The Number of our Days

Baby Girl, we are in the middle of week 21 of your life in my womb, and already it seems you are growing way too fast. I’m not sure how we already passed the halfway point of this pregnancy, but it appears you will be here before we know it, while I’m still scratching my head wondering where Christmas went. I saw my favorite yogurt on sale at the market, with the sale’s end date marked as March 12. “Wow,” I thought, “I have a good month to come back to the market to get more of this before the sale ends!” On my way to my car, I realized it was March 12 already. How is it that the passage of time can deceive us so?

I’d like to think that I have a decently realistic perspective on how our lives will be upheaved when you arrive. These days, when I choose to sleep in, I am well aware that this is a limited luxury. When I sit down with a good book on my days off, I tell myself I better read fast because I won’t have much quiet reading time for years to come, unless you count the bedtime stories that will be on repeat as I (attempt to) lull you to sleep. When your daddy and I flew home from one final vacation, I foresaw myself in the shoes of the mom behind me as she tried oh so apologetically to keep her kid from kicking my seat on the plane, again. I did not take it for granted that for now, I still have full containment of all your extremities there in my womb.

This experience makes me realize anew how we make so many of our decisions depending on the assumptions in our minds of how much time or how many other options we have. All that home reorganization that I was procrastinating is now put on the fast track. I’m determined to get most of the nesting done while I have a decent amount of energy and can still actually bend over without a large watermelon in my way. I’m savoring all my quality time with friends before my conversations are interrupted with “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!!” I’m so aware now of moments that feel like wasted time, lost time.

Working as a pediatric ICU nurse also puts a unique perspective on this pregnancy. For better or for worse, my experiences with my patients have forced me to walk this uncomfortable line between what is simply reality, and what is flat out morbid. I know the odds are in my favor, but I do not assume that I will absolutely, necessarily have a healthy child. If she is born healthy, I do not assume that she will live a healthy 85+ years and simply die peacefully in her sleep at some ripe old age. In some ways, this makes me overly paranoid, and of this I am very well aware. In other ways, this perspective makes me thankful for every healthy kick I feel, and every normal ultrasound picture that I see thus far. But I don’t presume upon anything. I appreciate the fragility of it all. I want so much to guard her with my life.

And so, in this season, I echo the prayer of the Psalmist:

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Twenty Things I Would Like to Teach my Future Children

Today’s brief foray to the market, my second departure from the house in an otherwise homebound week full of flu-like symptoms, inspired me to make a list of things I would like to teach my future children, God-willing. I wanted roast beef but the pre-packaged slices contained 22% of your daily sodium intake per serving, so I opted to buy my own pot roast and make my own low-sodium roast beef, despite the fact that my current ickiness level does not predispose me to a strong desire to cook. I wanted last-minute Halloween candy, but the bulk bags placed strategically in the middle of the store with VERY large, very bright “SALE” signs proved to be more expensive per ounce than smaller bags tucked away in the candy aisle. I do not mean at all to imply through the making of this list that I have these skills down by any stretch of the imagination, but they are things that I hope to always personally cultivate, and teach to another person, in at least some imperfect way.

So here we go.  At least twenty things I would like to teach my future children:

1.)  How to read food labels.

2.)  How to read price tags beyond the “sale” sign.

3.)  How to budget in a way that intentionally prioritizes the needs of those less fortunate.

4.)  How to maximize a load of laundry or a load of dishes.

5.)  How to travel light.

6.)  How to take care of another living thing, be it a plant, a fish, a dog, or a person with special needs.

7.)  How to refrain from habitually turning the focus of conversation onto themselves.

8.)  How to wait for others to finish their sentence before interrupting.

9.)  How to say to another person’s face, “It’s not ok that you did that.”

10.)  How to recognize and respect social cues.

11.)  How to read the Bible.

12.)  How to listen to and think about perspectives radically different from their own.

13.)  To think a lot about how another person would feel walking into the space they just left behind, in the bathroom, at home, at work.

14.)  To greet housekeepers and maintenance staff at hotels, restaurants, etc. in the eye and say “thank you” often.

15.)  To tip wait staff generously for good service.

16.)  To spend at least a month in a foreign country, preferably one less developed than the United States, and preferably in living conditions equal to that of the locals for at least part of the time.

17.)  That they should never expect to be exempt from unexpected suffering.

18.)  That sometimes, it does matter what other people think of them, because integrity, influence and character matter.

19.)  That God’s love will always be greater than any negative thought or emotion they will ever think or feel about themselves.

20.)  That it is worth it to work through the hard questions about God.

Less is More

A common half-joke about Chinese cuisine is that the Chinese don’t waste anything. That’s why your most popular dim-sum items include chicken feet (which I’m fairly certain have no place in the USDA food pyramid) and tripe. I grew up eating liver, heart, and pig feet, though I could never get myself to stomach bites of brain or cubes of pork blood. Whenever the husband goes deep-sea tuna fishing, my mom will come over to watch him filet his catch, and will always insist that he refrain from throwing out the portions of fish with the bitter blood line. She remains convinced that it is perfectly edible, and scolds him for wasting ‘good stuff.’

This was, at first, the greedy mindset I brought into growing my herbs. My basil plant started off growing beautiful, large, fresh leaves. But as time passed, it began to produce flower buds on most stems, and the leaves, though many, were looking smaller and less substantial. I had read that once your basil starts to flower, you need to prune the plant or the leaves will become bitter. The plant will also wind up spending energy on the flowering process rather than on growing large, sweet leaves. I was reluctant and doubtful at first, so I only pinched the top flowers off. I wanted to somehow preserve as much as I could.  It quickly became obvious, however, that there were not only too many flowers, but too many stems and underdeveloped leaves competing for limited space and resources.

Reluctantly, I pinched off the first stem and mourned the loss of the accompanying leaves, some mature but others less so. I could hear my mom’s voice in my head. “That’s good stuff! Don’t waste it!” My reluctance soon dissipated, however, as I saw the healthier, younger leaves underneath with the real potential, if only they would be allowed. Pruning became addictive, fast. The loss mattered less than the gain that I could foresee. More than that, the gain necessitated the loss. I wanted my plant to grow, and grow well. A reluctance or failure to prune on my end would signal foolishness, neglect, or ignorance at best.

Father in Heaven, You are wise, loving, and so attentive in Your pruning of my life. Where I often look for quantity, You look for quality. Where I look for breadth, You look for depth. Now I understand a bit better that You want me to grow, and grow well. Now I understand a bit better how.