Sunday, September 30, 2007

Month Six

Dear Grayson,

Friday you turned six months old. A whole half year! We celebrated by going for a long walk in our neighborhood, crackling our way through the newly fallen leaves and watching the sunset maples begin their transformation into deep red.

It is hard for me to monitor the subtle changes in you. I find that I wake up one morning and it seems there was a monumental milestone that was passed in your sleep which I missed (which is amazing given how little sleep you continue to let your daddy and I get). Now it is the teeth. Two of them. Slowly making their way through your gums, and causing a bit of grumpiness on your part, not that I blame you.

This month has also heralded the introduction of the shriek. You love to babble, babble, babble, shriek (wash, rinse, repeat, ad nauseaum), especially at around 5:00 a.m. Daddy and I already find ourselves whispering, "Inside voice. Shhh... Inside voice," to which you give us one of your classic Dick Cheney grins, which roughly translated means, "I can understand you, but I'll still do it my way." Forcing me to lean over and whisper in your ear, "Barak Obama in 2008!" over and over again as I hide your elephant toy in the bottom of the toy basket.

Anothe big item on your daily agenda...toe sucking. You have found your toes, and lo, they are good. It's getting a little chillier at night and I valiantly try to put socks on your tiny feet, only to find that they are everywhere except your feet when I come back into the room. You, sadly, have inherited your mommy's cold hands and feet, and I already am obsessing about how to keep those feet warm this winter. That's your 'ole mom...a worrier to the bone.

Which brings up this little item...rolling over. You know, boy, you're six months now and I think it's about time. Your getting close to passing a normal range for this important "developmental milestone," as the baby books say. You have mastered the squirm, and can scoot yourself in a thousand different directions, but the actual rolling over, not so much. Your doctor doesn't seem that concerned as you're doing everything else pretty much on schedule, and as you were born three weeks early, but I must tell you that the word "lazy" has been bantered about in some circles, no pressure, I'm just sayin'... Your father, ever the calm one, keeps reminding me that you probably think lying on your stomach is overrated and you're simply making a conscious choice, perhaps a protest of "developmental milestones." Regardless, please work on this, as it'll make your mama feel better.

This afternoon I found you playing peek-a-boo with the animals on the Baby Noah DVD. You laughed yourself silly when the panda puppet smiled at you. You giggled wildly when the lion danced to the safari song. I could only marvel at the ways in which you already have figured out this simple game. You never tire of peek-a-boo, playing it whenever and wherever you can...cloth spit rag always poised at the ready to pull it up over your eyes and then coyly move it down, a light in your eyes.

I adore you. Happy half year!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

And the Bride Wore Silver...

I used to be a wedding snob. I was an elitist. I would only marry couples who attended my congregation...or who indicated that they would attend (and did attend the requisite three times for me to marry them). I only married couples who took the official "Pre-Marital Inventory Test" and who then were counseled by me for at least three sessions (and often more). I looked down on "Rent-A-Pastors," as I called them. I believed that there were things one needed to do if one wanted a church wedding by a "professional."

But, my standards...they have changed. I'd like to believe it has more to do with grace than with lowered expectations. It started with some good friends who were marrying for the second time (one after being widowed). Good friends who were wise and insightful and who would learn nothing from aforementioned "Pre-Marital Inventory Test" that they didn't already know themselves. Good friends who didn't need me to counsel them, and who knew well enough to schedule their own appointments with a marriage therapist if needed.

Perhaps they were my gateway drug. From there it was a free for all, a slippery slope of wedding officiation madness...hell, I married a CNA from our office to her fiance of a year with only one pre-marital meeting. Talk about a walk on the wild side... I married a former student in a pagan ceremony in a garden at the college where the only attendants were the couples' parents and two of their favorite orchids. I'm not sure how popular I'd be in the CoB given the fact that the admonition for that wedding was "don't mention Jesus...we're not sure how we feel about him."

It used to be that I wouldn't officiate a wedding without proper church approval, without the requisite counseling standards. And then I decided I could forego with those needs, but would only officiate ceremonies of people who were friends, as a favor to them. And then...well, then, I walked into a new world.

Because... this weekend was my radical indoctrination into the wild world of "Rent-a-Pastoring," the world where one snaps on a collar and hands out a license.

You see, I couldn't say no to this request. I couldn't say no because I was asked by Shelby. Shelby, Dr. B.'s kindly nurse who did, after all, perform the insemination that did finally produce Grayson. And, well, I love Shelby. And due to all kinds of issues I didn't ultimately get to officiate Shelby's wedding, despite the fact that I would have loved to. And so, when Shelby's sister's best friend was getting married and called me, how could I say no? Despite the fact that I'd never met her or her fiancee. And despite the fact that I had always judged Rent-a-Pastors. And thought, maybe, that I was selling my soul.

The wedding was last weekend. The couple were wise enough and old enough to know what they were doing. It was the third marriage for the bride, and the first for the groom. They chose to wed in a tent in their backyard, in the company of about 200 of their closest friends. The groom rode his Harley Davidson right up to the tent gates (a modern day hero arriving on his steed if ever there were one). The bride's backless dress displayed her tattoo. The recessional was to the song of a heavy metal band with the lyrics, "Smoke 'em if you've got 'em..." But the love, the love in that sweet couple's eyes was widely apparent.

I was telling my colleague, Scott, about it on Monday morning. Wondering whether I had sold my soul by officiating ceremonies of people I'd never met before being contacted by them to marry them. And Scott said, "Don't you think everybody deserves to have a ceremony that reflects who they are? Don't you think that each of us is spiritual in his or her own way? Don't you think that a minister saying, 'Of course I'll welcome you by officiating at your wedding' says more than anything else? Don't you think it's an issue of grace?"

Well, yeah. Duh. How could I not see that before?

Grace abounds. Even for those of us who live beyond the margins. Whether that means we officiate at the wedding of the stranger, or ride our motorcycles to that wedding. Grace abounds all around us. How could I be so slow to learn?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Five Months

Dear Grayson,

I sit, holding you in my lap, as I try to type one-handedly, jostling you on my knee and cooing softly in your ear. You are a very patient boy to put up with this addiction Mommy has to her writing, no matter how lame it can be at times.

I took you to church this morning at Beacon Heights, at the church where you have been loved and nurtured in your short life, despite the negligence I have had in regularly attending. We attended what I like to call the "happy clappy" service, where the lyrics to the songs are projected on the wall more often than sung out of the hymnal, and where there are a plethora of swaying Brethren and Sistern. Your mother is a traditionalist, and prefers the more staid first service at 9:00, but I find that the 11:15 contemporary service, a time when I believe God intends worshop to begin, appeals to our sleep schedules, and so I can tolerate happy-clappiness for sleep's sake, and being a progressive CoB the theology is good at either service, so we can't ask for more. And you, you seem to enjoy the oh-so-very cheerful nature of it all in this second service, cooing and charming the pants off everyone you encountered, vocalizing loudly during the "Hallelujah" song (and the pastor's sermon). Grammy went with us, and you found that sitting between us you had the exquisite attention of two women, add to that the wonderful kindergarden teacher who sat in front of us and let you suck on her finger, and the church assistant who sat behind us and let you tease her with your toothless grin, and life was pretty sweet.

While I joke about the relentlessly cheery nature of a contemporary service, while I often make semi-derisive comments about our denomination, I also want you to know what it means to me that you have been welcomed into this body of like-minded folk who practice the teachings of Jesus and how utterly grateful I am that you have a community to embrace you and name you and affirm you and teach you. And, I do want you to grow up in this denomination. I want you to learn to follow Jesus, to practice justice and to embrace peace and to believe in the radical gentleness and strength of love. I would like to see you commit your life to some belief, to some Source of love, to practice some sort of discipleship, to make this world a better place.

But, I want you to be discerning as well. I want you to seek truth, but I want you to be suspicious of those who promise you easy answers, and those who don't speak of what it means for you to count the cost of faith, however you weill choose to define it. Ask questions, Grayson, even if you are afraid of some of the answers. And know that there are pilgrims on this journey who will sustain you, and in whom you can turn when you doubt. But mostly, know that God is all loving, and that life is all grace.

Okay, mama will step out of the pulpit now and tell you a little more of who I see you becoming this month...

First and foremost, I apologize for the squash incident. I got so excited at the introduction of baby foods of the vegetable variety that I, perhaps, encouraged the squash a little too vigorously and the look on your face when I continued to spoon it between your clenched lips, as you continued to spit tje orange ooze out, was a look of such utter betrayal, as if I were forcing you to attend your first day of high school with a pocket-protector in you breast pocket, or making you take up the tuba as a hobby. It was a look that said, "You are so clearly unhip and wrong, and you just don't understand." Just so you know, I have taken squash out of the cabinet and will donate it to the food pantry, because that's the kind of cool mom I am.

Your gurgling and cooing and zerberting have reached mammoth proportions and you sigh with a vigorous exhale when contented. You have recently learned the power of noise and become increasingly louder when we don't pay enough attention to you.

I don't have words to describe the emotion I feel when I look at the pictures of you with your grandpa at the top of this entry, just as I don't have words to describe the sweet cooing voice that your grammy makes in your ear. These tendernesses that you're sharing with them, which are wholly apart from my relationship with them, rekindle in me memories of their parenting of me, and remind me of what I want to pass on to you. You have no idea how incredibly blessed you are to have your grandparents--all five of them.

And now, my lamb, my sweet, you have fallen asleep in my lap, your head drooping over my arm, your breathing steady and regular. We'll go upstairs and have a bath, and put on our jammies, and I'll whisper in your ear the blessings we saw today, and we'll thank a good God for the gifts we've seen, and I'll whisper my customary goodnight, "I love you, I love you, I love you" as you fall asleep in your big boy crib, kisses freshly planted on your soft downy hair.



While I haven't been writing, the posts in my head have been prolific, it's a shame I don't have some sort of machine which could magically suck the words out of my brain and put them onto a page, or type them onto a screen. It's just that time, time has been in relatively short supply since I popped this kid out of my belly (or rather, since he was forcibly evacuated by the kindly Dr. S.). Just when I get started with a good thought, get into the flow of a nice entry, I hear wailing, or grunting, or the worst, the huffing and puffing which indicate a certain mental break-down in only a few short moments. The boy, he isn't happy when Mama types instead of paying complete attention to him, even if I try to pause between sentences to tickle his chin or jostle his swing. And, I find I don't write so well without a bit of quiet to clear my mind. Multi-tasking I can do, but not easily.

So, one asks, why doesn't your husband watch him so you can write? Well, dear reader, when my husband watches him, which is often, I find myself needing to curl up in a little ball on our bed and hibernate for a blessed hour or two of sleep as I'm nursing a nasty cold.

Contemplative this post ain't, but I hope it passes by way of a newsy enough entry to get me by until the boy goes to bed and I can get some real writing done, if not tonight, than some night this week.