Friday, March 30, 2012

Walking in Worship

Worship.  My walk today was filled worship and thanksgiving, praise and gratitude.

The sky was a brilliant blue, the horizon rimmed with wispy clouds. It was brisk, though, and I almost turned around and went back to the momvan but decided to tuck my hands into the sleeves of my fleece  the Husband's fleece jacket and persevere...for at least one lap.

As I got out of my van and tucked my earbuds in, I decided I was in the mood for a little Chris Tomlin, "Our God".  I just love the strings in the intro and it reminds me of some talented musicians I know and that makes me smile.  The song also reminds me of worship at both the MOPS International convention and the Women of Faith event I attended last fall.  (Both are wonderful opportunities for growth and renewal.  If you can go, please do!  I wish I could swing the trip to MOPS convention again this year.)

Into the darkness you shine.  Out of the ashes we rise. There's no one like You.  None like You. ...Our God is healer, awesome in power... 

I've been thinking a lot about how we rise from the ashes. I've also found a lot of comfort in the belief that God is a healer in our hearts and souls and minds.  Healing comes in so many ways.

Laura Story's Blessings shuffled through the mix.  As I started listening I looked to the sky and said, "Thank You!"  I was reminded as I heard the opening notes that I had prayed some passionate prayers last night as I went to sleep and that I had already seen His hand at work in response.  Amen! Thank you, Jesus for your blessings.

So I will confess, I might have been singing along out loud in public.  Whoops.  All the while, you hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things. (Cue teary eyes...and not because the wind was very brisk.)

As I walked, I reflected on how I had experienced the lyrics in vibrant technicolor in the past week.  I thought about how these words could bring comfort to my sweet friend if she was in the "right place" to hear them. How would you find mercies in these trials she is going through?  We can't always see that as possible, can we?  We're looking through our human eyes and not through the lens of God's promises

Other songs shuffled through and after 45 minutes I was headed back to the momvan when this came on: Careless.  I am reckless.  I'm a wrong-way travelling, slowly unraveling shell of a man.  Burnt out.  I'm so numb now that the fire's just an ember way down in the corner of my cold, cold heart.  Lord, this time, I'll make it right, here at the alter I lay my life.  Your kingdom come but my will was done, my heart is broken as I cry.  Like so many times before but my eyes are dry before I leave the floor. Oh Lord, I try but this time, Jesus How can I be sure I will not lose my follow-through between the alter and the door? (Casting Crowns)

That, folks, is the story of the last 6 months or so of my life.  I find myself on fire for His purpose and then... I lose my follow through.   

I arrived back home renewed and restored unlike the last time I walked through that park.  This morning I vowed to follow through and to seek out His will and not my own.  How that will shake out remains to be seen.  I guess I can just try to remain open to His voice.


The Voice..A Review

As a member of the Thomas Nelson Blog Bunch (that nifty button to the right --->) I have the privilege of being able to review a copy of The Voice New Testament for freeeeeee! :)  What a gift!

We have many Bibles in our home, between the Husband and I both attending seminary, the kids each having a Bible and the Bibles we all have been gifted.  I do not consider myself an expert or Biblical scholar.  (You should know by now, that I do not like to call myself an expert of anything.)  However, I do know enough about scripture to know when I've got something wonderful in my hands.

I returned home from my funeral journey to a package and inside that package was The Voice.  What a blessing to find a new way of reading God's word after such an emotional and faith-requiring journey!

The scripture that was topmost on my mind was 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, so that is where I turned.  I read those verses from the New American Bible over and over again as I prepared to read them at the Mass and then again afterward as I reminded myself of the hope in the God's word, so I turned to it immediately and loved the way the story was told.  The Voice is intended to invite us to "Step into the story of scripture" and that is just what I did as I read.  The meaning did not change from the other translations on my counter (there are three others there right now).  What changed was the relational aspect of the text, the communication and accessibility.  

The Voice, from what I have read so far, is a wonderful way to experience the New Testament.  And I do mean "experience". It is a gift to have a different and yet true way to read scripture.

From the Preface: Our idea was to set up a collaborative  process whereby scholars and writers could work together to create a translation that was faithful and accurate to the original languages while at the same time beautiful and readable to our English-speaking audience. (p. xiii)

The phrase faithful and accurate to the original languages is key.  I really felt that was a true statement as I sampled various parts of The Voice.  Translating from the original language (in the case of the New Testament, Greek) is not cut and dried as there are contextual particularities as well as variations in meaning depending on that context etc.  (This happens in English too if you think about homonyms such a "bow".)  

The Voice also takes into account that the Bible as we know it is compiled of writings by many different people who were inspired by God.  The Voice retains the unique literary perspective of the human writers.  Most English translations attempt to even out the styles of the different authors in sentence structure and vocabulary.  Instead, The Voice distinguishes the uniqueness of each author. (p. xi)  I feel that this uniqueness speaks to and honors our own experience and personal relationship with God.  By recognizing that we all may not use the same words and express our faith in the same way, we are honoring that we are all uniquely and wonderfully made in His image but not identical.

The Voice is a wonderful addition to devotion time and and opportunity to experience scripture as a story.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

We Will Be Caught Up Together

As part of my weekend, I had the privilege to read 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18 at my sweet friend's husband's funeral mass.

I can tell you that as I sat in the pew before people arrived, I prayed that God would use me as He saw fit; that everything I said and did was to serve as His hands and feet and not to serve my own needs.  I wanted to forget my own self-consciousness as my heels echoed down the aisle, not worry about getting tongue tied as I said, "Thessalonians", not worry about what anyone thought of my reading...that my only purpose was to speak His words of truth in this reading, to vocalize from the page the hope in these words.

I gave my copy of the bulletin to someone, so I was flying blind as to when I was to speak.  I thought I would look over the shoulder of the people seated in front of me..but they kept their bulletins closed. (Ach!  Do you feel my panic rising?  I just kept telling myself, "It's not about me."  Thankfully, the priest walked us through everything.)

When I turned to see my friend standing at the entrance, holding the hand of her daughter, my heart was in my throat and my chest was aching with contained sobs while the tears flowed down my cheeks. (Waterproof mascara is not tear-proof. Just sayin'.)  As I stood there, I realized that the last time I had been in this church was for a wedding...their wedding.  I took some deep breaths and focused on the priest and on God.  ("Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace."  Oh yes, I did say that prayer to myself over and over and over again.)

When it was my turn to clomp up the aisle (apparently I wear the world's loudest shoes, at least it felt that way)  and stand at the lectern, I smoothed out my page, took a steadying breath and read.  I do not know exactly where in the scripture my voice began to crack, but it did.  I couldn't help it.  As I read, "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds..." I looked up and out at the faces and in my heart I was screaming, "WE WILL BE CAUGHT UP TOGETHER!"  That is our consolation, we will all be together again and no matter how horrible and sad and unfair it all feels, this is not the end of the story.  (Thank YOU, Jesus!)

The priest's homily focused on this hope and I know his words were comforting to all, as I heard the word "hope" spoken a great deal afterward.  When we speak of hope, it is so often for tangible things or things we can clearly envision. ("I hope we win the game."  "I hope the baby sleeps through the night.")   I don't know about you, but for me, the hope that Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians and the hope the priest spoke of, they are difficult to clearly envision.  I have that hope, but the paradise we hear of, especially as we await Easter and the resurrection, is just not a place I can design a glossy-pictured brochure of, know what I mean?  I can describe it, mostly, but it's kind of nebulous like those clouds we will all be caught up in together.  I believe in it and I place my hope in it, but I cannot begin to wrap my mind around the paradise God has prepared for us. I am human enough to admit that my wildest imagination will fall short of God's abilities.

However, as we gathered together, hugging and loving and yes, even laughing, I got a taste of that togetherness.  The gift of sharing in the burdens and hurts as well as the joys of life is part of our beautiful and wonderful humanity.  Perhaps as we are caught up together in this life, we taste the hope of the time when we will all be caught up together in the clouds.  This weekend hope was in the love and care of family and friends joined together to celebrate and grieve a man, to hug a woman and little girl and to stand together as witnesses to a future and love.

It was a glimpse into the truths of the scripture, "We will be caught up together."


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dust and Seasons and Sadness...

The weather was GORGEOUS this morning. In fact it still is. I went for my walk/run in the park and the weather could not have been more glorious, the tunes on my ipod were just as spunky as always and yet...with each step the feeling of anxiety and unrest grew.

When I got home and the Husband asked how my walk was, I responded, "Okay, I just feel like something is off." I explained how I had this feeling of foreboding, a feeling that reminded me of the day my mom died, when I knew something was wrong but couldn't place it. The Husband reminded me that I have had that feeling before without it meaning anything other than that I was feeling anxious for no particular reason.

He is right, of course. Just because I get a feeling that something is off or wrong, it doesn't mean that my feelings are justified.

Then this afternoon I learned that the friend I wrote about here and here had lost the battle. Sadness filled me, replacing the angst over unknowns with realities that break my heart.

I know that we all walk on this earth temporarily and leave our marks for an eternity in ways we may never comprehend. We all have a purpose and a place and a season. It is not easy to accept the limits placed upon our existence, but it is part of humanity. Ecclesiastes 3:20 ...All come from dust, and to dust all return. This is not our home. I just wish people didn't have to leave...and those left behind did not have to ache in the loss.

Wishing you peace and love and comfort in your sorrows as well as your joy.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Self-Destruct Buttons

One of the cartoons my boys like to watch has a bumbling scientist who tries to be evil but fails miserably in his schemes.  One of his many downfalls is the self-destruct button he installs on his contraptions.

I look around me (and in the mirror) and I see that humans also have self-destruct buttons.  We say teenagers think they're invincible but I'm not sure it is a trait that is only held by the young.  Once people (myself included) start to feel a little bit of success, we start to expect more success.  How could anything go wrong?  I am a confirmed "cup half empty" woman and even I start to feel invincible.  All that positive thinking sometimes clouds my judgement.  I start to believe it's all about me and my "doing" and I lose sight of all that goes into success. When I do that, it's like I hit a self-destruct button and things begin to go downhill.

Now, you may think that I am about to tell you that all the gifts we have are from God and we have to give Him credit.  I do believe that, but that isn't really my point, even if that is the most important point.

No, instead, I'm going to suggest that too many things need to fall into place to give me (or you or anyone else, for that matter) success.  Our successes (and failures) do not happen in a vacuum and if I am being honest, a lot of other people need to do things in order for my piece of goodness to work out.  This does not mean I am without power or influence or that I cannot control my own destiny.  It just changes the way I view controlling said destiny.  I cannot control everything that happens.  I can, however, control my responses.

Recently, I started thinking about how I  could make something work out.  I figured out all of my possibilities BUT I cannot control any other person's possibilities, behaviors or responses.  Ignoring all of the other unknowns would be a lot like hitting a self-destruct button.  They are called "unknown" for a reason.  If I walk through life thinking because I've got a plan that 1. the plan will come off without a hitch and 2. everyone else is going to behave exactly as I expect....I might as well save myself the trouble and just hit the self-destruct button now because self-destruction is inevitable.

"Gee, thanks for that uplifting thought, Stacey!"  Wait..there is good news here.  First it helps to recognize that we are not the center of the universe (that would be the big glowing orb in the sky we call the sun) and therefore we need to realize that there are lots of things we cannot control or even anticipate.  Second...and this is the really good part, even if it all goes south, (as in we mess up big time and hit that self-destruct button with both hands) God can use it all for good.

He can and He does.

That doesn't mean we should go around self-destructing willy nilly, because "using it for good" is not synonymous with "painless".  We can learn and grow from self-destructing, but it might hurt us and those we love and if we can't predict what would happen when we think we have it all figured out, then we can't expect to predict what will happen when we self-destruct.

No, my point is that when we mess up, which is a when not an if, we can face forward, look toward the future and experience how life will unfold in new and unexpected ways.  With vision and expectation, we can see the gifts that rise out of the ashes of our self-destruction.  Again, what caused those ashes is probably going to hurt, so I'm not advocating running headfirst into those flames screaming like that scene from Braveheart as you press the destruct button...I'm saying we seem to be wired to occasionally self-destruct and we can come out on the other side.  Thank You, Jesus!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On One Condition

Last night I was thinking about unconditional love.

I was driving home feeling incredibly frustrated about a situation in which I think I am doing the right things but still not getting the desired results.  I dreaded walking in the door because I knew in my heart and soul that if I tried to address the issue I would say the wrong things.

I ended up grumbling a "Hello" putting my stuff away and saying, "Goodnight, I'm going to bed."

I am fairly certain I heard my 17 yo say, "Okaaaay." as I walked up the stairs.  (You know what that sounds like with the elongated long a, right?)

My mother handled conflict by just not speaking.  She would get mad at my dad and not speak to him for days (three days sticks in my mind) and if anyone dared appear to align with him, they also got the silent treatment.

Last night was not intended as a silent treatment but as a "mom timeout".  I knew I could not say anything "right".  If I said anything, it would have come out sounding like conditional love.  There are only so many times you can say "I love you but I don't like ___ ."   There are only so many ways to say, "Can't you just (fill in the blank with whatever will make me feel better, more competent or secure)?"

I recognize that I cannot use emotional coercion to get the results I desire.  I realize that loving children is a tiring, difficult and unpredictable job.  I have learned through 17 + years of being a mom to 6 amazing kids that their behavior is not about me, but about what they are experiencing.  I can teach them appropriate societal norms and they follow those, mostly.  I cannot however always get them to be happy or helpful or even as quiet as I would like.  I am not raising puppets.  Raising puppets with perfect obedience would be much less stressful.

In these moments, when I get to fully experience my powerlessness as a parent, I am reminded  that God, our heavenly Father, has to put up with me... Me with the free will He gave me and a penchant for doing what I please and not always what pleases Him. Yet, even when I am not very lovable, God gives me unconditional love and forgiveness and grace.

His only condition is that I believe in Him and that faith was a gift to me.

I do my best to show my kids unconditional love.  I'm not quite as good at it as I could be.  I hope they do know they have the unconditional love of a far superior parent...God.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

God and Monkeys

Today as I sat in MOPS, I thought to myself, "There's my next blog post." The problem with that is...I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. Sigh.

We had a great conversation about faith with the pastor of our church. It was comfortable and pleasant and the time passed far too quickly.

One of the things that is popping to my mind now is our conversation about Godly friends (which was not the "There's my next blog post" thought but hey, you get what pops to mind when I sit down. You get what you pay for... just sayin'. ;) )

One of the great things about our MOPS group is that we do not all belong to the same congregation or denomination. In fact, while MOPS is a Christian organization they are highly cognizant of the reality that we all are in different places on our spiritual journey. We are all, however, on a spiritual journey and we are able to lift each other up, support each other and pray for each other.

This blog is called "1prayingmom" because I am one praying mom. I pray a lot because, to be quite honest, I need to. In the hard times I know I can turn to God (and Godly friends) and that I can walk through impossible things because of that faith. I actually wonder how I would get through any of it without that faith. It would be too easy to throw up my hands in despair and give up or lose myself in the depths of it. (I almost did lose myself to some extent last year, but I found myself again. I call it my midlife crisis.)

So back to Godly friends...I have been blessed with amazing Godly friends, through MOPS but in other places too. When I attended the Women of Faith event in Rochester last November, Dr. Henry Cloud told the story of research done on monkeys and how they weather stress better when they have another monkey with them. He told us to make sure we had our monkeys. Monkeys became one of those things the ladies I attended with referred to often...and a friend of mine whose mom was there texted her and told her to get monkeys. The monkey allusion worked and was meaningful for us.

So a few weeks ago, in the depths of some personal crisis this was gifted to me...
My friend wanted me to know she cared...So I look at this monkey and remember Godly friends who love and care about me and my family. They celebrate with me in the good times and hold me up in the hard times. They made the tough times more bearable, whether it was by babysitting or texting, calling or praying. You see, life really is easier with monkeys.

So I'm a monkey, you're a monkey, please make sure you have your monkeys too. :)


Monday, March 5, 2012

Smile (Or at Least Don't Scowl...)

This morning I went grocery shopping.  It was a normal shopping experience.  I have become accustomed to people who look annoyed that there is someone else shopping in the same store and glaring at me because I am walking where they want to be walking.

I try to be considerate of others, not block aisles etc, but since I am shopping too, I am fairly certain I have the right to walk down the aisles and stop to take an item off the shelf.  Today more than once people were scowling at me as though I had no right to be there.  Now you might be wondering if perhaps my unruly children were the cause of the hairy eyeballs...but since I was flying solo... unless I had my dress tucked into my tights (which I did not, it's cold enough here that I would have noticed that breeze) there was really no reason for all the scowling.

I think people just scowl through their daily life.  Really.  I bet they don't even realize they're doing it.  Or do I just bring out the scowl in everyone?  Again, dress isn't tucked into my tights, I bathe daily and even do a light spritz of Coach "Poppy" I don't think it's always just my presence causing the scowls...and it really isn't all about me.  I do get that.

So why so glum?  I realize the economy is not so hot.  I know people have problems.  Newsflash! We all have problems. I know people are in pain, physical and emotional.  I'm not saying walk around like grinning idiots.  I'm just humbly suggesting that scowling through your day isn't exactly beneficial to your health or your wrinkles. (Not to mention that it takes more muscles to frown that smile...I read that somewhere.)

I admit I am not always smiley and I am pretty sure I was glaring holes through the woman in front of me in line who was bad mouthing all young people as lazy.  (I wanted to tell her about the teenagers I have known who work hard in school, extracurricular activities, in their churches and even as cashiers in the supermarket where I see them smiling and efficiently working.)

I try to greet life with an open and hopefully pleasant mindset.  I don't know what your struggles are and you don't know mine, but we are all human and we can at least be courteous and moderately pleasant to those we meet.  (Again, not grinning idiots, just ... human, compassionate even.)

What if we followed Carole King's lyrics...
You've got to get up every morning, with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart.  Then people are gonna treat you better.  You're gonna find, yes you will, that you're beautiful, as you feel.


Friday, March 2, 2012


Sometimes I just don't even know what to say or think or feel.


Last week I spent a lot of time asking God to give me the words to speak and to know when to speak them and when to be quiet.  That is a delicate and mysterious thing and not always my gift.  But things are improving.  I am able to turn my gaze outward again and am so appreciative of the love and support my friends offered and so freely shared.

This afternoon, I read a message that left me feeling...numb.  It was not something totally unexpected but still I thought, "Well, that just sucks!"  (If the word "sucks" offends you, I apologize.)  I was hoping for a different outcome.  I was praying for a miracle instead of this finite timeline for some dear friends.

As my husband stood across the breakfast bar, I read him the message.  He sighed.  I think he may have said, "That just sucks" but I'm not sure.

I am not a loud fighter (though the Husband may dispute this) but I do hold out hope that the timeline is not as short as the experts say.  Perhaps they will experience that gift of time we so often read about when smiling and healthy looking people say, "The doctors said I had X left and that was 10 years ago."

I do know one thing, I have faith in our medical community.  I believe doctors want to heal their patients and that  they do not give up.

But, you know in whom I have more faith?  Come on, you know what I'm going to say.  I have more faith in God who writes the story of our lives, knows the number of hairs on our heads and the burdens of our heart to know how many days we have left to walk on this earth.  I have faith that healing comes in many forms, in body and heart and soul.  I have faith that whatever time any of us have on this earth can be used for His glory.  God can use anything for good and I grip that with two hands through all the pain and worry of my life.  

I pray that my friends can do that for now and for always.  I pray for them to feel peace and comfort in the days and months ahead, knowing that they are loved and prayed for by so many and that through whatever they may face, God is still walking alongside them.  Does that sound like a trite and hollow promise when one is facing something tragic?  To some it may.  For is what keeps me hanging on and moving forward.  It is where my hope and strength come from...because they sure don't come from me.

Can you join me in prayer for those battling illnesses, for their families and friends, caregivers and medical personnel?  Lord, thank you for your gifts and blessings, for being with us through it all and for holding us up when we feel  alone and numb, scared and confused.  When we doubt, fill us with faith.  When we are angry, fill us with calm.  When we are hopeless...fill us with hope in Your kingdom.  Amen.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

1 Down...

The other day, I mentioned that each of the boys picked out fabric so I could make them pajama pants.  This afternoon I finished the first pair.

I used Simplicity 3669.  They are super easy to whip up. *I* loved that flame fabric.  He wants me to make a matching shirt but I think a coordinating t-shirt (not the one he's wearing here!) is the ticket. :)  After all, 3 of his brothers have fabric waiting to be made into pants, I have a skirt I want to make for the girly and at least one more penguin to make.  Plus...I would like to make slipcovers for our love seat.

The Husband pointed out that I was "glowing" as I discussed my current and future sewing plans.  I love doing these projects.  It's so much fun to create useful things.  Is everything perfect?  Far from it.  But I enjoy the process and I think each attempt to create goes more smoothly and looks a little bit better.

I have learned to take my time, press the seams and take a chance.  While I do worry about "wasting money" if I make a mistake and end up with a mess, I guess I would never learn anything if "What if I mess up?" stopped me all of the time.  Instead, I learn and try and sometimes, most of the time, it works out just fine...and when it doesn't...that just means I can try again..or not.  ;)