"Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, His wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven." Psalm 107:23-30

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fear



"Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven." (Psalm 107:23-30 ESV, emphasis mine)


This passage has become one of my all time favorite Bible passages. One of the reasons it is my favorite is because of the verse in bold. Well, and the last verse of the passage because haven is one of our children in heaven's middle names.


We've all known fear: deep, intimate, soul crushing fear. Combine fear with another emotion/weakness like grief, illness, despair, etc and what you face turns down right ugly. They mounted up to the heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight...


I had just turned 29 when I faced my first miscarriage where I thought I was dying. My dr had prescribed a medication to take after the baby's body emerged to prevent post birth hemorrhage. What she did not know from the very short time I was her patient was that I have very low blood pressure, and I did not know that this medication lowers blood pressure. So, 20 minutes after taking the medication I had two crushing contractions, by far the worst pain I have ever felt (even after giving birth to four full term babies with no drugs), my vision went black, and I lost the ability to speak. My only thought, due to research I had done in preparation for having the miscarriage at home, was that due to my symptoms of extreme dizziness and blacking out I had something blocking the way out in my uterus and I was bleeding out internally. I knew this could mean death and I remember screaming in my mind, "Lord! No! Please not like this! Please don't let me die in front of my husband with my kids right on the other side of the door playing!" I imagined my kids growing up knowing their mommy died while having a miscarriage at home in the bathroom. That thought still makes me sick.


Last year I faced my own mortality more times than I care to talk about. My body kind of likes to bleed, a lot, and when with my second loss at 11 weeks I tried to get my OB to perform a d&c and, instead, she sent me home with cytotec to induce while again at home with my husband and kids I had to have a good cry in my bedroom before I had the courage to start. That time I really did have something get stuck, began to have severe dizziness after waking up from several hours of sleep with no further bleeding and my husband helped save my life by putting his weight onto my abdomen to push it out. That man and I have had good times.


And now I'm facing another full term birth. Those have been fun too. But we won't go there.


Fear. It creeps up on you, stealing your joy, making you despise the gifts God has given to you, causing you to lay sweating in the night as you fight of the demons that attack you as you face the wages of sin: death.


But...if death does not end in hell, in punishment, then where is its sting? Where is its victory? It's like being certain someone has broken into your house and you're seconds away from being slayed where you stand only to have a furry kitten poke it's head around the corner and nuzzle you. (Though my husband would say that's about just as bad. ;)


Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.


I'm terrified to give birth. I'm afraid my baby and I won't make it to the other side of birth alive. I'm afraid of the pain and agony that is transition for me. I'm afraid of having horrific tearing like I've had in the past. I'm afraid of that moment when you realize something is going very very wrong and there is nothing but faces all around you unable to make it stop.


"they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven."


Lord, hush the storm, deliver us, and bring us at last to the safe haven of Holy Baptism. Christ keep us.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Faith

For the past couple of weeks I have been pondering faith, its source, and the result when faith has its way with our hearts.

 We know from all of the Scripture passages on faith that faith is given not conjured up of ourselves. It is impossible to create except by God alone because it is knowledge of Him, which comes only from Him. We also know that for those IN the faith, grace abounds, even as we literally die and drown every day in our sinful filth through confession and are raised in our Baptism to continue on in love and acts of service.

In light of this I think of parenting my little boys. And the question comes to mind, is the way I parent in line with what we believe about salvation? Does my parenting express that it is the Lord that has saved them and granted faith or that they themselves... Or I myself.. Somehow must work it out?

Unfortunately I think it's so easy to forget and to cling desperately to our own works. For me it plays out when I get angry over their sin and yell and berate them. I tell myself what I'm doing is justified, they deserve it, and it's even good because I must show them their sin and force them into repentance and faith. Surely if I use enough words and reprimand them enough they will turn to God and good works. I get so angry, they so often don't respond the way I want, and then, oh why do I feel so deflated and alone afterwards?

I will never be able to turn them to Christ. Christ alone can do that. I CAN set up rules, enforce them with loving authority, and with calm dignity discipline for disobedience to God's Word. But I have no right to become emotional or angry. I might say, "Oh yes I do! I'm angry because I'm zealous for God!" God does not need you to be zealous for Him. He alone has the right to be angry over sin. We ourselves are just as guilty as our children and their sin should be cause for further repentance on our part.

So we discipline, we repent ourselves, and we keep on in desperate endurance as we await Christ's return. Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

In the waiting

My journey through pregnancy loss started and ended the exact same way. In December of 2010 I was blessed to conceive my little Hosanna Grace. In fact, I was able to slip the positive pregnancy test into my husband's stocking on Christmas morning. On January 6, 2011 she went home to the Lord. Very soon afterwards I conceived my fourth living child and he was due November 14, 2011. He was born into my hands on Nov. 4, 10 days early.

In December of 2012 I was blessed to conceive our 6th child, Anastasia Joy. Three months later she went home to the Lord as did our next three children that year. Then in December of 2013 I conceived our Noel Eve. On January 9, 2014 Noel went home to heaven.

I am now due, just as I was right after our very first loss, on Nov. 14. Less than a month away from my due date I no longer feel like I'm drowning in an inescapable whirlpool of death and nightmares. I always knew the Lord was with me, above and before me, but original sin is a beast. And when one is faced with inescapable death, old Adam loses his ability to congratulate himself for anything because the thing that is most important to mother at the moment is protecting her child and in repeat pregnancy loss we are rendered helpless, and it's so easy to despair.

I haven't had any ultrasounds this pregnancy since three weeks before the first trimester ended. Maybe I should have because it's been very easy to feel very removed this whole pregnancy. It's been hard to attach, hard to believe any of it is real, and hard to feel any bond with the baby within. Though, emotions are so fleeting anyways and I was so overwhelmed by them for months on end that I feel like it's OK to not be emotional if I don't want to. Baby does not need me to be emotional. And it doesn't matter if I "feel" attached. The reality is, I am, very physically speaking, and my body is doing what needs to be done with or without my emotions. Thanks be to God.

So here I am waiting, may the Lord deliver me in His perfect time and may my child be brought quickly, so quickly to the font of Holy Baptism.


Friday, September 26, 2014

10 years



O perfect Love, all human thought transcending,
Lowly we kneel in prayer before Thy throne,
That theirs may be the love which knows no ending,
Whom Thou forevermore dost join in one.

O perfect Life, be Thou their full assurance,
Of tender charity and steadfast faith,
Of patient hope and quiet, brave endurance,
With childlike trust that fears nor pain nor death.

Grant them the joy which brightens earthly sorrow;
Grant them the peace which calms all earthly strife,
And to life’s day the glorious unknown morrow
That dawns upon eternal love and life.

Hear us, O Father, gracious and forgiving,
Through Jesus Christ, Thy coeternal Word,
Who, with the Holy Ghost, by all things living
Now and to endless ages art adored.
O Perfect Love TLH #623

I'm not sure how it happened. I blinked. Well, I suppose moving 9 times in 10 years helped pass the time...and having 11 pregnancies...and three dogs and a bird...and having four awesome little boys in our first 7 years. But here my husband and I are, less than 3 months away from celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. 

Our wedding was beautiful and perfect. It was perfect because of who I was marrying, and, if I do say so myself, because it was the perfect Lutheran service with beautiful hymnody and preaching. There is no doubt in my mind that my husband was chosen for me from the moment God formed me in my mother's womb. I am his and he is mine. His love for me is never ending and the amount he sacrifices of his own desires to serve me and our children is apparent every single day. He lives to serve me and our children and I live to serve him. We both do this not with our own power but strengthened by the Holy Spirit, constantly fighting against our own sinful whims. But in everything we have the first and most powerful love of our Heavenly Father which is the whole point of marriage anyways: to exemplify and receive intimately Christ's love for His bride, the church. 

By the time we celebrate our anniversary in December we will, God willing, have 5 children here with us and another child that is with us 5 days a week. We have a very active and huge puppy, a bird, and a house on over a half acre with two apple trees and a pear tree. Our home is over 100 years old and I love it, though it needs constant attention that seems to leave us with more of a damage control list than a home improvement list. My husband has been a pastor for five years now and is currently serving a congregation of great size, much larger than anything we ever imagined we would be blessed to serve. This of course means, well, he really should have three of himself, at least, just to do that job alone. 

My husband is also blessed to be earning his doctorate right now. It's a four year program and he has just begun year two. It involves traveling for a week at a time three times a year for intensives on campus in addition to all the papers, reading, and work he must do while home performing his job to his church and family. He will be traveling again before our baby comes and I'm so thankful my mom is coming to help me make it through the week so that I don't die of exhaustion from trying to hold down the house with five kids and a very pregnant belly while home schooling our four children. Sometimes I feel like I need three of me too: one to cook all the meals and snacks and grocery shop and garden/can to keep four boys' tummies full, one to clean, organize, and manage a home and yard this large, and one to homeschool and love on the children. I feel like every day only one of those jobs is able to be done well, or all three only get done part way. 

Earlier this week after a particularly hard day (it was the great clothes swap from spring/summer wardrobe to fall/winter wardrobe-and sizing each child up one-that involves repacking every piece of clothing for the boys' into bins in the basement and then pulling out the new sizes for all the boys while meticulously keeping track of exactly how many pairs of pants, shorts, long sleeve, short sleeve, pajamas, church outfits, and underwear each child can have in order to have room for their clothes in their shared bedroom) my husband and I got into bed and he was very stressed about work and school and home improvements and I was stressed about my inability to do all things well at home and we were both stressed about money and I thought to myself...this is it. This is that point in marriage where marriages either fall apart or intertwine even stronger like a well-weathered rope made nearly stronger from use and time. 


I looked at my husband and he pulled out our Bible reading for the night and then we held hands to pray. His prayer was short and very simple...almost childlike. But it was that way on purpose because after a long day it's good to pray that way I think...and I've only heard him pray like that with me. When he was done we looked at each other and I laughed. I laughed at how simple it all really is, this life. 


What Does the Lord Require?

6 “With what shall I come before the Lord,

and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

8 He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:6-8 ESV

And that is why we can laugh. My husband and I, we are so rich. We are rich in our vocations. Just when we think we can't handle more, God gives us more: more to serve, more to love, more to die for each and every day. The sheer enormity of what my husband and I are responsible for on a day to day basis is downright terrifying some days. But then I laugh because it reminds me of a couple of times in high school when I would go to take a final exam that I could fail and still get an "A" in the class because my grade was high enough. Life is like that: the battle has already been won, the victory is ours, what does God require of you? To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. 

And so we love. We will never, ever cross off our to do list. We will never have enough money or enough energy or enough patience or enough kindness or enough of anything. But we have Christ Jesus and He is enough. And so we get up each day, hold hands in prayer, and thank God that one thing we do have enough of is enough forgiveness from Jesus....and enough to keep us busy. :)

The night before my life began.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Trucking along.

I wrote the title to this post feeling pretty positive today but then had to laugh out loud. There is nothing organized, orderly, or emotionally stabilizing about home schooling 4 boys 8 and under and being pregnant with a baby while also watching an infant full time. There just isn't.

But somehow we keep trucking a long. I'm learning that less is more. I'm learning that we should have very few things that we order our day around in order to keep from getting so stressed out that I literally accomplish nothing and instead end up a huge crying mess.

So what do we order our days around? Breakfast, Bible/Catechism/Hymn time, Lunch, quiet time, Dinner, and Bible time with Daddy.

I've also embraced the fact that my oldest is now very capable of being independent in his lessons. He has a math book he is mostly capable of doing alone with short moments of guidance from me, he is interested in learning cursive so I bought him two workbooks that complement each other and he's working through those, and we're working through two different chapter books right now in addition to an audio book series he listens to every day and narrates to his dad when he gets home. We have multiple other things we pick up when we feel like it, social studies and science type books, but it's so nice to be able to, between all the above things we schedule our day around, say, "Hey, I see you're looking for something to do, go grab your math book and I'd like you to do three pages please."

We have a motto in our home, "We work before we play." My kids know that just like the daily household maintenance chores I ask them to do, school work is part of their whole duty of a child which means that it enables them to better serve their family, which is their current vocation. Of course, the typical amount of time they are asked to do anything from curriculum is very small right now because most of the day they are so full of questions of their own and are buried in our books, reference books, and having me look things up online for them. I am much more inclined to watch them hungrily devour knowledge they are pursuing on their own until they are of age where they will be working hard towards a goal that will enable them to pursue their new vocations as adults.

The hard part, for me, is not losing it in the chaos. There just is no perfect way to feel complete order and control when one is managing education, home, meals, outside of the home activities and friends, etc. So, I'm sticking with less is more for now and trying to enjoy these last 10 weeks (!!!!!!) of pregnancy and the baby kicking the daylights out of my ribs.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Piety vs. Pietism

My husband and I are choosing to raise our children in a very different fashion than we ourselves were raised. Both of us were public school all the way through to high school graduation, put in all sorts of sports and extracurricular activities as early as pre-K, attended sleepovers and birthday parties without our parents from young ages, and allowed to watch plenty of TV and movies in family down time. Of course at the time I thought my parents were "strict". And they were compared to other parents. I remember being annoyed that before I could sleep over at someone's house my parents had to meet the friend's parents. I myself shudder at the thought of doing this with my own children. On the one hand I think, well, I made it through all of this without falling away, rebelling, or going crazy...I mean, isn't what's important is a child being a light to the world, a city on a hill? Give 'em a good home life then watch 'em shine to all around?

Except when that doesn't happen. Because all around me I watched those I love fall away, rebel, and be brainwashed into the ways of the world. And that begs the question: who ever said that children are supposed to be sent out among the world all alone for 8 plus hours a day to be that "light"?

I cannot control the faith of my children, that is up to the Holy Spirit, but I am willing to lay down my life to do everything I can to train them up in the way they should go. It is not just for them, it is my duty, my vocation, and the work God has given me to do. Scripture tells us that in the end it will be as in the days of Noah, when there were 8 righteous people. That is so sobering for Christian parents.

So our children's lives look very different. We home school, our children are not allowed to go to birthday parties unless they are adult/family included parties, they are not allowed to participate in sports teams or extracurriculars at this point, and TV and movies are very strictly monitored.

Our children will not have cell phones until they are driving, we have told them they are not allowed to have a girl friend until they are ready to pursue marriage, and they are not allowed to play with the neighbor boys who live behind us because the children are disrespectful and naughty.

Sometimes I look at all of our decisions and I shudder a little...are we making a huge mistake? This is so different from the mainstream way I was brought up.

Our almost 9 year old is of the age now where he is very closely watching my husband and me and all of our parenting decisions. He questions us constantly, comparing us with what little he has observed in the world (which is still plenty), and he isn't afraid to ask hard questions of us. It terrifies me while also making me so proud because WE, my husband and I, are who he asks these questions of: not his friends, not any teachers: us. And we, in turn, answer from Scripture. He knows that is the ultimate authority.

But one of the main hardships of this very close life is how easy it is to begin to feel dragged down by the weight of responsibility. It's easy to become pietistic rather than simply trying to live piously. One is pietistic when their salvation and the salvation of their children is based in works they try of their own accord to perform in order to be seen as holy and to think it will protect them from the devil and falling away. To those who cling to pietism, faith is something they must work out, something they must attain of their own devotion. One is pious when they know their salvation is a free gift given by the Holy Spirit and all good works flow from Him alone and are for the purpose of serving others in humility and love. And we know He will grant it because God desires that all should be saved. And so we pray, "Lord, we believe, help us with our unbelief."

And so I struggle. But my children see me struggle. Yesterday I got really angry at my oldest, I lost my cool and began yelling at him and then generally just yelling at all the children. I had to ask their forgiveness but used it as an opportunity to explain to them that while mommy is sorry, and I'm going to try very hard to not yell again, I will fail. I will always fail because I am a sinner.  I will always fail in many ways. But I promise to always forgive them when they fail as well. And I am only able to do this because Jesus first forgave me, us. One by one my children forgave me and we tried to move on and change the tone of the home by doing something pleasant together.

This parenting thing, it's not glamorous. Kids have a way of acting like the mirror function of the law, but there's nowhere more painful to see your own sin than in your beloved children. And so I pray, when I do, that the Lord would help me turn to Him rather than in on myself and my children.

Lord preserve us.