Monday, March 3, 2014

Childhood, intimacy, and Heaven's fulfillment

 (I want to post a caveat up front - this is a post I very much wanted to write, but I also feel like I should say that I'm very much aware that I'm still in a time of seed sowing and not anywhere close to the full harvest. I'm still learning and really don't have much business teaching - especially not veteran moms or older women who might be reading this. These are my thoughts from this point in my journey as a new mom trying to look ahead to the future.)

I've got my little buddy asleep on my lap and both hands free for the moment, so I thought I'd try to get some more thoughts out in writing.

Even though I haven't seen the two more recent Toy Story movies, what I've heard about them really made me think and question some of our attitudes about childhood and life in general. I'll be honest and say that after hearing about the third movie I wanted to pull a Jesus Juke (where you take all the fun out of life by posing some super-spiritual hypothetical question) and rant about people all over the country getting so worked up about the loss of childhood when we're losing thousands of children daily to abortion. There's a loss of childhood right there that should have you staggering around holding your head wondering why a fictional character going off to college is suddenly a Big Deal. As much as I'd love to confront some Hollywood types on their raging hypocrisy that really isn't what I want to write about today - being pretty sure that there aren't any Hollywood types reading this anyway. Also, it's a pretty simple issue. Stop worshiping your own convenience and start loving and cherishing "the least of these."

Digression aside, as a Christian and a new mom, what really caught my imagination is the way we in the American Church seem to have bought into this idea of childhood as some magical time we'll never recover and that must be savored daily and mourned as lost upon graduating high school. On the surface it's not such a bad idea. We live in a busy modern world where it's easy to get wrapped up in work and friendships and our pinterest craft boards and all the mindless entertainment available to us 24/7, and sometimes we need a reminder to really look at the baby sleeping in our laps because there will come a day we realize that our children haven't climbed into out laps to be held for how long now? Was it last week or eight months ago? And that feeling of nostalgia and loss is exactly what I want to write about. 

This is going to fee like a tangent, but bear with me. I've heard plenty of people speculate about how there presumably won't be sex in Heaven. If there's no marriage and no children being born then it makes sense that sex would be off the table. Naturally this disturbs lots of single Christians who are staring down a long road of celibacy. However, if our marriages are supposed to be pictures of something that will be fully realized in Heaven, then it doesn't really matter that there won't be sex in Heaven because God will have something so much greater planned for us. How does this play into our view of childhood? Well, sex is a form of intimacy - so is pregnancy and nursing and rocking your baby to sleep. These are all intimate acts of nurturing which exist in a mom's life for a short period of time and then pass away as our children grow. Just as sex must have its fulfillment in Heaven, I believe that the intimate bond created by serving our children will have a similar fulfillment. God says He will try our works by fire so that only that which is pure will remain. That means God will preserve whatever is Christlike in my relationship with Jacob and transform it by His grace into something more wonderful than I could imagine. Personally I think it's entirely possibly that God has broken up our intimacy with each other into little bites so that we immature mortals have a chance of seeing and understanding what it means to give ourselves to each other, but that in Heaven all the scraps will be assembled so that we're able to experience greater unity with each other than we could possibly imagine on this earth. Imagine, if you can, a world in which the unity of husband and wife, the tenderness of a mother with her child, the comfortable joy of old friends swapping stories over nutella crepes, and the satisfaction of brothers working on a shared vision were all rolled into one all-encompassing experience bonding all of resurrected humanity together with each other and their Lord. Is it possible? Given that the New Testaments points to our earthly experiences as dim shadows and reflections of the glory to be revealed, I think it is.

I believe this idea of our mortal experiences being redeemed and glorified has certain ramifications for how we as Christians view childhood. Instead of all the good things of childhood merely being fleeting moments snatched from the onslaught of time, I think we should imagine these funny, tender little moments as being foretastes of something beautiful about God's nature that we'll get to experience in all it's fullness once we see Him in Heaven. This has led me to a sort of lazy "seize the day" attitude. Let me explain. All these little glimmers of glory are gifts from God and point to His character and should be received with open hands of gratitude. However, I think that all too often we look at God's blessings and then treat Him like a miser. We take in armfuls of blessings and hoard them and count them up like the dragon Smaug sitting on his pile of gold and fearing that we'll miss a single one. Yet God has told us again and again that He delights in His children and delights to bless us. Count up all the blessings that occurred just to get your bowl of oatmeal on the table. You can't do it. If you tried to count up all the individual blessings that happened in the past year for you to have oatmeal today you'd be sitting there all day and longer. We are surrounded by that many blessings. So why be clutch-fisted about it? Don't let people telling you to seize the day and cherish the moments make you desperate. There will be enough days and will be enough moments. How can I say this? "My grace is sufficient for thee." One thing I've learned about motherhood is that the moments always seem too few, and yet God will make them enough for my mother-heart. I don't have to grasp. God is giving these times to me, and I believe once I get to Heaven He will have everything good and pure and lovely about those days waiting for me in some form. Even as my son grows up and away from needing my constant care we grow towards a time when God will reveal the eternal ramifications of that work. This is a God who wastes rainbows and sunrises on squirrels and whales. I think He has enough good things stored up for me - although in this life or the next there have been times I couldn't tell.

Movies like the last Toy Story (or so I gather from the hoopla that went around) seem to present a warped view of childhood and maturity. It's like we create some sort of fetish around children in order to distract us from the virulent child hatred that is prevalent through so much of our culture. I would speculate that when we say to the unborn "nobody wants you" that creates a pressure to idolize the stages of life for those who are born as a sort of atonement. "You, my precious genetic image, are wanted with a desire that will lead me pour money down on your head as a way to convince myself and the world that by wanting you enough I have made you human and worthy of life." It's as if by doting on the children we do allow to be born we can make up for the ones we throw away because they're inconvenient for us. They've built these constructs around children and parenting that I think the American church has bought into without much examination. No matter how many times we talk about Jesus calling the children and telling us to come to him with childlike faith we can't escape the fact that the Bible calls us to maturity. We are called to grow and to grow old in wisdom and love and service. Children teach us so many things about ourselves. I'll always cherish my memories of when Jacob fell asleep at my breast and ducked he head against my shoulder and blew bubbles on the changing table, but my job is raise up a mature man. Him putting away milk and eating meat will be an achievement. This is a good thing. Being an adult is a good thing. It is also a sad thing. Jacob wasn't a week old before I was thinking about the day he'd move away and leave us to begin his own adventures in the world, and it was such a sobering, heartbreaking realization that this tiny infant cuddled in my arms would rapidly become someone I may only see on holidays. That's why I went through all that speculation above about Heaven. God will redeem our works. What is like Him will remain. What reflects His character and brings His people everlasting joy will remain. We are growing into something so much better than we could possibly imagine. It's a cliche, but it's there in the Bible. That means there is something in Heaven better than little boys playing space robots or climbing in your lap for a hug. There's something more precious than little newborn baby breath on your cheek. So instead of looking at these popular images about childhood our culture has constructed and despairing I think we should be looking ahead to the time when God will pull back the curtains and show us the greater joy which all our little joys pointed to if we could have only known.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nearly a year later

It's been nearly a year, and the words are coming back to me. I don't know why I take these long journeys into silence where writing feels impossible, but they tend to happen quite regularly. I feel like I'm constantly trying to re-invent myself as a writer who covers this topic or that. It doesn't really work for me though. Not right now anyway. I was reading a blog post though about the grace of everyday love, and the words started coming back.

I have what I once thought might never be mine - a four month old son. He's propped on the arm of the couch and probably about to demand my attention, and he's been teaching more than I can say. Ever since I found out about him he's been wiggling his way through my defenses and my reserves and my selfishness and all those false parts of my identity. He's got a face as familiar and uncanny as my own, and an otherness that utterly undoes me. He's a whole other part of me that I'm almost scared to touch in case I break the very thing that should receive my most tender care. I'm so tired sometimes that his newborn days seem like another lifetime ago, but then I stare in incredulous wonder at how big his feet have grown. When did he first smile at me or laugh or duck his head against my shoulder? I haven't a clue. Once done it was as though he'd always done it, and I was just waiting for him to do it again.

And this is why there are times I play video games or read stupid novels or watch junk food tv or do anything rather than think. I held Jacob, and it was as though I'd spent half my life just waiting to hold him. Years and years of traveling and writing and learning to keep house and wasting time all because I didn't want to think about looking into those eyes that are my eyes and yet not and seeing him flash his daddy's dimples at me. I didn't want to think that it might not happen. I still don't want to think about it. In the hospital I had a dream in which I gave birth to a girl, and I woke up in half panic looking over at his bassinet to make sure he was there. Before his birth I didn't care whether we had a boy or a girl (and in fact we didn't know). After his birth it had to be Jacob.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

And the diagnosis was....

Well, that was a longer blogging hiatus than expected :( Basically, as soon as the sleepies started going away life kicked into high gear getting ready for out of town guests. On the plus side though I have a perfectly ducky little guest bedroom now! It took lots of thrift store hunting and a few coats of paint, but I got it all put together in two rather long weeks of painting furniture at 11pm. It's now one of my favorite rooms in the house - lots of blues and greys to calm down the multicolored chaos in the rest of my house with little pops of orange and purple just to remind people that this is my house after all :) What can I say? I loves the colors.

Anyway, my doc said my fatigue should go away in 18-20 years or once the kid heads off to college. Yep, I'm pregnant! Need to post a picture soon, but not having a scanner makes that a little harder. Anyway, I'm at 20ish weeks and muddling along. And with that said I've got a chiro appointment and better be getting along. Hopefully blogging hiatus will be over. Hopefully.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

how marriage and food bloggers are alike

(I'm sort of forcing myself to post this because apparently I'm existing in a brain fog. Doctor said it should clear up in another month though. In the mean time I do sort of really hate that this fatigue set in right after I decided to make a public commitment to blogging more. Way to save face there, Natalie.)

Ok, so why are marriage blogger and food bloggers alike? Because a lot of them post based not on what is normal but on what is abnormal. And even if they're supposedly writing about what is "normal" (marriage bloggers) they often come out of abnormal contexts. Let me give you an analogy. What does a healthy person eat? A healthy person eats ice cream and carrot sticks and pizza and salad and bagels with jam and grilled salmon and occasionally washes everything down with an ice cold root beer. If you're absolutely aghast at what I'm writing then I invite you think hard about your own life. Why do you eat healthy? Because at some point you felt really lousy and decided to change your diet. You were unhealthy. If you're still not getting it, let me further point out that, based on what I see around the internet, most people who are switching over to a "healthy" diet aren't doing it because they were eating a steady diet of cheetos and twinkies. They ate a perfectly normal diet that sustains hundreds and thousands of perfectly normal people. Who is the healthier person? A person who can eat a hamburger and fries without feeling like they're about to die or the person who ends up curled up in a bed a week later?

Now, because this is the internet and people assume things, let me hasten to add that not all hamburgers are made alike and not all diets are made alike. On the other hand, a Five Guys burger shouldn't actually make you wish you were dead. Go ahead make your own burgers from grass fed beef and freshly milled flour - sure it's going to be healthier and quite possibly tastier. Go ahead and eat plenty of veggies because they're so good for you. I'm totally in favor of that. Just understand that when your body really is strong and healthy and whole it doesn't require a whole lot of catering to in terms of allergies and sensitives and things like that. It can handle it.

So on to marriage bloggers. I'm thinking about a few blogs I know of either through reading them regularly or the contributions of their authors in other contexts. Most of them are written by people from rather dysfunctional backgrounds. These are people who experienced, either first or second hand, (ie through their spouses) promiscuity, infidelity, addiction, etc. The Driscolls would be another fairly high profile case (of Mars Hill Seattle fame). I don't have any particular insight here, but it does make me curious about the prevalence of dysfunctional people turning around and teaching others about marriage. Perhaps since so much marriage is dysfunctional now that's exactly what we need? Perhaps people who have seen abnormal can teach us more about normal? Is it possible that a couple who married young and made it work with minimal fuss for fifty years really can't articulate what made their marriage so strong?

Ok, that last thing sounds suspect to me. Like I said, I don't really have anything insightful to say here. It just struck me as odd that we take health advice from a blogger with a list of allergies longer than my grocery list for the week and we take marriage advice from men/women who were promiscuous growing up or who slept around for the first ten years of their marriage and yet now consider themselves very, very capable of pointing out just how wrong other people are. And sometimes they really do have valuable insights. I get this. On the other hand, there are some wounds you really only grow around and not over. Like a tree shaped by a boulder or the wind, the impress is still there, and I occasionally wonder if a person from a normal background and a normal marriage would see the same issues and if not does that tell us more about marriage in general or about the people critiquing it?

If I can try to bring this home - God uses wounded people. This is one of my chief comforts in life. Sometimes though, I wonder if maybe we're ignoring the ordinary stories. Why aren't we learning more from the altogether functional family of six that honestly does get along pretty well? Why not take a little health advice from the 75 year old cake lady at church?

I don't know. You tell me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Still tired - still hanging around

Yeah, so this is a basically a place keeper post for all the cool stuff I've been wanting to write lately. I was hoping that last week would be a good week to get ahead on some blogging chores, but then I decided to try knitting a baby blanket in 5 1/2 days. Some of y'all might have wonderwoman flash fingers and be able to whip these little projects out over a latte, but for me that meant several days whose sole agenda consisted of "Eat. Knit. Repeat." My friend liked it though, so it's all to the good :) However, I do generally recommend against scanning your knitting stash and deciding less than a week prior that you're going to be starting a fairly significant project.

Oh, and the fatigue is still clinging to my legs and slowing me down. Not to worry though! The good medical folks I know had some good suggestions, and I expect things to start clearing up in a couple weeks. Possibly sooner if the rain will stop and let me get some sunshine. Rainy, cloudy days will put me to sleep under the best of circumstances.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Art of Virtue

Ignore the video because it has absolutely nothing to do with the song, but this song has consistently been one of my favorite Pandora picks for the past couple months. I can't help but smile when it comes up because it's not every day you hear such a catchy little domestic sermon. It's almost like a good girl anthem for us indie/folk women :)

You can find more of her stuff here if you're interested: . The album this song came from looks pretty good. It's on my "need to buy" list.

(And yeah, I don't why anyone would think otherwise, but nobody asked, bribed, or otherwise persuaded me to write this post. I just thought it was so neat to find a song actually titled "Art of Virtue." It's a far cry from what the Rihanna's and Katy Perry's are putting out today.) 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Take care of all the things?

I've been sketching out ideas for blog posts, and I've even got a some pictures to share. Tonight though, I'm tired. I'm really, really tired. Allen and I had a long talk about how we can get back on track, but the jist of it is that over Christmas I mentally pushed aside a lot of the things that are bothering me now because, hey, it's more important for Christmas to be awesome than for the laundry room to be organized. But now, even though Christmas is down and mostly in boxes, those boxes don't really have a home. Because the stuff that should be in the laundry room is in the closet, and the stuff that should be in the closet is in a room full of stuff that should be in my closet. And why isn't it in my closet? Because that's where I stashed all my candles and vases and brick-a-brac back when my clothes where all in another closet entirely. And that's not even touching on all the painting and patching I still need to do before I can start hanging pictures and shelves and whatnot. So basically we're in the remodeling/moving in/holy cow this house is huge stage in which everything is endless and overwhelming and not as much fun as we (I) thought it would be about twelve months ago. I thought I'd be planning my garden now and not trying to mentally calculate whether it would be a fair exchange of money for sanity to just hire someone to paint about three rooms and at least one closet and possible a few doors (the ones where the paint starts peeling when you prep-sand them so that you end up an hour later thinking about just buying new doors) so that I don't have to deal with it anymore and can move on to sewing kitchen curtains.

And on top of everything I've got a little side project at church. It's nice to talk about having time to serve your community, but my problem is that I'm long on time and short on energy. It's a good cause and fits my skill set, which is why I volunteered in the first place, but I'm about ready to move on to the "friends over coffee" part and spend less time on the driving back and forth and having to copy five people on every e-mail part. I'm just praising God I didn't actually send that other e-mail volunteering for one more project. Poor Allen would never eat a home cooked meal again. He'd come into the den at dinner time to find me knitting away with my latest BBC crush and a bag of jalapeno cheese curls  =) Now I want some jalapeno cheese curls.

Anyway, regular life will hopefully be resuming....sometime? Just wanted to say that if you don't see me around her for a little while or if my cognitive abilities seem stunted you know why.