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Posted on Nov 20, 2012 in Devotional, Fertility | 1 comment

Taken Care Of

Taken Care Of

Bed rest.  That is the newest development in my pregnancy story.  My only job between now and the birth of our child is to stay still, preferably by laying on my left side, and keep calm until the baby is born.  High blood pressure and gestational diabetes have led to this prescription.  I’m allowed to sit up a little, go to Sunday school, drive myself to the doctor once a week, and even go to a wedding this weekend (as long as I’m one of the first guests to leave and I only stand and walk when absolutely necessary).  I am NOT allowed to do laundry, dishes, cleaning, unnecessary walking, or eat too much sugar or carbs.  I am to stay home, watch my diet, and remain calm.

The first weekend I had to endure bed rest, I thought I might lose my mind.  I’ve spent the last 30 weeks or so resting a lot, but for much of that time I’ve at least been able to prepare simple meals, keep up with the laundry, and get groceries.  It was hard to do those tasks, but at least I accomplished something.  Weird pains, back problems, swelling, and so forth plagued me, making me question why anyone does this to themselves willingly.  Amazingly, since I’ve been confined to the couch, most of that has gone away.  I lay here feeling pretty good, blood pressure and sugar in check, struggling not to get up and get a few things done.  There’s a baby coming into this house and there’s a lot that still needs to be done!  But when I do get up, I’m immediately reminded of why I’m laying down.  High blood pressure doesn’t FEEL good.  If I want to feel good and have a healthy baby, I have to deal with the stillness.

I’m an independent, get-it-done kind of person.  My parents still tease me about my favorite phrase as a toddler:  “I do it myself!”  Apparently an independent spirit is built into my DNA.  I dressed myself in backwards and mismatched clothes, refused to crawl until after I had learned to walk, basically potty trained myself, and so forth.  Always in a hurry, always sure I could handle the task, and ready to push past anyone who might try to slow me down…  I moved to Nashville when I was 22 years old, with no job or relatives or friends, determined to make a life for myself.  I was tired of living under the shadow of my rock-star pastor father and wanted to experience life on my own.  In the thirteen years I was on my own, God really dealt with my independent spirit.  Not only did I want to be independent from others, but I wanted to be independent from Him.  I tried to love God, but I didn’t really trust Him to take care of me.  I was pretty sure I could handle my life better than He could and I learned the hard way that I’m prone to make a big mess of things.

A few years ago, something changed inside me.  All the trying and fighting and independence suddenly felt like a huge burden I was carrying alone.  Through a series of events that might not have seemed to be a big deal at the time, I learned to let go and let God take care of me.  I learned that He is trustworthy.  To let God handle things for me wasn’t to place too big a burden on His shoulders.  I didn’t have to apologize for needing God.  All I had to do was relax and He would make a way.  When I lost my job and had no prospects of employment, God reassured me that He would provide for me.  And He did.  I had everything I needed and more.  I began to understand what it meant to be cherished and loved, and in turn I became able to accept the love and support of those around me who I had pushed away for so long.  Many of my walls came down and I became a grateful receiver.

I had no idea that God was preparing me for marriage and family life, but then I got married and moved away from all I had built for myself.  I quit making an income and had to rely upon my husband to provide for us financially.  Our pre-marriage counselor, a man who has often been the sole provider in his family, blew my mind when he told me that many men are honored to provide for their wives in this way and see it as a way to rescue and be the conquering hero.  Even though I was capable of providing for myself, he suggested I gratefully receive Rick’s support and allow him that boost to his ego.  When Rick agreed with him, I whispered a prayer for God to help me trust my husband and to still my fears, and He did as I requested.

I moved to a rural community where stores aren’t open “normal” city hours.  If I needed cold medicine after 9:00 p.m., there was nowhere within a 12 mile radius to get it.  But amazingly, my mother-in-law lives right down the road and often had what I needed.  How strange to suddenly rely on parental figures to provide what I needed after so long in a place without family.  I had a hard time asking, but she delighted in helping and another wall came down.

And then I got pregnant.  I had enjoyed keeping the house nice and preparing hot meals for the man who was supporting me.  It was my job as his wife to find ways to make him happy and have our home be a place he enjoyed walking into and hated to leave.  Soon I could do very little of that.  Constant vomiting and sickness turned me into a needy, whiny wife who demanded he drive fifteen miles away to pick up whatever specific food I was craving, then promptly threw it up and couldn’t stand to look at what was left.  Through even that, my husband chose to became more of a servant to me.  He cleaned up my vomit and learned how to use our new-fangled appliances, did his own laundry, and kept the bathroom clean.  When the daily vomiting stopped, things got better.  I was able to pick back up some of my previous responsibilities.

And then I was put on bed rest.  I have been humbled, then humbled some more, than humbled some more after that.  Here I lay, feeling fairly decent at this point in the pregnancy (as long as I’m laying down), and watching as others step in to care of me and the things that concern me.  My sweet mother-in-law has taken over laundry duty – ironing, washing, folding, and helping me get all the new little things ready for sensitive baby skin.  Rick’s parents have made sure we have meals, groceries, and supplies.  Other friends have brought us meals and helped ease the monotony by spending time with us.  The nursery walls have been decorated and the house is free of dust, thanks to Rick’s friends who have been so welcoming to me.  We’ve received countless gifts for our new baby from friends and family, helping ease the financial burden of preparing for this precious child.

My husband has shown me love and devotion in more ways than I can count.  After working long days in the fields, he comes in to serve me.  He keeps the dishes done, sweeps the floors, brings me medicine and snacks and whatever else I think I need.  And after all that, he still looks at me with love in his eyes.  He encourages me when I’m down and reminds me that I’m doing important work while I lie here feeling useless.  He tells me I’m beautiful and that I look just right, in spite of my feelings to the contrary.  (It’s hard to keep up with a normal beauty routine when you have to lay down all the time.)  My love for him grows daily and I’m continually amazed by this wonderful man God gave me.

Being taken care of is a gift I am trying very hard to appreciate.  It’s a struggle not to be the strong one who everyone else can look to for strength and support.  It’s hard to lie on the couch while someone else dusts your furniture and folds your laundry.  And yet it is a tremendous blessing.  God has blessed me with a network of beautiful people who have become His hands and feet to minister to me.  I’m grateful and humbled by their support and embrace.  Lastly, it makes me wonder why I ever felt the need to do it all myself.  I placed such an unnecessary burden on myself for so many years and I’m forever grateful that God made it His business to lift the burden and teach me another way.

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Posted on Nov 6, 2012 in Devotional | 5 comments

What do we do with trouble?

What do we do with trouble?

I’ve always been taught the biblical principle of sowing and reaping.  In Christianity, it is taught over and over again that obedience and sacrifice in the short-term will produce blessing and abundance in the long-term.  Many Christians believe the long-term blessings will come in heaven, but I’ve been taught to believe that we can expect these blessings on earth as well.*

Financially, Christians are to give at least 10% of their income back to the church.  All money belongs to God, who has given it to us to use, and we are to be good stewards of it.  Part of being a good steward is giving back just 10% of it for the work of the church.  In elementary school, I was given an allowance of $2 a week and taught to turn $.20 over to church and to save $.20.  I was never very good at the savings part, but the tithe part stuck with me.  To the best of my knowledge, my parents have tithed on every dime they’ve ever made, plus given offerings over and above for things they felt were special needs.  I wish I could say I’ve been that faithful, but that is my goal.

Obedience is also said to produce blessings.  If God calls a person to do something too big and hard for them, He will give them the strength and means to do so.  If God calls a person to become a missionary in a foreign country, their desire to go will match the call and it will be a time of great joy in their lives – even if the joy is mingled with suffering.

While it hasn’t always been the case in my life, I’ve been working hard at total surrender and obedience over the last several years.  With a few exceptions that I remember with sorrow, I can say that I’ve done all I know to do to honor God and follow His lead.  I’ve left everything I know, the life I built for myself, in order to go where I believe He sent me.  I waited for the man I felt called to marry, rather than jumping in to a lifelong commitment without God’s peace.  I’ve been humbled more than I can say, watching dreams and plans float away with the belief that if they were from God, He will be the one to bring them back to me.  And He has rewarded me.

This time in my life has been wonderful – peace and stability and joyful answers to prayer.  I prayed for a husband, children, and a home of my own.  I prayed for the ability to focus on writing and let that be my primary goal.  God has granted me my requests in amazing ways, granting promises I waited years to see fulfilled and giving me such peace in the process.  But as it seems life is prone to do, the blessings have been mingled with suffering and difficulties and fear.  I guess the two go hand in hand.

My long-desired pregnancy, the gift of this child growing in my womb, has demanded more from me physically than I ever imagined.  There have been nights when I’m so overwhelmed with the challenge of this daily sickness and difficulty that I just cry, wondering if I’ll ever feel normal and healthy again, wondering if I’ll ever have the energy to make friends here.  During my pregnancy, we discovered that my mother and aunt had breast cancer and have been walking through their difficult medical interventions.  I’ve found it difficult to pray, to read the Bible, to even think much about God.  While I should be grateful and blessed, I’ve struggled with resentment and frustration.

Why?  Well, I guess I thought that after waiting so long for the right one to come along, after doing the right thing, I would be blessed with a blissful pregnancy.  And I certainly shouldn’t have to watch my sweet, godly, faithful mother suffer the ravages of a terrible disease and its treatment.  I’m an older mom because I didn’t feel God release me to marry until I found Rick.  I rested in the promise that He would “renew my strength like the eagles”** and touch me with a special grace for this time in my life.  But it seems genetics and age-related pregnancy complications are mine to deal with anyway.

Surely I’ll have a smooth delivery and perfect angel of a baby though, right?  I have to admit that my optimism for that is not good.  I find myself bracing for the worst.

As I consider my own difficulties, I think of families I know where major health problems cause them to deal with frighteningly large bills, fraudulent insurance companies, and the inability to work consistently (to make money to pay the bills) due to the treatments they must endure to save their lives.  They are people who have given their lives to Christian service and been faithful to tithe for many years, who now face mountains of hospital bills on top of the fears for their health.  I think of the childhood friend who prayed for years and turned herself inside out to have children, now facing the challenges of nurturing a baby who is unlikely to live outside the womb.  Will the child live until birth, if she makes it that long will she live more than a few hours, and what life-saving measures should they take to prolong her life?  What kind of a life will she have?  Yes, this is a friend who has faithfully served the Lord with her whole heart.

How do we reconcile these challenges with the God who promises blessing and abundance in exchange for obedience and sacrifice?  Are we to believe that relief only comes once we meet Jesus face to face?

I wish I had an answer, a neat bow to tie this blog up with, something to set all our minds at ease…  I don’t.  One thing and one thing only, I know.  It is that God is in control and He is still God, in spite of the difficulties we face.  We are fearful people, wanting reassurance that we can control our future and reduce our risk of problems.  We look to the Bible for formulas that will keep us from trouble.  We pay our tithe, like insurance, in the hope that we’ll be spared from financial trouble and suffering.  We surrender our lives to God’s control in the hope that He will rescue us from all trouble and give us “exceedingly, abundantly above what we could ask for or think.”  And trouble still comes.

I will serve the Lord, no matter the trouble, all the days of my life.  I will honor Him and bless His name, even when I don’t understand.  And I will struggle against the arrogance that says, “I don’t deserve this trial.”  When I truly compare myself to Christ, I find that I am weak, poor, broken, and sinful.  I will continue to believe that God is working all things for my good, even if that good is a long, long way off.

Trouble may come, but it will not keep me from worshipping my Savior. 

*Psalm 27:13
**Isaiah 40:31

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Posted on Oct 9, 2012 in Devotional, Fertility | 6 comments

Without Complaint

An old friend of mine from high school recently posted something on Facebook that stopped me cold in my tracks.  We are the same age and are both pregnant for the first time, both wanting so much to be mothers, both concerned that we had waited too long to be able to carry a child in our wombs.  She commented that even though she was experiencing some difficulties in the process, she was trying to do all things without complaint (Phil 2:14).  Um.  Uh.  Really????

Shoot.  Before I got pregnant, that was my solemn vow.  I was going to be the most cheerful pregnant woman you ever met, looking up from the barf bucket with a smile on my face, just so happy to be carrying a child in my womb.  I was going to make a joyful noise to the Lord every day, no matter what the day brought, so thankful to finally get to be a mother.  But then the terrible, awful sickness began; and with the sickness, my resolve to be cheerful and grateful disappeared.

I became someone entirely other than myself – a whiny, complaining, crying, screaming, lethargic, puddle of tears.  I didn’t want to see anyone, talk on the phone, read my Bible, or pray anything other than – “Help!  Please heal me God.”  When God didn’t answer that prayer, I didn’t want to talk to Him any more either.  And the worst of it is that according to C.S. Lewis, I wasn’t actually turning into someone other than myself.  Who I was during that time was the truest me that exists – the one that cannot hide behind good manners and social graces, but has been reduced to the rawest form of herself.  That was ME, even if it was me on serious pregnancy hormones.  Everything else is just a better presentation of ME to the world.  Ugh.  I can’t say that I’m a big fan of ME.

Thankfully, the constant vomiting is now under control.  There are other super-fun symptoms to deal with, but they are nothing compared to that misery.  In spite of feeling better, I got into a bad habit of complaining and I allowed it to continue.  I was experiencing very little joy in the pregnancy and a lot of fear and self-pity.

When I read my friend’s words, I was immediately convicted.  No, I don’t think she’s been through what I went through in those first five months, but the Bible doesn’t offer a side-bar to excuse those of us who experience extra suffering.  It just says to do ALL things without grumbling or complaining.  That particular Scripture is taken out of context for this point, but the whole of Scripture and the life of Christ point to this example of godliness.  We are to look to the cross, remember the pain our Lord suffered for us, and walk as examples of Him in this world.  We are to take up our cross and follow Him.  Just because I’ve committed my life to Christ, gone to seminary, become an ordained pastor, or made sacrifices to be obedient doesn’t exempt me from the troubles of this world.  Genetics are genetics (thanks, Mom).  And obviously God has something to teach me through this experience or else He would have healed me.  I have faith and believe that with Him all things are possible.  I believe that He could utter a single word and I would have no more illness or suffering.  I wish He would.  But that is not the path He is giving me to walk right now and I have a choice to make.  Will I continue to grumble and complain or will I do all things without grumbling or complaining?

I believe there’s a fine line there.  God doesn’t ask us to lie and say that everything’s fine when it isn’t.  When I was a nanny, I had a rule that I didn’t hear the children when they spoke to me in a whiny tone of voice.  They would whine and whine and receive none of my attention.  But when they stated the problem in a normal, matter-of-fact tone of voice, I immediately stopped what I was doing and helped them.  I didn’t ask the children to ignore a problem, but just to approach it without whining.  In the same way, I believe God allows us the freedom to state our difficulties matter-of-factly.  In that way, others can pray for us, help us along if needed, and understand why we aren’t full of energy or strength.  To do so without grumbling or complaining is the key.

For the last two days I’ve gone over and over what that means for me.  I talked to my husband about it.  I shared it with my Sunday school class.  And now I’m sharing it with you.  I want to spend the next eleven weeks or so, depending on when the baby comes, doing my best to refrain from grumbling or complaining.  I will answer cheerfully, find the humor in the situation, and thank God every day for the opportunity I’ve been given to be a mother.  It will probably be easier now than it was when I couldn’t keep anything down, so I’ll be thankful for that too.  And when the baby comes and I’m physically sore and sleep deprived, unsure of myself, afraid that we’ll do something wrong, and emotional, I will focus on the joy of that precious little face.  I will sing praise to God for the gift of a child.  And I will cling to Him, ask for His strength and wisdom, and beg for His grace to smile through it all.

Those are my plans.  If I fail, and I probably will, I will repent and start over.  I have been blessed beyond measure and when I keep my eyes on Jesus and ignore the wind and waves, He reaches out His hand to steady me every time.  Lord, help me to keep my eyes on You.

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Posted on Aug 25, 2012 in Fertility, Marriage, Wisdom | 4 comments

Writer’s Block?

Writer’s Block?

The writing muse seems to have taken a little vacation from me in the last several months.  Adjusting to farm life took a back seat to adjusting to pregnancy, and it’s hard to imagine that I’d keep many readers if every post began with an update on the number of times I’ve vomited recently.  I’ve attempted to write on some deeper topics that seem good as I get started, only to shut the computer in frustration and give up when it becomes obvious that my ability to relate the topic to others has somehow been broken.  How do I get back on track with writing my blog?

One of the things I’d really like to do is go back to school for a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Non-Fiction.  The degree would polish my skills and open doors into professional (i.e. PAID) writing.  And as I’ve learned over the years, a little education can go a long way to taking something good about yourself and making it amazing.  Since taking on the new role of mother has most of my attention right now, it’s not a good time to start a degree program.  However, I decided that there’s no reason I shouldn’t pursue an education in the field at my own pace during this time – preparing myself for the day I pay someone to give me feedback on all I’m reading and writing.  So I’ve been slowly reading more and more books on writing.  The subject fascinates me and I want to absorb all I’m learning.  Right now my bookshelf is full of two important subjects:  babies and writing.

A theme I’m finding in my writing books is that whether we are fiction or non-fiction writers, we must learn to write from our own experiences.  Our experiences are the only things we can truly rely on (unless we’re science fiction/fantasy writers).  I always assumed that literary fiction writers had tremendous imaginations and made up everything they wrote, but what their imaginations really do is look at the world around them, circumstances and people and things, and ask, “what if…?”  Then they allow their imaginations to take hold from there.  The details of the books are often fictionalized versions of their own lives and experiences.  (I’m feeling every day like it’s more and more possible for me to actually write literary fiction, although I’ve always felt like it was not my gifting.)

Because we must write from our own experience, it’s no wonder that writers are often full of angst, depressed, frustrated, and confused.  We must write to sort out the mess in our heads, get it down on paper (or screen) and make sense of it all.  By examining our own thoughts and feelings, we are able to make sense of the world.  As we make sense of our world, we relate it to others in a way we hope they will understand and appreciate.  So does that mean that a writer without angst, depression, frustration, or confusion is not much of a writer at all?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself recently.  Has my world become so smooth, so joyful, so peaceful that I no longer have anything to write about that the world may relate to?

Um.   The answer to that question is a resounding NO.  While aspects of my life that I used to write about no longer fill me with fear and angst, there are new problems that come with every new stage in our lives.  But since my current sorrows involve people I love dearly, it’s hard to know what is appropriate to share and what is not my place.  How do I write about finding out several of my dearest loved ones have cancer, especially when they have chosen to manage their illness privately?  How do I write about the miseries of pregnancy when I’ve wanted for so long to carry a child in my womb – and wanted to be full of grace and beauty in the process?  How do I write about daily frustrations with sorting out married life, adjusting to a new family, and all that goes with it?  Are they my stories to share or is it disrespectful to drag those I love most dearly into such a public forum?

Is it really writer’s block, or is what I’m writing too deeply personal to publish?  Because I HAVE been writing.  It’s that I’ve been unable to share.

Lastly, I’ve been questioning if I want this to turn into a “mommy blog” like so many I follow.  I thoroughly enjoy reading about the joys of motherhood and money-saving tips on raising a family.  I could post more of my favorite recipes and share the information I’ve found on handling extreme pregnancy sickness.  But is that what I want to write about regularly?  The answer is no.  While my experiences inform my writing, and I’m currently experiencing major adjustments as a new wife and expectant mother, my hope is to share nuggets of truth and lead others closer to Christ and a healthy, biblical world view.  That isn’t to say I think my world view is the healthiest, most biblically-centered world view.  But as I grow in my understanding of that concept, my hope is to find a way to communicate it to others.  I have to write from my experiences, so the backdrop of my postings will center around my daily life as a wife and mother, but I’m hoping for something more to come out as well.

The Lord has turned my mourning into dancing, blessed me with all that I wanted and more, and I am grateful.  I want to find a way to share that with the world. In that sharing, my goal is to be respectful and honoring to those who share their lives with me and to earn their trust, so if they ever do show up in one of my blog postings, they will feel blessed.

So for today, I will not write about cancer, the shocking difficulty of this (healthy) pregnancy, or the latest negotiation I’ve had with my husband over what we do or do not need for a baby.  My life is not perfect nor stress-free, and finding my voice in that reality is a struggle.  Please bear with me as I stretch to find new ways to communicate effectively and respectfully.

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Posted on Jul 27, 2012 in Fertility | 1 comment

Oh Happy Day!

Just a short post to mark a momentous day in this pregnancy…  Today makes one whole week since I’ve thrown up!  This is not to say that everything is better and I’m back to my regular, perky self quite yet.  I still have to be very careful about what I eat, avoiding the foods I’ve discovered this baby just isn’t interested in.  My energy seems to be returning a bit and I’m very grateful for that, but I still get worn out if I attempt too much at one time.  The ability to keep my meals down is a major improvement, though, and I’m so thankful.

Thank you all so much for your prayers.  I feel like I’m coming out of a dark room and still need a little time to get my eyes adjusted.  God has been good to bless us with this baby and we’re so thankful for that.  I’m very hopeful that I’ll be able to focus my energy in the coming months on the joy of this pregnancy and less on the inside of a trashcan.

I’m working on several new postings for the coming weeks and I look forward to returning to regular blogging again soon.

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