Lovely November

I love November. I love November for so many reasons.

My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is in November. I love Thanksgiving more than any other holiday because in recent years Jeffrey and I decided that, since we travel north to Michigan and down to southern Indiana at Christmas, we’ll stay home at Thanksgiving. We treasure those quiet days at home together, snuggled up on the couch watching Christmas movies and eating Thanksgiving leftovers. Leftovers are one of the best parts. I love, love. love to cook, but after cooking and baking for days for one meal, by the time we sit down, I’m mostly ready to take my chef’s-privilege nap while everyone else does dishes. Leftovers take zero effort and taste even better than the food at the main dinner.

My favorite season, autumn, stretches into November. The leaves are still vibrant and holding on here. But every morning driveways are plastered with more and more leaves. Soon, the trees will be bare and delicate white frost will cover the roofs in the morning until the sun chases it away.

November 1 – today! – marks the beginning of what I call “It’s-Finally-Socially-Acceptable-to-Listen-to-Christmas-Music-So-That-Other-People-Can-Hear-It Season.” Some people just call this “Christmas Music Season” (and some people of the Scrooge variety aren’t even ready to call it that). I happen to be of the opinion that Christmas music deserves a year-round spot on my iPod, but I respect that not everyone can be as jolly as me all the time. However, I am also of the opinion that from November 1 – January 31, I can listen to Christmas music all the time without regard for who gets/has to hear.

I just think November is lovely. And today has been a lovely start to a lovely month.

Christmas music. People’s posts on Facebook of the not-so-little things for which they’re thankful. A big cold glass of well-brewed unsweet tea. (I do love sweet tea, but, you know, calories…)

Another thing that made today great is that it was the first time since cooler weather hit that the Ravellettes have had Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes for supper. You read right. Kielbasa. Smashed Potatoes. Butter. Red Wine Vinegar. Onions. Spinach. All mixed up together in a bowl of comfort, hugs, and cuddly food-love.

kielbasa mashed potatoes

Does it look sloppy? All the better. Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes is a comfort food. It doesn’t stand on ceremony. It doesn’t mind if you eat it in your pajamas on the couch in front of Netflix. It just wants you to be cozy.

danae is the genius behind this dish that has become a staple in many households among our friends. Check out her recipe on her cooking blog here. (Really. Check it out. You’ll add it to your cool-weather meal rotation tout de suite.)

Since I’m counting calories, I plugged the recipe in to myfitnesspal.com. I followed danae’s recipe for the most part, except I only used half a stick of butter and instead of the milk or cream, I used a half cup of plain soy milk. Be sure to keep extra red wine vinegar on hand – Jeffrey loves to add a lot of extra vinegar to his. In case you’re counting calories or carbs or are just somewhat interested in the nutritional information of this dish, I’ve included what I came up with through myfitnesspal at the end of this post.

This was not just our first Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes of the season, it was also Paige’s first experience with the dish. She gobbled it right up, but she was quick to pull out the spinach. I guess I can’t blame her. I accidentally picked up the regular spinach instead of baby spinach, so it was pretty long and slimy when isolated from the rest of the delicious mixture.

So I’m definitely thankful for Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes. I’m thankful for November. I’m thankful for a lot of things. So this lovely November, I’m going to try to take part in thankful November on Facebook by posting something for which I’m thankful each day. I won’t post them all here because, you know, redundancy, but here’s today’s:

thankful

I’m also going to be participating in No Make-Up November. At first when I read about it here, I was like, “That’s a sweet idea, but I don’t just participate in things just to participate in them. It’s not for me.” Then, I read this

Even after I agreed to participate, it wasn’t easy at first for me to jump wholeheartedly into this challenge. After all, I wasn’t a teenage girl with fresh skin. I’m a woman in my 30s. What will my friends think, I wondered? What will other women think of me, especially at church on Sunday? It was then that a revelation struck me: Aren’t we into beauty sometimes more to please other women in our lives, especially church women?

Ouch. That one hit a little too close to home. I decided, like the author of the article, that if it was really this hard for me to give up the idea of wearing make-up for 30 days, then I probably need to give up wearing make-up for 30 days. I’m a little freaked out about this one. I’ve been wearing make-up every day that I’ve left the house since college. I don’t know why I started wearing it all the time, but I did. I don’t think I wear way too much make-up. (If I do, please message me in private. I promise I’ll forgive you for not saying anything until now, although your mistake would be akin to letting me speak to a room full of strangers with basil in my teeth x 1,000,000.) The way I think about make-up is just wearing enough to make myself look fresh and not dead tired each morning. However, the point of No Make-Up November is to focus on allowing God to fill me with the confidence that comes with knowing – really knowing – that my beauty rests in Him.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.
– Psalm 139:13-16

So the make-up’s been moved to the closet. I’m going to try to keep it there all from now through December 1 (since I didn’t find out about No Make-Up November until after I had already put on make-up today).

Here’s to a lovely, comfort-food-filled month filled with the sounds of Bing, Frank, Dean, Sammy, and Karen crooning Christmas music while we rest in gratitude and in the deep-soul knowledge that we were made beautifully by a Loving God who loves us still. Dayenu. It is more than sufficient.

Grace and peace,

Rachel

Here are the nutrition facts for danae’s Kielbasa Mashed Potatoes per serving based on her recipe making 8 servings (which is realistic for a my-size portion, but completely ridiculous to someone like Jeffrey who could eat the entire bowlful, if he really wanted to): 332 calories, 27g carbs, 20 g fat, 12 g protein, 550 (gulp) mg sodium, 1 g sugar.

Just keep breathing. Just keep loving.

Sometimes I just need to write my thoughts and prayers out to be able to function. Today is one of those days.

Today, a man walked in to an elementary school (they say it may even have been a kindergarten classroom) – a safe place full of precious, innocent babies. Today, that man fired guns in that school, at those babies. He killed them and the adults who have devoted their professional lives – and probably their personal lives, too – to teaching and caring for those babies.

It’s just too much. It’s just too broken.

It’s all too much for me to know, here in Lafayette, Indiana – more than 800 miles away from those hurting and devastated parents, children, and teachers. It’s too much for me to know here at my desk at work. It’s too much for me to think about when my own baby is 15 minutes away – too far away for me to hold her tightly right now. It’s too much to know. Too much to think about anything else.

If it’s too much here in Indiana, how are people breathing in Newtown? God, give them strength. God, give them air. God, give them numbness, if that’s how they need to get through today and the next day and the next. God, give them comfort – Your comfort and Your Comforter. The comfort from the Spirit. The only comfort that can heal.

I can’t breathe when I think about the parents – all of them. The ones who are holding their babies and thanking God that they were spared. The ones who are in the same firehouse watching those relieved parents, waiting to hear about their kids who are “currently unaccounted for.” Oh, God. The parents who see those relieved parents as they’re told that their babies were remorselessly cut down in their innocence, in their classroom, in their tiny shoes, in their pig-tails. The ones whose babies saw horrors this morning that even they –the adults! – can’t imagine. The wives and husbands of the school employees who won’t come home. The law enforcement officers who had to lead kids to safety and see the terror in their eyes while they wanted to be able to say, “It’s OK,” but they couldn’t. Because it’s nothing close to OK.

I. Can’t. Breathe.

God, I don’t want to understand this. I don’t want anyone to understand this, because it’s so far from what You wanted for us. It’s so broken. So fallen. So backwards. So painful. So. So. So.

God, You showed us how to love. You are love. You share that with us every day. How do we mess it up so much? What on earth (this broken, broken earth) has happened in the life of that man that made him go into those children’s school today intending to murder? Wait. Don’t answer. I don’t want to know.

I can’t breathe, God, when I think of all those people. But, God, I can’t even think about You right now.

It’s not that I can’t think about You because I blame You. You share no part in the blame. You. Are. Good. All the time. You are good.

You made us for more. You made us to be more. You want to help us be more.  You long to guide us to be more.

You hate hate. You hate pain. You hate murder.

I don’t blame You. In fact, before I can think about blame, I think about my own sinfulness and it not only makes me sad and sorry and sorrowful, it makes me sick.

I don’t blame You, but I can’t think about You.

I can’t think about You because anytime I get close to thinking about Your pain in all of this, I not only can’t breathe, I just can’t be.

Father, Your pain in this is unimaginable. I praise You that, in Your mercy, You made this kind of pain – Your pain – unimaginable for me, because it would cripple my heart.

Oh, God! Your pain over seeing a man You love – a man You’ve loved from before the creation of the earth, a man You sent precious Jesus to die for, a man whose heart You’ve been desperately calling and calling and calling – Your pain at seeing him fall so far from Love and hurt so many other of your dear loves is too much.

Oh, God! Your pain at seeing – and not just seeing, but absorbing and feeling – the pain of your children! The pain of parents who lost their babies. (Oh, You know that pain all too well!) The pain of children – innocent babies – whose lives will be forever altered by this blood-soaked day. The pain of the family of that man who fired guns at Your people – his family who loves him, but feels like they can’t love him – can’t know him – now.

Oh, my God! Your pain is too much to think on. I can’t. I just can’t.

And to add to Your pain, there is the bitterness of Your loved ones blaming You! You! They cry out, “Why would God let this happen, if He is a loving God and all-powerful?!” Some people will use today as their own kind of “proof” that You aren’t who You say You are. In their hurt, they’ll blame You, the one who is hurt most of all by this! It’s too much. This is all too much. How do You bear it? Why would you bear it? You knew we’d hurt you like this. You knew it and You made us and love us anyway. Such hurt! Such pain! Such love!

God of we who are broken, make us whole.

God of we who are broken-hearted, give us healing.

God of we who are destructive, give us hearts to build up Your Kingdom.

God of we who are wayward, continue to call us back. Continue to be patient. Continue to teach us to Love. Continue to give us the strength to love even those who are unloving and unlovable.

God of we who are petty, give us perspective.

God of we who are sinful, forgive us again.

God of the universe, grant us peace.

Father of all, draw more hearts to You each day, but especially this day.

In their grief, grant them peace.

In their pain, grant them relief.

In their brokenness, grant them healing.

Father, I can’t think on Your pain. But I can praise You for Your amazing love. I praise You for Your promises. I praise You for keeping them. I praise You from the hope that I have and the anticipation of the fulfillment of Your ultimate promise of redemption.

Redemption of my heart.

Redemption of this broken world.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!

Redemption. Making new and beautiful the old, ugly, and broken. Making right the wrong. Making glorious the commonplace. Raising up that which has fallen. Turning back that which had turned away from You.

Redemption. Breathe again.

Behold, You are making all things new. Glory to You, O Lord!

Behold, Your mercies will be new tomorrow morning – the day after this terrible day will be a new day. Praise to You!

Thank You for being You, even when the world is rocked by people who act in ways that are more contrary to Your heart than I could imagine. I praise You for Your constancy. I praise You for the abiding hope of Your unshakeable promises.

Glory be to the Father! – Look! Behold! See? He is making all things (even this unthinkable day, even this hurt, even this brokenness, even this pain), all things new:

Pay close attention now:
 I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.
All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain
are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy.
Anticipate what I’m creating:
I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy,
create my people as pure delight.
I’ll take joy in Jerusalem,
take delight in my people:
No more sounds of weeping in the city,
no cries of anguish;
No more babies dying in the cradle,
or old people who don’t enjoy a full lifetime;
One-hundredth birthdays will be considered normal—
anything less will seem like a cheat.
They’ll build houses
and move in.
They’ll plant fields
and eat what they grow.
No more building a house
that some outsider takes over,
No more planting fields
that some enemy confiscates,
For my people will be as long-lived as trees,
my chosen ones will have satisfaction in their work.
They won’t work and have nothing come of it,
they won’t have children snatched out from under them.
For they themselves are plantings blessed by God,
with their children and grandchildren likewise God-blessed.

Before they call out, I’ll answer.
Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard.
Wolf and lamb will graze the same meadow,
lion and ox eat straw from the same trough,
but snakes—they’ll get a diet of dirt!
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
anywhere on my Holy Mountain,”
says God.

                                    – Isaiah 65:17-25

So today –this day – God, help us all – help them all – to just keep breathing. Just keep loving. Just keep giving glory to You – the one who is making everything new.

Amen.

P.S. – To those of you who have been asking for a new blog post, I know this isn’t what you wanted. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a Paige update and I’m sorry. But, to own the truth, when I have time to blog, I spend it playing on the floor with my baby – and I’m not sorry for that. I do promise that we’ve been taking lots of videos and pictures, and I hope to share them with you soon. Paige is healthy and glowing and beautiful and fun and learning and we love being her parents more each day. My heart is full, which is, I think, why it hurts so much today for the parents who must feel like their hearts died today. Pray. Pray for peace. Pray for redemption. Pray for love. Pray for all things to be new.

Miscarriage, Yet Dayenu

Disclaimer: This post is long. Really long. It’s about a very, very hard time in our lives in which Jeffrey and I suffered a miscarriage. You may wonder why someone would write about this – especially in a place where they couldn’t control who could read it. Here’s why I chose to write this and share it with you:

  1. It’s helpful for me to tell this part of our story. It’s helpful for me to have to think about not just the hurtful parts, but the wonderful parts where God showed His powerful love in ways that still humble me and lead me to sing praises to Him.
  2. I feel like, for the most part, no one talks about miscarriage, even though it affects so many people. Did you know that approximately 1 in every 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage? It’s seen as a private hurt and so people keep it to themselves. But not talking about something so prevalent and so hurtful attaches a stigma to it – almost like a shame. I felt so alone in my struggle until I was able to talk to other women who had been in my situation. For my part, I don’t want to hide in the shadows of miscarriage. I want people to know that this is part of my story so that when this hurt happens to others, I can be known as someone with whom they can cry,, talk, sit, and heal. No one should feel alone in a pain like miscarriage – no one. If you do, I’m here. I’m willing to listen. I’m willing to talk. I’m willing to be quiet. I’m willing (and would consider it an honor) to pray. I’m talking about my miscarriage so that you know that you can, too.
  3. This is part of our story. Even if what you’ll read here was the end of our parenting story, dayenu. It would have been sufficient. I hope you’ll see the exciting ways God worked through this chapter of our story and, if you make it to the end of this post (it is pretty long) you can join us in saying “Even if this was the end, dayenu.” Praise God for surpassing that which would have been sufficient time and time again.

So that’s why I’m writing this. I have to get it out there. Before we can share with you more about our parenting journey (and pictures and videos to come of our sweet, sweet girl – which is probably why you’re really at this blog), we have to tell you this part of our story. It’s long. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t want to read it. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t want to know details about this chapter of pain in our lives. But, I hope you will read it. I hope you will read it and praise God for His loving works at the end of it. And even if the end of this post were the end of our parenting story, dayenu.

_______________________________

For a long time, Jeffrey and I have felt like God has been preparing us for God-honoring parenthood. We’ve seen our friends’ kids grow and change from infants to toddlers to “big” kids. We’ve prayed. We’ve had talk after talk – not just about logistical things like discipline and cloth diapers and schools but about how we can minister and disciple each other and our children in our home. We’ve thought about how we can best not only teach our children about God but, more importantly, help them build a foundation for a lifelong, growing, personal relationship with Christ. It has just felt like God has been working on our hearts and leading us on a journey to parenthood.

That’s how it felt in our hearts.

But there was a problem in our heads.
____

Jeffrey has always been sure that he wanted to be the kind of father who is involved and engaged. He’s excited to teach our children by doing things with them. He wants to be open with them and honest – even about when he’s wrong. He wants to not only talk about God and faith with them, he wants to actively live God’s love and his faith in Him with them. He wants to see them grow, change, develop, learn, and move from stage to stage. I want all of that for him, for me, and for our children. That’s the type of parent that each of us wants to be.

So the problem in our heads.

Jeffrey’s career.

Even though Jeffrey hasn’t been technically “over the road” as a truck driver since the fall of 2009, his job as a coal hauler is still unreasonably demanding. His “local” coal and rock hauling route takes him more than 14 hours a day and more than 400 miles. And that’s only half of it. There’s still a mountain of paperwork each month and a never-ending maintenance to-do list. Those parts either consumed his weekends or left him feeling guilty when he’d spend his weekends doing other things he needed to do (exciting things like… yard work) or even enjoyed doing like spending time relaxing with me.

We knew this owner/operator lifestyle was not conducive to the kind of marriage we strive to have or to us being the kind of parenting team we want to be. Jeffrey would miss out on being an active, involved, and engaged dad and I would essentially be a single mom.

But we also knew (or come to find out, we thought we knew) that we were stuck. Our financial obligations (and mounting truck-related debt) meant that for Jeffrey to change jobs, he’d have to be able to make more money than his experience and education levels gave us hope to expect.

We truly felt very stuck. Stuck in the life we had and far away from the life we desired. What was so frustrating was we felt like the life/lifestyle we desired was God-honoring and – more than that – that our desire to have the kind of marriage we want to have and to be the kind of parents we want to be was a desire from God! Add salt to the wound – we felt like God was preparing us for parenthood. He was preparing us for something that we were sure we just couldn’t ever have!
_______

The lowest point in this “stuckness” was on a Wednesday. Jeffrey’s truck was in the shop (we were afraid that we would have to replace the – gulp – engine…) so he came with me on a work trip to a small town in northern Indiana called Wakarusa (at the time, I was working for a nonprofit Foundation). I had to film a very elderly man (whom everyone calls “Doc”… you can’t make this stuff up) as he gave a message for the Foundation’s 50th anniversary. We loved meeting Doc. At the time, he was 89 and his priorities are pretty much spot on. He was intent on honoring God, leading and loving his family, and helping people. Those are the pillars he built his life around. After we interviewed him, we went toward Shipshewana to spend the afternoon at my great-grandma Slater’s favorite hang-out: Das Dutchman Essenhaus where we perused the crazy gift shops, played mini-golf, went antiquing, and had a huge supper.

It was so nice to finally have some fun time together. On the ride home, we started talking about Doc and his life model. This led us to, once again. talking about our desire to be parents and the kind of parents we want to be.

It didn’t take long for the hopefulness and excited-ness in the conversation to be replaced by the giant, oppressive feeling of being STUCK. How? We were plagued by that question. It was impossible, we concluded. If we couldn’t be the kind of parents we wanted to be – the kind of parents we felt God was preparing us to be – then we didn’t want to be parents at all. The tentative hopeless conclusion we came to – the lowest point – was that, despite our desire and our feeling of being molded into Christ-centered parents, maybe it just wasn’t in God’s plan for us to have children. It hurt, but we couldn’t see anything beyond it. It left us – especially me – with a desperate, giving-up feeling. It was sad, and that’s all I can say about that.
_______

During this time, we were living with our best friends, Shaun and danae. We were living at their house because danae and I (and the boys) had a mentoring relationship with a young girl whose life has been so hard – so the opposite of mine. At that time, she was 19 and her own harmful and poor choices (and the consequences from them) were piling up on the effects of others’ victimizing choices against her in her past. Earlier in the year, in the course of meeting and studying with her, we were led to a painful realization that we had to step away.

You see, in the spring of 2010, danae and I had baptized her. We are both confident that she knew – at the very least – that putting on Christ in baptism was more than just receiving salvation. It’s a commitment and it requires change – radical change. She knew that and she knew that the change wouldn’t be easy. But, she also knew that change would be more than worth it. She had experienced the transformative love of Christ. She wanted it.

Fast-forward to January of 2011. The bad choices were mounding up. It wasn’t just poor, un-Christlike choices (that were quite literally killing her) – it was an attitude of justification, rationalization, and minimalization. She oozed an attitude of “I and I alone can determine what is right and good. God’s got nothing on me.”

Since she had put on Christ and become our sister, we had a very real and very hard call to hold her accountable to the identity in Christ that she had put on in baptism. After weeks of joint and individual study and prayer, danae and I agreed: it was time to walk away. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We asked her to choose – Christ or the world. We made it clear that we were choosing to stand with Christ and that if she chose her own way over Him, she was leaving us behind, too.

She walked.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – did I mention that?

It was bitterly heartbreaking to see someone you love deny Christ… How do parents who’ve seen their children turn away from God go on living?! It hurt bad enough to lead me question if I’d ever be able to have children because the very real risk that they might not choose Christ seemed so heavy. I was sure that if it were my daughter who had walked out of the room that evening, I would have, at the very least, torn my clothes and my hair in anguish. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – I can’t say that enough.

In the midst of that pain, the Spirit laid a truth on my heart. She had never had the benefit of living in a safe, God-glorifying home. She had no context for what living for Christ in a “normal” home would look like. She needed that kind of life modeled for her in a radical way. She needed someone to take her in – and really – more than just one someone.

I knew then, as I know now, that this truth came form the Spirit because I would never ever choose to give up my privacy and home life. But I knew in my heart it was right.

I shared it with danae and we agreed that if she were ever to come back – to choose God – we would ask her to move in to one of our homes and the five of us – Shaun and danae, Jeffrey and I, and her – would work together and live together in a way that strove to honor Christ. It took serious resolve and really the Spirit to keep us from running after her and offering this new solution. But we knew that if we did and she came back, she’d be choosing us and not God. She had to choose God.

Some more fast-forwarding – – like a couple of months. She came back. She chose God. Her own choices had led her perilously close to death, and she awoke to her need for God.

So, that weekend, Jeffrey and I moved into Shaun and danae’s. I mean, we really moved. We brought our pets, our king-sized bed, and our refrigerator. We didn’t know how long it would last – we’d agreed not to put a time-limit on it. We just wanted to let God work through us.

I have so much more to say about that time that we lived there – it ended up being about 10 weeks. But that’s not the part of our story I feel compelled to tell you right now. Just know that God worked in mighty ways.

It was hard.

But it was good.

There were times that were even great.

Maybe I’ll tell you more about it some day. Probably, even. It is a big part of our story.

Anyway – – all that to say, we were living with Shaun and danae. While our grass was growing high (high enough that once we even got an official warning citation from the city), we were five minutes away at their casa.

Why do I tell you that? It’s part of how God was working in our journey toward parenthood.
_______

Most people who know danae and I think we are about the most ridiculously over-the-top best friends they’ve ever heard of. Our husbands even think so. But don’t let Jeffrey and Shaun fool you. They can be just as bad – sometimes worse. Jeffrey was, as I’ve said, doing his 14-hour-a-day, 400-mile “local” trucking gig during the time we were living with Shaun and danae and so he was getting home super late. What he needed to do when he got home was gulp down some supper, take a quick shower, and come to bed. Instead, he and Shaun would stand (why do men always stand?) in the kitchen and talk for. ev. er.

At first, it was kind of funny. Then, as I started to see that it wasn’t getting any better and Jeffrey was getting progressively less sleep, I had to start setting a timer for them on the stove each night. Ridiculous!

One result of all that male-bonding is that Shuan really began to understand Jeffrey’s job and the way it affects our lives in a way that none of our other friends have ever been able to. It’s one thing for us to explain that Jeffrey had to get up super early (before me) and get home super late (often after I’d gone to bed). We could tell you that he was running on barely 2 REM cycles of sleep a night and that his weekends were spent lying under a truck or under a mountain of paperwork. But until you see someone live that life day after day and night after impossibly-short night, you can’t really understand.

Shaun (and danae) did see it. Shaun came to understand our feeling of being stuck. Jeffrey shared with him our frustrations with how we wanted a family and a family-life centered on Christ – how we longed for it – but how we felt absolutely trapped by seemingly insurmountable circumstances. He came to understand and he – like any brother – started to look for a way to help untrap us.

Shaun is a “dirt doctor” – an agronomist at Purdue who specializes in studying soybeans. Part of the reason why he and Jeffrey hit it off so well as friends is that they have eerily similar backgrounds. Shaun grew up on his family’s farm in rural Illinois and has the same indefatigable work ethic and commitment to doing things the right way the first time that was ingrained in my sweet husband in his upbringing on his family’s farm in rural Indiana. They both love farming and growing things. Shaun translated his love into a career in crop research in which is absolutely shining. He and danae like to joke that he is “outstanding [out standing] in his field,” but he seriously is. He does great work and is already  – at this early stage of his career – in high demand as a researcher and expert.

Shaun’s counterpart in the Botany and Plant Pathology Department is another bright, young PhD who is absolutely taking her field, crop diseases, by storm (I promise I’m almost out of agriculture puns). She had been looking, unsuccessfully, for a new research assistant for quite some time. But you see, at just the right time (don’t you love how God works?), Shaun came to understand that 1) Jeffrey needed a new career and we needed a way out of our stuckness and 2) Jeffrey would be the perfect fit for his counterpart’s research assistant position.

Shaun told Jeffrey about the job and that weekend Jeffrey and I sat down together to write a résumé. Now, on paper, Jeffrey was not qualified for this job because he didn’t have a piece of paper with his name and the words “Bachelor’s of Science in Agronomy (or a related field)” on it. But, Shaun had talked to his fellow researcher about Jeffrey and he assured us that Jeffrey would be more than qualified for the demands of the job and strongly encouraged him to throw his name in the hat. So, he did!

As we knew would be the case, Jeffrey did not meet the qualifications for the position. However, the researcher was so impressed with his application that she went to HR to re-write the job requirements so that “equivalent experience” could now stand in for the degree!

We re-wrote Jeffrey’s résumé to be more descriptive of his farm experience and re-submitted his application. Next, came his interview. Despite his nerves, he did beautifully. Then, on my birthday (June 3), Jeffrey logged his last day as a truck driver. We found out that he got the job and that he’d start on June 23rd, so he hauled his last load and parked the truck. We didn’t want to risk a major breakdown and tow/repair bill to go with it (that was a threat that always loomed dark and heavy above us), so Jeffrey settled in for a much deserved 3-week hiatus from work while he was between jobs.

Did you read that?! He got the job! He’d be paid essentially what he made as a truck driver after taxes and expenses, plus he’d get awesome Purdue benefits (we’d never had benefits before… self-employed = self-Insured = paying almost a mortgage payment each month to insure two healthy, non-smoking young adults), minus the tremendous overhead and risk of owning and operating a semi truck. WOW!
____

Have you ever just been overwhelmed to the point of disbelief at how God blesses you? We have. Seriously. I’ve often said that I couldn’t have scripted a better job hunt/job procurement/job for my sweet husband. And believe me, I’ve tried.

You see, I’ve always been proud of Jeffrey. You won’t find a harder or smarter worker anywhere. On top of that, I knew when I married him that I was marrying a truck driver and since we’d be dating for 4 years before we married, I knew the kind of life that entailed. Furthermore, I knew that Jeffrey not only excelled at his job, he enjoyed it. However, as our marriage progressed and that “stuck” feeling with regard to Jeffrey’s career really sunk in for both of us, I started to really long for something different for us, and Jeffrey did, too.

We felt like we were at the bottom and we were stuck there and at just the right time God completely blew us away.

Now, the job and the positive lifestyle changes that it would mean were blessings by themselves. But, put that in the context of our desire to be parents, and we were just absolutely over the moon. We felt like we finally could see God’s plan. He was growing this desire in us to be God-honoring, Christ-modeling parents, even in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances. And then, once again, He proved that nothing is impossible for Him and He completely changed our circumstances. We were sure that it was God’s plan for us to be parents and to be parents soon.

Did I forget to mention another reason we thought that? On May 5, I found out that I was pregnant.

Tell me. What would you have thought? Would you not have been so aware of being overwhelmingly blessed? Would you not have thought that God’s plan was coming together before your eyes in a way that just absolutely floored you? We weren’t trying to get pregnant, but suddenly, in the midst of a promising job search process that led to an exciting new career for Jeffrey, we were. Jeffrey would start his new job on June 23rd and our baby was due January 8, 2012.

Everything was good (I mean like Garden of Eden good) and wonderful on June 3 (Happy 25th Birthday to me!).

And on June 4.

And on June 5.

And on June 6.
_____

Then came June 7, 2011. Our third anniversary. I was just getting used to the fact that it was a Tuesday and Jeffrey was still there when I woke up (remember – the truck was parked for good!) when I realized what woke me up.

Cramping.

Panicked, I ran to the restroom.

Spotting.

Time stopped. I knew. This wasn’t good.

I told Jeffrey. I wasn’t crying, but I was trying desperately to control the doomed panic in my heart and voice. There really was no disguising my panic, though.

He was wonderful, but calm. He said to call the doctor.

The doctor’s office wasn’t open yet.

Instead, I shot an email to the director of the Foundation for which I worked and told her that I wasn’t feeling well and was waiting to hear from the doctor, so I wouldn’t be in today. I told her I’d work from home.

I sat on the couch and started to work.

And then I started to search, frantically, for if my symptoms could possibly be normal and OK. I knew in my bones that it wasn’t OK, though.

Eight o’clock came. I called the doctor. They could see me at 3 p.m.

3 p.m.?! Didn’t they know my world was spinning out of control?

In an attempt to distract myself, I worked frantically on work all day. I didn’t leave the couch. The lines of worry didn’t leave my face. My face was so tired of displaying my worry that I started to get a headache from my brow being scrunched for so long.

I tried praying while I worked, but I didn’t have words. I just finally said, “You know my heart. Hear it! Listen to my hurt! Don’t let the hurt be real! Take it away!” That’s all I could pray.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey was still being the picture of calm. He did his own searches and assured me that this could be normal. I was early in the pregnancy – about 10 weeks. This could just be some residual effect of implantation. It happens all the time.

Bless him. But my forehead was still furrowed.

Finally it was time to go to the doctor. We got in the pick up truck and Jeffrey drove me to the doctor’s office where, just a couple of weeks earlier, we had gone for our exciting first OB appointment where a nurse couldn’t get over just how healthy each of us was, and our healthy family histories. What a healthy baby we’d have!

This time, not so exciting.

The same nurse showed appropriate concern over my symptoms, but echoed what Jeffrey said that this could be totally normal. Then, the same CNP who had congratulated us days earlier came in to examine me. “I think everything here is good,” she’d assured us. “But, let’s get an ultrasound just to check.”

There was a glimmer of hope, then. We were to go straight over to the the other OB/GYN location to get an ultrasound. On the way over I even thought, “Maybe this is OK. In fact, maybe it’s great! Maybe all that worry will have been for naught and our anniversary gift will be that we get to see our sweet little baby for the first time!” I thought that, but deep down I still knew. Somehow, I just knew.

The ultrasound. I was 10 weeks. The baby measured about seven and a half weeks. There’s where the beating heart “should be.” It’s not there.

The ultrasound tech, who was wonderfully sweet, said with a broken heart that showed on her face that, legally, she couldn’t give me a diagnosis. I’d have to wait and talk to the CNP. Could we wait across the hall? Sure. We didn’t talk. I couldn’t, or I’d fall apart.

I felt bad for her, the ultrasound tech. Why should she have to be involved with our pain? After all, she was so nice.

We came back into the ultrasound room where the CNP was on the phone. “I’m sorry,” she said.

Sorry? Why did she have anything to be sorry for? I listened to her tell me what I already knew and then new information. I’d need to get a shot, since I’m RH Negative. The next few days would be like a period. If it gets worse than that, I should go to the hospital, but I should be fine.

I got a shot. I still couldn’t talk, but I couldn’t hold out much longer. I had started to silently cry and I could feel that more than silent tears were coming. Grief and anger. It had me by the throat. Soon it would be so tight that I couldn’t stop it.

I got my shot. We left. I made it to the truck. That was it.

The way home. The next several hours. There was nothing that poor Jeffrey could do. I couldn’t be helped.

I was so angry! People do drugs, have babies, and leave them in dumpsters! It’s not right! Teenagers climb into the backs of cars and get pregnant and they get to have their babies! It’s not fair!

I was so angry! What on earth? How had God let this happen? He had just taken us from such a dark, hopeless, stuck place when it came to the prospect of being parents to a brighter and more amazing place than we thought possible. How could He have let this happen to us? How could have let us fall further down in the pit than we were before?

Nothing made sense. I hurt so badly. I was already hurting because I could see that Jeffrey was hurting differently than I was. He was hurt. He was sad. I was crushed. I was broken.
_________

The next morning, it was different. The world, I mean. The world was different. The hope that had been there on my birthday was gone. It had been chased away by the hurt that found us on our anniversary.

We told our families. I don’t remember how. I think an email. I think in the email we put something like, “We don’t want to talk about it, we just needed to tell you.”

Then, we told six of our closest friends. We told them because we couldn’t carry it and we needed them to carry it for us. We told them because we needed them to pray for us when we couldn’t pray, not with words anyway. I think the Spirit led us to tell these three couples. They were the right people to be going before the throne on our behalf, which we came to see very quickly.

I don’t remember much about that day, Wednesday. I remember I called in sick to work. I couldn’t deal with work yet. I remember that I sat on the porch and watched Jeffrey work in the front flower bed. I remember that we decided that we needed to get away from our house and just leave. I remember that we booked a campsite in Wisconsin for the weekend. That’s it. I mean, I remember that the world was different.

Thursday, I went to work for the first half of the day. There was a conference being held on campus and I was to staff a booth in the exhibit room for my Foundation, so I went to do that. I put on my good face. I interacted with passersby – all women, all elderly, all matronly – with charm and grace. I remember thinking, “I’m miscarrying. Right now. While I’m talking to these people. They have no idea.”

That was the first moment since the no-heartbeat that I wasn’t selfish. That moment when I realized that the people around me had no idea that I was going through one of the hardest things in my life right at that very moment. That was the moment that I realized that the same could be true of anyone around me. I never know what’s going on with people around me. Not really.

That was the first moment that I realized that on Tuesday afternoon, I had entered the ranks of countless other women in my acquaintance and women I’ll never meet. I had a (then) silent pain. What is it about miscarriage that leads people to keep it to themselves? Why was it my natural reaction? Why did I even tell my family, “We don’t want to talk about it. We’re just letting you know?” I guess I knew a few people who had miscarried. But, for the most part, I realized that it’s something that people don’t talk about.

It’s isolating. I don’t know what “it” is though. Is it miscarriage itself that’s isolating? Is it the fact that people aren’t open about miscarriage that’s isolating? Is it the fact that it’s called a “miscarriage” like I made a mistake and did something wrong? Standing there in that tiny ballroom with old women all around me collecting stickers, ink pens, and other tchotchkes from every booth they passed, that was the first moment I realized that something was wrong with the way we, as a church, cared for each other or maybe the way we don’t trust each other to care for us. That’s what’s isolating. We’re supposed to be in community. Not just when things are good, but all the time.

I came home from my half day of work in a bit of better place. I think it’s because I stopped just focusing on my own pain when it hit me that people all around me could be in pain and I wouldn’t ever know. I’d just go on collecting my tchotchkes and smiling with them.

I also came home to BBQ from South Street Smokehouse that one of our friends – one of our prayer team friends – had brought for Jeffrey and I for lunch. Food really does help sometimes – especially brisket.
________

The next day started out differently, better. We packed up our camping supplies, dropped our dog, Lucy, off at Shaun and danae’s, got groceries for the weekend, and got ready to go north to Wisconsin. We decided that we’d avoid Chicago traffic by going west through rural Illinois and up I-39 through Rockford. We stopped for gas and ice on our way out of West Lafayette. While Jeffrey started packing ice into the coolers, I started to have some really bad cramping. I thought it was just part of the whole medical situation and that it would pass. I was focused on getting to the campground – I was ready to be there.

As we kept heading west towards Illinois, the cramping didn’t get better – it got worse. In fact, cramping doesn’t even sound like the right term. I felt like I was being stabbed and sliced. Still, I was determined to not let this spoil our weekend. It couldn’t go on forever, right?

We crossed into Illinois and as we entered the first town – Watseka – I told Jeffrey that we better stop somewhere. We stopped at a dinky little gas station. I went inside and I was not prepared. I don’t want to get too graphic here, but now instead of just feeling like I was being stabbed, I was bleeding like I had been stabbed. I went back out to the truck and told Jeffrey that we should call the OB on call from the practice I went to and ask what to do. I was starting to get worried. We tried calling the OB, but he or she didn’t pick up. The switchboard operator paged the OB with our phone number to call us. We waited. And waited. We never got called. Meanwhile, nothing was improving. I told Jeffrey that I needed to get to a hospital. He asked if I wanted to go back to Lafayette. We were only about an hour or so away. I told him that I needed the nearest hospital… now. Jeffrey went inside to ask the cashier if there was a hospital nearby. Thankfully, there was one there in Watseka, just a few blocks away via a route that was highlighted on a big map behind the counter.

At this point, I was nervous. I didn’t really know what was happening. We were going to a tiny hospital in a tiny town. Stress level was going up.

We got to the ER and all I’m going to say is that God’s ways are bigger than ours. There are top-notch, state-of-the-art hospitals in Lafayette and I trust the doctors, nurses, and technologies available here. However, when it was all said and done, I’m glad I wasn’t in Lafayette. We were at the right hospital with the right nurses to care for me.

Things didn’t all go smoothly (at all!) as soon as we got to the hospital, but the ER nurse was wonderful. I can’t say enough about her. Well into the night, I was teetering on the edge of needing a blood transfusion, emergency surgery, or both. But, she was exactly the right person to be the primary caregiver for me (and Jeffrey) during that time. She joked around with us a LOT which calmed us when we first got there and kept me in good spirits the rest of the night. When she needed to be, she was gentle, reassuring, and nurturing. I ended up having to stay the night so that they could monitor my blood count and so that I could be seen by the OB in the morning. Because of her (and I’m an awful person for not being able to remember her name anymore), I was OK with it. Even though her shift was over, she personally moved me from the ER to a patient room. Before she moved me, she called around to other nurses in the hospital to see where the emptiest and quietest hall was that night. She pulled some strings for me to get a room on a quiet hall with the nurses that she knew and trusted best. She also broke protocol and had an extra bed brought into my room so that Jeffrey could stay with me. Even though it was almost midnight, she let Jeffrey leave the hospital to go to McDonalds (the hospital cafeteria was closed) to bring us back supper since we hadn’t eaten for almost 12 hours. She made sure Jeffrey was able to get back in and get back to my room.

We’ve had a couple of experiences with Jeffrey being in the hospital or having surgery here in Lafayette and the nurses here were wonderful. However, they never treated Jeffrey like he was their only patient, because he wasn’t. We were in the right place. There were others who came into the ER in Watseka that night, but our nurse stayed with us and had other people care for the other patients. We were in the right place. God put us in the right place. You see, at just the right time…

As if that wonderful nurse wasn’t enough, we were also blessed with a great OB. Around 11 a.m. the next day, she finally came in to see me. She went over all my test results (I woke several times during the night to find someone with a needle in my arm getting more blood) from the night, but then, she talked to us. I mean she really talked to us. I hadn’t had a chance to see my OB since that awful ultrasound on Tuesday, and so no one had really talked to us yet about what happened. This doctor did. But not just that, without us having to ask, she anticipated the unspoken questions and longings. Why? How? What if? She covered them all. She was a mother, but her first pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage. She said that even though she was a doctor and “understood” it, she still didn’t understand it as a patient. That perspective helped her help others – helped her help us.

When the doctor left the room and we were left to wait for the discharge nurse, it really hit us how blessed we were to be in this tiny, outdated hospital in Watseka, Illinois that looked like hospitals you’d see in a movie from 20 years ago. God carried us there.

_____________

You probably think we left the hospital and went home. You may not know us as well as you think you do.

We left home to go camping, and we weren’t going to go home until we went camping. Jeffrey left it up to me, but I was bound and determined to spend time camping and spend time away from home. We called the campground and explained our situation and they promised to hold our spot. We had about a six-hour trip ahead of us.

We got to the campsite and it was late – like 11 p.m. or so. There was a light rain falling and, since I was still incredibly weak, sweet Jeffrey had to set up camp by himself. He got us set up and we went to sleep. Better than that – we went to rest. The whole weekend was rest. The sweet kind of rest that God promises. The rest that comes with the peace that passes understanding.

That camping trip was the first time Jeffrey and I had “gotten away” since our honeymoon. It was an unexpected trip under awful circumstances and it was a gift. At one point in the weekend, I started to feel guilty. What did it say about me that I was so relaxed and having such a wonderful weekend when I had just found out that we had lost a baby? Was I a terrible person for enjoying myself when I should be miserable? Then I realized – well God reminded me – that we had asked people that we loved and trusted to pray for us. To pray for healing. We had asked them to call upon God’s promises of rest and peace. And I know they were doing that for us. While we were in the hospital. While Jeffrey was setting up camp in the rain in the dark. While we were resting away from phones and our house and everything. They were praying for us. Beyond that, God was caring for us as He always had. He was hurting with our hurts and healing as only he knew how.

I wasn’t a terrible person for not being miserable when I was “supposed” to be miserable because I wasn’t supposed to be miserable. I was supposed to be grateful to the One who was there with us. And I was.
___________________

If you have had experience with miscarriage, you may be thinking that I got off easy. I did have to go through a period of grief. It came several months later and it was hard. It was hard for me. It was hard for Jeffrey. I had to deal with things that God allowed me to skip initially. I knew I’d eventually have to work through them, and I did. And it stunk. And, to some degree, some of that hurt is still with me and I think it will always be with me. This world has hurts – hurts that don’t make sense.

Now that we’re so close to holding our first child, we have a new perspective on the miscarriage. We can see how there are good things, not really silver linings, but good things. We can see how the job I had last year would have been a terrible job to have with a new baby (I mean, it was already pretty terrible on its own). We can see how we would have struggled with medical bills since my pregnancy had started before Jeffrey started at Purdue and therefore would not have been covered by his insurance. We can even see how God grew our faiths and our marriage through the experience and pain. We can see how, since I got pregnant this time near the end of November and the due date for my first pregnancy was in January, if that first baby had been viable, we wouldn’t ever get to meet this sweet little baby who wiggles when I eat chocolate, gets frustrated and tries to break her way out when she gets the hiccups (which is frequently), and who likes to stick her little baby booty out near my ribs when I’m relaxed.

We can see the good. We can see how God carried us – from those first days when the world was so different so quickly, through the wrestling matches with pain months later, and through a healthy and relatively easy pregnancy. We can see the good. But that still doesn’t mean that we’re glad it happened. It still doesn’t mean that we understand. There’s still the hurt of never getting to meet our first baby. Never knowing if that baby was a boy or a girl. Never knowing who he or she would have looked like or grown up to be and do. There’s still that hurt.

But that hurt has helped shape us. I said at the beginning of this post (dear longsuffering reader of this ridiculously long post, can you remember that far back?) that “For a long time, Jeffrey and I have felt like God has been preparing us for God-honoring parenthood.” Our miscarriage has become part of that preparation. We know that as parents, we’re not going to be perfect. We’re going to mess up. But we also know that God will be there to carry us and our sweet little girl through our mess-ups. We know that God has a purpose for our sweet baby. We know that He will work through us – mess-ups and all – to help her grow into the woman that He knows she can be. We’re so excited for that journey – and a little intimidated. But, if God can give us peace in a storm of pain that my heart screams that no one should ever have to endure, He can and will certainly continue to prepare and shape us for a journey of parenthood and family-hood that honors Him. That is our prayer. Please pray it with us and for us.

Grace and peace,

Rachel

The Whys and Goals (and meaning) of Dayenu

Welcome to Dayenu! At the beginning of any project, I think it’s important to set out goals and expectations, and so that is the purpose of this post. Also, if you’re wondering about the name of the blog, I’ll explain that, too.

<< The Whys and Goals of Dayenu: Sufficient >>

>> Why 1: I like to write. A lot. And, I think I have a few good things – maybe even worthwhile things –  to say every once in awhile.

Since I’ve finished my Master’s degree, I haven’t had to write and so, I haven’t written. I’d like to write again – especially now that I can write for fun, and not for an assignment (although I did have some fun writing assignments).

Writing makes me pay more attention to my life and approach it with more intentionality. Writing helps me see and remember where I’ve been and how God’s moved and is moving in my life. There’s also part of me that thinks that maybe other people (who knows, maybe even you) would want to read what I have to say (it wouldn’t be a blog if there wasn’t an element of narcissism, right?).

Goal 1: I aim write more frequently and not just write, but write in such a way that brings glory to God and points people toward Christ.

>> Why 2: We’re having a baby any day! Don’t you want to see adorable photos of her and videos of her doing super-cute stuff? Of course you do. Who wouldn’t?

Seriously though, my sweet husband, Jeffrey, and I have family and friends scattered far and wide whom we love and care about and who we know already love and care about our precious little girl. We want to help them watch our little “Baby Rave,” as we’ve affectionately called her for the last more-than-nine months, grow and change.

“Isn’t that what Facebook’s for?” you may ask. Well, we don’t really think so. See, we’re not such fans of Facebook. We’re both on Facebook and I am even what I would classify as an “active” Facebook user (Jeffrey, not so much). I like to be able to (at least sort of) keep in touch with people from my past who I don’t get to see much (or ever). I like to have the opportunity to (hopefully) offer a positive status that points to Christ. There are good things about Facebook.

But, we really don’t like the culture of stalking that Facebook has created. No offense if this describes you (no offense, but maybe a wake-up call?!) but if you’re someone with whom I had one class in college or a high school classmate to whom I really wasn’t that close in high school and haven’t talked to since we graduated eight years ago, I really don’t think that you need to be able to keep up with intimate details of my life. I especially don’t think that you need to be able to stalk my profile and see a million pictures of my baby. I want my close friends and family who want to be able to watch her grow via pictures to be able to do so. If you fall into the stalker category and want to watch my daughter grow, too bad. Get your own.

(I know what you’re thinking: why don’t I just unfriend people that I would be weirded out to learn are stalking my profile? Well, I’m lazy. Facebook no longer has an option to bulk delete people by checking a bunch of people and pressing “unfriend.” I don’t have the time and patience to seek out individuals’ profiles to unfriend them one at a time. Maybe someday I will, but it is not this day.)

On another note, I don’t really think Facebook is the appropriate venue for cataloging kids’ lives. When I log into Facebook, I don’t log in hoping to see the latest video of your toddler banging on your tupperware and I don’t assume that when you log in you’ll want to see similar posts from me. Furthermore, there are people for whom the constant barrage of pictures, status updates, and videos about their friends’ kids on Facebook can be hurtful. I know. I’ve fallen into that category. Last year, Jeffrey and I experienced a miscarriage (you can read more about that journey here) and, for a long time, Facebook was a source of painful reminders.

You see, when you’re in your mid-twenties, Facebook can sometimes feel like nothing more than a place for people to display ultrasound photos, complain about morning sickness, and show off the latest photos of their babies in quippy onesies. Until I was someone who was extremely sensitive to those posts, I never realized how insensitive those posts could be. You see, miscarriage and infertility are often struggles that people go through quietly. Often, only the closest friends of people dealing with these issues know how much they are hurting. So, you never know, really, who among your acquaintances might find your childbearing/childrearing-related posts to be isolating rather than endearing.

Like I said, I’ve never really thought that Facebook was an appropriate venue for chronicling one’s kids’ lives and, because of my experiences, I’m now hyper-aware of how it can even be an hurtful venue for such material. For my part, I want my Facebook friends who may be hurting on their journey to/through parenthood to be able to log in and see updates from me without feeling isolated from me or being reminded of their hurts. Jeffrey and I have tried to be very intentional about keeping the mentions of pregnancy to a bare minimum on our Facebook accounts. Our ultrasound pictures aren’t there; our maternity pictures (save two) aren’t there. We want to share these things with those we love who want to see them, who choose to see them. That’s what this blog is for.

Goal 2: Jeffrey and I aim to share updates about our family with our close family and friends.

<< What does the name of this blog mean? >>

This year, Jeffrey and I, along with three other couples, had the awesome opportunity to attend and participate in a traditional Messianic Jewish Passover Feast at the home of a wonderful couple in our church family. It was an incredible experience and celebration of God’s Great Story and overarching trajectory of delivering us as His people. We were blown away by connections in the Exodus to Christ’s journey on this earth and left that wonderful and joyful feast with a new appreciation for the breadth and depth of God’s wisdom and mercy. It would be well worth your time to research Passover in general, and especially the traditions in a Messianic Jewish Passover (that is, the Passover traditions of the religious movement that blends Christian Evangelical teachings with Jewish teachings). If you’re interested, I’d highly recommend spending the $5 to pick up a copy of this Messianic Jewish Haggadah (a guide to the Passover seder).

So what does that have to do with this blog? In the traditional Passover seder, there is a movement (that’s what I call it anyway – I feel like the seder is structured like its own symphony) called “Dayenu.” Dayenu is a Hebrew word that means, essentially, “it would have been sufficient.” The whole point of this movement is that God blessed the Israelites – and has blessed us – beyond what we need, beyond that which would have been sufficient. Check out the text from this movement below (it can be found on page 26 of the Haggadah that I mentioned above).

How great is God’s goodness to us! For each of His acts of mercy and kindness we declare dayenu – it would have been sufficient

    If the Lord had merely rescued us,

        but had not judged the Egyptians, Dayenu!

    If he had only destroyed their gods,

        but had not parted the Red Sea, Dayenu!

If he had only drowned our enemies,

        but had not fed us with manna, Dayenu!

If he had only led us through the desert,

        but had not given us the Sabbath, Dayenu!

If he had only given us the Torah,

       but not the land of Israel, Dayenu!

But the Holy One, blessed be he, provided all of these blessings for our ancestors. And not only these, but so many more.

Blessed are you, O God, for you have, in mercy, supplied all our needs. You have given us Messiah, forgiveness for sin, life abundant and life everlasting. Hallelujah!

Take a moment and think about what it would mean to have an attitude and perspective of dayenu in your everyday life. It’s life-altering, isn’t it?! To approach each day – and, more importantly, each difficulty – with an attitude of “If God had only done _________ and not also ______________, it would have been sufficient.”

If God had only blessed me with a health and not also my family, dayenu.

If God had only blessed me with necessities and not also luxuries and conveniences, dayenu.

With an attitude of dayenu, suddenly I see much more of my life in the extraordinary light of God’s blessings than I did before. Things that I used to take for granted as “mine,” I now can’t help but see as extravagant and undeserved blessings from the Holy One.

I named this blog Dayenu: Sufficient to help remind myself of how inordinately blessed I am by God in His mercy and how, although I could never repay even a portion of His goodness, I owe Him my thoughts, my heart, my life, my everything. I want to be a willing and eager captive of Christ, but I’m not so great at being that on a regular basis. It is my hope and prayer that this blog can be a tool to help me grow in an attitude of dayenu and a life of praise and sacrifice to God.

Grace and peace to you,

Rachel

…look at their faces

Note: This is a post I moved over from an old blog that, honestly, I forgot that I started. I remember now that I started it because of what had happened to me that week. It was a convicting week. Re-reading this post reminded me of some important heart-lessons God had for me. I’m glad He’s reminded me again. And again, I’m convicted. I’m convicted that I didn’t follow-through with the blog this came from and the goals that I had for it. I’m mostly convicted that I don’t live convicted by these heart-lessons each day. Let’s help each other stay convicted, eh? God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

 

August 27, 2010: Have you ever prayed something with the hope – the confident expectation – that God would really answer you? I think most of the time I pray with a vague sense of God answering my prayers, but mostly I’m just praying because prayer is important, so I do it. I don’t know how else to explain it except to say that when I’m paying attention (or when God demands my attention, as in the following examples) and I see God’s answers to my prayers, I’m always surprised. That’s the case with my prayers and my week this week.

A new school year started on Monday and I’ve been praying earnestly (but maybe not expectantly) that God would really use me this year. I’ve been praying for God to show me how to stand out and to make a difference. As a graduate student in a large department on Purdue’s campus and a teaching assistant, I’m in close contact with a ton of people, and so I’ve been praying that God would help me see how I can have a kingdom-impact on the people around me. It’s a good prayer, so I’ve been praying it.

God’s answering me.

Here’s how God answered me on Monday: I felt His love. Monday was an excellent day. I was super productive. I met my totally great honors students. I went to one of my classes and it looks like it’s going to be great (so I’m a nerd). I met a great new master’s student with a passionate heart for God and we chatted for like half an hour after class. (2013 Note: Hey, Beth W. That’s you! We met on August 23! Let’s make it a friend holiday each year!) On the way home, the big moon was a powerful and gorgeous reminder that, even with all of the other people in the world, my life, joys, and worries are personal concerns of God. I got home and talked my poor, exhausted (but incredibly patient) husband’s ears off while I shared my joy in feeling God’s love that day.

Here’s how God answered me on Tuesday: I felt His pain. Tuesday was a rough day, because Tuesday was the day that I started to see the shape that God’s answer to my prayers to make a difference would take. It was a thoroughly convicting day, and those days are never easy (but always good). On Tuesday, I was sitting in my office before the class I teach and I was checking my Facebook page. At the top of the newsfeed was a status update from one of the other students in my department. That student was, essentially, commenting on how utterly disgusting it was to be in the Union and hear someone talking to some international students about how he could help them with their English by talking to them about Jesus and how they didn’t have to worry because he wasn’t one of those obnoxious Christians. Several of the comments on this student’s post (there were a lot of comments) were from other students in the department, all expressing their similar disgust (there really is no better word to sum up their reactions) with the situation. Here were my reactions in chronological order:

  1. Anger. How could these people who pride themselves on their openness to ideas and the broadness of their minds be so closed-minded and judgmental? You can’t call yourself open-minded and then categorically dismiss anything that smacks of Christianity.
  2. Sadness. If this was the reaction of my fellow students to anything related to Christianity, I would assume there must be reason. Either a) someone acting in the name of Christ had been very unChristlike to or near these individuals or b) they’ve bought into the nasty, highly-politicized, unChristlike image of Christianity so often displayed in the media and by people loudly claiming Christ and acting unChristlike.
  3. Bitterness. I don’t want to be lumped in with that media image of Christianity.
  4. Extreme sadness. God loves these students. God longs for their hearts to long for Him.
  5. Suffocating, life-changing conviction. God’s Word says that, ultimately, all will be “without excuse” when it comes to our final judgment because God has been clearly seen since the beginning of time. It hit me with a conviction that can only come from God that one of the ways that God and His Divine Loving Nature is (or should be) seen is through His people. Through me. I was instantly taken back to a conversation that Jeffrey and I had had several weeks ago about images of judgment in the end of Revelation. In revelation 20, John the revelator (for all my choir friends, now you can have that song stuck in your head all day just like me) sees the judgment of the dead. He sees it. He sees those whose names are not down in the Book of Life thrown into the lake of fire. He sees it. Can you imagine? Jeffrey had been listening to a preacher go through the imagery in revelation in a series and the preacher got to this part and made a point that I had never really thought about (honestly, I’ve never really thought about the end times much at all) – can you imagine the weeping and wailing as people watch others they knew and loved on earth whose names are not in the Book of Life become eternally separated from God? We may sing that there are “no tears in heaven fair,” (yet another song to get stuck in your head) but in Revelation 21, we read that God will wipe all the tears from the eyes of those who dwell in the New Jerusalem, which of course implies that were tears to wipe. I know I’ll be sobbing. Sobbying with grief for others I know. Sobbing with bitter regret as I recall times I could have done something else to show that person the love of Christ, and didn’t. It’s a sobering thought to think that, even in the joy of standing with Christ on that day, I will be there to see the people I’ve seen, known, and loved sent to eternal separation. There are no words for the thought that if I had only relied more on the Spirit’s guidance, or gotten out of my comfort zone and spread God’s love more openly, if I had only made other people uncomfortable and broken social patterns and been more bold for Christ while I was here and had the countless opportunities to do so, that those people might have made choices that would bring their hearts to God, instead of separating their hearts from the Father. There really are no words.

Needless to say, that conviction and those thoughts did not make for a very easy rest of the day on Tuesday. I lost count of the times that tears welled up in my eyes as I looked at those around me. I looked at their faces. I saw them. I looked at their faces and I saw their souls. I got a miniscule taste of the unfathomable pain that God must feel when people – His people – choose to harden their hearts to His pleas. The pain He must feel when we choose not to embrace the lives He intended for us. I looked at their faces and was completely overwhelmed  by a love for them when I realized that it would destroy me to see any of them be separated from the Father on judgment day. how could I not weep to think that, had I not been cowardly, they might have seen more of God and then chosen God. I was overwhelmed with the conviction (not the realization, because this thought had occurred to me several times before, I just chose not to let it reach my heart) that my everyday life is my mission field. I was overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed.

But being broken and being convicted so powerfully by the Spirit can’t be a bad thing. A scary thing, sure, but not a bad thing.

Here are the conclusions (so far) that I’ve come to as a result of God answering my prayers by breaking my heart:

  1. I need to stop being a comfortable christian. A comfortable christian is OK with just being an admirer, and not a follower of Jesus. (Not my distinction – but Clarence Jordan’s. Check out this lecture series based on Mere Discipleship by Lee C. Camp, when you get a chance. [Or, just read Mere Discipleship.] Also, check out this interview with Dr. Camp.) I don’t want to be that. A comfortable christian doesn’t make other people uncomfortable with her Christianity. I don’t want to be comfortable.

    I need to be bolder, more Spirit-led (instead of society-led), and less cowardly. In revelation 21, when God is talking to John about His offer of water from the Spring of Life for those who are thirsty and who “overcome,” He also mentions those who, presumably, didn’t overcome and are to experience the “second death.” The first group of people who He mentions who will experience the second death are “the cowardly.” He says “the cowardly” before he says “the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars.” I don’t want to be cowardly. I don’t want to put my fears (of social rejection, of being ostracized, of being mocked… whatever) before my love and life for God. As my wonderful dear friend danae put it, how wasteful fear – apart from the fear of God – is! The fear of God leads to love and abundant life in God. The fear of anything else only leads me away from (capital “L”) Life!

    Conclusion – I need to be more intentional about listening to the Spirit. I need to be more intentional about seeing the good works God’s prepared for me and for which He has equipped (and will continue to equip) me. Beyond that – I need to do what the Spirit leads me to do and go where He leads me to go. I need to do those good works and not just let them pass me by. I need to be more vocal and open about sharing my faith and the love of my Lord. It’s not enough to just avoid going to the non-God-glorifying activities that my fellow students plan and look forward to each week. That’s not sharing my faith; that’s just avoiding the hearts God is longing for.

  2. My biblical knowledge is sorely inadequate. When i’m in the Word, I devour it. I eat it. It becomes a part of me. But, that doesn’t really make that much of a difference since I’m so inconsistent about reading the Word.

    One of the first thoughts i had when i was overcome with conviction about my responsibility to share Christ’s love with the people around me this week was that I really needed comfort from God’s Word. I needed that reassurance from Him that He would guide me through sharing His love from others. I needed to turn to His Word, I just didn’t know where to look. I’m thankful for danae and the scriptures she shared with me from philipians 4:6-7 and ephesians 6:16-18. God provided comfort from His word through His daughter danae, but He also provided me with the gentle but firm reminder that I need to be in His Word more to so that I might be more familiar with it. So that I might be ready to offer comfort from His Word to others.

    Also, I was again struck by how important it is to have a intimate knowledge of scripture so that I may share it with others who don’t know Christ’s love and example. Shame on me for not being more disciplined in my reading and devouring of scripture so that I might be prepared to share it.

    Conclusion – I need to step it up and become more disciplined about learning God’s Word of Love.

So here’s why I’ve started this blog: (2013 note – The “this blog” I mention here no longer exists. However, I can certainly [and hope to] incorporate these goals into Dayenu Sufficient.)

  1. This blog can be a tool to bring glory to God by telling you (whoever “you” turn out to be) about His love, mercy, and his offer of Living Water to the thirsty.
  2. Having this blog can be a responsibility for me and a reminder. (2013 Note: Ouch. Obviously that that didn’t work out since this was the only post on that now-defunct blog.) If I approach my life each day looking for things to share with “you” about how God’s Love is working, it will help me to pay attention to God, His Love, His opportunities for good works, and His answers to prayers. He’s always loving, always setting good works out for me, and always answering the prayers of my heart. I’m just not always paying attention. I should pay attention.
  3. I hope this blog can keep me accountable to some degree by (2013 Note: Again. Ouch.)
    1. Those of you who read it keeping me honest and not letting me forget how I feel now – with my heart broken and convicted,
    2. Helping me to get into the Word more and then sharing with you how God is revealing Himself through it,
    3. And (as i mentioned in 2) helping me to pay attention to God in, around, and through me and others.

God broke my heart for Him this week. God called me to look at the people I see everyday and to see their faces. I pray (expectantly this time) that you’ll help me look at their faces and show them the love and peace of God that just don’t make any earthly sense. I pray that you’ll help me to not be a coward. I pray that you’ll help me grow. I pray that you’ll grow with me.

I pray that you and I both can be like Jesus. He saw the crowd that was around Him one day, and I think, instead of just seeing a crowd, He saw their faces. He looked at their faces and had compassion on them. He looked at their faces and showed them love. I pray that you and I can do the same.

May the grace and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you this day,

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