Posts filed under ‘Christianity’
To say that I was not prepared for Polly’s diagnosis is putting it lightly.
The first few days after we knew the test results were positive, I was dehydrated and shattered and shocked. It was not really a shock but more like continual zaps.
Each day was like a labor contraction. I fell asleep thinking that I absolutely could not bear the next day. But the next day came, like all labor contractions do. Many moms have said, and I agree, that the anticipation of a contraction during labor is almost worse than the actual contraction. That is why the rests in between are unbearable.
The only thing I could say over and over after Polly’s diagnosis was, “I don’t want this.” I could not say that I did not want her. Well, not out loud anyway. I was a missionary for heavens sake. But I didn’t want her. I had horrible thoughts. Thoughts that a mother assumes she is unable to have. “Maybe she won’t wake up today. Maybe I will get my life back.” I’m a Christian. I am not supposed to believe in luck. I felt like the most unlucky woman in the world.
A time in life that is supposed to be a hallmark of great happiness, lay deflated in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t paralyzed with grief, I was deadened. I was living in a different, fuzzy world. I tried to put on a brave face like a layer of make-up every time I left my room.
It was difficult to sit in the nursery with Polina, unable to hold her, unable to care for her physical needs, not wanting to care for her emotionally. Sometimes I was able to get outside of myself and then I was ashamed of what I saw. As believers we are told to be good testimonies to others. The hope is that others will get to know Jesus by watching us. What a horrible knock-off. I tried to muster up the strength to pretend that I was handling it all well. Mostly I rolled with the disconnect I felt towards my child and towards my life and towards my faith. I would sit quietly by my daughter in the nursery for a while and then race back to my room and cry until I fell asleep.
Remember when we were little, how sometimes an elementary school day felt like it lasted a lifetime? You would find yourself looking at the clock, thinking, ‘surely it’s time to go home now,’ only to find that it wasn’t even lunch time yet? I imagined that my life would now be a really long day in school.
Sergei came to the hospital early every morning, a black thin-lined Bible tucked underneath his arm. He took turns sitting with me and the baby all day long. We cried, we prayed, we talked about the “what ifs” of our future. We wondered about how to live now. Most days ended in a good place having successfully broken through the chaos of our emotions, grabbing on to whatever comfort we found in God and in one another. Then he would leave my little hospital room around nine at night, unto his next duty of taking care of the kids and my mom at home and I would sit on my bed, underneath the large fluorescent wall light, on top of the crisp white sheets, completely lost again.
My middle daughter cannot sleep without her favorite pillow. I could not breathe that week without my husband. The next day he would find me lumpy and sad, and we would start again our attempts at healing for the day.
My husband is a pastor. There, I said it.
For some reason, I’ve shyed away from this topic on my blog. Don’t really know why.
Sometimes, I don’t want to be the wife of the pastor. Sometimes I wish he were a tire salesman…for God.
This post is part of this weeks Hump Day Hmms. Click over to read more about what others are saying about comfort zones.
Last Thursday night I went to a Moms Night Out for my kids’ school. It took me an hour to figure out what to wear before I left. It was not going well. In a moment of pure insanity, I even tried on a pair of maternity jeans I had set out for a friend who is expecting. While admiring the boot cut fit, I schemed about a shirt that would actually cover the elastic band around my waist. Then I imagined bending over at the party and showing off my secret to neatly dressed, put together women and I peeled off the jeans and chucked them across the room.
Going to the party was definitely out of my comfort zone.
Which begs the question: where is my comfort zone?
And the answer: I have no idea. I have not been comfortable for years.
There have been many changes in my life in the last six years. Sometimes I liken myself to having gone through menopause several times.
First we moved to Kiev, Ukraine. Elaina was 2 1/2 and Zoya was 9 months old. For two years my husband helped out with a church plant in another part of town while buying groceries, paying bills and looking after his little foreign family. I studied the Russian language full time and learned to walk to the Metro station looking down at my feet. Things that came easy to me, American mannerisms like smiling at strangers, wearing your shoes in the house and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese were boxed up and left in my mom’s attic over the garage in Michigan.
Time went on. I tucked comfort around my children in our little seventies style apartment like a warm fleece blanket the only way I could think of. I mixed our new culture with the old, pouring the American Happy Birthday song in with the custom of not wrapping birthday gifts in Ukraine. We dressed the girls up in costumes for New Year’s Day and pretended it was Christmas. I found the only store in Kiev that sold Lasagna noodles.
Everything I did in Ukraine was uncomfortable, until one day it wasn’t, and I was able to conjugate the verb ‘to buy’ in Russian’s past, present and future tenses. After three years there I noticed friendly faces around me, offering to show me how to make a warm compress for my daughter’s cold instead of reaching for Tylenol. We were part of a church that was growing closer to one another and to God, and my oldest daughter was learning addition and subtraction in her Ukrainian preschool.
I almost felt comfortable. So we decided to try for our third child.
God blessed our efforts and along came Polly. She was born there in Ukraine, three weeks early, in a private hospital that looked a lot like our western hotels. After her birth I had to learn a new language. I had to find out how to speak special needs; words like Down syndrome, IEP, therapy, hypotonia.
We landed (twenty days overseas in the NICU, packing our lives up once again, saying goodbye to our church) in Michigan and attempted to find comfort in our new surroundings once again.
I thought that moving back to the States would be easy. I already spoke the language here. Only, my time overseas changed me. A large part of me identified with Ukraine. I was out of place in church. The music was loud. There were too many faces. Every thing was so big and people had a lot of stuff. I came home from Zoya’s preschool round-up drenched in sweat. I remember standing in the school supplies aisle at Walmart, overwhelmed by the variety of paper and pens and lunch boxes.
And then last summer, we moved again, from Michigan to Chicago, from rural to urban, from middle class to upper class, from being average church goers to my husband pastoring a church.
And once again I am out of my comfort zone.
So, you see, there really is no such thing as small talk in my life. Which is why I dreaded the Mom’s Night Out last week. My small talk either gets big quickly or it gets quiet. Simple questions like, “where did you live before you moved here?” or “what does your husband do for a living?” or the ever present, “tell me a little bit about your kids?” do not have simple small talk answers.
After I found an outfit that fit, the party last week wasn’t that bad. I made small talk. The questions came up and I answered shortly, “we lived in Ukraine,” “my husband is a minister,” “I have three girls; seven, six, and two.”
My life has changed so much and so quickly, at times it’s like watching a three ringed circus. I have the poles and the plates, I am just having a hard time getting them all to spin at once.
In the midst of all these changes, I am finding that comfort is not really the point.
I speak different languages; special needs, English, Russian, Christian, urban, rural. And every language molds me a bit more into who I am to become.
I guess I am learning to speak small talk here in Chicago as well and to be OK with it.
That, in and of itself, brings me a bit of comfort.
At 8:30pm, the door bell rang. S was reading a book. Jazz music played softly. I balanced my laptop on my thighs, lost somewhere in cyberspace. The girls were finally asleep. We looked at one another. And he answered the door.
It was someone from church. Let’s call him Christopher.
Christopher is a nice guy. He comes to church often, every other week or so. S said that he may be stopping by because he needed a place to stay. Last night, after leaving the home he had been living at for a couple of years, he slept in a half-built house on a construction site.
Here’s what we know about Christopher: He hasn’t lived with his parents for a long time. He answers rhetorical questions from the pulpit at church, happily, out loud. He gets mixed around when he talks sometimes, loses his place, starts again. He is nice to everyone.
Another guy at church always calls him by a different name. Christopher likes this joke. He laughs every time and gives his correct name.
Today, standing on the porch, he had a video game in one hand and a large plastic bag filled with his things in the other. It was raining on and off for a few hours. He was all wet.
We ushered him in, heated up some pulled pork sandwiches and gave him carrots with ranch dip. He didn’t need anything to drink. He bought a pop on the way.
Christopher and I chatted while S made some phone calls. A place was secured for him, for the night at least.
S pulled on his yellow coat with the blue stripe. We said goodbye and I closed the door behind them as they walked down the porch stairs.
Just tonight at dinner, Elaina was asking a question about kids without parents.
“Some parents, Lainie, unfortunately, either don’t want their kids or are unable to take care of them.”
Christopher is not a kid anymore. But he’s been on his own for a long time and in a lot of ways, is still a child.
Sometimes I wonder what we are doing? I’m often surprised that my husband is a minister. There have been weeks that I’ve hidden in my house during the blessed 11:00 hour on Sunday morning, blinds tightly shut because I couldn’t play the part that day.
Stuff like this, though, a person on the door step, watching the back of my husband as he leaves to give someone a ride, a silent prayer on behalf of another person.
It feels right.
Христос Воскрес! (Christos Voskress!)
Christ Is Rrisen!
Воистину воскрес! (Voistina Voskress!)
He Is Risen Indeed!
In Ukraine we kiss each other’s cheeks three times as we greet people with these words.
I was too busy celebrating yesterday to post.
Happy Belated Easter!!
I closed our crimson front door to my family from Michigan about an hour ago. As I was letting the warm water flow over my hands, washing dish after dish, I was thinking about what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.
A week ago, looking out my front window, all I saw was red. In our little patch of yard out front, stands a large, beautiful Japanese elm tree. Seeings how it was our first Autumn in this house, we were stunned by the leaves of the Japanese elm. They were the most gorgeous color, a deep red, outlined with a golden brown. The tree was filled with lustrous indulgence for the eye, like looking at a sunset all day long.
I had the idea to pick the leaves while they were there for the picking. I decided to dry them in a book and use them as the finishing touch to my Thanksgiving dinner table. So, this morning, waking up to a cold, snowy day, I carefully took the dried leaves out of the book and centered them in the middle of raffia bows tied on to blue napkins.
I am thankful for my family. The more we move around, the more thankful I am for my husband and for my children. Home is where they are.
I am thankful for our new place to live, our new church and for the kindness people have shown us in our new place, on the street, at the kids’ school, at Starbucks.
I am thankful for my parents, who are pillars in my life; my father, steady and kind, my mother, funny and creative. Around my dad I get the feeling that he is ready to slip me a twenty whenever I need it. Today, he happily agreed to make his famous turkey gravey, commenting on our nice Kitchen Aid can openner. My mom went behind us guietly, washing a dish, lifting out the trash. I still go home sometimes to them, the trunk of my car filled with size 5T jeans, hooded sweatshirts, baby bottles, toys. They welcome me and my tribe and I melt into their couch for a just a day or two, giving them the silent go ahead to fetch my girls apple juice, to give them baths, to put them to bed.
I am thankful for my grandmother, the only living grandparent between my husband and me. I am thankful that at ninety years old, she has her hair curled by my mother, gets into the backseat of my parents’ car and drives for two hours to come and see the place that we are trying to make home for now, even though she tires easily and has throbbing forearms.
I am thankful for my sister, for the laughter we share. I am thankful for the way that we, in adulthood, have fallen in to mutual friendship and respect, appreciating our differences and marvelling at the fact that we get to be sisters.
I am thankful that her husband and kids are willing to drive to spend the day with us.
I am thankful for old and new friendships. I am thankful for people on-line that I have never met, but who have filled a place that needed filling in my heart. I am thankful for friends from childhood, who know me intimately and still like me.
I am thankful for my third daughter, Polina, whose little life is the reason that we packed up our lives and moved back over the ocean. I am thankful that we’ve seen such progress in her development lately. I am thankful that she loves to give me open-mouthed wet kisses.
I am thankful for redemption. I am thankful for my husband’s prayer tonight; his sentiments of thankfulness for Christ coming and living a perfect life, and dying in our stead.
And I am thankful for dried Japanese elm tree leaves, centered in raffia bows on blue napkins.