Friday, February 29, 2008

Reflections on the Sanctity of Life

A few minutes after midnight on Valentine's Day, I was privileged to witness a baby being born. This was the first birth I've attended in whiche I didn't have a central role (as in, the one pushing out the baby). It was amazing, wonderful and also acutely painful watching someone else go through the long ordeal of a natural birth. As the baby was delivered and put on mama's chest, I was able to watch her and new daddy's face. There were tears and laughter, relief and pain. This was the boy they had only known through the walls of her pregnant belly and now they saw him for the first time. It was the moment in which all the theory turned into practice. From that time on, love would become more of an action than it ever had previously. I remember thinking then that this tiny child, alive for the last 9 months in utero and now introduced to the world was precious in his own right. Not because he was wanted and welcomed and loved but because he was. Life is not an accident and life matters.

Last week my aunt came into town to visit my grandfather who is turning 87 and living with my parents. During one late night conversation, she said that if she got to the state of health and dementia my grandfather is in she hoped someone would let stay in bed and just.... I was able to articulate for her the reasons why my parents choose not to do this. At 87, my grandfather is alive and his life matters. Not just what he did but what he does now and who he is. He is old, he has some really painful character flaws that have wounded his family and the dementia can be draining. But, because God is sovereign, he is alive for a reason. He has a soul. He is capable of relationships. He has value. I don't know if she got it but I do.

We have just returned from a short vacation with our daughters. We had a blast playing in the snow, hiking, watching movies, swimming in the heated pool, watching the stars, and many other things. It reminded me that there are so many days that I wish the kids were _______ (potty trained, obedient, not whining, getting along, able to wipe themselves, etc) that I can forget to see them. Sure, there are things that they are not, but there are also amazing things that they ARE. They are vibrant, electric, glowing with life. They are designed and created in a way that cannot be duplicated. They are a part of the sacred, not because they are divine but because they carry the fingerprint of their Maker. We all do but it is easier for me to see it in them. But, I'm talking to God about widening my view.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday so we are now deep into the season of Lent. As best as I understand it, Lent is the 40 days preceeding Good Friday that commemorates the 40 days Jesus fasted and was tempted in the wilderness. Those who "do" Lent give up something during the 40 days. Thus "Fat Tuesday" or Mardi Gras where you get completely wasted since you have to be uber-holy for the next month plus. I think that's how it works at least.

As you can probably tell, I didn't grow up in a Christian tradition that celebrated Lent. I didn't even know what it was until I was an adult. Christmas and Easter were about Jesus (not Santa and bunnies) but there weren't other holy days.

So here I am, all grown up and living a little out of the "normal" Christian box. We have a housechurch, I am part of a Christian women's group that does emotional work (kind of therapy), I have a very hippy side. Yet...there is a part of me that longs for what traditions like Lent bring.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of traditional "church" things that I'm happy to flush. If I never have to do another handshaking session during welcome time, I will be just fine. But to me, the power of Lent, Advent, even Passover is in the retelling of the story, the pointing to Christ, the framing the bigger picture beyond just a day on the calendar.

The idea of Lent to me is remembering that going to the cross cost Jesus something. He wrestled with his role and he prepared for it in the wilderness. Just because he is God doesn't mean it was easy. He knew, looking forward, what was to come. He was tempted to use his divine power in a way outside of the Father's plan. Choosing the cross was not a cheap decision. When I forget about the suffering in the wilderness, the torment of the cross, I really minimize the importance of the resurrection.

To relate that to me, what does my faith cost me? In my whitebread-USA Christian life, what does Christ choosing to die really mean to me? And that's where I come back to commemorating Lent. I'm pondering giving something up. Whatever it is, I want it to be something that when I miss it I remember the pain of Jesus fasting for 40 days and nights. I want to walk that path of sorrow to remember that my sin cost him something and yet he volunteered his life willingly for me. I want to feel the pain so that the joy of my redemption is sweeter.

Maybe I'm a little more traditional than I let on. :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Farmer in the Dell

I was going to write about the doula meeting that I went to last night and the tension I carry around being a conservative Christian and also quite a bit "granola". I struggle with that when I have interactions with awesome people who also believe they harness the divine mother energy from the earth in their hands as they do massage--or whatever. That's really not me.

But, that is going to have to wait. It will be there another day. It is 55 degrees outside and I'm going to go harvest grapefruit, oranges, lettuce and check on the other stuff in the garden. I haven't spent enough time out there and I need a little life-giving activity. I'm not a very good gardener but I love putting my fingers in the dirt. It reminds me of God's truth, it is simple (ish), it connects me to my body and soul. What's not to like?

Anyone need some citrus?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

What I Learned About Life Through Childbirth

This is one of those pieces that has been rolling in my head...

I have two daughters, ages 2 and almost 4. When I was pregnant with the first one, I elected to birth at a birthcenter with a midwife and (gasp!) to receive no pain medication! Originally, I leaned toward this option for less-than-noble reasons--I don't like hospitals. But, I found natural birth was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life--enough so that I repeated it with daughter #2 (in a hospital, even). The lessons I learned have had a profound impact in shaping how I view the rest of my life.

I need support
It is hard for me to be exposed and vunerable. And, boy howdy is birth exposing! And yet, as my dear friend held the container while I threw up during a contraction, I remember thinking, "I am SO glad she is here." I could not have labored sucessfully without my husband and other support. I need people who love me to stand with me. I am not an island or even a peninsula. I am built for love and relationship.

I have a voice and ask for what I want
I really learned this from my second birth. After my wonderful birthcenter birth, the hospital felt scary and foreign. But I was able to stand in my strength and express my desires for my labor. I chose my experience and was able to have a beautiful birth. I am not subject to those around me creating the atmosphere, I have choices and can express them.

I am capable of doing a hard physical thing
Up until giving birth, the hardest physical thing I'd ever done was run a few half-hearted wind sprints. I was much more likely to curl up with a good book than scale a mountain. And yet, in all my couch potato-ness, I was able to run my personal marathon and survive on the other end--twice!. Yes it was hard, but I did it. And I even got an endorphin rush! In the last four years, I have lived less afraid of my body than in the twenty-whatever years prior. I still love to read but walking, hiking, getting to the gym and dancing with my kids are ways I connect to my physical part.

I don't have to understand everything
I like to know things, have all the info, be in control. Birth doesn't work like that. Sure, there are lots of things to learn about pregnancy and birth but at some point, enough is enough. There is no way to "think through" a birth. It is body, emotion, soul and spirit. I didn't have to know how my hormones were making my cervix soften, I had to believe it would dialate and open enough to allow my baby to be born. While knowledge is good, trust and faith are equally important in life.

I have feelings and they matter
Birth involves two people very directly: mother and child. There were things I rejoiced in about my births and things I had to grieve. I have heard "Well, you have a healthy baby and that is what matters." But the baby was only half, and she had the easy part! I have feelings, they are important, and they are good! :) I am often tempted to minimize but when I do that I deny a part of me.