Thursday, May 11, 2017

My Body Is a Tool, Not a Decoration

I didn't think that it would bother me so much for my body to change after giving birth.  Just a few short weeks postpartum people were commenting on how quickly I lost weight and how little I was.  Even now you probably wouldn't look at me and think, "There's a girl who definitely just had a baby," or, "She could stand to lose a few pounds."  I, however, am up-close and personal with my new body.  I can see and feel my squishy, round tummy.  I have experienced my now wider hips rejecting my pre-pregnancy pants.

I guess that being thin and having a flat stomach somehow became a part of my identity.  That's not to say that I felt perfectly secure about being skinny.  I knew that I would never have some of the--ahem--assets that other women had.  I would never be a curvy girl.  At times that bothered me.  Though I felt I had those short comings, at least I knew I had the zero fat thing going for me.  I can't say that anymore.

In the past I almost always reached for the smallest clothing size that a store carried--and sometimes even that was too small.  Being a size four or six or small or medium rather than a one or two and extra small might sound like a dream to some women, but to me it feels foreign.  Wearing my skin-tight pre-baby clothes and seeing a little pooch around my midsection, I hardly recognize myself.  I honestly feel embarrassed.

I've basically had to buy a whole new wardrobe.  I'm someone who loves clothes.  I so enjoy creatively putting together outfits--coming up with new combinations of texture, color, and print.  What used to be a glorious adventure has become a chore that I dread.  Instead of delighting in the ensembles I crafted, I find myself scrounging for something that I can wear that I won't feel stupid in.

I'm trying to remind myself:  my body is a tool, not a decoration.  This body allows me to do extraordinary things.  It has allowed me to kick soccer balls, run miles, win wrestling matches.  My body has embraced the broken, walked alongside people, and brought meals and gifts to bless others.  Most recently, my body did the incredible feat of bringing life into the world.  Instead of being amazed and praising my body, I have chastised it.  When I should have said, "Great job!  You have created and sustained the most perfect little human,"  I have asked, "Why can't you look like you once did?"

Something in me, as a woman craves beauty.  I desire to be lovely.  I think that's okay.  But who says that the new slightly chestier (thanks breastfeeding), wider hipped, squishy-tummied, still not very curvy, me can't be beautiful?  Who decided that a round belly is lovely when a woman is going to give birth and hideous after she has already done so?

So, I will probably keep living in flowy shirts, and high-waisted bottoms that I feel flatter my dynamic figure.  But, instead of hiding and shaming of my ever-changing body I want to celebrate it.  I want to love and accept my imperfect self.  I want to use my body to love and serve.  Even if it means stretching it, wrinkling it, and wearing it out, ultimately I hope that my body will be used as a tool to bring more of heaven to earth.  I think that, is pretty beautiful.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Kingdom Work Is Inconvenient

Sometimes, bringing Emerson to the youth group that we serve at feels like a huge inconvenience.  I often have to leave in the middle of the message or a game to go and nurse him.  My arms or back grow weary from toting him around.  When I'd rather be chatting with students uninhibited, I often have to multitask:  making conversation with them, and caring for his needs simultaneously.  Sometimes his already sporadic sleep gets thrown off because youth starts right around his bedtime and there's no way he's dozing off when there are so many people, sights, and sounds to take in.

Last week the Lord showed me that he could use this for good.  As small group time was about to come to a close, and my group was finishing up praying, a girl asked me, "Do you pray for Emerson?"  To which I said, "Yes."  Her stare lingered on me, a begging look in her eyes.  "You want me to pray for him right now?" I asked.  She nodded enthusiastically.  "Ok, sure," I replied.  So I began to pray and recited many of the things that I pray over Emerson each night as he settles in his crib.

"Holy Spirit, please fill Emerson up.  Give him peace.  If there's anything that needs healing in his body please bring him healing.  If he's experiencing any pain please ease his pain.  Lord, help him to know that he is loved.  Help us to love him well, and fill in the gaps where we fall short.  I pray that one day he would come to know you personally, and experience your love and presence.  In Jesus' name, amen."

It's a simple thing really.  By me bringing Emerson to youth group, these young women are exposed to a godly mother--I use that term "godly" loosely because let me tell you I am oh-so aware of how imperfect I am.  However, I am open to the Lord.  I've stayed in communion with him throughout the ebb and flow of this journey.  Jesus is at work in my life.  I believe that, through his grace, his goodness reigns in me.

Who knows what situation these girls come from.  Some of them probably have darn near perfect moms.  Some, might not have moms at all.  Others still have mothers who've painted a picture of rejection, harshness, or abandonment where tenderness, unconditional love, and selflessness should have been.  These girls get to watch me parent with the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit.  While I am grumbling about being inconvenienced, God is taking my small sacrifice and doing Kingdom work.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Dirty Diaper Gospel

As soon as I walked into church I smelled that familiar smell.  So, there I found myself behind the sanctuary in the appropriately named, "Mother's Cry Room," (I have cried in there numerous times) changing a poopy diaper.  Missing worship, something that I love.  Thinking about how unfair it was.  Thinking about the many things that I have given up for this child without much more than the occasional coy smile or open-mouth kiss in return.  When I was reminded, this is the Jesus way.

Matthew 10:39

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

So, Emerson, I will keep laying down my life for you on Jesus' behalf.  And, hopefully, on the other side of this, I will be more like him.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Nets Are Breaking

As I was reading the bible last week Jesus brought me to Luke 5.  It’s the moment when Jesus calls his first disciples to leave everything and follow him.  “Don’t worry, soon you will be fishing for people,” he tells them.  What a comforting thought.

 Jesus happens upon these grisly, seasoned fishermen after a bad night of fishing.  In fact, they have nothing to show for a full night’s work.  Their boats are at rest, their nets are being cleaned.  Climbing aboard one of the boats, Jesus asks the men to go back out to sea, just a little ways, so that he can preach to the crowds from a safe distance.  They oblige.  When he is finished, the prophet has the audacity to instruct them to try fishing again.  Simon reminds Jesus, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!”  

To toil is to work extremely hard or incessantly.  Fishing is Simon’s trade, so I’d imagine he knows the ins and outs of catching fish.  He probably used the best techniques, fished at the optimum time, and put down his nets in the place where they were most likely to—as modern fishermen would say—get a few bites.  Yet he caught nothing.  Can you empathize with Simon’s frustration?  Have you ever toiled after something and despite your best efforts found yourself with a big ole net full of nothing? 

 Most recently, I have been working incessantly at helping my six-month-old son learn how to sleep.  Let’s just say, I have a few choice words for whoever coined the phrase, “sleeping like a baby.”  For over a month my son, who once let me sleep in glorious eight hour chunks regularly, has been waking up every one, two, or three hours needing to be rocked back to sleep.  I have scoured the internet for explanations and ideas.  The best I could come up with was that he was in a “sleep regression,” (because his sleep had gone from easy-peasy newborn sleep, to more adult-like sleep—moving in and out of light and deep sleep) and he’d developed some “sleep associations,” namely being rocked by dear old mom and dad (meaning he when he moved out of a sleep cycle he woke up and didn’t know how to get himself back to sleep without our help).  

Determined to fix this, I began to try everything I could think of.  We moved him from his Pack ‘N Play in our room, to his crib in his own room.  We added a white noise machine.  We blacked out his window.  We bought him a suit that promised to have magical sleeping powers.  We implemented a bed time routine.  We moved him to an earlier bedtime.  We worked to get him to fall asleep in his crib—by any means necessary: patting, shushing, picking up and putting down, lovies, binkies, music, you name it, we tried it.  And we waited.  

I would guess that nothing about Jesus’ request made sense to Simon.  He had already worked his hardest to try and catch fish: with no results.  Why would he try it again?  For whatever reason, he was obedient anyway.  As Jesus had asked, Simon put the boat out into deep water and let down his nets for a catch.  Next, the fishermen encompass what could accurately be described as a ridiculous amount of fish in their nets.  In fact, the nets can’t even handle the amount of fish they have caught, because they start breaking!  There are so many fish that they have to call out to their partners for help!  There are so many fish that they fill not one, but two boats, to the point of almost sinking under the weight.  One night, they put out their nets, and nothing.  The next day, they put out their nets and they are so full they start to break. 

This week I started to feel hopeless, as I have at various points during Emerson's sleep journey.  We’ve had good nights and bad nights.  There have been nights when the baby was up every hour, and nights when he only woke up twice.  There have been nights when we heard him self-soothe multiple times, and nights when he wouldn’t even try.  We had been overall making progress, but it hadn’t been linear.  We were at a point where most nights he would wake up around three times and we were getting at least a four hour chunk of consecutive sleep consistently.  That felt survivable.  Then, three times this week, baby boy decided to be up basically every two hours again.  A couple of those nights when he woke up he really struggled to fall back asleep.  I was devastated.  I was sleep-deprived.  I was confused.  I wondered why God wasn’t intervening.  I knew he had the authority to do so.  And yet, I believed that he was good; I believed that he loved me.  Loving my baby through this stage was the work he had given me to do, and I would continue to do it even though it was difficult.  Even if it seemed like my efforts weren't yielding any fruit.

The passage in Luke spoke to my situation in a few ways.  As I read, I heard God telling me this:

1. You don’t have as much control as you think.  Because at the end of the day, you can do all the right things and still not catch any fish.  I needed to stop blaming myself when Emerson had a bad night.  I needed to let go of the guilt I was feeling.  You can’t make fish swim into your net; you can’t make babies sleep.

2. Listen for my voice.  Jesus told Simon where and when to drop his nets.  So I asked for help, and listened.  When I thought Jesus was giving me an idea for something to try with Emerson, I’d obey.  

3. Don’t lose hope.  You might have no results one day, and more results than you know what to do with the next.  Simon fished all night and got nothing.  The very next day he began to fish and instantly caught a bounty.  I knew that I couldn’t give up hope.  I might try my best to get my son to sleep one day, and see nothing come of it.  But the next day might be the day he gets it and finally sleeps through the night.  

It turns out that is exactly what happened.  One night, Emerson was up every two-three hours needing to be rocked to sleep.  I didn’t hear him attempt to fall back to sleep even once.  The next night, I tried again and my nets started breaking!  Emerson slept for ten hours straight!  He has only done that a handful of times.  Even back when he was consistently sleeping through the night it was typically six-eight hour stretches.  I’m not saying we’re out of the woods yet.  We may have more rough nights ahead of us yet, but I know that my son is getting it.  He is learning how to sleep on his own.  Above all, I know that God is faithful—on nights when I toil for nothing and I nights when I get a net overflowing with fish.  

Are you toiling today?  Remember that God is good, and he loves you.  These things are true whether we get zero results or abundant results.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself because you can’t make fish swim into a net.  Listen for Jesus’ voice telling you where and when.  Then, drop your nets, yet again,  hopeful for a catch.  Because you never know which day God is going to step in and bless you.  One day, you might get nothing, and the next he might fill your nets until they're breaking. 

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