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Enough is Enough

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It is a strange upbringing to hear each week that you fall short and are not enough. But it is the upbringing that many experience.

The difficult part is that it’s what we hear as we sit in pews and sing songs about love and hear sermons about love and proclaim that Jesus loves me.

How can He when I am not enough? I am a sinner. I will always be a sinner. I will never be good enough.

Without necessarily meaning to, how many people have fallen victim to this truth? We humans are fragile beings. We desire to be better and do better. We work hard to be the best at what we decide to put our hand to. We add immeasurable pressure to ourselves to be enough. . .

Be enough for our spouses.

Be enough for our jobs.

Be enough for our kids.

Be enough for our extended family, our neighbors, ourselves.

And grapple with the idea that we’re not enough, ever, no matter how hard we try for salvation.

Understandably, this can be crippling in so many areas. Not just faith, but in our every day lives. Doubt and questions arise. What is it all for if I’m never going to be enough? I’m aware that this realization impacts individuals differently. There are those who will try harder. There are those who will quit trying at all. And there are those who will be brave enough to start peeling layers and truly struggling with what being enough means in all aspects of their lives.

And those brave souls deserve more than trite cliches and platitudes that are offered–read your Bible more, attend church, pray harder, do devotions. The complexities of faith cannot fit into these tiny plastic phrases, and it’s a disservice to offer them to people who have the tremendous courage to battle fears and questions.

I have battled the formidable foe of enough. I have faced the why bother mentality and the try harder mentality. Neither of them brought me peace and both of them meant poor decisions that could impact my health negatively and wreck my emotional stability.

But an amazing thing happened on this journey. I somehow managed to surround myself with people who think I am enough. Just as I am. With all my insecurities and flaws and fears and questions. They love me. They encourage me. They tell me I am enough with whatever I have to bring that day.

It is liberating. And it is an eye opening blessing.

I am coming to terms with God’s plan for me isn’t because I’m enough.

It’s because I’m loved.

And that is enough.

Starbucks, London, and the Morrises

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Have you ever had so much in your head that you want to get out and then you just don’t know how? That’s where I am right now. I have a lot I think I want to say, and I sat down to start saying some if it. Then I looked at my coffee cup.

Happy accident: my London minion in the background.

And now, that’s all I can think about.

I bought this cup at my first Starbucks behind St. Paul’s Cathedral in 2005 on my first trip to London (or Europe for that matter) with my friends Jack and Lina Morris.

I was a sixth year teacher helping lead a group of students on a trip to London and Paris, appropriately titled “Tale of Two Cities.” It was one of the years when our school year ended in May so we were able to get an outstanding price. We did Paris first, then traveled the Chunnel over to London. The day I went into my first Starbucks we had toured St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was an inspiring and thoughtful time. The church is still used as a house of worship (as are most churches in Europe that tourists wish to see) so at one point during the tour we were asked to stop for a moment and recite the Lord’s Prayer or honor the worshipers with a moment of silence. I was walking through the church with Jack and Lina. We all stopped and recited the prayer and, honestly, I got chills. I felt God move during that time of recitation; strangers pausing together for this sacred breath.

At any rate, we finished our tour before it was time to meet our tour manager, and it was cold. So, we found the Starbucks. I didn’t even get coffee because I didn’t think I liked coffee then. I got a hot chocolate and bought the mug as a memento of not only my first trip over the big pond but also my first Starbucks.

Jack delights Peter.
Lina holds her answered prayer.

Lina was my mentor when I began teaching. Not only for my profession but just for the kind of person I want to grow up and become. She has been an unwavering example of Romans 12:12–joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. You see, in 2017 she circled me in prayer and asked God to bless us with a child in our arms by the end of 2020. And, you see, Jack–sweet, sweet Jack–has Alzheimer’s.

Taking Peter to meet them in January was one of the greatest blessings of my life. And my child, my sweet and precious Peter, was delighted by them. He smiled so big at them both with no hesitation.

He knows good people.

Faith

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Between finding out we were pregnant on January 27, 2020 and our first ultrasound on February 11, 2020, I bought this pattern.

We had never had a positive ultrasound experience.

February 18, 2021, one day shy of five months old.

Word Play

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I did it.

I did one of those things that goes around on social media (or used to be just in email. . .) where you make note of the first so many words you see and then those words have some specific meaning for some thing in your life.

I don’t even remember what the point of this one was, but the words stuck with me.

In the order I noticed them (we were instructed to note four): Lessons, Love, Strength, Purpose.

As a side note, I do often wonder how many words are in these little grids and what influences what words different people notice. . .like if you’re right handed does that mean you notice words on the left first? Or something like that.

Anyway. . .My words. I like them. I’ve actually decided to make them a focus of 2021. I’ve done words of the year before. . .hope, laugh. . .

These words spoke to me when I spotted them. I immediately thought about how Peter can be quite integral in the focus of these words. . .I’m sure he will teach me many lessons; he has already shown me things about love; strength is necessary when embarking on the journey of parenthood; and purpose, well, we do things with intention in mind.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Those were my first thoughts, but as the words have marinated over the last month, I find them being important to me in other ways. Not just what Peter will show me, but what I will show Peter. And the things that Steven and I encounter outside of Peter–in our marriage, in our other relationships.

I have plans for these words as the year continues. I would like to attach a verse to each of them. Something that God will show me in His time. Something He wants me to know about each word.

In the meantime, they play in my head every day. Rolling around in there and bumping into things I’m contemplating.

His Timing

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Our first pregnancy, Nugget

Yesterday, December 3, 2020, marked the anniversary of mine and Steven’s journey to parenthood. It was four years ago that we discovered we were pregnant for the first time, and our lives were forever changed.

I wanted to write something yesterday, but I didn’t know how to formulate my thoughts. Then, tonight, we did our Advent devotion. We use the devotional I wrote called God’s Gift. I posted it here last year. I can’t lie. It was strange to be on this side of that penning. To know, with realness, the joy that Sarah references.

I’ve talked about our journey on multiple occasions. The pain and confusion. The grief. The little moments of joy that we found through it. The desire for it to be used for something greater than ourselves. And while we were prepared for our story to have a much different ending, here we are in the midst of a parenting adventure with Peter.

And it’s His timing that has brought it about. Numerous examples exist explaining why His timing is better than anything Steven and I could have orchestrated. I was able to retire from my job and am home. Steven had accumulated enough time to have paid leave for an extended period. A promotion was a possibility–with it a change in schedule that we were able to “test drive” before a decision had to be made. And, frankly, a pandemic.

Meeting my son for the first time having to wear a mask.

I don’t know if I can explain that last one to my, or anyone else’s, satisfaction. It’s about more than Peter giving us something good to focus on in a difficult year. We are familiar with difficult years–this one was just a different difficult. The pandemic has sharpened our focus on our family unit. Honestly, I’m grateful for the unique backdrop that is Peter’s birth year. The masks, the social distancing, the learning new ways to be community. The world that we brought Peter into is markedly different than the world we left behind December 31, 2019. It’s a new opportunity, more starkly apparent than ever before. I often feel that too many people are too eager to throw out the blessings of this year because they came wrapped in disappointments, heartaches, and raindrops.

I read recently in Rachel Held Evans’ Inspired something said by Ellen Davis: “From [Job] above all others in scripture, we learn that the person in pain is a theologian of unique authority. . .qualified to speak of God in a way that others, whom we generally call more fortunate, cannot speak” (97). Job has resonated with me over the last four years already. {Peter’s life verse actually comes from Job–chapter 5, verse 9} Reading this helped illuminate what I have felt glimmering in the depths of my soul.

My relationship with God has changed over this journey. It has deepened, become more solid, become more honest. I have learned to go to Him with it all, no matter what that all is.

Peter’s dedication service where we announced his life verse: “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Job 5:9 NIV

So, it is in His timing that the birth of our son came and the journey parameters change.

Messages

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Peter’s birth has given me much that I could say. I can say a lot about how incredibly weird C-sections are. I can talk about how wonderful our nurse anesthetist was. Or share how amazed our doctor was with the size of Peter’s head. Oh, and how popular Peter was in the hospital.

Meeting Peter at last!

But what really wants to be said starts several months before we were even pregnant with him.

Our journey to parenthood is not something I have been private about. You can find our experience throughout my blog. I feel strongly about lifting the stigma and silence that is associated with miscarriage. I’m not sure how else to do it except to continue to share in my small world.

I think I’ve mentioned before that shortly after our fourth loss my OB/GYN declared quite matter-of-factly that he would deliver my baby. I smiled and thanked him for his positivity, but I didn’t believe him. Not any more. His confidence wasn’t something that imbued me with the same.

Around six weeks later I woke from a dream that I actually remembered and shared with Steven. I was changing a baby boy’s diaper in what would be the nursery if we had one. He was kicking his legs, and I laughed saying, “We really need to come up with a name for you.” The baby looked at me and very clearly said, “My name is Peter.” I confirmed, “Peter?” and he said, “yes”. That was it. I woke up. The name Peter, before this, didn’t hold any real significance for me. But I knew from the moment I woke that if we did have a son, his name would be Peter.

Perhaps strongly because of this dream when we found out we were pregnant at the end of January 2020, we both said boy. We never really questioned it or wavered, despite the baby’s heart rate being above 140bpm. I think we busted every old wives’ tale, actually.

Early in our pregnancy, Steven had an encounter with a street person who shared the Gospel with him and assured him our baby would be fine. The man even gifted Steven with a cross necklace as a reminder of the encounter. I remember Steven came in from that experience with a sense of calm and peace about him. We do not doubt that he had a God moment with that gentleman.

I reminded my doctor at seven months pregnant that he had told me he was going to deliver my baby. He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Sometimes I just get a sense like that.”

In the hospital, Steven and I were amazed that exactly the nurse I needed for the moment was the nurse I had. When Peter wasn’t getting milk from me and lost over 10% of his birth weight, the nurse who knew how to suggest formula to a tired and worried new mom was there. She took Peter and worked with him and the bottle to teach him to suck, not chomp. And she told that tired mom her tears were normal.

Feeling better after getting some food in his belly and his mama got some sleep.

The next day when the lactation consultants didn’t seem to want to accept that the decision was to not put Peter back to the breast, the next nurse knew to tell that new mom that fed is best. She reminded me that what’s best for the baby is a happy and rested mom. It would be the greatest gift I could give my son. She, her name was Kris, said, “At the end of the day, this is your child for a reason.”

I don’t know if she knew our history. How much is in my chart that she has access to is a mystery to me. But in that one moment, I felt like God was reminding me that Peter was His gift to Steven and me. That He had been waiting to give it at this exact time.

Family.

God shows up. We can miss it. But His messengers and messages are there. He prepared us, gave us a name, and reassured us. May we be wise enough as we continue this journey to recognize Him.

Love One Another

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Periodically, over my career, students would ask why I was a Christian. I must admit that early on the question surprised me and my answer was trite.  But over time, as I guess happens with most people as they mature, my answer acquired more depth, at least in my eyes.

LentFirst, Christianity asks me to be humble–not only to my Creator, but also to those around me. I am to recognize that on my own I am small and weak and in need of help.  I should see myself as in the most need of help. Perhaps paradoxically, in some ways, despite this need, I am accepted.  I do not need to make myself better to receive the help that is offered.  I am enough.  It is in this weakness that I am accepted.  But finally, Christianity asks that I not stay there once I see these things in myself.  I am to move forward, as much as I’m able, with God’s help to loving others with the acceptance He has shown me.  Christianity asks me to get outside of myself, to lay down my selfishness, to believe that He can help me do that. These are reasons why I choose to believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

In the past week I have spent time reflecting on Christianity and my walk with Christ. I’m troubled by the state of the nation. I’m troubled by my own contributions to the current atmosphere.  While I may have never meant to place myself above others, it is without a doubt that I have.  I have not had to worry about walking down the street, or driving a nice car, or browsing in a store simply because of the color of my skin.  When the mask recommendation came from the CDC in response to the pandemic, I didn’t have to worry what people would think I was up to if I wore one.

How many times have I laughed at someone’s racist joke? How many times have I sat silently while someone spouted their own racist ideas? How many opportunities have I had to show love and failed?

I feel inadequate. I feel lost. I feel unprepared. I feel angry!

I feel angry that so often I hear people say things such as “well, we can’t help how we were raised.” I feel angry that they seem unconcerned about evaluating themselves and their own contributions to the current state of affairs. I feel angry that often I have jumped to conclusions and have pre-judged a person’s situation based on color.

I feel terrified that I will fail Grasshopper. I will fail to show Grasshopper that I was weak and wrong on many occasions, and that he/she can do better. I will fail to show Grasshopper that God’s call to humble ourselves and love one another is a call to do that in response to ALL people.

And so, I come back to why I’m a Christian.  Because God calls me to be outside of myself.  He accepts me where I am, but He urges me to be better, to move from where I am to somewhere that loves one another. God, help me.

God’s Gift: Christ, our Saviour

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Thank you for taking a few minutes each day over the last month to travel to this final gift with me.  I hope you have found the journey rewarding, and it has been a blessing for you.  As we continue to walk towards Epiphany in these twelve days of Christmas, may God show Himself in tangible and unmistakable ways to you. With the love of Christ, Season

Bible Reading: Luke 2:6-21

day27

The Shepherds and the angel, Carl Bloch, 1879

Shepherds.  They see Christ first.  They are the images used in Old Testament prophecy.

Shepherds who protect, guide, discipline. Shepherds who restore their relationships with the lost of their flock.

Christ is here! He is here to restore what was broken in the Garden.  He is here to provide the peace that surpasses understanding. . .because it is His peace, not human peace.  He is here to draw us closer to the kingdom of Heaven, the rule of God

He is what we have been waiting for.

Thoughts for today:

How does knowing that Christ is here change your time of waiting?

What does this, the final gift of God, mean to you personally?

Oh, how undeserving we are of this gift.  But how grateful we should be. Jesus. What is there to say in response to the enormity of this gift? Our reliance on His embodiment of every other gift from God is the only way to show our gratitude.  God doesn’t say that it will be easy. He understands our human hearts. He knows that while we want to do right, we won’t. But He’s here, while we wait, while we struggle, while we try.  

And He loves us. He is our gift.

God’s Gift: Prophecy

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Advent officially ended with the celebration of Christmas Day. However, sometimes, it’s longer and I have two more days in God’s Gift for those years when it does. May days 26 and 27 bless your heart and glorify God.

Bible Reading: Luke 2:1-5

It’s almost time.  The waiting is almost over.  In the midst of the busiest time of year, the child is coming.

It’s interesting here that despite the fact that the scriptures aren’t describing our modern Christmas season, there are distinct parallels. . .crowds converging in one place, no space or elbow room.  Both times following the decree of society, because what is Christmas shopping if not a societal sanctioned norm?

But in the middle of meeting government requirements Joseph and Mary fulfill God’s plan, prophesied in the Old Testament. 

It’s happening. All that we’ve been told would happen.

Will anyone slow down enough to notice?

Thoughts for today:

How can you slow down today and take in the details of happenings around you?

What part of the prophecy of Christ’s coming resonates with you most deeply?

We can thank God.  We can thank Him for each of the gifts He has put in place for us as we wait.  Preparation, promise, prophecy. He has not left us here to wait alone. Our circumstances are not without His knowledge and His care.  Each of His gifts is a helpmate during advent.

God’s Gift: Fulfillment

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Day 25 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Merry Christmas! May the peace and love of Christ light your day with joy.

Bible Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

day25

Joseph’s Dream in the Stable, Rembrant, 1645.

Joseph, a man trying to do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord through His law. Probably heartbroken.  His betrothed appears sullied, unclean, a liar even.

Even in his hurt he shows mercy.

In the dream from the Lord, he’s given the explanation and the instruction. And like Abraham many centuries before him, he doesn’t question.  He simply puts one foot in front of the other to move the way God last told him.

It doesn’t make sense. But he’s assured that it is part of the fulfillment of the Lord.  So, in the time of waiting, he does it.

Thought for today:

As you wait, what is the last instruction you received from God?

How can you feel confident, even in uncertainty, in moving forward with that instruction?

Like Joseph, do you need to show mercy?

God doesn’t owe us any explanation, but He will give us enough instruction to move forward.  The strength it takes to move one foot in front of the other while we wait comes from the Lord.  He will take all we do in His confidence and exalt it.

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