Category Archives: Christianity

I was going to…. (and then, I did)

…actually write a blog post today.  But, I’ve decided to use my rare time on the actual desktop computer to look for plans for a chicken tractor, instead.  (OK, I wrote a blog post.)

I will briefly update to say:

This is blurry. I need more pictures of Ethan. This is on his first day of pre-university freshman camp, where he was hesitant to go, but where he forged some really close friendships. Ethan is dear.

This is blurry. I need more pictures of Ethan. This is with my husband on Ethan’s first day of pre-university freshman camp, where he was hesitant to go, but where he forged some really close friendships. Ethan is dear.

1. My oldest son, Ethan, is doing great at Arizona State.  He is getting all As, and one of his professors loves his writing so much that he is keeping all of Ethan’s writing assignments to use as examples in current and future classes.  While this is a particular win for Ethan (and for me, because — yay!  I didn’t really suck as a teacher!), it’s a win for homeschooling, in general.  Because what does this professor want?  Analysis.  Synthesis.  Excellent grammar.  Thoughtful, insightful writing.  An understanding of the topic at hand.  As a homeschooling mom, this is what I want, too!  I’m not just looking for my children to regurgitate information;  I want them to understand and to think.  Apparently, professors enjoy having students who can do this.

Grant at his last CAP promotion with his almost-girlfriend and another CAP friend.

Grant at his last CAP promotion with his almost-girlfriend and another CAP friend.

2.  My 16 year-old, Grant, is still mostly homeschooling in the traditional way.  He is, however, taking two classes at a local two-day-a-week co-op.  Honestly, he isn’t killin’ it like I thought he would;  it’s a struggle for him.  But, that’s a good thing to figure out NOW, as a junior, rather than in his freshman year of college.  He still has the Air Force Academy as his goal, and is killin’ it in Civil Air Patrol Cadets, where he is a Staff Sergeant.

Wesley on his 14th birthday, nearly a month ago.

Wesley on his 14th birthday, nearly a month ago.

3.  My son, Wesley, is a freshman at a small, conservative, tuition-free charter school.  I have been extremely pleased with the school itself, and shocked, frankly, with how well Wesley has integrated into “the system”.  There is one class in which he isn’t doing well — French II — and it’s mostly because of conflict with the teacher, who is pretty hard-nosed.  But, I’m fine with that.  I’ve told Wesley that, a) it’s an elective, and he’s still actually learning to speak French quite beautifully.  And, b) for his whole life, he will encounter people who don’t “get” him, or are otherwise challenging, and learning to adapt and have healthy relationship is at least as important as learning particular subjects.  So, overall:  he’s doing very well.

My girls at a friend's house, doing crafts. Fiala has the blue headband, and Audrey is in the background, top left.

My girls at a friend’s house, doing crafts. Fiala has the blue headband, and Audrey is in the background, top left.

4.  Audrey is in 4th grade and Fiala is in 2nd.  They are both doing excellently in school.  Audrey is doing 6th grade math.  Fiala can spell as well as a 4th grader.  It was my aim for them to have FUN this year;  to have a rich, full educational experience.  That is happening.  Because I couldn’t find a group in my area which was relaxed and social with no fees and no “statement of faith” to sign, I started a homeschool support group.  We’re up to 95 families, which is crazy.  Not everyone participates in every event, of course, but I organize a weekly park day, a weekly mom’s night grade-and-chat at a local coffee shop, and usually 1-3 additional events weekly.  So, we’re busy, but it’s fun-busy.  We’ve been to museums and on day trips and to art classes and more.  This is exactly the sort of school year I envisioned for them, even if it means that we’re making really slow progress through the structured curriculum we’re doing (old Sonlight Core 2).

Jeanie at the park (after a visit to the splash pad). Funny and happy -- not disturbed. :)

Jeanie at the park (after a visit to the splash pad). Funny and happy — not disturbed. 🙂

5.  Jeanie is two years old and absolutely crazy.  She is fun, chubby, happy, very active, doesn’t nap well, and has a thing for playing with her poop, which drives me absolutely batty.  Yesterday, when I thought she was napping, she actually sculpted a faux hawk for herself with her poop.  Yes, it was as gross as it sounds.  “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???!!??” I admit I yelled.  Holy crap.  Literally.  It’s one of those things where my previous judgements have come back, in God’s humorous way, to bite me in the butt.  Truthfully, when I had previously heard about other toddlers playing with their poop — since none of my kids had ever done that — that there must be something deeply wrong with the family, or with the child, emotionally.  Or something.  Playing with poop is clearly wrong and disturbed.  Well, Jeanie is about the furthest a child could be from “disturbed”.  But, she still plays with her poop.

6.  Jeanie has been going to the home of a dear friend of mine for two hours, four days a week, and in exchange, I tutor my friend’s great-granddaughter for Kindergarten.  She also goes to weekly park day with us, and on field trips.  This is the first time I’ve taught a child other than my own.  In the past, I’ve declined such requests, because they’re mostly along the lines of, “Hey, since you’re already home and teaching your own children, and public schools stink and private schools are too expensive, why don’t I bring my child over and you can teach her/him for free!”  Which I decline.  However, this particular plan is going quite well!  I’m paid AND my friend keeps Jean, which really makes the whole thing possible.  I had intended for Audrey and Fiala to be doing their seatwork (math, grammar/phonics, handwriting, and journal) while I work with our Kindergarten-friend.  However, we’re doing Five in a Row (plus Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and Handwriting Without Tears).  And, apparently, even though my older daughters are nine and seven years old, they still enjoy FIAR books and activities, which, frankly, I didn’t do enough of, with either of them.  So, they are reliving kindergarten, and having a blast.  (Reminder:  Audrey is doing sixth grade math and can spell as well as a 7th grader, and is on-track with her other subjects;  doing K won’t damage her education, thankyouverymuch.)

My new (unplanted) garden bed with most of the summer stuff in the far garden bed pulled -- except for the giant okra bushes.

My new (unplanted) garden bed with most of the summer stuff in the far garden bed pulled — except for the giant okra bushes.

7.  My garden is doing fab.  The past summer, in my first — 8′ x 12′ — bed, the most successful things I grew were:  Clemson Spineless okra — which is actually still growing, here in late October.  My okra bushes — five of them — are nearly six feet tall, and still producing, though more slowly, as it has cooled a bit.  I also grew Lemon Queen sunflowers, which were amazing — a good 7-8 feet tall.  Armenian cucumbers grew wonderfully and were extremely productive.  The next-most successful plant was Fonzy Melons, which I grew from saved seed from an organic melon I had purchased early this year.  And flowers — Sulphur Cosmos.  They made lovely cut flowers all summer and are self-seeding in actually a rather invasive way.  It’s a nice problem to have, actually.  Oh!  And a volunteer spaghetti squash was quite productive.  Less successful were banana squash, Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and a musk melon.  I had a number of tomato plants come up volunteer — which I’m still growing — as well as a tomatillo plant which grew humungous and was covered in flowers, but never fruited.  Dumb waste of space.  I yanked it.  In the places where I have pulled out and re-prepped the soil in this bed, I have planted Atomic Red carrots, Greyzini summer squash (which will grow here in the winter!), Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach, Super Sugar snap peas, white sweet Spanish onions, and zinnias, all from Pinetree Garden Seeds (which, yes, I know their test gardens are in Maine.  But, I’m a sucker for small, family-owned seed companies).  I have had a heck of a time getting the carrots and spinach to germinate, but the Greyzini has its first tiny fruit already growing!  I have prepared a larger, 12′ x 12′ bed “next door” to my first bed.  That sucker took ALL SUMMER AND FALL for me to prepare, as a) bermudagrass is so, so, so, so horridly invasive;  b) our clay soil is hard and heavy;  c) I worked on it in my “spare” time.  The bed is now waiting for me to till in all the amendments.  I haven’t done that because a) it has rained so much in the last week that the ground is too wet! and, b) I bought a rototiller and a friend from high school fixed it for me, but our schedules haven’t allowed us to meet up for him to return it!  And, I don’t want to till 12′ x 12′ of heavy clay soil by shovel.  In the new bed, I’ll be sowing more sugar snaps, Harris parsnips, Ching Chang bok choy, more carrots, Top Bunch collards, a leaf lettuce mix, Cardinal chard, Homemade Pickles cucumbers, more onions, Red Cloud beets, Gaillardia, and nasturtiums.  Although I haven’t actually planned out the space exactly to see if I can fit all that into the bed…  I might have to pull the okra, which I was considering trying to overwinter.

8.  We’re still plugging away at our home remodel.  I’m kind of weary of it, so I won’t say much about it, except to admit that it’s still in process.

9.  We are still at Vineyard Phoenix and absolutely are in love with our local representation of the Body of Christ.  (If you click the link, that is my hubby in the video on the front page.)  God is good and moving mightily by His Spirit.  People are getting saved and healed.  It’s really an amazing church, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.  I’m leading worship again at a small home group, which I greatly enjoy.  I also am teaching the 4s and 5s Sunday morning preschool class once a month and singing on the worship team usually about twice a month.  Our head pastor — whom I’ve known since I was 15 (I’m 42) — stepped down to a semi-decreased, semi-retired role in July, which gives him greater liberty to immerse himself in missions and apostolic ministry.  As I type this, he’s in Zambia.  My hubby’s best friend, Doug Scott, is now our head pastor.  I adore Doug.  I’m biased, but…. seriously….  I feel like God has given me absolutely GOLD with the church in which I get to participate.

10.  As I mentioned at the beginning….  I’ve been given the go-ahead to start my chicken flock!!  I’m super-excited.  I just need to go now and get that figured out.  🙂

11.  My husband is awesome, and I’m very grateful for him.  NOTE:  Awesome doesn’t mean perfect, nor does it mean that we don’t work, work, work, work on our relationship.  We do.  We have ups and downs.  But, this November, we’ll celebrate 21 years of marriage that has been profoundly blessed and is the result of two people loving Jesus and not giving up on each other.  HALF OF MY LIFE will be with that man, and it has been an honor.

My love and blessings to each of you who have read through this.

This is me in my new glasses. I'm aiming for a haircut, if I can get to the salon sometime in the near future. Someone who recently met me for the first time -- but who had seen this picture -- said to me,

This is me in my new glasses. I’m aiming for a haircut, if I can get to the salon sometime in the near future. Someone who recently met me for the first time — but who had seen this picture — said to me, “You don’t look like your Facebook profile pic,” and not in a good way. LOL! I do like this picture, perhaps because it doesn’t actually look like me.

Leadership, caliche, gardens, hearing from God, and finding Jesus in the Old Testament

This past weekend was amazing, as the last weekend in January for the last 17 years has always been for me.

My church has a leadership retreat every January.

That sounds run-of-the-mill, but it’s not.

We attend about 48 hours of meaty, practical, inspiring teaching sessions and have powerful worship and ministry.  It’s a time when the ministers are ministered to.

Additionally, many leaders and pastors attend from around the world, each who have close ties to my church.  This year, there were folk from Northern Ireland, Zambia, Mexico, and South Korea.  Thus, we call it the Leadership Summit.

I have no words to explain how powerful and amazing and NEEDED this event is.

So, I won’t try.

But…  a couple of things I will say:

  1. I have no great love for the desert.  How I deal with this, in my heart, ebbs and flows.  Sometimes, I do better than others, adjusting to the fact that my husband is a native of Phoenix, our greatly beloved church is here, and my husband’s amazing job is here, as well.  This past year, I struggled a lot, though.  There are a variety of reasons for that, but let’s just leave it there:  I struggled.  I have been sad.  At the Summit, with tears, I realized that I needed to… adjust my heart.  This is where I am.  This is, for my husband and perhaps even for myself, the land of our anointing, in spite of the brown, the hot, the dry, the dusty, the lifeless, burnt desert.  This is where our Father God has us.  It just is.  I don’t know why He has put a yearning in my heart for green, for rain, for humus instead of caliche, while placing me in its opposite.  Yet, He has.  And, I realized that I just had to accept His sovereignty and find my sufficiency in Him.  On Thursday night, I prayed in my heart, “Father, You are my garden.  You are my brook.  You are my green, rolling hills.  You are my rain.”  That was hard, but it was good.  The next night, I was standing there, while the worship team played and sang, just soaking it in with my palms up, receiving.  A young man from Northern Ireland came over and started praying and speaking prophetically over me.  “I see you in the Father’s orchard.  There is fruit there.  A lot of low-hanging fruit.”  He proceeded to encourage me about my life being fruitful.  And then he said, “And the Father is walking with you, in the cool of the evening.”  !!!   Those words are from the description of the time in the Garden of Eden.  I laughed.  I couldn’t help it.  God is so good, and He is so faithful to make sure I REALLY GET IT when He speaks to me.  He is my garden.

    Caliche, or what passes for “soil” in the Sonoran Desert.

  2. I went to the Summit in hopes of hearing from God for… distilling… sorting out… prioritizing… refocusing.  Instead, I felt the Father call me to become “determined to know nothing… except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”  I have debated whether or not to post about this on here.  I want to know Jesus in… obscurity.  Just know Him.  Learn more about Him.  Hear His heart.  But, I thought it also might be an encouragement to some reading this:  rather than seeking what Jesus HAS FOR ME, I’m just seeking Jesus.  Everything else for which I look — direction, maturity, a “job” in the Kingdom of God, a future and a hope — is secondary, a byproduct.  So, I committing a certain amount of time, really an extravagant amount of time, daily, to reading Scripture and hearing from God.  I’ve started in Genesis, and am planning to read fairly quickly through the Bible, and be looking for Jesus among the pages.  Yes, I know He doesn’t appear until the book of Matthew.   But, really, everything in even the Old Testament points to Jesus’ appearance here on earth.  I felt God tell me that, in spite of spending time that I, frankly, don’t have, He will continue to provide time.  He’ll provide efficiency, focus, and clarity of thought as I go through my day.  Everything that needs to get done will get done, even as I attempt to delve into the Word of God for several hours daily.

Trendsetter and other good news

Fiala was the flowergirl in the wedding of some dear friends in November. I made her dress.

My days aren’t always wonderful.  But, today has been smashing and I don’t want to forget it.

First, our mourning has been turned into dancing.  Earlier this week, we discovered that the awful scraping sound emanating from my Land Barge’s engine was its last, dying gasp.  It needed a new engine — to the tune of $3,500 or so.  This morning, someone called to tell us that, essentially, he is going to pay for it.  This “someone” is returning a favor for house plans that my husband designed for him.  I must confess that I have groused somewhat about what I feel is people taking advantage of my husband’s generosity with his home-designing skills, which he frequently does for free, or very nearly so, on the side*.  It seems to me that folks don’t comprehend the time, effort, skill, and flat-out genius that goes behind their remodel, or whatever.  I have strongly suggested that he charge what he’s worth.  He refuses.  I pout and feel self-righteous about at least internally defending my husband.  However, I will never breathe a word of complaint again.  Even enters my mind I will remind myself that GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL and HE WILL ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF US and no kindness is wasted in God’s economy.  I will give all future unkindly thoughts** a kick to the curb and not let them enter into the dwelling place of my ponderings.  Seriously.  My mind is changed FOREVER.  My paradigm is permanently shifted.

Secondly, something over the last week or so, of which we didn’t hear until today:

  1. Last week at our dentist’s office, as always, my five year old daughter Fiala was unfailingly kind and encouraging. She told the dental assistant, Shawn, that she looked beautiful, and gave her a hug and a kiss.
  2. Shawn went home, and when asked about her day by her elementary-school-aged son, she said that a little girl made her day, describing the incident with Fi… They talked about the name “Fiala”.
  3. The son’s teacher is pregnant with a little girl and (bravely!) told the students that she would let one of them name the baby. She set up a suggestion box in the back. Shawn’s son wrote down “Fiala”.
  4. The teacher announced yesterday (I think) that her new baby would be named Fiala.
  5. Buh-bam! Darling girl is a trend-setter, spreading her sweet spunkiness and genuine affection, getting babies named after her.

1486886_10202004272002507_167237079_n———–

*He is also paid to design houses in his full-time job.  🙂
**At least on this topic.  😉

A guitar, a crib, a dashboard, and a book club (reflections on a year in a small, weekly home group)

The school year is winding down.

Among other things, that means the small group I’ve attended for the last 9 months or so will come to a close, too*.

A few reflections on “my” group this year:

  1. As a worship leader, I don’t get to pick my group.  Each August, I hear chatter between friends, “Whose group are you thinking about going to this year?  What night is it?  Whose house is it at?  Who is the leader?  Wanna go together??”  That sort of thing.  I don’t get to participate in those conversations.  I go where I’m assigned.  That’s good news and bad news.  If there is someone who goes to a group who is a particular friend of mine, it’s totally by coincidence.  I’m often assigned to groups that I wouldn’t have personally chosen, for one reason or another.  BUT… that also means that, each year, I get to grow closer to a bunch of people who, even if I wouldn’t have chosen them for myself, God has chosen them for me!!  He knows what I need, even when I don’t.  It seems that, usually, God uses that year’s group to challenge me…  God knows that I need stretching and growth in a particular area, and proclaims to me, “Here is your opportunity!  And you can’t escape it!  Hahahaha!”  Yes, I envision God laughing at me like that.  He has a funny sense of humor.  However, this year, the group I’ve been in has been such… comfort to my heart.  Such comfort.  It is filled with thoughtful, caring, tender people, whose hearts overflow with love.  Usually, during ministry time, toward the end of our time together, I am playing my guitar, covering the environment, praying or singing over the interactions taking place in front of me.  In all my past groups, I’d rarely be the recipient of prayer.  I’m totally OK with that.  But, it has blessed me to tears that virtually every week, someone will come over and lay their hand on my shoulder and quietly speak a prayer of blessing and encouragement over me…  I feel un-forgotten.
  2. A family in my group this year has gone through something I can’t even imagine.  It has rent my heart.  For the past three years, they have fostered a baby since he was only a few weeks old.  Initially, they thought (due to the proclamations of the mother) that they were blood-related to this baby.  They didn’t find out until the baby was two, I believe, that he was actually of no blood relation.  However, they have loved and cared for him and cherished him as the son of their heart.  This past year, a distant blood relation of the child decided that they wanted the boy.  And, in what was a blow to all of us, the courts decided in favor of the distant blood relative, rather than in favor of the parents this baby has had for literally his entire life.  The mother approached me a few weeks ago…  “When he goes to live with his new family, I’d like you to have his crib for your new baby, if you want it.”  That killed me.  My heart has been so knit to this family through their struggle to keep their little boy…  And the crib is REALLY NICE.  Really nice.  I’m sure they could sell it on Craigslist and recoup some of the money spent.  But, they’d rather I have it.  They said they’d be honored.  Oh, my Lord.  *I* am honored.  The day their son went to live with his new, permanent family, about a week and a half ago, they brought the crib to my home.  So very, very bittersweet.  ~sigh~  But that crib will now be a reminder to me of that little boy who, in my estimation, should still be with the parents who raised him for more than three years.  It will be a physical reminder to pray for him, far away now…  And to pray for the parents whose hearts have been broken and broken and broken over this.
  3. On a few occasions, our group takes the opportunity to bring food and ministry to various families in need in our local area.  The last time was almost two weeks ago.  I was with a group of four others.  Usually, we have names and addresses and specific people expecting to receive us.  This past time, though, we were just sent out with bags of groceries and instructed to just pray about where to go.  The group I was in went to an apartment complex.  However, after walking around (up and down stairs) for about 30 minutes, I started having contractions and I could feel my ankles swell rapidly.  So, a man in the group and I went back to someone’s car to sit while the others finished.  This man had had a stroke five years ago and doesn’t walk well, himself.  So, we sat in the car and chatted.  I asked him all sorts of questions about his past, his stroke, his recovery, his relationships…  I kept asking and he kept talking.  It was a lovely evening, with cool breezes wafting through the open windows of the vehicle.  I kept thinking, “This is such a treasure.”  It’s hard to explain, but I had the thought, “Would I normally have 30 minutes to sit down and chat with a 60-something man?  No.  Would we ever go out to coffee together?  No.  But is this so valuable, such a blessing to the both of us??  Yes.”  Once again, it was like God saying, “I know what you need, I know what he needs, and I’m going to use this little opportunity that wouldn’t arise any other way to knit your hearts together.”  And I just kept thinking, “THIS is what being the Body of Christ is about.  THIS IS IT.  This is Church life.  This is what God does.”  He brings us into deeper and more sincere relationship, often with people we would not have chosen for ourselves to be our “buddies” but in the end, it turns out to be JUST what we needed.  God is smart like that.  🙂
  4. Lastly, I have been part of a small book club for… five years I think it has been.  Our group started out with eight women, all from “my” church.  As time has progressed, about half of us no longer go to the same church, but the group has persisted.  However, a couple of women have moved out of state, and one more is heading imminently in that direction, and on Saturday, those who remain had a little discussion:  “Whom should we invite to join us?”  And I was delighted to suggest a woman who is in my small group.  I just know she’ll be a good fit for our small group of diverse, thoughtful women who meet every other month to discuss a book which has (as is our goal) “Good Art + Good Message.”  We’ve read a great range of fiction and non-fiction, contemporary works and classics, poetry, memoirs, novels, and more.  The thing is this:  This particular woman whom I offered as a potential member, up to the other ladies…  Well, I NEVER would have known her, if it hadn’t been for small group.  We’re of much different ages, we don’t typically relate in the same circles of people…  We’re just in different walks of life.  But, after going to small group with her on Thursday nights, I know she is insightful, humorous, kind, and thinks deeply.  I very, very likely wouldn’t have discovered that, had it not been for small group.  And I look forward to getting to know her better through the book club.  And it’s good for HER, too.  We all want to be known.  We all want to be wanted.  We all need friendship.  We all long to be noticed and appreciated…

So, once again, I find myself thankful for my God, who knows what I need — and even what I want — well before I do.  And He is kind enough to set me up to “discover” it for myself.  He gives me those things, like gifts…  And I am sincerely thankful for His care over me.

————————

*My church has small home groups that meet throughout the school year, and then summers typically see a variety of special classes or Bible studies that last 2-8 weeks

Why it was good for me to drag my tired hind-end to small group last night… What I could have missed.

Small update to yesterday’s complain-y post.

The leader of my small group chose to teach/discuss passion for Jesus, and how His love for us stirs our hearts to love Him, and what that looks like, and how we live that out…

I got to share a story from this past week, where I had and opportunity to show love to someone when I didn’t feel like it.  I know that sounds minor, sounds insignificant.  But, to me, it was extremely challenging under the circumstances yet I knew it was something God was calling me to do.  And the results, the fruit of that, have been wonderful, beyond my hopes.

Later, we worshiped — which is toward the end, and which was really wonderful.  And I was grinning during part of worship, as I sang, if nothing else because two of the four songs I chose were so very fitting.  I love it when that happens.  Occasionally, people will ask the leader and me if we planned out the teaching to match with the worship or vice versa, and we say, “No… that’s the Holy Spirit.”

So, the first song was Sing, Sing, Sing by Chris Tomlin.

What’s not to love about You
Heaven and earth adore You…
You are the love that frees us
You are the light that leads us…

But even more fitting was Consuming Fire by Tim Hughes.

Consuming fire, fan into flame
A passion for Your name
Spirit of God, fall in this place
Lord, have Your way
Lord, have Your way with us…
Stir it up in our hearts, Lord
A passion for Your name!

Maybe that doesn’t mean much to y’all…  But it was like God saying to me, “See?  It’s good of you to be here.  And, see??  You hear from me, even when you’re not particularly trying to.”

After “official” worship is over, I continued to play guitar, as I always do, in what my husband calls “covering the environment”.  There were small clusters of people, praying for each other.  Often, during that time each week, I’ll just strum a chord progression, building it up, then bringing it down…  About half of the time, I’ll sing prophetically, usually fairly quietly over the group:  Just what I feel is in God’s heart to those gathered, in first person, His voice to His beloved…  Among other things, it helps me feel connected with what is going on during ministry time.  Since I’m the worship leader, there isn’t usually opportunity for me to pray for others, and only occasionally do others pray for me during that time.  I’m totally OK with that.  But, if I’m singing over the people, I’m still connected, and that’s good.  Last night, I had a prayer rising up in my heart.  Honestly, I don’t often vocalize what I call “prayer songs” — things that are on MY heart to God’s.  But, not only was it welling up in me to sing, I sang quite loudly, which I don’t usually do.  I usually stay in the background, not wanting to make it difficult for one person to hear another’s prayer…  I would glance up every few minutes, and all those present were just soaking it in, eyes closed, hands open, receiving, listening, participating in their own hearts, voices occasionally harmonizing with what I sang.  It just seemed that what was on my heart was on everyone else’s, too.  It was really beautiful.

After the group was over, while most everyone was snacking, I got to talk with a woman…  Well, she started to come to “my” small group only a few weeks ago.  I could tell she was unsure about the whole thing…  I had remembered — from some conversation long ago — that she was from farming country in Illinois.  So, when she came to the small group for the first time, I rekindled that conversation and discovered that her son lives in the tiny town — population 1,785 — where my paternal grandmother is living (in a skilled nursing facility, about ten miles from the home of her birth).  Again, perhaps that seems inconsequential, but it was another whisper from the heart of God to me, and more importantly, to this other lady, that she is CONNECTED to the Body of Christ, to this particular body of believers…  Belonging to His family is important to God.  So, I joked with her, “I waved to your son when I went to visit my grandma.”  And we talked again about loving the land, and family farms, and being married to men who love the desert.  It was good.

Later, after everyone had left, a mom who lives in the multi-generational home where our small group meets…  Well, she and her husband have been fostering a child for THREE YEARS.  Three years, since the child was only a few weeks old.  And now the birth mother’s extended family have finally “won” and this darling child will be going to live with the stranger-family (strangers, though related by blood) permanently in a couple of weeks.  HEART-WRENCHING.  The whole thing has very much shaken me.  But, I hung out with her afterward and we talked about the whole thing, which we do almost every week…  And I felt God saying to me, “See?  It’s good of you to be here.  She needs this.  You need this.”  And on top of that, she wants to give me the little one’s crib for our new baby.  A couple of months ago, a sweet friend re-gifted a different crib to me, that had been given to her, but it’s in dire need of new paint, and has been sitting in my storage room, waiting for me to get motivated.  This “new” crib is gorgeous, dark wood, and in excellent condition.  I felt both honored that she would give the crib to me… and having it will be a reminder to pray for that family.

And another woman…  the matriarch of the home, had earlier overheard the conversation I’d had about the farm and said, “Sit down here.  I want to read something to you that I read this morning” and she proceeded to read the whole of Psalm 65 in a translation I’d never heard:  The Voice.  It was achingly lovely.

You spend time on the good earth,
watering and nourishing the networks of the living.
God’s river is full of water!
By preparing the land,
You have provided us grain for nourishment.
10 You are the gentle equalizer: soaking the furrows,
smoothing soil’s ridges,
Softening sun-baked earth with generous showers,
blessing the fruit of the ground.
11 You crown the year with a fruitful harvest;
the paths are worn down by carts overflowing with unstoppable growth.
12 Barren desert pastures yield fruit;
craggy hills are now dressed for celebration.
13 Meadows are clothed with frolicking flocks of lambs;
valleys are covered with a carpet of autumn-harvest grain;
the land shouts and sings in joyous celebration.

She sent me a text this morning, early:  “Karen dear… there are songs for you to write in Ps 65 (the Voice).  I have the strongest urge to convey that to you I can’t even wait for a polite time to call you.”  That made me cry.  It was just one more whisper from God’s heart to mine.  One more sweet ribbon, tying me to His heart and to His people…  And I would have missed that, had I not gone to small group last night!!!

And then, to top the whole thing off, as I got into the car to drive the short distance home, I turned on the Diamondbacks game, and it was the bottom of the ninth, and J.J. Putz was closing it out…  We were leading.  I got home in time to see that last out being made, on TV.  🙂

And then I pulled out my book and read until I was drowsy, and then went to bed, very satisfied with the day, my heart full to overflowing, deeply content.  I felt like God had redeemed the day:  turned something that could have been an exhausting drag into something glorious.

American politics, farming, charming visuals, and becoming recentered…

I think that one of my greatest frustrations with how the U.S. government works is that really awful riders can be attached to otherwise apparently-necessary bills, acts, laws, etc.  Earlier this week, when many folks were consumed (pro or con) by the conversation surrounding same-sex marriage being debated in the Supreme Court, the Agricultural Appropriations Bill was signed into law by President Obama.  In it was a rider that has been called “the Monsanto Protection Act” because it specifically protects that one giant chemical company — nearly single-handedly responsible for the chemicalization of American farming, and its resulting current and future destruction of environment and personal health — from litigation.  It passed the Senate and the House with many legislators not even knowing such a rider was included.  The way these giant bills frequently slip through the cracks is that a Senator might say, “Well, I agree with 80% of what is in this bill, so I will vote for it.”  Or, a Representative might have his or her own “attachment” that they’ve managed to slip into a detailed, hundreds-of-pages bill, and that one attachment is specifically important to the rep’s corner of their own state.  So, they say, “I can’t tell my people that I voted against this measure which is so vital to our state’s interests.”  So, even if they disagree with 98% of the bill, if there is a tiny corner of that bill which is of specific significance to that Representative, they may vote to pass it.

And, so the Agricultural Appropriations Bill with its enclosed “Monsanto Protection Act” passed this week.

Here’s where my thoughts have been going:

In a way — a small way — I’m kind of pleased.

Not about the “Monsanto Act” in particular, which I find horrid, gut-wrenching, and worrisome, but because my Facebook feed has been abuzz with, “HOW COULD OBAMA DO THIS???”

I’ll admit:  I’m a Republican.  However, since issues of the environment, food production, health, and farming are near and dear to my heart, there are a number of political websites I frequent which are, shall we say, not friendly to the general Republican cause.  I’m OK with that.  I don’t need to identify with the entire Republican platform.

Actually, I’ve felt for quite a while that there is no political “slot” into which I neatly fit.  Not the Republican Party, not the Democratic.  Not Libertarian.  Not Green.  Not the Tea Party.  No where, really, that I’ve been able to find.  I’m too liberal for the Republicans.  Too conservative for the Democrats.  Too convinced by the general goodness of the rule of law for the Libertarians.  I’m not angry enough — or Socialistic enough — for the Green Party.  Not fearful enough for the Tea Party.*

And, to an extent, I’m pragmatic like the Legislators I vilified above:  If I agree with, say, 60% of what the Republican Party generally stands for, I’ll often vote along with them…  I do see the irony.

Anyhow, in the more liberal edges of politics, to which I pay at least some attention, the consensus seems to be general, heart-broken disappointment with our President.

And, I’m OK with that.

From the very, very beginning of his campaign, back in 2008, the thing that bothered me most — more than any political stance, more than any stated goal, more than his “Democrat-ness” — is that he set himself on a pedestal as the HOPE for our nation.  It was his campaign slogan, for crying out loud!

Obama is not the hope of our nation.

Hope in a person routinely leads to disillusionment.

I’m OK with folks becoming disillusioned to the Obama administration.

I saw this, this morning in my Facebook feed:

Now, I’ll admit:  If you put a grassy field, a blue sky, and some freshly shorn sheep on a picture, I’ll probably like it, no matter what the words attached may be.

But the verse — John 10:11 — brought me back to the main and plain, the core of my existence:  My hope is in the Good Shepherd.  And He’s a good leader who does not disappoint.  He doesn’t do stuff that is 40% awful and heartbreaking and 60% good.  HE IS GOODNESS ITSELF.  And what’s more:  He’s a peaceful, but powerful and sacrificial leader.

He’s the one whom I follow.

There are some practicalities with being involved in the political system;  I’m not saying that I’m going to stick my head in the sand and never call my state Senator, never sign another petition (I favor real-life petitions, by the way), and quit voting.  I’m not even going to stop speaking out about issues that are important to me.

But, since a bit of doom and gloom and fear for the future of my country has weaseled its way into my mind and heart this week, I did need the reminder this morning of my Good Shepherd.  My GOOD Shepherd.

And may His peace, His goodness, His faithfulness, His wisdom be a comfort to you as well, my friends, as you contemplate your own future, and that of your own country.

——————–

*I’m sorry if this offends;  it’s my opinion and perspective of each party as it relates to my own beliefs and convictions.

Hyper-nesting, time well-spent (or not), and hearing from God…

I have a one-ish track mind.  I tend to bunch my thoughts, my efforts together in one spot…  Right now, even though I’m 26 weeks pregnant, and one might think I have, “BABY BABY BABY,” going through my mind, it’s not.

Actually, that’s somewhat of a good thing.

Historically, I start nesting somewhere around five weeks pregnant and it’s all I can do to remain focused and engaged with the rest of my life, responsibilities included, for the whole pregnancy.  I tend to spend eight solid months with a nearly compulsive bent toward thinking, dreaming, planning, preparing, for my new baby.  I put a huge amount of emotional investment and TIME into it.  On one hand, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing.  But, when I have other children who need mothering and schooling; when I have a home that needs cleaning and maintenance; when I have a husband who shouldn’t have to fight for my attention; when I have responsibilities at church that need me to NOT be thinking, “I sssooooo don’t want to be doing this;” when I have friends who merit attention, my hyper-nesting isn’t that great of a thing.

So, for me, the fact that this is on the back burner of my mind:  I’m going to be adding an 8th member to our family in three months or so…  is rather a blessing.  I’m not struggling like I usually do with wanting to drop everything and become a hermit in my home and feeling VERY CRABBY that there are other parts of my life that are calling.

I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone.

I, for one, though, am very happy to feel ENGAGED with the world at 26 weeks pregnant*.

No, this is not me. It’s Emily Robinson from the Dixie Chicks, playing a dobro.

  • We’re still doing school (though I am REALLY looking forward to our Easter Break next week).
  • My home is quite tidy (most of it).
  • I’m still leading worship in a weekly small group (though I joked that I might need to obtain a dobro sometime in the near future to accommodate my expanding belly).
  • I’m still leading worship twice a month for SuperChurch (the 6-12 year-olds’ Sunday morning service).
  • I’m still singing with the “big church” worship team two or three Sundays a month (I keep telling myself that I probably look ridiculous dancing…  Oh, well.).
  • I’m still hosting the weekly CSA at my home, and even just decided that I’m going to do at least another 12 weeks, shortly after the current season ends on May 1 (even though I’ll have to find an alternate location for while I’m in labor…).
  • If anything, I feel MORE connected to both my husband and our five children during this pregnancy.  I also feel more peaceful.  This is probably my happiest pregnancy ever.

Knowing my history, I wasn’t sure, three months ago or so, that I should do the CSA.  I often start well, but don’t finish strong.  I get all fired up for one project or another, then start to lose steam…  I was more than a bit concerned that this would be a similar endeavor, and then, when I lost focus and dropped the project, not only would I pay for it, but so would the 25 or so other people who were counting on me, and their families…

Also… and this is hard to communicate;  I can’t grasp the right descriptive words…  But, I was uncertain if the CSA was where God wanted me to invest my time.  I long to be fruitful.  I want the things I do to have lasting impact.  I want my time to be well-spent.  I want my involvement with others to have more than just a tinge of “ministry”.  I mean… not that I’m trying to make this The Christian CSA with a prayer corner, worship music in the background, and Bible verses plastered all over my fridge — not that at all.  But, I wanted this to be worthwhile in every sphere, and I wasn’t certain if hosting the CSA was a good choice in how to spend my time — time which often feels spread too thinly as it is.

So, I prayed about it.  “Is this where you want me, God?  Is this OK?”

I got no discernible response.  I’m not saying God didn’t speak, but if He did, I missed it.  I didn’t even feel vaguely “led” one way or another.

I asked my husband — who is well-acquainted with my tendency to rush into projects hard and fast and then feel overwhelmed — what he thought.  Honestly, I was a little surprised that he seemed to think favorably about the whole thing.

It didn’t seem like God was telling me, “No,” although a nice, clear, resounding, “YES!” would have made me feel much more confident.

So, I went with my husband’s approval.

Well.

I guess I had previously felt that I was hosting the CSA for my own personal benefit.  I mean, from the bottom of my heart, I truly want to equip others to eat better.  But, I was kind of compelled more by the fact that I would get roughly $40 worth of local, fresh, organic produce for FREE each week, plus earn $1 per person, per week for what seemed like very little time.

I was wrong on nearly all accounts.

In the six weeks the CSA has been operational:

  • A couple of weeks, I’ve gotten much less than $40 worth.  The remaining time I’ve received FAR more.  We’re rolling in veggies, which pleases me to no end.
  • I anticipated making around $40/week, thinking we’d have that many participants.  However, we started with only 16, and are now up to 24.  So, I am not making even enough money to pay the midwife each month, which was my thought going into it.
  • It takes much more time than I realized it would.  Not only do I devote time “on the ground” from 2:00 – 5:30 every Wednesday, but there is a lot of communication and planning involved, too.  I probably spend an additional 3-3½ hours weekly, often more.  Seven hours total every week may not seem like a lot to you, but in my world, subtracting seven hours from other things that I could be doing??  That’s huge.  That’s a big commitment.

Much more significant, though, is how I have been absolutely surprised by the positive feedback I’ve received from so many of the participants.

I was thinking recently about how, when I started blogging more than seven years ago, I was just compelled to write.  It was 100% for my own benefit.  I saw blogging as an online version of journaling:  simply documenting the time and thoughts as they passed.  I wasn’t trying to gather an admiring crowd.  I wasn’t trying to change the world.  I wasn’t trying to impress anyone or even benefit them.  I just wanted to write.

Similarly, with the CSA:  I just wanted some veggies.  Some free, organic veggies.

But with both endeavors, I have been very taken aback by the genuine thanks, the more-than-occasional encouraging note, the thoughtful gestures that have come my way…  I never thought — not once — that hosting a produce-pickup was going to make a difference in anyone’s life;  I entered into it as rather an indulgence in something of significant interest to me.  But, similar to how I am now compelled to continue blogging by the random e-mails that will start off, “Thank you for your post on ______________ .  I was in tears because of my situation of __________.  I stumbled upon your post, and it was just what I needed, and here’s how it affected me:  ______________.  It was just what I needed and I can’t tell you how thankful I am.” — I am now compelled to continue the CSA due to letters like this (shared with permission):

You’re a good friend Karen – even if “long distance”. I don’t think I would have stepped into organic thinking without your help and encouragement. The rest of my extended family think I’m nuts…a super picky eater or whatever. But I have strong convictions to take care of the body God blessed me with and it brings joy to my heart hearing my kids happily talk about healthy vegetables during mealtimes! It’s sad. I never knew any fresh vegetables except iceberg lettuce when I was a kid…nothing but canned and always over cooked. Surprisingly I took after my grandma it seems in how I feel about my health and she lived to be 70 even after smoking for 20 years of her life! She found Jesus, quit smoking & drinking cold turkey and lived a life of joy I still remember this day. I guess I’m sharing just to show my appreciation for you Karen. You have made a difference in my life too. I Love you friend.

That made me cry.  It also made me think that maybe why God was so silent was because He knew that I was just looking for Him to say, “Yes, it’s OK with me that you have this interest, and yes, it’s OK with me that you invest your time here.”  I was just looking for permission.  But He was setting me up.

I sent an e-mail of thanks back to my friend and asked her if I could put her story on my blog.  She didn’t immediately respond and I got nervous.  But, when her reply came, the tears flowed anew.

I would be honored to be a story in your blog – Please feel free to write whatever you wish! Amazing…Our Lord God never fails to love and “push” us into His most blessed plan if just choose to submit! Love you,  your thoughts & prayers are never wasted.

“Never wasted.”

I’m an ISTJ on the Myers-Briggs scale…  If you click on that link, at least 95% of it is me, to a T.

  • They have a strongly-felt internal sense of duty, which lends them a serious air and the motivation to follow through on tasks.
  • They place great importance on honesty and integrity. They are “good citizens” who can be depended on to do the right thing for their families and communities. While they generally take things very seriously, they also usually have an offbeat sense of humor and can be a lot of fun – especially at family or work-related gatherings.
  • The ISTJ will work for long periods of time and put tremendous amounts of energy into doing any task which they see as important to fulfilling a goal. However, they will resist putting energy into things which don’t make sense to them, or for which they can’t see a practical application.
  • Once the ISTJ supports a cause or idea, he or she will stop at no lengths to ensure that they are doing their duty of giving support where support is needed.
  • Traditional and family-minded, they will put forth great amounts of effort at making their homes and families running smoothly. They are responsible parents, taking their parenting roles seriously. They are usually good and generous providers to their families.
  • They are very hard workers, who do not allow obstacles to get in the way of performing their duties. They do not usually give themselves enough credit for their achievements, seeing their accomplishments simply as the natural fulfillment of their obligations.

It has actually been quite a while since I reviewed what I’m “supposed” to be like as an Introverted Sensing Thinking Judger.  But, re-reading that descriptive page makes me appreciate God more:  He who made me knows who I am.  He knows what I need.  He knows what brings me joy.  He knows what will surprise me.  He knows how to stretch me without breaking me.  And He knows just the right time to bring encouragement to me…

—————–

*It recently came to my attention that I never stated what this child will be:  SHE IS A GIRL.  My husband was 100% right.  Not only was I pregnant, but the baby is a girl.

 

 

Can’t we all just get along?

I love NPR.

In one of my favorite YouTube videos ever, Blimey Cow posted the hilarious “You Might Be a Homeschooler If…” video last year that went viral, at least among the homeschool community.

In it is a line that says something like, “You might be a homeschooler if your mom listens to NPR and votes Republican.”

HA!  That’s so me.  The radio in my truck is almost always tuned to 91.5 FM, KJZZ, which has acoustic jazz in the evenings and NPR programming in the daytime.  I appreciate the in-depth reporting and the broader perspective than the snippets of typical radio or TV news provides.

Anyway.

In my Facebook feed this morning was a story I was really pleased and surprised to see from NPR:

Study:  Diet May Help ADHD Kids More Than Drugs

The story was pretty basic, and referred listeners to their doctor for further help, which is kind of a laugh, as virtually all MD programs in the United States are woefully inadequate on the connection between diet and behavior — or even diet and basic physical health!

However, it makes me pleased that this topic is receiving national press and attention:  What you eat can affect your body and mind.

The link for this story has been shared on a number of different health-and-diet related pages to which I subscribe, on Facebook.

What has been interesting to me — and a bit distressing — is that I have read a fair amount of argument about WHERE to start with dietary changes for children, and WHAT diet is the best.  Everyone has an opinion and many are strident about it and have rude, unkind words for those who don’t agree with their particular beliefs.

I understand that.  I really do.  After seeing the monumental changes that came about in my young son’s behavior and health after being diagnosed with celiac disease more than ten years ago, and seeing the positive effects that have come about in our family’s lives as a result of my ongoing search for ways for us to eat and live more healthily, I UNDERSTAND.

If you see dramatic improvements firsthand, it alters your perspective.  And, in a way, you can’t help but think that EVERYONE should do what you’re doing, because you begin to think that EVERYONE would benefit.  And, you think philanthropic thoughts about it.  You think, “It would be BETTER for everyone.  It would be BETTER for the environment!  It would be BETTER for our nation’s health.  It would be BETTER for our farmers.  It would be BETTER for our economy.”

And, you might even be right!!

But, at a certain point, it becomes divisive.

And repulsive.

Literally, repulsive.  It repels me when someone tries to proselytize me to Nourishing Traditions and insists that there IS NO OTHER WAY.  I’ve un-liked certain Facebook pages and un-followed a number of blogs which routinely state that I’m a fool if I’m not eating/doing/making/following their way.

That’s the part that bothers me:  The insistence that one person/method/diet is THE ONLY WAY and that I’m clearly an uneducated rube who is throwing away the health of myself and my family if I eat even one thing outside of that method.

That really bothers me.

I was thinking of it, just a bit ago, along the lines of Christianity.

I go to the Vineyard — Vineyard Church Phoenix, which is a kind-of non-denominational, Holy Spirit-filled, fairly casual, high-involvement church which prioritizes worship (“contemporary” worship with a full band — guitars, drums, et al) and healing ministry.  I really love my church.  I ADORE my church.  I love the “DNA” of my church.  I love my pastor.  I love the people with whom I serve and learn.  I could bore you (or perhaps scare you) with how passionately I enjoy my church.  I wish more people would attend it.  I wish more people would experience the benefit I’ve received by participating in the Vineyard for the last 23 years.

However, I’m aware that my church is not the ONLY way to worship.

I have a dear cousin, an amazing woman — younger than me — who is a Benedictine nun in the Catholic church.  We couldn’t possibly be on more divergent Christian paths, but there is a kinship, a core identity, we share.   Everything I hear from her — her comments, our rare conversations, stories I read about her, makes my spirit soar.

But, again, how we practice our Christianity is extremely different.  In fact, if we sat down and compared fact sheets regarding our respective Christian practices, I’m sure we’d find much over which we disagree.

I have observed, in my advanced years 😉 , that one’s practice of Christianity, what speaks to one’s own heart, will vary greatly depending on history, personal preference, personal priorities, personal convictions, personality, and more.

I mean… I WANT more people to join my church and share my experiences;  I want others to benefit like I have.

But on the other hand, I cannot say, “My church is the only way to worship.”

There is more than one viable, healthy way to practice Christianity.

There is also more than one way to eat healthily!  There is more than one way to live healthily!

I don’t necessarily have to be a card-carrying member of the gluten-free, GFCF, Feingold, Nourishing Traditions, WAPF, Paleo, GAPS, organic, WHATEVER to be healthy.

And, honestly, it really turns me off when anyone — who is not Jesus Christ Himself — says, “My way or the highway.”

But… on the other hand…

I do believe that there are basic truths.  I do believe in the God of the Bible.  I do believe that there are basic tenets, basic laws established by God that exist.  There is truth.  Not all roads are equal.  It does matter what one thinks and believes and how one lives one’s life.  I don’t believe that everything is relative.

So… it sometimes feels like a hard balance to find:  Having beliefs with conviction which express themselves in practice, in daily living, and knowing in my heart that it is WORTH the effort and WORTH telling others about.  Yet, not being the guy on the corner with a megaphone screaming, “Follow my way or DIE!!”

And not thinking ugly thoughts about those dogmatic folks on the corner with their megaphones…

Ugh.

Unique, powerful, profound, painstakingly researched: My FAVORITE book on birthing

My midwife (who, by the way, is having her website revamped — the current one is sorely incomplete!) has, unsurprisingly, shelves full of books on birthing and mothering.  I noticed one omission, and I think I’m going to purchase it for her for Christmas.

The book has been on my mind a lot, lately.  Partly because, yes, I’m pregnant.  But partly, as well, because I find the reviews for it on Amazon so indicative of our polarized culture.  When we find someone saying something we cannot support, we automatically throw out everything they’ve ever said, put them on our personal equivalent of Santa’s Naughty List, and vilify them.

The book, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, is written, as best as I can surmise, by a practicing Zen Buddhist, Dr. Sarah J. Buckley, MD.  The three two-star reviews this book has received generally have this criticism:  The book is too far “out there.”  The doctor has sections where she describes her personal beliefs and experiences, and I must say that the Dr. Buckley and I have little in common, and many of the things she has chosen to do, I would not.  HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean the books is useless.  It just means that our personal beliefs aren’t aligned.

After reading (not for the first time) the Amazon reviews on this book, I decided to write my own:

I felt the need to chime in my support for this book. I’m a semi-crunchy mother of five — many things I have learned and chosen in my mothering would be highly supported by the attachment parenting camp, and quite a few simply would not. I am also a committed, practicing Christian. I’ve had five, all-natural, unmedicated hospital births, and am planning a home birth for my sixth — not because I’ve had rotten hospital experiences, but rather because I have learned a bit more with each birth and am convinced that the best way to ensure that this, likely my last birth, is absolutely peaceful and perfect is to have my child at home. It is becoming increasingly difficult within hospital culture, even with a fabulous, naturally-minded care provider to have a truly natural hospital birth.

I particularly appreciate Dr. Buckley’s book because she, like myself, is both fully spiritual AND fully science-minded. I respect the fact that Dr. Buckley lays out her spiritually-based opinion and experience and then BACKS IT UP with hard science. There are a solid SIXTY PAGES of end notes. One chapter alone has 294 end notes!! This is, by far, the best-researched birthing book I’ve ever read, and I have read dozens.

In fact, of those dozens of books I’ve read, many start to sound the same after a very short while. Many other books on birthing rely heavily on the same stories, the same research, and similar experiences. This was the first book I’ve read on birthing in a very long time that had NEW, PROFOUND, and RELEVANT information about birthing and mothering. It is a unique and powerful book on many levels.

Instead of being a how-to on birthing, it’s more of a “why” book. Why choose one practice over another? Why are ultrasounds possibly harmful? Why are narcotics during birth so potentially harmful, both in the short-term and long-term health of mother and baby? Why is the use of Pitocin so destructive to the natural hormonal processes of birth? Dr. Buckley doesn’t just tell readers what to do, she tells us, very clearly, why one choice is helpful (even necessary!) and why another choice is likely harmful. In addition to that, she gives personal anecdotes about her own experiences with birthing and mothering that further support her empirical research, and show a mother how those scientific facts can play out in a very spiritually profound way.

It’s pretty clear that the author is a practicing Zen Buddhist. I’m not. However, I find that my discoveries have matched the doctor’s experience: The radical experience of a natural birth is the perfect marriage of mind/body/science WITH our spiritual/deep/intangible side. I found it pretty easy to make the shift, mentally, when the author talks about the soul of her child flying down from the stars into me visualizing, instead, the soul of my child being lovingly created by God my Father, and being deposited into the growing life of my baby, in utero. And so on. If the “language” of Dr. Buckley’s spiritual voice doesn’t fit with your own, feel free to substitute your own beliefs in the places where yours doesn’t match up with hers!

There is no ONE perfect book on any topic. Like any book, you chew the meat, and throw out the bones. If there is a story in the book that doesn’t click with you, it doesn’t negate the hundreds — or even thousands — of other bits of useful, profound information. It’s the mark of a strong mind that can consider something, hold it in one’s thoughts, sift it, and then say, “That particular part is not for me,” without throwing out the rest of the book or giving it only two stars. So, if that’s what you need to do when reading this book, please do so, but still PLEASE READ THE BOOK.

So, to sum up, my stance is that you don’t have to be completely aligned with Dr. Buckley’s spiritual beliefs, birthing practices, or mothering practices in order to benefit mightily from this unique and powerful book.

If that sounds intriguing, consider purchasing this excellent book for either yourself, a mother-to-be, or your favorite doula or midwife!!

A different kind of birth (and “proof” of God)

A few weeks ago, I sort of got into it with a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook.  I’m still not sure it was wise;  I mostly got involved as a defense to my friend;  it bothered me to see his Christianity under attack.  I learned long ago, that one cannot debate anyone into the Kingdom of God.

John 6:44 (Amplified Version) “No one is able to come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me attracts and draws him and gives him the desire to come to Me…”

My encouragement to him was that if he wanted to see God, to know God, to have some understanding of God, to ask Him.  He’s always willing to show Himself to those who seek Him.

Yesterday, my pastor was teaching from I Corinthians chapter 1.  As he spoke, I perused the verses above where he was camped, drawn to this:

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say,

20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.

And here’s why I was so attracted by these verses:  The friend-of-a-friend was searching for proof — undeniable, scientific, irrefutable, tangible proof — of God’s existence, and stated that he could not trust anything less reliable that that.

Strangely enough, I was thinking about this exchange while my mother was dying.

As she drew closer to death, the kindness, sweetness, and presence of God increased on her, and in her room.  It was remarked upon, countless times, by hospital staff and visitors.  It was not “scientific, irrefutable, tangible proof,” but to me, it was truly evidence of God being in her life, working through her, expressing Himself through the weakest, most vulnerable person imaginable.

It just seems to me that this is God’s way.

27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

It’s His way to express Himself through the powerless.

It’s also His way, I believe, having experienced it, to make lovely the very things that would seem to be the most tragic.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Romans 8:28 (NLT) 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

And this is incommunicable to those who require book-proof of God.

Another beautiful intangible I experienced during my mother’s last hours was this:

One of my favorite aspects of natural birth is the “community” aspect of it:  During the most difficult hours of labor, everyone present is ultra-attentive to the birthing mother in a minute-by-minute way, in almost a prescience — alert to the point of foreknowledge to what the mother might need.  The attention of everyone is fixed on her.  Birth becomes an effort of not just the mother, but of those who love her;  everyone does whatever they can to help the birth come about.  Her preferences, her loves, her comfort becomes the shared goal of all present.

It was that exact same way with my mother.

We sang songs she had sung to us as children, as well as her favorite choruses from church.  We reminisced.  We took turns snuggling with her in her bed.  She smiled contentedly, head tipped back, eyes closed, soaking it in…

And, as things became more difficult — labored —  my mother wanted to sit up, with her legs over the side of her bed.  Nevermind that this was virtually impossible, and nevermind that it wasn’t rational.  Just like a natural birth, when a mother just feels like she needs to be in a certain position, all who assist her swing into action to accommodate.  So it was with my mother, near the end of her life:  One behind her, supporting her back.  One on her side, arm surrounding her waist or shoulders, keeping her upright.  At times, someone else in front of her, keeping her from slumping too far forward.

I had the thought, multiple times, “We’re birthing her into the Kingdom of God.”

My mom had been in the hospital for three weeks.  At one point, several days earlier, I unexpectedly ran into an acquaintance in the halls, and glanced at his wrist., seeing a familiar, handwritten band.  “Are you a new father??” I asked.  He affirmed that he was, only an hour or so into the mind-bending experience.

I internally marveled at the circle of life, come to bear, right in front of me.

Perhaps that sounds cliche:  “circle of life.”  But at that moment, it was profound.

The day of my mother’s death, I was talking with a friend…  She is a hospice volunteer, and mentioned how — on countless occasions — on one evening, she would spend time with the dying, and the next day, she would hear news of a brand-new birth.  She has been struck, too, by the same notion of life coming full circle, and how right it seems.

And then, with some excitement, I shared with her — this friend who is not a mother — that sense I had had, comparing a natural birth to a spiritual birth, and how, though it was in many ways difficult, how full of God it was, how much it felt like that was His plan.

She completely understood.

I can’t express how important her understanding was to me.  Just by her being completely on the same page, tracking right along with my thoughts and feelings, I felt like God was providing His love and comfort directly to my heart.

Yesterday, at church, she gave to me what might be the most unusual — yet apt — condolence card, ever.  It was a wedding card, embellished and lovely.  Inside, she had pasted her own sentiment:  “Remembering our conversation… She’s with the Prince of Peace in her white gown;  beautiful Jean.  He sings a song only for her.  She is free of pain and sings with Him her savior.”

%d bloggers like this: