On July 20 our family grew by one! He beat his induction by a day, and has kept us on our toes for the last five days and rewarded us with no shortage of snuggles, and pro-level eating and sleeping. I haven’t had time to do much reflecting or meditating…but this is something I wrote in the last days preparing for his arrival. We picked the name Asa a long time ago, and in June and July I became more and more convinced that it was the right name for our boy. Here’s why:
In the grace of the gospel there is a salve for every sore, a remedy for every malady. There is no spiritual disease, but there is power in Christ for the cure of it. – Matthew Henry commentary on Matt 10:1
Asa. It means “healer.” And if ever there were a time when we need healers, it is now. His name will be his charge: to go into the world and right wrongs. To hold hands with the oppressed, and to share whatever power he inherits.
He is our son, born into a world that feels like it is falling apart at the seams. A world that feels broken beyond repair. We did not know when we chose his name that he would be born during a local crime wave, in the wake of explosive racial conflict and the deadliest mass shooting in history. A time when America is so lost for leaders that it is pulling itself apart from the margins.
We didn’t know that his birth would be a bright spot in a pretty dark time.
But we hope he will be more than a bright spot. We hope that he will be a continual, persistent, light that cannot be overcome. We hope that he will go beyond saying “this is wrong” and do something to fix it. We hope that he will be a healer.
Rev 21:4-5 ‘Jesus will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Lately we’ve seen the limits of our own pursuit of justice, how entrenched our generation is in broken systems. We are more free than those before us, but not free enough.
While we do our tiny part to pursue peace, perhaps the most productive thing we can do is to raise another generation into greater freedom, greater awareness, greater truth.
We are naming him in hope, as our flaming arrow into the darkness. We are committing him to the God of Peace, the Great Healer, in hopes that he will do great things.
Matthew 10: 7-8 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Every parent of a daughter reads the headlines and cringes. Or cries out for justice. So much violence against women. So much inequity still, even in a world that claims to be past it. That’s just here in my own country. I sometimes can’t even think about the world as a whole.
Since I had my girl, I’ve been passionately praying for her to be brave and strong. I’ve been clothing her with dignity, so that she will stand on the necks of would-be abusers, and cherish the gifts of those who love her truly. So that she will know when to forgive the fumblings of an ordinary “dude,” and when to wash her hands of blood-sucking bastard.
But now…I am about to have a boy. I’m (hopefully soon) giving birth to the headlines that make me so angry. He will be born into privilege. He will be white, male, and the child of professional parents.
We, as parents of the privileged, have to fight against our children’s immature impulses to turn that privilege into entitlement. We cannot feed the beast that says athletes are somehow more deserving than lawn care workers. That their success is proof of their virtue. As much as I want my kids to take pride in their accomplishments, I want them to be even more grateful for generations of investors, workers, and taxpayers who made it possible for them to take the last tiny step across the finish line. …
If I had one fear going into motherhood, it was that their hungry little mouths, and needy little souls would be the death knell of my freedom. In fact, when Moira was born, I went through a period of mourning for my afternoons of deep contemplation, for the concept of “browsing,” and the ability to lose track of time.
The beginning of a baby’s life is hard for the mom.
I felt like I had about 45 minutes between breastfeeding sessions in which to cram in all of my personal maintenance, and graciously thank all the well-wishers and meal-bringers. Life had never felt more scheduled, crammed full of nuts and bolts.
But looking back, I realized that something miraculous began in the midst of that.
I became freer.
First, before this starts sounding like tales from the joyful martyr, let me say this: I’m writing this in a coffee shop, processing my thoughts, and sipping tea. My first baby’s season of hourly scheduled needs is over. A second baby’s is about to begin, but I don’t think I’ll need to mourn so much, because I realize how quickly it’s over. …
The last 16.5 months of my life have been amazing. As Moira grows, I grow as her mother.
Some of that growth is fun. She learns new words. My heart melts when she says, “books!” first thing in the morning. She loves to swim. I love to swim with her.
Some of that growth is not fun. She gets new teeth. I learn that going to dinner with her at 8:30pm is a terrible idea, even on vacation. She learns to wait. I learn not to fear meltdowns in public (because, like many other animal instincts, fearing only makes them more aggressive, while not fearing seems to pacify them).
Somehow, Lewis and I thought that things with a baby would either be happy-sunshine-fun (him) or miserable-scary-impossible (me). For the past 16.5 months so many of our date nights have ended in the same conversation.
“I don’t understand this…intensity that I feel,” I say.
“I just wish you could relax and not let things bother you,” he says.
Then I freak out that I’m freaking out. Obsess on not obsessing. Get intense about not wanting to be an intense mom. …
Moira is a month old. Five weeks, actually. It’s amazing how much each week of age matters at this point.
I’ve been hesitant to sit down and try to write anything meaningful, because life has not been marked by long stretches of uninterrupted thinking as of late.
It’s not actually entirely Moira’s doing. I often feel like she senses when we are about to have guests and decides to time her epic naps to avoid interaction. She’s an introvert. Or she obligingly naps through errands and restaurant meals. So I have lots of uninterrupted visits and meals…but that the time for reflecting and thinking is allotted to her 20 minute catnaps or 15 minute stretches of peaceful looking around. The rest of the time we are breastfeeding, changing diapers, and walking off my baby weight.
And I’ll be perfectly honest. Sometimes I just use those catnaps and peaceful time to stare at her.
But, sometimes in the shower, or when we are driving (Moira is a champion car rider), I’ve given some thought to this first month. It’s in snippets, but in this case the form is the content.
So…in the first month of being a family of three, here were the things that surprised me. …
So I’ve said my good-byes to my 20’s. Tomorrow I turn 30.
I will begin this decade as a mother and wife. As a homeowner. With a stable job, and a side gig I really love. I have two dogs.
In one sense, none of that “external stuff” changes you or grows you up. You can still be a raving lunatic with all those boxes checked. Because who you are determines what kind of mother, wife, employee, neighbor you will be. The uptight kind? The scatter-brained kind? The generous kind? The faithful kind? That has a lot less to do with the hats you are wearing than the head underneath them.
However, in another sense. I do think that those things changed me. Getting married, strange as it sounds, made me more independent. Not independent of Lewis, but independent of all the people I’d looked to for approval. Someone trusts me with his life and his heart, and this has given me more confidence and determination than anything else I’ve ever done. Someone loves me for who I am, and the condemning world can kiss my well-loved ass.
I’m turning 30 at the end of this month. Officially out of my 20’s.
No longer can I assertively talk about fashion, music, or technology with absolute certainty that what I am saying is current and hip. No longer can I wear whatever I want to and assume I will come off as “young and carefree.” No longer can I decide willy nilly when to wear sunblock, concealer, and whether or not to take off my makeup at night.
I’m entering a decade that will likely include the advent of wrinkles, dress codes, and age-appropriateness.
Before I greet my 30’s, I’d like to look back at my 20’s and give them a proper reflection.
It was a great decade. Lewis entered the scene. I lived in London. It was actually in 2004 that I got my first passport, at 20 years old. I’ve been to 26 countries since then, many of them multiple times. And I enjoyed them greatly. I learned a lot. I grew a lot. God was faithful.
So…three years of marriage, and still I have not experienced the bloodbath I’d been afraid of before I got married. Lewis and I have yet to go to bed angry. I’ve never wished he would just go away. I’m not bragging. I’m the girl who had a panic attack two weeks before her wedding because she was afraid that marriage was going to be a 50+ year battle with untold casualties. No bragging rights here.
I’m saying that marriage has been wonderful beyond my expectations.
But now…a baby on the way. And the voices are back, telling me life is about to get really, really hard. So many were these voices that I put off getting pregnant for as long as I could without pushing poor Lewis over the edge. We are happy. We have balance…why upset it? Why invite what, according to a lot of people I know, is the most emotionally draining and difficult thing they have ever done?
Because it’s time to believe that God makes all things new.
People love to tell you how you’re going to mess up your kids, just like your parents messed you up. They like to tell you how you bring all of your baggage into parenting. They want it to be freeing, to tell you that you don’t have to be perfect, because nobody is perfect. They want it to remind you that you need grace as a parent.
I get that, and I appreciate it.
And it’s true that we’re born sinners. Sure thing. Got it. My children will not be perfect. I will not be perfect.
BUT, here’s the deal: New life. What could be more of a picture of God’s grace that is new every morning than an actual. NEW. LIFE.
This baby will not come out cynical and jaded. She will not have years of baggage yet. She will be fresh and new, and her experience of the world, the church, and family will be her very own.
This baby, to me, is a celebration of hope. When I feel like so much has been ruined or twisted or corrupted, an entire new person will exist in the world who knows nothing of that. And maybe she will experience her own pains, but she will also have her own joys and see God’s faithfulness to her in her own life.
I’m sure that when she’s two and rolling on the floor screaming…or thirteen and rolling on the floor screaming, I will be glad for the wisdom that prepared me for her humanity. I’m sure I will be glad that someone warned me that I can’t be the perfect parent. Lewis and I are both first children, and we’re having our first child. We will win the award for most neurotic house on the block.
BUT, that is not what sets me free. That is not what makes me feel new and good. What gives me hope is that God makes all things new. And there is something new happening here (between my abs and my bladder) and it has the potential to be good. Not the kind of good that doesn’t need Jesus, but the kind of good that brings him glory. This little girl has her own story, and Jesus loves her. And I have every reason to believe that her difficult toddler/teenage years are nothing in comparison to the person God is already making her to be.
It started in London at a St. Paul’s Ash Wednesday Service. There was something sobering and meaningful about feeling the ashes smeared across my forehead. That was actually the first time I paid attention to the tangibles of the faith.
After that I paid more attention to communion as well. The taste of wine and feel of bread. The cold pewter of the common cup against my lower lip. Faith often doesn’t feel real. We need something, even a small and symbolic something, to touch.
Another famous English church experience was responsible for my awakening to a love of liturgical worship. Evensong at Cambridge Cathedral was a profound moment of worship not based on warm feelings or sentimentality. It was my first real experience of a sacred moment that had very little to do with my personal feelings, and much more to do with the sights, sounds, and air in the space.
Lent is when I feel my faith the most. Not “feel” emotionally, but “feel” in the Pat the Bunny sense. With my fingers. Christians aren’t supposed to need that. We’re supposed to be all about the “evidence of things not seen.”
But I need something I can touch. I can touch the earth.
Evolution is the ape in the room when faith and nature meet for lunch. When we force the choice between literal 6-day Creationism and Neo-Darwinian materialism, we must either close our eyes or deny our souls.
So many Christians opt to keep their eyes closed, or to fight data with dogma. We allowed the twentieth century to galvanize our faith into this cumbersome, rigid, behemoth must be authoritative on any matter, or it will shatter into a million pieces. So suddenly the Bible bears the burden of being a science text book.
Or we take the Don Draper (and now Peggy Olson) approach. “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” We can’t make nature jive with the Bible, so we just turn our attention elsewhere. We make the earth a lesser thing.
But I see things. I hear things. I feel things with my nerve endings, not just my emotions. I see things with my eyes, not just my reason. I want a faith that fearlessly affirms discovery and understanding of the things we can touch, as much as the things we cannot.
So it was especially appropriate this year that I ended up in the Galápagos, “evolution’s workshop” for Easter…or Pasqua, as it became.
I had ignored Lent this year, coincidentally. For the first time since my British awakening, I did not give anything up. I did not seek out Ash Wednesday or Maundy Thursday. My intangible emotions were in full revolt against all things sacred.
Then, in a twist of divine brilliance, work sent me to the Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island for the holiday. My hotel was down the street from the Darwin Research Station. Darwin’s finches shared my Easter lunch.
And I was forced to answer the question: can I simultaneously believe in what is happening here and what happened 2,000 years ago? Here they are observing evolution in the beaks of finches. Can this possibly jive with a risen Jesus and a spiritual world?
Watching the magnificent frigate bird with his red ballon gular sac, and the Galápagos Prickly Pear Cactus Tree with its uncanny structure, I considered the Easter story.Why was it so important that Jesus rose physically? Why not just send the Holy Spirit from the cross and skip straight to Pentacost?
Because our physical selves matter. The physical world where we see flowers, hear birdsongs, and taste ceviche. Someone else understood that too.
“Give me something I can touch.”
Thomas. Had Jesus not been there with physical wounds, Thomas would have been lost. Thomas’s needs are more familiar to me now than ever. In a sense he was saying, “I’m going to need something more than their words. I’m going to need something more real than the physical realities of death. Give me something I can’t deny.”
Jesus has not been as obliging with me as he was with Thomas. Instead he gave me Galápagos Easter. If every time I touch the earth I do not have to go to war in my soul, then I can live without touching Christ’s wounds.
The moment I was set free to the natural world I can’t deny and the faith I cannot bear to lose, it was as though the earth burst forth in song. Sun glinting through the prickly pear tree looked like the Cambridge Cathedral. Leaves and dirt and water felt like the ashes on my forehead.
I, for one, want a faith that goes to the Galápagos without fear of being dismantled. Rather than a porcelain mastodon that must stay safe and polished, I want a dynamic sapling that stretches and grows toward the light as it soaks up nourishment from the earth. I want to celebrate Easter and Earth Day – when we celebrate the things we can touch.
Someone wise recently told me that I was in a time of transition. The end of one calling, a complete reconsideration of my gifts/strengths/interests/opportunities.
Another wise person – to whom I happen to be married – recently told me that I am over-committed. He told me this as I stumbled to bed at midnight, still checking email on my phone. Even though I did roll my eyes and explain that I’ve been that way since he married me– I’ve been that way since high school, in fact– he has a point. I’ve got fingers in a lot of pies, eyes on the horizon, ear to the ground, toes in the water, nose to the grind stone…and still unsure of where me heart is. I see this as a symptom of being in transition.
Do we all imagine that our late 20’s will be the time when our roots are spreading and we’re finally gaining momentum and focus in the dream life we have achieved? Or was that just me?
Late twenties transition is different than that initial real-world jolt. When we were 23 and 24 we were all freaking out together. We were all poor and disillusioned (because it was 2008, so really everyone was poor and disillusioned but the 23-24-year-olds could still pull off the look). No one really had much.
Now we’ve got stuff, to varying degrees. I have friends who are nearing their 5 year anniversaries at the same firm, 7 years of marriage to the same person, and they have kids who are older than my own marriage and job. But then again…I do have a husband and a good job. And a mortgage. So, it’s not really like being 23.
It’s like being 29 and in transition.
In some ways it’s inevitable, because a woman’s late 20’s are prime time for babies, promotions, distance running PRs, and establishing oneself as a political entity. Those all get in the way of each other as is. Add in “re-starting half your life” and, well…yeah.
I’m not naive enough to think I can have it all or do it all. But while the music swells and the temperature rises…I’m not ready to plant my flag on the shore and say, “This is who I am…now…for real this time…never mind last time.”
Whether we call it transition or chronic over-commitment, here’s the lay of the land in this strange new world…
Evidence of Life Transition in One’s Late 20s
(Millennial Generation Edition)
1) Another woman cleans your house…and her car is nicer than yours.
2) Public parks, check-out lines, and bars are places to answer emails. But NOT movie theaters. Some things are still sacred.
3) You have a growing closet of Patagonia clothing because it’s versatile enough to merit the price tag. By versatile I mean that it looks ready-to-go without looking already-been.
4) You have five email addresses and use them all frequently. Sometimes you use the wrong ones, and people begin referring to you by your college nickname in professional settings.
5) Your less attentive family members have no idea what you do for fun vs. what you do for work. You’re like Chandler Bing on Friends, crossed with Sydney Bristow from Alias (and because you are in your late 20’s you get those references).
6) You look at maps and if you can’t bike or walk there, you are very resistant to the idea of going at all. Why? Because it’s probably the only exercise you are going to get…and your car has no air-conditioning, bumper, or driver-side door handle. It looks hip to pull up sweaty on a bike. Not so much when your brakes alert everyone to your arrival.
7) Your phone accompanies you to dinner. But you still hear your mother’s sarcastic chiding, “Wow, you must be important. Expecting a call from the President?”
And you respond…”Actually, Mom-in-my-head, the fact that my phone is at the table tells you precisely how unimportant I am. Important people don’t have to take calls at dinner.”
A friend once made a similar observation about how many keys are on one’s keyring. As you climb the ladder of life you gain keys as you gain access to more and more responsibilities. Then one day, you trade all those in for one master key. And at the top level you simply expect doors to be unlocked in anticipation of your arrival.
8) You have dogs. Plural. And a yard. And if it weren’t for your spouse/partner/roommate they would all be dead. I, for one, currently have four more living things to care for than I ever anticipated. The one that does not whine gets neglected. Sorry, yard.
Also, I said dogs intentionally. Cats do not count. Anyone can care for a cat. College students can care for cats, and they can barely care for themselves. Cats will survive the apocalypse, and they can survive owners under 25.
9) You start spending more money on skin care, which you justify by spending less money on iTunes.
10) Your husband asks, “Do we have anything going this weekend?” And you say “No! It should be totally relaxing.” Then he’s totally baffled when the alarm goes off at 6 am on Saturday, and your parting words are, “I’ll be back in time to change for the symphony. Don’t forget to drop by community garden workday and the dry cleaners.”
In all seriousness, transition is a weird time. The wise man who identified my own transition also gave me the advice that I’m trying really hard to follow: don’t cut it short.
When we were young we frequented the swimming holes of the Edward’s Plateau. Limestone caves were everywhere, and many times the entrances were underwater. You had to hold your breath and swim into the darkness trusting that the person who told you about it was right in that it was only a 15 second swim before you reached an air pocket or cavern on the other side.
Pop up too early and you bashed your head and sucked in water when you gasped. But if you could hold your breath until you sensed that you were through the mouth of the cave, the caverns on the other side were magical.