Transitioning. Again.

So, a lot has changed since my last academically-oriented posts. I graduated with my Master’s in Counseling, so the academics are done for a while. That space in my brain is currently being occupied by Frozen lyrics and to-do lists, a welcomed change to the rigorous thinking and reflecting that I’ve been doing for the past 4 years. I know myself well enough to know that those things will return – I will want to read books again that aren’t young adult fiction (I’ve got my eye on you, Divergent series), and eventually re-enter the counseling world. But for now, I’m focusing on being a mama and learning hard lessons about myself while giving my life away to this tiny, adorable, hilarious, and wildly frustrating human.

We moved from St. Louis in May, and if I thought I missed it then, I had no idea how I would long for it when we moved to Atlanta. That place holds so many wonderful memories, and became the place we call home as a family. I remember moving there in the Fall of 2010, excited for the new adventure but nervous about being back in school and making a completely new set of friends. Those first couple of months were really difficult. I was lonely and ached for the close friendships I’d left behind in Birmingham. Now I am in that same place of longing again, but this time feels different for me. There isn’t the built-in community that I had in seminary. Although I didn’t know those people when I got there, they were there for the knowing. With the exception of a couple of my college friends who live in the area, we are in from-scratch territory in Atlanta. Also, making friends as a single person was a breeze! Throwing a child into the mix means not hanging out with people after 7:00pm (or between 1:00-3:00pm) unless they are willing to come over to your place while your child sleeps. It is going to be harder, but we firmly believe that community is worth the work. Now to find that community …

We’ve visited three churches so far (gosh, we’ve been here almost a month already), and are having a hard time not comparing each of them with the church we adored in St. Louis. Not that they are bad churches, but we just have to come to terms with the fact that what we’re passionate about in a church may not exist here. Or it might. Three churches is not a lot considering how many there are. It is the South, after all. We really don’t want to rush the process (we’ve done that before and it didn’t turn out well), but we are eager to be planted and in a place where we can begin to be known, and to know others.

Philip is getting a ThM at Emory University (hence the move to Atlanta). Things are working out so well for him there, and he is making great connections with faculty for possible PhD work in the future. His experience has been a confirmation that this was the right move. It is wonderful to see him flourish and get excited about the work he is doing. It is also a bit strange to not be in school right alongside of him. That is how our marriage has been spent up to this point since we met, married, and became parents as grad students. I’m not really missing being in school, don’t get me wrong, but I do struggle with having a Master’s degree in a field that I love and not using it. I know this must be a tension that a lot of moms feel – wanting to be with children, but wanting to be out in the world, too. And perhaps that will happen, but for now this is what works for our family. And I’m learning to be content, to enjoy this time with my girl, and savor the sweet moments I’m being offered by God in this season.

 

A Letter to My Daughter

Dear Greta,

Today you turn six months old. You’ve been with us for a half a year already! I can’t believe it has been that long. When you were super itty bitty and things were hard (you slept a lot less then, and mommy and daddy didn’t really know what they were doing), we thought the days were creeping by and longed for the day that you’d be the age you are now – able to laugh and play with us. Now I look back at pictures of you when you first came home to live with us and, although I can still remember how hard it was being a brand new parent, all I see is a beautiful little girl who I love more than I ever thought I could love anyone or anything. Yes, I see a tired, stressed out mama, but you steal the show.

I do remember how hard those first weeks were, not just because of loss of sleep and cluelessness, but because we were scared about the syndrome that we learned you had when you were only one week old. Baby, that day was hard for Mommy and Daddy. I wanted so badly to be strong and brave for you, but all I could do was cry and ask God, “Why our little girl?” But Greta, God was taking care of you the whole time you were inside my body. He knit you together in there, and made sure that you made it out safely. There may be some hard things ahead, but you are doing so well. You are one of the 1% of girls with Turner Syndrome that makes it through pregnancy. And as far as we know, there aren’t any major health issues for you yet. Our little fighter-miracle girl. We are so thankful that you’re here.

you at two weeks old

you at two weeks old

It has been such a joy to watch you learn and grow. You got your first two teeth when you were only three months old, and now at six months you are working on four more (you have bitten me a few times with those teeth – not okay). You learned to roll over at around three months. We were happy to see you do it, but then you kept rolling over in your sleep and getting really mad about it. Now you can work it out on your own, and even prefer sleeping on your belly. We have a video monitor (yes, I watch you sleep), and I love seeing you in your bed sound asleep, on your belly with your cute little thumb in your mouth. One day we’ll have to work on not sucking your thumb, but for now it is one of Mommy’s favorite things. You love to jump, and recently have started chewing on your socks (while they’re on your feet, of course). It’s a little gross, but also really adorable. Right now, you’re working on strengthening your muscles so you can learn to sit up and crawl. I don’t know when you’ll learn to do those things, but I know that the crawling is going to be a huge change. Pretty soon we’ll start giving you solid food. I’m sure there will be lots of pictures and videos for you to see of how those first experiences with food go (think diaper only, covered in avocado – perfect for a graduation or wedding slide show).

Only six more months until your first birthday. I’m excited to see all the things you’ll learn to do between now and then, and to see your little personality continue to develop. It is wonderful to be your mom, and to be a part of your story. I love you with everything I have.

Love,

Mommy

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you at six months old

 

 

Bombs, Babies, and the Love of God

The past few weeks have been really difficult for us as a nation. I know that I am one of many who has sat in front of various news outlets, my heart breaking for the hurting and for the general state of this world we live in. From Boston to West to Philadelphia (Gosnell), there have been so many times that I’ve wondered how much longer the Lord will have us wait for his return. The evil seems to be winning sometimes. I want to lose faith in God’s created. But that’s just it – I can’t put faith in God’s created.

There have been many news stories celebrating the helpers, the ones who rushed toward the blast sites in Boston and West. I also applaud those people, and am so thankful for their sacrifice. But more than that I applaud the God who created them, and who reveals his Rescuer character through his image bearers. God hasn’t given up on his creation, and he still puts forth his image through people. He is still making all things new.

I have also been thinking a lot about the love that God allows us to have for each other. I have this beautiful, funny, smart little six-month-old miracle who is sleeping soundly in her crib as I write this. Sometimes when I look at her, there is so much love inside of me that I have to laugh or cry or sing or do something, because I just can’t sit still from the love. It is hard to even express how much love there is. Then I think about all of the moms and dads all over the world who feel that way for their children. Their babies and their teenagers and their adult children. That is a lot of love. And it is nothing compared to how much God loves his children. And that makes me realize that evil is not winning. It is here, but it has never stood a chance.

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The moment my life changed forever.

Singleness and Married(ness)

I follow a blog called Rage Against the Minivan, in which the author hosts a series of guest posts called “What I Want You to Know.” Readers are encouraged to submit stories from their own lives “in hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face.” It is a great blog and a great series. I posted one to Facebook about miscarriage (which was beautiful and very insightful), which in turn led a friend of mine to peruse the blog and share one about singleness on Facebook.

Although I was a few years younger than the author when I met my husband and got married, the post brought back painful memories of the years of waiting. She stated so many things about singleness so well. But there was something that I wanted to tell her, and the rest of my single friends. This is what I said on Facebook to my friend who shared the post:

Okay, I just finished reading it and there is one thing that I would say to the author (and to my single friends, and to the single ME a couple of years ago): Being married is wonderful. It is awesome to have a partner in life, someone who is on your side all the time. Being a mom is also wonderful (extremely difficult, but wonderful). Being married and being a mom also will not satisfy me. I will probably always be wanting the next thing in life (right now, I think that being graduated and living in a space with more than one toilet will make me happy). It doesn’t take away my anxiety, or my self consciousness. If anything, I have felt WORSE about myself being a mom than I ever have before. But that doesn’t make the longing for marriage and family any less, or the waiting any easier. And it is a good longing, by the way. And I pray that all of the awesome single women I know meet awesome single men and get married and have awesome babies, just as I know people prayed for me for many years.

But there was still something about the post that bothered me and it didn’t hit me until later. In the post, the author says this:

What I want you to know is when I attend the women’s’ retreat at my church, and meal after meal I sit with women who complain and roll their eyes and make fun of their husbands and children, and they talk about how thrilled they are to be away from them, what a drag they are….I would switch places with them in a heartbeat.

This bothered me for two reasons. First, it pains me to think of Christian women rolling their eyes and making fun of their husbands and children. I know this happens, and that it becomes some sort of twisted camaraderie between married women and mothers. It is not appropriate, and I would encourage women (and myself) not to do so, and to communicate disappointments, annoyances, etc. to their spouses instead of their friends.

But the second thing is what really stuck under my skin like a splinter. I would say to this woman that her vantage point is limited. Yes, women may talk to each other about their husbands and children. But don’t think for a moment that as a single person you have any clue what it is like to be a wife and a mother. I had no idea until I became both. Like many other women, I had romanticized ideas of what my life would look like once I was married with children. Some of them have turned out to be true, but a lot of them haven’t. I had no idea how hard it would be to tend to a screaming baby, not knowing what the hell I was doing and feeling completely inadequate and exhausted. I had no idea how it would hurt to fight with my spouse (although I have to say, we fight pretty fairly and not too often … I thank God for a good communicator). I had no idea how hard it would be to realize that just because things aren’t done MY way, doesn’t mean Philip doesn’t do them well (or how hard it would be to let him do those things instead of always taking over). I had no idea that as a couple we could still feel really lonely with a new baby, once the initial wave of visitors and well wishes was over. I had no idea how abandoned we would feel by single friends and married-without-children friends (not that they are necessarily at fault, but we just can’t go anywhere after 6 pm). I had no idea what it would feel like to basically be a shut-in, staying home to make sure my baby gets the naps she needs.

So, to the author, and to all singles, I say this: Please, when you hear women talking about how thrilled they are to be away from their kids, know that this women’s retreat (or whatever event) is probably the first time that they have been away from the demands of house, husband, and children in months. Know that it isn’t easy to just get out and have coffee with your girlfriends. Know that those women love their families, and instead of jumping to conclusions about their level of love and devotion to them, see these “complaints” as a cry for help – for someone to identify with. Being a wife and a mom is HARD, and they need to know that they aren’t the only ones who are struggling. They need to know that that they aren’t doing a bad job, and that their children will one day stop pooping in inappropriate places. Look them in the eyes and say, “It is harder than you imagined, isn’t it? Tell me about it.” Listen to them, pray for them, and for the love … go to their house and talk to them about something that doesn’t involve baby sleep patterns or Dora the Explorer.

southern gospel, kermit gosnell, & holistic care for women

When I was young, I wanted to sing in a Southern Gospel group. For those of you who know me now, this probably seems a little … off. Yeah, it does to me, too. But growing up in a Southern family and in a Southern Christian tradition, there was a fair amount of Southern Gospel to be heard. My father was, and remains, a Southern Gospel lover. I remember when I was a child he especially loved a group called Gold City. He had a casette tape that we listened to over and over in the car. I sat in the back seat singing along to the mostly hopeful, looking-forward-to-heaven type songs. But there was one song that always made my mom cry, and when she gave me a brief, child-friendly explanation of what the song was about, I was distraught. After that, every time the song came on I would cry, too. It was about abortion – something that my six-year-old mind couldn’t understand.

My reaction hasn’t changed to this issue since I was six. When I remembered the song and looked it up, I cried again (even though it is admittedly cheesy). When I heard about the Kermit Gosnell case, I was horrified. When I watched the ongoing documentary covering the case, I wept. The descriptions of what went on in that clinic were terrible enough, but I was not prepared for the images. I still can’t forget it.

Now, do I know that what went on in that clinic was illegal and is (hopefully) not the norm in abortion practices? Yes. Do I know that before abortion was made legal women were getting abortions anyway, with dire consequences for both mothers and babies? Yes. Do I think that these arguments are excuses for ending a human life? Absolutely not. However, I also am not naive enough to think that this issue is black and white, and that there aren’t dozens of factors that contribute to the problem. In fact, I struggle to write this remembering that this is a blog post and not a dissertation. There is just too much to say. I think both sides can agree that the best option for dealing with abortion issues is education and prevention of unwanted pregnancies.

Just one issue that leads mothers to choose abortion is poverty. I had a baby last year. It was not planned, and it has not been easy (although it has been wonderful!). My husband and I are both graduate students and had only been married for six months when we found out we were pregnant. We both only had one year left to finish our master’s degrees. We both come from white middle- to upper-class families, but as a family unit we are poor. When we shopped for our health insurance policy (which we pay WAY too much money for, and have to have help paying), we were told that pregnancy would not be covered unless we purchased a maternity rider. But even if we purchased said rider, at $50 extra per month, we would still not be covered for 18 months. Because pregnancy is a “preexisting condition.” So with no other healthcare options for me and our baby, we applied for Medicaid. The process was difficult and humiliating. I didn’t get to have my first doctor’s appointment until the end of my first trimester because it took so long to get coverage. While Medicaid was definitely helpful, there were still huge bills that we couldn’t pay on our own when all was said and done. Out daughter has Turner Syndrome (there will likely be more about that in another post), and tests related to her health only made the pile of bills higher since our insurance does not cover diagnostic testing. Thanks to a wonderfully supportive family, and a generous and gracious church family, our bills so far have been taken care of.

This kind of support is not the norm for women in poverty who find themselves with an unexpected pregnancy. Imagine being poor with no hope for financial support from family members. Imagine not having enough money to feed yourself or pay your rent. Imagine waiting at a bus stop to go to a job that offers you no benefits, and that pays so little you know the money will run out before the month does. Imagine waiting in crowded rooms to get onto Medicaid or food stamps, and being herded through system like cattle with no sympathy or understanding. Imagine never being able to get in touch with your case worker because the system is so overloaded that personal contact is a joke. Now imagine that you find out you are pregnant. Do you pay a one-time fee to have an abortion, do you have the child and incur many more costs for the long haul, or do you give the child up for adoption?

Maybe as Christians our efforts shouldn’t be so focused on trying to make abortion illegal. It has become so embedded in our culture that to take it away now would be “taking away women’s rights.” Maybe instead of protesting the legality of abortion we should get behind other women’s issues. For example, better and more affordable healthcare and birth control*. More education about sex, abstinence  and birth control in the family, school, and church setting (and not in a shaming, sex-is-bad way). More programs that will counsel young women (and men) on pregnancy and parenting. Legislation making it easier and more affordable for prospective adoptive parents to get children into their homes.

As Christians, we should choose our words and our actions wisely to make women feel valued rather than condemned because of their choices. We should actually do something to love them, rather than run our mouths about the horrors of abortion (which are undeniable and many). I believe that the only way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions is through love in action. How can we do that? I’d like to hear your thoughts.**

*This is also a touchy subject in the Christian community, as some birth control options are suspected to be abortive.

**I urge you to keep comments kind. Before you post anything, pray. Anything offensive will be removed.

Returning

I used to have a blog called Life in the Details before I moved to St. Louis. Life has changed A LOT since I wrote on that little blog, so starting fresh seems appropriate.

I love writing, but with all of the papers and reading connected to my Master’s program, personal writing has taken a backseat.  We’re talking back-row-of-the-minivan, backseat. I hope to use this space as an outlet for writing, and hopefully that writing will encourage others along the way (or at least make them laugh). I do start an internship in the Fall so this is probably the worst time to start back. Ah, well. Come what may.

Thanks for reading!