Monday, December 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
She was a beautiful expression of G-d's creativity, and she will be dearly missed by many.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
There is a difference between the secular and the holy, between darkness and light, between closeness and connectedness, between brazenness and brokenness, between silence and stillness, between contempt and contentment... between us and G-d... and it can be stark. Thankfully, G-d has not given up on us yet! He disciplines and corrects us, he gives and He takes away, but He is never far from us. In fact, He is with us. During this celebration of Sukkot, the stark reality is that we have a long way to go, but also that He has shown us the way to get there......... and when we get there, He will be there too.
Sukkot is a time to remember several things: G-d's provision and deliverance, that He is with us and we will someday be with Him, and that all is vanity aside from Him. As we look forward to reading Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), we are reminded that the things we hold so dear are really not that important........ that G-d sometimes causes change and causes us to leave people and places and things, but those that are really important actually come with us: our husbands, our children, and our G-d. During Sukkot, we are meant to get a taste of what it is like to have nothing so that we understand what is really important, and adjust our priorities likewise.
So, like King Shlomo (Solomon), let us come to the conclusion that what really matters is to "fear
G-d and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For G-d will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil." -Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I have heard it said that we should "go back to the place where we departed from G-d" in repentance, but in this sinful body and world in which we live and breathe, I'm not sure that we always know or remember when and where we departed from godliness. In that case, let us simply return to the feet of our Savior and ask for forgiveness and perhaps He will show us when we departed, or even better, He will align our feet again to the path that He set us upon so that we can continue the journey.
I recently watched the movie, The Chosen, based on the book by Chaim Potok. It is one of my favorites by far, but the ending is the best part. The Chassidic son, who has been seemingly ignored by his father in all aspects of his life except for discussions of Talmud and Torah, is told by his father why he raised him that way. When the boy was very young, he read and memorized a tragic story and recited it to his father with no emotion, no pain at all... and his father realized that he had been given a son with a great mind but an undeveloped heart. So he chose to raise him with the "wisdom and pain" of silence in order to help him better connect with his own heart and also to feel the pain of others around him. When the father determined that the young man had accomplished this, he then began to speak to him about everything and their relationship flourished. The son was then grateful for the silence that he had been subjected to because it subsequently made him a better person. It's a beautiful story in so many ways, and if you have not seen it, do so. Perhaps our Heavenly Father leaves us in silence for periods of time for our own good...
At the very end of the movie, there is one more little story that is told: A boy leaves his father and runs away. His father tells him to return, and he says that he cannot. In great love and compassion, the father tells him, "Well, return as far as you can and I will come meet you there." This not only reminds me of the story of the prodigal son, it speaks volumes to me about repentance. If you, like me, have forgotten where you departed from G-d, don't despair. During these Days of Awe, let us return to Him as far as we can, and He will meet us there.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
G-d forbid that my father should find out what I was listening to.
This perhaps marks the beginnings of rebellion in my life. After listening (and liking) alternative rock, I moved on eventually to heavier rock, heavy metal, and then even death metal. This of course affected the way that I dressed: black clothing, chain hanging from my wallet, looking like a biker or sometimes like a corpse.. this was my "head banger" stage. I wish I still had pictures of myself from this age, but I got rid of all of them!
Then, somehow I toned it way down and became very mellow. It was at this point that I came across a group called Sublime. They were a mixture of alternative, reggae, and ska. They were the ones who introduced me to the infamous Bob Marley, and Bob introduced me to marijuana (which I first tasted on my fifteenth birthday) and rastafarianism. Interestingly enough, Bob also introduced me to a book that he quoted from constantly in his songs: the Bible. He drove me to want to read it and made me curious about what it was about. So in the course of the next year or so, I smoked marijuana from time to time, even tried growing dreadlocks without my father's knowledge, and I read the Bible from cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation. From that point on, whenever anyone would ask me what my favorite book was, my response was always the same: the Bible. I had never read anything like it, and I never will. The Old Testament, with its stories of families and war, prophets and dramas, was immediately my favorite. I fell in love with the Psalms and even memorized several of them during this time. The New Testament, on the other hand, seemed more "mystical" and mysterious, and I didn't know what to think of it. What it said about the Messiah, Bob Marley said about the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie. I didn't know what the truth was or what to believe, but I knew that the Bible was a great book and I couldn't get enough of it.
I spent a lot of time with the Scriptures. Sitting out in the empty fields behind my grandmother's house under the trees, reading or reciting Psalms to the birds or the wind, whichever would listen. I meditated on G-d and on nature, being somewhat curious about the former and in love with the latter. I believed that there was a G-d. Why? I don't know. I'm sure at some point members of my extended family had told me about Him or that he existed, and I just knew in my own heart and mind that He did exist. I just didn't know who or what or where He was.
My belief was only strengthened one day as I was sitting at the kitchen table reading my favorite book and my father walked in. I don't remember how sober or how intoxicated he was at the time, but he said something to the effect of, "You're searching for something you will never find. When you've seen as many people die as I have, you realize that there is no G-d." My response was simple: "I don't believe that." The conversation ended there. His remarks, coming from an ex-marine who served five tours in Vietnam, and his daughter's response, from a stubborn, searching teenager are not surprising either way, but they drove me to believe even more that there was a G-d and I was going to find Him. After all, I inherited my stubbornness from my father in the first place! So there! ;) I was 16.
My father passed away just a year later, but my search didn't end. Neither did my rebellion. Isn't it amazing how teenagers want the exact opposite of what their parents want for them? Perhaps I was attempting to be different rather than admit how similar we indeed were. I think all teenagers have this in common: they don't want to be like their parents. I don't know how so many people survive those years, but here we are. In just over 12 years, I will have a teenager of my own! I can't wait...
A few years later, a close friend of the family began inviting me to church. After declining about 17 times, I finally agreed to go because she told me that if I didn't like it, I wouldn't be invited to go anymore. It was a Wednesday evening, the church was completely full, as there was a guest evangelist speaking that night. His name was Jamey Ragle, and that's all I remember about him. I spent the whole time wiping away and holding back tears, and I didn't even know why I was crying. Now, this wasn't the first time that I had ever been in a church service. No, I had been to Alabama churches a couple times with an aunt, and they weren't good experiences. I always felt "dirty" there, like I had done something wrong, people were looking at me, and whatever the pastor said was aimed directly at me. But here I was, maybe 22 years old, still experiencing those feelings, but there was also a glimmer of hope this time. I wanted to know what all those people were doing there, what they knew that I didn't know... what kept them coming back? In all those books on Eastern philosophy and Zen Buddhism I had read, not one of them made me comfortable with my biggest fear: death. But here, at this Baptist church, I felt something that I had never felt before: truth. All I ever wanted to know was what was true.
While spending an hour with the "new believer's" class, (I didn't choose to go there: I was left there by my ride) I heard a few people testify of their salvation experiences and how they had come to know G-d, the most moving of which was the associate pastor's story, and it was that night in January that I went home, and by myself on the living room floor, drenching the old wooden planks with my tears, met my Savior, whom I now call by His Hebrew name, Yeshua. Prostrated and broken, I went down fatherless, homeless, and lost, but when I got up, I had a Father, a Savior, and hope. I was a different person... immediately. No more promiscuity, no more drugs, no more going along with the negative influences...I was different. G-d simply took those desires away from me, and I am so grateful that He did. I had found what I was looking for.
have you found Him?
...to be continued...
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The first Rosh Hashanah service I attended where there were two shofars being blown simultaneously was unforgettable. It was one of the most amazing spiritual experiences I have had. The power and sheer volume of the deep, strong blasts left me trembling with tears streaming down my cheeks...imagining what it will like on that day when we hear the shofar of G-d calling us to Himself. Perhaps tomorrow...
"There are things that are important to us, so we speak about them.
There are things so important to us that the words flow out in a burst of emotion, rich words, expressive and vibrant.
And then there are things that shake us to the core. Things that do not care for the mind's permission or for the right words—for the mind cannot fathom them, the most poignant words could not contain them. Things that can only break out in a cry, in a scream, and then in silence.
This is the sound of the shofar: The very core of our souls crying, "Father! Father!"
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Notice how this verse says "love your neighbor as yourself," not "before yourself" or "instead of yourself." Why is this important? Well, it means that in order to love anyone else, you must first love yourself and then use that love as a standard of how to love others. As I have noticed in my own life and in the life of other mothers (and women in general), we have a tendency to put the needs of others in front of our own. While being a helper and servant and caregiver are wonderful gifts that G-d has bestowed upon us, we can easily exhaust ourselves in the process of using these gifts. An exhausted woman has less to offer than a rested one. Believe me, as a new mother, I know what exhaustion is and I know how it affects my relationships with others. When we fail to love ourselves, it becomes very difficult to love others.
I would never suggest that you should stop caring for your children because your needs are not being met. I'm simply saying that you shouldn't feel guilty if you need a little "me" time every once in a while. That "me" time will mean something different to every woman. I'm not the type to go get a manicure or pedicure or my hair done, but sometimes I enjoy just doing laundry or a little shopping in peace and quiet... and alone. I am one of the reasons that laundry and dish detergents have so many fragrances to choose from. It's like aromatherapy for busy moms. I find that once I have enjoyed some time away from my baby girl or my husband, it makes me so much more happy to see them when I return to their presence. In some cases, the saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is true. It makes me appreciate my family even more.
So the next time you feel burnt out and exhausted, instead of feeling guilty, just remember that even the world's most powerful machines need to be refueled and maintained sometimes.
"...for no one hates [her] own body but lovingly cares for it..."
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The introduction of Saul of Tarsus is a unique one in scripture. It is not pretty, but rather brutal, bloody, and unforgettable. Saul is first depicted, not as an inspirational figure, but as a murderous fanatic, expressing his approval of the stoning of the believing Stephen. Charles Swindoll puts it well when he says “the man [Saul] looks more like a terrorist than a devout follower of Judaism.” Some time after this, however, the L-rd appears to Saul as he is riding horseback to Damascus, blinds him, sends him to Ananias to restore his sight and he eventually becomes one of the most important figures in formulating the theology of what started as The Way.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
L-RD?" Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my G-d" (Proverbs 30:8-9). I was never without anything that I really needed. This upbringing taught me many valuable lessons, and I am grateful to be reminded of where I came from.
In one of my college composition classes, I wrote a descriptive essay entitled "Poverty" and though I never said so in the paper (which the professor read aloud to the class), I was describing the house in which I lived at the time and grew up in. The essay quickly became one of my favorites...
"I step out of the bright Florida sunshine into the dimly lit house. As my eyes adjust to the semi-darkness, I realize that I am standing in the living room. To my right sits an old beige couch, worn and stained. On the shelf below the television, a lone fish swims in a dingy 10 gallon tank furnished with green gravel, a plastic plant swaying in the current, and algae. On the far left of the room stands a century-old piano adorned with family pictures and dust. I have failed to mention the constant creaking of the ceiling fan overhead.
Entering the hallway, I turn to the right and enter a small bedroom. Inside, the air smells of lavender and moth balls. Turning to my left, I see two parakeets in a small birdcage. The first stares at me with curious peppercorn eyes. His feathers remind me of the sky on a summer day; they are a deep blue with white tips. His companion, however, is not so calm. She squawks hysterically and flaps her wings. I begin to whistle, and the angry queen becomes quiet. Her temper does not take anything away from her beauty. Her wings are a light blue color, as if the sky was being reflected off fresh fallen snow. Turning my gaze from these magnificent creatures, I notice an over-stuffed closet. On top of it, two porcelain dolls compete for my attention. The first displays her beautifully pink Victorian style dress. The second, a ballerina, shows off her favorite ballet position; she is a tall and graceful youth in a white leotard. Despite their vanity, I give them both one last glance of assurance and proceed out of the room.
It is time for me to leave and return to where I have come from. Exiting the front door, I am blinded by the light. Once again, my eyes have to adjust. As I descend the cracked stone steps, I remember the hanging in the blue room: The L-rd is my Shepherd; I shall not want. There is something truly humble about this place. Where poverty exists, humility is present forever. I must never forget that."
Although that was just an excerpt, hopefully you can get a mental picture. The essay is probably one of my favorites because when reading it, even after almost six years, I can still see and smell everything I mentioned. Now, married with a baby, I still don't have much money, but we always have just enough. And my "poverty" has become "frugality".
It was my plan from even before I became pregnant with my daughter to be a stay-at-home mom to my children. Not because I don't enjoy working, but because the thought of someone else raising my small children is unbearable. Of course, I had rose-colored glasses on at the time and I thought it would be easy! Needless to say, it is not what I would call easy, but it is definitely worth it.
In reading 1/2 Price Living by Ellie Kay, I was inspired.She speaks of frugality being a full-time job for a stay-at-home mom, and it is! I love to clip coupons! That has become my Sunday routine. Since I discovered CVS and their Extra Bucks Rewards, I have managed to stock up on shampoos, conditioners, body wash, razors, toothpaste, etc. (and it's name-brand stuff, but I got it for free or cheap!), so I restrain from buying these items unless there's a bargain I can't refuse. My "stash" could probably last for at least a year (maybe two?), even with my husband using it too. In addition, I have oodles of free samples (go to http://www.mysavings.com/) of toiletries that we use for travel or if we run out of something. If we stay in a hotel room, we always take whatever toiletries they are giving away to their guests.
Because milk is so expensive, we used to water down whole milk to turn one gallon into two, and I only buy milk at the stores that are cheapest. We go through a lot of milk because my husband drinks instant breakfast and I put milk into my "Cappuccino Coolers" I get from the grocery store to keep myself away from coffee shops! (They are about $2 for six. Compare that to at least $1.50 each for iced coffees, which is what I prefer.)
Having a baby is very expensive!(Surprise, Surprise!) I get free samples of diapers when I can (just got three in the mail today!) and there are days when we are home when I use cloth diapers to cut back on some of the disposables. And my Pampers and Huggies days are over! When Elisheva was born, that's what she wore, which was easy when we had so many giftcards, but now she wears Walmart & Target brand (just as good as Pampers if you ask me) and sometimes Luvs when I have a coupon. We saved lots of money on formula by breastfeeding, which I recommend. She is still nursing at 9 months and eating solid foods. Unfortunately, I haven't convinced her that homemade vegetables are better than Gerber. She doesn't seem to like texture much, but we're working on that... I do have the food processor and the strainer to make her food. I think it has been a matter of convenience (that's my excuse for buying prepared baby foods!), so I use coupons and buy more when it's on sale. Clothes are not much of an issue because since before her birth, she has been given more clothes than I can count! And when I buy her clothes, they are from clearance racks (and just as cute). I also buy clothes for myself from clearance racks (and sometimes thrift stores) and not very often. Kohl's has awesome clearance prices if you wait for them to go down. I have bought clothes for me, my husband, and daughter there.
I thoroughly enjoy getting good deals. It's not about spending money for me; I just like to shop for things and bring them home... whether they are from the thrift store, the dollar store, or somewhere else is not really an issue to me.
To stretch our resources as far as they can go and still provide for my family is part of being a mother and wife. When it comes down to it, we don't really need that much to survive and to thrive, especially when we have the Messiah dwelling in our hearts and home. My daughter has also been a wonderful teacher to me concerning frugality. As she digs through the full basket of toys and comes out with a smile and a plastic lid or cup, I realize how little she needs to be happy. We could all learn a lesson from her contentment.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Comment:*He provides help for His helpmeets when we need it! After I posted this, I received a call from my mom saying that my nephew and brother are willing to come tomorrow and help me paint my bedroom, which I was going to do a little at a time because I know my husband doesn't have time to help. Now it will get done much faster! Baruch Hashem!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Since my daughter, now eight and a half months old, was delivered by C-section, I missed out on the pains and experiences associated with labor and delivery. Therefore, breastfeeding was my first major lesson in self-sacrifice as a new mother (other than what I had already learned from my not-so-easy pregnancy of course!) It is often said that the first six weeks are the hardest. Well, I say if you get through the first six days, pat yourself on the back because you are doing good! It is no mystery that breastfeeding hurts in the beginning (and in my case, still does some of the time). I was so grateful for participating with my husband in a Bradley method class ("husband coached childbirth") before the birth because we spent a lot of time just learning to relax our bodies in order to minimize pain, and I have to say, I definitely utilized those methods when learning to breastfeed! Otherwise, I would have been screaming, and that would have made the situation worse... and traumatized the poor, tiny baby who is also struggling to learn this new skill. Continuing on despite the pain is something a mother can do only through self-sacrifice. Breastfeeding is the best option for the baby (as even formula producers will tell you), and that is what has driven me to strive on. Even in those early days and weeks when I wanted so bad to give up and give her formula and maybe get her to sleep a little longer... oh, the temptation... I knew deep in my heart that I would have regrets if I stopped nursing and I just needed to continue until it got easier... and it did.
In addition, there are experiences and teachings that I could have received from no other place than my own body. Isn't is miraculous that women's bodies produce milk for babies? And it doesn't end there, women produce milk for their young, specifically engineered (by a loving Creator) to nourish that baby at this time who has these needs, and no matter how hard we try, no man-made formula will ever match this. I am by no means putting down loving mothers who choose to feed formula to their babies, and I am well aware that there are circumstances that hinder or make breastfeeding impossible. I am simply telling of my unique experience on this journey. Breast milk is miraculous, as we learned in our childbirth class, and it has pointed me further towards a miraculous G-d.
Thinking about this topic reminded me of something I believe I heard in a college Hebrew course. One of G-d's names in the Scriptures is El Shaddai (commonly translated as G-d Almighty). Strong's Concordance has this to say: "The title Shadday really indicates the fullness and riches of G-d's grace, and would remind the Hebrew reader that from G-d comes every good and perfect gift-- that He is never weary of pouring forth His mercies on His people, and that He is more than ready to give than they are to receive. (2) Bountiful expresses the sense most exactly. (3) El sets forth the might of G-d and the title Shadday points to the inexhaustible stores of His bounty." If you look just nine words earlier in Strong's, there's the word shad, which is defined as "the breast of a woman or animal." The teacher used this similarity and relationship of these Hebrew words to say that G-d is our nourishment, just as a nursing mother nourishes her child. El Shaddai is not only powerful and mighty, but El Shaddai is a G-d who nourishes and provides. I find that beautiful, and even more so now as a nursing mother myself.
Isn't it amazing how certain aspects of G-d's word come to life when you yourself experience them? For example, in Psalm 131:2-3, it says "Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me." Although I've read an article that suggests this should say "suckling child" instead of "weaned child,"(you can read it: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/525972/jewish/Mothers-Milk-Mothers-Faith.htm. It inspired me to write this) either of which would have the same effect on me because in order for a child to be weaned, he had to be nursed before this point because there were no bottles then, and the bond that is formed between mother and child due to their breastfeeding relationship is lasting. If you have never experienced that intimacy and closeness with your child, as they make noises and faces that no one else sees or hears, then this verse won't strike you as hard, but as having experienced it, I have never seen Elisheva's sweet little face (and soul) more contented, composed and more quieted than when she is nursing at my breast. Therefore, this verse now has greater meaning to me than it ever did before.
I cannot say how long I will nurse my children. I will try my best to allow them to wean themselves at the appropriate time. In Bible times, it is understood that children nursed until they were two or even three years old. The Midrash says that Sarah weaned Isaac at two, Moses was probably with his mother ('nurse') for at least two years, and Samuel must have also been a toddler when weaned, which is why he was able to be left at the Tabernacle with Eli the priest. I have seen a two year old nurse at a La Leche League meeting (http://www.llli.org/) and his mother had experienced some ridicule and comments from strangers even on him being 'too old' to be nursing. Breastfeeding is demanding, even for a stay-at-home mom, (hence, the need for support groups) and breastfeeding moms need encouragement, not ridicule. I am certainly grateful for the encouragement and support that I have received and plan to pass that on to others. So if you know a lactating woman, encourage her today. If you are a lactating woman, I hope you were encouraged by my words. Breastfeeding is healthy, natural, Biblical, and it is one of the many aspects of a woman's body that G-d has created to teach us about Himself and reflect His image... to teach us that He is our Nourisher, our miraculous Provider.
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I remember reading this article with my fiance who is now my husband.
In summary, the most important aspect of a godly relationship is communication, before and after marriage. Communicate with G-d concerning your desires (after all, He created them, and He knows that you have them!), and communicate with your partner. Even a force as powerful as sexuality cannot withstand the united force of G-d, a godly man, and his ezer (strong helper) by his side (that would be you)...
"If you are close when you should be distant, you will be distant when you should be close."