15 February 2018

Remember you are dust

During the Ash Wednesday liturgy of the church, the priest (pastor) places ashes on your forehead while saying, "remember that you are dust and to dust you will return."

This year those words had more meaning. Because the priest also placed the ashes on Lydia's head. She didn't seem particularly impressed, as she turned her head away after the priest had made only half of the cross. Why did she need to be reminded that she was dust?

The ashes on Lydia's forehead felt more like a reminder to me than to her. She, like of all us, will some day return to dust. My hope and prayer is that she will be with us, sharing her joy, for many years to come, but as the recent school shooting in Florida reminded us, so much can go wrong. I see this especially in the picture of a woman, with an ash cross on her forehead, mourning and comforting another. The brokenness of the world, and the suffering of these parents, fills me with sadness.

13 February 2018

Not the story I wanted to tell

After Lydia was born, people asked me whether I'd had a c-section. The question annoyed me, but I couldn't figure out precisely why. Reflecting again on the birth stories that are told in Giving Birth with Confidence, it dawned on me that I disliked the question because it felt like I was being pushed to tell her birth story in a certain way. I didn't want her arrival to be whether or not I'd been strong enough (or whatever enough) to have a vaginal birth - or about what medical interventions might have happened.

My response to their question was simply that Lydia had come out. Because that was the story I wanted to tell - the debut of this small person whose arrival we'd been anticipating for months. I wanted to tell her name - and the wonder of knowing that this exact name fit her. I wanted to acknowledge that her arrival made me anxious: On the inside she was easy to take care of - and I knew that, if necessary, at her birth the doctors would intervene to pull her out of me - but that soon we would leave the hospital and be responsible for this small, helpless person. And I wanted to speak of how, through God's grace, Lydia and I persevered to figure out the breastfeeding thing (and I wanted to laugh and smile about the absurdity and stubbornness involved in making practically every nurse who entered our room help me figure out how to breastfeed). But sadly enough, I didn't know how to tell that story, so I didn't tell any story.

23 January 2018

Women's March 2018

I only caught the tail end of the women's march in Lansing this year. Between the little getting in an afternoon nap and me recuperating from a twisted ankle and a busy Sunday morning, we weren't very quick in getting out to the protest.

But, because I am female (and so is the little), it seemed important to go. As a pastor I feel like I ought to show up as such events as a way of showing that God (and even the institutional church) cares deeply about women and the things that matter to them/us. And I figured we'd bring joy to others simply by being present, as I took Lydia out in the little car that my sister lent us.

What struck me at the march was the sheer range of ages and types of people present: it wasn't just people like me. It was teenagers, families, older women. People with children and people who had no desire to have children. People who responded enthusiastically to my child and people who responded much more enthusiastically to the dog walking by. I felt joy in coming together with all these people and being reminded of the solidarity that I share with so many others in wanting good for the world.

02 January 2018

A child's protest

On the last Sunday of Advent we attended a church where the children would help move an advent calendar to the correct date. As the last Sunday of Advent was also Christmas Eve and many people were planning to go to church that evening and/or the next day, the church service was sparsely attended.

The pastor began the children's message by saying that even though it was tradition for the children to help advance the advent calendar, as this Sunday there were not present any children. . . Precisely at this moment she was interrupted by a fairly loud noise from Lydia, almost as if Lydia understood and wanted to protest being ignored. The pastor laughed with the rest of us, let us all know that she was going to say that there was no child old enough to help her move the calendar, and then invited Lydia and Matthijs up to help her.

04 December 2017

God as labouring woman

In our study at Campus Edge, we've been going through Winner's book, Wearing God. I've enjoyed it tremendously, although I have to admit that some of the images of God that we've explored just didn't work. Laughter was one that didn't really relate, and the image of God as laboring woman or nursing mother really didn't work for the group. However, I found these images, as shaped by my own experience, helped me grow in appreciation of God's love and nurture for us.

I especially found insightful what Winner wrote in regards to seeing God as a nursing mother. Speaking of the power found in nursing, Winner notes: “your body has the power to keep someone else alive. . . and as Gandolfo explains, ‘Like the power of a nursing mother, the power of divinity is the power to comfort. Babies who nurse often seek out their mothers’ breast not only when they are hungry, but when they are tired, frightened, or distressed.’”Winner, Wearing God, 167. Furthermore, “to picture God as a nursing mother is to picture both our dependence on God and God’s radical self-limitation for our sake. After all, in nursing, the mother gives herself over to her child and allows her life to be determined by the child’s schedule and the child’s demands.” Winner, Wearing God, 167. Knowing the cost involved - that my life and schedule got turned upside down to meet our little's needs - this image of God as nursing mother makes me appreciate God's care and comfort for us in a new way.

In light of my own appreciation of those who provide day care for my child and my recognition of the challenges in looking after children, it is fascinating to me that Winner picks up on Moses dialogue with God in Numbers 11: Moses asks why he should be taking care of these children, as he did not birth them? Winner provides the following commentary on the passage:
“Numbers 11 could be read as a parable about short-staffed day-care centers, about a society that does not allot adequate resources to caring for children to supporting mothers or hired child-minders. It is striking to me that, in Numbers 11, God reaffirms the decision that God made when God called Moses to lead Israel out of bondage in the first place – the decision to place the children of Israel in someone else’s care . . Perhaps this is another way that God puts God’s own power at risk. This is not the groaning vulnerability of labor or the chosen self-limitation of nursing. It is a different kind of risk: putting work that is important to you – in this case, the work of redemption – in human hands.” Winner, Wearing God, 176. 

30 November 2017

The God who hides

I really appreciated this image of God playing hide-and-seek that Winner describes in her book, Wearing God:
“We might of think of God as one who plays hide-and-seek. When playing the game, the children who are hiding almost always give themselves away by laughing or giggling. Our job, as friends and disciples and reverencers and lovers of the Lord, says Land, is to listen for God’s laughter. . . kids who play hide-and-seek usually hide in the same places over and over again, and so the parent or friend tasked with looking might reasonably know, even without the sound of laughter, where she is likely to find the one hiding. This is true of God, too. . . God hides in bread and wine, in silence, in gardens, in cities, in prisons, in huger and privation and poverty, in song.” Winner, Wearing God, 236-7.
I believe God is actively working in the world - but sometimes I act like I don't. I act like God is lost, instead of seeing it more like hide-and-seek, where I will see where God is and has been, if only I look and listen properly.

29 November 2017

A child brings a whole new set of social interactions

Bringing the child to a home day care for the last few months has made me realize that I've entered into a whole new world of social interactions, and I once again have limited idea of what to do. 
  • Do I talk to the other parents? If so, how much and what do we talk about? Perhaps how cute their child is, what milestones they might have hit, what their weekend plans are? 
  • How much do I talk to my day care providers? I'd like to know how much the little slept and ate each day, whether she had a bowel movement or her diaper leaked, and whether she was generally content. Or if there's anything I could do to make life better for her or the day care providers. But should I ask about their weekend plans? About what it's like to run a day care? About their children? About living in Lansing?

I already feel a bit socially awkward in many situations, so I'm not particularly excited to recognize that this new situation has given me more social interactions to negotiate. This is on top of figuring out how to respond to people's interest in my child (how do I thank them appropriately for their compliments, should I offer to let others hold her or let them tell me first, when is my distraction with the little okay and when is it insulting to someone else, etc.). 

On the other hand, all these new social interactions help me remember what it's like to feel socially awkward again, which is a helpful thing to remember when working with people negotiating the weird social interactions of the academic world. It also provides me with a learning opportunity about how to treat people with dignity and learn to appreciate who they are as individual persons (and not simply as the parent of that child or the person who looks after my child). And lastly, it reminds me that I can probably never thank my day care providers enough - or even know how to adequately express to them my thankfulness to God about how they keep my child safe and show her how much she is cared for.