Day 18: Dear Perfect Baby

*Day 18 of the Dear Gratitude project is really special; my former boss and friend, Jenny Cannon, shares her reflections on her decision to forgo having an amniocentesis procedure prior to delivering her daughter, Claire, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth.*

It has been six months.  Six months since I anxiously timed contractions and took a warm bath to ease the pain.  Six months since my husband and I nervously laughed and joked about my labor starting one day before my scheduled c-section.  Six months since I delivered the most beautiful baby girl I had ever laid eyes on.  And six months since we received the diagnosis– Down syndrome.

Claire DSI have a lot to be thankful for in the last 6 months:  a healthy baby, no medical complications, an amazing husband and the love and support of my friends and family.  But one thing I’m surprisingly thankful for is that I did not have a prenatal diagnosis.  Don’t get me wrong; I did not feel this way in the beginning.  In fact, initially I was angry that I didn’t have a prenatal diagnosis.  I had 3 high-resolution ultrasounds–how did the doctors not know!?!  I said many times “if only I had known, I would have…”  But when it comes down to it, what would I have done if I had known that my precious little angel would have 47 chromosomes? I can say for certain I would not have terminated my pregnancy, but that’s where my certainty ends.

Would I have let the myths and stereotypes of Down syndrome negatively affect the remainder of my pregnancy?    Would I have let my tears and disappointment get in the way of the love growing in my heart?  Would sadness and depression have stopped me from decorating the nursery or buying every piece of baby gear available?  Would the nervous laughter and excitement I felt on the way to the hospital have been replaced by dread and fear?  Would grief have prevented me from truly celebrating my pregnancy or Claire’s birth?  Would a prenatal diagnosis have caused me to give up without giving her a fighting chance?  I don’t know.

What would have been different if I had a prenatal diagnosis . . .  I will never know, and for that, I’m thankful.

Claire pageant picA prenatal diagnosis could not have convinced me that my little baby would be perfect.  Or that her smile would light up every room she enters and that she would immediately calm all my worries and fears.  Or that the love I would feel for her and the pride I have for her accomplishments would equal the love and pride I have for my firstborn child.

Today I say thank you to the doctor who discouraged me from having an amnio; thank you to the nurse who emphasized the risks involved with having one; and thank you to the sonographers for maintaining their belief that there was nothing wrong with the little girl growing in my tummy.  They were right—there is NOTHING wrong with Claire.  She is perfect just the way God made her–all 47 chromosomes!

Day 10–Dearly loved

Photo by Kelly Booy

Photo by Kelly Booy

*Big thank you to my friend Kelly Booy for agreeing to contribute to the “28 days of love” project!*

I have had a consistent prayer for contentment these last couple of years!  My awareness of this need came one summer day in 2009 while on a walk in the Dutch farmlands.  A quiet, picturesque moment on a bench overlooking Kinderdijk’s windmills was interrupted by a pesky bird.  In the midst of worship, I found myself wiping away bird poop from my temple and hair!!  Striking me as funny and strangely appropriate, I could not hold back the giggles.  It was an intimate message as strange as the delivery.  I couldn’t shake the imagery, sweet silence and the words that came to mind, “Even in this mess you are dearly loved and cared for.”

The years following could be described as a roller coaster.  My family and I made the decision to move back to Arkansas, September of 2009, after spending two years of our life in Holland.  My husband had gone back to school in the country of his birth, receiving an International MBA, our two small children had learned some of the language and culture, and we had connected with family and made new friends.   It was an amazing experience with many highlights and some obstacles, but overall we were super thankful.  In thinking about moving back to Arkansas, I knew that I would struggle with contentment.  I would even venture to say that there was an underlying fear of the mundane–like walking down the mountain into a valley.

Within the year following our return to central Arkansas, we had bought a car, a substantially sized home, and thankfully had a job!  We settled into a church that we loved and were challenged every day by the Gospel, a simple message:  While we were still sinners Christ died.  We were surrounded by dear friends and making many new ones.  Life was good.

Soon we were staring unemployment down;  contemplating selling the home we loved because we couldn’t afford (it) to get it to the state we wanted, nursing a torn Achilles tendon, had a shingles flair up, facing impending student loans, medical bills, a second round of unemployment , professional rejections,  car issues, etc . . . Needless to say our faith was tried, and we were feeling seriously helpless, anxious, and humbled.

My prayer for contentment had taken an interesting twist, and honestly I can’t say that it was what I had wanted and/or expected!  My perspective was skewed, and I was doubting the truth that God was my provider.  Slowly I started to notice the little things, like:  we had never gone without food, we had clothes and shoes, we were able to continue making our mortgage payments, and those gentle offers of help from friends and family.  Literally, every time I turned our ignition in our car I would say, “thank you God!”  I realize that this might sound a little “third world”, but truly God was doing a great work in my heart.  It became glaringly obvious that God was providing.

We welcomed our third child in August of 2011, Emma Jeanne Booy,. . . 10 days prior to losing our insurance due to our second job loss.  Strangely, the period of time following Emmy’s birth has been some of the sweetest I have ever experienced in my life to date.  (I had all but convinced myself that I would struggle with postpartum depression after the birth of Emmy.)  Stefan was home rigorously job hunting and working contract work on the side.  He had time to take morning walks with me and the baby. We sipped our morning coffee and shared difficult, intimate conversations.  Those months were profoundly precious and healing when they should have,  by all circumstantial appearances,  been shrouded with worry and fear.   I secretly began to praise God in the midst of the messiness.  My emotional state was more than intact, and I began to see glimmers of what it means to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

As I reflect over these last several years I am completely dumbfounded and thankful for the roller coaster.  My hope and prayer is that I never lose this realization– my “satisfaction or contentment” is not directly related to my situation or comfort.

The pesky bird might have shat on my head, but I can wipe off the mess all the while knowing I am dearly loved and cherished.

 

Transcending my reality

*Special thanks to Gloria Bolton, a former student of mine, who has grown into an even more beautiful and enlightened person over the years, for serving as today’s guest contributor.*

Transcending my Reality: How I Found Christ  

Image “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” Marianne Williamson

Let me first preface this by saying, you aren’t going to agree with me. You just aren’t. Many people, when I tell them about my beliefs and my spiritual journey, assume that I am not a Christian. Or that I am a “bad” one. But I’m not going to tell you about my Christianity. I’m going to tell you about my Reality. The two just happen to coincide. Thus begins my story…

This is the story of a journey-My Journey, as you now know. It is not filled with adventure, and we will make no stop at the ancient sacred temples of Earth, except to mention that I am fascinated with awe by them. Instead, this is a journey I traversed in the mind, with Christ as my guide, and the re-emergence of my Soul in a state of elevated-if not quite enlightened-Consciousness.

This journey begins when I was very small.

I was born into a special state of being, blessed before birth. A contract was constructed, and my Soul became the daughter of my Mother. My Mother- a special woman, a walking angel among men. Her Soul is not from here- and I have always recognized a strong but silent power within her. My mother has always been my spiritual leader- we congregated at home and she loved reminding us that “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am among them” Matthew 18:20. Thus I began my spiritual life much where it may possibly stay for all time: with a Knowing. Knowing that Christ was with me. Knowing that the Creator loved me- and knowing that my study and solitude would be the key.  

So-you may be wondering if I am a nun and if this journey ends in some misty-mountain-monastery where we bake bread for orphans and perform last rights for the devout. No-it does not. I’ve never even been there. Not even on drugs. I guess this journey begins with me, a small kid, surrounded by personal gurus and open hearts of Love. My mother and grandmother have been the two singly most important influences on my path toward awareness. There were many others along the way- too many, in fact to credit here; some have been human, others have been beast. And what I know for certain is that God, and the powers that be, have always provided me with the people, places, events, books and mind to carve my path in this mountain that is life.

As a teenager, I traveled on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays from church to church, joining in communion with my friends. I met a lot of open-hearted people. I felt like a traveling Christian soldier- welcomed by the open arms of many communities. Still, I had my issues with organized religion. Surprisingly, the non-denominational churches I visited were the least welcoming-but perhaps the most inspiring. A paradox-I know. I had always been told by my mother that we, in fact, were non-denominational Christians. Because of this, I was wholly surprised when, at two separate churches, and by two different pastors, I was sought out, or at least felt sought out, to be told that I was in fact- not saved!

What an outrage, I thought! And I told them so. You do not know me, I would say. I am saved- I have been saved many times. I had not only accepted myself as a sinner, but had also asked Christ into my heart, many times. I felt like a dog being reminded that I am just a dog. And I didn’t like it.

Suddenly within me, I felt moved to separate the curd from the cream. That’s not what these pastors had intended. They had intended for me to give myself over. To latch on to the bosom of their churches and suckle the existing cream, cultivated to Grade A Fancy, by the knowledge encased therein. But, I could not do this. I knew that if I was ever to be happy, to be truly fulfilled, I had to make my own cream. And thus the journey continued….

As a child I had been aware of the several religions that existed. I knew about the metaphysical “realm.” I had listened to my grandmother speak about the Christian Mystics. I knew what Judaism was and its basic elements and commonalities with Christianity. I knew what Buddhists were, and was vaguely familiar with Hinduism. I was also keen on many Native American beliefs. I believed that dinosaurs were in fact real, but also felt wholeheartedly that there must be truth in the Creation. I knew even then that the seed of Truth and Love resided within the heart of all these communities, and I hungered to finish the puzzle.

I began studying more feverishly than ever before. I read Cosmic Consciousness at the age of 13. I flocked to the most open minded hearts and Souls I could find. I met a man named John Chiaromonte, a personal guru, and admired his intermingling of Buddhist and Christian beliefs. In college, I took classes that opened my eyes to the interconnectedness of different religious groups. I studied the cultivation of religious extremism, particularly among Christian and Islamic groups. I became at peace with the trinity of the three dominant dogmas: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. I read, and read, and read. I became aware of the occult, learned about the teachings of Aleister Crowley. I was fascinated by Numerology, and dabbled in Astrology. I joined the Society for Learning All Cosmic Knowledge of Epistemology and Religion (SLACKERS). I was part of faith based organizations dedicated to the growth of love and knowledge between people of every faith. I celebrated uncommon “pagan” holidays. I loved it. But, I became tired.

You see, in college there were four dominant levels of spiritual awareness. A reality I dealt with on a daily basis. There were: 1. Atheists, most common. 2. Agnostics, usually their fathers or grandfathers had been priests or pastors and turned them off of any religious beliefs. 3. More agnostics, these ones had no beliefs, but claimed to be cool with everything. 4. Hard Core Christians. My kind of religion didn’t seem to fit anywhere. I was a Questioning Christian and Soul Searcher. The environment became stagnant. Until I met my Adam (as in, the first man J)

Adam is my boyfriend. We live in sin, ha ha, because it is not financially wise in today’s world for us to marry. With my student debt and a shady credit history, I do not want to burden him with my financial ineptitude. He says he can’t afford the ring I deserve. But- we are married, body and soul, in so many deeper ways.

When I met Adam, I had really hoped he would be the like-minded Christian Soul Searcher that I had been searching for. Alas, he was not. “What are you then?” I asked, “Atheist or agnostic?” “Neither,” he told me, “I believe in Energy.” Hmm…Energy- that is interesting.

Let me stop a moment and rewind. All my time spent studying the beliefs of other people left me with just one, unshakable conclusion: as long as there is Love, there is Christ. And as a Christian, I still believed what my mother had taught me. A Christian is someone who follows Christ. I mean, seriously, I saw God everywhere. The puzzle pieces weren’t fitting together quite smoothly, but they were all there for me to do the work.

Energy-ah- that force that keeps the Universe together- keeps the Earth rotating around the sun and on its axis. The same Energy makes up every atom of my body, the table I’m sitting at, the pen in my hand and it is Energy that triggers the synapses of my brain as I write. I had to know more about this Energy. Adam was talking about his Reality though, not his religion. And his Reality was founded on the basis of the Law of Attraction. For anyone unfamiliar with the Law of Attraction (LOA), a brief definition: like attracts like; good attracts good, bad attracts bad. Makes sense, huh? When it rains, it pours, good or bad, happy, sad, neurotic or normal. The Energy you emit comes back to you. Sounds a little like the Western understanding of Karma, right? Here I’d like to ask the reader, are you familiar with the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Either way, go listen to their song “Minor Thing:” You make a sound the spell is bound to come around. I didn’t have to study too long before again, I found Christ.

You see, the LOA can be used for attracting to your life more of what you want. This practice is rooted in the requirement of pure, blind faith- like most religious belief. In order to attract, or manifest good things in your life, you must first state those good expectations and know that if it is wanted, it exists already in Creation. After declaring your expectation of the gift, you must release all resistance by becoming detached. You have to know you want it and that it exists, but also live as if the having or not having of this good thing cannot, will not and does not affect your state of being. In other words- You put the wheel in God’s hands, and remain happily anchored in your present state of being. Remember, I’m talking about a Reality here, not a religion.

It made perfect sense to me. Say what you want, believe it is so, and it will come. After all, my own family had experienced first-hand this sacred knowledge of the power of faith, as pertaining to a certain Miracle Baby.   

No! Not me, (although I will say I caused a rather fair amount of physical commotion upon my arrival) thank you though! Actually my sister had at birth suffered a massive stroke. Mom was told that Nicki wouldn’t live, but that if she did, we would be lucky if she ever reached the ability to make her own bed. My sister was given a death sentence at birth. The doctors and hospital really did their best to prepare my mother for the death of her first child. They didn’t want any surprises. Not this child though-

My mom had been told as a teen that she was incapable of carrying a child to term. Scars on her uterus would prevent an embryo from attaching- and mom’s prospects to become a mother were grim-doomed to a life riddled with half-termed miscarriages. Mom prayed, together with Nicki’s father, that God would send her a baby, and when He did, at the age of 19, she was filled with nothing but gratitude for the soft human body growing inside of her. Mom was not gonna let Nicki die. She prayed to God- “Why? Why my sweet, innocent child?” She opened her Bible- “Nothing clean can ever come from anything unclean.” Job 14:3

Stop! I’m sure you can guess mom’s reaction- surely remorse for her sinful ways. But just once more I must weave the fabric of this Miracle Baby’s story with my own journey of self-awareness. Nothing clean comes from the unclean. In practicing LOA I have learned that “problems” still arise in my life. Life is not always smooth and besides, I wouldn’t want it to be. Contrast is healthy. But, for the first four years of my knowledge of LOA, I did not understand why I was not attracting the good that I so desired. Bad situations just became worst. Now I know this: the solution to an issue can never come to you while you are still offering the vibration or the energy from whence that problem was created. Even Einstein knew that- look it up!

The second time my mother opened her bible that day she read “Therefore, I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them and they will be granted to you.” Mark 11:24. Law of Attraction and faith in action. Ask, believe it is already yours, open your heart and receive.    

And guess what? My sister is alive and well, mother of my beautiful nephew, age 10. She recovered in less than two years- with a lot of faith and a little consistent work to strengthen the Miracle Baby’s body (at that time, it was also unknown that the rate of brain cell regrowth in newborns is as high as it is). Mom still says it was the easiest faith she ever had. The words were from God and the faith from something higher than body or mind.

It was not hard for me to accept the power of LOA, and many related teachings. I had seen, witnessed through my sister and mother, the power of faith. Different words, slightly different paths, one a religion, the other a Reality: One Destination.

So now I thought I knew the secret, but knowledge is not power when left unused. It is more like an atrophied limb stuck inside a plaster cast. And thus I spent four long years knowing that dormant Knowledge of the Cosmos. Until one day, not too long ago- November actually- I awakened to the awareness that I, in fact, was not using this power to create the life that God and the Universe had intended for me. So I started practicing. A little at first, as much as my mind and body could muster. I started with Gratitude-

Today, and for the last 67 days, I have started and ended my day by practicing Gratitude. It has become my prayer. And would you know- I was shocked to find what would come into my life when I opened my heart! At one point I declared my gratitude for all the “free stuff” I was getting. I also declared my intention to receive more. And it happened! The list of free stuff to feel grateful for is long, and would most definitely sound absurd to some. It includes clothing, classes and cookies 😀 But, it is real, nonetheless.

ImageI have also begun to meditate daily- and this is another instrument in the toolbox to my Reality. I realized and really felt- I am not my body, nor am I my mind. The essence of who I am is sourced from a higher power. A Divine power. That is what I am, and who you all are. We are much more than we were ever led to believe. Energy is everywhere and it is our job to choose how we interpret that great force. Look at your mother’s dining room table, for example. Most people will just see a table, modern or classic, wood or plastic. But your mother- you, your family- see a place where she feeds her family. A place where we play, laugh, joke, pray and reside in the hearts of each other. You can change your Reality, and you have chosen, are choosing, and continue to choose it for yourself.

Christ is everywhere, when we choose to see him. And so is God. That Christ Consciousness flows through everything and everyone. It is the Universe, to me. Good and bad no longer exist, unless I choose to see them. There is merely existence, experience, and the ability to harness your energy. In other words, nothing is “good” or “bad,” it just is, and what we choose prevails.

So where am I now? No closer to the end than from where I began, I’m afraid. But opened now. I opened my mind and body and felt my way to the Chamber of my Soul. The door was opened and when I looked within- I saw the sacred peacefulness that is to be my life. I found so much within.

I’m currently in the process of organizing and founding a non-profit corporation. My energy and faith therein, have carried me so far in such a short amount of time. My “organization” went from an idea within my mind on how to serve others- to an actuality in two months! I’m even meeting with potential partners on Sunday. This could not have happen in my previous “reality.”

I am healthy, invigorated, inspired and moved to action. The sun rises and sets for me. My once dormant orchid is now in full bloom (literally speaking, it has six flowers) and I know that it is all for me. There are no coincidences, only what you create or co-create with others.

I am aware that I have only really begun to scratch the surface of this: My life, as it should be, as it was intended to be. I don’t believe in hell or sin, because my Lord is Love, and in Love, the seeds of darkness never existed: they were all just lies. I have awakened unto my true self- and to reiterate, I felt my soul, and there I found Christ and Creation. I witnessed the birth of my Reality as a Spiritual Being experiencing a physical existence. In the words of Walt Whitman, “I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,” (Song of Myself).

Top 12 things I’m grateful for in 2012

Recently I wrote a blog post for my personal blog, My 2012 gift list, and listed the most significant gifts I received in 2012. I didn’t list tangible objects or even relationships on the list–I limited my gift list to the intangible yet priceless blessings I received in the form of lessons, inspirations, and virtues.

Today I thought it might benefit my soul to take a look back at 2012 and identify the top 12 things on my annual gratitude list.

  1. DSC_0075_edited-1Margaret Jacqueline. This year, my husband and I were surprised to learn that we had unintentionally created a human being. We were ecstatic to learn that we would be parents, and we are overcome with joy to share our lives with her each day. I’m truly grateful for her health throughout my pregnancy, for a safe delivery, and for her health and happiness every day since then. At six weeks old, she’s already living up to the meaning of her name and bringing sunshine into every moment of our lives.
  2. Health. Going through a somewhat rough pregnancy fraught with rough patches, complications, and negative symptoms made me much more aware of how blessed I am to be healthy most of the time. As I recover from delivering my baby, I continue to pause each time I realize just how good I have it. I can clean my house myself. I can bend over and pick things up and exercise. Not everyone I know can do these things, and I’m grateful I can.
  3. A’s. This year I completed 24 hours of graduate school and somehow, in spite of five months’ worth of morning sickness, ten months’ worth of migraines, and severe lack of sleep, I managed to make A’s in all my classes. I am so thankful God enabled my brain to function well in the absence of sleep, but more amazingly, in the absence of caffeine :).
  4. 033My husband. This year I married the one man who encapsulated the wish list I wrote months before I met him. I call him my “Wild at Heart” man; as an avid John Eldredge fan, I decided (one month before I met my husband) that I would ask God for a man like the one described in John Eldredge’s book. I knew it was a long shot–I’ve been divorced twice and knew I might be asking for something I’d never receive. But God blew my expectations out of the water, brought my husband into my life, and has blessed us with a trusting, peaceful, romantic relationship that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
  5. Real friends. I’ve always learned when going through trials and tribulations which friends were true friends. This year, I also learned which friends love me enough to celebrate the blessings in my life despite their own schedules, difficult circumstances, or limitations. All year long, I felt showered with blessings by my friends in various forms–phone calls, messages, cards, gifts, visits, acts of service and kindness–and I’m really thankful for each real friend in my life.
  6. Reality. I often live in fear of things out of my control–I worry and fret over things that most often never come to pass. This year, I learned that what I fear is not as scary as I thought, and that all the time I spent worrying could have been spent positively–writing, praying, or laughing. When I was pregnant, I worried that I’d wind up covered in stretch marks on my stomach. I didn’t get a single one. I was afraid of various complications during and after delivery, including prolapsed bladder. I’m happy to report that I pee perfectly well. I’m grateful that in many cases, reality is much kinder than I give it credit for.
  7. Our church. I spent over two years searching for a church that fit not only my credo but also my picky preferences. This year, God matched us up–and used a persistent friend of mine in the process–with a church that matches our needs and wants and then some. We already had our own personal relationships with God–we just didn’t have a group of people to share those relationships with. Now we do.
  8. Gratitude. It seems funny to list gratitude on my gratitude list, but I really am grateful for it. In 2012, I listed “be more grateful” as one of my bucket list items. In order to motivate myself, I started this blog. Since then, and about 125 blog posts later, I’m pleased to report that it worked. Writing blog posts has served as a catalyst for my personal growth. I find myself contemplating my blessings in order to create new blog posts; I spend more time focused on what I have to be grateful for and less time mulling over what I’m missing.
  9. Recovery. I’ve been a member of a twelve-step recovery program for family members and loved ones of alcoholics for over five years now. This year, I committed myself a little deeper to developing our itty bitty local chapter of the program and to attempting to share some of the experience, strength, and hope I’ve found with people around me who might benefit from it. I started praying for our local group and asked God to multiply our efforts; He has. The group has tripled in the past few months in membership, and new people show up periodically, too. I reconnected with my sponsor who lives in another town and continue to experience insights and growth as a result of our relationship. I’m sure this item will be on my gratitude list for years to come.
  10. My employment status. Having been willfully unemployed since July, I’m super grateful for the opportunity to not work. I’ve worked since I was 13 years old. I’ve tutored children, taught gymnastics, served french fries, cared for emotionally disturbed teenagers, taught classes, edited resumes, sold software, and advised college students. But this year, my husband decided to give me a break and let me focus on graduate school instead of on earning an income. Now that I’m caring for our newborn daughter, I’m continuing that hiatus from the world of paid employment and am thankful for the chance to do so.
  11. RPM’s. For those of you who aren’t fortunate enough to have reaped the spiritual benefits of a recovery program, RPM stands for reading, prayer, and meditation. Some of you who foster your own personal relationship with God might refer to RPMs as devotional time. No matter which way you slice it, spending time with God is one thing I’m most grateful for this year. Having gone through some very tough spiritual valleys earlier in the year, which I thankfully found my way out of with the help of a great counselor, I learned to depend even more on my time alone with God. Each morning, I spend a little (or a lot, depending on the day) time with God reading Scripture, praying, and meditating on what I’ve read and on the nuggets of wisdom He imparts. Life without RPMs for me means spiritual atrophy. I’d rather keep growing.
  12. Prioritization. This year, I learned to let go of some of my priorities in lieu of more important things–namely, my own health, my marriage, my daughter, and my education. I could have kept working in order to earn more money to pay for more things that I really didn’t need to begin with. I could have opted to continue shopping, running errands, and eating out after my doctor advised me to spend more time with my feet up to reduce swelling and heal my injured back. I could have invited our entire family, church body, and list of friends to visit us at the hospital and come by our house in order to keep myself from feeling lonely. But I think I chose more wisely instead. I decided to stay home and focus on what matters most right now. I decided to take care of myself rather than take care of others or entertain myself. And I decided to limit my daughter’s exposure to a very germy world in the midst of flu season. And I’m grateful I made these choices.

It’s been a pretty wonderful year. I’m thankful for the chance to share it with each of you.

Sick and tired enough

There’s a saying amongst my friends in recovery that has held true for me in many different situations: until I’m sick and tired enough of being sick and tired, I won’t be ready to do things differently.

In my life, this truth has proven itself in dating relationships and marriages, in matters of physical health and fitness, in the realm of careers, and in friendships and family matters, too. And of course, it’s been most prevalently proven in my spiritual walk with God.

As I added my 43rd item to the list of physical reasons to avoid pregnancy in the future–a list I keep partly in jest and partly to remind myself of reality once time has passed, and I have become enamored enough with my baby to consider having another one–I realized that I had discovered one more thing to be grateful for.

My entire life I have been tokophobic–fearful of childbirth and pregnancy. In general, I do not find these things beautiful; I find them repulsive, scary, and somehow inhumane. Of course, some of the fear has subsided since I’ve experienced pregnancy myself. But many of my fears also became realities, and I discovered even more disgusting aspects of pregnancy than I ever imagined or heard about from my sisters, friends, and other women who’d walked the pregnancy plank before me.

Since God has a great sense of humor, and a clever way of working things out, I’m not surprised that He has piled enough on my pregnant plate to bring me to the point of being so sick and tired that I’m ready to do something about it–deliver this baby. This is quite a miracle since I’ve dreaded the idea of childbirth my entire life. After enduring 10 months of odd and obnoxious symptoms, I have become ready to forge ahead to delivering our baby. I don’t look forward to the process, but the outcome will certainly be rewarding. Not only will I gradually get relief from the 43 items on my list, but I’ll also gain a relationship with my daughter and countless other benefits I’ll create a list for later.

I’m grateful God never ceases to find creative ways to bring me to the point of being willing to trust Him–He knows that only then will I be ready to do things differently.

 

Happy early birthday, Margaret!

*Special thanks to my beloved former professor and friend, Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy, for writing today’s post in honor of her Margaret.*

16 October 2012

Dear Bethany,

Eighteen years ago I was where you are now – expecting a baby girl.  My daughter, Margaret, was due on Halloween, but she arrived a couple of weeks early.  Though I’d practically worn out my copy of WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING, I had no guidebook for my daughter’s first year, let alone her first eighteen.

On the day of Margaret’s birth, I got my first inkling that I might not need a guidebook at all, much less have time to read one!  Margaret was the only baby born in the hospital on that day, and I think the nurses were eager to rock her because every few minutes they would come to my room and ask me if I wanted them to take her to the nursery.

“Just a little while longer,” I said each time they came to the door.

That night I sang my new baby girl every song I knew.  I had no idea what to do with a newborn, but singing seemed right for Margaret and me at that moment. Over the past eighteen years, I’ve had lots of moments when I wasn’t sure what I should do.  In time, I’ve learned to take my cues from the person who knows her needs best – Margaret.

Dr. Murphy and Margaret

People gave me lots of advice on how to raise my daughter, and I suspect you will be given a lot of advice as well.  Some of it will be worth listening to, and some of it will be worthless.  The only advice I’ll give to you is this – when it comes to your daughter, you’ll know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.  From the moment that precious girl is placed in your arms, you’ll know what to do.   After all, you’ll be holding the author of the only guidebook on raising your daughter that you’ll ever really need.

With gratitude and best wishes always,

Dr. M.

P.S. Margaret loves music and has become an accomplished singer.  I should have known!

Turn, turn, turn

As The Byrds so beautifully quoted in song, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Autumn has always been my favorite season. It marks the end of my least favorite season, summer, and reminds me that excessively sweaty armpits, mosquitoes swarming, and too-short shorts are about to be a thing of the past (at least for a while).

It also ushers in some of my favorite things–leaves changing and falling, baking aromatic desserts, wearing sweaters and scarves and all things cozy, and spending many nights around bonfires at our tiny, old farmhouse in the Ozarks, surrounded by the cold earthy smell of fall and countless cool stars.

I’m grateful to live in a climate that rotates through each season distinctly. There’s something about the weather turning our lives on end that reminds me that God’s in control, and that no matter how much I like or dislike it, nothing lasts forever here so I better appreciate it while it lasts.

I’ve gone through seasons of my life when enduring one more day seemed emotionally and physically impossible. And I’ve passed through seasons of life when I dreaded hearing the sound of the ticking clock, knowing that the happiness I felt was fleeting at best. The best moments of my life have been those in which I’ve been able to truly accept reality, embrace change, and celebrate the beauty of the moment, no matter how hard I had to look for it.

While baking sweet potato pies today, I sat at the kitchen table with a hot cup of tea and mused over the changes that will come in our lives very soon with the birth of our daughter. I’m grateful for the time I’ve had in my life to grow and develop and change into who I am now and look forward to who I will be as time goes on. I’m grateful that I’ve waited until now to have a child and have had the privilege of helping raise my stepdaughter, learning many lessons along the way. I’m grateful for the friends and family who’ve become parents before me–I’ve learned a wealth of knowledge (about what to do as well as what not to do) by spending time with them. I’m grateful that my husband, too, has had his entire life up until now to grow and explore his interests and become the wonderful person he is today. And I’m grateful for our daughter, who will inevitably alter our schedules and rearrange our priorities, reminding us that time is precious.

“God, thank You

for all You’ve given me

for all You’ve taken away

and for all You’ve left me with.”

What I hold in my hands today, with open palms–knowing it’s really all His anyway–is greater than everything that has passed through them in the past.