Category Archives: Marriage

More birth pics of Baby Jean… correcting my memory

My friend Stephanie was at the birth of Jean Marjorie Joy, born on June 25.  She had her camera, and I knew she took a few pics.  But I didn’t know just how many until today, Jean’s six-week “birth day.”  Right after the birth, Steph went on vacation and was then busy with a number of other things.  She gave me a flash drive with her pics on it, a week and a half ago.  I don’t know why it took me so long to view the pictures…  Mixed emotions, I guess.  However, when I did, I cried good tears…  Collectively, they tell a tale of love, and of a day that shouldn’t be forgotten.  There are a whole bunch of pictures immediately post-birth, for a space of about sixteen minutes that I somehow forgot:  I just somehow absolutely didn’t recall those minutes, at all.  But, seeing the pictures, it all came back to me, even how it felt, to have baby Jean up on my swollen belly, only a minute post-birth.  “Oh… yes… I do remember that!  I remember it now!”  (You can read the original birth story, here.)

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My dear husband, Martin.

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He’s so attentive to me.

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Wouldn’t YOU love a man who held your face like that?? I would.

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Martin, and sweet Fiala, too. I look pretty relaxed in this picture, but believe me, I felt like I was dying.

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My brown-eyed girl, Audrey.

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I ❤ him.

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This was three minutes before Jean emerged. Note Fi’s hands over her ears!! And she’s watching the action quite closely!! I thought the girls left the room well before Jean was born, but I guess they were slow-motion minutes… Fi hung in there a good long time.

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I ripped my hair elastic out. Or someone did it for me. LAST push.

Like my friend Daja, who had her baby boy, Tegshee Walker, only a couple of weeks ago, there are some awesome crowning and baby emerging photos… But I can’t publish those.

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I can’t really show you the picture where Martin caught baby Jean, either. But this pic was taken only one minute after her birth. He must have handed her right off to me. Until I saw this picture, I absolutely did not remember this moment.

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Again, one minute post-birth. I remember now, feeling vast relief, feeling extremely shaky, not quite believing that this was my baby, but at the same time KNOWING she was, indeed, my dear baby.

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Alicia’s blonde head on the left, my midwife Pam on the right. Me in wonder.

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They were rubbing her down, helping her to pink up. I had previously remembered people doing that, but the bizarre thing was that I hadn’t remembered that baby Jean was IN MY ARMS when they were doing that.

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The best Daddy in the world. He loves her so.

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Only three minutes post-birth.

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I love her.

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First kiss as a family of eight. 🙂

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Jean has Martin’s brow.

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Audrey decides to come back in.

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Martin’s hand over mine, on our baby’s chubby, fuzzy back. And MARTIN is the one who put her little hat on. Again, while she was in my arms. But I hadn’t remembered that.

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Miss Squishy, 23 minutes post-birth.

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Daddy, Mommy, baby, love.

What if your husband is wrong???

So…  My husband and I have always been budget-minded.  We came away from our respective childhoods after watching at least some of the adults in our lives be fairly irresponsible with money with a wounded awareness of how that affected us, as children.  Both of us, independently, had said, “That won’t be me when I’m an adult.”

As a result, as young adults, each of us were already very mindful of responsible fiscal living, and that only increased after we got married.

However, it took Martin and me what I thought was a REEEEEALLLLLLYYYYYYY long time to get on the same page with how to approach exactly HOW to approach being “fiscally responsible.”  His tactic, for a number of years, was, “Don’t buy anything, ever, and save all your money.”  That sounds all right, but what about when there are real needs?

I was reminded of that time in our lives this morning, and one major way I got through his tight-fistedness.

Six children later, it’s STILL one of my favorite books on pregnancy. And there’s an updated edition now available. And reading scribbles from previous years has reminded me that, while there is also a Kindle version now available, the good old printed page still triumphs.

Most mornings, I sit down with my six-year-old, Audrey, with my now-ancient copy of The Pregnancy Journal.  There are daily entries in this spiral-bound book of what is happening in the mother’s body, how the baby is developing, plus other tidbits about childbirth in other cultures, hints on nutrition, pithy — or touching — quotes about parenting, et al.  There are also lines on which the mother can record how her particular pregnancy is progressing:  her weight, mood, and other thoughts.

My current pregnancy is only a week different than my first, as far as due-dates go.  My oldest, who will turn 16 on June 23, was due on July 4th.  This pregnancy, my sixth, is tentatively slated to end on June 27.  So, I have found it especially interesting, comparing my thoughts now, as an experienced mother, with my thoughts from sixteen years ago.

This morning I read something particularly poignant:  It detailed how I really needed maternity clothes, and Martin wouldn’t release the funds.  I now find that almost laughable:  He’s a lot more reasonable now;  I almost can’t believe that I could have made it to 20-ish weeks in my first pregnancy with ZERO maternity clothes, and him still saying, “No.”  Additionally, I’m now a lot better at finding good deals;  most of my current maternity wardrobe came, second-hand, from Craigslist.  Some items came at no cost via Freecycle.  And just a few things, I purchased new.  I’m certain that, back then, I had no intention of buying secondhand maternity clothes.

In my journal entry, though, I noted that even if my husband was wrong, I didn’t want to develop any bitterness.  I didn’t want to harbor any anger for him.  He wasn’t in sin.  He wasn’t breaking the law.  He was simply unreasonable.  I felt it then, and now, looking back, I still think he was unreasonable.  Reading that journal entry caused all my old feelings to come flooding back:  I remember struggling mightily with feeling hurt and unprovided-for.

Unreasonable

However, in the midst of that dilemma, I decided to pray.  Really, it was my only option.

I’m 39 and have been a Christian since I was five years old.  However, I still tussle with the basic premise of prayer at times.  “Why would God listen to me?  Why would He move on my behalf?  What if I’m praying the wrong way?  Or for the wrong thing?  I don’t even fully understand why He wants His people to pray.  He knows everything, right?  He already knows my needs.  I don’t know why He works like that.  Hmph.”  Prayer often seems like a non-action.

Even though I’m not really fond of aging, one thing that I am appreciating is having a history and a longer perspective.  I can look back on a current difficulty and say, “Well, I don’t know why God would answer my prayer.  But He has, so many times before.  I’m just going to pray.  I’m just going to exercise some faith that He will listen and that He will move on my behalf.”

And, whaddya know???  Sixteen years ago, God provided.  He showed up, and in a BIG way.

My pen from 16 years ago records the names of seven people who had, in a period of three weeks, given me money for maternity clothes, gift cards, gifts of clothing, and loans of maternity clothes, all of them unasked-for.  I don’t know what prompted them;  but whatever the method of prompting, God was behind it.

There were seven of them*.  In three weeks.  Immediately after I started praying.

I wrote, “The Father has seriously overwhelmed me.”

Shortly after my firstborn entered my life, I started going to a ladies’ Bible study.  It was held at a church so near to my house, I could walk.  It was attended by about 200 women weekly, most of whom were in the midst of marriage difficulty.**  The lady who led it — a wise and grandmotherly sort — was fond of telling us women that the line we draw is sin:  If our husbands are so wrong that they are requiring us to SIN, we don’t comply.  However, if it’s just that our husbands are wrong, if it’s just that we don’t agree, if it’s just that they’re unreasonable… The best course of action is to turn it over to God in prayer, and let God be God in our husband’s life, and trust HIM, Almighty God, as the true source of our provision.

Easier said than done.

Well, maybe.  It’s not even easy to say!  But, I’m glad for the reminder, this morning, of God’s provision.  And, I’m glad for the reminder of how far my husband and I have come as a couple.

——————

*Five of those ladies are still in my life, incidentally.  🙂

**I wouldn’t say that my marriage was in difficulty, however, I was — two years into it — still having a tough time adjusting to being married, being other-oriented, thinking in terms of “two become one”, etc.  I learned a lot in the 3-4 years I attended.

The most significant bathroom break, ever.

“Jean Marie,” read the very short text from my husband.

I was at a red light when I read it, out doing errands with my 13 year-old son, Grant.  It was five days after my mother had passed.  Her name was Jean Elaine.

“Wha…???” was my response, aloud.

I called my husband.  “Are you saying that if we have another baby, you want to name her after my mother?  You know I hate the name Marie.”

Our youngest turned four in October.  I will turn 40 in June of next year.  I’ve wanted “just one more” for a couple of years now…  It just never felt like our family was complete.  I wanted one more shot at having a home birth.  I wanted one more baby to nurse.  I just… wanted another baby.

My husband?  Not so much.  I would bring it up about once every six months — enough to let him know it was still on my heart, but not enough so that it was nagging.  It’s not a good idea to nag one’s husband into having a baby, I figured.  We needed to be in it TOGETHER, wholeheartedly.

“It’s already too noisy in here,”  he would say.

“WHAT??” was my kind response.  “You’re vetoing the life of a child based upon the noise factor??”

“Yes,” he replied with finality.  “And I’m not ashamed to admit it.  One more baby would send me over the edge, noise-wise.”

I couldn’t help but persist, “But a baby doesn’t make much noise.  A three year-old makes a lot of noise.”

“Yes,” he agreed, “But that baby grows up to be a three year-old.”

“But by that time, Ethan [our oldest, who is 15] will likely be out of the house.”

“That doesn’t count,” he replied, “Ethan hardly makes any noise at all.”

I had to admit he was right about that.

So, when the thought would surface, as it often did, I would just submit the whole thing to God, to His plan, to His timing…  I spent much time wondering if that was just the way He made my heart:  That I would always long for another baby, and that I was to funnel that into encouraging and equipping other mothers in their efforts to birth naturally.  And, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I could be a grandmother before the decade is out.  Maybe He was preparing my heart for that.

——–

About a week prior to that text, I was at my mother’s bedside, praying.  She had been in the hospital for nearly three weeks.  She had had a series of strokes, plus the doctors had discovered a large, vegetative growth on one of the valves of her heart, which was likely sending off bits of itself around her body, resulting in the strokes, as well as threatening the viability of her heart.  She had been in poor health before those incidents:  complications from Marfan Syndrome, two extensive back surgeries, a nerve problem similar to multiple sclerosis (CIDP), a half-paralyzed diaphragm that caused one lung to continually fill with fluid… And on top of THAT, she had aspirated a bunch of fluid and now her good lung was full and not functioning well.

It was a hard time.  During the first two weeks, I was at the hospital nearly every day.  The last week, I was there almost 24/7.  She needed someone continually at her side, and as good as the care in the hospital was, they just couldn’t provide that.  My stepdad took many days off from work — he works part time as a school music teacher — and is not in great physical health himself.  My sister works a “part time” job that is just a few hours shy of full-time, plus has a two-year-old daughter.  My older brother flew in from Texas for a time, and my younger brother drove down from Portland…  But eventually, TJ had to fly back to Texas, and Brian felt like he was behind the eight-ball, knowing how to care and advocate for our mom.  Everyone pitched in as they could;  everyone spent hours with my mother;  everyone spent nights at the hospital.  We called on friends and extended family to fill in the odd hours when no immediate family could be present.  But in the last week, I was the one able to be there most often.

I was continually thankful, especially that last week, for children who are acquainted with our routine enough to manage fairly well without me.  My dear husband, too, felt very strongly that someone should be with my mother continually, and was very supportive of me being there so much.  I was also thankful that, with our move, I was less than two miles from the hospital.  And for us homeschooling, which lends a great deal of flexibility to our schedule, further enabling me to be there.

“And…” I reluctantly prayed, “I have to admit your wisdom, God, in not allowing me to have a baby, much as I have wanted one.  If I had an infant right now… or even a two-year-old, this would not be possible.  Instead, I am able to be here at my mom’s bedside when she needs me.”

I was incredibly thankful for that.

During her last weeks, my mom would drift in and out of lucidity.  She would often be asleep, and visitors and conversation continued in her room.  It was always pleasant.  One of my favorite things about that time is the peace and kindness present in the room, by the Holy Spirit and His work in my mother’s life.  I had so many great conversations with family members and with friends who had come to spend some time with my mother.

My husband and I have five children;  most of my parents’ friends know that.  And when one has “a bunch” of children, it is frequently asked of me, “Are you going to have any more?”  As a response to that question, one of the several times it was posed to me there in the hospital by a visitor, I responded by saying that only a few months ago, my mother had said to me, unprompted, “I know you and Martin aren’t likely to have any more children.  And I think that for most families, six children would be problematic.  But I want you to know that I think it would be fine if you have more children.  If any family should have more children, it should be yours.”

After I related that story, my mom, with eyes closed — I had thought she was asleep! —  piped up weakly, “It’s because you’re such a good mother.”

I cried.

……..

Back to the conversation following the text from my husband, I continued, saying, “I’m really glad you are… amenable to the idea of having more children, but I’m not pregnant.  I would know.”

He responded, “I was just going to the bathroom…”

Let me interject here to say that my husband’s work-bathroom-break-prayer-times have always been inspirational to me.  How often have I, as a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five, thought — or said, “I just don’t have enough time for a ‘real’ quiet time.”  However, I have long known that Martin uses those few minutes of alone-time, purposefully to check in with God.  It doesn’t take long, really, to reconnect with Him.  Martin prays about what’s on his mind.  He listens to anything the Father might say in return, all accomplished within a few minutes in the middle of his busy day.  I now do similarly.

“…and I feel like God spoke to me,” he continued.  “If you are pregnant — and I think you are — and if it is a girl — and I think it is — we’re going to name her after your mom.  I’m not tied to the middle name, but her first name will be Jean.”

I was shocked.

“But I’m not pregnant!” I repeated.

“Go get a test,” he responded.

“What if I am?” I asked, “Are you going to have a hard time with it?”

“Nope.  God spoke to me.  I already dealt with it.  It’s all good.”

I really don’t like that saying:  “It’s all good.”  But in this instance, I did.

I also have to interject a positive note for serving a God who SPEAKS, a God who speaks TODAY to the people He loves, if their ears are tuned to His voice, not only through His Word — the Bible — but directly from His Spirit into our spirit, into our thoughts, into our lives, RIGHT NOW, words of significance to where we are in our daily lives, in our minute-by-minute concerns, in our current needs.  What if we didn’t?  What if my husband didn’t?  What if I got pregnant and he was upset?  That had been my lone concern about becoming pregnant:  I’d be thrilled, my husband would be distressed and worried, and I’d have to spend nine months reassuring him that it would be OK, and knowing that we weren’t in unity…  I didn’t know if I could handle that.  But, in a few minutes, within the space of a bathroom break, God spoke to my husband and changed his mind entirely on the subject.

“Go get a test,” he repeated.

I did.

And I am.

Baby Jean will be born likely the end of June, next year, just after my 40th.

🙂

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.”

Integrity vs. Loyalty

Sometimes, I worry that my children won’t learn enough.  Or, rather, that, as homeschooled children, they won’t learn enough of the “right” things.

Of biggest concern is my high schooler, Ethan.  He’s 14, and a freshman.  He’s currently doing Sonlight’s Core 200, which is actually SL’s sophomore year program.*  Since the bulk of the history portion of this program centers on Christian church history and apologetics, I’m unsure if I can actually count it as a history credit.  In addition to church history, he’s also reading some serious lit:  Jane Eyre, Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, Oliver Twist, and Robinson Crusoe are all books he’s read this year.  Still, I sometimes wonder if we’re on the right track for him.

Then, some days, like today, I’m certain that — no matter if it is the “right” thing or not — there is SUCH VALUE in homeschooling.  We discuss topics that, in all likelihood, never reach the ears of a typically-schooled child.

The curriculum assigns readings from an anthology of poetry.  I have long held that poets are at least as interesting as their writings, and we’d be remiss to not become acquainted with each poet from the book.  This extra discussion makes the “poetry” section of his day take extra-long.  I don’t feel badly about this, but we’re just now finishing out week 16 of the poetry assignments, while the rest of his work is in week 30.

Anyway.

James Henry Leigh Hunt 1784-1859

Today had us read one of James Henry Leigh Hunt’s poems, Abou Ben Adhem.  The poem is all right;  not fabulous in my opinion.  The basic premise of it is that even if you don’t excel at loving God, it’s all right;  as long as you love others splendidly, God will bless (and ostensibly love) you the more for it.  That warrants discussion in itself.  However, we didn’t much discuss that.  What we did discuss was the nature of balancing integrity with loyalty.  Too much loyalty without integrity reaps a harvest of brown-nosing and spin-doctoring, sweeping sin issues under the rug.  Leigh Hunt, though, seems to have erred too much on the other side:  integrity over loyalty, which is rather ironic, given the topic of Abou Ben Adhem.  In other words, he was fond of speaking the truth, but not in love, not out of necessity, and often biting the hand that had fed and befriended him, publishing scathing critiques of his contemporaries’ works, and writing exposés of famous people of his day (leading, at one point, to a two-year jail sentence, for criticizing the Prince Regent)…  Unsurprisingly, he (and his wife and his ten children) frequently found themselves friendless and penniless…

Ideally, one would have family, friends, employers, et al, to whom one could be loyal, yet still retain one’s integrity.

I presented to Ethan the best example of both loyalty perfectly balanced with integrity that I know:  his father.  In our itinerant society, my husband has remained with the same employer for more than 20 years.  An integral part of our church (and on staff at said church) for nearly 23 years.  Married for 17+ years.  Each of those take commitment and loyalty.  Yet, he is also integrous to the nth degree, sometimes exasperatingly so, as he seeks to follow both the letter and the spirit of a law.  I was particularly pleased to show Ethan that one can excel at both integrity and loyalty.

It was definitely one of those learning experiences that I know Ethan wouldn’t have had elsewhere, and it made the whole day feel worthwhile.

—————-

*It’s not that Ethan is remarkably advanced;  it’s that we have already so extensively covered American History, which SL slates for freshmen, that I wanted him to learn something different.

What God spoke to me.

I was recently thinking that, for all I have disclosed on this blog over the last 6+ years, so much of the most significant events in my life go unrecorded.  Some things are inappropriate to share, some defy my attempts at explanation, some I just never get around to…

I’ve been considering that anew, this last week.  I just don’t even know if I could — or perhaps even should — convey all that happened to me.  It’s hard to explain.

New Irish friend Azman & me, having a really good conversation.

The short version is that I went to a three-day International Leadership Summit — a retreat in the cool pines of Prescott, Arizona.  Back down the hill into the Valley of the Sun, the following day, is what we call International Super Sunday, with an extended church service in the morning, and a nearly five-hour event at night that features a dinner, some amazing speaking, and worship, followed up by a prophetic presbytery, where leaders with prophetic gifting (30ish or so) will give a personal prophetic word to anyone who wants one, and pretty much all the attendees want one.  🙂  Or two.  Or three.  Or as many as there is time for.

My love and me, taken by a different new Irish friend, Claire... I don't look this good in real life. 🙂 Bless God for the occasional use of makeup and supportive undergarments.

The whole Leadership Summit started about 15 years ago with just the leadership team of my own church — 20-30 good folk (and their spouses, as appropriate, most of whom are also leaders) who lead a specific area of ministry within the church.  Then, we expanded to invite a few of the pastors/leaders of various international ministries/churches with whom we minister, or over whom we have some apostolic leadership.  (See?  I bet I just lost a good 50% of you with that last sentence, and I’m just not going to explain it, either.  Unless you ask.)

Of the Summit — which is three jam-packed, meaty days of teaching, worship, and ministry, the most significant to me was Friday night.  On that night, I was praying for some friends when the Holy Spirit came powerfully upon me.  At first, I just bent over and put my hands on my thighs, kind of holding myself up.  Then, I sat.  After a while, I had to lie down.  It wasn’t that sort of dramatic thing you may have heard about (and which I repeatedly have witnessed) where the Holy Spirit performs a “smack down” and a person slumps to the floor or falls backward.  It was a little more subtle than that.  But not by much.

For… a time… at least more than an hour, but I don’t know how long, I was prayed over and ministered to, both by my dear, dear friends… co-workers in Christ… and by the Holy Spirit.  I was trembly, deep in my core and up into my shoulders and arms, as the Holy Spirit was on me.  My abs are still sore, nearly a week later, I was shaking so long.

Everyone who yields to the Holy Spirit and comes under His power finds a different experience.  Some shake violently.  Some laugh.  Some weep.  Some experience a profound calm.  Another dear friend, Paul Min, an apostolic 77-year-old powerhouse from Irvine, California (originally from South Korea), experiences his legs shaking, and he knows the power of God is residing in him.  I tend to quiver/convulse in my core.  It’s been like that for my whole life.

I know that a great many of you may think that odd and/or unbelievable, and that you’d not care for it, and you’re having second thoughts about me, right about now.  Frankly, that doesn’t matter so much.  Well, the part that doesn’t matter is what you think of me.  It does matter a great deal to me how you consider the God of all creation.  But, you can think I’m a looney, and I’m all right with that.  Even if you stop reading my blog.  😉

Anyone who has read here for any length of time is well-aware that I’m a Christian;  I don’t hide that, though not every post is about JESUS JESUS JESUS.  It’s more like, “This is my life, and Jesus is an integral part of it, of me.”  I often don’t want to post on the more God-oriented events of my life, because its so hard to communicate effectively and so easily misunderstood.  But, I felt like this last week was too significant to just pass by.

See what I mean by that first paragraph?

So.  What happened to me in that time can be broken down into

  1. What others prayed over me.
  2. What the Holy Spirit spoke directly to me.

In the past, when I “go down” under the power of the Spirit, I — to my remembrance — have never heard His specific, direct words.  Instead, what I usually experience is more like a… sense, an overwhelming sense of whatever it is I need most at the time:  His love, His power, His mercy, His forgiveness, His whatever.  This time was different in that I felt very strongly that I heard His voice.  It wasn’t loud.  More than a whisper, but not loud.  But, there were some specific things, some specific words and thoughts that I have never had, on my own, and I feel very strongly that they were beyond “impressions”;  they were the Word of God, to me, addressing some very specific needs.

Another thing that was different…  Sometimes, I have become a wee bit confused over others’ prayers over me.  Everyone, even those with maturity, doesn’t always hear from God 100% right, and the things that come out of their mouths aren’t always the pure, unadulterated Word of God.  For that reason, Scripture teaches us to “weigh carefully” what is spoken by prophecy.  In the past, I’ve had some difficulty at times, sorting out what’s what.  This time, among the 7+ people who prayed over me, and the many things that were spoken, there were two specific instances where God said, “That’s immature and inaccurate.  You can toss that.”  And silently, I returned prayer for the the person who was praying, thanking God for their willingness to minister and pray, but asking Him to increase the clarity of their spiritual ears, so that in the future, they could pray with more effectiveness.  It is my observation that in situations like that, the pray-er is often speaking out of what they know about that person, and their own personal views, rather than led by the Holy Spirit.  That doesn’t make God’s word less powerful, though those who minister prophetically should be continually seeking greater clarity, accuracy, and maturity.  I Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

When the whole Friday night episode was over, I got up and wrote down everything I could remember.

Here are some of the things that God showed me — I’m not sharing everything.  Some of it is too personal, and some of it doesn’t quite make sense to me, and I have to hash it out, to seek God on it, still:

  • God showed me that some of the interests I have pursued — specifically writing and birthing stuff — I have done because I am afraid that I am too old to have prophetic singing/worship stuff fulfilled in me, things that have been prayed and spoken over me repeatedly — countless times — for the last 20+ years.  Writing and birthing are not bad and they may be pursued later, but for the right reasons, not out of fear or distraction.
  • I am to go to bed when my husband Martin does.  He is an early riser and I’ve always been a night owl.  In addition, I am an introvert, and I crave that time, late at night, when the house is still and no one needs me.  That is my “recharge” time.  However, it saddens my husband that I will not go to bed with him when he does, except maybe once a week.  I have thought he’s unreasonable/uncaring that he wants me do do/be something I’m not, and he thinks that I am unreasonable/uncaring because I won’t value his tender heart and the fact that he is restless until I come to bed.  I have been beyond stubborn, when what I really need to do is to obey.  I need to value him.  It is a “little” point of contention to me, but it is HUGE to my husband.  God the father affirmed to me that He will take care of things I fear I will lose in the process, and will make their replacement worthwhile.
  • I must be intentionalabout investing in both my guitar-playing and my singing.  I am a fair guitar-player and I have a great voice.  I’m not bragging;  it was a gift of God that I’ve known about since my early childhood.  However, for my whole life, I’ve just been expecting God to DO SOMETHING about my voice, with my voice.  And He has, to an extent.  I am one of the core vocalists on my precious church’s worship team.  I lead worship (playing guitar and singing) weekly in a home group.  I am one of the three worship leaders for our church’s 6-12 year-olds.  I have been maturing and growing in spontaneous prophetic singing.  Yet, I know that that is not all God has in store for me.  I know I’m not living up to my potential, to His calling in me.  However, I have just expected Him to drop some bomb, some opportunity, to hit me over the head with some profound and specific direction, and He hasn’t done that.  He said that, instead, I need to be intentional about working that gift, investing in it, prioritizing it, furthering it, developing skill…  I totally have NOT done that in the past.  I’ve just coasted on what I have.  To that end, He gave me two imperatives:
    • I am to play guitar and sing for a minimum of an hour, daily.  If I do other things — read, blog, pursue other interests, etc. — it is to be after that hour is completed.
    • I am to take a voice class.  (I’m not sure why about this one, and I have looked into it — the community college that is very close to my home, however, is an extension campus, and does not have voice.  The other location is REALLY far away, spring classes have already started, and the schedule doesn’t seem like it would work at all.  So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that.)
  • I felt indescribably strongly that smallish but mighty Vineyard Phoenix, my home church for 17+ years, will always be my Favorite House.  With capital letters.  My husband just got done reading a book by Tommy Tenney called God’s Favorite House.  I have not read it, though I know it is about building the local body of Christ, the local church.  I was FILLED with love and thankfulness and tenderness for the people who have poured themselves out for the Kingdom, for Jesus, and for me personally.  Even though about half (or more?) of those at the Summit were from other nations, those who prayed for me on Friday night — minus one — were all from my local church, Vineyard Phoenix.  I felt that was specific and intentional.  I have long loved the people of my church, especially those on the leadership team, with whom I have served for these many years, and whose pure, vibrant hearts for ministry and the  Gospel of Jesus I have been endless witness to.  But, especially on Friday night, I was filled with a… beyond-strong love for each.  Vicious, almost.  Abandoned, intense, jealous over, consuming, zealous love for my co-laborers in Christ.

I was going to next describe the things that were prayed over me by individuals, but I think that, instead, I will save that for next time.

Until then…  🙂  My love to all readers who have made it thus far.

Bubble burst

“Two minutes.  I’m walking Mommy out.  I’ll be back in two minutes.  Don’t come out.  Let me have TWO MINUTES with Mommy,” my hubby Martin stressed to the children, who were finishing dinner.

It’s a weekly event.  I go grocery shopping on Wednesday nights, and he walks me to the car, carrying my shopping bags and unlocking and opening the car door for me.  When you have five children, it’s pretty amazing how valuable a tiny slice of time together can be.

“So, even though I didn’t start this diet to lose weight, I’m pretty happy to have lost some.  Guess how much!” I demanded as we walked slowly toward the car.

I was thinking that he hadn’t noticed;  he hadn’t mentioned anything about it.  I thought he’d say, “Two pounds?  Three?” and I could return with a triumphant grin, “No!  Almost EIGHT!”  I’ve lost 7.7 lbs, to be exact.

He looked me over with a thoughtful, “Hmmm…” Then, he confidently guessed, “Seven point five pounds.”

WHAT???

At that point, Audrey came running out, barefoot in the 45° weather, in tears, “Granty ran into me and hit my mouth!!”

Our two minutes were clearly up, so we quickly kissed, I stuffed my near-shock at his accuracy, got into the car, backed out, threw “I love you” hand signs*, and went off to the grocery store, smugness deflated, as Martin tended to the crisis.

I asked him about it again this morning, and I’m still not sure if it was just a good guess or an accurate estimate based upon close observation.  It’s his secret, I guess.

—————

*We have a “secret” sign in our family.  It started with my hubby saying, “Love yas!” as he held up the normal “I love you” ASL short-cut, usually to Audrey, as he was backing out of her bedroom door at night.  When she was really little, Audrey started one-upping him by holding up both hands with the sign, saying, “Double love yas!”  Then, she raised the bar by crossing her two forearms into an X, with the “I love you” sign flashing on both hands, “Triple love yas!”  So, now, we all “triple love yas” each other…  🙂

MoFiN and SooP

Saturday was the 17th anniversary of marriage to my dear, integrous, handsome, and highly talented husband, Martin.  We enjoyed a fabulous day trip to central Arizona, where we enjoyed wine tastings at Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery and Page Springs Cellars.  Javelina Leap was more instructional and intimate.  Page Springs was more impressive, large, and put-together.  Page Springs had WAY more wines, but I think I enjoyed the experience at Javelina Leap better.

There are other wineries in the area, but we thought we’d better halt it at two.  🙂

We also very much enjoyed an hour or more meandering around the Page Springs Fish Hatchery nature area walking on the close, wooded trails, and watching the birds in and around the ponds.  We saw a Black Phoebe, six or so Great Blue Herons, dozens of American Coots and American Widgeons, many Mallards, several White-Crowned Sparrows, and perhaps hundreds of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, which were a new add to my life birding list.  We likely would have ID’ed more birds had we given it more time.

We spent the late afternoon and evening in old town Cottonwood, where there was a festival of some sort with a variety of interesting people, booths, music, art, and general funky, small-town atmosphere.  We bought some Peruvian wool yarn for my sister, who was staying with my girls, and had dinner at the Tavern Grille.

It was a great day.

On the drive home, we stopped for Starbuck’s and watched the moon rise over the bare hills of central Arizona.  Perfect.

When we got home, we discovered that my sister nearly died watching my girls.  Not really, but she was in tears.  Of course, she never let on about any of this while we were gone.  😦  She requested that she never watch the girls again without the help of at least two of my boys.  We then sort of laughed over the apparent oxymoron of how it’s easier to care for five children than two.  Plus her own 15 month old daughter.  My sister Robin has a bad back, and she said that she realized that, most of the time she watches my children, she stays on the couch and gives orders to the older children, intervening when necessary.  🙂  Much easier than chasing around one-, three-, and five-year-olds, nonstop, for about twelve hours.  She was in pain and a little horrified how Audrey in particular took advantage of Robin’s less-than-availability, instead of sympathizing and helping more, especially in light of how Robin had carted Audrey around to all sorts of special things that day — a birthday party, a paint-your-own-pottery place, the park…

I felt badly for Robin, and badly about raising a daughter who isn’t appreciative of the good things provided for her.  I’m still sorting that out in my mind, and in a couple of conversations with my sister regarding parenting…

This provided a giggle, though:

When my sister was preparing dinner (“soop”), Audrey — who had attended a birthday party earlier that day with her own gluten-free cupcakes in hand — decided to petition Robin for a better dinner.  “Mofin?  Yes!  Soop?  NO!”  It’s a “sparkle muffin” with frosting and sprinkles (a.k.a. a cupcake).  Note the appropriately-placed smiley face and frowny face.

Overall, a good day.

Next time, I’ll definitely have mercy on my sister by leaving behind some helpers for her.  🙂

Embracing the pain (sort of)

If you’re here for the recipes, you may just wanna skip this post.

The more I think about it — and I’m thinking about it a LOT lately — there are so many incredible parallels between natural childbirth and our walk in relationship with our Creator.

Something that has been percolating through my thoughts is the idea put forward in this verse:

To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children…” (Genesis 3:16a)

There is the idea floating about, in some Christian circles that a woman just MUST birth in pain;  it’s part of the price she pays for the fall of man, the sinful nature, the original sin of Adam and Eve, et al.

I’m not saying that childbirth is or even should be 100% pain-free — though I’ve heard of pain-free births, I’ve not experienced any.

HOWEVER.  I think the focus on the pain misses the point.

In Christ, there is never purposeless pain.  GOD DOESN’T JUST HURT US TO HURT US.  Ever.  I’m not saying that God’s ways are entirely pain-free.  Until we get to heaven, there simply IS going to be pain, as part of our lives here in on earth.  However, our God isn’t sitting up there in heaven saying, “You’re in pain?  You deserve it.  Ha ha.  Part of the Fall, baby!!  It’s the price you pay.”

Every trial we endure — no matter what kind — even if not directly ordained by God (though some are!), can ALWAYS be ultimately beneficial for us as His children.  Always.  God isn’t a masochist.  The pain He allows us to go through will — if we submit to His ways and if we’re intent on gaining HIM in the process — produces a “harvest of blessing” if we don’t try to opt out of the trial, or circumvent His process, seek a shortcut, or try to… self-medicate, rather than lifting our heads to look squarely in His face and say to Him, “What are you trying to teach me, Father?”  If, instead, during difficult times, we yield completely to Him, and allowing Him to teach us, to bring us closer to His heart, to — for our own benefit — prune sin or dysfunction or destructive behavior from our lives, we’re ALWAYS better off in the end.  His ways have an end, and the end is GOOD.

He disciplines those He loves.  I’m not suggesting that birthing a child is discipline or God correcting us…  But the experience of birth can DEFINITELY be used by Him to perfect us in His love — our experience of His love for us, our love for our husband, our love for our newborn, our love as a family, our love for Him…

I posted recently on I John 4:18a (NASB) “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”  But, I want to take this a step further.  I know that the Amplified Version makes for awkward reading, but hang with me here:

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection].  I John 4:18 (AMP)

What I suggest, and what the very end of the Amplified Version of this verse is saying is that, when we walk in fear of punishment (i.e., God is out to get us, God just wants to hurt us because we have it coming to us), that perspective is based out of a lack of understanding of His love.  “…he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love.”

GOD LOVES US.  He really does.  And when we see birthing as an extension of His love — even when it involves pain — and instead of being afraid of the pain, choose to embrace His process, and trust Him completely, we will then reap the fruit.  In terms of natural childbirth, the “fruit” doesn’t just refer to the baby, but (among other benefits):

  • Feeling profoundly grateful to Him
  • Closer to our husband and more appreciative of him
  • In awe of our Father God’s creative power working through us
  • An overwhelming experience in delighted love
  • A profound sense of a job well-done
  • Optimal physical health (natural birthing is better for both mother and baby)
  • Creating an amazing experience for EVERYONE who witnesses or participates in the birth
  • And a billion other things, most of which you could not anticipate or appreciate beforehand, but just have to experience to believe and understand.

In short (or, shortish), PLEASE don’t just brace yourself for pain and think that pain is just “meant to be”.  Embrace the process, even if the process involves pain.

Next up (as soon as I can get it written down, in my spare time between tending to my home, homeschooling four of my five children, baking the perfect gluten-free loaf… ):  why just “getting through” labor short-sells you as a mother.

 

Knock, knock…. KNOCK, KNOCK!!!

I struggle with being discouraged too easily and reading the wrong thing into roadblocks.  It came as a complete revelation to me that just because the initial answer appears to be “no” that doesn’t mean God wants me to stop trying.  Perhaps He wants me to try a different way, use a different approach, or wait…  You know, persist.  Persevere.  Ask and keep on asking.  Knock and keep on knocking.*  Seek Him out.  Pray a bit more.  Fast, even.

That’s hard for me.  I was raised in a “No means no” world, and I tend to be like that myself.

I found myself in adulthood with the mistaken impression that if something went wrong with my plans, then it wasn’t meant to be.  And, the inverse:  If God wanted me to do something, He’d make it easy for me.  <facepalm>  I can’t believe now that that was my understanding of blessing.  I thought if something was His plan for me, that if I was following His path, that surely He’d make the way smooth.  Proverbs 3:5-6 does say that He will direct our path if we’re trusting in Him, but it took me years — YEARS — to understand that sometimes, He directs our path through some pretty rocky terrain.

I remember my first months of marriage, and me being really shocked with how difficult it was.  I cried every day for the first three months.  Part of that was from difficulty adjusting, and part of it was, “HOLY CRAP.  What have I gotten myself into???”  I was really panic-stricken, because I thought that my husband Martin was God’s plan for me, but if he was, then why were things so *@&#)(*&!! hard???  So, I thought that maybe I had heard wrong from God, and now here I was, stuck in a marriage that was not of Him, stuck because I didn’t believe in divorce, and if I had made the wrong decision, I was going to have to suck it up and live — until death do us part — with my poor decision.

I didn’t understand that many, many, many times, God uses difficulty to refine us, to teach us, to draw us to Him, to bring us to maturity…

Ease ≠ God.

At least, not necessarily.

I think I had fabricated a holy-ish interpretation of the obviously fleshly maxim, “If it feels good, do it.”  I had turned it into, “If everything goes smoothly, God is in it, so it must be right.”  Turns out, that’s not in scripture.  That’s just not His way.  Lying on your back in a green field, looking up at the puffy clouds as they float by is pleasant, and there truly are some beautifully pleasant times with God;  He is a God of peace.  But, He is also a God of discipline.  I mean discipline in the best sense — the ordered, structured process by which we reap something fruitful from our well-directed labor.

I’m thinking of my garden right now.  It has been an unending metaphor for my life.  “If I pick the right seeds — heirloom, native, organic — and plant at the right time, and tend it properly, I will have LOADS and LOADS of abundant produce, and I will share it with everyone, and I will can the overflow, and we will save on groceries, and I will be productive, and my husband will appreciate my efforts on behalf of our family!!!”  Well, it hasn’t turned out like that.  I did a whole lot more learning in the last six months or so than reaping.  These past couple weeks, I have been preparing the soil for a better harvest…  About 3″ more of (organic, homemade) compost, about a 1/2″ layer of sand, a handful of Ironite, a sprinkling of gypsum, turn over the soil as deep I can, mix it in, mix it again, turn it again, get down on my hands and knees with a little trowel and little cultivator and try to work every cubic inch of soil, down at least 12″.  THAT IS HARD WORK.  I have worked up a sweat.  I have gotten sunburnt.  I have gotten COVERED in dirt.  And it takes all day to do about 20 square feet.  All day.  Sore muscles, quarts of water consumed, swatting away the flies…  Ugh.  It hasn’t been pretty, that’s for sure.

But, I have hope, you know?

I’m not as idealistic (which is a whole ‘nother topic — harmful idealism) as I once was about the garden, and I find myself saying, “Well, maybe the winter crop still won’t be fruitful.  But I’m going to keep on trying, keep on learning, and I’m not giving up.”

I know, I know… I’ve already blogged about this.

This post, by the way, is NOTHING like what I set out to write.  I was going to write about how a young woman wanted me to be her unofficial doula last year, and I invested HOURS of time on her, and when it came to labor, she totally chucked all the natural stuff out the window and had a pitocin-and-epidural birth and was disappointed by the results, and how she didn’t feel euphoric when the baby was born (drugs’ll do that, because they’re endocrine disruptors).  Then, she got pregnant again, and didn’t invite me to the birth, which I was OK with, because the first one was a hard disappointment…  But her first words to our mutual friend after her second son was born was, “I wish Karen had been here.”  Which made me happy and sad.  I should have at least asked if she wanted me there, instead of saying to myself, “Hmph.  I’m not even going to offer, because if she really wants to do it naturally, she’ll ask.”  Gah.  I feel like a slug for having thought that.  AND, it’s one more instance of me giving up too easily, letting my disappointment beset me, and that keeping me from doing something I really should have done.

I remember one night in a small group Bible study, about fifteen years ago, and a guy named Doug said something about seeking God out, and that sometimes, it’s like God plays hide-and-seek.  I was offended.  That went against EVERYTHING I believed.  God doesn’t HIDE from us!  If God wants us to know something, or do it, He will let Himself be known.  We don’t have to LOOK for Him!  Doug said that God hides in such a way like we might with a small child — with a big toe sticking out underneath the curtain which we’re hiding behind, or we might cough a bit.  I cannot begin to describe my shock.  Then Doug had the audacity to Scripturally back up what he was postulating, using verses in the Song of Solomon.  The whole thing really… well, I don’t know if it changed my paradigm right then, but it at least started the process.

And, I think Doug was onto something there.

He’s now a pastor at my church, too.  😀  Turns out he does know a thing or two.

So.

The moral of the story is, instead of expecting God to just appear with an orchestral crescendo and sprinkle magic pixie dust on my life and make it easy, I’m learning to look for His big toe, the hint of His presence, and not be so easily discouraged when He doesn’t show up with blessing like I thought He was supposed to, in the way I want Him to.

He DOES bless, but He doesn’t bless by making things EASY.  Martin IS the right man;  it’s just that marriage is hard work, and honoring my husband and laying down my life — in some ways literally, in some figuratively — for him is hard.  The garden isn’t flawed just because it needs some hard work, not the garden in my back yard, nor the garden of my life.

————————-

*“ask” in Matthew 7:7 — αιτειτε  verb – present active imperative.  In other words, you DO it and you keep doing it.

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