Weekend Ponderings

As I prep for the start of Nanowrimo next week and sift through the ups and downs of this past week, these are a few of the things that I have happened across and which have resonated and stuck in my heart and mind.

Tenth Avenue North – I have only listened to a few random songs so far, but with each I have paused to listen more carefully and enjoy. Especially this one:

Lily Myers, Shrinking Women

The photography and the emotions in this…

Posted in Just Relaxing | 1 Comment

Strength in Liturgy

When Jonah was sick, our family began praying together every evening using the Compline service from the Book of Common Prayer. We had used this order of prayer from time to time since beginning our journey toward the Anglican church several years ago, but this was different. We were committing to the discipline of praying Compline every day, regardless of our schedules. Now the kids know that it is not bedtime until we’ve brought out the prayer books and offered up the words of this service together.

Compline is a simple, beautiful service. At first, as we were beginning this discipline, it felt long and awkward as we referred to the tags of who was supposed to speak and when, but soon we developed a rhythm and were able to focus on the strength of the liturgy.

There is power in the unity of speaking words of prayer together – words that have been passed through the years. There is peacefulness in taking the words of a bedtime prayer and lifting them in song as a family. There is grace and conviction in listening to the free intercessions of our children as they offer their honest, heartfelt desires and needs before the Lord while mimicking the style of the ancient prayers and those they hear spoken by Scott and me.

Before we began using the Book of Common Prayer, before we began attending the Anglican church, I mistakenly believed that common prayer could be nothing more than rote, mechanical, impersonal. And I assumed that those who prayed common prayers must not know how to pray free, individual prayers.

Now, I have experienced the richness of adding my voice to prayers that have touched the hearts and lives of uncountable Christians through the life of the Church and I understand that my individual prayers are not lessened by my use of the Book of Common Prayer. Rather, much as my children have improved their writing and speaking through copywork and memorization, my free prayers have strengthened and deepened from daily practice of praying scripture and time-honored prayers.

If you would like to use Compline for your own prayers, an online version can be found here: BCP Online (Choose “The Daily Office” from the table of contents. Then select “Compline.”)

Posted in faith | Leave a comment

Fasting from Striving

I am a solution seeker. When Scott and I are facing struggles/ questions/ leaps of faith, my mind immediately starts to whirl with the possibilities and within a very short amount of time I can have a list of possible solutions that range from easy and rational to wild heart attack territory.

Seeking solutions is good and bad. It’s based in hope and in fear. It’s a way of ruling the world around me and a way of abandoning myself to the possibilities outside my control.

There are times when I need to allow my mind to delve into the imaginative ways that God could choose to open doors for us. I need to look beyond the resources that we have and the talents that we can offer to the realms of my dreams that could become possible when God chooses to infuse His strength into our weakness.

Most of the time, however, these ramblings of my imagination are an escape from true faith. I claim trust and patience when really my heart and mind are in hyperactive mode, creating possible solutions for my Creator to choose from and implement.

See, God. See how great my faith is. I believe you can do any of these things. Which one is the yes?

God sees all. Even beyond my many and varied solutions.

Today, my mind is desperate for solutions and I’m feeling anxious as I glance at the calendar. But God is who He says He is. And I am loved and cherished by Him. So I am intentionally stopping the whirring of my brain and my imagination. I am refusing to chase rabbit trails of what if and am determined instead to be still. Mind and body. Be still.

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Posted in faith, Scripture | 1 Comment

Growing Up

The past couple of years have brought a great deal of God’s blessing and also a large amount of pressure and trial for Scott, me, and our little family.  Although I can’t think of anything that I would want to go back and change, there is also very little that I would choose to go back and live through again.  I am finally beginning to accept that life never actually gets easier.  Even those who seem like they have the easy life are still struggling through just like everyone else.

We can sit and languish in the misery and unfairness of our difficult life, but that’s not very productive and definitely won’t make things any easier.  This I know from experience. *grin* Or, we can choose to put on our big girl pants, take God’s hand, and shoulder our way into the storms of the day-to-day grown-up spiritual life.

I’ve been trying to think of how to relate all of this to parenting and literally growing up from childhood.  There are a lot of lessons and connections that can be made there.  As we grow up spiritually, God does expect more of us.  He does require us to take on more responsibility and to learn from our experiences rather than beginning each new day or trial back at square one with Him.  But there is also a difference, and it’s a big one.  Good parenting requires that we allow, teach, and encourage our children to become increasingly independent from us.  To learn new things so that they will one day walk on their own.  That is not God’s goal with us. Yes, we are joint heirs in the kingdom of God.  We are children of God.  But He calls us the Bride of Christ.  Not the child of Christ.      

When Scott and I participated in the Marriage Course several years ago, I remember my perspective of marriage changing when Nikky and Sila Lee spoke about the goal of different types of relationships and how marriage is the only one where individuals should be continually growing more dependent upon each other rather than more independent of each other.  Marriage is the better example of how we are supposed to grow in our spirituality and faith.

So, although I often catch myself longing for some indefinite point in the future when life will surely be easier and Scott and I will finally be able to live without this constant stretching and struggling, I’m learning to appreciate that the hardships are what I should truly be rejoicing in because they allow me to grow more and more dependent upon God.

Posted in Christianity, faith, Marriage | 1 Comment

Don’t Be Like a Mule

Four years ago, we were packing up our little apartment on campus, preparing to move to Albuquerque. We had a place to live – with gracious family – but Scott did not have a job and we did not know what would happen. We spent the next year living with family while Scott looked, and did not find, a job that would fully support our family. At the end of that year, God opened doors for us to return to Massachusetts, to seminary, even to the very same small apartment that we had left.

This month we are again packing up our small apartment on campus and preparing to move into the unknown. Scott does have a job, but we have been searching for several weeks to find housing that we can afford as we count down the days until we must leave campus, whether we have a new home to move to or not. This all feels very familiar…and not in a warm, cozy way.

I know that year in Albuquerque was necessary for my faith. On top of many other lessons during that time, God taught me about His provision. He taught me about tithing first – before knowing that there would be enough to cover necessities. Even before knowing that there would be enough to cover the amount we had pledged to tithe. God provided for our necessities and He also provided for our tithe. None of that came from the abilities of Scott or me. That is a critical lesson. I needed the opportunity to learn it.

I can sit here in front of my laptop and continue to type out words that have the potential to compel and to convince any readers that stumble across this post of God’s goodness, graciousness, and provision during that year. And they would be honest words, flowing from the knowledge of the faith that I have. They would be words of truth.

The whole truth, however, is that in addition to the faith that God has grown in my heart, there is also an equal amount of scarred tissue that is still painful to the touch. I do not doubt God’s ability to provide for me and my family. But I also remember how difficult it is to resist my own twisted delusions of shame and guilt when His method of providing does not match my own desires and expectations. In the eyes of the world, God did not provide during that year, He took away. The world is wrong and feelings lie. But I still feel shame when I do not possess what the world claims is success, blessing, necessity.

As Scott and I have been wrestling through questions of housing, ministry possibilities, and where we believe that God is leading us, I have been balking. I don’t want to be led there. I want our life to finally be socially acceptable. And as those scars within my heart ached again this afternoon, my phone alerted me of a new Siesta Scripture Memory post and I read Psalm 32: 8-9:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.

As Beth Moore had her grandkids memorize, “Don’t be like a…donkey.” Yep, that’s pretty much what I needed to hear this afternoon. There is no doubt in my mind or my heart that I am going to follow God with all my heart, soul, and mind. So it’s time to stop behaving like a mule and do it.

Posted in faith, pride | 1 Comment

After the Miracle

When Jonah was healed, the first few days were a constant battle to choose faith. Every time Jonah burped. Whenever he mentioned feeling kind of tired. As his appetite returned and he had to relearn what it felt like to be hungry instead of slightly nauseous/sick to his stomach. Scattered moments peppered throughout the day that would instantly stop my heart as I mentally questioned whether he was having a reaction again.

And I would have to choose to turn my mind. Choose to remember what God had done. Choose to retrain my instincts and reactions.

God had healed our son. Therefore, that burp was just a burp. Twelve year old boys do that. The rumbly tummy was just a sign of hunger, something Jonah had not felt for months. I needed to feed him a snack, not encourage him to lie down and rest for awhile. Exhaustion was not a battle but a victory of Jonah having spent an entire day being active.

Four days after being healed, as we were beginning to shed our jumpiness, Jonah went outside to play and came rushing back in some time later with a bloody gash on his head. Despite first appearances, it ended up being a minor injury and a couple hours later he and Scott returned home from the hospital with one staple holding the wound together. We joked with Jonah, telling him that God just healed him and we would appreciate him not trying to break himself, especially so soon. But underneath the teasing, we were all mentally shaken. The next couple days Jonah felt sore and achy. He had a headache and his stomach often felt unsettled. Just when we had let our guard down, we were once again thrown into a battle of what we would choose: our fears, or faith.

I didn’t expect the struggle to believe, even after the miracle of healing. I guess, when I read biblical stories of healings or when I hear modern day testimonies of miracles, I assumed that those people, touched by God in such an amazing way, must have gone on to lead hyper-spiritual lives, steadfast and unwavering in their faith. Now, I wonder what their day-to-day life was like after the miracle. How did they interact with their family and friends – those people who had known them for so long as the cripple, the blind, the beggar, the sick, the weak? What questions were they asked by their friends and family? Did they have great answers every time, or did they stumble through trying to find words that were faith-filled, yet still honest?

Seven weeks have now passed since Jonah was healed. I’m not sure when I stopped struggling to trust that he was indeed healed, probably somewhere around week three. The thing is, even though we know beyond a shadow of doubt that Jonah is healed, and our hearts and minds no longer momentarily panic, life doesn’t stop being life. We are still facing ups and downs, questions and fervent prayers that this life of faith requires. There is no big red easy button in faith.

Not even after a miracle.

Posted in faith | 1 Comment

A Divine Healing

Last summer Jonah started throwing up.  He wasn’t showing any other symptoms of being sick, and his stomach has always been a trigger for stress, illness, worry… So at first, we thought this was just a result of too many things happening back to back.  Family had visited, he had been to a week-long animation day-camp, and now he was involved in helping our church with vacation bible school. 

Except it didn’t stop.  Two weeks later, Jonah was still throwing up.  Every day.  Sometimes multiple times a day.  He had no appetite and was dropping serious weight.  He had become very lethargic and was having bad headaches.

At first, our family doctor recommended, and we agreed, to try some of the more simple possible solutions.  But as those failed, we moved on to seeing specialists and agreed to various testing and diagnostic procedures. By November, the medical world still had no answers and one specialist had even suggested that Jonah was just too sensitive and needed to learn to ignore these symptoms, which another child would likely consider normal and not worth noticing.  We walked away from that specialist’s office resolved to not return.

By this point, Jonah was not participating in the majority of his usual activities.  And while he was no longer throwing up, he was still nauseous every day, experiencing headaches, severe joint pain, extreme exhaustion, skin rashes, and emotional ups and downs.  Because he seemed to react more after meals, Scott and I felt that this had to be food related.  And so, beginning the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we put the entire family on the 30 Day Paleo diet as a way to eliminate the majority of foods which we felt might possibly be a problem for Jonah. 

Within five days, we began to see our son return to his normal energetic, enthusiastic, motivated self.  He was being loud, running around the apartment, and wanting to play outside again.  We were thrilled!  We finished the thirty days and began adding in food groups. 

Jonah reacted.  Strongly. 

At first, we were glad.  Finally, we knew what was causing problems.  We added in dairy and Jonah reacted, so we took dairy back out.  We added in gluten and Jonah reacted, so we took gluten back out.  Then we started adding in small amounts of sugar and gluten-free flours, and Jonah seemed to be okay.  Great, we thought.  Dairy and gluten.  We can handle that.  But Jonah started reacting more, and we were no longer sure what the problem was.  We tried to modify our diet, but the more we tweaked the more Jonah seemed to react.

Then in March, Jonah had a bad reaction.  The only foods we could connect at all to the reaction were potato and tomato, which we had eaten throughout the diet.  We thought, perhaps Jonah was developing a new intolerance because we were eating more potato than we used to. So we took nightshades out of our diet and saw some improvement, although Jonah kept reacting.  Throughout March Jonah’s reactions remained very random and began increasing in intensity.  We were beginning to wonder if food intolerances had simply been masking some deeper problem. Frustrated and overwhelmed, we were lost on how to proceed. 

Throughout this time, a great number of people interceded for us and for Jonah through prayer.  Friends, family, and Scott’s prayer team (assembled to pray for Scott and our family throughout Scott’s ordination process) all joined with us to pray consistently and continually for Jonah’s health.  There are not words to express how much we benefited from this prayer.  We felt God’s strength and wisdom through all of this and saw evidence of His help as we met with and discussed options with various medical professionals. 

As March was coming to a close and Holy Week was approaching, Scott and I were praying earnestly for wisdom.  We were concerned that this might be Jonah’s new “normal” and that we might be facing a long-term battle of natural health supplements and constant dietary modifications.  We had a couple of options for proceeding, but God alone knew the best way for us to help Jonah.

The evening of Holy Saturday, we headed to church for the Easter Vigil.  We have always loved this service with the quiet, dark, solemnity of the first half and the loud, boisterous, brightness of the second half.  Honestly though, with two birthdays and all the extra activities of the week, we were exhausted and had half considered staying home.  Jonah wasn’t feeling good, Meghan was fussy, we had rushed through Abby’s birthday dinner…and I still had a messy kitchen to clean.  But we love this service. 

I spent the first half of the service, the quiet half, with Meghan in the cry room. I didn’t join Scott and the kids in the pew until after the celebration of Christ’s resurrection…after the ringing of the bells…after the sermon. We partook in the First Eucharist of Easter and as the service concluded, we walked to the parish hall to enjoy the feast.  As we walked, Jonah told me that he felt really good.  He had lots of energy.  I told him I was very happy about that, which I was. We cherished those brief times when Jonah didn’t feel so sick. But at that moment I was tired, distracted, and barely paying attention. 

During the feast, and on the way home, Jonah mentioned another time or two how good he felt.  And finally I started to realize. He was trying to tell me, in the thoughts of a twelve-year-old, not that he simply felt good, but that he had been healed.       

It was almost eleven o’clock by the time we arrived home from the Vigil.  Scott was serving at the Easter service the next morning, and we were all planning to attend the service with him.  We were exhausted and needing sleep.  So we prayed as a family, thanking God and praising Him, and we hugged the kids good night. It was not until this moment, two to three hours later, that we finally slowed down enough to listen to Jonah. He told us that God had healed him and that he believed it was permanent. 

And then he went to bed.

Scott and I chose that night to believe Jonah and to have faith that God had indeed permanently healed our son.  And it was a choice.  Because even though there were 150-200 other people in that church Saturday night, including Scott who sat shoulder-to-shoulder with Jonah, God chose not to include anyone else as witness to that miraculous moment. 

There are, of course, those doubts.  Are we sure he is fully healed? Maybe we should wait awhile before we tell anyone… We believe, Lord.  Help our unbelief!  Scott and I both echoed the father’s prayer from Mark 9:24 again and again throughout that first night and continuing for days.

The next morning we shared the news at church and then we went out to lunch and Jonah ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, tomato soup, and a soda.  And he thoroughly enjoyed his meal! :-)

Please rejoice with us over Jonah’s healing and restoration, give all the glory to our Heavenly Father and the mighty works that he has wrought in our family. Rejoice with us that our son has been restored to us, and the mighty way God answers the prayers of his people. Thank God with us for his strength and provision for our family and his never ending love. Please pray with us that God would be honored in our lives and that those who may doubt this healing would be silenced before God and that our son, and our family, would not be put to shame in claiming the promise, reality, and miracle of this healing. This healing had nothing to do with our diet, our doctors, or anything other than God pouring out His healing upon our son at His time and in His place. We praise our Risen Lord!

               ~~Quote from an email that Scott sent to his prayer team on Easter Sunday 2013

Posted in faith, family, health | 5 Comments