Sunday, March 10, 2013

On Fear and Parenthood

This new season, onset four years ago by insistent pink plus signs on successive, confounded pregnancy tests, brings fear, so much fear. And a roaring courage.
 
I knew there was an irreversible clause in the choice to be a family. But the far-off places I'd wondered for myself were a painful, sudden loss in the intimate, nine-month fascination of new life growing inside me. 

I wondered if his new life would snuff out the little life I'd made for myself. Magazines and websites echoed warring cries of motherhood: the martyrs who can't clean up one mess before another explodes versus the entrepreneurs who use maternity leave as a launchpad for their successful new businesses. I didn't really want to be either.

Even now, with my sweet dreams of motherhood broken in by vomit and incessant neediness, fears of more vomit and more neediness are slowly allayed by quiet lullabies, whispered affections -- "I love you, Mama" -- encircled arms where everyone is safe. 

Floating back to the surface are new dreams on old themes, nearly forgotten. Trolling through endless sleepless days of babies has been good for them. They're clearer, more hopeful, more daring, than the guarded ambitions of a woman unfettered by love, family, Sacraments.

The lovely reflection of a composed, confident woman I'd labored to create over a lifetime of 29 short years, shattered unexpectedly in the labor proclamations of a new baby. And the mirror's yet to bring back that shiny, wise woman with her box of every answer and one-size-fits-all God.

It turns out my Savior isn't an XXL tee that "fits all," but gets sorted to the Goodwill pile without any use. He refuses escape to lofty heavens and wishing wells, insisting instead to come calmly beside me in the storm. And me, too simple, too naive, to stay safely onboard, I hold his gaze and step out


Friday, March 8, 2013

A Working Mom Grasps To Define "Rest" (A Throwback to 2010)

I scrawled this out in half-sentence intervals back in the days of being all things to all people, working outside the home full-time, pumping breastmilk in a tech room closet on my lunch breaks, and generally deteriorating into a striving puddle of hot mess while possibly fooling no one that I wasn't all that pulled together. I still feel the subtext soaking through as I re-read it, and the irony's not lost on me:
 
I am a master multi-tasker. My to-do list has to-do lists. I go insane, constantly recalculating the priority level of everything on the list, shifting items up and down to fill any unexpected 30-second gap that somehow slips into my day.
 
I don’t need coffee to shift into ADHD overdrive. But I drink it anyway.
 
Then I become a task-oriented superhero of completion. And it's usually at this point that I slam my shin into the open door of a half-unloaded dishwasher, on my way to add one more onesie to the last seconds before rinse cycle, while the Hamburger Helper begins splattering across the stove, and the microwave beeps at one-minute intervals to remove the sterilized bottles.
 
My world's become a machine of daily routine, and I leave waves of confused order in my wake, ending each day in exhaustion and wondering if this is really the life God has for me.
 
St Augustine wrote about finding rest, after pursuing it unsuccessfully for several decades of his life.
 
“You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
 
There is a rest that comes in the midst of us, just as Christ Himself came among us, not to clear sinners from the face of the earth, but to show us the way of salvation through it all, a way remarkably marked, by rest.
 
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."
 
Rest doesn't obliterate busy days or guarantee full nights of uninterrupted sleep.
 
(I can only look upon our baby son with gratitude, that God could have the audacity to surprise our striving lives with a living, breathing call to rest. For once, there is a cry important enough to put down a half-washed dish or let pasta boil past al dente.)
 
The kind of rest that's available is the peace of knowing that in any given moment I am doing exactly as God would have me to do, which incidentally, rarely lines up with my list of planned accomplishments for a day.
 
I have this vision of arriving before our God in heaven, with my checked-off to-do list trailing like a train of toilet paper from my shoe. And God saying to me, as He said to Martha, as He's said to every generation between us: "You have worried and been distracted by many things. There is need of only one thing."

'Martha and Mary' by Nathan Greene

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Catholic Fluke

I'm not sure how I ended up Catholic. Especially when I look at all the sincere, holy, loving Protestants in my circle of friends and family who would LOVE the Catholic Church, if they looked too closely (careful!). I can only think it was a fluke.

I wasn't looking for a change: completely content with my Denton Bible Church friends, in a wonderful small group, on the register for the greeting ministry, choreographing for the dance ministry, always asking friends to join me at church events, and I felt the closest I ever had to Jesus.

But of course I felt close to Jesus. The faith that believes He is God-Incarnate-Crucified-And-Resurrected-From-The-Dead was easy in my sector of the world. Most of my friends were Christians, the small group meetings were dynamic, the large group events were entertaining, the leaders were inspiring, the people were welcoming.

Perfectly content, an awesome Protestant life scripted out for me, and then God shakes it all up when He opens a window to Catholicism. Why let me glimpse in?

There are so many people who are truly deep, intellectual, spiritual, and wise, and there are so many breath-taking conversion stories: Francis Beckwith, (current) Baylor professor and (former) president of the Evangelical Theological Society; G.K. Chesterton, one of the 20th century's most renowned writers; Tony Blair, who waited until the completion of his term as prime minister of England; T.S. Eliot, another literary convert; Dave Brubeck, a jazz musician who found the Church through music...

Of all the Protestants who would overflow with love for the Church we weren't aware Jesus built, somehow, I get pulled in. And the impetus wasn't a profound intellectual, spiritual, musical, literary event; I was just a Protestant girl dating a Catholic guy (after some serious discernment whether he could be both Catholic and Christian).

So why me? I'm still surprised to be here. 

In a call-out to "The Office" -- a show that used to be oh-so funny and now just refuses to die -- the bumbling accountant shares a surprising insight when his team of losers wins trivia night (despite being the coworker whose work has to be double-checked at the end of each day):

"Look, I know it's easy to say tonight was just a fluke, and maybe it was. But here's a piece of trivia: A fluke is one of the most common fish in the sea. So if you go fishing for a fluke, chances are... you just might catch one."


I feel like God let me slip in a side door, since my arrival in the Catholic Church was more a stumbling than a pursuit, and that kind of entrance hardly seems worthy of something so beautiful. But then again, St. Paul did say Christ crucified would be a stumbling block for many.  

"23...but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” - 1 Corinthians 1

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How The American Government Saved My Marriage

The other week, I'm about to check out at Walmart -- because once again, I'm the one with all the kids, grocery shopping -- and I see this little kit in one of those last-minute bins by the checkout. It's called a D2PS, and it's on clearance.

At first I had serious buyer's regret. It was such an impulse buy, and we are On. A. Budget. But to be honest, it's saved our marriage.

The D2PS from the clearance bin at Walmart turns out to be a Domestic 2-Party System, a household-scale model of our national political system.  

Upon further research, I find out this is a little known requisition of the Affordable Care Act, a new government program created to address the declining mental health of married Americans.

Everyone can get what they want!
There's this idea in marriage that the relationship strengthens when you work through issues. But that's just so tedious! No wonder so many couples can't make it! 

The longer Wally and I use the D2PS, the more we realize that reaching consensus is not only overrated, but completely unnecessary. Why stress about relationship problems, when you can just ignore them, and keep doing things your own way?

We also used to have real issues with money, but no more! Since we jumped over to the D2PS, spending has not even been a problem. We can save toward our 401(k) AND take semi-annual international family vacations!

Sound too good to be true? Surprisingly, it's not.  

The Domestic 2-Party System has an unusual and very popular approach: it's a generational gift. When purchased by any family member, it automatically becomes the system of the entire family. Any excesses in spending that the couple can't catch up with before that inevitable "death do them part" are automatically rolled over to their children's accounts. 

No kids in the picture? No problem! Through some very careful calculations, the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance concluded that distributing any compensatory spending across all households in the country would be only a few cents per person. No one will even notice! 

And thankfully, if that math doesn't work, the 2-party system lets both sides blame each other through endless future generations, with no need to reach any resolution at all!

It's not the first time a successful government system has been translated to rave popularity among average Americans. I  recently wrote about another helpful household tool, the Government Block of Time [G-BOT], which transforms deadlines into unlimited leisure

The D2PS comes with a game guide, similar to something you'd see out of a Cranium or Apples-to-Apples box. It includes weekly debates, household polls, and committee lunches, but really, they're non-essentials to the success of a 2-Party System.

For Wally and me, there's no going back to the days of lengthy discussion or respectful disagreement.  

And never again will we send a Bed, Bath, & Beyond gift card with all our best wishes to newlyweds!

Every couple on our list will be receiving the D2PS, and a guaranteed lifetime of bliss.

Thank you, American Government.