Eucharist

Peace

When I change for bed at night, every article of my clothing smells like the musty sweetness of breastmilk. It is my constant companion. I remember it when I absentmindedly pour myself a cup of coffee, and realize it’s my husband’s brew, and pour every last delicious caffienated drop out. I have taken to a delicious decaf cinnamon tea, which I drink constantly in place of my old bitter brew. I remember it when I go to schedule meetings while at work, trying to navigate around my private appointments to pump. I remember it on the weekend, when I am immersed in chores and laundry and dishes and little housecleanings, and my husband’s play with Miles is interupted by an urgent need for a snuggle and nurse.

This is the biggest sacrifice of self I have ever offered another human being.

There is sacrifice in marriage, which is a post in and of itself, and that is different. That is sacrifice for someone who is able to communicate their needs and compromise.
There is sacrifice in pregnancy, and that is different. I gave up certain food and drink, but it was temporary, and contained, and for the most part did not change the shape of my days and nights.

This is continual. Every three hours at work, I stop and think of my baby as my body works to provide his nourishment. When I am home, it’s when he’s tired, or frustrated, or just needs reassurance. It’s when he’s hungry, of course, and it’s when he wakes in the night and cannot calm back to sleep. It’s in the grocery store parking lot, at his grandparents, at a rest stop.

I am here when he needs me. Whenever that is. Wherever that is. While I may attempt to buy a few minutes with a toy or a distraction, I am ultimately at my child’s beck and call.

And in my humanity, this is exhausting. Emotionally and physically. And I am reminded of our Lord’s words “This is my body, broken, for you” and I remember that this is a part of my ministry, my earthly calling. And tonight, when I am tempted to feel weary as the sweet mustiness reminds me, yet again, of the small life that depends on me, I will remember the far greater bodily sacrifice offered me, and I will rejoice.

you are mine to keep warm

As Jesse and I prepare to become parents this fall I am seeking to remember all that I have learned from my single years as I heard my pregnant friends’ grand statements about their parenting styles which they went on to eat in the form of (not-always-so) humble pie later on.

I don’t have any grand statements. We know nothing about being parents except that which is instinctual to being human. In fact,  we are currently approaching parenthood with a humility that is rare (and refreshing!) for me.

We plan to have a natural childbirth, cloth diaper and breastfeed. If these things do not happen, we will celebrate whatever birth method brings you into this world. We will change your diapers with love regardless of whether they are Huggies or bumGenius. We will feed you, regardless of whether we need to purchase formula or not.

We love you. We will rejoice in the brilliance of what God is knitting together in my womb, and we will teach you to rejoice in the rest of what He has done. This world you’re coming to join is flawed, but it is not possible to worship its Creator while condemning all that He created. He created a world with languages as diverse as the cultures across the world. Yes, there is evil and hunger and war. There is also music and dance and art and literature.

We don’t know what the years hold for our family. I can guarantee you that there will be sorrow and trouble, and there will also be great joy. We can’t wait, little one. :)

Messy

It’s funny how much of adjusting to marriage is negotiating space. It’s not like “Trading Spaces.” No bright red paint on the walls, no gold-foil or silver spray paint. No big reveal when all the furniture has finally been arranged. Instead, marriage is a million small, seemingly insignificant compromises.

Some of it is negotiating physical space. Where the wet towels get hung. Who sleeps on which side of the bed. Sharing blankets and coffee and the bathroom counter space. Some of it is not physical space, but requires much of the same finesse and grace.  Who should get up first when the alarms go off in the morning. Who pays the bills, and what card should be used to put gas in the cars. Who will remember to pick up the milk and who hates to run errands on the way home from work.

So, to make this more complicated, we’re moving next month. Hopefully, it’s a semi-permanent move, because I’m really not enjoying the mess that comes with packing. Messy is not a word I normally like to associate with myself, and moving involves a lot of it. Oh, and we’re trying to rent our apartment early, so there’s been some fun with staging a one-bedroom apartment when a complete corner of the apartment is filled with boxes and boxes of books.

The good news? What the glorious, unprecedented mess of unpacking will be on the other side, into a wonderful home of our own.* We are moving out of the city and into a small town, a nice distance from both sets of parents, and well situated for work. We are moving to a kitchen with room and space to cook together without a well-choreographed dance of knives and hot pans.

The same things that make life complex also make it the most precious.

*Well, the bank’s, really, but these days, who’s counting that? ;-)

Foreign Bodies – Hwee Hwee Tan

Sometimes a book grabs you at the right moment in your life, and it just doesn’t let you go.

I first read Foreign Bodies when I was in grad school, right after Cori died, when my faith in God was something I had because I couldn’t think of a better option. If that seems horrific, I’m sorry.  Death and loss felt  forced on me by Someone I couldn’t just stop loving, but I felt abused and I carried a lot of anger and mistrust. I hid parts of this pretty well from a lot of people, but when it came right down to me and God, there wasn’t a lot of great emotion there.

Hwee Hwee Tan’s book is ostensibly about three young adults living in China. Mei has just become a lawyer, and her childhood friend Eugene’s university buddy Andy gets arrested for gambling. Written from all three perspectives, alternated, Tan seeks to uncover what leads us to the choices we make:

“All the problems that came up on this present Sunday, they all arose because of the foreign bodies within us  – things that happened in our childhood, some big, some small, but all significant; things that happened ten years ago, but still control our lives today; things from our yesterdays that will decide what we drink, dream and doubt, till the day we die. But you can’t see those things, because they’re not on the outside.”

It’s a well-written book, strong characters and good narration, but it’s the description of Christianity that led me to read and re-read this book during my grad school years. Mei’s Christianity is born out of fear at her grandfather’s funeral when she is just a child. She witnesses to an increasingly panicked Andy, an athiest skeptical of a faith he saw characterized in university as:

“…filled with posters of Bible verses, soft-focus rainbows and fluffy kittens.”

And yet, Andy comes to face Him:

“In the end, it was embarrassingly simple…I wished the answer wasn’t just ‘Jesus Christ’. I wished it was something that could only be expressed in French or German or Latin, or maybe even a combination of all three, something like ‘je ne lait achtung Spiritus Sanctus’ – something that sounds really profound…Life is complicated, why should the solution be so simple? If I were God, if I had my way, I’d make the answer so obscure, so incomprehensible that you could only grasp it after fasting under a tamarisk tree for a century or so.”

This is the part of the book that fed my sorrowing soul:

“Like a cold, black coal on the altar, I suddenly spurted to life. My soul caught fire, leapt like a spark, flew upwards towards the heavenly desire, towards the fountain flame. I changed. God created a new world in me. Bleeding like dawn on my soul, He touched and healed the cracks, and this deserted temple roared to life.”

And the end of the book:

“His love fills me – not the soft, cuddly, sentimental, Santa Claus, let’s-all-get-along, flower-power type, but God’s love, a love beyond reason, blind and obsessive, dangerous; a love that devours and destroys, a love that is lethal. I could never desert Him, because He put that love in my heart, the howl Solomon felt for his Bride – Love as strong as death, as cruel as the grave.

That’s how I felt about God at that time in my life, and it rings true even now. It reminds me of the part of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe  where Lucy asks Mr. and Mrs. Beaver if Aslan is safe and Mr. Beaver scoffs, “‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

I recommend this book. Whole-heartedly, without reservation. It is a realistic picture of Christianity not as we market it, soft and gentle and with clear-cut delineations, but gritty, and real, with grey areas and unutterable truth.

Content

I have plans for 2012. Resolutions, if you will.

I have the normal ones – get rid of this 25 pounds that has haunted me since grad school, be the best wife ever, become a more patient manager.

I have the more complex ones – write the story that lives in my head, read more books, watch less trash tv (nobody needs to know who wins Survivor.)

But I have one resolution that I want to be central – be content.

Contentment is about being satisfied. With my situation in life, with the things and blessings I’ve been given, with the time I have been blessed with.

Life is something most of us live successfully by striving towards the next thing. In childhood, it’s the small things: sleepovers, increased responsibility, being allowed to watch PG-13 movies, driving a car, going out with friends. It becomes more complicated: graduating high school, getting into that college, getting on the Dean’s list, graduating from college, getting that job. We are always looking ahead, leaning forward to try to dip our toes into a pool not quite yet ours.

For me, more than anything else, I have always longed to be married.  I will not preach to you Plato’s Symposium, where Aristophanes speaks of how we each are searching for the other half we have been separated from, but neither will I pretend that the single life is not one of endless yearning for something you know is out there but not yet with you.

And then 2011 happened. We got married, and we have started the strange and wonderful mess of weaving two lives together. Marriage. It brings with it a new group of longings. A house to make a home. Children.

This year, I am going to be content. With where I am in life. A newly wed. A woman with a great job that I’m great at.

I will look ahead at the future, and welcome the changes when they come, but I will be content where I am, and ponder them in my heart while they are mine to hold.

as Christ loved the Church

How can the man who says of this verse – I Peter 3:1, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands”:

This also does not negate the equality of husbands and wives, again they are both image bearers of God. … There is equality and deference and respect, and that is the way God has ordered the world … Now what we mean by “be subject to” or “submit to” is that the husband is to lovingly humbly, sacrificiously, selflessly –let me put lots of words behind this– lead his family. And that the wife is to respect him and follow his leadership. This is not chauvinism. He is very clear that he is against chauvinism. We read elsewhere, in Ephesians 5:25 that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. This is sacrificial, humble, selfless leadership.” (emphasis mine – hear full audio here)

Also say this:

Without blushing, Paul is simply stating that when it comes to leading in the church, women are unfit because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men. While many irate women have disagreed with his assessment through the years, it does appear from this that such women who fail to trust his instruction and follow his teaching are much like their mother Eve and are well-intended but ill-informed. . . Before you get all emotional like a woman in hearing this, please consider the content of the women’s magazines at your local grocery store that encourages liberated women in our day to watch porno with their boyfriends, master oral sex for men who have no intention of marrying them, pay for their own dates in the name of equality, spend an average of three-fourths of their childbearing years having sex but trying not to get pregnant, and abort 1/3 of all babies and ask yourself if it doesn’t look like the Serpent is still trolling the garden and that the daughters of Eve aren’t gullible in pronouncing progress, liberation, and equality.” (emphasis mine – quoted from article here)

(First, this is Mark Driscoll’s example of deference and respect?)

Let’s leave the awful woman-like emotions out of this, shall we? There’s a fundamental logic problem here. Is he really arguing that  women should not lead the church based on the culture of our fallen world and the contents of grocery store newstands? So I assume that’s where we should look for validation of God’s plan of male church leadership? Is that evidenced by Maxim? Playboy? Internet porn stats? The fact that 30% of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year? What about the fact that on average, more than three women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands in this country every day?

We are a people in need of redemption. All of us.

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. – Romans 3.22-24. 

Those verses always bring to mind another favorite of mine: 

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3.28

Let’s think of this another way – there is no difference between male and female, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Leaving aside whether or not I agree with the position Driscoll ends up in, I object and am righteously angry with the way he chooses to defend and express his position. God did not choose men to lead the church because they’re slightly less broken than these womenfolk they accompany. God’s choices do NOT have to do with the relative sinfulness of  the fallen people we are, it has to do with His plan for His church and their salvation.

on Veteran’s Day

*a day late, I know*

I do  not have the same frame of reference for war that my grandparents did. I do not have childhood memories of occupation troops, nor did I walk across the Netherlands during Hongerwinter to find food.  At no point during my childhood did we take in a Jewish child who needed a safe place to stay.

I do not have the same frame of reference for war that my brother does. I have never ridden in a Humvee. I have not spent months overseas, or lost friends in combat. I don’t even have the vocabulary for his experience.

My frame of reference for war is that of a descendant. Who heard the stories that my grandparents told, and the stories that they didn’t tell.

My frame of reference for war is that of a sister.
My frame of reference for war is my mother’s hair turning gray day-by-day. It’s my mother’s voice when she tells me that after two weeks of silence, we still have not heard from my brother. It’s my father’s voice, torn by sorrow, after we have heard from my brother. My frame of reference for war is recognizing my brother’s roommate in the list of casualties. It’s scouring the pictures in news stories for his face, for mention of his division, for proof that he’s okay. It’s my sisters’ tears. It’s my tears.

It’s the joy of seeing him come home. Seeing him hold his niece, just days old, and seeing the healing start with a baby’s tiny hand.

I am thankful for veterans. Without them, I would not be where I am today.
I am thankful for my brother. Without him, I would not be the woman I am today.
Love you, brother.

Beginnings

Today, we are getting married. To all of you across the country who are not with us today as we quietly start the next phase of our lives – thank you for everything that you have done for us and with us that has led us to this point together.  Thank you. We both love you all.

From several years ago:

“There are so few people given us to love…If you can, at nineteen, count the people you love on one hand, you will not, at forty, have run out of fingers on the other.  There are so few people given us to love and they all stick.” – Anne Enright

Excepting my family (of course you love your family, and of course they stick,) at nineteen, I don’t think I’d hit the halfway mark on my first hand.  I mean, I love people all over the place – I’m a pretty affectionate sort of person, anyone could tell you that. But there are very few people in anyone’s life who are “given us to love” – and I could still count mine on one hand. These are the people who you love with a desperation, with a longing that is expressed in inarticulation.

These are the people who taught me that sometimes laying down your life for your friends requires living.

“But love is the answer to a question
That I’ve forgotten,
But I know I’ve been asked
And the answer has got to be love.”

- Regina Spektor, Reading Time With Pickle

Today, I miss you, Cori Lee. Wish you were here to play with my nephews and niece, to creatively come down the aisle in a wheelchair and to prop your chin on your two fingers and ask my groom a confusing existential question or two. “Tell me about your formative years.” Wish you had been here to spend last night with me, to get your nails done with my sisters and I and to laugh hysterically  with us. I miss you. The mind reels, Cori.

Top 10 of 2010

What?! It’s 2011 already?!

At the beginning of last year, I carefully didn’t promise to read a hundred books, which seems to have worked. I read a hundred books!! The last one (Reengineering Health Care: A Manifesto for Radically Rethinking Health Care, by Jim Champy and Harry Greenspan) finished on December 31st.

So the recap, the highs and lows of the year with links and everything.

1. A series, satisfactorily concluded:

Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, concluded with Mockingjay.
Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay might be one of the most masterfully executed trilogies I have ever read. Haunting, compelling, with a lot of emotion and thought under the surface, these books are something I would recommend to older teens and adults. Mockingjay, especially, is a harsh but beautiful contemplation of mercy.

2. A series, brilliantly continued:

My first buy on the Kindle, Megan Whalen Turner’s fourth book in The Thief series, A Conspiracy of Kings was an excellent addition to her earlier stories of Eugenides. This is a series I would recommend to younger readers with the caveat that there is a lot of swearing (mostly in the form of the use of the pseud0-Greek gods and godesses’ names in vain.)

3. The year’s best short story collection:

I finally read something by Amy Bloom, A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, and I’m not entirely sure how I felt about the content. Disturbing, beautifully written and truly an startling piece of work. I would recommend this to short story readers who are not faint of heart.

4. Best novel(s):

The most heart-breaking and the most informative: Still Alice
The sweetest: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
The most thought-provoking: The Help

5. The dystopian selections:

Always a favorite sub-genre of mine, I read several good dystopian books this year. First, The Unit, about mandatory organ donation for the over 50 crowd, set in Sweden. Second, Far North, set in a world annihilated by nuclear war and food shortages.

6. Sci-fi bordering on horror:

I hesitate to call any book horror, but I’m not sure what else you would call this book. A long saga spanning a hundred years, The Passage starts with the governments’ search for a cure for old age, and ending with the last remaining humanity searching for a cure for the cure. I think this was an excellent book within its genre – it steered clear of any s.x content, but it was very brutally violent. I will recommend this to fans of this genre, and to my bro-in-law. :-)

7. The year’s best Mystery:

I love Tana French. Love. Her. So it’s no surprise that Faithful Place was my top mystery pick for 2010. Complex, full of characters that are recognizable and easy to relate to. I am very excited to see the next book. Hopefully before 2012.

8. Book for work that ended up being really worth my time:

Drive – this book by Daniel Pink was about people’s motivations. Mostly, he asserts that people are naturally eager to learn and solve problems and that we are not as much motivated by money as we like to think. This book is the ultimate un-schooling support. I truly enjoyed it.

9. A book you should not read:

How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff. It was dystopian teen fiction, and should have been everything I love. But it wasn’t. It was disturbing.

10. Top rereads of the year:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ender’s Game, Anne of Green Gables, Never Let Me Go, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

i can see clearly now

Yesterday was foggy.

When I was a child, foggy days in winter were the worst. You woke up in the morning and you knew that by the end of the day the white wonderland of the midwest would have dripped itself into a muddy, grey oblivion. Fog meant that everything was melting and the air was thick of a damp that the warmest mittens couldn’t hold out against.

Yesterday, of course, I was busy. I knew it was foggy, and it was irritating in the I-have-to-drive-home-in-this-goo, Why-can’t-it-just-be-sunny way, but I didn’t dwell on its impact on the 14-16 inches of snow lying about, since there’s not as much to celebrate with snow as an adult. (Pros: potential snow day – Cons: shoveling, plowing, ice on your car, ice on the roads, maniac drivers, snowbanks you can’t see around, driving in mittens, fewer parking spots because the snow takes up room – you get the point.) I thought briefly of how much more disappointed I would have been if this had been my childhood, all the snow melting away right before Christmas, but in my grinch-like whirlwind, I didn’t really think further than that.

But then, this morning, on the way to work – a miracle! It had become cold overnight, and all the fog had frozen on the trees, so that everything was sparkly and white.

I thought of grief. In the winter, fog is dank and depressing and overwhelming, but when the fog lifts and freezes and sparkles, while we still don’t understand why we had to come through the fog, we can see how the other side is all the more beautiful for it.

Maybe this doesn’t make sense to anyone else, but that’s my deep thought for today.

Loves to all.

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