Category: Neighbours

Book Review: Pirates on the Farm

pirates cover picPirates on the Farm, by Denette Fretz, is an entertaining children’s book that teaches a poignant lesson on loving your neighbour. The publisher recommends this book for children ages 4-8, although I think even that age range could be stretched depending on the child. The story is beautifully illustrated (by Gene Barretta) and extremely engaging, through the humorous portrayal of what happens when a crew of pirates moves in to a proper southern community.

Using the perspective of the daughter in the family who lives next door, the author does a great job of showcasing different responses through the different family members: the little brother wants to join in on all the pirates antics, the mom wants to move out of town, and the dad accepts and helps out his new neighbours but doesn’t lose his own identity in the process.

When the town locals finally band together to kick the pirates out of town, a heartwarming twist makes this story not only a parable about accepting others but truly showing the love of Christ.

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A friend on facebook posted an article about this ad campaign to help single mothers, and I think it really relates to my last post on incarnation.

I don’t spend time reading gossip magazines except for the headlines while I wait in line at Walmart, and I don’t watch celebrity news either. But I think this is a great ad campaign because it highlights an important truth:

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Incarnation is one of the strongest pillars the gospel has to offer: that God himself became a man and lived among us.

Incarnation is also one of the strongest demands of the gospel: if God has loved us enough to fully immerse himself in our world, then we as Christ-followers have no reason to hold ourselves back. The goal of the Christian life is not escaping this world, although the temptation to do so takes many forms, and it’s easy to get off track.

I’m wondering today if I might be a little off track.

When Matt and I first moved to this apartment, one of our goals was incarnation – we prayerfully chose to move from a basement apartment in a rich neighbourhood to a building near our church that people tend to not move in to. We did not come here to be saints – the relationship with our former landlady had soured, and Matt’s commute was almost an hour by transit, so there were practical reasons for moving closer, but our hearts’ desire was also to contribute to transformation in our neighbourhood by our presence.

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It has been two and a half years since Matt and I moved to our apartment. In that time I have had so many mixed feelings about living here – in this building and in this community. Sometimes I love it, and sometimes I feel trapped and want to start over in a new city. Sometimes I see so much potential to serve God and be fulfilled, and other times the neediness and brokenness of our neighbourhood overwhelms me, shuts me down.

When we first moved in, I had great hopes and exciting ideas about how great life/ministry would be here – although it turns out new contexts don’t give you a new personality, and I’m still a slight introvert who always feels on the brink of doing too much. Not ideal for bursting onto a new scene to share the love of Jesus. Living in a building rather than a basement, however, and having a dog both make it easier to get to know your neighbours, and over time Matt and I have become settled here, made connections. We haven’t started a Bible study group or a monthly potluck, but we’ve learned some names and chatted in elevators and bonded over making the best of life despite constant construction projects, rent increases, and random acts of vandalism.

I was struck by the change in my perspective on living here after being locked out of the apartment this weekend – I came home from church alone because I was tired and hungry and so not up for helping un-decorate the church from Christmas. As I parked and headed to the elevators I realized my house keys were in the pocket of a coat I was not wearing, and even though that coat was only a five minute drive away I was ready to lay down in the hallway outside our door for an hour rather than go back to the church and come back home again. Pregnancy hormones have not mellowed out my inner drama. Just as I realized I had no keys, however, I crossed paths with a neighbour we know from the fourth floor (they have a dog), and he invited me to drop in on his wife while he returned a winter coat to the store. His wife made me tea, we had a really great chat, and when I got my keys back she sent me home with some shepherd’s pie to heat up for lunch.

Two and a half years ago I would have been grateful for the hospitality but also wondered in anxiously bold font in my brain, “What will God DO with this?” I know because that was my reaction to the first bit of neighbourliness I experienced in this building. This weekend, I was grateful for the hospitality, refreshed by socializing, and comfortable in trusting that God has a plan much bigger than I can unravel or solve. I keep needing to learn that faithfulness is developed in small steps, and I recognize accepting that invitation instead of giving into self-pity as a small step.

As we continue to make connections and grow relationships, I am not looking too far ahead, just enjoying what is good, wrestling through what isn’t good, and doing my best not to get in my own way. I am definitely glad that after all this time has passed since so prayerfully moving into this building, living here continues to bear fruit.

Why Home is Awesome

Having shared why I feel just as safe to birth at home as in the hospital, you might still be confused why I’d rather have this experience at home. Honestly, I am looking forward to labouring and meeting the Truck in our apartment. I have a friend who had a natural birth in the hospital just about a year ago, and I was so impressed with her! She was offered an epidural as soon as she arrived at the hospital but insisted that she at least wanted to try to see how far she could get on her own (she got all the way). When she was telling me about the experience it was before I got pregnant, but I told her that I also hoped to birth without interventions and that I was intrigued by the idea of home birth. I was braced for a judgy reaction like I might have had a year earlier, but her instant response was, “oh, that sounds so relaxing!” I think that was the vote of confidence I needed to take myself seriously as I continued reading and researching my decision.

As I anticipate labour, I am happy not to worry about discerning when it’s time to go to the hospital. I don’t know what to expect from labour except probably pain and definitely hard work, so the less critical thinking I need to do in that situation the better. Taking labour as it comes means I can avoid the disappointment of arriving at the hospital only 2 cm dilated while also avoiding waiting too long and having to sit in the car through multiple contractions, suffering in agony. The hospital is close, but I have a feeling that in active labour it won’t feel that close.

Being at home also means that I’ll be guaranteed privacy and focused care. I will know every person who is present, and I will be the only labouring woman on the floor (probably the building, really). I have heard from tons of people that by the time it’s time to have the baby I will NOT care who is there and who sees what, but I have also heard and read that women in labour progress and cope better when they feel safe and comfortable, so why not labour where I feel most comfortable?

In addition to not having to worry about who is coming and going, being at home protects me from stress over pressure to have unnecessary interventions (because hospital staff expect I will want them or because I am put on an arbitrary timeline by hospital policy). Interventions all come with risks, and while most are relatively safe overall, there can still be consequences that many women are not aware of.

Epidurals are a very common intervention that women undergo during labour, but this is one thing I’d like to avoid if I can. It’s not even that I don’t think epidurals are safe, but I don’t think they are a free pass on pain, and I’m concerned that the pain relief they provide in the moment can have a cost in higher risk of subsequent interventions like Pitocin, episiotomy, or Cesarean delivery, increased risk of tearing, more difficult recovery, not to mention a bad reaction to the epidural itself (apparently some women get super nauseous or ringing ears or generally freaked out by epidurals after they are placed). Having an epidural also requires you to stay in bed to receive constant fetal monitoring, and this can cause labour to slow down or stall (hence the increased risk of other interventions). For anybody who wants an epidural, God bless you, but at this point they freak me out more than pain, so I’m in no rush to sign up for one.

Another reason I’ll be more comfortable at home than the hospital is that I can eat and drink and move around however I please throughout my labour. Did you know that first-time moms can burn as many calories in their labour as taking a 50-mile hike? Is there anybody in the world who would attempt that feat fuelled primarily by ice chips!? Now, I don’t think I’ll be mowing down a turkey sandwich while pushing, but snacking as long as I feel like it and drinking plenty of fluids certainly won’t hurt my energy levels. Neither Matt nor I will be limited by cafeteria options or hours or running out of change for the vending machine when it comes to food and drink during labour.

Most generally of all, I think I will feel more comfortable at home because of the overall environment. Our apartment is where I sleep, where I cook and eat and play games and hang laundry. I feel safe here. Sure the hallway smells weird sometimes, but it doesn’t smell like three surgeries and radiation treatment (how I spent many days in 2003), and it doesn’t smell like visiting people who are sick or dying. I don’t mind hospitals, but they are really meant for sick people. They smell like they smell because they are full of germs and need to be sterilized all the time. If my hallway smells funky, it’s because people from other cultures have made weird soup. But inside our door smells like home, and when it comes time to welcome our baby that’s just where I want to be.