More than being present

I have a chalkboard in my kitchen. It’s one of those Pinteresty decorating ideas that I totally fell for, because I love words, and more importantly, I have a kindergartener’s obsession with chalk. IMG_20131016_221806_390

Earlier this summer, I wrote a verse from 1 Thessalonians on the board. In a way, I did it as a sort of challenge to myself. The verse read “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances.” It seemed like the formula for living present and aware. I figured the timing was about right, because I was already feeling all sorts of pregnant crazytown and it would be good to see a reminder about resetting my focus when things went haywire.

The idea of being present has become a little bit of a catchphrase. It’s all over those inspirational wall sayings on Facebook. It’s in the quarterly newsletter from my local healthcare provider. It was even a story in my REALSIMPLE magazine this month – “Ten ways to be present NOW.”

Don’t get me wrong. Being present is really important. But should it be the end stop? I guess I don’t want to show up to something just to be there. I want to be transformed in my awareness.

If I’m present in my happiness, I want to filter that happiness into some sort of creative act later. If I’m sad, I want to remember that other people get sad too so I don’t feel so alone. If I’m angry, I want to figure out how to curb it without damaging anyone or anything around me.

All the snowboarders and thrill seekers in the world might disagree with me, but I think there’s more to experience than just the actual experience. What if I experienced to relate, to encourage, to emote, to praise? What if I took those things back into the community I lived in, and put them to work?

When I whipped out the best cursive I could muster and scrawled down that bible verse, I told myself I was ready. I was going to do more than just be present when the babies came. I was going to be transformed by it.  I was going to search out the GOOD in the moment, trace it back to its Creator, and then give thanks for it.  

Now let me be honest. It’s all fine to lay out my good intentions, but it’d be another thing entirely if I let you think I’d learned how to be Mother Theresa overnight because of a dusty bible verse on a chalkboard.

Being “joyful always” is not my natural first choice emotion when I’m scrubbing yellow mustard poop out of the outfit one of the girls was supposed to wear. “Praying continually” doesn’t happen when I’m blind with exhaustion. And “giving thanks in all circumstances” was the last thing on my mind when the doctor called to tell me Lucia failed her newborn hearing test and we needed to get her re-screened right away.

But I’m trying. And in the middle of it all, sometimes, a tiny part of me changes.

***

Yesterday the girls turned three months old. And you know how sometimes, you look at mile markers and think, where did the time go?

I know exactly where it’s gone.

I feel every single one of these three months. Nothing has been a blur. (Well, okay. Maybe the diaper bill.) There have been moments of deep and crazy love, and moments of completely disheveled how-am-I-going-to-handle-this insanity.

I feel these months in my feet the way I did when I worked at a bridal shop that didn’t allow anyone to wear shoes in the store. I feel them in my newly re-muscled arms. In my ravenous appetite and never ending water bottle refills. I feel them in my conversations, which constantly tread water around the topic of babies. I feel them in quickly whispered prayers that I breathe over the girls when I lay them down to sleep.  I feel everything.

The past three months have been an exercise in dealing with all this feeling. But perhaps the hardest thing for me to acknowledge in the middle of all this change and miniscule amounts of transformation is this:

I feel a lot better when I have help

Whether I ask for or simply accept it, help makes everything less overwhelming. Help makes the present something I can enjoy, instead of something I rush through so that I can get everyone to bed.

Ellis has a new phrase lately. “I do it myseff, mama.” Pretty standard among toddlers, but the first time she said it, I had to try not to laugh out loud. Of course she couldn’t put her hair in a ponytail by herself, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to try.

And fail.

And then holler, hot-faced and cranky, for help.

I laugh, because I’m the adult version of my daughter. I maybe have a teensy little problem with being independent, self-sufficient, and a measure too stubborn for my own good.

But maybe, just maybe, I’m learning to get over doing everything “myseff” so that I can teach my daughter to do the same. I’m learning that over-independence sometimes ruins any chance of being transformationally present. I’m learning to lean, to accept, to ask so that I really can practice what it means to be joyful always.

Pray continually.

Give thanks in all circumstances.

 

PS- three month pictures forthcoming.

 

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Week 25 – Gestational Diabetes

I know, I know! I’m jumping ahead. But this week’s events are on my mind, and since so many of you have been kind in praying and asking how things went with the test, I wanted to share the results. Thank you for your overwhelming care and for being in touch! I promise I’ll get back to posting the events from weeks 19 and 20 shortly. We should be caught up soon!

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NeedlesIt is a Saturday morning, and the digital clock display has been reading 4:47, 4:54, 5:02, 5:09 ever since I got up to make a bathroom run. I finally gave up and got out of bed. Here’s my consolation: I am hungry, and I can eat a bowl of cereal without any little worried sensors firing in my brain. Why? Because yesterday, after the three hour intensive monitoring session, I tested negative for gestational diabetes.

Last week, my doctor ordered me a lab draw for the routine 1 hour test because I had a concern about my blood sugar. Not surprisingly, I tested positive. Not grossly so – the cutoff point for re-testing was 140, and I came in at 146. (A score of 200 means you’re automatically diabetic. Anything below 140 and you’re off to your favorite Italian joint for rigatoni.)

So, I waited in limbo land this week so that I could do the intensive 3 hour test and either confirm or deny the potential diagnosis. It wasn’t pleasant. I had everything I could do not to picture a three month span of vegetables (which I don’t appreciate as much being pregnant) and meat (which I’m far too lazy to cook for every meal.)

Here’s how I figured this would all go down. I’d get there, do a blood draw, down the sugar poison, and then spend three hours waiting before they drew my blood again. The kind nurse would tell me, sure honey, go ahead and drink that coffee of yours, it won’t make a difference. And some sort of private room would magically open up so I could plug in my laptop, get some work done, and then do one more blood draw that would pronounce me free and clear.

Not quite. And just in case you didn’t know, I don’t do well with needles. (A historical series of shots in 10th grade got me so worked up that I passed out and went into convulsions.) So when the technician told me she’d be doing four blood draws that morning, every hour on the hour, I gulped. Put on my brave face. And politely asked I could at least drink my travel mug of coffee.

The answer was no. No food, no drink, no leaving the hospital. Okaaaaaaaay. I adjusted my expectations, and found a seat in the cafeteria close to an outlet. The first hour flew by. Blood draw, check. And then came the second hour. The world was decidedly less rosy. My blood sugar levels were dropping fast and I started to feel woozy. Time for the next draw. And you know what? It hurt. A lot.

My emotions flared. So if you saw me in the waiting room yesterday, I was the girl in the corner, crying into a wad of toilet paper because I couldn’t for the life of me find a Kleenex box. It wouldn’t stop. At one point, I even asked myself why I was crying, and then commenced crying even harder. I hated the cackling daytime television hosts laughing from the corner. I hated thinking about anything that would compromise the safety of my babies. I hated vinyl covered chairs. I hated the fact that I was anxious, hungry, and thirsty, and could do nothing about any single of them.

Thankfully, the final hour went fast. The tech took my blood one more time and told me to call back in three hours for the results. Then she stopped, looked me in the eyes, and asked me if I was okay. I looked back at her, sighed, and said no. The tears started stinging my eyes again. And then she asked me the kindest question known to man.

Would you like a slice of homemade lemon bread and something to drink?

I nodded. There was nothing I needed more, at that moment, than a little bit of care. She came back and handed me a small plate. The lemon bread was fresh. Warm. Perfectly sugar crusted and bright. It was the best thing I’d eaten in days.

***

As I collected my things and headed out across the snow-filled parking lot, it dawned on me that I didn’t even think of saying no to the nurse’s offer. I knew I needed help. And in the coming months, I was going to need a lot more of it, if only I could remember to be humble enough to be honest.

Outside the window, the blue-gray sky has grown light enough to see the hazy outlines of the trees. It is  6:07, and I’ve had first breakfast (yes, I eat a like a hobbit these days) and strong cup of coffee. And what I will carry into this day is a widening horizon of awareness. I will ask for help when I need it. Better yet, I will look for those I can return the favor to. Because no matter what we’re carrying, we all need a little extra kindness.

As for second breakfast? Well, need you ask? We’re having pancakes.