Monday, December 16, 2013

Whispers of Joy

I'll admit it.  I haven't had much Christmas spirit this year.  I always look forward to the start of this season, which in our house begins the day after Thanksgiving.  We put up our tree and decorations, and also do some gift shopping on Black Friday.  That weekend, however, started off with our daughter throwing up and the kick off to the Christmas season was very quickly dampened.  Eventually her sickness spread to the rest of us, and we realized we had all come down with a nasty stomach bug.  Add to that several days of freezing cold temperatures with grey skies, then an ice storm followed by a snow storm and two children with runny noses and bad coughs, and my "holiday spirit" was buried deep beneath a foot of snow along with the kids' backyard toys.  Those things didn't exactly leave me dancing in the streets, singing "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year".

I tried hard to find it again, that elusive feeling.  You know, the one you had as a child, where everything was magical and glorious at Christmastime.  The snow transformed the neighborhood into a winter wonderland, instead of an icy nightmare.  The beautiful tree with all of its sparkling lights and glittery ornaments made the house warm and bright, instead of something you're afraid is going to come crashing down on a two-year-old.  Christmas songs and movies delighted; the whole world seemed open to endless possibilities.  That joyful feeling kept escaping me, however, no matter the cheesy Christmas movies I watched or the decorating I did or the keeping up with the Elf on the Shelf charade.  The feeling alluded me even when I listened to familiar, classic songs and bought presents for loved ones.

I was getting our toddler ready for bed the other night, and "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing" randomly popped into my head.  I began to sing it to my sweet baby girl, the words getting caught in my throat as I was hit with their magnitude.  "Hark, the Herald Angels sing; glory to the newborn king.  Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.  Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies.  With angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem."  Then I felt it: joy.  Pure joy over the gift of Jesus coming down from Heaven to be born into the most humbling of circumstances, so that I could be reconciled to the Father.  "Mild He lays His glory by, born that men no more may die.  Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel..."  These words from one of my favorite carols spoke to me that night in just the way I needed, reminding me that my joy- during the Christmas season and all throughout the year- is found in Christ.  Because of what He did, because of who He is, and what He was willing to give up for me.

I can feel happy admiring the lights on our Christmas tree, or passing down traditions to my children to celebrate this time of year, but true joy only comes from knowing Jesus.  It's not a "feeling" I can catch and hold onto either.  I need to be deliberate about focusing on Christ, otherwise my spirit is squelched when I discover that a gift is on back order, or when I run out of propane and can't bake the cookies in the oven, or when it takes me an hour to bundle up two small kids just so we can run an errand that will only take 15 minutes.

The Christmas spirit I've been trying to track down gets lost a little bit more each year under the pile of grownup responsibilities and life's inconveniences.  The magic and wonder get squeezed out by laundry, diapers and dishes.  I find that since I am so intent on making sure my children have wonderful memories of this time of year, I am really not having much fun at all myself.  That kind of Christmas spirit always leaves me wanting.  Intentionally focusing on the birth of our savior fulfills long after the belief in Santa and flying reindeer is outgrown.  As the cutesy children's song goes, "All the tinsel and lights and the presents are nice, but the real gift is You."

Thursday, December 05, 2013

What Makes a Parent

About two weeks ago I came across a post called "10 Reasons to have an Abortion- Illustrated by Adorable Cats”.  When I first saw the title I thought, surely, this is a joke.  Oh, how I wish it was.  This article was published on the parenting site Mommyish.  I find it ironic that a site devoted to parenting would actually promote abandoning your responsibilities as a parent via the disposal of your unborn children. 

First, some observations about the article itself:  Among the typical life endangerment/health of the mother reasons for abortion, the author, Eve Vawter, also lists such things as your age (too young or too old), birth control failure, missed career opportunities, not wanting a relationship with the father and just plain old not wanting to have a child.  So basically, according to this list, any reason is a good reason to have an abortion.  You can just choose to destroy another life whenever the mood strikes you.   This a human being we’re talking about, though, not a surgically removable barrier to your dreams, expectations, or conveniences. 

It is very telling that Ms. Vawter stated she “would rather look at cats than whatever comes up when you search photo websites for ‘abortion’.”  In other words, she didn’t want to be disturbed by these photos or have to confront the reality of what she was so callously endorsing.  If she had actually googled images of abortion, I doubt she would have written the post in the first place.  You can sugarcoat it by putting up photos of cute, cuddly kittens in their place, but the reality is that abortion is horrific.  Violent.  Gruesome.  The pictures do speak for themselves, and they illustrate a story that is quite literally the opposite of what it means to be a parent.  As a parent, you protect your children at all costs, even before they are born.   

I browsed Mommyish’s website and found several other articles in the same vein as “I’m a mother and personally pro-life, but politicially pro-choice.”  The gist is that you can value the lives of your own children, but you’re also totally cool with another person’s decision to devalue theirs.  To each her own, right? 

The above mentioned post is a testimony to our schizophrenic way of treating each other’s child rearing practices with disdain, while remaining silent on the abhorrent procedure of vacuuming a tiny baby out of his or her mother’s uterus.   We have a lot to say about the harmful effects of “crying it out” and feeding our kids genetically modified foods, but voice little concern about poison injections to a baby’s heart while in utero.  Heated discussions ensue over vaccinations, but there doesn’t seem to be much public outcry over babies being ripped apart in the womb.  Why is it that before a child is born we can’t say anything about the way they are treated, but afterwards they magically become our “business?”  

What were once private issues within families have now become public.  What was once regarded by society as barbaric and outlawed is now relegated to a private matter between a woman and her doctor.  Evil is good and good is evil.  The prevailing ideology these days is that a mother gets to call all the shots; she decides, for whatever reason, whether the child growing inside of her is worthy of life.  This type of thinking elevates her above God, who alone creates all life forms.  Since she is a god in her own mind, she can pass judgment both on the baby inside her womb and on the actions of others.

The truth is that defending the “right to choose” is incompatible with motherhood.  A mother, by definition, nurtures life- whether she births a child or adopts one.  She does not destroy, nor does she support the destruction of a life.  You can’t advocate for someone to be able to kill their offspring without simultaneously undermining your own importance as a mother.  Abortion and motherhood, contrary to what modern feminism tells us, are mutually exclusive. 

The giving up of ourselves on another’s behalf is the very essence of mothering.  It isn’t always easy.  It definitely isn’t always fun.  It is certainly not a popular idea in today’s self-absorbed, self-serving culture.  Abortion, on the other hand, embodies everything that is diametrically opposed to self-sacrifice.  It is the result of the radical feminist thought that women only find meaning and happiness through the personal pursuit of autonomy and freedom.  It is marketed as a way for women to liberate themselves from anything that makes them feel morally obligated to someone else.  It stands in direct antithesis to the family and denigrates a child before he or she is born.  

For a parenting site to write about abortion, they must realize an important truth: abortion is a choice that a parent makes.  When your choice as a parent affects others in negative and cruel ways, however, a humane society restricts or prohibits the choice.  That society does not support or celebrate it.  That society does not employ the use of euphemisms to defend the indefensible.  You either foster a respect for life with your words and actions, or a culture of death.  

While this article both upsets and bewilders me, it also reminds me that I am not my son or daughter's god; I am their mother.  They ultimately belong to Him, and I have simply been entrusted with their care.  As a mom, I carry out God's purposes.  Even with all my failures, if I am obedient to the calling of loving and protecting them, I have done enough.  When I understand my role in its proper context, I can parent without guilt or anxiety.  If I believe that it all depends on me, however, I will make choices based on fear and self-preservation.