Friday, August 13, 2021

Who Do You Say that I Am?

I'm not the person I want to be. When I consider the people I admire the most, the individuals I would most want to emulate in faith, love, and life in general, I am nothing like them. I am not the woman I thought I would be and I don't live out my vocation the way I thought I would. Growing up I had an incredibly strong desire to be a wife and mom and I guess I always sort of assumed that meant I would be a natural at all of that. Spoiler alert - I am not! For several years I have just forged ahead and opted for the "fake it til you make it" approach. Some things have gotten easier and it would be false humility to say that I have not come a long way, but I am not where I want to or who I want to be. And for the first time in my life I am willing to ask Why? in a way that is not accusatory. If God has revealed anything to me in the last year it is that when I am confronted by my inadequacies, my sin, my brokenness, I can face it in one of two ways : Accusation or Invitation. 

In John 8 we hear the story of the woman caught in adultery. She's guilty. There is no getting around that. These men didn't bring her out and grab stones because they had a suspicion - her guilt is real and Jesus does not suggest otherwise at any point. But to Him that is not the ending but the beginning. Jesus waits until they are alone and asks her those famous words "Has no one condemned you?". She answers and He replies "Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more." There is no denial of guilt here or minimizing of sin, but there is an invitation to forgiveness and renewal. 

I have heard that in Hebrew the word Satan actually means "Accuser" and if so that is so perfect, isn't it? When we sin or face our brokenness that is exactly what Satan does - accuse us. "You lost your temper again!" or "You say you want to change but then why do you fall into the same sins over and over again?!". "You will always be like this!". It can be so easy to fall into his trap because there is an element of truth to it, isn't there? Yes, I did lose my temper again. Yes, I do tend to fall into the exact same sins over and over again. Denying it, getting defensive, or pretending it's all lies doesn't work. My brother Joe once told me that in seminary a professor told the class that life is a little bit like a play (stay with me). The characters are set, the stage and props aren't going to change, but the lighting is up for grabs. You can let God control the lighting or you can let Satan do it. The Bible says that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". That is reality and we do have to face reality. But we need to make sure that we are facing God's reality, seeing our identity through the eyes of God.

In Matthew 16 Christ asks His disciples a little bit of an odd question - Who do people say that I am? Maybe it isn't actually a weird question but it always struck me as such. Why does Jesus ask this? Why does He care? And then the answers are all over the map! A reincarnated Elijah?! John the Baptist?! I'm not a scholar or an expert so I'm sure I'm missing all sorts of important things here but I guess I always pictured this scene playing out a little comically. But then it shifts and we get Simon's profound confession regarding Jesus' identity - "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!". I can honestly say that before today this passage didn't really resonate with me. It was more of a "That's nice. Moving on" chapter of the Bible for me. But that changed today. I have been wrestling so much with the question "Who am I? What kind of a mom am I? What kind of a wife am I? What kind of a woman am I?". The words from this passage popped into my head as I was driving my kids and running errands today so I looked it up. Do you know what happens when Simon accurately acknowledges the identity of Christ? Christ reveals Simon's identity - 

"Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
[18] And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
[19] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 

Simon Peter didn't ask Christ "Who do you say that I am?" but Christ told him anyway. If Christ had asked him "Who do you say that you are?" he would have answered "Simon Bar-Jona, fisherman and disciple of Christ." An acceptable answer. But not the whole answer. Only when we acknowledge who Christ is, WHO GOD IS, can we ask Who do you say that I am? 

I am not the person I want to be. But this is the beginning, not the end. This is the invitation. And I can't wait to answer it and ask my Lord and Savior, Who do you say that I am?

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Better Late Than Never AKA I wrote this in the middle of August

Summer is done. Its conclusion feels as abrupt as that sentence and I am about as prepared for the beginning of a new school year as food poisoning. OK, I am less apprehensive about it than I am about food poisoning but there is still a slight nausea associated with the very idea. This Summer was good. It wasn't great. After all when you start with a miscarriage it takes a bit to even the score. Still, as many tears were shed there was a great deal of laughter, blessings, and memories made. So in honor of Summer coming to a close I give you some of its many highlights....

- Indiana Visit -
A conference in Michigan meant special family time for the kids and me with Ben's family in Indiana. It came on the heels of my D&C and I was shocked by how exhausted I was but when you are with my husband's family you are spoiled rotten and this was no different. In a way I think it was healing to leave home for a bit and reset


- Virginia Beach -

We made a last minute decision to take our very first family vacation and naturally we chose the beach. Johnny screamed for a shocking amount of time on the drive down but by the time we reached our hotel and, more specifically, took the kids onto the beach it was completely worth it. Ben and I had not been to a beach since our honeymoon in the Summer of 2012 and the kids had never seen the ocean. Leo and John were absolutely enamored; Tessa was terrified and did not go in (on purpose) once. The sleeping arrangements posed some challenges but I think that's the way of things when you choose a hotel instead of a condo and it was still 100% worth it. 

- Vacation Bible School -

Sadly I did not think to take ONE SINGLE PHOTO during Vacation Bible School but suffice it to say that somehow I went from being a kid going to VBS to being a mom with a child old enough to attend VBS for the first time. I mean WHAT?! It was absolutely surreal dropping him off and I was a little worried that he'd freak out as soon as I left so when it came to pick him up I held my breath. But despite a few nerves and missing us he had a fabulous time and the week went beautifully. It also allowed me to begin tackling a project at home that I was very excited about...

- The Bathroom Remodel -

I hate 70s style wood trim. Seriously. I hate it. I don't think there's really anything from the 70s I care for actually but warm-toned wood trim is pretty high up there on the list. So between that and the dull/dirty cream walls and the out of place dated wannabe-French cottage style vanity I just needed to get in there and do something. After I started I realized how out of my depth I was and man alive I learned a LOT in the process. I mean, I don't think I could do it much better now but I could sure as heck tell YOU what not to do! Anyways here is the proof that it done got did 

As you can tell by the horrible symmetry of the photos above I don't really understand how to post photos. I could probably figure it out but that is close to the bottom of my To Do list....

- Staycation -

Vacation for my side of the family involved zero travel for us and by and large I am a big fan of that! I was pretty skeptical about a week of everyone hanging out here in good 'ol Virginia but I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly things went. The days were stupidly hot but we still managed to do a lot of fun things - Air and Space museum, Wild Animal park, a few trips to the pool, etc. The evenings were full of conversation and games. Despite some hiccups along the way I can say that it was one of my favorite family vacations and my one major regret is that I didn't use my camera nearly enough!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Nobody Knows How to Say Goodbye

It was early March and we were killing time the best way we know how - reading books. A month or so after he turned a year old John finally joined the ranks of his story-loving siblings and so the couch is perpetually littered with a mountain of board books. This day was different, however. He had no interest in any of those books and instead kept going back to the bookshelf and fetching the same book : I'm a Big Brother Now. At first I laughed out loud and said "Don't get any ideas, buddy!". I figured it would be too long for his short attention span and put it back. But he kept going back and getting it and finally I acquiesced and read it. It was the new obsession for several days. We read it countless times and no matter how hard I tried to interest him in the other books he would take them out of my hands, place them on the floor, and make me read the one book. After about a week of this I decided to take a test. It was almost like having a joke with myself. Wouldn't it be absurd if John was onto something? And then the test came up positive and the joke was on me. I was in absolute shock. There was a plan. This was not part of the plan. This was so very much not the plan.

Brother's Intuition

The next two days were extremely emotional. I kept looking at John and thinking HE is still a BABY! Even in 9 months he is still going to be a BABY! And what about me? I had been struggling with inexplicable insomnia since John started sleeping through the night (ironic much?). I was finally scheduled to see a specialist to test for adrenal fatigue but guess what - they don't see you if you're pregnant. And guess who has intense pregnancy insomnia? THIS GUY! And of course there would be the progesterone supplementation, the varicose veins, the sciatica... Needless to say I was hosting one killer pity party. But something changed after those couple days. Probably a simple case of grace. I started to feel excited. We decided to tell the kids and their exuberant reaction was more than I had hoped for.

The excitement stayed strong but the stress began to mount again before long. My doctor informed me that progesterone shots were unavailable - the manufacturer only makes so many in a given batch then lets it run out (nationally) for awhile before sending out another batch. So we would have to try capsules and guesstimate dosage because yes, my bloodwork showed that my levels were low with this pregnancy too. It was Holy Week when the bleeding began. I had spotting with my last two pregnancies but this was different. Still I wasn't having any pain so it was not textbook or what my friends and family had experienced. My doctor ordered an ultrasound even though I was just over 5 weeks along and bloodwork for more clarity. The ultrasound showed a large hematoma and not anything else; the bloodwork showed that my hCG levels were very high. It was Good Friday and right around 3 pm when my doctor called. I was washing dishes and I kept thinking of Job, The Lord Giveth and the Lord taketh away -- blessed be the name of the Lord, and the phone rang. The radiologist and my doctor had conferred and they said I had miscarried. As far as Good Fridays go that one felt pretty darn appropriate.

Even though I was early on my doctor said I should get a D&C so we scheduled it for the next week.  The closer to the appointment I got the more emotional I became and the more I didn't want to go through with it. It was not progressing like a normal miscarriage and I just couldn't wrap my head around it. When I went in and met with the new doctor I told him I wasn't going to have a D&C without another ultrasound. He surprised me by not only being supportive of my decision but saying that my chart hadn't convinced him that I was going through a miscarriage. He told me I might as well start taking the progesterone again just in case. The next 10 days were very hard. I was completely torn between grief and hope. After what felt like a lifetime I went in for the ultrasound. And this is what I saw

I didn't even need the nurse to point out the heartbeat - I could see that beautiful heart working as soon as I looked at the screen. Still it was one of the most beautiful sounds I ever heard. Our little one was 7 weeks 5 days old and ALIVE! There was a substantial subchorionic hematoma which meant that I was at high risk for miscarriage and "needed to take it easy" (what does that even mean?). Still, I left the office feeling like I was walking on Cloud 9 and started calling my loved ones. We shared tears of joy and joyful disbelief. It was a total miracle! And for a couple more weeks we celebrated that miracle and loved on that sweet baby. Then things took a turn. 

On Friday, April 27th I went in to the doctor's office and had a very different ultrasound. My little angel was there but this time there was no heartbeat to measure, no heartbeat to listen to. I was so grateful for the compassion of the midwife and doctor that morning. I was so grateful that they didn't balk when I told them that after the D&C I wanted our child's remains so that we could have a proper burial. I was so grateful to go back home and hug my three children and amazing husband. It is not lost on me what an incredible privilege and blessing it is that I had children at home to hold and it was, and is, a balm to my aching heart.

It is a little over 3 weeks since we found out that we had lost our Joseph Mary. I am grateful for the healing that has taken place and I look forward to the healing that will come. More than anything I am grateful for the irreplaceable gift of this child's life and the time we had together. I will always be this child's mother and I will always carry him (or her) in my heart. I am grateful that I had the amazing gift to see him when he was alive and to hear the beautiful sound of his heartbeat, to be able to have pictures to keep. It is every parent's hope that their children will go to Heaven... I know I already have one there waiting for me. Love you so much, sweet baby <3