Gospel Gypsy

December 25, 2013

One Proud Momma: Bold Release Party Tour

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnkstewart @ 1:00 am

So, how to do a blog book release tour…and especially as one of the author’s parents…?  I guess the best place to start is to honor my daughter:

As her mom, I’ve known her for her entire life (nearly 19 years).  Her Dad and I have witnessed her grow from a beautiful child into a lovely, funny, talented young lady.  I could blather on about her many accomplishments but unless you are her parent, that sort of thing would likely bore you.  Let me instead try to stay on point, and just talk about what I’ve seen through this writing process.

This has been a labor of love for Hannah, who began writing Bold when she was a sophomore in high school.  Though she was at least a year ahead in school, she decided to sacrifice a year in order to help us staff our family business because of some difficult circumstances. It was a very lonely year for us as a family. Since writing had always been a way for Hannah to deal with the struggles of life (like relocating, which we have done many times), it was an outlet she turned to again.

Things Hannah wrote were (and are) very personal to her.  They were just for her, though she would share them with us sometimes.  She had never considered publishing, until God spoke into her life through a long series of encouragements and life changes.  He gave her a sense that she was supposed to do something with her writing, something that would allow Him to speak something of His love and character through her.

She then researched the publishing process and decided to try publishing an anthology of some short stories and poems she had written over the years.  Being a very prolific writer, there was much material to sort through.  Her first book, Tears of Ink, was published just before Christmas 2012.  It was a proud moment – my husband and I seeing our daughter’s picture on the back of her book, ISBN number and everything. Very cool!

While conducting research on the publishing process, Hannah was continuing to develop her novel.  You might be asking why it took five years to complete. Well, she doesn’t do anything simple.  There’s a bit of an over-achiever in there (that’s an understatement!).  So she not only developed the novel you’re about to read, but three other novels, all from different perspectives in the same story. It’s called the Breaking Shadows Series.  I think it’s a unique approach. And while writing and editing that work, she has written at least three other large works (novels or novellas), has maintained a 4.0 GPA, graduated high school with honors, is currently in the honors program at University of Akron and is pulling a very full academic load.  Oh darnit! I wasn’t going to blather on about her accomplishments.  Whoops.

The editing process was very time consuming and tedious. She did a significant amount of re-writing because her writing style had solidified more by the time she completed the work than when she began. Like most authors, because it’s a constantly growing art, she can never be completely satisfied with her work and could always find ways to modify it.  Realizing this, she knows that at some point you just have to stop and say, “It’s done.”

One thing you should know, though I’m Hannah’s Mom, I’m also a fairly critical reader.  I promised her long ago that I wasn’t going to coddle her in her writing.  If it wasn’t good, I’d be honest and let her know.  Therefore, it’s been fun constantly being surprised and delighted at the talent that’s there.  She holds my attention with her plot lines and pace. Her characters are unique and engaging.  She develops her word pictures so thoroughly that they make you vividly see the scenes in your mind.  I’m certain there’s some parental pride going on here, but if you knew me, you’d know I’m not a flatterer.  The credit given to my daughter as an author is based on the quality of her stories.  I simply have the privilege to read them because she makes them available to me.

So this Christmas, our family gets to see the release of Hannah’s second book and first novel, Bold.  The timing is particularly sweet.  My husband and I recently found out that I have breast cancer.  I will have radical surgery two days before Christmas, come home Christmas Eve, and hopefully be cancer-free for Christmas.  It’s certainly not the holiday season we were expecting, but it’ll be rich nonetheless.  We’re looking forward to being home together since everyone’s out of school, the ice cream & BBQ shop we own will be closed for the holidays, and I’ll be recovering from surgery.  With Hannah’s book release and cancer surgery behind us along with many other blessings, there’s much to celebrate.

If you’d like to support her in her writing endeavors, here’s the link to her first full-length novel, Breaking Shadows: Bold. Be sure to check out the other stops on her Blog Tour, and read on for a fun giveaway and contest running now through the end of the month!

Holy Apple Crisps! Giveaway

Prizes: Two winners will receive a copy of Breaking Shadows: Bold for 70% off.
To Enter: All you have to do is post about the Bold release on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #HolyAppleCrisps. There is no limit to the number of entries per person, so share away! All entries must be in by midnight, December 29th to be counted.
Winners: The winners will be drawn at random on December 30th and announced here on The Breaking Shadows Project.

You And Your BOLD Self Contest

Prize: One winner will receive a signed copy of Breaking Shadows: Bold free of charge.
To Enter: Read this popular scene from Chapter 2 of Breaking Shadows: Bold, and create your own artistic interpretation. Drawings, videos, audio recordings, written responses – whatever your form of art is, let’s see it! Entries must be sent to breakingshadowsproject@gmail.com by midnight, December 29th to be counted. Once again, there is no limit to the number of entries per person, so get creative!
Winners: My top ten entries will be posted here on The Breaking Shadows Project on the final day of the release party tour, December 30th, for voting. The entry with the most votes the following week, January 6th, will be announced winner.

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December 29, 2009

Christmas at the Stewarts

Filed under: Seasons — rnkstewart @ 8:29 pm

Well, another year has just about come and gone with many blessings to count.  We are part of a church who loves us and who we delight in caring for. As a couple, Randy and I celebrated 20 years of marriage.  What a milestone!  We also have a lovely home and great kids.  It’s fun watching them all mature and become the people God would have them be.

It has been a good season for us, this last year and a half…a year of healing (Randy’s health has improved though he’s currently sick with a cold – bleck!), and a year of developing routines.  We had lost some ground during the busy years of the church plant in New York so it has been good to gain some of it back.  God has helped me to be faithful with the stuff that’s on my plate and so far we’ve had the best year of school to date.  I guess it helps that the kids are maturing and are learning more independently.  All in all, I can’t complain about a thing.

We have made good friends here in Ohio and find it to be a beautiful place to live.  We love the snow, speaking of which there is currently an abundance.  The boys will most likely play in it again later today.  Our newest addition to the family, our horse Moose, is a lot of fun and has added a wonderful dimension to our lives (as well as a bit of work, but that’s all part of owning them). It’s exciting to see Hannah thrive at something she loves so much.  She had a good competition season this year in her jumping and improved on last year’s performance.  What a thrill to see her ride and jump!

The boys are growing like weeds and were excited to get not only the many Lego things they had asked for for Christmas (thanks to the grandparents),  but also some musical instruments.  David got his first electric guitar (a white on black Fender Squire with amp) and Jonathan got a drum set (Orbitron – metallic red – really cool!).  Thanks to craigslist and times being tough right now, we got these pieces for a fraction of what we would have spent retail.  I’ve said many times that I never wanted a drummer but now that I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I have one, it’s exciting to see him play.

They were both so thrilled they just about cried.  We had led them to believe (without actually lying) that the instruments would probably have to wait until birthdays.  But God provided and it was a wonderful Christmas surprise.  Thankfully we have the “man shack” (our detached garage) where these instruments can be set up and played in a climate-controlled yet out-of-earshot-of-the-parents environment.  Woo hoo!  And though it’s exciting to see them receive these things, we love having the opportunity to point them to the real Reason for the season, the gift of Jesus.  We spend the month sharing God’s redemptive plan through the whole Bible with our daily Jesse Tree advent devotionals.  This is something we look forward to every year.

It was also great to spend another Christmas enjoying Mom and Dad with us.  We had a sweet time Christmas morning and the boys were amazingly patient, since we didn’t begin opening presents until around 10:00 am.  I guess that’s growth, right?  Of course we missed having more of our extended family with us, brothers, sisters, Mother-in-law, nephews, and nieces, especially those who are gone now.  They were missed profoundly but it was wonderful to spend time thinking about them.

It’s good to reflect on God’s past and present goodness.  He pours out His grace on us daily, but in the busyness of life we can miss it.  To take time and look back is a good discipline.  It clarifies what’s truly important and how good He has been.  As we contemplate this next year, my prayer is that I will love Him more and display His glory more in the way I live my life so that, hopefully, others will be drawn to Him and experience His goodness for themselves.

July 24, 2009

Celebrating Anniversaries

Filed under: Church Life,Heart Issues — rnkstewart @ 3:32 pm

Anniversaries are great. They are opportunities to celebrate – special occasions or great people. But sometimes an anniversary comes and it causes you to be sad. For instance, this week marks two years since my husband’s brother passed away. This was a very sad and untimely event in our family’s history. It was so sudden and followed so soon after my husband’s father had passed away that it was almost unbearable. His health was even affected because of the stress and a fear that he too would die prematurely.

So here we are two years after that very sad time. And we have a good life. God has been very kind to place us in “green pastures” and has “restored [the] soul” and health of my husband in many ways. But at times like these, on these anniversaries, we are all taken back in memory to that hardest of times and it both saddens and encourages us. The memory still hurts but at the same time, we see God’s amazing faithfulness and care.

My husband is preaching this Sunday so he’s preparing his message in the midst of grieving.  Even after two years, he still picks up the phone to call his Dad and brother. Tough times. I’ve been praying for him. To add to his disquiet, there was a fifth anniversary celebration of the church he helped plant and led in New York for four years, but we didn’t know about it until after the fact.  No one’s fault.  Church planting is a busy business and it’s easy to overlook things.  We’re not discouraged by that.  It’s a different church now and it was never “ours” to begin with.  It is and has always been “God’s church”.  But their anniversary coinciding this week hits a chord and is just one more thing occupying my husband’s thoughts.  Though he did his best, he’ll always focus more on his shortfalls than on how God used him there.

My prayer is that even though his heart is heavy and his thoughts are occupied, God would fill his gaze and give him grace to not only preach a message that affects the hearers but one that ministers to his own soul.  I know God wants to meet him powerfully this week.

If you think about it, you can pray for him too.

March 21, 2009

Hope in the midst of bad news

Filed under: God stuff,Heart Issues — rnkstewart @ 2:05 pm

Wow.  The last couple of weeks have been an exhausting time in the Stewart household.  Several of us (including me) have been sick with a virus.  In the midst of this, we were given some bad news about extended family members.  It’s definitely been a time of deeper desperation for God.  

We found out about two weeks ago that my niece (my brother’s daughter who my parents raised) has breast cancer.  It was a shock that came out of left field.  Her original diagnosis that it was stage 3 didn’t bode well.  Thankfully she has since been downgraded to stage 2A, whatever that means, and it appears that it is only in one breast not both.  This is a 28 year old woman with 4 children.  Very sad news.  But God is faithfully using it to draw her to Himself in a way that I’m convinced couldn’t be accomplished in any other way.  

Add to that the news that came only days later that my brother (my niece’s father) has colon cancer.  We still don’t have conclusive results of the tests they performed from his surgery and subsequent biopsies but we are hopeful.  He is probably facing chemo and isn’t looking forward to that.  Only God can cause these kinds of things, with this timing (not a coincidence), and work them all together for His good.

The hardest part has been watching my parents deal with it all. This is the first time in their life that they haven’t been physically able to be with one of their children or grandchildren to support them in their time of need.  But God has something in it for them in the way of trusting Him more deeply.  Though they weren’t able to be physically present, their prayers and support by phone were vital.  It’s been rewarding seeing their faith so strong during this time.  But hard nonetheless.  

As for me, I’m trusting fully in God’s ability to use all this to draw us closer as a family and, more importantly, draw us closer to Him – the Giver of Life.  No matter what comes, I know He is faithful.  My brother is still a young man (48) so this diagnosis threw him.  My prayer for him is that his faith is built up through this process.  Up till now, though he’s faced many hardships, he’s never faced anything like this where he’s completely helpless.  This place of desperation, I’ve found, though difficult, is the very place God likes us to be.  In our weakness is when we find His complete strength.

I’m not in my brother’s shoes so I don’t pretend to know what he’s going through.  But the things God has brought me through have given me the confidence that if he will allow Him to be his all in all, he’ll experience a peace like no other.

As for my niece, this seems to be bringing her out of a cloud and back to a right foundation.  Her life has been pretty messed up these last few years.  My prayer for her is that she find God again and experience true faith in Him – the kind of bedrock faith that gives you strength in these times.

In all of this, I’ve been grateful for the perspective God’s given me.  Because of His faithfulness, I can fully trust in Him to do a good work here, not just in my loved ones but in my own heart as well.  His constant assurance that He is WITH us in this has been amazing.  I’m blessed to have strong faith.  I know it doesn’t come from me but has been GIVEN to me as a byproduct of seeing God’s faithfulness in my life over and over again.

A friend of ours, Dave Harvey, gave a message a few years ago about “looking back and looking up” to see God’s past and present faithfulness in our lives.  It is something I’ve dwelled on much recently and it’s kept me grateful for how well I’ve been taught. People can flounder in times like these but I feel, for the most part, rock solid.  I pray that somehow my brother and niece will experience some of this rock solid kind of faith as they walk through these life and death issues.  It’s not only comforting, it’s life-giving.

They both have a rough road ahead of them.  I covet your prayers that they will find grace and peace in the midst of it.

One more thing – we have a dear friend in Phoenix who will not be with us much longer.  He’s like a grandpa to us.  He’s the father of one of our best friends and we’ve spent many holidays enjoying stories about his very colorful life.  He’s in the last days of struggle with cancer.  We are sad to see him losing his battle with this disease but we know exactly where he is going and that we’ll see him again one day.  What a great hope we have!  We love you PawPaw and will miss you here but know you’ll keep it lively up there till we arrive.

February 27, 2009

Fear and a lot of prayer.

Filed under: Heart Issues — rnkstewart @ 5:07 pm

I had an unusual experience over the last couple of days.  Though I’m not easily frightened, I experienced fear yesterday to the point that I needed to call my husband and have him help me.  All of this came from an unexpected source.  Here’s what happened: We have some friends in New York who were close to delivering their first baby.  Actually, this couple was the first couple my husband married and for that and many other reasons, they are very special to us.  So a couple of nights ago, I got the overwhelming sense that they were in labor and I began to pray for them.  Since I couldn’t get in touch with them (because they actually WERE in labor), I contacted some friends (thanks Tim!!) to confirm the fact.  Being their first, I knew to expect a long wait so I was patient.  

I, like everyone else who knows them, couldn’t wait to see who their baby looked like.  And because they had decided to wait to find out the sex of their baby until delivery made it all the more exciting.  By the way, it’s a girl and they named her Carolina Rae. 

At some point after the delivery we received an email informing us of some complications during the delivery but which didn’t elaborate much.  I couldn’t shake the sense that something serious was up so I just kept praying.  

When I finally found out the nature of the difficulties, I guess that’s when I started having fearful thoughts about them.  I was still praying for them but there was this creeping sensation that the worst might happen and our friend would lose his wife (or his mother who was also desperately sick at the same time).  I ended up calling my husband and confessing my fear to him.  He faithfully told me some truth I needed to hear and helped me entrust them to the Lord, encouraging me to pray not just for them but for my own lack of faith.  I’ve been doing that and it has helped me to be more grounded in truth.  

It’s confusing what things can so easily uproot your faith a bit.  I consider myself to be a woman of faith, not often struggling with trusting God through difficulty or change (though I have had a couple of major battles here).  And it seems funny that I’m focusing on myself when all the light should be cast on this couple, whom I love, who are actually going through this battle.  I know they must have had to wage war with their own faith in the past couple of days.  Knowing them, they have pleased the Lord with their hearts and attitudes.  

The mom is now stabilized and she and the baby came home yesterday evening.   And though she has some serious recovering to do, she and her husband know that there are many people who love them as we do who have also been praying for them.  

One of the sweetest things I’ve heard through this is that where they originally named their daughter Carolina Rae, they’ve since changed her name to Carolina Grace as a testimony of God’s faithfulness to them through this trial.  

To Carolina:  We can’t wait to meet you precious one and tell you how special your mom and dad are.  Enjoy your new parents. They are a wonderful, godly couple who have waited patiently for your arrival so they could be a family and see the miracle of how God uniquely made you.

For me, this is yet another lesson in how weak I am and how desperate I am for God’s care.  I’m grateful He continues to rescue me from the various sins that entangle me on a daily basis.

Congratulations Claudio & Lulu on the birth of your baby girl!  We couldn’t be more excited for you.

February 24, 2009

Proud Momma.

Filed under: Mom stuff — rnkstewart @ 11:38 pm

I guess I’m a proud momma…not the kind of bad pride (though I battle with that on a daily basis), but rather the good kind that delights in the antics of your children.  At this very moment, my boys are enjoying some new action figures their daddy surprised them with.  I love watching them play together.  They’re so creative.  And though they fight sometimes, like all boys, they are quick to repent and make up.  There’s plenty to be proud of where they’re concerned, but I was thinking more about how proud I am of my daughter in this most recent season of her life.

My daughter was at the final horse show of her first season of competition this past weekend.  She got two fifth places.  It may not sound like a lot, but what’s remarkable is her attitude.  She continually postures herself as a learner and squeezes every little nugget out of her training and competing.  She’s amazingly humble.  I’m provoked.  One thing that has really been cool to see this year is how God seems to have put many obstacles in her way that have kept her from placing higher in her competitions (like bad horses, stage fright, difficult courses to remember, etc.).  But rather than be discouraged by this, she has wisely seen the value of all she’s learned in such a short period of time.  It’s the best possible outcome for a newbie.  

She’s been competing with kids that have done this for far longer than she has (though she’s had an amazing amount of riding time because her trainer loves her), but even given that, her trainer believes that in this year alone she’s experienced most of the pitfalls she would likely ever face and has learned how to deal with them.  And because she’s postured herself so humbly, it’s been a great witness to her teammates.  I couldn’t be prouder of how she’s handled herself and the maturity and poise that’s evident in her attitude.  

So this won’t be a long post.  I just had my kids on my heart and had to brag for a minute.  I’m sure your kids are special too and you have proud moments like this where you have an overwhelming desire to broadcast your pleasure in them.  Enjoy thinking about how uniquely wonderful they all are.

February 11, 2009

My daughter turned 14. Unbelievable!

Filed under: Mom stuff — rnkstewart @ 7:05 pm

I can still remember the day we found out we were pregnant with our first child.  After trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for a couple of years, we were just beginning to seek more aggressive measures.  The doctor had some medication he was going to put me on that would prompt probable multiples so he suggested that we do birth control for a couple of months prior to get my cycle regulated and my hormones at the ideal place.  We never ended up having to do the fertility meds (which I understand are really hard on your body).  We got pregnant the first month on the birth control.  It’s just a testimony that these things, like everything else, are in God’s hands.  We knew He was in control.

Delighted to finally be pregnant, we enjoyed the first trimester and most of the second uneventfully and excitedly, reading everything we could get our hands on.  To our shock, we began experiencing pre-term labor around week 24 or 25 and thought we were going to lose her.  I had experience fear over this very thing since my mother and sister both lost their first babies. But God had a different plan for us.

I could go into great detail about our experience, but I’ll spare you.  Just suffice it to say, her delivery was imminent and we felt we were lucky to get past week 28.  There were a number of times being stuck at the hospital getting labor under control.  And if you’ve never experienced bedrest when you’re trying to get through a holiday season and while trying to set up your nursery for the first time, it’s very difficult.  What I discovered though was that God was at work in my heart, preparing me for motherhood.  He was taking me out of a place of self-sufficiency to a place of God-sufficiency.  We were completely dependent on Him to bring this baby into the world safely.  It was scary.  But it wasn’t without much joy.

Once we got past week 31, we were pretty sure she would survive.  We just needed to be prepared that she might be in the hospital for a while.  She was also breech, which meant for a first delivery, she was going to be delivered c-section.  We were a little disappointed after having gone through lamaze and wanting to try out everything we had learned, but we were just wanting a healthy baby.

The other issue going on was the early loss of my income.  I had had to stop working 2 months before I had planned and the financial loss was definitely felt.  But God provided.  It was His best for me.  I had continued to have nagging thoughts like, “How can someone be completely fulfilled just being at home with a baby all day? Won’t I be bored? “.  Stupid thoughts now that I think back on it.  But like it or not, those were the thoughts I was having.  And with God allowing me to be on bedrest for weeks on end, it settled my heart and taught me to appreciate the simpler things in life.  I learned a new kind of contentment.

I had to stay on a medicine called Terbutaline for the duration of my pregnancy (causes shortness of breath, sweats, shakiness, and other undesirable side effects) but I learned to tolerate it.  I also was constantly on a baby monitor – not a great fashion accessory.  But these were small inconveniences to keep track of how our baby was doing.

The day she was born, we were scheduled to have an amniocentesis done where they check lung maturity by inserting a long needle into the amniotic sac (did I say I was going to spare you the details…sorry) and measuring some of the chemicals in the fluid.  But before they performed this test, they put me on a monitor and discovered I was in hard labor (I was so used to the constant contractions at this point that I was unaware).  They said, “Well folks, we’re going to have a baby today!”  She had decided that she was coming out one way or the other.  

We were kind of in shock at this point and had to rush over to Labor and Delivery where they were preparing a surgical suite for the c-section.  It was really an answer to prayer in a way.  Since they had said all along that we would be having a surgical delivery, we knew we wouldn’t get to experience the rush-to-the-hospital-the-baby’s-coming moment that new parents get to experience.  But in our shock in this moment, we had the equivalent as Randy couldn’t process the information quickly and found it difficult to drive from the medical building we were in to the adjacent hospital entrance.  He was nearly paralyzed mentally and after driving around in the parking lot (literally half a football length from one door to the one we needed to enter), I finally asked him to drop me off.  It’s a funny memory we will always treasure and felt it was God’s kindness to give us that adrenaline moment in the way He did.

Cut to the chase: they prepped me in about 20 minutes and the anesthesiologist did his thing and she was born half an hour after we arrived in Labor and Delivery.  They made quick work of it all and she was perfect.  Her Apgar score was low at first (typical with preemie c-section babies) but very quickly we heard her VERY functional lungs.  She weighed a tiny 5 lbs. 7 oz. and was a little peanut but had ten fingers and ten toes and a LOT of curly hair.  I thought she had a beautiful olive complexion only to find out later it was a little jaundice (duh! also typical with preemies.).  She was small but strong and was able to go home with me (my boys weren’t quite as lucky – they each had extended hospital stays but those stories are for another time).  Finally, we were a family and no longer just a couple.  And she’s been an answer to prayer ever since.  

You can tell by the level of detail I described above that it could’ve happened just yesterday.  It feels like it did.  But alas, 14 years have passed and she’s grown into a lovely young woman with a heart after God.  We are blessed!  I don’t know that I would trade any of the experiences of this pregnancy.  God knew what I needed and used these circumstances to change me.  I’ll be forever grateful.

January 27, 2009

My baby’s 6 years old!

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnkstewart @ 6:28 pm

I can’t fathom that my “baby” has just turned 6. It doesn’t seem possible. But alas, time flies. It was a fun birthday. We celebrated with a family party on his birthday (the 23rd) and had his “big party” the next day with some friends. He wanted a superhero party. So all his superhero friends joined him: his brother (Batman), he of course was Robin, the 4 Reyes kids were the Fantastic 4, Collin & Hope Tumino were Superman and Supergirl, Josh Hendrickson was Spiderman, and Seth Hendrickson was the Incredible Hulk (you’d have to see him to know how perfectly typecast this character was for him). Mom, Dad, sister Hannah and the grandparents were the Incredibles. It was a joy-filled time of playing with symbiotic goo, playing pin the spider on Spidey’s face, and decorating cupcakes with superhero stuff (like Kryptonite, aka green sugar flakes, Spiderman gummies, and various other substances). A fun time was had by all and the kids had an incredible sugar high as they left.

Birthdays are a great time to reflect. We were pregnant and had Jonathan while attending the Pastors College in Gaithersburg, MD. So much has happened since then. A year living in Philly, planting a church in New York and living there for over 4 years, and now living in Ohio. My how God has been good! We have a wonderful life.

God has surrounded us with a great group of people and given us a great home to enjoy. The weather here would be the only possible complaint, only because winter seems to go on and on. But I like wearing sweaters and the kids love playing in the snow. How can that be bad?

So though my son having a birthday indicates that I also am getting older, it’s okay. I seem to be aging well. Though I did notice when I slipped in the ice the other day it took me several days to stop feeling it. My mortality is a reality. The body is a finite thing.

Yep. I’m rambling. Not an unusual occurrence. Just wanted to post something so I’d be faithful to write on this blog of mine (for the 2 or 3 people who may look at it occasionally). Here you go.

To summarize. My son is now 6 which means I’m getting older. But I’m a grateful Mom. So many rich memories and a good life. God has been SO kind to me, one undeserving sinner.

January 21, 2009

I’m BAAAAACK!

Filed under: Church Life,God stuff — rnkstewart @ 4:07 pm

Not that I should expect you to care.  I think my last post was November 21st.  Very sad.  I’m a hack…very NOT like my friend Laurie.  She might ignore her blog for a week or so and feel like she’s committed a mortal sin.  But she’s really got something to offer.  She is an exceptionally gifted writer and a godly woman whose blog serves countless ladies with a wonderfully rich diet of the gospel.  No one would miss my mundane posts.  At the same time, I feel convicted at having ignored it.  I guess if there is even a scrap of anything in my life that can serve someone, particularly where it pertains to God’s faithfulness, I simply must share.

So I’m back.  For better or worse.  Setting aside time out of my busy day to blog about…my busy day.  Boring? Yes.  But still a continual testimony of God’s mercy toward me.

My husband and I just returned from a marriage retreat entitled “Marriage and the Mercy of God”.  What an excellent time!  The messages (1 by Dave Harvey, 2 by Paul Tripp, and 1 by Aron Osborne) were all so encouraging and faith-building.  You can download them if you want by going to http://www.mercy4marriage.org.  Whether your marriages are rocky or sound, or anywhere in between, these messages will breathe fresh life and faith into them.  

This retreat was a wonderful reminder of the need to extend mercy to one another, just as God has extended infinite mercy toward us.  We each married sinners, right?  Having skillful pastors open up what mercy looks like in marriage was very timely for us.  Thankfully we have a good marriage.  But it’s not perfect.  We sin against each other every day and need God’s example of mercy toward us to deal with each other’s weaknesses.  Such rich teaching–what a blessing!

Besides the great teachings we received, we simply had a blast being there.  It was one of those conferences that will stick in our minds as having been done really well.  Not a detail was left unattended.  And thankfully there was more time in the schedule to actually apply the stuff being discussed in the messages.  Though the last marriage retreat there was wonderfully done, a big “oops” was that it was too brief and had a very full schedule.  It fell under the category of “too much of a good thing”.  But this one was just right (as though I’m somehow qualified to judge).  An added bonus was that we got to see our dear friends from Brooklyn who were also attending.  Other familiar faces blessed us as well. Fun times.

We had a bit of a drive to get there (from Akron, Ohio to Hershey, PA).  It should’ve taken 5-1/2 hours or so to get there and it took us 7.  The ride home was even longer.  Amazingly it took us about 8 or 9 hours to get home.  Of course that includes sitting down for a dinner meal (but we ate lunch on the way out so it should have been similar).  I won’t mention any names about who had to go to the bathroom every 1/2 hour or so but you know who you are 🙂  Many “road trip moments” occurred which will be fun memories for us and the couple we rode with (our Sr. Pastor & his wife).

So, to wrap this up (because I’ve rambled on a bit), I’ll summarize:  1) I’m committed to being faithful with my blog; 2) you should consider getting the messages from the marriage conference; and 3) don’t go on a road trip with anyone who has a weak bladder. 

One other fun thing you should do: look up “The Don’t Song” by Johnny & Chachi on YouTube.  They played it at the conference and we laughed and laughed.

It’s good to be back.  I pray God will shape my words and thoughts so that they are a reflection of His continual kindness and mercy to me.

November 21, 2008

Anxious but Aware

Filed under: Heart Issues — rnkstewart @ 7:08 pm

I think I’ve been out of touch with my heart.  This last week and into next week I’ve had medical tests scheduled.  These are a long time coming.  What with my husband’s health issues in broader focus for the last 2 years, I guess I’ve let myself go a bit.  I’ve had some episodes recently that lead me to believe I may have some health issues that need tending to.  My new doctor (a lovely man who is part of our new church) ordered a battery of tests including a CT Scan of my head to see if there are any new developments from my MRI scan 4 years ago that showed possible lesions on my brain.  He also ordered an EKG, a cardiac stress test with echo, some blood work, and a mammogram (I’m 43 and have never had one – bad me!).  So all the tests have been done except the mammogram which is scheduled for Tuesday of next week.  

I thought I was doing fine, just expecting everything to be normal, the doctor just wanting to rule out anything serious, but I find myself thinking about the “what ifs” more than I’m accustomed to.  I’m a pretty easy-going person, not rattled easily.  But the more I think about it, I have sensed a growing anxiety.  I need to be healthy.  What would my family do without me?  Whatever comes, this is a good wake-up call for me. I can certainly take better care of myself than I have.  I need better rest and need to eat better (I don’t eat enough actually – by all rights I should be skinny!).  I should take vitamins. I need to get more exercise. I know all the things I should be doing…I just need to do them.  And now’s the time.

More importantly, I need to cast my cares on the Lord.  He’s my strength when I’m weak and needy.  If I’m anxious, I must trust that He knows this and will give me the grace to wait patiently, knowing that whatever comes, His grace is sufficient.  It’s good to remind myself of this truth.  And it’s also good to acknowledge my need and doubt.  Because I reek with self-sufficiency, I can just go on about my day, perhaps aware of anxiety but successfully distracting myself from dealing with unbelief.  If I’m anxious at all, it represents that in some way I’m not fully trusting in God’s goodness.  But knowing what we’ve been through in the last several years, and God’s faithfulness through it all, I’m confronted with the fact that He has worked all things together for good.  Why should I doubt that He will work anything that may come from these tests to my good as well?  It is only my weakness and sinful unbelief that would cause anything besides trust in Him.  

So by His grace, I will put myself completely in His care, submitting to whatever His plans are for me. Even if that means I will go through a medical challenge of some sort doesn’t change the truth.  His grace IS sufficient. It has been in the past and it will be in the future.  The bottom line is, I don’t know if there’s anything to worry about anyway.  Scripture encourages me to not worry about tomorrow because today has enough worries of it’s own.  I need to do that.  I will do that.  But I know that I can’t apart from Him giving me the grace to do so.  I believe the best place for me right now is to allow my faith to be strengthened with the knowledge of His goodness, His sovereignty, and His perfect love.  After all, my greatest need has already been met.  If I have an eternal perspective, that changes everything in the present.

I’m sure I won’t do this perfectly, but I’ll let you know how it goes, and I’ll let you know how my tests turn out.  I’m probably perfectly normal.  All of my symptoms can be attributed to getting older.  My body is experiencing decay.  I need to be committed to doing all I can to slow down that process, but it will ultimately happen.  I’m fine with that.  God will help me keep focused on the things that are truly important.

If you think about it, pray that I remember truth.  When I doubt, I can forget that I have a place to run to that calms my fears.  I will throw myself on His mercy seat.  Therein is where my peace lies.

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