Long-distance and Long-time

Five years ago right now, I found out I was pregnant with my ninth baby, who came on the heels of six consecutive miscarriages.
Five years ago right now, we began the process of building a home out in the country.
Five years ago right now, a friend of mine emailed me a crazy idea.

Boy. That was a busy year.

I now have a four year old Asher to show for that year.
I now have lived in this home, which we had built out in the country, for four years.
I now have participated in sharing a Pregnancy After Loss devotional, our free ebook download, for four years.

So many big things were obviously going on back then, and honestly, they continue to. Sometimes it is hard to see the growth of such blessings. It felt like so much big stuff back then, but when looking through the proper lenses, I can see that God is continuing to do great big things with those very seeds from five years ago. My friend Kristi reminded me this week that it was four years ago that R&R went live. What an exciting day that was for us! And today, she shares a little here about the growing process of our Rainbows & Redemption devotional to give a little special insight to the planting, blooming, and pruning progression.

Later this month, I will get to see Kristi in person for the second time ~ the first time was three years ago. I’ve known her long-distance for 5 1/2 years, as God has taken each of us on similar yet different journeys. We met online when we were both pregnant-after-loss, once: she was pregnant with her little Kyria, I was pregnant with my Peace. Neither of us were having a good time of it at all. We ended up delivering our precious little first trimester babies, three thousand miles apart, that November, in 2009. We have both had more pregnancies since then ~ my Asher and her Caleb were in our bellies while we wrote and edited R&R, so we shared wild roller coasters for months at a time. We have each called one another in moments of panic, straight from our own home bathrooms… because we were either starting to miscarry or had gotten less-than-encouraging blood test results or were worrying our brains to a fritz psycho-analyzing every little twinge and symptom and dream while PAL.

How good it continues to be to know that I am not alone.

We may be separated by basically the entire United States (she is at the SE corner while I am in the NW corner), but we are still there for one another, especially when it comes to specific niche topics. Things like miscarriage and related babyloss topics. Writing, specifically when it comes to words of encouragement. Homeschooling. Rainbow babies.

I hope to continue sharing life, prayers, and writing with Kristi as time goes on ~ my long-distance and long-time friend.  God grows beautiful things from little seeds. Like babies. And friendships. And books. Blessings.

Savoring Friendship & Cookies

It was obviously an early day of spring.
Grey clouds and blinding sunshine danced together.
Robins were bouncing happily around outside while it rained.
The fire roared in our living room stove, schoolwork was spread on the table,
the baby was fussing, and the big kids were doing anything but focusing on their books.
I was fighting a headache with Tylenol & caffeine to no avail.

Grasping for a lifeline of sorts, I popped off a quick note to a dear friend,
the kind of friend who is more like a sister than not,
to ask her to pray for me.

She wrote right back.
She thanked me for sharing my needs and expressing my heart.
She gave suggestions that were rooted in love.
She jumped into a gap for me and filled it with prayers, love, compassion, friendship.

cookies 10

I shared a list of things with her that was making me thankful.
Across a distance of 375 miles, she gave me a virtual hug and a shoulder to lean on.
Together, while apart, we sought the Lord as well as praised Him.

She in her kitchen, surrounded by her little blondies.
Me in mine, surrounded by my wee gingers.

Friendship is acting out God’s love for people in tangible ways. We were made to represent the love of God in each other’s lives, so that each person we walk through life with has a more profound sense of God’s love for them. Friendship is an opportunity to act on God’s behalf in the lives of the people that we’re close to, reminding each other who God is. When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. We get to remind one another about the bigger, more beautiful picture that we can’t always see from where we are.
~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines, p49

Then I noticed she sent me something else ~ a link to a recipe.
“If you need something sweet to eat today, here’s a link to a recipe we are making,”
she said, along with three pictures of her children helping her
stir batter, eat batter, and put trays of cookies in the oven.
“I wish we could share hot cookies and ice-cold milk with you this afternoon,” she added.

That’s when I decided it was time to stoke the fire,
strap the baby onto my chest,
put away the schoolbooks,
and take three sticks of butter out of the fridge to warm on the counter.

cookies 1cookies 2

“Butter is out to soften!!” I told her,
declaring that we would make the best of it,
and we would join them in the baking efforts of the day…

and we spent the next hour or two occasionally popping messages to one another
on our progress in our own little worlds of flour, sugar, aprons, and children licking their fingers.

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cookies 4

My children and I were able to not only connect with one another and savor our relationship,
but we were talking about these far-away friends & taking pictures to show them,
connecting in creative ways with these friends even when distance separates us.

When joy and grace are shared, it multiplies in ways indescribable.
When friendship is savored, it builds bridges undeniable.

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The short of it is that you really just need to click here and try the recipe out for yourself.
And then, once you have, share the link with a friend.
And share pics of doing the same thing as one another, even if separated by miles.

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It is good to savor friendship.
It is good to find unique ways to share life together with those you love.
Even if it is two mamas with their little ones at their sides, separated by 375 miles,
we can still share life & friendship & motherhood & cookies.
Creativity can be both warm and delicious.
Just like friendship.

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In our own unique way, my children and I
shared hot cookies and ice-cold milk
with the dearest of friends ~
our hearts were encouraged
while souls were fattened
and tongues rejoiced!

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I know of no other recipe for making a good-bye bearable than the promise that the God who goes with us and stays with them will be the bridge connecting us, no matter how far or long the distance.
~Lisa-Jo Baker, Surprised By Motherhood, p95~

The New Commandment

This morning over at Olive Tree, I have the privilege of sharing some thoughts on the new commandment Jesus gave His disciples before He was captured.

After Judas left Jesus and the other disciples at the table in the upper room, some of my favorite parts of the Holy Week narrative take place. They are common, familiar, lowly, home-centered—perhaps that is why they prick me especially poignantly, as I am a full time homemaker and homeschooling mama of four small children. I am daily surrounded by the common and the lowly. Morsels of bread, washing off dirt, and commands to love one another are tools of my own trade.

Come visit me there, as we contemplate the enormity of Christ’s commandment, with its new distinguishing factor of imaging our Savior… as we ask questions of ourselves, about taking up crosses and washing dirty feet… as we walk through Holy Week in anticipation of Good Friday, the darkness of Saturday, the brightness of Resurrection Sunday.

Giveaway Winner, #4!!

Like the rest of life, even things like online giveaways don’t always go as you plan or expect! Right after I discovered the winning comment, our power went out… which means no internet (nor lights nor water, etc)… and it did not come back on for over thirteen hours. So, please forgive my tardy post & announcement. We are very joyful to have our power returned today.

Back to the point though!
Yesterday, the day I was supposed to announce the giveaway winner, I realized I had six entries.
And in our game cupboard we happen to have six sided dice (who doesn’t?). 🙂

So a little roll of the dice, and up came:

https://mypurlsofwisdom.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/number4.jpg

Number Four!

Comment number four came from Samantha,
who will soon be receiving a copy of The Loveliness of Christ!

Congratulations, Samantha!

For everyone else, don’t be dismayed ~
I plan to have another giveaway during the Advent season,
which will probably be upon us a lot sooner than we think!

Thanks for participating in Joyful Domesticity’s first giveaway,
and please keep reading & commenting.
May God receive glory for our conversations here.

Grief Has Become Part of Me

Living through grief takes courage.
Looking back at the darkest parts of grief takes courage.
Living life after grief takes courage.
Looking ahead to see that the darkness isn’t always so thick takes courage.

Isaiah 61:3
…to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

I am amazed to look back over the last eight years since my first baby died and see how far God has brought me, even though that grief has been compounded eight times since then.

  • I smile and laugh. Daily.
  • I have children. Even some here on earth. Wow.
  • I can see others’ babies & stairstep children without feeling like my heart is going to implode. Sometimes I can even hold someone else’s baby. Even marker babies.
  • I often see those maker babies (who are turning into marker children) as joyful ~rather than painful~ reminders.
  • I can buy baby gifts or maybe even attend a baby shower without weeping.
  • I don’t have daily anxiety attacks that my husband or one of my living children is going to die.
  • I see all the reminders and memorial items in my home as comforts.
  • I speak of all of thirteen of my children, including my nine in heaven, with gladness and thanksgiving. There might be twinges of sadness and what-if, but there is no despair.
  • I can write about my grief, my miscarriages, my emotional or mental or spiritual struggles, with honest humility rather than humiliation.
  • I find immense joy in Christ my King, to whom I belong ~and to whom my children each belong~ and find ever growing trust in His sovereign goodness.
  • I have a marriage that has been tested by the fire of grief ~including our own version of infertility called uRPL~ which is stronger and deeper and richer than I knew it could be at only 8 years into our covenantal union.
  • I can give of myself ~including my heart, my tears, my experiences, my prayers~ and no longer have to be primarily on the receiving end of comfort or encouragement.

(for similar perspectives from a dear friend of mine on the “then” and “now” relating to miscarriage’s grief, see what she shared here & here)

http://orig10.deviantart.net/addf/f/2009/079/4/1/new_celtic_knot_border_by_weyrgirl78.jpg

 

I can look ahead to the future with hope and joy… and that happens to include looking ahead to my eternity in heaven, where I trust the Lord will reunite me with the covenant children I continue to miss, right through my new normal and through my embracing of life as it is. I have hope. I have joy. Not only for eternity, but for now. Because of Christ. And His work in me.

Grief changes so slowly most of the time, that it can be hard to notice the changes.
And then maybe after a big chunk of time, suddenly you turn around and see it:
the darkness is not as thick, perhaps the darkness has even lifted.

Sometimes I have felt guilty for those moments when I realize the grief is not as thick.
As though I am not adequately marking the lives of the children who I have lost to heaven.
As though working through the grief and assimilating it into my life is a negative thing.
As though grief is more of an eternal roadblock than a continuing road through my life.

But it is okay… in fact, it is not only okay and normal, but it is truly good… that life continues going on, moving forward, taking new shape. It is good that our grief does not cement our feet in one solid place for the rest of our lives. It is good that someday, somehow, the Lord brings us down the road again. He continues to shape us and mold us, recreating us to some extent, incorporating our past ~including our grief~ into our new normal now & for the future.

I am not the same person I was before I suffered the grief of miscarriage.
Part of who I am is the mother of children in heaven.
My grief, my fertility struggles, my suffering ~ it does not define who I am, but it is part of who I am.

So if you are in the thickest parts of grief’s darkness ~ it may well feel like the clouds will never lift, but someday you will see the sun shining again. You will have new shades & shadows to yourself, you will see through new lenses, and nothing will be exactly the same. And because of our God who is the God of grace & redemption, that’s actually a good thing.

Litany for Christian Marriage

Last week after church, we were given a couple of articles to read as we in the Church face new-but-not-so-new battles against the institution of marriage. One of them included this article, where part of it is a litany for marriage which I have prayed a couple times in the last week. For my own marriage. For the marriages of people I love. For those in my church. For the marriages in the Church at large. Our marriages speak of the mystery of Christ and His Church ~ oh, what are we preaching these days?! May the Lord have mercy upon us.May He be glorified by our returning to Him as the Church, His bride, and may we seek to honor Him, one another, and our marriage vows because we belong to Him ~ and so does the institution of marriage.

A Litany for Marriage

We thank you, heavenly Father, for graciously creating us in your image, male and female, and for ordaining that a man and woman shall be joined as one flesh in the covenant of marriage.
We thank you, O Father.

We thank you for the gift and heritage of children and for placing them in homes which may be havens of blessing and peace.
We thank you, O Father.

We thank you for the love between fathers and mothers and sons and daughters that binds together the generations and undergirds our country’s social fabric.
We thank you, O Father.

Lord Jesus Christ, divine Bridegroom, we repent for all the situations in which we have dishonored the covenant of marriage through selfishness or unfaithfulness.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

We repent as a Church where we have failed to prepare our children for holy matrimony, or to care for those who are widowed, divorced or single.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

We repent where as citizens we have become complacent and neglected the defense of marriage in the public square.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

We pray you, Holy Spirit, to restore marriage to its due honor in our country and to revive our marriages and families as emblems of your love.
Deliver us by your grace and power.

We pray you to strengthen our bishops and other leaders as they join with faithful churches to make a strong God-honoring defense of your design for marriage.
Deliver us by your grace and power.

We pray you to have mercy on those who have promoted false teaching about marriage and on those who have been led astray and harmed by it.
Deliver us by your grace and power.

Grant us courage, O Triune God, to hold fast to the truth of your Word, and give grace to those who are counted worthy to suffer for the Name of Christ.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

A Prayer for Marriage Almighty God our heavenly Father, you have created us male and female in your image and have ordained that a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. Look down in mercy, we pray, on our families, our church and our nation. Knit together in constant affection those who, in Holy Matrimony, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, the hearts of the children to the parents, and the hearts of all to those who are single or alone. Finally, grant that your Church may steadfastly defend the unchangeable bond of marriage which embodies the mystery of Christ’s love for us; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and forever.

Suggested Hymns: “O God of Earth and Altar”; “God of Grace and God of Glory”

July 4th Meditation

Courtesy of our pastor-friend Toby Sumpter, be exhorted and encouraged on this July 4th.

…Here’s the deal: the peace of God was announced by an army of angels that came down and woke up a field full of shepherds at night. The peace of God filled an old man in a temple with a song and a prophecy about a sword that would divide and pierce. The peace of God calmed a fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee and then drove several thousand pigs into the same sea to drown and rot, while a man with self-inflicted cuts all over his body sat for the first time, clothed and in his right mind. The peace of God comes like this. The joy of God comes like this. Jesus’ own family thought He was out of His mind, thought He was insane. He was accused of drunkenness, being demon possessed, and He made rulers nervous and mad. But everywhere He went, He brought peace and healing and joy.

So this is my Fourth of July charge to you. Embrace this tension. Embrace this cross. Let your arms be stretched out like this, like the arms of your Savior. Sing a psalm louder than ever before. Laugh longer, have one more helping of potato salad, and give one more toast. Tickle your children, kiss your wife, invite another neighbor to the party, say an extra blessing of gratitude over it all, and send fifteen more fireworks into the sky tonight. Do it all with a profound and certain and unshakeable joy in your heart. Our Jesus reigns and all will be well.

Click here for his full meditation.

Second: Resources, Opening My Eyes to See Chronic Suffering

SECOND: RESOURCES, OPENING MY EYES
TO SEE CHRONIC SUFFERING

… … … … …

I wanted to pray but had no idea what to say,
as if struck dumb by my own pain.
Groans became the only language I could use,
if even that,
but I believed it was language enough for God to understand.
~Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised, p43~

When the Lord put it on my heart a month or two ago to begin praying more for my friends who have particular chronic suffering (which I myself have experienced in particular, probably smaller, forms), I wanted to know how to find out more. I googled for a lot of things. I went back to some books that encouraged me in my own forms of suffering (like grief or depression) to see how they might (or might not) be pertinent for people with chronic pain, chronic illness, mental illness, etc. I read Scriptures, especially Psalms, with these friends on my heart. I wrote some prayers with them in mind. And most importantly, I asked questions. I emailed my friends (as that is the way I tend to communicate with the majority of people, but particularly with these friends), asking them questions about their suffering, about what they need, about what help they receive, about how their husbands & families & church bodies encourage them. I received a variety of responses, and getting those specific glimpses into the hearts of these women (yes, these are all women who I know with these chronic needs… and all but one are married… all but two have children to care for…) gave me particular insight into how their lives are effected by their various suffering, and how their hearts are both uplifted & downtrodden in turn.

Pain insists upon being attended to.
God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
~C.S. Lewis~

Please participate in this conversation, by considering these links and books, by sharing this with people you know who would be challenged or blessed by these things, by commenting here with questions or experiences or additional resources, and by praying for the Lord to work even in your own family to see where suffering is around you—in yourself, in your home, in your neighborhood, in your local church body—and ask Him to grant you whatever particular grace He needs to speak into your heart.

Do you need to humble yourself to receive more assistance? Do you need to embolden yourself to ask for more assistance? Do you need to lower your expectations for what kind of help you need, wisely discerning between needs and desires? Do you need to heighten the demands you put on yourself for seeing where your hands can labor, your prayers can bless, and your gifts can be showered? Ask the Lord to open your eyes and soften your heart in whatever direction would most glorify Him—and ask Him, then, for the strength and fortitude to follow Him with joy!

…We laughed, even me,
sincerely and happily,
but yet, I still ached in my soul.
~Ben Palpant, A Small Cup of Light, p97~

Soon I will share responses from the hearts of these women themselves. We will look at some Scriptures and meditate thereon. And then we will also hear, Lord willing, from a couple various church leaders for the perspective that comes on the side of sacrificial service and rallying the body of Christ toward love and good works. But today, let’s look at these links and browse these books—see what you can glean here, whether you are bed-ridden with illness or homebound with suffering, or whether you are strong & equipped to be serving hands filled with grace to those who are, or even whether your own current station in life doesn’t necessarily allow you (honestly) to lend time or finance to the suffering around you but at least to offer prayers and encouragement through words…

My prayer today is that the Lord would prick us by His Spirit, put our roots down amongst our family & church family, grow vibrant blossoms on our vines, and drop our fruit with abandon upon everyone around us. Amen.

One of Jesus’ early and great followers,
the apostle Paul, wrote once that
it is not what we have achieved
but what we are striving for that counts.
~Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised, p91~

LINKS FOR THE SUFFERING & THOSE SERVING THE SUFFERING:

http://chroniccurve.tumblr.com/post/14003538415/a-chronic-christmas-gift-ideas-for-the

http://www.accessbiblestudies.com/bible-studies/the-christian-and-chronic-illness/

http://justbetweenus.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=79768

http://sickofmg.blogspot.com/2011/02/dilemma-of-church-and-chronic-illness.html

http://lacedwithgrace.com/church-chronically-ill/

http://restministries.com/category/church-resources/

http://www.faithwriters.com/article-details.php?id=44192

http://restministries.com/

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/emotional-health/living-with-chronic-pain-and-illness/ministering-effectively-to-the-chronically-ill

http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200702/200702_108_ChronicIllness.cfm

http://invisibleillnessweek.com/2008/08/10/care-ministry/

http://thedailyprayerblog.blogspot.com/2010/09/prayer-and-chronic-illness.html

http://www.kubik.org/vcm/illness.htm

http://www.shalombewithyou.com/prayer/physical-healing/prayer-for-chronic-illness/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chronic-Illness-Encouragement-for-followers-of-Jesus-Christ/363753660142

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/emotional-health/living-with-chronic-pain-and-illness/when-we-suffer-a-biblical-perspective-on-chronic-pain-and-illness

http://trustingjesuswithchronicpain.blogspot.com/

http://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/meaningful-hope-for-christians-with-chronic-illnesses

http://www.retropulser.com/

 

SUGGESTED BOOKS FOR VARIOUS TYPES OF (primarily longterm) SUFFERING:

A Cypress Will Grow by Amy Chai

A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada

A Reluctant Journey by Kristen Grathwol

A Small Cup of Light by Ben Palpant

Be Still, My Soul edited by Nancy Guthrie

Beyond Pain: Job, Jesus, and Joy by Maureen Pratt

Bound by Illness, Freed by Grace by Maureen Brady

Chronic Pain by Rob Prince

Chronic Resilience by Danea Horn

Coping With Chronic Illness by H. Norman Wright

Doing Well at Being Sick by Wendy Wallace

Empty by Cherie Hill

Fibromyalgia: God’s Grace for Chronic Pain Sufferers by Robert Smith

Healing Prayers by Lauren Wilder

Holding on to Hope by Nancy Guthrie

Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts

Living Well With Chronic Illness by Richard Cheu

Mended by Angie Smith

Ministering to those in Chronic Pain by Susan Gerberding

Miserable Joy by Jason Nelson

Mosaic Moments by Lisa Copen

Pain and Providence by Joni Eareckson Tada

Sick and Tired of Feeling Sick and Tired by Paul Donoghue and Mary Siegel

Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine

Struck Down but Not Destroyed by Douglas Wiegand

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper

The Beauty of Pain by Judy Dillard

The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts

The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford

The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie

The Works of Ann Bradstreet by Ann Bradstreet

What if Your Blessings Came through Raindrops by Laura Story

When The Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper

You Don’t Look Sick by Joy Selak and Steven Overman

… … … … …

~part of our series, Serving Those in The Church with Chronic Needs~

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