Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Washing of Feet

A couple of weeks ago at Sojourn we heard a sermon on John 13, the passage in which Jesus washes the disciples' feet.  This passage can be a tough one for us since the details are so culturally distant.  In America it's not a social custom for servants to wash the feet of dinner guests so the absence of such an act aren't missed.  Yet there is still so much for us to gain from this passage, and if we consider the implications of Jesus' actions we can learn a lot about the nature of God.

Obviously the act of washing someone else's feet is incredibly humbling.  To get a taste of this, last week in our community group we actually washed each other's feet.  I know that the cultural context is much different, but it was still a powerful lesson in humility.  Our feet were relatively clean, but in Jesus' everyone wore sandals and their feet would be covered in dirt, dust, and who knows what else.  Needless to say, those were some feet that truly needed washing.  The craziest part of our foot-washing experience was imagining that it was Jesus himself washing our feet.  We serve a God who kneels.  A God who serves.  A God who loves with an unconditional, unimaginable kind of love.  With his act of foot washing Jesus demonstrated a sacrificial love that asks for nothing in return.  I had never given much thought to the fact that Jesus washed Judas' feet mere hours before he would betray him.  If anyone didn't deserve to have their feet washed by God himself it was Judas, yet Jesus did it anyway.  And I know that the same is true for me.  I don't deserve to be made clean by Jesus.  I can't do enough good on my own to merit his love, but thankfully I don't have to.  I rejoice in the fact that I serve a God who comes to me and offers me everything even though I have nothing to give in return.  Talk about scandalous love!

In his sermon Kevin said that the greatest battle for the Christian isn't against sin but is to believe that God really loves him or her.  I'll admit that lately I've struggled with this myself.  Maybe it's because it's just so staggering to think that the God of the universe would really want to be personally involved in my life.  Maybe it's because when I'm honest with myself I know that I tend to run away from God in a lot of ways.  I know deep down that I'm unloveable because of the sin in my life, but the beauty of Jesus is that he loves the unloveable.  Titus 3:5-7 reminds me that, "he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." 

I'm at a point in my life where I just need to soak in God's grace and continually remember that it's not because of anything I've done or will do that has earned me his love.  It has always been (and always will be) about what he's done for me.  He's washed my feet and made my clean not because I deserved it but because he is good.  Praise God! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Navigating New-Mommyhood

I got a lot of parenting advice while I was pregnant.  Advice is great...when solicited, but more often than not I had seasoned mothers piling on a bunch of things that I absolutely must do or my child would fail at life.  I'm learning that an important part of parenthood is learning to take advice with an added measure of grace.  I'm glad I had so many people who cared enough to try to prepare me for what was coming, but let's be honest, there's no way to be completely prepare to be a mommy for the first time.

The day we left the hospital with James was ever so slightly terrifying.  It's kind of a wonder that they let clueless people leave the hospital at all with teensy helpless babies.  We got home and I had this moment of panicked what now?  All my life I'd heard that your maternal instinct kicks in when you have a baby and you automatically know what to do.  Apparently my maternal instinct decided to take a raincheck, because I had (and still have) plenty of moments where I was holding a screaming infant without the slightest clue what the heck was wrong with him.  Perhaps the maternal instinct is something you acquire over time.

I can't believe how fast he's growing!
And then there's the breastfeeding.  I would like to personally punch in the face whoever said that breastfeeding comes naturally and the baby just magically knows what to do on his own.  I've had plenty of friends struggle with this aspect of caring for their baby, and the first three weeks were tough for me too.  All the lactation consultants told me, "If it hurts, something is wrong."  Well we worked at it for days and sometimes it just hurts even though you're doing everything you're supposed to.  I think it's one of those things that you have to give your body time to adjust to and toughen up for.  Things in the nursing department aren't smooth sailing for us yet, but we're certainly getting there.

He's cute even when he's angry.
The hardest part by far was dealing with the emotional tangle aptly called the "baby blues."  I'd been warned about this so I at least knew what I might be in for.  I assumed that since I had such a vast support network of family and friends the random bouts of crying might be kept at bay.  Boy was I wrong.  The emotional roller coaster you're on after having a baby isn't just about being sleep deprived and overwhelmed by this new responsibility, though that's certainly part of it.  For me it was a feeling of loneliness like I'd never experienced.  This is weird to me since most of the time I'm surrounded by other people.  It was especially rough there in the beginning, but over the last week things are settling out and I've been feeling more like my old self.

This is how we spend most of our time.
Becoming a new mommy has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life.  During my pregnancy I kept thinking that I wouldn't want a lot of people around when we brought James home and that we should bond as a family of three for those first few days.  After our first horrible, sleepless night at home however, I was singing a very different tune.  Since then we've had one of our moms stay with us every few nights to help out with him at night, and it's been a huge blessing.  I believe my initial issue was one of pride.  I don't like asking for help with things that I know I should be able to do.  Recovering from surgery showed me how much I help I really need and how blessed we are with family and friends willing to give it.

Lest you think my experience as a new mom has only been negative, think again!  It's amazing to me that God chose us to be James' parents, and I love every minute I spend with him.  It's so cool to see how he grows and changes each day, and we seriously spend hours just staring at him.  It's no wonder I don't get much done around the house.  I love the silly expressions he makes when he's falling asleep and the way he holds onto my finger so tightly.  I love that he's such a snuggly baby and wants to be held a lot.  I love how tiny he is, though I'm sure he's almost to 8 pounds by now!  I love watching his big eyes take in everything around him and know that he's learning so much already.  I can't wait to see the little person he grows into!  I'm ecstatic that I get to be his mommy and watch him grow everyday!  What better blessing could I ask for?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Waiting for James

It's still a bit surreal that our son James is finally here.  After patiently waiting for his arrival for 9 months we now have a baby to show for it.  Incredible.  I continue to be thankful that I had a pretty easy pregnancy, but I think it might have been due in part to the ease of the 9 months of waiting that I wasn't prepared for what turned out to be a rather difficult and scary delivery.

My official due date was December 21, but I ended up going into labor on the 15th.  I had been hoping that James would show up a bit early so we would be able to spend Christmas at home with our families.  My contractions weren't too bad at first so I decided to wait it out as long as possible at home.  I figured I could deal with contractions from the comfort of my own couch while watching "Community" with Patrick or I could go to the hospital and deal with them while hooked up to IVs and monitors.  When contractions were painful enough to elicit tears Patrick made the final call that it was time to head to Baptist East.  Suddenly it all felt so real and that was a bit overwhelming.  It occurred to me that we were leaving our house for the last time before becoming parents.  The next time we would cross our own threshold everything would be completely different.
Shortly after being checked into the hospital
The first few hours in the hospital were not too bad.  Contractions were rough of course, but once I got an epidural it was relatively smooth sailing.  We'd had this plan of Patrick finding fun shows for us to watch on the laptop while I was in labor, and since I'd planned all along to get an epidural we figured it would be a relatively relaxing time.  I had no idea how wrong we'd turn out to be.  The nurses were monitoring my contractions and James' heart rate, and they began to notice that with every contraction, his heart rate would drop, sometimes significantly.  For a period of several minutes his heart rate was in the 60's (it should be between 120-160.)  Contractions, though I couldn't feel them at this point, became truly scary moments where we would pray for James' heart rate to remain stable until they passed.  I couldn't relax at all, and then my doctor started talking about potentially needing to do a C-section.  This was news I was not at all prepared for.  My whole pregnancy had been a healthy one.  Not once did we have any indication that there would be any problems, so I hadn't mentally prepared myself for the possibility of having to have surgery.  To be honest, it was terrifying.

Shortly it became clear that a C-section was our only safe option for bringing James into the world since we couldn't be sure that he would recover if his heart rate dropped again.  I don't typically have issues with anxiety, but something about being prepped for surgery reduced me to panicky mess.  Patrick, on the other hand, was the epitome of having it all together.  He was by my side through the whole thing.  As soon as James was delivered I was able to relax a bit, in large part due to the anti-anxiety meds they gave me.  One of the hardest parts about having an emergency C-section was that I didn't get to see James or hold him right away.  In fact, it was necessary for the nurses to take him to the NICU for an hour to be on oxygen shortly after he was delivered.
Family of three
We were finally able to be reunited with James and it was incredible!  There really aren't words to describe what it feels like to hold your baby for the first time.  He was absolutely perfect and so tiny.  He weighed only 6 pounds, 7 ounces at birth.  I was so grateful that he was healthy, so even though I didn't get to follow my birth plan, it turned out to be a blessing.  After spending 5 days recovering in the hospital we were able to bring James home.  And just like I predicted, nothing has been the same since!