Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sunshine After The Rain

It's amazing what the sunshine can do to a melancholy heart!

I always seem to have more of a tendency toward sadness but the winter blues definitely hit me hard every single year. It's bad enough for the few months of gray chill which sinks into my bones and doesn't let go, making the winter seem like an eternity. But then there's the rain we've had over the last month or so- the dreary start to Spring- which has really taken its toll, and I have just been unusually down. Of course, life's difficult circumstances that flood in and out at times are just icing on that emotional cake. Sometimes, I wonder how Noah felt on his ark with his family and all those animals. How difficult it must have been! How his hope must have dwindled some as time went on. And I think about how my hope has dwindled at times, especially lately. But, as yesterday was the first day in quite awhile with no rain, the sun poked through the haze of the overcast sky and I felt it warming my heart and stirring hope within me.

Today the sun is shining full blast; a slight breeze whispers through the trees and there is life everywhere. My vegetables are growing quite nicely, safely planted in the raised garden box we built around Mother's Day. The container garden I pulled together a few weeks ago is overflowing with color and texture; an uplifting sight as I was unsure it would make it through all the rain we've had. Red and purple salvia and persian shield, as well as other beautiful plants are in full bloom in their happy containers on our newly-built patio. The birds are busy flying around gathering bits of grass and twigs for their nests. Bees are buzzing about doing their bee-thing!
I've gotten into the habit of having the windows open at this time of year, despite how hot it may get and despite the pollen count. It lets the sunshine in and the clean air filter through the house. It makes my heart dance with joy to see the sun's rays, feel their warmth, feel the breezes sweeping through the house, knowing they are gifts from God. The kids have been picking flowers from our wild hill garden which I've tucked into small glass jars and bud vases. The mixture of purples and yellows and pinky whites are so pretty grouped together with mint and other greens. I picked a bunch myself a few days ago, arranging them into a decorative tin pitcher, and placed it in the middle of our dining room table.
The joy of Spring has really been a blessing, despite all the rain we've had. It's not just the tangible gifts it brings like flowers and sunshine, but the timing of these things, especially this year. Over the past few months, God has really been working in my heart to cultivate contentment. I have prayed for it practically every day; to learn to grow where I'm planted and be content where I am, knowing He has a purpose for each moment and season of my life. As Joe and I have been anxious over the last year to move on to the next stage of our home and business life, I've been really convicted of the fact that we are rushing things, not living in the moment, not seeing the blessings and gifts our heavenly Father is giving us where we are right now.

We have felt like we are quickly outgrowing our small house and yard but have been realizing lately that it's not really as bad as we feel. When the kids are happily tumbling around in the yard, swinging on the swing set, creating pretend meals of grass and dirt and weeds and picking flowers to bring in to their mama, it touches my heart in a humbling way and makes me feel content. When I hear them playing nicely in their rooms and helping each other do simple tasks, I'm delighted at the fact that in these moments, they don't feel annoyed by the limited space and are actually content to be with- and often serving- their siblings. When family and friends make comments about how beautiful the backyard is or how nice the house looks or even how spacious it seems, I get a new perspective on a once-depressing subject. The doors in my mind creak open a crack and then a little more each time I get someone else's take on the way things are around here. I feel a tingle in my heart, like God is pulling on its strings saying "see, you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now and even if it's a little difficult, there are many blessings to be found here."

The truth is, I don't want a big fancy house and a lot of stuff to keep me and the kids occupied. I'd like to live more simply, actually. I just want a slightly bigger home where we aren't falling all over each other and the noise can be contained (sometimes) in an area where it won't disturb a working husband on the phone with a client in the office which is right next to the playroom, or a sleeping 21 month old in the bedroom down the short hall. We want land to build our business on and to have a few farm animals. I want chickens! I want our children to be content playing with each other and our animals and doing work around our home instead of wanting to be out and about, always on the go, doing things and needing new gadgets and toys. I want to get back to the basics, like planting a larger garden, and teaching my children about simple living despite a materialistic world. I am content to drink out of glass jars when our "fancy" glasses are all broken instead of wasting money on new ones, and composting my kitchen scraps instead of wasting them in the trash (which we haven't done yet because we have no room for a compost pile), and cloth diapering (which I've done for the last 3 years) to save us from spending money and not contributing to the chemicals in the landfills.

I guess part of me wants to get to that simplicity of living so badly that being where we are right now, which hinders the ability to do some of the stuff I want to do, makes me feel anxious and depressed. But I know the intent is there, the desire to do what God wants us to do, in His perfect timing. The frigid temps of winter, where everything seemed lifeless and gray, always magnified my depression and the thoughts that things will never be different. The flooding rains we've had after the winter, when the sun is held captive behind black clouds pregnant with more and more rain, seem to drown out that hope for the next season of life. It's hard for a small flower to be content in a garden that hardly sees the sun and is constantly drowning in murky water.

I think about Noah on that ark, floating around with his family while darkness and rain persisted, drowning the world around them. I compare it to my floating through life, sometimes drowning in the dark and rain. But just like after the time of flooding and darkness that Noah and his family endured, there's always the sun - a giant source of warmth and hope. It must have encouraged Noah as he drifted for 150 days on the flooded world after the rain had stopped. He knew it would dry the waters and fulfill God's promise to him. Just like Noah, I take this beautiful gift from God- high in the sky shining down on me- as a tangible reminder of His love for me and the promises He not only makes but always keeps.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hurting People Hurt

Just yesterday I was in a discussion with a woman and it suddenly turned very ugly. What I thought was her attempt to answer a question I didn't ask ended up being a ploy to bait me into a discussion so that she could belittle me, tear me to pieces and basically tell me I wasn't important, all the while completely denying that there was any truth to what I was saying to her. My attempts at being completely unbiased and loving to her about a situation which occurred before this discussion were deemed nothing more than my having an arrogant, know-it-all personality, and that I was trying to be God. However, what really cut to my heart was not all of her lies, misunderstanding, sarcasm, and defensiveness. It wasn't the fact that she told me that until I receive death threats like she does, I don't have any idea what I'm talking about and I'm unimportant....Nor was it even her inability to talk to me at all like I was a human being. It was the fact that she is in a position of influence and power, and is supposed to be doing God's work for a very important matter of life, yet she has this heart that is still so broken from her past that she is incapable of handling what her skewed perception deems a "tough" situation with someone she doesn't even know. Boy have I been there!

I had to prioritize my purpose in this matter but it was a little bit of a jaunt before I got to realizing that. After I realized that she wasn't going to "play nice," give me the benefit of the doubt and at least TRY to muster up even an ounce of the decency I know she must have, I'm not proud to say I called her a phony, as well as prideful and arrogant. Now, regardless of whether these things are true, I should have never said them. And for that, I am sorry. But once I got to that point, it finally hit me how much Satan had been using BOTH of us in this situation and I suddenly got very angry at the whole thing. Not at her. I wasn't ever angry at her. I have too much pity for her to be angry. The things she said to me were so laughable and sad that I had no room for anger. I know in her position, Satan is working on her very hard right now. He works on all of us when we are doing God's work. She is doing something that Satan really detests. She turned from her life of serving his cause to serving God and that really made him angry. What I absolutely HATE most in this scenario with her is that we both fell for it. I can see why she could as she has so many issues and really was under his grasp in such a strong way for such a long time, but for me to fall for that small temptation just really upsets me.

Of course, I do not think for one second that I am completely unable to be tempted. If I felt that way, I'd be delusional. I'd be prideful. And what's that bible verse about pride? It goes before the fall. If you think you're immune to temptation, take heed lest you fall. Yeah. I'm a sinner just like everyone else and Satan tempts me A LOT, daily, especially concerning my family life....and I fall for it A LOT. But I thought I was a little bit further along in my ability to avoid falling for such a cheap shot as this. Through God's mercy and grace, I've worked so hard for such a long time to come to a place of being able to sense these types of attacks; to see them for what they are before they go too far. And yet, somehow, I didn't see this one. I even knew a little of what type of person she was capable of being, and yet still wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, reach out to her, love her. And most of what I said to her was just that. But when I lowered the bar of morality and deemed it acceptable for myself to call her names, I lost myself in that temptation and let sin take over. I'm angry at myself. I know I can be tempted and fall, I just thought it'd be a little less easy to do it with something like this.

What is SO amazing about God, though, is that He takes these situations and uses them for His good. If I hadn't ever had this "opportunity" to fail, I wouldn't have been reminded of a very important set of lessons. Not only that hurting people hurt and we should pray for them when they hurt us, but that no matter what Satan does, God is so much bigger than he is and God can work in the hearts of the people Satan has used. I mean, just looking at the history of this woman's life, I can see that. She is doing something so amazing right now with her life and her efforts are commendable in so many ways. God has taken her from her awful past and put her back on the path He had for her and she is letting Him. We are kindred spirits in that respect. Not only that, but I know there are times, like the small blip in this situation, when I have let my feelings of hurt hinder Christ's love from shining through me 100%. So God has worked in my heart to forgive her by reminding me that He (and those I have hurt before) have forgiven me.

One other amazing outcome of this whole thing is that I actually got an apology from her. Never in a thousand years would I have even expected one, let alone think I'd get it. The cynical side of me (Satan?) wants to believe she didn't really mean it, but I am just going to give her the benefit of the doubt and accept it. I appreciate that she even said anything. It also gave me a chance to apologize for those silly names I called her. I'm still mad at myself for that and I really have to pray hard to get passed this whole thing. But most importantly, I need to pray for her; that she will continue on this path with God, that He blesses her efforts, and most importantly, that He will pour His grace and mercy over her like warm oil, helping her heal from her past so that He can continue to use her for His purposes.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Invisible World, A Book Review

I have been waiting to do this review until I got a copy in the mail to do a free give-away as well but alas, the extra copy has not come yet and I just can't wait any longer! I really wanted to share this book with you so that you could glean from it as much knowledge, insight and awe as I did! So I'm offering my own copy of this book as the free give-away.

But first, the review:

The Invisible World: Understanding Angels, Demons And The Spiritual Realities That Surround Us is a Christian book written by the very talented Anthony DeStefano. This amazing little gem has ten very simple-to-read, thought-provoking chapters. With titles like The Haunt Detector, Invisible Helpers, Invisible Evil and The Invisible Power of Suffering, you can automatically assume just from looking at the table of contents that Mr. DeStefano has some powerful and deeply-thought ideas and truths to express within.

The Invisible World is written based on traditional Christian teaching and relates powerful truths in a way that helps us to understand our beliefs and their origins- including the first sin, the fall of man and of Satan, and how it all intertwines to create the invisible spiritual world which not only circles our own lives but folds itself into the layers, rooting deep meaning and matter into our existence. This amazing book gives us a glimpse into the very real battle for our souls which we cannot see, how it affects us on a daily basis, God's infinite grace, and life after death. In a tangible way, it explains what our soul is, its purpose and value, and what God's plan for each of us is.

Mr. DeStefano leaves nothing out, answering many of the questions we Christians often find ourselves asking like "Why is God invisible?" "What is the point of suffering?" and "What happens after we die?" One thing I loved is that he provided personal anecdotes from his own life to convey his ideas and draw the reader into his message. My favorite of these was when he wrote about his Italian grandmother who suffered through life in a great way, silently, turning to prayer for her family as her strength- and how it affected his family lineage to the point where, even though he and his siblings grew up without a religious background, somehow found their way to God's path for their lives. It was in this anecdote that he explained how the prayerful suffering of someone who lived long before they did somehow manifested itself in their lives in such a way that brought them to God. He calls it redemptive suffering. She suffered for the sake of others, for her family, even the ones she would never know.

The final chapter, entitled Seeing The Invisible gives us simple guidelines and great encouragement to seek the ability to view this invisible world, not with our human eyes but with the eyes of our souls. Mr. DeStefano makes a promise that our lives will be forever-changed once we take his suggested steps, and start asking our heavenly Father to reveal this invisible world to us in that manner. I highly recommend this book as not only a very good and insightful read, but as a stepping stone to help us reach the full potential He has planned for our lives; to learn to live according to God's will, to see things the way He wants us to see them and to serve Him and others in this world so we can be with Him in the next. I am so privileged to have been solicited for a review of this work and to be able to pass it on to you!

So with that, I will now offer a free give-away of the book The Invisible World by Anthony DeStefano. In order to win, you must leave a comment here specifically about your thoughts on the spiritual world. I will put in a hat the names of everyone who commented and have my oldest daughter draw one out on Monday, May 9. Good luck to each and everyone of you! And, if you don't win, I encourage you to buy a copy and read this wonderful book!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just a little note!

The first time I ever heard of the amazing midwife, Ina May Gaskin, I was pregnant with my first baby. I didn't know much about her but I learned more as I became a mother for the first time. When I was pregnant with my second baby, I read about her even more, read her book "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth," and really fell in love with her! After getting to know her ideas and beliefs concerning childbirth and a woman's body, the idea of a natural childbirth at home really appealed to me, especially after I had the experience I did with my first baby's birth. I wished I lived closer to her center at The Farm so I could birth there! Her center is well-known for "low rates of intervention, morbidity and mortality despite the inclusion of many vaginally delivered breeches, twins and grand multi paras*." She even has a maneuver named after her (The Gaskin Maneuver), which is widely-known in both the obstetrical and midwifery fields.

Today I learned she has a new book out called "Birth Matters," and I really think it probably is a very good read for any mama out there, whether new or experienced. I haven't read it yet but would like to get my hands on it. I entered a contest through Mothering Magazine today to try to win a free copy and I decided to post the link on here. If you would like to enter, go here. If I win, I will be sure to post a review soon. If I don't, at some point I will read the book and post a review then!

Good luck to all of you who decide to enter.

*Taken from the biography section of Ina May's website