James 1:17 - Every good and perfect gift is from above.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about where we are in life, and how we got here. We bought our house after the housing boom, which means that our mortgage as a percentage of our income is about three times what our parents mortgages were 20 years ago, but we were blessed with the help of family and we have both been blessed with skills that give us part-time income at high hourly wages to cover our extra costs.
Sometimes I feel proud of where we have come and how we have gotten here, because we have done it by working hard - but last week, Brian was given notice at his job. Not because he had performed poorly, but because the company just happened to be downsizing extremely - and will soon be one man working from his home - without really giving any advance warning signs. Now he is job hunting again after less than a year, and although I'm confident he will find a job, and we will be fine, it makes me stop and think about the 'what ifs' of our situation - and about the reality of many other people's situations.
Ephesians 2:8-9 - For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.
I know that this first verse is typically used by Christians who want to argue that they don't have to actually DO anything as a Christian (ie - it is not by works), but the last part of these verses has struck me recently as maybe being more to the point - 'so that no one can boast'.
Because really - Brian and I are not 'here' because we did all of the right things. We don't have a house, we don't have each other, and we don't have our two daughters because we followed 'the perfect formula' to acheive these things. There are many, many people who save up for years to buy a house, and as the housing prices skyrocket, and wages don't increase - their hopes become more and more distant. There are people who spend huge amounts of time and energy trying to 'meet the right person' in various ways, and yet are still single. And there are many, many infertile couples who desperately want a child of their own.
And of course there are some 'wrong' things to do to acheive these ends - but for the most part, these people don't have the things they want - not because they haven't done all of the right things, and worked harder to acheive these things than I have, but because for whatever reason - they just don't. Things just didn't work out for them like they have for me - and I can't give a reason why.
I can't tell you why a brain surgeon from the middle east is working two minimum wage jobs in North America trying to pay the rent for his family, despite all of his education and effort. I can't tell you why the woman with two young children whose husband just got sick of her and walked away is now homeless and jobless with two babies to feed. I can't tell you why the couple who always wanted many children have had to stop after just one because health issues during her pregnancy mean that another pregnancy would risk her life. None of this is fair, and I don't deserve any of these things any more than so many people in the world who will never have what I have.
So that I can not boast - I need to know that every good and perfect gift is from above, and not because I am 'that awesome', but because - for whatever reason - God chose to bless me with what he has blessed me with. It's not even because I have worked really hard, because so many people have worked much harder than I have, but still have less. Knowing that gives me a bit of extra responsibility, I think - to take very good and careful care of what I have been given, and to make sure I am using what I have been given wisely.
And - mostly - I want to be grateful.
For everything in the world that I have that I don't have to have. Everything I have that I am not entitled to. This includes my house, my husband, my daughters, my car and the computer I am typing this on. I am not entitled to the clothing I wear, or the food I eat - not even the breathe in my lungs, because most people don't even have that anymore. My dad doesn't. And my breathe could stop at any moment, which means that I need to be grateful - and behave with gratitude - for every single second of my life and everything in it.
And may the thanks be to God - so that no one may boast.
I was raised in a Protestant environment, so I do not profess to know anything about Catholic traditions. However, when I was a child I had a number of Catholic friends through whom I was introduced to the concept of 'Godparents'. My understanding of these Godparents was that they were to be a lifelong relationship to the child as the child grows. I understand that it is also faith-based, and the Godparents are chosen to help parents raise their children in their faith community and to teach them about their religious beliefs.
I have always thought this was a really neat thing, especially after witnessing my friends' relationships with their Godparents and one friend even becoming a Godparent as a teenager. Again, we are not Catholic, but I wanted to designate a similar sort of person - particularly where the Spiritual aspects are concerned - for my children also.
There was a period of my life where a woman in my life unwittingly became this person for me, and I don't know where I would be without her love for me, and guidance at that time. I know that you can't force these kinds of relationships, but I also know that I was extremely blessed to have had her in my life, and I wanted to make sure that my children would have someone in their lives who COULD be this person for them. I hope they never need it like I did, but if they do - I wanted someone to be willing to be there for them, because let's face it, when you're going through something rough you don't always want to talk to your parents about it.
When we chose this person for Clara - we weren't sure what exactly to call this relationship, a 'sponsor', a 'buddy', an 'honourary big sister' - we considered a number of different things. The person we finally chose had all of this going for her:
- Her spiritual beliefs we knew to be similar to ours, and she was someone who was active in our spiritual community. As Christians, we wanted someone who would be able to help us teach Clara about our faith in Jesus Christ, and to be an example of someone who was actively living for Him.
- She was young enough to probably always be considered 'cooler' than we are, as well as energetic enough to keep up with and play with Clara as she grows.
- She possesses talents and strengths that we value - like being musical and artistic - as well as some strengths we lack - such as athleticism and an outgoing personality, so that Clara has an opportunity to potentially 'inherit' these strengths despite our shortcomings.
- She had already demonstrated an interest in children, as well as a specific interest in Clara. She had already proven to us that she will take the initiative to spend time with and get to know Clara.
I discussed all of this with my pastor when we made this decision, and because I wanted to include this person in our daughter's dedication ceremony at church, he asked me to create a written document to outline what this particular relationship would mean and what we expected from it. I also included a list of things that this relationship might include over the years:
- Regular meetings or get-togethers, times for them to play together, hang out and get to know each other better
- Possibly being considered part of the extended family - invitations to special events such as Birthday parties and recitals, etc.
- In case of the relationship becoming long-distance, regular communication including letters, cards and phone calls
Before Audrey was born, we started thinking about who this person would be for her. We had two people chosen - male and female, depending on what the baby turned out to be. When we found out we were having a girl, we approached another friend to again fill this role for our child. She accepted, thankfully. This new person also has all of the qualities listed above, as well as (this part just happened to be the case) being the younger of two extremely close sisters. I'm excited to see Audrey's relationship with this girl grow - and I hope that someday Audrey's friendship with Clara is as close as my friends' is with her sister.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything...
Lately I feel as though I'm spinning in a vortex of anxiousness - and much of it isn't my own. In the past few days I have spent upwards of 3 hours each day talking on the phone, and at least another hour a day texting various family members. I'm exhausted.
In many ways we have lost my Dad, but he is still living and breathing among us. He still requires care and companionship and 'stuff'. His brain is almost entirely gone, however, due to massive blood pressure that could be cured by nothing short of a miracle from God. No doctor has suggested a cure, because they know there isn't one. Some members of my family, however, are convinced that there must be a solution - the doctors are simply not looking far enough or trying hard enough. These same family members also seem convinced that we - as immediate family - are therefore not doing enough to push the issue with doctors and medical staff.
This is causing an unbelievable amount of stress on the immediate family - some of whom have spent a great deal of energy trying to make everyone happy - as well as an irrational amount of stress and anxiety on themselves. It's time for me to step back and breathe.
I have a husband, a daughter, a house to keep, friends who's support and love I truly need at this juncture, a job... I also need to be a daughter, and a granddaughter and a niece, but these things must come second to my roles in my immediate family - which includes my husband, daughter and unborn child. My Dad may remain as he is now for many years into the future, and I can not allow my children to suffer for this. My Dad would be completely offended to know that I had allowed this situation to harm my family - and it's time that I make the conscious decision to not let that happen.
I love my Dad. I will always love my Dad. My Dad has been my hero, and for many years of my life I felt as though he was all I had in the world. None of this changes. But when his life ends - and it will, eventually - my life will (God willing) continue.
I believe in a loving God who is in control of this and every other situation. I may not understand His methods, but I understand that it is not my efforts, or doctors, keeping my Dad alive right now. It is only God. And only by the Grace of God will my Dad be healed if God so chooses, and I believe it would be the Grace of God that would eventually take my Dad home. I am not in control.
One particular family member - someone who has always seemed so strong to me, spiritually upright and faithful - has suddenly begun to let bitterness and anger rule in her life. She has become mean and condescending, and is allowing herself to believe that she is the only one who feels pain in this situation. She is letting the enemy into her thoughts and her mind, and allowing it to take control. I have found myself hurt and confused by this. When I so desperately need her help and support, I am feeling the need to take on the role of helping her as well as my Dad.
We all need so much prayer.
I am quitting for tonight. No more phone calling, and no more texting. I will retire to my basement and sit in front of the TV and allow my brain to turn off.
I need a rest.
I feel so invigorated and renewed, I nearly don't know what to do with myself.
I have felt an increasing level of uneasiness and discord in my life, and as a friend recently said to me 'the enemy will use any means to distract and discourage you', and so he has.
I was almost entirely finished a lengthy blog post on Friday night about my constant struggle to juggle all of my many 'hats' - jobs, obligations, etc. when I decided to set it aside and go to bed. After the Conference on Saturday, I feel as though much of that post has become a little outdated.
I still have all of the same obligations - as a wife, mother, daughter, friend and piano teacher - but I feel as though my life has been given a bit more focus for the moment. One woman at the conference mentioned an online Women's Ministry called Proverbs 31 Ministries - and although I know the concept behind the 'Proverbs 31 Woman' I, for the first time, read this chapter.
10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Verse 30 - almost at the end - is the key verse for me here. The part of this whole thing I've been missing. I can work hard, I know that. I can push myself to the limit trying to get things accomplished, but I think the point here is that this woman 'fears the Lord'. She doesn't do all of these things for her own glory or to impress anyone. She does it - and she does it all well - because each of these things God has called her to do, and she has heard and obeyed and He has blessed her in her work.
I pray this for myself in the coming weeks, months and for the rest of my life. That I will learn to truly fear God and obey what his will is for me in my life. Even in the little daily tasks, like 'Should I be cleaning the kitchen right now or playing with my daughter?'. I don't believe God wants me to feel spread so thin. He (I think) wants to help me, even with these seemingly insignificant questions, and I have simply not been allowing Him in. I have been trying to juggle everything without consulting God on any of it.
Here's to letting Him in.
I love Amy Grant. I have loved her since I was 9 years old, when I was given 'House of Love' on cassette as a Christmas gift. As a self-proclaimed atheist at the time, I had no idea of Amy's Christian music background, and as I desperately tried to make her fill my 'Mom-shaped-hole', I gathered up every recording of hers I could find. God spoke to me through her music, and I came back to a passionate faith in Him - guided largely by Amy's music.
I will admit that my 'love' for her was often more of an obsession when I was an adolescent, and my desperate need for a female role-model in my life made me imagine a connection to her that for obvious reasons was not there. I've grown up a bit now, however, and although I don't obsessively wait for every album release, I still buy them all eventually.
I was just sitting in my kitchen, listening to a collection of music on shuffle play, and 'Somewhere Down the Road' by Amy started playing. Considering everything going on with my Dad lately, I felt it was so appropriate...
Somewhere Down the Road
So much pain and no good reason why
You've cried until the tears run dry
And nothing here can make you understand
The one thing that you held so dear
Is slipping from your hands
And you say
Why, why, why
Does it go this way
Why, why, why
And all I can say is
Somewhere down the road
There'll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road
Though we cannot see it now
Somewhere down the road
You will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers at the end of the road
I was talking to my Uncle last night, who is also a Christian, about the fact that my Dad (who was not a believer before) has started to give us reason to believe he has come to a faith in Jesus Christ after everything (because my Dad is no longer speaking, he is unable to tell us this for sure).
I voiced my confusion about what God was doing - it seemed to me as though my Dad would give such an incredible ministry if he could only talk about how and why he has come to faith (if he in fact has), and I don't understand why he would not get a chance to do this. If it is not to God's glory, then why would God do this?
I understand the naivete of this question - I know that I can't determine how and when something is to 'the Glory of God', but I felt confused nonetheless.
My Uncle responded by saying what a testament it was to God's incredible love for us - in this case, particularly my Dad - that He would go to such lengths to bring my Dad to Him when it might never result in Dad's personal story being told to anyone. That God would love him so much, that it was worth bringing my Dad through all of this to be with God, even if His message was never shared through it.
Grab My Button
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