One of my sisters-in-law (both of my sisters-in-law have been life savers during this pregnancy!) recommended a book to me and I finally got it today-- can't remember what it's called... oh yes-- The Pregnancy Journal: A Day to Day Guide to a Healthy and Happy Pregnancy. It's really good-- I appreciate the guided journaling that it provides. You know, I give my students writing prompts every day-- they write for the first 10 minutes of every class, and my hope is that it is helping them, but it never occurred to me that I might find my personal journaling helped with questions, too.
Because I have so many thoughts when it comes to this pregnancy. This baby. Worries (though not as many as at the beginning) about everything-- funny skin coloring (is it a melanoma? is it just my skin getting older? is it weird pigmentation the books all talk about), minor aches and pains (early labor or the uterus growing?), when will I feel the baby and know for sure that it's him/her? What am I really going to do about raising this child? Do I want to be a burden on my parents (who do not see it as a burden at all, not remotely, not slightly, not close to even hardly), will my child be scarred because I wasn't home with him/her, is it going to have some significant birth defect because I still cannot choke down vegetables? Is the baby being hurt when one of my students decides to show his/her butt and my blood pressure spikes suddenly?
But one of the questions in the journal that I bought asked, "Is there anything you want for your child that you didn't have growing up?" and Don and I both sat there for a couple of minutes, thinking about it... and we could both honestly say that we want our child to have EVERYthing we had growing up-- neither of us feels that we lacked anything. We had (have) godly, wonderful parents and siblings. We grew up in homes with adventurous fathers and nurturing mothers. And lots of laughter. The only thing that we came up with just highlighted that point: more time with the grandparents. We lived in Georgia while my grandparents all lived in Tennessee-- we saw them once or twice a year-- maybe more sometimes. Don really only knew his maternal grandmother. I have vivid, wonderful memories of all four of my grandparents, but I would have loved to have been able to spend more time with them. Don and I fully plan to have our child spend as much time with its grandparents as they can stand :).
But the other thing that this question made me think of was my spiritual inheritance. I grew up in a home with parents who were constantly seeking after the Lord. Mom and Dad became believers when I was a little child, so my earliest years were defined by my parents' radical baby Christian zeal: Keith Green and Second Chapter of Acts concerts, not to mention other Christian artists who were cutting edge at the time. I remember having communion in the living room of a young pastor named David, in a house that sat right beside the spot where the old town Ace Hardware store sits (the house has been torn down... I think a used car lot sits in its place). We had grape juice and pita bread. I remember sitting in Ronnie Starmer's living room while he led the simplest worship song, which he had written: "Jesus I love you, Jesus I love you, Jesus I love you, yes I do," while his little daughter, Holly, danced around in the middle of our circle. I remember Big Eddie, who was crazy as a loon-- a new Christian whose brain was fried from so many drugs and whose life tragically ended by his own hand-- and all of these other folks who were students at Heritage at the time (Randy and Lori-- they were seniors in high school and I thought they were the coolest. Their youngest child just graduated from Heritage last year. I love this small town). Mom and Dad drug us to every church imaginable-- from small house churches to huge mega churches, both filled with the Holy Spirit, to the more mainstream Southern Baptist where we learned the word of God in such a solid way. Always searching. But always cleaving to the Lord. I learned that the kingdom of God was made up of all kinds-- my dad always says that the kingdom is made up of "odd birds" :). I learned that Christians worshipped in so many different ways and while I was more drawn to the charismatic, I could appreciate the less demonstrative. I remember playing mom and dad's records in the den at our old house on Peggy Lane-- I would listen to the words and sing and dance and I remember feeling so strongly the presence of the Lord every time.... My childhood was saturated with God. Listening to my parents and their friends talk about Him, talking about Him with my friends (usually scaring each other while talking about the rapture), and thinking about Him. God is what I remember most about my childhood.
And that's what all of my hopes for this baby are wrapped up in. Don had a similar childhood (remarkably similar), but we both recognize that the times were different. It was the beginning of the Jesus Movement and so many former hippies were getting saved. Evangelism was a huge topic in the new charismatic renewal movement and the rapture was a constant topic, too. It was the 70's and, at least in my mind, the adults seemed less jaded than the adults I know today. Am I just exoticizing my own childhood? Entirely possible.
But even if I am, I still want my child to grow up in a God-soaked existence. I know that I walked away from the Lord for a season, when I was a teenager, but He was always real to me. I don't know how He did it, but there was this hook in my heart-- a huge place that always came back to Him. I remember a morning after a really long party. The kids had drifted off to spots on the floor to sleep off whatever they had done the night before and I was the only one awake-- I still hadn't come down off of whatever substance I was on and I was afraid that I was "stuck" like that. I remember looking at the ceiling fan in the room I was in and praying, "Oh God, I am so sorry. If you'll let me go to sleep-- if you'll keep me from going crazy-- I promise that I will serve you for the rest of my life." Two years later, I was on the mission field. My first thought in my moment of extreme panic was probably not unique-- I've heard of more than one person offering verbal contracts to the Lord in moments of extreme panic-- but God was always where I looked when I was afraid. My parents were praying for me daily.
And Don and I want our child to grow up in an environment where his/her first thought is always "God." We want the Spirit of the Lord to be so evident, so strong, so pure in this place... that our child will grow up with the faith that he and I have: steady and real. Through all of our mistakes and failures and expeditions as far from the path He had called us to as possible, we always held the knowledge of the Lord in our hearts. And when we were old, we did not depart from it (proverbs 22:6).
But I can't reproduce my childhood. I can't reproduce the same living room and den. I can't reproduce the moment when I saw that my father's nickname on his fire department helmet was "Radical" because once he found the Lord he couldn't shut up about it. I can't reproduce the kitchen table where my friends would end up sitting to talk to my dad about the Bible. I can't reproduce house church and watching my parents being totally free in the Lord, teaching me that it was okay to do whatever you wanted in worship. Surely, I have a rich inheritance. Now, how do I give that to my child?
I know, I know-- it will happen. It will just happen that we will be who we are and our little one will grow up in the family God called him/her to be in. If He had wanted him/her to be in a family in the 70s, that would have happened. But this baby was chosen to be born now, for such a time as this. And my prayer for him is that he would grow in the strength and knowledge of the Lord. That he would fear the Lord from his first breath. That even now, he would sense the presence of the Lord. And that he would crave understanding from an early age. My prayer is that he will choose God always. That he will passionately crave Jesus. That he will be odd, unique, curious, and always drawn to the things of the Lord. I think of Hannah, and secretly thought of her so many times before I knew that I could actually get pregnant... in my heart of hearts, I would pray, "Oh God, if I could only have a baby... I would commit him to you from the very beginning. I would bring him to the temple to serve you all the days of his life."
It is the cry of my heart to invest all of this in this little one. My heart is huge with it. I sense the fear of the Lord, coupled with a realization that while this responsibility is enormous, it is not wholly in my hands. There is One who loves this one far more than I can even imagine already. One who is knitting him/her together right now. The only One who knows whether it is a him or her! So my prayer is that He will help Don and me to do our version of what our parents did for us. I can't imagine how He'll do it. But I'm starting early-- this baby has already heard (I know he can't "hear" yet, but you know) lots of Keith Green being sung in my car!