How many people
sat in this chair
and stared out the same big window?
How many thoughts have been thought
that would not have been thought
without sitting in this chair?
On November 9, 2010 I came out of the closet on this blog. Not the typical closet that most are accustomed to hearing about; I came out of an even more secret closet…the childless closet. This is the blog Blessing in Disguise, if you have not read it before.
It was a very vulnerable move on my part as only select people were privy to this information in the past. So why did I do it? I did it because I made peace with this part of my life.
I am a charter member of ChildlessNotByChoice, a childless website begun in 2002. I owe so much to Diane and Kimberly who founded the site out of their own need for a childless community. I thank the members there for their virtual hand-holding and understanding of the pain, fears, and frustrations of being childless not by choice. With all of their support, I have been able to make peace with my surgically removed dreams of motherhood.
For years I focused on the fact that children are a gift from God, and I wasn’t given this gift. I felt left out and I allowed this to block my view of all of the other blessings that God has given me. I realized this week that even though I am a parent to none, God’s children are everywhere and every age. I am able to share His word and love with God’s children I never bore.
I made my exit from the childless closet to let you know that while I was in there, I struggled with what I thought should have been my blessing. In my humanness, I was angry and confused with God.
Today, I am walking in faith, by the grace of God, knowing that I am right where I should be. I extend to you my virtual hand to hold, along with my virtual shoulder to lean on, from this day forward. I am willing to listen to you without judging, walk along side you without running away, and pray for you unceasingly. Whatever burden you carry, I want you to know the love of God.
This is a confidential invitation. I will only share your burdens in prayer with God.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
I just returned from a business trip in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is what I noticed as I traveled alone in the airport.
Her giggles caught my attention as I ate my lunch in the food court. A metal railing corralled patrons systematically through the food ordering process, but to a 4-year-old girl, the railing was a jungle gym. I watched as her older brother joined in the fun and tried to teach her some new daring moves. They were having so much fun being kids while their father stood nearby waiting for their food order.
At one point, someone behind the counter turned on a blender and the noise startled the little girl. She covered her delicate ears and ran behind her father for protection.
Sitting on a tiny plane for the last leg of my journey, the woman sitting next to me was traveling home with her husband and their 17-year-old son. The airline made an error in ticketing this family and the son was on a different flight heading to their hometown while the parents were on my flight and planned to drive 45 miles to get home.
The son sent a text to his father alerting him that the airport changed the departure gate for his flight. He became lost in the large airport and feared that he’d miss the flight that was nearing take-off; just as our plane was about to shut the door for take-off. The father rushed off the plane to find his lost son.
When life turns on “the blender” and we get scared, we can stand behind Jesus anytime and He will protect us. Jesus told a parable about the shepherd who was missing one sheep. The shepherd left the flock to rescue the lost one.
Being a witness to two Bible stories in real-time made my trip a complete success.
John 14:27 (NIV)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?
My drive from Michigan to Ohio was absolutely beautiful. Michigan had experienced an ice-storm and every branch of the crystalized trees glittered for miles, superior to any display of Christmas lights I have ever seen, as the sunshine brought them to life. My simple little camera would not have captured the beauty that was before me; therefore, the photo album is etched in my memory.
To silence oneself for a few days is not as hard as imagined; I accomplished this during the last weekend in March in a most serene setting in Ohio at a silent directed retreat. About 25 others attended this quiet-time to contemplate and discern God in our lives. We were blessed with trained Spiritual Directors to guide us in this journey.
The first evening, we were able to speak with others while sharing a meal. I was one of three participants from Michigan, and I met some awesome Ohioans. We may have talked for 45 minutes or so, but much was shared within those precious minutes. After the meal, we met in a room together to share what was on our hearts this weekend. When it was my turn to speak, I explained that about a month ago, I had a very vivid dream of someone telling me to “minister to the church”. My personal task then was to spend time with God to see just what that meant.
We were assigned one of four Spiritual Directors and we broke into smaller groups to meet with them for further instruction about the weekend and to set up our personal meeting times. After this short meeting, we were excused to begin our journey into silence.
Back in my room, I had a hard time settling in. Earlier that morning, my mother was rushed to emergency and diagnosed with a treatable form of congestive heart failure. It was on my mother’s urging that I go ahead and make my journey to Ohio as I had planned for months. I silently kept in contact with my siblings by receiving updates about my mother’s condition via text messaging.
One awesome cook made all of our meals. Eating in silence was an experience I had never encountered. We acknowledged each other with smiles, but then focused on our food before us and the beauty of the landscape that surrounded us through all the windows in the dining area. We took turns cleaning up the kitchen after each meal. I signed up for clean up duty after breakfast on Saturday morning. I broke the silence in the dining area when I accidently dropped a drinking glass onto the ceramic tiled floor.
Spring was not in the air; however, God gave us sunshine every day. I bundled up and took a walk along the paths in the woods and I walked around the pond and next to a stream. I spotted beautiful birds that I never see in Michigan, I heard the jack-hammer pounding of the Woodpeckers high up in the trees, and two sets of geese were making their homes near the pond. It was so beautiful.
Sitting in silence and letting the Holy Spirit speak to my heart was quite an amazing experience. Spending time in prayer, God’s word, in His creation, and simply resting in Him, made me realize that He is not quiet at all.
During our closing session, we went around the room, as we had at the beginning, and shared what the Holy Spirit spoke to us in our silent journey. This is what I said:
On Thursday, I announced that I wanted to know what my dream meant to “minister to the church”. I found out that answer this weekend.
To minister means to care for others. The church are people everywhere.
The Holy Spirit allowed me to search deep inside of me to remind myself that I love to help people. I have sewing skills, listening skills, writing skills and support skills that I can creatively use to serve God’s people. Although I have ideas on how to utilize my passions and skills, it will be the Holy Spirit that will lead me. I will spend more time in prayer and in God’s word as they will strengthen me.
Philippians 4:13 is my take-away verse:
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.
I did not want to leave the serenity of the weekend. My Spiritual Director explained that this is an experience. I can take this experience with me, lean on it, remember it and be thankful for it. I can create new experiences to spend quality, quiet-time with the Holy Spirit. When she said this to me, it didn’t make sense. Only after being immersed into the world once again, do I understand. It is important for all of us to sneak away, quiet ourselves and let the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts as it is true nourishment for the soul. Now I understand why Jesus took time alone to pray to his Father. He was being strengthened for His journey to the cross.
A special Thank You to Sister Virginia, my Spiritual Director. May God continue to use you for His good works.
Five-thirty in the morning or in the evening, it doesn’t matter. My cats know it is time to eat their wet food. Before Mojo was adopted into the family, it was never a concern to leave a half-finished bowl of food on the floor for the cats to snack on if they had not finished it all in one sitting. With Mojo, it is a different story.
The morning feeding scenario: My alarm (from across the room) rings and I get out of bed, hit the snooze once and crawl back into bed. The cats understand that it is not time to wake up yet. The second time the alarm rings, the cats may stretch and move their position on the bed. By the third time the alarm rings, I make it my official wakeup call and I head for the kitchen where 16 paws, 8 eyes, and 4 hungry tummies follow me. As a herd, we make our way to the unopened can of food and food bowls waiting on the counter. One can of food is evenly divided into 4 servings. Each cat is given their bowl in an order determined by Mojo.
Mojo’s background is purely street-cat. In fact, he came from our very own neighborhood. Being a street-cat, Mojo had to fend for himself and he tends to eat like he may never eat again. He does not chew his food, he inhales it. He has been known to push the other cats out of their food bowls and help himself to seconds, thirds and fourths. This is new behavior to the other three cats. However, Zoe has a secret stash of nourishment.
Zoe is small enough to sit on top of our round, stainless-steel kitchen trash can. She has indicated to us a while back that she would like her meals there. She realized that Mojo does not comprehend she dines there and she can leave her food and come back to it at her leisure. She manages her nourishment without having to be concerned with Mojo and his feeding frenzy.
Do you have a secret stash of nourishment? I am not talking about hiding food for snacking on when nobody is looking. I am talking about Biblical nourishment. Hide the Word of God in your heart for those moments in life when sinful temptations over-shadow you or when satan thinks he can have a feeding frenzy on your soul. God wants to reside in your heart; it is the closest one-on-one contact He can have with you.
Zoe can be fed from her secret stash any time of day she chooses because she knows where it is hidden. When God’s word is hidden in your heart, you too can be nourished any time of the day you choose. God will always be there.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.
Living amongst four cats makes life interesting. I often watch when one cat stalks an unsuspecting cat while they are in the midst of rolling around the floor playing with a toy or dutifully cleaning themselves. The stalker walks ever so slowly, being sure not to be noticed. Each step is orchestrated pace-by-pace with moments of statuesque poise until the opportune moment arises and they are able to pounce and attack their prey.
I attempt to distract the stalker because I care about the unsuspecting cat enough to protect them. When the attack happens before I can intervene, I rush to comfort the cat that was preyed upon; assuring them that they are okay and that they need not fear the other cat. Although this type of activity is in their nature, I prefer a peaceful dwelling.
My cats are not demons, but this activity gives me a visual of how demonic forces prey upon humans.
We go about our lives, enjoying times with family, friends and even alone time. At each moment, the devil sits waiting in the shadows for his opportunity to prey upon our weaknesses. Have you felt envious of your friend’s success? Have you become filled with despair because you lost your job? Have you started to record a list of wrongs so you can have ammunition to throw at your spouse during the next fight? Do you invite anger to ride along with you as you drive from point A to point B? Do you numb emotional pain by over-indulging in alcohol? Has gossip slipped through your lips? These circumstances are not all-inclusive, but they are examples of weaknesses that the devil preys upon.
Jesus restored a demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1-20. He called out the legion of demons from the man and sent them into a herd of about 2,000 swine grazing nearby. The swine went crazy and rushed into a nearby lake and drowned.
Angels may run interference numerous times for us every day, but it only takes one small crack in a weakness and the devil slips in and starts to wreak havoc in our lives. When we cannot control our envy, despair, recorded lists of wrongs, road-rage, addictions, gossiping, or anything else that is a personal weakness, remember that we do not have to lie down and give up. Call out to Jesus. He will rush in and comfort, he will assure us that we will be okay because he prefers to live in a peaceful dwelling.
Let me take this time to pray upon you, in the words of Paul to the Ephesians 3:14-19
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
In Jesus’s name. Amen.