Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1‭-‬14 NASB

Yoga made me cry.

As I was standing in the last tadasana of my practice with hands at heart center, it hit me how actually close to my heart I had become. In the third floor ‘bonus room’ of our new beautiful house, with windows open and sweat (or humidity) dripping off my body, I realized that more unity had been cultivated between my mind and body in the past several months than I realized. This realization brought on tears that I didn’t expect.

I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet.

When one’s body doesn’t perform or operate as it should, it’s frustrating. I would even say that it can be damaging to one’s psyche. I’m no psychologist or clergyperson, but I can imagine that without unity between one’s body, mind, and soul, the body is no longer revered as a ‘temple’. What I believe is that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit  but I’ve been defiling my temple for a long time.

When I think of not loving my body, I first think of hating how I look in the mirror, scoffing at the number on the scale, or eating copious amounts of whatever food will bring me comfort. But — always, always, always — these seemingly superficial manifestations of the lack of self-love stem from a deep-seated disunity among mind, body, and soul.

I’ve medicated with food, with alcohol, with running, with CICO (calories in, calories out). And all these things help a little bit, whether it’s by dulling the pain, creating more pain, or giving a sense of accomplishment. Ultimately, however, I have to find a balance and heal myself from the inside out in a way that’s sustainable in the long run.

This isn’t about healing my body so that I can carry a child. Friends, that ship has sailed and is half way around the world by now. What I’m discovering is that my mind-body connection, my temple, has to be healed for me. And then, from there, I can fulfill my purpose in life. I can then pour into my marriage, into my students, into relationships with colleagues and bosses and neighbors and fellow congregants.

So, how do I fix a broken temple? How do I rebuild? Truly it’s not built in a day. It took weeks, months, years of deterioration to destroy what God created as good — my body, mind and soul — and therefore it’ll take time to rebuild.

I’m not saying I have to cry and show emotion like I did in my yoga practice in order to rebuild my temple. But for me, that’s how I roll (I’ve mentioned before how much like Kristen Bell I am), and that’s how I know something’s working. Something’s hitting a nerve.

In yoga (and I’m an amateur so hear me out), your body can never be far from your mind. Even in savasana, you feel the ‘earth’ beneath you and are aware of the air, the noises, the breath.

What I absolutely love about the end of yoga practice is that no matter how aligned or how klutzy I was, I just spent time with my body in a positive environment seeking new challenges and bringing things into alignment. I come from death back into life, and it’s a new chance to honor my temple so that I can do the work meant for me since the beginning of time.

Uterus: “Hi, I’m a special snowflake. Nice to meet you.”

And mine is actually quite unique. That’s right, folks, my uterus thinks it’s a freaking special snowflake and falls into the approximately 5% of women who are born with a Mullerian anomaly.

A week and a half ago I had symptoms of what I knew to probably be an ovarian cyst. I’ve had pain in that general region before (um, hello, a right of womanhood I suppose), but this felt off. I’ll spare you the details, but if you’re a woman reading this, or anyone who is fortunate enough to be close enough to a woman to hear her sad song about our plight, it’s painful and uncomfortable.

I went to a regular annual checkup, and unfortunately had to ask the doctor for an ultrasound. Even after an exam, going over my medical history (including infertility), and explaining my symptoms, she didn’t couldn’t explain my pain and discomfort and was going to let me leave the exam room 1) after putting my pants back on and 2) without an answer or trying to find me one. (I demand a refund!) However, she humored me and I was able to schedule an ultrasound for later that day.

During the ultrasound, I got the tech talking. Technically, the radiology techs aren’t supposed to say anything but after she told me she had 30 years of experience, I figured that if she accidentally divulged information, I could probably take it with a little more than a grain of salt.

She saw a cyst that had burst (confirmed by doctor’s findings) and towards the end of the exam she was able to see my special sneauxflayke™ uterus (also confirmed by an MD). To her surprise, and mine, a septate uterus was a new discovery because even though I’d had both an ultrasound and hysterosalpingogram before, neither procedure caught it on camera (this is actually unfortunately common).

The same day, my doctor called me with results, and this confirmed a hunch I’ve had for a long time now – this was the ‘something else’ possibly causing our infertility that had not yet been identified.

I know as an educated person, and as a person with common sense, that the few things we’ve had confirmed as possible causes (variococele [for him], hypothyroidism [for both of us], septate uterus [for me]) may not 100% be the cause, but are definitely factors.

Herein lies the rub – if we had known about these issues when we were still relatively new to the trying-to-conceive club, it could have affected the outcome and our decisions. Both surgical procedures for correcting a varicocele and septate uterus are fairly noninvasive and simple. However, last summer we decided to be done. Really done. Irrevocably done (as in snip snip), and so we are not pursuing any more treatment or testing.

This news has caused quite a stir in my spirit. Last week, I cried. This week, I cried. I’m still mourning, grieving, a life that I spent so long thinking and dreaming about. In the end, I get pissed off that I spent so long (30 years of my life…) just assuming I’d be a mother, not even thinking for a second that it wouldn’t be possible without some grief. But I just spent time assuming and appropriating all the cute belly pics, adorable maternity wear, Pinterest-inspired nurseries into my life, all the while having this vascularly-challenged wall of tissue in a small organ that has been there all along, sitting pretty, waiting for the right moment to reveal itself.

I know it’s not my fault, but I‘m still at odds with my body.  I’ve known that since the beginning. But I’m still fighting – pushing, pulling, negotiating. This poor relationship is slowly improving through yoga, making better eating choices, and running (obvs!).

On a more existential scale, I’m kind of at odds with God. The Bible says that before He formed us in the womb, He knew us, and this is a truth I take to heart (Jeremiah 1; Psalm 139. But the big questions I’m grappling with right now are, 1) If he formed me, and did it knowingly and purposefully, then He knew all along about this and didn’t tell me?! 2) Why have I had the desire for my own biological children for so long? and of course, 3) What does this mean about my life’s purpose now? A big cozy comfort I cling to like a security blanket is that if He knew all this and ordained it, then there are other things He’s ordained for me to do, work to do that matters, no uterus required.

I’m still, and will be for time to come, at odds with society. I feel lied to, betrayed, and cheated. I may have said this before, but if I had known that having children didn’t have to be an option, I’m honestly not 100% sure we would have chosen to try. And that fact does not undermine my grief. If someone had told me that it’s okay to choose a career that’s not conducive to maternity leaves and a busy middle-class American family’s schedule, I’m not sure I would have chosen to become a teacher (known for its decent 8-4 schedule, summers off, and 4-year college track). And that fact doesn’t undermine my professional career or achievements, or love for my profession.

The problem is not that someone told me that I had to have children, or that I had to have a ‘family-friendly’ career – no one physically told me that. But society did. And I’m still pissy about it.

So, all in all, I can just hear my uterine cells in chorus, as they were forming, say, “Let’s build a wall [of tissue that has a hard time supporting new life] and make Elizabeth pay for it!”

On carnations and Sunday litany

Yesterday as I walked out of the sanctuary, it was the first Mother’s Day in years that I really felt like the sanctuary, was, well, a sanctuary. I’ve been pondering the litany we read together as a congregation, one that my pastor modified as he went in order to be more inclusive. It went something like this:

Leader: Mothers come in many different forms, and today we celebrate them all!
All: Thank God for mothers!

Leader: Everyone here is either a son or a daughter.
All: Thank God for my mother!

Leader: For those women who have joined God in Heaven and whom we miss dearly here on earth.
All: Thank God for the mothers of the past.

Leader: For every woman who is working day and night to raise her children right now.
All: Thank God for the mothers of today.

Leader: For all the women who are expecting, but aren’t quite mothers yet!
All: Thank God for the soon-to-be-mothers.

Leader: For the women who took in their own others’ children through adoption and foster care.
All: Thank God for the mothers with hearts so big.

Leader: For those women who have lost a child to death and must carry on.
All: Thank God for the mothers who are so strong.

Leader: For all the women who have desperately wanted to have children of their own, but chose instead to mother everyone else.
All: Thank God for the mothers in spirit.

All: We thank you, Lord, for the women who have influenced our lives in so many ways. We pray that we will honor them in everything we do. Amen.

Before the service, I was greeted with a carnation outstretched and a “Happy Mother’s Day”. This act makes me feel very uncomfortable. In the years since I’ve struggled with infertility, instead of just smiling, nodding, and taking the flower, I politely refuse and say, “I’m not a mother.” I imagine the person doing the greeting also feels uncomfortable. However, I’m at a point now where I’m okay with stirring the pot, making others aware of the grief that mothers-who-wish-they-could-have-been feel on a daily basis, and especially around a ‘holiday’ like Mother’s Day.

When I politely declined and said, “I’m not a mother” the immediate response was, “Well, but, you have a mother.” Yes, that’s true, but that does not replace the fact that we are unable to have our own children for unexplained reason(s) and that I (we) am (are) still actively grieving this fact and substantial change in my expected way of life.

Another assumption I take issue with is that if a woman on Mother’s Day is not a biological, foster, or adoptive mother, she surely has some hand in ‘raising’ the next generation. I personally do fall into this category of – I teach elementary school and volunteer with both elementary aged kids after school and older kids on Sundays.

But the assumption overall proves itself false. Take my middle sister, for example, who is staunchly childfree – always has been, always will be. She takes no interest in fostering (for lack of better words) her ‘maternal instinct’. I haven’t studied enough biology or anthropology to know if this is an actual trait that all women possess, but I know that there are millions more women like my sister who do not claim to have a ‘maternal instinct.’ Therefore, there’s a huge problem with blanketing an entire sex with a place in Mother’s Day sentiments.

I don’t want Mother’s Day to be abolished. I don’t want people to stop celebrating their motherhood on my behalf. I take part in celebrating my mother and the other women who have helped mother me throughout my life. I just want two simple things: an awareness of those who would love to be counted as a mother but cannot or don’t want to be, and a choice in the manner of celebration – an accepted choice to decline if I so wish.

A suggestion for a venue such as church would be to have a large vase with carnations placed in the entryway to the sanctuary with a direction to take one if she so chooses, rather than nearly forcing or attempting to rationalize the woman in question to partake in a tradition that makes her feel very uncomfortable. If I’m being vocal about not accepting a gift as beautiful as a flower, there’s probably a very good reason.

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Treasure

“Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” Matthew 6:21

I love this verse. It’s such a simple but poignant reminder about the effects of our priorities in life.

It’s no secret that Aaron and I are huge Dave Ramsey fans. I listen to the podcast on my commute back and forth to work everyday, and Dave references this verse quite a bit. He also takes it a bit farther to say that for married couples, financial decisions are also decisions about your values and dreams.

Money has been quite a controversial topic, not only in our capitalistic society, but also in church. It’s a huge deal. I’ve heard it said that Jesus mentions money almost more than he mentions anything else in the Gospels.

We are stewards of what God has given us, whether that’s much or little, the earth or our bodies, many jobs or one job. How we approach stewardship of these things is a direct reflection in our values, and what is in our hearts.