07 September 2017

Baby brain

So there are numerous studies about how one's brain (and hormones and emotions) are affected by becoming a mother. I'm not sure how my experience fits with all of that. I do, however, know that I can't handle crying very well - everything in me feels programmed to make me go to our child as quickly as possible and resolve whatever is wrong.

And as for being more scatterbrained than usual? YES. I justify this by telling people that I've added a whole new schedule to my head. But I think Matthijs put it better: we now have a whole new set of things to remember, forget, and/or misplace.

04 September 2017

Remembering my mother

This past weekend Matthijs and I visited Michigan's Upper Peninsula with our German guest. As we were a bit late in booking anything, the best hotel option turned out to be in Sault Ste. Marie (on the Canadian side). The trip was worth it, as Michigan's Pictured Rocks are truly gorgeous, but what made staying in Sault Ste. Marie special was discovering that my aunt and uncle were incidentally on vacation in Sault Ste. Marie - and staying in a hotel across the street from us!

A selfie with the Pictured Rocks and the little
Getting to see my aunt, even briefly, and getting to introduce our little one to my mother's family made my mother feel a little less absent. In my aunt's joy in getting to hold our child, I could get a glimpse of the joy my mother would have had in getting to know and love our little one. 

For my mother, being married and having children had brought her the greatest joy in life - and I knew she wanted me also to experience that joy. While I was content being childless (and also as a single person), becoming a mom has helped me to understand my mother better. The joy I have experienced in getting to know and love our little one has definitely made me appreciate more her (and my father's) desire/prayer that we have children. 

29 August 2017

Pastoral (chaplaincy) care as a sacred presence in order to re-find meaning

Kerry Egan, in her book on living provides the following description for her work as a chaplain:
"Every one of us will go through things that destroy our inner compass and pull meaning out from under us. Everyone who does not die young will go through some sort of spiritual crisis, where we have lost our sense of what is right and wrong, possible and impossible, real and not real. Never underestimate how frightening, angering, confusing, devastating it is to be in that place. Making meaning of what is meaningless is hard work. Soul-searching is painful. This process of making or finding meaning at the end of life is what the chaplain facilitates. The chaplain doesn't do the work. The patient does. The chaplain isn't wrestling with the events of a life that doesn't match up with everything you were taught was true, but she won't turn away in fear, either. She won't try to give you pat answers to get you to stop talking about pain, or shut you down with platitudes that make her feel better but do nothing to resolve the confusion and yearning you feel. A chaplain is not the one laboring to make meaning, but she's been with other people who have. She knows what tends to be helpful and what doesn't. She might ask questions you would never have considered, or that help you remember other times you survived something hard and other ways you made sense of what seemed senseless. She can reframe the story, and can offer a different interpretation to consider, accept, or reject. She can remind you of the larger story of your life, or the wisdom of your faith tradition. She can hold open a space of prayer or meditation or reflection when you don't have the energy or strength to keep the walls from collapsing. She will not leave you. And maybe most important: She knows the work can be done. She knows you can do it and not crumble into dust. 
. . . . 
But the fact remains that before a chaplain gets to that place with a patient - the place where the patient can share into a deep hole of meaninglessness, or even leap right into it and wrestle down in the lonely existential muck until a ladder of sorts begins to appear - and somehow, somehow, in ways I still can't fully explain, a ladder always does appear - before all that, the chaplain has to create a sacred space, and to do that, she has to offer her loving presence first."               - Kerry Egan, On living, pages 18-20

Some of my work with Campus Edge is like this - a creating of sacred space to re-find meaning. Yet, too often I feel like I am trying to check off a list of things that need to be done instead of being present with others, expectant that God is working in that moment. The challenge is that many of the moments in my work are not momentous, and it is harder to remember that in the ordinary moments God is not any less present and working.

A desire I have for the coming time is that I would grow in expectancy and being myself fully present and listening, and it is something I can pray about and ponder as I go for walks with the little this coming season. On top of that, I hope that as I learn to be more present when I am with my daughter - because her delight in the world is contagious - I will learn to be more present with others, along with increasing my awareness of how God is already working in other people's lives.

20 August 2017

A Pastoral Prayer for our daughter

Last Sunday I had the joy and honour of baptizing our daughter.
Photo courtesy of Ginny from River Terrace Church

At the end I got to pray the following prayer for her:

O Lord, uphold Lydia by your Holy Spirit.
Give her the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord,
the spirit of joy in your presence,
both now and forever. Amen.

It is a prayer that I pray not only as a pastor but also as a parent.

18 August 2017

But isn't that dangerous?

When talking with some friends about actions to do in response to the events in Charlottesville this past weekend, I mentioned that I'd like to participate in more rallies - at least partially because it was something I could do where I could take Lydia with me.

After mentioning that I'd take Lydia to a protest/rally, the response I received was "but isn't that dangerous?" And my thoughts were no, not really. This is Lansing, after all, and I've been to a few demonstrations/rallies here. But I expect people would say the same thing about Charlottesville, and multiple people were seriously harmed there, so participating in a (counter)protest does involve some risk.And yet.
Every time I want to go somewhere I put myself (and Lydia) into our car. Statistically speaking, this is by far the most dangerous activity that we can participate in. But I still do it - almost daily - because I want and need to get around. And so I calculate that the danger is worth the risk.
How much more should the potential danger of participating in an event that speaks against hatred of others be worth the risk? Especially when Lydia's charming smile also speaks volumes about joy and acceptance.

17 August 2017

But i do still want my old life back

I wrote this about a month ago, so my sentiments have changed somewhat. The challenge now is to figure out how to spend good time with her while also spending enough quality time working. 

As much as I love our little girl and am deeply thankful for the joy she brings into our lives, I do still kind of want my old life back. I have found it hard that so much of my life - time, plans, activities - has revolved around her. I am thankful to say that it has become a little less hard with time. I've gotten a bit more used to our daughter, I'm getting a decent amount of sleep, and she is taking less time to breastfeed: so my time is spent doing more than breastfeeding and helping her or me sleep. I am also learning how wonderful and good it is - for Matthijs, our daughter, and me - when I sometimes hand over care of her to Matthijs. I am thus slowly regaining some freedom and the sense that I have a bit more control over my life, which has been very helpful in making me feel less overwhelmed with being a mom.

At the same time, it's been good to hear others who also express the challenges of motherhood. A wonderful book I've been reading, Spirituality in the Mother Zone by Trudelle Thomas, expresses the complicated reality of becoming a mom, including how hard it is to be honest about it:
"While it's acceptable to talk about the intense love of new motherhood, mothers are often reluctant to mention the 'darker' emotions that are often just as powerful. They may complain, even joke, about outward difficulties like hours of labor, sore episiotomy stitches, and sleepless nights, but few will speak candidly of the confusion, rage, and grief that may come with the territory of new motherhood and last far longer.
No religious initiation is any more intense than the deprivations new mothers face: interrupted sleep; seeing your once orderly home strewn with receiving blankets and dirty dishes; the vigilance of trying to understand a baby's unfamiliar cries; often not being able to eat, dress, shower, or even use the bathroom at will [for me it was not being able to go to sleep when I wanted or needed]; suddenly having to learn all the practical skills of breastfeeding, dressing, bathing, and attending to the medical needs of a helpless human being.
Even amidst the joys, it is a painful time of surrendering to a new way of life, of being stripped of the familiar." (page 33)
As much as I still sometimes chafe about how this small human has control of my life, the stripping of my life that she talks about has also at times been good for me, as it put things in perspective. For example, the times when I am not responsible for her make me more motivated to do the things I can't do when I'm with her - in this way her presence and absence is teaching me more about giving up myself, including the self that wants to procrastinate and wait until I'm in the right mood to do something.

As for wanting my old life back, I'm getting used to life with Lydia so that sentiment is decreasing, although I do still miss the freedom to plan and do things when I want to - and I miss being able to bike. Thankfully the bike problem is being resolved, as I've finally brought it in to the bike shop to get fixed.

22 July 2017

But i didn't do anything

One of the most striking moments of my pregnancy was hearing at the twenty week ultrasound that our daughter was healthy and well formed. While these are the words that one does hope and even expect to hear, it felt a bit surreal. I hadn't really done anything, so how could all be well? Sure, I had taken my vitamins, eaten fairly healthy and not had alcohol, but that was it. So many people long for children and greet pregnancy with deep joy and thankfulness for the gift from God growing in the womb. I, on the other hand, had mixed feelings about how this small person growing inside me would change our lives. My prayers surrounding the baby were not about her and her health but about us: prayers that I might not offend others by my lack of enthusiasm about babies, prayers that we as parents would have the strength and wisdom to welcome this small child and a prayer that I might greet her eventual arrival with joy (thankfully, God answered most of these prayers).

Those words that our daughter was healthy and well helped me understand grace a little bit better. Because even though I know in my head that I have done nothing to make me deserve salvation, there haven't been that many moments in my life where I've felt that awe of 'how can this be true when I don't deserve it?' Salvation and grace have been something I've grown up with and accepted with deep thankfulness but have rarely been startled by. Somehow this moment of being taken back by our daughter's well-being - how, without us doing anything, this small person was healthy and growing well inside me - allowed me to be surprised by how much God had done form me (and was continuing to work in my life) despite how little I have done and can do.