"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

31 August 2010

Tithing and Yoga

No, they're not related.

These are two things that have been on my mind lately and that I've been praying specifically about.

Almost everyone who knows me knows about my friend Kerry by now. If you missed the update, I'll include it at the bottom of this post so you can read it. Just so everyone knows, to date, fundraising efforts have brought in $20,000! Woohoo!

Anyway, Nich and I have been praying about how we can help, other than spreading the word and praying for Ben and Kerry. Obviously, during the summer while school's out, we live on one salary (Nich's) plus my little bit that comes in through part-time retail. We're also saving up for Baby G's needs/arrival, plus the other places where we already give. Yesterday, I was listening to some worship music, and it got me thinking about tithing. We tithe faithfully and it really is a joy for us to give, but I've been wondering for a while if, when God says to tithe to your church so that people can be cared for, He meant your specific local organization or the global body of Christ. We're going to be talking to our senior pastor about this sometime soon, but we're wondering if it's biblical to gather our tithe and give it to individuals.

Secondly, yoga. As I've entered my second trimester and regained some of my energy, I've been trying to be deliberate in exercising regularly for both our sakes. I've been very conscious of making good food choices ever since I found out I was pregnant, but I want to supplement that with good exercise, too. It has surprised me to no end since I've been pregnant to find out that a lot of women go about this whole thing very mindlessly with no change to their diet or exercise patterns, and the more I learn about obesity in this country and how early those bad habits are learned, the more determined I am to give my baby the healthiest start possible. (I've bitten my tongue a LOT in the past couple weeks as well-intentioned women say, "You're pregnant! Eat whatever you want!")

I've been on the fence about yoga ever since it became a craze several years ago here. At the root of it, yoga is very closely linked to ancient Indian spiritual meditation. I haven't done enough research to learn whether or not modern yoga (in its popular form) is spiritual or not, but until I know, I don't feel comfortable participating. However, the most common forms of exercise that are promoted during pregnancy are walking, swimming, and prenatal yoga. Walking's fine, but it gets old and mundane. I try to go out a few times a week, but I don't really feel like I'm getting any exercise that way. I'd LOVE to go swimming, but the Y is stinkin' expensive. So I've been wondering about yoga.

In other news, I've signed up for a fall ladies' Bible study focusing on Revelation. That should be interesting. And we're thinking of participating in an ASL class. Our church is kicking off it's annual church-wide Bible study in a couple weeks. This year, it's Emotionally Health Spirituality. Nich and I are deciding whether we're going to join a group for that or just follow along on our own. 

I always seem to get on the blog right before it's time for me to get ready for work, and so I run out of time to be thorough. Ah, well. Cheers!

My friend Kerry has lived with Cystic Fibrosis her entire life. Just within the past couple years, she has been in and out of the hospital frequently, due to her lungs only working at less than 25% capacity (because of mucus build-up from CF). She has to hook up to machines every day to get all her medications. Without them, she struggles to breathe.

Kerry is just 24 years old. When she was born in 1986, the life expectancy was only 12 years for children with CF. She has beaten the odds so far. She graduated high school, got married to a wonderful guy in December 2008, and made her way through nursing school, graduating just this past spring, despite her frequent hospitalizations. She's a fighter, and she wants so much to give back to her community by being a nurse.

Kerry has been approved to receive a double lung, liver, and pancreas transplant at Duke in North Carolina. She and her husband Ben will need to raise enough funds to support their living expenses as they relocate to Duke from Virginia. It is possible that they will need to live there for up to a year while they wait for Kerry's organs to come in.

There are various fundraisers going on in Virginia: yard sales, bike-a-thons, car washes, raffles. Obviously, Nich and I can't attend any of those, but we want to help. Please join us in prayer for Ben and Kerry, for all the fund-raisers occurring, and for Kerry's health.

Thank you!

If you would like to help financially, please see: http://www.transplants.org/donate/kerrybaumann

30 August 2010


I have felt so overwhelmed with gratitude in the past couple months, realizing what a tremendous privilege and honor this is - God's letting us partner with Him in creating and growing this new little person! I don't think I have realized the utter beauty of Psalm 139:13 more than now - and the glory of it is that I have nothing to do with it! In truth, I have no idea what's really going on in there, you know? But He does! How cool is that?

God in the Spaces

A childhood friend of mine had this poem posted on her blog. I thought it was simply beautiful.

God who sees all spaces,
you see the space between
what we need and what we get,
the space between the hunger
and the nourishment provided,
the space between our hopes
and what actually happens.
You see the cracks in our life
out of which tears flow.
Help us live through these spaces
with courage in the face of emptiness,
laying our hearts open to your mercy.
God of space and God of glory,
on your people pour your power!
Crown our story with your love,
giving your holy presence in wide spaces
that we do not seek,
that we cannot avoid.

-by Carol Penner

26 August 2010

Conquering our little demons

In one of my favorite books, Little Women, the father writes home a letter from the war, and ends it with an encouragement to all his "little women" to "fight their bosom enemies bravely, and conquer themselves so beautifully." I think about what a daily fight it is to conquer myself and my inner demons, and sometimes, when you think you've fought the good fight, the ugly little thing raises its head again.

Yesterday evening, I found myself a bit irritable. We had laundry up the wazoo, I had started dinner a tad later than usual, there was spaghetti sauce all over the stove top and dishes all over the counter and in the sink. Nich was insisting that we should get to our young adult community group meeting on time, which I thought was unnecessary, as history has shown that nobody else makes it a priority to show up on time. Thus, I was feeling rushed through my dinner, which left me feeling nauseated on top of being annoyed.

We walked in the door at group and lo and behold, there were two people there, with the TV on. When I asked one where his wife was, he replied nonchalantly, "Oh, she'll be here," to which my snippy little voice in my head snapped, "That wasn't the question." Then the other one pipes in and says, "Mine's working," to which my stubborn self just stared until he said, "I'm kidding." (He's not married, just dating, and because I view marriage as a sacred covenant, I don't think any guy has the privilege to even jokingly refer to a woman as his wife until he's made that lifelong commitment to her before God).

Several minutes later, the last person walks in, chitchatting about how he had invited so and so and was expecting them to be there (for the second week in a row). There had been no follow-up that day. And then he says, "Oh, what, am I late?" ARGH!

And then, as the discussion progressed, two of the members decided to be a bit obnoxious about the ending time, which made no sense, because we ended up sitting around a chatting and them fiddling on their guitars for another half hour.

Now, I know where my feelings were coming from.

First of all, I hate feeling rushed when I know perfectly well that other people aren't going to respect my time anyway.

Secondly, Nich and I have tried to guide and direct the group members in the best way possible to leave them on their own once we left the group, including on how to invite new people to join and the group's relationship and accountability to the church. I feel like everything we said is being thrown out the window, which isn't the focus, but that they're making mistakes that make me want to bang my head against a wall. It also really made me sad that there was some sarcastic and lackluster responses to the Bible study the church has selected for the fall. Our church has been coordinating an all-church study annually for September and October. I guess I just would have hoped that by now, the leftover adolescent rebellious mindset of "They're telling us we have to so we don't want to" would have taken a backseat to the joy of doing something as a church body, but no. Rolling eyes and smart remarks about "Guess we don't have a choice" abounded.

Also, when we were hosting group at our house, it was one of these very people who were being time Nazis who would always make snide remarks whenever we would ask for group to end by a certain time so that Nich and I could make sure to get to bed on time. I feel like group nights are set aside for Bible study, worship, and prayer, and it just felt like we were being rushed through that just so they could hang out.

And finally, I was just simply underwhelmed in the past couple weeks with the community aspect of the group. The study portion was great, but last week was the last meeting one of our college students would be home for and nothing was done to "send him off well." No prayer time, no treat, no goodbye gift. And then same thing with us last night. It was our last night with them, and there was nothing said or done to commemorate it. I just felt as though all Nich and I have poured out into this group went completely unappreciated, and that was really hurtful to us. I know that we serve in ministry because the Lord calls us to them, and I know that our reward is in God's eyes. But it would have been nice to be, at the very least, thanked.

Then, when four of us made plans to go get ice cream afterward, the rest invited themselves along. Then one of them had the audacity to exaggerate how late it was to get us all to leave, because HE wanted to go home.

I know this all comes down to conquering my own self and letting them learn and grow from their own mistakes. And sometimes, God teaches people best in their own humility. I worry about some of their misguided opinions, their lack of joy and enthusiasm, and how some of the loudest voices are the most ignorant. But I have to trust that this is the Lord's will for this group right now, and that means I have to trust all the way. Completely. All the way down to the little details.

And it means not letting my own grumpy, grouchy heart get in the way of His will being done in me.

24 August 2010

16 Down, 24 To Go

I can't say that the weeks are flying by, but they're certainly passing by quicker than they were during the first trimester months.

Baby's gerbil-sized now, according to my weekly email update. :~) He/she can grab onto the umbilical cord and can hear external noises now. And apparently, Baby G is quite the active little one, because at our last appointment, he/she wiggled and squirmed so much, it took the doctor a while to find the heartbeat. She kept finding it then losing it as the baby kept moving.

All the results from the first round of blood tests came back with perfect results - phew! There really wasn't any cause for concern, as neither Nich or I have significant health concerns in our families, but there's always that little part of you that worries. They did take more blood last week to be sent off to the West Coast for testing, this time for Down's Syndrome, spina bifida, and two other things I can't remember, much less pronounce.

I've started showing, which is fun, but it also means I'm starting to grow out of several of my shorts and jeans. I've put off purchasing any maternity wear, but that might need to happen soon!

We'll need to clean out the room that we'll be using for the nursery soon, too, as well as think about a baby registry. School will start soon, which means I'll go back to subbing. This will be great as we won't have to budget as tightly as we have been this summer, but it will also mean that I won't have as much spare time on my hands.

And speaking of time, I have to go to work now!

19 August 2010

"Modernizing" Hymns

Nich and I attended our penultimate young adults' Bible study last night. The final song we sang during worship was "Take My Life and Let It Be," which would have been wonderful except there was this little chorus stuck in there that went:

I am Yours, set apart for You
I am Yours, hungry for Your truth
Take my life, You are all I live for
I am Yours

I feel like this is happening more and more.

And I don't like it.

Inherently, I have nothing against contemporary choruses. In fact, I think they're getting somewhat better as far as poetic worship is concerned. I find that many of the ones we sing in church these days are nowhere near as repetitive and lacking in theological depth as their predecessors have been. Of course, there are still the ones that should be thrown out with the bath water, but don't get me started on those, or we'll be here for a while.

However, I do have a problem with people taking a hymn and slapping an insignificant "chorus" into it in the name of "modernization". Part of what I find so fulfilling about singing a hymn is the rich history behind the song, the welling of the music, and the pure poetry of the lyrics. When you go and stick in something like the four lines above, it does a great disservice to the original lyricist and detracts from the original wholeness of the hymn.

It turns me off.

It distracts me.

It's like having a chocolate chip cookie and finding that one of the chips is really a fly.

Other than the distinct differences between hymns and modern worship choruses, which really ought to be kept in separate categories of worship music, there are a couple other reasons why this soiling of hymns bothers me. First of all, I think it is extremely presumptuous of modern worship leaders - who are not all poets and lyricists themselves - to take another person's art and taint it with their less-than-comparable contribution. It would be as though I painted a red earring on the Mona Lisa's left earlobe. Minor detail, but definitely a noticeable detraction from the original work.

Secondly, I think this "modernization" of hymns points to a far greater problem, which is the consumerist mentality that is quickly pervading our western church. I recently read an acquaintance's Facebook update that went something like this: "I'm praying that God leads us to a new church home soon. I need the security. I love many things about (name of church), but we feel that for this season in our lives, we need a new church home. Just not sure where yet. It's hard. I just want to get settled again and start being fed regularly. I hate shopping churches. We were trying to look and still be a part of our current church, but that isn't working out well."

Nich and I had many discussions about this "shopping for churches" mentality a couple years back when a family from our church - much like this acquaintance of mine - decided that they weren't getting what they "needed" from our church, that the teaching wasn't "challenging" enough, and that they "needed" a new church "home." They were quite vocal about it, and once they made their decision, although claiming a high level of respect for our church and the staff, they continually made comparisons each time they would see members of our church, voicing their opinions about how much "happier" they were at their new church.

Obviously, there are some things that are necessary in a, for lack of a better term, good church, such as sound, Biblical teaching, a sense of solid community, and outward ministry to name a few. However, in order to make a church truly "home," as in any family, it's partly on each member's shoulders to pull their weight, to use the gifts God has given to serve the community. It means lovingly and graciously living in the family and putting our personal preferences behind the people with whom God has called us to live in communion.

At the top of the personal preferences list is worship music. Why do we waste so much time debating the songs with which we use to worship our Sovereign Lord? If we are truly honest with ourselves, it's not so much about worshiping God as it is about the drum beat, the bass line, whether an organ can be involved or not. My church went through a shift a year or two ago where the adult Sunday morning service was combined with the separate youth morning service, because the elders and pastors felt that we were two separate churches (which we really were). You would not believe the amount of hullabaloo raised over this, especially regarding the worship music. Mind you, it's not as though the adults sang hymns. The difference was as minor as a few years' separation between when songs came out and how loud they were.

So because of the fuss, during which there was an awakening to the fact that "Oh! We have 'elderly people' who enjoy hymns in our church!", we now sing a strange mix of contemporary choruses, super-contemporary teen-friendly songs, and "modernized" hymns.

My question is, if our goal is to please the masses, then why does it feel like those of us whose hearts worship best with the hymns of old compromise the most? No one is tampering with the choruses. Why must the hymns be modernized? Could it be because we, like many, many western churches, are catering to the younger generation and forgetting that part of what makes our faith so beautiful is the rich history behind us and the legacy of those who have gone before us?*

I realize that there are a lot of thoughts here, and in my head, they're all linked. :~) But now I'm hungry and a pregnant woman's gotta eat, so I'm not going to take any more time on this. I'll leave you with this: If you're going to comment, do it respectfully, and if you're going to be sarcastic in any way, please leave well enough alone.


*I really do like our current church, and Nich and I have been, and will continue to be, heavily invested in serving with and through it. But like any church, it is not perfect. I don't think making an acknowledgment of that is wrong or unloving, nor do I feel as though I have been unkind of disrespectful in anyway through the course of this entry. If you feel otherwise, I apologize.

15 August 2010

No Touchee!

Nich and I spent a major part of yesterday at Crandall Park helping out with a charity event called "Coming Together for Hope" to benefit a local soup kitchen. There were booths advertising various organizations in the community, such as Open Arms (the crisis pregnancy center where I used to volunteer as a peer counselor), Adopt-A-Soldier, YoungLife, etc.

We left around lunch and returned later in the evening for a concert. We're at that point where people are finding out about Baby Guillory. I don't know if I've mentioned this here, but one of my biggest "I'm not looking forward to this" aspects of pregnancy is strangers touching my belly. I'm a pretty touchy-feely person with my friends, but I don't appreciate people infringing on my personal space.

So anyway, this lady I sort of know from church came up to where I was sitting and before I knew it, she was RUBBING MY BELLY and kissing my cheek. OY! I'm not even SHOWING yet! It's like going up to any random person and rubbing their belly. And why did she have to KISS me?

I guess I was wrong when I thought I wouldn't have to worry about this until much later...

11 August 2010

Spoke Too Soon

So yeah. That bit about the nausea not being too bad? I take it back. I threw up for the first time today. At work. :~(

Thankfully, I made it to the bathroom on time, and it really wasn't TOO bad, all things considered. But as Nich said, "Darn it. Something you ate made you break your record!"

Ah, well. It makes me grateful that it hasn't been worse.

I'm a bit extra-weepy today about missing girl friends and my mom. Probably hormones, but it's making for a lonely evening. Nich's out helping lead the young adult community group that we're "weaning," so I'm home alone, which is part of what's heightening the loneliness. 

Funny for the Day: That pregnant "glow" that you hear about? Hasn't happened yet. I feel like my face is going through puberty again.

10 August 2010

You, Me, and Baby Make Three

The word's out officially: we're expecting our first Baby Guillory in February! Nich and I are very excited and anticipate this new chapter in our journey together. It has been so fun to gradually share this happy news with family and friends. We found out at the end of June ourselves, shared with our immediate family members and close friends a couple weeks later, told our larger circle of friends a few weeks ago, and have now made it public! Can I just say how thoroughly impressed I am at how good people are at keeping secrets?! Not a peep!

As of tomorrow, I will be 14 weeks along. Our little baby is now about the size of a lemon, roughly 3.4 inches and 1.5 ounces. He or she can suck his/her thumb and wiggle his/her toes!

I had a fairly easy first trimester. I was exhausted all the time, heightened by the fact that I traveled to and from Korea in the first month and then chaperoned a week-long youth conference in the second. I won't be doing that again! The nausea was an all-day affair but never got so bad that anything actually re-surfaced. We were thrilled to hear Baby's nice, strong heartbeat in Week 11, and we're looking forward to our next appointment in a couple weeks.

At this point, I rarely feel queasy, unless I don't feed myself quickly enough after I start feeling hungry. I haven't gained any weight yet; I've actually lost a few pounds. This will probably be the only time in my life that I'll worry about losing weight. After asking me some questions, the OB wasn't worried about it, so I'm trying not to either.

I haven't been nearly as anxious about this entire process as I had always anticipated that I would be. It seems like those stereotypically high-stress events don't stress me out as much as most people. My friend Kristy was saying recently how amazed she was at how laid-back I was at my wedding - I think I eventually just get to a point where I realize that I don't have to control everything, certain things are out of my hands, and to focus on the important elements. With this baby, I came to the realization early on that I have NO CLUE about what I'm doing, but God does, so I've just got to trust Him.

One of the best things about expecting for Nich and me is the incredible honor and privilege we know it is to be allowed to partner with God in creating this new little life. It is so awe-inspiring and wonderful in the truest sense of that word. We are so thankful for this baby already and grateful for this time in our life together.

It has also been incredibly fun to chat at length with some dear friends who are recently mommies and daddies themselves and to learn so much that we didn't know. We are thankful for the many prayers that are being said over this baby's health. Our most frequent prayer is that he or she will grow and grow and grow, that his or her little heart will keep beating strongly, and that Baby will always know how dearly he or she is loved by us and the Lord.

Nich and I have been keeping a journal for several weeks now filled with letters to our baby. It has been a good reflection tool for us, and we look forward to sharing those letters some day with our child. We've also been reading a lot to inform ourselves, and as I said before, keeping in touch with new parents whose opinions we respect and trust greatly.

I will end this post with a few humorous vignettes.

1. When the PA found the baby's heartbeat, Nich looked at where the "wand" was and said, "Huh. So this whole time I've been talking to her belly button, it was really too high up."

2. We have decided that the best way to ward off strangers trying to touch my belly is to make a bunch of t-shirts that say, "No touchee." Frankly, if anyone I'm not close to tries to touch my belly, not to mention lift my shirt and touch my bare belly, I will probably punch them.

3. Several friends have expressed a desire for a boy or a girl, depending on which little boy/girl they want our baby to marry. Nich said something about a shotgun.

4. I received a coupon in my email for a free "Udder Cover" and had to call Nich at work to "ask" him if I could buy one - just to get his reaction to the name. Even funnier, there's another brand out there called "Hooter Hiders." Where do people come up with these names?!