Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beauty and the Third Trimester

Yesterday, I got to school and someone told me that I looked adorable. This a super-kind thing to say to a 30-week pregnant lady, so I smiled and thanked her, and then told the truth- "You should have seen me when I woke up this morning." Her response was also filled with candor- "We've all been there."

Yep, at 30 weeks when you wake up in the morning and your feet and back still hurt despite the nine plus hours you've been lying down and you look yourself in the mirror and realize that your face is somehow just a little puffier than it was yesterday, "adorable" is hardly the first adjective that you would ascribe to yourself.

A couple of friends and I joke that it is really difficult for a worn-out teacher at the end of the school year to be motivated to both get up and get dressed in the morning. The days of picking out your outfit and feeling prepared and ready for the day ended in September for most of us. By the end of April, putting on a pair of pants and dragging a comb through our hair before facing students in the throes of spring fever is about all we have to give. This meme pretty much sums things up. Just imagine a pregnant belly and some elastic-waisted maternity pants and it's basically me.

In all seriousness, though, I woke up this morning thinking about beauty. And how, despite the third trimester and the end of the school year, there is something profoundly beautiful going on that I can't help but write about.

Before that conversation yesterday about whether or not I was "adorable" I was at a low point. I was feeling extremely exhausted, behind in my work, overwhelmed with the day ahead. I'd had trouble sleeping (everyone tells you that you better sleep before the baby comes... but I've struggled with sleep throughout these seven months) and I didn't know how I would persevere through the day. Despite Andy's kindness in helping me get out the door, snuggles from Gatsby and long drags on my coffee, I was still dubious that I would make it through the day without snapping at some poor kid or collapsing, whichever came first.

But neither came, and here's why. As I walked on campus yesterday, I remembered something that we've been learning through a sermon series that we're listening to as a staff. The gist of the messages is about the new covenant that Jesus established, a covenant based, not on the old rules and paradigms of the temple model that God gave the Jewish people before Jesus' life on Earth, but a totally, brand-new thing, built on one cornerstone- faith expressing itself through love. "Okay," I said to Him, "you said through Paul that the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love. But if I'm going to love today, then you're going to have to take care of me. Because I do not feel like I can love. " I pretty much felt like I could pass out, but feeling like loving was nowhere in me.

But that simple prayer did something in my heart yesterday that really was beautiful. All of a sudden, I found myself smiling at people. Genuinely smiling. Not the fake smile thing that creeps people out or is a bad attempt at masking pain. This was the real deal. Like, I actually felt like smiling. Following the smiles came some laughter as I joked with another teacher friend. Then patience as students began to come into my classroom. And that was my day yesterday. Smile, laugh, have patience. No collapsing, no crying. He took care of His end of that prayer. He took care of me and my emotions, as I trusted in Him and loved out of the empty.

And isn't that beautiful? When I woke this morning and thought about God's faithfulness to me yesterday, I was reminded of a song that our student worship team sang on Monday morning in chapel. One of the singer's voices still rings in my ear with a sweetness and clarity that moves my heart even two days later- "You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of us." 

I don't think that pregnancy is beautiful. It's uncomfortable in that way that it stretches the patience and the body. I don't think that our life circumstances right now are beautiful. But, I look around me, and I look in the Bible at what God has said about Himself, and I think "Wow. I am surrounded by beauty." Here are some of the things that I see- green, the color of spring. A teenager's smile (by the way, why don't we smile in pictures anymore? I see selfies all the time with this half-turned fish-face thing, when, really, is there anything more beautiful than a smile?) Cotton-candy clouds in a Texas sunset. Story's foot drag across my stomach from the inside. Andy's hands, diligently working on what God gives him each day while he waits for God's provision of a new job. A promise from thousands of years ago, originally written on ancient scrolls and on worry-sick hearts- "I will go with you. I will not forsake you." This is all really beautiful to me.

It's still hard to get up in the morning. I still feel empty and worn out. But there is a beautiful thing going on inside of me. And it's not just Story, though she's a part of it. It comes from Beauty Himself, working out His ways inside me, making a beautiful thing out of the dust.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Why I love Easter

It's a drizzly, gray Easter Sunday. My house still smells strongly of baked ham and faintly of Easter lilies. My mind hums with great old hymns that I've gotten to sing over the past few days and my heart, and belly, feel full. The heart with hope, the belly with coconut cake. :)

I wanted to take this moment to tell of something that happened a week ago that connects to the events celebrated this weekend. I woke up way too early for a Saturday morning. Throughout this pregnancy, I've had trouble sleeping. Often, if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can't fall back asleep and that's how it was this morning. I sat on the sofa and tried to finalize my BSF lesson because we were having leader's fellowship that morning at 7AM, but I kept getting caught up in checking my bank account, trying to crunch and squeeze numbers for the upcoming months. My mind managed to switch gears from money to the many tasks ahead of me as the school year comes to a close- the AP Bio exam, finals, the boat party, planning for next year. Then finally thoughts turned to Story and how clueless I feel about what to do with her, how to take care of her. How I need to read more books on baby care, and schedule that hospital tour, not to mention all of the loose ends that still dangle over us regarding her childcare for next year.

Before I knew it, it was 6AM, and my tired body and weary mind headed for the shower. The worries and responsibilities that had accumulated while I sat on the sofa, pelted down like the water- hot and steady, unrelenting. How will I ever endure this? But then, in my mind's eye, I could see something. Arms stretched out over me, arms that I knew had been bloodied and bruised. And a back, torn to shreds, but still somehow capable of bearing the brunt of every single worry that had kept me from sleep that night. It was my Savior. Stretched out over me. On that cross I couldn't live without. There He was, to receive on my behalf what I could never bear on my own. As I thought of this, tears as hot as the water streamed down my face. I felt relief at once. Every anxiety that had plagued me that morning was instantly gone. He took my sin and my sorrows, and made them His very own. 

I love Easter. Every year, there seems to be something increasingly sweet about my Savior. It amazes me how, year after year, I stand at Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, amazed at the presence of Jesus, the Nazarene and wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. 

In the book I'm reading for school right now, the writer says that Christians are "people of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ." That just as orthodox Jews might say that they are "people of Moses, led out of slavery in Egypt, and forever changed by the events of the desert journey that took them into the Promised Land," I am a person forever changed by the events of Calvary and the Empty Tomb. And this feels so right today. Because when all the other "stuff" of life, the bank-account-squeezing and end-of-year-finishing and let's-panic-about-baby-raising becomes too much for me, there He is. Not telling me it will all be alright, or that my best is going to be good enough. Not boosting my self esteem or minimizing any of these troubles. But rising above me, arms outstretched, reminding me of what He has done for me, what He has finished. And that puts it all into perspective. Because I am a person of the cross, a person who shelters underneath it when times are too hard, and this burden is too heavy. I know that I am always welcome there, that the work done there tells me so much about this God-Man who loves me so much that He would go there for me thousands of years ago, and yet knows me so well in the present, that He would give me a vivid image of Himself there when my soul is weary and troubled. 

I don't know about those numbers I crunched, and my best might not be good enough to get those kids ready for the AP exam and I might forget to tie a dozen (or many more) loose ends before this school year ends. I still haven't scheduled that hospital tour or finished reading Baby Wise, but on Friday I stood beside my mom at the Long Center, and together we sang, "You are my King" to the Resurrected One, and it was as sweet as this life has to offer. There, in my mind's eye, I could see Him as He will come-Rider on a White Horse- the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, coming in blinding glory- to make everything sad come untrue.  I don't know where I'll be when that day comes, but I know that I will sing the same words- "You are my King," and the fact that someone so eternally glorious could really be mine forever makes me feel safe, even in the sea of uncertainty upon which Andy & I sail in April 2015.

Suffering Servant and King of Kings. I praise You today. My One and Only. I love you. Happy Easter.
-Meredith, a Daughter of the Cross and Resurrection