Wednesday, July 23, 2008


It is a raining outside and I am waiting for a baby. I say the same thing almost every day, it seems-- it is sunrise and I am waiting. It is sunset and I am waiting. It is another full moon and, as always, I am waiting for God to bring our efforts at conception to fruition.

I'm not actually very good at waiting but it's become so much a part of my life the past year that it's not so much an action as a state of existence. Like the weather, which currently is pouring and roaring in a classic summer thunderstorm.

It reminds me of a day like this two years ago, when I sat on my front porch thoroughly past my due date and thoroughly tired of my pregnancy. The thunderclouds darkening the sky and the wind in the trees hinted that rain was on the way and as restless and hot as I was, I couldn't wait. I decided to sit on the porch and watch the storm. The wind gusted promisingly, thunder rumbled, and heat lightening flashed. No rain. The humidity, already oppressive, climbed until the air itself seemed to be swelling, inflating to bursting point. I remember sitting in my rocking chair thinking this is what waiting for my pregnancy to end feels like. All the signs that I was ready for labor without actual labor. I felt ready to burst with anticipation and yes, frustration. But then the clouds burst and the rain came, loud and merry, rattling the tin roof of my porch and filling the earth with delicious coolness. I laughed, patted my belly and reminded myself that God was the one to bring both rain and babies alike.

Now, two years later, I again feel swollen with longing. After a year of trying for another child, I can't tell that we are one bit closer to a pregnancy. I know that God is perfect in His timing but I also, pessimist that I am, wonder in my darker moments if He is ever going to end this waiting. The thought crossed my mind today that perhaps I should give up. It is as if all our efforts and prayers, desires and frustrations built like humidity in my soul, oppressive and heavy. I needed the clouds to burst, needed something to give way.

The thunderstorm this afternoon found me again on my front porch, this time watching the downpour with my daughter Ember. We took advantage of a lull in the rain to explore the puddles in our driveway and the miniature waterfalls dripping from the gutters. A cool wind blew away every trace of the humidity that had marked the morning previously and as I watched Ember splash, my own heaviness lifted. Yes, I am waiting. I am not waiting alone. I already have one priceless gift from God, and my life is filled with all the blessings and challenges of parenting-- as well as moments of sheer puddle-splashing joy.

As long as there are days of rain to break the humidity, daily joys to break the longing, I think I stand the wait a little longer.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Freewrite No. 3

It's the kind of day in which during my daughter's nap polite thunderstorms settle in above my house. No downpour here, no wild lightning and tropical wind-- just a steady hum on rain on the tin window awnings and self-contented thunder rolling around in the clouds like a dog in tall grass. Really, I almost feel it's rude not to open the windows and invite the storm in for tea but who wants to mop up after that? Think of the carpet, after all.

I'll settle for a blanket over my lap, mug at my hand, and my pen dancing across the page in the hushed gray afternoon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chicken, Casserole, and Other Comforts

Yes, it's been deader than week old roadkill here, between a most inconvenient bout with pneumonia followed by my father's knee surgery. I've been trying out my Florence Nightingale skills during his recovery, which has left me little time to blog but lots of time to think. About family, community, comfort....and casseroles.

This little thought-worm started chewing its way through my brain when I heard a woman in my Weight Watchers group mention that she was having a hard time sticking to her food plan while her daughter was in the hospital. I have never been one to randomly offer food to strangers but for some reason I knew I should offer to bring her a dinner. God pokes us at odd times, in odd ways. Her daughter is the same age as mine, and I could only imagine how I would feel were it Ember in a sickbed. Cooking a meal for her wasn't just about food but about extending my domestic sphere, temporarily, to include her and her daughter. A small, tiny bit of homemaking in the middle of a hospital corridor.

So I brought chicken, along with the requisite side dishes, not entirely sure what to expect. I worried I'd seasoned it wrong or forgotten the napkins or some other such nonsense. Certainly I wasn't thinking about her reaction which was perhaps why I was so blown away at how much she was moved by the meal. She seemed genuinely touched that someone would cook for her, which made me realize how rare this type of hospitality is in our society.

Perhaps my urge to offer comfort food in a crisis can be pinned on my grandmother, a bona fide Arkansas cook whose pies sold out around town and whose biscuits and gravy will probably be served for breakfast in heaven. Women from her generation didn't send Hallmark cards; they sent casseroles. And pies, and homebaked breads, and roasts....and you get the idea. Whether the occasion was joyous or solmen, whether the recipient was family or friend or simply a neighbor in need, these women rolled up their sleeves and cooked.

Until now, I never realized the value in what they were doing. When the feminist movement ousted women from the kitchen and into the workforce, domestic gifts-- such as comfort casseroles-- were dismissed as artificial and silly. The stereotype emerged of an overly hair-sprayed woman bringing a rock-hard tuna casserole to a grieving family, expecting her food to be a panacea for all their ills. It was portrayed as naive, even silly, for a women to put so much value on mere food. Perhaps domestic women, with nothing else to offer, had to make do with such poor gifts but liberated women could give a real gift with the financial resources they had at their disposal. I bought into this image, as did many women of my generation.

My first glimmer that this might be a skewed image came in the first week after the birth of my daughter. I was flat on my back, hormonal to the point of insanity, sleep-deprived....and starving. My husband, bless his heart, made me toast. A woman trying to breastfeed a newborn cannot survive on toast. It was the evening meals brought by the women of my church family that nourished my body and encouraged my spirit. Each meal bore the unmistakable imprint of the home where it was prepared, and each meal served its purpose-- not as a cure-all but as a stepping stone towards normalcy. The practical needs of daily living do not stop even in the midst of the most life-changing events. Even to meet those needs for one night is a gift, for it allows those in the midst of change to focus their finite energy where it is most needed. I came away from those meals with a profound gratefulness and a desire to show other women the kindness I had received.

My second encounter with the blessing of shared meals came after my father's surgery. Again, the gift of food brought my family into a sphere of domestic care that edified our souls as much as it fed our stomachs. To know you are not alone in a crisis, to know that at the end of a long day there will be a hot meal waiting for you-- these are not trifles, no matter how much our society portrays them as such.

Of course, a meal given out of sheer duty can be stripped of its power. Of course, we need to make sure we provide something more than yesterday's spaghetti. This does not mean that we need to aspire to five-star gourmet cuisine, simply that we put thought into the preparation of the meals we intend for ministry. The real beauty of comfort food isn't that it is high-class or expensive or elaborate, but that it comforts. Every woman has the potential to give that gift, in a way that is hers alone. Every time she does, she serves not only those receiving the meal but also her own family, and most importantly Christ Himself.