This journey is our own

Comparison is a lot like the game Spoons. You can never keep your eyes fixed only on what’s in your hand, and someone always ends up getting hurt (at least when you play Spoons with my family).

Valentine’s Day woes

A few days after Valentine’s Day I posted a blog at She Is Set Apart about the way the lover’s holiday used to cause problems for me as a single person and still does even though I’m now married.

When I was single, using Facebook on Valentine’s Day was difficult because everyone was either posting pictures of their amazing gifts – making me feel bad because I didn’t have any, getting engaged – reminding me that I didn’t have someone to propose to me, or sending me “cheer up, you don’t suck that bad… at least Jesus loves you” posts – which I guess were meant to encourage me as a single woman.

Now that I’m married all I see is competition, oneupmanship. Hundreds of women claiming their husband is the best and sharing all the ways he spoiled her, making hundreds of other women instantaneously lift their expectations of their husband so that when he comes home with a single rose and box of chocolates, she’s looking at him like “That’s it? You hate me, don’t you?”

Long story short, the conclusion I came to on the blog post and in life is that my jealousy is an indicator that my Christian love tank is probably running on low. If I had the love of Christ living inside of me like it should, I should be rejoicing with my sisters and brothers because of the gifts they received. There is no room for jealousy and comparison in love.

Same story, different season

You may be wondering what my point is considering Valentine’s Day was over a month ago. Well, I bringt it up because the comparison struggle has started again but for a totally different reason: babies.

Since we had our miscarriage, just about every single friend that I have back home has announced that they’re pregnant or they’re already pregnant or they recently had a baby. I kid you not, this is true of at least 80% of my close friends.

It can be really hard to think that I was supposed to be on that ship, fell overboard, and now am treading water as the ship sails on. Without me.

As I scroll through my news feed, here we go again with a million baby pictures and birth announcements. It would be so easy for Ray and I to become upset because we had gotten so close to becoming parents, and sometimes I think we both do feel a twinge of envy, but aside from learning how to love others and truly rejoice with them in these wonderful gifts that God is giving them, God has really been giving us a new perspective to tread these murky waters.

Breathing under water

See, at this point in our lives we may not be on our way to parenthood and we don’t know when God will give us the go ahead with that, but with what felt like a tidal wave crashing over us, we’ve discovered that the undercurrent is actually pulling us deeper into our dreams. At this point in our lives we are able to pursue all that God puts on our hearts with total abandonment. The Joshua Blueprint has become our baby.

We’re in a similar position to where I was as a single person. Because I wasn’t in a relationship I was able to get involved in numerous ministries, go on lots of mission trips, and mentor a lot of kids. Now that I’m married I’ve lost some of that freedom, but I’ve discovered new potential in the partnership I have with my husband. Now, as one unit, we can dive into all that God has set before us and accomplish more together than I ever could on my own. The beauty of it all is that we can maintain this perspective through every phase that we’ll go through in life. As we begin to build our family we’ll gain revelation on how we can continue to pursue what God puts on our hearts but in a different way. My friend Kimberly Huffman has a great post about what that looks like as a mother of seven on the mission field. You can check it out here.

That being said, every phase of life looks different. We’re only in the second phase right now and we don’t necessarily plan to be in this phase as long as I stayed in the single phase, but who knows? Maybe God will keep us here for a while so we can spend more time branching out and experiencing new foundational aspects of His vision for us.

Whatever His plan is, our hearts say yes.

The latest and greatest marital sensation: grief

Last month I wrote another post over at She Is Set Apart about some of the phases I went through as a single adult. One particular area of focus was the way I typically handled my disappointment or grief in the dating realm.

Now some of you may suspect that I might be one to employ the use of pity parties, but that, my friends, would be an untruth. I actually preferred the use of anti-pity parties and not only sought to find the most optimistic reasoning to help me sort through whatever situation I was facing, but I also scolded anyone who wanted to throw a pity party for me.

Some of my favorite phrases as a single person were things like:

“I don’t think I’m meant to be in a relationship, and I’m okay with that.”

“I’m so happy to be single again. Now I’m free to do whatever I want.”

“I love Jesus so much, and I’m glad there’s no guy to come between us.”

Almost immediately after breaking up with someone or realizing I had been single for longer than I would have liked, these statements would become my mantra. Throwing myself into living out these life mottos, with great zeal I might add, I never allowed myself to really grieve the loss of a relationship. There’s no room for sadness when you’re championing your newfound freedom, right?

History repeats itself

Well now that I’m married, I’m finding another area of grief beginning to surface. No, it’s not the identity issue again.

This time it has to do with babies.

Though Ray and I committed to doing our best to refraining from having children in the first year, there were a few times when we threw the chart (we’ve been doing natural family planning) to the wind and waited to see what would happen.

Regardless of our declaration to remain childless for a year, both of us became so giddy whenever the prospect of a child seemed imminent. We’d talk about how the child would look and what he’d be like and what kind of parents we’d hope to be. But every time the all too familiar “period” would come around signaling an end to that month’s parenting fantasies, we both felt that twinge of disappointment.

But being true to my former self I would immediately say,

“Well, I’m glad. We’ve got so much going on this year that I would hate to do while pregnant.”

“Guess God knew it wasn’t time yet.”

“I’m not ready to be a mom anyway. I just had a little case of baby fever.”

Stuffing is for turkeys

Now none of these statements are false, the same could be said of the statements I declared as a single, but they can be slightly deceptive. In my case, when I immediately snap into “find the optimistic approach” mode when dealing with grievous situations, I’m not allowing myself the appropriate space or time to deal with it. I’m just stuffing. We all know what happens to any vessel, especially one as fragile as the human heart, when it gets over stuffed. It breaks, and usually in a bad way.

Two nights ago I miscarried at 6 weeks of pregnancy.

When it first started I cried simply because I was scared, but once we realized there was no rebounding from the situation, fresh tears of grief were summoned and released. Ray, being the amazing husband that he is, just held me and tried to encourage me to stop crying, but after some time he realized that I needed to cry, as did he, so he allowed himself to add some tears to the mix.

That was all that I needed.

The time we took to just hold each other and cry truly allowed me to come to peace with the situation and continue to hold out hope for the future. Had I not been given that opportunity, I surely would have stuffed it and sooner or later it would begin to seep out in some of the most unseemly ways. Now I can at least use my optimistic statements and know that they’re coming from a heart that’s truly in the right place.

One of the things Ray reminded me of was King David and the loss of his first child with Bathsheba. He prayed and fasted and wept, asking God to spare the child’s life, but when his requests were denied, he got up, washed himself, and went to the temple to worship God. With my husband’s support we were able to actually praise God and receive his consoling truths while allowing ourselves time to grieve.

A season of grief is just that, a season

Throughout this new phase of life (marriage) I’m learning how to allow myself to feel sadness and grief and to learn what those emotions tell me about my inner desires.

Okay, you’re single and you want to be married. That doesn’t make you a bad person. So you’re married and you want to have a kid. You’re not displaying a lack of trust in God if you shed some tears expressing your grief at not having obtained one.

Our sweet Father desires to be the one we lean on when we need a shoulder to cry on. He doesn’t ask us to come to him pretending that our trust in Him leaves no space for the reality of humanity He placed in each of us. Humans cry. Allowing myself to cry and share my disappointment with Him will by no means open any doors to depression, which I think is a real fear many of us have, like once the tears start they won’t stop, but I truly believe there’s nothing healthier than to be able to release emotions as you feel them. I truly believe we’re more susceptible to depression when we refuse to deal with what we’re feeling as we’re feeling it.

Anyway, now that our first year of marriage has come to an end and we’re totally open to the possibility of expanding our family, I’m thankful for this lesson in embracing grief and being honest about its presence in my life before I end up picking up the fragments of a broken vessel.

Our answer to the question: “When are you having kids?”

It’s complicated.

From the first day we arrived in Kenya to today, our ear holes have ceaselessly been bombarded with the question, “When are you having kids?” Because we got married when we were both nearly 30, we were already familiar with questions like:

  • “When are you getting married?”
  • “Do you plan to be celibate for the rest of your life?”
  • “Are you gay?”

Enter the question du jour

Back in America, though many people may be wondering when a baby is coming, few people ask. Here in Kenya, everyone is wondering and everyone asks. It doesn’t matter if we met the person five seconds ago. Once he/she finds out that we’re married, we know what question is coming next. It never fails. The general expectation here is that within a month of a couple being married, the gossip grapevine should be bustling with baby news.

Ray and I both want to have and adopt a lot of kids, but aside from our decision to spend our first year of marriage focusing on our relationship, we just have a lot of cultural and personality issues that we are still trying to work through before we can answer that question.

Let’s start with delivery, shall we?

For American women, it can be incredibly disheartening if their husband is not present at the time of birth. You expect to have the guy responsible for putting the baby inside your belly to be present when it comes out. Of course we want to share the joy of meeting the baby for the first time with our husbands, but we also want them to share in our suffering. Someone has to. Here in Kenya, men aren’t allowed in the delivery room. Maybe some of our Kenyan readers can explain why it’s culturally improper, but we have yet to hear about a hospital here that will allow Ray in the delivery room.

**Update: After talking to a few people we found out that hospitals in Nairobi city will let the man in the delivery room if you communicate with doctors beforehand that it’s something you want. It’s mostly outside of the city that you won’t have that option.

Bringing home the baby… but who’s in charge?

The first week that the baby’s around, a Kenyan wife is relieved of her household duties, and relatives come and help her take care of the baby. Many of you have heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, and that’s truly the mindset here. For weeks, one or two family members will become a permanent fixture in the new parents’ home to teach the woman how to be a mom. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m an introvert. The first time Ray and I discussed this particular cultural expectation, I literally cried. I know in America some women have their mothers come stay with them for a week or so, and maybe I wouldn’t find that to be so bad, but that’s just the beginning. Part of the reason you have people come live with you is because there will be cycles of people coming to visit, and you are required to feed them all. It’s rude if you don’t. For this reason, once we find out we’re pregnant, it will be a must that we move into a bigger place, not just to accommodate the baby, but to accommodate all the guests, live-in and daily.

I guess for me I just was looking forward to learning by trial and error with Ray and spending quality time alone with my baby. I like the idea of a village helping to raise a child, but actually living that out is a different story. Maybe it’s the pride in me that doesn’t want to be told I’m doing things wrong or how to raise my child, but it’s something I’m going to have to deal with, because it’s important to my husband.

Is it a boy or a girl?

The majority of couples in the States find out the sex of their child as soon as possible so that they can prepare the nursery, clothing, and accessories. Unless you’re a modern couple living in Nairobi city, most people don’t find out the sex of their baby. Even when it comes to buying gender based items, it’s not that important. I often see baby boys in girls clothes and girls in boys clothes. Especially the rural areas, people aren’t as interested in dressing their kids in the appropriate clothing for their gender as much as they are interested in procuring any kind of clothing that fits well enough.

Infliction of pain on our boy child

I’m talking about circumcision here. There’s always the debate of whether or not to get your child circumcised, but for those that do circumcise, it’s usually taken care of shortly after birth so as to keep the child from having painful memories and to reduce certain risks, but for Ray’s tribe in particular, circumcision is a rite of passage for boys when they’re about ten (Ray was 8). There is a huge production that the Luhya tribe is known for when it comes to circumcision, involving parades, walking around naked, and covering themselves in mud (there’s more detailed information about it here), but thankfully Christians do not participate in these practices anymore, so our future boy child is safe there. Still, Ray thinks it’s cruel to cut a baby and I think it’s cruel to cut an adolescent, but we both think circumcision is important nonetheless.

And he shall be called…

Like most American girls, I picked out the names for my children long before puberty made child bearing possible for me. Flip through any of my journals from middle school and you’ll see lists of names, underlined, circled, or scribbled out (depending on if I was still into the dude I wanted to name my child after). A lot of you back home have heard me talk about this, but when Ray and I first got together, he told me that traditionally either his grandfather is supposed to name our child or our children should bear the name of at least one of his relatives. Nowadays it’s more of a respect thing to name your child after a grandparent, but not a necessity, so this matter has become the least of my concerns.

The battle of our wills

There are some issues on the list that are extremely important to me. I wouldn’t want anyone else in the delivery room with me except for Ray (and my bestie Lisa). I refuse to give birth without him present. Ray also is adamant about having family come to help out. As is characteristic of the nature of marriage, we both are going to have to sacrifice a lot, and we want to be in agreement about the majority of these issues before we’re bombarded with them as we’re dealing with the stress that will naturally come from having a newborn. Through natural family planning we’ve been able to give ourselves time to discuss this quite a bit, but Sammy honey wants to have a baby with a quickness, so hopefully we’ll be able to resolve all these issues soon enough.