Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

There are less than two months left until my due date. Which isn’t to say much of when this baby will decide to come, but it is a fixed point on the calendar, a real and true day that will really and truly exist regardless of my own readiness. It’s also a date that every person - the man behind me in line at Walmart, the lady at church I’ve never met before, strangers on the internet - seem to be obsessed with knowing. So there’s that.

This morning on my drive to work I wondered if anyone has ever felt ready for motherhood. I know there are plenty of women who have dreamed of motherhood since they were little girls being mothered themselves, but I wonder if anyone has ever stood on the precipice of this moment in their lives and felt wholly ready. Fearless. Prepared.

At the same time I wonder if anyone has ever felt as un-ready for motherhood as I do. I’ve grown up with people around me telling me I am an “old soul” but I’ve always felt young, small, insignificant against the largeness of the world. This can be a gift at times - I’ve never felt like I had life all figured out which has made it easier to learn from others and grow - but it also makes these times of transition so tricky.

I feel my own lack of experience and wisdom. I struggle to navigate the “adult” world of healthcare and car insurance and cooking for myself. I am easily overwhelmed by all I don’t know how to do yet, coupled with the realization that a time is fast approaching when it will become even more difficult to learn. Maybe it would be different if I was 25 or 30 or 35, but here I am with my only 22 years of limited experience and less than two months before I am responsible for the life of a fully dependent human being.

I feel overwhelmed by the way time is moving with no regard for my feelings. The days keep flipping by on the calendar. My stomach keeps getting rounder and rounder, somehow managing to defy gravity even though I only just entered the third trimester. The to-do list keeps multiplying, the unfinished tasks looming over my head like ghosts.

This past week I read stories in Luke of the disciples dropping everything and following Jesus, and I longed for the kind of faith it would take to do something like that. Easy faith has never been my gift even though I have longed for it. Instead of a person of courage and brave faith, I’m a habitual second-guesser more prone to paralyzed indecision than confident action.

I keep hoping for the kind of faith it will take to step forward into motherhood - faith that trusts Jesus enough to be bold and confident and courageous. But I don’t feel those things yet, and maybe I never will. Even though I will keep praying for that kind of easy faith because I do think it is a gift to be desired, an author wrote, “Sometimes faith precedes the step. Sometimes it comes after.” and reading that let me breathe a little easier because maybe I don’t have to have everything sorted out before my due date. Maybe it is enough to take the step trusting that the Lord will give me enough of whatever I need for that day.

Maybe it isn’t motherhood for you but something else - a budding relationship, a business idea, a college decision. Maybe you feel excited and overwhelmed at the same time, and maybe you feel guilty and overwhelmed because you don’t feel any of the excitement you think you should. Maybe we don’t have to have everything figured out or feel 100% confident about our decision before we step into it. Maybe we can set our pros and cons list down, stop berating ourselves for not feeling a particular way, and trust that the Lord will give us enough bread - enough faith - for this day, and the next, and the next.

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A Redemption of Grief

Originally published by Fathom Magazine

I used to call myself a morning person. The feeling of peeling back the covers in the early hours and stepping into a new day thrilled me. 

I’m not sure what I am now, but I’m often awake in the middle of the night—my body either unable or unwilling to sleep through a full night. When I wake, the morning feels harsh, like a bright fluorescent light shining into my eyes. Pain washes over me before my feet have even touched the ground, and grief waits for me in the corner, an unwelcome and intrusive guest who will long overstay his welcome.

When I open my Bible to read, grief stands in front of me. I try to focus on the words, try to take in the passage, but I am distracted. The letters pool on the page.

In my morning fog, I put the water on to boil and look out at the trees in our backyard. A dogwood blooms pink and white amidst the grays and browns of early spring. This specific tree had a number of branches grafted into it so that it flowered the colorful blend every spring. When I see it, I think of my family—a family grafted together with my aunt and uncle’s family. Growing up, my cousins were more like siblings, and their house was as much a home to me as my own. My life grew out of the trunk of both my family and theirs.

In December 2016, my aunt was diagnosed with cancer. Less than a year later, in 2017, we buried her body. It was a few days before Christmas. But the cancer had taken over almost every organ. Grief became a regular visitor in each of our lives. 

My uncle, having just celebrated his twenty-fourth anniversary less than a week before my aunt died, slept in an empty bed for two and a half months. He talked about her, about how he couldn’t sleep, about how much he missed her.

Then, less than three months after my aunt’s death, my mom texted me something about chest pains and come quickly and where is your cousin Emily? When we arrived at the hospital, my uncle was already gone. “A heart attack,” the doctor said, “We did everything we could but weren’t able to save him.”

As the water on the stove boils, these are the memories that flood my mind. I look out at the tree in my yard, its colorful pink and white blossoms defying the lingering winter, and I wonder if my family’s tree will ever stand tall again or if we have been hacked away and left to rot. 

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This Psalm is a Sword

This past week I started reading a memoir about a theologian’s life and journey in faith. Early on in the book, the author tells the story about the last night he saw his son before his son committed suicide. Before his son left for an evening with his girlfriend, he had said “Goodbye,” instead of his usual “Goodnight.” The author explains in that moment, he remembered the story of Abraham Lincoln telling his bodyguard “Goodbye” on the evening before his assassination. He writes of wondering in that moment, “Why did I say “good-bye” to Scott instead of “good night”? The foreboding didn’t make sense.” The next morning he found his son dead in his bedroom.

This past weekend my husband and I had the honor of celebrating the marriage of our dear friends as best man and bridesmaid. The evening before the wedding, I was worn out, mildly sleep-deprived, and we still had so much to do. My husband and I decided he would go to the venue and help finish decorating with the others, and I would stay home to finish gluing popsicle sticks to the wedding programs.

Before he left, he said, “Let me give you one last kiss,” and kissed me. In that moment, like the author’s flitting memory of Abraham Lincoln, I remembered the story in the memoir and watched my husband walk out to the car sure that this was the foreboding moment I would remember for the rest of my life. I was sure he would drive away and die in a car accident or have a brain aneurysm or a ladder would fall on him in just the wrong way.

The fear that this was the last conversation I would share with my husband overwhelmed me and I ran out to the car and told him I was coming with him. I blurted out something about wanting to help and how a bridesmaid should be with the bride and how I could always stay up to glue the programs when we got back home. I didn’t tell him about the fear, the nauseating feeling I had that something terrible would happen.

These days I find myself thinking about death more than I’d like to admit. The thoughts sneak into my mind like a skilled thief, stealing joy and replacing it with fear in one fluid motion. I find myself swirling through the same self-defeating cycle of fearing the future and then doing whatever I can to try to gain some semblance of control. I hear my husband say “Let me give you one last kiss” and I climb into the car next to him because I am afraid he will die if I don’t. I hold everything so tightly my knuckles bleed and I call it protection.

Later, when the fear has subsided and I am able to process my thoughts and actions, I know, deeply know, that I cannot control what happens to the people I love. I cannot protect my husband, my parents, my brothers, my cousins, my friends. No amount of being with them whenever I feel afraid will keep them from death. In these moments, rather than the outspoken megaphone of panic, the quiet voice of helplessness creeps in. I become overwhelmed with the realization that I cannot protect the people I love. Helplessness seems to keep company with me until the next wave of panic hits and the cycle repeats itself again and again and again.

I had nearly resolved to this way of living - panic and fear, helplessness and overwhelm - until I listened to a friend read Psalm 23. Whenever I hear a passage of scripture like Psalm 23, it is easy for me to slip into the familiarity of it, anticipating the next words rather than listening to them. This time, for whatever reason, the passage sounded new as if I had never heard the truth of it so clearly before. It became louder than my fear and my helplessness. The words sounded good and sweet and true, and I rested in them.

In that moment, listening to my friend read the familiar psalm, rest and peace was an easy gift. It is not always so easy, friend. I would be lying if I told you that Psalm 23 calmed all my fears and feelings of helplessness and I haven’t faced a single struggle since then. The truth is that listening to Psalm 23 was like being handed a sword, a generous gift of truth when I needed it, but heavy and awkward in my hands when I learned I had to use it.

With truth in my hands, I do not fear my fear. I do not feel helpless against my helplessness. But I still have to do the hard work of telling myself the truth when it feels so much easier to listen to liars. The liars of fear and helplessness tell me I can only depend on myself to protect the people I love, that God does not care about the deaths of my family members, that He will let the people I love die to teach me a lesson because he is cruel and angry. The truth is that the Lord is good and a sure foundation, his faithful love pursues me, I will fear no evil, He comforts me, He is with me.

When fear and helplessness show up at my door, I look them in the eyes and I tell them what I know to be true even as I am learning to believe it myself. I am ready for them, sword in hand. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need.”

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