Two years ago, when Annie and I were preparing to meet Hazel for the first time, one of the things that kept coming up in our birthing class and in the books we read and from friends we talked with was how a birth plan can help reduce some of the stress that was going to happen very soon. They all recommended planning out the details you could plan for, like who would be there, what you’d bring, how you’d get there, that kind of stuff. I remember it was exactly 31 minutes from our front door to the maternity ward entrance. Annie’s mother would be at the house to watch the dog and greet us when we got home. We had the clothes, the car seat, and all the “welcome to the world” things staged and ready to go. We even had a playlist lined up. And admittedly, having all that in place helped.
I was thinking a lot about that while reading about the birth of Jesus. I wonder what Mary’s birth plan, as far as she had one, looked like? It would make sense that she expected to be surrounded by family. Her mother, probably her grandmother too, would be present, along with her cousins and maybe siblings if she had them. I wonder if her cousin Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother, was supposed to be there too? Joseph likely fretted over the details of making sure the house was ready, ready with his family to pray for a safe delivery, food at the ready for all the guests that would be there for the birth of a firstborn. I wonder if it helped them destress to think that they’d be surrounded by the familiar when this baby, the Savior of the World, came.
And then the change of plans.
My sister Katherine has always been really good at job interviews. It doesn’t hurt that she has a really likeable personality, so interviewers tend to like her right away, but it’s more than that. Going into an interview, she doesn’t overthink trying to impress the company, or make herself out to be the best possible fit, or even flatter the interviewer. Instead, she goes into an interview with questions. She wants to know what the job looks like, what the company culture is like, why the interviewer likes working there, things like that. She’s so good at interviews because she knows that’s when she gets the chance to figure out what she’s getting into.
When we’re about to make a really big commitment—like taking on a new job—it’s always important to know what we’re getting into. You want to get some certainty of what’s required and what things will look like if you join the team or take on the project. How hard will it be? Do you have the right skills? Is it worth committing to? And we have these questions all the time—whether it’s a job, or a sport, or an extracurricular team, or moving houses, or getting married, or whatever else. If it’s something important, it’s worth investigating.
We’ve probably all been involved in an icebreaker at some point. You’re at a conference or a gathering or a camp or something, and you’re instructed to share with everyone your name and something about yourself. Honestly, I prefer the ones where the instructor tells me exactly what about myself I should share. But there is something important there, I think, in leaving the floor open.
When someone asks who you are, how do you answer? Obviously your name is up there on the list, but what else would you say about yourself? Would you mention what job you have or what grade you’re in, how many kids you have or who you’re married to, where you live, what your education background is, maybe your favorite hobby? The things we choose to say about ourselves say something about what we think is important about who we are. What’s the most important thing for others to know about you?
There was this show that was on some time ago called The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, produced by Tina Fey. It’s this story of a woman named Kimmy Schmidt who was kidnapped as a child by a cult leader and raised in an underground bunker for years before being freed, and she has to adjust to a world entirely different from her early-90s image from before she was, well, kidnapped. Now, that might sound dark, but if you know Tina Fey, I hope you know that it’s a wacky hijinks hilarious show.
But in one episode, Kimmy is talking to her roommate about how to get through something really hard. She used the image of turning the crank for the bunker’s generator, and how she would always “count to ten.” The logic was, you can do anything for ten seconds. That way, she could do monotonous, difficult tasks, as long as she could just take them ten seconds at a time. A lot of this year has been like that, needing to be taken ten seconds at a time. But there is good news on the way!