Maternity Leave (a PINK Tuesday post)

It’s been nearly 14 years since my last maternity leave.

In the traditional sense of the term, new life is practically bursting forth or has just arrived when maternity leave takes place.

Both of my own maternal leave periods were six weeks long. Six weeks of becoming acquainted with a new creation. Six weeks of anticipating, experiencing and recovering from the birth experience itself. Six weeks to make the often awkward and even painful transition between life before and life after this new arrival. Six weeks filled with the full range of emotional responses – tears, laughter, surprise, disappointment – while in the midst of a strangely euphoric period of exhaustion that tends to rattle the DNA.

Six weeks after which nothing will be as it was before.

When I requested a leave of absence from my work in church ministry – a six week leave – some were quick to liken this time-off to a sabbatical. I agreed. After all, after six years in ministry, even a lay person can benefit from a break. A change in scenery. A study leave. An extended ‘vacation’. I’ve done my best during this time to read and rest and catch up on those things I am perpetually, hopelessly behind in and on – all under the generous umbrella of ‘sabbatical’…

And there’s just one week left to go.

Sitting with my calendar in my lap, to-do list at my side, and the Spirit moving restlessly within, I am struck today by the most remarkably random reality: I am on maternity leave.

New life is bursting forth! Can’t see it yet, but I can feel it coming, and the uncomfortable anticipation just might kill me while I wait.

A new creation has already arrived! It looks a bit like I’d imagined it would, but it is wrinkly and fragile and time-consuming and breathtaking in all of its high-maintenance, miraculous beauty.

I’m trying my best to figure it out! I know what I should do with it, but this isn’t any time to be leading with my head – I am intuitively aware of the need to lead with my heart.

What a long time in coming! I’m exhausted by a growth process that has taken (literally) years, yet what is being birthed has arrived well-nourished, perfectly formed and surprisingly health-full considering my own flawed existence and previously failed attempts at creating from my own strengths something that only God can do.

Emotions wash over me in torrents as: Joy! Awe! Fear! Insecurity! Wonder! Apprehension! Amazement! Uncertainty! What I thought was becoming and what has begun to arrive are not exactly the same, and I am caught un-expecting (both the best and the worst) between bouts of laughter and streams of tears.

What I thought was a badly needed vacation has become, under the direction of the Creator, a home-birth instead. The old ways of doing things will no longer do – new life has come! Along with the former commitments and work-of-my-hands comes a new vision requiring fresh energy and shift in focus, because you can’t do same-old, same-old while holding something holy in your arms.

There is no going back to the way things were before.

I may have thought that the years of raising dreams conceived in passion were almost over, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This has been my spiritual maternity leave.

And this little mama’s bundle of joy – though not flesh and blood, but Spirit-born and God-breathed all the same – can now begin to grow.

Like a new mother... my work has just begun.

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Thinking Outside the (Shoe) Box

Every now and then, we miss the point.

Every now and then, we get too focused on the shoes and we simply miss the point.

After my first blog post, just over one week ago, I ran into a friend who had read “My Pink Shoes” and had left an amazingly encouraging comment in response.

And the first thing she did was look down at my feet. I was wearing black flip flops.

She was disappointed – I could see it in her eyes – and I was at once both amused and dismayed.

Cute (I thought)!

She read my blog (I smiled)!

She connected with the shoes (I knew she would)!

 

But… the shoes aren’t the point (just the touch-point)!

The shoes are the symbol (not the substance)!

What have I done (did I mislead her)?

I felt a wave of passion rise up from within, and as it intensified and reached my own ears, I heard its silent scream:

IT ISN’T ALL ABOUT THE SHOES!

But who are we trying to kid? At least a few of you are looking at my very pink shoes, and you’re thinking that for SOME, Christianity is an accessory. WE choose when to “wear” it and we have a box just the right size to pack it into when we “take it off.”

And YOU’RE RIGHT – this happens. Proof is everywhere. All you need to do is look around.

Accessorizing with the Christian faith, however, is a dangerous thing to do.

Dressing up and dressing down, according to how we feel or how we want to look, paints a pretty clear picture of who’s in charge of this closet. Picking and choosing which qualities to “wear” today may be superficially effective – you might convince a few onlookers that you’re the real thing, but in the eyes of God you are, as my children say, nothing but a “wanna-be.” 

This is evident in the findings of a recent study by the Barna Group, which indicated that “there is little significant difference between evangelical Christians and society.”

Apparently too many professing Christians are leaving their Spirit-breathed oddness in the shoe box these days, putting the community of faith at risk of “losing our distinctive identity as strangers and aliens in the world.” (Karen Mains, Soul Alert)

For this believer, the time has come to think outside the shoe box!

Opting to walk away from the need to choose my own spiritual “accessories,” I open up my life to the possibility that what God has in store for me to put on today may not even FIT into a box at all!

The spiritual equivalent of wearing my pink shoes all day, everyday, is to yield to the character of the living, active Spirit of God who makes His home inside plain old, little old, unimpressive ME.

I hope you run into me soon, my friends, and when you do, please don’t bother with my feetLOOK UP!

I’ll be wearing my pink shoes in my heart, where they most assuredly belong.

HIJACKED by the SPIRIT

Just a few of the Tuesday girls!

There goes another Tuesday morning Bible study…

13 women armed with coffee cups (correction: 12 coffee cups, one tea cup) and Bibles were once again hijacked by the Holy Spirit.

This phenomenon, happening with increasing frequency, takes the entire circle of women in my living room on one WILD ride through a full range of emotions and subjects and stories that would make the faint of heart… well, FAINT.

Don’t get me wrong! We come into each session with a shared objective – to cover the assigned material of our current study – but as the conversation begins and the very real needs of the group emerge, our agenda is often hijacked for a GREATER ONE.

Sometimes there are CONFLICTS that need to be resolved, or at least understood so that we can move on (strained relationships with difficult family members; run-ins with people who try to derail our attempts at loving those on the fringes; threats made by our own selfish nature that are at war with the Spirit of generosity God wants to fill us with).

Sometimes there is COMFORT that needs to be shared (when we’re losing our homes to the bank; losing our kids to addictions; losing our minds to menopause; losing our loved ones to cancer; losing our focus to the mind-numbing busy-ness and noise of the world around us).

Sometimes there is COMMUNITY that needs to be built (reminders that we’re NOT ALONE, that we are part of something greater than our own tightly wound bundle of nerves & needs; opportunities to realize that we have something the others NEED and that we can’t be faithful AND continue to keep it to ourselves!)

This week’s hijacking was marked by TEARS, answered (and unanswered) QUESTIONS, hysterical GIGGLING and moments of awkward SILENCE. Climbing off of the ride and into the study at hand, we realized almost simultaneously that what we had already experienced/wrestled with/discussed WAS the topic of this week’s chapter.

The “lesson” had begun – it just looked so much like our real lives that we hadn’t even noticed.

Romans chapter 12 begins with these words:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” (the Message)

God’s plan is likely NOT going to look like what YOU have in mind for today, and trading in your ordinary life for a God-crafted one probably isn’t for the faint of heart…

It’s RISKY!

It’s CHALLENGING!

It’s even a bit UNNERVING!

But go ahead – give up your NORMAL for His distinctively COUNTER-CULTURAL and make like a Girl Scout (be PREPARED)!

A Spiritual hijacking is coming your way, and it has YOUR NAME written all over it.

 

Special thanks to Barbie, a Tuesday morning gem, who used this phrase to describe our women’s group to a friend.

My Pink Shoes

The summer before my daughter’s freshman year included one rigorous shopping trip for clothes and school supplies. It was all fairly routine until we found ourselves in the shoe section of a favorite store…

I saw these shoes, and I’ll admit to you that there was only a hint of attraction when I picked them up to show my daughter; it was her reaction to them that made the sale.

It was something like, “NO WAY! Don’t EVEN think about buying those, Mom.”

The word hideous was used, and I remember a comment about “not being seen in public” with me before she put up her hand, turned on her heel, and walked away.

How could I RESIST? Of COURSE I bought them!

These shoes have stirred up emotions and sparked lively conversations over the years. One friend wrote a sappy poem about them while another conspired with my daughter to make them “disappear” while I was on a trip out of town. Even when they are tucked safely away in my closet, threats of a one-way trip to Goodwill have been made by both family and friends.

I’ve also found I can’t blend in with a crowd while these beauties are on my feet. They make a STATEMENT when I wear them, in a language all their own; not unlike what happened in Jerusalem, at Pentecost (Acts ch. 2).

When God unleashed His Spirit on Jesus’ followers that day, He made them STAND OUT! What else could the tongues of fire have been for? They certainly weren’t going to “fit in” with any crowd while flames erupted on their heads!

God’s invitation to His followers at Pentecost was clearly NOT to a life of predictability and status quo. When His Spirit comes in power to willing disciples, PEOPLE TAKE NOTICE! In just one day at Pentecost, about 3,000 onlookers witnessed the unusual events, felt the power of the Spirit of God, and responded by putting their faith in Him.

Scripture teaches us that when God’s Spirit of truth comes in power to willing disciples, we will KNOW the truth, and that truth will SET US FREE (John 8:32). That truth does something else, too. Author Flannery O’Connor once said that, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you ODD.”

THIS I BELIEVE – just look at me! I sit at my computer today, a willing disciple of the risen LORD (pink shoes notwithstanding), and while you probably won’t believe that there are flames of fire on my head, I promise that those flames ARE HERE, in my HEART. I feel something like a Galilean these days, because although I’m equipped with a head (somewhat) filled with knowledge, I’m not formally “schooled” in religion – I’m simply a follower of Yeshua, like the first disciples were. An unlikely candidate to deliver a message that might affect, or even change, the world.

Yet the Spirit of God comes in power to set apart the lives of those who yield to Him.

  • We are MARKED by His glorious presence.
  • We are CLAIMED by the God who created and breathed life into us.
  • We are EMPOWERED to DO, in Jesus’ own words, even greater works than His own (John 14:12), putting God’s glory on display for all to see.

In the process of all of this marking, claiming and empowering, as with the disciples at Pentecost, these lives we live are changed.

Gone are the days of getting lost in the crowd; instead, let’s wear our uniqueness like a pair of pink shoes while the fire of God’s truth burns brightly in our hearts.

"Let's wear our uniqueness like a pair of pink shoes..."