Friday, November 05, 2010

Nehemiah, Heavy Hearts, and How and When to Speak

My heart has been heavy for some time--and I mean a pretty long time--about an ongoing conflict in our church. It's one of those exhausting issues that happens in so many church bodies, and sometimes there seems no solution. It's not some huge sin; in fact the issue itself has more to do with conflicts of interest. But as sinful human beings, even though saved, we stumble and fumble, trying to solve the conflict, and our body suffers....

So last week my brain was buzzing and I was jotting all sorts of notes down for a blog post. I've felt more and more strongly that I need to put my thoughts down in words and let them go where they may. Many others have spoken and written on the topic without effect, and I have no idea if my words will change anything, but I feel strongly that I have been silent too long. I haven't been totally silent; my family and close friends know how I feel, but I haven't spoken up publicly. There's always that faint hope that perhaps my words will be understood; that I can put the thoughts into words and clarify what everyone is struggling with. How's that for arrogant?

And there's the sticking point. What does God think about me speaking up? Is it something He wants me to do? What is my motivation? Am I being arrogant, thinking my words will break through where none others have; or is my desire simply a prayer that my words will help bring the healing that is so needed?

Before I typed up my post, I took a break to get into my Bible study lesson. I figured I'd better not go any farther with it before delving a bit into God. And, as is so often the case, the first points I got into hit square between the eyes and I've been working through them all week.

We just started the Precept's Ministries study of Nehemiah, by Kay Arthur. I love Nehemiah, particularly in the first chapter when he hears of the sorry state of Jerusalem--its walls are broken down and its city gates are burned (still, after almost 150 years). His heart grieves, and he immediately goes before the Lord, seeking wisdom, confessing sin, glorifying God. It's powerful stuff.

We were to read through all that and then list anything we learned about Nehemiah. Then came the next question which had to do with asking God if there was anything you could learn about Nehemiah to apply to your own life.
"For instance, Nehemiah was grieved because of the distress of his people..... Is there distress in your family, community, church, nation? Reproach? Anything 'broken' in your life, family, community?...."
 Yikes! I had to write my issue down, right there. The next few parts of the question took me through "Have you ever wondered how to handle it?" and in answering that, I had to look at how Nehemiah handled his situation: He brought his grief to God, he glorified God, he admitted his part in the sin, he remembered God's promises, and finally presented his request. So I did that, and I think my mind is slightly clearer.

When we met for Bible study last Tuesday, we had discussion for the first hour, and then there was a video with Kay Arthur who took us through a lot of the points from the lesson. It was good, hard stuff, and I was literally vibrating by the end of it because she was pulling so much straight from Scripture that resonated with what I've been feeling, and answering questions about how I should be dealing with it. Nehemiah was an ordinary person like any of us, and yet God was able to use him in extraordinary ways because he let God use him. He turned to God, and sought God's help in his struggle and grief.

Kay wrapped up the session with this:
When you look at a situation and it grieves you--you can know God has something He wants you to consider.

  1. Be aware. Have knowledge of the condition of the situation. 
  2. Have a heart touched by the situation. Ministries come from mourning, born out of trials and pain.
  3. There needs to be confession of the transgressions that brought about this situation. (Neh. 1:6-7) (Align self with the sin and take responsibility.)
  4. Believe that God will ever remain God. He is a covenant-keeping God. (Neh. 1:7-9)
  5. There needs to be an assessment of the situation on your knees.  (That was a wake-up one for me.)
  6. Know how to handle fear. (Neh. 2:2-4) (Interesting that that was mentioned, because fear is what usually keeps me silent.)
  7. Assess and know when to share God's call with others. You can't do it by yourself. (Neh. 2:14-18) (This was another good one for me--I realized that I want to speak up so that we can work together.)
  8. Be discerning. Understand the wiles of others. (Neh. 2:19-20) (If there's one thing Satan wants, it's to make the Body ineffective.)
  9. Know that only God can give success. (Neh. 1:11, 2:20) (Here, again, is the key factor. We keep trying and trying to solve this issue, but I think we have yet to turn completely to God and let Him do the work and bring the solution....)
 I'm sure this doesn't come across as a fascinating blog post. It isn't meant to be, though I pray that it will help you where you're at as much as it's been a help for me. I'm not totally ready to post my other blog note yet.... I need to type it out, get it organized, and pray some more before I post. Sigh! I wish I had all the answers, but I don't. As the saying goes, though, "I may not, but God does."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Surviving & Thriving Mode

So here it is September--mid-September at that--and the words and thoughts continue to flood my brain, but rarely make it to the page. Sigh! Must be motherhood or something. Maybe it's personality. I have great aspirations of writing, but when the rubber meets the road, I'm more likely to get caught up in the daily business of life (or escape into a book). Not horrible, so long as I'm doing what God wants me to be doing....

Much of this summer has been prep for REAL moms. Yesterday morning we "finished" our prep with our first meeting of the year and now we plunge into the fall. It was an awesome morning with our moms, and I'm so excited about this year, and so thankful for my team. At the beginning of the summer we weren't sure if we'd have a team or a group this year, but God pulled the people together and we're ready to roll. This process has been one of my ongoing lessons in trust. I found myself praying, "So, Lord, I know that your plan is the best plan, but could you let me know if it includes REAL moms?" Apparently REAL moms was in the plan, so now I'm waiting to see what His plan is for additional childcare workers who we desperately need!

One of my "jobs" as Coordinator is to write a monthly note for our newsletter, so in a way I'm "forced" to write something :) . Our theme this year is "Survivor: Thoroughly equipped for every good work," and with that in mind I wrote about one of our summer survivor experiences. I've found that the more I go through various adventures in life, if I step back and think, "When this is over, it'll be an awesome story to share," the more I'm able to laugh in the midst of the situations as well, and handle them better.

So since I don't seem to be getting much else up in this blog, I though I'd include a version of the letter and experience here :) :

Last year, our first year as REAL moms, we focused our theme on just that—how we are each “real moms” and what that means in life. This year our theme takes another angle of being a real mom: surviving. And not just surviving, but also thriving by being well-equipped with the tools and support we moms desperately need. 

I’m sure each of us has multiple mom-survivor stories. While there are definitely experiences that are tragic and tough, there are many that might seem that way in the moment, but make for hilarious stories after the fact. My summer has had a number of these. The biggest event revolved around Kraig putting a new roof over our heads (you know, one of those “little” projects that takes on gargantuan proportions). It’s been crazy, but I’m very thankful he’s the one who’s been doing it.

The funniest survivor story of my summer, though, was the blistering hot day the kids and I planned to meet friends at a pool, only to find that the car battery was dead. And of course, that was after my kids were all buckled in and we were running late. A quick call to friend L confirmed they were running late, too (phew!), but now she knew we might or might not get there. 

My first thought was to charge the battery with a charger we had for that purpose (yes, we have an old van, and yes, the battery had been acting up for a few days so we'd borrowed the charger from family "just in case"). I called Kraig and got the 411 on hook-up and procedure. It didn't work. (That night Kraig looked at the charger and said, "Well that's why! You turned it to 6-blah-blah, not 6-blah-blah." Okay, so he didn't say "blah-blah" but that's about all I understood!)

Despite this set-back I was determined we would get to the pool! It struck me that I could walk over to my in-laws’ house (you can do it in about fifteen minutes without kids)—Kris and Katrina were out of town, so I figured I’d just borrow their van. Our neighbor hadn’t headed to work yet and could watch the kids while I ran. Yay! I booked it to Katrina’s, called them as I went and left messages to let them know their van was going for an unplanned ride. When I got there, I opened the garage door...and found that the person taking care of their home had locked the door to the house inside the garage…. I had no key.

Story over? Sad, hot walk back to kids to let them know we weren’t going swimming? No way! I was a survivor mom! Katrina’s neighbors who are family friends were home and I thought for sure they’d have a key, so I trotted over…and found out they didn’t. Just then Kris called to let me know that their van’s battery was dead, but I was welcome to use their smaller car…and no, he didn’t have extra house keys lying around. At this point, our neighbor’s son volunteered his lock-picking kit. Seriously! No, really, he is above board! Eagle Scout. He just has friends who give interesting birthday gifts. He set to work on the lock, and within a few minutes we had the pleasure and surprise of a wide open door! (By the way, I’m known in that neighborhood, so don’t think you can get away with pulling the same stunt :) . Besides, I was on the phone with Kris at the time, so it’s all legal!).

So, the keys were got, the car was driven home, the carseats were switched over (and all three fit!), the children re-buckled…and we made it to the pool only an hour-and-a-half after we had planned. We still got to hang out with L and kids for a bit, and the water had never felt so good!

May this year be a year of wonderful survivor stories!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Food Fashion and Other Newsbites

It took four kids, but I finally have a child who takes his food fashion seriously....
The girls all got messy to a certain extent, and Clare & Ev loved food, but they concentrated on getting it into their bellies. Other uses didn't occur to them.
And don't tell me, "Oh, it's because he's a boy," because I have a 2-year-old nephew who is meticulous with his food, and a friend's daughter who was renowned for her messiness.
What amazes me the most about Jon with his food fashion is how deliberate he is about it. He'll take a food-slathered hand, put it up in his hair and pu-u-u-ll it carefully through the strands. Then, for good measure, he'll pat his hand on his ear. Or stick a finger in his ear, then take it out and inspect to see if anything new is on it.

Note the textured waves shown to full advantage in subdued light:
To say the least, we are not concerned about sensory issues....

I'm not totally convinced it's all about the food. I think the boy has discovered there is a direct link between his food ventures and the inevitable result:
 Yes, Jon-boy loves water. Clare had swim lessons the past two weeks, and since it was right next to a splash park, we spent a good bit of time there, too.
Oh the joy of water! Perfect on hot summer days. The kids have been very active this summer--in water, at the park, VBS back in June, a vegetable garden going out back. Jon's busy taking first steps and the Kraig's putting a new roof on our house. I thought that life would slow down a little since it was summer. You would think I'd know better by now! My extrovert Clare starts her day with, "Where are we going today?" Her introvert mother tries to make up for it by holding religiously to rest/naptime. That sometimes gives me the regroup time I need.

So, yeah, a lot's happening in life. A lot's been going on mentally, too, but I haven't had the energy to blog about it. ...And so over two months have passed....

Monday, May 10, 2010

On Being a REAL mom

Mother's Day was a special one for me this year--crazy, but special. It wrapped up a wonderful, insane week. Friday we had our final REAL moms meeting of the year, then Saturday evening was a wrap-up leadership meeting of the same group (and dinner out--Yay for girls' nights!). Sunday morning we had Jonathan dedicated at church because we have three of four grandparents currently in the country--not a small accomplishment. We even got the bonus of extra grandparents--my sis-in-law who is expecting a baby imminently (actually overdue as I write!) has her parents in town and they stood in as part of our family, boosting our family representation :) . Then to add to the excitement of the week, I had the privilege of sharing with our church about what REAL moms has meant to me.

The dedication went off beautifully. One of our dear pastor friends, John, who dedicated Keren and did her funeral was the one doing the dedication. My friend Laura and her hubby were dedicating their youngest daughter, which made it even more sweet. I love Pastor John's dedications because he always prays over the child using the meaning of his or her name and how that will be significant in what God will do in the child's life. Of course, Kraig and I have been pretty obsessive in choosing our children's names based on the meaning, so this dedication was the icing on the cake. And John had us in tears (in a good way) as he prayed about Jon being "God's gracious gift" (the meaning of his name), and though we had so much grief, God had given us joy as well. Jon's middle name, Lewis, means "lionlike," or "mighty warrior," or as Pastor John put it, "victorious." He prayed that Jon-boy would be victorious in this life, living for Christ. Everything was so perfect--a powerful blessing. We don't take it lightly....

...And I had to follow it up. I was so excited to have the chance to share about our group and what it's meant to me. It's been a good year, but tough, as it's been my first year as coordinator, and our first year as our own church group and not under MOPS, Int. Many of my team are stepping down this spring as they move into new stages of life and ministry, so we're in the process, too, of seeking out new moms and women who can fill the roles to keep our group functioning. I know that God is in control of this, but it's been a continual process of handing it over to Him and trusting Him.

Everything went well with the testimony, though I managed to pull off some "real mom" proofs of life--I went up on stage way before I was supposed to, and wore extremely uncomfortable shoes in an attempt to look a little more polished than my everyday Mary-Jane Sketchers :) . Then, after the whole heady morning, my humility was kept firmly in place when out in the parking lot I backed our car right into the door of another family's car :( ..... Oh, the life of a "real mom" never ends.... But my prayer is still that God will use these words to help our group. Here's basically what I shared:

May 9, 2010

Hi, my name is Loren Warnemuende, and I am the Coordinator of REAL moms, formerly MOPS.

Six years ago I did not feel like a “real mom.” I was a mom, but our two-year-old daughter Keren, whom many of you knew and loved, had many special needs. My world was full of doctor specialists, therapies and strange equipment like g-tube buttons and sleep apnea machines. I couldn’t imagine what I had in common with “typical” moms.

But I knew I needed to connect—I was desperate for friendships with women who were at my stage in life, even if their roads were different. I knew our moms group here at Calvary was a strong group, so I decided to take the plunge, and I signed on…as a small group table leader :) . It was definitely not my forte! Not only that, but the majority of the women at my table all had older kids, so they weren’t even at my point in life!

Despite the vast differences between my life and those of the moms at my table, I had a wonderful year and built up relationships with these women, a number of which have continued long past their time in our group. My second year I took over the newsletter (much more my comfort zone) and over the next few years I got to know the women in our group better, and the relationships went deeper. As Kraig and I had more children, I learned more of the ropes of “normal” motherhood, but I realized, too, that the friendships could be built no matter who our kids were. We were all real moms.

When you’re a mom of little ones, it’s hard to make friends—there’s always the logistics of the constant interruptions, running after kids, naptimes, and getting out the door. That’s where a group like REAL moms is so helpful. It gives us a chance to chat with other moms and find those connections, so that we can push further and find the time other places to build the friendships. It’s helped me realize that the things I face are normal and gives me tools to work on challenges. When Keren died January a year ago, I had a group that surrounded me with love and encouragement.

Last spring, our former coordinator Gwen H. asked me to consider taking on the coordinator role. As I prayed about it and thought about it, I came to realize that the role of this mom’s group—that of lifting up and encouraging each other, providing help for the mom journey, reaching out to moms who may be floundering because they don’t know our foundation, Jesus—this role had become my passion. I wanted to help other moms who have been like me (feeling that they weren’t possibly “real moms”) to reach that comfort zone of knowing that they are loved by God and accepted for who they are as individuals.

Our group continues to have that goal today. When we left the umbrella of MOPS to become our own group at Calvary last year, we opened our doors even more to moms of different walks of life. Our focus will always be primarily on moms of young children—those expecting babies, adopting, etc., through lower elementary school. Now, though, we can encourage women to join our team who may have older children—even grown, but still have a heart for moms of young kids, and can be there to minister to younger moms and help raise them up into leadership.

Already we’re gearing up for our second year of REAL moms that will begin in September. There are so many opportunities for Calvary moms of all walks of like to get involved in this wonderful group, and we would love to welcome you. If you have questions, or would like to join our morning or evening group, please see me or Pam C., our evening coordinator, check out our table in the west narthex, or see our contact information in your bulletin.

Come join us and become a “real mom!”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Memories and Making More

I just checked in on the girls as I put Jon-boy down, his body already limp in sleep. The girls are out cold, Clare hidden in a huddle under blankets up on her bunk--you wouldn't know she was there if it weren't her norm, and Ev flat on her back with one hand cupped protectively around her favorite baby-doll who's lying on her chest. It's Clare's turn to pick the music tonight, and of course it's her "favorite," so I walked in on Michael Card singing, "Let the children come, don't dare drive them away. Let the children come. Hear the holy, foolish things they say...." Beautiful, true words that echo Jesus' love for us and for little children.

It's been a marvelous day! We've been looking forward to it for a long time: A Day Out With Thomas is at Greenfield Village, and we had tickets! My friend LH, the one who got me roller skating again, has a pass to Greenfield Village that allowed us to get in with her and her kids. We only needed to buy one day pass as a result (and of course, we splurged and bought tickets for the Thomas train ride--three only, though--we only splurge so far!). Ev's third birthday is coming up, so it was a great way to have a special celebration.

I've loved Greenfield Village ever since we moved here when I was in fourth grade. My family had a membership for a few years when we were growing up, so I have many memories of checking out the Wright Brothers' store, Thomas Edison's lab, the Salt Box House, Noah Webster's house, etc. Over the past couple years we've had a few chances to go with our family, and though the kids have been a little young to thoroughly enjoy all the history, they get their kick out of riding on horse-drawn omnibuses, watering gardens, and most of all, riding the carousel.... The fact that Thomas the Train was there today was simply icing on the cake.

It's amazing to see how much they're growing up, too, because today for the first time, the girls (Clare particularly) really wanted learn about things. We thought we'd be heading out the gate as soon as we got to nap time, but the time came and went, and all three kids were still happy and raring to go, and wanting to look at everything. We visited the roundhouse and discussed railways and steam engines;

we traipsed through an old cider mill and Henry Ford's soybean lab (Clare wanted Kraig to read all the signs to her); we went to the working farm and listened to the mother sheep bleating (LOUDLY!) as their new lambs went in for a drink, and checked out the farmhouse kitchen where the ladies were making a hard money cake.
And then, of course, there were all the Thomas activities--playing with model trains, riding vintage push cars around, coloring pages, even getting a picture with Sir Topham Hat....
Jon-boy, of course, couldn't do much, but he smiled and slept his way through the day, pulling his sisters' hair when they got too close, and on the few occasions when he could get down from his stroller, heading for the nearest object that could be a) pulled up on, or b) put in his mouth.

Despite the highlight of Thomas, and the fact that when we got home this evening the girls wanted to watch our two Thomas videos (because they hadn't had enough), I do think their favorite part of Greenfield Village is the carousel. And really, who can resist the excitement of choosing a brightly colored horse (or frog, pig, cat, or rooster...) and whirling around in circles, rising up and down to the music? They went on it three times today (and that's not their record!). Every time we've been there as a family we've gone to the carousel, and as a result I have special memories of taking Keren on it two summers ago. She, too, loved it--grinning like mad as we spun around. I wonder what she thought of the combo of music, color and wind?

I have pictures of Kraig standing between Keren and Clare, hand out to keep Keren secure on her mount. Today, I watched from the sidelines and saw Kraig standing solid and straight between two charges, balanced securely like an old sea hand on a ship in high seas. It was still a beautiful picture, even though now it's Clare and Ev and he doesn't have to reach out a hand to hold them.

On our first ride this morning, there was a mother with her son who had special needs. I recognized them as ones Kraig had pointed out to me after the train ride. They had been on the same ride as him and the girls, and when they were getting off he was able to help her with maneuvering, as they weren't in the section with the wheelchair lift. "There are a lot of special needs kids here," he said. "It's so cool that there are places like this where they can come." Anyway, I spotted the mom with her son--she stood beside him, holding him securely on his horse. He leaned forward, arms looped loosely around the pole, his mouth slightly gaped. But as the music played, and the carousel whirled, I saw him grin. And I saw his mom grin--and her eyes never left his face as she drank in his joy. And his joy gave her joy...and it gave me joy to see it, even though the tears that poured down my face, because I understood her so completely, and I wished I could be there once more, even for a moment....

I was thinking about that again this evening when the girls were down and I was nursing Jon-boy in the quiet of the living room. Suddenly I heard a chiming sound and I looked out the window to see that the wind had caught hold of the cardinal wind-chime we picked up for our garden. Keren's teachers at Old Village were the ones who put me onto it last month; they'd gotten one for the kids in the classroom, and it's a cardinal because of Keren. It's become a standing symbol for her teachers and me that a cardinal is a reminder of Keren, and that God is watching out for us, too. Long story, and it would be a tangent to tell now, so I'll leave it at that for now. But yeah, the cardinal wind-chime, all flamboyant red and joyful in sound played its music just then. Another little reminder that God had made this whole day exceedingly special, bringing together memories of the past and new-formed ones, carrying us one step further toward the future.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My Pile

The other night I spent over an hour sifting and sorting a paper pile to find a document Kraig needed for taxes. I figured I might as well take the time to sort while I was searching, and might, as a result, actually file those stupid papers! The night resulted in filed papers...and I even found the desired document--on the top of a totally different pile (and the information on it was something I could have told Kraig off the top of my head, but didn't realize what he needed from it!). Sigh!

So the papers are filed (except one part I'll touch on later), and I can start my stash all over again. Because, knowing me, there will be a stash. It doesn't matter that we actually have files in a filing cabinet all nicely set up and organized so that theoretically every paper that comes into this house could go immediately into the correct file. To paraphrase (and butcher) Robert Frost, "Something there is in Loren's nature that loves a pile." I'd have to add that Loren herself does not like piles. Piles are stressful, annoying objects, and when they are gone, Loren is light as a feather, free as the wind, blissful as.... Okay, enough talking in third person and waxing eloquent (or not so).

The reality is that despite the fact I feel released and refreshed when a pile is gone, I also know that they will always be a part of my life. Maybe I have piles for that very reason--so that I can look forward with anticipation to the time when there will not be a pile. The same is true for the days when the house is in chaos. I know that at some point in time, we'll all pull together and clean, and for a little while the house will look great. And I anticipate that time with great pleasure; but knowing it in my head and actually acting on it so that I can experience the joy of no piles or a clean house seem to be two entirely different beasts.

So I live with piles. Part of the pile-problem stems from the fact that there are things that I don't have a particular place for, or I just can't part with the pile-item. This was the case the other night when, despite 90% of my initial pile getting nicely filed away or tossed, there was a remaining 10% that sat there, and still sits. It is, apparently, my Friends and Relations Pile, because a lot of what is in it is people stuff. Cards, photos, personal notes. It has a lot of Keren in it.... I kept stumbling across old medical reports and documents, IEP reports, school handbooks. On one hand one could say, "Well, that's done. Toss it. Who needs a list of all of Keren's doctors, after all?" But that's the cold, logical, strictly reasonable part. I was not feeling in any way logical as I happened across piece after piece of our life with Keren and realized again, each time, "I don't need this because Keren is not here." And so I set it aside because I couldn't think about it just then. I didn't want to deal with it, and I in no way, shape or form wanted to throw it away, because it would be throwing away a memory, or worse. It would be denying myself the chance of ever stumbling across it again....

That is one reason I have piles. I can't, yet, let go. I know I am moving forward, and that God is continuing to move our family forward. I know that He used Keren's life to shape us into who we are today so that He can use us in His next great thing. I've know this in my head since I read Isaiah 43:18 & 19, days after Keren died:
Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
I am excited about the "new thing" and I'm anticipating it with a sense of expectancy. I know that it will be beautiful, and wonderful beyond anything I can imagine. I know that Keren and her life had a part and purpose in it.... But I am not ready to get to work and clean up so that I can get to that place.

My pile is comfortable because I know it well.

I wonder what I'll have to go searching for to get rid of my pile.

Monday, April 05, 2010

It's All About the Relationship

I had a bit of an epiphany Sunday morning (during our Easter morning worship service--triggered by a comment in our pastor's message) and I'm hoping I can translate it into words....

If I've heard these phrases once, I've heard them a thousand times: "[Christianity] is not a religion, it's a relationship," and "Spending time with the Lord is the way to get to know him better." Now, I will quickly clarify that I do agree with these statements.... It's just that sometimes when I hear them I want to pick up something and hurl it. Very Christ-like of me, huh?

I'll take on the second statement first. I know that I won't learn more about how to follow Christ if I don't "spend time with him;" that is, reading the Bible, studying it through the teaching of godly men and women, praying. But then the rubber meets the road...or more accurately, then the kids wake up from their naps, the baby starts grabbing at the paper of the book I'm trying to read, WWIII breaks out when one daughter takes something that the other daughter absolutely MUST have, dinner has to get made, laundry switched from washer to dryer.... You get the picture. By the time the dear little ones are in bed, the brain is fried, and in the early morning hours, well, it all starts over. I can't blame it all on kids, either. I have enough of my own nature to fight. For one, I love to read, and I don't mean deep, theological treatises or good spiritual self-help books. I'm also not one who will just pick up my Bible for a casual few minutes of pleasure. Nope. I love to read novels. I'm an admitted bookaholic. I recently came off a four-book binge and realized that I needed to get my brain back in the game, so I've fed my "need to read" with magazine articles in the last few weeks. That's been helpful, but doesn't take care of that "spending time with the Lord" part. So, I get frustrated.... I know in my head that it takes time and diligence, and I wonder if I'm being horrible and sinful because I'm not making more of an effort.

The other statement leads me to my epiphany, and I hope, in some way, it answers some of my angst about not "spending time with the Lord." While I have agreed with my head that "[Christianity] is a relationship, not a religion," I haven't been able to put it into my own words so that it really means something to me. I know that I have (to use the Christian-ese language) a "relationship with Jesus Christ." He saved me--I have no doubts; I am his. I don't go to church, follow a set of rules, etc., because that's what a Christian is supposed to do. I know that Jesus lived, died and rose again for me, and I believe that, as he says, he is "the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through" him (John 14:6). But how does that play out in the busyness of everyday life?

Our pastor yesterday spoke about the empty grave clothes that Jesus left in the tomb when he rose again, and how that made his resurrection personal. It wasn't something we see from far off--his followers saw and touched those empty grave clothes; Jesus appeared to them personally so they would know he lived. It was a living, growing relationship, and it is for us, too, no matter how long we've known this. And that's when it hit me: I've been a believer in this Truth for a long time--in some ways, it's been my entire life, though I can pinpoint the exact moment when I was four and prayed that Jesus would forgive my sin so that I could go to heaven to be with him when I died. And in those many years, I've gotten to know Jesus better. Everything that has happened in my life has ebbed and flowed out of my interaction with him. Even though it's been thirty-four years since I "prayed the prayer" I am constantly learning new things about who Christ is, who God is, and how much he loves me. Even in times when I've felt like he was distant, the overall theme has been one of growth. He's used even those distant times to help me know him better.

He's not just "God." He's not just "My Savior." He's not even just the more familiar "friend." Really, when it comes down to it, he's truly my family. The Bible relates how Jesus' relationship to us is like a husband's love for his wife (Ephesians 5:25-33), and there's the fact that when we accept that he died for us, we are adopted as God's children (Ephesians 1:5). I realized that this family picture helps me understand my relationship with Jesus better than anything else.

Now, granted, I have a close-knit, healthy family, so I can relate (my post Family Wranglings gives a better picture of that). But I've been thinking of the husband/wife scenario more recently as a result of some messages I've been listening to through Robert McLaughlin Bible Ministries (specifically a series early in March on Romans 6). In this life, as I grow and go through this and that experience, I have the chance to interact with Christ in many ways. I can reject him and God and shake my fist in his face, or I can accept the experience, learn from it, and rest in him...and as a result, get to know better him and his love for me. When I think of how Kraig and I have gotten to know each other better over the years, that helps me understand this better, too. We've been through plenty of ups and downs, particularly when we faced miscarriages, then having Keren and losing her. We're learning plenty about each other in how we interact with each of our kids, and our frustrations and joys there. With Kraig, I can be myself, but I don't get to be with him all the time (obviously), and there are even times when I don't want to hang out with him (shocker!), or times when I can't for the life of me understand his point or perspective (and vice versa). I am still learning new things about him, and I know we've both changed over the years, becoming more "one." I know that I love him, even when I don't feel it emotionally, and I want to know what makes him tick and to live life with him to the fullest so that we can do everything that God has planned for us.

So many of these aspects of my relationship with Kraig are like my relationship with Christ. I have times when I don't want to spend time with him, or can't. I have times when I don't understand him. There are times when I'm frustrated with the way he's doing things. But there are the underlying, unchanging truths: I can be myself with him; I love him, even when I don't have an emotional high about it. I'm committed to him and want to live my life for him to the fullest. When my steps are faltering, and I'm swamped with life and not resting in him, I know that he still loves me...and that draws me back to him. And over the years, I pray that I am becoming more and more like him, so that together we can live life to the fullest and do everything God has planned for me.

And if that's not a relationship, I don't know what is!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Walk

It's hard to believe this is our third spring in our Trent Ct. home. Okay, so technically it's not the season of Spring till Sunday, but considering the weather today and yesterday, I'll call it spring. March has been more lamb than lion this year, and while I'm sure it still has some teeth to show, for now it's glorious and I'll take it! The other morning the kids and I watched a mallard pair scoping our neighbor's yard for potential nesting.... I'm convinced it's the same couple we've seen for three springs now. Makes sense, doesn't it? And the robins have been out in full song. Actually, this year I saw a bunch of robins in our February snow, which was very weird. I wonder if they decided it was better here in Michigan than the frigid snows of the south and east. We've also been closely monitoring the sprouts of bulbs we planted last fall, and many of the crocuses, tulips and daffodils are popping up. So exciting!

But yes, it's our third spring, and we took one of our favorite walks Tuesday to celebrate it. Our subdivision isn't fascinating, but it has great sidewalks and it's an easy, straight stretch to what has become known in our house as "The Ducky Pond." The Ducky Pond is actually not a pond at all. Rather, it's a creek. Or, to be even more correct, it's a storm drain, but that doesn't have anything attractive in its sound, so we stick with calling it The Ducky Pond. Besides, The Ducky Pond can be quite lovely, and it's full of birds, bushes and muskrats. Depending on the time of year, you can spot mallards with their ducklings, red wing blackbirds, or hear the croak of bullfrogs. There's a nice arched footbridge that spans the creek, and you can check out both sides. My only gripes are that the water doesn't move fast enough to play Pooh Sticks, and sometimes it looks pretty scummy. But I can't complain, because for the most part in the spring it looks like this picture (May 2008), and their are little to no bugs at this time of year:
Below is what it looks like right now. Things are still brown, but signs of life are showing. Considering there was still snow covering most of the ground a week ago, it amazes me how much is growing.
When you come off the bridge, you T into a smooth path that leads you toward a wood and then one of our main roads, or straight toward a local elementary school where Clare will go to kindergarten in the fall. Across the path is an open field, and that's where we often land for some play time. Even this early, though the ground was a little squishy, we could still run, and the girls didn't mind sitting. I brought snacks, and we practically made a picnic out of pistachios, Goldfish, and fruit snacks.
I almost always carry my camera on these walks, and as a result, I've got some fun contrast memories from previous spring treks. For instance, I caught Clare climbing up the rails of the bridge, and it was amazing to see how much she'd grown since May 2008:
And then there was the end of March 2008 when we took the walk with snow:

The wagon in the above photo has made the trip with us many times. Some of my sweetest memories are when I hauled all three girls out for the ride. We could make it across the bridge, take the path past the elementary school, then hike toward the Alleghany House (our old house owned by Kraig's folks, lived in by various and sundry of Kraig's sibs). It's always worth visiting, and sometimes we just had to get fresh air despite the challenge of moving three little children.
Of course, even in Spring of 2008, Clare and Ev did what they could to help!
I know we made the trek a few times last spring but I didn't take my camera as much. It was too hard knowing we only had the two for the walk....

This spring things are different again, but in a good way. We have Jonathan adding his own new element.
The girls are older now, their legs longer and they're able to peddle bikes farther. They are also forming their own fashion sense. Some days it's nice to let them wear whatever they choose; after all, who's going to see or care, and it's so neat to see them developing into the incredible girls God wants them to be. In the picture below, Clare was waving one of the pine branches that she discovered (all the leftover branches from Christmas trees are emerging from vanishing snowbanks) and singing. She was actually singing about palm branches and praise, but hey, who am I to argue?!

Who knows how many more springs we'll have at Trent Ct., but I know I'll always treasure these walks to The Ducky Pond.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Remembering How to Fly

Last winter a friend of mine invited me and the girls to go to a morning pre-school roller-skating event. I never took her up on it--this, that and the other reason, but I guess my biggest hold-back was it just sounded like too much work. My brain threw up all sorts of reasons why not to go: The girls were too little, they wouldn't enjoy it, I didn't want to be around a crowd of other little kids, the girls had never gone roller skating before.... Whatever. The bottom line was, we didn't go.

When the invitation came up again last month, I still was hesitant, but as there was no excuse not to go (and I always enjoy time with this friend, and our kids enjoy each other) we tentatively planned the outing for today. I called yesterday to check if she still could go, and in the back of my mind I almost hoped she'd say, "You know, we aren't going to be able to go after all...." But she was totally up for it, and so I said, "Yes! We'll go!"

So this morning I got the kids bundled up and out the door, one, two, three.... And we only got there 20 minutes late (sheesh!). The skate is a once-a-week event, 10-11:30 a.m. at a local roller-skating rink, set up specifically for pre-schoolers. The price of admission includes skate rental (for mom as well as kids who want them), and a snack for the kids. You're allowed to bring strollers (so Jonathan got to roll around), and any sort of push/ride toy with no peddles. We carted in a push car that Ev still fits in.

Once in, Clare looked for her pal; her plan was to watch him first before she had anything to do with skates (though she knew she would have to try them, as Kraig had insisted she would and had no choice in the matter!). As soon as she saw my friend's daughter who's a little over two-years-old trotting across the rink on skates, Clare decided perhaps this skating thing wasn't so scary after all. It also helped that the music was fun and the lights were enticing, and there really weren't many people. We trucked on over to the skate pick-up and exchanged our shoes for heavy skates from a pleasant older man who looked like one of my grandfathers. I can't tell you how thankful I was that the skates weren't roller blades! I've never been on roller blades.... In fact, the last time I went skating was about fifteen years ago in college. Did they even have roller blades then?

The skates went on, the music thrummed, the lights danced, and suddenly I was flying again. Weight of heavy skates was forgotten; weight of the world was forgotten! Okay, so I had three little ones to watch out for, but there were moments to fly, and it was so fun to watch them enjoying it, too! Clare took careful steps, and slipped and fell a few times, but each time she was up again with a smile and ready to take off again. Ev was twice as stable, as usual, but you figure her center of gravity is that much lower as well. Jon-boy grinned and cooed, watched the lights and enjoyed the movement of his stroller.... My friend and I reminisced childhood skating memories, caught up on family news bits, talked REAL moms stuff (that's our moms' group name, though I suppose it could be taken the other way as well :) ).

In short, it was a BLAST and I can't wait till we can go again! And I was reminded (yes, it's a lesson I've had before) that I need to stop being afraid of trying something new, and that it's worth pushing out of my comfort zone. It is always worth remembering how to fly....

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Family Wranglings

Kraig and my family backgrounds are similar in many ways, not the least of which is a family love of loud, intense discussions. Other people might translate these as arguments, but really, they are healthy debates...sometimes they're not even debates because everyone is "arguing" on the same side. These discussions typically take place over the table, so we combine good food with a good talk. Body and soul are fed as a result.

When rubber meets the road, all of the siblings, spouses, and parents in each of our families (fifteen total) agree on the fundamentals. Our core beliefs are the same, and unshakable. But there is no doubt that these core values have played out differently in all of our lives, especially as we have grown older and the paths God has taken us down have varied. Inevitable. And so, inevitably, some of the discussions really are arguments as we wrangle about different takes on how we should be living out our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

In the past few weeks Kraig and I have had a couple of these arguments (not new topics, by the way) with two of his brothers and to a certain extent, their wives. I could wax eloquently on the topics and get very passionate and/or hot-headed, but the topics aren't my point. My point, and what amazes me every time, is that even though we do hotly debate these issues we come out in the end still being family that loves each other. The topic eventually gets interrupted by something else, and life goes on and we laugh and talk and live and love.

When Kraig's oldest brother and family were here the other week we had a good ol' hash out of one of these topics probably for an hour or so. We didn't exhaust it by any means (though I felt I expressed myself quite well, thank you very much :) ), but finally the talk was side-railed by something or other, and we never got back to it, but life went on merrily from there and we had a great week together. Just today we had another discussion (different brother, different topic). This is an issue that Kraig and this brother have bantered time and time again, and neither has shifted in his view. For that matter, I agree with Kraig and my sis-in-law agrees with her hubby, and we haven't changed our opinions either. Believe it or not, we're also close friends and I'd trust her with anything. We get into the debate a bit as well, but it does get hot and I find I have to step back at times or my ego gets a little fried. Now of course Kraig and my view is the right one--absolutely--but we are willing to listen the other side. Well, maybe. Actually, the reality is we are each listening to the other side, but at this point in time, for whatever reason, neither side will agree.

I suppose some would consider this a tragedy, and that if we were truly loving and (dare I use the word) tolerant of each other, we would all agree on everything. But I don't see it that way. If we were just being self-centered and wanting to ram our point home, then yes, that would be a problem. But I don't think this is simply family bull-headedness (though we all have plenty of that); I really think it is also a healthy expression of who we are in Christ. We are different parts of one Body, and he is using each of us where we are to interact the most effectively with the people in our lives. If we all sang the same tune, we would only have one audience....

So yeah, sometimes we bruise each others egos in our efforts to pound our viewpoint home. Those are the times when we either have to apologize, or, if we have been the one bruised, get over it. I sometimes have to remind myself that my family whom I dearly love still loves me even when they're arguing with me. In fact, sometimes we are arguing so fiercely because the topic is one we do feel is vital to the health and well-being of the ones we love, and if they don't agree with us, they aren't enjoying all that God has planned for them. And that would be a tragedy, so they'd better listen! LOL! Oh, the joys of family! Oh, the wonder of the Body!

I wonder if we'll still have debates in heaven....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Newsy Bits of the Past Few Days

I just sent this note to the Trisomy Listserve I'm on--a group that I've been connected with since Keren was born. One of the members always puts reminder notes out about kids' birthdays and "angel days" (what they call the day a child died), so Keren's date came up this week. I ended up writing an update and thought, "Hmmm, this would be good to archive on my blog!" So here it is:

Thanks All, for the warm thoughts, prayers, memories! It is mind-boggling to realize that a year has passed already since we lost our Keren-girl. It definitely has not been the year we wanted, but despite the pain of Keren's death and the hole she left here, we've had so much joy over the past year, too. The other two girls, Clare and Evvie, have grown leaps and bounds, stretching us in millions of ways, and our little Jonathan who was born in August is a new bright light. The girls are eager to tell him all about Keren "So that he'll get to know about her since he didn't get to meet her," and while some of their tales are slightly apocryphal, it melts my heart to hear them :) .

For whatever reason, the past couple months (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and this month leading up to the 28th) have been much easier for Kraig and me emotionally than her birthday month (September) and last October. I walked around those two months feeling like I had a lump in my chest that wouldn't loosen up. The last couple months have been full of poignant, sweet memories, but the depression hasn't accompanied it. I know that I can't guarantee that it won't return, but I've been learning to accept that what I'm feeling now is now, and whatever I'm feeling another time is that time, and I don't have to feel a certain way. I'm realizing all the more why we can't put grief on a linear track and dictate how people deal with it.

We spent the 28th quietly--Kraig went to work, I was home with the girls, then we went to my parents for dinner. My biggest prayer request was for sunshine and blue skies, because it floods our house with light and makes even cold January days seem warm and full of life. God totally answered that prayer! I was able to take time to write a little about my thoughts that day--I've been been getting into blogging and have enjoyed the outlet of getting my thoughts down. The girls and I did some baking projects that afternoon. My friend Laura brought a mylar balloon by that she and her kids picked out (a heart with "Love" written on it, and shiny--just like Keren always loved). "We just wanted you to know we miss her too," she said. I talked to family and a friend via text messages and a couple phone calls :) , but that was all the interaction with "people." I even stayed off Facebook and email for most of the day, because I knew I couldn't delve into it--too many emotions! It helped just to know people were praying from a distance.

I didn't want to be around many people that day, and we were able to pull it off because we planned a special time for today. We invited some of our close friends and family, along with close friends from Keren's school (her teacher, para-pros, therapists, a couple fellow-parents) to join us at our home for a brunch with the theme of looking back and moving forward. We wanted everyone to come with something in mind of a "lesson" learned this past year (in general--it didn't have to be about Keren), and ways they're going into the future. It turned out beautifully! Only three could come from her school, but it's three of those we've been closest to, and one of Keren's classmates and mom and sib came--another special connection, along with the few close family friends. Our friend Jodi brought Mardi-gras beads that Clare gave to each person as they arrived--another special memory of Keren. We didn't end up having a formal share time (though right at the end someone said, "I didn't get to tell the thing I learned!" so that started a good conversation), but throughout the time there was the ebb and flow of sharing good memories and things we've learned. I can't tell you how great it was to have this to look forward to all month! Today was sunny off and on, too, and we laughed and cried, and grew together. I know we're going to have to have something again--it's just so special to be able to have these friendships! Hmmm.... Next time we'll have to invite more people (hint, hint, Michigan friends :) )....

So, who knows what this year will bring, but this is where God took us to today!

Hmmm....I forgot to take pictures today--that would have been nice to add. I'll have to get some from my Dad :) .

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Time, Being What It Is....

...And looking at the date: January 28, 2010.... It's the date I've been watching for the past year, wondering, wondering, wondering.... So here it is, and it is--what? It's a day. It's a date on the calendar, and tomorrow it will be gone (gone forever, if I want to be melodramatic about it), just as the day we lost Keren, January 28, 2009, is gone and will not be repeated. I've read the description of time and days being like pearls slipping by on a string. Or there's the saying Laura Ingalls Wilder quotes in Little Town on the Prairie:
Lost, between sunrise and sunset,
One golden hour, set with sixty diamond minutes.
No reward is offered, for it is gone forever.
Then again, on a lighter note, there's a quote I heard recently: "Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it unrolls."

So whether you look at time as something to be treasured, hoarded (if that were possible), or something whirling by, faster and faster, the truth cannot be avoided: Time passes, and then what is past is over, gone, done with. Ones we've loved go with it, dreams we've had may die--or fade--with it. The people are irreplaceable, though we are blessed with new friends and people to love, and we have memories of those who are gone. The dreams, we pray, are replaced with new, vibrant ones.

I'm as guilty as the next person for trying to hoard time. Over the past year I think I've saved, double-saved and triple-saved family photos because of the lurking fear that some moment may be lost forever. That "this" may be the last picture I have of my kids. I've always hung on to emails and letters because I think that maybe I'll want to look back at it, or need it. It's a way of trying to capture moments in time and hang on to them forever. I've realized that it can become a kind of obsession if I don't sit back and realize the proper perspective: while it's okay to have memories, I can't be held back by them. Time still moves forward, and if I don't take forward steps along with it, I'll never be happy, and I'll never enjoy the fullness of the plans God has for me.

From my perspective, our time with Keren will always seem too short. We had six years, four months, and a day. What is that? Already her life is creating legends in our home as Clare and Ev grapple with questions about Keren: "Why didn't Keren walk?" "Why didn't she talk?" Clare is keen on telling Jonathan things about Keren because "he didn't get to meet her, and he needs to know about her!" I love this, but I also know that what we tell him and what my little girls remember is changed by who we are now. We know there were things that drove us crazy about Keren (constantly getting her to stop poking her eyes or gouge her gums, keeping on top of tube-feedings and doctor appointments, changing bedding and clothes after diaper soak-throughs and spit-ups).... But while we know those things in our heads, the reality of the day-to-day struggle has faded. We really only remember and miss the beauty of a blue-eyed girl with incredible dark lashes, fly-away eyebrows, a squeal that could burst our eardrums and a hug that could crack our bones. Of course, those are the memories that are worth holding. And as for the time her life spanned, I am reminded continually of Psalm 139:16:
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.
                   (New Living Translation)
So the time was the right time, and as much as I might not like it, Keren's life had accomplished what it needed to. I have to trust that the God who loves Keren and me infinitely beyond anything I can imagine intends the same for me. That the time He has given me is the time needed to accomplish what He wants for my life. As a result I can quit worrying about everything I'm doing or not doing and wondering if it's "enough." I can't sit around living in the past, wishing things were different and Keren was still here. Instead I want to let Him use me and be willing to do what He asks of me. I need to rest in Him.

And I'm learning to rest in Him.... Because I know that if I'm not where I thought I should be a year from now, a month--even a day, I can still be at peace and have joy, because I know I am where He wants me to be. The lost loved ones, like Keren, are not gone forever and mourned without relief. I can learn from their lives, and as a result grow and help others. The lost dreams are not "dreams deferred;" rather, they are simply memories, sweet trinkets to contemplate and laugh over. And now and then a gem is discovered that I realize will work for just this occasion, and I realize that's why God had me leave it in the box until now.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Miraculous Healing

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the account of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter. I love the picture of a father doing all he can to get to Jesus, to ask him to save his only daughter. And Jesus comes, and he reaches down into death, and he tells the little girl simply to "wake up." As our family's favorite children's devotional, The Jesus Storybook Bible, puts it, "Jesus was making the sad things come untrue. He was mending God's broken world." Michael Card sings about it, too, in "Talitha Koumi," a first-person narrative of Jairus' daughter.
Talitha Koumi
He spoke like a song
Though lifeless and cold
At once I became strong
Talitha Koumi
He spoke with a smile
As he handed my father back
His only child
As I said, this story has always been a favorite of mine, but I'll tell ya, it was hard to hear when Kraig read it to the kids not long after Keren died....

The inevitable question comes. "If Christ is so good at healing, why didn't he heal Keren?" And it's an old, old question, asked by so many. Why didn't God heal Sarah, a fellow mom of a special-needs daughter who died one month before Keren--two months after a cancer diagnosis. Why didn't God heal Ethan, one of Keren's classmates who died last May? Why didn't God heal Aimee, the twenty-five-year-old daughter of family friends, who died on Thursday as a result of a head-on collision caused by another driver cutting into her lane...a driver who survived with few injuries.... Why are thousands upon thousands dying now in Haiti? It doesn't make sense....

I would be lying if I said I didn't ask those questions. I would be lying if I said I had the passing thought that I was too cynical and didn't have enough faith to bring about their healing. But I would also be lying if I said that those questions dragged me down and caused me to doubt God. Because they don't. Because it's an issue that I've realized is much bigger than physical healing.

When Kraig and I learned that Keren would be born with some significant problems, we prayed that the diagnosis might be wrong, but we knew we would keep her, and we knew that we loved her no matter what. When Keren was born with Trisomy 18, we didn't pray that she would be healed of it. How can one be healed of something that's not a disease? We prayed for her health because that could go either way, but her diagnosis was in the genes. It was a part of who she was! Since she died, many have said, "Isn't it wonderful that now she is whole in Heaven?" Now, I believe this to be true.... When I picture her in Heaven, I see her running around, learning everything she can, and probably even talking up a storm. I see her climbing up into Jesus' lap and giving him a bone-cracking hug like the ones she used to give us. Clare and Ev are experts at helping me keep this perspective; remembering the future hope of seeing Keren again.

I understand with my head that those who say this to me say it with complete belief as well, and a deep desire to give me comfort. The only problem is, thinking of Keren whole and healthy in Heaven doesn't really comfort me. It would be kind of like someone saying to Aimee's parents (and I pray no one ever does), "Just think! Aimee is whole and full of life in Heaven. Imagine the struggle she would have had if she'd survived the accident. She might never have been the same vibrant girl again." My mental scream is, "But I want Keren here! I want her healthy here! I don't care that she wasn't 'whole'. She was our Keren-girl, and that is all that matters." My comfort does not lie in the fact that she is "healed" but in that I will see her again.

And that brings me to a different kind of healing, the "miraculous healing," the sad things Jesus made untrue.... It's a truth that has been confirmed to me over and over, and slowly I'm putting the words to it. Recently I've seen it again in Beth Moore's study, Jesus the One and Only, which works through the Gospel of Luke. The first time it struck me was in a discussion of the people bringing Jesus their sick in Luke 4:38-44. There were so many of them, and they kept coming and coming. Jesus knew he had to leave, yet they tried to keep him there. The word "keep," Beth says is "'katecho,' meaning to 'hold fast, retain, or hold down, quash, suppress."
The people's attempts to hold onto Christ may not have been limited to the vocal and emotional. They may have hung onto Him physically, too. How His heart must have broken for them. I believe He may have been torn emotionally, but He was not dissuaded. The best thing he could do for them was to stay true to His goal. (p. 63)
And what was his goal? "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent" (Luke 4:43). And why was preaching the good news of the kingdom more important than healing all those people? Because the kingdom is permanent and spreading the news about it was Christ's top priority. And I realized that if I believed that (which I do), then the fact that he let Keren die and didn't heal her meant that it would help in spreading this news. It is the only answer that makes sense.

A few lessons later I came to the story of the paralytic man whose friends let him down through a roof so he'd get face-time with Jesus. A phrase in the passage jumped out at me this time--one that I hadn't seen before: "And the power of the Lord was present for [Jesus] to heal the sick" (Luke 5:17b) Huh? What did that mean? Were there times Jesus didn't have the power? That didn't make sense! Sure enough, Beth brought this point out and gradually unwound it. The Greek word for "power" used here is "'dunamis' meaning 'power, especially achieving power'" in contrast to another word used at times, "ischus" which means "power, strength, or might." The idea is that "dunamis" refers to what God does while "ischus" is what God has and is. Beth says:
I hope you caught the inference that Christ was ready and willing to apply his ischus to specifically achieve (dunamis) healing that day. Christ healed many times, but the implication is that healing was a far more specific agenda in certain instances. We can break it down this way: Christ is always willing. Sometimes He is more than willing--He is utterly resolved." (p. 70)
And what healing was Jesus "utterly resolved" to do? Here's where it became really interesting.... The passage had already set up the context: That day Pharisees and teachers of the law from all over had come to hear Jesus teach, and as the King James Version then translates immediately after this: "and the power of the Lord was present to heal them." "Them," not "the sick" as the New International Version puts it. In fact, the Greek word used is autos, meaning "self...the same" so definitely referring to these teachers of the law...who were not physically sick. As Beth states it, "Christ hadn't just come to heal those who were physically sick. He came to heal those who were sick with sin!" And as the passage unfolds, and the paralytic is put before Jesus, the first thing Jesus does is forgive the man his sins. Only later, to show the Pharisees that he has the authority to do just that does Jesus give the man physical healing. The sickness of sin was/is zillions of times greater than any physical disability....

I was bowled over by this because it spoke to me again so powerfully the truth that I've been learning this past year. God loves us and longs to be reunited with us so much that He sent Jesus to earth to rescue us. Yes, Jesus physically healed many. Yes, Jesus took Jairus' daughter by the hand and brought her out of death. Yes, there have been many instances of people being healed miraculously even these days. But not all are physically healed, and if Christ's primary purpose was/is to physically heal then he's done a lousy job.

But if, rather, his purpose is to heal the hearts of the whole world, to rescue us from sin, and that his death and resurrection made the way for that, and all I have to do is believe that yes, this is indeed why he came, then his purpose has been fully accomplished. It also means that when he physically heals it's to help people see this purpose...and when he doesn't physically heal, it's also for this purpose. Keren's death, Aimee's death...they are pieces of this amazing, incredible purpose. In an article I read today about Aimee's death, her Pastor is quoted as saying that Aimee "recently wrote that she finally felt settled for the first time in her life. She described it as wonderful, but felt God would soon bring change and she put her trust in Him. 'If you summed up Aimee's life, that's what she did. She pointed others to Jesus,'" her pastor said.

I wish I knew why Keren and Aimee (...and Sarah, and Ethan, etc., etc.) weren't ones God chose to heal--why it was that their lives and deaths were ones He chose to help point people toward His Son. I don't know why our families are the ones who were asked to hold this particular grief. But the key point is this: since I do know the Healer, I can help others find the miraculous healing He provides.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gray Day

It's a good thing that I didn't try to write earlier today or there would have been an ocean of thoughts pouring out that at other times I would consider "unpublishable"! But there was no time to write, and there was time for a nap (angels rejoicing), and as a result my thoughts have receded to little burbles in a brook instead of a flash flood. I sometimes envy people who seem to feel free to write all that raw emotion down for everyone to see, but then I think better of it and know that I will only ever write some of that stuff (and not even all of that!) down in a hard-copy journal, the good ol' fashioned way.

Today was a gray day, which was part of my problem earlier--and not just "a" gray day; it's been gray like this for days now, that dull, almost-foggy gray that winter gets when there's some snow that's trying to melt because it's not cold enough to be crisp and refreshing. Blah. Double-blah. I suppose I should be thankful that there is some snow as opposed to "lovely" Michigan no-snow winter days that are gray sky and brown grass and mud.... Why do people prefer that to snow? I'll never understand!

But yeah, the constant gray didn't help my mood. Then there's the continual self-analyzing that's been going on in my head as to how exactly I'm feeling right now, and am I going to crash and become a blubbering mass at any moment, or will I continue in this slightly disembodied state...and what if I do stay in the latter state and all my friends and family think that I'm an unemotional automaton who really couldn't have loved Keren much because I'm not even crying about her. (Yes, I know that's  a flawed self-analysis, but I just wanted to show where my brain was at). It hasn't helped that I think I have a touch of some sort of cold--just enough to feel slightly off, but not more than that. I can't say, "I'm sick," because I'm not really; just not 100%. I snapped the girls' heads off a few times this morning and was kicking myself around about that.

In the end, though, it was a good day--mostly because all three kids took a nap at the same time, and long ones at that, long enough for me to lie down and close my eyes and wake up before any of them. And the sun broke through as I was falling asleep, so that even though it was gray again when I got up, I knew the sun had been there warming my back for a bit. It was such an evident touch of God. Even when I'm all caught up in me He shows me He's there, loving me. And you know, I sensed that a little bit this afternoon, but I didn't realize it completely till I wrote it just now.

I'm glad I ended up writing this gray day. Thank you, Lord, for holding me, muddled brain and all!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Unplubishable Thoughts and Everyday Life

The blessing and the curse of a blog is that it has the potential of being read by one or more persons (particularly when it's set to automatically post on the newsfeed of Facebook friends!). There is definitely a lot to be said for the thrill of knowing that my words have gone "out there" and I may get feedback, and who knows, maybe one thing I say will have eternal impact on a reader. But the flipside is, I'm always conscious of my possible audience, and as a result, my thoughts are edited....

Granted, most of my thoughts aren't worth printing anyway. They are the hodge-podge of the everyday, the human heart, and need to be muddled through between me and God before I should even think of airing them to any but my nearest and dearest. If I were writing in a pen-and-paper journal, I could pour out the muddle, and then ponder it and perhaps sort things out more. Time being what it is these days, though, I'm more likely to write here where the bit of feedback I get is an inspiration to write more....

So I guess it's all in my purpose for writing in the first place, huh?

This week was one of those weeks of dichotomy, where my brain has been running on various tracks ranging from the deep ("Am I letting God work through this issue in me?") to the light ("Jonathan looks adorable in pastels...I bet he would look better than any of the girls did in pink!" ...Don't worry, I won't do that to him!), and life has been trucking along at its breakneck pace.

Here's a sampling:

We had our REAL moms (formerly MOPS) meeting Friday morning, the first of this semester, so the week started off with a Leadership Team meeting that covered a ton of material--good, thorough, and exhausting. We've been working to find our stride this year with our new name, and new coordinator (oh wait, that's me!). We want so much to be able to reach the women in our community and be an encouragement to them, and sometimes it gets discouraging to see that the group is smaller than it was a few years ago. A lot of this has to do with the economy, but one always continues to look at the issue and think, "What can we do better to connect with our moms?" I love the fact that this ministry has been such a strong one at our church, and the team is continually one of moms who really have the heart for it. When I started in the group about six years ago, I wondered if I would ever feel connected with the other moms. I only had Keren, and she was anything but the "typical" two-year-old. But over the years, the bonds were formed, and when I stepped into the coordinator role last summer, I realized how much God had been opening my heart to fellow moms. But with that vested interest comes the battling of personal demons--"What if I botch it?"--and the counter of, "You know what, it's really not about you! If it's God's ministry (which it is), He'll take care of it!" Got to focus on the latter....

In other news, Kraig and I were able to cement the plan for our event for remembering Keren and I got an evite sent out this week. I wish I could have sent it to a ton more people, near and far, because so many have been an intimate part of our journey this past year. But it seemed important to focus primarily on our connections at Old Village, Keren's school. We're planning a light brunch at our house with a theme of  "Looking Back, Moving Forward." We're remembering Keren and how much we learned, and are still learning, from her life. More than that, though, we want to hear what's been going on in the lives of those around us--how God has been at work in stretching and growing them. Hmmm.... So much to talk about there; I'll save that for other posts.

...And there were the other events of the week.... Clare's preschool, time with friends, a Gideons' dinner, taking down the Christmas tree, skyping Grandma and Grandpa (Kraig's folks). All the little details of life that put a week together. Amazing how God can work throughout all these things, and help me become more of what He desires me to be. At least that's my prayer!

Enough rambling. That's my publishable update for now!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Snow Hill Morning

There's a hill at a park near us that is one of the few good sledding hills in this flat part of Michigan. I have many memories of zipping down this hill, but I haven't been there in the winter for years now. So when my bro-in-law asked us if we'd like to join him and his boys for a sledding morning, we jumped at it. Like everything in life these days, the hill is more restricted: there's a list of "sledding rules," there are two return points cordoned off, and at the base of the hill is a slight bank so you can't shoot off into the creek at the bottom (not that anyone has sleds these days that could actually make it that far!). Despite these "safety measures" it is still a great place for families to come and get a good thrill ride...if you can convince your children that that's really what it is!

As you can see, Clare was not completely convinced. She is our true tentative child; I'd say firstborn, except that she isn't; but because Keren's limitations were what they were, Clare migrated into the firstborn role in many ways. Kraig and I are thinking we'll term her our "fircond" or maybe our "secirst."

Her cousin, Eli, is definitely a tentative firstborn; while little brother Sim is the adventurer. Here they are before their first run--before they decided they'd had quite enough, thank you, and "Daddy, we want to go home now!" Actually, they liked the going down part--it was the coming up part that wasn't something they wanted to repeat (but then, who does?).
Our "thircond" (or is it "secird") daughter (can you figure that one out?), Ev, is more like Sim in her adventurousness, and she was ready to roll. Not so thrilled with the actual rolling when she did tumble off her sled once, but even then she came back for more.

You can see her on her little red sled just right of center.

After her first run on the big hill, Clare was quite willing to stand at the top and watch...and throw snow....
Eventually she and I took one more slide down the big hill, mostly because we wouldn't let her get off with just one run, but that was it. A few minutes later, though, we discovered a much smaller hill beside the big one. We did have to set a guard (Kraig and Jon) down at the bottom, because on this hill one actually could run into a tree, or the road.... Everyone going down this hill learned good bailing techniques.

Despite the formidable base, since the hill itself was so much smaller, Clare decided sledding could be fun after all, and she, Uncle Kris, and Eli were off and running. Ev took a few more runs, too.


I think the one that surprised me most this morning was Jon-boy. I kind of expected that I would end up hibernating in the car with him. Instead he cooed and smiled, all bundled in his snowsuit, and eventually Kraig cocooned him in his jacket where the boy took a long snooze. Go figure! I wonder what this says about his personality (besides the fact that he is an adorable, well-tempered baby, and on his way to being thoroughly spoiled? :) )
All in all, it was a beautiful morning on the snow hill, and nice to start our own family tradition of enjoying it.

....And zipping down the hill is still as exciting now as it was umpteen years ago!