Reminding Each Other to Breathe

I’ve picked up coloring again. Soon I may be able to color as an activity with my daughter, but for now, she wants to scribble using the exact writing instrument that I am using, regardless of how many she has at her disposal, and so I wait until she is down for her nap before I pull out my colors. Coloring as a meditative practice has become common for folks in my social circle. I find coloring helpful for stilling my mind as I focus intently on one small section of the page I am on.

I get still even when the house isn’t. My mind doesn’t fiddle with each individual thought that would usually distract me. I focus on the color and the shading and the way that the green blends into the blue. I breathe.

I’m not always as present as I would like to be. I get distracted during the day after the seventh time that I have to remind my daughter that people are not for hitting. I focus more on the bright red bite mark I earned from a tantrum than the joy I saw as she walked out the door to go to the library with her daddy.

I need to breathe but it can be hard to focus on breathing when I am tending to the care of a little one. My circle of influence has shrunk considerably since staying home, but now the stakes are much higher. I’m caring for a person who depends on me while still constantly declaring her own agency.

Sometimes we need to remind each other to breathe.

Waiting

The busyness of Christmas is over. The season of Advent has come and gone, and the new year has begun. Some cultures have yet to celebrate Christmas, they will be gathering together for Three Kings Day, Epiphany, on January 6th. But for most of the people I know, we are winding down on the holiday season, getting ready to pack up the decorations, returning to the regular routine of work and play. For pastors, we are already looking forward to Lent (or at least know that we should be… even if we are adamantly denying it’s coming).

So with all this closure you would think that the waiting was over. We are in a holding pattern, not yet making plans for anything of much import.

For me, the waiting has just begun. I’m now three months pregnant. Which means that for the next six months, I have quite a bit of waiting to do. I am waiting to see what sex our child will be, I am waiting to see his or her face on the ultrasound screen, I am waiting to see whether the baby sticks with the due date, or has us guessing. I am waiting to meet this baby.

This waiting will have preparations and signals: registry lists, appointments and check-ups, showers, thank you notes, new clothes, and the physical reminder of a coming change through a changing body. As my body changes, I will change routines, expectations, and my bedtime, so that I will have enough energy for work, for relationships, and for my body to do its miraculous knitting together of a new life.

This is not the only change happening in our family, my husband is hoping to be ordained this year, and we are looking to celebrating that as well. But I get the feeling that the new baby coming will quickly turn our attention to a new life.

Many times of waiting do not have a tangible marker of the change to come. However, growing a new life creates a myriad of changes in the mother’s body, and changes the relationship of those who are preparing to raise a child. I already do not fit in to most of my pants from before I was pregnant. I will have to go buy a few new things even before I start to really look pregnant.

As I sit in the midst of this waiting, I anticipate that not everything will go the way that I plan. I don’t know what different things I will need to be ready for, but I look forward to finding out what they are, and how I figure out how to handle them. I am looking forward to this new season in my life, but God only knows what it will look like once it arrives.

Expectation

This is my sermon from this past Sunday. I enjoyed sharing with my congregation both the Gospel and the good news. 

Sermon Text: Luke 1:26-55

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-47

Mary exclaims the words of the Magnificat and celebrates her own blessings but she does not stop there; she also is given a prophetic voice and speaks of the radical changes in God’s Kingdom: of the hungry being fed, the  humble being exalted, the arrogant and rich scattered, and rulers being brought down from their thrones.

Her pregnancy as a young, unmarried woman could easily have been a place of shame and despair but instead, she realizes that she is bearing a child who is holy.  She is a young woman in First Century Israel, but she is well versed in the teachings of her Jewish religion. She knows the story of the prophets, and the promise of return from exile and delivery from oppression.

See, when Mary showed up on Elizabeth’s threshold, it wasn’t like she had sent a letter about the angel Gabriel appearing to her. Elizabeth had no reason to suspect that Mary was pregnant at all, let alone with the Messiah.

For six months Elizabeth had suffered as an old woman from pregnancy sickness and nausea, felt her belly grow and her feet swell, but, a few months into her pregnancy, she hadn’t felt the baby move. I wonder if she was fearing a stillbirth. She couldn’t go get an ultrasound, she didn’t have any other proof that the baby inside was healthy and so had been hoping against hope that this child she was bearing would be born healthy and whole.

When Mary called out to Elizabeth, John leaped inside her womb. Finally, her baby had quickened and was there, present and healthy. Elizabeth knew that something special was going on with Mary as well. There was something new and different with her little cousin.

Indeed, Mary was pregnant, and I would have loved to hear that conversation between the two of them, Elizabeth telling how Zechariah came home unable to speak, but he still wrote to Elizabeth an account of what had happened to him. That this child she would bear was to be named John, and that he would be a prophet, set aside for holy work, and prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.

And then there was the story Mary had to tell, about the angel Gabriel appearing to her, and how she indeed was to bear a child named Jesus, and that he would be the Son of the Most High, the Son of God.

These are both two very big stories, and as we witness them, hear the promise re-told, we are invited to participate in the stories ourselves.

See, we may not be bearing any Sons of God anytime soon, but we do bear the image and likeness of Christ. We are called to bear the image of God’s Son in the world, to share the Living Word with the people around us, to deliver the message of salvation, hope, peace, and the coming of the Kingdom of God with those around us.

And y’all, I have a sign of hope I would like to share with you.

We’ve been waiting, we’ve been praying, and finally John and I are going to have a baby. We are expecting our first child in July. We are ecstatic. and our family is thrilled as well.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for God has done great things for me, and holy is God’s name.

Now, I’m not bearing the baby Jesus in my womb, but I have been tasked with the privilege of bearing another life into the world.

In a way, this is what we are all called to do. We are called to bear the life of Jesus into the world. We bear the Word of God within us, and we are called to deliver it to the world.

May our hearts be filled with joy in the same way that both Elizabeth and Mary’s were. And may we be led to share this glorious news with everyone around us, in the same way that new parents cannot wait to tell the world that they are having a child.

Fiery Red

The colors of a sunset: fiery red, blazing orange, and encroaching magnificent purple.
Whenever I am outside for a few days, I always promise myself that I will notice the sunsets more when I get back home. The blazing colors and brilliant brushstrokes of the colors the sun paints as it descends through the sky always make me want to point them out to those around me.
Are you seeing this? Did you catch that? Can you believe it?
But then I go home, and the most that I notice is the room I was in got dark, and I have to turn on the lights. How often do I miss something beautiful because I’m preoccupied with my own thing? It’s not as if I have near the creativity of the setting sun, and the master painter. It’s more like I know it exists, and yet haven’t bothered to see it, to experience it, to stand in breathtaking awe of the magnificent work of God.
I’m not just talking sunsets here.
When do I miss the mastery of God because I was too busy with my own thing? When did I get carried away in doing something, distracting myself for another fifteen minutes, so that I missed the work going on around me?
God, make me more observant of your creativity. Help me tune in to your amazing work, so I can rejoice in it with you. Remind me that I am dust, intelligent, creative dust, and that you want so much more for me than dull mundane do-overs.
Craft me, shape me, use your brush to fine tune the tiniest parts of me. Use my scars to help me see your glorious work in the world. Your love is a gift, and I want to soak it in. And remind me that your sunsets are not an obligation, but a gift. A glorious, magnificent, creatively abundant gift.