It is so perfectly specific. I like a word that doesn’t have a good synonym; a word that when I need it, I need it.
Catharsis is cleansing and purging and emotional and relief and breathing again.
It is overwhelming, like drowning in healing.
It is intense and vulnerable and freeing.
It grounds me, centers me, rebirths me, makes me new.
“Purgative” just doesn’t carry those same connotations.
I was thinking yesterday about the things that are the most reliably cathartic for me. The things that make me feel something so deeply that it reboots everything inside of me that has gone off-kilter or cynical or self-piteous or numb.
I believe that the following are my top 4, in no particular order.
-Hard rain. Driving, hurts-when-you-stand-in-it, overflows-the-rivers rain. And hard wind. Wind strong enough to press your weight into, and were it to stop short, you’d fall flat on your face. Wind that whooshes and rushes and howls. I like weather that makes me feel small; I like to be overwhelmed. It makes me feel like even my biggest, scariest, deepest, most out-of-control emotions will get carried away with the tide.
-Giving things away. Or throwing things away. Things I thought I wanted or even thought I needed. Things “everyone” has or “should have.” Books I thought I’d read or re-read. Clothes I thought I’d wear. Candles I thought I’d burn, coasters I thought I’d use, frames I thought I’d hang, kitchen gadgets I thought I’d use – all of which ended up being things to clean around and live around. When I practice the discipline of letting things go, I give myself room to feel. I can breathe in the space and freedom of their absence.
-Driving. Driving someplace far enough away from my every-day routine to let my hair down for a minute. A highway or a back road: all the windows down, music that suits me, head tilted back, my hand out the window, making waves. Feeling the notes and the air and the nature on my skin and just – breathing.
-Running. Running until it hurts everywhere.
What experiences or sensations are cathartic to you? What provides you with psychological relief through the expressing of strong emotions?
On a final contract with Broadman & Holman Publishers.
On its way to Lifeway Christian Resources.
And just like that, it’s official. I am writing a book.
Actually, I lied. I’m not writing a book; I’m writing THREE books.
I’ve alluded to these books for a while now, as this process has already been a long one, but now that the blood ink is on the page, I’m coming out of the closet. A lot of you suspected I was in there, and you were right. I am coming out of the first-time-author closet.
That’s the thing about stepping into the publishing world upside down and backwards (I’ll share this story with you eventually): I get to write my fun book first.
If I had started with a manuscript, you can bet your ever-lovin’ mind that it would not have been about teenage girls. But since I didn’tstart with a manuscript (I started with a blog post that mounted into a tidal wave which I am gratefully choosing to ride), I get to do my cheeky, sassy, hyperbolic, “lets have a conversation about vapor-thin American Eagle tanks and Facebook statuses more dramatic and narcissistic than Lady Macbeth and the implications both of those things have on womanhood – real, strong, noble womanhood” book first.
It is so. much. fun.
Here’s what you need to know:
- The first book is written to you, my peers: teachers, youth leaders, moms & dads, aunts & uncles – people who happen to be influencers of teenage girls. People who have had it “up to here.” People who read the post and immediately sent it to the teenager in their life. People who said,
“I wish someone had told me this 20 years ago!”
“This is what I’ve been trying to tell my teenager for YEARS.”
“This isn’t just for teenage girls; this is the best advice I’ve read for women anywhere!”
“This should be mandatory reading for all high school students.”
You loved it, you shared it, you get a book.
- The second book is written TO teenage girls. For the girls who read the post and said,
“I am a teenage girl and this is SO TRUE.”
“I am a teenage girl and I cried when I read this; it is exactly what I needed to hear.”
“I am a teenage girl and I hate your guts, shut up, you don’t know me!”
It touched a nerve. You loved it, you hated it, you hated me. You get a book.
- The third book is for everyone who said, “What about the boys?”
They get a book, too. Dan is writing that one with me/for me. So maybe I should say, “If we don’t kill each other in the process of attempting to complete a project together as a married couple, then you get a book.”
- There are stories.
Stories about my impulse purchase of neon purple leggings, my first trip to the tanning bed, and a subsequent trip to a tanning bed in which my friend, Nicole, and I almost attacked an elderly man with a hot curling iron.
Stories about the time I gave flirting lessons to girls on my dorm, about a completely mortifying rebound relationship of mine, and about the time I got a phone call from my child’s teacher to tell me that my firstborn had run from the school bathroom, naked, in front of 17 of her peers.
There are lots of fun stories.
- The tentative release date for all three books is summer 2014.
So GET EXCITED. There are big things ahead, and big things here in the process.
I’ve only been blogging for two and a half years. If you’re just starting a blog, that may sound like a lifetime of content, but compared to a lot of you, I’m a blogging baby.
In those 2.5 short years I’ve had no less than 5 posts go viral, I’ve been contacted by bloggers, publications, agents, and editors, and I’ve grown my readership to a respectable little number for a one-writer, one-woman, part-time operation.
I’ve learned a lot along the way – about branding, presentation, promotion, community and more – but today I’m sharing 4 tips I’ve learned about content, which as a writer, is sort of my thing. I need LOADS of help with images, technology, and business, but content I got.
Here is an excerpt:
3. Don’t be afraid. This is huger than huge. This is what sets great bloggers apart from the sea of millions and millions of so-so mommy bloggers. SAY THINGS THAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO SAY.
You will have a natural inclination to clarify, quantify, mitigate, or weaken your statements because you don’t want to be misunderstood. Fight that. Make your statements as strong as you possibly can. I recently wrote a post about how it feels to be 36 weeks pregnant. I could have said:
“I want my husband to really understand what it’s like.” (BLAH.)
“I want my husband to feel my pain.” (Still weak.)
“I would enjoy watching my husband suffer.” (A bit stronger, but wordy.)
Sadist is a strong, scary word. A word that might get misunderstood. A word that the little voices inside my head told me to weaken, or at least include a disclaimer insisting that my husband is in no immediate danger.
But I ignored that voice and called my post “The Pregnant Sadist” anyway. There are A MILLION posts out there about what it’s like to be 36 weeks pregnant, but there are not a million posts about how, at 36 weeks, even the kindest, most nurturing women turn into sadists. People laughed and shared because it was ridiculous and true. The edge that was scary to write is what made it successful.
If you want your blog to be different, you’re going to have to do something different.
Granted, I didn’t expect to have ALL THREE before I turned 28, but nevertheless. Here I sit. Three kids.
Sometimes when I told people that I wanted “at least 3 kids” they would tell me, “You say that now – just wait ’til you HAVE ONE.” When I was pregnant they added, “You might change your mind after labor!” (Which, by the way, is a really stupid thing to tell a pregnant woman.)
10 minutes after delivering Madeline I looked Dan square in the eyes and said,
“Just so you know, that wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t do it again.”
After we’d lived with a baby for a little while, and especially after we received Madeline’s diagnosis, people continued to ask, and my answer never changed.
“Yes, I want more. Yes, I want at least 3 children. Yes, I’m sure.“
“Just wait,” they said.
“Wait until you have two,” they said.
“Then you’ll see,” they said.
I smiled politely and suppressed the urge to roll my eyes.
PSA: Please, parents, stop telling people in different stages of life to “Just wait.” It’s kind of patronizing and rude and it never, ever makes anyone feel better about anything. Stop saying “Wait ’til you have two, wait ’til you have three, wait ’til they start walking, wait ’til they start throwing tantrums, wait ’til they’re teenagers.” If you want a cookie, just ask for one. But stop telling everyone else to “just wait…”
Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.
In the delivery room, holding Sam for the first time, I knew: I’m not done. I’m not done being pregnant. I’m not done having kids. This family is beautiful and perfect, but it is not finished.
As I sit here, 36 weeks pregnant with my third child, for the very first time in my life, if someone asked me if I thought I’d have more kids I’d have to answer honestly,
“I don’t know.”
I know that I don’t not want more kids. But this is the first time I’ve not known with certainty that I do. This is the first time I’ve even been able to entertain the thought that maybe, just maybe, I won’t be pregnant again.
And now, the what-ifs that tag along behind “the unknown” are here en force.
As our little boy gets bigger and bigger, as this pregnancy draws nearer and nearer the end, I can’t help but think:
Could this be the last time I feel a baby do a somersault inside of me?
The last day he bumbles around for 30 minutes straight?
The last time I sit on the couch and watch my belly twitch?
The last time I feel the l o n g, s l o w rolls?
The last time I push down and find a foot, or feel a knee bend beneath the pressure of my hand?
Could this be the last time my womb is full?
I don’t know.
It might be.
That is maddening to me.
Pregnancy is hard for a lot of reasons, but to think that this might be the last tiny baby that I whisper private whispers to, the last baby that lives on the inside of me before he lives on the outside of me, the last baby that sticks his toes up into my rib cage – it makes me stop.
I know that, sooner or later, this too shall pass – this season of baby-bearing. God knows I won’t miss 98% of it. At the risk of sounding terribly, awfully, embarrassingly vain – I mostly want my body back. My breasts have been completely out of control for the last five years (and don’t even bother making cheeky comments like “share the wealth,” because believe me when I say: if I could afford the surgery, it would have been done yesterday).
But to think that this could be my last tiny little baby makes me forget about the giant bras and maternity pants. It makes me forget, if only for a minute, the discomfort and fatigue.
Because I’ll never know whether or not this is the last walloping kick before he’s born. The last walloping kick ever?
This is the trouble of having to live life forwards instead of backwards – we just can’t know. I could never have known “This is the last time Madeline will fall asleep on my shoulder.” I don’t even know when that happened, but somewhere along the way – it did. I could never have known, “This is the last time I’ll swaddle Sam. The last time I’ll nurse him.” I’ll never know when it’s going to be the last time he will call me “Mmmmmm” instead of Ma-ma - then Mommy, then Mom. It just…happens. They grow up.
I suppose I’m feeling extra nostalgic, not because this is my last baby, but because it might be.
And so – I’ll just soak it up. I’ll cry because I’m so happy with this little boy floating around inside of me. I’ll try to memorize every sensation and know that, in 30 years, despite my best efforts, I won’t be able to recall it, not perfectly anyway.
I won’t wish him born, or wish to not be popping quite so many Tums, or wish for my face to stop puffing up with swelling and baby weight. I’ll just love it – because I can only live life forward, so I’m going to live it.
(7 months pregnant with Madeline. At the time I thought this was a “big” belly. Oh, firstborns.)
This video circulated through my Facebook & Twitter newsfeeds twice last month. It is powerful, to be sure. I watched it a handful of times back to back. I cried. I shared it.
(For reference, Sam was 8lbs when he was BORN, and at one and a half years old, weighs 25lbs.)
“The pure joy that will come from a rescue and a ransom of a child’s life is probably the most satisfying thing you can imagine. [George Dennehy]“
The video made me overwhelmingly THANKFUL for how many personal friends I have that are smack dab in the middle of adoptions – right now. I’m not sure how I got to be friends with such amazing people – I really lucked out in that department.
*My friend, Brandy is bringing home Nora from the DR Congo. Nora is only 4 days older than Brandy’s biological daughter, Grace, so, God willing, this time next month, Brandy will have “twins.”
*My friend, Susan, also known as “The Greatest Pediatric Physical Therapist Ever” (she taught Madeline to sit, stand, and walk), is waiting to bring home Yulia, a 14-year-old from Ukraine. After a disappointing delay in the adoption process, she felt it was because God was asking more. She is now waiting to bring home not one, but three teenagersfrom the Ukraine.
*My friend, Christie, is bringing home a baby girl due in April. She found out about the opportunity three weeks ago. With huge faith and courage she opened her heart and home and said “yes” to the process. She was chosen by the birth mother this week. Radical obedience.
*My friend Joe and his family are purposefully seeking to adopt a baby with special needs. Joe and his wife are not just anti-abortion; they are pro-life. They (like all adoptive families) are paying a huge sum of money to live out their conviction that every life has value, and to show mothers of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies that there are families willing to raise and love children of all levels of ability. They already have three young biological children, one of whom has special needs.
Seriously, how is it that I’ve come to know such beautiful, compassionate, generous people?
I’ve not been quiet about how my heart beats for adoption. Now is not the time for my family; I say this with prayer and peace. But because it’s a real conviction and passion, I can’t just push the pause button on action. I try every day not to settle with being “touched,” but to allow myself to be moved.
“Self-deception slithers in when we mistake appreciation for application or being touched with being changed.” [Beth Moore]
If you are certain that adoption is not for your family, or if you’re like me, and it’s just not for your family now, you can still be moved by and for the orphans of the world. Here are the stories of my four friends, interview style; I’m hoping that they move you like they’ve moved me.
Brandy and Noah
Who are you adopting or seeking to adopt?
Lord-willing, we are adopting lovely Nora Divine from the DR Congo. Although she is now 16 months old, we still refer to her as our “baby” Nora. Apparently she has an enamoring personality since we’ve already been contacted by 4 adoptive families asking if we’ll send pictures and updates to their daughters who miss playing with their baby Nora from the orphanage. Nora is only 4 days older than our biological baby girl, Grace. We tell Grace about her “twin” sister all the time and she can now proudly point to Nora’s picture and say “Sissy.”
How far along are you in the adoption process?
We have endured almost 3 years in our adoption process, which has felt particularly long since we were originally told the Congo program would only take 6-9 months. Praise God, our next step is actually the last step! We’re fundraising for our travel expenses now, and are tentatively planning to go to the Congo this month to bring our little one home! We are only waiting on her visa, which could be issued any day now, and then we’re approved for travel!
Why did your family choose to adopt?
My husband and I were first drawn to adopt through the influence of our close friends who adopted a son and daughter from Ethiopia three years ago. We were able to walk with them through the entire process and were extremely affected by the profound significance of their adoption as it relates to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Previously, we had regarded adoption as a wonderful “second chance” for couples struggling with infertility, but through our friends, we were humbled and amazed to learn the beauty of the Gospel as it is revealed through adoption.
My husband and I were so touched by this connection between the Gospel and adoption that we couldn’t help but want to be a part of it with our own family. James 1:27 became more than just words on a page as we were challenged to critically consider God’s call in our own lives.
When we were desiring to start a family, we chose to pursue adoption right away rather than looking at it as an option “down the road.” The Congo is the poorest country in the world where 20% of children die before their 5th birthday. It’s also the “rape capital of the world” where if you’re a woman, you know you’re likely to be a victim. Those statistics and the fact that we met the qualifications for this country made us choose the Congo and international adoption.
It was special to find out afterwards that Noah’s late grandfather had always prayed for the Congo and even intended to be a missionary there at one point. Although he never made it there, his prayers for the Congolese will likely have impacted little Nora Divine’s life forever as she will soon become a part of our family.
In the end, we chose to adopt because we’re so grateful God chose to adopt us! We are eager to love and care for our sweet Nora Divine and we love all the ways God has showed His special intention in placing her with our family. For example: Nora and Grace being “twins,” or how Nora’s birthday was the date I had hoped Grace would be born on – 9/10/11 (the coolest birthday ever), and even that Nora’s given name is “Divine” and she is truly our divine gift! After the months and years of waiting, we are still so happy we chose to adopt and can’t wait to really begin this adoption journey once we bring her home!
Brandy and Noah’s Fundraising site (and more pictures of Nora Divine) is here.
Susan and Jerry
Who are you adopting or seeking to adopt?
We are adopting three teenagers from Ukraine: Yulia is 14, Iryna is also 14 and her brother Oleg is 12.
(The three Ukrainian kids and Susan and Jerry’s three biological children at Christmas.)
How far along are you in the adoption process?
We have completed our home study and sent our 600A form to USCIS. We are awaiting approval from the US government to adopt internationally, and in the meantime, finalizing our dossier to be submitted to Ukraine as soon as our approval comes in. Also, we are aggressively fundraising. All expenses are paid to date out of our own pockets, but we have $15,000 due to submit the dossier and then travel expenses to raise. Our journey began last April, but we didn’t actually begin official adoption proceedings until August 2012.
Why did your family choose to adopt?
This whole thing began with an organization called ProjectOneFortyThree that sponsors the hosting programs in Latvia and Ukraine twice a year; in the summer and at Christmas. Once we were approved, we selected a child, (what I mean is I God selected our child…that soon became obvious) and she came to live with us for seven weeks in June 2012. Her name was Yulia, she was 14, and she was OURS! We knew it from the moment we saw her. You see, we had been asked of our intentions upon applying as a host family (host only, adopt or undecided) and we were certainly open to adopting, but were not going into this with the intent to adopt. That was over the second we saw her smile!
All too soon, the day came to put her back on the airplane to return to Ukraine. We all cried…for days! It was one of the worst days of my life. In our grief, we were fueled to begin the adoption process so that we could bring her home permanently. We were working diligently with the home study, but it soon became apparent that there was no way we would get our Yulia home before Christmas, and therefore decided to re-host. This was an expense that we really could not afford, but there was no WAY my baby was going to spend Christmas in that orphanage. She had lived there for eight years of her life and as long as I had breath in my body, she would spend as little time there as I had the ability to control!
Strangely, however, there was unrest in my heart. We were supposed to do something else, but I didn’t know what. I shared with Jerry and the kids my struggle, and that I felt God was telling me that there were other children that needed us. Once again, everyone in the family agreed and looking at the “kids needing hosting” list, we found not one, but two kids, a sibling set, who resided at the same orphanage Yulia did. Along came Iryna and Oleg Petryk, ages 14 and 12. This time we only had the three kids for four weeks, but in that time, we knew this was our new family and we knew why our home study had been delayed. If our home study had been completed on time, it would have only been approved for us to adopt one child. Now we could “tweak” it and have it written for three!
Susan and Jerry’s story and fundraising site is here.
Christie and Q
Who are you adopting or seeking to adopt?
We have been chosen to adopt a newborn baby girl from Florida due on April 6!
How far along are you in the adoption process?
We just found out about this situation three weeks ago and were just chosen by the birth parents this week. So, we are currently in the process of updating our home study and fundraising!
Why did your family choose to adopt?
We started our adoption journey 3 years ago and were blessed with our little girl, Moriah. We were then presented with the opportunity to adopt her biological brother this time last year. We were heartbroken when his adoption failed (their birth parents chose to keep him at birth). We had written off ever adopting again and were trying for biological children when this current situation arose. Two weeks ago I was getting ready to head out the door when I received a message from a fellow adoptive Mom that said, “I have a birth family that’s looking for a married, Christian, inter-racial couple, with only adopted children for a baby girl due April 6.” Say what! Why don’t you just add, “And their names are Christie and Q!”Because of the criteria the birth family was looking for, we couldn’t say no! So, we were obedient to what we felt the Lord was asking us to do and here we are….trusting and believing!
Christie and Q’s story/blog is here. Their current fundraising campaign is here.
Joe and Hannah
Who are you adopting or seeking to adopt?
We are seeking out a child with special needs. We clearly have a heart for individuals with special needs seeing as we already have a child with Down Syndrome. I can’t fathom the notion of anyone passing up on a Benji! What a blessing he has been. When we met with our adoption counselor for the first time, she confirmed our intentions by telling us that Special Needs adoptions are one of the biggest needs. We were told that Joe and I would be with only a handful of other adoptive parents on the registry willing to adopt Special Need Infants.
Where are you in the adoption process?
Fundraising and waiting! We are home study approved for a domestic adoption(Within the US – we did not do an international home study and therefore, are ineligible to adopt overseas – at least for this adoption! Who knows, maybe we’ll adopt again in the future!). We are looking to get a family lawyer and working on procuring an adoption loan for $20,000!!!! (WOW!!!!) We are hoping to raise at least part of this. Definitely a faith journey!
Why did your family choose to adopt?
We believe every life has value and that those with special needs are a valuable and wanted part of the community. If there is no one to care for these babies, how would a mother be persuaded to choose life for her child? We want to show the world that “Benji’s” are worth fighting for! They are worth loving. They are worth sacrificing for.
Joe and Hannah’s blog and story is here. (There is a link to their PayPal account on the site.)
I’m so thankful for people like Brandy, Susan, Christie, and Joe (and Kelly and Jamie…) who know that the widows and orphans and impoverished and suffering in the world are not someone else’s responsibility. I’m thankful for people who do not shy away from the command and the call, even when it sounds radical and difficult and costly. Would you consider helping me help them bring their babies home? Will you be more than touched, will you be moved?
“Far too often I hear, “If people can’t afford what it costs to adopt, they shouldn’t adopt.” We were crushed one time by a person very close to us who said, “How come when YOU hear from God it costs ME money?” Usually I am too hurt to respond with adequate words. I saw this from my very smart friend on Facebook and had to share, ‘When a family seeks help in raising funds for an adoption, it’s not like asking people to pitch in toward a new boat, or help pay for a vacation. What they are doing is committing to heal, with God’s help, a child who has suffered the profound damage of being unwanted and unloved. They are obediently living out the command given in James 1:27 to care for the orphan, clothing the gospel of Christ’s redemption in flesh and blood and now. When they ask for the body of Christ to come alongside them financially and prayerfully, they are giving us the opportunity to be a part of the miracles God works through obedience.’” [Via Christie's Facebook this week]
For those of you who have not been 36 weeks pregnant before, the “home stretch” is the time when kind, nurturing mothers turn into sadists.
At 36 weeks, it is not enough for my husband to be kind to me. It is not enough for him to be patient and “understanding.” It is not even enough for him to bring me dinner and rub my back. No,
I want him to KNOW.
When Dan tells me that I’m awesome for carrying this baby, I want him to know just exactly how right he is.
It would bring me great, immeasurable joy for Dan to feel my pain.
(Did you think I was kidding? Because I’m talking about actual sadism here.)
Now – I don’t want him to experience the home stretch symptoms all at once – that’s too easy, like diving into the deep end of a cold pool. I want to introduce each malady separately, to give him a minute to “appreciate” each one.
I would start with fatigue. Third trimester fatigue. A fatigue that no long day at work, no string of sleepless nights could ever match. A fatigue that clouds your head and your eyes so thickly that you have to lean on the walls to remain upright – flopping back and forth between furniture and major appliances just to keep from breaking your nose when you do a narcoleptic face-plant into the living room floor. And mid-yawn, just when he’s thinking, “Sweet Lord, I’ve never been this tired in my life…,” BAM! I’m going to hit him with the pelvic pressure.
You know, the hip-widening. When you feel like your hip bones are grinding against each other as if they are being forced apart by an unyielding foreign object – which they are. When his hazy brain wraps itself around the sensation of grinding bones and the suspicion that all his organs are about to fall out of his pelvic floor, I’ll add the back pain.
The lower back pain that aches whether you sit, stand, squat, lie down, or hang by your toes. The kind that is only alleviated by floating in a large body of water, because that is the only way to lighten the 30lb load hanging off the front of your torso, dangling by your back muscles all day long.
Once he’s wrapped his mind around the fatigue, the hip-widening, and the lower back ache, I would like for his sciatic nerve to shoot a lightning bolt down his leg once every hour or so – just to keep him on his toes. I would also introduce intermittent punches to his bladder and imaginary cervix at this time. I would be even happier if he peed himself a little bit.
Now that all of that is going on, I would like for the lower right quadrant of his abdomen to become completely numb, like a dead foot that won’t wake up no matter how creatively he tries to contort himself to restore circulation. This way his entire torso, back-to-front, top-to-bottom, would be in a total state of disaster.
You see how much he would miss if I just flipped a “symptoms on” switch? He would just think his abdomen was wigging out. Yes, it is much better this way.
Next, I would like for him to experience one minute of false labor. I think a single, 60-second contraction should do it. I want him to feel like everything from his ribs down to his man-parts is seizing up. A strange sensation at first, then uncomfortable, then worrisome, then “WHAT THE…I CAN’T WALK!”
At this point he’s probably forgotten about the fatigue, but is very confused about what is happening to his body. With all the leg/pelvic/lower back/abdominal pain he probably suspects he has a large tumor growing right between his hips (interestingly, right about where a uterus would be).
Next I would like to introduce swelling. I would like for his hands and feet to become white-hot and itchy, and for his skin to feel so tight that he is actually afraid that it might split open – like in that disturbing scene from Seven.
After the swelling, I would introduce the heartburn. It should be incessant, as if his stomach were being forced back up his esophagus by an unyielding foreign object, which it is. I would like for a little bit of lunch/gastric acid to make it all the way into his mouth every time he leans forward or bends over, angering the foreign object.
Okay, so we have fatigue, hip-widening, lower back pain, shooting sciatic nerve, bladder punches, numb torso, a mild contraction, swelling in the extremities, and persistent heartburn. I think all we’re missing is a wicked, wicked Charlie Horse.
One so fierce that he can SEE THE MUSCLE crumpling up underneath his skin like a fleshy sink hole. I would like for him to claw the sheets and scream a little bit, and I would like his calf to be sore for at least 3 days. It should be the worst muscle contraction ever – except for uterine contractions, which won’t arrive for another 4 weeks.
At this point I’d like for him to be crying, and when he tries to explain his frustration to someone, I hope they tell him,
“Poor thing, you’re so emotional right now.”
I hope this ENRAGES HIM. Unfortunately he’ll be so emotional that he won’t be able to punch them, he’ll just burst into tears afresh.
I think that should about cover it!
Pregnant women in the home stretch, does that not sound like your wildest dream come true?!?
Here’s the best part. Right as he’s maneuvering himself onto the couch to turn on ESPN – as he’s trying to figure out a way to lie on his left side and simultaneously prop up his heartburn-y chest and his swollen feet – right as he’s beginning to close his exhausted eyes, wishing he could take something stronger than a Tylenol, I would like to come into the room and say,
“Hey, honey! Here are the kids! They’re really excited to play with you ALL DAY LONG. Madeline wants you to get out her play-doh, but you have to make sure Sam doesn’t get it and carry it into the living room because that will make Madeline scream, plus the play-doh will get smushed into the carpet and won’t ever come out. They’re both a little grumpy because they need to eat, but there’s plenty of stuff in the fridge for lunch! You’ll figure something out! There’s a load of laundry that needs to move from the washer to the dryer, but you’ll have to fold the stuff in the dryer first. Welp, I’m off to work! Oh, and don’t forget to make tea for our small group tonight!
I am smiling a big Grinch-smile just thinking about it.
You all pray for my husband over the next 4 weeks, he’s living with a pregnant sadist.
**I would like to be clear: Dan has never spoken the above paragraph to me. In fact, he LEFT DURING THE SUPERBOWL to go bring me a milkshake. This post isn’t about a state of affairs, it’s about the crazy sadism that sneaks into every single mother in the history of ever at 36 weeks pregnant. It’s about the common experience – the phenomenon. Also, my husband rocks. Thanks, Mgmt.**
“If you could invite any five people throughout history over for a dinner party, who would they be and why?”
As one who has been involved in more than my share of small group ice-breaker situations, I feel qualified to say that this is a STUPID QUESTION. I’ve always hated this question, because, who the heck knows!?
Seriously, all of history? I can’t decide where I want to eat in a town with 10 restaurants, so don’t give me “every person ever to live in the course of human history” as a pool. That’s just ridiculous.
My answer to this classic form of conversational torture getting-to-know-you question used to change on a daily basis. There was no way of knowing whether my party du jour would come out sounding awesome or terribly lame. I just opened my mouth and listed of a mish-mash of people I happened to find interesting at the moment. At one point or another Bono, Ellen, Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus, Oprah, Bill Cosby, Beethoven, Donald Miller, Shauna Niequist, Sigmund Freud, Elisabeth Elliot, and a number of presidents have all been on the list. And Bill Gates, but just because I thought he might pick up the tab. That is not a joke.
But this month I had a vision. I had a vision of the liveliest, most inspiring, most enjoyable dinner party ever, and, for now at least, I feel committed to my five hypothetical guests. So much so that today I’m writing out my list. I might even laminate it, like Ross.
Here are my top 5, if I had to choose today:
Hillary Clinton: I am awed, AWED, by the wives of men in politics. Obviously, Hillary isn’t the wife of a man in politics anymore – she is The Freaking Secretary of State (official title). And I bet that, along the way, Hillary has acquired some life stories that would shock us, move us, inspire us, challenge us, and make us downright indignant. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from poet Muriel Rukeyser when she wrote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would be split open.” I believe that Hillary could split the world open. I want to learn from her about bravery, ambition, idealism, politics, confidence, and assertiveness. I want to learn from her about grace, forgiveness, and standing by your man when it hits the fan. I would like to see the “human” side of her – Hillary the woman, the mom, the person. I totally want Hillary Clinton at my dinner party.
I think that Britney Spears must be one of the strongest women on the planet. That might seem like a weird statement at first glance, because she is in a different “category” than most other women we think of when we hear the word “strong.” But I believe you’d be hard pressed to find another young woman who has picked up the pieces more times than Britney. She’s a fighter. I can see the fight in her and I love it. She has – amazingly – remained likeable and sweet through it all. Mostly, I believe Britney knows something of humility. I believe she knows what it’s like to be at rock-bottom,what it’s like to need grace. What’s more, she knows what it’s like for rock-bottom to be plastered on the cover of every magazine in America. I want to learn from Britney about handling criticism and embarrassment, about forgiving yourself, about courage, about getting back up again and again and again. Plus, she’s completely adorable and fun.
I need Nora at my dinner party because she was pure talent. She was THE MASTER of her trade, the quintessential example of skill meets years of practice, resulting in near perfection. I just want to sit as close to her as possible and let osmosis do its work. While her story of climbing the ranks of journalism as a woman in New York in the sixties is inspiring, I mostly want to burrow inside of her brain and listen to the inner voice that wrote “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sleepless In Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” and “Julie & Julia.” Her observation of humanity was spot on, her wit was razor sharp, her humor was fresh, intelligent, and warm. I would love to learn voice and words and writing and disciplines from Nora, but I don’t think we’d talk about that sort of thing over dinner. I think I would just listen to her and laugh and that would be enough.
I added Tina to my list a couple of months after reading her book, Bossypants. When I picked it up, I knew it would be funny. What I did not know is how often I would reflect back on the wisdom nestled between all the laughs. I did not know how my impression of Tina would be altered, or perhaps expanded. This funny little book changed the way I think about women in the workplace, or at least offered perspective and advice that I’d never heard from any other source. Things like this:
“So, my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.”
“Some people say, “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.”
I would want Tina Fey at my dinner party for a couple of reasons. 1. She’s funny. She’s not afraid of pop-culture references that are “too zany” or that people “might not get” (See also: 30 Rock). She’s not afraid of self-deprecating humor. She challenges me to be brave; if I think something is funny, throw it out there, even if it’s scary. Chances are someone else will like it, too. 2. She has the kind of wisdom you can only get from experience – from walking through it. It doesn’t sound polished or deep or inspired at first pass, but it’s real – tried and true – and it’s stuck with me.
I want Anne Lamott at my dinner party because she changed everything for me. I don’t know that I can say it better than Shauna did:
Picture a middle school gym, and picture me standing in line, kneeling in front of her table, fighting back tears as I said to her,“You changed everything for me.” Because she did.
…The year after I graduated from college, she wrote Traveling Mercies, and she connected the two worlds that I’d been jumping between without much grace or nuance: the Christian girl and the literature lover. The Christians I’d been raised by—with the exception of my mother—were not literature lovers. And the literature I’d loved and been raised by in a different way, was somewhere between dismissive and antagonistic toward my vein of faith.
And then wait a minute, hold the phone: this writer I loved so deeply was now talking about faith—MY faith? And she was doing it, of course, in her way, in her smart, literary, poetic, irreverent, achingly honest way. I didn’t know you could do that.
It seems obvious now, now that we have Elizabeth Gilbert and Lauren Winner and loads of other great women writers talking about faith and life and everything else. But Anne Lamott, in my view, is the first, and the best, and the one we’re all paying homage to when we write about our faith in honest and unguarded ways, using humor and honesty to drop people’s defenses and invite them into the loveliness and the mess.
I want Anne Lamott at my dinner party because she pioneered. She is interesting and so wildly different from me in virtually every way, but I adore her, and I think her writing is just flawless. It’s true: she changed everything for me.
This would be the theme of my dinner party: strong women. Women who have gone before me, in all different arenas, and survived. Careers that have survived, marriages that have survived, senses of humor that have survived. Women like my grandmothers, who have carried their families through on their backs, multiplied what they were given, and scratched, clawed, cried, and willed things into existence with pure stubbornness and gumption.
I certainly don’t think there would be a dull moment.
Who would be at your hypothetical dinner party? Share one, five, or twenty!
I’m 27 years old, I have a college education, I’ve been raising a daughter who sees a dozen vision specialists every year, and I JUST NOW learned how to spell the word “ophthalmologist.” There is an extra “h” in there, and an “l.” For the longest time I could remember one superfluous letter, but two was too much. NO MORE! I must be growing up.
This morning Madeline had her yearly check-up, and today was the first time I didn’t go with her. There were lots of reasons, including Sam’s schedule, writing work, rush hour in ATL, and more. It was the best of all our options, but there have been lots of Mom-tears over the last 48 hours.
I got up at 5:20.
I’m sorry, did that not resonate with you?
I GOT UP AT 5:20. That is how much I love my child.
Madeline was in remarkably good spirits considering I normally have to lure her out of her bed with breakfast foods. A trail of little zucchini muffins all the way from her bedside into the living room, like Hansel and Gretel. Madeline does a lot of things well; waking up is not one of them.
I put her in her Light Up The Darkness shirt, because it brought me joy. It brought Madeline joy too, until she got in the car and realized that her shirt did not actually light up the darkness.
Dan put me on speakerphone when the doctor came in, and I went crazy-mom. I asked every question that Dan had already asked and gave him way too much information/opinion/commentary about the size, shape, color, distance, contrast, and velocity of every single object Madeline appeared to have noticed in the last 365 days.
I birthed her; such is my right.
This was the first check up where Madeline was verbal enough and cooperative enough to give us some solid information. As in, “Yes I can see that letter.” This was the first check up where they were able to check each eye individually. It was the first check-up without me. The first check-up that we did not have to man-handle her little head into that giant machine with the chin-rest. Big day.
Madeline was chipper, enthusiastic, vocal, and cooperative. She is the best.
Her greatest disappointment of the day was not the early rising, the drive, or even the eye drops; it was that her class was learning about spiders today, as this is “creepy crawly insect” week at school, and she had to miss it. She requested that I go to the library and get “a really good book about spiders” while she was at her appointment. I will oblige. Because I love my child.
Here are some quick thoughts about vision loss today:
1. It’s okay with me if Madeline never sees any better than she can right now. That’s called peace, and it’s amazing.
2. Madeline continues to blow everyone’s socks off with how well she uses her functional vision. No vision teacher or doctor has ever interacted with her and not left astounded.
3. I wish that you could know how it feels for me to sing the words to Amazing Grace. I wish that you could feel the anguish and joy of “was blind but now I see.” Or to read Psalm 139: “The night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to You.” Or 1 Peter 2:9: “…That you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” Or any one of the hundred other references in scripture to our lost-in-the-sin-sick-darkness and to God’s bright and morning star, light-of-the-worldness.
Everybody can experience God’s bright rescue – Dan and I don’t have any advantage in that department. You certainly don’t need a child with vision loss to feel the deep, deep darkness in your soul or to see it in the world.
But - we do have the great privilege of seeing blindness, literally, every day. We get to see how it affects everything. We understand the fullness of joy we would experience if our daughter’s vision were completely restored – if she could see like we can see; we can access that emotion easily. I was thinking about this just the other day, about how badly I want to be there when Madeline sees, fully, for the first time. I want to watch her face. That thought/emotion is never far beneath the surface.
Because of our understanding of literal blindness, we are able to translate that insight and emotion to spiritual blindness. We can apply what we know (feelings of grief, loss, anger, injustice, hopelessness, desperation, dependence, need for healing) to our own spiritual condition. Like copy/paste. When God says that our eyes are blinded by sin and mortal-humanness, that we live in darkness – we are fortunate enough to understand the level of lostness and need that He’s getting at. I get what what happen if Madeline wandered out of the yard; I have to push the thought out of my mind often because the fear is not healthy. It would be dangerous for any child, but magnified for my darling. She could not see roads, cars, ditches or ant hills. Unlike most school-age children, she could not find her way home.
Oh, we understand fully, the depth and desperation of our need.
And therefore, we are able to understand the sweetness of The Light.
This is why I cannot read a single verse or sing a single stanza about God opening the eyes of the blind, or delivering us from darkness to light, without crying. I never have to pause and imagine what that would feel like – I already know.
The Light feels like – like joy so full it makes your ribs ache. Like a thousand tongues to sing a thousand praises would never be enough. Like body-rocking-sobs. Like relief so big that your knees give out and you fall on your face because you can’t stand up under the goodness of it.
It feels like glory.
It feels like salvation- because that’s exactly what it is.
“You are a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light…once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”