Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Revolution

Photo by AllDaylWalk
I don't make New Year's resolutions. Well, not anymore. The ones I've made (in the few years I've made them) have been petty, and I haven't kept them.

So this year (and every year henceforth), I'm staging a revolution rather than stating resolutions.

In the coming year, I will be a better Rachel than I was this year. And by "better," I mean a lot of things—things that have nothing to do with reducing my waistline (which is tough when you're pregnant, anyway) or improving my skill set (though some singing lessons might be nice).

I will be more patient. I will be kinder. I will not envy others, I will not boast or be proud (Lord, help me with that one). I won't be rude or self-seeking. I won't be easily angered (which will be a challenge with a toddler in the house) or keep a record of wrongs. I will protect, trust, hope, and persevere.

For starters.

Then I need to up my levels of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance (again?! I'm sensing a theme...), godliness, and love for others. That'll prevent me from being ineffective and unproductive when it comes to my faith. Which is a bad thing.

These ideas all come from a Book that's super old. Why is this revolutionary?

Because it's a personal revolution. It means changing everything about who I am to put myself in alignment with Scripture. Changing the way I think, the way I do things—everything.

And that's kind of what being a Christian is about, right? If we're not pledging to do this kind of growing every year—every day, in fact—are we really doing what we're supposed to?

I may come up short in some areas. After all, being perfect isn't easy. Or possible. But if I really try, I'm bound to grow, even a little bit, in all areas.

So. Who's up for a revolution?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rachelmas: Part Deux

I'm trying very hard not to have a repeat of last year's Rachelmas debacle. Not that I anticipate another attack from my oft-grumpy pancreas, but I've just been so grumpy lately over feeling unwell. I've been getting migraines every day, so it's likely that I'll have one on Christmas. I'm preparing myself for that eventuality with a combination of prayer and at-the-ready medication.

What? We have doctors for a reason, right?

So, in the spirit of trying to remember that it's Christmas, not Rachelmas, I've been trying to come up with something to do on Christmas morning that will emphasize the spirit of the occasion to our toddler. He knows it's Jesus' birthday, and he suggested Jesus would like a cake with candles. A cinnamon cake. Which happens to be my son's favorite. I don't even think he asked Jesus what his favorite kind of cake is.

Toddlers. Hmph.

So I want to know: What's a Christmas tradition at your house that puts the focus on the birth of Christ? 

Because I kind of want to steal your ideas.

Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Monkees, The Beach Boys, and Me

I recently read a book called Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time by Courtney E. Smith. It was an interesting read. Reminded me of those few years in and after college that I was a music snob. You know, it takes a lot of effort to be a snob of any kind, and I really couldn't continue being a literary snob and a music snob. I eventually gave up both. Now I read Twilight books and listen to Coldplay.

And I like it. So sue me.

The book is about Smith's favorite music, her least favorite music, how to choose your favorite music, and how to judge other people's music choices. (I have to agree with her theory on obsessed Smiths fans. Never date one. So depressing.) One thing she said in the book really struck me, though. She called the Monkees a "throwaway band."

*gaaaaaaaaaaasp*

I love the Monkees. They're not my absolute favorite band, but I used to watch the show on Nick at Nite when I was a kid, I've owned their albums, and I even got to see them in concert once (sans Mike Nesmith, which was a bummer). But they're fun to listen to, their show was funny, and their music single-handedly launched the career of Neil Diamond, who wrote a ton of their songs.

And that is something for which we should all be grateful. Neil Diamond is super awesome.

The reason I contest their label as a "throwaway" band is because I don't think they got their chance. Or at least they never took their chance. Despite being actual musicians, they were packaged up for the sole purpose of the TV show, and the producers of the show carefully controlled what music the Monkees were allowed to put out. They weren't permitted to follow their own artistic pursuits. Mike Nesmith (the one in the green hat, for those not familiar with the band) was the most frustrated with this and ended up leaving the band. Turns out his mother invented Liquid Paper correction fluid (I'm not even kidding on that one), and he had inherited enough money that he could go do whatever he wanted. The show ended, the rest of the guys passed on some opportunities, and that was pretty much it for the Monkees. They put out a terrible album in the 1990s that I used to own, but—well, it was terrible. They missed their window. Even the Beatles thought the Monkees were great.

And yet.

So I look at the Monkees and think, "Man, they never got their chance. Maybe they'd have put out something good back then if someone would have just given them the chance." And then I look at the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys started out as a boy band (as did the Beatles, if anyone's forgotten that), and they had a bunch of songs about girls, fast cars, and surfing (although only one of them ever surfed).

And then came Pet Sounds.

It was an awesome album. It was very different from their previous music. Brian Wilson did some incredible arrangements. And if at least one of your favorite songs isn't from that album, you should listen to it again. I promise you you'll find one you love.

But what if they hadn't done Pet Sounds? What if they hadn't taken the risk and just spun out more songs about cars, girls, and surfing instead? Would the Beach Boys have been a throwaway band, too?

I shudder to think.

It makes me wonder if I'm going to be a throwaway. If there are chances I'm not taking—opportunities I'm not investing in—that would make all the difference in my legacy. I mean, right now I'm taking some time off to build a human being, so, you know, that's a big deal. But afterward, will I be willing to take the risks necessary to become more than just a throwaway? Will I be willing step out in faith and believe that the gifts and talents God's given me had better be put to good use? I sure hope so. And I hope you will, too.

I have to say, as much as I enjoy The Monkees, I prefer The Beach Boys. Their music as well as their musical legacy. What about you?

Are you the Monkees or the Beach Boys?



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unwanted

Really? Did the date on that last post say October 31? Yikes. Sorry about that.

The good news: The baby is coming along just fine! The bad news: I can't seem to shake the morning sickness. Or all-day sickness, rather. Along with daily migraines, this hasn't been the best pregnancy I've ever had. You know, of the two.

But I'm feeling terrible for not blogging for so long. I still think of post ideas, but feel too (physically) lousy to do anything about it. So I'm going to try to blog once a week, minimum. It may not be much, but it's just enough to assuage the guilt without making me feel worse. Hold me to it, somebody!

And this one is going to be a little long. We have some catching up to do.

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As some of you may know, my husband and I already have a son. He just turned three, and he's hilarious and adorable and smart as a whip. Sometimes too smart for his own good. But I love him dearly, and he's very excited about being a big brother.

Before we got pregnant, we just assumed we'd have another boy when the time came. My husband's family is all boys (never mind the fact that mine is mostly girls), and I feel like such a "boy mom" now, so we just figured we'd have two boys. Plus, you know, I already have all the clothes and stuff. Clearly, a boy was the only option.

Then, after we got pregnant, it occurred to us that there was a possibility the baby could be a girl. I mean, it's pretty much 50/50, right?

So, naturally, I started freaking out.

My mom died when I was very young, so I have all sorts of unresolved mother/daughter issues. I was a tomboy because I wanted to do everything my dad did. What would I know about raising a girl? Heavens! I'm not prepared for that! Clearly, God understands that and would not give me a girl. I told God that the deepest desire of my heart was to have another boy. Whatever he did with that information was up to him, but I wanted him to know it.

We had our ultrasound the day before Thanksgiving. I was counting on being thankful for a boy the next day! The baby moved and kicked and wiggled around on the screen. I hadn't felt any of that yet, so it was good to see it dancing. And then the ultrasound tech tried to determine the gender.

The little one had its legs closed. Super tight. Hopefully this is an indicator of future modesty. Despite all the dancing and wiggling, that baby would not spread 'em for the tech to take a good look. The tech tried multiple angles and pushed and prodded my belly in a hundred different ways to get that kid to move.

And then it did.

And the tech said, "Congratulations! It's a girl!"

My husband and I looked at each other in shock. And I'm not going to lie—I cried. I cried like a baby. Over this baby. This baby I was so hoping would be a boy. That whole evening, when I called my friends and family members to tell them the news, I cried afresh. And every time I cried, I felt a wave of guilt.

She's healthy! I thought. Isn't that the most important thing? I'll figure out how to love her, I'm sure! I have several months to figure it out!

And then came church the following Sunday.

The pastor mentioned an event in India during which 285 girls who had been named "Nakusa" or "Nakushi"—which means "unwanted" in Hindi—had their names legally changed. They had been so named because their parents wanted boys and ended up with girls. Every time someone spoke to these little girls and called them by name, they heard "unwanted." "Hey, come here, Unwanted One."

And then I shed a few more tears.

I felt so guilty! How could I—for even a second—make this child feel unwanted? How could I do that? Not a great start to parenting her, I daresay. Who knows? This little girl may grow up to be a future world leader! A writer! A woman in ministry who changes lives! And I wanted to take a pass on her? Just because I was scared?

I now have a new favorite Bible verse:

When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.  - Ephesians 3:7-8 (The Message)

God had a plan for Paul. Paul felt sorely unprepared for the task God set in front of him, but God gave Paul the tools necessary to get the job done. I have to remember that God has a plan for me, and part of that plan is now to be a mother to a little girl. He will equip me for it. Even if, right now, I feel like I'm the worst possible choice for the job, God will make sure I don't screw it up. Heck, he may even get me to like the color pink one of these days.

But even for God, that may be a long shot.

Is there something God's calling you to that you feel ill-equipped to handle?