Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Wait

It's normal that I would want it. Most women do. The ones that don't, well, I just don't understand them.  I love them, but I don't understand them. But I want to be a mother. I would like to actually create a human being, carry it around with me for nine months or so, complete with the forever body changes that come with it, and then give birth to it. I would like to hold my very own baby, one that is a perfect mixture of me and Jake, preferably with his guitar playing talent and patience and tidiness mixed with my independence and spectacular taste in music and food. I would like to be exhausted and have huge baskets of little tiny articles of clothing to launder with special baby laundry detergent because in the beginning I will be incredibly careful about these things. I would like to have bottles and pacifiers to sterilize, and I want to have to make decisions about the Ferber method and co-sleeping, although secretly these decisions are already made in my head. And as much as I would like these things, I face a daily reality that I am 35 years old, and I don't have them.  

At 35, I look around at my friends and you know what I see?  Mostly, I see women who are finished having children. They started around 25, had their two or three (or four or five for some), and now they are done. And I can't help but feel a little bit left behind. Because as happy as I am for each sweet baby that is born into my circle of friends, each cute little face is a reminder of something that I have been waiting a long time to have. And I am still waiting.

Being newly married, it's the question that is most often asked. When are you having kids? And most of the time, I can answer with a lighthearted "I'm not sure" and move on. But every now and then, the question catches me off guard and I feel a little bit of grief catch in my throat and I have to stop myself from crying. Because I don't know when. I don't even know if. And those things are not even really the point. The point is, it hasn't happened yet. I feel far behind in the game. And every year that passes is one less year that I have to be a mother. Thoughts of giving birth to three or four children are not realistic at this point. Best case scenario I have time for one, maybe two. But the point is, I am not a mother right now.  And I would like to be.

That's a hard thing to admit. In fact, for weeks I have written nothing because this has been the only thing on my mind and it's the only thing I was not willing to write about. Mainly because I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me and I don't want anyone to feel guilty about their new babies or pregnancy news. But also because life is good. I have a family that I love, a great job, a lovely home, fantastic friends, and a wonderful husband that is genuine and talented and fun. And it seems unfair to complain about what I don't have. It just seems ungrateful. Trivial, even. But yesterday, I was reading a friend's blog about a certain situation that she just couldn't get past. And it seemed small to her in comparison to things that others might be dealing with.  

I knew where I should be, but I just couldn't get there. I would try to surrender, but it's hard to surrender something that you do not legitimize as a valid wound. I had to decide to accept the truth that God cares about my hurts and disappointments, big or small. Even though they are... not cataclysmic events, He still knows I am having a hard time and cares.

And all at once I felt it, the grief over the thing I have always wanted and never had. And I felt the freedom to speak of it as a real, sad thing. Because it is. And it may not be as sad as someone else's sad thing, but it is mine. And it's real to me. 

Don't get me wrong, I am waiting. I am hoping and praying and I believe that the God who gave Sarah a baby at the age of 90 can certainly give me one before I am 40. But today, I am allowing myself permission to be sad about the wait. I will acknowledge that it is hard, and I cannot do it by myself or in my own strength. Whatever it is you are waiting for... physical healing, a job, salvation of a family member, the sale of a house, financial blessing... keep waiting.  God's timing is not ours.  My life is proof of that.  But His timing is perfect, and during the waiting, so is His strength.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Top Ten Reasons Why Women's Retreats Are Better Than Youth Camp

Youth camp was the beginning of my fear of werewolves (you can read about that here), giant mosquitoes, scorpions, group games, and powdered eggs. At youth camp, I learned to sweat, to pack well, and to spend my canteen money wisely.  Most every church kid has been sent to youth camp during the summer.  Most of us went year after year, and we have lived to tell the tale.  And as fun as some of my camp memories were, I don't want to repeat those experiences.

This weekend, I piled into a car with two of my girlfriends and a very cute four-month-old baby (who happens to belong to one of these two girlfriends... we didn't just take someone else's baby) and more luggage than three girls and a baby really needed, and we drove until we could see trees.  Not tiny little shrub-like trees like we have here in the DFW area, but real actual if-I-look-up-at-them-long-enough-I-could-really-hurt-my-neck trees.  Pine trees, to be exact.  And though it took us a little longer than expected to get there, we were so happy to arrive at Pine Cove, where 20 or so ladies from Ranch Community Church had already started on our weekend of being Transformed.  And you know what I learned?  Women's Retreats are so, so, so much better than youth camp.  And here are the top ten reasons why.

10. No Boys Allowed.  Don't get me wrong, I love my husband.  But there is something about leaving guys behind that frees us up.  We don't have to do our hair or makeup to perfection.  There are no cute boys at the snack bar to impress.  We can get away with yoga pants and flip flops and ponytails.  I would have never done this at youth camp.

9. No Bus Ride.  I didn't have to ride on the eighth row of an old diesel-scented school bus, nor did I have to ride on the back seat of a fifteen passenger van, getting carsick with every turn.  I didn't have to smell other people's open bags of Funyuns and want to shoot them when they asked for a restroom break after being on the road 35 minutes.  Nope.  I got to ride in the comfort of a Nissan Maxima with heated seats and air conditioning (not at the same time, of course).  And really, I could stop here with the list, and it would all feel worth it.

8. No Camp Food.  Don't misunderstand, they did feed us.  But this food was amazing.  It was not the fare typically served to children at summer camp.  I did not eat one tater tot, one hamburger, a single chili dog, no runny eggs, no instant mashed potatoes, and not one cup of generic Kool-Aid.  They were catering to women with this menu.  We had tortilla salad with grilled chicken, tomato basil soup with gouda cheese, grilled chicken sandwiches, orange cranberry muffins, huge slices of french toast, and tons of fresh fruit available at all times.  And our tables were covered with chocolate candy.  Seriously.

7. No Cobwebs in the Shower.  Apparently, camps don't think that children will mind this, and they know that adults definitely will.  I remember being at camp as a teenager, and showering so quickly because I was certain that the spiders that lived in the top of the shower stall were going to attack.  Women's retreat showers have cute little changing rooms in front of each shower stall with little hanging pegs for clean clothes, dirty clothes, and towels.  And fabulous water pressure.  Amen and amen.

6. No Ridiculous Camp Songs, Cheers, or Chants.  Honestly, these are only mildly fun during the actual week of camp, but in the weeks that follow camp, they become downright annoying.  Songs about mashed potatoes and baby sharks kind of make me want to jump off the nearest bridge.  This camp lacked these songs.  There were no cheers about the red team being better than the blue team.  No "I don't know, but I've been told" cadence ringing through the pines.  Just several hours of real, actual worship with songs we liked.  Even the ones we didn't know.

5. No Games Involving Shaving Cream, Baby Food, Chocolate Milk, or Plates of Flour with Candy Hidden in Them.  We did not play one single competitive game on this retreat, which is good because I hate camp games.  No tug-of-war.  No tether ball tournaments.  No relay races in grassy fields.  I just hate those kinds of things.  In fact, when I was a child, I feigned illness to escape camp games, and went back to the cabin to take a nap.  Turns out I actually was ill, and I slept for almost two days and missed out on the camp singing competition (which was the thing I loved most about camp).  On this retreat, we traded the silly games for times of complete silence (which we almost never get in regular every day life) and encouraging notes written to each other (which sounds silly until you go home with a bag full of nice notes from your peers, saying all the nice things we think but don't take the time to say to one another in day-to-day life).

4. No Ratty Towels or Sleeping Bags.  I don't know if your house was like mine, but my mom knew better than to send the best towels to camp with us.  You just never know which things will come home and which ones won't.  On this retreat, they provided us with sheets and towels.  And the towels were not the thin, scratchy Motel 6 kind.  The kind that take off a layer of skin when you dry off.  These were decent, middle-class-America bath towels.  They could have been better, but they could have been much, much worse.

3. No Shallow Cry-Fests.  Put teenage girls together in a cabin for a week or so, and you will have drama.  Give them four days and nights of preaching, and you might preach the devil out of them.  What this usually looks like is a Thursday night Cry-Fest.  I'm sorry I hated you for stealing my boyfriend back during freshman year.  I'm sorry I told the whole youth group that you are a skank.  I'm sorry that I didn't keep your secret about making it to second base with your last boyfriend.  And in the end, they confess their last night away, crying and hugging and praying and vowing to never gossip again.  And I'm sure they are sincere, so maybe it's unfair to use the word shallow, but it's a different kind of Cry-fest than we had.  There was definitely crying on this Retreat.  Put that many women together, tell them to be honest, and there will be tears.  But they weren't the I'm-sorry-I-gossiped-about you-but-I'll-probably-go-back-to-it-next-week kind.  Not even close.  They were about real life problems and real life healing that needs to take place.  And to have a place to be honest about it, and to have friends that will love and pray you through it is kind of invaluable.  Oh, and to be fair, there was lots of laughing too.  Especially when you mishear someone and you are certain she has just uttered profanity at the table, and it turns out that she doesn't need her mouth washed out with soap after all (Sorry again, Emilie).

2. No Fear of Waking Up to Find Your Underwear Hanging from the Flagpole or Your Toothbrush Wet with Toilet Water.  I hate pranks so much.  Camp pranks are always the worst.  I don't like the thought of people going through my bag or stealing my pillow or checking out my dirty clothes.  And I am thankful that no one thought to play practical jokes on each other.  Of course, now that I mention this, they will probably make notes to add this next year, but hopefully not.

1. No Soggy Underwear Left in the Shower Room (That No One Will Ever Claim).  This is one of the grossest things about camp, and maybe the thing that is most constant.  On the last day, walk into the shower room, and you will inevitably find a soggy towel or sock or pair of unmentionables that someone has left and is so covered in dirt, it's never worth keeping.  And the owner is so embarrassed, he or she never admits to ownership, and when all of the camp laundry gets washed, somewhere there is a parent wondering "What happened to your Tuesday panties?".

So hallelujah for Women's Retreats.  And for air conditioning.  And camp in the spring.  And for no bunk checks (I didn't make my bed once!).   Thanks to the group of awesome women who put ours together.  And here's to Pine Cove Retreat 2013!

And in case you'd like to be super annoyed, feel free to watch this video.  But don't say I didn't warn you.


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