Sleeping Out for Sukkot

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img_20161020_183012703_hdr1This past week has been unseasonably warm—so warm that we were able to sleep outside in our “sukkah” (i.e., a tent). The nights were mild and beautiful, and we enjoyed a restful night of sleep in the fresh night air.

Friday, the temperature dropped, and the wind increased. I figured my children would sleep inside where it was warm. But no, they wanted to camp out, and they convinced me to join them.

We dressed warmly and took extra blankets outside. Like butterflies in cocoons, we snuggled inside sleeping bags with blankets piled on top.

I was enjoying the coziness when I sensed wetness. (It had poured that morning, and my sleeping mat and bag was beside the tent window.)

For a moment, I contemplated returning to my soft, warm bed but decided that since we had made the effort to drag extra blankets out to the tent, we would make the best of it.

I abandoned the damp sleeping bag for the other side of the tent and again wrapped myself in blankets.

Unlike the previous night’s calm air and relaxing sleep, the extreme windy conditions seemed to mock my attempts at sleeping as it whipped the protective tarp we had secured over the tent.

My mind imagined the howling wind yanking the tent pegs and transporting us into another “world,” like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

Fortunately, our tent stayed intact and the kids got more sleep than I did.

The kids are planning to sleep outside again tonight (even though it’s a little colder).

And I might just join them. After all, it is Sukkot!

Job 37:9 “From the chamber of the south comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds of the north.”

John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

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Empty Arms on Mother’s Day

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Each year on the second Sunday in May, we honor mothers on Mother’s Day. While this day is special for many women, others dread that day.

For the childless woman who wants children, Mother’s Day can be frustrating and a painful reminder of what is lacking in her life. No special flowers or Mother’s Day gift, just another uncomfortable service proclaiming God’s blessing of children.

Parents nod and smile in agreement and wonder when she is going to start a family. “Don’t worry. Next year, you’ll be standing up with all the other mothers,” someone says.

But she may not be. She leaves the service feeling worse than when she came. All she wants is a baby, and no one sees her pain. She is reminded again of her infertility and may even feel incomplete as a woman. Each month she faces disappointment. An unknown poet expressed well the pain she feels:

I am in pain. Someone just died. Who you say? Someone who never was.

I am infertile. My period just came. I hurt so much.

My body keeps reminding me I am incomplete, I don’t function properly.

Why? Why? Why? Oh, my baby, why can’t you be?

 

Some women, after years of infertility treatment, may conceive only to miscarry a baby. Life does not seem fair. While she desperately wants a baby, others intentionally abort their children. She would gladly adopt one of those babies as her own. Doesn’t anyone care for her pain?

Although I have not struggled with infertility, I have experienced the hurt of miscarriage. I do not understand how you feel, but I know you hurt deeply. I care and wish I could alleviate your pain. I wish I could fill your empty arms.

 

Empty Arms

Another month has passed.
God, I don’t understand.
I just want a baby.
Please fill these empty hands.
Lord, give me a child,
And I’ll raise him for you
like Hannah of old–
that’s what I’ll do.

Oh, for a little one
to fill my life with joy!
One or two-I don’t care.
A little girl or boy.
Give me peace within my heart
to rest in You each day.
that no matter what comes my way
I’ll trust You and obey.

Happy Birthday in Afghanistan

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Specialist John Keller

Specialist John Keller

Twenty years ago today was a very cold, snowy morning. My husband and I had carefully traveled the icy roads late the evening before in anticipation of our oldest son’s arrival.

He wasn’t due for another two and a half weeks and I wasn’t in labor, but my water bags had broken and my doctor suggested I come to the hospital. We didn’t relish the idea of rushing through more snow in the early hours of the morning so we left late that night.

Although I had taken childbirth classes, I really didn’t know what to expect since every woman is different. (And I can tell you after having five children that each pregnancy and childbirth varies even with the same woman.)

I tried everything I could think of to get my labor started, but it was past midnight and nothing was happening. I reluctantly agreed to pitocin. I assumed that my labor would be long, so when the pains became intense very quickly, I decided to try an epidural.

The anesthesiologist was with another patient and by the time he began giving me the epidural, I felt a strong urge to push. I was fully dilated and ready to give birth.

I don’t think the nurse realized how quickly I would progress, and if I had known, I would have chosen all-natural. (I chose all natural with the next four. Yes, I had an emergency, C-section with my fifth child, but it was only after going through the whole labor sans drugs, and I began pushing that the doctors realized I wouldn’t be able to deliver a double footling breech baby. Only then, did I agree to an epidural and the C-section.)

Shortly after 5 in the morning, I gave birth to my first-born son. He was one ounce over six pounds, and the most beautiful baby I had ever seen! My heart filled with love as I held him close and nursed him for the first time.

With the thoughts of joy, however, came thoughts of fear and inadequacy. How could I ever possibly teach this baby all he needed to know for life? Would he learn to love God and treat his fellow man with kindness and respect?

As the years passed, I tried to imagine what my son would look like as a grown man, and what he would become. Despite my mistakes—and I made plenty of them—my son John grew up into a fine young man.

My only regret is that this is the first birthday that I can’t give him a birthday hug and kiss. I can’t make him a special birthday meal or a birthday cake.

You see, my son is part of the United States Army, and his unit is currently serving in Afghanistan. It hasn’t been easy, but he is fulfilling his duty to his country, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He also received his E-4 promotion today on his birthday, which makes him a specialist.

Congratulations, Specialist John Maynard Keller, and happy 20th birthday!

How does a mother feel about letting her son go out of her protective arms and across the world to a dangerous situation? Carried in His Arms. describes the emotional struggled I encountered as the day of my son’s departure drew near and how God sustained me during that time.

A Mighty Army (For Generations Yet To Come)

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I see a mighty army of warriors yet to be,
A growing generation beginning their journey
Babies in the nursery, the child upon my knee
Will be the future soldiers pursuing victory.

A generation still to come—the children yet unborn—
We train to bear the good news to a people tired and worn.
This army—are we raising and teaching them what’s true?
Have we shown them how to trust and to live a life for you?

All too soon the time will come when we must pass batons.
We need your grace and seek your face; the battle’s just begun.
Lord, raise a mighty army of souls sold out to you,
A generation ready, your perfect will to do.

Are we telling the next generation of God’s wondrous works? Are we training them to be soldiers in His army? Are we teaching them how to pass the baton to the next generation yet to be?

Psalm 145:4 “One generation shall praise your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.”

Rachel L. Keller
Written Sunday, November 3, 2013