Saturday, December 13, 2008

Part of Her.

In these moments of losing myself in the Mary's joy at the hope of becoming a mother, I've sort of lost myself. I've contemplated over and over what it must feel like to know the pure joy of that time, when you're anticipating the possibilities of what THIS child will bring to your family. I knew that f feeling or a very short period, many years ago. During those weeks of pregnancy, though too few, Hubby and I did alot of dreaming. We had waited for this child, and prayed and hoped and we knew that our prayers were answered. And since it was early on in our journey, and we had followed the doctor-guided steps, endured it all, to get us to this miracle, we basked in it. We weren't worried about what might happen. We trusted, although it might seem without ultimate naivete, that this child would be in our arms, and we waited joyously, secretly and dreamed of what life would be like. We dreamed that if he were a boy, he would have my deep brown eyes and Hubby's curly hair, and we'd let his hair grow to see if it was true. If she were a girl, we dreamed of my bubbly grin and blonde hair, his gentle smile and hazel eyes. We dreamed, about the possibilities of what our child might be like, the intermingling of us together, of our love, of our joy, of His promise.

And as I thought about our Jamie-Noel this week (all the while parenting the two miracles that have joined our family through amazing miracles as well, in the last five years) it's been intertwined with thoughts of Mary and how she might feel anticipating the birth of her son, of God's Son. How would that feel to know you were chosen by God for this special purpose? Would it leave you breathless, or would you just know that God is Good and knew what was best, and well this is life. I can't imagine the just knowing, but maybe she did. I mean, she was visited by an angel and all. Maybe in that revelation came assurance. I've never felt God's assurance of my role as a mother until all was said and done, until the child was born, and papers were signed and we knew for certain our children would never leave. Did she know certainty? Maybe she did.

But then, maybe she didn't. I don't know if she fully realized what was ahead of her, or took things at face value, or even whether or not she was able to enjoy her pregnancy and the fact, that God's child was in her, that she was the caregiver for His Magnificent Gift to the world. I'm trying to understand from my human perspective ~ afterall, Mary is only human too ~ as someone who has longed most of her life to know the joy of pregnancy and all that comes with it. I can imagine that she embraced it, loved her child like any other mother would.

Did she say her words of praise with the joy of knowing of the life within, or did she, like the rest of us who long for His Birth, who anticipate the celebration of This Child, God With Us, born, di she wait and not fully realize until she saw His gentle baby face and heard his coos and cries that blessed night in a cave outside Bethlehem. Did she know before, or like the rest of us, wait and see and then believe?

When did she come to realize fully ~ as in more than from the words of the angel but in the seeping into her soul ~ that not only was Her Child hers to hold and love and care for, but He was God's Child. He was hers and her soon-to-be husband's child here on earth, but He was also a God's as well.

Bed of Hay, Earthen floor
Strangers walk through the door
I wanted much more for You
Look at Him, can't you tell
All is fine, All is well
And the Word of the Angel is true

He's part of you and He's part of me
He's part of heaven
He's part of you and He's part of me
He's part of heaven

By my side every day
Underfoot and in my way
Give me wisdom, I pray, O Lord
He is ours for awhile
Every tear and every smile
Till He's everyone's Child to adore

He's part of you and He's part of me
He's part of heaven
He's part of you and He's part of me
He's part of Heaven

~ from the CD This Gift by Gary Chapman
(c) 1992, lyrics by Thom Schuyler/Music by Craig Bickhardt

I heard this song this morning while baking a cake and it hit me in an eerily roundabout way. Jamie-Noel, my precious baby lost, the one I've spent so much time dreaming of, was not only mine, but God's child. And she is where He wants her to be right now. And there's peace in knowing that.

And these two precious loves that I hold and love and care for each day are also His. And He chose me, in a very roundabout way, to be their Momma here on earth. He chose me to be their Momma through all sorts of hard circumstances both in my life and the life of others we love. No, God did not intent them to be my children to raise, but another mothers in the beginning. But then, in the end, God having to send His Only Son to the world, into a manger no less, to live and then to endure the cross, well, I believe that was not God's first plan, but one by His Grace put into place when we fell so hard in our Eden, away from what He really wanted for us.

And just like Mary, I am mother as God's second, albeit equally important, plan. These children are a part of me, and their Daddy, and their other parents, and... God.

And just like Mary, we have been chosen to raise these children to carry out God's plan for the world, in a different way of course, but each one of them, still the hands and feet of Jesus to a world dying in their own Eden. Don't get me wrong... I'm no Mary. And my children are not God made human. But as believers, we have to start seeing ourselves as the extension of God's work made perfect through Christ's life and death and resurrection, or the power of the Gospel will be lost to the world.

Just like me, I can imagine it took Mary to physically see and touch her baby to really know Who He was. And my children, just like Jesus was to Mary, are here for only a little while, and are given into my care to prepare them for their purpose in the world. I pray I'm upto the task.

Heavenly Father ~ I am overwhelmed by the gift of Your Son to our world. And I am overwhelmed by how you chose to save me from all my lostness. Overwhelmed at the thought that your Son died for me. And overwhelmed by the task of all that you've called me to. May I know YOUR joy, the joy you intended for me, each and every day. I want to live always longing for more of you, and I pray for wisdom to know when You speak, I must act, both as I raise my family and as I share Christ through my own life. You have created us a part of you, and that overwhelms me too. Please God, let me know your Joy. Amen.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

O Come.

This week is traditionally the time of Advent when we consider Joy.

I've practically been lost in The Magnificat, the song of praise Mary, the expecting mother of Jesus. This passage of Scripture found in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke moves me every time I read it (which frankly is not often enough).

Luke 1:45 are the words of her older cousing Elizabeth who is also, hope against hope, for she was barren, and miracle of miracles, for she was getting up there in years, was finally pregnant. Mary came to visit her and Elizabeth, upon Mary's arrival, felt her own child leap in her womb. She longed for a child and her prayers were answered.

And Elizabeth knew. She knew about Mary because the Holy Spirit live in her. Elizabeth, who is described as a woman who lived blameless, knew. And she said, "Mary, you are blessed ~ or maybe, will be blessed ~ because you believed that the words of the LORD would be fulfilled".

And in response, Mary's words, a beautiful hymn of praise to God found in Luke 1...

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed
for the Mighty One has done great things for me.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham
and to his descendants forever.

There are so many reasons why Mary's words mean so much to me, reasons that have formed over the years. First, Mary praises so innocently and simply, basking in the promises of her Lord. I don't know if she's endured any hard thing before this major turn of events ~ getting pregnant out of wedlock a big deal here. She is very young by our standards.

Her words are innocent and simple but are fully loaded with understanding. She's not blind to what is happening to her, although I can't imagine that she understands it all. She longs for things to be made right in the world, just like everyone else does, and sees herself, finally, as a possible conduit for bringing justice to the world. That is something to rejoice! To know you lived blessed because God has asked for your help to bring about his plan of deliverance... that blessing is not something we all covet, as I imagine it for her, and I know it for me, to be not entirely free of struggle. But she is living in hope, and joyful that this day is come. I don't believe that she could know all that would happen to her, to her Son, but she was trusting here, that God would do His thing, that God would keep His promises. So she praised!

Not only are her words simple and innocent, the are prophetic. A woman prophet... gasp! For all those who think that God does not and will not use women in speaking His Words to His people, they better consider how Mary's praise is prophecy. She is telling all of us what Jesus, even as he is still a tiny babe nesting in her womb, was about to do. Again, did she completely understand it all? Probably not. I'm not sure any prophet understands every word he or she is asked to bring, but she spoke them with boldness and joy. She is a prophet, and she speaks about justice more than anything. And I firmly believe that only through justice, and knowing we are working to bring God's Kingdom to this world, and therefore, a more just world to this earth, only through justice can we truly find JOY.

And Mary's audience is not lost on me either. She is singing to her barren cousin and confidant. Yeah, Elizabeth may be "with child" but she is barren. Elizabeth I am certain knows longing and it is this exact longing, that of a child to hold and to love, to nurture and to cherish, that makes me feel this all so very much. There is nothing just about barrenness, about who gets to be a parent and who doesn't, but GOD IS JUST. And that has taught me, even though I rarely am able to express this yet, that joy comes in the realizing that God's justice does and will bring what we need in our lives, but more importantly, through us He will bring what the world ~ the bigger picture, the stuff bigger than my own barrenness ~ needs. He has chosen us, just like He chose Mary, to bring His love and life to the world. Therein lies the joy.

There is joy even in the longing. Mary says it in her words. She's not saying "this has happened" but "look at what God has put into motion! The possibilities are His and endless because He keeps His Promises and He promised to deliver us from the injustice in the world."

And that makes me cry even louder as I long for His birth to happen in my life yet again... O COME! And Let Us Rejoice!

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel...Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyrannyF
rom depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel... Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel...Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel...Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel...Shall come to thee, O Israel.
~ Latin hymn, 12th century

O Come!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

For to Us a Child is Born.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named...
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it with justice
and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

~ Isaiah 9: 2-7 (NRSV)

The Advent Season mark a time of hope and longing. As much as the lights shine bright on our Christmas Tree, which is up for the sake of our kids, my heart lives in the dark longing of wanting the Peace promised by the coming of our Savior.

As much as I live in hope, it is always a longing, alongside the knowing, that Our Hope has come and IS coming, not by any other means EXCEPT the child in a manger.

Sometimes God seems far away, like now, as our family lives under a cloud of sickness. We long for God's protection akin to a bubble to be able to fully feel the possibilities of the Season to come. But this sickness, I guess, is here, for whatever reason... maybe it's to increase the longing, as I know that with health comes a more full experience of the hope that comes from Him. When the pall of feeling sick leaves, life seems brighter, so even in this time of longing, I am working to embrace the sick and trust God's light to shine regardless.

That is hope... and in that HOPE, and only THAT hope, the Hope that only Christ can bring, is where I can and will find my PEACE, now and always. God may seem far away right now, but this hope bring the anticipation of a King who will bring peace and justice and righteousness, finally and wholly, into the world.

Let there be PEACE on earth... that is my hope.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sometimes It's Enough To Make Me Wonder Why...

but I won't.

I won't wonder why.

I won't do it.

I won't.

I could go into all the things that could make me wonder why but I won't do that either.

Instead I choose to trust...

That God is in control.

That He cares about my well-being.

That I may not have all I want but He knows what we need.

That He wants to best for our family and has a plan to get us there.

That He knows the future.

That praying will bring the unexpected and more than I could imagine.

That His Grace is Enough.

That His mercy covers me and is new every morning.

That He is faithful, far more than I can fathom.

That He will protect us from the forces that want to stop us.

That all I need to do is love... love God, love my neighbor.

And just not wonder why.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Simple Grace

Be thankful for the smallest blessings
and you will deserve to receive greater.
Value the least gifts no less than the greatest,
and simple graces as especial favors.
If you remember the dignity of the Giver,
no gift will seem small or mean,
for nothing can be valueless
that is given by the most high God.

- Thomas a Kempis

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Art of Contentment... or something like that...

I'm crossposting something that came pouring out of me, and took all sorts of twists and turns over at my other blog. It's worthy of this blog too, but I'll just post a link as the kiddos are looking for their lunch.

May you live blessed today...

The Art of Contentment

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sometimes, it's Square One.

Sometimes a person can talk about praying first and then expecting whatever God brings. Yeah, a girl can talk about it but then, you know, it gets hard and can get forgetful in the middle of all sorts of stuff, forgetful about praying and expecting and all that. And that is when a girl, this girl, has to decide to go back to square one and start again.

Some of Jesus' most influential words, right in the middle of The Sermon on the Mount Matthew 6 :24ff) are these...

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other;
you will be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and money.

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—
whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.
Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing?

Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns,
for your heavenly Father feeds them.
And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?
Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow.
They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory
was not dressed as beautifully as they are.
And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today
and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.

Why do you have so little faith?

So don't worry about these things, saying,
'What will we eat?
What will we drink?
What will we wear?'

These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers,
but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously,
and he will give you everything you need.

So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.
Today's trouble is enough for today.

I read these words, words that I practically have memorized for all the times I have come back again and again to remind myself of them, the assurance of faith that He has it all in control, and the reality that my job here isn't to create anything more than a secure nest egg in order to survive, and that trusting God to do the unexpected will take care of the rest. We work hard with what we have and then, we trust God will use our efforts and he will take care of us, just like the birds and the lilies.

I am humbled because every time I take my eyes off the real prize, that of HIS KINGDOM, and nothing else, that is when the worry begins for me. The minute I put my hands around things and start to work them out myself is when I forget that He's going to take care of me, even if it isn't how I expected. And when I start worrying about this or that, whether it be my health or our savings or whether or not 'this or that' will happen as we planned, when I worry, I am always, always, always not praying first about it.

So it's back to square one... (Psalm 46.)

God is MY refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
So I will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
All I have to do is as he says, "Be still. Know that I am God!"

He is God! He is God! Why do I think I have to take over from God??? Why???

Be still and know that he is God. Seek first His Kingdom. He'll give us what we need. He'll help in times of trouble. He will. I pray. He works. And it is so.

That's square one.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving...

I hope to do a little writing this week about Thanksgiving (hope is the key word!!!) but for tonight, check out my post from today on my family life blog. Check it out!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Song of Thanksgiving

Let All Things Now Living
Words: Katherine K. Davis, b1892
Music: “The Ash Grove”, a traditional Welsh melody.

Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
To God the creator triumphantly raise.
Who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
Who still guides us on to the end of our days.
God’s banners are o’er us, His light goes before us,
A pillar of fire shining forth in the night.
Till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished
As forward we travel from light into light.
His law he enforces, the stars in their courses
And sun in its orbit obediently shine;
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing;
With glad adoration a Song let us raise
Till all things now living unite in thanksgiving:
“To God in the highest, Hosanna and praise!”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Living Expecting the Unexpected.

I talked a little about the discipline of praying without ceasing yesterday. What I didn't talk about was the hard part of it all... expecting an answer and then trusting Him with what He says. That is something I'm not very good at, at least not yet.

I'm a planner. It's engrained in my being to work towards making the next thing happen. I've been accused at times (whether right or wrong) at being discontent and driven. Those seem so very negative to me. I see myself (whether right or wrong) as more in the determined category. I know that hard work can get you there and sometimes you have to plow through and get it done, even if it's exhausting, even if it leaves you feeling powerless, and yes, even if you don't get the results you want. That's just me. And I think it has served me...and our family well as I've had to push through some hard stuff in my life... pastoring a congregation while going through the personal trial of infertility... the whole adoption process with how out of my hands it was... moving away from all the people who knew me well and making a new life in a new country with a new husband... those things and many more, are well, examples of my determination to make something happen, move forward, sometimes with costs, but always with good intent.

So that's me. I'm a planner. But this praying thing and sitting back and letting God work it out, and then accepting HIS answer and THE answer, in spite of wanting another way... well, that's a new thing... and new way of thinking, and takes a new style of determination to make it happen. Being hands off and letting Him have control is not natural for me (for anyone???) so this praying expectantly is tough work.

Seek the Lord while he may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near;

Let the wicked forsake their way,
And let the unrighteous their thoughts;
Let them return to the LORD, that He may have mercy upon them,
and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are my ways your ways, says the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are my ways higher than your ways
And my thoughts than your thoughts.

~ Isaiah 55: 6-9 (NRSV)

Wowzers. Here He says directly to me,

Tammy, I love you, and I made you a determined woman. And I am grateful, my dear child, that you work so hard, coming alongside me, never giving up when trials hit, always working through

But Tammy, remember this... You don't know it all. And you don't have to know it all. Tell me what you need. I'll deal with it. Pray. Relate to me. Let's get to know each other better by talking together.

And I promise, if you let me, I'll give you MORE than what you can even imagine in our beautifully created, but woefully human mind. You pray. I'll answer and Tammy, you can't imagine... you CANNOT imagine what I have in store for you. You don't think like I think. I see it all...hear it all...feel it all. I know your needs better than you do. And I will do even more than what you ask. You may not expect it, and you may not understand , but 'my ways are not your thoughts are not your thoughts'.

Tammy, put aside the ways you take over and do things your way. Let me answer in my own time, by my own way, and I promise that 'I will have mercy on you. I promise. All you have to do is pray. And expect the unexpected.

I love you, oh Child of Mine.

Your Heavenly Father

Oh, what a comforting way to live. But wow... it's hard. It's hard to let go and walk this way without pushing or prodding or trying to figure it all out. But hopefully, I'm savoring the process, knowing that God has it figured out so I don't have to. I just have to let him answer His way and expect the unexpected.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pray First.

This is my new thing... and wow, is it ever a discipline to do. I've never been good at the "up early, down on your knees, formal" kind of praying. I get all guilt-ridden over my inability to stay awake or even know what to say except the "God bless so and so" or the "God help..." So what I'm doing is praying myself to sleep. Between that and praying through my Little Man's temper tantrums or for peace when it's all too much, well, it is amazing how God puts people on my heart in the middle of the night.

You see, I don't sleep all that well for a whole lot of reasons. So I find myself falling asleep, and often. So I pray as I fall to sleep... counting my blessings, asking expectantly, offering gratitude, pouring out my heart, asking healing on friends who are sick or dying or in depression, asking for guidance and wisdom, praising.

And it's working. It's becoming habit and that is what I long for more than anything, to be a woman who prays out of habit, not out of crisis. And in this time when my ministry role is behind the scenes... his wife, their mother... this HAS to be MY job.

So I pray. And then expect His answers, the ones He gives me, whatever the answers are, to be right... and right on time.

Pray without ceasing.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ahhh...she speaks.

A couple people have wondered where I've been. Here, it truly has been awhile. I find that I don't have enough time to actually write down what I'm thinking. On my other blog, I took an unplanned hiatus due to many factors, which include a need to stay silent for my own sake and sanity, and for the sake of friendships, two amazingly creative and energetic children who seem to need my undivided attention, and the wonderful Fall weather that lured me away from anything related to the indoors.

Here... it's been for other reasons. Namely a lack of discipline in finding the time to actually do the spiritual work in my personal life that I crave. It feels as if I fail at every try, and in doing so, I am not able to be the wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, and most importantly, the Child of God I long to be. It is Thanksgiving Season, a time to live grateful more than ever before, both in recognizing all the blessings I have receive, both seen and unseen, and in actively living in response to what I have received. I sometimes am not very good at that at all.

But for today, a new start (I hope!) I live grateful and leave you with these words...

Getting it absolutely right is God's job.
- from These High Green Hills by Jan Karon

Truer words have never been spoken.

What a relief to hear.

I have more to say. Hopefully soon.