on becoming a Mom

tomorrow will be my first Mothers’ Day as a Mom…
I’m excited to celebrate it because
becoming a mother is the single most challenging and rewarding experience I have ever had!

I was never that girl or woman who just wanted to have babies
it was actually through a logical reasoning process that I came to settle on the possibility of bearing children
if I were to marry a man who wanted children and
if I loved the man I married
then I’d be willing to bear his children – something he couldn’t do without me

good thing I’d come to that conclusion before marriage because just about as soon as we were married, we were pregnant

while carrying my unborn son was an introduction to motherhood, it was nothing compared to the last three months of my life

during pregnancy, I was introduced to sleepless nights
before my son was born I began learning how to share my body with another individual dependent on me for nourishing
in more of a conceptual way, my personal choices literally impacted the life of my unborn baby

but I didn’t really know sleepless nights until he was actually born and my sleep is always light because I’m listening for him…
although he is no longer contained within my body, he relies on me to provide his food from my own body – it’s a profound phenomenon!
and how I spend every minute of my life impacts the life of my precious little one who didn’t ask to be born into this imperfect world.

before leaving for Zim the day my son turned 12weeks old, my Mom asked me what the most challenging thing about motherhood was so far

it wasn’t the long days and nights that came to mind
nor the physical discomforts that have attended the experience though

rather, the first thing that came to mind was that
the most challenging thing about motherhood is
not being able to keep him always happy

sometimes he would just cry and I couldn’t figure out what he wanted/needed
if I only knew what to do to help him find contentment, I’d do it in a heartbeat!

but there are times when I know what he needs/wants but there’s no easy way to get it and I must simply support him as he works through his own challenges
at those times, I feel helpless…
in those moments, if there was anything, anything at all, I could do to help him, I would
that’s what I’ve found most challenging thus far – the realization of my insufficiency to meet every one of my child’s needs

oh, but what a comfort it is to know One who cares more deeply about my son’s needs than I ever could
what a solace that He who knows no failure can help my baby when I am helpless
and it is a  great source of relief to talk to God about every little detail of my baby’s life

I can talk to God about poopy diapers
about disrupted naps
about distracted nursing baby
and gassy little one

does He care?
oh yes, He cares!
I know He cares!

and it’s knowing that Jesus cares that makes becoming a mother a more bearable blessing!
I thank God for the unique opportunity to experience such an awesome miracle

2 months in

Our son turns 2 months old tomorrow! We praise the Lord for keeping him happy and healthy. We are so blessed!

Becoming a parent has been an experience quite unlike anything else I’ve experienced thus far. I really can’t even think of what I could liken it to. Our son’s only been in the world for 2 months but I can’t imagine life without him – it’s like him being here is just RIGHT!

He has smiles to melt your heart! But he’s camera-shy (seriously) so we can’t share the heart-warming smile with you.
And he’s already quite the goofball. haha. I really like his personality! Which is crazy to see what a unique individual he is even though he was incubated in my belly!

As for lessons I’ve learned so far…:

1. Every child is different: There is no rigid formula for how to raise your child because every child is different. I spent a lot of time stressing over how many hours our son was not sleeping during the day…or how many times he should want to nurse…But every child is different! The average number of hours that a newborn sleeps is just that – an AVERAGE – based on parents’ reporting on how many hours their newborns sleep. And the goal for how many times your baby nurses is to ensure that your child is well fed and hydrated – not to force feed your child! Seems so obvious now that I reached that conclusion, but it took a lot of stress and shaking off apparent expectations to realize that all I’m striving for is a happy, healthy, holy child!

2. Take the time to look at your baby because your child looks different everyday. And if he looks different everyday, that means his changing each moment. I worried for a while about spoiling our son by giving him too much attention and affection. Maybe I’d hold him too much, hug him too often, gaze lovingly at him too intently…But then I thought, if today were the only day I got to spend with my son, how would I want to spend it? I’d want him to know that I love him and that God loves him!

3. It’s not about getting him to fit into my world – the fact that he is here now has created a whole new world that we must both learn to navigate. He cannot sleep through the night yet and needs to nurse every few hours…that means my schedule must adjust. I cannot rock him to sleep for each nap so he’s got to adjust.

no charge

Perhaps it’s because I live in the northern part of the US, but, it’s a little embarrassing to admit that I listened to country music growing up. No-one around here grew up on country, especially not the old school stuff like Don Williams…and would you believe I was disappointed with Whitney Houston’s rendition of “I will always love you,” because I thought the Dolly Parton original was way better?! haha.

Anyways, there’s one song from my country-listening days that’s resurfaced in my thoughts lately. It’s probably because I’ve been thinking about parenting quite a bit lately (and have been gaining a tremendous respect for my Mom in the process!). Most profoundly, I have been considering God’s parenting…and how He loves us! Oh, how He loves us!

In true country style, the song explains itself:

No Charge

My little girl came up to me in the kitchen this evenin’ while I was fixin’ supper
And she handed me a piece of paper that she’d been writin’ on
And after wipin’ my hands on my apron I read it
And this is what it said:

“For mowing the yard – $5
For makin’ my own bed this week – $1
For going to the store – 50c
For playin’ with little sister while you went to the store – 25c
For taking out the trash – $1
For getting a good report card – $5
And for raking the yard – $2
Total owed = $14.75”

Well, I looked at her, standing there expectantly
And a thousand memories flashed through my mind
So I picked up the pen and turning the paper over
This is what I wrote:

“For the nine months I carried you, growing inside me – no charge
For the nights I sat up with you, doctored you, prayed for you – no charge
For the toys, food and clothes, and for wiping your nose – there’s no charge
When you add it all up the full cost of my love is no charge”

Well, when she finished reading she had great big ol’ tears in her eyes
And she looked up at me and said,
“Mommy, I sure do love you!”
Then she took the pen and in great big letters she wrote:
“Paid In Full”

When you add it all up the cost of real love is no charge!

by Tammy Wynette

when miracles grow common

I grew up with the stories of the exodus and God’s miraculous provision for His people on their travels from Egypt to Canaan. And it always baffled me how anyone could ever complain about receiving bread from heaven everyday! Surely if my Mom were serving bread from heaven everyday I wouldn’t complain – I thought.

Instead, maize seemed to show up at just about every meal. Mealie-meal porridge for breakfast and sometimes lunch. Sadza for supper and sometimes lunch. While I crave sadza these days, growing up, it was hardly bread from heaven to my taste buds.

But those Israelites…! The food on your table is so clearly a miracle yet you’d still complain?! It’s one thing to prefer a different genre of food over what is offered you. But when you had nothing, and someOne gives you heaven’s cuisine, you at least eat with gratitude, if not enjoyment, right.

The first time my husband and I heard our baby’s heartbeat was such a moving experience. All the nausea, fatigue, and vertigo were truly signs that there was a human being developing inside me! It gave meaning to the madness, you know.

Then, later that day, for the first time, I discerned the baby’s movements. Apparently, the baby had already been moving but never having experienced the alien activity of another human being inside of me, I simply relegated the sensations to bowel movements of the flatulent classification. Yet somehow, that night, I was able to distinguish the baby move.

It was astounding. Both my husband and I were moved to tears at the thought that God would entrust the care of His child to us. That was a very emotional day for us.

Not long hence, more often than is appreciated, I’m awake at 3 in the morning. Tired. But wide awake. And the miraculous fetal movements have grown in intensity. Why the baby prefers to practice gymnastics in the wee hours of the morning, I do not know. And were it not for the anticipation of a full day of work ahead, I’d be less inclined to complain about the timing…

Complain! Complain about a miracle? An ongoing miracle growing inside of me?! Maybe the problem wasn’t the manna or the sadza…Maybe the problem is with God’s people and how we come to take, for granted, the blessings He bestows upon us.

Sometimes, at first, we don’t even realize that we are the recipients of God’s gracious gifts. We fail to decipher the moving of the miracle in our lives. Then, oft-times, we forget to remember that this is a miracle to which the right response would be gratitude.

Yes, we forget to remember! Remembering is not a passive experience. In Scripture, to remember God’s blessings is given as an injunction – it is commanded!

Miracles become common when we forget to remember that they are, indeed, miracles! So today, I thank God for the miracle of the life that is growing inside of me – even if it means I’m awake at 3am most nights…!

girls’ school…women’s college…who cares?

Yes, I was indoctrinated while at Wellesley that ours was not a girls’ school. It was a women’s college! But who cares, right?

Ya, It’s pretty much communicating the same message of an academic institution for females; but it does so in a diminutive manner!

Uha, I understand that you don’t mean to communicate disrespect, but if that’s the message that is coming across and there are more amicable ways of communicating then why not modify your language?

No, no, this is not just about being politically correct! If you modified your language just to appease me, that would be political correctness. But, if you realize that words carry meaning and it is your desire to more closely match your true feeling to your speech, then it’s not mere politics.

It’s easy to dismiss the importance of words when the words aren’t hurting you. But be a Christian, have a care, and try to use words that will build people up and break down walls and not the opposite.

To be sure, I am guilty of using words unwisely as well. But it’s not something I’m proud of, nor is it something I’d promote. It’s something to overcome, to grow in, and daily to be more likely to say something helpful and not hurtful.

So, yes, my friend who will probably never read this post, who cares? I wish you would.

wait, who’s older?

Over the past few years I’ve met women who have challenged my long-held conviction that when it comes to marriage, the man must always be older than the woman. No, he couldn’t even be a day younger!

This belief did not evolve in a vacuum. Rather, it was seeded by lectures during Sabbath afternoon youth programs at church, where we would learn from the wisdom of our elders. Things to look for in a potential spouse and where to look to find that spouse, were among the practical topics addressed. With respect to the latter, the high school boys were informed that their wives were still in elementary school.

Men mature slower than women, we were told, so a woman could not find fulfillment in intimate interaction with a younger man. Men are just big babies, I’ve also heard – which, by the way, I think, is a little disrespectful (but then, who cares if he’s younger than his wife if he’ll always be a baby anyway, right?)…

My indoctrination had me believing that any marriage between an older woman and a younger man was doomed for failure. So, shock and consternation as I met one couple after another where the wife was not just a day older than her husband, but sometimes, five or six years older! How could it be? And their marriages seemed, by whatever standard, flawed or otherwise, I may be using, happy.

But why not? Which Bible verse requires the man to be older than the woman in a marriage?

It has become abundantly clear to me that maturity is not linearly related to age. You would hope that a 38yr old would be more mature than a 23yr old, but how often have we seen the converse? The principle, I believe, is to look for a mature spouse, with a good head on their shoulders and a sense of direction as guided by God.

From my understanding, while it may be true that girls tend to demonstrate maturity (as we choose to measure it) from a younger age than boys, there comes a time when that gap narrows to oblivion. The mere fact of your gender will not, as an adult, determine your maturity. So, we need to quit calling men babies and let men be men – no matter their age.

Every single woman who has confided in me that she is married to a younger man has sworn me to secrecy. No matter their age, race or culture… Every single one of them! What are they afraid of?

They are afraid that they will be accused of robbing the cradle. Because somehow, while the man gets props for scoring an older woman, the woman is derided for “debasing” herself. Yet, what is so debasing? Gross generalizations and stereotyping that lead to unfair treatment of women who have dared to do the unacceptable…

This blog was inspired by the silence of all those women I’ve spoken with on this matter. When you shared with me that your husband was younger than you, I couldn’t console you with the story of another woman whose husband is younger than her because she too had sworn me to secrecy. You are not alone. And in my opinion, you should not have to keep the conformation of your ages a secret!

There is no moral, ethical, or medical imperative impeding a younger man from pursuing an older woman, and no restriction, for the sole reason of his age, to her accepting his proposals.

the numbers gameSo at the risk of this blog post being misconstrued as a mere preemptive justification for possible future behavior, I figured somebody had to say something! For my part, I pray that by God’s grace, I will not judge a man, suitor or no suitor, by his age. Let the mind be the measure of a man, or rather, His walk with God. And likewise for a woman.

rejecting the cows

There was a time when I was willing to relinquish my cultural heritage to adopt my husband’s so that our children would be raised solely as a part of his culture. There was a time when doing that made complete sense to me and I would have done it in a heartbeat – not for a lack of an appreciation for my own cultural heritage, but because I subscribed to the patrilineal values of the society in which I was raised.

To this day, in my culture, a man is still required to pay a brideprice, before he can marry. (And just in case you’re wondering; In general, although the bride’s family may quote the price in cows, the payment is received in cash, either upfront or in installments.) But here’s the interesting thing about the way the brideprice works in my culture – it actually isn’t the price of a bride!

cows

No, no. The brideprice does not purchase the bride. Rather, it lays claim to the fruit of her womb as the groom’s purchase. What I’m saying is that, in my culture, the Ndau culture, when the groom makes payment to the bride’s family, it is to “purchase” rights to the children born of her womb.

In fact, as a result of this set-up, in terms of familial relations, the woman is technically left floating in somewhat of a never-never land: She no longer belongs to her parental family, nor does she belong to her husband’s family. From my perspective, she exists only to bear children for her husband’s family name…But I’m about to go on a tangent about how this affects woman’s sense of self-worth and belonging…-_-

Back to the children aspect: Since the children you bear, as a woman, have been purchased by your husband, he has every right to require (regardless of your preferences) that they are raised in his culture. And so, my prospective mother-in-law in college had a talk with me, reminding me that I’d have to renege my Ndau culture when I married her son, and espouse the Ndebele culture in order to raise her grandchildren in her husband’s culture. Back then, I dutifully agreed.

Today I find my innards rebelling against the prospect of suppressing your cultural upbringing so as to raise your own children as though both sets of chromosomes came from their father. Not that I so value being Ndau that it’s something worth fighting for. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality, though, is that I am Ndau, whether my spouse likes it or not – it’s a part of who I am (and a part of me that I happen to like (for better or worse) and hope he does too).

It only seems fair to me that a man who loves you enough to marry you, should love you enough to see you in his children. Shouldn’t he be ok with the fact that huge chunks of who you are, as the children’s mother, will show up in them? And especially since you’ll be raising them alongside him, shouldn’t he expect to see, at least pieces of your culture reflected in them?

The alternative is that a man is only looking for the most viable female to bear and rear his children as he desires – which would reduce women to child-bearing and rearing factories. That a man expects his wife to suppress significant portions of who she is…as though there were aspects of her identity that he can not/will not accept – can you think what that does to a woman?

So though I never thought the day would come when I’d say this, but… If a man thinks paying lobola (“brideprice”) means he now owns our children and has the exclusive right to decide how he wants me to rear them, irrespective of my opinion and in spite of my identity, then I’d rather he does not put a penny down. This aspect of the lobola, I cannot stomach.

feelings

you wake up one morning
and the world never seemed more wrong,
like an endless journey
you wonder why life must go on.

you wake up one morning
and every breath is a gift,
as beautiful as a song,
your spirits need no lift.

but come afternoon
as though good feelings knew thrift,
like perfect weather in Michigan:
“gone too soon!”

so faith can’t be feeling
for the heart can’t discern
the weight of God’s promises –
so constant, they do not turn.

so when you wake up tomorrow morning
no matter how you feel
let faith grasp God’s promised Word;
you know that’s the real deal 😉

Feelings are like Michigan weather!

Feelings are like Michigan weather!

psychology of the bouquet toss

bouquetThis year will probably be the busiest for me in terms of wedding attendance. This past Sunday, I completed my 4th out of six weddings for this year and attempted a new approach to that dreaded moment called, “the bouquet toss.”

Why brides still insist on tossing that thing must be a twisted form of revenge for all the times they had to go up for the toss before their “graduation” day of marriage. But they do not take out their revenge on those who ‘hurt’ them…no…rather, revenge is taken out on innocent bystanders, the other singles at their marriage celebration – who in turn will do the same to other singles as soon as they have a chance.

You’ve noticed how reluctantly the single ladies will rush forward for the toss (well, in some contexts…)? In general, it’s not because they don’t want to get married. Oh, no, no. Quite the contrary. It’s actually a complex interplay of social expectations and internal conflict that results in a reluctance to step up to the plate, and moreover, to jump for that bouquet.

As a single lady with a desire for the companionship that marriage affords, you’re always straddling that line between honest and desperate, both internally and externally. Externally, you don’t want to come off all desperado but then you could seem too confident and self-assured that it scares the brothers off. Internally, it’s the faith vs presumption battle – yes, God’s ideal may have been marriage for all but we aren’t quite living under ideal conditions…(ps: I think the internal balance comes at the point of trusting God and when you find that inner peace it takes care of the external struggle… – but that’s a-whole-nother entry).

My nonchalant attitude towards the toss on Sunday, combined with a hint of playfulness, completely backfired and resulted in the MC calling me out although I was already standing front and center. The playful attitude probably set me up as an easy target for jesting – I would have done the same had I been the MC! But then combine that with the fact I ended up with the bouquet in hand as it was hurriedly tossed to me by Erin who really caught it, and it made for quite the embarrassing experience. It was hilarious!

bouquet catch

What single and unattached girl wants to catch the bouquet? Especially given the inevitable questions to the effect, “when’s the wedding?” “where’s the man?” Ehm, the answer on both counts would be, “I don’t know…” It’s almost as if we were truly superstitious and believed there were some power inherent in that bouquet to predict the next bride. It’s all a joke, of course, but perhaps one that sometimes hits too close to home.

So I pronounce many blessings on those brides who remember how uncomfortable it was for them to go up for the toss and spare the single ladies the unnecessary pain. Because whether you’re attached or not, uncaring inquiries into the status of someone’s romantic enterprises really only serve as an insensitive joke at the expense of another.

As for how the nonchalant approach to the toss worked out…Well, it was a tremendous asset in the aftermath of my bouquet semi-catch! Seeing as there is no true predictive power in the bouquet toss, I’d like to invite all my single ladies to join the nonchalant club. When they make the call, walk up there with confidence and if you’re up for it, maybe even have some fun with it all. And if you carry a bouquet on your wedding day, be nice and don’t toss it 😉

 

single in the church

Not sure if I can share my thoughts on this matter with clarity in one post but I finally decided to give it a shot 🙂

So here’s the deal. The single woman has four considerations:

1. Society’s idea of how you ought to feel about being single
2. What you think about where you are in life
3. How you actually feel about your status
4. How things ought to be, in my opinion

Since I turn 30 next month, I think I’m almost qualified to write from my own experiences in this area, so I’ll use personal stories to illustrate these four points. Here goes self-disclosure for the sake of research…

1. Society:

Some friends asked me to stand for their wedding this summer and I will be honored to do so! Having witnessed the progress of their relationship, from “just talking” to “talking, talking” to the proposal, it will be awesome to have front-row reservations as a witness when they take their vows. My poor mother, when I shared with her the news that I would be in yet another friends’ wedding, could hardly bear the conversation. It was probably a little insensitive of me, and I repented of it after the fact, but I actually found it hilarious how terribly she wanted to avoid talking about it. Then she tried to console me, which in reality was more self-consolation on her part with the words, “don’t worry…your day will come.” To be honest, that “worry” hadn’t even crossed my mind when thinking about the upcoming nuptials!

And, in the spirit of honesty too, though, I must confess that the thought had crossed my mind once before. It was when I heard that two young friends of mine had begun their courtship. These guys are probably 5yrs younger than me and I remember feeling like, “no fair, how come they can be entering a relationship but not me?” So I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, immune to that feeling! Just that I haven’t had that feeling for several years now. When my friends find love, my feelings are so directed toward their happiness that there really isn’t any room left to feel anything about myself…

When I shared the story about my Mom’s reaction with my friend Kimmy, she laughed the entire time, because her Mom had pretty much the same reaction. haha. But then, I shared the story with my friends who are getting married this summer. There were several close friends around at the time and I was anticipating a burst of laughter, but instead, was met with one of those awkward silences that are difficult to recover from. It occurred to me, after the fact, that they probably resonated more with my Mom’s sentiment, than with me :-/

2. Your Thoughts:

Growing up in a church with a strong emphasis on apocalyptic prophecy, I never thought I’d live past 25. Seriously! All my goals/dreams/hopes etc, ended around age 25 so I feel like I’m living on borrowed time where I get to fulfill dreams I was even afraid to dream… Impossible dreams like those formed by an African little girl as she watches the lives of those in the developed world. If I could have lived past 25, I would have wanted to own my own car, live in a modern apartment by myself, and have a regular exercise routine. And now, in my borrowed time, I am living the impossible dream!

Some days, when I’m out for a run (more like a jog/walk at this stage), I step back from my life and take a look at it from “the outside.” And every single time I do that, I’m just in awe at how blessed I am! Who gets to have friends as coworkers?! huh? Me! Who can pray out loud at home, any time of the day, any day of the week, without worrying about anyone overhearing?! huh? Me! Who gets to see all four seasons every year and lives within an hour radius of a large body of water?! eh? Me! And every time I unlock the door to my apartment, I think, “this is MY apartment :)”

3. Your Feelings:

Grad school...ha!

Last fall I submitted an application for graduate school. The thought process that went into my decision to apply was rather instructive. It all centered around the possibility of getting married and starting a family of my own. Maybe I should keep working and pay off my credit card debt so that I can bring my debt-free status as a dowry to my marriage… If someone I liked proposed to me before I was done with grad school, would I quit school to marry/have kids? Or should I wait to meet someone before I go back to school? etc etc etc…

Most of these thoughts surprised me, actually. For all my excitement about where I’m at in life, I guess there’s a part of me that desires the companionship that marriage promises…enough, at least, for its possibility to factor as a major consideration when thinking about my future. Although I miss my family, back home in Zimbabwe, it’s not the kind of missing that makes me want to go back and live in my parents house, you know. I miss the accountability that family provides. I miss the assumption of unconditional love. And I miss the default community.

My parents’ house will no longer be able to provide these things for me in the way it used to. Because, I want more than just these things – I want to impact the world and 36 Heythrop is probably not the right venue for that any more. So, the easiest solution to meet the needs expressed is to get married. BAM! Instant love, accountability and community!

4. How it oughta be:

Getting married is the easy way to meet my needs. But not the only way. The church is supposed to be a community where you find love and accountability. But it takes a bit more work to get to that place…

Living in the UP was certainly one of the most isolated experiences in my life, but moving to Lansing topped it! In the first couple of months after moving here, I was lonely – boy, was I lonely! And I was afraid of coming off “clingy” so I tried not to call the same people too often. Truth be told though… I was so lonely. haha.

Then a couple of months ago, I finally decided to engage the community around me. Instead of mourning for friends I left behind in Ann Arbor/Detroit, or pining for a love that would mystically eradicate my woes, I would start going to prayer meetings. I would start sharing my prayer requests with church members and remembering their requests throughout the week. I would pray for them and ask after their welfare. Probably the one that’s most difficult for me, is making myself accountable to others, but I’m trying e.g. with my running goals for this year.

Getting married is not the only thing I want in life, you know. It feels like well-meaning friends/family/church members, sometimes treat the single woman like her life is completely empty without marriage. So I think, sometimes, single ladies overcompensate with the whole independent woman thing. Yet in reality, we do want the companionship of marriage. But we’re afraid to admit it because we don’t wanna come off desperate or something, right. haha.

In my experience, it’s possible to both be happy about being single and desirous of marriage at the same time. Further, I’d contend that one could accomplish that while avoiding bitterness, cynicism, and desperation if they were part of a healthy, Christ-like church. A church where you aren’t treated like an invalid because you aren’t married (so everyone’s trying to cure you by introducing you to somebody. haha). And yet at the same time, they recognize the very real human needs for companionship that can be met through the body of Christ.

And that, my friends, in my opinion, is how it ought to be.