Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sugar Hates Me

I have a problem. I sugar problem. My body does not process sugar the way it was created to process it. I can eat a full, healthy meal and three hours later, my blood sugar is so low that I am shaking. It is very frustrating. Even when I am not pregnant, I cannot handle sugar normally. Being pregnant, the issue is more serious. I bottom out quicker.

I have been in denial about my problem. Somehow, I thought if I just ignored it... it would go away. So, I have been eating sugar. And white bread. And potatoes. And I have felt like crap. I kept hoping it would just get better. It is not getting better. The other day I had a snow cone and for the rest of the day I was Ms Crabby. I could not think clearly, and I just wanted to go to bed. It was not fun.

My mother is a diabetic. I am overweight. I love chocolate. All this zooms through my mind when people talk to me about my sugar problem. I do not want this to be my life. I do not want to be the obese diabetic who eats chocolate because she is too addicted to stop, even if it is hurting her body. But, the reality is I am that woman. I can change it from this point forward; but, today, I am obese and running quickly towards diabetes as I stuff my face with chocolate.

Do I have the strength to stop the cycle? Do I have the grace to surrender totally to the Lord and run to Him? I feel like my life is spinning towards the over-eating direction and it is out of control. God, please take the control back so I can live the life you created me to live!

I march onward, throwing out the ice cream in the freezer. Sigh. Here we go...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Letting It Go

Have you ever been hurt so terribly that it took you years to forgive and let it go? I have led a blessed life and have held very few grudges, but there was this one time..

Several years ago someone hurt my heart. She cut me deeply with her words and her attitude towards me. She brought pain to an already intense situation and I cuddled my woundings to myself.

Years later, I was still very angry and hurt. Talking about the situation would always bring all the pain up inside of me. Last fall, a friend told me I needed to ask God to heal my heart wounds from this battle inside.

I thought to myself, "if only she would apologize, then I would be ok." I began to dream of the things I would say to the heart-wounder. Of the apology I would evoke from her that would finally let my heart heal.

In the early months of 2008, I made the plunge and wrote this woman a letter. I told her how I had felt all those years ago and told her what she had done wrong to me. After a few days of no response, I called her with the confrontation. It was a difficult phone call and there was no resolution. The only conclusion we could come to was that we loved each other very much and that we had both been hurt by the swirl of words and attitudes.

I was shaking when I hung up the phone. My heart was not healed; I had just picked the scab. Finally, at a loss, I turned to the Great Healer for help.

"God, heal my heart." I sought Him.

"You have to forgive her," He gently said to me.

"But she did so much to me! She can't even remember what all she did!" I cried out in pain.

"Jessica, it doesn't matter what she did. She cannot heal you. You have to forgive her. You have to choose to forgive her and let it go."

Forgiving the person who hurt me was far from easy. After all, the wound festered for so many years. I even relished talking about how terribly I had been wounded. Jason bore the brunt of these conversations.

The pain and hurt weighed me down and I wanted to be free from it all. Forgiveness was my only way out. So, I forgave the woman who had cut me so deeply. I began to "let it go". All of the hurt. All of the pain. I asked God to come and heal my heart and to show me how to forgive.

From that moment on, whenever the old wounds would flare up inside me and my mind wanted to recount all the memories, I would stop and say, "No." I whisper to the unruly heart. "No. Remember, heart? I chose to forgive her. I love her. She loves me. God is the foundation of our friendship and we are going to be friends. I no longer blame her for my wounds. They belong to the Father of All."

I "drove a stake in the ground" that day of forgiveness. It is a stake to remind me that I chose to forgive this woman and charge no more to her account. When my flesh brings up the wound to my memory, I take my mind back to "the stake". "Oh yes, I already forgave her. Ok, we can move on."

I have learned that forgiveness is a choice. It brings healing to the wounded. All those years, I kept waiting on the person who hurt me to apologize. I just knew that would heal my heart. When her vague apology failed to bring me peace, I realized that only God can give peace. He is the The Healer. He is the only One who can give us the miraculous ability to truly forgive and lay it all at His feet. Praise Him!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Its Too Early For This

It is only ten o'clock in the morning, and it has already been "one of those days". I do not know if my kids are abnormally whiny and loud or if it is just my patience level that has gone awry.

I think my hard day started last night with this Momma going to bed after midnight. Sigh. I love having company, but it does put my bedtime much too late into the night. My darlings love the morning sun; I count myself blessed when I am still bundled inside my covers around 7am. My little Rose rises around 6am. Jason and I, being the smart parents we are, have blocked her bedroom exit with a trusty gate, forcing her to play quietly in her room until Momma has the energy to open her eyes.

I used to love the mornings. I guess I still do, but they do not feel as great. BK (Before Kids) I rose with the sun without any alarm bells ringing in my ears. I remember being pregnant with Isaiah, my oldest, and waking my sleepy husband up around 6am on Saturday mornings. The sunshine was announcing the beginning of a fresh, new day and I wanted in on it!

And now... The sun yells her early morning announcement and I pray my kids do not hear her shiney voice. We hang dark curtains over the windows to disguise her rays and trick my children into sleeping longer into the day.

When Momma has had a full nights sleep (read, Jason gets up with the kids) and my body does not feel drained by the growing up of the little guy inside my womb, I do enjoy the early morning sunshine. I think it is my exhaustion that weighs the daybreak down. I comfort myself with reminders that I will not always feel so tired. Someday, my kids will sleep all night long. Someday, I will not be weary from carrying a baby 24/7. Someday, I will look at the clock and think, "wow, ten o'clock already?" instead of "ugh! it's only ten o'clock!"

Finally, in the middle of the mayhem, I think to turn on Praise and Worship music. I tell Isaiah, "pray with me. Momma needs to talk to God."

He says, "Let's pray for those guys." He points to the CD Player.

"The guys singing the songs?"

He nods his head. And so we pray. I ask for grace and patience for my babies. I start to cry when I remember my earlier post on "unforced rhythms of grace". "God, help me find the unforced rhythms of grace!" I cry out to Him. Isaiah holds my hand. I thank God for my babies, naming each of them before the Father of all. Then, Isaiah and I pause for a minute.

"Can you read this to me," he interrupts the temporary silence. He holds up the book "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" in his little hands. We read the book and I can feel myself begin to relax.

The morning sun continues its faithful shining, but suddenly, it doesn't seem so annoying. It really is a good day. It will be ok. I can take a nap with the girls when they go down. Nothing wrong with napping through another round of Isaiah's movies. I feel myself falling, just a little bit, into a light rhythm of grace. Breathe in, breathe out.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Jesus says, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

-Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

Isn't that a great couple of verses?? I believe this is the commonly quoted, "Come to me all you who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest." I love how the Message speaks this passage. It writes to my heart.

I am tired and often feel "worn out". I need to be reminded to get away with the Lord. He promises to "recover" my life. I want Jesus to teach me what a real rest looks like. I have discovered I do not know how to rest without guilt. You already know I have issues asking for help. Resting is just as bad! If I am sitting down in the middle of the day and putting my feet up it is because someone (read Jason) has made me do it!

This week I talked with a friend about "Sabbath Rests" I need to learn how to rest. God rested after six days of creation. If the God of the universe sets the example of rest, shouldn't we follow suit? I plan to start "resting" more. I want to devote a whole day to a Sabbath Rest. Also, I want to not feel guilty about chilling out during the day. The dishes can wait an hour; the floor can be swept tomorrow. The kids love spending the day in their PJ's anyway; why bother changing their clothes! (Just kidding about that last one... ok,well, maybe on the Sabbath Rest Day.)

The verse says to "Walk with me... and watch how I do it." How does the Lord of lords do it? How did Jesus work his ministry? The Bible records Jesus taking time for himself (Matt 14:23, Mark 6:46) to pray. He was resting from the demands of his ministry so that he could be refreshed. That's how he "does it". Hmmm....

My favorite part of this selection is "unforced rhythms of grace". I like it so much, I might give a book the title someday. (Until then, I'll settle for using it to title this post.) What do "unforced rhythms of grace" look like? Perhaps it is the soft tapping of peace and compassion that is the background of our melody in Christ. The ebb and flow of life with Jesus Christ on the throne of our heart. I need to be reminded that the rhythms of grace should be "unforced". If I am living daily in the Word of God, daily (ok, minute by minute) seeking His face, my rhythms will be "unforced". Rhythms of grace with beat naturally within me, within the routines of my family, and throughout all my relationships. Yes, I want to learn this "unforced rhythm of grace".

Finally, Jesus promises that if we keep company with him, we will "learn to live freely and lightly". Ah. Praise God. We can learn! I am going to keep my eyes on Jesus. God has just recently began to give me a passion for His Word. Back in March, I prayed God would put in me a desire to read the Bible. In faith, I started reading it every day. Now, I really do LOVE it! I cannot get enough of the food I find within its' pages. I began with Acts and then James, but sometimes I find I just want to read about Jesus Christ, straight up, in the Gospels. He is the center of our beliefs. We cannot know the Father if we do not know Christ. Jesus promises here in Matthew 11, that if we spend time with him, we will learn how to live freely and lightly. Oh, yes, I want that!

The Girls Carrying Boys

The "Bentch Sisters" are pregnant at the same time!
I always dreamed of sharing a pregnancy with one of my sisters. It is so precious to share this miracle of life with my "baby sister", Sarah Joy.
Sarah is nine months pregnant, due August 15th with Emmanuel. I am six months pregnant, due October 29th with Samuel. Sarah will birth her baby in Wyoming and my son will be born here in Virginia. We are almost 2000 miles apart, but still sharing this journey of motherhood. Aren't we cute??

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's Only the World

'Cause it's only the world I'm living in.
It's only today I've been given.
There ain't no way I'm giving in
'Cause it's only the world.
I know the best is still yet to come
'Cause even when my days in the world are done
There's going to be so much more than only the world for me

-Mandisa, Album "True Beauty"

It's only the world, folks!! The weight is heavy sometimes and we forget how temporary this world really is for us. We are only here for a little while!

Sometimes I allow myself to slide into the muck and the mire of this world. I get covered in worry, fears, self-pity and selfishness. It feels awful. I start to wonder, "why am I so down?" I can't explain why I'm yelling at my kids and then crying in the kitchen. But, God is so good to us. He does not leave us in the mucky world to wallow around in the darkness. Psalm 3:3 says the Lord "lifts our head". He takes our eyes off the world and turns them to Himself.

Last week, after the move, I had "one of those days". I went grocery shopping (which really wears this pregnant momma OUT) only to return home to find my dear hubby still had not put away dinner's leftovers. I stomped around the kitchen, covering food and tossing it into the fridge. Then, that was it for me. Without talking to anyone, I called it a day and went upstairs. I was done.

In the shower, my mind swirled with images of the day. The dirty kitchen. The look on my husband's face when I caught him with my angry words. My children's faces. The boxes throughout my house. Anger pushed around my thoughts.

"God!" I cried out. "I'm tired of me!" I saw this image of my heart. There was a thistle patch growing in the corner of my heart.

"Lord, what are these thistles? Oh God, I'm tired of this Jessica. Empty me out so that I can be who you truly created me to be," I whispered to the rainy shower. I began to weep. I sat down at the back of the tub, the water washing around me, offering solitude and cleansing of more than my body. I bent over my pregnant belly and cried before my Lord.

"I am weary of this struggle between me and who you want me to be, God. I cannot empty me out without you. I cannot til the soil of my heart without your hand pushing the plow. God, oh my God."

In that shower, I pleaded with God to change me. I walk with Him daily; I'm in the Word every night, seeking His face. Yet, I continue to find more and more of the world's ickiness inside of me. I realized that night, that Jessica cannot take out the thistles in her heart. My job is to surrender my heart, every moment, to the Lord God Almighty so that He can change me from the inside.

Today, I am going to remember that "it's only the world we're living in". I will not let it drag me down into it's murkiness. Let us surrender our heart to the One who already knows our thoughts (Psalm 139). It just feels so good to let it go.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Birth Control Pill's Carnage

Is it still murder if you don't know you are committing it? Thousands of women in the USA commit murder every month and are unaware of the violence.

It is a harsh reality, but it's time we face the truth. The birth control pill does cause abortions. If you believe that life begins at conception, when the sperm meets the egg and the cells begin to divide, then you must accept that the pill causes the loss of that life.

The Pill works as a contraception by 1) preventing ovulation, 2) thickening the vaginal mucus, and 3) destroying the lining of the uterus. Most women are only informed that the pill will keep them from ovulating. However, sometimes, it does not. The back up change the pill causes is the thickening of the vaginal mucus. The millions of tiny sperm in semen prefer thin mucus to swim up into the uterus and conquer the ripe egg released by the woman. The pill causes the mucus to thicken, making it harder for the little guys to swim upstream. Just in case the first and second preventions do not come through, the pill causes the endometrium (the uterine lining) to become "un-inhabitable" for a fertilized egg. So, if the sperm makes it to the egg, and the egg is fertilized, an individual is formed. DNA is already there, creating life. When the fertilized egg, the living human, travels on down the fallopian tube and arrives in the uterus, it must implant in the lining to survive. If the mother is "on the pill", her uterine lining is ruined and she will be unable to maintain the pregnancy (in most circumstances). Because the endometrium is un-inhabitable due to the hormones the women is allowing to flood her body, it is an abortion. Whether she knows it or not. Murder is murder, right?

I know I covered this in another blog last month, but I want to re-iterate my stance. I firmly believe that the birth control pill causes abortions. I do not say this lightly. I know many Christian sisters in the Lord who ignorantly take the pill everyday, unaware of deaths they may be causing. It is not right that the medical community lies to women about the workings of the most popular form of birth control. I want to spread the word that life is being lost because of a pill full of hormones. Using contraception to prevent life is one thing, using a "contraceptive" to end life is quite another.

If these statements seem overly dramatic to you and you have a hard time buying my opinion, research what I'm writing for yourself. A good place to start is the following web page. http://www.epm.org/artman2/publish/prolife_birth_control_pill/A_Longer_Condensation_of_Does_The_Birth_Control_Pill_Cause_Abortions.shtml
According to this article, the FDA itself states that the pill causes the endometrium to be "un-inhabitable to a fertilized egg". This is a reality.

The site offers the most detail I have found concerning the pill. The author even has a short book all about the effects of the birth control pill. If you feel convicted that I am sharing the truth, please help me spread the word. Let's shout it from the rooftops. Or, at the very least, from our comfy couches when we are discussing these intimate matter with our girlfriends. Wouldn't you like to know the truth?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

We Still Remember

There's a little boy missing from his mother's arms today. He has been absent now for almost three months.

His mother was my dearest friend in college and now lives 1000 miles away. She was the first friend to love me as much, or more than, my family. She told me I was beautiful. We laid in the grass in the middle of the fields and told our deepest secrets to each other. We spent hours sipping lemonade and playing cards. Back in the day. Before credit card bills. Before husbands. Before babies. Before life scooped us up. Before life tore her heart in half.

She called to tell me she was pregnant again about just four months after her second daughter was born. We cried together over God's surprise gift to the young couple. She knew I would understand the mixture of happiness, surprise, and overwhelming feelings of an unexpected, yet accepted, pregnancy. Months later, she called again. There had been a sonogram with suspicious findings. Something might be wrong with the baby. We decided there was nothing to worry about. He was fine; not worth worrying. And we went on to talk about other things.

A few weeks flew past us and there was another phone call from my sweet friend.

"What's wrong?" I asked as soon as she said, "hello".

"There's something wrong with the baby," she whispered.

"You got the results back? What's wrong?"

She started to cry too hard to tell me anything more than, "Oh, I thought I'd waited long enough. I still can't talk..." And her cries continued. My heart ached. It burned. We had a whispered conversation about Trisomy 18. About a little baby boy who had a heart not put together quite right. A little boy that would die minutes after he was birthed into this world.

I researched Trisomy 18 and read story after story about death stealing babies from mother's arms. Every picture online seemed surreal. This could not be my friend's reality. Surely, a miracle would take place. Her baby would be the exception; he would live.

Little AJ lived eight minutes before slipping away to Heaven. His mother called me when she went into labor; I missed the call. I heard the voice mail the next day and called her at the hospital. Of course, he was gone by then. But, I listened to her story of birth. Of life. Of death. Of tiny fingers and toes and soft, black hair. Of heartache incomparable to any I have ever known.

She emailed me a montage of pictures. The first one of her big pregnant belly. Then her and her husband smiling; she was in labor. They looked like normal, expectant, happy parents. They were excited to see their son. Then his birth. His tiny body on her belly, wrapped in baby blankets. Momma holding him; Daddy holding him. Then Mommy crying over her still baby on her lap. Daddy bent over his son weeping over his delicate features. I have seen pictures of them releasing balloons in AJ's honor. Pictures of his grave. Pictures of a newborn in a coffin.

It is hard to read through this, isn't it? Hard to even think about, let alone let your mind go and embrace the reality of such a loss. I do not even know how to love my dear friend. I know she reads this blog; I want to tell his story, too. I want him to be remembered, too.

In honor of AJ, hug your children today. Tell them you love them. Count your blessings when they are running around in diapers screaming and crying. Their life is precious.

And, Autumn. I love you. I am deeply, deeply sorry for your great loss. You are my friend; I am aware of your struggle. I still whisper prayers heavenward for you and your family. I have not forgotten.

**Read more about AJ at his CaringBridge sight linked to my page. Drop his family a note on their guestbook. It will bless them.**

Friday, July 11, 2008

Moving Blues

Why is moving so dad-gum difficult? It is one of the most physically and emotionally demanding change life hurls against us.

One week ago today we hauled about 90% of our junk to another home located just a mile and a half from the "old house". I thought that was the hard part. It was not. Jason spent the following two days hauling the last 10% of our stuff by himself. It seemed to take forever. Then there was the scrubbing, mopping, and cleaning of the old house. We even had to do some primer paint on the walls. I thought the "last few things" would never end.

Moving makes me feel disconnected. The old house (the term we used to describe the change to our kiddos) is no longer home. It's empty. Barren. It sings a sad song of memories. (Ok, yes, I'm being overly dramatic, but I do feel sad about it!) The new house is great, for all intended purposes. It is 400 square feet larger than the old house. It has screened-in patio. Adding to the one and half baths already in the house, there is a full-size bathroom in my room! A separate laundry room with a door I will close when company comes over; no one has to see my mounds of dirty laundry.

But, the new house is not home. I know it will become home. The metamorphosis is slow and time-consuming. It demands our attention. Although I consider ignoring the boxes and just living life around them all. Isaiah asked to go see the old house today. He said he likes the old house better. This conversation stirs me to unpack our boxes. To take the new house with no memories built inside it, yet, and turn it into our home.

I may not have as much time to blog in the next few weeks. But, think of me. I'll be spinning around in circles, working magic in my new house.... er, home.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fertility Fight

"When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. " -Gen 29:31

Genesis 29-31 is an intense story of fertility and infertility. I read this story out loud to Jason the other day. He had never read past the first half of the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah. He thought parts of it quite funny, and all of it very interesting. Allow me to recap the story for you.

Jacob falls in love with Rachel. He is tricked into marrying Leah, Rachel's sister. He loves Rachel and marries her, too. (Read Genesis 29 for details. There are a lot more details.) Jacob continues to love Rachel, leaving Leah feeling lonely. The Bible says that God sees Leah "was unloved" and opens her womb, but Rachel's womb is left closed. Leah births Jacob four sons, naming each one in hopes that her husband will turn and begin to love her.

After four sons from her sister, Rachel begins to panic. She tells Jacob, "Give me children or I will die?"

Jacob replies in anger, "Am I God who has closed your womb?"

Doesn't that seem harsh? We see Jacob madly in love with Rachel, yet in the heat of the argument, he cruelly snaps about her devastating condition of barrenness. Rachel has a plan, though, and she begs Jacob to take her maidservant, Bilhah, as a bride. The custom was for the barren wife to bear children for her husband through her maidservant.

(Jason thought this was funny. What a great solution. Give the guy more wives. We cannot even imagine this scenario in our modern day culture. Aside from the extreme cults who continue to take several wives. But, for myself, I would not offer another woman to my husband. He's mine.)

Rachel's maidservant proves to be fertile. (As does Jacob, apparently.) Bilhah bore Jacob two sons, which Rachel actual names! Jacob is totaling SIX SONS at this point.

Enter Leah once again. She feels the heat of the competition and gives Jacob her maid, Zilpah, to Jacob as a wife. (Again, Jason laughed at the story. I know he's thinking, "What good fortune! Four wives for one man...") Zilpah produces two more sons, and Leah names both of her maidservant's sons.

At this point, there is a detailed exchange between Leah and Rachel (Genesis 30). Leah's oldest son, Reuben, brings mandrake plants in from the harvest for his mother. Rachel asks for some of Reuben's mandrakes. Leah replies tartly, "Wasn't it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son's mandrakes too?"

Wow. That was low. Mandrakes and husbands. Yeah, seems pretty even to me. Hee hee.

Rachel bargains for the mandrakes and says to Leah, "Very well, he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes."

Leah meets Jacob out in the fields that evening and tells him, "Oh, by the way, I bought you for the night with my son's mandrakes. You have to sleep with me."

The Bible reads that God heard Leah's prayers and she and Jacob conceive again. And again. And again. Leah totals up six sons and one daughter. This is without adding the two from Zilpah.

Now, after all the years of watching her sister's children, God remembers Rachel, listens to her, and "opens her womb". She conceives and gives Jacob a son, Joseph.

Can you imagine this household? Four wives vying for the affection of, apparently, a very affectionate man. I think Leah loves Jacob passionately. She names almost all of her children names that mean something relating to Leah yearning for Jacob's love.

I was drawn to this story because fertility is spotlighted throughout it. God seems to try to ease Leah's heartache by giving her children. I can imagine Leah chasing her four children among the tents, with Rachel watching in envy. Or Rachel eyeing her sister's continually round belly. The pain is obvious throughout the entire story. Pain in Leah from being unloved by her husband; pain in Rachel from her emptiness.

The story uses the phrase "opening her womb" several times. The Hebrew word for "open" that is used in this text literally means to "be thrown open". I studied this phrase and I believe it does not mean that every time a woman conceives, the Lord has to "open her womb". I think it's a little more generic. I think it means that God "throws open" the door to the womb and allows life to planted at every opportunity. My womb appears to be thrown open. :)

I think watching God's hand in the fertility of Leah, Rachel and their maidservants is amazing. It is obvious that God does interfere in the "law of conception". He blesses Leah with fertility, but withholds it from Rachel for years until he "remembers Rachel and opens her womb".

It's good for me to remember that while I believe God has set a "law of conception" in motion, He certainly is not a God to stand back and watch the story unfold. He is intimately involved in our lives. God has a plan for each of us; I picture the God of all creation taking his hands, and swirling colors of life about us.

I am a blessed woman; I really am. I have both a husband who adores me and a womb that appears to be incredibly "open". I am living the life that both Leah and Rachel despaired for throughout their fertility struggles. Wow. I have the best of both worlds. And, I don't have to offer my maidservant to my hubby. Whew. What a relief!

revolutionary love

I have experienced revolutionary love. Love with no strings attached. Jesus Christ loves me and made a way for me to have a relationship with the One True God. God desires a relationship with you, too. If you have yet to experience this revolutionary love, please email me at jandjkeys@hotmail.com so I can share this amazing experience with you. Blessings, -Jess