a luminous green

(originally posted May 2012)

as i sit feeding zuzu this morning, i notice out the sunroom window the shoots of new growth on our tallest magnolia are marked by a brighter green than the old. you can see that everywhere in our yard; the wife who lived here before me was a gardener and planted the right things so that something would always be blooming no matter the season.

i doubt i’ll ever have such natural timing. in our sloping front yard you can see that luminous new green where the flowers have fallen away from the pink and white flowering bushes that i don’t know the name for.

i don’t think such growth is as evident in human beings. as much as life has changed in the past year, i look for the most part the same. not the same the same but similar.

last night was a long night. bryan moved to the guestroom around 2 because his rls was keeping us both up. zu woke up sometime in those murky hours completely soaked through–her jimmy-jams, her diaper, her cribsheets–and crying. i changed her automatically, without turning on the light, then held her. i love the heavy feeling of a sleeping baby against my chest. i kept her with me in our bed for a little while, something i rarely do, since she woke up everytime i tried to set her down. at some point she ended up in her bed, and i went back to sleep.

not so enjoyable in rapid succession, the occasional night up with the baby can be a pleasure, i’ll admit. the weariness in the morning redeemed by the purpose behind it. the satisfying ache of motherhood.

when i couldn’t breastfeed zu, it wasn’t guilt over giving her formula that bothered me. she’s healthy and happy as can be, formula-fed since 2 months old, so i don’t feel like it hurt her in any way. the hard part for me was that i was naturally incapable of caring for my child.

you know those “motherwomen” (as Edna from the Awakening calls them). the women that have always always wanted children, that babysat, that the babies always smile at, that said their career goal was mother,  homemaker. i was never one of them. though i worked at a daycare and enjoyed children, i never thought much about having my own, not even a few years into marriage, before the baby bug bit. i was a little scared of them. i held a newborn baby carefully as a snake at the zoo.

then when i couldn’t breastfeed i felt like it was nature’s way of saying i wasn’t meant to do this. that i have already been proven incapable of mothering. the weight of that failure. the elaborate post-partum hormones wouldn’t let it go, for a long time. incapable, incapable. i held that word close.

even though what i was feeling and thinking wasn’t truth, it felt like truth at the time, it felt inescapably real. the dark confusion after having a child is the one thing i am afraid of about having more.

i think there is an obsession in mothers, an obsession of capability. we measure ourselves with unfair measures, mostly against the yardstick of our friends, families, neighbors. like comparing your very best orange to her most complex math problem.

i’ve worn myself out on such comparisons the past few months and i would like to let them go now. to stop gauging my parenting by how i feed my baby, my beauty on how much i weigh, my motherhood by how much i’m home. by God’s measurements i am utterly lacking but paid in full.

redeemed, how i love to proclaim it.

new growth and inexperience go hand in hand. i would like to take joy in my lack of expertise, the learning how to become a mother, the shaping constant shaping, clay on the wheel.

What’s In The Bible?

Originally posted on Bryan J Emerson:

A simple question that every Christian has asked, and that every Christian needs to know: What’s in the Bible?  The narrative of the Bible is rather simple, but the meta-narrative can be easily overlooked.  People can get bogged down by the minutiae and fail to see the whole picture.

Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales, strives to answer this question as fully as he can while also trying to reach the youngest of audiences in his thirteen-part children’s series called “Buck Denver asks ‘What’s In The Bible?'”.

Each of the thirteen DVDs in the series include two episodes as well as some bonus features, often including new animated shorts or relevant segments from previous episodes.  The twenty-six episodes (just perfect for a one episode a week per school year or one disc a week per semester schedule) cover the entire Bible, explaining not only the content, but how each of…

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my body is an instrument.

 

A mark for every breath you took, every blink, every sleepy yawn. One for every time you sucked your thumb, waved hello, closed your eyes and slept in the most perfect darkness. One for every time you had the hiccups. One for every dream you dreamed within me. It isn’t very pretty anymore. Some may even think it ugly. That’s OK. It was your home. It’s where I first grew to love you, where I lay my hand as I dreamed about who you were and who you would be. It held you until my arms could, and for that, I will always find something beautiful in it.

since hitting my third trimester a few weeks ago, i’ve thought plenty on the pain & the discomfort, what i can’t do and have trouble with, the heartburn, midnight vomiting, legcramps, exhaustion, the terrifying rising number on the scale. being so hugely huge. all the uncontrolled changes in my body, and the reality that my body will Never be like it once was.

my self-conscious vanity, comparisons, relatively small discomforts.

when all the while, God is doing this beautiful thing. using me in a more physical, tangible way than i have ever been used before.

Our bodies are tools, not treasures. You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dinted body. Motherhood uses your body in the way that God designed it to be used. Those are the right kind of damages….Scars and stretch marks and muffin tops are all part of your kingdom work….So realize that your body is a testimony to the world of God’s design. Carry the extra weight joyfully until you can lose it joyfully. Carry the scars joyfully as you carry the fruit of them. Do not resent the damages that your children left on your body. Just like a guitar mellows and sounds better with age and scratches, so your body can more fully praise God having been used for His purposes. So don’t resent it, enjoy it. { Rachel Jankovic }

so i will honor God with my body { 1 Corinthians 6:20 }
i will adorn myself with a beautiful spirit { 1 Peter 3:3-4 }
because i am in God’s own image { Genesis 1:27 }
and because, yes, most especially now,
i am wonderfully made
{ Psalm 139:13-16 }
(originally posted July 2011, right before having my first baby!)

contentment.

(originally posted February 2011)

the sermon today really spoke to my heart. it was on contentment, an issue i struggle with in some areas, particularly in being content with having another year of seminary left, since i’m weary of the college life and ready to find a place we can call home. b. says its not bad to Want something, to long for it, but when longing for the future causes you to be discontent with the present, then its wrong, and i’m guilty of being too impatient. i struggle with it most when comparing our lives to other couples we know–i feel sometimes like we’re so behind everyone else, still in school and all–but i know that God has different plans for everyone, different timing, and i am keeping that in mind and going to do my best to more than be content, to love this last year of seminary.

as for the sermon, here’s the highlights, from my notes:

  • contentment has nothing to do with the events going on in your life, good or bad
    • is not being self-satisfied–you still change what God wants you to change
    • is not apathy or lack of feeling
  • contentment gives you the ability to look past the present situation and see it how God sees it
  • do not listen to those who tell you that you need more
  • God means for you to have what you already have; when you learn to appreciate that, you can realize how rich you truly are
  • road blocks for contentment: coveting, unbelief, negativity, self-pity
  • cultivate contentment: count your blessings, focus your attention on spiritual matters, keep busy (an idle mind wanders), guard against greed

Scripture:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)

Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die, Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9)

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (I Timothy 6:6-8)

Waiting For Wendy (a little interruption of the blogging maternity break)

The doctor says that despite this being my third baby, Gwendolyn Mae won’t be making her appearance anytime soon (that they can tell anyway). She’s due in 6 days but the doctor and nurses tell me not to be surprised if I go over. So really I have likely two weeks, not one, and I’ve been READY for her for the past two or three weeks already. Bryan and I talked about what day of the week we’d want me induced if it comes to that, and he said Monday so we’d have the weekend to prepare and to that I said what in the world could I possibly do to prepare more? This is how I’ve prepared, since June:

  • Decluttered our entire house (again. 4 bags trash, 2 bags donations, using the KonMari Method)
  • Reorganized Photoalbums
  • Organized Nursery (bought diapers, wipes, set up nursing stations in master bedroom, washed baby clothes, etc)
  • Packed outside and inside freezers with freezer meals (at least 12, maybe more than that, lost count)
  • Ironed all clothes in Bryan’s closet
  • Consistently reading 4 – 6 books per week (not counting them, just going through them)
  • Tried out 5 (and counting) new recipes this week (Family Feasts for $75 a Week – bought it I loved it so much)
  • Finished Draft 3 of my 2nd poetry manuscript
  • Sent out 8 submission packets to literary magazines
  • Scheduled a couple months worth of blog-posts from the archives (for you, dear readers)
  • Started Journaling
  • Learned to Fix Hair in Boho-Braid Thing
  • Opened a Consignor Account at local Consignment Shop
  • Made Keep-Older-Siblings-Occupied bags for when nursing Wendy
  • Planned a Post-Baby New Family Budget (with Bryan, since that is his thing)

And everyday we finish our homeschool lesson, I clean the house top to bottom, I read the girls 2 or 3 chapters in the chapterbook we’re working through (Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague) and I take the girls out on a morning outing.

I’m getting a little tired of reading so much, so cooking new recipes has been my favorite pre-occupation the past few days. I’m tired of my uncomfortable inconvenient body—playing with the girls on the floor, picking up the girls, chasing the girls around the house have all become difficult and leave me sore (even June has started saying “oh, my hips hurt!” copying me).

I suppose I could go “out” to activities more but I’ve not felt much like being around People (my family does not count as People in that sense), since I get all those lovely unasked for comments on how enormously ridiculously pregnant I am (going to pop any day now, eh?)(and: having twins?)(and: wow, is this your first?). Plus all the tips on how to get labor started and what to do in labor (please! Third baby, people!) and how having a third is basically hell (“but you’ll love it! but its really REALLY HORRIBLE. Seriously.”).

Mainly, I suppose my focus has been on getting my ducks in a row before throwing in another duck(ling) and in trying my best to make my girls and husband feel loved and appreciated and taken care of as much as I can, before baby#3 gets priority for a little while (filling up those “love tanks”, as they say).

So, in my rambly sort of way, just wanted to give an update on how the anticipation is making me crazy—like I’m a runner at the starting line of a long hard race just waiting waiting waiting for the whistle to blow and to be off! Teetering on the cusp of a new and hard and wonderful thing.

the next level

(originally posted October 2010)

 

I’m currently reading a book of essays by Stephen Dobyns, “Best Words Best Order”–a book that I now consider an ESSENTIAL read for any writer, especially poets! Halfway through it I feel both challenged and inspired–and a little daunted too, I suppose. The essay that I just finished reading on Rainer Maria Rilke has been in my mind, raising different questions about my work and growth as a poet. 

 In the essay Dobyns charts the writerly growth of Rilke, and claims that talent is merely potential, the promise of possibility–but that it takes more. Talent isn’t enough. Determination, ambition, energy and gall as well as the need to have one’s ego serve the writing (and not the reverse). Most poets go through two stages of a three stage process, but the third stage is where the difficulty lies. Dobyn’s points us toward Rilke’s explanation of the final stage:
  1.  A willingness to face and forgive all the nastiness (insanity) that the unconscious mind dredges up.
  2. The need to look (at something) without imposing one’s prejudices, without any ulterior motive. (to be concerned about telling the audience about one’s loves and hates is not to make art.)
  3. To measure the work against your conscience. Are you truthful in your gazing?Are you being influenced by outside concerns: fame, money or love? Is it the totality of your craft? Are you lying about its completion?
  4. The need of unconsciousness. Whoever meddles, arranges, injects his human deliberation, his wit, his advocacy, his intellectual agility is already disturbing and clouding their activity. Ideally, should be unconscious of his insights. (Rilke made distinctions between ‘making’ and ‘revising’ and the making was the unconscious part.
  5. The final point is that the artist must not turn his/her back on any subject. If it catches his gaze, he is not permitted to turn his back on it
 ***
 I think I am in the second stage, where Dobyns describes most MFA grads to be in–I’ve learned some important things from my MFA, like how to write with clarity, streamline my writing, and, most important, how to truly revise. These are all good things but the downside to learning in an MFA invironment is that I’ve learened a certain “correct” way of writing, so the challenge for me will be to deviate from the way I’ve been taught to write (not only in my classes, but by the poets I read and admire). I think that I need to take more chances to push into that third stage–but what to do when “taking a chance” feels more like “making a mistake”? I guess that is where being completely “pure” and having no training in writing can be an advantage–never taught what is the “mistake” just completely leaning on intuition. although nothing is new under the sun, so maybe having that education can save me from making mistakes a poet who never attended any writing classes might make.  I have often thought that my work progressed much faster than it would have if I had not attended undergrad creative writing classes and much faster if I had never gone for my MFA.  I don’t know if either degree pushed my writing in a different direction–who can tell anything from the emotion-wrought high school poems from my old diaries?–but I would count them, however formative they might have been, as positive influences in my writing.
 
Its something to think about but maybe not to fret about. I believe that the best way to improve is through voracious reading, habitual writing, and giving no regard whatsoever to the possibility of having a work published until the work is completed.

a blogging maternity leave

baby wendy will make her appearance any DAY now (because she’s coming early, right?), and my chances of finding time to blog are diminishing. Due to Addition-of-Baby, during the months of July, August, and September, I’ll be taking a break from the blog.

Neverfear! though there won’t be NEW content, I will be reposting some of my favorite posts from my Archives–this blog has been around since 2010, believe it or not, and I bet I have a lot of interesting posts you’ve not yet read.

So enjoy reading through some of my old favorites, and have a happy summer!