Surrounded by Love

Friends, you all continually amaze me.

You have given to our family in so many ways, time and time again. It is truly humbling to be given so many gifts that could never be repaid, to be surprised by generosity over and over. So often I think “we must have exhausted our support base by now” only to find you all turning around to give again. Sometimes I worry that our needs will be so long standing that people will tire of hearing about them eventually. I worry that people will grow weary of hearing from us.

Today I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We chatted casually for about an hour. She asked about Sage and Bryan. In the course of the conversation some needs were shared, a new medical bill for Bryan, a new prescription insurance won’t cover for Sage. We talked about the kinds of needs Sage might have throughout the rest of her life and on into adulthood. She mentioned setting up college funds for kids and only half joking I said Thad would have to pay for his own college because all of our funds will most likely go towards Sage’s care.

By the time I got home she had set up a GiveForward account for us. It feels like it’s for an exorbitant amount of money to me.

I know there are so many other people with needs far more pressing than ours. I know that there are others more deserving of your financing, and my heart breaks for them. We have been so blessed to have good insurance and good family around us to help when needs arise. I think often of those who don’t have that. Medical expenses add up so quickly even with good insurance, even with a stable income, and family support. I can’t imagine not having those things. I feel like I should tell you to go find someone who doesn’t have those things and give to them first, and then if you want to come back and give to us we would be so deeply grateful.

I know though that generosity pours out of love, and love comes most quickly for those you know in some way, those you’ve journeyed with in some form. We are blessed and grateful to be surrounded by love.

We are so deeply and continually grateful for the love you all have already shown us. It feels like more than enough. It feels like more than we could ever repay. It has been and is overwhelming grace towards us. Your generosity has multiple times humbled us as it replaces fear with gratitude and desire with thankfulness. Thank you.

We are and ever will be gratefully yours.

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany

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Continuity of Place

I’m sitting in my parents backyard looking out over the valley of Phoenix. The warm dry air surrounds me in a familiar embrace and I remember…

I remember fighting with my mom in the kitchen.
And crying as we made up in the family room.
I remember the surprise of my first car parked in the drive way.
Singing into spoons with my friends as we danced around the house.
Crying on my eighteenth birthday thinking I was so old and feeling so unsure about the path before me (oh, how little I knew).
I remember crying with a broken and hurting heart.
Sobbing so hard I couldn’t stand.
I remember ringing in New Year’s with joy.
Parties and dancing in the family room.
Praying so many prayers.
Learning to trust God, and unlearning it again.
I remember Thanksgivings with all of my cousins.
Gathering around the fire pit in the back yard on Christmas morning.
Cooking with my dad while listening to opera.
I remember standing in the entry way the first time Bryan said he loved me.
I remember wreathing in pain as I brought my children into the world on the floor in front of my parents tub.
The pain and the triumph.
The tears and the joy.

My parents have lived in this house for more than fifteen years. A lot of my life has happened against this backdrop.

As I sit here today all of that comes flooding back to me and somehow the continuity of place throughout the difficult and the sweet helps me remember…the most important thing… everything is going to be ok.

It gives me perspective for this season, this difficult impasse.

I don’t have many places like this. Many tangible places of continuity. Before living in this house my family never lived in the same house for more than about 4 years. In the past nearly 12 years since I left home to go to college the longest I have lived at one residency is 2 years.

I get antsy. I value change in some ways. I tend to be future oriented and looking for that next thing that is going to stretch and challenge me. I had an energy worker tell me once that I had a very nomadic energy and I understand why she’d say that.

But, today I find myself experiencing the value of roots. Of continuity. Of having someplace that reminds you of all the ups and downs of life, reminds you of how much you have already faced, reminds you of how good times always come again following the difficult.

Life is a cycle of growth and change, but there is continuity. When I look out at the Phoenix valley, which from this view looks exactly the same as it did the first time I looked out on it, I feel that continuity. When I look up at the McDowel Mountains towering over the roof of my parents house, and remember the many times I’ve looked up at them before, I feel that stability.

We need places like this in our lives. Places where we can feel our roots. Places where we can feel the consistency and continuity of life even amidst the changing tides.

Life is an ever fluctuating cycle of hellos and goodbyes, of tears and laughter, of pain and joy. As ecclesiastes says “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” All seasons come and go. All seasons change. But, change is not the only constant. There is a consistency of place, of presence, of spirit and essence that feeds the soul and encourages me through every change and possible change. There are places that we can truly call sacred, places that have a presence that stays consistent. They have a continuity of spirit that stands steady and unchanging throughout any upheaval.

My parents house and the walking paths around it have always felt like that to me. They have been for me a “thin place” – to use the celtic term for those physical places where the presence of our consistent God is more easily felt. Those places where the veil between heaven and earth is thinnest.

Being here, under the wide open skies of the valley, makes me feel like I stand in the wide open presence of an expansive God. A God who is all about the AND.

Being here, in the shadow of a vast mountain, makes me feel like I can rest in the shadow of a God who is strong and unchanging.

Being here, in the hot dry air, makes me feel like I bask in the warmth of a loving God who will count and dry every tear.

Being here, in the familiar and familial, makes me feel like I can breathe again deeply, taking the dry beauty of the desert into my soul with every inhale.

Being here, in the place where God has carried me through so much past pain and joy, reminds me that he will carry me through whatever I face in the present and whatever awaits me in the future.
Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany Stedman

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There is No Contentment without Gratitude

This past Sunday at church the sermon was about contentment.

It seemed to me that the heart of the sermon was that we should be content with only Jesus, because Jesus is really all we need and all we really have (we came into the world with nothing and we will leave with nothing). And it seemed that the answer he gave for being more content was to remember and focus on how all we need is Jesus. Well, the more I think about it the more I sort of have issues with this…

While I think focusing on our lack, on how little we truly have, on how we came into the world naked and we take nothing out of it, does knock us off our high horses and works great for combating pride, I don’t think it works so well for combating discontentment. Or at least not for me.

When I focus on how all I really have is Jesus it doesn’t make me content, in fact it actually feeds my discontentment a little. I think this is partly because it draws my attention to my lack instead of my abundance. But, also partly because, truth be told, I want more. Jesus isn’t all I want. And perhaps it’s sacraligious, but I’m not so sure that he’s suppose to be all I want.

Ok, hear me out… Here’s my thinking. Adam (as in the “first man”), prior to the fall, was perfect and God walked with him in the garden. He had everything he needed and he had God beside him. But, he wasn’t really content. He wanted more. God himself said it wasn’t good, God himself said Adam needed more. He needed community. He needed a partner, a friend.

So, here’s what I think. We do need God. But he isn’t all we need. We also need each other. We also need community and friendship and love.

Focusing on how all we need is Jesus and all we have is Jesus isn’t the answer to our discontentment because it just draws our attention to our lack instead of our abundance, and because it misses a truth that God created us not just for Himself, but for each other as well.

For me, the best answer to my discontentment is gratitude.

Gratitude combats discontentment because gratitude takes our focus off what we don’t have and onto what we do have. It grows contentment in us as no other displine can.

When I focus on how much I already have, and thank God for all the good that comes from his hands it’s impossible to stay discontent.

Contentment isn’t focusing on how all we have is Jesus. Contentment is accepting where we are and what we have, accepting ALL things as good gifts from the hand of a loving God. When I focus on that, when I embrace where I am, where God’s placed me, that is when I grow contentment in my soul. When I embrace all that I do have, all that a loving God has given me that is when I find contentment and peace to walk through whatever lack I may have thought I had.

Gratitude and contentment go hand in hand. Personally I do not think there is any way to find contentment without gratitude.

What do you think?

Rejoicing on the journey,
Bethany Stedman

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Thankful

Well, Bryan is at a pub with some friends and the baby is asleep, I realize I haven’t blogged much at all this month and know that this would be the perfect time… so here I sit staring at a blank page knowing I should write, knowing I’ve neglected my blog and all of my sweet readers, knowing that writing would be good for me, but unsure where to start.

There’s lots I could write about, lots bouncing around in my head, perhaps lots that I will write and keep private for the time being… For today I think what I really NEED to write though is this…

my sweet baby giving me the sweetest kisses right on the lips
my husband smiling at me over Thaddeus’ sleeping head
watching my son as he learns new things every day
Father and son roughhousing and bonding together
the way my heart skips a little when Thad says “mommm” and reaches for me
the strength I feel when Bryan slips his arm around my waist
long naps in the afternoon
reading an old, worn, used, hardback and beautiful book
organizing my fabric stash and dreaming about sewing projects
the excitement my husband showed upon receiving back some slippers I mended for him
the smell of fresh baked bread
drinking warm milk with a bit of butter in it
talking honestly with a dear friend
taking a long bath
sun shine and a warm spell however short lived it may have been

These are things that have made me happy the past few weeks.

These are things I thank God for today.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

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