Thursday, October 9, 2014

Life Remodeled





This past summer, Joel and I went down to Detroit and helped out with the organization Life Remodeled. They're going into neighborhoods and changing lives by cleaning up blight and connecting with people.
I like the shirt, I wear it when I clean, as can be witnessed by the little tiny bleach spot near the roofline above the L. I didn't know then how different our life would be today.

I'll start from the semi beginning. As many of you know, I have poly cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It basically means my hormones don't always produce eggs when they're supposed to and I can't rely on my period to set my clock. It's been in my mind one of the major reasons we've been unable to conceive for the past ten years. Yes, we started trying for another child almost immediately after Hannah was born.

For the past five years or so, I became so entrenched in the reality that we weren't getting pregnant that missing a period was no longer a cause to run out and by a pregnancy test. This summer, I missed my period in August and then September. I had scheduled a doctor's appointment for a well visit and did not want to pay for an office pregnancy test just for them to say "yup you're not pregnant." So I bought some from Amazon (you can get 25 tests for 7 bucks! Overkill I know, but it was cheaper than having one from the doctor).

You can imagine my surprise when my nonchalant "I'm taking this for proof that I'm not pregnant" lark came back positive! I haven't seen one of those in 11 years! I texted Joel, he called, I was apprehensive, he was excited. I had to take another test, just to be sure and then I read the instructions a few more times to make sure I was reading it right. Yup two tests with two definitive lines. I looked online, based on my last missed period, we were 11 weeks, almost done with the first trimester. I had had that headache and nausea in August, I guess it all made sense. We told people that very day, called all the relatives! We're having a baby!!

To be honest, I had lived with the "no" long enough that I wasn't sure if I wanted another baby. I consoled myself with the fact that they aren't babies forever. We were having another child, after ten years of waiting and hope being placed in other places, there was something we had wanted but I had forgotten. That was Thursday. On Friday, I started looking at baby sites and thinking about maternity clothes and wondering what stuff our baby would need.

That night, I went to bed and I was spotting a little, I didn't think much of it, because we were almost done with the first trimester. I woke up an hour later with a little more than spotting. That night I ended up bleeding quite a bit. I didn't know how a baby could survive such a thing but I knew that it was possible. I called the nurse the next morning, she told me to go to the er. Off we went and had blood taken, pee in cup, iv started, ultrasounds performed. Just to have the doctor say the only thing they could say for certain is that my blood work and ultrasound point to a four week pregnancy and not the loss of an 11 week pregnancy. She said it was possible for there still to be a child there, we just needed more blood work in a few days to know.

We left, I was crushed but hopeful. It was just painful being in the unknown. Not knowing whether to celebrate or mourn. I could hold out till Monday and the wait for the tests.

Monday I dutifully went in to see the new practice and have my blood drawn. They said I could call after eleven on Tuesday for the results. I was going to see people, people I care about and that care about me before I could call in. I decided that I'd share, even though all I really had to share was a possibility of hope. And that's exactly what everyone did, everyone hoped and prayed. We were all joyful in our hope. But as I drove home, towards that phone call, I just knew that that hope will have to be deferred. I just knew.

When I called the office, the doctor talked to me. He gave his condolences on our loss. And wanted to move quickly towards physical recovery so that we could start trying again.

There I was though, the holder of the news, the one who had so joyfully called all my family once again dialing numbers and not being able to say a word. We don't get to raise our child, the one the size of a poppy seed when prayers began in earnest for their life. So brief but so full of hope and faith. For ten years, we've waited, anticipating, never expecting that we would wait so long to have such a brief time together. Or to see so much joyfulness in hope. It's almost too much to bear the love that we experienced for our child in less than a week. God was extravagant with his faithfulness and it crushes me. It squeezes my heart to even think about how he would allow our child to receive so much prayer during their short life here. Not even two weeks from conception and we knew about this tiny life.

It doesn't happen that way. Things just aren't that beautiful in the midst of so much pain. It was God. Always reminding me that he cares, about the small things and the big. He reminds me that my days were written in his book before days even existed. He proves over and over again that He cares about how much hope I carry around with me.

I guess in the midst of this life being remodeled I need reminders that hope is important. And not just my hope but latching on to God's hope for me, our family, this world. Holding on to it and being joyful, because God has hope. He knows the end of the story so his hope definitely will not disappoint.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Facing the Music by Jennifer Knapp







I remember during my first year of seminary my friend, Scott, dropping by my room with a cd. I didn't listen to much contemporary christian music, so I told him I would listen, but I was pretty certain inside that I would be giving it back to him. Turns out I didn't return it, I kept it. I loved it so much, I had to buy a second copy. And I had to buy the next cd and the next.

That cd was Jennifer Knapp's Kansas. Her songs defined for me what good christian music should be like, heavily steeped in scripture and emotion, with a little soul thrown in to make it rock. In 2002, Joel and I raced our way across the country from Seattle to Wisconsin so that he could start a new job and we could catch her in concert at his new church. We listened to all of her songs on repeat the whole way. And when we had the opportunity to meet her, I was struck by what she shared. She told us that she had a dream that she was on a plane and it crashed. She was sad that it wasn't true. I was sad, but after reading Facing the Music, I can't believe that none of us there that witnessed her call for love missed out on sharing love with her.

She disappeared not too long after that, maybe even a matter of days and she went dark. She stayed dark for years. I would pray for her and occasionally look her up online to see if she was back. I don't remember exactly when she showed back up, but it was quiet and it was that of a long loved artist coming back from hiatus. When Facing the Music showed up in my email, I knew I had to read it. I wanted to see if there was more to the story than the tiny part I knew.

Turns out there is more to the story, a whole lot more. Knapp does and excellent job of sharing her story, beginning with her birth family and journey through their divorce and the dynamics of having a twin sister and her parents remarrying and having more children. She shares how she fell in love with music and how it became a place of comfort and safety for her. And then with joining the contemporary christian music scene that place started to look more like bondage and lies. Not that she lied about herself, but she wasn't able to be her real self, she had an image and it needed to sold all the time. Once the burden became too great, she finally broke. And according to the story she tells, by the time I encountered her, she was beyond broken but shattered.

She goes on to talk about the healing that she went through, finding truth and peace and being okay with her terms and her self.

I enjoyed Jennifer's story very much. I dug out all my old CDs and have to get her new one soon.

I received a free copy of this book from Howard Books, for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Exile



This year in Bible study, we're looking at the return to Jerusalem. So for the last few weeks, we've been in the throws of the exile. The people of Israel were doing pretty well, worshipping God, defeating their bad neighbors, but then they decided they didn't like being different. They wanted to be just like everyone else, so they asked for a king!

We want to be just like everyone else, give us a king! God clearly told them the downside of having one, they'll take your money, your land, your daughters, your life. But they were still determined that they wanted one. Their first king, he looked so good, just like a king should, tall and handsome. Now the fact that he was an impatient maniac, well, that didn't seem to bother the people too much. The next guy, he was a good king. He was pursuing God's heart, most of the time. The best part was that he recognized when others pointed out that he was going astray and he course corrected. His son inherited the throne and the tumble began.

Three kings in and they are already back to a life of forced labor, building things for a kingdom they never got to enjoy. It just gets worse and worse until nobody is looking for God and he lets them be taken by force from the land he had given them as a gift.

This last week, we were reading Ezekiel. And there everyone was, worshipping other gods, living their own lives, separated from God. They tore themselves away from him and served the creations of their own hands. And just to show them how much they loved the land more than him, he had them removed. Off they went. Only a few left given vineyards they never desired or learned how to care for.

That's us sometimes, in exile. And it's not the being taken away part it's the separating ourselves part. We might live in the same house, go to the same church, do the same devotional book every morning, but we're not really invested. We're not really looking for the true God. We're just doing our own thing. Oh it looks good on the outside, to those that don't know the living God. We look devout and committed and fanatical, but the truth is we don't really know him today.

We separate ourselves and distance ourselves from his power because, we're afraid that things are never going to change and hope for a future is too painful to bare. Or because we expected it to be different, that we would always have that honeymoon stage when we ate up every word from His mouth and felt his lavish love but when the hard work came and we had to seek him with our whole heart it was just too much work. Or maybe we just drifted. Followed the tide and let it take us where it may, thinking surely God is with me, but there was that moment when we could have steered closer to him and chose to keep floating instead.

Some of us have been in exile for awhile, we've created a life here, we got on with reality and stopped hoping for a homeland. Our children have grown in our presence while we've been out in this outcast homeland. We have forgotten the beauty of seeing the sun rise in the presence of the Lord. It's been so long, we've gotten so comfortable that we don't even consider our selves foreigners anymore. This is our home, how could it be that there is a way that is more true to who I was created to be?

But there is a hope and a future. One that doesn't include my separation. One that has me living in the land that was gifted to me. A place flowing with milk and honey, that God has conquered and declared good. He wants me to follow him there, but it means giving up the creature comforts of my exile home. I have to trust in the one that declares that this is not how it should be. Life is good here in the exile, I get by, not much to complain about. Why should I risk trusting? Why should I follow God out of this land and into a place known only as Promise?

Really, do you promise, God? Do you promise that I can trust you? Do you promise that your love is sufficient? Do you promise to be faithful and true? How can I believe in your promises? Give me something to prove your love, your faithfulness, your truth!

Is his proof sufficient? Is his grace and love enough? Will I walk out with him into the unknown Promise? I want facts! I want tangible! I want what I already have but with more comfort! But you offer only peace, not more creature comfort. You offer hardship, not more luxury. You offer love. Is your love enough for me? Is your love actually bigger than all my created comfort? Is your love more trustworthy than my own faulty heart? I want it to be! I want your love and grace and mercy to be sufficient. But I can see now that here in the exile, it will never be enough. As I stay in this land of my own doing, you will never be enough and so I must go. I have to leave and go towards the Promise. I have to leave all of me, all that I've built up and invested in just so I can get to a place where you are enough and that is sufficient. And so I don't even pack a bag nor take one last Instagram pic, no final posting on Facebook, I walk away as empty as I came into this land of exile.

But I walk away with hope and a future. I travel towards the land of Promise. I may never reach it in this life, but it's where my hope is.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ex-Muslim by Naeem Fazal



Ex-Muslim is the story of a young man who has met Jesus Christ. Now, this young man is a Pakistani that grew up in Kuwait and came to live in the United States in the early 90's. He was Muslim when he came to the United States. Not long after arriving, he encountered Jesus in a very real way, from that moment on, he knew that his life did not belong to himself but to Jesus Christ.
This book is quite simply a telling of who he was, his meeting with the living God and how God has been at work in his life.
There are several really powerful stories within this book, but my favorite is probably right at the beginning, when Fazal remembers praying to God, asking for an encounter with Jesus and ending his prayer with "whatever" or something of the likes. So often, we ask for things, but instead of believing that God will do something, we really have more of a sense of "whatever." We prove it by immediately going out and trying to make something happen instead of waiting on God. In regards to Fazal's "whatever" prayer, he didn't go out and try to make something happen. He didn't run out and start attending every church service available after praying for an encounter, he didn't join a monastery, no, he just continued to live his life. And God showed up at the exact right moment when Fazal would notice and be willing to see God for who He really is.
Overall, it's a pretty good book. I appreciated hearing his perspective on evangelism of those of Muslim faith. And I always enjoy hearing people's faith stories.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren



When I Fall in Love is another story in the Deep Haven setting, this one is specifically about the Christiansen Family (book 3).  I haven't read the first two in the subseries, but I am a long time visitor to Deep Haven. It was a great trip to not only up north, but it also included an excursion to Hawaii!  Having visited Hawaii twice and being up north when I read this, the book was perfect. I enjoyed the adventures of Grace and Max as they easily fell in love with one another, but struggled to allow themselves to express that love and discover God's plan for it.
I also enjoyed getting to know Raina, the new girl in town. I'm looking forward to seeing how her story plays out in future books. The mixture of the girl who never wants to leave Deep Haven (Grace) and the girl who never wanted to come (Raina) was a nice foil. The fact that the two are friends and rely on one another in their darkest moments really pulls the two stories together.
In short, Susan May Warren does not disappoint. Her ability to weave characters lives together into an authentic feeling town is well done.

A copy of this book was provided to me for the purpose of review from Tyndale Publishing. The opinions are my own.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Crazy Good

This summer has been a whirlwind! We did in fact find a house and secure a loan by the end of June! We've moved in, bought appliances and mostly unpacked. Then we went on vacation, let me tell you, that was needed. I love how God prearranges things to happen when we most need them, because this vacation was scheduled months ago and there it was right when we needed it. We spent a little over a week resting in a tent up north in Michigan. It was lovely. We saw some amazing things. Came home and have been resting some more before Joel has to go back to work.

We are all enjoying our new house, especially the cats. They settled right in. Our big work load has been in the yard, it's a bit overgrown to say the least, but there are lots of great treasures to find out there, including at least 8 rose bushes, a tulip tree, hydrangeas, lilacs, a pear tree and black berry bushes. I'll have to post some more pictures after I clean up this week. I'm trying to figure out the new home's cleaning schedule. Hardwood floors just don't hide the cat hair the way carpet did. I'm hoping to also be doing some finding of stuff to fit little needs for storage here and there.

Life is good, looking forward to things being more ordinary for awhile.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We're moving


Hi! Summer has started for us, it's been different than I expected. The main difference is that we're in the process of buying a home! It's a little different than I originally expected. But that happens sometimes.

I was telling Hannah the other day (as I've told many folks) that my plans were to have at least six kids and to not buy a home until we retired. Fortunately, God has better plans. I would never exchange my one wonderful, amazing Hannah for six just like her. I love having just one child, it has been beautiful, difficult, rewarding, and much more work than I would have imagined.
I'm hoping home ownership turns out much the same way. Joel and I were both praying about whether or not we should renew our lease that runs out at the end of June. Both of us heard that we should buy. And so now here we are, a week later, working on getting a loan, browsing houses, packing our stuff up. It's not something I ever wanted or planned for myself, but I can tell you from times past that God's plans are a lot better than my own.
We're excited and nervous, hopefully and relying on the gifts of patience and perseverance. Who knew that short time lines can require the gift of patience just as much as long ones?

So if you need me, drop me an email. If you have a house for sale that we can move into by the end of the month, let me know about that, too.