Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I've Been in This Tunnel Before (Thoughts on Baby Number 3)

It’s been eight weeks since we welcomed Seth into this world. Like his brothers, his birth was not without fanfare and a little bit of crazy. Unlike his brothers, he was five days late and I was in labor with him for over 24 hours. At 3:49 AM he was born via c-section after the doctor determined his heart rate drops were enough to warrant getting him out quickly (rather than drag it out for a few more hours).

And out he came—all 8 lbs 15 oz of him.

The transition from two to three has been easier in some ways. I know what to expect from babies. I have a full term baby this time around. He’s been a more content baby than the twins were. It’s amazing how rapidly they develop in those early days when they aren’t premature. But in other ways it’s harder, like I feel like someone threw me in the deep end of the pool and handed me three kids harder. My mom stayed with us for three weeks after his birth and the night before she left I could feel my chest tightening as I anticipated trying to do this whole three kid thing by myself. So far, I’ve survived.

But more than anything I’ve really enjoyed these last eight weeks with him. Because I’ve done it before I know that these early days—when he is waking me up at night desperately wanting food, yet also desperately wanting to feel the comforting warmth of my familiar body—these days won’t last forever. Soon he will be easily distracted while eating. Soon he will want to move around and away from me, as he starts to explore his little world on his own. Soon he will be like his older brothers, still dependent yet growing more independent by the day. Soon he won’t need me nearly as much as he does right now. These days of newborn sweetness are so very short. I know that now, and so I’m savoring every last ounce of their sweetness.

When I was in the thick of the first year with the twins my sister-in-law helpfully told me that while it feels like the season won’t end, it will. What I didn’t have, that I now do, is perspective. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel because I’ve been in this tunnel before. Weeks and months don’t seem so long when you can look back on ones you have previously lived. Often I spend my days wishing life would just slow down so I could savor every new word uttered, every new developmental milestone hit, and every snuggle that never seems long enough because now I don’t have enough arms to go around. But time just keeps on moving, taking all of us with it.

So it’s been a good, exhausting, rewarding, and fast eight weeks with our new little guy. We look forward to many more. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Happy Release Day!

Today is the day! I've already birthed one baby this month, now it is time to birth another. The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God's Good Design releases today (actually it released yesterday, but who is counting?). After a year and a half of writing, planning, editing, more writing, and more editing, it is finally time to release the book to the masses.

Unlike Seth's arrival, I've known this due date for a while now, and it is hard to believe it's actually here. My prayer throughout the entire process was that God would use it to encourage his people and make himself known in greater measure. The prayer is still the same and I pray it for you, dear reader.

So happy release day, The Accidental Feminist. I'm glad you are here, too!

And at some point I'll write about Seth's eventful birth on May 19, but until then here is a picture of my two babies born this month.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fear and Feminism: A better answer to our fears

Yesterday we looked at how feminism was in part a response to very real fears women faced. Today we will look at how the Bible speaks to those fears and gives us a better answer.

Sarah knew fear, right? She was taken from her homeland and family with no hope of seeing them again (Gen. 11:31). She was barren with no hope of a child (Gen. 11:30). Twice she was given over to a pagan king because her husband feared for his life (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18). And that’s just what the Scriptures tell us. You could say that fear was probably an ever present reality in her life.

What marked Sarah ultimately, and maybe not always in the moment, is her hope in God. Her unwavering belief that God would do what he said, that God would deliver on his promises to her, and that God would never disappoint her. This is why Peter, in 1 Peter 3:1-6 uses her as an example for us to follow, not because she did it perfectly, but because ultimately her hope rested in God alone. We know that she didn't actually do it perfectly. In fact, like us, she gave into her fears on more than one occasion that we know of (Gen. 16; Gen. 18:9-15).

But the context of 1 Peter 3 is a rather fearful one isn’t it? Peter starts by telling women who live with a disobedient or unbelieving husband how they should conduct themselves. He exhorts them to live their lives in such a way that their husbands see the conduct of their character and are won to Christ. A disobedient or unbelieving husband would make any woman feel a little fearful over the future, or even the moment by moment complexities of her day. That is why Peter provides us with an example to follow. He presents his hearers with a woman clearly understood what it meant to live with a husband who was not always obedient to the word, and his hearers would have known that. Then he gives us the punchline, the moment of truth for Christian women threatened by our fears:

And you are her [Sarah’s] children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Pet. 3:6).

This can encourage us even today. We, too, live in a frightening world. Our sin alone can scare us to the core. But there are countless other earthly realities that threaten our faith daily. I have had two miscarriages, which I’ve talked about before on the blog. One happened while I was writing the book and it was more complicated than we anticipated. It was so difficult that it caused my husband and me to wonder if we would ever try for another baby again. It rocked us and terrified us. I’ve also never had a pregnancy without some type of complication. This one carried minimal risk for a while (it’s resolved now), but it’s still not a normal one. Pregnancy brings out all sorts of fears for me. Will I ever hold Seth? Even as we get everything ready for his arrival, I battle a lingering fear in the back of my mind, will this all be in vain? Will I be stricken with grief again? Maybe your fears are similar, maybe they are different. But the reality of living in a sin-cursed world means there is a lot to be afraid of.

I don’t know what brings out your fears. Maybe it is a husband who doesn’t lead you like he should. Maybe it is the prospect of a life of singleness. Maybe it’s infertility. Maybe it’s a move that is on the horizon. Maybe it is family member who doesn’t know Christ. Maybe you have a difficult child or a difficult job. Maybe your bank account never seems to have enough money in it. Does the thought of your children leaving for college or driving a car for the first time bring you to your knees in fear? Are you fearful over school loans you feel like you will have forever?

The list could go on.

The answer for us all is still the same: We are Sarah’s children, if we hope in God and do not fear anything that is frightening. Feminism can’t remove our fears anymore than it can give us the power and autonomy we crave. It’s all an illusion. What we really need, what stands the test of time, is hoping in the God who knows the end of our circumstances, who is over every detail of our painful, broken lives, and who has promised to always do what is good for us.

It can be frightening to submit to your husband. It can be frightening to give your life to raising children. It can be frightening to face a life of singleness or barrenness. It can be frightening to embrace your season and give up a beloved career, rather than trying to have it all. It can be frightening to go to your job every day when you are regularly left wondering if the job will be there tomorrow. It can be frightening to pour your life into your local church with the gifts God has given you. It can be frightening to love your neighbors and enter their lives. It can be frightening to open your life up to friends, roommates, and family members. Life in a broken world is fraught with risk and fear.

In all of these areas, we are giving ourselves over for the good of another, not us. That is always frightening.

Left to ourselves we should be afraid. Hedged in, protected by our loving creator, we have nothing to fear. Feminism is not the answer to our fears or our deepest longings. Hoping in the God who created us, loves us, and promises us a brighter future is.

We are Sarah's children if we trust in our all powerful, all loving, all wise, and always good God and do not fear anything that is frightening, even the fearful reality of living in a fallen world. 

*If you want more information about how feminism has influenced us as women, you can order The Accidental Feminist on Amazon. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fear and Feminism: There is a lot to be afraid of

At the end of this month my first book, The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design, releases. As I anticipate its release, I want to spend some time talking about what we fear. It might seem a little strange to talk about fear in the context of feminism, but I think it has everything to do with feminism’s influence in our lives and the root of feminism itself.

Feminists are strong, right? Feminists are in control of their lives? Feminists believe in girl power?

But I also think feminists (and all women) can be quite fearful.

As I say in my book, God in his good providence has given us our identity as women. He has created us. But in his wisdom he has put us in positions and places in life that can give us cause to fear. In a lot of ways he has made us physically weaker than men. Who hasn’t walked to their car in a dark parking lot with their keys out ready to jump in their car as fast as possible? We live in a scary world. He has put us in positions of submission that are designed for our good, but also make us vulnerable. I’m not saying it’s easy to submit to your husband all of the time. It’s not. Sometimes husbands don’t lead like they should. Sometimes husbands sin against us. I’m also not saying it’s easy being a woman in a sin-cursed world. It’s not. Throughout much of the world women are in very difficult, and terrifying, positions of vulnerability—and often at the hands of men. This is not a new occurrence. Women have been in fearful situations since sin entered the world.

But what feminism tried to do was empower women to rise above their circumstances in their own strength, in many ways owing to these very fears of vulnerability. We are met with similar fears today, aren’t we? We all have something to fear, and God knows that. So did countless women who have gone before us.

And in a lot of ways, fear is the great leveler isn’t it? The early feminists, had a lot to fear didn’t they? They had no real ability to protect themselves from unfaithful husbands, a government that provided them with no safety net, or their children being sent into factories. They had no real voice in society. The second wave feminists had their own set of fears, right? Left to the boredom of their house, children, and husbands, they feared losing themselves and their identity. We all fear something and we all look for answers to our fears in a number of ways. Feminism answered the fears that women faced by putting women in control of their own destiny, by making women the final authority in their lives. And it’s easy to do isn’t it? We feel like if we have some semblance of control than we can’t be hurt, we can’t be disappointed, or we can’t be given over to our fears. But, friends, this is never the answer. The answer to our fears isn’t in women’s empowerment or even in good leadership. In our sinful self-reliance, we want to believe that we can protect ourselves from our fears. But there is a better answer to our fears than feminism, self-protection, or even a society that believes in the dignity and value of women (which is a good thing!). We will look at that in my next post.

*If you are interested in learning more about how feminism has influenced us, you can order my book on Amazon.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What I'm Looking Forward To

I don't know when you will arrive, sweet son. But I do know that I can't wait to meet you. You have been constantly on my mind and heart these last nine months. We've gone everywhere together, you and me. I've felt you kick. I've felt you squirm. I've felt you hiccup. I've seen your sweet face on ultrasound more times than I expected, which was a treat.

While I have gone through this whole delivering a baby thing before, this time is a completely different experience, though there are some familiar things. I do know what to expect from babies. I had your brothers at the same time, you know. But what I don't know is what to expect from a baby who comes when he's supposed to be born. Here are just a few of the things I'm looking forward to with you.

  • I can't wait to hear you cry for the first time. I've never heard a baby cry upon delivery. Your brothers were born too early to cry much. They grunted and struggled to breathe as the NICU team worked on their immature lungs. My only reassurance was the nurse anesthetist telling me that he could hear Luke trying to cry in the room next to us. I hope your screams fill the delivery room. It will be the sweetest sound.
  • I can't wait to hold you right away. I didn't hold your brothers until they were 36 hours old. I barely saw them when they were born before the NICU whisked them away for a few hours to stabilize them. Your daddy didn't get to hold them until they were five days old. I can't wait to hold you close and study your face. Daddy can't wait to hold you either. 
  • I can't wait to go home with you at the same time. We left your brothers at the hospital for five long weeks. It was so sad and so hard. We missed them terribly. I can't wait to pack you in our van all snug in your car seat and take you to our home, where you will be loved, cared for, and so very welcomed.
  • I can't wait to see who you look like. Will you look like your brothers, who are identical? Or will you look like daddy? Or someone else in our family? Or will you have your own look, a mixture of your parents who love you dearly?

I could go on in the ways I'm looking forward to getting to know you outside of my womb, my son. But we are excited to meet you in the coming days. You are our dearly loved, prayed for, and longed for son. Our bright spot after our loss. Life formed in an empty womb that for so long knew more death and barrenness than new life. And now we simply wait for your arrival.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Control is An Illusion

I'm now a little over two weeks away from my due date, which is really hard to believe. I've never been this far along in a pregnancy before, so in a lot of ways it's all very new to me. We've never gotten a nursery ready before. The twins came so unexpectedly that my mom and sister-in-law set everything up for us while we were in the hospital. I've never bought diapers before delivery before. I've never had to count contractions or pay attention to my body because I was already in the hospital when I went into labor with the twins (and I didn't even know I was in labor anyway!). 

In a lot of ways the extra time has been nice. It's allowed for more rest and time to reflect on the changes coming our way. It's given me time with the boys before baby brother makes his grand entrance. It's given me time with Daniel before we are sleep-deprived and delirious. And while I am anxious to meet this sweet boy, I'm thankful that he's stayed put this long. 

But in another way the extra time has been hard for me. It's revealed to an even greater degree my ever present struggle with wanting to control every outcome of my life. The twins shattered that illusion pretty quickly when they arrived eight weeks early. Our lives were turned upside down by premature infants and twice daily NICU visits. It was good for us, me especially. Now that I am in a more normal pregnancy situation I can start to believe that I am in control of this whole having a baby thing. Having some form of readiness for his arrival (a room ready, food in the freezer, bags packed) can make me think that I've got this--or that I have time to spare. So when I have a night of contractions I start to panic, not because I might have a baby born before his due date, but because he's not coming according to my plan. 

You would think I've learned by now that babies come when the feel like it.

There is a spiritual parallel to my illusion of control about the day and hour that Seth will be born. The New Testament is full of warnings to be ready for the second coming of Christ, because none of us knows the day or the hour that he will come back to bring his children home and judge sin once and for all (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). All we are told is to be ready. Ready to leave. Ready to follow him to eternity. Ready to give up our fleeting lives on earth for a better one with him. We are simply told to "keep watch" (Matt. 24:42). Like a mother waiting for the arrival of her unborn baby, we do not know when the true labor will begin, bringing forth the final consummation of the redemption of our bodies--our rebirth (Rom. 8:22-25). We can believe the lie that we have all the time in the world to get ready for that glorious day, but the reality is we don't know when that day will come anymore than I know when my Braxton-Hicks contractions will give way to the real thing. But in both of these blessed events, I do know one thing, it will come eventually. I will not be pregnant forever and this earth will not be here forever either.

So as I finish up these last days of pregnancy, I want to be ready. Readiness is a good thing for both a new baby and our final redemption. But I'm learning to let go of the illusion that I can control the day or the hour, that I can be so ready that it doesn't take me by surprise when it finally comes. Only God knows that day. And what a day it will be. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What I Learned About Marriage From Gilbert Blythe

I don't remember exactly how old I was when I first watched Anne of Green Gables, but I know I've now seen it more times than I can count. For the longest time it was my go-to movie whenever I was sick. Who doesn't love the comfort of Avonlea when your fever is rising and your nose won't quit running? Because I am the only girl in my family, I even convinced one of my brothers to appreciate the story of Anne, Gilbert, Diana, Marilla, and Matthew (his wife can thank me for his enjoyment in classics like these).

With the many other fans of Anne of Green Gables I have been reminiscing about all that Anne of Green Gables meant to me as we learned of the sudden death of Jonathan Crombie, the man who played Gilbert Blythe. Like many women my age, I can count Gil as one of my first fictional crushes. I remember watching his often tense and teasing interactions with Anne and hoping that one day I could marry someone who loved me as passionately as Gil did.

A lot of my expectations of my future husband were fueled by unrealistic expectations at best, and a man in my own image at worst. But there is one thing about Gil and Anne's relationship that I'm thankful I have in my own.

Unwavering support.

I'm pretty sure the writing bug bit me in part because of Anne of Green Gables. As a young girl, I enjoyed pretending and telling a story, but seeing Anne publish, teach, and work at her craft really gave me a vision for writing that stayed with me over the years. I wanted to do the same thing. She wasn't like the other girls, and Gil loved that about her. But he also loved her enough to help her get better at her vocation--her writing.

Writers don't like being critiqued. At least I don't often appreciate it at first. It's painful. It feels like someone is tearing at part of your soul. A writer feels like her work is part of her and to tell her it's not good, or doesn't make sense, can feel like you are saying she doesn't make sense. When Gil told Anne to write about Avonlea, the place they both loved, it hurt her at first. But he was right. He knew the story that was inside of her and he was pushing her to allow it to come out. He believed in her writing.

I'm thankful that Daniel does the same for me, even though I might resent his criticism at first. At the end of the day no one believes in my writing more. No one believes in the words that are inside of me more than him. When I'm sloppy or unclear, he knows I can do better. When I'm tempted to compromise or cut corners out of fear of man, he knows I know the truth and challenges me to hold fast to it. He is my toughest critic and my greatest fan--which makes the often bitter pill of criticism easier to swallow.

I didn't marry a man who fights with me passionately like Gil did with Anne, although I thought that is what I needed when I was a young, passionate, and romantic girl. But I did marry a man who supports me as a writer and encourages me to write for God's glory and true to who I am. And I wouldn't have it any other way.