Monday, December 19, 2011

For Unto Us a Child is Born

Having a kid at Christmas is great. He will never remember his first Christmas, but I'm still just a little bit excited to see presents from family accumulating under the tree. Presents that I or his dad will open for him, of course. So really, baby's first Christmas is much more about his parents' joy and delight than our child's.

But as the gifts under the tree stack up higher, I am brought again to a subject that I've thought a lot about, as a Christian and now as a parent: What will our family Christmases look like in the future, as (god-willing) more children are added to the brood? Will we tell our children that a fat man in a red suit delivers gifts to them and all other children on Christmas? Will we limit our Christmas celebration to a few gifts under the tree? What about Advent? What about baby Jesus? What about needy kids?

So many things to ponder. I think my hubs and I agree that our kids will not "believe in Santa", in the traditional sense. We like the idea of St. Nicholas, and telling our children about this friendly saint who is the patron of children and gave gold coins to the poor. This, in turn, can be a springboard for shifting our kids' focus from themselves to others at Christmas and always.

On this subject, my husband and I have yet to talk at length, but I think we are already setting a precedent by not buying our baby any gifts for Christmas this year. Well, technically we bought him a doorway jumper way back in October and said, "It can be for Christmas". That was 40 bucks and we haven't spent any more on the little guy. When family wants to shower him with gifts, especially on his first Christmas, I will not object or do anything rash like give all the gifts away to needy kids. But I do think that we will end up perhaps getting one gift for each child in the future and then try and focus on ways to serve needy families in the holiday season.

Of course, as a pastor's family, we will also introduce the birth of Christ as the focal point of the holiday of Christmas, and build into our traditions this important precept. I love the idea of celebrating Advent, or the season leading up to the actual holiday. To me, it imbues the whole month of December with a sense of awe and anticipation to celebrate God becoming a little baby, being born in a manger to a regular Jewish family to be raised among men. (Read a version of the Christmas story here!)

Christmas is truly one of the most wonderful times of the year, and I think as our economy continues to be unstable, people are truly realizing how gross the excesses of holidays past have been. There is a photo circulating on Facebook that juxtaposes shoppers, arms filled with "stuff", with a photo of hungry African children, holding out their hands for a scrap of food. The caption reads, "Define Need". Thought-provoking, humbling, and hopefully brings me to true repentance of materialism and greed all year round.

In the end, for the Christian, this holiday is about our God being born among us as a little child, shedding the glory of His heavenly presence to incarnate in human form. It is mind-boggling, and deserves the sense of awe that many children feel when ogling a tree-full of presents on December 25. For without His birth, there could never be His death.

Without His death, we could never truly have life.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A Glorious Inconvenience

Hubby and I have got a very new, very large inconvenience happening in our life these days.

He moved into our room a little over two weeks ago. He screams sometimes until he gets his way. He's super-needy. He demands to be fed about every three hours, including in the middle of the night. I have to wipe his eyes, nose and butt for him.

His name is Calvin James, and he has shifted my whole world and given me a new normal.

I love him more than almost anything!

While it is true that children are an extreme "inconvenience", what with all their neediness and mess, they are what Mark Driscoll calls "a glorious inconvenience". I understand this now. And like many things about the parent/child relationship, I can see a very large insight into the God/child relationship that I wasn't fully aware of until we produced a squalling little inconvenience of our own.

It's hard to believe, but God loves me with the same tender love that I direct to Calvin...but perfect. So he doesn't get mad when I drop my pacifier while I'm screaming or eat my hands instead of the food that is being offered. He doesn't get surprised or frustrated when I make a giant mess of things. He isn't really annoyed if I decide I need Him in the middle of the night. I've only known Calvin for three weeks, and I love him more than I thought I would. God has known me since the beginning of time (for lack of a better term, because He had no beginning!) and loves me immeasurably more than I can fathom!

These new insights are mere glimpses and shadows of a greater truth. I'm so thankful for my little inconvenience, even as he screams and I try to type with one hand! I can't wait for all the wonderful surprises that are in store for me as I continue the journey of motherhood!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Commencing Countdown

As I'm looking at my little pregnancy app this morning and it is telling me that I have 2 weeks and 5 days until my due date, the reality of motherhood is slowly beginning to dawn on me. For the past few days I've kept telling my baby to hurry up, only to mentally check myself and think...these are my last days of "freedom". I should really be living in the moment, enjoying these last little kicks and jabs and time to nap, clean and take a shower whenever I want!

I have had a really blessed pregnancy, and I'm hoping this carries over into labor and delivery, but once this baby begins his descent, well...I realize all bets are off.

And so, with one more shortened week of work ahead of me, I then face some time to just wait. The reality is that Calvin could really enjoy being in the womb and decide to stay there for another month before the docs would do anything to help him along. A MONTH! I could be waiting around for what feels like forever!

So, what should I do with my free time after next week? I live in a small apartment, so there's only so much cleaning to be done (although the place needs it!). I'm sure there will be some lazy movie-watching and napping going on. But what else? What should I do to fill my days? Any moms, I would appreciate your thoughts or experiences. Or, anyone else who is a professional at filling time with amusing things...anyone retired and want to tell me what you do to fill days? I'd like to not waste them!

19 days and counting...

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Important Questions

My pastor wrote this blog and it is a beautiful, well thought out, and biblical answer to the question posed by a six-year old in church this past week, "What happens to a one-year-old who dies?"

Read and be blessed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Operating Instructions

I just finished reading Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott this morning. Fabulous book, and it got me thinking...

In it, the author is determined (in a funny way, not too much a scary way) to instill in her son from infancy the political ideals that she holds to. She whispers her liberal rhetoric in his ears as he sleeps and nurses. She thinks she will turn him into a brilliant opposition leader someday.

In a similar way, having a kid reminds of the feeling I would get every time I moved schools when I was a kid (which was a LOT): I could start over completely and be whomever I wanted to be! I could re-invent myself as something different than I was before! Of course, this never really worked out for me. I was always the nerdy, funny, slightly off-kilter redhead, no matter where I went. But the feeling was there...this infinite power in my grasp to remold myself and change my destiny. There is a little piece of me that feels that sense of power when I think about Calvin and how I can mold him into who I want him to be.

Then again, I've seen enough to realize that this won't necessarily work out for me, either. Just because I want Calvin to have his dad's smarts and my sense of humor, and to inherit easy-going ways from both his parents, well...that's not necessarily how this all works! I get that.

But I also know that there are some things that I wish Calvin to know and grasp right out of the hopper. For instance, I want him to know his Creator. I want him to know that life is not about rules and regulations, but about loving God and loving people in ways both tangible and intangible. I want him to have great faith and great humor in equal quantities so that he can deal with devastating blows as they come, because I know they will. I want him to really know these things in a way that effects the way he thinks and makes decisions and lives his entire life.

How this all shakes out, of course, remains to be seen. Perhaps I should be praying for that great faith and great humor in equal quantities as I raise my son. I think I'm going to need them!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Just In Time

Hubs and I have got about 13 weeks, give or take, until we are officially parents of an official out-in-the-world baby. The thought takes my breathe away (maybe half from awe and half from hyperventilation)!

Because our little bebe has pretty developed hearing these days, I've decided to read out loud to him in the mornings from this great little book called The Jesus Story Book Bible. This is the mother of all children's bibles and every time I read a story from it, I cry and remember all the wonderful things God has done. It is perfect in its simplicity, and profound in its childlike wording.

The other day I read the story of Abraham and Isaac. For those of you not familiar, you might not see why I was dreading reading this story, so I will recap. Abraham is chosen by God to be the father of the nation of Israel, God's special covenant people. He promises to make Abraham's line great in number and in standing. To this end, God grants Abraham and his wife Sarah little boy, even though they are both in their 90s! Then God asks Abraham the sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar. In the end, Abraham's willingness was enough and God spared Isaac and gave the pair a ram to sacrifice instead as an offering to Him.

As you might imagine, reading about sacrificing one's only son is a little traumatizing for a pregnant lady. But the part that struck me in the story was that God provided an alternative sacrifice "just in time".

Sometimes I feel like God is doing everything "just in time", keeping everyone biting their fingernails on the edge of their seats seeing if He will come through. But the older I get, I realize that God does all things in HIS time, and that it is perfect. It isn't sliding into home plate just before the ball hits, or getting back to your car just as the cop takes out his pen for your ticket. It's PERFECT timing, considering all possible iterations in the universe (He is God, after all).

That just made me feel a lot better about becoming a parent, for some reason. I didn't get pregnant by accident...God gave me a baby and He gave my baby ME as a mom. I have a wonderful Father who has provided me and will continue provide me with everything that I need, just in time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Christian Bumper Stickers Make People Want to Punch You

Hey Christians,

I want to have a short word with you...

Your bumper stickers suck. Don't take this personally, because I know those are the only bumper stickers they make for Christians. But I can tell you that, even as a Christian, these not-as-pithy-as-we-think statements usually make people want to punch us in the face, not come to Jesus or ask about our next church function. If you have a story of when someone actually asked you about "your boss, the Jewish carpenter", or admitted to you that upon looking at your bumper they realized that they had "no Jesus, no peace", then come and talk to me and I will apologize to you personally. However, I don't think that's going to happen.

A popular bumper sticker saying that irks me the most of all is "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven." I can't really say why this of all the others bothers me so.
Possibly because it just sounds arrogant and rude, coming from no context of relationship.
Possibly because it sounds like we're answering an accusation before it has actually been voiced to us personally, and therefore sort of desperate and try-hard.
Most likely because I feel like it is supposed to somehow give us a lame excuse to swerve in and out of traffic, cut people off, and generally be obnoxious on the road, and when people get mad, you just point to the bumper sticker. "Sorry buddy, I'm still being sanctified. Jesus isn't finished with me yet!"
The worst part is when people quote it to you in real life. It's like, "Hey, why are you such a jerk?" "Well, Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven." End of story. No discussion allowed. Didn't you hear my pithy statement?

Sometimes I wish we would think a little harder about how we sound to people when we say these things; these canned, trained responses come from residing in the Christian bubble too long, not from gaining wisdom or any true soul-searching. Maybe the next time someone asks me why I'm such a jerk sometimes, I'll answer, "Because I'm a wretched sinner who is often judgmental and sometimes thinks I'm better than everyone else." (I hope I would quickly follow it up with "which I know is not true, I just act like it sometimes...", but at least it would be a true and thoughtful response!)

Or perhaps I should look to Scripture and try this one on for size, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." (Phil 3:12) Sort of like, "I know I suck, but I'm trying."

How about, "I'm sorry. I AM a jerk. Will you forgive me?" I think that instead of wanting to punch us in the face, people would respond well to that sort of statement.

I don't know. What do you think, Jesus fish? =)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Question Mark

I read this quote this morning: "The gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question mark against all truth." It's a quote from Karl Barth, who turned liberal theology in Germany on it's head around the time leading up to WWI. Questioning accepted truth has been the mark of great revolutionaries throughout time, and this includes Christian reformers.

But does anyone notice how uncomfortable life is with all these question marks everywhere? We as people grow comfortable with the status quo and don't like it when people begin asking pesky questions that ruin our comfortable worldview if we actually think about the answers or the implications of the answers.

I know this first hand! The life of a church planter seems to be one giant question mark. Where are we going? How will we live when we get there? Will people be receptive to the radical message of the Gospel? Will we ever be able to afford to have kids, buy a house, or go out to eat ever again?! Is there a right and a wrong way to do church? If so, how can we do it right for our context? What does loving the city truly look like? Is it as messy as it seems? (hint: YES!) Do I truly love my neighbor enough to live this kind of question mark life in order to serve him? That might be the most disturbing question of all!

I can't answer most of these questions. There they remain with their question marks behind them, a constant reminder that I am not in control over anything of importance in this life. The only thing that remains without a question mark is the Gospel and more importantly the God who orchestrated it. It is beside this truth that I must weigh all questions I have and trust the God who knows and loves me. He is the God over the all the question marks, commas, exclamation points and full stops of life, and I trust Him.

Period. :)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Oh boy!

Yesterday we had our 18 week ultrasound and saw for sure and certain that our little kicky baby is a boy! I prayed that baby would be less than modest for us, and indeed the very first thing we saw on the screen we all sort of stopped and stared at... The sonographer said, "See that? Girls don't have that!" I started crying and was in disbelief, as I had convinced myself I was having a girl, although I have always wanted boys. My husband looked pretty emotional too. When we got home, he announced, "Okay. I think I'm officially excited!"

But the past few days and weeks have not been all joyous. Along with the growing love for our baby, we are experiencing a deeper and deeper love for our church family, as well. But as soon as people hit the earth outside the womb, love gets a lot messier, and at times much more painful. I've heard people say, "Ministry is difficult and you must count the cost." I had no idea what that really meant until I actually began investing my whole life into ministry.

We have moved across oceans and continents at the call of God, given up jobs we love, friendships we cherished, comfy houses and routines. Like many of my other brothers and sisters in Christ, we have put our hand to the plow and not looked back. (Luke 9:62) We have left mother and father and sisters and brothers for the sake of the gospel, and in doing so gained a whole new family in Christ.

But as always with family, or sinful humans rather, there is pain. There is heartbreak and rejection and misunderstanding and offense. It hurts. It is messy. It is painful to have dedicated your past, present and future to something, and to feel as if people don't care at all.

However, I am re-learning in Gods grace that my past, present and future isn't dedicated to an idea, and it isn't for people to approve or disapprove of for its validity. It is dedicated to the cause of Christ and His Kingdom, and it is done only out of love for Him in hopes of being lovingly approved by Him. My true, sacrificial love for people can only stem from my love from and connectedness to God, or I am laboring in vain.

Like the child kicking around in my belly, I continue to grow and be formed by my Maker, loved unconditionally, and it is eagerly anticipated that I be fully formed and mature by the time this life is over. But I've got lots more living and learning to do before that happens, hopefully. So I submit to sanctification, no matter how it hurts.

And believe me, it does.

Monday, January 24, 2011

We're on a mission from God...

(Yes, the title is a Blues Brothers reference. You can laugh.)

I'd like to juxtapose two things in the ol' blog today: a phone conversation I had with a total stranger, and a sermon I heard from the mouth of my beloved husband yesterday.

Scene 1: Random man calls into the school where I work to enquire about classes for his daughter. For some reason it came out that I live very near to this school, which is in the Downtown area of San Jose. He related to me that his wife and he used to live in the city (that's San Francisco for those of you who don't live around here) right on the Haight in a cool, funky apartment. But, all that changed when they had their first child. "Of course we had to move!" he explained. I didn't fully understand why, but he kept going. He said, "Downtown living is so awesome when you are a young couple. But let me give you a piece of totally unsolicited advice [at least he was honest!]. Start looking for a house out in the cozy suburbs of San Jose now so that when your child is old enough to go to school, you are firmly established in a great school district. We are fortunate enough to send our children to private school because my wife makes gazillions, but I realize not everyone can afford that. So the thing to do is situate yourself where the good schools are so your children don't suffer. I had a friend who lived downtown and they sent their child to Horace Mann. It was terrible! She suffered! Get out of there while you still can!"

WOW! Okay, I said juxtapose, not necessarily explain so let's just cut to scene 2, Sunday morning, very cute husband preaching on one of our core values as a church: "Mission".

He explained that our God is a missional God. He has been on a mission since the beginning of time to be the God of His people and when they strayed, to bring them back to Himself. What did God do as part of His redemptive plan to save humanity? He SENT His only son, sacrificing Him out of heaven to die a horrible death on Earth. Jesus lived and moved and breathed among us. He wasn't a monk, staying outside of society. He wasn't a street corner evangelist, preaching Hellfire. He wasn't ONLY about service projects to the poor. His entire life was lived among the very people He would save.

What makes us any different as His followers? In this sermon was the marvelous example of Jeremiah 29, when Israel is in exile in Babylon. False prophets are saying to Israel, "Don't get comfortable in this disgusting city, God will send us home soon." Or we could say in modern context, "I've got my safe little box of ONLY Christian music, Christian school, Christian friends, Christian coffee houses," and on and other words, let's live in a Christian ghetto where we don't engage the culture, but build our own.

In the Bible, Jeremiah is saying, NO. The Lord God says, "Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare (shalom - meaning peace, wholeness, health) you will find your welfare (shalom). Jeremiah 29:5-7 ESV

We, as a couple of missionaries, have been SENT into San Jose to live and work and have kids and send them to school and Scouts and soccer practice. We have been sent to work downtown, live there, walk through St. James Park every day, shop at Mi Pueblo, (slowly) learn to speak Spanish, eat Pho, get our hair cut for $10 by Moon, go to Martin Luther King, Jr. library, give homeless guys something to eat, and whatever else it means to be a downtown San Josean!!

That's the mission. Love the city because God loves the city. Be His hands and feet so people can clearly see His love at work. Increase, and do not decrease. We have been sent to seek the welfare of this city and intercede on its behalf, because in its peace and security, we shall find ours, but more importantly, God's glory will be made manifest.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long.
- Leonard Bernstein

So, my faithful 12 followers of this blog (and perhaps a few more reading on Facebook), you probably know by now that I am pregnant with the first Baby Tenny of its generation. I'm going to try really, really hard for this not to suddenly become a pregnancy blog, I promise. Although, when a small human takes over your body, I have found that it is a bit difficult to talk about anything else, but I digress...

Inspiration to write is everywhere, but I struggle with the thought of junking up the internet with more meaningless drivel that no one really wants to read. I feel like I should have something really, really good to say before I trouble you all with reading it! (You might agree!) So that is why I tend to have such long dry spells between blog posts. But as the ever-wise Mr. Bernstein says...the wait is too long if I wait for inspiration all the time. I think I should just look around.

I was inspired in the past month to find out the gender of our baby. Now, my whole life I have clung to the thought that I would want to be surprised. Then, a week or two ago I was suddenly seized with the longing to know what was growing inside my body and what, God-willing, I will be holding in my arms in a few short months. It's not because I want to buy a lot of gender-specific crap (I'll leave that to my family and friends! ha ha), but more so because I feel like it would be a great bonding sort of thing to be able to know who I'm talking to, as much as one can know a fetus, that is.

And so, if our baby has the modesty of its mother (I won Exhibitionist of the Year Award two years running in high can ask me how God allowed me to become a pastor's wife later!), it will show us the goods on February 7th during the ultrasound. We'll know if I've got a little boy Tenny or a little girl Tenny. I figure that children are one frickin' giant surprise after another, and this is but a foretaste of all the cool things that I will soon be finding out about my offspring.

I promised I wouldn't talk about pregnancy too much (although this is more about the kid than the pregnancy itself), so I will stop here. It's nice to be back, blog world.

Hopefully I'll see you again soon...