Thursday, October 30, 2014

ten thoughts that can cure baby fever

I currently have approximately twenty pregnant friends. Which is fine. I don't miss being pregnant. Heartburn, weight gain, waiting for two hours for a ten minute doctor's appointment, swollen ankles.... Pregnancy holds very little allure for me.

Except for the siren song of the precious, squishy-faced, brand-new, darling, cooing babies that all those women will have in a few months. All those uncomfortable, hormonal friends of mine are so stinking lucky.

They better let me hold their tiny treasures, or I will never forgive them. Babies send butterflies aflutter in my heart and make my knees weak.  I love babies!!

i. love. babies.

At times like these, I have to ignore the peaceful joy of sleeping infants and remind myself of the trenches of babydom.  It is my only defense against full-blown baby fever.

Maybe this will help all of you babyless baby-lovers out there to get through another day without a squishy-faced newborn to snuggle. And, maybe it will help you baby-mamas to know that some day, your season with babies will pass, and there will be reasons to be grateful that time marches on as babies grow up.

Or maybe you'll just think I'm crazy. Anything is possible, I suppose. Here are ten things I do not miss about having a baby:

10. The aroma of spit up.The only thing worse than realizing your baby reeks of regurgitated milk is realizing you reek of regurgitated milk. And should your baby happen to spit up in your hair, you must take a full-blown shower to rid yourself of the odor. I know this from personal experience. Ick. So gross.

9. Baby monitors. Baby monitors crackle and make weird noises all night long. Sometimes I would wake up and wonder if a tornado had struck the nursery. Other times I could hear my neighbors' late night phone conversations through the monitor. Ours had a battery option and if they became unplugged for some reason, an alarm went off in the middle of the night!! Living without those things is true deliverance at its best.

8. Carrying a human in a car seat. Baby carriers are awesome until the baby weighs more than fifteen pounds. After that, when the baby falls asleep in the car and you have to lug that carrier into a store, you can plan on making a stop at the chiropractor after your Target run.

7. Germs, the flu, people who sneeze on planes, older children with runny noses, the sound of a cough in a movie theater. Nothing says "panic" to a new mom like the possibility of a fever or the flu in a brand new baby. All it takes is one friend whose baby has had a spinal tap in the ER and you will never want to leave your house until your baby is old enough to have a dose of tylenol.

6. Being the primary food source for a human. There came a point with each of my babies that the sweetness of nursing disappeared. Like some some sort of Looney Tunes mirage, I'm pretty sure they saw a giant turkey leg every time they looked at me me. My life was not my own when I was nursing, I was constantly trying to figure out if the baby was getting enough or "snacking" too much or just cluster feeding. It was so complicated! Weaning is no picnic, either, so nursing was just all one big emotional conflict in my soul.

5. All the gear required. Every simple trip to the grocery required the utmost preparation and forethought.  Diapers, wipes, bottles, nursing pads, extra change of clothes, nursing cover, pacifier, toys, baby food, spoon, stroller, and teething tablets: should you forget any of these items, it was certain that there would be some sort of humiliating experience the resulted from your forgetfulness. I recommend buying everything online and never leaving the house if you have a baby. Way easier.

4. Date nights with an infant in tow. Don't get me wrong, we were always happy once we got to go out, even if it meant taking a little one with us. But date nights that don't include changing a diaper in the backseat of your car are much more romantic, know what I mean?

3.  All the parenting advice forced upon you. The world is apparently full of baby experts.  You learn this when total strangers stop you in Costco and ask if your baby is sleeping through the night, if he is taking a bottle, or whether or not he sleeps in a crib or your bed.  When you answer that, no, he wakes every four hours, he hates the bottle, and you stuck him in a crib because you like to sleep without a snorting baby next to you, they explain everything you have done wrong and how to fix your life, you baby, and your marriage.  It's astounding how much everyone else knows about your life.

2. Sleep deprivation. Aside from a few select nights of my youth in which I chose to stay awake for hours and hours, I have never known exhaustion like I knew during the years we had infants. I can recall days that I scraped myself around the house out of sheer duty to my young offspring. The thought that I had no idea when I would have more than four uninterrupted sleep again was demoralizing. It was painful to live like that. Sleep is awesome. Big kids sleep. Therefore Big kids are awesome.

1. The way babies coo, wriggle, and cozy into the crook of your arm when you rock them... wait... Oh, man. I guess I can't think about babies and only think mean, spiteful things. Their cuteness and sugar sweetness takes over my brain.

Quick, someone call me and let me hear your baby scream in the background....

Monday, October 27, 2014

how to be a missional family

"Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all. Whoever believes and is baptized is saved; whoever refuses to believe is damned." -Jesus (Matthew 16:15-16 The Message)

We had a busy weekend.

Saturday morning we woke up and cleaned our house from top to bottom. It's for sale and we didn't know if it would need to be shown after we left for the day's activities. (It didn't. Boo.)

Then we drove to a stranger's house. We pulled weeds, trimmed bushes, installed a ceiling fan, insulated the front door, and laid mulch along with fifteen or so other people from our community group.

Afterward we hurried to the football fields, where my boys caught passes in fabulous boyhood glory, or they missed altogether because they are kids and not NFL legends (yet).

When the games were over we drove to our dear friends' house and relished the blessing of how life has woven us together into lifelong relationship. (I was filthy and exhausted and smelled like dirt but they didn't comment- my friends are saints.)

Sunday morning I rolled my window down at the stoplight to chat with the man who daily stands on the corner.

Two hours later I hugged the same man in the lobby of our church. He started coming last week, and it was good to see him there again.

"This is the best thing that's happened to me all day," he said. I blushed and laughed.

We took communion as a church family, and I looked at the bread and juice in my hand. The pieces of my weekend began to fall into place.

Jesus taught us an amazing lesson when He came to earth to be God With Us, and then died so that we could become the family of God.

Family, done properly, is inherently missional.

Why do we go to football games, tend our homes, steward our blessings, and gather together with the people God has gifted to us? Because the gospel shows us we ought to always be loving one another, spending time and effort to cheer, connect, and celebrate the life we share.

Why do we serve strangers, open our lives to the outcast, and prioritize giving out more than we are taking in? Because the gospel shines light on how we ought always to be elevating the lives of others above our own, it shows us that greatness is wrapped up in smallness, and it pushes us out of our comfort and into bearing the brokenness of others.

Our lives were God's most cunning missional outreach. Now we take His love everywhere we go.

Missional living looks like mercy and kindness and compassion and faith and trust and rejoicing and sacrifice and encouragement and honor and truth and grace and vulnerability on our lips and on our calendars and in our everyday interactions with the people in our path.

Sunday after church we had two more football games and then the Harvest Fest at church. The kids won candy playing carnival games, hopped in bouncy houses, and ran around the church parking lot with their friends.

I am grateful that for my kids normal life looks like laying mulch in a single mom's flower bed and then praying a blessing over her before they go play football.

I am glad that it's unsurprising to my children that everyone they know comes back to church on a Sunday night to enjoy a fall afternoon together.

I am blessed that there are so any people who ask my sons if they won their football games, who cheer when they hear they won and who say, "Next time, buddy!" when they hear they lost.

I am grateful for the blessings of living missionally with amazing brothers and sisters in Christ, with Jesus as our center and and His life as our best example of love on display.

Our lives are on mission, and we are also God's great mission field, forever being won by His glorious sacrifice. I don't want any other kind of life. I just want all of this.

Monday, October 20, 2014

parenting with hopeful tenderness

I found Boy 1 lying with his face in a pillow, sobbing with great, big gulps of grief.

"Did you already know?" he asked.

"Yes, buddy. Daddy told me last night. I'm so sorry, sweetie. Can I rub your back and sit with you?"

"I guess."

His voice was muffled because his face was still buried in feathery pillowness. I sighed. What's a mama to do?

There are problems a ten year-old boy's heart mourns with with great sorrow. They seem small compared to other sorrows that the earth can scarcely bear- war, poverty, sicknesses that have no cure. But that really isn't the point, is it?

These troubles are dark and heavy to this boy of mine, all full of grief, sprawled on his bed. I sit on a Spiderman quilt next to the child whose birth ripped my heart in two, making space for a grander love than I ever thought possible, and I wait for him to find his way through his loss.

There has never been a human on earth who hasn't felt the cutting of this kind of moment- expectations slashed by circumstances beyond our control.

Plans rescheduled, school applications rejected, cars totaled, promises broken, job interviews gone awry, families torn apart, deals that don't work out, crops that fail, babies lost, churches that fail, and lives that despair in the middle of storms that won't cease. 

Free will leaves so many loose ends, so many possible ways we can be wounded by unexpected tragedies.

Aren't we made to be loved? Aren't we made to belong? Aren't we designed to know in deep soul spaces that there is a God and He never fails us

Yes, but we live among empty tombs. Like Mary, we think the worst has happened, and we place our hope on one last glimpse of hope in the darkness. Maybe the emptiness of our losses is confusing because our hearts can't bear the vacancy any longer. We need fresh hope from heaven and to hear our name called out by the Lord of Love.

I rubbed my son's back for a few minutes until I had to go.

"I have to go get dinner ready. Maybe a good meal will help?"

"No. It won't." 

Ah, yes. Each heart knows its own bitterness, as the Proverb says. I said a silent prayer and left.

Later that night, after tacos and brownie sundaes, those blue eyes locked with mine, and he sighed with contentment.

"You were right. Good food helps."

I smiled, and I knew we both felt the emptiness fill a bit. The loss is still there, but now so is something else: tender hope. 

That boy I love made it through after all.