Moving A Warm Summer Winter

Just a note to say that I’m moving the blog.  A Warm Summer Winter has now been moved to my company site, Still the Sea.  The blog is now called In the Tides.  Which, incidentally, I named after listening to my favorite Fleetwood Mac song, Landslide.  I hope you’ll continue to read!

Chat soon,
Liz

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Creating More Culture

On my bedside table lie the following words… “What Sex Feels Like in a Threesome.”  Followed by “…When You’re Cheating…and More!”  I glanced down at those words – headlines on a magazine I actually subscribe to – and felt indigestion.  Followed by a growing sadness, then a fleeting desire to park that big inflatable rat – you know the one, they put it outside city buildings during union protests – outside the magazine’s offices.  Because – come on, there are tweens reading these headlines in supermarket lines!  Not to mention the second graders!

I am not in favor of burning books.  To me that whole movement is shockingly wrong.  Also, organized boycotts (on issues short of crimes such as human trafficking) just seem fairly lame to me.  I once had an acquaintance in her early 20’s who attempted to organize a widespread boycott of Victoria’s Secret because she found their window displays much too risqué.  I confess I found her approach flat and remarkably ineffective.  (Also, she should NOT window shop on Christopher Street.)  If my pastor at church told me not to vote a certain way, or to avoid a certain movie, book or exhibit, his prohibition would probably freak me out (and might even tempt me to go investigate just the thing he warned against).

But when the culture keeps turning out movies like “Hall Pass” and magazine headlines like “Why You Should Have Married Rich,” I feel pretty sickened.  I want a change – I want something fresh and clean, something pure.  (Writing that reminds me that I need to change Lucy’s diaper as soon as I post this blog entry…extend that analogy as much as you’d like.)

I sat in on an entrepreneurial forum the other week, and one speaker addressed the issue of a depraved culture.  He said the only response that would have any redeeming effect on the culture is to create more culture. To add something beautiful to the culture.  That approach completely resonated with me.  In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I started Still the Sea.

I love yoga as a physical discipline, but some Christians have encouraged a ban on yoga within the faith.  A regular yoga practice (paired with healthy eating) gives you a rocking body, there’s no denying.  Plus, I think yoga has incredible potential for helping to build spiritual and mental discipline.  While I agree with Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler that yoga has roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, and I am neither Hindu nor Buddhist, I disagree with his premise that Christians should “avoid it at all costs.”  Much more inspired do I find people such as the awesome Brooke Boon who essentially added to the culture something beautiful – Holy Yoga, a form of yoga with its roots in Christian spirituality.  Creation, rather than denunciation.

Rather than boycotting yoga, I decided to create a Biblical yoga mat to take to class.  At Still the Sea, we ended up making five such mat varieties.  I love bringing them to yoga class.  Rather than emptying my mind, I love looking down at my mat and meditating on God’s word.  The words on the mat shine a light in that class.  We’re selling the mats in the Still the Sea Shop – see what you think.

That’s my vision for Still the Sea.  Something fresh and clean, something pure to add to the culture. Products and content that shine light in the darkness.  That’s the hope anyway.  Would love to hear what you think!

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The Advantages of Discomfort

My brand new daughter, Lucy, taught me a lesson very early this morning.  Ahh, those 4 a.m. lessons.  If you’ve ever nursed a baby, you know that the middle of the night feedings are tough.  As bonding and  as healthy as it is, you are bleary eyed at best.

If Lucy gets her sleepy way, she’ll nurse for about five minutes, then fall back asleep.  Only to wake up less than an hour later to nurse again.  Oy.  If I get my sleepy way, she’ll nurse for forty minutes, enabling her to fall back asleep for a good 3-4 blissful hours.

Here’s the trick.  I let the baby nurse for as long as she’s willing.  Then, when she drifts back to sleep a few minutes later, I get up to change her diaper.  This exposes the little, sleepy warm bundle to some cold air, cold wipes, much jostling, and likely an out-of-tune, made-up song.  (My latest was elegantly entitled “Poop Explosion”.)  Mildly traumatized and a bit chilly, she’s ready to nurse again for the long haul.  Bring on the comfort, she says, wordlessly.  The diaper change works like a charm to get her to accept what she needs – timely nutrition and hugs.

So I got to thinking.  Isn’t that what God does with us?  He lets us go our own way, until we become complacent or apathetic.  Until we fall asleep in life, until we are just going through the motions.  Then He allows something really jarring in our lives, and we wake right up.  Roused out of our comfort zone, we run to God for comfort and help.  This is right where He wants us, right?

In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis calls pain “God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  What better way to get our attention than pain?  The saving grace is that there is always comfort to be found, and there is always a specific, loving purpose to the discomfort.  If I, as such an imperfect, out-of-tune mother, have loving purposes for Lucy, how much more so does God have them for you and me.  Even when our lives appear to resemble a poop explosion.

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Waiting for Lucy (To Finn at the End of Winter)

I am often astonished by how beautiful, unexpected gifts can arrive while you wait, and when you least expect them.  Especially when your wonderful, charming father-in-law is renowned Irish poet, Eamon Grennan.  As I count down the minutes until Lucy’s arrival (no, not here yet, but soon!), trying to remain distracted, this poem / gem / love-letter-to-grandson arrived via Outlook of all things.  And so I sit sobbing.  (The happy kind of tears.)

Waiting for Lucy

(To Finn at the End of Winter)

Dear Finn, I know it must be hard to imagine

that from under these leaf-shrouded shreds

and patches of impoverished grass will come

a single snowdrop, never mind a daffodil or

golden crocus.  But in time it will (imagine!)

happen, just as even a prince of a lad like you

will grow up in time (it has to happen!) and

have to share his throne and princely crown

with one who’s travelling towards the nest

your Mom and Dad have been for ages

preparing for her–so she’ll have, your sister (yes!

that’s who!) will have a place to rest herself.

 

And isn’t that how you rested when you too

came to them in this same season when the

first green shoots had hardly peeped out over

all the dead leaves, the muddy grass as famished

as what’s under all our feet this minute

(yours too, can you feel it?), but which will

and you know it will, be soon a space you’ll

run and run in, and run across a green world

of grass that’s made a comeback just for you

because you’re TWO, and soon big enough,

Lord save us, to help a sister sit up so she can

see the realm you plan, being royal, to share

with her, and give her, royally, the run of it.

 

And surely–take our word for it–she’ll look

around and about at it and she’ll see it’s good,

all colours as it is, and how still it is, as the sea

can sometimes be when we stop and look at it

and see it is all light, the steady tide come in

just at its turn, when change happens, as change

comes to your world that’s widening as you take

each quick minute of it in so you grow and grow

(you will! you do!) into exactly who you’ll be:

big brother to the little one who’ll soon be here,

and over her you’ll keep good watch, the two

of you at home together here, and us watching.

 

Well, that’s enough serious words for any young lad,

so I’ll sign off here, with love and a hug,

– Grandad

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Fasting

Several of my best friends recently undertook a fast.  Well, one called it a “fast” and the other called it a “cleanse,” but knowing them as I do, they were both going for the same effect.  I was really inspired.  I wanted to fast too.

Being only five-ish weeks away from giving birth to this beautiful girl though, I thought I can’t in good conscience fast.  Or can I?

I just realized, while making dinner (see what you’re missing Conor while taping that CNN interview? Semi-delicious homemade dinner…), that I talk about myself a lot.  Not so much that I go on and on about how great I am.  “Look at how few split ends you can find in my hair!” or “What a marvelous joke I just made, didn’t I Conor?”  That’s not usually where I self-center.

Where I really spend a lot of my words each day is in contexts such as, “I’m really worried about [you name it],” or “Gosh, I really need to get things more organized in my life,” or “Conor is traveling so much and I’m so bummed.”  All these sentences, minute by minute, subject line:  Me.

So my friends, tomorrow (Tuesday), I’m going to fast.  Not from talking altogether (wouldn’t that be a feat), but from Talking About Myself.  That’s my fasting goal.

I think we can also safely call it a cleanse.

I’ll tell you how it goes.

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Health, Wellness and Windex

I love the thought of being healthy, yet in so many ways I am just…not.  I do love walking into Whole Foods and dreaming of a new, streamlined, organic existence – full of life and vegetables and extra energy and restful sleep.  I love going to yoga.  I love the way I feel after a hike or a trail run or even a jog on the treadmill.  I love thinking of feeding my family only fresh, locally grown foods from surrounding farms.

But then somehow, the first word that tambourines into my mind is “hippie.”  I think of a huge Buddhist statue, vegan sandals, and the scents of heavy, patchouli-soaked incense wafting toward some industrial chic ceiling in an urban loft I’ll never own.  Potted wheat grass and a bong in the corner.  That life just doesn’t seem “me.”

Alas, what seems more “me” these days,  especially at 33 weeks pregnant, is a big cozy couch, my Kindle, Ugg slippers, carb-heavy family dinners while watching Mad Men on DVD, followed maybe by one of the “Over the Moon” Pies that our friends Pam and Fisher sent us from Zingermans.  These things just seem so “homey” to me.  For some reason I think of “health and wellness” as alternative living – as the sort of living I both do, and don’t want to do.  That said, my mind is really starting to change on this topic.  Probably just in time.

I don’t, as far as I know, have cancer.  But lately I’ve been reading Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet and recently watched her documentary, Crazy Sexy Cancer.  Kris Carr, for those who don’t know, was a former actress, photographer, and incidentally big-time party girl (self-proclaimed) in New York City.  Until a few years ago, that is, when she was diagnosed with a very rare cancer – sparking an inspirational journey involving kale, wheat grass, lots of yoga, and a move to Woodstock.  Now Carr is a New York Times bestselling author, wellness coach, and motivational speaker.  Big changes, thanks to some very alternative living.

One of Carr’s main focal points is the pH balance in the body.  She maintains that the key factor to reversing disease is maintaining a balanced acid-alkaline state in the body.  According to Carr’s cohorts, acidic blood: (a) blocks vitamin absorption and starves your body of essential nutrients, (b) creates toxic buildup in clogged cells, (c) slows down organ function and makes you feel sluggish and weak, (d) prevents proper digestion and creates excess gas and bloating, (e) causes unhealthy weight gain, and (f) speeds the aging process making you look older.  Yucky.

Acid-loving, insides-attacking parasites noodled through my mind like the Grateful Dead’s dancing bears.  I pushed aside my Caffeine-free Diet Coke, and jumped on Amazon to order some pH test strips, wanting to test my own balance from home.   I just snuck them into Conor’s and my shared online cart, hoping he’d soon order some more printer paper, so that later the pH strips would just magically appear alongside in the box.  (Without commentary from Conor.)  No such luck.

“Babe?  Those urine-test-strip-things?  Are those a mistake?”  Conor yelled up to my office.

“Nope!”  I answered, vaguely, pretending to stuff some food into my cheeks.  (Men love a woman with a bit of mystery.)  Luckily I didn’t hear any further objection from Conor – maybe he thought they were pregnancy related.  (If you talk to him, yes, they were a pregnancy necessity.)

The test-strips arrived two days later (good old Amazon Prime), and I immediately took one.  The color chart was terribly confusing, so I called Customer Service.  (Loooove talking about tests involving peeing with Customer Service.  Love it.)  The company’s agent told me to spray some Windex onto the test strip, to see an example of “an optimum acid-alkalinity balance.”  How did it go, you ask?  Blue liquid – 1, Liz – 0.  Windex bested me that day, my friends.  Turns out I have a ways to go before I move into the coveted “greater than 7.0 pH level” category.  More Four Tines for dinner, here I come.

If 30 is the new 20, then I’m still in my late 20’s.  Hooray!  But I have a husband I just adore, and I will soon be caring for not-one-but-two extraordinarily precious little ones who will count on me.  Who need me to say no to high fat, high sodium, heavily processed foods.  I really do want to start living an alternative life (one with no tie dye, let’s be clear on that.)  I want to eat clean, local, unprocessed organic foods.  I want to resist stress, to find a calm and peace and stillness in life.  I want a great deal more self discipline.  I truly believe that the quality of the rest of my life, and my family’s lives, depend on it.  So I have some work to do.

But at least I’m not eating these:  Bacon Moon Pies So I’ve got that going for me…which is nice…

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Be Still and Know

Stillness.  Finally.

It took me a while to get still enough to write this blog.  Lots going on with us lately, including the fact that we just had our offer on a house accepted – hooray!  We close right after our baby Lucy arrives this April.  And this house is just beautiful, we can’t get over it.  (Shout out here to the depressed housing market for bringing this house within reach for us.)

Conor and I have already chosen bedrooms for Finn and Lucy – Finn gets the blue room with the nautical bathroom, Lucy gets the yellow room, with the floral bathroom.  I’m envisioning raising our children in these rooms, bedtime stories and songs, forts and legos, and it brings me tears of joy.

Then I start to think what our future life might look like, and I always come back to the same question.  Will Lucy have Down Syndrome?  Is that how our life will look in this new house?

Everything with Finn’s pregnancy went along just fine.  I was working at a law firm in Manhattan, totally stressed out, and yet everything was just fine.  And everything had been just fine with Lucy’s pregnancy too … until I got the dreaded call from the genetic counselor.

“I’m sorry to tell you this Liz, but in your second sequential blood screening, you’ve actually tested positive for high-risk of Down Syndrome.  Can we schedule you an amnio?”

“What would an amnio do for us, exactly?” I asked, mouth a bit dry.

“Well, you would know definitively if she had Down.  But of course you wouldn’t know the severity – she could be very high functioning, or …” her voice trailed off.

“So it’s just to find out, and prepare?” I asked.

“Well, some parents make the decision to terminate if the baby tests positive.”

“That’s out of the question for us.”  And it was, too, for so, so many reasons.  But knowing would help us prepare…so I said I’d call her back.

Now, making yourself still after news like this is almost impossible.  For those who know me well, you can imagine maniacal Google searches, broad compilations of symptoms, harried calls to friends who are parents of special needs kids, and a quick email survey of my closest mom friends.  I was a whirlwind.

When I finally did sit down and quiet my heart, trying to decide what to do, I felt like I heard God’s voice.  (Funny, in a Tim Keller sermon the other day, I heard him say “Charismatics always hear God’s voice…but Presbyterians usually just ‘have a hunch’ it’s God’s voice.”)  True to stereotype, I had a hunch I was hearing God’s voice.  What I think He said was, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  (This is also a verse from the Psalms, one of my favorite.)

Now, I will very rarely claim to even have a hunch to hear from God.  I believe my conscience is God-given, so if I’m feeling guilty, I know where that feeling is coming from, enough to know to turn around.  Same with a prompting to do some good thing.  But do I hear Him regularly?  Nope.  Sure wish I did.  But this felt very much like Him.

And He didn’t say “Lucy will be healthy,” or “Liz, go get the amnio” or “Liz, don’t get the amnio.”  There were no promises or specific directions.  He just seemed to say “be still, know that I am here, and I will take care of you.”  The how’s and why’s and where’s and when’s (things I really like to know!) were not mentioned.  Just the certainty of His “thereness.”

There’s this amazing Jon Foreman song – he’s one of my favorite artists.  Lead singer of Switchfoot, and from my home town of San Diego, amazing guy.  He sings these simple lyrics:  “Two things you’ve told me:  that You are strong, and that You love me.”  For some reason, those lyrics speak so profoundly to me.  They essentially say the same thing – He can, and will, take care of us.  Simply because He loves us.

So that’s what I’m going on friends.  That’s what stillness revealed to me, and that’s what’s keeping me really joyful during this pregnancy.  Conor and I decided, no amnio.  We shall see what needs Lucy has when she arrives.  She will be exceedingly well loved when she does, we can promise her that right now.  (And Lucy!  This beautiful yellow bedroom is all waiting for you sweetie!  Filled with soft blankets and stuffed ducks, and sort-of-shouted songs from your brother Finn.)  But for all the uncertainty, I just have to trust in God being God.  He is good, and he’s never leaving me.  Or Lucy.  Or you.  And isn’t that pretty much better than anything?

This blog is dedicated to my very good and beautiful friend, who is going through a nightmare of a time right now with her child.  For praying people who don’t mind vagueness, will you please pray some very earnest prayers of health for her little one?  Thanks friends.

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