Notes Part 2: Immersion

This post is a part two in a slightly quirky series on what we learn about life and pain from the lens of labour.  If you missed the first post, you can find it here.

No-Peeing-In-Pool-Sign-S-8748I’m not a big water person.  The pool and I don’t get along.  I have a hard time getting past the ick factor of pool floors, kids peeing and everyone in bathing suits.  Lakes fare slightly better but carrying the sand in every crevice where algae is not is problematic.  Hot baths, however, in your own nicely disinfected tub get the thumbs up.

When I finally made my way to the hospital, 17 hours into labour, and was offered a Jacuzzi bath, I thought I’d give it a try.  The big signs posted on the bathroom wall about the disinfecting process (which involved a whole lot of bleach) reassured me.

The distraction of the jets really helped me cope with the pain.  Occasionally the nurses would pop their heads in and remind me that no, I could not deliver in the tub.  I stayed in for hours until my fingers and toes were as wrinkled as my baby’s when he was born.

It was a good reminder to me of the importance of looking outside ourselves.  In our pain we can be so consumed by it that we burrow inward.  When we expose ourselves to the forces and currents outside of ourselves, the good and the hard, we become aware of how much is moving beyond the stillness of our pain.  When we immerse ourselves in a world that is fluid and constantly changing, we are reminded of just how small we are in a great big world and just how small and temporal our own problems are in the face of the suffering of many.

Advertisements

Wide Open

This post belongs to a series called the Chai Conversations, a challenge to post every day (or almost every day!) in October.  You can start here.

Smallness chafes.  It does that often.  I find the abrasive surface papers the walls of this heart I call home.  Minutiae.  The inconsequential.  The unimportant.  They are pebbles, gravel in my shoes.  When I was sick chronically my sickness filled my perspective.  Healing and mercy were the language of my prayers.  Healing and mercy for me.  This did not move me to a transcendent compassion for others who suffered infinitely more.  I curled in around my hurt, prayed for it to end.

When we moved overseas and I unpacked a bag full of questions and found no answers, when I left everything to follow and couldn’t find the one who led me there, my small self curled up tighter.  It didn’t make me bloom with compassion for my neighbours who didn’t know what questions to speak, who to seek.  No, my pain made me smaller, harder; I focused everything inward.

Pain does that.  We burn our finger and what do we do?  We grasp the injured finger with our other hand and pull it into our chest.  We hunch over as if everything in us pulls our hurt to the centre of ourselves.  It is contrary to our nature and against our instincts to accept hurt arms spread wide, stretched out, to be forgiving and giving in the very same moment.

And yet, my desire today and every day is that I will not be small and consumed by the immediate, whatever that happens to be on any given day.  My desire is that any disappointment, any pain be a corrective lens for my myopia enabling me to look great distances and take the blur off the edges of the lives of others.  I want hurt to sharpen my acuity, to focus my ability to care.

May our hurts grant us the ability to say, “I’ve been hurt, albeit it just a little, but it is enough to imagine that you must feel overwhelmed.  How can I help?”  May our hurt teach us the language of mercy and our pain grant us a vision of compassion.

I was listening to a song this morning that a friend recommended by Misty Edwards.  She says,

This is how I know what love is… 

Arms wide open, heart exposed,

arms wide open, sometimes bleeding…

And in Christ we find the ultimate example of how to look beyond our hurt, how to expose our hearts and love others.  In our pain, may we find him and may we reflect him.

Say Something

After yesterday’s post on Pregnancy and Infant Loss, a few people graciously shared, stating I had found the words they struggle to find.  It is a gift to try to be a voice of love for those who care about you who have suffered.

bittersweetbyshaunaniequistBut today I’m left with the words of a favourite author of mine ringing in my ears.  Shauna Niequist, who herself has suffered multiple miscarriages and shares about them (among other things) in her book Bittersweet, pens an essay entitled, “Say Something”.

In it she says, “When something bad happens, people say the wrong thing so often.  They say weird, hurtful things when they’re trying to be nice…But there’s something worse than the things people say.  It’s much worse, I think, when people say nothing.”

It is an interesting concept, this.  Silence being worse than fumbling and stumbling and putting our foot in our mouth.  At least, when we stumble, we are trying to close the distance between your pain and our understanding of it.

Even if we don’t know what to say, simply acknowledging that and saying we care means a whole lot more than saying nothing.  For people who are grieving or struggling, whether that struggle be with death or sickness or finances or family, the problem is forefront.  The struggle is the lens through which they see the world.  The struggle is like an interface, placed squarely between them and the rest of society.  If you ignore it, you may as well ignore them.

Questions can be a good place to start if you are willing to sit and listen.  People don’t need our answers; they need to know we care.  Ask, “How are you really doing?” or “What is hurting you most these days?” or “Do you want to talk about it?”

Sometimes the question we ask instead is, “How can I help?”  Most often, the response is, “I am fine.”  People who are hurting have enough trouble remembering what end is up, let alone telling you how you can help them.  And while offers to help are meaningful and show care, sometimes we just need to do something.  Have you ever had anyone turn down a meal when you show up with it prepared on their doorstep?  Have you ever turned down anyone who showed up with something for you?  Exactly.

Shauna says, “when there’s bad news or scary news or when something falls apart, say something.  Send a note.  Send a text.  Send flowers.  And if you don’t know what to say, try this: ‘I heard what happened, and I don’t know what to say.”

I know it is basic but it is easy to forget and easy to be scared.  Let’s be people who say and do something about the hurt we see in others.

The Word That Changed It All

The day started out almost perfectly. The kids were up a little too early for a Saturday and we had some snuggle squabbles where they both wanted to snuggle the same parent at the same time and didn’t want any intruding sibling’s limbs to interfere.

But our day was planned. It was Fire Safety Day, a much anticipated event in my household of want-to-be-firefighters. They’ve been counting down the days until they get to see the firefighters, the fire trucks and Sparky at the fire station, crawling through the smoke tunnel and watching the jaws of life. Fire Safety Day is practically Christmas.

They watched a Popular Mechanics segment on fire fighting from the library while I put together a favourite breakfast and then we all sat around the table in pyjamas, lingering over strawberries and biscuits, slowly peeling hard boiled eggs, snuggling and laughing. There was no rush to eat, no heavy conversations to be had, no sight words to drill. We just enjoyed. I said to my husband, “A leisurely breakfast with your family where no one wants to leave and everyone is enjoying food you made…that’s about as good as it gets.” We even said wouldn’t today be a perfect day for baby to show up after good time like that.

Not too long later, the boys tromped in from outside and my youngest, just over two, went running through the kitchen in his rubber boots. “Boots off first,” I said and reached to grab him but he went running by. “Micah, stop!” I said, “Boots off.” He didn’t stop. So a standard time-out was issued. No big deal until he dug in his heels and decided he wouldn’t say sorry at the end of it.

My husband and I looked at each other. Now what? You have to say sorry, right? So we explained, “If you don’t say sorry, you can go back into time out. When you say sorry, you can come right out.”

And the timer was set for 2 minutes. At the end of those 2 minutes one of us would sit on the floor in front of him and ask if he was ready to say sorry. And he dug in his heels. At some point in this, right around the time when we were supposed to be leaving for the fire station, it became apparent that our little plan may be sabatoged by pure stubbornness. Stubbornness on his part and on our part.

When you start a battle like that, you have to finish it or you don’t teach anything. They’ll learn to dig in their heels just a little longer than you dig in yours. At least that’s how it seemed.

So the other two eventually went ahead. I explained to Micah he could go too if he said sorry. They would come back and we’d all go together. But no sorry.

An hour and a half went by. Slowly. In two minute intervals. Getting my 9 month pregnant butt up and down off the floor 45 times. But who’s counting? “You are in a time out because you didn’t say sorry.” “Are you ready to say sorry?” “You are in a time out…” The beeping of the timer.

Finally I fed him a banana, changed him, put him in his crib and gave him one last chance. Say sorry and go to the fire station; don’t say sorry and have a nap.
He was asleep in about 7 minutes. I wasn’t far behind him.

I woke up just as the fire station’s open house closed. Micah was still sleeping. Maybe it was that fantastic cocktail of late pregnancy hormones, maybe the stress of the morning, maybe the disappointment of my little fire fanatic having to miss out but this Mommy started crying and couldn’t stop.

Sometimes the enormity of the task of parenting is overwhelming. I want so badly to teach them well, to be level and fair. I want to parent well—not so people can say I’m doing a good job but because parenting should be done well. Children should be parented well. God desires it.

Today it was the two-year-old and the sorry battle. I’ll blink and it will be the 15-year-old and the social media battle. Or the 20-year-old with the questionable partner. This isn’t an easy job but it is a good one and one worth digging your heels in for.

Later, we went on to feed ducks and roll down hills full of leaves (I did nothing of the sort) and crawl around in pjs laughing, tongues out like puppies (I was the pokey little puppy). A few times Micah ran up excitedly and would ask, “We go to fire station now?” And I’d have to remind him that he chose not to say sorry. He’d lay his head on my lap for a minute and then go off again to play.

Did it get through? Maybe. I hope so. Was it hard? Certainly. Do I wonder if it was a good decision? Absolutely.

So my question for the day is how do you, in parenting, or in life, come to terms with the inevitable ambiguity involved in doing the right thing? Do you wish it was more clear cut or do you enjoy the freedom to choose?

31 Days of Chai Conversations: A Starting Place

31 days button

As I await the birth of my third little son and anticipate our upcoming return to the country where we work, creativity finds itself at a low but the desire to converse, to connect relationally with others and to hear what is tumbling around in their hearts and minds is at a high.  So the idea, prompted by a 31 Day Challenge at The Nester, was born.

Here I’ll list the topics of conversation for every day.  Grab a cup of tea and Join in the conversation!

Oct 1: On the Best and the Good 

Oct 2: A Starting Place (Organized, I know…where was I yesterday?)

Oct 3: What’s in a Name?

Oct 4: Practice Makes Perfect: Why is Gratitude So Hard?

Oct 5: The Word That Changed It All

Oct 6: When Nothing Seems To FIt

Oct 7: From the archives: Rules for Expectancy

Oct 8: Parental Sleep Deprivation Personality Types

Oct 9: An Addendum for the Sleep Deprived

Oct 10: Why I Love Being The Mom of Boys

Oct 13: Beef Wellington Hacked

Oct 15: Remembering With You

Oct 16: Say Something

Oct 17: Wide Open

Oct 18: What To Say To the Woman Who Is Overdue

Oct 20: To My Little One

Foggy Vision

IMG_7522

This morning I woke up and my view was gone.  (Well, a few mornings ago—since apparently writing a post, uploading pictures, posting and maintaining sanity are not all readily available in the same day.)

We haven’t been here long but I’m becoming immune, careless maybe with the view.  I’m forgetting some mornings, many mornings, to breathe out thankfulness for the way the field lays open, every day wheat stretching taller, more golden, reaching for that open sweep of summer blue sky.  I forget to notice the way the earth lays flat like a map with grid roads for creases and if I but step beyond my fence there is nothing to stop the eye but sky and wheat and wheat and sky and this long line of fence like bystanders, witness to the way seasons change subtly and the heavens hang low, open and blue, every single morning.  And I forget.

I forget to say thank you, forget to drink it in, bow head instead over risotto stirring, stirring.  I bow over the sink full of dishes, bubbles metamorphosizing to mud puddle murk.  Scrub, scrubbing.  Or if I lift my head to watch, it is to patrol the mob of kids in the yard, not rejoicing in tanned skin and sinew and just the right count of grubby toes and fingers and laughter.  No I wait for cries of injustice, pain, step out under that summer sky to chide.  Careful please.  Let’s share nicely.  Come on—how many times do I have to tell you?

And the worst consequence for them is having to sit, sit while everyone jumps and rolls and they squirm with what has been taken away.

IMG_7525

And this morning I sit, watch the heavy fog hang unmoving, like a curtain.  I brew a bit of tea in my bird mug, the one I save for nostalgic mornings only, let it steep until it is thick like syrup, fill the rest with ice and milk and sit on a towel outside.  Every surface is slick with condensation, the heat heavy, air thick.

What is the fog?  I ask.  What metaphor here?  Some kind of pain, I predict or else, something seasonal and passing.  But its not about the fog today; it is about what is always here and what I always miss except on days like today where I can’t see it at all.  The loss startles me.

It is my own, this fog.  My fog is a thickness of distraction that lays heavy, a sheet over all I could count and number as joy.

I sit, squirm a little like a child.  How many times?  Careful, please.  So slow to learn.

I want to notice what I have before it is gone, being alert to the radical beauty of routine.  There is divine right there in the dust, reminding us all of our origins, of what we can become in the right hands.  My toddler stumbles outside, still half asleep, buries his sleep sweaty head into my shoulder.  We watch a sudden flock of birds settle on the neighbour’s fence, then scatter into the lifting mist.

IMG_7526

This morning I am thankful for the blindness that brings with it sight.

Peas, Knees and T3s

I had my surgery this week. It involved a little more pre-op hoopla than I expected. Turns out that if the doctor squeezes you in, there might be a few important pieces of information that you don’t hear about ahead of time. At a few points, it looked like it just wasn’t going to happen.

One example: in the health region, you need a pre-op physical from your GP before you can have your surgery. Good thing I found this out 2 hours before I had to leave for my surgery. We stopped everything and prayed. Even though my doctor was covering for someone else, he squeezed me in. All the other details came together too. Thank God.

I’m waiting for my post-op visit to find out all the details but it looks like my meniscus was not torn but there was a problem with the bone surface that he was able to fix.

I’ve spent more time in bed this week than I have in the last, oh, year maybe. I no longer have any right to complain about being behind in the sleep department, especially not to my dear husband playing Mr. Mom.

The first few days were spent with my favourite bag of peas, a pillow under my leg and pleading with the clock to hurry up so I could take more medication. Just as my knee started improving, I got hit with the mother of all headaches and her nauseating minions. Let’s just say it is bad if I lay down. And if I sit up or stand, ha! Brutal. Apparently the nausea we were trying to avoid with the general anesthetic has been trumped by the spinal headache. You can go away now, headache. Pretty please.

And with that said, my eyes cannot take more computer screen, so I sign off to continue my hibernation. Little Micah is fast asleep beside me so I think I will enjoy a wee snuggle before he decides to wake and jump on me like a trampoline. I kid you not. The giggle is worth it.