping every other bite to wipe the tears from eyes as I continued to cry a little. Just as I thought I might be starting to feel better, a new assault of fresh tears rolled down my cheeks as my spoon hit the bottom of an empty cup. At that moment, a tear rolled down my cheek and I literally cried out loud, ‘I should have ordered a large!’ 

Too embarrassed to go back inside and order a second chocolate ice cream from the same dopey eyed, acne faced, teenage boy behind the counter who doesn’t know how to count simple change backwards and has as much personality as this plastic keyboard in front of me (as if I’m the one who should be embarrassed), I instead decided it would be much more sensible, practical and of course rational for me to drive myself to a different Byrne Dairy and repeat my order all over again as if it were my first time. So, that’s exactly what I did.

Surprisingly, as I sat in my car for the second time, at a second Byrne Dairy, eating my second chocolate ice cream in 30 minutes, all I can say is, the tears stopped and I felt a hell of a lot better.

As I write this I have to admit that I’ve been struggling this week with the changes in my body. I bought my first pair of maternity jeans, which for some women is a joyous day for their growing baby bump. For me, it was just a reminder that physically things are changing and just going to get harder. It makes you think all of those things that as a woman you hate to think and even get made at yourself for thinking in the first place…‘Will my body ever be the same again? Will my husband still find me attractive? Am I getting too big too fast? Why is that woman 20 weeks along and is just as big as me at 14 weeks? Will I ever lose the weight I put on, especially at the age of 40?’ The thoughts can be endless.

It’s been a real challenge coming to grips with my lack of energy, which impacts my motivation for almost everything, but especially going to the gym. When I do manage to get myself there my work outs suck because running has become much more difficult and I’ve had to back down on weights. Accepting the fact that I need to (and will continue to need to) make modifications to my workouts, and accept the slowing down of my energetic rhythm in life has been really hard for me this week. It’s that constant tidal wave of guilt for not having the energy to do anything active (and eating a whole sleeve of Oreos!), and complete awe that life is growing inside of you and that is hard work! And that is what I have to remember in those moments when I have to change my run to a walk, or say goodbye to my favorite pair of jeans, or down a whole bag of potato chips in the car on the way home from work INSTEAD of going to the gym (which I am embarrassed to say was another happening this week) …there is a life that is growing inside of me, so throw off the guilt and revel instead in that privileged and gift.

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What Do You Do When Jesus Isn’t Enough?

My mind is at odds with my heart. Ever have that experience? I call it ‘The Great Disconnect.’  It’s where you have an intellectual understanding of a truth, yet, your heart perceives it to be a lie, a forgery, a falsity. Intellectually you get it. In fact, if asked to, you could explain the in’s and out’s of it seven ways to Sunday.  In such a way, even, that the Skeptic becomes Believer. But feeling the truth of it for yourself, is incomprehensible. Instead, your heart is like a limb that got lost in the snow, numb and without feeling to Truth’s certainty.

This is the season of Advent. A time of hopeful expectation. An expectant waiting for the one who has come, the one who will come again: Jesus. Jesus, the great rescuer of mankind, the one who was foretold by the prophets:

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Almost 700 years past between the time of Isaiah’s prophecy and the birth of Jesus. Imagine. Seven centuries of silence fell across the face of the Earth like an oppressive blanket for those who were waiting, year in and year out, for the Messiah. And then one day, a child was born who came to take away the sins of the world. A Rescuer, known as the God-man, Jesus, whose death would freely exchange our sin and enslavement for his righteous and freedom. And with that, the gift of eternal hope.

But, what happens when the reality of this world, at this present time, snuffs out the joy and peace that Jesus offers?  What happens when this season that is meant to remind us of the hope we have, instead presents itself as a bitter token of the hope we’ve lost?  What do we do when the tapestry of our life is torn apart by suffering—whatever the form be (death, divorce, illness, broken relationships, barrenness, etc.)? What do we do when the weight of life’s crash is so heavy and the brokenness so profound that we feel ourselves suffocating underneath the weight of it all, and we’re left feeling without hope?

What do we do when we feel like our suffering has ‘out done’ what Jesus has done on the cross and that he isn’t enough?

What a lonely and frightening place to be.

Preach truth to ourselves

We remind ourselves that sometimes what we feel isn’t always true. Just because you feel something or don’t feel something, it doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on its truth. Sometimes I feel I’m hungry when really I’m just bored. Other times I don’t feel tired when I really am. And most the time, I feel like I’m being funny when really I’m just being obnoxious. If I was married I could use a slew of analogies here. My point is, our feelings have a limitation when it comes to trust and we have to remember that. It’s okay to feel, but we have to remind ourselves that reality through the lens of grief is oftentimes distorted. Even if  we don’t feel it we have to preach ourselves truth, allowing our mind to be filled with it until our heart catches up.

Pray…

We pray like hell. We offer up cries of prayer to the one who can save us. I’m often trying to remind myself that “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, his ear attentive to their cry” (Psalm 34:15).  God can take anything I cry out at him. He knows my heart anyway, whether I speak it or not. So why hold back? Why censor? We need to pray that Jesus keep us from distorted thinking and self-pity.  Two things that lead us toward a downward spiral that is hard to come back from. We must ask him to save us from the disbelief that runs rampant in our hearts when grief gets a hold of it. Primarily, I find myself praying that God save me from myself. That he save me from my own sense of what I think is ‘fair’ and ‘best’. I pray that he keep me from becoming like the Pharisees who tried defining who Jesus was on their own terms, telling him who he should and shouldn’t be, how he should and shouldn’t act and therefore missed out on who he was altogether. 

Remember that Jesus is our Suffering Savior

Yes, Jesus bore my sins on the cross, but he did more than that. He took my sorrows as his own. The book of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the perfect High Priest, and not just because he is the pure and spotless lamb that absorbed the wrath of his Father for my sin, on my behalf. But, because he empathises with me in my weakness. Jesus was spouseless, childless, betrayed, abandoned, chastised, beaten, ridiculed, imprisoned, and put to death. He is not some God who sits far off and aloof. He knows your pain and mine. He is our most comforting suffering savior. He has felt everything that you and I will ever feel.

He is a Good Father

He is a good father. In his giving and his taking, no matter how painful it is, no matter how many tears you’ve shed. No matter how many times you’ve screamed at Him at night lying alone in bed, strangling your sheets in clenched fists, while his silence is deafening and your tears are inconsolable–I promise you, and myself, he is a good father. It may not feel like it at the time, but it is true.

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead

of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give

him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give

good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly

Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)

So, what do we do then,  when it seems Jesus isn’t enough? We preach, pray, remember, and believe even when our hearts don’t feel it.

Santa has Nothin’ on Jesus

This morning I wake to a darkness that fills my tiny bedroom. I don’t get up right away, but lay here, silently, eyes closed, ears open to nature’s commotion outside my window, which assures me that the light of morning is on the horizon. And then it strikes me, as a metaphor of sorts, for the meaning of this weekend…

As a little girl, I remember my mother stating that Easter was her favorite holiday. At the time, I could hardly understand why. Why would anyone choose an early morning spent in stuffy dress clothes, sitting in a hard seat, listening to some man drone on and on for the better part of an hour? When all the while you could choose the holiday with the fat jolly man who brings presents directly to your living room, where you can spend all day in your pajamas. It’s like choosing vanilla when you can have chocolate. Sure, it’s an option, but it doesn’t make it a good one!

At the time, I just figured that’s what happens when you get old, you forget what fun is.

The implication of this weekend, for those of us who consider ourselves Christ-followers, is momentous. But, where does one choose to focus their attention in reflecting on this weekend? Clearly, it would seem Christ’s resurrection is the pivotal moment of importance. No? I mean, without his resurrection, the Christian faith becomes…futile. Without the resurrection of Christ, Jesus becomes nothing more than a man. Conversely, with his resurrection, everything changes. And, I mean, everything! Hope is restored, brokenness is mended, ashes turn to beauty, and mankind is connected with his glorious Creator.

It’s ‘Resurrection Sunday’ that permits the ‘Good’ in Good Friday. Without the resurrection, Friday becomes a tragic day in Roman history, where a really nice man, who spent time with the sick, poor, and outcasts of society was mercilessly beaten and left for dead. For no reason.

Good Friday. The day that signifies that Jesus stood in for me, absorbing the wrath and abandonment of his Father, on my behalf, so I would never have to. How do we not stop in reflection and genuine exploration of what that event means? The picture of Jesus, nailed to a cross shows us two things. One, who we truly are when left to our own nature: depraved, wicked, violent, self-absorbed, prideful, vengeful, jealous, out-for-our-own-good. Two, it shows us who this God-man Jesus is: completely loving, unbelievably merciful, abundantly gracious, Rescuer of mankind.

As a kid Santa brought me some amazing gifts throughout the years: my first leather basketball, my first pair of Skids, my first suede coat… never once did that fat jolly old man offer to stand in, as a ransom, paying my debt. Never once did he offer me the gift of life. And I don’t just mean life after death, I mean real life, in the here and now. The kind of life that when the storms of circumstance, disappointment, failed dreams, disease, addiction, abuse, abandonment, betrayal, and death come crashing in, so hard that you feel like you don’t have it in you to face another day—The God-man Jesus steps in. He kneels down, eye level, and reminds us that he has known sorrow and pain, too. And, the good news is, he has conquered it all.

Holy Thursday is the day that puts it all into proper perspective, for me—the passage of scripture, where Jesus is with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. You know the scene. The disciples have fallen asleep, even though Jesus pleaded with them not to.

Night has fallen. He’s alone, knelt over by a half dead tree. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” Jesus exclaims into the darkness, as tears sting the back of his eyes. He knows his hour has come. He can feel it, deep inside. As he sits there, alone, he prays through grinding teeth: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” This is exactly what he and his Father have been discussing for centuries. This very moment in history. The moment where he exchanges garments with his creation, taking on our depravity, experiencing the wrath and abandonment of his Father, while giving us his righteousness.

I’m reminded this morning, as I lay here in my dark tiny bedroom with morning light on the horizon that the cup of suffering he swallowed wasn’t his—it was mine. And he swallowed it fully, absorbing it all on my behalf. It’s in reflecting on this great exchange that my perspective is set right. A perspective in which I assume my rightful place, one of humble gratitude at the cross, in recognition of the greatest gift I have ever received: Jesus, my great Rescuer.

He-brews: Morning Reflection

Have you ever experienced a morning where you feel the heartache before you’ve even had the chance to open your eyes? It’s like Life had nothing better to do than hover above your head, mischievously anticipating your waking, in order to smack you square in the chest with a smug, “‘Mornin’!” And then slink back into the morning fog.

You desperately try to woo yourself back to sleep. Rationalizing, that if you can sleep a little longer then it lessens the amount of time in the day that you have to contend with the reality of life. But it’s too late, your senses have regained their consciousness. You’re officially awake.

This morning, before even opening my eyes, I caught myself repeating a familiar prayer that I learned five and a half years ago. It’s a prayer that I prayed, every single morning for three years straight. I remember in those days repeating it over and over and over again, until I felt I had the strength to get out of bed. At the time, the interesting thing about this prayer was that it wasn’t a conscious choice to pray it; instead, it was an involuntary reaction to life’s circumstance. In recent years, I find myself resorting to it when life presses in so hard that I feel like I might collapse under the weight of it. This is one of those mornings…

“God protect me. Keep me safe. Hide me deep inside the shadow of your wing. Please God! Protect me. Keep me safe. Please hide me deep, deep inside the shadow of your wing.”

As I laid here this morning repeating this familiar prayer over and over again, desperately wanting to feel safe and secure, and needing the emotional peace and comfort that I know from experience can only truly come from my Abba, Father–my mind wandered to one of those most comforting books of scripture, for me. Hebrews.

Reluctantly opening my eyes, I reached down to the floor beside my bed, grabbed my bible and pen, flicked on the light and pleaded with God to meet me.

The whole of scripture comes together for me in the book of Hebrews. I’m not saying that it has to for you, but for me, it’s the book of Hebrews that brings together my pain and his glory. And it’s  the book of Hebrews that reminds me that it’s in this collision of our pain and his glory that exists a revelation of a cavern of his love that is so deep and so wide, not even the unfathomable sorrows of life can snatch us from it.

It’s the book of Hebrews that reminds me of who Jesus is.  “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” (Hebrews 1:3). In other words, if I want to know who God is, look to Jesus!  Look at his life here on earth, what he did: fed the poor, loved outcast, healed the sick, raised the dead to life, mourned with those whose hearts were breaking, and gave hope and joy to those without, extended compassion, grace and mercy. Look to what he said, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life…I have come that you may have life abundantly…If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father…Whoever would come after me must deny himself…I will be with you to the end of the age.” It’s in the humanness of Jesus that I find his deity.

He upholds the universe (v.3b), Hebrews tells us, and everything is subject to him, nothing is outside his control (v.8). That means, even the bad in life. Yes. Even in his taking, he is good. Even when he snatches from us the things we love most in life, he IS good. Chances are, it’s in his taking from us that he’s actually trying to give us the greatest gift of all…Himself.

Hebrews reminds me that I have a God who is not far off and aloof. Instead, he came to me. He sent himself, in the form of a man. The God-Man, Jesus. He left the glory of Heaven to join me in my pain and brokenness.  “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest…For because he himself has suffered when tempted (tested), he is able to help those who are being tempted (tested)” (Hebrews 2:17-18).

Don’t you see?!  Don’t you see the implications of what this means? Its astounding beauty? What it means is that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). This God-Man Jesus, although he is God was fully human. Meaning, Jesus suffered, in every way like you and me. He knows the pain of rejection, abuse, abandonment, betrayal. The temptation of wealth, fame and selfishness. The lies that are whispered to us in our darkest hours. The temptation to live life for oneself. To worship something or someone over God. He has experienced it all…even death.

Hebrews reminds me that while Jesus subjected himself to the suffering, temptations, and trials of this world he “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death. And he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:7-8). My suffering teaches me obedience. It teaches me to submit myself, my will, and my desires to the King of Kings, the Great Creator, the Grand Author of Life, the Lord Most High.

We can go to him in our suffering, in our times of testing and trials and cry out to him, “Abba, Father, have mercy on me!” And the beautiful thing is, we can rest assured that he not only hears our cries and prayers, but empathizes with our heartache because he too has felt it. Because of Jesus, with confidence we can draw near to the throne of grace knowing that we will receive mercy and in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Our pain and His glory collide in the person and work of Jesus. Jesus is our Suffering Savior.  There is great joy and comfort to be found in that. This morning Hebrews reminds me that not only did Jesus come to rescue me from sin, death and destruction (as if that isn’t enough!), he also came to rescue me IN my suffering. When I wake in the morning and the griefs of life hit me so hard that I feel like I can’t get out of bed, I can find peace in knowing that Jesus knows my suffering, because he too has felt it.  And when I pray that familiar prayer, “God protect me. Keep me safe. Hide me deep inside the shadow of your wing.” I can feel secure that he is with me IN my pain and suffering because he too has experienced it. This morning I can feel confident that although my heart may hurt, I have nothing to fear because he has me wrapped up in his big strong arms, and is tucking me tightly into the shadow of his wing where nothing in all this world can snatch me from it.

The good news is that Jesus conquered it all. All the temptation. All the testing. All the suffering and pain. Even death. He overcame it.  And his conquering does not negate or eliminate his experience with temptation and suffering; instead, it’s a sweet beacon of hope that when I place my trust in him the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in me.