Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"The vast uncluttered wilderness"

"In the starkness and simplicity of the vast uncluttered wilderness, Jesus interpreted his existence and his mission in the world at a new and decisive level and emerged from the desert with the Breath of God on his face." (Pg 121, Brennan Manning, The Importance of Being Foolish: How to think like Jesus).

As I was reading The Importance of Being Foolish, that line stood out to me. He was talking about Jesus' time of temptation in the desert after fasting, and how satan searched for an area of weakness by focusing on questioning Jesus' identity. "If you are the Son..."

During the trials we face, our identity does come into question. When our world is shaken, we are forced to grasp for something that solidly defines who we are - something that will keep us grounded on a firm foundation. In the middle of a trial, the trivial things of this world no longer matter. If the ship is sinking, the new pair of shoes you just bought really doesn't matter, but the life vest does. Doesn't it?

"In the starkness and simplicity of the vast uncluttered wilderness..." Nothing else mattered. Jesus was in a position to cling firmly to what He knew to be true... that He was, is, and always will be the Son of God.

Our journey has led us to a point where many of the little things really hold no significance to us anymore. Our perspectives have changed. Our ship went down and we had to start over by clinging to our life vests. I know who I am. I know where I'm headed, even if I don't know the details about the journey from here to there. I know the Heavenly Father has a plan, and I have a better understanding of what He expects of us. I'm amazed at how He has met our needs without failing us for even a moment. I know that through whatever happens, He will never abandon us. When you realize you're standing on the threshold of eternity, so many things in life just fade away into the "vast uncluttered wilderness."

Funny how a silly little thing like a sinking ship can change your point of view. What are you going to grab before the ship goes down?

834536: The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus

By Brennan Manning / Zondervan/HarperCollins Publishers

In the eyes of the world, Jesus was a fool. He did not abide by the rules of his day; the people he associated with were shunned by society; his Sermon on the Mount reads like a primer on being left behind, stepped on, and ignored. In order for us to truly be the people Jesus wants us to be, we too must learn to become "foolish."
Becoming a Christian is not a magical enterprise by which we are automatically transformed into better people. We must train to become who God intends us to be. In The Importance of Being Foolish, Manning teaches us how to think like Jesus. By reorienting our lives according to the gospel, we may appear to be fools in the eyes of the world, but Manning reveals that this is exactly what Jesus wants.
In a powerful exploration of the mind of Christ, Manning reveals how our obsession with security, pleasure, and power prevents us from living rich and meaningful lives. Our endless struggle to acquire money, good feelings, and prestige yields a rich harvest of worry, frustration, and resentment. Manning explores what Christ's mind was truly focused on: finding the Father, compassion for others, a heart of forgiveness, and the work of the kingdom.
Coming from the gentle yet compelling voice of Brennan Manning, The Importance of Being Foolish is a refreshing reminder of the radical call of Jesus and the transforming love of God.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sanctity of Life

I had started writing the following thoughts while preparing to speak at an area church a few months ago on the topic of abortion and sanctity of life. Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, marking the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion in the U.S. (in earlier months without limitation and later months with some restrictions). I thought that now may be the ideal time to share these thoughts.

I have many memories from my childhood and teen years of various “pro-life” events. I remember sitting with my parents at the Friends For Life booth at the county fair, and the January trips to Washington D.C. for the Rally and March for Life on the anniversary of Roe-vs.-Wade. As long as I can remember, we were somehow involved in pro-life efforts.
I’ve heard many arguments in favor of abortion, and many rebuttals against those arguments. Perhaps the most common argument I’ve heard is, “Well, you don’t know unless you’ve had to choose.” I can honestly say now that I do know.
When you think of the reasons someone might be in a position to choose an abortion over life, you may think of many reasons you're heard. An unplanned pregnancy may result from carelessness or poor judgment, failed birth control, or even rape. Abortion may be given as an option in a planned pregnancy if there is an abnormality or birth defect. Occasionally, it may be a case in which the mother’s life is considered to be in danger, though these situations seem to be argued much more often than they actually occur. Over all, the reasons primarily boil down to either inconvenience or emotional turmoil.
About two years ago, my husband and I decided that we were ready to start a family. After about a year, we finally got the first positive line on a home pregnancy test. We were absolutely thrilled. We loved our baby immediately. I secretly hoped for twins, though it had been a joke with our mothers since we became a couple that we were going to have redheaded twin girls. At the first ultrasound, we were shocked to learn that there really were two babies growing inside. It was a strange mix of emotions, but above all, we were immediately in love with our babies.
On December 15th, at about 16 weeks gestation, our doctor expressed some concerns that our daughter (though at the time she was known as “Baby B”) hadn’t developed properly. He told us about a neural tube defect called Anencephaly. It’s a defect that occurs within the first month of pregnancy when the neural tube should be closing but doesn’t, leaving the skull open and brain exposed. It’s always fatal. “Incompatible with life” is the term they use. Our doctor referred us to a high risk specialist in Lexington for the following week to confirm.
On December 21st, the fear was confirmed and we knew that one of our babies would be incapable of surviving after birth. I don’t think I have the words to describe the devastation that we felt. We wanted both of our babies. The specialist promptly began discussing our options and any risks. He told us that we could do “selective termination,” terminate the entire pregnancy, or proceed, knowing that the baby would not be able to survive. We quickly let him know that “termination” was not an option. He made the comment that many parents choose termination because it’s so difficult to handle emotionally.
I later learned that somewhere between 90-98% of babies diagnosed with anencephaly are aborted. This falls into the “emotional turmoil” category. The remainder of our pregnancy was surely filled with emotional turmoil. It was an emotional roller coaster. We had one healthy baby and one that we knew could not survive. It was hard to make future plans for our son because it didn’t seem fair to our daughter, but it didn’t seem fair to him if we didn’t.
The questions that are fun and exciting in a typical pregnancy cut deep. When someone would ask when I was due, I was reminded how short my time was with my daughter. When they asked if I was having a boy or a girl, I’d say “one of each,” only to listen to further comments about how exciting it would be and how I’d have my hands full, and what a challenge it was. What they didn’t realize was how much I’d wanted that challenge. If I wanted to avoid the extra comments and told people that I was expecting one of each but my daughter wouldn’t be able to survive, people just didn’t know how to respond. The look in their eyes would say they wanted to run in the other direction just to avoid having to say anything else. If I said I was having a boy, I wouldn’t be acknowledging her. I could never do that. I needed the world to know that she existed. 
Though we immediately knew that abortion was not an option for us, the journey we took from that moment was certainly not easy. It was painful, and still is painful. We don't regret our decision. We know we did everything that was asked of us in allowing Carys to live until God said it was time for her to go home. She changed our lives (and the lives of many others) in ways we never could have imagined. God had a plan. God always has a plan. 

Jeremiah 29:11-13

New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

It doesn't matter what storm we are facing. Even when it hurts and we're so weary that we feel like we just can't go another step, or even when we struggle just to hold our head up and face the crowds, we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and wants good things for us. We won't always understand why we're allowed to go through the storms, but if we cling to Him when we feel like running from Him... we'll start to see the beauty in the storm. There's an awe-inspiring power that is evident from the midst of a storm, that a person just can't appreciate from the shelter of a cave. There is beauty in and after the rain. If we try to take the easiest way out that we can find, we may miss out on the most rewarding parts of the journey.
If you are reading this and you have missed out on the rewarding parts of the journey, it's not too late to cling to the Father. Even now, after it's all said and done, there is much to be experienced. You've still experienced a loss, but you can grieve your loss from the arms of the Creator. He knows your pain, He hurts when you hurt. There is peace in knowing that some day, if we've chosen to seek Him with all our hearts, following His commands to love Him and love others with that deep, agape kind of love... we have hope for a future in Heaven- a future filled with a greater peace than this world has ever known. Praise God, Heaven is for real!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Every Last Tear

I'm missing my baby girl horribly tonight. My heart aches. After the past year, I'm surprised there are any tears left, but somehow there always are... even when I'm truly "ok." I've found that as time goes on, I'm coming around. I don't feel as buried in grief as I did before, even though the pain is still there. Some days it still feels so fresh, but I still have the peace in knowing we're okay. I have peace in knowing that Heaven is near, and it is very, very real.

I'm thinking often of our family members and other loved ones who are already in Heaven with Carys. I look forward to seeing them when God says it's time. It's so strange to me how much the past year has changed me. So many things have new meaning. Tonight, I keep thinking of Revelation 21:4.

Revelation 21:4
New International Version (NIV)
4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Anyone who has faced any kind of significant loss in this world can understand how that passage means so much more. Tears can be so exhausting. Some day, though... Some day, God, Himself will wipe every last tear from our eyes. We will never again face death or mourning, or crying or pain. Can you imagine?? This ache in my heart will go away. I so look forward to feeling the peace of Heaven again. I have a peace now, so even when I cry, I'm okay... but it's not like the peace the day Carys went to Heaven. THAT overwhelming peace was unearthly. I look forward to feeling that again.

In the meantime, I'm doing a balancing act. It's an odd balance to be living in this world when it's not the comfort zone it once was. I changed, but the world didn't. Everything else goes on like nothing changed... but I was changed; in so many ways. I'm so thankful God blessed us with Paxton and Carys, even if Carys couldn't stay long. I can't imagine my life without them.


I started to title this post, "I changed, but the world didn't" ... but now I've re-thought that. Life goes on as if nothing happened, I have to continue going through the motions, but I KNOW the world did change a little when Carys came into it and silently left. On that note, I want to ask you all how Carys impacted your lives. If you haven't already, please visit her memorial page (click here). I know she made a difference.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Caption Contest Winner!!

Vanessa Ison!
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