Songs of the Psalms

Songs of the Psalms Album Cover

a Lenten devotional album
inspired by hours in prayer
in a special neighborhood

Find the album on iTunes, Amazon, or Spotify — or click here to visit the album Facebook page.

LIFE HACKS—BABY EDITION

  1. Read Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother. Then read it again.
  2. Listen to The Birth Hour podcast—it will make you marvel at the variety of labor stories, and the astonishing empowerment of birth!
  3. You don’t have to change a wet diaper in the middle of the night—just a poopy one. Our doula tried to tell us this, but we didn’t listen until our baby was like seven months. What a difference.
  4. Oh—get a doula.
  5. Take a trip with your newborn at 4 weeks, 8 weeks, even 12 weeks old—they’ll sleep almost all the time, and you can sightsee (albeit through sleep-hazed eyes).

  1. Don’t try to lose the last 10 lbs. of “baby weight” if you’re breastfeeding—the baby needs you to keep eating and drinking plenty so you can keep up the milk factory. Or to quote my friend, “Eat like a linebacker.”
  2. Tulip-hem/open-front nursing shirts from Motherhood Maternity will be your sole wardrobe for the next year. Sans bra.
  3. A midwife and a birthing tub can be your two new best friends. (The model of midwifery care was light-years beyond typical OB-GYN care. It was like the difference between lighting a candle & sinking into a couch…vs. napping on the divided seats at the airport.)
  4. Be Team Green! Don’t find out the sex of the baby in advance. The surprise at birth is 100% worth the agony of waiting. Plus, you won’t have to suffer through endless blue baby shower gifts, or endless pink.
  1. Don’t register for a changing table. Change the kid’s diaper on the floor. Stick a puppy pad under them and you’re good to go. You’ll feel the need to wash your hands like three different times by the end of each changing, and what will you do with the baby then? The floor prevents baby from…falling to the floor.
  2. Read Magda Gerber’s book Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect, or anything by Janet Lansbury—ditto Lansbury’s podcast Unruffled. You know all those things other parents do that annoy you? You don’t have to do them! It’s a miracle.
  3. Haakaa silicone breast pump! Lightweight, portable, perfect! You stick it on one breast while you’re nursing from the other. No cords, no batteries. You can score so many extra ounces this way—I stopped using a regular breast pump! But on that note:
  4. Elvie breast pump if you have to work outside the home! These cordless gals tuck into your bra and let you pump while driving, walking, or preaching (okay, I took them out for preaching, as they would have made my congregants wonder if I’d gotten implants—they are a tad large—and they light up like Fembots).
  5. Don’t give up on breastfeeding at 6 weeks when you want to, or 3 mos. when you want to. You’ll finally hit your stride by 6 mos., and then you can do hardcore things like nurse in the middle of a waterfall in the mountains of NC or on a chilly beach in Alaska:
  1. Write down, or do a voice memo of, all your memories of labor & birth before too much time goes by. Before any time goes by. In those bleary and weepy first few days, jot down whatever details come back to you—put them on your Notes app or in a journal, just somewhere you can access it at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m. These are unbelievably priceless.
  2. Yes to a maternity photo shoot (though you will be tired). Yes to labor/birth photos—ask your doula to take them. And yes to a newborn photo shoot (though you will be tired). 110% worth it.

  1. For those who want to keep some semblance of a spiritual practice amidst the new normal of chaos—open your holy book and set it on the table beside your nursing chair. Glance over now and again while nursing, and try to commit a verse to memory. (My current verse: “You have put gladness in my heart, / more than when grain and wine and oil increase” Psalm 4:7 BCP—so chosen to remind me to be GLAD!)
  2. They tell you to take Ibuprofen for the recovery pain, but hello? It makes you constipated! The last thing you need is a herculean effort to push anything else out down there.
  3. The cliché is true: It goes by too fast. Savor it.
  4. And finally, the real secret to happiness in your new life as a parent to the world’s most precious kiddo: Only have one.
  5. **edit** Had to add one more I just thought of. You don’t need to heat the milk. Or the formula. Or the purees. They will drink/eat it cold. Trust me.

seven-minute Lectio Divina: Matt. 20:29-34

     I remember doing Lectio Divina with this passage while sitting on a dock, looking out at Bogue Sound off the Carolina coast. I was on a Sabbath retreat with lots of silence. The skies were gray, and I hugged my knees, trying to get warm.
     When I heard Jesus’s question in the passage above, I felt it in my bones—and I also felt a distinct answer: “Give me a child.” It was as though Jesus was speaking to me, and from some mysterious place within, I answered.
     But this was Oct. 2017. Jordan and I had only been married three months. I didn’t know if I wanted children at all, and I certainly wasn’t interested in them so soon into newlywed life. I forgot about Jesus’s question, and my answer, until more than a year had passed: Jan. 2019, when the child I wanted didn’t live long enough to grow its little cells and split into more cells and finally, fully form.
     Then what I wanted most of all was Jesus himself, and he came and sat with me in my suffering.
     Whichever word/phrase stands out to you from the story in Matthew, I pray it brings healing where you need healing and breaks your heart where needed, too.

books I read (or reread) in 2019

  1. Somebody to Love: The Life, Death, and Legacy of Freddie Mercury – Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne – Jan. – grew repetitious and put me to sleep on any car ride in which we listened to the audiobook 😕 – but gave me new appreciation of the Queen canon and a new tip for songwriting (melody first, then structure, THEN lyrics)
  2. Hardcover A Child Is Born : The Completely New Edition BookA Child is Born – Lennart Nilsson & Lars Hamberger – Jan. – incredible picture book showing the miracle of being human, from conception to birth – wonderful memory of contentedly reading this by myself in KBay Caffe (Homer, AK) the day after I found out I was pregnant
  3. Image result for miscarriage: women sharing from the heartMiscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart – Marie Allen & Shelly Marks – Feb. – a book that became my security blanket during a time of devastation – first started reading it the morning of Fri. 1/25, and we had our ultrasound later that day that confirmed my womb was empty
  4. Devotion – Dani Shapiro – Feb. – a woman searches for God amidst Buddhism, Judaism, and her own worries
  5. The Wonder – Emma Donoghue – Feb. definitely a page turner, mostly dialogue, long chapters and hardly any section breaks
  6. A Spark of Light – Jodi Picoult – Feb. – predicted the two big reveals at the end; this book, along with a Jen Hatmaker interview of Jodi Picoult & an abortion-related episode of The Cut, made me have compassion on women who get abortions
  7. The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood – Belle Boggs – Mar. – riveting collection of essays about the pressure to procreate, the struggle of IVF, and the miracle of children
  8. [censored for the sake of my brother and any other family who read this blog] – Mar.
  9. Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer – Mar. – another completely convicting resource and another attempt to be vegetarian
  10. The Little Book of Biblical Justice: A Fresh Approach to the Bible’s Teachings on Justice – Chris Marshall – Mar.
  11. What Babies Say Before They Can Talk: The Nine Signals Infants Use to Express Their Feelings – Paul C. Holinger – Mar.
  12. Image result for this boy's lifeThis Boy’s Life – Tobias Wolff – Apr. – laugh-out-loud funny, and heartbreaking – made me want to read more of him
  13. Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation – Martin Laird – Apr. – very deep and thoughtful book on how we actually aren’t separate from God, nor are we our chaotic thoughts – we are a vast silence that is within the silent vastness of God
  14. Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives – Annie Murphy Paul – May – not sure I buy all the science in the book…but still an okay read
  15. Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home – Natalie Goldberg – May – memoir of her journey through cancer and her recognition of her mortality
  16. Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others – Barbara Brown Taylor – May – read in two days during trip to D.C.; inspired me to want to repeat her class experiences in a small group with my church
  17. Normal People – Sally Rooney – May
  18. Image result for song in a weary throatSong in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage – Pauli Murray – May – 572-page autobiography of the first African-American woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal church…couldn’t put it down, such an epic life story
  19. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed – Lori Gottlieb – June – borrowed from my counselor-friend; very fun and funny, with helpful tidbits like “numbness isn’t the absence of feeling; it’s being overwhelmed with feeling” and “the past is a vast encyclopedia of calamities you can still fix” (a joke, heard on a podcast)
  20. No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame – Janet Lansbury – June – after binging on her “Unruffled” podcasts
  21. Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership – Laurie Beth Jones – June – had started last year, I think, and finally finished…good used as a daily devotional to inspire you for working with a team (staff, lay people, etc.)
  22. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi – July – second time reading it, after often being tempted to!
  23. Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities—from the Very Start – Magda Gerber – July – finished on the morning we went to our anatomy ultrasound – gets me excited to try this style of parenting from infancy onward
  24. Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children – Sara Zaske – July – makes me concerned about lack of playtime/recess during school, excess homework in early grades, and more — maybe we should homeschool!
  25. The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence – Judith Lothian and Charlotte DeVries – July – makes me excited for those first few hours bonding with baby, and encourages me to give birth naturally
  26. Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said? – Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo – July
  27. Image result for great with child letters to a young motherGreat with Child: Letters to a Young Mother – Beth Ann Fennelly – July – ahhhhhhhh, such a sweet, sweet, beautiful, poetic, charming, transporting, instantly re-readable and liftable book
  28. The Better Pastor: A Fable About Embracing the Role of Leading a Parish – Patrick Lencioni – Aug.
  29. The Library Book – Susan Orlean – Aug. – almost gave up on it but saw it through to the end; enjoyed histories of quirky people who led libraries in California
  30. Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting – Janet Lansbury – Sep. – another good one from the author whose podcasts I still binge-listen-to!
  31. Image result for Three WomenThree Women – Lisa Taddeo – Sep. – the first book in ages that made me want to read it while eating, riding in the car, upon first waking, just before falling asleep, during football games, and (yes) during church — not that I indulged each of those desires (and it happens to be a book about desire), but I wanted to
  32. Image result for creating with godCreating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy – Sarah Jobe – Oct. – wonderful reflections on God + Scripture + pregnancy! Great to read in third trimester!
  33. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation – Parker Palmer – Oct.
  34. Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth – Oct. (most of it anyway)
  35. Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother – Beth Ann Fennelly – Oct. – AGAIN! heehee
  36. Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect – Magda Gerber – Nov. – so soothing, so resetting, so SIMPLE
  37. It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) – Nora McInerny – Dec. – bought used in Pitts. and read in wee hours of morning with newborn (or, more accurately: while constipated and sitting on toilet after taking so much ibuprofen to help with recovery from birth) — grateful for something that could keep my attention!
  38. Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver – Dec. – I adored this book and read it during meals. However, the ending seemed somewhat anticlimactic…or abrupt. I longed for more. Perhaps in a weird way that’s a good sign, though — desiring to read more.
  39. Babies Are Not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered! – Rebecca Dekker – Dec. – makes me so glad I had the birthing experience I did, and makes me grieve for so many women who are robbed of that…but I will say the author seemed like an unreliable narrator from time to time, like someone who writes a memoir too soon after a difficult event and has a desperate need to get you on her side
  40. Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE Way – Deborah Carlisle Solomon – Dec.
  41. The Dutch House – Ann Patchett – Dec. – enjoyed devouring this book during car ride to Ohio and Penns. just after Christmas – Patchett almost never disappoints
BOOKS I STARTED BUT NEVER FINISHED:
141 pages of Motherhood after Miscarriage – Dr. Kathleen Diamond
253 pages of Daily Rituals: Women at Work – Mason Currey
302 pages of Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush – Jon Meacham
126 pages of City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert
I forget how many pages of The Power – Naomi Alderman

the pink tax

As the mother of a baby girl, I feel my ears prick up in newly painful ways whenever I read about gender disparity. I’m currently reading Boys & Sex, by Peggy Orenstein, having appreciated her previous Girls & Sex. Also reading Fair Play, by Eve Rodsky. I forget which of these books clued me in to the “pink tax,” but, I’d just read about it before going to Amazon to look for bottle-cleaning brushes.

Lo and behold….

pink brushes

blue brushes

 

Click here for pictures of products in stores–blue and pink, side by side–with the mismatched price tags as proof.

100-word story

This is a great genre — it forces you to be succinct, to be economical with your words. The deal is, you get exactly 100 words — no more, no fewer — to tell your story. Some of these are fiction, some non. Mine is non:

Carriage

Grateful they published this piece, especially as this week we come up on the one-year anniversary of the miscarriage.

the bracelet

When it came time to leave for the birthing center, after a night of fighting delirium and contracting muscles and vomiting bile into the hotel trash can, I had enough presence of mind to pick up my miscarriage memorial bracelet and put it on. I could barely walk, but this I remembered to do.

When we arrived at the birthing center, I was 9 cm dilated, though I didn’t learn the amount until later — I asked not to know. My only other memory of the bracelet is when I was on all fours on the bed, my wrists locked and propped on pillows. Mostly my eyes were closed, but as the sun began coming through the blinds, I saw the bracelet there. Soon after, the midwife told me to flip around, and be fast about it.

I had heard that I wouldn’t think about the miscarriage as much, once the baby came, and I’m afraid that’s true. The bracelet sits in my drawer now. It’s been thirteen days since the birth, and any tears are reserved for this child, not for the one that came before.

I hope this is not a betrayal.

IMG_8845
bringing the bracelet to a pregnancy/infant loss memorial park, the day before what would have been his due date, 9.8.19

All Saints Sunday

Lit a candle for Little Story, our miscarried baby, today during communion. Granted, I was leading worship, so yes, I lit his candle, but meanwhile I was explaining to the congregation how they could take these wooden incense sticks, light the end, then touch the tip to a tealight in memory of their loved one, after which I would be available at the altar to pray with them. I guess that’s part of being a pastor — you’re sort of worshiping, but sort of just helping others worship.

Today brought tears. Some of the tears were from worrying about how to survive the newborn stage in just a few weeks’ time. Some were from remembering Little Story. And some were probably just fatigue. But I have a good husband who is not afraid of my tears and doesn’t try to transform them into happiness. So as All Saints Sunday draws to a close, I feel spent but content.

“I’ll never ‘get over’ my miscarriage. I’ve stopped wanting to. I’ll carry it, instead. I’ll carry it and carry it and never put it down.”

– Beth Ann Fennelly, Great with Child, p. 98

There’s a bed in my bathroom.

But, that’s because I put it there.

Or, more accurately, my husband put it there.

A huge mattress stuffed into the bathroom, taking up all the floor space, so that walking to the toilet requires three steps across the squishy foamy square.

This is my new plan for dealing with 5x/night potty breaks: Sleep in the bathroom. The walk from the usual bed to the bathroom was just too long.

The move happened just in time, because I’ve been battling a head cold/sinus infection for the past week. Now the bathroom bed is surrounded by Sudafed tablets, glasses of water, a box of tissues, a trash can, an eye mask, a pair of earplugs, a book light, a pregnancy book, a tube of chapstick, a pillow for my heavy legs, and the night guard that would keep me from grinding my teeth, except I can’t sleep with my mouth closed anyway, because I can’t breathe out of my nose, which is perfect, because third-trimester pregnancy doesn’t give you enough dry-mouth as it is.

But I can’t complain! I can, but not on a deeper level. Because I still get to feel those baby rolls and reflex kicks…I still get to see the surface of my stomach move with this growing child…I still get to talk to Little Swan and be as one. I’m not yet ready for pregnancy to end.