Mother’s Day

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. It will be my first Mother’s Day with a Baby and I’ve really been looking forward to it.

Today as I was quickly flipping through a few blogs I found this video about Mother’s Day on Tall Skinny Kiwi. It really challenged me. I have been looking forward to Mother’s Day as a day to relax, maybe have my husband take the baby for a while, take a nice calming bath, etc. But, this video discusses the history of Mother’s Day being rooted in a Peace movement after the civil war. It mentions a Mother’s Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe. She wrote this just after the civil war to a nation still in desperate need of a deep peace. She called on all mothers, all women really, to “Arise then… women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts!” She asked them to “take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace… Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God – In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”

It got me thinking about how I might “promote the great and general interests of peace” this Mother’s Day? How can I promote peace within my own heart, within my marriage, within my family, and within my world at large? How can I, in my unique role as a mother and homemaker, join with other mothers to fight on behalf of peace?

Honestly, I don’t really have answers to these questions, but I’m thinking about them. I want to keep my eyes and ears open for ways I can further peace in my community and world. And I want to instill a heart of peace within my son.

From the beginning of my son’s young life I have prayed that he wouldn’t be a fighter, a warrior that just charges ahead at the front lines not thinking of the cost of battle. I have prayed instead that he would be a man of peace. I have prayed that he would be filled with compassion and that he would have a soft heart. I have prayed that when he fights he would do so prayerfully, wisely and intentionally. I have prayed that when he picks up his weapons it would be as a guard, fighting to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

How do you “promote the great and general interests of peace”?

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Two Prayers for Two Very Different Days

I have a confession… sometimes I hate being a mom. Sometimes I feel totally lost and like the worst mom ever. Sometimes I feel totally selfish and just want to “send him back”. Yesterday was one of those days. This is the prayer I wrote at the end of it…

Lord, forgive me for the ugliness of my own heart.

Forgive me for the resentment I can harbor in my heart towards my precious child.

Forgive me for the anger that can well up so quickly from nowhere even towards one so young, helpless, and innocent.

Forgive me for the deep selfishness that so often lifts its head to threaten my intimacy with my beautiful baby.

Teach me to love my child even when his needs, demands, and fussing keeps me from those things which I both need and want.

Teach me to love my child when he cries all through the night and keeps me from much needed sleep.

Teach me to love my child even when his whining and crying keeps me from doing those things which I think I “have” to do – like the dishes, or keeping the house clean, or getting the laundry done, or responding to emails.

Teach me to love my child when he kicks me, pulls my hair, and aggressively pushes me away when I am holding him – it’s not personal.

Teach me to love my child even when his desire for my constant presence and attention keep me from pursuing my own hobbies and interests.

Teach me to love my child even when I can’t ever finish anything I start.

Teach me to love my child even when he won’t go down for naps and I have little to no break.

Give me new vision for this little person that has been entrusted to me.

Place a new passion on my heart for the gift of life that I hold in my arms.

Give me patience for those moments when I feel lost and confused.

Give me peace and encouragement for those times when I feel like the worst mother ever.

Give me endurance for the sleepless nights and the long days of endless chores and monotonous activity.

Teach me to find joy in reading simple board books over and over again.

Teach me to find joy in being constantly chewed and sucked on whether it’s my finger, breast, arm, elbow, shoulder or chin, or whatever.

Teach me to find joy in narrating my actions, singing silly songs like the itsy bitsy spider, dangling toys just out of reach, and generally entertaining my baby however I can.

Teach me to find joy in holding my child even when my arms ache and my back is sore.

Teach me to find joy in the constant noise and the loss of the silence which I used to enjoy.

Teach me to find joy in being my child’s own personal jungle gym.

And when I need it most bring me rest.

I can’t do it on my own. Change me, Lord. Teach me to find peace and joy and identity in my new role as mother. Bring new life and rejuvenation. Resurrect me.

Amen.

I have another confession to make… sometimes I really love being a mom. Sometimes I feel totally fulfilled by simply taking care of my child and my husband. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount of love and affection I can feel towards my baby. Sometimes I feel like I have it all figured out. Today was one of those sometimes. Here is my prayer today…

Thank you, Lord, for being present with me in the mundane details of my day today.

Thank you for bringing sleep to my sons heavy eyes so that I could rest and work.

Thank you for giving me motivation and creativity so that I could get things done while still being intimately with my child.

Thank you for giving me ways to entertain him at just the right moments when I felt like I was completely out of ideas.

Thank you for a productive and positive day – a day when my hands worked hard, and my back ached, but I can now look around and feel proud of what I accomplished.

Thank you for giving me this day my daily bread – for meeting my needs right where I was.

But, Lord, I know that today was a good day only because of your grace to me.

I thank you for it, yet I know that I still stand on fragile ground.

I still need you… desperately.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Who knows what tonight will bring.

Whatever you choose to send, I am choosing now to accept it from your hands.

I trust that you know what’s best for me.

I trust that you know what’s best for my son.

I trust that you know what’s best for my family.

And I trust that you will meet our needs, at exactly the moment we need you to.

Lord, I need you.

I need you to continually speak sweet encouragement to me as I struggle to figure out what it looks like to mother well.

I need you to continually make me less self centered and more selfless so that I can gladly meet the needs of my child without resentment.

I need you to continually bring me days of rest and nights when my baby will sleep, because when my body is fatigued my mind and soul are hard pressed to meet each days demands.

I need you to show me what is really required of me so that I don’t heap unneeded guilt upon my own shoulders or the shoulders of those around me.

Today I rejoice over a good day, and over how far you have brought me from the place I was in yesterday.

But, today I also recognize that I still have a long way to go and tomorrow is another day.

So, again I pray…

I can’t do it on my own. Change me, Lord. Teach me to find peace and joy and identity in my new role as mother. Bring new life and rejuvenation. Resurrect me.

Amen.
Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Liturgy for Marriage

In the past year or so I have often found myself unable to pray – with too many thoughts running through my head and no coherent words. In those times I’ve found it particularly helpful to use form prayers and liturgies. At times though I have found it even more helpful to write my own liturgies and form prayers. I think writing helps me to process all of the thoughts I’m having on the topic. Lately I’ve particularly written prayers in liturgy format, with everything broken down for different people to read – I’m not sure why I do it that way since often these are read/prayed only by me or occasionally by my husband and me together. Maybe I break it down into more people because I’m longing for community in my prayer life or maybe because something about communal prayer just feels right to me – I don’t know…

Anyway, this past week I was thinking a lot about marriage – my marriage and the marriages of a few friends who have chosen to share with me about their marriages. I wanted to pray for us and each of them, but I felt stuck. It felt like there was so much I could pray and I had no idea where to start. So, I went to the books. I started with The Celtic Book of Daily Prayer, The Anglican Book of Prayer and the Bible. Before I knew it I was writing – piecing things I found together with my own thoughts and concerns for all of our marriages. This is what I ended up with:

Liturgy for Marriage

Leader:
Father of Marriage,
you created us one for another,
and first established the holy gift of marriage.

Women:
In  your infinite wisdom you knew that it is not good for Man to be alone,
and shaped us from the clay into corresponding shapes,
perfectly fit for one another.

Men:
And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife.

Leader:
Father of Marriage,
draw us back to the beginning.
May we be naked and unashamed before our spouses.
Take away the walls that we build up between us.
Give us courage to open our hearts, minds and bodies to one another ever more deeply,
that we truly can become one in all areas of our beings.
Grant that in our openness we can meet each other with grace, forgiveness and understanding.
Just as there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus, may there be no condemnation in our marriages.

All:
Father of Marriage,
forgive us for the ways we have tarnished your gift of marriage.

Person 1:
You know our every hidden part, forgive us for the things that we try to keep hidden from our spouses and shine light in the dark places of our souls.
Forgive us for the anger, resentments, and hurts that we hold on to and tuck away.

(pause for reflection)

Person 2:
Father of Marriage,
transform our marriages into your intended sacrament of unity.
May we be to the other a strength in need,
a counselor in perplexity,
a comfort in sorrow,
and a companion in joy.

Leader:
O God, creator and preserver of all life, author of salvation, and giver of all grace: Look with favor upon the world you have made, and especially upon our marriages, which you have sanctified. Eternal God, you are the giver of all good gifts, all that we have has come from your hand, and you have given us one to another.

All:
Draw us this day into a more perfect union, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Leader:
Jesus of Love,
Out of tender love for each one of us  you walked this earth
and chose the way of the cross.

Women:
You have generously bestowed your love upon us,
setting for us an example of how we also should love.

Person 3:
For you, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with
God something to be
grasped;
but made yourself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
you humbled yourself
and became obedient to death –
even death on a cross!

Men:
Lord, in our marriages may we each have that very attitude of Christ –
Daily humbling ourselves and taking on the nature of a servant.

Leader:
Jesus of love,
teach us to submit mutually to one another.
May we love one another deeply as you love the church –
a love marked by giving, not getting.
Your love makes the church whole.
Your love reveals each of us for who we really are, Children of the living God.
Your love evokes beauty.
You see the best in your church, your bride.
Open our eyes as well, that we might see the best in our spouses,
May we see them for the magnificent children of God that they are.
May we see the best in them, believe the best in them, and speak the best of them always.

All:
Jesus of love,
forgive us for the ways in which we have let our self centeredness keep us from following you to the cross in our marriages.

Person 4:
Forgive us for the hurt we have caused in our marriages by what we have done and by what we have left undone.
Forgive us for the ways we have not obeyed you and lived out the gospel in our marriages.
Forgive us for the ways in which we have hindered our communion with you because of the ways we have hindered our communion with our spouses.

(pause for reflection)

Person 5:
Jesus of love,
transform our marriages into a reflection of your love –
that unity may overcome estrangement,
forgiveness heal guilt,
and joy conquer despair.

Leader:
O God, you have so consecrated the covenant of marriage that in it is represented the spiritual unity between Christ and his Church: Send therefore your blessing upon us, that we may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that our homes may be a haven of blessing and peace;

All:
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

Leader:
Spirit of Unity,
Through you two become one flesh.

Women:
You intercede on our behalf and on behalf of our marriages.
You are full of infinite wisdom and truth.

Your timing is perfect.
And in you is infinite peace.

Men:
You are the vine and we are the branches,
Apart from you we can do nothing.
We cannot change ourselves or our spouses.

All:
We recognize that it is only by your indwelling that we can hope for transformation in our marriages.

Leader:
Spirit of Unity,
We believe and trust that you are present with us and active in our marriages,
And we ask you to come and breathe fresh life into our love.
Give us the light to understand our spouses better.
Give us strength to fight for one another instead of against one another.
Give us passion and deeper desire for each other.

All:
Spirit of Unity,
forgive us for our arrogance and pride.

Person 6:
Forgive us for trying to make our marriages better in our own strength, instead of looking to you and your strength for our transformation.
Forgive us for our lack of unity – for the ways in which we seek out our own personal desires instead of seeking what is best for our spouse and our marriage as a whole.

(pause for reflection)

Person 7:
Spirit of Unity,
transform our marriages into an unbreakable bond.

Person 8:
Excite our love,
strengthen our weakness,
encompass our desire.

Person 9:
Shield our thoughts,
and cradle our bodies,

Person 10:
and as we breath this prayer,
in our hearts may we feel
Your presence.

Leader:
O God, by the power of your Holy Spirit, pour out the abundance of your blessing upon our marriages. Defend us from every enemy. Lead us into all peace. Let our love for each other be a seal upon our hearts, a mantle about our shoulders, and a crown upon our foreheads. Bless us in our work and in our companionship; in our sleeping and in our waking; in our joys and in our sorrows; in our life and in our death. Finally, in your mercy, bring us to that table where your saints feast for ever in your heavenly home;

All:
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Blessing for My Son

IMG_1794Well, I’m a mom. On Saturday September 26th at 4:51am I gave birth in my parents’ house to my first born son, Thaddeus Raffi Stedman. At 2 weeks early and 6 pounds 11 ounces he was tiny, but perfect.

Yesterday we had some of our immediate family over to bless and pray for Thaddeus. It was simple and very short, but very meaningful for Bryan and I and we hope Thaddeus as well. Bryan and I had written a liturgy for Thad for the occasion and I thought I would share it here. Please join us in praying that these things would be true of our son as he grows.

Blessing Ceremony for Thaddeus Raffi Stedman

Celebrants together:
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Celebrant:
“Sons are a heritage from the Lord,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”

Celebrant:
“The blessing of Christ comes to you in this child.
His blessing is mercy and kindness and joy.
Blessing comes to home and to family.”

Grandparents together:
Blessed are You, Our God, Spirit of the Universe
Who fulfills the words of the Psalmist: ‘And may
you live to see your children’s children…’

Mother and Father together:
“Blessed are you, Oh Lord, Our God, King of the universe who bestows goodness upon the accountable, who has bestowed every goodness upon us.”

Celebrant:
“Amen, He who has bestowed goodness upon you, may He bestow every goodness upon you forever.”

Mother:
I bless you, son of my womb…
Blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.
I bless your body.
May it be strong and resilient all the days of your life.
May your body be for you a source of joy, but not of arrogance.
May the strength of your limbs provide protection and help for those who need it, and may your arms circle with care those whom you love, bringing comfort and encouragement to many.
I bless your body.
I pray that God would shield it and hold it all the days of your life, and raise it anew to glory on the day the last trumpet sounds.

Father:
I bless you, son of my love…
Love of my love, reward of my passion, answer of my tenderness
I bless your deep heart.
May it be free and unfettered all the days of your life.
May you know passion in your work, in your play and in your love.
May your heart reach out in tenderness and protection towards those who are hurting, may it guide you to that which is good, right and true, and may it surround those around you with compassion, openness and grace.
I bless your heart. I bless your love.
I pray that God would shield it and hold it all the days of your life, and reward it abundantly and graciously on the day the last trumpet sounds.

Mother:
I bless you, son of my labor…
Gift of my effort, result of my toil, delight of my pain
I bless your struggle.
May the struggles, challenges, and pain of your life always be mixed with deep joy.
May you find God amidst your sorrows, and feel his presence close at hand during times of uncertainty.
May you fight bravely, struggling on behalf of others for justice and beauty and all those things which are worth fighting for in this world.
May you fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, and battle on behalf of the weak and needy.
I bless your struggle.
I pray that God would protect you so that you can protect others all the days of your life, and when the day of judgment comes may he say unto you “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Father:
I bless you, son of my joy…
Wonder of my happiness, miracle of my awe, child of my delight
I bless your pursuit of joy.
May you delight in life and wonder at creation.
May you find joy in all the little things, and see beauty in all that’s around you.
May you play freely and bring delight and joy and laughter to all those around you, contagiously spreading to them your curiosity, creativity and hunger for life.
I bless your pursuit of joy.
I pray that God would protect you and that all your pursuits of joy would lead you quickly to his throne of grace, and when the day of judgment comes may he know you as his own.

Father and Mother together:
We lift up this child to you, Lord.
We recognize that he is your gift to us and that we are only stewards of him.

Father:
We lift up this child to you, Lord.
And give him the name Thaddeus Raffi Stedman
And pray that he would live up to the meanings and significances of his name.

Mother:
Thaddeus has several  meanings, all of which are things that we desire for you. First, it means “heart”, or “breast” or “courageous heart” and we pray that you would have a courageous heart. May you be a man with heart, passion, and sensitivity. May you have a heart that does not shrink with fear, but instead expands with love. Thaddeus can also mean wise or valiant. We pray that you would grow in wisdom and valiantly follow the voice of wisdom throughout your life. Lastly, Thaddeus can mean “praise” or “God’s gift” and we recognize through this name that you are God’s gift to us and we will ever praise him for that gift.

Father:
We pray that you would be like the Apostle Thaddeus (also known as Jude) who became one of the patriarchs of the Armenian church, and was known as the patron saint of lost causes. Like this Thaddeus of old, may you follow Christ Jesus as his disciple. May you take up the cause of the hurting and oppressed even when no one else will and it seems that the cause is “lost”. And may you be a spiritual father or patriarch to many.

Mother:
Raffi means “highly praised” and we pray that you would be highly honored and admired by those who meet you. May you have few enemies and many friends. May those who come to know you, come to admire you. But may you also always remember, and direct others to remember, the One who alone is worthy of all praise and glory and honor.  May people’s admiration of you turn quickly to admiration of Christ Jesus.

Father:
We pray that you would be like Raffi Francian, or Papa as we call him. May you be like Papa in his ability to put others at ease and be a friend to everyone he meets as well as his ability to “not sweat the small stuff.” May you have Papa’s adventurous spirit that is always up for anything and quick to try new things. We pray that this would bring you to have many great stories to tell throughout your life and that you would always be ready to share them and give God glory for them.

Celebrants together:
Welcome, Thaddeus Raffi Stedman,
child of love.
We welcome you with open arms and hearts of love.

Grandfathers together:
Grow strongly, Thaddeus,
in love of God.
We bless you,
and pray
Christ be near you,
now and each hour
of your life.”

Grandmothers together:
“Grow gently, Thaddeus,
in love of God.
We bless you,
and pray
Christ be near you,
now and each hour
of your life.”

(Opportunity for people to pray openly as they feel led for Thaddeus)

Celebrants together:
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Amen.

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Happy Valentine’s Day

“Christ, King of tenderness,
Christ, King of tenderness,
bind us with a bond
that cannot be broken.
Bind us with a bond of love
that cannot be broken.” Amen.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.