Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the faceless child

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb

~Psalm 139:13~

Pregnancy is one of the greatest miracles I have experienced in my life. A topic has arisen, however, that is one of the greatest mysteries in my life... One that I will be reminded of each time I go to a new gynecologist or doctor, which I did two days ago. There is always the question of "how many pregnancies..." and my answer is currently "two." Unfortunately, my answer to how many children is "one."

In my past life, (in other words, before I knew Yeshua), I experienced a miscarriage at the young age of 20 years old. In addition, within the past few months, the issue has been brought even closer to home as miscarriages have affected the lives of family and friends. Experiencing a miscarriage is an indescribable loss, the loss of your own flesh... within your flesh. Whether it occurs when the baby is five weeks old (which mine did) or five months, it's devastating. Since mine happened early on, I can only imagine that the pain would grow deeper as the weeks and months of bonding and anticipation go along. With that said, I feel that a stillbirth would somehow be the most painful of them all. Anything that I remember about the physical process is too graphic to post here, but I clearly remember that the emotional distress was much worse than anything physical I experienced. Tears of sadness, grief, and disappointment mingled with tears of anger and disbelief. The lingering guilt that maybe I had done something wrong... the fear of getting pregnant again... it's all still real to me. The insensitivity of the staff mixed with the physically painful experience at the E.R... definitely not something I would want to experience again. The doctor I was referred to didn't give me any reason other than the fact that "my body had rejected it"... perhaps she found me too young to understand anything medical, so I'll never know what happened... perhaps she didn't know either.

I found this quote today: "Not all suffering can be explained. There is pain, sometimes, that is not punishment and not repair. True, we were given Torah, a G-dly wisdom containing.. things even Moses asked about and was told to be quiet, to cease to ask... We can only know that whatever happens is from G-d, that G-d is just, and that He does not desire suffering. But until the end of days, we will have to suffer the 'why'" ~Tzvi Freeman. Even though there are no answers to the 'why's of my suffering or the 'why's of the millions of other women who experience such a loss, I did come to see that it didn't happen in vain. It was not until years later, after coming to the knowledge that Yeshua was the Messiah and that He was the Author of Life, that I begin to make peace with the tragedy turned blessing in disguise. Although it is not the case for many women who experience this, I was young, unmarried, and in a relationship that G-d knew (I didn't at the time) was fruitless and even destructive. Through this precious soul that He allowed in my womb for five short weeks, I began to see more clearly that my life was not moving in the direction where, deep down, I desired it to go.

In Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, we read this: "A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure." Mourning can lead to some deep thinking. Believe me, I know. Within only a few years, I lost an unborn child, my father, and my grandmother. And a few years after that, I gained a relationship with the One who was the only One who could comfort me, Yeshua. Now, years later, I understand that although G-d did not desire to make me suffer, He used each one of these tragedies to bring me just a little closer to Him.... until "the mind of the wise" led me to His feet.

In wanting to reach out to anyone who has suffered this kind of loss, I searched for some resources (there doesn't seem to be a lot!) to share with you. Although I don't agree with them on everything theologically, http://www.chabad.org/ has proven helpful to me concerning many issues. They have an extensive array of articles just for women. I found two concerning miscarriage (by the way, one of might mention reincarnation which I certainly don't agree with, but the good thing about them is they are from personal experiences): They are: "The Empty Sac" www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/337722/jewish/The-Empty-Sac.htm, and "The Unlit Candle" www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/804487/jewish/The-Unlit-Candle


As far as written materials go, I searched at http://www.christianbook.com/ and got a pretty lengthy list: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=miscarriage&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCN&nav_search=1&cms=1&search=%3CSPAN+class%3D%22big-blue-button+cleartype%22%3EGo%3C%2FSPAN%3E and I assume that they are written from a Christian perspective.


I'll never forget that night several years ago, watching some Christian talk-show on television, that it truly hit me. There is a faceless soul, a child... in the presence of G-d Almighty Himself... who happens to be mine, or at least the one that G-d loaned to me for five weeks in my womb. Now I can honestly say, this brings me nothing but great joy and gratitude.


"See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven"


~Matthew 18:10~

** After writing this, I began reading "The Gospel of Ruth" by Carolyn Custis James. I would recommend it to any woman, especially those who are having trouble conceiving children or experiencing miscarriages, etc.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

teaching tzedakah


"Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the L-rd."
Leviticus (Vayikra 23:16)

With Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus 23, (very informative article on Shavuot: http://ffoz.org/messiahonline/articles/appointed_times/shavuot.php?zoom_highlight=shavuot+tzedakah approaching, many people all over the world are thinking about giving tzedakah (referring to charity, but translated from the Hebrew as "justice" or "righteousness")

This is a beautiful time of year to also teach our children the importance of tzedakah. To teach it, however, we must first make it a vital part of our lives, because children learn what they live. Having a family tzedakah box inside your home is a great place to start, having a common goal of how your spare change could be used to bless someone else's life. I recently came across a "Wonder Pets" family charity bank on NickJr.'s website, and since my daughter loves the show, I'm going to make one. But we already have several places for our change (which is the problem), but the boxes never fill up because the change is spread too thin! Nevertheless, even an 18-month old can put quarters into a bank slot, and she loves to do it! Other forms of tzedakah don't require money banks at all. We can write checks, give online, give cash, give food, clothes, volunteer our time, etc. etc. If we make giving a part of our lives (and do it joyfully), then our children will learn to do the same.

I found this article to be very helpful in explaining a Jewish understanding of tzedakah, so I pasted it in its entirety. Find the original at: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/practices/Ethics/Tzedakah_Charity/Themes.shtml?PRET "Anyone who has ever studied another language knows that there are certain ideas and concepts that can only be understood in their original language. In Jewish tradition, too, there are values embedded in its very language of keywords and phrases that cannot always be adequately translated or explained. The Hebrew word tzedakah is one example.
Although often translated as “charity,” tzedakah is not equivalent to charity. Rather, its root means “justice.” Charity comes from the Latin word caritas, which means “love.” The concept of charity in English is considered voluntary because it comes from the heart. In Christianity, charity is something which people give when their hearts move them.
In contrast, tzedakah/justice is a biblical and rabbinic concept that embodies the idea that Jews are obligated to pursue social and economic justice. Jews must help the oppressed members of society as well as those in financial straits not because they want to, but because they are required to do so as one way of serving G-d, performing G-d’s commandments, and even acting like G-d. (Indeed, in the biblical text the word “tzedakah” is usually used as an expression of

G-d’s own righteousness and justice—and human beings are commanded to pursue tzedek (a closely related word), social justice.) Tzedakah is a way of looking at the world and understanding the human role in creating a more perfect world—and by doing so, imitating qualities of the Divine.
The giving of tzedakah is even equated with a spiritually righteous and expiating act of religious significance. Rabbi Akiba, one of the greatest rabbis from the time of the Talmud, once stated that when the ancient Temple in Jerusalem used to stand, the altar, upon which animal sacrifices were made, used to atone for the sins of the people of Israel. But since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE by the Romans, Rabbi Akiba claimed that now a person’s dining table atones for each person's sins. How so? By being able to invite needy guests home and to provide them with food.
The talmudic rabbis felt strongly about the spiritual significance of tzedakah, claiming that when one practices tzedakah and justice, it is as though he or she had filled the world with lovingkindness. One rabbinic teaching states that when a beggar stands before you asking for alms, you should know that the holy presence of G-d stands by the beggar’s side
Tzedakah is closely related to gemilut chasadim, which involves actions and commitment beyond mere financial gifts. It can mean donating one’s time and energy to helping others, such as reading for the blind, visiting in a hospital, or volunteering in a food bank. The Jewish tradition requires us to give something of ours, money and time, to those in need. It also recognizes that throughout our lives we will all be in need at various times, of financial assistance or simply of care throughout life’s challenges, and that providing such assistance is required of individuals and communities. In the theology of Judaism, all of our possessions, and even the time we are allotted on earth, are but a loan from the Creator. Therefore, when we engage in the commandment and duty of tzedakah (and the related category of gemilut chasadim), we are securing a more equitable distribution of G-d's gifts to humanity."

This same website also had an article on how to teach children about tzedakah, which is at:

In conclusion, I think the best way to teach children how to give is to show them. If they don't see you giving, then they won't know that you are. Getting them involved in tzedakah projects as a family is crucial to their understanding of tzedakah. As my daughter gets older, I make sure that she "gives gifts" to others, which consists right now of her handing them the gift, but as she gets older, she will be able to give gifts of her own. Young children can "pick out" gifts, can hand money to homeless people, can put a donation into a tzedakah box, can help pack a box that is being sent overseas, can volunteer their time, can make people smile, etc.... so never underestimate the power of a child to give. In fact, it is usually children who teach us adults how to give! And they do it cheerfully, as we are told to do in 2 Corinthians 9:7.

In searching for ways that a small child can be involved in giving, I came across the Pajama Program/The Great Sprout tuck-in (if you watch Sprout on demand, you've heard of it!), which donates new pajamas and books to children in need, many waiting to be adopted. A toddler can certainly help pick out a pair of jammies and a book to give away, and for older children there is a "pajama party" to collect the donations and send them in. All the info can be found here:
www.sproutonline.com/sprout/greattuckin This is just one simple way to teach children to give, but more importantly, they need to see us give... and not just money, of course. Children see and hear everything.... how we spend our time, how we treat other people, how we talk to people, and how we give of ourselves to others, and that is what they will imitate.

In this season of special offerings and gifts (and celebrating the beautiful gift of the Torah that G-d gave us, both the Written and the Living Torah), let us also give... give to G-d, give to others, and give our children an understanding that tzedakah is not something we do every once in a while to feel good about ourselves, but it's a way of life.

inner dialogue...


The past couple weeks have been joyfully busy ones... celebrating Mother's Day and my 29th birthday in the same month, watching movies, reading (I've acquired 7 new books, some from my husband and some I bought for myself as birthday gifts), organizing things around the house, and doing crafts (in order words, making messes) with my daughter. It's been fun, but (unfortunately) has led to me not writing very much.

One of the books that my husband gave me for Mother's Day, Living Simply by Joanne Heim, was a great reminder to, well...live simply! This is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately, and the insight I gained from reading this book was very encouraging. Although there was some information that did not pertain to me because I am messianic (and the author is Christian), it was still a great read.

In striving to live simply, I also want to blog simply! Most (or all) of my blog entries have always have directly connected to what is going on in my life, my mind, my heart, my surroundings, etc. Even though I choose to write them as if I am teaching a lesson, it is always myself whom I am teaching it to! I also plan to publish many in a devotional-type book, so that is another reason I write them this way. I prefer to look at them as an inner dialogue (or should I say dia-blog?) written in a different way than me just expressing my thoughts in a personal journal style. I think that my blog subtitle expresses it best: I'm here to share, inspire, encourage, and connect... and if we learn something along the way, that's just an added bonus! (I have learned a lot, by the way!)

Although I have MANY blog entries that are in the works (some being typed, some just in my head), I don't post them until I feel that they are complete and that I've considered what others have said or written about the issue. So be patient... they're coming!!

I'm also preparing to go to Florida in mid-June to visit family and friends, so that doesn't help me to focus on writing either. It just makes me giddy!! Anyway, thanks for listening, for reading, and for waiting...

Shavuah Tov!

-Joanna

Thursday, May 6, 2010

six months 'til terrible...











In a mere six months, I will be the proud mother of a two-year old. I've worked with two-year olds before at a preschool, so I'm not too worried about her becoming "terrible." I'm more excited than anything. It seems that every day now, she learns something new, expresses herself in a different way. It's truly amazing to watch her grow up. I look at her baby pictures and cannot imagine her ever being that small, that fragile... I've been blessed to be her mother this long, and I look to forward to every day the L-rd allows us to spend together. She's my princess, my little helper, my constant companion...


Looking forward to my second Mother's Day
(with her outside the womb)...

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are mothers, too!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Shema

video

Our little Elli is a master of imitation. All children are, because that is how they learn to do things, by copying others. We chant the Shema with her twice a day, before naptime and before bedtime. So, in seeing us cover our eyes to remember the holiness of G-d, she now does the same thing. It's so precious to us, and I know that it is even more precious to HaShem.