Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Expectations



This morning I asked my husband to write me a job description.  I did.  Honestly - after 10 years of marriage and 8 years of my current job, which is a stay at home mother, I needed a job description.  His reaction ... "That's a bit formal isn't it?"  I answered with a emphatic "nope, I just want to know what you want me to do, what you expect me to do.  I need a guide."

Now before you think I'm messing with you, I want you to know that when I'm in a good space, my philosophy is about compromise and love.  Our family is 'normal', I am no doormat who desires to be dominated by her husband. I am a woman who wants to work hard for her family to honour God.  It's not actually as complex a subject as what we make out it is. The aim at our address is for submission to be mutual, as well as love and compromise.  Isn't that what refines 'relationship'?

Earlier in the year I spoke about how "unmet, unrealistic expectations lead to resentment and disrespect" .  So my aim was to avoid unmet expectations.  Clearly I wouldn't just spring this on my husband if it weren't for a previous conversation.  After a term of significant time invested in organising church things, my husband needed to remind me that I don't work for church, I work for our family.  He gently reminded me that our commitment to our family was for me to stay home, if I'm busy working for the church on projects then family can, at times, get the dreggs of me.  I knew I was going through a season of projects, but they were good things.  I guess sometimes it's easy to say yes to organising things that are good, and forgetting that our ministry begins at home.

Is this all worthy of a job description?  Well, kind of.  After our discussion I realised that I have never heard from him what he wants me to take care of at home.  I expected him to do the lawns, because my father did that at home.  When he was growing up, his mother did the lawns.  So discussion is needed.  I am excited to know what he writes.  I can't wait to see what roles he gives me.  No doubt challenges await, as do some conversations and compromise.  Yet in a sense giving him the space to say what he expects feels very liberating for me.  He is leading me, and I love it.

I don't know how your household works or doesn't work.  I just wonder if many of us haven't even thought about asking what the other wants. Just wanted to share that in case it got you thinking about your own relationships and what needs to be communicated at your address.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

During pregnancy - God answered my prayers with a 'No'


What's our cat's middle name?  This may seem a bit of a tangent, but to me it seems a great place to start to tell a story. This is a story I have been putting off telling for years.  I love our boys, it's not a given, but it is pretty normal to love your children.  Our eldest is 8 years old, and youngest is soon to be 6. My youngest asked me recently what our cat, Cocoa's, middle name was.  He was writing all our initials out on a piece of paper and of course Cocoa, didn't have a middle initial, it was news to me that she had a surname, but there you go.  

This caused a moment of overwhelming joy for me, looking at these loud, grubby, imaginative, adventurous boys. For many people pregnancy isn't easy.  I've alluded to my story before here.  What I have failed to do was share the story personally.  Make yourself comfortable, this may take a while.

Both of our children were planned, the second was a little more planned than the first.  During both pregnancies I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, my husband suffered as well, it was a long hard road for both of us.  It is never good for a man to feel helpless. Never. The first pregnancy we were not at all prepared for the horror of the months that followed. We were ignorant of what we were facing, having no idea we were facing a debilitating illness, which was caused by the little life inside me.

In case you haven't come across it before, you may be asking 'What is hyperemesis gravidarum (or HG)?' Well for me it was a shocking, emotionally exhausting and physically gruelling part of pregnancy. For a more graphic description of HG click here.  

Before I get into it too much I need to say; I feel very, very aware that for some people even to be pregnant is a gift from God, long hours prayed for and  a gratitude can not be measured.  I am also aware that some would wish to endure HG if only to be pregnant  This is probably the reason I don't like to talk about it too much.  I have some dear friends who have been down the road of infertility treatment, so I've had a glimpse through walking with them of the heartache. However we all have a story to tell and mine doesn't diminish anyone else's. If by telling my story, someone, just one person, is encouraged or pointed in the right direction for support, I will be one happy woman. The other point of telling my story is this; God is good, trustworthy and right all the time, even when we don't agree, 'feel it' or trust him, he is still trustworthy.  He is tender towards our pain and grief.  He doesn't enjoy our pain, he cries with us.

HG is not just morning sickness, it is "generally described as unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids."  That actually doesn't sound that bad when you read it on a page.  But at the time I could not raise my head from my spew-bowl and tell you it truly was bad.  During both pregnancies I was hospitalised   First pregnancy was week 11, I still can't believe that out of ignorance I endured 5 weeks of not being able to eat or drink much at all.  I hate to be graphic, but the best way I can get across how my body was shutting down, is to let you know my only bathroom visit for a 24 hour period was around 4 in the afternoon.  Clearly I was dehydrated, 3+ ketones present (for you medical people out there).  I had no idea, I thought I was just suffering from morning sicknss, and loads of women get that, so I would just have to deal with it.  I started my pregnancy at 57 kgs (126 lbs), I ended up at 50 kgs (110 lbs) at week 12 of the pregnancy.  

Sound fun?  No, and I was not a bad case of HG!  Some women are sick the entire duration of their pregnancy, I was fortunate, I was only sick until week 20.  Some women loose their lives to this illness, some women have to choose their own life over termination. Thank you Lord I was never in this position.  I would not dear to judge because I did not walk in those woman's shoes.  

I did however come out the other side of pregnancy with some psychological debris still embedded. During the many hours of lying in bed not being able to lift my head off the pillow or I would vomit up bile, in a constant state of nausea, I would, at times be crying my eyes out, feeling like I wanted to die. During one of these moments of desperation I prayed "God, please let me miscarry, I just can't do this any more". 

He answered with a no. 

To this very day, I am so grateful, as I look at my boy now, I am glad God says 'no' to us.  Yet part of me still feels guilty for asking him. I know in Gods tenderness he understood the motivation for my request, he knew my heart.  My boy is so handsome, smart, witty, and tender.  It took a lot to get him from conception into this world. God knew I would survive it, and so would my little boy.

My second pregnancy was a challenge in different ways.  I knew what I was in for and it was a big decision to go through it all again. I remember early on in the pregnancy, lying on the floor in our lounge head over a ice-cream container (I purposely opted to use something I didn't like so I wouldn't be put off anything in the future - didn't really like ice-cream - too cold), so there I was head over an ice-cream container, on the floor of the lounge with my husband tenderly rubbing my back.  I said to him "What was I thinking?  What made me think I could do this again?" He kept rubbing my back as I vomited up nothing but bile again, once again he felt helpless.  We made the decision to have another child together but he left it up to me to make the final call since I was the one who would suffer the most. I thought I could do it. 

Thankfully I was able to link in with an amazing website that informed me, and supported me to get help. It was a battle to get my Doctor to take me seriously (don't even get me started), but thankfully a nurse who was taking my bloods asked a few questions and took a urine sample and found out how ill I was, then finally the doctor took notice.  I was hospitalised at week 5 + 5 days.  

I was living in the UK at the time of the second pregnancy and not exactly excited to visit a hospital in the UK with MRSA at epidemic proportions as they were. But I would not go through those weeks of isolation again with no medication to help. I will never forget being in the ER, curtain closed on my cubicle listening (being nosey) to the talk around the ER and having a nurse with a loud voice read my chart and call out to another nurse down the hall "This one's 5 weeks + 5 days, she's got a long way to go"  and thinking, thank you so very much for the reminder!  It was 6 years ago, and I can laugh now, but at the time I wanted to kick her. Funny that, since I now teach my boys to use words not feet or fists. 

I gladly left the hospital rehydrated, with three different types of medicine, and a few stories to tell, ready to face the rest of the pregnancy.  God provided support through family and friends who came to care for my eldest son while I was laid up in bed.  God also blessed me with a husband who loved me in a self sacrificing way, he was my greatest support and I relied on him 100%. At this time of my life my relationship with God was rather temperamental, on my part. I called on him when I needed him, but when life was ok, I didn't need God, so 'forgot' to seek him. Thankfully life is different now, my husband is still my help and support but my Lord and Saviour is my greatest support. Although I still need to remind myself to stay reliant on Him. It's so easy for me to slip into 'capable woman' mode.

So here we are a 2 child family and staying that way, except for a cat called Cocoa ... middle name yet to be decided, here are some suggested options; trash can, plum tree, crack up, sumo wrestler, (caution: it's gets more boyish from here), jelly bottom, smelly boogers, elephant farts, penguin poo, caterpillar vomit, ... all such pretty names for a girl cat. So hard to decide.  One thing was clear when these names were being suggested  laughter was filling the whole house, you know the kind of laughter, the wet your pants giggling that is infectious and uncontrollable. 

That laughter reminds me again that these two boys are worth every moment I endured. 
And that is my pregnancy story.


Sunday, 7 October 2012

What's the Point?




I was reading through Ecclesiastes the other day and I realised that apart from it containing the "A Time for Everything" portion of scripture, I knew nothing about Ecclesiastes.  The main reason for knowing "A Time for Everything" is partly due to the 'Turn Turn Turn' song sung by The Byrds that featured on the Forest Gump soundtrack.  I sound so educated, don’t I!

Ecclesiastes was one of those books I just couldn’t stop reading.  From one chapter to the next I was amazed, jaw droppingly amazed.  At times I found myself laughing. I realise that laughing through some of Ecclesiastes is quite inappropriate  of me, and somewhat simplistic but I need to point out I never have professed to being a theologian! I loved Ecclesiastes. It amused and challenged me with its brutal honesty. 

I used to work in Mental Health, and those who have had the pleasure of working alongside folks that suffer from a mental illness will tell you, you have never worked with a more open, honest bunch of people. They know their weaknesses so they don't pretend - they don't waste their time with masks.  What you see is what you get.  I get the picture that Solomon is having a moment of total personal honesty and it seems like he had an epiphany. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?  He saw his life for what it was. All he had; knowledge, wisdom, wealth and fulfilling of his lusts and desires, it was all worthless, pointless and vanity.  You could sum up the 12 chapters of Ecclesiastes in the same vein, "What's the point of this life?  What?  You’re born, you work hard, you die, you're forgotten, so what's the point?" (my paraphrasing)

“Nothing makes sense! Everything is nonsense.  I have seen it all - nothing makes sense!” (CEV)  or “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (ESV).  Ecclesiastes 1:2 The Hebrew word used in this text is hebel which means; emptiness or vanity, something transitory and unsatisfactory.

Why would Solomon think of his life as empty, unsatisfactory or a waste?  He had built the temple, only dreamed about by his father David and it was magnificent.  What did he discover when he was able to look back upon his life and see it clearly for what it was?

The truth that Solomon learned, is so very important for us to hear in a world where we are feed messages of get, get, get. Work, work, work. Play, play, play.  I encourage you to read through the whole 12 chapters. It won’t take you long. It’s riveting and drama all the way. 

King Solomon lived his life achieving and enjoying. He was blessed by God with wisdom. He had riches; 25 ton of gold a year (2 Chronicles 9:13-28). He had girls, more than a man can handle! In 1 Kings 11.3 we are told he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (I’m guessing remembering anniversaries wasn’t required).  King Solomon had all we strive to attain in our lives:  A nice house, a good job with a great salary, a spouse and family, fantastic clothes, great accessories.  Solomon had the lot, he had worked hard and been blessed and in the end he declares “So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labour under the sun.  For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.”  2:17-18.

How’s that for full on frankness.  But he doesn’t stop there “All things are wearisome, more than one can say.  The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear it’s fill of hearing..... There is no remembrance of men of old and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.” 1: 8, 11.

Is this a depressed old King at the end of his life, looking back on a life full of opportunity and all that the world calls success, but yet a life riddled with regrets? No this is called Perspective. That’s what this is. Solomon has perspective.  What’s the point?  The point, the only point is “fear God and keep His commands”. Many of us focus on things that will lead us to regrets later in life, or even in a couple of minutes time. I’m feeling this lesson from Solomon hitting home. Perspective is a hard lesson to learn, as we are prone to selfishness and self centeredness. If only we knew the glory of God, we would fear him. To be in awe of God, reverent, humble awe of God, that is the ultimate perspective.

 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14  It took a whole lifetime of greatness, self-indulgence, wisdom, knowledge, wealth and achievement for Solomon to come to the end and say it was “chasing after the wind”, worthless, pointless, vanity.  If only we could learn the lesson now, before too many regrets are made, before achievement gets put before relationships, before indulgence destroys the conscience, before wealth becomes our idol.  If only … if only we could see that the point is to fear God and keep His commands.