thank you, _________

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Who doesn’t love Jimmy Fallon? I mean, he’s got this spark and yet very peaceful vibe with his humor, unlike so many comedians today. Everything he does is pure magic, so I decided to steal/adopt his idea of thank-you notes because I am just full of sass. And since Jen Hatmaker stole it first (#WWJHD?)  and I share a certain kinship with her, I decided that it’s sort of my destiny to write these satirical ‘thank-you’ notes too.

Here goes– my thank-you’s round one.

Thank you Urban Outiftters,
for reminding us just how bad high-waisted shorts look on all but 2 percent of our population. Due to your utter disregard for normal body types and shapes, we are now given the honor of once again having to face the entourage of teens sporting impossibly long cracks and crotches, while somehow simultaneously showing us the very beginnings of their buttocks. As an added bonus, apparently the no-bra phase of the 90’s is back. Awesome. Hats off to you!

Thank you iPhone news alerts,
for your constant reminders that there is incredibly important world events happening, such as Anderson Cooper rolling his eyes and baby animals being born and President Trump “lashing out” at this person or that publication. I don’t know what I would do without these completely unbiased and factual current events. I mean, forming my own opinions would be nearly impossible and, dare I say, uneducated. Without the stunning insights of our nation’s most sought-after news sources, what kind of terrible person would I become? Oh news alerts, you keep me grounded, informed, a small step ahead of my loveable yet ignorant peers.

Thank you greeting card industry,
for forcing my hand into creating bulky and poorly glued homemade cards and envelops for the people I love. Whenever a holiday or birthday rolls around, put off buying cards I cringe at the thought of what it will take to avoid buying.  If I wanted to spend 4 plus dollars on paper, I would buy a coffee at Starbucks, dump out the water and fill it with my tears. You drove me to this poorly drawn stick figure. You drove me to this.

till next round….

image via unsplash: @aaronburden.

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Swelling vs. Pouring: Love is not Proud

 

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Love is not proud

If pride had density and could be measured, I imagine it swelling. Air filling a balloon, blood filling a bruise. There’s really only so much room, and the balloon pops; the bruise becomes painful, skin stretched and tender to the touch.

Except it isn’t so obvious.

We are in a world so swollen with pride; it feels natural to join right in. To collect our rights, our fears, our love, bottle it up to swell inside us. Without even noticing it grows like a mold in the folds of our insecurities as we beg to be noticed, appreciated, celebrated. For: our work, our beauty, our craft, our ministry. It’s slow but always swelling.

But love is always in the emptying.

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It makes me think of a story about a widow, her son, and a traveling prophet. When the prophet met her, she was gathering sticks for a fire. She’d saved only enough oil and flour for a single meal–the last meal–for herself and her son. She had one meal to her name, nothing more, certainly nothing to give. But the prophet asked her for bread, saying something that must of stopped her heart. “The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty.” And against all logic, she brought him her last scraps of food, pouring out her flour and oil… to find that it kept on pouring.

Love is always the emptying. The pouring out and pouring in, the giving up of: rights, words, debts. It fills up our gaps, the cracks and holes in other hearts.

Then, just when you think you should stop, bottle it up for yourself, you hear Him speak: pour me some water, bring me some bread.

And, against all logic, it keeps on flowing.

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

 

balloon image via unsplash- hiperstermum
lightbulb imageimage via unsplash- sharonpittaway.com

Weeds

The other morning as I walked around our cozy little house with my watering can, I saw the weed that I’d been avoiding for months. It had grown to an astonishing length. Nearly taller than the hosta plant it was leaching from, and here I was dumping water on it again.

It was one of those pokey weeds with jagged looking leaves and little stickers that lodge into your skin when you touch them. So, naturally, I avoided touching it, leaving it for weeks and weeks and promising myself that I’d get on my gloves one of these days and pull it out.

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I’m not going to pretend I’m the first person to compare gardens, plants, and weeds to spiritual walks, but hey, I’m going to be one of them. Because this weed grew for no other reason than my own complacency. I let it grow right up alongside of my healthy hosta until finally it was too big to ignore. I think that’s what complacency is in our lives–seeing problems, but ignoring them until they nearly demand to be noticed.

Recently my husband and I went through some scary stuff with his health, some stuff that is still lingering. With all the hospital visits, sleepless nights, 9-11 calls, dr. visits, we began to do something we needed to do for a long time; we started to pray. Not just the prayers you mumble before falling asleep, but prayers that take time to mine from your soul because they are so deep and old within you. We started to play worship music in our home, to meditate, even sing the words together–something we’d only really done together in church so a slightly off-key melody is drowned out by those around you. We talked, cried, prayed and sang in a new way not because we became suddenly more spiritual, but because we needed to. Because we couldn’t be complacent anymore. And it was so, so good.

The funny thing is, when I put on my gardening gloves that morning (okay, I don’t even own gardening gloves… I put on my husband’s leather work gloves) and  pulled out that weed, I began to see more.  I pulled out another short stubby one, one sprawled across the earth, then another frail looking one with surprisingly grippy roots. Weeds I hadn’t really noticed before littered the ground, and I felt good. There was my complacency pulled out down to the roots,  and there was a clean little plot of hostas, their purple buds just beginning to flower.

Baby O’s Birth Story

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I decided to write about my labor and delivery experience in a place where I can always find it with the hopes that it helps other women who want to try a natural birth.

Monday
At almost a week overdue, I’d been feeling tightness in my abdomen off and on for days, so the fact that I was feeling it again didn’t surprise me. I prepped a roast that day and snacked a lot, feeling even more hungry and thirsty than usual.  The day had been warm and bright, so that evening my friend and I drove to the tennis courts to watch my husband and brother play. Throughout the game, I was having sharper more focused pain, and even sitting down became uncomfortable. I turned to my friend and said, “this can’t be labor, can it?” Around dusk, I called out to my husband, E , and said it was time to go. On the drive home, I nonchalantly mentioned that I might be having contractions– and they seemed to be coming about 10 minutes apart. He was calm, knowing I’d had these pains before and they hadn’t lasted.

Back at the home front, my doubts about being in labor grew smaller as the pain grew sharper, wrapping me in a way I’d never felt before. I encouraged my husband to eat, get showered and get ready to go. I grabbed the birth ball and mat. E lit a candle, put on calming music, and we began to time the contractions.  As the contractions came closer together, I took out a encouraging notes from friends and began to read them. I found myself going back to the birth ball again and again, leaning over it to sway through the gripping pain and letting out low sounds as I visualized my body opening up. E was with me on the floor, rubbing my back and timing the length and space between the pains. Finally, around one a.m., with contractions only 3 minutes apart, we left for the hospital.

Prodromal labor
Immediately upon arriving, the nursing staff put us in a labor room, and the nurse and midwife began to assess how I was progressing. Soon enough, we discovered that though my contractions were only 3-4 minutes apart, and I seemed to be actively laboring, I was dilated only a very slight amount. My options were to take a strong drug for the pain and another drug to help me sleep (with the hopes my body would keep working while I slept) or to go home. Striving for a drug-free birth, but confused at what my body was doing, I didn’t know which path to take. E and I took a moment to chat alone, and he helped me remember our goals. We decided to go home. Walking back out those hospital doors, stopping in the hall as my body continued to contract was beyond physically painful. I felt both frustration and fear, the tears I’d saved for when the pain was worst starting to finally escape. But the beautiful thing about tears is that they are another kind of birth, a release of anger, frustration and fear. I let myself cry and then resolved to continue the journey.

Tuesday
That night was a restless one; sleep came only between contractions which kept coming at 5, 6, and 7 minutes apart for some time. A dose of antihistamine was a big help giving me those much-needed minutes of rest in between. However, as my body relaxed, contractions slowed down to around 10-15 minutes apart, leaving me confused at why labor would not progress.

The next morning, contractions were still pulsating through me, and as I labored, I clung to E and to the hope that my body was moving in the right direction. We made an appointment to get my cervix checked rather than going to the birth center right away. Though I’d hoped for better news, I again had to fight discouragement when I heard I was dilated only 3 cm. The midwife assured me that my body had done some major work over the past 12 hours and she was confident the baby would be born that night.

Going home again inspired another bout of tears, and the resolve to have this baby tonight. With each new contraction, I fought fear, battled the temptation to panic.  A quote that had been an encouragement to me throughout pregnancy now became an anchor:

Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers–strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.


I felt anything but strong, yet something deep within me rose up, and in my weaknessGod gave me strength
; I kept going and kept going–swaying out the pain with E right by my side. At around 7:30 that evening, we left for the hospital again, deciding that this time, we were coming back with our baby.

Delivery

We were both excited when we heard our favorite midwife was on the birthing floor that night, and then further blessed to have a nurse we’d gone to college with. But shortly after, we had to fight discouragement yet again. I was still only dilated around 3 cm. Again, the options for drugs were presented. Again, E and I consulted alone and I decided to try a more natural intervention. I was exhausted from laboring for the past 24 hours, but still did not have peace about disrupting my body’s natural process.  I requested to have my waters broke, and Sarah, our midwife, looked at me and said, “Okay, but then you’re having this baby tonight.”

“Bummer,” was my sarcastic response.

Feeling my waters break was the most euphoric part of labor–the wild rush of warmth against my skin, the knowledge that there was nothing but a few centimeter between me and my baby girl. Afterwards, I got in the tub and labored– feeling the loving hands of my husband and the nurse on my back each time a contraction came, hearing their prayers over me and our baby. Before long, I started to feel the urge to push and suddenly wanted to get out of the water.

When they checked me this time, I was dilated to 6cm! We were having this baby!

E was excited, and though my hopes had finally come to fruition, the next batch of contractions felt like my entire body was being wrung out of energy and stamina. I could feel myself involuntarily pushing, could hear myself asking for something for the pain. Then, only moments later, I was on the bed, and Sarah was telling me “Okay, Megan, it’s time. Grab your legs and get ready to push.”

Grabbing my legs I bore down, trying to place my energy where I felt unbelievable pressure. I reached down and felt the soft slope of my baby’s head. She was so close! Sarah coached me through each push, E at my right and constantly encouraging. I heard myself screaming, but not the high-pitched, I-just-saw-a-spider scream. It was a war-call, a cry of  aggressive determination that I’d never heard myself make before.  Around 40 minutes in, it became apparent that my perineum wasn’t going to budge enough for her head. Trusting Sarah and my husband’s opinion, I asked for an episiotomy. And into the pain and the stinging, I pushed, Sarah helping me use each contraction to the fullest. A few more pushes– all my physical and spiritual and mental self into those moments, all my resolve and hope. And suddenly release. Suddenly she was there, on my belly, all red and teary and whole.

“She’s here? She’s really here?” I just kept saying. Because through it all I could’ve never imagined the amazement I’d feel, how quickly everything–the pain, the fear, the struggle–felt like a dream when I ran my fingertips over her feather-soft skin.

Our baby girl.

 

Real Love: the humble love of a mother

I wrote this post over a month ago when I was waiting to meet the little girl who made me a Mommy. 

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my mother. holding my baby girl


Love does not boast…

For weeks now, I have been wondering: when this swollen belly will give way to our child, when I will finally break open (in so many mysterious ways), when I will feel the weight of my first child on my chest.

There is the constant questioning: will she be healthy? Will she be wise? Will I know how to love her?

Then there is reflecting on my own mother, marked by 3 children, a conquered disease, a lasting marriage and a thriving faith.

There is remembering: her nodding to sleep as she rocked so many children in that square oak chair. Her hanging laundry out to dry in the sun, knowing full well we’d run that hill, dragging dirty hands and faces through those clean damp sheets. Her cleaning up after I got the gumption to bake. Her braiding my hair. Her cheering us on, hiding her fear while we flew down that crumbling sidewalk on rollerblades, bikes, in wagons. Her cleaning our wounds when we crashed.

This is a love that does not boast, a love that expects nothing in return. This love humbly gives and gives, accepts burnt toast and Cheerios served in bed on Mother’s day morning.

This is a love that raises warriors to fight for the good in this world, raises artists to call it out, raises teachers to remind us of it.

This love is not loud, but constant. An ancient whisper passed on, and passed on–from mother to child to mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Love: Celebrating victories

Picture her,
face lit up with the false sun of some screen
scrolling,
scrolling like reaching…for
something

it will always slip
away, a balloon caught in wind-drift

 

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Love does not envy…

It’s all too easy to be envious in this wide-web world. It’s at our fingertips–the success and beauty and brilliance of others. We attach to the perceived perfection and wish it was our own. We envy, wish we had that experience, physique, relationship, thing.

We forget:
a million likes can never equal love
someone else’s highlight reel cannot be compared to our behind-the-scenes.

We forget:
Envy is a thief. It steals our own joy and robs us of reasons to rejoice.

Merriam-webster says envy is “a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.”

So if love doesn’t do this, it must do the opposite.

Real Love must find pleasure in another’s ‘advantages,’ achievements, victories, experiences. Real love must be able to celebrate in another’s victory without making it hers.  It must be content, at rest.

Love does not envy; it enjoys another’s success. Real love celebrates.

 

Real Love: love is kind

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Big thanks to my friend, Catie, who inspired me with this gem to keep writing & thinking about real love.

I looked at my wordpress stats from this past year, and I posted a meager four times! Sure, I posted on my website, for work and for a collaborative blog from time to time, but here, just. four. times.

The reason this is so not okay (with me) is because this site has been the home to my mental wanderings and spiritual searchings since college. This is the place where I spread paint on the paper, explore ideas, and share bits of my craft.

I began the real love series with an intent to finish it week by week… annnddd only got through week one. But 2016 is my year! I am committing to post (at least!) the 11 times it takes to cover this series with the hopes that I leave 2016 a better person and a more consistent writer.

How it began

It all started with a journey through Corinthians with some of the best people around and one of the most beloved, over-quoted and under-practiced passages of the bible–a passage even that even the ‘secular’ world can’t help but quote.

(A)Love is patient and (B)kind; love (C)does not envy or boast; it (D)is not arrogant or rude. It(E)does not insist on its own way; it (F)is not irritable or resentful;[a] it (G)does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but (H)rejoices with the truth. (I)Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, (J)endures all things.- Corinthians 13:4-7.

I want to dig into this, get it under my fingernails and stop taking it for granted. Because, quite simply, love is worth it.

I hope this journey is one you’ll join because my perspective is just a pinprick of light on a topic that deserves illumination. Check out the first post, fishermen lovers (love is patient) if you like, and join in to share your stories, comments, and wisdom on real love.

Continue reading “Real Love: love is kind”