Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Last Best Year: Norming the Church's Norm

Most of my very best and dearest friends are single women in their 30s.  Two are very close to 40.   Lovely, beautiful, wise, warm, sexy, godly, spiritual, intelligent, brave single women.  They do things like bring in tens of thousands of dollars for meaningful causes, volunteer each and every week for children’s Sunday school, train and orchestrate for disaster relief efforts world-wide with a major missions agency, project manage millions of dollars for a massive company, sit with college students that are hungry for relationship with God.  I mean, these women kick-ass and their lives are full.

Yet, there is something that I am increasingly aware of as I have walked this journey of infertility.  As I have held this place of poverty, while believing and acting on the dignity of my life as it is.  That, just as I sit each Sunday and hear the funny quips and antedotes about “my kid did this”  “when I became a father I finally learned” “when I look in my daughters eyes and tuck her in at night,” these women’s hearts also hear, “my wife taught me” “husbands, just ask your wives how you really are” “sex the way God designed it.”

Now.  I am not saying that these jokes and examples are bad in and of themselves.  Or that they are hurtful every time, or even every other time.  But, really, there are just a lot of them.  And innocently, probably.  I mean, that is who the evangelical church trains and hires to do their teaching: young men who married in their 20s; or 30s at the latest.  And typically have children in due course.  (Or, if they don’t have children, questions would be asked.  I mean, can you imagine a married couple in ministry saying they did not want to have kids…I digress).  So, really, these guys are just being themselves and trying to be transparent with their struggles or messiness.  I am down with that in many regards.

The reality, though, is that I have never heard a pastor talk about infertility.  Really.  Never.  And I have been in the church pew my whole life.  And I have only heard a few blurbs during sermons on living singlely, and most of them are like, “hold on to hope until you get married,”  or “you have so much free time right now…(until you get married?),” (and yes, there is a verse about that…).  And its like…really?  ReallyIs this the best we have for examples of living fully and authentically?   Ones that norm the Norm even more, Norm?  Aren’t we supposed to be norming, or at a minimum inviting, the margins in the church?  Even the micro-margins, if you will?  (I just made up that word, I think).

And are the “margins” of the church really the margins of society as a whole?  I’m going to go ahead and say no, Norm.  I don’t know any smart statistics, but a boatload of people are single later and later life; always having been single or newly single. 

And people are having babies later in life.  And, like it or not, many people drop out of church until they have babies.  And, honestly, I can see one potential contributing factor: there is a bit of a social no-mans-land for people, couples or otherwise, in their 30s and 40s without children in the church.

Solutions?  I can tell you that one of the reasons I went to my church was because they had a single, woman elder in her 30s.  And that, is a really, really good start.  And I am doing my best to share my story and welcome people into my life and home who are single and have kids, married and don’t have kids, recently divorced, in their teens, 50s, 30s, 80s.  I would also love to see more women teaching.  And single men speaking.  And childless or blended family couples preaching.  From the platform.  Regularly.  What do you say, Norm?  Are we ready for that?     

My Last Best Year: Oh My God!

I have always been sensitive to saying “the Lord’s name in vain.”  Probably mostly ingrained by my conservative, Southern Baptist roots.   (And really, the Bible has something to say about it).  But maybe too because its like, “Hey!  What did he do to you?”  Heck, “What did SHE do to you?”  It just feels unnecessary.  

So, imagine my surprise, when I find myself saying these days: “Oh my God!”  “Jesus!”
I mean, I have been known to throw out some obscenities here and there, but this is breaking major Lizzy code!  

Yet, it hasn’t felt like that.  

Last night I was processing something, and here I went…”Its like, Oh MY GOD.  Jesus!”  To which dear Dan replies, “Like a prayer?”  To which I beheld, “Yes.  Like a real prayer.” 

So, just know that when this falls from my lips, I really, really mean it.  It’s more like a petition, less like profanity.  Less like habit, more like praise.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Last Best Year: Applying to be a Mom

If I were to write a story about becoming a mother, it would not be this one.  It would have been more like this: birth one or two children, apply to adopt internationally from either China the Ukraine or somewhere southern Africa, birth another second or third child, welcome home our third or fourth adopted child, consider adopting domestically depending how our family was humming, adopt domestically depending on the aforementioned humming, and close down shop at 35 or 36.  Sound crazy?  This was my dream. 

In 9 months I will be 35…um…ya…scratch the record on that music...not happening.  But, however, and, did you hear that line though?  The hum always included adoption.  Why?  It is really hard to say.  I can tell you two things: 1. It feels I have always embraced the identity of an adoptive mother; 2. My life story is full of orphanages, world-wide (hence the countries I mentioned above). 

But as with all idealized dreams, reality brought the complexity of relationships, bodies, money, personal limitations, and, oh yes, time; the family dream engine broke down within five miles of home.  At points I have felt stuck on the side of a country road, in the pouring rain, by myself, no umbrella, with a smoking engine. 

On this side of reality, though, I am not alone at all.  Many people have come along and the story has continued.  For starters, I have a wonderful husband that I don’t have to dream about.  He is actual, a good person to share the driving load with and is actually, very handy.  

For secondly, in 2009 I started going down to the Dominican Republic with some new friends and I have kept going back with our little grassroots, non-profit called Project I See You.  And in the midst of those trips I have seen more stories of adoption, held more beautiful babies, and was given a doorway to walk through that I would have not imagined on my own.

Last week, Dan Wagner and I knocked on the door of an agency, applying for adoption from the lovely, loving, luscious country of The Dominican Republic.  Its like telling you all we are four weeks pregnant – its that fragile and nerve-racking.  But, I am keeping my commitment to transparency, and trust you will give us a lift if this car breaks down along the way.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Last Best Year: Reorientation by Soaking

If it weren't for the Psalms of disorientation, I would have lost my faith a long time ago.  They are, in fact, the lion's share of the Psalms.

February was a blur.  Dan was traveling a lot, (a blessing in disguise).  I am pretty sure I breathed.  Walked some.  People sat with me.  I cleaned out my Netflix queue.  And got OCD with my Pinterest boards.

And then, I felt a movement to reorient.  Realign.  To Life.  With God.  So, the last weekend of the month me and my guy went to the best hot springs spot and soaked, and ate, and soaked, and indulged, and soaked.  It was wonderfully cold and snowy; the water was its hottest and the steam rose enough to keep your head warm, yet flew away for a view of the stars.  Our worries floated.  Our fears melted.  Our spirits warmed.  There at the foot of the grand Collegiate Peaks.  A blessed, holy spot where I went after I lost a job;  where you can sit in the river; where I bond with my (grand)mothers.  Where I went to soak away what was to be and soak in hope for what is to come.

But me he caught – reached all the way
From sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
The void in which I was drowning.

He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved – surprised to be loved! 
Psalm 18

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Last Best Year: Supporting Raw Grief

I joke with my people that there should have been caution tape on all entrances to my house: “Caution: Enter at your own risk.”  Grief in action is messy, by its very nature.  Because trauma, by its very nature is overwhelming.  As in all your coping skills, ways of thinking, and Christianese don’t keep up.  And the only way out is grieving and grief is messy.

In a society that values moving through things quickly, truncating even what emotions are “acceptable,” we need help!  Especially us emotionally-phobic Christians.  Not so that those of us that are grieving change, but so that we can enter into the mess well with each other.  Because those of us that are traumatized are not necessarily isolating, but may be self-protecting against others that are more afraid of our grief than we are.  (And we are terrified of it.)

My best friend, from her own overwhelming grief process, started a list of wise and simple advice for those offering support.  It got my wheels turning.  Because it is HARD to authentically grieve while still engaging community, and those are two passions of mine rolled up in one.  The first three are hers, the last two are from my experience and talking with other friends too. 

#1- Do reach out.   Write a note, leave a phone message, type an email or text message.
#2 – Don’t expect to hear back.  Instead, consider another kind note.
#3 – Don’t mention God.  Or – I would say it this way – don’t give advice.  Of any kind.
#4 – Don’t assume or draw conclusions.  Very little of what you see is permanent. 
#5 – Don’t take things personally. Grief is ripe with bucket loads of projection; enter at your own risk.