Thursday, November 24, 2011

How I Found Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I'm having a hard time figuring out how I feel. I know how I'm "supposed" to feel, but honestly I don't feel very thankful. Rather, sad and little bit angry. I think of Thanksgiving last year, and I guess the thing that I'm thankful for this year is that last year is over. I never want to relive last year.

But as I was verbally processing all these thoughts this morning, my husband said something that showed me once again why I married him.

"It's not about what we're thankful for as much as Who we're thankful to."

Suddenly I realized that when I focus my thanksgiving on people, traditions, food, material blessings ... all of those things are temporary. So if, or more accurately, when I lose them, I also lose my source of thanks.

There is only one thing in existence that is not temporary. So it makes sense to me that I should focus my thanksgiving on that one thing that I will never lose.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Our Culinary Adventure: A Night in Brazil

In one of my recent posts, I mentioned how traveling is one of the few interests Chris and I share. But I now realize that I forgot about a big one...

We share a love of food. We love eating. We love cooking together. We love trying out new restaurants. (Which, I might add, is quite challenging in Colorado Springs, the world's mecca of chain restaurants.) Our favorite TV channel is the Food Network, and if we ever decide to pay for cable, it will be to watch that channel. We've even gone so far as to throw around the idea of moving to a big city just to be able to experience more culture. (By the way, this plan isn't off the table.)

We're trying our best to pass on this love of food to our kids. We have made it our mission to introduce our daughter to a wide a variety of food as early in life as possible. By 10 months old (thanks in big part to a trip to San Francisco) she had eating authentic Mexican, Persian, Greek and Thai food. She loved it all. Being that she's a Giovagnoni, of course she's also eaten Italian and American. And just last weekend, we introduced her to Brazilian food.

Chris recently came up with this idea to cook and eat different recipes from the countries where Compassion works and then he'd share our experiences on Compassion's blog. I loved the idea. 

Mise en place for Moqueca de Peixe
So our first foray into cooking international cuisine was to Brazil. You can read Chris' post about the experience, but let me just sum it up to say, after the first meal I'm very excited about this new culinary adventure! Even though we cannot travel as much as we might want to in this moment in our lives, we can still experience a small taste of the world through food. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Don't Fight Alone

I have an enemy, of this I'm sure. He hates me and wants me to fail. And sometimes I feel like he's very close to winning.

It seems like the more I start to focus on what it is God's doing in my life, the more opposition I face. It's very hard to make any forward progress when I'm constantly fighting off attacks. I truly don't know how I'm ever going to succeed.

Why is it that life doesn't become easier when I'm on the right track? Honestly, I could use a little covering. Some sort of protection from the devil as I'm trying to learn how to fight.

I know this isn't the case, but I often feel like I'm all alone in this battle ... like God's sitting on the sidelines, cheering me on from afar. But I don't need a cheerleader. I need a teammate. I need a defender. Him by my side, in the arena, fighting with me.

Because I will be defeated on my own, I know this.

I wish I could see the real battle. I wish I could see, even just for a minute, what I know is the truth ... that God is fighting with me. For some reason, though, He's chosen to hide reality from us right now. And this makes it so hard to fight with strength, perseverance and courage.

I'm struggling to remember that what I think is reality, that I'm alone in this battle, is not actually real. It's a lie.

The truth is, I do have a Warrior by my side. I have a Defender. I have the King of the Universe, the Creator of all Heaven and Earth, with me in this.

I'm not alone. And the victory is already ours.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
~Ephesians 6:12 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
~1 Corinthians 13:12

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Vicarious Trip to Ecuador

Chris and I are very different. We often marvel at how our marriage works when we are so completely opposite. There is one big thing we have in common, though. We both love to travel. And, I might add, for being so different, we travel quite well together. I so look forward to the day when life slows down and we can see the world together. (Read: retirement.) First stop: northern Italy.

Until then, however, I will live vicariously through Chris. He gets to travel for his job. Mostly domestically (and really, who can complain about San Francisco?) but occasionally internationally, as well.

This week he is in Ecuador. I'm very excited for him. Of all the trips to Compassion countries I've been on, (okay ... that's only four, but still) Ecuador was definitely my favorite!

He'll be posting on Compassion's blog about the trip. I'm looking forward to reading along, particularly on the days when they visit the jungle. From what I understand, it's very remote. They have to travel for over an hour in a canoe to get there!

The group is made up of eight women and three men, so I imagine that should any of the jungle fauna decide to make an appearance during their adventure, there will be inordinate amounts of high-pitched squealing. I am confident that my super manly, incredibly strong, extremely courageous, east coast bred and raised husband will not be among them.

After all, he is sporting a mean mustache.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Finding My Faith: The Beginning

As I sit here writing this morning, the sky out the front window is pink. Or maybe orange. Actually it's somewhere in between the two, like a color from Heaven that doesn't exist on Earth. It's pretty amazing.

God continues to surprise me. (Really, why should I be surprised? He's God.)

This morning I got an email from a friend who said she really related to my recent post on faith. (This wasn't the first time, but it was written in a way that really struck me.) It's weird to share something so personal only to find that someone else feels the same way.

Sometimes I wonder why God made me the way He did. I've never felt like a complete mistake, but like maybe (as I so often do) He overlooked the details. Why, when I have the ability to express myself through writing, do I have such a hard time articulating my thoughts and feelings verbally? Why do I want so desperately to do things differently, and I find myself doing the same old thing? Why am I so totally driven by emotions? Why do fear and anxiety have such a stronghold in my life? Will I ever be free of them or will they haunt me forever?

Since my dad died in December, I've had to face the overwhelming fear I've been running from my whole life - the death of my parents. Over the last year of trying to make sense of it, I don't think I've made much progress. I still am confused why I prayed more fervently than I ever have only to watch him die. I still struggle to understand the point of prayer. I don't understand how a God who created and desires intimacy still feels so far away. Why do I cling to something that, in the darkest hours of my life, didn't seem to make much difference?

I guess it's in the face of these questions that faith really becomes faith. When there is no evidence and it seems like anyone in their "right" mind would give it up, stubbornly I still believe. I still believe that God is good and loves me. I still believe that He'll make good on His promises that death is not the end and I'll see my dad again. I still believe that He hears my prayers.

I don't think I've found faith yet. I'm just beginning to see what it might look like in my life. Until I questioned my faith, there was no way to know if it actually existed. Because what I thought was faith wasn't.

Faith isn't what I do on a daily basis or how I think. It's what's left when there's nothing else to hold on to.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We Fly Acoustic Airlines

We fly Southwest Airlines almost exclusively. Traveling with a child, you can't beat their luggage policy. Now here's just one more reason we'll keep flying them ... I can hardly wait to see who's going to show up on our next flight! (If it were Mat again, I wouldn't be disappointed.)

Who's the artist you'd most like to surprise you with an in flight concert?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Day My "Faith" Fell Apart

I wondered what it was going to take for me to post again. It's been six months since I last wrote. Nothing major occurred which caused me to stop posting, I just stopped. I was a new mom. I am a grieving daughter. I am a growing wife. And while all these things provided an unending supply of topics to post about, I didn't feel like doing it, so I didn't. And my blog went on an unannounced six month hiatus.

However, there is something I'm wrestling with that I need to write about. And I'll warn you, it's not going to be pretty. It might not even make a whole lot of sense. In fact, I'm mostly writing this for me, to try and put some semblance of order to the thoughts tangled up in my head. So if you're reading it, hang on.

And good luck. :)

This morning I realized something big. Monumental, even. Here it is.

I've been a "Christian" for what seems like almost my whole life ... (Excuse me while I interrupt myself. I put quotes around the word "Christian" on purpose, because with this morning's realization, my lifelong flimsy excuse for faith came crumbling down. And for the record, I'm not doubting that I'm a Christian, just trying to express how weak and broken of one I am.)

Anyway, here is what I realized. I've been a "Christian" for over 25 years and yet I have literally no idea what faith means, practically speaking. I talk about having faith, but don't know what it looks like to live out my faith. It's like all my life I've had this carefully built, but incredibly fragile front called faith, and once the facade cracks, suddenly it's obvious that there's not much supporting it underneath. And to be honest, that realization scared me. Everything that I thought I knew about life and God and faith is nothing if I cannot articulate why it matters.

My husband has been the catalyst for this realization. For literally the first time in my life, someone is challenging me to dig into my beliefs and "faith" and find it's roots. And sadly what I'm finding is that there's not much there. And honestly, that is a shock to me.

So after some tears and soul searching, he and I spent some time in Scripture, studying what the Bible says about faith. And although I know we are just beginning to scratch the surface, it feels good to finally, after 33 years, be putting some roots down to support my faith.

On the highest level, here are a few of the things I discovered:

  • I am a highly emotional person, and consequently, my faith has been 98% emotion-driven. While emotions in and of themselves aren't bad, they have been the entire basis for my faith, and that's bad. Emotions are fickle and ever-changing. Pretty much the opposite of what faith is supposed to be. Therefore, what I have always ascribed to as faith is actually not faith, but a feeling. So I need to learn what real faith is and then figure out how to have it.

  • According to what we found in the Bible, faith is, plain and simple, a stubborn belief in something with little or no evidence to support it.

So faith is my belief that Jesus Christ died for my sins. Faith is my belief that I will be with Him when I die (and that my dad is now.) Faith is my belief that He has forgiven me and loves me unconditionally.

Faith is not praying. Faith is not going to church. Faith is not reading the Bible every day. Faith is not what music I choose to listen to, how I spend my time or money, what car I drive or what I choose to eat. And it's not a lot of other things which many Christians call faith.

  • Faith and obedience are very closely related. In fact, they're in a circuitous relationship. Faith is the means by which I am able to obey God. And obedience is the evidence of my faith. So basically, I can't obey God without faith. And if I don't obey God, I don't have true faith.

While I know this is the crux of understanding faith, when I try to think about what this means for me, my brain feels like it's ready to explode. I do want to work through this, and I will, but I am at my limit of logical, analytical thinking for today.

It's been rather heart-wrenching and emotionally draining to realize that something I thought was rock solid is actually quite flimsy. And in some ways, I feel like even though I've been practicing for years, I'm still at the very beginning of this whole Christianity thing, trying to figure out what it all means. Like I thought I was a couple decades in and suddenly I find myself back at the starting line.

Also I would like to publicly thank my husband, Chris, who is courageous enough to challenge 33 years of my thinking, along with much of the rest of evangelical Christianity. He is a brave man and I know God put Him in my life to call me to something greater.

I cannot wait to explore what that is.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Clinging to Hope

In my darkest moments of grief, I am bombarded by doubts. I find myself wondering whether it's all a sham ... this whole God thing. I miss my dad terribly and I want more than anything to see him again. I start to wonder if I want this so badly that I am willing to believe anything that tells me I will? Am I clinging to a false hope?

According to Miriam-Webster the definition of the word hope is "to expect with confidence." It is closely related to the words "trust" and "faith." Those three things ... hope, trust and faith are my lifelines. They are what keep me afloat in the rolling waves of grief.

I'm expecting with confidence that I will be with my dad again. I'm trusting that what God promised in His word will happen. I'm clinging to my faith that it's all real - that He's real.

And then a couple days ago Peter smacked some sense into me.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
So I suppose missing my dad is today's trial. I am surely suffering grief, but at least I know it's not meaningless. As awful as it is, if it ultimately results in praise, glory and honor for Jesus Christ, then I'll gladly accept it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Terrifying Face of Love

I had a monumental epiphany tonight and it completely scared me.

(Disclaimer: I'm still trying to sort this all out in my mind so I'm not sure this post is going to make a whole lot of sense, but I want to share it anyway.)

So here is my earth-shattering epiphany ... are you ready for it?

I love my daughter.

I know what you're probably thinking, "Um, hello. You're her mom. You're just now realizing that? What is wrong with you?"

But stick with me.

The epiphany-causing part of this realization is not the fact that I love my daughter, but the depth of my love for her. It's SO much deeper than any emotion I've ever felt before. I've never experienced anything even remotely close to how I feel about Cara. It's taken the concept of love to a whole new level.

And this realization scares me. A lot.

What it comes down to is a lack of trust. Basically, I'm scared to trust God with my daughter. Even though it's completely backwards and doesn't make any sense, I'm afraid that because I love Cara so much, He's going to allow something to happen to her in order to teach me something ... maybe surrender or acceptance. Isn't that a ridiculous and twisted fear? I "know" that God is good and loving and compassionate. I "know" that He works all things together for good. But I also know that this world is a fallen, broken, messed up place with lots of pain and heartache. I know that many people suffer unfathomable losses allowed by God for His greater purpose.

Frankly, I'm afraid that my loving Cara so much will cause God to allow that to be taken from me in order to show me that all I need is Him. (See what I mean about being backwards? Seriously ... I'm a mess.)

But even in the midst of this consuming fear, I also see the other side. After the volatile final seven weeks of my pregnancy, how can I ever doubt God - the One that chose to give us a baby girl who is the picture of perfect health?
A little background: At 33 weeks my placenta started showing signs of calcification and the doctors were convinced that I would have to be induced early to save my baby. I was monitored twice a week and at every ultrasound the baby had to score at least 8 out of a possible 10 points for the doctors to feel okay with letting things progress naturally. Every single time our baby scored a 10. But it wasn't just barely a 10. She would complete all the necessary actions within the first few minutes of being on the monitor. Every time. She literally defied every expectation of our doctors. She came naturally, two days before her due date, and the first five months of her life have continued to demonstrate that despite what the doctors predicted, Cara is the epitome of perfect health.
Is this rambling making any sense? Even as I'm writing, I feel like an out of control ping pong ball, bouncing wildly back and forth between what I know to be true and what I feel (read: fear).

The Truth is that God loves me more than I can even begin to fathom. What I feel for Cara? That's just a tiny fraction of how God feels about me. He won't allow anything in my life without a purpose and whatever He allows me to experience, without it I wouldn't become who He wants me to be.

Bottom line. The deepest desire of my heart is to please God, whatever it takes.

Or whomever it takes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

-C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: Same Kind of Different as Me

Last year I signed up to occasionally review books for Thomas Nelson Publishers. I recently read Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.

I loved this book. It easily makes the short list of my favorite books.

Same Kind of Different as Me tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Ron Hall, an international art dealer, and Denver Moore, a homeless man from Louisiana. After much persuasion from Ron's wife, he reluctantly starts volunteering at a homeless shelter where he meets Denver. His life is never the same. Denver opens Ron's eyes to a whole new world - one where money means nothing and relationship means everything. Little does he know that Denver will bring him through the darkest time in his life.

Told in both the refined, grammatically correct words of Hall and the slow, Louisiana drawl of Moore, this book captivated me from the start. It is extremely well written and made me both laugh out loud and cry hard. It inspired me to look beyond my own comfortable world to see what God might want to teach me through someone who is different than me.

This book demonstrates what it can be like when the Body of Christ functions as God intended it - distinctly different members mutually supporting and loving each other to the benefit of all. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Daddy Stuff to Remember

I'm afraid of forgetting. I've heard this before from people who have lost someone, and I've always thought How could you forget? But it makes sense now. It's the small things I don't want to forget...

I don't want to forget the way his glasses sat perpetually crooked on his nose. He bought them by the six-pack from Costco and they were inevitably getting bent so they never sat straight.

I don't want to forget his gigantic, old school headphones he wore while doing yard work so that he wouldn't miss a Rockies game.

I don't want to forget how he'd let me come plop on his lap anytime, even when I was an adult and even though (as many others have said) I have a bony butt.

I don't want to forget how he wrote emails text messages like a teenage girl, using all sorts of abbreviations like CU L8R and TY and always signed it :> D because he never figured out that the parentheses sign made a better smile. Or maybe he liked it that way.

I don't want to forget how he could whip out pizza dough in 10 minutes and no matter how much I practice, mine never tastes as good as his.

I don't want to forget his huge, quart-sized mug that he would drink herbal tea out of every morning. One of us got it as a souvenir at Disneyworld in 1992 and he used it ever since.

I don't want to forget how he'd always raise his hands and close his eyes during worship in church, even when the song wasn't a "hand raising" song and even when he was the only one.

I don't want to forget the way he always called me Beck, never Becky.

I don't want to forget the way he loved to tell OPJs and then would sit there with this pleased grin on his face while we all groaned.

I don't want to forget how much he loved to eat ice cream. He always had seconds. Always. And if there was a small amount left in the container, he "had" to finish it.

As time goes by, I know these memories will start to fade. I wish there was a way to stop that from happening. I guess I took for granted the fact that he'd still be around doing this stuff for a long time so I wouldn't have to remember it. I'm grateful for the time God gave us with him but I wish it weren't over quite so soon.

I miss my dad.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Tapestry

It's been just over three months since I last wrote. In that time, my life has changed dramatically. Two major events shaped the last 12 weeks, both of which will deeply impact the rest of my life. The beginning of one life and the end of another. A joyful and happy beginning and terrible and painful ending.

So how will I remember the last three months of 2010? On the one hand, my daughter, Cara Grace, was born. She is perfect. Beautiful, happy, easy-going. A complete joy. On the other, my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (bone marrow cancer.) It was agressive. Nasty, horrendous, awful. A devastating disease. The diagnosis came a short three weeks after Cara was born and I was still in the midst of the postpartum hormonal roller-coaster. Needless to say, I was an emotional yo-yo.

The cancer advanced rapidly, almost as fast as my precious baby grew. Every day she would do something new, and every day they discovered a new way the cancer had grown. As my daughter grew healthy and stronger day by day, my dad got sicker and weaker.

By mid-December, less than three months since we first heard the word cancer, Dad was completely incapacitated. He had total kidney failure and had to be on dialysis three times a week. He had fluid around his lungs so he had to be on supplemental oxygen. He wasn't able to walk because he had several tumors on his spine. He was in pain all the time and had lost a lot of weight including all of his body fat. His body had failed him.

By mid-December, less than three months since we first laid eyes on her, Cara was sleeping 12 hours a night and cracking us up with her crazy expressions and baby smiles. She had healthy, glowing skin and grown pudgy and dimpled from her high calorie breast milk diet. She was cooing and gurgling with glee at the everyone who spoke to her. She was a picture of perfect health.

Christmas week. Cara experiences her first Christmas morning. Dad goes into the ICU and ends up on a ventilator. Less than 24 hours later, we are called to the hospital and have to make the dreadful decision to end life support. We sit with Dad until the end. After four excruciating hours, it is over.

The worst three months of my life and the best three months of my life. Life and death woven together to create a beautiful, tragic tapestry.