Friday, December 17, 2010

OK, so I had this baby...

It really happened.  

I thought it might not.

I had a baby.

Really.  I thought I might be pregnant forever.  I've had this thought before, but when you're 5 days overdue with your 4th, you do start giving credence to thoughts that this beach ball might just be a permanent feature.  And I might just be the most miserable person in summertime for the rest of my life.

Did I mention that this was "the hottest summer on record" in our lovely town, according to our local meteorologist?  Disgustingly hot!  I try not to complain.  But, it just became impossible to hold my tongue on the misery I felt by the end of August.  Of course, it never helps when I convince myself, that due to my obvious hugeness and the heat that's just killing me...I'll definitely go 2-3 weeks early.  


If you're pregnant, just don't do that to yourself.  

So, the night of the 4th, I thought I was in labor, but I had thought this many times before in the previous few weeks.  I tearfully decided to go to the hospital, but was convinced that they would surely send me back.  

They didn't like my contraction rate and sent me walking.  

In my lovely hospital gown...

Around the lobby.  

Good times.

Who needs modesty?  Just get the baby out.  

So, long and short of it...they kept me.  

I didn't progress too quickly, but then, as I warned them would happen, I went from a 5 to a 10 in 20 minutes.  Sadly, my doctor had gone out of town (really sad, because he had delivered all of my other babies), and the on-call doctor didn't quite feel the need to hurry.  So, at the last minute a friend of ours comes in and says he's the chief resident for the night and would we be okay with him delivering?

I'm a 10.  Going natural.  Get the baby out.  I DON'T CARE!!

Lucky for him, the other doctor showed up.  

And without further details, out came the baby, and since we were waiting to find out, the doctor said, "It's a baby!!"

I didn't care what we had.  The baby was out and crying and looked amazing.  But, in a moment, Joe moved the umbilical cord, and I could feel his tears as he said,

"Honey, it's a boy!"

Jude Nathaniel.  8 lbs 9 oz, 20 inches.  

Jude the Dude.



My sweet, sweet, mama's boy...

Yep.  We're in love.

He's amazing.  I think we'll keep him.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tears in a Bottle

I've latched onto this verse in Psalms I found the other day.  I love it.  My favorite Bible version is the New Living Translation.  It's not as wordy as the Message, but still puts the words in clear and personal terms.  I think we have a pretty personal God, so it resonates with my heart.

Anyway, I found this verse the other day and felt it was one that would speak to so many people. 

You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.  On the very day I call to you for help, my enemies will retreat.  This I know: God is on my side.  O God, I praise your word.  Yes, Lord, I praise your word.  I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?  Psalm 56:8-10

I just love it.

As Americans we are so good at presenting our false selves.  We want you to like the person we present.  The pretty picture.  The one who has it all together.  The one who says kind things, is funny, successful, a good parent, and feels no pain.  


It's exhausting being a person you're not.  I probably am too honest for people sometimes (not that I am innocent of false self, by any means).  But, I hate feeling fake.  If you ask me how I'm doing, I can't lie.  If it's been an exhausting day, or I'm feeling rather emotional about my parental successes/failures, I can't pretend it's all OK.  

I have made these incredible friendships in the last couple of years.  People whom I can trust to tell anything and they still just love me.  Sometimes they help steer me, and other times they just listen.  Sometimes they show up with band-aids and chocolate, so you don't have to run out to the store with your four kids.  Seriously.  Good friends.  I love that there are people out there who are so authentic that they love me no matter which self I present.

And when I read this scripture, it assures me that I don't have to present a false self...a pretty picture to God either.  We forget that he knows exactly what we think and feel anyway, so what's the point in trying to fake it with Him?  These verses opened my eyes to how deeply he cares.  He loves our joy and even says that when we choose Joy it is our strength, but he also clearly cares deeply for our sorrows.  So much so that every tear is collected in a bottle.  Every sorrow he records in his book.  And then he gently reminds that if we trust in Him we have nothing to fear.  

I read this to Sophia this morning.  It was very sweet.  She had the sweetest smile as I told her that God is right there caring for her when she's sad.  I said, can you believe He writes down something every time you are sad?  She smiled sweetly.  I said,  I bet it goes something like this..."Ah, sweet Sophia.  I hope you know I'm right here when you're sad.  Always remember that I am on your side. I love you."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Back From the Fog

OK, I'm back to the land of the living.  More to come later.  I of course have been a little sleepy, but then my blog was messed up for some unknown reason for a while.  I didn't have the energy to fix it.  Will give updates soon.  For now, I'll leave with a preview...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Four outfits

That's the average number of outfits I must try on to find something that a) doesn't let my belly completely stick out, and b) doesn't hurt my lower belly so much that I'm confused and think I'm having labor pains, and c) doesn't squeeze my upper belly so much that I can't catch my breath.  

Good Times!!

I'm noticing this familiar trend when I go in public (which is not often these days).  Last night, for instance, I went to Target.  (Don't hate me, I know some of you are boycotting, and that's cool if that's your thing, but they have things that I like, and I can only get them at Target).  I did have to try on a couple of outfits before heading out...nothing fancy, just run-up-to-Target outfits.  Maybe for some of you, that's still a fancy choice, but for places like Wal-Mart and Target, I'm just trying to avoid getting posted on a "People of Walmart" site...that's it for my standard.  And for me that standard right now, simply means a shirt that pretty much covers my belly.  So, I finally settled on some gray jersey shorts, my ghetto "Love is gonna get ya!" shirt (gotta be true to my ghetto roots), and some flip-flops that well, were a little nasty looking, but they were the only things that wouldn't do my feet in while walking the gigantic store (This is Super-Target, not some little Target...sheesh!).

Oh, back to the trend...

I'm being snickered at in public!  I've noticed it several times, and I'm starting to think I'm maybe NOT imagining it.  

Take last night...  I've already mentioned how striking my outfit was, so maybe it was jealousy whispers.  And let's face it, I'm 5'2" and that belly  has no where to go but out.  And, well, I am in pain with almost every step I take, so I am probably wincing a bit.  And as hard as I tried to find the right outfit, those shorts were riding down in the front, leaving nowhere for my hunormous (an old Sophie term) belly to go, and at times was probably slightly exposed.  At the same time, my ability to feel when said belly is exposed to the air...not so great these days.  Sigh...

Now, last night, to be fair, wasn't filled with moms at the store who could at least give me a sympathy glance.  It was filled with college-aged kids who were sort-of hanging out at the super-cool store.  So, I'm sure they can't imagine ever looking so awkward when someday they are starting a family.  But seriously....they were actually covering their mouths, whispering, and looking back at me...oh-so-sly-like.  And then they would often not  move out of my way, because they're that cool.  

Even last weekend, we went to a splash-pad to have a fun family outing before baby's arrival.  I was self-conscious splashing around with my kids anyway...and felt the stares of the non-splashing adults.  And this was another typical day here where the temp was about 105 (not exaggerating).  So, to splash at all takes great effort on my part, and for the most part I wanted to just sit down.  There were several shady spots, but all were occupied.  I was headed over to a freed bench when some lady cut me off and spread her kids towels all over it.  I stood awkwardly nearby thinking she would surely offer me to sit on part of the shaded bench.  It's not like I don't look miserable.  But, no...had to save those spots for her kids who were busy splashing and not sitting.  Finally another bench opens up and I take it!  A few minutes into it, I have to stand up to call for my daughter.  I maybe took 3 steps out, and when I got her attention, turned to sit back down, and some man had grabbed it and spread his kids stuff all over the bench.  I was done.  I should have enlightened them all as to their inconsiderate nature, but instead, I just told my family I couldn't find a shady spot to sit and I couldn't breathe, and it was time to go.  I don't think Joe minded the excuse anyway.  

People are amazing.  I hope to remember these moments and show a lot of mercy and compassion on poor, miserable 9-month pregnant people.  

In the mean time, I hope to make the most out of the couple outfits that still fit.  

I'd post a pic...but I don't want to tempt you to gawk.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Natural Childbirth

WHY???  is what I get from most people.  Then there's the occasional, "Good for you!"


As it gets nearer, I can't help but ask myself the same question, and then hope I can exclaim "Good for Me!" when it's all said and done.  

But, I do have reasons.  

First of all, I had a terrible 1st epidural experience.  If you're a first-time-mom, you maybe shouldn't read this.  At the same time, I felt my experience had a lot to do with the fact that the real facts and risks about epidurals are often glossed over by the medical staff, and so most people go into it only hearing "it's the worst pain ever, why wouldn't you get the epidural?"  And quite frankly, it's a lot easier on the medical professionals when mom is calmly bringing forth her new life, unaware of any trauma to her nether-regions.  

So, in my first experience, I was induced with a cervical pill that put me into hard labor with contractions every 2 minutes from the git-go.  And since all I'd heard was how horrible labor was, I wanted the epidural IMMEDIATELY.  The anesthesiologist comes and starts the procedure.  I feel this pop in my back, and my leg kicks forward on it's own, and I say "I didn't do that," and he says, "uh-oh."  

Not exactly what you want to hear from someone placing a sharp object into your spine!!

As I rolled over and was told I was fine, I started to notice that everything was numb from my chest down.  They didn't like that so much, so quickly sat me up.  Then my blood pressure crashed and my baby's heartbeat dropped significantly.  They quickly put some emergency drugs in my i.v. to correct all that.  I also noticed a headache right away.  The anesthesiologist said, "oh that's just your sinuses."  I told him I didn't have any sinus issues before labor.  When it came time to push, I couldn't feel a thing, and nothing was happening.  It took 2 hours of pushing to get her out.  

Immediately after she was born, I noticed a pretty significant headache.  I spent my day in the hospital hoping it would just go away, and the only thing that seemed to help was to lay as flat as possible with no pillow.  My anesthesiologist even came to visit me...has your's ever done that?  He even called me at home.  I think maybe he suspected he had screwed up.  

Then I spent the next 5 days  in the most excruciating pain...worse than any labor pain.  My head hurt so bad that to sit up to eat or go the bathroom just brought me to tears.  Apparently he had gone through the dura layer of my spine, and the spinal fluid was just leaking out.  So it was like my brain was sitting on my brainstem....I don't know if that's accurate, but it was horrendous.  By the time I was to the 4th day, I could barely hear from all of the pressure.  It was this strange mix of emotions from being thrilled to have brought my first beautiful baby into the world, and being in such constant overwhelming pain.  So on the 5th day, I got the go-ahead to go to the emergency room and have a blood patch.  This is where they take blood from your hand and insert it into the same hole in your spine.  If it works, it clots and within an hour you are better.  Thank God it worked for me.  Within that hour I could hear again.  I was a new person.  

I've got to say that with headaches that  bad, I didn't even notice the normal post-delivery pains that a mom would feel.  So, I guess there's a bright side to everything, right??

When I got pregnant the 2nd time, I decided to look into my ability to do natural childbirth.  I did a lot of reading on-line and decided on a book called "About Hypnobirthing."  For me, it was a concept where I had to throw out a few ideas that didn't mesh with my spiritual beliefs, but overall, it gave me some real tools and confidence to get through labor and delivery.  It gives a good history about how most of the world gives birth without assuming it's that horrendous, and even how the U.S. first started overmedicating women in labor, and how that's affected the stories we tell and our psyches ever since.  It also gave great deep breathing and focused relaxation techniques.  And it reminds me that my body was absolutely created to do this.  

With Jossie, I went into labor on my own, which made a big difference.  I had been laboring for 3 hours before I woke my hubby up.  He didn't believe me, since I was so calm.  By the time he took his hour-long shower and changed car-seats to our friend Angel's car, I was feeling pretty confident I was in labor.  At the same time I was so calm, that I was totally second-guessing myself by the time I was at the hospital.  In fact, I told them my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and I was so calm that they were in no hurry to believe me or check me.  When they finally got around to it, I was 7 cm and they were rushing me to the delivery floor.  I walked, which also shocked them.

Now, I won't lie that there is this moment of wanting to change my mind and even screaming as the baby is coming out, but in the end I don't have to be catheterized to urinate, and I can get up and walk around, and I can know that I didn't risk paralysis, or my baby's health.  The nurses have been very impressed with my overall calmness.  

Ahhh...I feel better reminding myself why I do this. 

I feel ginormous right now, like this baby has to be a 10 pounder at least.  And the thought of a 10 pounder all natural, does not sound appealing.  I also have some anxiety because something has gone wrong with each birth afterward.  I won't tell you what it was with Jossie...definitely TMI.  With Norah, she came out so easily, thankfully, but then a week later I contracted viral meningitis and spent a week with the most horrendous headaches again.  This time I couldn't lean my head backward at all or I would cry in pain.  I had to sleep with my back straight against the wall and when I'd get into too deep of sleep and my head would slip down, I'd wake right up with excruciating throbbing in my head.  I went through several tests, and my heart rate had even dropped to the 40's and the stupid urgent care doc told me that she was about to send me in for a pacemaker.  WHAT???  I'm obviously fine now, but wow...I want everything to be as healthy and normal as possible this time around, that's for sure.

Then there's the diabetes issue.  For Sophia, so much has changed since Noni-bear was born.  I have so many more details that whomever is watching her HAS to think about and do.  And since I'm the mommy, only I feel I make the best decisions regarding what she eats and insulin.  But, I'm having a baby regardless and she will be fine, I know..  Her emotions are all over the place at times too, which gives concern for baby transition.  I know God will give us grace and we'll get through this just fine.  

I have several doctor's appointments for me and the girls this week, so once those are through, I say, "bring it on!"  Norah keeps noticing my outie belly-button and saying "turkey's done!"  I agree, oh I agree.  

My foot is slightly swollen, and is causing me lots of pain, so I'm barely walking around.  The average daily temperature (not including heat index) here right now is 102.  I can't even breathe when I go outside, and feel like I could pass out when I stand for long.  My mom spent the week with me getting my last necessary "nesting" things done, so all that to say...I AM READY.  

Praying little baby is ready soon too.  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Who are you?

Who's out there?  

I often wonder as I see my counter tick upward, but no comments.  

Just curious.

Sorry to have departed from the "laughing" stories lately.  I'm happy to say we're still a laughing family.  Some days are stressful, but we find joy...a lot of joy in the midst.  

My pregnancy is nearly over.  It's bittersweet.  Some days I feel so huge, and sweaty (thanks to Mid-west/Southern humidity), and sore, that I can hardly wait to give birth.  Other days, the idea of natural childbirth overwhelms my brain, and I think I'd be fine having a 25 pound beach ball in front of me for a while.  Then other days, I am in awe of how quickly time flies, and how I think it was about 2 days ago when I was sitting at my computer feeling the first little flutters.  Now my entire belly moves back and forth, and I often feel a very distinct foot, knee, or bottom protruding out the side.  And I think this is our last baby, so it's a little sad to think those unique feelings that only I can understand and know are almost over.  It's a real kick to watch the girls be amazed by the huge movements they feel under their hands.  

Norah is especially in love with my belly.  She uses my belly like her favorite comfort mechanism...much like a blankie.  Whenever she's upset or tired, she wants me to sit down next to her.  She yanks my shirt up and strokes my belly and talks about my belly, and if she has to get up to get something she says, "stay right there, don't put your belly away."  Or "I'll be right back Baby."  She loves to talk to the baby, kiss my belly, tell the baby about who she is as the big sis, and that she's a really good big sissy.  She's even read books to the baby.  The other day she was reading one with pictures of oranges, and she said, "say 'ball' Baby.  Good.  Now count with me,"  Sometimes she even sings the baby a lullaby.  So sweet.  The funny thing she does occasionally is pinch my belly button like it's a mouth moving and "talk" to the baby that way.  Or look in the belly button and say, "Do you see me Baby?  I'm Noni, and I'm right here."  

In other news, we've started some homeschool again.  Trying to get them used to the idea of doing a few things every day...or most days.  I know it will be hard to squeeze in between nursing sessions in a few weeks, so if they can at least accept doing a few short things, I'll be satisfied with that.  Sophie's in 2nd grade, and Jossie's in Kindergarten this year.  We've added a real focus on memorizing some helpful scriptures.  I love it.  They're learning things that help them, like being kind to others, and not worrying, but praying to God instead...and they're learning that it's all in the Bible.  And they're really good at memorizing at this age, much better than myself, and are so proud when they get it.  I'm discovering that when they know helpful verses in the Bible, then we can turn to those "truths" to help us cope with emotions, or even correct behavior, and it's not just Mommy telling them's a little more concrete, you know?  

Anyway, homeschooling is so frustrating some days just getting them to focus and not whine, and enjoy learning.  But at most moments, it is so incredibly rewarding.  I love realizing how quickly they learn, and inquisitive they are.  Sophie is an amazing reader and speller.  She's reading a smaller version of "Little Women," but it's still a chapter book full of complex words and terms that we don't use daily, and she just breezes through.  She likes taking it with  her on outings and reading.  I like that.  Jossie's starting to read some easy books, and that's fun to watch too.  She's an eager learner, and does it all with a smile (well most of the time).  

Joe's business is taking some interesting turns.  He's been incredibly busy and stressed dealing with that, but we think it's at a really good turning point right now.  More on that later....  Regardless, I'm always so amazed at how intelligently he's created this unique business.  We're hoping the bumps are worked out in the next couple of weeks, so we can focus on being a family of 6 without much stress.  

Eek!  Did I just say "family of 6"???!!!

What else is going on?  

Nesting.  Or trying to at least.  

My goals for today: a little homeschool (done), straighten and do a light cleaning of the house (no where near done), then work on Norah's quilt (getting close, but still several hours of work to go on that), or sort some of their 'baby boxes" and decide what's important, and maybe fill out baby books a bit.  Yeah right!  I can't get all of that done, but it sounds good in theory.  Many days I'm just hurting or worn out, so it just doesn't even come close to being done.  In the mean time, I'm being yelled at about how "IT'S LUNCH TIME AND WE'RE STARVING!!!"  Sheesh!  Don't they know my nesting and sanity is more important than food?  

Oh, and I went to the doctor this week and the baby is suddenly measuring 2 weeks ahead, so I get to test my blood sugars for a couple of weeks.  Always a good reminder, that it's a painful process my little 7-year-old goes through about 10 times a day.  So far, my blood-sugars are perfect, so I don't think it's gestational diabetes.  My sister-in-law says I'm carrying way low, and that in her family they make big boys, and that it's just a "big old hairy boy."  We still don't know if it's a boy or girl, but apparently Joe was a bit hairy when born, like they referred to him as a "monkey boy" for a while.  Poor guy.  We'll love our baby, even if he or she is a bit hairy.  Ha!

So here's my nesting list still to accomplish (trying to keep in mind that if I'm measuring big, it could definitely be an earlier baby):  

Finish filing papers, and cleaning my office.  
Make a board to help us keep up with Classical Conversations material weekly.
Finish Norah's quilt, and some curtains for the girls' room.
Organize baby boxes and put them away.
Find my baby things hidden deep in the recesses of my shed and get my bedside nursery ready.
Clean out and organize my kitchen cabinets.
Cook some meals for my freezer.
CLEAN my fridge.
CLEAN my house.  

Oh, all while taking care of 3 busy bodies, going to a gazillion doctor's appointments, and going to gymnastics 3 times a week, and allergy shots once a week.


There's a good reason why my children will look like they haven't seen the sun all summer.  (Besides the fact that it's so stinkin' hot and I can't take it).  

Happy Summertime to you...whomever you are.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dining in the Valley

Recently my darling husband posted this essay on the Internet Monk site.  I thought it would make an interesting read on here.  It's funny that we both felt like approaching this subject a bit recently, though separately.  He's such a great writer, so enjoy his thoughts and insights.

“Son of Adam,” said Aslan.  “Are you ready to undo the wrong that you have done to my sweet country of Narnia on the very first day of its birth?”
“Well, I don’t see what I can do,” said Digory.  “You see, the Queen ran away and—”
“I asked, are you ready?” said the Lion.
“Yes,” said Digory.  He had had for a second some wild idea of saying “I’ll try to help you if you’ll promise to help my Mother,” but he realized in time that the Lion was not at all the sort of person one could try to make bargains with.  But when he had said “Yes,” he thought of his Mother and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came in his throat and tears in his eyes, and he blurted out:
“But please, please—won’t you—can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?”  Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face.  What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life.  For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes.  They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.
“My son, my son,” said Aslan.  “I know.  Grief is great.  Only you and I in this land know that yet.  Let us be good to one another.”  (From The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis)
When I read this passage to my two oldest daughters about two years ago I had a hard time not breaking down right in the middle of my reading.  It had only been a few short days since my oldest daughter, who was five at the time, had been diagnosed with type I Diabetes.  That is the genetic type where you are immediately insulin dependent, immediately faced with a complete change in life.  At the ripe old age of five she was faced with being “chronically ill.”  The idea of her own mortality and the mortality of everyone she loved came crashing in on her, at five.  I also own a business.  My business was entering a dry period.  Making payrolls became difficult and paying myself became even harder.  At a time when my family needed me more than ever, my business needed me too.  And both needed more money than they had ever needed before.  This season was the beginning of what has proven to be the hardest two years of my life, and the most magnificent.
Before I continue, let me acknowledge the fact that there are plenty of people out there who have suffered much more than I have.  You may have lost a loved one, a spouse, a job, or be fighting a losing battle with a terminal illness.  Let me say something incredibly insensitive: It doesn’t matter.  Whatever you are suffering, someone has suffered worse than you.  And if you are suffering you know that the thought of someone else suffering more than you is of no use whatsoever.  It only complicates your own pain by adding guilt.  So let’s all agree to leave the whole “people are starving on the other side of the world” argument out of this discussion for now.
Let me also say that I am venturing on to well-trodden ground here. There are books-a-plenty about the theology of suffering.  In fact, many of you may notice that I leave out some of the most oft used quotes regarding megaphones and whatnot (inside joke for C.S. Lewis junkies).  I am not attempting to write a complete theology of suffering here.  This is just my journey, a piece of my testimony.  I tell it here now because, well, what good is a testimony without the telling?
I believe in the power of Christ to heal disease, to raise the dead, and even that he bestowed that authority on his followers as well.  Jesus has done all that is necessary for the redemption of sin and the setting all of creation right again.  Yet, pain abounds.  Suffering is everywhere, even in the lives of believers.  There is obviously a part of the story that isn’t complete yet, our part.
Suffering is bad.  It sucks.  It isn’t to be sought out.  Satan wants us to suffer; God does not.  However, God gave us free will.  Free will is more dangerous than every weapon of mass destruction combined because with it comes the necessary possibility of suffering.  Buddha taught that suffering is the essence of existence.  In one sense this is an astute observation.  The world we know cannot exist without suffering.  If Christ removed all suffering for those classified as believers, it would unravel our free will and we would find ourselves slaves by compulsion.  End of story.
Buddha also teaches that the path of enlightenment is ultimately an avoidance of all suffering.  Yes, suffering is bad, but should we really mark our path by its presence or avoidance?  How many of us as Christians are taught a gospel of pain avoidance?
When suffering comes, we haul out our token scriptures to “build our faith.”  We shout at the devil and “believe for” miracles.  There is this sense that if we only our faith muscle were big enough, we could flex and pronounce this suffering bit to be over.  I am not even going to get into arguments against asking for healing, or the fervent belief that miraculous healing can and does occur.  When the Infinite One splits time and interrupts our lives, the supernatural happens.  I plan to ask fervently and continually for my daughter’s healing from diabetes.
But I think that a single-minded focus on our own deliverance blinds us to the richness of fellowship that is available to us in the midst of trouble.  We use our Jedi faith tricks to fend off bouts of brokenness when sometimes the brokenness is our deliverance from a much more heinous enemy than suffering.  It is in the brokenness that death truly loses its sting and our victory is truly complete (Philippians 3:10-11).
In God’s miraculous deliverance from bad circumstances we sense his goodness, but in the pain that precedes we sense his nearness.  The nearness of God IS my good (Psalm 73:28).  If we are still following Christ for the simple promise of utopia, then we are not disciples.  Our redemption is not in pain anymore than it is in the avoidance of pain; it lies in Christ and Christ alone.  But if there is fellowship with Christ to be had in suffering, then let’s not just endure, but rejoice at its coming.
The 23rd Psalm has the green pastures and still waters, but it also has the valley of the shadow of death.  It is here in the presence of David’s enemies that God prepares a table for him.  A couple of years ago, when I had finally stopped quoting scripture long enough to break down and look for comfort from Christ, I turned here to the 23rd Psalm.  The Holy Spirit gave me a somewhat humorous vision of the imagery in the Psalm.  In my meditation, I was in the valley of the shadow of death, and Christ was with me.  I was filled with urgency and the need to be gone from the place.  This was the leg of the journey that I was ready to be done with.  What do you say we move on to some higher ground Lord? The Lord looked around us and saw where we were.  He saw the enemies surrounding our position.  He saw death looming and he saw my fear.  It was as if he had the audacity to smile and say, “Let’s eat!”  Surely you don’t mean here God?  Let’s move on and we can enjoy a nice celebration meal on the other side of the valley.  But Christ said to me, “I want to be with you NOW and HERE.”  That was all I needed.  His nearness was good enough.  Actually his nearness was better than healing, better than riches, better than life itself.  He wanted me to do more than endure the hardship, he wanted me to partake in the brokenness, like tasting a wine.  It is intentional and to be sure it is an acquired taste.  But finding the brokenness in the pain is how we train our spirit to thrive only on the nearness of Christ, then riches or poverty no longer matter.  It isn’t that suffering is preferable to ease but that the nearness of Christ makes short shrift of both.
Christ came to give our suffering a point.  He joined and still joins in our suffering so that he might lead the way in undoing the curse.  According to Revelation 12:11 there are two parts to overcoming the evil one at the end of time: (1) the blood of the Lamb and (2) the word of OUR testimony.  Christ did his part.  Now we do ours.  You cannot believe yourself out of suffering.  You can surrender into the faith that he is working in you.  You can humble yourself so that he may exalt you in the proper time (1 Peter 5:6).  Your job is being broken; his job is to deliver you.  It is this fellowship of suffering and his redemption of our pain that becomes our testimony.  In this way, our pain goes the way of the cross, which does indeed lead to the grave, but does not end there.
When we sense our journey leading us into the valley of the shadow of death many of us pine for Eden and wonder when Christ will finally take us home.  What we should realize is that the way home leads through Jerusalem (read Luke 9:51-62), through the valley of the shadow, through the cross.  Some part of us should smile because we know inevitably whom we will meet there.  While the enemy hopes to sow doubt and despair we can laugh at the foolishness of the devil’s plan.  Jesus’ nearness is evident at the worst moments and his nearness is my good.  So literally EVERYTHING works together for the good of me because I believe.
When we come out the other side of the grave, much deeper is our journey with Christ if we have been willing participants.  Then instead of simply thanking Christ for his deliverance and carrying on without him so long as we are in the green pastures, we journey with him.  We hear his footsteps beside us in every single detail of our charmed lives.  It is no longer where the journey takes us that matters, but that it continues to be with Christ.
That is faith to me.  Not some hyped up thought process that yields miracles for the strongest “believer.”  It is looking up at the Lion’s face and seeing his tears.  It is tasting and seeing that he is good right in the midst of the darkness.  It is laughing at the table with my savior while we are still in the worst part of the journey.
Could this be what Christ means when he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit?”  I have seen poor people and rich people alike who are obsessed with the state of their relative wealth.  The poor man is embittered by his need, and the rich man is scared to death of ever feeling the need in the first place.  But those that allow themselves to simply be broken by need, those are the poor in spirit.
My daughter’s diagnosis brought a crisis for her that has produced faith and intimacy with Christ the likes of which I had never seen before.  I remember one night I was in the kitchen making drinks for dinner, my wife was in the back of the house doing something, and the girls were all waiting at the dinner table.  My oldest tested her own blood sugar, adjusted her insulin pump accordingly, and then proceeded to lead her two younger sisters in the most sincere prayer of thanksgiving for dinner.  I overheard them in the kitchen and the Holy Spirit instantly said to me, “You hear that?  That’s the sound of giants falling.”  Victory had come, not in the miraculous healing I had been hoping for, but in the simple prayer of thanksgiving from a five year old little girl.  In the deep and sincere gratitude for the meal set before her in the presence of her enemies.
In that moment, diabetes had no sting.  In that moment, she was participating in the redemption of mankind.  In that moment, the enemy was overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of her testimony.  His nearness, his coming is our redemption.  If you are in pain or lacking anything, rejoice in his nearness!  Journey well, friends.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sweetly Broken

The verse from this song really stood out to me for a number of reasons today:

At the Cross You beckon me,
You draw me gently to my knees,
And I am lost for words, 
So lost in love,
I am sweetly broken
Wholly surrendered.

I hope to stay sweetly broken throughout life.  I really don't like struggles and trials.  Who does?   But, I am convinced that in pain and struggles if we're willing, we'll notice that "gently" we are drawn to our knees, and "sweetly" we are broken of our ugliness inside.  And then how easy and pleasing it is to be "wholly surrendered."  


Where have I been lately?  

In some struggles, I guess.  It's hard to be open and not totally pessimistic in the throws of struggle.  It doesn't really matter what those struggles are, because if we're honest, we all have them.  And sometimes I want to throw my hands up at God and yell, "it isn't fair!"  Or, "Why me?  Why us?"  "Why not the goof I know who's still bragging about his wild parties and how 'priceless' his experience was at dropping $5000 on partying with 'friends'?"  

Oh, and then I get a bit into the struggle, and I remember that those sorts of questions are unnecessary.  God isn't picking on me.  He's God and He has a plan.  

And then I realize that when I am drawn gently to my knees, and all I can do is cling to the promises that His deep love fulfill on the cross, I am so thankful He doesn't let me go.  It is so easy to have an easy ride in life, and when that happens, it is so easy to be caught up in what our culture thinks is important...and not be satisfied with simplicity.  And not even feel a need to be relying on God.  When life is easy, we simply drift. 

I don't want to be a drifter.  I want to stay ever-mindful of my utter dependence on Him. I don't like struggles, but I do like the closeness to my loving Father that I get when I realize I can't handle the struggle on my own, and getting angry and bitter isn't working, so surrender is my only peace.

And sometimes in those moments, if I'm careful to notice His handiwork, I can see beauty in the simple things of life...and I lose the focus on my own self-pity.

I find I really like things like:

Fresh from my garden tomatoes and basil....mmmmm....

My girls giggling uncontrollably.

Jossie grabbing my face and saying, "Mommy, the best gift I can give you that is so special to your heart is my kisses and come here!"  (And then laying them on me of course).

My hubby putting the kids to bed and singing them songs, and not complaining about how tired he is...

Homemade bread (And OK,  I'm pregnant here, so a lot of these are definitely food related.)

Sophie saying the sweetest and most heart-felt prayers.

Norah saying, "I'm big now, I can say "band-aid" instead of "bain-bain."  (OK, that makes me sad when she corrects her own baby talk).  

Friends showing up to help me clean, or organize...just because they love me.  

And then sometimes I get reality checks by looking at the rest of the world, and putting my "suffering" and "struggles" in perspective.  Because even in my most uncomfortable moments, they tend to pale in comparison to the real pain in much of the impoverished world.  It doesn't change that I may be in pain, but it does help me to get some perspective.

As I look at those around me, even people like the guy I mentioned earlier, I realize that as we understand each other's stories, we have so much more compassion and love for people.  And their weird behavior is often explained by their pain.  I don't know what his pain is.  But, I know you can't find true happiness in pretend friends and dropping wads of money on a lake weekend, and so I know that there has to be some pain he is trying to medicate with "fun."  And I don't want to envy his "easy life."

So often I find that when people have quirks or even bad choices I want to judge, that when I understand their deeper pain, I am a lot less likely to judge.

We all have stories.  We all have pain.

Oh, but for the grace of God.  Without it we have nothing.  No hope.  

But with the grace, comes hope, faith, and love.   

And so in struggles, I think it is so important to cling to God and to not isolate, but to spend time with others. When we understand their struggles, it helps us in ours, and being vulnerable about our struggles with healthy people, is a necessary thing.  I believe God intends for it really.  

Thank you God for the peace and fulfillment that comes from being sweetly broken.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Name Meanings

We love picking names based on meanings.  We also love names that are less popular, classic, etc.  Though, many people must feel the same way, because Sophia has been one of the most popular names I've ever heard since she was born (though we'd never heard it anywhere before she was born...seriously).  And now we're seeing Norah pop up everywhere, which I thought was surely a safe and little-used name.  Oh well.

Back to meanings. 

Sophia Belle means Wisdom and Beauty.

Josselyn Rose means Full of Joy and Rose is a family name, but I think it's the most beautiful flower.

Norah Eve means Honor and Life.

I'm having a hard time with names this time around.  A lot of the cute boy names, just don't have meanings, other than things like "Of the field." or whatever.  And I think their names are so significant.  As Joe often says, it's like we get to be a part of putting the final brush stroke on part of God's creation when He allows us the opportunity to name our sweet babies.  In history and in the Bible, names were very carefully selected according to what the parents wanted to see in their children, or other reasons as well.  Point being, names were important...the meanings were important.

The last two days I've been cracking up about something.  See, whenever people comment on my unusual name, I just say, "Oh my parents hadn't come up with a name for 3 days after I was born.  They had to name me to leave the hospital, so they opened the T.V. guide and there was this actress named Anjanette Comer listed in there, and they thought that was a lovely name, and voila! I have a name."  And that's basically the story I was told.  Most people haven't heard of my name, but I have actually met close to 10 different Anjanette's.  They're always spelled the same way, and we're always about the same age.

But, when looking for names on-line for the last 7 years, I've often been shocked at the crazy and sometimes ridiculous names that are recognized on these sights.  A few years ago, there was seriously the name: Humvee listed on there.  It won't be shocking that it was American in origin, I'm sure.  And there have been several other equally indulgent names I've seen on there as well.  

And, I've always been frustrated that my name, which isn't that crazy sounding (after all, it is a combination of Ann and Jeanette) is never even seen as a "real" name on these websites.  

Until Now!

I was searching on and typed my name in, just out of curiosity.  And, it popped up!  Not only that, but it had a real meaning: God is Gracious.  That was Saturday night.  I was so happy.  Not only was it not a never-heard of name, they actually knew it was most popular in 1971 (by the time she was in the tv guide, must have been 1975!).  And they had a real meaning for my name.  I suddenly felt like my accidental name had meaning, even if my parents hadn't realized it at the time.  And to be a person who knows without a doubt that God is Gracious, and actually have my name mean!

Then, tonight, I found this other website called Unique Baby Names.  I wasn't searching for my name anymore, but was just typing in meanings that I like, to see what names come up.  So, I had typed in a few different meanings, then typed in Gift of God. Guess what the first name was that popped up on the list?  Anjanette!!  It had it listed as the meaning: Gift of God's Favor.  


Seriously, I feel special.  

I like it so much, I might name my daughter: Anjanette, Jr.  

OK, I wouldn't really do that.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Suicidal Fish and Buzzy Fingers

So, we started off the day like any Sunday, getting ready for church.  

Jossie and Norah were in their room playing on the floor, when all of a sudden I hear Jossie yell, "There's a fish on the floor!!"

Well that can't be good.

We have these two goldfish and a beta.  I like them, because they are soooo low-maintenance.  But, they've been kind of funny for fish.  We call them dog-fish, because when you walk into the room they literally wag their tails, and bump up against the glass trying to get our attention so we'll feed them.  They'll even follow you to the other side of the tank when you walk across the room.  Occasionally they get so excited that one will make a splash at the top of the tank.  

Well, apparently the splash went too far this time.  I have no idea when it happened, because when I ran into the room, he was laying perfectly still in the middle of the carpet. We all huddled around staring at him in amazement that there he the middle of the carpet.  Then Sophia came into the room and started crying and ran off, because she realized it was her fish (who coincidentally doesn't even have a solid name...for a fish that we're so emotionally attached to.  But, that's beside the point). 

I was contemplating how beneficial his dead body would be to my garden.  Though of course I didn't mention it in a cold-hearted manner.  I leaned closer and noticed his big gill moving ever-so-slightly.  I said with caution, "I think he may still be alive."  I knew I had to act fast.  This was my first attempt at any CPR, much less fish CPR. So, I picked him up by the tail...and let me say he was pretty sticky and stiff, so I wasn't holding out much hope. I plopped him in the tank, and rubbed his sides a little...hoping to un-sticky him and get the air flowing or something.  Seriously, I had no idea, but I had a little hope.  

In a moment he started moving his fins a little.  He was still pretty much belly-up at this point, but hey, he was showing a bit of life.  I excitedly, but hesitantly told the girls he might just make it...and then again, he might not.  I sprinkled a little food over by him hoping that would excite him into alertness, since he's been such a big fan of the stinky flakes his long life.  We all had to resume getting ready for church.  But, before we left, we noticed he was actually swimming.

He's changed a bit.  Like maybe he's got a wee bit of brain damage.  He's definitely swimming, but no banging on the tank for our attention, and it's taking him quite a while to notice the flakes above.

Crazy Fish!!

Joe's decided that he's not necessarily "alive," but more like "undead."  

Cue the creepy Twilight Zone music...

Fish stories aside...this afternoon, we were at the mall.  Jossie and Norah and I were getting some ice cream when Jossie notices that two of her fingers are tingly and asleep.  She says, "Mommy, my fingers are buzzy."  I said, "Yeah?  They're probably just asleep.  It happens sometimes.  You let me know if it keeps up for a few days or something."  Don't ask me why, but maybe it's something a mom should be concerned with?? I don't know.  

Anyway, so a moment of silence goes by (and if you know Jossie, there really are only a few milliseconds of silence in her life), and she exclaims, "OH MAAAAAAN!  Those were my favorite two fingers!!"

I love that girl!  Who else would have favorite fingers?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Tail of a Tale

So, we're all girls around here...all but Joe of course. 

Needless to say, the girls don't really know about what makes a boy "different."  

So, I was babysitting the other day and Norah was in the room when I was changing the diaper of a little friend.  

She looks at him and gaffs a bit.  She says, "Ha.  Mommy, look at him's bottom.  He has a tail."  

I'll leave it at that. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pink or Blue?

We don't know.

And by we,  I maybe just mean me.

We had our ultrasound yesterday, and told the doctor we were going for a surprise.  My mother-in-law was there and said, "If you need to pull me in the hall to tell me, that's ok."  I shouted, "NO!  She can't keep a surprise!!"  She smiled...knowing it was true.

But, though I am really excited about finding out in the moment, I totally would have loved "accidentally" figuring it out yesterday.  The girls were with us, and he had the screen tilted to where they could see it much better than I could. So, I definitely didn't figure anything out.  The girls were really enjoying trying to see things, they all saw the head, back and heart beating really well.  I loved watching their faces.  

The nurse asked them what they wanted, and Sophia said quietly, "A brother."  But then I asked, "What do you think the baby is?"  Sophia with a sheepish grin:  "A girl."  

Norah was rubbing my belly the other day and said, "Your baby in here?  Where's her bow at?"  I said, "they don't come out with bows on, you have to put those on."  She looks at me with that, aww, poor Mommy just doesn't understand look, and says, "Silly goose, yes she does.  Now is her bow up here??"  I said, "Sure."  

Now, though we didn't find out, I'm not convinced that Joe doesn't know.

I couldn't see the screen when the doctor said, "Look away and I'll get an idea real quick."  And I knew Joe would definitely NOT look away.  So I was harassing him and watching his face.  He got a definite impression one way or another.  I couldn't decide if his face was the hiding the excitement face or the slightly disappointed look.  I gave severe guilt-trips about lying to his wife in the car ride home.  He swears he doesn't know and that if he had an inkling of an idea, it was Girl.  But, he also told me before the ultrasound that I'd never know the answer if he figured it out.  

He's kind of a butt that way.  

Oops.  Did I say that?  

Joe's mom had a feeling, and I know she couldn't tell anything by sight, because she didn't even see the head when it was a big round circle.  But, she felt, based on how quickly the doctor said, "OK, I think I have a good idea." that it was a boy.  

Who knows???  Well, maybe Joe.

I know we'll both be fine with another girl.  We love our girls.  They are each unique, sweet, funny, and precious.  And girlie...oh so girlie. 

But some days, when the drama is thick, the whining's intense, and the tears are rolling....I can't help but wonder if our house would change some with a rowdy, messy, stinky boy.  

Our baby's healthy.  Thank God.  

And that's all that really matters.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Enough with the Serious

OK, I had to get those last two posts out, but I still want this blog to be about the funny and sweet often as I have brain space to put them out there.

Let's see:  

Norah:  (Hers are a little are forewarned).  We've been potty-training and it's going 90% well with the pee-pees.  1% well with poops.  Which means, she either puts a pull-up on and poops when needed (on her own), or she stool hoards (seriously...she's pretty constipated from this), or she poops in her panties, which on one lucky day for me happened twice!  Yippee!!  So, on that day, I hear Jossie yell from the office, "Mommy!  Norah has poop on her finger and is wiping it on the computer!!"  Wish I were kidding.  

At least it was on the screen...easy to remove and disinfect.  

Then tonight, she's been sick with a virus of some sort; high fevers, a little snot/cough.  So, she was walking by me licking her lip and I notice the glisten of snot, and I say, "Do you want me to wipe your nose?"  Norah: "No" (still licking).  Me: "Tasty?"  Norah:  "I like to lick it."  And away she went outside.  

Sorry if these are just gross to you.  I find them amusing, but I'm a body-humor amused sort of gal.

One that isn't gross:  We went swimming at a hotel pool with Joe's parents one night.  The girls did  good.  Norah was very brave for her young age and wanted to swim on her own the whole time (with a life-jacket on, of course!).  We were leaving in the car later and she said in a happy voice, "That was a lot of fun."  Then she sighs contentedly and says, "I'm so glad I din't go down the dwain!"  We laughed.  Like, how long had she been thinking of that possibility while swimming?  

Jossie:  At the girls' school, they do weekly presentations in their classes.  For Sophie, they are a specific topic each week, and Jossie's class is show and tell each week.  So, one week, Sophia had to discuss what she wanted to be when she grows up.  Jossie says, "No fair!  Why can't we do that?"  I said, "Well, yours is show-and-tell, but you could bring something that represents what you want to be when you grow up."  She got so excited and yelled, "OK!!"  She ran into her room and excitedly emerged about 30 seconds later and said, "I want to be a spy when I grow up.  I'm going to show them my super spy eye!"  She used her fingers to spread wide her eyelids on one of her eyes.  "I use my spy eye to see through people!"  

Oh, you've got to love her.  She is so funny and creative in the things she says.  I just crack up at her sense of humor.

For Easter, Jossie got an "I Spy" book in her basket.  It's about finding hidden pictures, basically.  She was thrilled!  "How did the Easter Bunny know I wanted to be a spy when I grow up?"  smile.

Sophia: She's so sweet sometimes.  She can laugh at things, but she's definitely more of a melancholy by nature.  She thinks deeply about everything and needs to know an answer about EVERYTHING.  I joke with her that she's still in the "Why? Why?" stage.  I won't lie, it's exhausting sometimes, but I'm thankful for her inquisitive nature.  She's very sweet-spirited too.  She always wants to do something for somebody.  "Mommy, PLEASE can we go bring cookies to the neighbor ladies?" 

After the Haiti earthquake she wanted to do something.  So, she decided to get a few of her friends together and put on a Cinderella play in our living room that was a fundraiser.  Joe's parents and Grandma Reta came, and the parents of the friends came, and they all gave money.  It was a cute little play for throwing it together very last-minute.  And, she raised $75 that our church gave to medical missions teams going to Haiti!  I thought it was so sweet.

Then, the other day, I overheard her talking to a friend.  She was saying that we do have a heart that beats and pumps blood, but that's not the same " heart" as our spirit/soul.  She says, "Our spirit is what knows God and loves God, and it's our spirit that gets to go to Heaven."  I kind of dismissed it as "cute" until today in worship when I started thinking of the significance of a 6-year-old having this deep knowing that she has a spirit and that her spirit loves Jesus and is redeemed.  She already has a bit of understanding about her being forgiven and deeply loved by God no matter what she does or goes through in life.  It made me cry and realize how special it is to know and receive God at such an early age.  

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

When Children Become Angels

Sorry in advance.  You probably don't want to read this, but I can barely breathe tonight, so I have to journal it out and whomever reads...well...I don't know.

I know too many people who have lost their precious little ones.  It's one of the really wrong parts of our broken world, and it's just not something any mommy should ever have to go through.  

I was introduced to Sicily Zeka about 5 months ago by blog when a friend said I should read.  See, she's had an 18 month battle with cancer, and about 5 months ago her older sister was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  I know what a huge deal that is, but when you have another daughter who's battling for her life in the short-term, I guess it barely becomes a blip on the radar.  And so, my heart just went out to them. The reason they found out about the diabetes was because they had just been re-admitted to the hospital to find Sicily's cancer, that had been in remission, was back.  When the grandma was staying at the house with the other children, she noticed the older daughter getting up at night peeing often and was concerned: thus diabetes diagnosis.  Diabetes is this massive life-changing event for a family, but somehow God seriously carried them through to where it has been barely noticeable.  

Anyway, I don't read a lot of blogs, and really didn't want to read this one due to the sad nature, but my heart just went out to them with the combined struggles with their daughters.  The girls and I prayed daily.  Sophie could of course identify with the diabetes stress and we had another friend who has lived through this same cancer that Sicily had, and so we found it easy and sweet to pray as a family for this family.  Joe and I pleaded with God for a miracle, because we know He's good.  

A few weeks ago, they were in the hospital for more chemo and found the cancer had spread everywhere and there was nothing to be done.  The family brought her home, accepted reality...believing for a miracle at the same time, and enjoyed the time they had left with her.  She was very tired and slept a lot in the last week or two, but still had much personality, like helping herself to her own drinks and saying, "I don't need any help."  Or just 2 days ago, her brother was sitting on the bed just watching her and feeling sad, and she opened her eyes and said, "stop staring, it's rude!"  And then last night as her mom was going to bed, she laid down beside her and noticed her breathing had suddenly changed and the end was near.  She picked her up and rocked her gently in the rocking chair, while her daddy told her peacefully that it was ok to go to Jesus now.  

And so she did....

And so I weep.

My girls caught me just as I had read the news.  They laughed, because kids don't know what to do with weeping mothers.  Norah kept asking "why'd she go die?"  I told her that we all die, and this sweetie was ready to be held by Jesus.  She said, "Oh.  Baby Jesus is cute."  

Sicily's mom has grown so much in the few months that I have read her blog.  She's gone from a woman with a background of faith from a liturgical side and who had a belief in God, to a woman who absolutely has felt carried by God and has a deep peace knowing Jesus is her strength and that Sicily's life has served a purpose in this short time by showing others that Jesus is the strength.

Sometimes I question why I read these things, and allow my heart to become so deeply attached to the outcome...someone I'd never met.  And though I think we could have an easier life not thinking about the deep pain others experience, I think we do the world a disservice by just being cozy and unaware or uncaring.  I have wept so much over the loss of this little one in the last 2 days and have even been a little depressed and distant.  She's only 6 weeks older than Jossie.  So, it's hard not to truly relate to the depth of their loss.

After she died and they had all taken turns holding her little body one last time, her mom laid her on the bed while waiting for the funeral home, and painted her finger and toenails.  Then her dad didn't want her taken out on a gurney and so he wrapped her in a Hello Kitty blanket and carried her little body out to the car. can I not cry?

And so I find myself really holding my babies close these last 2 days.  I find that I'm not as angry with their antics these last 2 days.  And I find I want to make my moments count with them. I want my words to be loving.  I want my tone to be gentle.  I want to express respect for them.  I want to bless them, and pray for them.  And I find myself staring at them when they're sleeping, praying for their protection and thanking God that they are in my life.

If you click on Sicily's name at the beginning of this post, it will link you to her mom's beautiful blog.  It's sad, but precious to see the transformation in a woman and a family.

Here are links to some others as well.

The first one is Joe's sister Christy's blog about the loss of her baby Phoenix.
The next one is a friend of Joe's.  They worked together at Hillcrest and they had a sweet boy with a very rare form of dwarfism.  His name was Mitchell Cupps
This one is a new friend that we go to Classical Conversations with on Fridays.  She has lost 2 of her 5 sons to a rare heart disorder, and her faith and real strength in the struggle is amazing.  Please read her journey here.

I wish those were the only ones we had to share, but like I said, we know too many angels.  I'll leave it at those, however.

Now, I don't include these links to depress anyone.  I think their stories are beautiful.  And I support their mommies and daddies desires to have their child's name not be forgotten.  To make the name of their child, the life of their child, to be significant to someone.  That their child will make a difference, inspire, encourage and bless you, even as their spirits reside with our precious Jesus.

The common theme with these blogs is one of inspiration.  The parents have been through the trenches with their faith and have come out on the other side with incredible trust in God.  They grieve.  As they should.  But, they know they are held by the Savior.  They know that good can come from their losses.

And for me they put life in perspective.

May we always feel ourselves held by the Savior in our circumstances.  May we always know He hurts with us.  May we know we are so deeply loved by Him and not forgotten or forsaken.

No matter what we face.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Journey of the Heart

I go to church every week.


You shouldn't be.  It doesn't make me a Christian.  It doesn't make any of us Christians, or "saved."  In this journey of life we get so many opportunities to examine our hearts and motivations.  I've recently been doing that.  

We all have different motivations for what we do regarding God, church, family, etc.  I've met several people who say things like, "I should go to church, because I want my kids to have morals."  Or people who go to church out of duty, habit, obligation, etc.  It's sad really.  Church won't make your kids good.  In fact, sometimes forcing "church" will actually turn them away from God.  They need more than a building and a few good Christian influences to have it be something that matters to them.  A parent's guidance, love, prayers, example, honesty, and immense grace is a huge key to your child's outcome in life and the way their heart turns.  But, for it to be real, the parent themselves can't be at church out of duty, habit, or obligation.  

In other words, it's not about church.  

I love my church, don't get me wrong.  I have friends there, my kids have friends, and I look forward to it every week.  The worship and the teaching are some of the most real, challenging, encouraging, and love-filled moments of my week.  Sundays motivate me.  They help me to want to keep God close and to want to feel and express true Love as it has been given to me by my intimate friend: Jesus.  I find church so helpful in my walk.  I find the friendship, testimonies, similar experiences, all help me to not stray away into my own selfishness.

But, I could skip church for an entire year and still have a beautiful relationship with my Jesus.  


To some, that is such a foreign concept.  To many God is whomever the preacher says he is.  To some, He's "the man upstairs."  To some, He's the one who's rules we must follow to a T or else we might just fall off the fence and land our little selves in Hell.  What a sad tightrope to be expected to maintain that balance!  Or to some, they've taken Old Testament stories out of context and turned our Lord into an angry, malicious being who is unapproachable and couldn't possibly have anything to do with the world we live in today.  I am not a theologian and cannot take time in this post to explain away all of those misconceptions.  But, in my short lifetime I have felt all of those things at times.  It is truly a journey of the heart to challenge those thoughts and learn to trust a creator, The Creator, who's only desire is to love you and have an intimate, trusting relationship with you.  More intimate and trusting than the best marital relationship, or even more loving than that which you feel for your own children.  

Is that the Jesus that you've known?

It hasn't always been for me.  Several things in the last couple of years have truly changed my understanding. Now, I was technically "saved" as they say, in high school.  Then not much changed, and I went to college.  Had a few wild years, and then something drew me to desire an actual relationship with the Jesus whom I had once trusted enough to say "Yes, yes, you are the One I want in my heart and the One whom I want to trust forever."  And I had a few good "spiritual" years there.  Then life happened, and life was good, and I got really stagnant in my walk.  By that, I mean I had a healthy respect for God.  He was a definite force in my life, but not a passion.

I hope this isn't getting too long to read, but I've just really had some thoughts on my heart.  I'm not one to hide who I am, and I don't enjoy a false sense of being, so I feel compelled to share a little of my journey....I hope that's O.K.

So, here's my few things in the last couple of years that have helped mold my heart:

1) Finances.  We had a struggle a couple of years ago with the business.  I won't go into all of the details, but we were personally barely afloat.  And looking at our nation now, many people are experiencing what we went through and worse.  During that time, we had to come face to face with whether we could trust God to see us through.  We learned to appreciate the simplest things in life.  We found joy in our children and each other like we had never found before.  We even found joy in realizing that we couldn't control our futures, but could confidently trust that God had a plan for us.  He clothes the lily's of the field, and feeds the birds of the air...He wouldn't let us die in this circumstance.  We had to be OK with failure.  We had to be OK with Him changing our course.  Now, our business is doing great today, but we fully recognize that life can change on a dime and we have no choice but to trust the One who provides and has our back.  My phrase during that time: I am at the foot of the cross, and that's not a bad place to be.

2) Sophia's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes.  This is probably no surprise, as it is a big focus for me.  When we first found out, it was shocking.  After the finance thing, we realized life is hard for everyone, but foolishly we felt we had had our "hard trial" and had learned to trust and we were sort of exempt from more of those moments.  So, this diagnosis was a real punch in the gut.  I hated it.  I hated seeing her suffer.  I hated seeing her have to overcome so much at 5 years old.  I was proud of her, but I really wanted to make it go away.  So much has been learned...too much to share in a paragraph.  But, one of the main things I continue to learn is that I can't control life.  I can't.  We are in a fallen world, and until Jesus returns, there will be pain and suffering.  It's not a punishment, or a cruel trick by God.  It's something He desperately desires to heal: all of our brokenness and suffering.  And it will happen, but it won't all happen in our timing.  And so we can be bitter, or we can let Him teach us, and hold us, and get us to a point of Peace.  (Disclaimer: This is oversimplifying the process for the sake of brevity, but I do acknowledge that pain is real, and suffering is a process, not just a quick-fix).  I had to tell Him recently (as though He didn't know): I hate pain.  I'm scared of more suffering.   Do you know what I felt His response was?  I've carried you in your pain.  You've never been alone.  And though you may not have felt much came from it, others have seen Jesus through My carrying you.  It wasn't a promise for more pain, but an assurance that He does make it better.  He feels my pain.  He cries with me.  I love that.

3) Loving people.  I used to be around people who just oozed love and think, Wow, I could never be that way.  I want to, but they are so much better at that than I can be.  And now I am just motivated, rather than condemned.  In this last year, I had a great opportunity to listen to a lady who is currently a missionary in Romania.  Her name is Jackie Quarles.  I listened for several hours as she told her struggles to be happy, and to trust God, and to love.  And yet, she oozed love.  She had a son wander away from her group on a mountain in Kazakhstan, and he was later found, but in the hours that they searched she wept, and came to a place of knowing that God was going to carry her through, even if she never found her son.  I couldn't imagine that place of trust.  I still struggle with that.  But, she talked and talked about how in the last few years she has truly fallen in love with Jesus.  And, everything in her life is better because of it.  Her marriage is great, her ability to handle her children is filled with grace and peace, and she's loving being a missionary in Romania.  I wept that night listening to her story and feeling so motivated to know that level of loving God.  That point where your love for Him is so tangible that it becomes a natural force in your life: to love others.  Oh, and yet by grace...we can only know that love with His help.

4) The Jesus Storybook Bible.  It's a wonderful children's bible.  I think it's ministered to me as much or more than my kids.  I fight tears with some of the stories, because it reminds you of God's true nature: love.  It tells the stories of the Bible as a true adventure story-book.  A book where the Prince wins back His love. Here's an excerpt from the story of Adam and Eve sinning and leaving the garden:

Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve: "It will not always be so!  I will come to rescue you!  And when I do, I'm going to do battle against the snake.  I'll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here.  I'm coming back for you!"  And he would  One day, God himself would come.

5)  Utter appreciation for Grace.  This one's hard to put in words some days.  I realized recently in my feeling stagnant that I hadn't truly grasped or appreciated the grace I had been given by God.  I think I looked at this broken world where the issues people struggle with are so intense: drugs, affairs, abuse, even murderers, molesters, etc.  And, I had almost decided unconsciously that my soul wasn't as corrupt.  That I wasn't that bad.  And, I suddenly realized that the same Grace that is available to anyone who struggles the way I just described, was what had freed me.  And I am renewed by that same Grace every day when I realize how down I am for not being a perfect mom, or not keeping a great attitude all of the time, or when I show anger, or I don't know how to love strangers effectively.  I don't have to get further and further from God during those times.  I only  have to be reminded how desperately He wants to be near me, and I can accept that grace and forgiveness and feel whole again, no matter where I am or what I've done.

In the book Celebration of Discipline: The path to Spiritual Growth,  the author quotes Bonhoeffer as saying, "Anybody who lives beneath the Cross and who has discerned in the Cross of Jesus the utter wickedness of all men and of his own heart will find there is no sin that can ever be alien to him.  Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sins of a brother."

So, I think that makes us all equal.  There are no "spiritually mature," as I've often heard people in the church call themselves.  If you think yourself as such, I hope you'll search your heart.  I don't find it Biblical.  I think we have to all know we are so capable of terrible things, and we are so utterly dependent on Grace to make even the slightest good decisions.

I've also heard many people say things like, "I can't believe he did that!  He's supposed to be a CHRISTIAN!!"  Or, "Christians, they're all hypocrites!"  Yeah, we are.  The bottom line is, being a believer does not make you perfect.  I will continue to fail this side of Heaven, but I will always know where my forgiveness comes from.

I guess what has really driven me in the appreciation for Grace, is the realization that I need intimacy with God.  I need to know Him better than I know my husband.  And I need to remember that as a believer, He resides in me.  I can't actually get any closer to him.  He is not in the temple behind the veil.  He is not some far-off man-spirit-thing that I can't really feel comfortable talking to, because what if He knows what a hypocrite I am??!!  Or feel afraid that honesty with Him is going to cause me to be stricken down.  And the more I pursue that intimacy and love, the more I feel freedom in my life.  The more I feel peace, and the more I feel true joy.  I have far to go on this journey, but I like feeling like it's not about a bunch of rules I can't follow on my own.  It's about learning to trust Him, learning to talk to Him, and often learning to just listen and know that I am loved.  He loves me more than I love my kids, and that is hard to imagine.

Well, this has been a long post.  I hope this doesn't read "agenda" to anyone, as it's just been my heart lately. I feel more peace than I have in a long time, so I's what I do.  Anyway, don't leave me in the dark here.  Let me know if you read this.  If you totally disagree, I'd love to hear that too...I can handle it.

May the Grace and Peace of Jesus be yours today!