Friday, August 16, 2013

Are There no Graves in Egypt?

Last month I taught our high school Sunday school class out of Exodus.  The story is a familiar one, but there is something about reading Old Testament stories again in detail.  I love paying attention to the way things are worded, to the exact dialogue that takes place beneath the familiar story line.  The children of Israel have just witnessed the power of God in the ten plagues.  They have finally escaped from Egypt, carrying with them the silver and gold and clothing that the Egyptians had given them, eager to get God's people out of the land.  They were led by a cloud and a pillar of fire, which I, for one, would love to have seen.  They have just seen miracles with their own eyes.  And still... when they were face to face with the Red Sea, they turned back and saw Pharoah and his army approaching, they freaked out.  I would have, too, I think.  Despite all that they had seen.  Despite the fact that God had just shown himself powerful and capable.  Despite the fact that He had delivered them.  They began to voice their panic.  

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?

Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.

So dramatic.  And I get it.  Their lives were on the line here.  The lives of their children were in danger.  There was nowhere to go, it seemed.  But it's easy for me to feel judgment when I read this story.  It's easy for me to think "Why are you faithless people worried when God is about to deliver you in a huge way?!".  After all, I have read the whole story.  I know how it all works out.  But I feel for them, you know.  Because I am just the same.

We moved to Tennessee because we were supposed to.  There were lots of things we didn't know, but we knew it was the right thing to do.  And we knew that God doesn't lead anywhere that He doesn't already have provision planned.  So we came.  And here we are.  I have been casually looking for a job to supplement Jake's church salary since we arrived, but last month we saw the last of my school contract paychecks.  So now, it is serious.  The situation.  The job search.  Now, it feels a little more pressing.  And in addition to regular living expenses, we have a baby coming.  Babies are expensive.  Life is expensive.    

Yesterday, I had a little standing-by-the-Red-Sea moment.  I had a second job interview at a job that was too far away and didn't pay enough.  I redid our budget AGAIN to see if there was any way to make things work until I found a job.  I felt very overwhelmed.  Nothing was falling into place.  I felt that there was nowhere to go.  No jobs to be found.  No opportunities coming my way.  And time felt like it was closing in on me. Only four months until this baby arrives.  

I started thinking about Dallas.  I could have gone back to teach for another year.  I love the school and I love teaching.  We had a job offer in Texas.  We had friends.  Our family is there.  Couldn't God have left us there and taken care of us?  Weren't we better off financially?  And yet... that was not where God kept us.  He moved us here.  And we love it.  We do.  But sometimes it's hard to see how He is going to come through.  It's terrifying to stand here looking towards the Red Sea of tomorrow and have no idea how we are going to get across.

But here is what I know.  Just like the Israelites had seen God move and work, I have seen God move and work.  Over the last twelve months, our financial situation has been a roller coaster of no paychecks, reduced paychecks, and then no paychecks again.  And you know what?  God miraculously came through for us.  We have had more than what we needed.  We have come out of Egypt with silver and gold.  We have been taken care of.  And God didn't bring us to Tennessee to abandon us.  He didn't move us here, only to leave us to fend for ourselves.  This is not who He is.  It is not how He works.  

Your Red Sea and mine might be different things entirely, but they feel the same.  Yours can feel just as terrifying.  And because we know the rest of the story, we know the way things ended, we can rest in knowing that God has something up his sleeve.  I have said it a thousand times, and I will say it again... He has provision planned before we ever have a need.  So hang out here with me.  Stand next to the Red Sea without fear.  Enjoy the breeze off the water.  Ignore the enemy behind you. Wait for the waters to part.  Change is coming.  Deliverance is on its way.  

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's a Miracle

I should be having a baby today.  August 8.  This was the estimated due date for our first little one, and today, the reality of it is kind of settling in.  If everything had gone according to my plan, I'd have a baby... or be very close to it.  And though I am completely in love with this new little life inside of me, and we have been carrying on conversations between us today, me talking to him and him responding with little kicks here and there, I am very aware of what could have been.  I know what I have lost.

I am involved with several online pregnancy groups.  My favorite one is for those of us who are pregnant after a loss.  We know each other's pains and fears, and it really helps to have other people who are in the same situation to speak some truth into the crazy.  And there is a saying that is often repeated... Most pregnancies end in a baby.  And they do.  It happens everyday.  Perfectly healthy babies are born.  Parents take pictures and visitors ooh and aah over tiny feet and little red, swollen faces.  And the average person expects it.  I expected it.  We expect that when we see two pink lines or we hear of them, in 8 or so months, a healthy baby will enter into the world.  We never expect the worst... until it happens.

Over the last few months, I have seen some really sad things.  A friend's baby was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 and he probably will not make it to full term.  Another has spina bifida.  I have seen many announcements of losses, both early and late.  Some of these women are real fighters.  They have lost multiple babies during pregnancy, and somehow they keep going.  There is so much loss. Just this week, another friend delivered a 7 ounce baby at 21 weeks.  She is heartbroken, and so are we.  And the weight of these stories feels so heavy.  They are big and real and they deserve to be grieved.

I do not tell you all of this to be morbid.  I tell you this because when I see the reality of loss, I just have to see the contrast.  I have to marvel at all of the life I see around me.  My mother had six children, and though she experienced her own losses, all six of us were birthed into this world healthy.  I have eleven nephews and nieces, and other than one who was born slightly premature, they were born without incident.  Almost all of my close friends have children, and they are all bright, happy healthy little people.  It seems commonplace, ordinary even.  But I have seen the other side, and I am here to tell you that it's a miracle.  Every tiny person that is born into this world is an absolute miracle.

So today, amidst the chaos of your messy home, tattling children, dirty faces, school supply madness, and french fry-laden cars, I encourage you to kiss your miracles.  Even if they are big.  Even if they don't want to be kissed.  Tell them that you are glad they are yours.  Be grateful for the blessing of a child.  If you, like me, are waiting for your child, get over the weirdness of talking to a baby that isn't here yet... one that you cannot see.  He can hear.  So talk.  Tell him you love him.  It feels strange the first few times, but you'll be glad you did.   And talk to your heavenly Father.  Give thanks for the responsibility you have been given as a parent.  He is the giver of all good gifts.  Be thankful to Him for your kids, even when the job is hard.

Today I am sad, but I am grateful.  Grateful for each day I have with this baby.  Thankful that I will meet in December, if God wills.  Grateful for the child I never met or held but will meet and hold someday.  I am grateful for new life and for the giver of life.  It's all a miracle, and I am thankful.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Seasons... or Why My Feet are Huge.

I am a fall girl.  I love scarves and boots and not having to wear a coat just yet.  I love that I now live in a state where fall is an event.  The leaves change color when they are supposed to, and for a month or so, every tree is a masterpiece.  I love pumpkin patches and hayrides and thinking about turkey and dressing long before it's time to have them.  There are so many beautiful parts of this season.  Fall is the season that, to me, has the most pros and the least cons.  But truthfully, if life were perpetually fall, I would miss the other three.  I would miss the warmth of summer, sitting on a restaurant patio in a tank top and flip flops.  I would miss beach weather.  And though I have seen little of it in my life, I would miss the snow in winter.  I would hate never making another snowman.  And since Spring is fall's runner-up in my book, I would surely miss that.  I would miss the life that comes after the blankness of winter.  The flowers and the greenness.  The thrill of a day that reaches 70 degrees.  I would miss perfectly formed clouds in a blue sky.  I know that it doesn't make sense for it to stay one season.  It would never work.  And God is a God of order.  He knew it wouldn't work, too.  So He created the seasons, each one with something beneficial and new, even amidst the unpleasant things.  We might have allergies and flu season and mosquitoes, but we also have rain and flowers and hillsides covered in snow.  There is a lovely balance in it all.

I am in Texas this week.  I spent my weekend in Oklahoma leading worship at a girls' retreat, and so it allowed me a trip to Texas to see friends and family.  And I am thankful.  But the retreat was in an outdoor pavilion, and air-conditioning was non-existent.  If you put a pregnant girl in Oklahoma during summer with no air conditioning, you are going to have sweat.  And swelling.  Add in a five hour car ride back to Texas, and it just adds up to misery.  

Saturday night I stayed with my sister Ashlae, and I got up Sunday morning to get dressed for church.  I chose the skirt and shirt that made me look the least pregnant, since people are prone to giving their opinions about how large I am.  And though I know it's a baby growing in there, hearing about it multiple times a day can be a little... deflating.  My what a big belly you have there!  When I went to put on my four inch wedge heels, chosen specifically to make my legs look longer and thinner, I really noticed it.  The feet that were slightly swollen the day before were now explosively swollen, even after a full night's rest.  It was not comfortable, nor was it attractive.  There was no way I could wear the skirt or the shoes. 

Thankfully, I thought to bring a second outfit.  I had an ankle length dress that would easily cover my feet and I had more practical shoes.  I changed quickly, packed up my things, and we headed to church.  For the rest of the day, I avoided looking down.  My feet looked like the feet of a stranger.  Other than the gold nail polish that covered my toes, nothing about them looked like mine.  And it seems like a small thing, but when 90% of a wardrobe no longer fits and comfort, rather than fashion, becomes the driving force behind dressing, it's work to feel good about the way I look.  I have spent 36 years with my body being a certain shape.  Various sizes, but always the same shape.  And now, it just seems strange.  I cannot decide by just looking if something will fit me.  I don't know my body anymore.  Everything about it is foreign.  Leaning over to latch my sandals has become a distant memory.  It just doesn't work.  Shaving my legs will eventually be an impossibility.  This is just all new territory for me.

But just like this summer is going to give way to fall and then to winter, this is a season.  The belly that feels like it weighs a ton already, compressed nerves, waking up three times a night to use the bathroom, clothes not fitting, swelling feet... it's all part of this season.  And the next season will bring other things.  Sleepless nights, clothes still not fitting just right, mounds of baby laundry, cloth diapering.  It will all be part of the next season.  And then my baby will grow and change and we will move onto something else.  

And this gives me hope.  Hope that nothing difficult lasts forever.  The hard things I have been through have never been permanent.  They will always give way to something new.  And so will yours.  I have friends that are in strange seasons.  One is still working her way through the death of her husband, one is struggling with how mundane marriage and family life can be, another is waiting for Mr. Right to come along, and another is waiting on a referral for an African baby that feels like it may never come.  But these too are seasons.  And before they know it, the season will change and give in to a whole new picture.  And I can't wait to see what it all looks like.  

Right now I am sitting in Starbucks, so thankful to have one near.  Our little town in Tennessee has lots of lovely things, but a Starbucks is not one of them.  This is another part of my current season... learning to live without Starbucks and Chickfila.  But even as I look down at my not-quite-back-to-normal feet, my baby is kicking.  I am wearing my maternity pants that fit underneath my belly, and I swear this child hates these pants.  Every time I wear them, he kicks and hits and rebels against them.  And feeling him move inside of me is a little freaky but also sweet.  It is proof that this baby is mobile and healthy.  And I am thrilled.  

Last night I slept for 8 long hours.  Today I get to have coffee and dessert with my lovely friend Caryn and dinner with another group of friends and I don't have to think about childcare.  I left the house this morning without having to pack a diaper back.  I just grabbed what I needed and headed out the door.  So I will take it, this season of maternity clothes and swollen feet.  I will smile at the comments about how large I am getting, and I will choose to hear that my baby is growing, just like he is supposed to.  But for goodness' sake, if you see me and I am wearing an ankle length skirt, know that it's for a reason.  And please don't look at my feet.


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