Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday 2011

It seems only fitting that as Easter draws near and as Holy Week ends so does my season of "fasting." Admittedly, I didn't really give up any food or fast in the normal sense but I made the discipline and practice of fasting from, well, hating my growing body. For me this looks like to get in the practices of eating often (very often) without guilt, of putting on clothes without changing a million times, of embracing and submitting to the changes that are necessary during this time; and to see them as beautiful as the crab apple blossoms all over town. As with usual Lenten practices, I have failed, many times, but I am becoming more accustomed to the higher numbers on the scales, the tightly fitting jeans, and wider looking face. To actually discipline myself to do something tangible I was challenged to set out my clothes the night before and NOT CHANGE. It's a really hard thing for me to do, and I failed a few times, just as I did on those days that "130lbs" really got me down (how do you really stop the thoughts that tell me "unmanageable, clunky, taking up too much room"?) But I also had many days where I delighted in the tummy I've got going, and if anything, laughed at how voluptuous I've become.... errrrr. And just as the trees are showing their baby leaves, and the grass is turning green, it seems only appropriate that I would see some promise of the spring to come, so as to encourage my journey in this pregnancy thing....
Yesterday we got to see our little baby. I remember thinking to myself specifically as I laid on the table, "look at that! this is why I will gain 30+lbs" I want to do this. I'll do whatever to hold you." I cannot wait for it: for motherhood, and putting aside my own vanities seems to be a huge step to properly move towards that reality. I love the kid already. AHHH. I could not stop talking about it. And I won't.
(Here's a picture, but I'm torturing my family and friends who are curious as I can't reveal the sex until Easter....)

this is our little one. looks like a member of the Cooper family, to me.

As we move into the Easter weekend I pray we all take today to reflect on the memorial of the death of Jesus Christ. I know it's a simple tenant to the Christian faith but, the man actually died. And he actually had his last meal and served his friends, as we commemorated last night for Maundy Thursday. The Christian faith, in all its mystery is real and challenging to our lives, and this time during Holy Week is the perfect opportunity and really vital time to orientate our lives to the Savior, to renue our lives to the promises made visible and attainable by Jesus' horrible death on the cross. As always, I want to bring up Masaccio's Holy Trinity where Mary points to the death, but in doing so points towards the Throne of Heaven: The Father, and Son and the Holy Spirit (in the shape of a dove) descending from Father to the Son. She points to the promises that we can choose to accept and to follow only because of His death, for as we see below, in the plain of us as viewers, as mortals, is the skeleton with the memento mori, "I once was as you are and I am what you will be."
Both a warning and promise, this is Holy Week 2011.

Friday, April 15, 2011


The thought of raising kids becomes all the more scary and big as the weeks progress. I see kids now and they look even more like little sponges that pick up any little thing that falls from their parents. I see family dynamics and dramas and realize my limitations and downfalls as a human being and become frightened for this innocent little wonderful thing growing without the outside influence of the world (well...they say the baby can hear now, and Kanye West is still my guiltiest we'll see, this child might come out with more ego than any of us). But I get moments of relief when I realize that there are millions of babies born all the time to imperfect humans, and that these little babies grow up to be people, imperfect, but good people. People like my best friends, or my husband, or my sister and sister/brother in laws and parents. It's actually when I think of my parents that I am most comforted. I was given alot to look up to, a really good example to model my life after. Seth and I both were blessed with parents who are/were very wise, therefore, I really hope, this might make me kind of wise or even have some intuition about how to go about raising a kid without being stressed about doing the "right" or "wrong" thing all the time.
I was in class yesterday and rather than working we had this giant discussion about family and gender etc and I was pleasantly struck by how great my parents were when Lacey and I were growing up. The biggest thing, amongst peers talking about how their dads treated them like little princesses (not a good thing, people) or moms who gave their daughters the silent treatment, was that my parents were consistent and on the same team. Lacey and I were always treated as children (not as an adult friend who you have little dramas that result in silent passive aggression or as spoiled-perfect-mini-human-pets) and never as pawns between an argument between Mom and Dad. This seems really prevalent today. I don't really know how it manifests itself or what it looks like but I hear plenty of stories about it and of the stories of peers of mine landing in the priveledged? position of being on Mom's side or on Dad's side, when kids shouldn't even have to take a side. I don't want there to be a side to ever be on, the very idea of a different "side" would imply a disconnect between dad and mom clearly communicating to child that the bond and marriage between husband and wife doesn't need to come first in family life. I just have to think that if a child is being used as a pawn to settle arguments or whatever then they have special privilege without responsibility as "child" but as "friend" "confidant" etc. Kids need discipline and example and that's exactly what I got, and I'm so glad. I'm so glad I didn't have to know and be burdened by arguments or dramas between my dad and mom. I know they had them (being married now, i wonder how could anyone not?) And I'm so blessed that they took the time to work hard enough to understand each other so Lacey and I were always aware of expectations--indications of their very obvious "oneness." This unity is a beautiful challenge for Seth and I to try to live up to.

Well, that's all. Tomorrow is my 24th birthday which is great I guess. The best birthday present I could receive is a healthy looking baby as we will be able to see next Thursday at our first ultrasound. Not to mention finding out if baby is boy or girl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

....and maybe, Seth, if you could download me that new Kanye West cd. (seriously though, how is this not kind of great :
or this old favorite:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Icons, Idols?

So, art history is one of those things that can get me started on this big discussion or lecture. I start by showing Seth some of my favorite images then I start telling him the stories and contexts behind them (a great way to study, by the way). Yesterday he began by talking about Mary, and how she's probably a good saint to reflect on during this time of Lent and pregnancy. He mentioned Mary's Magnificat and I shouted, "Botticelli has a tondo painting of that scene!" In which I promptly pulled out my textbook and explained how the idealized and gorgeous virgin and baby Jesus icon was scrutinized by the Dominican Monk, Savonarola, who attributed the ills and down-fall of Florence near the end of the 1400s to the "vanities" of the culture. That is, icons that to me began to take on humanistic portraiture to stand in for holy figures (I'm talking about you Fra Fillipo Lippi, and using your wife as a stand in for the Madonna). During medival times icons were painted with gold backgrounds and green flesh, with the Christ Child in a gesture of blessing and Mary in the "one who points the way (way=Christ)." This was to signal a holy, transcendent being, but here in the Neoplatonic Renaissance, we see painters and patrons who believe that to be worldly is not bad, for being worldly was then to be beautiful which was to be like God, since we are made in the image of Christ/God etc etc. Beauty was revered and vanities by the major patrons of the time (cough cough Medici) such as Botticelli's Mary Magnificat were scrutinized, (personally I feel) rightly, for having strayed away from Christ and from the teachings of the church ( from the meek and humility, poverty, etc to lavish extravagance and material beauty).
Giotto's Madonna and Child

Botticelli's Mary Magnificat

Now to write from a purely conjectural point of view....honestly I don't know much about the history of the Catholic church or of the church in general, as I'm still learning, but I know from my experience Catholicism has gotten a bad rap. Coming from my evangelical background, Catholicism isn't really seen as Christian, but rather a cold and lifeless motion of steps of strange idolatry to saints, of a weird, foreign structure that seems to be really restrictive. I used to think Catholic=Mary worship. And perhaps this shallow stereotype is one that isn't completely unfounded (I look at icons from the 1400s and Mary is becoming more and more glorified--baby Jesus, rather than in a gesture of blessing, is reaching for Mary's face.), Mary's position in the tradition could have been misinformed by humanist and worldly thought. But to think about who Mary was and her position of carrying the Redeemer of humanity, you have to reason that Mary's position (as well as all other saints) in the Church, in the Chrisitian narrative and tradition should not to be taken lightly. She cannot be dismissed as a mystical Catholic icon that seems to be worshiped. Seth suggested to me that I consider Mary as an example for me. Pregnancy is not the easiest thing in the world to accept. Let me be clear, when that stick showed up positive I could not have been more thrilled. SOOOOO happy, but when I see my body changing (I want the belly, but to be frank, my face is filling out, as is everything else...), when I have to sit down after like 30 minutes, when I have to eat all the time, when I have to consider every drop of food I eat, and how I eat it (I think I'm experiencing heartburn for the first time ever), when I look like some teenager going through a rough breakout, I begin to feel like I am not myself anymore. I am not in control of my body. I must be submitted to the process of being pregnant. Mary submitted to the mystery of acceptance of Christ. It is a beautiful metaphor to hold the Word, the Light, close(how much closer could you get than in the womb?!). Mary was faithful, and why did she do it? It was a pure love; our choice perhaps to allow Christ to enter and control our lives. It's really powerful, and I'm especially lucky to be in a position where I can experience this submission first hand. My job now, in this time of uncertainty, of waiting, of even grieving the loss of the vanities of my youth, is to be faithful to what I have submitted myself to: to being a mother, to carrying life, to taking care of the work I have been given now to do. Those are what I need to concern myself with now, not worries of how it's all going to work out four months from now.
17 weeks (almost 5 mos)