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LentRecently, I read that Christians should share their testimonies more intentionally and more frequently.

I must admit that up until the last ten years or so I thought testimonies were only about how you came to know Christ as your savior.  That happened for me when I was five.  I never felt that I had much of a testimony.

Now, I know that our testimony is much more fluid and ever changing.  It’s about our whole lives.  It’s little things and big things.

My faith has been tested on many occasions, but I’d like to take this time to discuss the two times I see as pivotal right now.  When I was sixteen and when I was forty.

By the time I reached the age of sixteen, very little had challenged my Christian walk.  I mistakenly believed that being a Christian was relatively easy.  Then my parents got a divorce.  My whole world flipped. Nothing made sense to me. And while I don’t really think I blamed God, I took my eyes off of Him.  I turned to my own strength and failed to acknowledge that He could make something good out of all the pain I was experiencing.  In the aftermath of the divorce, I made choices that were less than wise, and I did that for almost ten years.

In 2005-2006, I finally forgave myself of the bad choices and started working my way back to what God meant for my life.  I liken it to CS Lewis’s Eustace when he knows that he is not supposed to be a dragon, but Aslan has to rip the skin away to show the new and improved Eustace.

Skip ahead to when I’m forty.  Steven and I lose three grandparents and two babies in the course of a year.  Another life flipping year.

But there was a difference.

I kept my eyes on God.  On the promises of scripture, specifically Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

I don’t think this necessarily made the events any easier to handle.  But it kept me from making subsequent choices that may have compounded the pain and struggle I was experiencing.  Tears were still shed. Anger was still expressed. Confusion was still felt.

But instead of keeping all those feelings to myself, I let God handle them.  He’s better at it.  I followed His lead and nudging. I admitted my own weaknesses and together Steven and I continued to work through our experience. We helped each other let God help us.

I don’t know if any of this makes any kind of sense.  I do know that having faith in God doesn’t eliminate trials. But maybe it redirects our responses to those trials, if we keep our eyes on it. . .which also isn’t all that easy sometimes.

And maybe that is why testimony is so important.  To remind each other that none of us thinks it’s easy.

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When you’re anonymous

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Disclaimer: this is in no way a reprimand of the churches I’ve visited.  It’s simply my experience in trying to fit in, which I can admit is my responsibility as well.  It is also not a plea for you to invite me to your church. Please take it at face value of my feelings and, perhaps, consider it when you see a new face in your congregation.

I left my church about two years ago because we moved.

It has been an arduous journey.

I have found that when you try to break into an established family, it can be exhausting.

Because a church is a family.  And ultimately, I feel that I’m applying for adoption by that congregation.

In my previous church, it was home.  I was adopted.  I was plugged in.  I was needed.  I was wanted.  I was not anonymous.  I consider that church my “adult” church.  It’s where I grew in my relationship with God to the point of truly understanding what that even means.  It’s where I grew in my talents that I can use for God and found the joy that it is to do that.  I was missed when I wasn’t there.  I was comforted when I cried.  I was celebrated when needed. I was challenged likewise. I was a daughter.

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My church family for ten years. I miss them.

Trying to find a new church home has left me feeling anonymous.  I have struggled with how to incorporate myself into a new family. . .to let people know what I have to offer without seeming boastful.  To feel needed and wanted.  I want people to get to know me, but contrary to popular belief, I’m not actually an extrovert.  I need someone to reach out to me and pull me into the fold, to encourage me, to invite me, to guide me.

No church we’ve visited has been impolite.  There has been something to love about each one.  And outside of two, I have spent several months visiting in each congregation.

And, yet, I’m still anonymous.

My heart misses having a home.

 

Prayer Works?

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Before I continue, I would like to state that I do believe that prayer is important.  I also fear I will be unable to communicate clearly my thoughts in this post. But, nonetheless, I shall try.

For a little over a month I have been ruminating {Steven’s term} on the phrase “prayer works.” It caught my ear while I was listening to the radio and someone called in to extol the power of prayer.  For some reason, it bothered me.

I believe the phrase is, indeed, meant as a praise to the power of God.  However, what does it mean when a friend prays for healing but dies? Or a couple prays for a child but never has one? Or a young person prays for the job but doesn’t get it? Is prayer “working” in these instances? I’m not sure it’s fair or appropriate to simply say, well, those just weren’t meant to be.

During my rumination, my thoughts have continuously been drawn to David’s first child with Bathsheba.  We are told in 2 Samuel 12 that the son will die.  And when he becomes ill after birth, David pleads with God for the child, fasting and lying on the ground.  But the child dies.  David’s servants fear to tell him this news, but when he finds out, he gets up, washes, eats, worships the Lord, and continues with his life. . .not without grief.  He tells his household that while the child lived, there was still hope that God might be gracious.

Was this prayer working?

I remember when we found out that Little’s heartbeat was too slow and the size too small, that I prayed.  I prayed to God that I wanted that child. But I also prayed that I wanted God more.

Prayer does work.  But I believe we have to be careful how we use the phrase and in what way we evaluate working.  Prayer is not a magic potion. I think, in my limited way, that for both me and David, prayer is surrendered worship. It’s a conduit to a stronger relationship with the Father.

In the last year, I have become especially sensitive to the phrases we use in our Christianity and faith and what message they convey. Perhaps this is why I have spent so much time mulling over this particular one. I’m still not sure that I can properly vocalize what it is about “prayer works” that bothers me.  I think because it inadvertently separates believers. Praying believers begin to question if their prayers are wrong because they don’t receive the blessing or healing or understanding for which they are pleading.

But humble prayer is not wrong. Talk with God. Share with Him your hopes and dreams and fears and failures. Perhaps that is how prayer works.  By sharing these things we are able to feel more at peace and more confident as we journey WITH Him on Earth.

One of my grandmother’s favorite hymns was In the Garden. Have a listen and hear the sweetness and power of prayer.

Snow Days

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In the Piedmont of North Carolina, snow is an iffy thing.  Everything has to be just right for the white blanket to cover our neck of the woods.  Some might even say it’s a miracle.

One such miracle happened last night, and we’re sitting in the middle of one of the most beautiful snows I’ve seen in a while.  I’ve not been out to measure how many inches we’re up to now {and it’s still falling}. I just like to sit and look at it falling and covering everything in a pristine and sparkling white.FB_IMG_1516213984148

When I was little and snow was called for but hadn’t happened by bedtime, I always knew when I woke up if it had come or not.  There’s a different sound.  Or better yet, lack of sound.  I’ve been thinking about that today as plans have been detoured by this “weather event”. {we’re not known for being prepared or able to handle such events}. School has been cancelled.  Many businesses have closed. It’s as if God has handed us a moment in time.  A gift perhaps?

I know that many people are thinking about the decisions that have to be made to deal with the aftermath.  How will school be handled? When will we open back up? What do we do about people who are home bound already and need assistance?  I’m not unaware of the issues that are now presented.

However, maybe, just maybe, we should slow down today and not.  My granddaddy says that it will all come out in the wash and from my point of view, God hasn’t finished loading the wash yet.  So, maybe we should just slow down and enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of tomorrow.  There’s nothing we can do right now about it.

So, play with your kids. Build a fire and drink some hot cocoa while reading a book.  Put on {or stay in} your jammies. Do a puzzle.  Play Scrabble with your husband. Or my personal favorite, nap! Take this day to just enjoy the miracle of everything around you.

Here are the verses that I have been thinking on today. . .if you don’t mind me sharing:

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”

Matthew 6:34 “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Luke 12:22-23; 25-26 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. . .Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest'”

verses from NIV translation

 

Dear Nugget

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It’s been a year. I’m not sure what to tell you about this past year.  At least not anything that is new and insightful. All the regular cliches come to mind–especially that one about how the earth keeps spinning despite what is happening in my life.

That sounds melodramatic, and I can see you rolling your eyes at me just like any good child would at his mother.  I can smile at that thought.

My experience with you has lead me to believe that not enough mothers and fathers realize how often pregnancy loss happens.  I understand some of the shush–the questions that surround a pregnancy loss. There’s a struggle with validity of loss.  But, it is a loss.  There’s the loss of the real and the imagined {your father wrote an amazing piece about just that thing when we lost your little}. So, you my Nugget, have placed a passion in me to somehow normalize the sharing of pregnancy loss.  The “secrecy” places too much pressure on those who experience it. . .too much blame. . .too much guilt–when in reality we just need people to listen and acknowledge our grief.

Grief. . .that’s the other thing that I have been learning this past year.  It’s a doozy. And it’s not a prescribed so many steps program.  It lifts its head unexpectedly and demands attention.  And wouldn’t it be so much better if we all felt that we could just do that. . .give grief attention when it needs it and not feel guilty? Because here’s the thing. . .every person on earth is going to have to do that very thing at some point.

Oh, dear Nugget, our lives changed because of you.  We knew they would from the minute you announced your presence, but we had no idea it would be in this manner.  I miss you and wish you were here, but I also know that what has transpired in the last year has brought your father and me together in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.  Our love and awe of our God is stronger.  Our love of each other is stronger. There’s nothing to say that your presence today wouldn’t have produced the same results. . .and I’m not ashamed to say that I sure would have liked to have seen that. But I’m grateful for this year.

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After your little I decided to do something to honor you two.  I hope you like it.  When your father and I went to Savannah after losing you, he jokingly asked me if I wanted to get a tattoo after passing a shop.  I immediately knew that it would be Romans 8:28.  I don’t have stretch marks or any other tell-tell signs of pregnancy  {though I do have the scars where Dr. D took you from me}. But I have this. My prayer is that it reminds me of God and you and your little and that maybe someone will notice it sometime and feel it’s ok to talk about their loss too.

 

 

 

I love you, Nugget.

The Soundtrack of Christmas

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Steven and I started sharing devotions this month through decorating a Jesse Tree. Tonight’s scripture is from Luke in which it tells of Zechariah and Elizabeth and their wait. Have you ever noticed that? The waiting in the Bible? There’s a lot of it. . .waiting for Isaac, waiting for Moses, waiting to enter the Promised Land, waiting for Samuel, waiting for the reign of David, waiting to get out of sea creature’s belly, andywaiting for John, waiting for Jesus.

Tonight as I cooked supper for us, I listened to my favorite Christmas album–Andy Williams’ Merry Christmas–on record actually {I’m old enough to remember asking for records as a child at Christmas}. I got to thinking, if I were to put together a Christmas album, what would it be about?

I haven’t completely come up with the plot or the conflict or the resolution.  Mostly because I don’t actually know it all yet.

What I do know and do want to share is that suffering can bring a multitude of blessings, if you let it. My soundtrack has sorrow, and joy, and love, and loss, and mercy, and grace, and waiting.

Perhaps that’s what Christmas is. All those things. Maybe it’s not that I need to create a soundtrack for Christmas, but I need Christmas to be my soundtrack. Christmas brings a different kind of reflection where we take account of all those things and meditate on the impact of each. Maybe I need that kind of reflection to be playing throughout every part of my life–it aids in compassion and empathy and healing.

What I have seen in our Jesse Tree is that in all the waiting, there was still all those things and people kept moving forward.  One step in front of the other, carrying each of those things towards hope, love, joy, and peace.  Towards Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone. May your life dance on through ALL the things that make it worth the living.

The messiness of life

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Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I have heard many prayers that ask for the peace that surpasses understanding.

Look at the verse.  It’s not just any peace.   It’s God’s peace that surpasses understanding.  And when you realize that, there is an aha! moment because, of course, it doesn’t make sense. God is bigger than our minds could ever comprehend, therefore, so is His peace.

On August 6, 2017 the pastor at the church I’m attending delivered a message based on this scripture, and I had my aha! moment.

On August 7, 2017, seven months after Nugget had been cut from my womb, I had our first ultrasound for our second child. We saw its heart beating.

On August 14, 2017 our second ultrasound revealed that our little one’s heart had stopped beating.

On August 21, 2017 my body shed all its preparations and the tiny little person that had started there.

And through it all, even though there was sadness, I was at peace.

This, in no way, has been an easy road to travel.  However, the good that Steven and I have found along the way can’t, in any way, be replaced. As individuals we have grown.  As a couple we have strengthened.

The messiness of life. . .we’re ok wading through it and cleaning it up together. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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