Leaning In to our Grief on Christianity Today's Her•meneutics

Regular blog reader? Consider sharing this post I wrote for Christianity Today on your social networks. And let's encourage everyone to enterbook their grief, airing their feelings that they might further reveal their faith.

In 2013, Sheryl Sandberg wrote her first book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, selling over a million copies and launching a movement for working women. This week she shared on Facebook a public statement of grief following the unexpected death of her husband, Dave Goldberg, one month ago. Both have been remarkable conversation-starters.

Sandberg’s recent reflection illuminates the way tragedies cause us to stop life as usual to feel deep loss. After her husband died in a gym accident last month, Sandberg entered the 30-day mourning period prescribed by Jewish tradition. The Facebook COO shares heartbreaking details from the first hours, days, and weeks: the anger when motorists didn’t yield for her husband’s ambulance; the way her mother holds her at night while she cries herself to sleep; her child’s school event where she could not manage to make eye contact with anyone.

Read the rest at Her•meneutics

What Lent looks like from here

What Lent-5It is late Sunday afternoon, and I intended to be Sabbathing, but my intentions have been interrupted. (God says rest this one day—I've got this, but I had to do a "live-chat" ordering thing TODAY and I am third in the queue, and so I stopped for a minute to think about this season while waiting for the real live computer chat person on the other end of the line.)

This is me keeping it real.

I am not the one to go-to if you're looking for tidy Lent plans, fixed-firmly daily patterns, or fasts. My life is chaotic in ways I can't explain to most these days, but that is all the more reason for reflection and prayer. And as my word for the year is "Present," I keep telling God I'll keep showing up, you show me the way. And I am stopping, stopping, slowing, pausing, searching for his voice above the clamor. 

The husband gave up Facebook during this season, and I thought that sounded lovely and hope-filled and quieting, but it wouldn't work for me in this season of speaking and writing and Reclaiming Eve Bible studies, and so I had to come up with something else.

The result is quite simple:

This morning, David and I began the ritual, minus the journaling, and Mike Mason nailed it, as he usually does, and it led to a bit of recentering and spontaneous prayer and rejoicing in the Lord, and I wanted that you should hear it, too.

While talking about how the Beatitudes in Matthew lead to an "upside-down view," where "the greatest joy issues from the greatest worldly trouble,"—the paradox of the Jesus way, to be sure—he ended with this gem:

"Pursue joy for its own sake, and anything that seems to go wrong comes as a grievous blow. But resolve to rejoice always and only in the Lord, and everything that goes right comes as a blessing."

And I thought about how serious everything seems sometimes. And how tightly I hold it. And I asked our Abba to help me release it, to release it tomorrow, too, to keep on releasing it. I asked that he would keep me focused on his surprising goodness and provision, his love for all. That he would keep me rejoicing.

In this season of reflection, and waiting, and brokenness, I pray that you would also find a quiet place of rejoicing, not just when Easter dawns, but in the middle of the mundane mess right now, no matter the grievous blows surrounding you. Resurrection and joy are already ours, and this year I am finding them in the quietness.

Your turn: What are you discovering in this Lenten season?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!” — Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for group studies! Order here.

Reclaiming Eve: Idelette McVicker's story

designI'm tickled to welcome Idelette McVicker, the editor in chief of SheLovesMagazine.com to share her Reclaiming Eve moment today. idelette profileHi, I'm Idelette and I wish I could go to every spot, village and city on the earth to meet our world’s women. I was born and raised in South Africa, which created a deep hunger for justice and equality in my heart. I have three children (11, 9 and 7) and SheLovesmagazine.com is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I also feel a little bit Chinese, because my heart still resides there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. I live in Surrey, Canada because I pledged my heart to Scott, a cheeky Canadian, 15 years ago. Give me some sweet chai, vanilla rooibos or pearl milk tea and I’m in heaven. And if you don’t know this about me quite yet: Jesus is my hero.

***

What a difference a pronoun makes.

One of my girls had a memory verse to learn for church. We lay side by side on her tiny French provincial single bed that her dad had painted a matte black. I loved those little beds: slightly rickety, painted in the garage over many days, with several coats and deep love. The girls moved into those beds when I became pregnant with their brother. 

And there we lay on that ordinary night, an exhausted Mama and her young daughter, taking just a moment to do the right thing and practice a memory verse, printed in black and white on a square card.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. -2 Corinthians 5:17

We practiced Bible verse and address. We stood before centuries’ worth of wisdom and truth. We honored the holy words and did our part to pass it on to another generation.

But I’d been learning about how much God loves women, even wrote 40 days’ worth of prayers and statistics and stories, so more women could know it.

I gently asked: "Do you know we can put ourselves in these verses? We can put our own name inside the verse and know that God intends these very words for us.”

She nodded.

I repeated the text in my head. We practiced the words together.

Then I said it out loud, one more time, but this time I made it personal for us:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

She.

She is a new creation.

We, from Eve right through to the two of us that night on that little black bed with the pink duvet. We get to become new creations.

And suddenly it felt like an earthquake was rumbling through my very being.

If anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

If anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

If anyone is in Christ, she is a new creation.

I’d placed my name inside of a verse, but I’d never before replaced the pronoun. Substituting a “he” for a “she,” for the first time ever in my life, I felt like I was meant to be included in those words, not stand outside of it. Always reverent, hopefully obedient, but always excluded.

Quiet tears were streaming down my face. My body shivered with the recognition.

I had said those words so many times in my life: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

But until that moment, it had always felt like I was standing on the outside of those words. I honored them as good, holy, lifegiving, even Spirit-breathed words.

Following Jesus on the cross, these words were for me, but I also felt outside of them. I guess I imagined this was simply part of my cross to bear. The way things had always been. These were the things we didn’t question.

Until that moment of simple yet radical inclusion, it had always felt like I was Eve, still banished from the garden.

Us, women, we’d been shown the gates and it felt like my bible translations made it very clear—we didn’t deserve to be on the inside.

Those words were for all the he’s in the world.

But us “she’s,” it wasn’t for us. It wasn’t intended for us to be newly shaped, newly created, beautifully invited in.

We’d messed up. The she’s still had to pay the price.

But what about that Grace, paid for so dearly on a cross?

Including my feminine self into the core language felt subversive. It even seemed dangerous.

A good kind of dangerous.

A right kind of dangerous.

It felt like a single word—one pronoun—in that instant had ripped through eons of established thought. That single word managed to tear down a veil.

I felt beloved. Included. Invited not only into the ways of Jesus, but welcomed into the vast promises and a revolutionary way forward.

I am no longer content to stand on the outside, looking in, because on that holy ordinary night on that little black bed, I was invited into the center of the story. I was no longer relegated to the margins. Neither are we, the daughters and sisters of Eve.

Ancient gates creaked loudly and swung wide open: Welcome, Daughters.

Your turn: Have you read Scripture with feminine pronouns? How does including women in the reading of Scripture in this way affect you?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

What I think about the IF: Gathering 2015

IF_ 2015-2The other day I got an email from a friend, a well-educated woman I respect. It said this: "I attended our local IF gathering both Friday and Saturday. I have to admit I didn't expect much, and was very pleasantly surprised."

I couldn't have said it better myself. It was easy to look at the pictures of all white, trendy women on the promotional materials and to feel a little "meh." It is hard for me to get excited about women's conferences, because I am basically looking for a place of spiritual depth, theology, diversity, of passion for the whole gospel, where the Holy Spirit moves, and anything else just doesn't feel worth the time, effort and funds it takes to get there. 

But then the IF:Gathering did the amazing thing, simulcasting their broadcast not only into churches across the country and around the world, but into our homes. For free. Did you catch the free part?

(It was a special joy to see all the photos and videos from women all over the country:  moms at home with babies, friends around the table, churches filled with women.)

But besides leveling the playing field and offering the conference for free by donation, they did so many things right. I just sat there in my pajamas giving praise to God as I watched women preach with conviction, pray with boldness and fire, and sing with joy and unabashed praise. At one point I got down on my face on the carpet, praised God and wept.

The ezers (strong powers, Genesis 2:18) were in the house, and they kicked some proverbial butt. It felt like a Reclaiming Eve extravaganza.

Here are three reasons I'll be tuning in again next year:

  • Diversity. There's a saying that you "vote by your hiring." IF voted by assembling a crew of diverse woman, then inviting Pastor Latasha Morrison to lead a live panel on bridging the racial divide with ladies of different skin colors and backgrounds. Afterward the comment was made, "I feel like we were just a part of something that could change generations." But the conference did one better: they had LaTasha create a .pdf for churches and individuals called the "bridge-building guide," a free way to lead groups into discussions on how to raise up reconciliation in our midst. You can get your own copy by filling in the info. at this link. As 90% of Christian churches are segregated, my husband and I have been moved to reconciliation and diversity in our own lives. To the point that we've chosen a church to attend that is diverse and is moving toward greater diversity—this is what the gospel of Jesus looks like. Jesus is beautifully writing this into our soul-DNA.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 6.14.39 PM

  • IF is not a performance. One of the first things Jennie Allen said was "this is not a performance. We're making much of God, and we want God more for our generation." Speaker after speaker challenged and preached:
    • "The great thing about God being your heavenly Father is that it's his responsibility to get it through to you. That's what a Father does." -Jo Saxton
    • "We live out God's Kingdom to the same fullness that we believe in it." -Jen Hatmaker
    • "We need a generation that loves the word, that knows the word...that is full of the word of God." -Christine Caine
    • Some honest, heartbreaking stories were shared, including the story of April Smith who lost her two young boys last year in an Arkansas tornado. Every woman who shared pointed back to the faith walk that we take as we wrestle daily, not by sight but by faith.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 6.05.11 PM

  • IF wants to do good in the world. Through partnerships and opportunities that uplift women and children around the world, IF models what the whole gospel looks like. They unabashedly proclaim Jesus and encourage us to bow to his lordship while also freeing people to flourish through the love of Christ. They also offer a free daily Bible study and a resource called IF: Table that encourages you to gather women around the table in your home for a meal and fellowship each month.

Finally, women speakers, who make up a paltry three percent at some church conferences, are given a voice at IF. While the church is trying to catch up to utilizing women as more than "token" speakers at large conferences, IF leads the way in giving them a platform and empowering women to speak up and serve wherever they are planted.

If you haven't done it yet, I hope you'll check out the IF: Gathering. It has my two thumbs, way up.

Your turn: Did you watch or attend IF? If so, what was your response?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for group studies! Order here.

Reclaiming Eve: Cara Strickland's story

cara

cara

Personal Note: The book Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God and the Small Group DVD continue to stimulate discussion and impact both individual lives and the Church as a whole. Read the whole series of #ReclaimingEve stories here. And many thanks to Cara, who shines light today on those aha moments that lead us to go about reclaiming Adam even as we are reclaiming Eve. Cara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She Know. Come say hi to her on Twitter. She likes making new friends.

What would it take for me to believe that men are the beloved of God?

When I started reading Reclaiming Eve, I didn’t expect to be confronted with complicated feelings about the Eden story. I’ve always felt a certain compassion for Eve, and I clad myself in these feelings as I flipped through the pages. There was only one problem. I might not have a problem with Eve, but I do have a problem with Adam. 

I’ve been through a long journey, through many kinds of churches and theologies. I was uncomfortable with female leadership in church until late in my college career before slowly picking up pieces of the beautiful heart God has for women, and finding freedom in how I saw myself and other daughters. But though I had started attending a church whose senior pastor is a woman, and begun to find healing from many hurtful ways of thinking I’d gleaned in my youth, I still hadn’t forgiven Adam.

In those churches from my formative years, I was taught that men were there to protect and defend women. I learned that women were weaker and smaller and slightly less important. But in Eden, I saw no sign of that sort of man in Adam. He didn’t even seem to be the main character in the story of the fall, and he certainly wasn’t looking out for Eve.

I read about the ezers on an airplanethe Hebrew word used for Eve indicating she is a strong power—and as I did so, I wept. Step one, for me, has been learning that women are beloved by God. Step two seems to be learning that men are, too.

My father is not a terrible man, but he learned to parent from imperfect people. As a result, I learned from a very early age that I am too much or not enough. For a time, my father was also my pastor, further confusing my young mind about how God felt about me.

Over the years, I have dated people who were a lot like my impression of Adam: not quite the main character of the story. I have looked and hoped for a wonderful man to partner with in marriage, and have been disappointed many times. As I read about the way adams and ezers are meant to ally, I realized that I haven’t believed that this was possible. I have given God credit for making the daughters of Eve full of potential and Image, but not for doing the same with the sons of Adam.

I’ve spent many dark nights crying out to God, wondering why I’m single still, after all this time hoping. I’m beginning to think that the hurt I felt as I read this story again might be why.

I have spent time frustrated by my feelings of being on the outside as a single, childless woman. Those panes of glass often exist, of course, but the wives and mothers are not always putting them up by themselves. After all, they have chosen to love and partner with people that I have difficulty trusting. That makes it hard to trust those women, as well.

This all leads back to God, as everything does, sooner or later. I don’t know what to think of a God to whom I attribute the creation of the sort of Adam I imagine. I cry out for a lovely man to partner with, but I haven’t believed that one exists. This is the tragedy of the fall. Not only did sin alter the way the sons of Adam thought about and treated the daughters of Eve, but it changed the daughter’s of Eve’s perception of the sons of Adam, standing in the way of the partnership God intended, trickling all the way down to me, so many years later.

Since I read them, these words have been continuing to resonate in my mind: “For him [Jesus] if something were to be perfect, it would fulfill the purpose for which it was created.” (87) I let out a deep breath at that, reaching all the way to the bottom of my perfectionist soul. For so long, I’ve been trying to do the right thing, to check all of the boxes. It is easy to think that it is the failure to do these things which stands in the way of the life or relationships I want. It is not so great a leap to think that those imperfections are keeping me from my vocation, from my purpose. If only I always said lovely and affirming things, then I might be considered worthy to be a wife. If only I were more traditional, or nurturing, or soft-spoken.

But I have a few ideas about the purpose for which I am created, and it looks a lot like the easy yoke Jesus describes in Matthew. I sighed because though I’ve read similar things over the years, they haven’t ever struck me like this. The freedom to be exactly who I am, turns out to be exactly what I need to remind me that God dreams of that freedom for everyone, woman and man.

On #

ReclaimingEve

: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author,

Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here.

 Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies!

Order here

.

Healing my Lymphedema: part 3

Healing my lymphedema(1)See part one and part two for the backstory on my leg lymphedema. "When I taste your goodness, I shall not want."

Audrey Assad sings those words here, her voice softly yearning, her cry for God to deliver her from so many things all at once: the fear of being lonely; the fear of humility; the fear of death and dying. It is Psalm 23 all wrapped up in poetry and prose and lyrical music. It so elegantly describes the emotional and spiritual place my lymphedema has led me through—the place it is leading me through.

Going to the University of Michigan was not just an exercise in hope for me, it was an exercise in reversal. Having had lymphedema in my foot and then leg for 42 years has prepared me for disappointment and struggle. Disappointment that no insurance company seems eager to treat my leg; frustration that therapies used are often harmful to those with lymphedema; resignation that I will live with the way things are. 

Until things aren't that way anymore. Through a wonderful turn of events, as described in post two, I found myself in three weeks of intensive physical/occupational therapy with an amazing therapist and a new machine I could literally feel working on my leg.

Here are the therapies:

  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage. This is standard at most hospitals/treatment centers, and I have had it done several times before. It involves a massage drainage and wrapping your leg in bandages. It is always helpful, but it doesn't break up fibrosis accumulated when a patient has had lymphedema for a long time.
  • Thor Laser. This is a newer tool, a cold laser, that offers a stronger and larger area of treatment than a handheld laser. It takes awhile to work, but it does seem to help some patients break up fibrosis—and it can even contribute to lymphangiogenesis, the process that stimulates new cells to work, improving lymphedema. A good adjunct treatment to MLD.
  • PhysioTouch. This machine is where the magic happens. It comes from Finland, and it is a suction cup sort of device with a # of different sized suction cups a therapist can use in different spots, distributing negative pressure. When used on my leg, it would pull up and I could feel the lymphatics release. Wow. I attribute most all of the softening and breaking up of fibrosis in my leg to this wonder.
  • Kinesio taping. This is sports tape cut to open up lymphatic channels, lifting fluid to move out, and I must admit, it also works. Particularly useful for me in taping it in areas where I don't have lymphedema to keep the fluid moving up and out.
  • Inflamzyme Forte enzymes. I got this trick from a holistic lymphedema therapist in North Carolina. The digestive enzymes work to begin to soften fibrosis as well, and they keep your digestive system working swimmingly. Finished an entire bottle while in therapy.
  • Exercise. Firstly, a lot of deep breathing while pushing on the abdomen is essential. This is the only pump in your whole body for lymphatic fluid. I could feel it moving when I did so, also helping to bring the fluid up and out of my leg. I also did a series of exercises while lying on a bed in bandages. I did water exercise 4-5 times; this is hands-down the best exercise for lymphedema. While bandaged, I also did short times on a stationary bike almost daily. (Lastly, while at home I use a chi machine for 15-20 minutes in the morning. It jumpstarts my lymph system, relaxes the spine, and generally makes me feel wonderful.)

As you can see, we were quite thorough. Although I still have some fibrosis in my lower leg, it is clearly diminished and things are working much better. If I kept going with the PhysioTouch/MLD, I'd probably get rid of all of it, but I'd still have lymphedema and need to wear a compression stocking.

For all of these gifts, I've been saying: thank you, thank you, thank you. One of my intentions for this year was to make a daily decision to embrace hope and joy. This therapy ushered me into 2015 with a smile. It was challenging, upending, and filled with moments of beauty.

For three weeks I lived in a home near the hospital filled with U of M patients and families. A pregnant mother under careful watch. A dear woman whose husband waits for a lung transplant. A man walking around with a new pancreas and kidney and a new lease on life. Two men undergoing cancer treatments, living in the tension between uncertainty and hope.

And while I sat among them, witnessing both their sorrow and their joy, I was reminded: each breath is a gift. Each embrace by friends and family a treasure. Each new morning designed for embracing, no matter the circumstance, no matter the pain or struggle.

We are to look for the joy, and somehow, amidst everything, God has designed us to find it. 

The Lord is my shepherd, I won't be wanting. Not when I find my contentment and satisfaction in the right place. May it be so—for me, and for you.

May our heavenly Father, our Abba-daddy who loves us so, surprise you with joy this day. And the day after that, too.

Your turn: Have you hoped for healing in some way that took years or decades? How did you change as a result?

On the book #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

Healing my Lymphedema: part 2

Healing my lymphedema2See part one for the backstory on my leg lymphedema. "Did you just do that today?"

A woman passed me last week as I was getting ready to exit the University of Michigan hospital where I am currently in the middle of three weeks of lymphedema therapy. She was staring at my leg, which was wrapped in layers of foam and bandages, toes sticking out of an ugly black boot.

"Uh, no," was all I could manage to utter. I didn't want to go into the details of being born with a swollen right foot. When I posted a picture of my wrapped leg to facebook, friends came up with some wicked stories for me:

  • "While I was holding a run-a-way car back with my foot to keep it from running over an infant, it shattered in several places." (Jill, the heroine angle)
  • "Tackled David (my husband) like an ezer-ninja!" (Jocelyn, the theology, "ezer"/strong power angle, see Genesis 2:18)
  • "You were leaping over a tall building in a single bound but didn't stick the landing." (Kelly)
  • "It's a limb transplant. All they had available was Andre the Giant's calf." (Tim)

Humor heals, and for this I am grateful. All my life we have fought for insurance to cover therapy for my leg. My mom did so even when no good therapy was available. My parents even gave up their dream of going to the mission field so they might stay in a cooler climate for the sake of my leg. Some of the treatments were actually harmful, and my current therapist shakes her head when I tell her the stories. We did the best we could, and I'm so grateful for the abundant life I've led.

Last August, the impossible seemed to have happened. I found the laser treatment I've waited 15 years to receive was available at U of M hospital. The therapy was scheduled, and I was two days from leaving, when the inevitable happened. The insurance denied the therapy. The reason was a technicality, as it always is. It made no sense. Lymphedema patients are rarely given the resources to help their condition without significant hassle, especially if they are born with the condition. Breast cancer arm patients have better success, though it is still challenging. My occupational therapist actually sees less patients than a normal physical therapist would because of the extra work and paperwork required to convince people lymphedema treatment is needed.

So then a small miracle happened. Even though the insurance said they would not cover my treatment because it is "primary" lymphedema, and I was "born with it," rather than being caused by an accident or surgery, things soon took a dramatic turnaround. A group of doctors at U of M spontaneously met in a coding committee, and after 42 years, changed my diagnosis. I was no longer a primary lymphedema patient, but a secondary/other lymphedema patient, and so the treatment was 100% covered. Unbelievable.

I was reeling. It is true that none of my family members have lymphedema, so it doesn't appear to be congenital. And even if it was, it is also true that every diagnostic test showed no problem with my lymph system or any other system in my body. The nearest any of us has been able to tell, something may have happened to me in utero that crimped off my circulation; even then, we don't know why it didn't resolve itself.

I am a girl with a new diagnosis. And after all these years, something amazing is happening. The little pockets of swelling in my ankle are giving way. All of those times I was told "there's nothing you can do, just live with it" are ringing in my ears now. Because something is actually being done. It is slow, intense work since I've had my condition for awhile, but we are trying everything we know to break things up and detoxify my body, and I feel and see it working.

Spiritually, though, even greater healing is happening, as I realize a few things about provision and how God's timing so often differs from my own. Had I come last August, the "physiotouch," which is a machine I didn't even know existed, would not have been available yet. It is the physiotouch more than the laser that makes immediate improvements to my leg. What I also didn't realize at the time is that my housing would not have included air conditioning, and August would have been a trying time to work on reducing leg swelling with the heat and humidity. There are many other things that are lining up for me here like a beautiful set of dominoes: healing follows healing, provision follows provision, kindness follows kindness.

I am learning to trust that God is making a way for me even when I go for decades without knowing how that way will be made. Thank you for joining in this grand adventure. I'll be back to conclude next week with final thoughts and a list of the therapies we're using that in our healing mix.

Your turn: Have you hoped for healing in some way that took years or decades? How did you change as a result?

On the book #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

Healing my Lymphedema: part 1

Healing my lymphedema-2One September 19, a little girl was born without fanfare in Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital. I was the first child born to my parents and the first grandchild for my maternal grandmother. Their joy, however, was tinged by a reality they must face.

suzanneDoctors huddled around the infant, their tongues buzzing, as they wondered aloud at why the child had two swollen feet. Even stranger, the swelling in the child's left foot seemed to be evaporating, while the right foot remained swollen. Their prognosis was dutifully delivered to the concerned parents: your child likely has Turner's Syndrome, meaning she would be mentally challenged, short of stature, and sterile. A nurse even mentioned to my parents that there are institutions to help care for children like me. They balked: God had given them this child, and they would be the ones to care for her.

We moved to Michigan eleven days later, and my parents dutifully took me for testing at Michigan State University. Six weeks later, the results arrived: no Turner's. What then, did I have? And why? 

Though hard to believe, in many ways we still don't have those answers today. TRULY.

I was diagnosed with "primary leg lymphedema," meaning the lymph fluid in my limb was compromised, and that was that. In my mid-20s, doctors ordered every diagnostic a girl with lymphedema could hope for:

  • the lymphscintigraphy: lymph dye shot through my vessels, revealing no malformations or blockages
  • the venogram: fluid shot through a vein in my foot, then turned upside down, revealing no plumbing problems
  • the cat scan: lymph nodes were fully intact and functioning
  • the MRI: at least an hour and 15 minutes worth, scanning different areas, specialists conferring, clucking their tongues and scratching their heads

All of the films were sent to a lymphedema expert, Dr. Witte, in Tucson. I remember his call: Your films show no evidence of lymphedema at all. Just do what you can for your condition. There is no answer for why.

In reply I remember saying just one word: "God." It was not a swear word, but an explanation.

At that time in my journey, I leaned on the knowledge that God foreordains everything. He must have wanted me to have lymphedema, especially with no other explanation.

My theology has changed since then. I don't believe in a God who causes our brokenness, but a God who redeems it.

My swollen right foot made me into an old soul at a young age. When kids would yell "fat foot!" on the playground, my heart hurt but it also enlarged. Lymphedema made me feel things more deeply and be more aware of how my body functioned. It made me infinitely more grateful to be able to walk and play and work and serve and love. My heart became passionate and eventually compassionate, as I moved toward others experiencing all kinds of brokenness. This is one of the reasons I am a good chaplain, a sincere friend, and a loving spouse.

When you have the slightest of a limp of whatever kind, you mostly look totally normally, but you know you are terribly fortunate. Life is a gift. 

Another gift wrapped in love: God is close to the brokenhearted. I see that now. It's splayed all over Scripture, dripping through in the humanity of Jesus. The Savior himself even chose to heal lymphedema, in a story I treasure from Luke 14:1-6:

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. 

Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.

I would have nothing to say either. Especially if said  man, who did not have access to current "lymphedema treatment" was heavily swollen, and then he was not. Leave it to Jesus to heal him on the most inappropriate day in full view of scoffers. You guys: Jesus heals lymphedema!

Sometimes he does it in this life, through therapies like the ones I am currently experiencing at U of M hospital. Sometimes he might do so supernaturally, if he chooses to. But from the eternal view, from a future and forever-with-God perspective, it is a done deal.

***

Come back next week where I share my current journey to more healing through my therapy in Ann Arbor, MI: laser, manual lymphatic drainage and a suction pump. I've waited 15 years for this!

Your turn: In what area of your life or body do you need healing? How does this need affect your relationship with God?

On the book #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

Embracing the New: Practicing Presence in 2015

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This morning, I read Sarah Bessey's new year post about holding fast in 2015, and it reminded me of how faithful God is to speak particular words into particular lives at particular times. What a mercy!

Yesterday I shared on Facebook what my 2014 intentions were:

  • Live loved.
  • Be open to new beginnings.
  • What would I do if I was not afraid?

I have moved past the place where I make resolutions per se, because resolutions make me tired, and I have figured out by now that often what I want and go after is not what I get. I want a more graceful way of being, a more faith-filled way of moving through my days, less demands on my life and more trusting and rootedness. 

I did so very many things afraid in 2015; I kept doing them over and over again. The Reclaiming Eve book was such a challenge to navigate gracefully; saying the hard thing when you know some will disagree often is. Yet it brought life in every place the message was spoken or shared—even in the radio interview that I fell into that was more like a debate, even on the public radio forum where the interviewer may have believed that Christians are crazy, even when those close to me didn't agree with the book. I believe through each interaction, no matter how difficult, something beautiful was being born.

Underneath every conversation or interaction was the reminder: You are the Beloved of God, the one that he loves, the one that he delights in. Everyone else you meet is also Beloved. I returned to his love over and over again. I asked him to open my heart, and wide. I closed my eyes, threw my head back and said, "Jesus has set his daughters free!" I said it so many different ways, with homeless women and successful businesswomen, with female leaders and mature women, with young women trying to find their way, with groups of men and women whose responses I cherish still.

Often I felt like I wasn't doing enough, but of this I'm becoming convinced: showing up to faithfully do what is in front of you is always enough. How many people really show up, fully present, to faithfully do the thing they are engaged in?

So this year, I'm choosing "Presence" as my word.

How can I fully inhabit the moments I am given? (For each moment is a gift.) How can I show up, adding grace, love, and joy to my world? How can I bear witness to the Kingdom of God, the beautiful, messy reality that his Kingdom is advancing, no matter what evidence to the contrary?

Here are my three intentions for 2015:

  • Live loved. (Continuously return to my heavenly Father's view of me as The Beloved.)
  • Practice presence. (How am I present in the right now moment I've been given? Less Facebook, more face time.)
  • Choose to embrace hope and joy. (This must be decided on daily.)

Admittedly, I will also still be "doing things afraid" in 2015. In just nine days, I'll enter occupational laser therapy at the University of Michigan for three weeks. This is an amazing answer to a 15-year prayer to receive further healing for the lymphedema I was born with in my legs. I hope you'll come back for weekly updates on my healing journey. And don't miss this: in January, I'll also be featuring a three-part video interview series with Natalie Wilson Eastman, the author of Women, Leadership and the Bible.

Your turn: What are your intentions in 2015? How will you practice presence in the one life you've been given?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

REMIX: A video discussion of Mary for Evangelicals: Who was the mother of Jesus? part 2

Mary for EvangelicalsThe more I read about Mary, the more grateful I am for her story.  In part 1 of this book discussion, we talked about how Matthew presents her as a side character, while Luke's portrayal of Mary places her in a starring role, showing us that the marginalized are not marginal in God's kingdom.. Watch the video here.

Also, here's some fascinating history in this article "The Blessed Evangelical Mary" from christianitytoday.com, which fills in a lot of the mystery surrounding Mary and Protestants and why we should avoid her no longer. 

In part 2 of our video discussion, we dig deeper into Luke and show Mary as a complex character, one who struggles to understand what is happening as Jesus matures and enters his ministry. Enjoy the discussion here:

Video discussion with Suzanne Burden on Mary for Evangelicals by Tim Perry: part 2 from Suzanne Burden on Vimeo.

Thanks for watching the video. Let's continue the conversation.

What have you recently discovered about Mary? How does she point you toward the purposes of the Kingdom?

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.