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Peace

Peace is a funny thing.   It’s that thing inside you that says; everything is going to be ok, you are where you need to be, you are on the right path, even when everything does not seem like it’s going to be ok and you don’t know where you are going in life.   I have peace right now and I really should be FREAKING out!  I have so much peace that I am kind of freaking out about the fact that I am NOT freaking out!  I guess this is the “peace which transcends all understanding” that Paul was talking about in Philippians 4.  I haven’t felt this kind of peace in a very long time.

For two whole years, I was without peace.  Those two years, we had health insurance and a predictable income but I was miserable.  Now, we don’t have either of those things but I’ll take this uncertainty over that lack of peace any day. It doesn’t make sense and I question my own sanity for feeling this way but  I’m just not that worried.  In fact, Jaison is more worried than I am.  If you know us at all, you know that is a huge statement. Jaison is usually pretty relaxed but worrying is my hobby. I do it well. I struggle with anxiety. I worry about things that most people don’t even think about BUT I am not worried now.  Maybe I am crazy…

I think God speaks to us by giving us peace. I’ve always made decisions in my life based somewhat on whether on not I felt peace about it. I’m not sure why I settled for those two years without peace. I’m not sure why I didn’t listen to it, question it. I think I thought we were being faithful to what we had felt God called us to. I also was desiring to get established as a family. Thankfully, God moved us when it was time to move even if it was painful.

A month from now, we may not be able to pay our bills.  Our income just got cut in HALF!  We are struggling to figure out what to do.  Our plans are not working out. We thought we knew who we are and what we are called to but that’s not as clear as it used to be.  We NEED God to direct us, to open doors for us.  Don’t get me wrong,  this is a scary place to be and I want some answers but I’m not worried.

Somehow, I just know that it’s going to be ok, that we are on the right path and that God is directing us…”peace which trancends all understanding…”  If that makes me crazy, I think I like being crazy!

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Beyond Surviving

Several months ago, I came across this quote; “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”- Howard Thurman.   It really resonated with me and I have been thinking about it ever since.  I started to ask myself;  What DOES make me come alive?  That has not been an easy question to answer.

In the last three years,  life has presented me with circumstances and events that I am just happy to have survived.   I haven’t thought much about coming “alive” in a spiritual or emotional sense in a long time.  My goals were much simpler; hold on to a shred of faith and sanity…don’t scar my kids for life…avoid bankruptcy…just get through it!  In other words SURVIVE!

Now, as I contemplate what makes me come “alive, ” I do so with a fair amount of skepticism and fear.  I feel like someone who survived a bomb strike peering out the door of a fallout shelter…is it really safe to come out?  What if another bomb is on it’s way? There may not be much life in here but at least its safe.

Coming out of the survival shelter is risky but life is pretty darn limited in here.

So, what does make me come “alive?” Hugs, kisses, smiles and laughs from my babies make me feel alive.  My husbands warm touch, selfless actions, unconditional acceptance and understanding heart make me feel alive.  But, what is it that I do that makes me come to life?  What is it that I do that transcends being a wife and a mom?  What is it that I do that has potential to be a ministry to the Lord and the hurting in the world?

My answer to those questions is I write. It doesn’t matter if I am awesome at it or if a lot of people read it.   It is what I do that makes me come to life. It is how I connect with the Lord. It is how I pray. It is how I process. It is how I heal.  Maybe in the future it will be a venue to minister/encourage/teach  Who knows?

For now, this blog and writing in general is all about being “alive.”  It’s me stepping out of the survival shelter and saying safe or not, I’m getting out of here!

What do you do that makes you come “alive?”

Empowering Motherhood

Please note: This post is not meant to be a value judgement or a response to any person or idea. It’s just something that has been stirring in me since the days after Josiah was born…

On June 13th 2009 I was all set and determined to have a natural birth.  Little did I know, that by the end of the day, I would have experienced everything but that.  At Noon, I was in my kitchen making cookies.  By four o’clock, I was under anethesia, having a lifeless baby boy cut from my body.  The interventions necessary to bring him back to life made all those birthing interventions, that I was so afraid of and apalled by, seem like a walk in the park. 

The days that followed were full of guilt… “Did I do something to cause this?”  “I should have done such and such differently.”  “I feel so detached.”  “I’m not producing enough milk.”  I could go on and on.  Guilt then turned into grief… “I wasn’t there when he was born.”  I didn’t get to hold him for four days.”  “I will never experience natural child birth.”   Guilt and grief walked with me every moment of the time that we spent in the NICU.

Finally, we got to take him home.  Being the new mom that I was, I read a lot, looking for anwers to all my new mom questions.  I read books, articles, blogs and comments.  In all of those, I read a lot about how empowering natural childbirth is, how important it is to hold your baby those first moments, and how “breast is best.”   More guilt, more grief… Then there were the comments… “formula is SOOOOOOOOO nasty”  “how could someone feed that to their baby”  “You don’t know what is in that stuff”  “It’s full of toxic chemicals”  More guilt, more grief, and now fear…

Then there was the expectation that everything would just be “normal” after we brought him home.  Nothing was “normal.”  I read sleep training books but couldn’t follow them because of the complications with breastfeeding. I watched him anxiously to see if he would smile, laugh, roll over etc… We had been told that he could be severely developmentally handicapped.  Despite all the experts advice I held him all the time and let him nurse whenever he wanted because I wanted to make up for lost time. According to many experts I was letting him manipulate me.  More guilt, more grief…

Looking back, I realize that all of that made me feel like I was somehow “less than” the mothers who had a natural childbirth and who could breastfeed normally.  I felt like I had missed out and that my relationship with Josiah would never be right because I didn’t bond with him immediately after birth. I felt like I was giving him poison by feeding him formula.  I experienced so much unnecessary guilt and grief.

The reality is that I did my very best.  I sacrificed a lot physically, emotionally and materially to be a mother.  I was stronger than I every could have imagined.  I should have felt empowered by THAT!  The birthing experience is important but it is a very small part of motherhood .   Breastfeeding is wonderful!  So is the fact that we live in a time where babies can thrive despite their mothers inability to produce enough milk.  I thank God every day for formula!

I’m telling you all this because now I honestly believe that every single journey into motherhood is “empowering.”  Regardless of how that baby gets out of your body, YOU grew a HUMAN in your body! That is truly amazing.  If you did not grow that little human in your body, and you adopted him/her instead, YOU labored in a way that most of us will never know. You labored in time, heartache, finances, and grief. You had to be stronger and more determined than I can even imagine.  That is truly amazing!

We have all seen what we are made of in our journey to motherhood.  We all have made sacrifices.  We have all made mistakes. Most importantly, we have all been stronger than we ever thought possible and we should ALL feel empowered by that!

A Fish Bowl Kind of Life

When Jaison was “let go” from our church, we decided that we are DONE! Done with ministry as a “career.”  Jaison has had a long time desire to finish his MBA and start a business.  I am, quite honestly, just too tired and beat down to feel like I can go on.  I have come to the conclusion that you have to either have a lot of emotional strength or have some awesome acting skills to be successful in ministry.  Actually, you probably need a little of both. I have neither.

I’m weak and sensitive.  I don’t have it all together.  People see this about me.  Sometimes I blame myself…maybe I am the reason that Jaison was let go? It was my weakness that he had to compensate for…my sensitivity that made him question things….my lack of being “together” that made people see us as less than worthy of ministry.

You see, ministry is a fish bowl.  Everyone is watching…many are judging…a few are understanding.   What people may see when they look in my “fish bowl” is a messy house, piles of dirty laundry, lots of disorganization, Josiah watching too much TV, some questionable financial decisons, and me fighting anxiety, depression and my weight.  There is not a sticker chart or memory verse to be found anywhere and my “quiet times” are often few and far between.

When I look in my “fish bowl,” I see two healthy, happy and deeply loved children,  a marriage that is growing despite so many challenges, a spiritual life that is recovering from some deep wounds, and myself overcoming A LOT of junk every single day.  Yep, I see the mess too but it’s not the most important thing right now.

I really wish that more people had taken the time to look into our “fish bowl” and see what I see.  I believe it’s what God sees too.  I believe that in some ways it qualifies us for ministry rather than disqualifying us. It makes us more compassionate.  More able to do that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing.  I know that from now on, I will try not to judge other peoples “fish bowls.”

All that to say, we have been revisiting the possibility that our time in ministry is not over.  My reaction to that possibility goes something like this…NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I DON’T WANNA LIVE LIKE THAT AGAIN!!!  I NEVER WANT TO FEEL LIKE THAT AGAIN!!!  NO! NO! NO!  Alas, we will do what we feel God is asking of us.  If (big if) we go into ministry again, I will approach it very differently.

When Jaison and I were dating,  I kept telling him how crazy I am!  I would tell him all about my insecurities, dysfunctions, sensitivities etc.. I did not put on an act for him…I needed him to know who I REALLY am, so that I could know that he was marrying the real me.  After we go married, he realized I was telling the truth!  I told him “I told you so! You are stuck with me now! Ha Ha”  Thankfully, he is happy to be “stuck” with me 🙂

This is how I will approach ministry if we do it again. I just might invite the whole church over to look in our closets, check our bank accounts and read my journals. I will tell them just how crazy I am. I will invite them to tell us if they see something they think is questionable and tell us promptly.  Whatever the outcome, at least we will be able to say “we told you so” and just maybe we will find some people who are able to overlook our “fish bowl” and are happy to be “stuck” with us.

Some Thoughts on “Entitlements”

The last week has been a whirlwind of sickness, doctors, and ER visits.  In less than a week, Josiah had an asthma attack and a neck pain episode that mimicked the symptoms of meningitis…terrifying!  Thankfully, the asthma attack was easily relieved and the neck issue turned out to be a muscle spasm…I was surprised that a two-year old would even have such a problem.

My one goal for today is to make it twenty-four hours without needing any medical assistance!

The irony of all this, is that it is happening at the one time in the last four years that we don’t have health insurance.  So, because we can’t afford the nearly $10,000/year for decent coverage, we now have about that much medical debt.  God help us!

It’s very humbling to walk into a hospital or a doctor’s office and have to tell them that we don’t have insurance.  I am so grateful that they will treat my child anyway.  That is not the case in a lot of places and a child could literally die because their parents can’t pay.  I am also grateful that there are financial aid options such as Medicaid and hospital charities, which will hopefully help us to avoid financial ruin.

I’m too busy with my children to follow much of the political debate but I hear a lot about “entitlements” when I do listen in.   I tend to fall into the conservative category on most issues and I don’t think that living forever on government welfare programs is the way to go…most liberal people probably don’t think so either.  All that to say, I am so grateful that those programs exist for those of us that are ” in between.”

I can’t offer any solutions for the cost of health care or the cost of providing health care to all. However, after going through all this, I can say that I am more sympathetic to the idea that health care is a “right.”  Not because we are somehow “entitled” to it but because God values life…unborn life, illegal immigrant life, 100-year-old life, ALL life!

There has to be a way to make health care affordable, accessible and profitable.

Clanging Cymbals

I rarely have time to think about much beyond changing diapers and building Mega Block castles, but every now and then a rare quiet moment occurs.  At such times, I have been thinking a lot about how I treat people and how people have treated me.

1st Corinthians 13:1-3 says, if I do a bunch of  really great spiritual stuff but do not have love, I am nothing and in fact my words (English, Angelic or otherwise) are annoying like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (my paraphrase).  I have always looked at this with a big picture perspective. Basically,  even if I spend my life doing a bunch of stuff for God, if I don’t love Him and love my neighbor (see Matthew 22:36-40) it is worthless.

I am realizing that it doesn’t just apply to my life as a whole but to each and every relationship that I have.   If I don’t show love in all my interactions with my husband, children, friends, family and even strangers all the spiritual things that I do or have done don’t really matter.  As soon as I treat someone in a devaluing way,  I lose all influence and authority that I have in their life and my words become to them like a “clanging cymbal” in their ears.  I am also doing the opposite of loving God by disobeying Him.

We humans come up with a lot of reasons (actually excuses) for treating people poorly.  A lot of them we justify in spiritual ways.  At the end of the day what matters is;  did we treat each person in our lives the way that we would like to be treated? Did we love God the way he commands us to love Him?  Did we make it right when we messed up?

Anyone in authority has a lot of power to destroy people when they do not treat people with love. We all know people who have become “clanging cymbals” in our lives. That is why this is so important to me now that I am a parent.

God help me to love my children, build them up and not tear them down.  Help me to make it right when I do it wrong.   Help me to be an example to them of what it means to love God and to love my neighbor.  Amen!

Motherhood

Ok, so it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything but I’m going to give it another try!

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about being a mom. Not surprising, considering it is about all I do these days. I have come to the conclusion that I was not made to be a mom. I love freedom. I like to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I did not fantasize as a young person about my future children. I am not into crafts of any kind or cooking. I love silence, order and being organized. Chaos makes me feel overwhelmed.

Having kids has taken away most of my freedom, forced me to be creative in ways I’m not interested in, and it feels like constant chaos.  I love my family more than anything else in the whole world but this has been a huge struggle for me the last two and a half years.  I have felt like a bad mom and a bad wife. However, recently I have been learning to just accept myself for who I am. My husband loves me and accepts me despite the fact that I am not very “domestic.” My kids do too. So, I have decided that I will never fit into the “perfect mom” mold and that is ok!

Instead of being miserable and striving to be someone that I am not, I am going to to my best to enjoy these chaotic years. I know I will never get them back.  I will regain my freedom, my kids will lose interest in crafts and the chaos will subside. In the meantime, I will just do MY best!

Discontent

You are now “ruined for the ordinary” is something I was told often when I was a missionary with Youth With a Mission.  At the time is sounded great. Who wants to be “ordinary?”  I certainly didn’t!  Now that I am living a more normal (although still far from normal!) life, I am realizing just how true that statement is. I have been ruined, because I have experienced things that many people don’t.  I have lived by faith, I have travelled the world, I have seen lives truly changed by Jesus, and I have experienced real community.

Lately, I have been feeling this deep sense of discontent. I have blamed my circumstances. However, I believe the discontent stems from not living the life of faith and community that I once did. I have really struggled to reconcile my previous lifestyle with my current one.

Our current community is far from “ordinary!” We are part of an amazing, life giving church but it is very different from what I am used to. We have a great family here and I know this is exactly where we are supposed to be. However, I am deeply missing what we left behind.  What I am feeling is very similar to culture shock! I am not sure why it took three years for me to feel the full weight of our decision to leave YWAM but it has. 

YWAM is now part of my past and I cannot live on those experiences alone anymore.  Living a life of faith, seeing lives changed and experiencing real community are opportunities that are still available to me but  it takes a lot more work in my current circumstances.  It is much easier to be “ordinary” and sometimes I wish I could be content with that but that is something I will never be content with!

Comparison

“Comparison is the thief of joy”  This little quote was posted on Facebook the other day and it struck me deeply.  It is so simple and so true.

Why is comparison the thief of joy? Because, it robs me of the ability to be content with who I am and the life that I have been given.  

I have been in a season of discontent lately and I have to ask myself, is it because I am comparing myself to others? The circumstances of life have stolen the fulfillment of certain dreams and desires and I find myself frustrated when I see other people receiving the blessings that I have prayed and worked for.  At that point, the temptation to compare is very strong. “I deserve that more than them because…” or ” I guess they deserve that more than me because…”  It’s ugly.

I know that there is more than one reason for the discontent that I am feeling, but comparing only makes it worse.  I am so thankful for an awesome husband, a healthy happy child, a thriving church and an extended family that truly loves each other. I would not trade any of those things for anything else.

Our pastor recently did a series on comparison, in which he pointed out that “everybody has pain.”  That is so true! I am now challenging myself to simply “rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn w/ those who mourn” and to let that be that!

The Storm

Storm’s don’t last forever, right?

In nature, storms pass through and give way to calmer weather. They may cause some destruction, but they often bring precipitation which eventually brings life.  Snow melts, flowers grow.  Wind blows away the dirt and dust left behind by winter.  Rain waters thirsty plants.

In our lives, the  storms can seem to linger. Just as a natural storm brings both destruction and life, so do the storms we face.  Destruction, because we live in a fallen world. Life, because we serve a faithful God.

I have faced a lot of storms lately.  Pain and destruction have dominated, but I am waiting for the  life and cleansing that will come as a result of the difficulties.  Figuratively speaking, I am waiting for Spring.

This year, we have had a long difficult winter and a slow starting Spring; but Spring WILL come!  Just as Spring is coming to Omaha, I believe breakthrough is coming to my life.

… we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9