Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category

Giving up the fight.

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

OEK-149 copy

I couldn’t put him down.

All day, nothing worked.

After six hours of trying to put my baby in his bed, his car seat, the swing, the wrap, anywhere, he passed out dramatically on my chest. There was a sudden thump of his face against me, and the pacifier bounced off the carpet. I instinctively braced myself for the wail I knew would follow the empty mouth. But none came. I noticed how heavy he seemed and looked carefully down. Asleep. More than asleep. After nearly a full day of laying him oh-so-carefully into his crib and tiptoeing away, only to see on the monitor his eyes flying open and his arms struggling against his swaddle, he had given up the fight.

That afternoon, six weeks after my son’s birth, I was supposed to call a client for our first talk about transitioning back to work. He was incredibly accommodating, telling me to call any time between noon and 5 p.m.

At 11:30 I nursed my newborn slowly in the rocking chair, his tiny tongue clicking and his mouth sucking rhythms in sync with our gliding. As always, I stared at him, wondering at how big he’d already grown. When he was still, I laid him in his bassinet in the dark, cool room to sleep. I just needed 15 minutes.

I stepped down the hall on light feet, avoiding squeaks, down the stairs and across the living room to my small corner desk. I was anxious about working from home with this little one in my care.

Could I do both? Could I do both well?

I opened a fresh document and double-checked the phone number. With one thumb ready to press “call,” I lifted the baby monitor and clicked on the screen to check on him one last time. And there he was, just one minute after being put down in a deep sleep — legs kicking, mouth grimacing, arms pushing small but strong against his swaddle wrap. Within seconds came the screaming that had become the soundtrack to my days. Screaming with breath held and eyes bulging, skin turning red and then purple. I dropped my phone and raced up the stairs to bounce and shush and nurse him again.

It would be OK, I thought. I had all day.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant, my husband and I listened to a few families we knew as they shared baby horror stories over a meal. Not their own stories, since none of them had had an extremely difficult infant. These stories were of the “my best friend’s cousin’s roommate’s baby” variety — and surely they were exaggerated. One friend told of a woman spending an entire day trying to get her baby to fall asleep, only to have him wake up over and over. The entire day. I’m a naturally nurturing person, and that sounded like a special circle of hell even to me. As we left, I told my husband, “We could have a baby like that. Can you imagine?” But we agreed the odds were in our favor — what was that, like 1 percent of babies?

Then we received The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD as a baby shower gift, and watched it together. We gaped at the screen as couples exclaimed how thrilled they were to have finally gotten three straight hours of sleep using these magic tricks. “It’s good to be prepared,” we said, “just in case we get one of those one-in-a-million babies.”

Much more often, and from people we actually knew, we heard stories about taking newborns to movie theaters and restaurants, babies sleeping for what seemed like two straight months, babies traveling in their infant carriers like silent little pieces of extra luggage. I envisioned the smushy babies of newborn photography. Passing my cooing infant around a room of friends. The three of us snuggling together in bed.

But a few short weeks later, there I was. Alone at home with my baby, my expectations of newborn bliss weighed down by darkness and disappointment. My cloud nine heavy with a storm, and fit to burst.

It was 4:30, and I had nursed myself empty. I had prayed. I had pled with my son to take the nap that would allow this call. But he never stayed asleep for more than a few moments, whether it was in the bassinet, the wrap or my arms.

As 4:45 approached he wailed on, and my knees popped and thighs burned as I bounced, head swimming with fatigue and movement and not enough calories and too much shushing.

I typed a one-handed apology to my client. “I’m so sorry. I’ve been trying since 11, but he won’t sleep.” That’s putting it lightly, I thought. I worried that he wouldn’t believe me. I worried no one would — that I had the mythical baby everyone warns you about, but worse. The baby that only exists in postpartum hyperbole, in stressed out first-time moms’ imaginations. The one you’re supposed to look back on and realize that — silly, hormonal, stressed out you! — it was all in your head.

I wanted to say so much more, to detail every moment in the day, to prove I wasn’t being flaky or inflating the situation to garner his sympathy. But I hit “send” and turned back to my screaming baby, back to the end of myself.

When that sudden quiet eventually came, I stood, dumb for a moment. What would I do now? He was finally asleep, and it was too late to make my call. I felt his heaviness against me. I felt the full weight of the day in that lumpy limp body. And I cried as emotions washed over me. Relief. Guilt. Deep grief. Deeper love.

I couldn’t put him down, but this time it was because I didn’t want to.

He had given up the fight. And so had I.

Part of me would like to say relief came that day in the form of a baby sleeping peacefully while I recovered. While I prayed different prayers and cuddled with my husband and savored a home filled with quiet.

But instead it came in a small space — 17 minutes, to be exact, before he woke again — where I began to truly grieve the loss of my expectations.

And, once grieved, to open my heart to a profoundly different kind of love. One based on pouring every drop of myself out on an exhausted, overwhelmed newborn boy who had nothing at all that he could offer me back.

Two-thousand thirteen.

Monday, December 31st, 2012

A happy New Year
[Photo Credit]

Although I skipped over the usually obligatory Thanksgiving, advent, Christmas, and other end-of-year posts, I think New Year’s posts are some of the best in blog-land. There’s something so inspiring about reading everyone’s goals, focus words, and year-end reflections and accomplishments. (My 2012 year in review post WILL be coming soon, once my best and I have a chance to hash out the happenings.)

Some of these goals aren’t measurable or specific (we all know how “do ______ more” usually pans out)… but here are a few areas I’d like to improve:

  • Eating at the kitchen table. Right now we eat almost every night on our couch while watching Netflix (for shame!). This is because our kitchen table (first stop after the front door in our tiny apartment) is our clutter-catch-all, and we never want to both cook AND straighten the table. I’d like to use our cute placemats, pay attention to each other, have conversations, and get up from the kitchen table when we’re done (which I suspect will make cleaning up from dinner immediately a much more natural transition).
  • Start playing the piano again. My aim is once a week to start out. I figure if I do this, I will naturally want to play more than that, which is my eventual goal. To make this goal more measurable, I’ll probably decide on a few songs to learn and perfect.
  • Develop better routines. This is a biggie. It includes creating a rough weekly schedule that works with my highly variable work responsibilities, a cleaning routine that works for both of us, a gym routine and a morning routine. I started majorly slacking in the morning (and letting myself) when I got sick this summer, and now I can’t seem to drag myself out of bed until Eric’s almost ready to leave for work. Ideally I’d be awake with Bible read and tea/coffee had by that time, ready to start my work day.
  • Pick a few books of the Bible to read and re-read this year. I’m stealing this approach to a Bible-reading plan from this post by our good friend Paul. I’ve chosen Esther, Isaiah and Phillipians so far. Any suggestions?
  • Simplify and improve our eating. Eric and I have talked about wanting to start eating organic meats as a step toward improving the quality of what we put in our bodies. This means eating less meat in general and finding out where the best deals are, as our grocery budget doesn’t have much room to expand. We’ve talked about doing a CSA arrangement if we can find an affordable one. I love cooking, but grocery planning/shopping is one of my most hated chores.
  • Become a better photographer. This will probably involve working through some online tutorials, as well as practicing a lot. I’m looking forward to this goal as a fun one, especially with our new camera.
  • Work through a writing book slowly and do all the exercises. I tend to treat writing books as general inspiration, instead of really using them to practice skills. I have a couple awesome writing books right now, including On Writing Writing Down the Bones, Bird by Bird, and one from my mother-in-law called Writing as Way of Healing. I want to spend some quality time with each one.
  • Blog more consistently. I know I’ve totally neglected my blog this year. It was a strange year in some ways, especially with four months of sickness, which I think left me quite depressed in the low energy, just getting by kind of way. One positive is that that leaves me with tons of blogging material, particularly about my writing career, that I never got to in 2012. That should be enough to jump-start my new blogging habit.

Thanks for bearing with me through the breaks this year, friends.

2012 in review, coming soon! (PROMISE!)


Time and danger.

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

[photo credit]

She did good. She stood up like a
planted flower among yellow weeds
turning to please the sun
                they were all shiny
it was known she was planted

– from “Stanzas” by Grace Paley

I’ve been thinking a lot about time. How I use it. How slowly and quickly it seems to pass – and why it is that it never goes fast enough during the hard parts and the waiting parts and is so darn hasty when you’d just like it to stop. And how to protect it — saying yes or no.

At TGCW 2012, Mindy Belz spoke on a journalist’s call to speak truth. She quoted Ann Voskamp as she talked about being a “dangerous disciple of an unsafe God.” A slowly creeping realization revealed itself then.

To be planted. To be unsafe.

For a few years now, I’ve been protecting myself. Keeping in mind my own sensitivity, strengths and weaknesses during and after a period when I never knew whether the day’s events would have me feeling fine or curled up on the couch sobbing — since a disturbing scene in a movie might have me in bed all day, since I could easily let the burdens of my youth group girls weigh on me like they were my own.

Anxiety is crippling, not just in its attacks but between — less like a loaded gun and more like a spider web, a soft underbelly.

With that fragility came strict management of my time and activities. I couldn’t read about starving children or sex trafficking or abortion. I certainly couldn’t meet their victims. I relied on grace, and on the ones stronger than me to fix things, and I prayed for them.

But this year. Now. I’ve zipped myself in long enough, I think, and I’m hearing small whisperings of danger — the danger that gums you but can’t bite.

I’m moving toward being less protective of my time and stepping into more and more healing.

To prove it, this week I prayerfully volunteered for two positions that will take up a few hours each week on top of my normal duties. I’m hoping they not only help me keep moving toward freedom, but place me in positions to help free others.

And maybe they’ll give me some writing fodder, as well?


Questions I’m asking today.

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

[Credit: Gian]

I’m stuck again, struggling for some time now to pin down this no man’s land.  Thankfully, this week has been much less gloomy (in mind and weather), and that alone has provided me with enough clarity that I can think through some of these ideas, even if I have not settled on a solution for any of them. Even a temporary one.

Must I love my work? Is this love I should only hope to see in glimpses?

How do I measure my time? By moment? By day? In terms of what’s coming next?

How much am I willing to invest?

In other words, do I dare?

Major life-planning sesh happening tonight with the best friend. Details to follow.


Joy List 2012

Friday, January 27th, 2012

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. —Jesus


I have not been feeling blogging lately.  See, what happens with clinical depression and just straight up downtroddenness (at least for me) is this: I get stuck.  Not go for a run to clear my head stuck, or let’s make a mindmap to sort through these feelings stuck.  Trapped in a cycle of feeling like I don’t and can’t know anything. It’s a helpless, incompetent feeling that only leads to more despair.  So, while reading back over my joy list from earlier this week (or last week?), I decided I needed to practice.

Because the only thing that fights lies is the truth.

Here, I’m letting you in on a little of that practice as I expand on each item in my joy list. I’ll muse about vague goals, remind myself of the ultimate purpose of each aim, and hopefully you’ll get to add a little something to the conversation, too.  If you have any thoughts to contribute, please comment—let’s get this conversation started, because, well, I’m stuck in my own head and I’d love to be a collective conscious with you.

Giving of myself to church service and fellowship.

Repentance time—I am a bare minimum doer. I have self-preservation and overcommitment anxiety and I am absolutely convinced that more than once a month in the nursery, a meal here and there or helping someone move is the extent of my ability to serve.  Then I hear of people absolutely swamped by church work and I feel guilty. Ugh. What’s happening here is obviously that it’s easy for my sinner mind to twist good and faithful service to Jesus into a competition with others.  Then I feel like I’m not doing enough, but for the wrong reasons. My goal here is to prayerfully consider areas where I (or Eric and I as a couple) might be able to serve more selflessly. Then to work on not worrying about protecting myself—that’s His job.

Praying always

It’s so funny how this concept has changed for me over the years. As a teenager I thought “praying without ceasing” sounded like a great goal, but one that was absolutely impossible.  I still struggle a bit with the idea of literally kneeling down, closing my eyes, bowing my head and praying for hours.  But what I have found through the process is what prayer looks like for me.  I journal prayers, requests, notes, thoughts.  In fourth grade I wrote to my “diary.” In 6th grade, my journal was named “Sunshine” (no, not kidding…).   Oh, doesn’t this seem like an appropriate place to slip in an embarrassing 6th grade journal entry?

Sixth Grade Journal Entry

Yes, I was that cool. Ahhh….

Anyway, after that, I wrote to some vague journal-y being, or maybe myself; but some point a few years ago, without even meaning to, journaling naturally became writing to God. And because my journaling is thinking, I’ve noticed my thoughts generally shifting in that direction, too—thinking to God. Could that not be the start of constant prayer?

Memorizing scripture

Simple reasoning, difficult execution. It comes back to what I wrote above: fighting lies with truth, without having to look it up.

Writing often

To continue to tap into the soulspring; to do something I love and with which I have been gifted.  To practice and work hard to not squander it.

Spending time in creation

Doesn’t this, without fail, prompt thoughts of the eternal? I was reading yesterday that Dave Ramsey went from being an atheist to a theist simply by observing miracles in creation: birth, skiing on an incredible mountain. Order does not come from chaos.

Charles Spuregon is said to have answered, when asked how to defend the Bible/God/the Gospel (100 various web sources differ…), with this statement (or something close):

“Very easy. The same way I defend a lion. I simply let it out of its cage.”

Creation points to Creator.  To me, it is the lion. Who can argue? Who can even stand?

[Edit: Soon after posting this, my mom showed me this incredible video of HD time-lapse photography in Yosemite. You MUST watch it.]

Resting intentionally/Using time purposefully

Um, this means not sitting on Facebook/Twitter/Google reader, etc. Going to bed on time. Scheduling time for internet browsing, instead of letting my rest time be eaten up by cyberspace.  It also means planning short retreats, investing in my marriage and skills I want to keep up or develop.  Specifically, I hope that includes getting back into the habit of playing piano, learning some basic photograph skills, and reading books more than I read screens.

Practicing Gratitude

See this post, and these.

Having grace for myself and my mistakes

i.e. fighting perfectionism, one day (hour, minute) at a time.  It is a serious goal of mine to not avoid starting something because I know I won’t do it perfectly. This is a huge hangup and major manifestation of my fear that actually affects my day-to-day life negatively. No, no.

Forgiving quickly

Not only by forgiving when I am wronged today or tomorrow, but by forgiving immediately again and again when a past hurt arises. Not dwelling or holding grudges. Remembering how much I have offended and how much I am forgiven.  He who is forgiven much loves much.

Serving Jesus by serving other people

With my eyes on Jesus I pray to not look for recognition from Eric, from my boss or students, from clients, from family.  I pray to not feel so dependent on affirmation. To remember again that I am an unworthy servant, and to do all things with that in mind.  I used to interpret the command to “work as unto the Lord” as though it said “work as if unto the Lord.” I don’t know how the words translate, but I do know this: working for God is different than imagining I’m working for God. Guess which one is more effective?

I’d love to hear your insights about any or all of these items. Please chime in if you feel so inclined!

Have a joy-filled, purposeful, restful weekend.