Friday, June 20, 2014

It's so easy to feel guilty -- Motherhood Struggles.

Here's to a pretty raw, vulnerable post :)

I think, as a mother, it's so easy to feel guilty for not doing enough for my kids.
Don't get me wrong, I mean, there are days (like, pretty much every day, actually) that I am exhausted because I do SO MUCH for my family.
But it's in those moments where I feel guilty when my son asks me to play choo choo trains with him, and I give him the Kindle instead.  Because I really just want to sit down eat my lunch.

Or how I always dreamed of painting beautiful childlike art with my kids, and playing piano with them, and dancing to worship music with them...
But my son has never been very interested in coloring or drawing or painting.
And yesterday when he found a paint brush he came running up to me saying
"Mommy!  I want to paint!  I want to paint!"
I was a bit surprised... and excited.
And tired.
And I didn't want to deal with the mess at the moment.
So I said no.  ... I said no.

And the days my son is extra fussy, I know it's because he's been cooped up in our apartment.
And a day at the park would fix all things!  Oh how he loves the park!
But I'm tired.
And there are dishes to be done.
And I haven't taken a shower in - has it been three days now?
And I don't want to go out...

And another day comes and goes.
Another sun rises and sets.
And my boys get bigger right before my eyes.  Do I see them?
And I get a little sadder inside with each day that I don't STOP and BE present with my kids.

"Doing" is exhausting.
But "Being" is refreshing.

But things have to be done! a part of me demands.

I remember when I couldn't go a day without playing the piano.
(This was pre-kids of course.  Before I became a mother).
I would play songs to Jesus, get lost in the glory, or enter into a creative realm and write new songs.
And I was full of life, and wonder.
I had bright eyes, instead of tired eyes.
And my imagination was alive and excited for new adventures every day.
When it was beautiful outside, I couldn't wait to get out and experience nature...

But as a sleep-deprived, overweight Mommy, I'd much rather stay curled up on my couch, in an air-conditioned home on a beautiful day, with the TV or computer to "feed" my imagination...
And my piano sits a few feet away, collecting dust.
I've got a baby attached to my boob 10x a day
When I get a burst of energy, it's just enough to throw in a load of laundry, fix up a meal for my son, change a diaper... and on a really good day: go to the gym!

This may sound depressing,
and I may be laying it on thick
(not every day is like this, but it sure feels like it)

I admit that often I cannot wait for the kids to be asleep so I can have some "me time."
And I don't want any pressure to do something spiritually productive (like paint or write music again) in these rare precious "me-time" moments.

But really, I do not want to waste these precious early motherhood years away!

It's so easy to feel guilty.

We want to do things right.  To be the best mother to our children.
To raise them loved.

But if we lose ourselves in the midst of the "Mom" identity, and forget how to BE who we are...
we'll waste these precious moments.

And it's hard to figure out who we are in this season.
Because I'm not who I was when I was single and playing piano every day.
Being a mom changes you - in a million different ways, from all sides, it changes you.
Because your heart changes.
Your ability to love gets bigger, or wider, or something.
And of course your daily routine changes.
Priorities change.

But there is something in our DNA that does not change.
Passion. Purpose. Vision.
Whatever you call it.
And I don't want to wait til my kids are all grown to find it again.

Yes, I'm tired.
Yes I'm unhappy sometimes about the physical changes in my body.
(and I think, if I can just fix my body, and be happier, things will get better from there...)

But what if it was actually a beautiful beautiful thing that my body created, carried, protected, and birthed a human LIFE?!
And this first year of his life, my body is still constantly nourishing him and growing his healthy little body.
My body is serving him.
So why not be happy with my body?
Why not love it?  Is it not beautiful?!

And yes I like a clean house, yes stuff needs to get done...
But what if laughing with my children was actually more important?
What if making beautiful messes, rolling trains across the floor, and getting outside was more valuable than household chores?

Our emotions, struggles, stresses, and pain, as mothers are valid and important.

But the guilt needs to stop.

The guilt needs to stopnow.

And no body can make my choices for me.

So, here's to making memories with my children,
to being present with them,
to not wasting my days.
Here's to finding my passion, dreams, and life again
but as a mother free of guilt.
Here's to a good, life-filled day with my two warrior boys.
One day at a time.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Photos of Kairos' Birth

A BIG thanks to the lovely Ashley Ham Photography for sharing in this special night with us and giving us this wonderful gift that we can always look upon to remember the birth of Kairos Yarah.  She captured some of the most intimate and powerful moments of my life!

My water broke at 7:15pm which set the labor into motion.
I am so grateful my sweet Mom was able to be there with me to share in the experience!

My amazing husband spent lots of time and effort in filling the birth pool and boiling pots of water to add to it,
While at the same time being very present for me.

The loving touch of my husband while I work through a contraction...

...and the joy that comes right after the contraction :)

Feathers were a major theme in this labor and birth as a reminder that God covers me with His feathers, protects me under the shelter of His great wings, and no harm can touch me (Psalm 91)

Working on another contraction - feeling it getting close!

My husband is such a carrier of Peace and Faith and was such a loving supporter through it all
I finally got to get into the birth pool around midnight, and things moved along quickly!

It was all very exciting!

I remember singing and worshiping here while I was pushing

It was so beautiful...

...and with just a few pushes...

There he came (at 12:51am)!  So perfect in all his glory!

He hardly made a sound!  It was so peaceful!

And then this happened...

My little "Arrow" boy grabbed hold of my arrows on my neck!
(Read about the meaning of his name HERE)

Welcome to the world, Kairos Yarah!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Birth of Kairos Yarah

I planned and prepared for this birth and labor for so long.  I had everything set up - the birth pool, the supplies, pillows and blankets, his first outfit, my laboring outfit and my outfit for when I got out of the birth pool, mood lighting, music playlist, scripture verses around the home to meditate on during labor... seriously everything was all set up so that I would feel comfortable and "ready" for the whole thing, but was I really "ready?"

A couple days after my mom arrived, we had already made some matching stenciled onesies and toddler shirts for my two boys, we had the home all cleaned up and a few meals already prepped.  I was literally looking for stuff to do (I would call this over-compulsive "nesting").  

It was Friday evening (7:15pm) and I was finishing up some crock pot meals to freeze for later when I felt a "contraction."  It was mild like a menstrual cramp, but it was long, and when it passed, I felt some liquid leak out.  I looked at my mom and Preston and said "um...I need to go to the bathroom to check something..."  Preston's eyes lit up and said "are you in labor?!"  He was getting ready to leave for a meeting, but when I sat down on the toilet and a gush of water came out, I said to him "I think my water just broke!"  He was so excited and said "I'm not going tonight!"  So I called my midwife and she said to call her when the contractions become more consistent.

Ok here we go! I thought.  And I started running around the house trying to finish up the meals and turn on my playlist and mood lights, and my heart was pounding - I'm nervous!  Why am I nervous?! I could not shake the nervousness.  All the hype and anticipation and planning and prepping, and now was THE moment, and I kept questioning myself Am I ready for this?  I did not expect to have this kind of reaction, especially since I had everything ready and had tried to calm my spirit the previous few days to prepare my heart for this.  When I went into labor with Courage I had absolutely no fear, no doubt, no nervousness or unsure feeling whatsoever.  And it went beautifully, so why was I experiencing this uncertainty this time?  But Preston was very reassuring and released a lot of peace and security and joy for me at this time.

Finally I decided to lie down and soak to the worship music, while Courage rolled his train over my body and gave me kisses.  My contractions were mild and spaced out between 8 and 12 minutes apart.  I started to feel the peace of Heaven fill me and Preston started to fill the birth pool.  About an hour later (around 8:30pm) I called my midwife to tell her things were more consistent.  I also called my friend (who is a doula) and my other friend (who is the photographer) to come over as well.  Preston got Courage ready for bed, which was actually a bit of a relief for me.  I had thought I wanted Courage to be a part of the whole labor and to see Kairos come out, but I found myself being distracted by his presence.  So it was perfect timing that it was his bedtime when my labor picked up.  I do wish he could have been there to see Kairos come out, though :)

I labored through the "rushes" (contractions) mostly on my hands and knees, rocking back and forth.  Most of them felt very good and "productive."  During some of the stronger rushes I found myself on my hands and knees facing the couch and driving my head into the couch during the climax of the contraction.  It actually felt good as I concentrated on breathing through each one and thanking Jesus in between.

As the rushes picked up and got stronger, I found myself wanting to stand up and lean forward on our mantel/fireplace.  Someone (my mom, doula, or Preston) would gently rub my lower back through the stronger rushes, which was quite relieving.  As things picked up, all I could think about was when I could get into the birth pool.  My midwife said that since my water broke it's better to wait til I'm close to pushing to get in the water.  I was kind of disappointed since I remember my labor with Courage felt so good in the water.  She also suggested I try laying down through a few contractions for awhile since I had been leaning forward most of the labor which puts a lot of pressure on the front part of the cervix to help open it up, and so it's good to kind of switch it up.  I was a little apprehensive at first, but once I got comfortable and had a couple rushes in the reclined position, I realized it wasn't that bad.  

I remember being much more aware of everyone in the room this time, unlike my labor with Courage.  When my midwife and her assistant were across the room chatting about something, I remember it being distracting and wanting them to pay attention to me, so I got a little louder for a couple of the contractions - I think mostly because I wanted them to pay attention to me and to say I could get in the birth pool :)  (I should say that these couple contractions were actually pretty uncomfortable and painful, and I believe it is because I was distracted and annoyed and trying to control the situation.  Also, I was probably pretty close to, if not already in, "transition," which is when the laboring mother can get a little irritable.  Just a reminder to try to remain in the peace and not try to control the situation.  Ride with the rushes as if they're waves!)

Finally, shortly after midnight, I was allowed to get into the birth pool!  Hallelujah!  The water felt wonderful, but I wasn't exactly sure what position I wanted to be in to go through a contraction.  I tried relaxing in the reclined position, on my side, and on my hands and knees.  I think I only had 2 or 3 contractions in the water before all of a sudden I flipped over on my hands and knees in the water and said "I think I'm puu--UUSHING!!"  The pushes felt great and I made sure to listen to my body and try to breathe through each contraction and push.  In between the pushes I was able to smile and look at Preston and I could hear the worship music playing.  I even found myself singing "Holy Spirit You are welcome here...come flood this place and fill the atmosphere..." (a song by Bryan and Katie Torwalt, which was on my playlist).  My midwife kept saying how close Kairos was, and I was getting so relieved and excited to meet him for the first time!  But I knew I didn't want to hurry it and I wanted to let my body push him out.  It only took about 4 or 5 pushes and I reached down and saw his little body come out and I pulled him up into my arms!

It was so beautiful.  He hardly made a peep, and he was pink and breathing perfectly.  It was 12:51am on Saturday January 18th (five and a half hours after my water broke).  6lbs 1oz and 19 and a half inches long.  He latched on to my breast within 20 minutes and I was able to remain in the birth pool with him as he nursed (for almost 35 minutes!).  My placenta came out shortly after the birth, right in the pool, and it was super easy and painless!  (I had a hard time birthing the placenta with Courage, and I couldn't nurse him right away, so these were two things I was believing God for with this second birth!)  

I am so grateful for how beautiful the whole birth and labor went and how God gave me all the things I asked for!  God is so good and loving and such a protector.  Kairos is perfect and I am just so much in love.  I feel a greater love for Courage and a greater love for Preston too!  It's amazing how filled I am, and what a beautiful time this is in my life!  Thank you Jesus for your glory and this supernatural birth experience.  Jesus is so real and so pure and so present.  He helps us through our fears, and His perfect love really does drive out all the fear.  When our eyes meet His and we turn our hearts to trust Him, our spirits are caught up in the glory and it manifests all around us and in our bodies!  Pain and fear vanish and He is our strength and our power!  

I am so blessed.

Click HERE to read about my first birth of Courage Ruah!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

After-Birth Herbal Sitz bath

Here I am in my "last" week of pregnancy (week 39), and I have been enjoying my time of prepping, relaxing and spiritually preparing for a beautiful birth of Kairos Yarah.

I have been taking baths every single day lately, and I came across this recipe for an After-Birth Herbal Stiz Bath to help soothe afterpains and such.  I've seen a couple videos out there where the Mom (or even the Dad) soaks in an herbal bath with the newborn baby shortly after birth.  It looked so peaceful and wonderful that I wanted to find out what kind of herbal bath it was so I can do this with Kairos.

So with the help of Courage, we put together these herbs and have it stored in a jar ready to make for a soothing bath!

1/2 cup Epsom Salts (or sea salt)
1 cup Lavender Flowers
1 cup Red Raspberry Leaf
1/2 cup Comfrey Leaf
1/2 cup Plantain Leaf (I couldn't find this locally, so I left it out for now)
1/2 cup Yarrow Flower
1/2 cup Calendula Flowers
1/2 cup Shepherd's Purse
1/2 cup Uva Ursi Leaf

Combine all in a ziploc bag and shake it up! (Courage liked this part)


For a bath, add 1 cup of the mixed herbs to 2 quarts boiling water.  Remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes.  Strain, and add to bath!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What's in a Name?

This second pregnancy has definitely gone a bit differently than I expected.  I'm surprised I'm already into my 3rd trimester and yet I still haven't done some of the things on my "to-do-while-pregnant" list.  I should have expected that it would be different this time around, since last time I didn't have an adorable, active, wonderful toddler running around me every day!  Courage is my joy and brings so much love and life to me every day! <3 I love him soooo much!!!

Which brings me to my next Happy Thought --> the one growing and dancing inside my belly!  When we found out we were pregnant we were surprised and elated!  Another baby!! I thought, Could it be our little Story girl? And so we started to plan and expand our horizons - in other words my organizational skills really set in and I focused on creating more space to accommodate for another child in our family and home.  But amidst all the "nesting" and preparing, my heart wondered at this mystery - who is it?  Who is this child?  

As much as I assumed it must be Story, there was still that inkling inside me that said "what if it's a boy?"  I was so excited to bring out the fairy wings and tutus and to meet our daughter that we always dreamed about...but of course I had to factor in that it could be another boy, another son.  But who is our other son?  What is his name?  Preston and I never really thought about another boy.  We just always thought of Courage and Story.  I know that not every parent names their children before they are even pregnant...but we did.  We thought up Courage and Story, and we dreamed them, and we prayed for them, and then...we created.  And first came Courage.  Next, I thought would be Story.

Preston always called this baby our little Mystery.  There is such uncertainty in the unknown.  And also joy and excitement in searching out the mystery.  When the day came that we all eagerly anticipated - the day of our baby's gender reveal party, I tried to not have my heart set on a girl.  I tried to be excited either way.  But I cannot deny that deep down I really hoped it was Story...because 1. I can't wait to meet her, and 2. I think I was afraid of the "unknown" of this being a boy - another son that I hadn't imagined yet.  A surprise.  A Mystery.  And when those blue balloons flew out of that box, I was indeed surprised...and confused.  I had thought I would feel closer to this baby once I found out "who" it was, but since it was a boy I still felt like I didn't know who he was.

So after the party, Preston and I sat down and decided we needed to name him.  I needed to name him because I needed to know who he was (and is).  Preston and I believe so much in the power of naming - not just in names themselves, but in the prophetic act of naming our son and declaring who he is as a child of God.

So we opened our Hebrew translation books and searched online for meaningful names - we started with words that meant "Mystery" or "Revealed," or "Secret," something along those lines. But nothing sounded right.

One word (or name) that Preston found is the Hebrew word Yarah.  When he started reading the meaning of the word: "to shoot an arrow, to hit the mark, to teach, to instruct, to direct..." it immediately caught my attention.  Since discovering I was pregnant, I developed an obsession for arrows.  I decided I would decorate the baby's crib and room with arrow print and the like.  So when Preston said that Yarah can be translated "to shoot an arrow," I got excited!  I knew we were getting close.

One of the first things Preston said after we found out we were having another son is that he felt that it is very significant in God's timing for Courage to have a brother next, rather than a sister.  
This perspective was encouraging to me in my emotional response to the gender reveal.  And so when we were trying to find a name for him, it made sense when the word (or name) Kairos popped into my head out of "nowhere."  I believe it literally dropped into my spirit.

Kairos is the Greek word for "right opportune moment, or supreme moment."  In rhetoric, it is "a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved." <-- this rhetoric description reminds me of an archer aiming at his target with his arrow.  In the New Testament, Kairos means "the appointed time in the purpose of God," which reminds me of what Preston had said about God's timing in this being a boy.  Needless to say, a great joy came alive inside me, like a big laugh, when we put these two words together:
Kairos Yarah.

This is our "Kairos moment."  

This is our "Riddle in the middle of a Mystery" (as Preston once said long ago in the beginning of our love story).  

This is our son, my arrow boy, Courage's younger brother, powerful and perfect with his own beautiful destiny.

I have two sons: Courage Ruah and Kairos Yarah.  Each son is unique and powerful in the way God has (and is) created/creating him.  Each name has its own beautiful and unique identity (Ruah is Hebrew for "Breath/Spirit of God; Wind").  Each boy will grow up as a son, a child of God, as brothers who will change this world and bring Heaven to earth!

I am SO excited to meet you, Kairos Yarah. <3

Monday, September 23, 2013

Supernatural Pregnancy & Childbirth

At the beginning of the summer we discovered we were PREGNANT!  And much further along than we realized!  So this summer has been a time of dreaming and planning for a second little one!  Yay!  It has been such an easy pregnancy (I'm 23 weeks! Due January 20th), and I literally JUST started showing last week - like all of a sudden.  I've had great steady energy and no real negative symptoms.  Can a girl ask for anything more?!  Thank You Jesus!

Being pregnant, I've picked up a few books again: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskins, and Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize.  These two books are seriously the two MUST READS for any pregnant woman (in my opinion), even if they are the ONLY two books you read during your pregnancy!  I am being so encouraged and filled by re-reading these books, and I've decided to pass on some of what I'm learning, particularly from the Supernatural Childbirth book.

This book is wonderful, and full of beautiful testimonies of women with breakthrough in getting pregnant, having pain-free childbirths, and more.  And the authors lay out a great foundation on biblical references of what God says about pain, childbirth, fear, and faith.  I am dedicating my next 17 weeks to ingrain myself with Truth and build my faith as I eagerly anticipate my labor and the coming of my second child.

The following is a lengthy explanation and list of what I am praying, agreeing with God, and declaring over myself (my body, my baby, my soul/mind and spirit) daily.  Hope you can benefit from this as much as I am!

<3 love, Bethany

Spiritual Declarations and Scripture verses
for Pregnancy and Childbirth     
"Death and Life are in the power of the tongue" 

*There were two curses: 1) the curse in the Garden; 2) the curse of the Law
The curse in the Garden separated God from man.  And God immediately set into motion a plan of Redemption (with JESUS) to fix that relationship!  The most beautiful Love Story…

            Galatians 3:13,14,29 (The Voice)
            Jesus, the Anointed One – the Liberating King – has redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us…This is what God had in mind all along: the blessing He gave Abraham might extend to ALL nations through Jesus; and we are the beneficiaries of this promise of the Spirit that comes only through faith!
(v29): Since you belong to Jesus and are now subject to His power, you are the descendent of Abraham and the heir of God’s glory according to the promise!

*It’s important to understand that the curse in the Garden does not mean women will have “pain” in childbirth.  The correct translation is “sorrow.”  Which is the same word used in Adam’s curse: “in sorrow you shall eat (food of the ground) all the days of your life.” 
            Isaiah 53:4,5 (ESV; The Voice)
            Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our SORROWS…He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.  Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace (He endured the breaking that made us whole), and with His stripes we are healed!!
            1 Peter 2:24 (ESV)
            He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed.

            Philippians 4:13 (ESV)
            I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

            Luke 1:37
            Nothing is impossible with God!

            John 10:10
            Jesus says: I came to give you life more abundantly (that you may have life, and have it more abundantly)

            Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
            He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion!

            Hebrews 10:23 (ESV)
            Hold fast the confession of your hope (faith) without wavering, for He who promised is faithful!

            Psalm 1:3
            v.2 ESV: (Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night…)
            You are like a tree, planted by flowing cool streams of water that never runs dry.  Your fruit ripens in its time; your leaves never fade or curl in the summer sun.  No matter what you do, you prosper! (The Voice)

            Acts 10:38 (ESV)
            Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit with power, and He went about doing good and healing ALL who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

            Romans 8:37 (ESV)
            We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!
            (v.32: He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us ALL things?)

Philippians 4:19 (The Voice)
            Know this: my God will also fill every need you have according to His glorious riches in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King!

            Luke 6:38 (The Voice)
            Jesus said: Don’t hold back – give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap – a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over.  You’ll receive in the same measure you give.

            1 John 5:14,15 (ESV)
            And this is the confidence that we have toward Him (Jesus):  That if we ask anything according to His will, He will hear us.  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him!
*(This is how I say it over myself: I have the confidence that if I ask anything according to Your will, You will hear me.  And since I know You hear me, I know that I know that I know that I have the requests that I've asked of You!  Thank You Jesus!)

            Romans 12:2 (ESV)
            (v.1: offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, your spiritual worship)
            Do not be conformed to this world – (or think the way others think negatively or fearfully about childbirth) – but be transformed by the renewal of your MIND that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

*Fear and faith do not operate together.  Fear is the opposite of Faith (in God).  Fear = faith in the inferior reality.  You are called to and able to live in God’s reality – the superior reality!  Fear is the devil’s motivation, and it can be one of the greatest causes of pain during childbirth when it’s allowed to operate.  You only fear the unknown or past bad experiences.  Focus on what is true, on God’s Word and His promises for you.  Do not let fear rob you of LOVE and JOY and PEACE, and all the fruits of the Spirit, which abides in you (and you in Him!)
            Trust in the Lord and do not fear.  You have the mind of Christ and peace of God!  Your mind, body and spirit are relaxed and at peace

            Philippians 4:8,9 (ESV)
            Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you!

            1 John 4:18 (ESV)
            There is NO FEAR in LOVE.  Perfect Love casts out fear!

            Psalm 34:4
            The Lord delivers you from all your fears!

            2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
            For God gave you a spirit not of fear, but of POWER, LOVE, and SELF CONTROL (SOUND MIND)

            1 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)
You will be safe and sound in childbirth as you continue in faith, love and holiness, with self control!

            Romans 10:17 (ESV) where to get faith?
            Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ!

            John 14:27 (ESV)
            Jesus said: PEACE I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

            Philippians 4:7 (ESV)
            And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your HEARTS and your MINDS in Christ Jesus!

            Jeremiah 29:11
            For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace (wholeness), not of evil, to give you a future and a hope!

            Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
            Fear not, for I am with you.  Be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand!

            Isaiah 26:3,4 (The Voice)
            You (God) will keep the peace – a perfect peace – for all who trust in You, for those who dedicate their hearts and minds to You.  So trust in the Eternal One forever, for He is like a great ROCK!

            Isaiah 54:17 (ESV)
            No weapon formed against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.

            Psalm 112:6-8 (ESV)
            The righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.  He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is steady, he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

            Psalm 27:1 (ESV)
            The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
            (The Eternal is my light amidst the darkness and my rescue in times of trouble.  So whom shall I fear?  He surrounds me with a fortress of protection, so nothing should cause me harm!) (The Voice)

            1 Peter 5:7 (The Voice)
            Since God cares for you, let Him carry ALL your burdens and worries.
            (Cast ALL your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you!) (ESV)

            Psalm 28:7
            The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults and with my song I give thanks to Him!

Thou O Lord are a SHIELD ABOUT ME!

Psalm 91 (The Voice)
God covers you with His feathers.  Protects you under His great wings, His faithfulness will form a shield around you, a rock solid wall to protect you
The Eternal is your Refuge.  The Most High is your only home.  NO evil will come to you!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Martha - a poor woman with a rich heart

My heart always comes alive around the homeless.  Something always stirs in my heart when I pass that man on the corner holding the cardboard sign, or when the one with crazy hair and body odor comes into the coffee shop to use the bathroom.  I find myself becoming defensive when I overhear two women, dressed in the latest fashion and adorned in expensive jewelry, whisper their criticisms and turn up their noses in disgust at the "weird" guy standing outside the if he is less than human and should not be allowed to share the same air as other humans.  Maybe those judgmental women are just afraid because their small worldview just got bumped a little.  And maybe it's just that I have a passion to open people's eyes and break their small thinking.  But I also think that God is opening something in me too, as I ask myself "Why is there an awakening inside me when I come across a homeless person, or that 'weird' quiet man with body odor, or the lady who talks to herself on the street?  Why is it that all I want to do is hang out with them, talk to them and hear their stories, and be their friend?"

On New Years Eve I was walking out to my car, just leaving work, when I noticed that lady walking on the street.  I had seen her twice before walking this same busy street talking to herself - more like shouting something in a strange language.  And on this day, she had a sign pinned on her back that said "Jesus is King."  I thought to myself, 'what can I give this woman?'  It was very cold and there was snow on the ground, and I noticed she had bags over her shoes.  I  felt very strongly the Lord suggest, "give her some snow boots."  I was on my to pick up my son and I didn't want to keep the babysitter waiting.  As I was driving, I racked my brain on how to give her some snow boots... Do I invite her into my car and take her shopping?  But I didn't think that was a safe choice with my son in the car.  Do I ask her what size shoe she wears and go pick some up for her?  Then I thought, I know!  I'll get her a gift card!  So I decided to buy a generous gift card to a local sporting goods store that has a variety of quality winter attire.  This seemed like the perfect gift since she could go pick out what she wanted or needed.  It also seemed perfect since we were right in the middle of winter and I felt she would benefit from this gift.  So I excitedly picked up my son and headed for the store, planning to then return to that busy street where I had seen this woman.

Because I felt like the Lord had spoken to me, I was convinced this would all play out how I expected.  But there was a problem: It was New Years Eve, which meant the stores were closed.  And after picking up my son, the woman was nowhere in sight.  Disappointed, I went home and planned to pick up the gift card first thing after the holiday.  I was sure I would see the woman walking up and down that street again, and I was certain I could carry out my mission in the next week or so.  But day after day, week after week, I did not see that African woman chanting to herself.  I even drove up and down that street in search for her, but always came up empty-handed (or rather, not empty-handed since I still held the gift card!!).  I became discouraged as the weeks went by because I felt that soon the gift card for some winter boots would no longer be useful in the coming months.

At one point I even succumbed to trying to find a homeless person - any homeless person will do, I thought - to give the gift card to.  I figured I'd better get it to someone who can use it while there's still snow on the ground!  But even when I set out to do this, there was no opportunity.  So I waited...and trusted God that He would not let this whole effort be a total waste.

Then one day - in MARCH (3 months later!!) - my husband and son and I were out shopping.  We were at a stoplight, and there she was, walking across the street right in front of us!  "There she is!!  That's her!!"  I exclaimed to my husband who was driving.  "I have to get out!"  I told him as we were driving through the light.  I had him pull into the parking lot of my workplace (where it all began) and I got out and walked down the long sidewalk to meet the woman for this long-awaited encounter.  As I walked, I started to wonder if she would listen to me or let me talk to her.  All I knew about her was that she shouted to herself, so I was unsure of her mental stability.  I also questioned for just a moment if this was a stupid idea.  But I prayed to calm my nerves and I became determined to carry out this mission.  It was like a treasure hunt to me, and I had finally found the treasure!

As I came closer and approached her, I greeted her, interrupting her chanting.  "Hi!"  I said, excitedly, "My name is Bethany and I have something for you..."  She glared at me over her glasses, as I held the gift card in my hand and proceeded to tell her the story of how I felt the Lord tell me to give it to her.  Her glare, which was actually more of an expression of curiosity, softened as she acknowledged what I was giving her.

"Wow, oh wow...this is a generous gift...thank you..."  she said in her thick accent, as I explained that I had been searching for her since New Years Eve.  She then held the gift card up toward the heavens, closed her eyes and began to pray for me!!  In her beautiful African accent, she thanked God for me and proceeded to bless me and ask God to increase His favor on my family and me.  I was so filled with love by her gesture, by her blessing, by this beautiful spiritual encounter.  Right there on that busy street, heaven showed up in the purest form, in the beauty of this interaction, where I gave a poor woman a gift card, and she gave me a heavenly blessing.  And I realized that this is what it's all about.  This is Jesus.  This is Heaven.  This is Love.

As we continued to walk, she told me her name was Martha, and we talked about her life, faith, and her mission to walk the streets and praise God.  It all made sense to me - the crazy woman who shouts to herself on the streets was really a worshipper who praises the King in her native tongue.  And I believe she brings Heaven to this city through her "chants."

Upon reaching the parking lot where my husband and son were waiting, I pointed out to her where I work and told her to stop by anytime.  We parted ways with a hug and I got into the car with a greater joy than I had before

A couple days later, while I was working in the coffee shop in walked Martha.  "Oh there's my friend!"  I said, excited to see her.  A man was with her and they both eagerly extended their hands to me for a warm hand shake (which is more of an expression of honor and love in their culture than it is in the American culture).  I felt a closeness to them in that simple greeting - like they were family.  She wanted to show me what she bought with the gift card, and she pulled out a beautiful white sun hat, "for summer," she said, and the man pulled out a box of snow boots!!  It turns out the gift card was for snow boots after all :)

I look forward to the next time I see my friend Martha walking that busy street, perhaps in her new white sun hat, singing praises to our King Jesus!