In preparing for this class, I experienced an incredible surge of ideas and questions, most of which made their way into my journal, and some of which are written below. Considering all of what was brewing inside of me, to produce a cohesive work, It was natural for me to write thematically. The bolded words are those that I just couldn’t shake. Here are my reflections.
The situation, or set of circumstances that allows for physical, spiritual, emotional, creative, and academic reproduction. It involves wholly giving of oneself as a vessel for the nourishment of a human being, dreams, and ideas, who bears resemblance to you. The process involves more than production, but rather it is reproductive, the creation of some form of life that may look, sound, act, or think like you in some way. It involves transformation, both for that which is being nurtured and the one carrying. It is exciting, scary, challenging, and beautiful to say the least. When I asked my friend, Liza, a thirty-five year old mother of two whose youngest is nine months old, what emotion was strongest for her when she first knew she was pregnant, she answered, “Security.” Nurturing and caring for her unborn child, both in the womb and when he or she made their way into the world, affirmed her purpose and made her feel secure. I feel much the same way when I am carrying works of art, dreams, ideas, and papers waiting to be birthed.
My spiritual and creative fecundity mirrors that of my maternal grandmother’s physical power to reproduce. She was a vibrant woman, and for the better part of her late teens, twenties, and thirties, she was pregnant. In a twenty-one year span, she gave birth to seventeen children. While I have yet to have physical children, I often have visual and written work, dreams, ministries and ideas living on the inside of me.
Although I don’t remember when I conceived, I remember vividly when the body of work for my MFA at Howard was in my womb. Conception was difficult. There are failed attempts that still live in my sketchbook. One day, I knew that the idea to be birthed, the one that would come out and make an impact on others, was growing on the inside of me. I felt different, like there was life inside of me. With this particular work, my angel came in the form of a dream where I had seen the work. I could not see everything, but I knew that it included photographs, but it was bigger than photography. I saw light, movement, and heard sound. After writing what I saw in my journal, my mind began to race. My first response was much like that of Ericka, a twenty-one year old mother of a bouncing nine-month old boy. When she first knew she was pregnant, she was scared. Her biggest fear was not being prepared to raise a child. When the grandiose ideas for the project began to grow inside of me, I feared not having the time, financial resources, space, or capacity (creative, spiritual, and emotional) to finish the work.
Radiance & Glow
I was not the only one who knew there was life inside of me. Claudia Gibson-Hunter, a professor, mentor, gifted artist, and friend noticed my glow. There was a radiance on the inside that oozed from my pores. When I wasn’t feeling fearful, I was so excited about the life that was taking shape inside of me. I poured over books, spent countless hours in the studio, wrote incessantly in my journal/sketchbook, and talked with other artists to get feedback and ideas. Like Mary, I was glowing. Also like Mary, my soul magnified the Lord.
I was excited when reading Luke 1:45-56. In an effort to get a clearer picture of the circmstances, I started my study with the first verse of Luke 1. My interest was peaked when I read Luke 1:41, “And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Elizabeth, through the activity of her own child and the presence of the Holy Spirit, recognized Mary’s glow. Dreamers recognized dreamers, thinkers recognize thinkers, ministers recognize ministers, and so on. Elizabeth believed in the “fruit” of Mary’s womb and also understood that Mary believed in that which grew inside of her. Belief is key in the process of generativity. It was Mary’s belief that caused her to swell with joy. Pushing fear aside, it was belief in my dream that not only cause me to be filled with joy, but also guided my decision making. I did what was necessary, even commuting for two years between New York and Washington, DC to make sure my dream was nourished. I also love the idea that ministry, idea formation, dreaming, and so on does not happen in a vacuum. When Mary and Elizabeth connected, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb danced.
Instead of reading only one translation of Luke 1:45-56, I read five, four in english and one in french. I started by reading the entire passage in the New king James Version.
After reading that version, I did a verse study to note important translation differences. Because of the format of the text, the Message translation was not included in my verse study. The three english translations had similar language for verse 46, but the BDS versions had a slightly different twist, one that made sense for me as I thought about what it means for my soul to magnify the Lord. The french version reads, “Mon âme chante la grandeur du Seigneur.” Here, the soul was not simply magnifying or praising the Lord, but rather it was literally singing the Lord’s greatness. My soul often sings when I am nourishing and nurturing that which God has placed within me so beautifully, melodically, and loudly, that it naturally starts dancing as well. It floats, twirls, boogies, and grooves to the praise song. The song and dance are evidence of my grateful heart.
Mary knew that there was no ordinary life inside of her. Although she was not aware of the magnitude of the inspiration, influence and impact her child would have on history, she did know that her child would be a great person. Mary, a humble girl at the time, was honored that she was chosen by God to be a vessel, a source of nourishment, and a source of love for this child. It is from her personal humility, her trust in God, and her anticipation that her child was going to bring about a change that “her soul magnified the Lord.” Her soul sung and danced in great expectation.I also love the fact that Mary was not alone when she praised, but in the company of another. Our praise is not only for God and for ourselves, but also for the encouragement and inspiration of others around us. I believe that we should praise out loud and praise often.
Kicking, Stretch Marks & Scarring
When I’m grooving to my soul’s magnification of God, for the most part, it literally looks like I’m dancing. I can’t keep still, and when my body is still, my mind continues to move. Even when I am asleep, my dreams bear witness of the life inside of me. The life inside of me is constantly kicking. Kicking is a method of communication between mother and unborn child. At first, it can make you nervous. Once accustomed to the feeling, it feels good to know that your child is aware of your presence and to make him or her aware of yours. You develop a secret language. Liza and Ericka both shared with me stories from early in their pregnancy when only they could feel the child within them kicking. Liza thought she was going crazy, until she realized that the baby was having an intimate communication with her that no one else was privy to because their connection was so strong.
During the process of carrying and nurturing the body of work for Howard, I developed stretch marks in the form of challenging questions I had not considered (or ones where I thought the answers were obvious, but they weren’t) and sleep deprivation among other things. During the process they were annoying, but after the fact, I realize that not only was the work that would have some of my features growing, but I was growing as well. I am forever changed by carrying tat work. I think more deeply as a result and have learned how to function well on less sleep than I was used to.
Expectation & Seeing it to Term
Preparing for this course was a very intimate and sensual act. In fact, I’m pretty sure I got pregnant. During my first semester my classes went well, but I did not feel like I was actively engaging in ministry. I brooded over my lack of clarity, and tried some of everything possible to figure out what I would be doing in ministry upon leaving Drew. Interestingly enough, as I read When the Heart Waits and reread Go Tell it On the Mountain and Showing Mary that I was rushing to get pregnant, when it was time for me to relax and wait. When I began to relax, it became obvious to me that not only was I pregnant, but I was carrying twins. The most difficult piece for me it the act of waiting. After five months of carrying her second son, Liza was eager to give birth so she could see what he looked like and hold him in her arms, but she waited. Ericka was eager to give birth to relieve her pain and discomfort, but she waited. I am eager to know my ministry, but I too, must wait. I am excited to do God’s will, and therefore, I don’t want to give birth to a premature baby or induce labor because of my own desires.
In addition to reflecting on the posed questions, thoughts, and ideas, the following ideas surfaced during my thoughts of generativity either in dreams or through chance experiences.
Last week I saw two sets of twins and each time my heart flutters. What happens when there are two lives (or more) growing inside of you? I’m convinced (as is my mother and older sister) that I am going to have twins when I do get physically pregnant. It is something I can feel. Maybe it’s the Gemini in me. Maybe it is the fact that we have had any multiple births in my family since my uncles Eddie and Freddie fifty years ago. Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll be pushing around a double stroller when it is all said and done. I’ve noticed, in my other experiences of birth, including my thesis work, that there are always two lives growing in my at the same time. When I was developing my thesis work, I was also simultaneously growing campus-wide diversity initiatives at the school where I was teaching photography at the time. This time around, I’m not only carrying and waiting for my ministry, but also a book about my struggle with seasonal depression. They are fraternal twins. While they will not look exactly alike, they are both conceived from the same idea: a quest towards wholeness, deeper faith, and sharing those experiences with others so they, too, can taste of it.
Egg Donors, Surrogates, and Midwives
I was procrastinating. Some of my most creative work happens when I am avoiding other tasks. In this case, I took a break from writing my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) applications to create a collage for the cover of my notebook for my Ministry and the Imagination class. I scanned the pages of an old issue of Glamour Magazine, tearing out words that I thought best described the journey I had recently embarked on: miracle, light, change, deep down, and breakthrough. As I was tearing, I stumbled upon the following quotation, “There are people who can’t conceive, and I can help them.” Physical child rearing aside, I thought about what it means to help others conceive and give birth to that which is inside of them. For me, that means anything from gently encouraging a friend to go to graduate school, processing the pros and cons of a change in vocation for another friend, creating a peaceful yet energetic environment for my best friend to write, or packing the apartment of a friend who was somewhat hesitantly moving across the country to follow her dreams.
Abortion, Miscarriage, and Stillborn
What happens when the life inside you dies? Metaphorically, what happens when the ministries, dreams, and ideas that we carry are aborted, miscarried, or stillborn? Should we mourn and then let go? Do you ever fully move on? This idea haunts me so. I had a dream on January 9th where I met face to face the unborn child of a woman I know. She had named him and carried him everywhere that she went. I was so overcome with sadness that ran away and vomited. When I woke from the dream, my heart was racing and I could still feel the sadness in my body. I feel the same sense of sorrow, grief, and despair when I talk to people who have had dreams, for whatever reason, that did not come to life.