Wednesday, September 21, 2016

After the flood you set in the clouds a rainbow: more reflections on miscarriage

I left my hair down because I am vain and thought I would look better in the pictures. In like three seconds, my hair was pasted to the side of my face and neck, supposedly waterproof eyeliner melting down my cheeks. My flimsy blue pancho caught the wind from the force of water hitting water as though it were a sail. Other tourists pressed in against us as we had the coveted spot front and center of the ship deck. Selfie sticks swarmed around us, and we couldn't hear a thing because of the rumbling of the falls before us and the boat's engine beneath us. It was an experience quite unlike the baptisms I celebrate as a pastor, where I bring a nervous but steady person in front of a quiet congregation and sprinkle water from a small bowl onto their foreheads. But this--- mist from Niagara Falls coalescing on my face, filling my shoes, and trickling down the front of my shirt as I leaned against the bow of the Maid of the Mist tourboat with Aaron at my back--- this felt like a baptism. As the spray fell across my face, I remembered my baptism and was thankful.

Thankfulness is a spiritual practice I have been clinging to in my grief, but today I was not intending to thank anyone for anything. I was going to hold Aaron's hand, walk a ridiculous amount, see Niagara Falls, and do anything and everything to distract myself. Because today, we should not be taking a spur-of-the-moment day trip to Niagara Falls--- we should be welcoming a baby into our home. Today is the due date for our first baby.

But our baby died.

Our baby died, meanwhile life has gone on and it seems like everyone else is pregnant and I am supposed to be happy for them. I have spent much of the last week angry, enraged really, and done with everything. I want to run away. I just want Aaron and I to go off and be hermits alone somewhere where we are far enough away from other humans that I can scream whenever I want and not disturb the neighbors. But today was different. Today, on the day when I was trying to distract myself from death, I felt new life.

Now sometimes with grief some events are easier than others. Sometimes anniversaries are easier than the mundane, every day part of grief. The most hope I have ever felt through this whole shitty two-year journey of loss and infertility was actually the day of my miscarriage. Perhaps this due date was just an easier grief, and next month when (I mean if?) I find out that my fertility treatments did not work again I will find myself wanting to smash glass, burn things, and rip out my uterus to drop-kick it. But today, I could breathe. I could sense God's arms wrapped around me. I could feel hope.

In The United Methodist Church's liturgy of thanksgiving over the water for baptism, we pray, remembering the story of Noah, "After the flood you set in the clouds a rainbow." The rainbow is a promise. Not that everything will be easy--- because even though the destruction we experience on the earth today is not caused by God as the flood was said to be, our world is certainly just as violent and horrific. And even though babies born after miscarriages are called rainbow babies, I do not believe God has promised me a rainbow baby. But in the rainbows dancing around Niagara Falls, I knew that God has promised and is promising to be with me. God continues to offer me new life, abundant life, cutting through the fog of grief  to incorporate me by the Holy Spirit into God's new creation. And the God of all grace will establish me and strengthen me that I may live in grace and peace. May God do the same for us all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Building on Faith: A Devotion for Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity International invites us all to take part in Building on Faith Week, Sept. 11-18, 2016. Faith leaders from around Harford and Cecil counties contributed devotions and prayers on the theme of unity for our local affiliate. We will feature one of these prayers each day during this coming week. 

We will celebrate Building on Faith Week in Edgewood, which has also been named our Unity Build. Affiliates from across the country are joining efforts to bring people of all faiths, no faith, all ages and abilities together to help build affordable homes for our neighbors through their own Unity Builds. 

Scripture: Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
Presbury and our Habitat family before work!
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

Power tools have a way of bringing people together. This summer, for the third year in a row, my church in Edgewood partnered with a few churches in Northern Harford County to bring our youth on a mission trip with Appalachia Service Project (ASP), where we do construction work and partner with families. On our team, we had youth from Edgewood putting up drywall alongside Duck Farmers and private school kids. We had geeks and goths and preppy students all roofing together. We had black and white kids, Methodists and Baptists and atheists, holding hands with our host families and blessing one another.

I am always amazed at the way people come together when we do good works. I love seeing how our identities and affiliations transform from walls that separate us from one another into blessings that we use to work together. But I really should not be surprised. For unity in our diversity is what God created us to do. In the book of Ephesians, we read, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” We are God's handiwork, God's works of art, in all our diversity. And we were created this way so we can work together to do good, to love and serve our neighbor in all that we do.

On this day when we remember the terror of the September 11, 2001, attacks, let us also remember what we learn in Ephesians. We are all God's handiwork, not created for fear, but for good works.

O God, our creator, we give you thanks and praise for the beauty all around us, though so often we are blinded to it by the terror and violence in the world. Bring us together on this build, as you created us to be. May we be a blessing to one another today, and may we fill this house with the goodness for which you created us! Amen.