Sunday, October 31, 2010

15 Minutes

I'm sure you've heard Andy Warhol's infamous saying, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." That's where we get the saying, "Your 15 minutes of fame." It's just a saying. Right?

I've frequently thought about those 15 Minutes. Wondering if I've already spent them (a brief public radio interview/song when I was 19 couldn't possibly count, right?). If not, trying to figure out what they'll be. Finally making it to SNL after all these years of not actually trying? That's where I assumed I'd be by now when I was young. Perhaps I'm meant for a mediocre showing on Jeopardy!? That sounds appealing. I've actually avoided things that might be considered a poor use of my 15 Minutes, just so I don't waste them.

The thing I'm afraid of is that it won't count. I mean, it won't be important. No one will remember it. It won't further any sort of career I might be attempting, won't be interesting, won't be useful, won't make a difference. Something that I allowed to be a highlight of my life won't be a blip on anyone else's radar.

Why does it matter? Why do I think about these things? Part of me wants to be Tina Fey, and the rest of me is thinking about the kind of legacy I want to leave. Right now, my legacy looks like someone who barely tried to make any of her big ideas come to fruition. I'm an idea person. I've got loads of ideas—books, movies, products. I could run a business simply selling ideas that I'm not going to use because, honestly, I'm not going to use them.

I guess the bigger legacy in question is the example I set for my son. I want to say, "Son—go! Do! Be! You have amazing potential! Use it!" I can already see he's smart and charismatic. But what kind of slacker am I sending him out into the world with that advice when I've never followed it myself?

I was always told to not make any waves. Just do what I've got to do to get by and don't disturb the status quo. But sometimes you've got to if you want to make a difference. If you want to try something. If you want to succeed.

Perhaps my purpose isn't to be famous. Perhaps my purpose is to raise my son to be a leader so he can do the world-changing. But I always wonder what God has in store for me—or what he would have in store for me if I showed a little initiative. A little drive. A little trust.

Have you spent your 15 Minutes? How would you like to spend them?

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Crunch

I have about two weeks until my back surgery. Tomorrow I'm throwing a baby shower, next weekend is my son's second birthday party, and I have all kinds of appointments and such I have to get in before I'm laid up.

Ugh.

I hate feeling rushed. I'm a pro at wasting time—a first-class lollygagger, really—but when it's not my choice, I feel awful. I feel stressed and anxious. I feel hurried and overwhelmed.

And, surprisingly, that's the perfect time to pray.

There's a great book by Bill Hybels called Too Busy Not to Pray: Slowing Down to Be With God. It totally makes sense. When we're rushed and hurried and worried, that's the best time to pray. It's just when we need God the most, but it seems that's when we make the least time for him.

If this blog has taught me anything, it's that I don't have a lot of foresight. I can't look down the road very far, and I don't know there's a speed bump coming 'til I'm jostled. I feel like I'm taken by surprise quite a bit.

Or I'm the other extreme. I look down the road and see all sorts of horrors that are mostly improbable, and I spend a great deal of time worrying about them and they never come to pass. Maybe that's how the real future takes me by surprise: I'm thinking about imaginary futures instead of the real one that's sneaking up on me.

I heard a story on NPR the other day about cognitive development in children. They talked for a moment about mirror writing—when children who are learning to write make some of their letters and numbers backward. A teacher had great success with these students. For example, if a student wrote the number "6" backward, she'd instruct them to make a change during their homework time. Each time they were going to write the number six, they had to put down their pencil and pick up a red pencil. No, there's nothing special about the color red. The child just had to take the time to put down their pencil and think about what they were going to write next instead of rushing. The mirror-writing was fixed in a matter of days.

When life gets hectic, put down your pencil. Take time to be with God. You'll make fewer mistakes, and maybe things won't feel so rushed after all.

And if there's anything else I've learned from this blog, it's that I really need to take my own advice.

Monday, October 25, 2010

byTavi

This is just a quick post (which may be good, since my last post went over like a lead balloon). I just want to talk up the company byTavi. This company has beautiful scarves, tote bags, purses, and cosmetic bags. They also have a beautiful mission: helping women in Cambodia make a living and keep themselves and their children out of the various types of slavery that exist there.

The company is fostered by the Center for Global Impact, a Christian organization here in Indianapolis that helps people around the world by teaching them various job skills—sewing and culinary arts, just to name a couple—and gives them a better life in the process. It has teams in several locations including Cambodia, Guatemala, Kosova, Kenya and Zambia. Go check them out!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hamming it Up

My Bible study has me in the book of Genesis right now. Yes, I'm starting at the very beginning. I think I mentioned I'm using The Daily Message: Through the Bible in One Year. I'm currently learning about Noah. Did you know that the animals weren't just two-by-two? God actually requested seven pairs of the "clean" animals and one pair of the "unclean" animals. Fascinating!

Sometimes, in reading the Bible, you come across a story that doesn't make sense. No matter how many times you read it, somehow not all the information is there. Fortunately, it's not typically the pivotal stories. They're little background stories. 

The one that got me the other day was the story of Ham and Noah. Ham (also called Canaan) is Noah's son. Noah apparently overdid it on the wine one night (proof that even the most righteous of men make mistakes!) and passed out nekked in his tent. The next part of the story goes like this:

Noah, a farmer, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank from its wine, got drunk and passed out, naked in his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and told his two brothers who were outside the tent. Shem and Japheth took a cloak, held it between them from their shoulders, walked backward and covered their father's nakedness, keeping their faces turned away so they did not see their father's exposed body. (Genesis 9:20-23, The Message)

That's a bummer for Ham. No one wants to walk in on a nekked parent. That's upsetting. It doesn't say that Ham mocked him or went out to his brothers and made fun of his dad. But in the next verses, Noah lays a whammy of a curse on poor Ham:

Cursed be Canaan! A slave of slaves,
      a slave to his brothers!
   Blessed be 
God, the God of Shem,
      but Canaan shall be his slave.
   God prosper Japheth,
      living spaciously in the tents of Shem.
   But Canaan shall be his slave. (Genesis 9:25-27, The Message)

Yikes! Harsh! Maybe Noah was just embarrassed. Maybe he overreacted. But everyone knows Old Testament curses are nothing to be trifled with. Adam and Eve, Caan and Abel, Isaac and Esau. Stuff happens when you curse a person! (But for fun, try this Biblical Curse Generator.)

I want more information! I want to know what Ham did that made Noah so mad. Is there more to the story? I've checked the Hebrew, but there's no other information to be found. Furthermore, what am I supposed to do with this? What lesson do I learn from this? Not to overreact? Not to accidentally walk in on a nekked person? Not to drink in excess? Nobody's perfect? 

I think one lesson for this verse is how important context is when studying the Bible. While I struggle to discover what God's Word has for me in this little gem, I can easily research what other people have seen in it. Some people have seen it as a rationalization for slavery of all kinds—the enslavement of the Canaanites by Israel and the enslavement of Africans, whom someone decided were descendants of Ham. I fail to see any proof of that one. Any enslaved person isn't a descendant of Ham.

There are two ways to read the Bible: one way is called exegesis, and the other way is called eisegesis. Exegesis is going into the Bible and coming out with the truth of what the Bible says. It is a critical interpretation of the Bible. Eisegesis is going into the Bible with your own agenda and reading things into the text that aren't there. Proponents of slavery tried to find any Biblical proof they could that slavery was supported by God. While slavery has existed for thousands of years, nothing in the Bible says, "Own slaves." It dictates how a person is supposed to treat slaves and how slaves are supposed to respond to their owners, but Biblical slavery is very different from the transatlantic slave trade. One of the main differences is that Biblical-era slavery wasn't based on race.

I guess what I can take from the story of Ham and Noah is the importance of coming to the Bible with the intention of learning what God has to say to us, not what I want God to say. I want God to say that I'm going to be rich and beautiful because I'm a believer. It's not in the Bible. I want God to say that everything in my life is going to work out the way I want it to. It's not in there. My agenda and God's agenda don't always line up, but they should—by aligning myself with God. And I can guarantee that his will always work out better than mine.

God has promised us a lot in his Word, and he's fulfilled his promises in Christ. Shouldn't that be enough for any of us? 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Doin' What Comes Natur'lly

Yesterday morning, I had a MOPS meeting. If you've never heard of MOPS, it stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. Loving caretakers watch the kids for a couple of hours while moms have meaningful adult conversation. And food. It's brilliant.

Anyway, we do a thing called Great Minds (the name changes based on the year's theme). Each mom gets up and shares a few meaningful facts about themselves based on a short questionnaire that, this year, was my doing. Since the theme this year is "Momology: The Art and Science of Mothering," one of the questions is, "Are you more an art person or a science person?"

It was my turn to share yesterday. Again, my doing, since it was my birthday and I decided that was the day I'd share. I'm definitely a more artsy person—I write, I perform, etc. Easy question. I then shared that I'm not bad at sciencey things, but it did take me three tries to find a college-level science class I could pass. Thank goodness for astronomy, right?

When I came home and thought about what I said, I realized it made me sound like a dummy. I thought back over the classes I took, like geology. Rocks aren't that boring. It was the lab that killed me. I don't care about how to map ground water! I'm pretty sure that was the exact point I dropped the class.

It wasn't that I couldn't do it. I could have. It just wasn't easy. I've learned over the years that I'm the type who likes to do things that come easily to me. I think one of the reasons I was an English major is that I've always been good at language arts stuff—reading, writing, understanding literature. I'm a bright gal. In theory, I could have chosen a more challenging route. Maybe not engineering or something, but maybe law school. Or I could have actually pursued a career in journalism. But chasing stories sounds like work.

I realized a long time ago that I don't like to work hard.

Don't get me wrong; I don't mind working. I just don't want to work hard. In journalism, I want stories to show up on my doorstep. Actually, I really like editorial stuff. Doesn't require much work, just my opinion.

I'm also really lousy at keeping up relationships. It requires work! You have to call people and talk to them. You have to remember birthdays, which I'm terrible at. Thank goodness for Facebook's reminders! I have friends I adore and I think of often, but somehow it doesn't cross my mind to call or e-mail them. It's terrible.

God gets the same lack of effort in our relationship. I have to read his Word—his love letter to me, which sounds appealing. But that requires time and effort. I have to talk to him. Daily. Ugh! Work! 

Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. (Matthew 7:13-14, The Message)

Bah. Work. This is the problem. Hell is easier now, but Heaven is easier for eternity. I think I have a hard time picturing eternity. It's that short-sighted humanness of mine again. 

I've got to go. I have some work to do.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fabulous Fifty!

Today is my birthday! No, I'm not turning 50, as the title of this post would imply. I'm turning 31. But today is my 50th blog post! So it's kind of like a double birthday.

It seems that 31 is a more traumatic birthday than 30 was. Now I'm going to be in my 30s. I'm thirty-something, not just thirty. Weird, right?

When I was younger, I never thought I'd be bothered by age. But here I am, being bothered by 31. What am I going to do at 41? 51? Jeepers.

Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom. (Job 32:7)

So what wisdom could I possibly have at 31? A lot more than I had at 21, I'll say that. I think the most profound thing I've learned is how time flies once it feels like life actually starts. My childhood took forever. I couldn't get to college fast enough. Then college flew by. Then I met my husband, and time went faster. Now that I have a child, life is moving at warp speed. It's ridiculous. When you hit the good stuff, time seems to slip away so much faster.

Perhaps there should be some sort of carpe diem statement here, but I find that to be a concept you can't just tell someone to get or do. I think it's a realization you've got to come to on your own.

My advice? Come to it sooner rather than later.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Mommy Post

OK, so I specifically don't blog about being a mom. There are other blogs for that. I mention it in passing, but I've avoided straight-up mom blogging.

But today is different.

Today, my son and I went to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis with a friend and her son. It's a really fun place. It's very hands-on, and there are signs everywhere emphasizing to parents the importance of play and the skills children learn through play—problem solving, coordination, etc. I loved watching my boy discover a sandbox for the first time and seeing life-sized dinosaurs. His eyes were like dinner plates! He played with everything, explored everything, touched everything. His favorite activity was in an exhibit called "From Polar Bears to Penguins." They had a slide set up, and the kids put on a little penguin vest and slid down on their tummies just like penguins slide on the ice.

He could have done that all. day. long.

He doesn't like slides at the playground. Won't go on them. "No slide! No slide!" Refuses. But this was different somehow. I don't know if it was because there were so many other kids doing it too, or if it was that he got to slide on his belly. Who knows? But as soon as he hit the bottom, he said, "Mama, again! Mama, again!"

Then he got creative. He'd stop halfway down the slide and sit up. Or he'd flip over onto his back and push himself the rest of the way with his feet. Then he'd just lay on the mat at the bottom of the slide and laugh as the other kids ran into him.

I wanted to move him out of the way. Not because I thought he'd get hurt (the other kids weren't going that fast, and they all saw him and tried to be careful. I was impressed, actually), but because he was in someone's way. Because I thought his fun would inconvenience someone else.

I think about this a lot, actually. When we're in the grocery store, he likes to be kind of loud. He enjoys riding in the cart, and we have this game where I let go of the cart and let him go a few feet down the aisle without me, like the cart is out of control. He loves it. He screeches and laughs! As long as he's making happy noises, I don't really care how loud he is. It's like we're in our own little world. We get some funny looks, but it doesn't matter. It's a fun time for me and my son, and I love it.

When does that stop? When do we become so concerned about what other people think? I love my son. I love that he's a happy, good-natured kid with a great imagination. I love that he thinks to go down the slide backward. The other kids didn't mind. Why did I?

I know this is such a random post, but our experience today really made me think about how people perceive me. And my son. Where's the line between "our little world" and the world we share with everyone else? I know I have to raise him to be considerate of others and to be polite, but if everyone seems to be having fun, should I intervene? Do other moms have this little world?

And, on a bigger scale (and to tie it into my blog), is there ever a time when I'm in my own little world with my Heavenly Parent? Do I care what people think about us? During worship at church, is anyone looking at whether or not I raise my hands? I shouldn't care about that, but sometimes I do. I wish I didn't care what anyone thought.

It's weird, living in the world. With all these other people. Isn't it?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Gospel According to Mick Jagger

Last night I had a meeting at church with some good friends of mine. We were working on planning a special program in December. I guess it's technically our Christmas program, but it'll be during Sunday service on December 12th. I think we had some good ideas, and I can't wait to see how it turns out. God does some amazing things when we let him work through us!

Anyway, this post isn't really about that. After the meeting, we were walking out to our cars and we talked a little about my surgery. I started bawling when I talked about not being able to pick up my son for months, and I shared that I was worried about having enough help after my surgery. They reassured me that they'd help and that I've got a lot of people around me who will be there for me. I love my friends!

When I got in the car after that, I pulled out of the parking lot and turned on the radio. The first thing I heard was the line, "You just might find/You get what you need." It was Mick Jagger singing, "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

It sounds silly, but I'm a big believer in The Perfect Song. You know—when you're driving along and you're thinking about something and then The Perfect Song comes on the radio and makes you feel better. Last night, Mick Jagger sang The Perfect Song. It was just what I needed to hear. "You get what you need."

I do get what I need. God provides. He'll give me exactly what I need, no more, no less. Scripture says it all over the place. All it requires is my trust and living a God-Focused Life instead of an Everything Else-Focused Life. And I tend to live a Worry-Focused Life.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 10:34, The Message)

Why do I continue to doubt? Jeepers, Rachel! Get a grip! Even Mick Jagger had it figured out at one point. I can't worry about what will happen—won't do any good, anyway. I just have to trust that God's got it covered. He does whether I believe it or not, so why not save myself some worry and just rest in his sovereignty? He'll give me what I need. No more, no less.

What I need right now is peace.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Standing By

First of all, this is my very first post from my new laptop. Yay! I now have a portable time-waster!

Secondly, you'll all be so proud of me. I've actually started reading my Bible daily instead of weekly! Granted, this is only day two, but I feel good about this start. I'm reading The Daily Message: Through the Bible in One Year. While I feel The Message is a little silly with it's interpretation sometime, it's a quick and easy read, so I'm hoping it'll be a little easier to stick with. Yay, me! And yay, God! And yay, not being lazy!

Now onto what I read. Today's portion was about Adam and Eve. Yes, it's starting at the very, very beginning. Since I'm on day two, this was Adam and Eve eating the fruit.

Something I didn't notice the first, oh, twenty years of reading about Adam and Eve is that, when Eve said, "Hey, let's eat this fruit. It looks yummy!" there's no record of Adam saying, "No! God said not to!" According to Scripture, he said, "Uh, OK! Whatever you say, Eve!" And they both ate it. Adam didn't say anything. He just kind of went along with it.

I'd be lying if I said it was the first time a guy went along with whatever his lady said. I'm not saying it was hard-wired from the beginning for men to cave to women, but c'mon—they do it. How do you think I got this laptop?

The interesting part is the punishment. They both got cast out of the Garden of Eden, which is really lousy. Eve got pain in childbirth. Adam got having to work the earth for his food every day of his life.

Read that again. I'll wait.

So what do you think?

As someone who's been through childbirth, it's probably not the most fun experience I've ever had. I spent 42 hours in labor. The pain was mostly tolerable, but then I got an epidural, so I'm sure I didn't get the worst of it. I still felt some of it, but I know the edge was taken off. I've had worse pain than childbirth. My previous back surgery inflicted some major pain. That was definitely the worst I've ever felt.

Granted, there were no forms of birth control back then. There was no medication, no comfy hospitals. It was way, way worse than it is now. But still--how many times in a woman's life does she give birth? Even Mrs. Duggar has only done it 20 times. How many hours of intense labor pain do you think that is? Even at five hours a child, that's about 100 hours.

Scripture doesn't tell us exactly how many kids Adam and Eve had. Probably a lot. But it does tell us that Adam lived 930 years. That's a long time. That's 339,450 days. Days he was required to work very hard to till the ground and battle weeds and do manual labor.

Yuck.

Even if Eve had 100 kids, she would not have spent as much time in pain as Adam would have. Even with help, manual labor is no day at the beach. I'd rather face a med-free childbirth any day than do manual labor. Totally worthwhile trade.

Maybe it's just my interpretation, but Adam's punishment seems exponentially worse than Eve's. More difficult, at least, and lasting for a lot longer.

The only thing I can think of is that Adam had time to evaluate. He could have at least said, "Now, let's think about this for a moment." Scripture doesn't indicate any pause from him. He stood right next to Eve and let her eat, then he followed her lead. He didn't step up to intervene in the least.

How many times do we stand by and allow other Christians to sin? Sometimes we say, "Well, they've got to make their own choices," or, "It's not my business." Really?

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

It is our responsibility to hold other believers to the standards God has set. And, by the way, when Matthew 7:1-2 says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and the same measure you use, it will be measured to you," it's really talking about the harshness with which you judge others. Holding someone up to the Bible in love is different than judging someone. Judgement indicates an opinion. Even the Greek form of judge in that verse, κρίνω, indicates a preference, not necessarily being matched against a standard. People like to use that verse to get out of holding other believers accountable (or, more likely, to get out of being held accountable). No such luck.

God gives his followers rules. We're supposed to follow them. Hence the name followers. We're also supposed to help each other when we stray. From the looks of Adam's punishment, God thinks it's pretty important.

So do you stand by, or do you say something? Clearly there are a lot of people who stand by, otherwise this blog would be called The Christian Who Has Been Held Accountable instead of indicating a substantial lack of accountability. Who holds you accountable?

And, just out of curiosity, would you take childbirth over a life of hard labor? I just want to know I'm not alone in that assessment.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Be Sure to Drink Your Ovaltine

I had an interesting comment the other day from a reader named Elisabeth (I think I've linked to her primary blog). She said something about "decoding" what God was trying to tell her.

Honestly, it made me think of the scene from A Christmas Story where Ralphie got his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring. He diligently tried to figure out what Annie's code was, and then when he figured it out: "'Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.' Ovaltine? It's a crummy commercial?" He had another choice phrase after that I'll decline to share here.

He was disappointed. I would have been, too. He was expecting some kind of secret spy message. Something big and glorious Annie wanted him to do as a member of The Little Orphan Annie Secret Circle. He was expecting honors and benefits, for Heaven's sake!

I do that. I'm a Christian, and sometimes I think I'm entitled to all the honors and benefits occurring thereto. As much as I don't believe the "health and wealth gospel," sometimes, in my heart of hearts, I wish it were a little bit true. I also wish (sometimes, after a good Bourne movie) God was handing down secret missions for me to undertake. Instead, I get:

Go talk to that neighbor who doesn't talk to anyone.

Or:

Finish writing that book proposal already.

Really? How mundane. Even when I felt he called me to go to China, there was no crazy mission involved. In fact, the person who got the crazy mission was my roommate. She actually got to share the gospel in a roomful of Chinese government officials and businessmen. I got her frustrated tears before and after, and was glad she talked to me about it, but I received no mandate from God telling me to do something similar.

I'm starting to learn that even the things that God asks of me that seem boring are important. Maybe he needs to know I'm listening and obeying before he gives me something bigger. The two examples above have yet to be completed. This blog was a major step forward—I did something he asked!—but it's not all he's asked of me. He's put this book on my heart, and I'm dragging my heels somethin' fierce.

I guess I'd better get with the program or the next message I get will be "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

Ouch.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grilled Cheesus

I'm not sure if anyone reading this is a Glee fan or not. As a former show choir member, I can't not watch it. My choir was always the smallest, always the underdog. We competed against crazy best-of-the-county kind of choirs and made sure we did stuff the crowds would love since we couldn't compete for anything but the audience favorite. We wore sparkled dresses and had a lot of fun. It's one of my favorite things about high school. So I watch Glee.

The episode this week was really interesting. It was called "Grilled Cheesus" and explored aspects of faith. The show has a variety of characters of different backgrounds—Jewish characters, Christian characters, a gay character—so as soon as I saw the opening with an impression of Jesus on a grilled cheese sandwich, I had one thought:

This is not going to be good.

I don't know why I was dreading it. It always seems like shows that embrace everyone tend to embrace everyone but Christians. They're the uptight characters that no one likes and who don't act like Christians at all (à la Angela from The Office).

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.

The show talked about actual issues of faith: prayer, showing love to others in times of need. And most of it centered around the gay character, Kurt, and his lack of belief in God. His father had a heart attack and his friends rallied around him in faith and love, but he didn't want to talk about God and didn't want their prayers.

I was so grateful when his Christian friend, Mercedes, not only wouldn't stop praying and wouldn't stop encouraging him, but she also invited him to her church so they could pray for his family.

As Christians, that is how we should respond to people who need God. We shouldn't give up on them or back away from people who don't see eye to eye with us. That's exactly when we show them God's love and meet their needs in his name.

While there were some things in the show that made me uncomfortable (like Finn praying to his "grilled cheesus" so he could touch his girlfriend's ta-tas—though he is a teenage boy, after all) I thought it gave genuine perspectives on faith and diversity without being backhanded or cruel to anyone. I was glad to see that, for once, a show that gives a voice to everyone really gave a voice to everyone.

If you haven't seen it, check it out here:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Margaret Feinberg is Stalking Me

Have you ever had something pop into your life repeatedly to the point where you know you'd better listen? I have. I do. Mine happens to be a person named Margaret Feinberg.

I'm pretty sure she's stalking me.

Margaret Feinberg is an author and speaker. I hadn't heard of her until a few years ago as I was reading an issue of the now-defunct Today's Christian Woman (a magazine I was very sad to lose). There was an article about her and a friend trying to find a blueberry patch. They got lost, and she suggested to the friend that they pray about finding the place, since he appeared to be the only person who knew where it was. Her friend made a comment about God not caring about the blueberry patch because she had prayed and prayed for a situation with her mother and he didn't listen or do anything, so why would he care about a blueberry patch?

That article was exactly what I'd been thinking about that day (and, judging by my recent blogging, still something I think about). The story spoke to me instantly, and I realized I'd been holding back in my prayers because I was afraid God didn't care or that the issue wasn't important enough. I also figured, "Well, bad things happen to good people, so all the prayer in the world might not prevent what I fear most. I'll just not ask." I felt inspired by her article, but I have to say I didn't make a change in my prayer life. I honestly didn't even look to see who the author of the piece was when I read it. It just stuck in my heart and I moved on.

Fast-forward a few months later. I had just joined the steering team for my MOPS group, and we all went to a day-long MOPS seminar thingy that had a webcast from several speakers. Who was one of the speakers?

Margaret Feinberg.

What did she talk about?

The same. exact. thing.

I didn't know who she was at first, but then she started using some of the same phrases as the blueberry patch article I'd read and loved so much. When I got home, I found the article and—sure enough—it was written by Margaret Feinberg. I think it's actually a book excerpt. MOPS moms who attended the conference got a discount at Margaret's online store, so I bought a book by her called The Sacred Echo.

Guess what it's about? Echoes from God in our lives. Things he brings around to us repeatedly to catch our attention.

Get out.

Honestly, I was a little freaked out. I put the book down for a while (a long while) and have recently picked it up again. Part of me loves her—her writing style, her topics, her very unpretentious way of presenting issues of faith—and part of me is irritated with her.

As you know, I'm writing a book. I feel like everything I've included in my book, Margaret has said in this book.

Argh!

I know that's not exactly true. We have different writing styles and voices, and we write about different things. It's just hard knowing that there's someone out there who seems to know what's in my brain and chooses to extract it and set it out in front of me.

She appeared again the other day in the form of a MOPS webcast seminar about how to study the Bible effectively. It was really good, and I really liked everything she had to say. I've given in and am now following her blog. I've even gotten two (two!) direct replies from her on comments I've posted. She's really good about replying to comments, something I fall short on (it feels kind of awkward—it is something I should be doing?).

If you haven't read anything by her, I encourage you to do so. She has several books apart from The Sacred Echo, but two of the most popular are Scouting the Divine and The Organic God. I've just ordered them from her site (another MOPS discount day, yay!).

So—any echoes in your life that you should hear and heed? Maybe I'm someone's Margaret Feinberg!

*sigh* A girl can dream.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Bouncer

Sorry it's been such a long time since my last blog post. I haven't been feeling very well. I know the last post was about my back surgery, but in the last week, my pancreas got a little upset with me. Random, right? Who should have to think about their pancreas?

I spend a lot of time thinking about my pancreas. No. Joke.

My mom actually passed away when I was three. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 31, I believe, and died when she was 32.

This is why I think about my pancreas. I've thought about it my whole life. I've been counting down to my 30s thinking, "OK, that'll be it. My pancreas is going to go."

So this week, my pancreas went! I'd been having some vertigo, and then I got a tummy ache that was weird, so I went to the ER Tuesday night. They did some blood work and then decided I needed a CT scan to check out my pancreas, since I had elevated enzyme levels.

I cried. I thought, "Oh, crap. This is it. Here it comes. I'm about to turn 31, so this must be it." I managed to calm down a little, and the ER doc said it was just a little inflamed. I was confident that if it were anything other than inflamed, she'd have said, "There's a spot on your pancreas," or something like that. I felt pretty calm about it. My husband, however, was more worried. He urged me to go to my family doctor and make sure everything was throughly checked out.

Another CT scan and more blood work yesterday ensured my pancreas has no tumors or any abnormalities. Just a little inflammation. It's a very mild case of pancreatitis (although it easily could worsen if I don't watch what I eat for a while).

Last night, as I was lying in bed awake (from a headache and lingering nausea), I realized I wasn't lying awake worrying about my back surgery. That's pretty much what I've been doing ever since the surgery was scheduled. I wasn't worrying about my pancreas, either. I was surprised.

Honestly, the pancreas thing is scary. Pancreatitis could be life threatening. But I wasn't as worried about it as I had been about my back surgery. This sudden, very dangerous thing wasn't as scary as it should have been, while my back surgery—a standard procedure that I've been through before—was terrifying.

I realized that God gave me pancreatitis to help me gain perspective.

OK, so God didn't give me pancreatitis. He's not the cause of disease and the awful things in the world. Sin did all that. But sometimes I picture God as a bouncer at the door of my life. He decides what gets in and what doesn't. Occasionally he lets us experience things that we'd rather not have to deal with, either because we can learn something from it or somehow further his kingdom with it.

I was terrified of my back surgery. I could have spent all day, every day crying about it. Some days I nearly did. I've been afraid of not coming out of surgery whole. Afraid of what life will look like afterward when I can't pick up my son for months. Wondering if my friends will be there past the six-week point where most help peters out. Worry, worry, worry. It's all I've done for two weeks now. No sleeping, no joy. Just worry.

Now this pancreas thing. Honestly the more serious of the two conditions, but I wasn't half as worried. Maybe it's because the back surgery is looming out there and I can count down to it, while the pancreatitis was quite sudden. I don't know. I realized that, while my back surgery will be hard, I just have to trust God. He gave me such a peace about my pancreas being OK, when it's really more dangerous than the back surgery. He can give me peace about my back surgery. It's like he's saying, "Why are you worried about that and not about this? You really don't need to worry about either one! I've got this!" He had me experience his strength and peace in a way he knew would get my attention.

God's pretty awesome. And I love my pancreas.