Friday, August 30, 2013

Simple Pleasures of August

Living

This month we woke up from the dream of summer break and my husband headed back to a classroom full of 14 year-olds. I'll never know how he does this. It's bittersweet because of course we miss him terribly, but also I somehow turn completely lazy and unproductive when he is home, so it's nice to be back in a rhythm and getting. stuff. done. for a change.

Also this month was my birthday. I love birthdays for the excuse to spend some quality time with my husband, reconnect with friends, and reflect on the past year of my life. This birthday was a milestone because of how much change I've seen in myself over the last year. Twenty-six has potential to be my favorite year yet.

Loving 

Unlimited blueberries from a Saturday of picking with a dear friend, morning bike rides around the neighborhood with my little one, Sunday morning sermons and communion for the first time in years, and planning a little celebration for my favorite nearly one-year old.

And this guy loves baths. 
Reading

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide- Every human being on the planet should read this. It's that important.

War and Peace (Book One)- I did it! Kind of. And then I abandoned it. Hopefully I can return before I forget everything and have to start over.

Currently reading ------------->

Listening

Earlier in the month I listened to a few Jonathan Martin sermons and I've also been listening to Pray-as-you-go each morning while I make the baby's breakfast. Both have been very refreshing for me.

Afternoon kill-time-till-Dad-gets-home dance party music consists of the children's albums of Ziggy Marley, Laura Veirs, and Jack Johnson on Spotify. It's kids music you'll actually want to turn on.

Watching

We chose Sherlock to fill the void The Office left, which was good, but I kind of regret adding another television show to the list of things I feel invested in.

For my birthday, I was surprised with a dinner and a movie date, with the choice of The Great Gatsby (which I've wanted to see for months) and The Way Way Back (which I've wanted to see for weeks). I chose the latter because it's rare that I get to see a movie while everyone is still talking about it. Worth it. It's definitely a good pick for conversation over ice cream afterward. : )

Linking

I always love an overwhelming amount of things in the category, but these are the ones that felt most important to me this month:

How choosing peace at home can stop the war in Syria by Emily Wierenga

What I Won't Tell You About My Ballet Dancing Son by Ashleigh Baker

Christians and Education Inequality: An Interview with Nicole Baker Fulgham by Rachel Held Evans

Why Picking Your Berries for $8,000 A Year Hurts A Lot by Eliza Barclay

Women WILL save the world by Elizabeth Esther

Stop Turning "Devotions" into Dogma: reflections on how we read the bible by Kurt Willems

And This is Also About Submission by Ester Emery

I also happened upon a new little blog, wandering into the woods, that I've enjoyed several posts from this month. If you're looking to support or read more little-known but well-written blogs, check this one out.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Challah and Grape Juice

At our church, we do communion every other week. We do it standing in a circle with broken loaves of white bread and little plastic cups of grape juice that end up littered all over the building on Sunday afternoons. A couple years back, we used to use challah bread. If you've never had challah, it's a traditional Jewish bread that is woven together in a braid-like design, brushed with egg, and baked in the oven until the top is a shiny and golden brown and perfectly beautiful. I know because bread-baking happens to be one of my husbands many talents, but all you really need to know is that the inside comes out unbelievably soft and sweet and delicious.

Via
The thing about communion at out church is that it comes right at the end of the service, a little before 1:00 pm, when you are starting to get hungry and maybe even a little bit crabby. So then the challah comes out and it is looking so good right now. But this is communion. Christ died, you know? So get it together. Usually, when we used the challah, I would try my hardest to think about the bread being Christ's body and all, broken for me, and I would try to get it down without tasting the sweet goodness of it softening on my tongue.

But then a few things happened. Our church went from renting out a middle school cafeteria, to using an abandoned church, and at the same time I began a difficult season of intense doubting that made communion really really hard, and sometimes impossible, for several months. It was also during this time that we stopped using challah for communion. I don't know why. I actually didn't even really notice until last week, when we gathered around in a circle for communion and bam, there was the challah on the table, like it had never left.

And maybe it was the season of doubting from which I have yet to recover, or maybe it was the surprise of seeing it there, but this time, I let myself think about that bread. I let myself think about how good it tasted back in that middle school cafeteria and I let myself long for it. And as the bread was coming around, I decided for the first time ever, to let myself enjoy it. And as I savored that bread in my mouth, I realized that there was a reason Jesus chose this absurd metaphor, of his broken body being bread and his blood being wine, and I think part of that has to do with the goodness of it. I think we are meant to savor it, to touch and taste and smell it. I think it is okay, good even, to enjoy and revel in it. As a human, Jesus knew that food tastes good, and Jesus knew that giving up his body and blood would be something sweet to us too. So when the juice came around, I tasted it too, let the richness linger a moment in my mouth and quench my thirst as it washed down the last crumbs of golden sweetness.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Thoughts on 26

I turned 26 yesterday, and in many ways I'm still the same old me: reserved with a rebellious streak, kind yet needy, self-conscious, slow to speak up, painfully empathetic, introspective and introverted to my core. There is so much about me that has been the same from the start, from the day I was born. These are the things that I will likely hang on to for the rest of my life, things that will one day make my great-granchildren say "typical Granny," but I won't really mind, because they will be right and I kind of like those things about me anyway.

But I am changing too, and in so many ways I feel different than the me I have been all the years before. I think less about what others think about me than I ever have, though still more than I'd like. I am more gracious toward and less ashamed of myself. I feel more confident and comfortable in what I believe, and don't believe, than I have in years. I know myself better than I ever have, my faults and gifts, and I am more aware of my needs, too. I am learning how to truly take care of myself. For the first time, I am taking care of my body and health because it is good. I am making time for reflection and writing, and I am collecting my stories in this space because I like it, even if they go unnoticed. In fact, I like that too, because writing them anyway makes me feel fearless and confident, which is nice for a change. So these days I am speaking up, online and off, regardless of whether I am judged, or even heard, but just because it feels good to get the words out there, to live like my thoughts matter too. Somehow, I am even reading more than ever before, because it's actually okay that I'm still that bookworm kid who feels safest lost in the pages. Finally, finally, I am beginning the work of settling into my own skin, of loving and accepting myself not for what I do or even who I am, but because it is necessary for living and loving well in this one life I have been given.

My very favorite birthday gift, every year, for all the years. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Gift of Light

I'm breaking my recent self-imposed ban on NICU writing today to write about #light, because these are the words that came and I am powerless against them. You can find more #light and beauty over at SheLoves

***

I was born in the month of August. Here in the South, it is the time of a good thing gone on for too long, and I'm sure that's how my mother felt those 26 years ago. It is the time when the flies are born too, and the sun bakes everything in sight for their month-long celebratory feast. It is the time of sweat dripping from even the daintiest of women, and of front lawns ignored in favor of more humane tasks. It is the time of sweet teas and fans on the front porch, or air conditioning with the shades drawn in the house. Even the most recreational of outdoor pursuits are temporarily abandoned. All because the sun has overstayed his welcome, and we who once cheered at his arrival for the warmth and light he brought, now turn away bitterly, speaking in hushed tones to each other about the burden he's become, and not entirely minding if he overhears.


It is in this month last year that I found myself about 400 miles east of my birthplace and nine months pregnant. The sweat dripped from every pore and no breeze, man-made or otherwise, was strong enough to cool me down. I found sanctuary in peach popsicles that melted in my mouth and dripped down my hands. Walking what were once casual distances became an act of bravery, subversion even, proof that I could take the heat. I powered through being outside like it was a workout, and I had just a few more reps to go.

On the third day of September, my son was born. He spent one safe night in the quiet and cool of our dimly lit hospital room before being transferred to the bright lights and steady beeps of the NICU. It was there that we three spent the majority of September, that great sigh of relief to August's held breath.  But in the NICU, there were no seasons, nor days, not even windows to mark the hours, only florescent lights that burned without end, and babies away from their mamas' touch for another minute too long.

I would have forgotten about seasons altogether during those long three weeks were it not for the hospital courtyard. In the courtyard, summer was finally melting into fall. Cool breezes ran through my hair as I made my slow, post-partum way along the winding, tree-lined path, or sat gently on a moss-covered bench and watched the most sensitive of the still-green leaves make their way to the ground. I would close my eyes there and feel the sun on my skin, warm and bright at midday, barely peeking through the trees at dusk, each day becoming more gentle. The light of that sun danced on the paved floor of the courtyard, centering my disoriented rhythms and speaking to me of a world outside the hospital walls, reminding me that it existed, and that our family would return to make a home in it one day.

At three weeks old, my son saw the sun for the first time. And I couldn't have been more pleased to bring him into its light.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Links for what La Leche League didn't tell me

My short-lived career as a part-time nursing mother to baby O is officially over. I nursed him for the last time several weeks ago, and I feel, surprisingly, at peace, probably for the first time. We made it ten months. Ideally I would have liked to have at least made it to a year, though considering how things went, we were lucky to make it out of the hospital. Though I'm feeling good now, ten months of low milk supply was not an easy thing to face as a mama, so I thought I'd gather together some of the articles and blog posts that I found encouraging during that time:

Milk: the breast and the bottle by Kasey Fleisher Hickey @ Simple Mom

Lactation Failure: It Happened to Me by Lisa Selin Davis @ Huffington Post


The Breastfeeding Conspiracy by Taffy Brodesser-Akner @ Babble

Tina Fey Opens Up About Breastfeeding by Female First

Opening a Closed Door: An Unexpected Relationship Between a New Mom and a Lactation Consultant by Full Belly Sisters


Happy World Breastfeeding Week. However you feed your baby, #Isupportyou.