When Gratitude Opens Our Eyes

It’s been 18 years ago today.

That day that we were able to meet our daughter, Victoria Rose, even though her soul had already flown to heaven.

The truth is I don’t think about her everyday. Not even every week. On the other hand there are times when the grief feels almost fresh and I surprise myself by breaking down crying at unexpected moments. Like when my son got married and my daughter-in-law’s mom helped her into their wedding dress and I realized I’d never get to do that with my daughter. Or that November when I recognized that she would have been going to get her driver’s license that month. Or years ago when I would wander through the little girl dress section at Target around Easter and pick out the dress I would have put her in.

The thing about stillbirth is you don’t have a lot of memories. The ones you have are precious- feeling the baby move inside you, seeing the baby on the ultrasound, picking out all the things, the anticipation. Instead of being left with lots of memories and missing those things attached to the memories, you are left with “what if.”

What if she had lived? What would our life have been like with three boys and then a girl? What would she have been like?

This is what I think: She would have had long blonde hair. I think she would have been a princess but not in the pink and frilly dress type. No, she had three older brothers who weren’t really into babying anyone. So I think she would have been the princess superhero. She would have fought evil along side of those superheroes growing up. She would have tried to keep those three in line and I’d like to think that she might have succeeded a bit. She would have been strong- you have to with three older brothers. I’d like to think that she would have been compassionate and loving and adventurous. It would have been fun watching her blossom into whatever God made her to be.

This year it seems harder. That date. Nov. 16. Perhaps it is because we would have been about done with the growing up years. She would have been thinking about prom and graduation and college and dreaming of her life out in the world. We would have been getting ready to launch her praying with everything we had that she was ready. And so a bit more sadness as I realize that the little girl I mourn would not be so little anymore but would have been a young woman.

In Sojourn, a community women’s Bible study I lead, we’ve been talking about gratitude. And today the topic is “Gratitude Opens Our Eyes.” I believe that with all my heart. It opens our eyes to see God. I’ve experienced that over and over again.

Today let me count the gifts. Let me name the gifts with a heart full of gratitude for all Victoria’s life brought me:

  1. I learned how to have compassion at a deeper level especially for those experiencing loss.
  2. I was able to hold my daughter.
  3. God’s peace was so evident in the room that day.
  4. God’s peace followed us in the days after- literally feeling Him hold me at night as I wept.
  5. I have a daughter.
  6. Her life inspired others to turn to God. There are many stories surrounding that.
  7. Unfolding her little ear that was folded over.
  8. Her tiny perfect fingernails. Her tiny perfect fingers.
  9. I am filled with love when I think of her. . . not bitterness.
  10. Kind nurses and doctors that day.
  11. Two ornaments that hang on my Christmas tree made by women who understood loss.
  12. Her tiny perfect mouth.
  13. Those who cried with us, held us, brought us food, sent us cards. Who were present with us.
  14. The picture of my boys at church praying for us with their heads on each other’s shoulders while we were at the hospital. So glad someone took it and gave it to me. Precious.
  15. The reminder that I’m a sojourner here on earth. This isn’t forever.

As it happens over and over- that as I’ve listed these grateful things, a miracle occurs.

I see God.

I feel joy and love.

Life is a gift. Even if it only lasts a moment.

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Some Women of Valor

Tonight I am thinking of quite a few Sojourn women- past and present- sending prayers of thanks for their lives, for the grace that they have shown or is being shown them-

>>Nicole Pierson- Son of a sweet 6 year old battling a brain tumor. Tonight on the Caring Bridge she wrote:

” Still waiting for Spring! Enjoying each other in the meantime 🙂 I have learned to never wish your days away, you just never know what tomorrow will bring. Find happiness right now!”

>>Tina Ostroot- past Sojourner in the Elk River group- was running in the Boston Marathon today. She had just passed the finish line minutes before the explosion. So thankful that she is safe along with her husband and friends who were cheering her on. Her joy over running is so evident in her life and the pictures she posts.

>>Liz Martin – walking along side her mother fighting pancreatic cancer. Her love for her mom and the way she is caring for her and fighting for her- so special to watch.

I am sure there are many more of you fighting secret battles. Ones that maybe you aren’t ready to share yet. Or that I just don’t know about. But for whatever reason God brought these women of valor to my mind tonight.

The bottom line is we just don’t know. We have absolutely zero promise that we will have another breath here on earth. But what we do have. . . is His grace. Each and every moment. Let’s breath deep of that grace. Let it fill us. Let it fill our homes and our work places. Let’s let it carry us through the days when we feel like we don’t have enough. Let’s just savor every moment.

Imperfect Faith

(Snapshots Session 5)

Mark 5:21-43

The Sick Woman

12 years. One little girl 12 years old. One woman sick 12 years. Their two stories collide on a road in Galilee.

The young girl sick, near death. Jairus rushes to Jesus asking for help. “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”

And so Jesus comes.

While he makes his way along that dusty, dirty road, the crowd crushes in around him. And that woman. . . .the one bleeding for 12 years gathers up every ounce of courage, every moment of desperation and reaches out her hand.

Perhaps believing the superstition that the robe of a great man had power. “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

She touches the cloak. And in an instant she is made well. Her body is freed from the suffering.

———

The suffering.

Physical: a woman bleeding 12 years leaves one anemic, weak, broken.

Social/religious: a Jewish woman bleeding leads her to be an outcast.

Emotional: hopeless. She has spent all she has on doctor after doctor. They don’t know how to fix her so they try potions and odd things boiled in wine and sitting over trenches and hopeless means that lead to just more suffering.

_____

Jesus stops. He turns. “Who touched my cloak?’

For the disciples this is impossible. So many people. How would you know?

For the woman, this horror filled moment- she tried so hard to be anonymous, to sneak up behind, to not allow him to peer at her face, to just stick out a hand and touch.

For Jesus, he knows. He felt the power go out of him. He wants to see her.

She comes forward. Kneeling. Trembling. Explaining.

“Daughter, you faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Her imperfect faith. Freed. Not just her body but all her suffering. No longer an outcast. No longer hopeless.

She reached out a hand in imperfect faith and she was given hope.

_______

Meanwhile, Jairus’ daughter dies. Just like that. But Jesus goes anyway. He reaches out and takes her hand. “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” And she does.

Two stories. One trip.

Jairus coming to Jesus religiously clean. Boldly. In the open. And Jesus moves and gives hope.

The woman coming to Jesus unclean. Quietly. In secret. And Jesus moves and gives hope.

For that is what he came to do:

“to proclaim that captives will be released” and that “the oppressed will be set free”  (Luke 4:18-19)

_______

Freed when in desperation a hand is held out. Released when an imperfect faith acts.

Imperfect faith.

Coming to him just as we are. Without it all figured out.

Come to him with an imperfect faith.

_______

Take a moment or two to experience  Addie Zierman’s  “Come Weary”

“For the word of God…

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edge sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Courage to hold the sword in our hands.

To open it.

Allowing it to pierce us.

The deep recesses of our souls.

Changing.

Healing.

Binding up the broken hearted.

Restoring.

May our desire to change be so much greater than the fear of that two-edged sword.

Quote

Distracted by the Unnecessary

Distracted by the Unnecessary

(Snapshots Session Three)

Luke 10:38-42

Location: Bethany

Place: Martha and Mary’s home

Martha opens the door. She welcomes Him into her home. Welcomes Jesus not as a casual guest but as someone she is taking under her personal responsibility. Someone she is receiving under her personal care to see to His needs.

Meanwhile, Martha’s sister, Mary, sits at the Jesus’ feet. Which is just another way to say that she is being taught by Him.  Something quite phenomenal for a woman to sit at a man’s feet to learn. . . And she sits there- entranced- listening.

Listening not as one who turns on the television or music for background noise. Listening not as one who takes in knowledge from a lecture or a funny story told. No, a different kind of listening. One that leads to faith being birthed inside.

Romans 10:7: Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard from the word about Christ.

Mary is hearing the message right from the words of Christ. And faith is coming.

Meanwhile, Martha continues to care for Jesus. Serving. Willingly with a giving attitude. Her attention on Him.

Until that moment. The one where we can’t really put a finger on. It just happens.

Distraction.

It takes hold of her. Drawing her attention away.

And then this.

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Oh, yes, that. Cringe.

Whining- Do you not care?

Martyr-I am all alone doing this because my sister will not help.

Bullying- Tell her to help me.

She tells Jesus what to do. And so do we. Often. We pray telling Him. We live lives that tell Him. We want Him to join us in our plans. Not so much would we want to join Him in His plans.

—-

Those dishes. Those dirty, nasty dishes that take me down that road.

Serving dinner to my family- sorta nutritious but nonetheless food. And then they get up. Walk away. Leaving dishes on the sink. Pots on the stove. Crumbs on the cabinet top.

And I start.

Whining: Look at all these dishes. Does no one care about these dishes?

Martydom: I work so hard to make dinner night after night after night. And here I am alone left to do these dishes by myself while everyone else is enjoying themselves.

Bullying: (Barking) Tyler, unload the dishwasher. Don, put up the food. Zach, clean the counters. Blaine, sweep the floor.  Someone load the dishwasher.

Serving with love.

Hardly.

What became an act of love turned with a distraction. Taking my eyes off the love act and placing them on the dishes and myself.

I understand Martha. Such good intentions. One distracted moment. I become someone I don’t like so much.

– – – – –

Martha’s full attention on Jesus- her serving heart- all changes. And it becomes about her. About the work. About her sister.

And what does Jesus say?

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary.”

Anxious: to be divided, distracted, drawn in opposite directions, divided into parts

Troubled: confused noise, disturbance

Martha, divided into parts and giving into the confused noise, all starting with her attention taken off Jesus. One distracted moment and this.

One thing is important. Among the confused noise- one thing. One thing is necessary. Him. His Words. Faith. Welling up within us, changing us.

He says that Mary has chosen the good portion and it cannot be taken away from her. The Words spoken into her soul can never be taken away. It burrows deep within us and stays.

Martha’s distraction reminds me of a parable. The Sower. The ground. Thorny.

“And for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hears, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. “ Luke 8:14

And yet there is a different ground where His Word might fall.

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. “ Luke 8:15

And how do I hear the Word? And what difference does it make?

When I scan back over decades. . . of once upon a time thinking the Bible was boring and weaving through years of reading it for knowledge and teaching it for knowledge and then that place. The one where I fell in love with the Word.

This I know. For certain. With all my being.

In those hard years. Those ten most hard years. Everything could be put in one category or another: Thorny ground. Good soil.

And those things that transpired in the thorns. . . I didn’t handle so well.

And those things that took place on good soil. . . I did.

Working through the distractions to keep our attention on Him won’t change the circumstances. Not usually.

But it will change me. The way I react. The choices I make. The peace I have.

And that is the difference I seek.

—————————

Be intentional. Work through those distractions. Make a plan.

Five things to try:

Read Scripture one verse a day. A week. And think about it.

Journal five things each day that brought you joy or that you are grateful for.

Type your prayers on your computer then hit delete.

Listen to Scripture as you commute each day.

Sit in solitude and listen.

What have you tried that works for you?

Dear Downton Abbey Addicts (and others),

IMG_0112

One quote from last night’s episode (Season Three, Episode Two) keeps swirling in my mind:

“You are being tested. And you know what they say, my darling. Being tested only makes you stronger.”

It reminded me of Romans 5:3-4, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

And it is quite true that suffering, times of testing, trials do make us stronger.

Or bitter.

And that is the choice that our fictional Edith must make. Will she become stronger? Or bitter?

It also doesn’t escape me that poor Edith was not a bit kind to her sister. . . and often we do reap what we sow. That her character is so deeply rooted already in a bit of bitterness. Jealousy. Disappointment. Although progress had been made toward improvements in those departments. . .

This was to be her shining moment. And it crumbled. In front of the entire village.

I am reminded as I replay that quote over and over in my head that nothing is that simple. And yet it is. Choose stronger or choose bitter. The choice is simple. The doing. . . not so much.

Moment by moment. Each day re-choosing. Taking captive every thought. Having faith that there will be that light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. It isn’t easy.

Thinking that many of us are dealing with our own crumbling of dreams. And we, too, have choices to make.

Choose to rejoice in the suffering.

Signed,

Your Fellow Downton Addict

Made to Create

Women were made to create. In one way or another. We were made to create beauty.

Cooking a delicious meal for family

Scrapbooking  memories for generations to come

Knitting warm gifts for our friends

Baking cute cupcakes for a birthday party

Decorating a comfortable home

Sewing a frilly or perhaps not so frilly dress for a child

Photographing a scene that will capture our hearts for years

Picking out accessories for our teen that will make the outfit

Creating. Beauty. Around. Us.

After all we were made in the image of the Creator. Made in His likeness.  Made to be creative.

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