Making room

We’ve had an interesting day, but it really begins Tuesday. That was my 35-week doctors’ appointment, at which the doctor discovered that my belly had grown, in a week, bigger than it should be at this point in the pregnancy. So, she scheduled us for an ultrasound, which was this afternoon. Bear in mind that a year and a half ago, at 35 weeks pregnant, I was in the hospital preparing to give birth to our 6 lb., 3 oz. daughter.

As the ultrasound tech took the baby’s measurements, she said, more than once, “Oh, big baby.” Really? I thought. I mean, people have been looking at me like I’m nuts when I tell them I have five weeks to go, even asking me if I’m sure I’ll make it one more day, but I guess I wasn’t totally prepared to hear that the baby is big. I blame the steroids in the shots they’re giving me. :) Anyway, according to her measurements, the baby is 7 lbs., 6 oz. already, which may bump my due date up about two weeks.
So, let’s see, if my math is correct, five minus two is … three. Three? Like, we could have a baby in less than three weeks? But we’re so not ready! I envy those people who have everything in order and who seem to just sit around and wait for the baby to come. That’s not been our experience so far. Heck, when Isabelle was born, our apartment was undergoing electrical work that our landlord had yet to finish and we had, literally, nothing as far as baby gear goes. No car seat, no crib, no diapers, no clothes. I remember telling people, “We have five weeks” like in that span of time, the baby fairy was going to sweep through our apartment and equip us with everything we needed.
Lesson learned. This time, at least, we have gear. We have diapers. We even have a more-than-half-packed hospital bag. Still, we find ourselves with some minor redecorating, shall we say, to make room for the baby, who will sleep in our room for the time being. After hearing today’s baby update, it seems like all of a sudden we’re in high gear to get this stuff done.
All of this makes me think of getting ready for Jesus. The world was mostly unprepared for His arrival the first time; will we make the same mistake the second time around?
I think of the Parable of the Ten Virgins, found in Matthew 25:1-13, and how half of them were ready and half of them weren’t. And even though the bridegroom in the story was delayed, the five who had prepared were ready anyway while the other five were caught by surprise. In the course of my everyday life, I wonder if I’ll be caught by surprise when Jesus returns or if I’ll be ready. It’s certainly no secret that He’s coming again. He talked about it often when He was on earth, as is recorded in the Gospels. So, like with pregnancy, I shouldn’t be surprised that it will happen someday.
Unlike with pregnancy, there’s no due date, though. At the end of the passage in Matthew, Jesus says, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” How, then, should that affect how I live my life?
Anticipating the baby’s arrival, I see my daily activities through a different lens. I look around the house and see better what needs to be cleaned or moved or gotten rid of. How I spend my day also is affected. I rest when I need to, knowing that I have the trial of labor ahead. Or I prioritize baby-related activities, like washing baby clothes or packing the hospital bag, above other things I could be doing like reading or checking Facebook. (OK, so it doesn’t always look like that as I’m 100 percent guilty of being on FB when I should be doing something far more productive.)
If I view my life through the lens that Jesus is returning, and it could be any day, then my priorities should change, too. I should value what He values. I should consider how I spend my time and money. I should have an urgency about my life that reflects the need to be ready for His arrival.
Most days my life doesn’t look anything like that because it’s so easy to get caught up in the daily stuff of life that we, in some ways, have to be concerned with to make life flow from day to day. Still, I desire a more eternal perspective. Will you pray with me for that perspective? Regardless of the day or year of Christ’s return, we, Christians, need to be ready. How will you get ready?

Lean on me

It’s been an overwhelming couple of days, just thinking about what’s to come and what needs to be done. I’ve passed the psychological milestone of 35 weeks in this pregnancy (that’s when Isabelle was born) so I feel like I’m in waiting mode — that any day, our second child could enter our lives.

On top of getting things ready for the baby and the seemingly endless string of doctors’ appointments that go with it, we’ve had additional basic life issues to deal with this week like paperwork for benefits renewal, car inspection and trying to find somewhere, anywhere still offering flu shots. Add those to the daily grind of school, work, housework, child care and it’s no wonder the floodgates opened tonight and I found myself a blubbering mess of tears as a friend and I met for our weekly chat. Yet when she left, life suddenly didn’t seem so overwhelming and just voicing the struggles diminished them somewhat.
The same thing happened yesterday when I was frazzled and frustrated — the ladies of the Bible study I attend threw me a baby shower of sorts, complete with cupcakes, ice cream, baby-themed plates and a generous offer of meals for our family after the baby is born.
Both instances brought to mind a passage from Ecclesiastes. “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” (4:9-10, NASB)
Phil and I have and continue to be lifted up by our families — both biological and spiritual — in ways we can never repay. At times, it’s hard to accept so much help when you feel you have nothing to give back, but we’re learning firsthand the principle of passing on to someone else what’s been done for you. Pay it forward, if you will. We’re racking up quite an account for someone or several people in the future, which is indeed a blessing now and to come.
I think it’s safe to say the hardest thing we’ve had to do so far in our married life is leave our hometown, family and friends to move to a state where we knew less than a handful of people. We knew when we got married that it would be that way. So, for our exit song at our reception, we asked that the DJ play “Lean on Me” and that all of our family and friends join us for a sort of group hug/dance. It’s a song that Phil’s camp “kids” made meaningful to a group of Bible campers, but that’s not the main reason we chose the song. Its words hit us where we live, then and now. It really has the same message as the Bible passage quoted above: We need other people to survive in this world, but we can’t get help if we don’t tell people we need it and what a sad state to be in: needing help but having no friends.
Two hours ago, and most of yesterday, I was too stressed to even know where to begin counting my blessings. Now, although it’s somewhat cliche, I can say that I’m too blessed to be stressed. Life’s circumstances and responsibilities haven’t gone away, but I’ve got a better perspective on them, and I’m reminded that I’m not walking through them alone. I just have to be willing to make them known, even if it means crying a mess of tears in the presence of a friend.
Whatever circumstances you find yourself in as you read this, I pray that you have a good friend who can walk with you and lift you up. Life really is better together.

So much love to give

We’re expecting baby No. 2 in seven weeks or less, and I’m beginning to wonder if I will have enough love to give two children. Do you ever wonder if there’s a limit to your love?

As I “practice” raising two children under 2, I find myself at times unable to love someone else’s daughter as much as I love my own. Maybe that’s not required of me, but I can see a difference sometimes in how I treat them. And I worry that my love for Isabelle will grow less when a new baby enters our world or that I’ll find myself struggling to love them both equally.
How do you do it, parents with multiple children? Do I worry for nothing? Does love increase with the number of children in your house and you find yourself with more to give? Is this just pregnancy hormones and third trimester anxiety kicking in?
“For God so loved the world …” I read in John 3:16; how does He do it? I know He’s God, but the world, is well, big, to say the least, and growing bigger every day. I’m in awe of His infinite capacity to love, even those who don’t want anything to do with Him.
So, I pray to be more loving, to be full of God’s love because on my own, I haven’t enough. And I trust I’ll find a way to love my daughter as much as a new baby and vice versa.
Lord, I don’t have it in me to love the world as You do; all I ask is for enough love to give to those You give to me. Amen.

Salty living

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matthew 5:13, NASB)

I’m consistently amazed by Jesus’ use of the simplest images to convey deep spiritual truths, and his use of salt imagery is one from which I continue to find more and more meaning. Today, as I read this verse, the word “tasteless” practically jumped off the page. I’ve never thought that salt could be tasteless in the sense of having lost its flavor because I have no memory of ever eating salt with no taste. But I thought of another use of the word “tasteless,” the sense of liking or inclination (think tasteless joke or bad taste in friends).
So, I looked up the Greek word for “tasteless” used in this verse (http://www.biblestudytools.com) and besides meaning “salt that has lost its strength or flavor,” it also can be translated as “foolish.” The root word of the Greek word used here means “foolish, impious and godless.”
Have you ever cringed when another Christian opens his or her mouth and presumes to speak for all Christians? Are you ever sad when you see how TV shows or movies portray Christians? We can criticize those depictions all we want, but if we’re honest, there’s probably an element of truth on which they are based.
I wonder if Christians, the Church, have become tasteless to the world. I’m not saying we’re to say what the world wants to hear, i.e. make the Gospel “taste” good while throwing out the truth. I’m just wondering if we’re fulfilling our mission to make the world crave the Gospel. Salty foods make me thirsty; salty Christians should make others thirsty for the Living Water found in Jesus Christ.
In addition to being tasteless, I wonder if our “salty” lives sometimes leave a bad taste in others’ mouths. I remember one time my husband and I made spoonbread (a cornbread-like dish you can eat with a spoon, hence the name) and when we tasted it, we practically spit it out because it didn’t taste like we had remembered it. Turns out, we used a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon. The salt taste was so overpowering it ruined the dish. Maybe, at times, we can come on too strong and leave people wanting to have nothing to do with Christianity.
Somewhere in between is a balance, and I’m still figuring out how to live a life that leads people to crave Jesus without giving Him a bad name.