Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Funerals and Family Dynamics

Speaking generally, funeral preparation is a fascinating time to observe family dynamics at work, and to especially see the ways that dysfunction plays out through generations of a family system. You can see why the son of these parents married this person, and how their children ended up as they did. You can see why these two people were drawn to each other, even if the motivation appears to be to get as far away from family as possible.

This isn't really a surprise. Take a system, throw in a radical and permanent change to that system, and add a forced sense of proximity to other family members. Oh, and social pressures to behave in a certain fashion.

Unfortunately, it's also a terribly tragic time of loss for the family, and often for the whole community. To think only about the system is destructive and heartless; but to fail to think about the system is short-sighted and ultimately ineffective.

The bottom line is: families are complicated, and funerals bring this into high relief. HIGH relief.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Sad News and Happy News

Backbencher and I have sad news and happy news to share. Finally!

First, the sad news. Many of you know that an opportunity for us to adopt a child literally fell into our laps this spring. Just before I left for Costa Rica, we learned that the birth mother - someone we knew from another circle in our lives (and I'm not trying to be deliberately vague, but SW Iowa is a small place and she deserves her own anonymity if she wants it) - has decided to parent her child after all. This was very sad news for us, even if it was not altogether unexpected. She'd decided so early in her pregnancy, and she has a lot of support for both decisions she has made.

Now, to the happy news: The very morning before we heard the sad news, we learned that I am pregnant! I am about 12 weeks along now and all appears to be progressing well. If one can gauge by nausea, we are breeding a champion in my uterus. That is a much politer way to say that I have been "blessed" with intermittent, all day dry heaves, along with the occasional unpredictable incident of pukeatuge. I am fervently praying this part of pregnancy ends in the next two weeks. (Do not scare me with your stories of pregnancy-long morning sickness - I have heard it before and do not wish to hear more. Also, my stomach is unaccountably weaker than it used to be, so even these stories set me off a bit.)

Longtime friends and family know of my iron constitution and bone-deep loathing of throwing up (though really, who enjoys that particular experience?), and are quite sympathetic. Unfortunately, nothing reliably works for me. So thank you for the advice to stuff myself silly with Saltines (done and done), eat or drink every form of ginger imaginable (ditto), or to eat every waking hour. Just pray away the puking, please - but keep the baby.

This news, while it doesn't cancel out the sad news, is overwhelming and wonderful for us. We have known we wanted to be parents for almost as long as we've been together (and I've always known I wanted to be a mom), and we are delighted that, Ohala, we will get to meet our first child in 2011. I am also incredibly grateful at the timing of these events, because I know the weakness of my faith, and I would have been DEVASTATED with only the sad news. We have worked through a fair bit of our grief at the loss of that child, but I for one feel buffeted by the knowledge that we will indeed be parents next year. That has muted the grief somewhat, though I think it goes without saying that babies are not interchangeable.

Oh, and I'm due on Palm Sunday. Hi-larious. One colleague pointed out that God clearly wants me to experience the twin blessings of motherhood and ministry right from the outset. Another colleague offered to preach on Easter for me.

We'd covet your prayers for us, as well as for the birth mother, of whom we are deeply fond and with whom we continue a friendship. All of this is hard, but that is the way of the world. She deserves love, support and prayers as much as any new parent does. And God knows we will need lots of support!