Newlands’ Chapel: Our Heaven on Earth

Chapel

Here’s our little slice of Heaven. Our constant in the face of daily inconsistencies.

What may look like a shabby shed-like structure is the most beautiful, serene place Mike and I have found in Malawi. It’s a place we come to worship God among others who are passionately in love with him.

The picture is deceiving, the actual chapel is on the left in a small, intimate space. Every Saturday night we leave our house at 4:15pm, listen to the top 20 countdown from the US on the car ride and arrive just in time for mass at 5pm.

Then, it’s time to find our seats. Where we used to sit in the very front seats (seats is generous term, they’re pop-out mini-stools that are backless and my bum barely fits on them ha!) we now find ourselves choosing the back seats closest to the door in case a quick mass-and-dash is needed with David who is ALWAYS on the move.

Thank God we’ve known our fellow parishioners for almost two years now and they’ve watched me go through the whole pregnancy process and now are in love with David and VERY patient. David loves to yodel while we’re singing and if it weren’t so cute, it MAY be seen as obnoxious.

The best part of going to mass at Newlands is the intimacy. The place is always packed, there’s not a seat in the whole chapel that isn’t occupied. Every Saturday, without fail, we have to bring out whatever seats we can find around the building and fill the aisles, people sit on the floor, and you better be comfortable with touching your neighbor because there’s barely space to breath.

The Holy Spirit is evidently on fire in this place. It’s a beautiful sight when you look around and everyone is on their knees praising our Lord and Savior. Everyone coming together in one simple act: to love on our God and that, is a magnificent thing.

Sister Regina and David–Sister was one of first people to meet David as we went to mass two days after I gave birth. What better way to praise God for the blessing of a healthy baby?

Hormones: What’s not to Love?

I’ve said this several times. But I STILL can’t believe how ill-prepared I am (present tense) when it comes to life after labour (excuse me, but sometimes the British spelling of words just comes out because of teaching). What got me today are my crazy hormone levels. Despite being 4+ weeks “postpartum”…I hate the word; reminds me of death? I have come to realize that when I least expect it, my hormones remind me that they are still incredibly out of whack.

What prompted this you ask? Well, I was getting ready to do my yoga when I saw a baby cockroach on the ground next to me. It never ceases to be true that once you feel at peace with the fact that your house is fairly roach-free one surfaces just to let you know who’s really ruling the roost. Needless to say, I killed it which made me feel a bit sad; keywords: “a bit.”

I started up my yoga video and began my breathing, but the entire time all I could think about was that tiny bug and how I had ended its life. I thought about how that bug was somebody’s child and was reminded of how finite our lives really are.

One of my favorite moments I have with David is when I pray over him. One prayer I pray consistently at night, before we go to bed is: “I pray that God is with you in your thoughts, words, and actions and may your guardian angel go before you in all things.” I make sure to make the sign of the cross too; as the more prayers the better.

It’s interesting how we want to give our children everything they could possibly ever need. But, have you ever thought about how most things we give and do in this life are temporary? Those Nike shoes they cried about for a week that all the other kids have, so you caved and bought them just to see them smile? Or being their pack leader so you can spend more time with them?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend time with your children or splurge on their wants rather than their needs once in awhile. But, what I can’t stop thinking about today is that the only thing I can leave my family with…and I’m talking not just Mike and my children, but our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their children are our prayers.

I pray not only for Mike and my relationship, but for David and his wife’s relationship (if he chooses to get married), and for their children’s relationships. I pray that their faith greatly outweighs my own and that they spend their lives serving the Lord. This is the only thing that I can leave with my family and the ones I love.

Have you ever heard that our faith can be lost in just one generation? I’m far from perfect, but knowing that I can leave lasting prayers for my family that will continue to live long after I am gone helped me to stop crying over the smashed cockroach, to say the least.

I am so thankful to be a child of God!

 

 

David Michael: One Month Update

David1MonthDavid Michael is one whole month today! I can’t believe how fast the time has flown; Mike and I couldn’t be more in love with our lil’ guy. 

Over the last month we’ve had some extreme lows but many more highs. The first two weeks after bringing David home from the hospital were very rough. I felt that at times, Mike was watching a newborn and a 26-year-old baby! I was hurting in places I didn’t know could ache, and felt like I had been ran over by a truck. I sobbed uncontrollably and questioned my ability to be a mother.

On the other hand, I felt so empowered (hormones are a crazy thing…). I was ecstatic about delivering the way I had intended and felt that my desires about the labor were fully advocated for and I watched with a sense of wonderment as my husband transformed into a dedicated daddy. I couldn’t sleep at night (nobody tells you about the adrenaline rush post labor!) and prayed hours upon hours over my new family. I sobbed uncontrollably and praised God for the blessings He has given us. 

This last month has brought the Miller Family such joy. David has changed dramatically since the day we brought him home, though he’s still significantly more tan than either me or my husband…huh

In these past 30 days, David has grown more aware and his bright blue eyes are open much more often. He is beginning to coo and is the nosiest baby I have ever met. He despises waking up no matter what time it is and will grunt and contort his face into the most hysterical expressions. 

He has learned to hold onto objects close to him and is focusing his eyes on objects near him. The poor baby is SO gassy that he wakes himself up due to his flatulence (he gets that from Mike). For the most part we can now distinguish his cries and body language: tired, hungry, wet, or the most obvious…gassy!

David loves his warm bath time and the activity is deemed Mike and baby’s “special time” as is: directly after Mike comes home from work, right before bed, and before Dad heads for work in the morning. Another one of his favorite activities is to lay in front of the heater we bought to keep him warm. Mike and I always joke that the heater is his favorite toy.

I have adored becoming a mother and while there have already been ups paired with downs, I wouldn’t change the time that we’ve spent together growing as a family. I am so thankful for the time God has given us to adjust to our new definition of family and look forward to showing off Baby to the family! 

Praying your Spouse to Heaven (even if you don’t have one yet!)

Pray Your Spouse to Heaven

You can never begin praying for your spouse too soon, nor is it ever to late to begin praying for your partner. Whatever stage you’re at in your life, it’s important to begin praying for your spouse, current or future.

The problem is, sometimes praying is difficult. You’re not sure where to begin, what to say, and it feels awkward and almost forced. I mean, if you’re not enjoying it and not praying from your heart then why do it, right?

Hmm…I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this: If you’ve never done something before, or you don’t do it very often it feels awkward. This is true in all aspects of life. Haven’t ridden a bicycle in awhile, ride around the block and tell me how it feels. Or, call up your sister who you haven’t said I love you to in awhile; awkward? Probably. But that doesn’t mean with consistent practice you won’t get better. Research says that “professionals” in any aspect have dedicated a minimum of 10,000 practice hours into their area of expertise. 

So, where to begin? Well, you could…

1. Thank God—Tell God thank you for all of the things you appreciate in your spouse. What is your spouse doing well? Maybe you’re thankful that they make you dinner every night or rub your feet when you’re tired. Personally, I think God is “thirsty” for our thank yous and enjoys hearing how grateful we are for what he has given us.

2. Ask for Help—You aren’t alone. God is our father, he wants to hear what you’re struggling with. If there’s something in your spouse that you’re struggling to accept; pray about it and offer it up to God. I once took a Bible study that encouraged us to pray about our partner’s inadequacies and let God work in his time rather than nit-pick our spouse; wise words.

3. Be Timely—Not sure where to start? What about with today? What happened that you want to pray about in relation to your spouse? Are they up for a big promotion? Maybe they were super cranky when they got home and you want to encompass them with the Holy Spirit’s peace.

4. Ask your Spouse—It never hurts to ask your spouse what they would like you to be praying for. In this way your spouse is encouraged too by knowing that you’re thinking about them and praying for their intentions.

5. Turn to Scripture—Often when I am at a lack of what to pray for I turn to the Bible, it’s full of God’s promises for us and guidelines for becoming a better Christian. The site Revive Our Hearts has a neat 31 day prayer journey that you can actually print and put up on your fridge. Unfortunately, most things you’ll find will be wives praying for their husbands; but in most cases you can interchange the terms.

My marriage is nowhere near perfect and although I try my best to pray over my family and Mike daily it doesn’t mean that I ALWAYS do it. There’s always room for improvement!

Divine Intervention via Airplane

DivineInterventionGod often challenges us in the least expected ways. I choose to believe that he has a thriving sense of humor.

I once sat by a very large man on a flight back home from visiting Mike in Liberia. He was stuck in the center seat and although I’m a Christian, there was no way I was going to switch him; not very Christ-like huh? But back to the story…the man was large in terms of his height, not weight; he had to be at least 6’3 and his knees were practically up to his ears. His demeanor screamed: “MILITARY.”

He was very disciplined and precise in all of his actions. Without trying, I could hear his booming voice speaking to the man next to him and sure enough, they were discussing their time spent serving the United States.

I tried my best to stop listening, his voice seemed to permeate the cabin, and settled in for a long flight back home, in the opposite direction of Liberia and the person I love most in this world.

Shifting in my seat, I tried my best not to touch the man and stretched my legs out into the aisle. It was during this time that I could feel him staring at me. Awkward, to say the least. I ignored him and stared straight forward well aware that in my peripheral he was still looking at me. Pervert, I thought.

Out of nowhere, he asked, “Are you Catholic?” …. The hair on the back of my neck lifted as I slowly shifted my gaze towards him.

An alarm was going off in my head that alerted me: “proceed with caution!” I was automatically on high-alert as I thought about how to answer him. After all, we did have a VERY long flight ahead of us and we weren’t even in the air yet!

As a recent convert, and growing up in a “half-Catholic” family (Mom’s side) I was well aware that many people dislike the Catholic faith or at least want to voice their opinions about it: “You guys are ALL hypocrites!” ‘Aren’t all Christians?’ But, despite what potentially was going to be a very negative conversation, I simply said, “yes.”

With one simple affirmation; this stoic man instantaneously transformed. He was beaming and shifted his body, or attempted to with what little space was available to him, in my direction. “So am I!” Obviously this was a Holy Spirit inspired moment, I have no other way to describe it.

For the next several hours we discussed my budding new faith and his life-long dedication to the Catholic church. Eventually, the conversation shifted to “What are you doing on this flight?” I told him that I was visiting my fiancé, Mike, and that we were to be married in August and away we’d be going to Malawi for 3 years.

The look on his face was priceless (not that everyone’s wasn’t when I told them what Mike and I were doing) and he shifted the conversation to the topic of family. He spoke about his children, how his family had recently added a new baby, and finally, about his wife.

She sounded like a real go-getter and a deeply Catholic woman. While he was talking about them, his eyes lit up and I knew he cared deeply for them. It was while he was talking about his family that I noticed a shift in him. He was about to tell me something that was very important to him.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received about marriage was on this flight from this stranger. He told me that our goal in life is to get our spouse to Heaven. That all of our thoughts, words, and actions should be directed towards this ultimate goal.

I guess I’d never thought about it before. I knew I wanted Mike to go to Heaven of course, but I didn’t think he needed me to get there. What did I have to do with his personal relationship with Christ?

I thought more about this man’s “words of wisdom” all the way back home and have kept them in my heart ever since. The more I thought about what he told me, the more it made sense.

Why did God create the sacrament of marriage? Although you can argue there are several objectives of marriage: reproduction, family-units, etc. I think the most important role of a spouse is to lead you closer to God. To lift you up when you’re too weak; make the right decision when you can’t discern for yourself what that is. To pray for you and your salvation.

So do you? Pray for your spouse on a daily basis? Pray with a ferocious passion and intensity? Pray as though his or her salvation is contingent upon your prayers? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that your prayers alone can save your spouse; God has given us all free will. However, prayer goes a long way and is an infinite gift that you can give those around you. Once projected, a prayer reverberates throughout the rest of eternity, across generations, a prayer once uttered, knows no bounds.