Forgiving (Part 2)

“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 10:22) (New American Standard 1977)

I told you I’d let you know how I progressed with forgiving the woman who swindled me by advertising herself as a doula, taking my payment and then not attending the birth of my son.

Every time she crossed my mind for a few weeks after my post, I prayed for her. It was awkward. My prayers were short. Then one day I transitioned from asking for God give me His forgiveness for her to praying that HE would forgive her. (Like Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him while he hung on the cross). This was a breakthrough for me. I am confident that the Holy Spirit put the idea into my head.

I found a tremendous relief and freedom when I prayed this way. Somehow when I asked God to forgive her, I felt love for her. My heart softened and changed.  I also received a strong impression in my heart that this woman had gone through something awful at a young age.  I am able to pray for her now without hesitation to be forgiven and healed, redeemed, and restored.

Of course, I would not seek her out for doula care again or recommend her to others. But I do hope she finds healing for her wounds, whatever they are. I like to imagine meeting her in heaven someday and embracing her joyfully. That might sound a little crazy but it is absolutely the truth.

Can you believe it? Such a beautiful change in my heart. What wild, crazy, scandalous love God has filled us with! What amazing things we are empowered to do through Christ! God enables His children to forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, and hope for the unimaginable.

 

(Tree in a mud puddle–Beauty is everywhere.)

Shifting

“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.” (Ps. 127:3) (NIV)

From the moment I found out I was pregnant I started moving things around. I was shifting my medications, changing my way of thinking, changing what I was eating. Shortly after all that, I began sorting through the attic to remove unneeded items and clothes.  I must have toted 25 huge trash bags to the curb.  I think I donated three lawn and leaf sacks full of clothes and shoes.

Next the contents of the soon-not-to-be-spare bedroom were shifted, sorted, redistributed and rearranged, repeatedly.  As it slowly, no, make that painfully slowly, was transformed into a nursery.  I shifted out of our house as much stuff as I could bear to part with and then, after the baby showers, I began the process of shifting our remaining things around to make room for the new things.

Babies take up space. The space they take up is shocking.  Such a little person taking up so much room! First in the womb (talk about a tight fit!), then in our hearts, homes, arms, and our minds. (Oh! And we mustn’t forget the photo/video storage space on our phones.)   In our culture we believe that babies require a large amount of baby gear.  Cribs, swings, changing tables, diaper bags, diaper pails, swings, high chairs, play yards, toys, clothes, diapers, blankets, bottles, baby food, sleep monitors, wipe warmers, tiny thrill rides that jiggle them around as if they were riding in car…the list continues ad nauseum.

( The bookcase I used to use for storing books is now anchored to the wall. The bottom shelves are held in place with drywall screws.  My knick knacks have been shifted upward twice.)

My little house is bursting at the seems!  There were times when Ethan was tiny that I felt like I had no room to walk around.  Every time I could discontinue the use of a baby item and shift it to the attic I rejoiced.  Goodbye, Bassinet! See you later, Baby swing!

Strangely, the amount of stuff never seems to decrease.  My attic is fuller now than it was before I started cleaning it out.  For every tote of my old clothes I removed there is now a replacement tote of Ethan’s old clothes.  I can walk around my house nowadays, as long as I dodge the laundry baskets and toys, but the attic is slowly being closed off to traffic…

The bassinet and baby swing that I gleefully packed away immediately gave way to ride on toys, a playpen, baby gates and a toy box. The pumping supplies and bottles were replaced with tiny bowls and sippy cups.  Infant toys have been replaced by twice as many toddler toys.  (I think the toys are being fruitful and multiplying…)

I have come to a place where I am not necessarily in a hurry to discontinue use of the current equipment, but I know soon my strong and intelligent kid will overcome all my containment strategies. I deeply hope when that time comes he will choose to bother me in the bathroom in liew of more dangerous pursuits.

There has definitely been a huge amount of internal shifting in me since I have become a mother, and I know there have been big shifts in my marriage.  But effort of making room for Ethan has been exponentially rewarding.  Our house truly is bursting at the seams. I cannot add one single piece of furniture without first removing something to make room.  But since Ethan moved in, our house is also bursting at the seems with love.  He has filled our lives with so much joy. He shines so brightly for me that I call him my “baby sun”.

(My “Speghetti Night” Ethan)

Every night before I put Ethan to bed we pray. (I mostly do the praying but he is learning.) Every night I thank God for him and for the time I got to spend with him that day.  Even when the day was difficult, even when Ethan himself may have been difficult to manage, I mean it from the deepest part of my innermost being.

Thank you, Father, for Ethan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sistering

And after she had said this, she [Martha] went back and called her sister aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this she got up quickly and went to him.” John 11:28-29 (NIV)



My sister is the best. You might have a sister as good as mine but I’d be willing to bet you won’t find a better one. She’s sweet, beautiful and smart. She’s a naturopathic doctor, a classically trained singer, and a massage therapist. She is also an outstanding cook and baker.  Her only flaw is she lives too far away. She definitely the best sister for ME. Every year on her birthday I thank my Mom for having her. 

There isn’t much emphasis on sisterhood in the Bible. You have Leah and Rachel, who were literally sister wives. (Probably not much love lost between those two.) And you have Mary and Martha, maybe they didn’t have the same definition of hospitality, but at least they were both agreed on Jesus being awesome, so they have some common ground. There’s Ruth, who had a sister-in-law, but Orpah bailed when things got tough.  There are definitely a few verse where it is indicated that a sister is a good thing, but if a girl is looking for positive examples to follow she will be hardpressed. 

My experience of having a sister goes like this: I remember the night/morning my sister was born. I wasn’t even four yet. I was staying the night with my Grandma while Mom and Dad were at the hospital. Sunce it was a Saturday night Grandma didn’t have to work the next day so the timing of her arrival  was pretty good.  There was a phone call, I don’t remember the time it was but it was still dark. I am sure it was my Dad calling to say that the baby was a girl and both she and my Mom were okay.  

( Me holding my baby sister at my Grandma’s house. )

The next day Grandma and I went to the hospital to meet her. I vaguely remember holding her. I don’t remember feeling any strong emotions. I also don’t remember much of her early days. What I do remember is when she got old enough to be annoying.  I really thought she was a brat. She broke my crayons and flattened the tips of my markers. She wanted whatever I had and wanted to go everywhere I went.

 She cried and screamed when she didn’t get her way. (Those screams were LEGENDARY. My ears are still ringing a little I think.) She was a bit of drama queen. I am talking full out throwing herself to the floor and screaming.  She was really amazing at it.  

( Me and my sister, about the time she would have been smashing the tips on my markers. ) 

We did play together sometimes. I remember pretending that the floor was lava or shark infested waters and jumping from furniture island to cushion island. I remember teaching her to roller skate. I remember styling her hair into a outrageous creation of a pony tail that stood about eight inches straight up from her head. I used every pony tail holder we owned.

I also remember times when I refused to play. I remember slapping her in anger and then begging and bribing her not to tell on me. (I don’t think she ever did tell.)  We had a reoccurring fight at my door whenever I wanted to be in my bedroom by myself. It usually ended with her fingers getting shut in the door when I won the pushing contest from my side. My mom finally informed me that if I shut my sister’s fingers in the door one more time, she would shut my fingers in the door. (Looking back, I am not sure how she would have accomplished that without my willing cooperation, but I believed her.) So I just took to shoving my sister as far down the hallway as I could before I slammed my door in her face. This method worked well. No more smashed fingers and I still got to be alone in my room. I thought I was pretty smart for coming up with it.

I certainly was not a very good big sister in the beginning. I was especially mean when it came to protecting my alone time or my markers. When I look back, I feel sorry for my sister as a kid. She wasn’t really a brat, she was just a toddler. I couldn’t understand what that meant.  For the first ten years of her life she was “just my sister”.

 I did love her. I would have hated the guts of anyone who hurt her. (Except me, of course.) I hung out with her when it suited me or when there was no one else to play with and we had fun. Or at least I did. I used my company as a trump card to make her play the way I wanted to play.  After all, I could easily go do any number of things rather than play with her. I am ashamed of my younger self now. Younger me needs to slapped. 

Almost magically, when she was in fifth grade and I was about fourteen, she became a person to me. She also become a person I liked. Of course, she was always a person, but I couldn’t see her that way. One day she made an observant and funny remark at the right moment. I don’t even remember what she said or what it was about. But I remember laughing and thinking, “Hey, she’s pretty cool.”  (By no means was this the end of all our conflicts but it was a big turning point for me.)

She was no longer “just my sister”.  She had become “MY sister”.  I liked her (most of the time) and I was always proud of her. She was popular, funny, talented and smart. I started noticing strengths she had that I didn’t and admiring her for them. For example: She seemed to fit in anywhere you put her and she made friends quickly; She had big dreams, like becoming a doctor; and she didn’t waste time on homesickness when we went to camp.

We grew up a little at a time.  I grew up first. I left her behind. First I left for college. A couple of years later I moved out, against my parents wishes and without their knowledge of my plan. I gathered my friends, a box of trash bags, and a truck. I let myself in my parent’s basement door (my room was down there) and started removing my possessions from the house as quickly as I could. I was expecting a confrontation and I wanted to get my stuff or as much of it as possible out before that happened.  It took longer than I expected for the confrontation to happen. I actually ended up going upstairs to tell them that I was leaving. They had no idea what was happening below them. I didn’t know at the time, but when we began moving me out they were not even at home. 

Sadly my sister was. I hadn’t told her anything about what I was going to do. She was 16. She watched through a window as my friends and I made trips back and forth to the truck with trash bags of my stuff.  I had no idea.  I was so eager to get away from my parents that I didn’t even stop to think how it would make my sister feel when I left.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a really good example of how I, as an adult, was a crappy sister. But guess what? My sister didn’t repay me for the hurt I caused her. She loved me as hard as ever. She was kind to me even when my mother and I could barely have a conversation. She came to my place when I was still afraid to go home to visit. She talked to me. She brushed my hair. She didn’t tell me for years how I hurt her heart when I moved out. 

She was a good sister.  She was loyal, kind, and as supportive as she knew how to be. I loved her before, I liked her before; now she had my heart. I made up my mind I wanted to be closer to her and to spend more time with her. It would be easier now that I wasn’t out of town at college.

I succeeded for a while in my plan and it was good. We hung out more. We even jogged together for a while. I wasn’t perfect. I wasn’t always as kind as I could have been. But I loved her and I tried to be a good sister. I made her important in my life. I was enjoying her so much that I even started to look forward to my brothers getting old enough that I could be friends with them too. Then, only about a year and a half after I moved out, my family moved to another state, about a nine hours drive away. 

And just like that my sister was swept away from me. There would be no more casually hanging out and certainly no more chance of “Let’s get coffee,” or “I’ll meet you at the movie theater.” This time it was her turn to leave me behind. I was was sad. I missed her. Mercifully, I didn’t have the foresight to comprehend the actual magnitude of my loss and when I finally did I was used to her being far away. 

 So we talked on the phone sometimes and I saw her when my family came back to visit me a few times a year. I drove up to stay with them a few times. Life went on for both of us. My sister went to college and earned two bachelor’s degrees concurrently, while also participating in a sorority and working two (sometimes three) jobs while she did it. I admired her stamina. I never could have done it all. 

As the years passed, I tried to stay as close to her as I could. We both had our own lives.  I listened jealously to her mentions of her friends at school and then at work, those lucky people who could see her and be with her all the time. It took me a while to grow up enough to realize that I was not anymore replaceable for her than she was for me. Our visits became precious, precious times. I tried to squeeze as much sister love as I could into a day or two. 

Eventually I got married. (She she was a bridesmaid and she sang beautifully during the lighting of the unity candle.) A few years later my husband and I bought a house and my sister went back to school to study Naturopathic Medicine. We were both busy, she more than me. When she was at Med School she was geographically closer to me, but much less available to me, even just to talk on the phone. It was not her fault, my availability was small also, as I worked third shift and was asleep most of the day. I visited her maybe two or three times, and one of those times was for her graduation. It was definitely a sister drought for both of us. 

At her graduation I was about seven weeks pregnant and afterward my life became crazy busy with appointments. She jumped right back into classes to get her massage therapy license. We were far apart and out of touch much of the time. After my son was born, she came to stay with us for a while. It was nice. I just wanted to stare at her all the time, it was hard to believe she was really right there with me in my house.  I watched her knitting nearby while I nursed; I watched her cooking me food; I watched her holding my baby. It was more than nice. It was incredibly good. 

Most people know the story of Mary and Martha where Jesus came to their house and Martha ran around like a chicken trying to be a perfect hostess while Mary planted herself at Jesus’s feet. Then Martha complains to Jesus about her sister not helping and Jesus straightens out her priorities. Almost everyone has also heard the story of Jesus raising Lazurus from the dead. But you won’t often hear a sermon mention Mary’s and Martha’s relationship in that story. But I when I was looking for sisterhood in the scriptures, I noticed there is a little story about Mary and Martha in the Lazurus story. 

The story goes that Lazarus was seriously ill. The sisters sent for Jesus but He delayed His arrival. Lazarus dies four days before Jesus ever makes it to Bethany. When Martha hears Jesus has finally shown up, she heads out to see Him. When she reaches Him, she makes two statements:

  1. Lord,if you had been here,my brother would not have died.
  2. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask. John 11:21-22 (NIV).

Jesus tells her that her brother will be resurrected but she’s underwhelmed. Of course, Lazarus will rise again, “at the last day.” Then Jesus lays the gospel on Martha, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. He Who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) (NIV).  And then He asks her a question, perhaps the most important question ever, “Do you believe this?”.  She answers that she absolutely does. 

Now here’s the part I love to notice: After she talks to Jesus, Martha goes straight home and gets her sister, Mary. Martha goes to Mary, pulls her aside from the other mourners, and tells her that Jesus is asking for her. Mary who had decided she would rather not go to Jesus when He arrived. This is the same Mary who had devotedly planted herself at His feet and refused to get up. That same woman had decided she would rather stay home than go to see Jesus.

We don’t know a lot about this family outside of these two stories. I wonder why Mary, Martha and Lazurus live together as adults. I wonder where their parents are and why none of them seem to be married. I wonder also how old they were when they know Jesus. I have always imagined them a close to Jesus’s age, but they could easily have been younger or even much older.  Obviously both sisters loved their brother very much, they wouldn’t have been so upset over his death if they didn’t.  I wonder what kind of position it was leaving them in, as Jewish women in that time in history, losing their brother. Probably not a good one. 

Imagine being best friends with Jesus during his ministry, but when your brother gets sick, Jesus doesn’t show up to heal him. You know He knew about it and you know He easily could have come in time. Instead, He shows up four days after your brother is dead. Can you see why Mary felt like staying home?  

It seems like Martha spoke with Jesus and after that she knew that more than anything Mary needed to see Him too. Mary needed a little push. She needed to hear, “Hey, Sis, Jesus is here and He is asking for you.”  Just hearing that was enough to move Mary to go to Him. John said she went quickly.  She left so suddenly that the other mourners ran after her. They thought she must be heading for her brother’s tomb. 

When Mary got to Jesus, she fell weeping at His feet.  She cried out to Him, saying, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32) (NIV) Not a pretty scene perhaps, but now that Mary had come to Him, Jesus could help her.

Remember when Martha talked to Jesus before Lazarus died?  Jesus told her that she was worried about many things, but “only one thing is needed.” That one thing was simply being with Him. She must have been listening. You can bet that the worries she had in her mind were much worse having lost her brother than when she didn’t have help hosting company. This time when Jesus came to town, she left a house full of mourners and she made a bee line straight for Him.  She had learned what was needed. 

I think what we see Martha do here is the best example of how to be a good sister that we have in the Bible. First get yourself right with the Lord and then go back for your hurting sister and do what is needed to get her to Him. Give her a little push. Remind her that He is there and wants to see her. 

Nudging each other toward Jesus is certainly not just for blood sisters. It is something all women believers should do for each other as sisters in Christ. There are so many ways to serve each other and show our love: Speaking a kind word, giving a sincere complement, really listening, bringing food, giving a shoulder rub, babysitting for an afternoon–the possibilities are endless.

 But first we need to love each other enough that we are paying attention to our sisters so that we notice–when they are down, hurting, isolating themselves, or maybe even angry with God–when they need us.  This can be difficult, the paying of attention. You have to keep in touch because social media and Sunday mornings never tell the whole story. Certainly we must also be listening for that unexpected tug on your heart or the seemingly random turn of thought to a sister that comes from the Spirit of God. 

Sometimes a call is in order, sometimes a visit. Sometimes the right love applied at the right time and you can nudge a sister toward Christ without even mentioning His name. Sometimes you need to go to your sister and have a “come to Jesus” conversation. (But please note, Martha didn’t command Mary to go Jesus. She just told Mary the Master asked to see her.) Listen to the Spirit, then use your intuition, use your strength, and use your empathy; the work of sistering requires a woman’s touch. 

My sister and I have been able to see each other more often since the baby came. There has been more actual talking in person and lots of hugging. She cooks for us and stocks my freezer with delicious food when she comes to stay AND she even gives me massages. (Be jealous, she’s amazing). But most of our sistering is still done over the phone.  She doesn’t call me much unless she’s calling me back. But that makes sense since I’m the one juggling more balls at the moment. I need support more often and I’m less available to answer an incoming call. She’s still a good sister–definitely the best sister for me. She always shows up for me and reminds me what is needed. I try to do the same for her. 

Hovering

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (GEN. 1:1-2)(KJV)

    I ask that the Spirit of THE LIVING GOD hover over me and this blog as I begin and as I continue to write. The ultimate source of creativity can be none other than CREATOR OF ALL THINGS so to HIM I must appeal for grace, truth and beauty in my expression. In the name of YESHUA, THE MESSIAH, THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISSAC AND JACOB. Amen.

    It is almost mid-January but today it feels like March. The wind is bringing in a front of warm, damp air from the South and, after a few days of living in the Artic Circle, it warms not just my face but my heart. It even smells a little like Spring. 

    On days like today the wind makes me feel like I am being lifted up. Up out of myself, up out of the cold, up above my troubles. I get a strong urge to raise my arms up to shoulder level and run into it. As if I could take off like a plane….

    When I was a kid I would always wait for a windy day to attempt what I called “building a fort.” (This consisted of placing a large cast off couch cover over my mother’s clothes line and making a tent using strategically placed bricks and then furnishing my shelter with the comforts of home, like old throw rugs laid over piles of leaves.) I waited for a windy day because it was more fun to do this when I was facing a little resistance. It felt like I was winning a game against the wind. Also it gave the shelter I created a purpose. It would have never kept out rain or cold but I could keep out the wind! 

    I don’t always like the wind. Sometimes the wind just downright hurts. It makes the cold colder and it can damage exposed living tissues in mere seconds. It steals your breath then makes your eyes water and promptly freezes your tears. Other times the wind carries dust or sand–unpleasant at best and blinding at worst. There are also the moments when the wind seems to rage, frighteningly flattening or removing anything in its path. 

    But whether the wind is warm and caressing or a cold wave of misery it is always bringing something with it and it is always going somewhere. The wind is never still or stagnant. You can feel the wind. You can hear the wind. The wind is an unseen and powerful force. The wind can come in a million different combinations of strengths and temperatures. The wind in all of the manefeststations I have ever encountered has never left me indifferent.  If I notice the wind, I have a response. 

    When I think about the wind, the following often will come to mind:

    The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell from where it came, and where it goes: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit  (John 3:8)(KJV2000)

    John 3:8 seems to tell us that those born of the Spirit are like the wind. That sounds really poetic and pretty, but check out this more literal translation :

    The Spirit breathes where he will, and you hear his voice, but you do not know from where he comes and where he goes; thus is everyone who is born from the Spirit.(John 3:8) (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

    That makes it sound more like those born of the Spirit are like the Spirit. That would make sense. We see that reflected in other areas of creation. Man was made in God’s image. Our experience tells us that human children tend to resemble their parents. Lions give birth to baby lions and so on. So to be born of something would give one a reasonable expectation of a resemblance between the progenitor and the progeny. 

    So, now I wonder if the Spirit of God is really like the wind? Is that scriptural? Is there any other place in the Bible where God is described as being similar to the wind? 

    The wind is a powerful symbol in the Bible. There is a strong theme that the the wind is God’s obedient servant. He uses it to express His judgements. He keeps it in His storehouses. In Acts a gust of wind brings the Holy Spirit to the upper room.

    Like the rest of creation the wind does paint us a picture of some aspects of the character of God. The wind is a powerful force that we cannot see. The wind is mysterious. The wind moves in ways that are hard to understand.  However, throughout the scriptures the wind is presented over and over as a servant or a tool and not as a descriptor of God. Because of this pattern I start to prefer the second translation to the first.

    But the first one is more familiar and sounds so nice that I almost don’t want to give it up.  I think in Greek the word for spirit and breath are the same word or very similar words. I am sure that the translators had great arguments for the way they chose to present the verse. Something that breathes/blows where it wills and no one knows where it came from or is going…that does resemble our human experience of the wind.

    So next I turn to another tool for understanding the scriptures: Context. If we back up from our verse about the Spirit a bit into the chapter of John 3 we find we are smack dab in the part of John where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about being born again. If we go forward a bit we end up at: 

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life,(John 3:16) (KJV). 

    This is an important section of scripture! A red letter section. (You should go read it.)  And then flip back. Way back. To the beginning. Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Before God created the wind. Before God spoke. Before light. When the only thing moving was God Himself. Some translations say He hovered or fluttered. In the beginning God hovered over the formless, dark void.

    Do you ever feel like a formless dark void? Chaotic? Empty? Hopeless and helpless and lost? That’s a good time to ask the Holy Spirit to hover over you. Because we all know what comes next. God hovers and then He starts speaking. And He makes light, and order, and life– SO much life, and He makes beauty. He starts creating and He creates perfection. He creates good stuff, where there was a formless dark void. A whole amazing UNIVERSE of good stuff. Because that’s His nature. That’s the nature of love. 

    So, if I had to choose between being like the wind and being like the Spirit of God I would choose the Spirit. I mean the wind is great, but I would rather be Love. It’s like the difference between a reflection of a thing and the thing itself.  I think of my son. He can use a crayon to scribble on a piece of paper,  and I love his drawing. He made it. It is an expression of him. But I’d toss that lovely piece of paper in an instant to hold my son.   Perhaps there is no perfect analogy for what I am trying to say, but I have a feeling you understand in your heart. There may be Love in the wind, God can use the wind to express His love,  but the Love itself is what is important. Just like we can see Hope in the sunlight, Grace in the rain, Beauty in places you would never expect. The message is more important than the messenger.

     You know that breeze– it’s warm but not too hot, with just a hint of rain, the one that brings the promise of tiny green things bursting to life after a long cold winter?  That’s a love wind. Or that wind that catches you by surprise when you turn the corner of a tall building –it tosses your hair in the sunshine and ruffles your clothes and for a second it feels like you will come right up off the ground and float right up to the sky like a helium balloon–and you laugh?  That’s a love wind too. It gets your attention, it refreshes you, it reminds you to breathe. It blows a little hope your way. I hope this blog will be a little bit like a love wind blowing over you. Blessings.