Love and the Fourth Trimester

(Yes, I am still writing my advent posts. Christmas isn’t over yet. I’m going to take all twelve days okay? Okay.)

Fun fact: If everything goes according to plan, babies only come out of the womb because there is absolutely no more room in there. Like…none. Not even a little. If there was a little room they would stay in there because babies are not idiots. They are warm, and fed from a tube, and are much, MUCH safer in there than they are in the wild. It is a lot less work in there where everything is happening automatically and your mom even pees for you because you do not need to be bothered with such things.

But then, she gets really uncomfortable, which frankly the baby could live with, and the baby gets really uncomfortable and there is literally no more room so the kiddo comes out. During that discomfort and birthing and that next three months there is just so much waiting. So much waiting and so much wanting and so much figuring everything out.

Do you remember the early days of being in love? The like head over heels googly eyed, I know I saw you twelve hours ago but I miss you SO MUCH days of being in love? Yeah, it is amazing, and also exhuasting. I remember Christian and I confessing to each other we were relieved it was over. It is amazing, but how do you even get anything else done.

The first couple months with a baby are like that too. They call it the fourth trimester. The baby wasn’t really to come out and they depend on you, the mother to keep them alive. They depend on the fact that we will love them. Our bodies are biologically trained to fall in love with these kiddos but keeping them alive feels totally impossible, and wonderful, and terrible, and amazing.

That first three months is totally all consuming. It is completely wonderful and exhausting and you are falling in love. You with the baby, the baby with you. And it is really hard work, falling in love. It is really hard to get to know and figure each other out and know what different noises mean and how you fit together. It is hard work falling in love with a baby, learning about this tiny human that you grew inside of you and kind of already knew. Then you spend the rest of their life re-learning them.

Babies change right when you think you have it figured out, and toddlers are completely unpredictable, and then school age children come home from school and gob-smack you about once a week with something completely new and totally classically just like that child all at once.

Learning someone. Isn’t that the most loving thing we can do? Isn’t the work of our whole lives?

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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.

On Not Talking about Guns

When you search for my kids school on Google or Youtube, the word “shooting” pops up as predictive text. No one was hurt, but a guy with an AR walked into my kids the year before my girl started going there. I started trembling a little the next day when we had a shooter drill at the school I was teaching at, that we were just being overly-cautious and active shooter drills were just a waste of instructional time. I could no longer pretend this was a thing that happened at other places. The traffic was routed around the school and right past my house. School shootings were a thing that happened to me.

A few days after Sandy Hook a kid drove through the parking lot off to Christmas break with a buddy of his in the back holding paintball gun. I had my phone out to call 911 but thankfully realized it was a false alarm. High school boys with paint ball guns needed to be seen as deadly until proven otherwise. This was the reality we lived in.

An Elementary School, A concert, a night club, a church. These are the places that shootings happen sometimes here in the united states. And I don’t know what to say about that. I don’t know what to say to my kids who report that there was a tricky game their school played where they pretended to hide from a bad guy. Do I tell them good job? Do I tell them that a bad guy did come to their school but their teachers were very brave and very smart? Do I protect their innocence or do I give them all the information and extra tips just in case this is information they might need one of these days? Information they might need to keep them alive. I don’t know what to say when they get into my car and report an active shooter drill, so I just ask what they think about it and grip the wheel so they can’t see my hands shake. I remind myself that this will probably never happen. This is only a drill.

I know for a fact that the church I attend has an active shooter plan. An active shooter plan is something churches now have to have. Should I learn that in seminary? Or is that more of an on the job training situation. This is a question I now have.

We don’t have alien abduction drills. There is no legal requirement to have escaped and rabid tigers roaming through the school. We don’t have drills for thing that will not happen. We only have drills and plans for things that sometimes do happen, even if they probably won’t. My kids live in a world where sometimes people take really big guns and shoot other people. Where people go to places like churches and schools on purpose, for maximum impact. I don’t know how to parent through that. I should not have to know how to parent around a society that values rights to weapons more than lives of people in church or school.

I am not totally anti-gun. While I would never freeze my butt off in a deer blind waiting for my chance, I will happily eat all the venison sausage those hunters are willing to share with me. I understand that responsible hunting is a valid hobby, one that sometimes feeds families and very often helps our eco-systems. I grew up across the highway from a metro-park, one people were not allowed to hunt in. Occasionally emaciated dear would cross all of those lanes to eat my mom’s bushes. The park would later decide to open certain days to bow hunters. It was the most humane decision for everything involved. The deer don’t come starving to eat the grass off of the neighborhood lawns anymore. Their babies are healthier. We need hunters. I am not anti-hunting rifle.

I don’t know how I feel about hand guns. I personally will not have one. We will not have that in our house, and I used to say that I would never allow my child to be in a house with a hand gun. But that was before a good friend invited me to try to pull the trigger on his empty one, showed me how hard it would be, showed me where he kept it and how it was locked up. While I personally would not make the decision to have a gun in my house, I understand his decision. My cousin married a woman who became a police officer. She carries. When they drive across the country to come to the cabin, she has a gun that she either secures in her car or in her room when she gets there. I don’t have a problem with that. She knows what she is doing and has talked to me about guns when I asked. I know enough about hand guns to know I don’t want one, but not enough to know whether or not I should advocate that others not have one.

I do know that no one should have access to an AR 15….I do know that it is disgusting that we outlawed automatic weapons, but then ruled an apparatus that turns semi into fully technically legal because bump-stocks don’t change the inside of a gun, even if they do change the functionality of it. People died from that technicality. Bump stocks are legal, and being sold, and one congress person will even buy you one he believes in them so much.

As a country we have decided that we care more about people being allowed to by very lethal guns, than we do about keeping people safe, even children. Even children in schools and churches. I am learning that most of us don’t want to live in this world, the one we created.

I know that gun legislation is a heated topic. I know I don’t know everything there is to know about weapons. But I know enough to know that we have to start talking about it. We need to start talking about it in ways that are not “you hate freedom” and “you don’t care if kids die.” We need to start saying, what can we all agree on?

Most people in this country favor background checks, most people favor outlawing semi-automatic weapons, most people think hunters should get to keep their rifles, and while we don’t want to sit in a deer blind or skin a rabbit we respect people who do. Most people want to not have to worry about mass shootings. How do we get there? When can we start talking about that? 

I have had this in the que for more than a week. Since I have written it and not posted it another school shooting gone right has happened. The kids were locked down the man went away, everyone was safe. People were grateful for the shooter drills working. I am just still sad we need them. This doesn’t seem like the best solution.

When Will Fulton County Take Their Gun Problem Seriously?

Yesterday at Banneker High School in College Park Georgia, there was a shooting. I saw it across my Facebook feed and held my breath as I opened the article. Thankfully, it was a gun that went off on accident in a classroom. It hit a girl’s ankle and grazed another student. I opened the article holding my breath because I used to teach there, and some of my friends still do. I am grateful it was an accident that will have no life or death consequences. I wish it didn’t happen, but I cannot say I am surprised. I’ve known there were guns at Banneker High School since I taught there in 2007. Ten years ago I knew there was a problem, and so did everyone else. Fulton County was more interested in optics than actually safety

I worked at Banneker from the fall of 2007 through the spring of 2010, until I was surplussed to Tri-Cities high school in East Point. The entire time I was there, I knew kids were bringing guns to school. I knew they were and so did everyone else. Nothing was ever done.

Every few months or so an announcement would come on and we would be told to lock our doors. Don’t let anyone in, don’t let anyone out. The administration and the resource officers, and sometimes extra officers would open most of the lockers to see what was in them. They would come into certain classrooms and pat down kids. They would ask for bookbags to be opened and dumped out. And every single time, every single time they went looking for them, guns were found on school grounds. In lockers, in bookbags, guns were found in the school every year, multiple times a year.

In the spring of my first year I was walking to my car when the rush of students that was normally coming out of the building was suddenly rushing back onto me. All the kids who were normally running out of the school were suddenly running back into it. The kids were screaming that there was a gun. The kids were insisting someone had a gun at the bus loop.

The next day the only people that were talking about this incident were the kids. No announcement, no letter home, no we are looking into it. Nothing. The official position of the school and Fulton County was that there was never any gun. No one who had the power to do anything about it, simply claimed the gun problem did not exist. Meanwhile everyone actually showing up in the school every day knew there was a problem.

I am saddened that there was an accident with a gun at Banneker. I am sad because this will yet again over shadow all the amazing work that is done at that school every day. People will shake their heads and blame the community that goes to the school. Why does this happen?

This happens, a gun goes off accidentally at a school because Fulton County Schools has ignored a problem everyone knew was going on for at least ten years. When I was teaching there, everyone in that building knew that sometimes kids brought guns to school, they found them in their lockers sometimes. But Fulton County preferred to lead with the test scores from the North side of the county, and claim lots of diversity by forgetting to mention how segregated the school system really is. Fulton county, who felt that metal detectors weren’t necessary, mostly by ignoring the rumors that everyone knew were true. A gun went off on accident in a classroom and no one is dead. Fulton County got lucky, but when will they take the problem seriously?

Where are all the Pro-Life Protestors?

If you were raised in the evangelical church in the 90’s and early aughts you heard a lot about innocent child life. You heard a lot about the child not being punished for the sins of the parents. You heard a lot about how everyone had a right to life.

I still identify as pro-life. I probably wouldn’t picket in front of an abortion clinic and I think the pro-life folks should be all in on contraception, so you know I will never be their poster-girl. I think the issue is complicated and should center all the people. But I found another place where all of these arguments go, a place where we can all agree on them.

There is right now, as I type this a child who is dying because we are worried about the “sins” of his father. A.J. Burgess needs a kidney. His dad is a perfect match. This seems like a pretty easy solution except the father, Anthony Dickerson was a prisoner. The hospital wants to wait three months. They want to make sure Anthony Dickerson is in good standing with the parole board before he is allowed to donate a kidney to save the life of his child.

We don’t know if A.J. Burgess has three months. We know he needs a kidney now. We know he has one available. Where are the pro-life protestors advocating for this child? Where are the people demanding that a child not be punished for their parents sins? Where are the people crying out that A.J. Burgess have a right to his own life?

I think one of the most important things the church has to tell the world is that all life is beautiful. We were all born in the image of God. We all deserve to live. I absolutely believe this. I know there are a lot of things the church disagrees on but surely the life of A.J. Burgess is a place for us to meet.

If you are local: Thursday November 2nd, 2018 we are meeting at Asbury Circle on Emory’s campus at 12:05pm walking 10 minutes to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on Clifton Rd. We will likely pray and sing on the way and then return to the Candler building for class before 1:00pm

From anywhere: Call this number. Leave feed back. Let the people who are in charge know that their actions are immoral. 404-778-7777

Where are all the pro-life protestors? I am praying it is simply they do not know. Now, you know.