Advent 3: Joy and the Third trimester

I am not a happy pregnant woman, not in the third trimester especially. One year I came to a new school to teach about 2 months before I gave birth to Priscilla. Upon my return my students would tell me that they were really scared of me coming back. I had apparently left pretty cranky. It didn’t help that my one year old wasn’t sleeping through the night and wasn’t walking so I had to schlepp her everywhere. It was awful, and totally hilarious.  I used to make my 16 month old crawl to the car.

I was on the struggle bus that last tri-mester. And then I went into latent labor. Latent labor is when your body is for sure contracting, but it isn’t really doing anything. I went to my weekly appointment about two weeks before my due date and I just started crying.

There is this thing that people say to you when you are huge and pregnant and none too pleased about it. You see they look at you and smile and say “well sweet heart, no one is pregnant forever.” And you will want to punch them and tell them that you think you are about to be the first.

Thank God my midwife did not say that. She rubbed my back and held my hand. I know this part is hard she said. I am sure you are miserable. You need to do one thing every day that brings you joy. One tiny thing, every single day, you need to find joy. So I did. I went to a movie, I got a fancy cookie, I read books I loved. I got through the waiting by finding the joy. Sometimes it was all I could do to cling to it. That tiny piece.

Waiting is hard. It can be excruciating, and there have been years in advent that it felt like some cruel joke, to talk about the joy in the midst of the shit-storm that is life. Joy? You have got to be kidding me. It felt cruel to ask people who are suffering to look for the joy. It felt stupid, like a fools errand. More and more I am becoming convinced that joy is for those who are waiting. It is imperative to keep on keeping on. Joy is the secret weapon in waiting for the ways of Jesus.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this. The people who taught me the most about joy were the boys I used to hang out with in the youth detention facility last year. Yes, they were locked up. Yes, they had it rough, yes life was hard and very unfair, and the way they laughed when we were playing games, the way they begged to be read to out of silly children’s books left me breathless.

Waiting is terrible, and waiting without knowing exactly when and where things are going to shake out is even harder, and waiting when you are oppressed, or in pain, or exhausted, or desperate is so so so hard. Which is exactly why we need joy. And I can’t help but think that finding joy in a prison, or while so pregnant you are sure a baby is going to fall out of you, or the powers that be seem to be coming down upon you with no plans of letting up, is just training for finding a baby in a manger when you were expecting a king. I think learning to choose joy is training for seeing God.



Advent 2: Peace and the Second Trimester

In the second trimester you tell. You tell your friends and your co-workers and I told my students. (Well I told three girls to see just how fast the rumor mill worked. Everyone knew by lunch.) You tell because you are reasonably sure that this new life you are carrying in your body will see the light of day. Safe through the first trimester means that this baby is probably going to make it.

I met with a friend today. “I don’t know Abby” he said to me, “I don’t know if people are capable of change.” I told him if they weren’t then we might as well burn our MDivs (I haven’t even finished mine yet.) If people can’t change, if they don’t change then we should for sure skip the Sunday morning worship. We should for sure hit the bottomless mimosa brunch down the street.

But also, I get it, and I have been there. I am there a couple times a year, in that place where every single piece of you is screaming this is too hard. This thing we are trying to do will never ever be done. I cannot take one more step. And what does God offer us in the midst of this? Fuel? Encouragement? An everlasting Starbucks gift card? (Lord, hear my prayer). Nope. God gives us peace. A peace that says, I know that you feel like this thing will never be. I am telling you it already is.

I preached on the Magnificat last week. The verses in Luke where Mary proclaims to the world, that this work is already done. This baby is coming and has already changed the world. We can have peace because God will work, does work, has already worked to completion,

By the end of the second trimester you are showing. You are clearly pregnant. People treat you like you are pregnant, and start giving you things for the baby. This thing that is happening in your body becomes a reality. It is as though this thing that will happen has already happened, you prepare for the inevitability of this new life even as you know there is still some risk.

I think that is the peace we can lean into. The reality that the work of Jesus is happening, will happen, has already happened. That despite what the world yells at us, and the way it feels in our bones, God’s work will come to fruition. Has already. There is a peace in that we can rest in.

Advent 1: Hope and the First Trimester

I think it is on purpose that most pregnancies do not make a physical appearance the first tri-mester. It is no small gift to be given twelve weeks or so to wrap your brain around the fact that you are carrying a life inside of you.

I have been pregnant twice. Once I knew from practically the second I was pregnant. We were trying. I was hoping. We got pregnant. Just like that. We tried to keep it a secret but I have a huge mouth, and I started drinking gatorade in the morning instead of coffee. That was all it took for my friends to ask.

The second time it took me about six weeks to take a pregnancy test. I had this “flu” I couldn’t seem to kick. I was tired all the time. My oldest (about 9 months at the time) stopped breast feeding and when I googled it Google asked me if I was pregnant. Pffff. How ridiculous. Turns out Google is never wrong. I took a pregnancy test when less than careful teeth brushing made me gag.

The first trimester is often in secret, and it is most often the one where you feel the worst. You are tired all the time. You are sore and your body feels weird. You have to pee all the time for no apparent reason. Smells you used to like make you want to die. You don’t want to eat anything. You are starving. While no one can see it, something new is happening, and that something new makes you super uncomfortable.

The first Sunday in Advent is hope. While most often hope is portrayed as some sort of magic balloon that comes floating into our life, for me it is often accompanied with a sort of nauseous feeling. Am I really wanting this? Am I really expecting this? Do I really believe that God could, would, will work in this way I am hoping for? How long will I have to hope? How disappointed am I setting myself up to be?

I think we underestimate how uncomfortable hope can be. How hard it can be to carry all by ourselves. It is a little cruel to ask a woman to pretend she isn’t pregnant when she needs to sleep twenty hours a day, or puke every twenty minutes. Hope can feel that hard. It does for me anyway. I think this is one of the reasons I tell people so early, about the babies I was carrying, about the dreams and imaginings I sometimes feel God is stirring. I need people to ease the discomfort.

Can I tell you that I have been in the first tri-mester of a hope for a few years now? I wrote a manuscript about four years ago, queried agents, signed with one, and was sure I would have announced a book contract by now. But I haven’t. I don’t have one to announce. Still. And I have prayed about moving on, self publishing, turning chapters into blog series, and still I feel a pull in my spirit to wait. To hope. Just a little longer.

This hope is uncomfortable. It is hard. But I believe it offers the promise of something new. Maybe you too? Maybe I am not the only one with a secret uncomfortable hope inside.