March 22, 2013

Love at First Sound

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , at 12:56 pm by Tamara

The storybooks talk about love at first sight, but I’m a believer in love at first sound.

I’ve experienced it twice: the first time was several years ago, as Adam and I sat in a tiny room at my first midwife’s appointment.  In spite of a positive pregnancy test and torturous morning sickness, I still had a nagging fear that the midwife would take one look at me and declare, “You’re not pregnant, you idiot.”  Haha.  So, needless to say, I was anxious for our first sight or sound of baby.  I waited with bated breath as she tried to find a heartbeat first.  She couldn’t find it right away, and my fear of being called an idiot swiftly turned to a chilling dread that she would actually say we had been pregnant but had lost our baby.  It was one of the longest minutes of my life as she moved the scope around and around on my tummy and my own heart pounded faster and faster.  The shifting power of a minute is mind-boggling: how it can be a desperately too short time in some circumstances and morph to an agonizing eternity in others.

Then, suddenly, there it was: a rapid pitter-patter filled the room as we heard our Bear’s tiny heart beating for the first time.  Tears burst from my eyes, and in that instant something indescribable happened: an invisible but indestructible bond leapt from my heart to his.  It was finally real—I was a mom, and that was my baby, and I loved him with every fiber of my being.  Love at first sound.

I experienced this again a few weeks ago, at my first appointment for Baby #2.  This time I wasn’t at all worried that they would say I wasn’t pregnant—the nausea was even worse than with Bear, as was the crippling exhaustion.  But I was still eager to hear that little heartbeat.  This time, the midwife set the scope down and immediately, there it was!  The precious little pitter-patter heartbeat of our baby, and that bond instantly anchored just as strongly as it had with Bear.  In an instant, pregnancy went from just meaning that I felt horrible, to meaning that there was a precious life growing inside me that I loved with all my heart.

Addition in Progress

Addition in Progress

Amazingly, this heart-bond between mother and child is more than emotional; it’s actually physical.  This video  gets me all teary eyed every time I watch it.  Researchers have found that living cells with a baby’s unique DNA actually cross the placenta and can live in the mother for the rest of her life.  Not only that, but they can actually live in the mother’s heart: scientists have found cases of heart failure in mothers where those cells from their children have actually replaced her damaged cells.  And in case that’s not enough to make you teary eyed, this is true even with babies who are lost before they are born.  Our children truly do live in our hearts, even the ones we never get to meet on this earth.  We carry our children our whole lives.

Elizabeth Stone said that “Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Someday, too, I think I’ll experience love at first sight.  Adam and I suspect that someday one of our children will grow not under my heart, but inside it.  I experienced a taste of this love the day I first saw pictures of my nieces and nephew, who God brought to our family all the way from another continent.  I cried happy tears that day, and I can only imagine the bond that formed in my sister and brother-in-law’s hearts when they saw their children for the first time.

The heart-to-heart bond that I formed with Bear the first time I heard his heartbeat has grown stronger every day.  I can’t wait until I hold Baby #2 and snuggle the tiny body that holds the heart I already love.  And it’s awe inspiring to think, if God has enabled me to love my children this much, and even thought to weave this bond into our very DNA, what kind of a message must He be trying to send to me about how much He loves me, His child?

March 15, 2012

Vision and Questions for the Future

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , , , at 8:54 pm by Tamara

“Let me explain–  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.”  (Name that movie!)

It’s a long story that I’ve shared bits and pieces of, but the summary is that Adam and I have been seriously praying about the possibility of going overseas for two years to do ministry.  We’ve sent in our applications so that we can talk with the organization, find out more about the opportunity, and go from there.  (Incidentally, the application is part of the reason for the lack of block posts lately: too much other writing for the application and school!)

Ever since we started the application process we’ve been blindsided by a bunch of reasons NOT to go.  We’re still processing them, trying to discern if any of them are God saying “Wait” or if they’re just life being life, or the enemy being the enemy, or what.  It’s exhausting and discouraging, but also a good lesson in trust and learning to listen to the Father.  We’re really in limbo so I can’t say what’s going to happen, but if I don’t at least mention it now and we do decide to go, you’ll all think it came out of thin air, so I’m mentioning it!

At any rate, that’s not the real point of this post, just the background.  Here’s the point: I get prayer updates from someone doing ministry in a dangerous part of the world, and they recently had some people visit the region to see about maybe coming to minister there.  This was in a recent update from my friend, and it just about made me cry, because I can so relate!  I can’t share my friend’s name, but they gave me permission to post this.  If you’re in the same boat, I hope it’s encouraging to you, too!

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“Some call them vision trips. Others say they’re survey trips. Whatever the name, it’s all about breathing the air, walking the ground, and wondering if you could do it. Could you make this move? Could you live here, in this stranger than you’ve ever imagined place? It’s about putting your real self and your shimmering dreams before others you may have met only through email, if at all. It’s about listening to what’s said and what’s left unsaid. Its about pushing back the doubts and fears and straining to hear our Father’s voice.

“I am always awed at the courage of vision-trippers. It’s a journey of pure faith; flying face-forward into the abyss. It’s knowing that you’re called but wondering who, if anyone, will receive you. And if they do receive you, will they be glad for it? Will you find a home with the little band, the team you’ve agreed to join? Will you make good decisions? Do you really know who you are? Are you ready? And if you do come, will anyone back home support you? Will people really pray? Will they give? Will they remember you? Will it be enough? And who said you could do this, anyway? Who said you had anything to give? Why don’t you just stay home? Isn’t there enough work to be done there? And how could you take our grandchildren so far away? What about your career and your retirement – and a hundred other challenges?

“This is why I’m always awed at the faith of vision-trippers. These are folks who’ve started the journey. Who’ve stood up and bravely said; ‘I want to go.’  They have some partners who’ve said; ‘I believe in you.’ Who pray and give – who invest in the brave dream that’s not yet been fulfilled. They’ve completed applications and joined an organization. They’ve prayed their hearts out and started counting the cost. They’ve stepped headlong into a spiritual battle the likes of which they’ve never experienced before. The enemy rises up in rage. “Who do you think you are!?!” With weapons of doubt and fear, he would stop us in our tracks if God were not with us. This is why I love vision-trippers. I love their sheer courage and trembling faith. The next steps are clear; join a field-team, raise support and go. If you know any such people, cheer them on. Celebrate their journey. Enjoy the overflow of their faith.”

October 6, 2011

Calling All Future Best-Selling Authors!

Posted in Writing Spashes tagged , , , , , , at 11:57 pm by Tamara

If you didn’t guess from my last post, I’m writing a book during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) again this year!  I wrote here about the experience last year.  I don’t know how, but I seem to have forgotten how hard it was, because I am SO excited to do it again!  (In spite of the fact that we will be driving to Colorado the first two days of November and then trying to do things like, oh you know, find a place to live, take care of a baby, and still pass my classes.)

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to stop saying “Someday I’m going to write a book” and just do it.  Last year (on October 30th) a friend asked me to do it with her and I decided on a whim to go for it.  It felt a bit like running a marathon after two days of training, but after much blood, sweat, tears, mental blocks, twitching of my eyes, and aching of my wrists, I finished!  (See my winner button??  *ridiculously excited grin*)  Because I had to write so much so quickly (50,000 words in one month), it forced me to focus on quantity, not quality, which is perfect for perfectionists like me.  As they say, a horrible first draft can be edited (and believe me…it was horrible), but you can’t do anything with a blank page.  Having a set goal and some competition was exactly what I needed to stop saying “someday,” stop overanalyzing, and just make writing a priority.  And it was amazingly gratifying to finish the month and be able to say I’d written a book!

Now, to get to the point of this post, I’m doing it again, and I’m looking for writing buddies to do it with me!  If you have even a hint of an inner author begging to come out (and I am thinking of quite a few of you who I know do), why not give it a go?  It is so much easier to keep going when you have the accountability of friends, so I hope some of you will do it with me!  And imagine the amazing satisfaction of finishing the month and being able to say you wrote a book!!  Once you sign up on the NaNoWriMo website, there are lots of fun things to keep you motivated and accountable, like charts where you can track your daily word-count progress, hilarious and encouraging pep-talks from published authors, forums on writing techniques, etc.  The new site for this year will be up on October 10th.

There’s a famous Ira Glass quote (see video below) about how when you start doing creative work there’s a gap between your ability and your taste, and the only way to bridge this gap so your work becomes the wonderful thing you want it to be is to do lots and LOTS of work.  NaNoWriMo is the perfect way to start doing that!

So…who’s ready to join me for a month of literary abandon?

 

July 24, 2010

Proud of the Pigpen I’m Splashing In

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , at 8:11 pm by Tamara

Have you noticed how cool it’s become to talk about what failures we are?  Hypocrisy is bad, and honesty is good.  But I’m starting to think we’ve gone a little too far.  Too often we’re like pigs in the muck, happily splashing and saying “Look at me!  I’m sinning left and right!  I’m a total mess!  It’s okay, I’m no better than you, so you don’t have to be offended by me.  Come try this Christianity thing!  The muck’s great!”

What’s wrong with this picture?

Popular Christian attitudes seem to swing like pendulums.  It’s very hard to find the middle–something I know very well, being extremely drawn to the black and white.  I think this pendulum swing has come from our reaction against a mask-like Christianity that acts like we have everything together, and once you become a Christian, everything will be hunky dory for you, too!  Of course, this hypocrisy is not only harmful but ridiculous.  So we realized, rightly, that it was time to add some more honesty to our Christian dialogue.  After all, how could people see the healing, transforming, redeeming power of our Redeemer if we never admitted there was anything for Him to heal?  We also realized that one function of the body should be accountability–we need to admit our failures so we can help each other out of them.  This are good goals and beautiful results of true humility.  But, our enemy is smart, and of course he hates true humility.  So he twists it.

We’ve maintained, mostly, the part where we talk about our sins and failures.  But somehow we’ve forgotten the POINT of that.  When we talk about our struggles, it’s too often not because we’re broken-hearted over sin, it’s because it feels good to admit we’re sinning and have everyone else just nod sympathetically.  It takes a burden off our shoulders, makes us feel like maybe this sin isn’t so bad after all!  But true confession is not about just telling the story of our failure (and being proud that we’re humble enough to admit it).  Confession means agreeing with God that what we did was wrong, and that our sin is something deadly that He takes very seriously.  When I say “I’m really struggling with______,” that’s a good time for me to examine whether I’m really STRUGGLING against that issue, or just passively floating in the shark pool.

And why has it become “cooler” to talk about personal failure than to express faith and hope that God is powerful enough to help us out of any situation?  Eric Ludy says in his book The Bravehearted Gospel, “Oddly enough, the only people whom we trust any more in Christianity—the only people whom we consider to be real, honest Christians—are those who come right out and testify not of the power of Christ transforming their lives, but of their own sinful indulgences, lusts, and indiscretions, and their complete inability to cease from a single one” (p. 137, emphasis mine).  When did we forget the power of our God?  When did we forget that the point of a Redeemer is that He redeems?  Why do we act like there are some issues that are just too big for Christ’s blood to cleanse, so we may as well just sit around and tell each other “It’s okay, don’t worry about it?”  And why should anyone want to join us in the Christian life if we ourselves have no hope of change, healing, and life?

My challenge to myself:

  1. If I’m admitting my failure, I’d better make sure that I realize how serious that sin is, that I’m broken-hearted over it, and that I’m consciously telling God, “I agree with you that this is sin, please help me!”  If I can’t say any of that, I probably need to stop talking and start praying that God will help me see my sin the way He does, otherwise I run the risk of just encouraging someone else that the sin isn’t that big of a deal after all.
  2. When someone else admits to me that they’re struggling, I need to not only tell them “I understand, and I have the same struggle,” but also tell them “There’s hope!  God is strong!  He cares about this, and He’s given us the life of Christ so we can conquer this.  We don’t have to be defeated!”

July 18, 2010

Human/Sex Trafficking

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 11:19 pm by Tamara

I’ve started doing research lately on human and sex trafficking.  The knowledge that children are forced into slavery and prostitution not only around the world, but in the UNITED STATES, shocks and infuriates me.  In fact, Atlanta, Georgia, just a few hours from here, is one of the top three cities for sex trafficking in the world.  Statistics show that there are more people in slavery today than ever in history, and yet we act like this ended with the Civil War.

I don’t know yet what I’m supposed to do about this, but I know I’m supposed to do something.  We’re commanded to “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17), and that command is just as real today as when it was first spoken.  So for now I’m researching, praying, and planning to speak out what I learn–and praying for courage to do whatever God tells me to do next.

“ Tolerate not evil against humanity.  And when thee is powerless to do anything else, speak with vigor.  Protest!”

—Daniel Anthony, father of Susan B. Anthony

June 30, 2010

I’m Afraid I’ve Been Thinking

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 2:22 pm by Tamara

Today at work I was shelving Bibles and came across a section I didn’t realize we had, called “Famous Author Bibles.”  Funny, here I always thought GOD wrote the Bible. But, there they were, Bibles with names of popular Christian authors/teachers splashed across the front in big, bold type.  Which got me thinking about a LOT of semi-related things.  (“Lefou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking!”  “A dangerous pastime—”   “I know!”  …Ahem.)

First off, what an incredible responsibility when people take your teaching so seriously that they actually publish an entire Bible with your comments on it.  There’s a lot of potential there to either lead people closer to Christ or put slippery banana peels all over their path.  But that doesn’t just go for those of “us” who have our own brand of Bible, but for every one of us who’s ever written something, given advice, or even stated an opinion.  Our words are powerful.  Mark Buchanan wrote something in his book The Rest of God that has seared my soul:

All our authority is derived.  Either God gives us words, or we are only giving opinions.  …If anyone ever stops to listen to you or me, this had better be solidly in place:  Our speaking comes out of our listening.  What we say comes out of what we hear.  We have to be people who listen, day and night, to God.  Our  utterances ought to be as Jesus’ were: an echoing of the Father, an imitation of him…. “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God”  (I Pet. 4:11).  That verse should be paired with Jesus’ statement: “He who has ears, let him hear.”

How much of what I say could I call “an echoing of the Father, an imitation of him?”  Three areas convict me immediately: Facebook statuses (so easy to “vent” on there), agreeing with coworker’s complaints (sigh), and giving advice that’s based on my own subjective experiences but doesn’t have real Biblical backing (and I have a whole post on that rattling around in my head, so I’ll say no more.)

The second thing these “Famous Author Bibles” made me think of is the “Cult of the Personality.”  Sadly, I think a lot of organizations/churches get all their fuel from one particularly passionate and likable person.  But what happens if they die, quit the ministry, or get in a scandal?  Will the whole thing fall apart?  A crucial part of leadership is replicating yourself to the point where you’re sure you could fall off the planet and God’s work would still continue.  Also, when thinking of the cult of the personality, I need to make sure that, just because I trust/admire someone, I still test what they say and write against the Bible.

Lastly, my Bible shelving experience was frustrating because the shelves were so impossibly tight that I couldn’t get all the new ones on.  We carry every imaginable translation, size, and style of Bible you can imagine, from massive gold-edged King James Versions to magazine shaped New Testaments with photos of models on the cover so no one knows you’re reading the Bible.  Now, I’m incredibly thankful to live in a country with so many Bible resources, but as I was breaking my fingers trying to shove even more Bibles on the shelf, I couldn’t help feeling sick about the fact that there are thousands of people whose Bible translations look like this:

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That’s right.  Empty.  Because not a single word of the Bible has been translated into their language.  They estimate there are 2,500 entire LANGUAGES with no Bible translation.  I’ve seen letters from indigenous groups in the middle of nowhere begging for someone to come tell them the story of Christ, and I’ve talked to people ready and waiting to go, just as soon as they have the funding to do it.  What if we spent a little less money on another Bible (or another movie, purse, or meal at a restaurant, for that matter) and sent that $15 to a missionary instead?  Western Christians have enough money to evangelize the entire world in our lifetime.  But it won’t happen unless we’re giving.

Convicting day for me.

June 12, 2010

Quote

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged at 12:11 am by Tamara

And now, here’s a quote of substance to make up for the last post.

“If deep in our hearts we suspect that God does not love us and cannot manage our affairs as well as we can, we certainly will not submit to His discipline.  We know that He loves us.  Jesus Christ, nailed to a cross, is irrefutable proof of that.”  —Elizabeth Elliot, Discipline: the Glad Surrender, p. 39

August 18, 2009

Death By Rearview Mirror

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 5:25 pm by Tamara

It must have been a rather contradictory sight: me, in my black stiletto heels, wide-leg slacks, and chunky jewelry, stepping out of a hunter green S10 pickup with a camouflage steering wheel cover. But when you gotta get to an interview, you gotta get to an interview. (Much thanks to Nate for graciously loaning me Kermit, his “hick truck,” by the way!) What’s wrong with my car, you ask? Just one tiny detail: the rearview mirror fell off and is swinging dejectedly from its wire, face down.

IMG_3470

Should I go into detail about our three-and-counting attempts to fix it? I think the thing has lost its will to live, or at least its will to be attached to the windshield. Interestingly enough, this happened to me with my last car, too. It has gotten me thinking about perspective, though. How would you drive if you couldn’t look backwards? I’ve spent a lot of time this summer looking backwards and inwards. Both can be good things, but I’ve gotten almost obsessive about it as I’ve tried to figure out my weird life circumstances and how I am (or am not) dealing with them.

Corrie Ten Boom said “If you look at the world you will be distressed; if you look within you will be depressed; if you look at Christ you will be at rest.” I’ve experienced all three of those realities lately. My unemployment and the uncertainty of our future has definitely been distressing, and as I’ve desperately tried to figure out how to answer the constant question, “How are you doing?” I’ve felt almost depressed at times. I feel like God has been quietly calling me again and again to stop worrying about everything else and pay attention to Him. It’s a constant mental battle to bounce my thoughts off my worries and say, “Oh, hi, God. How are You doing? Fine? Oh, okay, I guess everything must be fine with my life, too. You haven’t freaked out yet.” It’s almost like how when you’re fasting, hunger pangs remind you to keep praying. I’m trying to train myself to use my pangs of introspection, worry, or whatever as reminders to acknowledge God’s presence and sovereignty and interest in my life. As reminders to REST. Some days my thoughts seem like a ping-pong ball bouncing between the two extremes.

Another interesting fact about the dangling mirror is that, were I to drive with it swinging there, there’s a good chance it would bash me in the face. I’m pretty sure that a wrong perspective has about the same effect.

IMG_3476