Posted by: wnpratz | November 7, 2012

The First Thing

“The first thing is to keep an untroubled spirit.  The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.”         Marcus Aurelius

I keep this quote inside my armoire so that I see it every morning.  It helps me to focus, put things in perspective.  I have a tendency to get all stirred up inside even over little things and that clouds my judgement.  Looking things in the face and knowing them for what they are is a learned skill.  It has taken me years to be able to filter through the chaos and see something for what it truly is.

My most recent experience has been the pain and rejection that is attached to differing opinions regarding Biblical standards.  In Mark 9:40 Jesus says, “for whoever is not against us is for us”.  He was referring to a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but the disciples complained because this man was not one of “them”.  Why do we create an environment of exclusivity in Christianity? Jesus didn’t. Why do we believe that our personal conviction is more important than another’s feelings? That our comfort is more important than making an outsider part of our world.

Recent circumstances have dictated that my youngest 3 children attend public school.  I was concerned about this.  They have been home schooled for a while.  Would they be ostracized, excluded?  The answer is no, they haven’t been.  Ironically, the environment that I was afraid of for years has been more welcoming and inclusive than the “church” environment I have intentionally exposed them to.  Now I am wondering how I continue to raise my children in a way that honors God and teaches them to include and defend those around them.

So I am looking this thing in the face and acknowledging that I have lived in and promoted a judgmental environment and what it is, is wrong.  I will return to my bottom line; what my God requires of me is to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him. (Micah 6:8)  How I will communicate those truths to my children and teach them to separate out the truths of Jesus and the exclusivity of Christianity I do not know.  Let me know if you have any ideas, please.

 

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Posted by: wnpratz | January 31, 2012

car sick

Several of my kids get car sick.  I have found the simplest way to prevent this is to plan ahead. Positioning is important. They should be sitting somewhere in the car that allows them to look straight ahead, at the horizon or at least at the road in front of them. This means that they should not be looking at the back of a seat or out of the side window while the car is in motion.  This is easier said than done when a child barely clears the 2 foot mark, however, we are happily past those days.  Why did God create our brains to focus on a set point in the distance? Why do we feel nauseous when we look around at the world running wildly past?
Possibly the answer to that question lies in Matthew 14.  Jesus is walking on water; Peter wants to go to Jesus. Peter asks Jesus to invite him; Jesus says, “come”. So Peter does and is watching Jesus and then he isn’t and he starts to sink. Peter is looking at what is around him, not at Jesus. His focus is shifting. Maybe we are spiritually car sick when we take our eyes off Jesus.  Have to say, my favorite part of this account is not the walking on the water thing, it’s when Jesus reaches out and grabs Peter “immediately”. I love that Jesus didn’t wait until Peter was drowning.  I can envision Jesus reaching out and grabbing Peter’s wrist, pulling Peter to His level and while shaking His head, whispering “why do you doubt me?” I can envision this because Jesus does this for me all the time.  While I don’t walk on water, I doubt, and then Jesus saves me.
“Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  Matt. 14:28-31

Posted by: wnpratz | December 6, 2011

legacy

Ran across an old journal the other day. The dates mark one of the darkest times in my life. The truths that penetrate the darkness are remarkable. God’s faithfulness to me is stunning.
The following is a letter I wrote to Will. It has been difficult over the past year and a half to always identify the positives near the end of Will’s life on earth. As I read this letter I realized that he has left a remarkable legacy to his children. A legacy of faith and perseverance, I pray they will read and learn.
4/2006
Dear Will,
If I had been allowed to stand up in church this is what I would have said.
I know Jesus lives because everything in my life testifies to His goodness. My children are the greatest gift I could ever ask for and I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams by each one of them every day.
My husband has been the catalyst for growth in my heart and mind and he has taken me to depths of faith I would never have achieved if he hadn’t been in my life. I have loved him for 27 years and can’t imagine a day without him.
Six years ago, Easter Sunday, I thought I would lose him forever. I was 8 months pregnant with our 7th child and woke up in the middle of the night and knew something was very wrong. It took me only seconds to realize that Will wasn’t breathing, at least not normally. He would take gasping sounds every few minutes and I couldn’t wake him up. I called 911. While I was waiting I lay my head on his chest and cried out to God to help me. Then the paramedics were there. They intubated him and took him to the hospital. When Will was revived he thanked the paramedic at the hospital, the man said, “thank your wife she saved your life, if she hadn’t woken up you would be dead”. I know God woke me that night so that Will could continue on the path set before him. It has not been an easy path. It has been riddled with poor choices and mistakes, but it has been full with victory and faith. I have seen a man with King David’s heart struggle through life and fall and allow God to lift him up, time and time again. He is a living example of God’s faithfulness to us, despite our inability to be faithful to God. Martin Luther once said, “He who prays must wage a mighty warfare against the doubt and murmuring excited by the faintheartedness and unworthiness we feel within us”. I know Jesus lives because everything in me tells me I am fainthearted and unworthy and everything that Jesus gives me tells me that because of Him I am a child of God, forgiven and whole.
Will, I don’t just love you because of who you are to me, I love you because of who you are to God.
Love,
Nancy

Posted by: wnpratz | October 1, 2011

Conflicted

So I’m feeling conflicted. Not just minor, should I do this or that, move here or there? But huge, is this right or wrong, from God or not kind of conflicted. Last week with every breath I kept saying to God, “I can’t believe you are so good to me”, this week I keep saying, “what is wrong with me and what am I doing?”. My mother and sister pray for me, my kids watch me walk in circles. I am still so confused.
I am thinking about another time in my life I felt this way. Our church gave us a verse, I Chronicles 4:10, and challenged us to pray it every day for a month. It’s the prayer of Jabez, ever heard of it?
“Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain”. And God granted his request.
Conflict resolution simplified.

Posted by: wnpratz | June 16, 2011

Bear necessities

Read a facebook status of a friend of mine today.  Her daughter arrived at a far away destination safely. 
I was transported back to the day I put one of my girls on a plane. I tried to smile and wave goodbye bravely.  It probably didn’t help that the, at the time, almost 3 year old found out she was going to see his Nanny and Aunt Abbey and said, “put me on that plane!”.  I parked on a road outside of the small Newburgh, NY airport and watched until the plane was in the air.
On the very quiet drive home, while praying for the safety of my child,  I was stopped by a bear cub sitting in the middle of the road.  He was not disturbed by the very large SUV staring him down and after a minute or so, simply got up and lumbered across the road into the woods.  In that minute or so some things went through my mind.  First, where there’s a baby – there’s a mama, and the windows went up.  Second, I was struck by his serenity.  Third, if I had a parent that protective I’d be serene as well. Fourth, I DO have a parent that protective.  Fifth, how differently would I live my life if I always remembered that God was watching me and my children the way that mother bear was?
“You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:5-12

Posted by: wnpratz | April 23, 2011

The Red Sea

I am feeling trapped.  In my life, when I have felt trapped I have done one of two things.  My first choice is denial, the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.  If denial doesn’t work (as a side note, it usually doesn’t), I run. Running can take many forms, withdrawing from a situation graciously, making excuses for why I can’t do whatever, emotionally withdrawing or physically moving (different house, different school, different church, different state). None of it works. The thing that holds me in chains still looms larger than me.  A change in geography doesn’t release me and not looking at the chains won’t make them not exist. 

So I got to thinking about the Israelites when Moses led them out of Egypt.  Red Sea in front, Egyptians behind, mountains to the side – trapped.  People were screaming at Moses and what does he say? “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” Exodus 14:13  Really cool, you should read it.  Truthfully, my favorite part isn’t when God parts the Red Sea, it’s when the angel of God moves from the front of the Israelites where he had been leading, to behind them and the pillar of cloud goes there too. 

I was equating being trapped with being frustrated. In actuality, I am afraid. Satan is a deceiver. The Israelites were afraid, a trapped animal is afraid, I am afraid. God says, do not be afraid. Why does it always come down to that with me? There is not enough time to write the things I think I should fear.  Over and over I encounter fear. Denying won’t change that it’s there, running from it won’t make it go away.  So God’s answer?  Stand firm and see God’s deliverance.  

Stand firm. That would mean to be still.  Stop squirming, fidgeting, trying to fix it myself.  Yeah, okay, so those of you who know me well are laughing right now.  If you read back through other posts you might see a theme of stupidity on my part beginning to take shape.  Possibly I should change the name of the blog to Stupid Things I Do.

Posted by: wnpratz | April 23, 2011

10 things I’ve learned in my first year as a widow

Ten things I’ve learned this year, in no particular order.

1. Alone and Lonely are two entirely different things.

2. When talking to men I must speak in clear, concise, short sentences.  Apparently, my husband had years to decode my speaking skills and understood my insane ramblings (possibly this was just God’s gift to him). This skill is not a natural talent given to those with the Y chromosome. 

3. When a person loses someone they love to death there is really nothing you can say to them.  Trust me, I’ve tried. Nothing. Really.  

4. Losing your husband to death is not the same as losing your husband in another way. While I am certain that is just as painful an experience, it is not the same.

5. When someone tells you that they can “imagine” what your circumstances are like, you want to smack them, hard. I am sure I should have been smacked hard a number of times over the years.

6. God is my provider.  That should have gone first, but I told you these are in no particular order.

7. I love my family; I love my friends; I need my family.

8. Children cut through the crap in an eighth of the time it will take an adult and are more honest in their declarations.  Always amazed by the wisdom of children.

9. Praying for people is important, telling them you are praying for them is not important.

10. I am a different person without my husband and I still don’t know who I am.

Posted by: wnpratz | February 23, 2011

good intentions

Someone told me a few weeks ago that I had a “quirky personality”.  I didn’t know that, but it does explain a lot of the strange looks I’ve gotten over my 46 years. I was shy as a kid, awkward as a teenager and misunderstood as a young wife and mother.  Anybody else out there get that?  I am betting a bunch of you do.  So when I became comfortable with my “quirkiness” and found my freedom in Christ I think I rocked some people’s worlds – not in a good way either. And some of those people decided it would be a good thing to “set me straight” or “give me a word from the Lord”, as if He didn’t have my address.  Somewhere along that road I read something Blaise Pascal said, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction”.  And by the way I am NOT endorsing Pascal, but he had a point. I have never been hurt more deeply or betrayed more completely, except by well intending Christians.  I completely get those people that walk away from organized religion thinking, “really?!”.

The other day I watched a movie called “Easy A”.  Basically it was a modern and very loosely interpreted critique on the book the Scarlet Letter.  The movie depicts Christians in a flippant and demeaning way, but sadly I recognized that often this is how the world perceives us and too often the way we actually behave.  We are judgmental and oh so gossipy, covering our spreading of information by creating prayer chains and false concern for people we don’t even know.  There are so few of us that have truly good intentions. And so I say to my fellow Christians, the ones that believe that God was real then and is real now and meets us where we are and doesn’t care what we wear to church and weeps with us when our friends betray us and our families misunderstand us – God is not religion; He is not a denomination or a personal conviction.  He is our creator, not the other way around. We don’t get to make Him into what we want Him to be. Jesus didn’t tell the people He met that He would “pray” for them; He loved them and walked with them and ate with them.  So here’s to us showing the world what Jesus was like, to imitating Him.

Posted by: wnpratz | March 29, 2010

ready hearts

My kids were scheduled to go to winter camp a month ago.  Bags were almost packed, spirits were high and it snowed and snowed and snowed.  So they cancelled winter snow camp…haha.  We couldn’t get off our porch, let alone out of our driveway.  Snow camp was rescheduled thankfully and I made a comment to one of the youth leaders that possibly God was still preparing a few hearts for what they would receive.  
Later that week while studying the circulatory system in anatomy and physiology, we came across the issue of heart murmurs.  One of my girls had one when she was born, but it corrected itself in a day or two.  I asked my instructor why that happens.  Her answer, “their hearts just aren’t ready,  they need an extra day or week or hour”.   
So I got to thinking about our hearts and how God prepares us.  Right now I am sitting in a hospital room with my husband.  He has been struggling through the last week and so have I.  I have pleaded with God to heal him, to make a miracle, to end his suffering.  I have talked to him, sung to him, held his hand in silence, cried over him, given him back to God.  All of these things are preparing me and him – I know it.  We have known each other for 32 years, he has been my husband for 26, we have shared the good and the bad, he is my beloved.  God knew our hearts would have to be drawn away slowly.  He is preparing us. 
“For as the heaven is high above the earth so great is His mercy to them that fear Him.” Psalm 103:11

Posted by: wnpratz | February 26, 2010

dirty windshield

Haven’t had much time lately to blog.  I’ve been getting up at 4 AM and leaving our house in the Pocono mountains by 5 AM to drive over hill and dale to Morristown, NJ for clinicals.  This takes an hour and a half.  Have I mentioned yet that I hate to drive – anywhere?  Here’s the thing though, God meets me there.  He’s met places before, like in my living room at 3 AM while I was rocking a baby, or in an ICU wondering if my husband would have his mind if and when he woke up, or in my room at midnight when I believed I was alone and wasn’t.  So here’s my latest lesson from my God who meets me wherever I am.
Driving at 65 mph along a road that leads into New York City at 5:30 AM, in February,  is not a good time to run out of windshield washer fluid.  As I drove, the windshield got muddier and muddier and my field of vision got smaller and smaller.  I was seriously considering pulling over, but had nothing in the car to wipe the windshield with.  At least nothing that wouldn’t make it worse. So I prayed, “Lord, I just can’t see”.  And it started to snow.  Hard.  And the traffic slowed and …… the windshield became cleaner and my field of vision became larger, until it was completely clear and I could see everything.  It snowed all day.  My school called the clinical site to have them send us home and the whole way home in the storm, my windshield was cleaned by snow and I was safe in the arms of a Saviour that cares enough to  let me see my way clear to where He’s taking me.  So this is what I learned.  Sometimes we need the storms in our lives to clear our windshields and help us see the important stuff.  Otherwise, we just keep looking at the dirt staring us straight in the face. 
“lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do His bidding”  Psalm 148:8 NIV

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