A Sinner Lies Beside Me

I have written about forgiveness before on this blog. It’s one of those things we always want for ourselves, but not something we find easy to extend to others. This is true in even the most superficial relationships, but perhaps particularly true in our most intimate ones. Around this time last year, my husband and I were working through a conflict. We knew that we had promised to love one another, and even in absence of such a promise, we had a Christian calling to forgive others, no matter how difficult it was to do. I wrote this as I was reflecting on that calling, and praying for the Holy Spirit to soften my heart and make me gracious beyond my own ability. I wanted to share it here in case one of you is struggling to extend grace to someone in your life.. Perhaps someone has wronged you, and perhaps very gravely. You do not have to pretend that the person’s actions were justified in order to release them of any debt to you. Instead, trust in Christ, who extended you forgiveness in dying for your sins, who can empower you to love when you have no love, and who has an answer for every injustice ever done, either through His saving work on the cross, or in the work of judgement at the end of the age.

A Sinner Lies Beside Me 

A sinner lies beside me. A sinner in my womb, 

A sinner at the grocery. A sinner in the waiting room.

A sinner on the TV talking, a sinner in the uniform,

A sinner with the law book, writing, a sinner dead, a sinner born.

A sinner in the jail cell, a sinner in the court,

A sinner who is laughing, and a sinner who mourns.

A sinner in the window, a sinner on the street,

A sinner every man, woman, child that I meet.

A sinner lies beside me, a sinner in my womb,

A sinner in the mirror, He bled for me and you.

While I was yet a sinner, 

He humbled himself to die,

To save the souls of rebels, 

And them to justify.

And will I now forget it,

The grace I have received?

Deny to give it freely to,

A sinner just like me?

I must extend as he did,

The crimson love he poured,

To rescue me from trouble,

That I might be restored.

A sinner is beside me,

And to him must be given,

The blessing of forgiveness,

For I have been forgiven.

Today, all well and good. Tomorrow? Next week? Five years? Ten? Sixty? Only by God’s grace, and oh Lord, that you would grip my soul so powerfully with your gracious hand, that I might never be released from its holy power. Forgiveness is in and through your spirit. Seventy times seven, you said. Oh let it be so in my life.

Wooing Words — a Poetic Reflection

It didn’t come to me like a dove or a bow-kissed sky.

It came to me like a chain,

And a ball, 

And a chunk of long, hard time. 

At Christmas, it was laughter, 

Sprung out of silence 

Like birdsong in a winter field. 

But Mondays…

It was the quotidian traffic of words and syllables and letters that desperately needed an officer 

To shout, and blow his whistle, and 

Move them along.

I’m learning to shout like the officer.

I see his uniform, and the shiny buttons on his coat,

The orderly way the words obey his commands.

I want to be like that, but 

Characters are capricious creatures, and philosophies even more fickle.

Still, I’m finding there’s a knack of it.

There’s a time for harsh words and whistles that shriek above the street, 

But there’s a friendship, too. 

It’s a hospitality, 

Like old Mrs. Reyburne, who takes me in and fills my hands with tea and biscuits.

I’ve got to offer tea to even the least of these letters.

I’ve got to fill them up with sweets and let them overflow and spill out into meaning,

Word Puddles 

of reflected shapes and refracted light

That coalesce

To form the rainbow that wasn’t there before,

And brings the olive branch at last into view.

It didn’t come to me like a dove or a bow-kissed sky,

Until I asked it to come in and stay a while.

If I Could Name All the Guide Dog Puppies | A List of Names Beginning with E

Well, it’s been a while, so I thought it was about time we added another list of dog names. Here are my ideas for a litter of E’s.

Ephie (Feminine): Greek, meaning well-spoken.

Ellory (Masculine): meaning island of elder trees.

Elowen (Feminine): meaning elm tree. I think this name is gorgeous and would love to use it for a child, but am absolutely positive it would be shot down by my husband hahaha. If you’re in that situation too, maybe you can use it for your pup instead.

Esther (Feminine): Meaning star. Biblical, a heroine of the Hebrew people, chosen for her beauty to be the new queen of Babylon. Rescued the Hebrew people from geniside at the hands of the king and his adviser.

Ezrah (Masculine): Biblical, apparently means helpful person, a prophet from the old testament.

Echo (Neutral): nice and short, a similar vibe for me to the name Shadow. 

Emerald (Feminine): could go either way really but it feels more feminine to me. Emmie could serve as a sweet nickname.

Elias (Masculine): Greek and Hebrew origins, meaning “Jehovah is God”.

Everist (Masculine): for a mountain of a dog. 

Everra (Feminine): my made up feminine version of Everist. Maybe it’s a real name somewhere? If not, maybe you could make it a real name by choosing it for your pup.

Estella (Feminine): derived from the Spanish word for star.

Eragon (Masculine): okay, here’s the thing. I wanted to include Aragorn, because I am an LOTR fan, but didn’t realize Aragorn is spelled with an A, not an E… so here’s the Christopher Paolini name equivalent that does start with an E.

Elf (Neutral): here’s another E word with fantasy vibes.

Elm (Feminine): because I like nature names.

Elite (Feminine): I met a dog once with this name and I thought it was a unique option.

Elysium (Neutral): from Greek mythology, heaven, paradise.

Ember (Feminine): as in a burning ember. 

Empyrean (Masculine): paradise. 

Epic (Neutral): My dog is Epic… no really, that’s his name.

Eulalia (Feminine): the war cry of the anthropomorphized hares in Brian Jacques’ Redwall, this word also refers to a flowering ornamental grass and a patron saint of Barcelona… careful about looking up her story though… it’s not for the faint of heart.

Do you have a pet or service animal with a name beginning with E? What would you add to this list?

Blind Mama Pregnancy Vlog | Week 30

The next update in my pregnancy journey! This week, I talked about some adaptive tools that might help if you are a blind parent yourself. Plus, my usual discussion of symptoms, a doctor’s appointment, and concerns. You can watch my 30 week update here.

Are there any tips and tricks that you’ve found useful as a parent to a young child? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget that you can subscribe directly to my youtube channel to hear more about my experience of pregnancy. As always, thanks so much for joining!

Blind Mama Pregnancy Vlog | Week 26

In the interest of catching you up on the pregnancy journey and my thoughts on motherhood so far, you can watch my update from my 26th week of pregnancy here.

As always, thanks so much for joining, and if you want to hear more updates like this, feel free to subscribe to my youtube channel directly.

Blind Mama Pregnancy Vlogs | Weeks 22 and 24

I realized I missed posting the last several videos concerning my pregnancy journey here! Belowyou can find the links for my 22 and 24 week updates. Check back again here to hear more about my pregnancy journey, or subscribe to my youtube channel.

For week 22, click here, and for week 24, visit this link.

Thanks for following along!

“It Is Well with my Soul” | My Instrumental Arrangement

When I heard this was my then fiancé’s favorite hymn, I had it in my head to arrange it for him, but every time I sat down to do it I felt I couldn’t quite capture the mood I wanted to. It is a hymn that has meant a great deal to many over the decades, and I wanted to do the words justice, even if the words wouldn’t actually be sung in my version. A few months ago, we had the occasion to record some hymns for a church event facilitated by one of our friends. Deadlines are always immensely helpful for me in the creative process, so at last, I managed to record an arrangement I was happy with.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll,

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say

it is well, it is well with my soul.”

In this hymn, we find someone reconciling the good and the hard, as I have written about before. Whether times are easy, or fraught with trial and difficulty, the speaker is able to say, “It is well with my soul.”

But why? You may ask. Indeed, the writer of this hymn had recently lost his children in a shipwreck. How can one possibly say, “It is well?” in such a situation?

“Though satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blessed assurance control:

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate

and has shed his own blood for my soul.”

Thus, it is the blood of Christ which gives the speaker the ability to rest. Even in the darkest shadow of grief, he has hope through Jesus, who secured eternal life for all who trust in him when he gave himself up on the cross.

“My sin–oh the bliss of this glorious thought–

My sin, not in part, but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord oh my soul!”

The speaker recognizes that he, like every one of us, was born into bondage. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot free himself from his sin nature, that is, that part of him that compels him to think, say, and do wrong things. This is a problem, when you consider that a perfect and holy God must be perfectly just. There must be an answer for evil, including all the evil that you and I have done. God’s answer is found in Jesus. He took the punishment I deserved, and praise the Lord I can agree with the speaker in saying I bear my sin no more, and praise God, so do you if you trust in Jesus.

The hymn finishes with a triumphant vision of Christ’s glorious return at the end of the age. The speaker has such security in Christ that even as that dreadful time of judgement approaches, and those who have rejected Christ draw near to destruction, he can confidently say, “It is well”, because he knows his salvation is sure in Jesus.

“And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.”

It is Well, Instrumental

Note: Though I think the theology of this hymn is sound, the writer, Horatio Spafford, had some very erroneous theological beliefs, and should not be considered an example of a faithful believer. When I use the word “speaker”, I mean it in the sense of poetic analysis, rather than in reference to the author. As we have seen many times throughout history, God is a mighty redeemer and can use even the lost to produce great works to encourage and uplift his people. I think that is the case here.

Do you have a favorite hymn? Why is it your favorite? Let me know in the comments. Perhaps I’ll be inspired to arrange that one, too.

Christ Identifies with Us in Pregnancy

Not far into pregnancy, I quickly discovered, as I’m sure many women do, that morning sickness is one of the great misnomers of our time. Morning sickness? You mean all day sickness? And if you’re referring to the time of day that it’s the worst, rather than the time of day that it is there (AKA nearly all the time), I would have to call it afternoon or evening sickness. The first time I threw up during my pregnancy was around two Pm. My husband noticed I was losing color, and encouraged me to lie down. He had to run out for a few things, so left me with a pot, just in case. I wasn’t expecting to do anything with the pot; so far over the last 12 weeks I only felt like throwing up, but never actually did… but only a few minutes after my husband had departed, I reached for the pot and clutched it to my chest. 

Maybe it’s called morning sickness because you throw up everything you ate in the morning, I theorized vaguely as fragments of my first meal made their rather uncivil reappearance. Why IS bringing new life into the world such a painful process, I wondered then, returning shakily to my pillow. Sin, I think, is the answer to that question, but we needn’t stop there. After all, there is an answer to sin, that is, Jesus, and he endured discomfort, pain, and humiliation to bring new life to all of God’s children. 

I am struck by the way pregnancy and birth, with all the associated difficulty and sometimes embarrassing side-effects, can point us to the cross. In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to be saved, he must be “born again” (John 3:1-7). This is because Nicodemus, like you and I, was first born with a nature prone to hating and rebelling against God. That is, he was physically alive, but spiritually he was “dead in his transgressions” (Ephesians 2:1). 

But how, as Nicodemus quickly asks, can one be born again? How does this “second birth” take place? Jesus says that it is through Him. In order for us to be reborn, Jesus, the Son of God, became also the Son of Man. He was born into the humblest of human situations. He endured the difficulties of daily life, including being tempted in all ways as we are. Though he remained always without sin, he chose to take on the penalty of our wrongdoing and suffered death on a cross.

Christ knows, more than anyone, what it is to suffer on behalf of another. He knows what it is to endure discomfort and even agonizing, unimaginable pain in order to bring new life into the kingdom of GOd. When I remember what Christ did for me, that I might receive new life, the trials and tribulations of pregnancy not only become easier to bear, but become also an opportunity to share, if very shallowly, in the sufferings of my savior. Through my discomfort, I get the joy of bringing a new life into the world, just as through his suffering, Christ granted new birth to every believer.

It’s not the comparison itself that matters. Any potential pain in pregnancy and birth will be nothing compared to the infinite anguish born by our Lord, but only the fact that it points me to him, that in every step of this process, from headaches to nausea to labor, I can reflect on the things Christ endured to make me new. Not only that, but in the moments that I start to think “I can’t do this” (I’m sure that thought will come in labor if not before), I can throw myself upon the one who identifies in every way with my struggles, and in fact knows them far more profoundly than I. It is truly wonderful to have a God and savior who sympathizes in every way with our weaknesses.

Seasonal Shedding — Is There a Solution?

Labradors are many things… oversized lap dogs, excellent workers, enthusiastic playmates, and yes, constant shedders. There are a few dog breeds that don’t fit into that category, but often, being a dog owner means vacuuming up fur from the carpet and off the furniture, wiping it off your kitchen counters, dusting it from your shower ceiling (I still don’t know how fur gets up there), and wearing it on your clothing on a daily basis. I was told early on in my dog-ownership journey that brushing would help, but often I find that grooming doesn’t do much other than encourage the fur to loosen up so that even more of it can come out all over my newly washed floor.

Still, while labradors, and other breeds like them, shed year-round, their seasonal shedding during spring and autumn can be intense and thus harder to manage. So what’s the solution?

Spend More Time Outside 

Less time in the house equals less time for your dog to shed in the house. Getting out for more walks or allowing your dog some off lead time in the garden or at a dog park does make a difference in the amount of fur on your floor.

Clean Your House Regularly 

I know this sounds obvious, but when your dog is shedding their winter or summer coat, it really is not overkill to be vacuuming once or twice a day until the shedding settles a bit and isn’t so extreme. Speaking from experience, it REALLY IS worth vacuuming frequently, even if it sounds like a lot of work. It Is far quicker and easier to suck up fur that has accumulated over just a few hours, rather than a few days, and it will be less overwhelming in the long run.

Don’t Bother Sweeping!

Maybe I just have bad sweeping technique, but I’ve never found brooms to be effective at dealing with pet hair. If that’s been your experience, too, don’t bother! If you have hard floors, try Swiffer products, or just get a vacuum 

Get Yourself a Cordless Vacuum 

As I was saying… Seriously, this will change your life. Choose a quality, cordless vacuum that has shown to be effective for dog fur. We have the Dyson Animal

Popping the cordless vacuum off the charger and zooming around with it for a few minutes is SO MUCH EASIER than plugging the darn thing in, hoping the chord will reach wherever you need to go, realizing it won’t and having to unplug it and plug it back in somewhere else, getting tangled up in the chord while you are trying to get into an awkward corner, your dog getting tangled up in the chord while they try to chase your vacuum… you get my point.

If you would rather not do the vacuuming yourself, get a robot vacuum and let it do the work… just keep in mind that this can be a bad combination

if you have a puppy that is still toilet training. If you plan to use a robot vacuum, check your house before each use to make sure there aren’t any messes that would not be vacuum friendly. 

Bathe Your Dog 

I find that baths have a tendency to knock much more fur loose than brushing on its own, so when you notice the shedding is getting real, pop your pup under the hose for a good rub down or bring them to a professional groomer if you’ve got the cash. As always with bathing your pets, choose dog-friendly products, make sure the water is a comfortable temperature (particularly not too hot), and avoid doing it too frequently so as not to dry out their skin.

Care less 

I’m not joking. Your life will be simpler and easier if you just care a little less about seeing fur falling around the place.. It’s the price of having a dog that sheds, and there’s no point in getting up tight about it. Relax, enjoy your furry friend, accept that having a furry friend in the house means there will be fur there, and move on with your life.

Grooming Tools that (May) Help

As I’ve said, I’ve never found brushing particularly helpful in keeping the shedding at a minimum, but you may have a different experience. Here are some tools that could aid you in your quest. This list includes a slicker brush, nylon bristle brush, silicone massage tool, and brushes designed specifically to remove dead undercoat, such as the Furminator. The Furminator may prove especially useful during heavy shedding seasons, but be sure to read the instructions attached, as such tools are usually recommended for weekly or by-weekly use, rather than every day.

So, no, there’s no “solution” to seasonal shedding as far as I can tell. It will happen no matter what you do, but staying on top of house maintenance, spending more time outdoors, and trying a few grooming options can make a difference… and if all else fails, just care a little less. 🙂