Tag Archives: Faith

Leaving for Honduras

Agros Fisher

Five years ago, in the days after the loss of our baby boy Fisher, we began our partnership with Agros.  While I labored to deliver my full term son who’d lost his heartbeat, I was extremely thirsty.  I was unable to drink water because I’d chosen an epidural to numb the physical pain of labor and could only have ice chips.  I was profoundly grateful for those ice chips, and for the hope of unlimited water to come.  When the reality of his death would be with us, I would have water to drink, to quench me through the unbearable pain of losing my baby. When circumstances are searingly painful, the elements of daily life things that bring comfort are rendered less mundane, seen for what they are, God’s generous undeserved miracles and graces.

Undeserved, because as I labored in thirst I thought of what it would be like to be laboring to give birth, to give birth to death even, to be in pain and wanting only a simple drink of water for some relief and have no access to good clean water.  My thirst was temporary, and I knew that, and it was the hope of relief that comforted me.  Who was I?  Who was I to be born into privilege, birthing in the comfort and safety of this nice hospital room, in a comfortable bed, where limitless water would be waiting for me, would quench me, clean me, clean my precious baby’s body in a mere ritual after birth, baptizing the body his soul had already departed.

The funeral was being planned.  Dear friends guided me through a remembrance ceremony that I could still barely comprehend was happening, and some asked, how can we give?  In lieu of flowers, what can we do?  Because everyone wants to do something to make something feel better that’s impossible to better.  I get that.  I wanted that too.  Water.  I remembered my thirst, my Fisher, how his life was meant to reflect the biblical message of becoming a Fisher of people, how women in other places were birthing without good water, and grieving without good water and I wanted my baby’s life to bring that hope to people.

So our dear friend Emily, who works with Agros, made that happen.  She set up the process to bring water to a village in Honduras through the generosity of our loved ones.  A few months later we became full financial partners with Agros.  Alongside a group of wonderful families with young kids who wanted to make a difference in the world, we began supporting the mission of helping people break the cycles of poverty and live a sustainable life, with the vision of not just giving, but of knowing the families we were supporting.

Today we leave for our first visit.  We go with our two oldest kids and a group of wonderful families and Emily.  We get to go and be with the people we have prayed for and loved from afar for all these 5 years.  As my son would have been growing into his boyhood, these people have been growing crops and growing hopes and growing out of a life without the basic human comforts that every person deserves.

I leave with a lump in my throat, for the babies I leave at home, praying for their safety and ours (please join me in that) and for the baby’s life I will remember again in the faces of people who’s lives have been impacted by a life that was hoped for.  There is danger in this country, corruption, crime, hard stories, pain and so much poverty.  These stories are in every country, closer to home than we know, but Honduras is a place to hold up in our collective prayers for change.  Agros has a vision for those suffering the most, and here we go.

All things, slipping through our hands, hoped for.  Only by God’s graces do we have these miracles of the lives I do get to have and hold, of the chance to be with people whom God loves as dearly as I love my baby in heaven, of a drink of water.  This is His good work, and who are we to be His hands, His womb, His water in a broken beautiful world?  God be with us.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1


Vigilance

I make my rounds each night holding my breath hoping they’ll breath theirs strong. Say last prayers with a kiss, grateful for warm cheeks meeting my lips, rising ribs beneath my palm. I brush gentle upon their foreheads, soft across hair, wondering why loving is so full I could burst with gratitude and so hard I could wilt. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to give all to these little lives, everything I’m capable of, for a life lived better than my own. Daily it dawns on me fresh how incapable I am of everything I hope to be as I strive to guide them toward what I can only glimpse they’re meant to be and it’s all a precarious too precious road.

I want them to thrive, to be kind, to know God’s love and people’s love and self love in easy ways that are hard for me to grasp. So much more than potential and success of this worlds contriving, I hope for good hearts, beautiful spirits, character that does what is noble and right. So much more than goodness for pleasing’s sake, I hope for wholeness living abandoned to what one’s been created for; ability to embrace fault and flaw within and without, see space for grace, inside and out, and the potential that shadows cast for seeing with more depth and feelings more real.

If I love so deeply then why do I live so imperfectly? If I long to be the best I can for them, why do they see my worst? When I read and study and teach and yearn to know right strategies, research, narratives, and antectodes, why then do I still lose my temper over sibling squabbles and spilled milk? When I know it is all par for the course and atleast 5 positive ways to handle it better than I do. I have patience, and good skills, and a heart so full to be sure, but shards of glass sometimes cause me to crack, laying bare how we are all so very broken.

I was having tea with a dear beloved nurturing mom friend while our children played at our feet, literally crawling under table and chairs. She watched her mature son’s rambunctious play cause a fragile dish, gifted, from another country, fall from the table to bits. As he hung his head in shame she said, “No, son” and made sure their eyes met, “it’s not things that matter it’s people. It was just a cup.” Her words were gentle and sure. I was moved because she was brave to speak what makes my heart sing. So why do I still sometimes shatter when things shatter and shatter the ones I love most when I’m tired or lonely or feeling unlovable? Having been a witness to her strength of composure and grace, I loved her even more, my own children more, and even made room for myself more to break cups on good days and bad, and hold the face of the beloved between soft cupped hands with strong seeing eyes willing to witness it all and still say, “its you, above all this mess, that matters.”

Perfectly held, however imperfectly loved, we are given these gifts of life so divine, so precarious so strong, praying against all wrong done to us and born within us, that we might not be so rambunctious as to shatter spirits, but rather strengthen souls. Let us be diligent to hold precious the cup up, beyond our own hands, to seek after sustenance overcoming ourselves, yet doing our part to will our wildness to love abandonedly better than we’ve ever known, so that those who go after us might better represent He who went before us.

20130621-173745.jpg


Little Things, Never to Forget

I want to memorize the length between the lower curve of your plump bun and the back of your knee.  It can’t be more than 3 1/2 inches and then another to your pudgy bare foot.  One little lovable chunk of you that will too soon be long and lean like your sister’s.  Your voice is elf-like, high pitched, sing-song, curious and amazed at most things you speak to these days.  Unless it’s a command to “ho-d you me” “cuddew me” or a sweet whispered “wove you mama.”  Then your voice is deep and a bit raspy, possibly a glimpse of you at 12 or 24.  Or it’s a scream that accompanies a temper tantrum, full of life, fierce for that one thing you are wanting to have or do with your little strong body that I can barely redirect anymore with any sort of ease.  You have more passion and persistence than I have yet to witness in a child and I thank God you are my 4th, 3rd to make it to age 2, because I have far more experience, patience and tolerance for this age of big frustrations for you.  I get you though, I see your heart and know how badly you want to live by it and I adore that about you.  I pray regularly for the ability to encourage your full fledged self and help you harness your wildness in ways that will serve you well in life.  I can be exasperated and at the end of my rope with you and in the very same moment look into your tear filled fierce full brown eyes and be so overwhelmed with love for this full of life child I get to call mine.  You’re 2 1/2- delightfully, frustratingly, preciously, lovingly 2 1/2 and I don’t ever want to forget any bit or piece of this time with you.

“Mama, I feel like I haven’t had much time with just you and me lately.  Will you read my Pippi Longstocking book with me?” came the invitation from my girl who reads long chapter books within a few hours, has completed the Laura Ingalls Wilder series a few times over now and would choose to cozy up with a book over kicking a ball outside with her little brother any day.  Feeling lucky you would ask, I left the chore of the moment, looked past the end of day messes to be tackled, and joined you on the couch where it was quiet, away from a little brother and sister who were upstairs getting ready for bed with Papa, a rare brief moment with just you.  I pulled a blanket over us and your head leaned into mine as I started to read where you left off on page 103.  When a sound or my trailing tired thoughts cause me to pause, you put a finger to the word I stopped on and I am tempted to ask if you want to be the one to continue.  But I can tell you are 3 again, in preschool when you were the last kid to want to leave the reading circle while your teacher read the story of the day.  You’re 5, in kindergarten refusing to try and learn to read because it’s far more enjoyable to listen to the story than struggle to sound out syllables.  Now you’re 8 and it has come so fast, consuming more literature on your own than we ever have together in our sacred nightly ritual of bedtime stories before prayers and cuddles.  There is so much within your mind and world that I am not privy to any longer and I know that will only increase, naturally, as it should, but still I feel a bit left out not knowing so much of your thoughts and stories no matter how much I try to be intentional and ask.  So I am feeling nothing less than lucky to be invited into your most favorite past time, a world nearly as magical as this moment with you.

You’re 6 my son, and growing so quickly that your naturally athletic, amazingly coordinated body is a bit clumsier than usual.  You bump into corners and misjudge stairs and your tears are the same as when you were 4, so sad and so hurt.  I go to comfort you, hold you awkwardly on my 8 months pregnant belly and kiss your hurt places.  How much longer will I get to do that and it will help?  I appeal to your growing intellect as well with empathic words about your body changing and therefore you naturally get awkward for a while.  I am dealing with that too, I say smiling with my big belly, it’s not easy at first when our bodies grow but then we get used to them again.  You smile back at me and run off again full speed.  Later you take a break from your full-of-energy play and join me in the kitchen on a stool next to the counter where I am doing dishes.

“Mama, is it hard work being a mama by yourself when you have a baby in your belly?”  This is the season when your papa works long days, or is gone away for weeks at a time and you are ever the perceptive one. I have been tired, but conscientious about taking time for fun and for rest and building a rhythm that honors all of our growing bodies.

“Sometimes it is, but it is my favorite work I get to do,” I respond emphatically. I put down the dish I am scrubbing and turn to you perched on the barstool across the counter from me “Why do you ask?” I say, fearing I may have made you feel like a burden in some way.

You look out the window, and off into your mind say, “I am just thinking about the kind of dad I want to be someday.”   After a few moments you turn back to me “like making breakfasts like papa does when he’s home and you need some extra sleep.  I want to do things like that.”

Really, at six you’re thinking about this?  My perceptive, empathic child.

I get a big hug from you around my big belly, and a knowing look of love and gratitude for the baby brother you’ve been longing for all these years too, and off you go again outside to your adventures.

You would be 3 1/2 my sweet boy.  I have no pictures of these days and years I would have had with you.  No memories to try to cherish and hold onto.  Just 9 months in my belly and that one day, when you lay peaceful and breathless in my arms, when I could hardly breath.  I would give anything to have you now, even to have that one day when I got to hold and memorize you, terrible and exquisite as that day was.  My heart still aches beyond measure to know you my love.

Who would you be now?  Quiet and kind-hearted as your big sister?  Energetic and empathic as your big brother?  Wild and delightful as your little sister?  I can only daydream of who you would be, knowing full well you’d be something all your own entirely.  Oh and that hurts, so deeply, to not know and to wonder.  To have conceived and formed and grown you to fullness, to empty my womb when emptying is meant to bring life, only to tell you goodbye, still, always, leaves me hurting and longing.

 

My love is so big and full for you, even as I grasp to remember the details of you, details that are nothing to the joy it would be to hold you breathing in my arms, run and play a game of chase with you, read stories that delight your mind and talk with you about who you dream to become.  Our family is big and growing, but always incomplete without you.  I yearn for heaven to know you.

Kiss my son for me dear Jesus, play and run and talk and be with him, delight in him and cherish him, and please tell him he is loved beyond measure, each and every day until I am able to say it with you.

Thank you, for each of them my Lord.


A Time to Treasure

We are on a little working Spring Break trip to our summer business home in Canada.  The weather is cold, the cabin is cozy and we are breathing a sigh of relief as we relax in for a few days, despite the ongoing to-do’s.  It is just a bit easier getting things done when we are outside of our everyday lives, and nice to balance it out with some down time with our kids and each other.  It has been a busy season with three careers between us, a hand full of volunteer roles and a major home remodel in the works.  We are thankful to be able to spend so much time with our kids, but the reality is that we can be multi-taskers with an electronic device almost always within reach – a necessity I rather loathe and often in fact ignore (which you know if you have ever waited for me to respond to an email).  Or we can be side by side at night catching up on work when “normal people” (do those exist?) settle in for some TV or reading time to relax before bed.  I am always trying to get better at watching TV, a funny goal some might think, but it would do me some good.

So we needed some family time, and some down time.  For this morning, my indulgence on this remote little island is to have a moment to write while my husband takes the kids for a hike on the north shore.  With a warm cup of tea in hand, a fire crackling, an expansive view of the ocean out my window and a silent house, I am breathing easier and feeling quite content.  There has been some news I have been wanting to share and this is the week.  The fourteenth week.  Fourteen has always been my favorite number, and although 12 is said to be the safe time to share, I needed a buffer this time around.  We were so naively expectant last year sharing our pregnancy news so early before our miscarriage, and many of you know of our full term loss of our son 3 years ago.  So this time I really needed to make sure, and sharing too early felt like I might burst the fragile bubble.  But all is well, I am showing, and I am ready to share.

With absolute awe, excitement, a bit of fear, huge hope and more emotion than I can describe, I announce the upcoming arrival of the 5th Sund baby!!  The 4th we hope to bring home to join our family on earth.  We always wanted four!  From our college dating days, when we were unaware of the work of children, we talked excitedly about how great four would be.  We each came from a set of two and loved the idea of a house-full.  So this season feels like the realization of a long-held dream. It has been a windy road, not in the order or spacing we’d tried to plan for…is it ever?  It is hard to explain what it feels like to be culminating my childbearing years.  I am sure I will be writing about that.  Above all, it is a time I hope to treasure.

My last pregnancy, sacred in it’s own right, was a blur of numb coping.  I was still in the early days of grieving and the only way to get through another pregnancy was to not hope too much, nor fear too much, just breath and live each moment only by the strength of God.  In past pregnancies I had kept detailed journals for my babies in the making, writing letters about their unique traits, prayers for health and well-being and my own guidance, and professing my undying love.  It was a whole other layer of loss to have poured words into a life that would never receive them.  It was like I was standing at the edge of a treacherous cliff watching helplessly as my lifeless baby floated away from me, my arms outstretched with his gifts – the journals, the soft clothes, the warm blankets – when all I wanted was him in those futilely full empty arms.

But his time around, and not without reverence for the baby I will always ache for, my joy has returned.  I feel the full measure of life that is within me and the hope for it to come.  I love being pregnant!  I find the whole thing so amazing and am one who feels especially good and healthy, mostly migraine free, while pregnant. I winced at the sight of it for a time and that made me so sad.  I was too aware of all that could go wrong and desperate to warn those blissful faced bellies of their possible torture ahead.  But I am thankful that reaction has passed.  Hopeful expectation has returned, without naiveté of whatever may be, but I know full well God will be with me whatever may be and it is too much fun to miss out on the joy of this last season of expectation.

So with all that in mind, three kids to care for, and all the to-do’s I described above, I don’t want this time to pass in a blink.  I want to cherish it.  I want to be able to remember it.  I want to treasure it.  I would love your ideas for how to do that well – please share them!  I would be so grateful!

I hope you have moments to pause and treasure your season of life too!  Blessings!


Sacraments

Over the last year I have had the privilege of serving communion alongside my pastor husband.  Each time I do I am overwhelmed and grateful for the experience.  To give you a bit of background that doesn’t tell the whole story, I can rarely receive communion without tears streaming down my face.  I mean, not just a little teary-eyed, but streaming.  God’s grace has always cut to the core of my being that finds it hard to believe I can be so well loved.  I always feel a bit sorry for the servers, they must think something is really wrong with me.  I fear they might usher me aside to a private triage prayer room for me to be able to pull it together.  I want to whisper, “I’m okay, don’t worry, just a little overwhelmed by God’s love right now, I will be fine.” But I know I wouldn’t be able to choke out the words.

I can’t quite explain all of what is going on for me in those moments.  A sense of absolute brokenness – awareness of my own depravity, loss, heartache and imperfection – swirls with awareness of love so profound – pure, undeserved, all-encompassing – that I can hardly bear it.  To receive this physical reminder of God’s love and provision is always profound and I have no doubt of God’s divine presence when receiving the sacraments.

But to serve is another thing altogether.  If I already struggle with the question of “who am I to receive such gifts of grace?” all the more I wonder, “who am I to present them?”  To speak “this is His body, broken for you” or “this is His blood, poured our for you” and hear my husband speak the counter promise beside me is such an honor.  Words more weighty than my wedding vows, that also clenched my throat tight as I spoke them with as much conviction as I could muster through tears of overwhelming gratitude.  Looking each person in the eye, I do my best to speak the weight of these words into each soul.

But God forbid I know a bit of their story, or see heartache or gratitude in their eyes, because then the clenched throat comes and my eyes fill.  It happened today when a fellow mom of young ones dipped her bread in the cup I held strong for her, then her husband who has also known a lifetime of heartache, a new person to our church I’d bonded with only the week before, my long time mentor mom from MOPS who was there with me in during the loss of my baby boy, then her husband who fed everyone at the funeral making sure my plate was full when I was famished.  The newly married couple who are navigating loss and change, and the ones celebrating a decade but fighting to feel close.  The mother of a healthy 2nd trimester baby who’d had too many early miscarriages to have still had hope, and the beautiful single soul who longs to find their life partner.  And the stories in the hearts of the faces that tell me there’s so much more than the smile they return to me.  Who am I, so broken, to bear witness to this sacred moment of receiving of God’s gift of sustenance?

That God would love us so much.

May you have strength for your journey knowing the body broken and the blood poured out for you.


Oh Holy Night!

I am so excited for our Candlelight Christmas Eve Service tonight.  Gathering with family and friends, worshipping the culmination of our waiting, hearing my 7 year old daughter proclaim the gospel, listening to my husband Scott preach his God breathed words of wisdom and hope, cookies, conversations and hugs afterwards – I can just feel the glow of it all and I am giddy as a child on Christmas Eve!

There is so much to this sweet season that can distract us from all that is so very good.  For this day, in spite and maybe because of all the inevitable noise, chaos and clutter, I am feeling so grateful for the mess of it all and the chance to glorify a Baby who has given us everything.

My heart goes to a stable where a young mom and a first time dad wait and work under stars shining bright to birth a baby who will save the world. I think of each of my children’s births, how I have labored through the night with hopeful expectation.  Body full of pain and a heart full of hope that they would breath life into their lungs when I finally got to hold them in my arms, even when I knew deep down one would not. I still hoped, until they came.  God has never taken that hope from me and it is how he has sustained me.  Even when the breath of life was gone, I have never lost hope that all would be well.

I pray this season you may have hope, and love and joy and peace and comfort too.  All those things we write and receive on all those Christmas cards.  Read them, know them, feel them.  We are loved and we have reason to rejoice.

Merry Christmas!

Here, again is my favorite hymn of the season 06 – O Holy Night, listen loud, sing it louder.
I posted this last year just after Christmas…

A Thrill of Hope in a Weary World

Oh Holy Night speaks of the dual nature of hope and suffering in life like no other Christmas carol.  It speaks to my heart and gives me reason to praise.  As I seek to sing in a season of remembrance and hope, the lyrics acknowledge I am often pining and weary and hurting.  It says He knows this.  He knows our need.  He knows us! And in knowing Him, our soul finds worth, even in the midst – and maybe especially – when we have trials.  We are loved, valued, treasured – of worth.  I will overcome my suffering, because He will overcome it – all oppression shall cease.  At the top of my lungs, in a pitch I can barely reach, I sing my heart out…
.
.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim

Darkness & Light: Where He Abides

01 Winter Song (with Ingrid Michaelson)

Today is a day of joy and pain. It is the unexpected birthday of my baby girl’s planned birth, on the anniversary of my baby boy in heaven’s funeral – this Winter Solstice day of the Darkest Night.

Three years ago on this day I gathered with my husband, living children, family and friends to mourn the loss of my full term son Fisher.  One year later, after two long years of pregnancy, I gave birth to my baby girl, a planned induced birth that was to be on the 20th and lasted into the wee hours of this Solstice morning.  I heard the beautiful cry of life this day where bliss and loss have become good friends.  My babies will meet in heaven one day, all six of them, and there will be laughter to replace all these tears.  There is laughter here too.  Both I embrace.

Too many deaths. Too many thoughts this month, with too little time to write.  Here are a few formed to words…

Lord, I stand with you at the edge of a beautiful life overlooking the valley of the shadow of death.  I rage with you against the horror of it, small and safe beneath your wing. Knowing you are love, that you loved my beloved and that you love me.  Still though I wonder.

I look at you, in love, wondering if maybe you betrayed me somehow by allowing death to take my child.  Were you a willing participant Lord?  Did Satan come to you as with Job, and you said: let it be? Allowed the boy I’d given every ounce of my being to nurture and love for 10 long months to die before his life began? How could you have obliged?  How do I not give you ownership when I honor your hand in everything else?  What was your role in this?

I know you did not point the gun, twist the cord, that took the breath he never breathed.  But you knew. You were there. You are here now.  Your omnipresence often comforting, implicates participation.  It is so hard reconciling death with your love.

Still I stand with you.  Still I trust you.  Even though I do not understand.  Even more now, I know your love and know you conquer death.

If only it was in my lifetime so that I, and so many others, might not have to suffer so.

It is too hard to bear my Lord, so hard, nearly incomprehensible to me, even now.  Only you know the searing pain that radiated throughout my body, that was cried out from the depths of my soul, that left me grasping for my own breath that might sustain my life.  Only you know this Lord.  Only you know me.  Only this brings incomprehensible comfort.

I praise you.  Fearfully and wonderfully, I praise you.


Advent

December begins again.  First advent Sunday celebrated.  This the season of hopeful expectation, when my son was still living, moving, alive, 9 full months of life, of knowing and knitting within my womb, fearfully and wonderfully.

I was waiting for you my son, (still waiting), I was ready…so hopeful…

Three years ago, my perpetual calendar (The Power of Prayer by Richard Foster) shifted to a new theme of prayers, from Healing Prayer to The Prayer of Suffering.  It happened again this past Sunday, the first day of Advent at that.  Everyday now I read a quote about suffering.  This first one, signifying the season my soul senses before the calendar tells, read:

In the Power of Suffering we give to God the various difficulties and trials that we face, asking Him to use them redemptively.  We also voluntarily take into ourselves the griefs and sorrows of others to set them free”

Three years ago, pregnant with expectation, I remember thinking it a bit strange, that quotes about suffering would coincide with the hope of Christmas coming.  I remember thinking specifically how they were the furthest thing from my own joy and hopeful expectation with a baby boy due in only a few more days.  We had a house full of hope, an excited big sister, sweet anticipatory brother, proud, oh so proud papa, and me, just me, his mama.

I’d owned the calendar for nearly 10 years by then, had viewed it through two other winter pregnancies nearing delivery.  Never before had I notice the theme of suffering as odd in timing, nor read each days’ message so dutifully, in case God is preparing me to comfort someone who might be suffering, I remember thinking.  Little did I know whose heart He was preparing.

December hit with dense fog and fear the year he would have been one, belly bulging, with promise of a baby girl this time, if we can ever again hope to believe in what seems to be, again.  Like a hurricane December came year two, the flood of a heavy heart sweeping me back to what was lost and never would be, still.  But a baby, sweet precious baby girl in full-of-life flesh, reminds me of everything that is so good and the magnitude of what was lost.

Oh yes, December.  Here you are again, with howling winds, and icy rains, cold enough for snow, sometimes, cold enough to kill off the abundance conceived in Spring.  Dark, brisk days when a breath can feel like shards of glass cutting through lung tissue and escaping as smoke signals of your own life that goes on as you scream into the deafening dead-end silence against how final it all is, and how crazy that makes you feel that there is nothing you can ever do to bring him back.

December again, and still, it is over.

Still.

He was born still.

Still so much.

So much life, so much laughter, still soft bellies and squishy fingers to kiss, still I am surrounded with more love than I could ever, ever have hoped for.  Still so much to look forward to.  Christmas grows more magical, when 7, 5 and 23 months live here.  There is glow, and glitter to string, giddy expectation of goodness to come.  It always does come.  The goodness was there, always was, and is, and forever more shall be.

In advent, I wait, hopeful, for a child, a son, and a Son.  One whom I will run to and embrace, know his sweet face that I had the blessed chance to kiss and hold for a mere moment.  Forever I will wait and long for that redemptive embrace.  And another One who will embrace me, kiss my face and say, you are mine, and he is mine, redemption is mineMy life your true gift, that makes all this that you love worth hoping for.

The season of hopeful expectation has come – Rejoice!  He who is God is with us!  Again I can say – I. Will. Rejoice!


A Pastor’s Wife’s Response to Loss

Let me invite you into a discussions my husband and I have had over the years in response to the loss of our baby boy. First I encourage you to read the post he made on his blog http://looktothenorth.wordpress.com/ about Emotion Focused Therapy here and then you can see the response I added to his comments, or return here as it follows. It is a little glimpse into how we can see things a bit differently and still have a solid relationship, solid faith, and ultimately survive such a horrible loss.

My response:

As said marriage and family therapist wife, I must say that I love this piece! I love that my pastor husband would attend this Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) conference with me – something he’s been hearing me preach about for over a decade since I was first exposed to the theory at Fuller Theological Seminary. That made me feel loved!

One thing I see a bit differently though, the part that says “… that gave us the courage and strength to not have to question God either.” We’d both say our faith was strengthened in that time in different ways. He because he didn’t need to question, me because I had to.

I was in a bible study in the year that followed our loss where the question was asked “Do you think you have grown in your faith and understanding of God over time?” My answer was yes and no. After facing significant loss, my faith in God was more solid than ever. He cared for us in minute and miraculous ways that could never have been humanly construed. Jesus was more real to me than ever. At the same time, I felt I understood Him much less. With most of an M.Div degree earned, I had spent a majority of my adult years in ministry as Young Life staff person and Chaplain at Fuller and SPU and thought I had a lot of pretty solid answers. I suddenly felt like I had no answers. The nuances of my belief system were turned upside down in that time, though my faith was solidified beyond measure.

I did, and still do question God. I feel safe bringing those questions to Him and even disagreeing with my understanding of Him at times, knowing our love is secure. Just as in a solid attachment relationship, as EFT supports and prescribes, I have so much faith in my relationship with God and His love for me, that I know He can “see” and “know” all of me and still call me his beloved. One things that stood out clearly was that I did not have to “be” anything in particular for God when I had nothing to give, or “do” anything to earn His love when it was all I could to to wake up and breath each day. I could be an imperfect shattered human being of infinite worth. That was the most profound lesson of loss that came for me. I was left with so many more questions, but far more faith.

I am thankful God allowed Emotion Focused Therapy to light up my heart to help others years ago, knowing I would need it so clearly in my own marriage. Thanks be to God.


Born to Bless – Part I


We have celebrated a handful of birthdays recently of family and friends. My husband and I were born a year and a day apart. The year “birth-aversary” of our church (which in many ways was not so different than having a child) happened to fall on my husband’s birthday and my children just celebrated their half-birthdays.

Birthdays are a big deal in our house. We like to throw parties, make things festive, prepare good foods to share, and have a reason to celebrate the people we love so much. Everyone gets into it as we all buzz around preparing for family and friends and what always proves to be a joyful few hours out of our ordinary lives. I consider our celebrations a spiritual discipline (after reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline a favorite book of all time, that in the end encourages us to find reasons to celebrate as the bible does), an exercise joy when so much of life and spiritual pursuits can be so serious. The kids love to hang streamers, make the nearly famous fruit skewers that go in the flower urn to look like fireworks, and are usually busy preparing hand made presents for all the guests of their own design.

My husband and I especially love to host and as each one is scurrying to put finishing touches on things we laugh and say “I am glad I married you because I am sure all this craziness would drive many people nuts.” And afterwards, as we do the work all over again to clean up, sweeping the floors, gathering garbage, passing dishes along to be dried in the dimly lit kitchen of the now-silent house, we relish all the highlights,

“wasn’t that fun?”
“who did you get a chance to talk to?”
“wasn’t it great to see so and so?”
“how are they doing?”
“oh and weren’t all the kids having such a great time?”
“did you see this child do this, and that child do that?”

and we go to bed happy, full, blessed.

One way we show our love at birthday time is gifts. I love to give gifts, I love to get gifts. There are just a handfull of people in my life with whom I still exchange gifts and it is just a fun little love language that I speak and understand. My kids of course love gifts too (what child doesn’t) and I have to say I don’t mind a reason to indulge them on these special days of the year.

This is all well and good, and yet, there is a piece of me that struggles with the idea of gifts, doesn’t want to be materialistic or wasteful, and wonders if we really are ever doing enough to help the world with what we have been given? As faithful as we have always been in giving more than our 10% to our church and a variety of other ministry organizations, give of our time to ministries ourselves and for missions, that scene in Schindler’s List when Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is realizing he could have given his watch, his coat, his every possession to save one more life always pierces me.

Will I get to the end of my life, my cause, God’s cause for my life and regret what I held back from those in need in order to gift my already blessed family and friends? I wonder. Jesus also blessed the woman who poured expensive oil on his feet. Though others saw it as a waste he told them her gift was good and timely. I hope the gifts I give to the blessed with discernment and love in my heart is seen as good in His eyes.

To counterbalance the me-focused gift wish list of birthdays (that I recognize I fully encourage by enjoying the giving), I had an epiphany for half-birthdays. We also want our kids to be generous and giving and thoughtful of the needs of others (so far they really are – I think God hardwires us that way, and it is our job as parents to encourage it). Last year we started this new tradition with my then 4 and 6 year olds on their half birthdays. On this day we would celebrate them with affirmation and favorite foods, but no gifts (so don’t ask). Instead this would be their day to gift the world. The kids’ earn allowance money and give some to the church, we participate as a family in saving up for special campaigns, regularly donate our time and money to causes we feel will honor God in a way our kids know about, but I wanted to instill in them the value that they can be mindful of what God places on their hearts and respond in a way that makes the world a better place. They get to decide what they think God would want them to, what matters to them and then we as a family help them carry it out.

Last year my 4 year old son wanted to make a treat for the hardworking staff at our seasonal business. My 6 year old daughter wanted to donate her gently used things to people in need. This year it was cupcakes for the summer staff (made from scratch with strawberries we’d picked) and granola bars in our car to give to homeless or hungry people we see on the streets. The kids come up with the vision and make all the decisions about how to carry it out. They always ask what the signs say that people hold on the streets and they want to do something to help, so we went to Costco and they picked out the biggest package of granola bars they could find so our family has something to give. We end the day with a favorite dinner and one by one we go around the table and tell the half-birthday person what we love about them. Much as I love giving gifts and having parties, half-birthdays rival the real deal for making some pretty meaningful memories.

Every year we will do this and my hope as they continue to grow in wisdom and maturity that their sense of vision for what God places on their hearts to help a hurting and broken world will be carried out with passion and purpose throughout the year – that they will know not only that they are loved and treasured by God and in their family, but that they are able to make the world a better place. That is better than any gift I can ever give them that would bring any meaning to their lives.

I have to mention a children’s book that speaks to this idea. Books are just a great way to encourage values as well. A narrative often goes a lot further than any explanation. Miss Rumphias by Barbara Cooney is a great book for young kids that tells about this idea of being intentional about discovering your gift for making the world a better place.

If you have creative ways of instilling values in your children I’d love to hear them!