Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Lamentations

It’s funny how sometimes God knows exactly what you need.

Turns out what I needed was the last thing I wanted to do. As I had mentioned, I spent the weekend in Anaheim at the Religious Education Congress. I had two big events on the schedule: I was coordinator for the Lamentations Liturgy on Friday night (a role which entailed a lot of planning, some same-day meetings, organization of all materials, and finally participating in a small choir) as well as a hired choir member for the Celtic Liturgy on Saturday evening. Even though the two events were on Friday at 9:30pm and Saturday at 5:15pm, respectively, there were plenty of meetings and rehearsals to attend in the hours leading up to each event. I knew it would be exhausting.

Usually when I arrive at Congress, the opening ceremony is one of my favorite events. It’s always filled with good friends, amazing music, fantastic preaching, and a lot of joy. This year I couldn’t shake the heavy darkness. I felt terribly sad on Friday morning. I didn’t want to be at Congress. I just wanted to be at home, in bed.

But as the day wore on, I had to step into the leadership role that I had come to fill. Which was a bit of a distraction. We heard a good talk by Ron Rolheiser, and we met up with some friends. By the time the Evening Liturgy of the Hours came around 5pm, I was feeling a little more at ease. I heard my friend Theresa preach, which was absolutely amazing, and we were able to catch up a bit afterward. My soul was nourished, and I was ready to coordinate the Lamentations service that night.

Something happened at the service. I started out worried that I wouldn’t be able to get everything done–after all, the service really was the brainchild of Bob Hurd, an icon in Catholic church music. I didn’t want to let him down, especially after planning together so carefully for the last few months. I had friends coming to sing with us, and I wanted to make sure they had everything they needed. I needed to set up the environment. The moments leading up to the service were hurried. And then it started.

As I started out saying–the last thing I wanted to do was the thing I needed most. The last thing I wanted to do was spend an hour lamenting. I didn’t want to think about sadness anymore. Yet the more I had pushed the sadness away, the more it had begun to eat away at my joy. Avoiding it wasn’t working. I suppose sometimes you just have to face the darkness head-on.

So, for an hour, I mourned. I mourned surrounded by good friends on each side of me. I mourned with the assistance of the same liturgical dancer who had danced at our wedding, only this time she was dancing the grief of Mary of Bethany after her brother Lazarus’ death. I mourned as we sang Taize songs, the same songs I had sung many times while leading Taize at LMU. I mourned, deeply and sorrowfully.

And when it was over, I realized that I didn’t need to cry anymore.

The next morning, it was as if everything had changed. The sun suddenly seemed bright and inviting again. I wanted to enjoy Congress. I wanted to spend time with friends. I wanted to dance. I wanted to laugh with my husband and do silly things. I didn’t want to be alone in bed anymore. I wanted to grab life again.

The wisdom of God is absolutely perfect. And God knew exactly what I needed to heal.  And life goes on.

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These Are Some of the Ways I Heal

Unloading and stacking 8′ beams of wood…

Planting apple and cherry trees…

 Putting the final touches on our fence and getting it ready to paint…

Getting our raised beds ready for planting…

Watching the land anxiously as it foretells of Spring…

Spending quiet moments with my husband.

Miscarriage

I thought a lot about whether or not to post about such a sensitive and personal topic. But in the end, I decided that this is a blog about seeking the sacred–in the joyful and terribly painful moments of life. I’ve written a lot about joyful things–although every once in a while I have shared my grief with you. This, I think, is one of the most important moments to do so. I need to remember that the most sacred thing–the love of God–is present through all the happenings of our lives. I need to remember that here, in this moment of grief, the sacred need not be sought. It is here.

Rob and I have been trying to get pregnant for many months now. I was told that it might be a little more difficult for me to conceive because of some hormonal imbalances, but so far we have not taken any extra measures. We’ve been relying on love and prayer, hoping it would be enough to happily surprise us with a child.

Last Saturday I was wondering if something was up. I was four days late and my temperature had stayed elevated–pretty big signs that I might be pregnant. We took a test, and much to our surprise and delight, it was positive! So we went out and bought another one, just to be sure….also positive. We were ecstatic.

Sunday morning came. We took another test just to be sure. But his time the test was negative. I was devastated. How could it be positive and then negative over night? It was 4am and I was crying. Rob got up, held me, made a special breakfast, and then assured me that we were going to buy another test. Which we did. And it came up positive.

At this point I wasn’t sure what to think, but I was certainly feeling pregnancy symptoms. All day Sunday I was feeling mild cramps and nausea. I made a doctor’s appointment for the next morning.

I went in at 9:20am Monday morning for a urine test. It was negative. I burst into tears. The doctor immediately decided to do a blood test, and after 2 more hours I had gotten my blood drawn STAT at the local hospital. She called me with the results around noon, saying that my hCG levels indicated that I was pregnant and that it had been 2-3 weeks since conception (which is considered 4-5 weeks pregnant by the way the doctors date it–I know, it’s weird). I needed to come back on Wednesday to have my blood drawn again. The numbers needed to have at least doubled by then to indicate a viable pregnancy.

So yesterday I went back and had my blood drawn. This time the doctor didn’t call until 6:30pm. I don’t know if it was because she was busy or because she wanted to wait until my husband might be home. Regardless of her reason, in many ways I’m glad she waited, because Rob was indeed home to hear the news with me. My levels had dropped by half. I was going to miscarry at a little over 5 weeks pregnant. 

So now its just the waiting game. We know I’m miscarrying, but nothing has actually happened yet. My pregnancy symptoms have disappeared, but other than that, I’d never know I was going to miscarry. But I do know. It’s just a matter of time.

Where is the sacred in all of this? How do I find God in the grief?

The sacred is in my husband–my wonderful, loving husband who slow dances with me in the kitchen, who draws me baths when I don’t feel well, who reads to me before we go to bed (Scripture, books about chickens, books about bees, gardening books, you name it), who makes me a special breakfast for no reason at all, who holds me at night and says “I love you” even in his sleep. My husband is the biggest, most blessed reminder of the sacred in my life.

The sacred is also in my family–both mine and Rob’s. We told both parents right away, and both mothers brought me indescribable comfort. I supposed I recognize that in trying to become a mom I am signing up for a job that is a lifetime commitment. Thank God for moms and dads.

I’m finding the sacred in my animals and the land that I tend. Midnight, Easter, and Sugar aren’t children, of course. But I have promised to love them and care for them their whole lives, just the same. And right now, caring for them is very, very comforting.

Finally, I’m finding the sacred in hope. I know that we are a people of hope, and I hold that hope even in my broken heart. As Romans 5:3-5 says: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”

So…I’m sorry that I didn’t really write much this week. My heart was too full. But I felt that it was important to share this very personal experience because, well…it’s not just the happy times in which we must seek the sacred. We need to seek it in the sad times, too. 

Or perhaps it’s the sad times when we don’t have to seek it at all. We just need to trust that it’s there.

Progress and rainy days

It’s a rainy day here at the homestead. We’ve had a wonderful week–during the day I’ve been working on the house and the land, and in the evenings we’ve been spending a lot of time with new friends.

For a surprise, I cleaned out the garage for Rob and laid out his tools so he can put them in order. Our garage had exploded into a mess of wood bits, sawdust, grout, paint, half-filled water buckets, and trash from our week of bathroom construction, and I knew that the mess was weighing on him. So I took a sunny afternon and cleared the trash (5 construction trash bags full!) up to the barn, swept, and put things in order.  After all…he works so hard to make this dream happen. I want to make his time here at home as calm and enjoyable as possible, because I truly appreciate that sacrifice. He’s quite a man, my husband.

I’ve also got almost 3 sides of our “gopher fort” dug, chicken-wired, and filled. I had to call off the digging today because the rains have settled in for a couple of days. But once they’ve passed through and softened up the earth even more, I’ll be back at it.

Speaking of our garden, our fencing arrived this week. Which means after the underground gate is in, we’ll be digging post-holes and setting up our cedar fencing. I’m excited about that. We also spent a lot of time looking through an organic heritage seed catalog and picking out our seeds. I’ll be ordering them in the next few days, although they’ll arrive throughout the year (some seeds and some seedlings) depending on what type of veggie it is.

Another exciting event of the week: the former owner of this house was watching his friends’ chickens while they were on vacation, and pulled me along for the ride. I got to meet 8 pretty laying hens, and we plucked four eggs from the roost. He let us keep them, and we were eating honest-to-goodness farm fresh eggs the next morning. I can’t wait until we have our own, but we have a lot of work to do on the coop and the fencing before we get there.

Our beehive equipment also arrived! We’ll be spending some time this raining weekend assembling it all. All the books I’ve been reading say that it’s a good idea to get everything assembled and ready a few months ahead of time–that way, when the bees arrive, all you have to worry about it getting them settled in. Since our bees are set to arrive April 16th, I think we’re right on schedule.

Our evenings were spent at the houses of our new friends. It’s been quite a blessing to have only been in town 8 weeks and already have people with whom we enjoy spending our time.  I’m also beginning to appreciate the gift of knowing people that are different–different beliefs, different lifestyles, different values, different hobbies. Many of my friends from college and grad school were people who were strikingly similar in our core belief systems and interests. I’m not sure if that was just dumb luck or if being involved so closely with LMU Campus Ministry shaped it, but there is was. This was a blessing to me at the time, because it helped me to become more comfortable with my newfound place in the church, in my faith journey, and in my own self-confidence as an increasingly independent woman. But now I find myself appreciating that I can share my life (and faith and values) with people who don’t necessarily share them in the same way. I can appreciate where they come from and why they see the world a certain way. Being in seminary really  began that part of my journey, and living in Tehachapi is continuing it.

Finally, the big news on the homestead: we’re hoping to trade in one of our cars this weekend for a truck (well, kind of a truck). We’ve been looking at different trucks and have our eye on a Ford Expedition that is in our price range. It has the power and (hopefully) the room of a truck, so it can haul a small animal trailer or have a few hay bales stuck in the back. At the same time, it has plenty of room for what we hope to be an expanding family. So we’ll see how it all turns out. If we like the test drive and like what they offer us for the car, we’ll have a dependable four-wheel drive for our next snowstorm.

Advent

This wouldn’t be a proper Christian blog without an Advent reflection. It’s interesting–each year, I find that God leads me down different reflective paths for Advent, Lent, and the (non-liturgical) New Year.  This year I find my Advent has been centered around reflections of pregnancy.

Of course, I’m not blind to the fact that this is closely tied to our place in life right now: trying to start a family, praying each month that it is the month that we will become parents. But I also think that pregnancy is one of the most important aspects of Advent.

After all, our entire lives are filled with pregnancies. Man and woman, we are pregnant with dream,  goals, and hopes. We are bringing our co-creativeness to birth each and every moment. We anticipate.

There is an inevitability with pregnancy, especially as birth approaches: our whole lives are about to change, and it is only the passage of time that separates us from our lives now and our lives to come.  There is an unknowingness about pregnancy. Will bringing this change to birth be painful? Scary? Dangerous? Will I know what to do once it happens? Will I mess it up?

In Romans, Paul says that “the whole world has been groaning in labor pains until now.” Yes…yes. We groan as we go through the cycle of anticipation, pain, rejoicing, fear.  At the time of Christ’s birth, whole world was pregnant with the hope of better things, of God showing Godself, of peace. In some ways, Mary was not the only one pregnant with Christ. The womb of creation was in a state of preparation. Of anticipation. And yes, the delivery of this hope held it’s fair amount of pain.

But, like true childbirth, the glory of the miracle wipes away the pain of labor. The preparation and anticipation becomes critical, for once the child arrives there is little opportunity to continue to prepare.

This Advent, I consider the ways that God has placed me in a state of anticipation and preparation. This whole year has been preparing the way for our current state: this home, this town, this life. Now we are to prepare in new ways–plan the garden, order the bees, find places for the contents of boxes still unpacked, save our money, learn the community.

The cycle begins anew.

This is what Advent reminds us of each year: the ways in which God prepares our hearts, and our responsibility to continue to cultivate that state of preparation. Our lives serve as Bethlehem over and over again. Do we create space for God to be born within us? Or do we say “No room!”?

Happy Early Thanksgiving

Holiday Wreath

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

-Colossians 3:15

A Morning Prayer

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My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

 ~ Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, Part 2, Chapter 2