re-membering

Today is the seven year anniversary of our miscarriage of my first pregnancy. The loss is still there, but it’s not like I need a day off and flowers for it. (Not that a day off and flowers would be sufficient for grief and loss, but… it would be more than I got when I miscarried. Hunh. Anyway.)

trees on my walk

And here is the interesting thing about this anniversary this year. It’s also the last full day of my eldest born daughter’s first year of school. Calendars have layers upon layers upon layers. 

In the years to come I also want to remember last night. Because last night marked an incredible change and neither I nor the other person involved knew it for what it was. 

Last night I hugged someone who wasn’t a family member. 

For the first time since early march 2020, probably Sarah Howell the day I got my first tattoo, I hugged someone outside my family. 

And the main reason it happened is because I said I was moving. 

I was reflecting with a friend recently about how open or not we’ll be with people around us and hugging them. And I told her I was going to be very discerning… and I think that’s true, but I forgot that my discernment is not always what I expect it will be. 

But here is what it means to live in a place where half the time you lived there was during a pandemic. Your neighbors know you because you walk down their street every single day. They will know that you were the one who has the kids who started on your back and they moved to the stroller and now they can walk beside you.

But you won’t know your neighbor’s name because your mind is a sieve for names. But you will know them, and you’ll appreciate how the seasons change and how the porch is decorated for the holidays and how they care for their plants and keep their yard cute and inviting. You’ll remember a conversation you had with her over a year ago about how she retired from nearly 40 years of teaching but didn’t get to say goodbye to her last group of students because they all went into lockdown.

And you’ll stop on the evening walk when you’re by yourself before the sun sets but after the kids are in bed. You’ll say “oh I guess I should tell you that we’re gonna be moving” and she’s like “oh well then I guess we will miss you” and then she’ll ask about your neighbor who lives across the street from you and who they go to church together so they know that your neighbor has incredibly aggressive cancer and you didn’t know exactly what was going on because who knows how to talk about these things when you don’t exchange phone numbers when you arrive and you didn’t know that was what you would need to do because they’re just across the street surely you’ll have a conversation again, you can see into their kitchen from your bed and so she’ll say do you know about her and she’ll still be crying because she’s just said hello and she’s gotten to see her  friend and she’s been there and she still tender and so she will come to you and she will mutter “don’t worry I’m vaccinated” and she’ll pull you into a solid embrace.

A hug that lasts five or ten or twenty breaths. 

And she’ll go back to talking to her neighbors and her husband, and you don’t know her name. And it will occur to you as you begin to crack as you walk past the magnolia that you see every day that this was the first hug you’ve shared in fifteen months from someone who’s not in your family.

And you’re leaving in less than a month and this. All of this. Happens the night before the seventh anniversary of your miscarriage. 

And maybe the hug was just as much for you as is was for her. 

tattoos and why I’m ok sharing a hug again (tattoo by mallory blaylock)

Singing Through It

Heres a thing about me that you should know. 

I like to sing. 

It’s like… essential. 

It’s how I process and express joy, sorrow, despair, frustration, anger, hope, happiness, peace, rest, playfulness, and encouragement. 

I can track friends by which songs they remember me by.

I wonder, in part, if that is why I chose to be a Bard in our roleplaying game. I tell stories and sing, as a character. I have created a character that is who I want to be. 

I miss singing with a congregation.

I’ve not sung with a group of people in over a year, and I can feel it in my bones. This, as much as the Lord’s Table, is communion to me. 

And I want to state, our church is beautifully mundane in it’s singing. We’re not going to go on tour, or have someone come record us for our brilliance, but we are a group of people who gathered to sing and worship and praise and have communion together. And I miss that.

Not so much some of the different navigations that I had to attend to. But that, the singing. The worship. The coming together and joining our voices in shared statements of what God is actively doing? 

I miss that so much. 

In my aborted procedure two weeks ago, I was trying to stand the level of pain I was experiencing, and so I started to talk to the women preforming the procedure about the sermon I’d preached a couple days previous. I almost started singing, to keep my mind off the pain radiating down my hips towards my knees and through my core. I rubbed my fingers in circles against my thumbs, and if anyone had been paying attention to the motion, it was in cadence with the songs in my head. 

I’m going to have a different version of the same procedure tomorrow… in an OR, under full anesthesia. It’s expensive (there goes our entire stimulus), and also I don’t look forward to being intubated, because I really really care about my voice, and how I sing, and that I can sing mostly any time I want. 

But I’d also rather not bleed so much each cycle that I have to make all my plans centered around whether that will be a lost day. And I’m ready to not bleed so much that my iron stores are dangerously low. But it’s womens’ health… so it took two years of bleeding like this to figure out how to work towards health, especially since I “look” healthy. (PS, y’all know weight is not an indicator of health, right?)

So I’ll rest, and pray, and sing tonight… and drink a full glass of water before bed, and rise, waiting, not especially ready, but prepared, for what I’m facing tomorrow. 

And tonight, when I sing my children their lullaby from Veggie Tales, (a surprisingly new tradition), I’ll sing it with all the heart I wish I could put into the song that I long to sing with a gathered community. 

But I don’t know how long it will be until it is safe to sing together again. Probably around the time we can share at the Table again. 

StormBreak

The storm breaks over us and washes us downstream. We drift in and out of consciousness, held up by the debris around us, until we make our unsteady way to a new shore. Abraded by the harsh flow of the water and everything in it with us, we are sore and weary, wary of injury and unknown or unidentified cuts and bruises. 

The stars come out, granting just enough light to create layers in the shadows, and we stumble our way further onto uneven ground, up the roots of the bank, and hope for a level path or a break in the tree line. 

Our clothes dry slower than our skin, faster than our hair, weak parts in our clothing give way, and new patches become necessary. But where we will find the fabric for the patch runs to the edge of consciousness while we keep looking for a way into higher ground, in case the flood rises above the crest of this hill. 

Deep breaths now, feel the rush of blood through your heart, your ears, your fingertips. Feel the flow of the thickness that carries your life through your body, that keeps you breathing and moving. 

You are alive. You are alive. You are alive. 

Your heart beats the message of your being in your chest. 

Exist. Exist. Exist. 

Breathe. 

Flow with your blood now, feel the forceful tug of the patterns that have kept you up to this point. 

I don’t know what the future will bring. But I do know that my heart is beating. I know the water falls and washes. 

And I know that God spoke existence into the world over the face of the deep. 

Day cannot exist without the night, light was birthed out of darkness, and we are seeing over and over how we are called into our beautiful selves by the voice that called all of creation into being. 

I listen for the whisper of being in the darkness. The light shines, even the stars layer depth into the night sky. Like the moon reflecting the light of the sun, let us reflect the light of holiness into the world, so that nothing is left unturned, unexamined, unrevealed. 

Let us see it, all of it, how it is. And wash us. And let us flow. 

Five Cumulative Years of Breastfeeding

Today, December 10, 2020, marks five cumulative years of breastfeeding. For five years, I have been feeding another person outside of myself all or part of the nutrients they needed to grow and learn and develop. I’ve spent only two nights away from my children since having them, and the two nights I did spend, over a year ago, I pumped enough so that my milk didn’t stop, and well… it’s continued not stopping for another 13 months.

Roar reading her sisters birth story

I’ve breastfed longer than I went to college. Longer than I’ve lived in any place save Columbus, Georgia. Longer than my current pair of jeans lasted with out getting a hole. 

Longer than any appointment I’ve served. Actually, it’s exactly the amount of time I have served in appointive ministry, so far. So, tomorrow, it will be. 

It’s over half the time I’ve been married. 

The first and second born sharing a story

I’ve come to know my body more deeply and more intimately than I really had imagined. It’s been a little while since I’ve felt the true harsh tug of letdown, but I still can remember the way sometimes it feels like my child is pulling through me all the way down to my toes. If she goes a morning without nursing but on one side, one breast can be two inches larger than the other until evening.

I’ve learned to be more gentle with myself and with my body, watching my body change and shift and adapt to the needs of my two partners in this process. At the same time I’ve learned what lines, boundaries, and parts of agency I chose to put into place. Yes, I will nurse while peeing. No, you cannot rub your fingers across my neck that way.

Grins

It has been a joy to develop this relationship with my second born who can now pause her nursing session, put my nipple on hold, and say, “I’m not done, but I want to tell you something.” Sometimes that’s frustrating, but it helps that I can now have full conversations with the person who is in this partnership with me. At least when she pauses these days I don’t drench her face with overabundant spray. 

I keep wondering, when it will end. Will we drop from three feedings to two, or just to one? Will naps stop? Or will those feedings be the last to go? Will we notice it both at the same time? What will that conversation be like? 

She knows how to say, “no, not this side, this one is empty.” But right now, we switch, and by the time we switch back, the milk has begun to flow again. Sometimes she taps my breast like a mechanic seeing if the right jolt in the right place will get the gears rolling again.

Very early on with rebel

I started this process with five days of stress and gaslighting and then massive engorgement and then my child having a tongue- and lip-tie revision at three and a half weeks. I was in tears curling my toes in pain every time she latched. For a couple weeks there, the entirety of the time she was awake, I was nursing her. 

In her first year I pumped for ten months, five days a week, producing an overabundance of milk and getting steadily more sleep deprived while I devoted sixty hours a week to work. 

When we night weaned and changed that first relationship, and at four and a half months pregnant, my first born weaned and I didn’t know what to expect with the second to come.

Playful sisters

I had a community group that supported me then, and even though I moved away from that town, I know it was partly because of Stacey and Jean that I kept going even when the going was incredibly tough. 

But while the second one was so much easier to latch, it was my body that didn’t recover as well from carrying her. The second born’s journey has been more about my own body, with physical therapy, shingles on my left breast for over a month while she was six months old (before she could get her chicken pox vaccine), and now varying degrees of energy from incredibly heavy periods.

Roar at six months with my shingles bandage still protecting us.

Now, breastfeeding is one of the few things I’m doing right now that makes the most sense, that is the most familiar to me, that provides me the most comfort. I don’t know or have a lot of answers right now about what is going on in the world, with excess grief and excess deaths and excess anger. But I do know that I’ve used my body to create a home when home has changed. And sometimes home is all we’ve had.

Breastfeeding on a beach walk

I’ve breastfeed at all hours of night and day, on packed subway trains, in meetings, at the dinner table, in the bathroom, in my bed, her bed, numerous rooms in multiple houses, the front porch, the mountains, the beach, on hikes, on the side of the road, in hotel lobbies, on boats, in worship, and as worship.

Breastfeeding on the subway in DC wearing my clergy collar

I don’t know how much longer this will last, but I’ve been grateful to have practiced this so far. R&E, thank you.

And Hubs, partner, confidant, supporter, and advocate, thanks for helping make this a priority for the family, for staying up and getting up as nights during night weaning so the milk doesn’t try to put the baby to sleep. Thanks for meals prepped when I didn’t have free hands, and working with flexible sleeping arrangements. Love you.

Sometimes my body is a hiding place.
Latched yoga
Three thumbs up.

Giving Tuesday for Advent Week One

Advent may very well by my favorite season, and this year I know it will be especially hard for me to celebrate in the midst of everything being uncertain and uncomfortable and unknown. So I decided to create a daily liturgy for my family, with short scriptures and prayers that are words that my kids are familiar with. And, in the spirit of we’re all doing hard things, and can’t someone help, I’m sharing them here (and on my instagram).

One of the reasons is that I remember reading some of these scriptures when I was a child, for advent. The very scent of a lit match is a holy moment for me, and I want to create that same space for my children.

So, here is what I am teaching my kids:
Peace that tends to necessary work and cultivates space for flourishing life.
Love that surprises expectations and reconciles with enemies.
Joy that embraces those who sorrow and creates possibility.
Hope that recognizes the current situation and imagines generative futures.

I’m wondering if one of the ways that I can comfort my children is in saying that I am worried, disappointed, and frustrated, too. And that our emotions and feelings and thoughts are all valid and true and important. And that the way through isn’t to cover these things up, but to move through them.

This feels like work that we can actually sink our teeth into.

And I’m working to have the scriptures that I’ve chosen do some of this work. Because the gift of scripture is that anger, frustration, fury, disappointment, sadness, grief, joy, happiness, longing, and fulfillment all exist in this book breathed into being through a complicated past.

Life is complicated now. So it’s helpful to know that complications are not new.

If you want to follow along with our family, here are the readings and prayers for this week. (all scripture translations are from the Common English Bible translation)

Advent Week 1
December 1
Isaiah 2:4 CEB
God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war. (CEB)

God of peace, teach us how to plant peace
in the midst of conflict.
Show us how to grow healing, forgiveness,
and love in the world around us. Amen.

December 2
Jeremiah 33:15-16 CEB
In those days and at that time,
I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line,
who will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days, Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
And this is what he will be called:
The Lord Is Our Righteousness. (CEB)

God of direction, help us learn when we are wrong.
Point us towards the difference
between winning and living in justice. Amen.

December 3
Psalm 25:4-5 CEB
Make your ways known to me, Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth—teach it to me—
because you are the God who saves me.
I put my hope in you all day long. (CEB)

God of truth, guide us towards you in all that we do.
Save us from the lies that work so hard
to keep us from you and your love.
We want to learn, God, teach us. Amen.

December 4
Psalm 80:4-5 CEB
Lord God of heavenly forces,
how long will you fume against your people’s prayer?
You’ve fed them bread made of tears;
you’ve given them tears to drink three times over! (CEB)

God of comfort, you are with us when we are sad.
Help us feel you in the midst of our tears. Amen.

December 5
Psalm 80:6-7 CEB
You’ve put us at odds with our neighbors;
our enemies make fun of us.
Restore us, God of heavenly forces!
Make your face shine so that we can be saved! (CEB)

God of healing, restore us when we are broken,
shield us when others laugh at us,
and help us see ways you are working
to mend the world. Amen.

I’ll post the next one on saturday.