Category Archives: following Christ

Holding on to a Generational Deep Hope in our Brokenness

The wounds cut deep; both physically and figuratively.

Fourteen Decembers ago, I fell down the stairs. People sometimes talk about traumatic events as experienced through a surreal slow motion reality at the time. That would perfectly describe how it played out for me.

Having come back late from a church meeting, I longed for rest. Having just snuggled into my cozy layers of protection for my body , I was awakened by the high pitched voice of my toddler from the top of the stairs son beckoning me. Our bedroom was in the basement in the not completely renovated lower level (read that as concrete stairs), I was concerned about his possible fall. In my half asleep state, I climbed up to grab him and bring him down.

However, as I held him in my arms and attempted to take the trek back down, I realized quickly that something went wrong. Fear erupted as I felt my foot hit air when it should have made an immediate connection with cold cement. In what seemed like a few minutes (but was likely  a few seconds), I scrambled to make sense of what was happening and how to resolve it. Fearing that my son would hit the cement floor, I turned my body to soften the hit.

Fortunately, he did not sustain injury. I did.

My  broken shoulder commenced a nine month journey into waiting-for physical and emotional restoration. Truthfully, it was painful at times. Waiting for something for which you long but in which you have little control is hard.

It turns out, I also realized that my spirit was in need of attention. I’m not good at waiting. Trusting in God’s character rather than grabbing toward my tendency to a always be in control challenged me.

As I reflected on my experience that happened during Advent, the connections were not lost on me.

Waiting. Longing. Envisioning.

The Israelites knew a bit about these things. The hope of a Messiah. A King. A Deliverer, A Restorer was held up generations deep. God’s promises were embraced as the prophecies were repeated. Hope dangled in front of them as they witnessed God’s presence reminding them that they were never forgotten; through word and action.

But lifetimes went by. Unexpected twists and turns to the vision they held in their minds threatened to detour them toward discouragement.

When will fulfillment take place?

Waiting for something for which you long but in which you have little control is hard. It reminds us of our humanity; broken in body, mind, and spirit. True restoration can only originate from Heaven.

So we hold on to hope-one that is generational deep.

Waiting. Longing. Envisioning.

My shoulder is not completely healed. I lost cartilage that can never be replaced. The amount of movement is limited. I can’t do a backstroke very well but I can live with that. Jesus meets me in my brokenness yet I know that these moments are blips on the journey. Experiencing the fulfillment promised in Jesus will take a lifetime.  Actually more than that.

“Know this with all your heart, with everything in you, that not one detail has failed of all the good things God, your God, promised you. It has all happened. Nothing’s left undone—not so much as a word.”  Joshua 23:14

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Come Join Us! http://fiveminutefriday.com/

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When My Son’s Teacher Reminded Me of What Matters

I anticipated a quick overview of my son’s academic progress. My husband and I arrived for the annual parent teacher conferences for our youngest. In my mind, an audio of the expected conversation played in my head.

We could have skipped the conference but in person connections with people that profoundly influence your child are important to us. They can offer insight into our children that, we, as parents may miss.

I anticipated hearing about his grades. Isn’t that the main agenda for conferences? He is a sophomore. For him, academic success as measured by public educational standards comes somewhat easy for him

I anticipated hearing that he is well behaved. His personality is such that he thrives in structure and has a natural desire to be helpful in whatever environment in which he finds himself.

What I didn’t anticipate was the teacher’s next comment. The words penetrated my soul. Truthfully, the impact hit so hard, my breath struggled to continue it’s rhythm.

“Your child is a wonderful human being.”

These words.Liberating. Life giving. Gratitude worthy.

As parents, we give our best efforts to raise a human being who becomes a productive member of society. We strive to model and cultivate the imago dei in our children.

But life is unpredictable. Factors outside of our control threaten our best intentions. And we hope and pray that our kids will endure and in some way, their life will make a mark in this world.

I anticipated hearing about academic progress. But I walked out thankful for something else. Regardless of whether or not our kids achieve high academic status, pursue a non collegiate route or obtain admission into their dream school, blessing others transforms our world.

In the end, isn’t that what matters?

It’s the Little Things

 

It’s the little things

Peering into his room and recognizing what’s missing

It’s the little things

Turning to his “place” on the couch and no one is there

It’s the little things

Finding myself laughing alone at a funny video

It’s the little things

Setting the table for four instead of five

It’s the little things

Hearing his brother realize the empty state of their bedroom

It’s the little things

Our family now fitting in the first two rows of seats in the van

It’s the little things

No longer hearing his voice cut the silence; in laughter or arguments

People ask me how I feel now that my child is out of the house. It’s a big adjustment that grows from little things.

 

photo credit: Adam Birkett @unsplash

Who is he? Encountering Jesus Through the Eyes of the Woman in Luke 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is he?

The moments of that day still linger in my mind. Some memories find themselves woven into your senses.

At times, I catch myself pushing back tinges of fear as I watch my daughter rest. Is she only sleeping?

How did deep despair and overflowing hope meet in one day?

I can never forget watching my daughter’s life slip away before my eyes. And realizing I was helpless to stop it.

I had comforted friends in their grief after losing a child. My heart broke with theirs. They bore a pain that appeared inconsolable. At least by anything on this earth. I, too questioned how one walks forward when one’s reason for living is stripped away.

But the initial sting to my soul as I shared in their pain eventually diminished.

Until the day I watched my daughter’s life gradually flow out of her body. Her breathing labored; the tone of her skin fading. Watching your child suffer draws out a fierce desire for control that previously lied dormant.

How can a mother not save her own child?

News about her illness quickly spread. My friends sat with me as I had with others.

But it was different being on the other side.

We prayed for God to grant healing. People tried to sustain my body with food. But I couldn’t eat. Worry had consumed my appetite. My concern wasn’t for me. It was for her. I had never tasted desperation like this.

Someone save her!

In the midst of keeping watch over my daughter, the commotion outside caught my attention. As scheduled, Jesus had arrived in our town as was expected. But, in the midst of my crisis, I had forgotten about it. I wasn’t quite sure what I believed about his identity. However, stories of his healing touch were many. The timing was ironic. Perhaps he could do something. It appeared hope was out of our hands.

Jesus, save her!

Jairus quickly ran to find him. I was certain that Jairus’ position would assure a prompt response from Jesus.

But it didn’t. In fact, he didn’t come right away. And neither did Jairus.

Although my friends surrounded me, I felt abandoned. By my husband. By Jesus.

What was more important than healing a child?

My child took her last breath. While we waited.

The disappointment erupted out of my soul. I wailed. My body felt numb. I remember pinching myself to make sure this wasn’t a bad dream. The tears began welling; eventually flooding into a forceful stream down my face. A loud high pitched wail made its way up through my body and out my mouth.

Never had I felt such despair.

As the world appeared to spin around me, someone ran out to tell Jairus.

Finally, he entered. My mind struggled with what to do. Part of me wanted to collapse in his arms. Yet, I felt betrayed. I watched my child die without him.

But I paused when I realized he had not arrived alone. A few others accompanied him; including Jesus.

Did he not hear that our daughter had died?

I won’t lie. Anger began building in my heart as I spotted him. I felt betrayed. Why was our daughter not worthy of healing? What reason did he have for showing up after her death?

But then Jesus spoke. With an authority and a calmness I had not witnessed in anyone else.

Stop Wailing,” he commanded.

I did not understand. I just lost my daughter! We were grieving. Yet, his voice beckoned obedience.

He continued. “She is not dead. She is asleep.”

What?!

His words made no sense. How were we supposed to believe that she was only sleeping?

He walked over to her and took her hand. The same limp one I had held. And he commanded her to get up. I stared in amazement at what I witnessed. Her eyes opened, and she stood up!

Who is he?

I grabbed her hand. The one that had felt clammy and lacked any presence of life earlier. This time her fingers, warm with the blood pulsing through them, bent around mine. I watched her breathe; her chest rising up and down. My girl was alive!

How do you grasp that reality?

Jesus saved my child from death! I couldn’t wait to tell others what I witnessed.

However, Jesus quickly ordered us not to share.

It didn’t make sense.

But earlier he didn’t make sense either. Yet he spoke and acted with an authority that commanded trust. It was unlike anything I have seen from anyone on this earth.

Jesus didn’t just save my daughter. In a sense, he saved me as well.Who is he? 

This post is inspired by the account found in Luke 8:40-56.

Five Great Resources for Fostering Faith Conversations With Your Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 “You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 1:18-19)

First Ask Why by Shelly Wildman.

Though not an actual “devotional,” this book pushes parents to create a framework for how they can engage in faith growing experiences with their children. In the first pages, she describes her own beginning attempts to nurture her daughters’ faith. Some of those attempts went according to plan. Others ended in the frustration familiar to many parents who encounter the reality of intentional teaching among restless bodies. The story drew me in as I resonated deeply with her desire to reconcile God’s commands for parents and the reality of trying to implement a plan. Wildman proposes that asking “Why” we do what we do as families will lead to organic opportunities to for discipleship. It does not mean intentionality is forgotten but asking “why” pushes us to prioritize the ways a family uses their time, energy, and resources. There are a lot of “how to books” but families have different shapes and no one model can adequately help. As a parent myself, I found the information, grounded in scripture, practical. It felt as if a friend was sharing wisdom gained from experience. The questions at the end of each chapter challenge reflection and implementation.

Pray A to Z by Amelia Rhodes 

This book transforms the way you see others in your community. If you are familiar with a prayer walk, this book takes that concept to the next level. Arranged in alphabetical order, each page offer a brief introduction to a topic of prayer including: alcoholism, cancer, divorce, depression, estranged relationships, law enforcement, Jehovah-Jireh, Truth, and Wisdom. Our family uses each topic as our weekly them of prayer. Something holy happens when you pray for those you randomly see in your daily interactions. God opens up our eyes and the Holy Spirit puts a nudge in our hearts as we encounter those for whom we pray.

No More Fear for Kids by Johanna Reardon 

Finding a family devotional book that speaks in a language that draws kids in is challenging.  “Fear” is a common issues children face. The stories that introduce each lesson contain elements of situations that children will most likely have experienced. Bullying, staying overnight away from home, and fears of earthly disasters are common sources of children’s fears. Rather than dismissing them with a scriptural platitude, the author confronts them head on. Questions are offered at the end of each lesson which help the family members engage with one another and gives them a chance to listen to one another. In addition, the scriptural support and prayer places hope in their hearts. In addition, a characteristic of God becomes the theme woven through the whole lesson. I wish I would have had this book when my children were younger. It’s aimed towards the 8-12 year age group.

The Teenage Prayer Experiment Notebook by Miranda abd Noah Threlfall-Holmes. 

I picked up this little gem at a writing conference. The book stands out from traditional devotional books for kids/teens for two reasons: 1) It is written by a mom and her teen son. 2) Hands on application involves some really creative and culturally relevant methods of prayer. The introduction sets the premise: “This is not a book to teach teenagers about prayer. It is a book to encourage teenagers to try out prayer for themselves.” Each experiment includes an introduction (including its, the experiment itself, space for notes, and comments from other experimenters (including Noah). Ideas include creating a prayer space in a virtual world, bedroom door prayers, coloring the Bible, modelling a Bible passage using legos, and Nerf gun confession. Although this book is intended as an individual devotional book,it can easily be used as a family or youth group resource. http://teenageprayerexperiment.blogspot.com/p/running-prayer-experiment-workshop.html

The Bible Project https://thebibleproject.com/  

The digital age is reality so it makes sense to incorporate Bible teaching venues into it. Founded in 2014 by friends Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins, “The Bible Project is a non-profit animation studio that produces short-form, fully animated videos to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere. ”  The videos fall under five categories: series, themes, word study, old testament and new testament. Compelling story telling and creative animation draws the audience to watch these short clips (most are under five minutes). My family has found this resource to provide a springboard for discussions that normally are challenging to initiate with your kids. (ie: hey, what do you think about praying the Shema? How about those Covenants?). You can watch these videos on the site as well as youtube. I guarantee your kids won’t be the only ones gaining Biblical knowledge.

 

 

Healing Laughter

As I awoke on a sunny spring day in May, my mind felt cluttered. Deadlines loomed for my daughter’s home school materials to be completed in time for graduation. Paperwork still needed to be completed for submission to two different colleges. My father’s health issues demanded my attention and energy. Of course, the day to day tasks of shopping, phone calls, and trying to carve out moments for myself and the rest of my family vied for a place in my agenda.

I felt overwhelmed. My energy felt zapped.

I prepared for work. On the one hand, I looked forward to engaging with the students in the classroom where I would be substitute teaching. Yet, I wondered how I would be able to focus on the tasks of the day when the concerns of my mind seemed so pressing.

I said a quick prayer asking for peace “that passes all understanding” as I headed toward the school. I anticipated that, at some point, peace would wash over me. Traditionally, when I remind myself that God is in control, I am relieved of the tension that grips my body. Yet, in my humanity, I wondered if I could really trust God to come through again.  Read more here:  https://www.redbudwritersguild.com/healing-laughter/

How I Found Gratitude After Grief

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I get older, I realize that life is much messier than I once anticipated.

Over twenty years ago, my husband and I felt ready to start a family. The experiences of friends as well as the narratives told through television and movies created my expectations of that season of life. How often does media tell a story involving miscarriage, infertility, stillborn, or SIDS? How many stories are shared by older women to their younger female relatives regarding their own painful moments of losing a baby?

When painful realities are hushed, we are all affected.

Although it took longer than expected, I conceived my first child in less than a year. I suppose in some ways, my naivety lessened my anxiety. I didn’t realize the likelihood that a full term, smooth pregnancy was not guaranteed. Fortunately, I gave birth to a small but healthy son six days early.

Of course those early days presented much differently than what I imagined. Sleepless nights, limited free time, juggling work and time at home created an exhausting rhythm to my days. But we cherished the life we had been given; marveling at his developmental milestones. We loved our expanded family.

When my son was eighteen months old, we began conversations of adding another child. Since conception took several months previously, we assumed that pregnancy this time would not happen quickly. However, to our surprise, I discovered baby number two was on its way after only three months.

I shared the exciting news with close friends and family. Although, I was only a few weeks pregnant, I had no reason to believe anything could could go wrong. I made an appointment to confirm it with my doctor. I went alone since I assumed the visit would proceed as planned. There was no need for my husband to take time off of work.

But, my assumptions were quickly shattered.

As my doctor spoke, I struggled to absorb his words.

“I don’t see anything here.”

This is not what I expected.

He mentioned the slight possibility that the embryo may not have developed enough to see. My mind attempted to cling to this thread of hope.

In these days before cell phones, I picked up the pay phone in the lobby and called my husband. The tears began falling. Hard. My voice, barely audible, attempted to explain what I had just been told.

“They can’t see it,” I muttered through my cries.

I don’t remember my husband’s response. But I do know that neither of us were prepared for this moment or what was to come.

Initially, thinking that it was a blighted ovum, I was scheduled for a D&C.

Thankfully, the procedure appeared uneventful physically. Emotionally, I was still trying to reconcile my hopes with reality. At least my husband and I could return home to confront our grief and seek refuge in God’s healing arms.

A few days later, as I began moving about to the familiar rhythms of my days, the phone rang. My doctor spoke on the other end; my pregnancy was not yet over. The results of the D & C indicated that my body was holding an ectopic pregnancy.

Shock. Confusion. Fear.

I had read about ectopic pregnancies. I knew their implications: in addition to the loss of a baby there was a very real threat of life to the mother.

Fortunately, my life did not appear in Jeopardy yet. Therefore, Methotrexate was chosen as the treatment. A few days later, I found myself receiving the injection on my hip via a large needle. The physical pain was secondary to the pain my hurt felt as I realized i was choosing to officially end the life of this child. It’s quite possible that the embryo had stopped developing already. But, the guilt hung on my shoulders.

That summer became a blur of twice weekly blood draws, grief, death, physical side-effects, and stress between my husband and I. Yet, I continued to try to speak life into my toddler.

Fortunately, I became pregnant again. Despite my fears surrounding the first few months, I had no difficulties while waiting for the arrival of this baby. Again, six days early, I delivered a healthy baby girl.

We enjoyed the changing dynamics of our family. We had a son and a daughter. The days were filled with finding moments of joy amidst the chaos. But I felt our family was not complete. My husband and I bantered for several months over the size of our family.

Eventually, we decided to try one more time.

In what appeared to be a cruel twist of irony, we discovered that once again an ectopic pregnancy was confirmed. How could this happen again?

Despite the familiarity with the routine involved in the treatment, our hearts broke again. Dreams and hopes dashed in an instant. Guilt resurfaced. Would a third child ever become a reality?

In response to this situation, my doctor suggested that I be tested in order to discover what may be causing the ectopic pregnancy. Dye would be inserted into my fallopian tubes while he watched it on a monitor. Any blockages would be apparent.

No one could have prepared me for the results.

Despite carrying two full-term pregnancies, I was born with a condition called Unicornuate Uterus. In common terms: half of a reproductive system. Truthfully, most women with this condition, cannot carry a baby full term. Furthermore, pregnancy itself is a long shot. Not to mention that being deaf and possessing only one kidney are often associated with it as well.

Finding out your body’s idiosyncrasies as an adult when you have had no symptoms creates a bit of a surreal feeling.

The grief of losing two children is real. The memory doesn’t disappear. In fact, sometimes, I think that my body’s memory is all too aware that there should be two other children in my sphere. Often, when I’m rounding up my children as we prepare to leave, I feel an inner sense that two are missing.

Flicks of pain surface once in a while. Yet, mixed in to the sadness, gratitude finds itself. My husband and I recognize that the three (yes, we tried again after much prayer and conversation) children we have are a gift.  We don’t deserve Seth, Lena, and Eli more than any other people longing for their own. We have no answers explaining the mystery of God’s ways.

But we are thankful for what we have been given. And that is how we find gratitude in the midst of grief.

Have you lost a child due to pregnancy loss or stillbirth? I have a fantastic book to give away. “Loved Baby” by Sarah Philpott provides a healing balm to the soul. Sarah wrote 31 devotions to “help you grieve and cherish your child after pregnancy loss.” This beautiful book will be given away  at the end of the month. Please state your interest in the comments below for a chance to win it.