Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reverence

Many people talk about reverence in a church's sanctuary, and most of us have an opinion about what it should look like. What should reverence look like? I am increasingly convinced that in all truthfulness reverence is far more humble and holy than I would have expected from myself or others. But God is a holy, perfect God. These thoughts carried over into my whole religious experience within a matter of hours. I felt that I could not approach God because I am not reverent enough, and my idea of reverence, and holy, is rather irreverent, and unholy. And then I read this passage tonight:

"A certain man from [the Gadarenes] [met Jesus] who had demons for along time....When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, 'What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!...' For [the unclean spirit] had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness....Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind....Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him."

When I think back to my past, like this demoniac I was often irreverent in prayer and action. I am often still unholy in my thoughts toward God, careless and indifferent more than I ought to be. But God still loves me just as Jesus still loved this demon-controlled man.

God's love toward us in our irreverence, and complete unholiness, is so, so very good, that we are compelled to come to Him in true reverence. The love of God for us in our worst is what brings us to our best. Our thanksgiving in His love is the beginning true reverence. For the record, I am thankful that God is love.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dedication: I almost missed it

Sabbath, July 5, 2014 we had Edmund dedicated at the Livingston Fellowship church. My father and brother were there to stand up with us.



I have to admit that I did not expect to be emotional about it at all.  I thought it would just be a happy event with smiles and no tears.  And it was a happy event.  But there were tears too.  At least for me.


John Cook did the dedication and prayer of dedication, but before that he shared a few Bible verses.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9
 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

As soon as John said Deuteronomy 6:5 I looked at Matthew.  



That is the verse we had chosen for Edmund's Bible verse.  We chose it no knowing John would use it, and he didn't know that it was special to us.  This is just one of the many ways God shows His love and presence in our lives.

These are the other two verses.

Matthew 18:2-6
 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 

Mark 10:13-16
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.




Before the prayer of dedication John asked Matthew and I three questions.
Do you as parents confirm your commitment to a surrendered life in Jesus Christ?
By God's grace will you raise your child in the love and truth of Jesus our Lord and Savior?
Do you dedicate your child into the hand of our compassionate Almighty God, desiring His glorious will for Edmund's life?

As John asked those questions I felt this feeling overwhelm me, This almost wasn't me.  I almost wasn't here to say, "Yes!" to these questions.

There was a time in high school where I was sure that though God existed, He did not care about me, and so I did not care about Him.  But through the loving faith of others I saw His love for me and began on a new journey to know Him.

Standing there, holding Edmund with Matthew's hand on my waist I felt all I would have missed. My relationship with Matthew began because of our individual relationships with God and wanting to serve Him. Our marriage is loving and strong today because we kept committing ourselves to God even in the hard times- and we still do. We have Edmund because we prayed for God's will for us in having a family and God said, "Yes!"

Then John asked the church family these questions:
Will you join in dedicating this precious child to our gracious God?
Will you love encourage and nurture and pray for this family?
Will you assist in working toward a future day when this child and all our children  will by God's grace make a personal decision for Jesus and for baptism?

Beyond just my amazing family of Edmund and Matthew I would have missed my church family.  When I think of those in the church that are more than family to me, my heart swells.  They are ones who have been Jesus' hands and feet in my life, in my marriage, and now there are some who are joining to partner up with Matthew and I as we raise Edmund for God.

This almost wasn't me.  But it is.  By God's amazing grace it is.  I almost missed out on all this.





















Sabbath, September 20, 2014 we had Edmund dedicated at Cookeville SDA church.  The White's were there to celebrate with us.  And Edmund was awake this time.




















It is an amazing thing to dedicate your child to God, and to me the most amazing part is that there is this whole body of believers standing up next to you joining you in praying for your child to have a personal walk with Jesus and will be the village to help you do that.




















I love this little boy.  He is teaching me about God's love for me.  I'm so thankful.  So incredibly thankful that I said Yes! to Jesus all those years ago and didn't let bitterness take away all the joy that was to come.




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why I care for orphans (#showhopebloggers)

I am sitting here next to my son.  Watching him roll back to front and front to back.  His little fingers are exploring the textures of his play mat, the rug, the hardwood floor, and wooden chest nearby.  He lays on his stomach and smacks his feet against the ground.  The feeling of hard against his soft skin is a new sensation and he strives to crawl.  This child, born of my body and heart, takes up all my day.  Even when he sleeps my heart is in there with him.



Show Hope has asked me, as one of their bloggers, to answer the question: why do you care for orphans?

I care for orphans because as I love my son I think, doesn't everyone deserve to be loved like this?



I care for orphans because I cannot stand to think of a child alone.  Without some to love them unconditionally.

And some children are adopted as infants.  While others are teenagers.  But why I care is because everyone deserves to have someone love them the way I love my son.  To watch their growth and development with wonder and awe.  To cuddle them when they are hurting or just for fun.



I care for orphans because my heart hurts to think of them alone.

If my son was an orphan, I would want someone to love him as I love him.

So I care for orphans because they deserve to have love take them in.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What Mother Are You? (What mother am I?)

A few years ago I attended a conference and one of the major things I came away with was that you don't have to be defined by the best character traits (strong suites) or worst character traits  you have.  You can choose who you want to be and be it.  As a Christian I really felt that it applied to giving Jesus control in your life.

And so at the time there were things I decided to change about myself.  It was so freeing and liberating.

Recently I've come to another crossroad.  Mommy-hood.  Who on earth am I?  And from previous experience I feel that I can choose the type of mother/homemaker I want to be.  The question I find myself asking is who exactly is that?

Here are some stereotypes I've been thinking about.

The classic homemaker.
She dresses simply and sort of rustic.  Cans her own vegetables from her garden.  Makes everything from scratch.  She will be an educator for her children with amazing home activities. She appears quietly confident in her happy nest of a family.



The out-and-about fashion plate mother.
This mother is always on the go and looks amazing while she does it. She looks amazing no matter what time you catch her and her kids do too.  She appears confident and not frazzled by this craziness called motherhood. And yes, I want to be Princess Kate.



The frazzled mother.
You know her.  If you are a mother, you've probably been her.  Hair a mess.  Could care less about clothes. When you are around her, you feel stressed for her.



All of these stereotypes love their children and do what is best for them.  Who on earth am I?

Sometimes I find myself weighing my answers to people's questions about me being a mother now, and a stay-at-home mom.  Should I say what I think they want to hear? (And what "they" want to hear is different depending on the person.)  How much should I say? (Not everyone really want or needs to know the full story.)

I want to pick and choose parts of the good mothers that I see, and not, I repeat NOT be the frazzled mother.  But I feel frazzled at times. It seems like with a baby I should still be able to shower daily and do simple chores to keep the house clean.  But somehow it isn't that easy.  When I leave the house I love it and hate it.  Love it because I like being out and about with my little boy.  Hate it because it is so hard to do anything and I feel awkward.  And lonely.

Did I mention that motherhood can be lonely?

I think it is lonely because my friends are trying to figure out who I am too.  I used to be able to get up and go or stay out late or chat on the phone/text easily.  But now it is harder.  And people say things like, "I feel like we're not close anymore."  I am still me, but now I have a little boy who not only captures my heart but also needs me.  I have to put his needs above my wants.  And so it is lonely at times.

I am trying to reinvent myself.  Figure out who I am--now.

And I'll be honest it is harder than I thought.
__________

As a P.S. I would like to say that I would never ever trade being Edmund's mama for anything.  This post has nothing to do with the consuming and deep love I have for my precious son.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why Do Orphans Need Families?

A while back Matthew and I became Show Hope Sponsors.  Part of what Show Hope does is help create grants to give to families who are adopting.  Adoption can be expensive so this is a way to help.  As we have written before, not everyone is called to adopt, but we are all called to do something.

Part of that something is that occasionally we will be blogging about adoption as Show Hope Bloggers.

So here's the first question: Why do orphans need families?

It almost seems like the answer is in the question.  Of course there are many logical reasons.  Good reasons that all of us should look at.

But for me is is simply about love.  We each desire to be loved and give love and God created families for that.  Every child needs to have a safe place to "come home to."  Families are that unconditional love that is a safe haven.  Orphans need families so they can feel safe in a love that will let them be angry, sad, excited, frustrated, joyful, happy, and all sorts of emotions.

A family is a special sort of love that you never stop needing or wanting. No matter how old. Orphans need families for that unconditional love that is an expression of God's love for each of us.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Heart: Mine and His

On April 8 I sat in my OB-GYN's waiting area holding three ultrasound pictures and trying not to break down sobbing.  The last forty minutes I had spent in with the ultrasound tech--I thought it was a routine ultrasound to make sure everything was normal because I had been have some heart palpitation and felt that my heart was racing the week before.  During the ultrasound the tech went back again and again to my little baby boy's heart.  Picture after picture. Measurement after measurement.  I knew she couldn't answer any questions so I stayed silent.  And began to pray.  At one point she gave me the three ultrasound pictures and had me lay on my left side to get a different measurement of his heart and as I held those pictures I prayed and prayed and tried very hard not to cry.  Sometimes was wrong with my baby's heart and I didn't know what.

Sitting in the waiting area I texted Matthew--

Me: The whole ultrasound they looked at his heart :( please pray I feel close to tears.
But they did say he has hair.

Can you see it?

Matthew: Were they concerned? Will they tell you more?

Me: The ultrasound person can't say anything. Waiting to see Dr. Pham.  She [the ultrasound tech] asked me what lotion I used on my belly and if I drank caffeine :( and I don't know wy.

Matthew: Text or call when you're done please.

And as I sat there I thought, "This is why parenting is so hard."

It isn't about the late nights, or temper tantrums necessarily.  It isn't about long nights of school projects or battle of wills.

Parenting is hard because my heart is this little boy.  This little boy who I want all the best in the world for, who I want to protect and keep safe, and who I will always love more than myself--but who I cannot keep completely safe.  He was inside of me growing and all of a sudden there was something wrong with his heart, and I couldn't do anything about it.  And if I got to see him born and raise this child I loved so much, I realized then that it would always be hard because he was my heart walking around on legs.

When I was called back to see Dr. Pham she asked if she could listen to his heart and so I laid back on the table and she listened carefully for a few minutes.  She then shared with me that they had detected a heart arrhythmia.  His heart rate would change from one beat to another and while that is somewhat normal, his heart did it too much and too quickly.  She was going to have me see a specialist to look at his heart with another ultrasound before they made any recommendations or decisions on what to do.

I called Matthew as I left the doctor's office.  I cried.  And cried.

We began calling and texting people, asking them to pray.  So began the prayers that would cover our baby boy through out the process.

The specialist we were referred to has an outpatient site in our town, but their main office is 2 hours away in Chattanooga.  But the outpatient site only runs Thursday and Monday.  We wanted to get in as soon as possible, so after talking to the receptionist at my OB-GYN's office she said she would try to get an appointment tomorrow, Wednesday, down in Chattanooga--but would have to call me back in the morning because the other office was already closed.  The receptionist said she came in at 8:30am and would call the office right away and get back to me.

I knew right away that I needed Matthew to come with me.  I couldn't go down there to have another ultrasound of our baby's heart by myself.  I prayed that the news would be that everything was alright, but I didn't know.

Wednesday, April 9 Matthew went in to work and I waited for the phone call to see if we could drive to Chattanooga that day.  At 8:40ish the receptionist called to tell me that we had an appointment.  She gave me the time and I called Matthew to tell him I was on my way to pick him up so we could make it in time to the appointment.  I was relieved that we would know what was going on, but nervous about what we would see.

At the specialist we got into the ultrasound room, and at least this time I knew it was going to be all about the heart.  And Matthew was there with me.  After the tech finished doing all of her scans she said that the doctor would be with us in a few minutes.  When the doctor came in he looked at the ultrasound.  He explained to us that our baby boy had a very high heartbeat.  It was hovering around 205/210 bpm when it should have been 150/160.  He said that if I was earlier in my pregnancy that they would admit me to the hospital and try to slow down the baby's heart-rate, but at 38 weeks it was 6/half dozen one way or the other about what to do.  He called Dr. Pham and they both agreed to admit me to Erlanger and try to slow down the hear-rate using digoxin and if that didn't work then they would deliver the baby by cesarean.

When the doctor said that they would admit me to the hospital and deliver that baby I asked, "Today?"  He smiled and said yes.  Matthew later told me that he thought it was a silly question for me to ask, until the doctor responded with a 'yes'.  We were both in shock.

The doctor told us that like any muscle, if the heart is overworked, it can give out.  That was terrifying to hear, and all I wanted was for them to take out baby boy out of me and fix the problem.

In a daze we left the office and drove the few block to the hospital.  Parked, walked toward Labor & Delivery, signed in, and were admitted to a room.  There were more phone calls, more prayers, and the love and support just poured forth.















We had made all of our plans and preparations for having our baby back home, and this was a little difficult not having Dr. Pham there, who I totally trust and has been with me through my pregnancy.  Our church family and school family were all two hours away, one who was going to do my epidural if I needed one.  Thankfully, and I believe ordained by God, we were at a hospital near where many of our friends were and where one of our dearest friends worked in the NICU.

We were not alone.  Soon after we were admitted one of our friends came in and through out that day friends came in.  Some brought food, others flowers, all brought love, prayers, and support.

Matthew and I waited anxiously to have them put the medicine in my IV to see if it would slow down our baby boy's heart-rate.  Hours passed.  Apparently there was some difficulty with getting the medicine from the pharmacy.  Meanwhile, we continued to watch the glowing red numbers that showed our son's racing heart.  190, 205, 200, 210--the numbers fluctuated but remained high.

An amazing friend from home brought us our "hospital bag" and other items we would need.  How blessed are we to have such friends?  And at the school Matthew's sub stayed on to take the days he would have to stay at the hospital.  We are richly blessed.  Everyone was supportive and praying.



It was early afternoon when we were admitted and it was late evening when I finally got the first dose of medicine in my IV.  Then came the long stretch of waiting through the night to see if there would be any changes to our son's heart-rate.

The elastic straps that held the heart monitor to my large belly tracked his heart-rate, and another tracked mine.  I was also hooked up to a special heart monitor to make sure I stayed okay during the night with the medicine. I had two EKGs done, the second one because my heart kept changing speeds.

Throughout the long night I tried to get comfortable, but when I would lay on my side the monitor tracking our baby's heart would slip and the nurse would try to come quietly in and move it, but I always woke up.  And almost every time I would ask if the heart-rate had slowed down.  Each time it had not.  The nurses were wonderful.  Seriously wonderful. I could not have asked for better and kinder nurses.


Finally morning came.  I was relieved after very little sleep and lots of anxiety.  I spoke to one of the resident doctors who said that I was scheduled to have one last dose of medicine at 9:00 am and if that didn't work in 30 minutes then at 9:30 am I was scheduled for a cesarean.



The medicine came.  No changes.  We were brought to have another ultrasound.  Dr. Torres was the doctor who saw us there and was very kind and informative.  The heart-rate was not changed by the medicine and for the health and safety of the baby he would be delivered cesarean so they could more easily monitor his heart.  We went back to the room expecting to be prepped for surgery, but then it was delayed to 10:30 am, then delayed again to 11:00 am.  Each time the nurses or anyone came into the room my anxiety rose.  Were we going now?  Was my baby about the be born?  Would he be okay?  

Thankfully three friends were there to wait with us and we chatted to keep me calm.



Then suddenly they came to prep me.  They scrubbed my belly and talked me through a few things and then left to get the final thing ready.

That's when I started to become terrified.  All that anxiety and fear and stress had built up and now it was crashing over me.  I felt hot and scared and like I couldn't breathe.  Matthew rubbed my back, read the Bible to me, and kept holding me close to Jesus.  If I could have dreamed up a more patient, strong, brave, compassionate husband I could not have done better than what God has given me in Matthew.



I kept thinking, What if I can't go through with this?  What if I can't because I'm so afraid? But I kept reminding myself that so many people were praying and I had to go through this.

One of the verses Matthew read to me was Psalm 27, which he had also read the night before.  The last verse in Psalm 27 is this:

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!


I didn't feel that it was a coincidence in the wording of that verse.  God would strengthen our son's heart.  I just had to wait on the Lord.  His timing and ways.

My nurse, Alex came back to wheel me to the operating room but before she took me my friends and Matthew gathered around to pray--and Alex joined her hands with ours and prayed.



I was taken into the OR room and Matthew was to wait outside, get dressed in scrubs, and wait to be called in.  I sat on the table, which was smaller than I thought it would be, and the CRNA, Elisha and her assistant began to put in my spinal tap.  It burned and the pressure sensation made me feel intense pressure and some pain.  I felt alone, but Alex was standing to my left and I reached out and held onto her hand.  I would squeeze it when the pain was great and she just stood with me and was such an incredible comfort.  Once it was completed they laid me back on the table and began to put up the divider so we wouldn't be able to see the surgery.  They did a "test" and asked if I could feel anything, I couldn't -- and I was relieved.  I didn't want to feel any part of that operation.

I began to feel very nauseated and dizzy.  Sweat broke out and I felt awful.  Quickly Elisha worked to stabilize my dropping blood pressure and Dr. Torres walked in.  "There is a guy outside who is anxious to come in," he said.  "Should we let him?"  "Yes," I replied, weak but needing Matthew more than ever.

There were sounds of the nurses and doctors getting ready to operate.  I heard someone say, "Scalpel."  And I was afraid that they weren't going to let Matthew in, in time.  "Bring in her husband." I heard Dr. Torres say, and then there was Matthew.  My arms were each spread out like a cross and I reach my right hand to Matthew and said, "I'm glad you're here."  He held my hand and the surgery began.  Through out the surgery Matthew and I quoted Bible verses, hymn lyrics, and spiritual songs.  He continued a funny story about Mei Mei and Nani (our bassets) that he began when I was panicking in the room before. I focused on Matthew and the words he was saying, not on the surgery.  Yet, I waited--waited to hear our son's first cry.

Then I was told I was going to feel a lot of pressure.  I felt, what I think, was two nurses pressing on me, right by my rib-cage.  Elisha said, "They are pushing because you can't."  And I knew that soon our baby would be born.  Matthew kept talking with me and then I heard a cry.  Then silence.  I looked at Matthew silently praying for another cry.  To know our son was okay.  Then the beautiful sound of cry after cry.  I looked at Matthew with tears in my eyes and saw his eyes were filled with tears.  There are no words to describe hearing the first cries of your child.  We were parents.  We were a family.

Dr. Torres came over to the side and showed us our son all fresh from the womb and crying.  Then whisked him back over to the NICU nurses who were there to assess him and get him ready.  Matthew was able to go over and see him and came back to sit with me.  Still holding my hand.  He was so amazing the whole time.

Alex, my nurse came over and said, "I'm dying to know his name."  I said, "Edmund."  She smiled and looked like it reminded her of something.  So I said, "From the Chronicles of Narnia."  "That's what I was thinking!" she said.

Someone came over to tell us that his heart-rate was still high and they would be taking him to the NICU.  I continued to pray for Edmund's heart.  Achingly wishing I could do something to help him, but so thankful he was safely delivered and that the medical staff would do whatever they could to help him.

Then came the precious moment when they brought Edmund over to me.  I couldn't hold him, oh how I ached to hold our precious boy.  Matthew stood up and took Edmund in his arms.  And then he bent down to me.  And there was my perfect boy.  The baby I had seen in ultrasounds and felt inside me.  I kissed his cap covered head and whispered that I loved him.  He wasn't crying and was just quietly swaddled and in his Daddy's arms.  One of the nurses offered to take our picture and so we got our first family picture.



Matthew then went with the NICU people and Edmund.  I began shaking and Elisha asked if I wanted a blanket, and I said I thought it was nerves, but I kept shaking.  She was very kind and explained that they were sewing me up and it wouldn't be too long now.  Then they would take me to recovery.   As they began to take down the divider I looked at the board where Edmund's stats were and saw that his Apgar was 9/9.  I felt happy and continued to pray for his heart.

The operating room staff rolled me onto a bed and pulled these wonderful warm covers over me.  It felt amazing.  They wheeled me into recovery where Matthew was waiting for me.  I was so happy to see him.  Once they settled me in Matthew and I called our parents and siblings to let them know that Edmund had been born and I was through surgery.




Matthew showed me pictures of our son that he had taken in the NICU and explained that he had gone with them but could only stay for a little and then was told he could go back in 45 minutes.  Matthew went back and forth between Edmund and I.  Caring and watching over us both.  Each time he came back I hungrily looked at pictures and videos.  Never tiring he took care of both of us as well as he could and created this atmosphere of love and security that cannot be valued enough.

These are some of the pictures Matthew showed me.





Once when Matthew left I asked for water, because I hadn't been able to eat or drink anything since midnight but then I was really nauseated -- mostly likely from the spinal tap medicine.  But I could tell it was a different nausea than I had been dealing with for the last 9 months.

After being in recovery for about an hour I was wheeled to my new room where friends had been waiting.  I wasn't allowed to go and see Edmund until I could move myself into a wheelchair.

One of the doctors came in from the NICU to brief Matthew and I on Edmund's progress.  I don't remember how the exact conversation went but they said once he had been delivered and they re-examined his heart that he had atrial flutter.  They told me that everything they were telling me had already been done.  After that is when they told Matthew and I that they had shocked Edmund's heart and that it was not beating normally.  I was glad they hadn't told me before that did that.  I don't think I could have stood knowing that was going to happen.  At the same time, hearing from the doctor that Edmund's heart was now beating normally and that they didn't expect any other problems was a relief I cannot express.

Edmund's tiny heart was strengthened.  I praised and thanked God in my heart--knowing that He had answered our prayers.

Slowly I could feel my lower stomach, and then which leg was being squeezed in the leg compressor.  Finally I could wiggle my toes, so Matthew and I asked the nurses if I could go to see Edmund.

 Seeing and holding Edmund for the first time was a sweet peace of feeling that all was now right.  It was not an adrenaline rush.  It was almost exactly like when Matthew and I kissed on our wedding day for the first time.  When we kissed, it was like this knowing.  Complete peace that this was right.

When Edmund was placed in my arms.  Bundled up with wires and tubes.  I felt a sense of knowing.  Knowing him, even though I'd never held him, I knew him--and I knew this was our family.  That he was my son.  It is hard to explain this knowing feeling but it is that all is right in the world at that moment.  Sweet perfect peace.















Since then my love for him has only grown.  With that love, the knowledge that he is my heart, outside my body and my life has forever been changed.  There is part of a stanza in a poem that says, "Before I was a Mother, I didn't know the feeling of having my heart outside my body."















My heart is Edmund.  And thanks to God and the many prayers and wonderful medical staff at Erlanger Hospital, his heart is now beating normally.












Friday, February 28, 2014

Brother


I have wanted to write this blog for a long time.  And I have drafted it in my head over and over, but I don't end up writing it because I know I will fall short of expressing what I want to express.  Even now I know I will probably fall short, but I want to try.



My brother, Jason is so many things to me.

He gets me.
There have been many times where I am filled with an emotion I cannot express and try and fail.  And when he is around he soaks it in--and then at exactly the right time he talks to me about it.  He understand me better than anyone.  Better than I know myself sometimes.



He strengthens me.
I don't remember a lot before I was five but when our lives changed forever with the divorce of our parents Jason was my constant friend.  Ecclesiastes says that two are better than one because if one falls down he has no one to help him up.  We didn't talk a lot about the journey we were on but I always knew we were together in it.  Even if no one else understood--he did.  I think I really realized how much I depended on his steady presence when he left for college and our schedules were different.  It was shattering.


He also challenges me.
Now, these are not always fun.  In high school he challenged the way I dressed, what I listened to, and watched.  I was not an easy person to talk to about my behavior and I would fight back with words.  He didn't back down, didn't use harsh words with me, and in the end the Holy Spirit used him to help transform the inner and outer-workings of my life.


He waits for me.
This summer we got our 50th state together.  Montana.  When we were planning how to get out there, he wanted to know if I would want to get there at the same time.  He knows things like timing are important to me.  


He celebrates with me.
For all the pain or hard times we've been through he is always there in the front to celebrate the big moments and small moments of happiness.






















He calls me beautiful.
I have been so broken and ugly to my brother.  He knows my worst sins and has felt my anger and misery.  But I cannot remember one word he has spoken to me in anger.


He inspires me.
I see so much of what I want to be in my brother.  He lives out Jesus to others.  He dreams the dreams I'm afraid to dream.

I love my brother Jason and this doesn't show all he is to me, but I hope it gives a glimpse.  I have been, am, and will forever be blessed to have him as my brother.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yes and No Friends



A friend of mine posted this on my facebook wall a while back.

It reminded me of a picture I'd saved from Ann Voskamp's facebook.



And I wondered, is it true that friends love your "no" as much as your "yes"?

Yes.  I think it must be.  But maybe that helps define what a friend is.

A friend is someone who drives hours to visit you and ends up helping to make their own guest bed and clean the kitchen.

A friend is someone who texts you a new "anti-nausea" idea they've heard about, just in case it might help ease the constant sickness.

A friend is someone who drives hours to for a few short hours of celebration.

A friend is someone who sends messages of prayer and support even though we haven't seen in each other in person for years.

A friend is a guest who doesn't even ask, but hand-washes the dishes that won't fit in the dishwasher.

A friend is someone who sends you a box full of candy that has been helping the nausea, just because.

A friend is someone who keeps sending you get well cards, even though they were hoping it would only last 3 months.

A friend is someone I'm not afraid to tell, "I don't feel well enough today..." or "I can't do that."

Sometimes I think I'll look back on this section of my life with painful memories.  And those will be there.  It has not been easy.

But other times I think I'll look back at this time and see all of the beautiful people and their acts of service and love and see how truly blessed I was with real friends.

Lord, thank you for the gifts You've given me.  Give me eyes to see and a heart to focus on them.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Books of the Year - 2013

This is late by a couple weeks...or a few. But it's better late than never I hear, so here are my top books from the year 2013.

1. The Desire of Ages, Ellen White

If I could pick just one book to keep and read, apart from the Bible, for the remainder of my days, I would choose this book without hesitation. The Conflict of Ages series hinges upon this book, which focuses on the life of Jesus - the theme of Ellen White's writings. After reading each chapter I would often tell Beth-Anne, "Wow! That was the best chapter ever." This was repeated for much of the book. Jesus. Enough said.

2. The Great Controversy, Ellen White

This is the only way the most epic book series ever could end. Can a more profound book be published outside the Bible? I thought it would be an intense, difficult read but found it rather encouraging and uplifting in a life-changing sort of way. Some books are good and stick around for a while. This book is on a list of its own and will be reflected upon for decades.

3. Joseph, Terri Fivash

Who doesn't love the story of Joseph? Well researched. Well written. It added to the Biblical account without being ridiculously unbiblical. I'll probably read it again in the coming years.

4. We Bought a Zoo, Benjamin Mee

Don't bother with the movie. That was a waste of time and did not follow the book nearly enough. I know, that's typical. So just skip the movie and read the book instead. It had some "interesting" portions I skipped, but the book overall was hilarious, engaging, and memorable. I recommend the audio version because of the British accent. 

5. Singer on the Sand, Norma Youngberg

This book was recommend by Caitlin Meharry. She was a dear friend who challenged me by her simple joy in God while she was alive. Any book she recommends is going to be a great read. Our school got a copy of this book and I read it to my students. I was able to share with Caitlin that I had taken her advice to read it before she passed. This story is amazing, and the students loved it, but the sentiment I have for it is could easily vault it higher on my list.

6. Moose Country, Sam Campbell

Sam's books have an amazing ability to sooth the reader and bring nature into the home. After a stressful or busy day there was nothing so relaxing as reading Moose Country to Beth-Anne just before sleep.

7. I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai

This girl is inspiring! She stood up for education for girls in Pakistan and was shot by the Taliban. Very well written with enough humor sprinkled in to keep the reader entertained, if not inspired.

8. Loony Coon, Sam Campbell

More ridiculously funny than Moose Country, Loony Coon is, yes, calming, but more sensational. It's hard to believe all the antics that happened in this book. Well worth the time to read it. I expect to read this to my kids multiple times as the years go by.

9. Lost in the Barrens, Farley Mowat

I watched this movie as a kid and loved it, but there was something addicting about this book as an adult. It is well worth the time to read if you're a guy. If you choose to read it, make it during the winter months to enhance the experience.

10. Counting on Grace, Elizabeth Winthrop

Historical fiction is fascinating and this book does not disappoint. I learned a great deal about this time period in New England's history. It is good enough, and clean enough, to suggest to my students. Doffing as a child was no easy task during the Industrial Revolution.

Honorable Mentions:

Dewey
Seal of God
Fire by Jason Vanderlaan
Education by Ellen White
Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Julie of the Wolves
To Kill a Mockingbird

Friday, January 10, 2014

Happy All the Day Long

I do not have thick skin. I can't shrug off difficult things like others. I take too much to heart. But I have Jesus. And this is what He showed me this week. Maybe it will help you too.

-------

"Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer, That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me, at my Father's throne, Make all my wants and wishes known!
In seasons of distress and grief, My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempters snare, By thy return, sweet hour of prayer."
                     -William W. Walford, Sweet Hour of Prayer


"When children sleep under the scraps stitched into quilts and the clock ticks too loudly through the dark hours and the spiral galaxies spin in space, I lie under the afghan by the fire and read...'The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live.... He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.'"
-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, quoting Albert Schweitzer, Reverence for Life


"If received in faith, the trial that seems so bitter and hard to bear will prove a blessing....

God would not have us remain pressed down by dumb sorrow, with sore and breaking hearts. He would have us look up and behold His dear face of love....We may keep the heart stayed upon Him and meditate upon His loving-kindness all the day. He will lift the soul above the daily sorrow and perplexity, into a realm of peace."
-Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing


"You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You."
-Isaiah, Isaiah


"O soul, are you weary and troubled? 
No light in the darkness you see? 
There's light for a look at the Savior, 
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace."
-Helen H. Lemmel, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus


"It is the love of self that destroys our peace. While self is all alive, we stand ready continually to guard it from mortification and insult; but when we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God, we shall not take neglects or slights to heart. We shall be deaf to reproach and blind to scorn and insult....

Happiness drawn from earthly sources is as changeable as varying circumstances can make it; but the peace of Christ is a constant and abiding peace....Christ is the fountain of living water, and happiness drawn from Him can never fail."
-Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing


"The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever."
-A Psalm of David, Psalm 23


 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace..."
-Paul, Galatians 


"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
-Jesus, Matthew

 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Prayers of Blessings

Christmas day we were at my grandparents house in New Jersey where we always gather to spend "Christmas" -- whether it is on December 25th or not.  

This Christmas was special because I had asked my grandfather and step-dad to do a prayer of blessing over our baby boy.

So after all the gifts were opened and we had enjoyed lunch (and I went back into pajamas to stay comfortable), we all sat in the family room.

Granddaddy read these sentences from Child Guidance p. 27, "The first child especially should be trained with great care, for he will educate teh rest.  Children grow according to the influence of those who surround them." 

My Granddaddy is a joker and said, "It says the first, so that means more!"  So this is me laughing about the more part.  Let's just make it through the first one!


Then he prayed a blessing over our baby boy--and Matthew and I.


















After he prayed Pappa shared about the names of God and how one of the names means that He is the Shepherd who leads us, and that we should know that all of the family will be praying for us, and hopes that we will remember that whatever our needs are at the moment that God will provide.


Then he prayed a blessing over Matthew & I and our baby boy.

I am richly blessed and so is our baby boy.  I love my family.

Baby Gender Reveal for the Students

Matthew and I wanted to share our exciting news of boy or girl with our students in a way that we hoped would be fun for them.  After all, they are family to us and they are just as excited about the baby as anyone else I think.

So we decided on doing silly string.  The caps were taken off the spray bottles, a few students chosen, and whatever color came out would reveal to the students the baby's gender.  Plus they would get to spray us.

The day before the students each voted what they thought the baby would be. :)






















A baby boy!

Here is a video of the fun!

video


Thank you Tima for coming and doing the photography!
Thank you Dawn for doing the video!