Thursday, November 27, 2014

letting the hard prompt our thanksgiving

I’ve been a little absent from the blog world as of late.

Short answer – I’m tired.

Explanation – I’m pregnant.

I’ve been living on a tilt-a-whirl eating nothing but gym socks while being forced to listen to Justin Bieber on repeat for more than 8 weeks now. Every time I’ve thought about blogging, I’ve realized I have nothing positive to say – nothing inspiration or whitty or shareable because once you are on there is no getting off the tilt-a-whirl.

And yet when I get like this I’m always reminded of the things I’ve learned from my good friend Ann. I’ve never met my good friend Ann, but I’ve told Jeremy many times that I want to move to Canada to live next to Ann because, well, that little book she wrote a while back – that New YorkTimes Best Seller – has perhaps been the most significant book in my spiritual formation of the last half decade and this makes me want to sell all and become and pig farmer and homeschool and chase moons just to spend time with thiswoman who taught me the discipline of gratitude.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned from Ann and the discipline of thanksgiving is the importance of giving thanks in the hard. To take the things which are less than ideal and use them as prompts for today’s – and every day’s – Thanksgiving. I knew today that I needed to do this for my own sake – to take my laundry list of hard and transform it into gratitude. And when I was all done I thought maybe I’d go ahead and share it with you all, because maybe on this day of Thanksgiving, maybe you need to do the same.

Italicized whiny prompts are followed by bold declarations of thanks. I’m confident you’ll get the idea. May this inspire you to sit and eat your turkey and when its your turn at the table to say what you are thankful for – may you not give a canned answer of “I'm thankful for my family and friends” but may you use the hard prompts to choose transformative gratitude, and be blessed.


I’m tired or being tired. Thank you for naps and that I really am still logging a good number of hours at night.

She's so perky. I'm so jealous.
I’m travel weary. Thank you that we’ve made all of our connections and have had vehicles to use in between.

mmhm. we made it.
I’m pretty done with living out of a suitcase and always sleeping in other people’s homes. Thank you for the true abundance of hospitality we have experienced in the form of food, beds and friendship.

THIS is hospitality.
I’m bored to tears with giving the same presentation over and over… and over. Thank you for the overwhelmingly positive responses we’ve received time and time again.

I like to call this picture "death by furlough" 
I’m sick of throwing up. Thank you that there is a healthy growing baby inside of me, and that I have been able to keep every speaking engagement despite the nausea.

I'm smiling, but I feel like this on the inside.
It’s winter now and I’m part African and therefore freezing cold. Thank you for the kind souls that have given us sweatshirts and/or turned on their heat.

At least it stayed warm long enough for us to play outside!
And a few more for which there are no pictures...

I’m tired of having pregnancy brain and not being able to think. Thank you for grace in the moment – lifting the fog long enough to let me answer a question intelligently or for plugging people’s ears when I clearly can’t think any more.

I’m through with spending/talking about money in this crazy country. Thank you for the money we have raised. Thank you for meeting our needs and giving us confidence in the vision you’ve placed on our hearts.

I’m tired of missing “home.” Thank you for the ability to skype with Zambia and for the amazing fellowship of the amazing people that have loved on us here.

I’m exhausted from worrying about Jeremy’s departure. (This is the hardest one, because I’m still worrying about it. Jeremy goes back to Zambia on Tuesday and Bronwyn and I return to New York and I’m weepy and confused about how we are going to cope. I’m having to dig deep to find any gratitude regarding this upcoming separation.) And still, thank you that there is a work happening in Zambia worthy enough of our time, attention, and even our separation. Thank you for cell towers that allow us to call each other. Thank you for a safe place for Bronwyn and I to stay while I finish growing this baby.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

the culture of motherhood: peeing on sticks

Ok confession time for all the moms – raise ‘em up if you’ve…

a)  googled the phrase “what’s the earliest I can take a pregnancy test”
b) taken a pregnancy test before reaching four weeks
c) bought some form of baby paraphernalia the same day as taking a positive pregnancy test

No judgement, me too. 

Especially for  women who have been trying to conceive, that typical two week wait before “finding out” might as well be an eternity. Even the possibility of having a baby is kind of a big deal and the need to know (and to know NOW) can be all consuming. 

It’s also rather cultural. While early and rapid pregnancy testing is certainly not an “American” thing, it is a first-world/wealthy-people thing. In rural Zambia, pregnancy testing happens a little bit differently.

Most of my neighbor ladies get the news that they are pregnant when that bump starts to appear and when caterpillars and fish finally start to smell gross. Only a percentage of women have the opportunity to miss their periods – cycles are so influenced by extended breastfeeding that many go from nursing to pregnant to nursing to pregnant without ever receiving a visit from aunt flo. Those whose periods have returned since their last child are not used to charting cycles or jotting down the first day of the LMP which eliminates thinking about probably dates of conception.

The general attitude towards "am I pregnant???" amongst my neighbor ladies is, “If I’m pregnant, I’m pregnant. And if I’m not, I’m not.” 

Rational. Accepting. Calm.

This is a far cry from the American woman rushing to the drug store, buying a test, pacing around the bathroom waiting to see the magical line appear, and then basing her entire emotional state on the result. From the percentages listed on the box assuring accuracy 5 days, 4 days, 3/2/1 days before a period is missed, its pretty clear that the pregnancy test manufacturers know that we simply CAN. NOT. WAIT. And for the most part, they're right. 

I’ve never explained this process to my neighbor ladies – I don’t care to furnish them with any more evidence that Americans are high strung. But I can hear their rebuttal now:   

“So you just needed to“know”… know what? Know that your body is producing hormones? Know that your chance of miscarrying is now one in four? You want to get all hyper just to be devastated if you loose it all in 48 hours? If you are going to carry the baby to term, God is in charge of that – no magic stick can predict the future. This is silly. Just chill.”

I’m sure that if my neighbor ladies knew more about the typical American pregnancy, they would aptly point out the thread of impatience strung through the entire process: in needing to know whether we are pregnant, in clinging to a due date; in reacting to wrong due dates with induction; in compulsive re-checking for dilation; in ripping the baby out when it takes too long. “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Ya’ll just can’t wait for anything, can you?”

Having had two miscarriages, and having tested too early on a dozen other occasions, I have to agree with my neighbor ladies that the over-priced, over-hyped pregnancy tests really aren’t worth more than the box they are sold in. They provide us with a false sense of security and a misplaced charge to start planning for what is, in reality, a rather unforeseeable future. And what’s worse, they set in motion the emotional characteristics of an unsettled, impatient, reactionary journey of motherhood.

Having absorbed at least some Zam-woman wisdom in recent days, Jeremy and I made a decision to cool it significantly after our last attempt to conceive. If we were pregnant, my body would let us know. And if we weren't, my body would let us know that too.

When I was three weeks late, throwing up and crying over insurance commercials, I looked at Jeremy, pukey and weepy and said, “who needs a pregnancy test?” We laughed, I threw up, and we continued on our merry, trusting way.

Now at ten weeks, having seen a heartbeat, we are being wise in making plans for the future, hoping in God’s good intentions for our family. We are certainly not living in an ignorant land of que sera sera. But we do notice an emotional shift now in this pregnancy, distinctive from that of previous – not presuming to know more than we do or extend our certainty/anxiety/hyper-activity beyond the bounds of what we know TODAY.

this is what we know.
Neighbor ladies – you’re right more often than you give yourselves credit for. Thank you for being beautiful pregnant women, for teaching us to listen to our bodies, and for doing it all with such calm and trusting spirits.